the new feminism or revisiting old issues?

I don’t know if any of you are watching the HBO/MAX series on the life of Julia Child called “Julia”. I have always been a fan of the French Chef, and I love to cook and I have a bunch of her cookbooks so I really enjoy the show, which began before I was even born. I also enjoy the show and the way that it has blended the era in which she started in TV with the world around them.

In one of the episodes Julia Child has an encounter with Betty Friedan. My research indicates this encounter never actually happened. But another article I read said that the show was perhaps exploring Julia’s brand of feminism versus Betty’s. And that made me think of how do we define feminists and feminism today? The show makes valid points, it also makes you ponder sometimes why as women we are our own sex’s worst enemies.

When I look back on life, you naturally start when we were growing up. Especially if you grew up in an area like the Main Line, which isn’t necessarily the real world. Graduating high school in 1981 meant sure we were being groomed to have the big female careers, but conversely we were also still being groomed to be lovely hostesses in our husbands’ homes. And no one told us or showed which choice was the right choice for us as individuals.

My career was not some giant six-figure career with fancy cars and penthouse apartments. I think that was harder on my mother for a lot of years as opposed to me. Just like it was hard on her when I was single, and sometimes she made me feel like that was a huge flaw in me as a human being. I liked what I did. Never wanted to just be with a partner or date, or even marry just so I could say I did that. I wanted it to be right.

But what I discovered when I got what should have been a career dream job is I didn’t really like it as much as the other things I had done all the other years. But it was an accomplishment. I will note that I was definitely deserving of a six-figure salary for a lot of those years, and I honestly never attained it. However, you know what? That was fine. I wasn’t a millionaire but I had enough money to take care of myself most of the time, and sometimes it was tight and I managed. And the truth of the matter is, employers are cheap. The key to their particular brand of success is not making you wealthy, but making them wealthy. Just another version of plantation mentality.

I have also always been opinionated. Sometimes that’s welcome in a corporate setting, sometimes not. as I entered into my 30s I began to realize there were other things out there. There wasn’t just being on socially correct junior committees and going to the right parties and being seen with the right people. There were the things in life that you took a look at and made you realize that all the people you were on committees with would always need you more than you needed them.

Gradually I became active in my community. I became kind of a community/grassroots activist of sorts. But sometimes who I was clashed with some of the people I was a community activist with, as well as people I grew up with . And sometimes these two sides of me clashed within myself. It took me until I was well into my 40s to understand that I could be both of those people.

And then there is the whole me as I have gotten older. I married later than a lot of people, and when I was marrying for the first time a lot of people I know were not only divorcing but onto subsequent spouses. Sometimes in that part of my world I felt judged. And I don’t really know why I think it’s just because I kind of did me all of these years. Not always easily because as we grow we learn more about ourselves. Especially as women.

Sometimes now, I feel myself judged by an entirely different generation of women. I am a stepparent and I never had my own children, somehow that goes against you and I don’t quite know how. It would’ve been nice if I had been able to bear my own children, but medically that was never possible for me, and it just never would’ve presented itself as an opportunity in the more traditional “childbearing years.”

And there’s the whole idea of feminism and having it all. But at on the eve of 58 I still wonder if you can have it all? Or is what makes you happy in fact actually having it all? I think it’s that. I think having it all, is being content with your life. And maybe that runs counter to feminism. Maybe I personally run counter to feminism because I like to do things like garden and cook and keep my house. I don’t think for years you were supposed to admit that out loud.

I look around me and we all spend a lot of our time as women in general, telling everyone else what they should do with their lives. And now once again we are coming full circle to wondering if a bunch of folks in judicial robes are going to be telling women what they should do, and more importantly what they should do with their bodies?

Oh yes, readers, I am going there. No matter what my personal choices are vis-à-vis my own body, I have never believed it was my place to tell another woman what she should do with hers. And I have always resented it when those in clerical robes and judicial robes have tried to tell us what it meant to be a woman. And I resent most of all the politicians who take this issue on on both sides and pander.

Feminism in the 60s and 70s gave women the power to be whom they felt they should be. We have in a sense, enjoyed that since then. But we’ve all gotten lackadaisical and somewhat complacent. And that’s men and women, and look where it’s gotten us in this country? Politically, we are a cesspool.

I also get tired of those who go around proselytizing in political campaigns and even within our own communities telling us what our families are supposed to look like, and what our family values according to them are supposed to be. They also want to tell us what our sexual preferences and gender identity are supposed to be, and there’s no room for anything else because it makes all of those people uncomfortable.

All of this behavior has extended itself into our schools, our libraries, our daily lives. The ultimate echo chamber is social media and certain social media groups. And what they don’t understand is they are free to have their opinions but rights are not subjective and they don’t get to foist their opinions on us and tell us that is what we are supposed to do.

All of these people want to tell you that their First Amendment rights are of more value than ours. They also want to tell you how the life during the last political administration and president was so wonderful, and today is a mess. I am wondering if they will ever be able to pull their heads out of their collective asses and realize everything they are bemoaning as a mess today is a result of what we went through with the last administration? Do I think that the current administration is doing a particularly fabulous job? To be honest no not all of the time, but then you look at realistically what they were left to deal with. Also politics has gotten ridiculously reactive and over-reactive. Being a moderate is like a four letter word.

Then you look at what we are dealing with today. You have the people who are saying that they are so against socialism and totalitarianism and they are true conservatives yet they don’t know the basics of the United States Constitution, our history as a country, and what it is to be a true conservative. Truthfully, a lot of those people don’t even realize that they are closer to socialism, communism, and totalitarianism than anyone. Sometimes I wonder if what the U.S. is experiencing today is actually closer to what Great Britain saw in post WWII England? That was some truly ugly stuff for a while. And it seems to be here today.

What we are living today is what it’s like trying to exist in a country full of political extremism. And as women in this country, I think we are feeling that acutely. And I think as women we are looking at a horrible future for future generations of American women, if we all don’t speak up.

And we as women all need to stop thinking that there’s always something wrong with who we are because of how other people see us. I realized that again this weekend when a lot of high school reunions took place. Ladies, we are who we are, and just because the “it girls“ from back in the day still think they are “it girls” it doesn’t mean they are ….it just means perhaps they are stuck in a time warp. Interestingly enough, most of them still do not know how to behave, which is something I find very amusing personally.

When it comes to women there will always be strivers. There are strivers in the personal sense of those who have amazing career goals and attain them. Then there are the strivers who are perhaps not as appealing. Like social strivers.

The social strivers are often the women who are trying to run as fast as possible from what they’re from. Instead of embracing what they’re from, they only wish to project essentially a fake persona and are often label conscious, trendy Wendy types.

Where women always will fall short in this world is not embracing that part of who you are based on what you’re from. And maybe what you’re from isn’t what you feel is socially acceptable, but it’s stupid to try to deny it because everybody knows it anyway.

There’s nothing wrong with a woman who doesn’t color her hair, doesn’t have plastic surgery, and doesn’t get Botox and other fillers every few weeks from not even their dermatologist half of the time, but a spa or salon somewhere.

Women as a species will always be competitive on some level with other women. It’s human nature. But the thing is it’s how you use that competitive nature, and ironically some of the most hyper competitive women I’ve ever met in my entire life I’ve also been among the most insecure.

I’m not saying we’re supposed to all stop shaving our legs and armpits and we’re supposed to sing Kumbaya around the campfire, what I’m saying is maybe as part of the brand of the new feminism we need to actually be real.

So what is the new feminism? I’m still not really sure. But I do think part of it is being able to speak our peace. And I think part of being real is actually acknowledging you don’t want to lift up every woman. Because sometimes there are just some women who piss you off, or irritate you, or you question their inherent value as human beings and just do not like. And that’s OK as a woman to actually say that out loud. You can be your authentic self without worrying about having to be perfect every five minutes.

Obviously I don’t have the answers, and these are just some of my rambling thoughts. I’m sure not everyone will like what I have written today, but these are things I’m thinking about.

Thanks for stopping by.

time passages

My husband loves Al Stewart’s music. I have always liked it as well. So every once on Spotify, I turn on some Al Stewart. One of his songs is running in a loop through my brain. Has been since I received some news that kind of upended me yesterday and today. The song is Time Passages. So that is why the video is in this post. Another song too has been in that loop. Supertramp’s Lord Is It Mine. Both my husband and I also love Supertramp. Also added a favorite Genesis song and a Steve Winwood too. Might as well do the full music I liked then and today. Music helps.

But…..Damn my age is showing. The music is all from “back in the [proverbial] day”. And this really has nothing to do with what I have been trying to write since this morning. It’s like if I write it out, it becomes more real. Music cushions the thoughts.

I have been sitting in front of my computer screen. I know what I want to say, but have been somewhat stuck in my own head since last evening when I received completely unexpected news.

One of my favorite people, a friend who feels like he’s been around literally since almost forever has died. Forever meaning I think we met circa 1976 or so. I know this is something I have to write about because it just needs to leave my brain. The memories need to settle and go back to happy, not swirl in my brain like an unhappy tornado.

Yes, a lot of tears have been quietly shed today.

He was hit by a car while walking. Just a freak accident a fluke. He wasn’t sick, he loved his life, was in the prime of his life, nice career, nice man. The kind of person you want in your life until we are really old and gray, only that won’t happen now.

