Friday, September 7, 2007

The Lost Boys of Polygamy

By Shanell Meek

Have you ever heard of the lost boys? No, I’m not talking about the lost boys of Peter Pan. The young men I am referring to are right here in the United States of America, and they face problems that make Captain Hook look like Tinker Bell! They are the Lost Boys of Polygamy.

From 2002 to 2006 more than 400 young men between the ages of 13 and 23 have been banned from the Polygamist colonies of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS the fundamentalist Mormons), when the “prophet” Warren Jeffs ordered them to be excommunicated.

Often these orders stem from such minor transgressions as watching an unapproved movie, wearing short sleeved shirts, listening to music, or even reading books and magazines that are not “approved” by the “prophet”, or a more serious offence of just talking to the girls.

Some of the boys have simply been told to leave their families and the world they have always known. Some fled the overly controlling environment on their own. While others were removed from their home in the middle of the night to be left in the desert with nothing but the clothes on their back and the lasting belief that they are going to hell because they have done something so terrible that they were excommunicated from their community.

Officials of the FLDS religion are quick to defend their actions by saying that they only excommunicate those who violate their “moral code”.

However it is widely believed that the excommunications of these young men stems from the polygamy side of this religion. In my personal opinion this is almost painfully obvious when you look at the cold hard facts.

Over the years men in these communities have been known to have at least two wives, with many men having as many as ten, twenty or even more. In order for the community to continue to exist in their polygamous ways, it is imperative that the ratio of women to men must be much greater. With this obvious fact in mind, it leads one to believe that the misplacement of these young men is no accident, and not simply a disciplinary maneuver. Like a stallion who will chase all the young colts from a herd to eliminate competition. The young boys must be gotten rid of before they become involved with the young girls.

When the boys are cast out, many of them end up on the streets of Las Vegas or St. George, where they turn to drugs, prostitution, suicide or other self destructive actions. They have been told all their lives that if they do not follow the path of “perfection” they will go to hell, so they are left with nothing to care about. Their beliefs are in shreds.

While some take the path of self destruction, others are lucky enough to find organizations developed to assist them, such as the Diversity Foundation which is founded by former polygamist Dr. Dan Fischer. The Foundation helps the young men with obtaining a quality education: high school, GED and an undergraduate college degree. Assistance is also available for medical and dental expenses, psychological counseling and general living expenses. They provide social networks through mentoring programs, life-skills training, and advisory counseling. They also assist the young women who flee from the confines of the cult like religion.

Often, these young girls, usually between the ages of twelve and eighteen are forced into arranged marriages with older men. If they object they are told that they have no right as a woman or as a child to reject the man, and are disciplined, sometimes very harshly. If they try to run away they are found and promptly returned to their cult like existence, where they are often isolated for weeks or months for “re-education in the ways of the community”. Very few young women have been able to successfully free themselves of these communities.

Many of these young girls are mothers several times over by the time they are 18. If By chance their “husband” is excommunicated, the young woman and her children will be “given” to another man. Can you imagine? One day being married to one man… the next day being married to another. If there are female children of “marrying age” aka prepubescent or older they often become the new brides of the husband too. Making them not only the mother and child, but now also sister wives.

There are many success stories of these young men and women who have left the “community”, many of them have excelled scholastically, they receive high marks of achievement in high school and college. They have pursued careers in engineering, medical, business, psychology, law and accounting. Some are married with children.

Despite the success these young people have achieved, they still have a heavy load to bear; some were sexually or physically abused on top of the mental abuse they have suffered at the hands of “the community”. There have been lawsuits filed by some of the lost boys against Warren Jeffs. Here’s hoping these young men get some compensation and relief for the pain they have gone through, and the pain they will live with for the rest of their lives.

A little about the FLDS:

Warren Jeffs, 51 is the most recent “prophet” of the FLDS which practices polygamy and arranged marriage. The FLDS has more than 10,000 members located within the sister cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah and the surrounding areas.

Warren Jeffs was arrested on August 28, 2006 and is being held in Hurricane, Utah, where he is awaiting trial on two felony counts of rape as an accomplice related to a 2001 arranged marriage between a 14 year old girl who objected to the arranged marriage with her 19 year old cousin. On July 12, 2007 Jeffs was indicted on eight new sex offense counts involving two young women. He's also under federal indictment for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution

I do not know who is currently in Warren Jeffs position while he is on trial.

The original Church of Christ was established by Joseph Smith in 1830. Smith claimed to be the one mighty and strong and that God communicated his commandments through him. On July 12, 1843 he claimed that God revealed to him, the new and everlasting covenant of plural marriage, commonly known as “polygamy”. However this covenant was not immediately revealed to everyone in Joseph Smiths community, due to the negative reactions he feared it would receive, although he did secretly practice polygamy himself.

Joseph Smith was murdered on June 27, 1844, while in jail in Carthage Illinois. He was being charged with destroying the press. He had destroyed a newspaper press after a man dared to stand up against the beliefs of Joseph Smith’s religion.

Between 1843 and 1852, a few of the church members secretly practiced polygamy under the direction of the church president. In 1852, Brigham Young, who had succeeded Joseph Smith, announced the principle of plural marriage to the world. As Joseph Smith had expected, the revealing of this “new” covenant was not immediately met with open arms. However, between 1852 and 1890, plural marriage was openly taught and practiced among the Latter-day Saints.

The FLDS should not be confused with the mainline church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). The LDS disapproves of the polygamy practice and banned it in 1904. They excommunicate members who practice or preach polygamy.


For more on Polygamy and those involved please visit
:
http://www.childbrides.org/
http://helpthechildbrides.com
www.smiles-for-diversity.org
http://www.polygamy.org/

For More on Warren Jeffs trial:
http://warren-jeffs-news.newslib.com/
http://www.childbrides.org/news.html


For Information on the FLDS please visit:
http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/

Suggested Reading List:

http://www.childbrides.org/books.html

Shanell Meek is a working college student studying to be a veterinarian. She lives in Iowa and raises American Quarter Horses and American Paint horses. She loves to read and broaden her horizons. Her Australian Red Heeler dogs Kitty and Jazzy are her favorite people, next to her nieces and nephews. Shanell has done some photography work for Hot Psychology and has won several photography awards.

Grandparenting 2007

By Pamela S. Meek

Becoming a grandparent is the greatest thing that can happen to a person. I know this from personal experience. We just had our eighth grandchild in June. The thought of a new baby in the family is enough to send us into a dizzying array of emotions ranging from unbelievable joy, anticipation, and satisfaction to fear, worry, sadness, and uncertainty, depending on the situation.

The arrival of a grandchild means that life will go on. It signals the beginning of a new generation in a family. Traditions will be handed down. It is an extension of ones self, a part of something we created. Their little smiles light up when they see us and their little arms reach out and hug us so tight. We generally have the time for them we didn’t have for our own kids, and there is just that very special bond that you build together.

My husband Denny and I were recently conversing with a friend who is a first time grandmother. She was telling us how wonderful being a grandmother is. She said, "You can spoil them rotten and send them home."

Denny looked at her and asked,” What world do you live in?” I couldn't help myself, I just had to laugh and tell her how fortunate she is.

The fact is; many grandparents in today’s culture just are not able to "spoil them rotten and send them home." We have constant care of one or more of our grandchildren and we have to be able to say no and be able to set boundaries and discipline them when they are naughty.
According to the US Census Bureau 2005, there were over two million grandparents raising their own grandchildren full time without one of the child’s parents on the premises. Another two million have grandchildren living with them, but have at least one parent living there as well.

With soaring daycare costs, accidents involving daycare providers, abuse and deaths in daycare centers and the income level of many people forcing both parents to have to work, grandparents are coming to the rescue. There are now over five million grandparents doing day care for their grandchildren. This is the category in which I fall.

This means that over nine million grandparents in the U.S.A. have daily care of one or more of their grandchildren. And all of these statistics do not even take into account the grandparents who have legally adopted their grandchildren and have now become parents again.
With seventy-two million children under the age of fifteen residing in the USA, that makes for a very large percentage of grandparenting going on. It also makes for some big time challenges.
Housing is a big issue when grandparents are now renting a smaller home or apartment. Some places do not even allow children.

Safety is another major concern. While our own kids were growing up, we could let go of all the hidden dangers that present themselves with babies and toddlers and start living in an adult world again. Now with the babies coming in again, we have to put away the glass coffee table with the sharp edges. Put away all of the breakables, place covers on the outlets, make sure our medications are up high enough a child can not accidentally find them and get into them. And we must totally childproof our homes.

