Ideas Worth Sharing

We all have ideas worth sharing with others, and this is the place to do it. I am particularly interested in those ideas which, if enacted, might make a significant difference in the world in which we live. I'll start with a few of my own ideas which I've mulled over and nurtured for years. I welcome your constructive feedback and will post ideas from others that I think fit my criteria. Enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Can you believe? I actually had a couple of new ideas this morning that I think are worth sharing!

As I was listening to OPB's "Think Out Loud" program this morning on PACs and Politics, I heard about the millions of dollars being raised by our gubernatorial candidates for their campaigns. At the same time, our state is millions of dollars short of revenues to meet its fiscal budget and cuts to programs are being made statewide. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought, if the money being raised by these candidates could go directly into the state General Fund?

Here's how it could work: Any political party could nominate a candidate for each open position. These candidates could then fundraise as they do now, but all the money they raised could go directly to the General Fund. On election day, the candidate that had raised the most money would be declared the winner. We citizens would literally vote with our dollars donated.

While I daydreamed about the ways this would change the political process, another idea formed in my mind: What if each candidate elected by this process had to poll their constituents prior to each session or meeting of their legislative body. Perhaps a telephone poll could be held and each constituent would vote "Yes" or "No" on each item of the proposed agenda for that meeting. In order for a legislator to introduce legislation or work in any way on an issue he or she would need to receive authorization from half or more of their constituents to address that issue at this meeting. This way constituents would determine the agenda of items they saw as most in need of governmental action at this time.

This would eliminate much of the frustration citizens feel when their elected representatives are dealing with everything but what is on their constituents' minds.

If commercial or non-profit groups want legislative action, they could use their money to advertise and convince the constituents of the need for legislative action on this issue now. Their success would be determined by the results legislators got when they polled their constituents on the agenda items. There would no longer be any need for companies or non-profits to form PACs to support candidates' campaigns, and legislators would no longer be beholden to them for their positions. This would mean that all the amounts raised by candidates for office and going to the General Fund would be coming from individual citizens.

Viva, Democracy!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Well, it's been a long while since I've posted to this blog and I want to see if it's still functioning. If this appears in it I'll know I don't have to start over again by creating a new blog. As for why I haven't been writing since March of 2003, let's just say that the invasion of Iraq took the wind out of my sails and turned my interests to the dawning presidential campaign. After months of active support for Howard Dean, I again had the wind knocked out of me by his withdrawal from the campaign. However, I'm still hopeful there will be a popular change in administration here in the U.S.A. in November. Keep the faith and be sure to vote.

--Barbara F. Ray

Friday, March 21, 2003

IDEA #22 Freedom Squares

After watching the coverage of the Portland, Oregon, anti-war protests last night, I've come up with another idea worth sharing. Every city that considers itself to be part of a democracy needs to have designated places where a substantial proportion of that city's population can gather to exercise their rights to free assembly and free speech without fear of being in a confrontation with armored and armed law enforcement officers. These places might be existing parks or plazas that would be declared off limits to police incursion during the course of spontaneous or planned demonstrations, rallies or vigils. They would be designated Freedom Squares.

Law enforcement agencies would be welcome to encircle such a Freedom Square in order to contain the citizens gathered there and could politely search backpacks, packages and so on to ensure that no weapons would be taken into the Freedom Square. They could also detain any individuals or groups who leave the square to vandalize or loot nearby properties. However, they could not require citizens gathered in the Freedom Square to be silent or to disperse, and they could not enter the Freedom Square for any reason other than to assist in a medical emergency.

I realize that some protesters are committed to civil disobedience and would not feel they had been effective unless they had blocked traffic or public access and been arrested. However, most people who gather in demonstrations merely want to be seen and heard as standing for or against some action taken by their elected and supposedly representative government. They need a place where they can do that without getting pepper-sprayed, hit with batons, arrested or injured in a stampede away from police action.

Our police officers need to remember that they are guardians of the peace and that peace in a democracy is not always quiet. Peace in a democracy must provide space for diversity and for dissent, however noisy or unruly that may get in highly emotional times.

Protesters need to realize that being louder or more aggressive does not necessarily mean being heard better or having more influence. It is very frustrating to feel unheard and powerless over events carried out with our tax money and in our name. At the same time, we must govern our actions by their likelihood of achieving our ends, rather than their ability to express our feelings publicly or relieve our guilt.

I would like to commend for their creative and peaceful approach to educating Americans about the Iraq War and organizing protesters to insist on peaceful and effective means being used to resolve our differences with Iraq, our allies, and the international community. I hope they will continue to exercise wise and effective leadership now that the U.S. government has commenced its attack on Iraq.

Now, more than ever, we need to have Freedom Squares in every city across this land and in every democracy in the Free World.

To let me know what you think
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Thursday, March 13, 2003

IDEA #21 Mystery Initiation

In reading the readers' comments on Douglas Rushkoff's site, I came across this interesting thought: "...There is no mystery you're not already part of." --John Brodix Merryman

I believe this is wonderfully true. However, I think I see around me many people who have never become effectively aware of the mysteries we are all a part of. I, myself, have taken a very long time to become aware of the most basic and profound mysteries of life. And I believe my life is enriched and my coping skills expanded and deepened with each new awareness of a mystery.

Perhaps this is inevitably so for most of us. But I cannot help but wish that I had become effectively initiated into life's essential mysteries much earlier so that I could have lived out of that place of deeper awareness throughout my adult life and passed my knowledge and resulting coping skills on to my son and others who have been in close relationships with me.

It seems to me that one of the essential, ancient tasks of religion is to bring about an effective initiation into life's mysteries and to support and guide the initiate in developing the coping skills that are necessary to live with awareness of these mysteries. However, I was thoroughly schooled in a Christian denomination as a child and I didn't get it (which, I'm aware, is not the same as saying it wasn't offered).

In this secular/scientific age, perhaps there are some of my readers who are baffled. "What mysteries are you talking about? Hasn't science explained all that was unexplainable in previous generations?" I would respond that the mysteries of which I speak have not been, and perhaps cannot be, explained by science. They are the old mysteries of "Where did we come from? What is our purpose for being here? Where are we going now or after death?" These are also the four basic existential mysteries of death/mortality, freedom/responsibility, isolation/loneliness, and meaning(lessness).

Each of these mysteries can be understood on many levels, and coping with an awareness of a mystery on a deeper level requires the development of new skills and beliefs. It is a spiritual stress that requires and promotes new growth. As I've sometimes heard it expressed: "It's like peeling an onion, one layer at a time, shedding tears all the way." Why would one want to stress oneself spiritually? For the same reason we stress our muscles by lifting weights or our lungs by pushing ourselves to a faster pace--we increase our vital life capacity and strengthen ourselves so we can meet life's challenges.

On a surface level, we can answer the old mystery questions with either religion or science. "Where did we come from?" God created us or there was a Big Bang followed by the birth of suns and planets and then a long process of the evolution of life. "What is our purpose for being here?" To suffer or learn are the most common attempts at answers. "Where are we going?" We are going to heaven or to make "progress" here on earth. If we work hard at it or have a great talent or genius, we may leave some kind of legacy or achieve some relative immortality (of our products or ideas, if not our bodies).

Few people seem to live lives informed by even this level of spiritual awareness and directedness. I think it was Henry David Thoreau who said, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." And yet it is only when one gets to a deeper layer of exploring life's mysteries that one gets to such spiritual experiences as awe, wonder, gratitude, even occasional rapture. I sense a hunger for these deeper experiences that seems to be disembodied from the necessity to expose oneself to the stress of deep exploration of life's mysteries. I think this is the driving force behind our many addictions, obsessions and compulsions.

Perhaps we need a new mystery religion informed by science but not explained away by it. A religion that takes into account what we now know and what we cannot and may never know. A religion that uses the arts and ceremonies and nature and service experiences to effectively initiate people to the deeper and deeper layers of life's mysteries, starting at the optimal ages for such experiences in youth. A religion that offers guidance, support and coping skills and tools on an individual and group basis to assure the spiritually stressful exposures to mystery result in personal and social growth, in integrity and moral maturity.

