Category Archives: perspective

Truth Sayers

I actually started crying during a work-related meeting last week.

Thankfully, I was with a group of women who understood my melt down.

An employee with a local domestic violence program was sharing how her agency has been dealing with the local fall out from accusations against now U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

They’ve experienced a significant increase in the number of calls from women who needed to talk about incidences they’d kept quiet for decades]. Their efforts to convince Senator Joe Manchin to consider how his confirmation vote would impact rape and domestic violence survivors had been frustrating. And then there was her story about the teenage girl who had called insisting that she had to meet with a counselor immediately.

The girl said she had been sexually assaulted by a boy at her high school, but her parents wouldn’t believe her. At least she was convinced they wouldn’t believe her.

They had, after all, spent the past few days calling Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, a liar. And they had insinuated that a teenage girl should have known better to go to a party where there was drinking.

The girl pleaded for a counselor to listen to her story then speak to her parents. She believed they were more likely to listen to a professional than they were to her own daughter.

Listening to that story is what made me cry.

Only days earlier, a childhood friend had shared via social media her story of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather.

And I hadn’t known.

I had spent countless nights at her house and gone on trips with her family. I had coveted her canopy bed, her horses, her boat and her ability to fit in with the popular kids.

And the whole time I’d been comparing her seemingly cool life to mine, she had found safety and reprieve in my childhood home.

Only decades later would I discover the vast chasm between the reality of her life and the one she presented to the rest of the world.

Which is actually true for most people.

We can never know the full truth about someone else’s life but only what they choose share.

But we should all feel safe sharing our own truth without being shamed or blamed or dismissed when our reality doesn’t match what other people want to hear.

So here’s to the truth sayers, the people who believe them and the people who won’t tolerate those who want to silence them.

You are my tribe.

Millions of Angry Women

Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images

I’ve always had an issue with anger.

When I was a little girl, my parents would apologize to other adults by noting that “Trina has a temper. We are doing our best to teach her to control it.”

And so they did.

Sort of.

Because there are times when, no matter how I try, there’s a fire that bubbles up in my chest, rises into my throat and then unleashes itself in a fierce flame of words with the sole purpose of scorching those who aren’t in my alliance.

Now is one of those times. Only instead of the words coming out of my mouth, they are screaming out through my fingers on a keyboard.

I am so very, very angry about what happened in our Nation’s Capital on Thursday.

Like many women, I’m angry that, once again, privileged white men have more power than most people can even imagine.

Not only that, but they are ignoring and dismissing the perspective and emotions that I and thousands of other women like me are processing as a result of what we’ve endured at the hands of men just like them.

But, after witnessing Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony and outrage, the anger bubbling up in my chest can no longer be contained.

I’m not simply bothered by the accusations of Kavanaugh’s behavior in high school.

I am also outraged  that Kavanaugh’s words and demeanor demonstrate that he believes he’s entitled to be on the Supreme Court. A man representing a party that rails against entitlements believes he’s entitled. And he thinks the accusations against him are a personal tragedy.

He has no concept what real tragedy is.

And that’s why he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justices rarely make decisions that impact people who attended private schools and Yale University or who grew up in big houses in the suburbs. Instead, they make decisions that impact people whose only  true entitlement has been a public education in schools with limited resources.

The power of the Supreme Court lies in it its impact on people with no power:  poor people,  minorities. the poorly educated, immigrants, criminals, and women.

But not this angry woman.

This angry woman is willing to demonstrate what true power looks like.

But I can only do that if other angry women join forces with me.

Tuesday, November 6, is a perfect opportunity to do just that.

 

The Bug In My Eye and the Bug In the White House


There’s a reason people with good sense wear glasses when they ride their bikes. It prevents bugs from flying into their eyes.

Apparently, I don’t have good sense. Or at least I don’t have enough good sense.

Because I wasn’t wearing any  protective eyewear when I was out bicycling last week.

I was heading down a steep hill and into a blind curve when a gnat flew into my eye.

