It’s Sunday… Does Your Church Ordain Women?

June 30th, 2014


This week, in an act both applauded and widely bemoaned, Mormon leader Kate Kelly was excommunicated by the Mormon Church.  Her sin?  Requesting an equal place in the church for women, of all things.  They (three men in Virginia),  made the decision on Monday, June 23rd, 2014.

kate kelly

Kate Kelly, courtesy NBC News

For more about this “dangerous revolutionary” above… Kelly, an international human rights attorney, started the group “Ordain Women” who are leading marches and protests for a broader role for women in the Mormon church, including ordination as priests. As ABC News puts it, “The decision to excommunicate her was made by three male church officials in Oakton, Virginia.”

So, I thought, as I read the stories, on what doctrine did these three guys base their decision?  I just wanted to see it in black and white.  Here it is, from themselves:

Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:  “Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program.  Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…”

They don’t ordain women, “Because God said so”. 

I thought,as I’d started with the LDS church, I’d check out a couple of others who don’t ordain women.  I’m focusing only Christianity today, as I was born and raised in that faith as an Episcopalian.  I moved on to the Catholic Church, and here’s what I found, “Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination. Insofar as priestly and episcopal ordination are concerned, the Church teaches that this requirement is a matter of divine law, and thus doctrinal.”.

These guys are saying, “Well, the Church says so.”  Ok, next.

I moved onto the Southern Baptist Church, as I’d heard they aren’t too crazy about ordaining women either.  Here’s from the Church website,Southern Baptists have long valued the priceless contribution of women as they have ministered to advance God’s Kingdom. The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) affirms the vital role of women serving in the church. Yet it recognizes the biblical restriction concerning the office of pastor, saying: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” The passages that restrict the office of pastor to men do not negate the essential equality of men and women before God, but rather focus on the assignment of roles.

So, these guys are telling us that the Bible says so.  Well, that’s that, isn’t it?

Whether it’s God Himself, the Church, or the Bible, it’s nothing new.

 Here’s some oldie but goody quotes from some of the revered men of the Christian faith.

“Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me. . . . of what importance is your character to mankind, if you was buried just now Or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God.” –John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement (1703-1791), letter to his wife, July 15, 1774

Wait, it gets better….

As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. –Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century

Here’s my personal favorite from this group…

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.”– Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

In fairness, most Methodist and Lutherans (Missouri Synod does not) do ordain women.  Glad most of them got through their founders’ thoughts.  They are joined by many Protestant churches who have moved forward, such as the Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians. And yet…

I decided then to find out just how many Americans attend these churches who stand against women clergy.  Here’s the math on just some of the churches, the ones I know about.

  1. Catholic- 78.2 million
  2. Mormon Church- 6,398,889
  3. Missouri Synod Lutheran- 2,600,000
  4. Southern Baptist and National Baptist Convention- 23,000,000

So, over 100,000 million of us attend churches in these United States that don’t believe in the equality of women in the church.  When Kate Kelly was excommunicated, there was a  twitter flame, but it was small.  Why wasn’t it louder? And why really does this still go on?  Because they said so.

Perhaps because it’s so entrenched.  As my colleague Gloria Steinem said when asked, “What do you think the biggest problem with feminism today is?” she replied, “What we don’t talk about enough is religion. I think that spirituality is one thing. But religion is just politics in the sky. I think we really have to talk about it. Because it gains power from silence.”

There are movements brewing, in addition to  There is also

A Catholic Priest, Hans Kung, said the following, “The Pope would have an easier job than the President of the United States in adopting a change of course. He has no Congress alongside him as a legislative body nor a Supreme Court as a judiciary. He is absolute head of government, legislator and supreme judge in the church. If he wanted to, he could authorize contraception over night, permit the marriage of priests, make possible the ordination of women and allow eucharistic fellowship with this Protestant churches.”

If only.   In the meantime, if we choose, some of us could speak up.  Kate Kelly did and she paid the price.  I’m surprised they didn’t ask her to wear a scarlet letter.

She also told people to not leave their faith, but to question it, as she did.  And if we do question, perhaps we can ask for an answer that’s better than “Because I said so”. It’s time.


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Welcome to Your Saturn Return

April 14th, 2014


saturn best

We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.” Carl Jung

“I don’t believe in astrology; I’m a Sagittarius and we’re skeptical.”   Arthur C. Clarke

Are you entering or just leaving your late 20’s or nearing or just about done with your late 50’s?  Have things seemed a bit, well, challenging in the past few years?    My last few years have, and though those times at the end of our twenties and fifties can signal significant life changes, there’s something more that could be at work.

Perhaps it’s in the stars.  In any case, it’s something I learned about a very long time ago, from a wise woman, who took the study of astrology seriously.  It’s called the “Saturn Return” and it’s a return that astrologers say happens to us at least twice, or sometimes three times in our lives.

The study of the stars and planets is not something for everyone, some put stock in it, some dismiss it.  For me, I’ve found over and over again that there IS something to the ancient practice of studying celestial movement.  J. P. Morgan, hardly someone I’d picture dabbling in the stars and planets, famously said, “Millionaires don’t use Astrology, billionaires do.”  There are a lot of people, who I wouldn’t consider the “New Age” type that swear by it.  But it’s more complicated than people think.  Let’s say we are born a “Leo”, somewhere between the third week of July to the third week of August.  This means that our “Sun” sign, where the Sun is placed at the time of our birth, is in the constellation of  Leo.  But, there are multiple planets that can impact us at the moment of our birth, and Saturn is one of them.

So, the Saturn Return….Apart from the esoteric, I found two films, several books, and what they call a “death core” band * named after the return of the planet they’ve called “The Lord of Karma”,  Saturn.  Ringed seven times, this planet, that has also been called “malefic”, is in a certain place at the moment we are born.  It moves slowly and deliberately, and reappears only about every 29 1/2 years in our lives.  You may not know what to name it when it comes calling, but for most of us, it can get our attention.

According to those who believe in such things, the Saturn Return hits in the late twenties, and its impact is felt into the early thirties. There’s a second  Saturn return that comes between age 57-60. The third return comes around in our eighties.  It coincides, as I’ve said, with development stages of our adulthood.  The first is about growing up and moving beyond our childhood, the second is a regrouping that happens perhaps close to retirement or our empty nest phase.   The third deals with issues of mortality and wisdom gathered.

Here’s a site that gives dates of the years you were born and when you might expect Saturn to come back into your life…

Are you still with me, and want to know what it might bring?  It depends on who you talk to, and it also depends on you.  There are sites who proclaim what a good thing Saturn returning can be, bringing just rewards and giving us a brilliant opportunity to learn.  Others find it tough. One of my favorites says, simply, “The SATURN RETURN, WELCOME TO HELL”.  Ouch, let’s move on, shall we?

