coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Monday, October 16, 2017

Say no to snark

I have noticed a preponderance of snark on social media since the election. Perhaps you have, too? Snark is defined by my computer's dictionary as "snide and sharply critical comments." You know what I'm talking about. It is the online equivalent of giving someone the finger...

Personally, I hate snark. It makes my skin crawl when I hear it, and it makes me want to punch someone out when they use it against me. It seems people use snarky comebacks because they think it makes them appear strong and smart. It doesn't. It makes them appear rude and childish. When you use your vast intelligence to come up with a pithy reply designed to destroy your opponent, then you have wasted your words. But most importantly, you've done no good.

The best way to convince someone to change their mind is to listen to them (as respectfully as you are able to pull off...) and THEN start engaging in discussion, strategically. The best way to shut someone down and push them away is to throw snark at them. Because who is going to want to listen to you if you have accused them of being less than human? 

How do I know this? Because I was once trained in the art of persuasion by an international representative of a large and famous labor union. She could convince anybody of anything.  It was a gift that some people have. If you don't believe me, then follow a successful salesperson around for a day. Salespeople take a lot of abuse and disrespect everyday, but they keep trying to find a way to connect - to make that sale. 

Okay, okay, we all have certain friends or relatives we absolutely cannot listen to or argue with. And social media has brought out the troll in way too many angry, lonely, and desperate souls. Unless you have an advanced degree in psychology, just step away from those folks. Detach. Don't waste your time. Don't surrender to the snark side. It's a slippery damn slope that will deliver you to straight to cynicism. And, well, that's kinda like burning in hell.

I want the world to change for the better. I want to win. The only way to do that is to get strategic. We can do this without sacrificing our humanity.

Don't just react. Take the time to think. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The more the merrier!

My husband, T, had his autosomal DNA tested last May in hopes of finding out his heritage. This is a popular endeavor in the U.S. right now and at least one other blogger has written about it recently.

Autosomal DNA gives you information about all your ancestors, not just ones in a male or female line. When you get the results it also gives you biological matches to near and distant relatives who have also had their DNA tested on, telling you what the matches are to you, like siblings, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins. Well, when he got his results it revealed to him that he has another biological daughter. BIG surprise! He had no idea. It was the 1960s, for crying out loud.

R was given up for adoption by her birth mother. She did her DNA test as a way to find her birth parents. Many of her DNA "cousin" matches had the same last name as T. Since she didn't know about T, and he had not yet submitted his DNA, the repeat appearances of those family surnames did not help her in her search. R assumed that she would not find her actual biological parents unless they submitted a DNA test via Which is what happened with T.

She is a lovely person, solid and good. There are many interesting similarities between her (and her children) and the rest of T's family. We have grown-up grandchildren now, and another son-in-law!!!! Plus our daughter, M, now has a sister! When I wrote my bit about the concept of
Grace a while back, this is what I was referring to; this unbelievably mind-altering, joyous cosmic gift.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


ANOTHER great thing about being retired (!) is that I do not have to wake up to the sound of a jarring alarm 5 mornings out of 7. In fact, this is one of my "10 best things about being retired:"

1.  I get to say whatever I want

2.  I don't have to be nice to people I don't like

3.  I don't wake up to an alarm, I get up when I wake up.

4.  I don't have to wash my hair every day

5.  I don't have to buy Xmas presents for co-workers

6.  I wear flip flops instead of shoes every day

7.  I stopped wearing contact lenses and using eye makeup

8.  I can shop in the grocery store when most people are at work 

9.  Biking is my life

10. The only people who tell me what to do now are people who love me (and I don't have to do what they say)

Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wine Tasting Tour

I just returned from a long weekend in California's wine country (Napa and Sonoma). T and I went with my brother (Big D) and his wife, Vacation Sue; Baby Sister and her husband, Mikey; Big Sister C; and Little Sister (my youngest brother's wife). There were 8 of us. Big D was the master of ceremonies. He made all the arrangements, wrote up an itinerary, and drove us all around in a large Suburban. It was kind of like the clown car. Whenever we stopped, seemingly hundreds of us poured out of the vehicle, laughing and shouting all the way. 

