Love in the Time of Trump

My mother (Jinni) always told us the truth. Widowed in her 30’s with three kids under six, she had to do it all—teach, discipline, love, guide. We learned to honor every word she said. We trusted her.

But what about Santa Claus? We believed in him because Jinni believed in magic. Was that lying? No. She was simply allowing us to live some dreams—the tooth fairy, Santa. But because we trusted her, knew she would never abandon us—this childhood magic was logical. IT FELT RIGHT.

And consider this: the three of us knew about death. It lived with us in the form of a photo of our father—ever-present in our living room. Friends, cousins—they all had fathers. We did not. But we had Jinni.

If she got angry or cried ( she was human) or revealed that yes she was the tooth fairy—we accepted that. Jinni was home, life, security. Jinni was truth.


And we did walk out our front door to encounter the world: how our friends and neighbors lived, that they had fathers, dogs, newer cars; that some had country club memberships and took vacations. WE READ. We read non-fiction and fiction. Reading provided a pathway to learn about the world. Snug in the corner of the couch, I could explore places beyond my house on Wood Street.

So a question: have you, READER, and many others been gob-smacked by learning how others lived: in an apartment in New York City with a nanny to care for them, their parents spending months abroad; in a trailer in South Dakota where food is scare and education the only way to get away; on a farm in Iowa or Alabama where even in the 60’s, 70’s, outhouses were plumbing and going to school meant getting farm chores done between 5 and 6 before a long school bus ride; or in a large home on Lake Michigan in Lake Forest, Illinois, with a chauffeur who drove you to school.

We weren’t all raised on Elm Street or Main Street. But because of READING, and often because of excellent elementary and secondary teachers, our world opened up. How did that affect me, my brothers, all of us? Back to Jinni.


Because of Jinni and extended family: teachers, the neighborhood—we knew we were being given real, actual truthful information. We saw that we were fortunate, that we were BLESSED even though we didn’t have some things that others had.

Michelle Obama in her recent biography BECOMING writes fervently that she grew to understand the world outside of South Shore (in Chicago) because truth was always spoken within the walls of her home. Some of her cousins didn’t open their arms as freely to that world as Michelle, whose mother always inspired her to move forward, to believe in herself, to aspire to whatever she wanted to be despite the negatives she did encounter. How to BECOME? Seek goals, work hard, open mind and soul to LIFE IN THIS WORLD.

BELIEVE IN: the truth will set you free, which can have a major basis in society. Because when someone lies to you, doesn’t tell you the STRAIGHT STORY, confusion will reign. You will begin to mistrust, to feel hurt.

  1. How many of you have had an employer promise you a raise or better position only to skip over you; or a coach making you believe you’ll be shortstop when you find yourself on the bench.
  2. Of course, the worst scenario we have seen in recent years is the innocent boy or girl student who trusts an adult teacher, leader or priest only to have that person sexually abuse them. THERE IS NO TRUTH IN THAT. Children and young adults have been made to distrust EVERYONE after such an experience. They are then chained. They are not set free.

The latter did not happen to me. I was again fortunate. All of us have had some disappointments that stem from beliefs that we will rise to the top. That’s part of life. But it should not be all of life in our free society. I believe in continuing to have goals and to always believe in MY BECOMING.


It’s when SOCIETY accepts the liar, promotes the liar, the abuser, the cheater, that little by little we all lose hope. It’s like JINNI (truth) has abandoned us, run off with some guy. left us alone, tipped our world upside down.

Okay, now I’m using JINNI as a metaphor. But what I’m saying is that in our country today we are being LIED TO, and many of our dreams are being messed with. Little by little we are being abandoned by our government. DON’T LIE TO ME. DON’T CHEAT ON ME. DON’T TAKE AWAY WHAT I HAD: healthcare, my voting rights, my right to own a home, to have a steady income that can feed my family. DON’T LIE TO ME.


So if your life reflects some of these changes, what do we do?

  • The only cure is love and empathy.
  • It’s recapturing basic values and trust.
  • It’s pulling in those you love in a tight embrace.
  • It’s telling the truth and teaching that truth to your children and grandchildren.
  • It’s having close conversations with your friends, with your neighbors.
  • And if those neighbors have sought the other side, if they’ve bought into the lies and are still clinging to the purveyor of those lies, it’s giving even more of your own kindness. MAKING THAT YOUR TRUTH.

FINAL THOUGHTS…I’m not messing around here. These are critical times. My husband and I agree, thank God, on what is happening. We are in love. Yet each one of us needs to spread that love to others, reclaim a time when we were not so divided, when good things like education, libraries, Special Olympics and healthcare were not taken away or diminished and only allowed to a few.



I know I say this over and over, but when on Twitter some other crazy is yelling and swearing at a minority “Just for fun”–that has to stop. Elm Street might be more diversified, but it’s still the place I want to live. RIGHT NOW! 

Thanks to PINTEREST Katie Slaby Artwork

Give Your Children a Gift–LET THEM MESS UP

Give Your Children a Gift--LET THEM MESS UP

My husband and I let all of our children mess-up, make a big mistake that they would have to rescue themselves from—and every mistake had to do with driving a car. That makes perfect sense to me—getting into a car and driving away from house and home alone is the ultimate cutting of the cord.


Daughter Number One’s driver’s education teacher called to say he would pass her–but suggested we not let her drive. That was the puzzle message, the back-on-itself message. I hung up, gradually figuring it out–she would drive many more hours with her parents holding our breath–either because we were with her in the car, or letting her traverse a few blocks near home.

It worked and after college, she became the primary driver of my husband’s car, because her first job took her many miles from home. No accidents, no tickets, except misjudging the space between a garage wall and the car which took out his side mirror! She helped pay for it.

