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Conversations with a "Middle-Aged Diva"

These archived blogs were published under the caption of "Conversations with a middle-aged diva.

2017 - 2018 Blogs

  The Obamas’ Impact on Relationships

  As the last days of the Obama administration drew to a close, the media and the general public engaged in the customary examination of the legacy left by the former president and first lady.

As I read or watched specials on this generation’s most celebrated couple, I began to formulate my own assessment of the Obamas’ legacy that won’t make the history books.

Barack and Michelle, the couple, is a portrait of love. Love of self, love of family, love of others, love of country, love of God. But to me and many others they symbolize ideal romantic love, Black love in particular.

From the moment we were introduced to them as Potus and Flotus, we admired their grace, charm and charisma. Soon we fell in love with the living representation of what we all aspire to have: a loving, caring relationship based on trust, mutual admiration and respect. You could tell the interaction between Barack and Michelle was genuine. It was clear that they deeply care about and admire each other. I could easily picture the President coming home after a hard day and dropping his head in his wife’s lap, eliciting a gentle caress. I could also see Michelle with lifted eyebrows and hands on hips voicing discontent with a “Now.  Barack!” And my God, the pictures with the girls curled up in No. 1 Dad’s lap or him planting an affectionate kiss on Michelle’s cheek or the girls’ forehead!

The Obamas as symbol of love showed us that contrary to popular belief, Black love is neither non-existent nor unattainable. It does exist! We’ve seen it live and in living color – pun intended.  A successful relationship requires both luck or an act of God (finding the right person) and a solid personal foundation of what marriage is.  Those of us, believers, know that a good marriage begins with a focus on God and biblical principles. The Obamas demonstrated an effective recipe that contains these values:

Shared attraction + reciprocal admiration + mutual respect +trust + commitment = Successful marriage

Barack’s eyes broadcasted his appreciation for his wife and he unabashedly lauded her qualities every chance he got. Likewise Michelle boasted about her husband. She gushed about him like a young girl on the Ellen Degeneres show. Theirs is an expressive, playful, trusting and yes, sexy relationship. I’m sure there are hiccups that are amiably worked out, but their admiration and respect toward each other were always obvious, even in the small gestures. 

The nation witnessed yet again the evidence of the unequivocal bond between the Obamas during one of their final public appearances on inauguration day. When a soldier escorted Michelle to join the outgoing and the incoming president on stage, Barack lifted his wife’s hands to his lips and planted a quick kiss there.   I fully understood that fleeting yet powerful gesture. The kiss said, “Thank you for being my best friend and being there for me from the first day down to the very last.”

In my humble opinion, the Obamas did for Black love what the Huxtables did for the black family in a prior generation.  Regardless of culture or race, two people who are on the same page emotionally, intellectually, socially, morally and personally can maintain and enjoy that happy union called marriage.

As we say goodbye to our beloved icons, and with Valentines’ Day around the corner, I wish you all “an Obama kind of love.”

Personal Note: A month from this writing, around Valentine’s Day, my husband and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage. We had the requisite ingredients to begin a good marriage, but over the years we had to use all the tools of success I mentioned earlier to keep the story of us going.

Not all 5475 days were blissful, but with prayer and a committed mindset, our relationship stood the test of time and other challenges. We’ve aged in fifteen years; however, the essence of what attracted us to each other still provides reasons to like each other. Every once in a while I get little reminders of why our marriage is good. Recently I experienced a stressful incident at work. I immediately picked up my phone and called him. When he greeted me with his customary “Hi, baby,” I said, “You know what, you are my best friend. You’re the first person I call whenever something important happens to me.”

In my memoir, “Cads, Princes & Best Friends,” that recounts a tumultuous decade in my life leading to meeting my husband, I expressed gratitude for being blessed with a best friend who is my prince. I will now add that through the years I’ve had a best friend who treats me like a princess.

We are immensely blessed to count ourselves as one of the lucky couples to have that Obama kind of love. My prayer is that you have/find the same thing too.

I wish you " an Obama kind of love!”


I Choose to Be Thankful

Two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday I was feeling particularly upset. Overworked. Fatigued.  Frustrated. My body felt wrecked and I was emotionally and mentally done. Everything got on my nerves and I wallowed in a private pity party.