Time is another factor. I know for me, it means doing more work in the evenings and late at night. I also get up earlier even if the little ones go back to sleep when they get here. Trying to find time to write and edit is a real challenge.

For some grandparents there are also, schools, money, health insurance, taxes, and maybe even legal matters to deal with. I am sure there are lots of other items I have failed to mention here.
Then we come to the parents. In my case the parents are all there and support everything I do with the kids. My kids know my rules, they were raised by them. My kid’s spouses and I have had some talks and they understand where I stand on all the issues and what will happen in any case scenario I could think of to discuss with them. I am a strong believer in discipline, and when the kids are here, they know that this is Papa and Grandma’s house and they must obey and listen when asked to do something.

I respect my kids and their parenting methods, and I do try to abide by their rules too, but after all, I am still their mom. I am also glad I have put so much effort into making a good relationship with my daughter-in-laws, all three are like my own. They are the greatest, even when we disagree.

Sometimes the parents are separated or in my daughter’s case, widowed early. She moved home with her boys the day her husband passed away.

She needed time to grieve and to get her life back together. I accepted the care of her two sons for over eight months. The boys were being homeschooled so I did that too so she could be free to get her life in order and in the same; I was able to keep the boys’ lives as orderly and stable as possible. I was glad to be there to help her when she needed the help. Some days it was so hard though because she was there and our parenting is totally different. She allows the boys to play a lot of video games, I don’t believe kids need to play video games for more than an hour at the most during the day. I am not a big fan of TV either. These are just some of the things we tend to run into when parents and grandparents are raising the kids together. It takes a very vital communication connection to raise kids together and not just take over and control your kids and grandkids.

What about when the parents don’t live with you and the kids do? This is the hardest situation od all. You have to be a full time parent and that sometimes makes it harder for the kids, but if it is done right, it can be a time to make the grandparent/child bond so much closer.
The biggest problem is setting up visitation for the parent(s). And that depends a lot on the parent’s situation. A lot of times grandparents are raising the kids because the parents are not able because of drug addiction, or a criminal act that has put the parent in jail. Some children have been taken away from parents and awarded to grandparents by the state because of unhealthy living conditions or abuse.

These situations each have their own set of problems that must be dealt with. The good news is, you are not alone, and there is help out there!
If you are a parenting grandparent, a day care provider, or even just helping out with the grandkids for a day or two, It is a wonderful way to connect and make life better for the grandchildren we all love so dearly.

For more information on Grandparenting, check out the links…
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Grandparents.shtml
AARPs Grandparenting website. http://www.aarp.org/families/grandparents/
National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren http://chhs.gsu.edu/nationalcenter/
The Foundation For Grandparenting http://www.grandparenting.org/

Getting the Mail

By Ruth Coe Chambers

Could the post office be destined for the endangered species list? An inveterate writer of letters, I can wax nostalgic over a post office or even a mailbox without sacrificing my everyday love affair with e-mail. Yet I’m ever aware that this daily transfusion of information and communication that gets the adrenalin flowing falls short on the Geiger counter of memories, those lazy days when getting the mail was a joyous experience.

Today my print mail, AKA hard copy, consists mainly of circulars, bills and ads, not letters from distant family and friends. My first stop after the mailbox is the garbage can where I deposit a dead tree’s progeny of junk mail.

I’ve watched the slow decline of an American tradition--letters written on blue-lined tablet paper, scented stationery from a sweetheart, or elegant boxed paper. When I was growing up, we had an interactive experience with the mail. It was my responsibility to walk to the post office each day to retrieve the correspondence someone had made an effort to compose via pen and ink or typewriter. I still remember the combination to that mailbox, the joy of a little pink card that signaled a package was waiting behind the counter, though often it wasn’t necessary to open the box because a friendly neighbor would wave the card from behind his station at the post office to let me know I had a package. This was during World War II and oh the thrill of a package from a distant relative sending a bit of candy or maybe a pair of wooden roller skates to replace my worn ball bearings.

As an adult, my mail was delivered to the mailbox in front of my house. It was still one of the brightest parts of my day. I wasn’t overwhelmed with ads and circulars. There were letters written by hand from people I loved. Many of those letters with their low cost stamps are in my filing cabinet today.

Times have changed. All too often wandering vandals wreck havoc on the neighborhood mailbox. My box has been moved from the end of my driveway to a location down the street, protected in a metal bank of identical receptacles. I no longer know the name of the mailman.
I still have the joy of mailing packages though. I can’t send homemade cookies to my children via the internet. For that I take a trip to the local beach post office in my community, for what would a small town be without its post office? Ours is a hub that draws people from neighboring homes and businesses to mail letters and packages or maybe to exchange a word or two with a postal worker. It’s within walking distance of the beach, and a sea breeze ushers you inside the door.

There is a community within that building built from the camaraderie and friendship that has grown over the years between postal workers and customers from Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches. There’s a feeling of kinship with neighbors. The building rings with laughter. Many are on a first-name basis. We’ve walked into another era. There are employees who know when a customer is mailing a latest manuscript to a publisher, the bride who wants special stamps for wedding invitations or the mother who is sending homemade cookies to a soldier in Iraq. They know these things and care.

Wrap your merchandise in a box that isn’t strong enough, or is the wrong size or weight, and they won’t allow you to mail it. But that postal employee who wouldn’t accept your package a minute ago will, in the next minute, try to locate a suitable box for you. They are generous with their suggestions. Eager to be of help. And they don’t get raises for kindness.

A long table separates customers being waited on from those still in line. But it isn’t a barrier. It’s a convenience, a place to put heavy packages until “Next in line” means you. The table also serves as a receptacle for gifts. In the fall, around Thanksgiving and later, a basket of tangerines might be placed on the table or passed over the counter. And when winter flowers are in bloom you’re likely to find the table brimming with trays of red, pink and white camellias. Bouquets of gratitude. Even homemade bread has been known to exchange hands. It’s a community we never take for granted.

These relationships are as treasured as nature’s artistic rendering in the beauty of a seashell. Hold it to your ear and listen to the sigh of regret. Postal workers and customers know the beach life of this community is little more than two years. If a wrecking ball demolishes the building, the scars will be paved with asphalt. Its fate hasn’t been decided, except that it will no longer be our beloved community post office.

But blessings ride the crest of the waves and even e-mail or a wrecking ball can’t send memories to the endangered species list, not as long as we remember, cherish, and write.

Book Review – Water for Elephants

By Beth M. Wood

It isn’t often that a story wraps you up so completely you forget you’re reading a story at all. The characters in Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” are disheveled, hopeless, beguiling, haunting, and hopeful all at once. And one larger than life heroin brings them all together in a gritty, captivating world full of living, breathing characters that ring true to life.

Jacob Jankowski sits in a nursing home, lamenting his aging body and mind. He is treated like a child, and because of this begins to act like one. He resents the way he’s coddled and the way his family comes to see him “like clockwork, every Sunday.” From the rice pudding to the canned gravy, his life has become one of painful regularity. He describes old age as a terrible thief who “muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse.” His one saving grace is his nurse, Rosemary, who he describes with the sentiment, “I’m no longer sure how to react when someone treats me like a real person.”

When the circus pulls into town, all the nursing home’s residents have something to talk about and look forward to. And Jacob’s memories are dusted off and brought to life. We are thrust into the world of a circus where we know a murder takes place and a girl is involved. And as the story unfolds we cheer for Jacob, breathe when he breathes, hurt when he hurts.

Gruen has the spectacular talent of relaying the strongest of emotions in perfect, simple language. She tells of Jacob receiving devastating news with “I’m aware of a heavy, wet noise, and realize it’s me. I’m gasping for breath.” (And the reader can’t help but think “yes! That’s it exactly!”)

The story begins with Jacob remembering the most pivotal point in his life, set in the 1930’s Great Depression era and within the world of a circus. And then we are propelled forward into Jacob’s current life – a ninety-something old man in a nursing home filled with memories that both haunt him and keep him alive. The story switches from Jacob’s memories to Jacob in the nursing home and as his memories become clouded, so do these transitions.

Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” is filled with simple language and powerful themes.
We can smell the grittiness of the characters, touch the roughness of them, feel the love, hate, horror, sadness and hope in their hearts. It is a story pregnant with illusion from the title itself to circus life, marriage, money and family loyalty. August describes it well when he tells Jacob, “The whole thing’s an illusion…and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what people want from us. It’s what they expect.”

