May 20th, 2013
From Leslie Morgan Steiner's book"Crazy Love"
“Kit, it might be good if you’d provide a statistic. I’m no expert, but it’s my understanding that domestic violence only affects poor, uneducated people. Lawyers, doctors, and professors do not beat their wives and children.” From a sociology professor to Kit Gruelle, in a note commenting on her paper on domestic violence and her assertion that it affects those of all socioeconomic status.
I grew up in a family of privilege in the 1950′s, 60′s, and early 70′s in a small city in Iowa. We had a lovely home with a swimming pool, in a pretty neighborhood. My father owned his family cattle business, my mother was a community volunteer and a member of the Junior League. My parents’ friends were CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, and “pillars of the community”. We had great vacations, summer camp, and college educations provided. We spent much of our time at the Country Club, playing with the children of those pillars of the community.
I don’t think I’d ever heard much about family violence. I’d never seen it in my home, because there wasn’t any. I don’t remember any friends who ever spoke of it. It just wasn’t discussed. As Gloria Steinem says frequently, “there was no word for domestic violence, it was just called “life”. It wasn’t a life I knew.
The first time I heard from a victim of this secret subject was when I was in my first year of college. The story was from an older woman, I’ll just call her “Emma” here. It was HER story. She was a woman of wealth and position, a college graduate with a lovely home, a grand mother. She was knocked down by her husband in the hallway in that lovely home in the 60′s, and hospitalized with a broken back. The man wasn’t her first husband, they had no children together, and she was fortunate as she had means, owned the home, and was able to get him out of the home with the help of family. So many women aren’t that fortunate. He was never charged with anything. Few men like him were in those days.
I was stunned by her story, and was certain that this was a rare case, particularly among people like that… like us. My social work education and career opened my eyes to the scourge of family violence, the victims, the perpetrators and the kids permanently scarred who witnessed it. Perhaps this fueled my later support of violence prevention. Or perhaps it was for Emma, who had her back broken.
One of the myths of domestic violence is that there is what my friend, colleague, and long time domestic violence victim’s advocate Kit Gruelle , receiver of the rather stunning note above, calls “the typical victim”. She scoffs at that phrase. To her the “typical victim” isn’t typical, and whatever the unenlightened think it is, as she says musically, “it ain’t that”. And, it isn’t.
We still too often see “that” victim as poor, struggling, and uneducated, as did her professor, when she was completing a degree in social work. The note wasn’t written in the 1960′s. It was a couple of years ago. And though Kit says today that many of her teachers were absolutely amazing and well versed in domestic violence, this one, a PhD in Sociology, wasn’t. When we began collaborating on the upcoming documentary “Private Violence”, and gathering stories of just a few of the millions of victims of domestic abuse, Kit wanted to make sure we had footage of women who’ve experienced abuse who didn’t fit “the profile”. She knew of many. She can leave the names off and tell you their stories. She found one during the filming, who not only told us her story, but told readers of story in her book “Crazy Love”, told countless interviewers, and recently told close to a million people via a TED talk. Her name is Leslie Morgan Steiner and her talk, viewed over 800,000 times is here. http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave.html. It’s powerful, it’s honest, and it’s worth watching.
Leslie, in 2009 to CNN, summarized the attitudes some of us still have of families with power, stature, wealth, or celebrity. It was shortly after after the highly publicized story of the assault of Rihanna by Chris Brown, “ Like Rihanna, I had a bright future in my early 20s. I met my abusive lover at 22. I’d just graduated from Harvard and had a job at Seventeen Magazine in New York. My husband worked on Wall Street and was an Ivy League graduate as well. In our world, we were the last couple you’d imagine enmeshed in domestic violence.”
She’s right. We wrap a bubble around those of status, fortune, fame and privilege. We have footage from years ago of Senator Patrick Leahy, a longtime sponsor and supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, talking about that bubble. He speaks of people who don’t want to think it happens in the house next door and says, “It DOES happen in your town, it DOES happen in your neighborhood..” And it does.
Dr. Susan Weitzman, who spent years researching what she calls “upscale violence”, and authored the 2000 book ”Not to People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages” http://drsusanweitzman.com/ has profiles of both victim and perpetrator on her site. She echoes much of what Kit Gruelle has to say about what Dr. Jeanne King calls “Domestic Violence, Tiffany’s Style”. There are specific challenges to this type of case, including societal disbelief, peer pressure to remain silent, and the difficulty of taking on someone with wealth, position, and power. Gruelle says, “Because their husbands are men of position and this guy has a very public persona, it adds another complex layer for the victims. Everyone in the community has their mind made up about this guy.”
As the lid is finally coming off the open secret of sexual assault in the military, and more high profile cases of abuse “Tiffanys style” keep coming to light, it’s worth remembering that the “typical victim” isn’t so typical any more and perhaps never was. I still go to the Country Club with my mother, and I sometimes look around the jovial and gentile crowd and think about the stories that might always be hidden, that may never be talked about, but stories and experiences surely, for the victims and the families, that won’t be forgotten.
May 15th, 2013
To dearest Norm, with love.
Norm all dressed up for something…
“One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls.”
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
“Every family needs a Norm” Eric Blumberg
Norm is my older brother, but I’m fiercely protective of him. That’s just the way it is. As very small children, he was, according to my mother, very protective of me, so perhaps I’m just paying it back. So, there you have it. If you mess with Norm, you’ll answer to me.
1956. Norm is guarding me here, I would guess
His kindness is almost pristine. His humor is legendary. His generosity is enormous, and much of the time, it’s quiet. His humble ways sometimes fool people, but underestimate him at your own peril, because his mind and his memory are razor sharp. He can be trusting, sometimes to a fault, like I am. He loves music, he loves art, he loves to fly from place to place, (unlike me), he’s way more physically fit than most people, he gathers beautiful things, and he gives beautiful things back. He’s a stellar friend, a great dad, a loving brother, and an irreplaceable human being.
My husband Eric, who as a former journalist, is a pretty decent judge of character, said an interesting thing to me one night after I’d hung up from a conversation with Norm and said something like “Oh, Norm…he’s just so sweet”. He said, “Every family needs a Norm”. They do, and every world needs a Norm too. We’re glad he’s here.
For his birthday, I’m gathering good thoughts from friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to give to him at his birthday dinner this week. Please leave a wish for Norm in the comments and tell him that you’re glad he’s here too. :)
May 13th, 2013
Me with my "only child", Ben.
“When they’re little they sit on your lap; when they’re big they sit on your heart.” Cora Stephens
”Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” Oprah Winfrey
I was 24 when I found out I was expecting what turned out to be my “only child”. He was born in 1981, a beautiful, healthy, blond baby boy…all nine pounds of him. He had a sweet nature, he was always able to amuse himself, he was smart, he was creative, and he was an old soul. He was also the answer to every mother’s prayer- a good sleeper. He still is. He also wasn’t trouble free. None of them are. Mothering doesn’t end when they graduate from high school, when they get married, or when they move far away. It never ends at all. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. Ask any mother, and they’ll agree.
I sometimes get asked that strange question, “Why did you only have one child?” I always used to tell them that it was because he was perfect and I was afraid the next one would be a nightmare. Women do get asked strange questions about motherhood. ”Why didn’t you ever have any?….why did you adopt?….why did you have so many?…”. There are a lot of expectations about being a “mother” still even in this enlightened day, even when nearly one in five women are choosing not to be biological mothers. But…being what they now call “child free” that doesn’t mean they won’t “mother”. They will. Being women, most of us do “mother”. Some of us are stepmothers, adoptive mothers, or foster mothers. We mother each other, our sisters and brothers, our friends, and our own parents as they age. Many of us work directly with children and some of us work on causes that help children. If mothering is about nurturing, about care taking, and most importantly, about loving, we’ve all been mothers at some point, haven’t we?
I think expanding the conversation about what makes one a mother is important, especially on a day like today. Shouldn’t we pause and honor not only our own mothers, but women who were there for us when we needed them, women who’d take a bullet for us, and women who’ve wrapped us in their arms and hearts in those times we’ve needed them the most?
I think of some of my closest friends. Some have never been biological mothers, but they are among the most caring and nurturing of women. One is a nurse, who has mothered countless patients in her 30 years. The other teaches older adults, and plays den mother to 1,500 students. Another is simply a kind and thoughtful woman, who always has a positive word, and has devoted her life to creating beauty, which she does brilliantly.
I think of my colleagues. These are women who have devoted their lives to advocacy for women and for children. There are men now too, who like the women before them, devote themselves to creating a less violence world. They are “mothering” too. I know a woman they call “the mother of the modern women’s movement”, who has never had a biological child, but mentors and teaches thousands of young girls. I know a domestic violence advocate who as a survivor nurtures women during the hardest hours, days, months and year of their lives. I know another woman who is also called “the mother of the violence against women act”. She’ll tell you she was just one of the parents of that act, but I know her and I know how hard she worked to help create that landmark legislation that has saved and continues to save lives every day in this country.
