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, December 20, 2016

Holiday Nostalgia

"Country Living" had a post on 30 things people miss from the past for the holidays.

What I thought would be a sweet article annoyed the crap out of me.

The post had a bunch of people waxing nostalgic about how great everything used to be.

Perhaps I'm still a little sensitive from all this "Making America Great Again" crap- (back when women knew their place and black people had separate bathrooms- I'm still not exactly sure when we were better than we are today - none of my family members have polio, for example) but this article made me want to punch Santa.

Here are a few of the items-

Reading the new book we got and ignoring everyone.

Waiting until Christmas to open your gifts.

Matching pajamas.

Christmas morning coffee cake.

Tinsel.

Um... aside from tinsel which was a nightmare to clean up and choked dogs and babies- what exactly has changed?

Then the comments "Back when kids didn't stick their face in electronics..." or "Getting the whole extended family together"... "Going to church on Christmas Eve."

If I remember my childhood correctly, adults did not feel compelled to be entertained by children like they are today.  Maybe because we have fewer kids, but I remember quite vividly being ignored by adults at family functions and told to go off and play.

What's the difference if my kids are playing on an electronic toy or a board game?  Nerf guns have been the preferred toy in our house up until the teen years started to kick in.  We weren't especially  any more social back then than my kids are.  They find random relatives that they never see talking to them like they are 2 about as annoying as I did 35 years ago.  I still remember my son, at 10, asking me- quite seriously- if one of our relatives thought he was learning impaired. 

And maybe your family isn't getting together with you because they don't like you.  I don't know about you, but we spend Christmas with about 40 relatives.  In fact, we spend pretty much every single holiday like that.  We also throw in our friends. New Years we have a tradition that started with all our friends with kids who lived in walking distance of our home and felt lame for staying in on New Years.  Now they come over, we have dinner, we celebrate at 9 (east coast midnight) for the younger kids and midnight our time.  It's a blast.

You want to see your family?  Pick up the phone, invite them over, and throw a ham in the oven.  Don't wait to be invited.

And church?  Last time I checked, midnight mass was still going strong.  There's no war on Christmas.  My Jewish friends celebrating Hanukah hasn't exactly impeded my ability to celebrate the birth of Christ.

We still get the family matching pajamas. 

I also give my kids oranges in their stockings. 

We make cookies.

I make a special breakfast Christmas morning.

We try to go caroling.

We look at Christmas lights.

I'm sorry- I guess I just missed it.

And like tinsel, some traditions were annoying.  Like those nasty cookies that someone made from the old country.  They were meant to stay there.

So if your holiday season sucks and you dream of days of yore, maybe you need to evaluate YOUR life. 

If you're lonely for the holidays, my guess is there are other people out there that are as well and you should call them.

You are ultimately responsible for making the holidays what they are.

I'm always fascinated that people bitch about how materialistic the world is these days, yet every Friday after Thanksgiving, it's chaos.

and for some of my friends that IS their family tradition.  They get together with the family, hash out a plan to go shopping, fill their thermoses with cocoa, coffee and if I had to guess some adult beverages, and they hit the malls and have a blast.

Maybe they aren't churning butter but they seem to be having a pretty darn good time.

Granted, you will not catch me any place near a mall then... unless one of my kids asks me one day.

Because to me, the holiday season IS fun.  I love the lights.  I love the music.  I love the food.

A few years ago, pre-recession, my husband and I bitched because we had something like 14 parties to go to in about a 3 week period.  It was nuts.  We seriously complained.

Then the next year, it was like the rug got pulled out and there were 2.

Two.

As we sat on our butts, we decided we would never complain about holiday chaos again.  In fact, that was the year we started the New Years Eve party.  And everyone was THRILLED to come because they, too, were sitting home, alone with nothing to do and feeling like losers.

The fun in memories is that you never take pictures of the bad times-- I stole that line from my mother-in-law, by the way.

And our memories often do that.

The old days weren't that great and today isn't that bad.

New traditions are just as fun as old ones.

