Importance of Resiliency

Frank McCourt at New York City's Housing Works...

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I have multiple voices in my head, telling me different things.  Skeptical me says, “Isn’t it silly for a woman your age to be thinking about starting something new?” and “How likely is it that anyone is going to want to hire you [i.e., someone my age] to do anything?”

Hopeful me says, “I am still healthy and strong.  Still interested in trying new things.  Maybe it would be interesting to learn how to be a Life Coach. Or maybe it’s not too late to publish some short stories or a memoir.”

Maybe I could do both those things.

After all, Frank McCourt was 66 years old when he published his first book, Angela’s Ashes. And he was 75, when he published Teacher Man, which I liked even more.

Today, I went to a luncheon and lecture from WIC (Women in Consulting).  I learned about this organization while changing clothes in the locker room of my gym.  A somewhat younger woman, who had been in a yoga class with me, starting talking to me. We discovered that we had some similar professional experience with a number of years working in technical documentation.  She had also done some other types of work and was in the process of exploring what she wanted to do next.

I looked up WIC on the internet when I got home and registered for a luncheon meeting and presentation on Women in Transition by , an Executive Coach and senior Organization Effectiveness Consultant.

Utt emphasizes the crucial importance of resiliency.  She also talked about the power of story.  What stories do we need to dump?  What do we want people to know about us?  Do we see ourselves as victims?  Or can we reframe a negative experience, so that we can move on?

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Voice from the Past

This afternoon I got a call from a voice that I didn’t recognize.  But as soon as she told me her name, I knew immediately who she was. An old friend from more than forty years ago.  We had been good friends during my first two years at Northeastern, but then I transferred and moved to a different state.  We never saw each other again.

“I’ve tried to find you!” I said.  “I looked for you on Facebook.”

“I’m not on Facebook,” she said. “But I’m in the phone-book. We’ve been living in the same city all the years.”

But I had forgotten where she lived and had forgotten how to spell her married name.

I remembered attending her wedding.  She was the only one of my friends to get married that young.  It was during the sixties. I was going through a sort of “hippie” stage and found it hard to accept the fact that my good friend was already settling down and getting married to an engineer!

“We’re still married,” she told me. We talked for a long time, trying to catch up on what we had been doing with our lives.

We had both started off as journalism majors.  But I was dissatisfied with the university’s journalism department, which is one of the reasons that I left.

“Did you become a journalist?” I asked.

“No, but I co-founded a Holocaust Center.”

“That’s quite an achievement!” I replied.  Afterwards, I thought that she probably does use some of her journalism schools in publicizing the center. And for such a worthwhile cause.

I hadn’t become a journalist either.  After dabbling in one thing and another, I spent most of my career working as a technical writer.  So I, too, used my writing—although not in a way that I had planned or could have anticipated.

It turned out that I did get married, myself, in my twenties and–despite my earlier disdain of non-bohemians– married an engineer. My friend has two daughters. I have three. We are both grandmothers.  Looks like we have a lot in common.

It was great to hear from her.  I hope that we will stay in touch and maybe we can even see each other in person the next time that I visit the Boston area.

Has anything like this happened to you?  How did it make you feel? Happy? Nostalgic?

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Tenth Anniversary


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It’s the tenth year anniversary of 9/11 and I see articles about it every day both online and in my daily newspaper—reminding us of the heroism of the firefighters, of the passengers on flight 93, and of individuals like Rick Rescorla, a security guard for Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter.  When Tower 1 was struck, Rescorla ignored building officials’ advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 employees in Tower 2.  As he guided them out of the building, he led them in songs like God Bless America to keep up their spirits.  Refusing to stop despite the imminent danger to his own life, he returned to the building to try to rescue more people.  Due to Rescorla’s actions, all but 3 of Morgan Stanley’s 2,700 WTC employees survived. Two of those three were Rescorla and his assistant Wes Mercer.

One of the many ironies of that day was that Rescorla was supposed to be on vacation, but covered a shift so that one of his deputies could go on vacation instead.  How many more lives would have been lost if Rescorala had not been there?

