Certain People



Commentator Frank Deford advises the White House press office not to let the president be photographed in a golf cart again.

by Richard Jones

My father lives by the ocean
and drinks his morning coffee
in the full sun on his deck,
talking to anyone
who walks by on the beach.
And in the afternoons he works
part-time at the golf course—
sailing the fairways like sea captain
in a white golf cart.
My father must talk
to a hundred people a day,
yet we haven’t spoken in weeks.
As I get older, we hardly speak at all.
It’s as if he were a stranger
and we had never met.
I wonder, if I
were a tourist on the beach
or a golfer lost in woods
and met him now for the very first time,
what we’d say to each other,
how his hand would feel in mine
as we introduced ourselves,
and if, as is the case
with certain people, I’d feel,
when I looked him in the eye,
I’d known him all my life.

“Certain People” by Richard Jones from Country of Air. © Copper Canyon Press, 1986. Reprinted with permission.   (buy now).



from Rose.Aspinall@ficombc.ca

Well, it’s shit. That’s right, shit!

Shit may just be the most functional word in the English language.  You can smoke shit, buy shit, sell shit, lose shit, find shit, forget shit,  and tell others to eat shit.
Some people know their shit, while others can’t tell the difference between shit and shineola.

There are lucky shits, dumb shits, and crazy shits.  There is bull shit, horse shit, and chicken shit. You can throw shit, sling shit, catch shit, shoot the shit, or duck when the shit hits the fan.

You can give a shit or serve shit on a shingle.

You can find yourself in deep shit or be happier than a pig in shit.

Some days are colder than shit, some days are hotter than shit, and some days are just plain shitty. Some music sounds like shit, things can look like shit, and there are times when you feel like shit.

You can have too much shit, not enough shit, the right shit, the wrong shit or a lot of weird shit. You can carry shit, have a mountain of shit, or find yourself up shit creek without a paddle. Sometimes everything you touch turns to shit and other times you fall in a bucket of shit and come out smelling like a rose.

When you stop to consider all the facts, it’s the basic building block of the English language. And remember, once you know your shit, you don’t need to know anything else!!

You could pass this along, if you give a shit; or not do so if you don’t give a shit!




The Cupcake Generation

Imagine what will happen when today’s kids grow up and realize they really aren’t all that special

By Jayne Jacova Feld
spoiled snowflakes who’ve been sheltered their entire lives and have no notion of personal responsibility. Everyone gets a trophy, everyone gets an award! Generation cupcake can’t do wrong. Blame society, not the kids!
by Chefj August 15, 2015

CUPCAKE means “Soft, loving person”


In today’s world, it’s entirely possible for kids to reach adulthood without realizing they’re not amazing at everything they attempt to do. Consider how, in recreational sports, players “earn” trophies for showing up. At classroom awards ceremonies, students are awarded certificates for being the most talented at something, or if not that, for trying really hard. Somewhere along the way, parents decided that because everybody was just so special, everybody should get a proverbial cupcake.
Then there’s the trend toward “cooperative” recess and gym games. Gone from many schools are dodgeball-like elimination games. With the competition out of the picture, everybody wins.

In the academic world, the cupcake is the A. While not so long ago, C+ was the average grade for college-level classes, A’s are the new normal. The first letter of the alphabet comprises 43 percent of all letter grades, according to published reports.

It’s as if we’re afraid that if our kids were to hear the truth – they’re not the best soccer player this side of the Delaware and their report on Jersey tomatoes will not become a “New York Times” bestseller – their egos will be too damaged for them to go on. But are all the trophies and accolades working? It’s a question that more and more parents ask as their kids come home pumped up with high grades, participation trophies, and the idea that life will always be easy breezy.

For Medford mother Trisanne Vricella, her 12-year-old daughter’s steady stream of straight A’s this year is a cause for both celebration and concern.

“She gets straight A’s but she’s in seventh grade and has trouble telling time,” says Vricella, mother of three. “What does that say?”

