Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Nothing Left to Do

The insidious transition
From old age to the afterlife
Undignified and aggravating
All control, lost
Your body, your mind
Succumbed to the dreaded bed
The burden you put
Your middle aged children through
With goals and aches of their own
These grown folks, once babies
Bottled, burped and bathed by you 
Now feed you
Now diaper you
Your eye for art, once great
Now cataracts cloud your vision
Colors, once vibrant
Grey matter sees only grey
Hearing fades
Songs don’t sound the same
Tastebuds betray you
Favorite foods lose their flavor
Meat, too tough
Coffee, too bitter
Donut, too dry

Nothing left to do but die

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sunbonnet Sue

As I kept vigil at Mom’s bedside, I felt compelled to take her picture. But isn’t that weird? Wanting to take a picture of a dying woman.

Mom was deeply asleep. I couldn’t even rouse her when her favorite TV show came on. I was stuck. I wanted to take her picture, but it was probably too late to get her permission.

Years ago Mom gave me permission to write anything about her. But she was always camera shy. I had to guess what her wishes would be. I figured she wouldn’t mind, as long as I captured her at a good angle. And turned her into art.

Mom was a maker before making became the hip new trend. As a kid growing up in her house it was not unusual to walk by more than a day’s worth of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink on my way into the living room where mom had the TV on as she sat at a card table strewn with art supplies, coffee cups, and abandoned projects. Mom would smile as I’d walk into the room.

“Hey, Becky Sue! Look what I’m making.”

I always hated my middle name. Sue. It’s such a pansy ass name. I dropped it as soon as I got married and replaced it with my maiden name. Rebecca Burton Carleton. No longer Rebecca Sue Burton.

She’d set down her soldering iron or her paint brush, her crochet hook or her jig saw—whatever artist’s tool she’d been using to make things. She’d hold up her creation for me to see. Making art brought Mom more than joy. It was therapeutic. In the late Sixties Mom went through an art therapy program at the hospital where she was treated for a “nervous breakdown.” The psychiatric nurses would hand Mom a potholder kit that was easy to weave as she rested in bed following another round of electroshock therapy.

I’m not as good with my hands as I am with my words. Mom was always my biggest fan. She read everything I wrote and encouraged me to keep at it. Mom taught me that it’s not just OK to express myself creatively, even when it’s hard to do. It’s essential. It’s therapeutic. Making art is creation. Making art is life.

I think Mom will be OK with my taking her picture on her deathbed. It’s kinda weird. And kind of morbid. But I want a way to capture this moment as I sit here with my mom, my mentor. 

One of my favorite creations that Mom has made me over the years is this Sunbonnet Sue quilt. Earlier in the day I laid it on top of Mom. She opened her eyes for a minute.

“”Hey, Mom! Look what you made. It’s your Sunbonnet Sue quilt.”

She smiled and blinked her eyes.

“My favorite is this one,” I pointed to the girl with the cat on her dress. “And look, Mom! Her sunbonnet is magenta!”

Mom smiled and blinked.

A few weeks ago, Mom was frustrated. We had been talking about our favorite colors. She couldn’t think of the word for her favorite.

“It’s pinky purple,” she said.

“Fuchsia?” I asked.

“Yes!” The excitement immediately fell from her face. “No. That’s not it. I can’t think of the word.”

“It’s OK, Mom. It will come to you.”

Later, after I returned from work, Mom said, “You are so lucky. You have the smartest husband.”

“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

“Because he knew the word!”

“What word,” I asked.



“Yes! Magenta is my favorite color.”

For Valentine’s Day I bought Mom a tube of magenta lipstick. She was thrilled. Despite not being able to steer a fork to her mouth without spilling most of the food onto her nightgown, Mom successfully opened the tube and applied the lipstick to her lips. No mirror. Half blind, anyway. She looked beautiful.

So as Mom laid on her deathbed, I pointed out the magenta bonnet-wearing Sunbonnet Sue.

“Look, Mom! It’s magenta! This Sunbonnet Sue, right here.”

Mom smiled and blinked and said, “Hey, Becky Sue!”

That did it. I burst into tears. I started laughing and crying at the same time.

I haven’t cried much since Mom moved in with us eight months ago. It has certainly not been all fun and games, but honestly having her around in my daily life has been a blessing. But hearing Mom call me “Becky Sue” just did me in. 