I think Albert Einstein had it right when he said, "There are only two ways to live your life. One as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." I know which way I want to live my life. Do you?

To let me know what you think
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Thursday, February 27, 2003

IDEA #20 Retirement Community for Baby Boomers

My husband Jim and I were born in 1946, the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation. Since we are both oldest children in our families, we tend to have one foot in the staid, private '50's generation and the other in the anti-establishment, in-your-face '60's. At 56, we are starting to think about retirement but know we may not be able to afford to actually make that move for another ten years.

Our older friends have made their choices about whether to continue living in the same place or move to a retirement home or community. As we visit them, we get to see the options available and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Some have moved into a smaller home and travel to warmer climates in the winters in travel trailers. Others who have been divorced or widowed have asked a friend to live with them or have gone to live with a friend. Some have bought homes surrounding a golf course and clubhouse.

One friend that I frequently visit lives in an apartment in a retirement home. A three-story wing of the facility has one-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes for retirees; the other wing is a nursing home with single rooms and doors open to the hallways with supervision by the nursing staff. Both wings share the central lobby, sitting rooms, dining room, library and large-screen TV. The wing for independent retirees has laundry rooms and an exercise room. Group activities are arranged, and small buses that accomodate wheel chairs and walkers arrive frequently to pick people up for their doctor appointments and other travel needs. Pets are allowed in the apartments, and the facility is set along a creek in the middle of town with large evergreen and deciduous trees shading a well-maintained lawn bordered by colorful flowers.

There is much to recommend each of these arrangements, and the '50's part of us would be satisfied to make a choice among them when we are finally able to retire. But the '60's Baby Boom part of ourselves says, "Is that all there is?" Do we really want to spend the last 20-30 years of our lives sitting in front of the TV watching CNN and reruns, or learning how to play golf or bridge, or taking trips to sun ourselves in exotic places? Where is the alternative culture option for retirement?

I've imagined a possible retirement home for folks who have spent many years in Twelve-Step recovery groups (see Idea #13 below), but I have yet to see or hear of a hippie-generation retirement home or community. Some aging hippies are buying homes in co-housing communities with others of all ages, but this presumes having plenty of savings and a love for the noise and activity that comes with living with the young at close quarters.

Imagining a counter-culture retirement home or community is certainly relevant at this point in our history and life span. So what might such a facility include? Well, my fantasy would include organic gardens and orchards, bushes and vines to grow the food for the residents, and a large commercial kitchen for meal preparation as well as for canning, drying and freezing produce. Residents would work as much as they liked in the gardens and kitchen, but there would also be professional gardeners and chefs to take up the slack. There would be a large, common dining area with lots of windows to bring the outdoors in.

There would be a large, bright art studio where easels and canvasses could be left in place to be returned to and worked on another day. There would be potters wheels and a kiln for making pottery, and large tables, a loom and sewing machines for fabric art or making clothing. There would be a large dance hall with wood floors where there would be folk dancing and round dancing in the afternoons and early evenings. There would also be yoga and tai chi classes and a multi-faith (Western and Eastern) chapel for prayer and meditation.

There would be a regular schedule of classes and outside speakers on all sorts of topics. Activists would come to give updates on current affairs and would find many helping hands ready to volunteer. Buses would come to take residents to folk and rock concerts and protest marches and rallies.

The residents would live in individual cob cottages, each with a unique design and utilizing recycled wood and doors and windows. I imagine it looking kind of like a hobbit village, but with handicapped-access necessities like wide doorways and sturdy grips near the toilet and tub. Cottages might incude a hot tub or jacuzzi bath or a deep Japanese-style tub. There might be common mineral baths, a steam room and sauna. A place for a masseuse to come in to give massages would be welcome, too.

Both policies and decisions about practical day-to-day administration would be decided by consensus of the residents. Vendors and service providers would be admitted by invitation of the residents only.

Just imagining such a place makes me feel better about the prospect of aging. All our lives the designers and marketers have raced ahead of the Baby Boom generation trying to provide us with whatever we want or need before we even knew we wanted or needed it. However, they may be dropping the ball on the retirement home or community thing. I hope they'll somehow get ahold of this idea and run with it so all of us Baby Boomers can look forward to retiring to a community that makes that '60's part of us feel at home and still able to contribute to the world.

To let me know what you think
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Thursday, February 20, 2003

For those of my readers who know me personally: Jim's back surgery went well; he returned home Sunday morning and is making steady progress. I am bubbling with relief and joy; I was just thrilled when Jim made a pot of tea for the two of us yesterday! I'm guessing I'll be back to my regular publishing schedule next Wednesday. See you then!

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Don't give up on finding new Ideas Worth Sharing at this web log. I've been busy taking care of my husband Jim who has a herniated (ruptured) disk in his low back and will be operated on tomorrow (Valentine's Day) at 2:30 pm PST. We're hoping he has a speedy and full recovery. If so, I should be back writing and publishing new ideas in another two weeks or so. Until then, you may want to scroll down and read some of the ideas I've already posted--few if any of them are less relevant today than they were when I wrote them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

IDEA #19 Voluntary School Integration

Yesterday I read in the New York Times that the nation's public schools are today more segregated than they have been in the thirty years since court-ordered desegregation plans were put into place. The final blow to the dream of integrated schools seems to be the rescinding of more and more of the court orders mandating the bussing of students to schools where the majority of students are black. However, the plan was less than effective from the start as white parents who could afford to moved their children further and further from the city core in order to prevent their children from being bussed to largely black schools.

What went wrong here? First of all, the federal government made the mistake of deciding that parents were going to allow the burden of healing this country's deeply divisive racial history to be placed on their children. Secondly, the government decided that force and only force would be effective in reversing the tremendous opportunity gap that was in existence between white and black children. Thirdly, inner city schools were allowed to continue to deteriorate. Little wonder that forced school desegregation has been one of the least popular and least effective government interventions in our communities.

Solutions that rely on government force often seem like the most efficient, effective, and low-cost way to go about solving social problems at the time. However, any student of history can tell you that such solutions provoke unintended negative consequences as great as or greater than the intended reform. As the rate of change and speed of communication continue to accelerate in our society, negative consequences become apparent and come home to roost faster and faster. Perhaps in our lifetimes we will even gain enough first hand experience of this phenomenon that we will be able to predict the outcome and forego the use of such forced solutions.

So what could we have done (and do now) differently? First of all, we need to recognize that in a free society people need to be and remain free to live in neighborhoods of their choice and send their children to schools of their choice. Secondly, we need to bite the bullet and recognize that only a tremendous investment of resources in schools and their teachers is going to improve the educational opportunities of all of our children. Thirdly, we need to put that local, state, and federal investment where it is needed the most--in inner city and rural schools where the majority of children come from poor families.

A commitment to building, maintaining, equipping and staffing model schools in the poorest neighborhoods will attract people of all races and ethnic background to the excellent schools. Having small classes and first-rate teachers will guarantee success. Every large city should have college preparatory academies and boarding schools available for the children of the poor whose (often single) parents are working two or more jobs and who do not have the time, energy, or knowledge needed to supervise their children's learning.

Where local funding cannot provide such schools, states and the federal government must step in to fund them. Only in this way can we voluntarily integrate our diverse society--by attracting parents of every ancestry to the very best educational opportunities available in our nation. Any realtor can tell you that parents will move to districts with excellent schools for their children.

The future belongs to the educated of all classes, colors, and cultures. America needs to have the very best schools at every level available to all her children if we are to remain in the forefront of human history.

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, January 15, 2003

IDEA #18 Sharing Houses

SPRAWL--even the word sounds ugly. There seems to be an increasing public awareness of the downside of urban sprawl. Now an ecologist says that the diminishing number of people in the average household is driving the expansion of sprawl into natural and agricultural areas to an even greater extent than the increase in population (which has more than doubled in my lifetime).

