Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How Tough Are You?

Life is hard.  It throws difficulties at us all the time.  The weight of those problems can crush a person.

Toughness, in my opinion, is the ability to withstand life's hardships.  It is resilience against the things that go wrong.  Toughness is having a strong will that enables you to pursue goals with tenacity.

Are you tough?  There's a test at the end of this post which you can use to measure your toughness.  Some people are strong; some are not.  Some are hardy; some are not.  See how you fare.

My mother was tough -- which surprised people because of her short height (4'11") and gender.  My mother could struck fear in anyone's heart.  I saw grown men quiver at her approach.  Her visceral strength was astounding: when my mother bit your leg, she didn't let go until you did what she wanted.  My mother single-handedly turned a group of misfits into a "family;" she controlled and dominated the entire herd.  Maura and I used to joke that my mother could have run Russia better than Stalin; she had a stronger iron grip.

Here are some questions to gauge your personal toughness.  Feel free to answer any of them or just free-associate your thoughts on the subject:

- When your brother pulls your ponytail, what do you do?  Cry for Mommy?  Try to reason with him?  Squeeze his grapes?

- When your boyfriend forgets an important occasion, do you make excuses for him?  Confront him in anger?  Reach for a kitchen knife?

- When a project at school or work turns out to be harder than expected, how do you react?  Buckle down and dig into the work?  Pull out your bong?  Shop for shoes?

- When your motorcycle hits 140 mph at the racetrack, are you excited?  Scared?  In need of new underwear?

- When someone leaves a nasty comment on your blog, do you ignore it?  Write a new post about how your feelings are hurt?  Or blast the offender on her blog with snappy insults?

- When a co-worker acts haughty or passive-aggressive, what do you do?  Complain to the boss?  Put laxative in her coffee?

- When you fall off your motorcycle and break some ribs, how long do you wait to order new riding gear?  Two hours?  Two days?  Forever?

Your turn...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My New Reality

I don't dwell on unpleasantness -- life is too full of bad things to voluntarily prolong their presence in our lives.  So I wasn't going to mention my accident or injuries any more, but... it seems the latter are going to stick around a while and, if I'm being honest in reporting about my life, I can't sweep them under the rug.  So I am going to be candid about the challenges I'm facing -- but with humor and good spirits.  I'm going to talk about my existing reality without diving into pity.

Have you ever been seriously injured?  How long did it take for you to recover?  During that time, what kept your spirits up?

It's hard, when you face searing pain on a daily -- even hourly -- basis, to be happy.  To smile.  But I'm trying.  I'm learning that the simple activities in life we perform without thought (making coffee; putting on clothes; driving a car) are actually complex physical acts.  My right arm is still useless and my left thumb has no strength, so I have half of one hand to do things.  Barely enough to open a bottle, or pour milk, or carry a briefcase.  But I struggle to do those ordinary tasks and frequently forget my limits and get punished with burning physical pain.

But getting back into normal life as quickly as possible is necessary to avoid depression.  Many injured people get depressed when they can't live normally.  The change, especially when abruptly caused by trauma, is too stark for them.  That won't happen to me because I know how to avoid it and, having a far-more serious previous accident under my belt (motorcycle crash in 2003), I know I have the deep inner will-power to push past all pain and recover my health.  I did it before; I can do it again.

There's even comedy in this.  Gina has a stick-shift (manual transmission) on the right side which I can't operate with my right arm.  So, to drive to work, I've become a contortionist.  When I need to shift gears, I twist my entire body to work the shift with half of my left hand.  It looks ridiculous but gets the job done.

I'll understand if some of you aren't interested in hearing tales of recovery.  If so, check back in a few weeks.  Otherwise, I'll try to keep my stories light and entertaining.  I don't want to stop blogging and, right now, struggling through physical injury is my reality.  My unavoidable new reality.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Minor Mishap

An event happened yesterday.  I debated whether to mention it.  I decided not to.  Then I realized I should be open with you since that's our compact.  I tell you my crazy truth; you scratch your head and think, "What a nut!"  It's an arrangement that works for both of us.

