Thursday, November 28, 2019

50 to 50: Time with Family

Day two, and it's Thanksgiving. So many things to be thankful for right now, and getting to spend time with my family is at the top of the list. 

When I was very small, Thanksgiving was getting up early to drive to my uncle's in LaGrange, where we'd get to see the last of the Macy's parade, feed the ducks by the pond, and dinner was ham and quail. 

Later, it was our family with my cousin Becky and her family coming together for Mom's cornbread dressing and Becky's potato salad. 

When I lived in DC, I didn't always make it home for Thanksgiving. But family isn't just blood -- it's also our "family of choice" which became my best friend Christy, her folks sometimes, and her husband and in-laws, where we tried our own versions of classic recipes, made a hand turkey out of pastry crust, and where I learned to love John's family's "purple junk." 

Today it was my dad, my brother's family, my wonderful guy, and the fantastic extended family that has come into our lives through my precious bonus mom. Now Marie's famous mac and cheese is on the menu, and my first batch of homemade pickles made their debut.  

But whoever is AROUND the table, and whatever is ON the table... it's the time together that I'm most grateful for.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

50to50: Day One

So in 50 days, I’ll turn 50 years old.  In honor of this momentous (for me at least) event, I thought I’d try this little experiment. Every day from now until January 16, I’m going to post about something or someone – from the serious to the silly -- that has influenced my life in a positive way over the past 50 years.

I suppose on the first day, the best place to start is at the beginning – with the people who gave me life. And wow, did I get lucky on that front, with parents who loved me unconditionally, gave me stability and safety, and supported me and cheered me on from infancy to adulthood.

Childhood friends to this day still tell me how much they loved my parents growing up. They were the ones who were THERE – putting in endless hours at the rec league for cheerleading, baseball and football practices and games; showing up for every school event. Seriously, when my little brother graduated, the county PTA council threw my mom a retirement luncheon!

Friends in college said my family was straight out of “Leave it to Beaver…” One year, their wedding anniversary fell during our pre-recruitment period. Mom and Dad were at the house helping with painting repairs and other stuff. Unknown to me, my sisters went out and got them a cake. But instead of saying “Troyce and Betty”, they changed the names to “Ward and June.” And my little brother wondered why my friends started calling him “Beave!”

We lost my mom in 2008, and I miss her every single day. But I’m thankful for every minute with them, for everything they gave me, and for this wonderful life they laid the foundation for.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The time to be sweet is over...

I wrote this in a facebook post last year, but I thougth it was worth reposting here as I try to get this blogging thing going again.

This article helped crystalize something that has been on my mind for weeks now.

"Southern girls don't talk about stuff like this..." This opening to the article below has me thinking. And yes, I think it's true. While we don't lack in sass -- and will almost certainly “open a can of whoop ass” if you dare to insult or harass anyone near and dear to us – many of us belles do have a tendency to stay silent when we are the target of verbal harassment. We’ve chalked it up to “good ol boy” behavior, rolled our eyes and shrugged it off. But as I see more and more friends speak up and say “me too” – it’s reminding me that tolerating this type of unwanted verbal attention is inadvertently helping to reinforce beliefs and behaviors that often turn into more aggressive forms of sexual harassment and ultimately assault.

It’s not that we are condoning or accepting… it’s that we’re SWEET. We’re supposed to be. “Acting like a lady” means that we’re just too damn nice sometimes. Case in point, and something that’s been on my mind for most of the past year…

Several years ago, my also southern female boss asked me to accompany her to dinner with a visiting executive for an important client. I was in a mid- management position, she was even higher up, and this was the one of the oldest clients of the (also female and southern) company president.

When my boss asked me to attend the dinner, I can’t say I wasn’t warned. She flat-out told me that she didn’t want to go alone, and joked that I was the only person on the team who wouldn’t sue her the next day. She warned me that the executive was an older gentleman in his 70s, who was ultimately harmless, but had a strong penchant for bourbon and a history of inappropriate remarks and sexual innuendo.

I liked my boss and genuinely didn’t mind helping her out. I laughed, said I know what good old boys are like, and we went to dinner at one of the most expensive steakhouses in Washington. We arrived about half an hour late, and the white-haired, seersucker-suited southern good old boy (let’s call him GoB for short) was seated at the bar (with a younger colleague who was part of the client company’s legal team) and already deep into the Woodford Reserve.

GoB greeted my boss, whom he had known for several years, with an effusive hello and a joking question about whether she was coming over to his hotel room after dinner. She laughingly reminded him that they were both married and he joked that she could be his “DC wife” for the night. The poor corporate lawyer was mortified and panicking until my boss assured him that she knew GoB well and was not going to cause any problems. Over the course of the meal, the GoB passed out cold and snored into his salad course for about 10 minutes. We ignored him and went on eating and chatting with the other perfectly nice gentleman. GoB revived over the main course and struck up a lively conversation that included reminisces of previous fun times in DC “back in the day,” more wishes that we would join him later in the evening, and several observations on our cleavage. “Your tits look bigger in that top” he told my boss, and told me that “yours are pretty great too.” We laughed off every comment and took nothing seriously.

I admit, I wasn’t offended at the time. I never felt threatened, or that my job was at risk, or that I HAD to go along with the dinner or agree to any of his wildly inappropriate suggestions. And when telling some good friends later about the dinner, I laughed about it and said I hadn’t realized there were still GoBs like that alive anymore. He seemed like a harmless dinosaur of a man, a caricature of eras past.

But lately I’ve been thinking about how wrong that situation was. I felt like I should go to that dinner to support my friend and colleague, and SHE felt she needed to do it to please our boss, who certainly knew of his past prior behavior, yet felt like SHE had to put her employees in an uncomfortable position to ensure the company’s success.

I mean really, how f-ed up is that? We’re talking about three smart, successful, savvy and experienced women -- used to working with politicians and executives of fortune-500 companies and in a daily working environment that was absolutely supportive of female empowerment. And yet none of us were comfortable saying no to that dinner – we felt like we had to be SWEET.

I wonder what may have happened when he pulled that routine on younger, more vulnerable women. Women who didn’t have the professional security to laugh off a joking innuendo, or to truly say no if the talk had turned into aggression. Women less powerful than us, who would have been afraid to put their careers at risk by turning down an unwanted invitation.

Working with college-age women over the past few years who come to me for professional advice, I’ve come to realize that we have to do better. We have to stop passively condoning inappropriate behavior by laughing or shrugging it off. We have to find our voice, stop being sweet, and letting out that can of whoop-ass in our own defense.