Call me an old hippie, but I still think this movement from "everyone has his/her own room" to "everyone has his/her own house" is a move in the wrong direction. I actually think home life can be enriched by sharing one's home with more like-minded people. That might mean expanding one's household to include a widowed parent or maiden aunt or it might mean sharing a house with a number of friends.

That's only a theory on my part, mind you--my family of origin was only four people and my own nuclear family was only three people. But when our son moved out and my husband and I became a couple again our home life was diminished, and when our son moved beyond visiting range we suffered real loneliness where we had once enjoyed family living. After living six years in southern California our son decided to return "home" to Oregon and moved in with us until he could find an apartment. The effects of the recession on his industry and on the Oregon job market have made it necessary for him to extend his stay from one month to more than a year now. Have we felt crowded in our two-bedroom townhouse, our privacy invaded? Not at all--our family life has been enriched by having our son and his two Siamese cats in our home daily, and further enriched by having his close friends come to our home regularly.

So when Dawn, author of "this woman's work" weblog, posted a note about a website that has a matching service for single moms who want to share housing, I thought, "What a great idea!" Think of all the economies and efficiencies two single-parent families could enjoy by joining together into a single household. Not to mention what a wonderful support it could be to have another adult to talk things over with when important decisions need to be made.

It reminded me of another great idea that I read about some time ago and lost track of: wouldn't it be wonderful if there was something akin to a retirement home facility for single-parent families, including a nursery and after-school day-care center, common dining room and entertainment center. Why should only retirees enjoy the pleasures of onsite hairdressers, banking services, and planned activities? Which of us wouldn't like to have ready access to a spa, fitness center and large-screen TV for movies?

Perhaps sharing houses and joining together with other like-minded people at all stages of our lives would decrease our expenses and increase our human resources of all kinds. Perhaps it would even end sprawl, preserving our precious farmland and natural environment for generations to come.

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, January 08, 2003

IDEA #17 Responding to State Budget Crisis

I live in a state with a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit. How about you? My impression from my reading is that most Americans are in this same situation. In Oregon we are being asked to vote this month on an increase in our income taxes to avert some of the cuts in government services that will otherwise need to be made to balance the budget. Even if we approve this increase, the legislature will have to make program cuts to balance additional deficits which have accrued since the ballot measure was proposed last September. So our choice is between deep cuts and deeper cuts in state services.

And, of course, every cut in state agency budgets means layoffs of state employees--this in a state which has had one of the highest unemployment rates throughout much of this recession. In other words, there are no other jobs readily available for these laid off employees to move into. That means lots of money will be going out for long-term unemployment benefits at the same time that government services will be minimized for lack of workers.

Facts like these can be so discouraging that we avert our eyes and let the legislature do the dirty work so we have someone else to blame when we find ourselves hurting from lack of the services we take for granted and to which we feel entitled. This year I've decided not to do that. Instead I've put my creative mind to work to find solutions--big and small--that might improve our state situation until the economy recovers. I've sent some of these solutions to my state senator, to the local newspaper, and to appropriate agency heads. Some may be totally unworkable, but I feel it is my duty as a citizen to respond to this financial crisis instead of belatedly reacting to others' solutions to it.

To minimize layoffs and program cuts I have suggested that the legislature enact a cap on administrative expenses of 15% of each agency's budget and mandate a reduction of supervisory layers of management to no more than two layers above line staff (the people actually carrying out the mission of the agency--building roads, teaching kids, managing caseloads, etc.).

I've also recommended that the 2002 state income tax forms have a checkoff after the refund is figured for donating all or part of one's refund to the state's general fund or school fund.

Even though I voted against having a state lottery and have not purchased lottery tickets in years, I've decided to buy two dollar's worth of lottery tickets each week to help boost state income at this time. I've also decided that if I should win a prize, I'll purchase lottery tickets with half of my winnings up to $500.

I've also suggested that our state enact my first idea on this web log: that the governor and legislature have an annual honorary banquet for and with the individuals and company CEO's that pay the most in taxes each year. I think this would encourage wealthy individuals and corporations to pay the full extent of their taxes due in order to gain access to our elected officials at such an occasion.

Instead of arguing against my specific ideas above, I hope you will become committed to finding and voicing your own creative ideas for what each citizen can do and can suggest to their elected representatives in the weeks and months ahead to help us weather this fiscal crisis. In the meantime, I intend to vote for Oregon's Measure 28 to raise our income taxes to lessen the number of program cuts and layoffs that will need to be made by our 2003 legislature. How about you?

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, December 11, 2002

IDEA #16 Sharing the Wealth

The idea of sharing the wealth with members of one's own family, tribe, community, country and world is certainly one of the oldest and most venerable ideas. The winter holiday season is a traditional time for engaging in this practice in the form of gifts, feasts, volunteering, and donations to charitable organizations. It is certainly a time when those less favored suffer the most from hunger, cold, and lack of shelter and warm clothing. So here is a reminder to share your wealth of love, caring, time, attention, good spirits, crafts, and donations. Being needed and having something to give or share is one of the most satisfying aspects of human relationships.

The internet has facilitated charitable giving. A number of "one-click" charity sites can be accessed daily online. Below is a list of my favorites, along with a site evaluating such websites. One-click charities allow people with more time than money to make a tiny charitable contribution each day by clicking a button at the website and considering visiting the sites of sponsors which pay the charity for each click received in return for bringing their name and service or product to your attention.

When I contribute money to a charity I want to know that the money will be used for the purpose I intended. To assure that I check out the charity's rating at the American Institute of Philanthropy's Charity Watch. One of my favorite charities, Mercy Corps, is rated very highly at this site and gives me an opportunity to spread some of my modest wealth to areas of the world that are desperately in need of Western aid. I have much for which to be grateful when compared to others in the world even though I live a frugal life by American standards.

I also contribute to my local food bank and to those organizations that provide me with valuable services all year long, like National Public Radio (NPR) through its Oregon Public Broadcasting affiliate. Spreading the wealth is a healthy spiritual practice all year long, and I wish you a generous spirit this holiday season.

Due to the special holiday activities coming up in my (and your?) life, I've decided to take a rest from posting to this web log until after the New Year. May you enjoy the warmth of family and friends until we meet again!

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, December 04, 2002

IDEA #15 Reading Biographies

For five or six years my husband and I read biographies aloud to each other each evening before bed. He would select and read a biography of a man he wanted to learn more about; when he finished that biography I would select and read a biography of a woman I wanted to learn more about. We averaged one biography each month. Not only did we share time together and have rich material to discuss with each other, but again and again we found ourselves saying, "I sure wish I had known that when I graduated from high school."

We realized as we read that our own world view at high school graduation was very restricted and fanciful compared to the view of reality we were gaining by reading in detail about other people's lives and choices. We wished that we had spent the time we had put in reading world literature into reading biographies instead. We could see that we would have been much more in touch with reality and the opportunities that really exist in our environment if that had been the case.

Whoever decided that the way to teach kids to read was to have them read fiction? Who decided that reading and understanding novels--especially old novels, however well-written--was the best way to keep children and teenagers reading and thinking? In this age of extensive television viewing from infancy on, children are exposed to fiction and fantasy several hours each day. What they lack is a firm and growing grip on reality, the real world and its possibilities. I think biographies could give them that.

Biographies also help the reader gain a better grip on history, as a good biography will carefully seat its subject in the times of that person's life. The reader gains a more clear picture of how the historic events of that time affected the lives of the people born and raised in it. A well-researched biography shows how a person's native intelligence and talent interact with the social and natural environment of the time to create a life. It helps a person recognize the opportunities of other times and places as well as the opportunities that may be present for them today.

Biographies help a person see another culture or time from the inside, from a particular person's family and home, education and career. Biographies expand one's view of the world around them, diminishing the barriers set up by geography and social class. Biographies help the reader see what is of lasting worth and value in constructing a satisfying and accomplished life and what is peripheral or distracting. A person well-read in biographies will make a better choice of schooling, place to live, companions and goals. It seems to me that biographies deserve a large place in our K-12 educational curriculum.

