My New Job – Citizen Brooks

I’ve always enjoyed thinking of myself as well-informed. I have for many years enjoyed settling in on a Sunday morning with my coffee (always with my coffee) and not 1, not 2, but 3 newspapers.  The nice Roger goes out and gets them while I make the coffee, offload the dishwasher, and make sure that there is bacon thawed to accompany our omelets later. When he brings the papers home, I go through them first, removing all the advertising inserts (these are saved for a coupon-clipping family member), recycling the sections we don’t read (neither of us cares for the sports pages), and distributing our preferred starters to our respective perches in the living room. He gets the News-Times and Parade magazine, I get the comics from the News-Times, the NY Daily News, the NY Times, and we settle in for a quite a while.

I read the comics first. This is a tradition that goes back to my childhood. My parents were divorced, and Sunday was the day my sister, Sheryl, and I spent with our father, and eventually, our stepmother and younger sisters and brothers. Dad would pick us up, along with two Sunday papers (the local and the NY Daily News), and take us home.  The comics were shared amongst us all eventually as we traded pages back and forth. To this day, although we don’t get a daily paper, I still read (online) over 50 comic strips on an almost daily basis. They provide me with warmth, humor, art, and some of the best socio-political commentary available, in 3 or 4 pithy panels.  Roger doesn’t much care for the comics, but he’s always gracious when I share what I am laughing (out loud) about.

Next, I read the Daily News. This was my dad’s preferred New York paper. I believe it was also his father’s preferred New York paper.  I loved the big headlines and pictures on the front. I loved the gossip columns inside about celebrities and society figures, out and about in New York City. I loved the frequently macabre ‘Justice Stories’ features about terrible crimes committed in days gone by. And of course, I loved the comics. In their heyday, the paper published 4 full pages of them daily, in color on Sundays.  The NY Daily News was a window into an exciting, but quite possibly very dangerous world. To me, it still is. And they still run the best comics.

Finally, I begin to tackle the NY Times.  My mother’s father, my grandfather Will, went out and got the Sunday Times every week, and would spend most of the week perusing each section.  I didn’t read it as a child; it was an overwhelming prospect – just the enormity of the paper itself, the sheer physical weight of it was too much for me. I was well and truly intimidated. But, sometime in my twenties, I began to buy it on Sundays. When I worked on the 12-8 shift, I would frequently share a Sunday Times with my friend, Bill Barlow.  We would divy it up according to our preferences for particular sections – for example, he would have dibs on the Arts & Leisure section because he loved classical music and opera, I always got the Magazine because I worked the crossword puzzle.  Neither of us read the Sports section.  If I were to theorize, I might have attributed my newfound desire for large quantities of information, at least partially, to my need for refuge from a difficult relationship.  But immersing myself in that enormous newspaper also connected me to a grandfather I adored, and admired for his intelligence and knowledge of the world. I felt, and still feel, that his was a worthy example to follow.  I believe that it is important to know what is going on, and why, in the world outside my door.

I’ve never had much affinity for cable news.  During a crisis or calamity, I do, like everyone else, turn on CNN for basic information.  I find, though, that listening to modern news programs, with their arguing and opinionating, is enormously stressful. I don’t enjoy listening to the endlessly adversarial panels. I still want information, but I have never liked being shouted at, so I ingest cable news in very small doses. I watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC regularly.  I find their formats, which involve people speaking one at a time, more coherent, and Maddow’s efforts to weave some sort of coherent fabric out of the various threads of the Russian hacking investigations help me make sense of what is going on there.

So, nowadays, and particularly in the bizarre new world of the Trump presidency, I find it easier to read the news. I make us a pot of coffee, and Roger takes his cup to the living room, allowing the voices of various cable news talking heads to wash over him, and I adjourn to my study. I put on some music, usually (try it, you’ll like it- classic rock, evolved) or (New Orleans-based public radio- jazz, blues, & modern NO-influenced), and start with the Washington Post.  I read the front page, some of the commentary and analysis, and of course, the comics.  I actually started reading the Post because they ran several comics that weren’t available through other papers, particularly my long-time favorite, Doonesbury.

After the Post, I turn to my email inbox, where I read various articles from and the New Yorker.  I sign petitions for various causes dear to my heart (more and more every day), and once I’ve gone through all of that, I read the rest of my comics. Next is Facebook, where I see what my compatriots are posting from the likes of the NY Times and The Guardian. Finally, I turn to Twitter, for additional information from new (to me) sources such as Vox, Slate, Reuters, McClatchy, Pro Publica, The Hill, the LA Times, and small outlets like the Lawfare blog and the Palmer Report.  Yes, that’s a ridiculous amount of input.  But I am enormously reassured by the depth and breadth of the coverage. The mainstream media, much maligned by the administration, is investigating what promises to be a scandal of epic, world-shaking proportion. They are certainly not behaving as if they were, collectively, the enemy of the American people.  They are, thankfully, doing their jobs.