In addition to visiting a number of wineries, we also spent a day being extremely touristy at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco where we ate at Scoma's, drank Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, and made a stop at the See's Candy store. It was fun, and also beautiful. Here are a few photos, sorry they are not in order:

The last of the convoy of ships that stormed Normandy beachheads in 1944


Golden Gate Bridge

I expected to see Popeye on one of these.

C and T in Fisherman's Wharf

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Woodturner's Dream

It is a woodturner’s dream down here in Florida. Piles of downed tree trunks and limbs have been hauled to the front of most yards since the hurricane. I have just such a friend in NYS who should really be down here with a truck driving from house to house, picking up the best pieces for future live oak bowls or platters. She would have raw material to last for years.

T is fixing our privacy fence, a key component for staying sane in these close Florida developments. Many fences came down in the high winds, so stacked fence panels also sit at the curb, waiting. I am happy our fence still stands. Sneaking a peak at our neighbors’ backyards this week seems almost indecent. I do NOT want them to see ours! We are on waiting lists for various repairs to roof and pool areas. We slowly wait for civilization to return our teeny part of the world to what passes as normal...for us.

We were lucky. Our neighborhood was only without power for one and a half days. Our daughter’s subdivision was without for nearly 5 days. There are still places in the county (and definitely the state) where households will be without electricity for weeks. T and I still don’t have internet or cable. First world problems…

Our daughter’s family chose to stay in their house during the dark days. They managed in a semi-camp mode with gas grill, candles, flashlights, and bottled water. They charged their phones sitting quietly in their cars, in the driveway. Our grandson, N, received a few Lego kits that kept him busy.

When we got electricity back our 13 year-old granddaughter opted to stay with us for a couple days. It was fun. We made jewelry and ate ice cream. Best of all, we had her all to ourselves for a while. As long as we live, none of us will forget this hurricane or our time together.

The worst hit us between 2 and 4 a.m., early Sunday morning. What a cruel time for a storm to hit! All you can do is lie in the dark, unable to see the direction of the wind or the damage wrought, but hearing it nonetheless. The wind was ferocious, absolutely petrifying in the fullness of terrible, destructive power. Sometimes it sounded like a train was coming straight towards us. We were ready for anything. Now I am tired. 

I think of refugees; how hard their lives must be. They are left with so little. How do their children pass the time? How is their food cooked? When will civilization bring hope and normalcy back to their lives? What IS normal, after you have suffered so much?

Palm trees surrendered some skin and fruit - made for a nice photo, I thought

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Great Bitch, Irma

We are trying to get ready for this monster hurricane. Irma will find her way to Central Florida on Sunday. We are trying to prepare both physically and mentally. We will likely lose power, for how long is anyone's guess. If you don't hear from me next week I am likely without electricity. Don't worry, I'm almost sure everything will be messy, but fine.

How do you prepare for a hurricane? Well, preparing is endless. Getting enough water stockpiled is hard when stores sold out a week ago. When a delivery arrives, people are waiting in line to get it and they buy it all up without a thought for others. Community spirit seems to kick in after a catastrophe hits. Before, everyone is desperately trying to protect their own.

I think we have enough bottled water to see us through a week without power, but I have taken to freezing tap water in gallon sized freezer bags just in case. If power goes out it should take them a while to melt, keeping the fridge cool a day or two longer. We have plenty of canned foods, cereal, and nuts in the pantry. Our extra batteries should arrive today via We have propane for the gas grill. T will drain the pool to accommodate torrential rain.

Gasoline is another scarce commodity. All gas tankers are going to South Florida so evacuees can have gas to travel north. Tom filled his car before the rush. My car is a little less than half full. We wasted gas driving around yesterday but could not find a gas station with any gasoline left.

The sand bag distribution center has a multiple hour wait, with cars lined up to the moon and back. Wasting precious gasoline to get sand bags! It's a conundrum.
Consequently, our sandbox for little N has been raided; the sand turned into sandbags to keep all that water out of the house.

