coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

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?