The Grands

The Grands
"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children".
--- from the writings of Roots author Alex Haley

Saturday, July 30, 2016

It's My Life: My 1st Stop Is a Jersey Diner

I think one of the most important jobs a grandparent can do is provide links for their grandchildren to the past, both the past of their family and the historical past of their world.
Another vital task is to help their grandchildren grow to become contented, successful people who want to make their community, their country, and their world a better place.
          That's two of the main reasons I started this blog in 2016.
While I hope any reader will find something of interest in what I write here, I actually have 2 readers foremost in my mind. One is named Audrey. She was 8 when I started this blog. The other is her brother, Owen, who was 6 then.
This new ongoing series, which I am calling It's My Life, is primarily for my grandchildren. It will be able to still speak for me when I am gone. 
Since I will be writing about me, it may appear to be an exercise in vanity. But that is not my intent. I want to tell Audrey and Owen about my life so they can have a better understanding of their own lives. Maybe it might help some of you in your lives, too.

After 10 days in the hospital, my Mom and Dad drove me across the Ben Franklin Bridge into New Jersey, the state that would prove to be my home for the next 59 years.

But before we got home, my Dad wanted to make one stop. He stopped in the now-no-more Ponzio's Diner in Brooklawn to show me off to all his waitress friends there. Ponzio's was one of his regular stops as he drove all over South Jersey to visit his dry cleaning plants.

I've always loved diners, especially the ones in Jersey, so maybe I got hooked on this very first visit.
Ten-day-olders are quite impressionable you know.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

It's My Life: On Being Born

I think one of the most important jobs a grandparent can do is provide links for their grandchildren to the past, both the past of their family and the historical past of their world.
Another vital task is to help their grandchildren grow to become contented, successful people who want to make their community, their country, and their world a better place.
          That's two of the main reasons I started this blog in 2016.
While I hope any reader will find something of interest in what I write here, I actually have 2 readers foremost in my mind. One is named Audrey. She was 8 when I started this blog. The other is her brother, Owen, who was 6 then.
This new ongoing series, which I am calling It's My Life, is primarily for my grandchildren. It will be able to still speak for me when I am gone. 
Since I will be writing about me, it may appear to be an exercise in vanity. But that is not my intent. I want to tell Audrey and Owen about my life so they can have a better understanding of their own lives. Maybe it might help some of you in your lives, too.
The 1st picture of me at 6 days old.
I was born on March 26, 1952 in Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

My mother was Mary Louise Ivins and my father was Alvin Owen Price. And as you know, Owen, you were named for my father.

There were complications at my birth and I wasn't supposed to live. But I did, even though I spent my first 6 days in an incubator in a touch-and-go state. My mother always told me that I didn't die because I had a purpose for my life. I haven't always been successful, but I have tried to live my life that way.

Just as we all are, my parents were very much shaped by DNA, the family in which they were born, and the times in which they lived.

I think my mother was a combination of having been raised on a rural South Jersey farm, her devout belief in a loving, forgiving God, and her passion for teaching. She taught from her 20s until she was forced to retire from her early elementary education classroom when she reached age 70. She died at 77.

My father, who was born in Texas, was very much a product of being a southerner from a large family, the effects of the Great Depression, and his army experiences in World War II. He was by occupation a builder and operator of dry cleaning plants. He worked long hours, but when he wasn't working he engaged in his 2 biggest passions, his love of gambling (he was really good at it) and love for his wife and his only son. He died at age 65 from a heart attack. .

Being born in 1952, placed me in the first 3rd of the Baby Boom generation, which has shaped so much of what I have become. If you want to know more about that, you can check out 2 of my other blogs Talking 'Bout My Generation and Rock of Agers.

My parents gave me much. Of course, the 1st was the gift of life. But they also gave me unconditional love and a great set of personality traits and character values to emulate. I am grateful on a daily basis for all three.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Grandson Meets His New Uncle Gary

As clichéd as it may sound it’s still true – little things do mean a lot.

