How Much Money is Too Much?

Recent reports reveal a reality that invites further questions.  If money can’t buy me love, can it buy me happiness?   “When has having more money made you less happy?” asks The Take Away, America’s Conversation News Program.  I share my answers.

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

From birth to the ripe old age of near nine, I was very well-off, and yet, not very happy.  Later, after having been extremely poor and ecstatic, I became well off again.  The two experiences of being with and without wealth were as dissimilar as can be.  Bliss, I learned, is not a by-product of affluence.  I share the story.

I was born into a wealthy family.  My natural father and Mom made much of their lives.  Together they started a business.  The firm, with my natural father at the head, grew.   The person who was never emotionally, ‘Dear Old Dad’ to me, was skilled at what he knew.  He knew how to calculate the numbers and create great wealth; however, not necessarily ethically.  As much as this troubled my Mom, who had stopped working with him almost from the first, for twenty years and ten days, she stood by his side.  For her, the last eight and a half were a struggle.  The reason; I was born.

You see I was an unexpected and unplanned birth.  My parents did not want another baby.  My sisters were older and could be left with sitters.  My natural father had come to love the social scene.  Mommy, years earlier, realized that her husband was not the man she had hoped he would be.  The thought of having his child . . . Well, let me just say, this possibility did not appeal to her.

Nevertheless, the two brought me into this Earthly sphere.  However, neither spent time with me.  A woman was hired to raise me.  Kind as she was, Mary was not Mom or a semblance of a Dad.  All the material goods I could ever want, and more were bestowed upon me.  After all, the man I might have wanted to call “Daddy” had big bucks.   Perhaps, this papa figure thought he could buy love.  I know not with certainly.  We barely ever spoke.

Thankfully, Mommy divorced the person who never was my Dad.  She refused all child support and alimony.  Mommy said the “money was dirty.”  She wanted none of it and took nothing.  We moved far away and were extremely poor.  Ultimately, my Mom married again.  At the time my true Dad, the person who cared for me and chose to live and act as a caregiver to me, was a student.  Neither he, nor my Mom made enough money for a single person to survive; let alone a family.

We grew our own fruits and vegetables.  Mommy cooked and baked every meal from scratch.  We purchased food fare when whatever we needed was on sale.  Bulk prices were the best bargains for us.  Mommy, Daddy, and I ate all our dinners together.  Conversation flowed freely.  We traveled to State and local parks for entertainment.  The company was good.  The quality of life was better.  

Years passed.  Each parent finished graduate degrees and went on to earn large sums.  Life remained glorious.  I realized the difference between the” good life” and greater is not found in dollars and cents; it is in dignity and sense.  Daddy had the ethics that my natural father did not.  Mommy never lost her moral principles and honorable practices.  Their values and habits were ones I consciously adopted. Thankfully, these have served me well.  I hope, as my parents taught me to appreciate and act on, I have served others.

Related Research and Reports . . .

The Walls Cried Out; Why I Write

copyright © Judith Moriarty

A look back over my life, epitomizes to me, what has happened to America.  There was once upon a time those magic moments far removed from the madness of war, box stores, and shuttered towns.  My brother Johnny and I would spend summer days at our secret ‘camp’ called Sundown.  It sat above the steel mills far below in the valley.  We would take an iron skillet, eggs, bacon, and eat our lunch there near the waterfall.  I can’t remember that we ever spent a moment indoors during the summer.  

No ‘Danger Stranger’ – had our streets resembling a ghost town.  We had no TV – no video games etc.  There were no malls – and no designer duds, or exotic vacations.  People aren’t poor until the world tells them they are.  When you have the beauty of nature – nobody is poor.

Then one day the trucks came.  The church who owned the fields and woods; sold the land to the robber barons who owned the mills.  They covered the fields, the woods, and our secret camp, with tons and tons of ash and hot slag.  They didn’t live there so they didn’t care.  Pretty soon, there was just an ugly black mountain of black ash/slag.  Then people started dumping garbage there and the rats came.  

When we visited my Aunt Celie, (a newspaper editor) we could stand in her back yard and see the mountain hanging precariously over the town .  My aunt lived near the mills.  

Johnny and I worked on the slagheap after it covered our woods and waterfall.  We would chip away the slag from chunks of metal and then take our wagon to the junkyard to be weighed.  Johnny brought his bow and arrow to keep the rats away.  On a good day, (8:00 am to 4:00 pm) we could make $4.00.  Everyone thought that Johnny and I were the twins.  My twin Jackie (a head taller) didn’t care for woods, making stilts, or fishing in the creek.  As for slag, forget it.  Jackie was more into playing house and dressing up.  

Then one day the good news came (I was nine – Johnny was seven) we got the news that we were moving to the mountains.  My dad had gotten a job as an electrician, at the Joy, (they made mining machinery) in a small town, far removed from belching mills or mountains of ash.  We really moved there to be closer to my brother Jerry (older) who was autistic.  

After his last series of vaccine shots, he disappeared into a black hole.  He sang and danced and then he was silent.  Noise bothered him.  You couldn’t cry in our house.  My sister Jackie did – she lacked any sensitivity to my brother.  One day he threw a tobacco can at her.  It hit the bridge of her nose.  Blood covered the walls.  That’s when it was decided that an institution was the only answer.  This from the relatives.  

The small town that we moved to was magical.  There were sweeping parks, creeks to fish in,  Indian burial grounds, and forts.  The institution was about 20 miles outside of town.  You traveled over the river and winding mountain roads to reach its Gothic forbidding grounds.

Almost every weekend I would travel to the institution with my parents.  I had thought when they drove him away one day (I was nine) that he was going to a school that would take care of him.  I imagined that once he was gone that we would become a ‘normal’ family.  We wouldn’t have to worry about noise, or crying, or relatives coming to the house, like black crows on a clothesline, whispering about how he was ‘crazy’.  The neighbors wouldn’t tell me that my brother was ‘a cretin ‘ because of ‘the sins of my parents’.  Not that I knew what the hell sin was?

My parents never took my brother and sister to this place – only me.  They wanted somebody to care for Jerry after they died (I was chosen).  They needn’t have worried – I wouldn’t have forgotten him.  I spent many an hour with him in his bedroom (before he went away) – where he spit on toys and listened to music.  He never went outside after Eddie Perry (big bully) crushed his hand with a brick.  Even though I was a midget kid, I went up to Eddy, doubled my fist, and smashed him in the face.  It broke his nose.  Eddy wasn’t king of the hill after that.  Sometimes violence rears its ugly head despite the best of intentions.  I only regret that I wasn’t stronger.  He ruined my brother’s enjoyment of being outside in the dirt pile.  

