Why are women missing in the cryptocurrency action?

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First, try to set aside the current sentiment regarding the downturn of current conditions of crypto for the purpose of this issue.

Starting with the basics: What is Cryptocurrency?

“Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Many cryptocurrencies are decentralized networks based on blockchain technology—a distributed ledger enforced by a disparate network of computers.”

It might be hard to get one’s head around all this terminology– not unlike a new language. I do get a strange thrill, asserting some understanding of this concept, some. My usual repertoire lives in the art realm. But science and art share abstract realities, making for a vague understanding of the science/art commonality.

I love the precision of technical vocabulary unique to individual industries. How many times have you heard or read an art review and thought, eh??? Same difference.

Back to Crypto. Each currency name has a provenance based on an entirely different form of currency, got it. Even with a limited understanding, there is the suggestion of added value, evaluated with only a basic knowledge of the tech world. Cryptocurrency is “secured by…. and is nearly impossible to counterfeit” would likely reach receptive ears. Security matters–in an increasingly impersonal world– where the mechanism to store one’s passwords takes place of vaults of coins, jewelry and furs.

That we are in the golden age of computers is a given; the magnitude of agency created by a network of computers is huge– capable of mind-blowing events– such as being witness to interplanetary events. For the purpose of the blogiary I am going to leave further terms for future investigation.

Women aren’t geeky. Really????

My nascent introduction with crypto, was anything but philosophical. The currency was required for a transaction ( look for a future Blogiary on that). As an artist and entrepreneur, all things new and inspiring, was part of my job description; the latest frontier (who can resist watching space discoveries and astrological events???) Crypto was on the horizon.

It recently occurred to me, why so few, if any women appear in news events surrounding crypto?

Researching the subject produced some interesting finds regarding gender differences.

Smart and astute women— perhaps under the radar of the baby boomers–have played key roles in the nerd culture. So why is this bias existing, that women haven’t played roles in nerd culture?

The real question is, which arena in nerd culture exhibits an absence of key women players evident? Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Gaming, Comics, Conventions, Superheroes…. all check. Geek girls have an important presence often, 50/50.

Look at the host of authors alone, in alternative worlds: Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter Series), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), Veronica Roth and so forth. Areas where women don’t just participate but dominate, they tend to be less commercial: fan fiction, art, book blogging.

Popular culture geek girl role models can be seen in several popular television shows; X Files, Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Criminal Minds. They are the antithesis of the adage “Boys don’t make passes with girls who wear glasses”. Dark hair and glasses….the signifier of nerdy, classically, and stereotypically–smart girls.

I wish I could locate the tune; Hots for girls who wear glasses. I redeemably good song, though a google search rather quickly dives into porn looking for it. Dorothy Parker is on record with ” Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses”. Tongue in cheek of course.

Some gender factoids regarding behaviors in finance :

Men are more likely to be the tech millionaires, venture capitalists, where a bias toward men is observed.

Women seem to be more responsive and pragmatic about the tech job market. Women were more likely to leave IT after the tech bubble in the 1990’s exploded and tend towards an investment in communal goals.

Women in computer science included such as Grace Hopper (1950’s Harvard compliers to UNIVAC), Ada Lovelace (first algorithm to be executed by a computer1843!!!), Margaret Hamilton (systems engineering at MIT), Mary Kenneth Keller (first PhD in computer science). The field is still dominated heavily by men with only 18% of computer bachelor’s degrees going to women.

However, women have been in the field doing kick ass stuff, as in many fields–the unsung heroes.

There are explanations, to support these events, gleaned from psychology and sociology.

Expectancy-value theory (or theory of motivation) purposes that an individual’s effort will be commensurate due to the belief and expectation that a certain behavior will result. In other words, the motivation of the behavior selection is determining the desirability of the outcome. It is about how the cognitive process results in the different outcomes, evaluation of factors.

Consequently, the results are affected by the confidence one has in one’s abilities.

Confidence, the commodity that has a way of slipping away as girls turn into women and make their way in a system of male bias.

For example, both genders, or all genders, tend to choose careers according to their strongest abilities, however, women are more likely to have a similarly confident level for several abilities, whereas men have one or two. (I find this alone fascinating!)

Many areas of competency

“I can do this, but I’m just better at that….” and her choices, being many, factors in subliminal message, I am the gender with a most complex and fascinating choice, that of creating lifea human life!

Finding choices/ interests which are compatible with motherhood is clearly occurring in the examples to come.

Back to the thread. Twice as many men as women invest in cryptocurrency.

That is sixteen percent of men to seven percent of women according to CNBC and Acorn’s Invest in You.

This gender gap exceeds the existing gap–in traditional investment vehicles, including stocks, ETF’s, mutual funds and real estate. More specifically, in ownership of exchange-traded funds (14% of men vs. 7% of women), individual stocks (40% of men vs. 24% of women), mutual funds (30% of men vs. 20% of women), real estate (36% of men vs. 30% of women), and bonds (14% of men vs. 11% of women).

Crypto is also the only investment vehicle that has a higher participation rate among younger adults than older adults: 15% of those 18-34 own crypto, compared to 11% of 35-64 and 4% over 65. Interestingly all races are represented about equally.

All said and done, crypto, in its early formation is well-positioned to avoid traditional investing draw backs. Todays would be investors are savvy in social media channels, online training and marketing; sources that are more under-utilized in traditional trading. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t volatile, which remains its middle name.

Why the gender gap?

Social psychology states that women are less risk takers than men and take more time to weigh risks. Therefore, women– who would most likely be participants–have been allowed a vantage point, to determine when the suitable risk has passed.

Women in finance are characterized for sharing their insights, taking advantage of self-employed–flex schedule, for a healthier balance of work/ life.

Historically, even in prominent IT positions, women have been denied public recognition for their work. Women tend to avoid being singled out as women, preferring attention for their achievements.

Of the millennials ‘aggressive/active investors’ women, only one in five take responsibility for the care of long-term financial decisions. A full 60% in partnerships, leave their finances to their partner.

Acknowledged discrepancy of income between men and women support the premise and inherent belief; men are more competent in the field of finance. Studies show that men are not necessarily better at investing, in fact, men tend to lower their success by excessive trading than women, who follow a more conservative “buy and hold” practice.

Women were left out of ‘old Wall Street.’ They want cryptocurrency to be different. Coders, analysts, and founders are trying to steer digital currencies toward a more inclusive future.

Also, contributing to this stereotyping, includes the dominance of men with math and science backgrounds, perpetuated in pre-college schooling. Therefore, to reinforce this concept, only 46% of women claim to have “knowledge” suitable for successful trading abilities: while men overstate their investment abilities.

Meanwhile, many early crypto market investors have been burned, while women, who have been patient, are crushing it in their own way. The pattern of crypto involvement parallels and affords some life skill lessons, such as patience and having more mental control over positive and negative emotions.

The pandemic has been beneficial to some investors, providing time to develop skills and insights into cryptocurrency trading. But like all fluid conditions, the ebb and tide of a new arena will take time to reach a stasis.

