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There is a Monster in the White House

thomas-mannThere is a monster in the White House, and I refuse to sit back and let him implement his hateful and xenophobic agenda.

That means I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone and called out his minions

And yes, I’ve paid the price.

This weekend Facebook reflected the battle being waged against a President who appointed white supremacist Steve Bannon as national security advisory and implemented an executive order that hurts good, honest immigrants and refugees.

For the past eight years, I have believed that people have the right to post what they want on their own Facebook page. Even when people made nasty comments on my posts, I held firm that people have the right to say what they want on their own page.

tutuBut that changed this weekend. I can’t let evil prevail.

I started calling out people who posted “alternative facts” or hate speech under the guise of news. I called out people who slammed credible news sources while posting propaganda.  And I noted that people who obviously aren’t well-versed or well-educated  shouldn’t be spewing hate against others.

For the most part, I did this with facts. Not mean words, Not name calling. Facts and an occasional comment about people’s ability to discern truth from alternative facts.edmund-burke-quote

One particular person kept deleting every comment I made on her posts of unwavering support of President Trump.

Again, I wasn’t being rude. I wasn’t name calling. I was posting facts and information. I also noted she deleted any comment by others who called her out.

As my husband well knows, the more you ignore me the more I push back. I am the proverbial dog with a bone.

einsteinSo when she kept deleting instead of acknowledging my posts and instead of private messaging  me politely asking me to stop, she tagged me in a post calling me rude. Then other people starting liking that post.

So I unfriended and blocked her.

She is so blinded by the need to justify who own beliefs that she can’t even acknowledge that there may be a reason so many people in our country are protesting.

So now, her Facebook friends think I’m rude and inappropriate.

Let them. I’d rather be considered rude than to sit back and watch an evil man destroy our country.

There is a monster in the White House, and I’m going to do everything I can to fight it.

Even if it means offending his minions.

On Size and Class

During the musical Chicago, two of the main characters, a sensational murderer and a corrupt prison warden, sing the song “Class” while they drink whisky and smoke cigarettes. Of course the scene is intended to be ironic as neither of the characters is the least bit classy.

Maybe this should be the theme song for the Trump administration.

After all, the lyrics started running through my brain when I saw a comment on social media about the Trumps at an inaugural ball. ” It’s so nice that our kids can see class and sophistication in the White House” it said.

Wait?inaugural-ball_li-2 What? Our kid didn’t see class and sophistication when President Obama was in office?

The Obama’s family photo should be in the dictionary under the definition of both class and sophistication,especially considering their obvious love for each other, the respect they show for all individuals, and their lack of scandal during eight years in the White House. And yet, this person was insinuating otherwise.

I couldn’t understand why, and I wondered in what alternate universe that person was living. We may have differences of opinion about  politics, but the statement wasn’t even grounded in class-in-white-housereality.

The Trumps have a lot of money, but the president’s behavior has been anything but classy. I don’t think bragging about grabbing women’s genitals is classy. I don’t think using hateful language to garner support is classy. I certainly don’t think calling people who disagree “enemies” is at all classy. And even though I promised I wouldn’t drag Melania’s name into any of my issues with the Trump administration, I don’t know in what universe a first lady who posed for nude photos could ever be considered more classy than Michelle Obama.

obama-clasAt some point, I realized this person either a) was a racist or b) had been brainwashed by the Trump propaganda machine, which has apparently been fervently trying to pretend that the Trumps are classy just as Trump has been pretending the size of his inaugural crowd was large and that he didn’t actually lose the popular vote.

Sadly, I’m familiar with how aging, white men can be obsessed with the need for one-upmanship. I’ve witnessed it too many times. I’ll never forget being forced to endure two older white men comparing the best meal they had ever had by noting price and restaurant. The discussion occurred in my office at a nonprofit where a colleague and I were doing a lot of hard work for very little money.