If this planet, as they say,does rule “karma”, remember that “karma”, or the law of cause and effect, can be something wonderful,  or it can be kind of… gut wrenching.  It may be somewhat of  a wake up call, a time that we either learn the lesson, or pay the price. The more I read about it, the more I see it as a stern taskmaster or teacher, who rewards you for hard work, but can also make your life pretty rough if they feel you aren’t quite learning as quickly as you should.

Here’s just an example of this phenomenon in my life and in the lives of  those closest to me…

My son, who is now 32, went through his first Saturn Return, from October 2009-October 2012.  Suffice to say, he was faced with issues of “growing up” and was, to say the least, dealing with multiple problems that cropped up during this time.  He’s doing fine right now, but I just hung onto my hat around then, as I’m sure did he, during this dizzying roller coaster ride that Saturn brings.

My husband, now 62, had his second return at the exact same time.  Saturn can bring many changes, and for Eric it brought a change of career and change of cities.  His mother passed during this time, he left a career that he most likely no longer was suited for, and he had a serious illness brought about by a need for a medication change he probably should have done years before.  Saturn bears down on us, and it weighed heavy on him, but he’s through it now.

Not to be outdone, I ushered in my Saturn return that began in late 2012 with some challenging work issues.  2013 wasn’t perfect, but it flowed fairly well until November of 2013, when my husband had a stroke.  He recovered beautifully and made life changes, as did I.  But, Saturn wasn’t quite done with me, and in January, I began to suffer severe, almost constant pain from what I learned later was a herniated disk.  After 2 terrible months, March brought surgery, and recovery now into April.  Perhaps my lesson there was that I’m not 25 anymore and some of the physical things I could do then, weren’t possible as I moved into this stage.

Not everyone will experience the kind of things my immediate family went through, but as I said, Saturn does occasionally come as what I’ve called “the cosmic fed-ex”.   When you get this delivery, open it right away, read it, and do something about it.  I repeat, DO something about it.

I think we all learned from some of the rough times, and things are smoothing out all around.  My return isn’t done yet. so I’m trying to hone in on things I might have missed and lessons I should have learned by now.

Hoping I haven’t thoroughly depressed you, stick around….there’s good news too.  Saturn, being the taskmaster, also recognizes you with some well earned rewards.  Some say that people you connect with during your returns may be spiritual and romantic soul mates.  My son found his, and my husband reconnected with me during that time.  They both went back to school, one as student, the other as a teacher.  I liked the symmetry of that.

For me, the reward has been learning to slow down, something I’m not good at doing.  I’ve also been rewarded with the success of a project that a group of us had been working on for almost 9 years.  It’s now a film called “Private Violence”, and it’s doing exactly what we hoped it would do.

Remember, this isn’t for everyone, and there are tons of very bright people who think this is nonsense.  And it may be.  But I’m going to dig into it a bit more as mine continues at least until the end of 2014. Fingers crossed.

*btw…what the hell is a “death core” band?






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Three Women and A Documentary

March 10th, 2014


“Some things are destined to be — it just takes us a couple of tries to get there.”

― J.R. WardLover Mine

This lovely painting of three women came to me in the 1990’s and I remember wondering if that was me and two other women I hadn’t met yet.   It hung in my living room for years, but when I redecorated, I put it away. When I stumbled across it recently in the basement, I realized that I did meet these women, around 10 years later. And when we met, we had work to do.  And as it turns out, we had a film to make.

I loved the image of these women, dressed up but navigating what seemed to be a difficult and winding climb up a narrow staircase, and navigating that climb in heels. When I saw it again, a couple of months ago, with fresh eyes, the woman in the middle of the group seemed like Kit Gruelle, in her signature purple,  who is the guide, teacher, and advocate in the film “Private Violence”.  Kit is also a survivor, and she became my friend.

kit good one

The woman with the long blond hair reminded me of Cynthia Hill, the director of the film. We are now more than colleagues; we’re friends as well.

cynthia good one

I’d always thought of myself as the woman in the green dress, simply because I liked the dress, I love green, and it looked like something I’d wear.  The painting, by a wonderful  artist named Earline McNeil Larsen, is called “Conspiraling Women”.

I met Kit Gruelle, in Del Mar, California in 2005.   Cynthia Hill came later, in North Carolina. There was a immediate familiarity about both of these women. It was that click that goes off in your head or the shivers that go through your body when something significant happens or is about to happen.   These two mainstays of the “Private Violence” feature film and documentary project stood there talking to me prior to a 2010 fundraiser in Chapel Hill, where Gloria Steinem, one of our early supporters was to speak. Those shivers came on even stronger.  I thought at the time about the power of the number 3 (three women, the triple goddess symbol) and hoped that that unseen power could move this film forward.  At that point, we knew it would take a long time to get the whole thing launched.  And it did.

There were times when it seemed like letting it all go might be easiest.  The other film, “Bully”, that the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention supported took about two years from start to launch at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, and the funding came in quickly once it got going.  That didn’t surprise me, as bullying had become a high profile topic, and that story needed to be told.  I’m glad it was.  But it was a tougher go for “Private Violence”.  That didn’t surprise me either.  The title of the film tells why.  It’s something we still tend to keep in the dark, hidden away.

Along the long path to getting it done, though, more and more earth angels, women and men,  kept appearing showing up at the right time and right place with perfectly timed grants, encouragement, connections and support that  we desperately needed.  I can’t name them all here, but each one provided vital support.

The three of us have been through a lot together, and separately, in the years that it took to complete the story.  We each have been through challenges, both in life and in getting the film to its January Sundance opening.   Cynthia has given birth to two daughters since we all met.  We come from three different worlds, and sometimes meshing those worlds isn’t easy. We laughed together, and cried together, but we’ve stuck together and I’m glad we made it up that narrow and winding staircase in those high heels. We know that at the top of that staircase is another, and another. The film is only a small part of that work so many people do every day, but it felt good to be able to pause, and know that we’d made that first climb.

As I was writing this, I remembered that I had bought two paintings, and went down to the basement and took this shot of the companion piece to “Conspiraling Women”.

triple alliance

It turns out that the name is “Triple Alliance”.  I don’t know who the women in this painting are, but that doesn’t matter.  When I see the title and the image, it reminds me of the alliance of all the women who came together for this. Perhaps the three above symbolize the extraordinary trifecta of three of the women featured- Deanna Walters, Stacy Cox, and Jean Kilpatrick.  They demonstrate the strength of survivors and advocates, both in the film, and in their lives.  Or the piece could stand for the three women who founded Chicken and Egg Pictures, who believed in us at a crucial point.   I don’t know, because there are so many more who over the years found us, joined us, and reached out. Both paintings remind me that women are strong, but even stronger when we come together. We’re stronger yet when we don’t give up on something we need to do or say.  The paintings are both upstairs now, in a favorite room, full of light.  I think they’ll stay there.

