Category Archives: Maribeth Shanley

The State of Our Union

As I consider the state of our Union, I think about the people who wish to come to the U.S. seeking the American Dream.

Recently our new President signed an executive order banning those who practice one of the oldest religions of the world, Islam, from entering the country.   The ban,  implemented this weekend,  victimizes individuals of the Islamic faith, including a small child.

Below is a photo of the five-year-old Syrian refugee child holding a small baggie in her mouth.  She’s unable to hold her baggie with her hands because her little arms and hands are bound behind her back with handcuffs.   What makes this photo more egregious is what Sean Spicer had to say at his press briefing after the weekend flurry of arrests, detentions, and people with visas turned away at their departing airports.

syrian-child

When asked about the little girl, Spicer commented that just because the child in handcuffs is a little girl doesn’t preclude that she isn’t dangerous.  What kind of man has such thoughts about an innocent kid?  Too, what kind of lasting effect will this have on this young girl who stands with her back against the wall next to her parents?

Two Saturdays ago, I participated in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.  Protest marches are not foreign to me.  In 1970, at the age of twenty-two, I moved from my parents’ home in New Jersey to the D.C. area.  I grew up in a strict military family environment where no one was allowed to voice dissent against anything that was going on in the U.S., especially the Vietnam War.  I held my feelings close to my vest during my last years under their roof.  When I drove my car from New Jersey to D.C., I recall thinking, I’m going to do everything I was never allowed to do.  I did indeed, including marching with thousands of anti-war advocates through the streets of Washington, D.C.

The job I moved to D.C. for was one with the U.S. Navy at the Pentagon.  However, I soon left the Pentagon for a position at the Civil Rights Commission where I worked with some of the original freedom fighters from the Civil Rights Movement.  Upon my written resignation, the Admiral I worked for called me into his office.  I quietly listened as he tried to convince me that Communists populated the Commission.

I loved working with the Commission whose purpose is to protect all the civil liberties our great country espouses.  My years in D.C. engrained within me a fierce tolerance for all people regardless of their gender, color, ethnicity or religious beliefs as well as those who did not lean toward religion.  Diversity is the very fabric which makes our country so rich with complexity.

I think about Benjamin Franklin’s words.

As Franklin emerged from deliberations at the Constitution Conference of 1787, outside Independence Hall, a female called to Franklin asking, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s words ring loud in my ears these days.

Franklin’s words, “If we can keep it,” feel urgently precarious in this year, 2017.

Just this morning as I ate my breakfast and watched Morning Joe on MSNBC, the group discussion turned to the death of Navy SEAL, Ryan Owens.  The discussion surrounded criticism coming from the DOD.

Willie Geist began the discussion surrounding Trump’s trip with his daughter, Ivanka to attend Ryan’s funeral.  Willie expounded on the Pentagon’s  criticism surrounding the Yemen mission that killed the Navy SEAL and civilians, including an eight-year-old child.   Pentagon officials criticized Trump for authorizing a poorly vetted mission where AL QAEDA detected the commando team.

Mark Halperin followed with, “You have some DOD officials saying this mission should never have been approved and that the President made a mistake. That is a very serious accusation, particularly since the first mission he authorized did result in a loss of life.”  Halperin continued, “We’ve talked about a lot of stories today. This is in some ways the most important because it goes to the fact that you have people in the Pentagon who are willing to say that the Commander in Chief made a mistake and that it was not sufficiently vetted, and to make this point throughout the program, without a Defense Secretary in place for more than a few days with the Secretary of State just in place. It’s a serious time for the President to be making these kinds of decisions. And, if the accusations are true, it’s amongst the most serious charges ever leveled against him.”

Joe Scarborough finished the discussion by commenting that this is probably the new normal for people at the DOD and the CIA who are witnessing these types of things coming out of the Whitehouse.

Scarborough continued, “We’ve warned the Administration that if you cross the CIA and people in other agencies, including the State Department, they will cut you up.  What was leaked to the NEW YORK TIMES, which again, this has been an extraordinary two weeks in.”

As I listened to the discussion, I wondered if Ryan Owen’s parents were aware of the complicity of the President regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of their son.

Halperin finished the discussion by mentioning that this comes on the back of Trump insulting the Australian Prime Minister, one of our closest allies, whom Trump hung up the phone in the middle of the conversation.  Halperin also mentioned the conversation Trump later had with Mexico’s President.

AP released an excerpt of the transcript they obtained of the second conversation with President Pena Nieto.   Trump warned in that conversation that he was ready to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there” unless the Mexican military does more to control them.

Mexico is one of our closest trade partners.  Recently I heard the Mexican Trade Minister comment that millions of dollars flow from Mexico into the U.S. every second of every day.

WE HAVE A REPUBLIC IF WE CAN KEEP IT.

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2016 Election – A Woman In Mourning

I’ve been a Hillary Clinton supporter ever since she came on the national scene in the early 1990’s. From the minute she began opening her mouth, I knew she was no ordinary First Lady.  It was evident that she was a seriously independent woman who was strong-willed, confident, and fiercely assertive.  I was fascinated by her chutzpah and her take charge persona.  I laughed loudly at both her Tammy Wynette and baking cookies comments.  I was even happier when I learned she was my age.  She was kicking ass and taking no prisoners.  My kind of woman!

In a tizzy, the media was questioning her insistence that, as First Lady of Arkansas, she continued to practice law as she pursued her own formidable career versus behaving exclusively as the first lady.

Here was this attractive woman with big, beautiful blue eyes and long blonde hair, pulled back with a headband speaking words which were then and now considered outrageous.  “I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette.”  Hillary later followed that up with, “I suppose I could have stayed home baking cookies and having teas, but, what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”  She immediately became news, controversial news.  How dare she consider her own profession to be equally important to her husband’s.  How dare she not put her career on the back burner to present the image of the stand by your man First Lady.  After all, how many sacrifices would she be expected to make?  She had already relinquished her identity when, as First Lady of Arkansas, she legally changed her name from Hillary Rodham to Hillary Rodham Clinton.  When she exchanged marriage vows with her husband, Bill, she did so while keeping her birth name, the name of the person she knew herself to be.  After all, she married Bill because she loved him.  It had nothing to do with becoming his property or his obedient second-class citizen wife.

Hillary resonated with me like no other woman in public service.  She was strong-willed, confident and took no bull.  She was her own woman, and she wasn’t afraid to let everyone know who and what she was, an “uppity” woman who refused to take her assigned chair at the table, a chair far removed from the head of that table.

During that period of my life, I was struggling in a man’s world trying to make my own way as a formidable colleague and, if necessary, opponent to my male counterparts.  I had spent my life as a second-class citizen and, like Hillary, I wasn’t going to let the world get away with putting me in that hole.  My shape was an octagon.  However, society was trying to pound me into a square hole.

I grew up in a military family with a mean-spirited, arrogant father who happened to be a pedophile whose crimes I knew intimately.  My dad was constantly trying to hammer my octagon personality into that square hole.  Later in life, as I entered the workforce, he and my mother demanded that I hand over all my earnings every week from which they would give me an allowance.  They did this while my older brother, not only kept all his earnings, but my mom also bought him his toiletries.  I was expected to purchase them out of my allowance.  My mother was an obedient wife who goose-stepped around her husband.  She marched to his drum and even went so far as to look the other way at what he was doing to me.

In the workplace, I got to know the male world well.  I recall, at 18 years old, the day a boss smacked me on the ass.  That was before HR diversity and sexual harassment training.  It was before sexual harassment was considered to be wrong.  So, I said nothing to his superiors, cried in front of that boss as he apologized for his behavior.  I’m sure he simply didn’t want to be reprimanded.

Being a daughter/victim of a pedophile had its silver lining.  My torment caused me to remain hidden from my family as, while in my home, I lived exclusively in my head.  The gift of having been molested was that I became keenly aware of my environment and I was always watching for males who wanted to either abuse me or shut me up.  I began to develop my strong-willed, confident, assertive personality.  I honed my uppity skills.

For example, I avoided being kidnapped or raped one evening when I was returning to my car I had parked in the Asbury Park, NJ train station parking lot.  I was taking a night class in Asbury Park.  It was February.  The streets were covered with new snow and ice from a previous storm.  As I waited to cross the street at a traffic light, I noticed a black, slightly beat up car stopped at the light as I began to cross in front of it.  I caught the image of a man behind the wheel.  The temperatures were in the teens, and this man wore no coat.  Instead, he wore only a white undershirt on his upper body.  I became alarmed because I could see he was watching me as I walked toward the train station parking lot. Instinctively,  I knew I needed to get in my car before this man, and his car could turn into the lot.  My gut told me I was in trouble.  Thank you, dad, for giving me that skill of knowing my environment!

As I crossed the street, in my head, I talked to myself.  I told myself to calm down, walk quickly but carefully.  I didn’t want to fall on the ice.  I then grabbed my keys from my coat pocket and held the key in a ready to unlock position.  I continued to tell myself to stay calm and get in the car as soon as I could, start the motor and back my car out.

Just as I backed my car out of its parking space, I saw the black car turn into the lot.  I passed the man in the black car as I exited the lot and sped down the street toward the Interstate.  I ran the same red light this man and his car originally sat.  I watched in my rear view mirror making sure I had lost him.  I was shaking the entire time, but, I had already become a warrior woman who was smart enough and keenly aware enough to avoid danger.  I had been a victim once; I was not about to become one again.

Later in my work career, I worked at a Kroger store in Nashville, TN.  I was 31-years-old, was a recent college graduate, who had previously taken a man’s job as an apprentice bricklayer.  I was that store’s first head seafood manager.  I had also recently requested entrance into Kroger’s management training program.  The male zone manager for my store didn’t care for me.  He could see I wasn’t your typical subservient female, and, so, he tried to block my request.  However, again, I was not about to be told I couldn’t do something because I wasn’t a submissive female.  So, I typed up a letter, addressed and mailed it to the zone manager.  In that letter, I insinuated that if he continued to block me, I would visit the EEOC office to file a suit against him.  I was admitted soon after that.

