Archive for the ‘children’ Category

If I am correct the polio vaccine was first available when my oldest child was going to enter school. We did not rush to get it for her. And we were glad we did wait.

Many children were said to have contracted polio after taking the vaccine. Later another version was made available and all of our children took that.

I know they all had the early diseases except whooping cough. I remember well my whooping cough illness. And the chicken and smalll poxes.

Many years later, we had cause to try to understand the relationship of all medicines and vaccinations to health. All of us have allergies and some have reactions to medications. What is meant to help often can do harm.

We had teenagers at home when the flu vaccine was considered to be the cause of deaths. Our friends headed the government program for its distribution. We felt bad for them. But we learned a lot about what was put into some of the shots. We have learned to become scientists, pharmacists, researchers as well as bullies.

When a medical person questions our experience and concern for certain medications, it is essential to hold our position. Over the last fifteen years, there are more choices: dye free, preservative free, etc. I would suspect that resulted from the public demanding alternatives.

My most recent struggles to find medicines which did not create new, worse problems was not without some humor. Pills are color coded to indicate the dosage. So white (no dye) may not be the required dosage. It turns out that not all yellows are the same. Some may have red or blue or? Who knows from the color chart. The pills also have pleasing names which have no relation to the dye. And have your doctor or pharmacy check the concerns like “not recommended for African Americans.” That at the minimum will give you something to discuss. Sometimes the internet will be a good resource but not always.

When your medication is a shot, how can you tell what is in it? I have depended on a compounding pharmacy to make medicine which does no harm. When necessary I have recommended to my doctor that he use this resource for my surgery etc. Many times, this request has been ignored with predictable bad results. More recently some of my medicines have to be made by Walgreens or Walmart. My preference to use my best resource is no longer possible!

I no longer have the responsibility for young children. Therefore, I try to keep my concerns to myself. More of the vaccines are grouped together. And there is the new one for young girls. I do not know what I would decide, I just know, I will worry.

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The child is the future and hope.

The child is the future and hope.


The theories about successful aging include keeping one’s mind active. This seems especially important to early retirees and elderly seniors. A whole generation of nearly 62 year olds has either stepped off the merry-go-round or been let go from employment.

The flow of life is a series of ups and downs. Who says the postwar 50s were a lull? Now, I feel for the people who have jobs and can no longer count on employment. Recently, a friend said her 10-year-old niece needed to interview someone who had lived in the 30s. Looking around the table, I was IT. I did not do the interview, but it made me think.

What were the adjustments made in my family to the depression? My father had provided a comfortable, even privileged life for us. He employed at least 5 people to keep our house running. He helped his brothers and their children. He played golf! And then, like many others (and fewer African Americans), he lost his money and his health. My stepmother and a friend made handpainted silk ties. They were sold to friends who still had money. This helped but could not support the family for long.

We were sent to live in another state. My aunt and uncle had three children, an ill mother and assorted relatives and friends on hard times. They had come from the South and were qualified teachers. My uncle worked with red-hot ingots for the automotive industry. My aunt worked for the government. [Three of those years were in Washington, DC.]

They fell back on frugal ways learned in an earlier time. He bought land with his army pension. From 1919 to 1936, veterans had waited for a check. We grew food, fished and collected old fields of berries. We worked boxing raspberries @5 cents. We canned and made jellies. A cold cellar kept potatoes. and rhutabagas.  My uncle got unused dough from a bakery to feed a few hogs and a few dozen donuts for us.

Sundays we ate in the diningroom. Each person had the same piece of chicken. Being the youngest and the last I got the drumstick. We went to church on Sunday and pulled the shades when playing a game with cards. The neighbors must not think we were gambling.

The truck took us back and forth the 40 miles to the farm. One child could sit in front with the adults. The rest of us huddled and hung on. I don’t remember a return when a tire did not blow. And then we drove home on the rim.

