Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Suddenly Single

Today I was chatting with a new friend about ideas for MidChix. We ran the gamut from PR people, to nonprofits, to smart folks who I should meet. But the topics that we kept coming back to all happened to involve stories about women who have had their lives unravel in the tick of a New York minute. The fact is that all of our lives, no matter how filled with family, friends, appointments, belongings, obligations, or routines, have the potential to crumble before our very eyes.

Whether your husband walks in the door the day after the in-vitro finally takes and tells you he's in love with someone else, or you pick up the phone and hear the news that your high school sweetheart and spouse of 50 years just collapsed at work, or the father of your children accuses you of negligence, and because he's a lawyer, wins are blindsided.

There are more and more women facing these kinds of circumstances. It occurs to me that the chances of any of us being in the same boat are increasing even as I type. What can or should we do to prepare for these potentialities?

A long time ago, an acquaintance advised me to make a personal savings account a priority. At the time, she was going through a divorce. Her oldest daughter was our beloved babysitter, her youngest was in my daughter's Brownie Troop, and the whole family belonged to our small town church. I had often thought her husband was a little high on his horse, but figured "oh well, to each his own". Yet while we were preparing the Troop's snack one afternoon, she gave me a tiny glimpse into her life, and told me how long she had been saving so that she could leave. On an elementary school teacher's salary, it had been a long time. At that stage of my life, I had smugly thought "oh, I'll never have to worry about that..."

It is with amazement that I reflect on the past fifteen years and the trials and tribulations they held for my husband and me. The fact that we have emerged from that time warp intact, does not at all imply unscathed. While we have such good fortune (along with the painfully acquired skill of tongue-biting) to still be together, so many friends of mine have fared with less fortune. It is their experiences,the anecdotes of so many like them, and the realization that I too, could find myself in those shoes, that motivates me to insist on some solutions.

Recently I met a particularly admirable woman- a realtor- who, having gone through her own divorce, had an intimate understanding of the challenges that so many of her clients were facing as they navigated their own divorces, or in many cases early widowhood. The Wildflower Group was created by Joan Rogliano to help women in transition. The Wildflower Women's Foundation is the only program that specifically matches women of all ages with a referral network which empowers and guides women to make life-affirming decisions about major financial, career, self-care, family and housing issues following divorce and widowhood.

Wow. This is a good idea. And it's free.

Now what we need are some other forward-thinking women with expertise to offer who self-congregate for the greater good of sisters everywhere. First stop...women lawyers for women. If you are one and are interested in working with others ... let me know and I will be sure to create a connection! Just think of the possibilities...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Away, Away... is There a Way to Embrace It?

My least favorite activities all seem to involve the verb "putting away". Does anybody relish putting away laundry, dishes, groceries, shoes, coats, silverware, linens, toys? Don't get me wrong. I like when they are away. I just hate taking the time to do it. I keep reading about embracing the present and enjoying every moment while in it. Yet, just like driving, telemarketers, junk email, filling ice trays, and the required emissions tests, putting things away seems like such an extraordinary squandering of time.

There must be a way to take pleasure in the process. I just started reading the book Drive by Daniel Pink and, surprise, apparently we are not motivated by money. So I guess paying myself to unpack the groceries is not the answer. If the three elements of true motivation are like Pink says, autonomy, mastery, and purpose... then I should celebrate the fact that I can do these things "all by myself", that after so many years of practice-I'm pretty damn good at them (anyone care to have a dishwasher emptying contest?), and remind myself that the reason I do them is that I like it when they are done.

I'll keep you posted as I work on appreciating the process. Suggestions welcome!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Off with Her Head!

Join me for a boycott of Starbucks. This week I happened to schedule four different meetings at a Starbucks half way between my office (kitchen counter) and my meeting partners offices (kitchen tables). Never again. Not only is the coffee overrated and overpriced, but the overly-complicated WI-FI is not free. In a country where there are over 11,000 Starbucks outlets with revenues in the billions, there is no excuse for customers having to pay for internet access AND having to figure out how to access it.

This was just one of several “big company” and “big government” policies that earned my ire this week.

On Monday, I deposited a sizable check in my business checking account at Wells Fargo. The check was from a Fidelity account. They put a 10-day hold on the funds. Ten days. When I asked why, it was because I had had four overdrafts during the life of my account. Maybe the overdrafts are a result of banks putting a 10-day hold on my funds (and then charging me exorbitant amounts in penalties which then causes more overdrafts).

Those fake-friendly Wells Fargo folks (with the grating, scripted spiel every time a customer walks up to the window “Good morning, how’s your day going so far? What do you have planned for the day? Is there anything else I can help you with? Have a great day!” GAG!) told me that it was for my own protection. Hmm. Thanks big brother.

