Category Archives: Maribeth Shanley

A Year Of Change – by Maribeth Shanley

My year, 2017 began in November of 2016.  It began with the election; one where our country had the grand opportunity to elect a formidable, caring and genuinely ethical woman to lead our country.  Instead, our country, driven by what I still consider an obsolete, Electoral College, elected the most uninformed, lazy, crude, rude, secretive man in history to become the leader of our country.

I spent the rest of 2016 and well into 2017 mourning the death of a dream.  I’ve been through all the stages of grief which began with severe sadness and evolved into anger and action of that anger.  It’s interesting and oddly ironic that along with a change in myself, the investigation of this grossly inept president is heating up as connections to our country’s arch-enemy, Russia under a cruel and cunning dictator, Vladimir Putin is discovered, and people are unmasked.

As I was experiencing the multi-stages of grief, the loss hit again.  This loss was intimate and unexpected.  My little male fur child, Pooker died.  Diagnosed as being diabetic, Pooker continued to experience complications as they became more severe and frequent.   As I stood on the precipice of a new stage of grief, on February 4, 2017, Pooker died in my arms.  This time, I fell harder than ever back into the first several stages of grief:  shock, denial, pain and guilt.  I experienced destruction as my heart felt like lumps of rubble.


Time has passed; and, with that passing, I am recovering.  I no longer feel the anger I did over the election; and, I no longer feel the complete devastation I felt when Pooker left us.  I am experiencing a rebirth.


Today, Friday, June 2nd, my husband, Bob, officially retires.  We’ve lived in Myrtle Beach for three years, and I have experienced the area on a limited basis.  I have one friend I met at the gym Bob, and I visit three times each week.  Except on weekends, the time at the gym gives Bob, and I time together.  I’ve been grateful for that together time.  However, I have craved more.  Bob is not only my husband of 46 years; he’s the light of my life and my best friend in the world!  Beginning tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to spend as much time with Bob as will be possible.  Plus, we will use much of that time, at least in the beginning, exploring the surrounding areas of North and South Carolina into the coast of Georgia.  Prime on our list is Savannah, Georgia.  Since the book turned movie,  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to visit Savannah.  

Next year, we hope to cross the country to the Pacific coast.  I’ve traveled by land as far as Greely, Colorado.  I only experienced a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.  On multiple occasions, I’ve seen them from the air as I traveled back and forth with the company I worked for.  Bob has seen the entire western portion of the U.S.  The trip will take two and possibly three weeks to complete as we travel out to the west taking the northern route through the Rocky Mountains and out to the Seattle area.  We will then travel down the coast to San Diego.  From there, we will travel back home via the southwest route.  Such a trip will enable us to experience the full beauty of our country.  

We’ve discussed traveling outside the country.  I’m not sure we will be in a hurry to do that.  I’m not interested in Europe.  Other than our continent, the only continent I’ve wanted to visit is Africa. 

Senufo mask

At 29 and when I began my senior year at the University of Illinois, I enrolled in what I thought would be an easy class.  I enrolled in a Western Africa Art Appreciation class.  It actually turned out to be the hardest class I had taken.  In fact, after the first quiz, I talked to the professor.  She informed me that I had enrolled in an advanced class and counseled me that I still had time to drop her class and pick up something else.  However, by that conversation, I had fallen head over heels in love with Africa.  I loved the different cultures and the idea of all the wonderful animals.  I stuck with the class as I spent extra hours reading literature at the University library.  I managed to get a C from the class, the only C of my four years at the university.  However, it was a C I was extremely proud of.  To this day, I can look at a piece of Western African art and know which tribe created it.  Thus, Africa is definitely in our future. 

I only recently became aware of my change.  The emotions of that transformation are calm with a hint of excitement.  Humans work all their lives beholden to companies and individuals with those companies while they are never able to imagine how retiring feels.  For most, it’s a frightening proposition.  Many people don’t prepare for it.  We’ve been preparing for five years.

