Happy Labor Day


I have to admit. I have not always been a big supporter of labor unions. At one point in my life, I served on my local School Committee and was charged with negotiating a new contract with our education union.

I admit it. I was frustrated by the union, even though at the time I was a teacher myself. I thought that sometimes they were more focused on themselves than the kids. It made me angry.

But a couple of years after that experience, I took a class on the Industrial Revolution. We went to a bunch of mills, tenements, factories. We read a lot of first hand accounts of the young men and women who worked in these places. We learned about the originally altruistic intentions of the factory owners.

And we learned what happened when competition began to make it harder and harder for the owners to maintain those rich life styles. We learned about the increasingly long hours that were required from each worker, and of the decreasing salaries.

I was surprised to learn that when it became too expensive to pay local workers, the factory owners turned to immigrants to fill those jobs. At the turn of the 20th century, millions of desperately poor immigrants flooded into the United States. Legally. All were welcomed, because they were hungry enough to provide the endless hours of working hands that the new factories required.

Men willingly went to work gutting fish, shucking oysters, canning fish. Women and men signed on for 90 hour work weeks in the textile mills, spinning, weaving, cutting cloth. And children went to work, picking berries, harvesting potatoes, working in the mills and factories of the newly affluent United States.

Our class looked at photos of those immigrants working in our new industries. I saw these.

And I thought about how I would feel if my children were forced to work as these little ones were, just so that our family could survive.

I was shocked. I was brought to tears. This could have been my child. My Italian child. Instead of snuggling in my arms and reading books, or going to kindergarten to learn how to share, my child could have been in this field.

picking-berries

When I learned all of this, when I found out what had happened in my country just around the time that my family arrived from Italy, I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow.

How could this have happened? How could children and desperate mothers be forced to work in such terrible conditions? How could this be the story of my country?

Luckily for me, our class went on to study the labor movement. We read “Bread and Roses” and “Triangle“. We learned about corporate greed and about desperate workers. We read letters and news reports and books and stories.

We learned about the people who stood up for their basic human rights.

We were taught the story of the American Labor Movement. And I was able to shake off my grief and embrace the power of united workers, united and supportive average Americans.

The professor taught us about the first Labor Day, and the significance of it’s recognition.

So.

I no longer feel frustrated when teachers demand a quiet place to work and plan. I no longer think that unions are simply self-serving.

Now I know that in the absence of workers’ unions, we would not have a forty hour work week, or mandated weekends. We wouldn’t have sick time, or vacations, or health insurance.

We would have no child labor laws. Can you even imagine?

Now I know that on Labor Day, we need to look at the tender faces of those little children working endless hours in terrible places. I know that we need to pull up the images of five and six year olds facing a life of physical labor, with no hope of education or betterment or a happy and healthy future.

Happy Labor Day.

I hope that on this Labor Day you will enjoy your cheeseburgers and your families and your ice cold beers. But I also hope that you’ll take a minute to think about the 146 young workers who died in the Triangle Fire. I hope that you’ll spare a thought for the thousands of little children who labored in our textile factories and our fish canneries and our berry farms.

I hope that you will raise a glass to the Union movement and that you will give a silent salute to those workers who fought and suffered and sacrificed so that we could have a weekend like this one.

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Dear CVS, I Hay Chew


Generally speaking, I live a pretty easy life. I’m retired, I get to spend the days gardening, reading, playing with my grandchildren. I don’t have many stressors.

And that’s a damn good thing, because the ONE huge issue in my life is my ongoing war with CVS.

The trouble started a couple of years ago, when my Mom realized that it was time to give up her car keys. She came to this difficult decision after her kids and grandkids gently persuaded her that she had become a menace to herself and to everyone else on the road.

It only took a few weeks of endless haranguing, but Mom eventually agreed and gave up both keys and car.

Phew.

At that point, I had the brilliant idea that we should switch Mom’s prescriptions from the local CVS to the online Caremark/CVS system. Smart, right? No more worrying about needing a refill every thirty days, because with Caremark, we can get three months worth sent right to the house!

No more multiple texts to figure out who can pick up the medicine, and who can call the doctor to reorder.

So.

Smarty pants me went online and signed Mom up for Caremark. Awesome!!!!