The behaviors of women in crypto prove to be aligned with past expectations; very much influenced by the human condition, full of curiosity, inventiveness, and flexibility. Specifically, though, women have been shown, by their nature, to possess some intrinsic differences. These differences are of a social not technical nature. Biological options, unique to women, to have a family, become a mother, seem to be still as strong as ever. Failing a dystopian future, this will likely reign true for a long time.

We as a culture, need to find ways to support these gender differences. As of now, women’s parity will likely continue to represent a gap.

Think Lysistrata…. a culture relies on gender differences, not at the exploitation of such, but in harmony.

Is there a better summer indulgence?

Ambrosia………Annual Peach Pie annual Peach Pie taken seriously

Revised from previously post in 2021

Peaches

Remember when? A likely question when comparing memories from the past to today.

Remember when every summer, in every kitchen, was a crate, a wooden crate, of peaches. There was no need to purchase a small quantity to see if they were juicy, dry, sour, flavorless or rubbery. They would be perfect, as my jubilant memories have it. Standard practice; nibbling every bit of the sweet juicy flesh around the pit and start on another, juice running down one’s face.

That was in Minnesota, not exactly the likes of Georgia. Peaches have been seriously down-grading in quality, in my experience. I haven’t seen a crate of peaches in decades. Each year I purchase more and more tester peaches to find a quantity that is acceptable, or even better than acceptable–great peaches. Varieties from the highly regarded –and dutifully more expensive– premium grocery store have not faired any better that the discount grocery chain. I make do with four different supplies. The dud peaches become sauce. Even bad peaches make acceptable sauce.

Thoughts of my peach-lore bring memories of a trip, a summer in Europe–Europe on $5 a Day. Noting this ubiquitous dog eared tom, the ironic guide for the “young kids” or even “hippies” making a given allotment of coins last well beyond the expected date, circa 1970’s.

With my tribe–my boyfriend and I– settled on a small island in Greece, chosen for its short ferry ride from Athens. Packing up the tent in preparation to leave the island, we were faced with the staggering dilemma as to what to do with the large sun-ripened tomato and a similarly huge peach. The solution became the marriage of those items, nothing else, into a “salad” that I can still recollect nearly 50 years later. Beyond delicious.

In the last few summers it has become a new tradition of mine to make at least one peach pie. Never being a big pie lover, it was a particular recipe that caught my attention.

Hello: PEACH AND CREME FRAICHE PIE *

Creme Fraiche: Heavy cream soured by buttermilk into a rich heavenly sauce, the texture of softened vanilla ice cream. With the heat of the summer, it easily clots in a warm room over 70 degrees and is then refrigerated until its use.

The crust, a PATE SUCREE, a slightly sweet cookie like crust. Leave it to the French. Also to be added, a STREUSEL, a loose dough-like addition which is globbed (not a culinary term) on top of the peach filling. The Pate Sucree, the crust, is pre-baked until golden. This is possibly the reason that it is indescribably delicious, the crust doesn’t get soggy but remains like a cookie filled with ambrosia. When the fruits of this labor have cooled some, the taste tests commence– to determine warm with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, or chilled unadorned. Both leave the question; what is the appropriate interval for another slice.

*Martha Stewart Living August 2006 Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie

How to Coax a Fly from a room

& Five things things you should know how to do by age 50.Coax a bat out of your bedroom; Identify chicken pox; Locate the smell of weed in your house; Tell your child’s teacher to #@!***

Hartland Vermont hot air balloon flyover

Max —  my golden doodle or rescue dog —  if you prefer —  is the kind of no nighttime nonsense dog we all wish for. He stays in bed until I rise, thankfully. 

The only real fear he developed was the time he thought the sky was falling. As it turned out, it was a reasonable fear for him. A couple of hot air balloons nearly landed on the roof of our Hartland Vermont abode. He was directly below them, and the colors were anything other than sky-like. 

I get it. I would be anxious too if the sky were to fall.

Scenario one

Last night, Max was whining in the wee hours. I took him to the outside door. He didn’t want to go out. 

Failing that, the only noticeable irritant was a fly  —  garden variety housefly —  circling around the table lamp next to my bed.

Ok, age 50 is an arbitrary age, but knowing the workings of the world takes time. And to that same age is the George Orwell adage , “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves”. I love that.

This is by far the easiest treasure hunt ever created, but failing this knowledge, you will thank me when you find a nocturnal irritant in need of a remedy. 

Determine where you want to trap the bugger —  or if you are so inclined —  to lead it outdoors to freedom. (You figure that one out).

Turn on a light in the space you wish the fly to go to. If you are at a loss at this step, use a flashlight. Turn off the light source from the bedroom lamp. This will kick the buzzer into instinct mode, forcing it to fly to the new light source you have created. 

This is the only part that requires any skill, if you can call it that. Close the door —  you on the outside — before the fly can escape to the space you hoped to clear. 

If the bugger clears the door faster that your reflexes can act, well, repeat the scenario again. You will soon be proficient at the training of houseflies!

You can leave the fly to dally in the new space, or swat it, if so inclined. The risk with a cleaver fly is their ability to gain access to you — again — flying under the door. 


Scenario two

Next, bats! You wake up to the ticking, wheezy sound of a bat circling over you — albeit — not the best way to wake up, but remember, you have made it to 50 years of age and you CAN handle this. Here are some of the options I have tried. 

  • You can scream and dive under the covers, only if —  and this was my excuse, ONCE —  you are nursing an infant. (And the scream wakes the living daylight out of a bedmate).
  • Call the police and wait until some scared rookie shows up to propose opening a door — and then stands there waiting for you to volunteer. When he leaves and you open the other door too.
  • Or you do the following, not unlike the fly, sort of. 

Quickly, exit the bedroom crouched low. Find a shroud, some sheet or blanket to cover yourself with — head to toe. Enter the bat room again, quickly heading to an openable window. Open the window and exit room again, quickly. Bat’s respiration is not something you want to subject yourself to. 

Crack the door until any sounds from the bat are sure to be gone. Beware of the bat who might have landed momentarily. They are blind and their sonar makes it likely that they will quickly find the open window.  

Job accomplished…well done. 


Scenario three

You throw an annual Fourth of July party. After the watermelon margaritas, the group walks down the street to the high school for the Fireworks display. 

As you are gathering the bug spray, a lightening bug house, neon-ware items (bracelets, crowns, etc) you notice a rash on your daughter’s face. You suspect chicken pox and your response is: 

  • Feign ignorance and take her to the fireworks anyway.
  • Insist that everyone stay home, if it happens to be chicken pox
  • Stay at home with the daughter, with promises of something very special that you are sure she will love, while the group goes on to the fireworks. 

A few days later the other two children are infected and you have a backyard water play party for kids who either want to get the chicken pox over or those already exposed. Stay in the shade and try not to scratch the lesions. The party was a big hit!