In past years, I seldom spent more than an hour in the morning, skimming through the headlines, reading the comics, and then, going about my day.  I trusted that the people in charge were basically competent, capable individuals.  Even if I did not agree with individual opinions or policies, I seldom did more than sign an online petition.  I thought I was doing enough.  I had spent most of my adult life as a public servant, and felt that after having done that for 27 years, I was entitled to just take care of my life, and the people in it.  I watched the campaign last year with horror, but I continued to believe that my fellow citizens would make the right choice.  I thought that I understood others’ misgivings about Hillary Clinton, but that they would ultimately vote for competency and a steady hand at the helm, over bluster and buffoonery and little in the way of discernable policy.

I read the articles about Russian interference – the hacking, the bots, the fake news sites on Facebook, coupled with Trump’s disparagement of the intelligence community’s reports, with increasing fear.  This, in and of itself, would be cause for concern. Now, couple this with the possibility that the Trump campaign may have colluded with our attackers.  I have followed international society and business dealings for many years, including some involving Donald Trump, with no small amount of fascination, but I now realized that something more sinister was underlying the glitter and glamour.  Underneath was a web of connections which is seeming more ominous and threatening as each day passes and more is revealed.   And finally, add in the policies of cruelty that the administration is attempting to implement (Muslim ban, science denial, Trumpcare, civil rights rollbacks, etc, etc, oh god I need some Pepto), and the truly stunning incompetency on display ( the budget cuts to essential departments and services, the fact that these people can’t stop LYING),  and I have come to the inevitable conclusion that I was wrong and I was not doing enough.

Since the election, I have come to believe that being a citizen of the USA is a job, and I had been slacking.  So, I read, I march (March for Science), I donate (not a lot, I’m retired), I sign petitions, I phone my Congressional representatives, and I signed on to Democrat Al Almeida’s campaign for mayor of Danbury. I do all this in the hopes that it will help make my corner of the world a little bit better.  I take great comfort in the fact that I am not alone.  Over 13,000 women across the country have either expressed interest in or are actually running for office.  Thousands more people donated to the organizations we must now depend on to fight back (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, & EarthJustice are some of my favorites).  Hundreds of thousands of people have marched, so far.

I remain hopeful. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one working here.






The Nice Roger Retires

Before the nice Roger Brooks became a policeman at the age of 35, he had a number of careers. He was a professional photographer, trained at the NY Institute of Photography, and worked as chief staff photographer at both the Milford Citizen and eventually, the News-Times, in Danbury.  He then ran his own photography studio, which led to his involvement with Teleprompter, running their local channel (ask him about the Halloween newscast). After he left there, he became a successful insurance salesman, working locally in Danbury.

In 1979, an old friend, now working as a police officer, bet him $5 that he couldn’t pass the entry test for the Danbury Police Department. Roger won the bet, and became a uniform patrol officer. His old friend, who had graduated first in his police academy class, refused to pay up, preferring to up the ante by betting that Roger couldn’t do better than him at the academy. Roger did as well, coming in first in his academy class, winning the Samuel J. Luciano Award for Academic Achievement, in December, 1979. Roger maintains to this day that his friend welshed on the bet and still owes him $5.

Roger spent a number of years in the patrol division, becoming somewhat notorious for his penchant for chasing cars, and arresting drunk drivers. One shift commander, weary of signing overtime slips (many DUI stops seemed to occur at shift change), ordered him to park his patrol car in the department parking lot well before the end of his shift. Roger stopped a DUI, in front of the police station, on his way in to comply with the order. Oops. In 1984, he set the record for most DUI’s in the department, and was named Officer of the Year, receiving an award from the Rotary Club.

Roger’s background in photography eventually led to his involvement in the formation of the Danbury Police Dept’s crime scene unit. He remained with the Crime Scene unit until 1998.  During his tenure there, he became a latent print examiner and a crime scene reconstructionist.  After joining the International Association for Identification, he also became both a certified senior crime scene analyst and certified bloodstain pattern analyst. Almost all subsequent Danbury Police crime scene unit members received their basic training from Roger. He taught re-certification classes to members of area departments as part of ongoing police training. In the late 1990’s, he worked occasionally for ICITAP (International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program), a joint State/Justice Department program to provide US-style training to police in countries previously under authoritarian rule, or at war.  This led to his overseas travel (using his vacation time) to such global garden spots as Haiti, just after ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier was deposed, Panama, just after Manuel Noriega was deposed, and both Bosnia and the Serb Republic, just after the shooting had allegedly stopped (ask him about being pulled over by a tank).

