Me, Amy Tan & Millions of Others: Children of Immigrants

Me, Amy Tan & Millions of Others: Children of Immigrants

Amy Tan and Her Brother

Melting pot. Founded by immigrants. Liberty and justice for all. Sometimes words lose their meaning when repeated over and over again. Hymns, songs become rote. We hardly know what we’re saying or singing IF we grew up hearing those words. It’s the proverbial TAKING SOMETHING FOR GRANTED. Not so for recent immigrants who still might cry hearing the National Anthem or when they finally attend the ceremony to become an American citizen.

I attended one once–as the godmother of a child adopted from Ecuador. Every new citizen there was emotional. Had I taken my citizenship for granted? Yes.  Whether it’s our ability to speak English or rely on our last name or the color of our skin–many of us who have assumed our PLACE in the USA often have little thought as to how WE have been so blessed. TIME TO CHANGE THAT!!

WAKING UP…FAMILY HISTORY, KNOW HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS 

My husband researches family history on Ancestry.com. I admire how he reads articles and finds past relatives, connects with others who share a tangential relationship so that slowly his family history and mine have grown and many questions about WHY WE ARE HERE answered.

But I’ll also settle for a few basic explanations:

  • I’m a U.S. citizen because three generations back, my great-grandparents from both my mother and my father’s side, traveled on some crowded ship with their few possessions to claim a place here in the U.S.
  • I appreciate and understand how fortunate I am, because as a sophomore in college I took a GOVERNMENT class, a requisite taught by my professor Ann B. Matasar PhD. The class woke me up to my good fortune. Homework included studying Supreme Court decisions like BROWN VERSUS THE BOARD OF EDUCATION.
  • We also had to read a daily newspaper–the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Matasar was vehement and rightly so: “If you are going to live in this country, then you have to take up a from of citizenship and know what is going on–what your rights are and if they are being trampled on.”
  • YES. BRAVO. You cannot live in a country like the United States and not understand how it acts and works day to day. I never lost the habit.

AMY TAN: NOVELIST (The Good Luck Club), AMERICAN CITIZEN

A first generation Chinese American, writer Amy Tan grew up in Northern California. Her father was a Baptist minister, guided by the principles of his Christian faith. Her mother was guided by the old ways, by the vicariousness of curses and luck. Thus Tan states in her latest publication, a memoir, Where the Past Begins, that she is a product of the contradictions in her upbringing. Both her father and brother died when Tan was in her teens.

Tan: Who we become has so much to do with the experiences we had, and how we survived. My strong need to find a purpose in life probably comes from my father. It was not a question of who he was, but who am I? What are the qualities that he had, that he provided for me, and what didn’t he provide? What am I still looking for? What am I still rebelling against?

When your father dies when you are fifteen, the “you” who you were at that age is still there. I wanted to think about how I saw my father from those rebel teen years until now, as someone who is well beyond the years he lived.

AMY TAN ASKS WHY AMERICANS VOTED AS THEY DID 

My father was, to me, a model of great values: an honest person, a kind person. We grew up not knowing that my parents had an immigrant status. I just remember them getting their citizenship and crying in jubilation. It was a moment of great relief: the danger of them losing their life here was over. 

“You don’t know how lucky you are to be here, what we had to do so you could be here” — that was always my father’s message, and I didn’t know what it was based on. There were illusions to great sacrifices made on our behalf. I didn’t know what kind of life they’d had in China or why they left.

THEN THE ELECTION HAPPENED…

But everything about the election called into question everything for me. I was so disillusioned that it was essential to look at everything and say: How could this have been? Who were the kind of people who would’ve voted for this person? 

What if my father were alive — is this the man he would have voted for, and why? It was not to demonize voters so much as I simply couldn’t understand how this attitude could have become the defining one for our country for the next four years — one I considered before the election, and which has borne out post-election, to be a very racist, white supremacist agenda.

In a recent interview, Tan states unequivocally that she now looks at community differently. She wants to find commonality with people.

I’m more grateful when I find [those] people — I don’t even have to ask them what their politics are, you can just tell by the kind of things they care about. If they are concerned for poor people, and immigrants, and people with uncertain status, you know where they stand.

WHAT ABOUT THE WORD LIBERAL?

“Liberal” is not a nasty word. I wish “liberal” could be changed to “compassionate,” meaning we share responsibility; we share pain; we share in our flaws; we share in the ways we’re destroying the environment but want to make amends. It has more to do with recognition of a lot of the good things in people, and appreciating that those qualities are there — in more people than not.

THOUGHTS FROM TAN ON IMMIGRATION

In a way, I think it’s good my parents didn’t tell us kids that our life here was in jeopardy. We were born here, so we were American citizens, but if our parents were forced to leave, we of course would have had to go with them. I see this today in people I know who are undocumented—I asked a good friend of ours the other day, “What does your six-year-old child know?” She said, “He doesn’t know. He’ll say, ‘Why can Uncle So-and-so go to Mexico and we can’t?’” And she says, “We can’t for now, but maybe later.” Meanwhile, they’re hoping they don’t get deported. If they were, what a shock that would be to that child.