Daughter Number Two hit a tree driving a friend’s car. She babysat like crazy to be able to pay for the repairs. And all of these occurred under our radar. Okay. She was being responsible.

And then our youngest, our son, alone, driving to visit friends at the university got a major ticket, one that required losing his license for a while. A long story. But again, you mess up, and you truly learn.

THE GIFT OF FAILURE by Jessica Lahey

Jessica Lahey has worked with many teenagers as an English, Latin, and writing teacher in middle and high school for over a decade. That gives her plenty of material for her latest book: THE GIFT OF FAILURE. And what she has to say is kind of a P.S. to my previous post about parents who go way beyond anything that is normal to protect their kids, lie for their kids, LIVE THEIR KID’S LIVES.

One reviewer of THE GIFT OF FAILURE, captures it this way and allows me to continue the DRIVING METAPHOR: …in Lahey’s book a picture emerges of childhood today unfolding the way a young person learns to drive, except the car is the kind with controls on both sides and the parent riding shotgun is quick to take the wheel outright rather than letting the kid figure it out. Together they arrive at the destination — college, the workplace or simply chronological adulthood — but the child was really just along for the ride.

With years of teaching experience behind her, Lahey concludes that parents rush in to prove and applaud their parenting skills. She writes: It’s a parent’s ego trip, but children pay the price. When parents try to engineer failure out of kids’ lives, kids feel incompetent, incapable, unworthy of trust and utterly dependent. They are unprepared when failures that happen out there, in the real world, carry far higher stakes. 

As one reviewer wrote, in THE GIFT OF FAILURE, Lahey is acting as a whistleblower for kids and young adults. Except that it’s the parents who will probably read the book and ignore the message. Which is this–get out of the way.

Lahey writes about a student whose mother meets with Lahey not to discuss her very satisfactory performance, but to state that she feels her daughter has lost her passion for learning. As a former teacher, I can picture Lahey as she looks at this parent, wondering how she can tell her, yet not make a scene that SHE IS THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. The mother has taken on the work of her daughter’s education. She has removed the challenge, the mystery, the anxiety that we all need to become a success. Lahey writes that she takes a big breath and tells the mother the truth.


I believe that the mishaps, the poor judgements, the flash of adrenaline that is needed to move forward when you are scared and confused–all of that is the nurturing stuff, like water to a plant, that allows us and our children to grow. THINK BACK: how did you learn to drive or apply for a job or take care of a child or be responsible for another human? Did you mess up? I did and I learned. I hit the accelerator instead of the brake! Luckily there was no car in front of me. Enough said.


As a final comment, I sat down and wrote this last night, wrote that I believe I understand what my children are in love with in their lives today. And I’m not talking about a spouse. I’m talking about how they have saved themselves, their passions and beliefs–so that a part of them is moving forward into time.

One draws and creates green worlds that are sustainable as well as beautiful.

One writes from her very spirit, providing inspiration and a personal peace to others.

And one creates music, the pulse of a melody, his first impulse when work is done.


As parents, we will never know all of our children’s thoughts, worries, decisions, regrets. It’s their lives. FINAL THOUGHT: the sooner we learn to let them LIVE THEIR LIVES, the better. And that means letting them MESS UP.

You might have to hold your breath now and again. I know I did. But in the end, THEY’RE GOOD!!

P.S. I found this in a previous blog. Thanks to Sara: The other lesson I’ve learned is that you can’t change what you don’t own – meaning, if you blame others – people or circumstances – for your situation, you can’t change it because you’re saying it’s not within your control. Once I learned that, life really changed for the better.

P.P.S. HOUSEWORK– THANKS, I want to thank my readers for hanging in there with me while BOOMER HIGHWAY has undergone changes. It is now coming to you from MAIL CHIMP. A few things:

  • Gmail users might find the post in Promotions. When it shows up in promotions you can put your cursor on it and drag it over to the inbox, that will show it’s important and it will then show up in your regular inbox. Hopefully.
  • If you are not getting the post on a regular basis, please let me know. THANKS.
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October Thoughts, Change: Juan Romero and Sarah Smarsh

 October Thoughts, Change: Juan Romero and Sarah Smarsh

Change resides within us. We are protoplasm in constant change. And when we meditate on the word we often have mixed feelings–a child growing taller, a college student finally passing a worrisome class, a new job, a new house, marriage–change, a moving forward. But the other side of the change-coin can be connected to loss. Change doesn’t always have to be about death, but it is about the need for adjustment, for possibly “seeing” our lives in a light not as bright and exciting as youth, but possibly a softer, calmer light. But we are all constantly, though at different rates, experiencing change.

I need to cling to the positives about change today. To have hope that empathy will fall on people’s shoulders like the leaves that are beginning to let go. We all need to let some things go–fear and anger, and our inability to listen.


Juan Romero has died. He was 68. Twice I wrote about the busboy whose life was profoundly changed on the night of June 5th when Robert F. Kennedy was shot in the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy was walking through the kitchen, only to be felled by an assassin’s bullet. Juan Romero, who wanted to shake Kennedy’s hand, became the person who knelt and held the dying man’s bleeding head. “I wanted to protect his head from the cold concrete,” Romero told Steve Lopez a reporter for the LA TIMES. Lopez kept in touch with Romero, an update he reported on this past June 3, 2018, revealed the night still haunted Romero. He told Lopez: “I want to go back to Arlington Cemetery and just say ‘Hi’ and explain that everything is going good and I’m grateful for his involvement in my life and that I will always respect his effort for social justice. And to say that …I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for him.” Romero did marry, have children and later divorced. He often left flowers at a monument in a downtown San Jose park that honored Kennedy.