The cupcake mentality is well-intentioned: in an increasingly complex, competitive and unfair world, it’s an attempt to boost self-esteem and to cushion our children from some of the harsher realities of modern living. While there are many situations in which “everybody wins” is a sensible policy, experts say cupcake overkill can backfire when we shield children from all forms of failure. As they see it, cupcakes feed into a larger trend in modern culture toward over-protectionism.

Moreover, it may seem counter-intuitive, but when children expect or anticipate rewards, it can compromise their performance. Rewards can even kill creativity because they discourage risk-taking, according to several American and Israeli studies. When children are hooked on getting a reward or extreme praise, they tend to avoid challenges and instead play it safe to avoid the possibility of failure.

Failure may sound, well, negative. But shielding children from disappointment can prevent them from building resilience and developing the skills necessary to cope with the complexities of life, says Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free-Range Kids,” which espouses giving children more unsupervised freedom.

“It’s a big lie that everything our kids do is fantastic,” says Skenazy, a nationally syndicated columnist who was relieved when her own son figured out he had no talent for bowling despite his eighth-place trophy in fifth-grade. “We’re treating children as if they were undeveloped, literally fragile and emotionally fragile beings who can’t realize they’re bad at some things.”

As she sees it, “everybody wins” is a by-product of the intensive parenting or helicopter movement. Driven by the marketplace of baby and kid products – from toddler knee pads to gym classes promoting movement “in a safe environment” – parents’ belief that kids will be okay if left to figure things out themselves is undermined. The message is that children cannot learn by observing, self-discovery or by making mistakes. They have to be managed – lest they fall behind.

“Along with this disbelief that things will kick in automatically, parents no longer believe children will bounce back from frustration and failure,” she says. “We’re so worried about their sense of self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem that we think we have to goose everything with an absurd prize.”

In the academic world, parents have become gradually more involved in their teens’ educational and social decision-making processes over the past 20 years; however, 9/11 was perhaps the biggest catalyst leading to “extreme protectionism,” says James Riordan, director of guidance for Cherry Hill schools. The widespread use of cell phones has also fed into this shift. While some of today’s demands from over-protective parents would not have been taken seriously just a few decades ago, educators have changed to accommodate the demands of this more intensive style of parenting.

Among the biggest shifts has been in the college application process – for both the better and worse, says Riordan. With the skyrocketing price of college, the sacrifices families make to pay the bill and the difficulties new graduates have finding jobs, parents are encouraged to play a greater role in the college search. However, it is not unusual nowadays for adults to all but take the decision away from their children. Some pay thousands of dollars for private SAT tutoring, and expert application and essay review, plus they often insist that guidance counselors process applications to as many as 30 colleges, he says.

“When a parent comes in and wants to go through all this, we do it – even if we know the parent has set the whole thing up, and even if the student says ‘I don’t know what colleges I’m applying to,’” Riordan adds.

One of the ways Cherry Hill high schools attempt to help teenagers build resilience is through leadership training, says Riordan. All freshmen go through a program to develop individualized academic and personal goals. The hope is that students will gain skills and confidence to make their own decisions.

“Will it stop over-parenting? Probably not,” he says. “We hope it will give students additional skills they can use and apply to life along the way.”

Riordan says another new trend is the increasingly common, almost knee-jerk reaction some students and their parents have to less-than-satisfactory results on exams and tests. In a not-so-distant past, a teenager would get a test or paper back in a class and have time to reflect upon the grade before reporting it (or not) to their parents.

In cases when a child felt the results deserved a second look, parents would often leave it up to the child to take it up with the teacher. Nowadays, many students immediately text results to mom or dad. Within minutes, parents call the school demanding explanations for a bad grade.

“We feel as parents we have the skills in order to make life better for our children,” says Riordan. “But by doing so much for them, we’re depriving our children of skills they should be developing by themselves.”

Still, not everyone equates “cupcakes” with over-protectionism, especially when used to motivate young children.

“I think folks make too big a deal about young kids receiving trophies,” says Dr. Stefan Dombrowski, director of the Rider University School Psychology Program and Cherry Hill father of two.  “It’s not going to make our kids soft, lazy, uncompetitive or unmotivated. Young kids like getting a trophy in the same way they like receiving a sticker or stamp at school for putting forth effort.”

