Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Penny in Time Chapter 9: Courage (part 2)

Fifteen and twenty-one equaled thirty-six, the same age my mother is now.  My Mom would be fifty-seven in twenty-one years, old but not ancient.  But I guess I wouldn't know what she even looked like in twenty-one years if I wasn't going to be there.  And I wouldn't know anything about anybody; my grandparents, my Dad, Slinky, Frank, Dean, Fran, Annie and all my other friends.  Or how ninth grade would be, let alone the next twenty-one years of my life on Earth.

"Would Sarree be a good mother?"  Better than me? I wondered.

"She wants only what is best for Yugo, even if it means giving him up to you.  She would do that out of love for him, and I think that defines a good parent."

I thought about my Mom...and my Dad.  I knew my Mom cared about my best interests, but to tell the truth, I had some doubts about my Dad.

"Would you be a good father?"  The nagging uncertainty that had been hovering over my thoughts was out of my mouth, but I couldn't forget that Mr. D had rejected Yugo when he first met us at the gate.

Mr. D's face crinkled and he bowed his head.  I don't think I hurt his feelings, exactly.  More like he admitted there was some truth to what I'd said.

"I would try my very best," he replied, like he was pledging his word of honor.  "I know that I would.  For his sake, for Sarree, for my own.  And, for you.  I have come to understand a great deal about love, because of you."

I felt my face flush.  I wondered if Mr. D could see the color red, or if he only sensed emotions.  "Why did the Perfect Council go all weird about the pennies?"  I dug them out of my pocket and put them in front of us on the table.

Mr. D stiffened, a rather odd reaction to a measly five cents.  "That is a great deal of wealth to us here, Dusty."

"Five pennies?" I quipped, arranging them in row.  "What's so valuable about these?"

"They contain the most precious resources on our planet.  Resources that are regenerated every five hundred years."  Mr. D's hand fluttered, then tapped lightly on the tabletop.  "Just the minute amount of copper and zinc found in one penny allows us to build and maintain our city for a hundred years."

"You mean, I'm rich here?"  What a neat thought!

"You are indeed," he answered with a chuckle, then, sounding just like an adult, added, "but you must realize you offended everyone by trying to buy Yugo."

Like I was some kind of slave trader!  "I did not!" I shouted, totally mad.  "They acted like he was worthless and all I wanted to prove was that I'd give everything I had to save him!"

Mr. D drew back.  "Yes, of course, I know that.  But there will be those who say you did not save Yugo out of love, but for gain.  There will always be someone who will find fault with the why and wherefore of what you do."

"And I thought this was a perfect society," I groused.  "No more perfect than my own."  I wasn't real sure that I wanted to be left out of my rightful place back home, anymore.

"Dusty," Mr. D whispered, though Yugo slept on unaware of us and no one else could have overheard us, "look out the window!"

The colorless sky was no more!  Streaks of reds, purples and pinks fanned across the horizon, like a brilliant Seattle sunset, though there hadn't been any sun to set.  Lots of dust maybe, but no sun that I ever saw.

"What happened?" I whispered back.

"Once in a million years!"  Mr. D's eyes sparkled and his face lit up with a smile.  "This is a most rare occurrence!"  He reached over and grabbed my hands pulling me onto my feet, adding with a little laugh, "You might say you've brought color to our world!"

He motioned to me and I swept Yugo into my arms as I followed Mr. D outside.  A great crowd had gathered all along the sidewalks and in the street.  A hushed murmur followed us as we walked down the middle of the street through a path left open for us.  I felt x-rayed.  Mr. D came to a halt in front of the mass and stood transfixed before the silent fireworks in the sky.  Yugo woke and I shared his sense of joy and wonderment.

Then he began to chitter, squirming in my arms, and I knew Sarree was somewhere near us.  I watched him eagerly searching for his mother, trying to communicate with me his sense of rightness, hope and belonging.  I clutched him tighter, willing him to stop, but I knew I had already lost that special link with him.

I had to look away, up at the sky.  Rainbows danced in my teary eyes.  Once in a million years wouldn't be enough for me, that much I knew as a deep, intense longing filled me to go back home.  I tried to tell myself that I was picking up Yugo's emotions, but I knew that this was my own, my very own, feeling.  I guess I knew all along that it wouldn't work out with me staying here, that sooner or later I would want to go home again.

I understood it all; and I didn't understand any of it.  The pain that had ripped my heart in two, left me feeling oddly at peace.  I scanned the crowd, looking for that face I would recognize as Sarree.  It wasn't hard to find her, for she was staring at me.  Me and Yugo.  Yugo blipped like radar when he spied her.  I had a choice:  break eye contact and turn away, or smile.

