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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 Free Press Versus Fake News: Should We Be Worried?

Several times over the past year I have posted something on Facebook and someone replied, “Fake news.” We are hearing this term more and more every day and this seems to be Trump’s favorite phrase.

Although the term may be new, the intent behind it isn’t. There has been an on-going effort by the Communist party to undermine our society by creating doubts, distrust in authority, and chaos to make it easier for them to then take control. It was all spelled out in a file titled Communist Rules for Revolution published in 1919 and obtained by our armed forces in Dusseldorf, Germany. Here are the instructions issued to those who would bring about revolution:

  1. Corrupt the young, get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial, destroy their ruggedness.
  2. Get control of all means of publicity and thereby:
  3. Get people’s minds off their government by focusing attention on athletics, sexy books and plays, and other trivialitie

    s.

  4. Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters of no importance.
  5. Destroy the people’s faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule and obloguy (strong public criticism or verbal abuse).
  6. Always preach true democracy but seize power as fast and ruthlessly as possible.
  7. By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit, produce fear of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.
  8. Foment unnecessary strikes in vital industries, encourage civil disorders, and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government toward such disorders.
  9. By spacious argument cause the breakdown of the old moral virtues: honesty, sobriety, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness.
  10. Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext with the view of confiscation of them and leaving the population helpless.

Although this was published nearly a hundred years ago, it is very current today. Each point has been endlessly discussed in social circles and on cable news. We see examples of these points happening everyday but the one I’m most concerned about is item #2—get control of all means of publicity. Coming from a journalistic background I know words are important. What we say and how we say it can influence people’s minds and opinions. To quote an old saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

It has now been revealed that during the election cycle people were making up fantastic stories and publishing them on the web. I will call these people word factories because that is what they were. They were mindlessly putting together a string of words and making up ridiculous stories to bash a particular candidate or party. What this has done is create a great mistrust in all media. We don’t know what is the truth and what came from the word factories—or—fake news. Therefore, since we can’t trust the media we don’t know if what was reported about a political figure is true or not.

Or, at least, that is the plan from various nefarious groups. How can we combat this trend and defeat the perpetrators? By educating ourselves.

Don’t believe the lies being spread that reporters and news organizations are evil, nasty, bad guys. Being a reporter is a difficult job. Reporters do what their name implies, they report the news, they don’t manufacture it. Reputable reporters and news organizations dig, and dig, and dig to find the facts. Many times, public figures don’t want the facts, or whole truth, out for one reason or another. After the reporter writes the news story it goes to an editor who double and sometimes triple checks the facts. This is why government and public officials are wary of reporters. They know they can’t hide the truth from them. This is why reporters aren’t the most popular people in the room.

So how do we, the consumer, know if our news source is reliable or not? First check the source or news organization reporting it. If it comes from Joe Blow News then disregard immediately. If it comes from a known source such as Reuters, AP (Associated Press), a network news station or cable station such as CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. then it is fairly safe; but, beware that there might be a left or right slant to the presentation.

The current president and attorney general are even threatening to begin jailing reporters and loosening the libel laws. This is a very dangerous move. The initiative comes about because reporters are doing stories on information the administration does not want out and the reporters won’t reveal their sources.

Reporters never reveal their sources. Reporters give their word to protect their sources and many have gone to prison rather than renege on that promise. If they are hit with a libel suit the defense for libel is truth. If it can be proven in court that the information revealed in the reporter’s story is true that is all the defense needed.

The press is the watch dog over our three branches of government, that is why it is called The Fourth Estate. To protect this unofficial fourth leg of the foundation of our society, our founding fathers established the first amendment to the Constitution under the Bill of Rights—Freedom of the Press.

Now that there are attacks to this freedom we must be vigilante and educated and support the work the responsible news services are giving us. Let us respect, honor, and thank these hard-working people rather than ridicule them. What the public doesn’t see is that members of the press know their responsibilities. Along with freedom of the press comes responsibilities and reliability. Good reporters know this and constantly strive to report the news fairly and accurately.

If you think these discussions are new, this blog post is based on a newspaper clipping dated May 1, 1970. It begins:

                If you think most of the problems that beset the world and our nation today just happened that way; if you think it is a natural trend born of the modern age; if you think that it will suddenly all dissolve when we, the people, get tired of being bothered, then read an excerpt from a file on Communist Rules for Revolution….these were the instructions issued to those who were to bring about world revolution.

