Who Is At Fault?


I used to be a teacher. For many years, I was one of those people charged with keeping our children educated, safe, confident and skilled. One of the many charges that I took so seriously during those years was the charge to prevent children from bullying each other.

I was a fifth grade teacher. My students were ten and eleven years old. I was told that if they bullied each other, part of the fault was mine.

I understood. My classroom spent time every single day talking about how to interact with civility, with kindness, with generosity. I remember talking to them about the fact that they did NOT have to be friends. They did NOT have to like each other.

“But, here’s the thing,” I would tell them, “You are all members of this very same classroom community. You must treat each other with respect and care. If you don’t, our entire community will suffer. We will not achieve our goal of learning what we are supposed to learn if you are mean to each other and if you fail to support each other.”

And I taught them that if anyone of them became a bully, they all had a moral obligation to stand up to that bully and to protect the victim. I taught them not to be bystanders. I taught them not to let the bully get away with intimidating the weaker members of our community.

Those children understood what I taught. More importantly, they carried out those lessons every single day. To quote one of my students, some five years after he had left my classroom: “We learned that we were all really friends. In Karen’s classroom, everyone stood up for each other.”

So here I am. Four years after my retirement. Wondering how it is that we expect ten year olds to understand and carry out lessons that our actual highly paid, internationally renowned leaders fail to grasp.

How is it that we ask our fifth graders to stop being bullies, to stop intimidating each other, to stop calling each other names, but we let the most powerful people in the country do exactly that? How is it that we expect our youngest children to act in ways that we don’t demand of our so called “leaders”?

When Donald Trump calls his adversaries names, when he labels them as “enemies”, when he asks his followers to attack them, he is behaving in all of the ways that we won’t allow our children to do. He is the absolute epitome of the ignorant, hateful bully on the playground.

The bully that every public school teacher is expected to stop in his tracks.


Where is Congress in this current bullying situation? Where are the leaders of the GOP? Where are the people who we expect to protect us from the ignorant, hateful bully on the national stage?

Why are they acting as bystanders, those silent observers who encourage the bully by not stepping in?

If we can demand that our public school teachers stop bullies, we can damn well demand that our members of Congress do the same. We can demand that our nation’s governors stand up the bully. We can demand that our media outlets stand up to that bully, and that they label his lies as lies.

If you all can ask the average classroom teacher to do it, then you better be absolutely sure that on Nov 6 you will be voting for people who will do the very same thing in Washington.

Bullying is wrong. It’s wrong on the elementary school playground and it’s wrong when it happens on the national stage in front of hundreds of people at a political rally.

Our leaders should be held, at the very least, to the same standards as our public school employees.



Why Do They Call This “Political”?

I spent today, like so many others, listening and watching as the news outlets covered the shooting in Virginia. Congressmen were shot, so the coverage was intense and constant.

I have to write down some what I’m feeling. Otherwise, you know, I’d probably explode in a shower of tear soaked sparks.

It was terrible. It’s a terrible, horrible, awful thing for innocent people to become targets for angry, sick, armed lunatics. When I heard the news breaking this morning I cried. I held my hand over my mouth. I shook my head.

It’s so awful. It should NOT be happening.

Now its a few hours later. I’ve been listening to the men who went through the ordeal.

These middle aged men, some of them military veterans, were on TV, fighting tears. They were talking about how surreal it was. How much they feared for each other, and for themselves. How they thought about their families, wanting to see them again.

These men, one after the other, are shaken, upset, angry and filled with the natural need to process all of this.

My heart goes out to them.


This happens every day.

Every. Day.

Multiple times every day, someone in this country is faced with the surreal situation of being in the presence of an angry shooter.

I think about the children living in America’s cities who have been in their very own bedrooms when shots go off right outside their windows. I think about how horrified those little ones must be, every single damn day.

I wonder if those Congressmen are thinking about these kids?