I think of my sister, who has two children, two stepchildren, and grand children. She’s a teacher who has “mothered” thousands of kids. My own mother, who is a mother, grandmother, and now great grandmother, always enlarged the definition of motherhood when she supported so many causes that help kids over the past 60 years of her work in volunteering and in philanthropy.
Like these women, I’ve always felt I had many children. I was born under the sign of Cancer, and they say we Cancerian girls just can’t help the “mothering”. I wasn’t a typical soccer mom, I was a flawed parent, I was too permissive, and I didn’t always make the right decisions. I was an imperfect mother (just ask him), but I hope, in spite of that, a good one overall, or as good as I could be. But like many women, I found myself expanding my brood beyond the one I’d given birth to. I was a social worker, and my first jobs were always with teenagers. I still remember most of those kids, and occasionally I’ll hear from the grown up version of one or two of them. I have a beautiful step daughter, nieces and nephews, and the tendency to occasionally “adopt” certain young women and young men. I think of a few of my son’s friends, who I’ve watched grow up, as kind of..my own kids.
So, I’ve changed my answer about “just having one child”. Like so many other women I know, and women I love, I’ve had many “children” at different times in my life. I hope I never stop mothering.
So, for all of you who have had one child or many “children”, my wish for you is a day of peace, of harmony, and most of all, a day filled with the joy and love you’ve given others. Happy Mother’s Day.
May 10th, 2013
April 2012, San Francisco...I look kind of frazzled here and this is one of the better pictures from that day, trust me.....
“Ever notice that even the busiest people are never too busy to tell you just how busy they are?”
I’ve been noticing a really annoying word that keeps coming up in daily conversations. I say it a lot. Other people say it a lot. Not only do people, including me, say it a lot, they wear it like a badge of honor. They brag about it, they whine about it a lot, as do I, but I’m not sure how many of us are doing much about that annoying word. It’s “busy”. Are you as sick of hearing that word as I am? And are you sick of being “too busy’? Or are you sick of just saying that you’re “too busy?”.
I’ve decided that between busy, crazy busy, and just crazy, sometimes I’ve been all of them. But, I’m working on it. Kind of. It’s hard, though, when we are admired, rewarded, and yes, even revered for our chronic “busyness”. Is that a word? I think “Crazy Busy” is not only the norm, but for many of us here in the U.S. of A., it’s a status symbol.
Take my family of origin. (please, somebody take them:)) These people give new meaning to the word “Puritan Work Ethic”. It’s not our fault, it’s in our DNA. Our ancestors were Puritans. After that, they were pioneers and always hopping onto some kind of covered wagon or something. Now they hop onto their jets, but still… We grew up with “don’t just stand there, do something”. So, we did. Many of us are perfectionists, we’re always planning something, working on something new, scheming something new, or going somewhere else. But I don’t think we’re that different from all those millions. Hard work IS a virtue isn’t it? But, where’s the line, where does it start messing with us and our lives, our health, and even our sanity?
I looked up something like “Americans are too busy” and I ran across this guy (Dr. Edward Hallowell) who wrote this book called “Crazy Busy:Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Handling Your Fast Paced Life.”. Just the title of that wore me out. I may check that one out. In the meantime, though, because I’ve had issues with this in the past (and sometimes now), I looked up “workaholic”. Here’s a test from a website called Elements Behavior Health: It’s one of those “if you answered yes to 3 or more…”
• Work is exciting – Do you find that work gets you more excited than family, friends, hobbies, entertainment, sports or anything else?
• Pace may overwhelm you – Have you found that there are times when you can easily breeze through your workload and other times when you just can’t seem to make it through?
• Taking work home – Do you often take your work home with you, or to bed, work on weekends or on vacation?
• Like work best – Do you like to talk about work the best and enjoy work more than any other activity?
• Hours per week – Do you work more than 40 hours per week?
• Work and hobbies – Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
• Responsibility – Do you take complete responsibility for all of your work output?
• Never home on time – Are you often late coming home due to your workload? Has your family given up on expecting you home on time because of it?
• Take on extra work – Do you take on extra assignments or projects because you’re afraid they won’t get done – or won’t get done the right way?
• Underestimate timing – Do you underestimate the total amount of time your work projects or assignments – and then rush to complete it under deadline?
• Justify long hours – Do you believe it is okay to work as long as you do because you love your work?
• Impatience with others – Do you find yourself impatient with others who have other priorities beside work?
• Fear of losing job – Do you fear that you will lose your job or be considered a failure if you don’t work at your current hard pace?
• Worry about the future – Even though things may be going well for you right now, are you constantly worried about the future?
• Competitiveness – Do you do everything with the same energy, intensity and competitiveness – including play?
• Irritation – Do you become irritated when others – like the family, friends or others – ask you to stop working in order to do something else?
• Relationships suffer – Have your close relationships – with family, friends and others – suffered as a result of your long hours at work?
• Constantly thinking about work – Do you find yourself thinking about work while you are driving, when others are talking, and even when you are falling asleep?
• Work during meals – Do you read or do work while you are eating?
• Money solves problems – Do you believe that if you had more money, it could solve all your other problems – or that money solves just about any problems?
Uh, oh. I had more than three, how about you? The next line after that is this Don’t panic. There are millions of Americans out there who are in the same situation. I like any sentence that begins with “don’t panic”. don’t you?
So, seriously, don’t panic, I’m here to help. I’ve learned a few things over the years from my therapists, my friends who used to think I was too busy, some things I’ve read, and by watching people who I used to call “slackers”, but might be more healthy than I used to be and sometimes still am, when I’m crazy busy. Here’s a short list and I’ll tell you how I’m doing on some of them.
1) Don’t multi- task ALL the time. My therapist actually helped me set boundaries on work time, home time, play time, relationship time, etc. I’m getting better at this, but last night, I found myself writing a check to our handyman, having a semi-business call, talking to my son, and getting ready to go out to dinner. I didn’t do any of those tasks very well. Everyone got short changed, including me. I also cleaned my kitchen while on a conference call last week as well. I’m not saying which conference call, so if you were on one with me, and I was at home, just figure I was probably cleaning something. I need to quit working from home.
2) Listen to your body-Your body will tell you, trust me. Every body has its own way of saying that you are currently sucking at taking care of yourself. Here’s mine. Kidney stones. Never fails. Slow down and you’ll avoid those pesky same day surgeries I end up getting every few years.
3) Walk. I’ve gotten better at not having business calls and/or personal calls while doing my walks. No, I’m not kidding, I’ve done that plenty, in the past. So, if you must, at least put the damn thing on mute, so they won’t hear the traffic or lawnmowers or dogs barking, ok?
4) Ask yourself how much money, title, and /or success you actually need? Do you need the extra job, the extra hours, the corner office, the kudos? This is a hard one. We get rewarded in this society for how much we do. Is there a happy medium that you can land on? If you come from a competitive hard driving family like I come from, you may struggle with this. I’m generally harder on myself than any one else is. Think about it. Most people don’t really care that you succeed ALL the time, because they are too busy succeeding all the time too.
5) Just say no. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, learn to say no occasionally. Nancy Reagan’s slogan didn’t exactly work for the drug thing, but what she said, when applied to some things in life we don’t have time for, was right. Did I just say Nancy Reagan was right?
6) Don’t keep telling everyone how busy you are. They don’t care, because they’re busy too, and they haven’t read my list yet, so they aren’t handling their “busyness” too well.
7) Observe some “slackers”. First, find one. They exist. Then observe them. They seem a bit happier than most people don’t they? If you can’t find one, come to my house on a Sunday. I have two of them here. :)
8) Put down the smart phone. NOW. My brother and I were talking about our phones one day. He and I decided we completely panic if we can’t find our phones. But he’s really rich, so he probably has a hundred of them. I don’t and I freak out if I can’t find it. But why? I still get annoyed at my husband, who frequently turns his off and my son, who frequently doesn’t care where his phone is. I also guilt them like this, “But what if I get hit by a bus, and I’m at the hospital and I have to have emergency surgery, and they can’t find you, so I end up dead?”. I’ve actually said stuff like this. I need more work on this one.
9) Ok, if you can’t put it down, you don’t have to answer every call right now, do you?
10) I can’t remember this one because my phone just rang and I answered it.
