coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pics from a Bike Ride

T and I went for a long bike ride yesterday morning along the right side of Lake Apopka.  I have a new zoom lens for my camera and wanted to try it out.  Lots of fun.

I think these are cormorants? Correct me if I am wrong.

A cute racoon way up in a tree. I would have missed him if not for T's eagle eye

Red Shouldered Hawk

The same hawk

Blue Heron pretending it doesn't see me

Interesting "stuff" left over from when this part of the lake was a farm

An Anhinga on more of that interesting "stuff." I love seeing Nature take back her own

A noble predator, per comment below it is an osprey

Big old alligator, happily snoozing all covered with duckweed

Friday, December 23, 2016

I'm with the band

There were years when a big part of my life revolved around being the wife of a band member. Okay, it would have been cooler to be the girlfriend, but whattayagonnado? I loved seeing him perform on stage. It was always a good time and I got to dance like a maniac. This lasted for about 10 years, through a couple of different bands and musical genres. 

I was a wild child, as was my husband. I realize that is kind of shocking because I'm an older woman now. But don't kid yourself, older women have a past. Expand your mind to allow for it!

Because we were born in 1951, we were considered teeny boppers during our hippie years, which for me started about 1968, for T a little earlier. We were usually some of the youngest hangers-on in that scene.

I loved British punk music, especially The Clash; however, by 1977 we were a little too old for punk. At 26 years-old, NYC style New Wave fit us best.

I wrote about that period of our lives in a post last year. One area band he was in (not going to say the name because it is a little vulgar) opened for Talking Heads when TH was an up and coming band still playing in clubs. I have a great picture of T and Tina Weymouth talking backstage that night. They both played bass in their bands.

I loved seeing a woman like Tina Weymouth playing in a band. She wasn't trying to be sexy, wasn't the lead singer, and didn't try to draw attention to herself. She was just trying to be an authentic musician, and she had a great sound. I wish there had been more women in rock and roll like her. Mothers, please let your daughters grow up to be bass players.

T and Tina 1977, Ithaca, New York

These are my random Christmas Eve thoughts for 2016. In the words of the repairman who came to our house yesterday, "Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate."  Cheers.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Mother's Christmas Tree

When I was young we did not put our tree up until 3 days before Christmas. My parents were quite strict about that. My mother said that when she was a child the tree always went up on Christmas Eve after the children went to bed. They woke up thinking Santa had brought it. As an adult she must have felt quite modern putting it up so far in advance...  

The tree was my mother’s pride and joy. She decorated it herself, no children allowed.
Great care was taken to get a tree with the perfect shape and density. They were always beautiful, real works of art. Mom liked to spray the tree with canned "snow" so it looked like it was frosted. It must have been a 1950's thing? No one does that anymore, do they? For a couple of years she covered the tree with "Angel Hair", a fibrous fiberglass material she painstakingly spread over the entire tree, making a spider web effect as it encased the large colored lights. I distinctly remember the fibers got into our clothing and became an itchy mess on our backs. Ouch. It is probably against the law now.

The most amazing part of Mom's tree was the tree topper. It was spun glass featuring a paper angel with foil wings who seemed to be floating in a cloud. I was searching for a new tree topper this year and came across an antique one online just exactly like my Mom's. I didn't buy it; however, I have a picture of it.

When I was a child I thought this was the most beautiful thing on the tree


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Some flounder, but this isn't fan mail.

Here are some end of the year musings if you can stand me yammering on:

We all know that kind of person, the one who means well but falls short. No doubt we all ARE that kind of person, imperfect and floundering as we are. I thought more highly of myself before I retired. Now I have time to think, remember, and analyze my actions in depth. There are many things I regret having said or done. Some things I did because I fell short of kindness. Other things I did because I just did not realize, did not consider, how my actions would affect another. Sometimes I was just plain foolish.

I can forgive myself for those things fairly easily because I know I was not trying to be mean. I am imperfect. I will try harder.
I just wish I could apologize to the zillions of people who suffered because of my imperfection. Interestingly, as I begin to forgive myself for being less than perfect, I find I can begin the process of forgiving others who fell short with me. Except for the occasional psychopath, we all live and learn.