Highways are filled with people from South Florida trying to escape Irma at her worst. I worry they will run out of gas and be forced to endure Irma on the side of the highway in cars with kids, animals, and important papers. It happens. Can you imagine? We have not been told to evacuate, but schools are closed. I imagine if evacuation becomes mandatory, the gas tankers will begin stopping in Central Florida again? However, I hope once she makes landfall that bitch will settle down a little. I would be grateful for a Cat 2 storm. I really don't want to hit the road.

Our important papers and pills are in plastic freezer bags, too. I've moved many things off the ground in case of flooding. We have lots of toilet paper! Wine, too... Any potential outside projectiles (potted plants, deck furniture, pool cleaning implements, toys) will be moved to the shed or the garage. No basements in Florida! I'll move my computer away from my office window. Bathtubs will be filled with tap water for cleaning up and flushing toilets. Unfortunately, we do not have plywood to cover windows. That is also long gone in the stores. We will buy some afterwards for next time. For now, we take our chances. 

There is the added worry that our daughter and her family aren't preparing well enough. They are, they will, but still my mother/grandmother's heart is sore and stretched for miles. If I worry enough, will it ward off water and wind?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Grandma Told Stories

The last Grandma story (for now):

Grandma was a fundamentalist Protestant and a Pentecostal charismatic who talked in tongues when the spirit moved her. This was quite different than the European Catholicism of my mother's people, which was the way I was raised. However, loving someone with a different religion was my first clue that mysticism and goodness belong to all religions, and all (or none) are valid paths. She also retained many old Appalachian mores, superstitions, and beliefs.

She often told me ghost stories about events that happened in the family over the years.  One of my favorite stories was the one about "The Three White Horses.”

The Three White Horses
Grandma’s paternal grandmother, Luella,
lived on a farm in Pickett County, Tennessee with her husband, Ewell. She was sitting on her front porch on 1 Jun 1919, when unbeknownst to her, their son Thomas (my great grandfather) died. Luella told Ewell that she saw three white horses running in the fields by their house that day. He just laughed at her and told her she was seeing things. Three months to the day, she went into the cornfield to fill her apron with ripe corn for dinner. There she had a stroke and died on 1 September 1919.   

Grandma also told me she once heard a strong, decisive knock on the front door to her house.  When she opened the door no one was there.  Later she discovered that a relative had died at the exact moment she heard the knock. These stories scared me half to death, and I had trouble sleeping for many nights after hearing that one.  Still, I was fascinated and could not stop asking for more.

My father died in 1995, and Grandma was bereft at losing her son. I came into town for the funeral, and I was dropped off at Grandma's house a couple hours before with the understanding I was to keep Grandma company until my mother came to pick us both up. It never occurred to me that Grandma hadn't been told I would be coming. She answered the door red eyed and with tears streaming down her face. It killed me to see her that way. She said she didn't want company right then, something I had never heard her say before. I felt so bad for intruding. I apologized and hugged her and said I'd walk to my Mom's house (probably only about a 15 minutes walk - no big deal). When Grandma realized I didn't have a car she refused to let me leave. 

Then I had to make it right somehow, you know what I mean? It was super awkward and one of those moments you will always remember. I realized it couldn't be Grandma who made it right, she was a 90 year old woman beside herself with grief. I had to do or say something that would change the tone, but still honor the feelings of that day. The best I could come up with was (in a small voice) "Grandma, could you tell me the story of the three white horses?"

She look at me out of the corner of her eyes for one long moment (as if to say, "Are ya kiddin' me, Colette?). Then her eyes crinkled up and she laughed out loud, a most welcome sound. She patted my knee, and proceeded to tell me the story. She was the grandmother, I was the grandchild, and we both knew how that worked. 

This brooch belonged to Grandma.  Not three WHITE horses, but still...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grandma's letter

--This treasure is a letter from my Tennessee grandmother (1905-2000) to my daughter, written in February 1981, for the occasion of my daughter's 9th birthday. My grandmother was a Pentecostal Christian, so there is a good bit of "Jesus" talk in this.  It is simply the way she talked.