Jacob’s life is set out before him as he prepares to sit his college exams. It is an illusion that screeches to a halt and sets in motion the events of his true life as it was meant to be lived. And as they pull into each town and set up, from the Big Top to the Fat Lady and the Tattooed man, each community buys into the illusions of the circus.

Gruen’s characters come to life and each has a true purpose in the story. Uncle Al and August bring hardship and pain, Walter and Camel represent the truest of friendships and Marlena and Rosie evoke a love that transcends time and place. And all of them, including Charlie, who we don’t meet until the story’s end, represent family – the best and worst of them all. Gruen makes no attempt to force her characters into any given situation or bring them to buttoned-up solutions. As in life, things happen as only they must. Gruen does not tell us all of this, but shows us in the way that only a seasoned and very talented writer can. To let us know that Kinko and Jacob’s relationship has changed, she gives us only, “Jacob? You can call me Walter if you want.” But it is powerful in its simplicity.

This story has it all – murder, sex, jealousy, hatred, joy, deceit and love. One of my college writing instructors once described the best story as one that puts the protagonist in a tree, throws rocks at him and then gets him down. Gruen does just that, and she does it seemingly with no effort at all. She reminds me why I read and why I write. Sara Gruen has given me hope. Hope in the inherent goodness of human beings and animals alike and hope in the possibilities.

Not since Atticus Finch has there been a character created with so much depth, so much heroism, strength and grief. And the ending is one of the best I’ve ever read. I could tell you, but then you’d miss the distinct pleasure of reading the book.

Sara Gruen is the author of three bestselling novels, Riding Lessons, Flying Changes and Water for Elephants. She has just sold her fourth and fifth novels to publisher Spiegel and Grau. Sara lives north of Chicago with one husband, three children, four cats, two goats, two dogs and a horse. She also recently adopted 10 infant Bonobo monkeys from a sanctuary in the Congo. A transplanted Canadian, Sara is now an American citizen currently living with her brood in an environmentalist community in Northern Illinois.

Beth M. Wood’s writing career began in 2002, when a counselor at Webster University informed her that she could, in fact, major in Writing. With her family’s support, she earned her BA in Professional Writing three years later and began writing press releases, newsletter articles and training manuals. She lives in St. Louis with her three beautiful children and one three-legged boxer. She is a marketing professional by trade, a devout reader and semi-fanatic editor who will occasionally sneak a red sharpie into restaurants to correct glaring grammatical errors on the menu.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why Are We so Rude and Angry?

By Pamela S. Meek

I was in line at a hardware store today. I wasn’t really paying much attention until I heard the woman in front of me utter some really profane personal expletives aimed at the young cashier. The girls face turned scarlet with indignation and embarrassment.

It seems the clerk’s crime was that she asked the woman for her drivers license when she was writing out a check for her merchandise. Oh, horrors of horrors! The woman was angry and yelling at the top of her lungs that she shopped there all the time and didn’t need to show her ******* license every ******* time she wrote a check.

When the cashier pointed out the sign prominently posted that said a valid drivers license must be presented with EVERY check, the woman reached out as if to slap the girl. A man that had just finished in another line and was passing near her “accidentally” bumped into her and knocked her hand away from the girl. The anger was then unleashed on him. At this point the manager arrived and asked the woman to finish her purchase and leave. The woman rambled a dialogue of profanity at him as well and threatened to never shop there again. I was pleasantly surprised by the manager’s reply; he told her if she kept that promise we would all be happier. She left in a huff.

What makes people so self centered and uncaring of others feelings that they feel they have a right to behave like this towards others? Why do we allow the small things in life to make us so angry that we do not bother to think of the other person’s feelings?

My daughter works at a magazine help center where they take incoming calls for magazine orders and complaints. They are trained to figure out what the problem is and fix it for the customer. She comes home emotionally exhausted from dealing with rude people who call her filthy names and act as if everything is her personal fault.

People call in angry because their magazine is late getting there or because there is a mix up on billing and they refuse to give even a bit of info to help her find the problem, then scream and cuss at her for not fixing it right now. She is called all kinds of filthy names and insults.

My daughter tells of talking to people who always ask, “Do you know who I am young woman?” As if their importance in their line of work makes them more important than anyone else and she should be able to magically be able to fix their problem just because they are so great.

She generally tells them that all she has is a name and number on a screen and that all of their customers are of equal importance. She has a keen wit and can usually get them to laugh and to see the futility of blaming her personally. After all, the help center is five hundred miles away from where the magazine is printed and another three hundred miles more from where they are located. She is there to help them fix the problem, not to be their personal whipping boy.

Yes she sometimes has good days where someone calls in and is especially nice, like the time Kevin Costner called about a problem with his magazine and he made her day by being kind and very nice. He even complimented her on the way she handled the problem and found the solution so fast. We need more people like that in this world.

Today anger and frustration seem to be the way of the world. It just goes with the faster paced lifestyle where no one seems to have time to think of anyone except themselves. Everyone is slandering, cursing and belittling anyone who they think is not in a position to fight back. And when someone does fight back, then the rage turns into violence.

I believe it all started when we allowed people to insult telemarketers. The internet is full of nasty emails about how rude people can be to telemarketers. And we not only accept it and agree with it, but we laugh at it and pass it to others.

Why is it OK to be nasty to telemarketers? They are people hired to do a job. Did you know that most telemarketers are hired by companies like mortgage companies and lenders that you already do business with? That is how they get your phone number to begin with. Did you know that even if you are on a do not call list with the phone company, a telemarketer hired by your company can call you anyway? It’s because you do business with that company and in most cases, you may have signed a paper giving them permission to have the marketers call you. I bet you didn’t even read the paper did you?

Save your anger for the company who hired them, don’t direct it at the person doing their job and calling you. Simply saying please take me off your list and hanging up is enough. If you just hang up, you go back into the bin to be called again. If you do talk to them, their job requires that they keep pressing you until you have said no three times. So, just ask to be removed from the list and hang up. You will achieve more than if you scream at them and show your rudeness. Then call the person who gave them your number and tell them of your displeasure.

I think we all need to practice a little more kindness and patience with others. Don’t allow small things to make you angry. Anger and calling names does nothing to correct a bad situation. Just as the young cashier could not change the policies of the store she worked for, slinging personal insults at innocent people just because you have been inconvenienced in some small way, does not make the situation right. And getting angry at the wrong person serves no purpose.

Violence is a learned response. It is not something we are born feeling. It's normal to feel angry or frustrated when things don’t go right. But anger and frustration do not justify insulting comments and verbal abuse towards others or violent action. Anger is a strong emotion that can be difficult to keep in check, but the right response is always to stay cool.

A little kindness goes a long way and a smile is sure to get more cooperation and solve the problem a lot faster.

Anger is part of life, but you can free yourself from the cycle of violence by learning to talk about your feelings calmly and patiently. We can achieve much better results and usually even bring about a solution to our troubles when we stay calm and speak rationally.

A Concert In The Park

By Janet Denton

Have you ever been to a concert in the park? If not then you have no clue what a real treat it is. My family and I recently attended a concert and fireworks show in Austin, Texas, put on by the Austin Symphony Orchestra. We drove the hour and a half drive in bumper to bumper traffic. We arrived at 5:00; the concert didn’t start until 8:30 P.M. We took along several old quilts and a hamper full of fried chicken, potato salad and apple and cherry rhubarb pie for a late picnic supper.

The kids played with friends they met there. Some were old friends, some they go to Sunday school with, and others were new friends. My husband and I had a chance to talk with old friends and new. It’s amazing how friendly people become at a concert like this.

As the sun began to set, music filled Wooldridge Park. We all cuddled up on the quilts together. The music was wonderful, even my youngest listened and enjoyed it. He’s pretty active and at two years old, sitting is not his forte. The music seemed to entrance him. He insisted on joining his ten year old brother and seven year old twin sisters as they marched around the quilt in time to the music.

These wonderful outdoor park concerts are a perfect opportunity for America’s families to enjoy some of the countries greatest pleasures – togetherness, fine music, fresh air, and beautiful park surroundings.

Our twin fourteen year old daughters both play instruments in the junior high band and loved the whole show. They kept challenging one another to pick out which instruments they could hear playing certain pieces while they listened with their eyes closed.