Maria Shriver, former first lady of California and niece of RFK, said she had wanted to send a thank you note to Romero. “I always felt a great deal of empathy for him…because of how difficult it was for him to move past that. So God bless him. It’s hard to know why someone gets put into a situation that they’re locked in forever. But as I see it, he was locked into an image of helping someone.” It was poignant that Ms. Shriver used the word empathy. In my mind, Romero’s name and Kennedy’s will be forever linked.

HEARTLAND: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

The author of this new book is Sarah Smarsh, a journalist who grew up in rural Kansas. She stated emphatically: “The American Dream has a pice tag on it. The poorer you are the higher the price.”

Growing up, Sarah endured the direct effects of a wide range of economic policies: farm subsides, banking deregulation and education cutbacks. Smarsh writes: “If you live in a house that needs shingles, you will attend a school that needs books.” Smarsh does not invoke the term “white trash” as a badge of honor. She questions her own “whiteness” and also rejects the term “white working class” as divisive and harmful. She explains the racist implication of government aid programs. She won’t let us look away from the unconscious biases that separate people of color from the very idea of opportunity. Some of her ideas and statements:

  • Our society “imbues whiteness with power…using it as shorthand for economic stability.”
  • Our economy is designed around the idea that whites aren’t supposed to live the way we force black and brown people to live, thus identifying “white trash” as a separate class means they received disproportionate visibility, over and above what we give to nonwhites facing the same (and worse) economic hardship.
  • When our society erases the needs of communities of color, that glorifies white poverty and exacerbates the oppression of others.
  • Smarsh is not interested in the pity of elite leftists who might label her “needy.”
  • Smarsh states plainly that the conflicting lesson of poverty is that “society’s contempt for the poor becomes the poor person’s contempt for herself.”

Reviewer Leah Hampton in the LA TIMES writes: You may think you have read this book before. You haven’t. This is not THE GRAPES OF WRATH or HILLBILLY ELEGY…This is a tough, no nonsense truth, and telling it hard…and refers to “wasted generations believing in ‘trickle down’ economics, leaving us standing outside with our mouths open praying for money to rain.”

But in HEARTLAND you will find a recounting of “deep progressive roots” in Smarsh’s community, where women’s rights, abolition and pro-labor sentiments shaped her story. Identifying with the legacy of women’s suffrage, Smarsh put herself through college and her education led her to a political awakening and a career in journalism.


Leah Hampton, the women who reviewed HEARTLAND, has the same background as Smarsh and some potent advice for us:

At a time of national reckoning about endemic misogyny, HEARTLAND does some serious feminist consciousness raising…rural voters might be the very group that halts our country’s slide to the right. There is rich soil in America’s fly-over states, and if we follow Smarsh’s path, we will find families like mine and the author’s, full of sensible, resilient women who many be disenfranchised, but who are also uniquely poised and equipped to aid in the revolution , and in our collective liberation. 


Senior Care Options for Your Aging Parents

Senior Care Options for Your Aging Parents

As our loved ones age, it’s important they get the care they need to stay healthy and to lead fulfilling lives. There are many different senior care options available for aging parents, and it can be a daunting task to choose the best one that suits their needs and yours. This overview of different senior living options and the types of care they provide will help you when faced with this often inevitable and confusing decision.

Independent Senior Apartments

If your parent, aunt or uncle is still mostly independent, but could benefit from living with other seniors and having access to more resources on site, then senior living apartments may be a good fit. These apartments are designed with seniors in mind, have comfortable safe-living spaces and encourage community. They are typically available for both singles and couples. Many senior living communities offer optional resources for their residents that will actually improve their individual health situation. An on-site gym, access to transportation and a variety of community social activities are some examples. Many apartment complexes also provide pet friendly senior living, though that option requires that the resident be able to live independently.

Assisted Care Facilities

Though assisted care facilities help residents with their ADL’s, activities of daily living, they often do not provide medical care on site. Assisted care caters to residents who need help maintaining a daily schedule, while still allowing them a level of independence and the ability to makes choices that they can handle. There are often two types of assisted care facilities – smaller, private residential care facilities and large assisted care facilities. They basically provide the same services, but have different settings. Each assisted care facility provides residents with a comfortable room, three meals per day, help with ADL’s like bathing, dressing, grooming, walking, and cleaning. They often offer transportation–a bus that takes groups to the theatre, church or shopping. Enjoyable individual and group activities that enrich seniors’ lives change the flow of a resident’s day, and often encourage maintaining a hobby or participation in activities like book clubs, card games or music appreciation.

Private residential assisted care facilities are run by caregivers and usually have less than 10 residents at any given time. They are homes that are converted to be suitable for seniors, so they are excellent for seniors who want a smaller, more personalized facility that really feels like home. However, they don’t always have as many amenities available as larger facilities, and sometimes don’t provide as much privacy as larger facilities. A larger assisted care facility will usually have more amenities and more standardized care on site, but don’t have the cozy, comfortable feel of living at home. It’s up to your senior to decide what makes the most sense for them.

Memory Care Facilities

Memory care facilities are similar to assisted living facilities, but they provide services that are specifically designed for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other memory issues. Some memory care facilities provide medical assistance on-site, but many do not. It’s important that you ask questions when looking for a facility for your senior. In addition to helping the patient with daily tasks, memory care facilities help make daily living less confusing. The spaces are designed to be secure so they won’t overwhelm patients. Memory units are usually locked units.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

For seniors who need full-time medical care, skilled nursing facilities often provide the best, most comprehensive services. A skilled nursing facility provides your senior with access to doctors and nurses around the clock should they need it, as well as assistance with ADL’s as you would find in an assisted living facility. Skilled nursing facilities provide the most comprehensive care for seniors dealing with chronic illness.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities are the most expensive of all senior care options, but also provide the most comprehensive care. CCRCs provide lifetime care for seniors, ranging from independent living options to skilled nursing. Seniors sign a contract, usually either for life or for a certain number of years, and their care is adjusted throughout their stay to suit their needs. CCRCs work well for couples when one person needs more care than the other, because they often allow them to stay together while still getting the care they need.