Five years ago we agreed that I would retire and Bob would continue to work.  I left the corporate world in 2004 to run my clothing company, Iron Cowgirls.   In 2008 when the market crashed, and I was forced to sell the business, it quickly became evident that I had little to no opportunity of re-entering my old profession at the same salary with which I had left.  There were too many people with my talents competing for the same jobs; and, most of them were younger than me.  Thus, after trying the commission only world, I realized it wasn’t a good fit as I lost more than I gained.  So, I retired and took on the continued task of managing the finances with a focus on enabling Bob to retire debt free.  It’s been a daunting task, especially since the sale of my company didn’t clear out all the debt it acquired over the four years I managed it full time.  However, never shrinking from a challenge, I managed to knockout, one by one, every single debt Iron Cowgirls and we had acquired.  When Pooker became ill, we had a slight setback, but even it will be gone as, tomorrow, Bob files his last expense report.

During this entire process, I’ve come to recognize that working toward Bob’s retirement has been cathartic.  I feel a flush of excitement and a sense of peace as I anticipate the rest of our lives.  This process made itself evident when, yesterday, as I was dressing, I had an overwhelming feeling which culminated in my saying out loud, “I no longer have anything to prove to anyone.”  I have no one to prove myself to, and that includes me!

I will continue to write because I love writing.  Too, it’s simply exciting to know I have a talent I never dreamed I had.  I am currently working on an anthology of short stories.  I also want to finally write that memoir which will include my entire family.  I have other books as well that I’ve begun and left hanging.  The one thing I will not do, however, is hold myself to a time table.  I will write when I want to believing that approach will encourage me to write more.  No pressure, the sheer enjoyment of writing will push me naturally.  Now it’s Bob’s opportunity to discover what he likes to do. 

I have no doubt he will find something and maybe he will find multiple somethings.  Bob is brilliant, funny and very talented in so many areas.   The one thing I do know, he will enjoy his retirement.  So many people sink into depression feeling they are now worthless.  Not me and not Bob!  We will continue to thrive individually and together.  With all my heart, I look forward to our future and the many adventures I know we will have.



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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

Time to Ride!

I’ve been riding my own motorcycle for about thirty-five years.  I love riding my bike.  It’s probably one of the most empowering feeling a woman can experience.

HD sprint

My first exposure to motorcycles happened one evening after I met my husband, Bob.  The year was 1970.  He owned a 1967 Harley Sprint 350,  made in Italy.  That model was produced before the quality Harley Davidsons of today.

Early in the 1980’s, Harley Davidson nearly went extinct.  Mismanagement and Japanese competition nearly killed the Company.  “In 1981, however, a group of executives who loved the company and its product closed ranks to rescue Harley-Davidson from decline.” (from Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time by Daniel Gross, et al.)  By adopting Japanese quality control and production methods, these executives reinvented Harley Davidson.  Bob and I had a grand opportunity to buy shares in the new company.  Ignorance and a lack of funds stood in our way.  In hindsight, we should have taken out a loan.

The evening Bob broke out his small Sprint, I stood on the sidewalk watching him ride it down the street in front of his apartment building.  Half-way down to the end of the road, he did a wheelie.  His “trick” scared me to death.  Later that evening Bob admitted it was his first wheelie and he also confirmed that it frightened him as well.  He sold the bike soon after.

We married in September of 1970.   Bob never got over his desire for another motorcycle.  In the meantime, he followed the Harley Davidson company.  In 1982, we were talking seriously about buying our first home.  I knew how much Bob wanted another HD, so I told him, “Before we take on a mortgage, I want you to buy a motorcycle.  If you don’t do it now, you may not be able to get one.”

In 1982, we went down to one of the local Harley Davidson stores.  We lived in the Nashville, TN area.  We met and made friends with the owners of that dealership.  Bubba Boswell, the son of the owner, was learning the business so his father could retire.  Bubba sold Bob his first authentic, made in the U.S.A. Harley Davidson.  He purchased a Roadster 1,000 with a “Fat Bob” tank.

Bobs first bike

The day he picked it up and rode it home, I followed him in our car.  I was so nervous for Bob that I didn’t allow a car to pull in front of me and behind him to exit the I-40 split.  I felt bad afterward as the driver blew his horn and flipped me the bird for my action.  However, I didn’t want anyone else driving behind Bob and his new motorcycle.

