Really Facebook, do we need another dating app?

In a perfect world, this is what online dating would look like.

Do we really need another dating app? I typed “dating” into my app store and here is a sampling of what popped up:

OkCupid, Hinge, Cougar, Bumble, Hily, Loveplanet, Kinkoo, POF Dating, Curvy Singles Dating, Clover Dating App, Tinder, Match, Adult Affair Finder, Zoosk, Badoo, Hud, Gaper, Christian Dating, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hookup App, DateMyAge, and this is not the complete list!

Clearly, some of these apps are not actually for dating in the sense that many of us define the word. And let me be very clear: I am neither endorsing nor advocating any of these apps or services. If you’re in the market, you need to do your own research. And then research more.

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The Art of the Resolution

Fear and New Year’s Resolutions – get rid of them!

There’s nothing like the start of a brand new year to light that fire inside. I don’t always make New Year’s Resolutions, but when I do, that fire typically burns about a week and then flickers to a one-log campfire in the rain. But let’s be real. Resolutions are hard! They’re not like our goals wherein we incrementally work toward an achievement. No, resolutions are a proclamation of a habit that will instantly and forever be changed.

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Cardinals Appear When Angels are Near

Cardinals appear when angels are near. Have you heard this saying? Or that a cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed away? I’ve heard people say these things, but never gave it much merit. Not until about a year ago.

Before I tell my cardinal story, let me give a little background as to why I was so dismissive of the notion of cardinals being spiritual messengers. It’s no secret that my Mom was very much into the spiritual world. She read tarot cards for forty years or so, participated in a seance or two (that I can recall), and on one occasion I watched her become a physical medium for a spirit. I was twelve, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. It is my fear that keeps me from giving the spiritual world much thought. If I don’t believe in it, if I don’t dwell on it, then nothing scary will happen, right?

As far as the cardinal thing, my thought was that there are more cardinals in certain regions and thus more sightings. Seeing a cardinal in North Carolina is common. No big deal. It’s our state bird for crying out loud. But what I hadn’t keyed in on is the difference between a sighting and a visit. It’s not merely a sighting that constitutes a visit from a loved one, it’s how the bird behaves.

The first anniversary of my Mom’s passing is just two weeks away. It was this time last year that Mom took a turn for the worse, and also when I started getting visits.

When Dad passed away nearly twenty years ago, I was heartbroken. Dad and I were close, and I still think of him every day. Mom said when I was growing up that if she needed to find me, she knew to look wherever Dad was. In the years after Dad died, the bond between Mom and I became strong. Sometimes we were like oil and water but also like best friends. That lady sure put me through the paces in her last years, but we had a relationship that I’ll hold in my heart forever. I don’t know if it’s more difficult losing your second parent–it’s tough to gauge grief–it’s hard and not something you can prepare for. So when Mom became ill and I felt it was the beginning of the end, I was heartsick. There was a sadness in my soul that ran deep, and there was nothing to be done about it.

When I got the phone call at work that Mom wasn’t doing well, I left the office for the privacy and comfort of home. I’m an introvert and draw strength from within, and I was too rattled to be any use at work anyway. I remember that day clearly–I stepped onto my front porch and sat on the top stair, knees to chest, arms hugging my legs. I felt a sadness envelop me, and my heart ached. As I sat there, I noticed a rotund cardinal perched in the crepe myrtle tree that was just feet from my deck.

This guy started perching in my crepe myrtle about two weeks before Mom passed away.

Like I said, it’s common to see cardinals here, so at first I didn’t think much of it. But he was behaving differently than any other cardinal I had seen. He wasn’t leaving. Typically, they light on a branch for a moment or three and flit away just as quickly. This guy stayed. I watched him for a couple of minutes before going into the house to get my camera, thinking he would certainly be gone by the time I got back outside. Nope. He was still there. I took my seat on the top stair and snapped a few photos. I changed lenses so that I could zoom in–still there. It still hadn’t hit me what this might be.