People shouldn’t lie to their kids about a handicapped child in the family.  My mother told me that Jerry was a gift from God.  I didn’t think that God was putting various disabilities on certain people just for fun or to make life interesting for people? People are always blaming God for someone flawed, terribly injured, or killed in war.  As I saw it, most maladies came about through man’s pollution of the environment, contaminated (mercury) vaccines, accidents, or the greed of generational war.  Even so, – people such as my brother – are gifts.  It’s up to the individual to discover this gift in another.  Without the challenges of serving those in distress, maimed, or mentally challenged, how would we ever grow spiritually; in the gifts of kindness, compassion, patience, and the giving of ourselves? How would we develop the skill needed to hear the cry of the voiceless?

My parents (best of intentions) never should have exposed me to the traumas of visiting an institution at such a young and vulnerable age.  They should have arranged for me to meet them in the small restaurant downtown where they brought Jerry to eat.  Children are not psychologically developed enough to grasp the horrors of caged people (this goes for prisons also).Childhood is a small fragment of time – it needs to be protected.

I can still remember the first time I visited this place.  There were bars on the windows.  Nude men (it was summer) like rabid animals, were climbing on the bars, and screeching the most inhuman of sounds.  I couldn’t believe that my brother was locked up in the bowels of such a place.  They (staff) would NEVER let you go beyond the visitors’ room when you went to visit.  You would wait until they brought your relative out all dressed up.  I remember looking at those locked doors and wondering just what lay behind them? I knew my parents didn’t want my brother to be in that place but poverty didn’t have the choice of a special hospital, such as the private facility, where the Kennedy family put their daughter.  

Raised in the Catholic Church, I was convinced that if only we could get Jerry to one of those miracle places (Fatima – Lourdes ), he’d become normal.  For years I’d pray that he’d get well and then one day I stopped.  I then started praying (after visiting the institution) that he would die.  I couldn’t imagine him being imprisoned in such a place his whole life?  Then one day he did die.  He died from abuse and neglect.  He died from indifference.  He died because some people should never be employed to care for helpless, voiceless, crippled people.  It was a dreary winter day when they buried him in the institution’s potter’s field.  There was a blizzard.  In the end, it was only my parents and myself who stood there listening to the forever prayers of the dead.  

I was freezing and I was angry.  Still a kid, I remember my own prayers.  I said (to myself)….”So what was this all about? Why didn’t you (God) take him sooner – instead of him having to suffer all these years? I just want to know – just let me know if he’s safe and happy now.” The priest droned on and on.  He handed the crucifix off the cheap gray cloth box to my dad.  The snow was getting deeper.  I wondered how we’d get out of that desolate place.  Five, ten, and then fifteen minutes passed.  In all that time, not one drop of snow fell where the crucifix had lain.  All that was visible was a stark gray cloth cross.  It was enough for me.  My parents died a few years after my brother.  For years, my mother had battled for the rights and protections of the institutionalized.  I think she felt powerless, because, while she knew what was happening behind locked doors, from my brother’s physical condition, she couldn’t prove it.

And then one day I went to work in this institution.  It came about by an accident of sorts.  My friend and I were running a Dairy Store.  She was the manager and I the assistant.  We were cooks, clerks, and janitors.  We were fired when we went on strike (signs and all) for better wages for the employees.  We were told by the old timers in town that management never strikes for the workers.  Huh!

Kathleen wasn’t too keen on going to the institution to work – she was afraid.  I promised her that if it didn’t work out in a few weeks we’d quit.  She was assigned to a woman’s building, and I, to the same building where my brother had lived and died! Kathleen’s husband, who worked as a supervisor, figured it out once.  I could have been assigned to one of 700 different places – but I ended up where I had visited as a child! It was 6:30 am (first day of work) when I was led behind the locked doors that I had wondered about as a child? I was appalled.  

Nude men lay in the hallways, the place reeked of urine.  The employees screamed and cursed at the residents.  I almost quit that first day.  Then I remembered that my brother never had a choice of leaving.  He had been kept in restraints a great deal of the time which caused his arms to become deformed.  This was done because there was never enough staff.  Residents sat on hard benches or rocked back and forth.  There was little to no interaction or stimulation.  

The worst thing was observing the abuse.  Staff (mostly male) would kick, slap and throw residents down the stairs.  My first inclination was to report these assaults – but I waited.  I took the time to learn all the regulations, policies, and laws pertaining to those in institutions.  I wanted to have my arguments based on documentation rather than emotion.  I noted than whenever politicians were brought around for a visit everything was shined up and the residents dressed in clean clothes.  Then one summer day, I arrived at worked (2:30pm) .  The staff (all male) were standing around the desk smoking and telling lewd jokes.  I went to find the residents.  They were all (approx 30) laying in the cavernous bathroom (open toilets).  

They were nude and covered with feces and flies.  Some were eating out of the toilets (nobody had taken them to the dining hall).  I just cried.  Then I cleaned them up and wrote a long detailed (3 pages) report in the logbook on what I’d found.  This was NEVER done! Usually the Log read, “Found the cottage in good order all residents accounted for.” When the supervisor came around to sign the book, he had a fit.  He told me I couldn’t write something like that because the employees would be upset.  I told him I hadn’t come there to please the employees and that since a Log book was an official document it couldn’t be altered.  

That was the start of a three-year battle.  The proverbial crap hit the fan.  They tried to kill me – and went on strike to get me fired.  They refused to talk to me.  They and got together to falsely charge me with abuse.  On and on it went.  I was made to take a lie detector test (the abusers refused).  I won every court battle.  The small town paper was filled with venom and charges against me.  When they tried (administration) to remove me, I called every major newspaper – TV station in the state.  When a helicopter arrived from the nearest city (100 miles away) with reporters they stated, “Ms Moriarty we’ve been to the institution.  They tell us you’re a trouble maker and a rabble rouser.”

I replied, “If reporting patients being thrown down stairs, held under water, kicked, not clothed, not fed, allowed to die tied to a toilet, and not being given proper medical care, makes me a ‘trouble maker’ – YES that’s exactly what I am.  I will continue to be one until somebody in this state pays attention and does something.” that was on every news station in the state.  

It worked.  An investigation was started from the state level.  The superintendent, who once called me to his office, and told me he’d destroy me,  was fired.  So were numerous other people.  Meantime, I had gotten the residents new clothes, furnishings (instead of benches).  I painted murals on the depressing bile green walls (fishing ports – lake pictures) and brought music in to cheer the place up.  The nurse and her husband, the dentist, were fired.  They had worked there for years and years.  They cleaned up on lucrative salaries and lived an elegant lifestyle with their two fat sons.  I reported her for the death of Felix who died tied (her orders) to a toilet.  

And then things changed.  People noted that I hadn’t gotten myself killed and hadn’t quit.  They slowly (at first) started to come forth and report all the abuses they’d witnessed.  They weren’t afraid any longer.  Late at night, reading my mother’s diaries, I saw that she mistakenly assumed, that she was the person meant to reveal the hidden atrocities taking place.  She wasn’t – all along, it was my job – assigned to me as a child.  I now knew why I had visited the place throughout my childhood.  I finally had the answer that I asked at my brother’s grave, “What was this all about?”