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My Funny Valentine

February 14th, 2014

eric child black and white

To Eric

I think this works….

How glad the many millions
Of Toms and Dicks and Williams
Would be
To capture me

But you had such persistence
You wore down my resistance
I fell
And it was swell

You’re my big and brave and handsome Romeo
How I won you I will never never know
It’s not that you’re attractive
But oh my heart grew active
When you came into view

I’ve got a crush on you, sweetie pie
All the day and nighttime, hear me sigh
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with so much emotion

Could you coo
Could you care
For a cunning cottage we could share
The world will pardon my mush
Cause I’ve got a crush, my baby, on you”

When in doubt, this one by Gershwin brothers will always do.  It was either this or “My Funny Valentine” and the lyrics to that just didn’t work.

You’re always good with the microphone….


eric birthday stage

 but I love you without it too.  So, there you have it.

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Six Days On the Road

January 28th, 2014
Nebraska black and white

Day one…Nebraska…all pictures will be in black and white in tribute to Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska”

By Eric Blumberg

With a nod to Earl Green and Carl Montgomery

A 2,000-mile road trip from Iowa to Utah and back, during the middle of January, can be a journey fraught with many problems.  Snow with blizzard conditions, slick roads and high winds are just some of the travel headaches one is certain to encounter driving back and forth across Nebraska and Wyoming.  Ah yes, it can also be bone-chilling cold, but fortunately not as bone-chilling as my hometown which currently has no degrees to speak of in Fahrenheit.

The sheer boredom of the trek can also wear on a person’s psyche as mile after mile of winterized cornfields surround you from early in the morning until dusk begins to silently creep upon the Interstate 80 asphalt.

One certain in all this, besides the boring landscape, is the prospect of a detour to one of the thousands of potential oases where a spaced-out traveler can refuel with some hi-test caffeine.But oh, what a mirage it is.  The best that can be done is some swill which is so weak you can actually see the bottom of its Styrofoam container.

wyoming black and white

Day two…Southern Wyoming

Why is it in a country that values the strong and bold over the weak and timid, I can’t find a decent cup of coffee?  I can get one at home any time of the day or night.  I have this simple trick.  I forego any previous conceptions about how to make a good cup of coffee by just adding more.  The result is a brave brew which, if taken in the proper dosage, will get you where you want to go regardless of the weather or boring terrain.

utah and wyoming border black and white

Day 3 Wyoming into Utah…

So, why can you get a good cup of coffee on the road?  It’s simple.  The men and women who fund our system of commerce have become such greedy misers they can’t go the extra mile and put some extra coffee in the country’s filters.

A recent Forbes article has the sorry truth about why the country’s unemployment rate can drop while the labor market only let 74,000 fortunate souls in through its doors.  The article, Corporate Profits Are At An All-Time Record Peak And Expected To Grow In 2014, clearly states the paradox, which now has politicos all across our Purple Mountain’s Majesty fighting to raise minimum wages so that our poorer relations can be kept alive without having to supplement their lives with food stamps: “The nation’s money supply is up 30%, but the money is sitting on bank balance sheets and not being put to work creating profits as the near record low velocity of money shows”.

There’s this old saying in the business world – You’ve got to spend money to make money.  It makes sense since the only way to grow is to be constantly nourished.  It works for teenagers, and it works for a country such as ours.

Unfortunately, this country’s corporations are happy to take our money or give us credit so we can have everything an American needs to be happy.  Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Why can’t these companies with all these trillions of dollars on hand reinvest it with those who gave it to them in the first place? Can you imagine how many new, significant jobs could be created if these companies would take some of their record-high profits and return them so the current economic stagnation could be blown away with a mighty gust.  Why have so many corporations lost faith in this country and have re-established it workforces across the globe?  Why is it a forgone collusion that the American Worker is not to be trusted?  Why can’t this country manufacture televisions at a reasonable cost?  Why couldn’t I get a good cup of coffee motoring across the Midwest?  Because no one wants to put a little extra coffee in the country’s filter.

What are you so scared about?  That your money spent to the cause of a re-energized economy will be spent with no positive benefits to you.  If the presidents and chairpersons believe corporate investment is a fool’s errand, and spending some of its gains to reconstruct will only lead to ruin, we will have no choice but to look forward to see-through coffee and barren vistas.


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A Stroke of Luck

December 30th, 2013



“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”   Woody Allen

Just a week before Thanksgiving, on a  cold, still dark, and windy November morning, my husband woke me up about 6:30 a.m.  The seemingly healthy guy who went to sleep the night before had actually thought his arm may have just been asleep when he woke up around 6, and told me he made “one armed” coffee and had what turned out to be his last cigarette, before it occurred to him that the arm wasn’t waking up.  He could barely speak and his lower right arm was paralyzed.   We both knew what had happened.  I’d been down that road before.   My father had  a stroke on a hot August night ten years ago.  Unlike my husband, Eric, he never woke up.

In my head, I knew the difference, but I’m not sure I was thinking, what I remember was just feeling, and I was feeling fear and sadness and a terrible panic.  I can’t imagine how he felt. He doesn’t talk about it much now- a good thing, I think.  As luck would have it a survivor instinct kicked in and kicked in fast, and we did most of the right things that morning.  He obviously couldn’t pass the “smile, speak, and raise your arms” stroke test I knew about.  I think we were in the emergency room not 15 minutes later.  He walked in himself, something I learned later we weren’t supposed to do, but that’s what we did that day.

As he usually is, he was calm through all of it- the speedy gathering of probably 5 or 6 medical people around him, the tubes, the needles, the tests, the IV drip, and the horrific bright hospital lights that I think send already frayed nerves on edge.  Lying flat on his back for, as it turned out for nearly 24 hours, there was no complaint from him at all.  He later said he knew he was in good hands, and that he felt they wouldn’t let him die.  He said I was calm too.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m rarely calm, but I can be a good actress and that helped.  But for me, a stroke meant death and the panic stayed with me.

As luck would have it again, he slowly regained the use of his arm throughout the day.  It was almost 100% when he went to sleep in the stroke unit that night.  The slurring was another thing.  It had gotten better, but it was still there.  Instead of being grateful that my husband was still alive and almost miraculously improving, all I could think about when they sent me home that night was that I didn’t want to hear the phone ring in the middle of the night with bad news.  So, I stayed up as long as I could, and like the good “helicopter mom” I am, called the nurses three different times to check on him.  He was fine, he was sleeping, he passed the indicator tests, all was good.

To our delight, they “kicked him out of the stroke unit” the next day.  We couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t.   He was driving the next day, and teaching the next week.  Mercifully, with work, his speech is absolutely perfect, a must for a man who teaches and uses that voice as an asset and an instrument.  Selfishly, it was a must for me too, who loves the radio voice he used so beautifully on air for so many years.