Still, the ego-driven transgressions are the worst, and the hardest for me to come to terms with. How could I have been so self-centered? All these years I thought I was trying to be good. Instead, I look back and realize all too often I was trying to make myself "look" good. There are casual things I have said or done because I thought I was better, smarter, or was just trying to dominate the conversation with me, me, me.

I am NOT referring to blog posts, by the way.  Blogging is the absolute right forum for talking about oneself. It is a place for self-exploration, expression, humor, sharing, and grief. I'm good with my blog being about me. My real-life actions are what I feel a bit oppressed by.

A twisted tree still grows, just not straight

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday Glitz

The tree is decorated. T put up the outside lights. No tasteful white here! We go full-on gaudy in this house, dontcha know. Not that I dislike white. I quite like other people's all-white lights. I find the all-white shtick soothing and calm, as well as exquisitely beautiful. However, Christmas decorating is personal. It is folk art, so I gotta be me. I have always wished I was a soothing and calm sort of person, but I'm not. I'm shooting for the overstimulated, bouncing off the walls, bacchanal effect. I am happy to report that colored lights and sparkly glitz have made a positive difference in my attitude. I am now feverishly in frenzy mode.

I made my mother's fruitcake. I went ahead and added those red candied cherries I was insufferable about avoiding in previous years. Bring 'em on!

I live in constant fear of chocolate fudge. Homemade fudge is my nemesis. One piece on Christmas Eve and I'm off and running, eating everything in sight until Saint Patrick's Day. Oh gee, now that I've thought about fudge I just know I will end up making some.

I mailed out all my Christmas cards; however, I mailed most of them without putting our return address on the top left. Sheesh. This is what happens when an old lady in complete frenzy mode tries to do more than one thing at a time. Then I had to go on FB and post that I did that.  Why? Well, I didn't want anyone who got the card without the return address to think I didn't realize what I had done.

A postcard my friend Chilly Hollow sent in 1988.  On the back is the best fudge recipe ever.  Damn you Chilly!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Our first Christmas tree

We were 16 when we found each other. We were not exclusive those first few years, times being what they were. In 1970, I was in San Francisco and he in Upstate New York. We kept in touch via love letters. I took LSD one night and came to realize that he was the one I was meant to be with. Sheesh, it is a little embarrassing to write these things, but this is our truth. We were part of a generation of magical thinkers. It is only by the grace of God or the luck of the universe that we managed to stay alive and reasonably sane. Some didn't make it.

On the Winter Solstice of 1970, I left San Francisco and returned to Northern Indiana specifically to be with T. His father had recently died. He hitchhiked back "home" from the commune he was living on in Upstate New York to spend time with his mother before moving on.

We started our life together "crashing" on the living room floor of a friend's apartment. We were your average crazy hippie kids with neither resources nor life skills. The first two Christmases we did not put up a tree. Like all our friends, we went to our parents' houses for Christmas in those glory days before responsibilities and real jobs caught up with us.

That third Christmas, in 1972, we had a nine month old baby, entry level jobs, and a scruffy apartment all our own. Some kindly, concerned relative gave us an old, artificial table-top tree and we decorated it with pipe cleaners and construction paper. It was glorious, our first Christmas tree. We put it on the card table we used as a kitchen/dining room table. The presents went underneath the table. Santa came to our house for the first time that year.

I fancied myself an artist so most of the decorations are ridiculously abstract

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Getting in the spirit

Yeah, it's December. I suppose it is time to get serious about this Christmas stuff. My immediate family is reasonably small, and for the most part I have stopped buying for nieces and nephews. T and I do not need anything, so I would skip the whole "present exchange with my spouse" thing if I could. However, he seems to want to continue and I want him to be happy. It is also fun to get presents.

When I was a young mother I lived for this holiday. I worked myself up into a Christmas frenzy for the entire month of December every single year. I burned with a bright eyed fever, lusting after the perfect present, the best deal, the cutest stocking stuffer. I would bake at least ten million cookies, decorate with abandon, and loved it all. I used to have trouble sleeping throughout December because of those damn sugarplums dancing in my head. I must have infected my daughter with the Christmas bug, because she is "that person" now instead of  me. 

I am not sure what or when it happened, but I am cured of that bug. Perhaps because it is December 4th as I write this and I am still wearing shorts and flipflops? I have a hard time believing the holiday is approaching. Or maybe it is because the world seems to be falling apart. Whatever. I need to get with the program here! Christmas is fun. I need some fun.