This morning I heard one of the shaken Congressman saying that he felt like he was a “sitting duck” in the first base dugout. His voice was trembling, he was taking deep breaths as he told his story. I heard the sympathetic voice of the reporter, clearly feeling empathy for the Representative.

That’s when I really stared to cry. To sob, with the back of my hand against my lips. “Sitting ducks”, just waiting to be shot and waiting to die. My mind filled with the image of trembling, terrified victims, suddenly faced with a madman and his gun. Knowing that they were about to die.

But I didn’t see middle aged Congressmen. I didn’t.

I saw first graders. I saw kindergarten students. I saw babies, huddling in terror on the floor of their classroom, crying to their terrified young teacher. Asking her to save them.

I saw my students, looking to me for an explanation after Newtown.

I thought about all the guns, the tens of millions of guns that have flooded this country. I thought about all the times a gun has been used to massacre the innocent.

And I thought about those security officers. How they have to go to work every day knowing that there could be a shooter on any corner. In any building, at any event, on any day. They are surrounded by guns. I thought about how they must feel going to work. How their parents and their spouses and their children must feel.

So I am once again thinking, and praying, and hoping that at last we might see our lawmakers address the need to control our guns.

But if I bring it up, or if anyone does, we are told “this is not the time to politicize” this tragedy.

So here’s my question.

What’s political about wanting to be safe in my own neighborhood?

How is it partisan to think people should be safe at baseball practice? Or to want my grandchildren safe at the park?

See, I don’t think that controlling how many guns are out there is political. I don’t think passing laws about what kinds of weapons can be carried around our cities is partisan.

I think its time to question our obsession with outshooting the bad guys.

It’s not political. It’s logical.


Oh, for the love of……

I can NOT wait for November 9th. Partly I will be happy to have the suspense over. I am getting really tired of waking up at 3 Am wondering if Trump is going to blow us all to kingdom come.

It isn’t only the Presidential shit storm that I want to be done with though. It’s also the endless barrage of ads about the state candidates and referendum questions.

I am unlucky enough to live in Massachusetts but on the New Hampshire border. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but every time I try to turn it on to catch the news, or a movie, or a ballgame, I am slammed with conflicting ads.

And they are all pure 100% bullshit. That’s what I really hate.

Turn on the tube two weeks before the election and you will see 8 commercials in a row. I can sum them up here:

“Raising the Charter School Cap will make every child in America a Nobel Prize Winner!”

“Raising the Charter School Cap will end education as we know it!”

“Kelly Ayotte has a halo! She once saved a choking baby and then paid for his college tuition!”

“Kelly Ayotte is the spawn of the devil. She hates babies. She kicks puppies. She eats toads for breakfast.”

“Donald Trump will save us all from eternal damnation and will make America the actual center of the universe!”

“Donald Trump will blow us all up in the first day of his administration, just because he CAN.”

Oh. My. God.

In my fantasy world, I am running for public office. I create my own ads. They go like this.

“Hi. I’m Karen. I am not smarter than my opponent, and I am not a better human being. Neither one of us has a direct line to God or to the Founding Fathers. I think I have a good plan for making things better for us. Here it is…..”

Wouldn’t that be SO refreshing? Wouldn’t we all love it?


We’d all be so relieved to have some positive ads and some actual plans and ideas.

So why can’t we manage to get that point across to the people who are running for office?

I mean, I don’t agree with my friends who want to raise the Charter School Cap. But I don’t think that they are all mass murderers, either.

I don’t agree with most of Kelly Ayotte’s votes. But I don’t think she’s a monster, either. And I don’t think her opponent, Maggie Hassan, is an angel. I just agree with her ideas and her political positions.

Good Lord. Why can’t Democracy be based on some truth for a change?

I plan to drink a whole bottle of champagne on November 9th. And not because I am so thrilled with any of the election outcomes.


The Echo Chamber

I’m constantly surprised at how insightful my kids can be, although by now I should be used to it.

