November 9

An Open Letter to the President-Elect

Donald Trump,

You’re scaring the women and children.

The day after the election, I found myself sobbing in a co-worker’s office with several of our female colleagues. Our shared pain was not necessarily that Hillary Clinton had lost; most of us were not huge fans, though the prospect of our first woman president was exciting. No, our pain came from our shock and fear that we lived in a country where blatant racism and misogyny are not just tolerated, but rewarded. To the highest office in the land, our fellow Americans had elected a man whom we would not trust to babysit our daughters.

My 11-year-old daughter is terrified of you.

You might think that’s my fault, that my husband and I made a bogeyman out of you. We did not. In fact, we spent months tiptoeing around politics at home, not mentioning the campaign if she was in the room and begging our guests to do the same. But she heard things at school. She’s in a high-ability class, and they watch news. They discuss current events. She was suddenly seeing worrisome changes in her classmates. Some of her Hispanic and Muslim friends were scared. She’s been having nightmares for months. You are the monster under her bed.

The morning after the election, I had to go upstairs to wake her for school. To help her sleep the night before, I had lied and told her the election results were tied even though you were already ahead. I didn’t want any more nightmares for at least one more night.

Walking up those stairs was like walking to the gallows for my own execution. I dreaded the moment I actually had to tell her that the monster in her dreams had been elected president. I stood in the doorway and looked at her peaceful sleeping face for a minute. When she opened her eyes and asked, “Do we know?” I had to tell her yes, we did, and Secretary Clinton had lost.

I tried to do it the same way I would pick her up after a tumble when she was very little: keep the tone light, brush her off, make it no big deal.

Or the way I do when she finds a big, scary spider, and I have to get rid of it without freaking out because I don’t want her to inherit my fear. Keep the tone light, eliminate the spider, no big deal.

She cried anyway.

So here is my plea, Mr. Trump:

Stop talking about women in terms of our genitalia or physical attractiveness. (Including your own daughter, please.)
Stop threatening to shoot or bomb random people.
Stop exhorting your supporters to shoot people.
Stop bullying people on social media.
Stop mocking people with disabilities.
Stop threatening to build impossible walls and deport people because of their religion or ethnicity.
Stop spouting off and listen to the advisers and veteran public servants we’re all now counting on to keep you from sending nukes to some country because one of its citizens looked at you the wrong way.

In short, stop scaring the children. The mothers of America thank you.

Category: Family and Kids, Purely Political | Comments Off
May 10

Toxic

Toxic – adj.  1) containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation  2)  extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful (merriam-webster.com)

“By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner. While a healthy relationship contributes to our self-esteem and emotional energy, a toxic relationship damages self-esteem and drains energy.” (Thomas Cory,  http://www.healthscopemag.com/health-scope/toxic-relationships/)

 

I’ve been thinking about toxic relationships a lot lately. Thankfully, I’m not a participant in any myself, but they seem to be on the rise all around me this spring. Spouses, siblings, parents and children all spouting nasty venom in various ways, hurting the people who love them and often shocking those of us who are just observing.  I’ve seen so much of this stuff lately; I’m starting to recognize patterns.

Pattern 1 – Observers can usually see both sides of the situation. At first.  Both parties usually start off looking justified. Those around them begin discussions appraise both sides equally. He’s a hot mess; she’s an enabler. She’s mentally ill; he’s trying to keep the family together. Initially, both parties strike observers as contributing equally to the problems.

Pattern 2 – One of them goes off the rails. Cheats on the spouse and abandons the family. Goes off on a terrible rant and starts talking about the other person behind their back. Runs off and spends the family’s entire savings.

Pattern 3 – Once Party A goes around the bend, they usually lose the support of people around them. In most of the toxic relationships I’ve witnessed, Party A is the one who comes off as the cause of the toxicity. Maybe he/she didn’t start it, but they go too far. They become so self-absorbed and self-justified, they indiscriminately hurt everyone around them.

Pattern 4 – Party B tries to salvage the relationship, often at terrible cost to their own self-esteem, physical health, financial well-being, or other relationships.

Pattern 5 – Party A moves on and tries to cover his/her tracks. They break past connections and attempt to keep new friends from knowing about their previous behaviors. They may also try to vilify Party B to deflect any blame.

