Wednesday, February 3, 2021

When the Bully Falls

  When the Bully Falls

         Even before I began training teachers on how to deal with bullying, I was a sort of expert. As a school psychologist for over 30 years I watched the progression of the bully gaining power. More interesting, I watched the dynamic of the bully losing power.

         My work brought me into contact with the bully, the victim, the parents and teachers. I did classroom lessons and individual work. Perhaps most instructive was my hours of “yard duty.” It’s not generally the job of the school psychologist, but it was the best place to observe students I was involved with and the best place to intervene. Work in the classrooms was helpful. Kids learned how to support each other, take a stand and how to report. They learned to differentiate between tattling and reporting. They learned to identify what was bullying and what was simply bothersome behavior or the suffering of not getting your own way.

         But in spite of a school’s best efforts. there is often a bully with amazing power. The interesting and sad thing is to watch as those who are past or potential targets begin to align themselves with the bully. They laugh at his jokes or at those who are the brunt of his jokes. With girls it often takes the form of going along with one who directs other girls to exclude someone. Then, when some event or input alters the direction, it has been fascinating to watch the pattern change. 

A “mean girl” controlled much of the interaction in one classroom. Then a new boy joined the class and questioned her power. Without saying it directly, it was like, “Who made her boss?” Gradually others started asking the same question and soon “the emperor had no clothes”; the retribution began. The other girls, who had been her victims, banded together and excluded her. Some of the mothers tried to be charitable and urged kindness but couldn’t help but feel the justice of the situation.

         I’ve watched the same dynamic in the current political situation. The bully was able to bring to his side many without the moral core or moral compass to resist. Fearful and weak they either supported or pretended to accept his validity as a leader. 

Now as his power slips away we will watch the reaction. Will his one-time targets now have the courage to speak up? Will those who aligned simply not stand by him or will they try to pretend they didn’t really support him? 

Many have been doing arm chair analysis on this president, finding evidence of narcissism, mania, ADD and other syndromes. I only need to look as far as the playground to understand what has gone on. I’m less interested in the syndrome displayed than in the sad dynamic that has taken place as some have aligned themselves with the bully.

 Now it seems we will watch as the power the bully once wielded slips away. We will watch as his supporters slip away. Unlike the kind-hearted mothers that I knew years ago, we may watch this process without a charitable heart. We may even find enjoyment in the justice of his tumbling from power and the embarrassment he will experience in the removal of the invisible garment. 

 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Joy of Swearing -- Politics Requires it

 Vocabulary Expansion in Political Times

The Joy of Swearing

 

         It’s notable that there’s been an expansion of language following the election of Mr. Trump. Before his election we seldom heard words like megalomania, misogynist, bloviate, xenophobe or sycophant in daily conversation. Now they are quite frequent. This expansion has impacted the vocabulary of many of us.

Then there are other ways, less sophisticated ways, that our vocabularies seem to be building.  This is often seen in people who barely used the words damn or hell before. My sweet sister-in-law is one of those people. Raised, as I was, in a small Midwest town in the fifties, swearing wasn’t a big part of our communication. Growing up, the word “pee” to describe urination was considered vulgar. Even using the term “it sucks” was not appropriate. I still don’t like that one, and when our kids were little made our home a “suck free zone” They usually warned little friends whom they thought might slip up.

Back to my sweet sister-in-law. She is a quietly witty woman. Once, after I told her I was so mad at my husband that I hadn’t spoken to him all day, she asked, “Has he noticed yet?”

 Now we get on the phone each week and let it fly. She described this change in language to her equally dignified brother, when he came for a visit.  After a lifetime of never even using the “f” word, she warned him about this change. He innocently asked, “What do you mean?” Her answer, “Well, it begins with ‘mother’.” He was a little shocked, but not surprised. He watches the news too.

My nephew taught high school English for years. He commented that recent conversations with older adults include frequent use of the gerund form of the f word. That’s the one with the “ing” ending. 

There seem to be a lot of us senior citizen potty mouths these days. We’ve done all the customary positive things in the way of community or political action, but we're still pretty distressed. So now many of us are finding a bit of unexpected relief in using language that we have apparently saved for these trying times.

 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Post Pandemic Bucket List

Written  eight months ago. Not a lot has changed

A Post-Pandemic Bucket List

Like a lot of those sheltering in place, I’m currently busy with home chores that I’ve been putting off. I’ve done my taxes, I finished a manuscript, I’m going through and organizing cupboards. Above all, I’ve made the big move to tackle the basement. It is like an archeological dig. “Oh there’s that Christmas ornament I lost years ago. How did it get in the yarn basket?” “Do we really need our college text books from thirty years ago?” “How many Christmas tree stand does one family need?” “Wow. Here’s the lid for that pot we gave away.”