And no one is stopping you from making Grandma Mary's Nasty Ass Whiskey Ball Cookies.  We renamed them.  I miss Grandma Mary like crazy but not those disgusting cookies.  Her fudge- absolutely.  Thank goodness we have the recipe.  And her dancing Santa is in our house, too.  Which is almost as good as having her with us- because that's one thing we can't get back- the awesome relatives that we miss.

But we can enjoy the new relatives.  The new babies.  The new in-laws that joined the craziness.  And we can tell them stories about the ones that aren't there.

Life moves forward- for good and for bad.

If you miss a tradition, take it off the shelf, dust it off and bring it back.

But most importantly, join in.

And stop bitching.

I'm so tired of people bitching about what they don't have.  Or how great they once had it.

Get over yourself- you weren't that great and never had that much to begin with.

Enjoy what you have. Enjoy the moment. 

Call your friends.

Reach out.

Make the holiday season YOU want.  Don't wait for anyone else to do it for you.

If baking 40 dozen cookies exhausts you, don't do it.  If some relative comments "Gee, I miss your cookies" tell them they are welcome to come over and help you bake them or give them the recipe.  If you LOVE baking cookies, then bake like the wind.

Stop looking back and live.

Tomorrow isn't promised.

And the holidays aren't about tinsel and the tree. It's about the people around it and what's in your heart.

So go out and have a Merry Freaking Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Because I'd hate to have to punch Santa.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Moments of Clarity

Quite a few years ago, the book club I belonged to went through a World War 2 phase where every book we read seemed to focus on the Holocaust- "The Boy with the Stryped Pajamas," "The Book Thief," "Atonement, " "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,""Sarah's Key"- we called it our Nazi phase.

Usually we would come to the discussion on how could good people let something like this happen.  How could they stand idly by?

I remember saying that I understood.

And everyone looked at me like I was crazy.

It wasn't because I thought they could deny that it was happening.  I don't believe those people.  I believe they were in denial.  I believe they didn't initial believe it or fathom what was going.  But by the end... they knew.

I understood because I've had a gun pointed at me.  I understood because I have children.  I understood because as a mother, I feel that it is my responsibility to protect my children.

My very best friend is Jewish.  A number of my closest friends are, in fact. 

At that time, I said I would love to think that I would hide people and stand up to the Nazis, but the reality was I didn't know what I would do. 

My friends were stunned.

I'm not shy about standing up for injustice.

But if my family was at risk and could be killed- I honestly said I didn't know.  I said I would probably do what it took to stay alive and keep my family alive.

So I understood why people stood by.

That apparently made me a terrible person.  Well, not really- we're all still friends- but I could tell my honest response surprised everyone.

Flash ahead to election night.

And yes, I'm going to compare it to Hitler's Nazi Germany.

If this offends you, I'd ask you to stay with me.

If you can't see the correlation it's because you're one of the people it didn't impact.

Maybe you voted for Clinton half heartedly and thought "Oh well, she lost."

Maybe you voted for Trump because you wanted to make a statement with your vote.  Give a middle finger to Washington, DC.  A fuck you to the establishment.

I'm from rural Ohio and I don't think my friends who supported Trump there are racists.  Some people are, but no more than I've experienced in the urban areas.  In fact, to be brutally upfront, I've found racism to be far worse in the the cities where I've lived.

I think people who supported Trump  did so because it didn't impact them.

They aren't Muslim so the fear of being required to register for the simple purpose that a few people of their faith committed crimes- far less frequently than Christians murder in the US, as a side note- they weren't worried.

They didn't have any gay friends or relatives whose  marriages were at risk of being dissolved.  Or if they did have gay friends, they might have even thought it was wrong and a choice. 

They didn't have any friends who were unable to get health insurance for pre-existing conditions and could die or lose everything because of it.

They didn't know anyone whose family could be torn apart by forced deportations.  They think becoming a citizen is easy and have no idea about the how process works- the expense, the time line, the misinformation- because they don't have any friends who are immigrants.

They weren't too terribly impacted by the recession because things were never really as bad in Ohio as it was elsewhere because the jobs in the area weren't impacted as much as other parts of the country.

They never knew anyone who lost their home during the recession.

To them, it was just a regular election.  They saw what some of us saw as hate speech as simply rhetoric to get elected.

They had nothing to lose.