May 6th, 2013
Courtesy G.R. Lindblade
“Sioux City is the home town I never had” Henry Corra
Here was the story in CNN’s site today. ”SIOUX CITY SUX AND THAT’S OK” By Bob Greene, CNN Contributor , Sun May 5, 2013
Actually, it was a rather affectionate piece about a city with such an unfortunate airport moniker that the citizens had the gumption, the heart, and the humor to start a cottage industry out of the name. That’s the Sioux City I know and the Sioux City I love. As much as the town sometimes frustrates me, I’m an eternal cheerleader of where I grew up. Those of us who love the place can pick on it anytime. But, I get fiercely protective when it gets dismissed as a dismal little berg in the middle of flyover country (those of you who think that know who you are and I know who some of you are too:)) . In my own little “Sioux City native” world, there are two types of people. Those who get my hometown, and those who don’t. Period, the end.
Let’s start with a couple of examples of ”those who don’t” and let’s start with you, Harrison Ford, who supposedly famously commented that the city stinks. Ok, so he had a point at that time, but damn, that was harsh. All right then, next are the legions of people who don’t always see any of its perks and none of its charm and continue to call it “Sewer City”. I’m not sure why they don’t move, I’ve never been able to figure that out. It gets worse. A Huffington Post review of the documentary “Bully”, partially filmed here (because we said they could:)), by Jordan Zakarin starts , “As a blizzard batters nowhere Iowa…”. Excuse me? Oh, dear. Jordan, do fly over anytime, we’ll wave at you, we’re nice. I would imagine though, that Jordan did get that impression of nowhere partially from the film. As much as I love Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen and “Bully”, and as much as Cynthia and Lee actually like Sioux City, the main highlight of the Sioux City landscape we see in the film seemed to be one train crossing.
But still, I’m including them in my gang of outsiders who are fond of the little tri-state river shire we called “Siouxland”. They practically lived here for a year or so, so they get a key…
They particularly liked finding strange little restaurants here.
These are a few more of my friends who not only “get” Sioux City, but are actually serious Sioux City fans…
Henry loved filming here, and liked to hang out here too....
Speaking of film makers, my brother in all but name, New York film maker Henry Corra, fell in love with the place in the 1990′s, when he landed here to take over the advertising campaigns at my brother’s company, Gateway. Henry, a cinema verite master trained by the legendary Maysles Brothers (Grey Gardens), is the director of the highly acclaimed films “Umbrellas” HBO’s “George” , Showtime’s ”Same Sex America” and the Emmy nominated “NYC77″, among many others. Henry was once described as the man “big agencies hate” because he stole away the multi- million dollar ad business of Gateway from the likes of McCann Erickson back in the day. In my mind there were three reasons. He got Ted Waitt, he got Gateway, and he totally gets Sioux City.
Peter said he always felt at home here.
My friend Peter Bayless, a London advertising man who changed careers and became BBC’s Masterchef in 2006, stumbled into our rolling fields with the rest of the Gateway crew in the 1990′s as well. Peter told me that when he first landed here, he felt completely at home. Well, why shouldn’t he? Sioux City’s green and rolling hills are a lot like the mother country, without the castles. (Ok fine, with more billboards and strip malls and stuff…). When he last visited for my birthday, he and his wife actually briefly considered staying here. His good friend at the time, another one of the “Mad Men” we had here, didn’t get it. He’d say things like “what do you DO there dahling?”. I told him I did enough to keep me there for fifty some years, thank you very much. But Peter..an absolute Iowa fan, so there.
I reminded Harry Lennix the other night here that he once called Sioux City "the oasis".
Harry Lennix, a Chicago born Los Angeles based actor who’s been featured in films like “The Matrix”, “The Human Stain” and the upcoming “Superman, Man of Steel”, met our own English Sioux City transplant Fiona Valentine at Northwestern University in Chicago years ago. He’s visited here a number of times to teach master classes and speak to students and generally mingle with all of us. He loves to visit his dear friend, but he also told me of the charms of Sioux City in 2007, when on a cross country drive, he decided to stop here again. He said it was like an “oasis” for him. He must like it, because he keeps coming back and this time his lovely wife Djena Graves Lennix came with him. We liked her, too. Fiona, who has lived all over the place, landed here almost 20 years ago and never left. I’ve never seen a bigger cheerleader for the cause than Fiona. I think we’ll keep her.
Biggest Sioux City cheerleader ever, Fiona with Harry just last week.
Londoner David Prais, with his wife, a local, Elizabeth Haar Prais at their own "royal wedding" party at Pembridge
David Prais was one of my favorites of the “rogues gallery” of Englishmen who landed here with the rest of the Gateway crew almost 20 years ago. Gateway spawned a lot of romance in those days, and like many employees who connected that way, he married one of my favorite people, Eli Haar, a local girl. Here’s a blurb about David I found, ” In 2000 the title to its ancient Lordship was purchased by entrepreneur David Prais. This meant that he was able to style himself David Prais, The Lord of Pembridge. He and eight friends celebrated their affection for the place by naming the new business they started together in 2002 The Pembridge Partnership.” And I thought that was an urban legend. In any case, David and Eli visit family and friends here often and “His Lordship” has admitted his soft spot for the place.
Last but not least, there’s a native of Manhattan, from a show business family, who landed here after an award winning radio career in Austin, Texas. He not only gets Sioux City, he loves Sioux City. He’s not a fan of everything here, but he loves the size and pace and loves the people, particularly me. I think we’ll keep him, too.
My husband, Eric Blumberg. He's staying here.
So to Mr. Jordan Zakarin, (who wrote a nice review for Bully, by the way, and I thank you), I sometimes write pieces for your site, so I’ve decided I should connect with you and invite you here for some of that “hometown feeling” that Henry Corra appreciates. You’ll like it, you’ll really like it. I promise. If you can’t come, we’ll understand, but seriously, where else can you get a hat like this?
May 2nd, 2013
Must be the 1960's here...
Back up Maggie Smith, stand aside Shirley MacLaine, watch out Lucille Bluth, we’ve got…Big Joan.
She’s beautiful, she’s brilliant, she loves her children and grand children, and she has a collection of one, two, and three liners that rival the best of them. She’s Joan Gaston Waitt, she’ll be 82 this week, and she’s my mother. In honor of this milestone, I thought I’d share just SOME of the zingers that have escaped from her lovely mouth over the years. To catalog all of them would take years. We’ve thought of saving her e-mails (those are particularly outstanding), but again…would take just too much time. There are so many….
A short bio here- She was born in St. Louis in 1931 to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald…(oh, I got that wrong), Mildred Emma Armstead and William Matthew Gaston, who were college sweethearts from good old Kansas families. She landed in Sioux City, Iowa after her parents divorce and her mother’s remarriage to a wealthy businessman who owned American PopCorn Company. It was during the the Second World War, shortly after their move, when she proceeded to attract the attention of my father. They were both about thirteen and he never stood a chance. He describes her walking in to their junior high school, in 1944 as having “her nose up in the air.” She says that she was actually shy, as she’d moved many times in her childhood. My parents kept in touch for many years, despite her boarding schools and her years at Northwestern School of Speech and Drama in Evanston, Illinois, and his service in the Air Force, and when he heard that she was engaged to someone else, he made his move. She always said she had three choices at that point. Trying out for the Pasadena Playhouse, teaching English at her private school, or marrying Norm Waitt.
They were married in 1953. Norm Jr. was born in 1954, I came along in 1956, my sister Marcia in 1959, and little Teddy in 1963. She was always a whirlwind of activity, ran our house like a domestic drill sergeant, with the help of a nanny or two, and made sure everything was just right. One of her strengths is organization. It had to be in dealing with four children and probably hundreds of our friends over the years, who liked to hang out at our house and observe the general chaos. My father was a cattleman and traveled a lot. I think in response, she developed a sharp eye for our nonsense, and an even sharper tongue. As she’s gotten older, she has perhaps unknowingly honed that skill to practically an artless kind of art. She doesn’t practice her barbs. That’s the fun part. They are actually unplanned and just roll off the tongue. Sometimes it’s cringe worthy, but most other times, it’s just plain hilarious.
This is a work in progress, as I expect my readers, my family members, and friends who know her, will add some more. Here’s a few…
1) T0 me in 2006 at my 50th birthday party, a lovely formal affair given by my brother. I had friends and colleagues come in from across the country. I had warned them that my mother would insult an article of my clothing within 15 seconds of seeing me. They didn’t believe me, I should have put money up. So, I walk in with a dress I’d had made. I liked it. She wasn’t fond of it. “Well, you look lovely dear, but that’s the ugliest dress I’ve ever seen on you next to your first wedding dress.” Score. Didn’t I tell you people?
2) To my sister Marcia, I have no idea when, must have been at cocktail hour… ”The trouble with you is that you don’t drink enough”. Huh?