God had waited for over a hundred years for someone to speak up for those without a voice.  He just needed somebody to rise above their personal fears and believe.  It’s hard to explain.  Once you are totally committed that something is worth dying for – there’s nothing that stands in your way.  I knew that I was totally in the right! You don’t go harming helpless period!

Many of the institutions are closed now.  America hasn’t dealt with those most in need.  Parents are left begging for non-existent help.  Programs are being cut.  Many of the terribly handicapped, have been shuffled off to nursing homes, where they languish and die.

I remember one night walking though the corridor from one area to another.  It was late and I was tired.  I thought to myself of what the walls had witnessed down through the decades? Just then, I heard a moaning.  I turned and saw these gray faces/hands reaching out.  It was a living wall of faceless memories.  I heard the words, “Write so the world will know.” People think that people in institutions are without personalities or don’t respond to love.  This is such a lie.  

It just takes some time and ingenuity to reach such people.  They were so abused for years, that at first, they afraid of touch.  Andrew liked for me to tousle his hair and kiss his cheek.  John was harder.  He was deaf, blind, and severely retarded.  I thought about how hard it would be for someone to not know where they were or feel any love.  He used to sit in fetal position.  Then I had the idea of wrapping him tightly in a summer blanket (like you do a newborn).  That made him smile – he felt secure.  Donny loved music.  He chewed his wrists raw! Once I put socks on his hands that stopped.  And so it went.  Everybody responds to touch and love.  

And so now, I write.  I live far from the small town of magic that my brother Johnny and I so enjoyed.  Johnny is dead now.  We had planned to visit the places where we fished and hiked last summer.  Now I sometimes visit the Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont.  It’s a magical place of giant puppets & political theater.  It keeps a remembrance, through art, of the grave injustices of man’s inhumanity to man.  It speaks for the voiceless.  Mine is its own story – but basically, we can see through the memory glass, that our lives are covered in ash – garbage – and unconscionable pollution.  I wasn’t shocked at the pictures of torture – minus the dogs, I’d seen similar incidents at the institution.  

Shocking to me was to live in a town, where seemingly ‘normal’ people, could go to work, and commit such heinous acts on helpless people.  They once mocked me and said, “Those people don’t feel anything.” Isn’t that what we’re witnessing today? The greatest sin is not to hate – but indifference.  My life is just a microcosm of the whole.  FEAR immobilizes many today – just as it did with the people employed at the institution.  The INSTITUTION today is just on a grander scale – global.  


Bulimia Builds Bitterness and Bridges

Copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

As we stood face-to-face and quietly discussed my years of anorexia and bulimia, I was reminded of what I always knew and yet, was too distracted to acknowledge aloud.  It was not that I never spoke of it before, I had on many occasions.  However, this conversation helped me to realize the heartache my illness [and I unintentionally] caused more deeply.

A sweet and sensitive soul stood tall, looked at me directly and said, “My sister struggles with bulimia.  I would really like to speak with you about your experience.”  Moments before this utterance, we were discussing teeth and toothbrushes.  I shared my history of stains and offered my theories.  I mentioned my concern; had years of bingeing and purging damaged the enamel.  Perhaps, my dentine was more porous than they had been before I began traveling down the path of bulimia.  I did not know with certainty; I hypothesized.  Then Douglas spoke.  A minor musing evolved.  My hope is I have as well.

Over the next few days, Douglas and I chatted often.  I shared three missives I penned on the subject.  Surprisingly to me, he read them immediately.  He wanted to understand his sister.  She is his very close and lifetime friend.  We talked a bit more.  I provided three more pondering prose.  The wondrous man quickly read these as well.  It seemed he was devouring information.  He was searching for answers.  Too much had been left unsaid for too long.  Sarah had been ridding herself of fodder, denying herself nourishment for a few years now. 

Douglas and his sister Sarah struggled to discuss the unspeakable.  This empathetic gentle giant of a man did not understand; why would she wish to eliminate all the food from her body.  He feared for her; yet, he acknowledges, he did not express himself well when bulimia was the subject.  Douglas was frightened.  He felt powerless.  Unbeknownst to me, my words gave him strength.  He trusted I was open to discussing the topic, or at least he knew that I said I was.  However, I wonder.  Until I asked him of his thoughts, he said nothing.

Then, upon inquiry, Douglas spoke of how he never imagined that she might felt separate from herself as I had.  This feeling fellow could not comprehend that his sibling was not as concerned with her weight as she might be about other situations, those that are far more serious. 

I cannot be certain what troubles Sarah.  She may fear adult responsibilities; I did.  Graduating from high school or college can be a challenge.  Fitting in or fearing not is quite an experience.  It might be . . . ?

Douglas offered, he wondered why she did not just stop.  As we exchanged tales of woe, his, hers, and mine, I could see that he was contemplating.  Every thought I expressed traveled within him.  There were many chords struck.  The causes, the effects, all touched his tender heart.  Douglas decided to present my letters to his sister.  Possibly, she would know that he cared; that might be meaningful.  His desire to help was palpable.  I could see it in his face, hear it in his voice, I felt it.

This healthy hardy, fellow that stood before me knew he would never do as she was and is doing.  As he read early on, as he reflected further, as we chatted, he realized that perchance, the physiological, the physical influences might be more powerful than he ever considered.  Neurology might matter.  I expressed my realization; bulimia is not purely a psychological problem, oh, that it were.

Upon reflection, as profound as our exchange was, I did not realize the depth or intensity.  I had no idea that this encounter would change me.  I long ago concluded I had worked through all that was during those trying years.  I was wrong. 

I never realized how fully my relationships with family, and friends, was affected.  Might my acquaintances also have tales to tell of their trying times with me?  When I was immersed in an enigmatic illness, I was, as all human beings are involved with many individuals, those at work, at school, on the streets and in the stores.  Discussing with Douglas helped me to learn, to grow, to resolve some of sorrowful details, and to realize there was more I need to work through.

Among the quandaries still left to resolve is my relationship with my cousin Alexander.  After, Douglas first revealed his situation, and his gratitude for our conversation, I was elated.  I telephoned my Mom’s first cousin, my close friend, Alexander.  I was excited and wanted to share the story.  Might my history assist another?  Would that not be wondrous?  My cousin took a deep breath and paused.

Alexander and I rarely authentically discuss this part of the past.  He lingers, as it looms large in the background.  I understand that just as it was and perchance still is difficult for Douglas to discuss the doings, the dilemma, and the festering feelings that Sarah’s situation fosters, Alex struggles.  His stomach churns.  Communication, when dealing with bulimia is a challenge.  Alexander and I chat freely and often.  We have for decades.  Yet, this topic is too tender to touch.  The scars are subterranean.  The scabs sit delicately on the surface.  No one wants to pick at these.  Bloodletting is not our pleasure.  Alexander stammered.