She strained to see over someone's shoulder and I lost sight of her momentarily.  When I saw her head pop into view, I smiled and moved so that there was a space for her.

The sky dripped colors, like a wet painting.  The gallery of Monosapiens oohed and ahhed, as Sarree squeezed between me and Mr. D.  Yugo chirped and mewed, rocking in my arms, delighted that he had us all together.  He reached out for Sarree and she hesitated but a fraction of a second before she took him from me.

He has it all, I thought, watching them, happy for all of them, yet tasting the bitterness of my loss.  Mr. D smiled lovingly at Sarree and Yugo, his massive, white-furred hand on Sarree's elbow.  She nuzzled Yugo, stroking his cheek.  It was a perfect picture of a perfect family.

I was not the only one viewing the perfect scene, for others had noticed.  It seemed all eyes were on us.  What did they expect?  I'd go crazy and run up and down the street, shouting and swearing?  I stood quietly beside the family reunion until the onlookers lost interest and went back to sky gazing, then made my way back to Mr. D's house.

It wasn't easy to find.  I had to walk up and down the little paths to the front doors and check out the nameplates.  It would have been smart of me to have counted the houses, but it seems I get these good ideas too late.  I had only walked in the door when Mr. D came in behind me.

"Dusty," he acknowledged my pain in saying my name.

"It's okay, Mr. D, really.  I thought about it, and I know that it's better for Yugo to be with his mother.  There's whole a lot I don't know about raising a Monosapien."  I laughed, but it was half-heartedly.

He tipped his head.  His smile was so nice, and his eyes were so kind!
"I'd like to go home."

"Yes."  He indicated the five pennies on the table.  "Take them."
I shook my head.  "No, I'd like Yugo to have them."

Mr. D clasped his hands, his face a map of concerns.  "That would not be wise.  So much wealth for one individual would be a terrible imbalance in our society."

"Then for the three of you!" I shot back.

Eyes downcast, he sighed.  "No."

With my back to Mr. D, I wiped the table clean of the pennies.  I was about to pocket them all when I flashed on  finding Yugo in the desert.  There were probably others out there left to die.

I plunked a penny down on the table, turned and faced Mr. D.  "Then this should be plenty to get enough food and shelter for all the misbegottens."

I had stunned Mr. D, I could see it in his face.  "You will make sure of it, won't you Mr. D?"

"Of course I will," his voice rose and filled the room with warmth.  "Of course I will," he repeated, coming to me and hugging me tightly.  "Oh, Dusty, what a legacy you've left us!"

Well, at least it wasn't a bad pun like my Dad would have made.  But still, I finally appreciated how making 'sense' could mean a lot of different things, all at the same time.

I was smothering and pulled away from Mr. D's chest.  "Mr. D, how am I going to get home?  I don't have a magic ring, ruby slippers or a mirror, so what's left---a space ship?"

He planted his hands firmly on my shoulders.  I sucked on the inside of my bottom lip, to keep from smiling and crying, for I felt like doing both.  We locked eyes, and I knew I would miss him and Yugo a lot, for a long, long time.

"I won't forget you, ever," I said, without even a crack in my voice.

He dropped his hands from my shoulders, brushing one hand across my forehead and down my cheek.  "Nor I you."

Out of the corner of my eye I could see through the window that the colors had begun to wash out of the sky.  Everyone began to drift away.  Sarree and Yugo would be home soon.

"Just open your eyes, Dusty," intoned Mr. D.  "Open your eyes."

Weren't my eyes already open?  Confused, I squinted hard, trying to focus on Mr. D.  I blinked and blinked again.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Penny in Time Chapter 9: Courage (part 1)

"The woman, Dusty," matching fingers, Mr. D pressed his hands together, his voice husky, "is my partner, Sarree.  And yes, she is Yugo's mother."

"Then Yugo is yours!" I blurted, rising part way out of my chair.

"No," he replied simply.

No? my thoughts spun, and I sat back down.  If he wasn't the father, then someone else had to be.

"Here, where couples are together until death separates them, love is not the first consideration:  compatibility is.  But sometimes that is not enough.  And one person cannot love enough to make up for the void."

"You loved her?"  It came out in a squeaky whisper.

"I love her."

I couldn't help but glance quickly over my shoulder at Yugo, sleeping without a care in this world.  "How can you say that after she deserted you and left her baby out in the desert to die?"