Yes, this was 47 years ago; before cell phones, computers, HDTV, fitbits, iPads, etc. The modern age of 47 years ago was just as worried about world affairs as we are today. The Communist Rules for Revolution was written in 1919 as instructions for those who were to bring about world revolution. The newspaper article ends with words that are just as relevant today as they were in 1970:

                Just fifty-one years later those who were given the plan of attack can check full 100 per cent success in their efforts. We are sure there is now another such set of instructions, going on from where these left off. This time past history presents full reason to be concerned, if not completely frightened. Your enemies are patient but thorough. Your greatest enemy, however is your disregard of the danger signs.

Here is a list of generally accepted top reliable news sources. The Associated Press is viewed as the most trustworthy:

BBC

C-SPAN

New York Times

NPR

Reuters

Snopes

The Associated Press

The Economist

Wall Street Journal

 

If you didn’t find your favorite news source there, here is another compiled by compiled by Business Insider in 2014 from the most trusted to the least:

 

THE ECONOMIST

BBC

NPR

PBS

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

ABC NEWS

CBS NEWS

NBC NEWS

CNN

USA TODAY

GOOGLE NEWS

THE BLAZE

THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE WASHINGTON POST

MSNBC

THE GUARDIAN

BLOOMBERG

THE NEW YORKER

POLITICO

YAHOO NEWS

FOX NEWS

MOTHER JONES

SLATE

BREITBART

THE HUFFINGTON POST

THE COLBERT REPORT

THINK PROGRESS

THE DAILY SHOW

DRUDGE REPORT

DAILY KOS

THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW

AL JAZEERA AMERICA

THE ED SCHULTS SHOW

THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM

THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW

BUZZFEED

 

 

Symbols Mean Everything

 

 

When we salute the American flag, either with a military salute or by placing our hands over our hearts, we aren’t paying honor and respect to a piece of red, white and blue cloth but rather for what that cloth stands for. Churches, synagogues and mosques contain various religious symbols and rituals and when we pray to those symbols or participate in the rituals we are honoring what these stand for—not the actual act or physical object.

 

In light of recent racial tensions, common objects we have had for over a century have taken on new meanings. My generation has known the Confederate flag as a relic from the Civil War and something that represents the South, and nothing more. During my college days, while on a trip to the South with a group from church, someone bought the Confederate battle flag and we posed below it. It was not an act of defiance on our part but merely a souvenir of our trip. Today that flag has become a symbol for the alt-right racist hate groups.

 

The same is true of the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee whose proposed removal sparked the riot in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. Because of the volatile race relations, Confederate monuments across the country have become lightning rods for mass gatherings and hot tempers. Thus, a movement is beginning to remove all such monuments.

 

It’s unfortunate these symbols are taking on new meanings and being defiled in the process. These are a part of our history and as the saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Politics aside, I ask, “Is this what we want?”  To preserve our history why not move these monuments and other war memorials to a war memorial park where veterans from all wars will be remembered.

 

We need to remember how bloody the Civil War was. When the war began most thought it would last only three or four months but, instead, it dragged into four very long and miserable years. People on both sides suffered unimageable losses including limbs, family members, and their homes and fortunes. It was a war of brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, father against son. Again, I ask, “Is this what we want?”

 

It is unfortunate that Gen. Lee’s statue became the focal point of the weekend riots. The irony of using Lee’s statue as the gathering point is that as soon as the papers were signed at Appomattox between Lee and Gen. Grant, signaling the close of the war, Lee was the first to call for a peaceful transition. When Gen. Lee’s men wanted to fight on, he urged them to go home.

 

By definition, all those who fought for the Confederacy were traitors. The Confederate states seceded from the United States and formed their own nation with their own governing laws. At the close of the war many wanted Gen. Lee, his officers, and all officials of the Confederacy tried and hanged as traitors but Gen. Grant interceded and stopped the movement. In turn, Gen. Lee encouraged his officers and men to return to their homes, become responsible citizens and to submit to authority.