Then my sweet, caring cousin began to reflect on his reality.  As I listened, I heard a somewhat protective cadence in his voice.  It took time for me to remember that just as that period profoundly altered my ability to be free fun, silly, and stay on the surface, my affliction affected others abundantly.  Even today, there is bitterness.  What was not communicated then continues to have its effect.  Perhaps, my family can build bridges now.  However, first we must break down the barriers.  Alexander begins to speak and I realize the wall is wickedly thick. 

Years, and years ago, my Mom in desperation, turned to him requesting his assistance.  Alexander and Mommy were close.  They were raised together as siblings might be.  The two had a loving history, and Alexander is a man of ample means.  Mommy hoped for a financial favor.  There was no one else she could turn to.  No other family member or friend had funds for such a venture.  She thought it might be best to hospitalize me, not for a day or two, not to stabilize my physical imbalance, but to place me in a treatment program that would work with me as a whole. 

My Mom thought it wise to put me in close and constant proximity with physicians that specialize in bulimia.  Although my Mom is a psychotherapist or perhaps because she is, she feared, she might be part of the problem.  She could not help me as much as she longed to.  This hurt her heart; it scarred her soul, and I only wish she truly knew.  It was never her fault.

Alexander offered no cash.  From across the country, cousin Alex, alone consulted with a doctor that someone recommended to him.  The reference practiced many hundreds of miles from Mommy and me; he was considered a specialist.  This physician is a psychiatrist.  Since Alexander lives on the East coast, and the Doctor on the North West shore, the two talked by telephone.  Alexander took copious notes.  He jotted down pages and pages of data.  Ultimately, this Doctor stated, since my Mom is a professional she likely is as knowledgeable as he.

Berenice Barbara certainly had knowledge of the dilemma.  She lived with it daily.  Yet, she could not continue to do so.  Mommy remembered.

There was a time, years earlier, I resided in my parents’ home.  Each day, I would walk to the grocery store, buy bags and bags full of food.  I had my own shopping cart and could crate much home.  Once settled in the sanctity of the abode, I prepared for the afternoon and evening delight.  The experience or entrées  were delicious, or might have been had I ever bothered to taste the delicacies I prepared.  Culinary escapades come in many sizes and shapes.  Mine was huge and it took on many horrific forms.  My adventure was interesting to say the least. 

I placed newspapers on the floor in front of the television.  I would travel between the kitchen and living room.  I never bothered with the bathroom.  I cooked, cleaned as I prepared my mega-meals, sat down  ate, and then threw-up.  All my food fell into a basin neatly placed in my palms for just this purpose.  There was no time to travel to the toilet.  Besides, that seemed so inefficient.  I was busy, productive, bingeing, purging.  Leave me alone!

My parents let me be.  Possibly, they hoped it was a phase.  Probably they knew they could not stop me from doing as I did.  My brother was quite young at the time, not more than five years of age.  I am certain he was curious, though he never said a word.  Now, he barely remembers any part of his childhood.  My routine went on for a while.  Finally, I secured employment.  I moved out.

Money was tight and became increasingly tighter.  Try to feed a food frenzy that never ends.  Imagine paying for twelve, fourteen, or sixteen hours of provisions everyday.  I could no longer afford an apartment.  I returned to my parents abode, for ten minutes.  I walked into the entryway and was about to prepare for “my day.”  My Mom turned to my father and said , “No, I cannot do this.”

My father, an extremely loving man was not willing to give up on me; nor was my Mom.  It was only that Mommy could not watch as I wasted away and destroyed my body, again, and again.  My condition affected my parents differently.  They are , as are we all uniquely individual. 

Mommy thought herself responsible.  It hurt her heart so much to see my body bend, twist, and turn herself inside out.  She saw her child wither away and feared I would pass.  Even when the weight stabilized, she did not feel at ease.  Berenice Barbara knew too well, what I was doing.

Bodily functions were precarious.  I was depleting my electrolytes.  Potassium, needed to sustain the blood flow was barely available.  It was flushed out with the bile.  The muscular organ that beats life into a human being was threatened.  Mommy feared what was yet to occur.  There is ample literature on the hazards of bulimia.  None of the symptoms or effects of bingeing and purging are promising.

My father Barry, was equally familiar with the folly.  Perhaps, although we were and are best friends, my antics did not affect him as they did my Mom.  After all, he is not biologically related to me.  Perchance, our bloodline had no bearing on his feelings.  Barry only wanted to help and actively make known he loved [loves] me and believed in me. 

Of course, Mommy did too.  We were always very close.  Possibly, that is why we were fine, as long as I was not throwing up in her home.  I often say, “Home is where the heart is; mine is wherever my mom lives.”  Mommy wanted my heart to thrive.  It could not, if in her home she accepted its suffering.  I understood.  I did not say a word when she asked me to leave her house.  I could not.  I hurt her so much.  Harming me caused her much pain.  Hurting my Mom heightened my sorrow, my grief, and my anguish.

Barry spoke instantly.  He told me not to worry; he would help.  Minutes after my Mom expressed her exasperation and left the room, Barry and I drove to a lodging inn not too far from my parents’ dwelling.  Barry rented an efficiency apartment for me.  This man, my father secured my rent for a month, then the next.  Of course, there was the following.  Eventually, I worked my way out of that living situation.  However, the bulimia did not transition as easily. 

While in the hotel apartment, I invoked a newer pattern.  I began “proceedings” at 1:00 Post Meridian.  I cooked, cleaned, ate, and eliminated until usually one or two ante meridian.  Nonetheless . . .

As Alexander spoke and shared his version of the anecdote, my mind wandered.  Actually, I wondered.  It was obvious to me.  He believed he had done all he could.  He saw no reason to involve himself further.  Alexander was certain that Mommy had everything under control.  I knew she wished she had.

For Berenice Barbara, it was not the undelivered dollars that did her in; it was the sense that Alexander did not care.  He and Mommy are first cousins; as children, they were together always.  My Mom felt she turned to him as a confidant, a brother, and he did not bother to talk with her.  Actually, they never spoke again.

Mommy and my father Barry did much to assist me, as did Grandpa.  Alexander believes that Grandpa loaned Mommy a bundle and she never re-paid the promissory note.  Cousin Alex thinks my Mom frittered the dollars always, or tucked them into a mattress perhaps.  She never sent me to a treatment center. 

Alexander knows me now, or thinks he does, decades after that time.  He sees me as healthy, happy, and I suspect feels certain my affliction was never all that serious.  Yes, he has heard me speak of it, though rarely in depth and detail.  It seems he is not truly interested.  He often does not recall or realize the severity of what I say.  He does remind me often that Grandpa wrote checks to me.  Indeed he did. 

Full of sorrow, and understanding my predicament, Grandpa saw the financial strain and the emotional toll.  He connected to my struggle through my writings.  I was stuck in a dead-end job.  I hated the work.  My employment had an effect on my health.  I was grinding my teeth among other things.  I could not afford to complete my degree.  The duties in this mailroom were simple.  I could complete the work with ease.  I was often told the sorting station was never as clean and efficient.  Still, I had to stay, sit for a nine-hour day. 