Somewhere in a trunk I have photos from when we were teenagers and older. So many memories. Damn it David, I am not grown up enough for this.

I will start with one a friend reminded me of last night. Sitting in the middle of my parents’ driveway and David shouting “To the airport and hop on it!” when a VW rabbit went by. And that day multiple VW rabbits drove down our then quiet road. It was a hot car then. We laughed and laughed.

Another memory sitting in my parents’ library with him and three or four other friends. Don’t know why. It may have been after JDA (Junior Dancing Assemblies.)

Ahh what were the Junior Dancing Assemblies (“JDA”)? They were formal by invitation dances. The Senior Dancing Assemblies (‘SDA”) followed. They were held at the Merion Tribute House in Merion Station. Every time it was my father’s turn to drive us kids, he got lost. I still get lost going there.

Girls in long dresses or long formal tartan skirts and an appropriate top. Note that appropriate those days was NOT short skirts or skimpy tops or even spaghetti straps or strapless. Somewhere I have the original invitation that had the dress code. It was a tradition starting to wane by the time we went. Sometimes it was a bad cover band, other times a D.J.

A few years ago, David and I had some serious giggles over JDA and SDA and that Gold Lamé dragon Mrs. Farber. She was the one who ran the dances. Seriously, she seemed to have an endless supply of Gold Lamé dresses that had these almost bullet bra tops and didn’t move anymore than her Aqua Net cemented hair do. She was terrifying. She dragged me into the service kitchen at Merion Tribute one night and called my mother on the kitchen phone to report that I wouldn’t dance with someone she picked out for me to dance with. Fortunately, David and another friend rescued me. I remember coming home that night and my mother wondering why THAT woman called her. And of course a resounding chorus of “Don’t do that again, you were lucky to be invited.”

We would camp out during JDA and SDA intermissions or breaks and hangout on the window seats at Merion Tribute House and the other seating areas and shove stale pretzels down the heater grates as we drank our slightly warm and slightly flat Coca Colas out of Dixie Cups. During those intermissions we would think up grand schemes never executed to torture Mrs. Farber. Mostly we wondered how her bras were so pointy, how big was that closet of Gold Lamé dresses, and what was actually in her hair.

And then there were our mischief night escapades. One year we took apart a split rail fence and created an obstacle course on the road. We almost got caught that year as we also toilet papered several trees. Another year someone (David) magically re-painted the tops of someone’s wrought iron fence from gaudy gold to black I think it was.

Another thing we did once in a while? Roaming around the back of the estate known as Dolobran in Haverford. Why? So we could peek in the windows of the ballroom. It was so cool. At that point I believe there was just one tiny old lady living there. That was back when said little old lady gave me a $20 bill for Halloween one year back then. I had dressed my dog up as a cat to go trick or treating.

During the high school years we all went to different schools. So there were parties at Kip’s house or Adam’s house. Then there were the Philadelphia Charity Ball Years. David rescued me a couple of times when I did not have a date and my mother said I could not go with “just friends.” So he really wasn’t my escort, but covered for me and another friend so we could go.

Eventually we all went our separate ways and wouldn’t see each other as often. While I stayed pretty much in the Philadelphia area, David and other friends were spread out all over the east coast, out west, down south. So then there was Christmas.

Christmas Eve for decades meant one Christmas party in particular for many of us in Gladwyne. So I always saw David and his family there. When we were younger, we would be with the kids downstairs in a big rec room for the most part. As we got older we migrated upstairs and would take over the hosts’ study.

Then at some point, we all stopped going. In recent years, David and I would connect by phone, email, and like so many others Facebook. We would occasionally see each other when he was up from Florida to see family still in the area.

David did things liked sent me little gifts sometimes for no reason. A couple of years ago it was a set of whimsical kitchen towels he thought I would like.

The last time we connected was his birthday….barely a month ago.

Hopping around: I remember when his mother died. April, 1978. Not too long from now is the anniversary. I remember when he called me. She was the first parent of someone I knew who passed away. His dad remarried a few years later, and his father and stepmother and siblings and family and friends all survive him. His stepmother is truly lovely. And I remember that was not easy coming into the world of three boys of various ages who had lost their mother.

My head is calmer now as I have written down some of these memories and allowed the memories of laughter wash over me. Today has been full of phone calls from some of our old friends, which is comforting for all of us. It gives us a chance to quietly remember someone who was just a wonderful person, one of our life long friends.

Telling my mother was no fun. She always adored David. My past is her past here. And his stepmother and father are still alive and such nice people. She said to me no parent wants to outlive their children.

Now David wasn’t someone who would want us to be endlessly sad. So I am celebrating him right now with a post traveling down a meandering multi-decade memory lane. The meandering includes music. What I have shared plus a favorite playlist from Spotify.

David gave his friends a precious gift one last time. And that gift is allowing some of us to reconnect. We will honor that gift and remember him. (Umm he also gave me his grandmother’s pound cake recipe and THAT is priceless.)

David, we will all miss you, and when I have my next glass of Rosé, I will lift a glass in your honor. Thanks for the memories, but it just wasn’t time enough.

The older I get, the more I realize loss is not for sissies.

Goodbye, old friend.

and just like that…even our t.v. characters age…and all of our lives change as we age and that’s o.k.

This morning I had a giggle. Sex & The City started on HBO in June, 1998. Cable was ridiculously expensive and I remember hunting the various COMCAST “special deals” just so I could have HBO. Nope, no Manolo budget here. I was single, watching the ultimate single girl television show.

Ok yes, I have talked about this show before, but come on? The original was a big part of all of our lives. Kind of like Star Trek for some of the guys I know.

I loved the cast, part of which was New York City. The clothes and the shoes I could never afford unless they were dumped at Loehmann’s or Daffy’s or Century21. And I could never walk in the shoes. The shoes I left and still leave to my sister (and her fabulous shoe closet/racks.)

This morning I had a giggle because I realized that way back when I used to watch Sex & The City in bed like my big single girl not so secret, sometimes with a glass of wine. Now I watch And Just Like That on Thursday mornings in bed with a cup of coffee.

Yup the 50s. Struck me as so funny. I don’t know why. Well maybe because I watch the new show drinking my coffee and then I go and clean up the rest of the kitchen and sort the laundry. Back then, in the Sex & The City Days, yes I did laundry and cleaned up the kitchen. Just didn’t admit it out loud.

So now I am a few episodes into the new show. I like it. It’s getting a lot of flak like the actresses were supposed to have been cryovaced and opened as their 1990s selves once again. Well gee, that would be a neat trick. They have aged, pretty damn well if you ask me and you can see a little “work” but at least they don’t have frozen face syndrome. I have seen a lot less of that frozen face syndrome since COVID started, but still, it’s out there.

Probably I am an anomaly. I don’t do fillers or injectables. No plastic surgery, still on my original body parts. If liposuction didn’t look incredibly painful, maybe that would be an option (I am actually joking) but I think I will just try to exercise more and eat less? I am not a perfect 10 now, wasn’t back then. After breast cancer surgery, people kept telling me about their favorite plastic surgeons. Well once you have had a couple non-elective surgeries that kind of hurt and if you hate needles, that is not really an option. Besides, ask your radiology technician sometime what they have to do to get a mammogram on ladies with glorious fake breasts. One word: contortion. Two words: no thanks.

Things about the show that still crack me up is they all still breathe the rarified air. They are mixing in more everyday kind of available clothes, but still the wardrobes and where they live. Pretty fun and fantastical. But those are ladies in menopause and I envy them their lack of hot flashes. Or they could just be like my mother was back then and simply not acknowledge their existence.

The conversations have shifted some with them. The hair coloring vs. not coloring crack me up. Oh I have had those because once I started breast cancer treatment I stopped experimenting with color. It was never much to begin with, just the occasional semi permanent color job. Now a decade plus later, my hair still has a lot of my original dark. I will admit some days I freak myself out because when I look in the mirror I see my paternal grandmother Beatrice, but for me I made the right choice. And my hair actually looks and feels better.

I am aging. I will admit to taking collagen supplements, but with age comes dry skin. But when I look in the mirror, except for the occasional glimpse of Beatrice and wondering how almost 60 years of life seem gone in a blink, it’s ok.

Now these television characters and the actors which portray them have all aged. I kind of like that they have aged right along with me. I think I would have been upset if the re-boot occurred with a new young cast.

I often wonder what women think as they age. We all know quite a few who aren’t doing it quite gracefully. The still too short skirts, tight pants, and short shorts. Overly carefully lit selfies and professionally taken social media photos. Some of these ladies have amazing figures, others do not. It’s just about aging gracefully, perhaps with humor. I mean we do have options other than mom jeans, right? I will admit to missing my leather and sued pants, however, and being able to wear strapless gowns.

Back then when the original show aired, I was wondering what this current part of my life would be like. I had a bunch of friends who married young, and I couldn’t see myself in their lives then. I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t about sowing the proverbial wild oats, never did so much of that, it was just about growing into myself I think. I wasn’t there yet. (However, I will tell you that back then, I still did cook, go antique and vintage treasure hunting, and garden.)