I checked all the boxes, filled in all the information, clicked where I was supposed to click.  Thirty days later, right on time, Mom’s three medications were refilled! Huzzah!!!!

Annnnnnd….30 days after that (even though CVS/Caremark had sent us 90 days worth of meds), Mom got a call from her local store asking her if she wanted to refill her scripts.

Huh. I thought I had clicked the “no longer refill at local CVS” button….Oh, well. No big deal. I called Caremark and spoke to a nice lady. She promised to fix things.

One peaceful month passed, and then, you guessed it. CVS called Mom again. She got confused but figured they knew what they were doing. So she got refilled AGAIN.

This time I called both CVS and Caremark. The local store promised to take care of it and change the status in their computer.

But Caremark, the same place I had called four weeks earlier, told me that they couldn’t speak to me about my Mom.

“But you did speak to me a month ago.”

“Well, we can’t speak to you now. You need to prove that you have power of attorney.”

“Uh…Will her medicine be refilled when it’s due?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Grrrrrrr.

Fast forward about 4 weeks. My older brother has sent proof that he has power of attorney. I have walked into our local CVS to explain the situation. I’ve been reassured that they won’t try to refill her meds at the store any more.

Time for the Caremark three month order.

Which did. not. come.

Double grrrrrrrrr.

Log back into Caremark, click more boxes, check more checks, remove Mom’s phone number and replace it with mine. Fill out the “Automatic Refill” form. Again. Put my name on as “medication manager”.

Feel satisfied.

Until Mom calls to tell me that……CVS CALLED HER AGAIN TO REFILL THE MEDS!!!!

This has been going on for months. Months, I tell you!!!!

I have called the local store 3 times, been in there twice, called the 1-800 corporate number twice and gone to CVS online at least five times.

The last time I went into Mom’s local store, I begged the pharmacy lady, “Please, please, forget you ever knew Mom! Pretend she died! Can you mark her record as deceased??”

They were horrified, but I was getting desperate.

I swear, I don’t know what to do!

Two weeks ago I had to get on line again because one of the Caremark medications, one that is marked “automatic refill”, failed to refill.

SCREECH!!!!

Got that sorted out without resorting to any felonies.

And three days later I got a text from CVS. The store. The one that is supposed to  think that Mom has crossed that rainbow bridge. The exact same frickin’ text that I have been getting every thirty days for eons.

“If you want to refill your prescription for C, text YES. If not, text NO.”

I kinda lost it.

I texted back, but it wasn’t NO. It was something more along the lines of “What the FUCK is wrong with you people???”

Answered with: “Invalid response.”

This went on for a while.

“Go to hell!”

“Invalid response.”

“Stop bothering me!”

“Invalid response.”

“Never darken my door again!”

“Invalid response.”

“I fuckin’ hay chew.”

“Invalid response.”

Finally I started to feel a little silly. Also a little vindicated. So I texted NO and figured we were set.

Nope.

Mom called me yesterday, feeling confused and embarrassed. It seems that CVS, or the tiny brains that run the place, must have decided that I was too insane to deal with. So they apparently dug out the old phone number that I had spent a year getting them to delete. They called my poor Mom, who tried to tell them that she didn’t need any refills because her kids are taking care of it.

I can’t even imagine how that conversation went.

Because not only did CVS decide to refill the meds, they also decided that Mom needed a welfare check. So the poor lady got an unexpected visit from a local police officer.

Yeah.

I will not report on the conversation I had with CVS after that. I just hope this time they believe that Mom is “in a better place” and they don’t try texting Heaven to see if she needs more blood pressure medicine.

CVS.  I seriously hay chew.

golden_rx_pharmacy_symbol_mortar_pestle

 

 

Speak UP!!!!


I try not to complain, I swear I do.

I try not to be that old lady who gripes about “kids today.” Cuz for the most part, I’m actually a really big supporter of “kids today.” I think our next generation is wonderful! They’re philanthropic, socially aware, politically liberal, creative, spiritual and generally adorable.

They make great music, great beer and wonderful cannabis butter.

I love the millennials!

Except…

What. Is. With. Those. Voices?

It’s not the men (sorry….I swear, I’ve been a feminist for decades!)