In 1998, Roger accepted a promotion to detective (after turning down promotions to sergeant) and left full-time crime scene work.  He continued to work the occasional crime scene as a technician, as well as continuing to teach various crime scene classes. As his skills as an investigator grew, he found himself gravitating towards new areas of law enforcement such as fraud and financial crime, identity theft, and consumer fraud, . When asked how his day was, his most frequent answer was, “Typing, typing, typing.”  But much of that typing was for warrants for criminals who had embezzled from a small business, or home repair scammers who had ripped off an elderly person, or counterfeiters running a bootleg CD factory, among other crimes.   He worked not only with the Danbury Police, but with virtually all of the area departments, as well as the USPS Postal Inspectors, CT Department of Consumer Protection, the US Secret Service, the CT State Police, and the FBI.  I’m sure I’m overlooking an agency, but you get the idea.

His last week on the job, he worked overtime three days out of five, finished a couple of cases close to his heart, did roll-call training for the patrol division, and one day, assisted patrol officers in making an immediate felony arrest of unlicensed home repairmen who had ripped off an elderly couple to the tune of $7,000.

May 1, 2017 was his last full day at work. I posted a short note on Facebook, and the department also posted, putting up a picture of Roger and other detectives, along with Chief Ridenhour and Deputy Chief McColgan, congratulating him on his years of service. For the next 36 hours, he got notification after notification of ‘Like’ buttons being pressed, uniformly laudatory comments being made, and the police department photo being shared by family and friends alike. He kept saying, “I don’t get it.” It would appear that this accomplished, honorable and dedicated police officer genuinely thought that no one was paying attention, as he did his job with enthusiasm, expertise, and courage, for 38 years.  I, as his wife, am enormously gratified that I am not the only one who noticed.  I thank you, one and all.

I Am NOT Going To Get Over It- Part 2, The Post-Election Blues

Quite frankly, after the election, I cried. I cried for a couple of days.  I tried to watch “The Daily Show” coverage the day after, and it just made me cry again. Hasan Minhaj, one of the correspondents, appeared genuinely frightened about whether his mother would be able to return to the country in March. I read analysis after analysis. I talked to friends. I screamed with one of them at the trees in Roxbury, one sunshiny late fall day, which helped more than I had anticipated. I had been relatively restrained in my political postings during the campaign season, but after the election, I posted even less. Given that I saw Trump supporters compassionately advising others to “Get over it!”, this seemed best, initially.

But while I may have retreated from public view, I was not inactive. I had come to the conclusion that I, as an individual citizen, needed to do more. Much, much, more.

I started by reviewing my charitable and activist donations, removing some after more careful vetting, and adding others, and I now give on a monthly  basis. My thinking is this – regular income is good for everyone, including charities There are several major charity watch organizations that monitor groups. My budget isn’t large, but every little bit helps. Hey, it worked for Bernie Sanders.

I decided that I wanted to share more of my reading and activism on social media. While I didn’t want to remove myself from my general Facebook community, I also didn’t care to get into daily discussions with Trump supporters.  I thought that would be too annoying for words. In my initial post-election Facebook post, to a group of friends and family I knew were of a liberal bent,  I explained briefly that I would like to share with them much more of both my online activism and what I was reading-both investigative reporting and commentary .  I gave all those seeing the post the choice of opting out, and it gave me a boost that no one did.  This week, I posted a public message inviting any other interested friends to join as well. I was immensely pleased at the positive response. A dozen more friends accepted the invitation, including a couple of conservatives just interested in what I was reading and doing.

And finally, since I planned to share what I was reading, I took a close look at my own sources of information. While I believe in constant vigilance, and actively look for better ways to review my sources of information, I will admit to allowing ‘Zesty Left Wing News’ into my Twitter feed for a time. No one is immune. How could I resist ‘Zesty’? But, while it was not grossly inaccurate, it was mostly rehash, with the added bonus of inflammatory headlines. Bye, bye, ‘Zesty Left Wing News’.  There are still ample mainstream sources of information, with signed bylines & accreditation. The NY Times, while it has (justifiably) been criticized recently, is still mostly reliable. The Washington Post is still doing good work, and I find their commentators to be astute, impassioned, and informed. Mother Jones magazine is a terrific alternate news source.  The Center for American Progress does excellent investigations into various political and environmental issues. Grist is doing much the same thing, with more focus on human aspects as opposed to the strictly political. These are just a few of the places I am getting my information from. I double-check everything.

