YOU TALK TOO MUCH! – Garry Armstrong

“You Talk Too Much.”

It was a 1960 pop single that kids used to sing outside of school and on the streets. Usually, it was making fun of adults: teachers, parents, politicians, and others who they dissed from the temerity of youth.

It’s not something we — of a certain age — say about those who do most of their socializing via texts and emails.  We value the word, conversation, face-to-face sharing of thoughts and beliefs.

As a youngster at large family gatherings, I remember the older men — uncles, cousins and male hangers-on, emboldened by liquor and loud Carribean music casting insults at the women in the house.  When they were inevitably chastized, one of the men usually would bellow, “Woman, you talk too much.”

Most of the men, shielding themselves from a proper physical response, would giggle in a protective huddle.  Much like a bad football team after committing an egregious foul.

“You talk Too Much”?  In my youthful mind, I wondered how my elders dare say such an obviously disrespectful thing. I couldn’t in my boldest young bombast even consider saying that to an elder. Certainly not my Mom. I’d be picking up my teeth scattered around the room after the two slaps on my cherubic face.

It IS something I now mumble at the political blabbathons as Presidential wannabees stumble over themselves, verbally shooting each other in the feet and leaving us — the losers — as we try to zero in on a preferred candidate to take on the current White House squatter whose rent is overdue.  Yes, you people, you talk too much and don’t say things that will make us believe in you and your candidacy.

I’m growing increasingly angry with baseball’s  TV sports talk jocks who think their jibber-jabber is more important than the high anxiety postseason games.  The nonstop verbal poop is often insulting when it’s obvious these people don’t know the basics of our national pastime.

This 77-year-old retired TV Newsie with 40 plus years on the job, YELLS profanities at the Sports yakkers. The nicest thing I can offer is: “You talk too much!”

I wrestle with the image of my sportscaster hero — the iconic Vin Scully — who truly was a wordsmith, mixing in Shakespeare, baseball play-by-play and John Keats — without missing a beat and allowing minutes of silence to heighten the import of an excellent, game-changing play.  Alas, Vin Scully, closing in on 90, chose to retire still at the top of his game.1

In my best Brandon DeWilde “Shane” plea, Vin Scully, come back! We need you now more than ever! EVERYBODY needs you. Come back, Mr. Scully, please!

Those of you of a certain age can, perhaps, see and hear Archie Bunker yelling at his wife and son-in-law: “Hey, youse!  Ya givin’ me a headache. Stifle ya-selves.  You talk too much”.

No, Pilgrim, I’m not going there.  As sure as the turning of the earth, I’m not going there.

DO YOU REMEMBER? – Rich Paschall

Memories Of Our Youth, by Rich Paschall

If you are over 21 what do you remember from your youth that is no longer around today? If you are under 21, I am guessing you can remember your childhood well and most things are still around. If something has already disappeared, by all means comment below.

For some of us, the early days are in the distant past.  You know, as in history. While some things may stay fresh in our memories, for other things we have to look at old pictures, or Google 1950s or 60s to look up things on the internet. This is to jog our memories of toys, stores, and technology that have gone away.   I will try to stick to memory. If I start looking things up, I could probably fill multiple articles here.

Toy soldiers

Toys have certainly changed. I remember a toy box, a big wooden container, that held many toys. I can not recall when that went away, probably on one of our many moves.  We had toys made out of wood as well as a stuffed animal or two (or three). I remember small plastic toy soldiers. They were green and very durable. Toy soldiers were popular then.

Outside we would get down in the dirt and play. I do mean dirt, not on the grass. Trucks and tractors were fun. My friend next door had a farm set and we could create a farm, as if we had any idea what they were like. Marbles were fun too, but I didn’t like games were we would bet. I did not want to lose any “cat’s eyes” or “boulders.”

We had skates that attached to our shoes. Oddly enough you could not use gym shoes or just any old shoes. You had to have shoes with soles on them so the clamps would go over the edges. It was great fun to go to the roller rink where they had shoe skates. When we were older we were able to get our own skates. I think I was in seventh grade when I got mine and I went skating often. There are few roller rinks left in the metro Chicago area and none nearby.

Inside we could enjoy television on our giant 19 inch black and white television. Sometimes the picture did not come in too clearly, especially channel 2 (CBS) and we would have to play with the antenna until we got a better picture. I was the remote control. I would have to get up and go to the televisions to “fix” the antenna, turn the volume up or down and change the channel. There were only 5 channels when I was very young, so there was not a lot of channel hopping.

