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Monday, October 20, 2014

As for a Name, the Answer is …..

Thanks to many of you for responding to my plea on what I should call myself for the Library of Congress  Some of you thought I should not walk away from my byline of many years (Dorothy Brown). Others advised that I needed a name with more gravitas.
I have decided! I am me! I'm settling for the name I feel most comfortable with -- the name I've preferred since getting married, the one I've been using for this blog -- which by the way does not have "Dorothy" in it!
I tried out my new byline in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, where I wrote a piece that dovetails with the book that I should be working on now instead of blogging.  Here's the link.
The article is about the surprising history of the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, happening Oct. 25-26.
Also, I've decided I have to walk the walk, but in this case it's 'row the row.' If I'm writing a book about Boathouse Row, I need to race!  I'll be on the river with my niece at 2.55 p.m. Saturday, rowing our little hearts out over the 2.5-mile course. We hope to do it in under 25 minutes, which won't be any record, except for us.
Challenges! That's  what we need to continue living at peak performance.
Again, my thanks to all for your advice. --"Dotty Brown"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On Picking a Name -- For Me

I was a bit stunned and humored some years ago to learn that my eldest daughter had turned to the internet to ask her friends -- and total strangers -- for advice naming her newborn daughter. In fairness, she had picked out two names but she was stuck deciding which one. She liked the ring of both but worried that one would be the baby name-of-the-year. And she worried which one felt just right. What would her child's identity be?
Now, I'm laughing at myself! Because I'm reaching out for help, too. And for much the same reasons.
Except it's about me. How can it be that at this stage of life, I should worry about my name? my identity?
Recently, I signed a book contract. With the paperwork came a piece of paper asking me what name I want to use for the Library of Congress.
The Library of Congress!!
Decades ago, newly married, I made a major turn in life when I was confronted with the question of my first byline at the long defunct Philadelphia Bulletin. My editors convinced me that my maiden name was too convoluted and I should just go with the simple: "Dorothy Brown." Reluctantly, I conceded, though I always much preferred "Dotty," which is what I chose three years ago for my  blog name.
Now I'm pondering: For my book, for the Library of Congress, should I be "Dorothy Brown"?  (Why walk away from a byline I've built up over the years, one friend advised.)
 Or "Dotty Brown?" (It's a "good name," my book editor said and UnRetiring has given it a presence on the web.)
Or use my maiden name in the middle? (For her book, Arlene Morgan told me she added  "Notoro" to honor her parents. Also, my brother liked that idea because, he said, "When people google you, I'll come up!")
I took to the web to see which of my personae could most easily be found. Under "Dorothy Brown," using specific additional search terms (which probably only I know), I did find some of my travel stories:  traveling with grandkids to Italy,  hiking across England on the coast-to-coast trail , or great bike rides in Philadelphia, including "Larry's loop," the directions for which have been lost from the web. (I'll email them to you if you want.) I also stumbled on an article by the late and much beloved Inquirer editor Jim Naughton that mentions me, in 2001, as one of the few remaining people then at the paper who had edited a Pulitzer prize.
But on Google, I'm sandwiched between many other Dorothy Browns, including a Philadelphia woman who is in legal trouble running a charter school. She even has my middle initial!
On the other hand, "Dotty Brown"  is a major purveyor of fabrics in England. Only after you get past her, do you find some of my blogs.
The last time I fretted this much about my identity was when I bought my last car! One person had scarily told me it could, in fact, be the last car I buy.
Is there an afterlife in a book? Or on the web? Should I care? Or should I think more about the good works I do that live after me.
Hopefully, some day, when I cradle my new creation in my arms,  I'll finally be comfortable with who I am.







Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ivan Smith: His Gut Said 'Go'!

