On being invisible

Now 88, brilliant actor Maggie Smith practically dares you to look away.

For most of my adult life, I’ve had the ability to walk into a room full of strangers and strike up a conversation with just about anyone.

Now, at 68, whenever I walk into a room nothing happens.


I’ve become invisible.

And I’m not the only one. Friends—women in my age group—have told me the same thing. No heads turn to greet us. No one smiles from across the room. No one seems to notice us at all.

Studies show that after 49 the attention strangers pay to women plummets.

Israeli-American writer Ayelet Waldman was interviewed as she approached her 50th birthday. “I have a big personality, and I have a certain level of professional competence, and I’m used to being taken seriously professionally,” she said. “And suddenly, it’s like I just vanished from the room. And I have to yell so much louder to be seen. . . I just want to walk down the street and have someone notice that I exist.”

This invisibility can be exhasperating. Recently, I was at an event in San Diego. Dinner and drinks were part of the festivities, which generally leads to myriad conversations. But as I walked among the other guests, looking for some geniality, people turned away. I promise you, I’d bathed and was dressed appropriately, and still…nothing.

Occasionally, some older women do get recognized. Take Martha Stewart’s recent foray into posing in a bathing suit on the cover of Sports Illustrated. At 81, the former queen of homemaking was poured into various swimsuits, artfully draped, and air brushed to perfection. I guess we’re supposed to be impressed that the magazine known for showcasing young, rapier-thin women with big breasts and flat stomachs, gave a nod toward the more mature crowd. Still, I think I’d be more impressed with Stewart’s spread if she’d been allowed to actually look, you know, older. While she claims to have foregone plastic surgery, the photos have clearly been run through photoshop and numerous other magic filters, because there isn’t an 80-year-old alive with that kind of flawless skin. Is the assumption that SI readers would turn away if Stewart actually looked her age? Or, even worse, they’d just ignore the whole endeavor?

I “aged out” of my job as a sportscaster when I was pushing 40, the idea being I was no longer hot enough to appeal to male viewers.

Note that the problem of invisibility is not just about our egos. There are real world implications to aging. In The Atlantic article “The Invisibility of Older Women,” Akiko Busch said, “The invisible woman might be the actor no longer offered roles after her 40th birthday, the 50-year-old woman who can’t land a job interview, or the widow who finds her dinner invitations declining with the absence of her husband.”

I can relate to the 40-year-old actor. When I was pushing 40, I was suddenly unable to find a TV sports reporting job, even though I’d worked for five stations, including ESPN where I’d anchored SportsCenter. The problem? The sports target audience is 18-to-34 year old males, and once a woman exceeds that boundry the idea is men will no longer watch. (Note that while you will see some “older” female sports reporters today, the pendulum remains mostly stuck on the side of youth and beauty.)

So, what can we do? Helen Dennis offered some advice in her Los Angeles Daily News article “How older women can combat feeling invisible or unseen in social situations.”

  1. Be interested & interesting
  2. Use humor
  3. Stay current about world events
  4. Show interest in others; make appropriate conversation
  5. Dress well and age appropriately
  6. Take an interest in people who are younger and older than yourself
  7. Stay curious about life
  8. Respect your life and stay engaged
  9. Engage in conversation with wallflowers
  10. Always speak kindly of others and avoid gossip

While that seems like a lot of effort, women still in the business world need to stay relevent, if they want to climb the work ladder. But for those of us who are retired, maybe all we need is a mental reset. I sometimes think of actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Kate Winslett, both of whom have battled the Hollywood beauty and age police. Then there’s the brilliant Maggie Smith who has no qulams about showing her age. And the incomperable Frances McDormand who looks straight into the camera barefaced, daring viewers to see her for who she is.

Taking their example, here’s hoping we regular folks can someday walk into a room with the same strength and determination, so we might force those around us to not look away.

Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.



Time to toss some words!

I’m a writer, so obviously I love words. My problem lately is that certain words and phrases grate on me. Take “adulting “for example, which is the current mantra for young people who happen to believe they’re doing something adults might do. Something mundane, but necessary, like cleaning your house, doing the laundry, and paying the bills. The word comes out as a whiny groan, because who wants to act remotely like a grown-up?

Then there’s “swol” which is a term ascribed to a person who works out and develops muscles. The word sounds like a nasty diagnosis, not a compliment. Then again, maybe the term is meant derisively, because working out involves—as the word implies—work, so maybe that means being “swol” is a physical form of “adulting.”

