The horse's pasture to the East...

Saturday, December 16, 2017


I've been watching and reading the articles on sexual harassment, assault and rape in the work place for the past several weeks, like most everyone else. (I know. Can you believe I chose that as my opening image? Talk about a metaphor!) It's a melt down that had to happen sooner or later. When sexual advances are part of the work environment with anyone, you've crossed a line in the sand. It's just not acceptable behavior. It's unprofessional and it's embarrassing. And if the person is in a position of power and is using it to manipulate you or hurt you, it's obscene.  But like the middle of aisle person that I am, I can also see how easily you can become an enabler to behaviors that do not belong in your work place.

So let's discuss how to say an effective and definitive NO. It's really all about personal boundaries. No doubt this is going to be a complicated situation while everything is hashed out with clear descriptions of what exactly harassment and assault is.  I'm not going to try to define every possible scenario. But I do want to share some techniques for understanding the possibilities before you walk in to a situation that compromises your safety or even your dignity. 

Your boss says, "Let's meet later over dinner, in my hotel room, to finalize this." Your reply is, " No, thank you. I would prefer we meet in the restaurant (cafe, lounge, library, or whatever local, public place is available.) " You DO NOT have to give an explanation why. Be specific, pleasant and polite, professional. 

Your co-worker says, " Meet me in my office after hours. We need to discuss 'so and so'." You should ask another co-worker to stay with you. If you can't find anyone who can do that, you say," No. I'm not comfortable doing that. Let's talk now. " It doesn't matter where you are or who you're with, you have the right to stand your ground with a well stated NO. You do not need to give any other explanations. This goes for men and women, people. Set yourself up for success by not walking in to any possible compromising situation.

You're trying out for a part in a play or movie. It isn't unusual for trials to be held in hotel rooms. Movie directors and studios travel all the time, searching for new talent, a certain type of face or personality for a part. Go with a friend or agent. If you show up and there's only one person in the room, leave. There isn't a legitimate movie or play (musical, dance review, whatever the event is) who is going to meet with you alone. There's always a panel. Assess the room from the hallway and leave if there is no one else present. It isn't worth the part no matter who the person is waiting for you in that room.

You show up for a job interview. It's the same scenario. If the job applications and interviews are being held before or after hours, there should be more than one person present to interview you or at least a secretary just outside the door. Dress professionally and if some kind of question is asked or behavior requested that makes you uncomfortable, say " I'm not comfortable with this line of questioning. " or " No, I will not do that. " And then say, "Thank you for your time. " and get up and leave. Better yet, if the behavior is openly offensive, get up and leave without explanation or discussion and report it immediately to the people outside the door. Let the others sitting in the room, waiting for their interviews, know exactly what happened. Ask that the secretary be present while the interview is being conducted, especially if that inner voice of yours is giving you a red flag.

Good fences make good neighbors. My Grandad used to say that to me when I was a kid. He was talking in terms of farm land, crops and livestock. But it's applicable to most situations too. Set boundaries. Be firm inside yourself about how to make your fences easy to understand. Practice your 'NO' before you walk in to any situation. 

One of the systems that I use with my horses uses the metaphor, for describing how to apply pressure while learning how to communicate with your horse, " Hair, skin, muscle, bone." It describes the four phases of pressure. You always want to start with 'hair', the lightest phase (which changes from horse to horse, depending on how sensitive they are) to express your wishes. It's the same with humans. Set your emotional, mental and physical boundaries (fences) before your appointment or encounter. Be polite but firm. Make no excuses. You don't have to apologize for being clear about what you will or will not do.

Let's say you're already in a situation and the person with you is making advances. LEAVE. And if they're between you and the door, use your phone. If it's moving faster than that, pick up a lamp, a framed picture, a chair, your shoe (especially if you're wearing heels), and make noise. Hit the walls, break windows, yell, scream, hit the other person. Kick, bite, scratch. Hit them in the groin or grab it and pinch and twist as hard as you can. Bite them on the neck right where the artery is. BITE as hard as you can. Poke their eye out. Don't just touch, poke it and even pull it out. Bite their ear off. Yeah, nasty ideas, but extremely effective. Grab a finger and bend it back until it snaps. Stomp on their instep. Break their knee with a chair. Hit them in the head with anything you can get ahold of. Pull their hair out. AND NEVER STOP SCREAMING. I promise you, the other people in the hotel will hear you. Hotel security will show up. They don't want their rooms trashed or people getting hurt.

