TV Shoots: All in a Day’s Work

Television shoots aren’t what you think. I enjoy doing them, because they’re about books—and anything to do with reading is sexy, right? But they are far from glamorous.

I can’t recall how many I’ve done now—for Dateline, 48 Hours, 20/20, Dr. Phil, CrimeWatch, ID Discovery—but they are all remarkably similar. Behind the scenes I sit, cell phone off, waiting for the cameraman (so far, they have all been men) to adjust the lighting, the background, and me. My mic, clipped to my shirt collar or jacket lapel, my hair, and my glasses, which usually come off, due to the glare on my lenses.

In short, TV shoots consist of long moments of conversation punctuated by short bursts of touch-up sessions, to powder my shiny nose. Or fix my flyaway, baby-fine hair. When this happens, the producer sitting across from me (so far, all women save one) will ask for clarification about a question I’ve answered, or I will provide a detail about the story that she hasn’t yet asked me. Just in case she doesn’t.

I do my homework so I’ll be prepared, having reviewed dates and timelines for that particular story, because when you’ve written several books, you can’t risk confusing a salient detail from one book with another. This is crucial, because sometimes the producer or show’s writer isn’t prepared.

That happened in Colorado in September 2015, forcing me to repeatedly correct the TV crew. These weren’t small errors, either; they had the potential to create a liability for the network. Thank goodness that was the only time I had such a dreadful experience, and worried that my book might be misrepresented on national television. Trust me, no author wants that.

The most recent TV shoot took place in Annapolis, Maryland, near the harbor, which was filled with sailboats and larger craft. I had sat on the deck at Pusser’s Caribbean Grille the night before, eating dinner and watching the sunset. The next morning, I walked around town, sightseeing, then dressed and did my makeup. More made up than usual, since the bright lights from TV cameras would wash me out if I didn’t.

Alex Haley and family in bronze

They sent a limousine service to collect me, which was one of the highlights of my day. Not because I didn’t have to drive myself, although that was certainly nice, but because it was interesting. As I chatted with the driver, I learned that he was in Boca Raton, Florida, last year while I was working a few miles away in Pompano Beach. I also learned about his business, and why his 18-year-old son will soon triple his father’s income.

By and large, it’s the people I meet who make these TV shoots most enjoyable. A cameraman named Brian, who knew my book as well as I did. Now that’s impressive! A freelance producer who changed her career track from attorney to TV, because practicing law can be downright depressing these days. Oh, and then there’s the nonprofit she runs for disadvantaged youth, which is her first love.

U.S. Naval Academy

One of the most colorful producers I met, bruised and battered from her long days behind the scenes, worked in Los Angeles, California. There, she prepped guests and helped them ward off potential meltdowns, panic attacks or, worse yet, physical fights with each another. I later heard she gave it all up for the love of her horses, and the love of a man. Now that’s romance worthy of a TV show.

I forgot to take along a jacket for this last shoot, so while the temperatures outside hovered in the high 80s, we felt like we were inside a meat locker. The room was so frigid we stopped periodically, just to go outside and warm up. That and hot coffee kept my teeth from chattering, something that would have given the sound guy grey hair, I’m sure.

Speaking of sound, when the Dateline producers, two elegant, intelligent New York City women, came to town, they turned a vacant storefront in the Mountaineer Mall into a TV studio. But during the on-camera interview, loud pounding next door forced us to stop repeatedly, causing the producer to repeat entire questions. Every time we began speaking, so did the pounding, like a metronome in perfect time to our interview. After several minutes, the producer had to ask management to quiet things down. Otherwise, we would never have wrapped up.

The same thing happened in Annapolis. Except this time, the noise was from a hotel cart rolling by, right outside our door. And then there was the family with several boisterous children. They exited the pool to wait for the rest of their group, before leaving. Finally, we had a quiet space to continue the interview.


Being on set is fun, and can be exciting, but those times are far and few between. Most of the time, like today, I’m cleaning house, replying to emails, running errands, and tending my flower garden.

Tomorrow I renew my search for my missing daughter, and continue working to settle my late husband’s estate—the little things that highlight most of my days.

* * * * *


Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Morgantown Area Farmer’s Market Hopes to Spread the Word: “We Accept EBT and WIC!”

I love farmer’s markets. They remind me of the rich, dark earth I played in as a child. There, every spring, I would help my mother dig long, somewhat straight rows in the garden, drop in tiny seeds, cover them with soil, and then watch them shoot up through the ground, turning from a tiny tendril to a fully formed, sun-ripened tomato, ear of corn, green bean or other delicious vegetable.

Ashey Reece, local SNAP coordinator, talks about using EBT cards at the farmer’s market.

We didn’t have much money for food, so growing our own was vital. In today’s housing economy, fewer people have enough land for a garden, making farmer’s markets around the country a necessity. Especially for low-income folks, who, sadly, may not frequent them—because they don’t know the produce is actually quite affordable. It’s also far better for you than anything in a supermarket, since produce can travel thousand of miles to reach you, making it almost outdated by the time it arrives.