Silver Dollar Survey

Transistor radios were important when we became teenagers. They were about the size of a cell phone, but a lot thicker. They would run on 9 volt batteries, not some thin rechargeable lithium ion thing. We were cool when we could carry around something that played music. This was our idea of “cutting the cord.” Chicago had two radion stations blasting our rock and roll off their 50,000 watts of power.  AM rock and roll stations have gone away.

Before the days of VHS recorders and digital cameras, I had a Super 8 camera. It was alledgedly a step up from the standard 8 millimeter cameras and film. The film was in a cartridge and did not have to be threaded in the camera. I wish I still had mine as I think it would earn some good money on ebay. Despite what some film buffs may tell you, 8 and super 8 are not coming back.

Have you seen the video of young people trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone? I am not sure it isn’t a put on, but then again when would people under 21 have seen one? In a movie?  Would land lines even accept the pulses generated by such a phone? I do have an older push button phone I bought at Sears many decades ago. It’s plugged into my Magic Jack so it works a lot like a landline. There no reason to have an actual landline anymore, is there?

My first computer was a Commodore 64. It was a step up from the Vic-20 which somehow operated on tape. The C64 used the large floppy discs and had a whopping 64 KB (kilobytes) of RAM (random access memory) and 20 KB of ROM. Yes, it was not very powerful, and if you wanted it to do more than play simple games, you had to write the code yourself. It was not practical, but owning your own computer was a novelty and I suppose they were relatively inexpensive.

Commodore 64 – the most popular computer ever produced. More than 30 million of them sold. Yes, I had one of these, too.

At home there were no CDs or tapes for our music. We had 45 and 33 1/3 RPM records. The 45 typically had one song per side, while 33 1/3 were albums with about half of the songs on each side. The numbers represented the speed, or “revolutions per minute,” the record was to be played. A good turntable and quality speakers were a must as we got older. People will still tell you today that vinyl records on a good system represents the best sound for music. Now the problem is you need many cabinets full of heavy records to store the same amount of music you can keep on your phone.

record player

Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel

One important thing missing from modern society is the phone booth. Yes, there were little booths on the street with pay telephones. In an era before cell phones, these were very handy for urgent calls. As they started to disappear we became concerned for Superman. You may not know this, but before the 21st Century, the phone booth was a necessary commodity for saving the world. You see, Clark Kent would go into a phone booth and take off his clothes and his Superman outfit was underneath. Seriously!

No, I don’t know what happened to the nice suit he left in the phone booth. Maybe some homeless man got it. And yes, I do think it must have been uncomfortable to have that cape under his shirt. Since the common phone booth was glass on all sides, I am surprised that no one ever noticed in Metropolis a man in a phone booth taking off his suit. I do know that Clark Kent was remarkably good at doing this in a very confined space. What does he do now, I wonder?

JAPAN’S KIDNAPPING PROBLEM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I recently wrote a blog about Japan’s strange (to us) cultural norms regarding women’s roles. The blog elicited a lot of interesting comments so I decided to follow up with another blog about a different cultural phenomenon in Japan that is even more appalling to Westerners.

Japan has a unique approach to child custody that differs from most of the rest of the developed world. Japan does not recognize the concept of ‘joint custody.’ Instead, courts give custody to one parent, applying what is called the ‘continuity principle.’ This states that if the child is settled in one household, the continuity of their care should not be disturbed. This, in turn, means that if one parent kidnaps a child, once the ‘new’ household is established, the court will consistently award custody to the kidnapper.

This bizarre system is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, where children are not viewed as having individual rights or even as ‘belonging’ to their parents. They are seen as the ‘property of the household’ where they live, so as soon as a child moves to a new household (say, with the kidnapping parent), the estranged parent automatically becomes an outsider with no right to ‘disturb’ the newly established household.

As a result (surprise, surprise), tens of thousands of Japanese children are kidnapped EACH YEAR, by one parent, usually the mother. And the other parent, usually the father, has no recourse to the authorities or the courts for help. Hundreds of these parents/fathers per year who are kept away from their children are foreigners who married Japanese citizens.

In one situation, an American man was married to a Japanese woman and they were living in Washington state. There was a divorce and the father was awarded custody. He dropped the six-year-old child off with his mother for a visit and she immediately took the child to Japan. The Japanese government refused to help him and, in fact, the Japanese embassy in Portland, Oregon actually helped the mother escape to Japan by getting her young child a passport in just one day.

Campaigns have been organized here, in other countries and even in Japan, to protect the rights of the outsider parents as well as the children. An American pressure group is called “Bring Abducted Children Home” and represents over 400 American parents whose kids have been abducted to Japan by a Japanese parent.