It’s the women.

It’s the recent speech fad that has taken over the women on radio, television and in far too many casual conversations.

As a former speech/language pathologist, I always pay attention to the way people speak. I tune in to pitch, to intonation patters, to the rate of our speech. There have always been habits or fads to the way public figures speak.

Can’t you picture those old WWII news reels, where the guy speaks with the rhythm of a machine gun? His voice would go up and down in an exaggerated intonation pattern in an almost singsong tune. Listen to two minutes of this 1940’s newsreel and see if I’m right. Politicians from those years spoke the same way, but they also had the same fake New York/London/Boston accent mashup. Picture Cary Grant or Bette Davis.

Am I right?

If you jump forward to the 1960’s, the TV and radio voices became slower, more mellow. Both men and women spoke at a low pitch. Their voices were smooth, mellow, drawling and sultry. Everyone tried to sound that peaceful and calm at that time.

I was just a kid, but even back then, I remember loving those TV voices. They sounded like real maple syrup pouring out over a stack of pancakes. See what I mean in these old ads?

I don’t think I noticed any other verbal styles or habits after that time, although I’m sure there were lots of little quirks.

It wasn’t until the past three years or so that my aging and increasingly cranky ear has been caught by a verbal trend.

And this one is making me insane.

See, all the young women on the air today sound like they just swallowed a frog. Every sentence kind of trails off and ends on a pitch so low that their voices scrape along the gravel.

They all sound like they smoke too many cigars.

It’s awful.

It’s terrible for your vocal cords, in the first place. Don’t these women want to be able to sing along with Rhiannon Giddens in the car? I mean, jeez.

And it’s terrible for comprehension! Especially for old folks like me. When these young whippersnappers drop their pitch that much, I lose the whole conversation.

And its just so freakin’ trendy! You know?

Last week I took my Mom out for lunch at our favorite local spot. We were enjoying out pad thai and our shrimp curry, but I couldn’t make myself ignore the conversation taking place at the table behind me. Not because it was so fascinating, but because both of the young women were speaking in glottal fry.

“I only have two weeks left before my (picture the sound of a frog here) school year staaaarts.”

“I know! I already have my classroom just aboooout reeeeeady.”

I could hear their vocal folds shredding. And even though they were young, enthusiastic teachers, I wanted to strangle the life out of both of them.

OK. I am old. Yes, I complain. Fine, I’m cranky.

But, holy annoying mindless stupidity.

Listen to this please. Tell me I am not alone in bemoaning this horrible vocal scourge.

pitchrangepr_0

So Who Should I Hate?


We are living in difficult times.

I am finding myself increasingly confused about who I’m supposed to hate these days.

I mean, I know that its wrong to hate people because of their race, their gender, their gender identity, their sexual preferences, their native language, their religion, their favorite baseball team (even Yankee fans)….

I’m a liberal middle aged white woman. I have marched against nuclear power, the Vietnam war, the slow passage of the ERA, the idea of a gas pipeline going through my town, income inequality, this President, and a few other things I forget at this point.

But.

Here’s where I’m confused.

If I believe what I see on social media, I am supposed to hate- with a deep and abiding passion- everyone who voted for Donald Trump. More, I’m supposed to detest and vilify everyone who still thinks he is doing a good job.

Even in said person is my very own family member, someone I love and treasure.

That’s really hard. I tend to be a relatively kind person, even if I am passionate about my political beliefs.

When I watch the news, or read online news stories, I realize that there are millions of my fellow countrymen who are being convinced that they are supposed to hate ME. If they want to seem like good Americans, real patriots, they are supposed to be calling me names like “libtard” and “snowflake”. They are supposed to scream at me because I want “open borders”. They are supposed to yell that I support the “deep state” and that I love crime, drugs, pillaging and rape. (OK, maybe that last part is over the top, but it’s hard to tell.)

Here’s the thing.

Years before the Donald was ever heard of, Americans were arguing about politics. I remember the 60’s very well, when every family gathering was marked by shouting over the war. I remember long, tortuous arguments with friends and relatives about Iran (way back, during the time of the hostage taking), about Israel/Palestine, about environmental concerns. I’ve been sneeringly labelled a “tree hugger,” a “lefty,” a “commie”.