My daughter lives only 12 minutes away, and she is definitely in the spirit. Are the holiday senses dulled as one ages?  Does the capacity for joy diminish, or does it just mature?  Oh no, have I grown up? 

An old friend from Christmas 2007 to help me get in the holiday spirit

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The World Gets Smaller

Death is relentless. Last week a cousin died at 66 from cancer. This week my son-in-law's stepfather died in his sleep. He was 76 and very much a beloved part of our small family here in Central Florida. There was a time when these seemed like reasonable ages to die, but not in 2016. Not when I am 65. Now, I just feel like they have been cheated. But then again, who am I to say?

When I was young I found death terrifying. Perhaps I will be terrified when Death comes for me, I'm not making any promises! However, the more "other" deaths I experience, the more dying becomes the new normal. Yes, it diminishes our lives and relationships. Our world becomes increasingly smaller with each passing. We suffer the losses. Yes, this is all true. You know what I mean.

Aging can seem like a great battle; the kind where you know you are losing but it still must be finished with courage and valor. So you fight on, with comrades falling all around. In my last post I talked about how, in an alternate universe, I might have become a good soldier. I feel that way again today. The living endure. Because I am a mother and a grandmother, I will start cooking and baking. There will be people to feed.  
Saw palmetto growing after a controlled burn, Lake Louisa, Florida

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


In an alternate reality I would have made a good soldier. I have a gift, at least I think it is a gift. I don't react to crisis in the moment. Instead, I fight. It isn't until a few days or even a week later that the gravity of the situation fully hits me and I collapse. 

I am exhausted with worry about all the things happening in the world right now. This will pass.  Not the worry, not the need to fight; those are going to stick around for a long, long time. I am talking about the exhaustion. I know fatigue is a natural reaction in times of great loss and extreme stress, so I am not particularly concerned about how I feel right now. I have been taking it easy the past few days, trying to get some rest. Today I have to get up off the couch and start tackling Thanksgiving preparations. That will be a good reason to re-enter polite society. 

My oldest sister, Sister C, shared this with me right after the presidential election. I find this song by Sly and the Family Stone as inspirational now as I did in the late 1960's. It is going to help me stand up and get on with my life. It reminds me how good strength feels. It reminds me that in the dark times of the soul, artists create art, musicians create music, actors allow us to see the world through another person's eyes. They turn their pain into art, and they uplift us all in the process.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S.A. Like so many of you, I will be thankful for my family. Today I am thankful for Sly Stone. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

And THEN she told Mom when to die

The Baby Sister Chronicles: Part II 😎

My mother's Parkinson's Disease continued to progress. A couple years after the delirium incident she moved to an assisted living facility for a few more years. It was only in her last year she was bedridden and confined to a nursing home. Despite having a husband, 3 children, and a full time job, Baby Sister went to see her every single day, advocating and watching out for Mom. As you can imagine, they formed a special bond.

In late February 2015, Mom had a massive stroke rendering her more or less unresponsive. I had overnight duty at the nursing home for much of the last week Mom was actively dying. On the morning of the 7th day a favorite nurse came in to check Mom's vital signs. After a few moments the nurse said to me with great tenderness and liquid eyes, "Today is the day; she doesn't have much longer." I called the usual suspects and let them know to come right away. Sister C was the first to arrive. Big D was next. Baby Sister was at work and arrived later than the others. She was kind of dragging her feet! I have anxiety issues and I was afraid she would arrive too late. I repeatedly texted her to get her rear in gear. Baby Sister calmly and firmly insisted there was time. Why do I ever doubt her?

I was not sure if Mom could hear, but I kept telling her Baby Sister would be there soon. When Baby Sister arrived she went straight to the bed, kissed our mother three times on the forehead and said "Ma, we all love you so much, but now it's time to go to sleep." Within 15 minutes Mom took her last breath. 

Baby Sister is getting kind of embarrassed with all the attention, so I need to stop writing about her for a while.  However, I am only lying low and biding my time. This won't be the last you will hear about her.

To my followers - sorry for all the versions of this. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

That time Baby Sister healed the sick

I read (click here) about a medical condition called delirium that can result when older people have surgery. It mimics dementia, but is usually not permanent. This happened to my mother (Teresa) in 2007 when she had back surgery at age 81.

