From Russia, Sans the Love


I watched with much hope and heartbreak on Sunday as Russian demonstrations took place in 99 cities and towns across the country despite the Kremlin declaring the protests unauthorized and illegal and Russian authorities urging people to stay away.

From Vladivostok in the far east to Kaliningrad in the west, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets.

What really struck me were the baby faces of most of the protesters. These young people have never known any other leader except Putin and his regime, and they made their feelings extremely clear, at great peril to their lives. The actions of these young protesters were beyond courageous.

Sunday’s crowds were believed to be the largest anti-government protests since 2011 when fraud allegations in parliamentary elections sparked uprisings.

As you may or may not recall, Putin blamed then-Secretary Hillary Clinton for “inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012.”

State-run news outlet Tass reported that 8,000 people had taken to the streets in Moscow, but human rights groups came up with their own numbers: Approximately 30,000 people demonstrated in Moscow, and up to 10,000 in Saint Petersburg alone.

To be clear, when the authorities in Russia urge their people to “stay away,” this is not a friendly request.

As a result of the anti-corruption protests, hundreds of demonstrators, including top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were arrested, and many beaten.

What does this mean for Navalny? The fact that in the past five months, eight prominent Russians are dead does not bode well for him.

And Putin? With approval ratings around 80%, it’s doubtful any significant threat will arise.

And yet, these poor kids demonstrated anyway.

Russian authorities have claimed that the official number of those arrested was 500 in total, but rights groups disputed that claim and said that between 700 to 1,000 individuals were detained in Moscow, at least 34 in Saint Petersburg, and between 80 and 100 in other cities. Putin’s strongmen also swept up scores of journalists attempting to cover the protests.

And the Trump administration? They were quiet for much of the day until Republican Senator from Nebraska Ben Sasse expressed outrage and said this: “The United States government cannot be silent about Russia’s crackdown on peaceful protesters.”

Sasse’s statement forced Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, to finally make one of his own on Sunday evening  calling Russia’s action’s “an affront to core democratic values.”

But, not one peep or tweet from Trump, and the White House never issued a statement.

Where’s the outrage?

Oh, and as an aside, a U.S. intelligence report released in January blamed Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, based in part as a result of Hillary Clinton’s remarks during the 2011 anti-government protests in Russia.  The report went on to state that the episode led to Putin’s campaign “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The email below was sent to me yesterday, 3/27/17, from a journalist friend of mine, who is on temporary assignment in Moscow.

Good day my friend,

As you know, for almost two months I have been in the Russian capital.

I have been soaking up the local scene and leading a nice, normal, and quiet, existence here, much like the one I left back in Canada.

I have been going back and forth to the institute which invited me here as a “researcher.”  But on Sunday a strange occurrence took place.

I am often referred to here as “an honourable outcast,” “friendly foreigner,” or “stranger.”

But like the locals, I tend to stroll in Gorky Park, to take in the first days of Spring, watch the kids and dogs play, much as I would if I were in New York’s Central Park or Les Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

I enjoy my weekend brunch routine at the “Garage” Museum of Contemporary Art of poached eggs and salmon, with a large cup of black American coffee.

And as you know, I try to conduct myself as a civilised, cultured, left-leaning Western intellectual, albeit a financially stressed “freelance” journalist with an edge, or flair for, international news reporting.

 After brunch and watching the affluent couples chat or flirt, or show off their new i-phones, I  took off for the metro, but one of the main lines was under ‘remont’ in Russian, meaning repair.

I thought this was odd and as it turned out, was actually a precursor to more bizarre events that took place this past Sunday afternoon in the Russian capital.

I ended up in the Arbat district on my way to the Lev Tolstoi Pub, where I usually go to hang out to think and write. It is a hip and struggling establishment popular with local expats, students, and artists.

When I arrived at the pub, I was shocked to realise it had been shut down. A Brit friend explained to me that it was probably because if they wanted to stay open, they had to pay a “pizzo,” or the “b-word” to remain in business.

This local spot apparently did not pay, and hence the harsh penalty imposed. I was rather livid, as the location is in a lovely courtyard and actually mentioned in the great Russian novel “War and Peace.”  

I then proceeded to the city centre where there were plenty of riot police, buses and vans circulating down the major boulevards. My reporter’s instincts told me there was “action” in the area.

As you know, I have experience with this type of activity as someone who was in Warsaw in 1981 under martial law and in Moscow in August of 1991 during the failed coup. I was also in Mexico City in 2012 when there were huge protests in support of an opposition candidate for the Mexican presidency, Lopez Obrador.   

I walked towards Pushkin Square, with the hunch that there might be activity on Tverskaya Street, a fashionable part of the central city core. And my hunch was right.

I  walked into a courtyard where there were plenty of Land Rovers and other fancy cars parked, as well as several beauty salons and spas; I assumed for the wealthy Russian ladies.