Ivan Smith: No more gray 
Actor and educator Ivan Smith knew in his gut when it was time to leave his job. When the vibrancy ebbed away.
As Ivan put it:
"When the dye of the fabric leaves, you're left with sort of a gray … when the color starts to leave it's time for a change."
It's "less of  a mental thing and more of a feeling of the heart," he explained.
And so, after 35 years, Ivan left his career as a pioneering educator in Montreal, developing alternative schools for high school drop outs. A behavioral consultant with a background in psychology, he became "part of a therapeutic intervention team to help kids with behavioral differences and other differences and their families to make schools and their lives a happier and better experience."
"I always in life want to maintain the color, maintain the exuberance, maintain the energy," he said of his leaving. I've never been in a job that I dreaded or disliked or luckily needed financially. ...I tend to change my life when the color does deplete."
But Ivan had --and still has -- a second love.
"I was always an actor, always will be, I think."
Since his first TV role as a teenager, Ivan has performed part time on TV, on stage in Montreal, and in movies such as Dr. Baboor, in The Phantom. See his many creds here.
Where once he was picky about his roles, trying to balance work and acting, he now has the time to go out for cattle calls. "It's a bit of a crush on the ego but at this age you learn to cope with rejection."
A year after leaving the education world, Ivan is is surprised, in retrospect, at how much easier it is for him to now "unplug." It used to take him about 40 minutes of walking or running to feel good, to relax.  Now, it happens in 15 minutes.  "I'd come home and I thought I had border control but apparently I didn't," he explained. "All the negativity that you have to deal with travels with you, stays somewhere in the crevices of your mind. The children who are being abused. The parents who are irate. The principals who don't understand."
His goal: "to continue being freed and savoring the smaller things in life. You need very little to be happy. A walk will do it. A good meal. Friendship is really important All the supposedly cliche things are true…A passion is important. I've started painting again.  I love cooking and am developing that skill.
"You have to have something you want to do so that fabric doesn't turn gray. You need the color."
And occasionally, klieg lights.



Friday, September 12, 2014

On Taking All the Forks

     Huaca de la Luna, a Moche temple

In an eco-restaurant in northern Peru, a dozen people lunch outside at a long table and share their travel stories: Halong Bay, Vietnam after our military left; Zimbabwe before the landowners fled; Xian, China after the long-buried warriors emerged; the castles of Ireland; a boat trip to Antarctica; lions in Tanzania; the grimness of the Ganges,
Now we have ventured to this land where the Moche people lived centuries before the Inca came and conquered and whose story and magnificent pottery and gold and silver  craftsmanship are only now being unearthed.
The travel-telling happened yesterday and I was astounded. For one woman, this trip is her 23d with Overseas Adventure Travel. Others had wandered equally widely, picking tours by time and place. As I look around the table, I wonder how these sturdy folks looked in their youths, before divorces, deaths of spouses, gray hair and grandchildren (now taken on trips as well). Despite some bad knees and hips, thkis gang would  rather travel than do almost anything else. For many, travel is the single most important purchase after food and rent. This is not a group that dresses chic or has had "work done" (though one 73-year-old climbed  onto a hotel fire escape, then walked out on a roof to retrieve his new and newly washed  Joseph A Banks briefs that had fallen three stories). They are people who tread lightly across the planet, packing for two weeks in one carry-on and a backpack, Who never keep anyone else waiting.  Who think nothing of spending weeks in one pair of walking shoes.
I feel as if I have met the  me of my future -- a confirmation that I can continue to do what I love even as the years creep up.  When  I get to a fork in the road, as Yogi Berra advised, I will take it.

Ps if you go to see the Moche sites in Trujillo and Chiclaya, Peru  --such as the Huaca de la Luna and Sipan --hire Miguel Alvan as your guide. He's terrific!!
miguel_got@hotmail.com
In Lima, I have only praise for guide Dante Minaya 
Daminaya@hotmail.com


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Out, Out, Damn Ovaries! Or Not?

With my mother, grandmother and daughter
When you have already traveled a longer route than what lies before you, life gets more precious. To be blunt about it, the destination is not somewhere you particularly want to go sooner.
What bomb may be lurking along the path? Is there a way to sidestep around it? And so it was that I wondered and worried about my risk for ovarian cancer, long after those who may have bequeathed it to me had gone. My grandmother died of this awful disease. My mother may have waffled about the pathology of her surgery. I was clueless about the DNA of the men in my family. And then I watched a beloved sister-in-law valiantly and futilely fight the disease. I was in a quandary about my own risk.
So, what did I do?
I reveal my decision and the steps I took to reach it in the new Genetics Section of The Forward.  You can read the story here.
"Too much information," you may be tempted to say. "Not my problem," the guys may (wrongly) think.  But  knowing your genetic risk and acting on that knowledge may make all the difference. If not for you, then for your children.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why Hire A Coach When This Blog is Free?


In case you missed the New Yorker piece nearly two years ago on retirement coaches, the New York Times just wrote about this trend, burgeoning as it is along with the Boomers. For those who are clueless, fretting, anxious, or downright scared about what to do with the rest of their lives, help is at hand. For a price, of course.
After all, the generation that looked to coaches to help pick the right camp and college for their kids; the generation that helped turn stock brokers into financial advisors; the generation (of women, at least) who sought consultants on what colors look best on them or how to organize their closets; this generation, so insecure about their decisions, needs hand-holding once again.
Or, at least that's what such advisors are telling them.
BUT WAIT!  What I've learned in interviewing people in transition for this blog is that most moving on from careers are doing really well on their own.
Need some free consulting?
Listen to how Wisty Rorabacher threw herself into volunteer work that actually created jobs for other people.
Or how a computer "whiz kid", who briefly became a "was kid," found meaning.
Or how Stuart Ditzen is pouring new-found hours into his passion.
Or how Sue Carson realized it was time to think about love.
All gratis.
Take the plunge. The thought of this transition is more scary than the reality.  Really.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stu Ditzen: Passion Without Payback

Stuart Ditzen: Finding "immense enjoyment"
The words of Stu Ditzen were ringing in my ears as my husband and I toured the house we would buy within an hour. We had been looking for several months and Stu had told us we would know when we had found the right one.

