Remembering Sept. 11

HALLOWED BE WHOSE NAME?

Hideously stained sun and sky

Look down as innocents

And innocence die.

Wrong question asked.

Wrong answer given.

Again the lie:

How could God let it happen?

God alone knows.

Pray to God for strength in your grief.

And the living were  buried

under stone,  under steel,

And under a false belief.

No God allows this or disavows this,

Just “our” God and “their” God

In hate-filled embrace.

But to look at each other

As hearts break and tears flow

Is to truly see God’s face.

—Shell

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THE GOOD NEWS GIRL by Shell Lessen

But first the bad news…

This year’s edition of Gallup’s “State of the U.S. Workforce” included 150,000 respondents, 70 percent of whom reported that that they either hate their jobs or, in Galluptalk, are “disengaged” from them.

Now some good news:  They have alternatives—more than they might think.  A number of major industries are waving welcome mats at qualified people in search of interesting, challenging and rewarding jobs. People like senior speech-language pathologist Jennifer Bullaro.

In her field alone, at least 28,000 new openings will be created before 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.

Seniors on the march

Jennifer noted that the surge in demand is largely attributable to the growing number of elderly patients throughout the country. “This steady increase assures job security as well,” she added.

For her, there are plenty of other incentives. “As a speech-language pathologist, I am in a position to provide direct help in correcting serious health problems. That, in itself, is a source of job satisfaction. I am also fortunate enough to be working with caring, highly skilled professionals in an extremely pleasant environment. The entire experience is constantly broadening my skills. It’s a marvelous mixture of working and learning.”

A seven-year veteran in her field, Jennifer is in practice at UCLA Health System in Los Angeles. In addition to treating adult speech and language disorders, she deals with swallowing difficulties and speech-language troubles arising from head and neck cancer, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

A long to-do list       

“Much of what I do for patients is based on quality of life issues such as lingering hoarseness, inappropriate pitch and harsh voice. Some cases, however, are tragically debilitating,” she pointed out.

“One of my most memorable cases in this category involved a young man in his 20’s who was unable to communicate verbally. He simply could not move the muscles that control speech. I finally arranged for him to have a specially designed computer that was accessible by using one’s eyes.  In a very real sense, this remarkable ‘tool’ became his voice by enabling him to communicate via the typewritten word.”

Surprise, surprise!

It’s difficult to believe that this young lady, who so enthusiastically embraces her job now, did not choose speech-language pathology as a career. “Quite the opposite, it sort of chose me,” she said.

“When I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I decided to become part of the medical profession. I crossed becoming a doctor off my list because most of them have work schedules that are so full they can only spend a certain amount of time with each patient. I didn’t want to work under that restriction.”

Because Duke’s pre-med courses were open only to pre-med students, Jennifer was at an impasse. The dream of finding a pathway to the healthcare profession was beginning to fade when a sympathetic counselor came to the rescue. She suggested that Jennifer look into Duke’s speech therapy program. Jennifer did and soon she was hooked.

Newcomer makes good

However this pathway came complete with a new twist.  “I knew nothing about speech-language pathology. I had no real interest in it. I had never even heard of it,” she pointed out. But diligence, determination and excellent instructors combined to help her turn things around. The future brightened; the pathway straightened and she could see a satisfying career at the end of the journey.

Jennifer graduated from Duke and went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Vanderbilt University. Sandwiched in between were four months of supplemental “on my own study in Paris.” The curriculum there included history and psychology.

When it came time to trade the academic life for a regular paycheck, she returned to her alma mater as a speech-language pathologist at Duke Medical Center. Five years later she joined the staff of UCLA.

Jennifer noted proudly that “state-of-the-art equipment, plus advances achieved through extensive on-going research, have helped make UCLA’s speech-language pathologists highly effective and very much in demand. Best of all, we can anticipate making even greater strides in the years to come.”

Help where needed     

Viewing the future from a personal standpoint, she characteristically sees herself “helping to expand awareness of speech-language therapy’s benefits via community outreach programs.

As for the present, here’s hoping that the small sample job list below will prove helpful for some unhappy employees and job-hunters as well.

HEALTHCARE—Many hospitals need pharmacists, radiology and laboratory technicians, as well as maintenance staff. Registered nurse positions are available in 89 percent of the hospitals in the U.S.

It is estimated that over the next decade 103,900 nurses and 7,850 physical therapists will be needed to sustain the current standard of care.

