Amber (@amberausten) says if I don’t blog right now, I am not authentic. (She’s kidding of course, but I’ll take the bait.) Susan (@firecatsue) says that I need to delegate myself as the ‘authentic police’, monitoring the authenticity of everyone, calling them on their bullshit as I flash my ‘authentic police’ badge. (I made the ‘badge’ part up. Susan didn’t really say that.)

When I flash said badge, I will say simply, ‘I call bullshit’.

By the way, today, I call bullshit. There is so much bullshit out there today in the media, where we give people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (and calling them ‘people’ makes me cringe) a loud and largely heard voice as they spew lies and nonsense. Every man is a stage, says Shakespeare.

I long for the day those stages turn as Solomon’s building of salt turned – into dust.

Are the lies harmless? Susan says, no, but she also believes that frothing up the American public with lies and bigotry, misinformation and twisted, hateful reasoning is the only way to get to the ‘other’ side – the side where there’s light and reasonable, honest dialogue about our differences, our uniqueness, our pressing needs, not just locally, nationally, but globally.

For me, the Becks of the world, including anyone who turns him on and actually listens with respect to his violent voice, are living lives that are untrue – not-authentic. I call bullshit.

Let’s be clear. I hate the word ‘authentic’, unless of course you’re making a distinction between faux and authentic marble. We are all ‘real’. We are all ‘authentic. We’re all made of atoms and DNA, energy and matter. All of us.

That means, yes, even the African American President of the United States, born in Hawaii, of a Kenyan father, is authentic, like his, dare I say it, birth certificate. And he deserves respect as a leader, as an educated man, as a flawed man, as a father, a son, a husband, a basketball player.

The issues that go with the office of that man are being lost in a sea of violent, dangerous, hate-stirring lies perpetrated by media monsters and tea baggers and people so afraid of their own shadows that they’ve created a monster in every room; and they’re creating those monsters for their children – a new generation of hateful, fearful, unquestioning people who somehow think racism and its many facets is ‘normal’.

We are one. As Susan says, we are ‘co-creating our own universe’. Co means ‘together’. It means what I do or say is affecting what you do, what he does, what “THEY” do. A quick study in physics 101 will clarify that one action begets another. Something in motion will stay in motion. Something stagnant will beget inertia.

We are one. We can co-create a better universe just by virtue of staying in motion – by being active, being activists, not being stagnant and allowing inertia to keep us from talking about and effecting change.

The sooner we realize as a society that we are all responsible for our own behavior, that as Amber says, if you’re to be ‘authentic’ you simply must remain true to yourself AND to others, the more effective activists we’ll all be. That means that you – all of us – have a responsibility to know the truth. That means we can teach our children not to be afraid; to understand that we are all one, that racism and bigotry on any level, in any guise, is dangerous. That the real ‘bogeyman’ is racism and the only thing to truly fear is elitism because it’s based in hatred, in the idea that some of us are ‘better’ than others.

Susan says we’ve already opened Pandora’s box. The theater will have to go dark before the light can come back in again. The stages must first turn to salt.

We’re heading full speed ahead to the dark side right now – and that’s not to say we aren’t becoming more ‘enlightened’ along the way – maybe some of us are. I hope so.

I’m just worried about the ‘theys’ who aren’t concerned with reaching the light, unless it means the end of the world and a lake of fire and man named Jesus coming to take the whitest ones with them; you know, the ones who hate government and taxes and dirty immigrants.

Frankly, I’m just worried.

Susan says we’re living during the fall of Rome. We are living lives of excess with an uncontrollable, insatiable thirst for adrenaline inducing thrills and, yes, lies. We are fed by our frustration with our imperfect lives. In a search for endless distraction, we are listening and giving credent voice to mentally ill, Palin-esque narcissists who have no regard for honor or truth or, heaven forbid, facts.

This post is a bit of a downer. I get that. It’s o.k. Playing Pollyanna all the time, 24/7, can be a bit, let’s say, tedious. It’s hard not to let the concern slip out. So, for this post, I’m letting Pollyanna take a rest.

Check this post on Alternet out – how Beck and his ilk are inciting an Orwellian society – not kidding. http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/08/30/how-glenn-becks-perversion-of-dr-kings-vision-is-proof-positive-of-orwells-wisdom/

How’s your attitude coming along these days?

