You Didn’t Talk About This At The Country Club

May 20th, 2013

From Leslie Morgan Steiner’s  book”Crazy Love”

Updated October 12, 2014

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.”  Sociology professor to Kit Gruelle

One of the scenes I found most compelling when I was looking at footage a couple of years ago for the upcoming HBO documentary “Private Violence” is the one above.  My friend, colleague, and narrator, subject and special adviser to the film, reads this from her sociology professor in a scene we hope will challenge one of the age old myths of domestic violence- that it doesn’t happen to people who grew up like me.

I was raised  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’ve just called her “Emma” when I’ve told her story.

Emma was a neighbor, a woman of wealth and position, a college graduate with a lovely home, a grandmother. Emma was the May Queen at her University, where she graduated in 1922.  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 gathering stories for a history project 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 2,000,000 times is here.   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” 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 more high profile cases of abuse “Tiffany’s 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.

Emma, this one is for you.


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Tale of Two Documentaries

April 16th, 2013

“Bully” 2012. Premiered on PBS Independent Lens, 2014


“Private Violence” premiered October 20th , 2014 on HBO

Updated August 12, 2015

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

On September 28th, we’ll be attending the 36th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards  in honor of two films that we supported from their inception, “Bully” and “Private Violence”.

“Bully” received 2 nominations, one for “Best Documentary” and the other for “Outstanding Informational Programming-Long Form”.  “Private Violence” was also nominated in the “Outstanding Informational Programming-Long Form” category.

Last year these two films that are near and dear to our hearts premiered on national television screens, one week apart. As it is was not only “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” and “National Bullying Prevention Month”, there was some symmetry to that. “Bully” opened the PBS Independent Lens season on October 13th, 2014.  “Private Violence’ premiered on HBO on October 20th, 2014  As early supporters of both projects, we at Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention  couldn’t have been happier about that.  But their road to the finish line couldn’t have been be more different.

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.  Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen’s story, that was in its first stages when they found us in 2009, was and is a perfect meshing of the right time, right place, and right issue.  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”, a film we came on board with in 2006, is a very different story.  Cynthia Hill’s direction, Kit Gruelle’s voice and vision throughout, and Deanna Walters frightening and extraordinary journey weaves the experiences of domestic abuse survivors and advocates, as it challenges, and consequently explodes the myths behind domestic violence.  It finally answers the age old question, “Why doesn’t she just leave’?

While this documentary was driven by the same hopes, concerns, and passions as “Bully”, the supporters and crew of “Private Violence” faced a tougher path to completion. Production and post production of “Bully” took about two years to fund.  “Private Violence”, premiering on HBO October 20th, was started  over 8 years ago.  For all of us at both the Waitt Institute and the Kind World Foundation who backed the film and for all the others who worked to see that film completed, it was a long road.

It happened faster for “Bully” and that didn’t completely surprise me.  In my 23 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 early 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 our long time partners at 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 and Executive Producer 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.  As we advocate that prevention should start with kids, let’s not forget that 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.


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The “Mean Reds”

April 7th, 2013

This weird little painting I did in 2007 kind of looked like anxiety to me, so I called it “Anxietree”

Holly GolightlyYou 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  plane, 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.  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”.

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.

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 debilitating 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
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or your mind “going blank”
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy or being easily startled
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating, nausea or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath or rapid heartbeat


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

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, it’s not always going to go away on its own.  This was my menu below, and what worked for me.

 1) Consider talking to  professionals on what kind of anxiety you might have specifically.  There are a lot of types, from panic disorder to phobias to social anxiety. This is vital, in my opinion. It worked for me.

2) Talk about it.  Don’t do this by yourself.

3) Breathe.  Not shallow breathing, breathe deep.  There are all sorts of breathing techniques. Look them up and do them.

4) Move.  A lot.  Try to do something most every day. I swim and walk.  Anxiety can kill brain cells, exercise can rebuild them.

5) Get outside and walk or immerse yourself in nature.  This is not easy in winter but, even then fresh air can help.  

6) Immerse yourself in something you love.  It’s good therapy.

7) Medication is up to you and whoever is treating you.  It helped me, but everyone is different.

8) 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.  

 14) Yoga helped me and I’m going back to it.

15) Sleep. Work with your doctor or therapist for help if you have trouble with this. 

16) My therapist recommended meditation. It’s working for me beautifully!

 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 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.




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The Upstanders

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.

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

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.



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Fear of Flying

March 13th, 2013

2004..somewhere in England…

“I hate flying. Know why? Because no one really understands how planes actually work.” Adam Levine.

I used to love flying.  From about the age of 10 until I was about 45, I’d hop on anything, I didn’t care.  I could be on a big plane, small plane, private, commercial, helicopter or whatever and I don’t remember a lot of trauma doing any of it.  In 1999, that all changed.

I was on one of those flights that no one should have been on.   My friend Reba and I were heading to London, from Omaha, through Chicago.  It was February, usually a pretty dicey month to fly, a blizzard had started and the plane was delayed for several hours.  So, instead of just walking out of the airport and waiting for it all to pass, when they finally called the flight, I got on.    It was one of the least intelligent decisions I’ve made in my 56 years.   I’ll keep this simple.  It was horrible.  Coming close to Chicago, we hit what they call a “microburst”.  Here’s what they say about flying into one of those…

microburst is a very localized column of sinking air, producing damaging divergent and straight line winds at the surface that are similar to, but distinguishable from tornadoes,  which generally have convergent damage. There are two types of microbursts: wet microbursts and dry microbursts. They go through three stages in their life cycle: the downburst, outburst, and cushion stages. The scale and suddenness of a microburst makes it a great danger to aircraft due to the low-level wind shear caused by its gusts with several fatal crashes having been attributed to the phenomenon over the past several decades.”

I never actually read that until today.  I wonder what the pilot was thinking and more than that,  I wonder what I was thinking.  We never made it to Chicago.  We landed sort of sideways outside of Madison, Wisconsin, so relieved to land alive that we ended up in a hotel bar, drinking with a one armed Mount Everest climber and a Sherpa.  I didn’t make that up, that’s what we did.  You do weird things when you think it might be over for you.

Another series of events happened, including a seriously dodgy landing in an Aspen snowstorm, various thunderstorms, and the death of two people I knew well in separate small plane crashes over 18 months, and I’ve had the fear ever since.  It’s a fear that’s become rather legendary among my family, friends, doctors, therapists, and colleagues, as it not only frustrates me, it frustrates the hell out of some of them.  So, I’ve compiled a list of some of the helpful hints ,comments, and treatment options they’ve given me over the years. Some of them don’t work that well for me, but some are kind of interesting.  Here are a few..

1) The “Just Try Every Type of  Therapy Invented” approach- If you can name it, I’ve tried it.  Talk therapy, post trauma therapy, somatic therapy, EMDR therapy (that’s where you relive the trauma…works for some things, but..), group therapy, anti anxiety pills, hypnosis, biofeedback…are you tired of this yet?  I was.

2) The “Henry Corra Drunk Dialing from Planes” method- my friend, film maker Henry Corra,  flies a lot.  He no longer drinks, but when he did, I’d get these calls on the air phones from him when he was full of Bourbon or some other brown liquid. He’d just drink and call people.  Generally, there was the inevitable flight attendant interrupting to tell him to shut the hell up, but they were interesting calls.  I thought about that, but I only drink when I’m happy, or if I’ve landed successfully after a bad flight. (see below).

3) The “Avoid Any News Story about Flying” method-  I’ve tried that too, but it never works. Perhaps my fear draws me to stories, but I never fail to accidentally land on stories describing crazy passengers, crazier flight attendants, and even crazier pilot stories (drunk pilots, pilots having breakdowns mid flight).  The new one is how the “sequester budget cuts” is going to take a big bite out of air traffic controllers. Holy shit…

4) The “Old Boyfriend Tough Love” suggestion-  So, I was telling an old friend about my fear of an upcoming flight a few years back.  He wrote me this beautiful story about fear and life and love and taking chances.  It was so sweet I almost cried until I read the last line of the story…  “Get on the f**#ing airplane”.