CHILD CARE—Also during next decade, researchers expect 532,100 new jobs to be created in childcare facilities.

TECHNOLOGY—By 2018, openings for software programmers and systems analysts will rise 20 percent.

ENGINEERING—In a recent survey of employers, 88 percent reported that they could not find enough qualified engineers.

SALES AND MANUFACTURING—72 percent of employers face a shortage of sales people.

For information on additional job openings, visit bls.gov/jlt

                                                                                                 

THE GOOD NEWS GIRL   by Shell Lessen

But first the bad news…   

This year’s edition of Gallup’s “State of the U.S. Workforce” included 150,000 respondents, 70 percent of whom reported that that they either hate their jobs or, in Galluptalk, are “disengaged” from them.

Now some good news:  They have alternatives—more than they might think.  A number of major industries are waving welcome mats at qualified people in search of interesting, challenging and rewarding jobs. People like senior speech-language pathologist Jennifer Bullaro.

In her field alone, at least 28,000 new openings will be created before 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.

Seniors on the march

Jennifer noted that the surge in demand is largely attributable to the growing number of elderly patients throughout the country. “This steady increase assures job security as well,” she added.

For her, there are plenty of other incentives. “As a speech-language pathologist, I am in a position to provide direct help in correcting serious health problems. That, in itself, is a source of job satisfaction. I am also fortunate enough to be working with caring, highly skilled professionals in an extremely pleasant environment. The entire experience is constantly broadening my skills. It’s a marvelous mixture of working and learning.”

A seven-year veteran in her field, Jennifer is in practice at UCLA Health System in Los Angeles. In addition to treating adult speech and language disorders, she deals with swallowing difficulties and speech-language troubles arising from head and neck cancer, stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

A long to-do list       

“Much of what I do for patients is based on quality of life issues such as lingering hoarseness, inappropriate pitch and harsh voice. Some cases, however, are tragically debilitating,” she pointed out. 

 “One of my most memorable cases in this category involved a young man in his 20’s who was unable to communicate verbally. He simply could not move the muscles that control speech. I finally arranged for him to have a specially designed computer that was accessible by using one’s eyes.  In a very real sense, this remarkable ‘tool’ became his voice by enabling him to communicate via the typewritten word.”

Surprise, surprise!

It’s difficult to believe that this young lady, who so enthusiastically embraces her job now, did not choose speech-language pathology as a career. “Quite the opposite, it sort of chose me,” she said.

“When I was an undergraduate at Duke University, I decided to become part of the medical profession. I crossed becoming a doctor off my list because most of them have work schedules that are so full they can only spend a certain amount of time with each patient. I didn’t want to work under that restriction.”

Because Duke’s pre-med courses were open only to pre-med students, Jennifer was at an impasse. The dream of finding a pathway to the healthcare profession was beginning to fade when a sympathetic counselor came to the rescue. She suggested that Jennifer look into Duke’s speech therapy program. Jennifer did and soon she was hooked.

Newcomer makes good

However this pathway came complete with a new twist.  “I knew nothing about speech-language pathology. I had no real interest in it. I had never even heard of it,” she pointed out. But diligence, determination and excellent instructors combined to help her turn things around. The future brightened; the pathway straightened and she could see a satisfying career at the end of the journey.   

Jennifer graduated from Duke and went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Vanderbilt University. Sandwiched in between were four months of supplemental “on my own study in Paris.” The curriculum there included history and psychology.

When it came time to trade the academic life for a regular paycheck, she returned to her alma mater as a speech-language pathologist at Duke Medical Center. Five years later she joined the staff of UCLA.

Jennifer noted proudly that “state-of-the-art equipment, plus advances achieved through extensive on-going research, have helped make UCLA’s speech-language pathologists highly effective and very much in demand. Best of all, we can anticipate making even greater strides in the years to come.”

Help where needed     

Viewing the future from a personal standpoint, she characteristically sees herself “helping to expand awareness of speech-language therapy’s benefits via community outreach programs.

As for the present, here’s hoping that the small sample job list below will prove helpful for some unhappy employees and job-hunters as well.

HEALTHCARE—Many hospitals need pharmacists, radiology and laboratory technicians, as well as maintenance staff. Registered nurse positions are available in 89 percent of the hospitals in the U.S.

It is estimated that over the next decade 103,900 nurses and 7,850 physical therapists will be needed to sustain the current standard of care.

