May 142016

Snow White 5May 14, 2016 — Yes, it’s me, Snow White. Do you remember I won an Oscar in 1939? Child star Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney a special Oscar for his first film-length animated feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”   Seven small duplicate Oscars accompanied the larger one. The diminutive Oscars were for my dear friends and former roommates,  Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sleepy, Doc, Sneezy, and Bashful.

I am the very same Snow White, who starred as a maiden in the Oscar-winning film nearly 80 years ago.

You probably wonder what has happened to my compatriots and me.

Someday my Prince will come.  I found my Prince Charming at the end of the film. We had a wonderful life together. He swept me off my feet,  out of the woods, and into the high rent district. We lived in his paternal grandmother’s castle. His family is noted for longevity.  His grandmother the Queen, his grandfather the Duke, and his father are still alive. His grandmother turned ninety this year. Pity the poor fool who has to wait that long to be king.

I’m no longer living in the castle. My dear one died in an unfortunate accident in the equestrian competition at the 1960 summer Olympics. Charming’s skill as a calvary officer was well known. However,  his dressage horse Hoof Hearted didn’t get the email and threw Charming over a fence. My beloved met an untimely and unfortunate death.

My children (Barry and Vanna) and I initially moved in with my sister Betty.  Our arrangement didn’t last. Betty’s house was overrun with dogs. The children developed severe allergies.

Barry left us a decade ago and is with his father.  Vanna has an excellent, well-paying job. She helps me as much as she can. But, I can’t live with my daughter. Her great room features a huge alphabet board, and worse,  a  shiny, lighted, neon wheel looms over the house and makes noise.

I took a day job at a hospital, and this week we celebrated National Hospital Week. I love my co-workers, so I decided to surprise them and dress in my costume from my first and only movie.

Can you believe that’s a wig in the picture?  Snow White has snow white hair now. I was pleased to find a plus-sized costume on Amazon. Snow may have put on a few pounds since the movie. So, I look like a tugboat in my Princess costume. The film was a long time ago. You should see my former roommates; they’ve gone to pot. Sleepy has marks on his face from staying in bed most of the time. Bashful is whacked out from taking pills for 80 years for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Heigh Ho. Heigh Ho. Where did the heck those boys go? The word dwarf is now politically incorrect, so I’ll just refer to them as little people. Only five of them are alive.  Due to climate change, Sneezy’s allergies worsened, and the little fellow succumbed to COPD years ago.

Doc ripped out my heart. I’m sad to report he committed suicide. His reimbursement rate from Medicare and Medicaid dipped so low he couldn’t pay his overhead. And don’t mention those three ex-wives.

Dopey always enjoyed working with people with his “sales personality.” He’s now the Midwestern Director for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President.

The other four had difficulty finding work and moved to China where they got work as Internet trolls.  We hear Grumpy has a lead on some of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

My grandchildren don’t know about my fame. They see me as a white-haired little old lady who works in a hospital, wears Alfred Dunner, and likes to listen to Tommy Dorsey. Perhaps some things are better left in the past.

Apple, anyone?

May 092016

By User:Aka (File:Chocolate.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Aka (File:Chocolate.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This week I’ve been approached to support a children’s dance class, a high school mission trip, a college sports trip, an elementary soccer league, and a private school fundraiser.

Are we solicited because we have a soft touch, or are we simply soft-headed? My husband is worse than I am. He’s contributed to “Laplanders for Botox” or something as equally arbitrary. We don’t need garbage bags via a fundraising organization that takes a huge percentage off the top. But, wait, there’s more!  Donate more and get 100 additional monogrammed trash bags today and all the penguins of Antarctica get new bowler hats.

To be fair, I’ve worked in professional development and as a volunteer in the disability community. My hands reached out for many a friend and family member. We do, however, try to reciprocate, but this is something else.

From the time our son was asked to sell World’s Finest chocolate bars, we insisted he do the selling himself. It was a teachable moment.  I showed him the ropes. He was raising money for the elementary school band, where he gave a less than stellar performance with his rented baritone horn.

At first, we didn’t allow him to solicit outside of friends and family.

For the fourth-grader, that meant a somewhat scripted phone conversation with his maternal grandparents and his paternal grandmother. He called a few other relatives and hit up the elderly ladies in his fan club at church. He had success and moved on to Boy Scout popcorn.

Our son and his friend donned their regal uniforms and pulled a wagon through the neighborhood. Who isn’t a soft touch for a man in uniform? Again, our son hit up the relatives and his community and church groupies.

Something has changed in the 15 years since he started his sales career. This change is well illustrated by a story my now-adult son told me. His co-worker approached him to buy a bauble or coupon book from her child.

My son said, “I will, but my parents always made me ask myself. They said I was the sales person, and I had to do it.”

His co-worker replied, “But, my child is five.”

ENOUGH already.

I repeat, I am a soft touch, and sponsor most things. I’m also aware that civic and school organizations don’t have resources, and I’m happy to support them. My family has a tradition of scholarships at several state universities.  But…

I suggest three ways a child can improve his sales, and learn some valuable life lessons, like speaking to adults respectfully, understanding rejection, and following through with orders.

Here are my three suggestions, with apologies to the real estate industry and their location x 3 mantra.

  1. Let your child sell his stuff.
  2. Let your child sell his stuff.
  3. Let your child sell his stuff.

I am more likely to buy from a child (even if the parent is standing a distance back) than I am from a co-worker who slips a sheet in front of my face. Or worse yet, asks me randomly, “Do you like going to the movies?” Yes, my co-worker has a bargain on discounted tickets for the local theater to benefit youth soccer. The most egregious are the emails sent to an entire contact list on behalf of their young child.

Don’t call me Grinch. If your child is too young to sell products, you should not do it for them. Many workplaces have no solicitation policies, resulting in a breakroom with multiple jewelry, purse, food, and makeup catalogs as well as the goodies schoolchildren sell.

This morning I gave a co-worker a check. My son purchased whatever it was from the parent of the 5-year-old. Our names must be on a list somewhere.

Cross-posted at BlogHer under different title.



May 012016

HEALTH May 2016 © Senior Wire News Service

A Healthy Age By Amy Abbott

Make your bathroom as comfortable as possible, for quality time on your throne. Bring your phone, a good book, tablet, and your drinking glass. Use a straw; it makes the medicine go down as Mary Poppins said, even if it is not “in the most delightful way.”

Colonoscopy is a frightening word. Can you imagine anyone delighting in this invasive test that requires abstaining from certain foods, an uncomfortable lead-up, and then the ultimate home invasion?

Following your doctor’s instructions and smart, thoughtful preparation, will make this awkward test more comfortable, and ultimately, successful.

A colonoscopy, according to the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, allows your physician to check the lining of your colon (large intestine) for abnormalities by inserting a non-rigid tube into your anus and moving it slowly into the rectum and colon. The scope is flexible, making the procedure more comfortable than the rigid scope for a sigmoidoscopy. The flexible scope also offers gastroenterologists an up-close view of colon mucosa, seeing potential problems more clearly.