But to me, those consequences were real.  Very real.

And the night of the election, one of the people that I love who has been personally targeted by the PEOTUS and his family, texted me because she knew that I knew the math and that Clinton- her friend- was not going to win.

She was terrified.  Not for just herself, either.  The first words she said, as she stood before me shaking, was asking about what would happen to this 10 year old little girl whose mother could be deported.  She had spoken out against the PEOTUS- the little girl- and we know he reacts to people who stand up to him.

And I looked my friend in the eye and grabbed her hands and told her that the little girl would always be welcome in our home.  We would take care of her, no matter what, for as long as it took.

And my friend said "What about the other children?"

And I said they could all come live with me until it was all straightened out.  I said it would make for an interesting Christmas card next year.

And I would adopt her as well, as an adult.  Which she then explained I couldn't, but thanked me.  I told her I would "gay marry" her- but then joked that that was probably shot to hell, too.

So then I said she could stay with us and I would not let anyone take her or her family.  We could build a bunker.

And then I tried to make her laugh because that's how I handle stress.  And she is one of the strongest people I know and I have no doubt that she will be fine.

But in that moment, I learned something about me.

Something I had been unsure of my entire life.  Something I questioned when I read stories about the Underground Railroad. Something I thought about when studying the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King.

What would I do when faced with injustice?  Would I sit idly by?

When I told my friend she would be okay because I would protect her, it was because I meant it with every ounce of strength in my soul.

So yes, I would have hidden my Jewish friends. And their families.  And as many as I could.

As I will hide my Muslim friends if they are forced to register and leave their homes like the Japanese Americans in the 40s.

As I will help my immigrant friends. 

Without a doubt or second thought.

But what about my family?  My children's safety?

The next day, I spoke with my children about the election.  My daughter was in tears because she was worried for her best friend's grandparents.  My son was confused and concerned for our gay friends. 

My children- the ones that I love more than anything-  were worried for others.

So I told them-

"Listen, I don't know what will happen.  I would like to think the Mr. Trump did not mean the hateful things he said to get elected.  But we're going to assume he did.  Because that's the smart thing to do.

And we are going to fight for the people that may not have a voice in the future.  Because that's the right thing to do.

And here's the thing- I hope you know by agreeing to do this, if I ever put you at risk it is not because I don't love you- it's because I do love you.  And I need you to understand this--

I do not want you to grow up in a world where people aren't treated fairly- where they are discriminated against because of their religion or race or who they love.  That is wrong.  As your mother, it is my job to make sure the world does the right thing.  That is the best way for me to be your mother and you shouldn't expect anything less from me.  We do not cower- if we hid and did nothing- that would be wrong.  That's against everything I ever taught you.  Fighting against injustice is how I will protect you.

I will not have you grow up in a world like that- ever.

And if it ever seems that I am putting another child before you, it's because if there ever was a time when your dad and I weren't around, I would hope that someone would stand up for you.  And if I'm not willing to do that for someone else's child, then I cannot expect someone to do it for you.

So we stand together, as a family and we support our friends.  No matter what. 

And we fight to make things better and safer.  And we hope for the best."

Because I want to believe that the hatred spewed was nothing more than campaign rhetoric.

If it's not, I will do everything I can, in every way that I can, to stop it.

I'm fine with political disagreements and philosophical debates.  Muslim registration- no.  Not on my watch.  Because it doesn't stop there.

And for me, being a good mother means doing the right thing.

These are scary times.  When one post, or one tweet can lead to death threats or personal attacks, it's terrifying. 

So for me, social media and protests aren't going to be method of making the world "better."

I will work quietly, in the background, as I always have.

Because I am a human.

I have an obligation to care for others.

Because I am a mother. 

I have an obligation to make this world better for my children.

But even more importantly, to teach my children to do the same.  By my example.

That is what I learned this year.


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.

Relax.

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.


Sincerely,

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.

BUT I VOTED AND WE STILL ENDED UP WITH A COMPLETELY INEXPERIENCED ORANGE HAIRED HATE MONGER AS PRESIDENT.

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.

Again- AWESOME.

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...

SMALL BUSINESSES.

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.

FINALLY.

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?

Seriously?