I mean, they are all adults. They are all intelligent and thoughtful. I should be used to learning from them by now.

But I am still surprised when they make observations that catch me off guard. Especially when those observations make me stop and think about my ideas and beliefs.

My family is made up of a whole bunch of wicked lefties.  Paul and I, all three kids, our son-in-law; we are all outspoken progressives. We share a common belief in all things liberal. We believe that the government exists only at the will of the governed, and that its primary purpose is to provide protection and safety to its people.

We believe in equality. For everyone. All the time. Everywhere. We drive around in cars that have bumper stickers spouting ideas like: “God Bless The Whole World: No Exceptions!”

We think that we are smart and kind and thoughtful and good. We are pretty sure that we are on the right side of history.

So after a Mother’s Day dinner that was filled with political jokes, comments about the Trumpeters, and even a few videos of “The Liberal Redneck“, it was a little bit of a shock to get a message from one of my kids that gently called us out for our closed minded reliance on stereotypes.

At first I was taken aback. I got a little defensive when my child suggested that we have begun to rely on a sort of “echo chamber” where we can share our prejudices and not have to bother with those who disagree.

Then I thought about it for a few minutes.

Eventually, I understood what he meant.

So I answered him, honestly.  You see, I am proud that he trusted his family enough to point out his discomfort. I am doubly proud that he is this thoughtful and deep.

But I don’t totally agree with him.

I think that it’s one thing to try to convince others of the correctness of our liberal views. When that is my goal, I try to use facts, statistics, truth. I try to leave emotion, stereotyping and sarcasm behind.

But when I am relaxing in the comforting embrace of like minded lefties, I think its OK to laugh.

I do NOT believe that all conservatives are cold hearted bigots. I do NOT believe that all Republicans are money grubbing ogres.

I know, love and respect a whole bunch of conservative Republicans who are thoughtful, smart, knowledgeable, kind, generous and fun.  I know, dislike and disrespect a whole bunch of liberals who are narrow minded, rigid and ignorant.  I try very hard to get my information from the most neutral sources that I can find.

With that said, though, I do think that its my duty, morally and intellectually, to call out those who I know are dangerous, xenophobic, dishonest and ugly.  I won’t ever promise to stop speaking out about them.

But I will be more careful of my words and my tone when I talk with my lefty family.

Once again, I owe thanks to one of my kids for showing me that there is more than one way to view every situation in life.


Feeling Way Too Judgy


You know, I really do love Facebook.  Getting back in touch with old friends from decades past, chatting with people across the globe, sharing jokes, seeing what everyone had for dinner.

It’s all good, right?

The only problem is, now that I have Facebook, I am finding myself even more judgy than I used to be.

I mean, I’ve always been opinionated. I’ve always had strong ideas.  But I used to be able to at least listen to other people’s opinions! I used to be able to think about other points of view.

Back in the old days, I had to actually have a conversation with someone before deciding that I was morally superior to them.

Now? I can pass judgement on family and friends in five seconds, just by looking at the most recent memes.  A red paper cup?  Let me at ’em! MY view of the red paper cup is the superior view!!!!

Syrian refugees?  I just have to scan someone’s quickly written status and I am ready to label them as cold hearted, unloving, mean spirited poopie heads.   I am so morally and ethically superior, because I have a different reaction to the immigrant crisis!

Never mind the fact that I know full well that some of the people with whom I disagree are kind, generous, thoughtful and giving.  Never mind the fact that I completely understand that each of our individual reactions to events in the world are colored and shaped by our personal experiences.

And never mind the fact that I have never had an actual refugee family knocking on my door and asking for safety.

Facebook lets me instantaneously judge.

Maybe some of the power of this new social media is that it allows us to feel so good about ourselves as we look with scorn at others in our newsfeed.

Who knows?

All I know is that I am not a prophet, or a seer, or a saint.  I am not better than the people who come to different conclusions than mine.