"She had no choice.  Yugo was taken from her, unwillingly.  Yugo's father died trying to bring him back.  That happened, in fact, shortly before you arrived and rescued him."

Although Mr. D looked the picture of calmness, I wondered if he weren't torn up inside.  I was, just thinking about all this.  "Why did you take us in?"

He thought about that for awhile.  "Because," he faltered, "because I had wanted so very much a second chance to right the imbalance in our lives."

I shook my head.  "I don't understand."

"I love Sarree, but I didn't know that until after she left.  Only then did I understand she could love another."

I could tell he struggled with his feelings by his shaky smile, and I was slightly embarrassed.  Yugo stirred and cried out.  I popped up out the chair, relieved to go over and cradle him in my arms.  "I think he's hungry, again."  I handed Mr. D the empty bottle.

With Mr. D busy in the kitchen, I thought about what he had said.  Holding Yugo, Sarree's image floated in my thoughts; I got it loud and clear what he wanted most was to be with his mother.  All my feelings were a hazy swirl of reds and greens, like anticipating Christmas morning, not because of the presents, but because I would be there with my family.  But I couldn't see any faces I knew, only those of Sarree, Yugo and Mr. D.  Maybe I was the "eyes" of the dreamer; there but not a part of it.
Yugo longed for his mother.  Sarree.  A stab of jealousy pierced me, but at the same time, I too, wanted to be home with my mother.  We both wanted the same thing.
Mr. D handed the bottle to me without saying anything, like he knew I needed to think through my feelings.  I fed Yugo, very careful not hurry him as he lapped at the chalky stuff, burping him every few minutes.  He was so happy!  I had to smile and even began to hum 'Old McDonald had a farm' to him.

He fell back asleep, and I swear he'd grown the short time I had him in my arms.  He was heavier and looked longer as he curled up again on the couch.  I didn't want to get up and leave him, happy to sit beside him drifting along our currents of contentment.

Mr. D waited in the dining room, seated once more at the table.  We had more to discuss, but the questions no longer seemed that pressing to me.  Or maybe, I had to admit to myself, I didn't want to know the answers.

But it's like an itch, the moment you think you're not going to think about it, you have to.  I returned to the table and dropped into the chair facing Mr. D.  "You said you love Sarree, but does she love you?"

His bushy eyebrows knitted together and I felt the weight of each word he said.  "Sarree told me she respects and appreciates me for what I am."

"And you buy that?" I asked.

"It is a kind of love, Dusty.  She's sincere and honest and truthful, and that is a sharing of oneself that is also a form of love."

"And she loves Yugo because she's his mother."  And, I added to myself, he loves her, his mother.


"Where does that leave me?"  All those feelings of jealousy and rejection tumbled out.  I had to look away for a minute to catch my breath and swallow my tears.  Outside, the sky was dingy gray, the color of dirty laundry.  I missed the blue Seattle morning sky and the dark, starry nights.  "I love Yugo, too.  And I know," I insisted fiercely, "that Yugo loves me, too."

"Yes, he does."  responded Mr. D evenly, looking steadily at me.

I felt a gentle prodding of my thoughts.  "I'll take him home with me.  My Mom would understand, I know she would.  And I would give Yugo a good home, too!"  I choked on my tears.  "I swear it!"

"Childling," Mr. D smoothed away the tears, "there is no question about your love or ability to care for Yugo.  But Yugo would not survive in your world."

I shook my head.  "I survive here in his, he would in mine."

Mr. D cupped my chin in his hand.  "Dusty, look at me.  Would Yugo not be a curiosity, an animal to be caged for display in a circus or a zoo?"

"I wouldn't ever let that happen!  No! no! I wouldn't!"  I was really blubbering now.
He tipped my chin up so that I looked into his eyes.  "You wouldn't want it to happen, Dusty, but how could it not?  You couldn't very well hide him in your room, not for very long, even if you could find him food."

I swiped at the tears.  "Then can I stay with you?"

"Yes, if you wish."  He sat back again.

I hadn't expected him to say yes.  My tears ended with one hiccup.  "Isn't Sarree coming back here?"

"That depends on you."  Mr. D nodded, his face softened by his smile.

"What do you mean, Mr. D?"  I shook my head, wishing I could shake out my confusion into some kind of order.

"It took a great deal of courage for you to cross the desert and go before the Perfect Council and fight for Yugo's right to live.  You have shown the depth of your love and commitment.  I have no right to ask you to give up your claim to Yugo, but I must ask you to think very carefully what this means."

There's always a catch, isn't there?