Living in a house for over forty years we have often just put things in the basement in a less than organized way.Offspring moving out and moving back in have added to the "accumulation."

 I now have clear plastic boxes of various sizes. I’m using them for specific categories, donate, give as gifts to younger friends, sell, or store in a better way. After a few hours each day I feel productive and more in control. That feeling is more valuable now, in the face of a situation where we have little control.

But, I’m also thinking and planning for the post pandemic time. It will be a time when my house will be organized and tidy, but more important when I can again spend time with friends. Fortunately, many of the limitations during the quarantine and pandemic are temporary. We may not live long enough to see our IRAs return to previous levels, but we will be able to meet friends for walks and have groups for dinner. My daughter and I are planning various events and doing some background tasks in preparation. 

Things we have taken for granted are not possible right now, As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” We are staying busy to avoid a lot of handwringing, but in addition to the long delayed chores we are thinking about what is important to us. We are making our post pandemic bucket list. 

Though we are occupied with chores and planning future celebration, we are also mindful of ways to address the needs of those that are challenged now and will be in the future. There are charitable organizations that are working over time and we have connected with them. We don’t need to wait until after the pandemic to pay attention to the ever present difficulties of our neighbors.Thatcan be on our current bucket list.

Monday, December 7, 2020

TRUMP OR THE PARTY AND THE REPUBLIC

The whole point of this piece from the Huffpost is that this time of dire need in our country offers you an opportunity to be remembered as a patriot and person of honor. Plus, Trump will be so sullied by his current antics that he won't be the threat to you that he once was. Speak up. The lives of your people are at stake. He lost, move on to saving those lives through preventive measures  and a focus on public health. Here's your big chance for a positive page in history.

DEAR REPUBLICANS.. 

Those who “understand” politics will tell you that it is a matter of compromise. Parties must adjust, give up on absolutes and accommodate to the circumstances. This is realistic, but a worrisome situation when we see that politicians are willing to compromise their integrity. Skill at rationalizing comes in handy in this process.
Those less skilled at rationalization, some loyal members of the Republican party, now seem to be trapped in an uncomfortable place, presenting both moral and practical dilemmas. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, having to deal with a very “difficult boss.” For their own safety or ambition, they must. Others are in the middle of a slow walk back to integrity.
          Those who spoke out early no doubt harbor a fear that he will retaliate. Mr. Trump is famous for his capacity to get back at those who have crossed him. Some Republicans had a moment of principle, when the tape of him bragging about grabbing women in the genitals came out. They spoke out, and now have to deal with the foreboding and cloud of what might be the consequences for this “lapse.”
Even those who didn’t speak out, now deal with the growing number of situations that make them wonder how long they can be silent, how long they can convince themselves that their silence will help them achieve the goals that fit with their politics. 
Some are willing to hold on until the bitter end, trusting the ends justify the means. But there are a few who are coming to recognize that such times create the opportunity for patriotism, even heroism
Some are so committed to the country and to their own personal integrity that they will oppose what is going on.  Moreover, there are members of the Republican party with such solid positions that they may not be vulnerable. They have less to lose in their opposition. There may even be some willing to risk their wonderful committee appointments or even their reelection to do what is right. Such leaders may give courage to others.
Others are astute at sniffing the air – they know the direction things are going and opportunism is their motivation. They have seen things in their constituents that have made it clear that they cannot just go along with situation in the White House.
         A third group is just practical. They’re the ones saying, “What?” What’s being proposed from the White House just does not make sense. They look at the funds that hard working citizens must give up to them. They see themselves as responsible to carry out their duty as honest, practical fiduciaries. 
So whether from heroism, opportunism or pragmatism, there are those in the Republican party who have an opportunity to step up and to do what is right
During my graduate research I studied the development of moral reasoning, analyzed my data in the morning and watched the Watergate hearings in the afternoon. I feel a bit of Deja vu—I watched the testimony of people at the lowest levels of moral reasoning, controlled by self-interest, authority or affinity to a group like them. It was rare but exhilarating to see the few who functioned at the true level of principle. There are signs of it now in the Grand Old Party. In an earlier op-ed in the Chicago Tribune I lamented that this is not my father's GOP. I hope there are those in the party who want to resurrect (resuscitate) what was once "grand" about the party.
When this heroism, pragmatism or even opportunism emerges, our job is not to gloat, not to say, “It’s about time,” or “I told you so.” Whatever the reason it will take a measure of courage. For some this step forward carries with it significant loss. Loss of position or loss of faith in the party they were devoted to. Some quiet respect and some admiration are perhaps the best reaction for those of us who see the dilemma that they have had to struggle through -- to reject the crazy, hateful and inept leadership. Perhaps they will even be the new leaders that can find the nirvana of common ground with the other party.