Our oldest is a typical seventeen year old guy. Much to macho and cool to join in it, but his dad forced him to join the family (he threatened to take the car keys on Saturday night). He sat around looking all bored and refusing to participate, stating that his presence should be enough, he shouldn’t be forced to have fun too. About half way through the concert he remarked,” This isn’t too bad for old people stuff.” After that he really did seem to enjoy himself.

The music and atmosphere seemed to reflect a simpler time when performances of familiar classics in town centers were commonplace. It is so wonderful that these free and very informal outdoor events can provide an opportunity for people to become acquainted or reacquainted with the classical music experience. What a wonderful way to give our children an education in music and actually experience it first hand.

It took us back to a simpler place and time. A place where there was no rush to get somewhere. A place where family still reigned supreme and parents didn’t have to sensor what the kids were hearing for fear of obscenities or violence. It was a place of peace and harmony. A place of learning and fun activities for the whole family.

The music this night, being Independence Day, was all patriotic. As the music was coming to an end, the ever-popular 1812 Overture began to play, punctuated by 75-millimeter Howitzer cannons, courtesy of Texas National Guard Salute Battery, interlaced with spectacular fireworks over Town Lake. The ohs and ahs could be heard everywhere. The children loved the whole experience. They all want to go back again, including our Nathan. I guess he has decided that concerts are not as lame as he thought. He mentioned to his dad that maybe next time he will invite a date so he isn’t so bored.

I bet there is a concert somewhere near you this summer. Why not go online and check out Concerts InThe Park and add your town. I found that there will be concerts all through the summer and early fall months in that same park. I wish I had known about them a lot sooner.

What a wonderful way to spend a night together as a family.


Janet Denton lives on a ranch near Austin, Texas with her husband of twenty three years, Lucas. She is a stay at home mom and homeschools their six children. Janet holds a Masters Degree in Science and Liberal Arts. She has been writing since her oldest son was born seventeen years ago. This is her second published article. Her first article was the winner of the Hot Psychology Patriotic Contest published in the July issue.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

How I See It: The Talk We Need

By Gerry Mandel

Did you ever notice how much talk there is today? It seems everywhere you turn, someone’s talking. Taking a position, giving an opinion, analyzing a situation. You hear it on TV and talk radio. Thanks to cell phones, you can’t even escape talk in a restaurant or a library. I play tennis and almost got into a fight with a guy who thought he had the right to make cell phone calls from his court. From the condition of his backhand, I hoped he was talking to a tennis pro.

Talk is even encroaching on an area once considered inviolable. Cartoons. Yep, animated features, according to a recent article in the New York Times, are loaded with talk while lacking movement, which makes them less entertaining. Think of the classic Road Runner cartoons, or Tom and Jerry. Those guys didn’t talk. They moved. They acted and reacted, and we all got it. Charlie Chaplin made the world laugh and cry without saying a word.

To tell you the truth, I think all this chatter is the cause of global warming. Those over-stimulated frequencies have to go somewhere, right? One of my favorite musicians is Mose Allison. He wrote a song called “Your Mind is on Vacation and Your Mouth is Working Overtime.” An anthem for our times.

So where am I headed with all this talk about talk? I’m going back over 60 years, back to World War II, back to June of 1944 and the beaches of Normandy. Tens of thousands of men landed on those beaches. Sadly, thousands of them died there. Most of them, however, came back home. But there’s a sadness in that as well. Because so many of them never talked about what happened there, what they saw, how they felt. And how they feel now, more than 60 years later. It’s not easy for them to talk about their experiences, especially to their families. But isn’t it a shame that these men who earned the right to talk have chosen to keep it all in? Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” says they possess a “quiet eloquence.” I like that. Quiet eloquence.

I play senior softball with a guy named Charlie. I like him a lot. He’s 82 years old, which gives me hope that I’ll still be able to swing a bat when I’m 82. I had known Charlie for a year or more, when I told him about a book I had read, called “Flags of Our Fathers.” It’s the story of a young man who learns that his dad was one of the six guys who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945, an event I know you’re familiar with. He found out about it after his dad had passed away. Charlie said, “Gerry, I was on Iwo Jima too.” He surprised me. I knew he was a Marine, but not much else. I asked him if he’d ever told his wife or his kids about what he went through. He said, “They never asked, they didn’t seem interested. Anyway we were just doing a job.” Quiet eloquence. Still, I could feel there were undercurrents in his life that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

I wonder how many stories and memories are locked up. How many sons and daughters, and grand children, will never know what pop or grandpa went through. Time keeps on moving. The older we get, the faster it moves. I hope there’s time for these men to bring their families into their past. I hope they talk about it. It’s the kind of talk we need. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

How I See It: The Talk We Nee

By Gerry Mandel

Did you ever notice how much talk there is today? It seems everywhere you turn, someone’s talking. Taking a position, giving an opinion, analyzing a situation. You hear it on TV and talk radio. Thanks to cell phones, you can’t even escape talk in a restaurant or a library. I play tennis and almost got into a fight with a guy who thought he had the right to make cell phone calls from his court. From the condition of his backhand, I hoped he was talking to a tennis pro.

Talk is even encroaching on an area once considered inviolable. Cartoons. Yep, animated features, according to a recent article in the New York Times, are loaded with talk while lacking movement, which makes them less entertaining. Think of the classic Road Runner cartoons, or Tom and Jerry. Those guys didn’t talk. They moved. They acted and reacted, and we all got it. Charlie Chaplin made the world laugh and cry without saying a word.

To tell you the truth, I think all this chatter is the cause of global warming. Those over-stimulated frequencies have to go somewhere, right? One of my favorite musicians is Mose Allison. He wrote a song called “Your Mind is on Vacation and Your Mouth is Working Overtime.” An anthem for our times.

So where am I headed with all this talk about talk? I’m going back over 60 years, back to World War II, back to June of 1944 and the beaches of Normandy. Tens of thousands of men landed on those beaches. Sadly, thousands of them died there. Most of them, however, came back home. But there’s a sadness in that as well. Because so many of them never talked about what happened there, what they saw, how they felt. And how they feel now, more than 60 years later. It’s not easy for them to talk about their experiences, especially to their families. But isn’t it a shame that these men who earned the right to talk have chosen to keep it all in? Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” says they possess a “quiet eloquence.” I like that. Quiet eloquence.

I play senior softball with a guy named Charlie. I like him a lot. He’s 82 years old, which gives me hope that I’ll still be able to swing a bat when I’m 82. I had known Charlie for a year or more, when I told him about a book I had read, called “Flags of Our Fathers.” It’s the story of a young man who learns that his dad was one of the six guys who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945, an event I know you’re familiar with. He found out about it after his dad had passed away. Charlie said, “Gerry, I was on Iwo Jima too.” He surprised me. I knew he was a Marine, but not much else. I asked him if he’d ever told his wife or his kids about what he went through. He said, “They never asked, they didn’t seem interested. Anyway we were just doing a job.” Quiet eloquence. Still, I could feel there were undercurrents in his life that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

I wonder how many stories and memories are locked up. How many sons and daughters, and grand children, will never know what pop or grandpa went through. Time keeps on moving. The older we get, the faster it moves. I hope there’s time for these men to bring their families into their past. I hope they talk about it. It’s the kind of talk we need. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

Patriotism: What It Means to Me

By Sue McKleveen

On a cold February day in Pennsylvania, seven men stood with guns at the ready by my father’s graveside. An American flag draped his casket to remind onlookers of his many accomplishments. While I stared at the dark wooden coffin covered in red, white and blue, I reflected on my father’s duty to his country.

As an enlistee in the Army during the Korean Conflict, my father went to California for a crash course in the Romanian language, then was sent to Europe to crack codes for the intelligence section of the Army. I grew up hearing stories of the people he’d met and the situations he’d encountered. My father was proud to serve his country. He was a true American to his last breath.

We were taught early on what it meant to be an American. My parents were born at the beginning of the Great Depression, making all five of their children realize what we had was not a privilege. Instead, the freedom of living day to day was earned. As American citizens, we were more fortunate than others around the world, having been born in the land of the free. We were told to clean our plates, to show we respected the benefit of having food on the table. Brave men and women had served their time and sometimes lost their lives to defend our way of life. My siblings and I were told not to let America go to ruin, to fight for what was right in our country. We still believe that to this day.

The bugler began playing Taps near my father’s casket. Those haunting twenty-four notes were like a tribute to the fallen soldiers, telling them their time was well spent and we, as a country, congratulate them on a job well done.