My thirteen-year career at Kroger ended after a job review.

When I graduated from management training,  Kroger immediately promoted me to the newly created  Seafood Field Specialist position which gave me jurisdiction over  fifty seafood store departments.  I had proven myself as an innovative leader while managing the first seafood department in that division.  The Seafood Specialist position was not yet defined.  So, I basically created it as I worked in that capacity.  My last above average review, came before my going back to the stores for a short-lived store management experience.  I was then brought back to the Meat Merchandising Department as the company’s first female Meat Merchandising Field Specialist.  I oversaw twenty Nashville City Meat departments and fifteen Kentucky country stores.   I loved being a pioneer.  So, instead of approaching my new position as so many other field specialists did, i.e., a merchandiser enforcement officer,  I approached my position as a teacher.  I had a firm grasp on merchandising and marketing and so, I went about training my meat managers to become better merchandisers.  The result was that my stores began to perform above their expected gross profits which were a first for both the city and country zones.  Meat managers, store managers, and zone managers loved me for what I was doing.  I was helping them, and the Division look better to Corporate Kroger.  However, the man I worked for, the division Meat Merchandising Manager, didn’t like me and didn’t like what I was doing.  This man was a short man with a Napoleon complex.  Instead of being grateful for helping him also to look good; he felt threatened that I was trying to take his job.  So, during that year’s evaluation, on paper, he rated my performance as average. However, it was what he said verbally to me that sent me looking for another job outside of Kroger.

This little man told me I was too aggressive instead of what he felt my behavior should be.  He said, “Women should have a quiet power.”  He’s fortunate I didn’t anticipate his demeaning words because I would have brought a recorder into that meeting.  I would have not only filed a complaint but, since diversity and sexual harassment training was in full swing, I probably would have cost him his career.  Lucky him.  Not so lucky me.

As a small manufacturing company named Golden Dipt began courting me, I asked for a meeting with my Meat Manager’s boss.  During that meeting, however, It became evident that the Merchandising Director was not going to support my position over his Meat Merchandiser’s position.  I smiled and thanked this man for the meeting, knowing that I was now, more than ever, determined to leave Kroger.  Two weeks later I was offered a Regional Manager position with Golden Dipt.

As a woman in a male-dominated world, this was who I was when Hillary Clinton first ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008.  I was a woman, who, against all the odds, fought my way through the ranks and salary scale.  I was thrilled that a woman was in the race for the highest position in the country and world.  I felt crushed when she lost to Obama and swore I would not support him.  I did, and part of what convinced me to support him was Hillary’s humility and her strong endorsement of Barack Obama.  She asked me to throw my vote behind Obama.  I did.

During this last campaign, as the accusations of lying and other ugly indictments were launched, I was baffled that people believed all the accusations.  While Secretary of State, except for the GOP Congress who hated Obama, Hillary was lauded by many as the best Secretary of State in decades.  Her popularity was high.  That all disappeared as she made it public she was running in 2016.

One of the unfortunate facts of this last campaign:  in the guerilla warfare arena, Democrats are amateurs compared to Republicans.  Democrats behave in a more respectful manner than do the Republicans.  This comparison is especially true since the emergence of the Tea Party candidates such as Trey Gowdy.  This group of Republicans is nastier than many of the old guard Republicans.

On the evening before Obama was sworn in for his first term, several members of Congress held a secret meeting.  During that meeting, they vowed to obstruct all Obama’s proposals.  They were determined to ensure he would be a one-term president.  When Obama won his second term, these same Republicans along with the New Tea Party members revisited their vow.  Thus, the GOP Congress declared a state of obstructionism during Barack Obama’s entire presidency.

From the minute Hillary declared her candidacy in 2008, the GOP connived and, through the media, created a false image of who Hillary Rodham Clinton was.  They did not like that she was still not just uppity, but, in their minds, she was blatantly arrogant.  So, during her Secretary of State years, the GOP launched a campaign against her with the intentions of creating a false, ugly perception of her.  They then backed it up with hearing after hearing of false, baseless accusations.  A Republican politician once unashamedly repeated to a reporter a quote which was first written by Adolph Hitler in his book Mein Kampf.  Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels later repeated the quote.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Thus, the members of the GOP repeated their accusations over and over again to the point of creating a false perception of reality.  During the eight years between 2008 and 2016 those voters who didn’t know Hillary Clinton and failed to find out who she  was, believed the lies.”

I worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign before the South Carolina primary and again during her run for President.  I worked the phone banks.  During that time, I also joined the Horry County, SC Democratic Women’s Council.  On November 8th, I spent all that voting day at two polling stations.  I was the Democratic Party Poll Watcher.  In other words, I gave my all to Hillary’s campaign.

During my watch on November 8th, I consoled a woman who broke down in tears when a poll manager informed her that, according to South Carolina law, she was not allowed to vote.  The woman had recently moved to the State and registered to vote.  However, she registered two days past the 30-day- prior deadline required for the General Election.  I also watched many young mothers cast their votes for Hillary as their daughters looked on.   It was a proud day for women.  We were going to vote to office our first female President.  With Hillary Rodham Clinton, we were going to gain a gloriously qualified woman president.

The day began with a lot of optimism.  By the time I arrived home around 8 p.m. and ate dinner in front of the TV, I felt optimistic.  By 9 p.m. my heart began to sink.  At 9:30, I told my husband I could watch no longer.  I was going to bed.  During the night, I got up twice, went to the living room and turned on the TV.  My second trip to the TV was around 3 a.m.  When I turned the TV on, Trump was making his victory speech.  I spent the next hour crying as a sleepless female friend and I instant messaged each other.

I was so distraught for the next few days, that, although I got out of bed, I didn’t get dressed.  I would find out later in the month at a Council meeting; I wasn’t the only female Council member who became immobilized.  I also felt lost.

I am a news junkie and passionate about staying ahead of current events.  I could no longer bear to watch CNN or MSNBC.  I’m just now finding alternatives during the day when I’m not writing or doing something else.  Too, immediately post election I joined my Facebook friends in venting our anger and consoling each other with posts.  I was so distraught for several weeks that I spent a lot of time on FB sharing political posts and writing political posts.  I had a lot of company too.

In the wake of the election, and a month later, I realized that I was not just distraught; I was depressed.  I experienced clinical depression one other time in my life.  It was after my mother’s death and when I opened my Pandora’s Box of childhood sorrow at what my dad did to me.  During that time, I saw a therapist and took Zoloft as a means of getting my brain to release serotonin as I worked my way out of depression.  So, as hard as it was to admit I had once again become clinically depressed, I need to get my serotonin flowing again.  I know I will overcome my depression as I work my way back to my usual happy emotional state of mind.  I am also not visiting FB as often.  I will persevere because, when I put my mind to anything, I accomplish what I set out to accomplish.

In the meantime, I am writing again and am becoming even more active in the Council.  I’m on the board that will solicit young high school female writers to participate in the Council’s Annual Scholarship Essay Contest.  As a board member, I will also participate in judging the entries.

I am sad my dream of living to see a female president lost to the least qualified male candidate in recent history.  I am sad that this man is one of the most hateful and hate mongering candidates to come along in my lifetime.  I could have lived with a Jeb Bush or a John Kasich presidency.  However, I’m not just sad but angry, that, despite knowing the hatred this man has spread, voters looked beyond all his hatred to vote him to the highest office in the world.  I’m sad too that this man is determined to continue to destroy our fragile environment as he betrays the working middle-class voter he promised so much to.  I am sad for his hatred and desire to persecute Mexican immigrants and Islamic refugees.  I am sad that the woman who most deserved to be president lost to the crassest and crudest of all nominees in modern history.  I’m mostly sad that Hillary didn’t have the chance to smash to smithereens that highest glass ceiling for me, my generation and all the generations of young women and young girls coming behind me.  With all my heart I hope I do live to see a Madam President.  Till then, #StillWithHer and, for the man with the orange skin, #NeverMyPresident!

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Marching Toward the Apocolypse

As the reality of this election sinks in, the threat to our future also sinks in.

If the most qualified candidate in recent history lost to the least qualified in recent history, we get a dire image of what our future holds. As I watch Thursday’s segment of Years of Living Dangerously, I am reminded that our greatest fear should not be Trump’s possession of the nuclear codes. Instead, it should be his ignorant refusal to understand and fear our Earth’s biggest threat to our survival, Climate Change.

Nuclear codes? If a nuclear war were to happen, for most living creatures, it would be the world’s least painful method of going extinct.  In contrast, the end resulting from climate change will be a slow, painful, death for everything.

Right now, in West Africa, there’s a migration taking place that, by far, “trumps” the Syrian migration and it’s solely due to climate change which has changed once fertile farmland into a wasteland. What was once the water-rich land is now a desert scape of the planet Mars magnitude.

Every week, thousands of men travel out of the region looking for a future they can bring their families. Their common destination is the shores of Europe.  However, they find no future because many of the areas they travel to are under assault as well. However, that assault is only in part a direct result of climate change.  It is also the result of an influx of migrants fleeing other human-caused crisis such as war.

As in much of the West, the U.S. included, this influx has spread a sense of nationalism, bigotry and hatred the likes of which has been non-existent since the 1930’s.  When met with this resistance, the African men attempt to travel back to their families only to run out of money leaving them “stuck” somewhere in the middle, between home and their original destination.

When asked, why did you leave your home, one man explains, “There is nothing where we live.  There is no rain, so there is nothing to eat.”  Another man calls out the temperatures he left behind.  “113 degrees!  120 degrees!  How can a person live?”  A third man explains, “There is no sea, and the earth no longer works.”  Even these men understand that there is something they can’t explain happening to our world.  They understand there is something causing the earth to no longer work.