The next four years are going to be ugly.  Nothing I’ve seen in the public sphere since the election has disabused me of that notion. The Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress are actively seeking to roll back civil rights protections, dismantle  and repeal environmental regulations, and deprive millions of their healthcare coverage. And that’s just for starters.  Buckle up, buttercups, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I Am NOT Going To Get Over It. Part 1- The Election

I haven’t felt good since the election. I’m not over the election.  I’m not going to get over the election. I see no reason to get over the election. It’s not a matter of refusing to accept the results of the election. I accept the fact that Donald Trump won the electoral college votes necessary to become president. I accept that our system allowed this to happen. But I because I believe in facts, I take heart in another fact – Donald Trump did not win the popular vote, despite his unsubstantiated blustering about millions of fraudulent votes in California. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, by millions. And I am further heartened by the fact that, although he may have won the electoral college vote legitimately, in the 3 key states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, & Wisconsin, he didn’t win the popular vote there by much (less than 100,000 votes).  Overall, there is no mandate, claims of one to the contrary, and for the second time in recent history, we are about to be subjected to minority rule.  So, for me, not getting over it is how I choose to respond. And since I’ve been horrified and dismayed on an almost daily basis since the election, this will probably remain my response.

As the seemingly endless primary season progressed, I looked at both Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ proposals. I liked what Sanders had to say. Although some of what he proposed seemed a bit pie in the sky, his passion and dedication over many years was marvelous. I appreciated the strength and intelligence that I had seen Clinton display over the years, in the face of truly unrelenting misogyny, and she had policy papers for everything.  However, I worried about both her appeal to middle America and her ability to overcome perception. I looked closely at the media coverage of her, and evaluations of that media coverage. I then set that aside, and looked at her record of service and achievement over the course of decades. Finally, I looked at the conclusions of too many investigations  to count, many unnecessary,  and I concluded that her flaws (perceived and real) did not come close to outweighing her qualifications.  I remain deeply appreciative of the fact that the Democratic primary season contained genuine policy discussions, and very little mud-slinging. I watched the Democratic convention with pride at its’ inclusiveness, its’ policy proposals, and its’ celebration of America, with speech after speech speaking to a better future for all Americans.

I glanced over at the Republican debate to hear Trump bragging about the size of his dick. And it wasn’t just the repellent personal attacks. I also looked at the various Republican policy proposals and saw little that was going to benefit most of us, not just the ones at the top. I saw a party with policies that seek to disenfranchise voters, is against marriage equality, wishes to control women’s medical choices, denies climate change science and advocates  a rehash of trickle-down economic policy that has long since been discredited. So, while I was never going to vote Republican,  I didn’t anticipate that Republican voters would choose as their champion the very worst of the lot. I watched the Republican convention with amazement, completely failing to recognize the pre-apocalyptic hellscape being described by speaker after speaker. And no, it’s not because I don’t get out much.

My revulsion at Donald Trump exists on several levels. As a woman who has been molested, having a self-admitted sexual predator as president is truly disturbing (Yes, he is. He said he was, then 18 women backed up his statement.).  As a thinking, feeling human being, I was offended by the words of religious and ethnic bigotry right at the opening of his campaign – his characterization of Mexicans as rapists and his proposal for a ban on Muslims coming into the US being most notable. I was disturbed by the violent rhetoric on the campaign trail, and repelled by both his reluctance to disavow the support of the KKK and his apparent comfort with the white nationalist fringe, judging by the multiple retweets. As a patriot, I was appalled by the abuse of a Gold Star family, the denigration of Sen. McCain’s service, and the hideous advocacy of torture. Oh, and let’s not forget his refusal to say whether he would accept the results of the election. That’s just what I can recall off the top of my head. In his much-vaunted business background, there’s a history of union-busting, lawsuits (3,500) – many involving vendors or contractors trying to get paid, a federal lawsuit in the 1970’s because of racist rental policies, and 6 (???) bankruptcies. How is this man considered a competent businessman?  He released no detailed information about his web of corporations. He released none of his tax returns. The medical report that was released was ridiculous, so we have little information about his health.  And finally, there’s the lying. The endless, and frequently pointless, lying. According to one fact-checker, he lied roughly every three seconds. As near as I could tell the only policy was building the big, beautiful wall, locking up Hillary Clinton, and oh, yes, some trickle-down economics proposals involving tax cuts for the rich.

I went to bed early election night. I knew around 9pm it didn’t look good. I woke up around 12:30am, made the mistake of glancing at my phone, and I wept. And quite frankly, I wept frequently for a couple of days. It wasn’t just that this manifestly awful, and possibly dangerous person was elected president, but that people I knew voted for him. That people I knew, friends and neighbors, along with millions of others, allied themselves with racists, bigots, and misogynists, because some blustering, manipulative, snake-oil salesman sold them a bill of goods. I was stunned to find that Trump’s egomaniacal assertion that only he could ‘fix’ America had been bought by my fellow citizens – lock, stock, & 4-year administration. America wasn’t broke in the first place. What the fuck were you people thinking?