I almost don’t want to mention “cancelled” but the current meaning ascribed to the term is so prevalent it’s hard to ignore. While we are used to cancelled appointments, the modern version actually cancels people. The visual itself is disturbing. The idea of speaking out against someone with whom we don’t agree is a Constitutional right in this country. However, the general idea is that we protest against someone’s actions or beliefs. The notion that the entire person should be relegated to a trash heap has never been the point  If you’re a student of history, perhaps you can see why this type of public shaming might be problematic, especially if it’s applied to a group of people and not a single human being who’s behaved like a boob. The other issue is that if one does not jump on the cancelled bandwagon, then they too are threatened with being cancelled. Wouldn’t it be better if when we disagree with someone or something, we just avoided them? Don’t like what an author put in a book? Don’t read it. Offended by a movie, TV show, or comediane? Don’t watch. But please don’t tell others what they should do. Stick to your own lane.

Do we really need to cancel other human beings?

And how about “my truth”? Something true is defined as “that which is in accordance with fact or reality.” As a former journalist, I take facts very seriously, and it’s my understanding that facts are the same for all of us, despite political folks who think “alternative facts” are a real thing. “My truth” has been defined as “what is true to me based on my own experience and understanding.” That suggests that one may believe whatever they want without justification or proof. I did find another definition for the expression which I think is spot on: “’My truth'” is a pretentions substitute of non-negotiable personal opinion.”

The most ridiculous expression is “we’re pregnant.” I mean, does the man have morning sickness? Does he suffer discomfort caused by a new person growing inside him? Does he experience the trauma and agony of labor? Does he have breasts leaking milk? No, no, no and no! So how, please tell me, do men get included in the pregnancy equation? Note that, yes, men do have to deal with a pregnant partner, but that’s not even remotely the same thing.

I understand that verbiage changes over the generations. When I was growing up we said things like, “Take a chill pill.” “Catch you on the flip side.” “Do me a solid.” “Far out.” and “Groovy.” The difference, I think, is that none of these phrases were the least bit meanspirited, judgmental, or factually incorrect.

So let’s try to be accurate and positive whenever we come up with new ways to say things. Wouldn’t that be better?

Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.



Here’s an idea! Let’s stop breeding dogs

Sure this Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens is cute, but is it any better than your average mutt?

As I was zipping around the TV options recently, I happened on the Westminster Dog Show where a Petits Bassets Griffons Vendeens—whatever that is—won Best in Show. The pup’s name was CH Soletrader Buddy Holly, so the dog’s sobriquet was as ostentatious as it’s breed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and have shared my home with many of them over the years, but the folks at the Westminster Kennel Club have me annoyed. If you are unfamiliar with the group, here’s how they describe themselves.

“The Westminster Kennel Club, established in 1877, is America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of dogs. It hosts the iconic, all-breed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the second-longest, continuously held sporting event in the U.S. The annual dog show—a conformation competition for purebred dogs—and the Masters Agility Championship and Masters Obedience Championship— where dogs from all backgrounds are eligible to compete.”

That last part about the agility and obedience championships was added in 2014, after animal rights activists complained that mixed-breed dogs were barred from competition, because, well, they were mutts.

Just about all my dog friends were mixed-breed creatures, most from the streets or shelters. I’m not looking for a pat on the back here, just stating a fact. It never occurred to me that any of them might be lacking because they didn’t have a breed nametag affixed to their lineage. Some of us can look past the droopy ears, mishmash of colors, and uneven body parts mutts often display and see the beautiful creature beneath the surface. But for some reason other folks feel the need to go all designer doggy, which leads to the problem of breeding dogs to display certain characteristics.

Before I go any further, note that humans and canines presumably got together about 30,000 years ago, probably when wolves discovered that those odd-looking, biped creatures were known to kill things and sometimes left juicy bits of meat and bone lying about. So, being clever creatures, they started following humans around. Somewhere along the line someone—I’m guessing a woman, mom-type—maybe found an abandoned wolf pup and raised it, which no doubt had other cave dwellers agog, after which the woman was probably named president of the clan.

Both Sadie and Bella were cattle dog mixes, and I never felt I was missing out because they weren’t special breeds.

