November 21, 2017

Just another #MeToo story

Who hasn't seen that one?

My early career was in retail and it was a busy environment. There were so many times I felt uncomfortable about the comments made by the men. We women shrugged it off, said we should be flattered, or felt prude and uncool if we expressed offense.

I was in college at the time and my manager was sitting in the back of the office watching me from behind as I waited on a customer. After the customer left, he asked me if I had been a cheerleader in high school. I was the furthest thing from that, so I looked at him with a baffled expression. He said, I couldn't help but notice how toned and muscular your legs are. I bet you would have been something to watch.

I never wore a skirt to work after that. He even remarked on that. My co-workers used to tease me that they wanted me to wear a skirt again so that he would be in a good mood.

That was only one time I felt uneasy. I had another manager who had the least subtle way in the world of trying to look down my blouse. He was tall and would come and stand next to me while I was doing paperwork, glancing down my shirt.

I talked to a trusted male and he said something like, "It's only harassment if you don't want the attention, so don't dress in a way that asks for attention." Victim blaming at its finest. Especially since what I was wearing was the dress code that the company dictated. Unless I bound my chest or butt, there was no way to conceal what was underneath my clothing.

Over and over, I felt like my appearance and not my professionalism was how I was evaluated at work. At one point, someone higher up invited me to lunch to discuss a possible promotion. He tried to kiss me at the end of the lunch and I awkwardly turned it into a very weird hug. He called me the next day and asked if I would be interested in attending an out of town conference that would offer some good networking opportunities for me. The whole incident made my skin crawl. But I never said anything. (I didn't go to the conference, either).

Shortly after that, I became pregnant with our first child. I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to continue working and truthfully, I think part of the reason I walked away was that I didn't think my career would go forward if I wasn't willing to be a plaything.

Fast forward to middle age, restless housewife. I've reached the point in my life that I am more or less invisible. At 51 and a little chubby, I don't get cat-calls and I don't worry that I'm only getting noticed because I have cleavage or nice legs. And that feels a little weird, too, if I'm being honest.

What makes me even happier? My oldest is now a college graduate. She experienced a "MeToo" moment and was outraged. OUTRAGED! I was so proud of her for not being confused or thinking she had done something wrong.

Progress, albeit slow, but progress.

Women, speak up.

November 14, 2017

Capsule Wardrobe for 10 Days in the Winter

Our family is spending time away this winter. We will be reuniting with Baby Bird #1 as she finishes her final study abroad program in Europe. She has been there four months. We organized a family trip as a final send off to the exciting new world awaiting her.

We typically travel in the summer so room for clothing hasn't ever been much of an issue. Shorts and sandals take up a lot less room than sweaters and boots. I've done some traveling and have compiled several tips, but this was a new challenge for me.

I want to leave a lot of room in my suitcase for whatever items my daughter has accumulated in her four months as well as picking up souvenirs. (Tip: Take a larger suitcase than you need and fill the empty space with bubble wrap for any delicate souvenirs you may pick up). Additionally, I am pretty stringent about not exceeding the airline weight limit of 50 pounds for two reasons. Who wants to lug a heavy bag around and who wants to pay that extra fee? Not I, said the Mama Hen.

I've got myself organized. I researched quite a bit and realized that my staple wardrobe of blacks and tans will work quite well. I did have to pick up a few items to round out my capsule, but in the interest of saving money, I shopped Swap.com to find secondhand items. I love shopping Swap because it's easy to filter size, brand, and item of clothing and the selection is huge. The link I've added contains a referral code and you will save 20% off your first purchase. I also purchased one of my items from a local friend's boutique, Shop Stevie. Versatile & comfortable clothing.

I've stuck to neutral colors, with a smattering of patterns, and a few colorful pieces for some pizzazz. I also will be swapping out statement accessories to mix it up. Essentially, I have 3 slacks, 5 tops, 5 vests/cardigans/blazers, and 2 scarves.

Without further ado, this is what I'm packing for our 10 day trip. Want to see how I'm going to dress differently each day?

