November 19th was World Toilet Day. That gave me something to think about.

I imagined the announcement: “RuthiPostowStaffing will be closed Saturday, November 19, 2011 in honor of World Toilet Day.”

I went to the web and discovered World Toilet Day was set up for what seemed to be a good reason – to support better sanitation in third world countries.

A Googledippity led me to discover there is also a World Toilet Paper Day in August. We the people surely do seem to be caught up in the subject. Toilets for everybody!

 But I found myself wondering if people the world over feel about toilets as we do. Is the number one priority for people in the third world is toilets (does anyone ever write about the first two worlds?). I talked to a Marine who had been part of a detail that built modern latrines in Iraq. Did the people there appreciate or want them? I don’t know for sure. But toilet seats were torn off and thrown away and the walls were covered in filth within a couple of weeks. U.S. toilets don’t seem to be on the list of their favorite things.

What this says to me is something I’ve always believed — toilets are personal – contrary to the new toilet paper commercials that take their message way too close to my personal stuff for comfort.

Even in the United States not all toilets are alike. Some people have toilets made of gold, or so I’ve heard. Some toilets are in bathrooms that open onto walled gardens – I saw one in House Beautiful. Where I grew up in Prichard, Alabama, every house had a toilet. My Aunt Annie’s had pink flamingo wall paper. Rich people in Mobile had two or three toilets, but on Petain Street there was just one per family and we all shared that one.

A lot of my kinfolks who lived in the country had outdoor toilets. They were in little wooden



houses several yards from the house. There was one at May Creek church where we went to homecoming every year. It smelled like the fumes from a paper mill—if you’ve ever smelled a paper mill. Some outdoor toilets were as clean as could be. Others – not so clean. Mama would stop at a gas station before she’d let me use the one at Aunt Lizzie’s house. But she wouldn’t let me eat there either. I guessed Aunt Lizzie didn’t wash her hands before she cooked.



The best outdoor toilet ever was at Mama’s Aunt Charity farm! It was a three seater! A spotlessly clean and neat-as-a-pin little house that had wooden pegs to hold plenty of toilet paper, a rack for books or magazines — and an oak bench, sanded smooth as porcelain, into which three holes were cut. It was the cutting edge of outdoor toiletry. Three people could go at once and in pristine comfort. I didn’t want to go with two other people, but my aunt was as proud as punch (Google the expression) of that toilet. I think she would have shot any Marines who came there with the intention of bulldozing her toilet to build some prefab metal one on her land – and my Aunt Charity had a shotgun and knew how to use it!

But as elegant as Aunt Charity’s toilet was, the bathroom is one place I don’t want to share. My ideal toilet would be a one-seater. And it would be set in the middle of a complete library. “If it weren’t for toilets there would be no books.” (George Costanza on Seinfeld) and it would have a bathtub as big as a swimming pool.

But I’ve wandered off topic as I so often do. This is about World Toilet Day. The topic is close to all of us. The holiday could take hold. Someday we might celebrate the day with huge family reunions and turkey dinners. Maybe there will even be a parade.


A little over a year ago on October 13, 2010, a DC sanitation worker, Larry Hutchins, was going to get onto his truck so he could come pick up our garbage – yours and mine – when he was shot and killed at the public works site. Last week I saw the first news about him in a year, and it was because the dead man’s widow is suing the city. It’s the first news I’ve seen about him since the day after it happened.

When I first heard about it, I searched the news and the web for information about the shooting, about the men, maybe about a collection being taken for his family. There was little and then, nothing. I Googled and searched. Nothing. That couldn’t be, I thought.

When a worker in a Starbucks was shot, it was all over the news. Why was there so little attention paid to Mr. Hutchins? Was it because we care less about a man who picks up our garbage? This is Washington, D.C. where we just dedicated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Dr. King was about equality of opportunity. What about equality of respect for people in honest professions? This is not a criticism of the city, the police department, or the media. I think we get the media we deserve because we decide our values.

I own RuthiPostowStaffing and I’ve spent my career in the business of putting people in jobs. The shooting and its media coverage brought to my mind an experience I had early in my career. I was a kid, but even then, it troubled me. A young woman came into the agency responding to an ad for a secretarial job – back then the jobs for women were secretary, typist, or clerk. But she wasn’t qualified. She didn’t even have the basic reading/writing skills to fill out our application, let alone the typing speed of 45 wpm employers demanded for even our most basic clerical positions.

Before coming to Washington, I’d been a teacher in a sharecropper town in Georgia. I’d seen people, particularly women, imprisoned by their lack of education. I wanted to help her. I told her I didn’t have a job she qualified for, but I’d heard GEICO (which had its headquarters in Chevy Chase at that time) was looking for file clerks – even though I wasn’t certain she would have the necessary qualifications.