Wait! Danielle. Stop complaining. Be thankful. 

For the next ten days every time I felt like complaining, I reminded myself to be thankful instead.

Wednesday – a full day of a blocked schedule with no breaks in between. I leave work drained. Then I think about Thursday. I only see two classes and have an extended conference time. Woo Hoo! Breathe. I get to catch up on my back log. I choose to be thankful!

Right upper arm - growth removed eight years ago hurts at the site of the scar when I reach to grab something on a shelf. Happens every time. Doctor said there is no growth. A Google search informed me that this is common. The nerve endings in the area of the scar are disconnected or something. This will be a lifelong event.  Okay then, let’s see. I can still hold my beloveds in a bear hug. I can still lift my hand to praise The Lord. I choose to be thankful!

Don’t get enough sleep – hit the snooze all three times that morning. How I wish I could stay in bed, asleep! One of my students, a bright and engaged young lady, appears to drag every morning that week. What’s wrong? “I’ve been going through some anxiety issues and am unable to sleep at night,” she replied. My recommendation: chamomile or verbena tea, milk and honey, music. Whoa! I’m getting at least six solid hours a night.  I choose to be thankful!

Right ankle - broken in a car accident at ten years old gives under my weight. Happens often. No heels this week Ms. Fashion bug. Podiatrist’s X-ray diagnosed arthritis in the area. But, Ah! I can still wear heels on Sunday, right? I am able to stand and walk? Dance at Zumba class? I choose to be thankful!

30 minutes for lunch – I hate to eat in a rush. Bad for my genetic digestive issues. An older man, a teacher aide, comes into the teacher lounge. Conversation about food brings up the fact that he is tired of eating soft foods, the only thing he’s able to process. He initiated getting dentures back when he had a full time job and before turning 65. He has partial implants and Medicare won’t pay the $10,000 it would cost to get the actual dentures and he can’t afford it. I was chewing on a piece of chicken. I choose to be thankful!

Getting older is sometimes not fun. Why did I have to check the mirror when I was wearing my glasses and noticed all the grey eyebrow hairs? Wait! Once I “do” my brows, in pencil or gel, all you see are well arched brows. Make up, what a blessing! I choose to be thankful!

Follow up doctor visit – apprehensive before visit. I am under medical observation because of a genetic illness in my blood that has the potential to become serious. Doctor gives me a clean bill of health - a six-month reprieve until my next visit. I choose to be thankful!

Missing my husband – I burst into tears at the thought of how long we’ve been apart (I working in Texas and he in New Jersey). Lord! This is hard, but you have a plan, I know and absence makes the heart grow fonder. I have a loving and fulfilling (albeit long-distance) relationship with a wonderful man. I look forward to every visit with great anticipation. Our time together is so much richer because we miss each other. 

On this Thanksgiving Day, when I felt his presence asleep next to me, when we busied ourselves in the kitchen preparing the turkey and all the scrumptious food, when we shared the festive meal with my sister and her children, and I prayed over the blessings of family, love, health, a beautiful home, a good job, great relationships, and so much more, I had very good reasons to be thankful! 

2015 - 2016 Blogs

  My Imelda Marcos Moment

By: Danielle Coulanges

I love shoes! I’ve loved clothes, shoes and everything fashion since my early teens and spent close to two decades nurturing that passion in a fashion design business in New York.

I had an epiphany several years ago, when I noticed several pairs of shoes in the same color in my closet, amidst  a collection that reflected every hue in style at the time. “You are a shoe  junkie, Danielle!”  How many pairs of shoes does a woman need any way? I vowed to be more sensible, scaled back my impulse purchases and thought I was cured until an incident this summer. 

I kept my shoes in their  original boxes or clear plastic ones for easy identification. One morning this past July, I eyed an unfamiliar red box at the bottom of the closet and wondered which shoe that was.  I opened it. There was a brand new Adrienne Vittadini, picked up at Burlington in early February! White sandals, perfect for Houston’s scorching summers that began early in April this year. 

Oh, mine! To have brand new shoes in your closet -for five months- and not even know they’re there. “How many shoes do you own anyway, missy?   

Aiming for Imelda Marcos’ record, huh?”

