Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

To My Son's Teacher Who Spoke About Immigration Issues in Class Today

To My Son's Teacher Who Spoke About Immigration Issues in Class,

My son came home and excitedly shared with us the discussion that you held in your class today about immigration. It naturally turned into a discussion on the election.  He said it got somewhat passionate.  He was one of the few that had supported Secretary Clinton.  He shared what others had said. He rolled his eyes.  He said it was pretty much him and a few others against most of the class.


This is not the letter you think you'd get from your student's liberal mother who is very good friends with some pretty kick butt activists.

I want to say thank you.

And I'm not saying it sarcastically.

I'm not sending this to the school because things get misconstrued.  Not that the internet is the best way...

But seriously thank you.

Thank you for having the discussion.

My son said you did a good job- you tried to hold back your opinion- and you know what- I don't actually care if you don't hold back your opinion, as long as you present it as an opinion, use facts as facts and don't penalize the students who disagree with you.  As long as it's not hurtful.

From what my son said, you did all of that- well, we would disagree on some of the facts- but it sounded like you were pretty open to those as well.

People have stopped talking to each other.  And while it would have been great if you discussed the use of "undocumented" in referencing immigrants versus "illegals" when discussing those who come and either overstay their visas or come without any (and there are MANY circumstances that this happens that are completely without poor intent), I am so grateful that you are at least talking.

In whatever words.

Because we need to hear all the words. So we can understand why some words hurt.  And why they are used from the people who are using them and from the people are hurt by them.  Directly. So that people know that it's not a politically correct thing, it's a kindness thing.

We need to talk to each other. Face to face.

The kids need to have the conversations rationally.  They need to learn how to have a mature discussion.

As adults, we have not been good examples lately.

They need to not be afraid to have an opinion that is different from everyone else.  They need to know that they can disagree with a teacher and not fail a class.  Teachers should be allowed to express their opinions as well and not live in fear of a parent complaining or getting fired or suspended after 40 years, like the teacher in California recently was.

I've had three friends who teach tell me horror stories this fall.  One taught a media class in college, another an American History class, and a third a Current Events class.  They all received complaints from parents about discussing the election. The election.

My jaw dropped just typing that.  Especially in the Current Events class- I mean how do you NOT talk about it??

To know that my son's 8th grade Geography class had a discussion on immigration is fantastic.

I'm relieved he didn't say "Hey, dumb ass" to another student be truthful... he can be blunt.  I have no idea where in the hell he gets that from...

But seriously, thank you for making them think and not be afraid.

Especially this week.

So much this week.

With all the hate that we've seen across the country and all the tempers rising- myself included- we need to make sure the children know how to discuss and communicate and disagree.

Somewhere we lost that.

Somewhere we forgot how to disagree.

Somewhere we forgot how to compromise.

Somewhere we learned that saying "Wrong" was an appropriate response to a debate.

And we have to continue to question and debate and learn to defend our position.

I have taught both my children that it is important to us that they NOT parrot our beliefs.  That we would love them even if they were a conservative.  It would be hard, but we would work through it.  With counseling.  It would be easier if they were gay, but we could handle .... Republican... if it came to that. 

Sorry.  I needed a minute.

One of my favorite moments this past election season was meeting Bernie Sanders very early on (no Secret Service yet) and having my 10 year daughter look him straight in the eye and say "I'm really a Hillary supporter but they made me come."  We have a picture of his face- it was priceless.  He cracked up laughing and said "Well, good for you.  I like her, too." 

So please, keep pushing my son. 

Question him.

Ask him why.  Tell him why you think what you think.   What lead you to your beliefs. 

He knows our stories- share yours. 

It could and should influence his.

And we are completely okay with that.

There isn't any way that you couldn't avoid not discussing it.  In a class that discusses borders and history and changing borders, migration and policies are critical.

Thank you for teaching.

And if you every want some more  details on the role undocumented workers play in the US work force, please let me know.  I can even arrange for someone to come speak.  My son's response to my offer "MOM- NO- DON'T DO ANYTHING."  But honestly I'd be happy to help... we actually have one of the lowest percentages of our labor market that IS undocumented as compared to other countries.... and a large portion pay taxes from which they will never benefit... and okay, here I go...

I hope you can empathize with my son....

I think you are a fantastic teacher and my son enjoys your class.  I will never fault anyone for trying to get 13 & 14 year olds engaged in any conversation on what's important. Actually just to speak is a challenge.

From what he said, you did it an open, engaging format and no one felt belittled, threatened challenged or afraid.

That seems quite rare today.

I wish more people would take the chance.  Maybe if the kids came home from school and said "Hey today I learned..." and parents listened, rather than immediately called the office to complain, we'd all be better off.

I appreciate your hard work.  I'm glad my son has the privilege of being in your class.  This year, he's had some amazing teachers at some very critical points in his life in what I think has been a critical year for our country- in English, Spanish, the unfortunate example recently in the music department... all of it is helping to shape the person he will become.  Your influence is as great- if not more at this age-  as ours.

You inspired him enough to talk with us about what happened in class- that should say everything right there.  He even said he was okay with me sharing this.  He helped me edit.

Thank you so very much for making him think.

Thank you for teaching.


Mama Bean

P.S.  I was serious about providing you with the literature on immigration.... 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Hard Blog to Write

Election night my phone buzzed non-stop from friends across the country and here in Las Vegas.

"Is this happening?"

"I can't believe this!"

"How did this happen?"

The only one I cared about- no offense to anyone- was from my friend who is a national activist and is covered under DACA.  She was shaking.