Not only that, but the Morgantown Area Farmer’s Market—like others of its kind—accepts the same form of payment my mother and I both as single parents: WIC benefits and food stamps (currently known as EBT cards). Provided by SNAP, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, these benefits are available here in West Virginia and around the county.

What you may not know, however, is that before long, every EBT dollar you spend at the Morgantown Area Farmer’s Market has the potential to become two. In other words, shopping at your local farmer’s market could double your dollars. All we need to do is spread the word, since few people who pay for their groceries with an EBT card (or who use WIC) know that the farmer’s market gladly accepts these forms of payment.

Ashley Reece, the local SNAP coordinator, wants folks to receive $2 of fresh produce in return for $1 EBT dollar. All that’s needed is to get more EBT consumers to shop at the Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon (located in Westover) markets. Then, in turn, a grant can help turn Ashley’s goal of providing quality food to local families into a reality.

Farmer’s markets like the one in Morgantown are crucial to people from all walks of life. I know this personally because in 2009 my daughter and I began a weekly excursion to the Oakland-Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, easily the best one of its kind in the Bay Area of California, and chock full of farm fresh goodies from around the region. This market, not far from Lake Merritt, also featured fresh flowers, pretty plants, food vendors, and—my personal favorite—live music. Those early Saturday morning forays were better than any festival I’ve ever attended.

They were also far healthier, featuring natural, organic, and pesticide-free food. Which is why I was thrilled when the Morgantown Area Farmer’s Market decided to expand a few years ago. Now you can shop in the shade, where, on Saturday morning from 8:30-noon, a parking lot beside the Spruce Street United Methodist Church transforms into a fragrant food stand, even featuring produce that was plucked from the garden only a few hours earlier.

I guarantee you will not find food this delicious at your local grocery store. You won’t find the farmers who grew it there, either, ready to answer your questions and personally serve you from the bounty of their hard work.

What you will find is a crowd of milling people, parents with baby slings wrapped around their chests, dogs on short leashes, all sauntering up and down the market picking out organic food such as fresh eggs, garlic scapes, bok choy and leafy greens of every variety, raw honey, cherry tomatoes and cherries, along with a wide variety of homemade baked goods and farm-raised fresh meat—including lamb. Don’t forget to exchange your EBT, paper or plastic dollars for tokens, which can be found at the top of the market closest to the church. You can even say hello to Ashley when you do so.

And remember, farmer’s markets are not just for yuppies, Millenials or the middle class. Widows, single parents, college students, the unemployed, and families down on their luck, so to speak, can all afford to buy the best food available—at area farmers’ markets—thanks to the EBT card.

* * * * *


Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Finding Sustenance, and Moving Forward, in a Time of Grief

You sustain me.

Whether it’s macadamia nuts and honey from Hawaii; cranberry skin care from Maine; gift cards from Texas, Maryland, and beyond; or a homemade meal and a handwritten card, your love lifts me up and gives me strength.

The loss of a loved one, in my case a spouse, is one of life’s most challenging curve balls. But when you factor in a missing daughter, too, the grief can become unbearable. I’ve known since the day she was born that Jocelyn was different, just as a mother recognizes every facet of each child’s individuality. It was that uniqueness that led her to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, to enroll in theatre, and later, to forge her own path as a healer, going into inner city neighborhoods to help everyone she met. My grief for my daughter has been unfolding for years now. It’s like that familiar, albeit somewhat scratchy, sweater you grab to stave off an early morning chill.

But the grief for a spouse is different than that of a child, especially when you don’t get to say goodbye. When time and distance and life separate you in ways you simply cannot overcome. People say the happy memories will sustain you. But what if the unhappy ones more readily come to the fore, threatening to suffocate you with anger and sadness?

Quite simply, it’s a choice. You can choose—I can choose—what I think about, what I ponder and pray about, what memories will hold a place in my heart. Whether for my husband or my daughter. And it took a greeting card with a quote from Oliver Wendall Holmes to remind me of that.

“I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving,” Holmes said.

I’m standing in this moment of grief, wearing widow’s weeds, but moving only forward. Never back. I know I was a good wife, who saved her husband’s life at least four times: when I paid for his quadruple bypass surgery; when I ordered his orthopedic team off his case, for refusing to acknowledge that a beet-red foot with an open wound was the cause of his raging bone infection and demanded they treat him immediately; and when I insisted he let me drive him to hospital, because I suspected he’d had a stroke. (He had.)

But the most recent incident was in 2015, while I was still recuperating from bilateral knee surgery, and my surgeon had not even released me to drive yet. When Butch didn’t come home from taking our beloved Labradoodle for a drive, I called him—and heard the strain in his voice. I had tried to convince him to go to the doctor throughout the weekend, but he refused. So on that Monday I was worried, and while working on another book deadline, I waited 15 minutes, then 20. When he failed to answer my repeated calls or return my texts, at the 30-minute mark I grabbed my car keys and drove around town looking for him.