Later, dogs were bred to perform services for humans, the canine version of singing for one’s supper. We’ve trained dogs to guard and hunt and herd and find lost humans in disasters. There are service dogs that help disabled people and police, and dogs that sniff out bombs and contraband at the airport. Important work.

Today, however, most dogs don’t have jobs. They’re just pets. Don’t believe me? All you beagle owners, when was the last time you were out hunting rabbits with your dog? Most of us do not contend with flocks of sheep or herds of cattle, nor do we need our Dobermans and pit bulls to protect us from random robbers. When was the last time those of you with Great Danes went stomping through the brush, trying to flush out wild boar? And all you fans of chihuahuas—I probably shouldn’t even mention this— but do you know what you’re little darling was bred for? Food! Yep. The Aztecs herded those wee dogs along with their warriors so they might have fresh meat when they were off doing warrior stuff. I mention this because I’m guessing you’re not sipping a nice Cabernet as you prepare to sauté your little pup with garlic and onions.

So, the question is, why are we still breeding dogs when millions go unadopted in shelters every year? Why are we breeding dogs with traits nature never intended, purebreds that suffer from genetic conditions. I’m talking French bulldogs, pugs, and Pekingese whose “adorable” features can lead to breathing and eye problems, as well as infections. Why are we willing to shell out big money to backyard breeders who prioritize profit over animal welfare?

I know some of you may be looking at your canine friend and thinking I don’t know what I’m talking about, because your dog’s breed is the best breed ever.

But is it? Really? Here’s hoping the next time you’re looking for a pet, you open your mind just a little. Maybe that shelter dog is a bit funny looking, but that’s doesn’t mean he won’t be the best friend you ever had.

Give it a try.

Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.



The problem with shorts

Shopping for shorts is hard, because this is pretty much all you’ll find.

I’ve lived in the desert for going on 35 years. I mention this because there is at least one article of clothing one can’t be without, especially since we are pretty much guaranteed close to 110 days a year where the temperature exceeds 100 degrees. I’m talking about shorts, of course.

Growing up in New Jersey, I rarely donned shorts. The reason? I’m of the fish-belly white crowd, so much so that Jill, my best friend growing up who had lovely, dark skin, used to ask me to sit next to her on the beach on those trips to the Jersey Shore.

“You always make me look better,” she’d say, patting the towel next to her.

It wasn’t until I got a job in Phoenix, Arizona in the late 1980’s that I finally gave in and acquired some shorts and I’ve been wearing them ever since. For years I wore the same shorts. I probably had ten pair, purchased at Chicos. White, cotton, comfy, styled like Bermuda shorts but looser. Then suddenly, and even though I’d purchased them at different times, they all fell apart.

I felt stranded, so I headed off to the mall only to find that Chico’s didn’t make them anymore and what I discovered at every store I went into was just plain depressing. Later, when I returned home looking dejected, my sweetie pie creased his brow. “What’s up?”

“I can’t find any shorts.”

Ryan gave me a look like he couldn’t believe such a thing would ruin my day, then he smiled. “Why?”

“They don’t make shorts for people my age?”

“What do you mean?”

“You should see them. Even in the women’s department, the shorts barely cover your butt. Who wants to see my butt?”

He paused, searching for an appropriate response.

“You remember the airport?”

See those nice shorts? Unfortunately, the guy didn’t come with them.

He nodded.

If you’ve been anywhere near an airport lately—or a mall, grocery store or pumping gas, for that matter—I bet you’ve seen a host of older women sashaying about in cutoff jeans exposing much more of their bums than anyone wants to see. They might as well be wearing thongs.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m far from a prude. (Stop tittering!) But there’s a time and place for such attire and in the general public it’s just not a good look. And, let’s face it, most of us, even you younger ladies, just don’t look good in those Daisy Dukes. Sometimes, I find myself wanting to scream at my sisters, “Did you look in the mirror?” But, of course, I don’t. What other people wear is their business.

Another issue is that short shorts are seriously uncomfortable in my desert. You’ll see if you ever come here and sit on anything left outside during the summer. You’ll look like you fell asleep in the sun and you can suffer serious burns.

My dearth of shorts continued despite several trips to the store and numerous online searches. Then, one day, I took Ryan with me. We rarely shop together for anything but food, since neither one of us finds joy in shopping. I could see that he was just as frustrated as I was.

He stood there, considering. “Why don’t you try men’s shorts?”

