The Oxfam Report


I don’t understand why this information isn’t all over the media.

Actually, that’s not true. I totally understand why it isn’t all over the media.

And that understanding is part of why I am so enraged about the content of the report.

If you want to understand just how badly the entire world is being screwed over by the big corporations, read this report.

If you want to try to defend the kind of corporate driven capitalism that we are living under, read it.  If you want to explain to me why the conservatives are right on economics, please read this report. Then talk to me and tell me how this is fair.

I am linking to a short article that was first published on the website “Liberalamerica“, but after you read that, click on the link to the report. Read it carefully, but have your blood pressure medicine close by.

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This is one of the places where your tax dollars live. Sweet, huh?

You Won’t Believe How Much Money Big Corps Are Hiding Offshore

The Oxfam Report

Chance Encounters


I took Ellie to the grocery store today. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and I felt full of energy and strength.

So off we went to the supermarket, armed with an extra diaper, some wipes, a few graham crackers and our grocery list.  I put the baby into the seat in front of the cart, but realized quickly that the straps were too darn small to go around her, even at her tender age of 8 months.

So we went through the store with me carefully holding both of her hands as I steered the cart. When I needed to dash away to grab an item off the shelves, I did it with my heart in my mouth, fearing that she’d topple out and I’d lose my favorite job as “Nonni in Chief”.

We were doing fine, except for the fact that every adult over the age of 19 had to stop us to say how adorable Ellie is. Truth to tell? I didn’t mind at all. In fact, I kind of loved it when strangers would smile at her and she’d look up at me with those deep brown eyes for reassurance.

Anyway, as we made our way through the store we were greeted by two grampas, one grandma, a doting aunt and three young mothers.

I thought that we were on our way out the door when I suddenly noticed that Ellie was staring up with serious intensity at someone off to our right.  I looked over my shoulder and saw a tall, thin man in a tattered black sweatshirt.  He was looking at Ellie with the same seriousness, but I saw that his blue eyes were rimmed with red.  He had a scruffy beard and lank, not-too-clean hair.  His arms were cradled, holding an array of tall beer cans.

When our eyes met, the man quickly looked away.

“Wow,” I said to him as we passed, “She’s really looking at you so seriously!”  I smiled in his general direction, but didn’t think too much about it. After all, I had just spent an hour chatting with various strangers who had paused to admire the baby.

But this time it was a little bit different.  As I made my casual comment, the tall man met my eyes with a look that almost seemed like a  mix of hope and embarrassment. He tilted his head forward a bit, his black hood falling almost over his eyes.

“That is a really beautiful baby,” he said solemnly.

“Thank you!” I replied.

He stopped walking, and I saw that his hands were shaking a bit. He looked me right in the eyes with a sadness and intensity that tugged at my heart.

“No,” he said. “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to say that.”

I didn’t know how to answer him. I had such a clear image of this man, struggling and sad, gazing in silence at beautiful children.

We both moved on, and found ourselves in the same checkout line, where my friend Martha was waiting to ring us up. I caught her eye as the scruffy man placed his beer cans on her counter.  Before she could finish his order, though, he turned abruptly and walked back to Ellie and I.

He reached out his right hand, his fingers stained and bent.  He gently touched the soft hair on the top of her head, and leaned close to her face.

“My God bless you, beautiful baby, every day for the rest of your life.” Ellie looked at him, serious and intent, meeting his gaze.  I was silent, not sure of what to say.

He straightened up, and looked at me.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“I’m Karen,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Michael,” he answered holding out his hand.

We shook hands, and I was surprised at how strong and sure his palm felt in mine.

“Nice to meet you, Michael,” I said, “Good luck to you.”

“Good luck?” He laughed, and pointed to Ellie sitting quietly in the grocery cart. “I already have good luck.”

I have no idea where Michael is tonight. Whether he is warm, safe, fed, comforted.  But all afternoon, as Ellie and I had lunch and played and sang and as I rocked her to sleep in my arms, all I could wonder was this. Was Michael someone’s Daddy? Did he once hold a baby of his own and gaze at her with love and tenderness? I don’t know.

But I do know that at one point in time he was some woman’s son. He was the beloved baby cradled in someone’s arms.