My co-worker and I quietly went about our work as the bragging grew louder and the men grew more animated. When they finally left the room, my co-worked snipped, “why didn’t they just drop their drawers, compare size, and be done with it.”

At the time, her comment was a funny reprieve from an annoying and uncomfortable situation. In hindsight, it spoke volumes about how men like Donald Trump view the world. They are so obsessed with proving their own superiority  that they don’t see the reality right in front of them.

What such men don’t understand is that the size of an inaugural crowd doesn’t define their ability to lead any more than the size of their bank account can make them classy.

Class comes from holding your head high despite adversity and being gracious in the face of defeat. Class comes from biting your tongue rather than having to eat your words later. And, most of all, class comes from focusing on treating others with respect rather than spending time worrying about how others treat you.

Class is definitely something that belongs in the White House.

I only pray it finds its way back there sooner than later.

The Greatest Tragedy

My family had just celebrated my son’s first birthday when the nation’s attention focused on a high school in Colorado where two students killed 13 people.

My daughter was less than a month old when terrorists struck the Twin Towers .

I’ve been a mom for 17 years, and I have absolutely no concept how it feels like to know my children are safe.

I  can only hope the odds that they are more likely to graduate than they are to be the victims of horrific crimes.

My children grew up in a world where violence is a constant. They’ve seen news footage of shootings in elementary schools, high schools, colleges and movie theaters. They only know a life in which such events are just another blip in an ongoing story about how unhappy, angry and unstable people resort to horrible acts to express their feelings. Phrases such as gun control and school shootings are a part of their every day vocabulary.

But despite practicing school lockdowns and opening their bags for inspection everywhere they go, my kids don’t focus on what others might do to them. My son is concerned about his SAT scores and my daughter is trying to decide what song she should sing for an upcoming audition. The threat of violence is just the constant white noise that constitutes the background of their lives.

But not so much for their parents.

On the same day that a television reporter and cameraman were shot during a live newscast, my son wore a blazer to school.

He is part of the morning news crew at his school television station, and he was going to be on air.

He left the house at about 6:45 preparing for a live broadcast while at the exact same time, another live newscast had just ended in violence.

White noise for him, another reason to worry for his parent, and another opportunity for pundits, politicians and every day people to argue about how to prevent another such incident.

By the end of the day, my Facebook feed was full of posts from people arguing for and against gun control and pontificating about mental illness and violence.

And I said nothing because I’ve come to realize my words wouldn’t matter.

People argued after Columbine. People argued after Virginia Tech. People argued after Sandy Hook.

And despite all that arguing, the shootings and violence continues.

I’m not writing this because I have a brilliant idea how to prevent such events.

I’m writing this because when my kids left for school this morning, the white noise in their lives was louder than usual and my concern for their safety was heightened.

I am writing this because I am tired of everyone talking at each other, disagreeing with each other and embracing their hatred and anger toward anyone who doesn’t think like they do.

And I am writing this because my children have grown up with such behavior and have come to accept it.

And that is the greatest tragedy of all.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 280

musiciswhatThe people I admire most are those who go out on a limb for a cause because they are willing to put others before themselves.

But I also admire creative people who write good books and scripts. Even more, I admire the people who find just the right music to accent the mood or enhance the scene being portrayed on screen.

I have discovered more great music by watching television and paying attention to the music in movies  than I ever have by listening to the radio.

And discovering great music will always make me smile.