One of the best things for women about these shows is showing the relationships between the women and their partners, and the dating then and now. I was never much of a dater although I did it. I always found recreational dating much like the job interviews for the jobs I didn’t want.

But the characters the women’s characters dated in the original series? Cracked me up. I could see them in so many people my friends had dated and even I dated. Like Mr. Big. We all had one of those, I think. But we didn’t marry them, so it’s kind of no wonder they made her a widow. But I do know some young widows, so on the other hand I actually get that (and wish it on no one.)

And the Samanthas. We all had them, even if their clothes weren’t as good. But they grew up too, and not all friendships transcend the test of time. So no matter why that character is gone, I get it. I have a lot of my core friends, but I am exceptionally lucky. Some of the other friendships didn’t make it but it kind of falls into that saying about friendships being reason, season, or lifetime.

Truthfully I am glad to be me now, and that I am not dating in my 50s. I am grateful for my life and marriage. I know who I am, I know who he is. We aren’t ever perfect, but I know what it is to love and be loved, and there comes a point where that is just right and very lovely. Now granted, I know I am a very lucky woman, and I never take that for granted (or try not to.) However, I will completely admit it’s a little annoying that he can still imitate my high school self walking down the halls at Shipley carrying my book bag. So no, I do not get away with much, ladies.

Another thing I admire about the new series are the people they have around them. It’s not just bars and cosmopolitans. It’s the bitchy women’s committees and PTA savages. It’s the reinventing yourself when you thought you were all set, including sometimes starting over.

We can all relate. After all, I still remember the first time I did a car rider line, didn’t know where to go, and got in the wrong part of the line. I was literally surrounded by mini vans and had moms and dads who got out of their vehicles to SCREAM at me. Oh and the teachers and school personnel watched from the sidelines like it was a spectator sport.

And then there were the moms who wanted their high school kids to slow dance at their dances like “the holy spirit was in between them.” Had to bite my tongue with that one because did they actually know what their teenagers were up to and it certainly didn’t involve the holy spirit. But hey, whatever gets you through the day.

And now today add to the average and annoying PTA moms we have the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, conservative beacons of light who will save all of us from ourselves while searching for that perfect hair color shade. The new Stepford Wives.

And then you have the not Stepford Wives who are just amusing. Self-described social media experts because they have a few Facebook group pages. And they still copy their material from everyone else and don’t have an original bone in their bodies. And they still want you to think certain communities adjacent to the Main Line are the Main Line, and why? Is the Main Line all that and a bag of chips? No sadly, and hasn’t been in years, just like there is no real “society” left to photograph.

Thanks but no, I will take me, lumps and all. It’s ok to age. We have much better shoes to choose from these days, and you only have to have a rocking chair on your front porch if you want one.

Thanks for stopping by.

honey, it’s called survival

Image result for do what you love

SLATE: In the Name of Love
Elites embrace the “do what you love” mantra. But it devalues work and hurts workers.
By MIYA TOKUMITSU

“Do what you love. Love what you do.”

The command is framed and perched in a living room that can only be described as “well-curated.” A picture of this room appeared first on a popular design blog and has been pinned, tumbl’d, and liked thousands of times. Though it introduces exhortations to labor into a space of leisure, the “do what you love” living room is the place all those pinners and likers long to be.

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit? And who is the audience for this dictum?

Yes, this is an old article.  But it struck a chord with me. The author turned it into a book or vice versa. (Not really sure.)

A friend posted this on their Facebook page and it is an intriguing read. Even if I do not necessarily agree with a lot of commentary. I spent years doing what I did NOT love at that point any longer mainly because I was afraid to take a gamble on myself, and I had bills to pay.  Breast cancer freed me from that because I had to leave my old industry literally to reduce my stress or fear recurrence. (It was one of those times where your medical care team does an intervention, and like it or not, you have to or should listen.)

When the author of the article says things like the quote below it’s like she is mocking those of us who left the corporate hamster wheel.

“DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient.”

Doing my own thing is not elitist, well, it’s survival. I am 55. Corporate America does NOT like to hire women over 50. Or even in their mid-40s.  We are too expensive when it comes to things like healthcare and we are old enough to mostly know our own minds.  Knowing your own mine is a threat.  It’s far easier for them to hire women half of our age who can still sport short skirts without looking too old to sport short skirts.  And if they have a choice between hiring a woman my age who doesn’t color her hair and who hasn’t had “work done” and one who has? Botox and hair coloring win every time.

Ageism is a real thing.  It was a very strange sensation realizing I was no longer one of the younger ones in the room.  And since I stopped coloring my hair, I look in the mirror and I see relatives who came before me.  I loved every one of them, but I am still not sure how I feel about it some days.

Some days I wonder should I have had “work done” even a little filler like a lot of women I know? And every time I have this conversation with myself, it ends the same way: I am who I am, I can’t pretend to be someone else.

On some days I am fine with my age and who I am.  Other days it’s like where did my 25 year old ass and legs go?

Yet, the reality is me at 55 is a heck of a lot happier than me in my 20s.

Being in your 20s is exhausting.  The games with dating and learning to be yourself.  The games with who were actually your friends, and the hurt of the ones who betray you and you should have let go of long before that.  Or being in your 20s and to have a boyfriend cheat on you and they don’t understand why you couldn’t just move past it and not walk? And neither do some of your friends?

The twenties and even your thirties was the whole additional journey of trying to find yourself as a woman and trying to learn how to be an adult.  Some days were better than others, remember? Remember the days you wanted to scream into an empty room?

Working in your 20s, or what I remember in the financial services industry (and friends who were in different industries had similar tales) meant learning to keep your back to the wall when some older male colleagues around and I even remember one temp job I had where my first day two women warned me not to get caught in the room where the copy machines were with one guy in particular.

Damn we all could have had our workplace #MeToo moments and a lot of us did to varying degrees. But we didn’t talk or tweet about it, we just survived.  Because we had to.

I had a lot of friends get married in their 20s.  In a lot of cases I should say the first time.  As I attended wedding after wedding sometimes I just didn’t get how you could go from being dependent upon your parents to being dependent upon a spouse without any chance to grow in between and learn who you were.

A lot of my friends were just on autopilot to marry and produce children.  We were partially all raised to be that way.  Maybe that sounds elitist, I don’t know. It is just the way it was.

I was a late bloomer so I did not marry until much later and I think the timing was right for me. I spent a lot of time feeling like I did not quite fit and didn’t quite know myself.  But it took years to even admit to myself that I liked spending time by myself.  I was at the end of an engagement where I had the epiphany that if I did end up just with myself I would be o.k.  That realization was very freeing and I think it was a key to opening me up to the woman I am today. Or who I might become.  Some days I still wonder am I there yet?

Career-wise I had a path that wasn’t necessarily the path I would have chosen initially but I liked it and it paid the bills.  Was it fulfilling? Nope. But it sure was eye-opening as to human nature.

Then came breast cancer.  I could no longer handle the stress, the hours, the mental gymnastics of cut throat and duplicitous people.  Being a woman in my old industry was exhausting on a good day, but after breast cancer surgery and treatment? I just couldn’t do it any longer.  And it had ceased being rewarding long ago.  And it’s an industry that still treats women like crap and always will.  And I would never be hard enough.

So breast cancer gave me the courage to look at things differently.  It was hard. It still can be hard.  People ask me why some days I do so much? The answer is I was in my old industry for so long, I forgot how to relax.  You were geared to getting so much done in one day. You had to.  You were subject to everyone else’s deadlines.

Doing more of what I love and being able to love what I do? It became about survival and starting to experience ageism.  And when ageism smacks you in the face, it’s a real bitch. So when people say do what you love (DWYL) is somehow elitist, well sometimes it is the path that opened for you. I wasn’t ready to be a greeter at Target or WalMart, sorry.

So I took a risk. I took a chance on complete change. It’s just as hard some days as putting up with crap as a tiny cog in the wheel of Corporate America, trust me.  Nothing is perfect, and those who pretend it is are doing themselves a disservice.

Let’s talk about other things in realm of ageism as a woman in the workforce.  I learned this in my 40s when I became a statistic in the layoffs done at Wachovia Securities before Wells Fargo came in.  Corporate jets were not expendable, but worker bees like me were.  Do you know how surreal it was having an HR folder full of accolades and customer testimonials as to how GOOD a job I did, and being fêted nationally by the company as a “volunteer of the year” for my volunteerism in my community to being a corporate pre-merger layoff statistic?  Seriously, the day I got my package they gave me a chart showing where everyone was getting cut in my region and whether they were male or female.

After being forced as part of a giant corporate separation package to take a time out (in case they decide to UN-lay me off and bring me back), I came back out into the workforce late 2007 to early 2008.  A completely crap economy and here I was a woman in my 40s. Why hire me when they could hire someone so much younger? And then there was the interview where the interviewer literally asked why I did not remember him.  Apparently I had turned him down for a job like 15 plus years prior and he never got over it? (Yeah THAT wasn’t too weird, was it?) And then there were the job interviews that were like marathons. Literally hours in one day like a perverse corporate endurance test.

And in this brave new world of interviewing a lot of the interviews were not even face to face any longer. And even if you sent a thank you note for an interview like you are supposed to, sometimes they just didn’t bother to ever reply. Most of the time they never bothered to acknowledge you even submitted a resume.

