A Skirt and a Safety Pin

The other day I was meeting a friend for lunch and decided it was time to start weaning myself out of my post-holiday uniform of stretchy leggings and oversized tops. Something about becoming a poster child for bad bathing suit photos this summer.

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Looking through my closet, I decided to pull out a gray wool tweed skirt and matching gray sweater trimmed in Irish lace that have always made me feel special when I’ve worn them.

I will admit to a certain trepidation in choosing this outfit, realizing that my Thanksgiving to New Year’s Celebration had crossed the boundaries of any healthy, calorie-counting, balanced-diet eating. Ok, perhaps “crossed the boundary” should read, “lept off the fat-laden, mega-calorie cliff,” but I digress.

I slipped on the sweater first and immediately felt beautiful as the lace collar fell perfectly into place and the ruffled matching cuffs softly caressed my hands. Next, I held the skirt up to my lower body and looked in the mirror.

Christmas cookies and egg nog be damned! I can still wriggle my way into this fitted a-line style.

With a sense of confidence, I stepped into the skirt and pulled it up to my waist—-whereupon I quickly realized that determination does not always jive with reality. Translation: the skirt’s zipper was seeming to be an unwilling participant in my clothing my body.

After some pleading, sucking in and struggling, the zipper and I finally came to terms as it raised almost all the way to the waistband. It was there my battle of the bulge turned to the almighty button that held my destiny in it’s tiny, round shape.

To shorten this angst, I will simply say that despite all pushing, pulling and breath-holding, the button and its partner button hole acted like the worst divorcing couple, refusing to reunite despite my best waistband mediation efforts. Finally i decided that I had two choices. 1) to wriggle my way out of the skirt and let my holiday eating binge claim victory or, 2) I could use my Irish tenacity and figure out how to beat this recalcitrant button and its button hole cohort.

Use the precepts of physics (of which, truthfully, I know nothing, but I do know how to jerry rig stuff) I pulled the skirt up a bit higher, above my waist, to a slimmer area of my body. There I was able to leverage the material on either side of the button and button hole to a reasonably close distance and bind them with a safety pin. Taking a few deep breaths and practice-sitting on a chair to ensure I would not suffer death by impalement on the sharp tip of a popping safety pin, I pulled the sweater down over my newly- formed waistband.

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Voila! The skirt and sweater combo looked perfect to the world. I would be the only one aware of the fashion disaster going on around my waist.

Truth be told, despite the fact that the outfit still looked good, I was disappointed I could not zip and button the skirt in its intended fashion. As I was berating myself for my slothful holiday eating habits, a voice —-whom I choose to deign as some version of my fairy godmother—- whispered softly in my ear.Good lord, woman, how long have you been wearing this outfit?

Pondering the question I began to do the math. In review, I could remember wearing it when I worked as a media consultant for the Erie County Legislature. That was around 2002. At was at this point that my fairy godmother started gabbing again in my ear, although not quite so kindly or softly this time.

So it’s more than 17 years since you first donned this lovely outfit and because it doesn’t still fit perfectly, you’re upset??? For heavens sakes woman, get over yourself!

So I did. I went to lunch with my friend and ordered a salad and some unsweetened iced tea, with the determination I would again be able to zip and fasten my skirt as it was intended.

And when my friend remarked how lovely and slim I looked, I simply smiled and said thank you—-and prayed that my safety pin was stronger than my healthy eating habits had been over the holidays.

Reflections on Beauty & Grace Book Launch and Signing

It's now 36 hours since the Beauty & Grace Book Launch and Signing.

Like any birth process, the pain and challenges of writing this book and organizing the launch have now become overshadowed by the afterglow of what was a very special evening.

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From my family who lovingly saw to the many details of the launch, to friends who always faithfully support my work and readers who came because they enjoy my writing, Monday night at Rosary Hall we all bonded in a moment defined solely by Beauty & Grace. After two years of writing this book, it was a most humbling and rewarding experience.

Yet as any parent knows, giving birth to Beauty & Grace does not mean my author's journey is done. Far from it, in fact.

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Now comes the process of bragging about my newborn with endless social media posts and pics, bookstore proposals, media interview pitches and book club queries, all in the hopes that readers will want to buy and read this book.

With any luck what will follow will be cross country book presentations and signings and a growing audience for my work.

While I admit the prospects are exciting, I know the task of parenting a book is demanding and, at times, daunting.

What softens that intimidation is knowing no matter where this Beauty & Grace journey leads, I will travel in the company of 12 women and 3 men who were born from my imaginings and my constant companions for the last two years as I crafted the story of their lives....and as they changed mine.