I talked to my sister that afternoon, about Mom and what to do, and what we would do without her, and I mentioned the cardinal. My sister said “Oh, that’s an angel, Kelly. It’s probably Dad.” I said no, there are cardinals everywhere here. Nothing out of the ordinary. But I kept seeing the cardinal, or at least a cardinal, every day. Sometimes perched on my fence, other times in that tree, and I started to think maybe there was something to this.

As I said, Mom passed away just about two weeks after the cardinal started visiting. I live more than a thousand miles from my family, so the morning after Mom died, I conference called my siblings to discuss arrangements. I sat at my desk in front of a bank of windows that look out toward the crepe myrtle tree, and as I was going over the list of things Mom wanted at her funeral (she had been planning this event with me for decades), the puffy cardinal perched on a branch that reached nearest to the window. He sat so precariously toward the end of the branch that it bobbed slightly from his weight. He looked straight at me and held his gaze nearly the whole time I was on the phone. I kept saying to my brother and sisters how I couldn’t believe this cardinal was still staring at me.

Well, color me a believer.

When Dad was alive, we looked out for each other–he sometimes stayed at my house when he had early dialysis before he and Mom moved closer to the hospital. We would have breakfast together on Friday mornings. Any time he was admitted to the VA hospital in Iron Mountain, Michigan I would visit on my way to or from work. We never talked much, but we liked each other’s company. I truly believe that cardinal was Dad trying to ease my pain, making sure I was not alone.

After Mom’s funeral and when I was back in North Carolina, the cardinal sightings continued, but not as intensely as in the two weeks before Mom’s death. Shortly after I returned home, toward the end of a walk with my dog and as I rounded the corner to my house, there were four cardinals in a bush. I have never seen a group of cardinals before, but I’ve read that cardinals will flock during winter months. This was late April in North Carolina when the temp was rising. There was one bright red (male) and three tan with light red tails (females).

I stopped and caught my breath, because not only are my parents deceased, but two of my sisters are as well. A male and three female cardinals. They didn’t stay long. It was as though they wanted me to see them, and they flew off. I felt this time that it wasn’t Dad making sure I was okay, rather a message that they were okay–they were together.

About five months after Mom’s passing, I came home from work to a light red feather lying on my welcome mat. I smiled and thought, thanks for stopping by, Mom. I miss you too. I’m still not open to the spiritual world by any stretch, but I now take comfort in my cardinal angels.


My First Mother’s Day Without Mom

This is the first Mother’s Day since Mom passed away. One month ago today, actually. Ironically, today was going to be our first Mother’s Day together in over a decade.

Since I adopted my sweet baby girl, Grace, Mom had wanted to meet her. For over three years, I sent pictures of Grace to Mom, showed Mom videos of Grace, and I told her what a comfort Grace had been to me since the day I brought her home from the shelter. Nearly every time we talked, Mom would say she wanted nothing more in life than to meet her grand-dog. It sounds dramatic, but trust me, Mom had a flair for it.

Grace even signed cards to Mom

With me living 1,200 miles away and Mom no longer traveling, it was almost impossible for Mom to meet Grace. Almost.

This year I planned to drive from North Carolina to Illinois and rendezvous with Mom at my sister’s place in May (sister was going to pick up Mom a few days prior and bring her to Illinois). After a few days in Illinois, I would drive Mom home to Wisconsin, all with Grace at our side. Finally, Grace and I would make the trek from Wisconsin back to North Carolina on our own…all Thelma and Louise, but without the cliff.

Mom was beside herself about meeting Grace. She talked about finally meeting the grand-dog every time we spoke. Then she would say she didn’t think she would live that long, and I would say in a teasing yet gentle way, “Mom, surely you can hold on until Mother’s Day to meet Grace!” And Mom would chuckle and say “Okay, I’ll wait until May.”