None of that came with the level of absolute hatred that is soaking our interactions today.

Years after the Donald will be nothing more than an embarrassing chapter in US history, the citizens in this country will argue over everything from tax rates to school curriculum.

It’s what we do. We’re informed Americans. We vote. We try to be informed.

But today is not “years ago” or “years from now”.  Today is today.

And we are in a very very scary place. We think its fine, even admirable, to type obscenities on Twitter at people who disagree with us. We cheer when a member of our “team” is able to embarrass and humiliate people from the “other team.”

I blame the anonymity of social media for this.

We have fallen for the lie that we are good patriots if we publicly attack each other for our beliefs.

I blame Donald Trump for most of this. But I blame the gullible media for it, too. They loved the ratings and the fake outrage and the easy reporting that comes with their coverage of people screaming at each other.

Mostly, though, I blame us.

I mean, seriously folks. What the absolute hell?

If you voted for Trumpy, I think you made a huge mistake. I don’t think you are the spawn of the devil. I do not think you are part of a giant racist neo-Nazi attack on liberty and democracy.

If you voted against Trumpy, I don’t think you wear a halo. I don’t think you have a special entry into Heaven. I don’t think you are kinder, braver, harder working, smarter or more moral than those who voted the other way.

In the end, the rich and powerful will keep on being rich and powerful. They’ll keep on pushing for laws that will make us work harder to earn less while they protect their own billions and zillions and gajillions.

Remember: this happened. It will no doubt happen again in the not too distant future.

Donald Trump Sr. and Melania Trump Wedding, Self Assignment, January 22, 2005

We are NOT each other’s enemies. The press who reports on this bullshit is not the enemy. The people who make us attach each other in defense of THEM? They are our enemies.

Don’t mistake my point here. I hope, with every fiber of my being, that Donald Trump’s big old orange ass will land in jail in the not too distant future.

In the meantime? I refuse to inch any closer to civil war in defense of his actions or those who opposed him in the election.

I know. Half of you are outraged.

Let me hear what you think.

 

“Il Mondo è Una Famiglia”


Before I begin this last post about our trip to Europe, I have to preface it by saying that in a million years I could never have been as warm and kind as the people I’m about to describe.

I know myself. I love having guests, but I need to know they’re coming first. Also, I like it better if I have a clue about who they are.

With that, let me tell you the miraculous and wonderful story of our day in Roccabascerana, province of Avellino, Italy.

My paternal grandparents came to the United States around a hundred years ago. Growing up in our big family, I knew that they had married in the little village of Roccabascerana. I knew that my grandfather’s brothers married my grandmother’s sisters, and that all of them came to the Boston area.

I have always wanted to go there, to see the place where our family has its roots. At last, a few weeks ago, that wish came true.

Now, I have to tell you that I had reached out on Facebook to try to find relatives still in the area, and I had connected with one man who thought it possible that we might be related. But he didn’t speak much English, and I definitely didn’t speak much Italian. We exchanged a few messages, then lost each other.

So when I got to the village with my husband, my sons and their girlfriends, I didn’t plan to try to find any actual living relatives. I was content to see the streets, the church, the piazza where my family had once walked. I took pictures of the war memorial where the family names were inscribed.

Avellino

I was happily crying my eyes out as I thought about my Dad and his parents, and all of my family who have gone. I hugged my boys and listened to the church bells in the peaceful air of the town. The only living thing other than us in the whole village, it seemed, was a sweet little street dog who came to greet us.

As I was thinking of heading back to Pompeii to process my experience, the kids noticed a building that seemed to be the local Town Hall. “Let’s go in!” they said, “We can ask about the family.”

I didn’t want to. I didn’t want the embarrassment of my bad Italian or the bad manners of showing up on someone’s doorstep unannounced. But as I was trying to back out, the kids and my husband kept pointing out how much I’d regret being so close to my family and not meeting them.

We were in a little tug-o-war when a car drove up and parked. A well dressed, dark haired woman got out and looked at us. There I stood, sweaty and tearful, surrounded by my kids.

“Prego?” she called, opening the door to the building. She gestured me inside. So I stepped in.

When the woman turned to me and raised her perfect dark brows over her brown eyes, I stammered out the fact that my family had originally come from this town. I told her my last name.