At-Home Care

For seniors who want to remain at home with family, there are many at-home care options available. Local caregiving agencies provide personalized care to help seniors maintain a healthy daily routine while living at home. A caregiver might arrive daily for bathing, for some meals or for an outing–a walk if the senior is able or in a wheelchair to go grocery shopping or out to lunch.

With so many care options available for seniors, it is becoming easier to find options that will help you care for your aging parent or relative. When making an appointment to tour a facility, ask to speak with someone concerning the cost. Know your financial situation, make sure that you or your parent can afford this facility, even if they have a long term care policy–which doesn’t usually cover everything. You want the best for your senior, but it is essential that you consider finances in the process. If your senior is transitioning to retirement or struggling with health issues, it may be time to start considering his or her finances and visiting the senior care facilities in your area.

This post was written by Holly Klamer. She loves to write on issues related to seniors, aging and retirement and is a frequent contributor on many blogs and online publications.




When I was growing up, reality was the warmth of my parent, the fun I had with my brothers, the family gatherings on Sunday nights when my grandmother and aunts would drive the few miles to our home on the Southside of Chicago and we would have what Mom called, “a cold supper.” Sandwiches, olives and pickles, maybe coleslaw. The radio was often on, with some background music or the most recent hit song. It was during that time in my life when I asked my mother why all the songs on the radio were about love. I WAS A KID. Her answer was simple: “Love makes the world go round.” Our lives were simple.

Television was simple and it was rare. Today, life is lived against the background of the lives of others. When you have two pair of jeans but the film personality you follow on Twitter has 52 specially made pairs, you might turn away from your “phone” and feel bad about yourself.


Perspective is needed in our world today, and yet we seem to be moving farther from it. What happens in the lives of the super wealthy–is not a reality that my children and my grandchildren will probably ever attain. Not that aren’t smart, good and beautiful enough to do so. But they are also WISE and their parents are WISE. Wisdom will set their reality on a line of perspective. Because life and living are real—not fantasy. We are “people” or “folks” I like to say. WE ARE NOT STARS. And truly, no one is. The definition of the society we built and hope to continue to build is democracy. WE THE PEOPLE. There are no kings and queens here. Sorry, someone in the White House.


A star is a fixed luminous point in the night sky that is a large, remote incandescent body like the sun. That’s my view and I’m sticking to it. The other definition should be changed. People who perform in film and television are not stars. They are people. Some have talent and some do not. So okay: I don’t believe that the people who are pulled into reality television or rise up because of numbers on Twitter or some other social media are stars. They are people.


Ann Friedman wrote recently about Kylie Jenner being on the cover of Forbes. The youngest Kardashian became an almost billionaire at the age of 21. Woo hoo. Wow, gosh oh gee. The title of Friedman’s article: KYLIE KENNER DIDN’T BUILD THAT. Oh she is so correct and Friedman underlines this by writing: in our economic climate, the odds of going from rich to filthy rich are pretty good. The odds of going from rags to riches have never been slimmer!!

Since 1982, Forbes has been publishing the rankings of the richest people. In 2014 it started a “self-made” score for the millionaires and billionaires. You score 1-5 if you inherited some of your fortune. You score 6-10 if you truly made it on your own. Oprah got an absolute 10!! Jenner got a 7 and Mark Zuckerberg of FB, got an 8.

What does Friedman write: These scores are delusional. Zuckerberg, the son of a dentist and a psychiatrist raised in Westchester County NY was educated at an elite boarding school, Phillips Exeter. Jenner, raised in Calabasas, CA was only ten when the reality TV show “Keeping up with the Kardashians” debuted. The money came pouring in and incrementally increased as they renewed their reality TV contract. And then there’s Kylie’s social media following.

People actually created a GoFundMe posting on Twitter and Instagram, asking fans to send money to help Jenner push to billionaire status. The GoFundMe page has raised $2,000. Those funds could do so much good in other places. What are people thinking?

But of course, the royal Kardashians defended the entire crazy situation. Heiress Paris Hilton stated: “It’s important to remember that Kylie’s cosmetics business was built by grinding.” Friedman writes: “Sure, Jenner was born on third base, but why not talk about how quickly she crossed home plate?”


In America today, Jenner’s journey is easy–for some. But it’s almost impossible to get off first base for most. Wages are rising faster for folks who already make a good living. And the traditional means of closing the money gap by getting a college education is now less of a guarantee.

What about the American myth of rages to riches? Pew found 1 in 5 people think that the dream is now out of reach for their family. And media has decided that it’s easier, sexier to shout out the success of Zuckerberg and Jenner than to focus on making more opportunities for folks who start out with nothing, like Oprah.


Yes, President Obama once said of wealthy Americans, you didn’t build that. Or at least most of you didn’t. You had a leg up, a relative, an easy entrance into Harvard, the right skin color, no accent. That’s fine, Congratulations. But that should not be the ONLY American way. Bottom line, like the post I wrote last week, media coverage should feature those that became successful Americans because of their hard work, their tenacity and struggle, their bit-by-bit success. I will cheer them on every day. They will make me smile.

Want to feel good about your own personal reality? Help a family member; volunteer; work for a charity. But Kylie Jenner?? She didn’t build that, she just capitalized on what was already there.







Signs, Tragedies and Why We Tell Jokes

CHANGE: It Can Be for the GOOD!!


What went through your mind when you first looked at the above photo. If you have lived in California for many years, you might be familiar with this signage. I was not. THIS WAS A FIRST FOR ME.