But Mom couldn’t wait until May. She passed away on April 14, which makes this first Mother’s Day without Mom that much more sad. The thing she talked about for over three years, I missed by a month. Things happen the way they happen, and I’m not blaming myself, but it hurts my heart. I would have loved to have done that for Mom. I would have loved to have seen her face light up and her heart swell when she met my sweet, lovable, snuggly Grace.

In the week leading up to today, my friend Karen asked what I was doing this weekend, and invited me to visit with her and her Mom who lives in an assisted living facility. Karen is gaga over Grace, and her Mom loves dogs as well, so of course Grace was invited.

I think Grace is gaga for Karen as well!

A couple of years ago I took Grace to a therapy dog class in hopes that we could visit nursing homes and such spreading Grace-style cheer. It’s something I feel Grace would do well, and something I would enjoy. Maybe because I surprised my parents late in life and they were older than the typical Mom and Dad–it’s hard to say–but I definitely have a soft spot for the older folks.

The problem was, Grace and I didn’t do well in the class. Grace was easily distracted and began to lose her manners as the weeks went by, so I pulled her from the program.

Fast forward to our invitation this weekend, where Grace was the life of the party at the senior living facility. I was so proud of my girl and Mom would have been, too. We spent time with Karen’s Mom in her private quarters, where Grace gently took treats, snuggled, and gave kisses. Karen’s Mom was delighted.


Being the perfect pup for Miss Dolly

We joined other residents and their families for a Mother’s Day Tea in one of the common areas. The place was packed like a Friday night happy hour and with the noise level to match. In all the chaos, Grace didn’t miss a beat. She sat when I asked her to, she let people awe over her and pet her, she had her picture made with several folks, ignored another pooch who walked through the room, and sat nicely while a little fellow of about three timidly pet her and ran off squealing.

Giving the facility director some puppy love

The staff gushed over her, sat with her, loved on her. This is exactly how I imagined she would behave in this environment. Grace was made for making people smile, for bringing them comfort, and it brought me as much joy as it did the residents.

Grace loved everyone she met

To bring this back to Mom, and the ache in my heart that she is gone, that I did not get to be with her today and watch her face light up at the sight of my smiling dog–my first Mother’s Day without Mom was made less painful knowing that a few other Moms enjoyed the company of a sweet, little red shelter dog who loves as big as the world.

I am blown away by the people in my life who made sure I was not grieving alone this weekend. Whether you reached out to me in person, or simply held me in your thoughts, thank you.

To Mom: I miss you more than words can say, but I take comfort in believing that you’re smiling. Smiling because your grand-dog and I did some good in the world today. Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.


My Dog Grace: Grief Counselor

Anyone who knows the love of a dog will likely tell you that dog is their baby. What many folks don’t share is that said dog is their world. I’ve been admitting that since the day I found Little Miss on the Wake County Animal Center website. I met her, and my heart melted. She was mine, but more importantly, I was hers.

I was going through a tough time when I adopted Grace, and it is no secret that she rescued me as much as I rescued her. She was homeless, emaciated, and had heart worm disease. I had just moved back to my condo and found myself alone for the first time in decades, and I was only beginning to deal with the psychological aspect of breast cancer. Grace and I were destined to save each other, and you will not convince me otherwise.

That was over three years ago. Fast forward to two weeks ago when I lost my Mom, my first best friend, and I couldn’t conjure the emotional strength to leave my bed. I got up at 7 a.m. to let Grace out for her morning business, but then went right back to bed and curled up with my heart aching. I could have stayed there until it was time for Grace’s evening break.

Typically, Grace will fuse to the sofa or the bed right along with me during a Netflix binge or while I read a book, but on that particular day, she got restless. She had stretched out next to me with her snout on my chest long enough. Around 10 a.m., she made a show of jumping out of bed and left the room. I could hear her huffing somewhere in the house. Large inhales followed by audible exhales.

I got out of bed to see what was going on, and this is what I found right outside my bedroom door:

Waiting for her Mum

She was feet from my bedroom, impatiently waiting, giving me the gentle signal of her huffing and puffing until I got myself out of bed. As soon as I stood in the doorway looking like an extra from The Walking Dead with bed head, puffy eyes, and still in my PJs, Grace jumped up and greeted me as she always does. With joy, gratitude, excitement, and unconditional love.