3) Here’s one of my favorites- mid 1990′s. A group of my friends and my son were assembled at my house, ready to go to our yearly big music festival we call “Saturday in The Park”. You have to know that my mother generally does the white glove test when she arrives at your house, not only with the decor, and the general condition of the home, but to who ever happens to be in that home at that time. So, being Joan, here’s what she said, “Ben, sit up straight, you’re slouching, Reba, get rid of that dog, Robbie, you’re too dressed up for the park, you should look more grubby today, like my daughter looks…. My son Ben said then, “Grandma you forgot Jeremy”. She calmly told him “I’ll get to Jeremy later”. A year or so passed, and she ran into Jeremy. The first thing out of her mouth was “Jeremy, you look awful, get rid of that beard, for God’s sake.” Mind like a steel trap. Never forgets anything. I’m not making this up, ask him (Jeremy Pigg/Facebook)…go on, ask him..
UPDATE: Jeremy just weighed in, here’s his slight correction of the run in….
It's Spring in Sioux City circa 1999. Joan and Norm have arrived back in Sioux after wintering in a warmer locale. She bursts into the Bell, Book,and Candle with a purse,a travel bag and a small dog (maybe two small dogs - memory fails me here). She drops the luggage, releases the hound(s)? and I know in my heart that she nailed Cindy or Robbie with a classic comment. I come downstairs from the loft office that overlooked the bookstore and greeted Joan. She "clasped" with a sharp smack both of my cheeks and says, "Jeremy, it's so nice to see you again... You need to shave. Only ugly people wear beards." About an hour later Cindy says to me... "So my mother must think you're good-looking." Me: "What? She said I was ugly." Cindy: "NO- she said UGLY people WEAR beards and YOU should SHAVE."
4) I was married in 2011 to Eric Blumberg. Eric is a former radio talk show host and teaches community college, neither of which made him a wealthy man. She actually likes Eric, because being a New Yorker, he occasionally tells her to “pipe down”. Yes, he says that. So, when I let her know we’d be getting married, she said, “Leave it to you to marry the only Jewish man I know with no money”. Bam. He thought that one was pretty good.
5) We’ll start on my brother Ted here, a frequent target. She didn’t care that her two sons achieved considerable fortune and a little bit of fame. They were just Normie and Teddy to her. We were sitting in the waiting room of one of her doctors, absolutely full of people, who knew who we were. There was a rumor in our local newspaper that Ted might purchase some big sports franchise, I think it was the Minnesota Vikings. She looked at it in disgust and said, quite clearly, “If your brother doesn’t quit spending his money, he won’t be able to buy the Sioux City Bandits”. Heads turn, I shrink down in my seat.
6) It gets better. Ted again. I think it was 2003, and he was about to travel to South Africa with the Clintons. She looked at him sternly and said, “You tell that Bill Clinton you have four children and a company to run, and you don’t have time to run around the damn world with him”. I then said to her, “Mom, maybe if we see President Clinton, you can tell him that”. ”Oh, I will” she added. We are still waiting breathlessly for that meeting. I will keep you posted.
7) My siblings and I have had a few weddings between us. 11, actually. There were three that have taken place since my father passed in 2003. A woman who was married 50 years to the same man, she has flatly stated that she will attend no more weddings. ”Your father is rolling over in his grave at all these weddings. I’m rolling over in my grave and I’m not even dead yet”
This one was fun. Do remember this. Her lines are generally a bit public, sometimes said in a stage whisper. I can’t even remember the incident, but Ted had done something that annoyed her. Most likely to keep his head from getting too darned big, she has to keep him in line and she said (stage whisper here), more than once, “I must have dropped him on his head”.
9) One more Ted line. My brother was well known for his somewhat dodgy adventures in his youth. He’d done something a bit more “adventurous” than usual when he was about 19 and she said, “Your brother will either end up the president of General Motors or in prison”. Whew….glad that didn’t happen.
10) But wait there’s more…..I just can’t think of all of them right now. When I just asked my son to remember some of grandma’s best, he said to me, “oh, mom, there’s too many”….
We always remind ourselves that in truth, that woman would take a bullet for any one of us, and any one of our children. Mercifully, my mother not rolling over in her grave and is still gloriously with us, and hopefully will be entertaining our ever expanding troops for years to come. This is just a starter list. If you know her, feel free to add some more. But don’t tell her or she will get you…and your little dog too. :)
Love you, mom, and happy birthday!
April 29th, 2013
Photo by Bob Gruen
Dedicated to everyone, everywhere, who works for peace.
“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” John Lennon
Last night, quite late and when all was quiet, I opened a small package from my friend Willa Shalit. Like Willa,the gift inside had many dimensions. Willa was a producer, with Eve Ensler, of the “Vagina Monologues”, co-founder of “V Day”, and is the visionary behind several organizations that support women entrepreneurs globally. The card was handmade by women from Haiti, the package sent from New York, and the love attached came from Willa, wherever on the planet she might be right now.
The bracelet inside came from Yoko Ono. Her design was her contribution to women through Willa and company’s ”MaidenNation”, an amazing new organization that celebrates and markets the talents of women artisans world wide. http://www.maidennation.com/collections/frontpage . It was black, it was beautiful, and it simply said, “Imagine Peace”.
It got me thinking about her husband, John Lennon. I was just 14 when the Beatles broke up, and even at that age, I knew they would somehow stand the test of time. There was just no one like them, and for me, there was no one like him. It seemed to me growing up that most girls were either “John girls” or “Paul girls”. I ran across a “George girl” later in life, and it delighted me. But most of us were drawn to the two main characters of the group, the thing that was Lennon/McCartney, in which ever order. I was absolutely 100% a John girl.
My son, Ben has described the quartet this way. ”Ringo was the heart, Paul was the face, George was the spirit, and John was the brain”. Perhaps that’s a bit too simple, but having a penchant for “mad geniuses”, John appealed to me right away. You could just see the twinkle in his eye, even in the early pictures. His look told me that he didn’t take himself too seriously, but he was young, and hungry and had something to prove, and he went with the whole thing, until suddenly, it seemed, he didn’t.
I was just about to find out I was expecting Ben, when John was killed December 8th, 1980. Somehow my passion for him stuck with Ben, who also loved him as a musician and philosopher. He’s more realistic now about his early hero. He just now told me he’s taken off the rose colored glasses when he thinks of the mix of traits Lennon was, in his own life. He said that to him, a more realistic take was the walking contradiction that was John Lennon- a mega rich, angry,and sometimes violent man, who wrote about peace and love, and was also one of the most interesting people on the planet. My brother Ted always seemed drawn to Lennon as well. I would sometimes ask him “what Lennon song are you right now?” Ted, being a young CEO who spent over 20 years in corporate America, used to resonate to “Working Class Hero”. He later compared his life after leaving Gateway to “Watching the Wheels”. One night, in the spring of 2003, he put on “Imagine”, and it made me cry. You never knew which take Lennon would have on life- sometimes loving, sometimes angry, sometimes cynical.
John Lennon WAS a walking contradiction and that still bothers me. I have to seriously watch my tendency to excuse brilliant but charismatic sometime “bad boys”, as it goes against everything I work for now. But still…he was John, and he did start to evolve. And what an evolving was there.
Perhaps he woke up to something new when he met Yoko. Far from being the person who broke up the Beatles (and we all bought that line back then), it appears she taught John quite a bit about love, life, and spirit. Most importantly, I think she fueled the “peace” fire in him. There was a distinct shift in the post Beatles John when Yoko was part of the picture for all those years. One of my favorite Lennonisms is this, ” as usual, there’s a great woman behind every idiot“. Click. And though I was drawn to John the Beatle in the sixties , John the philosopher drew me the most in later life. He called out most of his hypocrisy and his failings. He was, like a lot of us, a functioning mass of inconsistencies and he knew it. This quote caught my eye, “ “But nobody’s perfect, etc., etc. Whether it’s Janov or Erhardt or Maharishi or a Beatle. That doesn’t take away from their message. It’s like learning how to swim. The swimming is fine. But forget about the teacher.” Double click.
I put on the Yoko “Imagine Peace” bracelet, and I looked up what ”MaidenNation” had to say about it. They first used John’s words and then Yoko’s words. It made sense to do that. It said first:
“Imagine all the people living life in peace” – John Lennon
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream,
A dream you dream together is reality” - Yoko Ono
We all know John’s words, but I found hers even more compelling. Dreaming peace and non violence and demonstrating that way to live together, with 200,000 people or two, is the most powerful. One non violent mind and heart with one peaceful hand do better when they stretch that hand out to someone else. A bracelet, round and linked, spare and stark and simple, demonstrates to me that circle we start to make when we reach out to each other and help each other do the right things. Unlike many bracelets, this one doesn’t fasten, and it stays on, but doesn’t circle the whole wrist. There’s a space and a ways to go before it completely connects, as we all have a ways to go in working to stop all the brutalizing we do to each other.
I would have given anything to meet John Lennon and I remain at heart a “John girl”. But these days, I’d give anything to meet her and tell her what a “Yoko fan” I’ve become.
April 25th, 2013
Darn, darn, double darn...
