Monday, December 31, 2012

Baby Mommas To Spare—Reality Television Takes Another Nosedive


Well, I do believe I have seen and heard it all. I just read on Clutch Magazine about a new show the Oxygen network plans on releasing in the spring called All My Babies’ Mommas

The show is about—you guessed it—a man and all his “baby mommas.” According to the article, thirty-one year-old Shawty Lo has eleven children by ten different women, as well as a new nineteen year-old girlfriend, and they'll be on display on a television near you soon.

Tami Winfrey Harris, author of the article, “Black America is not Shawty Lo,” says that some black Americans have reacted to the news about the show with “black shame,” and she urges her readers to not “accept the stigmas that racism foists upon us.” In my case, girlfriend need not have worried, as doing so was the furthest thing from my mind.

It’s not that I’m insensitive to racial stereotypes. Nothing gets my goat more than the “angry black woman” stereotype, and if you find that to be ironic, so be it. But that stereotype, in my opinion, has one purpose and one purpose only—to make black women shut up, and I take issue with that. 

So when I read that Michelle Obama or Susan Rice or Rhonda Lee are “angry women,” okay, then I’m ready to react. As for Shawty Lo? Whatever. If he and his past girlfriends want to go on national television and tell their story, God love ‘em. I hope they get paid all the money they could ever need to support those eleven children.



While All My Babies’ Mommas might be a new-er low in “reality-based” television, we’ve been seeing this junk for years on Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and so on, and I think most people realize these segments are designed to be salacious and outrageous and kind of trashy and as a result just don’t take them that seriously. 

As for those who are determined to take them seriously—proof that all black folk are “ghetto” and “no good,” well, I don’t think there’s much I can do about that—nor do I feel like trying.

To be sure, my lackadaisical attitude is not shared by all. Harris did not offer her advice in a vacuum. A commenter named Tay on Shadow and Act wrote, “This IS an un-acceptable embarrassment to the black community, not to mention for women in general.” 

Aamu_Grad wrote, “Please boycott this show!!! Every time we take 1 step forward, we take 2 steps back… Why don't these stations cast other races in trashy stereotypical shows???” 

Dunno, but if there’s shame to be had in this, I ain’t taking it on. Shawty Lo has his story, and I’ve got mine. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

When Your Walk Doesn't Match Your Talk


Merriam-Webster defines "dissonance" as “lack of agreement; espe-cially: inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one's actions and one's beliefs.” 

Dissonance, people.
I’ve been intrigued with the notion of dissonance for a long time, especially in the workplace, where the level of dissonance can be so high as to be almost palpable. Here’s an example of what I mean.

I know of a company that requires all its new hires to sign an agreement not to moonlight. Now, I think there are good reasons a company might not want its employees to moonlight. And, if the company is a service firm, and there is potential for its employees to steal the company’s clients, then I certainly understand an employer being concerned enough to mandate that all offers of employment be conditioned on the individual signing a non-compete agreement, provided the agreement is not overly broad and won’t prevent the individual from making a living should the relationship end. But I was struck by the reasoning behind this particular “no-moonlighting” mandate—a fear that the employees, all experts in their field, might end up spending too much time on their own interests and neglect their employer’s. It sounds reasonable, but it isn’t, because basically the employer is saying, “While at the same time I’m hiring you for your professionalism, maturity, and expertise, I don’t really trust you to manage your time.” Dissonance. The employer also professed to want its employees to have an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Come again? Dissonance.

But what about when dissonance occurs on a more personal level? Let me see if I can’t explain.

Have you ever struggled in a job or in a relationship because how you viewed yourself, that is, what you believed about you and the world, had come smack up against how you were behaving at that job or in that relationship? I have. You know who you are or at the very least who you want to be and that work environment, that friend, or that significant other is a hindrance to your realizing that ideal. I’m not saying that we should blame others when this occurs, because we’ve got to “do the work” (to quote my colleague and friend Helen Richardson) to figure out why we’re feeling so jumbled up and confused or, to put it another way, to figure out what’s creating these feelings of dissonance. And, once we do figure it out (and it’s okay if we need help), then we’ve got some action to take. Sometimes that action involves distancing ourselves from that job, that friend, or that significant other.

As I see it, the opposite of dissonance is contentment, or that feeling of peace (personally I covet the kind that “passes all understanding” Philippians 4:7) where you just know that you are doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, even if (and this is important) people all around you are encouraging you to do the opposite.

As the new year approaches, my wish is that your struggles with dissonance lead to greater contentment that you could have ever dreamed.

(I feel like I should say “Amen, “ here. Would that be over the top? Oh, forget it! Amen—and Happy New Year!)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Highest-Paid Couples in 2012


I just finished watching a video about the five highest-paid couples in 2012, and I don’t know why I put myself through that.

As a normal person (and by “normal” I mean a non-worldwide celebrity type) I know I can’t compare myself to these people, but of course I did, and now I’m rather depressed. This depression will pass, because I already knew that some celebrities are worth millions, so in that sense I didn’t learn anything from the video. Nonetheless, for a moment, I’m going to contemplate just how many millions these particular celebrities are said to have, and I’m going to be depressed, because I don’t have these millions, nor even a single million, and apparently there’s all this money out there in the world, and I can’t seem to get my hands on any, and it’s just depressing. 


By the way, here are the couples:

#5.       Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, $40 million
#4.       Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, $45 million
#3.       David and Victoria Beckham, $46 million
#2.       Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, $72 million
#1.       Beyonce and Jay-Z, $78 million

Stories like this really bring home to me the value of time and the use of time, because no matter who you are, you only get twenty four hours in a day, and somehow, these celebrities have managed to turn their eight thousand seven-hundred sixty hours into millions, while the rest of us… not so much.

Stories like this also bring home to me the notion of God’s grace, because honestly, what could anyone ever really do to earn all that money? Yes, the people on the list are talented. Yes, they’re driven. Yes, they’re disciplined. Yes, they work hard. But the same could be said of tons of other people, and they ain’t making that kind of money. So that gets me thinking about luck, and help, and being in the right place at the right time, and how talents are God-given and nobody earns them. And then I think, “Oh well, that’s their lot. God has different plans for me.” And then I’m not depressed anymore. Sort of.