We arrived home safely and, later that day Bob, and I went out for a ride.  I was anxious at first.  He had what is called a passenger “sissy” pad attached to the back fender.  However, he didn’t purchase a “sissy” bar.  The sissy bar gives the passenger a false sense of safety.  The bar is designed to help prevent the passenger from sliding back and off the bike.  I had to hold Bob around the waste instead.  When we finally arrived back home, I knew I was in love with riding.  Later that week, Bubba called Bob to tell him about the Boswell rides which took place once every month.  We were eager to ride with the group and met all sorts of great people, some of whom we rode with during off-ride weekends.  It was, however, on one of the Boswell’s rides that I got the bug to ride my own motorcycle.

We were riding in a group of about thirty motorcycles when I spotted a young woman several bikes ahead of us.  She was riding her own root beer brown Low Rider.  The year was 1985.  I was mesmerized by the sight of this woman whose long dark hair was tied off by a white scarf.  Her hair and the long white scarf danced in the wind.  I thought her vision was the coolest vision I had ever had.

At lunch, I ran up to her and asked her about her bike and experience.  She encouraged me to get a bike for myself.  Bob and I talked about the idea that evening.  The more we discussed the subject, the more we decided that, for budget reasons, I should get a Japanese-made motorcycle.  Later that year, however, I came home from a business trip and was greeted by a wonderful surprise.

I walked into our garage where I immediately noticed a bright light hung from the overhead garage door rail.  The beam illuminated a shiny royal blue 883 model Sportster with a huge red bow on the handle bars.  My heart skipped several beats when I noticed the words scrolled on the tank.  They read Harley Davidson.

I immediately realized Bob wasn’t home.  I didn’t want to ruin his surprise, so I quickly ducked back out of the side door, locking it behind me.  I jumped in my  car.  I rode around for about an hour at which time I drove back into our cul-de-sac, approached our driveway and saw our car sitting in the driveway.  I got out of my company car, opened the trunk and pulled out my suitcase.  As I entered the garage, Bob was standing in the garage next to the bike under the bright light.  He was beaming ear to ear.  I did my best to act surprised and must have been successful because it wasn’t until several months later that I confessed to Bob.

The following day, a Saturday, we took my bike out, and I got on.  I had been learning to ride and practicing my skills on Bob’s motorcycle.  We often went to the vacant Grand Ole Opry parking lot on Sundays where I would practice.  I started my 883 and began riding.  Bob would run from one end of the cul-de-sac to the other end as I would ride toward him practicing stopping.  I already knew not to lay on the front brake, because one practice ride on his bike, I gently laid down his bike on the front crash bar when I failed to use the foot brake but grabbed the hand break instead.

Riding back and forth in the cul-de-sac, I soon became too brave for my britches.  I thought to myself; I can do this.  So, much to Bob’s alarm, I left the cul-de-sac and began riding the bike through the neighborhood.  I was riding in the newer section of our subdivision when I rounded a corner too fast.  It was dusk, and the light from the setting sun confused me as I realized I was going too fast.  I had to make a split-second decision between laying down the bike on the asphalt versus the soft new grass of the front yard of an unoccupied house.  I chose the grass.  The bike did an 180-degree spin then toppled over with me on the bike.  I found myself sitting in the mud.  My right leg was pinned under the bike.  I sat up and turned around to see if anyone was around.  I needed help freeing my leg.  No one was around as all the surrounding homes were new and unoccupied.  I finally freed my leg, got up, bent down and picked up the bike.  I thought, I need to get Bob so he can come get this damned bike.  Then, however, I recalled what Bob once told me.  He said, “When a person lays down their bike, if that person doesn’t get back on it immediately, that person may become too afraid to ride alone again.”  Thus, I climbed back on my bike, started it up and drove it home.