My curiosity was piqued. I lined up every piece of footwear for a count.  56 pairs of shoes and sandals, 5 winter boots, 4 sneakers, 4 winter house slippers and 3 summer house flip flops.

Whoa! I only have two feet. There are 31 days in a month. Yet I own over 70 articles of footwear. Granted I shop very judiciously (discount stores and seasonal sales) and never pay more than $65 for shoes or over $150 for boots. But still... When I shared that information with my sister, she was unfazed by the revelation. “Well, that’s about average for an American woman,” she said.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you exhibit A for conspicuous consumption on a national scale! 

I began to think about the many in third world countries or even here on our blessed shores, who can barely afford footwear. I’m a consistent giver at church and donate to charities, yet I couldn’t help the pang of guilt in my gut. Like most women I treat myself often. I work hard for my money. I deserve it, right? Yes, but something didn’t feel right. Then it came to me! Every time I’d start to spend too much on myself, I would deflect the self focus with a random act of kindness or donate to a charity. 

A week after that decision, I stopped by Fiesta, a supermarket located in a low income neighborhood where I usually pick up tropical fruits and vegetables. A cleanly dressed elderly man holding a pack or Ramen noodes approached me at the register. He asked if I could help him buy some food so he could take his medicine. He’d recently been released from a hospital stay.  “Sure,” I replied without hesitation. “ As a matter of fact, why don’t you go ahead and get a week’s worth of food. I’ll wait right here for you.”  His eyes lit up like a 5-year old who was just handed a strawberry lollipop. “Thank you, Ma’am. God bless you,” he said and rushed off with a shopping cart.

When he returned, the cart was loaded with goods: packages of chicken legs, beef chuck, a loaf of bread,  a gallon of milk and various canned goods in addition to his noodes. “I got the cheap cuts of meat,” he said by way of apology for the large cartons. “It’s alright,” I reassured him. “God has blessed me so I can be a blessing.” I noticed he had no fruits in the cart, grabbed some apples and oranges from the nearby stalls and added them to the belt as the cashier ran his items. The grand total for this man’s week worth of groceries: $37.25.  Far less than a pair of shoes, on sale, at Macy’s.

My footwear collection has since been smartly re-organized, out of the boxes, and more visible. But for the next several months, I will be on a self-imposed hiatus from shoe shopping. Til next July.  I know that some oh, so cute and temptingly gorgeous pedary work of art will wink at me from internet pages or their pedestals at various stores.  I will feast my eyes on the beautiful display, inhale deeply and keep moving. “You are ‘magnifique’! But no thanks.”  One of them 50 or so bad boys in my closet will do just fine for a fashion statement. 

When I visited Haiti later in July, I took one suitcase full of nothing but footwear (men, women and children), bought specifically for donations. The smiles on the recipients’ faces replaced my earlier feeling of guilt with the most exquisite sense of gratitude for being in a position to give.

At the end of my shoe fasting season, I’ll try not to binge. It will be summer again. I will simply treat myself to the most delectable, exquisite little treasure of a sandal I can find for under $50. My toes twitched a happy dance just thinking about it!

I am a confessed shoe junkie, and so it seems are most American women. Looking at my habit through critical lenses, I found out that even an apparent weakness can inspire you to do greater good.

Do you have a fashion fetish? Has a fashion experience inspire you to do something outside the box? 

Do share, girl!


2014 Blogs

  Rising Rates Won’t Stop Me From Refinancing This Year

In early 2007 my sister and I bought a single family house, a rental property, in Humble, a suburb of Houston, Texas. She entrusted me to manage the finances related to the property and I took out a 30-year mortgage on $73,800, at an interest rate of 7.375 percent. Our monthly payment for principal and interest was $509.72 and we regularly added an extra $20 toward the principal. 

Over the ensuing years, I watched interest rates decrease dramatically and considered refinancing. In 2011 I attempted to refinance with my lender at a rate of 4.875 percent but found out two weeks before the closing that the school district where I worked was laying off teachers.  I was among the ones to be let go as a first year teacher. The bank cancelled the loan.

I was extremely disappointed over the missed savings opportunity. My monthly payment would have only increased by $49.09, but the life of the loan would have been fifteen years shorter. 