           Ironically, this president may actually be the catalyst for what many thought impossible. The common “enemy”, so obsessed with self and with so little concern for the country, may bring the sides together to find shared goals and realize they must work together for the good of our country.

share or read at
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/593d9fd7e4b014ae8c69e199

Thursday, December 3, 2020

We Are Not F***ing Elderly

A chapter from my book, "You Are OK, BOOMER"

When I read in the paper about an older individual injured or in the news in some other way, the headline usually reads “elderly” person. Then there’s a word of some calamity that befell them or some difficult situation involving them.

I have often joked that if I were to get hit on a street near our house and sent to the hospital, the headline would read “Elderly Woman Injured in Accident.” Would the following story detail that the woman (me) was coming from the gym where she lifts weights and is then off to run errands? Later she’ll go home to work on her book or work in her yard. After that she’ll go out to party with friends.

 No, damn it, that label will seem to say it all. This poor, weak, defenseless little creature; this “elderly” woman. Well, this “elderly woman” would like to kick someone’s butt every time she sees that in a headline. Would “senior citizen” be better? A little, but it would take more letters. Or maybe there could be no reference at all to the age in the headline. If I get hit and you want to be accurate, just say “woman hit by car and in hospital.” In the article you can include my age if you want to be accurate, say that I was coming from the gym. My husband might add that I was working on upping my reps or weights or something to indicate more about me than my age group.

        We now have many ways to describe peoples’ gender or sexual orientation, but just one if you’re over 60. I respect and encourage all this diversity in labels, so could we please stretch it to something beyond “elderly?” OK, when I’m 90 and coming from the gym and get hit by a car, it might be acceptable to call me elderly, or by then, maybe there will be some more enlightened labeling.

I’m not alone in my annoyance. Friends and colleagues my age are busy, productive people. Even those who have various health issues do not want to be viewed as weak, doddering, “elderly” people. They hike, care for their grandchildren, make art, volunteer and fight for worthy causes. 

In this limited way of framing older people, even my ire might be framed as the response of a “crotchety” old woman. No, I’m not crotchety or kind of cute in my anger. I’m justifiably irritated by this practice that is a part of a trend to devalue those who are older. Perhaps as we baby boomers are no longer the demographic majority, our value has become diminished and thus the respect we are shown in this context.

         It’s notable that we don’t read, “Elderly CEO”, “Elderly movie producer,” or “Elderly research scientist.” Each of these descriptions carries a label of power or competence. That suggests another element in what is conveyed by the label of “elderly.”

I am not weak and fragile or whatever is conveyed by that label. Nor are most people my age. Dear journalists and headline writers, please look for a more accurate label and stretch past the “unconscious bias” that is reflected in that word. Find a more accurate label, if you need one at all.

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

DESIGNER DIRT

 Pretty does as pretty is when it comes to soil

Susan DeMersseman, Special to The Chronicle

Aug. 8, 2007Updated: Jan. 15, 2012 11:37 a.m.

Copy editor, please disregard specific info below and write caption based on story. thanks. file photo. GREEN_thedump_0702_MBK.JPG Robert Reed of Norcal Waste Systems holds post-compost dirt at Jepson Prarie Organics in Vacaville, CA, on Wednesday, June, 13, 2007. Much of what makes up this dirt comes from the city of San Francisco in the form of compost trash like lawn and food scraps. photo taken: 6/13/07 Mike Kane / The Chronicle *Robert Reed MANDATORY CREDIT FOR PHOTOG AND SF CHRONICLE/NO SALES-MAGS OUT

It's the rare gardener who is lucky enough to have perfect soil. 

The rest of us add things, products commonly known as soil amendments. Available at most garden departments are bags full of such products - compost, topsoil, mulch, manure and the like. Many gardeners also make their own compost to enrich or amend the soil. 

Amendments are used for many reasons, but generally they loosen the soil, help retain moisture, add nitrogen and prevent compaction so that air can penetrate to the root level. 

When I began my research on soil amendments, I was interested in the more technical aspects of these designer dirts. I talked to nursery employees, people at a botanical garden and fellow gardeners. I learned about such important considerations as what product is best for clay soil or sandy soil. I learned about elements such as nitrogen, potash and phosphorous, about the concept of soil pH, and what amendments are recommended for what kinds of plants. I also bought bag after bag of all sorts of products to do my own research. 

The result of this final step was a surprise. I am a very practical person, but when it comes to dirt I must confess I am all form over function. I came to realize that I cared most about the aesthetics. Bottom line, I like beautiful dirt. From my experiments with many kinds of soil amendments I have come up with a favorite "house blend." To start with, there is nothing like grape compost to give soil a rich dark brown appearance, and as a bonus it has lots of little seeds that loosen compacted soil. Another favorite for its feel is coconut coir. It's the outer husk of coconut ground up. You might expect it to be coarse, but it is as fluffy as peat moss and much prettier - a rusty brown and wonderful to the touch. 

