Thanksgiving: A New Tradition

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Cherished holiday traditions should always hold a place in our hearts, but even greater joy is found in opening ourselves to new customs and practices.

As a classroom teacher, Thanksgiving was the hardest holiday to host. It was mad work to get everything done in the 24 hours between 3:00 Wednesday and 3:00 Thursday, even when side dishes were in part supplied by guests. When my adult children started hosting at their homes a few years ago, I was beyond relieved.

This year, my son and his wife volunteered to host the holiday at their new house. Counting kids, there were over 40 people in a 1500 square foot home. Everyone was welcome: family, friends, friends of friends, co-workers, and neighbors. The weather was beautiful and unseasonably warm for Las Vegas – a record-breaking 80 degrees – so tables were set up on the patio outside. The adults feasted, while the kids played on two bouncy houses in the backyard. At the end of the evening, after everyone made up their to-go plates, I looked at all the leftovers before I departed and felt sorry for my son and his wife. What will they do with all that food? Around 9:30 PM, I saw the following group text message.

“I wanted to say happy thanksgiving and thank you for coming over earlier. The L…s were very happy to host such a great group. This message won’t find all my guests so thank someone I missed for me please. I wanted to inform everyone that after feeding our whole group and packing out as much to go with everyone as possible, Steve and I took the leftovers and some plates and went and fed 30+ more people down off Washington and D. You know the spot under the 15. It was very nice to get to take an hour and serve some people that certainly didn’t wake up today with a feast on the schedule. I’ll tell you what- I’ll never worry about the over cooking this family does again. So easy to find people that are hungry. Sleep well family and friends. Blessed as we are. And know you just helped make a couple dozen people feel a lot better on their Thanksgiving.”

I responded back to him, saying how proud and impressed his father (my ex-husband) – who passed away about two years ago – would have been. To which my son responded, “Things are easier when you’re familiar. He did show us how to be charitable.” Indeed, one of my daughter’s earliest memories is of her dad directing her to take off her winter coat and give it to a little girl on the street. She resisted initially, but her dad reassured her that she would get a new one. The experience made an indelible impact on her.

This morning, I spoke to my son about this gracious act. He mentioned his surprise that the average age of the homeless people he met last night were his age: mid-thirties. Some had mental health issues, others had drug problems, and some just had a large measure of bad luck coupled with the lack of an adequate support system. We discussed the impact that a few bad decisions could have on an individual’s life.

Holidays are a time when we remember and mourn for all the loved ones who are no longer present in our lives. While it is important to reflect back upon our happy memories, it is equally important to always look forward. My son is anxious to host Christmas at his house this year and again share the leftovers with his neighbors who live under the I-15 bridge. His new holiday tradition will certainly have an impact on how his children chose to interact with the world around them.

Manning Up to the Truth

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Lech. Pervert. Creep. Women of a certain age are all too familiar with men of this ilk. Growing up in the 60s and the 70s, we came across them on a regular basis. They grabbed our asses, groped our breasts, and verbally harassed us. It was the normal state of affairs, and they largely got away with it.

To be clear, not all men behaved in this deplorable manner. In fact, most men have always acted like gentlemen, most of the time. Still, fathers warned their daughters. Mothers provided advice on what to do when you found yourself in “that” situation. And friends warned friends – the whisper network.

As women, we grew older, and the assaults subsided as attention was directed at younger, more vulnerable targets. In addition, the times changed. The women’s movement had an impact. Gender roles softened. Mothers raised their sons with different expectations. We had hope that our daughters would live in a better world.

Back in the day, women who reported rape or sexual misconduct risked it all. They were accused of inciting men’s bad behavior because of the way they dressed and the places they went. Victims were blamed and shamed.

Like many others, I shared my “me too” experience of sexual harassment at my workplace when my thirty-something boss kept insisting that I have sexual intercourse with him when I was 16 and working at the pizza restaurant in my local mall. I did not share my many stories of being groped, having men expose their junk, and surviving date rape. I had frank discussions with my daughters about owning their sexuality. I warned them to protect themselves when they wanted to engage in sexual activities and how to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances. I lectured my son on how to treat women with respect. I reinforced to my students the mantra that “no means no.”

What disappointed me and actually pained me to the core were the “me too” posts on Facebook by younger women. While I fully anticipated that most women my age had experienced sexual harassment and abuse, I mistakenly thought it was a generational problem and that younger men were more evolved. Sadly, it was not the case.

The names keep rolling in: Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Louis CK. And on, and on, and on. Each with their own particular fetish: Anesthetize with pills, grab their pussy and forcibly kiss, don a bathrobe and demand a massage, intoxicate with alcohol, target teens, expose themselves and masturbate.

This story is far from over. I imagine that many men are living in fear that their past and present behavior will soon be exposed. The knot in their stomach is violently pulsing. They are experiencing the dread that women have known forever. Careers will be ruined and relationships will be destroyed. Some daughters will never look at their fathers the same way.

Is Melania Trump a Russian Agent?

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In the wake of “Mueller Monday” – with the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates coupled with the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos – we are left wondering who may be indicted next: General Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner, Donald Jr., or maybe even Melania Trump?

Why Melania?