Scenario four

Your oldest daughter just bought her first car and has only driven it home from the car lot, so far. The household is in a hustle to get ready for school and your ex-spouse shows up for something. While passing the door to the basement, you detect the distinct pungent aroma of weed. You suggest to your ex that he come downstairs with you. He balks at the idea, and begrudgingly joins you. Your daughter and a friend are hustled  in the outside doorways smoking weed. 

You and your ex do the following:

  • Call the police to teach the offenders a lesson they will remember.
  • Do nothing, after all, you smoked ‘pot’ at their age.
  • Levy a consequence for her actions on your daughter. She will not be able to drive her car for a month. 

Scenario five

The school called, asking you to come in immediately regarding your son. You notice that the medicine for his ADHD — laid out on the counter — was not taken. 

  • You grab the medicine and head to the high school.
  • You wait to see what the issue is before jumping to any conclusion. 

When you arrive at the counselor’s office, your son is looking distinctly symptomatic — disheveled, hyperactive, unintelligible. The counsel asks you if he could be on drugs. You explain that he missed his medicine and would normalize soon (you gave him his medicine) and he can go back to class. 

On a separate occasion, the school called regarding the same son. You, again, meet your son in the counselor’s office. The counselor hands you a drawing of a very realistic looking gun, a military rifle. 

  • Your reaction is shock and fear, due to the school violence of late.
  • You assure the counselor that you will get the proper professional care he is needing. 
  • You compliment your son on the excellent detail in the drawing and retrieve the drawing from the counselor. As an artist, freedom of expression is his right and artistic development is encouraged.
  • You tell the counselor that she is choosing the wrong parent to indict a child for a drawing of his hobby. Drawing a gun is not a precursor to being a mass murderer, as far as you know.  

Perhaps you have learned a few life skills or at least found some amusement. Isn’t it better to learn by others’ quandaries? The solutions to the questions posed, well, they will remain questions, at least for now anyway.

Pro-Choice and the Days of Infertility

And why I decided not to get a dog.

Having a dog in my life is like the difference between viewing the world in black and white or color. Yes, it is possible to live without a dog, but without a certain joy.

In 1983, I found myself descending slowly into a crisis of the mind. Between an intermittent state of mental confusion and fleeting sensations of a dissociative type, I had no idea the extent of the hell I would be entering.

I resisted the fact that I was afflicted with a mental illness, until the pain suggested no other route. The search for an antidote to release my mind from the terrors, was my only goal. Therapy twice a week, where being handed a cup of tea at the beginning of each session was just enough a gesture of kindness to restart the incessant tears. Major Depressive Disorder. I read the DSM like it was a bible.

The psychiatrist I was referred to was right out of school, just starting a practice, I presume. And it was a ‘practice’; I was the guinea pig. Each trip to the pharmacy for a new antidepressant had the importance of a trip to mecca, searching desperately to be healed. My presence in line was not unassuming, with my muffled sobs. Exacerbated, and querying the pharmacist on something or another for which he had no reason to know, a fellow customer– waiting in line– asked me how many trials I had been on. Upon hearing my answer, he responded You are just getting started.

With drug trial failures stacking up by the nascent psychiatrists, I started a more rigorous pursuit; hopes of finding the magic doctor with the magic potion. I knew that there was no relief occurring with a non-medication route and my dismal response to anti-depressants would require a hard road. Pitching my course toward finding the most highly regarded– as usually the most expensive, psychopharmacologist–was the next goal.

The intake regimen with the acclaimed psychologist was immediately disagreeable, but I was in no condition to argue bedside manner with a prospective sage.

He had asked me to bring in a sample of some writing, I now recall. It was not the content that he was interested in, but the changes in the nature of my cursive, or a fusion of printing/cursive. I understand now how astute his abilities were. Handwriting, or especially mine, often exhibits many different reflections of brain activity. Speed and carelessness might reflect a hurried, perhaps even manic state. Whereas in a depressed state, writing might appear more cautious or measured. An efficient diagnostic tool, I might now agree.

He determined from my detailed accounts with drug trials, that my unsuccessful attempts to stabilize on an antidepressant was due to my extreme sensitivity to the psychotropic affects. By starting me on a sixth of a typical starting dose and increasing only as tolerated, I was successfully an antidepressant recipient. Though the benefits would be delayed for some time. I had a tool on board that afforded a slow accent from the hell hole. I was about 8 months into it by then, still a beginner.

Rejoining the world, wasn’t without its challenges. I had an art museum show to create, a small concern. Also, included in my reunion to a semblance of life, was an ache for a dog. It seemed like there existed a fine line between need and want, as my nightly dreams took on characteristics of “Lassie, Come Home”. Each episode left me longing more and more for a dog.

I convinced a friend to go to the dog pound with me, or the “Animal Shelter” as they are now called. The only dog that tugged at my heart was an Afghan mix. The dog was regal, elegant with its toned-down Afghan eccentricities. I immediately sensed a simpatico with my still fragile state. He was cream colored, wary, temperamental and maybe even depressed–as kennel dogs often are.

I left without the dog; knowing that my recently donned husband, who owned a cat, needed to weigh into the equation. Soon after leaving, my still active mental illness, weighed in with overwhelming anxiety. I can’t take on the responsibility for another life, I can barely take care of myself.

The dog that was nearly mine… at a time when I was ill-suited to take on that responsibility comes back with a parallel.

I WAS able to abort that ill-conceived notion–so to speak–when I was unable to provide the care that a dog would require. Yet under the ruling of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade— an unintended pregnancy, for which I would have been ill suited –would be under the control of the government. The state would dictate how that mistake, or sexual assault, take your pick, would be legislated. A life changing event, and a momentous decision– about my future and the future of a new life– would be out of my hands and into the hands of an entity that will never feel a moment of my daily desperation and despair, or the sudden lack of personal choices granted to me.

Wouldn’t there be an argument that ” being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, is undue punishment of women strictly on the basis of a biological imperative, a birthright of their gender.” Where is the due process? Women, when raped are about twice as likely to result in a pregnancy, 7.98% as compared to consensual intercourse. The national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5% per rape among victims of reproductive age (12 to 45) resulting in 32,101 pregnancies from rape each year!!!!

I have more rights as to whether or not to own a dog than I would about the destiny of a product of conception, a cellular event that has about a 80% chance of producing a live birth.

To call the product of conception a “child” is an infuriating jump of biological events. The union of sperm and an ovum first becomes a blastocyst when fertilization occurs. Their after, cells division is rapid progressing from an embryo to a fetus at about 8 weeks. These cells are no more a “child” than an erection is a zygote. The journey these cells take– to become a “child”– takes a miraculous and wonderful process, when and if the substrate, the lining of the uterus provides fertilities ground.

I was unfortunately privileged to the intimate details of cell division as my first two children were the product of ‘physician assisted pregnancy’.

I watched the sonogram monitor as the follicles of ovum were carefully measured as to assess the effectiveness of the hormonal treatment that overstimulated the ovaries into hyper production. My ovum production response was very successful for the eventual IVF process. (In-vitro fertilization). At the time of the scheduled ‘retrieval’ of the ovum, I was, as they say, “mother hen” with 11 follicles ripe for retrieval.