A third ingredient in this fruit cocktail of soil amendments is cocoa hulls. They win for smell. They are the crunchy outside husk of the cocoa bean and retain a very pleasant fragrance. Their drawback is that they, like rice hulls, tend to turn an unattractive gray when dry. They can also be a danger to pets and can form mold when they stay damp for too long. But when mixed with grape compost and coconut coir, they provide the texture and smell that makes for a perfect blend. 

I sometimes use the separate parts of my blend by themselves. The coconut coir is great to cover emerging grass seed, and grape compost sprinkled on the surface of the soil creates that freshly watered look. 

The only danger of using straight grape compost is that an absent-minded gardener may forget to sprinkle in an area that looks freshly watered. 

Other candidates in this research have been various kinds of manure. Without going into the steamy details, chicken manure is the clear winner in this category. It smells rich and organic but not stinky. 

It is also my cat's favorite. When I use a product containing it, she rolls on the lawn with great appreciation, as if I spread it just for her. 

I love the fine loose texture of sandy loam, but it is not a pretty dirt. For some projects I have mixed it in with my fruit cocktail blend, but on its own it doesn't pass the appearance test. 

I hope my plants don't mind that I have chosen dirt for its beauty and sensory qualities rather than its certain benefit to them, but so far none are dying in protest. 

For the serious gardener who cares more for function than form, my serious research indicates that every nursery has a different favorite. But the basic guidelines from many sources indicate that the perfect amendment depends upon your soil type, e.g. sandy or clay. Ask about the pH so that your acid lovers get an acid mix and your other plants get a neutral or alkaline mix. Be aware that some products are preferred for food crops because they contain no human waste. I also strongly advocate creating your own compost, but homemade compost is not right for every plant. Mine is rich and dense, but too acidic and heavy to loosen my clay soil. So I add other materials to modify it. 

When I sing the praises of my house-blend concoction, other gardeners wonder about the seeds in the grape compost. I'm pretty sure that the composting has rendered them inert, but if not, my next article may be titled "The Vineyard in My Backyard." 

 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

 CHANNELING JOE

A letter to Trump folks.

 

I honestly get why you voted for him. He identified your real troubles and promised he knew how to fix them and that he cared. Neither of those things turned out to be true. He gave you promises and in some cases someone to blame for your troubles. I get it. I respect you desire to make your life and your family’s life better. 

 

Even though you saw his dishonesty in some areas and his disrespect, you gave him the benefit of the doubt. You trusted that he would grow in to the presidency and wouldn’t forget his promises to you.  I’m truly sorry that it didn’t happen. Instead he gave huge tax breaks and favors to the rich and to friends and family and ignored his promises to you. I can’ t read his heart and know if he’s capable of the kind of care and empathy he promised. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t happen. 

 

Now it’s annoying when friends and family try to show you how wrong you were and that you have basically been abandoned in favor of those like him. It’s never easy to face that you might have made a mistake and more troubling when it keeps being pointed out to you.

 

I’m not going to make you unrealistic promises. And blame? there’s enough to go around, but I want to focus on solutions. My promise is to focus on health and jobs, and I will respect you enough to tell you the truth and not use you to pump up my own ego. We’ve been put in a bad hole and we need to work together to dig out.

 

You can see in your own communities jobs that need to be done to improve our infrastructure and employ people at all levels. Recouping some of the tax gift he gave to the 1% could fund many of those projects. But he has even sold short many of the generous wealthy in this country. believing them to be as greedy and self-serving as he is. There are many people in our country with great wealth who have done great things. With the right recognition and encouragement, they are ready to do more. They appreciate that this country has offered them the opportunity to build that wealth and they want to give back. Some understand that real power isn’t just in accumulating more wealth or having a house with 20 bedroom or 20 bathrooms, it is in seeing what you have created in society’s well-being by your generosity and awareness. They understand that it’s better when everyonedoes better. Their legacy is not a big bank account or a big house. It’s supporting small business, education or hospitals. 

 

There is so much wealth in this country in physical resources and in heart and intelligence. Let’s work together to make it a more level playing field and bring together the human and physical resources of this country. God, I want to be part of that and want you to join me in creating that. We all want to feel like we belong and that we are part of something. I’m asking you to be part of something honest and positive and that will make you and your children proud.

 CHANNELING JOE

A letter to Trump folks.

 

I honestly get why you voted for him. He identified your real troubles and promised he knew how to fix them and that he cared. Neither of those things turned out to be true. He gave you promises and in some cases someone to blame for your troubles. I get it. I respect you desire to make your life and your family’s life better. 