 

A Story to Inspire — Not Shame

Harvey Weinstein.

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Once upon a time, that name evoked thoughts of a powerful Hollywood film producer with a midas touch. Now that name evokes thoughts of a degenerate individual with a tainted touch—one that intimidated women’s psyches and abused their bodies.

This isn’t the first time a powerful man has leveraged sexual encounters for the promise of professional advancement or a richer life. Among many are legendary tales of Hollywood casting couches and Oval Office trysts. What is different is that women are now becoming empowered to tell the nasty tales rather than hide in the shadows of shame that imprint their lives once they are abused.

When I was younger, I indignantly railed against women who were members of the secret society of sexually abused and intimated. Why would you allow the story of a man illicitly invading your body to go untold, not only protecting the degenerate, but leaving future women vulnerable to such attacks.

Then it happened to me.

I was on assignment in California for a national magazine. My subject was a wealthy, powerful businessman, internationally known for his strategic vision. It was a plum assignment made sweeter by the invitation from the man and his wife to stay in their guest quarters on their estate. I felt as if I’d hit the big time in my journalistic career.

Upon my arrival, my hosts decreed that business could wait as they had made plans for us to go to dinner at first class hotel on the ocean. It was further decreed that the wife and I would drive to dinner together while the husband would travel in his own car, having business to attend to beforehand.

Ultimately, the night unfolded like a scene from a Hollywood movie. We were seated on a private terrace with the sight and sounds of the ocean as our backdrop. We were personally served fine wine and gourmet food by the renown hotel chef. As an evening chill arrived, towers of sleek propane heaters magically wrapped warmth around us. All the while we engaged in dinner conversation dripping with references to the rich and famous. My reporter’s mind was whirling with details and interview questions.

When our oceanside gourmet experience came to an end, my interviewee asked that I ride back to their estate with him. He suggested we chat a bit about the article to come and schedule our times to meet. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I eagerly agreed and slid into the passenger side of his sleek and gleaming Porsche.

The memory of what happened next is indelibly etched into my body but murkily stored within my mind. I know that I buckled my seat belt. I remember looking over and smiling at this man of power and wealth. Then it began. He reached across the console of the car and started fondling my breasts. I was stunned. While I knew what my body was feeling, my mind was grappling. What was he doing? Why was he doing it? What about his wife?

Within seconds that felt like hours, I pushed away his hands and told him to stop.  He simply laughed and continued and continued, even as he drove, prodding my body as if I were a piece of meat.

When at last we arrived at his estate, I bolted from the car and ran off to my room. Once inside, I locked the door and sank to the floor in a stupor. My mind was racing trying to understand what had just happened and what I was going to do about it. I was on the interview assignment of a lifetime for a national magazine. My subject was a man revered and admired on a world scale. His wife seemed like a lovely woman and they spoke of a close circle of family and friends. None of it made sense.

Ultimately, I called a girlfriend back in Buffalo. With the three hour time difference, it was well after midnight when her phone rang. However my stalwart friend quickly awoke when she heard my tearful story. As we talked, we reviewed the night’s happenings and my possible options. Finally we agreed I would do everything within my power to not be alone with the man, to get the interview done and leave as soon as possible. It was a flawed plan, but seemed like the best of a lot of lousy options.

The next morning I walked to the main house with my heart in my throat. What would the man say or do in the presence of his wife? How would he act? How would I manage my edgy emotions in front of both of them?

Unbelievably, the man went about the morning as if nothing unusual had transpired between us. He was loving to his wife and cordial to me. Later that day we began our interview and he was the model of decorum. I seriously began to wonder if I was losing my mind and had somehow misunderstood or imagined the previous night’s experience.

That evening, my hosts took me to dinner with a large group of their friends.This time we traveled together, giving me some sense that I would be safe from any sexual assaults. At the restaurant, my interviewee hailed me as an honored guest and insisted I sit next to him. Again, like a lamb to the slaughter, I took my place within this man’s reach.

What transpired throughout that dinner is still hard for me to fathom. As the evening evolved my host continually caressed my thigh and reached up under my dress. The shock of his actions rendered me incapable of anything but rote actions. I ordered and ate food. I believe I engaged in some sort of reasonable dinner conversation. All the while I kept pushing away this perverted man’s hands and wondering how no one at the table could see or realize what was going on in their very presence.

The next morning as this man and and his wife and I shared breakfast, he again acted as if nothing had happened. He and I completed our interview that afternoon. I left their estate that evening.

Other than my girlfriend I never told anyone. I was ashamed. I was scared. I wanted to forget.

