Last Sunday, I had MSNBC on while I caught up on some e-mails. Alex Witt was interviewing an out of work Boomeranger. She was a nice looking girl, 25-ish, college grad, living at home with her mother. Throughout the little segment, I wanted to reach through the screen and shake her to wake her up. In a dull voice, she droned on about feeling cheated by life and I guess our economy because, after a bunch of dead-end jobs, working at min wage among them, she just couldn’t keep paying her bills on her own. Including college loans. Now, that I do understand, even though I never had to do that. She owes $30K on them — a tough lift on a poverty line income.
But, I wanted to tell her, ‘Girl! snap out of it’, MSNBC just gave you a worldwide job interview opportunity and you sound about as exciting as chalk. Where is your verve? Sell!
One of the things Alex Witt asked her was, what was her “dream job”, the one she insisted felt cheated out of, like someone baited and switched her. Her incredible answer was that ‘she didn’t know’. Talk about vapid.
I wanted to tell her, there is no such thing as a ready-made dream job, but there are definitely great organizations where you may be able to create your own dream career. Everyone knows that working at, let’s say, Costco, Starbucks, Ben&Jerry’s, Waste Management, Berkshire Hathaway, Grainger — I am sure there are dozens of others — is not only pleasant but great for getting in on the ground floor of a company with promotion potential. Why flip burgers at McDonalds or walk the floor at slavers like Walmart when you can do the same thing, for more money and far better conditions at fill-in-the-blank from the top 100 companies to work for in the US (and elsewhere).
If Boomerangers are suffering and complaining (as she did, incredibly, because her mother, in whose home she is crashing, now has health issues — holy toledo!), forgive me, but it is their own fault. They feel entitled to start toward the top. I am not sorry for them, because they have youth on their side. I feel some empathy for the 50-something who gets fired and is too old to get another job. Those people end up taking servile work out of desperation.
So what has this got to do with my post?
I mentioned awhile back that I have a grand uncle who turned 100 this year. He is a cantankerous but smart man and his is no trivial achievement.
For years he was a golf bum, basically, an amateur opera baritone and buff (he knows almost every one of them by heart), a Christian Scientist and an early health nut, at one time as close to a beatnik as anyone in the family has ever been. Truly, he was and is a colorful character.
He fought in WWII and was decorated. It couldn’t have been pretty — as most of us know — and even though he was brave and served the country, he now rails against what he considers to be the Democrats’ wars (!).
In my interactions with him over the years, I have tried to steer clear of politics, for one, and a couple of subjects on which he and I don’t see eye to eye, to put it mildly. Where we do agree is about diet and health, he is not a vegetarian, but close to it, has always loved eating fruits and vegetables, drinks milk (there we disagree), never smoked, drank, or even took aspirin.
So far, so good. Everything in his life was going well, despite the fact that a couple of his children are now deceased, along with his wife, and he has been alone for the past two decades. Up until recently, he was managing the apartment building where he lived. Then he had a heart attack, and to make a long story short, he had to move to a VA facility.
He didn’t go willingly. Even though he had received exceptional care when he was at the VA hospital for his heart problems, he felt he should be able to leave the VA living facilities any time he wanted, and go out and get another apartment at 97!
While I am at it, I just want to say that I am well aware that there are likely abuses at VA care centers all over the country. Certainly they have been in the news lately and cross-haired for criticism. Some of it they no doubt deserve. But the allegations as well as the documented cases of abuse number in the hundreds, while the VA system cares for hundreds of thousands of veterans. Percentage-wise, the failures, while important because they represent people whom the system has let down or even harmed, potentially, are far fewer than the successes.
I am a person who believes in statistics, properly gathered and manipulated arithmetically, so I won’t stretch the anecdotal evidence here any farther than I think it warrants. However, it does mean something.
Harry got a free heart operation to clear blocked arteries, he was able to stay in the hospital for three weeks and get daily monitoring, a special diet and other assistance that accompanies a heart event like the one he suffered. He also got new hearing aids, three sets of prescription glasses, and a special diet designed for him. Today, living at the VA, all of that care and equipment continues to be provided.
He has a team of caregivers that meet once a month to analyze his mental and physical health and to discuss adjustments to his care. I know this is the case, because I have been included in them telepresently from my computer. These specialists include a general physician, cardiologist, registered nurse, social worker (due to his age), recreational therapist, physical therapist (he has some problems walking now), psychiatrist and dietician. My healthcare provider would never be able to furnish all that assistance for a price I could afford. The VA does this for Vets — maybe not every single one gets the full array, but the ones like Harry do. I have witnessed it first-hand.
When his 100th birthday approached, the recreational therapist contacted me and told me that they wanted to do something to honor him, including get him a Presidential citation and similar recognition from his city. I guess I misunderstood them to mean I was to arrange the party at which all this would be presented.
But when I called to check on the preparations for the formal presentations, and asked them, were I to attend, what I would need to bring, I was pleasantly surprised to hear: nothing. Just come.
Great. I also inquired about the length of time it was scheduled for and whether it was a big enough deal to have others there. The answer was something like, ‘it will be simple, maybe 45 minutes’. OK, no point in making a fuss. I am never wild about interrupting my orderly routine, but, no one else is any closer to his location than I am — the rest being mainly on the East Coast. One other relative hoped to attend from farther away, so I couldn’t justify skipping it for no good reason.I put together some simple gifts for him and planned to go. I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled to do it. It did cross my mind that it might be bad and I would really hate being there (what a baby). When we arrived, I was even more leery when I saw that some of the buildings were in need of paint. But, when I stupidly registered surprise, Geoff reminded me: severe Federal budget cuts. Ever heard of the government shut down? Sequester? Austerity levels? Yup, if you want to know whether and why the VA is suffering, look to our crackerjack, compassionate, tightwad Congress.
I was listening to Lawrence O’Donnell’s emotional speech upon his return to television earlier in the month, following his April injury in the Caribbean. He reminded us of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s definition of high intelligence as the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in one’s head simultaneously and still function. That is what I think on just about everything these days. There are more conflicting ideas that we must accept at once, than there are harmonious ones.