Day 280: Discovering Great Music

Day 279: Funny Names for Wi-Fi connections  Day 278: Sad Cat Diary Day 277:  The Smiling Cow  Day 276: Celebrating 16 years of motherhood  Day 275: Seeing Potential in Our Children  Day 274: Stained Glass Day 273: Naturalization Ceremonies Day 272: “Let It Be” by the Beatles Day 271: Sharing Meals with Great Friends Day 270: Daffodils  Day 269:  April Fool’s Day Day 268: Acoustic Music  Day 267: Country Roads  Day 266: Sunsets on Pamlico Sound  Day 265: The Sound and Smell of the Ocean  Day 264: Crossing the Bonner Bridge Day 263: Mark Twain Quotes Day 262: Old-fashion Fun Day 261: The Far Side Cartoons by Gary Larson Day 260:  Nostalgic Theme Songs  Day 259:  Appreciating Life’s Rewards  Day 258: Awkward Conversations With Strangers  Day 257:  The arrival of Spring  Day 256:  Being Saved by Buffy the Vampire Slayer  Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars  Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With AttitudeDay 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken”Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a DreamDay 227: Mispronunciations  Day 226: Awkward Animal MomentsDay 225: Shaking Hands With Scott HamiltonDay 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

365 Reasons To Smile- Day 190

The past few days have been very tough for a lot of people I care about in Charleston, WV. They can’t drink the water coming out bad newsof their faucets. Nor can they use it to brush their teeth, cook , take showers, wash dishes or do laundry. And it’s not just private homes that are affected.

Hospitals don’t have the water they need. Restaurants and schools are closed. A state of emergency has been declared.

The massive ban on water covers nine counties and is the result of a chemical leak into the Elk River.

When I lived in Charleston, my kitchen window overlooked the Elk, and I used to walk my dogs on a trail very near the  plant where the chemical leaked. Needless to say, my husband and I have been following the story closely. That hasn’t been difficult as it has made national headlines, newscasts and websites.

Which, is why, when my brother called on Saturday from his home in Northern Pennsylvania, I told him I hadn’t talked to our parents but I wasn’t worried since they don’t live in one of the affected areas and they have well water.

My brother had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. My brother, who has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, doesn’t buy into media hype. Instead he chooses to ignore it and is much more interested in talking about his daughter or other interests.

His phone call reminded me of something important.

In this time when we are constantly inundated with bad news, we always have the right to tune it out and simply enjoy life.

Realizing that always makes me smile.

Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy

Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

The Problem With Pretty

katherine webb

(Photo by Matt Cashore, USA TODAY Sports)

Not being much of a football fan, I wasn’t watching when the University of Alabama beat Notre Dame the other night. But being an avid news fan, I couldn’t miss the stories about how sportscaster Brent Musburger raved about Katherine Webb, the beauty queen girlfriend of Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron.

I really didn’t understand all the fuss. Men have been making comments about beautiful women as long as women have been making comments about good looking-men. I may be a feminist, but I also recognize that appreciating beauty is an essential element of human nature.

Initially, I didn’t perceive any problem. At least, I didn’t perceive a problem until I read a story about how Webb and her parents responded to all the fuss.

They weren’t bothered by Musburger’s comments. And why would they have been? Webb is a beauty queen. She struts around in a bikini in front of cameras. She obviously wants to be noticed for her appearance alone, and her subsequent reaction reflected that.

What bothered me was the importance Webb’s parents placed on her being beautiful.

Apparently (according to family), Katherine was once considered an ugly duckling because of a skin condition and her height. Her mother said that being in the Miss USA pageant helped build her daughter’s self-esteem. In other words, her mother believes Katherine’s self-esteem hinges on others’ perceptions of her appearance. And that’s what bothers me about this “news” story.

Self-esteem is complicated. Yet, like so many other issues, people try to simplify it. Several years ago when my children were in elementary school, they attended an assembly about self-esteem.

“What activities did you do? I asked. They looked at me puzzled.

“We didn’t do anything,” my son said. “Some lady just talked to us about how we should have self-esteem.”

We moved on to other subjects, but I was irritated with the school for wasting precious educational hours on some pointless presentation. You can’t teach or preach self-esteem. True and lasting self-esteem is achieved through experiences of success and through overcoming difficult situations. Our responsibility as adults is to provide children with those opportunities.

And self-esteem isn’t an “all or nothing”  concept.