For a Father’s Day long-weekend, my son Michael and I decided to take my 7-year-old grandson, Owen, on a 3-generation baseball game tour to 3 cities – Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia where we would get to see the Nationals, the Orioles, and the Phillies play, as well as visit a few local attractions.

In Baltimore, we were staying at the Renaissance Hotel in the Inner Harbor section of the city.

While Michael was checking in, Owen and I were approached by Gary Shivers, a bell
 man with the reception department.

“Hey Little Man,” Gary asked, bending down to address Owen. ‘What are you doing here?”

I explained that Owen was accompanying my son and me on a baseball tour.

“Wait here. I’ll be right back,” Shivers said.

He returned holding something in his hands.

“This is for you,” Gary said, presenting Owen with a new baseball. “Now when you go to the game, get there by 5. Then you can probably get some autographs. And listen … call me Uncle Gary. If you need anything while you’re here, just ask for Uncle Gary”.

We thanked Uncle Gary and headed for the elevator, Owen clutching his new baseball in his hand.

Now over the course of our 5-day trip, we saw a game where the home team came from behind to win in the 11th inning and a total of 9 home runs. We saw the animals in the National Zoo and the water and sea life in the Baltimore Aquarium. We visited my alma mater Villanova University and ran up the Rocky steps in Philadelphia. We bought all kinds of souvenirs and ate half-smokes in DC, crab cakes in Baltimore, and cheese steaks in Philly.

But I have the feeling that when Owen looks back over the trip in the years to come, he’ll also remember the way he was received at the Renaissance Hotel.

And I know that if anyone ever asks me where to stay in Baltimore, I’ll tell them to stay at the Renaissance in Inner Harbor. It’s the least I can do for the place that hired Uncle Gary, a kindly bell man who placed a big grin on the face of the most important 7-year-old in the world to me.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July 6-8 2016: 3 Days of Hate, 3 Days of Horror, 3 Days of Helplessness

Everything here originally appeared as posts on my Facebook page.

On a day when I should be elated because I'll be helping my son celebrate his 43rd birthday, I sit here stunned, saddened, frightened, and worried.
Now I have never been, nor will I ever be, a black man. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a policeman. But I do know this - there is a horrific crisis involving members of these 2 groups that is threatening to destroy the very binding we must have to keep this diverse nation together.
This morning I sat in disbelieving silence as I watched the YouTube video of Philando Castille being shot to death by a Minnesota policeman. Less than 24 hours earlier, I had witnessed a video of Alton Brown being killed by police in Louisiana.
This is a black issue. Black lives matter. This is a police issue. Police lives matter.
But it is so much more than that - this is an American issue because all lives matter.
So what do we do?
I'm not smart enough to say.
But I do believe any solution begins with empathy. Stop for a moment and become Philandro Castille. What is going on in your mind? Become the policeman who fired his gun. What is going on in your mind? Become Castlle's girlfriend videotaping this experience happening before your very eyes. What is going on in your mind? Become the young girl in the back seat witnessing the horror? What is going on in your mind? Become the officers with guns drawn, ordering Castille's girlfriend to get out of the car and drop to her knees with her hands up. What is going on their minds?
However, empathy is only a start. All the best-intentioned empathy in the world isn't going to solve this problem. For this isn't a black problem only. And it isn't a police problem only. As I said earlier, this is an American problem and it involves all of us.
And the problem has a root cause. It is the increase in fear, hatred, and the oft-accompanying violence in virtually all aspects of American society.
We find malevolence and violence in the words we write on Facebook and Twitter. We see it on the TV we watch and in the movies we view. We hear it on the talk radio we listen to. We even hear it from many of the politicians as they deliver sound bites from their campaign stumps. It's surrounding our lives, permeating our thoughts, and being reflected in our actions.
Now in the political realm, I'm nobody. But in the realm of the U.S. Constitution, I'm an important somebody. And it is in that roll of concerned citizen that I'm today imploring the 2 major candidates for the presidency of the United Stated to announce within a week that one of of their first priorities upon taking office will be to appoint a cross-sectional, apolitical, blue-ribbon task force with only 1 purpose: to examine violence in America, determine what should be done to drastically curtail it, and present a plan of action for America to follow.
Of course, maybe the candidates will ignore my plea. Or maybe a task force will find that nothing can be done.
But I fervently hope that's not the case.
For if it is, then there's only one inescapable conclusion.
No matter what we say online, no matter what we chant in the streets, no matter what we pray from the pulpits or proclaim from the halls of government this is the real truth -NO LIVES MATTER.