That the VA, and every other Federal system, could be both necessary and bloated, efficient and dysfunctional, good and bad is now just a given. That a crotchety old man, who spent the past eight years glued to Fox News, listening to hatred could now be grateful and in the best emotional state of his life, in the embrace of the warm and wonderful people who staff his local VA seniors facility, and could be attended to by a rainbow of ethnicities that he has railed against on more than one occasion, represents a zenith of this intellectual challenge to which the great writer undoubtedly referred.
Meanwhile, Harry (he re-named himself this as a kid because he didn’t like the name his mother gave him — who would pick Harry, nowadays??) is enjoying unprecedented kindness. Let me give you an example.
We walked in to the room in which his centennial celebration was to be held and were astonished to see the gathering of men in wheelchairs, a room decorated with balloons and favors, on each table, a guitar playing vocalist, accompanied by a cellist, a long table laden with refreshments waiting to be served and a dozen or so young and old women bustling around readying the party for the guest of honor.
For the next three hours, VA staff and veterans and friends of this sometimes persnickety man just kept pouring into the room. You would think he was the Pope, they treated him with such warmth and appreciation. All kinds of speeches were made, they gave him gifts, including an incredible hand made quilt, plus an album of pictures showing the auxiliary ladies laboring over it — all volunteers. He got cups, towels, chocolates, and other memorabilia.
Of course there were plaques from the VA and certificates and citations from the city, the state and the President of the United States, given that Harry won a Silver Star in the African campaign.
These confounding images are burned into my mind. The VA, clean and caring, expertly choreographing this event, with no expectation that anyone will acknowledge or report it, while it is daily excoriated in the media. My difficult, tea-partying, easily riled old Grand Uncle Harry being seen as not only a hero but a celebrity. He must be doing something right there. Oh, and Fox News was on in the background, in case you get a glimpse of the big screen television that stayed on in one corner of the room. This could have been a terrible experience, and Geoffrey and I could have left, bitter, annoyed and confirming all the negative press the VA has gotten from partisans, for the past six months.
Instead, it was the exact opposite.
My advice to the girl lucky enough to win an international job pitch gratis on MSNBC last weekend would be: run, don’t walk, to your nearest Federal Government human resources department and get an entry level job. Move up in an organization that does what it does so expertly, that when it falters, it becomes national news. Fodder for the fanatics to seize upon and dupe the fatuous American public into thinking it is a diabolical plot to take over their lives, when it is really just doing its job, for millions of people. Quietly, not perfectly, but sincerely, every single day.
There is no such thing as a dream job or even dream company, just like there is no person who is a dream candidate. You find a good organization, offer yourself to help solve problems, and move up by hard work and foresight. Instead of railing against the government, people could work there and improve it. Instead of sitting on fat behinds complaining in front of the tube, get in there and help the government of and by the people, do it expertly.
Just the way one Veteran’s facility is doing that for eccentric, cantankerous, sometimes ungrateful Harry. So, with Geoff’s help and my cousin generously helping out too, we took some awesome pictures that we made into a print album to send to the relatives who couldn’t attend.
Harry told us he is having the time of his life!
Images: Beth Byrnes archives, departmentofveteransaffairs.gov
When I was on jury duty, we had a lot of downtime waiting on the benches outside the courtroom until our case resumed. In a previous post, I mentioned that the halls would reverberate with the anguished discussions of people involved in contentious divorces and child custody battles.
I often sat next to a fellow juror in his 50s, some sort of computer expert, married, with two children in their teens. He was a very quiet, soft-spoken and cheerful person. Clearly someone with maturity and, given the little I got to know of him, a thoughtful, kind human being.
When he found out that my field is child development, he asked me very seriously what I thought of a teenager who had severe ADHD and other behavioral problems, going to the local college, so she could be close to home. I wasn’t really sure what he wanted to know. I think community colleges are very good for many children, especially those without the grades or the financial means to go to demanding and highly selective schools. Often, for very little money and for easing the child into the college environment, two years at a local government-subsidized school can give the child time to prepare for transfer to a more strenuous program at a four year college. The curricula and instructors are often top notch at these local places.
In the course of discussing the strengths and weaknesses of College of the Canyons, this man told me that his daughter, now 18, was adopted from Romania. He seemed weary when discussing the process and the problems that unfolded as she grew up with his biological son. It was clear that he and his wife loved both their children and took pride in the accomplishments of their son who is attending college in another state. But it was also apparent from what he told me that they had no idea what they were getting into when they adopted their daughter, whom they do love equally. She does not return the affection they have lavished on her and may be autistic in addition to having other syndromes. It was sad and I was at a loss to give him any advice but, keep on doing what you think is best, showing patience and care.
He rightly fears that she will not be able to live independently, on her own. I thought about the fact that people take on both adoption and bearing their own children, without full understanding all its ramifications, both the good and perhaps the less than optimal.
Several literally painful stories over the past month about abusive and criminal parenting have prompted me to talk about this subject again. Among the extremely upsetting trends in the news lately is that there is a whole forum for people who want to get rid of their children by letting them perish in hot cars. This is what likely happened in the Casey Anthony event and again last week with a little boy in Georgia. Both his parents, if convicted, would face the death penalty. Some people have no right to have children in their care.
For hundreds, no, thousands of years, people have thought little of the importance of this role, as it has been just a matter of course that we grow up, marry and have children. What’s all the fuss? From a societal as well as personal point of view, it is the most important and difficult role anyone will ever take on.
Apparently it is also a Supremely significant issue. Just a few weeks ago the SCOTUS decided that contraception is a controversial practice that must be taken out of the hands of individuals, particularly those who are among the working poor, and be decided for the American public by four obviously partisan and un-justice-like aging men, for millions of American women.
What is being encouraged is supremely irresponsible. While I agree that actual abortion, that is, the deliberate termination of a fertilized egg — at any stage — is homicide (and I am not the one to tell any of you whether this homicide is murder, manslaughter or simply a medical procedure), contraception in all but a very few cases is simply the preventing of an unwanted pregnancy achieved by blocking an egg from dropping into the uterus.