Lastly, stories like this bring home to me our society’s obsession with celebrity, because why in the hell should I care how much money David and Victoria Beckham earned this year? But apparently, somebody thought I would care, and he or she produced this story, and then I actually did click that link, so there you go. 

Well, I’m going to bed soon, and I’ll no doubt dream about finding a big bag of money—only to wake up and discover, nope, I’m still poor. But it’s okay. God has different plans for me. Obviously.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Five Songs I’m (Sort of) Ashamed To Have on My iPod


I’m not sure what it is about certain music that makes me feel that I must be a bad person (or one with extraordinary bad taste) to like it. Maybe it’s syrupy, cheesy, “manufactured” (i.e., sung by a band created by a music label), kind of naughty, or considered “too young” for a woman of my … ahem … maturity.

But, like it I do. Here are my top five “I-really-shouldn’t-be-listening-to-this-let-alone-singing-along-with-it” songs on my iPod:

 “Timeless,” by Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson. Come on, who isn’t a sucker for a ballad? I certainly am. “Timeless” is from the movie From Justin to Kelly, which was truly abysmal. I mean, it sucked. Most of the music sucked too, but not “Timeless!” This is Kelly before she got all “I’m a rocker chick, and I will not sing any more of this sappy crap, so take that Mr. Record Label!” I think she sounds gorgeous, and while I do like “Miss Independent” and “Stronger,” I wish Kelly would consider throwing in a corny ballad on her albums every now and again. Like “Timeless.”

 “Rock Your Body,” by Justin Timberlake. I’m sorry, I can’t listen to this song without moving and grooving—even while my kids are saying “Mom, please stop.” I’d be embarrassed to sing some of the song’s lyrics out loud, but that’s not going to keep me from jamming to the beat!

“Everything I Miss at Home,” by Cherrelle with Alexander O’Neal. Am I wrong, or are they singing about having an adulterous relationship? That’s unfortunate. As far as I’m concerned this is an R&B eighties classic, only to be outdone by Pebbles’ “Mercedes Boy.” Good stuff!

I Wanna Be Free,” by Eden’s Crush. Remember Eden’s Crush? The group formed on the television show “Popstars?” With Nicole Scherzinger? I watched every episode. Look, the album went Gold, so I know I’m not the only chump who listened to this stuff. Stop fronting, people!

“Bootylicious,” by Destiny’s Child. Actually, I’m not sure how this got on my iPod.
It sneaked in with “Independent Women Part I” from the Survivor album. “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.” Yeah … during the next iPod audit this one’ll probably go. You gotta’ draw the line somewhere.

Jam on, y'all!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review: Django Unchained


I saw Django Unchained last night, and I’m not sure what to make of it. If someone were to ask me “What is the movie about?” I’d say it’s a story about a man going to great lengths to rescue the love of his life, but to be honest I wasn’t really feeling it. I don’t know if it’s because we don’t see Jamie Foxx (Django) and Kerry Washington (Hildy) interact much on screen or if the chemistry just wasn’t there, but I came away from the movie believing that Django liked kicking butt, period. Maybe it’s just me.

On the plus side, the movie is superbly acted by the entire cast, which includes (in addition to Foxx and Washington) Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Schultz), Don Johnson (Big Daddy), Leonardo DiCaprio (Calvin Candie), and Samuel L. Jackson (Stephen). The storyline is clear and lacks convolution (a real plus in my book), the script is clever and quite funny, and the characters are interesting and evoke empathy—especially Django and Dr. Schultz.

But the film is violent and disturbing. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino proved that he is the king of the blood spurt—and depictions of exploding heads seem to delight him in particular. Django contained many of those. I closed my eyes (and once even had to plug my ears) during several scenes, and I still saw and heard plenty. And it’s not just the bad guys getting blown to bits. It’s slaves being whipped and torn apart by dogs and forced to participate in hand-to-hand, bone-crunching combat. It’s gruesome, and there’s nothing remotely entertaining about it.

And then there’s the heavy, heavy use of the n-word, which I swear Tarantino just likes. Okay, he gets some leeway for a story set in the South a couple of years before the Civil War, but don’t think I’ve forgotten that scene in Pulp Fiction where Jimmie (played by Tarantino), tells Samuel Jackson’s character that he’s not in the business of storing dead n’s. While Tarantino finds ways to use the n-word in unexpected, comical, and irreverent ways, I can’t help wondering if the joke’s really on us.

Ultimately, the movie is a study in too-heavy contrasts, and when it’s over, I don’t know what to feel. Celebration seems wrong. We’ve seen too much carnage, and slavery was an evil institution that degraded slaves and masters. The villainous characters are disgusting, but they’ve been defiled by their way of life—we know it even if they don’t. I just couldn’t find satisfaction in their demise. Sure, parts of the movie were laugh-out-loud funny—Tarantino is a funny guy. But then are those moments that make you cringe, and since it’s clear that the movie is not meant to be a serious treatise of slavery, what are we supposed to do with those? I’m not sure a filmmaker can have it all ways.

When the movie ends, and (spoiler alert) we see Django get his girl, a few people clapped, but when no one else joined in they quickly quieted. It’s not that we’re unhappy for Django, it’s just that the entire situation is a jacked-up mess—and that’s no reason to celebrate. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snippets from the Dinner Table


I’d written in an earlier post about my talkative family, and this Christmas Eve was no exception. To quote my dad we are a “lively bunch." Among other things, we talked about Sandy Hook, “irresistible” dental assistants, cheating spouses, and male pastors who like women just a little too much.

I’d brought up the topic of Sandy Hook because my aunt is a psychiatric nurse, and her daughter, my cousin Mia (that’s Dr. Mia to you), is a therapist. I wanted to know what part, if any, they believed the mental health industry played in the tragedy. Both were very clear in their opinions that Adam Lanza’s troubles were not the result of a failure within the system. “It’s not like he told a mental health worker what he was planning to do,” my aunt said, “He wasn’t in treatment.” She paused. “You know, I’m tired of … people just don’t understand how complicated this is. Some things can’t be prevented.” She and my cousin then expressed their dissatisfaction about what they see as the stigmatization of the mentally ill. “Most mentally ill patients are not violent,” my aunt said, and my cousin agreed. Demonizing the mentally ill is not a solution to the problem of mass shootings, they said. Better gun control might be a start, however.