There was nothing I could do about it. Stopping on the narrow road with no shoulder would have been more dangerous than allowing the gnat to stay.

So I continued pedaling and focused my mind on other things. By the time I got home, I had almost forgotten about the gnat in my eye. Almost.

But that night, when I was taking my contact lens out of my red and puffy eye, the little bug made his reappearance – both literally and figuratively.

When I finally threw him away in the toilet, I realized how lucky I was.  Ignoring the irritation would never have made the problem go away. It would only have caused more harm.

My short-lived relationship with the gnat resembles my too-long relationship with the guy in the Oval Office.

They both arrived in my life unexpectedly and in the most unwanted manner.

My problems with then could easily have been avoided if  I, or others, had actually understood the danger they posed and acted appropriately to mitigate the potential disaster.

And even though ignoring them felt like the only way to keep my sanity, that’s never been an option.

Last Sunday, an old friend asked why I hadn’t been writing recently, I was honest when I said I’ve been busy and overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities. But that wasn’t the whole truth.

I’ve also been trying to ignore the ongoing barrage of embarrassing and disturbing news coming out of Washington DC.

But I can’t nor should I.

Instead, I’ll do what I can to cope and face the problem while doing my best to address it.

And hopefully, in the near future, the bug in the White House will be flushed out of Washington DC as efficiently as I  flushed the gnat out of my life.

The Turch and Other Mistakes

Neither age nor time has changed my opinion of Mrs. Gladwill.

I will go to my grave believing that my first grade teacher actually took pleasure in torturing little kids.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this: at age six, when I watched the movie The Wizard of Oz for the first time, I was convinced that the Wicked Witch of the West had taken lessons from Mrs. Gladwill.

Horrible memories from first grade still haunt me:

  • Being put in the corner because it was easier to move me rather than the kids around me who were cheating;
  • Wetting my pants because Mrs. Gladwill believed that if you didn’t use lunch or recess to relieve yourself, you didn’t plan appropriately;
  • Going to school with the mumps because I didn’t want my name to be written on the upper right hand corner of the chalkboard for being absent;
  • Getting caught going to school with the mumps, being blamed for infecting most of the kids in my class, and having my name written on the upper right hand corner of the chalkboard anyway.

The list goes on and on. But nothing compares to the horror I felt for making my first mistake on a school assignment.

Up to that point, I though school was too easy. So, when Mrs. Gladwill gave her class a worksheet with rows of pictures and told us to circle everything that began with the letters ch, I scoffed at such a simple task. While my peers studied the worksheet and labored  over the choices, I took more time selecting which crayon to use than I did actually circling the pictures: a chairs, cherries; checkers, a chicken, cheese and a few other items. I raised my hand, turned in my paper and took pleasure in being the first in my class to complete the assignment.

What I never anticipated was getting the paper back the next day with a big red circle around the picture of a church and an even bigger -1 at the top of the page.

I was so astonished, I forgot to be afraid of Mrs. Gladwill. I actually reached out and tugged on her sleeve.

“You made a mistake,” I blurted out in my moment of disbelief,

I immediately regretted my words.

Mrs. Gladwill turned around with a look that said “I never make mistakes.” Her  lack of words, however, gave me the opportunity I needed.

“You circled the turch,” I said. “Turch doesn’t begin with ch, It begins with T.”

For the first time in my life, an adult looked at me as though I was stupid.

“CHurch,” Mrs. Gladwill said emphasizing the ch sound, “begins with ch.”

And that was the end of our discussion. But it wasn’t the end of my disbelief.

I took the offending paper home to show my mother, who, to my amazement, sided with Mrs. Gladwill.

I was stunned. We went to turch almost every Sunday. When I talked about turch, it definitely started with a T.  And that’s how others people said it too. I couldn’t have been saying and hearing it wrong.

And yet, according to my mother and to Mrs Gladwill, I had been.

The day my mother convinced me that turch wasn’t a word was quite possibly the most humbling day of my life. My world was turned upside down because I realized that the way I perceived it wasn’t always accurate. That was the most important lesson I learned in first grade.