Whatever has happened to this man in his life, I find it profoundly beautiful that he has kept his gentle spirit intact, and that given the slightest encouragement, he is still able to share that spirit with strangers.

Plus Size? Plus What?


I’ve been thinking about the strong reaction that comedienne Amy Schumer had to having her image published in a “plus size” edition of Glamour magazine.  I’ve been thinking about it because I honestly have a whole LOT of reactions to the whole issue.

Number 1: Who the hell needs to buy a magazine called Glamour anyway? Most of us are living in the burbs, trying to keep the laundry done, the dogs fed, the bills paid and the fridge stocked. Glamour? No one I know has the slightest idea of what that word even means.

Number 2: What the F* is “Plus sized”? Plus what? Like, “You are a woman, with extra”. Extra depth? Extra personality? Extra cellulite? What?

Number 3: Amy Schumer is fabulous. Smart, funny, articulate, warm, open and beautiful. In every way.

This whole thing just strikes a real nerve in this old Nonni.  I will tell you a story to explain my anger at this entire pile of bullshit.

When my oldest child, my daughter Kate, was 14 years old, she won an award for a piece of art that she had created. She was invited to the Massachusetts State house for a special reception with other award winning young artists.  I was so proud of her!

In preparation for the big event, I took my Kate shopping for a dressy pair of pants. We went to the mall, and into a popular store for young people. The salesgirl met us, asked a couple of questions and took some measurements. “Ooooooh,” she sighed to Kate, “Wow! You’re a size 00!”

That means “double zero”.

Kate looked at me, unsure of how to respond. My mama bear self reared up right then. I sure as hell did know how to respond.

“Excuse me?” I asked in my frostiest voice. “Are you telling my daughter that she is less than zero?”

The young salesgirl blinked at me. “Um. Yes. She’s so slim. She’s in a size double zero.”

Now here’s the thing.  My Kate was barely pubescent.  She had always been thin, but that was party because she’d had some health problems.

I absolutely hated the fact that at the very cusp of womanhood, my beautiful, tender daughter was told that the smaller and skinnier she was, the more admired she would be. Even more than that, though, I was completely appalled that the smallest size pants in that store were telling a woman “You are even less than nothing!” And: “We love that!”

I blew off a little steam at the poor salesgirl, and hauled my young artist out of there.  I stood her in atrium of the mall, my hands on her shoulders. I looked into her big brown eyes. “Kate,” I said, “You are young. Young women are often thin. You are lovely. You are going to get bigger and even more beautiful.”  She nodded. I’m pretty sure she had no idea of what had pissed me off so much.

So we went to Sears, where the sizes ran in actual numbers.  We got the pants, and a nice white blouse. We went to the ceremony in Boston, and we had a lovely time.

But here’s the point: Sizes need to run in normal, predictable ordinal numerals.  You know, the smallest would be “1”, the next would be “2” and so on.  No “Double zero”. No “Zero”. No “Plus”.

Women should be able to buy a pair of jeans without being told how the people who buy a magazine called “Glamour” choose to to rate us.

Amy Schumer, you are a goddess.

And so is my still slim daughter.

 

Bernie Sanders Made Me Young


Oh, I know. The 2016 election is a giant cesspool of horror.  I get it.  I have followed (with a great deal of nausea) the “tiny hands” comments, the “my wife is hotter than yours” mess and even the “beat the crap out of ’em” moments.

But still. I am having a good time with this election cycle.

I am!

In the first place, after having had to hide my lefty tendencies for so many years, I am finding it incredibly liberating to finally have a candidate who is saying “You aren’t as lefty as I am!” The “who’s more progressive” fight is so. much. fun.

And I am having a great time watching the party of Lincoln devolve into a pack of badly behaved five year old brats. I am thoroughly enjoying the nasty stupidity of that side.

But you know what’s the best part of the whole thing?

Its the never ending chorus from the media: “Bernie supporters are all millennials!” and “Oh, those innocent young people being fooled by Bernie!”

I have heard this story on NPR, on CNN, on ABC, on NBC and on CBS. I have read it and seen it over and over again.  All those Facebook memes about “20 somethings who want free stuff.”

