She Said: THAT’S NOT HIM–But Is It Us?

She Said: THAT'S NOT HIM--But Is It Us?

There’s a new show that I have been eagerly watching. It was hailed as a series to replace or at least echo PARENTHOOD and so far yes–it definitely pulls us into a family. There’s a couple, pregnant with triplets, but when the 3rd to be delivered dies, they adopt a child abandoned that night and brought into the hospital’s nursery. (That baby’s mother had died; the father felt unable to raise the child.) The child is black, later named Randall. The young parents go home with a son and daughter and this adopted son. Later Randall’s father resurfaces. Oh, but there’s so much more to this complicated tale.

The show is called THIS IS US. Nice title. The highlighted US, in the logo above, might be saying something about the US–United States.

But let me tell you another story, briefly. Three months ago, I was at a party. And a woman sitting across from me brought up the man that was running for president. She was praising this guy and I had to say, “But what about his rallies. He mocks people with disabilities. He mocks minorities. He has people thrown out and then folks in the crowd beat up on other folks.”

She smiled at me across the table as if I were her child. “Oh that’s not him,” she said. It echoed in my head for days:  THAT’S NOT HIM. THAT’S NOT HIM.

So we have: THIS IS US–a family blazing a new trail of love and inclusion. They are all actors telling a story, a story I want to believe in.

And we have: THAT’S NOT HIM, a kinda-actor, who now takes on the role of president of the United States. Was everything I saw during his rallies an act?  Cause I feel as if I’m awakening from a bad dream and would like to turn the channel and keep watching THIS IS US instead. I want to believe in THAT creation. The other, those rallies–to me they are the stuff of nightmares. And I’ve read plenty of books and watched enough pre WWII films to know that presenting yourself as ONE person and then reversing and trying to be someone else is scary stuff. YES, the female candidate yelled and berated him occasionally–she was defending herself, drawn into this entire pre-election period that became its own SWAMP. WE ARE BETTER THAN THIS. I want to believe that all the negatives of the election was NOT US.

So I’m confused and saddened. That’s all I will say. Others have weighed in with their feelings. And I am open to that. One friend quoted RUMI, the 13th century Persian poet:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

The world is too full–words cannot describe what we have on this planet–the grass, the love between two people, the splendor of birth that occurs between humans and all creatures–birds in the air, seed pods falling from the trees, whales leaping through oceans.

If I had to prize and hold dear something RIGHT NOW that I could say THIS IS US –it would be my family, who shares my love of peace and diversity, who believes in kindness and the power of talk before shouting and belittling. I would also prize my eyes and my brain, because I can read and read some more. I can fill my mind and my soul with the beauty of ideas that is inclusive and free from hate. (there is so much hate and anger on the internet–and yet goodness too).

Here is the poet, Mary Oliver from an essay in her new book UPSTREAM:

I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty, I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life…You must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.   

Here is a father, Aaron Sorkin, writing to his daughter. I think he is saying THIS IS US.

We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it’s writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. …we fight for the families that aren’t (insulated from this fear). We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.

The battle isn’t over, it’s just begun. (YOUR) Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I’ll never go to sleep on you again.

When each and everyone of us gathers at Thanksgiving, we can pledge that we want all Americans to continue to form the fabric that this immigrant nation wove. THIS IS US, ALL OF US. We don’t want families torn apart or their future being that knock at the door. We can volunteer–one hour a week, one day a week or run an errand for the family we know with two working parents and a hectic schedule or a disabled grandparent.

AND READ. I’ll have more about that to come.

But today I am sharing Andrea Dunlap’s  reading list. SEE BELOW.

She is a writer and these works follow the old saying: Live in someone else’s shoes. LEARN EMPATHY. Maybe that’s what was missing when the woman across the table at the party said to me: THAT’S NOT HIM. Sorry. You cannot be a human being and watch what went down at those rallies and applaud. It was or is at least a part of him with a big lack of empathy and understanding for another’s soul, another’s life. Of course, you can believe anything you want to believe.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
You Can’t Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
White Girls by Hilton Als
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Thanks to Andrea Dunlap; Thanks to the Huffington Post. Read more here.

 

That giant sucking sound…

That giant sucking sound...

In the middle of election night, after I had stayed by the television to taste the bitterness of the end, I awoke with these words in my head, “that giant sucking sound.” And I couldn’t identify them for a long time. But lying there I finally did–it’s a line parents in Iowa, where I once lived, would say during spring break, the line referring to most folks leaving the state to go somewhere else. “Oh we all heard that giant sucking sound,” someone would say referring to the lines at the airport. But it really comes from, you guessed it, a political event. “The “giant sucking sound” was United States presidential candidate Ross Perot’s phrase for what he believed would be the negative effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he opposed.” Bill Clinton won that election. Funny how the mind works!!

Well maybe my mind was going that far back, and then connecting to the election in the dead of night–only this time Hillary Clinton lost. This time folks had voted for a man who just might take us on a ride we could not have imagined–one of fear and hate, one of exclusion and denial of the rule of law. We will see. I am told to take heart from a man whom I have honored for eight years and always will. He is my President, he is POTUS to me and always will be. But he is saying take heart, because he must, even though his heart is deeply hurt and he has to work with a man who worked to delegitimize his presidency.

And then Wednesday, it was all about Hillary Clinton and how I had been here before with her, when ironically, she lost the primaries to President Obama in June of 2008, and gave her first “glass ceiling speech.” She had to give another one. WHAT A WOMAN. I am fiercely proud of her and everything she stands for. I would vote for her again should she choose to run for something. But she’s done. Yet, Hillary will always help this country in some way. And if the President-Elect had any guts, he would appointment her to a position, or at least ask her. But he won’t. He’s done too.

Today, I watched the brief look into the meeting that Mr. Trump had with the President. He was calm, though he looked nervous. I guess you could say he was on his best behavior. After everything I have seen of this man and how he conducted his rallies and what he said about his opponent and MY PRESIDENT, it will take me a very long time, if ever, for me to say positive things about him. As a writer, I know–words count and they don’t blow away because you are now smiling a lot.