The girl got hysterical. “I don’t want no filing job. I want a decent job!”

Who taught that girl filing wasn’t decent? Who decided any honest work wasn’t decent? I was incensed then and the feeling has stayed with me all these years. I can’t stand the suggestion that any job is indecent or that some workers are less valuable because of the jobs they do.

With all the injustices in the world, I’ve wondered what made this one affect me so. Because it’s insulting and what I’ve realized is I take it personally.

I grew up in Prichard, Alabama, a paper mill town, raised by blue collar people who were strong and proud and decent. Mama was head cashier of a grocery store. She was the definition of a professional. Daddy was a tugboat captain, then air compressor operator at Brookley Field AFB. They’re the reason I’m here, that I’m educated, that I own a company, and I can write this. What they did was 100% decent work! Once when I was a child I saw the men picking up the garbage on Petain Street, and asked Daddy who would take a job picking up garbage. He said, “A man who’s doing the best he can to make a living.”

We all want our children to do and be all they can be. I’ll bet Mr. Hutchins wanted different careers for his children too. That’s not the point. The point is respect – respect for all workers who show up and do their jobs well.

Mr. Hutchins rode on dirty trucks and picked up refuse so our city would be livable. If you look at results, at making a difference in the community, what job could be more decent and what worker could have more dignity?


In this time of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for so many things

I’m thankful for Mr. Magoo

Mr.Magoo makes friends

Mr.Magoo with friend





And dogs in general                                  



Dogs meeting

Mr. Magoo, soft-coated Wheaten terrier, and friend

And beautiful sons

Who swear I love the dog more than them





Beautiful daughter-in-law Katia, with my son, Eric, Captain, USMC

Beautiful daughter-in-law Katia, with my son, Eric, Captain, USMC

And more beautiful daughter-in-law






extendd family

Extended family

And extended families that can’t be divorced





The strong women who came before me

The strong women who came before me

And I’m thankful for the women who came before me and made me strong



  And for a wonderful career in an exciting city

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

And for all the people my career brought into my life

And all their stories that made my career interesting

And for my business partner who completes me and makes it happen

And the success that let us support causes we care about
And for my heroes, the people who work for people who can’t defend themselves

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth NAEHCY

Second Chance Employment Services that helps victims of spousal abuse 
Second chances

And the people at Courtney’s House who help the victims of domestic sex trafficking

 And I’m so thankful for the man who doesn’t ask to be thanked
Because he brings calm into storms



Daddy, Norvelle Guytan Simmons - This scholarship is for him.

My company announced today the awarding of the fifth annual RuthiPostowStaffing Scholarship. This year it goes to The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. I’m proud of our scholarship. Education is special to me. There was a time when education was a privilege, and in that time people prized it. For homeless children that is still true. It is not assured and they prize it.

My Daddy was 12 years old when he finished the sixth grade and his last year of school.

He was the oldest of four children of Willie and Mandy Simmons, my Grandmama and Papa. They lived near Brewton, Alabama where Papa worked with logging crews. If you’ve ever driven through the region, maybe you noticed it’s all pine, the legacy of my Papa’s crews that cut down the hundreds of years old hardwood trees and loaded them onto trucks that took them to the ships in Apalachicola.

Then as now, a hard life created people with limited horizons. My family was lucky enough to be literate, but once you could read and write and do figures, you had what you needed. You could read the Bible, write letters to kinfolks, and make sure you weren’t cheated at the feed store.

Papa and Grandmama were schooled according to the textbook of the day, the Blue-backed Speller. Asked how far he got in school, Papa would tell you, “I got through horseback, but Mandy got to Constantinople!”

Grandma and Papa

Grandma and Papa

When Daddy was 12, Papa said he had all the education he needed and told him it was time he went to work and helped put food on the table. Daddy lived to be 90. He raised three children all of whom he was proud to have graduate from college. He bought a second hand set of Compton’s Encyclopedias that he read cover to cover. He practiced grammar, “the mark of an educated man.” He never forgave Papa for stopping his schooling.

Five years ago, just after my company’s fifth birthday, Jenni O’Toole my business partner and I sat back to appreciate how far we had come since those early, often scary, days when we were new and struggling. Then we made one of our best decisions ever. We decided to earmark money for a scholarship. Great years or not so great, we would help young people get an education.

As women business owners, our first idea was a scholarship to support young women who were looking to use their education to launch careers in business. We approached a number of colleges and were told to, “just make a donation.” It’s amazing how hard it is to give money away if you care where it’s going.