We talked about that some more, and then Mia wanted to know what we thought about the dentist who fired his assistant because he found her to be “irresistible.” Mia said that the dentist had gone to his pastor, who’d recommended the assistant be fired. Being a married woman, I said that I was sorry for the assistant, but if the dentist were my husband that assistant would have to go. Whoa! My aunt and brother cried. How is that fair? The dentist needs to handle his issues. That’s all fine and good, I said, but in the meantime, the assistant needs to go. I said “Doesn’t the bible say we should flee temptation?” Quick as a flash my brother said “What scripture is that?” Dang! “I hate talking to you,” I told him. He’s a student in seminary school. I can’t make any comments about scripture without him challenging me. Even if I do remember the chapter and verse (which I usually don’t), he’ll tell me I’ve interpreted it wrong. In this case, he said “Nah, the scriptures don’t say that.” What! (Okay, it says “flee immorality” 1 Corinthians 6:18—close enough.) Mia’s sister, Brandi agreed with me, then said “Mia, I bet you’re leaving something out. Mia is always leaving stuff out of stories.” Yes, Mia, you did leave something out—like the “mundane work texts” in which the dentist asked his assistant “how often she experienced an orgasm.” Hmmm… Unfortunately, the law can’t always protect the clueless. While I stand by my opinion that the dentist, jerk that he is, was within his rights to fire the assistant, after reading more of the story it’s too bad she didn’t sue him earlier for harassment. Considering some of the comments her boss made (for example, telling her that “if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing”—who the heck says stuff like that? And exactly how did that dentist avoid getting his butt kicked by his assistant’s husband?) she might have had a case.

The conversation then moved to cheating spouses, what counts as cheating (it’s not just sex, people), flirty pastors (I’m not sure how that started), single chastity, and the difficulty black women—especially black, Christian women—have finding suitable mates.

Eventually it was time to say our goodbyes, with hugs and kisses all around. Until the next time, family! I’m sure they’ll be plenty of happenings to talk about between now and then!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Prettier


I was listening to Jill Scott’s “I’m Prettier” and thinking about how much I appreciate the lyrics. The song is about shaking off burdens—real and imagined—by bringing them to God so that he can do his thing.

It’s just my nature to try and solve problems, whether they’re mine or someone else’s. That aspect of my personality is also why I’m dependable and stable and responsible—but it also explains why I can sometimes be rigid and judgmental and a total worrywart. Scott apparently understands. She sings  “Look at me/Stressing and things/Worrying about what life cannot fix/Allowing my troubles to take over/Getting my own needle and thread/Forcing the stitch/But it don’t make my dress no prettier/I just seem to make things more confused/I just have to stop and go to the maker/And worry about nothing/Not even my shoes/I’m so much prettier/ When I let it go/Let it go …”

I’ve learned the hard way (and believe me it was hard) that trying to help someone who does not want to be helped (no matter how tricked up he is) is a particularly bad idea. But, we natural problem solvers have to get our heads banged around a few times to get that message.

With the new year approaching, my wish is that all the world’s “fixers” will practice “letting go and letting God,” minding our own business, and allowing ourselves to step aside so that all the other grownups can handle their own situations. We’ll be so much prettier for it!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Raising Turkeys

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Sorry, no can do.
Today we began the huge task of loading and arranging our newly built floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Who’d have thought this would be such a controversial task? Christian wanted to help, but his idea was to place the books on the shelves willy nilly and then rearrange everything later. No way, I said, if we’re doing this we’re doing it right from the start. He got offended and left.

Later he came back, this time with Adam in tow. We agreed to place the books in sections—Interior Design, Sociology, Self-Help, Religious, Nature, Reference, and so on. So far so good. Then the disagreements started again, because Adam and I favored only placing the books we knew we loved and would read, but Christian wanted to keep everything, just in case. (Have I mentioned that Christian has hoarding tendencies, like his Dad?) We have a lot of shelves, so Adam and I started giving in, what the heck, but Adam drew the line at Raising Your Own Turkeys. “Why do we need this, Christian, huh? In case a turkey farmer drops by?! No, we’re not keeping this!” And he threw the book in the bin slated for Goodwill.

Things moved along for a while, then all heck broke lose over where to put the bible. Should it go on Adam’s “thinking man’s shelf,” the one centered by a wooden sculpture of a sitting man deep in thought, legs crossed, or with the other religious books? Christian insisted the bible should not have to keep company with A Clockwork Orange; Adam was just as insistent that the only proper place for the good book was on that shelf, along with all the other texts that any “thinking man” would choose if he knew he’d soon be stranded on an island. I thought they might come to fisticuffs, each believed in his own ideology so strongly. Finally, Christian grabbed the bible (from his personal collection) and said we could do whatever we wanted. I promptly grabbed my bible, the King James Version my mother bought for me many moons ago, and placed it in the empty spot. I don’t actually read this bible, because I don’t like the KJV, so its placement on the shelf was strictly for show. I asked Christian what he thought about that, but he declined to answer.

A couple of hours later, we stood back and declared our efforts good. I’m proud of my boys. It’s true that this family will argue about anything, but then again, books should stir controversy, no?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Litany


We’re heading into the Christmas home stretch, and I’m beat. This is the part (it comes every year), when I’m beginning to think that perhaps I just won’t be able to do it. “It” being the shopping, cooking, cleaning, and wrapping that stretches ahead. I hear a Christmas song and think “Boy, how would it feel to have all these preparations complete and nothing left for me to do but eat home-baked cookies by our non-existent fireplace while sitting back and enjoying the music?” (Darn good, that’s how it would feel.) Then I wonder, “How did I get here again? How is it that Christmas is only four days away, and I still have all this crap to do? Can I get a do over?” Then I say to myself, “No, no do over. Let’s just get this madness over and finished.” And back and forth while I stoically wrap gifts, stuff the turkey, hand over my debit card for those last-minute items, clean the toilet, whatever.

Every year.

Help.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gratitude



I’m in a grateful mood today. Having “an attitude of gratitude” doesn’t happen as often as it should, so I wanted to document it while it lasts.

