LOVE Defined

My sister is dead, I told the bank manager.

But she isn’t.

She lives in Washington with her husband, having moved from L.A. where we were both born and raised.

The bank manager expressed his condolences and accepted the paperwork from our lawyer to remove her name from our Trust. My sister was to be replaced as the potential guardian of our children should my husband and I die before they’re of legal age to take care of themselves.

I told him she was dead to remove her from my psyche, distance myself from loving her. Five years ago, she told my DH she didn’t want any contact with him, me, or our kids, her then 8 and 5 yr old niece and nephew, in a response to an email my husband sent her.

She’d missed our daughter’s birthday again. Three months later, she sent her a present with the one she sent for our son’s birthday, and spelled her name wrong on the card. This wasn’t the first time her actions, or lack thereof hurt our kids. She’d disappointed them many times, missing birthdays and special events with a quick message left on our answering machine she couldn’t make it after promising to come. Many times she insisted I tell my kids she wasn’t coming after informing me on the day she was supposed to arrive.

Her sins were many, and mounted with the years without apology. My husband got tired of it, emailed her five sentences politely informing her the spelling of our daughter’s name, and requested if she was going to send them birthday gifts to please do it on or around their respective birthdays.

My sister decided he was asking too much and emailed back that “though I am deeply in love with your kids, and it breaks my heart to do so,” she was withdrawing from their lives entirely. She informed my husband she would prefer no contact at all, with any of us, though she’d established what my children believed was a fairly close connection, email exchanges with my son, calling every few months to touch base with both kids.

She has, in fact, exited our lives almost completely. She sends the kids birthday cards when it strikes her fancy—two weeks late to our daughter last year, but managed to get a card to our son within days of his, professing her deep affection and love for him. It took all my will not to shed the card in a million tiny pieces, her sentiment to him for her self-image alone.

Love is an ACTION, what we do, not some abstract in our heads, my DH and I teach our kids. “Don’t profess love in words without taking actions to show it,” we parent. “And don’t accept words of love without seeing the actions that actualize their sentiment.”

Choosing to terminate her relationship with my kids deeply hurt our son. Our kids relationship with my sister was important to them because the few extended family we have left are not close by. My mom died when our oldest was just 5, so she never really got to know our kids. She did love them though. Deeply. Profoundly. And they got that. How did they know?

  • She came to visit often.
  • She called them on the phone every couple days.
  • She mailed them presents on time, and called to sing Happy Birthday on their special days.
  • She spelled their names right.
  • She stayed abreast of their lives through me, my DH, and through the kids, consistently showed interest in their interests and feelings, and shared her world with them.

My mother often extolled how much she loved the kids, to me, to them, to anyone who’d listen, but she also showed it, so my children knew it was real.

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I knew when she was gone my connection to my remaining family would fragment. She was the conduit that kept us together, in contact, a feature in each other’s lives. She fervently believed people come and go, but family is forever, the folks with which your love and loyalty should reside.

In a thousand lifetimes I cannot repay my mom for her precious gift of love I now model to our children. But I cannot buy into her belief [and society’s rhetoric] that family and love are synonymous anymore.

The day my dad called to tell me of my mom’s cancer diagnosis, after I hung up the phone I said to my husband, “Well, that’s the end of my family.” Within a year of my mother’s passing, my sister and father checked out of my life, and the lives of our kids, too busy with their own to bother with me or mine.

My father, like my sister, practices love more in the abstract. He never talks to his grandkids, never calls [even me], never asks to talk to them when I call him, rarely even asks about them. He doesn’t acknowledge their birthdays anymore. I got tired of reminding him with multiple calls and emails weekly the month before their special days, then daily the week before. (Her body ravaged by cancer and near death, my mother insisted my father take her to Toys R Us, then bought each of our kids their next birthday gift and made him swear to mail them on time. She was hoping to establish a tradition (an action) for my father to adopt for his grandkids after she was gone.)