CHILD CARE—Also during next decade, researchers expect 532,100 new jobs to be created in childcare facilities.

TECHNOLOGY—By 2018, openings for software programmers and systems analysts will rise 20 percent.

ENGINEERING—In a recent survey of employers, 88 percent reported that they could not find enough qualified engineers.

SALES AND MANUFACTURING—72 percent of employers face a shortage of sales people.

For information on additional job openings, visit bls.gov/jlt

                                                                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW HEART, FULL LIFE by Shell Lessen

Mason Sommers’ heart called a brief time-out when he was 16 years old. But he kept on truckin’ through that episode and other heart problems in the years to come.

Luck played a part in Mason’s recovery that day. So did his remarkably positive, unselfish outlook on life, which has served him well ever since.

He was stricken while jogging at Beverly Hills High School. The team’s track coach, who was nearby, rushed to the scene and administered Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). His quick action led to a recovery—of sorts.

Dancing with a star

The second episode struck at age 20. It occurred when Mason’s enlarged heart and a contracted muscle rebelled against his fearless “Don’t-worry-I-can-handle-it” lifestyle.  This time he collapsed while dancing with his sister at home in Beverly Hills. It was her turn to provide CPR. And, once again, his turn to provide optimism.

“I never think of myself as a victim. Like everyone else, I sometimes have lousy luck. However, I know that’s bound to change and that I have it in me to calmly ride out the psychological storm. I make sure the people around me know it as well.”

The next 30 years proved the point. During this period Mason’s irrepressible lust for life led him to attend the University of California at Irvine for two years as a pre-med student. Here, he realized that medicine was not for him. He took an occupation preference test, and psychology won hands down.

Finding himself

He then switched to UCLA where he earned a Bachelor degree as a psychology major.  A Master’s degree and Doctorate followed at the California School of Professional Psychology.

Doctor Mason Sommers was licensed in 1985. Since then he has been a practicing psychologist specializing in couples therapy, depression, trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

At age 37 he became a father. Newborn Ben was presented to him by his lesbian “mommy.” Mason, who is gay, had always wanted to be a parent and, as he put it, “Ben brought a world of joy into my life by simply showing up.”

More joy in spite of it all

Big game-changers were to follow three years later when Mason met Rami Aizic, a fellow psychologist who was also gay and shared Mason’s feelings regarding parenthood.

Their friendship ripened into a loving relationship. They’ve lived together ever since, and thanks to in vitro fertilization, a baby girl named Bailey granted Rami’s wish.

On the dimmer side, chances of successfully treating Mason’s heart condition were becoming problematical.  The medicines he tried proved ineffective. “So did a new advanced-design defibrillator,” he recalled. “And my breathing was so difficult I had to sleep sitting up. By 2008 we started talking heart transplant.”  Episode three made it the main topic of conversation.

Anything for a friend

E-3 struck on the day Mason, despite feeling exceptionally weak, insisted on attending the unveiling of the resting places of a friend’s parents. Both died in the same year. Mason, a learned Jew, promised his Jewish friend that he would recite the special prayer that marked these sad occasions. Rami, also Jewish, agreed to conduct the service.

The doctors had a more secular idea. They wanted to put Mason in the hospital, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “I could not let those people down,” he explained. He had his way.

In the Jewish tradition, following the funeral those in attendance were to meet at the home of Mason’s friend for food and solace. Mason never made it. While exiting the car to enter the house, he lost consciousness.

Upping the ante

He was finally revived and ate some food “which made me feel even worse. I then realized the best place for me was the hospital,” he said. How right he was. A multiple organ shutdown had begun.

When Mason arrived at the hospital, he was not responding and was immediately put on automatic external compression pumps to get blood flowing. A dialysis machine was pressed into action too. Gradually, over a four-month period, one by one, the organs regained function.

Mason did all he could to keep his promise that day. And he risked his life to do it. This earned him plenty of points for courage and determination. And plenty of other reasons for concern.

Cooling it

In the face of it all, Mason declared “panic is out of the question” one day when he was reminded that a heart transplant was only in the talking stage; he wasn’t even on the list for a transplant; and the doctors were not sure he would survive the surgery.

Times like these toughened Mason, who would not and could not settle for less than a transplant. He summed up the situation in typical style by instructing one of the surgeons to “just wake me up. I’ll do the rest.”

After close examination and much discussion, the doctors agreed to give Mason the green light to join the list of eligible heart transplant patients.