I was rehired by the same district in 2012 and waited an additional year to secure a good employment reference before re-applying for a loan. By June of 2013, interest rates had risen due to the Federal Reserve’s announcement that they might be slowing the bond- purchasing program that helps keep rates low. I was determined to refinance sooner rather than later. Rates were inching upward but they were still several points below my current rate. 

I went back to my lender who offered me an investment property rate of 4.375 percent on a 15-year fixed-mortgage for the outstanding balance of $67,000; an even better deal than the one I would have gotten in 2011. My closing was in October 2013 and with the closing costs rolled in, my balance became $70,900, requiring a monthly payment of $517.76. 

For a mere $8.04 a month in additional mortgage, I shaved off fifteen years of debt and will reap savings of approximately $50,000 over the life of the loan.

As of July 24, 2013, Bankrate.com shows rates of 4.54% on a 30-year and 3.61% on a 15-year home mortgage.  In an article for the site, Marcie Geffner states “Rates might remain calm for a while, unless something else happens to shake up the status quo. And there are plenty of ‘something elses’ that could occur.”

Anyone who has a loan with an interest rate over 6 percent should consider refinancing now. Just one point difference reduces your monthly payment and the cost of closing is recaptured within a couple of years, leaving room for sizable savings over the life of the loan.

I am looking forward to my closing around early September.  I am excited about saving money over the long run and the equity that will build at a much faster rate.


  

Giving Thanks – Top Tens

In this thanksgiving season I am grateful and thankful for:

1. Having God in my life. My relationship with Him causes most things to work in my favor and makes everything else easy to manage.

2. Being surrounded by people who make me feel loved and cared for.

3. My husband, a wonderful guy who is so perfectly suited to me that even our individual flaws represent opportunities to share inside jokes.

4. The caring and close relationship with my family members.

5. Wonderful friendships with people I’ve known for years and new ones that constantly come into my life.

6. Being healthy even when confronted with the threat of genetic illnesses.

7. Having opportunities to engage in ministry as a representative of Christ.

8. A good job where I am challenged but appreciated and also get to make a difference in young people’s lives.

9. Being able to afford a comfortable lifestyle and things that I want and still be a blessing to others.

10.  Having a healthy curiosity about things and being filled with a zest for life that promotes enriching experiences and keeps my inner child alive.

2013 Blogs

  How to Make New Year Resolutions a Reality

A New Year brings to many a chance for a do-over. People speak of resolutions: lose weight, love more, take time for self, etc. Great! Now let’s be real. Nothing will happen unless you actually do it and stick with it. 

The first Sunday of the year was a beautiful, mild January day in Houston, TX. That afternoon I decided to kick off my promise to exercise more regularly and walked ten blocks to use a local high school’s running track. I power-walked the course once, then picked up the pace by alternating the walk with a jog. Each time I gave myself a starting and stopping point; jog from the bleachers to the trash can, walk from the can to that drain, jog from the drain to that bench then walk from the bench to the score board. Each time I stretched myself to jog past my designated goal and got a little further.

After a while my exercise routine became a metaphor for what a resolution should look like. 

· First you make the decision that you are going to do something and you actually do it. My initial step was lacing up my sneakers and stepping outside my front door. 

· Then come up with a master plan. I chose a definite course, a 400-meter track. 

· Next set up a target.  I decided how many times I’d do the circle, four times. 

· Break it down into smaller, measurable and attainable goals. That’s when I established my markers with the trash can, bleachers, etc.

· Once you get a groove going, exceed you expectations. Each time I went a little further than my markers.

By the time I walked back home I had formulated a plan for my next resolution: to save, now that I have a steady job again. I haven’t saved any money the past four years. I was unemployed on and off for fifteen months and when I started working I spent my extra money on a wedding anniversary celebration and financed a CD project. (“I Live By Faith”) 

Once again, the first step is the decision. Save! For my plan, I immediately revised my monthly budget (a must have) and set a target. I also gave myself measurable goals by allocating a specific amount of savings from each bi-weekly paycheck. 

It also helps to take concrete steps to put your plan in action. Do some research and find what works for you. For example you can buy US savings bond for as little as $25. They currently pay .20% annually compared to .01% in money markets. I set up an account at www.treasurydirect.gov  for monthly purchases.

This New Year, do make resolutions for new experiences or to improve others, but step up and act up. 