“Well, you could always wear it to Applebees” Ted Waitt
I’m a social worker and philanthropist and a cattleman’s daughter from Sioux City, Iowa and I have no business in show business. And I had no business with this dress, either, but damn, it was fine.
The story of this dress probably started almost exactly two years ago today. My colleague Lee Hirsch, the director of the documentary Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention had supported, then called “The Bully Project”, called me two days after the film had premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was there that day in New York. We were thrilled with the audience reaction. We knew then that the film would do what we had hoped it would do.What I didn’t know was that back in Iowa on a Monday following the Saturday premiere I’d get a call that went something like this….
Cindy: How are you, wasn’t it amazing, so proud of you and Cynthia…
Lee: I have something to tell you.
Cindy: Is it good news?
Lee: Yes. The Weinstein Company acquired the rights to the film.
Cindy: Wow, that’s good….Who’s the Weinstein company? (yes, I said it, but wait… it gets worse)
Lee: (most likely grimacing)…You know, TWC, the Weinstein Company….like…Harvey Weinstein!?
Cindy: Who’s Harvey Weinstein? (Didn’t I tell you it got worse?)
Poor Lee. He then threw out a few more clues and finally landed on the name “Miramax”. I think I then said something like, “that’s wonderful news”, to which he replied, “it’s HUGE”. I then thought I should look up the Weinstein Company. I did. It was indeed HUGE.
I then told my brother, Ted, who backed the production phase, who promptly said, “That’s HUGE”. I told my friend Henry Corra, a film maker who would know these things, who said, “That’s HUGE”. After a lot of “HUGEness” I did more research and realized that the famous to everyone but me Weinstein Company was known for not only acquiring the right films, but putting their considerable energy and status in the industry behind those films. They were also famous for winning bunches of the little heavy gold men called “Oscar”.
A year later, in early spring of 2012 after multiple film fests, it was time to release the film. Things had changed a bit. The “Bully Project” was now “Bully”, and because of a ratings issue, the famous to everyone but me Mr. Weinstein, and my friends Lee and producer Cynthia Lowen were everywhere. And then the film was everywhere too. That wasn’t just good, that was great. The film had touched hearts and was prompting action.
December 3, 2012. The Academy Awards Documentary 15 film short list was revealed. It was a great year for documentaries, and as it turned out, a great year for “Bully”. We made that list.
Being the ridiculously flawed human I am, and having been told that an executive producer could attend the Oscars, my mind went to where it usually goes when something big could be coming up…the dress. Mea culpa, mea culpa, but yes, the dress. But where to start? I hadn’t been to anything that formal in years, so I turned to one who has been on a few red carpets and my new fashion adviser, my sister in law, the divine Michele. We went back and forth with dress ideas three or four times and had a lot of fun doing it, all the while knowing that I may never need a dress like that. But hey, girls do just want to have fun sometimes, and we had fun. Then, we landed. A Donna Karan. It was age appropriate, the right fabric, the right lines, the right… everything. It was perfect. We did remind ourselves that this was still in fun, but Michele, being the eternal optimist and a truly sweet woman who likes to buy me lovely things, must have just said, “what the heck?” and Christmas Day, there it was. I didn’t just look perfect, it felt perfect, and it fit even more perfectly. But…we still talked about, what if the Oscar shortlist that was even shorter than the first shortlist was announced and the film wasn’t on it? No one knew how it would all turn out, but we decided that even if I didn’t need it, it was still fun to have. Or so I thought, until I thought…where the hell am I going to wear this if I don’t go? Michele, being practical as well as sweet and optimistic, said the magic word, ”Gift card”. But there it was, hanging still in its lovely bag, the dress, the perfect dress. I wanted to wear that dress.
January 10, 2013. As I said, it was a great year for documentaries and five most deserving and amazing films made that shorter of the short lists. ”Bully” didn’t. We were all a bit sad, but grateful that the film had exceeded our wildest dreams in the hearts and minds of those people it touched so deeply. But damn….the dress. So, back it went and I hope someone is loving that glorious thing as much as I did.
In the end, I’d like to say I learned my lesson about counting your chickens, but do we ever really learn when vanity gets involved? The budget worked out well, though, in the end. Here it is: Dress, shoes, bag, tux, facial, etc., etc. etc…..more than I want to think about. Being involved in “Bully”…priceless.
But still, hey Mr. Weinstein, I have this new film in post production, really, you’ll like it…let’s talk, ok?
April 22nd, 2013
One of her favorite places
I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist, and that there are as few as there are other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
When I was three years old and my parents brought my little sister home from the hospital at the end of November in 1959, I apparently said “What is it?”. It was not a great start for a sibling relationship, I suppose, but I’m told I was a bit jealous of the chubby, tow headed little thing, and proceeded to hide under the bed for a time.
I did come out eventually, and I soon found out what “it” was. A bubbly, adorable, blond dynamo named Marcia Joan, a combination of monikers meaning a “female warrior” and a ift from God”. She was aptly named. There’s nothing warlike about her, but she’s stronger than most people I know, and she has been a gift to more people than I could ever think of or count.
She was always a star in the family. My brother Ted has been known to say, “Can you imagine following Marcia?”. Perhaps that drove him harder to success. In addition to being one of the cutest little girls I’ve seen, she was good natured, brainy, brawny (in a graceful and athletic sort of way), and utterly fearless. Unlike me, who never met a familiar place I didn’t love, Marcia embraced the new and unknown, almost always. I like to say that Marcia would get on a plane to an unknown destination with five minutes notice, in a blizzard, without luggage, and with no cash in hand. She moves quickly, she moves a lot, and she always moves forward.
We fought as sisters do in childhood, but rarely fight now. I have a sort of fierce protectiveness about her. I think it’s because she seems so bullet proof. After observing her in labor with her second daughter, I pronounced her “bionic”. She won’t show much weakness, but there’s an enormous soft side to her, a side that’s served her well and served her students even better.
Her abilities in high school, both academic, athletic, and extra curricular led her in 1978 to Stanford and her beloved northern California. Psychology and Education were her fields and unlike me, who never finished that graduate degree, she made sure she had a Master’s and went into teaching right away. More than 30 years later, she’s still helping students. I don’t think she’ll ever stop.
Marcia the student. Sioux City North High School, class of 1978.
Marcia and husband Terry, a Stanford girl still, 2013. She doesn't look that different..
She never could figure out whether to live in Iowa or California, so she lives in both. She centered here in the mid 90′s, after 18 years in the Bay area, with her daughter Stephanie, from her first marriage to an attorney. At that time, our family was very much in the public eye , because of our brothers cow- spotted computer company. A great big swath of Sioux City worked for that company, and our younger brother had become somewhat of a local star. It was strange for me, and must have been for her too. The business that Ted and Norm started impacted thousands of lives and very publicly. But what I didn’t realize was the over the years, she was impacting thousands of lives as well.
I started hearing about her, and not just from the educators here that I knew, respected, and worked with, but from the kids. ”Are you related to Marcia Waitt?” became as familiar as the usual “are you related to Ted, Norm…?”. I liked that and I liked hearing what they said, “Oh, I LOVE having her, she helped me with…” or “she’s fun to have” or “she makes class more interesting”.
I visited a few times, generally when she’d offered to do a quick student focus group for me on a violence prevention project. That’s when I saw what they were talking about. Her rapport with the kids was almost effortless, she seemed to know that exact moment when to quit lecturing and when to invite them all in to comment on the lesson. There was an almost footloose tone to her classes, and it sometimes seemed like a raucous energy, but there was an energy, and they were engaged. So was she. If you sat in her class longer than 10 minutes, you started to learn as much as they were learning.
While her brothers were jetting around to increasingly exotic places, especially in the winter months, Marcia the traveler traveled every day, but to the frigid West High School parking lot at zero dark thirty. When she finally did return to California, she’d been in the public school system for over 25 years. She stretched her wings over the years, ran a coffee shop/record store (while teaching), taught post secondary, coached golf, and now advises the Sundt Foundation as education director for a California based program called Natural High. She’s happily married to her soul mate Terry Nelson, has two daughter, a step daughter, step son, and three grandchildren. She still looks like the same college girl powerhouse to me.
With daughters Natalie and Stephanie, 2011
Like all of us who were taught to never, ever forget where we were raised, Marcia keeps helping students, right here in Sioux City. When, in 2009, brother Norm’s Kind World Foundation made the decision to continue the scholarship program started by the Waitt Foundation years before, Marcia got it going and took the reins. I watched her the other night, five years into the program, handing out awards to the roomful of scholarship recipients , who now number in the hundreds, young people who’ve overcome enormous obstacles reach their goals and go for their dreams. I saw again that easy manner she has with them, the natural charm, the sympathetic ear, and the quiet authority she projects. It’s an emotional evening, full of stories, told by the kids themselves. I usually cry at least once. She keeps it together, like she generally does and she looks like she’s having the time of her life. She IS having the time of her life. As Steinbeck says, great teachers are artists, sculpting young souls along the way, perhaps not knowing how much they do. And it occurs to me as I watch her, year after year, that she not only taught kids like this how to learn, but she now helps teach them how to fly.