But in this courtyard, not far from a 1947 style apartment complex, there was a dingy dive called “X” on the third floor.

I climbed the stairs, opened the big black door,  and there inside the large loft sized space, were young fellows and gals in their 30’s watching a live stream feed of the massive protests going on in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Samara, and other cities.

I ordered a pale ale and talked to the local crowd. A young fellow told me how he thought it was time for a change in the upper circles of power and how the Russian economy was stagnating and inflation and the high cost of everything from food to heating were eating away at people’s savings.

He also informed me about the corruption allegations made by the recently arrested opposition leader. We all watched the protests, and I decided not to proceed further to Pushkin Square for several reasons.

I am from Canada, a country not well liked by the Russian government at this point in time. I am not yet officially accredited, and I don’t know when that will happen. Plus my visa is running out; I only have 35 days left, so I am in need of an extension hence my current fate depends on the whims of officialdom or a faceless bureaucracy.

But above all, according to the media reports, my journalist colleagues were being detained during the protests, so I stayed put and did not budge.

The young Russian and I talked for some length of time about Russia today while watching the street action on the screens. The Russian protesters are a generation which grew up in the post-Soviet post-communist era.

They are passionate, highly educated, and entrepreneurial.

They long for a “normal” or liberal democratic system, without the wild west corrupt and venal capitalism, we know well exists in the “west.”

Cheerio from Moscow

 

Irish or Not, Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day


I like to mark St. Patrick’s Day with a homemade meal of corned beef and cabbage in the confines of my humble abode. (See recipes below.)

Now I’m not one for the whole Kiss me I’m Irish tradition, which is why I prefer to invite some friends over, cook a nostalgic Irish meal, and eat in, versus having to duck and dodge the random, often drunkish guys looking for a snog.

“Kiss me, I’m Irish,” is a reference to kissing the Blarney Stone. And legend has it, that if you can’t kiss the stone, the next best chance of catching some good luck is to kiss an Irish person.

In the past, when I have taken a chance at the bars, I have sternly warned off creepy kisses by adamantly proclaiming that I have zero Irish roots.  Let those whankers find some other poor, defenseless, and possibly Irish victim to pucker up with.

But I have to admit that every time I flat out Irish deny, there is that little inner leprechaun, wondering, if not hoping, that perhaps there is a touch of the Irish in me.

The short answer is that anything is possible.

The longer answer is buried in the memories of my grandmother, and the delicious corned beef and cabbage dinners she made nearly every St. Patrick’s Day. Was she part Irish, or was it just a Catholic tradition?

Okay, I admit, a killer corned beef and cabbage recipe does not an Irishwoman make.

But who really knows?

That’s where Finding Your Roots, a show hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. comes in.

In each episode, DNA diagnosticians trace bloodlines and analyze the genetic code of celebrities. The program utilizes AncestryDNA as one of its research tools, and I am always blown away by the often shocking discovery of long-lost relatives hidden for generations within the branches of their family trees.  I am an avid fan of the show mostly because I have always wanted to trace my own roots.

So what a pleasant surprise when in my inbox yesterday there was an offer from Ancestry.com for a 10% savings for their DNA analysis in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

The sell copy stated that with a simple DNA test, I could discover my ethnic mix and see it there’s a bit of Irish in the family tree after all.

Call it luck o’ the Irish: For $89 I can finally find out about my ethnicity and where my ancestors hail from.

So as an early birthday present to myself, I have decided that I am going to have my DNA analyzed and discover my roots once and for all.

But as part of my yearly tradition, I’ve first got to make some corned beef and cabbage in honor and in memory of my possibly part Irish grandmother on St. Paddy’s Day.

Mammy’s Corned Beef and Cabbage

Like my grandmother, I slow roast the corned beef in the oven. The potatoes, cabbage, and carrots (I use parsnips) can be boiled together or separately. I like to switch it up sometimes and bake hash browns.  I mash the carrots and/or parsnips, and I fry up some onions just like my grandmother did. A real St. Patrick’s Day feast with all the fixings. [I have an anaphylactic allergy to carrots, so that’s why I use parsnips.]

3 large onions (I slice em’ and fry em’ in olive oil)
4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled whole (or see my recipe for Baked Hash Browns)
1 pound large carrots or parsnips peeled, boiled, and mashed with salt, pepper, and butter.
2 Tablespoons black pepper
1 (4-6 pound) corned beef brisket whole
1 head of cabbage (I prefer Savoy cabbage)
2 Tablespoons Horseradish sauce
2 Tablespoons Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap the corned beef brisket and place fat-side up in a roasting pan just slightly larger than the brisket. If the corned beef comes with a spice packet, add two tablespoons of black pepper to it, and rub the mixture all over the top of the corned beef. If you don’t have a packet of spices, just rub 2-3 tablespoons of pepper onto the top. Cover the dish with heavy aluminum foil.  Place the meat in a 325-degree oven for 2 ½ hours. Then remove the foil and bake for at least another 30 to 60 minutes.