Pattern 6 – Some people, even some who are Party A, never have another toxic relationship; they were just part of a bad combination. Other people are just toxic themselves. They repeat these patterns over and over again during their lives. They leave a wake of destruction, divorces, broken hearts, arrests, bankruptcies, and abandonments wherever they go.

 

I would never presume to offer expertise on this topic. I am no psychologist, plus I’ve had little personal experience with these types of relationships (just lucky, I guess). If you need help, the internet is actually a pretty good place to start.

If you do a little research and realize you are in a toxic relationship, take steps to protect yourself. But don’t fall into Pattern 2! You can back away from a toxic person without hurting everyone around you. And remember – if Party A walks away, they are doing you a favor. Yes, it will hurt. But think of all the future pain you will avoid. Let them go.

 

Category: Family and Kids | Comments Off
May 1

Consider Your Source

Let me preface this by saying, I love lots of people with divorces and bankruptcies under their belts. Some of my favorite people have been arrested and gone through rehab. Everyone makes mistakes. Lord knows I make plenty. But I know it. The following is about people who are blind to their own faults, people who screw up regularly, often hurting those around them, and then want to give other people advice.

I have two college degrees.

I’ve been married only once, for going on 20 years now.

I have two happy, healthy, well-behaved kids who love me and their father.

I have a nice house in a safe neighborhood.

I’ve never been arrested or had any charges or lawsuits brought against me, including divorce or bankruptcy.

My husband and I are saving up for our kids’ college educations as well as our own retirements.

Am I proud? Well, sure. A little. I’d say about 50% of these achievements came through hard work and thoughtful decision-making.

But I know the other 50% had nothing to do with me. It was a combination of privilege, luck, and help from other people. The fact that I was born to two college-educated, middle-class American professionals who loved each other and their children? That was luck. Because of my privilege as a white, middle-class kid whose parents had been through the university experience, I was able to breeze through school and attain my college education in four years with no debt.

The fact that I fell for a brilliant, hard-working guy who was determined to build a comfortable, loving home for his family? That was mostly luck and some help from a friend who introduced us.

The fact that I’ve never been in any legal trouble? Well, it certainly helps that my parents set great examples for me. That they provided me with everything I needed so I never felt the need to seek acceptance, confirmation, confidence or really anything else in drugs, risky relationships, or other bad choices.

The fact that we have a nice house and some solid investments? Again, help from my parents who paid for most of my college expenses. (And luck, of course. All that could disappear with another nasty financial crash.)

I had help from some good people.

I KNOW from good people.

I take advice from good people – people who know what they’re talking about because they have proven expertise and experience.

So when people with NO such expertise or positive experience give me advice, I bite my tongue. When people with a track record of terrible decision-making try to tell me what decision to make, I often do the opposite of what they’ve suggested. Interestingly, it’s the folks with a long history of failures who seem to want to offer advice most often. I suppose they have to justify all their mistakes somehow; they tell themselves that all these missteps have made them wiser. They, therefore, feel justified in sharing their acquired wisdom.

Except that many of these people often keep making bad choices.

From where I’m sitting, most of them don’t look seem to have learned anything.

I nod and smile. Walk away. I’ll stick with what I know works – thoughtful decision-making, advice from the successful people I trust.

All this to say: consider your source. Always.

Consider your source.

You wouldn’t buy a Rolex from a seedy-looking guy in a trenchcoat, right?

Don’t take medical advice from an electrician.

Don’t take legal advice from a plumber.

Don’t take ethics advice from (or vote for!) a guy with multiple bankruptcies, lawsuits, and divorces.

Consider your source.

January 6

Greetings from the Polar Vortex!

The temperature is currently -9 degrees in my hometown. Our forecast low for tonight is -14 with a windchill of -38. Yesterday we received 11 inches of snow. It’s January 6th, and we are already on the leaderboard for monthly snowfall totals: 5th snowiest January in Indiana history!

I love it.