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

IDEA #14 Veteran Dads Teach New Dads

Not all of the ideas worth sharing come from me by a long shot. Every once in a while I come across an idea in the media that I think is well worth putting in this web log to share with others. The idea of training classes for fathers-to-be run by experienced fathers accompanied by their own babies is one such idea. I'm not sure how long this hot link will be good, but here is an article from a local newspaper about such a Training Camp For New Dads.

While we're at it, there are many mothers-to-be who need training from experienced mothers, as well. Gone are the days when a woman could be counted on to have many hours of supervised experience caring for younger siblings or cousins and the responsibility of baby sitting or being a nanny before having children of her own. Our lifestyles are too unnatural to depend on "maternal instinct" to come through with all that a woman needs to know to raise an infant and toddler. Mothers and mother-in-laws can no longer be depended upon to come to teach their skills to new mothers during the first few weeks with their new babies. Raising a newborn is too complex and too important a job to be undertaken without training. If we are going to improve the quality of our families, we need skilled, professional parents (see IDEA #5 below).

I hope readers of this web log will check with their own local hospitals to see if they have programs like Training Camp For New Dads, and if they don't encourage them to start one.

To let me know what you think
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May we all be blessed with a grateful heart on this Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

IDEA #13 Recovery United Retirement Homes

While I'm on the topic of Twelve-Step Recovery groups and the need for a Recovery United (see IDEA #12 below), I'll write a bit about the need for retirement homes and communities where long-term Twelve-Steppers can live together with others who have spent a large part of their lives committed to living the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of their recovery programs.

Virtually every religious group has retirement homes for members of that group. Twelve-Step Recovery groups do not consider their program a religion, but rather a spiritual practice which can be combined with any religion or none. Nevertheless, recovery groups do gather like-minded people who are dedicated to a similar set of values embodied in the program and who have learned to live in peace with one another through the application of their Steps and Traditions to all aspects of their lives. I believe Recovery United Retirement Homes would provide a sense of safety and comfort, peace and continued purpose to these retirees.

Recovery United Retirement Homes might be located in small towns in areas of natural beauty which attract tourists. They might consist of an apartment building adapted to independent living for the elderly (wide doorways, ramps, sturdy grips around the tub and toilet, and so on). They could have a common lobby/sitting room, several small meeting rooms to be rented to Twelve-Step Recovery groups, a literature outlet for conference-approved literature of all the recovery groups represented in the home and community, an office for an answering service, and perhaps even a hall and commercial kitchen for common dining and to rent to groups for larger events.

People who chose to retire at a Recovery United Retirement Home would never need to worry that they might not be able to make it to their Twelve-Step meetings as their meetings would be in the same building where they live. They would also be able to devote themselves to service to their recovery groups (an essential part of Twelve-Step Recovery programs) by taking turns operating the literature outlet and answering service and cleaning the meeting rooms and hall. In this way they could feel useful and productive so long as they were able.

Small towns often have only one or two recovery programs available. However, locating a Recovery United Retirement Home in such communities would make it possible to expand the number of programs available to the whole community as well as to tourists on vacation in that area.

While Twelve-Step Recovery groups themselves do not purchase property, Recovery United could purchase these retirement homes and run them as condominiums or cooperatives. The retirees could continue to participate in the decision-making process for their retirement facility as they have over the years in their recovery programs. They could decide whether to rotate the necessary jobs for the maintenance of their home among themselves or to hire a housekeeper, handyperson, gardener or even a cooking staff. They could contract as individuals or as a group with barbers, hairdressers, and home care providers for services as needed. They could have a fitness center and other activities on site. In short, they could provide for their needs in cooperation with others who share their values and way of life.

To let me know what you think
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

IDEA #12 Recovery United

Most people have heard of Alcoholics Anonymous, that granddaddy of all Twelve-Step Recovery groups begun in 1935, and its Big Book or Blue Book or simply The Book titled simply Alcoholics Anonymous. If nothing else, they've seen spoofs of recovery meetings in which people introduce themselves, "Hi, I'm _______, and I'm an alcoholic." Perhaps they've even become aware that the original Twelve Steps found in the Big Book have been adapted to a plethora of addictive, compulsive and obsessive problems with living.

I once put * Anonymous into the search engine Google and came up with over 20 groups modeling themselves to a greater or lesser degree after Alcoholics Anonymous. Just a few include Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and Clutterers Anonymous. Then there are also the Twelve-Step Recovery groups for family members and friends of addicts, like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and O-Anon. Most people could find one or more Twelve-Step Recovery groups for which they qualify should they have the desire to use participation in a spiritual fellowship to help them cope with their lives. In this day of online meetings, more and more of these recovery programs are available to everyone wherever they may live.

Nevertheless I think there is a place for an organization I tentatively call Recovery United. Recovery United would be an umbrella group holding speaker meetings where people from any of the Twelve-Step recovery groups could be invited to tell their stories and where people with multiple addictions could tell their whole recovery story involving two or more programs without breaking the traditions of their individual programs. These speaker meetings would be open to anyone in the community who wanted to learn more about Twelve-Step recovery.

Recovery United could serve those people who want to practice the Twelve-Steps in their lives but may not yet know for which programs they qualify. It could provide meetings for travelers from any of the Twelve-Step recovery groups. It could establish literature outlets including the conference-approved literature from all the various programs. It could provide a single local telephone number through which callers could be referred to all the different Twelve-Step Recovery programs in the community. It could participate in community health fairs where it could give handouts informing members of the community about all the various Twelve-Step recovery groups in the community or available online or by mail.

In smaller communities, Recovery United meetings might be the only exposure members of the community would have to the less known, smaller recovery groups. Recovery United could serve a function for Twelve-Step recovery programs similar to small business incubators: they could bring together people who have a need for a recovery program not yet in their community and invite speakers from communities where that program has groups in order to help a local meeting get organized.

In many ways Alcoholics Anonymous has served these functions within the recovery community. They are the largest, oldest, best organized, and most widely available of all the Twelve-Step groups, and it is with their help and cooperation that the others have been established. However, this is not AA's primary purpose and may serve as a distraction from their very important work. I think the Twelve-Step Recovery movement has become large enough and diverse enough to require an umbrella group along the lines of Recovery United.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I'm back. I usually post something new to this web log every Wednesday, so if you want to add it to your favorites list you can usually count on finding a new idea or commentary toward the end of each week. The last two weeks were an exception as I was on vacation, traveling to visit family in Michigan. I had a great time exchanging genealogical information and old family photos with some of my cousins as well as celebrating the 85th birthday of my husband's father with his family. While I'm still thinking about what we inherit from our families I think I'll write about an idea I had some years ago about where (and when) we can best intervene to improve the mental health of our family line.

IDEA #11 Therapy for New Parents

A popular cartoon some years back showed a large auditorium with one person sitting in the midst of a sea of empty seats; on the wall behind him was a banner reading "Welcome Adult Children of Normal Parents!" Over the past twenty years or so the words "dysfunctional" and "family" have come together to describe what most of us grew up in and perhaps passed on to our own children. The dysfunction of the family came out of and produced various forms of mental ill health, from anxiety to depression, compulsion and addictions.

Some of us unknowingly carried on the family line, producing another generation with our family's brand of dysfunction. Others swore to "break the chain" that bound them and erred just as grievously by doing the opposite of what their parents did until they discovered in their mid-forties that they had, in fact, become like their parents in spite of their best efforts. A few were forced to become aware of how they were thinking and acting by some crisis in living--a "nervous breakdown", severe depression, "hitting bottom" with alcoholism or addiction--and sought help and support in making deep changes in their approach to life. Often these changes came too late to help their children who had already "grown and flown".