No, I will NOT calm down.

NO, I will NOT calm down. I will NOT stay silent.  On Friday, I listened to tape of a presidential candidate speak with glee about his belief that, as a wealthy male celebrity, he had the right to commit the crime of sexual assault against women at will. I was horrified, to the core of my being.

This was NOT locker room talk. This was NOT just crude language. This was a self-described sexual predator reveling in his privilege.  This was video of a man firm in his belief that he had the right to molest another human being.  NO, I will NOT calm down.

@kellyoxford, a writer I was previously unfamiliar with, asked women on Friday to tweet their first sexual assault to her. She shared hers first, an old man on a bus, grabbing her crotch. She was 12.  A hashtag, #notokay, was used. As of today, MILLIONS of women have shared the tales of one or more of their own sexual assaults, molestations, indecent exposures, and harassments. MILLIONS of women. I was one of them.  NO, I will NOT calm down.

The incidents on my own list number in double digits, going back to the age of 5 or 6. I was not physically harmed during any of them. In that I am fortunate, and I know it. But as I reviewed this list over the course of the weekend, my horror and disgust only increased.  I realized how much of my life has been or is now circumscribed by my desire to avoid assault, harassment, and intrusion.  I had to once again face the pain and sadness associated with individual incidents, while trying to cope with my revulsion at the accumulation. NO, I will NOT calm down.

Half of our population is under continual threat from a sizable percentage of the other half. This is NOT a new phenomenon.  It is NOT due to a coarsening of our culture, unpleasant though that is. It is NOT due to women claiming the right to control their own bodies, own (and revel in) their own sexuality, and live as they please, wear what they please, and, dare I say, FUCK, whom they please. It is due to this sizable percentage of men continuing to refuse to treat women as PEOPLE, with the right to make their own choices, and these men being enabled and encouraged by both those around them and the culture at large.  NO, I will NOT calm down.

Captured on that video was what is now called ‘rape culture’, and most women just call ‘culture’.  A horrible man, surrounded  by sycophantic cowards (Billy Bush was not the only other man on that bus), bragging about his assumption of sexual supremacy over any woman he chose.  An unbridled monster, in a power tie, supported in his monstrousness by a group of giggling toadies.  And these subhumans would presume to deny a woman’s humanity by reducing her to her various body parts. NO, I will NOT calm down.

It has been suggested to me that these men cannot be educated and therefore cannot be redeemed. You know what? I don’t care about redeeming assholes and criminals. I want them controlled, by both government and society AS A WHOLE.  Women cannot do this alone. And we should NOT have to. You know it’s wrong. This is not about being protected. It’s about being respected as people and left the hell alone. How about this for predation and harassment – “If you see something, say something.” Because half the population is being terrorized, and has been for too long.  NO, I will NOT calm down. And goddammit, neither should you.

Please allow me to introduce myself

I would like to label myself.  I will try to arrange these labels in as close to their order of priority in my psyche as possible.  And with each label, I will try and briefly explain what the label means to me.

I am a human.  I strive to be a good human, and choose to believe that the vast majority of my fellow humans are also good. Almost 6 decades of life has done nothing to change that belief.

I am a female human, a label which complicates things instantly.  At the hands of a babysitter’s foster son, I learned that the world was not a safe place, and that is a terrible thing to learn at 5.   I began to navigate a world in which sexism, harassment, molestation, and misogyny were all commonplace behaviors.  No, not all men exhibit these behaviors. But ALL women have dealt with these behaviors, and I believe they are a truly crappy way to treat one’s fellow humans.  I have come to believe that no one besides me should have control over my body and be able to tell me what to do with it, whether they be individual person or government.

I am a married human.  I have had the great good fortune to find a partner to love and walk thru this life with.  We share laughter and meals and sunsets and thunderstorms and yardwork and sci-fi and sex and reach for each other first when life goes wrong.  There is trust and honesty and warmth and respect.  Roger is my home.  I believe all humans should be able to have homes with the partner of their choice.

I am a human family member. I am a daughter, sister, niece, aunt, cousin, stepmother, and stepdaughter to people I love without question.  I strive to be there for them, and believe they do the same. I am incredibly grateful for this. When we gather, there is affection and laughter.  But all families have (or have had) their issues, and mine is no exception.  We are all complicated, flawed, and make mistakes, but I just assume that we are all doing our best, and  I believe that’s a pretty good thing.

I am a friend to other female humans.  These are women I turn to when I am broken, or when I need a break from the world, and whom I also love without question.  They have sustained me, held me, challenged me, and generally helped make me a better person.  I want to be as good a girlfriend to them as they are to me.  We don’t always share the same beliefs, or agree on various issues, but I believe I am safe with them, and they are safe with me.  This is profoundly comforting.