There are many reasons you may need a colonoscopy, including screening for colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) of the Centers for Disease Control recommends screening for colorectal cancer using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75.

With no family history or problem that shows up on a test, your physician may retest you every ten years. Polyps or more serious issues may necessitate screening at five-year intervals or less, depending on the problem.

You have your orders. You will report to the gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy in a few weeks. The office asked you to stop by and pick up instructions as well as strange-looking liquids or pills or powders. This is no tea party. In the past decade, improvements from easier prep to imaging enhancements and more tolerable sedation (for most people) have made the colonoscopy a little less dreaded.


What to Expect

A week or two before testing:

  • Some physicians may stop aspirin, to reduce bleeding in case of a polyp removal.
  • Don’t stop any medications on your own. Check with the prescribing doctor or the gastroenterologist. They will make a decision based on your other health conditions.
  • Some physicians may advise you to stop eating salads or red meat a week or days before the test.

The day before the prep:

  • Have transportation in place. Most offices won’t let you drive after the procedure.
  • The Cancer Alliance recommends eating a large breakfast, small lunch, and tiny dinner. They suggest this will make the prep easier.

The day of the prep:

  • Plan your strategy. Reread the written instructions from the gastroenterologist.
  • Mix your concoction with a flavored drink such as Crystal Lite (I prefer to use a flavor I do not normally like, to avoid a later taste flashback.) Go-Lytely™, the strangely named concoction, is still around, but there are other preparations. Miralax™ has a delightful ambiance with Gatorade if that is your doctor’s chosen prep. If given pills, you must drink the required amount of water.Use cold, almost iced water. It’s not a good idea to start the prep unless you are completely prepared to enjoy it sitting down – preps react differently on different people. You may be one that finds it immediately effective.
  • Make your bathroom as comfortable as possible, for quality time on your throne. Bring your phone, a good book, tablet, and your drinking glass. Use a straw; it makes the medicine go down as Mary Poppins said, even if it is not “in the most delightful way.”

During the prep:

  • Frankly, your bottom will be sore. Have baby wipes or diaper rash ointment available.
  • Ask family members to eat away from home. The smell of lasagna while you are on the throne might drive you to drink something other than the prep.
  • The cleaner your colon at test time, the better the test.
  • After the prep, go to bed and get a good night’s rest.

The big day:

  • The test may be anticlimactic after the prep. Procedures take about 30 minutes.
  • Guidelines for this test recommend that physicians take at least six minutes to examine the colon as they withdraw the scope. The “New York Times” reported physicians who take six minutes or longer find more precancerous polyps.
  • On my most recent test, I was given a photograph taken during my procedure. Ask for written test results.
  • You’ll be groggy and probably tired whether or not you had anesthesia. You’ll get sprung into the arms of your loved one several hours after waiting up, hopefully with a good report.

After the test:

The American Cancer Society recommends you ease back into your normal diet. If you experience a high fever, loose or bloody stools, severe abdominal pain, or difficulty in urination, call your doctor.

While most of us would rather go to the beach, a colonoscopy can discover polyps before they become cancerous. Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer. Many colon cancers are stopped if testing is early and often.

Find my books and columns at

May 012016

HEALTH May 2016 © Senior Wire News Service

A Healthy Age By Amy Abbott

 While we do not know the events that led up to Duke’s illness, medicine tells us that sepsis is of particular risk to older adults. Many of us have compromised immune systems from other disease states. We may not recognize the symptoms.

When television icon Patty Duke died in late March at 69, shocked fans learned her death was caused by sepsis of the intestine. Anyone born in the Eisenhower or Truman administrations grew up watching the iconic star of stage and screen who later became a mental health activist.

From Child Star to Activist

At 16, Duke was the youngest Oscar winner for her 1963 portrayal of Helen Keller aside Anne Bancroft in the film The Miracle Worker. Duke originated the role on Broadway from 1959 to 1961 with Bancroft as teacher Anne Sullivan. Duke also won a Golden Globe for her performance. (Tatum O’Neal stole Duke’s youngest Academy Award winner crown with her honor for Paper Moon in 1973.)

For baby boomers, the characters and theme song of “The Patty Duke Show” still ring in our heads 50 years later. Duke played twins, Patty and Cathy (“when cousins are two of a kind” proclaimed the catchy tune). Patty was frequently in trouble; while Cathy, her cousin from England, was more refined. The show, naturally in black and white, was hokey and we loved it.

The ABC sitcom ran for three seasons and netted Duke an Emmy. For a brief time in 1965, Duke’s pop hit “Don’t Just Stand There” held in the Top Ten hits.

Duke had a long television and film career, with other notables such as Valley of the Dolls, and a turnabout role in a remake of The Miracle Worker as Anne Sullivan in 1979. She won another Emmy for her interpretation of Helen Keller’s acclaimed teacher.

Behind the screen, Duke served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and was a prolific writer. In her 1987 autobiography Call Me Anna, Duke detailed her tumultuous childhood and lifetime battles with bipolar disorder.

Thirty years ago, the discussion of mental illness was not as open or frank as it is today. Duke was ahead of her time with her willingness to discuss a difficult childhood and struggles with mental illness. A second book A Brilliant Madness Living with Maniac Depression Illness, was published in the 1990s.

Duke had three sons and was married to former drill sergeant Michael Pearce at the time of her death. Her former husband and father of two of her sons (one by adoption) was John Astin, an actor noted for his role as Gomez in the television show “The Addams Family.

An Untimely Death by a Lurking Killer

Not yet 70, Duke died at her Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, home of sepsis from a ruptured intestine, according to her online biography. The Mayo Clinic defines sepsis as a “potentially life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight infection trigger inflammation responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger changes that may damage multiple organs. Mayo reports that if the disease progresses to “septic shock,” blood pressure may plummet and death may be the result.

While we do not know the events that led up to Duke’s illness, medicine tells us that sepsis is of particular risk to older adults. Many of us have compromised immune systems from other disease states. We may not recognize the symptoms.

Because of her celebrity, the news of Duke’s death by sepsis may increase awareness among seniors. Cleveland, Ohio, NBC-affiliate WKYC reported that Google searches on sepsis increased 800 percent after Duke’s death.

The Sepsis Alliance organization was featured in multiple venues on March 30, the day after Duke’s death as awareness jumped across the country. The article highlighted symptoms that everyone (and especially seniors or those with compromised immune systems) should know. The signs of sepsis are outlined in a fact sheet on the Center for Disease Control website.

S – Shivering, fever, or feeling very cold

E – Extreme pain or general discomfort, as in “worst ever.”

P – Pale or discolored skin

S – Sleepy, difficult to wake up or confused

I – “I feel like I might die.”