By grade two, he notes, children generally know the top teams and players despite grown-ups’ attempts to put on an “everyone’s a winner” game face.

And for some, with lingering childhood memories of being on the wrong side of competitive situations, cupcakes have their place. Many years later, Marlton mother Marla Feldman Vecchio recalls the star incentive system her second-grade teacher used to dole out prizes. Month after month, the same three kids won the prize.

“What was the point of trying, we knew we weren’t going to get the prize,” says Feldman Vecchio, a former third-grade teacher in Cherry Hill and mother of three.

Still, she says, the kinder, gentler approach only works up to a point. Children need honest appraisals of their skills and the chance to experience their own failures or they will have trouble gaining independence.

“I tell my kids that life is going to be disappointing sometimes, and they have to accept that and just do their best,” she says. “You have to let them get hurt and feel disappointment.”

While even the most well-intentioned parent has trouble letting their children knowingly walk into failure, those who have let their kids feel some pain say the experience can be invaluable.

When Cherry Hill mom Sharmila Simms’ son Aidan, now 10, came home from school last year with a C on a science test, he was devastated. Normally a straight-A student, Aidan implored his mom to call the teacher and ask for a retake. It was obvious to Simms her son had not prepared for the exam. His answer had missed the point of the question and was not well thought out.

“Our kids are under the impression that if they show up and are breathing, they deserve an A,” she says. “It was hard for him but I refused to fix it for him, and it never happened again. It never will happen again. The lesson was learned.”

Realizing how hard it is for kids to lose, some educators are taking it upon themselves to teach the art of graceful losing. Due to her students’ frequent outbursts from unfavorable game outcomes, Diana Morris, a special education teacher in Cherry Hill, says she started modeling more acceptable reactions to losing a turn or a game, like saying “aww shucks.” Her students found the phrase so funny that it helped take the edge out of losing turns or even the whole game.

“The best was the last time we played an adjective game,” recalls Morris, who teaches first and second grade students at Horace Mann Elementary School. “I landed on ‘lose a turn’ five times in a row. I acted overly silly about it, saying (phrases like) ‘Oh my goodness! Not again! Better luck next time.’ They were laughing and then when they landed on it themselves, it only seemed silly to them.

“The thrill of playing the game,” she adds, “is beginning to take over the desire to win all the time.”

Life Alert Necklaces and the Dinosaur

by Lee Ann Bledsoe


CAMERA FOCUSES in on an old woman sprawled on her living room floor.

“Help me! Help me!” she cries. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Camera zooms in to capture the woman’s tear-stained face. She looks needy and helpless as she grovels on the floor. For God’s sake, I think, put her down! Euthanazia. A club. Find a zombie. Anything to get the whining to stop!

CAMERA PANS the room and captures the terrified faces of two young children as they run to grandma’s side. “Grandma, grandma, are you okay?” the youngest one cries.

Grandma repeats: “Help me! Help, me! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” The kids already know she’s fallen; grandma’s on the fucking floor for God’s sake! Evidently the old woman wants her grandkids traumatized for life as well as terrified in this moment.

Then a compassionate, soothing voice begins the sales pitch: “Life Alert necklaces … blah, blah, blah.”

I absolutely DETEST commercials that prey on our fears to sell stuff. So can you imagine how pissed I am that I’m probably going to have to buy a device that advertises to the world I’m so old and feeble I need a team of experts to help me survive my next fall?

I fell tonight. Two of my great grandkids were with me: Chrissy is three and James Mervin is 18 months. I tripped over Fancy Puzzles, a cat who lives with me but belongs to someone else. (Fancy’s another story.) Anyway, Chrissie was terrified. She panicked and screamed, then cried for 30 minutes. I felt horrible for scaring her so badly. And I wasn’t even hurt.

My three great grandkids spend a lot of time ay my house but the youngest two are with me five days a week. I don’t mean to brag–or maybe I do–but I am the best great grandmother on the planet. What would happen if I had hurt myself? What would happen if I had a stroke? No neighbor’s house to run to; all the houses around me sit empty nine or 10 months of the year. My internet and phone (a landline) are out as much as on during the stormy season.