People don’t either have or not have self-esteem. Most of us feel confident in one aspect of our life while struggling in others. When I was younger, I had excellent self-esteem about my intelligence and ability to do well in school because I had volumes of success in academics. I had very poor self-esteem in regards to my appearance because I’d been told I looked like a monkey and was a four on a scale of one to ten.

Experience taught me that what others think of my appearance has absolute nothing to do with my value as a human, my capacity to be loved or my ability to be happy.

But those are lessons I learned from decades of life experience. Katherine Webb doesn’t have that yet.

Instead, she is surrounded by people who put an inordinate value on appearance. People who coach her that plastering on makeup to cover a skin condition is essential. People who have convinced her that fitness means being skinny enough to meet society’s standards for wearing a bikini. People who equate being called beautiful with being accepted.

Maybe I’m being a bit judgmental because I was raised to never rely on my appearances for anything. Sometimes that message was delivered in a subtle manner as my mother never bought fashion magazines nor wore makeup. At other times, the message was delivered loud and clear –  like the time she told me that I was lucky to be smart rather than pretty. And even though those words hurt at the time, they also held a great deal of wisdom.

When you can’t rely on your appearance open doors for you, you develop other skill sets. And those achievements and successes are what truly build self-esteem.

There is nothing wrong with being beautiful, but there is everything wrong when women allow it to define them.

And that’s the problem with pretty.

When Tears Aren’t Enough

I’m rarely at a loss for words, yet I had nothing to say last week when my daughter asked me the simple question “why?”

Instead of answering, I stood silent as a single tear rolled down my cheek.

shoesWe were visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

I’d been there previously, but my daughter hadn’t. She’s been studying the Holocaust in school,  so I thought she was mature enough to fully appreciate the exhibits and the message.

For the most part, she was, and we took our time going from floor to floor as the timeline of events leading up to the Holocaust unfolded. Then we got to the floor with evidence of the Holocaust and all its atrocities.

We stood inside one of the small, bare and unheated railroad cars that transported up to 100 people to the concentration camps. We stuck our heads into one of the actual bunks from Auschwitz. And we stood next to piles and piles of shoes that were taken from prisoners right before they were gassed.

But nothing affected my daughter more than a photograph of braids in a larger pile of hair the Nazis had collected. (They stuffed mattresses with the hair collected at concentration camps.)

Braids define my daughter. She almost always wears her long hair in one or two braids, and this month, she taught herself to french braid. That made the photo of the braids very personal.braid

The photo and her reaction struck me too. They reminded me of how incredibly precious my daughter is, and how incredibly precious all the daughters that died in the Holocaust were.

And because of that, I just couldn’t answer her question “why?”

How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people need to point fingers and find someone to blame for difficult times? She lives in a world where that happens on a daily basis. People find it simpler to blame a person or a group of people than they to understand that situations are complicated and are rarely the fault of one person or group.

How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people will simply accept what they read, see or hear when that message justifies their own belief system? She lives in a world where people spew “facts” that are completely inaccurate just because they were presented as the truth.

How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people place their material possessions and personal bank accounts above the health and safety of others? She lives in a world in which people complain that their tax dollars are being used to help those in need.

How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that some people are comforted by the belief that there is only one legitimate faith. She lives in a world were so-called Christians condemn other religions while claiming ownership of a morality.

How can you explain to an 11 year-old girl that people are comfortable condemning those with different political beliefs and world views? She lives in a world when people use nasty words to define anyone who thinks differently than they do.

And how can explain to an 11 year-old girl that people who loved each other were killed simply for who they loved? She lives in a world where people still claim that some love is an abomination and sinful.

Any explanation I could provide as to why the Holocaust occurred would simply reflect a world in which she lives. And I didn’t want to scare her.

Instead, I scared myself. And no matter how many tears I cry about the Holocaust, I know they aren’t enough to stop the hate that still exists in the world.

Buck Wild in a Beauty Salon

buckwildIf you’ve ever lived in West Virginia, you know all about MTV’s newest “reality show” premiering this Thursday night in the spot previously filled by Jersey Shore.