But there is someone else who needs to examine their American soul in this post-election world. THOSE WHO DID NOT VOTE. How hard is it to take a half-day, if necessary, and vote–once every FOUR YEARS–for the person who can have a profound affect on your life? HOW HARD IS IT to try to get an absentee ballot? If fear kept you away from the polls because of the things Trump said, I get that–he threatened the people of Philadelphia–“those areas” and we knew what he meant. But if it was just laziness or an inability to decide whom to vote for–you have no idea the privilege you have given up. To live in a country where what we saw today–POTUS meeting with the one who won the election, and beginning the HAND-OVER process–that’s our freedom, our democracy, the American way. No coup, no guns, no deaths.

Maybe the lesson from this election will hold over for the next—-VOTE and don’t believe the polling. Don’t let some numbers convince you that your vote won’t count. YOUR VOTE ALWAYS COUNTS. Otherwise you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and hear “that giant sucking sound” your candidate losing, your ability to exercise one of the most valuable gifts on the planet going away, utilized by someone else who did bother to vote.

Photo Credit TIME

Why Hillary Clinton Matters to Me Part Two

Why Hillary Clinton Matters to Me Part Two

I am a woman, voting for Hillary Clinton. And when I look back, I find we have more in common than just our gender. I find connections. I think many women reading this post can. But what makes me hold my breath is that Hillary is running for the most difficult and complicated, as well as important and heavily responsible position in our country and possibly the world. And despite what anyone says, being POTUS requires great intelligence—not just about business, but about how the world works, how the government works, people work and how to sort through complicated problems that might keep some people awake at night.

I was raised on the south side of Chicago, Hillary in a northwest suburb, Park Ridge. Her father worked long hours running his own business. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom. Neither one of us was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. My father died when I was young, so my mother worked to support our family. Both of us have two brothers. I married my high-school sweetheart, worked hard as a teacher, had children, went back to school to become a nurse, worked again. My life has been a very good life.

Hillary’s life has been plain amazing. She is super smart and driven. More than moved by the death of Martin Luther King, Hillary was shaken to her core. We were both in college—I a Democrat and she a Republican. King’s murder moved her to change her political affiliation to Democrat and to determine another goal: she would go on to law school at Yale.

I’ve always prided myself on being smart. My grades gave me self-esteem. Doing well in school or the job I happened to be working –teaching, nursing, raising children, doing medical research—that’s what gets me up in the morning. So in 2008, backing Hillary for president was logical for me. Now in 2016, it’s even more so. As a woman, I believe in my own abilities and after reading about Hillary Clinton, meeting her, evaluating her beliefs and political standards, I know she has the knowledge, empathy and openness to run our country.

Because women have felt the sting of being the quote weaker sex or the second sex, we sometimes do what we should not—put competing with each other on the top of our To-Do list. I did that in college. I fell into competition with my close friend, Carole. We both majored in English and though I would study six hours for a test, Carole would study for two and get an A while I got a B. Always. Like Hillary, Carole went on to become a lawyer, eventually taking on a big political position in the city of Chicago. But Carole can tear up like Hillary–Read WHY HILLARY CLINTON MATTERS TO ME part one.

As an undergraduate, Hillary attended Wellesley, in Massachusetts. The motto of the school was certainly fortuitous: “Non Ministrari sed Ministrare” – “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Hillary Clinton is still that person. If we had gone to school together, I might have spent some time with her talking about class work, but I don’t think we would have been close friends. I had some insecurities that I constantly fought: the battle of beauty versus brains—the one SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE focused on, the one built into our culture. The one Hillary completely ignored.

But in college, I did begin to GET IT, being really angry when I discovered what steps the administration was taking to lure future college freshmen. On a warm spring day as I walked from the main building, I saw a photographer posing five girls from my dorm. I found out later that they had been selected to represent the entire college. These were well coiffed, well heeled girls who wore too much makeup and the latest Garland sweaters. They were all white and they didn’t represent my college as far as I was concerned. (Sorry but I still get angry when an institution of learning falls into the same narrow gap they were teaching us to avoid!) The ones with the smarts did represent us. Like my friend Carole or maybe even me. But this is the real world and I was learning what pushes people’s buttons. Even as a junior in college with my excellent GPA and many activities, I was still insecure and trying to be the best on all fronts. So I tried out for the college board which at that time meant working at a department store like Carson Pirie Scott or Marshall Fields in the junior department. Do they even have a junior department anymore? I got the job. Was I now beautiful and smart? I needed to move on. Believe in myself, period.

During another summer job, I began to see how marginalized women were and still are. I worked for an insurance agency that handled workman’s compensation. I typed up the information members had written on their claim forms. There was no form for pregnancy. You had to answer questions that indicated you had suffered an injury. Where did the accident occur?  A pregnant woman wrote: in the bedroom.  How did the accident occur? She wrote: In the usual way. 

During that summer, Hillary sought out jobs in Alaska that involved social justice. There were no social justice issues washing dishes in the Mount McKinley Nation Park, but there were when she moved on to the processing cannery in Valdez. She blew the whistle on the awful working conditions there and of course, they fired her. But they were also shut down overnight. Hillary was on her way.

I did discover my own female power and used it—to teach underprivileged students in a high school that broke out in a riot after the Chicago police allegedly murdered black men Fed Hampton and Mark Clark. Later, I become a nurse and helped to deliver teenage mothers and then talk to them about birth control and family planning. It’s not as much as Hillary has given, but I can also claim three grown adult children and their spouses who are all voting for her.

If Hillary becomes our first woman president, she’ll be examined and reexamined on everything a male president would—and more. Think back to when she wore headbands and then grew her hair long. Now it’s all about her pantsuits. The only change a man makes is his tie—or maybe he grows a beard. But men have known for centuries that you can demean a woman if you ignore their brain and focus on their clothing. Let’s focus on her smarts and her diligence. Let’s focus on her dedication. Even her opponent admitted SHE NEVER QUITS.