The rare occasions I call my dad, he always professes how much he loves my kids, how important they are to him, though he does nothing to actually show them this. He never did, I just didn’t notice, as my mother’s effusive love overshadowed his love of self. When I mention his grandkids, he reminds me to tell them that grandpa loves them, and misses them. But I don’t. I tell them, “Popi says hi.” I don’t want our children to ever get the impression it’s acceptable to say you love someone when you take virtually no action to show it.

Love, like potential, is meaningless unless put into ACTION.

Do U REALLY care for anyone but U? Is ALTRUISM real?

I teach my students at Berkeley and Stanford that the foundation of psychology, what motivates all of us to do whatever we do, is self-interest. I explain that even soon-to-be saints, like Mother Teresa, who spent her life feeding the poor, caring for the sick, did so out of self-interest. Mother Teresa was not altruistic. There is no such thing as Altruism. It is a religious construct to motivate good deeds, to get people out of our own heads, even for a moment, to consider others…

http://jcafesin.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-psychology-of-marketing.html

j cafesin

The Butterfly Effect

butterfly effectMonica Lewinsky sucked Pres. Clinton’s cock, getting George W. Bush elected, which lead to the 2008 financial meltdown with the Republican’s ‘let the country and Wall Street run itself,’ policy, and left not only millions of people without any retirement, but my father without enough money to care for himself, compelling us to use our little savings to help him. This investment into my father’s care comes out of our kids college funds, and will most likely effect them down the line.
The other day a friend emailed me freaking out that she’d entered the stairwell at her job with a well-known start-up and saw the married CEO of her company sucking face with an employee. She has a right to be upset. The CEO is putting the company, its pre-IPO stock value, and its almost 300 employees at risk by displaying his extra-marital affair publicly. His sloppy behavior can not only get him fired, but eventually lead to the demise of the company with scandalous press chasing away customers and business associations alike. And, of course, there are his two kids and a wife at home who will suffer, possibly lifetime scars from his selfish indiscretions.
When a butterfly flaps it wings in Central Park, it does NOT cause a typhoon in India. But the Butterfly Effect is very real, and very personal, for all of us.

The Reasoning Behind ObamaCare

obamacareI had a bike accident in my early 30s and smashed in my head and knee. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital, something I would have protested had I been conscious at the time. I was in Emergency for over two hours, laying on a gurney unattended, the curtain around my small area the only thing separating me from ten other people laying on gurneys in the large room. I watched doctors and nurses pass me without stopping to inquire what I was there for. When I finally got a nurse’s attention I asked if I could go, but she insisted a doctor had to sign a release before I’d be allowed to leave.

Three hours into my Emergency visit a doctor came in and examined me. He told me I had a mild concussion that would heal itself, but my kneecap had been crushed in the accident and would have to be surgically repaired. I had no health insurance as a freelance designer, and there was no way in hell I could afford surgery. He assured me if I didn’t have surgery I’d be unable to continue playing racquetball, be drastically limited in most any sport, and probably limp the rest of my life. I left the hospital five hours after arrival in a wheel chair since I couldn’t walk with my knee blown up from the impact with concrete, and crying, knowing I could never afford the surgery he recommended, thinking I’d be crippled for life.

My sister was on a ski trip with her husband the same time I had my bike accident. She fell going downhill and tore her knee up pretty badly, ending up in a private hospital room in Lake Tahoe the same time I was in Emergency down in L.A. While I was still recovering in my rented house a week later, choosing between paying my hospital bill and eating for the next month, she was in surgery having her knee repaired by a renowned orthopedic surgeon at UCLA Medical Center. My sister’s husband was a commercial real estate developer, a millionaire since his early 20s, and they were fully insured.