Today in the LA TIMES it was reported that this last “immigrant crossing” sign next to the 5 Freeway near the Mexican/California border has become obsolete and thus has been taken down–by someone. They don’t know who. I believe that’s okay. The article stated that fences had been erected over the years to protect people from being hit if they decided to run across the freeway–another reason the signs were no longer needed. Also, the number of people crossing the border illegally has dropped dramatically in the 21st century, a 83% drop.

History Behind the Sign 

The sign has always been a source of controversy. That makes sense to me.

Many see it as an offensive caricature of people from Mexico fleeing to the US. Justin Akers Chacon, a professor of Chicano Studies at San Diego City College related that critics of the signage felt that the imagery dehumanized immigrants, likening them to animals. I agree.

Historically, the signs warning drivers had no image. Drivers had to quickly read: Caution watch for people crossing road. Then artist John Hood was asked to add the drawing. HIs take on what he created: “It doesn’t mean they are running across the freeway. It means they are running FROM something else as well. I think it’s a struggle for a lot of things–for opportunities, for freedom.” Thus even the artist who created the sign has a more open position on the immigration argument.

Different Views  

Everard Meade, director of the Trans Border Institute States: “The thing with these symbols is that the response is 50-50. Some people see that sign and think, ‘My god, this is a sign that represents how our immigration policy has failed, and we put people in vulnerable position such that we have to have a road sign so people don’t run them over on the highway.”

Pedro Rios, director of the U.S. Mexico Border Program for the American Friends Service Committee advocates for migrant rights. He pointed out that Operation Gatekeeper pushed would-be-immigrants routes east over the mountains and through deserts. “Ironically, this pushed migrants into less-populated areas…it means that fewer migrants died crossing in the San Diego region, but more were in peril in the less-visible treacherous crossing routes.” Obviously, the arguments pertaining to border crossing continue.

My First Encounter

Being new to California and not living near the San Diego border, I had never seen one of these signs until today, in the newspaper. But when contemplating what to write about today–it communicated to me HOW OUR REACTION TO THINGS CHANGE. And often for the good.

Growing up in Chicago in the sixties there were a series of horrible murders--3 women at Starved Rock National Park, a teenage female found in Montrose Harbor and two sisters also found dead and frozen during the winter months. Jokes were actually told about these incidents. I won’t recount them, but they were gruesome. And people laughed. But comics often go to the scene of the crime, so to speak, to soften the horror and thus DEAL with the harsh realities of other peoples’ lives.

What did drivers say when they saw those signs along the Freeway? Maybe they were more alert to not hitting a human being, but maybe after a while the sign meant NEXT TO NOTHING, DID NOT TOUCH THEIR LIVES, just like the horrible jokes I remember DID NOT TOUCH MY LIFE. Maybe the signs even created some jokes. We use humor to push the tragic away.

So Why Do We Tell Sick Jokes About Tragedies? 

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos worries that sick humour’s popularity is symptomatic of an unhealthy culture which has been desensitised to the suffering of others.

“One of the reasons we laugh at tragedy is that it makes the enormity of the issue easier to deal with,” she states. “But we do live in a society where tragedy has become something that we’ve become conditioned to laugh at.”

Sigmund Freud addressed this in his essay HUMOR. He argued that sick jokes were the mechanism by which the ego “insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world”.  

Comedian and writer Erma Bombeck once said: “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

Psychologist Peter Mcgraw in an article tried to uncover the reasons as to why sometimes tragedy can result in laughter. The core of the theory? That the amount of time that elapses since the tragedy and how closely the tragedy hits home, and how severe it is affects the aspect of humor.

  • distance can be measured in both time and space so that small tragedies, or mishaps (what the authors call benign violations), are more likely to generate humor if they happened to you or to a close friend.
  • but large misfortunes are funnier when they are inflicted on other people–and not you.

Fences and Walls  

Maybe the sign in the photo above was looked upon by most drivers in the San Diego area as a necessity of that time period. Maybe some drivers were angered and upset by the image and touched by the humanity of the situation. Maybe the sign instigated joke-telling as people made their way north on the freeway without a care in the world. “Did you hear about the …etc etc. (I actually don’t know any of those jokes and if I did I would not print them.) And I am horrified that in my youth I laughed about someone’s misfortune. I’m glad the signs are gone and I hope we now think or people fleeing other countries as not that far from our own immigrant ancestors who came to this country for a better life. I’m sure once they got here there were jokes to tell: maybe jokes about sinking ships and nasty workers on Ellis Island. But then–they were here, they were free, they could begin a new life.

Found this Ellis Island Joke:

Yehudah Tzvi Windweher arrived at Ellis Island and asked his friend “What would be a good American name for me? I want it to be Jewish, but more American.”

His friend replied, “Sam Cohen, that’s a good American Jewish name.”

Yehudah Tzvi began his long walk up a massive flight of steps leading to the immigration office. With each step he said, “Sam Cohen, Sam Cohen,” in an earnest effort to learn his new name. When he finished carrying his luggage to the top of the flight, he was winded and tired.

A large immigration officer caught Yehuda Tzvi off guard when he said, “NAME?” in a booming voice. A flustered Yehudah Tzvi replied “Shoyn fargesin” (“I already forgot” in Yiddish).

The immigration officer replied “Sean Ferguson, welcome the United States of America!”

My Wild Wonderful & Sweet Children–Every One

My Wild Wonderful & Sweet Children--Everyone

My husband and I are blessed with three amazing children. The point of this post is that not only are they all living good lives–it’s that ALL THREE ARE SWEET! Why is that a big deal?

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Faith Salie, author of the Approval Junkie, published a piece with the above title in TIME MAGAZINE. I LOVED WHAT SHE SAID. I wish I’d written that piece. So I looked her up. Faith is an American journalist, writer, actor, comedian, and contributes to CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! SHE’S A SMART WOMAN.