I LOVE it.

Because its so incredibly wrong.

I am 60 years old. I recently went to a Bernie Brainstorming meeting, and 2 out of 25 people were under 35.  Most of us were gray haired and mature. We were not looking for “free stuff”.

So I am loving the misconception.  Yes, I want to say to people I meet, I am very young! I am feeling the Bern!

I sort of wondered about which celebrities are backing Bernie. You know, were they all under 25?

Let’s see:

  1. Susan Sarandon: 69 years old. (I know. She looks fabulous)
  2. Spike Lee: 59 years old.
  3. Tulsi Gabbard: 34 years old.  A youngster, but a veteran. She’s a grownup.
  4. Joan Baez: 75 years old
  5. Mark Ruffalo: 48 years old
  6. Robert Reich: 69 years old

So guess what, mass media?

Even though I am thoroughly enjoying the label of “youngster”, you are completely missing the point on who supports Bernie. I hope you keep missing the point all the way to the Inauguration.

Giving Her “Grit”


There is a new buzzword in the world of education, and its a real eye roller.

The word is “grit” and it means the ability to handle difficulty; to persevere, to deal with opposition. It’s actually a fabulous idea, and one that a whole lot of parents need to learn. But I guess its an eye roller because so many parents of my generation already know this stuff.

Anyway, the idea of giving a child “grit” means that as adults we step back and let the kids struggle a bit. Its the idea that unless the child has worked hard and struggled at least a little, his success won’t feel like anything much.

I agree.

I was a teacher for a long time. I raised three kids. I grew up in a family of six kids with two busy, working parents.  I know about grit.

I know that too many children are rescued by well meaning parents when their social lives run into conflict. I know that too many kids are celebrated when they haven’t actually achieved their goals. I know that stressed out families try to shield their children from any anxiety or struggle, in a misguided belief that those are dangerous emotions.

But I also know that when I was a child, I didn’t feel particularly excited to get good grades in reading or writing. Ho, hum. I could ace that stuff with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back.  But I was thrilled to get a C plus in chemistry, because THAT was some serious crap.

Grit.

Years ago my youngest son, Tim, was learning to play hockey. Early in his skating life, he came across a mean spirited, nasty coach. I remember that I picked my little boy up from practice one night. On the way home, I noticed that my 9 year old was in tears in the back seat. When I pressed him, he told me that his coach had called him a “baby” because his wrist shot was so weak. I was outraged, of course. My very best Mamma Bear self reared up to defend my cub. But he was much smarter than I was. When I expressed my outrage and told my boy that I planned to talk to the idiot coach, he said, “Don’t, Mommy.  Just let me think bad words about him in my head. Don’t talk to him.”

So I didn’t.

A few days later, my Tim came home from school, put on his skates and his hockey gloves and headed out to our backyard rink. I didn’t know exactly what he was doing, but I kept peeking out the window at him as the afternoon wore on.  Finally, just at dark, he came in the front door.  Throwing down his gloves, my sweet little boy looked up at me and said, “There! Now I have a damned wrist shot.”

The coach never teased him again.  Grit.

Now I am taking care of my sweet baby Ellie. She is a serene, happy little thing. Up until now, she has rarely cried.

But she has suddenly hit a point in her life when she desperately wants to MOVE! She can scoot on her butt and turn herself around. She can roll over and back again.  But she can’t quite get herself propelled forward to reach her toys. She can’t yet pull herself up.

So I sit with her on the floor every day. I watch her reach for the stacking cups, and pick them up. I watch as one rolls away and I watch her struggle to stretch herself out to pull it back.  She grimaces, she groans.  Sometimes she squeezes her eyes shut, shakes her fists and howls.

I sit beside her. I tell her “Keep going.” I smile and I nod.  I say, “Ellie, you can do it!”

Sometimes she fails.  But sometimes she manages to lean herself forward so far that she is almost on her knees, and she hooks one determined finger around that errant cup and she pulls it back and picks it up.  And then I breathe a huge sigh, and I cheer her on. “You did it, honey! You got it!”

Grit.  I hope that I am giving her a sense that she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to accomplish.  I hope that I am giving her, even at this tender age, the realization that she doesn’t need Nonni to do what she wants; she can do it all by herself.