“I always hated that name! Becky Sue,” I shuddered.

“Why?” Mom asked.

“It’s just so dorky. But I never realized until now that you named me after Sunbonnet Sue.”

“Becky Sue, my Sunbonnet Sue,” Mom said in her lilting voice. And then she closed her eyes and fell back asleep.

It’s not the last thing Mom's said to me. As the day’s progressed she’s mostly speaking in word salads, if at all. Now I sit here, watching her sleep. Not sure if she’ll wake again.

I hold Mom’s hand and this is what I’m thinking. 

Mom, you gave me life. Your eternal creative spirit resides inside me no matter where you rest. I will always love you. I will always be your Sunbonnet Sue.

My artistic mentor, Beverly Martinmaas, my mom

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

There’s nothing more to say

There’s nothing more to say except 
I love you
There’s nothing left to do
To show I care
But being next to you
Inside this room now
I hold your hand
With warmth beyond compare

I learned when I was young 
How best to love you
For giving me this life of mine to live
You’re always there when I need you to talk to
To dry my eyes   
And show me no despair 

No other mother can compare
With you now
When I was young you taught me how to share
This love you filled a well
That’s deep inside me
I learned to love 
From you because you care

I’m filled with love because 
I am your daughter 
You taught me well
You showed me that you care
Now you’ve grown old
Our time is drawing nearer
And still our love’s for always ever there

It’ll do no good for me to
Tear my heart out
There’s lots of love for me I’ve got to share
With others in this world who need assurance 
More than my mama needs me to despair 
To sit and cry and worry what’s to come now
It’s hard to think we’ll say one last goodbye
But mama dear don’t worry ‘bout your daughter  
You’ve grown old but
Love’s forever there

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Fat Bottomed Girl

The other night Mom was asking for morphine and talking about how she thought her time to die was drawing near. She didn’t want to crochet. She didn’t want to watch The Game Show Network. She didn’t want anything to eat, not even a cupcake. We knew something was wrong.

I asked if she’d like to listen to any music.

“YES!” she said.

“What would you like to listen to?” I asked.

“Bohemian Rhapsody!” she said, instantly, as if it had been on the tip of her tongue all day.

Will began spinning Queen’s “Greatest Hits.” Mom grabbed my hand as I sat next to her chair. She squeezed it. She’s become more affectionate in her old age. While the song played, Mom subtly bobbed her head up and down like someone who is awfully agreeable.

When the next song, “Another One Bites the Dust,” began to play, Mom’s free hand shot up, her mouth turned into a frown, and she sliced her hand through the air horizontally as if to say, “Nuh nuh nuh nuh no!”

“You don’t like this one?” I asked.

Mom flared her nostrils like something stinks.

The next song, “Killer Queen” got Mom’s head bobbing in approval once again.

Next was, “Fat Bottomed Girls.” Another head bobber.

Later that evening my sister, Jenny, and my brother-in-law, Brian, visited. They asked what was up, and I said, “Oh, we’re just sitting here listening to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Fat Bottomed Girls.”

They both laughed. 

Let me stop you here. 

Part of the reason this anecdote is so funny is because my mom looks nothing like the type of person you’d think is a fan of rock n roll in general and Queen specifically. Mom was born at the end of the Great Depression and was a young girl during World War II. Her family got a TV when she was 12. They were the first family on the block to get one of those newfangled contraptions. Mom went to dances in high school in the 1950s. She did not like Elvis Presley. She and her friends used to drink malts and giggle over jokes like this:

Did you know Elvis the Pelvis has a twin? His name’s Enis.

Mom’s record collection was comprised of mostly musical soundtracks such as “South Pacific” and easy listening soloists such as Barbra Streisand. 

Then, in the Seventies, likely while paring apples from our backyard to bake a pie, Mom heard the song, “Bohemian Rhapsody” on KKJO, the popular radio station that one of my older siblings was always listening to. Mom loved it so much she went out and bought the album, “A Night at the Opera,” on eight track tape. Mom had a portable eight track player she kept in the kitchen so she could play “her” music while the big kids were at school and I was in the living room watching Roosevelt Franklin and the gang on “Sesame Street.”