To pass the time I penned my feelings, my frustration to Grandpa.  Writing was then as it is now, my release.  If I could not escape through food, and certainly while at work I could not, I wrote.  My grandfather, after a time, I know not why for I would not ask, decided he would pay for my last year of college.  He wanted me to have a degree, a piece of parchment, and a better sense of myself.  Grandpa felt badly that Mommy, his daughter could not afford to assist me with my education.  He did.

Years before that Grandpa gave much to me, Alexander is correct, although the giving was not cash.  What grandfather Mitchell shared was of far greater value.  My Grandfather came to visit Mommy, my father, and me.  As a pharmacist, a scientist Mitchell trusted he could teach me how to better care for myself.  Barry arranged for the transportation, and Grandpa with me in tow strolled into the American Association for Retired Persons pharmacy. 

Together, for over an hour, we read every bottle.  Grandpa  Mitchell, my mentor explained the differences between one vitamin, mineral, or another.  He discussed bonding agents and the pressure used to produce a pill.  Capsules were considered, oils as well.  A regime of supplements was created for me.  I promised to take these nutrients when I awoke and before I lay my head to sleep.  The pledge I made was to me.  I was living with the benefits[consequences?] of bulimia.  I longed to survive.

My hair was extremely thin and brittle.  What was once thick and wavy was now thin and straight.  The teeth that once glistened turned gray.  Smooth skin was cracked and dry.  Fingernails were brittle.  When I scratched the dry surface of my flesh, bumps would rise.  These tiny welts filled with blood; it took days before they disappeared.  My young face was weathered and aging quickly.  While I dressed well, I truly cared for and about my clothes, a close evaluation would reveal, I was not a pretty sight.

Nonetheless, Alexander never knew this.  He did not see me, feel me, or understand my pain.  Nor did he converse or come to spend a moment with Mommy.  Alexander only heard of what is easier to speak of, the money.  Grandpa shared stories of woe, not mine per se, his own.  That is what we all do.  We only know what is within us.

Alexander trusted my grandfather was concerned; however, Mitchell did not mention what he observed or understood.  That would be too difficult.  Much like Douglas, Grandpa Mitchell expressed his fear, not his love.  Caring was too painful.

My cousin only related to the cute little girl I once was.  That was his knowledge and understanding.  Sadly, it still is.

Over the years, much to my Mom’s dismay, I developed a relationship with Alexander.  He never knew that I was hospitalized for days at a time.  He was certain I was not placed in a program.  Cousin Alex did not sense I was near death on more than one occasion.  I was placed on a machine.  Feeding was intravenous.

Alexander was [and is today] unaware.  He did not [and does not] understand how Mommy felt.  He could not comprehend nor will he.  As we spoke, after my conversation with Douglas, Alexander declared he knows what he knows.  My cousin refused to listen to my narrative. 

My cousin did not and does not experience my Mom as she was.  When I was detained in  a medical facility, Mommy was never able to visit me.  Physically she was capable; emotionally, she could not endure the pain. She tried once.  I happened to be in a hospital affiliated with her work.  She was there to meet with a patient and felt she could not leave without seeing me. 

Mommy entered the room, sat on my bed, and we chatted.  Each of us tried to communicate as we always had and did when I was not expelling food before I digested it.  However, it was too hard for her.  I could see the tears forming and before they gently fell down her face.  She excused herself.  She was flooded with emotions.  Oh, Mommy, I am sooooooo sorry. 

Alexander assumed much and apparently still does.  He knows that he and Grandpa lived a block away from each other.  They were friends; although I often wonder.  When one, or both persons in a relationship share some information, and never fully deliberate, how intimate and whole might the rapport be.  Nonetheless, the two were “close.” 

Each time my grandfather spoke of gifting money to my Mom or me, Alexander decided the sums were large and an unwanted load for my Mom’s father.  Cousin Alex does not recall what my Grandpa taught me, or does not make the connection for I shared the parable many times.  “No one does something they do not really want to do.” 

After a time when Grandpa gave me two hundred and eighty nine dollars to travel, I thanked him profusely, for months.  I could not resolve within myself how generous a gift he bestowed.  Then, one-day grandfather Mitchell said to me, I would not have given you the money had I not wanted to.  You need not continually thank me.  He shared his now famous adage.  Slowly, I learned.  This lesson is about far more than money.

Nonetheless, Alexander remains stalwart, doing diligence over the dollars.  I discovered this only days ago.  As much as Alexander cherishes my Mom and I, he resents us.  Alexander believes he has the specifics.  For him there is nothing further to discuss. 

My cousin believes my bulimia was a financial burden far beyond what it was.  He thinks my Mom borrowed money and never repaid it.  Grandpa disinherited his own daughter and sacrificed for his granddaughter.  He brusquely said to me, “Ask your sister.”  I did.  I discovered that my elder sibling understands as I do.  The details of that I will save for another time.  I told Alexander, in part of the exchange with my sister.  Alexander refuses to hear the rest of the story.  Bitterness becomes him.  It must, for he has chosen to live with it for all these years.

Perhaps, that is the truer crisis.  Bulimia breeds contempt.  As the person afflicted purges in an attempt to escape feeling, the feelings flourish.  They envelop everyone.  Authentic communication ends.  At times, we cannot be sure it will come again.  The illness has a profound effect on the individual.  It is as a heavy stone falling into a pond.  The ripples travel.  All are touched. 

So much is shoved out of sight.  Embarrassment causes the bulimic and her family to hide their emotions.  There is much harm done to every one.  People do not speak; they do not wish to see what is painful and true.  Tales are told.  Everyone wishes to appear excellent, exalted, and above it all.  Yet, friends, family, familiars are all brought down.  The spiral spins out of control.

Thankfully, it need not be.  Douglas shared my writings with his sister.  They had a lengthy conversation.  Tears and fears were placed out in the open.  Until, I told my truth, Douglas never understood how his sister Sarah struggles.  He thought his sibling was concerned about her weight.  This brilliant and munificent gentle man could not imagine why the healthy woman he knows and loves would do as she does. 

It was only days ago he discovered, each night she cries herself to sleep thinking tomorrow, I will not do this.  Yes, I remember; I did the same.  This evening I told my father what Douglas shared.  Barry asked was that true?  He never knew.  My father did not imagine my daily distress.  I can barely phantom his sorrow. 

As we reflected, Barry avowed, “Ultimately I  trusted your sense of yourself and your evolving being.  Mommy and I often talked about what we could do.  Your health and well being was on our minds.”  I trust it still is.  I feel it in Barry’s musings.  I sense it in my soul. 

Each day and evening I think about Mommy’s anguish.  The despair my Mom felt, and may still feel, fills my heart.  She has passed and I cannot inquire, Yet, I accept I cannot experience a fraction of the pain as she did, has, and sadly, may still . 

Alexander, oh were he to speak of the unspeakable; what might we resolve.