If you’ve never lived in West Virginia, all the drama surrounding Buckwild has probably either escaped you and/or seemed relatively unimportant. But here in the Mountain State, there is a great deal of concern about how the show will perpetuate negative stereotypes about those of us who live here.

When the first promos began airing last month, there were newspaper articles, editorials and online petitions criticizing Buckwild. Even our junior U.S. Senator and former Governor, Joe Manchin, wrote a letter to MTV asking that the show not be aired. Many argued that his subsequent appearances on national news and talk shows simply provided unpaid advertising.

To me, the show just looks stupid. I never watched Jersey Shore, and I have no plans to watch Buckwild. And yes, I even signed one of the online petitions asking that it not to be aired. But my reasons have nothing to do with how people might perceive West Virginians. There will always be those who believe stereotypes regardless of what they watch, hear or read.

To me, the show is actually more of a reflection on the entire nation than it is of West Virginia anyway. And while I deplore the concept of encouraging young people to do really stupid (and yes, mostly scripted) things for others’ entertainment, what I deplore even more is that there is obviously a large market for such shows. And yes, I know there are many who will tune it to watch Buckwild out of initial curiosity, but that’s not my issue. My issue is with people who watch this type of show for entertainment and for more people to ridicule. This includes television viewers such as the guy who was having his hair cut during my last hair appointment.

Until a few years ago, I never understood why any man would go to a beauty shop, but that was before I discovered the salon where I now go.

The place is more entertaining than anything on television because the people, the conversations and the emotions are genuine. I never complain that my appointments usually last more than two hours, because that time is more compelling than any reality show, particularly those featuring half-dressed young women and cocky young men whose vocabulary is rooted in George Carlin’s monologue about seven dirty words. And, when I think about it, I don’t recall hearing much, if any, cussing in the beauty salon.

Instead, I hear and participate in conversations about real people and real struggles that somehow turn into laughter and hope. The conversations range from cancer, to drug addiction to cross-country motorcycle rides.  Everyone in town seems to  know the owner and her husband, so there is a constant stream of local characters who come through her doors with their own dramas and issues. Discussions can turn from politics to childhood memories in a matter of seconds. And all of this occurs to some music soundtrack that almost always becomes part of the conversation.

The owner, and my stylist, strives to play just the right music, but she also always has technological difficulties. During my last appointment, she finally gave up when her latest gadget stopped working, and she was forced to turn on the radio to a classic rock station. Of course, the music brought back more memories and more stories.

And then, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded by the Light” came on, and we all sang along. Sort of. The lyrics have always been unclear, so we all sang a different variations of “revved up like a deuce another runner in the night.” Some bordered on completely inappropriate. In order to resolve the debate, I took out my phone to search for accurate lyrics.

By the time I’d found them, the conversation had already moved on to Buckwild, and everyone was expressing an opinion. That’s when the clean-cut gentleman who had been sitting quietly while his hair was being trimmed said, “I think it looks entertaining, and I’m looking forward to watching it.”

For the first time, the shop went quiet except for Led Zeppelin playing in the background. Everything just seemed to stop. And then, just as quickly, the conversation resumed. Only no one said anything about Buckwild, instead the owner started telling a story about the recent Eddie Money concert.

No one acknowledged the man’s comment, and I don’t know whether he was oblivious to the slight or if he even cared. What I do know that everyone else’s reaction spoke volumes. And I don’t think the silence was so much an indictment on his opinion as it reflected a deep sadness that someone, surrounded by real characters, real conversation and an ongoing celebration of the reality of day-to-day life, would admit he wanted to simply observe the exact opposite.

Hours later, when I was thinking about the incident, I realized how we often lose sight of all that is meaningful around us because the media is trying to sell us a completely different definition of what makes life interesting.

I’m just glad there are people who still don’t buy that, and instead enjoy the simple pleasures of going a bit crazy, or buck wild, in a beauty salon.

