Show Us What You Can Do, Donald J.

The misfit outsider won the election and the unpopular kids are on top. And they want nothing more than to stick it in everyone’s face.  They can’t believe they’re there. They’re pretty sure they don’t belong there.

But let’s ride this m*&#%er f#^&ing gig Big League!

That’s the current tone of the Trump White House. The leader, Donald J., is flinging himself at executive order after executive order. How can anyone, even as brilliant as this man thinks he is, imagine they are capable of making multiple considered and informed decisions within hours of taking a position? A position where, let’s face it, The Donald is a veritable Intern. But what a prime photo op these signings are. Get the cameras in every few hours and film The Donald doing Big Things. He’s doing Really Big Things.  Doesn’t he look presidential in his dark suit, white shirt, and blue tie doing Really Big Things.

Donald J. has changed his party affiliation with the regularity of the Kardashians introducing a new reality TV show. That he won as a Republican is no accident. Republicans should go in the corner and hang their collective heads in shame for eight years of obstructionism for obstructionism’s sake. You invited a candidate like The Donald. One who planned from the start to work completely outside the standards of a government that’s functioned rather well for over two centuries. Your party earned a candidate like The Donald.

But now we’re all saddled with him. And his team, replete with inexperienced outsiders and angry misfits ready to sell their souls to be an insider–for that elusive illusion of being one of the popular ones.

And oh, but is there no bottom to Donald J.’s egocentricity? How much longer are we going to argue and posture about whom had the most watched inauguration? And is there no end to the depth of deception and duplicity from his band of merry men and women?  Alternative facts? Huh? Voter fraud to the tune of millions when it fits the narrative, but not when there’s talk of investigation? Really?

I understand how this self-designed caricature got elected. People were tired of nothing happening in Washington. The choice became Trump, or don’t vote, and many chose Trump. They took a chance. I so want them not to be wrong. I don’t think Donald J. acts like a bad man. I think he acts like a frightened, needy, and rather bright, child…with possible potential under all that baggage.

So here’s the challenge, Donald J. Trump. You avow you like challenges. Enough with all the playground games and manipulations. This isn’t a school yard. Or a television set.  And you’re not campaigning anymore. You won the presidential election. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about us. All of us. So grow the frick up. Be a man. Be a president. Of these UNITED States of America.

 

 

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Wisdom of the Dead

skeletonOctober has been frightening this year. Not because of skeletons guarding doorways, ghosts in the trees, or dismembered body parts sticking out of yards. What’s frightening are the toxic fumes rising from the  cauldron of our election stew.

What would our predecessors think about how we are treating each other, the vitriol and baseness in these election-based exchanges in this civilized twenty-first century? I see banks of the dead, watching, pale and silent. Some I know–my parents are standing in the front–and many I don’t.

This audience of the dead is in agreement. While we the living are so not. They can’t sweat small stuff anymore, or even big stuff. They now understand division better than any of us, divided from earthly companionship, love, and joy.  Yes, They are divided from anger, pain and heartbreak, too, but what they no doubt remember most is harmony, synchronicity, and consideration.

Because if there is a heaven on earth, that’s where it lies.

I wish these dead could speak to us. In their later years, my parents heard the siren call of “the system is rigged.”  They felt that those in power, the “new world order,” were power hungry and evil, out to ruin the rest of us. With the distance of years, I see my parents having this reaction to counter an overwhelming loss of control, of their lives and their bodies. That we are in control is an illusion in the first place, I think, but as we get older, the veil between this illusion and reality gets much thinner. Reality can be hard.

“The system is rigged” resonates as a reaction to humans feeling “I can’t get what I want.” None of us  get exactly what we want, even though we may work diligently toward a particular goal for years. The system is designed that humans will always have challenges, surprises, and shocks; if we are not growing, we are dying. No wonder people build up resistance, fear, and anger to a Sisyphusian nature of existence, rolling a boulder uphill only to see it roll down again. When too much seems out of control, we want someone to blame. Must be the people in charge which means–hey, it’s the  government.

Is this the grown-up version of blaming your parents for your problems? Blame the government, or the wealthy employers, or really both, since they are the “system.” And when our culture broadcasts this on a large scale, what is the effect on the upcoming generations? The system is rigged! Why work or try to get ahead? Overthrow the current system!