I found him in the Dunkin Donuts’ parking lot, hands gripping the wheel so tightly he couldn’t let go. One side of his face drooped, and he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. I yelled for someone to call 911, and then finger fed him sugar, placing it on his tongue. By the time the ambulance arrived, his blood sugar was 28. People have died with higher levels than that—and he nearly did. Would have, had I not gone looking for him.

The bone infection happened in February 2014, after he fell and broke his leg. I was in the middle of filming an episode for the Dr. Phil Show and facing a major deadline for Pretty Little Killers. Butch was hospitalized for the better part of a month, so I set up camp just outside his room, where I could keep an eye on him through the connecting window. Armed with my laptop and several notebooks full of materials, I interviewed people from there, and took care of him, too, all while meeting my deadline. There’s a reason they say you never leave someone you love alone in a hospital. And I didn’t, wouldn’t.

You haven’t left me alone since Butch died, during the last 50 days. You have given me cinnamon cake and carried homemade cavatini to my door, pruned my flower garden, taken my calls and taken me to lunch, or just bought me a cup of coffee. Many cups of coffee. You chauffeured me when I couldn’t drive, opened your homes to me, and in one case you drove four hours round-trip, just to loan me some money—showing the kind of self-sacrifice that is crucial to surviving grief.

Your personal gifts, your written expressions of love, sympathy, and encouragement, continue to buoy me, and will in the days to come. Yet I know I can never repay you. Not entirely. So I will do what I can, and thank you—from the bottom of my heart.

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Let’s Give the President a Pass—And Fix His Pants

Alternative facts? What are those anyway, Kellyanne? Well, any good wordsmith should know. Let me take a stab. After considerable thought, followed by research, this is what I found.

Unlike the rest of the media believes, I think the problem is easily remedied. All we need to do is call the White House seamstress, and have her to let out the President’s trousers.

See how easy that is? Just a length of thread and a needle are needed to fix President Trump’s poor temper. Because, as you know, the issuing of “alternative facts” has been traced to having a rise that’s too tight.

That must be why, on Saturday, Trump instructed his new press secretary to call out “the dishonest media.” To set matters straight, and inform the press that the inaugural crowd was really much larger than reported. That it was, indeed, the largest in history.

Rise, as used here, is a sewing term. I learned it years ago, when constructing men’s garments. Not to be confused with the inseam, which is measured from the groin to the hem. No, rise is the measurement from the bottom of the crotch to the waistband. Furthermore, it’s crucial to measure well—because a constricted rise can be really uncomfortable, making a man quite crotchety.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer surely knows that Trump’s trousers don’t fit well, so he clearly risked his reputation (and his job?) to pacify the Chief of Staff. Poor Spicer, he probably thought that lying to the news media would make Trump feel better. But, as it turns out, it didn’t.

So on Sunday, Kellyanne Conway took a turn at trying to help her boss. A senior advisor, Conway tried to explain Spicer’s actions about the media, to the media. “He gave alternative facts,” she told a shocked Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“Alternative facts” has since become the word of the week. And other than telling the American people that the President needs his garments altered, what does it really mean?

Merriam-Webster provides some insight. It defines “alternative” as “offering or expressing a choice,” and gives an example: “several alternative plans.”

A few letters over, M-W defines “facts” as “the quality of being actual” and “a piece of information presented as having objective reality.” The latter definition offers this example: “These are the hard facts of the case.”

It’s an alternative, that’s for sure. Even an alternate, as in alternate reality. Like I said back in November, when I posted that we were living in the Twilight Zone. I agree with political analyst Ken Rudin, interviewed on Insight this morning by host Beth Ruyak. He said “Trump is still obsessed with numbers. . . . and the size of the crowd at Friday’s inaugural.”

I doubt that’s the only object’s size he’s obsessed with.

Rudin said some figures put the inaugural crowd at one-third the size of Obama’s, and “that’s unacceptable to Trump, who said so to the CIA.”

Still, this isn’t a big deal. So all you media folks out there, stop worrying! I don’t think we should jump to conclusions and assume that Trump is lying. Or trying to rewrite history. Only Nazi and fascist dictators do that—not American presidents. Right?

Instead, we must accept that this problem has a simple solution. Get that seamstress in here right now, and have her alter the President’s rise. (Oh wait, get him in here. No self-respecting woman would be caught dead near the President’s rise.)

And while he’s at it, maybe he can make Trump some warmer clothing altogether—because with his paper-thin skin, the Leader of the Free World must be very cold.

* * * * *

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

3 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Crime Victim

Yesterday was a first: someone tried to steal my car. Thankfully, they only stole my car keys. I was at the pool and alone in the locker room, blow drying my hair, when a woman walked out of a bathroom stall and began drying her hands.

A few minutes earlier, I had overheard her talking with someone about the pool’s two-week free membership, so I told her I was new, too. I introduced myself, and she did the same. Megan told me she had just moved here, and we chatted briefly. Then she left, but not until she flashed a big smile and I saw her black teeth.