Check the brisket by inserting a fork in it after 3 hours. If the fork goes in easy, your corned beef is ready. If the fork doesn’t go in easy, bake for at least another 30 minutes. You may need up to an additional hour or even more for the corned beef to be fully cooked. Once it’s cooked, cover with foil and rest until you’re ready to serve.

Fry up the onions any old way, and boil the cabbage and the potatoes (unless you are baking Hash Browns) along with the carrots/parsnips.

When the carrots and/or parsnips are done, mash them with some butter, and top with a little salt and pepper.  Cut the cabbage while still in the pot, and then drain and put on a platter.

Uncover the brisket and transfer to a cutting board. Cut thick slices against the grain and put back into the roasting pan.  You can serve the onions and boiled potatoes separately or place them on the outside of the platter with the meat and cabbage in the middle.

I make a quick but delicious side sauce by taking ½ part prepared horseradish sauce and 1/2 part Cool Whip and combining them.

Serve everything with Dijon mustard, creamy horseradish sauce, and Irish Soda Bread.

And don’t forget the Guinness.

Baked Hash Browns

4 cups peeled and grated potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
11×17 inch sheet pan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once the potatoes are peeled and grated, rinse and dry them well. Take the butter, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and melt it all together. (I do it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Pour over your potatoes. If you want to add a little extra flavor, you can throw in some Parmesan. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (don’t skip this step) and then put the potato mixture in. Put them in the oven and leave them alone. Don’t turn them or move them at all. Cook for 15-20 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven. When the edges are browning nicely, they are ready for the next step. Keep the temperature the same but move the pan up to the highest rack of your oven, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. This will crisp up the bottom. Keep a careful eye on them and take them out when they are done to your crispiness liking.

Irish or not, my eyes are smiling, I’m clothed in green, with a Guinness in hand, and wishing you Sláinte!

And don’t worry I’ll keep you posted about the Irish thing!

Trading Places


If you try to be me, I’ll try to be you.
Then for each other, we’ll know what to do.

If you look at me through my eyes,
there will be no need to wear my protective disguise.

Because you’ll be able to see that my inner child is in fear.
You’ll be able to see my insecurities quite clear.

You’ll see that I’m not nearly as strong as I appear.
And you’ll see that I feel more and more pain with each passing year.

Then it will be your turn to take off your mask.
And you’ll have no choice but to tell me your true feelings when I ask.

I’ll see that when you want to cry, you scream.
I’ll see that you, like me, are not as tough as you seem.

I’ll see that you’re going over the brink.
You’ll see that I need you to love me much more than you think.

When you look at me reflected in your view.
The picture is distorted by my ego—and yours too.

Look at me without the deep complexes of our past.
Open your heart and relate to me at last.

So let’s open our minds—I’ll become you, and you’ll become me.
And I’m sure we’ll be shocked and saddened by what we both see.

I’ll see that you need significance, and belonging.
You’ll see my dreams for you and my longing.

I’ll see that you are weary of the games we play.
You’ll see that I pray for you to love me and stay.

If I see your pain,
I won’t hurt you again.

If you see why I cry and complain,
you won’t abuse me the same.

And if I am you and you are me,
we can finally end this torture and agree.

To work on improving the relationship
and make it the best it can be.

So we can finally live together
in peace and harmony.

So let’s trade places.

Let’s open our eyes and see
What happens to the two of us

When I become you
and you become me.

My Do-Over


Whenever I think back to the epifocal moment where I realized I had been given the miracle of a do-over; a better life, a better me, it’s this unforgettable memory:

My mischievous three-year-old son dressed in his Holiday best, his back to me, but his beautiful face turned in my direction. His body lurching forward, but his eyes fixed on me.

Every time I recall the scene, it plays out in my mind in slow motion with me mouthing “NOOOOOOOOO.”

His infectious smile radiated; his face a combination of angelic and devilish.

In a split second, while still in a forwarding and thrusting motion, he turned his tiny face away from me and jumped full force into a muddy puddle of water.

I watched in disbelief as the blotches of mud spattered his fancy and pricey B. Altman outfit. As I horrifyingly ran toward him, he turned around and faced me full on. He was beaming, otherworldly, his demeanor was one of pure delight.

He pushed a baby curl of hair off his face with his dirty hand, leaving a dark streak across his forehead.

I stopped dead in my mommy tracks, astonished at the flood of joy, and love and hope that crashed and passed through me.

I had been one person before my son, and now I was someone else. Someone I never knew was hiding deep inside of me.

While he delighted in his mud bath, I thanked the dear Lord for this do-over.

As he gazed into my face, which I assumed at that moment must have appeared less than pleased, I broke into first a smile, and then a full on laugh.