Plan! Set goals. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.

I’m certainly on course to make my resolutions a reality. Go for yours. DO IT!


  

The Trayvon Martin Case – What is the lesson learned?

George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the trial of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death was received with mixed reaction by an American public that most agree is divided over the issue because of the underlying notes of racism. 

The numerous protests demonstrate that a large number of people, especially African Americans, who are still outraged over the senseless murder of an unarmed black teenager, disagree with the verdict.  On the other side are those who believe Zimmerman acted in self-defense and probably laud him in private for getting rid of another “undesirable.” 

I stayed up that night to wait for the verdict and was stunned when I heard “not guilty.” Like many I had hoped for some retribution to alleviate the pain of a senseless tragedy. Whether I believe justice was served or not, I have to accept that due process took course in a legal system that we’ve established. Nevertheless, somewhere there is a mother who continues to mourn her son and a family for whom the verdict added to their suffering as there was no justice for their beloved.  Another mother agonized over the demonizing of her son in the public eye and that family must live in fear he might get hurt in a random act of violence. All of this because one man assumed another human being was a bad character up to trouble making, based on his skin color and his being in a certain neighborhood.  His ensuing unfair and unreasonable action resulted in the waste of a life and the disruption of many others. 

Bigotry and racism have no place in our society. They take away from our humanness and create tragic situations just like the one that resulted in Trayvon Martin’s death.  There are differences in our outside appearances (that’s how we were made) and our cultural practices, but we are intrinsically the same. We all experience fear, need, disappointment and anger. We desire safety, wellness, love and hope. Color should not be a factor that pits us against each other. 

“We Are One” a song I wrote in New York several years ago in memory of victims of racial attacks was coincidentally recorded around the time of Martin’s shooting death. “Innocent blood was shed in vain” it laments. “Why can’t we live together? Learn from one another.” In a world that is getting smaller as we become more interconnected, “When will we learn to get along?” is the question to consider. 

A message of conciliation is offered that “We all are one.”  You and I can make a difference. Let this dark episode in our history be a catalyst for a better dialogue and a greater acceptance of each other. When we learn to embrace the God-intended diversity of our human race, less unnecessary tears will be shed. 

Let’s put the “G” to race. Let’s talk about grace instead of race.

For a free download of “We Are One” CLICK HERE.


  

The Trayvon Martin Case – How will you react when you hear the verdict?

George Zimmerman’s trial is in process and Trayvon Martin is news again. 

Over the course of several days the jury will listen to evidence and arguments presented by both defense and prosecutor to help them render a verdict in the case. Whichever way they decide, the result will be unsettling for an American public divided. 

A large number of people, especially African Americans, are still outraged over the senseless murder of a young, unarmed black man. On the other side are those who believe Zimmerman acted in self defense and probably laud him in private for getting rid of another “undesirable.” The arguments continue to rage as each day of the trial presents new controversies.

Martin’s friend, Rachel "Diamond" Jeantel, a witness for the defense, may have painted a not so favorable picture of Martin when she recounted Martin describing the man pursuing him as a “creepy-ass cracker,” a term that can be considered a racial slur but do not necessarily make Martin a racist.  Details of Martin’s private life became public and some, like his use of marijuana and a Facebook picture with a weapon, are used to characterize him as a trouble-maker. However, these issues should not tint the unfairness and wastefulness of the tragedy that took place that night in February 2012. Skittles are not a weapon and there was nothing about Martin’s demeanor that was threatening.

Zimmerman’s reaction to Martin’s presence in the area, however, was clearly racial profiling. In an article for the Christian Science Monitor, Patrick Jonsson reports that a witness for the prosecution, Alexis Carter, a professor at Seminole County College, testified that Zimmerman took his class in 2010 and learned about the state of Florida’s self-defense laws that include “Stand Your Ground.”  Jonsson states that prosecutors sought to persuade the jury that Mr. Zimmerman was in fact knowledgeable about Florida’s self-defense law at the time of the shooting. Did Zimmerman pursue Martin so aggressively knowing this law would protect his actions whichever way things went?

As we wait for justice to be served, remember that bigotry and racism take away from our humanness. Our world today more than ever shows us that we are intrinsically the same. Color should not be a factor that separates us.  