At my wits end, I followed him to the men’s department, where a miracle occurred. I found shorts that were both comfortable and less revealing.

So why do guys get comfy clothes and we don’t?

I think a revolution is in order.

Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.



Flight attendants: We have them all wrong!

Stewardesses are now flight attendants and they’re on board to save your life. Really?

Some of you may remember that storied time long ago when flying was fun. People actually bathed and changed out of their pajamas before heading to the airport. There was no need to arrive two hours prior to boarding. No long security lines to traverse. No explaining to an angry TSA agent that, no, you’re not a terrorist and that you didn’t mean to leave a half a cup of liquid in your water bottle. There was actual food served on actual plates with actual utensils by smiling stewardesses.

Now that I’ve mentioned stewardesses, note that they don’t like to be called that anymore. They are flight attendants. Which is fine, especially since today many of them are men, but back in the early days of commercial flying no males could apply. United Airlines “invented” the stewardess in the 1930s, and in 1967 the airline bragged that they’d trained over “15,000 smiling reasons to fly the friendly skies…Everyone gets warmth, friendliness and extra care. And someone may get a wife.”

Stewardesses were incased in cute little outfits and held to exacting standards of beauty. Weight between 100-118 pounds. No shorter than five-feet tall, but no taller than five-foot-four. Between 20 and 26 years old. She had to be unmarried with no children. She had to be attractive with no visible blemishes. Her hair had to be her natural color—one wonders if there was some kind of test— which had to be neatly styled and worn no longer than shoulder length.

And, of course, she had to have a pleasant personality.

Considering the qualifications, it appears the primary purpose of a stewardess was to be a eye candy and a glorified waitress quite suitable for marriage, hence the reason the average “career” only lasted 18 months.

Last year, a lovely young woman came to stay with us. While she was here she became a flight attendant with United Airlines, so I had a professional sounding board the day I returned home from a trip seething about the way I was treated on a flight.

Memo to the airlines: If your flight attendants are there to save us in an emergency, could you hire some women like these.

I had gone through rotator cuff surgery and had suffered a severely broken leg that had to be surgically repaired, both in the year-and-a-half prior to the day I walked onto the plane. The injuries required long periods of rehab. While I was doing well, there were still some restrictions. Like not lifting things. When I wheeled my bag to the back of the plane, I saw two flight attendants standing in the galley.

“Excuse me.” I smiled. “Could you help me put my bag in the overhead bin?”

One of them crossed her arms over her chest and yelled out, “If you can’t handle your own luggage you should have stowed it under the plane!” The other one just stood and stared at me.

I almost gasped. It’s hard for me to ask for help with physical things, as I spent much of my life working around men, where one didn’t want to show weakness, lest they be sized up for the next meal. Luckily, a male passenger appeared and quickly took care of the problem, still I was smoking mad.

If my plane was crashing, I’d feel much better with this woman onboard.

When I explained what happened to my house guest, she calmly explained that I had the job of a flight attendant all wrong. “They’re not there to serve you,” she explained. “They’re on board to help you in case of an emergency.”

I squinted. “Then what’s with the outfits?” She looked at me quizzically, forgetting that she had recently complained about having to wear a skirt and pumps to work. “So, flight attendants are going to save me from the burning wreckage of a downed aircraft in heels and an A-line skirt? Really?”

I could see her brain whirring.

Here’s the thing, if the airlines want us to believe that flight attendants are there to rescue us in a disaster, I want them dressed like friggin’ Navy Seals, don’t you?

And a return to the pleasant personalities might be nice, too.

Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.



“Follow your heart”: A baseball dream

Don Wordlow never wavered in pursuing his dream job.

As anyone who knows me understands, I’ve never met a microphone I didn’t like. With that in mind, I recently started doing podcasts, where I’ve met some very interesting people. The one who stands out the most is Don Wordlow, who invited me to be a guest on his show: The Baseball Lifer.

As you can probably guess, baseball is Don’s passion, and as I spent 25 years umpiring amateur baseball and covered all levels of the sport as reporter, we had a lot to talk about. Like me, Don was in the media end of the game, spending 12 years as a color commentator.

The thing is…Don is blind. From birth.