5) The “Driving Miss Cindy” way-   This one was invented by two young friends, Courtney and Jeremy, who used to work for me.  Yes, it has happened.  I’ve chosen to ask some poor soul to drive me across the country a number of times.   I remain eternally grateful to those poor souls….seriously, even when it was fun, it was a long way to go.

6)  The “Lee Hirsch” method-  This was one of my favorites.  Since making “Bully”, Lee has logged more air hours than just about anyone, short of the former Secretary of State.  He should check out her numbers, he might have more.   He’d say, “I’ll fly to Sioux City and go with you.” Or “just take a Xanax”. “I have Lee”, I’ll tell him, “sometimes  it doesn’t help”.  His solution, “Take TWO!”  He’s a trooper.

7) The Doctor One, Doctor Two, Doctor Three… action plans.  The legions of nice doctors over the years have recommended everything from pills to doing it gradually-short flights, one at a time, to going to one of those airline “fear of flying classes.”   That’s a fairly new suggestion. They actually have those, look it up.

8) The “Air Ted”  and “Air Norm” or just simply “WaittAir” occasional option, only available for special occasions, which makes sense.  My brother, “Dr.” Ted, put forth this theory, “It’s a control issue.  You know that if you start to freak out, I can tell the pilot to land the plane”.  He’s not only right, but one of my doctors actually agreed with him. Ted, go back to school, you have a future in this.  These two options are my favorite air lines and not just because they spoil you (they do), but because I know how well maintained they are and I know who’s flying them. However, I still have trouble on some of those flights too.  For instance, flying into Aspen (do not fly into Aspen, particularly in a snowstorm when you can’t see the airport).    I think I owe them each probably about half a million dollars for flights, and I’m not worth that much, so I can’t pay them back.

9) The Affirmation method. Don’t you love it when someone actually gets what you are going through?  Henry Corra again, “Cindy, it’s a completely rational fear.  You are 30,000 miles up in a metal tube”.  Yes.

10)  My all time favorite from the doctor who has spent the most time with me, ‘THE JUST DON’T FLY” solution.   He’s the one that always says, “why suffer?”.  Love that guy.


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Looking For Lois

February 28th, 2013

My great, great, great grand mother Lois Grant Holman, 1813-1856 This faded daguerreotype, most likely taken in the 1850's is the only known image of her.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?  “It’s a Wonderful Life”, 1946

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”  Virginia Woolf


Her ancestors and relatives included a Mayflower passenger, a Governor of  Connecticut, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a United States President.  Three of her male descendants founded multi- national corporations.  I found it easy to access information about the men that make up the the family tree of my great, great, great grandmother Lois Bulkely Grant Holman.  Yet, like many women of her day, little seemed to be known about this woman who packed up with her husband and three children and came west to the bluffs of the Missouri River in Iowa from a comfortable life in Connecticut, in the spring of 1856.

The faded picture of her I finally ran across online, shows an eerie image of simply a face, rather plain, and looking somewhat sad and severe.  A whole part of her is missing, like her story.

In adulthood, all I remembered about her from childhood stories told to me was that she was an early pioneer in our little part of the world, she was related to Ulysses Simpson Grant, and she was our connection to the “Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution”. More recently, though I’d recorded this years ago, I looked again at her death date , July 2 (in some records July 3), 1856.  My date of birth is July 3, 1956.  My favorite great grandfather, Holman Waitt, Lois’s grandson that she never knew, was also somewhat connected to this, being born July 2, 1886.  Lois was also referred to in records as “Louisa” or “Louise”, my middle name, something my relatives never said to me, and most likely didn’t know.

With my great grandfather, Holman Waitt, Lois's grandson, in the late 1950's. He told stories of our history.

There was a symmetry to all of  that and  I decided to start digging.  Stumbling across her rather interesting male antecedents was easy.  But I wanted more. What I found was a piece of the story about the woman who made my existence possible.  It came from her own hand, a letter written April 27th, 1856 from Sergeant Bluff, a small town south of Sioux City, named for 22 year old Kentucky native Sergeant Charles Floyd,  the only man to die on the Lewis and Clark Exhibition.  The location of the original letter is still to be determined and I have yet to track it down, but copies can be found in two or three museums.  My first copy was given to me several years ago by Sioux City Museum curator Grace Linden.  I would imagine its value for others lies in a rarely told story of pioneer life so early in this area, from the woman’s point of view.  For me, it’s a priceless piece of my own family history, a history that is heavy with stories of men, but light on the stories of the women.  That she died not two months after the letter was written made me want to know more.

Pilgrims, Pioneers, and Presidents

Lois Bulkely Grant was born in Rockville, Connecticut 200 years ago, on April 14th, 1813, to a family that was present and part of  most of the key events in  American history.  As her fifth cousin, Civil War General and 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant stated in his memoirs,   “My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral.”   Her fifth cousin was right.

Her mother, Electa Fuller was a direct descendant of Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller, a signer of the Mayflower Compact and his wife, Ann, who died the first winter of their arrival in the New World.   Her father, Elisha Grant was the descendant of the immigrant, Matthew Grant, a co-founder of Windsor, Connecticut, who arrived at the colony of Massachusetts Bay on the “Mary and John” in 1630.  Elisha also counted as his ancestors on his mother Lorana Strong Grant’s side a Governor of Connecticut, Roger Wolcott,  and Oliver Wolcott, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The town of Rockville, where she grew up as Elisha and Electa’s fourth and youngest child, was founded by her great grandfather. Samuel Grant in 1726. By the time of Lois’s birth, the town was populated with the descendants of the children of her grandfather, Lexington Alarm minuteman and Revolutionary War veteran  Ozias Grant, and her grandmother Lorana Strong, who gave birth to an astonishing 14 children.  Elisha was the 10th of these children and is described as a builder and carpenter.  Electa is described only by her family tree and her death, at 37, when Lois was four years old.  The Grants, were part of the fabric of the little town, as owners of the woolen mill, landowners, soldiers, farmers, and deacons of the church.  Her uncle Elnathan is described as the last survivor of the Revolutionary War in Tolland County.

Homestead of Lois's grandfather, Ozias Grant

Marriage and Family

Her husband, William Palmer Holman, date unknown, most likely taken years after the death of Lois.

There is no further information on Lois until she married my great, great, great grandfather, William Palmer Holman in 1837.  Palmer, as she later calls him in her letter, from an old Connecticut family, apparently moved with his father to Salisbury, Vermont where he was in the business of manufacturing shoes for ten years, then returned to Connecticut, where their five children were born.  Records generally show three children, but a further search told me that two of her five children did not survive childhood, not an uncommon occurrence in those days.  Lois became the mother of Charles Jerome, born 1840; Albert Murillo, born 1845, Daniel born in 1848 and died young, Ella, born 1851 and one other child who died who also died young, referred to by her son Albert, but never by name.  What possessed this family to leave their familiar and most likely fairly comfortable roots in the East and head to the wilderness of western Iowa is not known.

Going west

George Catlin, 1932, Oil painting done a few miles south of Sioux City.

See-Non-Ty-A, an Iowa medicine man. George Catlin, oil. 1844-45

What is known is that Palmer came first, in 1855, traveling by rail to Illinois, to Independence, Iowa by stage coach, and to northwest Iowa with horse and wagon. A man named Bronson, a carpenter, accompanied him. The few settlers there, in what was called Sergeant Bluff City, seven miles south of the newly formed Sioux City, offered to build Holman a hotel and give him land, if he would return and manage it.  The 1891 book “History of the counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa” recalled, “During the years 1854 and 1855 came William P. Holman, Leonard Bates, Gibson Bates, T. Ellwood Clark, William H. James, and a few others.”  

When Palmer made the decision to return, Bronson remained there and built the small hotel and Palmer went back to Connecticut to “sell out”, as it was stated, and to bring along Lois and the three children. I like to think that a family conference was held, as it might be now between husband and wife, but my guess is that it being 1856, there was not much talk, and it was “whither thou goest, I shall go.”, and go she did.