Because to so many across the country this is political discussion- banter over cocktails.  But to her it is real.  It impacts her life.  It actually impacts a lot of people's lives.

And when I saw people complaining about "I'm so sick of this election" and saw that people wrote ridiculous things in as write-in votes and threw away their vote rather than taking their vote seriously "they both are crooks"- actually they aren't-- I was irate.

Because it IS serious.  It's the President of the United States of America.

It is the leader of the largest economy, the controller of the largest treasury, the commander of the largest military

I'm sorry if that interrupted your viewing of whatever "Real Housewives" show you're into.

It's important.

And you know what else is important?

All those local city, county and state positions, too.  Those actually impact your lives FAR more than the President can.

My favorite thing in Nevada to do when people would start bitching about the presidential election is to ask them which assembly district they were in.

Because they rarely knew.

Or I'd ask if the had made a decision on their school board member.

Blank stare.

Because THAT is the problem with "the system."

The system is our system.

It is us.

And there are more elections than every 4 years.

I heard ridiculous things about how bad the system is- did I know that dead people were registered to vote?

My response:  I know.  That's crazy.  Those dead people really need to remember to unregister after they die.  I can't believe how sloppy they are about that.

And then people realize oh.... that's why they are still on the roll. 

Or when people get upset that they aren't still registered.  It's because you haven't voted in 2 years and your voter registration card was returned for an invalid address.

In other words, they thought YOU were dead. 

By the way, where the hell have you been? 

And the rants about not showing IDs... I had an older friend who thought it was ridiculous we didn't have to show photo IDs in Nevada... until she worked the polls and went through the training and realized that it's nearly impossible to vote in our system unless you are you.  We have a fantastic voting system.  I told her she should probably share that with people.  And tell them not to watch so much Fox.  At least turn the channel and mix it up every once in awhile.

Then it was all about how bad the candidates were.... blech.

The candidates that we chose. 

They weren't picked by the government (calm down fellow Bernie people- I feel ya). WE selected them.

Also, WE have the option of running if we'd like.  We could run for President. 

You don't like the system, participate.


That is Mr. President now.  Get used to it.  There's nothing we can do.  There is a strong possibility his trial (yes, there really is a trial for fraud & racketeering scheduled on November 28th) will not go well and then we'll have someone that I can guarantee voters know even less about.  AWESOME.  Won't that be fun.

And thank YOU!

Did you knock on doors?  Did you call people?  When your crazy uncle went off did you even try to explain anything to him?  Did you call your Bernie friends and tell them that their gay friends' marriages could be annulled or their friends deported?  Did you have any friends that have had cancer and couldn't get health insurance when they lost their job but now they can?  Did you talk to any of your friends that you know wouldn't vote and explain that it's important to you that they vote and here's why.

Because I did.

More than ever in this election.

I reached out to friends on the fence.  When they said they were unsure I said "Hey- let me give you some reasons...." 

This was personal for me on a few different levels that I won't share.  They weren't caricatures to me in a cartoon.

This campaign had consequences.

It will continue to have consequences.

So my real response to what happened on Tuesday was where were you Monday?  Or the Mondays before that?

We are all busy.  I didn't have much time, but I made some time.  I supported the people that did it full time.

And here's the thing - it is what it is.

And now my fear is, people will be pissed and discouraged.  They'll be less engaged.

The Bernie supporters that felt such outrage that they would risk their friends civil rights to teach the Democratic Party a lesson broke my heart.  But it wasn't anything compared to the fear in my friends' eyes on Tuesday night.  I hope they own that.  You want the party to own the loss- they are.  You get to partially own the fact that 600 kids didn't come to school at my husband's school.  That there are children crying every day for fear of deportation.  That's partially on you. Not all of it, but some of it. You put your self-righteousness before their actual safety.  I crossed over. 

And the entire time I knew we were going to lose.

The whole flipping time.

When I walked into what was supposed to be a party,  a friend looked me right in the eye and said "It's over, isn't it?"  The polls had just started to close.  And I said "Yep." And he said "You told us this would happen.  You said she'd never win."

Because people simply didn't like her. 

For no real reason.  Or for imaginary reasons.  Or for sexist reasons.

It certainly wasn't the platform which was exceptional once she blended it with Sanders.  It would have been a huge benefit to everyone, especially the lower & middle income families.

But no one even bothered to read it.  Because they didn't like her and they never were going to and it's not fair and we voted in a celebrity game show host with a terrible business track record.


But you know what, my beloved Democratic Party?  You barely have me.

I've been called a closet Republican more than once.

But sorry- they've been batshit crazy too long and can't do math.

So I get the whole Trump appeal (that made me throw up in my mouth a little)- and I tried and tried and tried and tried and emailed and emailed and emailed and emailed and...

But you thought you had it in the bag.

You do not understand small business at all.

You do not understand rural poverty at all.

You do not understand women at all.

I know what you're thinking... whoa... back up on that last one, missy...

But the Democrats support women's rights and Planned Parenthood and Emily's List and all these great things!

We LOVE women!!

We ran a woman candidate! 

Um, just because I have a vagina, doesn't mean I'm exactly like every other woman.  I HATE when my own broker/dealer offers training in marketing to women and they lump them all together.  I had some young woman tell me how a spa day is the best day to connect with my female clients.  We could get mani/pedis, massages, facials and steam together!  A whole 4-6 hours!!

That sounded like hell to me.

If I'm doing that, I'm doing it alone so I can relax.  Not entertain while I'm in a bathrobe. 

I'm also not going out dancing at the clubs with the girls.  Because I'm not the Girls Night Out kinda gal.  I did it once in my 40s.  I'm good probably until my retirement.