I’m told that the three-volley salute, using seven guns, each firing three times, was originally used on the battlefield to indicate that all shooting should cease to clear the dead from the land. The twenty-one sounds of gunfire at my father’s funeral made me appreciate all the people who’d died to make my country as great as it is, realizing they’d given their all on the battlefield.

Finally, it was time for the flag-folding ceremony. My sister, a celebrant, read the meaning of each fold for all present, while two chosen Veterans folded the flag thirteen times, representing the thirteen original colonies. The stars and the blue part of the flag symbolize the states our soldiers served, standing for honor and justice, while the white means purity and the red stands for valor. The folds themselves represent life, eternal life, a portion of the soldier’s life to attain peace throughout the world, trust in God, a tribute to our country, our pledge of allegiance to America in our hearts, a tribute to our Armed Forces, honor to our mothers, fathers, ancestors and religion. When completely folded, it is to remind us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”

When the ceremony was completed, the folded triangular flag and a copy of the words were presented to my mother, sitting near the casket managing to look noble on such a cold and bleak day. I felt such pride for my father’s life, knowing he wanted me to carry on, fighting for what was right in our homeland.

So what is patriotism? According to Webster, it is “love for or devotion to one’s country.” I think it’s more than that, including the deep passion that stirs in one’s heart to fight for fellow Americans to preserve our way of life. It’s the feeling I had when I looked at the waving fields of grain across the Midwest or when I saw the Rocky Mountains in their glory for the first time. I felt even more patriotic when I gazed up at the Lincoln Memorial, when I walked the steps of the Washington monument so many years ago, and when I marveled at the faces carved into Mount Rushmore. I felt that passion to preserve America while crying for the lost on 9/11 and the day I stood in reverence at Arlington’s National Cemetery and at the Vietnam Soldier’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. My experiences made me want to guarantee America stays the way it is for my children and their children.

America is, by far, the greatest land in the world, giving us priceless freedom and encouraging us to succeed. I’ve met citizens from other countries, and we, as Americans, have no idea how good we truly have it. Market places are readily available for us, unlike other countries. Our medical care is second to none and our innovations help everyone around the globe. We have the ability to speak our mind or move across the country without being questioned. It truly is the land of opportunity, where the sky is the limit. I don’t take these things for granted, but appreciate it every time I vote—a freedom much of the world can’t freely exercise.

This country is great, thanks to every soldier and American who’s ever lived. Each citizen has his or her job to help the United States become even greater, from the weakest to the most powerful. We’re all in this together, and only we can keep this country extraordinary, by dreaming of the future. Together, we’ve sent men to the moon, created new technology, and solved problems all over the world. I’ve seen much of it happen in my lifetime and can only imagine what the future holds for us. I can’t think of any other country that encourages their citizens to dream of the best possible outcome, then allows them to make it happen.

My father’s casket lay naked, the flag resting in my mother’s hands while tears trickled down her cheeks. Yes, my father was a true patriot. He loved this land, as do I. Thank you, Dad, and thank you to all the brave men and women who have served this land to preserve my freedom. You’ve made me believe in the United States of America and I hope we can all make you proud, by keeping patriotism alive. God bless America, my wonderful homeland!

What Does It Mean to be Patriotic?

By Beth M. Wood

I was working on my writing degree in 2001, teaching preschool at “Love ‘N Laugher” in the morning for extra income. It was a small school – sixty families in an 80-year old home that the owner had converted into a preschool. White brick with little red awnings, sidewalk chalk up and down the driveway, clapboard fence surrounding a happy playground filled with swings, slides and running toddlers. It was quaint. Cozy. Safe. One of a million little schoolhouses all over the world.

Once the children were down for their nap, the afternoon teacher would relieve me, and I’d head to my own classes. Universities tend to lean left, politically, and at the time, I was married to a right-wing Republican. I never had much opinion on political matters. Instead I tended to let my husband sway me, just as our parents’ beliefs sway us in our youth. Once I went back to school for my bachelor’s though, I became a little more opinionated. Maybe it was the University environment, maybe it was the strain on my marriage, maybe I was finally finding my voice, and over time, confidence in that voice. Whatever it was, I felt more and more compassion for the soldiers, and less and less for the government – ours or anyone else’s.

July 4 was always a favorite of the preschoolers at Love N Laughter. The kids celebrated by waving little American flags, singing “patriotic” songs and creating “firework” art by throwing paint-drenched Koosh balls at black construction paper. I can remember walking into the little school house the morning of September 11, 2001, a weary eye on the sky, half expecting to see fighter jets flying overhead. I can remember wondering if there were preschool teachers walking into little schoolhouse in Iraq, or Cuba, or Vietnam that morning. What makes us different from any of them? Surely they were familiar with the fear of the unknown, as I was for the first time that morning.

I can’t imagine anyone talking or writing about Patriotism without mentioning 9/11 in some way. Pre-9/11 America and Post-9/11 America. Of course, most would say that, as a country, we are much more “patriotic” now.

But what does that mean? Because our country was attacked in such a massive, public, horrifying way, that we suddenly became more proud of our country. Willing to fight back? We got flag happy, I think. We rallied around the troops, the government, and the “war on terror”. These aren’t bad things, of course, but it did feel very “Republican”.

If patriotism is this simple, why does it always seem to be a political issue? If we are against the “war on terror” then we’re not patriotic. If we’re all for it – we’re murdering, war lovers. What if patriotism is just about having that sense of peace within us that somehow things will be okay? What if it’s just about waving that little flag and smiling as you walk past a stranger – sharing a common bond – even for just that day.
It’s our right as Americans – born in a free country – to choose our politics. Are we Republican or Democrat? Do we back the president, or back away? Whichever way we lean politically – we should be proud that we have that right. We should be grateful for the opportunity to choose and speak out without fear. Why fight with the leftist next door because you’re right wing? Be glad that both of you have respect and love enough for your country to use your rights. Be patriotic – and smile at the opposing team – just for today.

That first 4th of July – 2002 – was a big one for our country. But things at Love ‘N Laughter were exactly as they’d been for the past 19 July 4th celebrations. Same little flags, same paint-smattered little hands, same smiles, giggles, shouts.

That little school house hasn’t changed in the last six years. There is still no lock on the front door. No iron gates at the end of the driveway. No metal detectors or rent-a-cops.
It is still the same, peaceful, cozy place it was pre-9/11. One small sign that maybe we really our patriotic – we really do believe in our peace. Is it na├»ve? Maybe. But it’s American. How patriotic is that?

The Modern Patriot

By Janet Denton

You asked the question; the modern patriot, who are you?
My answer; I am the modern patriot.
Patriots are those who love their country dearly and zealously support its authority and interests. They serve and defend even to death. They are leaders and an inspiration to those around them, and a true believer in their countries abilities.
Today’s modern Patriot is not much different from those of yesteryear. We fight a good fight and maintain that our country is number ONE! Being a good patriot does not mean we are better than others, only that we are proud of what we have accomplished in this country -and that we have no intentions of giving it up.
I consider myself a patriot in every sense of the word. I love my country devotedly. As a patriot, when I stand and salute the flag of the United States of America, I see beyond the cloth, beyond the colors, beyond the waves as it flies. I see what the U.S. Flag embodies, security, peace, freedom for every man woman and child, all of the things this country stands for and is based on. It makes me feel a part of something greater than anything I could be as an individual.
When I look at that flag and I say the Pledge of Allegiance; I know exactly what the words mean and mean every word of it, and I believe deep in my heart that it is worth fighting for the right to proclaim it in public places.

I taught my sons to take their hats off and stand in respect of the flag and what it represents. If you know anything about Texas men, you know, that is the only time they take their hats off.

I support and respect the president, even when I vehemently disagree with his decisions, and I vote in every election, even if it is just a school board election. I believe that to be a true patriot one must stay informed on what the government is doing, and exercise our freedom of speech to disagree with our government. It is not unpatriotic to provide constructive criticism on policies that we disagree with. It is the patriot’s duty as a citizen. I have been told many times that I am politically incorrect; to which I reply, it depends on ones politics.
A true patriot understands that freedom and democracy come with a price, and if necessary, you must be willing to defend it with your life.
As a patriot, I fight the wrongs of this world and oppose tyranny where I see it. Even within my own country.