I don’t like to profile people. But in my line of work, you learn to recognize drug addicts. And having bad, or several missing teeth, is one sign of serious drug use. I didn’t hold it against her, though, until later.

Leaving the pool not two minutes behind Megan, I watched as a man who parked next to my car carefully opened his door, trying not to scratch my car. I smiled as our paths crossed, and got into my car.

But I was surprised to find it unlocked. I distinctly remembered locking it, so when a “key not detected” message appeared on the dashboard, I had a bad feeling. I turned my gym bag inside out, but my keys were gone. That was odd, because when I first went into the locker room, I lifted up the keys to look for a ponytail holder.

With no way to start my car, I returned to the locker room and checked the locker. It was empty. I asked the front desk receptionist, “Carla,” if anyone found my keys. Then I asked about Megan, and if she had completed the paperwork needed for her two-week free trial. She hadn’t. That was a red flag, since Megan told me she was looking forward to using the pool.

Carla said Megan and a female friend had come in and asked to use the restroom. The friend used the loo in the lobby; Megan came into the locker room to use one of those toilets. Carla also remembered that Megan’s friend left the building first, before Megan did.

I asked Carla if she had a bad vibe about the two women. She said she had but, like me, she didn’t want to be guilty of profiling. (Megan was white; her friend was black. Both women wore hoodies and jeans.) By then, I knew I needed to call the police. I did that but before the officer arrived, the driver who parked next to me left the gym. I asked if he had seen anyone near my car when he arrived. He said he had, actually. A woman was standing next to it but when a small, white (or grey) car pulled up one lane away, she got in, and the car drove away.

Here’s what I think happened: Megan planned to steal my car (or anything of value inside), when that fellow parked next to my car. So instead, she jumped into the getaway vehicle and she and her partner in crime split.

This is what I learned yesterday: another swimmer told me a recent news report said two women were approaching area gyms, asking to use the bathroom. Once inside, they steal car keys from lockers.

The officer said criminals like this target businesses without security cameras (like the pool), brazenly break into cars in broad daylight, then make their escape on a nearby interstate. She also said that if you try to hide your purse or other valuables on the car seat under a bulky item like a sweatshirt, thieves will still break in. So place everything in the trunk, completely out of sight.

The locksmith said he gets calls to gyms in the Sacramento area at least once a week, for just this type of theft. They even carry a small set of bolt cutters. Sometimes they take the cars, he said; sometimes they just break in and steal what’s inside.

I learned a lot yesterday:

1. Crimes involving vehicles aren’t confined to Oakland or San Francisco. They can and do happen anywhere.

2. Don’t bury your valuables under other items—that only attracts criminals looking for items to steal.

3. Always lock your gym or pool locker.

Because, as I learned the hard way, car keys are very valuable. Mine cost $250 to replace, plus after I completed an incident report at the pool, filed a police report, got a tow, and had the key replaced, 6 hours had passed.

* * * * *

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

I’m a Snowflake—and Proud of It!

As I watched some of the inauguration online, I began thinking about the last few months. Boy, have they been busy! Especially for some people, like the Trump supporter who emailed me recently, calling me a snowflake. Google helped me better understand the reference, confirming that the term was used in a derogatory way.

So, I decided to take lemons and make lemonade. (Like Trump’s own “deplorables” did, and good for them!) The word snowflake, as used by some folks, refers to “a self-imposed victimhood” by people who are so delicate they can’t handle, well, anything.

I love snow. And building snowmen, and lying in a bed of soft snow, making snow angels.

Snowflakes have been called “one of nature’s finest masterpieces.” Yes, they are delicate: hundreds of delicate ice crystals comprise these works of art. And yet—“two identical flakes have never been found.” That’s according to the book Atmosphere, which also says: “The endless variety of snowflakes is legendary. . .”

So, I’m beautiful and unique—and you are, too, if you’re a snowflake.

But that’s not all. As they fall through the air, snow crystals carry compounds of nitrogen and sulfur, which clean the atmosphere, supply moisture, and fertilize soil. How’s that for efficient, powerful, and just downright necessary for continued life?

Snowflakes are also inanimate beings that have nothing to do with politics. Which is important to understand, given what I’m about to say.

Some of you believe I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter. Let the record accurately reflect that I am not. (I was especially not a supporter when she stood by her cheating husband, a man who disgraced the office of POTUS directly in the Oval Office. However, I respect the fact that marriage is a sacred union, and as such, I have no right to tell anyone else how to handle theirs.) That said, I certainly do appreciate Hillary’s many positive actions on behalf of women and children.

Still, the bottom line is, I hate politics—because they’re divisive. Especially in 2016. Will these divisions continue in 2017? So far, it doesn’t look promising. We’re just twenty days into the new year, and already there is no sign of a slowdown in the strife and name calling.

I’ve experienced it and if you’re a snowflake (or a deplorable), you have, too. As a result, I felt forced to take a hardline stance on Facebook recently, instituting a policy for anyone who visits my page. My rules are nothing more than common sense and courtesy, but since both have gone out the window lately, I found the need to post them.