Her son Albert, who later became a journalist and writer tells the story of their journey in his 1924 book, “Pioneering in the Northwest” :

Mr. Holman sold out in Connecticut, and early in February, 1856, started shipping goods (and the other four Holmans) by rail to Iowa City, just completed.  It took the train a whole afternoon to go from (Davenport to Iowa City) that 50 miles.  The Holman Boys, when they got tired of riding, would jump off the train and run along behind the engine.  Mr. Holman had bought a wagon and a team of horses in Chicago and shipped them to Iowa City.  He bought four yoke of oxen in Iowa City, and they started for Sergeant Bluff.  Three hired men and their three children and one adopted daughter made up the party.  The children were C.J. Holman, aged sixteen, A. M. Holman, aged eleven, and their daughter Ella, aged six.  The journey consumed 23 days.  It took nine days to get from Council Bluffs to Sioux City”. 

At the Little Sioux River, the rope ferry washed out and they joined forces with Charles Larpenteur, who kept the ferry…They cut dry cottonwood logs, made a raft, and with a new rope managed to get ferried over. W.P. Holman drew up to the hotel in Sergeant Bluff in April of 1856.  The building was 18×24 feet, fourteen feet high, a story and a half.  It was crudely built of cottonwood lumber sawed from th nearby woods, boarded up and down with cracks battened with strips, and shingled with long thick shingles…The second floor was reached by a ladder, and this floor was called “Texas” by the Holman boys.  The boys beds were here and also a place for “guests” who were only men.  It seems their idea of a hotel consisted of  a ladder and a floor. He continues, “The first winter the snow had to be swept from beds before the guests and the boys could sleep.”

I try to imagine a woman later described by her granddaughter, who never knew her, as a “woman of gentle birth and delicate physique”, enduring this trip, this 18 x 24 foot “hotel” as a home, far from her roots.  The letter provides some clues.  This  typed version, done in 1940 and just given to me recently by the Sergeant Bluff museum gave me a little more information about her death and solved the mystery of where the original letter was kept for many years.  It was a home I visited many times, the home of my great grandparents.  I may have seen it myself.  This version of the letter reflects the original story told in the Sioux City Journal May 14, 1929.  Seeing the letter gives me pause as a woman in 2013.  The references to the removal of the Native Americans who were shamefully driven away to “make room” for the likes of my ancestors saddened me.  I have to choose to see it as an historical document, written in the sensibility of  that time 1856, not mine.  Some of  the grammar and sentence structure had been modernized in this version, and the original they were working from was difficult to read.

The letter, written two months before her death:

Sergeant Bluff City, April 27

Dear Mother, Brother, and Sister,

As I have just received a letter from you with the greatest pleasure I thought I would answer it.  I began to think you had forgotten us, but I know it takes a great while for a letter to go through.  I wrote a letter to Alden’s (brother in law) father since I got here so I shall not write the particulars of our journey out here.

We are all well and keeping house after a fashion, but have not as yet very much to do with.  Palmer has been down to the bluffs after one load.  We have a bedstead and seven chairs and a good big stove.  You would laugh to come in and see how we live.  The boys have to sleep on the floor.  We have no pantry or cupboard and we have to use trunks for a pantry.

We are going to have more room as soon as they can get up a log kitchen, bedroom, and pantry.  We have a joiner working here now.  He shingled the house we live in this last week.  After he got the board roof off to commence to shingle, it began to rain and such a time we had you never did see.  It made me homesick you had better believe.

We have a log barn built and the stages have begun to stop here.  They go up to Sioux City one day and down the next, and when they come, they take breakfast here.  There is a good deal of travel by here and we could have the house full every night but have no way to accommodate them yet.  The place is building up faster over in Nebraska than it is here, and it is said it’s the handsomest country by far.  Palmer went over last week and secured his claim.  He can get a thousand dollars for it but he will not sell.  They say the grass is almost big enough to mow over there.

Our boys commenced plowing last Monday with three teams.  They plowed around a small garden patch of a hundred and sixty acres the first day!  It is two miles from home.  They have built a small shanty down there and will have to stay down there all the time while the weather is pleasant until after planting.  They will have great times, I expect.  It is a great country out here and is very pleasant.  I wish you could be here and go up on the bluffs.  They are close by here.  Lucy (adopted daughter?) and I went up one day and it made my head swim.  We could look over to Nebraska and see for miles around us the prairie as level as the house floor.

Jerome (son) has just got home.  He has been forty miles after some of  our goods and to get some potatoes and meat.  He has been gone five days.  He saw a snake curled up by the side of the road and jumped out and stepped on the head.  The snake began to rattle his tail but Jerome killed it and brought the rattles home.  It had four.  I scolded him, but he said it was no different to keill a rattle snake than any other.  He has been hunting some but the game is scarce because Indians have geen here all winter and they get all the game there is.  We have not seen more than two or three deers, but there are wild geese by the hundreds.  And ducks worlds of them but there is none here now.

The Indians were quite thick when we got here but the troops came down and ordered them off.  They have gone up north.  They would come and stand in the door and talk with us.  One squaw came and handed me twenty five cents and made motions that she wanted my earrings.  I wish you could see them.  Some of them have rings on their ears almost as big as a wagon tier. They have papooses on their backs looking cunning enough for any babies.  We had not been here two days before Albert was a full Indian.  They is a boy here who can talk Indian and he taught Albert.  But if Ella (my great great grandmother Ella Waitt), sees one coming she runs into the house quick enough, you better believe.

We have meetings here once a fortnight.  One sermon is preached in a store by a Methodist minister who is quite a learned man.  He called on us yesterday and took tea with us.  All the ladies that live here have called on me, the whole of six.  I have not returned the calls but must begin soon or I won’t get around this summer.  There are plenty of men here, however.  They cast sheep’s eyes at Lib and Lucy’s girl but none has popped the question yet.  I expect to hear any time that they have though.

The children are all contented but Ella says when she goes down to see Grandma, she shall stay there.  She goes on a double trot over to Lucy’s which is close by and back again.  As for myself, I like it here just about as I thought it would.  If I had the same conveniences that I had back east and my friends were all here I could be contented, but I have some melancholy hours and a few crying spells does me some good.

I think of you and want to see you all, but when i think of the distance between us my heart sinks within me.  Gardner, (half brother), I wish you could come out here and see the country and some of the rest of our friends.  Give my love to all and receive a share yourself.  I will leave the rest for Albert.  Palmer wants you to send a paper once in a while.  He will write the next time.  Write again soon and write all the news you can think of.

Your affectionate daughter and sister,  L. Holman

Following are postscripts from her sons,  11 year old Albert and 16 year old Charles Jerome,

Dear Grandmother, Uncle, and Aunt,

As mother has been writing to you, I thought I would write a few lines too.  I can’t find much to  write but I will try to see what I can do.  I like the country first rate.  I have been up to Sioux City once and when I went, Jerome and I and another man went up to Floyd’s grave.  He has been buried there 52 years.  There were a s good many Indians here when we came but they have pretty much gone by now.  Mother has written about all.  I have to drive a team this week.  We have five yoke of oxen where we are plowing.  It is about four miles down there.  We have built a log house and we will stay there while we work the field.  Mother has to get supper and I have to get out of the way, so goodby,  from Albert Holman

Dear grandmother,

As mother has written you I will put in a few lines. Mother has written most of the news.  I like the country very well.  It looks about as I thought it did.  I have just got home from down the river and am going to start back for Council Bluffs (90 miles) tomorrow which will take me about 10 days.  Give my love to Alden and Statira (uncle and aunt) and tell them that I will write when I get back.  I killed a rattle snake today.  I will send the rattles to you.  (This young man is determined to have somone see these rattles).

Two sources helped me close the gap between the April 27th letter and her death July 2nd. The 1929 Journal story states that according to her sons, even at the time she wrote,  “she knew that she was the victim of a dread malady and that her chances of recovery were very small.  She kept her secret until failing strength gave it away.  The father in desperation sent an appeal to General Harney, who was in a camp across the Big Sioux, and Mr. Holman thought there would be a good surgeon with the troops…In spite of all that could be done, however, in less than two months after the letter was written, Lois Holman died.”This  brief description by her grand daughter Abigail in 1933 on the death of her own father, Albert,  She says, in part…  The hard trip and lack of comforts proved too severe for the mother, a woman of gentle birth and delicate physique.  She lived only a few months after their arrival on the frontier.  Mr. Holman had sent to Ft. Randall in South Dakota for the army doctor to assist Dr. William Smith of Sioux City.  Lois Butler Grant Holman was buried in the hills east of the town of Sergeant Bluff in July, 1856, one of the first burials among the settlers in this vast and lonely region. Later her remains were removed to the present Sergeant Bluffs cemetery, which her husband was instrumental in having established as a township cemetery.”  What the “dread malady” was I may never know.