I am a friend to other male humans.  Working in a largely male environment for many years gave me a perspective I might not otherwise have had.  It allowed me to see them, and for them to see me, as simply people, trying to do our best in a difficult world.  There is trust and respect.  I am grateful for their friendship.

I am a human child of divorce.  But I was fortunate, as were my parents, I suspect, in that we had the support of family on both sides, in the form of my mother’s and father’s parents and several aunts.  When my teenage parents’ marriage did not last, they both had the support of their own parents.  Housing on various occasions and monetary support were provided.  And they were involved in my sisters’ and my lives. We saw them regularly, and visiting them gave me a window into what a better life might be.  But I also know my mom needed food stamps to stretch her child support while living with her parents, and we lived in public housing for some years, and I saw my mom stretch hamburger too many ways to mention.  So, I believe families need support.  I don’t believe poor people want to be poor.  I’m quite sure my mom didn’t want to be.

I am a human of mixed racial heritage.   My mom didn’t know until she was 27 or 28, and I’m pretty sure she told us shortly after, so I would have been about 11 or 12.  My great-grandmother was a black woman, whose family was from Georgia, and before that, unknown. She married a white man, an Irish immigrant, in New York City, where they raised my grandfather and his brother and sister.  My grandfather had previously been married to a black woman and had a son and daughter during that marriage.  After that marriage ended, he eventually met and married my grandmother, the youngest daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants.  After at least one miscarriage, they had my mother, who was their only child.  When my mother was about 3 years old, the family moved to Bethel, CT.  This was the early 1940’s.  My grandfather’s light complexion allowed him to pass as a white man.  My mother tells me she had questions as she grew older,  but nothing was confirmed until my grandfather decided to share his secret.  Because for all those years, he had been going into New York City regularly to visit his son and daughter.  My grandmother knew, and I believe my grandfather’s children knew of us, but we didn’t meet until the early 1970’s.  My point with this label, is that while, because of my own fair complexion, I have not experienced racism directly, I know that racism in this country is why my grandfather made the choice that he made.  I believe that he believed he was protecting his wife and daughter in a perilous world, where the very color on one’s skin puts one in danger.  I’d like to think he gave up his secret when he felt the danger had passed.  I fear he may have been wrong.

I am a human citizen of the U.S.A. I believe I am incredibly fortunate to have been born in this country.  I believe both that this country is great now, and that it needs to be better.  We need to accept and respect each other’s differences while striving to find the common ground that surely exists by virtue of the simple fact that we are all first and foremost human.  I also believe we have a responsibility to help our fellow citizens.  We are all in this together, by simple virtue of proximity.  I don’t believe that any of us can, or even should, go it alone.   But if we want to make our lives better, we have to have a government composed of humans who are beholden only to their human constituents.

I am a retired police officer.  I became a police officer because of all of the labels above, and I stayed a police officer for 27 years.  I believe in the courage, honor and integrity of the vast majority of police officers.  This is no abstract belief.  It is one grounded in extensive personal experience.  But I also know that there are flaws, both in individual officers, and the governmental systems which use police departments for purposes other than to protect and serve.   Police departments need to screen and test their personnel before giving them a badge and a gun, and continue to do this, along with intensive training, throughout their careers.  Police work can be enormously damaging to the psyche.  As I said at my retirement dinner, “We hear too much, we see too much, and sometimes, we smell very bad things.”  But we as citizens also need to prevent our various local and state governments from using police departments (by requiring them to enforce unjust and/or onerous laws) to fund governmental budgets.  That is a function which has nothing to do with protecting and serving, and everything to do with oppressing disadvantaged citizens.

And finally, I am a liberal. Or progressive, if you prefer. I don’t care. It is because of all of the labels above that I can only believe in progress. Evolving, changing, and hopefully, moving forward to a better time and having made a better place.  I believe in our government as a force for good, whether on the local, state, or federal level.  This belief goes hand in hand with my belief that we citizens need to hold our government’s metaphorical foot to the fire periodically.  Our government should be by and for the people.  Our representatives should answer only to the people, and all of them, not just a few.  With public funding and a shorter election season, I believe this is possible.  The influence of special interests, largely corporate, must be reduced.  Perhaps, when this is done, the government could better go on about the business of governing better.  It would be a lovely beginning.

I do not believe in demonizing humans who don’t agree with me. I am not afraid of black or brown or Muslim or LGTB humans.  I do not believe the apocalypse is near. I do not believe everyone needs to own a gun.  I am not afraid of male humans, or police humans.  I do not believe that helping people to achieve a better life, whether by immigration reforms, food stamps, health care, education assistance, etc, is a waste of resources.   I believe in investing in people and giving them a leg up when they need it. I believe it’s the best way to make this a better country.