Most alarming is the fact that many of these men become easy target recruits for Boca Harem and other jihadist groups. More danger for the West as the ranks of jihadism grow, resulting in an endless source of recruits willing to die in the present because they see no future.

In the U.S., a similar future lurks on the horizon.

In the once rich farmlands of California, a drought of magnitude proportions is currently under way.  California alone provides a cornucopia of produce to the U.S. and the world.  It produces over 200 different crops.  Almost half of the nation’s produce comes from California.  Some of these crops, such as almonds, are grown nowhere else in the U.S. or the world.  Loss of these valuable commodities would devastate the U.S.’s ability to provide product to the grocery industry, leaving whole departments and grocery shelves barren.  The devastation would create a cataclysmic national security problem.

A helicopter flies over a major water resource.  Floating boat docks now sit on desert-like sand; and, a major dam sits out in a similar site with no water to hold back or flow out.  The barren landscape forebodes the future.

The present drought has lasted four years.  The future for this same expanse of land, once water rich, predicts decades of drought.  The water that is currently regulated will dry up leaving no water to ration.  The ultimate horror of the site is the fact that this reservoir with its current limited resource is one of California’s main source of water.  California’s population tops 38.8 million.

Texas also grows a vast variety of crops to include fruits and nuts, vegetables as well as, grains, fiber and oilseed crops from which we get our cooking oils.  Texas is also experiencing an epoch drought.

In both drought-assaulted Texas and California, farmers are on their last legs.  Many farmers see a bleak future where they and their families will be forced to abandon their land to seek a living elsewhere and in a new industry.  These same people would leave their livelihoods penniless since their land will be rendered worthless by the droughts.

A picture tells a thousand stories.  Such is the case with the map of California.  This one shows the current condition of that States drought.  The areas are color coded to represent the intensity of the dry conditions which range from dry (yellow) to extreme drought (red) to exceptional drought (dark red).

current-california-drought

The second map shows the magnitude of the crisis in Texas.  NASA satellites have produced the ability to map out the crisis in both California and Texas.

texas-drought

Recently, however, Myron Ebell, Trump’s pick to head up the EPA transition and an avid climate change denier said he would direct NASA to cease using its satellites for climate change mapping purposes.  Ebell considers the use as wasteful.  Ebell would essentially abolish the EPA as Trump yanks the country’s participation in the Paris Accords on climate change.

At the 2015 Climate Change Conference held in Paris, the Norweigan Refugee Council discussed the imminent human migration result of climate change.  The council chairman explained, “Every second a person is forced to flee his home because of an extreme weather or climate event.”

The future is now!  However, there is no convention for climate refugees as there are for war and human rights refugees.

Jan Egeland, Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC) Secretary General, explains that science predicts that a child born today in 2016 has a 60% more likelihood of becoming displaced by a natural disaster.  The question is, will it be 200 million or a billion people who will have to relocate?  No one knows.

This question generates the second question.  Given there is no precedence, how does the world deal with these people?  How indeed when much of the world governments, now led by the U.S., view climate change as not significant or as a hoax and scientific evidence as a left-wing conspiracy.

The future looks bleak for our once perfect planet and its inhabitants. The Obama Administration was instrumental in ushering in progress toward gaining world commitment and cooperation to change the future.  Under a Trump Administration, that progress will not only end; the world will be set back decades as climate change continues to ravage our world.

As the waters rise on the Southern most coasts of the U.S. and elsewhere in the world, climate change refugee numbers will also rise.   As with the future refugees from California, Texas and the current refugees from West Africa, these coastal refugees will leave their homes penniless.  They will have nothing to lose.

In my mind’s eye, I see a future much like the fabled futures portrayed in shows like The Walking Dead.  However, the real future is not a fantasy one where zombies wander the land.  Instead, the future is one filled with living humans migrating inward as they seek a new future.  Hordes of people will leave their worthless property penniless and what will they have left to lose.  We march toward an apocalypse.

Note:  Recently, I wondered if my husband and I had made a mistake moving to the coast of South Carolina.  In October, the east coast experienced an unprecedented hurricane.  We also had the mountains of Tennesse on our original retirement list.  As Bob and I sat in the dark of our house, winds howling outside, I bemoaned our mistaken choice.  Now, I realize nowhere is safe.  I say this as Gatlinburg, TN where we had been looking burns to the ground.  The mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina have also suffered from climate change in the form of a drought.  The future is coming, and the people of the U.S. will pay for their vote.  As Trump promises to transfer funds used by the EPA to study climate change, he will use the money to repair the infrastructure.  New roads and bridges will be good for those migrating hordes seeking shelter from drought and flooded cities.  They will have new highways to travel to communities they will fight to take.

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I Can’t Believe I Did This Too!

When I worked for McCormick and Co., Inc., originally we lived in the Nashville, TN area.  However, in 1998, Bob was offered a opportunity to relocate to Naperville, IL, a southeast suburb of Chicago.  At the time, I was the Southeast Regional Manager for my group.  Thus, when not traveling, I worked from home.  I was about to learn that timing is indeed, everything.

A few weeks before his offer,  I asked my group manager if I needed to quit if Bob’s career took us to the Chicago area.  It was a hypothetical question, to which my manager answered no.  

Little did I or my manager know that question would become an actual one a few weeks later when Bob was interviewed and offered a position with a company just outside Chicago.  It turned out that McCormick was already planning to reorganize the regions and that the Upper-Midwest Regional Manager had expressed a desire to move to Florida.  Thus, the swap was an easy one.

We moved, and I adjusted to my new region while concurrently continuing to manage the Southeast region.  Shortly after moving to Florida, the other regional manager suffered a heart attack.

el-guapo

A few years later, I caught wind of an unannounced opportunity within my group.  The opportunity had to do with the Hispanic spice line, El Guapo packaged by a McCormick owned company, Mojave.  Both the Mojave brand, and its sister brand, El Guapo, were two lines belonging to my group’s total product collection.  I liked selling the Hispanic lines because they challenged me to identify potential markets to displace other local and regional brands.  

Living in the Chicago area, which, at that time, held the second largest Hispanic population in the U.S., inquiring about the position was a no-brainer for McCormick and me.  I had already proven my ability with the Mojave lines while managing the Southeast.

For example, the year before relocation, I managed to place 60 SKU’s (items) in the South Carolina-based Bi-Lo stores.  I recall that accomplishment. 

My scheduled meeting would take place the week following my vacation which was spent attending the Myrtle Beach, S.C. Spring Bike week.  After my meeting, I left a message on my group VP’s voice mail.  Shortly after that, I received a message left on the group’s  “Good News Hotline.”  That message was a congratulation directed at my accomplishment.  However, shortly after listening to that message, my VP called me to ask why on earth I placed a Hispanic line in sixty-five stores in S.C.  His bosses were asking him that same question.  My answer was simple.  “Well, Tom, let me put it this way.  Last week I was in Myrtle Beach and at noon one day I was standing inside a Burger King.  I was the only Gringo in the restaurant.”

Thus, when I asked about the unannounced opportunity, I was awarded the position.  I immediately went to work placing products in stores in Chicago.  At the time, my distributor and my broker were telling me there was no way that an unknown product was going to displace the brands already in those stores.  That didn’t stop me.  In fact, it inspired determination.  I soon replaced a regional brand in a chain of twenty-four Delray Farm stores, at that time, the largest and only chain-type group of Hispanic stores in the Chicago Designated Market Area (DMA).

That led to McCormick charging me with finding a warehouse space and developing that space into a  distribution/picking product warehouse.  I suppose other people would have panicked.  I didn’t panic at all.  Instead, I went into a paying attention and resourceful mode.

The first thing I did was determine:  if there are real estate companies that represent individual homeowners, then there must be real estate companies that represent commercial properties.  I went on the Internet and found several.  Soon, I found a 25,000 sq.ft. warehouse space in the outskirts of the largest Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago.  My new boss made a visit with me to look over the property.  He gave his approval and went back home to California.

Next, I was asked to look for and purchase two delivery trucks.  Again, I had no idea what I was doing, but soon, did find and purchased two used trucks in excellent condition.  Until the warehouse space was set up for operation, two delivery people and I worked out of a storage unit.  I split up the 24 stores between the two individuals, who reset the 24 stores and began servicing them.

We needed to continue growing, however, if the operation was to flourish.  So, I hired away from my broker a Mexican-born man who I named as my Manager of Operations.  He took over supervising the two delivery people and became my main sales rep.  He freed me up to organize and put together the warehouse space.

I had been in the manufacturing business for fifteen years.  During that period, I called on numerous distributors.  I knew what a warehouse looked like and had a general feel for the layout.  With the help of a Mojave-based product consultant, I began to plan the layout.  However, before the layout could become a reality, I needed to buy racks.  I went to the Internet again and found a rack manufacturer and ordered enough racks to fill the 25,000 sq.ft. space.  I also outsourced the construction of the racks.

As the warehouse space was under construction, I was asked to purchase a used forklift.  This request completely stumped me.  Where was I supposed to find a used forklift?  I could easily find a new one, but McCormick wanted me to purchase a used one.  Again I depended on my resourcefulness which paid off.

One morning, I left the warehouse to run an errand.  As I rounded the corner of the warehouse in my car, I spotted two men unloading a produce truck.  They were unloading the truck pallet by pallet, and what were they using to do this?  Forklifts!

Instead of running my errand, I stopped and went into the building to find the company that employed the two men.  I asked about the forklifts and was given the name of a man who not only sold used forklifts but also serviced them.  Soon, we had a forklift and a person who could service the forklift.

Within a few months, we had a fully stocked product warehouse.  We also had ten additional stores to service and two additional delivery/service employees.

A year later, I announced my early retirement.  Bob and I were about to move back to the Nashville, TN area where I would go full-time developing a business I started on the weekends and worked on in the evenings. 

A year later too, the warehouse was distributing product to over 100 stores, many of them having 1-4 mom and pop type stores in the Chicago DMA.  Also, we had several more trucks and delivery/service employees.