But during this campaign, he has vilified her, stalked her when she was answering a question at a debate, threatened her with death and imprisonment. Even his followers have talked about assassinating the president of the U.S. if Hillary is elected. She is not perfect. He is not perfect.

But let’s be clear, and look at the source, the very engine of their campaigns. HILLARY CLINTON has a history of working to help children and families. She believes in ALL Americans. She is a lawyer who understands how the constitution works. She also understands rule of law in regards to many facets of government because she has been there–as a U.S. senator and the Secretary of State. Her opponent has a history of not paying taxes, vilifying women, refusing to pay people who build his casinos and having a fondness for Russia and dictators. He supposedly understands how to teach people to become as wealthy as he claims he is, but Trump University only lined up on his “not so much” sheet.

The right to vote is what makes America a free nation. So vote. Choose your candidates and vote. And if you see some older person or person of color or handicapped person being marginalized at the polling booth SAY SOMETHING. This is AMERICA. We citizens have the right to vote. Our voting process needs to be HONEST AND FAIR. Help make it that way and VOTE.

P.S. To find your polling place, you can use google or another search engine, type in Find My Polling Place in (name your state) and they will ask you to put in your address.

photo credit: Hillary Clinton FACTSHEETS

 

WHY HILLARY MATTERS TO ME Part One

WHY HILLARY MATTERS TO ME Part One

I don’t have any personal history with Donald Trump—I’ve never watched his reality TV shows or read his ART OF THE DEAL. And though now I read about him daily—its unavoidable—he’s still not rising up on my radar in any way, because he opposes everything I believe in. I do have a history with Hillary Clinton—for two reasons—we share some history and we definitely share some future. To me she symbolizes one thing that ALL WOMEN should consider—Republican, Democrat, Independent—she exemplifies what an American woman can do.

(Note: Phyllis Schlafly also exemplified the power that a woman can wield. But she stopped the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, sidelining advances for women. I believe she was wrong.)

If Hillary becomes POTUS, she will forever wipe out that wrong, just as individual women who fight for an ever-expanding role and position in this country do every day. Glass ceilings are breaking-up everywhere. I wonder if my mother would be proud. I hope so. The irony is that though she didn’t realize it, my mother was one of the first who in her own way expanded the role of a woman.

Widowed with three children, my mom had to work to support us. But more than once I heard her say that it was okay that men make more money than women—her reason—they had families to support. She knew she did also, but she was expressing what “the majority” needed—because in my childhood, in the neighborhood where I was raised, men were the main supporters of most households. Her statement was still puzzling, considering that her sisters, my two single aunts, worked hard for the money they made in the publishing business. But Mom condemned feminist thinking and would get up and walk out of the room when the conversation turned in that direction. She was a product of her time.

Maybe my mother should have been angry that her salary in downtown Chicago did not compensate her to care for three children like it would have if she were male. But life had pushed her in a direction she really didn’t want to go. She wanted to be married and raise six children. She got three and a dead husband. She had no degree. She could have gone to school part-time, worked her way up in the business world, but her focus was always her children, so she held on—her free time devoted to us. I think a lot of women make that choice. And despite it, my mother rose to chief secretary at the Chicago insurance agency where she worked for 45 years, becoming a business success. In the end—she  was proud of her accomplishments.

All of this is not to say that I am not fiercely proud of what my mother accomplished and forever grateful for the sacrifices she made for my two brothers and me. I became an English teacher, made a great marriage, was gifted with three children and then went back to school to earn my RN. Through my working years, I discovered the value of unions, the muscle of numbers. I picketed for higher salaries and benefits. I worked hard at my job and never felt guilty that I was asking for more.

But much earlier than I did, Hillary Clinton saw that women were not on equal ground and needed to fight for their place. She has one daughter. I have two. That galvanized both of us—our daughters should be able to enter the working world equal in every way to their male counterparts.

Considering Hillary Clinton and I were both raised in Chicago at the same time, her consciousness was definitely raised sooner than mine and the trajectory of her life amazes me and makes me proud to be a woman: Hillary has always been about helping women and children—even if that means working the system and knowing how to handle the slings and arrows of the opponent who is eager to stop her.

When I had the chance to meet Hillary Clinton she was running for president. It was 2007 and we met at the Drake Diner, a local eatery in Des Moines, Iowa. We were both there at five in the morning—she to be interviewed by all the major networks, me to sit in a booth in the background and drink hot coffee. I guess you could say I was window dressing. But I wanted to be there and I did get to meet her.

When a break in the interviews occurred, she came to our booth. My husband sat on the end, so I leaned over him to shake her hand (I had met her once before after a town hall meeting that previous January.) I told her I was worried about her. Was she getting enough sleep? How did she do it every day? She knocked the so-called wood of the shiny booth table and said so far she was hanging in there, doing just fine. My husband John told me later he thought he saw a tear in her eye. John is from a large Irish Catholic family. Tear in her eye? Hillary? I was sure he was exaggerating.

Then came the iconic moment in Portsmouth, New Hampshire when Marianne Pernold Young, a photographer standing behind a table where Hillary was talking with 16 women voters, asked her the same question. “How do you do it? How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?” And when Hillary replied about having help with her hair and then just went into the major guts of her life, her face pinked up, her armor crumbled, she got emotional.

“I just don’t want to see us fall backward as a nation. I mean, this is very personal for me. Not just political. I see what’s happening. We have to reverse it. Some people think elections are a game: who’s up or who’s down. It’s about our country. It’s about our kids’ future. It’s about all of us together. Some of us put ourselves out there and do this against some difficult odds.”

My God, yes. And I wonder how she would respond now, if I could ask her that question. Probably in the same way. And certainly after being Secretary of State, and the email server mess and having DJT call her crooked Hillary (like he’s as clean as new fallen snow) her skin has gotten even thicker, her ability to keep her calm the first thing on her agenda.

