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Hey Mister, My Eyes Are Up Here!

A lot has come out recently about women being sexually exploited in and out of the workplace. The incidents involving Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, and Harvey Weinstein have grabbed the headlines. Although these all involved the news or entertainment industry, almost any woman can tell you, you don’t have to be rich or famous or even attractive to undergo the same humiliation.

Over the course of my careers I have been groped, harassed, embarrassed, discriminated against, and patronized; all because I am a woman. As a young college grad teaching in high school I was only a few years older than my students and whenever I had a parent/teacher conference involving the dad some comment was usually made regarding my youth or appearance. Perhaps these were intended as complements but they also instantly downgraded my position to something less respectable. When a man called in the parents of a problem student, I’m sure the mother or father never commented on the man’s attractiveness, attire, or his ability to teach and manage a class. In a profession dominated by women for years the male teachers received more respect than the women, at least in my environment.

I went from a female dominated profession to an almost all male world of construction. I was a construction reporter and my duties were to interview architects, engineers, and contractors. One of the most important aspects of my job was to gain credibility. The men seemed to think a woman couldn’t understand the design, bidding, and construction process, therefore, many of the professionals decided to give me a crash course in Construction 101, even after I told them I knew it well. They would arrogantly lecture me until I would ask a question involving the knowledge they were patronizingly passing on to me. I would ask a technical question that was more of grad school quality which showed them I really knew what I was talking about. This approach usually shocked them into silence and it gained me the respect I needed to do the job.

Although this approach worked on an intellectual level it did not get passed the sexual innuendos and awkward proposals. One man didn’t want to be interviewed at his office but wanted to take a stroll through a park. I refused. Another greeted me with a very strange handshake which I’m sure had some kind of sexual intent which I’m still trying to figure out. I couldn’t get out of his office fast enough.

It was difficult walking the fine line of creating good rapport with these men but at the same time refusing their advances. However, my boss was another story. He was the only male in an office of eight women and he made crude and rude advances to all of us. I made it known I wasn’t playing his games and I was the only one he did not lean on, lean over, or rub against; but I paid the price. My work hours were changed so I had to work late into the evening—with the state parole board offices across the hall. I was given impossible workloads, especially just before the weekend or a vacation, causing me to work late in the night or during the weekend. I was told that while on vacation he double checked all of my reports and sources trying to find a slip-up. He didn’t find any.

He pleasured himself in the office and even had sex with a coworker during a Christmas party, in his office with very thin walls. I finally quit because of all the pressure and even took a lawyer to my exit interview with the district manager. At the interview the district manager told me I was, “a hell of a reporter,” and he would be glad to give me a letter of recommendation anytime. I asked for the letter right then and he said he would mail it to my house. It never came. I inquired about it and even went through HR at our headquarters in New York but the only thing I got was a run around. Six years of hard work and good reporting and in the end, I got nothing because I wouldn’t play along with the boss’s games and become a member of his harem.

After these incidents I began freelancing where I could set my own rules. I still encountered difficulties but the consequences weren’t as drastic. If I didn’t like a situation I could walk away. One of the most shocking incidents occurred at a state-wide church conference. I was sitting next to a judge and when we broke into discussion groups he suddenly slipped his hand under my skirt and right up my thigh. This happened very quickly and it took a moment for me to process what had happened; in addition, I had had back surgery which left some nerve damage and numbness in that leg and I didn’t immediately feel it. I was shocked and didn’t know how to react so I ignored it and did nothing. A few months later I was at a national conference and, much to my chagrin,  he and his wife were there and even on the same tour bus as mine. I was vigilant but there were no more problems. I was embarrassed and confused and very uncomfortable on the trip.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a discussion with a man and the whole time he talked to my chest. I have always wanted to say, “Mister, my eyes are up here,” but I haven’t had the nerve. No one ever taught us how to handle these situations. My generation usually ignored it and continued on in awkward silence. I’m glad the world is changing to the point that more women are approaching this topic and finding the nerve to publicly condemn their molesters.

It takes courage to bring this to light because society usually blames the woman. Were her clothes or actions provocative? Was she not capable of doing the job? Was she too emotional? Was she not respectful? Society wants to turn the situation around and make the woman the aggressor. She must have done something to invite the sexual advances or punishment she received after her refusals. Surely, she did something to invite these reactions from the men. After all, “boys will be boys. It’s just locker room talk.”

How many women’s careers have been ruined or derailed by refusing men’s advances? Women ask themselves when in these situations, “Are the consequences worth exposing their harassers?

It is time for the women to band together and report such transgressions. We then need to support the brave women who come forward. And, we need to teach our young girls it is not alright for men to talk about us in a sexual way. It is not alright for men to touch our bodies without permission. It is not alright to think of women as inferior. It is not alright to retaliate for rejected advances.