Haven’t got tickets yet, but I would like to see the new opera that has been created based on Rescorla’s story, “Heart of a Soldier”. It will be opening at the San Francisco Opera on Saturday night, the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

On September 11, 2001, I wasn’t in New York.  On the other hand, I felt closer to it than I would have been if I had been home in California.  I was spending a few days with my elderly mother in Deerfield Beach, Florida, before starting a new job.  I had gone to the local library to pick up some books for her and catch on email, when I overhead some other library visitors saying something about the World Trade Center being hit by an airplane.  “Was it an accident” we wondered. I tried to get on the CNN website and couldn’t connect, so rushed back to my mother’s retirement condo arriving in time to see the live telecast of tower 2 being hit. “Was this the start of World War III? Would I be able to get back to my husband and daughters in California?”  I called my husband that morning, waking him, to tell him the news and to find comfort in hearing his voice.

Like so many others, I have that day imprinted on my memory.  Far too many people perished on that day.  Fortunately, it was not the start of World War III.  But it did engender other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So much death and destruction and for what?

I hear echoes of the old anti-war songs from my youth, like Blowing in the Wind by Bob Dylan:

How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind.

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one year ~ one sentence

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...
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1947 Born breech with a forceps mark on my forehead.

1948 Israel is established as an independent state.

1949 My cousin Rachel is born on my birthday.

1950 My parents moved into the only house they would ever own and the Korean War begins.

1951 The trial of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg begins and I start nursery school at the Jewish Community Center.

1952 I enter first grade and find out that not everyone in the world is Jewish.

1953 I get a really nice second grade teacher who plays piano and doesn’t yell at us.

1954 We have to sell our house and move into an ugly rental apartment that was supposed to be temporary.

1955 As we continue to live in the ugly rental apartment, my mother loses her interest in housekeeping; but, my fifth grade teacher keeps a terrarium in the classroom with live salamanders and invites the entire class to a picnic at a small park across from her house.

1956 Our babysitter, Biala, allows me and my brother to watch Elvis Presley’s provocative performance on the Ed Sullivan show.

1957 I stand with my friends by the beach wall at night, scanning the skies for sputnik.

1958 My older brother has his bar-mitzvah celebration at the Cliff House hotel and all my relatives fly in from out-of-state.

1959 I am valedictorian of my Hebrew School class and get to stand on the bima in the synagogue for the first time.

1960 A couple of days a week, I commute on the subway for an hour and a half after public school to attend a Hebrew High School in Brookline, where I cannot understand the classes and I’m too shy to speak.

1961 I am thrilled and inspired by President Kennedy’s inauguration.

1962 I watched the Jackie Kennedy TV tour of the White House and hold my breath during the Cuban missile crisis.

1963 JFK is assassinated and I get kicked out of school for talking about it during French class.

1964 I argue unsuccessfully with my parents about wanting to apply to colleges other than Northeastern U. and graduate from High School with awards in Fine Arts.

1965  I commute to Northeastern U., earn mostly A’s, participate in drama and campus politics, and join the Martin Luther King Jr. march in Boston.

1966  I withdraw from Northeastern at the end of the year and start exploring other options while living at home and working in a really boring clerical job.

1967 I start studying at George Washington U, switching my major to Russian, spending a lot of time in art museums, and begin dating an older man, an artist that I met at one of the museums.

1968 When Martin Luther King is assassinated, I can see the smoke rising in downtown Washington D.C. and tanks are patrolling the streets.

1969 I participated in antiwar protests and went to the USSR for 6 weeks on full scholarship as part of a study tour, my first trip outside the USA.

1970 Worked at MIT as a Russian secretary, delaying my start of grad school while hoping to get a USIA job in the USSR.

1971 Studying for my MA Russian Lit at Columbia gave me the academic experience that I had been seeking and a whole lot more.

1972 Having difficulty coping with emotional stuff, I begin questioning whether I really want to continue studying toward a Ph.D.

1973 I fulfill a longtime drive and move to Israel, where I learn to speak Hebrew, get an interesting job at Haifa University, and experience my first war.

