DEAR FOLLOWERS: PLEASE FOLLOW ME OUT OF HERE!

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I’m flattered, but bewildered, that “Learning to Blog” is still garnering “likes” and “follows.”

Because there’s nothing doing here anymore.  As the post before this one made clear (I thought), I’ve picked up my ball and gone off to “The Getting Old Blog.”

Nine new posts for you to read and like. And more coming, nearly every day.  But over there!  Not here. There!

http://www.ninamishkin.com

That’s where all the action is.  Go! Enjoy!  Don’t lose your way!

Then click follow!

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CHANGE OF ADDRESS

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New Blog, new URL!

Attention followers, visitors, viewers:

The Getting Old Blog — the one I’ve been practicing for — is up and running.  If you enjoyed reading this one, check out the new one.    It has its own URL, which is http://www.ninamishkin.com

Hope to see you there soon.

NM

LEARNING TO BLOG: MOVING ON

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There have been eighteen practice posts in this blog.

What have I learned from all that practice?

  • that you learn to blog by blogging
  • that you learn to post by posting (regularly if possible)
  • that you learn technology through lots of trial and error (and a little bit of help from your friends)
  • that you find readers by reading (and liking and following)
  • that writing well can’t hurt (if you’re a writer)
  • that shameless self-promotion also helps
  • that it’s time to stop the practice and start the performance

So I may be gone for a few days, while I struggle with “Start A New Blog,” fiddle with widgets, and like that.

In the meanwhile, if you find yourself missing “Learning to Blog,” here’s something more for you to read. It’s not really blog-like, but you might like it anyway — a scrap of memoir that appeared a few years ago in Persimmontree, an online magazine of the arts by women over sixty.  I’m told it sounds like me.

You can find it at www.Persimmontree.org/v2/spring-2010/a-story/

If you do like it, please let me know by leaving a comment below.  It’s always helpful to learn how readers respond to one’s writing.

And never fear.  Once I conquer the technical bits,  I shall — like MacArthur — return.

See you soon.

LEARNING TO BLOG: 3-2

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[Caution:  this is a  long post, unbroken (as my blogging teacher might advise) by photos or cutesy captions.  Read it when you’ve got some time.  Please also feel free to quote or reblog for any non-commercial purpose as long as you credit  me.  Note that it is protected by copyright from any commercial reuse.  Sorry to be so legal about it, but there it is.]

Sixteen years ago, when I was somewhat younger than I am today, but not yet old enough to leave the work place for greener pastures, I practiced law in Boston.

Part of that, the easiest part, was joining the Boston Bar Association (hereinafter “BBA”).  I was an entirely passive member.  I just paid my dues,  gave the monthly newsletter a quick read, and got back to work.

One day a real estate lawyer named Harold Brown called me up.  Harold was chairing the BBA’s “Senior Lawyers Division”  and wanted some entertainment for its December lunch meeting.  Harold was then eighty-five (as I found out later), and his idea of “entertainment” was a panel of five aging lawyers talking about “Enjoying Older Age.”  He needed a woman on his panel.  Gender discrimination was already on everyone’s screen.

Back then it wasn’t easy to find a woman lawyer who qualified as “senior.”  Enrollment in law school these days is at least 50% young women.  But to be a “senior” woman in 1997, you would have to have gone to law school in the late fifties or very early sixties.  Fat chance.  There was one such woman, a very distinguished one — Rya Zobel — but she was already on the federal bench and probably had no time for “Enjoying Older Age.”

On the other hand, I had gone to law school in my early fifties.  (Another story, in some other blog.)  Which made me old enough for Harold’s panel in 1997.  And I was a woman!  Was he lucky, or what?

Was I really “enjoying” my older age?  My boss was ecstatic that I’d been invited.  How could I say no?

The Big Day arrived and the room where “Enjoying Older Age” was to take place filled up. By then Harold had assembled a panel of five — four senior male lawyers and me. No more than five minutes each, he instructed us.

That was twenty-five minutes of talk!   Under the circumstances, I chose to speak last.  Maybe everyone would wake up when they saw a skirt walk across the stage to the podium.

As those of you who have been following me know, this blog is my on-deck blog; I’m practicing for the one that comes next, the one about getting old.  So I thought the speech I gave sixteen years ago to a roomful of aging grey suits (with white shirts and ties) might be a good exit strategy for “Learning to Blog.”

Anyway, here it is.  I’ve got to stop toeing the sand sometime.

Enjoying Older Age

(Five minute talk presented [by me] at a luncheon of the Senior Lawyers’ Division of the Boston Bar Association, November 12, 1997.)