I believe we will find our way.  Maybe we should do something we all had to do in kindergarten.  Just take your neighbor’s hand.

Mysteries of My House

I have long held the belief that owning a home is like having a third person in your relationship. You have to take care of each other, but you also have to take care of your house. I am not entirely sure that my house is not a living being, with wants and needs.  And after conducting what amounted to a small archeological dig in my kitchen recently, I have to at least consider the possibility that my house is partying far more than I.

The other morning I tried to open my silverware drawer and the bottom fell out. Although he did offer,  I assured the nice Roger that I was possessed of repair skills adequate enough to fix the issue. However, I also realized that if I didn’t deal with the excess of contents in both this drawer and the utensil drawer below it, I would have to do it again real soon.  So, out came both drawers and I spread their contents out over the kitchen counters, striving for some sort of organizational sense.  I hadn’t done this in some time, and found myself amazed and puzzled by some of the accumulation.  Where did all of this stuff come from? Did I buy all these things? Or, did the house order things online when we weren’t around? I may have to check the browser history on our computers, because I am puzzled by some of the following inventory:

5 tea strainers- 2 hinged spoons, 2 tea balls, & this elegant strainer.20160430_112952

11 nut crackers- including this beautiful stream-lined wood & brass number(oddly, we rarely buy unshelled nuts)20160420_131616

3 cheese knives and 2 cheese slicers-because you never know when you’re going to need to cut the cheese.(no, I am not sorry about that terrible joke)

45 tiny plastic hors d’oeuvres forks-including 1 lone ‘Mr. Peanut’ fork(these may have come from my mother-in-law, but I have no more clue why she saved them than I have as to why I saved them)20160420_131338

1 set of 5 wooden-handled hors d’oeuvres forks (they have never been used)

1 set of 5 wooden-handled fondue forks (I have never made fondue at home. Never.)

5 pairs of tongs

21 turkey-trussing skewers in 2 sizes. I have never used these on a turkey. And yet, they appear to be used.

Several obscure kitchen tools-1 melon-baller, 1 zester, 1 antique ‘Presto’ egg slicer(again, from my mother-in-law. I have never hard-boiled an egg in my life. The smell is appalling.)20160420_131404

And finally, 10, count ’em, 10 corkscrews-these are spare corkscrews, in case one of the three I regularly use breaks. (I recall buying a few, but 10? I think not.)

So, after conducting what I feel was a very thorough investigation, I believe it possible that our house is having parties when Roger and I are not home, with lots of wine and food requiring tiny forks.  If, in the future, anyone receives an invite to one of these parties, bring me along as your plus-one. I love a good party, and apparently, my house knows how to throw one.



But is it Art?

Like half the women in the US, I have taken up coloring.  Coloring, the simple act of filling in spaces in various designs with the colors of one’s choice, using markers or colored pencils, is now being marketed as the way to relieve stress, increase ‘mindfulness’, and otherwise help make one’s life wonderful. Or at least brightly colored.  And I discovered I LOVED it.  I chose a book of designs, “Mandalas and More”, by artist Valentina Harper,2016-04-14 10.47.00

bought a package of 30 fine-point markers, and began to fill in the little spaces with color.  Each design took hours, but I was entranced.

While I was exploring the wonderful world of color in my coloring book, I was also looking around at the art hanging in our home, and realized that several areas could do with an infusion of color.


Initially, I thought I would simply go shopping, looking for some brightly colored paintings to brighten up the areas I thought were a bit drab. And then I was struck by an idea. What if I created an artwork with my colorings?

The first thing I thought I should do was put the colorings on a stiffer backing. I thought that just taping the pages to the wall would be a bit tacky.  So, after some trial and error, I decided to back them with layers of black sketch paper. Elmer’s Glue had too high a moisture content and caused the color to leach out, so I went with wood glue. Using a foam applicator to get an even coating, I brushed the glue on, pressed the papers together (colorings + 2 layers of sketch paper), and put them to dry under heavy books to minimize warping.  Then, I got out my exacto knives, and began cutting away what was uncolored.  Removing all the negative spaces, leaving only the colorings, gave them a more three-dimensional quality that I really liked.  The final step was to give the colorings a protective coating.  I used a water-based resin, BioShield Aqua Resin Stain Finish. An unexpected side effect of using this was a slight blurring of the colors, giving the pieces a water color effect that I thought was quite lovely. As long as I worked quickly, and didn’t overwork the application, there was minimal muddying.

Now, I have to accumulate enough for a grouping of pieces to create my own indoor garden, complete with fantastical birds and beasts.

