CONGRESSIONAL KINDERGARTEN – BY ELLIN CURLEY

COMPROMISE AND LIVING IN THESE UNITED STATES


We are a country of babies. Spoiled babies. Over-indulged, entitled babies.

No amendment to the Constitution says that everyone can do whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. No country could survive the anarchy this would create.

All societies have laws and regulations for a reason. Parents have rules for their toddlers for a reason. We have reached the point in our violent history that the ‘parents’ in the country have to just say “No!” to the toddlers who are running rampant. Let them have a full-blown tantrum in the aisle of the supermarket.

I’m really talking about guns in America. But I don’t want to focus on the politics, which are mind bogglingly corrupt and twisted because of the NRA.

I want to talk about the issue from a sociological/psychological perspective. It’s time someone just said “NO!” to the groups of people who are disrupting our society. “NO!” to the people who want to own AR 15’s outside of the military. You just can’t have that weapon of mass destruction in your bedroom because you like it and want it. You can have some, less lethal guns. If you abide by the normal regulations that govern other things, like cars.

To drive a car, you have to pass several tests to get a license. You need insurance and you have to live by all the rules of the road. Otherwise, you get your license revoked. You also have to get your license renewed regularly and pass an eye exam.

No one screams bloody murder about their Constitutional rights because they can’t drive a Formula One race car on the highway at 140 miles per hour. Or that they have to pass a driving test (actually a written test AND a road test) to be able to drive legally.

The Congressional GOP and the White House are two other groups of people who need to hear a loud “NO!” for a change. Governments only function with compromise. Everyone can’t get exactly what they want all the time. Aren’t you supposed to learn that in Kindergarten? Did the entire GOP and the everyone in the White House all flunk Kindergarten?

Where do elected officials get the chutzpah to insist on ‘My way or the highway’ even if it means shutting down the government? Why do people think it’s okay to bull-doze others on their way to total ‘victory’ for THEIR special interest group?

I don’t have answers to these questions. I feel as if Washington DC is run by people who refuse to live by any of the rules I grew up believing were necessary for a civil society. Is it a fluke? Are the stars misaligned to give us the most childish, selfish, greedy bunch of amoral politicians ever to run our government? Is this some kind of Karmic lesson?

I know the corruption level in government has been better or worse at various times in our history. Washington has often been run entirely on favors traded and bribes offered, but even that assumes acceptance of the concept of compromise. Of give and take. Today it seems like intransigence is the standard, as well as self-righteousness and narcissism.

The impasse on guns is one symptom of our broken system. It’s sad although a majority of NRA members favor reasonable gun control laws such as universal background checks and bans on assault weapons, the NRA (read “gun manufacturers”) have paid off our Congress and our President. They don’t even reflect or represent the will of their own members much less the non-gun-owning public. They don’t care.

I’m optimistic that when Democrats take over the government, hopefully in 2020, we may see more serious gun control legislation. But there will still be plenty of pols who collect a big hunk of their campaign contributions from the NRA and all those Republicans who behave like spoiled toddlers. They will still refuse to play nicely with others.

Trump Republicans are a minority in the U.S. — yet they do an enormous amount of damage and exert a disproportionate amount of control. Hopefully by 2020, they will be relegated to an insignificant minority who we can disregard. Maybe then we can move on.

We can walk past the toddlers and ignore them while they have their tantrums in the aisles of Congress. It’s a welcome thought.

WHEN A BEATING SOUNDS BETTER THAN A LECTURE

One day (true story), my granddaughter told her father she would prefer that he would beat her because almost anything would be an improvement over another lecture.

The lecture was TWICE as long.

There are times in life for children, adults, and dogs when your best bet is shutting up and pretending you are paying attention.

CHECKING IN WITH MYSELF – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I haven’t written an introspective blog in a long time. I’ve written about things that have happened in my own life and stories about other members of my family. I’ve written a lot about the political situation in America and the social schisms it has created. I’ve written about my dogs and the weather and what I’ve watched on TV.

But I haven’t checked in with myself recently – and there have been some internal resets. Over the past six months, I’ve had some uncomfortable and inconvenient but not serious medical issues. I forgot how closely one’s mental state shadows one’s physical well-being.

Constant physical issues for months at a time can really take a toll, both mentally and physically. I was chronically exhausted. No energy for anything. That translated to demoralization and withdrawal. Doing anything outside of the house became a big deal.

I started believing that my life was seriously lacking in many ways. I fixated on those deficiencies and my glass suddenly became half empty instead of half full.

When I started feeling better physically, I could step back and see where my body had dragged my mind. I realized I had to turn myself off and then back on again. I had to totally reboot my attitude.

I realized that I am, in fact, fine as I am. My life is fine as it is. Is it what I wanted, ideally at this stage of my life? No. Is it where I imagined I’d be at my age? No. Is that bad rather than just different? No.