One year they hired a man to stay at the farm in the winter. He could not read or write but he could count. He knew money. One year he asked to spend Thanksgiving with his family. My brother next to me was told to take his place for the weekend. We had no phones. Over the weekend, the old man died. Snow blanketed the farm. They took some time to find a replacement and to bring my brother home! I know he did not have money. Where could he have spent it? My allowance was only 10 cents. Five cents to tithe and five cents to spend.

The food and wood ran low. The water in the well froze. I cannot imagine the isolation and fear that he experienced: 50 acres more of snow, miles from anyone else! Today, I would say that experience was Character-building.

My aunt got free government pamphlets, many written by George Washington Carver. They told her how to grow vegetables in water. How to conserve waste. How to can. What to eat healthy. We bought or were given a baby chick warmer. We raised white rabbits in the garage but they were pets. We had turkeys at the farm but they were determined to drink rain….a dangerous thing to do. I learned to use a bucket brigade which came in use later.
My cousin and I had hand-me-down clothes. She sewed beautifully. Bolts of material and a few dresses were gifts from another aunt. One pair of shoes a year regardless of need.

For fun? A lot of laughing. A toboggan for all but one in the family. A lot of games with everybody playing. And always, that other world of school. For my brothers and I, we had each other and the expectation of leaving. We had memories that there could be an easier life with hard work, school and luck.

The more I have paid attention to others lives, the more common experiences there are. So many people have suffered things I never dreamed of. And the good and the difficult all create us. We can lie down and stay defeated or we can make our dream and walk in.

Happy Holidays.

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Women Series

Iola (Ida B. Wells)
Oil by Bettye W. Harwell

Lynching is the act of hanging an individual by a group.

I may not post this because this is my personal opinion.  I want to write this for my own clarity. Lynching was never something I came into personal contact with. Living in the North with southern-raised relatives, children were protected from scary things. Still there were the conversations in the corners which made us fearful.

As I became an adult, I came to know about the practice of killing Black men for any reason. These were spontaneously organized by groups of men. No judge, no jury. We are familiar with the Ku Klux Clan formed after the Civil War. By wearing a covering of white, each person remained anonymous. Burning crosses, shooting into homes, culminating with hanging spectacles terrorized communities across the country.

Earlier, the Wild West set the template of justice. Those early hangings, viewed by women and children, were public events. The Law and Order of an earlier day was horrible but at least the hangings were equal opportunity. Lynching became racial and intimidation events. Officials were not acting in their authority but were part of the mob.

These unexpected and unsanctioned attacks deprived families of breadwinners, caused loss of property. They were used to ensure that others knew their ‘place.’ It also caused displacement: Blacks fled their homes looking for safe shelter far away from the dangers. (Finding dangers of another kind?)

Long before Emmit Till, part of my family left the south in small  groups. A great uncle, age 20 and looking white, was being chased for talking to a white woman. The sister was separated from her brother. His former slave mother spent her last years without his comfort. The doctor husband remained in a nearby southern state. What resulted from this new normal?

Finally, the practice of lynching was curtailed by federal laws.

But now we have a new version of lawlessness. Our children are killing each other. In this form, it is also an equal opportunity event. Children of color, with guns, kill those closest to themselves. It is the lawlessness of the Wild West and no one is safe.

By my definition the New Lynchings are encouraged by our laws. It is an individual ‘being the MAN’ event. When there is no accountability for taking a life, our children have no expectation of living a long time. The model is ‘give me respect’, or, with my gun, you lose your life. How sad. Parents live in anguish when cast as polite, understanding people; cast into the TV limelight due to the killing of their child. What effort to face the public with the approved image only to curse the dark when alone.

And if you have other children, yours or your neighbors?  What court? What jury? What comfort for their safety? What price for raising good kids? And if not so good, would that make a killing justified?

In the celebration of Black History Month, we look away from the bad past and the bad today. Will we remember that within some of our lifetimes, in Florida, Blacks had a curfew, could not walk on the sidewalk, and could be arrested without a ‘passport.’ Not slavery times, not too long ago. Will we see the signs on water fountains because some people buy into being separate means safety?

Who knew?