Itemized clothing list: (see captions for what is mixed and matched)
  1. Black sleeveless t-shirt
  2. Silk blouse in muted tans & greys
  3. Black pull on slacks
  4. Tan pull on slacks
  5. Black & white herringbone patterned leggings
  6. Tan & black blazer
  7. Black sweater vest
  8. Grey draped cardigan
  9. Black & blush patterned infinity scarf
  10. Turquoise fringed wrap scarf

l to r, (3, 11, 9 and 10, 4, 7)

l to r, (2, 12, 8) (6, 14, 8) (9, 13, 1) (5, 12, 7)


l to r, (1, 16, 9) (3, 7) (2, 10, 8)  (4, 7, 13, 15)

I also have a few wild card items not shown:  a knit dress that rolls to nothing, pajamas, a swim suit for the hotel, shoes (short black boots and a pair of hiking shoes), socks, and undergarments. I am also bringing a set of long johns for layers on cold days and a roll up puffer jacket. I will follow up with a photo of my fully packed suitcase before we leave. 

Can you think of other ideas to mix 'n' match? Maybe I'll stay longer! 

August 24, 2017

Area 51-- the Empty Nest series continues

It seems apropos that on the day I end my 51st trip around the sun, I post about the theorized site of aliens visiting Earth. The previous year of my life certainly has had moments of other-worldliness. I've felt like an alien in the story of my own life as I've adjusted to several rapid fire changes that seemed to have crashed into my world like a comet.

Today, I revisit the story I began to write a year ago about surviving the empty nest and finding myself again.  It's been a year of searching and self-reflection, a year of discovery. Something I realized in this past year as I've slowly shed the pounds I picked up in middle age is that I've begun to shed some of the emotional baggage and angst as well.

A year ago today, I was wringing every last ounce of emotion out of feeling so lost and confused. My menopausal, empty-nest, lost-a-parent, just-was-invited-to-the-AARP self was in a tailspin. I blogged each week through the end of the year with the intent of turning those 18 weeks of reflection into a book.

I set out a timetable to deal with everything and set about it with utmost efficiency. But I was rushing myself and the process, and I hit a wall. I decided to set everything aside and just let it age gracefully. 

I wasn't done telling the story or discovering who I am. I wasn't quite ready to look past my empty nest. I thought about who I am and what I need to feel fulfilled. Now I'm ready to explore more about surviving the empty nest, because I indulged myself with the gift of reflection and time.

As I glance out my window at the changing leaves, through the bouquet of flowers, I realize I'm ready for change, too.

Stay tuned as we continue the journey together.


May 25, 2017

Ask me anything

One of the ways I fill my time as a freelance writer and lover of children is by substitute teaching. When my client load is low or my need to be surrounded by sticky little hands  and whiny voices is untapped, I accept opportunities to substitute teach.

I jest a little. I thrive on being around children and feed off their energy and curiosity. My imagination runs wild as I glimpse faces from the past. There is a little boy who could be a dead ringer for my now 19 year old daughter's second grade best friend. There is another little boy who could be my little nephew. I see these faces and smile thinking of young friends I adored from a different time and place.

Inevitably, at the end of the day, we've done all our work and there is time, usually only about 5-10 minutes, because I'm pretty good at sticking to and following the schedule. That 5-10 minutes can seem endless if you aren't ready for it.

Additionally, as a substitute teacher, you don't even know their regular routine or where the teacher keeps the "bag o' tricks" for those down times. It's okay. John Berryman once wrote a quote that has become a lifetime mantra, "Ever to confess you're bored is to confess to no inner resources."

That quote reminds me to dig deep. When I encounter that dead zone of what the heck do I do now, I fall back on a game called "Ask Me Anything". The students must raise their hands and they are allowed to ask me anything they want. Because I teach elementary school, I'm not too concerned that I won't have an answer, or at least be able to make them laugh if I don't.

Typical questions include:

  • Do you have kids? (yes)
  • How many? (2)
  • Girls or boys? (both girls)
  • Do you have a dog? (yes)
  • What is your favorite kind of ice cream? (vanilla)
  • How old are you? (50)
  • Where do babies come from? (their parents)

So it goes. "Ask Me Anything" usually fills the rest of the time and keeps the kids engaged.

Sometimes, however, I get a monkey wrench, typically with the follow-up question.

Isn't it rude that someone asked your age? (No, I invited the question).
How do the parents get the babies? (That's a question for a scientist).
What if they didn't have vanilla ice cream? (I'd probably order coffee with chocolate chips)
Do you like cats? (the hardest one of all, because I don't usually, but meet exceptions on a regular basis).

The ask me anything game is sort of indulgent for me as well because I get to assuage my ego that "I know everything". Then came the time the game got the best of me. As we were filing to leave for the day, a young girl with a twinkle in her eye asked me, "Do you teach all the subjects?" (yes). She smirked and said, "Well that means you teach science, so you can tell us how the parents get the babies."