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--

it's that HE DOESN'T ACKNOWLEDGE THAT HE'S RUNNING AGAINST HILLARY. 

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-

BILL ISN'T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.

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.

Surprise!

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.

Yep.

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.

7.

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.

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Dear Gloria Steinem and Secretary Albright

Dear Gloria Steinem and Secretary Albright,

Thank you.  Thank you for everything you have done.

In fact, Secretary Albright, I like you so much that my daughter's name was Madeline for a few hours after she was born.  It didn't quite fit her, so we didn't stick with it.

That's how much I like you and how much I respect everything you have done in your career.

I really liked you when I watched an extensive multi-hour documentary on PBS about the Clinton administration and why you left.  You were forthright and I looked at my husband and said "Wow- she does not mince words.  I like her."

I also acknowledge that the sins of a husband are not the sins of a wife. 

And Ms. Steinem, I've read quotes by you at a women's group with which I am active.  You have motivated me to break down barriers.

I work in an industry that when I started, was only about 15% female.  I was happy at an investment conference last summer because I FINALLY had to stand in line for the bathroom.  I was sad that when I posted that observation on Facebook only 4 male friends liked it because the other men had no clue why I would be excited about standing in line at the bathroom.  So there's a long way to go, but that's progress.

I attribute my fortitude to much of what I've read that you've written, the movement that you helped direct and creating a pathway for me to be all that I want to be.

However, as a feminist, I was so incredibly offended by what each of you has said over the past few weeks that it makes my head hurt.

I also would like to say that I understand that Secretary Clinton is not responsible for what you said.

The comments were flippant.  They were ridiculous.

Had Trump said them, I would have rolled my eyes.  But you....

So since you think that I am some silly girl who has no respect for the fight that you fought (and we continue to fight, as a side note), let me explain in detail why I am supporting Sen. Sanders in the Democratic Caucus next week.  I actually think I might explain it better than he does, to be honest.

I am supporting him because he is addressing the root causes of the primary issues facing our nation today and holding us back:  political corruption and economic inequality.

Government cannot function in today's environment.  Sen. McConnell was threatened by his own party to tow the line and was primaried by a well-funded opponent.  Congressman Boehner couldn't take it any more.  They weren't allowed to find the common ground.  And it's not just the Republican Party.  On our team, special interest groups use endorsements and contributions to force elected officials to vote their way or be challenged.

In fact, one reason I won't run for any office is because I would never want to be beholden to donors.

It is wrong.

Nothing can be done until we address this issue.

Nothing. 

The fact that he is the ONLY candidate discussing this issue is important to me.

I also had the privilege of attending a few smaller events with the Senator.  He really does not care who you are or how much money you donate.  Truly.  He left a VIP room- pissing off more than a few people- to make sure that a rally of 3,000 people started on time.

So he walks the walk and earned my respect.

He is the only candidate that has a fundamental plan to address the root of economic inequality- whether it be racially based or gender based.

And I'm not talking about equal pay or raising the minimum wage.

I'm talking about funding education.

It's not pie in the sky.  When you were both in college, it was possible to work a summer job and pay your tuition.   It's impossible now.

You had the opportunity.  I sorta had the opportunity- my state offered scholarships to state universities for students with certain GPAs and ACT scores.  Tuition would have been free for me had I opted to attend a state school.

So why not the young people today?

"Reach one, teach one" I just heard the other day.  I want every smart student who wants to go on for higher education to have the ability to do so.  I want to pull people up and give them the same opportunities that we had.  Not say it's impossible.  Find a way to make it possible.

I want for-profit universities to not be eligible for federally subsidized student loans.

Education provides opportunity which reduces poverty and crime rates. 

Sen. Sanders talks about specific plans to make the playing field fair.  Corporations should not have more tax privileges than small business owners.  I am a small business owner.  I am sick and tired of every large corporation being offered tax incentives to come to my state- no taxes for them, mean more for me. I joke that small business owners are the Atlas of the US economy. I can't go offshore. We pay for EVERYTHING. 