S – Shortness of breath

These symptoms together seem grim, but someone with a painful bowel or frequent asthma attacks or another kind of compromised immune system may miss symptoms. Your mindfulness to these symptoms in your own or a loved one’s life may help you avoid the tragedy of an early death, like Duke’s.

Find my books and columns at

Apr 232016

Vintage Raven Lunatic published by Senior Wire News Service, July 2015, and written on a cocktail napkin sometime between 1984 and 2009.  You figure it out. (Reposted April 23, 2016).

By Andypiper from Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA (Michigan Theater Tickets Uploaded by clusternote) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andypiper via Wikimedia Commons

There’s an old expression, “You need to get out more.” It’s good for us to travel and experience new things, but some of us have more trouble coping with the outside world.  Years ago, we went to a Barry Manilow concert. (I know, I am quite ashamed to admit it, but give me a break, I was a teenager in the 1970s. “Weekend in New England” was the romantic torch song of the era.) I purchased advance tickets and shoved them into my suitcase of a purse.

Our son was still at home and needed a sitter. I kept our two tickets and handed the sitter the receipt which had the venue name, time, and seat numbers in case she needed us. Except I accidentally gave the babysitter one of the tickets and kept the receipt and another ticket.

When we arrived, I recklessly grabbed the tickets and ran them under the nose of the snooty docent. Without two real tickets, she pulled us aside. After some serious sweet ­talking, the docent took us to the stadium office to discuss our situation. Eventually, we went up to our seats by a circuitous route.

Barry is now older, and so am I, and that “Weekend in New England” jazz just wasn’t there for Barry and me anymore.

In 1992, we went to Comiskey Park in Chicago for White Sox opening day.

Who thinks sitting outside and watching baseball in April is a good idea? (One  baseball fan in our house does.)

The south side of Chicago was about 20 degrees and windy that day. We stopped Woolworths for sock caps and cheap blankets. We held our opening day tickets close and went through the front gate.

By the time we were ready to enter the stands, my husband had lost his ticket between the front gate and the entrance to the bleachers. In about 40 yards, he lost his ticket.

Another round of sweet talking,  and soon we were eating peanuts and looking like thugs in our dime­store sock caps and blankets. That day we saw Bo

Public Domain, Wikicommons

Public Domain, Wikicommons

Jackson hit a home run on his first at­bat in two years, well worth the cold and the lost ticket.

These lame events pale compared to our most sincere, darkest moments of shame.

Early in our marriage, we visited the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Security at NASA, even in the 1980s, was tight.  Visitors were ticketed and traveled on shuttle buses to see the Vehicle Assembly Building and the various launch pads. We purchased our tickets and boarded the first in a line of six identical multi­colored transporters.

After the first stop, we were told to reboard the same bus.

We couldn’t remember which one was ours. So we just picked one.

We sat down about halfway back and soon the bus filled with tourists. The bus driver got on the PA system and said, in that mumbled kind of way that bus mics have, “There are two extra passengers on this bus. Will those individuals who are on the wrong bus please disembark immediately?”

Naturally we were so horrified we didn’t say a word. We looked around innocently to see who the guilty culprits were.

The bus driver was getting agitated. A pregnant woman who was standing in front of the bus with her hulk of a husband wasn’t looking too thrilled, either. We thought she might deliver any minute.

Still, did we identify ourselves and leave? Hell, no. We  sat there like smiling lumps on a launch pad.

Soon the tour of America’s Space Coast was over, and we hastily made our way to the car, fully expecting as we passed a newspaper box to see our story on the cover of the “Orlando Sentinel.” The headline boasting in Second Coming type size: “Portly young couple takes seats from the pregnant woman.”

We don’t go out much anymore.

Apr 222016
Courtesy Erma Bombeck Archives, University of Dayton

Courtesy Erma Bombeck Archives, University of Dayton

Twenty years ago today Erma Bombeck died at 69 of complications from a kidney transplant. Bombeck, a native of Dayton, Ohio, rose to fame as a newspaper columnist, author, and ultimately, regular guest on “Good Morning, America.”  At her peak, she wrote three columns a week for 900 newspapers. She never won a Pulitzer prize and didn’t make it off the then-Women’s Pages.

Her legacy endures today among a new generation of women, and some men, writers, mothers, fathers, and humorists.

The University of Dayton holds Bombeck’s papers and established the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. I was fortunate to attend the biennial workshop in March 2016. It was much more than a writer’s workshop.  The three-day event was a tribute to Bombeck and her family, as well as a “hands-on” workshop with A-list speakers, writers, and humorists, including Roy Blount, Jr., Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, Leighann Lord, Alan Zweibel, Amy Ephron and Gina Barreca.

Every day when participants entered the conference center, we were greeted with one of Erma’s old IBM Selectric typewriters. For writers who “composed at the typewriter” on machines like this one and their non-electric predecessors, seeing Erma’s typewriter was magical.

Photo by author, University of Dayton, March 2016

Photo by author, University of Dayton, March 2016″composed at the typewriter” on machines

Why does Erma Bombeck matter today?

My mother read Erma’s “At Wit’s End” newspaper column and all of her books. Like millions of other women, Mom clipped out her favorites and stuck them on the refrigerator. She frequently chased me around the house to read a portion of Erma’s column. Mom, who had a silly streak and an excellent sense of humor, often quoted Erma.

Erma’s writing is ordinary, yet extraordinary. It takes tremendous skill to garner laughter and tears from the same anecdote. Her work is timeless and accessible. In a strange way, my discovery of Erma in my fifties is a link to my late mother, as well as further understanding of her life. All three Bombeck children, Betsy, Andrew, and Matt,  also Boomers,  attended the conference. and I imagine it was beautiful and terrible for them at the same time. Workshop attendees loved their mother, and none of them knew her personally. But, we all knew her, her home, her longings, her view of the world. She spoke for the generation of our mothers.

When I was an adolescent and starting writing, the last person I wanted to emulate was Erma Bombeck.  She’s a housewife, for heaven’s sake. I didn’t then have much appreciation for the love and sacrifice my mother — also, college educated like Erma — had for my brother and me.  No, I wanted to be Joan Didion or Judith Viorst or Gloria Steinem.

Bombeck 2

Courtesy Erma Bombeck Archives, University of Dayton

My first job involved all writing, the second job less writing, and more administration, and soon I was in management with little creativity. I managed an advertising agency account, but my “hands-on” days were over. I still yearned to write.  Multiple life transitions gave me that opportunity in 2009.  I started writing again and haven’t stopped since. Interestingly, my life was less like Gloria Steinem’s and more like Erma Bombeck’s.

As is the case for many female Baby Boomer humor writers, people tell me sometimes I remind them of Erma Bombeck.  I’ll never be Erma Bombeck, but I’m okay to stand in a sliver of her reflected glory. I’ve been privileged to have several of my pieces published on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop site (click here).  I also had the honor to interview on of the Bombeck (adult) children for a Senior Wire News Service piece.