Faith has damn good insights. Her first child was her son and when her husband greeted the newborn, he said, “Hi Sweet Pea” not Buddy or Little Man and Faith felt great comfort. She saw from the beginning that both of them would be committed to raising a sweet boy and Faith, like many other mothers, realizes that this is what the world needs now–millions of them.

Faith now has two children–her son is five and her daughter is three. She uses metaphors for the trajectory of their individual lives: the girl deemed a makeshift kite to be a fencing foil and raced around the yard proclaiming “En grade!” At a birthday party, the boy asked the balloon artist for a heart, instead of the usual sword.

Here’s the point Faith makes: “Boys have always known they could do anything; all they had to do was look around at their presidents, religious leaders, professional athletes and at statutes …in cities big and small.” “Girls always knew that they were allowed to feel anything–except anger.”

Yes. But now girls, led by women, are allowed to be angry. They can feel all emotions and use them to determine their futures. LIKE MY TWO DAUGHTERS. Christine had to deal (and did so expertly) with egotistical, obnoxious men when she worked in the film industry. Caroline had initially wanted to major in architecture, but found her way to city planning and landscape as a more wide-open choice for her. They are both powerful women in their own right.


Faith states it clearly: while now girls are encouraged to take on the roles that were once only for men, boys who already knew they could be all these things–astronauts, tech giants–their parents often fail to help them access their emotions, understand them and how to work with them. Faith points out that boys are still dressed in trucks and footballs. She saw a onesie for a baby boy that read TOUGH LIKE DADDY and would much rather see one that read RESILIENT LIKE MOMMY. (Also consider how many men around the age of 27 commit suicide or go on a murder rampage. The statistics are chilling.)

There is nothing wrong, but absolutely right, to raise a son and foster his innate sweetness. Because this boy will grow up to see that there is strength in being vulnerable and empathetic. (Empathy, which is now one of my favorite words for all time.)  Faith states that when boys grow to be men and understand their emotions they:

  • aren’t threatened by criticism
  • don’t perceive COMPETITION from people because of their skin color or sexual orientation, religion, education or as Faith writes WHATEVER!!

When boys feel everything without shame it is because their parents and hopefully the wider society have given them permission to access their emotions, welcome them and understand them. There is NO SHAME in having and expressing emotion for males or females.

Faith writes: “Parents must invite their sons to be sad, afraid, hurt, silly and affectionate, and embrace them as often as they snuggle their daughters. Sweet boys learn early on that they can defend themselves against loneliness by reaching out and asking for support rather than turning into people who, literally grab for power. Sweet boys evolve into openhearted men who aren’t confused about consent and sexual boundaries, because they experience women as equals.” 


I kept a baby book for each of my children. I recorded their birth weights and size, taped in  their foot print sheets and went from there. Their growth, new teeth and first words were all recorded. Their illnesses, birthdays, funny and amazing proclamations–all were recorded. My husband and I realized that we were raising two girls and then a boy–but that pattern for each was the same.

HOW DID OUR THREE TURN OUT?  I could go on for hours, but I’ll make it brief.

Caroline has an MA in City Planning & Landscape Architecture, works in the Green Movement, helping to restructure buildings to become LEED certified. (LEED is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)

Christine has worked in the film industry, only to do a one-eighty and earn her MA in Theology, with a focus in spiritual direction. She has three amazing children and published a book about what she learned from them.

Andrew works in marketing for a firm that specializes in games, he plays guitar, knows chapter and verse about many kinds of music, and writes his own songs.

They are wild and wonderful, creative and funny, curious and interesting and all have found amazing life-partners. They love adventure and yet sitting around a fireplace on a cold night just talking–nothing could be better.

When my husband and I hurt, they are there for us. When we cry, they cry; when we laugh, they laugh. Last night our son called with excitement as his girlfriend Amy had been honored with first place at an art show. This is a man who GETS IT. But I have to say, he’s had a great role model all his life–his father. He did get called, Buddy, now and again, he was encouraged to play baseball etc but there was never a doubt that he would be sweet and kind–and today he is a man of great empathy–in a world where anger, ego, lust and pride are sometimes held up as the way to be.

No, never. Not our son. Or the sons of our children.

Great thanks to Faith Salie; Photo Credit: DAD

In 2018, What Will Concern You, Affect Your Happiness?

In 2018, What Will Concern You, Affect Your Happiness?

As we enter a new year, it’s always wonderful to see it as a clean slate where we set out certain goals and eagerly work to attain them. But I will digress, remembering instead a year that was not about finishing a writing project, celebrating a wedding or a graduation or even as basic as painting a room or cleaning the basement. It was a year of CHANGE.


It was 2013 where the mundane LIST above was eclipsed by life itself. The first concern was my mother. Diagnosed with dementia, in her upper 90s and living in a senior home in the memory unit, we wondered if she would live through the year.

Second, and in my mind the concern of my entire life, was my husband, newly entered in a clinical trial for a chronic form of leukemia that had wrecked havoc on his blood counts so that he was in grave danger.

And third was our plan to put our house on the market and move closer to one of our children–because John had retired but was fighting this cancer and because it has always been our modus operandi to make things simpler when complications are on the horizon.

And though we could not see the future, our end goal was to be happy. But not before we complicated our lives. Yet in the process, found many blessings.


My mother died that spring. We had already put our house on the market, planning for a waiting and real estate bargaining period of six months. WRONG. The first family that went through wanted the house. That’s called: it sold in one day–just before Mom died. Then we realized we had to find a place to live, pack and move on. In the end, we accomplished it all.

It was a time when our country was humming along. We read the paper, kept up with the news, but our brains had space to grieve (Mom’s funeral) heal (John’s body responding to the clinical trial drug) and plan (we flew to California and after many days of looking, found a home we liked and could afford.)