Much later Mom admitted to me she had no idea that Freddie Mercury was a bisexual man. “I didn’t even know he was a MAN. His voice is so high. I just thought Freddie was short for Frederica.”

Mercury’s gender and sexual identity didn’t stop Mom’s love of Queen. They’re still one of her favorite bands. 

Back in our living room, Mom was directing everyone where to sit. 

“Jenny, you sit here. Brian, go over there. Will, no, over here, no, hold on, over THERE...”

For some reason I ended up on the commode. It had been temporarily moved directly in front of Mom’s recliner, in front of the white board Mom used to keep track of what day it is and what events are upcoming.

We all got to talking, and laughing, and trying to get serious again, and talking and laughing some more.

Mom held the crowd like the grand matriarch of the family she has become. We couldn’t understand half of what she was saying, but the other half was extremely entertaining.

Someone said something about what day is Super Bowl Sunday. Without batting an eye, Mom craned her neck around and said, “If Becky would move her fat bottomed girl out of the way I could see the calendar.”

I almost peed my pants laughing so hard. Good thing I was on the commode.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Spoiler alert: everything is not OK

"You are such a good mom."

"She is so lucky to have you."

"She just needs your love and understanding and everything will turn out alright."

It's easy to smile at these compassionate lies, comments my well meaning friends tell me when I'm worried about my kid. It's easy to encase these words inside my mind, as if they are true. To use these words as a protective shield around my breaking heart. Deceptively simple.

Don't worry. She'll be fine. She has YOU for a mother.

As if it matters.

I used to believe it. I believed that I was put upon this earth to help my child thrive. Yes, thoughts trickled inside my mind. It's a mean world. So much violence. So much hate. Do you really want to bring a child into a world like this? But the answer was always yes. Yes, I do want to bring a child into the world. I will love her, and that love will protect her. With the strength of our love, we will conquer all the hate we encounter.

I honestly believed that as long as we didn't beat her she'd be fine. I believed with open eyes and a full heart that if only my husband and I don't fuck up, we'll finally figure a way out of the labyrinthine cycle of family dysfunction that began generations back beyond our memories. Our child will have a good life, with a good mom and a good dad. We will love her and everything will be OK.

Spoiler alert: everything is not OK.

I come from a long line of creative, clever women, who have all, at some point in their lives, cracked up.  A cuckoo bird flies freely on our family crest.

My mother recalls, in the 1940s, tagging along on many trips to the doctor with her mother. Mom would sit quietly in the waiting room, drawing pictures and coloring, behaving, obedient, such a good girl. Not getting on my grandmother's already frazzled nerves, awaiting a prescription for my grandmother's "nerve medicine."

I recall, in the 1970s, sitting at the piano just outside my brother's basement bedroom, gently placing my little thumb on middle c, behaving, obedient, such a good girl. Trying hard to keep the secret of what my teenage brother and his best friend had just done to me in his bedroom, scared to tell our mom. My brother's words ringing in my head as I plunked on the keys. "Don't tell Mom or she'll freak out and end up back in the hospital." My siblings and I forever hyper-vigilant of Mom's moods after her stay in the psych ward where she was forcibly committed and received electroshock therapy after experiencing a couple of "nervous breakdowns."

In the 1980s, Mom showed me a letter my brother had written her in which he used the exact same phrase when referencing his memories of our grandmother abusing him. "Don't tell your mother or she'll end back up in the hospital."

It was also in the 1980s that a doctor told my mom to take me to talk to a psychologist, someone who could help me overcome the anorexia I'd developed in fifth grade, two years after my parents began sending me to weekly Weight Watchers meetings. I'd gone overboard on my dieting. It was a form of perfectionism. "You guys want me to lose weight? I'll show you."

I waited a long time to become a mother myself. I spent decades working on myself. Seeing doctors and psychologists. Reading self-help books and memoirs and novels--the good ones that actually helped me grow and develop a sense of self. The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I dated and broke up with a handful of people. I was mean and angry and insecure. I was a terrible girlfriend. I took a decade off of dating. I lived with my cat Zach in a one-bedroom apartment. No boyfriends. No girlfriends. No roommates. No family. Just me and my cat.

It was great.

But after a decade or so, I started to feel lonely. I wanted a family. A family of my own making. A spouse who loved and understood me. Children who laughed with me and listened to my stories. People with whom I could share all the goodness I'd found in the world.