The next steps post- hospital were to correct all the things that helped get him there, long held habits and lifestyle choices that no longer worked for him, or really, either of us.  From the minute they slapped a nicotine patch on him, he hasn’t had a cigarette.   He now calls me “the food Nazi”, but he’s going along with the menu options (at least most of them).    He’s done a remarkable job, much better than I have.  A doctor told him later that the stroke as “wake up call”or as I like to call it, “the cosmic fed ex”, was the best thing that could have happened to him.  I think he said that Eric had actually “hit the lottery”.  It bought him more years most likely than he would have had. Or so I hope.

I like to live a bit obliviously at times, using magical thinking to ease my mind when I’m doing something that isn’t always good for me.  But what a doctor told me many years ago came back into my head and hasn’t left.  He said, “Until you’re about 30, your body works for you.  After that, you have to work for it.”  The stroke brought that one home for both of us.

It’s not all sweetness and light and “Oh, thank God we dodged that bullet”.  It’s hard work for him and for me. When he naps I find myself doing the “new mother” ritual, and checking his breathing.   He gets tired, and for weeks after the stroke,  he continued to feel, as he called it “disconnected”.  There is a part of his brain that won’t ever return.  Luckily, in his case, the rest of his brain made up for it, but I feel as if he’s forever changed, both in  good and in hard ways.  We’ve also learned that, as a doctor said that day, they are rethinking the term “small stroke”.  A stroke is a stroke and that’s that.

When we talk about it now,  it’s usually with a sense of incredible fortune, but sadness too, that life IS short. We are all, in the end, no matter how smart, lucky, happy, or gifted we are,  still very mortal beings and we live with that knowledge.   Clark Gable’s character in “The Misfits”, written by Arthur Miller, says to Marilyn Monroe’s character at one point, ” “Honey, we all got to go sometime, reason or no reason. Dyin’s as natural as livin’.  A guy who’s too afraid to die is too afraid to live.”  Ironically, in real life, both actors were dead within a year of that film, but that quote has always stayed with me.  It’s real but it’s hopeful.

I’m trying to slow down more these days and treat myself and my body better.  If he can, and he can and does, I can too. The small stuff sometimes still gets my sweat, but I stop myself from too much unhealthy panic, or try to.  Next on the agenda,  I’m going to pull out the old holiday standard and hear for the thousandth time what I need to hear again from Clarence the angel, ”  You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”

Happy, happy New Year to you all.


For more on stroke, see






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December 27th, 2013

Cover Photos
Top Center- William Palmer Holman And Wife Lois Grant Holman
2nd Row From Left- George Waitt And Wife Ella Holman Waitt ; Holman Waitt And Hazel Palmer Waitt
3rd Row From Left-Dr. William Armstead And Wife Minnie Griffin Armstead; George Gaston And Wife Amy Johnston Gaston
4th Row From Left- William Gaston And Wife Mildred Armstead Gaston; Theodore Waitt And Wife Elaine Leary Waitt
5th Row- Joan Gaston Waitt And Husband Norman Waitt Senior
6th Row-Norman Waitt, Jr., Cynthia Waitt, Marcia Waitt, Theodore Waitt
My thanks to the designer, the astoundingly good Chris Radloff at

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family, wherever you are, you need one”.  Jane Howard

Every family has a historian, or at least, I hope they do, and in my family, I must have at some point raised my hand and said, “I’ll do it” and they said, “that works”.  So, I do it.

With my great grandfather, Holman Waitt,  Lois's grandson, in the late 1950's.

With my great grandfather, Holman Waitt in the late 1950’s.

I must have gotten my enthusiasm listening to my wonderful great grandfather Holman Waitt, above and top right on the book cover, for the Waitt side of things.  My mother, Joan Gaston Waitt, has done a good job passing on stories from her side. Both sides of the family have, in some parts, been in America for close to 400 years.

So, this year, I decided to cut and paste a few blog posts I’ve written over the last couple of years, piece them together, call someone good at making it all look right, and give these little books out to my family.  I think it worked well.  My niece Stephanie had originally encouraged me.  Being a mother herself now, she wanted something to give to her grandchildren.

There are ten chapters, starting in 1856 and ending this year.  I hope it’s just volume one, and I think in a few years, it could need updating, particularly as this group below are and will be making their own history.

waitt cousins

From left, Ben Waitt Hunnel, Natalie Waitt Gibson, Stephanie Campbell, Max Waitt, Hailey Waitt, Emily Waitt, and Sophie Waitt.

and for this guy too, my nephew Sam Waitt

sam grad

Sam Waitt

My mother had also hoped I’d do something like this.  She’s a bit challenging to buy for, and has a critical eye, to say the least, but what she said to me today was this, ” I loved the book, I read it straight through, and even though it’s about all of us, I couldn’t put it down”.

I understood what she said.  After all, history is really just stories, and every human who walks the earth has a story that’s completely their own.  If you tell them well enough, people will read them, even the not -yet- born grandchildren of Stephanie.   That’s why I do this.


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Dear Media, Can We Quit Saying “Domestic Dispute”?

November 4th, 2013

These aren’t domestic disputes, they are about criminals attacking crime victims”    Anne Jones, Author of “Next Time She’ll Be Dead

Updated October 4, 2014

The October 1st headline that caught my eye read, “MAN ARRESTED IN DOMESTIC DISPUTE”.  

It went on to describe the case of a 30 year old man who strangled his girlfriend until she passed out several times over a two day period, and left her hospitalized with numerous internal injuries and bleeding.

Is this a “dispute?”  And is this type of headline unusual?  Not so much.  The word is still used widely, as are the equally bad terms “domestic disturbance”,  and”domestic altercation”. Even worse is “crime of passion” or my personal non- favorite “love triangle”.

I’m with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Alliance when they say this in their site’s media education literature, “A dispute is akin to a disagreement or argument; it implies equal power. Intimate partner violence, on the other hand, is a serious, cyclical pattern of abuse and unhealthy behavior meant to control an individual. Referring to such incidents as “domestic disputes” takes away from its seriousness. It also implies an isolated incident, rather than a pattern of abuse. Call it domestic violence or intimate partner violence.”   

Here’s just a sample of headlines I ran across in the past 30 days…






There are hundreds, if not thousands of those headlines and leads to be found.   These are not bad people writing these stories.  My husband, a former journalist, tells me that he was trained to use the term “domestic dispute”. as are many print and broadcast journalists who could use some additional education in how we refer to the hundreds of thousands of incidents and the thousands killed each year in this country alone.  These are violent crimes and these are murders.

Consider this data from our partners at Futures Wthout Violence… On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States, nearly one in four women reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse in their lifetime, and the CDC reports that women suffer two million injuries from intimate partner per year.

