there but for the grace of god…

Français : où mène la Licence

Français : où mène la Licence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children the world over are often the victims of adult sexual fantasies, beginning with their immediate support group of relatives, friends, and family acquaintances. Whether such unwanted advances are seen through to fruition, i.e. sexual abuse, goes mostly unknown. After all, the fear of being “found out” is something a child instinctively knows will probably bode ill for him or her. Adults are to be believed; children are to be seen…and not heard…according to society’s dictum.

The recent escape of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight from the evil clutches of a band of brothers in Ohio, reminds us of the hold adults can have over unsuspecting innocents.

How many among us have been propositioned by an adult to have sex? Even if we were clueless about the mechanics of such co-mingling, we had a hunch it wasn’t child’s play. The mere thought of an adult touching his private parts can give a child the creeps, to put it mildly. I think it’s more likely the child would want to…get the hell out of there…AND FAST…even while his feet feel as though they’re cemented in place.

Pairing an overbearing, sex-starved adult with a child whose brain cells are still developing and maturing is like pitting Goliath against David…minus his slingshot. A child can’t even begin to wrap his or her brain around the torrid looks and lurid obscenities directed at him or her. They’re like “deer caught in headlights.”

To say I was such a child is probably commonplace. Perhaps the streak of cynicism I developed while living in NYC had been lying dormant since childhood. My ears and 6th sense have always perked up when men have made suggestions I thought were definitely…queer.

The earlier children learn about the “facts of life,” the better. And I don’t necessarily mean the how-tos of sex and making babies. Although that IS an inescapable reality.

A good friend once told me when our children were toddlers that they wouldn’t absorb any serious information until they were 5. My feeling was, and continues to be, that children learn from the day they are born.

From birth we are like sponges waiting to soak up all that we can in order to make decisions…great and small.

Values…right and wrong…good and bad…moral and immoral…are taught by adults who should know better. Every word…every gesture leaves an indelible mark upon a child’s psyche…for better or worse.

It’s never too early…and it’s never too late…to remove those rose-colored glasses from a child’s eyes.

A little cynicism is like…a 1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper with the juice of one lemon dissolved in hot water. A daily dose of this elixir keeps my metabolism revved…and overall inflammation under control.

With life-saving information…a child can be on the alert for sexual predators…without even knowing that her radar is set to high alert.

…better safe than sorry…my motto…IMG_4487



do as i say…not as i do

The news is rife with grownups who, when their backs are up against the wall, lie without batting an eyelash to save their sad behinds. Of course they’re all innocent until proven guilty by the slower-than-molasses justice system. But in the court of public opinion? Their guilt is a no-brainer.

Monica Lewinsky, from her government ID photo ...

Image via Wikipedia

Herman Cain looks to be pulling a trick Bill Clinton introduced us to when he claimed not to be having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. The trick? Semantics! It’s all in the words, you see.

According to both men, sex, when under fire and free-falling into the black hole of public denigration and irreversible damage to their reputations, is narrowly defined as intercourse. Oral sex for Clinton, and fondling a woman’s genitals by Cain are just foreplay, I guess…but definitely not sex. So while they settled upon Webster’s definition “4. SEXUAL INTERCOURSE,” they chose to ignore the previous definition which states “3. the instinct or attraction drawing one individual sexually toward another, or the activities that it motivates.” Clinton recouped his standing on the world stage by finally fessing up. Doesn’t look like Mr. Cain is humble enough to “eat crow.”

Where to begin with the massive web of deceit within which Penn State now finds itself embroiled? At the time current wide-receivers coach Mike McQueary witnessed former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in the locker room shower. McQueary didn’t intervene, but instead conferred with his father who advised that coach Joe Paterno be told. In turn, Paterno reported it to Athletic Director Tim Curley. Into the mix of accomplices who withheld knowledge of the criminal act of pedophilia and sexual assault of a minor are Gary Schultz, V.P. of Finance at Penn State, as well as its president, Graham Spanier. These adults did not report what McQueary had seen to the police.

Jerry Sandusky, right, the former Penn State d...Then and now, Penn State worried about its reputation and its football program. The sodomized youngster and those who followed in his wake as victims of Sandusky’s sexual appetite, were simply relegated to society’s land-fill of abused children. The message relayed to the youngsters entrusted to their care by Penn State staff? Adult sexual predators and those who turn a blind eye to their activities can escape punishment…in the interests of the university’s greater good.

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Dr. Conrad Murray, a good man caught up in the make-believe world of iconic Michael Jackson, made the ultimate misstep. Administering the strong anesthetic Propophol outside the safe environ of a hospital, AND leaving his only client unattended while the drug was being dispensed caused the circumstances leading to Jackson’s death. Murray’s explanation for the demise? A yarn spun like that of a novice spider whose web is full of holes.

Wonderful Smile - Michael Jackson

Image by Raquel Cristina (busy because of beginning of clas via Flickr

According to Murray, Jackson awoke while the doctor had stepped away for 2 minutes to use the bathroom. Somehow in his drugged state, the patient was able to give himself the lethal dose of Propophol. One of Murray’s girlfriends testified to being with him on a cell phone call when he discovered Jackson in distress. And instead of calling 911 immediately which might have saved the singer’s life, Murray called for house security and Prince, MJ’s son. A tragedy made even more tragic when Murray took to covering his missteps, instead of reviving his patient.

Just as the “fight or flight” mechanism is triggered when we are confronted by danger, so too it seems is our immediate attempt to lie our way out of sticky situations. One of the first Golden Rules we teach our children is that they should always tell the truth. Remember the story about George Washington cutting down his father’s cherry tree?

George Washington“George,” said his father, “do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!”

This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried:

“I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.”

The anger died out of his father’s face, and taking the boy tenderly in his arms, he said:

“My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees! Yes – though they were blossomed with silver and had leaves of the purest gold!”

So when is it acceptable to withhold the truth? Let me answer with my own personal experience.

I was sexually solicited by relatives on 3 separate occasions. They ranged from mildly funny, to downright scary, to pitifully sad and upsetting. I never spoke of these incidents to family members. As the youngest, who would have believed me? Those to whom I might’ve divulged my tales would’ve been angrier than heck, and of course, those who victimized me would’ve denied my accusations as wild imaginings. So what would the truth have gained me? More grief on top of what I was already experiencing. No thanks!

Unfortunately, lies have a way of derailing one’s happiness. Living with the weight of others inflictions upon one’s person, physically and spiritually, can altogether undermine one’s self-esteem. What is one worth if others can exert their will without repercussions. No wonder so many suffer depression, some even resorting to suicide. The rest struggle within themselves, and continue to put up a good fight…like me.

Children are clean slates…upon which adults write the first words. So should we write “Do as I say…not as I do?” Or should we write “Do as I say…and as I do…for I will always try to speak…and live…the truth.”


“same sky,” empowering women

Economically empower a woman—you change her, her family, her community, her country… and eventually, the social & economic fabric of the entire world.

On Inside Edition last night, not a program I usually sit and watch, more like I glance at the screen as I’m walking through the living room. When something is of interest though, I’ll sit on the edge of the closest chair. If it’s worth watching, I may settle in for a few minutes. Mention of “Same Sky,” an organization that helps empower the women of Rwanda caught my eye. So I gave my full attention to the broadcast.

In 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were massacred. During this genocide, women were enslaved as sex victims. As a result they were inflicted with the HIV virus. Bearing children, these new mothers were unable to care for their offspring because they suffered the effects of the disease. Filmmaker Francine Le Franc was moved to help these women help themselves, and their families. Le Franc began “Same Sky,” a cooperative wherein the women learned to crochet. With their newfound skill, they were able to make beaded jewelry. The necessary tools are shipped from the U.S., and the finished pieces shipped back for sale in retail stores, and at home parties, and trunk shows. 100%of the proceeds are put back into the business, thereby enabling more women the opportunity to participate.

Le Franc decided “Same Sky” was a befitting name for the business venture, because ALL women live under the same sky. “They see the same stars and the same moon. Every woman. One dream.” TV host Deborah Norville remarked, “And they’re sold for a profit. This is not a charity operation.” Le Franc added “It’s a trade initiative, not an aid initiative. It’s a hand up, not a hand out.”

Check out the SAME SKY website for further information, and see familiar faces, like those below, who have joined in supporting the cause. The jewelry may be a little pricey for most of us, but for an extra special gift, they might just work. Nonetheless, we can join in celebrating the self-liberating, empowerment of these women of Rwanda…hugmamma.

Halle Berry in Seafoam     

Goldie Hawn in Butterscotch and Jade Green

Ben Affleck in Men's Wrap

Katie Couric in Clear Sky

Ann Curry in Caviar

Chelsea Clinton in Seafoam

Fran Dresher in Fire Red

Meryl Streep in Starry Night

Queen Latifah in Chocolate Brownie

Jesse Jackson in Men's Wrap

Joan Collins in Fire Red and Starry Night

Geena Davis in Sky Blue

Donna Karen in Fire Red (photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

“it’s a job,” oprah

Just finished reading Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley, an oversized tome, befitting a mega-watt personality. I wasn’t inclined to read it when it first appeared in bookstores. It was too pricey at $30, and what more could I learn about the woman whose presence is literally everywhere. I know her better than the Pope, and I’ve been a Catholic for 61 years. But browsing the biography section of my favorite “Half-Price Books,” I spied Kelley’s book for less than half its original price. That sold me. And I’m very glad I bought it. I think I can now “close the book” on what I think about the reigning queen of day time talk shows.

Throughout Kelley’s book I vacillated between throwing myself solidly in Oprah’s camp or remaining at arm’s length, a stance I’ve maintained for years. I can safely say that after reading her biography, Oprah is just living up to the job description she’s written for herself, and continues to rewrite every day. Suffice it to say, there’s no other like it, in the whole wide world. And with her lofty career comes a lot of stuff that lesser humans like me, couldn’t begin to fathom, not in a billion lifetimes. 

Kelley has unearthed 495 pages worth of facts, good and bad, about Oprah. At first these seemed to offset one another, leaving me in limbo as to how I felt about her. Oprah is better than the Great Oz, for she has been adept at keeping her true identity secure, despite having openly lived in front of the cameras these last 25 years. How does she do it? With Herculean strength I would offer. 

“Will the real Oprah Winfrey please stand up!” Remember the TV show What’s My Line? Even for a kid like me back in the days of black and white television, I was always fascinated by the give and take between the mystery person and the celebrity panel doing the questioning. As good as they were, their questioning did not always render successful endings. That’s how I felt about Kelley’s trying to discern the “real” woman behind the woman, Oprah.

Reading between the lines, I think Kitty Kelley feels Oprah presents herself as magnanimous, when in fact, she is not.

Oprah became so accustomed to rapturous audiences that she reacted negatively if she saw someone not standing to applaud her. “One time she spotted a young black man who just sat there,” said the publishing executive. “She began heckling him. ‘I see someone here who is very brave.’ She began shuckin’ and jivin’: ‘Oh no. I don’t have to stand up and cheer for Oprah. No, sir. Not me. I’m the man. I won’t bow to Oprah.’ She did her whole ghetto shtick. It was ugly, very ugly for about four or five minutes while the poor guy just sat there as she mocked him. She wouldn’t let up….She was pissed that he was not giving her the adoring routine that the rest of the audience was….Turned out the young man was mentally challenged and severely disabled.”

On September 13, 2004, Oprah proclaimed the year her best, except for the year she started her talk show. The reason for her elation was that “she opened the season by giving away 276 brand-new Pontiac G6s, worth more than $28,000 apiece, for a collective total of $7.8 million.” Unfortunately the recipients, “Teachers and ministers and nurses and caregivers who had been walking to work for years or taking buses and having to transfer three times…,” were ill-prepared to pay $7,000 in taxes for the prizes, as the cars were deemed. In answer to their request for assistance from Oprah, her publicist “said they had three options: They could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profit, or forfeit the car. There was no other option from Oprah, and Pontiac already had donated the cars and paid the sales tax and licensing fees.”

Author Kelley highlights a particular show where Oprah “was barely civil to Hazel Bryan Massery, who as a young white student had yelled at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, who integrated Central high School in 1957 after President Eisenhower sent federal troops into Arkansas. ” Probably unbeknownst to the public, including me, Massery had apologized to Eckford “for her hateful rants,” the two becoming very close friends. When they were invited to appear on Oprah’s show, the talk show host was “highly skeptical of their friendship and would not accept that Hazel’s remorse had led to reconciliation.”

“They are friends,” Oprah told her audience in disbelief. “They…are…friends,” she repeated with obvious distaste. She then showed a massive blowup of the photograph taken that historic day, showing Elizabeth, silent and dignified, carrying her books into school as a crowd of screaming white students taunted her, the most menacing being Hazel. Oprah was icy as she asked Eckford why that photo still upset her so many years later.

“She (Oprah) was as cold as she could be, ” Eckford told David Margolick of  Vanity Fair.  “She went out of her way to be hateful.”

Margolick, who spent time with Eckford and Massery to write their story, added, “Characteristically, though, Elizabeth felt sorrier for Hazel. She was treated even more brusquely (by Oprah).

Oprah has openly spoken about being sexually abused as a youngster, beginning with her experience at 9 years old with a 19-year-old cousin by marriage. According to Kelley,

Oprah appeared to be so open with revelations about her intimacies on television that no one suspected she might be hiding secrets. Like comedians who cover their darkness with humor, she had learned to joke away her pain, and keep what hurt the most stuffed deep inside. She knew how to give just enough information to be amusing and to deflect further inquiry, which is one reason she insisted on taking control of her own public relations when her show went national. While she looked like she was telling the world everything about herself, she was actually keeping locked within more than she would share on television. She felt she needed to present herself as open, warm, and cozy on the air, and conceal the part of her that was cold, closed, and calculating. She was afraid she wouldn’t be liked if people saw a more complex dimension to the winning persona she chose to present. “Pleasing people is what I do,” she said. “I need to be liked…even by people I dislike.”

While Oprah has bestowed a good life upon her mom, Vernita Lee, buying her “a fur coat, a new car, a new house, no bills,” doubling her salary in retirement, and even gifting her with $100,000 one Mother’s Day, ” Oprah “really didn’t like her mother at all.”

…she was still bitter toward Vernita for “giving me away,” and she ricocheted from resentment to gratitude over those motherless years. She understood that the lack of her mother’s unconditional love drove her to develop skills to get praise from others, but she also saw that she tried to fill her motherless hole with food as a substitute for love and comfort and security. It would be many years before she reckoned with the depth of her psychological damage. …

Oprah goes on to say:

I don’t feel I owe anybody anything but my mother feels I do….She says, ‘There are dues to pay.’ I barely knew her (when I was little)….That’s why it’s so hard now. My mother wants this whole wonderful relationship. She has another daughter and a son. And everyone now wants this close family relationship….They want to pretend as though our past did not happen.”

Because she feels far removed from her birth family, several close friends are Oprah’s family of choice. Among them are poet and author Maya Angelou, of whom Oprah has said she ” ‘…was my mother in another life…I love her deeply. Something is there between us. So fallopian tubes and ovaries do not a mother make.’…Oprah carried Maya’s monthly itinerary in her purse at all times so she could reach her morning, noon, and night.”

“Once Oprah met Sidney Poitier, she bound him to her like a kind and loving father. ‘I call Sidney every Sunday and…we talk about life, we talk about reincarnation, we talk about the cosmos, we talk about the stars, we talk about the planets, we talk about energy. We talk about everything.’ “

Quincy Jones is a beloved uncle, in Oprah’s mind. ” ‘I truly learned how to love as a result of this man…I unconditionally love him and…I would slap the living shit out of somebody who said anything bad about Quincy.’ ” And Gayle King was the adoring sister, and John Travolta the brother, whom Oprah didn’t realize in her own kin, her siblings by birth.

” ‘…My friends are my family.’ Oprah frequently mentioned on her show how disgusted she was with all the beggars in her life. ‘I’m hearing from so many people now who want me to give them money, or lend them money. I say, “I’ll give you the shirt off my back, as long as you don’t ask for it.” ‘ “

We’ve all got “baggage” that we cart around throughout our lives. When and how we acquired it, with how much we’re saddled, and how we deal with our lives because of it, are questions only we can answer for ourselves. I’ve set my course in life based upon my own personal deprivations and disappointments, as well as my accomplishments and joys. I think laying expectations upon one another has the potential of backfiring. If people don’t measure up, our perceptions of them are muddied. But worse, I think we are hurt because of our emotional investment.

I’ve not felt inclined to invest in Oprah, because I was too busy investing in myself. I tend not to follow other’s advice, unless I can own it for myself. It amazes me that someone, like Oprah, can convince legions of people to hang upon her every word. But she has a gift, she’s even said so. What more telling event than her influence to get Obama crowned President.

With tears streaming down her face she rejoiced, standing on the right side of history and knowing that she just may have had a role in shaping it.

“My job was to make people, or allow people, to be introduced to Obama who might not have been at the time,” she said. “I wanted him elected, and I think I did that.”

I’ve decided that Oprah is doing a job for which she is well suited. She has positioned herself as Chairman of the Board/CEO and President of all she surveys. She’s paid her dues, and continues to do so. I say let her do with her life what she will. I had nothing to do with its creation; I have nothing to say about its evolution. She will answer to her Maker, as we all must. It’s between the 2 of them, and perhaps all those who have placed Oprah upon a pedestal. After all, they have a great deal to do with the billionaire she has become.

until you walk in someone’s shoes…hugmamma.