When I finally did land a job which on paper sounded amazing, among other things I was working for someone who did not offer even access to healthcare benefits, proper vacation time, or a retirement plan.  But I needed to work, I had to support myself.  So I took it.

This is the job I should have left three months in, but instead I stayed about four years. I left post breast cancer.  I was exhausted.  Because I worked for a company that offered no benefits, sick days, vacation days and never had a policy on sick or vacation days per say, I pretty much had my breast cancer surgery and came right back to work.  I had to work through my post surgical treatment.  I felt like I was in a white collar sweat shop and damn didn’t my ancestors work themselves to the bone a immigrants to the US so future generations like myself didn’t have to?

But I did not have the courage or faith in myself to leave.  Until my husband looked at me one day after the doctors had done their intervention and told me I had to get out of the current job that the stress would kill me, and said “quit.”

I looked at him like I misheard him. So he repeated himself and said “Quit. It’s not worth the stress and something else will come along.”

So I did what I never had done, I quit. And a weight lifted off of my shoulders. But this was the job that left me with Corporate America PTSD.  Not only didn’t I want to get back on that hamster wheel, I couldn’t.

So I changed everything. I had to. Has it been easy doing only for myself? No not every day because some days I feel like I have adult onset A.D.D. and for love or money, I can’t concentrate. But it’s nice to feel like me again, or to maybe even finally know who I actually am.

Growing up the choices were career girl or get married.  Even after the day of bra burnings, female empowerment, and women’s lib that was still pretty much it.  Today, in a lot of ways, it still is. And I am so sure a lot of women will read this and be enraged. Stuff it ladies, I am not breaking new ground here.

One thing I agree with the magazine article writer on is if you kind of want to “have it all,”  you might need to have lots and lots of lovely money to begin with. If you are just a regular person, that mantra is a little harder to achieve.  But I do believe that you should try to love what you do, or at least like it.  Otherwise it’s not worth it and weighs you down.

Women wear many hats in life.  We walk many tightropes. But somehow, we get there, don’t we? It’s called survival.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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a good old flowing stream of female consciousness

schlitz-1952-dont-worry-darling-you-didnt-burn-the-beer-660x330There is this page on Facebook I follow called Her Voice Echoes.  In their own words:

Her Voice Echoes presents letters, editorials, articles and other documents written by and, sometimes, about women. A few voices will infuriate you. You may even find them abhorrent. Others will uplift and enlighten. Some will make you laugh, others cry. Hopefully, we’ll learn from all of them what it means to be human and the struggles that we share across centuries, social class, ethnicities and nationalities.

They post some great stuff and sometime things I roll my eyes at ever so slightly. Today, or last night probably, they posted something from Oprah.Com called The New Midlife Crisis. It’s about women, for women and Hallelujah we’re finally allowed by society to have a midlife crisis? Is that what it is?

I do have a problem with the article in the context that it seems directed at Gen X women.  So yo do only Gen X women feel these things? I am 54 and I can tell you this article resonates with me.  And not because my life is so terrible, it resonates because of what a decade ago almost my life could have been.

As the author of the piece Ada Calhoun starts to dig into her article she indroduces us to who the article is aimed at:

As I cooked dinner the other night, I thought about the women I had been talking to. They’re just entering, slogging through or just leaving their 40s. They belong to Generation X, born roughly during the baby bust, from 1965 to 1984, the Title IX babies who were the first women in their families to go to college. Or go away to college. Or to live on their own, launch a career, marry in their late 20s (or never) or choose to stay home with their children. They’re a Latina executive in California, a white stay-at-home mom in Virginia who grows her own organic vegetables, an African-American writer in Texas, an Indian-American corporate vice president who grew up in the suburbs of New York, and dozens more. They’re smart. They’re grateful for what they have. They’re also exhausted. Some of them are terrified. A few of them are wondering what the point is.

Read more: http://oprah.com/new-midlife-crisis.html#ixzz5fLptxLg0

Oh Ms. Calhoun? Umm Gen X women are not the only ones experiencing this.

Someone I know turned to me recently and said she felt like she had no purpose.  This almost broke my heart because this is a person whom I find to always have purpose, someone who has very quietly done some very amazing things.

I said to her that I think purpose as in our life’s purpose can shift and change and is always multi-faceted.  I also said I think purpose can change as we change and age and life situations change.  What might have been our intended purpose in our 20s isn’t the same as when  we hit our 30s. Our 40s. Our 50s. (and so on)

I also think if we stop to breathe, and open our minds and hearts, purpose can indeed find us.

The author of the Oprah.com piece Ada Calhoun continues:

The complaints of well-educated, middle- and upper-middle class women are easy to dismiss as temporary, or not really a crisis, or #FirstWorldProblems. America, in the grand scheme of things, is still a rich, relatively safe country. (Syrian refugees do not have the luxury of waking up in the middle of the night worried about credit card bills.) Although many women are trying to make it on minimum-wage, split-shift jobs (and arguably don’t have so much a midlife crisis as an ongoing crisis), women overall are closing the wage gap. Men do more at home. We deal with less sexism than our mothers and grandmothers, and have far more opportunities. Insert your Reason Why We Don’t Deserve to Feel Lousy here.

Fine. Let’s agree that this particular slice of Generation X women shouldn’t feel bad. And yet, many do: Nearly 60 percent of Gen Xers describe themselves as stressed out. A 2009 analysis of General Social Survey data showed that women’s happiness “declined both absolutely and relative to men” from the early ’70s to the mid-2000s. More than one in five women are on antidepressants. An awful lot of middle-aged women are furious and overwhelmed. What we don’t talk about enough is how the deck is stacked against them feeling any other way…..Part of the reason we don’t know much about women’s midlife experience is that the focus has often been on men. For them, the “midlife crisis” (a term coined by psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques in a 1965 journal article) usually involves busting stuff up—marriages, mostly—but also careers, norms, reputations….Other research suggests that women’s happiness bottoms out around 40; men’s, around 50. (Maybe that’s another reason the female experience isn’t much discussed: By the time men start thinking about these issues, women seem unaffected, but only because they’ve already been through it.)

Read more: http://oprah.com/new-midlife-crisis.html

More than one in five women in the US are on anti-depressants I personally think  in part is because doctors don’t want to doctor, it’s easier to satisfy big pharma and prescribe a pill.

Goddamnitall women don’t just want to be given a pill, sometimes they just want someone to talk to and to listen to them because trust me they do not always get it at home.  For the first part of my 40s I often felt a panic because at that time I was in a relationship with someone who preferred the sound of his own voice to anyone else’s. Fortunately for me, that is not what my life held for me and that person exited my life…in a blizzard (I loved snow that year.)

-1950s-usa-kissing-sexism-the-advertising-archivesBut if I think back on it and that relationship in particular, taking into consideration this Oprah.com article did I subconsciously stay in that relationship far longer than I should have because of some unexpressed and somewhat unknown fear at the time of being alone or not doing what was sort of expected of me? I am thinking that is true because it wasn’t until that relationship was over did I realize again that I did NOT have to panic, I could survive on my own, and I had value as a human being.  And at that point, I began to breathe again and rediscover who I was.

I am not a Gen Xer as I was born the year before they designate the appropriate time frame (1965 to 1984). I will tell you that my friends and I feel like we were of the last generations of women groomed to be more highly decorative than highly functional.  If we were highly functional it was either a happy accident or an act of rebellion.

85d6c911dea88d1fab9d4bea935b0f23--vintage-food-vintage-adsNice Main Line girls were groomed at home, at school, at dancing class.  When I was at Shipley there was still afternoon tea. It was served in part by alumnae.  My late mother-in-law would even put in an appearance. Only she is someone who had I been given the opportunity I would have paid more attention to because she was independent and a maverick of sorts. I can still tell you what it was like when I watched her come into Shipley for trustee meetings, but I never actually met her then or had a conversation with her.  She carried herself like a cross between a dancer and a queen.

After Shipley, we girls were invited (or not invited but in those days people could not just dictate and shove their way in) to dance in the Cotillion of the Charity Ball.  Or if your parents had the money and the pedigree you could be a full-fledged debutante. If you had a proper Mayflower or Early American pedigree you also/or did The Assemblies.  As I had neither in my family tree, I was never sure which it was, only that until recently if you weren’t part of a select family you couldn’t attend even as a guest.

My two standout memories from the 1981 Charity Ball? My enforced blind date my mother chose photographed on a bench in the Bellevue reading the program book appearing in the 1982 Charity Ball Program with some sarcastic comment underneath it….and boy was my mother furious. The second memory is being ready to go out with my cotillion partner and praying Bobby Scott wouldn’t murder my last name. Seriously.

So we as girls/young women went to college, some on to graduate school, medical school and so on and so forth.  But the message was always confusing: were we supposed to be independent and strong women or bits of fluff that looked good at dinner parties? Or both?

Ada Calhoun further noted in her Oprah.com article the following:

Women our age sometimes romanticize the freedom we used to have as kids in the ’70s or ’80s, but sociologist Linda Waite, PhD, director of NORC at the University of Chicago’s Center on Demography and Economics of Aging, has done extensive national surveys of middle-aged people, and she says Gen X was at a disadvantage from the start. Our parents’ choices often led to instability at home. Four in 10 Gen X children were likely to have divorced parents (the divorce rate, which peaked in 1980, recently hit a 36-year low). The effect was both financial (when your father leaves, it’s much less likely he’ll pay for college) and psychological.