The dead groan in unison. Has history not yet convinced us as a species that democracy, for all its difficulties, is one of the better systems there is? Perhaps the best? No, revolution is not the answer. Unless that revolution means taking responsibility, all of us, for the divisive poisonous stew we are swimming in. Human existence, and politics, is a see-saw, a balancing scale; sometimes events tip in favor of you and your beliefs, sometimes the tip is in my favor. What our elders, and those who have gone before would tell us on Halloween, when the veil between the dead and the living is at it’s thinnest of the year, is this: “Grow up. Stop throwing tantrums and trying to get your way. No one consistently gets their way, ever. The human system is rigged to make sure of that. Start sharing toys and figuring out how to play nice.”

Shame on us for acting so selfishly and childishly. That’s what the dead would say. But they can’t talk anymore. They only listen. What wisdom they could offer from the other side of the divide. Divisiveness is hell, they’d say, but hearing each other while you still can, then leaning in toward harmony, not discord, is the closest thing to heaven–on earth.

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Thank you, MSNBC; Thank you, John Kasich

msnbcI confess to being an MSNBC junkie. My secret pleasure. No one except my husband knows how much time I spend with my MSNBC family.

Like any family, the MSNBC family has its dysfunction, and that’s part of the charm. Chris Matthews currently has a marginally better hold on himself: he’s been letting the people he interviews talk without talking over them, which he does repeatedly, and often at length, until you wonder why this guest is even on the show if we are not going to be able to hear a word he or she is offering.

Can Rachel Maddow truly be as engaged, interested, intelligent, and considerate as she appears to be on air? If there is a serious broadcaster with a more engaging presence, I don’t know who it is. Watching her interviews is a joy.

Brian Williams, not so much. I didn’t watch him in his incarnation before the fall when he was put on leave for elaborating on dangerous and heroic things he never did. I struggle imagining him as the top-rated newscaster he supposedly was. He’s now part of the MSNBC family, and it’s not all smooth. Brian, get over yourself. I’m glad you still have a job, but quit with the condescending lean, the too-cool-for-school sideways smirk, and offer more enthusiasm than the large rock that sits in the woods in my backyard would. And the “uhs”? You’ve landed more in a minute than us broadcasters-in-training landed in our ten minute Agriculture Education presentations back in college (mine was on the benefits of yogurt, a campaign I generously designed for the American Milk Association) on our first time out! I want you to succeed. Learn how to interview, and practice speaking without a trillion “uhs.”

I could go on about the brilliance of Steve Kornacki, and how fun his enthusiasm is to watch, as he crunches and expounds on his numbers in his button-down shirt and crew-neck sweater. About what a dinner companion Chris Hayes would make, able to engage in fascinating conversation on almost any subject we could hit. And the perfect balance Chuck Todd brings to every show he’s a part of. But what spurred me to write about my adopted dysfunctional family on MSNBC was their broadcast of John Kasich’s victory speech on the evening he took Ohio, which gave us nuggets like this:

“And if you are a neighbor, that means the widow who was married for 50 years who no one calls anymore, you want to change the world? You take her to dinner on Saturday night. She’ll wear that dress she hadn’t worn in six months…

“You see what I learned as a boy…is that the spirit of America rests in us…

“Our spirit is in believing that through our efforts in whichever part of the world that we live that we can change the world, that we can carve out a better future, that we can realize that those special gifts that were given to each and every one of us in here are something we can use to heal the world.”

I know, in a way, this has nothing to do with MSNBC, but in a horrifying primary season where candidates have reached new ugly, ugly lows in disparaging each other as individuals and as groups, and then gone lower, MSNBC produced this shining moment with John Kasich. I am grateful.

John Kasich, thank you for being in the world; MSNBC, thank you for sharing him.

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Guns On The Train

secretslogo Does Bernie Sander truly believe that carrying guns and ammo in  luggage on a train is the same as carrying guns and ammo in luggage on a plane? 

One of the first times I watched Bernie Sanders on television as he started down his presidential campaign trail, the subject of guns came up, and Bernie Sanders likened guns checked in baggage on a plane to guns in carry-on baggage on a train.