I had a minor motorcycle accident.  An old geezer in a bigass Buick cut me off without looking and, while normally I could have braked in time, there was wet sand on the road.  It isn't riding season yet and the road-surface was treacherous, but I was eager to get back on my bike after two months of insane snow, so I took greater risks than I normally do. 

To avoid hitting the elderly idiot, I had to brake harder than I knew was prudent and lost traction by doing so.  The motorcycle slide out from under me and I landed on my right side.  The fall knocked the wind out of me.  For a full minute (which felt like an hour), I tried to get up but couldn't.  Then I caught my breath and was able to stand.  The old guy took off but a young man stopped and helped me get my bike upright.  It had broken pieces and wouldn't run but we moved it off the road.  After composing myself, I called and got a tow.

There's nothing broken in me and no permanent damage.  I'm in lots of pain though.  I feel like a wrestled a bear and lost.  My right arm, which I landed on, isn't really working but I know it's okay 'cause I can move my fingers and clench my fist.  A few days rest will bring it back to normal.  For now, it just hangs limp and hurts when I move it in any direction.  I sustained some abrasions on my knee and hip, but nothing serious; my gear absorbed the road-rash.  My heavy riding-boot lost a big chunk off the right toe; better that than my foot.  If you're going to ride a motorcycle, buy the best gear available.  I just ordered a new jacket to replace my ruined one; it costs $700 but is cheaper than medical treatment.

So... I'm fine.  I'm deploying that dogged attitude that's gotten me through life so far.  The first thing I did when I got home was go online and, with only my left hand working, I ordered a new jacket and pair of boots.  Nothing will stop me from being the crazy person I am.

I am reluctant to tell you about this incident because I don't want to turn you off to motorcycling.  It's a wonderful activity and usually safe.  I ride tens of thousands of miles every year and have had only a handful of mishaps.  While one can blame the old guy for "causing" the accident, I accept responsibility for riding on an unsafe road (wet; sandy; downward decline).  I probably should have waited for the street-sweepers to clear the surface next week.  I was just too eager and disregarded the risk.  Sometimes that works out; sometimes it doesn't.  Yesterday was the bad statistical blip.

I'm not going to glamorize this post by showing you any pictures.  My gear is in tatters but displaying it would sent the wrong message.  In the future, I want you to support my passion for motorcycling; I don't want to scare you about its risks.  Everything has risk -- but not everything provides the intensity of joy that I derive from riding motorcycles.

I hope your weekend was better than mine.  What'd you do?

Saturday, February 22, 2014


My marvelous mate Megan Mae made a magical illustration of my last outfit.  She captures both the look and spirit of the creation.

Thanks, Megan!!

(You, too, can get your own illustration from Megan.  Go here.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Sins Of Our Fathers

I like to learn.  I watch many documentaries.  Good ones teach us valuable lessons with the added emotional impact that film can carry.  I just saw a film I want to talk to you about.

How should we deal with the lives of our parents and ancestors?  The film I saw examines this issue from the perspective of children and grandchildren of men who committed horrible atrocities.  While the relatives interviewed were not complicit (and, in many cases, were not even alive) during the crimes committed by their ancestors, they carry on their family's name which connects them publicly to historical horrors.

At what point might acts by our ancestors forfeit the natural (and culturally-encouraged) love we have for family?  Should we even confront the morality of our ancestors' choices and lives?

Modern society washes away what happened last week, let alone in the last generation.  So the current inclination is to simply forget about the past.  But when the past was very bad, forgetting it is wrong.  We owe victims of injustice remembrance of their suffering.  And we owe ourselves a clear picture of how our family got to be what it is.  That includes honest understanding of our family's history.  Grappling with the past, including ugly parts, is a path to such knowledge.

To what extent do you wrestle with the acts of your parents or grandparents?  To what extent are you even aware of those facts?  Many whose family histories are contaminated by immorality are shielded from information by closely-guarded secrets and long-held denial.  My family falls into that group. 