President Obama lost his mother to ovarian cancer in 1995, around the same time I hurt my knee. In Obama’s own words:
“[My mother] was 52 years old when she died of ovarian cancer, and you know what she was thinking about in the last months of her life? She wasn’t thinking about getting well. She wasn’t thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality. She had been diagnosed just as she was transitioning between jobs. And she wasn’t sure whether insurance was going to cover the medical expenses because they might consider this a preexisting condition. I remember just being heartbroken, seeing her struggle through the paperwork and the medical bills and the insurance forms. So, I have seen what it’s like when somebody you love is suffering because of a broken health care system. And it’s wrong. It’s not who we are as a people.”

Obama’s mother’s employer-provided health insurance covered most of the costs of her medical treatment, leaving her to pay the deductible and uncovered expenses, which came to several hundred dollars per month. Her employer-provided disability insurance denied her claims for uncovered expenses because the insurance company said her cancer was a preexisting condition.

My knee eventually repaired itself for the most part. I was able to play racquetball a couple of months after the accident, and I don’t walk with a limp today. I was lucky. I would have died from cancer, or extended illness, unable to afford any treatment at that time. I did get medical insurance soon after my bike accident from Kaiser HMO, basically the bottom of the barrel in health care. The individual plan cost me $350 a month, lower than anyone else out there, and I lied on their application about per-existing conditions since my knee was basically healed by then.

My sister was back to skiing a month after the surgery. She’s had two more accidents and two more surgeries since, until she gave up skiing as probably not her sport. She can choose to go back to skiing any time, of course, because she’s had the best medical care money can buy.
Millions of Americans aren’t as luck as my sister and her family.

ObamaCare was NEVER about providing medical insurance for the wealthy. They don’t need it. The rich take care of themselves, always. Sometimes, many times, off the money they make on the backs of everyone else, but the bottom line is they don’t need assistance taking care of their own. ObamaCare was intended to cover those who can’t afford medical insurance, or medical care, or pay the outrageous hospital bills whether insured or not, that come after every stay, regardless how nominal.
Read more: http://jcafesin.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-reasoning-behind-obamacare.html

Parental ADD

ADDsmMy cousin has two children. Her oldest, 15, was diagnosed with ADD when he was nine and has been on Ritalin since. He’s failing out of the private high school he attends in Manhattan. He lies, cheats, and steals when it suits him. He is volatile (way beyond normal teenage angst), and often violent with his mom and sister.

Her daughter, 11, also has trouble in her private school. According to her mother, she too has learning disabilities. She has very few friends, and is often cutting and cruel. She also lies constantly to get what she wants, and does whatever she wants regardless of opposition from authority.

The three of them live on the 10th floor of a posh apartment complex, in a huge flat overlooking the Hudson River in Battery Park. The Statue of Liberty, holding the torch of truth stands boldly in the bay and can be seen from almost every room of their home. My cousin and her ex-husband are very successful in their careers. She broke the glass ceiling only a few years out of graduate school and is now a top executive at the New York Stock Exchange. He is an architect. His style is distinct, and sought after, and can be seen all around Manhattan. Since both claim to be busy professionals, the maid of the month raises their kids during the long work week.

Every time we get together they virtually drop off their kids to my care. Dad, before and after the divorce, has always been a marginal part of the scene, off to work, or squash, or rollerblading along the waterfront. Mom stays with us, but she’s not really with us. She’s on her Blackberry texting her secretary, or on her cell phone chatting it up with some high powered executive about market trends, or on her laptop writing reports. She goes out for a two hour run, or off to the store for diet soda. The entire time we’re together she has little to no contact with her children.

My sister also has kids, a boy and a girl, a couple of years apart. During their formative years she was a stay-at-home mom, sort of. Her husband, a successful real estate broker who used his limited free time for cycling, skiing, rock climbing, provided his family a McMansion with all the trimmings in a desirable suburb north of L.A. He hired a live-in maid to clean house and handle the mundane aspects of child care so my sister could pursue her many muses. And pursue them she did. She played tennis several hours a day. She went out with friends; shopped, and shopped; redecorated her house every year. She took classes in cooking, massage, religion, exercise, went to music camps back east for the summers, and left the kids with grandparents, or the revolving housekeepers. She was one of those soccer moms who sat in the stands and gossiped, or read People or Jane, or was on her cell phone every other minute, attending the game but not really there.