“Then came six weeks in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit before being listed. This increased time spent in the unit to four months plus a week on the open floor, along with two months at home waiting for the right heart to be found. All this time I was kept alive by mechanical support,” Mason pointed out.

The best news possible

The clouds lifted when the Sommers-Aizic phone rang at bedtime on April 8, 2010.  You guessed it. The call was for Mason, who was asleep. Rami answered; woke him up; and quickly handed him the phone. Sleep was forgotten when Mason heard that a heart had been found matching his blood type, heart size, antibodies and all the rest. They were at the hospital within an hour.

Surgery, originally scheduled for 7:30 that morning, began in the afternoon of the 9th and ended the following day that Mason dubbed “my transplant date.” For others, it was the last day of party time.

Word of Mason’s impending transplant had spread throughout the hospital the night the heart was located and into the next day. Due to his visits and outgoing personality, many people on the staff knew and admired him. Result: tears of joy, prayers of thanks, cheering and spontaneous celebrations. Plus countless offers of post-surgery help, whether Mason needed it when he was in or out of the hospital.

Another burst of happiness lit up the place when it was learned that the surgery was successful.

Strong family ties

All this attention made Mason “feel like I am part of a very big, very loving family. It was one of the few genuinely bright spots in that period of my life. Rami, of course, was the brightest. He helped me endure this ordeal so many times in so many ways, from preparing strength-building meals and cleaning daily the various machines attached to me—to just being Rami.”

Following the transplant Mason backed up words of gratitude with action that included “giving back” and renewing his practice of lending a helping hand to other less fortunate people. For example:

Today this active, involved 57-year old teaches a course in The Doctoring Program at UCLA. Designed for first, second and third year undergraduate medical students, the program facilitates discussion groups that cover pertinent non-medical topics applicable to the field. Among these are professional ethics, conflicts of interest and confidentiality.

A couple of givers

Moreover, he and Rami have agreed to be interviewed for their story of Mason’s ordeal. It will be presented to second year medical Students to familiarize them with a view of transplant from the perspectives of the patient and caregiver.

“That’s our way of saying thanks to the medical profession,” Mason noted.

His interest in public health issues extends to The Maple Counseling Center. TMCC is one of the few Southern California organizations providing comprehensive mental health services to a diverse, multi-cultural clientele regardless of ability to pay. Mason has served TMCC as Board President since 2010.

Straight from the heart

Among other humanitarian thank-you gifts—one particularly (and literally) close to Mason’s heart— is his association with Donate Life/ One Legacy, the world’s largest organ and tissue recovery organization.

Two years after life-saving surgery he earned this organization’s “Ambassador to Media” award. It was given in recognition of his successful effort to obtain the assistance of radio and print media in promoting the need for organ and tissue donations.

Unknown givers of life

“My association with Donate Life is the result of an attempt to meet the family of the man whose heart now beats in my body. I wanted to express my profound gratitude and assure them that if ever they are in need I will be ready and willing to help.

“The family, however, wishes to remain anonymous, and no help is needed. So I did what I think was the next best thing. In honor of my unknown donor, I support an organization dedicated to acquiring and distributing organs and tissue.”

How appropriate and characteristic of the inimitable—and inspirational—Doctor Mason Sommers.

MARIA’S TOUCHING STORY

Representing different faiths and no faiths, yet bonded together in sadness, a small group of people gathered to say final goodbyes to the bedridden young woman as her passing neared.

Present were her divorced parents—her father, an observant Jew, and her soon-to-remarry mother, who holds alternative beliefs.  Also in attendance were her sister, an advocate of her mother’s beliefs, and the young woman’s caretaker, a fundamentalist Christian.

Joining them was Maria Bartolotta, her pastoral counselor for many years, who turned out to be a greater source of consolation on this day than anticipated.

Maria originally agreed to provide care and counseling until the young woman reached the end of this life.  The commitment deepened when, with the woman’s passing imminent, Maria was asked to compose a prayer appropriate to the occasion yet comforting to everyone in the room.

A challenging test      

Suddenly this non-sectarian minister was expected to give one transcendent voice to people whose religious views were shaped by diametrically opposed disciplines.

This call for spiritual help had to be answered to the satisfaction of everyone in the room, with each person’s particular belief taken into consideration. And that answer was needed immediately. It was a difficult call, indeed. But one that Maria heard and heeded.