Truly, I do. My Facebook page is full of weather posts – pictures of snowscapes, screenshots of temperature readings, grumbly memes about winter. These posts are overwhelmingly negative. Even the sunshiny brightsiders in my life are grumbling (Geez, all it takes to destroy their positive outlooks is a foot of snow and some sub-zero temps? Wimps.)  A few of my fellow winter-philes are enjoying this, but even we understand that this kind of weather is extreme and dangerous to the foolish, infirm, or impoverished.

Since I’ve checked on my all my chickens and found them all safe in their nests, though, I’m going to revel and bask in this tundra. While the folks around me whine and complain and wish away the white, longing for flip-flops, heat, sunburn, sweat, mosquitoes and drought, I’d like to point out that this weather is NOT all bad. In fact, there are some really great things about it!

1. Those West Nile mosquitoes that will arrive with spring? This weather reduces their numbers: “Cold temperatures perform a great public health service by killing off disease-mongering insects” (Harvard Health Letter, 1/10).

2. The cold also helps destroy icky water-borne microorganisms, the kind of nasties that thrive in the tropics and temperate zones.

3. By essentially quarantining people for several days, this severe weather can help to slow down the spread of the worrisome flu epidemic we saw last month.

4. Crime goes down with the mercury; you’re less likely to be the victim of a violent crime committed by a stranger when it’s cold.

5. This weather SLOWS things down. This is one of the things I really appreciate about a good, hard winter. My life (and the lives of many people I know) is too fast. Not like in an Eagles’ song kind of way, but in a our-family-has-no-white-space-on-our-calendar-for-three-weeks kind of way. An I-have-to-buy-a-birthday-gift-for-Jimmy’s-party-on-the-26th-even-though-it’s-only-the-5th-because-I-won’t-have-any-other-time-to-do-it kind of way. I hate that. In weather like this, there is no hurry because NO ONE is in a hurry. Heck, we can’t even leave the house! Wonderful.

6. This weather makes things quiet. Another reason I love severe cold snaps: for the first time in weeks, I wasn’t awakened by the damn dogs next door.

7. The snow covers up the ugly. Weeds, brown grass, litter, the junk in the renters’ yard? All covered up for now. :)

8. With little else to do, chores become diversions. My house has never been cleaner! I’ve re-organized closets, sent several boxloads of unnecessaries to Goodwill, dusted the whole house. The kids haven’t even complained when they’ve had to do their chores because, well, they’re kind of bored at this point. We were supposed to go back to school, but we’re closed tomorrow.

9. Shoveling snow is good exercise. My husband’s burned more calories in the past two days than he probably did in the two weeks previous!

10. Playing in the snow is a lovely, novel means of family fun. In Indiana anyway, our winters are usually more cold than snowy. When we do get big snows, it’s unusual enough that we want to get out and play in it. Before the hazardous temps moved in, we played outside for an hour. (Our snowman is nearly buried in a drift today, though. Poor guy.)

11. Sub-zero temps allow intelligent people to more easily identify the stupid people in their lives. These morons will pop out all over the place to proclaim that global warming is a hoax.  (Scientists, can we please just kill the phrase “global warming?” It’s confuses the morons. “Climate change,” please, scientists.) Evidently, the record-breaking heat currently happening in Australia doesn’t count for the stupids because it’s not happening right in front of them; heat only counts if it’s where they are. Anyway, it makes for a super-simple way to identify all the people I need to hide on Facebook.

So for those of you in the frigid with me, stay safe and try to appreciate some of the benefits of this crazy weather. For those of you enjoying warmer climes, don’t gloat too loudly; my bitter friends may come after you after the travel restrictions are lifted!

Category: Current Events, Family and Kids, Popular Culture | Comments Off
April 7

Balance in the Force

Endor and Naboo versus Tatooine and Hoth.

Ewoks and Gungans versus Sand People and Tauntauns.

Most Star Wars fans would readily admit that they prefer Tatooine and Hoth and their inhabitants to anything featuring Endor or Naboo. Among the geeks, the sappy ending of Return of the Jedi with its dancing teddy bears and Episode Ones ridiculous Jar Jar Binks are considered travesties that nearly sunk George Lucas epic.

Judging from my Facebook wall, though, most people seem to want to live on Endor or Naboo. They post all these maudlin, cheesy pictures of unicorns and rainbows. They share positive thinking memes with rainbows and puppies. They wish away winter for “flip-flop weather” and sunshine. And I fight my gag reflex.

