celebrations, independence

Enablers Can’t Be ALL Bad

My friend, Kim, and I met for a 10:30 a.m. showing of  “On the Basis of Sex,” about Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. No matter how hard I tried to stay awake, I dozed. When it was over, I asked Kim what I had missed and she commented, “What I got out of it was that without her husband, she never would have risen to her position. He definitely enabled her.”

Now most of us think of enablers as negative forces: they encourage our drinking, our dependency, our other bad habits. In this situation, Martin Ginsburg, a successful lawyer and law professor, empowered his wife to aim for the stars and become a champion for gender equality. He clearly respected her intellectual talents, and she didn’t disappoint. She admits that she would never have gained a seat on the Supreme Court without him.

I thought about my own life, and for the first time realized that my late husband, Harold, was also an enabler.  When I wanted to go back to UCLA in 1968 to finish my B.A. degree, he was excited and encouraged me. We both knew it would be challenging since we had two teenagers and one pre-teen at home, who needed my attention. Would I be able to balance being a mom and wife while being a student?


Professional photo for Harold’s career as a movie and television extra during the last 25 years of his life. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2019.

After experimenting by taking a few classes at Los Angeles City College to reach junior standing, I believed my goal was doable. I enrolled in the UCLA Anthropology Department and discovered that most female students were the ages of my children. I thought I could pass, after all I was only 37. Not so. When I sat next to a recent high school graduate in a very large lecture hall, she outed me: “My mom is going back to school, too.”

On campus, there were services for women undergraduates but only for the young ones. I approached the Dean of Women and asked her what could be done for the housewives and moms who were just beginning to return to campus. She suggested that I create a survey of married women to discover their motivations for being there, what roles their families played in supporting them, and what university services could help them?

Harold & Norine cutting their wedding cake, March 4, 1951. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2019.

Some husbands felt quite threatened. One student’s husband was a physician and resented her intellectual endeavors, especially when his acquaintances expressed newly-found interest in her ideas and achievements. At the same time, other husbands were helpful like the Dad who took the family out to McDonald’s once a week so that Mom could have a break from cooking. Still other women revealed that they were back in school to achieve an education before they left unhappy marriages and could be more easily employable.

Harold was so proud of me, he gave me a Senior Prom after I received my B.A.  Had I not dropped out of the university to get married, I would have graduated in 1953. Instead, it was now 1970, so I asked everyone to dress as if it were the original time. The two of us purchased appropriate formal wear from a vintage clothing store; our 17-year-old son, Mark, provided the dance music with his rock and roll band. Our daughters, Andrea and Amy, handed out homemade plastic flower wrist corsages to all the women. It was a joyous and humorous celebration.

Invitation to my Senior Prom created by dear friend and artist, Jan Steward. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2019.

After graduation, Harold continued to support me for two more years. He was content to stay at home with me on weekends as I turned out research papers or studied for exams earning an M. A. degree in Folklore and Mythology.

All these memories come flooding back at this time of year, the anniversary of his death on February 2, 2007 at age 85. He died one month before our 56th wedding anniversary. If he had lived, on March 4, 2019, we would have been celebrating 68 years of marriage.

Harold had a way with words. Weeks before he died, he said to Mark, “You know, I think Mom’s almost brilliant,” causing us to howl with laughter. When Mark retold this remark at Harold’s funeral, guests also found his comment amusing and endearing.

It’s difficult to say goodbye to one’s life partner, and even though he’s no longer with me on this plane, I will still say, “Happy Anniversary, Harold.”

Harold & Norine Dresser photo by Ed Keck taken circa 2000. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2019.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who greatly misses her enabler.


. . . And Where She Stops Nobody Knows

Power Ball Machine. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.
Power Ball Machine. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.

The buzz was on even before the January, 2016, power ball had reached $1.5 billion.

“If you win, how would you spend your money?” I queried.

At the senior workout class at my local gym, I had a variety of answers. My favorite came from Mac, an octogenarian from Scotland. His answer came without hesitation: “Why, I’d open my own bank, The Bank of MacGregor. That way I could hang on to the money.”

Others were less avaricious. One woman said she would give a large chunk to her daughter and daughter-in-law, so that they could quit their jobs and take care of their children at home.

