Carrot Sticks – a side view




This, and the resulting very civil comments, is absolutely worth reading. is not that long. he’s talking about the mindset of the angry, rights-busting conservatives from an anthropological prism and I think he’s totally right.

I would add that for some of these people, the consternation is twisted higher from the source: some people are upset at the government’s complicity in over-throwing the moral feudalism they grew up with and it makes them believe in conspiracy theories. but some are aghast that their own children have rebelled against the very system which afforded them the “rightful” privileges the parents expected gratitude for bestowing.

I watched this shift as an outsider my whole life. I like the fact that the newest generation takes most of our “non-conformity” as their baseline; their “normal”

I remember reading a book from the 50s, in it, one of the characters remarks in how it’s too bad the children have to shun a particular little child because their parents got divorced. I had to ask my parents what the hell this meant: why would kids shun another kid whose parents were divorced? they struggled to give me an answer that made sense but I could see the situation did not surprise them.

I also would expound upon this aspect:
“It used to be about not doing anything weird, and looking down on anybody who did.
Now it’s about not doing anything cruel, and looking down on anyone who does.
There used to be people it was not only OK to be cruel about, but REWARDED to be cruel about.”
The first shift happened (I think) when people were forced to share space with others who had genetic differences – skin color, hair structure, body ability – and realized that they could detect a similar humanity with those “other” and therefore changed the rules to “we extend non-cruelty to those who may APPEAR different but are actually accepted as fellow humans” and the definition changed to “if they can’t help it, you can pity them instead of being cruel” Which essentially was the moral model of disability (and here “disability” includes anyone who cannot conform due to genetic differences)to the pity model. People used to think it was morally superior to feel sorry for POC. That was considered “enlightened”

this is why it became important to change the rallying cry of human rights past “we can’t help it so stop being mean to us” because it exonerates the perpetrator from continuing to exclude “the other” so long as they are no longer actively harming them. Passive harm through inaction, refusal to help and systemic harm was acceptable because of the pity model “too bad, that’s just how things are. Just adjust” (and be happy we aren’t outright killing you anymore”)

At this point, we are still stuck in different zones between “it doesn’t matter whether I choose to identify as this person type, I have the right to exist and move through society just like anyone else” and “look, just stop killing us” when it comes to oppression in our developed country of America. We recognize that “choice” and “genetic difference” make no difference in how cruelty is applied – it’s against our beliefs of opportunity and freedom to continue to allow society to structure itself around the notion of “those of us who are good” versus “those of us who are abnormal”

One of the things those people cannot see is that (at least from a purely pragmatic POV) eliminating “good versus different” model actually results in a larger, stronger social fabric. They cannot see this because they were indoctrinated with the notion that the strength of our society relies upon purity.

Exposure and tolerance are self-perpetuating feed-cycle: the more time spent around “the other” without harm, the more tolerance builds. It is as simple as that. But growing up without the mindset of “you are a good citizen when you act like us” gives new generations a jump-start into that cycle. Even as far back as the 90s, children were being raised into and around families that fought hard for respect and recognition and saw the pointlessness of cruelty as a social fabric. So I do believe this is a construct that is crumbling.


It seems glacially slow, but it is happening with lightning speed to those of us who remember the earlier days.


The Tater Tot Saga

Was “accosted” by Third Son soon after waking from a 5 hour “nap” to detail The Saga of the Tater Tots… with a twist ending

Apparently SOMEONE put some tater tots in the oven and forgot about them. Luckily he discovered this and managed to air out the house while I was sleeping and turn the oven off. I went into a lengthy explanation as to this being the kind of reason why using a timer is so very important. Then he tells me he did not put the tater tots in the oven, but his brother, Second Son swears he did not either.

Now, being as Eldest Son has been gone since I went to bed (and he does not generally eat Tater Tots) and I was asleep and Lil Miss was gone to her dad’s and roommate no longer lives here…apparently someone broke into my house, put some tater tots into the oven and left someone else to take the fall for the ensuing near-conflagration

“wait but Cece! Did you consider that maybe you were so tired you put the tots in the oven and fell asleep and forgot?”