That’s good for being president. Your life is not your own from DAY ONE. You need that presence to be in politics, especially when the color of your pantsuit can deflect from the important words you are saying or the actions you are implementing. But even though I would like to ask her again how she does it every day, I already know the answer: she does it all for us, for Americans and probably especially for women and children. Even Donald Trump when asked to say something nice about Hillary at the second debate acknowledged that she never quits.

So I am proud to say, I feel like I am a small part of Hillary Clinton. I’m the part she hides. I’m the part she doesn’t let people see. But regardless, I want people to know me—I am an older woman and despite what people might say, I will survive. It’s the combination of those words, older woman, that tear at some media people and some voters, make them fly into a rage they can’t really name.

It’s the hidden part out in the open. It’s so there people don’t see it. Hillary Clinton is a woman hitting her head against the ultimate glass ceiling and women all over the country are pulling on their panty hose or selecting their Manolo Blahniks or the latest knock-off pair from TJ Maxx and secretly smiling. She can’t do it. She’ll never do it. If I can’t do it, neither can she. So lose Hillary, lose.

“How do we beat the bitch?” a finely coiffed and decked out woman asked John McCain at a campaign stop during the run-up to the 2008 election. That woman wanted to stop a Democrat and I get that. So just say: “How do we stop Hillary?” And John McCain should have pointed that out to this woman. Or someone should have. You can watch the thing on U Tube!

The point is—Hillary is not a bitch. How dare a woman use that term when describing another woman. That John McCain supporter degrades herself. Hillary is me. Hillary is that woman too. Her pantsuits don’t hide that we are females, the softer sex. When Hillary showed some décolletage it was a headline. I’ve no problem with that, show us some breast, because you have two of them and you gave birth to a daughter, and I have a uterus and breasts and I have two daughters and a son and I thank God for them. Final note: I am privileged and proud to be a woman.

And I know Hillary is too. She showed us the full spectrum of womanhood in the five minutes (though it must have seemed like an eternity) that it took her to walk from the White House rose garden across the green lawn to the helicopter that day. Chelsea was with them, in the middle, Hillary on one side of her and Bill on the other. A natural falling into step for the husband and wife falling out. A moment of belief and strength in the midst of unbearable pain.

Because pain is a private matter. Hillary wanted to go into a small room or hide in a corner or under a blanket. She didn’t want to walk in front of TV cameras and photographers. But she did and held her head up, held Chelsea’s hand because she needed her and Chelsea needed her mother. The pain was excruciating, worse than a broken arm, a shattered femur bone. A lot worse. “How can we beat the bitch?”

You cannot. You cannot stop a strong incredibly convincing woman, a mother, a wife who kept her family together despite his betrayals.

“She should have divorced him. I won’t vote for her because she should have divorced him.”

Translation: I would have run away, hid in a corner, divorced the blankety blank and she should have too.

Wrong. Hillary Clinton has strong beliefs and morals. She fights for what she believes in and that’s why she will make an excellent president. She gets up every morning and fights. She does not give up. One commentator, Eugene Robinson, said that the dictionary should have her name next to the word resilient. She defines the word.

Hillary Clinton did what few women in our present culture have the strength to do—she stayed in her marriage and she worked it out. Operative word that suits Hillary just fine: work. Divorce is painful and messy. Working it out can be even more so. There isn’t a marriage in the country that hasn’t had some sadness, fighting, anger, misunderstanding which often leaves spouses wondering about their choices. And many have suffered betrayal on the part of either spouse. Let’s be honest, every women in this country knows this.

“How do we beat the bitch?” We don’t. She is us. She is all women who want their special place in the sun. Some of us are stay-at-home moms and some of us are CEO’s and some of us presidents of large corporations or possibly in the future the United States of America.

I’d really like to find the woman at the John McCain rally and ask her about her marriage and her career and her relationships. I would really love to know who she is voting for this election.

P.S. Don’t forget to vote!!

Photo credit: New York Times

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

If you ask the evolutionary question: why do women continue to live after they are no longer able to bear, birth and breastfeed children, you come up with a researched and very interesting answer. They continue to be part of the evolutionary plan because they become grandmothers. And that is terribly important.

THE GRANDMOTHER HYPOTHESIS

In the 1980s, anthropologist Kristin Hawkes and her colleagues studied the Hadza tribe, the last known hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, Africa. Their findings:

1. the tribe’s old women did not just rest, they worked, digging up a deeply-buried tuber which provided the main source of starch for the tribe’s diet.

2. though the young women also dug for the tubers, the older women spent more time at this task, leaving early in the morning and coming back late in the evening.

3. and because of the presence of this food in the diet, the grandchildren of these older women had better growth rates.

From these observations, came the “grandmother hypothesis.” Simply stated: women past childbearing age help not just their children, but their children’s children. They strengthen the genealogy of the family, insuring that the line will continue. Having such a role or purpose eventually lengthened their own life span. When no longer required to carry an infant around, they were freed up to do work that helped their progeny. And very importantly, by foraging for more food, they prevented their grandchildren from dying. All generations were aided as the lengthening of the life span was then passed on.

The researchers added that the “grandmother hypothesis” clarified why humans are able to have children in quick succession, whereas in other species there are long gaps. Example: chimp mothers wait 5 or 6 years to give birth to another neonate. But with tribal grandmothers available, the younger women could continue to have children. This collaborative child-rearing allowed the young woman to focus on the next baby while the grandmother took care of the toddlers.

In her piece in the New Republic that analyzes the “grandmother hypothesis” Judith Shulevitz writes of another very positive reason for grandmothers –As the grandmother effect spread throughout the population over thousands of generations, it changed humans in another way. It made their brains bigger. As life lengthened, so did each stage of it. Children stayed children longer, which let their brains develop a more complex neural architecture.

WHY GRANDPARENTING IS SO IMPORTANT

It is my belief that grandparenting is the most important family role of the new century, says Roma Hanks PhD. There is much to substantiate that claim. In a society where many women have to work or choose to work, daycare centers, schools and grandparents often replace the role of the parent. Hanks is referring to the gifts that grandparents can bring to children whose parents are stressed and often emotionally unavailable because of work schedules and the worry of providing basic needs. In these cases and in families where life flows more easily, grandparents are vital in helping a family thrive.