Tonight, our "canaries in the coal mine" of deepening, darkening, senseless, sickening American violence wore badges and blue. 11 more victims - this time law enforcement officials.
What causes this? Fear causes this. Hatred causes this. Anger causes this.
But most importantly to the matters at hand, people with guns cause this.
Is human life no longer valuable? Is an antiquated amendment more important than the right to life?
Yes, I know our debatable 2nd Amendment wasn't directly involved in our latest horrific killing incidents. But the refusal to consider realistic gun regulations that springs from keeping this right of gun ownership sacrosanct is.
Clinging to the idea that gun rights are not to be tampered with no matter what helps set up a mindset that everything is OK. The clinging helps set up a mindset that shootings are acceptable, or at the very least just inevitable collateral damage. It sets up a mindset that a good guy with a gun - or even an entire police force of good guys with guns - is the only way to stop bad guys with guns.
In the space of little more than 48 we have 2 black men dead, killed by police officers with guns. Now we have 11 police officers shot with at least 4 of them dead in what appears to be some crazed idea of justified retribution.
The killings must stop.
Of course, there is the possibility that I'm completely wrong here. In fact, I'm sure some of you reading my words right now are certain I am.
But tonight I'm not interested in your opinions, although I still respect and value them.
Tonight, I want to know what the remaining officers of the Dallas police force think. I want to know what the surviving family members of the deceased Dallas police officers think.
Actually, I'd really like to know what the slain Dallas officers themselves think.
But they can't answer. They're dead.
So I ask tonight - How many more must die before we all acknowledge that there is a serious problem here in America that we must address as a nation?
I have my answer.
It is 0.
What is yours?

I'm Scared
by Randi Fishman Cairns
(a former student of mine)
I'm scared for friends of color - in a country where, shamefully, it's still dangerous to "Live While Black".
And scared for friends in blue - sworn to serve and protect.
I'm scared for friends protective of their rights - those fighting for their rights to firearms and those fighting to keep guns off the streets.
I'm scared for our neighbors in countries that have few/no rights.
And scared for friends in cammo tasked with fighting their fights
I'm scared for big government and small government and no government.
I'm scared for those who work to make things better - uphill and always against resistance.
And scared OF those who fail to see a problem, or add to the problem with their silence.
I'm scared of racism and homophobia and sexism and anything that separates us into "me" and "other".
I'm scared to send my kids out into this world. 
Scared that this mess is theirs to inherit. 
Scared that we won't do better - BE better.
But amidst the fear, there is hope.
For while I've seen too much of the worst of what we're capable of,
I also know the best of what we're capable of.
And THAT is where there's power, the only power, to change.