When I think of all those who came before me, it makes me extremely proud to do my patriotic duty, although I really don’t look at voting as a duty, it is a pleasure and an honor for me. A true patriot exercises their right to vote, understanding the platforms of the candidates, and making an informed decision based on the good of all Americans and not just based on a political affiliation. I have seen so many countries that do not allow the people to vote, and if they do vote, they are reprimanded by beatings, rape or death. I watched the news as many people in Iraq went to the polls to vote. What courage it took for them to do that. I wondered how many would die in retribution.
My family came here from Ireland. I know all the stories about the Irish Catholics, the fights, the drinking, the ignorance. I also know how hard my parents fought to overcome the stereotyping. My parents believed in America and their patriotic duty to raise good patriots for this country. We were sent to school and expected to learn and achieve. My parents did not drink and we were not allowed to either. We were expected to go to work and be productive members of society. We were expected to help others in our community who were in need and to volunteer wherever needed. We were taught that patriotism is considering the needs of others as well as our own. It is giving back to ones community and country.
My parents believed that the American Dream existed, and was attainable, but that you had to be willing to work hard to achieve it. I believe that this is still true today. The problem I see is that so few are willing to actually work. We belong to a generation of “give me everything for free, and everyone owes me and I shouldn’t have to work for it”.
My parents did everything in their power to be true Americans. They both became American citizens in 1950. It was the proudest day of their lives.
I have twin brothers who both became police officers, then they went off to Vietnam. They did what their Commander–in-Chief asked of them. They fought, they killed, they lived a horrible existence, because war is hell! And they came home to be spit on. They were treated worse than the true traitors in our country today who are now being treated as heroes! It was a good thing they were both cops before becoming Vietnam Vets, they had learned how to deal with ignorant people. The war took its toll on both of them, but today they are leaders in their communities.
A true patriot appreciates our Armed Forces, not just during times of war, but in peace as well, and we appreciate the sacrifices they and their families make every day they serve.
I also spent two years in Vietnam as a nurse. The pain of so many young men wounded and dieing still haunts me to this day. It fills my soul and my senses. I can sometimes still smell the death and decay. And yet, at the same time it lifts me up and fills my heart with joy. I was proud to go to war and help to heal so many who were there doing as our country’s leaders commanded. Yes, it was hard, so much death and pain surrounded me for so long. I learned then that I had to fight for what was right in this world.
I saw my youngest son off to desert storm. Three of my grandsons and a granddaughter are in Iraq as I write this and another is over there somewhere, but we are not allowed to know where due to the sensitivity of his work. I am so proud of them and what they are doing for this country. I pray to God that this country has learned its lesson on how to treat and to welcome home those who have done their duty to this country.
Patriots are the people who protect this country. They take the battle to the enemy so the battle is not fought here on our land. Patriots stand up to be counted and are the first to volunteer when there is a need anywhere.
I am the modern patriot, and so are those men and women now fighting this war on terror.

Patriotic Writing Contest Winners

By Pamela S. Meek

It is July and as our minds turn to Independence Day and we think about what is happening in our country today, we think about patriotism and what it means. Hot psychology asked for Patriotic articles and we received them!

We offered three different themes
The Modern Patriot, who are you?
What does it mean to be Patriotic?
Patriotism, Then and Now.


We are very proud to announce our three top winners. It was a very hard decision to choose from all the really fine entries. Thank you everyone who entered. And a really big Thank You to our panel of judges.

CONGRATULATIONS to our winners

First place goes to …

The Modern Patriot
By Janet Denton

Second place goes to…

What Does it Mean to Be Patriotic?
Beth M Wood

And our Third place winner is…

Patriotism…What It Means To Me
Sue McKleveen

Each of our winners will win a Hot Psychology T-shirt and their award winning essays are as follows.

CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU ALL
And Thank You for entering the second annual HP Writers Contest.

Pamela S. Meek
Our Culture Editor

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Under the Red Goose Sign

By Gerry Mandel

I stand on the littered sidewalk, staring through the grimy plate glass window into a dark and empty store. This was once my father’s shoe store, a business he ran for more than forty years and was as essential to him as food and air. The entire street once resonated with shoppers and colorful window decorations and a transcendent energy, all accompanied by a soundtrack of voices and traffic. Now the store, surrounded by deteriorating storefronts and struggling businesses, holds only ghosts and memories. Outside the entrance, over the name Proper Shoe Store, hangs a huge Red Goose Shoes sign. Suspended in immutable splendor, it is a happy reminder of the line of children’s shoes he once carried.

My father evolved from a four-year-old immigrant from Russia into a respected and well-liked businessman who made friends with aldermen and mayors, prize fighters and comedians, rabbis and priests, maitre-d’s and cops. Even now, twenty years after his death, I still am fascinated by the photographs he so proudly displayed: Dad with Jimmy Durante, Rocky Marciano, Joe Garagiola, Shecky Green, Henny Youngman, Rosemary Clooney and even Buster Workman, a notorious racketeer from across the river in East St. Louis.

Yes, Dad knew them all. But he did not know me. And I, sadly, did not know him. Over the years we went to ball games and boxing matches together, family dinners at restaurants and large dances at hotel ballrooms for organizations he and Mom supported. And we had lunch together, usually at his suggestion. But our conversations never seemed to go beneath the surface. The job is fine, business is good, the Cardinals are playing great, and Aunt Minnie isn’t doing so well. Even when I knew his heart was weakening and a fearful look in his eye had replaced the confident smile I had always associated with him - even then, we couldn’t get past the mundane. I must have been fifty years old before I could say ‘I love you” to my dad. It took him even longer to return the sentiment.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved him. He loved me. But it was unspoken. My entire life was, if anything, too easy. I never wanted for a car, a new suit, a college education, and - of course - shoes. He frequently would bring home shoes for me, even after I was grown and out of the house, shoes I didn’t need or like. They were his way, I think, of saying “I love you.” Shoes were his language.

Dad had a knack of associating people with the size of their feet. He forgot people’s names occasionally, but never their size.

“You see that guy over there?” he’d say to me. “Size nine Charlie.”

“Who is that, Dad?”

“I don’t remember his name but he wears a 9-C.”

Dad had everyone pegged by their shoe size, the waitress at the diner down the street with the petite 5-B, the cop in the neighborhood with the gigantic 14-EEE. Dad specialized in hard-to-fit feet, and drew customers from the entire St. Louis area. His name was Milt, his nicknames were Smiley and Uncle Miltie and Curly, even though he was bald.

He’d proudly introduce me as his son. I was the piano player. My brother was the baseball player. I gravitated more to mom, who also played piano. We knew each other better. But here’s the strange part: In my dreams today I dream about Dad frequently. Not Mom. In my dreams, Dad is with me, healthy and happy, as he was when I was growing up. Even as I talk with him, I know he is dead. But we are together and that’s all that counts. Sometimes the dream seems to go on for hours, and I fear his departure, but he stays. And I treasure each second, impossible though I know it is. I wake up still locked in the magic of the dream, feeling fulfilled and sad and privileged.

I often wonder why we have such difficulty getting in touch with our fathers. How and where the distance began. He was born on the other side of the world. He entered a strange land, made his way to St. Louis, learned the language, the hustle, the dos and don’ts of making it in America. He ran his own business for four decades, survived The Depression, recovered from a devastating fire that put him out of business for almost a year, at a time when Mom was pregnant with my brother and Pearl Harbor was just months away. Even then, he never stopped, never looked back. I don’t think I could have achieved what he did. At one of our lunches, instead of telling him I got a raise or was thinking about buying a new Monte Carlo, I wish - God, how I wish - I had told him what an incredibly beautiful job he had done with his life and mine.

So many people migrated to America during the early part of the last century, became men and women of respect and accomplishment. Many of them died without ever talking about how they did it, why they did it, how they felt about it. This is a personal loss of lore and legend we must now seek out in other people’s books and experiences, to see what, if anything, applies to our own lives.

I touch the cold glass. In the darkness I can see Dad pull a shoe box from a shelf, flip open the lid, pull out a size five beige pump and present it to a seated woman who has one shoe off. He looks up at the window, sees me, and smiles. Then he slips the shoe onto the woman’s foot.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Happy Mothers Day From Hot Psychology

By Pamela S. Meek

Many believe that Mothers day is just a day to send flowers, or cards or to take a mom or the wife out to dinner. But we here at Hot Psychology believe it is much more. We believe it is a day to look within ourselves and rediscover the part of us that is our Mom, the part of her that makes us who we are.