When I first took this unannounced position, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I also had no idea how to accomplish what I was asked to do.  It’s amazing how a little I can do this attitude can benefit a person.  The small twist of irony to this story was the business I took early retirement to build. 

It was a clothing line I named Iron Cowgirls.  The ironic twist is reflected in the words of the line’s lifestyle philosophy:

ic-brand-logo

WHO IS THE IRON COWGIRL?

 She’s strong willed and
Independent.
  She’s as beautiful
Inside as she is outside.
  She’ll
Never take no for an answer; and,
When she’s
told she can’t do it
Because she’s a girl, she’ll prove
You wrong every time.
  She loves
The thrill of the ride, and the
Romance of adventure.
  She’s you
And she’s me; but, most of all, she
Just is!
Long Live the Iron Cowgirl!

 

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Meditation Changed My Life

October Is National Domestic Awareness Month

In April of l970 and at the age of 22, I moved away from my parent’s home.  I moved to the Washington, D.C. area.  I worked for the Federal Government.  I was scheduled to start my new job at the Pentagon the day after my arrival in D.C. 

While my father, an officer in the U.S. Navy was stationed at the Pentagon, I previously worked there as well.  When his Pentagon duty expired, we moved to Toms River, New Jersey where I worked in the Public Relations office at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, the site of the Hindenburg Airship crash.  I loved my job in Public Relations where I learned a lot about dirigible airships and the difference between their rigid structures and blimps.  However, at 22, it was time for me to leave home.  My plans were in order.

I was to move to D.C., work for a year at the Pentagon, then apply to a program which would send me to a U.S. Naval facility in a foreign country.  I wanted to move to Brussels, Belgium.  However, my plans changed almost immediately after moving to D.C. 

On my first evening in the area, I met Bob Bibb, my husband of 46 years.  He was a friend of my older brother, Danny, who worked and lived in the D.C. area.  Bob and Danny met while Danny worked as an undercover police officer at the inner-city Safeway store Bob, a trained meat cutter, worked during the evenings and on weekends.  Bob was also a full-time student at the University of Maryland. 

There had been a rash of armed robberies in the inner-city stores, and Bob’s store was one of the victims.  I lived with Danny and his small family for a few weeks after moving in April.  Bob was invited to dinner on that first evening, the day before my future was to unfold taking me to Brussels.  However, once I realized Bob was my future, I left the Pentagon and went to work at the Civil Rights Commission in downtown D.C.  My life changed dramatically during those first few months, and I was, in a sense, reborn.  It was, after all, 1970 and D.C. was Mecca for the anti-war movement.

Soon after meeting Bob, I told him a secret that I had kept hidden for sixteen years.  Bob was the first person I trusted enough to tell my secret. When I told, Danny, his wife, Ava, and my younger sister, Gail were present. 

Bob subsequently helped me schedule a meeting with a psychology counselor at the University the following week.  I will never forget that hour. 

I don’t recall what all I said during that hour as I cried my river of tears.  I do, however, recall how the male counselor never uttered a word.  He never asked a question, nor did he make any comments.  He sat silently and listened.  At the end of my hour session, he handed me a box of tissue then shook my hand.  He never invited me back.   Many years later, I learned that, in the early 1970’s, psychologists were only beginning to become aware of the crime of child sexual abuse.  They were only then learning how prevalent it was and how traumatic the fallout was for victims.  I now imagine the male psychologist I saw simply didn’t know how to respond, nor did he know what to do with me and the story I told.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00030]

I was a victim at the hands of my biological father.  My first novel, Crack in the World, although not autobiographical, duplicated what happened to me.  Emily, my main character, becomes a victim of her pedophile father at age six, the same age my father began touching me.

When I walked out of the counselor’s office, I was struck by what didn’t happen.  As I left the office, I made the unconscious decision to internalize my experience and never talk about it again.  The counselor’s silence caused me to determine that what happened to me was inconsequential.  It didn’t matter.  I was grossly wrong.  However, I never again talked about it as the terrible thing that happened to me.  Instead, I climbed into a suit of armor and resolved that I was bigger than what my father did to me.  I made up my mind to ignore it all.

Twenty plus years later, when my mother died, my abuse came crashing through, and I once again found myself in the midst of its fallout.  I became clinically depressed and, once again, sought the help of a therapist.  This time, however, much had been learned between my first counseling session and my second.  My second therapist, a female, helped me tremendously.

Over the years, and on a conscious level, I managed to put what happened to me in perspective of my life.  That’s all a victim can do.  There is never closure.  That term closure is a mythical one.  Anyone who has experienced a similar trauma in their life understands the myth of closure.

Although I managed to accept my abuse on a conscious level, the abuse haunted me, leaving me burdened with internal agony.  That anguish manifested itself as dysfunctional behavior,  leaving me essentially unhappy.  I experienced mood swings which took me from extreme happiness to a dark place where I would question everything about my life.  I felt helpless.

Until about seven years ago, I had resolved to accept my unhappiness as my lot in life.  I reconciled that I was destined to carry around, what, years earlier, a male supervisor labeled as my excess baggage.  Although I never told him my story, he intuited my unhappiness when he said, “Maribeth, I don’t know what happened to you. However, I hope that one day you can unload all the excess baggage you carry around.  It makes me sad that you are so unhappy.”

I now recall thinking seven years ago; Maybe this is as good as it gets.  Maybe I will never be as happy as I would like to become.  While a part of me was ready to acquiesce, another part of me, the part I know as my warrior, decided to reject acceptance.  Instead, I began searching for a path toward happiness.

From all my life lessons, I had learned that happiness comes from within.  I knew no one person, other than myself, could help me find internal contentment or peace.  I had to help myself.  I had to find happiness on my own.  So I set out on a quest.  That is when I discovered meditation.

meditation2

I don’t meditate in the traditional sense.  I don’t sit in a lotus position, close my eyes and meditate.  I tried to learn that technique, but it’s difficult to master.  Instead, one day I ran into an audio program called Holosync.  Holosync is a product of the Centerpointe Institute located in Oregon and is the invention of Bill Harris, CEO of Centerpointe.

 holosync

Holosync is an audio technology designed to put a person’s unconscious mind in a deep meditative state.  The “technology soundtracks contain certain combinations of sine wave tones of precise frequencies embedded beneath soothing music and environmental sounds” (Thresholds of the Mind, by Bill Harris).   When listened to through stereo headphones, the stimulated brain creates new brain wave patterns.  In other words, the map of the unconscious mind is totally re-drawn.

An analogy can be made using the mental image of a poorly constructed road which contains many twists, sharp turns, drop-offs, dead ends and is inundated with huge bumps, and behemoth potholes.  With the use of Holosync, the brain is stimulated to repair the road, taking out the twists, sharp curves,  drop-offs and dead ends, while repairing the bumps and potholes to create a smooth, relatively flat surface.    The result is remarkable.  I would recommend Holosync to everyone.  In particular, I would recommend it to those who suffer from PTSD.  Certainly, extreme childhood trauma results in a perpetual state of PTSD. 

Along with Holosync, Bill provides his book, Thresholds of the Mind, which explains how Holosync works on the unconscious mind to undo that trauma, i.e., helps the unconscious mind put the trauma in perspective of “everything,” including perceptions.

Bill explains that the unconscious mind is where memories live forever.  Since the unconscious mind remains hidden from us, that part of our self-awareness remains oblivious to the reality of our conscious world.  Thus, it does not recognize time; i.e., it does not recognize that we grow up.  Instead, as in my case, my unconscious mind perceived itself as still the abused child and thus, still in danger.  So, all the behavior I practiced when I was a child and in danger, persisted into adulthood.  Because those behaviors are no longer necessary, those same behaviors became dysfunctional,  manifesting themselves as dysfunctional behavior such as unrealistic expectations, quick to anger and general dissatisfaction.

I’ve been meditating for over five years and am nearly through with the program.  Although I will finish it in five more lessons, I will continue to use the program to meditate.  In the meantime, my life has changed dramatically. 

In particular, I recall reading Bill’s words as he suggested that one day I would realize that I am truly happy.  When I first read those words, I was skeptical.  I assumed it was a marketing claim.  However, one day, as I drove to a work-related appointment, I realized and acknowledged out loud that I was happier than I expected I could have ever become.  I’m more tolerant and not quite as hard on myself.  I will always steer toward perfection.  However, now, I believe my aim is no longer the literal definition of perfection.  Instead, my aim for perfection is geared more toward improving my life versus actual perfection which we all know is unrealistic and impossible.

Recently I attended a function with my sister, Gail.   The group she belongs to asked me to talk about Holosync.  Later, one of the participants asked me a ton of questions.  She disclosed that she too was a victim of sexual abuse.  Her grandfather was the criminal.  She told me she was at a crossroad in her life where she had gone the distance on a conscious level to undo the damage.  She was ready for the next step.  I encouraged her to look into Holosync.  She did.  She is now a Holosync user.  She wrote me soon after she began using Holosync.  She told me she was feeling the positive effects and was grateful for my taking time to talk to her group and her personally.

I am happy I didn’t settle for as good as it gets.  I’m happy for my warrior spirit that inspired me to look and find the solution to my sadness.  Holosync not only changed my life, it saved my life! 

 

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Spontaneous Combustion

I’ve known most of my life what this term meant, but never thought I would experience it.

Upon our return home from the gym, Bob drove past our house and up to the community mailbox board.  Many neighborhoods in Myrtle Beach, don’t have individual mail boxes.  Instead, they have a specific area designated for our mail drop.  Ours is up at the new community pool house.

As we drove back down the street toward our house, I caught something out the corner of my eye and barked at Bob, “Turn around.”

I then urged him to drive back up to the house with the for sale sign in the yard; the house three doors up from us.  He asked why and I excitedly said, “I think something’s on fire.”