ANOTHER WAY TO SAY IT

We are an immigrant nation. Yet there are many in this country who forget their origins, who gin up on the fact that their ancestry stretches farther back than others. Possibly they have forgotten the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence or they have never read the Constitution. Their idea of owning property and contributing to the national welfare only applies to certain people.

Researching their roots like my husband does just might help. Knowing what others endured to provide us a PLACE HERE is profound. So are the words of our founding fathers. It’s a sad fact that recent immigrants to our country know more about the rule of law, the Constitution and the true meaning of the words in the Pledge of Allegiance than those who hunger to kick them out, take their citizenship from them.

Can you trace your ancestry back to a country, a year, a place? Whether you can or not, each one of us must honor fellow citizens. It’s trite but true, we are all in this together. 

Thanks to AMY TAN and NPR for the Photo of Amy and her brother.

I’m Thankful for the Adults in the Room

I'm Thankful for the Adults in the Room

It’s Thanksgiving Week and I’m giving thanks. Grateful more than I can say for my husband and every member of my extended family, the roof over my head and the food on my table.

Grateful for reading–books, newspapers, articles, essays. Reading is a gift that I indulge in every day. (Thanks, Mom, for taking good care of my eyes when I was a kid.) And this week I’ve read some amazing ideas from THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. What room, you ask? Wide-spread, global, you name it.

WHAT IS AN ADULT? 

The basic definition: fully developed and mature.  That doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t get at the heart of my message. When I examined the origins of the word from Latin, French, well–this is more like it: to become mature, grow up, to nurse, feed nourish.

NOURISH, YES. The adult in the room should be someone who GIVES US SOMETHING POSITIVE, something we feel grateful for, something that FEEDS US, whether in words or in deeds.

This past week I decided to be on the lookout for “adults in the room,” people who could speak to me through their writing, their words. People who could give me a message that filled me up. I found a few.

THE FIRST from Kevin Kelly.

I have been reading excerpts from THIS I BELIEVE and when I read Kevin Kelly’s, it touched me deeply. The words reproduced here are adapted from a Christmas card he sent to family and friends in 2007I urge you to go to the link above and read the entire letter.

One year I rode my bicycle across America. In the evenings I’d scout houses for a likely yard to camp in. I’d ring the bell and say, “I’d like to pitch my tent tonight where I have permission. I’ve just eaten dinner, and I’ll be gone first thing in the morning.” I was never turned away, and there was always more, like an invitation into their home. My job at that moment was clear: I was to relate my adventure, and in the retelling of what happened so far, they would get to vicariously ride a bicycle across America — In exchange I would get a place to camp and a dish of ice cream.

When the miracle flows, it flows both ways. With each gift the threads of benevolence are knotted, snaring both giver and recipient. I’ve only slowly come to realize that good givers are those who learn to receive with grace as well. They radiate a sense of being indebted and a state of being thankful. As a matter of fact, we are all at the receiving end of a huge gift simply by being alive. Yet, most of us are no good at being helpless, humble or indebted.    No matter how bad the weather, soiled the past, broken the heart, hellish the war, I believe…the universe is conspiring to help us — if we will humble ourselves enough to let it.

What a gift to be thankful for. That the universe is conspiring to help us. Something to ponder when we want to FEAR the universe instead.

THE SECOND from David Litt. He was in his twenties when he signed up to be a speech writer for the Obama White House. He takes a radical yet positive viewpoint on adults:

But here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the single most valuable lesson I learned in my 20s: There are no grown-ups, at least not in the way we imagined as kids. There’s no room full of all-knowing elders in charge.

True, people often referred to POTUS as “the adult in the room.” But it took me years before I fully understood what that meant. As much as I admire and respect him, President Obama wasn’t perfect… What made Obama the adult in the room was the way he defined his priorities. Children strive only for pleasure; adults strive for fulfillment. Children demand adoration; adults earn respect. Children find worth in what they acquire; adults find worth in the responsibilities they bear…And while it turns out the world has no all-powerful grown-ups, it has an overwhelming number of children. They come in all ages, from every walk of life and every corner of the political map…but we will have to be our own grown-ups. We will have to save ourselves. That’s the idea at the heart of democracy. None of us is the best of We, the People. But we are all we’ve got — and if each of us does their part, we’re good enough.

THE THIRD from Michael Eric Dyson. A Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, this is taken from his recent book: TEARS WE CANNOT STOP.

Beloved, your participation in protests, rallies, local community meetings, and the like makes a huge difference. When we gather to express grief, outrage, and dissent, your presence sends the signal that this is not “just a black thing.” It is, instead, an American thing. …Your presence also puts your bodies and reputations on the line by identifying you with folk you are not supposed to have much in common with. Your presence adds great moral weight to the gathering. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but for now, it is.

THE FOURTH from Marilynne Robinson, author. This taken from her first novel, Housekeeping. If you had time to read it at your Thanksgiving table, that would be something.

“There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”

A BLESSED THANKSGIVING to EVERYONE, Beth 

Thanks to Jade Keller for this amazing image.

Is This a Medical Crisis?

Is This a Medical Crisis?