It’s also one of which I am regularly reminded.

Just the other day, I discovered that yet another person I knew had died of a drug overdose, and, once again, people took to social media to disparage her. There were comments about how she used the money she got from being on welfare to buy drugs. There were comments about her deserving to die if she did drugs. There were even comments that the world was better off with one less drug user.

And for every one of those comments, someone who knew would point out that she wasn’t on welfare – she had a job. They would point out that she was a kind soul who went out of her way to help others. They would say that she had a family who loved her. That seemed to fall on deaf ears.

The people who were making the negative, hateful comments were doing exactly what I did as a first grader – only instead of insisting that the word church starts with a T, they were insisting that there is only one type of person who dies of a drug overdose. Based on their judgemental comments, the only thing that will change their mind is when someone they know and care about dies of an overdose.

I wouldn’t wish that on anyone – just as I wouldn’t wish any child has a horrible teacher like Mrs. Gladwill. But there is something to be said for negative experiences.  They teach us valuable lessons; they help us develop new skills; they give us a new perspective; and, hopefully, every once in a while, they teach us humility.

Mrs. Gladwill died ten years ago at the age of 94. When my mother sent me her obituary, all those negative feelings from first grade came rushing back. But something else came back as well: a memory of my mother telling me that the smartest people make a lot of mistakes in life. The difference between them and others is that they always learn from them.

Thanks Mom. And (I say this with a great deal of hesitancy) thanks also, Mrs. Gladwill.

Let Go of the Tide Pods and Listen to Our Children

According to a teenager in the know, “Tide Pods are a really old thing. Why are you writing about them?”

My reply? “It might be a really old thing for your generation, but adults won’t let it go.”

The response was a look. Not just a look. It was “the” look. You know the one parents often get for being completely ridiculous, or embarrassing or just plain out of touch with reality.

That look made my point more than any words I can write.

Adults aren’t always right. Many of us  might have war chests of experiences, but that doesn’t mean our perceptions are always right. The number of years we’ve lived doesn’t count for everything and can sometimes get in the way of seeing and hearing the truth.

And the truth is that the majority of teenagers thought that the Tide Pod challenge (which, as a reminder, is to them ancient history) was really stupid. They never tried to eat Tide Pods, and they don’t want to be lumped in with the few highly publicized groups of teens that did.

And yet, some adults are doing just that.

Last weekend, as I and millions of other Americans, cheered for and cried with the youth who led the March for Our Lives against gun violence, some adults were posting rude memes on social media. I saw several versions of them, but the message was basically the same: We shouldn’t listen to our youth because they eat Tide Pods.

And then there were the ones comparing the teens to Hitler Youth.

Those actually made me nauseous.

This effort to discredit our youth was repeated throughout the week in various ways. And it was indecent.

No matter what your opinion about gun safety, ridiculing, belittling and dismissing our youth isn’t just horrible. It’s harmful.

Research shows that youth must feel valued by adults. It is essential to ensuring they grow into healthy and engaged adults. And yet, The Search Institute indicates that only 25% of all youth feel they are valued by their community.

Search Institute Data

I can’t imagine the vitriolic memes and rhetoric are helping.

So just stop.

None of us are going to agree with everything the next generation says and does. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything of value to contribute to the conversation.

After all, they are the ones who know that the Tide Pod Challenge is ancient history. And posting anything otherwise only makes the adults appear to be the ones out of touch with reality.

Forces of Nature

I’ve never been one of those parents who wants to keep their kid home from school whenever possible. I operate on the theory that school is preparing young people for the world of employment, which doesn’t stop every time there is bad weather.

So yesterday, as high school students were already on school buses and a few were even at school when they got the text that our school system had changed its status from two-hour early dismissal to closed for the day, I rolled my eyes.

I had, after all, been closely monitoring the weather situation. I had heard all of the dire predictions that we would get a big snowfall on the first official day of spring. But only 14 hours earlier, I had been out on my bike enjoying spring-like weather. Not only that, but I’d had my eye on the National Weather Service forecast believing that, unlike for-profit weather companies, it would give me accurate information without all the hype.