"It will say 'Hello!' to you when you walk in," he had said.
That was more than 35 years ago. Back then, Stu and I were  reporters at the Philadelphia Bulletin (as in In Philadelphia, Nearly Everyone Reads The Bulletin.)
Luckily,  after The Bulletin folded in 1981, we were both hired by the Philadelphia Inquirer and our careers continued.
Now, in the 'unretiring' stage of our lives,  we caught up with each recently other over lunch.
I was surprised to learn that since leaving paid journalism a few years ago, Stu has written 30 short stories and is deep into his second novel. 
He's doing what he always wanted to do, he told me, following his passion, even though he has yet to get any of his creative work published.
What are his days like? I asked.
"I get up in the morning and I write for about 3 hours," he said. "Recently I’ve been writing short stories. I generally try to write a story in a month but that doesn’t always work out. And then between noon and one I hang it up, have lunch. My dogs are sitting there looking at me very expectantly so my next job is to take them for a walk,  a nice long walk. After that on a very good day – fortunately I have a lot of good days –I come home, get a good book, sit down in a very comfortable leather chair and start reading,  And probably take a nice nap. That’s the day.  I love it. Wonderful routine."
I remember the care that Stu would put into his writing, and his ability to elegantly prune stories to their essence -- and the time he bailed me out of a difficult editing situation. I'd been asked to edit a complicated legal story written by someone whose reporting skills far exceeded his ability to write. The verbiage was out of control, the point buried in boredom.  I couldn't see my way through the thicket and asked Stu to rescue me and rewrite it. As I knew he would, he came back with a story about one-fourth as long. From the clutter, he had pulled the diamond out of the rough.
But whereas Stu's reportorial gems regularly made their way into the newspaper, his current  work --the culmination of his career -- now remains hidden from public view. His literary agent, while loving his stories, hasn't been able to land him a publisher. The rejections keep coming.
Why, at a time of life when you can simply feel good about yourself, would you want to hold your work up to such hurt? 
The pleasures, for Stu, far outweigh the disappointments.
"You have to try to keep working at trying to get published and dealing with the frustration of being rejected and not getting published and trying to set the disappointments and sometimes the depression of that issue aside and just keep focusing on the pleasure of writing. Because there’s immense enjoyment and fulfillment in writing when you do it successfully, when you’re satisfied with what you’ve done --a good story, a well-written story," he explained. 
"You feel that intrinsic internal sense that you’ve really done the best you can do with a wonderful story. But of course you’d like to get it published.  You want somebody else to read it.
Tonight, I read one of his pieces.  A couple unable to find closure after a terrible and mysterious loss, years before. A sister's disappearance. A child's dementia. And a couple left searching. Wondering. Trying to find a way back to each other. An endless loop.
Like my house that said "Hello!" to me, the story and its telling spoke to me, stuck with me.
Another story involves a bizarre wedding crasher and a deeply personal conversation that you might only have with strangers -- another tale that stays with me.
Stu can't share his stories on line until the contract with his agent expires in a few months. 
Let me know, though, if you'd like to read one. 
Email me at dottyinky@gmail.com


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Monika Tuerk: Ambassador of Great Ideas