I met Will. Everything was too easy. I didn't have to pretend to be anyone I'm not. I liked the me I was around him. He loved me, and he showed it. There was no guessing with him. He admitted why he liked me. He said, "You're the smartest person I know and you call me out on my bullshit." He also said, "I like the way your ass looks in that dress."

I stopped taking birth control pills two months before we got married because we were in a hurry. I was getting old, I had fertility issues, and we both wanted kids right way. Will wanted six kids. That sounded great to me. Although I doubted my body would cooperate. With the help of a fertility specialist, I was able to finally conceive. We named her Katherine after my sister Kathryn, and McKenna after Will's middle name Kenneth. Katherine McKenna Carleton. A good strong name for one good strong girl.

She's lived up to it for the most part. We nicknamed her Kate, then Katie. Pumpkin, then Punkin, then Punk. At the age of four, when she was learning how to write her name, she asked if we'd please stop calling her Kate and instead call her Katie. The summer before seventh grade, when she'd switch to middle school and meet lots of new classmates, she took the opportunity to re-nickname herself to Kat. Kat Carleton. Sounds like a badass to me.

And she is a badass, mostly. Badass because she's compassionate and kind. Authentic. Clever. Creative. Philosophical.

But, she's a twelve year old girl. She can also be fearful, and absent-minded. Moody. Sensitive. Shy. Anxious.

It was the 2010s when her doctor convinced us to start giving her antidepressant medication. She was ten and she'd been exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression since she was six, in first grade. It's the same anti-depressant medication that I take. The same my dad took. There should be a bottle of Sertraline on the crest of my dad's side of the family.

My friends, family, and coworkers often ask how she's doing. She has her ups and downs. Her behavior seems normal to me, but I was a moody, anxious, depressed teenager at one time myself. If I could bubble wrap her and keep her by my side at all times, I'd feel less stressed, but neither of those options will teach my little birdie how to fly.

I just worry so much about her. I try my best, and that's all I can do. Sadly, no matter how "good" we are as mothers we can’t protect our children from the awful aspects of this world.

I had an amazing conversation with one of my heroes last April. She was in town to give the keynote speech at a reception for the teen literary arts magazine I support. We had dedicated the 15th issue to author A. S. King, or Amy, as she told us to call her. I got to ride around in the car with her on our way to the various teen writing workshops and author talks we had booked for her. We're the same age, with daughters of similar ages. We shared our struggles of raising daughters with depression. It's a difficult topic to talk about, so it felt good to bond over it. It made me admire Amy even more. She's a fantastic author, and a good mother, too. I had proof.

If you haven't read any A. S. King novels, you're missing out. Most of her protagonists are teenagers. All of them are smart, funny, thoughtful, sensitive, and wise. Their stories relateable and feel true. There's a lot of weird shit that happens in an A. S. King novel. Surreal. Curious. WTF moments. But that just makes it all the more like real life. Amy’s novels focus on the lives of teens and kids in today’s chaotic world full of tests, and grades, and active shooter drills at school, and family violence, and divorce, and suicide at home. Amy writes with such an astute insight into young people’s minds. She understands young people. She remembers what it’s like. How hard the struggle is. How the only way out is through, and the only way through is with love.

I just wish her fictional stories weren't so true.

This weekend, Amy's oldest daughter died. Just sixteen years old. My heart breaks for Amy and her family. Yet it's still true: the only way out is through, and the only way through is with Love.

Love. That's all I got. It's all I have to give, even during the darkest times. Love is what I'm sending Amy and her family this week.


Love is what I'm sending them because

I have no words.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Letter to Representative Kevin Yoder: Detaining families in military encampments is immoral

I emailed my representative:

Please do all that is in your power to stop the Trump Administration from detaining people who enter our country illegally. It is cheaper and more humane to allow these immigrants to live freely in the United States until their immigration hearing. Detaining families in military encampments is immoral. Kansans are better than this. Fight, Representative Yoder. Do all you can.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

My body is none of your business

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted anything about my mental health and my Health at Every Size advocacy. So maybe it’s time to send out a reminder.