As I have observed this in my own life and the lives of others over the years I have pondered on where meaningful intervention in this ongoing family pattern could do the most good. After all, mental health resources are chronically too scarce to deal with all the dysfunction in individuals and families in our society, so where could they be best applied to give the most "bang for the buck"?

Some attempt has been made to identify "at risk" individuals, often in childhood or even infancy, in order to provide preventive services that have the potential to save both suffering and tax money in the long term. This seems a move in the right direction, but, in my opinion, is usually too narrowly focussed--the problem is not in the individual child but in the family culture. How does that culture get transmitted from one generation to the next and how can it be most effectively modified in a healthy direction?

A book I read several years ago convinced me that a Swiss infant psychiatrist's work points the way we need to go. The book is The Scripts Parents Write and the Roles Babies Play: The Importance of Being Baby by Bertrand Cramer. For this gentle and humane doctor, "the 'patient' is not a lone baby perched on a couch but is at least two people--mother and infant--or sometimes three, including the father." (p. vii) As Dr. Cramer notes, "Pregnancy and birth make women particularly amenable to therapeutic intervention. From the point of view of a psychiatrist, this period is a 'privileged moment' for preventive psychotherapy." (p. 118) I believe this may be equally so for a new father, especially if he was a labor coach for his wife and was present at the birth of the baby.

Surely the moment of birth is a sacred moment in any family and deserves to have every support our society can manage to provide. Gentle care in preparation for the birth, in the delivery itself, and in the adjustment to parenthood for the new parents can go a long way in healing the wounds of the past and providing a new, more loving family relationship for the growth of a new family legacy. Therapy for new parents with their infant can be a crucial component of this transition to healthier families.

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Thursday, October 17, 2002

I'm trying a new way to get word of my blog out in the blogging community. If you would like to help me out, follow the hot link to rate my blog: Is my Blog HOT or NOT?

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

IDEA #10 War and Codependency

The debates and resolution authorizing war in Iraq reminded me of an insight I had 15-20 years ago when the country was awash in its first awareness of something called "codependency." The concept of codependency arose from the alcohol and drug treatment field where it was discovered that the family members of drug- and alcohol-dependent clients/patients had a strong tendency to become co-dependent, dependent with or on the alcoholic or drug addict. The codependent's life became co-opted by pre-occupation with the chemical addict to the extent that the old joke was true, that when a codependent died someone else's life passed before her eyes.

Having worked in that field myself at the time, and being the daughter of an alcoholic father in a family where alcoholism extends back through both sides of the family as far as the eye can see, I was deeply affected by the literature of codependency and was very much aware of family members who truly could not answer the question, "How are you?", but would instead launch into an update on their addicted spouse, parent or child.

At one point codependency was said to affect 80-90% of all Americans of my generation, and I couldn't help but wonder why this would be so. Why was there such widespread family dysfunction in a generation only removed by a few generations from our pioneer and immigrant ancestors? Had the dysfunction been there all along? Had it come with our ancestors from Europe or elsewhere? Or was it homegrown here in America? No doubt some of our immigrant ancestors had brought their alcoholism with them from their former homelands, but how had drug dependency and codependency become so pervasive?

As I thought about it, I somehow made a connection between codependency and the state of a country at war. When a husband or son is fighting on a battlefield far from home, thoughts of them and prayers for them are never far away. Anxiety for their well-being is ever-present and motivates industry at home. The culture hones that focus on "the boys over there." Everything is done for them; all sacrifices are made in their name; all wishes and dreams center on their safe homecoming. The state of a country engaged in a foreign war is a school for codependency!

If the object of that intense focus, the husband or son at risk, is among those who return, they remain the center of attention. Many who waited anxiously for their return discover that the man who left has changed so much that he is unrecognizable as the same person. Physical and psychological handicaps abound. Many who return have become alcohol- and drug-dependent in their stint and remain so as they seek escape from the pain of their memories. They have difficulty finding meaning in everyday life; they can't seem to hold a steady job; they can't communicate what they are experiencing to their families.

This was certainly my family's experience following World War II, and many of the people I've talked with in my own generation have had the same experience. Could this be the way codependency and family dysfunction spread throughout our society? If so, it looks like we are in for a new wave of drug dependency and codependency long before we've cleaned up the mess created by former wars. The War on Terrorism expanding into a possible (probable?) war on Iraq means more families at risk now and in the future. When will it end? As the '60's protest song asks, "When will we ever learn?"

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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

IDEA #9 Reducing Greed and Selfishness

We read a lot these days about how greedy and selfish the CEO's and other top executives of our largest corporations are and how their greed has led them to commit crimes that have undermined the economy, bankrupted their employees, and may lead them to spend years of their lives in jail. I don't dispute this analysis, but I think greed and selfishness are far more pervasive in the American psyche than we are inclined to admit

I have read that Americans make up 5% of the world's population, yet use 30% of the world's resources and generate 80% of the world's waste. I have no way of knowing if these statistics are accurate, but I certainly can vouch for the fact that most Americans shop for recreation even though they already have more stuff than they can enjoy and house and take care of. Why else do we have an abundance of rental storage facilities even though the houses and garages we are building get larger and larger? Why else are there columns of garage and yard sale ads in every newspaper? Why else are our landfills overflowing? Why else does consumer spending make up two-thirds of our nation's economy?

I'm no better than the rest. I'm composing this on a computer that I'm told has as much power as the huge computers the Department of Defense had to run World War II just 60 years ago. Why? Because I can. In fact, one of my fears about approaching retirement is that my income will no longer allow me to keep up with the latest in technology. I also keep buying books even though I have several bookcases full of volumes I haven't read or haven't finished reading and there is an excellent library available to me that has more books than I could read in a lifetime. Why? Because the book I don't own somehow looks more enticing to me than the books I do own. I have trouble admitting even to myself that I have enough, more than enough, too much.

When I'm buying more things I feel guilty because I'm using up more than my share of what is available for the more than six billion people on this planet. When I'm not buying things I feel guilty for not doing my share to buoy our American economy and show the terrorists they can't make us afraid of going out of our homes to shop. Have we built a society that relies on our continued greed and selfishness for its continued health and growth? Why? Because we can.

What are we really buying when we head to the mall? Well, we are buying fun and diversion from the work we do to pay the bills for all the things we have. We are buying a sense of meaning, the feeling that the things we do all week are "worth it" because now we have money to spend. We are buying a way to express our personality through what we wear, our hobbies, our cars. We are buying our way to a sense of belonging to a desired social group or class. We are buying to sate a hunger we don't understand and can't seem to get rid of for long. We are buying because we don't like what we already have. We are buying because we are lonely and feel unloved and unwanted for who we are. We are buying because we are bored and don't know what else to do with ourselves when we aren't working.

If we are going to build a better, more humane world, we need to reduce our greed and selfishness. That means all of us, not just the CEO's in the headlines. We need to invest our time, attention and presence in ourselves and one another instead of in shopping. We need to have fun with our children, our pets, our friends. We need to be doing meaningful work, not work whose only meaning lies in what it allows us to buy. We need to express our personality through our laughter, our caring, our strength, our love for one another. We need to spend time with our families and friends and a few chosen groups to get the feeling of belonging we crave. We need to avoid those ads and activities that stimulate a hunger for more and more things. We need to care for and appreciate the things we already have. We need to love ourselves just as we are and reach out to others with confidence that we are worthy of love. We need to learn more about ourselves so we can find our passion for life and never again be bored.

Fortunately there are resources available to help us. Check out The Simple Living Network and Gratefulness for a start on a new way of life. Go to the library and check out Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Find a spiritual path to Full-fill-ment. And when you've found your own way to peace and contentment and having enough in life, share it with others, especially the children of the wealthy who will inherit the means to gobble up the earth if they don't find a better way to live. Remember the words of the old song, "We gotta love one another right now." In the end, only love for ourselves and others will reduce the greed and selfishness of our way of life.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

IDEA #8 A Balanced K-12 Curriculum

Few people would argue that our American way of life is satisfyingly well-balanced at any stage of life. I believe that our school system has a lot to do with that. In order to free up the maximum number of adults for productive employment outside the home and minimize the number of those adults employed to teach our children, we crowd 25-30 kids into a single room often with a single teacher. This is a prescription for chaos unless the children are required to sit still and keep quiet most of the school day. Then we wonder why our children and adults exercise too little, become obese and only want to passively watch TV when they're not working.

