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Reclaiming My Right To Wear Nice Shoes

It took me a long time to get to this place.

When I was a little girl, my family atmosphere was fairly flooded with a heavy and toxic cloud of pain, that felt a lot to me like shame.

I never was sure what exactly we’d done wrong. But there sure did feel like something.

My father struggled with the clothing he wore to work. He dressed like…well, like someone who was born in Eastern Europe, had been raised by Hasidim and adopted a semi-American look.

He wears a very standard outfit of dark dress pants, white shirt and tie.

People used to joke “hey Alex, can’t you relax?” and the answer, pretty much, was no, never although I don’t recall him saying that out loud.

His closet is stacked neatly with white shirts, one on top of the other, dry-cleaned and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

My mother did not like to get dressed up.

For her, it was an aversion.

But she took great pride in me. She did.

And she took me constantly shopping.

When I was a little girl, my mother, my grandmothers, and my closest aunt took great interest in me.

They asked me how I felt all the time.

If I had any sort of “funny look” on my face, they wanted to know immediately what the problem was.

My clothing was a source of great concern.

And my weight. I remember when my aunt told me I was looking heavy.

The shame, already suffocating, fairly overwhelmed me and I immediately began starving myself — as best I could— for six long years, till high school graduation.

I was so obsessed with how I looked, because they were.

Always theatrical, I joined the local Y and began performing in plays. And at camp, too.

I loved it.

My father was constantly taking photos, he always had. It was an extremely intrusive experience.

But at the same time, I basked in the sunlight of the public glare.

Looking back on it now, I understand what happened to me.

I took the trauma of being turned inside out by those who were closest to me, and my natural propensity for attention-seeking and entertaining others, and embarked on a life-long journey to control and portray my own image to the world.

It’s been a lot of years since I was a kid. Decades since that starved-out photo of me at high school graduation.

In the intervening time, I definitely went through a long phase of “secondary shame,” a polite way of saying that I dressed awfully.

All of it just became too loaded a topic.

But then I took a job where everybody else was dressing really, really well.

No matter what their job level, you could see that they took great pride in getting dressed in the morning.

I think God sent me to that place for a lot of reasons.

But one of them was to confront the shame and the ghosts of the past.

To reclaim my natural inner love for looking good — not Barbie-doll good, but good in the sense of self-respect. Of caring for myself enough to enjoy the feel of buying and wearing clothing.

And yes, nice shoes.

Every day, not just on work days.

Every day, including today.


All opinions my own. Photo of me, by me. This post is available for reuse under Creative Commons license 3.0.

Blame The System, Not The Person (Usually)

How can you manage employees effectively, meaning that they deliver results? This question was posed to a broad audience. Here is the answer I shared.

Based on my experience as a supervisor, I begin with the assumption that failure to be productive at work is generally **not** the fault of the employee but rather reflects a flaw in the system. Examples of systemic flaws include a poorly functioning technology, a stovepipe that creates red tape, and yes, a corporate culture that excessively punishes trivial mistakes.

That said, as we all know, we can't just sit around and wait for the perfect system to emerge. So in my work with employees I try to figure out how we can be productive given the limitations that exist.

Through trial and error (nice way of saying I freely admit I have messed up at this at times!!!), I have found that there are two other things I can do to make a difference.

--The first is to make sure that my expectations are very clear and very realistic. (This is my personal rookie mistake, NOT BEING CLEAR.)

--The second is to focus on building trust within and between work units. You do that by ending the "gotcha game" and taking an attitude of collaborative problem solving.

At the end of the day, you have to spend time with your employees if you want to generate results. Keep in mind, you are supposed to be motivating them, not doing the work for them. (Another personal rookie mistake - MICROMANAGEMENT.)

You spend that time wisely by sitting down and respecting their wisdom and experience. You ask for their input -- what is impeding results here? How are you and I contributing to that problem? How can we work together to fix it? And what will be the result if we can't or won't?

Unfortunately there will always be situations that deviate from the good nature and common sense of most people. If you as the supervisor recognize that such a situation is occurring, the best course of action is to reach out for assistance early and often. Do not try to fix those kinds of problems alone.

Finally, no matter what, remember that we are here on this Earth to learn. When you do your best, you will still fail and that is the way you're built as a human being.


All opinions are my own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Image via Wikipedia.

Why I Don't Believe In Goals

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings
I had an unsettling interchange with my daughter the other day. 
She was trying to decide between two apartments and had drawn up a list of pros and cons for each.
When she was done, she showed me the list and asked me if I agreed with her assessment.
“Yes, this makes a lot of sense,” I said. And it did.
And then she turned her face to look at me.
She looked at me intently.
“Mom, have you achieved your goals in life?”
Not an especially startling question.
Startling nevertheless in the way it makes you think.
All at once, time collapsed.
And I found myself thinking over 46 years on this earth, in the space of about 3 seconds.
I had to be honest.
“No,” because when I was young I had only one goal in mind: To be a “big career person.” As in a:
  • Lawyer
  • Fashion designer
  • Magazine editor
  • Maybe, a famous writer
  • Or something involving a creative field
“No,” because none of those goals happened.
I thought, in a swoosh of thought, of all the women I knew who had become “big career people.”
None of them made the choices that I did.
They didn’t get married young and then stay home with the children.
I looked at my daughter, my beautiful flesh and blood.
And before I could think, the words came tumbling over themselves.
“When I had you, my entire goal became you.”
A day or two before, my other daughter had asked me what it feels like to be pregnant.
“Did everybody treat you better?”
“No, not really,” I said. “I had to do everything just the same as though I weren’t.”
I remembered throwing up all the time, in little baggies that I used to take on the commuter bus.
In the bathroom at work.
At home in the toilet.
All the time, all the time, I had the worst morning sickness.
But I loved it, every second of it.
“Being pregnant is the best feeling in the world,” I said to her.
It is.
It actually is.
“Because you have a human life inside of you. Nobody else can ever know how that feels.”
She looked at me.
“When I was pregnant with you and your sister, those were the happiest times of my entire life.”
Though I was sick as a dog, that statement remains true.
When you fall in love, when you have kids, when you’re doing what you’re really passionate about, time stops.
When you’re doing what you need to do to survive, you aren’t operating according to a five-year strategic plan. You’re living.
I once had a dream that I could live my life based on some abstract goals.
But in the living of it, goals have become largely irrelevant.
The most I can do, experience has taught me, is try to make a difference where I land.
By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Photo by Hermann via Pixabay (Public Domain). The author hereby releases this work into the public domain.