Do you want to hike and not speak to each other until we see something cool?  Count me in. Or go fishing?

Or maybe browse a used bookstore for 4 hours and also not speak?  Or go to an art show for modern art...

What I'm getting at is that we are all very different.  My kids are extremely important to me. But I don't live vicariously through them.  But they get top billing- don't hold all day women's conferences on a Saturday during soccer season to take me away from them. 

And don't make everything about "the children."  I have some pretty kick ass female friends who don't have any and don't want any and some that really don't even like them. 

And I have some that truly family is all they want to hear about.

We are diverse.  Not just in color but in every way possible.  My black female friends are not all strong, ass kicking activists.  Some of them are quiet and reserved and very bookish. 

And here's another thing- a lot of my female friends are pro-life.  They are.  Maybe even more so than men.  And not just the religious ones.  And you completely and totally missed it.  There is a way to address it. That choice isn't pro-abortion.  It's about choice- not abortion.  It's about owning our health and not allowing our bodies to be legislated.  It's about keeping it safe for women who do make the choice- because they always will.  It's about decreasing the number of abortions through family planning.  There are a lot that want Roe v. Wade overturned.  You struck out BIG on that one.  I tried to tell you.

And NO ONE TALKED AT ALL ABOUT SMALL BUSINESSES. Our new POTUS did but shockingly nothing specific. Imagine that.  I'm sure he has a plan.  A good plan.  A big plan.

Small businesses are truly the lifeblood of this country and they are constantly getting screwed.  Large corporations are perpetually getting tax breaks.  Tax incentives.  Small businesses get nada.  When you extended the unemployment benefits it screwed me over.  I had one employee that I laid off in 20 years.  She took it for 2 weeks because I asked her to take it- I had changed the job and it was just not what she wanted to do- she was partially retired and it didn't make sense for her to learn an entirely new skill set.  I was paying the highest rate up until last year because of my former employees that would get laid off and then eventually I would be the next to last employer (after the prior employers had maxed out their contributions) so my insurance pool got wiped out. For employees I had years earlier.  That I didn't lay off. 

And you raised my fees.  And added another payroll tax. And then there was Obamacare which pretty much made group health plans disappear for small businesses.  Did you even know that?  There are some great provisions in it- absolutely- but small business owners took it up the shorts on that one.  And you never provided us with any options.  And we can't get a vendor to even return a call.  And the costs are ridiculous.  So Bernie's single payer plan sounded pretty darn nice.

But crickets. 

Because you banked on the misogyny card.  The Woman Card.  Except that's not the only card in my wallet.  My business card is in there, too.

Oh- and as a hillbilly, here's a heads up- my rust belt town has never recovered from Reagan.  The farms are gone, the steel mills one.

They blame Obama.  I have no idea why.  I know what happened.  They don't care why it happened- they just want it fixed.  You blew them off like they all were ignorant racist bigots and they weren't.

Don't get me wrong- based on social media- a shitload of them are and I hope the POTUS elect addresses it.  I've heard horror stories and he's not even in office.

But my hometown looks rundown and dumpy and the people are hurting.  They don't even know they are hurting because most of them don't leave the area very often. 

There are football games and basketball games and soccer games and church.  They don't want to be on welfare.  But an entire generation has been ignored.  And they got pissed and left.  Because we didn't bring jobs to rural communities- and this includes poor minority communities in the south, too- not just white ones in the midwest.  We need to rethink how we get people back to work... oh wait... I have and idea...

and we're back to...


Maybe even encourage small businesses run by women.

But no one talked about it.  Ever.

It's the abyss in the middle of the country that feeds us.

We don't connect with them.

So that's what happened.

People didn't vote.  People didn't put any effort into it  The Democratic Party ran a candidate that the voters couldn't connect with because you never let her just be herself- you over rehearsed her.And it showed. 

The other factor, too, was my Republican friends who begrudgingly voted for Trump didn't think he'd win and they were as shocked we Dems were.  Honest.  They are a little scared, too.

I'm a little mad a people who don't care.  I'm a little mad at a campaign with a ton of money that didn't seem to listen to reason.  I don't know how toeexplain what we did to help the poor because it's not leading them out of poverty.

And to all my friends who compare this to when Obama got elected and you guys kept saying he was like Hitler and said to knock it off and it all turned out fine- give us some slack.  Our candidate wanted to give you health insurance, protect you from bank fraud, let gay people marry, end a war and limit crazy people from getting guns after a bunch of first graders were gunned down in their classroom.  Your guy wants to quiet the presses, cut 20 million people off health insurance, get rid of nearly all banking regs (that didn't work so well last time) , deport our friends, ban Islam and monitor mosques, nullify our friends' marriages and he threw out protestors regularly for protesting.  Well, at least two weeks ago he did. He seems to have changed his stance on everything.  But I hope you can realize that's a little different than getting health insurance.  No one was torn away from their children, cut off when they hit their insurance cap. And I know you still have your guns. I still have mine.

(As for social media bickering, there is never, ever a situation where I will tolerate racism or ignorance.  You want to post an insensitive, racist meme- go for it- you're gone.  I don't care if you're family- I'm not listening to your rant about things you know nothing about- and I will never let you be racist.  Ever.)

We also did a lot right, too.  We stood up and will continue to stand.

I had so any friends engaged, I couldn't count them all.

Most importantly- I had so many friends that just STARTED to get engaged. They went canvassing for the first time or made calls.  They were fantastic. 

They did not sit idly by.

And you should not. 

Be engaged.  Join committees. 