Knowing that, can we move to writing and reporting about it with the harsh reality in mind?  There is a good bit of material I found today from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance that could help.

As my friend and colleague Kit Gruelle, a subject, advocate, and special adviser to the upcoming HBO documentary “Private Violence” said to me in commenting on this story, “Using the proper terminology, even if it is difficult to do, will force us to grow up and see this violence in all it’s horror.”  Amen to that, Kit.

 Let’s  not soften these horrendous crimes by misnaming them.  Let’s call them what they are.
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To My Son On His Birthday

October 20th, 2013

“There has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between a mother and a son.”  Unknown

We grew up together,you and I.  When I found out that Christmas season of 1980, that you were on the way, I was 24.   I wasn’t fully formed myself, and suddenly I was to have a little life to help shape and form and nurture and really, experiment with.  There may be mother’s manuals, but I’ve never found one that can really describe what it all means.  Only time, and the incredible roller coaster of being a mother opens your eyes and your heart to that.

Jackie Kennedy once said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”  As brilliant a mother as I think she was, I think she missed something.  We all bungle it up a bit, as well meaning as we are, but there are times when we magically get it just right as well.

You used to ask my why I had only one child.  My stock answer was always, “you were perfect, and I didn’t think I could ever do better”.  Despite your challenges, and despite mine in raising you, and in raising me at the same time, that still stands true.   In my eyes, you are just that…perfect.

I don’t think I tell you enough how much I admire you, even through your missteps, your drawbacks, and a few false starts.  You are harder on yourself than anyone, and I’m not sure you always see where you’ve succeeded.In a family like ours, success may be defined from the outside as worldly achievements.  It can’t have been easy being the first male grandchild in our family, both illuminated and yet possibly blinded by the fierce glow that surrounded us all when fortune came so quickly.

What I see now, is what I’ve always seen in you.  On the surface, an adorable and charming little boy who has turned into a handsome and charismatic young man.  Going deeper, your intelligence, your introspection, your quick analytic mind and your philosophical bent has always amazed me.  But most important, or at least, most important to me, you are, like your grandfather, kind.

Never underestimate that quality in yourself.  It’s the most crucial quality we can have in a world that can be so unforgiving , so judgmental, so violent and so cruel.  If I had one wish for this planet, it would be that people treat each other with more love.  You have that, and I know you’ve given that gift to others when they most needed it, and when you yourself may not have had much energy to do so.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’ve found love and purpose in your life.  It came to you later than some, but I think really, it came at the best time.  They say that the world breaks everyone, and some are strong in the broken places.  You are strong in those broken places.  Keep giving that strength back, as I know you will.

So, on this day of your 32nd birthday, I will repeat what I told you over and over as a child.  You are still perfect.  Go out there and try to make this imperfect world as wonderful as you are.







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Cyber complimenting? Yes, please

October 18th, 2013

This is filed under "best upstanders ever".

“Problem with cyber bullying is everything. If you have something mean to say, look in the mirror & say it to yourself. Maybe you’ ll think twice.” Unknown

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”  Desmond Tutu

I love to hear of stories of kids across the country becoming “upstanders” to bullying instead of passive bystanders.  They might have been encouraged by the film “Bully” or might have been trained in a great curriculum like Mentors In Violence Prevention, or just might have had enough of the brutality of cyber bullying, but they stand up, not stand by.

We’ve heard so many stories of this happening, in our home town of Sioux City, in our state, across the country, and around the world.  That’s the power of films like “Bully” and the power of violence prevention training.  It can work.  When it does, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

I ran into an excellent piece today from Huffington Post, written by friends and colleagues, “Bully” director Lee Hirsch, and anti bullying advocate and “Bully Project” team member Rosemary Pritzger.  They speak of the power of efforts to end bullying by sharing stories.

The following describes one of these stories, that touched my heart and will forever be on my all time list of  “how much do I love these kids?”. In my 20 years of working in violence prevention, at the Waitt Foundation and now the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, I think it’s one of the best.   Here it is from Lee and Rosemary’s piece today:

“Jeremiah, a student at West High School in Iowa City, was fed up with cyber-bullying and created his own solution. He started anonymously tweeting compliments to his classmates, and sometimes teachers, with the twitter handle @WestHighBros. He’d post things like, “Incredibly smart, incredibly kind, incredibly good at singing … The list goes on and on. You’re incredible in everything you do.” With a couple of friends helping him, the whole school eventually joined them in complimenting others. It spread like wildfire, and the principal thanked Jeremiah for completely changing the school’s dynamic. Schools across the nation are now following suit, and The Today Show covered their efforts.”

The group, started by founder Jeremiah Anthony, had approximately 1,600 twitter followers in January of this year.  Today, when I checked they had 5, 101 followers.  They now have 5,102.  Let’s make it a million.

Jeremiah and team, from the bottom of  my heart, thank you.











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Daisy Coleman and the Scarlet Letter

October 16th, 2013

Daisy Coleman

At the end of the day, what’s so frustrating and dismaying—about this story, as well as the others I mentioned earlier—is this pattern….The girls become pariahs. They wear the scarlet letters of our time.”  Emily Bazelon

We’ve heard it all before in the past year.  There was the  brutal and recorded rape case in Steubenville, Ohio in March of 2013. In April, 2013 we heard of suicide victim Rehaeh Parsons’ case of an alleged gang rape in Nova Scotia.  Now, the past few days, we have the case of  a Daisy Coleman, a 14 year old  girl whose family was driven from their home following her alleged rape by a politically connected  young man who was never prosecuted.

The details in the case are emerging.   The Kansas City Star tells of a family led by a widowed mother and her four children, who were essentially bullied out of Maryville, Missouri, after Daisy told her mother of her assault by a 17 year old football player Matthew Barnett,  grandson of former MO State Representative Rex Barnett.   Despite compelling evidence,  charges were dropped against Barnett and another 17-year-old accused of recording the sexual encounter on an iPhone.,

Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mother, a veterinarian and widow of a doctor who was killed in a car accident six years earlier, was fired from her job at Maryville’s Southpaws Veterinary Clinic. Daisy  was suspended from her high school’s cheerleading team, suffered depression and had a suicide attempt.  The whole family, including Daisy’s brothers,  suffered vile attacks on social media from both kids and adults, and in a bizarre finale to their nightmare, their house in Maryville, by then for sale as the family had moved, burned down.

We know that victim blaming is a powerful and potent weapon used to discourage reporting of sexual assaults.  That fact is as old as time.  I went to high school in the early 70’s, and knew victims of rape, who would never come forward, and now they never will. No one wanted to go through the ordeal.  There are thousands of Daisy Coleman’s of all generations out there, but she and her family came forward.  What they reportedly went through goes even beyond the term “victim blaming’ into a different realm.  We now see the victim as a pariah.