Whether biological, adopted, foster, Grandmother, Aunt, older sister, or the woman who lives next door, the woman who had the most influence in your life is a very special person that helped to form you into who you are today.

There have been some very strong women who have helped to shape me and make me who I am.

Some people look at me and say I am the spitting image of my mom. I take that as a compliment. People have always considered my mom to be a beautiful, sexy, loving, and intelligent woman. My mom has been a wonderful example of love and caring, and she’s taught me to follow my dreams. Her heartfelt support in everything I have ever done has been a blessing. Being married to my Dad, working, and raising six spoiled rotten kids was not an easy task, but she's never failed any of us. Even when we were wrong, that is when she was there the strongest.

Other women who shaped me and had a big part in my life were my Grandmothers;

My maternal Grandmother showed me how to laugh at troubles, how to find the good in even the worst, and she showed me how to find an inner strength I never knew anyone could posses. I learned as I watched her grieve the loss of both of her sons who were taken far too young. I held her hand as she sat at my Grandfathers bedside as he lay dieing. I prayed with her and listened to her talk of her love and devotion to him. I watched her rise up and walk down the Isle again when she was 75 years young. And I watched her grieve again when just 2 yrs later she lost him too. I see her now still active and vibrant, still loving each one of us as she waits to be called home.

My Paternal Grandmother taught me how to love the earth, how to plant and care for a garden and the love of animals. She also taught me about the importance of family. She showed me how to love and enjoy the times spent with my own children. She showed me that family is everything. Without family, there is nothing. One simply exists. I miss her a lot and sometimes wish she were still here to give me her advice.

I also have all of my aunts to thank. I was the first born girl on both sides of the family, the first born on my mother’s side, and was preceded by only a month by a boy cousin on my dad’s side. My aunts used to dress me up and treat me like a doll, so I have them to thank for my toughness. They also taught me about using my imagination, how to roller skate and ice skate, how to throw a soft ball, and how to run faster than the boys. They taught me how to be cute and how to pretend to cry to get my own way, much to my daddy’s surprise. Contrary to what my mom believes, it was not my dad who taught me to cuss either.

All of these women helped to shape the me I am today. Thank You Mom, Grandma, and a special Thanks to the Aunts!!

Here at Hot Psychology, we have tried to celebrate by finding some really great articles this month, and in the traditions of HP, we have found some thought provoking, intense stories of love and caring that dig deep into the discovery of what makes us human.

Carol O'Dell is a caregiver for her Mother in the “Sandwich” generation, and shares her most intimate thoughts with us.

Adrienne shares her fight as a mother to be able to love her child when post partum depression and treatment resistant depression stole all feeling from her life, and refused to allow her to love her son. Her article is a 2 part story that will premier here in Our Cultures and finish next month in To Your Health, along with an article on the VNS devise that now allows her to feel that love she so desired to feel.

And Tasha Evansguard shares her love and thankfulness for a woman who isn't biologically her mother and gives a new twist in family love.

Being a Mother, a Mom, or a Grandma is a special gift and Hot Psychology wishes all our Mothers a wonderful day, and a wonderful year.

For more from this talented writer, click here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Massacre at Virginia Tech.

I can't even begin to express my sincerest of condolences to the victims and their families of this extremely mind-blowing tragedy. To think that a life can be literally blown to pieces in such a rapid and meaningless manner is an absolute heartbreak, and even worse, for no good reason.

The man responsible for taking the lives of these 32 people is nothing but weak and disgusting. No legitimate human being takes his anguish and disillusionment out on others unless he is afraid. Afraid of what, we’ll never know. Most likely, afraid of himself. Afraid of the evil that lurked inside of him. Afraid of never being known by society. Instead of ending his own life and going in the silence he’s remembered for living in, he felt it necessary to take the entire world down with him.

What happened on Monday at Virginia Tech will always be remembered; Cho Seung-Hui will not. Our nation is coming together to mourn the victims of this heinous rampage, and to comfort one another in knowing that we are united as one. When all of the media, madness, and mayhem of this devastating situation subsides, Cho will be nothing more than dust in the wind – a man who was clearly demented, lost, and alone. A man who will now be made to relive his wickedness over and over again until his final day of judgment. A man who deserves nothing more.

And as for myself, I’ll always wonder why. Why the police didn’t enter the building sooner. Why the campus wasn’t closed down after the first two murders took place that morning. And mostly, why such terrible things have to happen to decent people.

The truth is clear – our nation is slowly transforming from a safe place where nobody locks their doors, to a chaotic and unexplainable mess of crime, sadness, and utter selfishness.

The Sadness of Virginia Tech


Our hearts and prayers go out to those at VT. So many brilliant lives cut short, and only God knows why. Having a college age daughter, I find myself frightened to allow her to go to classes. I want her home, safe and protected with me.

As a writer, It is hard for me to admit, but I just don't have the words to convey my feelings of love, pain and sympathy. So instead I do the best thing I know...I ask Gods mercy on you and pray that he will be there to help you through this.


Cho Seung-Hui was a very troubled young man. I also pray for his family. I wonder what has happened in his young life that made him so angry, so torn apart inside that he would do such a thing as this.

It would be so easy to allow my pain and sadness to turn to anger and start pointing fingers and blaming, as so many have already begun doing. It won't bring back our children, and it won't make things easier for those who have so much pain to deal with right now. So what I will do, and what I ask each of my readers to do, is to take a minute or two to pray for the families, the students and faculty, and the town. Let us also pray for our country and for Gods guidance and love. God have mercy on us all.

Amen

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Woman President

A Woman President
By Pamela S. Meek

"Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade.”
Constance Baker Motley (First African-American Woman in the U.S. to become a Federal Judge)

In March we celebrated National Women's History Month. We celebrated many heroic achievements of women who have contributed to the economic, political, and social progress of our country. We honored the courage of the early suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for the right to vote. We acknowledge pioneers such as Virginia Claflin Woodhull who in 1872, became the first woman to ever run for President of the United States, as well as other women, past and present, who paved the way for our advancement into the women we are today, and the women we still struggle to become. Many of us have contemplated a woman holding
the office of President of the United States for many years.

The problem is, the world was not ready when we had the right candidates and now, there is a huge question as to IF we have the right candidate running when we might be ready to accept a woman. I have decided to leave my own personal opinion
out of this at this time.

In 1872, Virginia Claflin Woodhull became the first woman to ever run for President of the United States. She ran under the Equal Rights Party. Since then we have had eleven other women who have entered the race.

1884 and again in 1888- Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood ran for President under the Equal
Rights Party.

1964- Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for President by a major party. She received Republican primary votes in New Hampshire, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, and Oregon, among others, and had twenty-seven first ballot votes at the Republican National Convention.

1972- Shirley Anita Chisholm was the first African American woman to run for President. She campaigned throughout the country and was on the ballot in twelve primaries in what was largely an educational campaign. She received 151.25 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention

1972- Patsy Takemoto Mink ran as an anti-war candidate in the 1972 Oregon Democratic presidential primary, winning two percent of the votes.

1976- Ellen McCormack entered 20 state primaries for the Democratic presidential nomination as an anti-abortion candidate, winning 22 convention votes. She became the first woman to qualify for federal campaign matching funds and qualified for Secret Service protection. In 1980, she ran for president again as the candidate of the Right to Life Party, winning more than 30,000 votes from three states.

1984- Sonia Johnson ran on the ballot of the Citizens Party.

1988- Patricia S. Schroeder a Democrat, took preliminary steps toward making a serious run for the presidency, but was forced to drop out before the primaries because she could not raise the necessary funds.

1988, 1992- Lenora Fulani - New Alliance Party. Ran for U.S. President twice and qualified for federal matching funds both times.

2000- Elizabeth Hanford Dole - resigned her position as president of the American Red Cross in January 1999, a position she had held since 1991, to run for the Republican nomination for President

2004- Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun was among ten Democrats seeking the 2004 presidential nomination.

2008- Hilary Rodham Clinton is a current candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

When checking into the backgrounds of these women, I found that, in my opinion, there were several who would probably actually make it if they ran today. There were a couple who made me wonder what on earth they were thinking, and a few who just made me laugh and very glad they were not elected.

On that note, let’s take a look at what it would take to elect a woman as President in 2008...

1. Political party affiliation; Today we have the Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Right to Life, Green, and a new one I just heard of called the Technologists. Just how important is her party she represents to you?

2. What about personal Ethics? If we define Ethics as the difference between right and wrong used to benefit society as a whole and to improve the human condition, do you feel these personal ethics are important and should they be used to judge a candidate?

