Finding Fulfillment in a Third Career

April 27, 2016

I am often asked how I ended up presenting stories of destination ports on cruise ships, with the implicit undertone of why do I do it.  The how is part of an evolving life, with the good fortune to be healthy and able to keep growing.  The why is the enjoyment of sharing the discovery of history at the scene of the event, with all the tidbits left out of the classroom experience.

onstage CTH story presentation

onstage CTH story presentation, courtesy of

The decision to become a lawyer was foist upon me as a means to earn a living when I was cast out of an MBA program for being a woman.  It was the 70s and the legal profession was opening to women, when the corporate world was still in the dark ages.  In government practice I had the opportunity to try murder cases and in private practice manage a litigation firm.  Always looking the other way when lucrative opportunities arose, I left practice to become a judge.  

Judicial service is public service.  It was an honor to so serve my state.  Being a judge is an academic enterprise grounded in the history of the law.  Impartial decisions rendered require research into the past in order to give application in the present.  

Judging is a rigorous exercise in research and writing.  An effective judge is one who gives relevance to history.

If I had a choice I would have become an art historian.  I adore Sister Wendy.  I wanted to be like her without the habit.  All my electives were in the humanities.  That background informed my law practice.  The first cases assigned to me as a federal attorney were international art theft of a painting and theft of gods from the cave of a tribal medicine man.  Those cases triggered the next 30 years as a cultural property lawyer, dealing with protecting archaeological sites and cultural heritage.

After giving hundreds of presentations to law enforcement, archaeologists, and attorneys, I thought I wanted to become a full-time academic so I first became a real student in a PhD program in land management economics.  Scientists assemble their thoughts differently than lawyers.  Legal journal articles are 80 pages with 400 footnotes expounding on an argument.  Scientists come to a rational, well-reasoned conclusion in 5 pages.   As a scientist, my judicial opinions were much improved.

I retired from the bench to take a graduate fellowship in museum studies at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.  There Stephen Weil, the great legal essayist, who developed the concept of museum law, tutored me.  While in Washington I was offered the position in the Department of the Interior to head the cultural property repatriation program.  I made a two-year commitment and stayed for eleven years.  Working through competing interests of those with a first party interest in cultural heritage and the museums and government institutions in possession of items was rewarding, but stressful.  

As a diversion from the stress of my days in my second career, I began writing short stories of the people and events in the places around the world where my husband and I traveled.  Five years ago I shared a few of those stories by giving presentations on a cruise ship.  My performance was far from polished, although the response was encouraging.

Telling stories of the places on the itinerary of happy people on vacation was a literal sea change from presiding in a courtroom, or leading a federal program amid competing interests.  That led to a deeper search for primary sources, in an effort to entertain with the factual tidbits not found in tourist guides or a quick web search.

This week the second edition of Cultural Property Law went off to the publisher, the American Bar Foundation.  It is my final law text.  There are three Cruise through History storybooks in the series published and several more in production.  Each of the books follow a cruise itinerary through a part of the world, where chapters are popular cruise ports with one or more stories of the characters who fashioned the built landscape the visitors will encounter and enjoy on their travels.

Judges and federal bureaucrats must never be arbitrary or capricious.  As a travel essayist, I am constantly so, as I chose the inspiring tales of unfamiliar heroes and tell the fun side of familiar historic personalities.  I still spend long days in my library to prepare stories for print or presentation, complete with photos from my travels.  It is joyful work.  I present on cruise ships because I chose to share those stories with fellow travelers.  I feel fortunate to have the opportunities of this third career.    

Cruise though History, Itinerary I London to Rome; Itinerary II Rome to Venice; and Itinerary VIII Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean are available at


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