I had an uncle in Maine who went moose hunting with friends once a season in Canada. I’m surmising they took the train and packed their guns. I understand that there are valid reasons why people travel with guns, but we live in a different world now, a world where ensuring community safety may necessitate infringing on personal privilege. Personally, I’d like to get on a plane without taking off my belt and shoes and watching my purse disappear down a conveyer belt and out of my sight while I’m imprisoned behind the scanner gate. With a dichotomy in solutions for the “gun control problem,” either increasing gun control legislation so getting a gun is exceedingly difficult for all of us, or expanding gun availability and legality so we can all carry a gun and be ready to shoot back, I wanted to hear what The Secrets of the Universe panel had to say.

B: TSA is now using methodologies, like Precheck, to create scenarios where we can keep our shoes on and our socks clean and still maintain the safety of the flights, but I can’t imagine a pre-check methodology that would permit a passenger’s ammo and gun in the main cabin and still maintain the safety of the flight. No guns in the plane, and no guns in the train. Bernie Sanders, you got caught out on this one.

D: I don’t want guns and ammo with me anywhere without my permission and my permission is never granted.

P: I don’t think guns and ammo should be anywhere in public. Bernie Sanders comes from Vermont, a gun-toting state, so he was obligated to his constituency to go there, but I do not think he believes it.

R: Equally bad. Just can’t bring the plane down, but can take everyone down in Baggage Claim. Let me know if people are carrying guns on my train and I’ll drive.

Someone looks silly here: either you, Bernie Sanders, for selling these two scenarios as synonymous, or us because we were expected to jump under that umbrella and agree with you? Uh-huh. Unanimous on this one: No Guns On The Train.

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Racial Slurs hit home

For the second time in 20 years of selling real estate I heard a racial slur unintentionally directed at me. Recently, while discussing a pricing strategy for their home with a white couple in their 70’s, the wife said matter of factly, “Well, the price is fine but people may try to Jew us down.” That’s when my heart stopped. I had a hard time keeping my composure. I thought my face might have turned red, but, if so, the man and woman didn’t notice a thing and we went on with the conversation. The first time I heard this phrase was almost 18 years ago when a 30ish woman – white and married to a Filipino man – said it to me and I couldn’t believe my ears. And, here it was again – 20 years later.

It is unbelievable to me that in this day and age I would hear such a thing. It shows a complete lack of respect – especially since I am Jewish and that fact never even occurs to them. They use the phrase “Jew them down” like they were saying, “It may rain.” What are these people thinking?

I never said a word either time. I know this sounds like cowardice on my part and it probably is. Both conversations took place at the couples’ kitchen tables and I was in the position of trying to gain their confidence so that they would list their homes with me. If they choose me to sell their houses I would make $6,000 to $10,000. This is how I make a living and the money is very important to me. I also don’t know how to correct them without shouting, “You racist pigs! How dare you? I am Jewish and you have just insulted me. Don’t you think before you speak? Or do you use racial epithets against all kinds of people?” I don’t have the self control to calmly say, “Noone should use that phrase or any other phrase that contains a racial slur.”

In this day of Mr. Obama and Ferguson, in the age of gay marriage, in the year of immigration reform, is it possible that people are still using Jew as a verb to mean stingy, tight, money hungry? Apparently it is. If folks off-handedly use an anti-semitic remark I can only wonder what they are saying about people of color.

No, I didn’t say anything to the woman at the dining room table. But, I certainly did not think I would work well with this couple. And, the thought crossed my mind that they would not want to work with a person like me if they ever found out that I was Jewish

Coda – 20 years ago I did sell the house of the woman who remarked, “Jew the price down.” I remember being particularly appalled with her use of this phrase while she sat across from a husband who was not white. I heard a few years later that they got divorced and I felt relieved that he got away from her.

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Answers Are Here: Secrets of the Universe

secretslogoTo conquer the questions that plague me, I am undertaking Secrets of the Universe, a blog series to explore some of life’s greatest conundrums like…is there a certain age beyond which a woman should not wear an unnatural shade of nail polish? Does Bernie Sanders truly believe guns and ammo in your checked luggage on a plane is the same as guns and ammo in the luggage over your head on the train? Should hospitals be nonprofit? Cracker Jacks or Fiddle Faddle?
Courageously stepping forward to take on this weighty task, the members of the Secrets of the Universe Panel (alternatively, The Four Pillars):
B – writer; mother of one favorite son; married to a coach who honorarily adopts honorary sons who play basketball; floral designer.
D – writer; mother of artistic college-aged daughter and son who just left the nest; married to a patron of the arts; organic gardner.
P – writer; mother of a stand-up comedian son; partnered with Ricky Riccardo, a rescued Lhaso Apso; realtor.
R – writer; mother of two musically-inclined college-aged boys; married to The Nicest Man in the World; tour guide.