Why would anyone in their right mind force a pregnancy on someone who doesn’t want or can’t have it? Imagine the life of an infant and child with a parent or parents who never sought or were unable to handle that responsibility. What kind of life do they have? What are the ramifications for their own adulthood and parenting roles, when raised in an atmosphere underlain by initial rejection. I can tell you anecdotally that my father’s mother told him she didn’t want most of her seven children. She felt it was her duty but had no life of her own. What can the effect of hearing that have been on my dad and his siblings?
Human beings are not animals and should not be governed by mere instinct. We have the ability to reason, be aware, and make informed decisions, using our full intellectual tool kit. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no excuse for getting pregnant and having a baby you don’t want — unless and perhaps even when you have been raped. Even then, considering the inadvertent second victim, the baby, is something that should be done deliberatively and then legislatively to protect and act fairly, if not wisely, on behalf of all parties involved. Having this philosophy would go a long way to minimizing the number of unwanted pregnancies carried to term. That was probably the initial intention of Roe vs Wade.
The information and ideas I am sharing here are not meant to be exhaustive or absolute. They are based on my training, experience, and analysis, founded as well on solid, empirical scientific research, experimental, observational and longitudinal studies included.
What is a child by definition?
Any human being from birth to their 18th birthday. Children become peri-adults at 18. Until then, they are children. They are to be treated as such, with respect at each moment, by every caregiver. They are not your ‘friends’, they are your ‘charges’ or offspring and need you to be the adult and their caring authority figure. Their peers can be their friends. And, while I am at it, be careful when any adult other than Mom and Dad, relations or not, makes overtures to them. Child molesters with emotional problems do not wear a sign and come in every form.
Who should and shouldn’t have kids?
In my opinion, and based on my training and a great deal of experience and analysis, the only people who should have children are those who spent some time looking into child development, have the financial means to give them decent food and shelter, and can arrange proper, adult, loving care for them for the entire period of zero to 18 years of age. That means, you must study the matter to know what is involved in every area of life from nutrition, to time requirements, to mental/emotional/and physical developmental health, to education requirements, to fostering productive citizenship in an increasingly crowded, complex and demanding internationally interdependent world.
That is a huge aspect of successful parenting and pitifully few people consider, much less plan for these factors. Yes, you should read, take courses — a lot of this is available online. The minute you start thinking of adult life, that is when you should start putting together a file and building your arsenal of knowledge. The time to think about this is not just when you meet someone attractive and decide you also want to have kids.
You should also take active steps to know yourself, who you are, what are your strengths and weaknesses and what having a person who is almost totally dependent upon you for 18 years will do to your ability to function and cope with life’s stresses.
If you involve another person in rearing that child — as I recommend you do, single parenthood is very hard, especially on the child, but also on the parent — you need to do extensive soul-searching with that person first, before you bring a child into your relationship. And, it goes without saying that people who have children together, whether biological or otherwise, and then divorce or separate are doing irreparable harm to that child. If you can’t commit to the duration, don’t embark on the project. Both of you. You must put yourselves second to the well-being of that child.
Am I advocating abstinence? Maybe. At the very least, self-control and two forms of birth control to guard against inadvertent pregnancy. If you are adopting — perhaps the long and complicated adoption process will help you avoid making a hasty and disastrous mistake.
When should you have them?
My recommendation is that you wait until you have a partner of some sort that will help you raise that child. The science tells us that you don’t need that partner to be a man, a woman, a husband, a boyfriend or girlfriend. It should only be another adult who makes an 18 year commitment to help you raise that child. That person would also commit to learning everything you needed to learn, per the subtopic above.
What is the right age? Well, naturally that will differ from person to person, but I would recommend waiting until after the age of 25 and not having children, whether you are male or female, after the age of 45. There is a lot of research indicating that those twenty years are the best for predicting a successful outcome for all involved, including a stable home environment with ideally two or more loving adults providing complete nurture, shelter and care for the duration. Men having children later in life raise the risk of genetic anomalies. It is now being realized that it is more the older male contribution to these abnormalities or aberrations than female.
How much space between them
The research is very clear: 3 years or more. It doesn’t matter how many more, as long as it is no fewer than 3 years. When you have them closer together than that, everyone in the house suffers, especially the older child. There is a great deal of reliable scientific evidence to support this critical number, and that evidence has been available for the past 40 or so years.
When do you consider day care?
We live in a time when at least one or more household adults must have a steady income in order to meet the minimum cost of living requirements in North America. You need to plan for how you are going to care for that child, from 0 to 18, starting before the baby is a certainty.
In my opinion, if you are the right candidate to raise a reasonably happy and healthy child to maturity, and can keep yourself and your partner happy and healthy for 18 years doing so, you need to adjust your lifestyle so that baby and child get everything they need, at a minimum, for the 18 years. That may mean doing without a fancy house, two cars, five computers and a big screen TV. Or dinners out, Starbucks, and vacations. You have to decide if you can give that up for 18 years. If you cannot, or if it will make you and others miserable and recriminating, or put much stress on the household logistics and resources, you shouldn’t be a parent. Don’t be one, until you can afford it. It is unfair to everyone to do otherwise.
You may have to find paid daycare and those costs are steep, running somewhere around $1200 per child per month in some cities. There is a lot of research involved in identifying the right, safe place for newborns who must be cared for by others until they are of school age, so that time has to be spent early on. In some cases, you need to put a child’s name on the waiting list even before s/he is born. In my opinion, putting a child under the age of 12 months in daycare is risky and undesirable, even though it may be necessary in today’s economy.
What are the most critical times in a child’s development?
The first period, of course, is pre-natal, before birth. A woman needs to learn the dos and don’t of a healthy, optimum pregnancy. The birthing experience is extremely critical, so bringing a fetus to term and having as little peri-natal trauma is also key to the child’s success.
The first three years are vital. During that time the child should have a constant, close physical relationship with his or her birth mother or primary adoptive parent. S/he should be nursed for no less than 12 months and ideally longer, when possible. The child will signal when the time comes to wean herself. Careful attention should be paid to the next beverage administered, as formula and cows-milk based ‘drinks’ are not a proper substitute for human breast milk. In fact, cow’s milk is not a drink at all, it is a food and is meant for, naturally, baby cows. Think about it.