Children need guidance, love and someone to listen to their fears and worries. Grandparents easily become that source and a bond forms, allowing for future communication.
Grandparents can babysit, allowing stressed moms and dads a chance to get away and relate to one another.
Grandparents can relate family stories, creating a history that forges a bond and provides a child with a sense of place and security.
Grandparents can be a source of information, providing advice, guidance and just plain helping out–like locating the phone number of a doctor.
Grandparents can be role models for their children’s parenting and for their grandchildren’s relationships with others. The love and gentleness found in the home is the first step to forming good citizens of the world who will have their own relationships and build their own families in the decades ahead.
In the end, grandparents can offer a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, or gentle reassurance to both their children and their grandchildren.

CHILDREN OF DEPRESSED MOTHERS

Kate Fogarty, PhD, stressed the importance of the protective role grandparents can play when grandchildren are cared for by a depressed mother. Her research showed that the formation of loving bonds between grandparents and those children could help develop positive behavior, increase cognitive development and prevent behavioral problems. She even went so far as to say that the possibility of the depression being passed to these children could be broken by the grandparent/grandchild relationship–a win win.

And though Fogarty’s research was with grandparents, certainly the role of loving aunts, uncles and friends will always make a positive difference in a child’s life.

IT IS TRULY ALL ABOUT FAMILY

There’s the familiar line: “If I’d known how wonderful it is to have grandchildren, I would have had them first.” What is that all about? Probably that with grandchildren comes experience, confidence in the role to be played, freedom from the harder aspects of child-rearing and the amazing chance to see once again the future in a child’s eyes.

Certainly some grandparents have more nitty-gritty responsibility for their grandchildren than others. Some are doing much of the raising and rearing. Some show up only for the fun times, like birthdays and holidays.

But hopefully most grandparents find the middle acceptable ground–they are eager to role up their sleeves and help when needed and they are always desirous of telling family stories, reading well-loved books, taking exploratory walks or singing well-loved songs. It’s a little like reliving your parenting. It’s a lot like looking into the future and once again having that uplifting feeling of knowing something of you will live on. That’s truly important.

Celebrate Grandparents day, Sunday, September 11th, 2016

The Grandmother Hypothesis and Grandparents Day

Thanks to Google Images and grandparents.about.com

Taking Those Ten Steps

Taking Those Ten Steps

Ten steps. That is what a twenty-seven year old soldier, Captain Humayun Khan, took–ten steps away from his men and toward a vehicle packed with improvised explosive devices (IED’s). Telling his men to STAY BACK, he approached the vehicle at the gate to a military compound insuring that his moving forward would incite the enemies in the vehicle. They instantly detonated the bombs–his ten steps moved the explosion away from 100 soldiers on one side of the gate and more than 200 people milling the open street on the other side of the gate.

Humayun Khan died. He was awarded posthumously the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He was buried, like all military heroes, in Arlington National Cemetery.

I learned about this hero from his father, who also shared this: Humayun Khan came to the United States when he was two-years-old. His father said: This country made him what he was.

Those words have stayed with me. Our country, this country, the schools Captain Khan attended, the boys and girls he played with, the neighborhood he lived in, the books about Thomas Jefferson that he read, the ROTC that he joined at the University of Virginia where he earned his college degree–all of this, his father said, MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS. Made him a hero, a man dedicated to his team, a man that made sure that he protected those under his watch. A man who sacrificed for his country.

Captain Khan’s father also used the word STEWARDSHIP. Reader, If you don’t mind, here’s the definition: an ethic that embodies being responsible and protecting something. Khan protected his men and worked to serve his country.

I am proud of my husband’s and my three children, proud of the lives they lead. Proud of the people they have chosen to love and the grandchildren they have produced. And now I have a whole new way of thinking about why they are responsible people who: serve and love their families and friends, work hard to support their lives, continue to educate themselves about life–all aspects of it, protect the environment, help those who need help on many different levels, and have faith and appreciate life’s gifts–nature, art, music, literature.

It’s not simply about what their parents gave them. It’s because they have thrived in an atmosphere of freedom and peace which America has given them. And I know they want that for everyone on our planet.

Captain Khan’s statement that his son is a hero because living here MADE HIM WHAT HE WAS–should be words each of us ponder and hold close. No matter who we are–in all our diverse and amazing ways–we need to now and again TAKE TEN STEPS FORWARD and help someone, compliment someone, weep with someone, and praise someone. And I’ll repeat again what a wise woman once told me–feeling down, confused, angry? Go out and help someone else. It will make your day and beyond.

Photos: CNN

Taking Those Ten Steps

True Memoir: When the Writer Gives You a Gift

And I have written before about sharing your love and your life with someone, even if they are dying. Don't be afraid. I admire the thoughtful columns of Meghan Daum. Recently she drew an interesting distinction between what writers put into a memoir–stating that it should be an honest report on a life and not a confession. She stated that some writers of memoir treat the form without respect.

“They forget about their audience. They forget that they have a mandate to shape the material into something beyond a diary entry or a rant. They also confuse honesty and confession.” —Salon, January 2013

To simplify, Daum believes

  • a memoir that reads like a confession is asking the reader for something;
  • a memoir that is an honest relating of one’s life is a generous gift, a sharing of a life so the reader will feel less alone.

When I read THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, by Joan Didion, I was transported. Didion worked through the loss of her husband in that book–but she wasn’t asking me to weep for her, she was offering the gift of shared human experience. From her book I wrote my piece THE DAY OF MAGICAL THINKING. I then read her next book, BLUE NIGHTS, about her daughter’s illness and death. I cherish both of these honest and endearing works. Didion from The Year of Magical Thinking:

We all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred, the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames, the swings where the children were playing as usual when the rattlesnake struck from the ivy. 