Before he stopped the car, I jumped out and ran to the side of the house.  Sure enough, there was smoke, and I could see charred mulch.  I stomped on the smoke only to have flames shoot up through the mulch around my foot.

Fortunately, the fire was on the side of the house with the water spigot, so, rather than catch my feet on fire, I fumbled with the garden hose, trying to find its end.  I turned on the water and began to put out the fire.

Once the fire was out, I noticed there was some wiring coming from a box on the same side and near where the fire had been.  So, instead of feeling confident that the fire was out and wouldn’t restart, I dialed 911.

I told the person on the other end what the emergency was.  Then I asked, “How would that happen?”

His response, “It’s the heat.  Mulch is a fire waiting to happen.”

I told the 911 operator, “I think the fire is out; but I felt I better not assume it won’t start up again,” to which he responded that he would send the fire department out just to be certain.

I knew from the agent who just sold our house for us that the agent for this house is also the owner.  Thus, after hanging up from 911, I called her number listed on the for sale sign and left a voice message.  Per her voice mail instructions, I also sent her a text because per her instructions; I felt it was an emergency.

Three big fire trucks came rolling down the street shortly after.  I told the men I was the caller and showed them where the mulch had caught fire.  They turned the spigot back on and wet the mulch down more.

Because I couldn’t believe a fire could start that easily, when I walked back into my house, I hopped on the computer and typed in, does mulch catch fire?  It certainly can.

I clicked on the first google entry at http://www.redorbit.com.  There I found an article titled, “It Really Happens:  Heat Causes Mulch to Ignite.”

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“It may sound bizarre, but experts say the right recipe of heat, decomposition and a little bit of wind can combine to start a fire, even in two inches of mulch around a flower bed.”

As I continued to read the article I learned that any element that is in a state of decomposition would generate heat.  That includes mulch.  I also learned that the black mulch is more prone to igniting because the darker the mulch, the more heat it absorbs which makes sense.

Although black much is more susceptible, the article pointed out that brown mulch can also ignite.  However, as long as the mulch is wet routinely, as in the event of a timed irrigation system, the less likely it is to ignite.  I knew that since no one lived in the house, the black mulch around my neighbor’s house had not been watered for quite some time.  The only water it was getting was from an occasional shower.

Bob mentioned that perhaps we needed to put water on our red cedar mulch.  I pointed out that I had the irrigation system running and that all the landscaping was being watered three times each week.  However, since it has been in the high nineties for almost the entire month of July, I would run some water on it just in case.

Wow, is all I can say.

After all the excitement, I sat down on my living room sofa. My right foot felt a little burned. It was the foot with which I tried to stomp out the fire.  Looking at my shoe, I then realized the shoes I had on were a pair I had out in the garage, my knockabout shoes. It was also the pair that had some leftover motor oil on them.

Ouch, is all I can say now.

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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

Can’t Believe I Did This

Last evening as Bob and I drove to pick up dinner; we were forced to drive slowly through one of many road construction projects.  As we passed by one flagger, I looked to my left and saw a very muscular man using a wet saw to cut the pavement.  I looked over at Bob, who was sitting on the passenger side and commented, “Wow, that’s the first wet saw I’ve seen for road projects.”  Bob responded with a question, “What’s a wet saw?”

When I turned 30 years old, Bob and I moved from Champaign, Illinois to the Nashville, Tennessee area.  I had just earned my bachelor’s degree and him his doctorate.  My major was communications with a specialty in TV and film production.  I wanted to become a film director.  So, when a graduate student convinced me that Nashville was to become the next Hollywood, he also encouraged me to move there if I could.  Thus, when Vanderbilt University offered Bob an associate professor position, he took it.

We visited Nashville, before moving there.  I had an interview with the Public TV station. A few hours before the interview, we walked into a bank and opened up an account.

When I asked the beefy account manager sitting behind the wooden desk where the downtown was, he leaned back his creaky chair, stuck a large cigar in his mouth and answered, “Why, honey, we don’t have a downtown.  We’re just an overgrown cow town.”  He spoke his words with a thick Southern drawl.  I immediately felt a sickening gnaw in my belly.

The year was 1979.  My thoughts, Did we just make a huge mistake by moving here?

I went to the interview and found out fast, that Nashville was indeed, still an overgrown cow town since no one seemed to know what to do with a woman with a degree.  The station manager offered me an administrative position.

Needless to say, I wasn’t only angry I had been invited to interview with the station for an admin job; I was insulted.  Looking back, I should have taken the position and worked my way into a production position.  However, when you’re young, you have no point of reference for considering doing that.

Once we finally moved to Nashville, I began looking for work.  I was faced with the same prejudice toward a degreed woman as I was earlier.  I was not at all happy.

After all, I had spent the first eight years of my life after leaving my parent’s home working administrative jobs.  I had then put myself through college only to find myself back at square one.  I was not going to take the defeat lying down!

One day, when Bob returned home from his job in academia, he found me sitting at the kitchen table looking through the yellow pages.  He asked me what I was doing.

My answer.  “Well, if no one will give me a college level job, then, by God, I’m going to find myself a man’s job!”

I was looking in the yellow pages and calling all the labor unions in the Nashville area.

I suppose, out of curiosity and to please the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was putting pressure on the labor unions to hire women, I was interviewed by the Plumbers Union and the Electricians Union.  An apprenticeship with the Plumbers Union was six months away and one year away with the Electricians Union.  So, the next union I called was the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.  They had an immediate opening.

The local union boss, Frog (yes, that was his name) was shocked when I showed up for my interview.  He could tell I was serious, so the next day we rode around to numerous job sites.  I’m sure he was trying to discourage me.  I wasn’t biting.  I was determined to earn more than minimum wage and learn a trade.  After all, who knew where it would lead?

A week later I showed up at my first job site.  That first day, I was glued to the foreman as he took me around the site.  I even had my brand new work boots christened as he spat a wad of chewing tobacco on my right boot.  I didn’t flinch!

Several days later, I was accepted as part of the scenery as I helped the head laborer build scaffolds, tote 8 and 12-inch blocks around the site and learn how to make mud which is the trade term for mortar.

Over those first few months, I outworked a young man who the foreman fired because I did his job and mine.  At least that’s what the head laborer told me.  He also told me I was the best worker he ever came across.  I never once allowed my being a female to hinder my abilities.  For example, as big, burly male laborers carried one 12-inch block at a time, I’d pick one up with my left arm, slap it against my hip, then pick up a second 12-inch block and slap it up against my right hip.  I was a hard worker.  I never wanted to be accused of being kept on the job because of the EEOC.  Instead, I was determined to earn my apprentice bricklayer’s hourly wage.  In the wake, I also earned a lot of respect from the males on the job.  I also learned a lot.

I learned about how males and females are socialized.  Too bad I wasn’t working toward a Ph.D. in Sociology, because what I learned would have become a hell of a thesis!

During my year as an apprentice bricklayer, I had a lot of strange things happen and was asked a lot of strange questions.  Here are just some of them.

A sheet-metal worker asked this question.  “What’s a nice girl like you doing working a man’s job?

I answered, “Trying to earn a decent living.”

He then asked, “Well, don’t you know that nice girls who work men’s jobs grow hair on their chests?”

“Oh, really?”  I answered.

“Yes, really.  What are you going to do when you grow hair on your chest?”

The unrehearsed answer just fell from my lips.  “Well, I guess I’ll just buy a razor and shave it off?”

He had no answer to that response.

Another time, I was confronted when I was working a rather unpleasant job helping to build smelting tanks for a zinc plant.  It was break time, so I was sitting by myself.  It was my first day on that job.  This young guy came over and introduced himself as Bubba.  I chuckled to myself because that seemed to be a common name in Tennessee.  It was a nickname for a brother, the family version of a brother.

He then asked me, “Are you married?”

I answered, “Yes.”

He then commented, “Well, your husband couldn’t love you very much.”

I mentally scratched my head and asked, “What do you mean?”

He tilted his head to one side, grinning like he thought he was giving a very intelligent answer.  “Well, any man who lets his wife do a man’s job, couldn’t love her very much.”

As I think of my answer, I can’t help but marvel at how it just spilled from my lips, “Well, let me tell you something, Bubba.  No one lets me do anything!

He shut up and walked away.

It wasn’t long before I was learning my trade, bricklaying.  In fact, it was during the winter months that, because I would show up at jobs men would stay home from due to the cold or snowy weather, I began working an indoor job.  The Ford glass plant needed some new assembly line ovens built for tempering glass.

I was sitting inside one of these ovens stuffing fiberglass in the slots between the bricks.  I wore a surgical mask because I knew how dangerous breathing in the fiberglass was.  Of course, thinking it marked them as weenies, the men refused to wear the mask.

As I was stuffing away, the foreman walked up to the side opening and told me one of the journeymen bricklayers invited me upstairs to help him lay bricks around an arch.  I was flattered, so up I went.  He talked me through the process and when I was finished; he complimented me on my ability to learn fast and do a professional job.

About a half hour later, a second journeyman stopped by where I was once again stuffing fiberglass and said, “That arch looks like a journeyman laid those bricks!”

That job at the glass plant wasn’t without its lessons and a good laugh I’m able to chuckle to myself over.

I was charged with working the wet saw one day.  I was cutting the very heavy, non-porous bricks for the journeymen.  At one point, a tall, John Wayne type male laborer walked up and asked me to cut ten bricks at 8 and 3/8 inches.  To myself, I panicked.

Now, I’m going to share my chuckle with you.

You see, I was raised during the 1950’s-1960’s as a typical girl.  I was taught that girls are good at spelling and English.  They are incompetent at math.  Thus, I spent my entire life scared to death of the ruler.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The ruler, i.e., the straight strip of plastic, wood, metal, or other rigid material, typically marked at regular intervals, to draw straight lines or measure distances.

I knew where the ¼, ½, and the ¾ marks were, but I had no idea what all the other marks on the ruler were, and I was always afraid to ask someone because I didn’t want to look like an idiot.