Me and my dogs

I wanted to be a grandmother by my age, with a life revolving to a great extent around my nearby adult child and my grandchildren. Many of my friends are ecstatic and devoted grandparents. But I’m not a grandmother. And the most likely child to give me grandchildren in the future lives in LA, 3000 miles away.

As a retired person, I expected to be part of an active and gratifying social life with my large group of local friends. But people moved away. My remaining best friends still work 60 hour weeks and have limited time to socialize. As a result, Tom and I spend a lot of time alone with each other.

But this doesn’t make my life bad or inferior or deficient. Just different than planned or expected. I can’t compare my life to other people’s lives. I can’t measure my life against my past expectations.

Am I actually happy spending most days at home with my husband and my dogs? Yes! Am I fulfilled reading, writing blogs and working on our Audio Theater Group? Yes! Do I love my wonderful friends spread all around the country plus England and Germany? Yes!

So I wake up happy every morning, looking forward to another quiet but satisfying day. I focus on what I have and who I share it all with. I’m good. I’m lucky. And I’m grateful. I just have to try to keep this positive outlook when my body throws me the next curve.

A POSITIVE PARENTING MOMENT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I had a brief shining moment as a parent. I did something right. It felt right then and I still believe that it was right now. I even think that my daughter, Sarah, would agree.

It has to do with Sarah’s Bat Mitzvah, which took place in January of 1998. We started planning it in 1997, when Sarah was twelve. Sarah has always been a very organized, efficient person. She could reorganize her closet, on her own, when she was five. So, my brilliant idea was, why not give Sarah the lead in planning her Bat Mitzvah events! She loved the idea.

Sarah at twelve years old

I gave her the budget and off we went to the invitation lady, the potential venues, the party planner, the florist, etc. Sarah got the final word on all decisions (after some maternal prodding and advice) as long as she stayed within the budget. That got tricky, which was the point of the exercise.

I remember, at one point, she fell in love with some fancy invitations. But, she realized that if she spent the extra money there, she’d have to cut back on the party favors for her friends. It was a carefully thought out decision. She finally went with the simpler invitations and the better favors.

Invitation Sarah picked

She had to use a calculator to plan her menu. For table decorations, she decided to save money on flowers. So she used balloons and paper decorations to supplement the very basic floral treatments on each table.

It was an enjoyable as well as an educational process. Sarah took great pride in doing everything herself. She learned about budgeting, time management and other sophisticated organizational skills.

The event was beautiful and lots of fun. I think it also had more meaning for Sarah because the day’s festivities were a result of her own input and effort. She not only had a memorable coming of age party, she actually grew up a lot in the process.

Sarah at the evening party

I’m proud of Sarah for handling everything so gracefully, maturely and responsibly. I’m proud of myself for giving the reins to the soon to become Jewish “woman”. We both benefitted from the experience and Sarah blossomed. A+ for the Bat Mitzvah, A+ for parenting.

Sarah and me at the morning services at the Temple

 

 

DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I didn’t know it growing up, but I have several learning disabilities, including ADD. I was actually diagnosed with ADD in my sixties. The medication works wonderfully but it keeps me from sleeping, so I can only take it once in a while.

I learned of my other learning disabilities when my son was diagnosed in college. I realized that I have been plagued by the same disabilities that he has. When I was young, I was just considered anxious and a slow learner.

David in college

From high school on, through college and law school, I had to put in way more time than my peers did to learn class material and do well in school. Here’s what I had to do to master the material I needed to know for exams. I had to underline the reading material when I read it for the first time. Then I had to go back and reread the underlining, highlighting the most important parts. Then I had to reread the highlighting and turn it into an extensive outline. That detailed outline then had to be condensed into a shorter outline that I would read over and over until I had it memorized.

I also had to take copious notes during classes. I filled several notebooks by the end of each semester. It puzzled me that often, when I read over my notes, it was as if I was reading the material for the first time. I often had no memory of parts of the class lectures.

Me in high school

It turns out that this is a symptom of a learning disability. I forget what it’s called. But it basically means that I can’t aurally absorb the content of the lecture while I’m physically taking notes on it. The act of note taking itself cancels out my ability to learn and retain what I am hearing. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time – and remember what I was doing.

To study for a test, I went through a similar process with my notes than I did with the reading material. I had to read over my notes and highlight the key passages. I then had to go back and reread the highlighting and incorporate the information into my voluminous outline from the reading material. My master outlines were often 20-30 pages long.

Me in college

It turns out that there’s a physiological reason why I had to go through that laborious process just to learn what I needed to know for a test. Another learning disability involves short term and long term memory. Some people only need to hear or read something once or twice before that piece of information is transferred from the short term memory section of the brain to the long term memory section. For me and for my son, we have to be exposed to that piece of information maybe four or five times before our brains move it from short term to long term memory.