The procedure I undertook occurred in the early 90’s when infertility treatments were still in the hands of “cowboy doctors.” Infertility practices were rated on numbers of conceptions, rather than pregnancy outcomes. (I had the occasion to meet one of my doctor’s most eventful patient– at a cocktail party– when she whipped her head around, hearing the name of our mutual doctor in my story. Indeed, her case was remarkable. Our doctor presented me with her sonogram and the 9 implanted viable embryos pictured! She successfully gave birth to twins.)

I believe the most important, thrilling, meaningful events in my life were, hands down, related to the capacity I have as a woman, to create life. I know the subject of conception well–as with any major life struggle, I am a problem solver.

Watching the monitor of the ultrasound machine, as images of multiple egg follicles–measured every other day– became an intimate visualization representing hope and promise. The technician, bringing the larger follicles into view within the static of the horizontal lines, and clicks the outer edge of the ovum, to receive measurements.

An empirical pregnancy starts with follicle stimulation– with hormones, inter muscular –via injection. The ‘T-minus’ trimester, a laboratory-based conception.

There is very little in the course of a physician assisted pregnancy that is not anxiety producing, financially ruinous, or sometimes, degrading. The desire to have a child was a biological urge since childhood; to create life.

Attention to the biology of cell division, followed by more cell division, is a cold fact. The cells were not babies, or a child; the union of sperm and an ovum first becomes a blastocyst when fertilization occurs. Thereafter– cells division is rapid progressing from an embryo to a fetus, at about 8 weeks. These cells are no more a “child” than an erection is a zygote. The mechanisms that these cells become a “child” take a miraculous and wonderful process, when and if the substrate, the lining of the uterus provides fertilities ground.

The sweetest sound ever heard, is that of the fetal heartbeat. You are 99% ‘there’, producing a life birth, if a fetal heartbeat is detected. (I suffered through a 12-week pregnancy that probably never had a heartbeat, then miscarried. I cried for a week.)

The first swish of fetal movement–the quickening— is another subtle thrill I cherished. Each night I would escape from all activities to sit and ‘be with the new life’ as a enjoyed the movements of the baby to be.

The culmination of an arduous conception and long pregnancy, was the moment my infant was placed on my breast. If there is a single joy in being born a woman, that would be it.

Yet today, the ruling of the Supreme Court to over turn Roe v Wade has verified contempt for the unique biological imperative being born female. The joy of experiencing the sound of a fetal heart beat, the quickening and the utter self satisfaction of a nursing infant, should be a choice made by a woman; a decision made by women–to experience those gifts and the responsibilities– required of her (or them) for the rest of her/their life.

Being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, is an undue punishment of women strictly on the basis of a biological imperative, a birthright of their gender.

I think I will run (I know they are appointed, nevertheless) for Supreme Court, in another life. The highest court has proven that it is not the arbiter of the law but a political rubber stamp in the jostling to turn this country into a plutocracy.

Think carefully about getting a dog, if it were only so easy.

Debra Sherwood

June 24, 2022

(1786 words)

The Eye of a Snake & the Tails of Mice

Within my brief time in Vermont, I learned that killing a snake took persistence; while– in some cases– letting them thrive, was the only option.

The final pose of the milk snake bidding farewell.

 I owned 65 acres of pure heaven on earth, in rural south-eastern Vermont. The curved gravel drive to the house passed huge, most majestic, white pines, weeping willow, crimson king maple trees arching around a crystal- clear heart shaped pond. Finally, around to the backside one enters a very large stately log house. The house, situated in a higher elevation, overlooked the pond, as it changed in surface and reflection from season to season, out to a surrounding arch of varietal trees, to the mountains beyond.  Sunrises projected crimson shades in anticipation of the fire ball sun. The mountain scape reflected rainbows of varying palettes; the afternoon sun issued a glow, distinct on each elevation. Discovery of plant life– my first spring– was nothing short of thrilling. From the micro flowers deep in the wakening blades of grass to an assortment of garden blooms, to wild milkweed reminiscent of my youth. Such naturalized flowers– thriving and spreading– created planes of subtle colors as if painted with a wide brush. Those early days were awe inspiring, along roadways, in swampy or dry soil; while tiny salamanders, aquatic spiders, tadpoles, toads hopping from their perches, occupied the pond .

The enfilade of adventures drew from assorted past years, as a woman with Midwestern/ Connecticut background. Vermont, however, pushed the envelope of my comfort zone.

Shortly after my arrival– in late summer– began occurrences–after sunset– of an unfamiliar terror. Blood-curdling-screams erupted, lasting a short, but tenuous time. First thought, there is a murder taking place, an uneasy and confusing awareness without an antidote. Because I had no immediate neighbors, I had no instinct to report a crime. Such was my introduction to coyotes.

The first time I found a mouse drown in my dog’s water bowel– repulsed– I cried to my then boyfriend, who volunteered to remove it for me. The second time it happened I summoned my willpower and did the ditch into the wooded area around the house. Mouse removal became part to my job description, from then on.

Mice– my co-inhabitants– were to be contended with, an unenviable conclusion. There were two times, while sitting on the john, when a curious little head peaked from under the door or, while sorting a box of clothing– stored for some time in the garage– I unearthed a new mommy mouse with at least eight hungry micettes lacked on her teats. This maternal scene was too innocent to destroy. I scooted them on their way– in the grass– all the nursing pack still intact. That is an image I won’t forget.

Soon I dreaded the locations of the mouse dropping and forced myself to explore means to diminish an indeterminate population of the creepy rodents. That meant contending with my poison phobia, as well. I placed the toxic blue cubes in unseen areas. The fire-wood room, garage… plus I tried natural safer means, like spraying peppermint water into evidence-based locations. Mice and poison– both early phobias of mine from the age of ten, we religiously joined my father at the sacred Minnesota duck hunting cabin, used for several generations for the manly pursuit of alcohol and firearms. Mice and poison were plentiful in the mostly vacant cabin. Without any known reason, I became afraid of being poisoned through touching something, as unlikely as a car air refreshened (though, the odors generated from those made my phobia seem less ridiculous now).

Even my dog, Max, was not fond of the mouse terrain.

Toughening up, however, was no match for the morning– in early spring– surveying the garden area in flip flops and a robe. Treading gingerly– with a shovel in hand, to avoid the icy water-soaked ground– I glanced toward the wooden steps that served as the formal entrance to the house. There– sunning itself– was a large, coiled snake!

When I say large, I compare its size to a garter snake for girth, much bigger. Its skin– a tan- reddish brown pixilated pattern, sent my adrenalin soaring. Usually pretty levelheaded under stress, I retrieved my iPhone from my robe’s pocket, snapped a few shots and slowly placed the phone back, before I took great precision and aim with the shovel, striking the snake as if my life depended on it. Striking it again, and again, a murderous impulse with every intent to kill.

I told myself, this snake— one inch plus in diameter and perhaps four feet long snake–under no circumstances, is going to reside under my house.