People frequently get us mixed up. She gets called Cindy, and I get called Marcia. When that happens, sometimes I correct them, but sometimes I don’t. If they want to think I’m my sister, Marcia, that’s 100% okay with me.
April 16th, 2013
"Private Violence" coming in 2014
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities
A national phenomenon, when released in March, 2012, “Bully” had the “buzz’ from the start. It struck a powerful chord, in its riveting and authentic footage of children and families devastated by bullying. Kids tormenting kids hits us at a basic level, and it’s a powerful punch. “Bully’s” path to completion was relatively swift, as enthusiastic funders signed on beginning in late 2009. When it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011 to audience and critical praise, ”Bully” was quickly bought by the Weinstein Company, ensuring its theatrical release, and thrusting it into the national consciousness. A perfect meshing of the right time, right place, right issue, and the skill and passion of the filmmakers has helped spark a movement no one could have predicted, which is more than a good thing, it’s a great thing.
“Private Violence” is a very different story. It weaves the experiences of domestic abuse survivors, as it challenges, and consequently, explodes the myths of the typical abused woman and finally answers the age old question, “Why doesn’t she just leave’?
While this documentary is driven by the same hopes, concerns, and passions as “Bully”, the producers of “Private Violence” have faced a tougher path to completion. Production and post production of “Bully” took about two years to fund. “Private Violence”, nearing the end of post production, was started seven years ago. It happened faster for “Bully” and that didn’t completely surprise me. In my 20 years of philanthropy, I’ve seen children’s issues get funded first. They are the future, and we have to work with them now. It also had never been done. It was desperately needed and it was time.
But we have to see that the first time some children see or witness violence isn’t the school yard. It’s where they live. Approximately 8.2 million children were exposed to family violence in the last year alone.
As backers of both films, the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention believes that violence in the home and bullying in school must be treated as co-equals. They are inextricably linked, and the data backs it up. A 2011 CDC study told us that kids who witness violence in the home are more likely to be bullied, and more likely to become bullies themselves. New research now also looks at possible links between bullying and dating violence. Prevent Connect cites the following, “Young adolescents who perpetrate bullying become involved in romantic relationships earlier than those who do not bully, and are more likely to report verbal and physical aggression in their earliest intimate relationships“ (Josephson and Pepler, 2012)
Bullying is universal and non- gender specific. Who doesn’t relate to being bullied at some time in their life? Family First Aid reports that about 30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying, either as a bully or as a victim and we’ve all seen it, either as a victim, a perpetrator, or a witness. That’s a frightening number. Too many children are a part of this.
However, according to Futures without Violence, “approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.” We need to consider these frightening statistics, as we need to understand that bullying and violence are modeled first in our families. Gloria Steinem, an early supporter of ”Private Violence”, suggested that the term “domestic violence” should be changed to “original violence. “ It’s what makes people feel that it’s inevitable or that it’s normal or both”, she said. “If you have violence in the home then it normalizes it everywhere else.”
Though we have stalwart advocates on both sides of the political aisle in both movements, we need to move past the national disconnect that still happens with some policy leaders and the general public, who don’t see how intertwined these two issues are. Bullying prevention education can be paired with the critical piece of age appropriate relationship violence awareness programs that can help change the attitudes and behavior of young people as they begin to enter adulthood.
Dickens’ famous quote “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” could describe what we, in the violence prevention movement, feel today. As many strides as we’ve made, we still have a long way to go. Linking violence in its many forms and helping kids, educators, and families connect those dots is vital. As a Futures Without Violence ad campaign suggested, “Teach them early, teach them often.” With dating violence and bullying prevention, teach them together.
April 7th, 2013
This weird little painting I did in 2007 kind of looked like anxiety to me, so I called it "Anxietree"
Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling? Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961
Almost exactly four years ago, I was on my brother’s private jet, escaping Iowa and an incoming early spring blizzard and on my way to someplace warm and beautiful and .. I’d rarely been so miserable.
The warm and beautiful place was a rather posh and famous rehab facility, where I knew no one, and where I would end up spending 42 of the most difficult days of my life. It was one of those places that treat multiple things. Depression, pain, trauma, eating disorders, and drug addiction were all on the menu. My “choice du jour”, at the doctors insistence, was “anxiety disorder”. What drove me there was what a man who was there called “a perfect shit storm” of kind of …horrible stuff. Everything had started collapsing around me, my health, my nerves, my relationships and actually, my life. I thought my work was ok. I worked hard and sometimes I worked smart. That’s what my family does. But looking back, that wasn’t the best time in my career. I was accomplishing things externally, but I wasn’t handling it all very well, when I went and looked inside. That’s what an anxiety disorder can and does do. Inside, it feels like that tree-dark, foreboding, and frazzled. In my case, it was called “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. Doesn’t sound too specific, does it? It isn’t.
I can’t stand that word. Disorder. I’m pretty orderly (most of the time). I like things a certain way and disordered isn’t a way I’d choose. But it chose me and I think it chose me early in life. Looking back, I don’t remember too many days when I wasn’t fretting about something. As a child, I was a good student, and generally a well behaved girl, but I was fearful. I would avoid things that challenged me, or could hurt me. I was social and had a lot of friends, I was in activities, even activities where I had to perform. I must have pushed myself hard, because the fear seemed to usually be there. I learned at the posh place that an anxiety disorder can have a number of causes, but they are never sure which one takes us over the edge and makes our brain work (or not work) the way it does. It can come on because of trauma, or it can be inherited. Whatever mixture comes together to create it, though, essentially produces a chemical imbalance. When that happens, it needs to be treated, and treated right away. By the time I was headed to this rehab place, I needed treatment, and fast, or so everyone thought. I now agree.
My brother (the one that flew me to that place and paid the gargantuan bill) used to say to me, “You worry too much”. He has stopped saying that. He knows why I do, and he’s actually pretty good now at helping me through it at times, as are my friends and my other siblings. They now get why Cindy’s so worried and preoccupied sometimes and that makes a world of difference to me.
Some anxiety happens to everyone. But this is heavier and different from the normal anxiety we humans face in stressful life situations. It’s persistent, it’s painful, and it can be debilating when you fall into an episode. Here’s a quick version from the Mayo Clinic of what an anxiety disorder can look like in the mind and in the body:
- Constant worrying or obsession about small or large concerns
- Restlessness and feeling keyed up or on edge
- Difficulty concentrating or your mind “going blank”
- Muscle tension or muscle aches
- Trembling, feeling twitchy or being easily startled
- Trouble sleeping
- Sweating, nausea or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat
But wait, there’s more…or at least there was more for me. All of these things above took me to a dark place four years, where depression crept in and sat beside the anxiety. They can go hand in hand.
It took time to start to treat a lifetime of anxiety, fear and worry, whether rational or not. The episode I had was a long time in coming, and treatment wasn’t going to be quick. And it wasn’t going to be easy. It still isn’t. But it CAN get better. That isn’t a platitude or a campaign slogan, it’s true. It can. There are people that can help, but a lot of the work is up to you. I spent 3 years in therapy following my stay in posh rehab. I took the medication they recommended. It worked. The therapy worked too, or it has so far.
Not everyone with anxiety will have to go away, as I did. Treatments are different for different people. The menu of choices can be long. But if you are suffering from this, and it persists for months, get the menu and pick something. It’s not always going to go away on its own.
If you are reading this, and if you are feeling any of this, there are a few things I can tell you that helped me along the way.
1) Talk about it. Don’t do this by yourself.
2) Breathe. Not shallow breathing, breathe deep. All sorts of breathing techniques. Look them up and do them.
3) Move. A lot. Try to do something every day. Anxiety can kill brain cells, exercise can rebuild them.
4) Get outside and walk. Not easy in winter. Try to find something else during that time or walk inside. Big struggle for me still, I’m a walker and I like to do it outside.
5)Immerse yourself in something you love. It’s good therapy.
6) Medication is up to you and whoever is treating you. It helped me, but everyone is different.
7) Think about and work with a professional on what kind of anxiety you have specifically. There are a lot of types, from panic disorder to phobias to social anxiety.
Learn to say no. We move too fast, we live too close together, we work too much, and we brag too much about how busy we are. Stop, slow down.
9) Take care of yourself first. You have to, or you can’t take care of anyone or anything the way you want to.
10) Try to unplug yourself when you need to. We’re inundated with technology. You don’t always have to be connected. I struggle with this one all the time.