Dear (M),

As I never see you to talk to you long enough, I just wanted you to know how we lived when I was a little girl.  I thought it would be nice to send you this for your birthday in February 1981.

I had the sweetest childhood a little girl could have. We were very poor. We didn’t have toys like children have today. We would always get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, because you see, we lived on a farm. I was about five years old when I can really remember. My mother would wake all of us up and we would eat our breakfast. Then there were cows to milk and horses to feed. There were seven of us children. My one little brother (Johnny) died when I was just about three months old or less (note from Colette – he died September 2, 1905, my Grandma was born at the end of May 1905). I can’t remember seeing him, but my mother said he called them to the bed and asked to see me before he died. He was about two years old when he went to be with Jesus. Well now, to get back to our farm and all the work we had to do. I just had the best daddy in the world, I thought, and he was so kind to us.  I never remember him saying an unkind word to us, yet he had a way about him that to look at him you just didn’t want to do anything, only what he told us to do. We would thin the corn out to two stalks in a hill after it was big enough and that I could do.  As I grew older I got a harder job like hoeing corn. In those days we had hand plows and mules or horses to pull the plow. I can remember my grandfather plowing with oxen with a wooden yoke on their necks. Then we had sheep. The little lambs were so sweet. When I think of them now, I think of Jesus with the lambs in his arms and around him. But I think he created all animals and the lamb was a symbol of his love – how he died that we might have eternal life.

We would cut the wool off of the sheep (I helped do that).  One day I was, as we called it, shearing them. I cut his hide till it bled. It went “ba,ba”. I felt so bad about that. Then my mother would send the wool away and get our blankets for the bed that way. Oh yes, she would keep some and she had an old spinning wheel. She’d make the thread to knit our stockings for winter. They were real warm. She taught me to knit. I was making a pair and I told her this was like going around the world and to the North Pole. Ha!

Now I’ll tell you how we played.  We had rocks that green pretty moss grew on and we would play like we were making beds.  And we did, too –real pretty.  We never worked on Sunday and we had friends come to visit us.  I think back about it now, it was really fun.  We had one little china doll – about 5 inches long.  It was handed down from the oldest to the youngest. We never broke it. I wish I had it now to show it to you. We would play ball and sit around a fireplace in the wintertime popping popcorn.  I remember one time my brother Wint and I got to go to town with my father and we got to go to a movie. We didn’t have radios or TV’s then, but my childhood is all sweet memories.  We were just one big happy family. We had a cave close to our house and at the entrance there were shelves my Dad made.  We would keep our milk and butter there –so cold.  We had one cave us kids used to have to crawl in. After we got in it was the most beautiful place, but scary.  We could see skeletons, maybe of animals, I don’t know.  It was so dangerous as I think of it now. Then we had a place we called the “rolly hole.”  You could throw a rock and you could hear it roll down, down, down.  Somehow the rocks would come to top rolled so smooth. It isn’t there anymore, they tell me.  

We walked 2 miles to go to school. There were no sidewalks, and there were rocks, etc.  We walked barefoot in the summer and when fall came we got new shoes. Like boys wear. We were so proud of them. I’ll tell you about our chickens later.

One day my mother and two oldest sisters went to pick blackberries and blueberries.   They would take a couple of big pails and go up into the mountains and would be gone all day sometimes, as they grew wild in the mountains.  They were delicious, better than what we get now from the grocery store.

Once, I asked my mom what we would eat for dinner. I was only about eleven years old and my brother and two little sisters were there for me to feed. There was no lunch meat like we have now. She said, “Well, you can have chicken if you will kill one and dress it.”  Well, that sounded so good to me.  I told my little brother if he would hold its head and my sister (then about seven) would hold its feet, I’d chop its head off.  We laid it on a block of wood and that poor chicken, I thought, I just can’t do this. But then I thought about dinner so I took an ax and cut its head off. Then we built a fire out of wood and heated a big kettle of water and dipped it in hot water, took all the feathers off, cut it up and washed it good. We fried it on an old-fashioned wood-burning kitchen stove. We did have a good dinner!