Speaking of that, there’s courteous, there’s civil, and there’s respect. Each one is different. I can be courteous and civil, while still failing to respect someone. Take my stance on the 45th POTUS: I highly esteem the office, but I’m still waiting for the man to earn my respect. He could begin by apologizing—publicly, on Twitter—for using it as the bully pulpit he’s turned it into.

Because, as Rep. Mark Pocan said, when asked if he was attending today’s inauguration, “At minimum, it’s time for Donald Trump to start acting like President Trump, not an immature, undignified reality star with questionable friends and a Twitter addiction.”

And Trump’s continual attempts to malign the press—who is trying to hold him accountable—by saying “the dishonest media” is no different than saying that all businessmen are thieves. Or all firefighters are arsonists. Even if you support someone, if you pride yourself on being fair, you must call a spade a spade. Not a shovel. Journalists as a whole are no worse than people in any other profession.

Speaking of businessmen, a good friend of mine spent decades working with Florida contractors who never received their final draw from Trump. Many contractors pay their expenses—supplies and labor—with the first few draws. Any profit comes at the end, with the final draw.

Except when the customer refuses to pay it. Like Trump regularly did. “Did you know any subcontractors who got their final draw?” I asked. “No, not one,” my friend said.

But if you use social media to call attention to anything Trump has done that is wrong, like actress Meryl Streep did at the Golden Globes earlier this month, his supporters will immediately attack you. And try to distract you. This happened to me on Twitter and Facebook, when I posted about Streep’s comments. Perhaps it’s happened to you, too.

To anyone who does that, I say: stop confusing the issues, or, as happened in this case, ignoring them. Trump did mock a man with disabilities, who also happens to be a journalist. It happened. And Streep was spot on for calling it that. Yet Trump supporters quickly attacked her, and turned her words against her, calling her out for her support of Roman Polanski—which occurred 14 years ago.

Yes, Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl. I was raped at 13, so would I take exception to that? Absolutely not! Neither did Streep. Look at the context, which had nothing to do with Polanski’s 1977 actions. The standing ovation given Polanski by the entire audience came about because of the directorial award he received for The Pianist. Would I have stood up for him? Nope.

But that’s not really the point. Neither are Meryl Streep’s 2003 actions regarding Polanski. One act (Streep’s standing ovation) does not cancel out the other (Trump’s mocking). So when Trump supporters try to change the topic, as happens to anyone who tries to hold Trump accountable, please remember why they do it: they don’t want to acknowledge the flaws of someone they have placed on a pedestal.

This is called gaslighting. I have a sinking feeling we’re going to see a lot more of it in the next four years. But only if we let it happen. If we refuse to let argumentative people engage us, there won’t be enough gas to keep the fire lit.

If you’re not sure how to disengage, or stay on topic, just remember that time with your rebellious teenager. You know, when you caught her and her boyfriend necking in his Mustang. So you sentenced her to volunteer at a local shelter for pregnant teens.

She tried to distract you of course, whining and crying and finally threatening to run away—but you didn’t let her get away with it. And in the end, after she saw how bad those teenage moms-to-be had it, she thanked you. (And you didn’t become a grandmother ten years too soon.)

Moreover, if we get off our bums, and remove our thumbs from Twitter, and instead channel our energy into more worthwhile pursuits, we stand a greater chance of extinguishing the gas-lit flame.

If, though, you are suffering the effects of a Trump win, or you’re suffering at the hands of snowflakes like me, I have a recipe to help. In just three easy steps, I guarantee you will feel better.

1. Bake some cookies.
2. Take them next door to your neighbor.
3. While visiting, ask how they are doing, and find out what you can do to help them.

Finally, for a country that claims to be God-fearing (“one nation, under God”), I must say that the American people certainly don’t act like it. Yes, I’m concerned and even a little worried about what havoc the Trump administration might cause. But I’m also completely confident that God has everything under control.

I will get through the next few years the same way I have the last few decades: because I have better, more important things to do. And so do you. For instance, I have more stories to tell, and books to write. I need to work on being a better person, exercise (my mind and my body) more, and—last but far from least—find my daughter.

So close your mouth and move your feet. Volunteer to help people who are already being targeted, be they journalists or Mexicans or Muslims. Or anyone else who needs it.

Are you ready? Good, because believe it or not, we will survive!

* * * * *

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

Bring it on 2017!

I begin 2017 like many people, looking back at the year before. Or, in this case, the month before.

December was not easy. Aside from being the anniversary of my sister’s death, there was so much tension and turmoil following the presidential election that I’ve had trouble remaining upbeat.

A room with a view, as seen from my Oakland hotel room.
A room with a view, as seen from my Oakland hotel room.

I last blogged on November 10, when I wrote about the sharp increase in bullying. Some people’s negative reaction to that blog, which contained evidence of hate speech directed at a gay couple in West Virginia, deeply saddened me.