Again, I think educational excellence is essential to a democracy and is a mighty poor place to economize. So let's be idealistic for a moment and think about what our children really need in order to lead a satisfying, well-balanced life during their childhood that will set a healthy pattern for the rest of their lives.

First of all, we need to strike a better balance between active doing, passive receiving, and quiet reflection and absorption. That means kids need to have room to move, both indoors and out. At the primary school level (preschool through grade 3--see IDEA #7 below), nearly everything should be done with movement, mostly large muscle movement with gradually more fine, small muscle movement as the children mature. At the elementary school level (roughly grades 4-8), half of each school day should still be spent in motion (a mix of large and small movement, indoor and outdoor).

I wish I could remember the name and author of a tiny book someone once lent me about a small Japanese school started after World War II where the children spent the morning in the classroom and each afternoon walked as a group through the adjoining neighborhood, parks, and downtown with their teacher exploring everything they saw and heard in the world around them. I'll bet the graduates of that school still enjoy a more active, balanced, healthy lifestyle today. I'll also bet that teacher didn't have 25-30 kids to shepherd around town.

At the high school level (roughly grades 9-12), students should already be spending large amounts of their school day in workplaces as volunteers and apprentices. They need to be exposed first hand to a wide variety of career and service activities, both active and sedentary, indoors and outdoors. Only in this way can they begin to get a sense of where they fit into the world around them, what kinds of work interest them and use their special talents.

Secondly, our schools need to strike a better balance between receptive and expressive learning activities. The days are long gone when psychologists thought of children as being blank slates to be written on, or clay to be molded into whatever shape society finds useful. Today it is widely accepted that children come into this world with different personalities, paces, and perceptions. Those differences are only widened by their early relationships with caretakers in the isolation of our nuclear families.

By the time they get to school, most children have a lot to say about what they need and what they prefer. Parents are offering choices to their children: Do you want blueberries or strawberries on your waffle? Would you like to wear the yellow dress or the green jumper to school today? All that changes on the other side of many schools' doors. Children are expected to sit attentively and take in whatever the teacher/school board/textbook writers think they need to learn hour after hour, day after day. Correcting written work or listening to students read their essays aloud or having a consensus decision-making session on what project to undertake all take up too much of the teacher's limited time. Expressive subjects like art, music and dance are considered frills we can no longer afford in many schools.

Hence we end up with many youngsters who cannot adequately express themselves in a positive, constructive, creative way. This leads to incoherent frustration that comes out in graffiti, vandalism and violence. A democracy depends on the expressive skills of its citizens as well as its leaders. We need to take the time to allow our students real choices in the schoolrooms, real debate and decisionmaking about the things that are important to them in their daily lives.

Thirdly, our curriculum needs to strike a better balance between teaching children about the societies humans create (language, culture, history) and teaching them about the environment (universe, planet, ecosystems) that created and sustain us as human beings. These two facets of our knowledge and experience should be of equal importance. Knowing our essential nature and being thoroughly rooted in the web of life of which we are a part gives us a sense of belonging, of being a part of something greater than we are as individuals and as a single society among many. As the saying goes, We can only give our children roots and wings. Being grounded in nature is every bit as important as learning how to soar with the societies we imagine and create. Things that are of equal importance need to be given equal time and resources throughout our school years.

Finally, we need to strike a better balance between the abstract and the experiential. There is currently too much emphasis (time spent) on theories (stories) of history and on literature and too little time spent on researching the lives of everyday people in our communities and reading the biographies of the people who have shaped our culture. We need to teach our children how to make mindful choices, evaluate the conseqences of their actions, and share their experiences with one another. We need to help them see how the times in which a person is born, the large-scale events that shape history (technology, recessions, wars) interact with the unique personality of each person and can bring out the best or the worst in them. We need to help them learn from the precious, dearly-bought experience of their elders, their fellows and themselves.

Our goal in education, as in life, should be to find a daily balance that supports our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. We need whole people, well-balanced and -centered, to be the productive participants in our democracy and economy. The daily lives of students as well as workers need to be reasonable, sustainable and satisfying. Only then will we have a society with a balanced, healthy lifestyle for every member.

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Thursday, September 26, 2002

IDEA #7 NAPS--Neighborhood-Associated Primary Schools

Some years ago I wrote up a proposal for our local school district for starting Neighborhood-Associated Primary Schools--NAPS. The idea was to have Preschool-Grade 3 in home-like buildings located throughout residential neighborhoods. This would allow children to walk to school, to be near their familiar neighborhood surroundings, to know where they are and how to get home from where they are. It would also mean that their first experience of school would be on a small, human scale, not very different from what they are used to in their own homes and neighborhood.

Classes would be small groups and parents would rotate as teacher's assistants. Students would get individualized mentoring as they learn social behavior as well as reading, writing and arithmetic. Each student, parent and teacher would be known to all the others. No one would slip through the cracks. Students would be tested at age 7 and each year thereafter; no one would be advanced to the local elementary school until they had gained the basic skills necessary to succeed as 4th graders.

NAPS could be located in any residential development in one of the larger homes, or a special community services building could be built for every 20 homes in the development and would include a NAP School. Ideally NAPS would be part of Professional Parenting Communities (see IDEA #5 below), and graduates of Schools of the Nurturing Arts (IDEA #3 below) would make ideal teachers and involved parents.

The school board which heard my proposal turned it down as too costly and too hard to maintain in multiple buildings spread throughout the district. I think education is a poor place to economize. Economies of scale may be necessary for adult workplaces, but quality education for our youngest children requires small classes and low teacher-student ratios. We cannot afford to have any of our youngsters fail to learn basic social and academic skills, and numerous studies have shown that young students learn better when they receive personalized attention in a comfortable social setting.

Today parents can join together with teachers to form charter schools along the lines of NAPS. Many homeschooling parents might find NAPS an ideal midpoint between educating their children themselves in isolation from others their age and sending them to the local elementary school. I believe elementary school teachers would be delighted to have NAPS graduates coming into their 4th grade classes ready and fully equipped to learn.

As charter schools, NAPS might have different emphases while being alike in teaching the basic academic and social skills. Some might be bilingual whether or not the students speak a language other than English at home. These early years are the very best for learning language skills. Others might emphasize multi-cultural or historical learning-by-doing, re-enacting scenes from other countries or eras. Others might specialize in observing nature first-hand or growing their own food in school gardens. Still others might emphasize the arts and music.

The school district might offer use of elementary school gyms and playgrounds to NAPS at specific times and use of school buses and vans to take NAPS students to children’s museums and other local learning opportunities.

I believe a society that puts its children and its people first will eventually end up creating something like the NAPS. Why not here and now?

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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Posting the link below to an NPR radio report on Grandfamily House in Boston got me to thinking, and thinking is how I get my ideas worth sharing.

IDEA #6 Replicating Creative Solutions

Many organizations in this country and the world offer annual or periodic prizes for excellence in every conceivable area of accomplishment. Some of those prizes are for wonderful, effective solutions to the problems that plague us as Americans and as people of the world. I think Grandfamily House (see the September 17 posting below) is one such wonderful solution that makes a positive contribution to everyone involved--a true Win-Win solution. It also won a prize, according to the NPR report, and has gotten local and national publicity as a result. Nevertheless, it has not been duplicated anywhere in the country or the world so far as Tony Randolph had been able to find out, in spite of the fact that it has been around for four years already.