Cindy said she would pay off all debts and ensure her future income, donate to favorite charities, and with what was left over, “I’d empty my swimming pool and fill it with gumballs that I could dive into like it was Chuck E. Cheese for adults with a sweet tooth.”

Almost everyone here in the Borderland talked first of helping their parents and grandparents pay off their debts and fix up their homes.

Janice told me that she and her husband had a long-standing plan for handling unexpected wealth. They would divide it into three parts. She and her husband would each get one third to either invest or spend as they desired. The final third would go for maintenance and house improvements. Despite this sensible plan, they have never had the opportunity to test it out.

Karina promised, “I would do something kind for someone every day. For example, when I go to the utility companies to pay my monthly bills, I would restore anyone’s electricity and heat that had been shut off that day.”

My hair dresser, Adira, told me that a client had vowed to buy her a house right behind her own house, so that Adira could do her hair every day.

As for me, I would assist my immediate family and give them money, stretched out over time because I wouldn’t want them quitting their jobs, unless they were miserable at work. I would also help friends in financial need. I already promised a friend I would pay off her mortgage.

Here in Las Cruces, I am affiliated with two fabulous foundations: Casa Camino Real and the Institute of Historical Survey. I would bestow $1 million dollars upon each of them. After that I would endow a $1 million dollar Folklore Chair at UCLA to ensure that folklore would always be taught there. Finally, I would give money to other charities, some for animals, others for health, then to music.

I discussed this distribution of wealth with PJ, a friend and former editor. Shortly after, she sent me an article that advised the best way to handle the money – one lump sum or an annuity? The article recommended an annuity, even for people my age. That way it would be handled by my estate and distributed to my heirs for many years to come.

You know the best part about this discussion? I didn’t even buy a ticket, yet I had a grand time one recent restless night deciding on the disbursement of funds.

It’s fun to fantasize about such things and it feels good to see myself as Lady Bountiful.  No doubt, dreaming about such possibilities is fun and creative for everyone. Nonetheless, those whom I asked and others I read about first mentioned performing kindnesses for those in need. This made me wonder about their sincerity. Including myself. Do we say we’d share our riches with others to make us seem less greedy?

Is that what we would actually do if we won? Personally, I will never find out unless, one day, I get around to buying a ticket.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who never buys lottery tickets yet enjoys pretending what she’d do if she won. And where would your money go?

Festivals, internet, technology

Googling God

Googling God photo by Mariah Chase.  © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.
Googling God photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2014.


Overwhelming response to a recent post: “God Laughs While Women Plan” puzzled me. Up to that point, 9,000 was the largest number of hits I had received on previous posts, so 31,000 hits was stunning.

Did I have so many hits because I used the word “God” in the title? That’s the only rationale that makes sense. In the past, I thought that by using “Martha Stewart” in a title would bring many hits. I was wrong. I miscalculated again when I wrote about “Marijuana.” I questioned my low number of hits then discovered that I had misspelled “Marijuana,” yet it was spelled correctly in the body of the post. Even when I corrected the title spelling, I had fewer than 2,000 readers.

Using the word “God” in the title is the only explanation for the popularity of my post.

Do you remember the old Groucho Marx show, “You Bet Your Life”? Groucho had a “Secret Word” that, if contestants inadvertently uttered, brought them a $50 bonus.

I have had personal experiences of saying a secret word that struck an unexpected response from another person. When my children were teenagers and I returned to take classes at a community college, I took an American Literature class. In one of my papers, I mentioned “Dostoyevsky.” How was I to know that the class reader, a graduate student from a local university, was a Russian Literature major? As a result of that one word, we became lifetime friends.

The night I met my husband-to-be, we were at a festival on the UCLA campus. While we were dancing, he made me uncomfortable because he held me too tightly. However, when he asked, “Do you like Latin music?” he totally disarmed me. He had spoken my secret words, referring to music I fell in love with at age 14 while mesmerized by a Mexican trio on Catalina Island. I had never discussed this with anyone, so Harold’s speaking these words instantly melted me – even more so when we left UCLA to go to a club to hear and dance to the captivating Cuban rhythms of Rene Touzet.

Latin Music became a motif throughout our lifetime together. And with Harold’s permission, as guests entered the chapel at his funeral, they entered to the Latin beat of the Buena Vista Social Club.

How do readers find blogs that interest them? By Googling a topic. God has a gazillion followers.

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is curious about how readers discover her blogs.