“I discovered the game at the age of eight listening to it on the radio,” he said. “I went to my first game when I was nine. The magical part was Dad arranged for what we now call a meet-and-greet with the Mets three broadcasters, all of whom are now enshrined at Cooperstown: Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner, and Bob Murphy. Dad knew that meeting the broadcasters would be even more exciting than meeting any of the players.”

Something sparked in Don’s young brain. He decided that he too would be a baseball broadcaster, which early on had his parents perplexed.

“Mom wanted me to be the next Ray Charles and said listening to baseball games would get me nowhere. When it mattered though my parents believed in me when I wanted to become a communications major.”

Though his peers viewed the idea differently.

“My friends…thought I was a nut for wanting to be on the radio.”

As you might expect, there were a lot of naysayers along the way, those who couldn’t wrap their brains around a blind man as a baseball broadcaster.

“I was a particularly stubborn…I kept pushing until I ran into Jim Lucas, who worked with me in college and later as a pro.”

The pair spent four years in AA ball in New Britain Connecticut from 1993-96, a time during which there were few technological advances to assist the blind. Don didn’t even have a computer.

“When the team was at home, Jim—or somebody else who could see—would read the daily stats into a tape recorder,” Don said. “I would then braille them. I was expected to have all my braille notes written before I got to the park. I would spend time preparing “all-time gems” because (we) were sponsored by a local jeweler. These gems were recordings of great moments in baseball from the 30s to the 90s. We ran them during pitching changes. When we started in AA, five gems might last two games. As the number of pitching changes proliferated during the 90s…I had to have ten or more ready.”

Don, who said the braille transcriptions took the most time, also prepared pre-game features of highlights from the game that happened the night before.

Over the years, Don was known to lean out of the press box and lead the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. He said there were a lot of memorable moments along the way, including the time he and Jim were invited to work part of a Major League game on June 23, 1994 between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs.

“It was a whirlwind, a fairytale blur,” Don said. “Double A games required me to have between 25 and 50 pages of braille stats in my lap. Quickly, we found it would take more than that to prepare for three half-innings of a single game.”

Don had close to 200 pages to juggle that day. Don and Jim were treated like celebrities, riding in limousines provided by the Marlins. They also appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America.

“Having my mom and my brother at the Major League game where we broadcast was a huge thrill,” he said.

Today, thanks to advances in technology, those with disabilities have an easier time integrating into society, still those journeys can be difficult. Like everyone, Don has suffered setbacks. A divorce. A severe back injury. Bouts of depression. Still, his sense of humor shines through. Don is working on a book about his life, one he says will be filled with funny stories. In the meantime, he has some advise.

“Professionally, persist in your search for an education and the right job,” he said. “Read both for work and pleasure. In your personal life, follow your heart.”

Listen to Don’s Major League broadcast here.

Listen to my visit with Don here

Find Don’s podcast here.

Anne Montgomery’s novels can be found wherever books are sold.



“Original, exceptionally well written, and compelling”

Midwest Book Review

Synopsis: In 1939, archaeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The entombed man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate beadwork, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine-hundred years earlier, was a magician.

Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archaeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.

Critique: Blending archaeology and Native American mythology, “Wolf Catcher” by novelist Anne Montgomery is an original, exceptionally well written, and compelling work of historical fiction that is especially and unreservedly recommended for community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that “Wolf Catcher” is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $4.99).

Editorial Note: Anne Butler Montgomery (https://annemontgomerywriter.com/about) has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, and amateur sports official. She was also a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Her novels include The Castle, The Scent of Rain, A Light in the Desert, and Wild Horses on the Salt. Anne Montgomery taught high school journalism for 20 years and was an amateur sports official for four decades, a time during which she called baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games and served as a high school football referee and crew chief.

Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.



Street Racing: The auto industry needs to stop promoting speed!

Young people see street racing as exciting, a notion car companies and Hollywood promote. Somehow the ultimate carnage isn’t mentioned.

You’ve seen the ads. Attractive young people, slipping their sleek new vehicles into gear, careening around sharp mountain curves or downtown city streets. What fun they’re having, when their cars can go from zero to 60 in under three seconds!

Of course there’s the flip side. Roughly 46,000 people in the U.S. die in traffic accidents annually. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for people under 30.

And yet it is speed and daring that automakers promote, and those little tiny disclaimers at the bottom of the screen noting that “the course is closed,” and “the cars are operated by professional drivers,” are ludicrous.