He looked at me without blinking.  "You'll be responsible for Yugo until he comes of age.  You will be the focus of his life, and always answerable to our society, even in the midst of changes, now."  He leaned back, folding his arms across his snowy chest.

To be so powerful!  Making decisions that mean something. Changes, which affect others' lives.

Though he spoke ever so softly, his words framed a clear picture of what life here would be like.  "You have become a symbol of reformation, the catalyst of the changes that began with your arrival and your challenge to the Perfect Council.  It is inevitable that your every action, every word, your daily life, will be watched, analyzed and criticized."

"Sort of like being under a microscope, huh?"  I always felt a little sorry for those poor, unsuspecting specimens sandwiched between two slides, eyeballed to death.  But then again, to be a part of Yugo's life, forever!

"Yes, Dusty, forever."  He said it so quietly that I didn't fully catch the importance of 'forever'.

"Forever is a long time, Dusty."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Here’s A Handful of M & M s

Writing is like an all day sucker sometimes; just not worth the effort and time for sticky lips.  But other times, writing is itself a sweet reward.  Most of the time, though, it is a must-do item on our list that evokes a lot of anxiety about how to start, how to get through it, how to do this, then that, and get it done!  I am going to take a few lessons from my book, KISS Keep It Short and Simple, to use as “M & Ms—The Mechanics and Magic of Writing” to illustrate how a few simple techniques can make alchemy happen.

The computer has redefined how to write a paper, both in content and mechanics, as the internet has given unlimited resources for the writer and word processing has eliminated a host of difficulties, such as formatting and spell checking. While that is a wonderful thing for all writers of all ages, the authors, students, professionals and non-professionals alike, most of us have angst when it comes to actually putting ideas into an organized presentation.  Texting and tweeting has destructured the sentence, and with emoticons, has fragmented thoughts into information of bits and bytes, making it even harder to organize and compile a composition.

But therein lies the beauty of writing:  chaos.  From all those swirling ideas, associations form from clustering ideas, memories, and sensory perceptions into coherency.  This is layering—write! doodle! play with it! and soon a theme emerges. When it pops! and it will, you then can arrange these elements into the topic of your paper.  The beginning of the paper states intent; the middle is explanatory; the last is summation.The critical difference in a composition, such as a business letter, essay or review, and social media posts, is a complete sentence. As you see the theme take shape, begin to organize it into paragraphs, using the CCI: Compare, Contrast and Interrelate technique. Remember, the rule of three (at the least): each sentence has a noun, verb and adverb;  three sentences in a paragraph, three paragraphs for a composition.

That’s it.  That’s all there is to it. Grab some chocolate goodies, put on your wizard’s hat and write!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Effects of Online Shaming

Video: When Online Shaming Goes Too Far
"'Twitter gives a voice to the voiceless, a way to speak up and hit back at perceived injustice. But sometimes,' says Jon Ronson, 'things go too far.' In a jaw-dropping story of how one un-funny tweet ruined a woman's life and career, Ronson shows how online commenters can end up behaving like a baying mob — and says it's time to rethink how we interact online." -
Watch the entire video on>>

What You Should Know If You Laughed at This Viral Photo of Me
"You cannot see my disabilities but they are there and they are real. So next time you see photos making fun of people just remember you know nothing about these people or the struggles they face every day. It is never just harmless fun to laugh at someone." - Jennifer Wilkinson
Read the entire article>>

Understanding online shaming - a guide for parents
"There have been other cases of online shaming. Most of the time, the user who is publicly shamed on social media simply doesn’t deserve the magnitude of the attack they receive, and the consequences of it. It could be a comment that perhaps wasn’t fully thought through by the poster, a sarcastic message that was taken the wrong way or out of context. And if enough people see it, and it’s sufficiently spread around, it can result in a mob of people belittling and condemning the user."
Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Film About Student Journalists Who Take on the Childhood Obesity Debate

"In an effort to address the obesity epidemic, notification letters are being sent to students whose body mass do not fall within a narrow range deemed "acceptable" by the government; essentially telling children, even as young as kindergarteners, that they are fat.

THE STUDENT BODY is a true underdog story of two brave girls who take a stand against bullying, government intrusion and hypocrisy while exploring the complex and controversial truths behind the childhood obesity debate."

American Family Association Journal says it is “Extraordinary. The film is both inspiring and challenging.”

Common Sense Media calls it “enlightening” and a “tribute to student journalism and the power of investigative reporting.”

Official Selection at Traverse City Film Festival, Woodstock International Film Festival, Providence Children’s Film Festival, and Sedona Film Festival.

