These Words are Haunting Me


Chinese symbol denying access.

“Many people feel powerless in our society, but if you can put 750 to 800 words together in cohesive and intelligent fashion, you can publish your views in the New York Times and influence millions of people, perhaps change the course of events and history.  You only have one vote as a citizen, but with your words you can transform the world around you. It’s a very powerful tool.”   Smith, Molly (2005).  Live & Learn, VOl 4 # 3.

Inspired by Ailsa’s Travel Theme word of Inspiration.

Values, Facts & Judgement


Friend Lynn and I spent some time standing at this busy corner in Buenos Aries near this subway entrance one late afternoon, as people were heading home. We watched people, looked at buildings, and I was working to understand this culture I was visiting for the first time. But what captured our attention the most was this family.

I earned a Masters degree in Social Work – and I was responsible for creating a curriculum and teaching in the social work program at a private university for many years. Our curriculum, in part, guided student learning in child welfare, human development and the family life cycle. We worked hard to teach students information based on research instead of the popular trends of the day.

For example, at this conservative Christian university we shared research that suggested children develop as well with same-gender parents as with heterosexual parents. We also tried to help students work through how to make decision about how to help people when their personal values and information from research conflicted. Do they support agency policies and state laws that allow for same-gendered adoptions when they believe that homosexuality is a sin but research says that homosexuals are equally good parents as heterosexuals?

Watching this working mother and her children brought so many thoughts and struggles back to me, the ones I struggled with as I faced my responsibilities for guiding student learning. Our reality in middle-class US culture is so different than in most of the world but our culture has such a strong influence on what we “know to be true”. My knee-jerk reaction was to judge this mother because she had her children with her on this very busy intersection where she couldn’t supervise them. She should make arrangements for them to stay with a neighbor or hire a sitter.

Then I pushed judgement aside and just watched. The children would run off together to a place out of my view. They seemed to know how to navigate their urban playground – they had been taught. Shortly they would return to talk to mom – who listened and responded as she did her work. She was laughing with them. If she had a customer, the children stood quietly until she finished or worked with her as she taught them to take payment and make change. Watching them filled me with joy – and the lead photo is one of my favorites of the trip. She was parenting them with love and discipline – what experts say are key to successful parenting in all cultures.

I was quick to jump to conclusions and judge this mother, until I started thinking about them, and the reality of their circumstances, and the facts that I know.

We are living through problems that are complex and difficult – and scary. Isis has proclaims to be at war with the Western world and has a well-trained, indoctrinated army – similar to what we saw with Hitler’s in Germany. There are millions of refugees fleeing unthinkable savagery, flooding into Europe, over 50% of them children.

Think of the unimaginable horrors that would make becoming a refugee, making your children into refugees, a better option. I can’t imagine what would have made me want to take three young children on a camping trip lasting two years or longer, in cramped and inadequate conditions, requiring that we walk the whole way, and without adequate food or water. And they don’t know whether they will have a home to return to.

I’m 71 so I’ve lived through quite a few scary times and I have learned about other scary times before I was born. ( have learned a lot by reading well-researched historical novels. There haven’t been many times in written history when men haven’t been waging wars for power, principles, revenge and/or greed somewhere in the world. I remember being afraid of bombs during the cold war, and even more afraid of what was happening under the witch hunts of McCarthy. I just remembered that men were proclaiming that we could never have a women as president because with her monthly hormone fluctuation she would be sure to hit the red “bomb them” button, starting the destruction of the whole world. And now we are hearing male presidential candidates yelling “Bomb the shit out of them.”

I am mostly discouraged, but also have a couple of hopes and dreams. I am keeping them simple and close to home: the big ones for Isis and the refugees are for later. Here they are – just two:

  1. That our presidential candidates will stop spouting off fabrications and lies and beliefs presented as facts because they hope it will get them votes and start dealing with facts and presenting humane solutions.
  2. That the electorate will start asking themselves if what the candidates say is true (if you need help, Google Fact Check – nonpartisan and very good), and if their policies are feasible and consistent with what is moral and just and will support the common good. If you don’t hear facts and policies from your current favorite – ask for them.

I saw a blog comment by a man who was willing to admit that Trump may not tell the truth and may be offensive to a lot of people but he would still vote for him because he didn’t want our country run by big corporations. As I was told when I was young and in school – children, it is time to put our thinking caps on.

WP Photo Theme: Trio

20150310-botanical 113Naples Florida Botanical Gardens

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Fall in the Everglades


Egret fishing from a sunbeam.

Daughter, Sharon, was visiting from Texas last week and one of the things she wanted to do was visit the Everglades. I have traveled the Southern Loop Road, a 26 mile loop of narrow dirt road through the Big Cyprus Preserve, many times in the peak winter months when it is cooler and water levels are low.

I didn’t have any photos on file from October or November so I was a little concerned about whether there would be birds and alligators in the water close to the road for Sharon to enjoy.


When we stopped at the first (last) stop with facilities, several vultures were in the trees welcoming us. Or did they detect the smell of old age?

As we drove deeper into the everglades, the first thing I noticed was higher water. If the road hadn’t been well built we would have had to have kayaks. The higher water levels provided beautiful water-scapes of foliage



In an environment where I don’t detect any dramatic change of seasons, the plants in the high water provided color.


.And there were a few birds but not as many as I normally see. The high water provides good fishing throughout most of the everglades. We heard lots of splashing and thrashing about in the brush – just out of view. It was kind of eerie in the daylight, what would my imagination do at night?




Ibis high in a tree. It surprises me to see big birds up so high.

We didn’t see any alligators sunning themselves along the road but this was to be expected because it has been hot, with very warm nights. The alligators were keeping cool in the water. At several places Sharon would say she saw an alligator, but then question whether it was a floating log. Some were real because they sank underwater when she opened the car door.

That happened in one spot and we were all sure because we could see the ring of bubbles where the alligator had dove deep. We were feeling a bit pleased with the sight when she noticed babies in the water – about 20 of them. We didn’t get too close because we knew Mama was somewhere very close keeping an eye on us – and we knew she would strike if we reached down to pick one up (also not a good idea because I understand alligators are hatched biting and fighting.

20151111-DSC_0056Sharon was very pleased with her excursion deep into the Everglades and we ended the day by sharing a gaterburger and gater nuggets in Everglades City. And for me, going into this untamed piece of the Glades never grows old because it isn’t staged. I get to see how nature unfolds it’s story for the first time, all over again.