Unable to manage her son’s disruptive behavior, my sister took him for counseling when he was ten. He was diagnosed with ADD. He took Ritalin from 12 until he was 20. Now 27, he smokes pot every day, pays his rent and bills with poker winnings and a small stipend from an inheritance trust fund, has not gone to college and has little prospects for the future. Her daughter, 24, is still only a junior after six years in college. She’s had few friends over the years, even fewer dates, and only recently her first [very] short term relationship. She lives on the money her parents provide without a clue how to make it on her own.

These two sets of kids struggle in life because their parents consistently catered to their own needs over those of their children. In doing so, they abandoned their kids to their own device, and left them to strangers, relatives, and society at large to raise them. Restrictions on behavior came from teachers, religious leaders and caretakers as commands—discipline imposed without love. Their parents didn’t bother to invest the staggering amount of time or thought required to help their kids decipher feelings, or examine abstractions like morality or values, or why they are important, or impart to them the seemingly endless list of rules we all must follow to get along.

The other day I was at the neighborhood pool watching my kids swim and play. All went well until a well-known rowdy kid arrived with his mom. She stood with her back to the pool and chatted on about her job, the upcoming hundred mile extreme run she was training 20 miles a day for, and the third Bruce Springsteen concert she and her husband had been to that week. She did not notice her nine year old son shoving kids into the pool, holding them underwater, pouncing, splashing and causing general havoc. Most everyone agrees her son, and six year old daughter, have severe ‘discipline’ problems. Though their mom labeled them ‘passionate,’ she admitted she was seriously considering her colleague’s suggestion to have her kids examined for ADD, or the latest variant: ADHD.

Even Wikipedia, can not state without dispute what ADD actually is, though a wide cross section of sources seem to agree it’s a behavioral disorder. Symptoms include Hyperactivity—like working all day, everyday, never putting your cell phone or Blackberry away; Inattention, the lack of ability to focus for an extended period of time—like creating multiple distractions such as tennis, classes and vacations for your entertainment instead of following through with any one thing. Impulsiveness is also an indicator, like going to see Bruce multiple nights in a row instead of doing the responsible thing and being at home with your kids.

Though they possess the symptoms, these parents do not have ADD, have never been diagnosed or even suspected of the disorder, even though most have had at least some experience in counseling. Their kids did not inherit their lack of focus. The Attention Deficit Disorder they ostensibly suffer from by and large comes from parental neglect, adults who haven’t figured out that once they produce children, most of their own priorities must become secondary to the needs of their kids.

Rich or not, working—having to or not, parenting is about paying attention, being attentive and present— being there when you’re with your kids. Certainly, rules need to be continually taught and enforced, but also discussed at length, not handed down as edicts from on high. Kids need detailed explanations, reasons to partake in our code of ethics, and out of desire, not disdain. Society is not sustainable filled with resentful children who grow into parents that never mature beyond self-interest. Children can not raise themselves above solipsism without example from those who have.

Hey #RidleyScott–Einstein did NOT believe in #God…

AlbertEinsteinOr any higher power, no matter what you say on Numb3rs. Shame on you for saying he did, especially as a self-proclaimed atheists! http://jcafesin.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-morality-of-atheist.htmlhttp://jcafesin.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-morality-of-atheist.html