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Such a profound quote. How often do we, as human beings, find ourselves frustrated and blocked by unanswered questions? Then, instead of allowing those questions to simmer on the back burner of our minds, we turn them over and over until they are jumbled and impossible to reconcile?

Why are we impatient with ourselves and others in our endless quest for perfection and success?

As a writer, the unanswered questions often become the catalyst for a story. I often use the term ‘percolate’ when referring to what I do after an interview and researching and before the words come together on the page. As time goes by, I’m beginning to learn to allow my day to day life to work in the same way, without so much accompanying frustration and desire.

The Zen Buddhist belief system asserts that we must not desire; that is, in the desiring, the angst of desiring, we sabotage our true purpose.

So, today, and every day forward, I will hope for less impatience, less desire, less need for instant answers. I will seek to be content with just ‘being’.

This is a story I wrote for austinwoman magazine. I was honored to have the opportunity to interview former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. It was a brief interview – there were many more things I’d have liked to ask her – some more controversial – Nevertheless, here is the story of my meeting with her, this extraordinary woman, in October, 2009.

Someone forgot to send former secretary of state (1997 to 2001) Madeleine Albright the memo that says when you’re in your seventies and you’ve finished a tedious, exhaustive tenure on the president’s cabinet, you can slow down a little and stop working so hard. But hard work, Albright believes, is the key to a life well lived.

The Czechoslovakian born daughter of a Jewish Czech diplomat, Albright was raised Catholic, and converted to the Episcopalian religion years ago when she married. She only learned later in life that her parents were Jewish, and that she had lost many relatives in the Holocaust. Perhaps it is an innate ability to adapt and survive under difficult circumstances that accounts for much of her success, not only professionally, but personally. She has three grown, professional daughters and is the (naturally proud) grandmother of six. Dr. Albright schedules her days, even now, in fifteen minute intervals. She is sharp and likeable and surprisingly down to earth and easy to talk to, considering she’s shared umpteen meals with heads of state from around the globe.

Speaking of sharing meals, Albright points out that, believe it or not, one her many great challenges while serving as the U.S. envoy for all things difficult and demanding, she gained weight. “Eating with dignitaries and leaders of countries is no simple challenge,” she says. “It is expected of one, even as a woman, to eat enthusiastically when you are dining with people in their countries. There was no way around it. I put on some unwanted pounds ‘eating for my country’.” And indeed, that may not have been one of the ‘heavier’ (pardon the pun) burdens of the job for this self-proclaimed feminist who was the first woman in this country to hold the lofty position of the 64th Secretary of State, at the time the highest-ranking woman in U.S. government history.

Dr. Albright, who currently is an endowed professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown University and Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, has fashioned a career that has been, though not entirely, significantly government-centric. Though she was primarily educated in the United States, Albright didn’t become a U.S. Citizen until 1957. In 1975, while her daughters were still young, she completed her PhD at Columbia University. She became involved in politics while working on the Ed Muskie campaign during that same time. And the rest, as they, is history.

Achievements as Secretary of State
In her assessment, her greatest achievement in her term was accomplished in Kosovo. “In Kosovo, we were able to stop ethnic cleansing. It was a complicated effort, and satisfying when it was over.” She also points out that during her term she was able to oversee some extraordinary progress for women globally, therefore politically and economically empowering more women throughout the world. “That was no small feat,” she remembers, “and I’m proud to have helped spearhead that movement – a movement that continues today.”

On Feminism
When speaking of feminism, Dr. Albright is noticeably passionate and sincere. “Women need to support and help one another. There is no other way. I always say there’s a special place in hell for women that don’t help other women. It’s that important. As it is, every woman’s middle name is guilt; we never feel like we’re doing enough or in the right place. So we need one another, and we need to be less hard on one another.” She also expresses a belief in having a strong work ethic. “I’m so into working hard, giving whatever your job is, no matter the job, the best you have.” And how did she find the energy to fulfill such a complex role? “I love and am passionate about foreign policy, so being secretary of state was the dream job of a lifetime. I learned to live out of a suitcase, but I loved it. The hardest part was keeping up with my relationships with friends. I had to constantly cancel on people when we would try to get together, and I really missed the company of my friends sometimes. That’s the part that really suffers the most. Otherwise it’s a fun, fascinating and challenging job.”