Erma Bombeck quotes from “Brainy Quotes.”

The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.
My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.

Rest in Peace, dear Erma.

Apr 212016

Aging brings expected and sudden losses. I think it’s in the contract, and we can’t do anything about it. From early on, we know none of us is getting out of here alive.  And the longer we survive, the more reminders we get of how precarious and fragile our earthly bonds are.

We lose dear ones,  family and friends, acquaintances and co-workers, and beloved pets. With each birthday, our list of those losses grows exponentially. My father, at eighty-five, spends much time at wakes, memorial services, and funerals. Often, on our daily phone conversations, he’ll tell me about someone who has passed.

The irony of life with much love is the continued burden of much loss.

Here’s the thing: loss is difficult to write or talk about. Nothing is more personal. How one person deals with a tragedy may be completely different for another person in that same circumstance. Or what one calls a tragedy, another may see it differently. Our job is not to judge, but to provide comfort.

When my maternal grandmother died, I was devastated. Now, I know I was fortunate to know three of my four grandparents until adulthood. My maternal grandmother, though ill with dementia, held my child when he was an infant. When my grandmother Enz died, I was 37. My husband was 25 when he lost his father. I feel guilty about grieving my second-generation loss, but I know that a loss is a loss.

When I was younger, and someone I cared for had a loss or was in trouble, my immediate reaction was to swoop in and try to solve the problem. I now call this “The Big Gesture.”  Now, I’m aware of how little I can do. I’ve climbed onto the moving sidewalk of people who bring food and keep my mouth shut.

What people want are your arms around their shoulders, your touch, your tears, and your open ears to hear them. And not much else. Most individuals who love you will tell you what they need. You must respect their wishes, and understand what they are saying, with words and without. And, a Dutch apple pie can’t hurt.

Our family lost a friend this week. It will happen again. I hear the voice of God calling my name loud and clear. She is saying, “Amy, focus on what is important. Time is short.”

Though I love the sound of my voice, I’m ending this piece with today’s Facebook post from my cousin Bob Montgomery.  He is a wise man. God bless you, Bob.

I learned to smell Lilacs. Seems funny that I would have to “learn” how to smell them, but that is the best way to describe it. On April 21, 2003 (13 years ago today) I had quadruple bypass open heart surgery. I spent the next 10 days in the hospital dealing with complications. On the day I came home I remember the sun was shining and when I got out of the car I smelled a sweet, citrusy, almost like heaven scent. When I asked what the smell was I learned it was from the lilac bush in my own yard. It had been there for years, but until that day in 2003 I had not smelled it. The scent from the lilacs were such a contrast to the hospital smells; those sanitary smells of death and despair that I experienced over the previous 10 days. Maybe I had just always been in such a hurry that I never noticed the smells from nature around me. Maybe a lot of us get caught up in day-to-day issues so that we don’t notice the smell of heaven around us. If that is the case, then today is a good day to slow down and enjoy the beauty and smells around us. I think I will grab a cup of coffee and sit on the patio to smell the virburnum and be thankful. — Bob Montgomery, Plainfield, Indiana, April 21, 2016

Apr 132016


Can a new TV movie be instructive to the generations of working men and women about our still unresolved issues of who we choose to believe in situations where one party has more perceived power than another?

“A high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.”  That’s how then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas referred to the sessions with Anita Hill at his 1991 confirmation hearings.

With the release Confirmationa new movie about the Thomas hearings, the water cooler talk begins again about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas and whether the facts surrounding what some perceived at the time as a ‘he said, she said’ dispute will actually see more light  as the federal government’s dismissal of women’s sexual harassment experiences in the workplace.

Given  it’s been 25 years since Thomas was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, surely some will ask, “Should anyone care today?” For me, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

A quarter of a century ago, I was 34. I had been in my work life for 11 years and was a middle manager in a small hospital. I was a wife and a new mother. Sexual harassment in the workplace was (and still is) as old as work itself, but we didn’t talk about it much.  Organizations didn’t have anonymous hotlines, or webinars and workshops on what sexual harassment was. As a country club waitress in 1979, my co-workers and I felt the hot breath of our disgusting manager on our necks, often in the linen closet. I quit that job as did most of my co-workers. That was a college summer job for me, and the stakes weren’t that high. At least not at that point in my work life.

But for Anita Hill in 1991, she put everything on the line.

Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, got her Warholian “15 minutes of fame” at the Thomas hearings when  called to testify that he had been sexually harassed her at a former job when she worked for Thomas at both the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

We all know the ending.  Thomas was confirmed and has been a sitting, albeit mostly quiet, Justice for a quarter of a century.  Though virtually silent at all oral arguments since his confirmation, his vote on many issues including cases like Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, has been loud and clear.

Anita Hill went back to the University of Oklahoma to teach law, eventually becoming a professor at Brandeis University.

Here’s the back story:  In 1991, Justice Thurgood Marshall stepped down from the court.  Marshall was the first African-American jurist appointed to the court and was a leading civil rights voice for nearly a quarter of a century.  President George H.W. Bush, wanting to appoint a replacement who was more conservative than Marshall, chose federal judge Clarence Thomas, a 43-year-old African-American from Georgia.

According to a white paper from George Mason University:

President Bush’s nomination of Clarence Thomas was instantly controversial. Many African-American and Civil Rights organizations including: the NAACP, the National Bar Association, and the Urban League, opposed the Thomas nomination. These organizations feared that Thomas’s conservative stance on issues such as Affirmative Action would reverse the Civil Rights gains that Justice Marshall had fought so hard to achieve. Women’s groups including the National Organization for Women were equally concerned that Clarence Thomas, if appointed to the high court, would rule against legal abortion. The legal community also voiced apprehension about Thomas’s clear lack of experience since he had only served two years as a federal judge.

Despite the initial controversy, the Judiciary Committee hearings were uneventful. The Judiciary Committee vote was an even seven to seven, and the nomination passed on to the full Senate without a recommendation.

That’s when the real excitement started, in front of the larger Senate committee.  Leading the hearings was then-Delaware Senator Joseph Biden (D).  At the time, my husband, son, and I were driving cross country and listened to the hearings on NPR. There was no satellite radio in those days, just eight hours of driving and eight hours of testimony.  Hill accused Thomas of harassing her at the EEOC “with inappropriate discussions of sexual acts and pornographic films after she rebuffed his invitations to date him.”

Hill’s testimony and the questioning were quite graphic. In the end, the Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Thomas as associate justice of the Supreme Court. Senator Biden had a role that seems unlikely today, but will haunt him forever. He disallowed other witnesses – witnesses who were women –  who would have corroborated Hill’s testimony against Thomas.

Thomas won. Hill and millions of women across America lost.  Changes did grow out of that time. There were no women on the Judiciary Committee at that point.  Shortly after the Thomas hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) was elected and today serves along with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota.)  There are still no Republican women on the committee.