Bob was panicked.  It had been over a half hour since I left the cul-de-sac.  He and our neighbors were looking for me.  He was standing in the driveway when I drove up.  My right turn signal was hanging off and dangling in mid-air.  Covered in mud, my bike had a small ding on the tank.  Bob was not pleased.  However, he was gentle with his scolding.  The following morning, he refused to ride my bike to Boswells.  Instead, he insisted that I ride it.  I did.  I followed Bob through all the back roads to Boswells, drove up the ramp and into the garage area.  A few weeks later, I picked my bike back up.  Bubba fixed everything but the small tank ding for next to nothing so we wouldn’t have to file an insurance claim.  That was my last incident for several years.

If you ride a motorcycle then you understand the saying,  ‘It’s not if you will crash, but when you will crash.’  I have had two significant crashes over the years.  Each time, I got back on my bike right after or soon after.

After my first crash, I refused to leave my bike where I crashed.  Instead, I insisted on riding it to the emergency room so I could have a gash on my chin stitched.  I recall the two guys we rode with begged me to ride on the back of Bob’s or their bike to the hospital.  The woman who rode with us pointed out that part of my chin was hanging down.  I looked down at my top and saw blood.  A female witness patched my chin, and off we rode with me on my bike.  Several days later one of the guys commented to me, “Next time don’t be so macho!”

My last crash was a nasty one.  We were in Myrtle Beach for Spring Bike Week.  Our friend and my Iron Cowgirls’ business partner and his girlfriend were with us.  Rick and I set up an Iron Cowgirls’ booth for the week.  Before the rally, we all went for a ride to Charleston, S.C. for lunch.  About thirty miles south of Myrtle Beach it began to rain.  We stopped to eat breakfast.  When the sun came back out, we got on our bikes.  Bob felt apprehensive and suggested we not drive the two hours to Charleston.  He had a foreboding intuition.  Being stubborn, I dismissed his fears and insisted we go.  We did.

On our way back to Myrtle Beach, Bob was in the lead, I followed behind him and Rick and his passenger, Cindy pulled up the rear.  It was a nice day, and we were enjoying the ride when suddenly I spotted a stray dog on my right side of the four-lane highway with a grassy median separating the lanes.  I slowed down when I spotted the dog.  I thought I saw the dog dart out onto the highway, so I swerved to my left.  I over-reacted and soon found myself off the highway.  I was on the narrow portion of the median where there was no grass but had traction.  I was concentrating on keeping my bike on that traction path while looking ahead trying to gauge where I could safely reenter the highway when I spotted a huge semi-truck tire depression in front of me.  I knew I had to ride through the depression.  I braced myself and held my breath as my mind yelled, Sh**.  I made it through the depression, sighed relief and thought, I should be fine now, as I also spied my escape route several hundreds of feet ahead.

Suddenly, however, my handlebars began to vibrate violently.  I felt confused as my mind asked,  What the hell is happening?  Then my mind screamed, This shouldn’t be happening!  I suddenly felt my front wheel turn into the grassy median.  I knew I was going to crash.  I did.  The next thing I knew I was face down and lying on the highway.  Later Bob told me he watched in his rear-view mirror as my body flew over the handlebars and tumbled onto the highway.  I tumbled down the highway several times until I stopped.

When I realized I was lying on the highway, I became alarmed.  I was at the bottom of a small hill.  I knew large lumber trucks traveled this highway on their way to the paper mill north of where I was lying.  I immediately jumped to my feet and ran over to where my bike was lying.  The handlebars were separated from the bike and lying close by.  I thought, My handlebars broke off in mid-air.  That’s why I felt the vibration!  I was standing over my bike cursing to myself when Bob and Rick with Cindy pulled up.  As Bob walked over to make sure I was okay, I said, “Bob, I think my handlebars broke in mid-air.”  Of course, Bob was too upset to listen more closely and Rick, who, at times, could be a know-it-all dismissed my comment later telling me the bars broke when I crashed.  Everything was happening so quickly that what I knew happened got lost in the flurry of events.