Be a part of the process.

If there is a law or a zoning change you don't like- get on the agenda and get it fixed.

Things can change.  Government can be more efficient if we all participate.

If everyone engaged, we wouldn't need to worry about money in politics. It wouldn't be necessary.

And engaging is not posting memes.  It doesn't mean you voted.  Voting is part of it- not all of it.

So thank you to my amazing group of friends for inspiring me.

To Hillary Clinton, thank you for putting it out there.  Thank you for inspiring young women everywhere.  Thank you for showing us that no matter how smart or successful you are, women will always be held to different standards.  You handled things with grace and class,  You are brilliant.  To be quite honest- you are too brilliant for us to appreciate and we just can't have nice things right now!

To my friends of color, I have no words.  I will be there when you need me.  I will never understand fully what you are going through- all I have is empathy and empty words.  Just know I will come if you call. I will always go to the mat for civil rights and for you.

I truly wish President Trump success.  His success is my success.  I will watch him closely as will everyone else.  I hope after meeting the man he trashed so viciously for so long, he realized that he helped contribute to slowing down what could have been the best  presidency in my lifetime.  I will continue to contribute my positions on policy through the appropriate forums.  I hope he is as open to input and discussion as the prior administration.

I also hope he acknowledges the increase in racism he caused over the past 8 years by leading the birther movement and continually questioning the current' President's motives, nationality, religion- anything-- and then he threw a match on it expanding it to xenophobia, anti-semitism and normalizing harassment of women with his campaign.  To win at any cost. I will not get over the hatred that he spewed.

He can own that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Yesterday was Historical

Yesterday, for the first time, I cast my vote for a woman for the President of the United States.

I knew it would be emotional, but I even surprised myself.

When I saw her name at the top of the ticket, I actually gasped.  I asked my 10 year old daughter to accompany me. She gave me a funny look when she heard me catch my breath.

I went through the rest of the ballot and when it came time to cast my vote, my daughter asked if she could hit the button.  I told her with all the controversy around voting, she had better not, but we could do it together.

We did.

I started to tear up.

When we got to the car, I actually started to cry.

She looked at me and said "Is this really a big deal?"

And I said "I hope for you, it never is."

And I mean that.  I hope it's not another 200 years. I hope that there's not another discussion on how big someone's hips are or if they are too ugly to be President or anything other than if they are qualified for the position.

I should be clear that I did not cast my vote based on gender.  In fact, twice, I raised my hand against her in our caucuses.

More accurately, for the other candidates.

My relationship with Secretary Clinton is complicated (and one sided, I should point out,  as she has no idea who I am.)

It started in 1992.

In fact, while all these other people have all these issues which aren't really based on anything real (despite random websites), mine is quite simple.

She baked cookies.

Prior to the horror of the cooking baking incident a group of women rudely questioned the audacity of her choice to pursue her career in lieu of being a dutiful wife and mother and staying home. She said: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life."

I remember hearing that as a senior in college and thinking that was the best thing a First Lady could have ever said.  I loved it.

She had busted her butt as one of the few women at Yale Law.  She was the first female partner at her firm.

She was unabashedly herself.

But alas, that was not flying with the public.

It became the "Hillary Issue."  She was seen as cold and unfeeling. 

So she baked the damn cookies.

And while the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are a delicious recipe...

NY Times First Lady Cookies-- Hillary's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies vs. Barbara's Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies

it bugged me.

She acquiesced.

Back then, even as a young woman who loved cooking, I felt like she had caved.  That after all her accomplishments- serving on the Watergate prosecuting committee, working with the Children's Defense Fund- they were cast aside and the true measure of being a woman was based on her cookie baking skills.

That makes her a woman.

A real woman.

The stand by your man crap bugged me more then than now.  Now I'm married.  I'm over it.  Marriage is complicated.  Marriages are private.  That's their business not mine.

But the cookies were always a thorn in my side.

Silly, I know.

So silly, that I could get past it.

But yet it nagged at me.

And it nagged at me because I know that women are held to a different standard.  To be perfect.  Strong and sensitive.  Smart but not cocky.

No male presidential candidate is held to that.

If she cries, she is weak.  If she doesn't cry, she's a bitch.

If she's strong, she's angry.  If she angers, she's difficult.

And every woman knows it, because we've experienced it.

We've been in meetings and been interrupted 51 times.

We've had our ideas restated by men- sometimes verbatim- 10 minutes after we've said them and been told they were stupid, only to have a male colleague receive praise for saying the exact same thing.

So I didn't want her to bake the cookies.

I wanted her to tell them to shove the cookies up their...

well you know.  I don't want to be vulgar.

That wouldn't be ladylike.

I wanted her to be strong.  So I could be strong.

And this entire campaign I still felt like she was being too nice.

I have the fortunate advantage of knowing a few people that have the privilege of working with her.  They all have said she's actually very kind.  She's brilliant.  She's hard working.  She's bitingly funny.

They are people I respect. I trust them.

So I supported her. 

Plus, I like her platform. 

But that last debate.  That last debate- pre-cookie Hillary was there.

She was strong.  She debated Chris Wallace like a champ. 

He pushed her.  She pushed back.

There were no fluffy stories.  There were not apologies.

She was strong.  She was confident.

She was unapologetic for being brilliant.

She was what I wanted in a president.


So when I hit that button it wasn't just about voting for a woman who was running for president.  I didn't just vote for my party's platform.

I voted for the woman who finally allowed women to be themselves. 

Strong. Confident.

Without reserve.  Without apology.

Without the damn cookies.

THAT made me cry.