For me, those hearings and the outcome left questions that remain today:

– Why did Biden, the champion of the downtrodden, not allow further testimony that would have eliminated the “he said, she said” battle?

– If what Hill said wasn’t true, why did she put herself in the grilling, national spotlight and become an asterisk in history? ( I realize that she was called to testify, and I’m not suggesting she lied under oath, but it is baffling to me.)

– Why did people believe Thomas over Hill, considering the specific and graphic evidence she offered?

– Why are some of the same politicians who supported Thomas dissing the current nominee, Merrick Garland?

Hill has made peace with her role in history and recently talked with the Today Show about it. She said, “I think what we have to do … is to understand why my testimony and my experience — why that was so important to the integrity of the Court, and why it spoke directly to the character of the nominee at the time.”

And aside from the what that episode said about the Court and the character of a judicial nominee, what does this history say about how women were treated then – and now – when making allegations of sexual harassment against powerful men? And can a new TV movie be instructive to the generations of working men and women about our still unresolved issues of who we choose to believe in situations where one party has more perceived power than another? And will it shed new light on facts that should have been taken more seriously when Hill was trying to get the nation to see what really happened then to women in the workplace?

 Posted on The Broad Side, April 13, 2016

Amy Abbott is a syndicated columnist with Senior Wire News Service and occasionally contributes to The Broad Side.

Apr 092016

catfoodThis is my life now.  Never mind I have a busy full-time job, an active secondary writing career, a human family, and a home. Never mind all that.

The complete and entire focus of every free waking minute is caring for and feeding an 18-year-old blind, demented, toothless, deaf, arthritic feline.

About three months ago,  Fala was diagnosed with pancreatitis. And the vet recommended a switch to wet food.  That was a difficult change for the Gray Prince, who loves his “crunchy fish”  as we deem his Acana Pacifica food. Despite having only two teeth, he manages to crunch it from his little red cartoon mousie-covered bowl.

Our kitty sitter, Nan, suggested the Pacifica after she learned we were feeding him bowls of Friskies Original Party Mix.  Offering this high fat snack is the equivalent of feeding your two-year-old child Cheetos for three meals a day.  Salt and fat are yummy.  Are they good for old kitties?  That’s a resounding no.

Since the vet changed Fala to wet food, we’ve been feeding him Lil’ Friskies chicken with gravy (he favors chicken. In younger years, he stealthfully stole the chicken from a plate). He’s been licking the sauce off and leaving the rest.  This behavior cannot continue, or he’ll die. Last night I went on a buying spree at our local pet food store.  The clerk told me they have food for senior cats, but none of them work for a toothless old Tom. She suggested I check out the gourmet food, as well as the kitten chow. The clerk also instructed me to look for cans with the labels, “pate”, and “minced” and “kitten”.   I bought fourteen cans  (mostly gourmet labels, so my total was about $341.)

Sure, he’s worth it.  There’s constant midnight cater walling, hairballs on a newly washed bedspread,  puking on my rug daily, and his timely and odiferous evening constitutional 10 feet from us during “Wheel of Fortune”.  Who wouldn’t want to care for a kitty like this one?

There is this one tiny payoff. His Majesty cuddles  up between us each weeknight as we watch “Perry Mason.” And he purrs and acts as he likes us. A lot.

This morning the Potentate of Pussycats limped to the kitchen for breakfast, “Super Premium Fussy Cat Grain Free Chicken with Egg Formula in Gravy.”  Herman put out the food and immediately the Czar of Catdom started eating. We decided to leave him alone for the first course.  He acts an adolescent; any encouragement means he’ll eschew instead of chew.

His walk is so distinctive and lumbering that I heard him return to the kitchen thirty minutes later. And then a third trip. I grabbed my camera. He heard me.  I think he likes the new food, but God forbid his handlers observe him enjoying himself.   He turned his back on me and walked away. We might be on to something.  So what if it is the most expensive cat food in the world?  Why else do I work?  I mean, seriously?  Taxes, bills, the occasional vacation?  None of that is as important as catering to the whim of a cat, who in human years, is 89 years old.

And the damn bowl still isn’t empty.

© Amy McVay Abbott, The Raven Lunatic, April 9, 2016

If you are interested in reading more about Fala Jo, buy his book.  You didn’t realize he was a famous feline, did you?  The Many Moods of Fala Jo by Herman and Bernadine Spitzsnogel

Mar 282016


March 28, 2016 — I mistakenly referred to a calculator as an adding machine at work. Everyone burst into raucous laughter, followed by taunts about my age. Senior moment? Or generic brain fart?”

Did I conjure up the image of Eustis, the bookkeeper from “It’s a Wonderful Life” from my co-workers? I doubt that any Gen Xers or Millennials can identify Eustis. And it’s a black and white film. Younger people don’t like black and white movies.

Being one of the oldest at my workplace is new for me. I started full-time work in May 1980. This was before the Challenger blew up, before “Tear Down this Wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” before 9/11. Before diagnostic related groups, Obamacare, electronic medical records, and lung transplants. Probably before you were born, co-worker. Five years later, I started my first leadership level position in a hospital at age 28, which was (yes, indeedy, 30 years ago. People who have worked thirty plus years say “indeedy.”)

In 1985, I sat at the table with the big kids; I was the only one in my twenties. My co-workers were, at least, fifteen years older than this brunette with long hair, high heels, and eyelids lined with powder blue shadow. We lived in an apartment; my husband was in graduate school. Our second car was a ’73 VW Beetle. Our “good car” was an unairconditioned Chevette. All of my leadership team co-workers had homes and sedans or SUVs and kids and mortgages. Grown-ups.

Until my present job, I was among the youngest on my team.

The man who hired me in February 2014 was seven or eight years younger; my current boss is somewhere in her early thirties. My organization has about 120 employees. I guess that less than ten outrank me in age.

At work, I’m frequently lost in the conversation. I don’t get my co-worker’s jokes, and they certainly don’t get my quips. They talk about the eighties as ancient history. They see me as a child reading “McGuffey’s Reader” while a boy in overalls sticks my pigtails in an inkwell. They don’t listen to NPR. They understand nothing of the classics.

  • “Never at dusk.” Steve Martin
  • “Dave’s not here.” Cheech Marin
  • “Nixon’s the One.” The 1968 Republican National Committee, now known as conservative Democrats

No one at work understands my jokes, literary references, or anything I say. I used the phrase “a pox on our house”  the other day after a series of computer outages. My colleagues thought I was babbling in gibberish.

I referred to Mercutio’s triple epithet on the families of “Romeo and Juliet.” A quick Google search revealed Mercutio said “plague” a word which any hospital worker should know. One of the sources I used said “pox” was an archaic word not used today. Yes, indeedy. My co-workers probably don’t believe it, but I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s time.