Emily Bazelon, who is quoted above, reference’s Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famously told story of Hester Prynne in the 1850 classic  “The Scarlet Letter” in a recent piece in Slate. The book is not a tale of rape, but it is a story of a good woman from Salem Massachusetts in 1642, who becomes pregnant by the town pastor and is shunned by her community. As punishment for being found guilty of adultery, she must wear a scarlet “A” on her dress as a sign of shame.  In a particularly harrowing scene, she is forced to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation.  The dynamics are vastly different in the cases of Daisy and Hester, yet both are made pariahs, both are shunned, both take the blame.

After the Steubenville case, I wrote a piece for Huffington Post, called “The Upstanders”.  I lamented the fact that bystanders did nothing.  In that case, and in this case, though, it went beyond doing nothing.  Community members that could have been a support system actively targeted the victims and the victim’s families.

Considering this horrific new story of Daisy and her family, I was happy to see that, once again,  the army of social media, an army that can serve as tormentor as well to the Daisy Coleman’s, has begun to stand up on the right side.   A Facebook page is up and running, hundreds of stories like this one are appearing, and there is a twitter stampede starting, even backed again, as in Steubenville, by the group Anonymous.

We can no longer do nothing, we can do something, even if it’s just to sign our name in support of a young girl and her family, who never should have had to suffer this brutal crime, nor it’s hideous aftermath.

Update 10/15/2013: The Lieutenant Governor is calling for a grand jury..

Sadly, I update this story… January 7, 2014

And again…. January 9, 2014.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Terrorist Next Door

October 10th, 2013


Too many victims

If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms,and it would be the lead story on the news every night.”– Rep. Mark Green

Terrorism is defined as ” the systematic use of violent terror as a means of coercion”.   We tend to define terrorists by incident- the September 11 attackers, the Boston bombers, the Oklahoma City bombers, the group behind the  Kenyan mall attack, and on.    The horrific September 11th, 2001 attacks gave rise to what we now call “the war on terror”, a war that may never end. September 11th also gave rise to a United States Government Department of Homeland Security.   Between FY 2001 – FY2009, $850 billion was spent on the War on Terror, according to this source. After over 3,000 citizens were killed that day, our elected leaders understandably pledged to do everything in their power to keep our citizens safe.

And yet, consider the millions of victims who are terrorized each day, and terrorized where they live.   Here’s a snapshot of the national landscape from Futures without Violence:

  • On average more than three women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.
  • In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data collected in 2005 that finds that women experience two million injuries from intimate partner violence each year.
  • Nearly one in four women in the United States reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life.
  • Women are much more likely than men to be victimized by a current or former intimate partner.5Women are 84 percent of spouse abuse victims and 86 percent of victims of abuse at the hands of a boyfriend or girlfriend and about three-fourths of the persons who commit family violence are male
  • There were 248,300 rapes/sexual assaults in the United States in 2007, more than 500 per day, up from 190,600 in 2005. Women were more likely than men to be victims; the rate for rape/sexual assault for persons age 12 or older in 2007 was 1.8 per 1,000 for females and 0.1 per 1,000 for males.
  • 15 million children in the United States live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.
  • The United States Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 3.4 million persons said they were victims of stalking during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006.


And the resources we commit to these terrible numbers?

On December 16, 2009, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117; H.R. 3288) was enacted, providing total FY2010 funding of $625.91 million for violence against women programs, of which $444.50 million is for VAWA programs administered by DOJ and $181.41 million is for domestic violence programs under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The difference in the amount allocated to the war on terror and to victims of domestic violence is a bit staggering.  Representative Green’s opening statement speaks volumes in how we see and deal with the perpetrators and victims of  family violence. The people who commit these acts are criminals, though they are usually called “perpetrators”.  But, there’s more to this.  If terror is “the systematic use of violent terror as a means of coercion”, then let’s call these people what they are. Terrorists.

 Lucy Berrington, in a Women’s E-News report in 2012, said this,  “Domestic abuse is a form of terrorism that comes from within our society, resulting in mass casualties and extremely high costs.  But for it’s victims, no big budget homeland security effort exists. “  

She’s got that right.  Others agree.

“Framing domestic abuse as ‘everyday terrorism’ helps us understand how fear works,” said Rachel Pain, the author of an English study called  “Everyday Terrorism: How Fear Works in Domestic Abuse”.

Not only do the victims of both forms of terrorism share the same painful consequences–the terrorists use the same tactics,” said Trese Todd, president of  a Seattle nonprofit that addresses domestic violence.

In my years working in violence prevention, talking to survivors, advocates, and educators, I realize that they all are saying the same thing.  The dynamics of intimate partner violence are eerily similar to the dynamics of terrorism , and they all know it and speak to it.  The tactics used by abusers are addressed in our new documentary “Private Violence”, a film that finally brings answers to the age old question, “why doesn’t she leave”?  She and her children are being terrorized, that’s why.

This October, during Domestic Violence month, I’m choosing to re frame the conversation and remember that terrorists don’t always hijack planes and don’t always come equipped with bombs capable of mass destruction.  Their weapons may differ, but they are terrorists, and they are in your town, they are on your street, and they may be just next door.

For more on what you can do to help prevent violence see

If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

If you are being hurt by your partner, it is NOT your fault. You deserve to be safe and healthy. For help and information anytime, contact:

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
TTY 1-800-787-3224

National Sexual Assault Hotline 
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 
TTY 1-866-331-8453




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The “Shutdown”- Workplace Bullying Gone Wild

September 29th, 2013


“Our challenge today is to explain how Congress evolved into our national nutcase.”  Gail Collins, “Congress Cracks Up”, September 27th, New York Times.


I’m not sure how many ways I can say I agree with Ms. Collins, but suffice to say, I agree.  Some of the members of  the 113th Congress is acting probably more irrationally than any we’ve seen in decades.  But, from what I see and what I’ve learned over the years, I’d say they aren’t acting just like “nutcases”, they’re acting like what they are…bullies.

In October of 2012, I wrote a piece for Huffington Post called “Who Did You Bully Today?”  In it, I listed types of adult bullying that are not only getting in the way of efforts to keep kids from brutalizing each other, but are actively giving them bully lessons.  Among the groups I listed was the United States Congress.

This is what I said then about our elected officials..”There are some great politicians out there, dedicated and devoted to the public good, and many are active supporters of violence prevention. But, as a group, “hired” by us to work together in essentially a two-party system, they would earn a great big “dysfunctional” label and earn it easily. Let’s ponder this. Imagine a company where half the employees have as a stated goal the overthrow of the CEO. In this place, the employees have two camps, and many in both camps work not only on obstructing the work of the other camp every day, but are also featured in the media trashing the other camp on a daily basis as well. Would you invest in that company? We do. …I’m hoping they’ll gaze into their collective mirror and look at what’s not working in their own halls. I think many of them would like to see more civility in the process of legislating.”  