My father grew up in an extremely troubled place (Germany during the Nazi regime).  For my whole life, my father has refused to talk about his childhood and what his family did back then.  I learned to stop asking him about it because he erected a brickwall against any inquiry.  Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he does this to avoid painful memories.  It might, however, also be motivated to conceal unpleasant facts.  I don't think I'll ever know because there are no other relatives or independent sources to tell me about our family's history during that period.

Thus, I have to view my father solely on the life I've had with him, not on anything earlier.  I wish I could get that information, though; it might answer some questions and complete the picture of our family.

How about you?  And what are your thoughts on this?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Mother

My mother, Barbara Jo, was born in the 1930's.  She was a child in the 1940's; she became a bride in the 1950's; and she was a mom in the 1960's.  After a stillbirth, Barbara Jo had two baby boys, the first (me) when she was 21 and the second (my brother Richard) when she was 22.

Sadly, my mother passed away in 1990 at the early age of 54 -- which is younger than I am now.  She succumbed to breast cancer, which she had kept secret from everyone until the last moment.

I don't have many pictures of my mother.  She was uncomfortable being photographed.  After my mom died, my father gave me old family pictures; they show my mom during her early years and up to the time of her marriage.  I think the pictures are very interesting.  They depict a time which has long disappeared and reveal aspects to my mother that I'd never known.

Do you find anything interesting in these pictures?  If so, please share.





Wednesday, February 19, 2014


When I was growing up, there were two popular advice-columnists, Ann Landers (real name: Esther Lederer) and her twin-sister, Abigail Van Buren (real name: Pauline Phillips).  They had separate columns in the newspaper.  I preferred Ann's advice because she was more sensible; Abby was less serious about the problems people wrote her and often made jokes instead of giving help.

Abby's column ("Dear Abby") continued after she became ill in 2002; it's now being written by her daughter.  I saw the column yesterday and was struck by a question received.  Here it is:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I relocated to Florida a little over a year ago and were quickly welcomed into our new neighbors' social whirl. Two couples in the neighborhood are gay -- one male, one female. While they are nice enough, my husband and I did not include them when it was our turn to host because we do not approve of their lifestyle choices. Since then, we have been excluded from neighborhood gatherings, and someone even suggested that we are bigots!

Abby, we moved here from a conservative community where people were pretty much the same. If people were "different," they apparently kept it to themselves. While I understand the phrase "when in Rome," I don't feel we should have to compromise our values just to win the approval of our neighbors. But really, who is the true bigot here? Would you like to weigh in?

DEAR UNHAPPY: I sure would. The first thing I'd like to say is that regardless of what you were told in your previous community, a person's sexual orientation isn't a "lifestyle choice." Gay people don't choose to be gay; they are born that way. They can't change being gay any more than you can change being heterosexual.
I find it interesting that you are unwilling to reciprocate the hospitality of people who welcomed you and opened their homes to you, and yet you complain because you are receiving similar treatment.
From where I sit, you may have chosen the wrong place to live because it appears you would be happier in a less integrated neighborhood surrounded by people who think the way you do. But if you interact only with people like yourselves, you will have missed a chance for growth, which is what you have been offered here. Please don't blow it.


What do you think of this question and the answer?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Changing Notions Of Gender

The issue of gender is more complex than many people assume.  In nature, biology is diverse and there are species with multiple genders.  Evolution and other factors cause gender-diversity in humans as well.

The assumption in our society that there are only two genders, male and female, is challenged by what is found in nature and other human cultures.  There were earlier human societies, like Native American tribes, which recognized three or more genders (male/female/two-spirit).

Facebook made news this month when it decided to allow users to identify their gender beyond the typical binary.  They made it possible for people who are transgender (like me) or intersex (born with ambiguous genitalia) or gender-fluid (in various places on the spectrum) or gender-queer (rejecting cultural notions of gender-behavior) to describe themselves with greater accuracy.  Facebook executives say that when this idea was proposed inside the company, nobody opposed it because it just made sense.