Finally we forged a successful partnership with the University of Richmond and worked with them for two years. But we realized the young women we supported were going to get their education with or without us. We went in search of people who needed us.

The third year we chose Second Chance Employment for Women, which worked to educate and train women who were the victims of spousal abuse so they could afford to escape their abusers. That was a cause I could believe in. I could imagine myself tearing the face off of any man who hit me. When I asked my favorite minister what she would do if a husband tried to beat her, she said, “I’d be the finest minister in the prison system.”

In 2010, the scholarship went to a young woman who had been the victim of human trafficking, sold into prostitution by her grandmother when she was 12.

This year one of my clients told me about an organization that helps homeless children get educated. Homeless children? I tried to imagine the life of a homeless child. Where does she sleep? What does she eat. How does she stay clean and healthy? What hope does she have? The pictures I imagined were heartbreaking and I’m certain the reality is worse.

As I thought about it, I saw a circle closing — connecting my 12 year old Daddy who craved an education but had no hope of getting one to children who not only have no hope of an education but have no promise of the ability to keep a roof over their heads.

I talked with a representative of NAEHCY who told me some of their success stories, children finishing high school, college, getting advanced degrees. The people at NAEHCY give these children hope. They look at homeless children and see future educators, doctors, and lawyers. Most important they see children who will have the power to ensure they need never be homeless again.

For Daddy, whatever the question, education was the answer. Education was a privilege he didn’t have. This year’s scholarship is for him.


Last week, while waiting for the dentist I picked up the September edition of Town & Country Magazine where I found an item that mystified me.

I’ve never been one to dwell upon the meaning of life or the universe’s other mysteries. I’m more of an in-the-here-and-now kind of person. Let other people ponder what happens when stars collide or when matter and anti-matter come into contact — or was that just something on Star Trek? Those problems are too big and far away for me.

But in a two-inch article on the bottom of page 54, I came upon a collision of entities that, if not cosmic, is still keeping me awake and pondering. It said Missoni, the designer who fills the windows of Saks with stripes and zigzags of color, has created a bicycle for Target. I read it again, finished the magazine and put it aside, but I came back to reread it, looking for the hidden message. At first I just wondered if it could be saying something to me about my business, but that wasn’t it.

It was the unlikely juxtaposition that riveted me — Town & Country magazine, a bicycle, Target, and Missoni — together. My mind has no problem accepting these things in sub-groups. Target and bicycle – not a second thought. Town & Country and Missoni – as natural as Cartier and Panthere. Even Town & Country and a bicycle if it’s being ridden through an estate on Long Island. And maybe you can buy the magazine in some Target locations although it’s not where I’d think to look for it.

Bringing those four together must mean something bigger than mere ingenious merchandizing or a really attractive bike. It must say something about people, the country, the world, life itself. But what? I’m getting a headache.





I’m in the dog house with Mr. Magoo. You know the old joke about the rancher who was bringing his new mail-order bride home in the buckboard? The horse balked and refused to move. The rancher when to face the animal and said, “Strike one.” A few miles down the road, the horse stumbled. The rancher said, “Strike two.” A few miles further and the horse reared up when a deer shot past. The farmer said, “Strike three,” and shot the horse in the head. The new wife got hysterical, crying and screaming. The old rancher looked at her and said, “Strike one.” 


Well, I’m up to strike three.

My first blunder was failing to have the furnace turned on when the cold snapped last week. I hadn’t because I’d decided if I didn’t have my furnace turned on, it wouldn’t get cold. I was wrong. Freezing temps, snow, frost, and I had one space heater, a fireplace, and oven. Mr. Magoo was uncharacteristically blaming. Strike one!




Strike two came with a Halloween costume. All my friends were dressing their dogs. It was cute. The kids would love it. Mr. Magoo didn’t. He was forced to wear this awful costume with a frilly ruff around his neck. And it wasn’t even a real costume – just this purple thing with bats on it. Humiliating! His friend Beaumont got to go as a golden retriever. Moose was Super Dog. And here he was – purple!  Strike two!


It didn’t help that I gave him a new toy. When I kept giving candy to

Moose got to come as a super hero

Moose got to go trick-or-treating as a super hero

 passing strangers, he suspected I’d make him give them his toy too.

Don't even thtink about taking this toy!

Mr. Magoo, soft-coated Wheaten terrier, dares any trick-or-treater to try to take his toy

That could have been a deadly error on my part.


Now I’m on alert. Of course he keeps the toy. And his dinnerwill be on time every night. Three treats a night and he doesn’t even have to roll over. And I’m not even considering a Santa hat at Christmas!


But with all that, it was a beautiful night for trick-or-treating

What do you mean I don't get candy?

What do you mean I don't get candy?

— and a perfect Halloween sky!