Monika Tuerk: Bringing innovation across the sea


What do you do with a law degree and a lot of  energy when you are the wife of an ambassador?
Monika Tuerk figured it out: Soak up the best ideas from the country you are in --  then make those ideas happen at home. And vice versa.
From 1993 to 1999, her husband, Helmut Tuerk, was Austria's Ambassador to the United States. Monika was fascinated by the way hospice care had taken off here.  She made it a point, as she and her husband traveled around the United States, to visit various hospice programs. She was moved by what she saw. There was nothing like that in Austria, she said. So when an American couple who were entrenched in the  hospice movement here visited Vienna, she made sure they met with with influential Austrians and got the idea rolling there.
"I tried to encourage people and it has really found good soil in Austria," she told me.  "We have good hospice care now, both in places where people can go to live but also mobile hospice. And in the last two years we've opened children's hospice. I just spread the idea."
She was equally enthusiastic about bringing to America the SOS Children's Villages program, which was started in Vienna after World War II and is now, according to their website, in 133 countries, including the United States. The idea is to give children who have been orphaned, neglected or abandoned a loving home  and an "SOS mother" to care for them. About 7 to 10 children live in each home, attending  public school and being part of their community, she said, and visiting with their parents, if they have them and choose to do so.  The SOS Village is there for them to age 18, with additional supports, or the chance to move back after that. "It really works well," she said.
Now, on its international website, SOS says it's in war-torn countries such as Syria, trying to help children who have been orphaned there.
But in the United States, the program had difficulty launching, despite interest in several states,  because of the complexities of foster care laws, Monika said. Fast-forward to today: the legal challenges haven't stopped the organization from making its mark in the United States. In Illinois and Florida, SOS is now working to provide vulnerable children with stable homes, education and quality healthcare to help them thrive.
Some would see Monika's career as one of having to compromise her own ambitions as she followed her husband to posts around the world. (Most recently, Helmut has served as a judge on the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas in Hamburg, Germany.) During one stretch, in Vienna, she found work as a lawyer but her boss, she said, would pass off to her all the unpleasant cases he didn't want to deal with. During another stint, she plunged into a medical writing job, knowing little about science -- or writing, for that matter.
"I was afraid and nervous but I just did it and I succeeded with it," she said.
Helmut Tuerk will step down from his Law of the Sea judgeship next spring and the couple will then look to new challenges.  For sure, though, Monika  --like a Johnny Appleseed of ideas -- will be spreading wisdom.  Unretiring.



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lewis Katz: A Mensch in Ways I Never Knew



PA Gov. Tom Corbett comforts Ed Rendell
Lewis Katz
"Altogether too rarely in life, someone lives and just exudes, pouring out of every pore in their skin, such good will and energy and joy that they create this magnetic field that draws all the rest of us in. And while we're in it, we walk a little more erect and we feel a little more energy and we feel elevated because we're in this magnetic field."

That's what Bill Clinton said today at a memorial service for a man who had had yards of press in the Philadelphia Inquirer before his death -- and yet I had no inkling who he really was.
How is it that when it's too late we learn the true measure of a person?
Lewis Katz had been described as a wealthy philanthropist who had made his money in billboards and parking garages. Little more was said about him, even as he succeeded in taking full control of the paper last week after a contentious auction with other owners.



His memorial service today was extraordinary. Perhaps the most moving I have ever witnessed as one person after the other stood up to tell of his humble generosity, his determination to do something for others every single day, his impish humor and sense of fun, and his ability to draw in so many people who considered him a "friend" -- from the waiters he would tip $100 bills or take annually on gambling weekends in the Bahamas, to the likes of Bill Clinton, Ed Rendell, Ron Corbett, Ed Snider, Bill Cosby,  Cory Booker, and Doris Kearns Goodwin -- all of whom spoke teary-eyed about him yesterday.
I cried listening to their stories, and laughed too, as they talked about his antics,  such as the time he made a bet that he could tell Pres. Carter a dirty joke at a reception. After he bent down and whispered

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Daughter Marries; Long Live the Queen

Transitions… I feel as if I'm moving through a new one I hadn't considered before.
Last week, my "baby" --the youngest of my three daughters -- got married, following in her sisters' footsteps. It was a moment we had long anticipated, encouraged, hoped for, and-- finally-- celebrated.

Yay!  And yet….

While I might have been kidding myself to think that I was her confidante and adviser-in-all-things-about-life, I now suddenly realize that she has moved on to someone who can do it better and longer. If, God willing, the course of life proceeds as it should, he will be there for her when I am not.

It is a joyful, yet sobering passage. It's one thing to "retire" from a longtime career and plunge into the "next great thing," with expectations of many years of fulfillment ahead. It's another to warily eye the future and know that those years are becoming fewer. 

As my mother used to say, “You laugh with one eye and cry with the other.”

There’s a tradition, I’m told, of crowning the mother when her last child is married. Does it celebrate the ascendance, finally, to a place of governance and wisdom? Or does it mark some brilliance in the accomplishment of marrying off all the daughters?  Or is it more like that old TV show, “Queen for a Day,” where typically the woman who was crowned and showered with prizes was living a hard-luck life. (Now, realize, that I love my daughters, but raising them has not come totally free of angst and worry.) Here’s another old saying: “You’re only as happy as your saddest child.” I’ve had a few(fortunately, very few) sad days.

At the moment, though, with the newlyweds on their honeymoon, and the other daughters deep into their marriages, careers and  children of their own, I am free to walk my kingdom – or queendom – in whatever direction I wish to go, for as long as I am able.  The umbilical cord is cut.

Well, knowing me, I should qualify that.