 

In a letter to Capt. Josiah Tatnall of the Confederate States Navy Lee said:

 

…I believe it to be the duty of every one to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony….

 

Perhaps the best advice of all from Lee is found in a letter to Gov. Letcher of Virginia :

 

…The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of the war and to restore the blessing of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling, qualify themselves to vote and elect to the State and general legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country and the healing of all dissensions….

 

Lee knew firsthand the horrors of war. The cries of agony, the smells of gunpowder and burnt flesh, the sights of blown off limbs and lost body parts were all too fresh in his mind and he wanted to avoid any more suffering. Let us take a cue from Gen. Lee and work for peace.

 

I understand how in today’s world some see slavery, bonds and chains when they view these Confederate statues but rather than using these as an excuse for violence let us use them as visual cues to remember how horrible war is and how our country suffered during this time. No one went unaffected during the Civil War and the same will be true today if we allow events to deteriorate to the boiling point.

 

To paraphrase some of Lee’s words—all should unite in honest efforts to live together in peace and promote harmony and good feelings, become active in state and federal governments and do what we can to be good, patriotic citizens devoting our abilities to the good of our country.

 

Love overcomes hate every time.

 

 

 

 

Sheila Dobbie is the author of Peach Cobbler for Breakfast: Surviving a Life-Altering Event.  She is currently writing Letters to Sallie:  The Civil War Letters of A. C. McClure.  A native of West Virginia, Sheila is a graduate of Marshall University in her hometown.  She enjoys driving the West Virginia hills to Hawk’s Nest.

 

 

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast is now available

My long awaited book, Peach Cobbler for Breakfast, surviving a life-altering event, is now available as an e-book at Amazon.com. The paperback version will be ready for purchase around Thanksgiving, just in time for holiday gift-giving.

The early response has been very gratifying and exciting. It is my hope that the book will help anyone who is lost and struggling to find his or her way after a great loss either through death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, relocation, etc. After losing seven members of my family in a two year period, including my father and husband only six months apart, I realized I had to make a choice that would determine my future happiness and quality of life. I could either give in to the pain, sorrow, and negativity surrounding my life and live as a Negative Nancy the rest of my life. Or, I could chose to be positive and live a happy and fruitful life. The journey wasn’t easy but if I can make it anyone can. I evaluated my life, made a plan, and worked it.

You can read an excerpt from the book below and comments made by those who have previewed it. Also, please join me at the web site for the book and the Facebook page set up specifically for Peach Cobbler for Breakfast. I welcome your comments.

Blog for the Book

Introduction

PeachCobbler Cover“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive…” This quote is immediately familiar to Superman fans of all ages; but, these were the only words I could think of as I heard the diagnosis of cancer time and again in a two year period.

This disease had invaded our family faster than a bullet and had decimated it with the force of a powerful locomotive and now I needed the strength of a superman to survive.

When I was in my 40s I went through the worst time of my life. In a two year span I lost six family members, including my father and husband within six months of each other – my father to a brain tumor and my husband to bladder cancer. It is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through a similar experience what it feels like to lose the center of your universe.

I will spare the reader and myself the pain of reliving every detail of that time. At a time when my friends were planning high school graduations, colleges, and weddings for their children, I was planning or attending funerals. I was angry at the world, afraid of the future, and confused.

Much of the time I was in a state of shock, numb to both joy and pain. I seemed to live day to day in a haze trying to cope with each crisis as it came along. Once you have been hit by a speeding train and endured the pain of impact you become numb to repetitive shocks. I do not mean to minimize the magnitude of the events but rather to put everything into perspective. Things, literally, could not get much worse. Everyone I loved had been touched in some way by the catastrophic events surrounding us.

Perhaps our bodies learn to insulate us against pain, death and sorrow so we can carry on. We learn we can make it through one day and then the next and we continue living our lives one day at a time until we eventually make it out of the dark valley. It may be like living as a zombie but it works.

An old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I repeated this to myself many times when the journey looked too difficult or I didn’t have the energy to continue. I reminded myself that I didn’t have to do the whole journey in one day and, if all I could do that day was take one step, then that was all that was needed.