Diet and regular visits to a carefully screened and selected pediatrician are vital. Pediatricians (as all physicians you use) should be diplomates. Diplomates have to pass rigorous testing every year to keep their status and certification. A little extra research can lead you to an excellent physician. Not all physicians are good doctors. You want one with great training, some experience, diplomate status, Board certification, and a nature that lends itself to being a healer. I could write a book on just this last point alone. Not all doctors are natural healers. Find one that is for your precious baby and child and ask questions all the time, don’t assume they have all the right answers on every subject. Physicians in this country typically know very little about nutrition, for example.
The first seven years are also important. At 7, the child’s intellect and ego are largely formed and set. This is the ideal time to encourage mental exercises, including reading and other academic pursuits. I know this sounds late, but, a destructive trend is pushing this kind of activity on babies and toddlers prematurely. I am totally against introducing computers before the age of 5, and if I had my way, based on science, I would hold off until 7 or older at the earliest. This is for all kinds of reasons too numerous to discuss here, but could be the subject of a future post. Teachers for this age group should be older and more “parent-like”, more nurturing.
Between the ages of 8 and 12, another critical developmental stage is taking place, that of the development of gender identity and sexual maturation. Disturbances to this process at this time will handicap the child in these areas for life. Again, an enormous topic for future discussion.
Between 12 and 18, if not earlier, an adolescent is developing independence from parents and far more interaction and psycho-social interest and dependency on the peer group. The teachers for this age group should be young, as teenagers will relate to non-parental seeming figures best while they undergo the complex hormonal and social changes that come with physical development during these years.
What are the most critical needs of a baby and child?
The most important thing a parent or caregiver can provide is unconditional love. That first caregiver is the biological mother ideally, but any consistent, loving adult can take that role and in many cultures it is occupied by a grandmother, aunt or even uncle. After that, proper nutrition and a stable home environment with sufficient, regular, personal attention. Therefore, spacing between children is critical so you can give each child the undivided attention they need, during the first three years (above all, but not limited to).
Stimulative, age-appropriate, non-toxic toys that you either make or buy are naturally important as well. Personally, I would stick to toys made of natural wood, rubber, cotton, etc. and stay away from plastics and metals — especially those that come from areas of the world where the toxic content is not regulated.
Age appropriate books can be introduced immediately after birth. For the youngest child, these will be teething-resistant, with simple, large, objects in stark contrast colors (make sure some bold black and white pictures are among them). It is easy to get the right books as most stores and online sites suggest the age group for which the book is intended, and much of this is common sense.
Little children do not need playmates, they need loving adults. They do not need and should not be exposed to television or computer or electronics screens. They are usually not ready for arts and crafts or crayons until the latter part of that three to four year period, and I would start with naturally dyed flat, large, beeswax crayons in primary colors, because even up to 5 years of age, lots of materials go straight into the mouth. A typical assortment in the right size for their motor abilities would be red, blue, yellow, green, purple and orange.
Let me say something else that I think is very important for a prospective parent to know and subscribe to. Children should not be exposed or introduced to the “harsh” realities of life before the appropriate age. My recommendation is that disturbing content (and we can discuss what I mean by that, but, it is like many things, when you see it, you will know it) be held back, to the extent practicable, until the age of 12 or 13. Adults mistakenly think that you need to tell children the bald and ugly truths about the world around them. No, you don’t.
They will or may encounter death, injury, sickness, and, sadly, predators. There are dozens of resources telling parents how to prepare a child for these realities in the proper way for their age and developmental stage. And when it is done, it should be done verbally, with the parent sitting close to and holding the child and explaining it. No pictures, no taking them somewhere to see it in person. No graphic depictions of violence and sexual activities. Let the child hear the information or read it (an older child) in an age appropriate book, meant for them, not adults and filter that information through their own internal vision or imagery. Graphic pictures or illustrations or worse, films and videos, bypass a child’s natural defensive and protective filters and go straight into their psyches. This is very destructive and the damage can be forever. You cannot unring that bell.
Children also need boundaries, fair, firm, affectionately dictated rules and a consistent, patient, loving approach to enforcing them. One of the worst kinds of parenting is the “hands off” approach, letting children run their own show. If you think that is rare, think again. It is much easier to leave a child to its own devices than to get involved in every aspect of raising them, from overseeing homework, to teaching them skills, to chaperoning play dates and other events. The boundaries must be reasonable, flexible to a point and then inviolate. A child will understand and appreciate the stability and security that structure provides.
At no time should any child be disciplined corporally. I had a client once who asked me what to do about his child who was hitting other children with his toys. I asked the father to describe the incidents and how he handled it. He told me he took off his belt and spanked the little boy. He did not see that his child’s behavior was a direct outgrowth of his own. Never under any circumstance strike a child. Not even a slap. That is a failed practice and terrible parenting.
So, what to do, to put this important “project” on the right track from the very start?
Know yourself, your circumstances, your partner, if any. This is not something to gamble with. I know there are many good parents who had no idea what was involved until they had kids and found a way to make it work. There are just as many who get in over their heads and everyone, especially the child, suffers as a result. The information is out there. Find out who you are and are not and make sure you can do this for the duration.
Make a checklist and a plan and review it every year or more often, and adjust it.
If you have biological time, wait as long as you can and get ready so you can devote yourself to the newcomer, having already put yourself in a stable situation.
Join a group, one that includes study and discussion, preferably, that focuses on parenting. Learn all about pregnancy and especially about the three months postpartum. You may need support to get through this difficult time, if you don’t have your own parents or helpers nearby to assist you. Those are the most stressful from a parent/caregiver point of view. If you are prepared for what is coming, even partially, it will make the many sleepless and doubtful moments bearable and the joyous ones even more vivid.
If you have never had the responsibility for caring for or being around babies and children, then I would arrange to spend time, if possible, with children of various ages. If you enjoy doing that with other people’s kids, you are far more likely to appreciate and enjoy being a good parent.
Images: bigstock, dailymail.uk
I just had to reblog this fun post from my friend at An Upturned Soul. It analyzed my blog and said the following:
ESFP – The Performers
The author of http://byrnesbeth.wordpress.com/ is of the type ESFP.