Better yet, keep track of your surroundings. Avoid alleys, especially at night. If you love to run for exercise, go out while the sun is up. If that isn't possible, go out with a friend. If that isn't possible, get a big dog. If that isn't possible, join a gym. It's like driving defensively. Set yourself up for success and safety by choosing to be aware and prepared. 

Sometimes things are just going to happen. Several years ago I was out riding my bike. I had several different routes that I took for exercise or just to get from one destination to another. It was a beautiful afternoon. Kids were out playing in their yards, people were working on their lawns or gardens. A jeep with four guys in it came up beside me and hit me, knocking me off my bike on purpose. I flew off, falling in to a ditch and rolling. My bike was hit by the jeep and the front wheel crushed. They drove on making obscene gestures and yelling things that made it clear they hit me on purpose. 

I had road rash down one side and lost one of my shoes and was completely rattled. But adrenalin hit hard and I was up and running before my fall was complete. I don't remember where it came from but I picked up a rock and lobbed it at them as they went around the corner, hitting the door and denting it. Probably not the smartest thing to do but there were children around. I'm a Mom before I am anything else. I go in to "lion" mode pretty quickly under those kinds of circumstances. 

People were very nice. They helped me to sit down while they called for help, brought an ice pack to put on the egg sized lump forming on my head. (That was when I started wearing a helmet for bike riding and horse back riding.) I and some of the people who saw it were able to give enough of a description including the dent on the door, to police and the people who did that to me were arrested and charges were filed against them. One of the boys in the jeep (and all of them were laughing and participating) had wealthy parents who wanted to "settle" with me. I refused. It didn't matter who was driving or who reached out and hit me. It mattered that all of them were part of it and I or someone else could have been seriously hurt. 

The point to this story is that I had chosen my route ahead of time. I knew the neighborhoods, was out during the day. I was still knocked off and hurt but there were also consequences to their actions too. And there were people near by who stepped up right away to help. I know that not all of you are in places where that is possible, but you can still be aware of your surroundings. You can take self defense classes. And you can do your best to set yourself up for safety by paying attention instead of walking around with your forehead stuck to a smart phone. 

That's a Locust tree. From a distance they're handsome in the landscape. They have a nice shape, are very useful, lovely colors and pretty leaves. The wood is strong and they grow easily. But when you get up close, beware the thorns. Be like a Locust tree. Be strong, be pretty, grace your surroundings, do your job  but defend yourself and understand how to use your "thorns". Set your boundaries. Use your voice to say an easily understood, " No. " And remember that you set the terms and locations for any interactions, especially in your place of employment. I've been fired for setting my boundaries, along with four other women in the office. I went home angry and worried but I also left with my head high and aware of the fact that my dignity was intact and my territory was secure. And I found my way to being an entrepreneur too. And my employees were all treated with kindness. They liked working with me because their dignity was supported at the end of the day. They went home with decent wages knowing they could spend their time with their families, focused on them in a positive way.

Good fences really do make good neighbors. 

I am, ever yours, Nancy ... wishing that no one ever had to deal with creeps. Set your boundaries!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


I love Christmas and the Winter holidays. They're like a catalog of memories for me ; all the years of little boys and working so hard I lost weight while everyone else gained. I knew they would be small for an eye blink. I wanted them to have big meals, stockings full of silly things, excitement and waking up too early. And, I admit, I wanted it for me too. Being a Mom was a life goal for me. 

I was psyched and frightened at the same time. Things changed very quickly for us when my sons were babies. The support system of relatives were gone in an eye blink and John and I were on our own except for short visits from his Mom a couple of times a year. 

I did my Mr. Greenjeans thing and put my thinking cap on and got it done. I never complained about having my children. Once they were here they were my focus and we all made our leap together.

And here I am, all these years later, the slightly odd 'Cat Lady' plus two dogs, three horses and one donkey. I've threatened John with filling my Old MacDonald's song up with more too. I have 1 donkey, 2 dogs, 3 horses, 4 cats (plus one feral cat who shows up ever so often, hungry). I need to fill up the rest of the numbers to 10 but not this year. Goats, chickens, ducks ... the list has endless possibilities. But for now I'll be happy with the ten I do have. But I digress. Christmas...I was talking about holidays.