I kept the pain to myself and put on my happy face when going out into the world. I did my crying in the shower so my husband didn’t know how worried I was. I tried to keep positive for him and others. A morbid curiosity surrounds people with a debilitating or fatal disease. It’s almost as if people are searching the faces of the patient or his loved ones for any sign things are getting worse. I wanted to be sure people saw only signs of hope in my face so I applied my smile each morning along with my makeup and faced the world with a façade of confidence.

Background

David and I met at church when I was 15 and he was 17. We dated throughout high school and college and then married after dating for seven years. We fell in love toMoon River by Andy Williams and Today by the New Christy Minstrels, held hands during My Fair Lady and Sound of Music, cheered our losing football team at Marshall University and stole a kiss whenever possible. When we finally did get married there was a large clap of thunder just when the minister pronounced us man and wife and everyone said it was the man upstairs saying, “It’s about time!”

It was during the turbulent 60s and it seemed that our lives were in as much turmoil as the rest of the world, but we finally realized our goals of graduating from college. There were the pressures of college, work, integration, bussing, demonstrations, drugs, flower power, communism, the bomb, and the ever-present and growing disruption of the Vietnam War (or as some preferred–conflict). It certainly “conflicted” our lives because if the guys didn’t keep up a certain GPA, dropped out of college, or didn’t finish within the expected four years, then there was the draft to look forward to. One professor said almost daily, “You guys better study or you will be slogging around in the rice paddies.” We swore he was a recruiter for the draft board.

After graduation and a brief stint with Uncle Sam, we were finally free to strike out on our own. We headed for the big city of Columbus, Ohio, which seemed perfect for us. It was three hours from home, which meant it was close enough so we could get home quickly in case of an emergency, and far enough away so relatives couldn’t drop in unexpectedly. I think those were my Dad’s words.

My first visit to Columbus was something right out of The Jetsons’ cartoon when my family, David, and I attended the Ohio State Fair in 1962. At the time it was perhaps the largest state fair in the country. We drove into the city on one of the first interstate highways I had ever seen and whirling above the city were helicopters whizzing by. This was all very new and exciting for a kid from the hills of West Virginia. As we left late that night, fireworks were bursting over the city and I felt as if I had been to the City of Oz. I immediately fell in love with Columbus and when David and I married a few years later we decided that was the place for us.

Armed with our degrees and naïve enthusiasm we headed for the big city – he to become an architect and I a teacher. We found jobs and changed jobs, we made money and lost money, we started and closed businesses, we loved and we fought. We had the usual ups and downs and disappointments most people go through but, through it all, we said that the only thing that mattered was that we had each other. We felt we could survive and conquer almost anything as long as we were side by side.

All too quickly 23 years of married life passed and it became apparent that David would not survive the bladder cancer that had stricken him at age 45. As I watched him during those last days in the hospital I thought of the good times we had but also of the hectic life we had led. Where did it get us? I would gladly give up everything to know he would continue by my side forever. Why hadn’t we taken more vacations or weekend trips? Why hadn’t we found more time for just us? Life is too short.

For the first time I had to face the world alone. I may not be Superman but I will survive this hell.

1      The Premonition – dark storm clouds

Become a good noticer. Pay attention to the feelings, hunches, and intuitions that flood your life each day. If you do, you will see that premonitions are not rare, but a natural part of our lives.

Larry Dossey

The Power of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives

It was a wonderful vacation with our good friends, Kevin and Margie, filled with sun, fun, surf and turf, and margaritas. But I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. Maybe it’s just the eerie darkness preceding the storm coming in from the mainland.

As we cross the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge leaving our favorite beach island to return home, it looks as if we are spiraling directly into the storm clouds. I can’t suppress the shudder that suddenly shakes my body. “This is silly,” I tell myself. “You are being overly dramatic with the dark clouds ahead.” Little did I know that my reactions were, perhaps, a premonition of what was to come. There would be a time I would long to return to this moment.

Life is good. David, my high school sweetheart, and I have been married for 20 plus years. We live in our dream house that he designed, he has a promising position with a leading engineering/architectural firm, and plans are in the works to make him a vice president. We have many good friends, a church that feels like our home away from home, and a loving family.

Life has not always been so fulfilling. There were disappointments with several failed businesses, job changes, money problems, and the inability to have children. But, we all have our problems and we viewed ours as no different from anyone else’s. We can weather anything together.

