Mother Courage

A woman in Chicago has the kind of courage that few of us have. Tamar Manasseh and her hot pink t-shirted moms challenge neighborhood bullies and drug dealers for the bodies and souls of the youth of a poor neighborhood in Chicago.

Tamara and her crew of volunteers set themselves up on the corner of 75th and S. Stewart Avenue to provide a safe place for children to play. Mothers Against Senseless Killings provide watchful eyes, colored chalk, and cooked meals to about 75 children from toddlers to teens during the summer months. From personal experience, Tamara learned that her children behave better when adults are watching them. Apparently, now only the children behave better, but the neighborhood at large has become a safer, more desirable place to live.

Other neighborhoods are looking into the Mothers Against Senseless Killings model to take over empty lots where volunteers can provide eyes and lots more to children in need of the kind of caring supervision that provides a safe growing space.

This kind of grass roots action lessens the need for more police funding and opens the door to funding for job retraining programs.

Now that school is open and the weather gets colder, Mothers Against Senseless Killing can fold up their chairs and go inside for a while. My hope and prayer is that they get the support and recognition that will help get them back on their corner next spring.

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The NYT Magazine feature, The Kids Who Can’t, intrigued me enough to read the whole article, something that I rarely do, these days. Basically, the article discussed the phenomenon of increased teen-age anxiety, presented a few possible causes and what might be done to correct the problem.

Anxiety is a reaction experienced by everyone at sometime or other. It can be a good thing as it heightens our awareness to real or perceived danger. This article presents anxiety as a problem for teen-agers who “can’t.”

These young people internally set standards for themselves that they believe they can’t achieve, so they do nothing. In fact they actually retreat into what they consider “safe” places, often their rooms or social media.

Parents and teachers, in an attempt to “understand” the young person, often do more harm than good. Parents allow the child to stay home from school. In many schools today, a student who feels over-whelmed may leave the classroom to seek a safe place. These well meaning actions of parents and teachers make the problem worse. These actions keep the youth from facing the anxiety producing issue. Anxiety at this level is debilitating.

There are residential programs like Mountain Valley, very expensive but often successful. Mountain Valley offers a variety of therapies from group and individual counseling, prescribed drugs and, most importantly, opportunities for their clients to face and overcome their anxieties under supervision.

According to this article, there are two major causes for this increase in teen-age anxiety: one is that anxious children come from anxious parents, the other is the influence of social media. These young people have made their reason for living the recognition of their peers.

Sadly, nowhere in the article did any parent, teacher or therapist remind the anxiety sufferer that he/she is a child of a loving God. In today’s society that is not unusual or unexpected. The fastest growing church in the US is the unchurched. Nevertheless, letting a child know that no matter how difficult a problem seems, no matter how hard you try to solve it or run from it, someone cares about you in times of success, and in times of failure. The above may sound simplistic. It may be simplistic. It has been around for thousands of years. It is time for families to unearth this reality and make it work for them.

Another thing that will work, take that damn phone away from your over anxious child!!





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Party Planning Pains

On my next birthday, I will enter a new decade, quite possibly, my last decade. Because the end is not too far away, I decided to give myself a giant birthday party. Thinking to invite my siblings and their spouses and to invite the siblings of my husband and their spouses, I realized that I needed to find a local hotel to accommodate the group. Now I know why people who have big weddings find venues at least a year ahead of time.

There are two very nice hotels within a mile or so from my apartment. One of them seemed a logical choice. What seems logical and what is logical can be two different things. My apartment building and those two hotels front a river, which is used in the early spring for regattas. Needless to say, the very week-end on which my birthday falls is the week-end of regattas and volley ball tournaments. Do I want my family members to deal with sweaty possibly drunk college students? Decidedly, NO!

Thus began a search for a hotel with a block of rooms to accommodate six families in early spring. The hotel also had to provide breakfast, free WIFI, free parking and, possibly dinner. Other options would be nice, but not necessary. Using the internet, it took me nearly three hours to wade through suitable hotels within my price range. The hotel that I settled on is located five miles from my apartment and seven miles from where, I hope, the main celebration will take place.

That is just the hotel. I have yet to secure the hall or restaurant, the limousine service to transport the group from hotel to where ever, the caterer, the florist, the cake, the invitations, goodie bags, etc. This giant party has become a giant pain! I have hope, however, that every one will enjoy the celebration on the day and the memory of it in years to come. All of the “birth pains” will be forgotten.





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A Place to Visit, DC

I just returned from a three day trip to DC where a friend and I visited a few museums, took a night time tour of several monuments, ate some great food and walked several miles. The trip was planned meticulously by my friend who kindly suffered a few comments or suggestions from me. As a result, we spent no time trying to decide what to do next. The plan eliminated a bit of anxiety, although it left little time for improvisation. Nevertheless, we were able to complete our planned itinerary and to have a bit of time to just relax over a glass of wine.


