Category Archives: United States

A Tribute to Barbara Bush

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I’m very lucky that I got to meet Barbara Bush. She was just as everyone is describing. She was no-nonsense and warm. She was gracious, but you knew instantly that she didn’t suffer fools for a minute. She was full of fun and full of dignity. She was funny and irreverent, serious and dedicated. And she was real.

I wasn’t going to tell my story because it’s private, but the first time I met her was such a perfect example of who Barbara was that I can’t resist.

It was in Kennebunkport twenty years ago. We were back there with friends who were close with the Bushes. Four days before we left I was told that I’d being playing golf there.

“But I don’t play golf,” I said.

“You better learn fast,” my husband said.

Let me say here that I’m not the world’s greatest athlete. Nor is golf an easy sport. After twenty years I’m mediocre on a good day. But my first 18 holes was played with Barbara Bush, God help her.

We met at their club, Cape Arundel, me still tearing the tags off my golf attire. It turned out that the Bushes were hosting a cocktail party for 70 that evening at the Walker estate — Barbara was supposed to get a chance to relax and play golf that morning. Instead she got me.

Graciously, she invited me to ride in her cart. I’m not sure who she thought she was getting — I did come with a Hollywood couple, after all, who played golf all the time . She couldn’t have known I’d be a school teacher from Seattle…who’d never played golf. She soon realized the last part as I sprayed balls right and left. One hole of Cape Arundel borders a street and my ball almost took out the windshield of a Secret Service car driving along side. Guns drawn, two men in black leaned out of the car to make sure the former First Lady was not under attack.

I was in awe just being there–pretty tongue tied as well as embarrassed at my inability. I’d hit the ball and then scurry toward it, trying not to hold up play. Barbara must have been going crazy, but she didn’t say anything. On one hole, I actually was running to my ball. Barbara drew up in her cart and said, “Hop in. You don’t have to run. We all started somewhere.”

I rolled my eyes. “But why is my somewhere with you when you have 70 people coming to your house tonight.”

She laughed and patted the seat next to her. And I knew, just like that, I was okay in her book.

On the ninth green, I said, “Mrs. Bush, you can go ahead and putt out.”

A voice from the next hole called out, “Who’s calling my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush’. No one calls my mother, ‘Mrs. Bush.’ It’s Barbara.”

I blushed as I met Jeb who was playing with his dad and my husband.

Barbara, looking pleased, laughed at her son’s teasing. And I relaxed enough to laugh too.

Later that night at their house, she was the perfect hostess. Dressed in her classic style with the signature pearls around her neck, she made sure the evening, an event for MD Anderson, ran like clockwork. But it was with a calm and non pretentiousness that put everyone at ease.

We got to be with Barbara several other times. Each occasion was precious.

 

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Trump Tramples Women

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Marching for the American Way

 

I was surprised last night when I went on Facebook and saw negative comments about the Women’s March, especially surprised to read those from women. “Why are you marching? What don’t you have?” someone asked to women in general as if we are spoiled little girls who just want more and more!
“What were all these women doing blocking the roads when people needed them to get to work?” another person groused.
“Why take up the time of the police? They have better things to do than herd women with little pink pussies on their heads,” said someone else.


Okay, I thought.  I’m not sure why, out of all things going on, people are so annoyed about women organizing and marching. Obviously, they just don’t get it. Women, and men, marched together for what we were taught in school: American values. The March supported women, yes: equal pay, protection from harassment, the right to female healthcare–those kinds of issues. But it also supported the values of honor, integrity, respect, truth and fair play. We marched for equality and justice for all.

Did I think I’d be doing this at 72? No, not at all. Did I think my sisters from all over the country would be marching in January because we felt we needed to? No, but here we are.

I went to the Kona March with 12 people, male and female. We ranged in age from 2 and 1/2 to 88. We weren’t a militant group–just neighbors who care about each other and the United States.

It was hot. We needed water, and lots of it. No one complained, even the baby girl!