I’ve met a few wildly cheerful people in my lifetime, and I suppose it must be good to be them. But, I’m a rather serious person, and generally my mood is more sedate. However, sometimes I'm so powerfully reminded of all the good things in my life that I can’t help feeling joyful—no matter how hard I try! Today, is one of those days, and I feel like sharing. Therefore, let the record show that on this day, December 20, 2012, I am grateful for—

Wise friends, kinds words, sunshine, tight hugs from small children, savory goodies, the marvel that occurs when strangers find common ground, problems solved, problems averted, a spirit of cooperation, the beauty all around, public transportation, Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix (thanks Julie!), gifted songwriters and poets, bodies that heal, big ideas, small ideas, health and strength, good coffee, quiet, the love of family, and all the ways I’ve seen and felt God move.

Thank you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Many Lies Have You Told Today?


In Bird by Bird (one of my Best Reads in 2012), Anne Lamott talks about how writers develop characters. She says “a writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way… You make up your characters … and you need to feel committed to telling the exact truth about them, even though you are making them up. I suppose the basic moral reason for doing this is the Golden Rule. I don’t want to be lied to; I want you to tell me the truth, and I will try and tell it to you.”


Whoa! Hold on a minute! Lamott wants the truth, and she’ll “try” and give it in return. Hmmm…

I don’t think Lamott is being sly. In fact, she sounds very sincere. So what gives here? Is the truth that ambiguous that the best we can do is “try” and tell it? And if it is, then how can we expect to be told the truth? Won’t everyone else face the same challenges we do?

Thinking along these lines reminded me of a book review I'd read for The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life, by Ralph Keyes. In this book, Keyes argues that “lying has [now] become as common as scratching itches.” 

“Okay, slow down,” you say. “Lamott wasn’t talking about lying. She was simply allowing for the fact that she might not tell the whole truth.” 

Ah grasshopper ... you are proving Keyes’ point! He writes, “Post-truthfulness exists in an ethical twilight zone. It allows us to dissemble without considering ourselves dishonest.” Because the word "lie" is so harsh and judgmental, Keyes says, we don’t tell lies anymore. Instead we “misspeak,” “exaggerate,” “exercise poor judgment,” and “make mistakes.” We don’t “deceive” we “spin.”

Society has long learned to accept, even expect, lies from corporate representatives, politicians, and those making a living in “Hollyweird,” but Keyes’ assertions go well beyond that. When he says “I think it’s fair to say that honesty is on the ropes,” he’s talking about you and me, folks (and presumably him, too).

The consequences of this view of truth are serious, according to Keyes—although I’m not disagreeing. Here’s a quote from his website. “Post-truthfulness builds a fragile social edifice based on wariness. It erodes the foundation of trust that underlies any healthy civilization. When enough of us peddle fantasy as fact, society loses its grounding in reality.  Society would crumble altogether if we assumed others were as likely to dissemble as tell the truth. We are perilously close to that point.” 

This sounds awful. Tomorrow, I'm going to try and get through the entire day without one single "truth shading."  I'll let you know how I make out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the Net

Darn! I was hoping Psy would bring it home!
The folks at PsyBlog have posted “PsyBlog’s 10 Most Popular Psychological Insights From 2012.” These are informative and fun. I encourage you to check them out! For instance, did you know that research suggests that creative types are more likely to be “arrogant, good liars, distrustful, dishonest and maybe just a little crazy” than the general population? (Well, I did, ‘cause I know a lot of these folks, but it’s good to have the research to back up my beliefs.) Also, have you ever worked with an obviously incompetent person who truly thought he was the cat’s pajamas? Read this posting and learn why the incompetent don't know they're incompetent.

A reader of my blog (thank you reader!) sent me a link about meteorologist Rhonda Lee being fired after responding to a viewer’s Facebook comment about Lee’s short afro. The viewer wrote “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv” (sic). After Lee responded to the viewer, she was let go. Her employer, KTBS-TV, stated that Lee violated the company’s written policy regarding how employees should respond to viewer comments and denied she was fired for defending her hairstyle. They say they also dismissed a white male reporter for the same reason, but apparently this guy has nothing to say, ‘cause ain’t nobody writing about him. Lee claims she was never given any policy. Lee filed a discrimination suit against another former employer. Will she do the same to KTBS-TV? We’ll see.

A “secret” girlfriend of Jovan Belcher recently reported that less than two months before Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins and then killed himself, he’d texted that he would shoot Perkins if she didn’t “leave him alone.”

Time magazine released its short list for the "Person of the Year 2012" award. Psy did not make the list.

Finally, Alicia Keys is being sued by a songwriter who claims Keys stole parts of the song “Girl on Fire.” I think Keys is very talented, and I have her early CDs. However, I honestly don’t believe that most of her more recent stuff is that good, yet everyone says it’s great! What gives? Is it mass mind control?

Keep on surfing!

 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eight Shopping Days Till Christmas!


It’s eight days until Christmas, and I’ve still got a bunch of gifts to buy. I don’t particularly like shopping for gifts, because I’m a really lousy gift giver, and I feel bad about that. Someone who enjoys observing others as much as I do really should be able to learn enough to give a good gift once in a while, wouldn’t you think? But no, I give the worst gifts, and I don’t know how this keeps happening. I’ve tried tricks—buying only what I like, buying only the opposite of what I like, even asking the intended receiver outright, and nothing works! It’s sad. My gifts are destined to end up on a shelf, collecting dust, never to be used with the joy I’d intended to bestow on the giftee. There’s always gift cards, of course, but those are a signal to the entire world that I have simply given up, and I don’t want to send that message to the world, even if it’s mostly true. So, I trudge on, like the good little trooper I am, hoping that perhaps this will be the year that I score and give my friends and family stuff they actually want.

Here’s a list of some of the gifts I’ve given that no one really liked.

For Adam, a cashmere sweater. Come on, cashmere! Adam likes luxury, so I decided to splurge for my little clothes horse. Has he ever worn it? Yeah, he wore it that Christmas morning. I haven’t seen that sucker since.

For my sister-in-law (I won’t say which one), big comfy slippers. Did she like them? No, she didn’t. She later gave them to Ed, without batting an eye, with a bunch of her other junk to sell at our yard sale. Really?

For Ed, a tall model skeleton, like those you see in biology class. Ed likes kooky stuff. I thought he’d enjoy moving the arms and legs like a puppeteer and making up voices or whatever, I don’t know. He took one look at the skeleton and said, “What the @#^$*’s this?”