Need I say more? Stay tuned for the first installment…

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Tipping the Balance to Radical Security

When I wanted to close out 2015 with visions of sugar plums in my head, I found images of radical terrorism. Not comfort and joy. Fear and violence.
A world in frightening imbalance.
My maternal line is full of scientists. I love magic, but I am fascinated by science. Science is magic. The natural world is embedded with options for balancing. Too acidic. Add any number of substances to create an alkalinity. Dehydrated? Add water. Too cold? Flint and steel plus force equals fire and warmth.
Radical terrorism evolves in individuals who feel disenfranchised. A person who feels deprived of power, rights, and privileges. A person who feels unconnected and unimportant.
How do we counter balance radical terrorism in 2016?
How about radical security? I’m not referring to more guns and walls, video monitoring and prohibitions. That path appears to be a slippery slope that at any moment can increase our terror, not abet it. As children, we feel secure when there is consistence structure in our lives and someone who is present and caring. As adults, we are not so different. Perhaps there is much we can do to counter balance radical terrorism.
Start by rerooting ourselves, reviving ourselves, reminding ourselves, by experiencing our literal scientific earth. The structure of our natural world is consistent. There is order. The blooming of a flower, the freezing of a puddle, the changing of the seasons, a bee hive, the mating of animals in heat, the hatching of an egg. We ground ourselves in consistencies, sureties. At the heart of it all, Earth is steady.
Then we can start connecting to each other, by being there and caring. Radically. Not extremely. Extreme action is rarely sustainable over time. And people are likely to think us unhinged. Radical defined as anything that is personally radical. Moving beyond what we’ve been doing to date. Each of us will have our own radical, and it’s time to go there. Set a date and start radical security actions.
Forgive your sibling, parent, child for whatever has kept you from talking; your work colleague for stealing that lead, that idea, that spotlight; your partner for not being everything you fantasized in a partner; yourself for being less than. Speak kind words that pop up inside, telling your partner “I love you”; acknowledging a rival at work for a job well done; telling yourself you’re okay. Contribute something positive to your community by reaching out to that neighbor from another country, volunteering for a town or school committee and listening to other viewpoints, teaching your children about the beauty of other cultures, supporting the inclusionary activities of your human resource department at work, running for political office.
We each have the power to start tipping the balance. Great change always comes from a simple small change that expands and expands and expands…

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Enthusiastic!

Does enthusiasm exist in a vacuum?

I remember being heart-poundingly consumed with Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead and the contemplation of Rand’s philosophy of “selfishness” when I read the famous book many years ago. Published in 1943, The Fountainhead, and her other tour de force, Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, continue to sell enough copies EVERY SINGLE YEAR to land them on bestseller lists, according to an article I read recently. I have wondered if I would be as engaged in these books and Rand’s writings were I to read them now, decades later.

I may have my answer. I am currently reading the biography Ayn Rand And The World She Made by Anne C. Heller, and am  spellbound. Ayn Rand’s life and philosophy is captured here with an vitality and breadth by Heller that I find truly jawdropping. I am consumed once again.

Where does the enthusiasm question fit in? I want to enthuse on the thoughts and ideas this book about Ayn Rand generates, about related beliefs, experiences, the history of our country, the history of our world, politics in general, but I don’t know who to enthuse to! I would overwhelm anyone who is not a Rand fan, and while I may know other Rand fans, I don’t know that I know them, so I read and keep my excitement to myself. But with my enthusiasm locked inside, with no one to volley with, to bubble and expound, question and exchange thoughts, the result feels like the very antithesis of enthusiasm!

The definition of enthusiasm is great or fervent excitement, so apparently enthusiasm does exist in a vacuum.

But I’m not keeping my enthusiasm for my newest story,Under A Halloween Moon, to myself.  Release date today!  Check it out, by Beverly Breton, at www.thewildrosepress.com

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Moral Dilemna

If I haven’t mentioned this before, I am a staunch Democrat.  In fact, I am a left wing Democrat.  I come from a family and a town where it was taboo to even think about voting Republican.  I broke this taboo only once in 1990 when I voted for Governor Weld.  I liked  Bill Weld and was fearful of Silver so I cast my vote for a Republican and I don’t regret it!