I hope that I am giving her grit.

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“I got it, Nonni!”

Puttering Around


When I was a little girl, I remember that Saturdays in our house were full of activity. My mom would give all six kids our chores. We’d clean our rooms, vacuum, help with laundry. Mom often did grocery shopping on Saturday mornings, and I remember the kitchen being filled with paper bags and food and noise.

But I mostly remember my Dad, in a white T shirt or an old sweatshirt, a pencil tucked behind one ear. He would move around the house and yard all day long, hammering, sawing, building, taking apart. He planted, pruned, raked, mowed. He was usually either humming or whistling as he bustled around.

I remember trailing after him, asking, “What are you doing, Daddy?”  His answer was always the same, whether he was planting a garden or building a shed.

“I’m just puttering,” he’d say.

“Puttering?”  It sure looked like work to me!

Now the years have passed, and Dad is gone. Today would have been his 89th birthday. I miss him.

I felt a little restless this morning, a little sad and irritable.

I decided to clean out the cabinets under my bathroom sinks, so that all will be safe when Ellie starts to crawl. As I did, I noticed some spots in the bathroom that needed to have the paint touched up. So I did that.

And while I was in the garage finding the paint, I saw that the garden tools were all disorganized and needed cleaning. I wiped them down, placed them in a clean plastic bucket, threw out old rags and bits of string.

When that was finished, I came upstairs to grab a second cup of coffee. But I noticed that my ceramic Easter Bunnies were still out on display. I wrapped them carefully and put them in a bag to go back in the attic. Realizing that I’d be going to the trouble of pulling down the attic stairs and climbing up there, I decided to put away some of the things that the baby has outgrown. Which lead me to pack up my sweaters and winter clothes. I hauled all of it upstairs and moved around some boxes to make it easier to find things.

Two hours later, I sat down to catch my breath.

And looked at a smiling picture of my Dad in my living room.

“Hey, Dad,” I said out loud. “I think I’ve been puttering.”

A Warm Spring Night


It was a warm, wet, humid spring day today.  There was a low overcast all day. The wind was strong, and the clouds were racing from South to North.  Not a usual New England pattern on April 1st. Not at all.

I took Ellie outside. She sat in her stroller, watching me with her wise dark eyes as I raked up the straw and pine boughs that had covered my perennial beds. The wind blew strong and the pines creaked and moaned. Ellie watched. She watched me stoop and scrape and gather up the winter coat of the garden. She watched the birds darting back and forth and up and down. She tipped her head back and watched the tops of the trees as they swayed back and forth above her.

Tonight, after I had taken Ellie home to her Mom and Dad, I stood on my deck. The night was coming on fast, and rain threatened to fall.  There was thunder in the distance, making my old dog Sadie shiver and quake at my feet.

I looked out, across our property, to the wetlands beyond.  I strained a bit to hear what I so wanted to hear.  And there it was.

The spring song of the “peepers”, the tiny green tree frogs whose voices fill the evening air of New England springtimes.  I smiled, remembering all of the years when my children and I had stood in this same spot, waiting for that springtime call of love and hope.

I thought about Ellie. How funny, I thought to myself.  This is her first spring time!

I thought about the rhythms of life. About Ellie hearing and smelling spring for the very first time in her life. I thought of myself, remembering so many springtimes in the past.  I thought of my Mother, feeling and hearing spring in her 86th year, wondering how many springtimes are still before her.

I stood on my deck, in the damp warm evening. I breathed in the smell of the leaves and the warming smell of the earth. I listened to the peepers in the marsh, seeking love.

Ellie has so much to look forward to in this beautiful life.

Why I Feel That Bern


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Sometimes I think about an old Chinese saying that I read about a long time ago. The first time I saw it, it was called a blessing.  The second time it was referred to as a curse.

The saying is this one: “May you live in interesting times.”

Yup. So you can see, can’t you, how it could be both a blessing and a curse?

I think that the current presidential campaign season sums up this idea very well.  We certainly do live in interesting times, don’t we?

I don’t want to go into all of the horrors and threats that are coming to us from the right. Nukes in Europe, women in jail for abortion, war with China…..you get the idea.