He giggled playfully back in response as he lunged at me with wide open arms.

I grabbed him up and tenderly ensconced myself with all of him, twirling and whirling, tears of wonder streaking my meticulously painted face.

The two of us lost in a brief moment of time.

My son and I, a muddy loving mess.

International Women’s Day


“This

is

an

alpha male

job,”

he

spewed

with

confidence.

“This

business

is

dominated

by

us,”

he boasted.

“What can you

bring

to

the

table?”

He

smirked.

Answer

him

wisely.

Naïve

is

this

man.

A man’s

table?

A man’s

world?

The

Alpha

men.

Brought

here

by

women.

Amidst

hurdles

and

obstacles.

The egg

lies

in wait.

Until

out of

millions

one

finds

its way

in.

The

weakling

girl

transforms.

She

is

now

the

protector.

The fierce

one.

She

discovers

the

beginning

is the

hardest.

The

most

challenging.

The

riskiest.

She’s

petrified

but

confident.

She

observes

and

manages.

The

first

sign.

An

awakening.

A

flutter

then

a

thriving

kick.

Internal

strength.

And

power

from

deep

within.

Patiently

waiting

for

months

and

months.

While

nourishing

and

supporting.

Knowing

life

is

resilient

and

sacrifice

is

quiet.

Taking

courage.

Laboring.

Pushing.

Delivering.

Belief

that

survival

is

crucial.

Reassurance

that

all

is

possible.

Cracking.

Shattering.

First

the

table.

Then

the

world.

 

$95 a Month for Health Insurance and You Voted for Trump?

I promised myself and my readers that I would not talk about anything political again.

Sorry, I can’t help myself. I tried, and well, it didn’t work.

So here goes:

There was an article today in the New York Times about what people in Utah pay to be part of the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.).

First things first. And I repeat: The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

Please call it what it is, and stop calling it Obamacare. He’s history. And if the Republicans have anything to do with it, so is the A.C.A.

But I divert.

According to the New York Times article, one woman in Utah receives an A.C.A. subsidy, and then pays $95 per month (a whopping 51% increase from $47 in 2016), with a $2,500 deductible. This woman pays under $4,000 a year for insurance. And that’s horrible because?

Just to be clear, I never had a real issue with the A.C.A. People need insurance. I get that. And I’m not putting this woman down for being on it at all.

And this 30-year-old woman, who doesn’t make a lot of money, voted for Clinton. And the poor thing has breast cancer. So I feel for her. I really do.

But Trump won the state of Utah with 45% of the vote compared to 27% for Clinton. (21% went to an Independent.)

Here’s a second statistical doozy from the same article:

Another mother in Utah pays $75 per month for a plan that covers her family of three. That’s after her subsidy of $558. She didn’t mention what her deductible is. She is 39-years-old and also has breast cancer. She voted for Trump. She was quoted as saying that her voting for Trump was “one of the biggest regrets of my life.” She now feels like plenty of other Americans who are part of the A.C.A. and who voted for Trump.

Too little too late.

And according to the Times article, plenty of the people who voted for Trump in Utah participate in the A.C.A. health plan. And now they are concerned and afraid. Big league.

This is not fake news. This is the “sad” truth. And easy to understand. Buyer’s remorse. We’ve all experienced it.

But what I don’t understand is  why people whose lives and families depended upon getting critical health care via the A.C.A. voted for Trump, knowing full well he was going to “repeal and replace.”

They trusted Trump? The liar he already showed himself to be time and time again?

So when Trump gets out there and tells the American people that the increases in the A.C.A. are HUUUGE, take a gander at the statistic above. In the first example I mentioned, the 30-year-old woman, who has cancer, is paying 51% more for insurance than last year.  From $47 to $95.

And then there is the regular Joe Schmo, like me, who has too high an income to qualify for the A.C.A.  He too is from Utah and has a wife and three children. He pays a premium of $1,200 per month. That’s over $14,000 per year. The Times didn’t say what his deductible is. I’m sure it’s very high.

He was quoted in the New York Times as saying “Doesn’t feel like insurance. Feels like punishment.”

Amen.

So, here’s my question. IF YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE A.C.A. PROGRAM, WHY DID YOU VOTE FOR TRUMP?

Whatever the reason, Trump supporters clearly didn’t do their health care homework.

Lesson to be learned right?

Except for this: An A.C.A. repeal will likely affect access to badly needed programs for Americans with mental illness and drug addiction. And even though many of the states with the largest population of opioid drug abusers overwhelmingly voted for Trump, that would be devastating.

Many Trump voters are now making it clear that they will not support any plan that deprives them of the health care they desperately need, and now have.

And how about those people who might never have, like the catastrophic effect a repeal will have on Americans 50-64 who have not yet become eligible for Medicare.

What will happen to those folks?

Democrat Senator of West Virginia, Joe Manchin recently said it best: “Voters may not know how they got their health care, but they sure will know who took it away.”