After many exhausting blows, I left the shovel impaled in its back and returned inside to look up the nature of this viper. Behind the safety of my other door, I completely fell apart. Wailing hard with thoughts of, why me, alone away from everyone and even in the familiarity of my house’s entrance, is a potentially poisonous snakes living way too close? When I got a grip, I texted a copy of the snake’s image to the forest manager for identification.

Shortly after, I received his identification of the snake, an Eastern Milk Snake, useful for eating mice and not poisonous!!!!! My body still weak from physical duress, was relieved, but I never-the-less went to inspect my kill. To my astonishment, the snake was still moving!!!

More vicious than ever, I struck with several more blows and retreated inside, again to gather my wits. Another conversation later, it was revealed that they are very hard to kill and require a severance of the head, or close. OK, problem solved. I returned to the scene and found that the snake had moved, yet again!

As photographed, above image, is the position I found it in– its head elevated and frozen in a strike position, jaw open wide. Ugh… It was still.

###

Enter the scene–two years later-– I had concluded that my purpose for being there, a mission to develop a retreat center– while a potentially successful concept, would not be realized by me. There were several factors leading to that conclusion–for another time.

I had lovingly– full of inspiration– produced an idyllic setting of house and surrounds. Airbnb guests adored their fortuitous choice for the accommodations and setting.

The retreat that wasn’t was now being transformed into a piece of real estate. The boutique real estate company I hired included it under: Luxury Vermont Estates.

I was moving back to Connecticut. The work of deaccession, donating, dumpstering, divvying between fiends, took longer than I had expected, but the estate was on the market by August, a glorious time.

The open house was staged and spotless with an interested party in the wings. It was the second showing that produced the buyer from hell. Let’s call him the Jackal.

It was on a breathtakingly beautiful autumn day– with the encouragement of my broker–that I accepted an offer on the house. A very low offer, but one that the agent guaranteed would be a minimally demanding by Jackal, as compensating for a low offer.

It turned out that the so-called buyer’s guarantee to be less “picky” as to any items coming up in the inspection, was far from true. I was interrupted by his incessant demands.

My moving van was delayed by unforeseen circumstances. I called Jackal, to stay on top of expectations. He was anxious to keep the closing as scheduled but offer me the garage for the storage of items to be left behind for retrieval. (He didn’t mind querying me further about items he could ask me for. He had a spreadsheet.)

Through a series of contemptuous behaviors– by the realtors, attorneys and the perpetrator, the Jackal, the time I spent in Vermont ended abruptly and traumatically.

I was called during my hectic move by my agent. I was told to sign an addendum, on my phone– for an additional 20k. My attorney got on the phone and abruptly, without any explanation, barked, “Debra, sign it and move out.”

The Jackal, it is my belief, issued an insistence or even an ultimatum –the kind that might come from a Napoleonic character, a small but determined dictator who kept all subjects quaking.

At 4:30 on that afternoon, the house filled with the same cast of characters, taking orders from Jackal, such as close the garage door, I’m paying for the heat. He could see the moving van was being loaded through the garage door openings. I glared at him, the character who told me the reason he chose my house was due to the good karma he felt.

At 5 pm, I was told to leave! It was not a question, but a command. The order was so emphatic that I asked if I could take my dog, then my purse. I was humiliated to leave the project I had lovingly injected my heart and soul into.

Max, my golden doodle, and I– on a cold December evening– drove to Connecticut where I was anticipating the closing of the house, I was buying the next day. My favorite succulent and homemade maple syrup– retrieved on the way out– were taken into the dog friendly Marriott to keep from freezing.

Still shook up from the previous day, we made our way to the attorney’s office to get organized for the next phase, our next home. During the wait, I was allowed to use a computer. I pulled up the addendum of the sales contract which I signed at the insistence of my attorney.

All of my nervous system when into over-drive, as I read, “any personal items left by the seller after 5 pm, December 12, 2019, would be forfeited. Any expenses incurred for the final removal and/or disposal of sellers items would be paid by the seller out of the escrow fund.”

On that day– a short night later– by early morning the Jackal has disposed of the highlights of my sculpture career. In the bottom of a 30-yard dumpster were several important over-life-size cast iron figures, as well as ceramic pieces, arguably, my best work. Included in the dumpster were works of several other significant artists in my collection.

There was no way to access and retrieve the contents of a 30-yard dumpster– scheduled for pick up, from two states away, with limited funds.

For the next few years, the torment of this event has frequently come into my consciousness. The first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. When asked about my career, I cower and produce a shaky voice trying to control my painful emotions. The tears always broke through my resolve. Having to replace household items, also disposed of, was also traumatic. A trip to Home Depot was grueling. The aftermath of these departing events continue to haunt me; any prospects for retrospective exhibitions are squashed.

The events of my life have become fodder for memoir writing, of some consolation.

But we are not yet through with the story. Recall that the Jackal was on record as choosing the house for its karma. The Milk Snakes staked out turf in the lower level of what is now Jackal Estate.

While I was packing, in the lower level, a ceiling tile was ajar. A flicker of movement caught my eye. Thinking it was a mouse, I explored it further with a stick.

What I saw, was perhaps, the reincarnate of Milk Snake in its Death Pose. The snake was quite large and I did not care to engage it further, above my head.

It does gives me a vindictive pleasure to know that I left a piece of karma in the ceiling. I hope that the Jackal enjoys the slithering snake– in hiding– just as the character he is; a one eyed snake with evil intent who may just grow a tail, to mimic the mice he lives among.

–Debra Sherwood

Why you MUST know about your 401(k) and why you don’t.

Or Merely Advice to a Younger Woman — or Man — if you wish.

I have become an avid seeker of survival skills of late. This was less by choice than by chance and for this I write of some things that I wish I had such advice, years ago. Being at a point where, perhaps, I have some wisdom or at least experience to offer — looking at life backwards — I offer you this.

How we learn from our mistakes! Too bad our successes aren’t more useful. Women! Do not relinquish your finances to anyone but yourself — single, married, divorced or any state in-between.

That being said, I made some mistakes, big time. When the notion of an intense art career combined with an intense “stay-at-home-mommy” role, I knew something had to give.

The mothering couldn’t give — biologically inconvenient are us! Pregnancy aided by physician assistance — for the first two children, and a surprise third — made for the beginning of an intense ride.

The first 10 years are a blur; coveting a nap, I do remember. Fast paced life as a CEO of the home Greenwich-style-mother-do-thisdo the best at everything, children’s parties, sports, schools, camps, nannies, tennis teams at the club, corporate events — US Open in the IBM box, a few perks. Oh — and in your spare time — start an annual film festival, a product, service, event, or as I tried — buy a post office for a future art center. Many of the older mother overachieverssyndrome there.

Then the fairy tale spun apart…. Cinderella vs. Clark Kent.

Three years of divorce court — living under the same roof, trying very hard to keep the poisonous conditions from the children.

So, I speak with some authority. I made some very bad mistakes. For which I am also writing a post called “The Worst Time to Get a Divorce is When You are Getting One.” Stay tuned.