Including health care. I can't get discounted rates from insurers because I'm not a big enough group plan.  The Affordable Care Act has made health insurance less affordable in many ways.  I am happy about the accessibility but having a national plan that I could opt into for my employees would be fantastic.  I want to run a business, not spend time shopping health coverage.  It seems ridiculous to me that we are the only industrialized nation without a national health care plan.  When did my running a business obligate me to offer benefits?  In fact, I've always been amazed that conservatives haven't jumped on the national health care plan.  I'd gladly pay a tax that is shared by everyone rather than insurance premiums that is unevenly split amongst fewer people.

In summary, I find that his ideas and plans address the key fundamentals that are dragging our society back into a Gilded Age.  They are not policies that simply say "Give more money to this group" or "Change that law..."

It is fundamental restructuring.  Like FDR. 

I don't accept "It can't be done. We shouldn't even try."

You didn't accept it when they said women should stay home and not bother themselves with silly things like politics and other "men's" issues.

And I won't accept that what we have is the best we can do.

THAT is why I am supporting Sen. Sanders.

Not to meet boys.

Not because I don't respect the feminist movement.  I just don't think it's done.  I don't think we've even come close to scratching the surface of inequality. Being born poor shouldn't mean you stay poor.

So thank YOU for showing me that women can do anything. 

But on this issue as to why I support Sen. Sanders over Sec. Clinton, I very kindly disagree.

I wouldn't vote for a candidate because she's a woman any more than I would vote for a candidate because she's white.

I would vote for the person that I think is more aligned with my values.

In this case, it's the loud, old white guy from Vermont that sometimes spits when he talks.




Sincerely,

Mama Bean



Sunday, January 31, 2016

How I Parent (which should not be taken as How to Parent)

There have been a few articles circulating on the webisphere about how to parent.  One will say parents are too easy on the kids.  The other will say parents' expectations are too high.  One will say parents need to be aggressive.  Another will say we need to focus on compassion.

It's all very confusing. 

I'm not going to lie- I've gotten help parenting from two books.  One was "Babywise" which discussed the importance of putting a baby on a schedule.  Despite some of the negative buzz on this book, it did NOT say a ridiculous, minute by minute schedule.  In fact, it even made fun of that by saying that people should use their common sense and adapt.  The second book, which is slightly embarassing, was "Family First."  It's embarrassing because it's by Dr. Phil.  THAT Dr. Phil.  It's fantastic. 

Both of these books helped frame how I parent.  I had no clue about how to parent.  The baby classes taught diaper changing and swaddling but not parenting.  Pregnancy and delivery never scared me nearly as much as what you do the next 18 years or so.  THAT terrified me and continues to terrify me daily.

So what makes me think I should give out advice?  Well, I get asked a lot about how I get my kids to behave and be nice.  I have great kids.  They make me look like a great mom.  They make it easy. 

My son's school did this fantastic team building, anti-bullying program recently.  He came home and said "You know, you're a pretty terrific mom.  I didn't have anything bad to say." And I got a hug, so there's that.  He's 13.  I can count the hugs.  I also commented on one of his former teacher's Facebook thread when she posted an article on affluenza.  What followed were a few comments on what a great kid I have.  From teachers.  So I'm going to say he's turning out okay. 

My daughter is more of a flutterfly.  She's smart- tests ridiculously well- but academics bore her creative mind and grades are more challenging.  However, her teachers have always loved her and she has a ton of friends.  I adore her.  So I'm going to say that so far, so good, she's turning out okay.

Neither kid is perfect, but I'll address that in a bit.

But here are my thoughts on what makes a good environment for kids to grow.

Have a Routine
My kids have been on a schedule since they were six weeks old.  Not minute by minute but there's been a routine.  Bedtime was a bath with lavendar, a story, hugs, kisses, soft music, good night, lights out.  My daughter slept through the night (well, 6 hours) at 2 months, my son at 3 months.  To summarize "Babywise" - how would you feel if you had to scream and yell every time you were hungry, wet or tired?  Good point.  My kids have always been chill because they know what to expect.

We do this today.  Tuesday we are usually having tacos.  We watch certain shows together.  There's a routine, a pattern. 

Any time we get off this pattern- especially if I have to work more- it gets frustrating and we all seem off.

Having a routine means everyone gets enough sleep, gets fed and we have time to connect.