Secluded for a short time in what she described as “sacred space,” she quickly created a prayer that expressed the group’s “one-size-fits-all” requirement with the clarity, humility and, most important, the sincerity the moment deserved.

Appreciation was unanimous. So was the gratitude of a group of people—highly diverse in belief systems, yet perfectly comfortable with each other in prayer. Maria’s prayer.

We can also underline the word “appreciation.” For not long after her daughter’s passing, her mother asked Maria to officiate at her upcoming wedding. Maria, who had comforted the young woman to the end, accepted the invitation.

A long history of caring

Maria sees the gathering’s request for a prayer as “both a challenge and a special opportunity to be of help. I simply could not ignore it. My training developed in me the capacity to do the work. I gladly supplied the will.”

Pastoral counselors are trained to utilize both spirituality and psychotherapy when treating mental, physical and emotional health problems. This branch of counseling is made up of clergymen, clergywomen and laypersons of all faiths—or of none.  Due to its inclusive nature, pastoral counseling was tailor-made for Maria Bartolotta.

One might even call it predestined. “Since childhood, I have felt a certain energy flowing through my body. Growing up on Long Island in New York, I knew intuitively that the feeling had something to do with my ultimate career, even though what I now do for a living did not even exist at that time,” she pointed out.

The wonders of Qi

According to people around the world—in and out of the medical profession—the energy she intuitively felt then and understands so well now is instrumental in helping people. It is known as life energy, a centuries-old cornerstone of medicine in the Far East and several other cultures. Life energy is referred to as Qi, Chi, Prahna and several other names, depending on the country in which it is used.

A network of pathways called meridians carries the life force and its healing powers to wherever needed throughout the body.

By touching the client with her hands, Maria starts this health-giving journey and augments the vital life force while removing impediments to health in the body. “Through touching, I direct life force to the trouble spot. This is possible because touching enables me to feel a client’s pain or pressure. As a result, I can track the flow to the correct destination,” she explained.

Reflexology is another therapy that has proved helpful to Maria and her colleagues. Treatment involves directing the flow of life force by pressing pressure points at the bottom of the patient’s feet. The points are so thoroughly connected to the body they can send health-restoring life force to any afflicted body part, organ, or gland.

Maria’s home sweet spiritual home

Maria mastered these and other healing techniques after years of study, exploration and just plain caring. Her early education was twofold. She was taught by alternative teachers whose backgrounds were both medical and spiritual, as well as teachers who were skilled in regular curricula subjects from elementary through high school.

Maria enrolled in the State University of New York at Binghamton after graduating from high school in 1971. She graduated from SUNY with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1974. Next stop was Europe, where she visited family in Sicily, taught English and expanded her spiritual capabilities.

In the late 1970s, she made a move of great personal significance—to Los Angeles. “Here I discovered the non-sectarian Healing Light Center Church. This, in itself, was a blessing,” she happily remarked.

Maria enrolled in the church’s seminary program for training ministers and healers. The program is facilitated by Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, an internationally known, highly respected practitioner in the field.

Sharing reality

Maria connected with the reverend quickly and easily. “Until I met Rosalyn, I had never known anyone who shared my reality—a reality that is one with spirituality. The first time I heard Rosalyn speak I realized that I had finally come home.”

Immersed in her studies, Maria remained at Healing Light for the next 5-1/2 years. She graduated in February 1983 with a degree in Natural Theology and Sacred Healing from The Healing Light Center Church Seminary.

The years of service begin

She was ordained a pastoral counselor in January 1984, after serving the required yearlong intern-style practice period.

As an ordained pastoral counselor, she represents a major provider of alternative health services throughout the United States. Today pastoral counseling accounts for over three million hours of treatment annually in both institutional and private settings, according to the organization Pastoral Counseling for Growth. Moreover, surveys show that seven out of ten Americans have undergone alternative therapy.

Unquestionably, increasing numbers of patients and professional caregivers are recognizing the value of alternative therapies in general and life energy therapy in particular. Meanwhile, alternative therapists continue to spread the word.

Rev. Bruyere, for example, is active in joint efforts among patients, physicians and healers. She frequently teams up with physicians to study and promote healing and health of individual patients. Without doubt, Rev. Bruyere plays a role in the worldwide trend of bridging the gap between alternative and Western medicine.

Growth and good work

Further evidence of this trend is the fact that Maria’s clientele includes people from a number of cultures and countries. Like her U.S. clients, the “offshore” group is comprised of early trauma victims.