Trauma Center

It’s not opioids. It’s not marijuana. It’s not obesity and diabetes. It’s not a disease that over time with research and the commingling of hard scientific work and cooperation we have almost conquered–like AIDS and some cancers. No. This continues to be a MEDICAL CRISIS harming 30,618 people in 2016 and killing 15,085. So far this year it has already killed 13, 304 and harmed, 27,206. It’s guns.

Okay, some of you stopped reading right then. But as a nurse and a mother and the wife of a cancer patient, the daughter of a father who died when I was a small child–I know about loss, about struggle, about the importance of good medical care, and the difficulty of picking up your life again IF–you lost a limb, have a spinal cord injury, facial and body deformities or simply can no longer lie down and have a good night’s sleep. PTSD. You keep living it. But so far A GUN has not been part of my family history. I AM SO DAMN LUCKY. So far.

IF YOU WERE SHOT, WHAT’S YOUR FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE?

So if you skipped the above heading, please go back and read it again. What is our first line of defense. Many would answer: your own gun or a man, woman, policeman with a gun. In other words, if someone shoots you–that’s what you need right away. Yes, if you’re down and the guy is just shooting and shooting. Because then, you’re dead. But if you’re in a crowd and the shooter has moved on, your first line of defense for your life IS A DOCTOR!  Or nurse EMT–someone trained to stop your bleeding.

TALK ABOUT GUNS

Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency department physician at UC Davis in California called on primary care doctors “to make a commitment to ask your patients about firearms when, in your judgment, it is appropriate.” He has asked his fellow doctors to sign a public commitment: “When risk factors for harm to my patient or others are present, I will ask my patients about firearms ownership and safety.”

DOCTORS CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, since February 2017 when the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a 2011 Florida law that would have barred doctors from speaking to their patients about firearms. They concluded that the act violated the first Amendment rights of doctors. Remember, they take an oath TO DO NO HARM.

Here are some things doctors could talk to their patients about:

  • how do you store firearms and ammunition;
  • you need safety locks and separate locked cases;
  • review stats showing that 60% of U.S. gun deaths are due to suicide;
  • impulsive teens with access to firearms are at high risk;

RESEARCH CENTER FOR DOCS

Dr. Wintemute is also heading the nation’s first publicly funded firearm violence research center, established by the state of California at UC Davis. For the first time in 2 decades, there is a growing body of research to guide doctors when they discuss firearms with their patients. He urges doctors NOT TO STAY ON THE SIDELINES. But with this research, Dr. Wintemute says “you won’t be acting alone.”

Examples of when THE TALK should occur:

  • patients who are drinking heavily or abusing drugs should be asked about the presence of a gun in the home;
  • an acute injury, difficult medical diagnosis or a job loss;
  • or when a severe mental illness is not under control;
  • past history of violence, including a suicide attempt or an abusive partner

THE FIRST STEP

Wintemute acknowledges that asking these questions may not lead to immediate behavior change. But there is proof that a doctor’s counseling a patient, especially when that counseling is repeated, can be a powerful prod to change and a healthier behavior. He make this IMPORTANT POINT: “The fact that it doesn’t work all the time isn’t a reason to never do it.”

IMPORTANT COMMENTS FROM DR. WINTEMUTE: “I know as an ER doctor, most of the people who die from gunshot wounds die WHERE they were shot. So for us as clinicians to make the largest inroads we can into the number of people who die, we have to prevent them from being shot in the first place. So that’s why we don’t back down. The questions are fascinating. The opportunity to make a difference for the better is fascinating. There are very very few people working it. There’s active opposition. What’s not to like?”

“Firearms are consumer products. The industry needs to move product. To the extent that they see the work that any of us do as threatening those economic interests, they see as a threat.”

A FINAL THOUGHT 

To determine future blog content, I save articles from newspapers, magazines or printed items from the internet. When I checked today, I found two articles from the LA TIMES about Dr. Wintemute that I had saved. This was AFTER the Las Vegas shooting. Now as I write this piece, we have already had ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING. It has to stop. Go to: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org for statistics.

Photo: Health Tip   Gunshot Wounds Chest, Doctor answers

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What Not to Say to an Expectant Parent

What Not to Say to an Expectant Parent

Parents always look into the future.

My husband and I raised three amazing offspring who are now all adults. And we shared all of it, the raising, the teaching, the loving. But just four days ago while we were walking, my husband told me the most amazing story. One I had never heard.

It happened four years into our marriage. We had just discovered that I was pregnant for the first time and things were going well. We could share our news. And so my husband did–at his office, in a group of people who worked for him and with him. There were hugs and congrats. Until one woman came up at the end and spoke to him (almost like the Bad Fairy in Sleeping Beauty.) This woman might have had ten years on my husband, but she was not another mythic figure, not the aging fortune teller with a not so subtle warning.

But this is what she said to him: “How can you bring a child into this world?”

He was stunned. Maybe the question had some merit, but this woman was not a close friend, not an economic adviser or priest or psychologist–you know what I’m getting at–someone who knew us intimately and might have some specific concerns.

But no–this was just a statement from a woman working in the next department. Take it or leave it. John rejected her question. Absolutely. You do so when you are on Cloud Nine. This is your first child!! You are more than thrilled.

