Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mom & Me & Mike & My Hair

Looking Back

For some reason, several people recently began asking to see photos of me as a younger woman.  Perhaps because I am no longing hiding behind thick eyeglasses, people are looking at me differently.

So, to satisfy this ongoing curiosity, here are some photos from my past.  I don't have many old ones in digital format.

Just how far back do you want me to go?

Mom and me.  1954 or 1955.  She was 18 or 19 years old.  We are posing in some rural part of Illinois.  Both my parents grew up in small towns. Dad got Mom off the farm and to the big city.  She loved it.  We always said she had lived a past life in San Francisco or New York. She had good taste and a designer's eye. She was a pretty woman. She also loved little kids.  Her most beautiful attribute was her loving heart.


Here I am entertaining my younger brother, Greg. I was a tall three and a half year old with dishwater blond hair.  I still have those red corduroy coveralls in my keepsake box.  My Mom saved them.

I ended up having three younger brothers who tormented me.  They also gave me the ability to deal with men later in life, even the problematic ones.

My parents lived in public housing -- the infamous Pruitt-Igo projects -- while Dad finished dental school and Mom worked at the Rawlings factory in St. Louis, Missouri.  We were one of four white families living in this part of town.  Mom rode the bus to work.  Dad drove a 1954 VW bug that I later drove in high school with great joy and freedom.  I learned to take care of myself from a very early age.  I have done just that my entire life.


This next photo shows my Flynn Park class in the third grade.  It was 1963.  Oswald shot John F. Kennedy that year.  It was our 9/11 memory.  In the photo, I am seated on the floor on the left side, with bangs.  My Mom probably made the skirt and blouse outfit I was wearing.  She probably cut my bangs. I had buck teeth from sucking two fingers as a toddler.  Suzanne Magee, second row, second from the right, invited me to go to Dubai the year we both turned 60.  It led me to Doha. 


Big leap in time.  After my first year of law school,  I spent the summer studying Oil and Gas Law and the History of English Common Law at "Teddy Hall" at Oxford University.  You can see an Oxford don in his teaching robes in the background of this photo.  I worked three jobs earlier in the summer to pay my way.  My Mom surprised me at the last minute by buying the airplane ticket.  At that time, I never would have guessed that I would one day teach law. 

This trip sparked my love for travel, which I can indulge now that I live in Doha. In the last two years, I have visited Vienna, northern Italy, Taiwan, Thailand (twice), Vietnam, Malaysia, and Australia.  I love Asia. 


This photo captures me at a sidewalk cafe in Paris that same summer.  Eighteen months before, the doctors had diagnosed my boyfriend, Mike, as having a malignant melanoma -- a very deadly form of skin cancer. He had completed a round of experimental cancer treatment before he joined me in Paris for the Grande Tour of Europe.  He took the photo.


This next photo shows me enjoying the sun on one of our frequent canoe "float trips" in the Missouri Ozarks.  I rarely posed for cheesecake shots.  I was too worried about protecting my credibility as a woman lawyer.  I think I was in my second year of law school.


This photo features some of my friends at a concert on Art Hill in St. Louis.  I made the "F Troop" sign so folks could find the real estate we had staked out.  I also made the dress I'm wearing.  In those days, I permed my fine, thin hair to give it body.  It was a short-lived look.  Mike is sitting in the front in the pink shirt. He had finished cancer therapy at that point. (He is still alive and very active physically.) At that time, I was still in law school.

Mike mentioned how much he loved my shoulders.  They were the product of a regime of lap swimming, which I have started again in Doha.  I swim 700 meters four times a week now.  I think I was a dolphin in a past life.  Or, a mermaid.


This next photo shows me playing an Amazon woman in Queen Hippolyta's court for an outdoor production of A Midsummers Night Dream.  I had no lines, but given my height, it was perfect casting.  My boyfriend, Mike (another Mike), had a speaking role in the play.  So, did his dog.  She barked on cue.

We lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the natural gas supply bubble of the mid-1980s.  (I have lived long enough to see another natural gas supply bubble brought on by the success of fracking production.)  I worked for the largest law firm in Oklahoma doing natural gas pipeline regulatory work.  Mike never found a full-time job despite his MBA from Washington University, so we moved to Washington, D.C.  We met when I was clerking for May Department Stores Company in St. Louis during my third year of law school.  I was crazy in love with him.  The dog's name was Ruta.


Mike (the second one) and I also toured Paris.  This photo was taken outside the Pompadeau Museum.  That was a great summer, too.



This photo shows my extended family, including my aunts, uncles, parents, brothers, cousins, and grandmother.  Mike (the second one) is on the back row.  I am in the front row.  I was perfecting my woman-lawyer-look at the time. You rarely saw me without a jacket (which is still true).  My Mom is in the middle in the white blouse next to my Dad.  We had a big celebration with home-made oyster stew on Christmas Eve.  My nephews were not yet born.  My brother, John, was not yet dead.


This photo was taken when I was a young associate working for the Energy Department of the D.C. office of Skadden Arps.  At that time, it held the position of the third largest firm in the world.  I met some very smart, creative, and hard working people during that time.  I also learned that repeated "all-nighters" would not kill me.  I also became fearless.  I was about 31 years old.


During that time, my best friend Carol (who is still one of my best friends) got married at a Utah ski resort.  I was a bride's maid, a role I rarely played. My Arab students are very curious about my single, childless status.  They marry young and have several children.  I have had five marriage proposals.  But, I never followed through.  I tell my students that I was an "American career woman," and rightly so.  When I entered the legal profession in 1982, only 8 percent of all U.S. lawyers were women.  Even by 2000, eighteen years later, only 29% of  U.S. lawyers were women.