Secretary Clinton’s Challenges
Albright recognizes that Secretary of State Clinton has an even harder job than she had during her term. “Clinton, and Obama, have more simultaneous challenges than ever,” she says, with empathy. “They are under an umbrella of issues that include finding ways to effectively fight terrorism, deal with a broken nuclear non-proliferation process, bridging the gap between rich and poor. They have to address a bundle of energy and environmental issues, have to figure out how to restore the good name of democracy, address the global financial crisis. And on top of all those things, add wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what is going on in Africa, Cuba and Latin America while developing good working relationships with India and China. I’ve rarely seen something like this.” Dr. Albright is known to be one of Clinton’s most trusted advisors, a grand example of women helping women.

“Thankfully” she goes on with concern, “they have appointed special envoys for day to day hot issues that require complete concentration on the ground, for example, in places like the Middle East.”

Another frustrating challenge of secretaries of state is finding ways to get more resources from the already tapped state department. The Dept of Def budget is 780 billion and the entire budget for the State Dept is only 53 billion. “Clinton has to be able to present the case to the American people and Congress that her department needs more funding.”

Albright also adds, with concern, the necessary focus the department must foster on children, disease, women’s issues and assistance programs. “It’s a very broad job, and I believe she’s organizing things much the same way I would.”

Albright, the author
Add to Albrights list of published books (seventeen in my estimation) her latest bestseller, “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box” (Harper, $40) and she truly completes ‘the whole package’. “Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal,” Albright writes in her new book. “Former President George H.W. Bush had been known for saying ‘Read my lips.’ I began urging colleagues and reporters to ‘Read my pins.'”

The book is beautifully illustrated, and Albright’s colorful stories behind her unique pin collection explains how brooches became her signature tool of diplomacy. For example, The Dove, was a gift from Leah Rabin (widow of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin). She explains that she wore it to convey the critical need to end violence and foster reconciliation between historic rivals in the Holy Land. Albright: ever the messenger.

“Read My Pins” is published in conjunction with the Museum of Arts and Design’s first major exhibition of jewelry from the collection of Madeleine K. Albright running through Jan. 31, the exhibit will travel to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., Washington, D.C. and Indianapolis.

I just finished reading a brief interview with Barbara Ehrenreich called “The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America. http://wp.me/pzYHz-Z

It totally struck a chord with me. Read it and let me know what you think.

Ehrenreich is saying something that I often say, in so many words, when I’m waxing on, philosophically, about life. In the interview, the end especially resonated with me when she suggests we might consider just LIVING our lives, as opposed to always thinking of ‘improving’ and ‘analyzing’ ourselves – and others – and believing that if just think positively, we can have it all.

In my family of origin, a lot of emphasis was, and still is, put on what we were ‘accomplishing’ – whether it was through social activism, through school and grades, with our creative selves, or simply with our ‘attitudes’. (Interestingly, I’m Ok, You’re Ok, Thomas Harris, MD, 1969, was a favorite of my parents. Perhaps they believed it, they just couldn’t live it.) “Striving to be” better is all well and good, I guess. Children need to understand the importance of working towards something in order to achieve an identifiable goal.

But to what extent? How far should we go, as adults, in encouraging (or pushing) our children to “achieve” something? Where is the part where we just let go, and tell even our children that it’s okay to just BE?

Our over-scheduled lives are just that – over-scheduled. Some of it is necessary, and oftentimes productive. But shouldn’t there be an equal amount of time spent on simply doing nothing; by nothing, I mean relaxing, daydreaming, watching silly tv shows, lounging in the sun? None of those things necessarily accomplish or serve to achieve. They just ‘are’.

I like that idea. Over-achievers and perfectionists and control freaks and people with consistently sunny dispositions make me nervous. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in making my life an interesting, rich one. It just means that I have a healthy respect for simplicity and for imperfection, and for the realization that there are plenty of things I can’t, or won’t do or accomplish or have, and that I will have bad, even dark days and unsettling, uncomfortable moments where I’m not interested in being charming or agreeable. That’s okay. I can deal with that. I’ve never been the parent or person that says ‘you can do it! You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to, just be positivie!” In my opinionated opinion, that’s more damaging than any of the other ‘damaging’ things we do to our kids. And to ourselves.