3. Stance on Important Matters; How would your candidate need to vote and on what matters do you feel are important?

4. Is Personality important? What if the candidate feels she is superior to others and is rude to her body guards and others she feels are inferior? Should that enter into the political debate? Should someone be elected because everyone likes the way they smile and treat others?

5. Is it enough to be Politically savvy? Just knowing the ins and outs of the political arena is not usually enough, what else would your candidate have to know for you to elect her?

Bonus question…Do you know of a woman who should run for President today? Why?

We would love to hear from each of our readers. Please take a moment and answer our short poll in the Blog area of the magazine. www.hotpsychology.com, to answer our brief questionnaire…or just tell us what it would take for you to vote for a woman
President.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

One Nation Divided

By Linda O'Connell

Illegal immigration issues are a huge topic of great concern in America. The side on which one stands divides or unites us. I am conflicted on the issue, and I am not certain that there are any clear cut solutions, despite my wavering opinions.

Residents of Valley Park, Missouri, a sleepy little town west of St. Louis are up in arms. Local legislation that would impose a fine on anyone who employs or rents to undocumented immigrants, has been repealed. Routing out the illegal immigrants has pushed the hot buttons of compassionate, caring individuals --- and they stand firmly in their beliefs on both sides of the issue.

Perhaps the adage, with age comes wisdom, is true. I had an older neighbor once who imparted her knowledge and wisdom to me when I was a young mom. Each evening we would stroll around our city block. She had been a war bride in the 1940’s and met her soldier husband in her hometown in Germany. She immigrated to the United States where she attained citizenship, and raised a family. But she left a huge chunk of her heart in the Rhineland. She frequently talked about her country and the family she left behind. She also spoke of tyranny and tolerance.

One evening we noticed a moving van parked down the street. As we approached, we saw that the family was African-American, the first black family to move into our segregated neighborhood. The woman said to me, “I don’t know why people make such a big deal out of color. People are just people. Ethnicity doesn’t make one bit of difference when you’re under five years old or over seventy-five. When you’re in your formative years, all you want to do is play and eat and sleep; doesn’t matter what color the kid is next to you. People are just people. It’s the way you treat one another that matters at that age. When you’re old and falling apart, it doesn’t matter what color the person is who feeds you or takes you to the toilet. It’s the way the person treats you.”

That statement has had a profound impact on me ever since. An elderly relative, who had been a racist all of her life, entered a nursing home last year. She receives quality, loving care from a devoted African-American nurse, and they have developed a fondness for one another. I can guarantee you it wouldn’t have happened years ago.

Our inner city school has a diverse ethnic population. Recently I received a new student from Thailand into my preschool class. I listened to a group of children discussing the new girl. One of the children said, “I think she is Chinese like me.”

“No, she is maybe from my country. Her hair is black like my hair,” said a little girl from Eritrea, Africa. Another child chimed in, “I know! She is Vietnamese; her eyes look like mine.”

I sat quietly and listened as the children continued their debate. It reminded me of times I have been in group situations. I attend educational seminars and I also facilitate at these events. I begin by asking teachers to observe other people in the room for a few minutes, and then I ask them to share what they have discovered. Invariably they will do a head count and tell me how many people are in attendance. Typically, one by one they will begin to dissect the group by ethnicity, gender, age, hair color, even clothing. They seem confused when I smile and remain silent. I do not respond until the last observation is voiced. They are amazed when I make my own observations. “You are all human beings, all or most of you have hair, and you have eyes with which to see my materials. All of you have ears with which to listen intently and learn something that you might impart to others. You are all able to speak, ask questions and share your information with me. Every single one of you have feelings that can be hurt or bolstered by what I say and do as your group leader.” They nod in agreement; most understand that I am trying to demonstrate the profound effect each of us has on others. I ask them to ponder a question; why is it that when we walk into a group, we immediately see our differences? The answer is simple; it is human nature to be a bit egocentric and ethnocentric. I remind them to treat others as they would want to be treated - with respect and compassion.

I remembered the day I attended my grandson’s preschool graduation. The children pledged allegiance to the flag and sang a patriotic song. A nice gesture, perhaps a policy instituted after 9/11, not necessarily part of a typical preschool curriculum, I thought to myself. I wondered exactly how much the youngsters understood as they belted out unfamiliar phrases: “My Country ‘T is of Thee, sweet land of liberty, let freedom ring.”

My reverie was interrupted by a verbose child in my own classroom who said, “You guys are all wrong! I know what she is; she’s JUST a girl.”

If only we could all see one another as just a boy or girl, just a man or woman. After all, people are people. It’s not skin color, ethnicity or religion that makes one bad or good; it’s their actions.

Now, I completely understand why my grandson’s teacher taught her students the Pledge of Allegiance and a patriotic song. We do live in one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. As Americans practice their constitutional rights to freedom of expression we unite on different sides of the immigration issue. Our country - land of the free and home of the brave - stands divided. Our government needs to get some things straightened out. In the meantime, we should all try to treat others as we want to be treated.

For more from this talented writer, click here.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Welcome


Hello Everyone and Welcome to the new Our Cultures Blog.
Here you will find commentary on todays culture, and sometimes lack of culture, book and entertainer reviews, a few opinion polls, and hopefully, the heartbeat of what makes us human.

We look forward to hearing from all of you . Please comment on the articles and let us know what you feel. We would also appreciate you letting us know what you would like to see and read here.


Thanks for visiting Hot Psychology!
Pamela S. Meek
Our Cultures Editor


Pamela Meek
Editor for Our Cultures

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Town and Country: City Girl, Urban Life

By Sharon Moran

Inconsistency is a human trait that is common in all members of our species. It’s hard for humans not to be inconsistent, and I’m no exception. I’m an oddity of human characteristics and at the same time entirely normal. Assuming inconsistency is, in fact, a normal yet unavoidable part of the human experience. My own inconsistency involves being pulled in two equally different and equally compelling directions at once.

I fantasize about one day living in a cabin in the mountains and using sunrise and sunset to mark my days in lieu of an alarm clock. I have visions of deeply inhaling clean mountain air and tending to my organic vegetable garden in preparation for the day’s dinner. (Okay, I admit it’s not a well-thought out plan. I’m not even sure how conducive a mountainous terrain is to gardening, but just follow my fantasy here.) My family and I could spend hours on a nature walk, and we could repeat the process day in and day out.

Since I currently homeschool my daughter, we could linger in the mountains as long as we choose since there will be no school bell beckoning us. I’d probably walk everywhere when I’m in the mountains, because after just two years of living in South Jersey, I’ve lost the capacity to drive on anything but flat surfaces. I do anticipate that I would eventually tire of being confined to one location for very long, so I’ve mentally prepared alternate living arrangements for when that time comes. I can alternate my mountain months with visits to my 300-acre farm (that I’ll hopefully be able to afford to purchase one day). There I could stroll about aimlessly with my daughter in tow and gather delight from my German shepherd herding the sheep I purchased for his own amusement and companionship. I could ride my horse down the 800-feet path that leads to our mailbox located on the main road to pick up our day’s mail, and then aimlessly meander back while allowing my own desires for the day to dictate my plans rather than the clock I purchased for $19.99 at Macy’s.

To read the rest of this article in Hot Psychology Magazine, click here.
For more from this talented writer, click here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Media and America

By Pamela S. Meek

Did you ever think that if the South would have had our modern day media, they would have won the war, or, maybe even avoided the war completely? And still today, there would be slaves in the cotton fields.

Every news station would have carried coverage of how wonderful being a slave was. Newspapers and magazines would have been full of articles about how slaves should be grateful for their condition; after all, their owners were just trying to teach them how to behave as proper slaves. Every plantation would be showcased and the owners interviewed and made out to be truly concerned with the slaves living as they did in Africa. After all, African tribes often kept other tribes prisoners as slaves. Slaves would be interviewed who would say all the right things and tell us how wonderful slavery is. People in the North would have been told they were incorrect to care about slaves. They were integral to the working of the South and it was politically incorrect to judge the conduct of the slave owners. They would have been accused of only wanting the land or control of the tobacco and cotton.

Don't get me wrong, The South is one of my favorite places. And for the most part, they are very gracious, loving people. But the fact is, slavery was wrong and most field slaves were treated terribly...

To read the rest of this article in Hot Psychology Magazine, click here.
For more from this talented writer, click here.