Douglas and Sarah, I love you both.  You give me hope.  I wish to bequeath to you both hugs, kisses, and pleasant dreams.  I have faith; tomorrow will come and good health will be yours.

Dear reader, you may wish to peruse Chapters One through Six.  Please do. These reflective diaries discuss my life as an anorexic, bulimic, a person.

  • The Beginning. Bulimia and Becoming [Chapter One] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Bulimia. A Bit Becomes a Binge  [Chapter Two] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Binges Build A Being, Separate From Self  [Chapter Three] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Hiding the Food. Hiding The Feelings, Hiding Me  [Chapter Four] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • The Satiated Stomach. The Study Of Food [Chapter Five] By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Bulimia. Wait! It is Not My Weight  [Chapter Six] By Betsy L. Angert.
    Or Similar Discussions . . .

  • I Am An Anorexic, Bulimic, A Person! By Betsy L. Angert.
  • When Will I Be Right? Is It Ever Okay To Be Me? By Betsy L. Angert.
  • Weight. Balancing Fat with Feelings, Habits With Health. By Betsy L. Angert.

    Other References . . .

  • The Effects of Bulimia.
  • Bulimia Nervosa. The National Women’s Health Information Center.
  • What are the effects of bulimia?  Tina deBenedictis, Ph.D., Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., Robert Segal, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most, By: Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.  The Harvard Negotiation Project.
  • Live Your Life; Rest In Peace

    Live Your Life

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    I offer my thanks to the creator of the video, Danny Smith, and to the Sandwichman at MaxSpeak for stimulating this sharing.

    We wake to work, dress for the job, drive to the office, factory, educational institution, the fields, or perchance, a restaurant.  Perhaps, we travel to the site, go underground, or seek scaffolding.  Some soar above the clouds to complete their designated task, or is the word “required” a more accurate term for what we do daily. 

    We spend hours “slaving away” while at work.  We then take a bus, a car, a taxi, a train, or a plane and return home.  We eat quickly, do a few chores, and chatter with our loved ones, just for a bit.  There is so little time for what we enjoy.  We are exhausted!  We climb into bed, knowing the cycle will begin again tomorrow.

    Even the weekends bring no respite.  We must run.  There is so much to do; it cannot all be done while we are at work.  There is little time for relaxation.  While on vacation, there are distractions.  Our heads are filled with fear of what we have not done for our employer, the company, our customers, clients, or patients.  We make a call or two; just to be sure, all is well.  Those still on the clock call us.  We must stay connected to what counts.  The cash we earn is crucial.  Without it, how could we afford a holiday?

    Even exercise is rote and regulated.  How quickly can you jog the mile?  Is your walk brisk enough to be beneficial?  Swim, but watch your speed.  We need a strategy for success.

    I will pencil you in.  My schedule is tight.  Nevertheless, we will meet.  We have our priorities.  Family is first, then friends, our neighborhood; finally, financial obligations are attended to.  Our lives are, as they say, in balance.  We spend quality time with those we love.  We make sure of this, for we know the quantity of time devoted to work will not decrease.  We have our day-planners up-to date.

    Excellence in every aspect of life is essential.  Thus, we gather and glean.  We calculate our every move.

    Ultimately, we earn an abundance of wealth, or at least we hope to.  We yearn to make enough money to survive.  Sadly, and often, our funds may just barely meet our minimal needs.  A budget, yes, we have that.  Now, where is it?  I had the accounting log right here.  It must be somewhere in all this mess.

    We buy this, then that.  Our houses are full with so much stuff.  We need to use the garage, basement, attic, crawl space, or a storage space to stock it all.  For many, homes hold all they have.  In these abodes, we haphazardly arrange what we no longer need, or what we purchased on a whim.  Some of what we “possess” has not been seen by a living human soul for decades.  The animals and insects may be enjoying our wares.  Clutter consumes us as we consume it. 

    We clean house to settle our soul.  Still, we do not feel fully serene.  It must be money is on our mind.  We do not earn enough, have enough, or handle what we have well.  Thus, we work, and work, and work again.

    Labor is love.  We are providing for our families and taking good care of ourselves.

    When legally, we have the right to retire, we do not have the means, or perchance we love our job.  Possibly, we feel a fondness for our careers.  We are less connected with our families.  After all, we are more familiar with our work and co-workers than we are with our spouses, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nephews, and community.  We see and speak with the individuals that we toil with regularly.  Colleagues know us well, perhaps, better than those that we “live” with.  Eight hours here, more minutes there, it matters.  It adds up.  The sum may truly be greater than the parts.  Quality can evolve when the quantity of time together is ample.

    Sooner, more often than later, we do slow down.  The pace is more than we can endure.  Years of ignoring our health, and perhaps happiness, take a toll.  We tire.  We must rest.  Perhaps in a box or in an urn, we will find peace.  May you find in peace before it is too late to enjoy your life here on Earth!

    Single and Married Parents Spend More Time With Children. Much is Lost

    © copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Decades ago on October 16, I was born into a family that admittedly wanted no more children.  My mother was not working; nevertheless, before and after my birth she was rarely home.  My natural father did not wish to entertain the notion of a newborn.  With my birth, he decided to focus on life far from the family house.  During my youth it was thought, parents spent time with their progeny.  However, mine did not.

    On October 16, 2006, a report was released, “Married and Single Parents [are] Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds.”  This too, is not as expected.  New York Times Journalist, Robert Pears reveals, “Mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased.” 

    Thousands of personal diaries were analyzed and assessed by University of Maryland researchers, Sociology Department Chairwoman Suzanne M. Bianchi, Professor John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 

    For the purposes of this study, parents were asked to chronicle all their activities on the day before an intensive interview.  The findings were published in a new Russell Sage Foundation book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life.”

    Ms. Bianchi worked for the United States Census Bureau for sixteen years.  There she developed an interest in family life.  The research done for this study builds on her work as a demographer.

    In discussing this investigation, Bianchi stated, “We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so.”  She continues, “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.” 

    The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families.  But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.

    Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.

    These words appear and many other glowing evaluations appear early on in the Times article.  It would seem at first blush parents are pursuing a balanced relationship with their offspring.  Perchance they are.

    I offer some of the other appraisal for your consideration.

    “It seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother.  Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families.  With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.

    But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time.  The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.

    For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965.  For married fathers, the time spent on childcare more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours.  Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.

    Wow, this realization is truly wonderful.  One could surmise that Americans discovered the truth, just as our former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich did.  There is no true balance.  People must choose their priorities.  Do they desire a glorious career or a fabulous family?  Some in the study did decide.

    ? Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.”  People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.
    ? Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.
    ? Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.” 
      [Yet, this is part of the problem as I see it]
    ? As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.” 

    Ah, the “perfect child.”  The young person of today is followed or pushed by the ideal parent.  Perhaps this explains much.

    Parents today are spending time with their children as they drive them hither and yon.  The youth in America are enrolled in everything.  According to the publisher of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, and Robert Coles . . .