Oh, and a shout-out to the Republicans in office: GOOD LUCK WITH THAT REPEALING AND REPLACING TASK.

 

Brick by Brick

One brick

two bricks

three bricks.

Coming

at me.

One

right

after

the other.

Brick

after brick

after brick.

All in ABC’s.

Abandoned * abused * accused * afflicted * afraid * aggressive * alarmed * alienated * an-accident * anguished * angry * anxious * apprehensive * argumentative * awful * awkward * bad * banished * banned * belligerent * below-average * berated * betrayed * bitch * bitter * black-sheep * blamed * blocked * boney * bossy * bothersome *brainwashed * break-up * breakdown * bridgeport * broke * broken * broken-hearted * browbeat * bruised * bugs * bullied * burden * burns * burned * can’t  * careless * catastrophe * chaos * cheated-on * cheater * chicken * clingy * clueless * clumsy * cockroaches * cold * combative *competitive * compulsive* conceited * condemned * condescending * conflicted * confused * conned * consumed * contentious * court * coward * crazy * critical * criticized * cruelty * crushed * crybaby * cutoff * cut-out * cynical * damaged * damned * dark * dark-skinned * defective * defensive * defiant * deficient * delicate * delusional * demons * depressed * deprived * deserted * detached * destroyed * destructive * detested * devalued * devastated * devil * different * difficult * disappointed * disappointment * disapproved-of * disbelieved * discarded * disconnected * disgruntled * disgust * disliked * disloyalty * dismal * disobedient * displaced * disposable * disrespected * dissed * distant * distraught * distressed * disturbed * disrespectful * dizzy * dominated * don’t * doomed * doubtful * drained * dreamer *  dreary * drop-out * dropped-off * drunk * dumb * duped * eliminated * elusive * embarrassed * emotional * enabler * engulfed * enraged * entrapped * estranged * evil * exaggerator * exasperated * excluded * excommunicated * failure * fake * fatherless * fat * fear * fearful * feeble * fire * fired * flawed * flee * forgotten * forsaken * fragile * frightened * frigid * foolish * forgettable * from-a-broken-home * frustrated * furious * gawky * ghetto * get lost * goodbye * graceless * greaser * guarded * guilt * guilty * gutter * half-sister * harassed * hard-hearted * harmed * hassled * hated * havoc * heartbreak * heartache *hell * hidden * hindered * hindrance * homely * hopeless * horrible *hungry * huron-street * hurt * hurtful * hyper * hysterical * illegal * illegitimate * immune * imperfect * impossible * imperfect * incapable * incompetent * inconvenient * indifferent * ineffective * inept * inexperienced * inferior *infested * infected *  injured * insecure * insensitive * insignificant * insolent * instigator * insubordinate * intense * in-the-way * intimidating * invader * invisible *isolated * jaded * jealous * jeered * jew-lover * jittery * jumpy * judged * joyless * kept-apart * kept-away * Kept-in * kept-out * kept-quiet * lanky * left-out * let-down * liar *lied-about * lied-to * lonely * loner * lonesome * loser * lost * loud * mad * made-fun-of * malicious * mangled * man-handled * manipulated * marginalized * messed-with * messed-up * misbehaved * miserable * mistake * misunderstood * mixed-up * mocked * mod-martian * molested * money-hungry * mouse-traps * muzzled * naïve * needy * negative * neglected * nervous * never * no * nobody * numb * nuts * objectified * obsessed * only-child * opportunistic * out-of-place * out-of-touch * over-controlled * ambitious * overlooked * overwhelmed * overly-sensitive * overwhelmed * pain * panicky * paranoid * pathetic * persecuted * persistent * pessimistic * pests * petrified * picked-on * plain * played-with * pock-marked * poor * powerless * pressured * problematic * pulled-apart * pulled-back * punished * puppet * pushed * pushed-away * put-down * quiet * questioned * quirky * rage * rambunctious * rats * rattled * reckless * reject * rejected * rejection * restless * reticent * reluctant * repulsed * repulsive * resented * resentful * retaliatory * retard * revengeful * ridiculed * ridiculous * rodents * rogue * rollercoaster * rude * ruined * sacrificed * sad * scape-goat * scared * scaredy-cat * * scarred * scary * scolded * screwed * screwed-over * screwed-up * second-class * self-destructive * sensitive * set-up * shame * shamed * shameful * shipwreck * shouldn’t * shouted-at * shunned * shy * sickly * silly * singled-out * sinner * skeptical * skinny * smothered * snapped-at * step-daughter * stereotyped * stop * stressed * stressed-out * stuck * stuck-up * stupid * sub-par * substandard * suffocated * suicidal * suppressed * suspicious * swarthy * tattle-tale * tense * terrified * terry * theresa-the-greaser * threatened * timid * tormented * troublemaker * ugly * unable * unapologetic * unappreciative * unattractive * uncaring * underestimated * underdog * undermined * underpaid * uneducated * unequal * unforgiving * unfriendly * unhappy * unhealthy * unjust * unlovable * unlucky * unneeded * unlovable *unqualified * unwanted * unwanted-advances * unrealistic * unrelentless *unruly * untalented * untrusting unwelcome * unworthy * upset * used * useless * vermin * victimized * violated * violence * volatile * vulnerable * wary * weak * weary * wedge * weeds * weepy * weird * wicked * wild * won’t * worthless * written-off * written-out * wrong *  zero

Some bricks

broke my

bones.