There were all kinds of people there–people who cared enough to come out and stand together . It felt good to chant: RESIST, PERSIST, INSIST. We will resist injustice. We will not be good little girls and go away–we will persist as we insist that our flag stands for everybody. We are a diverse nation–that’s a fact. And we love it.

A man asked me what I thought about the Trump year. He recorded what I said (Will I be arrested soon?), which was: “I think the band aid has been ripped off the cover of America, and the ugly wound festering beneath has been revealed. Perhaps now there can be some healing.”

I AM AN AMERICAN

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I am an American.

I believe in truth, justice and the American way.

I am an American.

I believe in facts. Lying, cheating and editing the truth to

Distort Reality is not part of who I am.

I am an American.

I am not a bigot.

I do not condone the actions of Neo-Fascist White Supremacists. I do not believe that our President should align himself with them.

I am an American.

I believe all Americans should have food in their bellies and Medical Care if they need it. That means helping others who need help.

I am an American.

I am the granddaughter of immigrants who pursued the American Dream.

I reap the benefits of their toil and courage. I believe I can’t hoard all of it.

I am an American.

I am a grandmother who worries about the future of my grandchildren. I want this planet to survive long after I’m gone.

I am an American.

I want to live in this amazing country and feel safe. I don’t want to feel threatened by anyone, including terrorists or a gunman showing up in my neighborhood mall.

I am an American.

The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these Truths to be selfevident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”

We Americans need to remember that. We need to work on making those words true.

I am an American.

I’m here for the long haul. I won’t go away.

In the Blink of an Eye

“Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.”

 

I read a blog sent out by ACLU that said just because police are afraid of an African-American man (or woman) that is no excuse to kill them.

It got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

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He says that we make decisions in the blink of an eye. Sometimes this is excellent. Some could call it intuition. But it often leads to the kinds of tragedies that are played out on the streets of big and small cities across America.

Police officers answering calls, especially domestic violence calls, are afraid for their lives. They know what has happened to other officers and that it could happen to them. They pull their guns fast and use them faster. If it’s a person of color it seems even faster. I’m not sure it’s because of racial hatred. It’s definitely racial profiling.

Ruminating about this, I started thinking about my own quick impressions of people. If I see a white older man in a suit, I think to myself: If that guy is a senator and a Republican he’s probably a Christian who only feels charity to other Christians. If he’s a “southern gentleman”, I throw in that he’s a racist bigot. I know it’s wrong to think that way. I’m trying to get over it.

Living in California there are many Hispanic people around me. Yesterday I got my car washed and sat next to two women speaking rapid fire Spanish. I’ve been working on my Spanish so I always eavesdrop to try to figure out what’s being said. As usual, I could pick out a few words here and there, but it was too quick for me. The men washing the cars, the man who took my information, the young woman who checked me out—they were all Hispanic. Should I generalize that all Hispanics are working class so how could they afford to get their car washed? A scene in the movie Beatrice At Dinner illustrates this well. When Beatrice, a guest, comes up to speak to Lithgow’s character, he asks her to refill his drink. He assumes she’s a servant. It’s not only because she’s wearing casual clothing; it’s because she’s Hispanic by birth. It’s a cringe-worthy moment.

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The ACLU blog got me thinking about how I feel if I see a black man. Do I immediately blink and feel fear? I don’t. I’m very happy to say that. I do not want to be a racist. I do not want to jump to conclusions about a person because of his or her race.

I was fortunate to grow up in Seattle and attend schools that were multi-racial and ethnic. I went back and taught in my junior high school and learned as much from my students as I taught them. So I avoided a lot of the scourge of racism. Not all, of course. But like Spanish, I keep working on it.

Besides being “white”, I am Jewish, which makes me a little schizophrenic in America, and always a little afraid.

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I don’t “look Jewish” so I can pass easily in society. Until someone spouts a Jewish slur. That’s why I announce early into a conversation with a new acquaintance that I’m Jewish. I don’t want to suffer again the embarrassment of hearing someone say: “Don’t Jew me down.”