So, here I was, with John Wayne standing over me smirking at me as I took my time setting up the saw and talking to myself in my head.

I thought, Don’t panic, Maribeth.  You’re smart.  You can figure this out close enough so that the bricks are not sent back.   When you get home tonight, ask Bob to explain all the other marks.

As I took my time, John Wayne asked, “What’s the matter, honey.  Do you need some help?”

Again, my mouth said words I never contemplated saying as I answered him.

“No, I’m just making sure I set the saw up properly.  Besides, I’m not your honey!”

I disarmed him sufficiently that he never uttered another word.  He also never called me honey again; and, the bricks never came back.

That evening, I asked Bob.  “I know this sounds stupid.  But, can you tell me what all these marks are between the numbers, other than the ¼, ½, and ¾ marks?”

Bob gently explained, never making me feel like the idiot I always feared being accused of being.

My answer was, “Are you kidding me?  This is what I’ve been afraid of asking all my life?”  I then began laughing.

That was a big lesson in how the genders were socialized back in the fifties and sixties.

A year later and with a muscular body built like a rock, I was on my last job.  It was summer.

I did much better working out in the frigid cold than in the heat of the summer.  Fair skin doesn’t get along with the sun; and, so, I got physically ill a few times.

I was on the wall all the time at that point, and, the company I currently worked for was rumored to have me in mind for promotion to become a job estimator.  In fact, when I announced my resignation, the company owner did his best to try and convince me to stay.  However, I had had enough of brick laying and the construction industry.

The last straw for me was the day I walked out of a Johnny-on-the-Spot and was cheered and whistled at by a crew of roofers on the roof of a Catholic school.  It was the same day, the female principal, an elderly nun, came out into the heat to meet the female bricklayer.  It was August, and it was as hot as Haddies.  I was done, as later that day I became ill from the blistering heat.

I can’t say I regret having done that for a living.  In fact, I’m rather proud of my genuine chutzpah.  I learned a lot that year.  I learned about myself, about how females are socialized and I learned how to lay bricks.  If I want to build a brick wall, for example, I could build it.  I still have my trowel.   My lessons learned also helped me during my career in the food industry.  I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind and, later, when I worked as a meat field specialist for the Kroger Company, I was able to earn the respect of all the macho meat managers I supervised.  When I ran a large region for McCormick and Company of spice fame, I wasn’t afraid to call up a CEO of a company I called on and give him/her my thoughts on how to improve sales on my brand.  I did indeed learn to express my chutzpah, and, most of all, I learned how to lay bricks!  I could help build a brick house!

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Interview with Maribeth Shanley, Author of A View to the Unknown

What is your book about?    

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It’s the sequel to my first book, Crack in the World.  However, I wrote it to stand on its own.  It continues the story of Emily, a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father.  It takes Emily through the rest of her life as she continues to unravel the emotional torment her father subjected her to.  She continues not just to heal but to grow through that healing process.  She is a resilient individual, but the abuse left her with not only conscious scars but unconscious scars buried deep within her unconscious mind.  As a child, her emotional wounds which are now memories helped her to protect herself from her father.  Now, grown up and no longer in danger, her protective skills are wreaking havoc on her life by manifesting dysfunctional behavior.  She seeks to find a way to release her fears as she discovers meditation.  She becomes successful at releasing her fears and goes on to live a rich life full of hope and promise.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

Once the girlfriend who influenced me to write Crack in the World, read the published story, she commented, “I love your characters, especially Emily and Sean. It would be a treat to follow their lives all the way to the end of their lives.” That’s all the prodding I needed. I too loved my characters and wasn’t ready to let go of them. So, immediately after Crack in the World was published, I began writing A View to the Unknown.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

A lot. I based Emily’s life on what happened to me as a child. I gave Emily all the tools I used during my healing which turns into a lifelong journey of putting what happened in perspective of my life. In the end, Emily discovers she had long ago forgiven her father for what he did to her. Because I let my stories take me on their journey, it was an amazing revelation for me to realize that I too had forgiven my father a long time ago. As Emily explains, holding onto anger, sadness and the rest of negative emotions are time-consuming. Such emotions stand in the way of happiness. Also, as I have done, Emily chose to spend her life living her life versus lamenting over her past. She views her past as her history and nothing more.

I based Jeannie’s personality on my playful, sarcastic, direct side. Jeannie was a fun character to create. She plays well against Emily’s personality which is more serious.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Emily is all about making deliberate choices in life. She was handed a raw deal being born to a narcissistic user. She could have easily allowed what happened to her to control her life. She could have become bitter and behaved like a perpetual victim, full of self-pity. She could have turned out to become a narcissistic user like her father; or, she could have chosen to put herself in situations of being abused in one fashion or another. However, she chose to focus on learning how to become happy. When she determined to become happy, happiness is the very thing she attracted. A very resourceful individual, she never backed away from a challenge.

Sean is a truly caring man. He was the very male Emily set her heart on finding. However, when she realized she had more to deal with than her conscious wounds, she bravely released Sean. She had been a prisoner all her life, and she didn’t want to inflict that on him. In the end, he made the choice to find her.

Jeannie recognized early on how fortunate she was to have been born to her parents. She could have easily brushed Emily and all her excess baggage aside, but she saw goodness in Emily that inspired her. I believe that goodness is one of the elements that kept Jeannie ticking. It was also Emily’s perseverance that gave Jeannie the will to know that there is more to life than meets the eye. She was a true believer. In the end, she was rewarded for her leap of faith to believe.

Who is your most unusual/most likable character?

In my mind, Sarah, Emily’s mother was the most unusual character. In my life, it was my mother who died first, leaving my father to write the narrative for my family’s future. Although he was quick to tell a person he didn’t care one way or another if my siblings left him or blamed him, in reality, he cared significantly. He cared so much that he did his best and was successful at casting me as the person who “ruined” the family. To this day, I have no relationship with three of my siblings. A fourth sibling, who stuck with me almost from the beginning, has walked away from me because I have reconnected with my middle sister, who she does not like. He created such a dysfunctional environment that I have simply had to accept that I will probably never have a lasting relationship with any of my siblings except my middle sister.

I gave Emily the opposite outcome. I allowed her father to die early when her mom was still young. I wanted to imagine how it could have been had my dad died first.

Sarah grew a backbone during the early chapters. She recognized that she could have been an enabler for her husband crimes against Emily and other children. Instead of hiding from that possible truth, she decided to accept that truth and, in the end; she became a champion for Emily. She was instrumental in assisting Emily as she worked through her conscious and unconscious scars. She showed immense kindness and empathy for Emily. She was central to keeping her family intact while encouraging Emily’s three siblings to feel nothing but empathy for what happened to her.

Most likable character: hmm…that’s a tough one. I guess for me; it was Jeannie. I have a tendency to be serious. However, in certain situations, I can let my hair completely down. Jeannie’s hair was always down. As Emily explains to Sean in the prequel, Jeannie was a free spirit. I love that about her as I love when my free spirit appears.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

They will because everyone knows all of these characters. During my career in the food manufacturing industry, I constantly traveled and ran into all of these characters on numerous occasions. They are real; and, they are believable.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Once I decided not to seek to have my memoir published, it took me approximately six months to write Crack in the World. It took me slightly longer to write the sequel.

I believe both books have always been inside me. They begged me to write them. However, it wasn’t until I began meditating on a regular basis to an audio program called Holosync, that I was able to access my voice. With its creator’s blessing, Holosync, and Bill Harris, play a significant role in A View to the Unknown. Meditation to Holosync not only rewired my brain so that I have been able to unravel the dysfunctional behavior my past inflicted on me, but it opened up my hidden talents that I think I always knew were there but didn’t know how to access.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Because A View to the Unknown was the sequel to Crack in the World, this question relates to most of the sequel. The first several chapters deal directly with Emily’s continued healing. However, I soon introduce other characters and phenomenon that took a lot of imagination on my part. Because the development of the sequel depended on imagination, I enjoyed writing the sequel more than the prequel. Writing it convinced me that I am indeed a capable and talented author. It made me realize that I have many more stories inside just waiting to be written.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

Yes, I did. In fact, I recall telling another person who longs to write that, if you have a story to tell, the Internet is your friend. It offers fact checking so that you can get your story right and make it believable.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

For those who seek inspiration that it is possible to overcome the past to learn to become happy, I believe my book piques that reader’s interest. I want readers to know that it is possible to move beyond pain if they are willing to invest their time in achieving that goal.

For other readers, I’ve incorporated reincarnation, a dog-napping and child napping to entertain them. I recall seeing somewhere on social media a person commented about my canva poster. She said, “Who wouldn’t love to read about reincarnation, dog, and kidnapping.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I’ve written several short stories which are available on my website; www.maribethshanley.com. I am writing a new novel which will probably become more a novelette and just made notes on yet another novel I will write in the future. Of course, like other authors, I’ve begun writing a couple of novels I will probably return to at some point. Too, I’m a relatively new writer, so, I’m sure I will run into road blocks in the future which I’ll have to overcome.

I don’t do outlines. Instead, I know what I want to add to my stories. As I write, I simply let the story tell itself. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.

At what age did you discover writing?

I discovered writing when I was in college. I was not encouraged to go to college. In fact, soon after high school, I expressed to my parents that I wanted to go to college, but they did everything in their power to discourage me. In their minds, I was not “college material.” Besides, there was only one sibling that was groomed to go to college and she was much younger than me.

While in college which I attended in my late twenties and after leaving my parent’s home, I wrote a short story for a literature course. It was the first story I recall writing. Unfortunately, I gave it to a friend to read, and it became forever lost.

 

How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?

With my first novel, I intuitively knew when it was finished. A View to the Unknown was easy because I took Emily and Sean to the end of their lives. I guess, in the future I’ll just have to trust my gut and intuitiveness.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Yes, there is a message. In fact, in the book I’m currently writing, the theme, in general, is the same, that happiness is a choice. The other message is that doing the right thing is also a choice. It’s a deliberate choice.

Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?

Yes, I do. Toward the end of the book, Emily realizes that she forgave her father years ago. Her revelation became my revelation. That was a true surprise for me.

What has changed for you since you wrote your first book?

I believe I have gained more self-confidence in myself, and I believe that self-confidence is helping me become a better writer.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t have a schedule. I write when I am inspired to write. Because I love to write, so far it’s been relatively easy for me to find the time to write. I do find that I have a tendency to write before going to bed; and, there are times I get so engrossed in writing that I have to force myself to stop so I can turn in. I’m currently working on my memoir and a few nights ago, I looked at the clock to see it was 3 a.m.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

Snack food…good Lord, no. I inherited the Shanley fat gene. If I gave into snack food, I’d be as big as a house. My beverage of choice is Peach flavored water, a Fruit 2O product. I always have a bottle of water nearby.

What is the easiest part of the writing process?

So far, allowing the story to tell itself. I wrote a short ghost story (also available on my website). I think writing it was the most fun I’ve had writing thus far because I simply let my imagination carry me away.

Does writing come easy for you?

I’ve loved writing most of my adult life. At least the life that began once I moved away from my parent’s home. After my mother died and I came face to face with my past, I used writing to “throw up” my pain. Writing became therapeutic during that period. As I write my memoir, I’m also discovering how my writing during that period is helping me write the memoir.

What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?

Honestly that my writing is good enough to be published. In a real sense, being published has been a humbling experience.

 

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Raising Ducks for a Local Foundation

I had an entirely different topic I was going to discuss today but decided to save it for next month when I am feeling better.

This week has been a tough one for me.  I had a hard decision to make about the three Muscovy ducks I fostered for a local foundation.  It was hard, but because I had their welfare in mind, I made the right decision, yet have been extremely sad since following through on that decision.

When we moved to South Carolina two years ago, I wanted to spend part of my summer doing turtle conservation on the beach.  I wasn’t able to do the conservation that first year because I needed bi-lateral knee replacement; an operation I had put off for far too long.  Instead, I learned that the Noah Foundation which is the non-profit side of a Veterinary Hospital/Clinic called Ark Animal Hospital took in injured and abandoned wild animals.  Once the animals, most of them babies were healthy enough to be raised, they would call upon the members of a network of volunteer foster parents to raise the babies until the animals are old enough to be released back into the wild.  I live across from two large ponds, so I volunteered for what I considered being an honorable role.  I volunteered to foster ducks.

Moe and Minnie swimming together 3

My first May in SC, I was called and asked if I would foster two ducklings, a  Mallard, and a Muscovy.  I agreed and went to pick them up.  I had no idea what to do or how to do it, and Noah gave me scanty instructions.  I was basically on my own.  I soon discovered that the ducks would teach me how to care for them.  I brought them home in a carry cage we used for our African Gray parrot.

Their little-webbed feet kept falling through the cage bottom wires, so I stopped at Walmart on my way home.  I walked around the store trying to figure out how to fix the floor problem.  I knew the cage was just the right size for them temporarily.  I just needed to help them so they could maneuver around the cage.  I soon found a black rubber “welcome” mat.  I bought two thinking I could cut them to fit the cage.  Once home, I cut them to size.  They proved to be the perfect floor.  Having two meant I could change the floor daily.

When it was evident that the two ducks were outgrowing their cage, I got online and purchased a six-sided folding, corral-type gate from Amazon.  I would then lay down packing (as in moving) paper on the floor inside the corral making it easy to change the paper floor daily while keeping their incessant poop off the garage floor.

Eventually, I purchased a blow-up kids pool and an additional corral so they could learn to swim.  By mid-summer, the Ducks had grown to the point that the small enclosed corral became too small for them.  So I relinquished my garage to the Ducks.  I spent the remainder of the summer with both corral gates wide open yet blocking the roll-up garage door, thus, keeping them inside the garage and mopping the garage floor several times each day.  During the day I would leave the garage door raised enough so the Ducks could see and hear the other waterfowl across the street from my driveway.  During those months, Minnie, the female Mallard, became a surrogate mother for the Muscovy.  She was a good mother and loved her adopted child.

Babies - Growing

When she finally flew over to the other Mallards in the pond, Moe, the little yellow Muscovy would cry.  Once Minnie left the garage, we tried to coax Moe to the pond, but he was scared.  On the third day, Minnie ignored the calls of her new Mallard friends and stayed the entire day in the garage with Moe.  She was consoling him and ensuring him that the pond was fun.  Don’t tell me that ducks aren’t smart because the very next day, Minnie walked Moe over to the pond and he went willingly.  From that day on, Moe stayed in the pond.  Minnie and her crew would fly off during the day but would return in the evening. While she would be gone, Moe made friends with the Egrets that would visit as well as some of the Cormorants and one disabled Goose.  It took Moe much longer to learn to fly than it did Minnie but fly he did.

MOE

I was in the Washington, D.C. area during December when both Minnie and Moe flew off never to return.  When I returned, I was sad that I didn’t get to say good-bye, but I was also happy for Moe, especially, because Minnie made sure the other Mallards fully embraced into their fold the little yellow Muscovy with the black Elvis patch on the top of his head.

Raising the ducks was exhausting, but it was also rewarding.  The next year, 2015, I decided to foster once more.  This time, I walked into Ark Animal Hospital expecting to pick up one Muscovy that had a neck injury the foundation had fixed by keeping a little donut-shaped dog toy around its neck.  The toy behaved like a human neck brace.  When I picked the duckling up, she no longer needed the brace.

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As I sat waiting for my foster child, a young woman approached me and asked if I would take two additional Muscovy’s whose little paddle feet had plastic bottoms taped to their webbed paddles.  I don’t recall what the problem was with their feet, but the plastic paddles needed to remain attached for a few more weeks.  My response to this young woman was, “One duck, three ducks, what’s the difference?  Sure, I’ll take all three.”  She explained to me that the three ducks had bonded.  Hmm…sounds like I was duped.  LOL,  not the first time.

I raised the three Muscovy’s in the same fashion as I had the Mallard and Muscovy.  This time, however, I kept them in the six-sided corral from the first day.  Eventually, I put the two six-sided corrals together, and the Ducks stayed in the larger corral in the garage.  When they were mature enough, I tried to coax them down to the pond.  They didn’t cooperate.  They were scared of the pond.  I needed to force them to swim, especially the two, a male (Bert) and a female (Alice) who had the paddles on their feet.  Noah advised me that I needed to learn to use their natural paddles to swim.

Again, I made a trip to Walmart looking for a deep enough pool for them to learn.  I found one, but it was a large, rigid pool.  Thus, during the day, I would shut the garage door, carry the two six-sided corrals to the backyard.  I would then put the pool inside the huge corral, fill the pool with water, and carry each duck out to the corral.  I even devised a ramp they could walk up to jump into the pool.  It worked like a charm.  However, it took Bert several days before he would get into the pool.  Alice and Maggie took to the pool like ducks to water (yuk, yuk), but the big black male was scared.  Eventually, he got in, and they all learned to swim.  For about three weeks, this was my routine.  I’d set up the corral in the morning and carry them individually to the corral.  In the evening, I’d carry them back to the garage and set up the corral in the garage.

After three weeks I decided they needed to start spending the nights outside.  I wanted them to get used to the sun going down and the night noises.  So, I went to Home Depot and found a pliable plastic tarp which had a lattice type pattern, similar to wood lattice panels so that they couldn’t get out, or other animals couldn’t get in, but the Ducks could get the full flavor of the night while remaining safe.

That first night outside was tough for them.  I could tell they were nervous, as they waited for me to bring them in.  As the skies darkened, I could also sense they were scared.  Once it became dark, I went out to the porch and sat talking to them.  They were only four or five feet away from the porch.  I spent half the night on the porch making sure they would be okay.  They were, so that is where they stayed every day and evening for approximately another three weeks.

Ducks cross street.jpgCurious ducks

One day, during the fourth week, Alice flew up to the rail of the corral.  It was time to let them out of their pen.  It was also time to bring them to the pond.  I brought them over to the pond, and they got in.  From that day on, they spent the days and evenings in the pond with frequent trips up my driveway to the garage where I kept a bowl of mashed waterfowl food, a bowl of water and a bowl of cracked corn.

I fully expected them to fly away come winter.  Or, I expected that they would completely transition to the pond.  They never did do either.  I subsequently discovered that, unlike Mallards, Muscovy’s are far more people friendly and people attached.

Since they transitioned to the pond in late summer/early autumn, they’ve been coming back over to my yard.  We have a stream that flows at the edge of our backyard.  We had tons of rain during the winter months keeping the stream full.  They discovered they liked the stream.  That’s where they would go during the day, then return to the pond at night.

During this whole fostering, it’s become evident that we have a several disgruntled neighbors.  Last summer one of the neighbors complained to the Management company who has run the HOA while the subdivision built out.  The complaint was that we were keeping geese.  I received a letter, but took the letter down to the Management company and explained that I was a foster parent for the Noah Foundation.  The well-known Foundation has a good reputation in the Myrtle Beach area.  Thus, the company owner told me to do continue raising the ducks for release.  Of course, I’ve done that.  However, the Ducks haven’t left the area, and the neighbors are aware they come into our yard.

Most of our neighbors, like the ducks.  In fact, a few of them feed them cracked corn.  But, there’s always a grouch in the crowd.  So, again a few weeks ago, a disgruntled neighbor called the Management company complained that we were harboring geese.  Again, I received a letter and emailed the management company that these are the same ducks they gave me the green light to raise.  I also explained that the ducks like swimming in the stream during the day, but live in the pond.  Again, I got the green light to carry on.