“If your parents are divorced,” Waite says, “you see the world in a fundamentally different way. You see the world as unstable. That left people cautious.”

If our childhood in the late ’70s and early ’80s was a time of massive changes—the first generation of latchkey kids, high crime rates in the headlines, missing children’s pictures on milk cartons, the AIDS epidemic beginning—our transition to adulthood was equally rocky. Many of us started our job hunts in the early ’90s recession, which was followed by a “jobless recovery.” If you were born later into Generation X, you might have entered the workforce around the 1999-ish stock market peak, but the tech bubble started to burst, landing us in the 2001 recession.

I did not have divorced parents, but sometimes I question where emphasis was placed.  I often felt out-of-place and unheard.  I was supposed to do what I was told. Period.  I will note that this is something my husband has felt on occasion marred my abilities as a step-parent because of what I learned by living through.

offending_deodorant2-e13893829729241In my house growing up there was very heavy emphasis on how you looked and how you behaved.  Ok fine, no one wants to be godless and immoral but what does this do to self-body image and self-worth? In the junior high school and high school years I could prance with the best of them, but it was often just a survival charade so weakness wasn’t smelled in the air by the mean girls.  To be honest self-worth was an epiphany when I was going to turn 50 and self-body image? I still struggle with it thanks to breast cancer.

Ada Calhoun talks about women our age  (ok I will just say “our” since I was only born a year before her age range) possessing a bone-deep, almost hallucinatory panic about money (almost a direct quote from the article) and I can’t disagree. And she points out that experts say social security may or will run out in 2040. Or when I am into my 70s. Lovely.  I pay my taxes, have paid into social security for years and in the end will the U.S. government just rip millions of us off? I do not think I will ever relax about money.  It’s a love hate relationship.  If you have ever worried about falling down a financial rabbit hole, you understand the fear rational or irrational.

When my parents were in their 30s and 40s they had a nice house and so on.  When I was in my 30s and 40s I was still struggling on occasion and shock and horrors, I was single.  I swear that is what was hardest on my mother, that I was not married.  I remember when my sister and brother-in-law threw my parents a fancy 40th anniversary party. I was told by my mother I could not attend without a DATE. Yes seriously. In the end I did indeed attend without a date and much to mommy’s chagrin I did not in fact turn into a pillar of salt or something.

But that whole single thing was stressful and depressing at times.  Not because I was upset particularly but because everyone else was.  Because I was single so long it was always funny to see things I was left out of. It’s like I was viewed as a freak or unnatural. Sometimes married couples viewed me as suspect. One time someone told me once they couldn’t include me at a dinner party because she didn’t want an odd number and she was sure I would understand.  No not really, that was kind of rude.

The article goes on to say that a lot of us feel stress and depression because we feel stalled in our careers.   I don’t quite see that for myself personally because when I survived breast cancer my doctors literally sat me down and told me I had to change my life, job, and reduce stress. That was when I left my former industry. Truthfully, it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  It was scary because the unknown was/is  scary but it was incredibly freeing.

You could say I joined the gig economy after a fashion. A gig economy is defined as a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.  Otherwise known as freelance.  Sometimes it is frustrating, but it’s not so scary and it is doable. Sometimes you just have to hustle.

What was also freeing? Finding the relationship I had always wanted slightly later in life.  Knowing more of who I was and who my partner was made all of the difference.  We came together because we wanted to be together, not because it was expected to be so. My husband is an amazing man, and yes I feel blessed every day that he loves me and I love him.

That love and understanding for me has been all the difference.  I won’t say I still don’t have my occasional midlife panic moments but I am more grounded now I think and actually supported. When you feel supported as a human being, the panic of crisis points will subside.  You are not walking a tightrope without a net when you have someone you love and trust implicitly.

Slowly I am learning you are only as stuck as you allow yourself to be. I never truly knew that before.  When you run around in your head from thought to thought you do get stuck sometimes.

And from In Her Words a New York Times Column I subscribe to, I learned about this old column from 1931:

petty

Dean Douglass was certainly ahead of her time.  I also saw something else I took note of fly by on Facebook today also on Her Voice Echoes:

saw this

Also today and again from the New York Times In Her Own Words column? A snippet on early feminists from a larger article.

They refer to a letter written by one of my colonial favorites, Abigail Adams, to her husband John in March, 1776:

…I feel very differently at the approach of spring to what I did a month ago. We knew not then whether we could plant or sow with safety, whether when we had toild we could reap the fruits of our own industery, whether we could rest in our own Cottages, or whether we should not be driven from the sea coasts to seek shelter in the wilderness, but now we feel as if we might sit under our own vine and eat the good of the land.

I feel a gaieti de Coar to which before I was a stranger. I think the Sun looks brighter, the Birds sing more melodiously, and Nature puts on a more chearfull countanance. We feel a temporary peace, and the poor fugitives are returning to their deserted habitations.

Tho we felicitate ourselves, we sympathize with those who are trembling least the Lot of Boston should be theirs. But they cannot be in similar circumstances unless pusilanimity and cowardise should take possession of them. They have time and warning given them to see the Evil and shun it. — I long to hear that you have declared an independency — and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands.  Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

That your Sex are Naturally Tyrannical is a Truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute, but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of Master for the more tender and endearing one of Friend….

Doesn’t.That.Just. Blow. You. Away???

Where am I going with this post? Not sure at this point. It started as one thing, has segued to other things like a good old flowing stream of female consciousness. Sorry, not sorry I have a busy brain.  Sometimes it takes a while to turn it off.

The article on Oprah.com is huge and I think really interesting.  I will finish with one last quote from the article:

And I think of what my friend who grew up in Mexico once told me: “The 30s are the adolescence of your adulthood,” she said, “and when you reach 50, it’s a restart—empieza de nuevo—a second chance.”

Well dayummm. Like Miss Jean Brodie I am in my prime now I guess?

Thanks for rambling. Stay dry and warm this evening and Happy Valentine’s Day a couple of days early.

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are women really liberated?

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I took this photo of the Woman’s Lib Barn in Malvern about five years ago (I think – it could be longer) from across the road. The colors have been played with courtesy of filters, so pardon the artistic license.

So. Are women really liberated?

Yes, I am serious. I was thinking about it last night and this morning.  And no, I am not and never have been a text-book definition of a “women’s libber”. Unless speaking my mind and being somewhat independent minded make me one?

As history likes to tell it, The Women’s Liberation Movement was a political alignment of women and feminist intellectualism that emerged in the late 1960s. This movement was heavy into consciousness awakening and if you follow the historical timeline, grew out of civil rights.  The predecessor movement was the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century which enabled women by their hard work to obtain the right to vote. All of this had roots in a theory that social freedom was necessary for women to no longer be second class citizens.

And we were. But I have to ask if we are to an extent today or is it just a weird feeling because so much seems to be regressing right now?

Yesterday I wrote a post about politics and the mid-term elections which occur next week. The post centered around one writer’s article and another’s editorial. Interestingly enough, a lot of the greatest umbrage taken by my thoughts added to what others had written were from other women.

One woman said I was endorsing specific political platforms and vis-a-vis candidates because I suggested people read these pieces because I found them interesting. She went onto basically describe me as reprehensible for doing so.  I wasn’t telling anyone how to vote, I said it was an interesting read and what I was thinking about. They said specifically ““Well worth taking the time to read” is a political endorsement. Your message is not sharing information but suggesting endorsement of a political view that many in Chester County find reprehensible.”

The second woman came in via a rather strange comment and said : “You most likely have lost me as a follower. You sucked me in with Chester County Ramblings. I have enjoyed your writings over the past few years, until today. I want to hear about the history and happenings in the county that I adore. One thing I sure do not want to read are your political ramblings, pro, con, undecided or what you color you are wearing today. If this is route you plan to continue in your Chester County Ramblings, count me out. Ruined a good thing.” (I am guessing she missed the part where I write for myself and what interests me? Or that no one is compelled to read every little thing they stumble across?)

This is the stuff that blows my mind. The pretzel logic here is women are supposed to be free and liberated now for decades and allowed to express their opinions as long as their thoughts are sanitized with bubble water so everyone can float along on fluffy blue clouds?

So are women really free if other women feel the need to tear us down because we express our opinions and/or have an opinion they don’t care for?

This is some of what I was thinking about when I was in my garden working on my flower beds this morning.  It amazes me how quick women are to tear other women down.  That has always amazed me.  It’s so…well…high school.  If you do not conform to someone else’s comfortable notions you are bad.

Take an article which appeared in The Daily Local this summer about The Women’s Lib Barn:

….The Keegans plan on staying in the home they’ve loved for the past 50 years and have no plans on removing the unique message. They’ve had people ask about the barn, including a woman who recently asked for permission to make a painting of it, though they found it annoying when some bloggers posted stories on the barn without having all the facts.

“People today don’t understand it, they think all of a sudden it appeared. They don’t know it’s from the ‘70s,” Ronnie said.

“It isn’t women, it’s woman,” she stressed. “It’s my statement.”

