Family Values 2.0

I’ve been giving a lot of thought about the definitions of family and family values lately. Most of my childhood was spent in a traditional family unit. I had a mom, a dad and six brothers. But compared to the popular television program at the time; Leave it to Beaver, ours was anything but traditional.

Untreated alcoholism and its ugly symptoms were our distant cousin often visiting unannounced. The threat of poverty was a constant. I remember neighborhood kids taunting me saying their parents were going to call “Welfare” on mine.  At six years old I didn’t know what welfare was, but I sure had heard a lot about the poor house. 

CIMG7448Children of the depression, my parents greatest fear was the “poor house.” Mom could stretch a pound of hamburger, a box of noodles and a can of tomatoes to keep us fed and she made sure we went to Sunday school clean and pressed, our hair slicked back with sugar-water. 

With the occasional helping hand from extended family, and our community along with well placed mentors we survived and thrived.

I’ve spent a lifetime studying what makes a family.  Most families are not the Cleavers. The definition of family reaches beyond that traditional family unit, genetics or living under the same roof. 

The Republican Party would like us to believe otherwise. Inspired by Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly for decades it has proclaimed itself the keeper of family and family values; values we have allowed them to define and use to divide families, communities and our country. This is also the party that fights to reverse critical social policy and our healthcare reform in favor of rewarding the wealthy one percent.

After years of interviewing friends and neighbors and reporting on the issues that impact our community I can report the concept of family has evolved far beyond  some mythical image embraced by those who would hold us captive in poverty and the fear that is left unfettered promoting a long list of isms. (sexism, Racism, Age-ism, Colonialism and more.)

Today’s family is extended, non-traditional, same sexed, heterosexual, singular, plural; all the above and much more. Defining family is more difficult that catching lightning in a bottle.

I’ve been blessed by the wonderful families that have come into my life.  Among them, a mom working part-time, going to college full-time and raising four healthy and happy children.  Another mom working toward sobriety and the return of her children. A family headed up by a grandmother and community leader willing to call out injustice as she sees it, while standing firm in her resolve to create a better life for her kids. 

I also want to tell you about another young couple I know and love.  Until recently they would not have been allowed to marry.  But Minnesotans understood the ‘heart wants what the heart wants’— and voted to approve same-sex marriage.  That young couple is now happily married, owns a home and is creating a life together under the full  protection of  law. I am proud to say Minnesota’s DFL party led the fight to establish laws and programs to ensure these amazing families have the opportunity to survive and thrive.

The members of my party have a strong work ethic, we respect every human.  We stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. We are generous, honest and hold an open mind. We strive to live life well and do what we can to ensure others have the opportunity to live well. We are spiritual, fair and honest. That is the definition of family values in support of the evolving family.

With the 2018 midterm elections we have a unique opportunity to create the future we want for our children and grandchildren.  To give hope to the generations that will inherit our legacy.

Our first step must be reclaiming the title as the party of family values; DFL, the Party of Family Values 2.0

   

We must stop being played

 

 

This week’s  presidential tweet aimed at Senator Gillibrand makes me yearn for “Once upon a time” when Donald Trump was a television celebrity and wasn’t our Tweeter-in-Chief.

Frankly I find his latest effort of presidential shame tweeting involving powerful women sad.

Once upon a time in towns and cities across America  little girls were told to be nice, don’t fight, or get angry.  They were told heaven forbid don’t make waves–or question a male authority figure– because honey it’s a man’s world.

Back in the not too distant past girls were taught early on that boys grow up to rule the world. Girls grow up to help make their future husband a success.

Women have made inroads since I first read story books to my child that began with the phrase, Once Upon a Time.  We have become CEO’s, ranking officers in the military and successes in dozens of other professions once thought to be man’s work.

We are slowly seeing women move up the ranks to fill seats in local, county and national government. We are also joining forces and building coalitions to raise and resolve serious issues impacting our families, friends and neighbors.

Many of us have married men who believe we are their equal.  They are men who also believe their wives and daughters have every right to take a seat at the table of power.  Yet every day I am reminded there are still  men in power who  draw and redraw the line that women must not cross.

Scrolling through Twitter since Donald Trump won the presidency— it’s hard to miss his  attacks against the news media, our sports figures and our women lawmakers.  If fear mongering were a talent, the President would win bigly on America’s got talent.  We must stop being played.

 

 

 

 

Womens’ Work

 

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We have

Given birth to, set the table and  fed a nation.  We have fought in wars; domestic and

foreign.

We hold down jobs, bring home the bacon (cook it) and raised families.

We have sacrificed our health and well-being so that others may thrive.

We have learned from our experiences and we, the women survive.

We’ve been told

We are not smart enough.  We are not strong enough.  We are too young. We are too old.

Wait your turn.

We have been beaten. We have been sexually harassed and abused.

We’ve been told be good. Don’t tell.

We do not

Value the measure of a person simply by the balance of their  investment portfolio or the

power they hold.

Nor  do we pre-judge a person by age, the color of their skin, religious beliefs or sexual

orientation.

We  know every human has worth.

 

We Must 

Work to ensure our government is reflective of all the people it serves.

We must step up and become those people in every level of government.

 

 

It is time 

Women take a seat at the table.

 

 

My body—my story

When I was eight months pregnant I developed a pulmonary embolism and was rushed to the hospital.  At the time, I seriously thought that chest pain, severe shortness of breath and swollen extremities were standard operating procedure, right along with baby showers, weight gain and a glowing complexion.