(Time for a pop culture reference none of my colleagues will get. They often call what I say “random.” Perhaps it’s authentic frontier gibberish,  as originated in a 1970s Mel Brooks flick. “I think we’re all grateful to Gabby Johnson, for clearly stating what needed to be said.” It’s a double entendre. You can’t get the pop culture reference from the 1970s without knowing who Gabby Hayes is from the thirties and forties. You know, like black and white?)

I don’t see myself as old. I don’t feel old. Isn’t sixty the new forty? Three of my grandparents looked ancient at sixty (one grandfather died in his early fifties.) Maybe it was the hats?

A 2015 study surveyed attitudes about aging in Europe.
“Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue, is middle-aged, but 200 years ago, a 60-year-old would be a very old person.

Dr. Sergei Scherbov, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, led a joint project with New York’s Stony Brook University, looking at how life expectancy has increased.”

The study, published in the journal “PLOS ONE”, found people across Europe were currently viewed as “old” when they hit 65.”

So what is Middle Age now? Remember the old saying Life Begins at Forty? If you married at 18 or 20 and started a family, you were footloose and fancy-free at forty. (Of course, most males had a job for life, and looked forward to a pension at 65, but that’s an entirely different story.)

We are healthier, working longer by choice or financial resources, and looking better than our parents or grandparents at the same age. Perhaps it was the hats?

Or paraphrasing the fake Fernando Lamas said on vintage “Saturday Night Live,”We look mar-veah-luss.
Google it, kiddos.

Let my co-workers laugh. They might learn something from me. And I’ll take it in stride. Tomorrow I’m taking in my son’s abacus to show them how we cave women used to count in the days before adding machines. Believe me, I can give it out as well as I can take it. When I drove the company van the other day, I changed all ten pre-sets on the radio to NPR. That’ll teach ’em.

Cross posted on BlogHer.

Mar 092016

Who are you, Trump supporter? I only know two of you.  And I live in rural Indiana, so I know you are out there.  Granted, I don’t bring up politics unless I’m around close friends.  And not even around some of you.

I don’t understand. The Atlantic published an article explaining all the theories.  But, I still don’t understand.

I live in a red state where most people have guns and go to church.  But I also hear lots of Spanish spoken, and I’m served coffee most days by a woman in a hijab.  We have enclaves of immigrants from the Far East and South America, and we are represented by all religions.  On my way to work, I pass the Hindu temple.  There’s a beautiful new mosque several miles from my home.

For the most part, people are kind here. If someone is in trouble, there’s usually a fundraiser.  Neighbors go in to help neighbors.  It isn’t exactly “The Waltons,” but people are mostly good.

So it makes no sense to me how someone can advocate and support a man who talks without a filter, puts down “the other,” changes his mind a lot or doesn’t remember what he said before, and has no policies.  Well, there’s “Make America Great Again,” which has about as much panache as “Nixon’s the One.”

I know people are angry.  I’m mad at lots of things in society.  I lost my job, and it took awhile to find one. I work more hours at this one, have fewer benefits,  and make about twenty percent less.  Honestly, I am grateful, because in my age group many people never came back to work.  I know lots of them.  And none of them support Trump.

I know people are angry at Washington D.C.  So am I.  Our Congress does nothing.  With the death of Justice Anton Scalia, now we’ll have a do-nothing SCOTUS.

Democracy is a messy business.  When you live in a society that is not governed by a dictator or a king, you make decisions by compromise.  That’s how it’s been done since the beginning of this republic. You give a little, I give a little.  That’s not the theme of Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”

For me, there is a deal-breaker (pardon the pun) that trumps all others (pardon the other pun.)

Trump advocates banning individuals who practice a particular religion from coming into the country.  This stance is terribly ironic, considering the United States was founded on religious freedom.  Throughout our history, individuals suffering from the persecution of all kinds made their way to America.  Most of them were celebrated and accepted.

We haven’t always been perfect, of course.  We destroyed Native American populations; we interred Japanese Americans during World War II, we turned away a ship liner full of European Jews on the brink of the same war. And we’ve lived with the consequences of slavery to this day, a horrible legacy of racism.

Many of us descend from those who escaped something, be it persecution or poverty in the various old countries of the world.

Ask yourself, Trump supporters, do you want someone in the White House who sets us back three hundred years?  Do you want someone as Commander in Chief that you might not like to lead your child’s Boy Scout troop?

I’m grateful America was welcoming to the Ulster Scots, and the Germans, or I wouldn’t be here.

By the time I post this piece, Super Tuesday’s exit polls will have reported what seems inevitable, that Trump will be the nominee.  Your vote matters. Make the right choice.

As I ponder how many people stand with Trump, I imagine tears flowing from the four heads at Mt. Rushmore.

Crossposted from BlogHer at:


Feb 032016

February 11, 2016.  This post was selected as a Featured Member post at BlogHer.  

Earlier this week I took a Facebook quiz on IQ. My results were astounding. I scored higher than Nicholas Tesla, somewhere in the range of 170. I’m a teacher’s kid, and I was frequently tested as a child. I know that my IQ is nowhere near 170. I think the quiz was reporting my seventh-grade weight.

Now here’s the thing. The fact that I took this stupid quiz makes me think my IQ might be half to a third of what Tesla’s was. You would guess I would see the irony in this. Taking a Facebook quiz is like filling your car with gas, making sure the oil is full, and offering the keys to the guy who just robbed the bank. Sure, go ahead, take a good look at my personal information. Of course, I’m as smart as Tesla.

A November 2015 BBC article showcased the privacy nightmare behind these seemingly innocent issues. Remember the famous Facebook word cloud? Click on this app and words from your Facebook page show up in a cloud. I did it, of course. I was happy to see that “read” and “write” were large words. Perhaps “sucker” should have been a highlight. According to the article, the South Korean company Vonvon pilfered personal data, profile picture, age, sex, birthday, entire friend list, everything you have ever posted on your timeline, photos, hometown, education history and everything you’ve ever liked. Uh huh. And I signed up for this willingly, and I’ve done it before.

It doesn’t seem hardly worth it. Tonight I took a “what celebrity most resembles you” quiz and I got “Burgess Meredith.” And not even The Penguin Burgess Meredith, no, I got the nerdy librarian from The Twilight Zone.

Yesterday it was “what state is from soul really from?” I got Massachusetts. Seriously, not my beloved home state of Indiana. Yes, I like it here and consider myself a real, true Hoosier. We have our bad points, but I moved away for six years and came back. There were reasons I came back. I also love my secondary home state of Florida where I lived for those six years and spent a lot of my childhood vacations. But, Massachusetts, no way. Sure I like to visit Boston and the Museum of Fine Arts. We’ve sat on the third base line facing the Green Monster at Fenway, and I love the Cape area. But, live there, part of my soul? No way. Can you say 100 plus inches of snow?