On Wednesday, I had another run-in with a behemoth. Qwest shut down our internet service for the third time this year. Under the guise of consumer protection, Qwest uses a system that shuts down your internet service if it detects a possible virus on one of the computers in the house. The first time this happened, we had my son’s hand-me down computer cleaned up. Well, despite our warnings he must have opened one of those goofy forwards that 10 year-olds like to send to each other, and so once again, the whole rest of the house had our internet shut down. So we unplugged that laptop, gave him his sister’s old Mac…and went about our business. But that particular morning I plugged the old computer in to find a document that was on it….and the ubiquitous Qwest sniffed out our sorry little laptop and shut us all down again. UGH. And I run an internet business. I feel like this is how quarantining used to be handled when my mom was a kid. If your second cousin once removed had a suspicious rash, everyone was sequestered.

The Denver parking police are also on my list. Yesterday while at a doctor’s appointment for this crummy sinus infection (maybe that’s what has me on such a rant ?), I got a parking ticket. Huh? I had just fed the meter for an hour’s worth of time and was gone 20 minutes. So, I double-checked to see if I had fed the wrong meter. Nope. It was because I had turned into a slanted spot from the other direction and left my back left tire on the white line. No one was parked next to me on either side…and even if they had been, the spaces were sized like most Americans. But apparently, the parking Nazis decided that they had nothing better to do than give me a $25 ticket. And on tax day for goodness sakes.

My real-life big brother used to wield his power in much the same way. There was never much rhyme, reason, or rationale to these occasions; they would occur willy-nilly as the whim struck him. Like Wonderland's irrational Queen of Hearts, he'd suddenly decide it was time for a reminder..."and off with her head!"

Although I have always been an incessant rule follower (see last blog post, the rules and the rule-makers are starting to piss me off. Isn’t life stressful enough as it is? Haven’t they proven that stress causes disease? Maybe if our new healthcare plan just outlawed overdraft fees, parking tickets, extraneous charges, (and how ‘bout homework too?) all of us would be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goody-Goody Do-Gooder

When I was little, other kids called me a goody-goody. And I was. Afraid of getting in trouble... I did my best to be good. Trouble was, teachers and parents may like good little girls, but other little girls don't!

I've come a long way since then and am no longer an incessant rule follower...but I still am a shameless do-gooder and constantly search for the balance between caring too much and letting that caring take over my life. But now, instead of worrying about whether people might not like me for being debbie do-good, I wonder what the hell is wrong with them if they aren't.

Seth Godin's recent blog post "Fear of Philanthropy" ponders one of the biggest obstacles for do-gooders and their causes: too many folks avert their eyes from people and problems that make them uncomfortable.

I first realized the depth of this problem as a board member of The Kempe Foundation for The Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect. Despite the fact that the statistics about child abuse are stunning, getting people to listen, act, or give is a huge challenge. No one wants to hear that nearly a million children are victims of child abuse every year.

Sexual abuse is a taboo topic too. Yesterday I met with two women from Prax(us). Prax(us) is the only organization in Colorado serving individuals, particularly homeless youth, in domestic human trafficking situations. Eighteen months ago, I had no idea of the breadth of both international and domestic human trafficking. But in October 2008, my friend Molly and her neighbor, Kendis, organized a Human Trafficking Awareness Conference in Colorado and I learned that victims of sex trafficking are everywhere, even right here in my fair city. What I learned yesterday is that like in the case of domestic violence, the stigma and shame of their predicament make it both insidious and almost impossible to escape.

It's the people who can't meet their minimal survival needs of food and shelter that are most vulnerable to domestic human trafficking... immigrants, (especially undocumented), single women with children, and homeless youth.

Did you know that every single night there are more than a thousand youths 14-18 sleeping on the streets of metro Denver? How about in your city? To complicate matters, these youth are targeted by law enforcement for ticketing for petty violations that are a result of their homelessness, and those very tickets have the potential to disqualify them from ever getting housing! How senseless can our society get?

The more I learn about the plight of so many people, in so many places, the more determined I am that we must not avert our eyes but rather open them wide and use our vision to do good.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Heroine has a Scent Allergy and I Wore Perfume

Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff shared their wisdom and wit with a whole bunch of admirers last night at the Tattered Cover in LoDo. You will never meet two more authentic and admirable women. Admirable in their authenticity. I loved how they shared not just their successes, but their obstacles as well, which happen to be the very same ones that we all have to face down on a regular basis: fear and self-doubt.

When we walked in they gave us big smiles and welcomes. These two famous women. Authors, actresses, executives, icons. They smiled at us and talked to us. I got that warm fuzzy feeling that we all want but rarely admit. And they gave us a pretty pink raffle ticket for a some fun give-aways at the end of the event. One must have included perfume. That's when Kathy mentioned her scent allergy, and I thought, "oh no!". Why did I double back to my vanity (that word should be a good clue) for a squirt of Jo Malone before dashing out the door?