Available on demand and now on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Watch the trailer online>>
Visit the official website for more information>>

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Penny in Time Chapter 8: To Be (part 2)

I felt unlimited respect for Mr. D right then.  Not just because he was going to get me out of this jam, which I really did appreciate, don't get me wrong, but also because I think it took a lot of courage for him to come forth and put himself on the line.  After all, when I was safe and snug back home, he'd still be here, having to live with and face the judge and jury, so to speak.

But the thought of going home without Yugo demoralized me.  I couldn't let him go that easily, not now that I had grown to love him so much.  My thoughts and feelings were in a whirlwind and I missed some of what was being said between Mr. D and Judge Ludwig.

Then the quiet man on the end spoke up, his voice pealing throughout the chamber.  "What Mr. dIAmand says has merit.  Indeed, our society is no longer self-perpetuating.  According to the latest census, over half the population is sterile."  He swiveled in his seat, inspecting the crowds in front and behind him as if to let this sink in the collective minds of the Monosapiens.  "Indeed, the next generation will be the last," he proclaimed, returning to face us.   "And I feel it is of the utmost importance to consider changes that will benefit our society, whatever the price may be."

"But Mr. Light, the consequences!" exclaimed the man next to him.  "It would mean restructuring our entire society---social unrest!  Why there is no end to the chain of changes!  From the government, right down to the individual's everyday habits!"

Mr. Light looked briefly at me and winked.  "Yes, indeed, Mr. Stix, it would mean a lot of changes.  But I have a tremendous amount of faith in the intelligence of each individual and the woof and warp of our society.  I don't see that we have recourse to do otherwise, and perhaps now is the time to accept changes and begin."

The chamber vibrated as the crowd cheered.  Everyone clapped and stood in unison.  Mr. Light had the approval of all but four of the entire population of Monosapiens.

"Begin," Mr. D repeated softly to me, "to write history anew."  He took my hand in his.  "Now, they'll have to vote on it."

Judge Ludwig, Mrs. Furbal, Mr. Reader, Mr. Stix and Mr. Light stole glances at one another.  The corners of Mr. Light's mouth turned up a bit, as if he were really enjoying this sort of battle with the giants.  Maybe he was, or maybe he really believed the time had come and he was ready to fight for this cause.  I liked him and even Yugo twisted around to peer at him, murmuring contentedly.

I still had a thing or two to say about this whole thing.  I wasn't going to let go of Yugo, no matter if the panel decided in his favor or not, and I wanted some answers to questions that bubbled inside me like shaken soda pop.  I took a quick look around me.

If I'd thought the trial was odd, the crowd was totally bizarre.  Everyone remained standing, although there wasn't a peep from anyone.  Somewhere out there was the other woman, the one who had looked so distressed, so interested in Yugo.  I expected her to come and join forces with us.  But she didn't and I had a hard time not asking Mr. D about her right then and there.  I had a gut feeling that I shouldn't, so I kept quiet and waited with Mr. D, getting antsier by the minute.

"Elizabeth Conner!" and the gavel rapped.

I nearly dropped Yugo on his head.

"It has been determined that you are no longer involved with the issues at hand.  Therefore, you are entrusted to Mr. dIAmand's custody until you are returned home."

I could see that pleased Mr. D.  We both fixated on the judge's face, waiting for his next pronouncement.

"And let it be recorded that the misbegotten has been claimed by Mr. dIAmand."  Two thwacks of the gavel stopped anyone from uttering a noise.  "May I have your attention please!  All citizens are reminded that it is their civic duty to attend all meetings in regard to the changes herewith in our society.  Please have your concerns and opinions, and hopefully," for the first time Judge Ludwig looked friendly, "solutions, in written form for review.  Thank all of you for your concern and attendance.  This case before the Perfect Council has been decided and dismissed."

There was an orderly progression out the doors, with so little noise that I had to wonder if these Monosapiens spoke to one another.

"Yes, but most times there is agreement, therefore no need to talk about it," Mr. D piped up, taking my hand and pulling me along to the main door.

"What is it you have, esp?" I inquired, really wanting to ask more pressing questions.

"Somewhat, my dear.  Come, Dusty, I will answer all those questions at home."

We walked away from the brightly lit buildings of downtown, down the dreary residential streets, each lined with strips of drab colored grass.  The air was thick, but had no smell like fog or mist or before-rain, although the sky was overcast with gloomy clouds.  The scenery was the same and I wondered if anything would really change.