I just want to talk about how excited and impassioned I feel about one candidate.

I feel the Bern.

But you know what? I am a Bernie supporter because of Bernie, not because of Trump, or Cruz, or even because of Hillary.

I am a Bernie supporter for a whole bunch of reasons that I think the people in power are failing to recognize. And I am having  So. Much. Fun.

Last night I went to a gathering of Bernie folks.  I listen to mainstream media, so I expected to find a house full of hipsters and hippies. I thought I’d be the oldest person in the room.  But I was really, really wrong. Out of 18 people at the meeting, only 2 were under 30.  5 of us were retired. 10 were gray haired.

Hey, CNN? You are SO WRONG about our age!

I though that most of the people there would be in the lower middle class, worried about their own financial situations.  Ha. No.  There were three lawyers, a couple of small business owners and a few other professionals.  No one was there looking for “free stuff”.

Hey, NBC, CBS, ABC? You do NOT GET who we are!

We talked about why we were there.  About why we support this cranky old man and his crazy quixotic campaign. And we all shared certain thoughts. We are all tired of believing in a perfectly balanced two party system. We are all wondering why this country can’t seem to have an open and honest debate about anything important. We wonder why we are unable to provide healthcare coverage for our sickest citizens. We don’t understand why no matter how hard we work, our kids can’t get through college without giant mountains of debt. We wonder why more and more of the nation’s wealth is going right into the pockets of the big corporations. We are pretty pissed off about what happened in 2008, when so many of us lost our life savings, but the people who gambled it away walked off with millions.

We are not Democrats.  We don’t believe in that whole party loyalty thing. We don’t feel beholden to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We don’t think that we should hold our noses and vote for the lesser of two evils.

Many of us talked about how empowered we felt when we first heard Bernie asking, “Why can’t we provide maternity leave to our new mothers? Why can’t we take care of our elderly? Why can’t this country manage to educate its brightest young people?”  We agreed that we had all been asking ourselves the same damn questions, but hand’t thought that anyone was listening.

We talked about how stifled we’ve felt over the past decade, at least, as the word “liberal” became a pejorative term. We shared out stories of feeling diminished, demeaned, ignored as progressive thinkers.

And we talked about our true and deep belief in Bernie’s kind of populist revolution. We shared stories of frustration, anger, passion, hope.

So this is why I am hosting a phone bank for Bernie Sanders. This is why I have canvassed for him. Why I wear a T Shirt with his name on it when I go out in public.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Democratic party. I don’t care about the people in power now.  I don’t feel represented or recognized or heard.

I used to teach history to fifth graders. Sometimes I think of the words of Thomas Jefferson:

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”

Call me naiive. Call me foolish. Call me an aging hippy with no sense of reality.  For the first time since Jimmy Carter came on the scene, I feel inspired by a political candidate.

I am not a millennial. I am not a Communist. I am not looking for “free stuff”.

I am a middle aged, retired professional. I believe in my country. I believe in peace. I believe that it is the purpose of government to protect and preserve the health, safety and prosperity of the people.

I believe in Bernie Sanders.  I will support him all the way to the Democratic Convention, and if necessary, beyond.

This Is Just Unfair


I mean, seriously.

Seriously?

How am I supposed to get anything done when I spend all day with this person:

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Really?

I’m supposed to put her down and give her toys, then go do the freakin’ laundry?  I don’t think so.

This child is 8 months old.  By rights, she should basically still just be a little blob of babiness.   But, no.

She is a full on DIVA.

What am I supposed to do?

Every time I tell her, “Play by yourself for a bit. I’ll be right back,” she makes a face like this one:

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Where are you GOING?

How can I walk away?

This is completely unfair.

I mean,  yes, sure. I agreed to watch the baby this year.  I did NOT agree to sit in a love soaked stupor 4o hours a week, looking like an idiot.

I did NOT agree to melt into a puddle every time this child smiled at me.  I didn’t think I would be giving up the basics, like going to the bathroom, or reading the news, or doing the dishes.

This is just NOT fair.

Look at that face.

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Wait, watch this!!!!

You know you wouldn’t be able to walk away either.  Admit it.

So. Not. Fair.