Now I was afraid to go near her, lest I set off an allergic reaction and she discover the error of my ways! How could I schmooze with my heroine if she was having a sneezing attack? So I took a step back, sat in the second row, and just smiled real big, so she'd know how much I liked her.

I am not a girly girl; I barely spend 5 minutes on hair and make-up, well, maybe 7 if it's black-tie. So what possesses me to give into random impulses like cutting my own hair, going on a tweezing tirade, or buying a two-hour teeth whitening kit which flummoxes me when I discover you can't drink wine with whitening trays in your mouth.

My oldest pal Betsy and I used to plan these extravagant makeovers for ourselves every summer break. We would get tan, thin, blonde, and grow our nails. Then we'd show up the first day of school and even if we had succeeded (which we never did), no one would even mention it, because they would all have been doing the same thing themselves! So there we would all be waiting for everyone to exclaim, "Oh, you look so good"! Isn't vanity a mysterious thing?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bittersweet Easter

When my ten year old asked "so what are the plans for Easter?", I guess I gave him a blank stare. "Um, well we don't really have anything big planned..." I said as I searched my brain for some clue as to when Easter was arriving. "Well, but what time should I come downstairs?" he tried again. Aha. He's thinking about the baskets of candy and gifts. Phew. That I could manage.

Poor kid. Being the youngest in a big family, he not only experienced several years of tradition-building while the older kids were still at home, but has watched countless reruns of family movies that captured the huge hoopla around holidays. We have hours of video featuring 3, 4 or 5 kids perched on the stairs decked out in Christmas or Easter jammies while their video-camera -wielding dad teased that Santa or the Bunny hadn't shown up that year.

With the older three kids away at school, and his fifteen year old sister more interested in sleep than sweets, Cam was kind of screwed. We had just returned from a 5 day trip to NY to see his college sibs and my mom. Just getting his other brother's birthday card in the mail a day after the event was a Easter was the last thing on my mind.

When the older kids were Cam's age, we would celebrate the day for at least a week in advance what with decorating the house, dying hard-boiled eggs, stuffing plastic ones with jelly beans, hosting or attending several Easter Egg hunts, buying nice new clothes for church, and having family or friends over for an elaborate holiday supper.

This year, I stumbled to the storage room at 11pm Saturday night after doing the dishes from an impromptu dinner party. Carrying up one rubber maid container with a few sorry-looking paper mache bunnies and 12 year old baskets, I congratulated myself for the early morning dash to the store. I quickly stuffed the kids' baskets with the required M&Ms, jelly beans, and 2 for 1 sale items from Target's desecrated Easter aisle. Then prepared a basket for our newly-acquired mutt...

That was it. Easy, but not really Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Does this make sense?

Don't you wonder about a state that lets college kids carry concealed weapons but won't let them drink? And why it's perfectly legal for a man to buy violent pornography, but if he's caught taking a whiz on the side of a highway he has to register as a sex offender?

We used to have a great children's book about the 50 states. My favorite chapter was the one with a list of ridiculous laws that have been enacted in one state or another. In Little Rock, Arkansas, it's unlawful to walk one’s cow down Main Street after 1:00 PM on Sunday. How 'bout the Chicago law that forbids eating in a place that is on fire. Better think twice before offing yourself in South Carolina, where it is a capital offense to inadvertently kill someone while attempting suicide.

One of the most frustrating laws is the one legislating that every single month for as long as one is taking a medication that has been labeled a controlled substance ( if you have Adult ADD, that's probably for the rest of time) one must go to the doctor's office and pick up the piece of paper from them and then take it to the pharmacy. Why does that make sense? Who decides what's a controlled substance? Why aren't Peeps a controlled substance? I worry a lot more about my kids eating Peeps on Easter morning than I do about someone stealing and selling my stimulants, much less me overdosing on them. (Mistakenly took mine and my son's one morning...won't ever do that again)! And what about Viagra? I know a few friends who wouldn't mind seeing some control being exercised on the hand-out of those!

Having been a mostly law-abiding citizen for the better part of my life, I wouldn't mind having the chance to turn the tables on the po-po (i.e. police) just once or twice. Let's see how they like it when I jump out on the curb (dressed in scary jodhpurs and boots), point a gun at their windshield and pull 'em over and give them a big fat speeding ticket. Or act like a pedophile camped out in an unmarked white van at the side of the road while in reality I use a hidden camera to catch the fancy patrol cruiser changing lanes without signaling in a sick twist of the professional credo "To serve and To Protect".

I think I'll start a MidChix flock "Oh For Pete's Sake" where other law-chiding chix can add their favorite legal lu-lus! Hope to see you there!