I have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of trauma I experienced as a child. One of the major traumas I experienced was being a fat kid in a fat phobic family and culture. I was sent to Weight Watchers in 3rd grade. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in 5th grade. I struggled with disordered eating and body dysmorphia for decades. I hated my body so much that I defied convention by not inviting our extended family and friends to our wedding because I knew I’d have a panic attack standing in front of all those people with their eyes on me.

The year I turned 40, my brother died of alcoholic liver failure. The same brother who had sexually abused me when I was a young child. The same brother who, when he came back into town after having been gone a few years, asked my mom why I had gotten so fat. As if my body were any of his business. 

The same year my brother died, I checked out a book from the public library: Health at Every Size by Dr. Linda Bacon. The book saved my life. I still struggle with body shame as a fat, sexual abuse survivor living in a fat-phobic, misogynistic society, but the Health at Every Size philosophy has changed my mind. I can see clearly that I deserve to be happy and healthy and loved and understood. It is not my fault that I live in a culture that hates fat women, and it makes me feel proud when I speak up and defend myself. 

This morning I defended myself again. A so-called friend, knowing that I live with PTSD that is triggered by diet talk and fat shaming, took it upon herself to share unsolicited advice by recommending to me a weight-loss book. 


No diet advice. No weight-loss talk. No discussion with the assumption that there is something wrong with my body. 

My body is none of your business. 


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bullets Bursting

The internet's shame-ganging Fergie's interpretation of our national anthem.

I understand the purists who think The Star Spangled Banner should always be performed in a traditional way. It feels disrespectful to make the national anthem your own.

I get it, but I don't agree. Isn't that what makes our country great? Not great again, but great now and always. We make this country our own. We vote. We protest. We argue ideas. We sign petitions. We swamp our elected officials with calls and emails and faxes from our smartphones. Our Constitution makes it clear that this is not an armchair democracy. This land is our land and we have a say in how we live our lives. We have a say, as long as we let our voices be heard. What makes me proudest is our right as Americans to speak freely. If Fergie wants to interpret our national anthem in an overtly sexy way, why not? Isn't our country fraught with sexual tension? Isn't the #metoo movement a modern day battle of the sexes? Maybe Fergie was trying to make a point.

That's what's so beautiful about art. When it points something out you might have missed on your own. You look at it, you read it, you hear it and you shake your head and you say yes.

Here's a big yes of a song. It's my favorite version of our national anthem. It's as if you can actually hear the bombs bursting in air. You're witnessing history. You're there, hanging out with Francis Scott Key. On a hill. At the battle. Witnessing men killing each other over ideas. You're in the audience at Woodstock. Protesting our country's "conflict" with Vietnam.

The amazing thing about Hendrix's version is how relevant it is today. It's as if you can actually hear the AR15 bullets bursting through the atmosphere of our kids' schools.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Wielding the Corkscrew

Humans are social creatures. We like to share stories with each other. Humans are sexual creatures. We like to share our bodies with each other.

Before we go any further, let's make sure we're both ready.

Sex is the physical act of sharing our body with another consenting* human in a romantic or desirous way. (*non-consenting people include adults who say no, children who say yes or no, drunk or drugged people who can't say yes or no because they're passed out or asleep. Consent is a definite YES from a person mature enough to know what they're agreeing to do.)

Assault (also called abuse, rape, molestation) is the physical act of forcing our body onto another nonconsenting human. It's not about feeling in control of yourself, feeling sexy. It's about feeling in control of someone else, feeling dominant.

I grew up in a time when most gay people were in the closet. Some of my gay friends were out, obviously, to me, and to other friends. But most people hid their authentic sexuality from most people. We were afraid of getting beaten up. Or murdered. It happened. 

I saw this quote on the wall of one of the numerous therapists I've visited over the years, and I never forget it.

"Hurt people hurt people."

Sexuality, shrouded in secrecy, leads to inauthenticity. Humans, social creatures that we are, struggle to not share our stories with each other. When we feel shamed into secrecy, told not to tell our stories, we bottle them up. Until we are strong enough to uncork the bottle and feel our feelings and be our authentic selves.

I'm not saying I approve of the way Kevin Spacey outed himself. It's gross how he conflates pediphilia and homosexuality. But, I do understand that Kevin Spacey is a product of our society, the one where for most of his life you could at best not get any big roles in Hollywood and at worst get yourself killed. I understand why Spacey wanted to be in the closet. I understand, but I do not condone, how his feelings about sexuality might have gotten all fucked up from all those years festering inside the closet.