For my Dad, tickets to the Kimmel Center to see The Color Purple. He complained that I shouldn’t have spent so much money. And this wasn’t the “Aw shucks you shouldn’t have” type of complaining, it was the “Young lady stop being a spendthrift” kind of complaining. Sigh. He really enjoyed the show, though.

For my boss, audiotapes of Laura Ingraham’s The Obama Diaries, since he enjoyed criticizing President Obama. He never listened to the tapes. I know because I asked, and he said, “Nah. She’s mean. She doesn’t want to give the guy credit for anything.” Yeah, I knew that, but I didn’t think he knew (or cared). So much for trying to meet people where they are (or where you think they are).

Christian has invited me to go Christmas shopping later this week. Wish me luck!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grief

Soon, many of those affected by the Sandy Hook shootings will be heading back to their workplaces, and I’m going to pray for them, because the workplace does not deal with grief very well. After the initial shock and the memorial services and the funerals, we basically expect people to return to work as they were before the loss, mostly because, I think, we don’t know what to say or do for the grieving person, and hey, life goes on, and there’s always the work.

I’ve been on both sides of this situation, as an employee who lost her mother and as an HR professional responsible for educating folks on the company’s leave polices during their times of need. As a result, I think I understand a little about it.

I remember returning to work after my mother died and honestly not caring that much about Betty Sue’s squabble with Billy Boy or that such and such was mad about her bad performance review. I needed to work through that new-found apathy, and I did, but anyone at this time in my life expecting me to attack workplace conflicts with the same intensity and interest as before my mother passed would have been sorely disappointed. Some might criticize me for this, and they’re entitled to their opinions. But I’m human.

The experience of losing my mother altered my perspective in another way, too. Now when an employee came to me requesting information about family leave, debating how to balance the demands of work with the instinct to go home and be with family I’d say, “Listen, if you think you need to go home, then go home. Your work will be waiting when you get back.” And I’d make extra sure the employee’s manager understood the company’s policies and legal obligations in this case.

HR professionals have some power to create environments in which it’s okay for an employee suffering a loss—such as the losses now being endured by the families of Sandy Hook—to take just a little time to process their new world, the one devoid of their mother, father, child, parent, spouse, or other loved one. In my opinion, women need special permission, because we are told that if emotion affects our work, we are weak and “unprofessional.”

Employer resources are limited, and there is no policy that can heal a broken heart. There is no amount of time an employer can offer after which everything will be alright. But we don’t have to go the opposite extreme either, expecting that with the funerals over, employees can go back to acting like nothing has changed. We can exercise a little wisdom. We can exercise a little kindness. We can be human. It’s fine, really.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dining Room Developments


Some are skeptical, but I'm going to have this baby looking like something in a magazine by Christmas Eve!
Ed and I have officially entered the cussing and fussing phase of our dining room renovation, beginning with me burning my arm on the chandelier while painting the ceiling and ending with Ed having a chisel fall on his head, which apparently hurt and made Ed angry at me, as he claimed it was my fault the chisel was on top of the ladder in the first place.

“Yes, but I didn’t tell you to move the ladder!” I yelled, torn between alarm that Ed’s head could have cracked open (it didn’t) and irritation that he was blaming me for something that happened because he doesn’t listen. “I asked you to move the table so that I could move the ladder! Me move the ladder, not you!”

See, I’d tried to move the table myself and for my trouble got a broken table leg, and I’d called Ed for assistance. Of course I got the old Kunta response, but then he showed up, and you kind of know the rest.

Rubbing the back of his head, Ed looked at the table top piled high with cans of paint, a big bin of books slated for the bookcase, rollers, brushes, compound, plastic gloves, sanding sponges, a radio, and a bunch of other stuff, and disgustingly said “Who the hell tries to move a table with all this junk on it?” I told him, “The table’s on wheels,” to which he snorted and said, “Yes, and they’re two hundred years old.” The table is an antique, but I don’t think it’s that old, but okay I get his point. Still, I say the chisel incident is Ed’s fault. If he’d asked me, I’d have told him not to move the ladder, because a few days earlier, a tub of compound had fallen on my head before colliding with my glasses and knocking them clear off my face, and yes, it hurt. So, I’d already learned my lesson about moving the ladder with things on top of it.

Speaking of the ladder, the eight-foot beauty I’m using belongs to Liz, our carpenter, who lent the ladder to me after taking a look at our rickety, wooden five footer and saying “Uh, Crystal you should be careful on that ladder.” I casually told her “I’ll be fine, I’ve used this ladder all over the house,” but this time I hadn’t considered how high the dining room ceilings are, how short I am, and how unstable the ladder has become over the years. Long story short, while painting the top level of the bookshelf, with the ladder swaying this way and that, I was literally fearing for my life, imagining Ed coming home from work and finding me sprawled on the dining room floor, legs askew and back cracked, barely conscious, kind of like those old people in the Life Alert® commercials. So the next time Liz offered her ladder, I gratefully said, “Yes, Liz, that would be wonderful!”

Do you think this chandelier knows its days are numbered?
As you’ve no doubt figured out, Liz is female, and I can’t believe my good fortune in finding such a talented woman carpenter, and she’s nice too. She has no idea how many projects I’ve got planned for her, but she’ll find out!

Well, we’ve all got to head out to Lowe’s for more primer (am I the only one still suspicious of those combined primer/ paint products?), and it’s close to dinner, so I’d better shower (hey, I’ve been painting all day) so that we can get moving!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayers for Sandy Hook

I’d planned to write a cute piece about Thomas today and was going over it in my head, when my Dad called about the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Suddenly, following through on my original plan seemed frivolous and just plain wrong.

But I will say this about Thomas. Thomas is a student in elementary school, and I can imagine, just a little, how crazed with grief I would be today were Thomas a student at Sandy Hook. As it is, I am heartbroken for these parents and the community at large, and I am angry at the wickedness of this heinous act.

Right now there are more questions than answers, but the shooter has been identified as twenty-year-old Adam Lanza. Lanza committed suicide during the rampage and also is reported to have murdered his mother in her home sometime before the school shooting.