And as we walked, he said that maybe there had been a response at that time, but “my consciousness wasn’t raised enough to know what that response would be.” So honest.

Right this moment we live in times where deciding to bring a child into the world could be problematic. In my work in progress, my novel, I consider exactly that problem. My main character, Ella, a nurse and a mother, reflects on discussions with her mother, Cecile. This scene had its origins in conversations with my own mother–when she would lament the “state of the world” after reading the newspaper or watching a newscast and I had to REJECT her words. After all, I was raising children in that world, I had to embrace it.

She would always defend her practice of medicine, because she was a part of it—medicine was what she was. It was not unlike when she had defended certain aspects of current culture to her mother, something she had done often. Cecile ripped apart the changing mores of society. But Ella defended change, because the result was Ella’s society, Ella’s culture. She lived in it and dealt with it and so she had defended it. She couldn’t condemn what was a part of her, what she had embraced and brought Sarah into. If she had condemned culture and society, then she would be condemning herself.

As my husband and I finished our walk, we reflected on the ups and downs of our family life–mostly ups– and how the reality of our parenting, our family life helped bring all three of our adult children to where they are now–having good lives, good careers. That they are GOOD PEOPLE.

We concluded that is the key: you cannot run away from society and culture–but you can be instruments of change by upholding values and teaching your children those same values. I am not saying that we were perfect. We are STILL LEARNING how to be the best that we can be. And in our society today, everyone of us might think about devoting ten minutes a day to examine how we treat others, how we contribute to society, how we can do better in those regards–and then if we are lacking, to go and do something about it.

What NOT to say to an expectant father or mother?  Hey, wow, what a mistake.

Because life is full of promise and possibility. I love to think about Abraham Lincoln’s mother–a woman that Lincoln prized and honored with these words: All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. 

And certainly, she didn’t bring him into a cushy world, but one of hard work and struggle. I have always been saddened that Barack Obama’s grandmother died the Saturday before he won the 2008 election. Certainly she must know that her love carried him far.

Wishing all mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers reading this a special blessing–especially if a child is on the way. After all, in any age, we cannot see the future, but we can pledge to make it better.

 Photo thanks to NPR  Frida Kahlo art.

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Those Voices in Our Heads

Those Voices in Our Heads

The title of this post is not about some pathology. No. The title is me working toward asking everyone a question: Who thinks about you each morning?

I hope it’s someone you love. I hope it’s a dear close friend–as opposed to a fellow worker who is just eager to talk to you so some duties can be passed along or a crabby neighbor who keeps bugging you to trim that tree.

So who thinks about you each morning fondly or with love?

The question can also be turned around: when you open your eyes, who do you think about?

FAMILY 

On opening my eyes, I think about our three children. I picture my older daughter already at work–she is three hours ahead of us and that’s a bunch of time. I think of my son in Chicago who is also at work. And finally, I know my other daughter is busy getting our three grandchildren ready for school.

Such mother-oriented thoughts might apply to you too–but on a different level. Maybe your first thought of a morning is: I forgot to sign that report card or make the lunches.

I get that.

CHILDREN DON’T COME WITH INSTRUCTIONS 

The above statement is kind of a joke, but it’s also true. Here is the crux or guts of my post today–and it does connect with who thinks about you each morning. 

In human interaction (which starts when we are born, proceeds through childhood etc) no one sits us down and says, SO, ABOUT LIFE and LIVING, this is how it’s done. (You might argue that yes, your parents sat you down about sex, or being safe or something. I get that.)

But what I’m referring to is the fast-paced challenge of daily living. You can look at this from different points of view: when you were or are raising your children OR when your parents were raising you.

A lot went by without a sign that read: hey, this is important, watch what I do–this is how to live. Or: listen up, this is important, watch what I say and how I say it.

No, what each of us learned was ON THE FLY, in the moment, hectic and busy, sometimes with a hint of anger or frustration. And the end result? We grew up and created our own persona either taking in and agreeing with THOSE VOICES IN OUR HEADS or making a point of disregarding them.

And I get that. I get that sometimes what we are exposed to as children needs heavy editing. That’s how we rearrange things and hopefully what our children now hear doesn’t need that kind of editing.

THE HUMAN VOICE

So back to those voices in your head–in my head.

First, regardless of how busy their lives are, I hope and I think I know that our children DO think about me, about my husband every day–or almost every day. Maybe that thought is not the first thing–but later, late afternoon when our son calls on his drive home or one daughter sends an email and the other calls or there is a text. HUMAN CONNECTION. THOSE VOICES IN OUR HEADS.

Even in our current culture, the world of cell phones, I can hear my children’s voices, see their smiles. Distance doesn’t have to be distance. It can be an opportunity to picture them, think about them, answer that initial question: Who thinks about you each morning?  I DO! I think about you. And if the lives of my children are any bit like my life–they hear my voice now and again. It’s in their heads. Hopefully, the message is loving and positive. Or I presented an argument or an answer to a problem that they are now considering. My husband is a great counselor. I’m sure they ponder his ideas.