What's wrong with this picture? Is Boston the only city with grandparents raising their grandchildren at a time in their lives when they themselves have specialized housing needs? And are there only 26 such families in all of Boston in need of such a creative housing development? Certainly not. Across this country and around the world there are many thousands of grandparents in the same situation, and I'll wager that Grandfamily House has a long waiting list of other grandparents in Boston in need of such a housing development.

So why are there no duplicates of this prize-winning development? I think there are a number of factors involved, at least one of which is that we do not seem to have a clearinghouse where developers can go to find creative, proven solutions to local housing needs which can be freely replicated in their own communities. Nor is there an institute or foundation which has devoted itself to finding the creative solutions to social problems in every city and county of this country and making its findings available (on a website, perhaps?) to everyone everywhere seeking solutions to the same problems.

In Twelve-Step recovery circles there is a saying to the effect of "Live in the solution, not in the problem." To move forward without having to constantly reinvent the wheel, we need to have a willingness to seek out and implement the effective solutions that have already proven themselves elsewhere and build them again wherever they are needed. If we put half the effort into spreading and replicating creative solutions as we spend analyzing and bemoaning our problems, we could make a tremendous amount of progress toward a world we'd all like to live in.

To do that we need to have people who are willing not only to "Do It", but to Do It AGAIN. We need franchises of proven solutions to human problems. We should be able to rest assured that we could move anywhere in this country, and eventually anywhere in the world, and find a Grandfamilies House. Just as an American community considers itself incomplete if it does not have schools, a library, and a hospital, the day must come when it will consider itself second-rate if it doesn't have a Grandfamilies House for every family that needs one.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Toni Randolph from NPR station WBUR reports from Boston on the nation's only housing project designed for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. "Grandfamilies House" has been set up with on-site daycare and accommodations for both the elderly and the young. (5:06) This housing project opened with 26 apartments and on-site daycare in 1998 and as yet has not been copied anywhere else in the country. It is an example of one possible form of Professional Parenting Community (see IDEA #5 below). Every city could use many projects like this. One of the problems we seem to have in this country is that good ideas often do not get replicated.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Because today is one year after 9-11 and the horrific and tragic events of that day in 2001, I've decided to take a break from sharing my accumulation of ideas with you and share instead some of the things that have touched me in my remembrance of that day. I have just returned from a commemoration held on the steps of the state capitol in Salem, Oregon, the city I call home. The focus of the memoriam was to honor and thank those people who dedicate their lives to keeping us all as safe as possible--the fire fighters, police officers, military personnel, public health workers, medical and emergency workers, and volunteers in all these areas. As the representatives of each group were asked to stand, the crowd clapped loud and long in appreciation. I wonder how many times our public safety workers of all kinds have felt the esteem of their fellows expressed so directly.

It reminded me of an occasion a couple of months ago when I attended my first powwow. It was a small, annual powwow held by a nearby tribal confederation (the Grand Ronde) each year to honor the many veterans who have fought overseas to protect this nation which has done so much to wrong its native peoples. After a grand entry parade led by the flags of the United States and various veterans groups, members of the audience were invited to come out onto the large, grassy circle to shake the hand of each veteran and say "Thank you." I took the opportunity to do that and was very moved by the deep sense of rightness this evoked in me. I would have liked to do that with the fire fighters, police officers, military personnel and other public safety workers who were present at Salem's Capitol Mall today.

So let this be my moment to pay tribute to our dedicated public servants who risk their lives to make us a little safer each day. May they know the esteem and gratitude of their fellows. May they find the strength to do their jobs in the safest and most effective way each time they respond to a call for help. May they be surrounded by the love and respect of their families and friends. And whether they fall in the line of duty or simply reach retirement safely, may the honor of their lives of dedicated service follow them wherever they go. May their families and friends take pride in them and let them know they value their commitment to the safety of us all. And may their families be valued and cherished by us all should they no longer be present to love and support them.

I would also like to thank those members of the media who have helped me to absorb and understand the new situation we are in as a nation. I rely each day on receiving the news from NPR--the National Public Radio--and appreciate their role in keeping me informed and educating me by interviewing experts in every area of public policy and international events. I also appreciate the sensitivity they have shown in their programming to the psychological and spiritual needs of the people of our nation as we have learned how to respond in a positive way to the assault upon our way of life on 9-11. Likewise, I appreciate Oprah for having a whole series of programs on short notice which put faces and individual stories on the events of 9-11 and helped us all to work through our shock and grief.

I'd like to conclude with a question I heard a Quaker ask on an NPR program yesterday, "Have I lived today in such a way as to make violence unnecessary?" If all of us all over the world would ask ourselves that question each day and live by the insights we gain from such honest self-examination, we may yet be able to look forward to a world at peace in our lifetimes. May there be no more 9-11s in our future. May there be liberty and justice for all.

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Thursday, September 05, 2002

Check out this web address for an article about one way states are beginning to compensate parents for their stay-at-home parenting. Is a paid parent a professional parent? Well, at least it's a step in the right direction, in my view.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Last week I put "Ideas Worth Sharing" into the Google search engine (still my favorite) and found this website listed as the 9th entry out of 208! It looks as though my efforts to make this site accessible are bearing some fruit. However, I still don't know you are reading these ideas. To drop me a line and let me know what you're thinking, just click on the Click Here at the end of any of the ideas presented below.

IDEA #5 Professional Parenting Communities

My major commitment over the years of adulthood has been to my family, and I believe the family is the fundamental building block of all society and civilization and even the prerequisite for humane survival. As I see it, the essential task of the family is parenting. Yet this is a function for which few of us are prepared either by education or by informal observation. Unless we are fortunate enough to have been raised in a family where exceptionally fine parenting skills were demonstrated on ourselves and a variety of siblings, cousins, and neighbor children, we enter parenthood ignorant and scared, or too ignorant to be scared. This is a poor way to run a society.

I believe we need to have professional parents-- parents trained and skilled in raising healthy, happy children who will become productive members of our society--in every family. In order for this to become true, we need to develop, value, and compensate parenting skills and the people who have and use them. We cannot afford to allow the foundation of our society to be the last refuge of the amateur.

An ideal education for the professional parent might be found at the School of the Nurturing Arts (IDEA #3 below). The graduate of such a program might choose to start a single nuclear family or add their skills to their own extended family of relatives. This would be equivalent to other professionals establishing a private practice for a limited clientele, and the compensation for their skills would need to be privately negotiated with their clients--their family members. A wise society would encourage such career choices by establishing health care and social security benefits for such professional parents in private practice.

Professional parents might also decide to use their skills in a variety of more public settings. Some examples include: running a nursery, day care or aftercare program in their home or in a business or agency; taking foster care or adopted children into their home; mentoring or tutoring others' children in a home school or after school program; working in a children's group home; working as teachers' aides or in children's libraries or with a pediatrician practice; working as a visiting home nurse, childbirth educator, or giving in-home care to new mothers and their babies; or working in recreational programs for children. The compensation for such professional parents should be at least living wage (see IDEA #2 below) and preferably family wage.

Professional parents might prefer to live in PPC's, professional parenting communities, where the neighbors are also professional parents (or aspiring professional parents). Such a community might start as a block of families cooperating in a planned common playground for their children and pets (see IDEA #4 below). The parents of several blocks of this type might join together in building a combination recreation/preschool/health center where professional parents could rotate in providing classes, activities, and health care for the area's children. Local and state governments might well build or buy houses in such communities for foster families headed by professional parents.

In time perhaps developers and architects might design communities of homes with professional parenting community needs in mind--clustered homes with large common yard/playgrounds and a community center. This would be another application of the planned unit development (PUD). An urban variation of this would be a high rise development with its own daycare and sick child facilities on site.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2002

I'm still working on getting the word out that this web log exists, but I don't know whether any new readers have been drawn here. If you're new to this site or returning for another idea, WELCOME. I'd love to hear from you--just click where it says Click Here at the end of today's idea and let me know how you found this site and what you think of the ideas presented here. I'd especially like to hear your ideas worth sharing.