I ought to tell you at the outset that I’m sixty-six.

I will also admit that when I see a description of someone in print that reads, quote, “a sixty-six year old woman,” unquote, I react stereotypically.

“Old,” I think.  “Finished.”

But then I forgive myself.  After all, we were socialized to think that way.

In fact, as a “sixty-six year old woman” I’m probably happier than I’ve ever been in my life, except maybe during the time when I was having babies.  [I loved that.]

When I think of myself, though, I don’t think numbers.  I don’t think “older” — or “old.”

I am me, I’m alive, I live my life, and I pretty much do whatever I want to do, within the financial constraints of needing to support myself for a few more years, and the very few biological limitations that come with having been around for more than six decades.

And I find that the more kinds of things I do, the more kinds of things I want to do.

I’ve shed almost all preconceptions about what is possible for me, and I’m working on getting rid of the rest.

I can’t tell you how liberating it is not to think about what other people will think.

You get to talk to just about everyone.  You get to do just about everything.

So maybe it would be interesting to you if I tell you a little bit about how I reached this place.

In 1980, I was forty-nine years old, and living in a dilapidated house in Duxbury with a husband, kids still in middle school, and a dog.

I would have described myself as a pleasant-looking middle-aged woman who was entering menopause — and biological uselessness.

Oh, I had a couple of degrees in liberal arts subjects of high cultural and very low commercial value, and had worked, in L.A. and New York City, first as a college instructor of English, then as a copywriter for products bought by women –“Second Nature: the bra to feel you’re not wearing a bra in” — and, when the children were small, as a free-lance book editor.

But none of these occupations were satisfying for very long.  And they certainly didn’t produce major money.

Anyway, in 1980, my husband had lost his job (for the third time) and seemed unlikely to locate another in the foreseeable future.  I was reading in what used to be called the “Women’s Page” (now called “Style”) of The New York Times about women younger than I was who were beginning to embark on real professions, and all I could think was: “If only I had been born ten years later!”

In some circumstances, I’ve been described as having a mind like a steel trap.  But about other things, even some perfectly obvious things, I’m very slow.

Here, it took a couple of years for the light to dawn.  But then it finally hit me, like a flashbulb exploding:  I was NEVER going to be born ten years later!

All I had was now.  Now until the end, whenever that came. So if there was anything I really wanted or needed to do, I had better get to it.

Compared with that perception, what did it matter what was deemed “age-appropriate?”  Or “gender-appropriate?”

That was the beginning.    Thirty years out of college, I took the LSATs.  I applied to law schools.  I applied for loans.  I got into the schools.  I got the loans.  And much to my own surprise, I did extremely well.

To my even greater surprise (and I truly mean that), I was offered a 2L summer clerkship at Goodwin, Procter & Hoar, which turned into a job offer.

And so, in 1985, at the age of fifty-four, I became a first-year associate at a firm where, in the trial department anyway, only two partners were a little bit older than me.  Everybody else — the other partners, all the associates and support staff — was younger.

Was it hard?  Sure it was hard.

Was it worth doing?  You betcha.

Because my life began to change, in more ways than I can possibly list in the five minutes allowed to each of us.

Not because I had become a lawyer.  But because now there were new possibilities.

As my life changed, I changed too.  I’m no longer the middle-aged woman of 1980.  I’m no longer the somewhat apprehensive woman of 1985.

I’m probably not even the woman I was earlier this year, when I voluntarily left Goodwin, Procter to join a small litigation boutique, where I was offered the opportunity to begin to wind down in the law, gradually, by working only four days a week, thereby freeing up some time for something I’ve wanted to do all my life but never had the guts to try before.

[No, I’m not going to tell you what it is. ] <g>

I’m just getting younger all the time!

But if, like most of you, I had been practicing law for thirty, or forty, or even fifty years, perhaps I’d be wondering if there were any other possibilities for me.

In that case, I guess I’d think back to all the other things I wanted to do when I was very young.

What did you dream of when you were a very young man, before the law closed in on you and your life?

That young man is still alive in you somewhere.

Talk to him.  Listen to what he wants to do. And see where that takes you.

I have a thirty-eight year old lawyer friend who recently went through a dark night of the soul.  Now he’s thinking of leaving the law to teach young children.

The other day he sent me an e-mail containing a haiku — one of those little three-line Japanese poems — that he had written.  Fortuitously, it illustrates very well what I’ve been talking about here.

So let me conclude by reciting this tiny, but pregnant, poem:

Memories decay

Like leaves on the forest floor.

Each twig has a bud.

End of poem.  End of speech.

Each twig has a bud.