SOME VOICES REMAIN

As a final thought, each night I remember my parents, especially my mother who raised me and my two brothers alone, because of my father’s too-early death. If there is any voice in my head that has guided me or whose movements, choices, facial expressions created that BOOK OF INSTRUCTIONS, it was my mother.

I still patten much of what she said about living, how she treated other people, her ideas on parenting and being a good friend, a loving spouse. She was awesome. Trailing behind her during those early years of my life helped form me. Of course I wasn’t aware at the time as to how lucky I was.

Thanks for reading.  Tomorrow when I wake up, I’lll think of my family–and my readers. And for sure, I hope there are a lot of you!

PS. There has been much research about parental voices affecting the raising of children, I’m Okay You’re Okay being a major one. But I just wanted to touch on the basics–keep it simple. If there is a book or an experience that provided a turning point in your life, I would be eager to hear about it.

Thanks to Charles Schultz, Peanuts and Pinterest.

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Spoken Like a Typical English Teacher…

Spoken Like a Typical English Teacher...

I haven’t heard that phrase for a very long time. Possible reasons: it’s been years since I taught English and/or for many people teaching English or majoring in English in college has fallen off. THINK AGAIN.

BUT MAJORING IN ENGLISH IS ABOUT OUR STORIES & SO MUCH MORE

How delightful to read this past weekend: Don’t study English Lit to Acquire Marketable Skills. Written by Rohan Maitzen, an associate professor of English at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. This is a piece eager to change your mind. He laments that the number of students choosing an English major has fallen off and investigates how to change that. He mentions the following:

  • psychologists are presenting the crucial role that reading fiction plays in developing empathy; (and wow, do we need that in our culture today!!)
  • philosopher Martha Nussbaum has outlined the ethical advantages of seeing the world as the novelist does i.e. rebuking reductive economic utilitarianism;
  • programs such as Changing Lives Through Literature reveal the personal and social potential that reading imaginative literature demands.

But in the end, being an English major, Maizen writes, is about the power of words. He states: Literature is the record of the many stories we have told about ourselves and our world, and of the many ways we have found to use language artfully and beautifully, but also cruelly and obtusely. It both reflects us and shapes us. We don’t need any excuses for taking it seriously.

A DEGREE IN ENGLISH LITERATURE–AN END IN ITSELF OR A STEPPING STONE  

So after reading Maitzen’s piece (and incidentally he teaches Victorian Literature which is what my brother, Prof. John Pfordresher teaches) I did a little more sleuthing and found this: Daniel R. Schwarz, asking What to Do With a B.A. in English? WOW. so many amazing, wonderful things. Here are a few of the examples he posted in the article:

  • any aspect of working in the law
  • a step to getting an advanced degree, say Art History
  • medicine, hospital administration
  • working in the financial industry or publishing industry;
  • writers!! reporters, poets, novelists, researchers, interviewers, librarians, speechwriters, medical writers;
  • and of course teachers—at any level of the teaching profession from elementary to advanced degrees.

CLEAR THINKING, HONEST WRITING  We need both. 

He also focussed on the need for clear thinking and how studying the works of great writers and possibly mediocre writers helps a future writer discover the difference.

Schwarz stresses the universality of an English major when interviewing for employment. He suggests that statements like these would be excellent for a future medical student or social services position:

“I majored in English because reading about other cultures and time periods complemented my life experience”

“No other major would have taught me so much about how people behave in various circumstances and in various cultures. More than any other major, I felt I would learn how other people live, what values motivate them, and why and how people think and feel.”

WHEN TALKING TO YOUR ALMOST-COLLEGE STUDENT 

Again–the link to Schwarz’s piece which could be helpful if the talk to your son or daughter about how to pick a college major might be in your future. Schwarz asked some English majors to help support his thesis. Here are some of their answers:

Grace Jean, US naval reporter: “All the skills that I developed and honed through my English classes and seminars are put to use daily in my career as a journalist. Close reading, analytical thinking, and clear and concise writing have become the bread and butter of my livelihood. I have the English major to thank for playing an integral role in my professional development.”

Liz Wight graduate of Cornell University: “I think the thing the major gave me most was critical thinking, a yearning for discovery and clear means of articulating myself.”

Sal Ruggiero, Assistant Manager, Domestic Rights for the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group: “Reading and writing not just well but for a purpose has proved paramount to my job. Plus learning argument and persuasion techniques in essay writing sometimes proves useful in contract negotiation…”

I have never regretted majoring in English and teaching English at the secondary level. After all the term papers and essays I wrote and those my students wrote which I had to read and grade, there was always time for reading literature. And that’s my thing!

Photo Credit: The LA TIMES  Taken at campus library of the Maywood Center for Enriched Studies in Maywood, Calif.

 

Why Dream Something Already Fulfilled?

This morning I wanted back in the dream. But when I was fully awake, I recognized it–this dream. Maybe it had taken a slightly different form, but the essence of it, THE LONGING–it’s that dream. It’s related to my desire to marry my husband. It’s a dream that has roots in my late teens, early twenties. (Why now? We’ve been married for over forty years.) But early this morning, it reappeared, the same LONGING, the same need to plan so we could marry.