And in that routine- down time.  Every one needs some time for nothing.  My kids are not overscheduled robots.  "Hanging out" is underrated.  I also think it encourages them to entertain themselves.  My kids are never at a loss of what to do.  I've heard "I'm bored" a handful of times- they always have something to read, make, play with, think about-- they manage their own entertainment.

Do Not Negotiate with Terrorists

My kids learned early on that no means no.  I'm also okay with saying maybe when I'm not really sure and don't want to jump to no (like when I'm in the bathroom and they want to do something immediately....um... give me a minute).

But no means no.

Always.

Or as I say: "Before you ask me again, think about it.  My answer will still be no and then I'll be annoyed.  So your choice is to let it drop and move on, or ask again and have a crabby, irritated mom.  Now what were you going to ask?"

I am a terrible mommy friend when I see friends cave on this.  It. Makes. Me. Nuts.  You said no.  Your child will live.  I am dumbfounded when they ask "Why is my kid still having temper tantrums"--- um, because they work.

I know it's easier to cave.  And hey, if you choose to cave, just know that you are doing nothing to change behavior.  If you're good with that, fine. 

I think it's crazy.

If your kid is having a complete meltdown, walk away or leave wherever you are with your kid.  No one likes to watch this. 

There is a good chance your kid is tired or hungry.  And if you stick with the whole routine thing, you circumvent a LOT of this type of tantrum.

Sometimes, it's not because they are tired or hungry and it's because they want something.  This is what I did- for each kid- and it completely eliminated all future public temper tantrums.

One was in Target (my son), the other Jo Ann Fabrics (my daughter).  Both kids were about 2 1/2.

I sat down on the floor, started kicking my heels and started yelling "I'm so upset... my kid won't listen to me..." and on an on I went for about a minute or two, having my own temper tantrum.  Both kids shut up, looked at me and then I said "It looks ridiculous, right?"  They nodded.  "How about I promise never to do that again, if you don't either?"  Worked like a charm.

I also used a lot of common sense.  Before we went into the store I would say "You are not getting anything today.  We are going to get X, Y, Z and nothing else, okay?"  I also tried not to take them when they were hungry or tired.

The louder they screamed, the more they didn't get what they want.  They soon learned it didn't work. 

So if your kid is having temper tantrums, it's because they work.  They are training YOU.


Let Your Kid Be Your Kid
You probably think I'm some Tiger Mom now with rules, time tables, zero tolerance- no love whatsoever.

Wrong.

I think parents should let their kids be whoever it is they are. 

I shudder when parents of shy kids force their child into something like theater or dance-- especially younger kids.  I think it's really awful, to be honest.  If your kid is terrified of being in a crowd, forcing them on stage does NOT create a stronger soul- it just terrifies them all the more.

Or the completely uncoordinated kid being forced on a sports team so the parents can relive their childhood dreams.

Now if your kid WANTS to do that- my daughter stunned us with her desire to play soccer- then go for it.  But if your kid is crying all the way to ballet class, every week- don't sign them up again (don't bail mid-season, though-- I'm all about finishing what you started).

So what if your kid is the quiet, thoughtful child that likes to read and doesn't need a pack of friends?  Or if your kid is bouncing off the walls, don't sign them up for an activity where they'll be sitting for an hour.

Try new things- you never know.  And revisit them.  Your uncoordinated 5 year old might be an excellent swimmer at 13.  Who knows?  But know your kid.  Your kid is a not a mini- you.  I love that my kids are readers but they both have very distinct likes and dislikes from me. 


My daughter was too independent as a kid to do things that were class like- she'd rather play on her own.  My son is great at taking direction and did really well in team sports at a very young age.

They are them. I am me.  Ask them what they like.  Your job is to expose your kid to the world- not force them into stuff.

And again, we always finish what we start.  You sign up for guitar lessons, you finish through the month.   If you want to take them in the future, I'm okay with that as well.

Don't Encourage Your Child to Lie

Of course- who would do that?

I see it a lot.

My husband has a temper.  We've talked about how he reacts to the kids and he has done a 180 because he's seen this work.

Your kids will screw up.

I screw up all the time.