I am guessing the lady is referring to this blog? What I have posted is what I have found elsewhere about their barn, including old articles but it got all lumped together seemingly at me? That baffles me.  Her barn is literally one of my favorites if not my favorite because it is quirky with its painted statement .

This barn was even part of my photography show at Christopher’s in Malvern a few years back in 2015. She sent me a note because one of my photos hung was of her barn. And to kind of criticize me for changing the meaning (in her mind) by cutting off the question mark at the end of her statement. (Well truthfully it wasn’t cut off, I did canvas prints and it was wrapped around the side.)

She invited me to come sit on her porch and she would tell me the story.  I emailed her back promptly to say I would love to hear about how the barn came to be the woman’s lib barn and that I would also love to give her the photo…and I never heard another thing.   I followed up again, and then just sort of thought “oh well” and went about my life. And then the reference to me (I presume) in the 2018 article someone I know wrote for the Daily Local. And then I again wondered if women were really liberated or just liberated enough to criticize other women?

Now when I ponder things like this, I do not extricate myself from the woman equation.  I can be as guilty as the next woman in the criticism of other women category.  But it does make me think again and again what are we liberated from exactly?

As time goes by and the seasons fold into one and other, I grow more at home here in Chester County and love the feeling of belonging.  I kind of love that I have shed my Main Line skin and enjoy the simplicity and beauty I have found.  I love my garden, my little house, my family.  The thing about Chester County which I have never felt anyplace else in my life is I can just be. Maybe it’s an age thing where I now realize I do not have to live up to everyone’s expectations, nor do I want to.

Yet occasionally I pause and ponder and marvel at the boxes women are still expected to be put into…even by other women. Like is the case with this blog and some of what I write.   If it’s my blog and I am the writer, aren’t I supposed to write about what I think about or enjoy or dislike? I am not a compensated blog, so I am not paid for my writing in this format of this blog.

I also wonder if my younger self was more of less free and liberated? Does this all vary with age and responsibility?

I accept that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s impossible to be that person because we are all different and it should be o.k. to be yourself not a mirror image of every other person around you.

Like many other women I find it irritating when people contact you just so you can tell your husband something for them.  Every time it happens I imagine myself as a 1950s housewife complete with apron and starched hair.

Or then there are the occasions when you are having work done inside our outside of your home. I have had those who preferred to speak only to my husband. Not because I couldn’t grasp the tasks at hand but because they wanted to deal with a man.

This summer I wrote a post “life in the land of women” – it seems this post has been a continuation of that so I will close with what I said then:

We can’t teach tolerance if we can’t be tolerant at least some of the time ourselves.

We can’t teach the value of individuality and independance if we constantly go after those the least bit different from us.

Are we really free if we are confined by the perceptions of others?

 

life in the land of women

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I believe that.

I have been really blessed in my lifetime friends. Some of them go as far back as grade school. (Including teachers!)

I have people who have come into my life for various reasons, and over the last 20 or so years a lot of it has to do with community things I am involved in or have been involved in. Or other commonalities. Or even through mutual friends.

And then there are the people who come into your life for a season. Those of the ones that can be the tough and bitter pill to swallow.

I don’t pretend to be perfect but I am a decent person and a loyal friend. Until you hurt someone I care about whether it’s friends or family…. or even me. I have let people into my life who have talked a good game and then used me. I have had people in my life who were just in the end disappointing.

It has been incredibly hard to learn to just walk away from these types of people. But as I get older, I’m getting better at it. Slowly, I am learning it’s life, stuff happens. You have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Sadly, I have experienced some unexpected negativity that I am choosing to work through by writing it out.

I have written over the past few years since my move to Chester County that although living here in this amazing and beautiful county, it has not been without challenges. Moving to a completely new area after living in one area for literally decades is an adjustment. It has had parts that have been hard.

As an individual when you have lived in one area forever, it’s sort of like Cheers. People recognize you on the street and in the grocery store. You’ve known all of your neighbors for years. When you go somewhere completely new, while a whole new adventure, it’s also when you realize things you may have taken for granted. Like the pleasant simplicity of seeing people you know in the grocery store.

When I first moved here I experienced old friend/neighbor drop off. It was like I had moved to Iowa, not Chester County. Some of them just stopped talking to me. Not because of an argument or disagreement, but merely for the fact that I was no longer geographically convenient.

One of the people who did this used to live around the corner from me and I was in her wedding party. That was very hurtful losss and took a couple of years to process because I was literally grieving a loss.

Other people made it easier. We invited them to get togethers in our home, and they just blew them off. No RSVP, just radio silence. Flat out rudeness. They made it easy to walk away.

But slowly I started to meet new people here in Chester County. That has not been without missteps as well, sadly. I kind of took it for granted that it would be easy. I didn’t honestly expect that it wouldn’t be as easy at this stage in my life as it was when I was say, in my 20s.

Over the past few years I have made the acquaintance and friendship of some truly amazing people. I have also met a few that have ended up not so amazing.

I have made the acquaintance of people running for public office that were all smiles towards me and friendly until they got elected. After they got elected, it is often a differentr story. One in particular told me that she couldn’t possibly be real friends with me because I was…. a blogger. I write, therefore I am walking poison ivy was the take away here.

Then there were the people I was warned about by other Chester County friends that there were these types who collected new people in order to use them, basically. I only really fell into this trap once and it was a lesson learned. Because sometimes with people like this when you don’t give them what they want, they can be quite unpleasant. But again their whole attitude, and treatment of fellow human beings makes it easy to walk away. However, it’s still disappointing.

Sprinkled in between were a few people I knew from before, but came to know again out here. Sadly, they weren’t keepers. Sometimes people whom you knew at a different stage in your life who were a lot of fun “back in the day”, but at this stage in my life were not completely palatable. So I chose to let them go. Not easy, yet not hard, and the right decision.

Recently I had another experience I shall not soon forget. Someone I met, thought was so fabulous and bright. I even had them as a guest in my home. Sadly, twists and turns in this person’s life have also resulted in my perceiving this person quite differently. Surprisingly they have ended up in the sad category of an adult petty mean girl. This one shocked me, truthfully.

It is a real grown-up lesson when you realize that although you know realistically that people come in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime that sometimes you end up quite surprised as to which people end up in which category.

Also recently I have experienced some rather odd types taking me to task over my blogging. Again, women.

One woman declared she was no longer following my blog because of my purported agenda of “liberal propaganda.” I am not sure she actually knows what that phrase means and it’s ludicrous. Those who know me well, know I am not necessarily liberal. My politics have actually evolved from being a life long Republican to becoming an Independent. I am beholden to no political parties. I blog about what interests me, and it doesn’t make me necessarily an internet vacation.

Am I supposed to be an internet vacation?

Another woman declared me a bad person because (if I have it right) I have a nerve to post news items, local issues and so forth while including my opinion. Ok do they know what a blog is? Or what blogging is?

A blog is defined as a website containing a writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites. So yes a blog is something that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer/blogger.

That makes this first and foremost, my space. My blog has a Facebook page. That has similar rules.

Other things I think about?

I am not some bra burning feminist by any stretch of the imagination. What I find astounding at this stage of my life is how awful a lot of women are to one and other. On a regular basis.

Where is the sisterhood? Where is the mutual support? Where is the basic human decency and tolerance of the difference of others?

Ladies we don’t want to be Stepford Wives….or do we?

But I choose to remain open. I appreciate all of you who accept me for who I am.

And for those for whom it is a virtual experience, I appreciate that you are supportive of how I write and what I chose to explore.

As for those who don’t or can’t ? Or those who are either super judegemental or think it is your job to “school” me? Well the practical reality is I can only control me and my behavior. I can’t control you and I am not responsible for your personal happiness, am I?

It’s one of those sorry not sorry moments.

But ladies, really. We can’t teach our children and grandchildren to be kind and to not bully or be mean if we can’t do it ourselves.

We can’t teach tolerance if we can’t be tolerant at least some of the time ourselves.

We can’t teach the value of individuality and independance if we constantly go after those the least bit different from us.

Maybe our current adult society is in part a reaction to the political climate in which we live? I’m not really sure, as I don’t have all of the answers. But it’s what I was thinking about this morning.

Time for me to garden. Enjoy your Sunday.Thanks for stopping by.

thoughts on ash wednesday

8614157810_f24ca9eb63_oThis is a post that some may have a problem with.  But it is my opinion.

Today is Ash Wednesday.  I am Catholic.  It is a very holy day, the first full day of Lent.

The voices of many priests float through my head “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

When I was a child, I loved being Catholic.  We lived in Society Hill and we had two amazing churches right in my neighborhood.  Across the street was Old St. Mary’s and down a little bit on Willings Alley, our church where our family pew still sits, Old St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia’s oldest Catholic Church founded by Jesuits in in 1733.

I was baptized and received my First Holy Communion at Old St. Joe’s.  I received my catechism from Father Drain, one of the Jesuit priests at Old St. Joe’s.  He was a marvelous man.  I still remember the room in the rectory – full of stiff and formal Victorian furniture.

The Jesuits were my foundation as a Catholic.  A couple of weeks ago, some fellow Catholics on a Facebook thread said Jesuits weren’t even really Catholic.  I found that sad and offensive.