Is it possible that she was recruited by the Russians as an agent while she was modeling in Italy or later when she moved to the United States? Russia – knowing Donald Trump’s penchant for Eastern European women – could have targeted her in either location and lured her in. Once on board with the Russians, Melania could have been planted to attract the attention of Donald Trump. Imagine that Melania – the woman who many people actually feel sorry for in that family – is actually the mastermind (or sinister link) in the Trump/Russia connection. After all, in the context of clandestine affairs, the least obvious player should be the most obvious suspect.

Kim Jong Un is not the only Smart Cookie

Many people underestimate the intelligence of Melania Trump – in part for marrying a man like Donald Trump (wealth aside). I believe she is smarter than people give her credit. Many publicly doubt her fluency in five/six languages. Aside from Slovenian (her native tongue), Melania has demonstrated her fluency in English (a language she may have studied in school and later mastered in the United States). Melania also speaks Serbo-Croatian, which she learned as a consequence of growing up in Slovenia, and German, which perhaps she learned in school or picked up from her parents who reportedly worked in Germany occasionally. French and Italian were learned while working as a model in Paris and Milan. While not necessarily fluent, Melania is at least conversational in the above mentioned languages. Russian is not on the list – of course not. The White House would definitely not want to put that on her resume, even if it was true. However, in the Newsweek article, “Melania Trump Had A Terrible Day in Germany, And Putin And Her Husband Are To Blame,” Cristina Silva claims that Melania does indeed speak Russian. Clearly, Melania is comfortable and proficient in many worlds.

If Melania is so smart, why did she claim on her website to have a degree from the University of Ljubljana when she actually dropped out after a year, and why in the world did she plagiarize elements of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention in her speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention? These were too obvious and public of gaffes to expect to go unnoticed. Were they rather just well-planned ploys to have the media and the American people grossly underestimate her? It is not unreasonable to postulate that Melania is the smartest person in a room among Trumps.

Ambition Trumps All

Ultimately, very little is publicly known about Melania Knauss Trump. What we do know is that she comes from a motivated and ambitious family. In communist Yugoslavia, the Knavs/Knauss family lived quite well. During her young life, the family resided in a modest two-bedroom apartment in a Soviet-style complex, but in the early 1980s, the family moved into a spacious two-story home in a suburb of Sevnica called Beverly Hills. Most Slovenians did not have this luxury. Melania’s father Viktor began as a chauffeur and elevated himself to manager of a state-run car and motorcycle dealership. His career rise was a product of his membership in the communist party – note: only 5% of the Slovene population were party members. By all accounts, Viktor Knavs was more of an opportunist than a true believer. Nevertheless, the rewards were huge.

Accounts of young Melania portray her as thoughtful, reserved, and an avid reader. At a young age, she set her sights high and acted on them. Modeling was Melania’s ticket out of Slovenia. Her career began in grade school. Melania’s mother Amalija worked as a pattern-maker for children’s clothing, and Melania and her elder sister Ines modeled the clothing. For their high school years, the family rented an apartment in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana so the daughters could have access to a better education than in their hometown of Sevnica. After graduation, Melania left for better opportunities in Western Europe.

Follow the Money

How would the Russians have recruited Melania as an asset? Internet gossip indicates that Melania’s modeling career was stagnating while in Europe and she continued to struggle following her move to New York. It appears that her career really took off after hooking up with Donald Trump. Melania had limits on what she was willing to do. For example, as the notorious nude art photos demonstrate, Melania was willing to bare it all, but not in any pornographic manner. Similarly, she engaged in consensual sex with Donald Trump, but won a lawsuit against The Daily Mail for $150 million when they falsely accused her of working as an escort. So although money was an issue, Melania was not willing to sell out cheap. Was she expected to send remittances back home to Slovenia to help out her family? Did her father’s connections to the Yugoslavian Communist Party smooth the way for later contact between the Kremlin and his daughter? Or did Melania simply marry Trump for his money?

Disclaimer:

To be clear, I am not the only person proposing that Melania is potentially a Russian asset, but at the time I first conceived it, I had not seen it posted or published anywhere. When I started googling aspects of this crazy concept, Google “auto-fill” seemed to anticipate my search ideas, which led me to realize that others have entertained similar theories. A couple of very sketchy sites claimed she had already outed herself as a Russian agent last Spring, because going to jail as a traitor is preferable to living with “The Donald.” Ross Douthat wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The ‘Manchurian’ President?” on May 31, 2017, which referenced “the mounting evidence linking Melania Trump to Kremlin handlers.” In addition, Lev Raphael wrote a satiric piece for HUFFPOST dated August 7, 2016 – updated August 7, 2017, “The Name is Trump, Melania Trump,” which follows a similar trajectory as my supposition. Finally, there appears to be discussion threads devoted to Melania Trump being a Russian agent, but since these sites required registration to view and participate in the discussion, I backed away.

A Deeper Throat

My favorite conspiracy theory turned out not to be true. A former student suggested that attorney, writer, and TV/movie personality Ben Stein was Deep Throat. Infamous for his plain looks and monotone voice – “Bueller, Bueller” – Stein was the neighbor and classmate of Carl Bernstein. That alone means nothing, but Yale Law School Valedictorian Stein was also a speech writer for President Nixon. That knowledge certainly got my attention. When Mark Felt outed himself as Deep Throat, I was truly disappointed.

So is she or isn’t she? Is this a thing or just the crazy fantasy of a retired world history teacher? Time will hopefully tell.