What came after

William Palmer Holman remarried Caroline Mattison of Wisconsin sometime in 1857.  She was described as kindly and refined, and gave birth to two more Holman sons, Milton Palmer and Edward Henry.  She was also listed as the first school teacher in the area.   Palmer continued to farm, raise cattle and founded WM Holman and Sons. Charles Jerome joined his father in farming and in the brick business then called W.P. Holman and sons.  Albert, became a journalist and writer and eventually joined the family business as well.

Charles Jerome, referred to as CJ. married Meda Euseba Cole, who died young and had one child.  He and his second wife, Kittie Carpenter had five children.   He died in 1925, at 85.  Albert married Emma Eliza Webster  and died at 88 in 1933.  They had five daughters and a son.

William Palmer Holman and family in a home built in 1876, 20 years after Lois's death.

Kittie Carpenter Holman, wife of son C.J.

Granddaughter in law Dora Currier Holman and son Albert Holman

Lois's grandson Clarence, left with his wife Dora, and with grandson in law Dr. Harry Schott.

Both of Lois’s sons were present at the reburial of Lewis and Clark’s Sergeant Charles Floyd, a grave they had seen as children more than 40 years before this photo was taken.

August 29, 1895, the reburial of Sergeant Charles Floyd, taken by photographer P.C. Waltermire

Lois’s youngest child, little Ella who would have rather stayed in Connecticut, stayed in Iowa and married my great, great, great Grandfather, Sioux City Stockyards pioneer George W. Waitt.  Ella. a tiny woman like her mother, gave birth to 11 children, including my beloved great grandfather, Holman.

Ella Holman Waitt, her husband George W. Waitt, her children and some grandchildren, Sioux City, Iowa 1925. My great grandparents Holman and Hazel Waitt are back row, third and fourth from left. My grandfather Theodore Waitt was is back row far right.


Lois's grandson Bert Waitt and son in law George W. Waitt, Sioux City Stockyards office, date unknown.

The descendants of the 22 grandchildren of Lois B. Grant Holman are spread far and wide across the country, as is my branch of the family, after being here for six generations.  Only a few of us remain in the area, but the ties are still strong.

I visited Lois one cold day two months ago in a cemetery once called “The Holman Cemetery” south of town.  She is on one side of her husband, William Palmer. On the other, his second wife Caroline.

To the side of this, though, her original grave stone from 1856.   Like Sergeant Floyd, she was moved to a re-burial site late in the 19th century.  His sandstone obelisk monument stands 100 feet tall and greets visitors to this northwest Iowa river city. You can’t miss it on the way in.   Lois’ monument is tucked away in the Loess Hills, small and barely readable.   I’ll be going back this spring, to take flowers, and to thank her for all she did for all of us.


First gravestone.

With gratitude to Grace Linden and Steve Hansen of the Sioux City Museum, to the family of Grant Holman and to Jerry Logemann and the Sergeant Bluff museum.

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We Were Looking for a Few Good Men

February 21st, 2013

Willie Mays, Sergio Martinez, and Joe Torre on April 12, 2012 at a gathering of national leaders in violence prevention called “The Y Factor-Men Leading by Example”. Futures without Violence’s International Center to End Violence.    Photo by Joseph Driste courtesy of Futures without Violence

“There are a lot of good guys out there, who are dying for the opportunity to do something, because, after all, it’s their mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who are being victimized”  Municipal Court Judge Ron Adrine

Almost fifteen years ago, the Waitt Foundation and Futures Without Violence went looking for a few good men and…we found them.  And then, they found us.  What we learned was what we already knew.  There weren’t a few…there were many.  This is just a piece of the story of  our involvement with the men who made the decision to stand with women, and use their voices, their power, their positions, and their resources to make a difference in preventing violence against women and girls.  Standing on the shoulders of women leaders, and like those women, they HAVE made a difference.

It started for us in the late 1990’s.  A former colleague and domestic violence activist, Judy Stafford, approached me with an idea.  She asked us to think about new partners in domestic violence prevention-men.  It wasn’t completely new.  There were men already out there doing the work, such as Mentors in Violence Prevention founder Jackson Katz,  Men’s Resource’s Center founder Steven Botkin, former Philadelphia Eagles player Don McPherson, NOMAS, and the venerable White Ribbon Campaign in Canada.  They were connecting  with others and  starting to speak up and speak out, working collaboratively with the women who were pioneers in the anti- battering movement in America and elsewhere.   But, as Judy saw it, the budding movement needed some help from men from outside the movement, men in  politics, media, sports, and business.  She asked us, and more specifically, asked my brother Ted to not only consider putting the Waitt Foundation’s considerable funds behind the idea, but his voice as well.

He did consider it, and he acted.  His green light took us to our crucial first contact with Esta Soler at Futures Without Violence, then the Family Violence Prevention Fund.  Esta, already a national leader in the field of violence prevention, is a woman who gets things done, and those things tend to be big.  Her advice?  If we wanted men in the movement, we’d have to ask them not only “if” they’d do it, but “how” they’d do it.  We asked and they told us.  Our 2000 Peter D. Hart Research national poll said that they would get involved, they just hadn’t been asked.  The “how” was that they were willing to talk to boys.  Out of that research came a multi-year Advertising Council campaign  that ran from 2002-2006 that asked men across the country to be role models and mentors to boys coming of age.  It hadn’t been done before and it began to move needles. From a baseline study in 2001, we learned that only 29% of men had talked to boys about the issue of relationship violence.  By 2007, that number had increased to 55%.

“Awaiting Instructions” campaign, part of Future’s without Violence multi- year marketing campaign with the Ad Council

During the same time period Ted became the first chairman of what is called “The Founding Fathers”, a group of men from all walks of life committed to public action and public statements about ending violence against women and girls.  He and other men made phone calls to men in leadership positions across the country to not only lend their voice, but give their resources to this issue. On Father’s Day 2003, 350 men  joined in an historic public statement to call for an end to violence against women and children. Their pledge along with signatures of all those men,  appeared as a full-page ad in the New York Times.Over the next few years, many of those men joined activists and policy leaders at events in New York and Washington D.C., working with women and men who were “in the trenches” in any way they could.

One of those ways to get into the trenches was to gather a group of activists and sports figures, such as former Boston Celtics player and coach M. L. Carr, to create an on ground program that Futures Without Violence, the leader of this effort,  called “Coaching Boys into Men”.  Again, when men were asked how to help, they, along with the women who are always at the table,  came up with something tangible.  In this case, the program that was developed used the influence of coaches to talk to young male athletes about respect for girls and women.  The program premiered in 2005 and was introduced in all 50 states and 23 countries.  It’s still growing.

We began to see a sea change in the sheer numbers of men coming to the table to help.  Baseball legend Joe Torre’s mother suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her husband, and prompted Joe to start his own foundation called “Safe At Home”.  He remains one of our strongest allies.  Mark Wynn, a former police lieutenant, tells the story of  being the stepson of a man he calls ” a criminal”, who beat his mother before the time there were laws on the books.  Mark now devotes his life to speaking to future law enforcement professionals and others in hopes that they’ll begin to understand the dynamics of domestic violence.   People touched by what Gloria Steinem calls “original violence” are in your town and in your neighborhood and many of them are men like the man I had lunch with today, a former politician, whose mother was brutally murdered by a stepfather when he was in the 5th grade.  Joining those men who may have acted to prevent the violence they personally witnessed were other men, like my brother and so many others, who may not have been touched by family violence, but could see how vital curbing this violence is to the future of our country and to our world.