As an adult, I have had a love hate relationship at best with the Church and with being Catholic.  I have yet to join a church in Chester County, as a matter of fact.  Maybe that means my immortal soul is at peril, I do not know.

My love hate relationship lives in the pomposity and hypocrisy I see today in the Catholic Church.  Let’s start with the whole sexual predator priest issue.  They excommunicated a priest and put him back in the neighborhood where I used to live and he roamed free for years until he was arrested a second time and went to jail on a guilty plea as a sexual predator.  Until he was convicted, we the neighbors had to watch him because no one else was.

Then there was the Monsignor from a parish in Wayne I was introduced to at a viewing.  He berated me in front of people at a viewing for the fact that at the time I had said that I would be choosing NOT to be married in a Catholic church and that I found modern Pre Cana to just be about the money.  He was awful. Ironically, he was removed a few  years later as a pedophile priest.

I move out here, and one of the first Catholic things I am hit with are exceeding graphic pro-life signs along the property of a large Catholic church.  Horrible glaring and angry signs.  Who is the God they worship? Is he mine? I don’t recognize anger commingled with religion as healthy.

Recently, attending a funeral of a friend, I was actually in a church that finally did not feel alien to me. Philip and James in Exton.  I found out later it was also designed by a friend’s late father.  It was the first church in years that felt welcoming and warm when I walked in.  And their stained glass windows were beautiful.  As a Catholic struggling with the faith of my birth, it was a really positive experience.

15217657474_a8fb2ac33d_oThen came the recent issue of Villanova University and the larger than life crosses over Lancaster Avenue.  It is something I have never understood and right or wrong, I think the university president is wrong.  It’s not about his legacy, it’s not about a Catholic institution, it’s about the multi-faith world we live in. And a public road, a state highway.

I came home from East Whiteland’s Zoning meeting and flipped on Radnor Township’s commissioners’ meeting.  What I saw was Villanova’s attorney in full Napoleonic glory brow beating Radnor into submission. Ok it is his job, even if he is always unpleasant when he represents Villanova.  However….

I am Catholic, and if this was solely on Villanova’s campus NO ONE would care. But this footbridge is going to cross a public road that gets public funds, and to build this they will get some public funds, correct? This is NOT being anti-Catholic or a being a bigot it’s a question of a PUBLIC road. Not everyone in the world is Catholic, so how others feel about this bridge being overtly religious over a public highway should matter.

I challenge everyone to look at the  bridge over City Line Avenue St. Joe’s University bult. It manages to be there without throwing Catholicism in everyone’s face.  But then Saint Joe’s is a Jesuit Roman Catholic University and Jesuits aren’t really Catholic, right?

We live in a world of many faiths.  I think if the bridge design featured crosses on the piers in bas relief, it would be in better taste. It would represent the religious foundation of the school without non-Catholics feeling as if someone else’s religion was being shoved at them.

As a Catholic I have always felt it was wrong to foist the religion of my birth on anyone.  I know who I am, and strangely I retain my underlying faith, so how is it I am a bad Catholic because I agree with the critics of the bridge design? Look, we are not living in medieval Spain or France, we live in a country that is a melting pot of religions. We can maintain our own religious identity while being sensitive and considerate to the religions of others, right? Or we should be able to?

One of the critics of the bridge of crosses is a very close friend of mine.  She is a senior citizen and a grandmother.  She gives more to her community in a year via her generosity than most people give in a lifetime.  Her comment about the bridge was that perhaps a more ecumenical approach to the bridge was better in today’s world.  She also had the thought of why couldn’t the crosses be more subtle, carved into the stone piers instead of challenging everyone over a public road.

My friend feels the frightening aspects of attacks on certain religious groups quite keenly as her 17 year old granddaughter works after school at a Jewish community center and is being trained on how to evacuate children and adults in the event of threats like the recent bomb scares.  This is the world legacy we are foisting on our children.  It’s the whole hate begets hate.

Because my friend was interviewed by some media and expressed her opinion publicly, albeit very gently and politely, she has been demonized and vilified. Publicly, including in the media.  She has even had conservative radio show hosts want her to come on the air, and I know damn well it’s not because they want to fairly represent her right to her opinion. It’s because  they know she would be ratings gold if they put her on the air so people could phone in an essentially abuse her without accountability.

So she is now branded an anti-Catholic and a bigot and “she must have a bunch of pink crocheted hats.”  She and others of a similar opinion, which I guess must include me are being compared to perpetrators of hate crimes. Hate crimes, you know like those horrible people who destroyed gravestones at historic Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. Now these same critics are saying that even more people are anti-Catholic because not enough media attention and public attention was paid to a similar desecration of gravestones at Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Philadelphia. Doesn’t matter that no one can control the if it bleeds it leads philosophy of what is newsworthy to television station managers and newspaper publishers, right?

I am sorry but do these people HEAR themselves? People with a different opinion are anti-Catholic? Even if they are Catholic?  Jesuits aren’t really Catholic even thought the current Pope himself is a Jesuit? It’s like committing a hate crime to say maybe rethink all those crosses on a footbridge crossing a public road driven by people of many different religious beliefs?

Religious pretzel logic.

Yes…religious pretzel logic.  I am sorry but it is upsetting.  And it’s why people struggle with being Catholic, or with any other faith when people are pushed to slavish devotion with no room for individual thought.

I was not raised to be this type of Catholic.  Have I ever felt people went out of their way to make me feel bad for being a Catholic? Sure.  How many Ash Wednesdays did I go to Our Lady of Victory in Lower Manhattan for ashes to return to my trading desk where I worked to have way too many people tell me I had schmutz on my forehead? And that continued for over a decade in my old office in Conshohocken every Ash Wednesday when I went to St. Matthews at lunch for ashes.

I found it offensive but I said nothing.  It was not worth getting into it.  I knew who I was.

But today after the past couple of days, I once again question the faith of my birth.   I just do not understand how people who call themselves Catholic and Christian can spout what I feel to be such ugliness at the onset of one of the most holy seasons of the year?  Maybe this is just a by-product of the ugliness of the politics that swarms our country at present.  Whatever it is, it is sad.

Norman Rockwell had a painting truly appropriate for this post.  Here it is:

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cooking up sunday “gravy” memories

My father’s mother, my paternal grandmother was not an easy woman. She was incredibly strong, the oldest breast cancer survivor I ever knew (savage mastectomy in the 1940s, lived into her 90s), and her relationships, including with all of us was a complicated relationship at best.

She and my father had periods of detente and I know they loved each other but there were many years were they just didn’t get along, especially after my grandfather died. I still remember the night as a little girl when my father came home after seeing his mother after Pop Pop had died. 

My paternal grandmother, whom I called Grandmom, in a photo taken by either my uncle or one of my cousins. She would’ve looked like this when I was a teenager.

Anyway, I remember creeping down the steps to see him, and stopping in the doorway to the living room and silently going back upstairs. I will never forget the visual of him sitting next to a single lit lamp in the living room on 4th street smoking cigarette after cigarette, staring off at I don’t know what.. At his feet were boxes of his childhood – books and what not. 

I loved my paternal grandmother, but some times growing up I didn’t like her very much. She is a woman who was truthfully better with adults than children, and she had a closer affinity for my aunt and uncle’s children because they were closer to her than my father was. Truthfully my aunt and uncle and cousins seemed to resent having to share her with my immediate family at any time, it was like they felt they had proprietary rights to her or something.

And that was OK with me. I understood it even when I was little and really didn’t understand it, if you know what I mean. They just needed her more for whatever reason. 

 But sometimes the relationship was more normal with Grandmom and she would do things like come out to our house and babysit us while my father traveled on business when mother had to accompany him.
That is where my memories of her Sunday pasta sauce, which she (Grandmom) and my great aunts called gravy, came from.

I remember being a teenager and younger with the smells wafting up the stairs to my bedroom circling the rooms like a comfortable quilt. The smells were intertwined and co-mingled: fresh coffee perking and onion and garlic cooking. There she would be, at the stove with a big wooden spoon stirring the sauce in an apron she made – she made great aprons – I still have one somewhere.

Me as a little girl with my grandmom and the German Shepherd my father hated named Lily Marlene who eventually went to live with my Uncle Jack.

So much like the smell of Christmas cookies baking in the oven, or Thanksgiving dinner aromas filling the air, the smell of pasta sauce being made on a Sunday morning is very much a feeling of home and family for me.

She would start with the onion and garlic and if there were peppers or mushrooms, those as well. They would meld together in olive oil with salt in the bottom of a crazy heavy cast aluminum pot that had a wooden handle and the wooden knob on the lid. My mother whom she gave this pot, still uses this pot to this day. I use my vintage Dansk Dutch oven.

If she was making meatballs or sausage she would brown her meat in a frying pan. I don’t do that anymore, I cook everything in the oven and drain off the grease. My grandmother always had lamb or pork neck bones to add to the sauce. The lamb and particular adds a level of flavor that I still find amazing and prefer to this day. But it’s often hard to find these little neck bones as there are fewer and fewer real butchers out there.

To the vegetables in olive oil in the pot once they were cooked down almost to the point of caramelization at times, she would add tomatoes, tomato purée, and tomato paste. When I was little I also remember going through this ritual at my great aunts with the tomatoes that came out of my Aunt Rose”s garden that my Aunt Josie would put up at the end of every growing season.