Lessons Learned from my Daughter: Arts vs. Sciences

Image
Heard a teen singing in the talent show at the Alameda County Fair last week. Her voice was one of those rare gifts, full of resonance and richness as she sang to the sparse crowd stuffing their faces with fried foods. I was walking past with my family and her voice stopped me, as it did the diners the moment she started singing. Maybe 16, in ripped jeans and a tiny t-shirt, she sat onstage and strummed her acoustic and sang like an angel, everything from Greenday to a few of her own beautifully melodic tunes. I, my kids, my DH, and the entire crowd hushed as we listened to her singing. She captivated all of us for maybe 20 minutes until her set was up. Two older teens took the stage after her, and sounded pretty much like most rockers. Everyone went on with their eating and I walked away with my family to explore the rest of the fair.
     Later on at the fair I saw her walking with her family and briefly stopped her to gush over her voice, assure her of her very unique talent. Her proud mama told me her daughter plays all the time, and in fact her daughter agreed music was her passion. Her dad chimed in right then that his daughter was a diligent worker, strove for excellence in most everything she endeavored, and as good at math as at music. He proudly informed me and my family that she was slated to pursue the sciences in college, and his daughter confirmed she had plans to become a doctor.
     Been thinking a lot about this girl the last few days. A voice like hers comes along once every million (or more) people. And while the pursuit of music is a risky one, with her voice, success would probably come a lot easier to her than most. In her ripped skinny jeans and tiny T, she had the body, and the stunning face to solidify the star image, making her chances of success in music even better! Yet, by all common wisdom, becoming a doctor not only made her parents beam, but is perceived to be a greater gift to society at large than music.
     I’ve been on that page myself. I mean, what is the point of a painting, or a song, or a piece of fine writing anyway? It’s not like curing cancer. A painting sits on the wall. It doesn’t help anyone, cure anything. A song, well, we may sing along with it, lift us up when we’re feeling sad, or share it when we’re happy, but it’s not going to extend our lives, like being a doctor will. And fiction writing, ah, what is that worth other than a few hours of entertainment. It’s not going to change the world or anything, right?
     Spent my lifetime searching for my value, if I have any, so very often feeling like I don’t. All I’ve ever really been is an artist (in one form or another, drawing, designing, building, writing). And unless I’ve use these skills in the commercial arena such as advertising or marketing, I’m left with little recognition and even less income when I practice the fine arts. So what the hell good are the arts, anyway?
     Society measures our value by our perceived contributions. Doctors, professors, executives make a lot of money by the perception that they give a lot to society as a whole. Value of medical pros is easy to understand, caring for the sick, curing disease. Teachers, who are actually paid quite a bit only working part time yet making full time salaries with benefits and pensions, are not only rewarded financially but sociologically with accolades and kudos from the media, politicians and society at large. High level execs manage businesses that employ many, ostensibly.
     Telling people about this teen singer, and asking what is the most contributory path this girl should take—doctor or musician, hands down the answer is “doctor.” Understandably, achieving success through music is difficult at best, but that was not my question. Assuming she could become successful with music, most people still insisted a doctor saving lives, potentially curing cancer was of greater benefit to society. Me, too, until asking my infinitely wise 11 year old daughter this question.
     “She should do whatever her passion is,” she told me on the way to drop her off for a week at Girl Scout camp last weekend.
     “What if she has a passion for both?” I asked. “I mean, if she could potentially cure cancer, wouldn’t that be of greater value to the world then music?”
     “It’s her choice because both are equally valuable. Music can stop wars, soothe feelings, be shared across the globe to build bridges between people where there were none before. I mean, look at all the concerts that raise money for hurricane victims, or money for medicine for poor countries. Music helps me deal with my feelings everyday, keeps me in touch with what I’m feeling, reminds me I’m not the only one feeling like I do. It connects me to everyone, knowing we’re feeling basically the same things.”
     Every part of me was humbled by her insight. Not only was she validating the Arts, my daughter was validating me.
     “Sure, curing cancer is important. It’s why I want to be a doctor. And I love music too, but I’m not great at it, and probably never will be. But that girl at the fair was, is. And if she can turn the world on, like she did us, and all those other people sitting there, than maybe she should do music instead, no matter what her dad said or wants her to be.”
     Touche!