She was fine going into surgery, but a very different person woke up. Angry, distrustful, paranoid, and confused, she thought her children were out to get her. We still laugh (to abate the horror) about when she lay in the hospital bed pretending to read the newspaper. She was actually furtively monitoring my brother (Big D) and Baby Sister. How did we know? Her eyes darted back and forth over the newspaper, which was upside down.

Her doctor knew what was going on. He admitted her to the rehab side of a nursing home for a few months to recover her senses and get back on her feet (literally). However, Mom forgot she was too weak to get up by herself or walk without a walker. Consequently, she kept falling. That made her an insurance risk for the "home." She also refused to follow directions, hallucinated, and was uncharacteristically rude. They labeled her as a dementia patient, even though that was not what she was suffering from.

This took place in Indiana. About a month into her convalescence I went there for a week to help my siblings convince the rehab center that Mom needed further physical therapy. The rehab people thought she was a goner. They were ganging up on Baby Sister, urging her to end therapy and permanently admit Mom to the long-term care part of the nursing home.

Baby Sister was Mom's principal caregiver. She was not ready to give up on Mom. Our mother had Parkinson's Disease. We knew the time would come when she would need to go into end-of-life nursing care, but if Baby Sister (an absolute powerhouse of a woman) thought it wasn't time yet, well, we sure weren't going to argue with her.

The rehab people gave up on Mom. They stopped making her try to walk to the dining hall, keeping her in a wheelchair instead. Baby Sister knew that meant Mom would never walk again, meaning she would never go home, meaning she could be forever traumatized and unable to care for herself. So Baby Sister decided to make Mom walk.

I was there the first time Baby Sister pulled Mom out of the wheelchair and positioned her in front of the walker. It was a little disconcerting, but Baby Sister is no one to trifle with. If she says "Walk!" the lame will walk! It took forever to get from Mom's room to the dining hall. One of Mom's aides passed us in the hallway. I heard her mutter under her breath, "Damn, Teresa is WALKING!"

A couple months later my telephone rang. Who should be on the other end but my sweet, sweet Momma, back from LaLa Land. She wanted to hear how I was doing. She had no idea how long she had been "gone" and remembered very little about the past 4 months. She was back in her little apartment, walking with a walker, happy, fiesty, and ornery. Our Momma was back. Thanks Baby Sister, for never giving up.

To be continued...

Mom in 2009.  She died in 2015.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

You can't get rid of me THAT easy.

I just read a comment on FB encouraging angry protesters to move to Canada.  Ha!  That made me laugh. 

Move to Canada? No, I think maybe I'll stay right here in Florida and work for change. 

It cracks me up when people pretend to be shocked and outraged at the backlash from these "marching in the streets" Millennials. The GOP never accepted Obama as their president and obstructed him long and hard for 8 years. The young have eyes to see and ears to hear.

I do not approve of obstructionism or disrespect. Like it or not, our obsolete Electoral College system has given us someone we do not want.  Shit happens. I support working within the system to promote peaceful and rational progressive change. I encourage others to do the same. However, I am not going to lie.  I look forward to watching activism flower in the hearts and minds of young people in these United States.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Guilt Trippers and Fixers

In my not-so-humble, completely non-medical opinion there is no virtue to suffering in silence. Repressing your emotional pain is convenient for some people around you (the ones who do not want to notice you are in pain), but it is bad for your mental and physical health. Words have power. Speaking the truth "might" set you free."

There are obvious caveats to consider. I trust you to know what they are. Still, emotional pain will not go away by ignoring it. It wants to be felt, processed, and released. Unacknowledged emotional pain festers and screams like an angry crowd; it demands to be heard.
If you want pain to dissipate then you will have to chew it up and spit it out, not suck it up. Geez-o-Pete, do you want to end up with the psychological equivalent of a sinus infection? Emotional pain is powerful stuff. Left unattended it will find insidious ways to get your attention despite all your good intentions for "soldiering on." 

If you are lucky, you might have a friend who is a good listener. Sadly, I am not talking about a "fixer" friend. Fixers are good hearted people who care about you and want very much to help. However, they have their own pain to contend with. Their pain makes it hard for them to just listen to you speak the unspeakable, even though they really, really want to. I know because I am a fixer... I am freakin' useless sometimes, jumping in ready to fight other people's fights, warding off evil, controlling the hell out of every thing, frantically filled with "good ideas" and best intentions. Sometimes I exhaust myself (and others). Maybe most of the time.