So true, and yes lately–we have been reading a great deal about shock and awe on Elm Street. FOR A CHANGE– I’d like to focus on stories that are shockingly wonderful. Stories of success and happiness–because they can happen just as fast as sorrowful events. We all need to work harder at focussing on the positive.

  • So Meghan Daum has a point: let’s focus on those people in our lives who are walking memoirs, the ones who share their lives and their stories with us and give us some joy.
  • They don’t harangue us with negatives, tear down the way we live; they aren’t constantly begging us for attention and complaining about their lot. We do not need their ugly negative thoughts.

Didion was deeply hurting in both of her books; she was in sorrow over the loss of her husband and daughter. But she gave of herself with openness and shared with her readers the JOY of her life, the WONDER of those precious relationships and the POSITIVES of the human experience.

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? It’s more than a diary. It should really be the awakening of memory and the sharing of your soul. When you search Amazon for books on how to write a memoir, there are many to choose from. But this one stands out. Mary Karr, in THE ART OF MEMOIR, writes about memory itself:

Memory is a pinball in a machine–it messily ricochets around between image, idea, fragments of scenes, stories you’ve heard. Then the machine goes tilt and snaps off. But most of the time, we keep memories packed away. I sometimes liken the moment of sudden unpacking to circus clowns pouring out of a miniature car trunk–how did so much fit into such a small space?

I’m no Meghan Daum or Joan Didion, but I did write a memoir over 15 years ago, that like other work I have done is filed in a cabinet. I searched that work today, found a passage that might qualify as GIVING you something–I am certainly not asking for forgiveness or confessing a sin. This goes back to my childhood. I am trying to remember it. Did the clowns spill out of the car trunk?

My mother gives us a record with the story of the PIED PIPER of HAMLIN. I play this over and over. It is a strange story about a town infested with rats, about a piper who can rid the town of these pests, and then, because he is not properly paid for his deed, plays his pipe once more, coaxing the children to follow him out of the town along a winding road, over a hill and eventually into a long tunnel. It leads to a place where the honey bees have lost their sting. This last detail I always remember. It seems to linger with me, the tunnel, the honey bees that don’t sting. I keep picturing all the children in line in the darkness and then emerging into the light at the other end. There are flowers and trees and the warmth of sunshine and these marvelous bees. 

Sometimes, when I lie awake and the hall light is off, I worry that I’ll hear that strange alluring music, that I will disappear into that tunnel. It is in the dark of that bedroom that I discover how dry my lips can get, the existence of uneven spaces between my teeth, the clutching pain of stomach cramps before vomiting. It is the darkness of that room that sheds on me the light of discovery. 

P.S. I have written before about sharing your love and your life with someone, even if they are dying. Don’t be afraid. 

 

When You Don’t Get the Window Seat

When You Don't Get the Window Seat

Lately, when I fly, I never get a window seat–my husband is on the aisle, me in the middle. But I have memories of traveling alone from the Midwest to California to see my grandchildren, in the window seat, watching the land drop away, the green fields of Iowa and the mountains of the west below. Going to Chicago, I found the sight of Lake Michigan and the skyline thrilling. Beauty from the air.

This last trip? The young woman in the window seat kept the shade down EVEN DURING LANDING. Nothing to do, I tell myself. This is America where tolerance needs to apply in many situations. Let it go, even if travel might make me cranky and eager to say “Don’t you want to look out at Chicago, watch us glide over this amazing city and land?” I stay quiet. But on some issues, maybe I need to offer some words.

While flying from the west coast to Chicago–I did something.

I read a book. I read Ta-Nehisi Coates, BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME.

I will never be the same.

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled suddenly upon the thing, Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly oaks and elms, And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting themselves between the world and me...taken from a Richard Wright poem

You all know Richard Wright! You read NATIVE SON in high school. In this poem, Wright comes upon the remains of a tar, feathering and burning, only to grasp that his future might be the same. But Coates, writing his book to his son, leaps from the scene to the present day. Some things are now outlawed. Some are not.

This is a book about Coates’ fear for his black body. For me, this book is a WINDOW on white privilege, on the impact of words that have come from my mouth over and over: bad neighborhood, ghetto, white flight, gangs with guns and drugs, working the system–.

Go ahead, stop and ask yourself what language you might unconsciously use to denigrate a group of people–and do it casually, like it’s really no big deal. Because it’s so a part of most of us we don’t hear it or see it.

As a child the rhyme, Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, Catch a–the object of which my mother changed to tiger. I don’t know when. But I said the original. I didn’t know what I was saying, but I SAID THAT while playing a game! Now it horrifies me.

It was part of the culture, inbred in daily living. Life without thought. Ignorance. Did I ever stop to ask myself why I said these things? No. Did my white body prevent me from digging through decades of pre-judgment–from seeing clearly that some of my choices smacked of fear? Yes. And then finally I asked myself why?

Because it was ingrained from my ancestors, forebears or the populace that came before me. They handed me a well-crafted picture–just handed it over and said:”Here, believe this, because this is how it is for you and how it will always be.” Were they good and loving people? Mostly, yes. Were they the product of the times, the whispered words, the judgments. Yes, definitely. And Christians also.

Separation. Fear. Build a wall–like don’t drive there after dark; don’t shop thereDon’t take the bus. 

My husband took the bus to college through those neighborhoods. NEVER had an incident.

Thank God for NOW because my grandchildren would ask WHY NOT TAKE THE BUS? And since reading BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, these phrases, these tossed off and accepted ideas that are so much a part of the nomenclature stand out in my mind like darts of poison–because I am part of this. So what can I do when my policeman relative tosses it off so casually? Try to understand and yet know I cannot change him; arguments take me nowhere. But my black brother-in-law from South Africa, he gets it. He and my sister-in-law have experience DWB–driving while black.

I taught in a school with a diverse population (one of the best things that ever happened to me). But even so, I brought with me some pre-conceived ideas. My friend Linda M. helped wake me up. Told me, WE NEED TO SHARE THE LAND. Yes.