Things that make other people giddy with joy leave me cold or make shudder. Let me show you what I mean. Here is a list:

  • Morning
  • Sunshine
  • Warm weather
  • Dogs
  • Sleeping with windows open
  • Dinners out with groups of friends

Does this list make you happy? Youre not alone. Seems like 99% of my 500 Facebook friends love all that crap too.

I dont.

In fact, a few of those things would be on a list of things I despise. Mornings? Ugh. Sunshine, well, thanks to a childhood eye injury, bright light gives me a migraine. Warm weather? No, thanks. Im always hot anyway, plus I dont want to see my neighbors fat rolls in a tank top or Uncle Bobs hairy, sweaty back as he mows the laws. Not to mention the fact that warm weather makes people temperamental, loud, and obnoxious.

Dogs would not be on my hate list, but their barking sure would be. You know that show, Inside the Actors Studio? And the host acts famous actors what sound they hate? Yeah, dogs barking would be on that list. Growing up, I was traumatized by too many nasty neighborhood dogs to ever truly trust any of them, but I have made a few canine friends over the years. Still, I scroll right past most dog pics on my Facebook wall, and if youre one of those people who has to rush home from a wedding, a holiday, or a party to take care of poor little Snookems who might be lonely because youve been gone for two hours, Im not sure we can ever be real friends.

Now sleeping with the windows open does SOUND nice. We did have a long, cold March, so I understood when people were excitedly posting about getting to open up their windows at last. Unfortunately, in our house, leaving the windows open after sundown is an invitation for a major asthma attack and/or laryngitis.

Dinners out with groups of friends always sound like a great idea too. And I admit that when I see Facebook pics of some of my friends eating at a long table at some restaurant, I get a momentary pang of envy. Then I remember: I HATE going to restaurants with big groups of people! First, those pictures on my wall are lies of perspective. Sure, it looks great: all those friends gathered together, enjoying food I didnt have to cook, smiling happily for the camera. But most of the time, if youre actually sitting at the long table, you dont get to talk to even half the people gathered. (Since I usually have to bring my kids with me, two of the people are always my own ubiquitous offspring.) That is, if you can even hear your friends. The kinds of restaurants where people tend to gather for such chatty, informal meals are usually so noisy, I cant hear anyone beyond the person next to me. And then, theres the problem of service. As a former server, I remember all too well the feeling I got whenever a 10-top or larger. I cringe every time one of my friends asks for another drink, sends back an order or makes a special request from the kitchen. Too many painful memories. So whenever my parents or husband ask what I want to do for my birthday, I tend to beg for a gathering at home. I want to be able to see ALL my friends, hear what they say and not worry about the server spitting in their drinks in an act of passive-aggressive frustration.

After all that, I guess its no wonder that my friends think Im a morose freak.

Ahhh, but heres the twist. My friends hate things I LOVE!

  • Long, dark nights
  • Cold weather
  • Snow
  • Cooking
  • Hosting large parties
  • Grocery shopping
  • Laundry
  • Grammar
  • Public speaking
  • Writing essays
  • Classic literature
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Snakes
  • Old movies
  • Teenagers
  • Desolate, empty landscapes

So when my wall is full of whiny grumblings about how much people hate winter, how much they hate black and white films, how much they hate doing laundry or going grocery shopping, Im shaking my head, wondering what is WRONG with these people?!

I try to toe the line, though. People get mad if I post about how much I love snow; contrariwise, people get mad if I complain about the travesty that is Daylight Savings Time. Instead, I keep my preferences quiet these days, posting on individuals walls rather than on my own. I know the few soul mates who share my love of the long, cold nights of winter, classic books and films, homework and Tatooine-like deserts. I share my strange loves with them individually. We are a dark and twisted group, but there should be room in the world for us. Were heavy, so we provide some balance to those light-hearted folks who cannot sustain their smiles in shadows. Even George Lucas recognized that a universe with too many goody-goody Jedi Knights could not be maintained. The Force must have its Dark Side.

Category: Family and Kids, Popular Culture | Comments Off