And, the last time I checked, it was calling for a mix of sleet, snow and rain until 2:00 in the afternoon when the temperatures were supposed to drop below freezing. The sun hadn’t even risen when I took the dog for a walk while our cat trotted behind. That cat hates snow, ice and cold temperatures, so I trusted her more than any weather forecaster.

I shouldn’t have.

As I got ready for work, I put on clothes intended for looking good rather than for battling the elements.

I shouldn’t have.

I left for work after texting a couple of co-workers that the roads were fine and they didn’t have any worries.

I shouldn’t have.

By the time I drove the eight minutes from my house to my office, the temperature had already dropped two degrees. And I had only been in my office for a short time when big, heavy snowflakes began to fall.

By the time I was on a 9:00 conference call, I was watching a truck slip and side in front of the office.

And by the time I got off my conference call, the National Weather Service forecast had changed.

Needless to say, I closed the office, went home, shoveled the driveway and sent a text complaining about the weather to my friend.

But here’s the truth. There’s always something enjoyable about unusual weather. Maybe it’s how it breaks up the predictability of our lives. Maybe it’s because it brings us closer to neighbors, friends, co-workers and even the paper delivery guy as we collectively fight the elements. Or maybe it’s because these moments create memories that last a lifetime.

Yesterday afternoon, I sent a message to a group of college friends telling them about the local weather and reminding them of another freak snow storm.

It was April 1987 at Ohio University, and we were all looking forward to the warm days on South Green where we lived. When the temperatures rose, barely dressed  students would sunbathe on towels while groups of guys played hacky sack nearby.

I had taken all of my winter clothes to my parents during spring break, so I didn’t have a coat, or boots or even any warm sweaters.

Which means,  I wasn’t prepared to walk around campus in 17 inches of snow in tennis shoes:  April 1987 Snowstorm

But I was 20 years old, so I did.  To keep warm, I borrowed  highly stylish 1980’s big, bright sweaters from my roommate Amy, who was from Rochester, New York. She knew spring didn’t necessarily mean it was time to pack away the sweaters.

She also knew where the best parties were. And so a group of us tramped through knee-deep snow to go to a party where, for some reason, we took photos.

Today, those photos hold so many memories. They don’t just represent a snapshot in time during a freak snowstorm. They represent a part of me that used to be… that part that only still exists only because I can share it with the people who were there with me.

Mother Nature may be temperamental, but Father Time is as predictable as he is relentless. His march forward stops for no one. He leaves his footprints on our relationships and our circumstances while etching wrinkles on our faces. But in each of those footprints, he also leaves a memory that can be taken out and enjoyed in any kind of weather.

Life is short. Snowstorms are even shorter. But friendships and memories? With the right people, they can last forever.

Three (Different) Strikes

The man who walked into my office carrying a chainsaw a few weeks ago is now stuck in a jail cell.

In all likelihood, he’ll be behind bars for a very long time, and I don’t think anyone who knows him is surprised. My former client has been struggling to survive since he was released from prison only a couple of years ago. And while he’d most likely been involved in criminal behavior for which he wasn’t caught (the origins of that chainsaw he was selling to raise money to pay his electric bill are highly dubious), his luck ran out this week. He never really had much of a chance anyway. Growing up, he had too many strikes against him.

And if common sense isn’t enough to tell us that the more negative experiences a person has in childhood, the less likely they are to succeed as adults, science has now proven it. But this doesn’t mean we should give up. Research has also shown that positive relationships with caring adults can help mitigate the impact of those negative childhood experiences.

And for many children, those caring adults are teachers. Teachers aren’t just educating the next generation; they are building relationships that could very well save a child who would otherwise end up like my former client –  in a jail cell heading back to prison.

If common sense and logic prevailed, our communities would be doing everything we could to support teachers. We’d recognize that our future depends on them.