“Si,” she answered easily. “Antonio.” She named the possible relative I’d found on Facebook so many months ago. She lead us all into another room, where she explained to another woman that “This woman from the US is a cousin of Antonio.”

“Ah, si!” said the second kind woman. “His family lives in the village of Squillani.” I had heard this name my whole life, too. It was where my grandmother’s family had lived, I thought. “His mother was Maria Domenica. Who was your grandfather?”

Then she picked up the phone and dialed without even looking up a number. My kids were delighted, as was Paul, but I was still internally thinking, “Wait!!!!!”

Antonio didn’t answer his phone, so the kind woman (who kept speaking rapid fire Italian as if I might learn it if she just tried hard enough) indicated that we should all get in our cars and follow the two young men who worked with her and who were sitting wide eyed over the whole thing.

So off we went. The boys didn’t speak English, either, so we weren’t exactly sure where we were headed. I was hoping that we were going to the village of Squillani, where we could look around, have lunch and take photos. I was both thrilled and afraid that we were actually headed to Antonio’s house.

And you guessed it, I bet.

After ten minutes of hairpin turns over beautiful, tiny, mountain roads, we stopped in front of a lovely big house and the boys hopped out. As I cautiously got out of my car, I saw them knock, and heard them tell the young woman who opened the door, “The American cousins of Antonio are here.”

Yikes!!

I was really embarrassed to be banging on the door of a total stranger! There were six of us, none of us fluent in Italian, and all of us nervous and excited.

With a show of grace that I could only dream about, the woman smiled at us all, thanked the boys, and invited us in. She called to her husband, who came in with a puzzled look on his face. We stumbled through introductions, apologies and welcomes.

The next three hours were an amazing, life changing and really fabulous affirmation of every stereotype you’ve ever heard about Italians. It was proof of the power of family, of food, of shared laughter.

I could never, ever, ever have pulled off what this family did for a group of strangers on their doorstep.  Antonio and his wife, and his brother Mimo and his, took us in as if we had known each other all of our lives.

They sat us down, gave us cold drinks, offered coffee. We looked at pictures, finding similarities in our faces and in shared stories. We got to know a bit about each other.

At some point I realized that the women had disappeared, and being Italian myself, I suspected that there was a meal being prepared (in spite of our attempts to assure them that were not here to disturb them or to drop in for a meal.)

I was right. As predicted, after about a half hour a door opened, and Antonio’s beautiful wife, Angela invited us upstairs to eat.

And we shared one of those meals that you know you’ll dream about for years. Without any plan or preparation, these amazing women put out a “lunch” of spaghetti with homemade sauce, sausages, zucchini frittata, olives from their property, a bowl of bread the size of a bathtub, cheese, salami, wine, fresh figs, watermelon, home made lemon ice and delicious sweet esspresso that will haunt my dreams forever.

We met Antonio’s daughters, who are charming, funny, interesting and who speak English! My sons played with his young son. We all laughed, we shared jokes somehow.

We all friended each other on Facebook.

It was amazing. Amazing and humbling.

We found out, Antonio and I, that we share the same great-grandfather. We are indeed cousins.

But before we knew that fact, this family welcomed us in just because we were there. At one point, when I was once again trying to explain that I hadn’t intended to bother them, Antonio asked in a gruff, no-nonsense voice, “Why? What are you sorry?”

“I didn’t mean to bother you….”

He gestured around the table to where our families were eating, laughing and drinking together.

“Do we look bothered?” I think he said.

He raised one finger, and both of his slightly pointed eye brows. Exactly the gesture that my Dad used to make. Exactly the same expression on his face.

“Il mondo è piccolo.”  Yes, I agreed, the world is small.

“Tutti una famiglia.”  We are all one family.

I can never express how profound and moving it was for me to see my sons laughing with some of the cousins who never left our home place. My deepest wish now would be for some of them to come here to visit us, so that I could cook for them, and tell them how my connection to them and to that beautiful place has shaped me for my whole life.

 

 

 

Is This the Border?


Traveling to Europe a few weeks ago was an amazing and eye opening experience. I learned so much.

And I have so many questions!