Bob and I are building a new house about four miles from our current house.  We knew we couldn’t bring the ducks with us.  However, because of the obvious attitudes toward waterfowl, some of the neighbors have, I decided this wouldn’t be a good place to leave the ducks.  I fear, once we are gone, someone may poison the ducks.  So, four nights ago, I woke in the middle of the night and thought about a waterfowl-rich environment in the area where the ducks could thrive.  I discussed me idea with Bob and he agreed; it would be the best thing for the Ducks.  In essence, they would finally be completely released to live in a park-like environment where there are five small to mid-sized ponds and a huge lake.  The area is full of swans, ducks, seagulls and when we scoped out the place, we saw a few other Muscovy’s and three Pekin ducks (snow white ducks).

Two mornings ago, we brought the ducks to the area and released them.  I cried.  I’ve become attached to the three Muscovy’s.  After all, I raised them as children.  However, I knew this was the best scenario for them.  Knowing hasn’t made the transition any less painful.  Oddly, though, writing about it is proving to feel therapeutic.

For the life of me, I will never understand why people move across from two large ponds without considering what makes its home there.  Soon, however, they and this will become a distant memory.  With the Ducks close by, however, as I had yesterday and today, I will continue visiting the area so I can check on the Ducks who seem to be very happy in their new home.  They are free to be with a ton of waterfowl.  My kids have left the nest.

My favorite photo of my three Muscovy Ducks.

Ducks on VW 3  Ducks on VW day 2.jpg

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Extinction of and in the Everglades

For over fifteen I traveled to Florida for my job.  I’ll never forget driving the long stretch of highway between Miami and Naples.  That highway is Route 41, officially named Tamiami Trail, but nicknamed Alligator Alley.  My broker gave me directions but failed to mention there were no gas stations along the way.  I drove the highway during the late afternoon and early evening.  I almost ran out of gas.

  Alligator Alley

As the sun was still up, the highway was beautiful but isolated.  Occasionally a car would pass me on my side or the other side of the divided highway.  Because of my gas situation, and once the sun began to set, it was a little unnerving.  I was never so happy to see that gas station as I approached the end of the alley.

After that first trip across the expanse of the Everglades, I have remained fascinated by this natural phenomena.  Thus, when I recently read an article about how the area teeters on the edge of devastation I knew I had to write about it.

For the U.S., the Everglades could be named the poster child of all the damage we humans have wreaked on our environment all in the name of progress and convenience, not to mention stupidity and selfishness.

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Climate change.  According to environmentalists, Everglades National Park is one of the most vulnerable national treasures of the U.S.  Most of the Everglades  are only a few feet above sea level.   Resulting from global warming, as sea levels rise, that water seeps into the Everglades wreaking havoc on the land, waters and animals dependent on the fresh water of the glades.

Currently, there’s a project underway to restore the Everglades.  Much of its destruction occurred in the last century.  The project is a daunting one and, when completed, is estimated it will cost taxpayers in the double digit billions.  However, until the 1970’s no one was even aware of the degradation.

In 1970, a proposal to build a jet port in the Big Cypress Swamp came under attack by environmentalists who claimed the jet port would devastate the ecosystem of the Everglades.  This proposed project catapulted the on-going degradation of one of our most precious national parks to the forefront.  Previous to this proposed jet port, all Everglade projects had been funded and undertaken in the name of protecting the Everglades.  In fact, all these prior projects only made matters worse.

An example of an ill-advised, ill-researched project was the C-38 canal meant to control flooding, a natural occurrence brought about by natural elements such as seasonal hurricanes. Kissemmee River

The canal was designed to straighten out the meandering Kissimmee River.  This 103-mile river is a central player in the Everglades’ ecosystem as it links two lakes, Lake Kissimmee to the north and Lake Okeechobee to the south.  It forms the headwaters of the Kissimmee River-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades ecosystem.  The Kissimmee River Watershed of 3,000 square miles and its floodplain supports a diverse eco-system community of waterfowl, wading birds, fish, alligators and a myriad of other animals.  When completed, and the river straightened out, the project caused tremendous damage to the ecosystem including the destruction of animal habitats.  The new flow of the river adversely affected the water quality in the region as high levels of phosphorus and mercury were discovered.  The current project includes the restoration of the rivers original flow, and that restoration represents a huge chunk of the total cost.

Another environmental devastation is also taking place.  Global warming is causing lost habitat as sea water seeps into the park.  Already lost is a huge portion of Cape Sable, a peninsula located in the Southernmost part of Florida and the Everglades.  Many animals, dependent on this area, are finding their species are in grave danger of extinction, including a small non-migratory bird, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow.  This little bird is called the Goldilocks bird.

goldilocks sparrow

As in the children’s fable, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this bird requires that its habitat conditions must be just right for reproduction to be successful.

The Cape Sable seaside sparrow has evolved in harmony with periodic fires and flooding.  Fires are a natural and necessary occurrence in the Everglades as it helps renew old areas.  For this bird who needs just right conditions, the fires must be timed in harmony with their reproduction cycle.  However, due to human activity, fires are occurring out of sync with the sparrow’s reproduction.

Other just right conditions apply to water levels which must be natural and not out of whack with reproduction.  When unnatural water levels occur, the males won’t sing, and mating will not take place.  With only eight (as of 2013) members of this sub-species remaining, this little bird’s fate seems etched in the history humans have been writing since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

On top of global warming, over half of the Everglades have been totally lost to urbanization and agricultural development.  In 2011, the state of Florida began a project to buy back 200,000+ acres of land from sugarcane farmers with the intent of restoring the land to its original wetlands condition.  The buy back is yet another long-term, costly project connected to our species disrespect of our environment.  Where humans have assumed dominance over our tiny, blue planet, we’re finding that we are mere members of a vast environment where everything is interconnected and dependent on each other.

These assaults on the Everglades are a direct result of our species efforts to lay claim to all the resources of our planet.  We have acted as if our resources are infinite, and we’ve acted as if we are the only beings having the rights to use the resources or even to exist.  The Everglades is just a small piece of the catastrophic event that is taking place globally.   

If all these assaults on the Everglades National Park are not enough, the park now must deal with a new environmental problem.  It is also a direct consequence of human behavior.  It is dressed, however, in a multi-colored cloak called social culture.

In the 1955 issue of LIFE magazine the article, Throwaway Living brought to light a trend which reflects a cultural phenomenon known as throwaway society.

A throwaway society is one that is predominately influenced by consumerism.  The term expounds on our modern culture of overproduction, over-consumption, our obsessive notion of short-lived, disposable items, as well as our insatiable appetite to own whatever we desire at any given moment.  Nothing is exempt from suffering the consequences of the sense of self-gratification a throwaway society influences.  The Everglades included.

In the 1980’s, first sightings of a creature, native to Southeast Asia, yet loose in the National Everglades Park occurred.   For twenty years this creature was largely ignored until, in the year 2000, scientists recognized that it was not only capable of reproducing in the wilds of the park but that they were in fact reproducing.  Since 2000, the Burmese Python population has grown exponentially as have the sightings.  How did this happen?

bumese python

The State of Florida is largely a peninsula bordered by the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  It is flush with ship traffic and seaports; and, with ship traffic and seaports comes an influx of foreign goods, including exotic animals.  Miami is a hub for trade in exotic pets in the U.S.  The pythons in the Everglades is a result of not only over-consumption and the desire to own something exotic, but it is also the result of our throwaway habits.

When a possession becomes old, boring or, in the case of the python, too difficult to care for, it gets thrown out.  People who bit off more than they could handle took the easy route and dumped their snakes in the vicinity of the Everglades.  Because of the subtropical weather combined with wetlands, the pythons are not only thriving, but they are threatening to wipe out the animals which are indigenous to the Everglades.   Animals once abundant are slowly becoming scarce.  The raccoon is one of these animals.

Because of the difficulty of inventorying the python population, estimates are not much more than guesstimates.   The python’s nature is very secretive which limits the ability to conduct a traditional tag-recapture calculation.  With the goal being removal, It is counterintuitive to return the pythons to the wild after they are tagged.  The situation is a huge quagmire, thus, estimates are based on speculation.  Consequently, speculations estimate the population to be anywhere from 30,000 to 300,000. Without knowing specifics, the analysis is gut-oriented leading scientists to believe that any and all animals in the park are vulnerable.   Even the fierce alligator is vulnerable.

On a limited basis, radio telemetry studies were conducted.   Radio telemetry includes the use of a small, surgically implanted radio transmitter to track the movement patterns over extended periods of time.  A test conducted in 2014 suggested that the Burmese python may have navigational map and compass senses.  Where another species snake movement is random, the Burmese python movement appears to be non-random.  In fact, five snakes with implanted transmitters were set free 21-36 km from their capture zone.   All the snakes returned to within 5 km of their capture zone.

The classification of the Burmese python species is invasive.  The definition of an invasive species is a species that disrupts the ecosystem by preying on native species.  Because of their large body size and non-native species status, adult Pythons have few predators in Florida apart from alligators and humans.  Another challenge is their high reproductive potential, low age at maturity and longevity of the species.  Although females breed only every two years, their clutches are anywhere between twenty and fifty eggs.  The average life of a female python is twenty years or more.  In addition to the raccoon, other animals have seen a decline in the park.  Opossum, bobcat, rabbit and fox have all declined 88-100% in sightings.  An example of how quickly the python can devastate a species took place when the park reintroduced the marsh rabbit to the Everglades.   The marsh rabbit completely disappeared less than eleven months later.  The primary predator was the Burmese python.

Over the years, many proposals for capture and removal have been made.  None of them have been practical.  However, measures have been taken to control the spread.  In 2012, the U.S. Department of Interior made it illegal to import the Burmese Python to the U.S.  Other laws and regulations have been passed to control the spread of the python to other parts of Florida.

As of today, there is no practical proposal on the table.  Until there is, the ecosystem of the Everglades remains under assault, and the native species in danger of elimination.  It’s a sad commentary on our species and how we’ve behaved toward our environment for far too long.

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