The good news for us, is that people like us are often better able to use the information and integrate it with other information in our brains. But it takes us longer to remember it in the first place.

Me in law school

My first husband, Larry, was at the opposite end of the spectrum learning wise. He had a mind like a sponge. He heard or read something once and he knew it. It was very frustrating for me to watch him study when we were in law school together.

Larry just listened in class. He took minimal notes, usually only jotting down a word or two to remind himself of the subject matter discussed that day. When he studied for a test, he just flipped through the text book, refreshing his memory of the material covered. He used to urge me to stop taking notes – to just listen and absorb in class. He didn’t understand that I couldn’t. I would never remember what had been discussed unless I wrote it all down.

Larry’s quick study abilities got him into trouble with his first year study group. Study groups are an essential part of the first year of law school. Five people get together and study for tests. Each person outlines one of the five first year classes for the other four. One person would have a hard time outlining all five classes. There was just too much material.

Larry in law school

Larry was assigned Torts as his subject to outline for his study group. When they met around exam time, everyone brought their ten or so page typed outlines. Everyone except Larry. He brought a single legal sheet of paper with, basically the chapter headings of the text book hand written on it. That was all he needed to study for the exam. He had ‘learned’ the material as he went along during the semester.

His fellow classmates were livid. Larry didn’t understand what their problem was. He didn’t even know how to write a detailed outline. The four other study group members had to divide up the Torts material between them and go home and outline the class themselves. Larry got an A in Torts. None of the others did. They were not happy with Larry!

So I have first hand experience with the wide range of learning styles that people can have. I am, unfortunately, on the slow end of the learning curve. But at least I now understand why. It’s not my ‘fault’. That’s just the way my brain works. I don’t beat myself up about it any more or feel bad because of it. I’m jealous of faster learners, but I accept that this is just who I am.

NON-RELATED FAMILY MEMBERS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a very small family. I am an only child and so is my mom. My dad had a sister we never saw. So I had to create my own sense of extended family. To do that, I’ve developed family depth relationships with people who were not actually related to me.

My earliest memories include the family housekeeper, Ethie. She was with my mom for years before I was born and left to have children of her own when I was four. Though Ethie was black, I thought she actually was part of our family. I remember that around age four, someone mentioned Ethie’s church. I was stunned. I suddenly realized that Ethie wasn’t Jewish. Like we were. She wasn’t ‘one of us’. She was different in some way.

Ethie and me

It never occurred to me that she wasn’t ‘family’ because of her skin color. That was a non issue to me. I loved her and she loved me.

Ethie also protected me from my stern and unloving nanny. She got suspicious of the nanny’s treatment of me and eavesdropped on her threatening me when I cried during the night. Ethie also conspired with my grandfather when he noticed that I was coming home too clean from the playground. She got Grandpa to spy on the nanny too. He discovered that she was making me sit on the bench with the other nannies in the playground. She wouldn’t let me play because she didn’t want to have to chase me around. Ethie and Grandpa finally convinced my mother to fire the nanny. But she had been terrorizing me for two crucial years, from birth to age two.

When I was four, I used to punch Ethie’s pregnant belly because I knew that the belly was why Ethie was leaving me. But my mother and I stayed in touch with Ethie and her two daughters until she died. I was in my early thirties. Ethie had a hard life. She lost a daughter to diabetes in her twenties and suffered from the disease for years herself. In fact, she became blind a few years before she died. She remained a very special person in my life and she always treated me like her third daughter.

Another pseudo relative from my childhood was ‘Aunt’ Esther. She was actually a distant cousin, but definitely not an aunt. She was my grandmother’s best friend and she spent a lot of time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. She sometimes visited on her own. But she also spent weeks with her husband, Louie, at my grandparents’ summer cottage on my parents’ property in CT. It became an extended family enclave. I don’t remember Louie ever speaking.

After Louie died, Esther spent even more time with Grandma, including most of the summer in CT. In a one bedroom cottage. It caused endless fights between Grandma and Grandpa. But it was great for me. We all played cards together (Gin Rummy) and I got to have a second Grandma. (I had no grandparents on my father’s side).

I adored Esther. She was more patient than my grandmother teaching me to crochet, knit and cook. She also told great stories, often about her own five grandchildren. She always told me I was her sixth. She also mediated between me and grandma when we got on each other’s nerves. When I got older both Grandma and Esther would complain to me about the other and I had to smooth things over for the two of them. Quite a lot. But Grandma and Esther were really like sisters, with the same love hate that most siblings have through the years. Esther stayed in my life till she died, a few years after my Grandmother.

The next example of a non-family family member came into my life when I was an adult. I was pregnant with my second child and was on strict bed rest. My housekeeper walked out on me with no notice. I was left scrambling to take care of my four and a half-year old son – from bed. I called an au pair agency and a nineteen year old German girl named Daniella arrived for an interview. I hired her and she moved in immediately. It was a week before Xmas, 1984.