Now as I publish this, it’s almost 2018. Yes, we got through 2017, but only because in our own personal lives it was not 2013, we were not in transition. Transition in a PHYSICAL, MENTAL SENSE. (You know that losing a parent and moving are two of the most stressful life events. And I might have lost my husband! No wonder my  hair thinned!)

But many folks are now losing their hair, seeking medical advice both physical and psychological (I asked my internist and she said yes, has never been busier, never seen so many SICK clients) because of the climate we are now living in. How your country treats you matters. Will 2018 be better?

If you’ve stopped reading, that’s okay. My musings on this blog HAVE to include how life affects others. Yes, I am able to carry happiness with me, but I also FEEL for others–on a daily basis. I feel for my country. I want healthcare for its citizens–and jobs, and good housing and education for all children and much more.


Well I am rich in so many ways: family, friends, health, a lovely place to live, my 2001 Dodge that still runs. But recent research indicates that if I were economically RICH, I might feel differently about people like me or people who have much less than I have.

BOTTOM LINE: The rich experience happiness in ways different from me.

The research reveals that instead of “feeling positive emotions that involved connections with other people, their (the rich) happiness is more likely to be expressed as feelings that focus on themselves.”  

This finding was published this month in the journal EMOTION and according to the psychologists that conducted it, their findings seemed to fit a larger pattern. They wrote: People with money are more insulated from social and environmental threats. That gives them the luxury of being able to focus on their own ‘internal states and goals’ instead of having to worry about other people.

The report goes on to say: Those who inhabit the lower classes…often find themselves at the mercy of others. They may be more vulnerable to crime, or may be forced to send their children to underfunded schools. 

And for those who struggle to pay all their bills, here’s a fascinating result to their condition. In order to accomplish what they need to accomplish: the best coping strategy is to muddle through together. That requires them to focus on other people instead of themselves.  


Researchers surveyed data from 1, 519 Americans, questioning them about their household income and their emotional state. The participants were from all 50 states and represented a mircrocosm of the entire country.

The survey probed people’s happiness, asking about 7 distinct positive emotions: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love and pride. Each emotion was described in a concise statement and survey-takers used a 7 point scale to show how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement.

  • People from higher social classes were more likely to agree with the statement indicating that they felt pride: It feels good to know that people look up to me. But people with less money were more likely to agree with statements that indicated compassion: Nurturing others gives me a warm feeling inside. I develop strong emotions toward people I can rely on.
  • These associations held up even when the study authors controlled for factors including age, gender, political ideology and religious beliefs.

The conclusions that the researchers reached were stated thusly: …wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness. While wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status and individual achievements, less wealthy seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others.”  Read more here.


Of course the above is a limited study. There have to be exceptions to this rule and/or after a person achieves a high level of success and they begin to realize that HELPING OTHERS and SHARING what they have made, is more meaningful than anything they could do. i.e. Bill Gates.

But it’s not true of many who think only of their own bank accounts and security.

As we begin 2018, the needs of many Americans have become more apparent. How can we help? At the granular level: a small donation; helping a neighbor; turning back to a relative that we’ve ignored, joining a group like Meals-On-Wheels (is it still funded?) or offering to visit the elderly in a nursing home. My husband meets with people who are homeless and/or jobless and helps them construct a resume and the “elevator speech.” Then he helps them search for a position.

At the heart of every man and woman is the desire to work and care for themselves. Let’s make 2018 a year of believing that and helping to make it so–in whatever way you possibly can.

Photo: Thanks to Napoleon Hill and Brainy Quotes



Daddy’s Penny Box

Daddy's Penny Box

small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field cover.

It’s sometimes hard to hold on to a dream, or make a plan work out. The very definition of “life” includes disappointment. But humanity has dealt with this by educating people that can help us: doctors, counselors, lawyers etc. They study so that they can supply us with help and care when our dreams, our bodies are failing. Today, you can search the net for advice if you want to be a photographer, writer, artist—the list is endless. Our endeavors are endless. And complicated.

But notice, I have yet to mention the first person each of us encounters who begins the process: comforts us when we have pain; praises us when we do the right thing and scolds and should explain why, when do the wrong thing. Parents. Parent. Guardian. The one who is there when we need to be fed and our diapers changed. The beginning.

Growing up I had one parent. I lost my father when I was three. (Many of you already know this.) But my two brothers and I had this amazing woman for a mother. A loving, complicated, intelligent woman (Jinni) who probably never sought out a grief counselor when left with three children to raise—ages: 3 months, 3 and 6 years. How the hell did she do it?

Jinni had her own family behind her (mother, father, brother and two single sisters), people used to working for a purpose, people whose first reaction to a sad and complicated situation was kindness and how can I help.

But no person suddenly bereft of the one they counted on, bereft of the vision they had of their future finds this a happy fact. Jinni certainly had her moments of doubt and fear. But then she went on. There are so many examples of this in my personal story. Can you think of one in yours? If so, it’s good to be grateful.

Jinni’s three kids are older now, and though she lived into her late nineties, she shines bright and vigorous in our minds and always will.

But I’m going to take you back to our house in Chicago, to our dining room that had built-in cabinets with glass doors above and yet a cabinet below that was child accessible. In this cabinet was a small cardboard box, plain white, probably once covered with the dark green Marshall Field & Co. cover. But it was open and into it Jinni tossed pennies—change from her trips to the store. She called it Daddy’s Penny Box, because she started it after he died, and probably because when going through his top dresser drawer, she found a bunch of pennies.