Of course, challenging something as engrained in our culture as this provokes ridicule and outrage.  Conservative commentators on Fox News and elsewhere are mocking the new option as silly and unnecessary.  One jokes that the choices don't include people who might want to identify as a "pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker."

All movements for social justice face ridicule as their first obstacle.  The idea of giving freedom to enslaved African-Americans was once derided.  The idea of giving the right to vote to women was cruelly mocked.  The notion of letting gays marry was considered unthinkable until recently.

I hope we move past ridicule and educate people about the reality of gender-diversity.  Society needs to show respect and tolerance for those who differ from convention.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about gender-identity?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seeing Ourselves

I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post (a new outfit).  You taught me a valuable lesson.

I was attracted to the top I bought because of its bright, unusual color ("Oh, pretty!").  Because I can't try on women's clothes in stores, I had no idea if or how the top would fit.  Even worse, wearing it I had no clue as to whether or not it looked good.  You explained to me how the top's odd design, irregular shape and loose flaps do me no favors.  The piece is unflattering on me, despite its interesting hue.

That's the value of what we're doing here -- I get to experiment, you get to opine, and I learn from your feedback.  Unlike you, I lack experience in assessing female attire and I don't have real-life girlfriends to correct my mistakes.  So you fulfill a tremendously helpful role.

In a short time, I've learned a lot about female life.  My education is accelerated by intense study and unflagging enthusiasm.  At the same time, I recognize how much I still don't know.  My ignorance is greater than my knowledge.

I wonder if you're aware of what's happening here -- my actual project.  I'm expanding my life in an important new direction and you are assisting me with that.  Your participation is more than leaving a casual comment on a blog; you are affecting the course of my life and enabling me to be the person I always wanted to be. 

Thank you.

Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "It is one of the beautiful compensations in this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."  I hope that's true and that you derive some benefit from coming here.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Exploring Frontiers

I like to explore.  To go where no man has gone before.  Literally.

Women's fashion is still new to me.  It has unknown territory.  To grow and learn, I take chances.  I experiment.  With colors, fabrics and designs.

Today, I tried several new things.  I found a top whose shape and design are new to me; I've never worn anything like it.  It's triangular with wide arm-openings.  Plus its color is beyond easy description.  I don't know what you'd call it.

Pairing the color of the top with a different color of stocking seemed a risky choice -- the two colors don't match but they don't clash either.  What do you call it when that happens?  In photos, the stockings appear paler than in real-life.

As an experienced woman, what's your professional opinion of this?




Friday, February 14, 2014

Beauty In The Parking Lot

Today, on my way home, I was struck by the beauty of melting clumps of snow in my office parking lot.  That's not where you expect to find anything attractive, but nature is capable of surprising us.

Do you ever see beauty in nature?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Love Day to you!

I want to take this occasion to say how much I appreciate your friendship.  I know I'm not a normal fashion-blogger, so when people are willing to come here and converse, that's an act of kindness.  It means the world to me that you support my effort to be the person I've always wanted to be.  Your presence and social interaction here enable me to grow, live and enjoy life.

What I'm trying to say is that you're my favorite Valentine!

Are you doing anything special today?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love Can Be Confusing

The nice thing about Valentine's Day is it celebrates love.  But that can also be the worst thing about it.  When our relationships are nascent or confused, V-day puts pressure on a weak reed.

Fortunately, there are cards for this...


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple

Oh, no!  Shirley Temple died yesterday.  She seemed immortal -- I never thought she'd go.

I probably don't need to tell you who Shirley is.  Her fame has existed for decades.  Shirley started acting when she was three years old and had a string of big hits.  After her childhood movies, she came back in the Sixties and was a frequent presence on television.  Later, she got into politics and served as our Ambassador to two nations.

Do you remember Shirley?  Which are your favorite movies of hers?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

New Adventures

I have so little time off work that I use it wisely.  Today, on a sunny Saturday, I hit a homerun.  Two, actually.