Americans are too proud. We have a hard time admitting we have limits, that we can’t ‘have it all’ or “do it all”. Some people even have a hard time admitting they don’t WANT it all. And an even harder time admitting that when they get sick, or lose their jobs, or have a broken heart, all the ‘positive’ thinking in the world can’t make the reality of the issue at hand go away. Sorry. it just can’t.

If I feel grouchy, or angry, or lonely, or scared, please don’t tell me to ‘think positively’, and ‘manifest something positive for yourself’ or ‘don’t be so negative’. I’m liable to consider smacking you. It aggravates me that much, that pie in the sky positivity crap.

I understand the beauty in being appreciative. I understand and am in awe of abundance. I realize the significance of finding the good before defining the negatives. But that the phony-baloney positivity peddling is exasperating, pure, dull nonsense.

As Ehreneich points out, it’s damaging and often, dangerous. It just is.

Socialist Block

I Ain’t A-scared A No Socialists

Back in the day, when people still spoke in hushed tones, or not at all, about the “big one”, and kids at school had weekly ‘drills’ that included hiding under your desk while you (fruitlessly) covered your head, the Eastern Bloc was often referred to as the “communist bloc” or “soviet bloc”, and folks were afraid of the Russians as if they were the ‘boogeyman’.
Americans today throw the words ’socialist’ and ‘communist’ around like two bit words, as my father would say, without truly reflecting on what those labels mean. Some fear that the U.S. will soon become a “Socialist Bloc”. Perhaps it’s time to examine socialism and its implications in today’s American society as a democracy.

What do people really mean when they label the leader of our democratic society, as it is, a socialist?

In 1970, when I was 10 years old, my parents, then in their 30’s, decided to form a ‘commune’ in deep south Louisiana. My father was a prominent lawyer in the town we lived in, my mother an artist from New Orleans. They were very involved in Catholicism not as ‘charismatics’ but as believers in the ‘ecumenical movement’. The community they formed with other families was called “Open House Community” and was to include people of all faiths, races, and belief systems.

The idea of living communally was a social experiment first conceptualized over a century ago by ‘modern socialists’. Modern socialism originated in the late 18th-century as both an intellectual and a working class political backlash in response to a quickly changing industrialized society and in response to the capitalist societies rising in various parts of the world. Some of the movement’s members tried to found self-sustaining communes by ’seceding’ from the capitalist society model. Those people were known as ‘utopian socialists’.

Perhaps my parents and their friends were in search of utopia. I’m certain they’re still searching.

Henri de Saint Simon (1760–1825), was the first individual to coin the term socialism as a broad term. He advocated technocracy and industrial planning; governmental organizational methods that we continue to ascribe to today.
If you look up the word ‘socialism’ in a Webster’s dictionary, you’ll find it described as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”. The definition dates back to 1837. Note its definition reads “any of various . . .” immediately making it a difficult word to use as a simple label, since labeling infers that a decision has been made about what something actually is, and thus it shall be so called.

The United States under our current president is being accused as becoming a ’socialist’ nation. Indeed, our President is often referred to, usually by his opponents, as a ‘socialist’, a ‘Marxist’ and (ooooooh) a ‘communist’.

The first ’socialists’ dreamed of a world that could be improved by commanding the best of technology in combination with a more organized social order which would include individual affiliations with ‘party’ politics. However, others of the first socialists, and indeed many today, favored a more individualistic society that would flourish according to individuals’ merits, an almost Darwinian approach.

There were also “libertarian socialists’, who believed much like the current American Libertarian party– that government should stay out of individuals’ lives and societies should reward (or deny) each of us as individuals, not collectively. Libertarian socialists rejected the government’s role in societies altogether while advocating for a ‘workers democracy’.
When the term ’socialist’ is used today, it can infer a more egalitarian approach to governing, or a ‘nationalistic’ approach known as ‘national socialism’. Indeed, an egalitarian form of governing on the surface sounds ideal. After all, in personal relationships, do we not all strive for equality? If we don’t, shouldn’t we? And indeed, doesn’t a democratic society seek to achieve equality within a nation among a richly diverse people? Isn’t that what this social experiment called “America” is all about.