In the dream I am asking myself what job could I get to help support us? (Economics was a big issue in our early years.) The dream was so vivid and wonderful–I was back in my childhood home, in those rooms, looking down on that street on the southside of Chicago. Wow.

EXPLAINING DREAMS 

Of course I went to Sigmund Freud–“And it is only after seeing man as his unconscious, revealed by his dreams, presents him to us that we shall understand him fully. For as Freud said to Putnam: ‘We are what we are because we have been what we have been.’

So is Freud saying, we make choices, plan our lives in our dreams that eventually become us in the living flesh? Because: WE HAVE BEEN WHAT WE HAVE BEEN. That current of longing that we carry into our conscious choices.

In the novel I am currently writing, my main character struggles with dreams. She thinks about them this way:

But dreams? They were something buried in the desolate space of night, buried under the whorls of the brain, the bones of the cranium. Dreams were illusive and slinky; they spun and flew like ghosts. They might be the purview of the heart, forced out in the shadows of sleep to release pain and pressure. Or they were the final warning, the bridge to death. You fell into them and the strength to avoid their grasp eluded you, abandoned you to a storm of ripped memories, a continuous loop you could never escape. 

MY FIRST NIGHTMARE 

I have actually used my first nightmare in the novel. I cannot be sure it is my very first nightmare. But I dreamt it as a child and the memory was so powerful, it is still palpable.  There’s no longing in that dream–only fear. Thus I have my main character dream it in segments, having the dream expand and grow from its initial beginning to a horrifying end.

Here is the beginning: as she moved forward, the sibilance of the water, the lyrical pull and push of the waves became harsh and cold, the sidewalks darkening, cold rain falling, making her avoid deep puddles, her head down to watch. Then a car—the hulk of black metal and glinting steel approaching in the rain, coming toward her, its lights raw beacons through the dark, and she alone in this descending cave of night, she alone, her body frozen, her mouth stuck around a torn tatter of a scream…mommy…

Freud would probably object, but dreams are so illusive that I felt I had the power to harness one for my story.

EXPLORING DREAMS 

Freud also says:  “By exposing the hidden dream-thoughts, we have confirmed in general that the dream does continue the motivation and interests of waking life, for dream-thoughts are engaged only with what seems to be important and of great interest to us.”

Certainly, my childhood fear was of being taken away in some strange car, taken from the place of peace, security and contentment that was my home. That theme has appeared in so many stories over time.

Not all people in their early lives are blessed with place. When you are, you know you are–it is not how big or small the PLACE is, that does not matter. Being the child of wealth and being partially raised by a nanny while mother and father traveled and spent time overseas or wherever, might not have created place. Or maybe the nanny became “mother.” It’s that warm lap you could lose your tired head in or those arms that hugged you fiercely before you went off to school for the first time. That’s PLACE. That’s HOME.

I ANSWER MY OWN QUESTION 

So I do think I know why I dreamt my LONGING dream last night. First I shared it with my husband, which is always a bonding experience. But the dream has its origin in yesterday as many dreams do. We digitized slides of my childhood and yesterday my husband received them in the mail and input them into the computer. One heads this blog post. It is of my dear mother standing under the apple tree in our backyard. It is spring, 1960s–fifty some years ago. The photo is blurry, but I like the dream-like quality of it. She and the tree are definitely THE STUFF OF DREAMS.

WHAT HAVE YOU DREAMT LATELY? DO YOU HAVE A RECURRING DREAM? If so, I hope it is one of longing for something wonderful.

QUOTES: GOODREADS;     PHOTO CREDIT: Thanks to John Havey

 

Magic Words Can Lead to Magic in Deeds

Magic Words Can Lead to Magic in Deeds

Uruguay Amethyst Geode

It’s happened to you. You are reading something and you come across one sentence, or a paragraph–WORDS that hold you to the page or your screen. Words that have revealed a thought you’ve had, but expressed in a way that  jumps off the page–like magic.

Consider:

It was a nice thing for her to say. In her way. With Greta, you have to look out for the nice things buried in the rest of her mean stuff. Greta’s talk is like a geode. Ugly as anything on the outside and for the most part the same on the inside, but every once in a while there’s something that shines through.

I love this passage, because it relays the thoughts of fourteen-year-old June Elbus who tells us the story of her relationship with her Uncle Finn, an artist who died of AIDS. But the “Greta” in the quote is her sister, a few years older, the one she now tangles with on a regular basis. Can they make it right by each other. (The novel is: TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME by Carol Rifka Brunt.)

June’s words, her reflection is on page 52 of a complex story, but it leaped off the page for me, not only because it’s an insight that will come back to complete the story, help the troubled relationship between the two sisters. But also because it is TRUTH.

In our lives, the people that make us crazy, who we sometimes wish we had never met–they are the ones we must acknowledge as human and in the most surprising moments they can say things or do things that reveal their humanity: something that shines through.

Do you know a person who talks a line that starts to give you hope? And then they turn around and annihilate that hope in what they do. THINK: some politicians!! or a friend, even a family member. And think: what did our mothers or fathers tell us when this happened?