I used to say (facetiously) that you had lived a good life if your son did not ring the doorbell and shoot you. (That happened in our town.) Now you may have to live to bury your child. This is my opinion, but it does not change anything today. Perhaps tomorrow.

Painting: Ida Wells became a civil right leader after learning of the lynching  of three Black men in TN.

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A sculpture done by the citizens of NAshvilla

A sculpture done by the citizens of NAshvilla

This year has been one continuous  reflection on: the 50 year`ago March on Washington, 50 years since the Kennedy Assasination.  And the 50 year anniversary of the birth of my youngest child.

She was in high school when she could not remember where she was when Kennedy was killed. I remember where I was. It was eleven days before her birth. I was walking my four year old, a routine we enjoyed. We stopped at the strange store just around the corner. We always stopped to look at the linens and small gifts in the windows. Suddenly a small woman ran out the door and dragged us inside. The elderly couple who owned the store were huddled around a small radio.

I was a little frightened because we had never been inside this store. The first lady, a helper, was trying to tell me that the President was in Dallas, that he had been shot and that  they were looking for ‘a Black man’. As she talked, voice rising and dropping to a near whisper, the radio announcers were trying to clarify and update events. Soon they said he had died.

We all were silent, frightened and sad. I needed to be with friends and walked to the home of lifelong friends. Our boys were the same age and soon drifted off to boys’ games. (Today I remembered that our televisions were black and white. It seemed fitting for such glum news.)

After awhile two children appeared at the back door. My children! I had lost all thought of them. The school had dismissed them to a deserted house. In a crisis, people either come closer or close inward. It was such a strange Friday and continued into the weekend of murder and grief. I doubt our children had any prior experience of grief. And learning the news in ther separate classrooms gave them no avenue to deal with their feelings.

Now the cable stations, for almost ten days, have covered all of the events, questioned who accepts the Warren Report conclusions, used old and new film footage. Non-stop. The level of emotional distress is heightened and hard to dispel. The young announcers who were not born, show their struggle to understand. They try to compare it to September 11. But were probably too young for that also.

Who knew?

My youngest, at age 4, suddenly jumped up off the floor, jumping up and down, screaming “I thought that man (Kissinger) said the war was over.”  It was the first time that we realized she was aware of the news when she colored in front of the television. We cannot know how our children internalize things going on around them.

What long-term ways are we and our children unable to process our emotions when confronted repeatedly with critical information? I am really glad that Caroline Kennedy was out of the country, starting a new phase of her life.

Chief WritingWolf(wordpress.com)reminds us that another man, a good man died on that same day. All I could do was to turn inward and cut the television off.

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Cropped screenshot of Count Basie and his band...


My education in Detroit went from the third grade and ended in McMichael Jr. High. In that year and one-half in the Jr.High, I learned to swim and dive off the high board. A group of my classmates and I spent three to four days a week touring historic and cultural institutions. If it was an experiment, it made a huge difference in my life.

We went to Deerfield to learn about the automobile workers, to the Detroit Art Institute to see the Diego murals. Also Symphonies and libraries. It would have been impossible to test us on the value to our future lives.

A friend from elementary school was in our group. She and I bonded over reading only books that had two copies. Each day we compared and headed back to get a new reading adventure. Our favorite started with one word on the page, Supercillious. It rolls off your tongue.

Boys included: Billy Williams, who later toured with Count Basie, Governour Morriss, and my cousin were among the boys. Louise Smith, and Carol, (she and her sister Barbara were Breck models) were among the girls. I saw Governour on William Buckley‘s television show and he had a Phd.

Now the city of Detroit and its marvelous Art Institute are in danger of losing its one-of-a-kind cultural institution. Please think of the children who may never see the Diego murals or the African artifacts which are available now. Once art collections are dispersed, their best contributions will be lost.

Search online:

YourDictionary.com for definition of title.

Breck model portraits.

Related articles

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No Need To Change

Keep your attitudes
Hold onto the fears
Believe what you believe.

Keep your justice
Hold onto the laws
Believe you are safe.