I bought a fondue pot!  To explore new culinary adventures.  I plan to use it to make both cheese fondue and dark chocolate fondue.  I like the idea of dipping fruits, breads and pretzels into tasty cheese and chocolate sauces.

Have you ever made fondue?  Or tried it?  Any advice for me?

My second hit was visiting my local record-store where I found a dozen vinyl albums.  They were a quarter a piece (or five for a dollar), so the cost was negligible.  I tried some new stuff I've never heard before and it is delightful.  Tell me if you've heard of any of these:

- Vikki Carr (wonderful singer from the 1960's)
- Barbra Streisand (do I need to introduce her?)
- Janis Ian (Seventies singer)
- Olivia Newton-John (Eighties)
- Connie Francis (Fifties)
- Roy Buchanan (Best guitarist in history; played in the Seventies)
- Clarence Gatemouth Brown (Blues performer; Sixties and Seventies)

It's fun to listen to new sounds, especially when the price is right.  I'm putting my turntable through a workout!

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Isn't this the best thing ever?!!

You know I have a playful side.  You know I'm fond of "radiant orchid".  You know I'm an Ally-cat.  So this animal-hoodie is perfect for me.

It was a blog-giveaway from my friend Thera.  Want to be impressed -- she made it!  Yup, Thera's one of those talented folk who know how to make things.  She sews and crafts and creates.  I admire that highly.

Thera has a YouTube channel and a big presence on Instagram.  I found her through her blog but she's ending that to focus on other activities.  (The blog has terrific DIY tutorials on it, so go mine its old posts for fun crafty ideas.)

To complete the "outfit," I pulled my pink furry leg-warmers out of the closet.  I knew they'd come in handy some day.  You have a pair in your closet, too, don't you?  :-)

Thanks, Thera!



The Beatles

It was fifty years ago (February 7, 1964) that The Beatles invaded America.  They were welcomed at the New York airport by 3,000 screaming fans; they appeared on the famous Ed Sullivan television show (a popular variety-show on Sunday nights); and they played several concerts (including Carnegie Hall).  The so-called "British Invasion" was huge news.

I remember it!  I was six at the time and, like everyone else, I was aware something special was happening.  The Beatles coincided with the emergence of the "youth movement."  Large numbers of teenagers were trying new things (music, sex, drugs) and casting off parental and societal controls.  It was a heady time.

Back then, everyone asked, "Which Beatle do you like best?!"  There were Paul fans (he was so cute and romantic), John fans (he was so dark and myseterious), Ringo fans (he was ugly in a cute way) and... well, George.

The Beatles weren't just a rock-n-roll band, they were THE rock-n-roll band.  They exploded the genre and were the biggest cultural force in this country.  For several years, they dominated not only music but also television and movies.

This anniversary is worth noting.  Since their success, John met a tragic end (assassination) in 1980; Paul is still performing and writing; Ringo had a modest solo career; and George died in 2001 from lung cancer.

Their effect on music and society can't be over-stated.

When did you become aware of The Beatles?  Did you like them?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Online Dating

straight man thought it would be fun to pretend to be a girl on an online-dating website.  He imagined playful interactions with men that would end in good humor when he told them it was a prank.

He was wrong.  He got a dose of reality.  In the actual experience, he was bombarded by rude, aggressive and overtly sexual messages from men.  It wasn't the fun he expected.  "I ended up deleting my profile at the end of two hours and kind of went about the rest of my night with a very bad taste in my mouth."

His conclusion?  "I came away thinking that women have it so much harder than guys do when it comes to that kind of stuff."

Does this reflect your experiences dating online?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mutual Appreciation Society

To thank my friend Aimee for sewing a pretty apron for me, I sent her mugs from Henri Bendel.  I love these mugs -- they're made of bone-china, are the perfect size to drink from, and are beautifully decorated.

I was shocked this morning when scrolling through my Bloglovin list to see... me!  A picture of me.  On Aimee's blog.  That's a surreal experience.

Aimee says some wonderfully nice things.  My heart is fluttering.  Go check out her post (here).