  • Oh, she didn’t mean it.
  • Give the guy a break.
  • Tolerance, could we just have a little tolerance in these situations.

Those are all good suggestions, and as June in the novel learns–and we all learn–some people you give space to, hoping they’ll come around and HAVE YOUR BACK–don’t fail you. They wake up. They arrive when you need them. They cement a bond that might have been broken.

But there are also those that never do come around. They are:

  • the salt in a wound instead of the salt of the earth.
  • Their first thought is of themselves and you can go blow in the wind.

Or actually I might be wrong about both those evaluations. Sometimes we just don’t know why the love we sail over to them, the phone calls, the emails, the attention–falls flat. They might arrive in your life years down the road and think nothing of it. But you do, because you wanted to keep that relationship alive. You wanted to be there for them and they wanted to disappear.

Ironically, great thinkers and leaders know that’s not the way to go. If another human being reaches out to someone, a response should occur. It cannot always be commensurate with need, but one dollar, one meal, one phone call, one smile–is better than none.

So if there’s a person in your life, right today, who you are trying to reach, trying to love or help–listen for the magic words. They might be there–and you’re so angry you can’t hear them. Or they might be disguised in bravado or sorrow. That happens ALL THE TIME. But if you keep on giving of yourself, the right words just might come shining through. They won’t be MEAN. They’ll be the KEYS to more communication.

At the end of the novel, Greta helps June to accomplish an enormous task. She’s her support, she provides encouragement–which is something we all need:

“It’s all going to work out fine…I’ll keep an eye on you.”

Here’s hoping that someone in your life RIGHT NOW will open up, keep an eye on you, give some magic sign that they know you need them and they NEED YOU TOO.

Photo credit: The Crystal Rock Store Uruguay Amethyst Geode

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Feelin’ Groovy–You Can Too!

http://www.designerspics.com/,

They are just for you.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

This is POETRY, MAN…(and woman)  So lift me up, make me feel good and groovy.

Today, during these times that we are living, more than ever, I need groovy. I need Paul Simon’s song and lyrics, or to be immersed in a Bach fuge or Bill Evans’ endless piano trills. Call it escape if you want to, but sometimes we just need to be SAVED from gathering darkness, fear, illness, lies, hurts, you name it.

HELP FROM SOME POETS 

  • Jill Bialosky has written the book POETRY WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE. So which poem saved her: Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
  • “I read my own story in (that poem). There are two roads one might travel: The road where families are whole and not broken, and fathers don’t die young, and mothers are happy…and the road I travel, which is crooked and not quite right, with bumps along the way. I know it is important I choose the right course.”
  • The poem helped Bialosky realize that what she was experiencing did not have to mark the rest of her life. For her, poetry made her see: “…I’m included. I belong. My imagination has given me a coping skill.”
  • Then today, I stumbled upon this line: “Don’t Fear Poetry”…an interview with poet Matthew Zapruder and his book Why PoetryHe wants you to read poetry and feel comfortable. 
  • He sees a poem as a kind of individual portal: “Poetry comes to be, each time, in the mind of each half-dreaming reader.” Poetry is not a puzzle, a code or riddle to solve. Rather when things are hard to talk about, poetry works. Poetry relates complex ideas in the “simplest way possible.”
  • Zapruder says that when he was reading poetry, he would get mysterious feelings about life, things hard to talk about, but things so precious to him. Thus he became a poet and a lover of poetry BECAUSE that’s what he wanted from his life!
  • Zapruder says: In a poem, language remains itself–yet is also made to feel different, even sacred, like a spell. I love that. You can fall under the spell of poetry. 

BUT POETRY TODAY, REALLY?

Yes. You are in the doctor’s office; you are on your lunch break; you are in a car waiting to pick up your child. What are you doing? Where before we had to search for print media–a newspaper, a magazine, a book (I still try to always have a book in my bag)–today, as Zapruder says, “I just pull out my phone.”

But then he questions himself.  What happened to all those moments? What happened to all that time? 

And he makes a very good point. “I think that poems remind me of what that time was like before everything was so harnessed to usefulness. …the old technology of the book. It starts giving you a little bit of your time back.

WHAT DOES HE MEAN? He means that we all can be poets, that with a notebook app or a pen and paper, we can recreate what life once was for us, the life we noticed.

  • jot down how the sky looks; the sun on the grass;
  • describe the smile and laughter of our child this past morning;
  • briefly defend with language a point of view;
  • capsule feelings about a friend, enemy, bit of news, the world you are seeing right now;

But the final point that Zapruder makes is the most important one.

  • Don’t SHARE what you write.
  • This is just for you.

I confess writing is an intricate part of my day–almost every day. I keep a notepad by my bed and I jot stuff over articles and on ads–where paper and pen are handy. Sometimes even my phone. And I look them over. Some I discard. Some I keep. WHY, because they’re good, I can use them in future blogs or in my novel. Because, basically, they’re GROOVY.

GOT A FAVORITE POEM???  Which one. This you can share. 

Photo: DesignersPics.com  free download

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Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

Your Health: What Makes a Good Doctor? Some Answers.