Her door and her heart are open to members of all organized religions as well as those with no religious affiliations—atheists included. For the record, she subscribes to no organized religion. “My belief system is Pantheism, which recognizes God in everything on the planet,” she stated.

Next year marks her 30th anniversary as a pastoral counselor. More to the point, it is the beginning of her 4th decade of:

—Helping babies enter the world and seniors leave it unafraid and at peace.

—Giving hope and support to the depressed, a measure of self-respect to the drug-plagued and joy to newlyweds.

—Showing traumatized people ways to rid themselves of pain so they can sleep at night and function productively daily.

—Often paying closer attention to the turbulent lives of her clients than to the serenity of her own life.

Some people might see all this as 30 years of sacrifice. Maria would most likely look at it as three extremely rewarding decades of service. Also rewarded in numerous life-enhancing ways are the clients she has touched over the years.

WHEN THE GOOD LIFE GOES BAD

In the early 1980s, at age 43, Carol Provisor re-started her life. Carol’s story may be dated, but you can bet your smartphone the message is relevant. Simply stated: “Selling Yourself Short Can Ruin Your Life.”

The re-starting process involved carving out a successful career in a field which she came to with absolutely no training or prior experience. In addition, she entered the field at an age and time when most people had settled into the jobs of their choice. Despite all this and more, she forged ahead and came out on top.

By contrast, a great number of today’s fed-up workers, whatever their age, won’t even give themselves the chance to do the same thing. They participated in a recent study that determined only 45% of all working Americans are happy with their jobs. What we don’t know is how many in the remaining 55% are unhappy enough to leave, but stay on the job nevertheless. It is generally believed that their number is high.

Among the primary reasons for sticking it out are (a) concern over not being able to find work due to the job shortage and (b) fear of finding a job, not living up to expectations and being forced to  join the unemployed.

That’s playing it safe?

Rather than risk the slings and arrows of an unstable competitive job market, they risk their health.

This is no exaggeration. The British Medical Journal recently published a study reinforcing the belief that added stress and anxiety brought on by dissatisfaction with one’s job can lead to heart disease and diabetes, among other ailments.

However, many people who leave a job they hate and finally find satisfying work make a remarkable discovery. During the struggle to land that special job, they were forced to tap a reserve of determination, resourcefulness and positive thinking they never thought they had. To sum up, they shared Carol Provisor’s experience.

A bad fact of life

Carol learned about unbearable jobs when she was 19 years old. As she recalled, “I was working part time at a Los Angeles fabric store with a couple of other girls.  The two salesmen there harassed us with comments of a sexual nature. And the store’s owner liked to pinch girls’ bottoms.”

This occurred in 1955, at a time when truth-twisting chauvinism was in style. Consequently, such incidents were often presumed to be the woman’s fault. “To say the least, I felt embarrassed and vulnerable. Worst of all I couldn’t bring myself to look for support or even tell anyone about it,” Carol added.

Topping the list of those she could not confide in were a dictatorial father who decreed that, after marriage, his daughter’s one and only job should revolve around caring for her husband, her marriage, her children and a neat dust-free home.

Mom cools it

Her mother bought into this father-knows-best gig—lock, stock and afternoon bridge games. So did brainwashed Carol, who was married later that year.  So did the nation, for that matter. “A women’s place is in the home” had replaced “Rosie the riveter” as one of America’s postwar guides to the good life.

Then, in 1963, Betty Friedan started smashing glass ceilings with her book The Feminine Mystique.

Carol’s old world

Carol hardly heard a tinkle until 1979. Up to that point life was full of everything from homemaking, lunches with friends, traveling and entertaining to parties and painting classes, yoga, bridge and lectures. Bridge lit the fire of change.

“One afternoon, as the cards were being dealt, I realized that at age 43 I had become my mother. Forty-three more years of her lifestyle added up to a barren, wasted future as far as I was concerned. Actually, another year was unthinkable.

I finally concluded that the solution was to find a part- time job I could do that offered something new and more interesting than the others I had been stuck with. Considering who those others are, this shaped up as a cinch.”

That was the dream. Reality was a fear of even looking for work.  Carol had nothing to offer, no real experience in anything unless writing Women’s’ Club news for the local newspaper counted.

Comfy, cozy Carol

“There was also the comfort factor to think of. I had brought up two sons and followed all my father’s commandments. My husband and the  kids went along with just about anything I wanted to do, including work. All things considered, I was reasonably happy. So why change my life?