I still marveled that Mr. D could find his house among so many look-alikes.  But he did.

And there was another care package for Yugo on the doorstep.  I searched the bushes for the not-so-perfect woman, Yugo intently looking, too, like it was some kind of game, but I couldn't see her.

This time, after he had made the formula, Mr. D sat on the couch with me as I fed Yugo in my lap.  We had a mutual understanding that we would wait until Yugo was asleep before we had our little discussion.

Mr. D motioned to the dining room table.  I slipped Yugo onto the warm spot where I had been sitting and petted him as he curled into a tight little ball.  Looking at him innocently asleep made me feel protective of him.  It was painful, like touching him would have burned my hand.  I guess we had been through so much together that we had a pretty strong bond, a love that could be both tender and tough at the same time.  But another little voice inside my head nagged at me to take a good look at him, he's growing so big, so fast, he wasn't going to be a cute little baby for much longer.  He would grow up and I'd better face it, I'd have my hands full.  But my heart answered that it didn't matter how big he got, I'd love him anyway.

I sat down at the table and Mr. D clasped his hands over mine.  "Dusty," he looked me straight in the eyes, "you showed remarkable courage in front of the Perfect Council."  He paused a bit, shyly adding, "I was so proud to know you!"  He squeezed my hands before letting go and sitting back. "Now, I'll answer your questions."

I asked the one question that I feared the answer to the most.  "Who is that woman who left the care packages for Yugo?  I saw her out there, and in the front tier of the chambers, too."

I had been afraid to know for myself, but when I saw the pain in Mr. D's eyes, the way he squared his shoulders and braced himself to reply, I was sorry I had to know:  I had this spooky feeling that Mr. D's story somehow would turn out to be mine, too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

That's Just Bad

I would like to take an opportunity at the beginning of the New Year 2017 to give shout outs to the media and the articles about our children, the brave and intrepid children of these articles, who are our future and will make a difference in our lives, our communities, and the world. Their voices, their actions, their dreams are so important right now to have exposure, a forum, an ear of everyone who can listen, have an open mind, and a willing heart for some real changes.

Thank you Jerry Large, columnist for the Seattle Times, for your article on “Bully Busters Take on Rude Pols” (December 19, 2016). You highlighted the bully issues that girls face everyday. Emma Coopersmith, Lilah Aman-Lucas, and Lola Hurst saw the big picture of the political campaigning and nailed what is wrong. They have started their anti-bullying campaign because of “that awful stuff that was said during the election about women and their bodies and their capabilities.”  These eleven year old girls have a voice, have pens and know how to use them.

“Three sixth-grade girls heard mean comments during the recent presidential campaign that made them think politicians could use lessons in good behavior, so they’re doing some teaching. They created a campaign called D.C. Bully Busters, which encourages kids to send letters to political leaders in Washington, D.C., schooling them on how to deal with bullying. The girls also are reminding the rest of us that we can meet negative stuff with positive action.” - Jerry Lange

Another loud, proud shout out to the January 2017 National Geographic, Special Issue, GENDER Revolution, that is dedicated to global issues relating to gender, focusing on the young people in different parts of our world, and how societies deal with sexual orientation, especially redefining the very term “gender”. As if this is not confusing enough for most of us, there are now twenty-one definitions in one article on redefining gender "A Portrait of Gender Today": Agender, Androgynous, Cisgender, Gender binary, Gender conforming, Gender dysphoria, Gender expression, Genderfluid, Gender Identity, Gender marker, Gender nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, LGBTQ, Nonbinary, Pronouns, Puberty suppression, Queer, Sexual Orientation, Transgender and Transsexual

The entire special issue is a beautifully done and vital edition which gives credence to those who are marginalized in all parts of the world. What we are finally acknowledging is the need to embrace all our differences. The power struggles will never end, for there will always be bullies and demagogues that make it a challenge to exist true to oneself and not as part of a herd, or ideology that suits only a narrow spectrum. These nine-year-old children across the globe comment on how their lives are, will be, and should be; it is not often pretty, but strikingly honest and sometimes, hopeful.  Much has changed, but not enough. The last paragraph on page 33 sums it up succinctly: “The aspiration mentioned most often, across the lines of geography and gender, was summed up by Avery Jackson. If the world were hers to change, she said, there would be ‘no bullying. Because that’s just bad.’”