Megyn Kelly, a Fox News reporter, said that understanding this tragedy is “impossible,” and I agree. We will try, because that’s a natural human instinct, but we’ll never understand how anyone could walk into an elementary school and proceed to slaughter innocent children, many as young as six years old. As of this writing, twenty children and six adults are reported dead.

In the next few days, we’re going to be hearing about the state of the shooter’s mental health, his family relationships, and his video game habits. We’re going to hear about a need for more meaningful gun control laws and more effective psychiatric intervention methods. We’ll hear about school security. We’re going to hear all kinds of opinions about everything that is believed to be wrong with our society—a lack of regard for human life, a general lack of civility, a lack of skill in resolving conflict, and a lack of respect for God. We’re going to hear a lot, because we’re all in shock, and we need to make some sense of this horrible crime.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and to the family of Adam Lanza. I have a twenty-year-old son, too. I am crying with all of you, and I hope to God that something positive can be redeemed from this tragedy. Right now, it’s darkness, and it’s devastating.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do You Have a Bad Boss?

Good for you, Santa!
‘Tis the season for Santa to decide who's been naughty and who's been nice. 

Your bad boss has been naughty for sure. 

I could write for days and days about bad bosses, because their effect on the workplace, and in the lives of their subordinates, is substantial. According to the folks at the National Bureau of Economic Research, it takes on average twenty-two (22) months for an employee to “shake off the stress and anxiety a bad boss causes.” Yes, you read that right, almost two years. For the love of … this is a crying shame. 

Do you have a bad boss? Find out using my little diagnostic tool. Over the years, here’s what I’ve learned about the worst of the worst.

Bad bosses ignore their employees. These bosses aren’t necessarily overly critical, but they’re not breaking out the “thanks” either. They basically ignore their staff, providing no direction, no feedback, no mentoring, no coaching, no advocacy, no credit, and no appreciation. Someone with this boss might be tempted to pinch himself to confirm he still exists. 

Bad bosses are self-centered. Self-centered bosses make me think of the Nabiha song, “You.” “It’s all about you,” she sings. Uh huh. The self-centered boss is not concerned with her employees’ motivations, wants, or needs. She doesn’t care about her employees’ time, although you’d think she would, since time is money, but—no. She’ll pop into her assistant’s office five minutes before he was planning to head home, insist that a report be generated “right away,” and then let weeks pass before she ever glances at it, if she glances at it at all. Unfortunately, occurrences like this aren’t occasional, they make up a pattern. “To heck with you,” her actions say, “You’re not important.” What a jerk.

Bad bosses don’t stick up for their staff. Good bosses appreciate their employees’ efforts, talents, and intentions and won’t allow others to blame, berate, humiliate, and otherwise abuse their staff no matter how justified the abuser may think he is.

Bad bosses play favorites. We aren’t all the same, and in the workplace, we won’t all be treated the same. However, good bosses are fair and give credit where credit is due. They don’t dump on productive employees so that the “favorite” can be free to do… whatever the heck he does, and they don’t lavish attention and protection on one employee while completely ignoring the efforts, results, and talents of the others.

Bad bosses yell, curse at, and berate their employees. A bully is a bad boss. I don’t have to say a lot about that, do I?

Bad bosses don’t listen. Bad bosses have terrible listening skills. They don’t pay attention when spoken to, and as a result they can’t remember this, and they can’t remember that. Their employees spend all kinds of time repeating things, finding things their bosses have lost, and rescheduling meetings their bosses have forgotten about. These bosses are the original “absent-minded professors,” except there’s nothing charming or comedic about it, because again, this behavior says “You don’t count,” and the reality is, that stinks.

Here’s hoping that Santa puts a huge lump of coal in all the stockings of all the bad bosses everywhere!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Michigan Unions Lose Right-To-Work Battle


I was listening to talk radio today, when the topic turned to Michigan’s Right-to-Work bill, signed by Governor Rick Snyder this week.

The radio program was “Keeping it Real with the Reverend Al Sharpton” which I’d never listened to before but after doing so for a couple of hours would definitely call more liberal than conservative. (Yeah, I know—you’re thinking “Al Sharpton, Crystal. Of course it’s liberal, duh.” But I like to make my own decisions, okay?)

Reverend Sharpton invited listeners to call and weigh in on Governor Snyder’s decision, and I gotta' say, I was surprised by the passion of the callers. (Yes, even after seeing the news reports.) One gentleman said that he was glad the bill had been signed, because his experience was that unions hadn’t done anything for him—he recalled the days when a person of color wasn’t even allowed to join the unions. Hmmm … interesting. The other callers were overwhelmingly critical of the law. One woman predicted a return to slavery days with the way things are going. Really?

Clearly those who opposed the bill considered it a strike (no pun intended) against unions, and I was puzzled by this, because as I understand it the law prohibits workers from being forced to contribute mandatory dues to labor unions to gain employment and prohibits employers from firing workers if they don't join a union. Those sound like positives to me. If I don’t want to join a union, why should I be forced to join to get a job or pay union fees regardless of membership?

Those critical of the bill might say “It’s all fine and good for you to not want to pay union dues, but you still get the benefit of what unions have done and continue to do to improve the workplace for all, how is that fair?” or “You’re not getting the big picture—without these dues, the unions are in a weaker position to hold employers accountable, and that hurts all workers.” I think I do get that, actually. But I guess what I’m saying is that if unions are all that and a bag of chips then people will be motivated to join and pay dues voluntarily. Mandatory dues shouldn’t be necessary. And if the union leaders have to get out there and convince people of their worth, then so be it. Get to work then.

For the record, I’m not anti-union, although as an HR professional some might expect me to be. I still remember learning about and being horrified by the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in my high school history class, I saw The Great Debaters, and I appreciate the benefits of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), outdated though parts of it may be. I think any working person can value the importance of like-minded and similarly situated persons gathering for their collective good. I would never want to see that right taken away. Never. But, again, I think the exercise of that right should be voluntary, not foisted on workers as though they can’t be trusted to think for themselves. Yet, some people feel so strongly about this bill being more of a union-busting strategy than an attempt to give workers more options that I wonder if I’m missing something. Am I? Please feel free to leave a comment or email me if you think so! I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

O’Reilly Is Mad, and He Ain’t Gonna Take It No More


During yesterday’s segment of The O’Reilly Factor Bill O’Reilly laid down the gauntlet. He’s calling out the “Christmas haters,” the all-purpose haters, and the race baiters. O’Reilly expressed strong concern about what he sees as a dangerous trend of the “secular progressive media”—the propensity to stifle those with differing points of view by calling them names like “homophobe,” “racist,” and so forth. “What ever happened to good old-fashioned, honest debate?” O’Reilly seemed to be asking.

I'd written earlier about how O’Reilly took some heat for his statements about the recent Presidential election and how annoyed he was about that. But that was nothing compared to last night, ‘cause last night O’Reilly got to talking about Jason Whitlock, with whom he is not happy at all.

Remember those comments Whitlock made about the “gun culture” being a factor in the Jovan Belcher Perkins tragedy? Well, those weren’t Whitlock’s last words on the subject. Later, in an interview with Roland Martin, Whitlock stated that "The NRA is the new KKK." Clearly the statement has racial overtones, and O’Reilly wanted to talk to Whitlock about that, so he invited him to the show… and was rejected, big time. Whitlock wrote in his column “It appears I was summoned to testify before Speaker of The Big House Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News entertainer… [but] I’m a grown-ass man and it’s 2012. I don’t have to shuffle off to the Big House when summoned. O’Reilly is not Boehner, Pelosi or Obama. He’s a TV entertainer who has spent the weeks after the election crying about the end of ‘white establishment’ America, the end of the days when an upstanding white man felt entitled to summon whomever he wanted whenever he wanted to the Big House to dance. I don’t dance.” Uh oh. You really have to hear O’Reilly read the statement aloud to appreciate his ire. 

Nope, Whitlock doesn't do this.
O’Reilly denounced Whitlock’s statement as “pure racism, nothing else, with Whitlock implying that I’m some kind of slave overlord.”

O’Reilly went on to call barbs such as this “poisonous stuff” and said that “the Jason Whitlocks” of the world are “liars” who “abuse freedom of speech.” He encouraged Americans to declare that enough is enough.

Whitlock’s statement seemed a bit over the top to me, but then again, I’m not a black man. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that the entire world hates black men, and that must feel pretty crummy. Wanna plan the perfect murder? Tell the authorities two black guys broke into your house. That ought to keep them chasing their tails for a bit. Group of black guys walking down the street? Uh, I think I’ll cross over. Black man in your elevator?—wait! I have a story about that.

A friend of mine, an older white woman who loves to travel and has lived in several states as well as oversees, told me that when she moved to Philadelphia, she was absolutely shocked at some of the openly racist comments she was privy to. She gave me an example. While viewing an expensive condominium she was considering for purchase, my friend was told by the condo representative, after a black man who’d entered an elevator with them had stepped out, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t live here.”

So, I think about stories like these, and I say to myself, if Whitlock’s sense of manhood was insulted by O’Reilly, I’m inclined to give Whitlock a break. I know it’s not fair. I know it’s not right. I know O’Reilly would think my position is bunk, and Whitlock’s comments are nothing more than a liberal tactic to gain control of the debate. He may be right. But the racial divide in this country is getting wider every day, and I can’t tell anymore.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying Here


I just read Employer Explains Why He Won't Hire the Unemployed, which honestly left me dumbfounded. Before I tell you why, let me first thank the author, Claire Gordon, and her interview subject, Alex Comana, who runs The Comana Company, in La Mesa, California. Apparently Mr. Comana was the only business person willing to speak to the writer on this topic, and for that I’m grateful.

But that doesn’t let Mr. Comana off the hook completely—some of his ideas are na├»ve at best. He states that employed candidates “are proven to be valuable” and “will adjust quicker to a new job.” He seems to think that being employed is evidence that an applicant must be a great employee, because she wouldn’t be employed if she were bad at her job, right? Hah! In my twenty-five years in the workplace I’ve learned that nothing could be further from the truth. There are lots of mediocre workers and many flat-out incompetent ones, too. Some are great political animals, others are skilled at flying under the radar, some are skilled at knowing when to do a good job and when they can slack off, others work in organizations with low standards, and still others work for bosses who hate conflict. Shoot, I just rattled those reasons off the top of my head. I bet you know more. But the point is, none of these screams “high-potential employee.”

Mr. Comana states that an employed candidate has fresher job skills. Well, maybe. I’ve known plenty of workers whose skills weren’t current, not necessarily because of any fault of their own, but because their employers had outdated equipment or were wedded to stale processes and procedures. An employee in such a workplace might take the initiative and make sure to keep her skills up to date by exploring and taking advantage of opportunities outside of work, and guess what? She’d do the same even if unemployed—perhaps especially if unemployed.

It seems to me that employers with Mr. Comana’s viewpoint are looking for a hiring shortcut, and there is none. There’s simply no substitute for thorough hiring practices. If an employer wants good workers, he’s going to need to learn how to assess talent, period. He’s going to need to learn how to ask good questions and listen to the answers, do a thorough background and reference check, and perhaps even develop an arsenal of tests to measure technical competency in certain workplace skills, like the ability to perform basic math functions, or write a sentence (or two) devoid of grammatical errors, or think critically. Making assumptions isn’t going to cut it, and I bet a lot of good workers—and the businesses that need them—are losing out as a result.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Boob Tube Nation


She's happy, I'm happy, it's all good.
Christian is trying to convince me that I watch too much television, but he’s fighting a losing battle. Doesn’t he know that it’s a scientific fact that Generation X watches more of the boob tube than any other demographic? Unlimited access to television is practically my birthright, and I take it seriously. I’m the woman who passed on a Corrine Bailey Rae concert to watch a movie on Lifetime.

I’m a big fan of Bailey Rae, and I’d purchased tickets when I learned she’d be coming to Philly. I’d been looking forward to the concert, but on the night of I couldn’t bring myself to get up from the sofa where I’d settled to watch television hours earlier. Suddenly, the thought of standing in a crowded concert hall just didn’t rate. So, about two hours before the show, I gave the tickets to Adam. He accepted the tickets but not before telling me “You’re lame, Mom.”

When Adam came home from the show he said, “No kidding Mom, and I’m not saying this to upset you, but that was one of the best concerts I’ve ever gone to. Corrine was phenomenal.” So then I really did feel lame, and old, and slightly crazy. In a panic, I logged onto the computer, frantically checking Bailey Rae’s concert schedule. After seeing that she’d be in a neighboring state very soon, I purchased another set of tickets. Ed and I ended up renting a car, driving three hours, and spending the night in a hotel, which was a bit over the top considering, but the concert really was phenomenal, and more importantly, this adventure made me feel youthful, carefree, and less of a loser. It didn’t cause me to start watching less television, however.

My mother loved television, too and when my boys were little would regularly express her disapproval that I hadn’t yet subscribed to cable. “Crystal,” she’d say, “This isn’t right. Everybody has cable. My grandsons are missing out.” She felt so strongly about this issue that a few weeks before she passed she made one final pitch, this time accompanied by a check to cover the cable bill for a year. (Of course I never cashed it.)

A mere six years later, however, and we got cable! Adam in particular was flush with the possibilities. Movies! ESPN! The Soccer Channel! I couldn’t watch to watch the home channels (I didn’t know about Lifetime … yet.) One night, I watched six straight hours of Clean House, enthralled at how skillfully the hosts managed to persuade the families to part with their junk. I took mental notes, intending to try these techniques on my husband later.

My point is, Christian doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of getting between me and the television. I appreciate his concern, but it just ain’t gonna happen. Uh huh, no way.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Where’s Your Armor Lady Liberty?

Would somebody throw this gal
a bullet-proof vest or something, please?

It seems that the debate concerning the meaning of “separation of church and state” has reached a whole new level of crazy.

A first grader at West Marion Elementary School in Marion, North Carolina was told to remove the word "God" from a poem she’d written about her grandfathers, who fought in the Vietnam War. The little girl had been chosen to present the poem at a school Veteran’s Day event.

The student wrote in the poem that “He prayed to God for peace, he prayed to God for strength.” But when a parent complained about the inclusion of the word “God,” the student was asked to remove it.

School administrators decided that “allowing the line would constitute an endorsement of ‘one single religion over another.’” Superintendent Gerri Martin told the press that “The discussion [about the poem] occurred between myself, the principal and the assistant principal at West Marion.” Seriously, they discussed the issue? It frightens me to consider that this is the result of a reasoned discussion among intelligent adults. I guess that’s why critical thinking  has become such a hot topic in workforce training.

Exactly how does the mention of “God” rise to the level of preferring one religion over another? Many different major religions believe in the existence of a higher power, collectively referred to as “God.” The poet did not state “He prayed to Allah for peace,” or “He prayed to Jesus for strength,” and even if she had, she’d only have been giving an historical account of what her grandfather did. Is that no longer allowed? Does anyone really think that our forefathers intended that no one should ever utter the word “God,” even in an historical context, in any public setting? Lord have mercy. This is lunacy.

Some have argued that the little girl’s First Amendment rights were violated, while others have said no, the school had every right to ask her to remove the reference if its inclusion proved disruptive. I agree with those who believe that the school acted within its rights. But what disturbs me is that school administrators decided that the objection of a single individual to such a generic reference was indeed actionable. Did this parent represent the PTA or something? Were there threats of pickets and protests and financial support withdrawals? I hope so. I hope there’s more to the story than was reported.

Provided I believed it were possible, I’d have to imagine our forefathers turning over in their graves at the way we’ve twisted their intentions, seemingly for no other purpose than to ensure that a particular brand of nonbeliever never has to be confronted with the notion that some people actually believe God exists and (God forbid!) some even believe and worship. So much for valuing diversity. Where’s your armor, Lady Liberty? It’s time to suit up. You’re under attack, or hadn’t you noticed?


Friday, December 7, 2012

Living Life to the Fullest

Ian always does this to me.

I was flipping television channels, not seeing anything that especially interested me, when I was fortunate enough to catch the second half of Saint Maybe.

Saint Maybe the movie is based on the novel of the same name, written by Anne Tyler. I’d seen the movie before, and I’d read the book twice, so I knew I’d be crying in about a minute.

The novel tells the story of the Bedloes, with a focus on Ian Bedloe. Ian is in college and has his whole life ahead of him. But then his older brother dies in an accident, and Ian feels responsible. So when Lucy, his brother’s wife, dies not long after, Ian decides to put his plans aside and raise his brother’s three young children, hoping to atone for his misdeeds in the process. Two of the children are from Lucy’s first marriage and technically aren’t related to the Bedloes at all, but that doesn’t matter to Ian.

The story spans several years, during which we see the familial bonds grow and deepen with Ian’s sacrifice. Like all sacrifices, Ian’s is not without cost. The youngest child is well into her teens, and Ian has never married or fathered children of his own. All the kids, who love Ian dearly, are worried that he’ll always be alone. After a failed match-making episode, Agatha, the oldest daughter (who’s now a doctor) says wistfully and a little angrily, “I just want him to have a full life.” But that’s the question, right? Who’s to say that a life spent selflessly serving others isn’t full? That carefully and devotedly raising someone else’s children can’t be as satisfying as raising your own biological ones? Ian’s unwavering dedication to the children, and their love for him, affect me so profoundly I swear I should hire a therapist to have a chat about it. But I won’t.

I began reading Tyler years ago after purchasing an anthology of her novels by mistake. A friend had recommended some other Anne, and I got it mixed up. That turned out to be one of the happiest accidents of my (literary) life. Tyler’s books are beautiful, gentle, thoughtful stories of family in all its complexity. (I’d bet money that Tyler is an introvert.)

Another of my favorite Tyler novels is Ladder of Years, in which a married woman with three almost-grown children decides to do what many married women (including me) have fantasized about—walk out the door and never come back. During one family beach vacation, Delia’s casual stroll becomes a segue into a brand new life of quiet discovery. The reader should be scandalized, but Tyler wins our sympathy for Delia, whose family contacts the police but then can’t give an accurate physical description, remembering neither Delia’s eye color nor her height. She’s become no more than a shadow in the background of their lives, and it’s not good enough. Tyler is a class act, and I’m never disappointed. In the hands of another author, a story like this could easily have deteriorated into something sordid, but we don’t have to worry about that when Tyler is at the wheel.

Watching Saint Maybe reminds me that Tyler has written a few novels I haven’t read, and I need to catch up. I should go ahead and get started on that. See ya'll!