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After Four Years of Trump Trauma, We Must All Become “Watchmen”

What happens when someone in your world refuses to take responsibility for their duties? Well, if it’s a 12-year-old who’s failed to wheel the dumpster to the curb on trash day, a parent can withhold a privilege. Hopefully, the kid won’t forget next time.

 

But what if the person failing to fulfill a duty is the one in charge, like a parent, or a boss? Someone with power. And no one is allowed to say anything about it?

 

Some years ago, my friend Shelly told me about her weekly visits with her father.  Her parents divorced when she just a kid, and on Sundays, her mom dropped her off at her dad’s place.  He watched sports the entire day. She cooked him his meals, which he ate, all the while ignoring her. She felt so alone, she said. So emotionally abandoned. As an adult she composed a letter to her deceased father, expressing her pent up anger. And then she threw it away.

 

This symbolic gesture may have helped the adult Shelly. But it did nothing to change the pain she felt as a child. Unfortunately, no one ever held her dad accountable for being a disinterested jerk of a parent.

 

As I’ve tried to work through the question of accountability lately, I see that much of what frustrates people is the inability to level responsibility. Not blaming, but consciously putting the responsibility for failure where it belongs. It’s a reality check, saying, “Yup, that really happened.”

 

I think that’s important, because the person we’re having a problem with, the person who won’t accept responsibility for their behavior, might not allow a confrontation. They may think they’re right as rain. But unable to self-reflect, they could act offended, cut us off, or hurt us in some other way.

 

Therapists often recommend journal-writing for expressing anger and resentment. Or perhaps sharing one’s feelings in a support group. A counselor once told me to envision the most peaceful place I could think of. And then there’s prayer and meditation. But how can we blame God when a person whose behavior we detest doesn’t change? We can crank up all our courage to confront the bully, narcissist, or happy slacker who sets our teeth on edge, but sometimes there is no “come to Jesus “moment. No acceptance of responsibility, no dramatic change in the relationship. The irresponsible party continues to offend and it seems we can’t do anything about it – not if we plan to stay and preserve the veneer of a stable family or work situation.

 

I guess that’s what’s known as the “elephant in the room.” It’s so big and obvious, and so powerful, that it must be ignored. As a result, everyone has to tip-toe around and not make the elephant angry while the elephant goes along unscathed. It’s what we generally call “dysfunction.”

 

Applying this definition to politics, the bigger problem isn’t the person in office, who just happens to be ignoring propriety and abusing power.  It’s the people who for voted him and continue to support him – in spite of his offensive behavior.

 

So here we were. For the past four years, we’ve tried to understand how someone in a position of great authority could be so unwilling to take responsibility for demoralizing a nation. Proudly creating a cult following, he will not be called to accountability. Some called Donald Trump’s caustic verbiage “freedom of speech.” But to me, he was that elephant in the room.

 

Parents are often guilty of ignoring their shameful behavior. As are teachers who demean students and bosses who openly cheat on their spouses. The list is long. It takes a real wake up call, perhaps a catastrophe, before some people realize the trauma they’ve caused.

 

During the January 6 attempted overthrow of our government, Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman was just doing his job when a violent mob broke through the doors and windows of the Capitol building. Their goal was forcing the Senate to overturn the November election. Using split-second decision-making, Goodman led rioters away from the Senate chamber as they wildly chanted, “Hang Mike Pence,” and “Where’s Pelosi?” ” They were carrying out what they believed to be a mandate from their boss, Donald Trump. Goodman, on the other hand, was carrying out his responsibility to the nation.

 

In 1972, Frank Wills – coincidentally, another Black man – also helped save our Democracy. A security guard at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., Wills noticed that someone had tampered with the locks on office doors and called the police. His actions that night unwittingly launched what became known as the Watergate Scandal, and the subsequent train of events that led to the House drawing up three articles of impeachment against President Nixon.  With evidence mounting against him, however, Nixon chose to resign.

 

“According to Wills’ obituary in The New York Times, the ‘most eloquent description of his role’ in American history came on July 29, 1974; Rep. James Mann (D-South Carolina), while casting his vote to impeach Nixon on the House Judiciary Committee, said: “If there is no accountability, another president will feel free to do as he chooses. But the next time there may be no watchman in the night.” (WIkipedia)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Wills_(security_guard)

 

We have all been “watchmen” during Trump’s presidency. We watched as he empowered White Supremacists. As he denigrated immigrants and maliciously labeled the free press “fake news.” And we watched as he spun the “Great Lie” leading to the Capitol riot. We watched it all – only in broad daylight.  By writing emails, contributing to Trump’s opponent, and maybe slapping bumper stickers on our cars, we tried to act like the parents in the room. And through the impeachment process, the House of Representatives twice reinforced our faith in Democracy by taking up their Constitutional responsibility. But it was the press, in my opinion, who never let us down. Faithful witnesses to our trauma, they kept us not only informed but hopeful that the November election would allow us to click “re-center” on the nation’s GPS, taking us home to a safer, more sane, way of life.