The horse, for my Facebook stuff, is most likely out of the barn. Save yourselves! The next time you are tempted by “Who is your evil twin?” run screaming from the room.

© Amy McVay Abbott 2016
Posted on BlogHer at Do you take Facebook quizzes?  You may want to rethink that….

Feb 012016

February 1, 2016 — Tonight my adult son is going to hear MUSE in concert in the District of Columbia where he lives.  He is extremely excited about the event.  He posted a video called “Bliss.”  I want to share his enthusiasm; I know he’s tried to get tickets for past concerts and failed.

I watched the video which is four minutes and 52 seconds in length. I lasted about a minute and a half.  It made me dizzy, and I couldn’t understand the words.


I have become my parents, the people who stopped listening to most modern music in 1955.  Long before the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in 1959.  Long before Elvis went into Sun Records and wowed them with his voice and moves.  Long before “Good Golly Miss Molly” and the Platters.

When my parents got stuck,  Pat Boone and his whitePATBOONE shoes were popular.  My parents always listened to standards, but popular music for them ended when they got married. Music filled our home with albums by Andy Williams and Mantovani and the great Broadway musicals.

Take a look at the Top 30 Hits of 1955.  While the rock classic, “Rock Around the Clock,” grabs second place, most of the top groups or artists are those I associate with my parents–Mitch Miller, Roger Williams, Les Baxter, the Four Aces, the McGuire Sisters, Pat Boone, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

While open to some new music, my parents were mostly fixed in 1955 and before. But, Elvis and the new rockers were too out there, too foreign, too unintelligible for them.

In spite of my parents white-bread tastes, some rock and roll turned into standards and became favorites. My father begged me to play Paul Mariat’s 1968 “Love is Blue” on the piano for him again and again.  Songs by Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles stood the test of time. Do we think of “The Sounds of Silence”  or “Yesterday” as rock songs anymore? I swear I’ve heard “Don’t Get No (Satisfaction)” by the Stones on Muzak in an elevator.

As the oldest child, I didn’t have an older sibling to influence my musical tastes.  With brothers who graduated from high school in 1961 and 1969, my husband, Herman, learned early about rock and roll. To this day, he maintains a collection of anthologies, and can name group, song, and the year.  And hums a mean “Devil with the Blue Dress”.

I bought “My Baby Does the Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells at our local Rexall Drug Store in South Whitley, Indiana.  A little too young for the Beatles, I loved The Monkees and Bobby Sherman before I started high school.

The summer of 1971 was a magical, musical summer. The music of 1971 has stayed with me all of my life. Hits like “Joy to the World,” Maggie May,”It’s Too Late,”Me and Bobby McGee,”  “You’ve Got a Friend,”The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,”If You Could Read My Mind,” and  “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be.” The early seventies brought us the Carpenters, the Eagles, America, and our first beloved albums, “Tapestry” by Carole King, “Harmony” by Three Dog Night, and “Pearl” by Janis Joplin. Other favorites by James Taylor and Carly Simon and Aretha Franklin and Elton John and Joan Baez. What wonderful sublime music that fills me with joy to this day.

How many times did you play “Tapestry” on your turntable,  until it scratched and whistled?  Then replaced with an eight-track, then a cassette, and finally a CD which you put on your phone or MP3 player.

From 1971 on, music went downhill in the seventies.  And then I got stuck.  Look at this list of number one songs from the seventies, and perhaps you will understand why.

1970 “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon and Garfunkel
1971 “Joy to the World”, Three Dog Night
1972 “The first time I Saw Your Face”, Roberta Flack
1973 “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree”, Tony Orlando and Dawn
1974  “The Way We Were,” Barbra Streisand
1975  “Love Will Keep us Together,” Captain and Tennille
1976  “Silly Love Songs,” Wings
1977  “Tonight’s the Night,” Rod Stewart
1978  “Shadow Dancing,” Andy Gibb
1979  “My Sharona,” The Knack

It’s painful to see it in writing.  Captain and Tennille make the formal break.  How can you go from the ballads of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel to Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille in five short years? And it just gets worse.   Even in 1979, Billy Joel is way down the list, a list filled with disco and mind-numbing, forehead-on-concrete, unintelligible music.

Like my parents, I found good music after 1979, but mostly the music died.  I had Fleetwood Macs and the Eagles, but I fixed on a point and never moved on.  Many of my heroes are icons.  Carole King was recognized recently at the Kennedy Center with a kick-ass version of “Natural Woman” by the amazing Aretha Franklin.

At least, I still have jazz, but that’s another story.

Addendum:  I know I will hear about my absolute ignorance from the Muse loving, Arcade Fire loving, Adele-loving, Bruno Marrs loving folks.  I’m working on it.  Be happy.  Crossposted at BlogHer 




Jan 222016

O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 5, Scene I

January 22, 2016–Eighty million people in 23 states are experiencing a historic storm with rain, sleet, snow, ice, and even thundersnow. The Weather Channel calls the storm “Jonas”, and the Washington Post pundits named it #Snowzilla! WaPo held a contest and “Make Winter Great Again” won, but they went with the runner-up #Snowzilla!  Our adult son lives in the district and I’m sure will have his stories to tell.

Here in Indiana, a mile north of the Ohio River, we received five, six,  or seven inches of snow, depending on your source of information.  Thirty miles north of us in Princeton, Indiana, there is no snow.  Seventy miles to the south in Princeton, Kentucky, an inch of ice fell followed by nearly a foot of snow.  The local paper states “near blizzard-like conditions.”  (Not sure what the word “like” implies?)

Back here at Squirrel Vista, our driveway inclines upward for about 20 yards, makes a 90 degree left turn, and heads straight up for another 20 yards into the garage. Our official Snow Shoveller moved to DC seven years ago, so now we hire a professional.  He’s visited us twice in the last 48 hours.  It’s worth it, says the asthmatic out-of-shape senior woman with the diabetic out-of-shape senior husband.

We grouchy out-of-shape old-timers like to reminisce about the good old days.  Honestly, while I love talking about the Blizzard of My Youth, I do not love snow.  The biggest blizzard I lived through covered most of the Midwest in late January and ea72maverickrly February, Year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Eight.

I was a junior in college and lived in the dorm.  Every other Wednesday afternoon, my cronies and I picked up our paychecks (no automatic deposit) from our student jobs at the yearbook.  We liked to go out on Wednesdays.  That day we chose Mr. Happy Burger, about an hour away in Elwood.

Our friend Bill drove the five of us.  Both Bill and my husband Herman (who wasn’t yet my husband and lacked the nom de plume Herman) grew up in the area.

Happy Burger was deserted.  We ordered our food and noticed something strange at the drive-up window.  Two people on horseback rode up to the drive-up.

That was a sign the end is nigh. We hightailed it home.   By now the snow was coming in waves, and the wind was howling like Act I of King Lear.  There was no Weather Channel, no cable TV. We couldn’t check AccuWeather on our phones.  Cell phones hadn’t been invented. I’m not sure the car radio worked.

