On Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day here in the United States.  On this day, I think about my grandmother Elizabeth, my mother Donna, and my mother-of-the-heart, Ruth.  My relationship with my mom is sometimes complicated, because we are two very different people.  She’s much more traditional than I am, just for starters.  She is more quiet and traditionally feminine.  I have always been something of an iconoclast, even from childhood — and far preferred big and bold to cute and dainty.  Until the day I moved out on my own, my mom wanted to fit me into the more traditional mold of femininity … and it took a long time and a lot of work to get the point where I no longer accepted that expectation.

My mom, Donna (in the red hat) and me at the Linde Lane Tea Room in Dixon, Calif.

My grandmother and Ruth, on the other hand, thought I was just fine the way I was.  Grandma always dressed to the nines, even when she wasn’t going anywhere … because you never knew who might come by.  She had a vast array of colors in her wardrobe, and very little black.  I took that lesson to heart when I gave up wearing black and decided to change my wardrobe.


I accepted the idea that I was always going to like big, bold jewelry and rich colors, and that anyone who thought I was too “flashy” (a word my mother used to describe those who dressed in a way she thought a little too loud) could just look the other way.  My mom has come to accept that I’m happy as I am, and that’s great.

Ruth was a historical reenactor who had once been a bank VP and was a homemaker when I met her.  Ruth wore what felt comfortable for the health problems she had developed, and that was a lesson I took home when I began to have health problems of my own.  Ruth took people as they came, and had a raucous laugh that accompanied her stories about some of the places she’d seen and the people she met over the course of her professional career.  She passed away several years ago, as did my grandmother.

Three very different women, each of them with a different kind of influence on me.  What they all had in common was a love for animals, and a desire to help others.  Otherwise, they were as different as cheese and chalk … but I love them all.

Our kiddo is thirty; we’re empty-nesters.  I fully expect I’ll get a call or an e-mail later today, as he’s on the opposite coast.  I’ll phone my mom later as well.  It’s good to hear both of their voices any time.

In honor of the day, I share a song to which all parents can relate:  “Mom’s Lullaby,” by Seamus Kennedy.  Happy Mother’s Day to one and all!


May is Mental Health Awareness Month

mental-1831391_1280During the month of May, I always try to write something for Mental Health Awareness month.  This year, I want to talk about the effects of childhood trauma on adult mental health.

We now know that an Adverse Childhood Experiences Score (ACES) of four or more is a likely precursor to chronic disease, mental health issues, and addiction.  This quote from the link above helps explain it:

“The more ACEs you have, the greater the risk for chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. People have an ACE score of 0 to 10. Each type of trauma counts as one, no matter how many times it occurs. You can think of an ACE score as a cholesterol score for childhood trauma. For example, people with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to be smokers and seven times more likely to be alcoholic. Having an ACE score of 4 increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent, and suicide by 1200 percent. People with high ACE scores are more likely to be violent, to have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, and more autoimmune diseases. People with an ACE score of 6 or higher are at risk of their lifespan being shortened by 20 years.”

We know that autoimmune diseases, such as the one I live with, can be triggered by acute stress.   With my ACE score of 4, it’s no surprise that additional stress in adulthood was a trigger.  I also spent many years in counseling and on medication for mental health issues (as is the case for some 87 percent of people, the meds did not help me — God bless those of you for whom they do work).

Anyway, one of the things I experienced for much of my childhood that contributed to my ACE score was bullying.  Several years ago, I published a book of my essays, Les Pensées Dangereuses.  This is one of those essays, pulled from a blog post on the topic.  We need to understand, and act on the understanding, that “kids will be kids” is an inadequate response and start to do something about it.  At the end of the post, I’ll include the song referenced in the essay.

lpd-v-3On Bullying (Blog, 11/14/05)

When I was fired from KP (a blessing, I assure you all), my friend Donna sent me some useful links on workplace bullying to help me understand what I’d been going through for the better part of 18 months. Sadly, the only place on the planet where workplace bullying is unlawful is Quebec, where there is a provincial law against it. Other legislation has been introduced in various places, including my state, but nothing has been passed.

I have been thinking about why people like bully-bosses get the way they are, and I have concluded that they were probably playground bullies as kids. Perhaps they were victims of bullies, and decided that this is how one got ahead, but I suspect the former. I think that they have an ingrained pattern of meanness and putting-down that has just carried over into adulthood.

Here’s something else: I read a book some time back called Stop Laughing at Me, which was a study of bullying victims in elementary and middle schools. Teachers to whom the incidents were reported frequently responded with “Kids will be kids” or “Ignore them and they’ll stop”: platitudes which (I can assure you, as a former short, geeky, skinny kid) do nothing to stop the bullying at all. There is nothing more miserable as a kid than just wanting to be liked — to maybe have *one* friend — and being denied that because people who might otherwise like you are afraid that they’ll be next.

Guess what? “I’m afraid I’ll be next” carries over into the workplace when bullying gets involved. I had coworkers saying to me privately “What they’re doing to you is bullshit” or “I’m really sorry this is happening,” but not one of them would stand up and say “Knock it off.” That was a big difference between myself and my coworkers — I was unafraid to say “Knock it off.” For this, I was fired.