I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to mount each individual piece.  I may just use glue dots to attach them directly to the wall.  But I am truly pleased with my first foray into making my own art.  It is not art for the ages, it is simply art for me, but it is wonderful to discover this joy, in both process and outcome. So I say to you, go on, color something. Brighten up your life.2016-04-14 11.08.47


The Difficulty of Doing Nothing

I am a retired person, and  since retirement have remained mostly unemployed.  My forays back into the work world were brief, and taught me much.  Mostly, these tiny jobs taught me that I don’t want to be in the work world anymore.  But I retain a strong work ethic, and while the logical mind realizes I contribute to our happy household economically with my pension, I still feel the need to compensate for the reduction in income with what feels like incessant home improvement projects.  My thinking is, that since our home is our primary investment, maintaining and updating it is the best way for me to pull my economic weight, so to speak.

Growing up in a household which for most of my childhood was headed solely by my mother, it never occurred to me that not working was even an option.  My mother worked, her mother worked, my grandmother’s sisters both worked.  Falling in love and marrying was something I wanted to do, but I never thought that I would stop working once that happened.  And I didn’t.  For 16 years, the nice Roger and I worked mostly different shifts, in different divisions, with different days off.  He even installed a door to the bedroom end of our house, so that someone in the outer rooms could watch tv, talk, or otherwise live a normal life without disturbing someone who had worked a 12-8 shift, and so was sleeping at noon.  The sleeping someone was usually me, and given my notably surly disposition when I get insufficient sleep, this home improvement probably saved lives. And it is still doing its’ work, by blocking Roger’s news surfing when I’m in my study.

Prior to actual retirement, I had no problem taking the occasional ‘mental health day’, and happily spend it curled up with a book for hours, or schedule a double feature of movies.  But nowadays, when Roger goes off to work, I feel obligated to work, too.  And so I clean, I repair or update (both house and furniture), I garden, and otherwise do a raft of tasks necessary (in my mind) to life maintenance.  And very occasionally, I take an hour or two here and there, and finish Sunday’s NY Times, or watch a movie that I know Roger would hate.

Monday, I finally broke the pattern.  The house was clean (relatively).  I had no social or family commitments.  There was sufficient food in the house for my needs, and Roger agreed to import Asian take-out for supper. I was free.  And so, over breakfast, I watched “Bridesmaids”.  I wasn’t sure when it came out if it would be my cup of tea. I’m generally not one for gross-out humor but the bridal shop sequence was horrifyingly funny.  I also thought the movie was sweet, warm, and wonderfully human in its’ portrayal of some truly awful behavior.  Then, I happily read the NY Times (most of it). With lunch, I watched “Grandma”, starring Lily Tomlin.  I’ve been a fan of Ms. Tomlin’s since she first appeared on “Laugh-In” in the late 60’s.  She plays an untraditional grandmother, a poet and writer still grieving from the death of her lesbian partner.  She lashes out at everyone around her at the least provocation. Her granddaughter comes to her for money for an abortion, and a road picture ensues as grandma and granddaughter drive around, in grandma’s 1950’s vintage car, trying to raise the cash from various sources.  And, since this is a movie, various deep-seated emotional issues involving both women are dealt with in different ways.  But a particular pleasure of this film was watching Ms. Tomlin beat up her granddaughter’s baby daddy with a hockey stick.  After the second movie, I finished the Times, ordered dinner online to be picked up by the nice Roger.  With dinner, since I saw I had a feminist theme going,  we watched “The Hunger Games-Mockingjay Part 2”.   I thought it was a bit slow, but since we’d watched all the rest, I rather figured we were obligated to watch the last one.  And Jennifer Lawrence was amazing.

Three movies, one Sunday paper, no work at all.  I successfully did nothing all day.  It was probably the first weekday day off I’ve taken in six months.  It’s possible I’m not actually retired.

The Nice Roger

I have been married to a very nice man for a very long time.  His name is Roger.  While Roger is very supportive of almost all my endeavors, including blogging, he would rather I did not write about him to excess.  Or, for that matter, at all, but that’s not going to happen.   He has graciously allowed me to tell one story, about a conversation he once had with his father, Ray, about his grandfather, David.  I’ve always felt that this tiny tale says a lot about Roger as well.  Apples seldom falling far from trees and all that.

Roger remembers getting a phone call from his father, Ray, whom he called Pop, containing the following exchange.  Roger’s grandfather would have been in his 70’s at the time.

Pop: “Somebody tried to mug your grandfather at the subway station.”

Roger: “Is Grandpa all right?”

Pop: “Yeah, he threw the mugger down the stairs.”


Grandpa David Brooks1
David Brooks, noted tough guy

And that is all there is to say about that.