A mad dash to the emergency room in Duluth and two weeks in the hospital convinced me otherwise.

I will always be grateful to the doctors and nurses who saved my life during a very frightening time in our lives. 

In my 9th month, I gave birth to a robust baby boy.

Before we left the hospital the doctor told my husband— that in no uncertain terms—-we should never be pregnant again.

Faced with a potential life or death situation… the issue of birth control moved front and center in our lives.  Luckily future pregnancy prevention was available and I am  here today to celebrate joyous and life affirming events including our son’s wedding this summer to a wonderful woman…. with the hope that one day I will live long enough to be a grandma.

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My story is mine and has a happy ending.  But over the years I have listened to the heart-rending stories of other women who have been faced with more difficult decisions involving birth control and pregnancy termination.

Their stories have strengthened my belief that our government and politicians should stand down and defer to the decisions made between a woman and her doctor.   

Coming of age in the 1970’s–I cannot imagine a time when family planning options are not available.  Yet, it seems there are those who are willing to chip away at a woman’s right to own and control our bodies. In honor of the women who fought to make choice a reality I will fight to maintain the right for other women to access affordable birth control and access  to reproductive healthcare.

A woman’s place is in the house and senate

When my mother was raising seven children she took part-time work to help fill the financial gaps during a time when a woman’s place was in the home child rearing, homemaking and budgeting the income provided by the man of the house.

Mom was also the referee, nurse and teacher of right and wrong.bettycookie

While others in our small rural community may have considered us poor, we never went to bed hungry, regularly scrubbed clean and sent off to Sunday School most weeks.

A child of the Great Depression she carefully guarded money and knew how much we had right down to the nickel.

When I was five years old I learned the value of that nickel and the dangers of foolish spending on a hot summer day.  The neighborhood kids were headed to the store to buy frozen pops and I wanted to join them on their adventure.  For weeks these kids had taunted me that their folks had threatened to call the “welfare” on my family.  I didn’t know what the welfare was… but there had been lots of talk at home about the poor house and how people who didn’t have money were sent to that terrible place.

My mom kept her big black purse on the highest kitchen shelf.  Somehow I managed to move a chair to the counter, climb up and take the money without being caught.

That precious nickel was spent on that long ago summer day and helped me feel like a normal kid as my tongue became stained by the ill-gotten frozen pop.  When I got home I was caught red-handed. (or should I say purple tongued.)  Mom grilled me and explained in no uncertain terms stealing was wrong and hurt everyone. She sent me to the living room to await my punishment when Dad came home.  Sobbing and filled with guilt it seemed as if hours passed until I learned my fate.

When Dad did come home he said not a word.  Mom’s punishment had been enough.  I had learned stealing was bad and a nickel meant something for a family struggling to make ends meet. 

This is just one childhood memory of a time when a woman’s place was in the home and one of the many lessons defining  who I’ve become.   

Pulling up my news feed today and reading about Senator Susan Collins and her courageous stand against the latest Trump Care proposal  I cannot help but think about my mom. She would have made a hell of a politician.

Reflections and forward thinking

I spent the better part of my life working as a radio and television news journalist. At 60 something… I approached the tail end of my career with fear and misgivings. I was the oldest woman delivering the news on a nightly basis in the state of Minnesota.  That was a job in itself.

We live and die by our ratings. I was fortunate the Northland audience continued to tune in, despite my wrinkles and thinning hair.  Looking back It felt as if I were taking part in a grand experiment.

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The fear and misgivings have passed and now I am charting a new course. No more long commutes, nights away from family and more than enough time to rediscover myself.

When I first started my career it was thrilling to deliver the news night after night and tell the stories of the Northland and its people.  News folks are often viewed as celebrities in their tv markets.  You are recognized by strangers even when you just want to be yourself.   You are judged. And rightly so.
I spent decades keeping my opinions to myself, seeking out both sides to a story and fighting not to pre-judge others.

My advice to the young journalists at the start of their careers? There is so much more than gathering the facts; Who, What, Where, When and Why. We must honor our instincts and maintain a code of ethics. We must also honor those who share their stories. When someone agrees to take part in a story they put their trust in our hands. That is a grave responsibility.

Caring deeply about my community I  will not become a “slacker 2.0” as I move into my so-called Golden Years.  I continue to  expand my horizons by attending leadership workshops and learning how our democracy works.
As I dive into my new life it is with  great hope that I will continue serving my community and maintain your trust.

Growing a thick skin

Some new friends  recently told me I was brave for sharing my social and political opinions in light of the backlash they are seeing  on social media.  The anonymity of tapping away a response to a Facebook or Twitter post has emboldened some to attack those with an opposing viewpoint. As a result, these friends have stopped posting their personal views.

(image courtesy Wikipedia More details

The Princess and the Trolls –The Changeling, by John Bauer, 1913.)

 

I get it…trolls are often hurtful, and in many cases fail to make a point without harsh and often nasty comments they would never verbalize in a face to face conversation.

Checking my Twitter notifications I find I now have a troll. I considered whether to share this comment because it would give this person the publicity or recognition that they seek. In the spirit of free speech I decided to share one of those comments here.

I will spare you the more nasty ones.

The thing is, we cannot allow others to silence us or to prevent us from having a meaningful dialog with those who may not agree with everything we believe it.  My goal is to find a list of common issues and possible solutions that we can all agree and act upon for the sake of our country.

Growing thick skin can be painful…but we must stand strong and resist the effort by trolls to silence our voices.