My D.C. friends also rented a beach house on the Delaware shore every summer.  I had never lived near the beach before.  Now, my Doha apartment is a block from the beach.  This photo shows me reading in the beach house before we headed out for dinner.  I am back to big hair.  I have also always worn scarves.  In junior high, I would borrow silk scarves from my Mom's dresser drawer.  What junior high school student wears silk scarves?  I must have been a French woman in a past life.


Some evenings, we would stay home, fry softshell crabs, steam clams, and drink white wine.  These were some of my happiest days.  I'm tanned, fit, have money to spend, and enjoyed my smart friends.  I do not know the guy in the background of this photo.


I did find one other cheesecake photo.  Same summer.  It makes me laugh.


This photo shows me with my Mom shortly before the doctors gave her a diagnosis of terminal colon cancer.  She was my closest confidant and greatest booster.  She had remarkable listening skills.

By this time, I was covering my gray hair with red hair color.  I made a pretty good red-head with my green eyes and pale skin color.  I was in my early 40s, back in St. Louis, and working at a small boutique firm doing insurance insolvency litigation for what was then the largest insurance insolvency in U.S. history.  I spent about half my time, for about a decade, in Los Angeles working on different aspects of the insolvency.  In the mid-90s, I was a law partner at a time when less than 17 percent of partners were women. (In 2017, the number finally crept to 19 percent.)  I must have been a man in a past life.

Now, I look a lot like my Mom did then.  I've written about her death at age 61 here.



This photo shows me with one of my childhood friends, Mike (a third one).  We once misbehaved in fifth grade English class, and the teacher sent us both out into the hallway.  (I was typically teacher's pet, so this was a new experience for me.)  My favorite teacher, Mr. Dwyer, saw me in the hall-of-shame, and I never let it happen again.  I continued to call Mike my friend despite my humiliaton. St. Louis. Mid-40s. Rocking red hair.



This next photo still has me rocking my red hair color.  I was coaching the Appalachian School of Law (ASL) negotiation team that went on to place 10th out of 180 teams in the ABA national competition.  The year is 2004.  The student in the photo was one of the negotiators.  I had been teaching about two years by then.  I was 50 years old.


Here is a photo of Lily Golightly Young the day I adopted her at an ASL C.A.R.E.S. event.  The tree-covered Appalachian Mountains make the backdrop, as well as my trusty SUV.  Dogs have played an important role in my life.  Now, in Doha, I don't have a dog in the house for the first time since 1985. I enjoy the freedom, but miss the love.  I also don't own a car.  Instead, I have a driver who navigates the dangerous roads of Doha.  I miss the freedom of driving.  I also miss that red jacket.


I started to grow out my hair to its natural silver color when I was recovering from ankle fusion surgery in 2007, after I broke my left leg in three places in 2005.  My grandmother, Babe Young, and her sisters had the same silver hair. 


This photos shows me displaying some of the treasures I bought on a month-long tour of the American West at the age of 57.  I drove solo in my SUV at a slow pace from Virginia to Montana and back.  Scrounging around antique stores is one of my favorite hobbies.  I found many Western and Native American treasures in those stores on this trip.  You can spot a buffalo skull on the bed behind me. My best friend from high school, Kenn Ann, is laughing in the background. Love her Beatles T-shirt. I also love a good cowboy hat and own three. Doha is short on antique stores.  It is also short on people wearing cowboy hats.



I left for Doha the summer I turned 61.  It is no coincidence that I launched this new adventure at the same age that saw an end to my Mom's life.  I am living the life she couldn't.  

This photo shows me posing in front of the East Tennessee airport the night I flew to Doha.  My personal assistant, Brenda, helped me close up a two-story house filled with furniture and treasures.  We were both exhausted by the time this night came.  We had a big seafood dinner at Red Lobster before my departure.  She said a little prayer over me for a safe trip.  I brought four suitcases and a box.  That's starting over for sure. I've learned the teapot pose from my ASL students. For more about manifesting this new life, take a look here.


As I said earlier, Doha lets me travel easily to places in Europe and Asia.  My friend, Jessica, took this photo at the bird park in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  We stopped in KL on our way to Taiwan in January 2017.  


This photo shows my colleagues in the Lawyering Skills Program at Qatar University College of Law.  They are a wonderful group of professors.  We were having lunch together before the summer vacation began.


Here I am celebrating my 63rd birthday at a Ramadan Iftar dinner in Doha.  I am wearing an abaya.


And here I am posing with two of my best male students in June 2017.  One student is Palestinian.  The other is Bahrainian/Qatari.  My hair was a little flat that day.  I am always a little worse-for-wear by the end of the semester.  I described my experience that semester here


I took this photo after my cataract surgery in Thailand this summer.  No more thick eyeglasses needed.  I bought the coral necklace and the hand-painted linen blouse in Bangkok.  I am still healthy, have money to spend, and enjoy smart friends.  I still love to travel.  I am standing in my one bedroom Doha apartment that I decorated in a Nantucket beach house decor. My hair looked really fluffy that day.  Just how I like it.


As I got about half way through this blog post, I realized I was inspired by Maya Angelou's book, "Mom & Me & Mom."  My book club read it last month and met to discuss it last week.  We decided it represented a late career reflection.  Maybe this post represents the same impulse.

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