When I am in pain but I don't have a friend who is a good listener, I pay someone to listen to me. Why not? In fact, seeing a gifted therapist is often the best way for me. However, if I cannot afford (or find) a gifted therapist, then I keep a private journal. I write whatever comes to mind. I like to imagine converting emotional pain into words is a magical release spell. Humor me if you can. I'm trying to fix things here. Relaxare!

I try
not to pay attention to guilt trippers. You know, the people who infer that your pain is self-indulgent and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. If I feel it, it is real. I cannot help fight the world's pain if I haven't first resolved my own. Guilt trippers want to shut us up and shut us down. That doesn't seem helpful or kind, does it? To be honest (and compassionate) guilt trippers probably do this because they have their own unresolved pain. I get it. I know they mean well. Still, they can get in the way of personal growth just as effectively as us fixers.

I want to be helpful, kind, and compassionate. I also want to be thankful, grateful, and look on that damn bright side. Truly. But I also want to be honest, courageous, and strong. Sometimes that involves facing your own pain first. THEN you can safely help the passenger in the seat next to you put on their oxygen mask.

I might have stolen that last sentence from some other blogger's recent blog. It sounds disturbingly familiar. If I have stolen your thought and you read this, please comment so you can take credit for it. I will apologize. It will assuage my guilt.

Sometimes I think Jiminy Cricket was just a nagging, chirping grasshopper

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubs Win!!!!

I am a sucker for the underdog.  Here is my litany for this morning:

I believe in magic 
I believe in grace
I believe in mathematics and the laws of probability
I believe in hard work and determination
I believe that curses can be overcome
I believe that hope abounds 
I believe I will never call them "The Lovable Losers" again 


I wish my Mom was still alive and could have watched that game last night.  The Cubs used to make her so mad, but she never gave up on them.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Turning 65

I turned 65 recently. Over the past few months I have drawn up a will, signed up for Medicare, re-balanced my retirement investments, and bought dental insurance (finally). I worked long and hard building a reasonable life for myself and my family. The building part of my life is over and it seems like the external part of my life is as "in place" as it is going to get. Now that I am 65 I want to change my focus. I want to take care of my internal self. I have the time, that's for sure. I believe I have the energy, too. I just need to change my attitude. Where there is fear, I need to cultivate strength. Call me naive, but I think it might be as simple as that.

Saturday, October 15, 2016


Have you ever had something happen you simply could not explain? The incident that comes to mind for me is the Case of My Magic Earring.

A dear friend, JE, once gave me pewter earrings imprinted with a quilt block pattern. They are my all-time favorite earrings.  

When my father died in 1996, I flew back to Indiana from NYS to give the eulogy at his funeral. My daughter, M, was in college and had exams. I wouldn't let her come. I hope she forgives me for that eventually! T had events going on at work and I convinced him it would be best if he stayed home. In truth, I wanted to go alone because I did not want to be a mother or a wife for that event. I wanted to be a daughter. I wore my pewter earrings to the funeral. Afterwards my brother, Big D, invited everyone to his house for a reception.   

We went straight from the church to the reception. I was up and about all afternoon talking to people I rarely get to see. When I was ready to leave, I reached up to touch my ear and realized one of the earrings was missing. In a panic, I went back into the house and searched high and low for the earring. I eventually accepted the loss and sadly went on my way. It was a day for loss, it seemed. When I returned home I put the other earring in my jewelry box. Even alone, it had meaning to me and I wanted to keep it.

I usually give the eulogies at family funerals.  By 1996, I had given two eulogies: at my Dad's (1996) and at my brother F's (1995) funeral.  A couple of months after Dad's funeral I was having one of "those" days. Specifically, I wanted to reread the eulogies and get all nostalgic in the process. I still do that from time to time, but now I also read eulogies I gave for my Grandma (2000), my brother W (2004), and my Mom (2015).  It is kind of getting out of hand.