I had considered this possibility except that as i explained to Third Son; when I worked in restaurants (total of 15 years) I once had a situation wherein I was threatened with being fired should I ever put food in an oven without a timer again

So after all those years of restaurant work I’m pretty sure that even were I sleep walking (which I have never done before) I would probably still put a timer on somethin in the oven

Eldest just got home. He walked over to give me back my Target card, saw this on the screen and said “oh yeah I totally forgot about the tater tots… my bad”

(we are sharing a car right now and he thought I was staying on campus late so he put some tots in the oven to go with his burger. When I returned home early, he grabbed his keys, his burger and left, forgetting he had JUST put the tots in the oven)

When I mentioned the timer he railed a bit about how the timer is too quiet and doesn’t register for him. That’s because he plays video games.

Conclusion: gaming can burn your tots.

Bullying through exclusion: looking for the middle ground

Imagine having your child lying in your lap sobbing because her own friends were hurting her feelings during her birthday party. That’s a special pain.

“what’s going on baby? Why are you so upset?”
[long involved tale of being excluded over and over] “…and then they told me I wasn’t their friend!”

[struggling to stay calm and sane] “oh honey… it’s your special day..”
*heart breaks and breaks and breaks*

There’s no pain quite like comforting your child when their feelings have been hurt, especially when they were hurt by people they love. It’s a unique kind of tenderness fused with white-hot rage tempered by the knowledge that your rage will ironically hurt your child even more were you to act upon it. I have spent many a night holding a sobbing son while he wondered why his dad did not show up, so this is not a new situation for me. I already know that to be comforting as a mom, all I have to do is hold my child, stroke their hair and murmur soothing words.
In order to help them heal, however, I need concrete answers to their questions and solutions to their pain… which I cannot realistically give.

This is the problem of peer exclusion.

Believe it or not, peer exclusion is part and parcel of bullying. As defined by psychologists and developmental specialists, peer exclusion (past the age of 5) is both a part of bullying and a form of bullying on its own. Some studies suggest peer exclusion and ridicule (without accompanying physical abuse) is more common among female peer groups. In any case, it is an aspect of bullying that has very little attention. Much like verbal an psychological abuse, however, peer exclusion merits attention right alongside “regular” bullying. The effects of this type of bullying are just as damaging and can have longer-lasting effects.

But how do we tackle this? How do we, as parents, approach something that straddles the line between self-formed identity and subtle cruelty?

The question is how do I give my child the respect as an individual to make her own social choices while instilling in her the values of being open-minded, tolerant and gentle with other people’s feelings? How do I teach her “include others” while teaching her “don’t be an emotional doormat”? While I want her to be loving and accepting of everyone, I don’t want her thinking that she is wrong to have preferences. I want her to see the shining light of humanity within each person while understanding that not everyone is a good person. I want her to learn love and tolerance and forgiveness, but I don’t want her thinking its her obligation to tolerate all behavior or forgive all trespassers. Just how do we define “accepting” anyway? Where do we draw the line at “other people making choices” and “other people being mean”?

In the most recent example of my child being excluded, I sat with her for a while, soothing her sobs until we could talk. She sat up and I said “maybe you need to find someone else to play with. If people aren’t letting you have your special day, then let them go”
I could tell this idea pained her: she wanted to enjoy everyone at her party, even if they refused to enjoy her. These were her friends- kids she’d grown up knowing. Some of them she’d known in the crib. These were people she had dubbed her favorites; its why they’d been invited to the party to begin with. But what I couldn’t make her see was that sometimes friendships form between your friends that you are not a part of and that soemtimes means you get left out. True, good friends will be happy to let you back in, find ways to include you, but sometimes kids just don’t want to do that… or they don’t care.

She went off to play with someone else… a relatively new friend and we continued with the party.

…until the next episode happened. It just so happened I was there for it and I was able to intervene in a way that made the whole situation very clear. I told the repeat offenders that they were guests in our house and they were there because Lil Miss wanted to spend time with them and that if they were not going to include her in playing with her toys that she got for her birthday, I’d be happy to call their parents and have them taken home. The kids in question looked at me completely stunned. One of them tried to explain why they needed to exclude her and I interrupted with no uncertainty. “I don’t care what your issue is with her, you are NOT going to take her toys, push her out of her room and not let her play. Make your choice” Suddenly all kids involved decided that perhaps playing with her was not such a bad thing after all. Ten minutes later they were all having a great time. Mind you, these are kids who, when playing with Lil Miss all alone have absolutely no problem playing with her and often ask for her company. This is how I know this isn’t just making social choices. This is about deliberate exclusion.

Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened to Lil Miss. And though similar situations have arisen at school, her teacher has assured me that she has intervened whenever possible – because its already well known that Lil Miss is easily upset by being excluded. Which makes her a prime target for bullying by peer exclusion. So this isn’t just something I talk about because I think “those uncouth kids…” this is a real problem that could dog her throughout childhood and beyond. This is an issue of self-esteem and fear of rejection. But its not something I will sit by and blame my daughter for. Yes, she needs to learn how to stand up for herself in a reasonable manner that shows she will not be manipulated. But its the other kids who are either unwittingly or cruelly choosing to exploit the biggest emotional pitfall she has right now and I won’t stand by and make her think its all on her to fix that problem. I’m not going to turn my head and make her believe that she’s overreacting to a make-believe problem. I’m not going to gas-light my own child just because other kids are being mean but not using actual violence. I’m going to speak up for her whenever I can and teach her to speak up too. Hopefully through our unified efforts, she will be ready by high school to shrug off the deliberate efforts to provoke and hurt her. Because I can see that coming a mile away. Conversely, its always possible that she may decide to go on the offensive and do the same to others to prevent it happening to her. I hope our talking and modeling together she will not go that route either. I hope I can raise her to understand the difference between being careless with someone’s feelings and being cruel.

I hope I raise her to understand how important it is to speak up, whether its for herself or for someone else.

I guess I did good

Second son walks into kitchen, looks at food on stovetop curiously.

“Try it, its real good” I say.

He raises his eyebrows and says “really?”

“sure. It’s cheesy chicken stuff. with chips”

Second Son takes a chip and dips it into the mix saying “Its like nachos with chicken?”

“yes,” I say, “but in a dip?”

Second Son pops it into his mouth. Eyebrows start going up and down as he chomps. Face contorts into frown.

“They are a little spicy” I say, knowing he does not like spicy food usually.

“It IS a little spicy” he says, still making weird faces with his eyebrows going up and down. At one point I giggle because I’ve never seen him change faces so often especially while eating. I half-expect him to spit it out and run for the milk. Its not THAT spicy but he can be “sensitive”

“uh, sorry… are you alright? I know its spicy, do you need some milk?”

“No,” he says, eyebrows moving in time with is jaw.

“well, I like it. I think its not bad…”

“Its DELICIOUS” he says with absolute finality. Then pops another into his mouth.

Well then.

A Special Journey

I want you to look at something for a minute. Not a long time, just a minute or two then come back here.  Pictures of people

This is a special place. When I say “special” I mean that in many ways. It’s a summer camp for “special” people AKA People with Special Needs most commonly the Developmentally Disabled.  Not children, though it may look like some are children, this camp is actually for people who have “aged” out of the usual summer camp programs offered in their area. These are all actually technically and legally adults.

Look at those faces. Some of them are laughing and happy, aren’t they? But some of them don’t look like that… they look slack, unaware or unimpressed. Some even look unhappy. But the people with them, doing activities right next to them are happy, smiling even so. In some ways, looking at those pictures is disturbing to people because they are incongruent, the pieces don’t add up to a familiar whole and that tends to make human beings uncomfortable. Its okay if those pictures make you uncomfortable. Its even okay if those kinds of people make you uncomfortable. Let’s not worry about that right now. Just listen to me for a little while.

Those people, those adults are “special” as I’ve said. They aren’t cute little children and they aren’t people with clearly defined issues that you can spot right away and know how to handle. Many of them have multiple disabilities. Many of them have physical as well as developmental and intellectual disabilities. Of course everyone knows that this does not make them any less human beings. Everyone knows that people like this deserve to have a decent life with as much help as we can give them. Everyone knows that people like this can be joyful, happy, kind and curious.

What many people do not realize is that people like this can also be scared, angry, anxious and sad. They can also feel sexual, compassionate, depressed and rageful. They are not as limited as their faces make them out to be. They are, in fact, adults in more ways than you can see, even if some of them are “stunted” or “slow” or have lagged behind. Even the ones who cannot talk, cannot walk, cannot hold your hand – they still grow, change and feel just like everyone else. This is something that many people do not realize as well: those “special” children that you see on TV or commercials or even in the park do not stop growing.  Yes, all those cute-as-a-button kids you see and feel moved by continue to grow even after you stop seeing them on TV an commercials and the park. They turn into adults.