An article in Bloomberg titled “Traffic crashes are getting worse. Car ads are part of the problem,” reporter Danny Harris pointed out that “marketing speed, power and reckless driving as a selling point for cars is part of a longstanding advertising tradition for automakers.”

Note that in 2022 the auto industry spent over $17 billion on advertising. Currently, an average automobile weighs a little over 4,000 pounds. Weight combined with  high rates of speed can produce horrific carnage. So the question is should car manufactures be treated like other companies that produce dangerous products.

“The U.S. has a substantial history of affecting how industries, especially those with harmful products, market their goods,” Harris wrote. “Advertisements for cigarettes were banned from American radio and television by an act of Congress in 1971. Billboard ads for cigarettes, including cartoon advertisements that target children, like Joe Camel, were banned in 1998 as part of a settlement. The alcohol industry has developed its own standards for self-regulation— a model the car industry could also follow.”

The Fast & Furious franchise promotes speed and reckless driving and our young people are getting the message loud and clear.

If the car makers cared, they’d find other ways to sell their vehicles. But they won’t, because speed sells. But let’s not put all the blame on the auto industry. How about Hollywood with its endless movie car chases and the Fast & Furious franchise which spouts the message that you’re only cool if you drive recklessly and fast?

That message is being heard loud and clear by teen drivers. In 2020, 2,800 teens were killed and about 227,000 were injured in the U.S. in auto accidents. The majority of these dangerous drivers are boys, especially those 16 to 19, who are three times more likely to die on the road than female drivers of the same age.

One of my sons was sucked into the street-racing world when he was young. Luckily, he was caught before anyone was hurt. That such a smart young man would think speeding on city streets was a fine idea is frightening.

I grieve for parents who get that visit from the police. And I’m angry at the stupidity. We know young people don’t always make the best decisions, so perhaps it’s way past the time for auto companies and film makers to stop promoting dangerous driving as something glamorous, as opposed to what might easily be a tragic end to a short life.

Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.



It’s a tough time to be a teacher

Life is getting tougher for teachers. One of the biggest problems is lack of respect for the difficult job they do.

This is not an easy time to be a teacher. Practically every day there are news stories about what’s going on in classrooms nationwide, accounts that are rather ridiculous.

As a teacher of 20 years, the idea that my peers are pedophiles “grooming” children, that they are spreading their “radical agendas”, and that they’re teaching students to hate themselves for who they are is not only insulting but hurtful.

Once upon a time, teachers were respected, as was the occupation itself. The job was considered a calling, like nursing or religious ministry. Today we live in a world where many believe that horrid, old saying: Those who can’t do teach. (It pains me to even write those words.)

I had many jobs prior to becoming a teacher at 45, which included being a sportscaster and reporter, as well as an amateur sports official for 40 years. My world was chronically stressful. I was in the public eye daily and when I made mistakes, I was frequently called out. The attacks were sometimes personal. On occasion, I was accompanied to my car by police officers concerned for my safety.

And still, teaching was the toughest job I’ve ever had. I spent 20 years in a Title I school where the vast majority of my students lived in poverty, a place where drug and alcohol abuse, neglect, hunger, hopelessness, and gangs ruled. My job was to give them hope in a future they couldn’t see. Some didn’t believe they’d live to be 20.

For our students to become healthy world citizens, we teachers had to help them acquire important skills beyond the basic core subjects of math, science, history, and English. Communication skills especially are paramount to building strong relationships and making good empathetic decisions. But there’s a problem. Getting along with others, assertivenessis, and problem solving-skills are part of what’s referred to as Social Emotional Learning. For reasons I can’t fathom, SEL is now a dirty phrase. How can teaching a child to be resilient and self-assured be a bad thing?

School districts all across the country are desperate for teachers. If attitudes don’t change there will be many more empty classrooms.

When I researched the subject what came up was baffling. Somehow SEL became linked to another educational acronym, CRT, which stands for Critical Race Theory. Before I go any further, understand that there are no elementary or secondary schools in the country teaching CRT. Zero! Zilch! None! That’s because the class was designed for college students, primarily those in law schools. CRT studies involve using “sociology to explain social, political, and legal structures and power distribution…focusing on the concept of race, and experiences of racism.”

This idea has been so twisted that parents believe educators are teaching children to hate who they are because of past history. If you’re a White child, you must carry the sins of 19th century slave owners on your back. If you’re family hails from Germany, you are responsible for the evils of the Holocaust. (While I’d like to think those who oppose CRT care equally about the feelings of Black and Brown children, I doubt that’s the case.)