My local state Representative is Cory Atkins.  I have voted for her a number of times and I voted for her husband, Chet, when he held the same position.  I  would continue to vote for Cory every time she asks for my vote, but I’m mad at her.  My anger doesn’t arise from her political stance nor her voting record; it is more personal. 

You see, Cory Atkin’s house is on the market and I am a realtor in Concord where she lives.  Now I would never expect to get the listing because I don’t even know Cory.  But, the house has been on the market for  222 days and over the course of the listing period she has hired not one but two realtors (one after the other)  to sell her property (unsuccessfully I might add) who are two of the most conservative Republicans in the brokerage community (if not the entire town).  I know how right wing these two individuals are; I am sure Cory knows too. 

So, am I wrong to think that a politician should be aware of who she gives her business to?  The house is on the market for $1,699,000  Conservatively at 5% Corey will pay over $80,000 to the real estate agency of which more than half will go into the individual realtor’s pocket.  So, she is handing over more than $40,000 to a person who not only isn’t going to vote for her, but in fact, endorses the exact opposite political opinion. 

I feel like writing to Ms. Atkins to tell her that I for one have noticed her choice of realtors – twice!  There are literally hundreds of realtors in Concord alone – many of whom are Democrats like me.  Couldn’t she have chosen someone from her own Party?  Couldn’t she put her money where her mouth is? 

I have gone over and over this logic in my head.  Am I being ridiculous?  Does selling your house have anything to do with politics?  Would I ask the same of other people?  But, doesn’t a politician have different priorities than the rest of us?  Shouldn’t a politician at least try to support her constituents with work and money?

I would be glad to hear  opinions from anyone reading this blog.  I am in a quandary.  Do I have the right to be mad at Cory Atkins?  I want to vote for her in the next election – but I certainly don’t feel like I support her on a personal level.  What’s a good Democrat like me supposed to do????

Real Estate Hint:  In Massachusetts we have a step in the purchasing process called a Purchase and Sale.  The Purchase and Sale is the legal document that spells out all the conditions of the sale.  Although the real estate office drafts the Purchase and Sale, it is strongly advised that both the buyers and the sellers hire an attorney to review the P and S.  Attorneys always add their own riders to the document that further protects their clients.  A cynic might say that the attorneys add boiler plate riders and therefore do not warrant their cost.  But, if there is a problem with the P&S it is the attorneys that iron it out.  As a Realtor, I am never comfortable with a client who doesn’t hire an attorney to review their P&S.  Too often, the client is being “penny wise, dollar foolish”. 

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Special for Women? Not Always…

Marketers figured out decades ago that women tend to make many major household purchasing decisions, so they started marketing to them.  Now we have a plethora of products aimed not only toward women (witness the new VW Beetle) but specifically designed for women.  If you’re a woman, maybe you’re thinking it’s about time someone said vive la différence.  Our bodies are different, so let’s have some specificity.  A women-only gym has machines set for people closer to 5’ than 6’, weights closer to ten pounds than fifty.  Women don’t process alcohol (or calories, it seems) as efficiently as men, so give us light beer.  We need more calcium and iron, so put more of those in our vitamins, thanks. 

Here’s a little secret, though.  A lot of those women’s-only products cost us a lot of extra money, and since we’re still only getting paid $.75 on the dollar for what men get paid, we can ill afford to get ripped off thanks to some marketing genius.  For instance, I recently needed some multivitamins.  At the grocery store I noticed a new “Women’s Multi” version, same size bottle, next to the regular multivitamins I usually buy.  “With iron and calcium” it said on the front of the bottle.  Great!  I picked up a bottle of each and flipped them over to compare the nutrition labels.  There were only two ingredient differences, neither of them dramatic.  Instead of 100% of my daily folic acid, I’d be getting 150%.  Instead of 16% of my calcium, 25%.  And iron?  The same in either capsule.  But the price difference?  The women’s multivitamin was $9.99 for 90, the regular multi, $10.99 for 130.  The perfectly adequate regular multivitamins were 28% cheaper!  So what are we paying for?  We’re paying for the fact that the label says “women” on it somewhere.  The same goes for shampoo, shaving cream, soap, and I’m sure you could name a bunch of other products if you thought about it. What we’re paying for is our lack of knowledge.  Knowledge is power.  Let’s start using it.

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