The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft beautiful textiles, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead – they are always in risk of exhausting themselves. ESFPs love being around people and having new experiences. Living in the here-and-now, they often do not think about long term effects or the consequences of their actions.
ESFPs live in the moment, experiencing life to the fullest. They enjoy people, as well as material comforts. Rarely allowing conventions to interfere with their lives, they find creative ways to meet human needs. Active types, they find pleasure in new experiences.
They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation – qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions. ESFPs are excellent team players, focused on completing the task at hand with maximum fun and minimum discord.
Common satisfying careers: Artist, Performer, Actors, Teacher, Social Worker, Nurse, Event Coordinator, Chef, Fashion Designer, Jeweler, Retail Manager, Recreation Worker and Interior decorator.
Notable ESFJs: John. F. Kennedy, Richard Branson, Hugh Hefner, Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coelho, Quentin Tarantino, Mel Gibson, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Megan Fox, Jamie Oliver, Robbie Williams, Dan Brown and Chewbacca.
Originally posted on An Upturned Soul:
My post yesterday was rather serious, as I was in a deeply contemplative mood.
As is often the case when I feel myself diving too deeply into the inner ocean, especially the dark parts of it, which is necessary and rewarding, but I don’t want to drown or lose my sense of perspective, I tend to find ways to balance things out and create a bit of lighthearted buoyancy.
While browsing the wondrous riches of the WordPress community, I came across a blog which shares links to this, that and all sorts.
I had been searching for posts related to my MBTI – INTP – and getting rather cross (in a superficial manner) that so many of the results were for INTJ’s. I have nothing against that type at all – I suppose if I tried I could find something which annoys me about them, but since I’m a ‘P’…
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This month my blog turns one year old. Here’s to you my wonderful WordPress friends. As I write this on the 4th of July, appropriately (Happy Birthday, USA), I want you to know that I appreciate your having indulged me and my screeds for the past year and if I have stepped on any toes, it was truly just stupidity, not malice.
[This is also the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. So, while I am at it, let me give a shout-out to President Johnson for his courage and historic achievement.]
Shall we tidy up some loose ends from Year One?
Starting this blog
Geoffrey made an error in judgment over two decades ago when he first told his family about me. He described me with such superlatives, it seems, that it immediately perked up my FIL and ticked off everyone else simultaneously. And set me up for all kinds of trouble. Ever since that time, I have tried to downplay any attribute that is mine by sheer luck.
First of all, all of us think we are special. If anyone else lays claim to it, our hackles are raised immediately. So, you may understand one reason why I avoid as best I can the personal vanity aspect of this blog.
I have said it many times before. I want to be free to say whatever I want, without fear that I am dragging other family members or friends into the spotlight against their will. I also don’t want to provoke those people whose hobby it is to gossip, pass judgment and engage in ad feminemania. If that is what I wanted, and to promote myself, I would use Facebook. In fact, I recently took down my old FB page and put up the bland, generic, self-focused version that everyone else has, except I posted only one picture and a blah description of myself so that I blend in harmlessly there.
This site, which seems to attract artists, thinkers and writers for the most part, is different and that is why I chose this place to put my ideas forward. Here I interact with sympathetic souls and like minds, even when we strongly disagree on issues I truly care about. We have a similar diplomatic approach to inquiry, friendly disagreement and collegial conduct.
Freedom is key
Rudolf Steiner said once that the purpose of the right kind of education is to create free individuals. I couldn’t agree more. If we are free, we are more likely to be happy. That is what the 18th century revolutions were all about. Allowing us to think and develop as individuals. And, liberty is not license, it comes with restrictions so we can all live together in an orderly way.
Tangentially (it’s a holiday, I may ramble), I decided that the single most important characteristic or feature that distinguishes conservative philosophy from progressive is that advocates of the former want some people to be happy and those of the latter want everyone to be happy, and are willing to sacrifice some personal gain to make that possible. The former is a conserved, hold-over from our hunter/gatherer, survival of the fittest days, the latter representative of a later stage in our history, complex and messy and ultimately more civilized.
The ultimate extreme expression of hunter/gather society (an anachronism now almost everywhere on this globe, with the exception of the Amazon and maybe the area with Inuit and Sami People around the north pole) is libertarianism, about which I commented in a post last year. The opposing extreme at this point in our evolution — and some day we will develop a more advanced ideal, with our progress as humanity on an over-populated planet, would be a Utopian cooperative, simply not possible at our current state of still primitive interaction and unconsciousness.
My final word on this for now, a propos of the day we are celebrating here in the lower 50 today, is that freedom is a state of mind (think of what Saints Paul and Theresa wrote about) and in a small and completely interdependent modern society, that is the only meaning of liberty possible. All else is theoretical and illusory.
Creating a blind
A number of people have asked me to share more personal pictures and that I am unlikely to do. For one thing, we have family members constantly looking to discover “secrets”, perhaps because they have little else to do. Not every person who blogs has to concern themselves with privacy; some people apparently do not get interference or blow-back from friends and relatives when they have strong or controversial opinions, so they can be completely open about who they are. To give myself this space and permission to freely share my thoughts, I use my maiden name. And, I try to moderate my feelings, so I don’t blurt out whatever pops into my head, seeking to balance passion with discretion. I enjoy being female, it is just one feature of myself but one that I truly love and appreciate, while not hiding behind or exploiting it. I won’t post lots of pictures of myself here.
For another, this place, despite its name, is not all about me. No one needs me in their face all the time, in order to digest my ideas and react to them. This is a behavioral science forum of sorts, it is about everyone, because I am just as interested in you as I am in myself.
Perils of vanity
Melissa Harris Perry had an interesting guest on her program last week. Apparently there is a huge movement to quash the habit some men have of making lascivious public comments to and about women they don’t know . Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, an artist, started a movement to educate people, male and female alike, that this is unwelcome and aggressive. We can debate that some time as I can already hear the reaction of many people to this notion. The reason is, we have all become so used to it, we take it for granted that it is complimentary. It isn’t.