Choosing a doctor is not like selecting a friend, and certainly not like picking a car salesman. Yes, medicine is a type of business transaction. The doctor is providing a service and you want excellent care.

You also want a great car at the right price–another business transaction. But you only deal with the car person over a short period of time. Health is another matter. A doctor is someone you will probably deal with  frequently and bottom line: this is your health; this is your life. You need to make the right choice.

So keep in mind, after reading this post, that during the process of finding the right doctor you can: 1. read about a prospective doctor on line; 2. ask friends who they use or would avoid; 3. actually interview the doctor during a short appointment. 

NOW LET’S ASK: WHAT MAKES A GOOD DOCTOR?

Seventeen nurses, physicians and healthcare workers replied to your question. These are folks who work in the trenches–so I paid attention to their answers. Below are the ones I felt you needed to know.

  1. “Any great anything–friend, partner, doctor–is going to listen to you. You are exposing yourself, you are vulnerable. You want them to hear you, respect you.
  2. The doctor shows that she has time for you. Though the doctor might know a great deal, she also must care a great deal.
  3. The doctor should show interest not only in your complaint (back pain) but also in your concern (I babysit and can’t lift my grandson.)
  4. Often a patient is embarrassed relating information about their condition. When the doctor starts asking questions, they must be good listeners, know when to probe a bit further. D. “Are you sexually active?” P. “Well, I’m married.” D. “Okay, but what does that mean?”
  5. A great doctor is more interested in getting you off medications than on them. 
  6. A doctor should explain, when prescribing a new medication, what the patient’s life will be like, the side-effects, of that new drug. 
  7. Though a doctor may have been seeing you over the years, a great doctor does not make assumptions about your life. She/he asks questions to get to answers like: “I lost my job.” I fell two weeks ago.”
  8. If you are accompanied by a family member, a great doctor realizes that you might not have shared everything and provides a phone number for a later call. Also repeats the care plan before the visit is over. 
  9. Though doctors see patients an average of every 20 minutes, a good doctor slows down, pays attention, to pick up on many more things.
  10. If you have a friend who is a nurse and works in the hospital of the doctor you are considering, ask that nurse who she would pick. Nurses see who does well and who doesn’t.
  11. A great doctor asks so many questions you might want them to stop. But this is good. It’s your health history. It matters. Not-so-great doctors don’t ask much of anything at all.
  12. A great doctor reads, stays up with what in the biz is called “the literature.” That means the most recent medical articles that analyze and research procedures, medications, surgeries etc.
  13. A great doctor wants you to understand. If you hear: “I’m the doctor and I’ll do the thinking,”–run out the door.
  14. A great OB doctor is empathetic, expresses his or her concern if you have a miscarriage, BEFORE explaining why or discussing your medical care.
  15. You have chest pain. A great doctor listens to your whole story to determine the right path to take, uses what they know. Most patients with chest pain need Zantac, not an angioplasty.
  16. A great doctor considers the whole person, like a patient with diabetes who might have a difficult home environment or be unable to travel to a grocery for healthy food. Is their neighborhood safe to walk in to get to the store? Can they afford to buy their meds?

OTHER QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

What hospital is this doctor affiliated with–a local community hospital, a tertiary care center, a university hospital? Is this physician’s office and the hospital where she has privileges close to your home or a long drive? In an emergency situation, closer will always be better.

  1. Is this doctor board certified in the speciality that you need? Internal medicine board certification is a good place to start if your general health is good. But you may need a cancer or cardiac specialist etc, and that will narrow your choices. (Note: getting an internist in a university group is the best way to go as that physician can then refer you to say an ear, nose and throat, a surgeon or an orthopedic doctor etc in his group.)
  2. If you have trouble speaking English, that’s also a consideration. It’s always good if you are terribly worried about your physical health or running a fever or vomiting or a cancer patient etc that you bring someone with you to your appointment. But it’s not always possible. If language is an issue, you need to make sure you will always be able to communicate with your doctor. Misinformation can lead to your getting sicker or even hospitalization and death.
  3. The age of the doctor you choose or his or her years in practice might also be on your list of concerns. Some people want an older doctor who they feel they would be more comfortable with or who would know more. Others want a younger doctor who will be up on new advances in medicine. All physicians are required to stay up-to-date in their specialty through reading and testing and participating in hands-on programs for recertification.
  4. The gender of your physician might also concern you. (Certainly in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology there has been a major shift–more women in that practice now than men.) But that shouldn’t rule out the skill of male OBGYN’S. When my husband created his list for an internist, his final choice was a female internist physician. I also chose her for my doctor and we have referred her to our friends.
  5. It’s very important to discover if the doctor you are researching is taking on new patients. You might get all excited that you’ve found one, only to discover the practice is closed.
  6. Once you have found one or two you are considering, you can verify their board certification here. You can also go to your home state department of consumer affairs to check for any negative reports about this doctor. And as mentioned above, you can research them online for address, phone number etc.

You might also enjoy: You’re A Candidate for a Good Doctor

Bring Your List of Questions to the Doc’s Office–they have a list too!

Thanks to Stock Snap.io

Thanks to the AARP BULLETIN Sept. 2017

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