The overwhelming feeling and support of every woman who came before me.

Of every woman who was beaten as a suffragette. 

Of every woman who was mocked for thinking she could ever have the same rights as a man.

Of every woman who burned her bra.

Of every woman who filed a complaint and stood up to unfair treatment.

Of every woman in my women's history classes.

Of every mentor.

Because maybe now we can live in a world where anyone can bake the cookies or not bake the cookies. 

And anyone can be president.

Anyone who is qualified.

Regardless of baking skills.

Friday, October 7, 2016

My Outrage at Your Outrage

Donald Trump made some extremely vulgar comments to Billy Bush and it was caught on on tape and everyone is outraged.

First of all, I don't actually know who Billy Bush is, so I'm not going to lie, after I realized it wasn't a member of THE Bush family, based on the content of the tape, the irony of his name made me laugh.

And then I got really, really pissed.

But not at Trump or this Billy guy.

They are idiots.

I'm pissed at YOU.

Yes, YOU, oh Outraged Horrified One.

Are you kidding me?

THIS pisses you off?


This is a shock?  This is offensive?

How the hell did you think the world worked, Pollyanna?

Women comprise 4% of the CEOs in the Fortune 500. 4%  Yet they earn a third of the MBAs.

Did you think we just busted our asses through business school and thought naw... we don't want the jobs?

I've worked in the casino industry and in financial services for nearly my entire career.  Do you think what Donald Trump said surprises me in the least?

Do you think that in 25 years no gross, slobbery, fat, bloated, hair plugged ego maniac offered to sleep with my then adorable 25 year old self?

How about a pathetic middle manager or two?

Or even the sleazy 20 something colleague because "Hey, nobody would really need to know, would they?"

Do you know that I do have nice male colleagues that shared that I was voted "Most Fuckable" in my office?  And no, that didn't come with a trophy-- just the "honor."

The awkward cornering in the coffee rooms, the leering, the fact that you can't have lunch with a male co-worker without the rumor mill starting--

I have to say, I am happy that I got fat.  It made my professional life soooo much easier.

And speaking of fat, out of all the awful, misogynistic things that man has said about women- it causes problems in a marriage when wives work, women need a nice rack to be successful, abortion should be criminally punished-- calling Miss Universe fat is what pissed everyone off at the debate?

So sure, be all offended.  Act surprised.

Did you even noticed that his defense of Pussygate was that Bill Clinton is a bigger pig than he is? 

You know what's REALLY wrong with that--


THAT'S the issue.

He debated her husband's policies.

For once, I agree with Sniffles the Clown.

He's right.

Bill is a pig.

But here's the thing, Sniffles, this is for you-


Hillary is.

The woman.

The one with the pussy.

The one with the rack.

And when you interrupted her 51 times--

51 freaking times-

she wasn't shocked.

I wasn't shocked.

Because she's used to it.

As am I.

And I'm sure in her 20s, she ran with a powerful group of men, men with bigger hands than you who I'm sure offered to "buy her furniture."

So go ahead, America.

Be all shocked.


This is what we've been trying to tell you for the past few hundred years.

This is what's been going on in the workplace where we still don't earn what men earn when we do the same job.

This is what you've said we've been overly sensitive about.

Too PC about.


Now grow up and stop looking so surprised.

The only person he owes an apology to is his wife.

Stop being stupid.

He's exactly what he is.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Parenting, Glass Ceilings, Marriage, Gardens, etc...

I've started a few blogs lately and haven't been able to finish them.  They were more like babbles than well written essays.

I usually write about my kids on their birthdays.  Yesterday, my son turned 14.  He's awesome.  While we were out to dinner we saw a 2-3 year old completely out of control, eating sugar packets while drinking a soda.  So I thought maybe I could write a blog about parenting basics- including don't let your toddler eat sugar packets.  You know-- that deep insightful stuff.

Last weekend, I celebrated 20 years in financial services by hosting an appreciation event with my clients.  It was nice.  Looking back over 2 decades, it still makes me laugh at the blatant sexism I faced.  And how completely naive I was to think we had passed that some time in the 80s.  But interestingly, in 2016, so much is still the same, it's shocking.  I always think of Ginger Rogers commenting how she did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in heels, but he was the star.  Granted things are better, but 20 years better?  Not even close.  You think stockbroker, you think man.  I started a blog on feminism but I don't really have an answer so it seemed like I was bitching. Like an angry, bitter woman.  Sigh.  That wasn't going to help.

Marriage.  That's been interesting as my husband and I approach our 15th and found ourselves completely retooling everything this summer.  But that's personal and I chose to not blog about it.  Although as my good friend Bill said "That's the shit people need to hear."  Maybe one day.  Not today.

And my garden.  I lost myself intentionally in my garden this year.  It had a rough start but found it's soul and I've been busy pickling and canning and getting ready for the fall.  There were so many analogies to what was going on in my life to my garden.  So many.  But it's all pretty raw and I couldn't write about it.  Plus, in the southwest, our gardening season isn't done.  Maybe when I'm pulling everything out, I'll be able to write about it.

With all these ideas floating in my head, it was interesting that what came to mind tonight, so clearly was my grandmother Viola.

I've written about her once or twice in the past.

She was my grandma on the Italian side.  Only she wasn't this big, squishy, lovable woman who smelled of garlic.  She was northern Italian.  "We aren't all sloppy like that" she would say.  We had nothing in common but we had everything in common.  In fact, she told me once that the reason we probably didn't get along well is because we were so much alike.