I’ve never wanted to admit that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. I love that myth. I love the stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving.

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It’s so sad at 71 to be aware it was a mythology we were taught. My generation was raised on Westerns where homesteaders and cowboys were heroes.

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We never realized that the scalps being taken and the arrows being shot were from the knives and bows of the people the land belonged to.

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They were defending their property! We had no compassion whatsoever. It’s taken me a long time and perhaps the Donald Trump administration to pull the blinders fully from my rose colored eye-apparel.

I’m not saying I’m not proud to be an American. I am.

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I know how lucky I am that my grandparents had the courage to immigrate here, to a democratic capitalist nation. To a place where they had opportunity. I’m just acknowledging that the United States is not perfect. Nothing is. (Not even me.) But we can keep learning and growing.

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We don’t have to be a melting pot to create a fabulous America. We can be a mixed salad with innovative and flavorful ingredients. Remember the posters United WE Stand after 9/11? Let’s remember that is our greatness.

There’s No Flu Like An Old Flu

 

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I’m not done moaning about my virus. I still don’t feel good enough to do anything constructive so I’m filling in my time… I found that watching the news was too heartbreaking. I love the London Bridge. I love London. I love Nice, actually. But we’ll never feel safe there again. Now I know why they have those cement blocks in front of airports and on certain streets.
I turned off the television and went to sleep for awhile. My dreams were crazy but then I woke up to the reality of a world gone crazy. In so many ways. I fear the Salem Witch Trials can’t be far from restarting. One little word, and they cut off your head. (THAT’S A JOKE!! A QUASI PUN. Actually, most of this post should strike you as humorous. I feel I need to point that out in today’s world were context isn’t given any value. )
My head started spinning as I tried to keep track of everything. I just couldn’t so I went to sit outside. My dog sat next to me and I began wondering if he was seeing what I was seeing. I mean, do dogs do that? Is their eyesight the same as ours’? Then I began to wonder if I couldn’t get well because I’m in my seventies. Maybe I had something worse going on in my lungs??????? I told myself “to calm down”, “be happy,” “don’t worry”. I sat back and tried to take deep breaths. The smell of the jasmine was so sweet…that it started a coughing spell so I had to go inside.
Then our grandson stopped by to show us how handsome he was in his tux for prom. We even took a picture, which you’ll never see. Take my word for it, he is gorgeous and I look like death on a low burner.

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Just before I started writing this, I realized I had been on Facebook for at least a half hour. (Hour?)I was reading every post carefully and playing every video presented.

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Trevor Noah, the puppeteer on America Has Talent, the Canada Salute, the giraffes on the high dive, Animals on Twitter. You name it, I watched it today.

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I even started reading some tweets. I didn’t post anything but I did reply to a Joe Scarborough post.
OK. So you get the picture and it ain’t pretty. The Tylenol, antibiotics and Codeine Covfefe medicine better start working better or I’m toast. And Facebook will own my soul.

Boiling Point Revisited

What’s that saying, “the more things are different, the more they are the same?” This morning while looking through my files, I came upon something I’d written in 2009. I copied it and pasted it below. The Taliban are still around. Putin is still puttering on the world stage. All I need to do is change a few names and you’d think I wrote it today. Kim Jong Il becomes Kim Jong Un.  Obama becomes Trump. Throw in a little ISIS, Syria and Russia and you have the same recipe for nuclear winter.

Here’s what I wrote in 2009:

I’m beginning to get that creepy Cold War feeling. Growing up during that era meant there was always a chill in the air. The specter of nuclear winter loomed over us, raising goose bumps on the hardiest of Americans. News reports and civil defense drills stoked our collective anxiety. Books like “On the Beach” fueled our fears further, but that was fiction. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought it all into focus.

It was October 1962. The Soviet Union was building nuclear reactors in Cuba, and the United States was not going to stand for it. President Kennedy demanded they cease and desist, but the Soviet Union ignored the blockade and the threats.