Most of all, I wasn’t sure if anyone would believe me. And if they did, I was certain this powerful man would retaliate and ultimately ruin my journalist’s reputation.

Today, 15 years later, I realize that all of those reasons are nothing but excuses, none of which are good enough to keep me from speaking out —for myself and for other women whom this man may have abused in the same or worse ways, since my experiences.

The Harvey Weinstein controversy reminds me of the many reasons why women don’t step forward. It also reminds me why I should….and why now, I am.

64 and More Vol. 47 #5 The Final Interview: Ten Questions

Well, it’s finally here. The last post of my 64 and More Adventure….which of course, is the infamous Ten Questions.

When I first imagined this year-long project, I wanted someway to connect the 52 people who would come to define 64 and More. After a bit of thought, my recall went to the celebrated

“Inside the Actors Studio” interview program where host James Lipton always ends with ten questions.

While I admit to “borrowing” Mr. Lipton’s concept, the design of the 64 and More Ten

Questions was my own and ended up being one of the most interesting and perhaps most significant parts of the series.

It was interesting…and annoying …..to have to deal with my own creation. In the end,however, thanks to my friend and expert interviewer, Kathryn Gallant, I muddled through and added my thoughts to the fabric of the 52 who answered before me.

Intro music performed by Alyn Syms
Closing music performed by Paul Yanni

64 and More Vol. 47 #4 The Final Interview: Bringing 64 and More Full Circle

After interviewing 52 people in 52 weeks, I felt fairly expert in the 64 and More routine. That is until my friend Kathryn Gallant came to my home on a quest to interview me about my year-long project.

Spurred on by Kathryn’s insightful questions, she and I pretty much ran the gamut of 64 and More adventures, from disasterous to miraculous.  

But more significantly for me, by  the end of our two-plus hour interview, Kathryn had led me to some insightful realizations about myself and about my future now that I have finally reached my 65th birthday. 

All of which, brought 64 and More full circle.

To view other parts in this 64 and More series click below.
64 and More Vol. 47  #1  The Final Interview: Never Say Never
64 and More Vol. 47  #2 The Final Interview: Bloody Marys and The White House
64 and More Vol. 47  #3 The Final Interview: Telling the Story
 

If you enjoyed this 64 and More interview, click here for the GoFundMe page to support the continuation of the project.

64 and More Vol. 47 #3 Telling The Story

In my 40 plus year career as a writer and journalist, I have often been at the forefront of the story as an author, as a newspaper and radio commentator and as a reporter. 

What I came to realize in this final 64 and More interview with Kathryn Gallant is that my true place in the world of storytelling is within a space that I seem to be able to create while interviewing that allows people to feel comfortable and where they are willing to share moments and memories of the kind that ultimately connect us all.

To view other parts in this 64 and More series click below.
64 and More Vol. 47  #1  The Final Interview: Never Say Never
64 and More Vol. 47  #2 The Final Interview: Bloody Marys and The White House
 

If you enjoyed this 64 and More interview, click here for the GoFundMe page to support the continuation of the project.

64 and More Vol. 47 #2 The Final Interview: Bloody Marys and The White House

My friend Kathryn Gallant is the American CEO of a British company specializing in market research on global healthcare. In her work, she has spent the past 25 years interviewing hundreds of people as a professional applied social science field researcher. 

Needless to say, when Kathryn asked if she could interview me about my 64 and More experience,

I knew I would be in good hands. So, as we journeyed behind the scenes of my year-long interview project, Kathryn ably guided me through two of the most fun parts of 64 and More.
Bloody Marys and The White House.

To view other parts in this 64 and More series click below.
64 and More Vol. 47  #1  The Final Interview: Never Say Never
 

If you enjoyed this 64 and More interview, click here for the GoFundMe page to support the continuation of the project.

64 and More Vol. 47 #1 The Final Interview: Never Say Never

For the last 52 weeks, I have devoted a great part of my life to interviewing 52 people from across the United States and throughout Ireland, all under the title of 64 and More. The effort and process was exhilarating as well as exhausting, but most of all it was the realization of my life’s dream

What never occurred to me was that at the end of this project someone would want to interview me! But that’s exactly what occurred as a wonderful friend named Kathryn Gallant turned the tables in employing her professional interview skills to go behind the scenes of my 64 and More experience.

Being on the other side of the camera gave me a whole new respect for my 52 interviewees. It also helped me to realize the truth in the age-old wisdom, when you love what you do, it never feels like work.

If you enjoyed this 64 and More interview, click here for the GoFundMe page to support the continuation of the project.