She was the queen of the backhanded compliment -- "You'll age well because you'll look prettier as you get older.  You don't have any looks to lose like the other girls and compared to them, you'll be pretty."  I like to think she was saying I had a classic look.  Or when she told me I was a good mother-- and she meant it.  I know this because it was followed by "I'll be honest, I didn't really expect it.  I'm surprised."  I laughed and said "Me, too." 

She warmed up to me in my 20s as I learned to sew.  She was a fantastic seamstress.  She made so many quilts, clothes, aprons for us over the years.  I made her a pillow- two actually.  The first one was a disaster but she took a nap on it every day.  So I made the second one.  She said it was too nice and she didn't want to ruin it.  I told her the first one was awful and she didn't have to pretend to like it.  She told me "Lori- in all my years of making things for people, you're the first person to ever sew anything for me."  (Now to all my aunts' and cousins' credit- because they are all super nice and not at all selfish and awful as this implies and I'm pretty sure they HAD made her things-- my grandmother could be a bit.. um.. critical.  I never really cared about what she said, or maybe I was so stupid that it didn't matter, and I gave her my awful, poorly made & designed pillow. ) For the next 10 years, she took her afternoon nap on it. 

But the best, most genuine compliment she gave me was one my marinara sauce.  She loved it.  She wasn't faking it.  During her last year, my dad was staying with her during the day.  She was my mom's mom and never really liked my dad much.  And since I'm like my dad... well...  Anyhow, as my dad kept her company, they became quite good friends.  To both their surprise.  And with my dad spending time with her, because I called my dad every day and he was at her house, I got to talk with her.  The year before she and I had started chatting about once a month or so when I had my son.  Usually about cooking or gardening or what he was doing (she adored him which was not her norm).  She not only was a good cook, she had had an AMAZING garden growing up, so we talked about my tomatoes.  It was during one of those calls I told her I had found this fantastic marinara sauce.  When I went to visit her- for what we both knew would be our last visit-- she asked me to make the marinara sauce for her.  I was surprised- I had forgotten we had talked about it.  The recipe was 2000 miles away.  I called home thinking there was no way I could explain to my husband where it was.  But he found it.  He could hear in my voice how important it was.

And around her table, for that last time, I knew I had her respect.  Most definitely.  She devoured it and told me she liked it better than her own. 

Tomorrow my son is having a birthday party with some friends.  Every year I make him a chocolate cake (my recipe, not my grandmother's-- okay, honestly, it's the chocolate cake recipe on the Hershey cocoa can) but with my grandmother's crazy good fudge icing.  If you like chocolate, this is to die for. 

Even though I've made the frosting 100+ times, I still get out the cookbook my grandmother hand wrote for me.  Her notes in the margins.  Poems she liked intermingled.

And she was there with me.  In that stand offish way that was her.  In her "My job is to train you, not to coddle you" manner that she had but somehow she still was fun- like how she used to freeze snow every year so we could have snowball fight on her birthday in July.  She always tried something new and never seemed to quit learning.  She appreciated that I sent her Christmas cookies that WEREN'T her recipes.  She would call and ask me about the cookies I had made.  She loved my brown sugar pecan sliced cookies.

After spending the last month canning- I had made my clients pickles from the cucumbers in my garden and had canned my marinara sauce for the fall- and cleaning up my garden throughout the week for the fall/cool weather garden- it was grandma that was woven through my entire last year.  Our conversations on parenting, on how she had wished she had had the opportunities I had for school, on what a pain in the ass marriage can be but you stick with it, on my garden...

This whole past year which was at times overwhelming and exhausting with so many little things being thrown at me that I actually broke down this summer in tears in the parking lot at my office--all that-- and yet in the midst of the self pity quagmire, I pulled myself together, stood up, brushed myself off and turned it all around.  All of it. 

And there she had been the whole time.  Ingrained somehow in my soul.  Cheering me on.  Well, not cheering but the voice in my ear  essentially telling me to suck it up and put on my big girl pants- life isn't what's in the brochures, but it certainly doesn't suck unless you let it.  There's was nothing in my life that wasn't fixable and what an amazing blessing that is.  My grandmother wasn't a fan of the pity party. 

So when I pulled out the cookbook to double check the recipe, I could see her smile -- the smile she gave me at the table when we shared that last meal.  That "You did it. Not bad."  No hug, of course, because that would be sloppy.  Like the southern Italians.  But I could feel her genuine, rare approval.

And everything that I am seemed to come together as the cake baked and I made the frosting.  My heritage, my life woven into the core of who I am. 

My children, my business, my marriage and my garden are thriving now.  They needed time.  They needed work.  I needed to reevaluate priorities.

And it will be perpetual.  And it will not be easy. And there will be obstacles and hurdles.

But I will be fine.

Because I am Viola's granddaughter. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Zen of Gardening

I haven't really blogged a lot lately.  It's been hard to find nice things to blog about.

And then I put in my garden.

It's been two years since I've had a garden. 

The last year in our old house, since I knew we were going to list our house I didn't put one in.  The year before our then newly adopted dog mistook my tomatoes for balls.  THAT was frustrating. Then, our first year in our new house, we were building the pool and there wasn't time to put one in.

I almost didn't get one set up this year.

Fortunately, El Nino was on my side and we had a freakishly cool spring and I was able to get one set up.

Boy have I missed it.

I first started gardening at 7.

You read that right.


I stumbled upon a book in the library about postage stamp gardening for kids.  I went home, dug up part of the yard much to my parents surprise and went to town planting my first garden.

I'm not kidding.

They were a little less than thrilled.

I had a habit of replanting tree seedlings all over the yard so they figured at least they would help me set it up.  Try to reign it in a bit.