I am strong. I am woman.

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Know Proper Flag Etiquette?

United We Stand; Divided We Fall

A lot of tweets, Facebook posts, and memes have been flying back and forth regarding the controversy over the NFL teams kneeling, linking arms, or staying in the locker rooms during the national anthem. It appears this might even filter down to the colleges and high schools. But if you ask the average citizen what is proper flag etiquette, I bet few people know.

I thought I knew the answers, after all I was a Girl Scout, until I decided to do some research. Even the most self-righteous of those weighing in on the kneeling controversy probably have broken some of the flag codes. Why, even our own president is at fault. He has been photographed standing during the national anthem but not putting his hand over his heart. The first lady, an immigrant, had to remind him to do this.

According to military.com, “Flag Ettiquette Dos and Donts,” the following should be observed:

    • All persons present in uniform (military, police, fire, etc.) should render the military salute. Members of the armed forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute.

    • All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.

How many men stand and remove their hats and hold it with their right hands at shoulder level while placing that hand over their hearts? I have seen many people stand but continue to talk during the anthem. Men and boys sometimes must be reminded to remove their hats and many fail to face in the direction of the flag. So, while we are on the topic of the NFL and flag etiquette, many players do not place their hands over their hearts nor do they remove their helmets.

The same web site goes on to list many more Do’s and Don’ts but some of the most commonly violated which I have observed are:

  • Don’t let the flag touch the ground.
  • Don’t fly the flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
  • Don’t store the flag where it can get dirty.
  • Don’t use the flag as decoration.

Traditionally, the flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sundown and if it is left up after sunset it should be illuminated. I have seen many flags flown from houses and not taken down at sunset or during inclement weather. I have also seen flags drooping to the ground or rolled up and stuffed in the corner of the porch when not in use; all of which is a, “No, no.”

I once rescued a flag from the trash. It had been wadded up and thrown to the curb along with the other trash. I took it to the fire department which routinely ceremoniously burns flags according to the flag code.

The web site USA.gov, The American Flag and Its Protocol, states that the flag is a symbol of freedom and liberty to which Americans pledge their allegiance by standing at attention and facing the flag with their right hand over the heart.

The most interesting and insightful web site which I found is Senate.gov, CRS Report for Congress. The CRS is the Congressional Research Service and its report can be summed up in the first paragraph.

                No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America.

The most interesting statement of the 17 page report is:

Thus, the Flag Code does not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance nor does it include enforcement provisions; rather the Code functions simply as a guide to be voluntarily followed by civilians and civilian groups.

Yes, there are no laws and therefore no punishments for failing to follow protocol. Therefore, the teams have the freedom to do as they wish. This is called freedom of speech and freedom of expression which is what this country was founded on. This means that if one wants to kneel rather than the standard traditional salute we have the freedom to do so.

This movement began as a peaceful way of bringing attention to the racial inequalities in this country. There are many forms of protest which are much more disrespectful but kneeling is a sign of respect. We kneel at church and in prayer so why not kneel during the anthem?

When players are injured on the field the teams will take a knee, which is a way of showing respect for the injured player. Considering this country’s current state of affairs, you might say that taking a knee is showing respect for the flag and the country for which it stands, just in a different way.

This country is facing many serious problems, most much more important than what the NFL does during the national anthem. Experts say we are the closet to nuclear war than we have ever been. The states and the American territory of Puerto Rico devastated by the recent hurricanes are facing billions of dollars and years of rebuilding. And, as if this isn’t enough, the Russians are quietly laughing at us as they create chaos within our government.

Before we begin throwing stones let us look inward and analyze our own actions measured against the Federal Flag Code. We shouldn’t let this dog whistle divide us but, rather, let us link arms in the brotherhood of humanity. In 1986 Hands Across America was held to raise money for the homeless in which a human chain was formed reaching from one coast to another. Why not a link chain stretching across the country where people of all races, religions and countries of origin can stand shoulder to shoulder, linked arm in arm. A way of showing our strength and commitment to what this country has always stood for—liberty and justice for ALL.

Remember: United we stand; divided we fall.

 

 

There are many other Do’s and Don’ts besides those I have discussed. For those wanting more information I recommend the following sites:

https://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/RL30243.pdf

https://www.usa.gov/flag

https://www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/flagdisplay.pdf

http://www.military.com/flag-day/flag-ettiquette-dos-and-donts.html

 

The Day Kennedy Died


flag

What were you doing when you heard of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination? I was a senior in high school making up an assignment in Office Machines class.