1974 I meet and marry an Israeli engineer, who takes me on my first trip to Europe for our honeymoon and then back to the USA, where he has a job supposedly waiting.

1975 We move to California, where my husband got a second job after the first one was canceled and our daughter Orli is born.

1976 I have adjusted to motherhood and Orli is so adorable that I start thinking about having a second baby.

1977 I give birth to our second daughter Shelli and arrived late for my post-natal obstetric visit, because I couldn’t pull myself away from watching the live TV coverage of Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem.

1978 I am in the middle of getting a second MA—this one in Linguistics and TESOL—in preparation for our return to Israel.

1979 We move back to Haifa, Israel with two babies, first into my husband’s old 4th floor walkup apartment, and then into a nicer place that we could afford only by selling our American bought appliances and only car.

1980 I get a temporary position writing public relations for the University of Haifa and it turns out to be my favorite job of all time.

1981 Our youngest daughter, Keren, is born at the hospital across the wadi from our home.

1982 The Lebanon War begins and I begin hearing about the Peace Now movement.

1983 I am commuting a few days by taxi a few days week from Haifa to Hertziliya—more than an hour each way–creating lessons for teaching basic English on Atari computers.

1984 Due to the difficult situation in Israel, we for return to California—where I begin a new career as a technical writer and get briefly involved in the refusenik movement on behalf of my cousin, Ephraim (Alex) Kholmyansky and his wife.

1985 I am hitting my stride as the sole technical writer for a small startup called Tall Tree Systems, but struggling to cope with the overwhelming workload of doing that in addition to caring for three small children.

1986  I become an expert pioneer user of Ventura Publisher, the first popular desktop publishing package for IBM PC compatible computers running DOS, and I’m excited to write a small section in a published book on the subject.

1987 I get fed up with the low salary that I was earning at Tall Tree Systems and accept a recruitment offer for double salary at another company that is a further commute from my house.

1988 We make a big bat-mitzvah celebration for our daughter Orli and all my family comes out from the East Coast.

1989 Recruited to work for Tandem Computers, which seems much more human than my previous company, and even has a swimming pool.

1990 Around the time of Shelli’s bat-mitzvah, my husband rents a place for us in Haifa and tries to convince me to move to Israel by myself with the girls while he continues to support us by working in Silicon Valley, but I refuse to go when Iraq invades Kuwait.

1991 Doing well at work and participating in Toastmasters, but still struggling with trying to do it all.

1992 Feeling overloaded.

1993 The Oslo Accords negotiations begin.

1994 When we celebrate the bat-mitzvah of our youngest daughter, Keren, my parents fly out for their final visit to California and I begin working for an Israeli company (NetManage) with the idea of returning to live in Israel.

1995 My husband and I are happy to move back to Haifa, Israel with our daughter Keren, but it turns out to be too difficult for our daughter.

1996 Going through a difficult period, trying to readjust after Keren has missed most of her first year of high-school and our daughter Shelli dropped out of Berkeley to do her army service in Israel.

1997 Still working for NetManage, managing a team that is split between California and Israel, gives me opportunities to visit Shelli while she is doing her army service.

1998 NetManage begins to falter and lays off most of the staff in California.

1999 I am working as a documentation manager at Informix, which is a larger company with multiple managers and much easier than any of my previous tech writing positions.

2000 My father dies just before his 90th birthday and I am devastated.

2001 On 9/11, I am visiting my mother in Florida and together we watch the TV coverage of second tower being hit—wondering if this was the start of another world war.

2002 My mother dies and I regret that I wasn’t with her.

2003 I am still working full-time, more than 40 hours a week, but taking longer vacations.

2004 My husband retires, but does not take on any of the housework or cooking.

2005 I retire from full-time work and celebrate with a 3-week adventure tour to Peru, followed up my lots more travel, including two months in Israel, where Shelli is attending medical school.