Nine year olds and eleven year olds leading the way out of the darkness. We as a nation, and as individuals, have had a long, arduous journey through the political wasteland of an election year. Your party affiliation does not matter, finger pointing and complaining about the process is futile; what we must do is put together the strewn pieces of the puzzle to make a whole picture of our government, of our nationality and lives, once again. That is what we do as Americans in a representative government--we roll up our sleeves and get to work. We put on our walking shoes and march, we put pen to paper and publish opinions, we take an active part and use our voice for change, our time, money and skills in our participation in the governing process.

It is a right of a democratic society to vocalize and mobilize in our communities, in meetings, through the media and demonstrations. Let us never forget our rights or cede our rights to voice our opinions and demand to be heard. Let us not succumb to the bullies, either in our politics or schools, work places, homes or relationships. Let all of us strive to be a change for equality and gender recognition, making it safe for children and adults to live their lives without fear of physical, emotional or mental cruelty. We can make positive changes, and we must be bigger than our petty selves and validate our humanity. We must do so for the children. Emma Coopersmith, Lilah Aman-Lucas, and Lola Hurst, the Bully Busters, and Avery Jackson, a representative voice of children globally, got it right.  And that’s just good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ways to Handle Adult Bullies

9 Ways to Deal with Adult Bullies and Mean Girls
by Dr. Ellen Hendriksen via
"While we want to believe that adulthood means the end of off-limits lunch tables, demeaning back talk, and snarky gossip, unfortunately, middle-school bullies and mean girls grow up and go to work. Bullies of the playground often grow up to become bullies of the workplace, which means too many of us find ourselves in eerily familiar scenarios to our dark days of junior high.

Unfortunately, grown-up queen bee and bullying behavior remains the same as back in the day: it systematically targets a colleague with the intention to intimidate, undermine, or degrade. The same tricks get recycled, too: gossip, sabotage, exclusion, public shaming, and many other deliberate behaviors." Read nore>>

8 Keys to Handling Adult Bullies
by Preston Ni, MSBA,
"Most of us encounter adult bullies at certain points in our lives. An adult bully can be an intimidating boss or colleague, a controlling romantic partner, an unruly neighbor, a high pressure sales/business representative, a condescending family member, a shaming social acquaintance, or other types of abusive relationships.

On the surface, an adult bully may come across as aggressive, demanding, and domineering. However, with an astute approach and assertive communication, you can turn aggression into respect. Here are eight keys to successfully handle adult bullies, with excerpts from my book: “How to Successfully Handle Aggressive, Intimidating, and Controlling People.” Not all of the tips below may apply to your particular situation. Simply use what works, and leave the rest." Read more>>

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Penny in Time Chapter 8: To Be (part 1)

Just a few minutes ago, the chambers had been filled with Monosapiens, but now at a glance, it was empty.  Sitting on the hard bench with Yugo on my lap, we might as well have been on an island, with no hope of being rescued.  Yugo must have felt bereft, too, for he burrowed against my cheek and clung to me as I stroked him.  He whimpered and I looked down into his teary brown eyes.

"Hush, so I can think," I scolded him gently. It worked, for he drew a deep breath and I could tell he was trying to make himself feel brave.  I know I was.

I wouldn't do a bit of good for Yugo if I didn't come up with some sort of argument in his defense.  The first thing I had to do was erase those five faces of the Perfect Council from my mind.  I forced myself to calm down, breathing in, letting go, remembering the conversation I had had with Mr. D, trying to figure out what could be wrong with the "perfect society".  Yugo wasn't the problem, and I doubted he'd be the last misbegotten to show up.  They couldn't just throw the baby out with the bath water and call it a clean issue.

A couple of things occurred to me, but I wasn't sure how to work them into a case for us.  Mr. D had made such a point of the "self-perpetuating society", but even though I suspected this might be the key to the puzzle, I couldn't come close to knowing why.

Time ran out.  As the five judges took their seats in front of me, the courtroom pulsated with voices and scuffling bodies as the seats were filled up.

"Elizabeth Conner, come forward!" commanded Judge Ludwig.

My hands were cold and clammy, and in spite of Yugo's reassuring kisses on my neck, I felt myself quaking.  The place suddenly got real quiet.

I stood and wobbled a little as I approached the panel of judges.  Yugo loved me, loved me, loved me.  As I held him tight, I responded, I love you, too.

"What have you got to say, Elizabeth Conner?" asked Judge Ludwig as the others eyeballed me.

"I don't understand why you want to kill Yugo."

"Let me clarify," Judge Ludwig folded his hands and leaned against the table.  "There are moral issues:  partnership and family; economics, for there is no provision outside of the family to support the misbegottens; therefore, misbegottens create an imbalance in our society.  It is by far, the best and kindest solution to the problem of caring for the misbegottens to remove them from our society."