That was before I realized that practically the entire country had been hoodwinked by fake news. I came to this conclusion on November 11, after seeing replies to my Facebook post and Twitter feed, both of which featured that blog. As one person after another commented, I found myself feeling like I was living in the Twilight Zone. There was such a large disconnect from what they believed, and what I knew to be true, that it boggled my mind.

I know where my facts came from, but where on earth were they getting theirs?

So I asked folks that very question, which led to a discussion about the horrible, awful things the Clintons supposedly had done, which they said would soon be brought to light. They cited websites I checked out, which turned out to harbor dangerous conspiracy theories.

These same conspiracy theories, with some help from some fake news articles, led them to insist the Clinton rumors were true. (The fake news seemed real enough it led one man on a would-be “rescue” mission inside a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor—where no one needed rescued.)
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So, for anyone who is wondering where a serious, investigative journalist goes to find out if something is true before using it in a news story they’ve been assigned to write, I offer you this: The Poynter Institute, a leading education agency that any news reporter worth his salt knows and uses liberally. This is the group that participates in top-notch media panels such as occurred in Morgantown, West Virginia, following the Sago Mine disaster eleven years ago today. (The explosion occurred on January 1, 2006. Two days later, heartbreaking headlines got it wrong, proclaiming the victims were alive. They weren’t. Yet another valuable lesson for journalists: take your time. Get the story, but get it right, first.)

Founder Nelson Poynter realized that his nonprofit had a big assignment when he declared, “its job is to help train the people who are going to help maintain the integrity, the stability, the progress of self-government.”

Poynter’s website has several critical stories about how you can spot fake news yourself. It isn’t rocket science, that’s for sure. But if you care about freedom and liberty, you’ll spend some time fact-checking the news you consume—before sharing it with anyone else.

* * * *
I’ve also had some pressing family matters that kept me busy, and I traveled to Oakland, California, after the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire. As the days of December marched by, I tried to find and focus on the good. The positive. The upbeat.

And I couldn’t have been happier when I learned that Mandy, the homeless Mississippi mother of three I met on my trip west, found a home. One small step—but what a difference it’s making in her life and that of her children! Her success is our own, and we should all celebrate with her.

In a month like December, it was a real challenge to find good news. But there were bits and bobs, here and there. For instance, I learned that my three-week bout with bronchitis left me thirteen pounds lighter. (Who says being sick doesn’t have an upside?) Which I may put back on, given that a large parcel of goodies just arrived from my Hawaii friend. Oh yes, and the BBC plans to publish an article I wrote, which is most gratifying.

As we step into 2017 we’re like the swimmer who pokes his big toe into the water, trying to see if it’s warm enough for a plunge, only to find that it’s frigid. And we know it may stay that way for longer than we like. But it’s exhilarating and destined to keep us doing the breaststroke so we don’t give up before we realize what’s possible.

Like Dory said, “just keep swimming.”

I refuse to let the ugly residue from 2016 get the best of me. No matter what happens, I am going to live each day of 2017—each minute—to the fullest. I am determined to be happy in spite of what the world around me does. Or doesn’t do.

I will be present. I will live in the moment. I will cherish every small gift that comes my way.

I hope you do the same.

* * * * *

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

People Cite Trump as Reports of Hate Crimes Against Muslims and Gays Increase After Election

First came the stealthy knock, carried out under cover of darkness.

Then the sound of footsteps, running away from the house.

And then, the horrible message: “TRUMP is our president now. Get out of our neighborhood now FAGGOTS!!”

I hate that word. I refuse to utter it and hate to even type it. Or share it on social media, which I felt forced to do today.

Corey Hurley found the note, printed in black ink on a piece of plain notebook paper. It was lying at his feet when he opened the door after being awakened at 3 a.m. Thursday morning.
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“I was terrified,” Hurley said during a telephone interview. “I knew things were going to start getting a little crazy . . . but I didn’t know it was going to (happen here).”

When I first read the note, posted on a stranger’s Facebook page, I was carried back to 1992. To the day when I took time off work to visit the principal at Kingwood Elementary School, an hour away from Clarksburg – and begged administrators to stop the harassment and name calling. The same name as appeared on the paper found at Hurley’s feet, paper that any child in America might use to complete a homework assignment. The same word directed at my son, Zach, then age eight.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the last 24 hours have seen a significant increase in reports of hate speech and hate crimes around the country. Most have been directed at Muslims, but some in the gay community are being targeted, too.

Like happened to Hurley – and his partner, Kyle Chester.

And my son, who in didn’t know even what sex was at age eight. Much less sexual orientation. All he knew was that the boys in his class didn’t like him. And my visits to his school, and even later, a letter from my children’s therapist, did little to change that.

“This one that you sent me (that Hurley and Chester received) looks like one of the more aggressive that I’ve seen on the anti-gay front,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said.

That unit monitors hate crime traffic. Beirich said the Harrison County case is one of “many, many instances we’re hearing about across the country, where people are seemingly victims of what appear to be hate crimes and reference Trump.”
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This is the first time since 2008, when another President took office. “We haven’t seen an outbreak of what looks like hate incidents since Obama was elected,” Beirich said, “when something similar happened.”