[Haiku credit:  David Barlow, Esq., Boston, MA]

LEARNING TO BLOG: 3:1

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The third and last class of John LeMasney’s course in blogging met last night.

It ended the course well, with technical tips for many things I will be trying to practice as I blog on. The  course also did what it had promised:  brought me (metaphorically screaming and kicking) into WordPress.  I’m here, I’m getting comfortable, I’m even getting followers.  TypePad will have to wait.

Not surprisingly, there was no homework.  But despite all my complaining while posting the fifteen  assignments on this blog, I’ve become rather fond of “Learning to Blog.”  So how could I just stalk off without another word? Better to slip away slowly….

Fortunately, I have a request from Germany.  A visitor has admired my photo of big Sasha and little Sophie in Learning to Blog: 2-4. (S&S are cats, if you haven’t seen the picture.)  What a nice visitor.  Except that she — I think she’s a she — asked for more cat pictures.

Now I would never call myself a photographer.  Or even a cat lady.  I’m a woman of many words who just happens to have two cats.  But sometimes the man I live with says, “Look how cute they are!  Why don’t you take a picture?”  Which means I do have some (meaning quite a few) shots of our cats  on the computer.

And so, dear walkingthecat ( my visitor’s blogging name), I’m glad to oblige.    No repeat performances, though.  This is my final go with so much “insert media” business.

The Tale (with photos) of Rudi the Cat

Once upon a time, my daughter-in-law — who is a very sophisticated and accomplished woman — saw a little mouse in the kitchen of the New York apartment in which she was living with my son and their two young children.

“I never knew she could get so upset about anything so small,” said my son. “She’s insisting we get a cat.”

My daughter-in-law has a British mother and a Scottish grandmother and fond memories of British shorthairs. So she didn’t want just any cat.

British shorthairs are housecats, expensive ones. As a rule, they’re not allowed to go out and get lost.  My son therefore had to scout for shelter British shorthairs — a breed none of us, except my daughter-in-law, had ever heard of — with the persistence of Churchill. (“We will never give up!”)

And lo and behold a miracle!  He found three-year-old Max.  I will skip the part about where Max came from, as this is not his story. But let me assure you that no mouse was ever seen in that  Park Avenue kitchen again!

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Max, a good eater.

When we came from Princeton for a visit and saw Max, the man I live with fell in love.  I myself thought Max was somewhat cockeyed looking.

But, hey, that was the individual cat, not the breed.  And he was endearing.  Friendly, peaceful, quiet.  Nice to have around the house now that all our children, the man I live with’s and mine, are grown and gone.  Maybe, we thought, we should get our own Max.

We looked and looked. And looked. And finally caved. We called a breeder.

“I want a red kitten,” said the man I live with.  (I myself didn’t really care — red, blue, white, whatever.)

I have a red kitten,” said the breeder.

Her red kitten was Rudi. We named him after Nureyev, because he had such a terrific jump.

Rudi as a kitten.

Rudi as a kitten.

But while Rudi was growing old enough to leave his mother, the man I live with looked at many picture books of British shorthairs and decided that perhaps — despite the non-refundable deposit — he had been wrong.  The ones called British Blues were the classic British shorthairs.

“Why not get two?” suggested the breeder helpfully. “I have a lovely little blue girl right now. They’re close enough in age to play together!”

The texts in all the picture books said that the best thing you could get your cat was another cat.

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Sasha as a kitten.

The little blue kitten was lovely. We named her Sasha.

Rudi loved Sasha.  Sasha didn’t mind Rudi.  They explored the house together.  They played together. They slept together. Rudi wasn’t as clever as Sasha, but he was beautiful.  I loved brushing him.  And he loved being brushed. You could get enough hair off him for a whole other cat.

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Playing together.

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Sleeping together.

Rudi also loved to eat.  Naturally, the more he ate the more he grew.  He was big. Not fat.  B-i-g.  It became difficult for him to fit into any litter boxes that would fit into our bathroom. I have no photos of what used to happen because he didn’t quite fit, but you can imagine.

 Despite all that, he remained beautiful.  Whenever we were cleaning up bathrooms, or picking up objects he loved to knock down, or vacuuming up hair, we would tell ourselves how beautiful he was.

Sasha, on the other hand, was very smart. (For a cat.)  Here she is asleep at my desk, exhausted by intellectual activity.  (Watching the cursor on the screen while I surf the web is tiring!)

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Little Rudi in the bathroom.

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Little Sasha in the sink.

Then our two cats grew up.  They weren’t little kittens any more.

And an awful thing happened.  