The song “We Are One”  was written in memory of victims of racial attacks. I wrote it to offer a message of conciliation in the midst of public outrage and all the confrontation. “Why can’t we live together? Learn from one another. When will we learn to get along?” the lyrics wonder. “We all are one.” 

When the verdict is finally rendered a lot of people won’t be happy about it. Let this be a catalyst for a better dialogue on diversity. Let’s talk about avoiding these incidents. When we learn to embrace the God-intended diversity of our human race, less unnecessary tears will be shed. 

2012 Blogs

  

AGING – The Reckoning

Good grief! A grey hair in my eyebrow? Tweezers please. Quick!

You probably guessed that I am not from a recent generation. Who says "good grief" anymore? Okay, for appearances’ sake, let me start over.
 

OMG! A grey hair in my eyebrow! Whichever way you said it that sucker was coming out. 

I promptly plucked it out, then chuckle at the thought of my husband’s experience with the same issue a few years back. Once a week or so he enlisted his then twelve-year old daughter to pluck the grey out of his eyebrows. That is until the grey hairs became so numerous he risked remaining eyebrow-less! 

I was handling this aging business pretty well. I am blessed with youthful genes, have a figure only ten pounds heavier than my thirties and so few grey strands in my hair that I am perceived to be at least ten years younger than my actual age. But that grey hair in my eyebrow rattled me to the core. I am getting older and soon it will be obvious to the whole world.

Things are changing in spite of my best intentions. Hair is leaving the top of my head and re-appearing in less desirable places. Some body parts that I would prefer round are getting slim, while fullness has moved to spots I would prefer slimmer. Some of the changes are very subtle like that slight dent that appeared in my forehead several months ago. I scrutinize my face and my body in the mirror, looking at those tell tale signs of aging and know that fast forward, two or three years from now there will be many more. In five or ten years, if I’m still around, I’ll have the weathered look of one who’s been on this planet for more than half a century.

I paused. 

Hey! Life is a continuing cycle made of all these different phases, right? 

My skin will never be as smooth as it was when I was twenty five. My figure will never be the hourglass it once was; my hair will never be as full; my eyesight never as sharp and my energy level never as strong.

What I do have now is a better appreciation of things and a selective taste that maximizes every chosen experience. My mature skin loves the warmth of the sun, the caress of a soft breeze and the affectionate hug of another human being. My hair welcomes the company of clipped on pieces when I need a glamorous do. My eyes still relish everything beautiful, inspiring and uplifting - with the help of reading glasses if necessary. I can no longer sustain a fifteen- hour day as I did in the past, so I make good use of every minute.

Yes, I am changing. I am leaving behind my youth but not my youthfulness.

I’ve entered a new dimension and I am going to roll with it. This IS the new me.

Yes, I am a proud FF. I am FIFTY (something) and FABULOUS! 

*********

Please let me know what you think about my postings by leaving me some comments.
Be blessed.
 

Danielle Coulanges
Author or "Cads, Princes & Best Friends, A Tale of Lust, Love & Redemption"
www.butterflypublication.com



AGING GRACEFULLY

A writer colleague recently asked me what my take was on aging gracefully and this is what I came up with.

Aging gracefully is to accept the fact that your fifty year old body no longer matches the thirty-five year old that lives inside of you, while you still retain a sense of excitement about life. 

The women who have difficulty with that concept react in one of two ways: give up or fight. When the physical changes start to occur-and they will – everyone experiences a bit of panic but individuals deal with that process differently. Some adopt a defeatist attitude and let themselves go. They no longer care about their appearance and called themselves “old”. Others fight aging by sculpturing, pinning and tucking their faces and bodies in a desperate attempt to retain the appearance of their youth. Most often they end up looking unreal (Cat Woman for example). 

A woman who ages gracefully on the other hand understands that aging is a natural part of life. She pays attention to what’s going on with her physically and emotionally and makes adjustment to smooth the transition. She eases into her new skin and retains her balance. 

A healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise, careful attention to my hairstyle and wardrobe help me appear a decade younger than my fifty plus. I’ve also accepted that some of the dreams of my youth may never materialize and I let go of the frustration. But most importantly I allow my inner thirty-five year old to retain her sense of wonder at the newness of life by exploring, learning and doing new things whenever possible. 