Today is a primer for women who are either divorcing or understand that the chance of divorcing is 50/50 and the awareness needed to prevent a similar state that I found myself in. (Men are not immune — for you too). Better to know the issues than face the consequences of ignorance.

Not unlike paying attention to living a healthy life, knowing the risks of disease.

Studies show that women have different investment patterns than men. They tend to be more conservative, less impulsive than men, resulting in the turtle who wins the race, syndrome. BUT, the big caveat is that women, though they may show an aptitude, still tend to defer to a man’s abilities — of the perspective that he faces more business world finance and is more closely aligned with “bread winner’s role ”. The results are that women often relinquish the major responsibility for long term financial goals such as Retirement Plans, Life Insurance plans, 401(k), annuities, Roth, qualified and non-qualified, pensions…. Necessary evils if you wish.

You may meet this advice with resistance but know that relinquishing your finances to your husband or partner leaves you volnerable; partnerships may change but your 401 (k) will not make amends. The allegiance he may have for you will change, if your relationship changes. Ex-spouses, you will find, are not as generous as spouses. (Your relationship to your mother-in-law will also change, big time, surprise).

Would you have trusted the most popular girl in your high school clique with all of your material possessions, granted that probably was not of great value then? The point being — relationships can and most often do change, without guarantees. YOU want guarantees, this is your future.

If you find yourself already too late for this advice — despite murderous impulses — your remedy is of a legal sort. Be aware that the courts, the legal system has a bias toward men, people that look alike often do. (However, women are granted superior intellect, ask scientists — our redeeming survival mechanism).

Legal where-with-all is not just for law school grads, though they will try to convince you otherwise. It is not as complicated as you may think.

Not having the funds necessary to hire a lawyer might be a blessing in disguise; you will be prevented from the huge bill at the end of your efforts to rectify the issues. Surprise! You CAN do it!

Law is like a foreign language, so learn the terms and google away. You would be surprised at the answers you can get, without paying for those sacred legal services.

Revenge, poverty, ethics, promises broken are bigger motivators than the commitment most lawyers make — at an unthinkable hourly rate.

Be aware that it is unethical, if not against the “Rules” — the lawyer’s book of conduct — to drop clients when their fees are unpaid.

If you are low income, apply for waivers for all fees and court costs, in making the necessary actions.

First common-sense reminder — you DO know this, after all, you have been around boys then men for some time now — figure out what motivates who ever you are up against.

Here is a good example. Victims of some professions have a process for making grievance complaints about the services hired, say, a legal practice. Now think about the motivation principle. How likely will it be that a panel of attorneys will find a peer group of attorneys culpable?

Attorneys will only betray their tribe in cases of really stupid, criminal-like desperate financial malpractice thefts. I laid out two sound cases and the responses that came back from these esteemed authorities had enough mistakes to make the most checkered clerk look good.

Lawyers against lawyers, not happening. Same goes for Citizens Police Review Commissions — don’t waste your time (like I did).

What really counts is what motivates the courts. I have had a Perry Mason-likedialogue in my head for months. It makes for an interesting rant but only with myself— so, write it down (for the 12th time, if it will make you happy). By the twelfth time it will start to become less convincing and perhaps even whiny. Why? Because it is your passion, not that of anyone else’s concern.

What are the concerns of the COURT? To keep the dockets moving along at an acceptable pace. Remember that the court officials report to a score keeper too. This is the area that a lawyer does have it over you. The acts of making of the correct motion (a call for action), can seriously harm or aid your strategy. Think chess game, not Dostoyevsky.

Study the Judgments (decisions) of similar cases in order to understand the chess game moves of the legal system. The Court will have natural biases that are not in your favor, so you need to be twice as good (we’ve heard that before).

Don’t expect a ruling based on common sense or based on the obviousness of the case. Judges will make decisions based on case law, local, state or federal laws and the RULES of the courtroom.

Self-litigation is going the way of many do-it-yourself activities and gaining more support. Website to help you include Courtroom 5, Self-Representative Litigants Network or SRIN.org, or IAALS.du.edu; even the AmericanBar.orghas self-litigation information.

Remember there are many pros for self-litigation: lawyers are expensive, spread too thin, have less at stake than you do, and you know the case better than anyone — or you should.

Now go, enjoy your youth with this awareness in the background!!!

— -Debra Sherwood

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The Love of my Life was from Ukraine

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A fairy tale that grew out of the land that is now a bed of horrors

It was the winter of 2006 and I had been divorced for a year. As was a likely meeting ground of the recently divorced, internet dating became my dance card. My choice of dating sites was JDate, as in Jewish Dating. During those days, it was the place that attracted a more educated clientele with a common cultural background. My Jewish background had about 20 years on it; since my reform conversion. I also, made several friends through these “dates”.

The dates I accepted/ pursued were clever, clearly cerebral in their responses to my queries, the first hurdle. From our on-line kibbutzim, we guessed as to what would give us distinction, class, in choosing a mutually agreeable location and or event which to meet; add the specific venue; park, restaurant, art museum, bar, or coffee shop. The search for ‘chemistry’ represented a wide geographical range; from New Jersey, Fairfield County, New York City, and of course my favorite, coming to Greenwich, where I lived.

My first date with Daniil was in Greenwich (a positive) and at a Starbucks on Greenwich Ave, (good for convenience, low on originality). Accuracy of photo? I arrived wearing a long black woolen coat, beloved for its roomy hood. Donning the coat, pulling up the hood, granted me a likeness to the French Lieutenant’s Woman, and her mystique, as she stood at the edge of a misty dock.

Yes, we easily located each other among the low-density groupings on a Saturday evening in a coffee shop. Both of us — with eyes darting from one to another — matched the recalled profile images. His mannerisms and ability to make me feel immediately at ease, was seductive, I do — despite my feminist side — really swoon for traditional manners. I felt taken care of, a feeling that was lacking in my past.

His accent-clearly present — provided the first subject of fascination. Identifying as coming to the US from Ukraine at the age of 12, I gleefully boasted “oh, I have been to Russia”. That must have distinguished me from his usual coffee dates. I likely said Russia instead of USSR, thought my visit in 1977 was clearly the days of the Iron Curtain. (Missing the fact that he was from the Ukraine, not Russia more than once).

Ukraine Jewish history is filled with the good and bad, I now know.

Before 1939, 1.5 million Jews lived in Ukraine, and it was one of the three largest Jewish populations in the world. It was a place rich in creative endeavors; for writers, play writes, musicians. Yiddish was one of the three official languages.

However, it was also the place of notorious Nazi crimes and pogroms. There exists a horse statue in a public square in honor of the Bogdan Chmielnicki- a 17th Century leader of the Cossack Rebellion- who, until the rise of Hitler, was the greatest murder of Jews in all of Jewish history. In 1941, the Nazi’s broke their non-aggression treaty with Russia slaughtering up to 1 million Jews.

I recall the movement called the brain drain- in the 1980’s- when Daniil’s family emigrated from Ukraine. No shortage of brain in his family of four. When asked about the reason they left Ukraine, his mother suggested that things were getting worse for the Jews, and they had had enough.