When I was at a notorious fraternity weekend during college, with a boyfriend I was wild about, I had a rare moment of inebriation. For those of you who know me, I am a teetolaler when it comes to liquor. No one in my family ever had an alcohol problem and I certainly didn’t — I don’t like how it tastes at all and I hate the way it saps energy. My reason for not drinking save maybe three times in my life, is more that it is toxic for the brain. As someone who has studied the human body in depth, I am quite aware of the pernicious effects of toxins like alcohol (and forgive me, there is a whole art to collecting and savoring fine wines, and I will leave that and beer out, although I don’t drink either of them).
But I was 18, having a great time, attending a really cool school that was known both for its brainiacs and cut-loose weekends, so, clad in an appropriately minimalist outfit, I tossed back a few Black Russians that were scooped out of a huge tub at some down-at-the-heels resort on Cape Cod. Within minutes I was seeing stars, naturally, and the net effect of this experiment on my reed thin frame was to unleash my tongue. One of the hippest guys in the fraternity came up to me and apparently (I was told this, I have no memory of it whatsoever) poked me at the collar bone, to get my attention. The deadly serious, acidly delivered soliloquy that followed is apparently etched in University lore to this day. Even then I had no truck with someone presuming I could be gratuitously manhandled. :-D
Coincidentally, one of the blogs I follow and follows me, posted on this from a more contemplative point of view that I do appreciate. It shows that not every member of the male half of this planet is oblivious to the effect that this kind of treatment can engender, not just in the do-ee but in the do-er. Not to get ugly here, porn has that same impact — it is just plain destructive, full stop.
Americans do not need me to tell them that a controversy has erupted here about a “war on women”. Some may say this is a ‘feminist’ myth. I am no feminist and never was, but there is something strange happening here that I would love you to explain to me in any other terms. We need an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, to enable any woman to get the health care she needs, if we value women as hard working, mothers and wives, sisters and daughters. That health care includes contraception, so a woman is not chained to her stove, and men need not be saddled with the sole responsibility for bringing home the tofu burgers.
Blogging serves many purposes
I want this blog to be about provocative ideas. I hope it is also a place where people can gather and discuss and even argue in a civilized manner about myriad challenges and issues we grapple with today. An upcoming post of mine will consider the social/behavioral scientist’s viewpoint on the debacle occurring right now in the Middle East. This is one place where I work out my reactions to what is going on around me, to check my ideas with you and to attempt to understand human beings.
In fact, the smartest thing I could have done, would have been to create a completely neutral presence here that would obviate the need to do anything more than just spin my ideas out into the blogosphere and see where they fell. I do want to do exactly that, still.
Another aim of mine is to have you tell me what you honestly think on all these topics. I try not to present ideas on topics about which I know nothing. None of us can be experts on every issue. But, I do analyze my favorite topics continually and encourage everyone who stops here to challenge them in a non-personal way. If we have done our homework, we don’t need to attack one another. I do not believe in “winning/losing” as a zero-sum activity.
All that said, I don’t want to babble on and am probably repeating myself. You should by now have a fairly accurate picture of who I am through the 140 posts to date and a handful of pictures sprinkled throughout that I have tried to choose from those taken a few years back and not digitized. That will help shield my space from familial trolling.
Kicking off the second year
Yep – FIFA Fever grips our house. ;-)
For the next few weeks, I will be juggling a typical summer schedule. We are in the middle of a renovation of my sitting room. Geoffrey just installed a new computer and printer yesterday and is putting up shelves today. I have yet to learn Windows 8 and so am still working in my other office on my older computer. Then we have to haul all the stuff that was in that room, save the piano and two chairs, up into the attic (and I am not looking forward to that, since the temperatures are hovering below the century mark this week). This weekend we are putting in a new attic fan, and next up are more ceiling fans. We have central HVAC but, given our small footprint commitment to lower energy usage — not all noble, our SCE bills are insane when we switch on the AC — we are trying to convert to ceiling and floor ventilation and get through one summer without any excess reliance on the grid.
We are also establishing a butterfly refuge garden in our yard. One thing this will do is attract even more bees, butterflies, ladybugs, hummingbirds and dragonflies. It is also eliminating one huge area of lawn. Among the plants we have put in are Citrus and Purple lantana, Milkweed, Butterfly bush, Heatwave hyssop, Star lavender, Winter Bee Spanish and Hazel lavender, and Pineapple sage — with more to be added in the fall. In between the circular beds Geoffrey created are stepping stones made of assorted colored slate and wild strawberry as a ground cover. Good bye grass! It doesn’t belong in high desert anyway. Hello lower water bills. If the HOA complains, I am going to remind them this is a hot, arid climate, getting hotter due to global warming (I am afraid that will fry their brains as our Board is composed of deniers) and California is in a drought emergen-C*.
Finally, we have house guests arriving next weekend, so my posts may be even less polished than normal — bear with me everyone. But, then the troops are leaving for their family vacation, so watch out for more candid remarks than ever!
Hugs to every single one of you – for putting up with me, for hanging in here, for tolerating my run-on, complex, compound phrasing, for sympathizing with me when I needed it.
Oh and I have a new e-mail address that I may be using in the future that was launched with the new electronics yesterday and Windows 8, so look for that soon, those of you with whom I exchange e-mails from time to time. While I am at it, I am having a birthday myself this summer, so let this be a dual Bethany V. Byrnes anniversary. <3
[By the way, it is Semper fidelis or Semper fi ["sem-payr fee", not "f-eye" ] — at least I got one enduring benefit from four years of Latin!]
*Century mark – almost every day in August is over 100 degrees here.
(OK, I said the happy little story would be next, but this popped up in the meantime, so … next week?)
Images: wikimediacommons.org, boston.com
The happy little story I already wrote will just have to wait until next week. Tonight, I need to get this one out of my head! I am leap-frogging here and the sole utility of this post may be for pouring out my feelings to you, my proxy confessors.
Among the many subjects and activities I am juggling — this is the most recent matter weighing on my mind. Usually, I try to tie whatever is going on for me, with the ‘bigger picture’, important issues in the public mind at any particular juncture. We will see if I can pull this off, this time. Unlikely.
My mother and father both have lots of relatives. I am closest to Annabelle’s family — her mom, her mom’s mom, and Annabelle, of course. They are all on my mother’s side. My dad’s family are more problematic. And right now, some of them are showing their true colors. It is funny what happens to people when material possessions come into play.