Shortly after returning from vacation, David complains of a recurring bladder infection he has had since spring. When he calls in a refill for the antibiotic, he decides to revisit the doctor for a more thorough exam. The doctor orders a brief surgical procedure called a “cystoscopy” and we schedule it for the upcoming Monday. The procedure will be done as an out-patient but will require some sedation as they insert a scope through the penis and into the bladder.

Long ago we had planned a last hurrah, warm weather get-away for the upcoming weekend with Kevin and Margie to take in the fall colors around Lake Erie. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful weekend. The weather was warm with a slight tinge of autumn in the air – one of those rare perfect days. The trees were brilliant colors of gold, orange, yellow, and florescent green splashed against a sapphire sky while Lake Erie glistened in the background like an array of Swarovski crystals. We laughed so much our sides hurt as we bounced around Kelly Island in a golf cart. On our return trip we stopped at local farmers’ markets to stock up on pumpkins, apples, Amish cheeses, and apple butter.

Kevin and Margie are good friends we met at church. We sing in the choir together, enjoy going to restaurants, and vacationing together. David and Kevin hold down the bass section and usually find some kind of mischief to get into and Margie is secretary to the minister, Rev. James. In addition, Kevin is treasurer for the church and I am president of the Board of Trustees. The one rule we have when we travel together is no church business allowed.

Early Monday morning I drive David to the hospital and we hope to be home by lunch time. I wait in the overcrowded and overly hot waiting room. I wait and wait. It occurs to me that I have never met this doctor and perhaps he called for me but I missed him while trying to avoid the noisy and rowdy kids playing on the floor. The hospital is remodeling and it seems that most of the hospital’s population has crowded into this dusty, dirty, dingy 12’ x 12’ room.

Finally my name is called and a short, foreign doctor rushes up to me and begins talking. I don’t understand his accent; but, since he does not take me into the conference room, I expect to hear that everything is fine. But, different words are coming out of his mouth.

What did he say? Did he say the word “tumor”? Surely that is a mistake. Did he say they are keeping him overnight for observation? When and where did he say I could see my husband?

The doctor is gone just as suddenly as he appeared and I’m left in a daze. I feel faint and confused. I have to get out of this room and away from the chaos. I’m shaking and suddenly feel hysterical. I have to calm myself. I begin walking and taking deep breaths.

Although I want and need some comfort, I decide not to call my parents and upset everyone until I know more (both of David’s parents are deceased). I call Margie and she and Rev. James rush to the hospital. While waiting for them to arrive, I am directed to another floor where David will be admitted. I wait. I notice it is raining and the drops running down the dirty windows match the ones running down my cheeks.

Rev. James and Margie soon arrive and it is good to see their friendly faces. Rev. James is a former college football lineman and a big man with broad shoulders (literally and figuratively) and curly white hair. They are a welcome sight and exactly what I need right now.

By the time they bring David to his room the initial shock has worn off and we are there with smiling faces to greet him. Rev. James always has words of comfort and a joke or two so by the time they leave I am fine, David is OK, and the world is back on its axis.

Tomorrow David’s company is having a big reception to announce some re-organizational changes and among those changes is his promotion to vice-president.

I arrive at the hospital early to bring David home. We wait and wait. We begin to get uneasy because David needs time to get ready for the reception. I’m beginning to think I don’t like this doctor. Finally the doctor comes and, with the door wide open, he flings the covers back exposing David to all the world to remove the drainage tube from his penis. Now I know I don’t like this doctor!

Because he can’t drive for a short time I drive him to the reception. I watch him walk in and am very proud of him. It looks like our hard times are almost behind us.

About a week later we return to the doctor for the test results. He calls us back and we stand in a hallway as he casually leans against a file cabinet and tells us there was a mushroom shaped tumor; but they removed it. He tells us they will watch David every three months and if it recurs they will use a laser to remove the mushrooms.

I’m confused and am not sure if this is a good thing or not. Is it cancer? I ask about chemo and he says chemo is not needed. The atmosphere is easy and relaxed and the doctor seems upbeat and positive. We are not worried and we go to a Japanese restaurant to celebrate our good luck. I wish I had kept the fortune from the fortune cookie that night.