And maybe, just maybe, if other people out there can take off those silly black robes and really listen, we’ll all be a little bit safer.

Both sides now

I don’t know.  It could just be the post holiday fatigue, or the emotional let down of having the whole big feast behind me, but I seem to have lost my usual opinionated rage.

This has almost never happened to me before.

For some strange, inexplicable reason, I kind of feel like I can see both sides of most things today.


You guys are on-line reading these words, so I know that you know how easy it is to find stuff out here to get all worked up about.  War in Gaza, Black Friday store hours, the appropriateness of celebrating the genocide that came with that “First Thanksgiving”, the election, the outrage that is turducken….I could go on for hours……..

I’m usually happy to jump into the fray, and to argue with one side or the other.  I love the fact that the internet has allowed me to always feel surrounded by those of like mind.  I mean, I must be right if all those cool people on Facebook and WordPress and Pinterest agree with me!  Very comforting, and very validating, you know?

But today I just can’t muster up the outrage.  Sigh.

Today I can understand, to some degree, how scary it must be to live in Israel, to know that Iran is sending weapons to your enemies, to realize that they want to blow you up for various reasons.  BUT, I can also understand, at least a bit, how powerless those Palestinians in Gaza must feel every day!  Unable to get basic supplies, unable to build or rebuild because of the blockade, knowing that one of the worlds’ strongest armies is poised and ready to unleash its anger on you and yours.  I can’t side with either armed and dangerous group today; mostly I am just sad for both populations of children.

And I have been reading a lot out here on WordPress and on Facebook about the outrage that so many people feel about celebrating Thanksgiving. I love US history, I really do!  And I know that the Puritans were a bunch of narrow minded, stiff necked, intolerant religious zealots.  I get that.   I understand that from the vantage point of 21st century global enlightenment they were morally wrong to come to the shores of North America to set up European style settlements to the great detriment of native populations.  I get it, OK?  I get it!  Europeans arrived in North America, the natives were decimated, it was shameful in so many ways!

But the point of our modern feast is not to celebrate the harvest; its not to mark the first year of survival in a harsh world, to let the natives know that we are here to stay or to show them how well we can fire our muskets (yep; all of that was part of Plimoth’s first harvest celebration in 1621).  The purpose of the feast now is to get together with people we love, to share food with them, to tell them that we love them, and to take some time to be grateful for all of the beautiful parts of life.  I’m not gonna apologize for that.

As for “Black Friday”, I will take no part in that madness.  It makes me feel sick to think of pushing through the crowds in the big box stores, fighting for my “share” of the junk on sale. I don’t want to give my hard earned money to those big corporate giants. Yuck.  So I’ll stay home with my leftover pie and my cup of good coffee.

But I don’t have it in me to get all huffy and outraged at my friends and family who think its fun and who want to get out there and get started. I don’t have little ones to shop for, so I don’t have to find a way to buy tons of toys.  I don’t need any electronics, so I don’t need to save money on trinkets.  I plan to buy little goodies from local stores, and I plan to cook for a lot of people in my life.  Well, goodie for me.  It doesn’t mean that I have to feel superior to the people who are shopping today, does it?

No doubt I’ll have a good night’s sleep tonight, and will wake up rested and refreshed. No doubt I will once again feel myself empowered by the energy of my outrage.  I’ll be mouthing off again in no time, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the opportunity to see life from both sides for a change!

Mandate? Nah!

So the Democrats are all running around hugging each other and chanting “mandate, mandate, we’ve got a mandate!”  They seem to believe that those 303 electoral votes show a sharp swing in their direction on the part of the population.

The fact that the popular vote was incredibly close hasn’t been part of the discussion at all.  They just believe that they held onto the Presidency and kept control of the Senate because the American people (whom they seem to know personally) has completely changed its thinking in the last two years.