Years ago, on our first Christmas together, we decided to use ornaments that were either gifts, antiques or handmade. That makes our tree a bit eclectic. Over the years we've found ornaments at auctions that have someone else's history attached to them (see the green one in the background?). I've found them at garage sales, and art fairs. More than half of them are hand made. And I know where they all came from too, who made them and when they gave them to us. 

I love the slightly tattered edges, the dust from other Christmas trees and the old paper I save from year to year to wrap them in. It's like unwrapping last year and the year before and the year before that every single item. Sometimes John helps me. Most of the time it's just me, telling the stories to whatever four legged is sitting there, watching.

Sometimes I regret not buying more from an artist when I find them. They rarely come back to the same art fair. And I wish I'd brought more from the years we lived in Germany too. Those were our pre baby days when we had only the suitcases and backpacks to carry what we took home with us. 

This year I brought home a star for the top of the tree made by a local artist. I have one other piece of hers and hope to add more next year. See those tiny angels on the branches, surrounding the star? Those are from Germany. They're 45 years old and carefully wrapped in tissue every year, put in a container and labeled so I won't loose them. They always go at the top of the tree. And I knew my sons were close to leaving home when they were the ones who put them up there for me too. 

The felt Ornies came from a friend in Tennessee who makes and sells ornaments to help support her rescue. The leather and beads star is from a sidewalk sale, years ago. It was blistering hot and I had decided to go home. I walked around a corner and there they were, six of them. I bought them for $2 each when they had been $20 at Christmas. I felt like a million bucks, getting on my bicycle and riding home with those ornaments in my backpack. It was worth the sweaty ride too. The little dog was given to me by a friend who had gone to India the year before. 

The glass angel was from a friend who is gone from this world now and so is the hand painted glass sky ornament. The bead and wire mermaid I made while I told a story to my boys on Christmas eve, way back when they still believed in magic. I wove her together along with a story that became the beginning of a Round Robin story that we've kept going for forty years now. I can't wait to include my grandchildren in the story! And Apple? Made by my friend with the rescue. She had been following my posts about living with a goofy puppy who ate everything except the sofa and she even chewed a corner on that too! She is immortalized in felt on a Christmas tree. This is her third year on the tree and she had to carry it around for a while before I could put it up. She's very proud of her 'portrait'.

I suppose this is just blither to most of you who are still reading this, but it's an important part of what I think Christmas is about. (The felt tree I made when I was pregnant with my oldest son, the bulb hanging above it is one he made for me. The bird is from a friend who traveled to Mexico and brought it back and the funny Picasso-esk horse is from another artist I've known for years. She worked with me while she took a sabbatical when her husband was dying. It's a portrait of Lucky. ) 

I don't belong to any one religion. I was raised in four extremely diverse religions and discovered early on that people are all the same. It doesn't matter what group they belong to. They all just want to take care of their families and homes, help when people need it and live peacefully. It's that last word that is important. PEACE-fully. 95% of us aren't interested in destroying or killing. I honestly think that if people only had the chance to travel and meet others from the countries and religions around the world, wars would come to an end.

My favorite daydream/wish/prayer is a huge meal where every continent and country is represented at the table. Each family brings a dish they fix for holidays and shares it. It would be a giant pot luck where we all sat under the stars at long tables, passing dishes and trying to understand each other, teaching each other to say simple things like, 'I love you.' in the other's language. We would share pictures of our children and grandchildren, parents and grandparents. Afterwards there would be a bon fire where all of us took turns adding to a Round Robin story that never ended so they could take it home to their friends and towns, villages and neighborhoods.

I see the world as a huge tapestry of endless circles, knit together through our willingness to be there, holding space for each other. We all have stories and, if you pay attention, they all meet each other at the edges, over lapping. Life is a never ending Round Robin that started with stardust and brought us here, right now.

I know this is rhapsodizing, mushy and over the top. But so is Christmas and all of the other holidays that come with the Winter Solstice. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and winter holidays filled with the people you love, too much good food and Round Robin stories that are told every year with new embellishments.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and remembering, hoping and wishing, sending you love from OZ!