 

Even though you saw his dishonesty in some areas and his disrespect, you gave him the benefit of the doubt. You trusted that he would grow in to the presidency and wouldn’t forget his promises to you.  I’m truly sorry that it didn’t happen. Instead he gave huge tax breaks and favors to the rich and to friends and family and ignored his promises to you. I can’ t read his heart and know if he’s capable of the kind of care and empathy he promised. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t happen. 

 

Now it’s annoying when friends and family try to show you how wrong you were and that you have basically been abandoned in favor of those like him. It’s never easy to face that you might have made a mistake and more troubling when it keeps being pointed out to you.

 

I’m not going to make you unrealistic promises. And blame? there’s enough to go around, but I want to focus on solutions. My promise is to focus on health and jobs, and I will respect you enough to tell you the truth and not use you to pump up my own ego. We’ve been put in a bad hole and we need to work together to dig out.

 

You can see in your own communities jobs that need to be done to improve our infrastructure and employ people at all levels. Recouping some of the tax gift he gave to the 1% could fund many of those projects. But he has even sold short many of the generous wealthy in this country. believing them to be as greedy and self-serving as he is. There are many people in our country with great wealth who have done great things. With the right recognition and encouragement, they are ready to do more. They appreciate that this country has offered them the opportunity to build that wealth and they want to give back. Some understand that real power isn’t just in accumulating more wealth or having a house with 20 bedroom or 20 bathrooms, it is in seeing what you have created in society’s well-being by your generosity and awareness. They understand that it’s better when everyonedoes better. Their legacy is not a big bank account or a big house. It’s supporting small business, education or hospitals. 

 

There is so much wealth in this country in physical resources and in heart and intelligence. Let’s work together to make it a more level playing field and bring together the human and physical resources of this country. God, I want to be part of that and want you to join me in creating that. We all want to feel like we belong and that we are part of something. I’m asking you to be part of something honest and positive and that will make you and your children proud.

If I Could Channel Joe

CHANNELING JOE

A letter to Trump folks.

 

I honestly get why you voted for him. He identified your real troubles and promised he knew how to fix them and that he cared. Neither of those things turned out to be true. He gave you promises and in some cases someone to blame for your troubles. I get it. I respect you desire to make your life and your family’s life better. 

 

Even though you saw his dishonesty in some areas and his disrespect, you gave him the benefit of the doubt. You trusted that he would grow in to the presidency and wouldn’t forget his promises to you.  I’m truly sorry that it didn’t happen. Instead he gave huge tax breaks and favors to the rich and to friends and family and ignored his promises to you. I can’ t read his heart and know if he’s capable of the kind of care and empathy he promised. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t happen. 

 

Now it’s annoying when friends and family try to show you how wrong you were and that you have basically been abandoned in favor of those like him. It’s never easy to face that you might have made a mistake and more troubling when it keeps being pointed out to you.

 

I’m not going to make you unrealistic promises. And blame? there’s enough to go around, but I want to focus on solutions. My promise is to focus on health and jobs, and I will respect you enough to tell you the truth and not use you to pump up my own ego. We’ve been put in a bad hole and we need to work together to dig out.

 

You can see in your own communities jobs that need to be done to improve our infrastructure and employ people at all levels. Recouping some of the tax gift he gave to the 1% could fund many of those projects. But he has even sold short many of the generous wealthy in this country. believing them to be as greedy and self-serving as he is. There are many people in our country with great wealth who have done great things. With the right recognition and encouragement, they are ready to do more. They appreciate that this country has offered them the opportunity to build that wealth and they want to give back. Some understand that real power isn’t just in accumulating more wealth or having a house with 20 bedroom or 20 bathrooms, it is in seeing what you have created in society’s well-being by your generosity and awareness. They understand that it’s better when everyonedoes better. Their legacy is not a big bank account or a big house. It’s supporting small business, education or hospitals. 

 

There is so much wealth in this country in physical resources and in heart and intelligence. Let’s work together to make it a more level playing field and bring together the human and physical resources of this country. God, I want to be part of that and want you to join me in creating that. We all want to feel like we belong and that we are part of something. I’m asking you to be part of something honest and positive and that will make you and your children proud.

If I Could Channel Joe Biden

 

CHANNELING JOE

A letter to Trump folks.

 

I honestly get why you voted for him. He identified your real troubles and promised he knew how to fix them and that he cared. Neither of those things turned out to be true. He gave you promises and in some cases someone to blame for your troubles. I get it. I respect you desire to make your life and your family’s life better. 

 

Even though you saw his dishonesty in some areas and his disrespect, you gave him the benefit of the doubt. You trusted that he would grow in to the presidency and wouldn’t forget his promises to you.  I’m truly sorry that it didn’t happen. Instead he gave huge tax breaks and favors to the rich and to friends and family and ignored his promises to you. I can’ t read his heart and know if he’s capable of the kind of care and empathy he promised. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t happen. 