For example, when we took the train from Innsbruck to Milan, we had to cross the border between Austria and Italy. Austria is a financially stable and thriving country, while Italy continues to struggle with a weak economy, an unstable government, and an influx of immigrants that it can neither house nor feed.

You’d expect the border between the two countries to be pretty secure, wouldn’t you?

You know what?
It’s completely invisible.

We boarded our international train in Austria and got off in Italy. The only way that we knew we’d changed countries was that the signs at the first station were in German and then Italian, and at the last they were in Italian and then German.

There were plenty of business people and other types of workers on our train. They were speaking German as they entered Italy to work for the day.

In the station we saw people with briefcases or work uniforms waiting to go from Italy into Austria to work for the day.

I was astounded.

Where were the armed guards? The passport and visa checkers? Where were the fences and gates and drug sniffing dogs?

Wouldn’t Italians be trying to get into Austria to have a better life, given the differences in the two economies?

When I asked about this, people were baffled.

“Well, we are Italians and we live in Italy, but we go to work in Austria. Then we come home at the end of the day.” The explanations were given with just the slightest hint of “what the hell don’t you understand about this?”

What a concept.

An open border. And it doesn’t mean that millions of poor, struggling Italians are infesting Austria to rape and pillage.

Nope.

It means that people on both sides can work where there are jobs. Presumably, both economies benefit from the connection between workers and work.

At night, everyone gets back on the train, or the bus, or into their cars, and they drive across the invisible borders to go back to their families, their towns, their languages and their respective soccer teams.

Wonder what my country could learn from this situation?

the border

Somewhere along the border. I can’t tell you exactly how far on either side of the line this was.

What I Think of Italy


Wow.

I have waited 62 years to finally set my feet on the soil of my ancestral home. Finally. I have breathed the air of Rome, walked the streets of Naples, toured the history of Pompeii. I have bathed in the waters off of Sicily, eaten octopus and giant shrimp grilled in small local cafes. I’ve had the wine, ridden the trains, busses, subways and boats.

I think I’ve finally gotten a sense of where my family was born.

And it was nothing like I expected, while it was just what I had hoped.

I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m going to try. Because, you know, blogger, writer….that’s what we do.

Italy has a lot of delicious fruits. One of them is a funny looking, yellow melon. It’s kind of bumpy, lumpy and odd looking from the outside. I have no idea what we’d call it in English.

But when you cut into it?

The fruit is sweet, soft, delicate and full of flavor.

That’s how I think of Italy.

From the outside, there is a lot to feel creeped out about. There is a definite problem with trash and litter. Even the most scenic roads are lined with smashed beer bottles and unwanted wrappers. While there are trash containers in every city and town, it doesn’t seem as if they are ever emptied.

The buildings are uniformly old.  Some are truly ancient, and many are simply left to crumble into the landscape. Others were probably built during the second world war, and have stucco facades that are peeling and broken. Some are newer, but even those often have a look of neglect.

The ground is dry and the plants are brittle. Weeds encroach often on small vias and byways.

But.

If you are lucky enough to be invited into one of the dry stucco homes, you will be amazed and overwhelmed by the beauty. Everyone seems to have floors of marble. Walls are painted in bold and beautiful colors. There is art on those walls. There are little touches of charm and beauty.

We have stayed in some very spartan places on our trip. In some cases the faucets were a little loose and shower doors didn’t close all the way.

But every single one of them had lovely decorative touches. Vases, glasses, tablecloths in vibrant colors, pots of flowers on the balconies.

And inside of every house, it seemed to us, there were people who were the very embodiment of kindness and warmth. Even though we speak little to no Italian, people tried to communicate with us. They used words, gestures, facial expressions, more words. The seemed to believe that if they just tried hard enough, everyone would understand each other.

What a wonderful concept!

People we didn’t know helped us to pump gas, to check out in the grocery store, to buy items we needed. People were patient when we repeatedly explained that we couldn’t understand. They laughed with us, not at us, when we made mistakes in Italian. They applauded and complimented us on our meager attempts to master their language.

Italy is like that funny yellow melon. On the outside, you aren’t really sure you want it. But once you cut into it, and taste the sweetness inside, you know that you’ll be craving it forever.

canary-melon-3

Molto delicioso.