We trudged on down Highway 28, glad to see the city lights of Muncie in the very late afternoon. Did we return immediately to our dorms?  Of course not.  We stopped at Bob’s Bottle Shop for laundry detergent.  Well, that’s what we said it was when we carried it up to the seventh floor in a laundry basket.  I am either making that last part up or mixing it up with another story.  Get over it.  I’m old, and this is my old-timey reminiscing. I know for sure we bought vodka at the liquor store.  And orange juice.

We missed five days of school and drank and played Monopoly, pretty lame stuff.

Then we had to go outside, and our two booted feet were the only transportation available.  My car was in a ten-foot snow drift blocks away at the Newman Center.  My roommate secured permission for me to park Ole Bessie there. Three or four weeks later the snow had melted enough for us to start digging her out.  The snow wasn’t all gone until April.  Our spring break extended  a week due to the coal strike.  I caught a ride to South Whitley with a friend, and Herman spent two weeks in Florida.

My son is five years older than I was during my Blizzard of a Lifetime. He can drink legally and doesn’t have to hide his microbrew beer or whatever it is they drink these days.

On days like this one,  I wonder about the brilliance of moving back to Indiana from Florida in 1988.  When I was growing up and as a young adult, my often-stated goal was to live in Florida by the time I was twenty-five. I  missed it by three weeks. I  moved to Largo, Florida, in August 1982.

And then we came back.  We came back for good reasons.  Both of us missed our families.  We didn’t want to raise children in the Florida schools, where no school bond issue had passed for thirty years.  We’ve had an incredible life here, but I still dream of spending winter months back in the Sunshine State.

Until that is possible, we listen to the sound of someone else plowing our mega-driveway, enjoy some soup, and remember our youthful snow days.



Jan 032016

January 3, 2015 — One weekend day a month I travel to Emergency Rooms at outlying hospitals for my job. I work for an addiction and mental health treatment hospital. My Department is a liaison between those who refer patients and the hospital’s intake team.

Yesterday I went to south central Illinois. I hadn’t been in that area for some time. I relied on maps to get me from Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana, across the Wabash River to Olney, and ultimately, Fairfield, Illinois.

The day was sunny. I enjoy being “in the field” as the sales jargon calls it, and it was a good day. After Olney, the GPS system routed me on a county road. I was surprised File:1818 Pinkerton Map of the Southeastern United States, Carolina, Georgia, Virginia - Geographicus - USASouthernPart-pinkerton-1818.jpgand somewhat uneasy. The vulnerability was a new feeling for me — a child of the great rural Midwest. As a teen, I drove my parent’s big Chevys all over northeastern Indiana on paved and unpaved roads in Whitley County. As a young mother, I carpooled all over rural Warrick County for Scouts and other events until my son could drive.

What was missing was a sense of control fostered by any knowledge of where I was.

As I moved south on that county road, houses were farther apart. Many natural gas or oil wells punctuated the scenery of fields harvested last fall and now fallow. Random mobile homes dotted the landscapes, surrounded by big trucks, satellite dishes, and crumbling barns. I was uneasy by the rushing waters of the Embarrass River and surrounding creeks that swelled banks and flowed for miles on either side of Highway 50.

Never much to celebrate the New Year, I had an epiphany of sorts as I spent more than twenty miles in this rural, desolate unfamiliar area.

Life is like this Saturday journey. We do our best to plan ahead and control the route. But, honestly, there’s no planning you can do. As prepared as you think you are, a strange path always appears. Friends and family are walking unfamiliar roads now. Roads caused by illness, infidelity, poverty, depression, substance abuse, and loss.

I make this analogy as I see these issues and concerns present to loved ones every day. I attribute it all to my age, but I know it is just life. The other shoe is always waiting to drop. I’m an optimist, and that might sound like a pessimistic viewpoint. I’m also a realist. Cliche or not, we only get one chance at this. We clutch our maps and our helps to our chest, and we move forward every day. We’re wary of the country roads and even unpaved dusty country roads ahead of us.

A piece I saw on Facebook the other day resonated with me, and I’m sharing it now as my pathetic two days after New Year’s message. Peace be with you for the new year. Get your maps ready. When led down a strange road, hang on tight.

Cross-posted at Blog Her

Dec 242015

December 23, 2015 — The stack of random papers on my desk at the hospital stood three inches high. Papers to shred. Folders to file. Items for action. I’d seen all my customers this week. Now, I had several hours to catch up before the holiday.

I made three piles and worked through the stacks. About halfway through, I found a ratty old manila file folder with nothing in it.

I turned it over and saw the words “Devotions and Poems, M. McVay” in my mother’s  printing.

My mom, Marilyn McVay, died four years ago this February. For the previous decade, she suffered from increasingly debilitating vascular dementia. For the last few years, she did not know us and needed help with self-care.

The handwriting on this envelope was in her nearly perfect elementary school teacher printing. She had barely been able to sign her name in the last few years; yet, this sample was nearly textbook. How old was this folder?

My eyes filled with tears.

How did this file folder with my mother’s writing appear on my work desk, two days before Christmas?

Do I believe a Divine Hand placed it there? More likely I  recycled it for something and left it on my desk at home. I work in my home office in the evenings, often carrying things back and forth to the hospital in a black canvas bag. Did I pick it up when filling my bag in haste some morning?

Honestly, I don’t know how it ended up in the middle of a stack of work papers and projects.

Before she had vascular dementia, Mom battled depression. As a young woman, I had a hard time understanding how someone so blessed could be so unhappy at times. She had a loving husband, two children, many friends, and a wonderful home.

She and I had a tempestuous relationship in my teen and young adult years.  When my son was born, she came to help us. Her loving care and patience with a new mother healed our relationship. Today I have no regrets.

In her later years, Christmas was a special time for the two of us. Neither of us liked games, and particularly disdained the card game of euchre. The rest of the family loved what I termed Midwestern brain death.

Mom and I  washed the silver and good dishes by hand, and then enjoyed a holiday movie.  Often, we watched “The Sound of Music” or a Christmas special. On Christmas Eve 2011 we watched a holiday musical special by an artist I cannot remember. By then Mom didn’t know who I was, and called me “Spunky.”

The artist sang “Silent Night” and I watched mom across the room. She knew every word of each verse. Then we sang “Away in a Manger.”  Again, every word.  Had either song been in German, I suspect she could have handled that with 79 Christmas Eves under her belt.

How strange the human memory is. The memory’s attic stores songs learned as a child in Lutheran Sunday School, while not allowing the present full understanding.

In my humble opinion, the file folder appearing when and as it did, was a gift, and a Divine gift.  Perhaps an angel did not deliver it. Still, the gift reminded me that I had a mother who loved me enough to clip poems and devotions for me. That is the gift.