Anyway, here’s the point of my post. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary), one of the dearest folks you’d ever want to meet (I know, ’cause I’ve met him), has developed a program called Operation Respect (http://operationrespect.org/). He came up with the idea after hearing a song called “Don’t Laugh at Me” performed at a local folk festival. He was moved by the first line, “I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call a geek,” because that was him as a kid. He has added the song to Peter, Paul and Mary’s repertoire and, as I mentioned, developed this program. Its aim is to teach children how to treat one another with respect even if, and perhaps especially if, the other child is “different” somehow.

I was thinking about this program in terms of how its teachings could make today’s kids (tomorrow’s leaders, as we’re always reminded) better people. Perhaps 20 years from now someone will say to their subordinate, “You know, I feel very hurt by what I saw just now. Could we perhaps discuss a better way for us to handle a similar situation in the future?”

Let’s learn how to be blame-free, and caring. Let’s learn how to respect one another.

Let’s learn how to see only human beings in front of us.

(Public domain graphic image via Pixabay)


“Music, Mayhem, and Bad Decisions” Bonus Track

Hi, everyone.  It’s been kind of a crazy week.  I released Bayou Fire and Music, Mayhem, and Bad Decisions on May 1.  The latter is a re-work of a previously released memoir, with a new cover and several updates.  I write about my days in the Portland, Oregon, music business in the early 1980s, as well as some of my experiences and observations.  I won’t lie; I also deal frankly with the domestic violence I experienced at the hands of a boyfriend during that time as well … so be ready for that when you read.

The main thing I talk about, though, is the music.  I spent a lot of time in local clubs, and I had some favorite groups whom I made a point of seeing regularly.  One of them was Thin Man, featuring lead vocalist Rod Langdahl.

Here is Thin Man’s video for “Miss America,” which was featured on MTV’s “Battle of the Bands” (a program in which viewers phoned in votes for videos each week to see which group would move on in the competition).  Enjoy!

My Kentucky Derby Pick, and a Bonus Track

Every year, on the first Saturday in June, horse lovers and racing aficionados gather for the Run for the Roses.  The first jewel in racing’s Triple Crown, this event is always exciting.

There have only been Triple Crown winners in my lifetime:  Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and American Pharoah (that’s not a typo in his name).  What happens in the Kentucky Derby can set people’s rooting habits for the rest of the series as we always hope to see another great.

Me, with Deuce and his handler Liz, at the Kentucky Horse Park

Long-time readers of this blog know that I used to be an equestrian athlete myself, and some of you read about my reunion with my beloved Maisey.  I always watch racing through the eyes of a horse lover, and pray the same thing:  today, let them all come home safe.  Because I’ve watched two of the biggest tragedies in my lifetime of loving horses happen, too:  the life-ending injuries of Ruffian and Barbaro.

Today, I am rooting for Patch, the one-eyed horse who will be in the 20 slot.  He’s one of only four half-blind horses to ever run in the Derby.  He’s got a lot of heart; he has to, to have qualified for the Derby.  Plus, his sire is Union Rags, a previous Derby winner; he’s got the bloodline.

I’ve been lucky enough to stand next to and, in some cases, feed, pet and be photographed with some of racing’s greats, like Ogygian, Skip Away, Bull Inthe Heather, John Henry, Cigar, and Tiznow, the latter of whom was so enamored of my husband that he insisted on getting my husband to play with him.  I co-owned I Two Step Too, whose barn name was Deuce.  His name may not be familiar to you, but his face surely is:  he was Seabiscuit in the eponymous film.

This song is for all of the horses I’ve known and loved.  Today, let them all come home safe.

Blogging from A to Z: Z is for Zydeco

zCan you believe it?  We’re on the last day of #atozchallenge!  I’ll talk more about my experience in a reflections post tomorrow.  For now, let’s get to the business at hand.

Zydeco is a genre of music with its roots in southern Louisiana.  A lot of people think it’s the same thing as Cajun music, but it really isn’t.  Cajun music primarily consists of waltzes and two-steps that came from Acadia — what we now call Nova Scotia.  It came primarily out of white communities.  Zydeco is a little bit more like rhythm and blues, and it came primarily from the people of color.  Another difference is that zydeco is primarily sung in Louisiana Creole, or kouri-vini.  The outside influences are similar, in that both genres feature accordion (button or piano), violin, and rhythm.  The latter is a good way to tell the difference if you’re unsure; Cajun music uses a triangle, and zydeco uses a frottoir, or rub board.

So, where did the term come from?  According to Lee Benoit, a Cajun musician from Rayne, Louisiana, a music journalist had been listening to Clifton Chenier perform a song called “Les Haricots Ne Pas Salé” and asked what the music was called.  Chenier’s Creole accent was so heavy that the journalist wrote down what he thought he heard: zydeco.  Some of the big names in zydeco are the late Boozoo Chavis, Rockin’ Dopsie, the late Buckwheat Zydeco and, of course, Chenier.

I’m delighted to present two zydeco greats today.  The first track is Clifton Chenier’s “M’appel Fou” (They Call Me Crazy), and the second is a fun video featuring Boozoo Chavis’ “Motor Dude Special” — a song named after Chavis’ horse.  Laissez les bontemps rouler!