Fortunately, a Park Ranger was driving in the opposite direction when he also watched me crash.  He stopped to help.  We were about fifteen miles south of the Georgetown hospital when he offered to Bob to take me to the hospital.  Bob asked me to go with the ranger and asked Cindy if she would ride along with us.  I wasn’t comfortable riding with a strange man, so although I agreed, as the three of us walked toward his truck, I stopped, turned to him and said, “You better not do anything wrong because I’ll beat the sh** out of you.”  He smiled and assured me he was harmless.  He was.  He drove us to the hospital and dropped Cindy and me off. He gave us his name and phone number asking us to call him the next time we were all in Myrtle Beach.  He was a nice guy.  He wanted to have us over to his house for a barbecue the next time we were in the area.

I was fine.  I had a lot of road rash.  I have spots all over my body, including on my chin where the top layer of my skin was ripped off.  Those spots have no pigment to their color.  I have to apply a flesh-color crayon to cover the colorless patch on my chin.  The poor dog wasn’t as fortunate as me.  He did run into the median.  A couple in a truck stopped.  They were going to take the stray dog home with them but, when they tried to catch it, the dog panicked, ran back across the highway and was hit.  He died.  That made me very sad because, if only I had not overreacted, he may still be alive.  We found out later that lots of dogs were dumped off in the same proximity by careless owners who no longer wanted their dogs.

That night the shower I took was, by far, the most painful shower I’ve ever taken in my life.  Since the top layer of skin had been scraped off, I had lots of  sub-layers of exposed skin.  I had been wearing shorts that day and had a tank top on to boot.  Too, South Carolina has no helmet laws in place.  I was extremely lucky I wasn’t more severely injured.  That first evening Rick told me Bob sat down on the grass and cried when the ranger drove off.  Five years later, Cindy told me that they all expected they would come back to a dead body on the highway.  Thank my lucky stars, I’m still alive and only have to cover my chin with makeup to cover the patch.  I must admit, the following day I asked Rick who had a second motorcycle at home if I could ride it while my bike was in the shop.  I know, I’m slightly deranged.

While I was at the hospital, a highway patrol officer came by to take my statement.  My adrenaline was rushing through my body by then from realizing what had happened.  I forgot to tell the officer of my suspicion, that my handlebars had snapped in mid-air.  The only person who mentioned the handlebars was the fellow who helped us by picking up my motorcycle and dropping it off at our hotel.  He was a custom bike builder.  I told him what I thought happened.  I also told him what Rick said.  He assured me that the bars did not break upon impact.  His knowledge of motorcycles and his intuition suggested that they had broken before I crashed.  Thus, once we were back home, I began to conduct an investigation.

mb-s AIH

My bike was an American Ironhorse Texas Chopper.  The first phone call I made was to call the American Ironhorse Company.  I talked to the company’s vice president.  He acted concerned but didn’t satisfy my questions.  Thus, I also called a bolt manufacturer in the Nashville area.  I had the two sections of the broken bolts.  I talked to a bolt maker.  I told him the outside of the bolt was chrome.  However, the guts of the bolt looked like soft metal.  As I answered his questions, he told me he suspected that the bolts were an inferior make.  He further speculated that  the interior metal was inferior while the outer portion of the bolts were chrome versus the bolts being solid chrome.  I called a few lawyers in the area, but none of them seemed interested in talking further.  That I failed to mention it to the officer who wrote the report was a problem.  I soon dropped the issue but convinced Rick that the bars had indeed snapped in mid-air and as I rode through the depression.

I did call American Ironhorse a second time, but no one in management would talk to me again.  Ironically, when my bike was repaired and returned to me, it was better than new.  It was apparent that the assembly-line paint job had been dramatically improved.  The paint scheme was more dramatic and had more of an individually custom paint appearance.  My bike no longer looked like an assembly line bike.  The bike was white with cascading gray, biting skulls on the tank and fenders.  Both Bob and I believe American Ironhorse knew they had used faulty bolts.  Instead of talking to me again and chancing a lawsuit, they instructed the paint shop to give the bike a custom look, hoping I would be happy.

Since that crash, my riding has become more conservative.  It was such a violent crash that I recognize how fortunate I was to come away from it relatively unscathed.  I never want to have another experience like that again.  I also now listen to Bob when he has a bad feeling about something I shouldn’t do.