My husband and I each have our own home offices. My computer was on the fritz that day, so I was sitting in T's office using his computer instead. On his desk was a small bronze container with a lid. I casually opened the lid to see what he kept inside. Imagine my surprise when I saw my missing earring! I screamed for T and he came running. He claimed to have no knowledge of the earring or how it came to be in that container in his office. 

Now remember, he did not go with me to that funeral. His office was upstairs and mine was downstairs. I rarely went into his room. It was just a fluke that I was using his computer that day. How did that earring find its way from Indiana to New York?

I checked my jewelry box and the second earring was still where I put it. I was seriously spooked, trying to imagine there was a reasonable explanation that would present itself in time. I decided to ignore what had just happened. The mind is a powerful force for denial. 

Later in the afternoon the power went out in the house just for a few minutes, long enough for the non-battery driven clocks to go off and start blinking. I reset the downstairs clocks. I went upstairs to use the bathroom and saw the alarm clock in our bedroom blinking. I ignored it, thinking I'd leave it for T to reset because it was somewhat complicated and I am THAT lazy.

By the time we went to bed I had successfully convinced myself nothing strange had happened.  Then I suddenly remembered the alarm clock. I sat up and leaned over to see if the clock was still blinking but noticed the clock had been reset.  I mumbled a thank you to T for resetting it and closed my eyes to go to sleep. A few moments later I heard T mumble, "I didn't reset it, you must have." My eyes flew wide open. I replied, "No... I didn't!" We both lay there for a few long, uncanny minutes feeling unsettled at best. His voice in the dark said something like "Please don't become a big nut!" I assured him I wouldn't and we eventually relaxed enough to fall asleep.

Afterwards, I referred to those earrings as my "magic earrings." I regaled my nieces and nephews with the story. Whenever I travelled I wore them as a good luck charm. One niece in particular, K, would always ask if I was wearing my magic earrings when I was on the plane.

About 16 years later, in 2012, I was flying back to NY from a visit to my daughter in Orlando. Of course I wore my magic earrings. On the way, I realized I had once again lost one.  I figured I had it on borrowed time and was thankful for the joy it had brought me and my large extended family.  I let it go. Perhaps it will find its way back to me again?  Geez, I hope not. I don't think I could handle it.

The remaining magic earring.  I carry it with me inside my purse now.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Protecting Ourselves From Creeps

I think the majority of men are decent people; no need to school me on that. There are plenty of good men who are friends, lovers, and family members. However, there are also predators out there who consider women fair game. I am not talking about rape; that is a whole different ball of wax. I'm talking about casual sexual harassment. You know, like when you encounter a creep who makes you want to leave a party early...not with him, with a bodyguard and a container of Purell.

Trump's vulgar and offensive treatment of women reminds me how ill-equipped some of us are to handle unexpected, unwanted advances. All too often it catches us off guard when we encounter a creep. We do not expect it and we just want to pretend it isn't happening. We might be afraid or really, really embarrassed. We may not fully understand why we freeze up. We just want to get away without getting manhandled or hurt. For whatever reason, we often let such "bad manners" pass. Then we go on with our lives, a bit diminished, dehumanized, and worse for wear. 

When I was a young woman, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, there was a burgeoning feminist movement. We attended assertiveness training events to learn how to speak our minds. In my early days as an office worker at Cornell University, there were actually assertiveness training workshops offered to women at work! I learned so much from attending those workshops. This may sound odd to younger women.

You have to understand how it was in the bad old days. Girls were raised to be nice, kind, and obedient. We were taught good girls put the needs of others before their own (even though that put us at risk of being abused or taken advantage of). Furthermore, a lady was always polite and did not yell or call attention to herself. I think you can understand how desperately we needed remedial training to learn how to protect ourselves from creeps!

Like so many other women, I never wanted to be aggressive. Let's face it, aggression IS creepy. Although feminism made me want to be strong, resourceful, credible and respected, I absolutely did not want to become like the creeps. I'm still down with that! (I always hoped feminism would influence men to become more like women.) That is why "assertiveness" was such a welcome concept to many of us. Becoming assertive allowed us to be strong without subscribing to a primitive definition of strength we did not admire.

When I became a manager I received additional training to help thwart sexual harassment in the workplace. A key dynamic is that a woman needs to be crystal damn clear she is not interested. Any meekness, hedging or hawing, or embarrassment will NOT be interpreted as a well mannered rejection by a creep. It will be interpreted as consent or (believe it or not) interest. Apparently creeps think differently than the rest of us.