The Prime Minister of Italy and the President of France have raised this issue with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, calling the situation ‘unacceptable.’ A formal complaint has also been filed with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, arguing that Japan has violated the Convention on the Rights of Children and the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

But this only deals with the plights of foreign parents who are deprived of access to their children. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese parents are in the same boat.

Apparently, momentum for change is building domestically and internationally. This past February, Prime Minister Abe acknowledged that children would want to see both their parents, which is a huge concession and opens the door to giving rights to ‘outsider’ parents.

 

Also, the U.S. State Department says that progress is being made regarding enforcement of the Hague Convention on abductions since 32 kidnapped children have been returned to the U.S. since 2014. That’s just a drop in the bucket and more abductions are happening every year. But it is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, it seems that the best policy for foreigners is to avoid marrying and having kids with a Japanese citizen until Japan joins the rest of the developed world in their views on custody and parental kidnapping.

MR. ROGERS AS PARENTING GURU – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother was a psychologist who originally specialized in child psychology. Throughout life, I had a personal role model for parenting through the way she treated me and from what she actually taught me about relating to children.

Her philosophy was to respect your child as an individual but understand how he or she thinks and what he or she understands at each level of development. You should talk to children as you would an adult, but using words and concepts they can understand at each developmental stage.

She believed that you should explain whatever is going on in your child’s life, including why you want them to do something or not do something. I always got a reason for what was expected of me so I was a very reasonable and cooperative child, most of the time.

My favorite photo of my mom and my son, David

I was nineteen in 1968 when Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood started its 30 plus year run on television. I didn’t get to know him until around 1987 when my daughter was two.

She became a huge Mr. Rogers fan, as did I. I immediately realized that he was motivated to help parents as much as kids. He was a wonderful example of the calm, consistent, patient demeanor parents should exhibit towards their kids as well as a model of how adults should communicate with children.

He showed parents how to tune into what their kids were feeling, to respect those feelings and how to appropriately address them. He was particularly good at showing parents how to help kids through difficult times in their personal lives or in society as a whole.

He started his TV run in 1968 and that year he filmed an episode especially for parents, showing them how they could talk to their children about the assassinations and social turmoil that was erupting in the society at the time. His last address specifically for parents was after 9/11 in 2001, when he was talking to a generation of parents who had grown up watching his show.

Mr. Rogers’ parenting style was familiar to me because it mirrored my own mother’s approach to parenting. It apparently had a huge influence on many other parents for decades.

He became a parenting icon, or guru, to millions. His influence could be compared to the influence of Dr. Spock. He also wrote several books for parents. The real wisdom he conveyed was through his overall persona and gestalt. Parenting philosophies have changed over the years but his example of nurturing and sensitivity has had a lasting impact.

Celebrations last year marking the 50th anniversary of his TV debut were received with enthusiasm and huge ratings. There was a PBS special and a critically acclaimed documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which made 22-million dollars at the domestic box office and became the top-grossing biographical documentary in American history!

The trailer for the new movie coming out about Fred Rogers, starring Tom Hanks, also received an enormous outpouring of affection and support on the internet.

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers is obviously beloved by both the children and the parents who watched his show and he was a comforting presence to parents as well as children. He gave parents confidence that with some empathy and patience, they could handle any situation with their children. But he also made it clear that there had to be a real connection between parent and child for this magical relationship to work.

To be a parent like Mr. Rogers, you had to talk to your child, ask him questions, read to him and play with him in order to develop the rapport and trust that predicates the “Mr. Rogers’ style” relationship.

Above all else, his message was to accept and love your child “just the way you are” and to give that dependent being all the time and attention he deserves. This approach is timeless, compassionate and caring.

Mr. Rogers set a high bar for generations of parents, particularly working parents whose time with their children was more limited. He also gave these parents the roadmap and confidence to reach his lofty goals.

You could say that Mr. Rogers has played a major role in shaping American society through his influence over generations of kids and parents because society is made up of individuals, and parents shape the character of the individuals who populate society.

Mr. Rogers helped shape parents since 1968.

A ROAD HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

I grew up in a semi-rural nook in the middle of Queens, New York. The city had surrounded us leaving a tiny enclave walking distance from the subway.

The house was more than a hundred years old. It had been changed by each family who had lived there, so much that I doubt the original builder would have recognized it. From its birth as a 4-room bungalow in the 1800s, by 1951 it had become a warren of hallways, staircases and odd rooms that could be hard to find.

It sat at the top of a hill amidst the last remaining fully-grown white oaks in New York, the rest having fallen to make masts for tall ships. The shadows of the oaks were always over the house. Beautiful, huge and a bit ominous. Some of the branches were bigger than ordinary trees. I remember watching the oaks during storms, how the enormous trees swayed. I wondered if one would crash through the roof and crush me.