Others

broke my

spirit.

Then I heard

him

speak

on TV.

About building

with bricks.

Don’t

be afraid.

Pick them up.

Each and

every

one.

Pick them up.

And then

build.

You can

do it.

Construct

a firm foundation.

Brick by brick.

But how?

That was my

question.

So many bricks.

Too many

bricks

to handle.

And even

If I could.

Pick them all up.

Brick by brick.

What to use.

To build and

protect.

Maybe mortar.

Lots and

lots

of

binding

mortar.

Let me try.

Able * abide * ability *accept * accomplished * accountable * achieve * adapt * adjust * admired * adore * adored * advocate * affectionate * agile * agreeable * alert * alive * always * amazed * ambition * amen * analytical * angel * appreciated * appreciative * approachable * ariel * aspire * assemble * assent * assert * atone * attract * audacious * aunt * authentic * available * awakened * awed * babies * backbone * balance * barb * beginnings * believing * belonging * beloved * benchmark * blessed * bliss * blossom * bold * boy * brain * bravery * breakthrough * brilliance * builder * buoyant * busy * caleb * calm * can * candor * capability * carefree * careful * caring * celebrate * centered * certainty * chances * change * charity * charm * charmed * cheer * cheered * chief-operating-officer *  child * child-like * choice * chosen * clarity * climb * coequal * cogent * cohesion * comfort * comforting * comfortable * commitment * communicate * community * companion * compassion *  competence * complete * complimentary * composed * conciliatory * concise *   concrete * confidence * connect * consensual * considerate * consideration * consistent * consoling * constructive * content * continuity * contributive * conviction * cooperation * cornerstone * courage * courtesy * creativity * credible * cuddling *  curiosity * cutting-edge * daring * darling *  dauntless * dawn * decency * decisiveness * dedicated * deep * defend * defiant * definitive * deft * deliberate * demonstrative *   dependable * deserving * desired * destined * determined * devoted * dignity * diligence * diverse * doting * dreamer * dreams * durable * dutiful * dynamic * eagerness * earnestness * eloquent * empathy * empowerment * emulate * encouraged * enduring * engaging * enthusiasm * epic * equal * everlasting * example * exceed * excel * excellence *  factual * fair * faithful * family * fearless * feisty * flexibility * focus * forever * forgiveness * freedom * friends * fritzi * funny * future * garden * generosity * gentlemanly * genuine * gianna * giddy * give * glad * god * goodness * grace * graceful * gracious * grandma* grateful * grounded * guided * happy * harmless * harmonious * hazel * healing * healthful * healthy * heartfelt * heaven * hello * hero * honesty * honor * hope * hopeful * hospitality * humanitarian * humility * humor * husband * imagination * impartial * important * impression * impressive * improvement * improvise *  inclusive * indefatigable * independent * indestructible * indispensable * infant * insight * inspiration * interconnected * ipod * jovial * joy * jubilance * just * kindness * kindred * lasting * laugh * lead * leader * lean * learn * legal * legitimate * lenient * life * light * lila * * little man * live * lou * love * loved * loyalty *   lucky * mammy * magic * mate * maternal * melodious * mercy * merit * mindful * miracle * modesty * moral * motivated * moved * mulberry * music * mutuality * newborn * noble * normal * nurturing * objective * open *  open-handed * open-hearted * open-minded * optimist *  organized * original * pam * paradigm * paradise * parent * partner * passion * patience * peace * peacekeeper * permanent * perseverance * persistence * peter * playful * poetic * poise * positivity * possibility * potential * presence * pride * principled * productive * proficient * promising * protected * protector * proud * provider * purpose * quick * quiet * rainbow * real * realistic * reasoned * reasonable * reassured * reborn * reconciled * reliability * relief * resolute * resolve * respect * responsible * responsive * restorative * safe * safety * satisfied * selfless * sensible * sentimental * serene * serenity * settled * simplicity * sincerity * sister * smile * snuggle * soothing * sorry * soulmate * special * stable * strength * substantive * subtle * successful * sunshine * support * survivor * sympathy, symphony *  talent * teamwork * tenderness * teri * thankful * thoughtfulness * tireless * together * tolerance * tome * touching * tough * tranquility * triumph, trusting, trustworthy * truth * truthful * unafraid * unbeaten * unbroken * uncle * unconditional * undefeated * understanding * understood * unflappable * unicorns * unified * unique * unfazed * unlimited * unshakable * unstoppable *  validated * valued * victorious * vivacious * vivid * vocal * vulnerable * warm * welcome * wes * whimsical * whole * wife * wishful * witty * writer * worthy * yes * youthful * zany * zealous * zestful

Lots of mortar.