Since I taught history for a brief spell, I can tell you I never saw or sensed any student who seemed to feel uncomfortable learning about bleak eras in our past. So you can imagine that recent legislation has me confused. At least eight states now have laws about how any subject involving race can be taught, laws that say students can never be made to feel guilt or discomfort because of who they are.  I believe these laws are completely unnecessary, because the last thing teachers want is make children uncomfortable.

I’m not saying here that all educators are perfect. Like every vocation, some get it wrong. But I’d stake all I have on the idea that the vast majority of teachers only want their students to become happy, healthy, productive citizens. To reach that lofty goal, we must teach kids to understand both themselves and the past. To do that they need empathy, understanding, and a feeling of self-worth.

Someone please tell me how these lessons can be anything but positive.

Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.



A fancy bra and cowboy boots

Faced with a formal affair, I wondered what attire might be appropriate.

I found myself in a bit of a pickle recently. I had to attend a wedding. A formal wedding! Dressing up meant I had to make nice with things like shoes and lingerie, neither of which I’ve ever gotten along with.

“I only have one dress,” I said to my sweetie pie.

“So wear that one.”

“Then I’ll have to wear heels!”

Shoes have been the bane of my existence all my life. I was born with a crooked left foot, and a while back I suffered a severely broken leg, one that required extensive surgery. It took eight months for me to learn to walk properly again, so you can imagine the idea of donning heels had me apprehensive.

“Just wear your cowboy boots.”

“We’re not going line dancing. And the bride has been pretty specific that this is a formal affair.” In fact the young woman in question—who I’d never met—actually sent invitations suggesting a proper color palette for guests’ attire, and my purple dress was not one of the requested shades. I sensed that the combination of that dress and my boots might make the bride swoon.

I fretted over the upcoming affair, wondering if I might get away with wearing nice pants. I checked into whether slacks would be a serious fashion faux pax, and to my surprise I discovered that it is permissible for women to wear pants to a formal wedding, which meant my pretty, black tooled cowboy boots would work, as well. (I live in Arizona. Things are a bit different here, so trust me on this.)

I pulled together a black jacket, nice pants, and a sheer black shirt, but then frowned. Clearly, I needed appropriate undergarments. But when I searched my drawers, I discovered that my daughter had appropriated my one dressy bra. Okay. My only bra. Since I’m a child of the 70s, I’d tossed that torturous device when I was 16. It wasn’t until I was 51 and a teacher that anyone seemed to notice.

“You can’t do that in front of your students,” a fellow teacher said.

“Do what?” I was perplexed.

“You have to wear a bra?”

“Why?” I looked down. Several layers of fabric separated my bits from the world. “I’m old enough to be their grandmother. They won’t even notice.”

But I was wrong. I caught numerous boys checking me out, so I started wearing sports bras, which still bugged me, but which were not as uncomfortable as a regular brassiere. But a sports bra wouldn’t cut it for a formal wedding, not even in Arizona.

So I traipsed off to a lingerie store in a swanky mall. Since I’m not a fancy type, I appeared in that realm of delicates in a black sweatshirt bearing a cowboy and running horses, black leggings, and sneakers. Two white-haired women stared at me.

“I need a bra.”

One focused on my chest. “What size?

“Um…I don’t know.”

They appraised me as if I was something they’d discovered in a petri dish. And yet, after whipping out a tape measure and assessing me from multiple angles, one woman walked me to a dressing room and handed me a single bra.

Now, I’ve been in dressing rooms strewn with bras left behind by frustrated shoppers. Finding the proper fit can be a grueling affair, still I put it on without question.

A short time later the woman reappeared at the door as I faced myself in the mirror. “Turn around.”

I did.

Raise your hands in the air.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Bend over.”

I was perplexed, but did as she ordered.

“It’s perfect.”

And she was right! I wondered if she’d been bestowed with a master’s degree in bra-fitting, but didn’t ask. “It doesn’t hurt!” I smiled, and she pointed out the structural supports and special fabric with such intensity that I imagined NASA engineers must have designed the thing.

I was so delighted, I bought two.

As for the wedding, all went well.

And nobody said a thing about my boots.

Find Anne Montgomery’s novels wherever you buy books.