We can see the traction in this movement against violence and see where it’s making a difference. Men’s groups such as Men Can Stop Rape, A Call to Men, and Men Stopping Violence began to grow and expand. Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel, Byron Hurt, Tom Keith, Joe Ehrmann and others were writing books, making films, and speaking to college campuses about the importance of engaging men and boys.  The Global MenEngage Alliance has more than 300 non governmental organizations worldwide. A CDC-funded evaluation of  Futures’ “Coaching Boys into Men”  found that athletes who participated were significantly more likely to report intentions to intervene when witnessing abusive or disrespectful behaviors among their peers than those not in the program.  “Mentors in Violence Prevention”, a peer to peer in- school bystander program we have partnered with for 13 years, shows promise in improving school culture – with a significant decrease in the percent of students perpetrating one or more bullying behaviors in schools where MVP has been implemented.   Those are just two of the programs now doing the crucial work educating young people.  “Engaging Men” as allies in educating young men and women is now a strategy recognized by the State Department, the Department of Justice, the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Health Organization, and the White House.

The story doesn’t end there. There are many battles still raging on the front lines.   Though progress is being made and domestic violence has decreased, the numbers are still staggering.  Women suffer two million injuries from intimate partner violence each year, and an estimated seven million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred. Despite this, vital funds and services to victims in my own home state of Iowa, as in many others, are being cut.

The future. Kids on the ground as part of Mentors in Violence Prevention in Sioux City, Iowa 2012   Photo by Dr. Alan Heisterkamp courtesy of the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention

It takes time to change social norms that accept violence as a part of life.  Women have been working on the issue of family violence for over a century.   Men as allies are new to this movement,  but as women are half of humanity, so are men. The majority of men don’t batter, but some of them like Joe Torre  and Mark Wynn have been witnesses to assaults on their sisters, daughters, mothers, colleagues, and friends.   Every man can do something to help and do it in concrete ways. They can give to vital protection programs for women and children such as local shelters, they can speak to policy leaders in their town and in their state,  they can donate time and resources to school education programs, and like the men I’ve talked about, they can speak up, speak out, and most importantly, pass the message on to future generations.  While the few who began to act have now become the many, we hope that someday soon,  there will be many more.


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Funding “Bully”

February 14th, 2013

The original poster.


May 6, 2009
Subject: The Bully Project 

From that first e-mail nearly four years ago introducing me to what became Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen’s documentary “Bully”, I’ve only sobbed twice.  I’ve cried at screenings, cried a time or two when things got frustrating with the process, and cried a bit when my part was finished.  But two times, I had those gut wrenching “tear fests” that  not only shake your body, but shake your soul along with it.  You tend to remember those.

The first time it happened was in La Jolla, California in December of 2009.  It was the night before the year-end board meeting of the Waitt Foundation and the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention.   Along with updates on many of our long standing projects, I was presenting a new one. It was called “The Bully Project”, a film about child-to-child bullying.  I didn’t have much that was solid.  I had a preliminary budget, one of those “shot in the dark” estimates that change during production and post production.  I had Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen’s vision and their passion, but they wouldn’t be in the room.  I needed something brief and powerful, something that would demonstrate the urgent need for this project.

Lee sent it to me that night.   In Lee fashion, he might come right down to the wire, but what he sends is almost always brilliant.  What he sent that night was breathtaking.  It was a three minute clip of footage he’d gathered from the family of Tyler Long, the 17 year old boy from Georgia, who took his own life less than two months before.  Among home made film clips the family supplied of Tyler’s short life, was his father David’s running commentary about the torment Tyler experienced and the heartbreak the family was going through.  It was real, it was raw, and it hit me where it hurt the most, as a parent.  I think that night I moved from a passionate supporter of an important issue to a mother with a mission.

The meeting the next day was early, and I was first of a long line of presenters that day.  I had just wrapped up the yearly summary. Time was running short, but  I had one more thing to present to the group, which that day included our investment advisers, attorney, accountants, management staff, and the members of the board.    I’ve learned that when you present to this group, it’s a good idea to be clear, concise, and have your numbers in order…particularly the numbers.  Most of these people have a business background.  I don’t, I’m a social worker.  A glance at the clock told me I had about 3 minutes left.

I showed the clip.  When it was done, there was a silence, not necessarily a good thing when you’re showing film clips, but I’d had been watching the group intently.  The reactions ranged from actual tears to that kind of uncomfortable shifting in the seat that people do when they’re trying not to cry.  I hadn’t shown them the budget, the time projections of production and post production, or the ideas that were already forming with a social action campaign.  Ted just said to me, “How much do you need?”

The film was the perfect meshing of the right time, right place, right issue as well as the skill and passion of the film makers. But it was more. For me at least that day, in that room, it was watching those people, probably 90%of them parents, reacting as humans caring about their young.

We weren’t the only supporters of the film, we just came in early, as did the brave and forward thinking Sioux City Community School District.  We had partners show up, first a few, then.. the many.  The next year brought The BeCause Foundation, The Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, and The Fledgling Fund.  After that others joined in, and not just the large foundations.  There were hundreds, if not thousands of  supporters, who knew this film should get finished and get out there to kids, parents, and educators.  The film’s purchase in April of 2011  by the powerful and influential Weinstein Company then took us places we never thought we’d go.  Harvey Weinstein didn’t have to get behind the film, but he did, and as Lee said, everything he promised came true.

The second time I broke down?  It the night in January that Lee and Cynthia accepted the “Stanley Kramer Award” given each year by the Producers Guild of America.  I couldn’t be there that night , but Lee kept me posted.  In a text message, he sent me this:

It brought on the tears, again.   I think that was because I thought that really none of us is alone in this sometimes harsh and uncomfortable world.  We do our best work when we do it together.  It not only took a village to raise this “child”, it took a nation.  Every one who wrote a check, a news story, a tweet, a petition, or a comment in support, and who helped “raise” the film and the project played a role.  As David Long says, “Everything starts with one and builds up”.  To the “ones” who became the many, thank you.

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The Radio Talk Show Host

January 2nd, 2013

Talk radio hosts and producers seek to saw off specific demographic chunks an deliver them to advertisers. This means whipping up partisanship, anger, whatever it takes to have this demographic come back for more. In a sense, talkers aggravate versus aggragate interests.And then there is the issue of centrists and moderates on talk radio and cable shows….  Exactly how many of them do you see on many of these shows?” Joe Gandelman, The Moderate Voice

It was the voice. That deep, strong, confident, almost mesmerizing instrument he used so well.  That’s how he courted me in 2009.  It worked.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard it but it was the first time I’d heard him in that way.  It changed a bit, it softened, but without losing it’s power.

I’d known Eric for nine years.  My ex husband and I and Eric and his late wife, Karen spent a lot of time together from  1999 to 2004, when they improbably landed in Iowa, where he’d taken a job as a news director after years in the radio business in Austin, Texas .  When Karen became terminally ill, we traveled to Austin, where they had returned,  to see our dear friends, to give moral support to Eric and Karen’s daughters, and to say goodbye to her.  It was 2006, and I remember leaving their house in tears as I couldn’t imagine a world without my friend Karen.

Over the next years, we heard from Karen’s daughters, but from Eric, not a word.  We both hoped he was doing well.  In 2009, the “we” became a “me”.  When you clear out a relationship, you find yourselves clearing out closets and drawers as well.  One day, I ran across a piece Eric had written about my late father and his sudden passing.  It was an unusually sensitive piece, reminding me that the rather moody and taciturn man did have a big heart and a keen intuition.  Eric’s intimidating brilliance and his native New York kind of brash didn’t always work for people, both on the air and off, here in the friendly Mid West, but he never scared me.  I could see through him.

I e-mailed him.  He hates e- mail.  Three days later, one line…”give me your number, I’ll get in touch.”  He got in touch.  He loved the phone, that’s how he communicated, that’s how he made his living for so many years.  Our conversations, in the beginning, took the tone of an interview.  Eric specialized in interviews.  He’d spent on air time with everyone from Jimmy Carter to Robert McNamara.  No one intimidated him.  Not only did he know what he was doing, but he grew up in Manhattan in a show business family.  If he was interviewing me, it worked.  We married in 2011.

Eric was born in Manhattan in 1952, the son of Stephen Blumberg, who worked in the costume business, and Patricia Bright, an actress and comedienne.  He grew up listening to what he considered among the best radio talk show hosts. Barry Gray of WMCA,  and  Barry Farber of WOR were particularly favorites.  “They were conversationalists, it’s not talk, it’s conversation,” he says about them.  In those days radio talk show hosts weren’t the overwhelmingly partisan voices that held up the views of one side or another to an adoring choir.  They had conversations about issues with just about everyone.