The next time I see my granddaughter I am going to tell her the most important word in the English language is NO. She needs to get comfortable saying it, along with other things like "Please stop, this is making me uncomfortable," or "I'm not interested," or eventually "Seriously, do I have to call the police?"

I will also tell her not to pay attention to any of the unkind things a creep might yell at her as she walks away. He's a creep, remember? He will not mean it personally, because he won't even think of her as a person. That is why she will be walking away.

WHAT did he just say?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Down the Chute

In 1949, my parents moved into a house in Northern Indiana with my two older sisters. Mom and Dad were raised during the Great Depression, but reached adulthood during World War II. They grew up hard and they grew up fast. That pretty much explains THEIR generation!

Our house was a teeny, one story, two bedroom, house. A breezeway connected the house to a one car garage. I was born in 1951. When my brother Freddy came along in 1955 the breezeway was converted to a third bedroom for the three girls. There was no dining room, all action took place in the kitchen. The living room was not sacrosanct, the house being too small for a show room. Showy front rooms were for rich people who somehow managed to produce well-mannered children! How did they do that, by the way? We lived loud and large in our living room, with the large wooden TV cabinet serving as focal point. 

Our street was located in a newly constructed housing development filled with identical “starter” homes. Scads of similar neighborhoods were quickly built after WWII to accommodate returning veterans and their families. Everyone on the block was like us; traditional families headed by hard drinking, blue-collar workingmen with religious homemaker wives and lots of sugar charged children, all approximately the same ages. 

The 1950's were a great time to be a child.
Since houses were too small for adventure, our mothers made us play outside. A lot. We ran hog wild when we were home from school. No one worried about pedophiles or creepy predators. Our mothers did not shuttle us to extracurricular activities, our "schedules" were wide open. We came and went as we pleased, and the world was our playground.

I am not one of those people who thinks "the old ways" are a superior child raising strategy to today's helicopter parenting, it was just historically different. Benign neglect in our formative years may explain my generation's subsequent hijinks. Our war traumatized parents were so busy drinking, smoking, and trying to approximate normal that they hardly noticed us baby boomers were sentient beings. Little did they know we were plotting to take over the world.

I cannot remember any of the families on the block having more than one car. If the mother needed the car she drove the father back and forth to work, otherwise she stayed home. Protestant kids walked to the nearest school. The Catholic kids took a city bus back and forth en masse. I remember it cost a dime each way.

Our house was heated by a large coal burning furnace located in the basement. It was a big, potbellied, fire-breathing monstrosity. I was convinced it was the Devil. Once a year the coal man would come to the house and drop enough coal down the “chute” into the basement coal bin to get us through the winter. Now THAT was a lively racket! It was exciting for us children when the coal man came. The whole process was loud, dirty, and disruptive of normal routine - all excellent things to a child.

Families did not need a second car because industry came to us. We had an egg man who brought us eggs, a milk man who left dairy products outside the front door, and a bread delivery man. The Fuller Brush man supplied us with interesting things like carbolic salve, my mother’s go-to healing potion. The insurance man came to the house to update policies, and the Avon Lady was often calling with her cute little lipstick samples. I REALLY wanted those but Mom wouldn't share. Once a year a traveling photographer arrived to take family photos in our house. 

We had a mailman and a paperboy. Except for the Avon Lady, all these salespeople were men. The mailman walked from porch to porch carrying a big brown satchel filled with mail. He usually had the same route for years, so families knew their mailman by name. In those days before credit cards, the paperboy stopped by his customer's houses weekly to collect cash payments. It always embarrassed me to answer the knock and find the paper boy staring at me from the other side of the door. Aack, a young boy at the door wanting money! I wouldn’t speak to him and he certainly didn't speak to me. I would yell “Ma, the paper boy is here!” and then leave him standing outside while I made a quick getaway. 

Kid World was a separate society. Adults were weird, except for grandparents who took us to the Dairy Queen for a phosphate or a Dilly Bar. Grandparents were okay. They knew we were sentient and they thought we were cute. 

This house still exists, though quite a bit worse for wear. I often wonder if there is any trace to be found of the original occupants?

What was the first house you can remember living in?

My first home, circa 1958