I’m now riding my ninth motorcycle.  In 2008, I traded my third Ironhorse Chopper, a hard tail (no suspension) one for a HD Cross-Bones.  I love my Cross-Bones which HD doesn’t make anymore.  However, my favorite motorcycle of all was my first Ironhorse.  It’s pictured below.  The model was called the Outlaw.  The paint scheme is a custom paint job.  I specifically asked for the colors.  The scheme reminded me of the “Billy Bike,” Dennis Hopper rode in the 1969 cult film, Easy Rider.









Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

The Pain of Losing a Family Member – A Tribute to Pooker

Someone once said to me, “Losing your fur children becomes easier.”  Another person once asked, “It was just a dog.  Why are you so upset?” 

My answer to the first comment.  It does not at all become easier.  In fact, it becomes harder with every death of a fur child.

My answer to the second person, I can only repeat the quote on the front of the card sent home with us and Pooker’s cremated remains. 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  Anatole France

I was mourning my last fur child, Skipper, when Bob and I brought Pooker and Slugger home.  I wasn’t sure I was yet ready for another child, but Bob thought it was the best thing for me.  Skipper died of diabetes and complications as a result of the diabetes and a second disease he suffered from for many years.  The existence of puppy mills was just being learned by the public and, given the circumstances of how we were given Skipper, we suspected he was a victim of a mill.  We thus, thought his diabetes was also a result of poor housing conditions, so Bob decided to look for a credible Schnauzer breeder.  We lived in Nashville, TN at the time.  Bob found a show dog breeder four hours from Nashville on the outskirts of Knoxville, TN.  

We drove to the breeder’s home on a Saturday.  When we sat down in their living room, they brought in two puppies.  The two boys were brothers.  Slugger was the boy Bob was originally told about.  I sat watching Slugger gleefully run around the room playing with his toys when Pooker strolled over to me, raised himself up as he rested his tiny paws on my knee.  I picked him up. 

Prior to picking him up, I noted that the two dogs were very close with one another.  We were told they had the same father but different mothers.  They were born nine days apart.  Pooker was not only the smaller of the two, but he was the youngest.

About a half hour later and after tossing Slugger’s toys for him to fetch and hugging a cuddly Pooker, it was time to make my decision.  Bob asked me which dog I wanted to take home.  My answer, “Well, if I have to choose one, I choose this one (Pooker).  But, I’d really like to bring both home.”  At this point, the breeders excused themselves so Bob and I could discuss.

We had just sold our house in Illinois and moved to Nashville.  Being the money manager (Bob lovingly calls me the CFO) I told Bob we could afford both.  Satisfied, we left with both dogs.  They sat on my lap on the passenger side as Bob drove.  We planned a quick stop at the PetSmart store just prior to hopping onto I-40.  Pooker immediately fell asleep.  Slugger, however, was wide awake.  I sensed he wasn’t certain about what was taking place.  I know he recognized my preference, so I became focused on changing his perception.

We parked in the lot in front of PetSmart and carried both dogs into the store, and put them in the baby seat of the bascart.  Of course, as we rolled them to the collar and leash isle, people cooed over the cute puppies.  Both dogs were eating it up.

We bought a blue collar and leash for Pooker and a red collar and leash for Slugger.  The minute we put Slugger’s collar on and attached his leash, I could sense a total change in his disposition.  He knew he was where he belonged, with his forever parents and his pal and brother. 


Over the next eleven years, the boys grew and enjoyed their lives with us.  Pooker gravitated more toward me as Slugger gravitated toward Bob.  We became a happy family.  Our Nashville veterinarian called the boys bookends.  I referred to them as “the boys.”  They experienced true love.  From day one, it was obvious we made the right decision bringing them both home.  They loved each other immensely

It was interesting to watch them grow up to develop different personalities.  Pooker was a cuddler.  He’d allow me to carry him in my arms like a baby.  He often encouraged our friends to do the same.  Slugger was more independent.  He definitely didn’t want to be carried like an infant.  He is a loyal, sweet dog whose face would melt your heart.