Suddenly, he no longer scared me, he just seemed like a total jerk.  "Why don't you come out and say it's murder?"

"Because Elizabeth Conner, we do not consider it a moral judgment.  This is not an issue of love or hate.  We cannot tolerate imbalance.  Is that all you have to offer as a defense?"

Something snapped inside of me and all the anger I felt came out in a rush of words.  "How can you call yourselves a 'perfect society'?  Couples stay together even if they don't love one another, and for what, appearances?  Is that perfection or harmony or balance?  NO! it is a lie!  You wouldn't have a society if not for a lot of individuals---and the good of one is just as important as all of you!  This is not a perfect society!  Your premise is built on a pyramid of half-truths.  You are a society of liars and murderers, and that is a moral judgment!"

Was it only me shivering, or did I feel a tremor throughout the room?  Chairs scraped.  The natives are restless, I thought to myself, hoping that they might be shaken out their indifference.

"What is the real problem?" I challenged.  "Just come out and say it!"

The five judges glared at me.  Mrs. Furbal spoke up in a clipped, deliberate voice.  "There is no provision, Elizabeth Conner, for the support of a misbegotten.  There is only so much in resources available to each family unit.  Our economic system is based on that precise balance.  That is the crux of the problem," she spat, flicked the file folder shut and tossed her drab mane of hair with an air of finality.

The one sitting next to her, a man-thing in reading glasses, added haltingly,  "We cannot afford to feed and shelter misbegottens."

"Precisely, Mr. Reader," Mrs. Furbal said and smiled her little snobbish smile.

I was stunned!  "You mean, it's all a matter of money?"  It gave me the same feeling I had when my Dad bought me expensive presents, like money was really more important than spending an honest hour being with me.

I juggled Yugo so that I had a hand free to dig into my jeans pocket.  I pulled out the five pennies, stepped up to the table and smacked them down right in front of Judge Ludwig.  "It's all I have, but take it!  Yugo's going home with me!"

I don't know what I had done or said to affect a freeze frame in the proceedings, but I knew in an instant it was major.  Yugo twittered, like he was both thrilled and frightened.  All five of the panel appeared dumbfounded; Judge Ludwig stared at me flabbergasted, Mrs. Furbal's hand froze midway between the table and her mouth, the man beside her had his glasses half on, half off, and the other two on the committee stared at me with their mouths gaping.  There was a huge gasp, like everyone sucked in a big breath and held it.

I took a step away from the table and did a quick scan of the room.  Mr. D walked towards me, his head high, looking very serious.

He came beside me, encircling me with his arm.  "I claim the misbegotten, Yugo, and take responsibility for Elizabeth Conner's safe return home."

Judge Ludwig composed himself, but not without a slight stutter.  "She, um, she must take back the coppers."

I didn't hesitate one minute to sweep the coins up and pocket them.  I was ready to turn around and get out of there, but Mr. D didn't make a move to leave.

"This is all so unprecedented!" Judge Ludwig huffed.

"What is it that you mean, Mr. dIAmand, to claim the misbegotten?" demanded Mrs. Furbal, ticking her fingernails on the tabletop.

"I mean to say that I will assume parental responsibility for Yugo."  Mr. D hugged me, then dropped his arm to his side.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Adult Bullying: You're Not Alone

Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic
by Valerie Cade,
"Think of a time when you were ignored. Think of how you felt. Hurt, sad, puzzled, stressed… Did you think, “What’s wrong with me?” or “How come I was left out?” Or how about when you were brave enough to reach out and ask ‘why is this happening?’, and were met with a polished answer from the person that left you with more self doubt and no answers?

Now think about being ignored, left out and pushed aside…day after day…after day…after day…This repeated ignoring is one of the worst types of bullying known." Read more>>

Adult Bullying: Harassment By People You Respect
by Sue Scheff, via

"Adult bullying is more prevalent than many want to admit. If you’re old enough to pay a mortgage or raise a family, shouldn’t you be able to handle anything that comes your way? But bullying doesn’t come to a standstill after graduating from the playground, and giving grown-ups a pass on aggressive behavior only sets a bad example for our children still on the playground.

A while back, I discussed the case of a parent who felt the need to air her laundry (dirty and clean) all over her Facebook timeline. Her thoughts were broadcasted publicly, even for her children to see. Additionally, a group of mothers recently took to Facebook to bash pictures of toddlers. These behaviors make kids think: if my own mother can bully, then why can’t I?" Read more>>