Do you see the pattern here?

So from where does the fear of ’socialism’ as a word truly stem?

My father was a rather successful lawyer with a flourishing plaintiff’s law practice. So, while we were living in ‘the community’, as we referred to it, he decided to run for District Attorney. Crazy, huh? You have no idea.

The backlash from the people in the town of about 90,000 was incredible. While he did have a strong grassroots campaign rooted in the black community, most of the rest of the town was threatened by him and his populist ideals. In fact, a group of them made a cloth, life-sized dummy of my father and hung it by a noose from a tree near a bridge that divided South Lake Charles, where the whites lived, and North Lake Charles, where the poor and the blacks lived. We received death threats by phone and mail. The KKK burned a cross in our yard. As a young girl, my parents spent a lot of time in hushed tones trying to talk about this without scaring their 6 young children. We knew what was happening. We could see it with our own eyes.
In general, this naively-conceived idea to run my father for office while living in a commune was regretful. Needless to say, he lost his bid for office, badly.

That someday he would become a State Senator and serve 3 successful four year terms could not have been foreseen.

In the Open House Community, my family only lasted 2 years. This is why. Many of the people in Open House Community – and there were only about 7 families, all living in their own homes on a shared 80 acres w/ a shared community center and a garden, – earned less money than my father did. The joint bank account that was established by the group began to rely most heavily on his deposits, which became a source of added pressure for our family. There were also other things – the houses that we each lived in were very small, only about 1200 sq ft., and we had a large family. My parents wanted to be able to build a larger model, but the other families resisted the request. Also, some people were not contributing their fair share to the daily work load, people’s different ideologies and parenting techniques clashing, and likely a series of other small and large conflicts that contributed to my parents being unhappy living life within a communal model.

And then there were the people of the town at large. They would gossip of orgies and free sex and drugs and general crazy talk of what went on out in the country on those 80 wooded acres. All of it was rumor, none of it was remotely true, and it took a toll on my father’s business.

We moved back into the capitalist town and lived a more ‘acceptable’ life among a lot (not all) of very small minded, judgmental people who eventually accepted us back into the fold. Somewhat.

And so, therein lies the thing about socialism and why it sounds so scary to some – perhaps many – Americans. We like to share – it’s an essential lesson in child rearing – but we don’t like to share everything. And socialism allows for that possibility. We are conscious of the possibility that there will always be those who don’t hold up their end of the deal and will abuse the ’system’, or take advantage of the harder workers, or better earners, among us. But isn’t that the way life is, in general? Don’t we share and give of ourselves often, all the time, with nothing expected in return?

In Erich Fromm’s political psychological book “Escape from Freedom”, he discusses three ways we as humans avoid the responsibility and gravity of being truly free. One of them is by surrendering to ‘authoritarianism’, thereby allowing others, including our government, to make all of our decisions. Scary, huh?

In socialism, as ambiguous a term as it is, we are called upon to be responsible for ourselves and thus for society as a whole.
Progressives, a rather new term recently coined by people having a hard time calling themselves any particular party while we wage this ‘party line’ war, also feel that while people should take personal responsibility for their lives, they should also be willing to care for others in a society that is rarely fair and balanced. Progressives, like socialists, are encouraged to be more free with their thoughts, words, money, time. Being a progressive, like a democracy, is an experiment based in compassion and balance. Though it can seem burdensome to seek balance and fairness, as Fromm would point out, it can also be freeing – for those not afraid of freedom.

In the end, socialism is only a word, like all the other words we use to describe ourselves in a complex, multifarious world. And of words, we need to be the least frightened, and the most beholden.

And so it is with our President, a well spoken man, a man whose even staunchest opponents will call a great orator, that we become less impatient and more careful. If we continue to try to label him, we will lose. For he defies labels, as does this country. We are a mixture of so many incredible adjectives and nouns, and it is that ‘mixture’ that makes us profoundly unique. As we fervently aspire to many a verb: love, peace, forgiveness, progress, might we remember with pride that we are a country built on words, as in built from one piece of paper filled with meaningfully, meticulously crafted words; the U.S. Constitution.