Both boys enjoyed impeccable health care.  Longtime customers of Banfield the Pet Hospital, we purchased the Optimal Health plan for both boys.  Banfield pet hospitals are located at the back end of PetSmart stores.  Although we were told it wasn’t anything to be concerned with, Pooker always sounded like he had a little congestion.  It led me to make the statement early on that if either dog became ill, I knew it would be Pooker.  Of course, I hoped I was wrong, but I’ve found over the years that I have an intuitive sense which isn’t always a happy sense to possess.

Last year one of the boys’ two yearly comprehensive exams left our Vet concerned about the results of one of Pooker’s tests.  His blood sugars were slightly elevated.  She wasn’t alarmed but told us she’d check him again in a few months. 

In May of last year, Pooker became ill.  He stopped eating and was lethargic.  We took him in for an exam.  The news was devastating.  Pooker had diabetes and his pancreas was inflamed.  Our vet could do nothing more for him and suggested we take him down to the Charleston, SC area, two hours away, to be checked by an internal medicine specialist.  That was the beginning of our painful journey.

Pooker was diagnosed with pancreatitis and he was severely dehydrated.  The clinic needed to keep him there for several days.  They got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  At the end of the week, he was ready to come home as he was put on a special diet as well as insulin.

After that episode, Pooker would become sick every month until it became more frequent.  He and I made many trips back down to the Internest and he spent several more days at the hospital.  At one point, they had to operate on him, removing his spleen and gall bladder.  After each stay, we were told that, with the proper dosage of insulin, his diabetes could be regulated.  However, I looked up diabetes in dogs on the Internet and learned that veterinary medicine had made many strides over the years.

Diabetes in dogs is complicated.  Instead of the disease affecting them as Type 2 diabetes affects humans, canine diabetes is more like the deadly Type 1 diabetes often called Child Diabetes.  This information stunned me and helped me to realize just how sick Pooker was.  Being a Schnauzer also complicates the situation.  In fact, one vet told me that schnauzers are prone to just about every disease a dog can get and it affects them more dramatically. 

Soon after his first hospital stay, I came home from a weekend in the D.C. area.  I sat down on the sofa with Pooker and looked at his eyes.  I could see he had developed cataracts, just as our last dog, Skipper had.   We were about to get one of the cataracts removed when we learned that, unlike with most breeds, it is an emergency situation with Schnauzers.  Thus, by the time we got him to the eye vet, it was too late for him.  He would be blind for the remainder of his life. 

We had lived with our other diabetic, blind dog, Skipper.  We were prepared to live with Pooker’s blindness.  This time was different, however.  We were about to move into our new house when he lost his sight.  So, instead of encouraging him to get used to being blind in his current environment and then having to get used to being blind in a new environment, we made the decision to baby him.  After all, in the new house, he could now fall down two separate flights of all wooden stairs. 

Baby him we did.  For instance, during the middle of the night, we took turns taking him out to relieve himself.  There were many times too when I would spoon feed him because he wasn’t interested in eating his entire meal.  Pooker would always let us know when he needed to go out.  He would voice a little bark.  His bark let us know that he was either thirsty or he needed to relieve himself.  He was good about alerting us immediately every time, even during the night.

When his appetite would disappear completely, we knew he was extremely ill.  The last time, we took him to Banfield and was told we needed to take him back down to Charleston, we did.  Again they got him rehydrated and calmed down his pancreas.  I was out of town when Bob picked him up that weekend.  He was told that Pooker was doing well and, so, when Bob got him home and I arrived home, we felt optimistic.  However, the optimism didn’t last long at all.

He came home on Saturday.  By Wednesday evening, he wouldn’t eat.  The clinic was supposed to send Bob home with an appetite stimulant in the event he lost his appetite again.  That Wednesday evening we called down to the clinic’s emergency hospital.  The ER vet tried to call in a prescription to our local CVS.  However, by the time she did, the CVS was already closed.  The next morning, Pooker’s vet called it in and we picked the prescription up.  By Thursday evening, he still wouldn’t eat.  During the day, I talked to the nurse at the clinic and she told me it usually took about 24 hours for the stimulant to work.  We decided not to panic and would try again in the morning.  However, we didn’t make it till the next morning.