 

Now, after leveling responsibility, we should release our anger: scream into a pillow, shred some paper. Maybe run for office. But let out the rage. How the offender reacts to our charges is out of our control. But finding our voices, we must vow never to let it happen again.  FFG

Second Impeachment Gives New Meaning to Carole King Song, “It’s Too Late”

Trump’s second impeachment in the House has been accomplished. I can’t pretend I’m not happy. In fact, I believe justice has been done. What came to mind this morning as I listened to the House debate, was the song, “It’s Too Late,” by Carole King. As one of the lines goes, “One of us is changing, or maybe we’ve just stopped trying.” In the end, leaving is never easy. It just requires a firm decision by one of the partners to pull the proverbial plug.

Not long ago, a woman I know ended a bad marriage – one that had gone on for too long. After years of neglect and abuse, she met someone who loved and valued her, and offered her a chance at happiness. So, she got a divorce and remarried. For her ex, it was “too late, baby.” I liken her story to the situation many Conservative lawmakers are now confronting. If they have indeed come that far.

While the House of Representative had sufficient votes for this unprecedented move – impeaching a president for a second time – some representatives, and even more senators, are still living in an alternate reality. One shaped by a delusional president – and I think my readers will allow that assumption. Disregarding the embarrassing relationship of convenience Conservatives have maintained with Trump for the past four years, they now say that impeachment will further divide the nation. They insist that now is the time to come together and heal. (Que the violins.)

Enabling a dysfunctional partner, as any wife or husband of an alcoholic can tell you, only creates a toxic relationship. Yet the habit of ignoring the elephant in the room has warped the thinking of many Conservative lawmakers. They have set aside their own deeply held beliefs to jibe with Trump’s damaging rhetoric and deluded thinking. I’m especially  sad about the Evangelicals who’ve abandoned Christ’s teachings for Trump’s selfish demands. Still, reality continues to elude many of the president’s faithful, even after the abuse, the lies, the race-baiting, the self-centered behavior, ad infinitum. For many of Trump’s followers, coming out of denial – having that “come to Jesus meeting,” has yet to occur.

Why wasn’t there a call for unity earlier, when most of the country was convulsed by Trump’s claims of election fraud and his insane manipulations to overturn the vote? For that matter, where were they every time he sowed seeds of hate? Why didn’t his enablers call off their relationship then? Is it not ironic that today, a day of reckoning, they’re asking for all that to be overlooked, forgiven? Excuse me, but I did not hear repentance spilling from their lips. Only the wish to jump from A to Z – forgetting all that has happened in between. In the end, a paltry ten Republicans voted to impeach.

The Conservative argument about last summer’s BLM protests relies on “whataboutism,” and is very disappointing. Yes, there was violence, property damage, even death. But I will wager that no one participating in those demonstrations, however violent they may have been, was organizing to overthrow the United States government. Isn’t that what’s on the table right now? The accusation of inciting insurrection?

As with the young woman at the start of my post, these elected men and women could have spoken out long ago. They could have stopped being enablers and removed their heads from the sand. However, I applaud those who are doing so, even at this late date. But Republicans need to remember something: unity is not about glossing over the pain caused by Mr. Trump and his sycophants, and simply moving on. It’s about showing empathy for the pain and suffering he caused, and listening to the damage reports. It’s about saying, “I hear you, and I’m sorry.” It’s about owning prejudiced thinking and correcting it. In the end, unity means showing respect for diverse views and then finding common ground. With some people, unfortunately, finding unity is impossible. They refuse to learn and grow. Yet it only takes one person, one partner in a relationship, to find their voice, and say, “It’s too late baby, now, it’s too late.”  FFG

 

Gluten-free Apple-Almond Crumble: My Husband’s Self-Quarantine Reward:

Since my husband has been voluntarily quarantining in the lower level of our house for the past four days (after being unmasked around four or five unmasked tree guys who came to remove old stumps from our yard), I thought he deserved a yummy treat. So I made him an apple-almond crumble (with a few cranberries I happened to have in the freezer). He says it’s actually pretty nice being downstairs. We text, of course. And during this little break, he’s been enjoying the fireplace, playing his guitar into the night, listening to music, reading, journaling, and cleaning out our storage room. Plus he gets his meals delivered to the stair landing on a tray. Not terrible at all! Plus, I doubt he’s going to get sick. Just to be on the safe side, though, he’ll be down there a few more days. Meanwhile, he just texted that the crumble is delicious!
Here’s how to make gluten-free Apple-Almond Crumble.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Adjust an oven rack to center position.
  • You will need about 6 medium-large apples, peeled, cored and sliced. I added 1/2 C whole cranberries, which I happened to have in my freezer – but these are optional. Transfer sliced apples to a large mixing bowl.
  • Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon. Add 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract, and gently stir into the sliced apples.
  • Sprinkle 2 TBS brown rice flour (or other) over apples and stir to coat.
  • Combine 1/2 C brown sugar (or turbinado sugar), 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. powdered ginger, dash of nutmeg. Add to the sliced apples. Set aside.

To make the bottom crumb crust and topping:

Prepare an 8: x 8″ square Pyrex baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray.

In a separate mixing bowl, blend together:

  • 1 C almond flour
  • 1 C oat flour (make your own in the blender – it’s easy. Note: If you’re on a gluten free diet, make sure your oats are gluten free.)
  • Add 1/2 C turbinado sugar.
  • Stir in 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (if desired)
  • Cut in 8 TBS (1/2 C) any of the following, or a combination: solid coconut oil, butter, or Earth Balance).
  • Set aside 1/2 of this mixture for the topping.
  • Press the other half of the mixture into an 8″ x 8″ square Pyrex baking dish.
  • Pour apple mixture into the crumb crust.
  • Distribute remaining mixture (topping) evenly over apples. Sprinkle with sliced almonds if desired.

Place on medium oven rack. Set timer for 40 min. (If your oven does not bake evenly, turn the dish 180 degrees midway through baking.

Your apple-almond crumble should be bubbling hot when done, and nicely brown. Remove to a cooling rack. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, or a little vanilla ice cream. Mmmm! FFG

Helping Kids Do Battle with Pandemic Disappointment

How well are you, as a parent, responding to the disappointment the pandemic keeps doling out to your kids? Are you able to help them deal with life’s lemons? Or are you diving into the pity-party with them?  Saying “no” to the fun things children have grown to expect, even though many activities have been put on hold, can be really difficult. They don’t understand. Plus, missing out on birthday parties at Pistol Pete’s, Saturday soccer games, and dance recitals is disappointing for parents, too. While the majority of households had children moved to online learning last fall, where they usually have contact with a teacher (www.usafacts.org), kids continue to miss out on valuable relationships with friends and family. And that can be very disappointing.

 

No one wants to be in charge of delivering bad news. Let’s just say it’s something parents signed up for when they had kids in the first place. Yet it’s important to know that how well adults deal with stress and adversity can impact how well their offspring handle it in the future, when everything most assuredly won’t go their way.

 

The ability to deal with stress begins in infancy. As babies do not have the ability to calm themselves, they rely on parents and caregivers to respond lovingly to their immediate needs for food, holding, smiles and love. The development of the stress-response system is based on these early interactions.

 

When my four children were at home, helping them deal with disappointment (considered manageable stress) meant not abandoning them to their grief or being dismissive about it, but just letting them be sad. Being dismissive means saying things like, “Get over it.” Or, “Don’t give me those crocodile tears.” That’s not the way to go.  The key to helping kids work through their grief is showing empathy: gently helping them to identify their feelings and being compassionate. You might say, “You’re disappointed that we couldn’t go to the zoo, and you’re sad about it.”

 

I always felt sad inside when my kids were sad. I couldn’t help it. As a result, I sometimes tried to fix things for them. In time, however, I found they were better at fixing their own problems: best-friend crises, finding items they’d lost (sometimes). And handling disappointment. I discovered it didn’t kill them.  It’s easy to see why parents would choose alternative celebrations during coronavirus: standing at a distance and wearing a mask isn’t easy to enforce with young ones. They just don’t get the fine print.  That’s because young children operate more on emotion than rational thought. It’s hard for them to grasp that someone who visited Aunt Mary yesterday could be contagious and not have known it. Or that cousins visiting Grandma and Grandpa from out-of-state could have been exposed on their flight. It happens all the time. It’s how the virus spreads.

 

What matters is that parents act sensibly, but also show empathy for their children’s disappointment. It’s not necessary to make it up to them all the time. But it might help to act as a buffer when possible. For example, you might say, “I can tell you’re disappointed, but we really can’t visit Grandpa yet. How about we play a game of Monopoly (or whatever) this afternoon?”