Any family that lives in a residential neighborhood of single-family homes can initiate this idea. Imagine what your block would be like if each homeowner built a fence from the front corner of their house to the front corner of the next house all around the block, then all interior fences were removed. Voila! The side and back yards of the block would become a large, safe playground for all the block's children and pets. The only access to this interior play area would be through the houses which, presumably, would be locked when there were no adults present in them to supervise the kids' comings and goings. The parents could cooperate in planning and developing this playground.

Perhaps they would choose to put in a large circle of cement sidewalk for bikes, skates, skateboards, and Big Wheels. Maybe there could be a large hill of dirt to run up, play "King of the Mountain" on, roll or slide down, and ride dirt bikes up and down. Instead of several rusty, shaky swing sets in separate yards, the parents could invest their joint money and labor in building a large climbing adventure structure for all the kids to enjoy. Maybe there would be a large, old tree somewhere in the playground with low branches that the kids could climb or where they could build a tree house. And there could be a community garden where the kids could grow their own Halloween pumpkins and eat juicy tomatoes fresh from the vine on a hot summer day. I’m sure you have ideas of your own as to what a playground needs to be a child paradise for the kids in your neighborhood.

If there are stay-at-home moms or dads on the block, perhaps the parents employed outside the home could hire them to supervise the playground and everyone’s kids after school until their parents arrive home. They could be responsible for calling the parents at work if their kids don't arrive promptly after school. The kids who live and play on such a block would get to know each other well and look out for one another and be friends at school as well as at home.

Pruning, mowing and playground maintenance chores could become block work parties followed by a picnic lunch. Neighbors would become friends and could offer one another support for the ups and downs of raising a family.

Imagine a community filled with such neighborhood blocks--it could be a great place to live! And my guess is that property values would go up in the blocks where home ownership would include membership in a cooperative playground. What do you think?

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Thursday, August 22, 2002

Here's a bit of feedback on IDEA #3 printed on this site with the permission of the author:

This Nurturing Arts school sounds pretty "new agey" to me, but makes sense. Care would have to be taken to be realist enough to allow these people to work successfully or create viable businesses and programs that use their skills. Those unpleasant realities of business practices, fundraising, grant writing, etc. would be essential in their curriculum....--Luc

This sounds like a good suggestion to me and fits right in with having the students run businesses like a produce stand, restaurant, day care center, etc.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

This past week I've registered this web log on some directories so people who don't already know me can find this site, read the ideas posted here and send their own contributions of ideas worth sharing. If you are new or returning to this site, WELCOME. At the end of each week's idea you'll find a sentence inviting you to send in constructive feedback and comments and your own ideas--just click on the Click Here at the end of that sentence and let me know you've been here and how you found out about the site. Thanks.

IDEA #3 School of the Nurturing Arts

Every community needs a School of the Nurturing Arts, just as every community needs the graduates of such a school. In some communities the School of the Nurturing Arts may be a charter high school, in some a part of the local community college, in others a separate division within a public or private college or university, and in still others a consolidation of private schools for everything from beauticians and masseuses to dog trainers, Master Gardeners, day care operators, and in-home caretakers.

A School of the Nurturing Arts would have the nurture of every living being--plant, animal, and human-- as its focus. Following the principle that "we cannot give that which we do not have", the School of the Nurturing Arts would nurture its students at every level--body, mind and spirit--so as to produce graduates capable of a lifetime of giving, nurturing and taking care of their fellow living beings without themselves becoming depleted.

Just as the heart of nurture is nourishment, the heart of a fully-developed School of the Nurturing Arts would be the care of the soil which grows the vegetables, fruits and grains which feed the animals and humans (students and staff). The biological and horticultural sciences would be learned in a hands-on environment fostering careful observation and appreciation of our living biosphere. Awe and reverence in the presence of every life form would provide nourishment for the souls of staff and students alike. Meals prepared and eaten together from the fruits of their own labor would unite the teaching-learning community. Some schools might run community gardens, a produce stand or even a restaurant.

In addition to studying biology, horticulture, nutrition, food processing, cooking and serving, students at a School of the Nurturing Arts would study physiology, movement (exercise, sport and dance), first aid, massage, grooming, dressing, behavior and deportment. All of these would be applied to animals (pets, livestock, and service animals) as well as to humans. The school might well run a service animal training facility (e.g., seeing eye dogs), a day care center, a respite program for elders with dementia, and/or a care facility for injured wild animals.

A School of the Nurturing Arts would offer weekly processing circles for dealing with emotions and integrating the learning experience. It would offer classes in arts and crafts for the expression of the creative spirit of each student and staff member. The creation and performance of music would be encouraged and supported. A multicultural approach would be taken to all areas of the curriculum and learning community’s life.

The graduates of a School for the Nurturing Arts would be deeply committed to the nurturing of the community of life around them and would have a broad and deep foundation for work in any of the nurturing, healing and cultural areas. Specialist certificates could be offered for advanced work completed in any of the curriculum areas. Our society would be richer at every level for having graduates of a School of the Nurturing Arts as chefs, nutritionists, farmers, coaches, day care and respite providers, veterinary assistants, animal trainers and groomers, horticulturists, masseuses, beauticians, nannies, artists, musicians, parents, foster parents, and caretakers of every kind.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2002

This past week I've been busy learning how to add a hotlink to my weblog and how to link this blog to my email account so that you can quickly and easily send your constructive feedback, comments and ideas worth sharing to me from this site. I've also sent an announcement of the startup of this web log to those family members and friends whose email address I know. I plan to add a new idea (my own or someone else's) to this site every Wednesday, so check in weekly or monthly to check out the latest ideas worth sharing.

IDEA # 2:

I'm old enough to remember when Help Wanted ads were classified under two major categories: men's jobs and women's jobs. One of the benefits to society of the women's liberation movement was the elimination of these two over-arching categories and the listing of jobs under clerical, professional, and other gender-neutral categories. I think it is time to introduce a new classification system that subsumes these gender-neutral categories under the divisions of Supplemental Income, Living Wage, and Family Wage jobs.

Supplemental Income job listings would be for those part-time and minimum wage jobs whose pay and benefits are sufficient only to supplement the income of those who have other means of support. People who might be interested in these jobs include teenagers living at home; college students supplementing scholarships, loans and family support; spouses of workers with Living Wage or Family Wage jobs; recipients of disability or other income assistance; and retirees receiving Social Security and pension benefits.

Living Wage jobs would provide for all the living expenses of the person holding the job, including employee health insurance and retirement savings. Each community (or newspaper, temporary service, or employment agency) would individually assess what it costs an individual worker to be fully self-supporting in that community (food, clothing, shelter, transportation, job skill training, taxes, medical and other professional services, and retirement savings). A job being offered in that community would then need to offer at least that amount in pay and benefits to be advertised as a Living Wage job. People who might be able to hold such jobs include those in the Supplemental Income category above as well as single individuals without dependents.

Family Wage jobs would provide for all the living expenses for the employee plus a substantial portion of the pay and benefits needed for that employee to support dependent children, a sick or disabled spouse, and/or elderly parents or other family members. This would necessarily include health insurance for all family members. It would also offer pay sufficient to provide for savings toward home ownership, college expenses for family members, and caretaking services as needed for disabled or elderly family members. In order to qualify as a Family Wage job, the employer must be offering at least 75% more in pay and benefits than the community has designated as a Living Wage in that community. People who have or anticipate having dependents would need to find Family Wage jobs.

I think there would be a benefit both to employers and potential employees to have Help Wanted ads arranged under these classifications. Employers would have to give careful thought to the maturity, stability and caliber of the employee it is seeking in any advertised position. Employees would be able to realistically assess their career plans and prospects and where to put their job-seeking efforts. Communities would be able to assess which potential employers it wants to attract to its community in order to provide the jobs that will meet the needs of the people living in that community.

I am hoping that as the Living Wage movement makes its way across America, more and more communities will encourage this new classification system for Help Wanted advertising. To send constructive feedback and comments and your own ideas worth sharing
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