You remember what happened two years ago, right? The famous Tea Party midterm elections, when the Republicans got control of the House of Representatives, and the government came to a grinding halt?  Hard to forget that time, if you ask me!

Because that was when the Republicans started to dance around doing the group hug and chanting, “Mandate, mandate, we’ve got a mandate!”  Back then, it was conservatives who were claiming that the American people (yes, Republicans seem to know them personally, too) had spoken, and were now uniformly conservative thinkers.

American people~ Right wing, conservative, gun toting, anti-government rednecks two years ago?

American people~Left wing, pot smoking, handout craving lazy ass hippies now?

I don’t think so.

I don’t think that Obama won this election because all 300 million of us suddenly embrace the Democratic agenda.  And I don’t think that Romney lost because of a hurricane, a biased media or his own stiff necked unlikeable self.

I think that with only two parties to choose from, its starting to feel like their really isn’t any choice.  Both sides are starting to be really unpalatable.  The space between the two is grower ever more narrow, and we are like a pinball trapped between two opposing flippers.

We elect a bunch of Democrats in ’08.  Gag! We don’t like all the cronyism, the nasty rhetoric, the refusal to compromise or listen.  So we ping to the right and elect a whole bunch of Republicans in 2010.  Yuck! Things are even worse.  Now the whole bunch of them down there in DC are just yelling and screaming and thrashing around. We want some banking reform, some tax reform, some attention paid to the rising oceans.  For two years we watch them push and shove and call each other names.  We’re disgusted.

So we go to the polls again in 2012. But there are only two real choices!!

Ping! We jigged back toward the Democrats this time around.

This is what I would like to say to those in power:

Dear Republicans,  

You didn’t lose because of bias, lies, gay people or hurricanes. You lost because you’re kind of making us feel sick. 

Dear Democrats,

You didn’t win because we all love you and think the sun rises and sets on you.  You won because you made a few of us slightly less sick than the other guys did. 

I predict that unless we start to hear some new voices in our political dialogue we will simply ping back across the aisle in 2014.

I’m getting whiplash.  How about you?

Time to act like a kid

So I must admit, I’m a little bit scared about tomorrow.

Its election day at last (cue the trumpets and confetti: no more political ads!!  Huzzah!). We will finally have a chance to cast our votes and choose the next President of these barely United States.

Of course,  I’ve been through this whole thing more than a few times now.  The first time I voted, it was for Jimmy Carter.  I’ve seen the swings from left to right and back again.

This time, though, its making me feel more than a little nervous.

This time, the country seems to be absolutely divided between the two choices.  Each of the main candidates is polling at just barely under 50%.  We are caught in a perfect tug o’ war between the reds and the blues.

And this time, the level of anger, bitterness and hatred between the two camps seems to me to be sharper than I remember from the past.  The language is more vitriolic and less measured.  People seem to really, truly hate those who disagree with them.

Now, bear in mind, I was totally caught up in the election of 2002, when my candidate won the popular vote, but lost the election.  That was upsetting, for damn sure, but I don’t remember feeling the same level of frustration that I sense out there now.


I’m a little scared about what is to come in the next few weeks or months.  There is a sense of danger in the air, made worse by super storms and unexpected infrastructure collapses.  There is a sense of powerlessness and rage that briefly found its voice in popular movements like the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement.  There is a power and a restless energy that is simmering just below the surface of our everyday lives, and it has been fed and nurtured by the countless months of attack ads from both sides.

We feel assaulted and endangered.  We fear for our children and our futures and our freedoms.  We are not sure just who is to blame, so we latch onto the rhetoric spewed forth by our leaders, and we turn on each other and we believe in the names being called and the lies being told.

We are ready to vote, and we are ready to be outraged by the outcome of that voting.

If we continue to hold onto our personal grudges and our intensely partisan fighting, I fear that our union may not hold.  I fear that we will turn on each other and come to violence.