The tomatoes were canned in the basement kitchen that my great aunt had for this purpose. I still to this day can see in my mind’s eye how beautiful all the jars of pickles and tomatoes were lined up next to one and other like little rows of soldiers.

Me at Easter as a baby with my mother and my maternal grandmother whom I called mumma

My great Aunt Rose and her husband my Uncle Carl, lived in the “country” as it was referred to by the others. They had moved to Collegeville after they were married and build a house on a large plot of land next to a farm that had horses. Of course today, what was their house, sits set back off of busy Ridge Pike in the midst of commercial and residential development. But I will always remember it with the memory of a child: next to a farm and lots of apple trees and a big kitchen garden and a sort of gruff German Shepherd named Lancelot.

The thing about all of my great aunts, and the reason I write about them so often, is because the memories I have with them in particular are very, very happy. They did not get into the middle of the battles between my father and his mother and his siblings.  

Mind you, I never really blamed my father for any of this because I don’t care for my aunt and uncle, and as an adult after we buried my father, I pretty much decided right or wrong I was finished with those familial relationships. I remember something my father used to say when I was little and it was “sometimes, guilt is just wasted.”


Sadly, my father’s siblings made it easy for me to reach this decision as an adult. My aunt is just not someone I’m ever going to be close to, she just is who she is. I am somewhat ambivalent when it comes to her because I never really grew to love her as a child, felt her coldness, and as an adult she never really chose to know me. So after a while you just stop trying with people like that, even if they are family.

My uncle, however, is a very different story. When my grandmother was in her final decline before she had passed, she and my father had made their peace with each other. He was actually spending time with her almost regularly and I think it was good for him. But there was this one day when my father and I had gone to visit Grandmom in her nursing home and my uncle had driven down from Buffalo to see her.

My father with Aunt Josie before one of his Saint Joe’s Prep dances

There we were, all standing somewhat awkwardly around my grandmothers bed – her deathbed if we’re honest about what was going on. My uncle brings himself up to his full height (he was a little taller than my father – my father was 6 feet tall) and he looks at my father with righteous indignation and tells him how my father was a “bad son.”

 And it went on from there.

At first I was shocked. I couldn’t believe even with all the animosity he exhibited towards daddy over the years, that anyone would be so cruel as to do this over their mother’s death bed. Never shying away from anything (even when I probably should), I told my uncle off. Right there, right then, in that moment. The thing I will never forget about that is my grandmother did not say a word, but she looked at me from her pillow…..and smiled. 

When my father died, my aunt was there. I don’t remember if any of her kids were there but she was there. My uncle, my father’s only brother, wasn’t. He made some lame excuses how he was just “too busy” to come to the funeral. That was the moment I decided completely free of guilt, that I was done trying to pretend to care about and have a relationship with my uncle. And I pretty much sent him a letter telling him so.  

I did try, out of respect, to have a relationship with my aunt one last time after my father had passed, but I came to the sad realization that she didn’t really want a relationship with me, there was too much water I think under the familial bridge. I let that relationship just go. I think my sister hears from her occasionally, but I really don’t know and I don’t ask. 

 I have a memory of my father’s  sister from after my grandmother died, and I’m not sure if my father was still alive or not.  I had contacted her to ask for some of my father’s baby pictures, so I’m thinking he was no longer with us. And I received a box in the mail of photos of my father ripped out of family photo albums I never knew existed in the first place. It was really odd to go through the photos as I have never seen any of them before. Part of me wondered what the rest of the photo albums look like, and the other part of me realized I never would know.  I was grateful to receive the photos and thanked her properly, but it was still all a little odd.

Now that I let my aunt and uncle go the ones I stay in touch with the most are the cousins my father loved the most. The children of his beloved Aunt Helen. Much like my great aunts, they are just lovely people with hearts full of love. They don’t judge or criticize or critique, they are just happy to be family. I love them too.

It’s weird how the smells of cooking something in my adult kitchen can provoke so many memories. But when the memories bubble to the surface I like to write them down now. I want to remember all the memories and the happy feelings these people gave me as a child. And that’s not because I had some kind of an awful childhood, because I didn’t. These people are my roots.

Something I feel is really important are roots. So many people are rudderless today, and they never pay any homage to their roots. I might’ve spent a childhood that some people considered breathing rarefied air between Society Hill and the Main Line, but always more important than any of those experiences, were these old people in my life. 

And not just on my father’s side, but on my mother’s as well. Being from pure peasant stock is actually kind of cool. And I like to acknowledge it because I think it makes up who I am as an adult in my own right. I also acknowledge them because they always got me, which is something I appreciated in them even as a child.

My paternal grandparents on their wedding day.

I’m only sorry that these people aren’t around today to see my life, to see me happy with my own family. But somehow for every pot of Sunday gravy or sauce that I make I think they know.

I write these memories down because I have no daughters and I do not at this point have grandchildren, so a lot of these traditions passed me may eventually die with me, if I don’t write them down and try to pass them on. So I think if I write these things down, the traditions won’t be lost and someone, maybe someone I don’t even know will carry on these things I learned to cook in the kitchens of my great aunts and my parents.

And out of the older relatives, predominantly it was the women who made an impact on me as a girl growing up. All of these women were strong independent individuals in their own right. My memories of both my grandfathers and my Uncle Pat (P.J.) are more fuzzy and less defined because I was young when all of them passed away. I have photos of my maternal grandfather, but sadly I don’t have any photos of my paternal grandfather as he would’ve been when I was a little girl before he died. Nor do I have photos of P.J.

Now I’m going to go back to my own sauce- it’s time to add the herbs and spices and tomatoes. And when the sausage comes out of the oven it will go into the sauce and it will all simmer, filling my house with the smells and memories of my childhood.

Happy Sunday.

old friends

29732668866_c470dbcae2_oLife is sometimes this windy path that takes you away from people, and then leads you back to them.

From the time we are little children, people are in and out of our lives for any multitude of reasons. Life takes us in different directions, quite literally.  People move, start families in other places, and get busy with the every day of their lives.

All of a sudden, years have past, and you still think of those people, but then you are busy too, so you don’t reconnect even if you think of these people.

And then, just like that, something happens, and you are back in each other’s lives and that is such a neat thing when it happens.

It happened to me today.  A four hour conversation with one of my oldest friends from high school.  Yes, those Shipley connections and friends I have written about before. That school gave me a wonderful foundation and the best relationships in my life, truly. This woman and I were thick as proverbial thieves for years, and then life just took us in diffferent directions, on different paths.

I will tell you how it came to be, this phone call today….

Recently the younger brother of a friend died of leukemia.  I have now lost several people I knew, admired, and cared about to virulent forms of leukemia.  This man was the brother of my friend I spoke with today.  He fought this disease so valiantly and was so positive.

He passed away and the first thing I thought of was my friend, one of his siblings.  So I looked up her address and sent her a note. We had not spoken in a few years, but how could I not? She was the one who introduced me to all her siblings, and well I have these memories of her brother as a little kid because of her.  He was this funny, very bright burning ball of energy with a very funny sense of humor.  And a very messy bedroom. Truthfully, all of her siblings were truly nice and interesting, even as kids.

When he got older he went to boarding school and then off to college, so I did not really know him for many years, and was just getting to know him as an adult with his own family when he got sick. In the intervening years, his one sister who was my friend and I grew apart. And it was for no other reason than time and distance.  She was in another state far enough away starting a family that we just lost touch, and became disconnected.

Yesterday in the mail, was a note for me.  Handwriting I had not seen in so many, many years. It was from my friend.  I opened it, read it, and wept, It was so good to hear from her and she is so sad about her brother.

So today she called.  And it was like high school again. It was such a marathon phone call that in the back of my mind I was waiting for one of our parents to pick up another phone in the respective houses and yell at us to get off the phone and do our homework.

Speaking with her, the years melted away like no time had past even if so many years actually had.  But that in and of itself is the value of real friendship – it is O.K. the time has passed, and now it is time to catch up.

This is my friend who introduced me to Chester County more than any other person had when I was a young adult.  She went to West Chester University and for a few years she lived in Malvern Borough too.   So speaking with her today after all this time, made me so happy, because when I moved out here I started to think about her a lot.  Every time I drive by Raintree in Malvern Borough I remember when she and another friend shared a condo there.  Or when I drive way down King until it almost meets Lancaster Ave and remember the places she was a hostess and waitress while in school.

Back in the day we would go to the restaurant festival in West Chester, the “Gobble Off” that used to be at what was the Bar and Restaurant the night before Thanksgiving with other friends, hanging out at WCU’s the Rat before she graduated, hanging out with people at the Marshalton Triathalon, dancing at Lionshare and Main Lion and more.

We were also roommates at the beach in the summer for a while.  We had a lot of fun together.

And then she moved and the years passed and we lived kind of separate lives, connecting here or there with a random phone call or letter.

When you meet people who are so disappointing, you remember the friends like this. I am a fortunate women to have so many of my old friends still in my life.  Thanks to her brothers we are reconnected.  That makes me happy. I wish her one brother was still with us to know, but somehow I  would like to think he does.

Life is short. Don’t waste it.

Thanks for stopping by.

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