I will summarize:  It was a case of transferred aggression.  When he was three years old, Rudi was frightened by a raccoon on the deck.  Since a glass door separated him from the enemy, he attacked Sasha instead.   After a few days she cautiously forgave him.  But the next time something angered him, he did it again.  And a month later, with tooth and claw, again. The last time he went after her, he caught her, and she bled.

They had to be kept apart.  She was terrified,  he was mystified, in between his spurts of rage.

Here they are at this stage of their relationship, in separate rooms.

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Scared Sasha.

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Dangerous Rudi.

The vets, all three of them, shook their heads gloomily.  Medication wouldn’t really work in such a case.  Rudi needed to be — as they put it — “re-homed.”

“Re-homing” means finding your cat another home.  Giving him away.   Rudi now lives with the mother of a Pennsylvania vet and three other male cats.  He gets on with all of them, she says.  She’s sent me some photos.  He doesn’t look unhappy, does he?

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Rudi (right) and new friend (left) in Pennsylvania.

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Rudi as a Pennsylvania resident.

But oh, it was hard to let him go, despite his messes.  He was beautiful!  I took some pictures to remember him by.  Even — don’t laugh! — a picture of his tail.  (Bad picture, beautiful tail. I loved brushing that tail!)

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Goodbye, Rudi.

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Goodbye.

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Rudi’s tail.

Now Sasha was Queen of the House!

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The Queen on her throne.

Suddenly, she was demanding this and that.  It was miaow, miaow, miaow all the time!

Sasha at 3

She Who Must Be Obeyed!

The best thing you can get your cat is another cat.  Right?  Then she won’t always be pestering you.

Enter Sophie.  (The price of a new Blue kitten had gone up $300 since Sasha, but what can you do?)

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Sophie. (Twelve weeks old.)

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She was very small..

How did it go?

Four days of hissing from Sasha.  (No maternal feelings at all!)

Followed by sniffing and smelling and sniffing and smelling.

And then?  Wash, wash, wash.  Lick, lick, lick.

S & S had become a family.

Sasha and Sophie at front door,October 2012End of story, end of post.

Apologies to all non-cat-lovers.

Never again.

Promise.

LEARNING TO BLOG: 2-5

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Tomorrow is my last class with John LeMasney.  So this is my last homework post of the week.  (Although not the last post of the blog.)

I therefore thought I would try to share with you a video sent to me by an acquaintance last spring.  It’s a flashmob performance of the Ode to Joy (from the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), filmed in the main square of Sabadell, Spain.

It takes a bit of time to hear it out, so be patient.  Everyone in my non-virtual life who’s seen it has enjoyed it very much.

I hope you do too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=GBaHPND2QJg&feature=youtu.be

LEARNING TO BLOG: 2-4

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Today is Election Day, an exercise in futility for New Jersey Democrats like me.  Nonetheless, in a little while  I will be going down to my polling place at Princeton Charter School, like a good citizen, to record my desire to stop Chris Christie.  It isn’t going to matter at all whether I do this or not, because he will almost certainly win the election by a landslide and continue as governor until he moves on to the Republican nomination for president.  But what’ s the alternative?  Silence is also speech.  And not voting is casting a vote for the guy you don’t want.

Actually, I sort of like plain-talking, no-nonsense Chris Christie.  (What’s not to like — except his party and his politics?)  But you don’t go into the ballot box because you might enjoy hanging out with the candidate when he isn’t electioneering.  (Although younger Bush picked up a lot of votes from folks who did just that. And now look where we are!)

However, this is not a blog about politics.  I wouldn’t dare.  (Intelligent people never discuss religion or politics, said the Wise Man.) I mention Christie only because I’m not going to have a lot of time for WordPress today.

Just about enough time to share some good news:  I think I may have finally mastered the “Add Media” bit!  So here are some photos to look at, without too much more verbiage from me.  Wish me luck.

Mastering Media

Possible home page photo for the blog I'm learning to blog for

Possible Home Page photo for “The Getting-Old Blog” (The not-yet-here blog for which I’m learning to blog.)  Photo too gloomy?  What do you think?

 Family Room (in the words of realtors)  Where we  hang out the most.

Family Room.  Where we hang out the most. Where the blogging gets done.

The cats a year ago, when Sophie had just arrived.  Sasha on the left, Sophie on the right.

The cats a year ago, when Sophie had just arrived. Sasha on the left, Sophie on the right.

My mother, aged three or four.  Taken in a photographer's studio in Russia, 1907 or 1908. (And seven or eight years later came the Revolution.)

My mother, aged three or four. Taken in a photographer’s studio in Russia, 1907 or 1908, before the Revolution.

Me.  (So now you know.)

Me. (So now you know.)

I’m off to the polls!