One Last Thought Before I Go


I can’t stand Donald Trump. He is a liar. I hate liars. He is willing to turn us all against each other to achieve his own power and his own gains. I hate that kind of selfishness.

But I love a lot of his followers. I love my relatives who have come to every birthday party for my kids, sent graduation gifts, danced at family weddings, made me dinners just for fun. I love my neighbors who kayak with us, go out to dinner with us, share perennials, gripe about the lousy weather and sit through endless town meetings with us.

I despise the media moguls who control our thoughts by following the orders of their corporate overlords. Fox News is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump and his Corporate organization. They’re ridiculous. They aren’t news. I would never look to them for news.

CNN is less obvious, but “Breaking News” every hour on the hour for the past 10 years? Seriously, dudes? One big story per week, with endless repetitive talking heads pretending outrage and tears? That’s your idea of news?

Come. On.

I hate the ugly words that are being hurled around by people who disagree on the latest core issue. I hate seeing people berated for their beliefs, their life styles, their religious choices, their sexual preferences. I hate it. I hate the swears, the offensive remarks, the name calling, the hatred, the plain old meanness.

I don’t love my country, because I don’t know what that means. Am I supposed to love the dirt? The trees? The highways? Am I supposed to love the flag, no matter where it waves or who is holding it or how it is used? I don’t know if I’m expected to love my government? The bureaucracy of it? The big money that owns it?

I do love my countrymen. I love them because they’re also trying to make sense of the struggles we face every day. They want jobs, they want some financial security, they was to know that if they work hard they will be able to provide a safe life for their families.

I love my countrymen because they are humans. I love my fellow humans. I don’t hate the ones who are different from me. I don’t hate or fear the ones who have different colored skin than mine. I don’t hate of fear the ones who are more or less religious than me or the ones who call the divine by a name I don’t recognize. I don’t fear or hate my fellow humans if they are richer or poorer than me, or if they speak a different language or if they live in a different part of this earth.

And I don’t hate or fear my fellow humans, my fellow Americans, my fellow community members because they disagree with my views on gun control or border safety or trade or taxes.

I hope that I am smart enough to find some truth in all the complete bullshit that is filling our world. I hope that I am brave enough to listen when people have different ideas than my own.

And I hope that I am kind enough, evolved enough, thoughtful enough to grant my fellow family members, neighbors, coworkers the right to their own opinions.

I will still work as hard as I can to move my country and my world in a direction that seems the best to me. I will still work as diligently as possible to bring a positive, loving, kind world into being.

But I will try my best to do that without screaming at my friends on the “other side.”

I don’t know if my plan will work. I just know that it’s the only way I can proceed and still feel proud of myself as I look in the mirror every day.

I wish more people shared my view.

It might make us all a lot safer and a whole lot better informed.

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Trying to be my best self.

Leaving On A Jet Plane


Paul and I are about to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in the most wonderful way imaginable. We are about to jet off to Europe for a three week vacation, the longest we have ever taken.

We’ll start in Germany, spending a week with very dear friends. There will be laughing, eating, drinking, music and a lot of catching up on each other’s lives after two years apart.

From there we head South into Italy, my home country, where we hope to connect with distant relatives and learn about my family’s pre-immigration past.

I am SO excited that I can’t even stand it!!!

But.

I’m wondering what I will say when we are asked about the current situation here in the US. I mean, I know that I’ll assure whoever it is I’m talking to that most of us did NOT vote for Trump and despise his policies.

But my bigger worry is how to explain the way Americans are behaving toward each other these days.

How do I explain that half of us think it’s absolutely fine to mock and berate the other half? What do I say about one side refusing to serve food or bake cakes for the other half?

Is there a reasonable way to explain the curses, the vulgarities, the insulting names that each side is using on the other?

Can “Well, they did it first!” be translated into German or Italian without sounding like the absolute lamest excuse given by any kindergartener ever?

What do I say?

I can imagine myself trying to explain. “Well, I know it sounds like we Americans absolutely hate each other, but……”

But, what?

Do we hate each other? Do we really want each other to be humiliated, to be denied hospitality, to be spat upon?

How far away are we from violence in the streets, as rival groups hurl both insults and stones at each other?

How did we get here?