On October 28, so full of trepidation we were unable to concentrate on our high school newspaper assignments, four of us hunkered around the transistor radio on the editor’s desk. Our advisor was off somewhere drinking coffee, or perhaps it was whiskey, so we had free rein to do whatever we wished. We were thirsty for news of the U.S./Soviet confrontation so when regular scheduled broadcasting was interrupted for a news flash, we leaned closer.

“Khrushchev has just announced that all weapons will be dismantled,” the announcer said. “There will be complete cessation of further work at the existing nuclear missile sites.” The four of us hugged. We had just been drawn back from the brink of nuclear war. We were going to be okay.

In the intervening years, we’ve endured events we could never foresee. But when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, we entered a time when you could worry more about whether you were keeping up with the Jones’ newest electronic devices instead of wondering if you were going to be blown to smithereens.

Now, with daily insta-reporting from the Koreas, Irans, and Afghanastans of the world, I’m beginning to feel again that nuclear destruction of the planet is right around the corner. Then I tell myself it’s the over reporting that’s making me anxious. After all, it was pretty hairy in 1962, and we survived. Perhaps Kim Jong IL is just testing Obama’s resolve? Perhaps Iran and Israel will make peace? Perhaps it will be snow tomorrow.

In 2017, I want to say, “Look how worried we were in 1962 and in 2009. Things turned out just fine. See, we’ll be all right.”  Anyway, that’s what I tell my grandkids.

 

Need to Know Basis

I want to start worrying about getting old again. I want to worry about my crow’s feet turning into pigeon’s feet. I want to feel bad that when I wave my arm, my sagging skin keeps flapping like a loose sail. I want to worry about whether I should be buying a cemetery plot rather than worrying if there’s a plot to bring down America as I’ve known it.

I want to worry about not being able to remember anyone’s name. Is it dementia creeping up on me or overload? Because all of a sudden I need to know a lot of names that I just took for granted before.

I can be naïve—I used to think banks existed for me to deposit my money in. Bankers were there to help and protect me. That’s what I thought about our government too. I thought the elected officials would act in the best interest of the country as a whole. So complacent was I that I didn’t worry about officials’ actions or know their names. I admit I still don’t want to know the name of the Speaker of the House is Paul Ryan or the senator from New York is Amy Schumer’s cousin. I don’t want to know that Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. I’d like to feel everything was going to be all right and I could obsess over my bunions.

I want to worry about my weight. That would be so refreshing instead of worrying about my granddaughter taking ballet at our local JCC. And I’d like to fret about whether I should join the American Hair Loss Association or just quit coloring my hair.

I’d like to have trouble falling asleep at night thinking about how time is flying rather than thinking about neighbors who could be deported in an instant. I’d like to have time to think about whether Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty screwed up because they are old farts instead of needing to think nonstop about the deep divisions in our country.

I’d like to worry again about how short a skirt a woman my age can wear. And whether I can read a Jodi Picoult book without getting my heart broken. I’d even like to worry about how I can get my husband to drink enough water. That I know is a lost cause. I just hope our country isn’t.

Just Saying

I’m a head case, always have been and unless I get dementia, always will be. My mind is continuously busy with thoughts and questions so it’s not unusual for me to walk into a room and not know why I’ve come there. People say that’s a sign of senility but I’ve been doing that since I was ten. I didn’t realize until this morning that my mind is also crowded with adages, song lyrics and literary allusions.

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As I did the breakfast dishes, I was thinking about George Washington. He cut down the cherry tree but he would not tell a lie. That story from first grade has had a lasting effect on me. I rarely tell even a white lie—I’d never lie about something big. And my word is my bond.

Thoughts about George led to a flood of others. Growing up, my brother, sister and I were taught to never judge anyone until we’d walked in his or her shoes. We drank in the concepts of compassion and respect for others with our Gerber formula. We knew that there but for the grace of God, we’d have gone into the ovens of Auschwitz.