With her beautiful, soft brown eyes, and her gentle flicking of my hand with her muzzle, she convinced me that a walk was the best thing for us. And so I got dressed and we walked. Exercise, fresh air, and my whole world walking next to me. Just what the doctor dog ordered.

I recommend letting your friends and family help you through difficult times, and talking with a professional counselor. I’ll likely seek that out in the weeks to come. Also, I highly recommend adopting a dog.


Farewell Beautiful Lady – A Eulogy for Mom

The past several weeks have been stressful, emotional, and fast. My mother experienced much pain unnecessarily, was hospitalized, recovered, was again hospitalized, discharged to hospice care, and within a few short days of that, she passed away.

Before I could finish making my case with her medical provider regarding her care, before I could follow-up on my demand for an actual doctor, Mom died. I have plenty on my mind, but little that I’d like to share. Not yet, and possibly not ever.

Except her eulogy. I wrote that, I spoke it at her funeral, and I’d like to share it with you. Let’s start there, and in the weeks and months to come, I may or may not post more. Death is like that. It creates uncertainty, leaves questions that might never be answered, and turns your heart to confetti. Sad, walked upon, the-party-is-over, shredded.

Despite my grief, I wanted Mom’s eulogy to convey who she was; not the immense pain I was feeling. It needed to have humor, and it needed to be candid. Just like Mom. Here is Mom’s eulogy, daughter to mother.

“On behalf of my family, thank you all for coming today to say farewell to our mother. It’s heartbreaking to lose a parent, and I’ll miss my Mom until the end of time, just as I have missed my Dad since he passed 18 years ago. But, seeing so many people here who care, there is comfort in that. And we thank you.

Mom could light up a room, get a laugh from even the most stoic, and was always the life of the party. She was usually throwing the party. And she never walked away from a good poker game.

Mom believed in giving people a chance, a second chance, and sometimes a third. She was truly a champion for the underdog. I know this because I watched her hire people who asked for a job, lend a little cash if it was needed, or simply sit and listen. Or she’d tell you to shut up. She was honest.

Mom had only an 8th grade education, but with that, she landed a factory job when she was just a teenager – when other kids her age were in school.

Sewing pajamas at Munsingwear was her first gig, and it was after a shift at the factory when she and Dad first met. Then, just as she was doing a few short weeks ago, Mom lit up the room, and for them, the rest was history. I often wonder if Dad knew the wild ride he had signed up for.

Mom and Dad raised a mess of kids, which is quite an accomplishment because most of us were not easy children. They both worked, and kept a small summer home in Minnesota. When they bought the Amberg Pub, Mom took on the diner – she created a menu, ordered food and supplies, hired help, and handled the bookkeeping. With an 8th grade education.

If you knew Mom, you also knew she was a pistol. Strong willed, I believe is the polite term. But her chutzpa, her confidence, is what I admire most about my mother. The words ‘I can’t’ were not in her vocabulary. She had dreams, and she made them come true. She set goals, and she achieved them.

Even though Mom and Dad were married for over 50 years, she was fiercely independent. She was a force, and she never stopped. Again, God bless my Dad.

I am incredibly proud to be Donna Gropp’s daughter; she taught me so much. And although there will forever be an empty space in my heart with her name on it, it makes my heart smile knowing that Mom and Dad are together again. This funeral is for us, because all is not right in our world, but now it is in theirs.”

Cheers Mom,

New Year – New Name (and a logo, too!)

I’ve been tossing around the idea of a new name for a while. I love Chubs Lived Here because it holds meaning for me (my Sweet Baby Chubs kitty I adored for 17 years), but it’s not particularly meaningful or catchy to anyone else, especially potential new readers. So after four years, it’s time for a change.

The search for the perfect name has been playing out in my head for over a year. I have lists of names, most of which are already taken. One of my favorites is Miss Imperfection, but alas, it belongs to someone else. Sigh.