They didn't need to help me- I had my book, I was good to go.

I also had the benefit of Mr. Morrison who lived behind us and was a retired farmer.  He thought it was fun to watch me get excited about my garden.

I learned that nitrogen created too much leaf and not enough fruit- great for growing spinach, not great for tomatoes.

I also learned that horse manure had more nitrogen than cow manure.  It was better for your leafy crops, but in general if you were going with manure, cow was the better, more versatile bet.

(This became an interesting tidbit as I went off to my fancy Ivy League college in central New York- an area even more rural than where I grew up.

I was driving with some friends with from the New York City area and we went past a field and one of them commented about the nasty smell of cow shit.

I said, without hesitation said "Oh no- that's horse shit."

They all got quiet and started laughing.

So I added "Horse shit has a much more pungent aroma due to the higher nitrogen concentration..."

We then drove past a horse farm and they all looked at me, a little surprised and a little impressed.  Not a cow in site.

"What can I say?  I know my shit."

Taught them city folk a thing or two.)

So flash ahead, I'm living in Las Vegas, I went a little crazy with houseplants.  When we finally got our first house, I was THRILLED to put in a real garden.  I also had the advantage that my father-in-law was a gardener.  In fact, I married into a ranching family that was one of the original ranching families in the areas.  He gave me great tips on gardening in the desert.  We didn't have much in common, but we both lit up when we talked about gardening.

One argument we had was about corn.  He said I couldn't grow it.  I bet him that I could. 

Unfortunately, he passed away before I harvested anything from my garden.

As my corn came in, I found out that I needed to hand pollinate.  That included pulling back the husks, separating the silks and massaging the pollen into the ears.

Yes.  It was hilarious as it sounds.

And to make it even funnier as my husband watched me hand pollinate the corn, I cranked up the stereo with Barry White.

We got corn.  I won the bet.

I've just never had the heart to plant it again, though.

My husband, however, has had many times to laugh at me in the garden.  There's my hat for one thing.  Gotta have a hat.

There was also that time the middle of the night when I went outside, covered it in blankets and kept my tomatoes warm with my blow dryer during the first early frost. 

Yes.  I did that.

My kids helped me from the time they were small.  My son when he was a toddler had a habit of picking my watermelons and bringing them to me to announce they weren't ready yet.  I eventually stopped planting them.  A picture of him watering the tomatoes when he was 2 used to be part of the master gardener tomato class- "So easy even a 2 year old can do it!"

One of my favorite memories with my daughter was when she was about 4 months old and I had her on a blanket as I weeded my herb garden. I had her smell each herb.  She loved the lemon thyme and basil.  The mint made her wrinkle her nose.  I remember how she closed her eyes and took deep breaths- like she knew what we were doing.  It was magical.

In fact, if you ever want to see me completely get excited about something- ask me about gardening.  I could go on for hours.

There is something about putting a seed in dirt and watching it grow that brings me peace.

Gardening taught me patience.

It only goes so fast.

Gardening taught me that no matter how perfect the plan, you have to adjust the plan as you go.  There are just some variables you can't manage.  This year's El Nino-- never had plant fungus before... learned a few new things.

Gardening has taught me that the environment matters.  That nurturing matters.  That the seed matters.  You can't just plant something and expect it to thrive.  You have to watch it.  But if you do too much, you can kill it- over fertilize, over water, over do it.

Gardening taught me that what's under the ground matters as much as what's above the ground.  Pretty leaves and flowers don't mean anything if you have grubs and a weak root system.  

Gardening taught me that every plant needs different things.  Root veggies need more calcium and phosphorus.  Tomatoes need more calcium and to rotate because they can't grow in the same place year after year or they will stop producing.  Certain vegetables compliment each other.  Others don't.  Some pretty flowers are great pesticides- like marigolds- and others are wonderful at attracting bees- like echinacea.  And of course, without bees, you have nothing.

So gardening taught me balance- you need the little bugs to eat the grubs, the bees to pollinate, the lady bugs to eat the aphids... everything has a purpose and a role.

But this year, my garden has brought me peace.

It made me slow down.  My kids are remembering the taste of fresh vegetables.  They both spent much of their childhoods pulling cherry tomatoes off plants an eating them.  They get to do that again.  I like knowing that if I need herbs, they are out in my garden.  Every morning, the dogs go out to  "walk the fields and check the crops" with me and get a treat of fresh kale. 

I joined an online group of fellow Las Vegan gardeners and it's made Facebook fun again.  I even went to a rose society meeting and met some really interesting people. 

Apparently, gardening has even more to offer me.

So maybe to you, it looks like I planted a garden.

To me, I planted a little bit of heaven- or at least what I imagine it must be.

Armenian Cucumber blossom
A green pepper about to be born....
Eggplant blossom.

In just a few weeks it's already busting at the seems- it doesn't even look like this... it's like a baby picture....

Marigolds- nature's pesticide.  So pretty yet so stinky.

Maters in the desert.

Next venture... roses...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Klan and Me

I grew up in a fairly small community in the rust belt in east central Ohio.  It was a mix of steel mills and dairy farms.

The Erie Canal ran through the farming community and expanded the area into a decent industrial community attracting immigrants to work in the mills.

It was not a diverse community then.  It is still 97% white.

I spent quite a bit of time with my grandmother while I was growing up.  I've always enjoyed the company of older people and both my grandmother (my mother's mother) and my grandfather (my father's father) were exceptional yarn spinners. I loved listening to their tales of the past- of the wars, life in Appalachia, relatives past- it was history brought to life.