My favorite museum was the Neuseum. This relatively new museum traced the history of the passing of note worthy information through printed and electronic media. In addition to face pages of 16th century publications, which contained words only, the introduction of illustrations and photographs were displayed often through interactive stations.

The exhibits included the misuse of “news”. Yellow journalism and propaganda, like real news reporting, color opinions and impact history, something that those living in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century understand all too well.


As much as I like words, the exhibit that moved me most was the exhibition of Nobel Prize winning still photographs. A film of the photographers sharing their experiences in capturing his/her history-making image heightened the emotional experience of the exhibit.


One museum disappointed me. The architecture and the external setting of the museum led me to believe that the interior would be interesting and enlightening. In an attempt to give the hundreds of Indian tribes in the Americans equal time, the section on the Indians of North America was watered down sentimental dribble. Instead of helping me to gain new insights into the American Indian experience, the North American Indian experience as exhibited reminded me of a bad political action advertisement. It was full of photos of the current chief’s family. Nearly all of the “artifacts” were duplicates made recently with inferior materials. The Inca Road exhibit (South America) was not political. It was informative; it was authentic.


Washington DC is a great place to visit, especially walking from museum to museum in bright fall sunshine. Try it sometime.


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Voluntary Prayer

Options for Women is an organization dedicated to helping women, particularly poor or marginalized women, find alternatives to abortion. Options does so much more than counsel mothers-to-be, the organization gets involved with male partners, families, extended families, surrogate parents, etc. Clients are helped to find jobs, shelter, medical care, baby clothes, etc. In addition, every client is given a free ultra-sound. Clients who leave determined to follow through with an abortion are not scorned, but are prayed for.


In a small way, I help financially support this organization. During a particularly emotional fund- raiser, I volunteer my time and/or talents to assist pregnant women to carry their babies to full term. At the time, I convinced myself that I could be a great help in counseling women to do what was best for the children growing within them.


Much to my surprise, the advisors of program volunteers gave me the task of praying for those who found their way to Options. I was disappointed; I thought that I had much more to give. However, I began praying for any client considering abortion. Over time, I came to appreciate the task assigned to me by the volunteer advisors.


About once a month, an email comes to me requesting prayers for clients who are a. considering an abortion b. had an abortion c. carried to full term but are homeless d. lost jobs e. live with abusive partners, etc. Today, I must admit that I do not have the skills or the personality to counsel young women facing such challenges. Whenever I read emails like the example above, my heart sinks to my knees. Fortunately, even in a state of acute sadness one can pray. And, one can financially support those who are skilled helping others find real solutions to problems that threaten the lives of the unborn.


Unlike Saint Paul, I cannot be “All things to all men (women).” But, I can pray for all men and, especially women who are mothers to be.




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Doing Good

The major religions of the world have as one of their tenants, helping others. Those who practice the tenant of helping others often feel that they get more than they give. How may one measure who gets the most when one person helps another?


Scientists at the University of Zurich and elsewhere experimented with volunteers to determine how generous these individuals might be and how their generosity made them feel. The group was divided in half. The members of each group were given a specific amount of money. One group was told to spend the money on others, to be generous. The second group was told to spend the money on themselves, to be selfish. At the end of a specified period of time, each group was slid into a fM.R.I. machine. Their brain waves were tested. The brain waves of the “generous” group showed signs of functional connectivity. In other words, the “generous” group felt more personally rewarded than the “selfish” group. So, who experiences the greater reward? Is it the giver or the receiver?


The important thing is that feeling good about doing good is a good thing. The human race has been and will continue to good things for the less fortunate, because as religion recommends and now science proves, doing something nice for someone else makes a person feel better about him/her self. And, when people feel good about themselves, they do good. It is a win/win situation. May it continue into the next generation and into generations to come.

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Watching and Waiting

This week a large hurricane hovers off the coast of Florida. It promises to be more devastating than Harvey, which hit Texas last week. Irma is huge. Watching Irma’s movements on television is scary – and I live in the North East!

Many states and countries are sending basic supplies to the areas that will be affected. France is sending a war ship, not to make war, but I’m not sure why. Hopefully, it is filled with needed machinery.

According to at least one economist, these violent hurricanes of the last few weeks have affected the dollar. The dollar is at it lowest against the European Euro than it has been in 20 months.

The governors of Florida and Georgia have emphasized the importance of saving human lives above all else in this crisis. As politicians dependent on voters, their prioritizing sits well with the general population. However, as always there are those who are watching the dollar, oil, commodities, building materials and other items very closely. The whole world is watching this particular hurricane.

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