Daniil and I were in contrast of my midwestern upbringing. Each of us challenged and fascinated by the others’ experiences, the exotic nature of his background as well as clearly of brilliant intellect. I was given the contents of the poetry he wrote at the age of 16. It is quite moving and mature.

Conversation was easy and before long it was closing time. Still very much in the moment — the scripted questions were addressed. We had far from exhausted our interest in passing more time together. It was a Saturday night, my kids were with their father, so when we broached the subject of a ”late night diner” — as he liked to reminisce — I enthusiastically announced that I knew a place, the very uncoy response was “my house.”

It was an occasion that we both would later acknowledge as an extraordinary night- when cosmic events were willed into our orbits- would collide. Looking back, that collision became a life changing event, meeting the love of my life.

Daniil was living in Brooklyn with his parents. He traveled the 2-hour multiple train ride each Friday and we spent dreamy weekends together in Greenwich. We shared a degree of intimacy I had never known and do not expect that I ever will again. Memories of sleeping facing each other, so close that we consumed each other’s spent oxygen. The act of holding hands; as memorable as the most exquisite lovemaking. He called me his ‘notional wife’ and the letters, emails levitated between us — were grand gestures of affection, wit, and grace. He captured my imagination and he doted on my essence.

His patience and devotion, present when my migraines took us to the ER, never inconvenienced, as he sat with me while I was treated with narcotics allowing for a sleep recovery.

It would catch me by surprise, during times that he had reason to state his birthday; being 14 years younger seemed inconceivable. But then so did time, space and other real measurements. Moments were quixotic, left to the moments.

The years of magic with Daniil survived extraordinarily difficult times. The loss of his young sons in his divorce, explained the suffering that he would endure. There were episodes of mental confusion and loss of identity- which came on randomly- which I now know as a ‘disappearing fugue’. Daniil had a very rare form of psychiatric abnormality characterized by reversible amnesia, where a person can be ‘lost’ for a day, a month to years.

I lost him for a year to a “fugue”. No emails, no calls, nothing in response to my desperate appeals to know the unknowable. Then one day, as though nothing was amiss, I received his call. Sobbing for relief and joy, we resumed where we had left off, except that it wasn’t and never could be again.

We slowly, unwound the intensity of our passion to a level that we could imagine a disconnect. And we did, I left the New York area, and the connection broke with the exception of my announcement of the passing of my mother. He and my mother bonded like neither of my two husbands came close to.

And then one day, I sought to read the terms of his divorce judgment. It was a trial that was easily found on-line. The ‘love of my life’ was sadly replaced by a devastating disappointment reading of his divorce. He hadn’t been denied his sons, as I had so strongly assumed and empathized with. After all grief was expectable, with such a loss — I put myself in his place.

That, however, wasn’t the truth. The divorce judgment made it clear that his parental rights were predilected on a child support. So, it was a choice he made. It was his determination that those conditions were not something he could make. Even with an MBA from a prominent school, he was resigned from the wherewithal of a job. He was essentially disabled, and I understand how mental illness can render even the most brilliant, helpless. The picture became clearer; however, the choice was not something he made clear to me. He convinced me that is was the mental illness of his ex-wife and his helplessness over the proceedings. He once said, “it is surprising how low the expectations of me have become.” Yep, we teach people how to treat us.

It is a daunting loss, when such a strong fairy tale is irrevocably damaged. Does that lessen the power of the experience, the strength of the love, the adoration for the realm suspending facts, a veil of truth? Fairy tales are rarely just what they seem, as is often learned. The story of Daniil has many layers to absorb, experienced to me as a wonderful once upon a time….

-Debra Sherwood

“Letters of Engagement” and other unromantic notions.

Who is this mysterious source of a “letters of engagement?”

An old flame, a new flirtation, a marriage proposal, …. the product of one’s first romantic crush… a promise ring. Or perhaps the law firm that you have finally convinced to take your case? It was only the 7th firm I pitched the case to, becoming more succinct and compelling each time. Imagine if all of our battles went through a minimum of seven iterations, well, that’s what is called editing.

The “language of justice” is archaic, often flowery, full of bias, even prejudice, resplendent with precision and squeaky clean authoritative climate. There are phrases that are so punchy yet obsequious. My favorite: a ruling can be “arbitrary and capricious”… or subject to impulsive mood changes, something artist might comprehend. It rolls of the tongue like a poet’s line. Arbitrary and capricious, isn’t she? I found the whole flavor of the performance arbitrary and capricious.

I first became acquainted with this betwixing phrase in the case where I tried to buy a post office. It’s a grand tale, but not for now, however, here is the link if you need bedtime reading.

NATIONAL POST OFFICE COLLABORATE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PATRICK R. DONAHOE, et al., Defendants.

“The Court need not resolve this unanswered question, however, because there is no dispute that the “arbitrary and capricious” standard of review applies to the existing NEPA claim”. Snooze as I did while sitting in on the trial that would determine my fate.

Best Practices

A standard that has been achieved over time producing guidelines that are set uniformly…. the following being one that is likely the most unique, in the legal profession. What are you able to talk about — at a cocktail party — with a lawyer? God forbid, something that might require an opinion, lest the opining might be construed as legal advice, for which you failed to get a “letter of engagement”. So the warning following a correspondence states, “this does not represent a relationship.” I have enough (possibly) legitimate malpractice issues with two recently “engaged” attorneys who had no issue with lying through their teeth.

“Do NOT construe this conversation as in any way an attorney-client relationship”.

I called an attorney — who had authored an article that I found useful for a concern I was entangled with. “ Your article indicated that your firm might have jurisdiction in other states.” The call was made with an appreciation for the clarity of the position taken. No sooner did the period drop on that sentence, when out of his inquisitive shell came the “justice for all” questions. Which state? How much was the damage? Retainer? Predatory preoccupation in action.

For some, retaining a lawyer counts as one of the three most essential people in their court. Doctor, investment broker and lawyer. Is the same warning understood during cocktail conversation — with that essential person — and how quickly and unknowingly it might trigger the clock counting. Retained in perpetuity, huh? How could you not?

Take this scenario, you are opening a solo show in a wing of your city’s art museum, a huge honor and privilege. It is a non-profit entity, therefore the cost of attendance to the public is minimal. Openings, known to be fashionable events — attracting a certain population; artist friends; critics; more artists; distinguished scholarly types; fashionable professionals at large.

You are aware that a certain law firm is down the street. In waltzes a half-dozen suits (aka lawyers) and a few women (aka lawyers). As much as I would love to see entrance fees on a sliding scale for this troupe, it isn’t going to happen. The well-dressed, combined with confidence, are like a lingering strong fragrance — the kind that so inflame a migraineur.

The artist is dressed fashionably, in black flowing layers while fielding and extracting the worthwhile questions from the clueless ones.

pair of suits from the legal brigade saddle up — trying to impress her — and asks a question that shows just enough credibility to engage her. They ask her if she identifies her work with found art objects movements.