I can only hope that after all of the votes are finally counted, we can reach deep inside of ourselves and act like children.

Children know how to be inclusive. They know how to recognize unfairness when they see it.  They see “mean” for what it is, and they know enough to reject it.  Children seek honesty and they seek a way to be “nice” even when they are mad.

So tonight, on this last night before the election of 2012, when voices are screaming for the downfall of the black Muslim socialist, and voices are screaming for the end of the rich white Mormon, I am hoping and praying that a majority of us will find a way to see this all for exactly what it is: just one more election in a long string of elections. It won’t save us, and it won’t ruin us.  It’s just another election.  In barely two years time, we’ll be on our way to another one.

Please, my fellow citizens, please try to act like children when the results come in tomorrow night.  You might be happy, but please don’t gloat.  You might be upset, but please don’t turn on your neighbors.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln

Come on over!

I have been struggling lately with a couple of new problems. (I would say “issues”, but then I’d feel like an earnest young therapist, and we can’t have that.)

One: This blog is supposed to be about parenting, and the lack thereof.  It is supposed to be about my journey into the future, into my golden years, and hopefully my Grandma years.   I am sort of running out of ideas.

Two: I really want to be a warrior woman.  I want to change the world.  It goes back to my college years, you know?  I want to be on the front lines of a movement to change the political realities of this country.  But.  I’m a chicken and I can’t seem to get myself into the Occupy Wall Street throng.  Gulp.

So, on the advice of some friends, including other bloggers, I am turning my writing attention to another blog, which I began last October after the arrest of my kids on the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s called “Mothering the Occupation”, because I want to be the wise woman, the voice of support and nurturing, and I want to be throwing my voice into the fray.

Please come on over and visit! Please comment, and please follow and share, if you are so inclined.

It is truly past time for reasonable people to demand civil, honest, open discourse and a return to true democracy.

Mothering the Occupation

“Shut that whole thing down.”


Many years ago, long before I ever envisioned an “empty nest”, I was a patient at a fertility clinic. Or, an infertility clinic. Take your pick.

I had been trying for about a year to conceive a baby.  I wanted to become a Mom. I really, really, really wanted a baby!!!!!!

I had tests. I read articles. I took vitamins. And I even entertained those crazy old wives’ tales about motherhood.  For example, I was told, “If you just relax and don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant!” Oh, and, “If you eat a lot of broccoli, you’ll get pregnant!” and “Don’t say that you want a baby, or you won’t have one.”  And then there was,  “Eat ginger, and you’ll be a Mom.”

Take cough medicine, wait until a full moon, make love when you are drunk, make love when you are sober….On and on it went, making me feel frustrated and unworthy and inept. If only I knew the magic potion, I could become a Mommy at last!


It was all, of course, pure bullshit.

Biology is biology.  The human body is designed to reproduce, and eventually it will do just that unless there is a medical reason why it can’t.  In our case, there were some medical/scientific/biological interventions that lead to my first pregnancy and to the fulfillment of my maternal dreams.

It felt like a miracle to me, but in reality, there was NOTHING that I could have done emotionally or mentally or spiritually to have made that conception possible.

Just as there is NOTHING that any woman can do emotionally or mentally or spiritually to prevent a pregnancy.

The fact that a United States Congressman believes otherwise is a testament to the backward, illiterate, hocus-pocus, fundamentalist bullshit that is controlling at least a  part of our government at this moment in our history. The fact that he is far, far from alone in his ignorance is a true reason for us to rise up and demand that we elect leaders who are literate in modern science.

Rape can cause pregnancy.  Incest can cause pregnancy.  Pure fact.

Global warming is real. Fact.

The dinosaurs lived a bit more than 5,000 years ago. Fact again.

If you are in the company of anyone who disputes any of these scientifically proven facts, it is up to you to make damn sure that they are never in a position to effect public policy.

This is really a disgusting moment in American History, don’t you agree?