An open letter to my black children

Dear Sweet Baby Loves, 
              I love you more than life itself. I love you with a ferocity that is recognized worldwide as its own category, a “mother’s love”. An unwavering, incomparable, deep abyss of love that nothing or no one, including yourself, can remove you from. I love you because every fiber of my being demands it on a primal level. I would die for you, I would kill for you, I would burn down cities and fight battles against innumerable odds for you. I would build nations for you, I would give my life in service of yours, I would change the world for you. Know that with every breath you take you will always have someone in your corner; I have your back, front, top, bottom and your every side from the first breath you take until your very last. I am the true definition of ride or die for you. Always. Always you have me. There will be times when you feel I am your enemy because I promise I will set boundaries and teach you lessons you don’t want to learn. I will be your parent first and your friend second. I will not be the “cool mom” who lets you go and do whatever you want, when you want because my job is to protect you and mold you into a decent human being. I take my job very, very seriously. 
                Some lessons I will have to teach you will be hard and unfair. Some will be lessons that every person has to learn but some will be solely because of the color of your skin. That breaks my heart. The sentiment “breaks my heart” is so unbelievably inadequate but it’s all I’ve got. The fact that I’ll have to tell you that no matter how a police officer treats you, you must go beyond complying and pander. You MUST. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong and have truth on your side, you must be respectful to the police no matter what and my love, my baby, my heart…sometimes that won’t be enough. For whatever reason there are people on this planet, often in positions of authority that believe because you have a lot of melanin in your skin you are lesser or you are scary. The way you dress, walk and talk will automatically slate you into a category of people upon initial sight. You cannot wear what people in black culture wear because frankly it’s not white enough. You must wear hoodies with caution and you are not ever allowed to put the hood up. Do you know I’ve witnessed your father run in the rain and still he will not put his hood up because he’s a large, black man. Do you know that I insist he wears a full, bright orange, reflective vest when he runs outside so that he is not misconstrued as anything but a jogger? Because of deeply ingrained racism someone may see a black man, jogging at night, with a hoodie hood up and automatically assume he is something he absolutely is not. It is not a risk I am willing to take. These are things that you must consider before you live your everyday life, you do not have the luxury of being complacent. You are not allowed to play with toy guns outside of our 6 foot, privacy fenced in yard. Ever. Because even before puberty you will be considered a “super predator”. Simply by existing you are viewed as a possible threat and even a toy gun can cost you your life. 
                If anything ever happened to you, please know that I will raise 18 different kinds of hell! I will take it to every media outlet on the planet. I will organize protests. We will march. We will hashtag your name and scream for justice! I will make them see that you were more than just your skin color, that you were my BABY! My son. My daughter. My love…My heart. The sad reality is that despite my best efforts it probably won’t matter because baby, they can kill you and they can get away with it. It happens every day. It’s not fair. It’s not. But screaming about fairness won’t keep you out of a grave. It will just leave me standing there with a picket sign, in my white skin, safer than you ever will be. 
                Sometimes I feel ill-equipped to fight this battle or to speak out against racism because who am I, a white woman, to speak on things that I’ve never experienced? Then I’m forced to consider that just because I haven’t experienced them does not mean they don’t affect me to my very core. Racism affects me and I will rail against it at every opportunity because, my sweet baby love, it affects YOU and YOU are the most important thing on this planet to me. So who am I to speak on racism? Who am I NOT to speak against it? An even better question is why is everyone not speaking on it? Why is everyone not outraged? Who am I not to speak against injustice? Who am I not to spend my life educating everyone I possibly can that racism absolutely still exists and is present in everyday life? Do I drive people crazy with my incessant talk of it? Do I get accused of pulling the race card too often? Do I lose friends and alienate family over it. Yep, I sure do. That’s not my business though; my business is you and making a better way for you. I will fight every single battle thrown my way, I will pick up the gauntlet every time and I’ll even go looking if it means making a better world for you. Even if I only get through to one or two people, I will consider it all worth it. Maybe those 2 people will get through to 2 more and so forth and so on. Most days I feel defeated and exhausted like I’m raging against a machine that has no eyes or ears. Most of the time, I sink lower in the mire of ignorance because the majority of people either turn a blind eye or actively deny there could be validity to these issues. They are the worst kind of racists, the ones who refuse to believe something outside of their own experiences could have validity. They are dangerous, my love, steer clear of them if you can. They will hurt you or justify others doing so and will never believe they’ve done anything wrong. They will justify keeping their head down in the interest of keeping the peace but the truth is you don’t matter enough for them to disrupt their peace. If their child faced an injustice they would do as any parent would and cause major unrest in order to make things right but they cannot be bothered to do so for you because it’s uncomfortable. It takes time and effort to recognize the systematic racisms that are sewn into the fabric of our society and they don’t care to make it priority enough to even recognize it. 
                If I could take this from you, I would. If I could bear it for you, I would. I hate that you will have to deal with issues that I never did just because you’re black. I hate it. It enrages me. I feel so incredibly helpless when I struggle to get others to just SEE but they throw excuse after excuse at me. As a mother it is the worst thing in the world to stand back and be helpless as your child faces a monster. It pains me to say this but your life would be much easier if your skin was white. All of that being said you must never let this hold you back in life, don’t let other peoples hate and ignorance define you. You were raised to hold your head high, to say yes ma’am and no sir, to look a person in the eye and give a firm handshake. You were raised to be BOLD and embrace your unique beauty. You, my love are absolutely exquisite in every sense of the word. You are loved beyond measure, you are important and you are worthy. Never forget it. 
Shannon Daniels                                                                                                       Your forever devoted mother