An announcement came over the PA system that Kennedy’s car had rushed to the hospital in Dallas after a shooting. It wasn’t long after that another announcement came on saying that President Kennedy was dead. At first there were gasps and then silence. People started crying and there was a mix of fear and sadness as the horrible fact sank in. Remembering the Cuban Missile Crisis of just one year before, we were wondering if this were some evil plot of the Communists who had come to seek revenge; or, was it the act of a mad man?

Our school’s administration called for an assembly in the auditorium where we gathered to listen to prayers and then we adjourned to the outside to silently view the lowering of the flag to half-mast and went home to an early dismissal. Words couldn’t explain how we felt that our young, vigorous president was now dead. At that time I felt the future was as dark and bleak as that cold, gray November day.

In the days that followed we stayed glued to the small, grainy, black and white TV screen as we watched history played out before our tired eyes. We suffered more shock when we watched in disbelief Lee Harvey Oswald gunned down just like in the movies. But this time we had to remind ourselves this was real, not something from a gangster film.

We learned about tradition in state and military funerals. The image of the riderless horse was a poignant scene. The black stately horse with empty boots in the stirrups was an all-too-real reminder that our president was struck down in his prime. He was interrupted in the midst of a fruitful life leaving behind a young family without a father and husband and an important agenda unfinished.

The final climax of an emotional day was the image of young John Kennedy, or John-John as the public affectionately called him, saluting his father’s casket as it passed by.

As difficult as those days were, I also felt encouraged by the fact that our Constitution works. It allowed for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power during a frightening and chaotic time. There was no need to call out the troops or the fear of living under military control. During the darkest of times people knew what to do and the government continued as usual without a glitch.

The world has changed a lot since that dark November day. Some say it was the end of innocence and I agree with that statement. We no longer had the happy and carefree days of the 1950’s. The world became a little more cynical and a lot crazier.

After that, the Viet Nam war escalated and drugs raised its evil head in our society. In college there was even the phrase, “Tune in and turn out.” The world started going at a faster and faster pace which left us exhausted and frustrated. Now, 50 years later the world continues on its frantic tempo. My own theory is that on Nov. 22, 1963 we learned that things can change in an instant; a world can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. This uncertain fate can affect anyone, even a promising young president. Now, people are out to grab what they can as fast as they can, leading to more and more greed.

It would be nice to turn back the clocks to Nov. 21, 1963 and find a way to change history. There are even a couple of books out discussing this prospect. But, since we know that is impossible let us learn from this experience. Take time to embrace life more fully; give your family and loved ones hugs; take time to talk with a neighbor; or give a stranger a smile.

We don’t know the future and can’t change the past so let’s make the most of the moment we have. Carpe diem!

 

 

 

Dreams do come true

Dreams come trueI will finally be an officially published author! After a life time of practicing my craft and dreaming of having a published book someday, it is about to happen. My book, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast—surviving a life-altering event, is scheduled to be published in the fall and should be available in time for holiday shopping.

I first began the book in 1991 shortly after my first husband died but found it too painful to write at that time. Over the years I have started and stopped it many times. I have queried many agents and publishers and, in some cases received some encouraging rejection letters; but no one was willing to take a chance on me.

Finally, things began to come together last year when I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me at a breakfast counter. He sat there with his iPhone and Kindle in front of him constantly checking updates and reading an e- book. I learned he was a man of many talents, interests and contacts and, among other things, he designed web sites. He asked what I did and then asked if I had a web site featuring my writings. I answered I did a blog but needed a full service web site. I also talked about my future goals.

After working together for a few months in creating the web site he said he also worked with other authors and he was willing to be my agent. I guess he needed to see I was a serious and dedicated writer and not just some bobble-head.

As I write in PEACH COBBLER FOR BREAKFAST, I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe they are God’s sign posts pointing us to the right path. Here was a man with the answers to many of the obstacles to my goals and I would be a fool not to work with him. Now, one year later, my book is finished under his direction and guidance; and, with his help I finally have a publisher.

Rick Lakin is his name and he blew into my life on the derachio winds. For more details on our chance meeting see Look at what the wind blew in Published on July 31, 2012  (http://dobbie.icrewdigital.com/look-at-what-the-wind-blew-in/)

Thank you, Rick Lakin, for making my dreams come true.

WEST VIRGINIA Is Almost Heaven

WVA Stamp

West Virginia celebrates 150 years of statehood

To stand at the mountaintop in West Virginia it feels as if you could almost reach out your hand and touch the hand of God. It is truly Mother Nature at her finest. That is probably why John Denver declared West Virginia  “Almost Heaven”.