One of those relatives is a particular aunt on my dad’s side with whom I have always been especially close. We are very similar in many ways, I even look a lot like her. We are both progressives, believe in staying fit, love science, learning, traveling and being analytical. I think we are also both warm and generous.
So far, so great. For the past however many years, Aunt Kate and I have kept up regular weekly contact by phone and snail-mail. She is one of those people who refuses to use e-mail. And since I moved to California, I only get to see her every few years.
Aunt Kate has a little money. She accumulated it on her own over her career. Married, she had no kids, but was a dedicated professional with an executive position that enabled her to achieve prominence in her field and travel too, get a beautiful penthouse coop apartment and live the good life.
Over the years, I visited her and my uncle, Preston, her husband, regularly with my mother. There was just one little wrinkle for the rest of my father’s family (to whom Kate is directly related) and that is, she married a man “of color’. Uncle Press’s family is Creole from Louisiana originally and he grew up in Chicago. Now, let me assure you — not that it would matter to me one iota, mind you — but you would have a hard time seeing that Uncle Preston is any different from me or from Kate or my father or mother. This is that detestable “one drop” theory from a different generation, that should be long gone in any civilized country.
Unfortunately for my father’s family, it mattered to some of them. I will charitably say, out of pure ignorance.
My dad, however, does not have that issue with Kate at all. His dispute with her is over which one of the family was to be responsible for hands-on care of the elderly grandparents. I am not going to drag you into those weeds right now. Suffice to say, everyone in his family is fighting with everyone else over different things. No two people agree about what they are angry at each other for, but they do know they are just angry. Big, emotional, Irish family — let’s leave it at that.
Uncle Preston passed away some years ago. It was very hard on my aunt, but she got on with her life eventually and has been living alone, retired, in her place in NY, active as always. She takes classes, has a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, is on the Board of her co-op / see my earlier take on co-ops if you want some relief from this one :-D / is always running out and doing something — lots of fun, lots of opinion (gee, wonder where I get that!), lots of commotion.
Now that Uncle Press is gone, Aunt Kate has been suddenly “blessed” with one particular family’s attentions, the children and grandchildren of her oldest brother, the latter now deceased. While he was alive, not one of his four kids would visit or call or have anything to do with Kate. But, once he was gone, and then his wife passed away, and with Uncle Preston a recent memory, they suddenly realized they had an elderly, childless relative with whom they could now ingratiate themselves, even this late in the game.
They had practice. One of the earlier aunts had also passed away, and had accumulated a nest egg. The second oldest boy in my uncle’s family (hope this isn’t too confusing, but naming everyone will probably make it even more tedious), was named for his father, the eldest in that generation, Aunt Kate’s oldest brother. So, inexplicably, that other aunt, gave all her money to that kid, because he had her older (and revered) brother’s name. Did my cousin think to share the inheritance with anyone else, including his own siblings, knowing that the eccentric aunt had no real reason to leave him that money? Of course not.
Now he and his wife and kids are at it again, with my Aunt Kate.
Lest you think I am angry at him/them over the money, no, not at all. It isn’t the inheritance that bothers me in any way. It is the way they are insinuating themselves into her life at the last minute. It is really about the arrogance, selfishness, opportunism, manipulation, hypocrisy and obvious bigotry. Where was he when my Aunt and Uncle Press were married and living within shouting distance, from Brooklyn to Manhattan? Oh, right, his prejudice-ridden parents were still alive and he wouldn’t dare cross them. Again, descendants of the Land of Ire. Because of this, I fear Aunt Kate and I drifting apart, little by little and, marooned out here by myself, I don’t want to lose her as one of my closest family members.
One of the things Geoffrey and I have taken care of for this family is making sure that our ancient Grand Uncle is looked after. More than once various members of the family, including and especially Kate, have told me that the things I have arranged for Harry over the past decade really enabled him to thrive, with his wife and kids gone, and them to relax, from their distance. I have been quite willing to do it, even though he has given me a hard time every step of the way. Not one of the other paternal cousins have done more than maybe sending him a card once in awhile for the past few decades (amazingly one of my mother’s cousins — who is not related to Harry, really, Annabelle’s grandmother, has gone out of her way to help us from time to time with his care). Uncle Harry has no money, so you can draw whatever conclusions you like from that.
Interestingly, as I was writing this post, Alternet sent me this revealing article, 7 Weird Things Money Does to Your Brain.
Money is packed with meaning, and it impacts our personalities, our relationships, and how we think. As you might imagine, a lot of stuff is going on in our brains when we think about money, and some of it is surprising. Researchers in the emerging field of neuroeconomics are drawing on psychology, neuroscience, and economics to give us picture of the human brain on money.
Those paternal cousins, on the other hand, have become quite “helpful” to Aunt Kate lately. They are also influencing her more and more, visiting her constantly. One of the things she seems to have gotten into her head lately, is giving away the contents of her beautiful apartment. She had mentioned a couple of years ago that she was giving some very nice kitchen gadgets to one of my second cousins who lives in Brooklyn. I thought nothing of it. Then, I suddenly get a call from my cousin, with his wife on an extension phone, saying, “uh, were you aware that Aunt Kate has given away everything.” Everything? What does that mean? It apparently means the oriental rugs, custom made furniture, the art collections, including the artifacts they collected while traveling, her jewelry and other valuables. I may have mentioned that Uncle Press was a prof/amat photographer who worked as a freelancer (as a hobby on the side; by profession he was a City of NY psychiatric social work supervisor until he retired). He is the one that left me all the film cameras and developing equipment. He was such a wonderful man, from an interesting family — his sister was a judge and a brother, a surgeon. I loved him as much as I love Aunt Kate.
A couple of years ago one of my third cousins was visiting from England. She is about my age. When she saw our great great grandmother’s china in one of my hutches, she opened it up and started snapping pictures for her family on her iPhone. Then she announced, that it was ‘OK for me to hold them for awhile’! What?? They have been in my mother’s immediate line for the past 150 years. Literally, my mother’s great grandmother brought them over to Massachusetts from England. She had been the only girl, and so has everyone through my mother’s side, down to me. What nerve. Hey, in this country possession (150 years worth) is 9/10ths of the law.