We used to have a ball to play with that mother made us out of rags; she rolled over the rags many times with heavy thread. We would play throwing it over the house to each other. We also used to tell riddles we would hear. Maybe your mom can explain that to you. My sister Bertha and I used to saw big trees down. I helped cut corn when in the fall the corn was ready to shuck. We’d cut it and put it in bunches and tie the top. Big bunches of the stalks it grew on and corn, too. Then we’d feed the horses and cows in wintertime. One day my father came to the field where we were working and said, “Ma is sick, you will have to go to Grandma’s house.” So we all went to Grandma Sharp’s house and in the middle of the afternoon Grandma came home. She said, “You have a little baby sister.” Grandma Sharp was the midwife who delivered the baby. You should have seen us run for home! The baby’s name was Neva, my baby sister. She will be 65 years old the 23rd of May. So you see that has been many years ago.

We had a spring near our house and carried our water by pails full to drink and to wash clothes. It was fun. The water was as clear as crystals. It was pure water that God made; no chemicals of any kind were in it. I went to a little one-room schoolhouse. My Dad took me the 1st day and I cried to go home with him. I was six years old. The teacher had a watch on a chain around her neck and she took me to one side and showed me the birds on the watch to get me to stop crying.

I just wanted to tell you how different it was when I was a girl your age. Of course that has been over 70 years since I was 5 years old. I wish I could take you and your Mom and Dad to where we used to live. Our house is torn down now, they tell me.

The saddest part I left till last. My father died when he was only 39 years old. He was sick quite a few years and it left my mother with 5 of us to raise. But that didn’t help her as far as missing him. We all worked together and we never went hungry. But that didn’t ease the aches in our hearts for a father. He died in Louisville, Kentucky in hospital in 1919. He never got to see his 1st grandchild. She was born May 18, 1919.   He died June 1st, 1919. But you know, someday we will all be together. Jesus went away to prepare a home for us. And then if we live a good life he will see that we all be together someday. I know you are a good girl. You have a good mother, so always listen to what she tells you to do. You also have a good father. I wanted a little girl so much, but God gave me two sons instead. Now I have two daughters (in-law) and oodles of grand daughters and a great grand daughter to love. And I love each of you. And my great grandsons, too. I hope you enjoy just a part of this letter – how we used to live.

Love you,

Great Grandma

Here are some early photos of my grandmother and some of her siblings:

Grandma and her brother, about 1914?

My grandmother is the one in back with the big bow in her hair. Taken about 1918?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Sweet Grandma

My paternal grandmother was born in 1905 on a farm in Pickett County, Tennessee. She came from a family with roots in Colonial Virginia. They were part of the great migration of settlers who came through the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee and Kentucky in the late 1700's and early 1800's, when that part of the country was first opened to white settlers. When she died, I lost a direct link to a way of life that no longer exists. Grandma was one of the last of her kind: a sweet, simple woman born into a southern mountain culture with roots extending deep into our pioneer past. 

Her later years spent living in a northern industrial city did little to change her essential character, shaped growing up in the hills of Northeastern Tennessee. She had a big heart filled to the brim with love of God and family. She was the archetypal old-fashioned grandmother: kindly, innocent, loving, and accepting.

Grandpa noticed Grandma at a church dance both attended in nearby Wayne County, Kentucky, where my Grandpa lived. One day after that fateful encounter he decided to ride his horse across the state line to where Grandma’s family lived in Northeastern Tennessee. Grandma did not really know my grandfather at the time, and she certainly was not expecting him to visit. When he arrived she was not at home, so her brother rode off to find her. Grandma said she was mortified that he had come to her house, but pleased nonetheless. Not long after that visit, Grandpa talked her into eloping. They escaped on horseback and were married in the middle of the road by the preacher in December 1923. Grandma was a naive and sheltered 18 year old. Grandma’s wedding kiss was her first. She said she had no idea about sex. She got wide eyed and then laughed in her modest, grandma way when she told me that.