So to those who are afraid of ‘socialism’, I assert that it is only a word, with many different meanings and forms. It’s not really scary, and it needn’t be labeled that way. And the beauty of this awe-inspiring country is this: nobody’s forcing you, or your leaders, to be only one thing, to think only one, rigid way. We can be a little bit of a lot things, and still call ourselves, with pride a ‘great American’!

The God Block

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

“I’ll admit it.

Even in front of my parents and your parents and your church preacher. I don’t believe in God.

At least, not exactly.

As a recovering Catholic (that’s a Catholic’s inside joke) I don’t take this decision lightly. I know it matters. And I know I have no doubt about one thing.

Faith is blind. Blind faith. It’s all the same. It means we all have to believe in ‘something’ or we have no faith. And without faith, how can we believe in hope? And without hope, how can we make it through another day?

So, what do I believe that helps me everyday put one foot in front of the other?

I believe in love. I know, it sounds like a Beatles song. It sounds cliche’, trite, sing-songish. That’s okay. I’m good with that.

I don’t like the idea that a MAN (yes, God is masculine) is puppeteering my life from on high. I think it seems nonsensical. And patriarchal. And somewhat ominous.

I’m not ‘blocked’ about this. I’m clear as a bell on it. So, if it’s okay with you, I’m much more comfortable believing that love, indeed, does conquer all. There is no patriarchy in love. There is no competition. There is nothing nebulous or starry eyed about it. It’s a verb. It means that I actively look for, in all things, the love. It means I live my life in love, with love, for love, of love, and ultimately, because of love.

Is that easy? Nope, not always.

Is it uncomplicated? Yes.

Think of it. And remember what they told us when we were little in Sunday school or mass or services. “God is love”.

So there. I’ve said it. I don’t like to use the word, heavy in its dogmatic tones – God.

Rather, I like to use love, in all its simple splendor.

Interesting link to visit re social media http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-09-27-social-networking_N.htm

Why, oh why, are so many people so resistant to social media?  Naysayers, everywhere, refuse to jump onto the social media train, afraid they’ll get kidnapped by some over burdensome chatty preachy love engine. Not true. Sure, there’s lots of love to share, and that’s one of the reasons to get on board.  But social media is more; much more.  It’s about sharing insights, observations, experiences, stories. It’s about discussion in real time.

Yes, social media is story telling, just without the campfire, and in the case of twitter, the much edited, most concise version. It’s about knowing yourself and knowing what’s important to you, as an individual, and feeling confident enough to own that, flaunt it, make hay with it. And, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not a ‘cheerleading’ forum. It’s a place to put your opinions and observations out there, and allow others, whether they agree w/ you or not, to comment and to engage.

If you’re shy, or have a huge sense of self pride (some would call it false pride) this may seem out of the norm for you, or worse. It may seem like ‘horn tooting’ (there’s that train analogy again!) thereby, inappropriate. Remember, our mothers told us not to brag!

But social media is not bragging. It’s not [supposed to be] that at all. It’s sharing in community. And sharing, in the 21st century, is tantamount.  As a world that’s evolving and becoming more and more global, it’s important that we all feel connected.  And not in the ‘yea, we’re all one’ kinda connected, but in a ‘we’re all one and we’d better damned well realize it and start acting like it.” That doesn’t mean that it’s going to always be about love, peace and brotherhood. Nobody’s asking you to sing Kumbaya. Sometimes, it can spark a healthy argument about a controversial issue – if you dare.

Social media, all of it, in all its forms, matters.  Try it.  At first, it’ll feel funny, and you’ll stumble and bumble around like a novice train engineer on his first day in charge of the locomotive. You can feel the power, you know it’s there, and you know, on some level, it’s important. But you’re worried you’ll make a mistake, you’ll sound silly, you’ll be trite. Who the hell cares?

We’re all in this together. Didn’t your mother tell you that, too?

This (below linked) commentary by a man who has struggled all his life to live within a family story that never synced with his own personal belief system really resonated with me.

I don’t identify with him because I had to struggle in the same way – I identify with him because I can only imagine how sad and difficult, almost torturous his interactions with his family must have often been.