I thought up Half Fast and Classy about a month ago and it felt right from the moment I said it. My first instinct is to say “sadly, it’s so me!” However, I’m proud of my flaws and improvisational ways. Letting go of perfectionism took decades, and I’m finally okay with it. Go, Me! There’s no “sadly” about this. I am proud to be Half Fast and Classy. If you don’t get it, say it quickly. There you go!

Styling life and home on a shoestring budget

A big shout out to Billy Parker at ComiXed for the logo that captures me and Miss Grace perfectly. Well, more than perfectly – Logo Me is way taller than Real Me. Thank you, Billy! One day I’ll figure out how to integrate the logo into my site. Minor detail.

What I write isn’t going to change, because what you see is truly who I am and the projects are real. I still have an aversion to reading directions, but life doesn’t come with an instruction booklet, does it? It’s a new name; same strong, caring, intelligent, and sometimes dippy Lady Boss winging it and getting it done…with a dash of class!


10 Ways to Make Your Solo Christmas Special

If you usually celebrate Christmas with family, but find yourself alone for the holiday, you might be wondering what to do with your time. I visit my family during the summer because I choose not to travel North in the winter. The trade-off is that I spend Christmas alone. The upside is that it can be peaceful and freeing. It can be a tough adjustment, but it turns out you can actually have a merry and meaningful holiday on your own!

My tradition has evolved from extreme family togetherness, to small and intimate gatherings, to each sibling hosting their own holiday with their grown children. Back in the day, all five of my siblings, along with their children, would descend upon Mom and Dad’s home for Christmas. Most would stay the weekend while Mom cooked, Dad shouted at the television (mostly at Bart Starr and Lynn Dickey), and the kids ran wild. Of course, each night was capped off with a play-for-keeps poker game.

As things do, it all changed. I moved a thousand miles away and declared I would visit Wisconsin in the summer months and not during snowstorms with icy roads and cancelled flights. My Christmas tradition has changed drastically. It has gone from confining 10 to 15 adults and children to a 900 square foot house for three days with copious amounts of sugar and alcohol, to me spending time with me. I find myself amusing and super chill, so it’s okay. If you’re doing Christmas solo, here are 10 things that might make your holiday special.

1 – Make yourself a special meal. I’ve been eating junk lately, so I prepared my favorite healthy breakfast on Christmas Eve morning. Slow cooked steel-cut oats with fresh blackberries, bananas, and walnuts sprinkled with cinnamon. Your special meal might be bacon and eggs, a black and bleu burger for lunch, or lobster for dinner. All that matters is that it makes you happy!

Delicious and healthy breakfast

2 – Get outside. The short days and chilly weather are not my jam, and winter transforms me into a hermit. As soon as I get home from work, the PJs are on and I’m in for the evening. Christmas morning is the perfect time to get outside for a hike, stretch your legs, and breathe fresh air. The parks and trails are less congested, allowing you to really connect with nature. Listen to the squirrels rustling among the trees, streams trickling, and winter birds chirping. I brought my dog, Grace, so she could enjoy the sights and smells, too!

Miles of greenway with sculptures at the NCMA, and some are benches!

3 – Lend a hand. You probably know someone who is in high gear preparing for their family get-together. Offer to run an errand for a friend or neighbor and lighten their load. Something as simple as picking up last-minute grocery items can make someone’s day less stressful.

4 – FaceTime with your family. Or ask them to video special moments. Just because you’re not with your family, doesn’t mean you can’t see your family. Dial up some togetherness–watch the kiddos open a gift, have the adults pass the phone around and say Merry Christmas to everyone!

Christmas Morning

5 – Visit with a friend, or not. Your friends will invite you to join their family celebration. This is a personal decision, and I suggest you do what you’re comfortable with. I’ll admit, no matter how sincere and well-meaning the gesture, sometimes being with someone else’s family makes me more lonesome for my own family. Sometimes I accept the invite and have a blast; other times I choose to do my own thing. I give myself permission to make the decision that feels right for me each year.