 

Now it’s annoying when friends and family try to show you how wrong you were and that you have basically been abandoned in favor of those like him. It’s never easy to face that you might have made a mistake and more troubling when it keeps being pointed out to you.

 

I’m not going to make you unrealistic promises. And blame? there’s enough to go around, but I want to focus on solutions. My promise is to focus on health and jobs, and I will respect you enough to tell you the truth and not use you to pump up my own ego. We’ve been put in a bad hole and we need to work together to dig out.

 

You can see in your own communities jobs that need to be done to improve our infrastructure and employ people at all levels. Recouping some of the tax gift he gave to the 1% could fund many of those projects. But he has even sold short many of the generous wealthy in this country. believing them to be as greedy and self-serving as he is. There are many people in our country with great wealth who have done great things. With the right recognition and encouragement, they are ready to do more. They appreciate that this country has offered them the opportunity to build that wealth and they want to give back. Some understand that real power isn’t just in accumulating more wealth or having a house with 20 bedroom or 20 bathrooms, it is in seeing what you have created in society’s well-being by your generosity and awareness. They understand that it’s better when everyone does better. Their legacy is not a big bank account or a big house. It’s supporting small business, education. hospitals and this great country. 

 

There is so much wealth in this country in physical resources and in heart and intelligence. Let’s work together to make it a more level playing field and bring together the human and physical resources of this country. God, I want to be part of that and want you to join me in creating that. We all want to feel like we belong and that we are part of something. I’m asking you to be part of something honest and positive and that will make you and your children proud.If all of our troubles were hung on a line, you would choose yours and I would choose mine.If all of our troubles were hung on a line, you would choose yours and I would choose mine.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

More time with our children = new insights

 


A chapter in "Parenting? There's Not an APP for That."

Originally published at http://sogoodwithwords.blogspot.com.


Friday, September 4, 2020

Reign of Terror Is on Relationships Between Friends and Family Members in Divisive Times

 Thoughts after reading a Facebook post from a friend decrying the "reign of terror" of destructive protests and the desire to take down monuments and statues. 

I’m sad today by the post on FB of a friend. I’m reminded that one of the most heartbreaking divisions in this country is now between friends and family members.  
Some see the burning of government buildings and the desire to bring down statues as the reign of terror. Those terrible actions serve to hijack legitimate complaints about the true reign of terror. The racism that is now more apparent due to cell phone footage. The terror that parents of African American children feel when their kids go out at night. The terror we try to quiet as we give them the “talk” time after time. 
I don’t care about the statues or monuments. Leave them up, but let’s honor our current heroes who protect us in their military service and protect us in the emergency rooms of this country. There is terror in the hearts of people on the streets due to evictions, due to the loss of jobs. Terror in the lines at the food bank. There is terror in dealing with a sick relative who would have been OK if the rights step had been taken months ago to acknowledge the virus as real and to care enough to address it.
There are fools and self-serving individuals in the streets and in the Whitehouse, who have hurt us all and divided us in ways we’ve never seen before. While 99 percent of the demonstrations and protests have been without fires and looting, those few have given fodder to those who would further divide us for their own purposes.
So, leave up all the statues There were very few even "good" people back then who saw and fought against the immorality of slavery. I’m heartened that right now I see an emerging of more good people who see the immorality of the huge inequalities in this country and are trying to make things better. Doctors, food bank staff, police, teachers, government leaders, philanthropists, moms and dads. They won’t get statues, but they deserve our recognition and appreciation and not let the few who are destructive in the streets or in government blind us to those heroes.
The burning of cars or garbage cans or buildings doesn’t help one damn bit. It just further divides and distracts us from the work that needs to be done. Sadly, it strains the ties of caring and affection among us that makes life in this wonderful country so precious and so worth working for.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0416/Adult-kids-at-home-Time-to-kick-the-birds-out-of-the-nest