In 1980, he moved to Austin on a fellowship to graduate school in Journalism, and became a teaching assistant.  When he was more than midway through, he was offered his first job as a city reporter for KLBJ.  It was then he decided he wanted to do what the “Barrys” in New York did….have a conversation, on air, and with just about everyone, like them.


Plugged in....his favorite place to be then.

He stayed on the air for many years, developing a solid following and winning multiple awards and being known for his knowledge, his tenacious questions, and thorough research. He was particularly known for his strong interviews with a variety of people and a variety of topics.   He ran for city council, confounding both conservatives and progressives with his takes on many issues.

He couldn’t be pigeonholed, and in those last days, things had started to change.  You did better on one side or the other.  The business began to change along with the increasingly partisan audiences, and the Rush Limbaugh type was gaining listeners and gaining ground.  Eric had strong opinions,  but they were his own.  There didn’t seem to be a place for his kind of talk.  He headed out and headed north to work as a news director in Sioux City.  He told me once that driving up to Sioux City, he knew “his career (as he’d experienced it), was over.”   He spent nearly 5 years working for a very conservative station, first as news director, then as a talk show host.

It was 2003, a tricky time to be on the air, particularly when you felt the upcoming war in Iraq was a profoundly bad idea.  He was summarily fired the day the war broke out, one of hundreds of journalists across the country that didn’t survive the growing groundswell of excitement over “shock and awe”.  He never held a microphone again and didn’t look back.

Eric, having suffered depressions in his life, put his energy into advocating for the mentally ill, and now teaches.  Strangely, he’s now married into a family that owns multiple radio stations, including talk radio, but those stations still follow the partisan model.   He still has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to let anyone know where he stands.   The pre dinner hour in our house, when I’m cooking and he’s watching Chris Matthews, or flipping to FOX news for “the other take”, is essentially the “Eric Blumberg” show.  His new rant is a common one.  Climate in DC is abysmal and he doesn’t hold out much hope in this “coin operated”* political landscape.  His rant is smart, it’s hilarious and I hear more of him than what’s coming out of the kitchen tube, which is fine with me.  But… it’s an audience of one, not thousands.

*Ted Waitt comment on politics these fine days.

And he married into a family of 1 percenters....

So, the voice.  The voice that captivated listeners for 20 years, and the voice that won the heart of this writer is needed right now, I tell him.  He’s starting to write again, starting to find the voice, and threatening some interesting new projects.  I hope so.  I’m very lucky to hear that voice, and I hope that someday others can too. It’s time.

So, on his birthday, today,  leave a comment and tell him it’s time…

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Over the Rainbow

December 17th, 2012



Double rainbow courtesy of

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around
Heaven opens a magic lane

When all the clouds darken up the skyway
There’s a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your windowpane

To a place behind the sun
Just a step beyond the rain

Somewhere, over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullabye.

Somewhere, over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere, over the rainbow
Blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why, then oh, why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh, why can’t I?”  Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg, 1939

When the end of life comes to people we love, we may question the “why?”   Trying to get to the “why” helps us wrap our arms and our minds, if not our hearts, around life’s greatest mystery. In some cases, we may never completely know the “why” or at least the”why now?”.

We can slowly put pieces together to arrive at something our minds can understand on a rational level.  But until we get to that place, when the facts aren’t solid, when the emotions are raw and bleeding, and when we hurt, and hurt badly, we might reach deep, and ask a universal question, “Where do we go when we die?”

Read the rest of this entry »

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There’s no place like home

November 18th, 2012

The Waitts....lots of them, 1925



I live in Sioux City, Iowa.  It’s a river city of about 100,000 souls, if you count the neighbors.  It doesn’t grow too much.  I don’t think it’s supposed to.  It’s heritage is incredibly rich, both in the histories of the Native Americans who were here before, and the settlers who landed here from elsewhere.  We’re not Mayberry, we’re just a mix of new and old, growing more diverse and sometimes more progressive, and sometimes stubbornly clinging to old ways.  To me, it’s home. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Color Purple

October 16th, 2012

The color purple stands now for both domestic violence awareness and bullying and October is the month.

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

“Bullying is killing our kids. Being different is killing our kids and the kids who are bullying are dying inside. We have to save our kids whether they are bullied or they are bullying. They are all in pain.”  Cat Cora

Preventing violence is the most crucial work I will ever do in this lifetime.  Herman Wouk said once, “Either war is finished, or we are”.  I believe him.  We need to stop the wars we wage against each other every day, in the home, at work, and in school. Read the rest of this entry »

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Legalizing Love

September 20th, 2012


I love this sign.

“My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow.”  Washington state Sen. Ed Murray (D), Feb. 13, 2012 as marriage was legalized.

“This is an earthquake issue. This will change our state forever. Because the immediate consequence, if gay marriage goes through, is that K-12 little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal, natural, and perhaps they should try it.” — Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), March 20, 2004  (Huh?)

I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.” Clint Eastwood

Those who say my home state of Iowa is a swing state know what they’re talking about.  Our opinions are as varied as our weather.  On the one hand, Iowa should be proud to be one of the handful of states (8 have legalized, but with legislation pending in 2 of those) that legalized same sex marriage in April of 2009.  Iowa is home to Chuck and Jason Swaggerty Morgan, two fine men I know, who are raising beautiful children, and who were one of the six couples who challenged the Iowa Supreme Court.

Conversely, Iowa is home also to the leader of what is called “The Family Leader’, a group who successfully ousted three of those brave judges, and are now threatening a fourth as of today. The three ousted judges deservedly received the John F. Kennedy “Profiles in Courage” awards  just this year.

This isn’t a political blog and it isn’t a religious blog.  I’m tackling this subject today because the right of same sex couples to marry in this country really shouldn’t be about either of those issues, it should be about the subject of this blog-love.  Period.    It may be about religion or politics for them, but there are gay rights supporters on both sides of the aisle and supporters as well as opponents within organized religions.   Could we not stop all the ‘fussing and fighting” and re frame the case, take it beyond the courts and the elections and look at it from a human standpoint?  Couldn’t this just be simply about love?

It’s not about love, not yet.  Sadly, as a nation, and as a planet, we aren’t there yet.   But I am encouraged and here are a few reasons why.

WE ARE SLOWLY, VERY SLOWLY STARTING TO GET HOW DANGEROUS DISCRIMINATION CAN BE. Social scientists, human behavior experts, and more and more policy makers are beginning to understand the process by which we can easily dehumanize others and what that can lead to.  One of the most amazing things I’ve seen in 20 years of violence prevention work is what they call “the pyramid of violence”.  The pyramid is inverted and starts with the more common acts of violence, which is words. Violence doesn’t start with the physical generally.   As my friend and colleague Kit Gruelle says, “Violence is just a punctuation mark”.  It starts with thoughts, attitudes and words.   Here’s how that works.  A group, usually in the majority, can begin to stereotype and dehumanize another group simply by disapproving words.  Even something as innocuous as “hate the sin and love the sinner” can be dangerous, as you’ve labeled someone with “sin”.  Then comes the separation and isolation of the smaller group from the larger.  They are ‘sinners” and therefore we don’t approve, we don’t understand, and we don’t love.  We begin to hate, and what we hate doesn’t deserve the same rights.  We isolate them physically, psychologically, and spiritually until this becomes “normal” and acceptable to do.  It can then escalate to acts of bullying,violence, assault, “hazing”, rape, and even murder.  That’s how batterers do it.  If the target is dehumanized, it becomes ok to separate them, ok to deny them rights, ok to attack them.  Hitler didn’t wake up one day and lock up all the Jews.  He slowly and surely over many years moved up the pyramid of violence to his final solution.  In short, as a culture, I think this has been what we’ve done to not only women and minorities but also to gays and lesbians, and mercifully, more policy makers are making the connection.  As always, the opposition must push back and they push back hard, but the connection has been made and hopefully that will lead us to more enlightened and LOVING policies, attitudes, and behaviors.

-“THE TRAIN HAS LEFT THE STATION”.  My own community had to be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century, as it took them years to simply add the term”sexual orientation” to our human rights laws.  But it happened.  In 2004, there were no states that had legalized same sex marriage.  In eight years, we’ve added 8 states, and several more have legislation pending.  It’s not enough, and again, the push back is swift and sometimes violent, but it’s beginning.  We’ve made measurable change. My friend and colleague, anti violence activist Jackson Katz told me years ago that “that train has already left the station”.  It’s moving, slowly, but it’s moving.