    Parenting today has come to resemble a relentless To-Do list.  Even parents with the best intentions strive to micro-manage every detail of their kids’ lives and live in constant fear that their child will under-perform in any area – academic, social, athletic.  Lists and schedules, meetings and appointments invade every moment – and the need to be the best is a philosophy dominating – and undermining – our own sense of self as well as our children’s.

    In my own life I may not have been given the structure that constant companionship or parental supervision provide.  However, I was given the freedom to think, to be, to imagine, to invent, and to inspire myself.  I was able to fashion a life that reflected my inner most joys.  Activities were not imposed upon me.  I immersed myself in personal pursuits.  My parents did not choose my interests; nor did they force me to compete.  I was deprived of their time, and rewarded with many opportunities. 

    I learned to enjoy my own company and to create an unparalleled community.  The world of me, myself, and I was wondrous, full and expansive. It included my grandfather, who took care of me frequently.  Mary, my caregiver was my daily companion, and though for the first five years my Mom was not fully physically present, she was totally, emotionally there for me. 

    My Mom recognized her own need to be a better parent and person and set out to become so.  In the interim, she consulted regularly with Mary.  She established a connection with me by expressing her desires to Mary.  She discussed child-rearing in depth and detail  She knew what she wanted for me.  My Mom ensured that my upbringing was the best it could be until she could again fully join me and advance my greater growth.  I was given time to play and contemplate. 

    My resources were inspirational readings, paper, pencils, and toys tailored for investigation.  Egg poaching pots and pans were early energizers.  Coloring books were considered too restrictive for a creative soul.  Thus, structures were my own.  I was encouraged to explore, to be curious, and to be the best of scientists.  The phrase often uttered in my family was, “Ask, and you shall receive.”  Gifts were not meaningless materials; they were loving and thoughtful trinkets, gems, words of wisdom and gestures of support.  What was given was invaluable, encouragement and engagement.

    In recent years, many child development experts have voiced increasing concern over the fact that children are accorded little time or encouragement to engage in imaginative play.  Too many children are overscheduled with school and other activities, according to these experts.

    Even sports, in which an adult sets the framework, leave little room for the development of creative thinking in children, these experts say.

    When children do have time to play, they too often play with a pre-programmed electronic toy or sit in front of a screen — television, computer, or hand-held game — responding to a scenario created by someone else, experts say.

    As a result, children are developing a “problem-solving deficit disorder,” says Diane Levin, a child development expert at Wheelock College in Boston. “Developing imagination and creativity is essential for children to develop problem-solving skills.” 

    Today, we as a society are saturated in standards.  As parents, producers, and power-mongers we seek accountability.  We prefer systems and forego freedoms.  We teach our children to do the same.

    In educational settings, they must engage in collaborative learning projects.  In sports, they are trained to be part of the team.  Throughout their young lives, our offspring are prepared.  They must attend the “best” schools and receive honors for their studies.  They are readied for their proper role in society.  They, just as their parents, will occupy an “appropriate” station.  The young today need not think; nor are they taught how.  They, as their employed mothers and many fathers have no time for such supposed silliness. 

    In today’s society, thinking is not considered necessary.  We are taught to quote facts and use these to formulate a life.  Our life is expected to be parallel to that of others. 

    Intellectually we may feel free to be who we are; however, in truth, conformity, not deep thought is the guiding light, and publicly accepted principle that many of us follow.  We, as a population, are as many employed mothers . . .

    On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed.  [The latter may not necessarily be a bad thing.]  . . . they [employed mothers] also spend less time with their husbands.

    Sadly, I suspect, we as a nation are not teaching our children well.  We present information and demand prevailing tenets.  Society states, “There is a need for scientists and mathematicians.”  Teach the formulas, the facts and create technicians.

    Administrators and those in favor of “accountability” say, “Forget the Fine Arts; they do not yield the fruits we as a nation need to survive.”  Apparently, the need for curiosity and creativity is void.  Thus, we stuff the minds of our children with statistics; we command them to “meet the standards.”  We no longer require, nor do we teach our young to think.

    As this New York Times article concludes, in 2006, nothing is as it appears.  Couples may stay together, though they rarely spend time with each other.  Husbands and wives are not friends; they barely know each other.  People, partners are busy.  Families run from here to there, mindlessly.  People do not realize their dreams, though they constantly race towards them.  They believe there may be other possibilities; yet, they never conceive these.

    I surmise that parents spending more time with their children may not breed what we human animals crave.  The connections we yearn for are lost in the dust as we scurry about.  We are rushing, chasing a career, our children, or the competition; yet, we forfeit our selves.  Our souls are lost.  Only on occasion do we imagine what we might be within.  We are too busy, too busy to breathe.

    In today’s world, hours, minutes, and seconds, man-made constructs govern us.  We measure these as though they can be quantified and qualified.  We treat our children and time as tangibles.  Researchers want to theorize the more time together the merrier; however, in reality this is not true.

    I propose we not evaluate schedules when appraising the value of a relationship.  Instead, I invite each of us to assess reciprocal reverence in the parent child connection.  This characteristic is not necessarily visible or verifiable.  Calculations cannot always determine excellence within such a bond. 

    If parents tell their children what to think, say, do, feel, or be in a moment or in many moments, this will not gratify the souls of our youth.  It will not engender closeness.  Nor will it make our offspring better human beings.  Time spent together may be important.  However, it is not more critical than what we do with our time.

  • I offer another glorious essay by Helaine Olen.  This exposé also evaluates the parent child relationship in 2006.  ‘Gifted Child Industry’ Preys on Parents’ Insecurities, does not paint a pretty picture.

    References for your review . . .

    You may subscribe to the New York Times Online Newspaper without cost or obligation.  It is free.
    If you prefer to read the article online without subscribing, please click on this PDF [Portable Document Format] version of the exposé.

  • PDF “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
  • “Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds,” By Robert Pear. New York Times October 16, 2006
  • “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” By Suzanne M. Bianchi,John P. Robinson, Melissa A. Milkie
  • Suzanne M. Bianchi. Maryland Population Research Center
  • John P. Robinson. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
  • Melissa A. Milkie. Department of Sociology, University of Maryland
  • Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association
  • Census Bureau. U.S. Government Census Bureau
  • The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, By Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., Nicole Wise, Robert Coles
  • Experts concerned about children’s creative thinking, By Karen MacPherson. Post-Gazette. Sunday, August 15, 2004
  • The Family Leave Act, By Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor. New York Times November 8, 1996
  • For Parents: How To Raise a Kid Who Cares. Oregon Public Broadcasting
  • Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves but Can’t Read, Write, or Add, By Charles J. Sykes
  • Summary Dumbing Down Our Kids, By Charles J. Sykes
  • Dissecting the Dysfunctions That Lead Down the Path to Divorce, By Kathleen Kelleher, Special to The Los Angeles Times. Monday, September 18, 2000
  • Keeping Art Alive Under No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB], By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
  • O, Say, Does Your Class Know the National Anthem?, By Ellen R. Delisio. Education World® 2006
  • Standards, Assessment and Accountability. U.S. Department of Education
  • Parent-Child Relationship Quality Depends on Child’s Perception of Fairness, By Jeremy Diener. Journal of Family Psychology. August 11, 2004
  • Family, Functioning, Fables, and Our Future ©

    Today two things occurred back-to-back; I heard a portion of an interview on National Public Radio.  The interviewee was Rich Cohen, of “Sweet ??N Low” fame.  He was discussing his latest book, aptly titled, “Sweet and Low” and his family.  Mr. Cohen offered philosophical interpretations of family and how writing this book and speaking of it helped him to discover that all families have their stories.  I was in the car when I heard this discussion.  I was so mesmerized, that though I had arrived at my destination, I did not move.  I sat in the parking lot, listened, and reflected.