Inauthenticity leads to unhealthy behavior. Alcoholism. Eating disorders. Drug abuse. Sexual abuse. In Kevin Spacey's case, living an inauthentic life has lead, allegedly, to sexual assault. I throw in that word - allegedly - because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Because, legally, a person in our society who has been accused of a crime is, supposedly, innocent until proven guilty. I throw in that word - supposedly - because what often happens in our society, especially when a case involves a public figure, is that supposedly and allegedly get tossed out the window and everybody takes sides, without assessing it from all points of view.

But, I get it. It's difficult to be dispassionate about such a sick subject. Sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, all cringe-worthy, shameful things. Difficult to talk about.

Kevin Spacey's case has already been tried in the court of public opinion. It's been just five days since Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of assaulting him decades ago, and yet Netflix has already cancelled House of Cards. Netflix punishes a fake president after he is accused of sexual assault. Our nation has yet to punish our actual president after we hear his recorded confession of grabbing women by the pussies.

It's difficult to acknowledge and it's difficult to talk about. Solace comes from uncorking the bottle, telling the secrets we've been shamed into bottling up inside ourselves.

Here are a couple of brave people, wielding the corkscrew. Watch an amazing conversation between Ronan Farrow and Stephen Colbert here.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Adam Ruins the Suburbs: a review

This video clip is an EXCELLENT short explanation of a complex social problem: systemic racism in American housing and public education.

As a white person who has lived the majority of my life in suburban Kansas City, from 1977 to today, what's most fascinating to me is the trend of white gentrification occurring in some areas of downtown Kansas City while the suburban neighborhood where I live has evolved into a diverse community of Whites, Latinos, African-Americans, and lots of interracial families. When I was a kid, it was the opposite: mostly white kids lived in the suburbs and mostly non-white folks lived in downtown Kansas City.

I love seeing the mix of diverse kids at my daughter's suburban public school. It's so different than my public school experience in the 70s and 80s where my first encounter with a black kid at school was in sixth grade. 1982.

When my friend invited me for a sleepover at her apartment, I met her mom, who was just as white as my own mother. I asked where her father was, and all she said was that she never knew him and her mom wouldn't talk about him. So this black friend of mine, turns out, is actually biracial, and she didn't grow up around her black family or experience living in a black community. In fact, she was kinda racist. Or, maybe not racist, but self-loathing. She would make comments about how she wished she had pretty, straight blonde hair like me. For the record: I did not have blonde hair in sixth grade. It was brown. Not even "dishwater blonde" as my mom described my hair when I was younger. But for some reason my friend insisted that I had blonde hair. I didn't care. I'd say things like, "I don't know what's the big deal about my hair. Your hair is pretty, too" but she never seemed to hear me. I realize now that it was my white privilege that allowed me to not "know what's the big deal about my hair." Actually, I even knew then. I was telling what my mom would call a "white lie" meaning that I was lying, yes, but only to protect someone's feelings from getting hurt. White lie. What a stupid term. How woven into the fabric of our daily lives is systemic racism.

My friend and I lost touch after my family moved to another suburb and I switched schools. We ran into each other four years later, when we were sophomores in high school. 1986. My friend pulled out her wallet and showed me a picture of a brown-headed, smiling toddler.

"That's my daughter. She's almost three. Her daddy's really nice to me. And, look! She has blonde hair!"

I was horrified. I didn't know what to say. Almost three? So, my friend had a baby when she was thirteen? Can a thirteen year old consent to sex? All I knew is that whenever someone who seemed to me to be too young to have a child would get pregnant, my mom would say, "Well, Mary was young when she had Jesus. That's how it was back in those days."

Back in those days? You mean now.

Those days. Not so long ago.

Our society is as imperfect as it is ever-evolving. My daughter is going to school with and growing up around kids from all kinds of cultures within our mainstream society. It's the best education I can give her. Demographics show that some of my white neighbors have decided to move out south or west, or to downtown Kansas City. In reports where they are asked why, they inevitbly say so they can live in "a better neighborhood."

A better neighborhood? What on earth do you think they mean by that?