2006 Doing more traveling and publishing travel stories in an online travel magazine, TangoDiva.

2007 Our daughter Orli gets married at Fogarty Winery and I go back to work to help defray expenses.

2008 First grandson, Gali, is born, and it feels like falling in love.

2009 Trying to find balance between working part-time and having time to hike, exercise, and help out with Gali.

2010 Attend San Miguel Writer’s Conference with Barbara Kingsolver and break my right hand.

2011 Second grandson, Oz, is born and it’s like falling in love again, but also a lot more work.


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Danger Zone of Grouchiness

It’s a good thing that I didn’t pledge to post once a day. It’s been such a busy week. Once again, I’ve been overwhelmed by the quintessentially female problem of putting aside my own needs and desires in order to care for other members of the family.  What else can you do if someone in your family gets sick? Just turn away?

After three full days of cooking, changing diapers for both a rebellious toddler and a newborn infant, cajoling that same toddler into and out of the bathtub, and dealing with streams of spit-up that somehow always miss the burp cloth, I could feel myself reaching the danger zone of grouchiness and declared,  “I’ve got to go home!!”

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One Post Per Week Pledge

One Post Per Week Pledge.

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Lost and Found

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had lost my favorite pair of sunglasses. They weren’t expensive sunglasses. I stopped buying expensive sunglasses after buying one pair several years ago and losing them almost immediately. These were drugstore sunglasses that cost less than $20. But the frames rested comfortably on my nose and ears without slipping off my head and the lenses were dark enough to provide good protection when I was hiking in bright sunlight.

Where had I last seen them? I thought it must have been the evening that I met my daughter in Berkeley. We had tickets to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s production of Let Me Down Easy. And I hadn’t noticed until that afternoon that the play started at 7 PM, which meant that I had to drive up there after work through the worst part of the rush hour. By the time I reached the theatre, I was flustered, tired, and very thirsty. Shelli hadn’t arrived yet. So I slipped into a small Thai restaurant across the street and bought myself a sweet and icy Thai coffee. When I couldn’t find my sunglasses the following morning, I was sure that I must have left my sunglasses at the restaurant.

But a couple of days later, I found the sunglasses on my kitchen counter at home.

Not long afterward, I lost my favorite eyeglass pouch. It’s the one that I usually use for my sunglasses. I like its convenient strap, so that I can hang it around my neck when I don’t have any pockets and don’t feel like carrying a bag. I like its hand-embroidered fanciful bird design. And I like that it was a souvenir gift that Shelli brought me from her travels in South America.

Where had I last seen it? It was last Thursday morning, when I was rushing to meet a friend for an early morning hike. I had put on my sunglasses when I was getting out of the car. Apparently, I hadn’t hooked the strap over my neck. Later, I looked on the floor of the car and couldn’t find the pouch. Dismayed, I assumed that it must have fallen into the street when I was getting out of the car.

But this morning, I opened the passenger door of the car to put something on the seat and saw my favorite eyeglass pouch nestled between the edge of seat and the door. It must have been hidden under the seats for the past week and finally gotten shaken to the side.

Such a little thing. And yet, it made me really happy to find it again.

These two incidents happening so close together make me wonder whether there is some sort of message.

This afternoon, my manager called me into a private office and told me that they are running short of funds. Since I am a contractor rather than staff—and especially since I am only a part-time contractor—it makes sense that the easiest way for them to save money is to do without my services. He didn’t ask me to leave immediately, which I appreciated. I hate when you have to sneak out like a criminal without telling anyone that you are leaving.

He simply notified me that they won’t need me anymore after the end of next week. Things might change in a couple of months. But then again, they might not.

On the one hand, this is really good timing for me to get a break from work. Excellent timing, in fact. My daughter, Orli, is about to give birth to her second son. I was planning to take off some time in any case to help out after the baby is born. Of course, I had been thinking of time as a matter of days. Not weeks and months.

But, at least this way I don’t have to worry that my time off will interfere with any deadlines at work. Those deadlines won’t be my responsibility.

I assured my manager that this decision was fine with me, agreed that I would finish things off neatly, turn in my badge and laptop, and be willing to come back and help again should they want me to return in a couple of months.

Considering that I am at an age when most of my friends have already retired AND considering that I really do want to be free to spend time with my family, I find it difficult to understand why I started to feel bad about this as soon as I got back to my cubicle.

Do you think that this too fits into my recent pattern of lost and found?

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