Things change, life happens, who knows what’s next. When you look at change as something new it takes on a more exciting perspective.


  

The Value of Lost Things

I’ve often heard that you don’t know the value of something until you lose it. I think a more accurate statement might be that we take the value of things, even people, for granted while they are here and available. 

The other day in between class periods I used the nearest girl’s restroom at the suburban junior high school where I teach. I freshened up my face and left my cosmetic pouch on the sink before I used the stall, as I always do. I heard one or two girls come in and leave.  When I came out, the bag was gone and there was no one near enough to logically blame for its disappearance. What seventh or eighth grader would be so brazen and unethical?

Gone was my soft, perforated black leather over red satin pouch. What an inconvenience to replace these necessities -  my compact, lipstick, lip gloss, purse-size hand sanitizer, travel toothbrush and toothpaste, mini nail file, spare eyeliner, small comb and hair brush, hair pins, safety pins, mini flashlight, and my small Swiss army pocket knife with seven tool heads. 

Then I felt the pang of a deeper loss! That little bag was associated with very emotional memories of my experience of 9/11.

I worked then at a brokerage firm whose offices are on the waterfront in Weehawken, New Jersey, directly across from midtown New York City. That fateful morning, I watched the second plane crash into Tower 2 of the World Trade Center.  During an emergency meeting called by the managing director to coordinate evacuation of our building, we all watched in horror as the towers collapsed in a huge plume of smoke and dust that spread over downtown Manhattan.  

I volunteered to stay and help coordinate transportation and accommodation for the staff since I lived only three miles away.  Soon after, the New York-New Jersey ferry dock across the building was flooded by shocked and panic stricken commuters coming over from New York, frantic to find their way home. 

When I finally left, I offered to drop a colleague at the New Jersey Transit train station. When we got there it felt like Armageddon. People who had managed to catch trains out of New York City were circling around in panic. All trains had stopped running! When my colleague heard the news she ran back to my car and asked me to take her home to Newark, a town about six miles away. In a scene reminiscent of a zombie movie, several young women started banging on my window. “Please, please, take us home!” They were disheveled and haggard. The fear in their eyes reflected what was in my and everyone else’s heart.  Is this the end? I couldn’t leave them there.

These perfect strangers piled up in my car and I proceeded to drive to Newark. I noticed a lot of police activity on all the roadways and bridges and credited it to the fact that the country was possibly under attack. When I dropped the girls off, we exchanged business cards. They worked for Estee Lauder Cosmetics.

Imagine my panic when I tried to get home to Jersey City and found a closed bridge. I circled around for what felt like an eternity trying to find a way, feeling like a citizen left outside the gates and the enemy was coming. All the bridges and roadways had been shut down. Frantic and scared, I finally reached my husband on the phone and he gently reminded me that I had a friend who lived near Newark.  I spent the night there, mostly glued to the continuous recap of the events on television. I found out the terrorists had driven from Newark and the police investigation was centered there. In addition, some of the World Trade victims were being transported to nearby New Jersey hospitals.

A couple of weeks later, I opened my mail to find a thank you note and a kit of Estee Lauder products from the young women I gave a ride to on 9/11. In it was that perfect size, elegant leather over satin cosmetic bag. I didn’t use it for a long time, wanting to keep it as a memento. When my regular $4.99 pouch gave way, I decided to start using the black pouch. It lasted a very long time, although lately the seam had started to burst around the zipper from my stuffing it with one lipstick too many. But I still loved it. It fit my style.

I never thought about how I got the bag until it was gone. It’s just like other things and people. They are part of the fabric of our everyday life, so we take them for granted. They serve their purpose or function and we never think of their emotional value until they are no longer around. Like that job you can’t stand but that provides for you or the gadget you paid so much for and mishandle. We are aware of how important this spouse, parent, child or friend is in our life, but we’ll leave them vulnerable, expose them to risk, just as I did when I left this bag in the open.

What if we valued what and who we love by protecting them a little better? 

How about if we remind ourselves how much they mean to us not only in a tangible way, but also by adding that emotional quotient that is so much more? 

Then maybe there would be less lost things to fuss about, less precious moments that are wasted away and less lost relationships to mourn.