Here is where the artist and the lawyer veer into distinct pathways. The value of the artists’ works and now further statements, may provide any number of ways the recipient benefits. She might influence her audience anywhere from prophetic life changes, artistic influence gained or existential feelings that boiling up to the surface. All of these could potentially have an impact albeit positive or negative, life-changing or damning.

Does the artist look at the man who asked the question and say,” Do NOT construe this conversation as in any way an artist-client relationship”? “Or without a letter of engagement I am unable to opine toward”.

Really, is the lawyers’ substance a gospel, to hang on every word? Are those words worthy of such reverence; to need a disclosure, for every conversation?

Next conversation you have with a lawyer, try to reverse roles , existentialism and all. And, hey if you are an attorney, try role reversal with an artist. The clock is on.

— Debra Sherwood

How is a ‘W-2’ is like a ‘pot of gold’?

A ‘Pot of Gold’, yes, the reward at the end of the rainbow.

My pot of gold, through a convoluted path, is symbolically, a ‘W-2’. It is symbolic due to the categorizing of human beings. W-2 represents the “work” or “employed” category as designated by the Department of Labor, the standard for all. Why do I care what category I can claim, according to the DOL? Because it is a lie! You see, the converse, “unemployed” means not working. Are you seeing where I am going?

You need to join me for a trip to the end of the rainbow, or wherever we end up to get the full notion. The journey is part fairy tale and part ‘public policy‘ and we both know that those are miles, light years, apart; part wanting and part wishing; with a good measure of ethics and fairness.

Here we go; Some backstory: I have been sent W-2’s before. I had no shortage of job, jobs, jobs, in my teens and twenties, even thirties. They stopped dribbling in about the time I gave birth to my first daughter. She is 30 years old, so that would be the number of years I have been ‘unemployed’, also considered a “stay at home mother’. I’m not quite a workaholic, but I’m happy enough working, creatively. However, I do envy for those who take meals sitting down at a table, weekends sleeping late and take vacations that include restaurants.

Now google, “compensation for a stay-at-home mom“. (This will tie together, stay with me.) Are you ready? Last year the figure was a whopping $178,543 the cost to replace the services of a stay-at-home mom (or dad) according to Salary.com. Child care, excluding infants who cost more, is about $15,355 per child for full time care. That would be $46,003 buckeroos per year for three children. Start with that as a base and see the add-ons that bring the total shebang to $178,543. You have to also take into account that most salaried persons have a job based on a 40 hour week. Wouldn’t a mother love those hours! Life would feel like a vacation.

Typically, a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) gets up before the children need to wake up or already awake. Let’s say 6:30 am on a good day. Scenarios vary widely according to a child’s age, or co-parent availability. Also take into account being pregnant with one or two toddlers in tow–that would be me. SAHM might catch a break during child’s nap time or guarantees are off.

In my case, I used every creative muscle to devise a strategy, for which, all –each and every–child (from 1-3) would be either snoozing or very well trained for the nap time protocols.

I learned the fundamental of meditation through necessity. I white washed my brain’s transmission from hyper-bunny, rapidly decelerating to zzzz. The joy of silence, vacant of thoughts, demands or whining, was my version of–you got it–a pot of gold; enabling me to be resuscitated for the second shift, easily another 7-8 hour shift.

Thirteen hour days were common. The co-parent traveled 2-3 weeks per month. Don’t feel sorry for his schedule of first class flights, hotels and of course, three–square sit down meals per day (not per week).

Back to the W-2 question. I have paid just shy of 2 million dollars in taxes since my 2005 divorce. That is a lot of tax money. Included in that tidy bundle, were many years where interest and fees accumulated–thereby representing an outrageous burden to contemplate payment, yet alone make one! Those were not my finest financially savvy days. Though to my credit, I did employ the accountant that was credible enough for my divorce attorney. A counselor, he was not.

Here is where I start to get heated…..there is no tax obligation on “child support” payments–either from or to- however the deal I struct– my alimony and child support were mixed together, called unallocated alimony. Therefore, I have had the privilege of paying taxes on the combined alimony. Reciprocally, he was able to deduct the maximum of the options.

Wondering if this seemingly unfair system, was equally unfair in the EU and elsewhere, I came up with this. In the UK, spousal maintenance is not taxable income because it has already been taxed. In other words, the 2 million I paid to the IRS was taxed twice. I could get real grumpy.

Ok, about W-2’s, we are getting closer. If I am taxed on unallocated alimony, doesn’t that technically count as “employed”, as opposed to “unemployed”?

No, it doesn’t count as ‘employed’ ‘. Get ready for this! Students, retirees, the disabled, homemakers, and the voluntarily idle are not counted in the labor force. The labor force as the percentage of the total population over the minimum working age is called labor force participation rate. Anyone who has run a household with children knows that it is likely the hardest job one can do. How many of the ‘employed‘ admit that they can’t wait to get the the office, where the work is more sane?

Voluntarily idle‘ that term is so offensive to be worthy of a meme. You can also put volunteerism in the same camp as voluntarily idle, they don’t get paid ‘money‘! But how is it that I pay taxes without the advantages of employment benefits, benefits of a real job? The money was already taxed once as my Ex’s income.

Am I the only one to find this system unfair? Two million dollars in taxes paid to be counted as unemployed— during the so called 17 years of unemployment! Perhaps I could have qualified for unemployment income, which would also be taxable. The employed have the advantage of tax deductions!!! And aren’t the employed generally happier than the unemployed? So additionally, they get ‘benefits’ of employment too. Still looking for that pot of gold!

W-2 employees are afforded protections under the law, such as minimum wage, overtime, and family and medical leave. They’re also entitled to participate in benefits like health and dental insurance, which are often better than what they can afford on their own. Added also are life and disability insurance, retirement income, loan benefits, paid-time-off benefits, and educational assistance programs.

Just like wages, salary, commissions, and bonuses you pay to your staff, the cost of employee benefits is tax-deductible. In addition, there can be employment tax savings. It really sounds like a program I could enjoy.

I am also penalized in my social security award; which is based on your lifetime earnings, indexed over 35 years. My alimony–for unemployment/work— is not factored into my social security award. I haven’t been getting a W-2, remember! The best I get is a spousal award, based on my years of employment plus his, my ex. He gets four times more than I do. That hurts.

So check the box ‘employed‘. Right? Ok, so tell me, will I be in receipt of a W-2? And will the presence of my W-2 in the system– shared with the social security department– trigger benefits, including social security accrual ? After all, that alimony/money is earned, worked for and taxed.

Better yet, claim self-employed which is actually exactly what it is. I am subject to my own employment rules and regulations. The pay is court ordered, that sounds legitimate.Take business deductions–I need a new computer– fund a 401(k), take self-employment deductions.

Does anyone really think that child care being provided at home versus outsourced isn’t a form of work aka employment?

The pot of gold is yet beyond reach, as I can’t enact these conditions retro-actively. But maybe you can. Tell me how that gold tastes, or smells or appears. Meanwhile I’ll have to find real employment!

Thank for joining the trip and I hope you find your ‘pot of gold’.

–Debra Sherwood