Maybe I should get another cell phone? I have seven or eight of the damn things now, sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk. My kids and grandkids keep buying them for me. I’m always grateful for the new device; absolutely thrilled to own a gadget that would allow everyone  in the world to reach me, anytime of the day or night, anywhere I might happen to be. I can’t imagine anything more intrusive. How do people stand it? Nevertheless, I thank the kids sweetly, play around with the latest phone until the battery dies, and then add it to my growing collection. But I might have to reconsider; can a three-year-old kid use a cell phone? Or should I order one of those Life Alert necklaces? At this point in my life, I’d rather fitted for Depends.

Why couldn’t the commercial have the old woman climbing a ladder, preparing to clean her gutters? I do that twice a year. She could fondle the necklace, look squarely into the camera and say in a strong voice: “This will come in handy if I fuck this up.”

I could buy into a commercial like that.


– See more at: https://scriggler.com/DetailPost/Opinion/25339#sthash.86EPv6x9.dpuf



Lee Ann Bledsoe says: “I was a fairly successful professional writer 100 years ago working as a columnist for “The Oregonian” and “The Columbian,” writing humorous verse for several greeting card companies, and freelancing for “Alcoholism” and “Health” magazines. Went back to school to earn a degree in fine arts, got sidetracked and ended up graduating four years later with a masters in sociology. For the next three decades I worked in community mental health, specializing in the DMIO (“dangerously mentally ill offender”) population. Fun group. One of those guys took a real dislike to me in May of 2011, effectively ending my career and the bleeding heart phase of my life. I’m extremely grateful he didn’t end me, as well. Now I’m writing again. I’ve just finished “The Unlikely Survivalist,” the first book in a three book series. Other than that, I hate liver–even smothered in onions–love dogs, gardening without gloves, reading and writing.”

Hans Christian Andersen





Saturday, Apr. 2, 2016


Today is the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen (books by this author), born in Odense, Denmark (1805). He was the only son of a shoemaker who used to tell him stories from Arabian Nights. His mother was an illiterate washerwoman who was widowed when her son was 11. When Andersen was 14, he told his mother that he wanted to go to Copenhagen. When she asked what he intended to do there, he said, “I’ll become famous! First you suffer cruelly, and then you become famous.”

He intended to find his fame on the stage. He even found a patron, Jonas Collin, who was the director of the Royal Danish Theatre. But Andersen was tall and gawky, and people used to laugh at his attempts to sing and dance; he also experienced poverty worse even than he had known in Odense. He felt like an outsider. These feelings were reinforced when he finally went back to school at Collin’s urging. Andersen was a country boy not used to life in the capital city, he was much older than the other students, and he was a mediocre student at best; his schoolmaster used to pick on him mercilessly. He finally graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1828, and he published his first story in 1829. It was called “A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager,” and it was a success. His writing career was launched.

Andersen followed up that first story with volumes of poetry, plays, autobiographical novels, and travelogues. He published his first collection of fairy tales in 1835, but still continued writing for adults. Although his novels did well, his fairy tales were overlooked at first, and it wasn’t until an English translation was published in 1845 that they became popular. Andersen gave us “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Ugly Duckling,” and “The Little Match Girl,” among many others – more than 150 fairy tales in all.

With his literary success came the fame and acceptance that Andersen had always wanted. He traveled extensively around Europe, rubbing elbows with fellow writers like Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Henrik Ibsen. In England, he met Charles Dickens, whose work he admired. The two men shared a concern for the less fortunate members of society, and had both grown up without money, and they became friends.

In 2012, a Danish historian came across a previously unknown Andersen fairy tale in the bottom of a storage box in the national archive. The story is called “The Tallow Candle,” and it’s about a lonely candle that feels misunderstood and unappreciated until it is finally recognized by a tinderbox. Andersen wrote it when he was a teenager, during a particularly unhappy period at school, and he presented it to a vicar’s widow who had loaned him books when he was a child.

In 1872, Andersen was badly injured when he fell out of bed. He never fully recovered from his injuries; he also developed liver cancer, which claimed his life in 1875.