And yet, in West Virginia, our teachers – some of the lowest paid in the nation – have been on strike for more than a week. And the issue isn’t just about salaries – it’s about access to affordable health care and basic respect for the profession.

Many lawmakers are their biggest advocates, but others are actually belittling them.

Take, for example, Republican State Senator Craig Blair, who unfortunately and embarrassingly is from my county. During a radio interview, he actually used the fact that teachers are personally ensuring that low-income children still have access to free lunches during the strike as a reason they shouldn’t get raises.

Not only did he fail to acknowledge how incredible these teachers are for giving more than they are required, he flat-out failed the children they are helping. These are children in poverty. These are children who already have several strikes against them. These are children who need caring adults in their lives to counter all of  the negative consequences of poverty. These are children that are caught up in a political battle that could be easily resolved. And these are the children who will soon be adults that either contribute to or become a burden on our communities. It all depends on what we adults choose to do.

I couldn’t save my client who is back behind bars, but I refuse to do nothing for West Virginia’s children and the teachers they need as much as they need sunshine and water to grow.

I’m using this blog and my words to strike back at the lawmakers who aren’t supporting them. And I know a lot of voters who will be striking back at the ballot box in November.

Stay tuned.

What Would Dr. Martin Luther King Do?

On Thursday, the man who currently lives in the White House asked a subsequently well-publicized question about why people from certain poor, non-white countries should be allowed to come to the United States.

The very next day, he said the following as he signed a proclamation marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter the color of our skin, or the place of our birth we are all created equal by God.”

My first reaction was, “That’s our Hypocrite in Chief.”

My second reaction was, “That’s the difference between words that have a direct path from his brain to his mouth and ones that someone else wrote for him to read.”

My third reaction was to wonder how Dr. King would expect us to react. I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been to make excuses for Trump or to accept the horrible things being said about people from other countries.

I was just over a year old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in April 1968, so I have no memories of him. Everything I know is based on what I’ve read or seen on television. I don’t remember ever studying him as part of my public school education, and I was in college by the time a federal holiday was established in his honor.

Maybe the fact that I didn’t get a school-book version of his life is a good thing. I never thought of him as just the guy who gave a bunch of great speeches or even as just a civil rights activist. To me, he was someone who always put people first. And in doing that, he called all of us to think about and respond to the problem of privilege: who has it, who doesn’t, and the role we each play in making or changing that reality.

Being privileged isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generally, most privileged people aren’t responsible for their own circumstances – they have it because of birth, or marriage, or appearance, or the assistance of someone else. It becomes a problem when privileged people believe that being privileged means they are better and more deserving than others.

Which is exactly the problem with Donald Trump. He thinks money and status and appearance are more important than anything, and he thinks if other people don’t have these things – and lots of these things – aren’t as important or valuable as those who do.

In other words, his belief system is the one Martin Luther King Jr. spent most of his life fighting.

Which brings me back to my question about how Dr. King would expect us to react to Trump. And while I can only speculate, I imagine he would ask the following of us:

  • Speak out often and loud against any words that belittle another person or group of people: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends” and “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  • Take action. Write letters. Make phone calls. Talk to your friends. Write a blog.  Whatever you do, don’t ignore what is happening in our country right now. “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • Help someone who isn’t as privileged as you – however you define privilege. Learn about our immigration system and the conditions in some of the countries Trump denounced. Find out how adverse childhood experiences can impact a person’s entire life. Find out the facts about programs that help the poor. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”
  • Don’t waste time worrying about or fighting with people who will always see the world from only one perspective – theirs. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
  • Never, ever give up or lose faith in humanity but don’t expect circumstances will improve without you. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” and “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday is always observed on the third Monday of January. This year, it falls on Dr. King’s actual birthday.

Please, please, please  find a way to honor his words and his actions on what would have been his 89th birthday.

It’s not only the least we can do – it is what we absolutely have to do.

Yes… It Is About Hoping for Failure

A few months ago, I realized that regardless of what the man occupying the Oval Office says or does, he will always have a group of hard-core supporters.