At about 10 p.m. we all turned in.  Pooker was restless.  He threw up a little, so I kept a towel close by in case he were to throw up again.  He did, and what he threw up was heartbreaking.  He threw up blood, lots of blood.  We both knew he was dying.  We talked about taking him to the all night clinic about fifteen minutes away in order to have him put to sleep.  We were about to do that when something stopped me.  Intuitively, I felt it wasn’t what we needed to do.  Thus, I told Bob I was going to sit with him in the living room.  Bob stayed in the bedroom comforting Slugger who was asleep on our bed. 

I wrapped Pooker in two blankets as we sat down.  I held him in my arms for a half hour as he calmed down and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.  I don’t know what I expected.  Part of me hoped he would make it for awhile longer, but something also told me he wouldn’t.  I kissed him and stroked him as I talked to him before he fell to sleep.  We sat there for about four hours, when at 3:52 a.m. he took his last long breath.  I knew it was his last.  My hand was under the blanket and lying on his heart.  I felt his little heart stop.  He was gone.  I called to Bob and he came out and sat with us.

I remained in the living room holding him until about 8 a.m. when I called Heavenly Paws Animal Crematory.  The owners were the same people who cremated our little 21-year-old cat, Sissy two years earlier.  During the last few hours, Pooker’s brother, Slugger was able to say good-bye.  Poor Slugger had a hard time with Pooker’s illness.  He watched us carry Pooker up and down the stairs.  Toward the end, Slugger needed to be carried up the stairs.  Nearly four weeks later, he’s just now beginning to walk up both flights by himself.

Our cat, Skeeter, has been devastated as well.  Soon after Pooker was diagnosed and after moving into our new house, we brought two kittens, a brother and sister home.  It took Bob two years to get over losing Sissy.  Toward the end, Bob attended to her every need.  The man who for 46 years claimed he was NOT a cat person, found out that he was indeed a cat person simply because he’s an animal person.  Skeeter, the boy cat, began cuddling with Pooker in his bed.  Skeeter could tell Pooker was ill and so, he became Pooker’s constant companion.  Before we left to rendezvous with Heavenly Paws, I lay Pooker on the spare bedroom bed so Skeeter could say good-bye.   Three weeks later, Skeeter was still looking for Pooker, especially if I brought out something with Pooker’s scent on it.


This past week, I began sleeping with Pooker’s prize possession, Froggy.  Where toys were toys for Slugger who would throw them up in the air and catch them or run with glee when we would toss them for him to chase, for Pooker, toys were possessions.  Froggy was his favorite possession as he would constantly try to sneak out the door with Froggy in his mouth.  A few times he got away with it.  Once, I found Froggy outside.  He was soaking wet.  I’ve repaired Froggy numerous times when I would spy white fill seeping out a hole.


This week has been especially difficult for me.  I’m not sure why, but it has been.  I even had to skip an important meeting with the group, Horry County Democratic Women’s Council of which I am a member because I have been feeling sad.

Time will heal our wounds.  However, I already know that I will continue to occasionally cry over the years when something brings him back to me.  After all, after eleven years, I still cry for Skipper.  Our animals are our children, and when they go, it hurts like hell.


The above photo is one I sent to the Charleston area Veterinary Specialty Care clinic.  I call the photo, Elvis has Left the Building.  I sent it to them after we received a beautiful sympathy card signed by many of the caregivers who paid great attention to Pooker especially during his hospital stays.  Everyone one of them loved our little boy.  He was a sweet boy who could win your heart just by looking at you with his sweet eyes.

We love you, Pooker.  You will forever live in our hearts.





Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

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.


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.



Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

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!


Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

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).


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.


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.


Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

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.


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:



 She’s strong willed and
  She’s as beautiful
Inside as she is outside.
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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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, marketing, writing

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.


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 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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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, memory, writing

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  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.


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!


Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing