For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: broadcast.

“Were you, like me, brought up on listening the the radio? Or do you prefer more modern ways of communication? How do you broadcast your news? And how do others broadcast to you?”

I was not brought up on radio. More record player. No television until I was nine, and I think my parents mostly got their information from newspapers. And they discussed articles and ideas…

But the deeper answer to this question is that mostly I don’t.

I am introverted and shy. I also failed small talk in school very early and learned to shut up. I was comfortable talking in my family and would talk to friends after I’d known them for years. We moved every 2-5 years while I was in school so my peer friends were really my sister and cousins. When we moved, I pretty much would only talk to teachers for the first year. After a year, I might try to make a friend, having studied everyone. After a year, they might or might not be interested.

I got to know one woman from high school after we’d graduated. After a while she said, “I thought you were shy in high school.” I laughed and said, “No, I just didn’t talk.” This is really about opinions: I was way more opinionated than she realized and when I got comfortable enough to talk, I could talk a lot.

I also found that smart women are not admired, so I hid it. There are different ways of hiding it: mine was to be multi talented. I played instruments, scored equally well on the math and english part of the SAT, read voraciously, and mostly talked to adults. My parents’ house had a wild array of interesting and unconventional adults. Artists, trumpet players, singers, world travelers, university professors, rich women, poor women, beggerwoman, thieves, doctors, lawyers, native chiefs. I didn’t discover sports until college, other than hiking, skiing and swimming. My high school had no swim team.

My daughter complained about small talk in preschool. Why were kids she didn’t know talking to her? And why did they talk to each other when the teacher was talking? If everyone would just shut up and listen, they could move on to more interesting topics. I sympathize but also think that we all have to live with and care about each other. So how do we do that when we are so different?

In clinic all of my patients are smart. I treat them all as smart and the result is they ARE all smart. Now, that doesn’t mean that they immediately do smart things like quit smoking or quit drinking a 6 pack of coke a day or quit eating too many donuts….But change is incremental. It is hard to change.

Also, all of my patients ARE smart, about something. It could be car engines or church organs or comic books or Russian. I have an elderly woman who is fluent in Russian and feeling rather lonely. Another turns out to be a silversmith, though her lungs won’t tolerate it now.

I had a new patient recently who said that she didn’t understand what I was on about. I slowed down, explained the meaning of some of the words, and I think she understood. At least some of it. I am very happy that she felt comfortable saying, “I don’t know what that word means.” I was talking about a pathology report and needed to back off and define the words. I feel the same way when I talk to my accountant: wait, what does that word mean? I don’t know the language. I need bookkeeping for dummies…

I wish that we all broadcast that everyone is smart. Imagine what it will be like when we all assume that everyone has secret talents and genius.

The introverted thinker and the giant

My mother tells this story:

“The introverted thinker is three. I tell her to clean up her toys. She has a mat with cardboard houses and cars. I hear her in the other room, talking. First a low voice, then very high voices.

Low voice: “Stomp, stomp, stomp.”

High voices: “No, no, help, help! Run, run!” (small crashing sounds).

Low voice: “I am a giant, stomp, stomp.”

I peek in the room. The introverted thinker is kicking all the houses and cars over, being a giant. Then she cleans up the houses and the cars.”

And my mother laughs, and everyone who listens.


And do adults feel like giants to children sometimes? Giants in uniform who take their parents away? And can the child do anything? How helpless they may feel. 

My son took this picture of his sister.

The introverted thinker in the garden

My second earliest memory is between age three and four. We have moved to upstate New York, Trumansburg, and are living with my grandmother. I am old enough to know that I can’t pick random things outside and eat them. However, my grandmother has a currant bush: red currants.

I am amazed to see her picking and eating something outside. Does she not have to follow the rules? And then she lets me eat some. And I do not instantly die.

“You may pick them and eat them off this bush whenever you want.” says my grandmother.

I remember the color of the currants and the taste and the miracle of having permission to go eat something on my own recognizance, outside in the great wide wild world. I was so thrilled and entranced with the currant bush and my grandmother.

Here are red, black and white currants from the farmer’s market yesterday. I put them in a fruit salad with a honey melon that was so ripe that is dripped, and added apples and blueberries and lemon juice. Mmmmm, bounty. The tartness of the currants is delicious with the sweet melon.


The introverted thinker walks away

We go to our first parent teacher conference for our daughter. Kindergarten.

“Your daughter is unusual.” says the teacher.

“Mmmm.” I say.

“She is unusual on the playground. At recess. She will play with the other girls. But not if they are mean to someone. Not if they start ganging up. And it doesn’t matter who it is. She will walk away and play by herself.”

“Good.” I say.

“The other kids are realizing that she won’t tolerate any mean talk or ganging up.”

We make appropriate appreciative parental noises.

“She is influencing them. She doesn’t argue, she doesn’t say anything, she just walks away.”


W for water in the Blogging from A to Z.

Water, water, water. After my mother died of ovarian cancer in 2000, I went to therapy in 2002. I dreamed of water, over and over again.

The photograph is from the 2009 National Junior Synchronized Swimming Competition, in Federal Way, Washington. Cameras with removable zoom lenses were not allowed. There was a professional photographer. I had an electronic camera given to me by my father, with a formidable built in zoom. Synchro is difficult to photograph because they are in the middle of the pool and they are under water at least half the time. I had been practicing taking pictures of my daughter’s intermediate level team and would time the electronic delay to try to catch lifts.

We were at the Junior Nationals volunteering to help. This earned our team points for the northwest district and it takes many volunteers to run the contests.

This is an eight person Junior team at Nationals and six of them are under water. They are not allowed to push off from the bottom. They all have to be in position to do the lift and the person lifted has to be strong and balanced and ready. Two people are being lifted here: the woman below supporting the woman above and in turn, being supported and lifted by the rest of the team. I chose this photo because of the strength, athleticism, balance and teamwork. The team members swim so closely together that they kick and scratch each other. Or fall on each other in a lift. I want all humanity to have this kind of teamwork and lift each other.

The introverted thinkers and the fox

The fox went out on a chase one night
He bayed to the moon to give him light
He had many a mile to go that night
Before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o
Many a mile to go that night before he reached the town-o

My daughter and my father and I are all introverted thinkers by preference.

When my daughter was in Kindergarten, she had a week where she was the child in focus. During that week she was to bring in a poster about her family and the child could choose activities.

We chose “The Fox”.

My father crossed from my house to the school two blocks away. I noticed that he was short of breath on the flat just carrying his guitar. Fifty five years of unfiltered Camels, two packs a day, will do that. I wished he was not short of breath.

We had a poster with photographs of Camille and her parents and her brother and friends and cousins and grandparents. We also had a poster with the words of “The Fox.” We introduced the song to the class and my father played guitar while we sang it. The words were on the poster. I’ve had it memorized for as long as I can remember….

He ran til he came to a great big pen
Where the ducks and the geese were kept therein
“A couple of you gonna grease my chin
Before I leave this town-o, town-o, town-o
A couple of you gonna grease my chin before I leave this town-o

My sister said that when she was little, she thought that a town-o was one of the brass ashtrays that my parents had. The ashtray was completely round on the bottom and would rock at a touch. She pictured the fox riding down a hill in the brass ashtray.

He grabbed a grey goose by the neck
Throwed a duck across his back
Didn’t a mind the quack quack quack
Or the legs all dangling down-o, down-o, down-o
Didn’t mind the quack quack quack or the legs all dangling down-o

I remember not knowing what “grease my chin” meant and also wondering whose side I should be on. The fox’s side? The goose and duck’s? Old Mother Flipperflopper?

Old Mother Flipperflopper jumped out of bed
And out of the window she stuck her head
Crying “John, John, the grey goose is gone
and the fox is on the town-o, town-o, town-o
John, John, the grey goose is gone and the fox is on the town-o

And there is that town-o again.

Johnny ran to the top of the hill
He blew his horn both loud and shrill
The fox he said “I better flee with my kill
Because they’ll soon be on my trail-o, trail-o, trail-o
I better flee with my kill  ’cause they’ll soon be on my trail-o”

Every day my father and Camille and I sang the song with the class. By Friday the whole Kindergarten class had joined in and could sing the song or at least part of it.
Camille had not been sure that the song was a good idea, but the class liked it.

The fox he ran to his cozy den
There were the little ones, eight, nine, ten
Saying, “Daddy, daddy, better go back again
‘Cause it must be a mighty fine town-o, town-o, town-o
Daddy, daddy, better go back again, ’cause it must be a mighty fine town-o”

At the end of the year, they had a Kindergarten graduation ceremony, with little white hats, at Chetzemoka Park. The teacher and the principal were there and parents and grandparents. The class had a surprise for all of us: they sang “The Fox” again.

The fox and his wife, without any strife
Cut up the goose with a fork and knife
They never had such a supper in their life
And the little ones chewed on the bones-o, bones-o, bones-o
They never had such a supper in their life and the little ones chewed on the bones-o

We didn’t discuss the ethics of the song. The fox is hunting for his family. He is stealing from people and he kills a goose and a duck. The people try to hunt him. His children think town-o must be wonderful, but it is dangerous for a fox to earn a living. And the little ones are fed. I think it is a teaching song.

The Introverted Thinker and the Extroverted Feeler play

I am an introverted thinker by preference on the Meyers Briggs test and my sister was an extroverted feeler. My kids each have one of those preference patterns. This story appeared on everything2 first, on November 3, 2014. I have now linked the stories and the list is here:

And now the story:

When my sister Chris and I were very little, we went on long car trips each summer to a lake in Canada. This is a small lake north of Lake Erie and one of hundreds in Ontario, but to us it was “Canada”.

This was before seatbelts. My father was in graduate school, my mother was an artist who was not making money at it and they were “independently wealthy at a poverty level.” Our cars were always used and tended to break down. My father favored old Peugots and once he and a friend put a new engine in the International Travelall right before we left. We were living in Johnson City, New York, so it was either one very long day’s drive or two days to the lake.

Chris and I had the back seat, often piled with camping gear. She was three years younger. When we were very small we played “Red eye, white eye.” I don’t know who made it up, but I remember my father’s voice. The eyes were tigers. “White eyes” meant that there was an oncoming tiger and we had to duck down behind the seat until it passed, so that it wouldn’t get us. “Red eyes” meant a receding tiger or a tiger in front of us going the other way, so we could pop back up. It also meant no tigers.

“White eyes,” said my father, and we hid, scared. Then there was such a feeling of safety and of not being caught when he said, “Red eyes,” and we could return. We knew that he would protect us from the tigers.

The Introverted Thinker whines

One morning, the Introverted Thinker was whining. She was about 8, she was tired, the alarm had not gone off.

“I.T., you are whining.”

She continued to droop and delay and whine.

I thought, “I hate whining.” I thought of my parents. My mother would say, “Go away and come back when you can talk to me without whining.” I’ve read parenting books that tell us to say, “I can’t understand you when you whine. Say it without whining.”

But I was in a vulnerable place myself. I thought, when we whine, we are feeling very vulnerable. And to be sent away until we stop expressing that vulnerability, well, is that the message that I want to send? I thought, what do I want to be told when I wish I could whine or when I DO whine? Certainly not to go away alone with my whiny self. I thought: I want to be loved anyhow, even when I’m behaving badly.

I hugged her right away and said, “I love all of you, even the parts that whine.”

She stopped. Instantly. She just stood there in the hug for a moment and then got dressed, ate breakfast and went off to school. She didn’t seem insulted or hurt. It was just as if I’d heard her and reassured her: I am present when you are vulnerable and I love you. The whole you.

First published on everything2 on Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Introverted Thinker decides about the Mad as Hell Doctors

I got home from the  Mad as Hell Doctors road trip, where we were doing town halls for HR 676 and a single payer system, on Monday night. I had left my daughter, the introverted thinker, on the first day of school and was gone for a week. Her uncle stayed with her for two days at home and then she spent 4 nights at a friend’s house.

She was very glad to see me.

I was inspired and joyous and confused about the trip. Applause when I spoke about why I was Mad as Hell and praise. Praise made me want to weep. I have been looking at that.

On Tuesday I spoke to my mother out law on the phone. Ex-mother in law? I like outlaw better. I want to rejoin the Mad as Hell Doctors for the last week, but it would mean taking the introverted thinker out of school for a week. She gets horribly car sick, so I can’t take her on the trip, but her grandmother is in Rockville, MD. I could leave her with her grandmother and rejoin the team. It’s insane, but worth it, I hope.

Tuesday night the introverted thinker wept at bedtime, said she didn’t want to go and then asked why I thought it was important.

I explained a little. We are the only industrialized country where people go bankrupt from medical bills. Lots of people are not getting care for treatable illnesses and even lethal illnesses like cancer, because they can’t afford it. People don’t have health insurance or they use it all up. We have the most expensive health care in the world yet are ranked 37th overall for health care. And the insurance companies first job is to make a profit. The money that they and their investors pocket could go to health. No, the government won’t do it perfectly, but exactly what in your life is perfect? And driving from Seattle to Denver, the roads of the United States and the rest areas remind me: this is MY country. The people of the United States agreed to have the government help maintain roads. The people can decide that everyone has a right to health care. Our government does not belong to corporate America. I will make a noise until Congress remembers that we the people are the ones who vote: not the corporations, no matter how much money they have. The insurance companies are paying 1-2 MILLION dollars daily to lobby to keep their profit, at the expense of someone’s health. Thirty percent of the health care dollars go to administration and profits and that is not where I want it to go. Health care for health, not for profit!

Then I dropped the topic for two days, to let her think.

Thursday night I brought it back up.

Here is the thinker’s logic: she wants to be in 4 A, the school club that stands for Attitude, Academics, Attendance and Activities. She got a 63% on her first language arts paper, all because of spelling. She inherited my math/music brain, not her father’s visual spelling brain. She is busily attacking spelling, like a tiger, but she says that she doubts she can get an A in that class. Therefore she is willing to defer 4 A until next quarter and she is willing to let me go with the Mad as Hell Doctors. With a pre-excused absence, it does not count against the attendance for the 4 A and she is considering asking for extra credit work to make up for that initial spelling score.

I love watching her make her way through emotion and logic. I am sure that she is also thinking about the health care issues, though she is reserving comment.

And I think she is 4A.