11) Know that you aren’t alone. More than 40 million people suffer from anxiety disorders in this country, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). In fact, anxiety disorders are on the rise in this country, which makes total sense to me.
12) It’s ok to be straight with people about your struggle with anxiety, but only when you feel comfortable doing it. It took me a long to share this, and this is hard for me to do, but I’m hoping that if it helps one person who reads this, it’s worth it.
13) Laugh. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Seriously. If you can, be around people who crack you up (in a good way).
I had a happy ending, if you can call anything an ending, as I’m still here, and I’m still working on all of this. My relationships have never been better, and I’m doing some of the best work I’ll probably do in my life. And, I’m happy. But I had to walk through the fire first. I’m not there yet, completely. I struggle all the time with this, but not like I used to. I have some good tools in my toolbox now, good professional support, and good people who love me . My brother Ted said to me during all the hell I went through, “We just want Cindy back”. They got Cindy back, and I got Cindy back too.
March 28th, 2013
This aging newlywed couple had no plans to procreate any time soon or ever.
” I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.” Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
Dear Honorable Members of the Supreme Court,
I was watching the replays of yesterday’s pivotal Supreme Court hearings on same sex marriage, when I heard the above jewel coming out of Justice Elena Kagan in response to the lawyer defending Proposition 8 who made the assertion that marriage is basically for procreation. First, I thought…”how much do I love this woman for saying that?’ and next I thought, “well if the guy questioning her on whether marriage is pretty much for procreation and that’s it, he might have a problem with my husband and I”. Here’s a little clip from the New York Times about the conversation, so you can have a light moment of remembrance:
Well, suppose a State said, Mr. Cooper, suppose a State said that, Because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55. Would that be constitutional?
Charles J. Cooper
No, Your Honor, it would not be constitutional.
Justice Elena Kagan
Because that’s the same State interest, I would think, you know. If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the Government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?
Charles J. Cooper
Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples — both parties to the couple are infertile, and the traditional —
Justice Elena Kagan (Note to Your Honors….can you give this woman a plaque for saying ” just about the “coolest thing ever” from the bench?
No, really, because if the couple — I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage. (Laughter.)
I’ll say there was laughter, indeed and definitely in my kitchen, where we were watching this play out. We both thought Mr. Cooper would have to think twice about us because when we got married in 2011, we were kind of….I guess you’d say…old. Our combined ages the day we were married on June 11, 2011 added up to 111. That’s not only a lot of 11′s but that combo age thing is not particularly conducive to starting our own brood.
We have nothing against procreation, adoption, or any other way anyone would like to have children. My husband was a widower with adult daughters, I’m divorced with an adult son We do have children, and they are all grown up. Grandchildren could happen and that would be cool, but seriously, I can assure you that this body of mine just isn’t going to be reproducing at this point. I think most of you would be with me on that point, with the possible exception of Mr. Cooper. (I’ll just let you think about that one.)
So, with all due respect to all of you, do keep in mind that people are likely to keep coming up with really dumb reasons to be against same sex marriage, as I know you will.
p.s. Don’t forget the plaque for Justice Kagan.
p.s. again…Here’s a nice design…
This is from my friend Willa Shalit, it's kind of cool, isn't it?
March 25th, 2013
MVP kids, Sioux City, Iowa, 2012
“It takes courage to stand up, it takes courage to do the right thing. The important thing is when somebody stands up and does the right thing, you have to stand there with them, you have to stand side by side with them. Not behind them -side by side and show them, we’re in this thing together.” –Sioux City Schools Director of Secondary Education Jim Vanderloo
Three nights ago, I watched the home made video of the aftermath of the horrific Steubenville, Ohio rape of a 16 year old girl. I can’t describe it. Nothing I can type here can match the lack of humanity and decency I heard in the words coming out of that piece of rough film. The starring character, the one that found the whole episode amusing, encounters one faint voice of protest, a voice that wasn’t loud enough. The loudest voice ruled. I kept having to turn it off. But then I decided to go the distance and watch the whole 12 minutes and 29 seconds. As a violence prevention supporter for 20 years, and a social worker for almost 10 years before that, I told myself I should have been better prepared. I wasn’t. I had trouble sleeping. When I woke up the next morning, I suddenly remembered watching a “scenario” that had an eerie similarity to the prelude of what led up to the events of August 11, 2012.
It was about ten years ago, in a middle school gymnasium in Sioux City, Iowa. I watched a scene where an intoxicated teenage girl, who was barely able to walk, was being led out of a party by a teenage boy. The scene was set up to feel the tension of that moment. Suddenly a girl, and another boy she knew, sensing the danger, approached and intervened to take her to safety. It wasn’t real, it was a scenario, written by a program called “Mentors in Violence Prevention” and acted out by high school future “mentors” in an all day training. The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Model, co- founded by internationally known speaker, author, and activist Jackson Katz 20 years ago at Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, is a gender violence, bullying, and school violence prevention program that uses the ”bystander” model gives students choices in how to approach potentially dangerous situations involving bullying and gender violence by creating real life scenarios like the one above.
I’d watched the training before. The Waitt Foundation had supported MVP since our colleague Judy Stafford approached then assistant principal Dr. Alan Heisterkamp in 2000 in Iowa to see if he’d implement the program at our pilot high school. But I do remember that day thinking that by choosing a “real life” scenario, this program could make a difference. It has.
MVP asks both young girls and young boys to be what is called “an active bystander”. Another word being used today is “upstander”, a term that became more well known during the time the “Bully” movie premiered, and one used frequently now as part of the movement that grew out of the 2012 documentary.
I don’t think it matters which term is used. Both terms make sense when you are asking kids to go outside their comfort zone and have the courage to stand up for their peers to prevent the violence we hear about too often in this country. The term “bystander” isn’t that new. As Alan Heisterkamp, now a violence prevention trainer and consultant at the University of Northern Iowa and our partner at Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, says,” Bystander strategies have been around since the early 1970’s. The recent rise in popularity of the bystander education model and the social norms approach in bullying and violence prevention can be attributed to numerous research studies that have yielded positive results. Today, we know more about the impact that active bystanders, sometimes referred to as “upstanders”, have on reducing the frequency of harmful or abusive behaviors among youth and adults alike.”
He’s right. Newsweek wrote in 2009 about studies he did at our pilot high school over 10 years ago. “One study found that after the Sioux City School District in Iowa implemented the MVP program, the number of freshman boys who said they could help prevent violence against women and girls increased by 50 percent. The number of ninth-grade boys who indicated that their peers would listen to them about respecting women and girls increased by 30 percent. New data can be found here. http://wivp.waittinstitute.org/.
Alan was one of the first trainers to work with MVP in high schools in combination with another powerful curriculum we’ve used for many years called “Coaching Boys into Men’. This “Futures Without Violence” program, piloted in 2005, uses the power of adult mentors, particularly athletic coaches with young male athletes, in changing cultures to prevent gender violence and sexual assault. A 3 year evidence-based CDC study in 16 Sacramento, California high schools showed that student athletes who participated in CBIM were more likely to call out abusive behavior among their peers than those outside the program. CBIM is now used in dozens of locations across the country and plans on expanding their map, as does Mentors in Violence Prevention. See http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/content/features/detail/2431/.
Now, more than ever, we need to create more “upstanders” and not only among our youth, but in partnership with parents, school staff, and finally, the whole community. Can we prevent every incident of violence, bullying, or sexual assault? I think not. But changing the power of the old message, “boys will be boys’ and “kids will be kids” is a step in the right direction. We’ve had young people approach us with stories of “standing up”, not standing by. We’ve heard the stories from kids who’ve worked with both of these programs. The “Bully Project” has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of kids talking about what the power of a voice, a gesture, or a supportive intervention can do. Looking at the kids above, and hearing those stories, I have hope.
March 22nd, 2013
if you have a picture from the 50's like this, and you are in it, you are over 50.
“We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public”. Bryan White
“After 50, everything goes to hell”- my mother, 2006 *
*Note to siblings- now that we are all in our 50′s, ponder what mom said to me 6 1/2 years ago. 2nd note to siblings- Please thank mom for this cheery news when you see her. 3rd note to siblings- I’m going to prove her wrong. 4th note to siblings, friends and colleagues- Ok, maybe she’s right about some of it, but not all of it. Read my list of why being 50 doesn’t completely suck, and then come up with your own list.
Yes, our bodies start to slip, our faces start to fall, and our ability to remember things sometimes slides into a deep pit sometimes and we have to go fish it out, but heck, I like my 50′s. I’m actually having more fun now than I have in a lot of years, and doing simpler things too. Really. Remember, this is just my list, I’m hoping you’ll come up with your own. Maybe we could aggregate all the lists and publish a book.
Reasons why being 50 doesn’t suck.
1) When you’re late or you screw something up, you can blame it on memory loss. Most of the time you’ll be right, and no one younger than you will challenge you, because they’ll feel sorry for you.