    Then I came home, and as I routinely do, I turned on the computer.  I logged into My Left Wing, and saw the lead headline, Stories of Good & Evil, By the bluebird of happiness.  Captivated by the title, in part, because I have never believed in the concept of “evil,” I read.  Though in some respects this was a political post, it took me to a familial place.  I commented and then proceeded on with the evening.  However, the thought stayed with me.  We are so much a product of our up bringing.

    To this diary, I responded . . .

    “the tales we tell.”  I was twenty-one before I ever read or had read to me, a Grimm’s fairy tale, or any other such stories.  My Mom only read poems to me.  Late in my life, I discovered she only read me inspirational poems.  She often recited these from memory; we both did.

    “I was raised to believe, and I still do, people are basically “good.”  At times, they make some poor choices.  These are part of the growth process, a necessary evolution.

    I do not believe in evil and cringe when GW repeatedly espouses the word.  Nor do I think there is sin.  This may have given me what some think is a distorted view of life, and that, for me is fine.  Very late in life, a beau turned to me and said “People are negative and unhappy.”  I immediately retorted, “No, they are not!”  I never imagined.

    The tales we tell, do teach.  My brother once asked why my Mom and I are always telling stories.  He was raised in a different home until his adolescence and was not used to such narratives.  I told him, the best way to learn is to relate; through stories, we do this.

    GW and the gang know.  Thus, we have nonstop Video News Reports.  Even when reprimanded by the Government Accounting Office, the drone goes on.  Propaganda when presented as an anecdote is very effective. It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are.  – Ian Anderson.  Jethro Tull . . . Betsy

    A day or two before, also on My Left Wing, there was a discussion of Malcolm X.  It was the anniversary of his birth, quotes of his majesty were offered.  I recalled reading of Malcolm’s life and I was in awe.  His journey was such a magnificent progression.  He went from being a man that advocated self-defense, self-preservation at any cost; a violent price was not too high, to being a man of peace.  Nevertheless, as I read many of the comments, I noticed the focus was on the man’s early endeavors and deliberations.  His evolution was virtually invisible.  I offered my observations and another discussion began.  This too, took me to my family, or my experience of them and what they taught me.

    I wrote of how, for me, “war is never an option.”  I was writing to one that believes, throughout history major change was brought about by violent revolution.

    I too think our visions are similar; violence is our only departure.  With one exception that I had forgotten about until the novel incident, I was not yelled at until I was 39 years of age.  I think when our reality is lacking in brutality our perspective differs.

    It seems that we all know our cycles and history.  Imagining what is unimaginable is a challenge.

    This may not make sense; however, it is my truth.  Once exposed to aggression, I feared I might adopt the pattern.  I witnessed it too frequently and it was so very memorable.  Actually, I did not experience it regularly; it only felt as if I had because it was so unforgettable, unbelievable to me.  What did happen is, my desire to understand caused me to study.  I developed an expanded sense of empathy and a far greater belief in the need for consideration.  Rather than become what I feared, once exposed to such aggression, I became more compassionate or at least I work to be.  May you live long, learn much, and feel fulfilled . . . Betsy

    Still, I realize that what I learned from living within the framework that I did, was not as my siblings learned.  Actually, it is very, extremely different.  My sisters and I share the same bloodline; yet, who we are as people, what we believe, our experiences, and interpretations of life are very different.  We do not even think of family in the same way.  Parallels are rare.

    My brother and I do not share the same biological parents.  However, I have known him since he was an infant.  Over the years, we spent much time together, though one would never know.  That his analysis of events and family members varies is not surprising, though it is interesting.

    I am continually struck by how little any of us knows; yet we think we know it all.  Well over a decade ago, I realized I know nothing with certainty.  I do not even comprehend what I profess to understand.  I am forever learning.  I believe we all are though I share my story so that you might reflect and tell me what is your truth.

    One of the greatest lessons I ever learned was one that occurred in an instant.  My cousin Alvin and I were speaking.  We were discussing family, and my confusion.  I seem to have alienated my sister.  We had been close friends for decades, and then suddenly, we were not.  I had my theories and I was sharing these with my wise and wonderful cousin.  I mused that my sister, let me call her Audrey, was telling me a story.  I thought and likely said to Alvin, though I do not recall with certainty, for this happened long ago, “I know exactly how she feels.”

    Alvin replied, “No, you do not.”  None of us knows exactly how another feels.  While we may be similar, and have similar experiences, none of us is the same.”  He continued on stating, we can attempt to empathize, to sympathize, to understand, and certainty we must listen; however, we can never know how another feels.  No two things, people, positions, possibilities, probabilities, or policies are ever the same.

    I was immediately struck.  It was and is so true.  Though this incident occurred decades ago, I decided never to use the phrase again.  Accidentally, I trust it has happened.  I said the dreaded sentence, though I recall, a time or two as the words tripped off my tongue, I immediately took them back.  I, since that day know to apologize for a habit I mistakenly adopted before I was made more conscious.

    As I travel through the universe, the world, the Internet, and my life, I am continually amazed at how unique we all are, similar; yet never the same.  I suspect our likenesses are less substantial than we realize, though I believe our differences are equally smaller than we might imagine.

    People posture and often think they know what someone else means when they speak; rarely do we.  Stories are left out to save time.  Society states, “Keep it short and sweet.”  [No pun intended Mr. Cohen.]  However, without the details we are mired in a mirror image of ourselves.

    Thus, we stand strong, seemingly certain, when we have little information.  We profess to know the facts when we know nothing.  I wonder how many of us have pondered the fiction of “facts?”

    A fact in itself is nothing.  It is valuable only for the idea attached to it, or the proof which it furnishes.Claude Bernard [1813-1878 Leading French Physiologist]

    I ask each of us to share our tales, to talk, to take a moment to relate and contemplate.  Do we understand our family, our selves, how we all function together?  Are we aware of the fables that define us?  I invite you to reflect with me.  I believe our future might benefit from a bit more thought-fullness.

    References of Interest . . .
    “Sweet and Low,” By Rich Cohen
    Stories of Good & Evil, By bluebird of happiness.
    Freaky Friday Open Thread, By Maryscott O’Connor
    Grimm’s Fairy Tales