Keep your gates
Hold onto your guns
Believe you are safe.

Keep your children
Hold them close
Believe they are safe.

Keep the verdict
Hold onto Trayvon
Believe he was your son.

Sent from my iPad

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Sunshine on a rainy day
Child unknown until now
Brings a smile like hers
To the father’s face.

The Devil beats his wife,
They say, on such a clouded day
Angels sang over the roar
Welcoming the child to play.

We know her only by her smile
We will keep the memory
Of sun shining on her face

A father, who has lost so much, was interviewed on TV. Through the questions and prying, he was able to smile when remembering his daughter. His face lit up with same bright smile captured in photos shared with those who will never know her. What has been lost when the children are gone? Let us remember her father’s words: “She was sunshine on a rainy day.”

Who knew?
The reference to the Devil comes from what we were told as children. When the boundary between rain and sun can be seen (often a line of wet and dry on pavement), the Devil is beating his wife. i do not know the origin.

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Photo by B. W. Harwell

Ugly shoes

I should have spoken about women’s shoe fashions. It had occurred to me that the trend to wrap the ankle and lower leg looked a lot like restraint. The use of wedgies and extreme heels did not elevate women in height as much as it made it more difficult for women to go about their days.

Uproar and History
The uproar over the men’s gym shoes with the chains and ankle restraints brought to mind this larger problem.

Shoes for women  are uncomfortable footwear and bone-ugly designs. Since Chinese women had their feet broken and bound, women have  struggled to  walk comfortably. Baby shoes had to be high top to protect ankles.

The next stage was when parents bought Stride Rite shoes. A “qualified doctor” looked for any hint of toe-ing in or out. Often a prescription was handed to this person from a pediatrician. Metal lifts altered the gate. Arch supports made the small child struggle to maintain balance. During the austerity of the depression children got one pair a year, if needed. Once the money situation eased, the family tried to buy shoes every six months. No shoes were handed down to siblings. A Sunday pair of shoes was a requirement for Sunday School.

This was followed by adamant children. A scene in the store guaranteed a Converse purchase. Fathers protested and then joined what could not be changed.

Women’s shoes are starting to look like court-ordered ankle restraints. The style with 6-inch platforms is a return to torture. The shoe does not flex with the foot. Walking is like moving on hoofs. Extremely high, thin heels also endanger falling or the turning of ankles. We have all had a good laugh at professional models falling on the runway.

Who knew?

No protest for women’s shoes has had the immediate style change that the Adidas uproar did. Why not?

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children's M...

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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"Great grandchild"
Great Grand Child

Dear Child,

I have been thinking how to tell you about my life. It can be described as a diamond.  It begins at the bottom with a very tiny point. It grows up until it is really fat in the middle. And then it gets smaller, and smaller until there is the top point.

We have no idea about the top point. But we can decide what happens inside the shape. My life stories are inside my diamond-shape. Some may interest you. Some I am still thinking about.

One thing is true. As the diamond-shape of your life fills up, memories fade. I was in a fog until you would think I was really, really old. Even some of the good times cannot be recalled. It is harder to answer the questions you ask:

Who and what shaped who you became?

Why did you decide to make the choices you made?

I would like to credit everyone who said “Hang in there. Things will get better.” Or “Do your best and that is all you can do.”

Who knew?

Fortunately, we do forget painful things. But not everything. I still remember the emotions I felt about injustices, because I feel the same way today. That is true about things that happen to me or anyone.

Little one, fill up your diamond-shaped life. Nearing teenage, you have not reached the widest part of your life. You will forget most of what troubles you now.

Follow your dreams. Have B-I-G dreams. Do the best you can. Hang in there. Things will get better.



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Update – Easter Eggs at the White House

Children have been invited to the White House lawn on the Monday after Easter since the 1800s. The Egg Roll began on the lawn of the Capitol. When the grass was a concern, Rutherford B. Hayes invited children to come to the White House.

Read more about the history at


Today would be the 136th time this has been celebrated at the White House. (Please forgive me if my math is wrong!) (more…)

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