In our Southside neighborhood, there was a deli that we could walk to in under five minutes. It had a counter with candy displayed in a glass case. We called it Mary’s Candy Store, and many times we would interrupt Jinni, who might be typing insurance policies in the corner of our dining room to pay the bills, to ask if we could go to Mary’s. In my memory, 99% of the time she said yes. And we knew what to do. Grab a few pennies from the box and go. Keary Moran, who lived on our street, once relayed to the neighborhood that we were rich! Of course we weren’t, but he was a kid. He’d seen all those pennies in the box.

But here’s the thing. We were rich. We had Jinni. When she sold our house years later, after my brothers had moved out of state, after I was married and teaching high school, there were still pennies in that box! Lots of them. Jinni believed in us and in our lives and our dreams. Daddy’s Penny Box was a symbol of that belief and promise. It could never become empty because her counsel, her care, her belief in our dreams and goals would never falter. Maybe we should have renamed it, Jinni’s Penny Box. But she would have said no.

My mother was given a major disappointment, one she had not expected. She accepted the help of family, friends, doctors (many who knew my father) and a lawyer friend. But that was early on. Once she got her stride, Jinni instinctively knew what to do. The Penny Box was part of that. She gave love and attention to her three kids. She fulfilled a dream–that she could succeed on her own, and in doing that, she helped fulfill ours.

My older brother is John C. Pfordresher, professor of English at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. His book THE SECRET HISTORY OF JANE EYRE has just been published by Norton. You can read more about it here. 

Daddy's Penny Box

No small accomplishment. Dad would be proud.








My younger brother is William F. Pfordresher (Bill) who went to LA in the early 70s to make it in the music business. HE DID. Read about him here.

And me, I have an amazing husband and family I hold dear. And though I’m  enjoying the process of writing a novel, I still have some dreams to fulfill.

Photo credit: Ebay, Amazon









Work Against a Divided America: Support Good Schools For ALL Our Kids

 Work Against a Divided America: Support Good Schools For All Our Kids

Consider the following words: gangs, drug use, pregnant teens, petty crime, unsafe neighborhoods, poor schools, being homeless, children without parents, reckless driving, suicide, mental health issues. Every word listed could be expanded into reams of writing: how this is a problem, how this problem is growing, how we cannot seem to make a dent in this problem and how every problem listed is a drag on the economy.


Because YES, one problem infects another and each problem affects local, state and national governments and uses tax dollars that could be used to make America the shining city on the hill (Reagan) or whatever metaphor you care to choose.

Because the little kids you see crowded into a poor daycare center today can become the troubled teenagers that might mess up your neighborhood tomorrow or fill up the court systems after that. It has to stop.

Please consider this, taken from an article in the LA TIMES: The current administration wants to impose the biggest cuts to federal education funding in memory and slash support to poor children and families by cutting Medicaid, food stamps and other programs while cutting taxes for the rich. (DO YOU SEE THE GAP GETTING SO WIDE THAT IT CAN NEVER BE HEALED?? my words) It is an agenda that betrays millions of families seeking a better life, and one at odds with what this country stands for. Public schools are a fundamental engine of opportunity in this country. We will (we must) stand together to defend them. ( to read more go here.)

Tax Dollars Need to Be Spent In ALL Neighborhoods

Each problem that I have listed could be ameliorated, helped, reduced, maybe even eliminated if one thing was offered and utilized by each of our citizens: excellent public education that leads to JOBS!!!

The current administration talks a great deal about jobs. But you can’t GET A JOB if you don’t quality, if no one will hire you. There are jobs in this country that American citizens cannot fill so employers go abroad to find workers. Google it. You will find articles like these: America’s Persistent Problem: Unskilled Workers; America Has Near Record 5.6 Million Job Openings. And there is this:

Companies can’t find enough skilled workers. Manufacturing jobs have become more technical, but workers haven’t kept up. That’s left companies with a glut of low-skilled workers and a shortage of applicants who can really do the job. 

There is a solution. There has always been a solution. The United States needs to educate its citizens. ALL ITS CITIZENS. And do a damn good job of it.

A Divided Country Cannot Stand

My argument, and you are welcome to poke holes in it, is that we must eliminate every problem I have listed. We cannot continue on the path we are on which actually is creating two Americas: one where the super-wealthy and the moderately wealthy live and work; the other where the poor and those getting by live and work.

Education Can Make a Difference 

  • Gangs: involving young children in MEANINGFUL education that communicates  self-worth helps them see a future for themselves that is not the streets but a job.
  • Drug use: keep kids involved in the school day with sports and extra curricular activities, honor their self-worth and they won’t need drugs to feel good about themselves.
  • Pregnant teens: I worked with a program called RISING STAR. We helped girls that had already had one child go back to school, alter their goals to include getting a job and thus a feeling of self-worth that comes from earning an income. This also helped them PROVIDE for the child they already had. Today, offering health education in schools and providing healthcare for young girls will help prevent unwanted pregnancies.
  • Petty crime and unsafe neighborhoods go hand in hand, occuring when growing men and women cannot find a purpose for their lives and do not receive respect from teachers, parents and people who have “power” over them.
  • Reckless driving, suicide and mental health issues occur in the lives of young people who are lost and cannot see a future for themselves. They feel rejected by society and harbor a death wish. Education builds self-respect, creates a pathway to a good and fulfilling life.
  • Being homeless or not having a parent often springs from the generation above that did not have a good education and thus a job. Responsibility to the child they brought into the world is key, but some have no hope.

I know I have drawn this picture with some broad strokes, so next week I will offer a few solutions. Thanks for reading. I’ll end with a few more thoughts from the LA TIMES article.

Research, common sense and our collective experiences working with children, families and schools tell us that we must invest in, not cut back, public education. That means providing high-quality preschool for kids, and the social health and mental health services they need. It means making sure students are reading at grade level by the end of the third grade, that they have powerful learning opportunities, including career and technical training that can prepare them for college and work.