And not just share a dying neighborhood or a crumbling public housing building. See how they trash everything? I cringe even typing those words, but this is what we hear, this is in the language. We need to wake up and challenge it, never make general assumptions. Or at least try to discern WHY some things happen as they do.

My older daughter’s master’s thesis in Urban Planning was on the rationale behind the housing projects in Chicago–many of which have been torn down, thank God, some of which remain. I read portions of her reference books and they pointed to a major fact: a human being needs to have a say, to identify with a dwelling, a doorway, a garden. That builds pride, leads to care. Pushed in one direction without agency in choice blocks attachment. Ever read RAISIN IN THE SUN? Ever think about living in a building 20 stories high with no sunlight in the stairwell, one or two windows lighting your abode and no ability to step outside on a deck or a patio to feel the sun on your face? Sounds a bit like a prison. It was.

We whites think we have struggled for safety. Here is Coates: To survive the neighborhoods and shield my body, I learned another language consisting of a basic complement of head nods and handshakes. I memorized a list of prohibited blocks. I learned the smell and feel of fighting weather…I recall learning these laws clearer than I recall learning my colors and shapes, because these laws were essential to the security of my body.

Coates emphasizes his fear that someone will destroy his body because he is black–and for no other reason. Thus he references the firm and physical discipline of his parents.The LESSON that all black mothers and fathers teach their children: avoid the police when walking the streets. Be careful. Watch yourself. Your life depends on it.

What thoughts went through your mind, Dear Reader, when you saw a black mother scolding her child in a store, or pulling that child toward her? Negative right? Now read this from Coates as he addresses his son:

Now I understood it all…black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied,of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protective racket. It was only after you that I understood this love, that I understood the grip of my mother’s hand. She knew that the galaxy itself could kill me, that all of me could be shattered and all of her legacy spilled upon the curb like bum wine. And no one would be brought to account…because my death would not be the fall of any human but the fault of some unfortunate but immutable fact of “race”…

Coates recounts his first trip to Paris, a joyful-sad experience for a man bursting from the historical bonds of American society. Sitting in a Parisian garden he writes: At that moment a strange loneliness took hold…It occurred to me that I really was in someone else’s country and yet, in some necessary way, I was outside of their country. In America, I was part of an equation–even if it wasn’t a part I relished. I was the one the police stopped on 23rd Street in the middle of a workday…I was not just a father but the father of a black boy. I was not just a spouse but the husband of a black woman, a freighted symbol of black love. But sitting in the garden, for the first time I was an alien, a sailor–landless and disconnected. And I was sorry I had never felt this particular loneliness before–…far outside of someone else’s dream. 

Yes, we all have dreams. But they have to be ours. SHARE THE LAND, let others have their dreams without a catch. J Beckett says in his Goodreads Review of Coates’s book: The tears came because Coates, in a few pages, captured, exposed, unlocked and translated what so many people of color, so many frustrated and frightened parents, and so many disenfranchised and nomadic youth found so difficult to dictate and explain. For them, the feelings were there but the words simply would not come. I wept because Coates’ story was my story..

And part of Coates story is my story–it’s my inability to fully see and understand. I have a bigger window on that story now, even though what I saw was not my plane landing at Ohare in Chicago, but the words on the page bright and vivid calling out to me.

Read this book. Let me know if his words touch you also.

P.S. Next week, The Terra-cotta Warriors, on display at the Field Museum. If you are in Chicago, don’t miss it.

 

photo www.youtube.com

 

 

Breaking Into The Conversation

Breaking Into The Conversation

You’re with a group of people. It could be family. It could be a gathering of friends. Or even your work buddies out to relax or maybe form a group to complain about something going on within the office walls. Then consider: you want to break into the conversation, but you can’t. Even with family gatherings this happens–no one is giving you an opening because someone is the leader, someone is choosing the topics and you find you are no longer listening but just waiting, waiting for a chance to break in. You lose the thread of the conversation. Or after a while you don’t even care.

CONVERSATION SHOULD BE AN EXCHANGE OF IDEAS 

  • We all anticipate being with people we care about and sharing conversation.
  • Often we are tired at the end of the day and eager for something fun.
  • And to add to our eagerness, we dressed up to be with friends for some meaningful exchanges.

This is part of being a member of society–the anticipation of TALKING to one another. You might even have some news you want to share and you’re just excited to be with this group and see their reactions and how they will support you. (Come on People, we still like the warmth of camaraderie and don’t have to open our minds and souls through Facebook all the time, but can wait for that gathering of hugs and smiles to give our news.)

We all crave that small spotlight when people will focus on us and listen to what we have to say. The KEY is the exchange. And friends and family can be so generous about our news or our opinions. From youth to old age–being able to steer the conversation is empowering and helps us grow no matter the topic:

a new job; the choice of a school or a career; the person we are dating or going to marry; the person we just broke up with; the death of a friend or someone being ill or someone injured or someone recovering. We made money; we lost money. We just met someone the group already knows; we have a new idea for our art work, writing project, music presentation. There are millions of topics. So enough–you get the idea.

But what if you’re having a bad time and you can’t break in or you suddenly don’t want to break in. There are a variety of reactions to this.

  • you give up and walk away
  • you try even harder to break in
  • you find yourself getting angry
  • you attempt to peel the person sitting next to you away from the group

I’ve been in situations with friends when the conversation was all about people I did not know. Everyone else was comfortable with remembering these folks, but since I didn’t know them, I sat quietly wondering when the conversation would take a turn into a topic where I could join in. Has that happened to any of you?

I think if you care about the group you are with you tend to be patient, maybe help yourself to another drink and wait for things to change. But if this happens to you a number of times, you tend to become sensitive to groups that do that. Your awareness of making a conversation COMFORTABLE for everyone in the room becomes one of your goals. When you are the host you are very aware of this. Conversation can be hurtful. Unfortunately it goes with bringing a variety of people together. Drinking can loosen tongues. You intended to have a fun party and maybe there are people leaving your gathering with hurt feelings and unless they tell you, you will never know.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO? WHAT WILL YOU DO?