Her mother was angry and cried when she found out that Grandma had run off to get married. I would have cried, too.

Next time I will share a letter Grandma wrote to my daughter (her great-granddaughter) in 1981, telling her about what life was like when she (Grandma) was a young girl. 

Here is a photo of my grandparents taken in 1924 when my grandmother was pregnant with my father.

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. 

Friday, June 16, 2017


I am feeling a little overwhelmed these days, aware of all the people in my life who need to be loved. Their need is palpable. I give what I can. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pulse of Orlando

Today is the one year anniversary of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting.  Since I live nearby, there is a lot in the media to memorialize all the people who were killed or hurt in that terrible event.  This is my favorite memorial, a photo of Angel Colon, who was shot but survived that day.  I love it when people refuse to hate. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My sister-in-law, Jane

I just got back from a trip to Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan to see family. The reason for the trip was to attend a memorial event for T's sister, Jane. She died over the winter; however, her husband and sons wanted to wait until the warm weather to have a large barbecue/party in her honor. They live on one of the many small fishing lakes in Michigan. It was the perfect setting. The party was like having a wake without bothering with the funeral or any of the tortured nonsense that death culture usually requires. It was the perfect memorial for her, she would have loved it. Her presence was everywhere. It was lovely, as these things so often are.

Jane and T's maternal grandfather was, among other things, a funeral home director. Their house was the funeral home, and they lived on the top floor. There were usually dead bodies on the main floor in one form of death and preparation for burial. Jane and T's mother, BJ grew up like that. Sounds weird, doesn't it?  In fact, BJ had little fear of death. She passed that on to her children. 

Jane had suffered most of her adult life with Scleroderma, "or systemic sclerosis, ... a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases."

However, she died from lung cancer.  She never smoked. Go figure.   

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Looking for change

When I was young I fancied myself an artist. After I became a mother, I lost my passion for art. Still, I always thought I would sketch and, perhaps, paint in retirement. So far, I have not.

Then I started working outside the home. I discovered I could be creative in other, non-visual ways. That was an eye opener! I made the most of those years, and I was fulfilled and satisfied in return. I loved working outside the home, and I learned so much about myself in the process.

Quilt design and hand work were my passion for a time. Unfortunately, my last job was a snake pit. I was there for the final 8 years of my work life. It was a problem solver's dream, but it was all consuming and left little energy for personal projects. When I was home I only wanted to rest and recover. I lost interest in quilting. I figured I would get back to it when I retired. Nope, not yet!

In NYS I was an absolute fiend for perennial gardening. Florida is not a perennial gardener's dream. I lowered my gardening expectations. I dabble now for color and ambiance. I am not "really" passionate about gardening in Florida. 

During the 40 years I worked outside the home I was passionate about my job. Work defined me. I am grateful for the jobs, and the people I worked with during those middle years. The role I played became who I was. I eventually lost my passion for the job, too. Then I retired. 

It was harder to retire than I anticipated. I kept thinking I was on vacation and would eventually go back to work. I came to realize this was no vacation; this was my life. Doing nothing became tedious. However, I did NOT want to go out and find a job. I needed to reinvent myself.

Now I write here. I also started contributing to a new feminist blog collective (more on that another time). I continue to moderate for
a large, political Facebook group which is part of the great political awakening of women in the U.S. since that unfortunate election. Becoming politically involved has been a game changer for me in retirement.

We moved to Florida to become a meaningful part of our grandchildren's lives. We gave up home, jobs, gardens, and friends to move to a wild swing state filled with alligators and bugs.
I find grand parenting immensely satisfying. I also find myself loving Florida. It has all been worth the sacrifices.

Reinventing myself is fun. As long as I am lucky enough to wake up each morning, I have time and plenty of it. I still imagine one day I will thread the damn sewing machine, or sketch a still life. 

Let's go out in full glory, okay?