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

My Father Would Have Loved My Children

 My chapter in the book, "Wisdom of Our Fathers" edited by Tim Russert. 2007


My Father Would Have Loved My Children

My father was born in 1889 and was 57 when I was born. Some of his 8 older siblings were born while the family still lived in a sod hut on their Dakota Territory homestead. His world was so different from mine, but my father would have loved my children. This may not seem like such a remarkable statement; most people love their grandchildren. Some do not. Some are not able to overcome the fact that their beloved child chose to marry someone of a different race and have children with tan skin and curly little Afros, but my father would have loved my children.
Even now as my teenage son looks like he just escaped from a rap video, with baggy pants and a big crystal in his ear, my father would have gotten a huge kick out of him. My dad would have loved that my son inherited his gift for Math. He would have appreciated his sense of humor and he would love him because he is mine.
My father would have loved my daughter because she is such a great listener and would sit attentively as he told stories of graduating from high school at 14 -- because he got through all the books in the one room school house. Of his years managing a classic old hotel and having President Roosevelt visit and the man who carved Mount Rushmore live there. He would have been impressed that she can put anything together -- even without the directions. He would have admired her artistic talent and would have made a big fuss over her simplest drawing.
I'm not saying that initially the thought of a racially mixed marriage might not have been a little difficult for him to get used to. After all, I grew up in the fifties in a town where a mixed marriage was one between a Lutheran and a Catholic. And even back then people would ask, "But what about the children?" He would not have taken long to get used to the idea and he would have loved the children.
The hotel my father ran was a classic and in the thirties and forties the destination of many wealthy businessmen from Chicago. Their African American chauffeurs often drove these men to vacation in the Black Hills. The man who built the hotel was a railroad executive and my father sometimes traveled with him, sometimes in his private railroad car. There he met the Pullman employees also of African descent. 
My father was a man of some dignity but he was not cautious with his language. He never hesitated to call someone an SOB if he was one; he never hesitated to identify BS when it was. But the only way I ever heard him describe a black man was as a "colored gentleman". This was long before I ever met anyone who was not white. Somehow his way of saying it and the words he used made a strong impression, one of definite respect.
My dad wasn't especially impressed by facades and surface trappings. He had friends in all the different social strata of our small community. He truly did consider the ''content of one's character " in judging a person.
 What mattered to him most, however, was his family. He adored and respected my mother and thought the sun rose and set upon the heads of his children. He wasn't outwardly competitive like parents tend to be these days, but in-house, we all knew that he thought we were the best. 
His health began to fail when I was in high school. And some days when I came home from school I would find him sitting in his big wing back chair facing the bookshelves. On the shelves were pictures of each of his children. He once told me that he went from picture to picture much of the day stopping at each of the five and saying a prayer for each, because now, that was the only way he could take care of us. He thought we were the best.  My father died a few years after that, but if he had known my children, he would have thought they were the best too.