2) You know longer have to drive your kids to the mall, generally because they not only now drive, but they don’t live with you anymore. If they do move back in, you can make them drive you. I’ve done that.
3) See bolded part of reason two.
4) Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no” campaign,the one you thought was completely ridiculous, is now a brilliant mantra. Keeping running it through your head. It gets you out of doing a lot of things you don’t want to do. Please share this with young people-they probably grew up with it, and they can use the advice because they’re all too busy. When you are fifty plus, you recognize life is short and you learn to prioritize.
5) After 50, if we are single, divorced, or widowed, most of us have figured out who not to date. I’m all for bonding with whatever age group, but I try to keep it at the “10 years plus or minus” rule. I’ve broken that rule both ways, but now I’ve gotten comfortable with is. I’m very happily married (again, still) but when I was single at 52, I decided that I’d never date anyone who didn’t know where they were when Kennedy was shot. It was pretty simple. Also, if you have albums, house plants, or children older than someone, try not to date them. See how smart we’re getting?
6) If you are single, you can finally rule out dating George Clooney. He isn’t going to date you, and he doesn’t follow rule 5. Note to George- I love you, I mean, we all love you, you are fabulous and you are now one of us, but go up just maybe half a decade. I dare you.
7) You are now, most likely, a mega “outlier” in some things, but we’ve questioned the validity of the term as well. Remember that book that told us if you do something 10,000 hours, you’ll be an expert? I never really agreed with that completely, only in part. (see how smart I am). Here’s why. Let’s just say I spent 10,000 hours learning to be a nuclear physicist, I’d still not be a nuclear physicist, because I’m smart enough to know I’m not smart enough to be a nuclear physicist. Is this making sense? But, if you have some natural aptitude, I think the 10,000 hours rule will get you there. So, you are most likely an expert at a lot of things. For me it would be things like vacuuming, grocery shopping, and cleaning the bathrooms, that kind of thing.
Forget some of the nonsense in bold in number 7. If you are in a field you like, you are probably pretty good at it. I’m not bad at what I do. It’s taken a lot of years to not do some of the stupid things I did when I started. I like being a bit of an elder.
9)You are part of a generation called “shadow boomers”, which means you are only a subset of the “baby boomers”, so you can’t take the blame for all the stuff baby boomers might have done. You have your own “cohort”. (See below). I didn’t make this one up, someone else did. Apparently, you can’t be lumped into “the one size fits all category” Read this below:
“Marketers insist that Baby Boomers are all one in the same. However, the evidence is clear: someone born at the start of the population boost in 1946 has experiences and values quite different from someone born in 1964. In fact, researchers identify two primary segments of this generation, according to William H. Frey of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the esteemed Brookings Institution: Cohort-1, born 1946-1954, referred to as the primary or “leading edge” Boomers. Cohort-2, born 1955-1964, sometimes called the “shadow” or “trailing edge” Boomers.
I’m glad I ran into that one. Someone born in ’46 and in ’64 might have very different lives. It’s about time they recognize that.
10) And finally, it doesn’t suck to be 50 because I’m actually 56, and 50 sounds pretty good to me right now, as I hope it sounds to George Clooney. George, you’re not a boomer, you’re a shadow boomer. I can explain this to you. Seriously, call me.
March 18th, 2013
I don't know some of these people...but I liked the picture...
“The order of the universe took form long before you arrived and will remain long after you are gone, yet you are an important part of that order. Strive to benefit from your stay here. Your future is written in the stars and no one but you can tell it. Remember well your high school years, the best years of your life, for they too are written in the stars” North High School Polaris 1974.. Who the hell said that, was it someone famous?… I couldn’t find it. Pretty good stuff for high school people..
I resisted the lure of Facebook for years. I don’t know why I finally got connected, but I did, about 9 months ago. Some of it didn’t interest me, some of it did, but one of the beauties I found on the social media behemoth was that I could finally connect with some of them. They, for the most part aren’t my now, and aren’t my future. I’m not in daily communication with them, I don’t work with them, most of them haven’t seen me for years, or each other. But they are something precious, something I can’t ever get back. They are my youth, and I’m theirs.
We called ourselves “The North Stars”. Unlike some classes, who are actually stuck with the school name, our school was built the year before, and some of us got to choose. The suburban legend is that one of my classmates liked the Minnesota North Stars hockey team. The hockey team doesn’t exist anymore, but we do. Almost 40 years on, most of us are still out there, working, playing, loving, fighting, and I hope sometimes, laughing. Today, I’m remembering a lot of laughter in the year 1974, and I hoping they do too.
We were nothing special, just a bunch of kids from a smallish river city in Iowa. There were around 440 of us. Many of us literally grew up together and stayed together from kindergarten on, some connected at the middle school level, some later. Our school was on the north side of town in a city of a little over 80,000. Some of us walked away and never looked back. I’m not one of that group. I never miss a reunion, that chance we get once a decade to look each other over, do a lot of small talk, drink a little, share pictures and humble brag, until the end of the evening and things get either more drunk or more real. I’m never sure which one comes first.
What I do know is that I leave each connection with a little sadness. My life is good now,very good, but when I see some of these people, I wish for a “way back machine” or a “back to the future” day, just a day, to see it and feel what it was like then, in 1974, when there were 100 million less of us in the United States.
We didn’t know what the words political correctness’ were, but we were starting to check out what was right and what wasn’t, and what felt right to us. The civil rights movement had been a decade before, it was still new. By 74, we knew we were safe from “the war”, even if our older brothers and friends and relatives might not have been. We’d had that unpopular war, just as we had that unpopular President Nixon, who left office two months after we graduated. The women’s movement was definitely moving, but I think we were the first grades to ever offer “home economics” to boys.
The peace sign was pretty new then...
Our clothes were weird. Just the pant legs alone make me kind of cringe, but we girls loved those pants, as we grew up having to wear skirts through middle school. But when we did wear skirts, they were short. So short that I remember doing the bend over test for my mother and being ordered up stairs many,many times.
You can't see how short these skirts are...no different than the everyday skirt back then.
And the hair…there was a lot of it, long for girls and long for boys, didn’t matter.
Even the jocks, with the hair....
Here's the other half of Team 74
They wrote a musical about people like us, and they knew what they were doing. There was one type of music. Rock. The end. We thought were extraordinarily cool. Some of our parents thought we looked like hell, for the most part.
What are these guys doing?
We weren’t particularly a diverse group at my school, the faces in the yearbook are predominantly white. If there were kids who were gay, and there were, it must have been an even tougher world back then, and it’s still no picnic today. I wish we’d been taught more about human rights, sexuality, violence, and gender issues. We weren’t. They told us not to do drugs, but not much about why not to do some of the things some of us taught ourselves to do early, like drink 3.2 beer and cheap “Boone’s Farm” wine. Some of started to smoke (raising my hand here). It wasn’t unusual in a time when you could smoke in hospitals.
Do not let this innocent look fool you...
We had bullies and we had boys who treated girls badly, and vice versa. No one ever talked about dating violence or bullying, but we had it. We had the usual subsets, just with a twist. We were jocks and teen queens, geeks and nerds, drama club kids and “motor heads” and stoners. A lot of us were privileged, and we knew it (I raise my hand here again). Some weren’t- they were the kids who worked after school, or on weekends. There were cliques and teen mini dramas, and there were kids who isolated or were isolated. I’m not sure if all of us made it through the next few years, I think we lost some to early and sudden death.
So, why do I remember it all with such fondness? For all our “adult” habits, we were still kids, who still played games in our back yards, and played them hard, still studied like we meant it, at least some of the time, and still, for the most part, cared about what our parents thought. We still cherished the first spring like day, had sleepovers, went to the games, went joy riding, where sometimes we were up to no good, but mercifully we lived through it. Am I being sentimental when I remember that much of it was good, or so it seemed to me?
The ten year reunion was amazing, the 20th was legendary, the thirtieth was a bit of a bust. As our school was new, we sometimes cross paths with the West High class of 74. We formed bonds with them as sophomores, and some of those bonds stuck. I have great hopes for a 40th.
Some of us are grand parents now. We’re rich and not so rich, married, divorced, widowed, Democrat, Republican, independent, cynical, righteous and not. Some are dead. Many left town, some returned, but most are gone now. We’re everywhere, doing everything. There isn’t a theme to the class, as there isn’t a theme to this piece. But for today, at least, I’m looking back and I’m smiling. With the exception of my siblings, some of these people have been in my life for almost 50 years, and are still there. I’m just remembering, and feeling very grateful that I’m here, and that I was there.
I’ll leave you with this. The sound is bad, but it’s the real thing, way back when, and might make you glad you were there too. Note to Casey…send me a better copy or I’ll put you in the weeds again… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj9Rs56u8YY