But then, the SPLC saw a “rash of hate incidents (against) black people,” because some people were angry about having a black President.

It’s a different dynamic now, though. “In this case,” Beirich said, “people who look like they support Trump or have sympathies with Trump are attacking minorities.”

Numerous reports have been fielded, she said, of “Muslims having their headscarves pulled off and a ton of incidents in schools . . . there seems to be a rash of these incidents across the nation.”

By the time Zach was in high school, the situation was no better. “I always got threatened in high school. I didn’t tell you because you would have just made it worse.”

One day during a break from theatre practice, Zach was walking outside near the football field. The players were tossing a ball around when “one of them threw the ball at my head, and very narrowly missed me.” Zach threw the football “all the way across the football field so they had to go into the woods to get it.”

Some of the players approached Zach as he walked back into the school. One boy wanted to fight. “So I just stood up to them and let him get into my face and I wouldn’t back down.” The football player turned and walked away.

Hurley, a lifelong Harrison County, West Virginia, resident, has never experienced this kind of violence. “It’s always been more accepting,” he said. “I’ve never had any problems with my sexuality from people before, so I was kind of shocked to see that it happened here in Clarksburg.”

Frightened and shocked, Hurley woke up Chester, who took action. The Lexington, Kentucky, native made sure their home was secure – and then told Hurley they had to call the police.

They did. Chester spoke to Deputy Chief James Chamberlain, with the Clarksburg City Police Department. And patrol cars drove by “a couple of times” afterward, but that’s all. When Chester called later this morning, an administrative worker told him the police couldn’t do anything else. Not until, Chester said, they had “concrete evidence as to where it came from or who did it.”

It’s difficult to understand how police could gather concrete evidence when, 12 hours later, no officer had shown up to even begin the investigation. I tried to reach Chamberlain, but he did not return my call. However, not long after, Hurley and Chester did get a phone call. They were told to go to the Clarksburg police station and file an official report. A “very nice” officer collected the hateful note left at their door.

So now, the investigation into a potential hate crime has begun.

Beirich said it’s hard not to link this kind of hatred with the President-elect. “Trump is referenced in some way. If you’re going to use the word ‘Trump,’ you obviously think this is somehow connected to your support of the President-elect . . . Given Trump’s xenophobic, racist, and so on comments during the campaign,” she said, “it’s not surprising that some people would feel emboldened to do these things.”

While the SPLC doesn’t yet have a tally for how much hate speech, or how many hate crimes have occurred since Trump became President-elect, Beirich said it’s “several dozen.”

They don’t yet know how serious it is, but sadly, incidents like these are happening in America’s schools. At all grade levels. “We’re particularly concerned about stuff happening in schools, involving children,” Beirich said. Muslim students, especially, are being targeted. Being told to “get out of the country.”

The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance program has specific information available for teachers, to help them deal with the backlash.

“It’s tragic to see this happening,” Beirich said, while urging all victims to report such hatred to police, as well as the SPLC. And urging police to officially investigate.

“Any of those kids could have kicked my (butt),” Zach said. “I stood up to them – no, I didn’t back down from them. There’s a big difference.”

I asked him to clarify.

Zach did. “Standing up to someone is when you realize that something bad is happening and you actually confront them about it. Not backing down is just standing your ground if someone confronts you.”

I asked him if it worked.

“It definitely helped,” Zach said. “If I had acted in a different manner, maybe more submissive, they would have tried to do more. But if you let them know you’re not going to back down, they have a little more respect for you.”

Respect. That’s what this boils down to. It’s all Hurley and Chester really want, too. So they’re getting their friends involved, to help spread this message:

“We’re human beings, too, just like everybody else,” Chester said, “and we deserve the same rights and respect that anybody else does, in any neighborhood across the country.”

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

I Found My Heart – In San Francisco

The last time I visited Lombard Street was in 1997. Until Friday morning, when I drove down the famous, curvy street, again – almost 20 years later. Have you ever noticed how, when you live in an area, life is so hectic you don’t often visit the local landmarks? And how, when you return as a tourist, you do?
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You have to make time then, because time is all you have.

I’m not exactly a tourist, though. I was born here, in this land of the “flakes, fruits, and nuts,” as some people say. And I’ve lived, and worked, here before. As I am again.
streetcar
I left West Virginia in August, intent on a cross-country road trip but then uncertain where it would lead me. I still don’t know my final destination, but it will be here, somewhere in this state. I’ve decided to stay here. For years, I’ve been torn between two coasts – and four children. My two daughters who live in West Virginia, and my son and his sister, both of whom live here. It’s been difficult, to say the least, and every time I returned from California, I felt like I left my heart behind, somewhere in San Francisco.