THE ATTITUDES ARE CHANGING.  In 1996, only 25% of Americans approved of full marriage equality.  Today, from 51-53% support it.  That’s a big leap in 15 years.

THERE ARE MOVEMENTS THAT WENT BEFORE THAT GIVE HOPE.   Let’s face it, as daunting as the “push back” can be, and in these days, it’s daunting, there is a movement, and that’s always the start.  If I’d been born in 1896, not 1956, I would have had to wait to vote.  My own great grandmother, who I knew, couldn’t vote until she was 44 years old.  As crazy as that sounds, this was within the 20th century.  My friend who lives in San Diego, and is white, could not have married her husband, who isn’t, 50 years ago.  My husband is Jewish.  He was born in 1952 in New York.  Had he and I been born 30 years before, in Germany, where some of his relatives came from, our marriage  would have been illegal.   Look at old film clips of groups of whites taunting  African American school children.  This was in my lifetime.  When I watch those, I feel shame and horror.  I absolutely believe, that even 25 years from now, we will look back on this time with deep regret that many of us failed to respect those who live their lives as they were born to do.  Ranting loudly against another’s rights may work for a while, but history will tell this story and things will look different from that perspective.  Let’s be proud of supporting human rights and open ourselves to change.  This isn’t a revolution, it’s an evolution, or so I hope.

THE ANTI BULLYING MOVEMENT WILL HELP.  One of the most frustrating things for me over the years, as an anti violence activist and philanthropist, is the completely insane opposition to anti bullying legislation for our children from those who feel that they push a “gay agenda”. HUH?  Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who tried to pass anti bullying legislation while he was Governor of Iowa, met constant opposition simply due to the “gay agenda” nonsense.  I always wanted to say to these people, “so it’s ok to bully gay kids”?  Are you kidding.  They weren’t.  Some of these same adults who are horrified by school bullying overall, see nothing about dehumanizing gay children and adults, and wonder why hate groups exist, and gay kids are killing themselves.   It’s insane.  But there is hope.  By simply humanizing the children so brutally  tormented in his documentary “Bully”, Lee Hirsch helped change the conversation and perhaps led us to a tipping point as a nation.  But, we have to make the connection that by making gay marriage and gay rights abhorrent, we feed into a collective bullying that no longer should be acceptable.  If we want our children treated well, let’s set an example…with love.

-OUR KIDS WILL STRAIGHTEN THIS OUT.  By the numbers, again, I have hope.  The same survey that named 51-53% of Americans now supported marriage equality, told us that fully 69% of those under 30 supported it.  I’ve been taught by those who know about such things, that when social norm change approaches 80% of a population, you are there.  Our kids will get us there, and teach us a lesson in life, in harmony, in human rights, and yes, even in love.





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The List

September 2nd, 2012

Does it work to wish on a star?

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you…”  Disney’s Pinocchio 1940

The beloved song above is rated seventh among the American Film Institute’s top 100 songs of all time.  It’s been covered by everyone from Julie Andrews to Gene Simmons (yes, Gene Simmons).   It’s a beautiful tune, but I think it’s the lyrics that appeal to us.  Who doesn’t want a badly needed wish to come true simply by…wishing it?   This isn’t a new concept, but popular culture has caught on to the ancient wisdom that suggests that what we think and say matters, and as the new age crew would say, “We are co-creators with the universe”.  Remember the multi- million selling book and DVD “The Secret” that came out in 2007?  The timing was right, and the message was powerful.

However, and this is a great big however here, there are a few things to consider when wishing for anything, including love, and I think, especially love.  It’s not as simple as, “if I just hold the thought and wish hard enough, it will show up in 30 days at my front door”.  You have to work with it.  Positive thoughts and intentions must be combined with some powerful inner work, attitudes, and behaviors.  An example here.  Most likely if we quit our jobs, settle down on the couch with a big box of Twinkies and the remote, the million dollars we’re hoping for might elude us.  So, think positively, of course, but do the work it takes to move your wish along and make yourself ready.

I’ve put together my own list that you might want to consider before embarking on manifesting a new love.  See if these make sense to you…

1) It CAN work. Any wish must begin with at least some faith and hope that thoughts do help move things along, so I’ll share a few tidbits from real stories that I’ve gathered, including my own improbable list and how it worked. Story one- In 2009, I ended a long term relationship, and after some time, I decided to try out this “manifesting” thing.  I actually made a list, including qualities I wanted in mate, and some I didn’t want.  I was ready, I felt I’d done the work on myself and I was in a good place, but a bit of a scary place, as I was a 52 year old woman in a small city, and I didn’t think my new love would be close by.  I joked that I’d have to import someone from another place, and that’s exactly how it ended up.  I made my list at the end of June, and put it on my kitchen window sill.  I think there were 21 things on the list and he was 20 of them.  In August, we connected and he’s now my husband, imported and delivered from New York, via Austin, Texas. For our back story, see my post called “The Poem”.

Story two-A young woman from South Dakota, in her thirties, a friend and colleague.  In February of 2007, the two of us were walking on a beach in La Jolla, talking about love and relationships.  She was ready for a man who would treat her better than she’d been treated in the past, and I told her that I’d heard that making a list might help, or at least organize her thoughts around what she wanted and needed.  She made it verbally right there….tall, dark hair, dark eyes, responsible, likes children and be willing to love hers, caring, hard working, and finally, someone who would treat her like a princess.  He showed up one month later, and they are still together and yes, he was the list.

Story three-A 50 something woman from Omaha said two things to me at different times that actually happened.  One was that she wanted to fall in love once before she got too old, and the other was that after years of business types, she wanted an artist.  It took some years, but she did fall in love in 2009, with…an artist.

Story four-A model who lives in Los Angeles, had experienced some fairly bizarre relationships and she was about to build a website to start talking about relationships in the hopes that, as she said, “if you build it, he will come”.  He did, and their love story is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

2) Be ready.  This is huge.  I had hoped for the right partner for years, but I didn’t like myself enough for many of those years to draw anyone close to what I needed.  I had to spend some time, just with me, and do a ton of work on just me, before I was ready to become some one’s partner.  I’m thoroughly convinced that without that work, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and he wouldn’t be where I am either.  You draw healthier people when you’re healthy yourself.

3) Be realistic.  Think about someone who would be right for you, as you are.  I was.  I suppose as a fiftysomething woman from Iowa, I could have started hoping that George Clooney would swing by Sioux City one day and magically show up at my house instead of the plumber I called, but George Clooney is a) not going to Iowa for any reason, b) not going to date me anyway, and c) wouldn’t be anything close to what would work for me.  Not picking on George here….the girl from story four actually knows him and he’s a good guy.  He might have dated someone like her, but for her, I’m glad she connected with the man she’s with.  They are picture perfect together.

4) Try not to step one anyone else’s toes in your process.  Life is messy, and love is messier, so it is possible you might still have unfinished business.  In a perfect world, your “list” would be blessedly and totally single, but messy life can bring us someone with complications.  I call that “An inconvenient love”.  Hope for someone not encumbered, it’s better.

5)Your list should include not only what you want, but what you don’t want.  A couple of months ago, I wrote, “Dating is a process of elimination”.  So, write down what no longer works for you.   I covered the big “this isn’t working for me anymore”, but a full list might have included, for me, things like “no active alcoholics who after a successful business career ended up living under a bridge”, or “No Englishmen who like rugby better than me and have a pesky estranged Italian wife who keeps coming back”.  Unhealthy ME kept drawing very, very unhealthy HE’s.  And these were some of the better ones.  Eliminate.