How I’d Shake Up the Presidential Debates

This Wednesday, when President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney square off in the first in a series of three debates, I’ll be watching for entertainment purposes only.

Despite all the hype, I have absolutely no expectation that anything either candidate says will sway my opinion. They will both be so scripted, so practiced and so focused on performing that their potential to impact my life will seem irrelevant. And even after they stop talking, the pundits will step in to add their spin.

The debates, like so many other events that used to be newsworthy, have become staged productions with limited genuine content.

What I need is honesty. I don’t need platitudes or great sound bites. I need heartfelt discussion and genuine opinions.

If only I were in charge of the debates.

If I were, both candidates would be injected with truth serum before they could answer even one question. I’d also be asking my own questions. I already have a list:

1. If your household income were $50,502 (the median household income in the United States in 2011), describe how you would budget your money to pay for housing and health care, ensure your children received an excellence education and save for emergencies.

2. Describe a situation when you “pulled yourself up by your bootstraps” when the odds were against you, if anyone helped you and what resources you used.

3. Who really influences your political decisions?

4. Do you think there are deserving and undeserving people? If you think there are undeserving people, who are they?

5. What is the biggest lie you or your party has told about the other candidate?

6. What do you think are the biggest differences between men and women? (The ability to give birth doesn’t count.)

7.  How would you ensure that every child in America actually received a comparable education?

8. Describe what’s wrong with Congress and how you would attempt to fix it.

9. Describe your understanding of a typical week for an average American.

10. Why do you really want to be President of the United States?

I realize that my questions aren’t particularly politically savvy or intellectually stimulating, but when answered truthfully, they would definitely shine light on which candidate could best lead America.

A Letter to Rush Limbaugh (Even Though I Know He Won’t Read It)

“Our purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” Dalai Lama

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mr. Limbaugh

Like many Americans (and I hope most Americans), I was appalled when you turned a national debate on religious-affiliated institutions and contraception coverage into a personal attack on Sandra Fluke. Not only did you call the Georgetown law student a slut, but you went so far as to request sex tapes and claim that she was basically asking the government to pay for her to have sex.

Umm, no, Mr. Limbaugh, government coverage of birth control was not being discussed. The topic was actually about what can, or should, be required health-care coverage by religious institutions… not the government.

But that didn’t matter to you, did it?

And why should it?

Your job isn’t to provide accurate information or to engage the public in genuine debate about how to make life better for most Americans.

Instead, your job is to do the exact opposite. You don’t care about helping anyone but yourself. Your primary concern is about getting higher ratings and more money. And every time you say something controversial, you get more attention, which is all you really want.

You figured out the formula years ago and have been perfecting it ever since. You divide people by ridiculing others, tearing down anyone who thinks differently than your audience and twisting what liberals believe, think and do.

The problem is, your attitude and behavior are contagious, and other news media and internet sites have followed your lead. Attacking people has now become more common than engaging in real, intellectual debate about tough issues that have no easy, and sometimes no right, answer.

Because of this, a lot of people now find it acceptable to demonize others because of religious beliefs. Those who have fallen on hard times and need financial assistance are defined as lazy and undeserving. And lately, our country seems to be going backwards when it comes to women’s issues.

The American public now views politics as a matter of us-versus-them and is more interested in which side can score the most points than what will benefit our country. Attacking others is more important than considering possible solutions and compromise.

Worst of all, we’ve become a country where many think only of their own personal gain rather than about the greater good.

But like I said before, that’s not your concern. Your concern is about getting ratings, and you’ve accomplished that by making every political issue about personal behaviors and beliefs.

But I’m not going to call you out on your own personal behaviors, because that would be stooping to your level.

Instead, I simply want you to think about the real purpose of life. Is it to make as much money as possible while hurting a lot of people in the process?  Or is it to make the lives of others better while building people up in the process.

I believe in the latter. I hope someday, you do too.

Sincerely,

Trina Bartlett