I was four when we moved into the house, five by summer. When the weather grew warm, I was told to go out and play. Like an unsocialized puppy, I had no experience with other children, except my baby sister and older brother and that didn’t count. Now, I discovered other little girls. What a shock! I had no idea what to do. It was like greeting aliens … except that I was the alien.

The first contact took place on the sidewalk. We stood, three little girls, staring at each other. First on one foot, then the other, until I broke the silence with a brilliant witticism. “I live up there,” I said. I pointed to my house. “We just moved here. Who are you?” I was sure they had a private club into which I would not be invited. They were pretty — I was lumpy and awkward.

“I’m Liz,” said a pretty girl with green eyes. She looked like a china doll, with long straight hair. I wanted that hair. I hated mine, which was wild, curly and full of knots. She gestured. “I live there,” she pointed. The house was a red Dutch colonial. It had dark shutters and a sharply pitched roof.

A dark-haired, freckle-faced girl with braids was watching solemnly. “I’m Karen,” she said. “That’s my house,” she said, pointing at a tidy brick colonial with bright red geraniums in ornate cement pots on both sides of a long brick staircase. I’d never seen geraniums or masonry flower pots.

“Hello,” I said again, wondering what else I could say to keep them around for a while. I’d never had friends, but something told me I wanted some. We stood in the sunlight for a while, warily eyeing each other. I, a stranger. I shuffled from foot to foot.

1952

Finally, I fired off my best shot. “I’ve got a big brother,” I announced. They were unimpressed. I was at a loss for additional repartee. More silence ensued.

“We’re going to Liz’s house for lemonade,” Karen said, finally. Liz nodded. They turned and went away. I wondered if we would meet again. I hadn’t the experience to know our future as friends were inevitable.

1953 – Three little girls

Summer lasted much longer back then than it does nowadays. By the time spring had metamorphosed into summer, I had become a probationary member of The Kids Who Lived On The Block. I did not know what went on in anyone else’s house. I imagined the lights were bright and cheerful in other houses. No dark shadows. No sadness or pain except in my scary world where the scream of a child in pain was background noise, the sound of life going on as usual. Behind it, you could hear my mother pleading: “Please, the neighbors will hear!” As if that was the issue.

Across the street, Karen’s mother was drinking herself into a stupor every night. The only thing that kept Karen from a nightly beating was her father. He was a kindly older man who seemed to be from another world. As it turned out, he would soon go to another world. Before summer was ended, Karen’s father died of a heart attack and after that, she fought her battles alone.

In the old clapboard house where I thought Liz led a perfect life, a battle raged. Liz’s father never earned enough money and their house was crumbling. It legally belonged to Liz’s grandmother. Nana was senile, incontinent and mean, but she owned the place. In lucid moments, she always reminded Liz’s dad the family lived there on her sufferance. Where I imagined a life full of peace and goodwill, there was neither.

About 6 or 7.

A lovely neighborhood. Fine old homes shaded by tall oaks. Green lawns rolling down to quiet streets where we could play day or night. I’m sure the few travelers who strayed onto our street, envied us.

“How lucky these folks are,” they must have thought, seeing our grand old houses. “These people must be so happy.”

I have a picture in my album. It’s black and white, a bit faded. It shows us sitting in Liz’s back yard. I’m the tiny one in the middle. A little sad. Not quite smiling.

We envied each other. It would be years before we learned each other’s secrets and by then, we’d be adults. Too late to give each other the comfort we’d needed while we grew up, lonely in our big old houses all those years ago.

NO CRYING IN THE NEST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Nest

A woman, younger than me, has no children and asks: “What is ’empty nest syndrome?’ What does it mean?”

I gave it a bit of thought. After all, my nest is empty except for two terriers and the handsome husband.

The empty nest is one in which the children have grown up and moved out. They have independent lives. These newly made adults have left the family nest and assumed the mantle of adult responsibility.  Isn’t that what we wanted all along?

Swan family all lined up

My mother’s life did not revolve around me, though I kept her pretty busy for a long time. She was a dutiful mother insofar as she did the right stuff. She fed us, though this was her least shining achievement. She clothed us … and to this day I wish I’d better appreciated the clothing she made for me. I was just too young, awkward, and afraid someone might notice I was dressed “differently” from the other kids. Big mistake.

The whole family!

She talked to me about adult things in an adult way. She gave me tons of books and if I look around, I probably still own more than half of them. These weren’t the books my friends and schoolmates read. They were grown-up literature. Sometimes, I had to ask her what it meant because if anything, she overestimated my understanding of the larger world. When I was ready to go, she was proud of me for taking the leap.