In ABC’s.

A

beautiful

castle.

A mighty

fortress.

To protect

and defend.

Now I’m

safe

and sound.

Fortified against

attacks.

All

bricked up

within

and

without.

My

safehold.

Gaslighting

Hands down, the most popular post I have ever written is: Bullies Are Cowards and Why I Refuse To Turn the Other Cheek.

I have received over twenty thousand page views for that one post alone and hundreds of emails from people who have shared heartbreaking bullying experiences with me.

But a recent incredibly hurtful and personal experience, immediately followed by a comment I received yesterday from a man named Jack after he read my Bullies Are Cowards post prompted me to write about gaslighting.

“I never said that.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You’re too sensitive.”

“I was just joking around.”

“Oh, stop it.”

“Why are you taking things so seriously?”

“You misunderstood what I said.”

“That never happened.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

“You don’t need to get angry over a little thing like that!”

Misinformation, disinformation, alternate theories, alternative facts, distorted view of events, outright lies.

Did you ever wonder why someone you trust would rewrite history?

And after listening to them tell their version over and over and over again, did you ever question that maybe it didn’t happen the way you thought it did?

Or second guessed yourself, and even doubted your own sanity?

If you’re nodding your head yes, don’t worry. You’re not going crazy. It’s not you. And it’s happened to the best of us.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt bullied, discredited, victimized, minimized, and alienated.

As a result, I was often left with questions about myself, wondering if I was being overly sensitive, silly, neurotic, or downright unhinged.

Gaslighting is a manipulative attempt to plant seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make those targets question their own memory, perception, sanity, and order of things.

Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, gaslighters attempt to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s beliefs.

The term comes from a 1938 London play, about a sadistic husband who is trying to drive his wife insane, titled “Gas Light.

The drama popularized the term “gaslighting” where the narcissistic abuser manipulates the mind of a victim by presenting fiction as fact, causing the victim to question reality.

Gaslighters come in all forms: Family members, friends, spouses, teachers, health professionals, bosses, authoritarian regimes, government officials, and yes, even the President of the United States.

There is some good that can come from all of this altering of reality and facts though.

The liars and deceivers who gaslight will eventually be exposed for who and what they are and/or slip up.

But don’t wait around for that to happen.

Here is what I’ve learned over the years, and sadly, more recently, when a friend of a friend attempted to gaslight me.

The only reality you can control is your own. Distance yourself as much as possible. Walk away if necessary. Don’t engage. Don’t let anyone wear and tear you down. Don’t give into lies. Stay informed. Trust your instincts. Never give up on the truth. Resist and persist.

And above all love and believe in yourself.

 

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney Poitier


On February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, Florida. His parents were poor immigrant farmers from the Bahamas, where he and his family eventually returned.

When he was 15, he moved back to Florida, eventually making his way to New York’s Harlem where he became a dishwasher.

He served in the army, and then joined the American Negro Theater working there as a janitor in exchange for drama training.

In 1961, while the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was organizing the “Freedom Ride” Poitier appeared in his first major movie appearance when he played Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. While Poitier’s fictional character was mired in neighborhood tensions over interracial population in Chicago, the original Freedom Riders were being beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama.

The movie was terrific, but Poitier and the film didn’t get much attention. If you haven’t seen the movie, I strongly urge you to do so.

Two years later, a quarter of a million people participated in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.

That same year, Poitier starred as Homer Smith in the 1963 movie Lilies of the Field, and he was finally recognized as the star he was. The story of an African American itinerant worker who encounters a group of East German nuns in Arizona, who believe Smith has been sent to them by God to build them a new chapel, hit moviegoers hard.

I will never forget the last scene of the film, with Smith slipping quietly away into the night.

I recall my mom weeping next to me in the theater, and my grandmother later telling me “things were changing.”

Changing, indeed. The movie debuted just one month before Kennedy’s assassination.

Poitier’s role as Smith earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor, making him the first African-American man to win the honor.

I saw both movies as a child, but to be honest, I was too young to fully understand the importance of the films, or how talented Poitier was.

It wasn’t until 1967 when I was fourteen that I fell in love with Poitier in his role as a high school teacher in To Sir With Love, a British drama film that dealt with social and racial issues in an inner city school.