West Virginia is in all likelihood one of the most beautiful states you will ever visit with its majestic green mountaintops peeking above a shroud of fog like emerald gemstones around a lady’s silken white shoulders. Much of the state is still undeveloped leaving the mountains standing as a testament of beauty, strength, and power. The state lies entirely within the Appalachian Mountain range earning it the name “the mountain state”. In the spring the mountains are dotted with large purple blooms of the rhododendron, the state flower, and in the fall the hills turn a brilliant mix of reds and golds from the state tree the sugar maple.

The mountains, however, are both a blessing and a curse for its residents. They have provided their natural resources of timber and coal to fuel the state’s economy but have also served as a physical barrier which shields the residents and cuts them off from the rest of the world. In fact, the Appalachian Mountain Ridge is what created the divide between Virginia and the western part of the state resulting in political divisions during the nation’s Civil War. The mountains were a physical barrier making communications between the two parts of the state difficult in the days before modern conveniences relying instead on having to physically cross the mountainous range for news of happenings in the capital of Richmond.

The mountains also served as a socio economic barrier between two distinct types of people. The eastern and southern parts of Virginia were composed mostly of people born in Virginia who were descendants from merchants and the wealthy classes of England. The western part of Virginia’s population was settled by immigrants of German and Protestant Scotch-Irish heritage. Many also came from Pennsylvania and states farther north.

In the eastern and southern portions of Virginia many owned large plantations where they grew cotton and tobacco and were heavily dependent upon its slave population. However, in the rugged mountainous regions of western Virginia where most owned small farms and grew small crops for their families, slavery was unprofitable. The mountains served as a divide between the two parts of the state thus emphasizing the social, political, economic and cultural differences. These differences came to a clashing climax during the Civil War over the vote of whether or not to secede from the Union. When the vote to secede was taken in Richmond on April 17, 1861 the counties in the western part of the state almost immediately voted to secede from Virginia and not go along with the secession from the Union. The counties in northwestern Virginia sent delegates to a convention in Wheeling May 13, 1861 where forming a new state was discussed.

However, things did not go smoothly in creating the new state. If you think politics are bad today they pale in comparison to the days during the Civil War. The delegates to the Wheeling Convention were never actually elected by the public.  Many were chosen irregularly—some in mass meetings, others by county committee, and some just appointed themselves. When this haphazard group met they appointed only Unionists to hold state offices.

The actual popular vote for statehood is also questionable. The vote was 18,408 for and only 781 against. The Union army that occupied most of the area at the time stationed themselves at the polls and prevented Confederate sympathizers from voting. It was reported in one county that of the 195 votes cast only 39 were by citizens of the state and the rest were cast illegally by Union Soldiers.

In spite of everything the application for admission to the Union was made to Congress and President Abraham Lincoln signed it on December 31, 1862. The rogue western counties of Virginia were finally recognized as the 35th state of the Union on June 20, 1863 known as West Virginia. However, their troubles weren’t over yet. The Virginia General Assembly repealed their act of secession and in 1866 brought suit against West Virginia asking the court to declare the counties as part of Virginia and declaring West Virginia’s admission as a state unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decided in favor of West Virginia in 1870.

In addition, the returning Confederate soldiers threatened to overturn the new government. In order to retain control, the new government stripped the returning Confederates of their voting rights. The property of Confederates might also be confiscated and in 1866 a constitutional amendment disfranchising all who had given aid and comfort to the Confederacy was adopted.

In a war that thrust brother against brother it was most evident in the new state of West Virginia. It is estimated that approximately an equal number of Union and Confederate soldiers came from the state. Also, approximately an equal number fought on both sides at Gettysburg.

West Virginia is the only state to be created by the Civil War. Nevada was admitted to the union in October 1864 however it was first a US Territory.

West Virginia is a unique state in that people can’t decide whether it is a northern or southern state. It is situated right in the middle and in fact the Mason-Dixon Line goes right through it. It has been called the most southern of the northern states and the most northern of the southern states. The accent seems to reflect this. When I have traveled north people ask what part of the south I’m from and when I travel south I’m asked where in the north I’m from.

West Virginians are known to be warm, friendly, helpful, and sometimes clannish. I recently talked with someone who lived in West Virginia for a while and he said the first time someone spoke to him on the street he was so shocked he didn’t know how to respond.

If you are looking for a change of pace, want to reconnect with life and nature, pay a visit to God’s beautiful garden. Take a thrilling rafting trip down the New River Gorge or a leisurely ride to the top of a mountain on the Cass Scenic Railroad. Take time to listen to blue-grass mountain music which goes back to the Scotch-Irish roots or tour an abandoned coal mine. Camp along a mountain stream or go to the posh White Sulfur Springs where presidents have stayed.

Time in West Virginia is time well spent.