There are going to be many situations in the next six plus months where the main topic of conversation will be politics. I think in some situations we will have to decide to preserve the friendship and so if the person is on the other side–better not to go there at all–or give it a try?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Again, what will you do?

It’s a hard choice. Strong feelings about a candidate can make us want to get up on a bully pulpit and shout to the world. If only we could always stay on an intellectual plain of ideas. Tricky, tricky stuff.

FLOOD YOUR BRAIN WITH IDEAS 

I found this note in one of my notebooks: Each of us has a pool of stories, opinions that we offer in conversation when there is an opening, when we find the space to express our views. But what if this pool would become so narrowed down that we might be expressing 20-25 ideas. There is never an excuse for not reading and learning about possibilities. The world is wide open inviting us to read, consider and take new things in our minds and hearts. Maybe that will help us break into the conversation of living–and people will no longer ignore what we have to say. They will be eager to give us an opening–they will be looking to us to YES, guide the conversation.

AGAIN, WHAT DO YOU THINK?  WISHING US ALL GOOD LUCK WITH THIS ONE.

Photo: Merlot Marketing.comBreaking Into The Conversation

Breaking Into The Conversation

Love Her, Love Her Not

Love Her, Love Her Not

This post is a review of the above book, but it’s also the first of others that I will be writing about Hillary Clinton and the upcoming presidential election. The editor of Love Her, Love Her Not, Joanne Cronrath Bamberger, graciously sent me a copy of her book. My summary opinion: this book is an interesting collection of 28 short and extremely readable essays, all written by women who have taken an aspect of Hillary’s life or an individual personal view of Hillary’s accomplishments and/or foibles and run with it.

Love Her, Love Her Not will probably not change anyone’s vote. But it does zero in on an historical moment in American politics and history: we might be about to elect the first female president, now, in 2016. That’s awesome in itself. Bamberger writes in her introduction something that many people feel: Our country has a very complicated relationship with Hillary Clinton. 

MEDIA SKEWS and SCREWS THE TRUTH 

I think it’s more accurate to say that THE MEDIA has a complicated relationship with HRC and that we who are reading and viewing get sucked into it. For every candidate. Because politics is dismal these days–full of anger and in some cases hatred. On both sides, with both genders and affecting every citizen with every kind of background.

That’s why I enjoyed Bamberger’s collection–the writing is thoughtful, not hostile. It is honest and covers many aspects of Secretary Clinton’s persona. It feels fair to me and that’s what is missing in a lot of media coverage these days. FAIRNESS. HONESTY. If someone were to thrust me into the spotlight, I’m sure they’d find something wrong with me too. My hair, my clothes, my penchant for enjoying reading rather than sports. WHATEVER. So when reading about Hillary Clinton–ask yourself how you would measure up. That’s exactly what these thoughtful women writers did. BRAVO!!

THE FEMALE AGE QUESTION

Columnist Froma Harrop focuses on age discrimination and how it affects females in her essay Hillary’s Age as Shorthand Sexism. It’s an eye-opener to any woman who dwelling in a similar decade feels the power of the future and that life after child-bearing age is a time to grow, not shrink away. But obviously there are pundits out there who are going to USE it against Hillary. Harrop refutes the writing of Charlie Cook saying: Cook clearly had fallen into the cultural prejudice that perceives middle-aged women as over-the-hill while their male contemporaries remain vibrant, powerful and sexy. Like Harrop, the women and many of the men I know wouldn’t buy Cook’s garbage,

WHY DOES SHE STAY WITH HIM? 

Oh get over it!  The essay, Bill Clinton as Metaphor for America and Why Hillary Is Uniquely Qualified for President was a favorite. Written by Rebekah Kuschmider–she gets it. What person living today, man or woman, hasn’t been “betrayed” by someone or by some situation. And consider this, as Kuschmider writes, Bill Clinton was “the American Icarus sailing so very high and falling in a heap.” But afterwards, he got it–he set up an office in Harlem and paid back many times over. Kuschmider writes: Hillary wrote in LIVING HISTORY that Bill was a force of nature and that she resisted his marriage proposals for a long time because she didn’t know if she could weather his storms. 

Bill Clinton’s “affair” was ignorant and foolish. His selfish actions brought sorrow into their marriage. But how Hillary handled it–that was her business, no one else’s. As Kucschmider writes, Hillary has experienced sorrow in her life: turned down by NASA because she was a female; unable to get national healthcare up and running; the loser in the 2008 election. This is a woman who knows how to pick herself up and get on with it. And here is why. Kucschmider writes: Hillary loves Bill, yes. … But Hillary loves America more, the real America, good and bad, weak and strong, right and wrong. That love, that loyalty, that ability to see the real America–the raw, striving grasping with hope America–is Hillary’s strength, a nearly wifely attitude of loyalty–in richer and poorer, sickness and health, weakness and strength. A steadfast determination to stay…the way she’s always stayed and made it work with Bill.

Considering that if Hillary becomes president the media will still obsess over her clothing, two essays in the collection brilliantly address this. In Worshipping the Semiotic Brilliance of Hillary’s Pantsuits Deb Rox writes: …she forced the debate to the singularity of “what color pantsuit is she wearing today?” In doing so, Hillary degendered the playing field, making her appearance effectively recede to a question almost as innocuous as “what color is his tie today?”

And in No More Glass Slippers, Kim Cottrell explains the history of female shoes and how they hobble movement and become a metaphor for the female inability to keep up with the opposite sex. But Hillary has conquered that for Cottrell: So here’s my idea, Hillary friends. Let’s lace up our own shoes–you know the kind–tie back our hair, and celebrate the badass lines on our faces, the way our countrymen have been doing since forever, and get to work…we will do so (retain our superpower status) when we unhobble women and unshackle men and let them go to work together creating a shared vision of the future–wrinkles, flaws and all.   

Though this review is simply a glimpse into the fascinating opinions by women about Hillary Clinton, I hope it will interest you enough to purchase Love Her, Love Her Not and see for yourselves. Available here. Happy reading.

Love Her, Love Her Not