It was also in 1967 that the changing times had divided most Americans into “them” and “us.”  Following a police raid on a black power hangout, Detroit erupted into the worst race riots our country had ever experienced, with 43 people dead—33 African Americans and 10 whites. Hundreds of racial disturbances were reported across the country that year, including major riots in Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Newark, Plainfield and Brunswick, New Jersey, which killed at least 83 people. It was also the year that Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for resisting military draft as a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam.

I am embarrassed to say that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend any of it.

But To Sir With Love left an indelible mark on me and forever changed my view of black vs. white.

Poitier played teacher Mark Thackeray, and it was the first crush I ever had on an actor.

I can still vividly recall when at their end of the school year class dance there was a “ladies choice,” and tough girl Pamela chose Thackeray as her dance partner. That scene hands down just blew me away.

The film’s title song “To Sir With Love,” sung by Lulu (who played the unforgettable Barbara Pegg in the movie), reached number one on the U.S. pop charts.  I can’t tell you how many thousands of times I played that 45 record. (See the YouTube video of it below.)

In the same year, Poitier followed up with In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, where he starred opposite Katharine Hepburn, as a black man in love with a white woman.

Art indeed imitated life—the film debuted the same year that the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia.

The lyrics of To Sir With Love ended with “A friend who taught me right from wrong
and weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn.”

But if I’ve learned anything, it’s something my French-American grandmother used to tell me over and over again: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.   The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Happy 90th Birthday Sidney.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8-M_wg8AI4

Super Bowl Sunday Food Fest


 Lady Gaga in my BFF’s platter of chicken wings.

I promised in my last blog post to move on, and stop talking politics.

But to be honest, I am still obsessed with all things political.

But a promise is a promise, even though my heart and mind isn’t into much of anything else these days.

And try as I could, the only thing I could think of to blog about, is last Sunday’s Super Bowl and what I ate.

I know, it’s old news, but I’m trying here!

So here goes…

I love Super Bowl parties.

The number one reason? It’s all about the food.

…With a few commercials and a half-time show thrown in.

Oh, and of course, there’s the football game.

And yet another excuse to party hardy.

And regardless of whether I am asked to bring something or not, I always show up with my favorite go to’s:

My do-it-yourself platter decorations, and my kick-yo-ass spicy boneless buffalo chicken.

Since I need to fill up some blog space here, I thought I’d throw in a few Super Bowl stats to stretch this thang out.

Did you know that Americans spent more than $50 million on food for this last Super Bowl? (That’s a lot of moolah.)

According to the National Chicken Council (yes there is such a thing), more than 1.3 BILLION chicken wings were consumed over Super Bowl Sunday weekend. That’s enough wings to circle the Earth almost three times. They also estimated that of the wings eaten during Super Bowl weekend, 75 percent came from restaurants or food service outlets, and 25 percent were homemade, which means abut 325 million wings were picked up at grocery stores and supermarkets.

When I showed up at my local grocery store Super Bowl Saturday to pick up chicken, the wings were gonzo.

Shoppers were scurrying and snooping around in the meat department, while others were begging the butcher for a miracle. Good thing I was making boneless buffalo chicken breast!  (See my recipe below.)

Super Bowl Sunday is also hands down, the busiest day of the year for pizza places. Domino’s alone sold about 12 million slices of pizza that day.

And don’t forget about the guacamole dip (8 million pounds), tortilla and potato chips (14,500 tons), popcorn (4,000 tons) and lots and lots and lots of beer.

Estimated Super Bowl Sunday calorie consumption was approximately 1,000-2,000 per person, almost as much as the average person eats in an entire day.

Antacid sales increased by about 20 percent on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and approximately six percent of Americans called in sick.

I like to be creative and make food markers using a Super Bowl theme.  They’re super easy, and everyone raves about them.

I simply find some appropriate photos online, print them out, tape them onto cardboard, create a cardboard post, and wrap the post in aluminum foil.

Take a look at this year’s Super Bowl marker menagerie:

And who knew my Matt Ryan food marker would be so prophetic? (Poor Matt.)

Now for my Boneless Buffalo Chicken recipe:

Boneless Buffalo Chicken
1 pound skinless chicken breast (1” thick – cut into 2” x 2” pieces)
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups buttermilk (Fat free works)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
Peanut Oil (great for frying, but vegetable oil is ok too)

Hot sauce
¾ cup hot sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon butter
¼ heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blue cheese dressing
4 oz. Blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce directions: Place sauce ingredients in small pan and simmer 4-5 minutes until well blended. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Boneless Chicken directions: Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place buttermilk in a separate bowl. Make sure chicken is cut into pieces.  Heat oil for frying.
Dip chicken pieces into the buttermilk and then into the flour.  Gently shake off excess flour and carefully place pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown.  Remove chicken pieces and drain them on a paper towel.  When you are ready to serve the chicken, place them in a large container and cover with the hot sauce.  Place a lid on the container and gently shake or stir until all nuggets have been coated.  Then place the chicken nuggets on a non stick baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Serve with blue cheese dressing.