Just then the bell rung and the bedlam of getting the bus ensued.

I learned the meaning of saved by the bell.

But in the spirit of the game, I now invite my readers... "Ask Me Anything".
I might even answer.



March 20, 2017

First Day of School/Spring

It is only apropos that I find myself composing today's post on the first day of Spring. I have filled so many of my days with obligations that I hadn't been able to accept many substitute teaching jobs. In fact, the last time I was called and could accept was back in September.

But last night, around 9 PM, my phone rang and I was asked if I could teach today. I hesitated for a moment, as I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch, but I also knew that my friend would understand and we could reschedule. I was giddy as I said yes, I would be there, knowing that I would spend my day with a roomful of young people.

I am not sure how I can describe how much I love being in schools. I suppose you could call me a teacher groupie. I haven't gone through the work to be one, but I cannot really picture myself doing anything else. While I do not have a teaching degree, instead I fill my days with ways to be around young people. I am a confirmation sponsor at my church, I volunteer teach for Junior Achievement, and I coach speech and debate for a local high school. Oh, and I also babysit for my neighbors 2 mornings/week.

In other words, if there is anyone in the world who loves being around young people, it is me. Heck my own college daughter said in a quiz about how well she knows her mom, that my favorite thing is to talk with young people.

So today, knowing I was subbing all day, I sprung out of bed at 5:30 AM. My husband was teasing me, said, First day of school? At 50 years old, I blushed and then nodded knowingly, yes, I was going to school for the day.

I am not sure I can appropriately explain how magical a school building is to me. It's just this place of wonder and amazement. I walk in and see so much promise. I'm surrounded with potential. I am enveloped with hope. It is a beautiful thing. Lesson plans, students, notebooks, minds, oh those minds! Such gorgeous vessels waiting to be filled!

I am realistic. I'm a substitute teacher. I'm just a place holder who comes in and imparts a little knowledge that their regular teacher has set in place.  What I do believe though is that a good substitute can bring a new energy and enthusiasm to a classroom -- a fresh face, and different perspective. There was a young man in the front of my classroom today who announced how he was in a bad mood and that I shouldn't expect anything from him.

I looked at him and firmly said, "I expect you to do your work, because a job has nothing to do with your mood." The rest of the classroom piped in and quickly informed me that the regular teacher always makes him do stuff, even when he doesn't want to. I quickly discerned that there was more going on with this student. I think that is what a good sub does -- read the situation and adapt.

By the end of the day, he was smiling and fist bumped him for getting rid of his bad mood. Oh yeah, and he did the work he was supposed to do. I call that a winning day.



January 3, 2017

Here they are, there they go: Week 18 (final installment)

big familyThe holidays got in the way of wrapping up my empty nest series. We were traveling out and folks were traveling in, our kids came home, we hosted a family get-together, we attended several family get-togethers. We need a holiday from our holiday. 

As the dust settles on the holiday season for 2016, I have some time for reflection and offer some realistic observations. The past two weeks were a prospecting mission to foresee what future interactions between adult family members will be like.


What strikes me most profoundly is the complete lack of homogeneity, and yet, we are united by blood. Each member of our family is different and unique and at no time was that more apparent than when we were all gathered in the same space.


We saw cousins that we don't often see, and realized that as the family grows, our time commitments get more thin. We pledged to do better at keeping in touch and crossed our fingers that we make it a priority. 

The greater extrapolation of an empty nest is the realization that we had several generations of families who have all experienced children becoming adults at one time or another. Yet, we still gather and enjoy spending time together. I suspect that is the truest glimpse of the future.  Years ago, my siblings and I left our family nests.  We still congregate with each other when we can and appreciate the family time. 

We hosted mom at our house and realized now it’s our turn to take care of things for her when she’s in our home. We stocked up on her favorite coffee, put extra blankets in the room, set out favorite family photos. We want to make her feel at home with the same graciousness we feel when we visit her home. 


family togethernessThe difference when we visit our childhood home is a built in sense of familiarity. My brother found the spot on the wall that he etched his undying devotion to a grade school crush. We walked around marveling how much smaller it seems today than when we were kids. We were threatened with punishment if we opened a door to a messy room. Though we laughed, we realized that mom's “Board of Education” still stings in our minds if not on our behinds. 

We surrounded ourselves with touchstones to the past, made memories of the present, and looked forward to the future. And that is the note to close this series. I'm looking forward to the future. 





This 18 post series will be expanded upon and compiled into a book. 


Projected availability is July 2017. 

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