I’m one of what I’d consider the lucky ones. I was born into a family whose story is rich with tales of farming, hunting, trapping, and fishing.  It’s also a story of contrast, filled with the highly educated and the undereducated – where children left school after 4th or 5th grade to begin working full time on family farms to help feed their over crowded households, then had children of their own  who grew up to be artists,  PhD’s, RN’s and JD’s, to teach school, to own companies. Unlike the writer for Public Record, I had a broad, diverse familial perspective from which to draw my personal conclusions about the way I see the world.

I am all too aware that others come from more rigid stories.

I found the man who related this story to be first frustrated, then saddened, and ultimately disillusioned by his family and the story they insisted on believing – what he viewed as a people blocked by a set of conceptual beliefs causing them to be harsh, judgmental, not empathic.

Another friend who read this, a man who is very conservative, a pull yourself up by the bootstraps kinda guy, thought the writer was bitter.

Please, do yourself a favor, and take the time to read this commentary.  It’s beautifully written, if nothing else.  I’d love to hear your story, and how you relate to the author.


The name Claire means ‘light’ or ‘bright’.

There is a sweet french 1800’s folk song I sang to my girls when they were round faced, fat little pink baby girls. It’s called Au Clair de la Lune, which means light of the moon. My mother taught it to me when I was a girl, singing it to me in the evenings, sitting on the side of my ‘youth bed’ in her lovely lilting french voice.

So I named my eldest daughter Claire; my bright light.

Claire, at 21 years, is a sight to behold. She is in a wheelchair. She is powerful.

With long, dark hair and wide, knowing eyes the color of Elizabeth Taylor’s, Claire enters a room with the grace of an earth angel. Some likely notice the wheels first. Perhaps others barley notice them at all.

She is translucent, miraculous, a siren.

No matter that her legs are like rubber now, and nearly immovable at the ankles. No matter that she struggles mightily to adjust to a step-happy walking world.

It’s barely noticeable, her brave, quiet struggle. She is energy and light, edges glowing like an angel-shaped cloud; like the moon.

When Claire got sick at aged 10, she was an aspiring ‘cheerleader’,  a gymnast, her little sister’s ‘choreographer’, a cart-wheeling ferris wheel on the verge of flying at any moment.  She was unstoppable.  I called her my ‘whirling dervish’.

She was dancing with her little friends at a Halloween party. She was giggling. She was tired. She fell. Her legs never worked again. In a mere moment, her legs gave up, overcome by a prank her own autoimmune system would play on her. And that was it.  No more walking, dancing, running, cartwheeling, back-bending, twirling, tree climbing.

Later, at the hospital, after several days and tests and tears, they explained. She had transverse myelitis. It’s unkind. It’s sudden. So rare. Irreversible.

We could have stayed blocked, since in the beginning, the shock acted as an immense, mountainous one  – a block that could keep us from looking over and ahead to the possibilities, a block that might keep us stuck in the ‘what do we do now with all of our dreams?’ mode.

But after that initial shock (and make no mistake, it was stunning) we chose differently. We chose to stay open.  We climbed and stumbled over the blocks, at first, it’s true. Sometimes we fell flat on our faces. And sometimes we wiped out so badly that the sheer scope of the changes ahead seemed insurmountable.

We were scared. We were novice. And we were determined not to stop laughing.

So, eventually, we looked up and found ourselves steadfastly on the other side.

On the side of the possibilities.

Claire is not a child anymore.  She’s a senior at a major university with an attainable dream of having her PhD in psychology.  She has a beautiful, mature relationship with a handsome young man who is traveling Europe as I write this.  She drives a little red car that suits her fiery personality. She has friends, by the bushel, who gladly carry her and her chair when the world makes it too difficult for her to get from point A to B. 

And, perhaps most profoundly, she has a spitfire of a little sister who is her steadfast guardian angel. All because she and the people around her who love her refused to let what could have been seen as blocks, as obstacles, as deterrents,  take precedence over an abundance of precious possibilities.

So we, instead of ‘disabled, we call her ‘possibled’.

She is whole, she is light – and she is Claire.

Blog-I must

Okay. I know I said once a week. But I’d hate to forget to share this with you – An excellent way to combat writer’s block. Enjoy, maybe even catologue this one.  I know I will.