6 – See a local show/sight/event. Having a long weekend usually means I can schedule an activity I would not normally have time for. This Christmas weekend I’m going to see the Chinese Lantern Festival. You might want to see a movie, a live show, or a concert. Treat yourself!

Chinese Lantern Festival

7 – Volunteer. Many organizations need help over Christmas because the usual volunteers are out of town for the holiday. Be sure to check into this a few months in advance as most groups require an application and possibly orientation and training. What says Christmas more than helping those in need?

8 – Go to Church. If you’re spiritual, attend a church service. If you attend regularly, reach out and welcome someone who is alone. If you haven’t been in a while, don’t worry. Any time is a good time to reconnect with your faith. Feed your spiritual soul.

9 – Meditate. Whether you’re a yogi or someone simply trying to touch his or her toes, spend 15 minutes before turning in for the night gently stretching your body and resting your mind. I’ve created a Pandora station with peaceful music and I reflect on what I am thankful for. I have not yet mastered the art of quieting my thoughts, so focused reflection it is.

10 – Take a trip. If you’re like me and not going home because their weather is frightful, how about Christmas on a warm, sunny beach? If you’re comfortable traveling alone, it could be delightful!

Merry Christmas, Y’all!

Three Years in Remission and I’m a Nervous-Nellie

March 14 marked three years of survivorship for me…excuse me while I do my happy dance! But wait, what is this anxiety I feel? In 2014 and 2015, I made a big deal about my cancerversaries. My work peeps heard about it for weeks leading up to the big date, my friends were invited to celebrate, and I felt a sense of giddiness to mark another year without a recurrence. What happened to the party this year?

I’ve had a lot on my plate recently, and quite frankly the date nearly slipped my mind. Work has amped up, and Miss Grace and I will be moving soon to a new home. The process of house hunting, purchasing, packing, and moving is overwhelming in and of itself. Add the stress of transitioning Mom from living independently to assisted living, and watching the person I love most in the world decline, well it is heartbreaking.

But there has been something deeper than family, career, and domicile that has kept me from making a fuss. Most remissions occur in the three- to seven-year window. There it is.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation notes that most recurrences occur in the first five years. The American Journal of Managed Care refers to the three- to seven-year window. At 10 years after initial treatment, the recurrence rate drops drastically, which is why my oncologists are fixated on that 10-year mark.

Meanwhile, I’m living in the three- to seven-year space.

I’ve been asked if cancer is always on my mind. If I obsess over it. That’s tough to answer, because cancer is part of me. I didn’t ask for this. I had no choice in the matter, but I have to accept that it is, and always will be, part of who I am. I wrote shortly after my diagnosis in this post that cancer would not define me, but there is no denying cancer either.

It’s a little like asking if breathing is always on one’s mind. Yes and no. You know it is part of you, you don’t think about it every moment, but you are innately aware of the fact, on some level, that you are breathing at all times.

So, my answer is yes, cancer is always on my mind; and my answer is no, I do not obsess over it because it is often not intentional thought, it is an awareness. Except now I’m three years cancer-free. That three- to seven-year window just cracked open, and I’d love nothing more than to shut this sh-t down. But I can’t.

I’m dealing with my fear of being overconfident, of jinxing myself, and I will celebrate. I’ll rally my friends and do it up good. After all, regardless of health, wealth, age, luck, or lack thereof, you still only live once!


The Pink Tax a Continuation of Sexism

There was an article on cnn this week about the pink tax. I wasn’t familiar with the term, but I had an idea what it meant. That article coincided with the receipt of my high school transcript, and the two combined have my feathers ruffled.