It freed her to paint and sculpt and travel. To read, go to the theater, spend time with her sisters. Not cook and clean all the time. Make her own clothing instead of mine. She was glad my brother and I were independent and built lives.

I doubt she suffered from any kind of empty nest issues.

Nor did I. Of course, my son and his family kept coming back. For years, I yearned for an empty nest. Having finally achieved it, do I miss the patter of little feet? Or, for that matter, the thunder of big ones?

Flocks of Goldfinch

I miss the thunder more. Is there something wrong with enjoying the company of adult children more than little kids? I really enjoy having real conversations with grownups who look like me. Even if we disagree, I’m delighted they have opinions. That they are part of a bigger world and standing on their own feet.

Maybe the difference is that so many women seem to prefer babies to adults. They don’t want independent children who don’t need them. Some parents urgently need to be needed.

Children need nurturing, but they don’t need it all the time and they definitely don’t need it for their entire lives. After some point, their drive for separateness should overwhelm the need for nurturing. The drive to be independent should become dominant. I have always thought it’s our obligation as parents to help our kids achieve adulthood because we won’t be here forever. They will need to go on without us.

An empty nest is when you don’t need to do a load of laundry every day. Where the sink isn’t always full. You can park your car where you want it.

Photo: Ben Taylor

Extra rooms revert to your use, even if you use them as closets for all the stuff you collected. If you have a life of your own, interests of your own. There’s no such thing as an empty nest. It’s a time when your kids have achieved maturity. It’s when the work you did to raise them right pays off.

Adult children are great. If you still need to nurture, get pets. Adopt dogs and cats and ferrets and parrots. They will always need you.

If you do it right, your kids will always love you, but not always need you.

THERE’S NO CRYING IN THIS NEST – Marilyn Armstrong

A woman, younger than me, has no children and asks: “What is ’empty nest syndrome?’ What does it mean?”

I gave it a bit of thought. After all, my nest is empty except for two terriers and the handsome husband.

The empty nest is one in which the children have grown up and moved out. They have independent lives. These newly made adults have left the family nest and assumed the mantle of adult responsibility.  Isn’t that what we wanted all along?

Swan family all lined up

My mother’s life did not revolve around me, though I kept her pretty busy for a long time. She was a dutiful mother insofar as she did the right stuff. She fed us, though this was her least shining achievement. She clothed us … and to this day I wish I’d better appreciated the clothing she made for me. I was just too young, awkward, and afraid someone might notice I was dressed “differently” from the other kids. Big mistake.

The whole family!

She talked to me about adult things in an adult way. She gave me tons of books and if I look around, I probably still own more than half of them. These weren’t the books my friends and schoolmates read. They were grown-up literature. Sometimes, I had to ask her what it meant because if anything, she overestimated my understanding of the larger world. When I was ready to go, she was proud of me for taking the leap.

It freed her to paint and sculpt and travel. To read, go to the theater, spend time with her sisters. Not cook and clean all the time. Make her own clothing instead of mine. She was glad my brother and I were independent and built lives.

I doubt she suffered from any kind of empty nest issues.

Nor did I. Of course, my son and his family kept coming back. For years, I yearned for an empty nest. Having finally achieved it, do I miss the patter of little feet? Or, for that matter, the thunder of big ones?

Flocks of Goldfinch

I miss the thunder more. Is there something wrong with enjoying the company of adult children more than little kids? I really enjoy having real conversations with grownups who look like me. Even if we disagree, I’m delighted they have opinions. That they are part of a bigger world and standing on their own feet.

Maybe the difference is that so many women seem to prefer babies to adults. They don’t want independent children who don’t need them. Some parents urgently need to be needed.

Children need nurturing, but they don’t need it all the time and they definitely don’t need it for their entire lives. After some point, their drive for separateness should overwhelm the need for nurturing. The drive to be independent should become dominant. I have always thought it’s our obligation as parents to help our kids achieve adulthood because we won’t be here forever. They will need to go on without us.

An empty nest is when you don’t need to do a load of laundry every day. Where the sink isn’t always full. You can park your car where you want it.

Photo: Ben Taylor

Extra rooms revert to your use, even if you use them as closets for all the stuff you collected. If you have a life of your own, interests of your own. There’s no such thing as an empty nest. It’s a time when your kids have achieved maturity. It’s when the work you did to raise them right pays off.

Adult children are great. If you still need to nurture, get pets. Adopt dogs and cats and ferrets and parrots. They will always need you.

If you do it right, your kids will always love you, but not always need you.