 

I would be willing to bet that in the post-pandemic years, young adults who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic as children will be more resilient than those who did not. Someone really needs to do a study. But scientists will also have to study their parents’ attitudes. The child whose parents spent the pandemic griping about Dr. Fauci’s prevention protocols and blaming the Chinese might not grow up more resilient. They might, however, grow up to be a Republican. FFG

Five Tips for Helping Teens Follow COVID-19 Protocols

It’s easy for parents to think their teenagers know what they’re doing. They sure act like they do. For instance, do you assume your super-responsible (or not so responsible) kiddos are taking COVID-19 precautions seriously, always wearing a face mask, using hand sanitizer and social distancing at school, work, or with friends?

Well, maybe you shouldn’t.

I know, because I’m guilty of not sharing some really important information with my kids. When our younger daughter was in her late teens, she brought a parental failing to my attention. One that I shouldn’t have missed.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me not to drink and drive?” she said, popping into our bedroom one night to let us know she was home safe

“Because I thought you knew better,” I said, shocked by the question and stunned at my dereliction of duty. I had thought this was common knowledge, that you don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. We knew of people who’d died in DUI accidents. If she hadn’t picked up the message from her parents’ example, surely, she’d have gotten it from a school health class, driver’s ed, or on TV. But she was right. I never had “the talk” with her. Or with our three other children. I suspected that one of her friends had been drinking and driving, because our daughter didn’t have a car. The thought of it scared me to death.

During these times of unchecked community spread of COVID-19, parents need to make sure they’re having “the talk.” And repeating it until their teens “get it.”

After COVID-19 was recognized in Taiwan in early 2020, health authorities stepped up prevention and intervention activities to help stop the spread in schools and universities. “At the individual level, suggested preventative behaviors included: i) maintaining good personal hygiene, ii) developing a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, regular exercise, and adequate rest, iii) ensuring adequate ventilation at home and in the office, and iv) wearing masks, especially for those with preexisting respiratory tract infections.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7296276/)

The CDC’s Parent Resource Kit for the Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being of Adolescents during COVID-19 offers ideas for helping teens through the hard-hitting challenges they’re facing: The loss of a breadwinner’s job, for instance, the loss of school classes, teachers and activities,  changes in their daily routine, and the loss of special events that mark important milestones, like prom and graduation. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-resource-kit/adolescence.html)

Not sure if your teen is complying with your family protocols? Here are five ideas to help them accept reality, and to keep everyone safe.

  1. Buy or make different mask styles for your teenager to try out. Supply them with several of the type they agree to wear. Demonstrate (yes – demonstrate!) how you want them washed. (Masks should be double-thickness if possible, one layer should be made of high-quality quilter’s cotton, the other layer a synthetic.) Make sure to have an “in” and “out” mask basket for use by the door.
  2. Create a family protocol list for exiting and entering the house. Post it on the door. Daily protocols should include hand washing upon coming home. Also, disinfecting cell phones. (Unplug and turn off. Then wipe with 70% alcohol and a cotton ball or a clean microfiber cloth sprayed with disinfectant.) Leave shoes at the door.
  3. Set up a protocol table, a card table for instance, near an entrance or in the garage. This can serve as a place for your mask in-and-out baskets, disinfectant wipes, and extra hand sanitizer for on-the-go. Teens can deposit any items they’re bringing into the house on the protocol table, as a reminder that they have a responsibility to wipe things down with disinfectant wipes. Hang coats instead of tossing them on the couch or bed. Provide a place where they can air out.
  4. If their school, sports or group activities have been cancelled, make sure you are empathetic about their loss. Talk to them about it. Dealing with COVID-19 is mentally exhausting and the isolation can cause depression in teens. It’s devastating at that age to have to give up what you love. Help them realize that it will end. And make sure they’re still getting physical activity. (YouTube channels offer a plethora of options, including dance and yoga.) Do fun family activities together. Take a hike. Roast hot dogs on a grill. Make food for an elderly relative. Watch a favorite old movie or TV series together. Play a trivia game. Hang a world map and learn foreign countries together. Help them stay connected!
  5. If you don’t feel comfortable with your teenager riding in their friends’ cars, due to possible COVID spread, just say no. You will need to arrange transportation that you feel is safe. If you do allow them to share rides, make mask wearing mandatory. And following the family protocol. The same goes for eating with friends. Say “no” to sharing food. As much as they may like splitting a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with their best friend, eating with people outside the family is another way the virus can spread.

Your teen may not appreciate that he or she is living through a once-in-a-lifetime event. You can help them understand the severity of COVID-19 by watching videos about the 1918 Spanish flu, listening to the words of hospital nurses, or people who’ve lost loved ones. Accepting the reality of the situation is the first step to taking action. It going to end, tell them. And we are all looking forward to that day. FFG