The pink tax is the reality that women pay more for goods and services than men. A few examples include razors, hair care products, and ear plugs. You heard me, ear plugs. Wow. Women have been paying a higher price for haircuts and dry cleaning for years, but I had no idea it went as far as squishy ear plugs. Shame on everyone. The manufacturer, the retailer, and in this case, the consumer for perpetuating the cycle. Yes, there are some products we have no choice but to pay the price, but ear plugs? Buy the non-specific plugs, and send a clear message that the manufacturer can stuff the overpriced pink plugs in their ears!

But none of this is new. It is a continuation of sexism that we can’t seem to shake no matter how much progress we have made since the incredibly intelligent and brave pioneers who claimed our right to vote in 1920. There is still a wage gap. Women are still asked about their familial status when it comes to job interviews or promotions. Women are accused of being emotional rather than caring. We overreact rather than address issues. We are mean rather than astute business people. And when we are deep in thought creating, solving, or serving for less pay than the man next to us, we have resting bitch face. Seriously.

Now, the part about my high school transcript. In the 1980s when I was a young girl who thought she knew everything, I believed the feminists had done their job and women were pretty much treated equally. I thought the fight was over. Pfft! Not only was it not over, but I personally (albeit unknowingly) signed up for the most sexist high school curriculum one could imagine. I recall requesting a woodworking class one year and being denied, but I don’t recall questioning that decision for long. Nor do I recall anyone (my family, faculty, or school counselor) raising an eyebrow to it or counseling me on my class schedule that followed.

Even though it’s been over 30 years since I claimed my diploma, and although I am getting older, I don’t think of myself as old. I think of myself as a modern woman, so it was shocking to see in black and white what my scholastic preparation for adulthood looked like. Hold on to your pink-taxed seats, ladies, because this will blow you away.

I took a total of 50 classes over four years. Some were what you would expect: English, History, Algebra, and so on, and I took a handful of art classes. However, take a peek at what was woven throughout:

Shorthand, Personal Typing, Beginning Typing, Typing 1, Bookkeeping, Office Practice, Stitchery, Clothing 1, Freshmen Home Economics, Foods & Nutrition, Meal Management, Consumer Economics (I could be mistaken, but I think this was the “family finances” version), and Child Development.

Over 25% of my course load was geared toward childcare, homemaking, and office work. The message was pretty clear as to what my life should look like after graduation. The irony is that two thirds of that s@*t didn’t stick. One can argue that Child Development was a well-intended effort to cultivate good parenting skills. Sure. But why were no boys in that class? Why were only the girls cradling 5-pound sacks of flour for a week, changing their powdery diapers? Did that not send the message that boys didn’t need to be good parents? That they really didn’t need to be parents at all—that was women’s work? Folks, this was 1984, not 1894! Even though I attended a rural school where we were bussed in from five towns to make up a graduating class of 46 students, we should have known better. I should have had an inkling, and the adults should have flat-out known better.

To be clear, I admire mothers and fathers who stay home to raise their children. I admire mothers and fathers who choose to, or must, work to support their family. And I admire people who choose not to have children at all. But the key here is choice, equality, and support from society rather than something as abhorrent as a pink tax. Furthermore, we surely should not be pigeonholed from childhood into which role we will assume. Nor should any child be guided toward a career based on gender or lowered expectations. Often, children will become what you tell them they can be.

I hope today’s children are a generation being taught that little girls and little boys can grow up to be involved, thoughtful parents. I hope that little boys and little girls are told they can be whatever they choose—whether it be a doctor, an author, a homemaker, a carpenter, or a neuroscientist. It is frightening that society was still guiding children into centuries-old, gender-specific stereotypical careers just 30 years ago.

I own my life and take full responsibility. I was a head-strong young lady who could have made better choices, but I did not. That is on me. I sometimes beat myself up about not having had higher aspirations than to “work in an office,” but all things considered, I am happy and thankful for everything I have, office job included. Still, I occasionally wonder where I would be now if anyone had told me I could be anything I wanted. Would I have cured cancer rather than be diagnosed with it? If you scoffed at the notion, even a little, ask yourself why. Then ask, what message am I sending to my children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews? I promise you, delivering that message is the most important thing you’ll do in your life.