I await this civility, and have a feel I will be “awaiting this civility”  for a long time.  We currently face a government shutdown and the tactics currently being used by the “shutdown” gang are textbook bully tactics.

Here’s what I’ve learned about the types of workplace bullies from years of  working with our Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention partners ,Workplace Bullying Institute founders Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie; and from studying the work of the late workplace bullying  activist Tim Field.

The first four types come from the Drs. Namie,,  and the last four come from Tim Field

See if  the behavior of our people on the Hill doesn’t sound like the types of schoolhouse nemesis we’ve all faced.

1) The Screaming Mimi.  These are the specialists  in “the outbursts”.  Some of the rants are well timed, and some are just uncontrolled.  Either way, it’s not the most effective tactic, although they  rarely know that.  They’re the classic “slam them into the locker” types.   They tend to lose their temper at each other and sometimes the host  in double screened news show interviews. It’s fun to watch for a few minutes, until you change the channel because really nothing of value is being heard or said.

 2)The Constant Critic- Haven’t we all experienced the “know it all”? They rarely know it all, but they’ll let you know they do, both on the floor and on the networks. Like Downton Abbey’s dowager countess, “I am never wrong”, and the elementary school tattle tale,  it’s always someone else’s fault.  Always.

 3)The Two-Headed Snake- I like to think of these folks as the “divide and conquer” champions of the playground.  The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” tactic is at work here. Backstabbing is their game and they do it well.

 4)The Gatekeeper.  This one is my personal favorite when it comes to Congress.  If you can’t do something yourself, then keep someone else  from doing anything at all.  Obstruction, obstruction, and more obstruction.  Nothing gets done, and they like it that way.

 5. The Attention Seeker. The “grandstanders”! The speech makers that everyone starts to tune out are in it for themselves.  They love the attention, they love the press, they love to be noticed.  They’re the class clown with a mean streak, and the show off that no one likes. They don’t play well with others, because it’s all about them.

 6. The Wannabe.  These are the Hill dwellers who just aren’t very competent.  Knowing this,  they’ll make sure others look as clueless as they are.  It keeps the focus off their deficiencies.  If  little Johnny isn’t the best student in class, he’ll make sure little Susie and little Bobby look worse than he does.

 7. The Guru.   In their minds,  they are above all criticism and above reproach.  They may be experts, but in their minds, they’re the only experts.  Possible “teacher’s pet”.  This is the kid with their hand raised-all the time.

 8. The Sociopath.  This is the most dangerous type of bully, with no empathy, no loyalty, no bonds.  Like many sociopaths, they are master manipulators, and can be charming in getting to their goal, which is always to look out for themselves.   Period.

Does any of these sound  like some people we know up on The Hill?  And we want our children to stop bullying?

Ms. Collins asks in her excellent piece“”So, what do you think is wrong with these people?”  I would simply answer, see above.


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I Don’t Know How Old I Am

September 26th, 2013

This is the senior I still relate to...

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” Satchel Paige (1906-1982)

I remember when I was young and trying to imagine Mick Jagger jumping around on a stage as an old man.  I thought it was not only a bad visual, but funny as hell.  I also thought that Keith Richards most likely wouldn’t last past the 80’s.   Zoom forward five or six Presidents and Mick’s still jumping.  I hope he does it forever.  And Keith is a medical miracle.    But what I think I love most about these guys is that they don’t know how old they are.  And neither do I.

I’m writing this due to an incident from yesterday.  I went to see “The Butler”.  Approaching the ticket stand, I was asked if I’d like a “Senior” ticket.  My friend who is older than I but pretty wrinkle free and pretty, well, pretty, was not asked this.   It’s just one of those incidents that happen now and again to remind me that, yes, I’m approaching that zone.  I asked the young lady what the age was and when she said 60, I gleefully told her I wasn’t there yet.   My husband just said, “you should have taken the ticket, it’s a perk”. NO IT”S NOT.  He also said, “When you are 101, you won’t take the senior ticket”.  I think he’s right.

But it’s coming, and it’s been coming for years.  I’m just one of those people who lives in denial and likes to pretend age doesn’t exist. Seriously, I forget.  I’m in good health and I feel like I can still do most anything, so I have a way of just putting age in a drawer somewhere, and forgetting which drawer it is when I might need to think about it.  Here’s a few things that have awakened me to the fact  just… getting old,   My apologies in advance to my friend Gloria Steinem, who would be appalled by my concern, and everyone with the sense to realize that getting older is not such a bad thing.  Because, it isn’t. But still…

1) The first time you get called “Ma’am” by a middle aged person instead of Miss, it’s started.

2) My son is going to be 32 years old and he was not born when I was 16.

3) I spend with  Christmas with not one but two supermodels.

4) My doctors are younger than me.

5) Cops are way younger than me.

6) The ##**ing President is younger than me.

7) I haven’t been carded in about 100 years.  Once about 10 years ago, I was carded, but it didn’t count, because they explained that was the store policy for everyone. She could have lied.  I would probably have kissed her. And given her money.

8) I got my AARP card quite a few years ago.  I always throw it out.  I probably shouldn’t, but I’ve actually already had one.  I was 36.  I was married to a man who was 50.  As his wife, I got to use the card.  So, one day, on the road, I stopped at a hotel and whipped out the AARP card.  I was in shorts,  a ponytail, and had big sunglasses on.  The woman behind the counter raised her eyebrows and said, “but, my dear….???” . I laughed and told her my husband was older.  Now they wouldn’t think twice about it.  Like yesterday.  At the movie.  That I still haven’t gotten over. And won’t.  For a while.

9) I have albums older than most of the people in my office.

10) My girlfriend’s GRANDSON is in the military.

11) I was in a doctor’s office in Beverly Hills one day to get my second and last BOTOX treatment ever.  I looked around (this is Hollywood, remember) and the clients were about 12 years old.  I was the oldest person in the room.  I have now reconsidered visiting that doctor again.  After yesterday.  At the movie…..

12) The movie I saw was “The Butler”.  The main character had been through about 7 presidents.   I’ve been through 11.  Eleven.

Perhaps it’s all just a fear of death.  I don’t know.  For the most part, I’m loving my fifties and perhaps I just don’t want this phase to end.

And next time I’m asked if I’m a “senior”, I’m going to say, “No, thank you, I’m still a second semester junior”  My husband, the philosopher, who thinks I’m ridiculous most of the time, but loves me anyway, perhaps just said it best.  “”When you are 101, you won’t take the senior ticket”.  I think he’s right.