My mother's side is Italian and my grandma would tell me stories about how her family came to the United States.  She was born here but some of her older siblings were not.  A set of twins had died in Italy before her parents moved.  They came through Ellis Island and settled directly in my small town and opened a small grocery store.  They loved their new country.  My great grandfather insisted they speak English and he embraced his new culture.  They were from the more northern part of Italy. 

They were, for all intents and purposes a fairly affluent family.  Small business owners. 

There were other Italian immigrants who also moved to the area.  Many, like my grandfather, had come specifically to work in the steel mills.  His family originally settled in Chicago where he was born and then moved eastward.

The new immigrants to the area were not received with opened arms, according to my grandmother.  In fact, they were often visited and threatened by men with pillowcases on their heads, as my grandmother described them.

Needless to say, that was the Klan.  You see, my hometown is just far enough to the South that until the 70s, there was an active Klan group.

Ahh... the sweet life of small town living....

Now, Italians are pretty good at being an organized group.  In fact, they came over with their own club- the Cosa Nostra- "our thing" or as you might know it, the mafia or the mob.

Since my grandmother's family was from the north, they were not part of it.

They also were not Anglo-Saxon so they were not part of the Klan.

My grandmother would tell stories of how both groups would try to convince her father to turn against the other.  Her father continued to do business with both groups.

And for awhile, being Switzerland so to speak, seemed to work.  Her family was happy.  Then the Depression came.

Money became tight.

And because her father refused to be loyal to either group, they ran his business into the ground and her family lost everything.

And I would say that she was exaggerating- because she was prone to do so-- but when she described the cross that was burned in their front yard and I could still see the fear in her eyes-- I knew that she hadn't been.

She had to drop out of school for a period of time and work as a domestic worker, cleaning houses, cooking, doing laundry.  She told me how she asked one family if they wanted her to wash the fancy pillowcases with the holes in them.  She returned to high school (at the encouragement of a teacher she was working for) and finished but returned to working as a domestic worker until she married my grandfather.

It was an unspoken history in my town.  Certain families were in the mob.  Certain families were in the Klan.

Growing up, I didn't know who was who but my grandmother did.  I knew exactly where the Klan farm had been.  When I met the kids of the people who owned it, they were nice to me and we all assumed time had moved on.

In fact, in my 20s, I dated a very nice man that I had gone to high school with and became close with his grandmother.  She was the same age as my grandmother.  When I asked if she remembered my grandmother- after all, it was a very small town and they both had lived there for 70 years- she danced around the question. It made her visibly uncomfortable.

I asked my grandma.  She was usually direct.  She really liked the guy and said she was sure they had probably met at some point.  She brushed it off.   It wasn't until he and I had been dating for more than a year that I pushed my grandma about it-- she didn't seem interested in meeting his grandmother.  I  couldn't understand-- they had so much in common.  They could be friends! Then my grandma in her more blunt manner said "I've met her family before-- they came to visit with sheets on their heads.  Trust me, she knows exactly who I am."

My jaw dropped.

His family's farm was right around the corner from the Klan farm.

This wasn't some history book.  This was my family's history.  This was my family's history colliding with his family's history  like a Danielle Steele novel. 

Well, not that interesting. I'm not a Countess in hiding. At least not that I know of...

His grandmother eventually did say "Oh... I think I remember meeting Viola..." 

And she was always kind and lovely to me.  And my grandmother was always kind and lovely to him.

And to me, it meant the world had moved on. His family truly could not have been kinder.

The Klan was something in the past.

It was dead.

When David Duke ran for Senate, I had the misfortune of visiting Louisiana.  I say misfortune because it warped my perception of Louisiana permanently.

It seemed silly and dated.

People were smarter than that.

They were.

He lost.

But now.... just last week there were Klansmen at the Republican caucus near my HOME.  In my city that is NOT 97% white.

In my city that I love because of the richness of its diversity.

The Ku Klux Klan.

A major presidential candidate has their support.

He refuses to denounce them.


This is not okay.

This is not even a little bit okay.

This is not funny.

This is terrifying.

This is how Hitler came to power.

People not voting.  People too busy with their own lives to pay attention.  People saying "Oh there goes Mama Bean again, all worried about silly politics..."

It matters.

It matters a lot.

This is real. 

This is happening right now in one of the most diverse countries in the world.

A candidate is running on the platform of hate.

Just like Adolph Hitler.

He is blaming immigrants and minorities for all issues.

He wants to turn back the clock.

Back to when my grandmother had a cross burning on her yard.

Because they came to this country to make a better life.

Please, turn off the Kardashians.

Please become engaged.

Please vote.

We can disagree on economic issues.

We can disagree on the best ways to reform immigration and education.

We can disagree on many things.

We cannot disagree on racism.  This is not who we are as a country.

Read "Reading Lolita in Tehran" to see how quickly angry zealots can destroy a country. In less than a year, Iran went from a progressive nation with less gender disparity than the US had at the time to a regressive nation which oppresses human rights.

In a YEAR.

Voting matters.

This matters.

This is real.

Please do not sit idly by.

(I would also like to add the post thought that I appreciate that because I am white, I can make the comment that we moved on past the Klan in my home town.  I am very aware that racism has persisted and is alive and well in this country.  The Klan, however, and its hatred, to me, seemed to be waning and not growing.  I was clearly mistaken.

While racism effects all of us, I am not so arrogant as to say it impacts me the same way as a person of color.

However, if you are Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Black, Latino-- the Klan hates us all.)

Some links:

Klan History in Tuscarawas County

Auction Time

Ohio Klan History