Originally posted by Gail Karp. Thanks for posting this needed message, Gail.

I truly didn't believe that I could feel any more sickened by national tragedy than I already felt when I woke up this morning.
But that was before I read Donald Trump's Facebook post on the murder of the 5 police officers last night in Dallas.
It wasn't Trump's hypocritical, self-serving statements that disturbed me. They were just a case of Donald Trump being Donald Trump.
The overwhelming distress came from reading the litany of comments from his followers.
Now it is true that words can't kill. For that you need weapons like guns.
But words can embolden killers to pick up their weapons. And words can help these killers wrap their fingers around the triggers and pull. And words can help them feel righteousness and absolutely no remorse for their hideous actions.
I'm sure many of these commenters are wondering how something like Dallas can happen in once-great America. Well at least those who aren't blaming street monkeys, godless homes and schools, and President Obama.
Those questioners don't have to look far to find a part of the answer. All they need to do is walk to the nearest mirror and peer in. They will see part of the problem is staring right back at them.

When I think about the possible world we are leaving my granddaughter Audrey and my grandson Owen, I want to rush to the balcony of our apartment, pound on the railing, and scream, "Damn us! God damn us all to hell! We can be better than this. We can do better than this. We must do better than this."

Dear God,
If you do exist and are out there and listening, can we please have a do-over? We have pretty much fucked things up here on Earth and need a fresh start.
Also, about that book you inspired, could you come up with an authorized Cliffs Notes study guide and get it to bookstores and Amazon? A lot of people appear confused about what you and your Son did, said, and meant.
Thanks in advance ...

... And Maybe Here's An Answer

As a graduate of Villanova University, I have always had a special fondness for the Main Line Philadelphia Catholic educational institution where I spent 4 great years from 1969 to 1973.
Obviously, I was elated when the Jay Wright-led Wildcats captured the 2016 NCAA Basketball National Title.
Today, I am even more proud of VU and the wisdom behind this message from University President Father Peter Donaghue on the tragic racial shootings the past few days in our country.

Here is what Father Donohue had to say:

"As these troubling incidents continue to occur, it’s hard not to feel helpless. Is there any way to stop this cycle of violence? Is there any solution?

"Honestly, I don’t know, but I do believe that our Augustinian values are a good place to start.
"Veritas … through a search for truth, we gain knowledge and ultimately wisdom. May this wisdom allow us to see the value and worth of all human life.
"Unitas … we are always stronger together. As a community, let us challenge these destructive tendencies and demonstrate our commitment to creating a world free of prejudice and judgement.
"Caritas … hatred only breeds more hatred. May we be examples to those around us that love is the only way to drive out hate.

Veritas ... Unitas ... Caritus. Three words from a long-dead language.
But if we internalize the full meaning of these words and let them inform all our actions, we should be able to find our way out of the moral morass of hate and violence.
And you don't have to be a Christian, a Catholic, or a Villanovan to make these words work for you. You just have to be a human being who wants a better America.
Go Veritas, Unitas, Caritas! Go us!