Daniella with David and Sarah, newly home from the hospital

Daniella said she would stay with me for a year but she only stayed for seven months. She did, however, find a replacement for me from her hometown in Germany. She never really had her heart in babysitting but she fell in love with New York City. We got very close in those seven months and we stayed in touch after she went home.

A year or so after she left us, my whole family traveled to Europe. Daniella joined us in Paris. A few years later, we all visited Daniella in Germany. But Daniella was still obsessed with New York City. So she saved up her money and almost every year from then on, she visited us in America.

Daniella, David and Sarah in Paris. Sarah was two

Sixteen years ago she had a little girl of her own and couldn’t come to visit us as often. But she still came. Now she is a teacher in Germany and is the chaperone of a school group that takes a trip to Wisconsin every year. She always spends time with us on her way home, sometimes with her daughter and sometimes on her own.

Daniella with her daughter in 2013

Over the years, Daniella has come to every major family event. She came to my kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, to David’s wedding and to my wedding to Tom in 2002. She is considered part of the family and we talk and email often. She’s on the short list if there’s any family news. We met when she was nineteen and she’s now 42. So she has grown up with us as part of her life. And my kids have grown up with her as part of theirs.

There is one non-family member who stands above all the others. We ‘adopted’ him in the late 1980’s and he is still a major part of all of our lives. His name is Brian and he was a caretaker for my mother on her CT estate. He became a close friend and literally helped me raise my kids when their Dad was working long hours and living part-time in a different state. I’ve written a separate blog about him, called “A Fortuitous Friend”.

Me with both Daniella and Brian at my 2002 wedding

But there is one other person I want to mention here. I lost touch with her a long time ago, but she played a pivotal role in my growing up years. Growing up as a child with live-in household help is a unique experience. I got very attached to many of these wonderful people who shared my day-to-day life and knew me and my family better than anyone else possibly could.

A housekeeper/cook from Austria named Liesl came to live with us when I was around ten and she was around twenty-two. She stayed for two years and we spent a lot of time together. She became my ‘best friend’. She even protected me when my mother got mad at me. She had great spirit and humor and enthusiasm for everything in life. Though we lost touch over time, I developed a very strong attachment to her. I adored her. She helped me go from child to teen. I still remember her and think about her. Some people just have an impact on you for some reason and you never forget them. Liesl was one of them

So I’ve been very lucky to have life long relationships that rose to the level of family relationships. My real family was very small, so these people gave me the sense of extended family that most people have naturally. I am very grateful to all these people for being such a wonderful part of my life and my memories.

ANYBODY CAN GROW UP TO BE PRESIDENT, BUT YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY BE GROWN-UP TO BE PRESIDENT – TOM CURLEY

I wrote a blog a while ago called Punchlines and Prophecies. In it, I said that we now know that the old adage “anybody can grow up to be President” turns out to be true. But I also pointed out that just because anybody can grow up to be president, not everybody SHOULD be president.

In the comments, a commentator, ‘Lwbut’, made a point that really caught my attention. He said  “The problem is you’re supposed to be a grown up to be President, which clearly the Child-in-Chief has not managed yet.”

That got me to thinking.

Wow, he’s right. If there’s one thing that everybody has realized in the last year, it’s that the moron occupying the Oval Office is a petulant child. A 70-year-old toddler.

In the book “Fire and Fury”, the author makes the point again and again, that EVERYBODY in the White House thinks the President is a child. And they all treat him as one. He’s basically a spoiled petulant 8-year-old. And a ‘soft 8′ at that.

The terms “Toddler-in-Chief”, “Man-Baby”, “Cry-Baby” and “Whiny Little Bitch” show up almost every day in news articles and on TV. Especially late-night TV.

The constitution says that to be President you have to be a natural-born citizen of the U.S. and at least 35 years old. But they didn’t say if that was your actual age, or your mental age!

So — is Trump a child? Think about it. Look at all the pictures I’ve found of Trump as a spoiled brat. It only took me five minutes!! Can you say that about any other president?

If you google ‘ Obama as a baby’, you get Obama’s baby pictures!

If you Google ‘George W. Bush as a baby’,  you get, Bush’s baby pictures!

If you Google ‘Trump as a baby’ you get this.

So. If you are a 70-year-old, but have the mind and temperament of an 8-year old, do you meet the requirements of the Constitution?  I say no! Let’s take it to the Supreme Court!

I realize this is another example of the Child-in-Chief completely ignoring another one of those pesky “political norms.”

In this case it’s “A President cannot act like a child!” So, this is just another thing we’re going to have to make into an actual law. In the future, there will be a sign on the door to the Oval Office that says:


“You must be this mature to hold this office.”