Some of them support him because they truly believe his rhetoric – that legitimate news sources and journalists are making up the facts and twisting reality.

Some of them admit that he’s not perfect but believe that as long as his party affiliation starts with an R, he is the best option.

Some of them don’t care what he says or does as long they will personally benefit from his agenda  – regardless of how it impacts others.

And then there are those who wave the American flag and claim that being patriotic requires being deferential to the President. They try to shame those of us who can’t support Trump by telling us that we are hoping he fails as president. I 100% agree with this. They generally follow this by saying that by hoping he fails, we are hoping America fails. I 100% disagree with this.

I want Trump to fail because his agenda isn’t American and his personal behavior and words don’t reflect what America is all about.

I want Trump to fail because I believe that health care is a right and not something that should be based on your job, your bank account, or to whom you are married.

I want Trump to fail because I believe that the majority of immigrants bring opportunities and not problems to America.

I want Trump to fail because trickle-down economics has been a proven failure to the people who most need the opportunity to make a living wage.

I want Trump to fail because I believe we should focus on improving public education rather than expecting the best education to be provided by private institutions.

I want Trump to fail because I believe in science, and the environment, and national parks and global warming.

I want Trump to fail because I don’t believe that a man who has publicly degraded woman on numerous occasions is an acceptable role model or, for that matter, a decent human being.

I want Trump to fail because I don’t believe in banned books or banned words, particularly words such as diversity, vulnerable and evidence-based.

I want Trump to fail because anti-bullying programs aren’t going to work when the supposed leader of our country is a bully.

I want Trump to fail because this country was founded on the principle of religious freedom – and that includes all religions – not just various Christian denominations.

I want Trump to fail because the United States shouldn’t be a country in which one’s man’s words can hold more power than the truth.

Yes, I want Trump to fail. But to all those people who claim that means I want our country to fail?  Think again.

I want our country to succeed, but my definition of a successful country is apparently different from theirs.

Because to me, a successful country is one that puts people over money, science over profit and love and respect over hate and prejudice.

And if  supporting  people who put that agenda first and opposing those who don’t isn’t patriotic? Then I don’t know what is.

The Rash

I got a rash on my face for Christmas this year.

It was a gift, or, at least it was the byproduct of a gift that was given with the best of intentions.

And because of that, I almost didn’t write about it.

I didn’t write about a lot of things in 2017.

That’s partly because I had so much on my plate that I couldn’t find the energy at the end of a day or week to collect my thoughts in a coherent manner.

My lack of writing was partly because there was just too much going on to address anything in a timely manner. The man currently occupying the Oval Office said and did so many mind-numbing, jaw-dropping, embarrassing things, that something I wrote on Saturday morning would already be obsolete by that afternoon because of  his latest tweet, or handshake, or speech or attempt to drink water with two hands.

And I didn’t write much this year because I live with my greatest critics. And sometimes not writing is easier than dealing with the aftermath of someone feeling misquoted or offended or embarrassed by my interpretation of events.

Which brings us right back to the rash on my face, which is the direct result of a thoughtful Christmas gift that my husband gave me. And, at risk hurting his feelings by sharing with the world that the itchy bumps on my face are his fault, I’m doing it anyway.

That’s because as 2017 ends, the rash symbolizes so much more than my husband’s misguided attempt to help me relax by giving me scented spray for pillows and linens (a spray to which I am apparently allergic).

It’s about having survived almost an entire year (starting on Friday January 20, to be exact) in which our country has been subjected to a rash leader whose impulsive tendencies are causing much bigger problems than just an irritating itch.

Unfortunately, I can’t change the leadership problem in this country as easily as I changed the sheets and pillowcases doused with the rash-causing spray. But that doesn’t mean I have to tolerate it nor should I be silenced.

A rash isn’t just irritating, it can be dangerous when untreated.  The same goes for rash people. And there is no shame in trying to address the root of the problem or finding an antidote.

Here’s to making that a breakthrough discovery in 2018.