6) Put on your big girl pants.   The list I made in my 50’s was vastly different than a list I would have made 25 years ago.  I got out of the shallow waters and went deep.  It’s okay to want someone attractive or successful, but be careful what you wish for. If  your list starts looking like “tall, dark,handsome, cool car, rich, great body…”, you may get it, but that may be all you get.  It’s not going to work if you marry someone just because he looked a little bit like Warren Beatty, like I did in the 80’s.  Yes, he looked like Warren at the time, but I left out some key things I wanted, like “being a grown up”.  There’s a great episode of “Thirtysomething” where the character Ellen and her mother, who is divorcing her father, talk about what to hope for in a spouse.  Mother says “There are two types of men, Ellen.  One type is handsome, charming, drives a beautiful car, dresses well, is a great dancer, and the other type is more quiet, not as charming, who, at a party, looks like he might rather be home reading a good book.  The second is the type you want to marry.”  Ellen says, “How do you know this, Mama?”.  Mother replies, “I married a great dancer”.

7)Making it all about money will end up being…all about money.  There is nothing wrong with mega rich people, I know a couple of them and love them like brothers. In fact, in my case, they are my brothers.  It’s a tough economy, and who hasn’t thought about living on a gorgeous estate and being able to buy whatever you want, whenever you want.  Manifesting success for yourself is great, but don’t let it dominate your list.  My sister and I have the interesting privilege to go from our normal lives, normal homes and normal cars to occasionally inhabiting the world of billionaires.  It’s a stunning change for us when we do that a few times a year.  But, as lovely as their homes and lives are sometimes, I’ve stayed on estates…the kind where the number of bathrooms are in the double digits.  I’ve asked myself if I was a lot happier living there than my own little ranch house.  The answer was, “this is fun, but I can be just as happy in my 1,300 square feet”.  So, remember, if you make your wish list all about money, you might find yourself someday in your 12,000 square foot estate writing another list.

8)Remember, that the list is just yours, and therefore unique, as are you.

Happy Wishing, and tell me your own stories...



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Soul Mates

August 3rd, 2012

Always liked these two together

 I HAVE been here before,
              But when or how I cannot tell:
          I know the grass beyond the door,
              The sweet keen smell,
    The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

          You have been mine before,—
              How long ago I may not know:
          But just when at that swallow’s soar
              Your neck turned so,
    Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.

          Has this been thus before?
              And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
          Still with our lives our love restore
              In death’s despite,
    And day and night yield one delight once more?   Daniel Gabriel Rossetti 1854

We hear much about “soul mates”.  But, what are they?  Literature and film would have it that the soul mate is one person, the only “love of your life”, your true other half.

Some are skeptical about all this.  Naomi Cohn, author of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Play List” says,  “There is no such thing as a soulmate…and who would want there to be? I don’t want half of a shared soul. I want my own damn soul.”  Well, it’s a point of view.  But…as we aren’t alone here on this pretty planet, some of us like company….the right company.  So, exactly what are soul mates,  do they exist, and if they do, are we with them right now? Chances are, yes, you are.

The concept of soul mates is discussed historically in several places.  Plato talked about them, the Hindu religion refers to them, the word in Yiddish “bashert” means destiny, Theosophy digs into it, and since the 60’s it’s landed soundly as part of our culture, and not always correctly, according to some things I’ve read.   The mainstream idea is that, if we are lucky, we will meet and mate with that “one” soul, and settle into “happily after after” world.  It’s one definition.  But, from what I’ve gathered over the years, I’ve surmised that there are different types of soul mates.


Most likely soul mates, I would think.

Here’s a description of  how this came about in Eastern tradition from the Maharani Rutan,  “According to the ancient scripture of the Gita it was a dialog between God, Krishna. and Rama . God gave Krishna a Divine vision to save mankind and learn peace and love, and Rama was his brother.  This is why Krishna is known as a God of Love because he brings love to many. During the epic dialogs, Krishna and Rama used to argue philosophically a lot so God said to Krishna be on earth and be your brothers soul mate.  And when Krishna asked what is a soul mate.  God said, “Soul mate will be someone that is placed on earth to learn and teach from.”

The broad definition coming from this tradition is that a soul mate can be anyone with which we have a close bond, and who help us recognize important lessons about life, love, and about OUR SELVES.  Some are meant to be life long bonds, some come together to experience something that will move their soul forward.  We see people drifting apart, and we see this as a “failed relationship”.  Not always so!   Have you ever had a relationship that didn’t work, was painful, and had to end?  When the smoke clears, and it usually does clear, and if we’re self aware, we’ll ask ourselves what lessons that person had for us.  Margaret Mead famously said, “I’ve had three successful marriages”.  Each was there for her at a specific time and place, and when she needed that lesson.   I’ve always thought our families of origin, as well as romantic partners, were great teachers for us.  They’re our first relationships, our first experience of love, and they are usually life long.  Family conflict, while painful as hell, is a great teacher.  How we deal with that is up to us, but in the end, they offer us a path to learn, let go, and most importantly teach us to take the lesson, move on, let go, and forgive!


Yoko might have been John's other half, but Paul was there for the mission.

Are you in a business partnership right now?  Particularly close to a co-worker or project partner?  Do the two (or three) of you feed off each other’s energy and help you move an idea forward? Do you instinctively know what part you bring to the team, and even though there are bumps and grinds and conflicts along the way, does the finished product feel right?  When it does feel right, it feels like a world changer, and sometimes it IS.  Lennon/McCartney?

I’ll talk about my philanthropic work a bit.  I have been fortunate to have run into some amazing mission mates.  One was a woman who brought a cutting edge idea to us about engaging men in preventing relationship violence.  She’s moved on now, but I have no doubt in my mind that she was brought to us for just that  reason. Two of  the documentaries we’ve supported were led by mission mates of mine.  There is a closeness that exceeds the normal colleague bond.  We know it’s a mission, and that’s what brought us together, and each of us brings something to the table.

Mission soul mates can be very different people, and that can make the process tough.  Sometimes, the pair goes their own way, but what they started, be it a business, a project, a work of art, goes on. If the two involved know their own strengths and their own limitations and respect what the other brings, it’s magic.  My brother Ted and I are two vastly different people.  But, I’m absolutely convinced that we are mission soul mates.   In San Francisco, a few months back, I saw a tape of Joe Biden talking about violence prevention and he mentioned “Ted and Cindy”, almost as a team.  We may not see each other for months at a time, but we’re a team, and a team that was meant to be since we showed up in the same family in Iowa 50-0dd years ago.

Now for the real goody bag….


Over 20 years is a long time in Hollywood

According to interviews with both of these two, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick just knew that they were meant to be together.  They could be what is now called “twin souls”.  According to Sufi teachings, twin souls are like two Roman rings interlocking with each other, impossible to pull apart.  If you are a believer in many lifetimes, it is said that the two might experience many lifetimes, together and apart, until they arrive at a true twin soul bonding.

How do you know when you’ve met that person?  It might be like the famous line in Jerry Maguire, ” You had me at hello.”  We’ve all had love at first sight.  But, these delicious pairings are for life.  Doubts fly out the window, and there is a deep inner knowing that tells you this is the right one.  Trials and challenges will not break you up, you come back stronger.  Infidelity is rare, as you are no longer searching.  Most important, these relationships make us feel BETTER about ourselves, not worse.  They inspire us, they can improve our productivity, and they motivate us to be better people, to each other, to ourselves, and to our world.  Sometimes, twin souls come from vastly different backgrounds, races, cultures and social class.  They may be heterosexual pairs or same sex.  No matter.  They will happen if they are meant to be.

Perhaps the most beautiful tribute I ever read, to this kind of soul mate was written by Nobel Prize winning biochemist Kary Mullis to his wife Nancy, in his dedication to his book, “Dancing Naked in the Mind Field”.

Here it is.

Jean Paul Sartre somewhere observed that each of us make our own hell out of the people around us.  Had Jean Paul known Nancy, he may have noted that at least one man, someday might get very lucky, and make his own heaven out of the people around him.  She will be his morning and his evening star, shining with the brightest and softest light in his heaven.  She will be the end of his wanderings, and their love will arouse the daffodils in the spring to follow the crocuses and proceed the irises.  Their faith in one another will be deeper than time and their eternal spirit will be seamless once again.

Or maybe he just would have said,  “If I’d had a woman like that, my books wouldn’t be about despair.”

This book is not about despair.  It’s about a little bit about a lot of things, and if not a single one of them is wet with sadness, it is not due to my lack of depth; it is due to a year of Nancy, and the prospect of never again being without her.       Kary Mullis, “Dancing Naked in the Mind Field”. 1998

Here’s to many years with our soul mates, each and every one.


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