If you lose your head over spilled milk, incomplete homework or whatever- your kid will start lying.  I promise. 

Our kids know that lying is the absolute worst thing they can ever do.  I'm serious.  Scratch the car- it can be fixed.  They lie, now I don't trust them, and it takes a long time to get fixed.

My daughter would have a cookie in her mouth and say she didn't take one.  So we are pros on this.

Basically, if you're certain they are lying, call them on it.  Tell them that if you find out they are lying you are going to be twice as angry and the punishment will be worse.

And when they tell you the truth, don't lose it.  Thank them.  Thank them for being honest.  Think about it.  Then hand out a punishment.

We always need a minute to regroup.  Or a day.

Our kids know there are consequences.  Usually the waiting period is scary enough.  More on this is a minute.

But if you are constantly yelling or screaming or reacting at your kid, you are pretty much telling them that it's easier to lie.

I also think that taking a minute to think, rather than yelling, teaches them that it's okay to make a mistake.  They are safe.  They are loved.  They are growing up.

But if you lie... you lose the benefit of the doubt.

The Punishment Needs to Fit the Crime
Don't overreact and ground them for life.

Make the punishment fit the crime.  Also make sure it's enforceable.

No TV ever again.... not gonna happen.  Bedtime at 8- that you can make happen.

My son lost computer privileges for 3 months when he was 10 and we caught him chatting in an online group.  Because that was serious.  At 13, he appreciates how serious and creepy people can be on the internet.

Watching a rated R movie because we were too stupid and gave you the Netflix password-- that's a verbal "You know better" lecture and we change the password.

Eat Dinner Together as Much as Possible
Our evening dinner is a big deal.  It is also very hard to stick with as a mom with a business.  I'm constantly asked to go to events and when I say "I can't miss dinner with my family" I get weird looks like "It's just one night"- it's not just one night. 

Dinner is part of our routine.

We talk.  We catch up.  We laugh.

As the kids approach the teen years, I know this time is limited.  But for now, I want them to know they are a priority and our family is a priority.

My kids bicker because they are siblings, but at dinner, we are one unit.

Don't Do Your Kid's Homework or Projects

I could rant for hours on this.

My mother-in-law even commented that she had thought I was being mean in kindergarten when I used to make my son do his own homework.  He would say "But Mommy, the other kids jsut have their parents do it..." and I would say "I already went to kindergarten."

But now, he does his own work.  Without reminding.

And the projects... sigh.  That's been the hardest.  My kids walk in with their less than perfect whatever and see the other kids' Smithsonian Exhibits... but now they know.  And I can see the impact, especially as my son is getting older.  The pride he feels when he receives an award or a good grade- it's his.  My daughter just won a costume contest at Halloween for a costume she designed. We helped her as needed, but it was hers.

I think it's good to help, but so many parents don't know when to stop.  Your kid will be so much happier and have such a sense of accomplishment in doing their own work.  They will become more independent.  More confident.

If you step in every time to "fix" things, they will feel incompetent and grow dependent.  You're undermining them, however, well intended.  That A is yours, not theirs and they know it.

Let Them Fail

I'm big on this.  It's not your test.  It's theirs.  If they felt it was unfair, they need to say something- not you (now if it's an ongoing thing, obviously talk with the teacher).

The project didn't get done?  Oops.  That's gonna suck.

When my daughter's Daisy troop took ice skating lessons, the first thing Kat, the teacher taught, was how to stand up.  The second thing, how to fall down.  The third thing, how to stand back up.

I think it's a great analogy for life.

If you don't let your kid fail, they will never learn how to get back up.

It's better that they learn it as a kid than at 25 the first time their boss says "This sucks- do it again."

It's completely okay to not be perfect.  No one is. 

Plus, you learn a lot more from failing, than succeeding.  Learning how to take and manage risk is all part of this.  If your child fears failure, they will never learn how to assess risk.


Listen, I'm not a perfect parent.  My kids may end up crack heads for all I know.  But something tells me that allowing them to be themselves, knowing that we are here for them, knowing that they can figure it out on their own-- I can't imagine that that won't somehow make them responsible, successful adults.

More so than overscheduled lives, perfect grades and designer clothes.