“The answer is because I was not at all satisfied with it. I was out to prove to myself and others that I had much more to show for all my years than a clean house.

“Before deciding whether or not to look for a job, I had to convince myself that any number of women could, with training, fill positions held by men and become just as valuable in the work force. But am I one of them?”

It took Carol many soul-searching hours to un-wash her brain and say ‘Yes. Shortcomings and all, I can do it.’ Of course she paid a price for standing up to daddy.

Dad strikes back

After Carol broke the news, he fired several angry salvos at her, designed to discourage, intimidate and patronize her. Meanwhile, mom could only wonder why her daughter even wanted to work. Her comment was “Won’t it tire you?”

Carol was now en route to a new life in the business world. She had nothing to offer but a desire to give as well as get satisfaction as an outstanding employee. Plus quiet confidence that somehow she would do it.

The next question was where and how to begin looking for a job. No problem, when she realized an employment office was across the hall in the building that housed her manicure salon. Who could ask for a more appropriate place to start a makeover?

Carol strikes out

Deciding to actually interview at the employment office was a walk in the park compared to overcoming fear and doubt. Especially when she was hired on the spot as an emergency fill-in for the company’s regular telephone receptionist. It was a two-day assignment, starting that afternoon.

“I jumped at the chance, rushed home, changed clothes, gulped down a tranquilizer and went to work—untrained and unable. There were so many buttons to push I was continually hanging up on people,” she confessed.

It was later pointed out to Carol that being a telephone receptionist was not her strong suit. Nor was anything else the employment counselor could think of.

Carol’s comeback

“I cried as I left the employment office, but by the time I got to my car I was defiant and ready to make the rounds of every employment agency in town. I couldn’t let this minor failure get me down. I knew I would find a job.” That she did— a two-week stint as a temp in an insurance office. “It was dull but easy,” she noted. It was also the last dull but easy job Carol would ever have.

The next one was with Canter & Associates, a startup educational consulting company owned by a young couple, Marlene and Lee Canter. The staff consisted of two young women in their 20s and, following Carol’s interview, the company’s oldest “rookie” on record came aboard.

Mr. Canter pronounced her “Just what we wanted, an older, stable woman.” Not exactly a self-confidence builder, but in time Carol would turn it into one.

Shaping up the kids

Canter provided how-to educational “tools” in the form of books and workbooks for parents, for use in company-sponsored teachers’ workshops and for sale to the public. Among subjects covered were classroom management and controlling children’s behavior at home.

She started out as a three-day-a-week label typist and phone call taker. Her to-do list was soon expanded to include processing enrollments for the teachers’ workshops. The fact that she was dedicated, organized and precise did not go unnoticed or unrewarded.

Mr. Canter, who wrote the company’s books, asked her to review some proofs that her younger co-workers had already read. She found a number of uncorrected errors and incorrect language usage that they had overlooked.

She also found herself in charge of the book order department. Carol was steadily rising from Respected Company Employee to Priceless Company Asset, as the company grew. Moreover, she thrived on meeting new challenges.

Example: It didn’t take her long to master the firm’s first newfangled, intimidating Apple MacIntosh computer. It was also the first Mac on the market, placing Carol among history’s earliest Mac “gurus.” Understandably, she became an authority in that department as well. An IT consultant was right on target when he told the powers that be she was too creative to be taking book orders.

What a promotion!

Carol was quick to climb other rungs on the Canter ladder to success.  For starters, she was named head copyreader and editor. Additionally, she became directly involved with in-house design and art direction. By the early 90s she was doing page layout and design on a large screen Mac. She even wrote advertising copy.

All this happened because she was determined to carve out a happy, productive future rather than settle for the bleak, empty future that seemed inevitable. Most important in reaching her goal was a willingness to venture out into the world and make things happen rather than simply let them happen.

“For me, the workplace proved to be a perfect setting for doing just that,” Carol said. “Once I understood what held me back, and why, it was full speed ahead. I suspect that many dissatisfied employees, who confuse security with stagnation, would benefit from taking the same path I followed. It’s certainly worth a try.”

When Carol retired in 2001, Canter & Associates was part of Sylvan Learning Centers. And a contented Carol Provisor could look back on 21 years of challenges met, successes earned, respect and admiration deserved.

Not a bad “second life” for the company’s oldest employee.