Back to Aunt Kate and the current situation with my dad’s family. These cousins and their spouses and kids are now systematically emptying her apartment. Aunt Kate spent two years working in Iran, on the invitation of the Shah, due to her expertise as a leading audiologist, teaching hearing specialists how to administer remediation programs for people with severe hearing loss. She and Uncle Press lived on the palace grounds for that time. So, she brought back a number of beautiful things, including Persian rugs. There was one in particular that I had once admired and she told me I would have it one day. I kept that in the back of my mind where it belonged because I didn’t want to even think about Aunt Kate being gone, for a long, long time. Last week, two of the cousins in question called me separately under the guise of talking about Uncle Harry. Both phone calls were suspicious as these people never contact me unless they want something — information usually. I am so gullible, that I always treat it innocently and spill whatever they want.
This time, they both separately casually mentioned, ‘Oh, by the way, we were at Kate’s and she gave Fen the Omar Kayam rug. We insisted that was to be saved for Beth, reminding Kate of her putting that aside for you. Did you want it? She said you weren’t interested, but, of course, if you really, really need it …’. Long story short, it’s gone.
Now, what was I supposed to do? Say, ‘Yes. I am waiting for Aunt Kate to die so I can put my grubby hands on it’?
I tried calling and speaking to Aunt Kate, delicately raising the topic of that rug in as careful a manner as I could. Yeah, sure, I would like that old Persian carpet, but, I already have oriental rugs that I have collected. I don’t need that particular little one. I want it. Not because it is a Persian rug, but because it is a memento of Press and Kate and my childhood memories of happy times with them. No one seems to understand that. They are so filled with greed and the prospect of more freebies, that all they can think of is who is going to outsmart the next person and walk away with booty. Sure I value the English china, it’s beautiful, yes, but it means something to me because of all the ladies who owned it before me, and the good fortune I had that I am its latest steward.
I tried to explain this to Aunt Kate, but, too late — she was having none of it and became quite irate (there’s that ‘ire’ again). She is already showing the same signs that my MIL showed as her early dementia set in. Kate calls Geoffrey “Robert”, one paternal cousin’s husband’s name. She refers to Annabelle as “Jennifer” — another cousin’s kid. She thinks things happened this year that happened a decade ago. I cannot believe two relatively young women in my circle have dementia. Is it in the dairy? These events and Aunt Kate’s deteriorating mental condition are a perfect recipe for elder abuse and that shifts this problem to a new and very worrying level.
Kate testily spat out that ‘I hadn’t outright asked for the rug this year’, so she assumed I didn’t want it, and gave it to someone who would ‘appreciate’ it. When I tried to tell her that of course I appreciate it and that I feel left out and helpless, from so far away, her response was: if you want to feel close to me, sell your house and move back to NY to take care of me. Holy Abe Beam!
While I am at it, let me just share that, when Geoff and I were first married and had our co-op in NY, I invited these cousins over for lunch when they had come into Manhattan. Some of them live in Westchester, the others out on Long Island and Brooklyn. They were in Manhattan Christmas shopping and I suggested we all have lunch at our place together. Now, I had inherited some very nice antique furniture, and between the things that we had bought with wedding money, some that Emily and David Sr. gave us from one of their Manhattan apartments when they moved uptown, and some furniture my mother and grandmother gave us, we had a modest-size but nicely decorated place. It was immediately obvious that I had made a mistake inviting them to our apartment and that my cousins were totally intimidated. I am the youngest of the group and they had not expected what they perceived to be my living better than they did, as if I had invited them there to show off — something that had never occurred to me and I would never do. We were all uncomfortable no matter how I tried to put them at ease. The same oriental rugs I have now, were in that apartment (I’ve gotten one or two more since then). They should have known I appreciated those things, that I was treasuring the hand me downs because they had belonged to cherished family members and that I took good care of everything I had and have.
Maybe shock and jealousy set in thereafter (they never came again and I never got another invitation to visit any of them), ending the friendship I had with that branch of the family. They also, just once, visited us at Emily/David’s townhouse on Sutton Place when Geoff and I were apartment sitting while the plumbing was updated, and that place was a palace compared to what G and I had — maybe they just assumed that the two of us didn’t need anything from anyone else. Boy, were they wrong. Seven kids, and Geoff will be the last to get a dime.
So now, the curtain has been wrenched back, everyone’s fangs are bared, we are all coming down to the wire and things are getting nasty. All of us are upset. Kate is outright defensive in her bewilderment. She screwed up and won’t acknowledge it. The cousins are clueless as to how transparent they are being, but paranoid that lucky rich-kid (hah!) Beth will somehow snatch long-distance victory from the greedy jaws of proximity, and I am genuinely hurt. Kate’s reasoning and memory are virtually gone, just like Emily’s — can you believe the timing, considering last week’s post?
Oh, and because I am truly in a foul mood about this, it didn’t help to see the Tea Party’s crazy antics this past week, distancing themselves from the Republican party, threatening to form a third one (please, make my day!); Boehn-head suing Obama for trying to overcome the Right’s blocking him at every turn and actually govern; Ted Cruz (who asked him?) and Sarah Palin weighing in (how can anyone listen to anything that stupid woman says?) and screaming impeachment; McDaniels pettily refusing to concede the Senate seat that Thad Cochran has held for years and years, talk about nastiness. The traditional Republicans are loathe to own these nuts, and are running away from them, fast. My father’s family (old guard Republicans all, except for dear Aunt Kate, of course), like this whole country now, is straight out of Alice Through the Looking Glass. The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
I am well aware of my own ambivalence on this entire subject of Aunt Kate. In many ways, the Omar Kayam prayer rug is a symbol of Kate, but more than that, my links with the past, a younger, more care-free Beth, my heritage, family, traditions. The comfort of being surrounded by the familar as well as familial, living in hostile territory out here in the Wild West. Jung would have a field day with this one small rug!
What’s worse, I cannot think of even one single thing I can do about it. :-(
Images: amazon.com, rogerebert.com, villains.wikia.com, washingtonpost.com, thenewroalddahl.com,scenicreflections.com