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To Whom Much Is Given

September 8th, 2013

 “To whom much is given, much is expected”  John F. Kennedy

My brother Ted and I were in a Sioux City night spot in 1992 when we had a conversation that went something like this.

Cindy, “You’ve made a lot of money”

Ted, “Yes, I have.  I’m thinking about giving a bunch of it away.  Want to help?”

Cindy, “Yes, please”.

I was 36, Ted was all of 29.  It seems incredible to me today that someone so young was thinking about philanthropy, but he was.  And I was on board, just like that.  There’s no way to summarize 20 years of work in one piece, so I’m going to share random thoughts on giving, on family, on some great times I’ve had, what I’ve learned from some very smart people, what I had to unlearn, what I screwed up and what I got right..  I’m still learning.

Here are my random thoughts….these could change in another 10-20 years….

1) I worked harder and worked longer hours as a social worker than I’ve worked as a philanthropist.

2) It’s always nice to get awards, but I’ve often thought that the ones who do the real work should get the awards.  In my field, the educators, the social workers, the agency directors, the trainers, and the advocates should be recognized more.  They do the real work.

3) A guy who knew what he was saying once told me, when I first started that there were three things he wanted me to remember when we started the foundation.  He actually said this. 1) You won’t always hear the whole truth from people who ask you for large sums of money . 2) You’ll make a lot of new friends quickly.  3) You’ll never have to buy lunch for the rest of your life.

4) I would disagree with number 1.  For the most part, I’ve dealt with some wonderful people with a lot of integrity.  Although one guy tried to sue us for only giving him about half a million dollars.

5) It’s easy to write a check.  It’s harder to write the check to the right place and the right project at the right time.

6) Give to causes you feel passionate about.

7) Don’t drive around with $2,000,000 checks in your car.  For some reason, when we helped out our Sioux City Orpheum back in 1999 or 2000, I had the check with me and ran in some place to get something, leaving the check laying there on the seat.  So, I called the project leader Dave Bernstein and said, “Come out and get this damn thing before I lose it”.  He did, and rather quickly.

8) It’s really fun to name a bar after your grandmother.  Don’t be shocked.  Our grandmother would best be described as Zelda Fitzgerald.  She’d approve.

9) If  Esta Soler, founder of “Futures without Violence” tells me something will work, I believe her.  If she tells me something that won’t work, I believe her on that too. Never fails.

10)  Don’t confuse the “what” people with the “how” people.  Ted taught me that.  Very few are both.  I’m a “what” person about 80% of the time, just occasionally I can be a “how”.  For a project to work, you need both.  If you’re a “what”, find the “hows”.  They’ll make it happen.  And someone else just reminded me that the “why” is important too.

11) Want to make documentaries?  Good.  Keep this in mind.  Two thirds of all film makers I know are crazy.  (But in a good way). I’m crazy too, and I’m not even a film maker.

12) Speaking of funding documentaries, always plan on a million dollars, including outreach.  It’s easier if you remember that going in.  No surprises.

13) Give to people who are passionate about what they do.  Three examples…Kit Gruelle “Private Violence”,  Esta Soler, the men’s movement against violence.  Lee Hirsch, “Bully”. Enough said.

14) You can do a lot in your hometown because you have relationships in place to make things happen.  If it’s a fairly small town, all the better, you can really make a noticeable difference.

15) When Lee Hirsch called me to tell me “Bully” had been bought out of Tribeca, I said, “So, who the hell is Harvey Weinstein?” I shouldn’t be allowed in that business.

16) Famous people are just people. Kind of.   The most down to earth famous person I’ve ever met is Gloria Steinem.  When we first met, I told her I thought I should curtsy.  I still feel that way.  She seems almost unaware of her stature.  On the other hand, of the people I’ve met,  there’s someone like Bill Clinton, who I think knows exactly what his stature is.  I’ll leave you to ponder that.

17) “Bully” would not have happened the way it did without the people of Sioux City, Iowa. Period. (I’m looking at you Paul Gausman).

18) The Waitt Foundation wouldn’t have happened most likely at all without…again…the people of Sioux City, Iowa.  They were with my brothers every step of the way.

Now for a few of my favorite things over the years in no specific order…

1)  The Men’s Movement Against Domestic Violence

Esta Soler's group "Futures without Violence" helped turn a small movement into probably one of the top strategies used around the world. Joe Torre, Ted Waitt, Russel Simmons, Paul Charon.

I love these guys... Quentin Walcott, Joe Torre, and MVP founder Jackson Katz

2) Historic Fourth District Sioux City.  The community came together to make some good things happen to some old buildings.

We worked on this project starting in 1994. It's a good thing.

3) The first survey of workplace bullying in America, in 2007, with the Workplace Bullying Institute.   It needed to happen.

This story generated the most comments Good Morning America had seen at that point. Workplace bullying can get lost in the story of school bullying. It shouldn't.

4) These two glorious places in Sioux City.  The community came together for these, the team work was incredible.  The project management on these was extraordinary.

Bravo to Steve Hansen and all.

So, non Sioux City people, if you didn't look it up, which, you didn't, here is the Orpheum.

5) “Mentors in Violence Prevention” and “Coaching Boys into Men”

Mentors in Violence Prevention, partners with us since 2000. It changes things for the better.

Dr. Alan Heisterkamp, trainer across the country of both MVP and Coaching Boys into Men. Alan led the 4 year "Sioux City Project". We moved needles in attitudes and behaviors about violence and bullying. See the Bully site and go to "Communities in Motion".

Coaching Boys into Men is moving across the country and in a few places around the world. It works with coaches to mentor young male athletes and teach non violenct and respectful behavior. This is Boston Celtics former coach and player M.L. Carr in Sioux City with coaches. Endabuse.crg

6) “Private Violence” documentary, that answers the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”  Out in 2014.

Kit Gruelle, the driving force of the film, with Gloria Steinem.

7) Ted and the Waitt Foundation have now turned their attention towards restoring the ocean to full productivity.  They are slowly but surely creating more “marine protected” areas.  They also have done some great exploration and discovery, such as mapping the Titanic location.

Just like the film, but for real. Waitt

8) The Foundation was part of a controversial project called “The Gospel of Judas”.  A nearly 1,700 year old document, found in Egypt, was painstakingly restored and became a book and documentary.

Partnering with National Geographic

9) A documentary called “The End of the Line” about the  devastating effect that over fishing has had on the world’s fish populations and argument that drastic action must be taken to reverse these trends.


10 Last but certainly not least, “Bully”.  It did become more than a film, and helped mark a tipping point in how we deal with school bullying.

This is still my favorite poster of the 2012 film.

The downside of philanthropy?  I can’t think of one right now.  So, to Ted and Norm (more on his own foundation later), the people of Gateway, to Sioux City, and to all the incredible partners I’ve had over the years, who, as I said, do the real work, I have two words.  Thank you.






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