THE YOGA CURE

D.L. Sweet is both altruistic and realistic. Ironically these traits, so desirable for most of us, brought disappointment, doubt and unfulfilled hopes during most of her adult life.

For years she held on to a cherished dream that somehow, someday she would make helping people her life’s work. But the realist in her trumped the altruist by continually cautioning against it. For good reason. She could not help anyone until she first helped herself. The question was HOW.

“The problem was (and to a lesser extent still is) my Type A personality. Considering the way I lived, they should have invented a Type triple A rating for me,” she declared.

Life In the fast lane

Type A people have the temperament of a NASCAR driver. They speed through life at a dizzying, sometimes health-threatening pace with stress as a constant companion. In D.L.’s case, digestive difficulties also came along for the ride. She was, moreover, a workaholic, a controlling person and very competitive.

In addition, D.L. suffered from a serious sinus condition, another product of her lifestyle. It peaked when the multiple antibiotics being used to treat the problem not only proved to be ineffective; they wiped out all the beneficial bacteria in her colon as well.

As a result, she lost more than 10 pounds and experienced frequent periods of fatigue.

One aspect of D.L.’s life has remained unaffected—her career. She is a Senior Account Executive at a firm providing assistance to companies that rely on special promotions to help strengthen their brands’ positions in the marketplace. A respected veteran of more than 20 years in the field, she has enjoyed much success.

Keeping pace and then some

In many ways, her accomplishments can be attributed to her Type A personality. It is in tune with the pressure-packed, deadline-oriented nature of her profession, with its virtually nonstop demand for creative solutions to marketing challenges. Exciting? Yes. Exhausting? Guaranteed.

Fortunately, the realist in D.L. started putting everything into perspective a few years ago. “I knew this couldn’t go on. I was overwrought and headed for even more illness and agony than I already had. Without question, I had to adjust the emotional volume control down,” she explained.

D.L. reasoned that the situation seemed tailor-made for psychotherapy, and decided to give it a try. It wasn’t a perfect fit.  After more than a year of therapy, she pronounced herself  “more aware of my problems.” She also came down a few notches on the high-strung scale. Most important was the fact that she was willing to embrace change, but on the downside she was still unfulfilled.

“At that point it was suggested that I try restorative Yoga. I was told that the objective of this branch of Yoga is to put the practitioner and his or her spirituality in balance. By doing so the person would in time become calm, healthier and better able to cope with pressure.’

Hope springs eternal

Full of hope, D.L. enrolled in a restorative Yoga class in 2010, but “for some reason I didn’t feel ready to accept Yoga at that time. After a few months I dropped out.”

The next year she changed her mind—which, this time, changed her life. She decided to give Yoga and herself a second chance, and chose to practice Vinyasa Flow Yoga. That choice turned things around beautifully.

Vinyasa Flow is a restorative Yoga variation based on poses. As explained in an article published by FitDay, an online weight loss/diet journal, “poses (postures) are linked together in a series of movements synchronized with the breath inhaled and exhaled. Emphasis is put on breath and transition in and out of the poses.”

She has been practicing this restorative Yoga for three years. In that time she calmed down considerably and her sinus condition disappeared. “I’m relaxed and more at peace with myself and others. It’s been a very renewing experience but it’s just one step, though a big one, on the way to my ultimate goal—my dream, if you will.

The goal is in sight

“I have to practice one more year to qualify as a certified Yoga instructor. Then being able to help others becomes reality for me.”

And what a meaningful reality it will be. The plan is to create a studio in her home where she will teach restorative Yoga and also apply its techniques to sufferers of muscular and vertebrae ailments. Additionally, the focus will be on senior citizens. They’re most susceptible to these medical conditions, due to falls, other kinds of accidents, or just plain aging.

Continual movements from one pose to another provide added cardiovascular benefits, while increasing muscle strength, endurance, flexibility and stress reduction.

Next stop good health

FitDay likens Vinyasa Flow Yoga to “a dance powered by inhaling and exhaling.” To complete the comparison, all forms of restorative Yoga can be considered dances complete with props. They facilitate the movements among different poses as well as the breathing. Their prop lists include blankets, bolsters, chairs and ‘sticky mats’ designed to adhere to floors, keeping participants safe from slipping.

A recent study by Yoga Journal puts the number of Americans practicing Yoga at 15.8 million. The percentage breakdown is 72.2% women, 27.8% men.

The guess here is that not one of them—male or female—is more gratified with the results of their efforts than D.L. Sweet.