Look at them again. Maybe you can see more expression than you saw the first time. Perhaps when you look again, you can see beyond some of the frowns, the grimaces, the slack-jaws and the inattentiveness. Can you see the rest of their expression? Can you see how their faces change ever so slightly? or maybe their body language shifts? No? It’s alright if you still don’t see it. Trust me…

Those people are spending three days and nights at a summer camp especially created for them. There is a volunteer for every single camper. There are supervisors for the volunteers. There are nurses and a clinic. There are therapists and guides and sometimes there’s an interpreter too. They all eat in the cafeteria together, they go swimming, fishing, boating and there’s even a miniature train to take them for a ride. Some of them are not able to ride anything so there is a pier with benches bolted down so they can sit on the lake still and feel the gentle waves moving beneath them without fear. Some of them cannot swim so there are special floats they can lie in that allow them to sit partially up but stay strapped to their volunteer. There’s so many things to do…. activites too – some go on horseback rides with horses specially trained to be gentle and careful and patient. Some go on nature trails that are paved wide enough for a wheelchair. So many things and yet even if they stay in the pavillion they can listen to music, dance, shoot a ball at a hoop or do crafts. Each night is a group activity: karaoke, water fight, sing-along…

This camp is rightly named: Camp Dream.

Look at them one last time for me please. Look at the volunteers with each person. See how happy they are? Sometimes it seems like only the volunteer is happy. But that’s just the camera lying.

You see, each camper has their own assigned volunteer. Many times volunteers return again and again. So they get to know the campers (even though it is mandated that they change campers every time) and the campers get to know them. They know about pushing a wheelchair, carrying someone with dystrophy, holding someone with palsy and guiding someone who can’t see. More than anything else they learn, they learn how to help each camper find what they enjoy. They learn how to help each camper find their own smile. And the volunteers smile so wide even when the camper isn’t smiling because they know, that camper IS smiling.

Everything about this place is so special. They take people who are too old to go to public program campes, the people who aren’t “cute” anymore and they let those adults enjoy their childhood a little bit longer. With something everyone needs sometimes: absolutely devoted individual care and love.

These Special Adults are moving into the adult world. Some of them will stay with their caretakers for the rest of their lives. Some will end up in hospice care. Some will end up in specialized homes and programs specifically for their particular issues. Some will get small jobs and live in assisted homes with friends. Some won’t make it to later adulthood. All of them are expected in some degree or another, to stop being children. Even though in many ways they are NOT children, they still respond like anyone would to child-like delights of play, outdoors and exploring,

And this place does not turn anyone away for lack of funds. They find sponsors. Most of those sponsors will remain anonymous. Some will get a small mention in literature. But its not a commercial effort of any kind. This camp is really all about giving.

Look at those people. You may still feel uncomfortable, that’s okay. They are strangers and they don’t trip your social meter the way you are used to. But I know should you ever meet one, you will at least give them the basic courtesy, respect and dignity you would give any other adult human being. If you don’t know how to adjust your behavior with someone like this, you can ask. Ask whoever they are with, ask someone you know, ask the person themselves. You might end up spending more time with that person than you had imagined you could. You might discover your discomfort melts away into a special kind of wonder, joy and giving.

You might be surprised to find out that maybe you can smile that same smile the volunteers have discovered.

“chaiyya chaiyya”



“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

Thump, thump, foot stamp with clear rhythm of the open train they ride

beautiful man and sensual woman twist and turn around each other with smiles that match the pastoral landscape surrounding them

more men dance beneath them, turning, bending, clapping with bright clothing,

swinging dark hair so far as to lose their head-coverings

“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

and the train continues through a landscape of breathtaking beauty

beauty matched by the lone woman thrusting her hips

instinctual, not sexual

enticing, not arousing

the man smiles, snapping his neck in time with her torso

“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

Thump, thump, a solid march that does not climb nor descend, but steadily moves forth

as the train rounds a bend, displaying the dancers almost as parts of a machine

machinations of joy and celebration

the singing not matching the actors but somehow enhanced by the incongruity

finding the video and clicking on it to watch for the first time

“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

heartbeat matching the dhol thumping pounding like feet stamping in unison

sweat beading on my face, breath shallow and short in anticipation,

lean forward, not enough screen for my eyes to drink in the event

thoughts cascade

how can they do that? how can so many strangers fit on that platform without falling? dancing waving their turbans, banging their heads, twitching in time,

footsteps pounding still,

Thump thump

words I don’t know, can’t know, but familiar from other songs

man’s voice drops down, conspiratorial whisper, speaking of wearing his love like a charm, a way to keep her heart with him at all times

he kisses his own hands and touches his cheeks in reverence for the love so spiritual for him

head bowed, eyes closed the music seems to pause even as

Thump thump, footsteps marching still

Thump thump

song swells, man bursts with his proclamation of devotion, strange to this American as his climactic moment is singing about friendship, not lust

arms thrust to the sky, train swiftly moving still all around him lift their arms in agreement