Wednesday, June 3, 2020

How Racism Hurts Everyone

Collateral Damage
            In war, collateral damage describes the unintended harm that is caused to those who are near the target of the attack. Racism is a lot like that. We, who are white, may not be the targets, but we are harmed. So when the question is asked, “How does racism hurt white people?” an answer, though not previously pondered, is easy to generate.
            There are things that we know, but we don’t realize until someone asks the question. And then we say “Oh, yes  …. “ The question “How does racism harm white people?” is such a question.
            The most immediate thought may be of personal hurts, but there are so many layers of harm. The image I have of the impact on me is like an onion with the layers peeling back to the core of personal hurts. But we all function in a bigger context so are impacted by harm to the outer layers of the society and economy as a whole. 
            It seems counterintuitive to imagine that we white people are harmed by the prejudice against another group, but it takes just a moment to see the many ways. One glaring example is the justice system. The cost is economic, about $40,00 per year per prisoner. There is data in a recent report from the NAACP that  supports the observation that racism hurts white people by overfilling our prisons. “The well-documented disparities in enforcement of our drug laws reveal that current drug policies impact some communities more than others. While Americans of all races and ethnicities use illegal drugs at a rate proportionate to their total population representation, African Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of their white counterparts.”
            Additionally there is a strong correlation between race and the use of smokable or crack cocaine. The sentencing for crack has been far more harsh than for the powdered form. The latter often landing someone in rehab rather than prison. And we, white people, along with everyone else pay.
            Our tax bills remind us of the harm that racism does. Moreover, there are communities that border ours, where disparities in enforcement and sentencing result in a near absence of men and fathers. Many have been incarcerated for crimes that might results in probation in another kind of community. Without men and fathers youngsters may stray further. Again the cost is economic as well as to the heart of a community.
            The layers go deeper to my work as a school psychologist and parent educator. This brings me into schools in all kinds of neighborhoods. I try to help the parents I train in the gated housing developments to see that there are no gates strong enough to protect their children from the children who have grown up in communities where racism has limited their opportunities. My work brings me into these places where the terrible intersection of poverty and racism is the toxic stew many of the youngsters I work with grow up in. I see potential in these children, but I know it will be hard to realize that potential.  I, this white person, may be hurt by the absence of a great doctor, teacher or public servant one of those children could become. A few make it through, but some use those exceptions to judge the others.   I am hurt economically, hurt when youngsters do not grow up to contribute to the community, and I am hurt personally from my attachment to these children.  I try to help and do what I can, but there is a tall barrier that, even with my help, they cannot climb. So I stand with them sad at the bottom of this wall. I am hurt in seeing those I care for in a bad situation that I cannot change. 
            The next layer of personal is in my family. Unlike many families my extended family was not an obstacle to a mixed marriage. My husband had been a friend for years before we got married and so my family was aware of what a fine person he was. For my family the only wish was that my husband be a good person who would treat me well.  They got their wish. Mine is a “no-drama” family and that approach applied to my marriage as well.
            Another layer of this situation was not always so comfortable. As the wife in a racially mixed couple, over the last thirty years I have often been the only white person at various family and social events. While times have changed over the years, there have been several situations in which my presence was clearly not welcome. It was not just me; it was the symbol of me, the symbol of the “ oppressor.” And what’s more, I had done the unforgivable; I had  “stolen” an eligible black man from the community. While the hurt I experienced was not deep, it was there.
            Then to the deepest level, to the people I care most about, my husband and children. My husband is a successful man, a college teacher, a person of great stature and dignity, but it has always hurt to know of the childhood experiences and the indignities that he has dealt with.
            In the course of our years together there have been small hurts as I have made plans for trips or vacations. I wondered if we would be welcomed at various places or would there be some awkwardness or insult. I wished that I could call places first and say, “Oh, by the way, are you going to have any trouble with a mixed couple?” A silly wish. It couldn’t happen. So instead I have sometimes made choices to not go certain places or take part in certain events. I might have been wrong, but I could not take the risk that something special would be ruined by a racist gesture or attitude. Though small, the hurt has been in the form of limits I placed upon us to protect us.
            But perhaps the deepest hurt has come from situations my children have had to deal with.  In my work with parents it is clear that we can endure many things, but we cannot endure seeing our children hurt.  My husband and I taught our children, by word and example, not to see racism at the base of every insult or problem. I have seen, in my work and life, that the misperception of racism can be as limiting as racism. It is definitely better to miss an insult than to perceive one where it does not exist and to understand what is clearly racist is usually from ignorance and fear. In spite of this there were incidents that were hard to ignore. 
            Many youngsters of color have had the experience of driving while black.  Our son has had a few of these. The most troubling occurred when he was a teenager parked in an upscale neighborhood in an old family station wagon getting correct directions to a party. Our son and two other boys of color were pulled from the car, handcuffed and pushed on to the curb without explanation. These three six footers were then pushed into the back of the police car. Our na├»ve son said, “Sure you can search the car.” He had nothing to hide, and was probably scared to death. He didn’t realize that one of his passengers had poured a few ounces of dad’s liquor into the water bottle in his gym bag. The anxiety and worry over that incident stretched on for months until the hearing where the police officer did not show. The hurt and worry were, for many months, consuming. 
            In spite of training our children to not perceive racism where it doesn’t exist, there were incidents.  As racially mixed children, there were situations in which teachers had an agenda or maybe a worldview that did not include a child of color writing so well or being so capable.
            Our daughter does not look back at her school experience with any clear memories of prejudice, but I believe, even at my most objective moments, that her shyness was often misperceived as a lack of ability. I wonder if she had been a white child would her strong abilities in math have been recognized and encouraged. 
            The hurt for what our children had to deal with reared it’s ugly head again last winter when my son went through a big paper purge and threw out lots of old school assignments. As I dumped the bags into recycling I came upon a wonderful little book he had done for history in middle school. He was to write about an historic event for each letter of the alphabet and illustrate it. I looked through with great appreciation for his lettering, the pictures, his fine descriptions, and beautiful penmanship. Then, on the last page, the grade, C- and the comment, “Nice illustrations, but those don’t seem like your words”. They were indeed his words, every one. The hurt of that year resurfaced – the hurt of my son being the “usual suspect”, and hearing from other parents that he got in trouble for things other kids got away with. I will never know for sure where the prejudice came from, but I know for sure how much it hurts to have someone you love misjudged or prejudged for whatever reason. 
            It is so important that all children have sources of feedback that are objective and valid. When they are not, the risk is that even the legitimate feedback might be ignored. It hurts to remember that year, and the hurt of wondering stays with me. I look back and wonder not just what I could have done, not just what might have been, but what was. Wondering is its own hurt.
            So, I peel the layers back from the bigger society with cultural and economic problems caused by racism to knowing that in schools there are young people who could solve our health and energy problems if they were in a society where the color of their skin did not matter one bit. But it does and so we white people lose. The layers go to the children I’ve worked with and the harsh situations that they live in, where poverty and racism are intertwined. 
The deepest layer is to my family. All families have their challenges and their joys, mine is no different. But all of us, whether we are close to someone of another race or not, need to operate from a place of enlightened self-interest. The end of racism will benefit all, white people as well as people of color.

From "Combined Destinies", ed. Ann Todd Jealous.