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Taught to be responsible for each other and be grateful for what we had, we knew we needed to share our bounty. I took this to heart and have literally given people the shirt off my back.

My brother gave away the money for his birthday party to help a family in need.

My brother gave away the money for his birthday party to help a family in need.

The work ethic and saving for a rainy day were strong themes in my childhood. Our parents were children of immigrants fleeing religious persecution.

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They married during the Depression and had no money. But when the going got tough, the tough got going. They worked like dogs to become successful and to make sure we all went to college.

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We were admonished that the early bird gets the worm and that practice makes perfect.

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“Waste not, want not,” they said if we left the lights on. If we didn’t finish our vegetables, we were reminded about the starving children in China. Along with this, we were taught that a penny saved was a penny earned, but also that all that glitters is not gold. There was also a sneaky suspicion that money was the root of all evil.

My parents weren’t the speak when spoken to kind. We were encouraged to have our own opinions as long as we honored our mother and father, and thought before we spoke. However, we were cautioned about opening a Pandora’s box and that it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

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Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I taught these same values to my own children.

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They have taught them to theirs. Which makes me proud as punch, even though I know that pride goes before a fall. We all believe immigrants like our families have made this country strong.

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I think who we are is a combination of our nature and how we’ve been nurtured. I’ve been told many times not to be so nice because nice guys finish last, but it’s just the way I’m wired. Besides, I’m the tortoise to many others’ hare. Slow and steady wins my race.

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Which reminds me, I think there’s a place for everything and everything has a place. That’s why I go crazy when I need my scissors and they aren’t where I put them. The Borrowers have moved them.

Even though I’m an old dog, I’m trying to learn new tricks. An inveterate multi-tasker, I can rush around like a chicken with my head cut off, but I’m getting better. I don’t rob Peter so much to pay Paul. I’m more into the moment, into the Now. I’ve always been slow to anger, and believed you can catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. I have a long fuse but when lit, watch out. Then I’d be happy to cut off my nose to spite my face. I’m willing to share all this because I’m an open book. The truth is, you can’t tell a book by its cover.

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Besides all these sayings, song lyrics play in my head. They come up from my subconscious, unbidden. Last fall while my husband was going through Proton radiation, the constant theme song playing was, “Put on a Happy Face.”

Lately, it’s “Wake Me Up When It’s All Over,” because I’m as frightened as a rabbit about the present political climate, as well as just climate in general. Hope springs eternal so I’m hoping the Emperor has someone around who tells him he has no clothes on. I’m hoping they don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when reforming affordable health care.

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I’ve given up watching television. I’m sick of the pundits earning fame and fortune while crying, “The sky is falling.” And I can’t handle the bloggers, who obviously never went to Journalism School where we learned to be clear, concise and accurate.

Right now the lyric in my head is Bob Marley’s, “every little thing’s gonna be all right.” I know there’s no fool like an old fool, but I still believe good triumphs over evil. I’m still looking for the silver lining.

 

 

 

We Are The World

This was my kind of protest march. No violence. No shouting of epithets. No hatred. Families and friends walked along the street, some holding signs, some holding hands, some pushing strollers and other pushing wheelchairs.

 

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img_0573Grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, moms and moms, and dads and dads, toddlers and babies all strolled in the same direction, in no hurry to run another over or get in someone’s way. Friends greeted friends, said, “How do you?” Strangers met over a common cause and exchanged phone numbers.

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Actually, rather than protest, it was more a solidarity march for pro-thinkers. It wasn’t really political. Yes, women’s rights were the focus that brought us all out. But it was more than that. Groups of strangers united on the streets of our country to proclaim democracy and equality as the corner posts of our ideology. As the president said in his inaugural address: “It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.”

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Walking with friends, new and old, I felt empowered and healed. People of good will surrounded me. People who want to help the common cause. People who want to do something for the greater good. And I knew this was happening from the north to the south, the east to the west.

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I’d thought I’d lost my sense of who Americans are. But, united with folks from the far corners of the states, I found my kinspeople again.