So it was time. Time to pull up stakes and return to the place of my birth, like my father did before me, when he traveled from California to West Virginia in 1969. But my situation is different. I have two adult children here. Who, although adults, need me. And whom I need, just as much. I miss West Virginia and the people I left behind. But nowadays, social media and Skype make it easier than ever to live a continent apart.
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When I drove across the Bay Bridge Thursday afternoon, I never dreamed I would enjoy a culinary feast of the finest kind. San Francisco, you see, is one of a few cities where dining is an experience. Nor did I know that a handsome young fellow intended to take me to the Embarcadero for oysters at Water Bar. A place which he says, “offers the best seafood in the city.”

Or that, after appetizers, he and Glenn, a new friend, planned to cook lobster for me. Talk about a day of new and exciting experiences, unlike any other. We dined in the living room, on salad, sourdough bread, and the sweet meat of the crustaceans, dipping it in drawn butter. All while watching Finding Nemo, an irony not lost on any of us.
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I didn’t expect to spent the night, but it turns out there was an empty bed. So Friday morning I woke up in a strange place, memories of a delicious dinner in the most romantic city in the world swirling around in my mind. And love filling my heart for the two men who made it, one of them my son.
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As I left San Francisco, heading north to my temporary home, I wanted two things: a good, steaming cup of java, from one of the corner coffee shops that can be found throughout the city, and a sunrise photo. When I checked my GPS, I was delighted to learn that Lombard Street was only ten minutes away. How could I possibly pass it up? I couldn’t.
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I arrived at the perfect time, just as the sun’s early morning rays touched the steel beams of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance and bounced off the windows of the Lombard Street homes below me.

But it was perfect for another reason: I met Terry, a woman who lives on this famous street, and who greeted me and the only other person around with a smile. “Isn’t it a glorious day to be alive?” she asked us. He was German and his photography equipment was that of a professional. And although he didn’t speak English, the amazing sunrise we shared transcended the language barrier, as he snapped a photo of Terry and me.
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Life is good. Very, very good – and it’s just beginning.

Editor’s Note: My website is being revamped, and more changes are in the works. So I hope you’ll pardon the mess and be patient, as I iron out all the kinks.

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

You Just Don’t Understand: What Clinton Really Said About Benghazi

All human leaders are fallible, to a greater or lesser degree. They will lie and steal and make deals behind closed doors – or grope women, just because they can.

That said, I couldn’t quite understand why the Benghazi incident continues to have such an impact on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. So I began digging. And, after looking at the language Clinton used during the Benghazi tragedy, I recalled a fantastic college course I took, which used as its textbook You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation, by Georgetown University’s linguistics professor Deborah Tannen.

In that book, Tannen helps us understand the underpinnings of conversation between men and women. What I learned most from that class, and Tannen’s book, is to listen carefully to what people say. And what they don’t.

Here then, my reporter’s hat on and pencil in hand, is my neutral takeaway:

Then-Secretary of State Clinton did as she was told by a superior – likely President Obama – by linking the Benghazi attack to an anti-Muslim video. BUT, if you pay attention to what Clinton did NOT say, you can read between the lines quite easily.

After reading a summary of the Benghazi attack in The Atlantic, and another one from NBC News, about the Republicans’ report on that tragedy, as well as FactCheck’s detailed and thorough timeline of the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, this is what I believe.

But please, don’t take my word for it. That would be a mistake. Instead, put on your thinking cap and, using FactCheck’s hour-by-hour timeline, see for yourself.

Roughly about 10 p.m. that same night, Clinton issued her first public statement about the attack. BUT, her use of the word “some” as in, “Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” tells me that SHE did not believe that to be the case.

This proves true when, one hour later, at 11:12 p.m., Clinton sends an email to her daughter, Chelsea, saying this: “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group: The Ambassador, whom I handpicked and a young communications officer on temporary duty w a wife and two young children. Very hard day and I fear more of the same tomorrow.”

That email wasn’t discovered until 2015. However, let’s talk about what it does show – a woman clearly in pain, over a loss she considered personal. And that email seems to tell the greatest truth about what the U.S. administration knew, and when they knew it.

So why did Clinton lie to the American public? Or did she? Maybe she just repeated the party line that an anti-Muslim video inspired a mob attack.

I think this is more likely: In ensuing public statements, Clinton continues to distance herself from that very stance, using the word “some,” as in “some people – but not me,” she is trying to tell us – believe the video inspired the embassy attack.

That singular phrase is very telling. For if Clinton believed the anti-Muslim video was responsible, or knew that for sure, she would have used the pronoun “we.” Yet she didn’t.

However, President Obama continued to tell the American public, on late-night TV and other shows, such as The View, that Benghazi was the result of a mob attack due to the religious video.

Could that be because he was up for reelection?

In a nutshell, President Obama, as the top dog, should be blamed for misleading the public – not Clinton – who was simply following orders. And who risked being axed, if she broke from the party line and told the truth. And let’s be honest: she wouldn’t be the first whistle-blower to lose her job, would she?

So, perhaps for Clinton, it came down to this: What good can I accomplish then, if speaking the truth gets me fired?

* * *
My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!