A song, a video, a movie, a dance…. all this is playing out before me on Youtube. This piece, clip, part, excerpt plays and the past unfolds…

being pregnant and chair-bound, watching videos for new music,

stunned, elated, tears of joy

Holding onto my chair, trying to dance in my ninth month because the rhythm will not be denied


suddenly my boys, teenagers all, are with me, writhing and hopping in their gangly gawky way

but elation from me becomes frenetic haste in them

we jump in unison

Thump thump bare feet stamp a beat that threatens our poor carpeted floor

Thump thump

all together, so rare for us, nearly desperate to push the feelings out of our bodies and into our feet

“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

words are mouthed with the notes even though we know nothing of the language

English, for my boys, is no less mysterious, syllables to trip over in attempts to reach out to other humans

music sounds beckon like a crooking finger in front of a revolving door

THUMP THUMP heart slamming along until there is no discernment of time, of bodies, of separation

together all four of us jerk, twist, nod and shake out all the connection we cannot put to words in our quiet moments of mundane life

THUMP THUMP is the chant of our feet as video plays forgotten

nothing but the music, the unknown syllables turned to one more instrument to flick our attention to

man and woman, voices tease each other, nearly touching in their words and tune, wrapping around each other like caduceus – separate but climbing upwards, ever upwards

break in the song twinkles with promise, the beat sits behind different movements

unevenly other sounds move forward, retreat,

man’s voice breaks in like peeking through curtains

surprise again as woman’s voice answers the man once, only once and together they continue their spiral towards climax

But we can’t stop now, our bodies are not done,

I click “repeat” before anyone can move

and  the keening of the start soothes our firey nerves, stopped too soon

introduction done, we resume our consensual march

Thump thump, family soldiers we are, building an intimacy so elusive there is no name for it now

“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

Then time resets in my mind and I fall into another memory

sitting in my armchair, nursing my newborn,

exhausted confused from the sadness which threatens happiness and is answered only with silence

finding the song and playing it again, and again, private, headphones, only for me

so that I might not see my husband grind his teeth once the music begins

moments of stolen release, leaning back with my babe sleeping soundly on my breast,

lost in the voices and beat that create a space familiar and sweet

I crawl into that dark corner and let the waves flow over me, imagining the dance I’ve seen so many times

careful not to move, wake the babe and no song in the universe will bring back that gentle moment

yet still my muscle strain, begging to be given permission to fulfil the promise of the song

Thump thump, swaying so slightly, still in heartbeat time like so many playings before

“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

yet another time, baby gone, no one around today, given an afternoon to be free in my house

with almost guilt the video beckons me

new speakers cry for their true purpose

click “repeat” and wheel the knob all the way up

THUMP THUMP feet, MY feet this time, cannot slam the wood floor hard enough now,

head jerks hard enough to cause pain for later but now,


“jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya, jala chaiyya chaiyya chaiyya”

“Walk in the shadow of love, the shadow of love”

THUMP THUMP body takes life from the song and tosses it back from every limb a piece at a time

with no one to see, no one to know, the dance is mine all mine

the energy coursing through

so powerful it surprises, almost frightens

but no time, no time to think

move, move, MOVE, THUMP THUMP, throw every part away, snap every part back, jump jump, thump thump, flick eyes, whip hair, snap arms, crack knees

there cannot be enough force to let the song come out

until finally

four plays later

the body concedes defeat

and exhausted I sit again in the chair

the same chair I first watched the video

the same chair I used to support myself while pregnant and wanting to move in time

the same chair I sat in to nurse my new baby

the same chair I sat in to watch my boys perform chores when I could not walk

it holds me again, connected to that song, that video, that dance

silly really

So now, so much farther along

click “replay”

feel the same push, the same forceful jerk, the same desperate need to throw the music out of my body

but I have the wrong chair

and there are no gawky lanky boys frantically dancing beside me

no newborn at my breast while I sway ever so slightly

Thump thump

it sounds almost hollow

and tears no longer of joy

but loss

this song is no longer ours

the song is just a memory

always,  I can hold it,  shine it, smile at it, with tears so fresh yet so old

Someday, this song will play for me when I am ready for my last dance

Thump thump,