What do I say?

“I don’t know what has happened to us,” I might begin. “I remember when we used to argue at dinner, but keep on passing the dessert plate.”  Maybe I’ll point to the obvious issues with corporate media, and how that has lead to opposing viewpoints replacing factual news.

“I remember when we used to turn on the evening news, knowing that we’d get the same information no matter which channel we picked, but watching our favorite news reporters.”

Sigh.

How do I explain the sheer ugliness and vitriol and rage that has engulfed us all over here in the “land of the free”?

I don’t know.

I share that rage, and in some cases that ugliness and vitriol. There have been a boatload of moments in the past two years when I’ve wanted to strangle the life out of someone in the news.

How do I explain that to people who have lived through the violence and horrors of fascism and World War? What do I say? How do I describe my fervent desire to oppose what I see as immoral, without losing my own moral center?

I don’t know.

I truly do not know.

But before our plane lands on distant shores, I promise that I will have learned to say, “I love my fellow citizens” in at least two languages.

Maybe we should all be memorizing that phrase in English.

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“He likes me.”


I used to teach fifth grade.

I remember about ten thousand conversation where ten year old children were whispering to their friends that “He likes me, but I don’t know if he LIKES me.”

I remember at least 20 thousand conversations where one child confided in another, “I like her, but I don’t LIKE HER like her.”

They were little kids. They were trying to work out the nuances of enjoying someone’s company while a) not necessarily sharing any interests b) not necessarily agreeing with each other c) not wanting to run off and get married and make babies (how do you do that, anyway?)

When I was a teacher of young and innocent kids, these conversations made me smile. They made me appreciate the innocence of youth.

Now that I am a retired old grandmother, and the “He likes me!” comments are coming from the 73 year old, three times married President of the United States, my reaction is somewhat different.

I’m fighting off simultaneous urges to vomit and to run screaming into the night.

Yesterday I listened to Donald Trump’s comments as he left the G7 summit. I listened carefully to his every word.

And I must say, I have not changed my view that this man demonstrates a very significant language disorder.

He made many incomplete utterances. He left out specific nouns and verbs, leaving the impression that his ideas were drifting and pointless.

I suggest that you watch this video. Watch what happens when Trump strays from the script at about 3:18.

Note the incomplete, rambling thoughts.  Note this mess:

“From the standpoint of trade and jobs and being fair to companies, we are really, I think,  committed, I think they are really starting to be committed to a much more fair trade situation for the United States because it has been treated very unfairly…. Last year they lost 800, we as a nation, over the years, but, the latest numbers 817 billion dollars on trade and it’s unacceptable and everybody was told that.”

Say, what?

And then there was Trump’s assertion that our trade and international relationships were “a ten”, because the members of the G7 were reasonably polite to him.

He insisted that the relationships are fabulous because none of the leaders of the developed world stood up and called him a doody pants.

No matter what they thought of the big lying buffoon, all of the OTHER leaders of the free world had enough self control to be at least marginally civil to Donald J. Trump.

Unfortunately, that gave our incredibly immature national leader the impression that all of those other powerful people “liked” him. And that was enough for him.

He assumed that because they “liked” him, he could safely call them names, accuse them of theft, criticize his predecessors who had been dealing with them for decades, and then tell them exactly what they had to do.

He thought that being “liked” meant that nobody would get mad at him, no matter what.

I must tell you, as a former teacher of fifth graders with autism, oppositional defiant disorder, cognitive disabilities, language disorders and other learning and behavioral challenges, that this underdeveloped ability to comprehend the nuances of human relationships is a major problem.

Our country, our beloved United States of America, is in the hands of a person whose intellectual and emotional development has not yet reached the level of a ten year old. A person whose mastery of the English language is both immature and obviously disordered.

I have no idea what it is that goes on the mind of Donald J. Trump, but I am very, very sure that whatever it is, it is based on the ideas and beliefs of a selfish child. I am very, very sure that what he thinks is never articulated in a way that makes any sense.

I am very sure that we are in a very dangerous place right now. This country is being led by a pouting, angry child whose emotional, intellectual and linguistic development are all dangerously impaired.

“I don’t like him. And I don’t know what to do.”29381357345_27b53e0902_b