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Sunday, January 26, 2014

In Memory of Lily Knott Beckman

My remembrance of my mother, Lily Knott Beckman, as read by my sister, Carolyn, at Lily’s memorial service in Twisp, Washington on January 25, 2014:
My name is Jeanne [pronounced Jean] Beckman. I am the third child of six children, the third daughter, born to my mother, Lily Knott Beckman. As is often typical of women, I have fought for years against becoming my mother. However, about year ago, I came across the book entitled “I Am my Mother’s Daughter: Making Peace with Mom—Before It’s Too Late.” This book helped me to become closer to my mother than I have been for years.

With the help of this book, over the past year, we spoke often of her life over the years, and the parallels of her life with my own. I had the opportunity to thank her for all the sacrifices she made to make me the woman, psychologist, mother, and grandmother I have become. I now admit with great pride that I AM my Mother’s Daughter.
I cannot attend today’s service because its schedule is in conflict with my oldest son Mark’s infant son’s baptism. My mother would certainly understand and agree that I must be a mother first, and therefore I am in Illinois, participating as a mom and grandmother for my first grandson’s baptism.
To hear the way my siblings describe Lily Knott Beckman, you might think we are speaking about six different mothers. In recent discussions with my siblings, I have come to believe that my mother was like the Room of Requirement found in Hogwart’s school from the Harry Potter novels.
Hogwart’s school’s Room of Requirement, according to Wikipedia, provided whatever was needed. That is, if one person needed books about a certain topic, that room would magically provide all the reference books about that topic. If another person needed magic potions, the room provided all the necessary potion ingredients. So too, my mother gave each of her children whatever he or she needed at the time, though not necessarily what they wanted. Whatever Mom did, her first thought was always about what her children needed at the time. She often put her own needs on hold until she cared for her children.
My mother had a passion for music, politics, and creative arts. Throughout much of her life, she was an avid reader. She certainly developed an unquenchable thirst for books in my life. Mom and I shared Anna Quindlen’s view about decorating:

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

In addition to Quindlen’s writings, we’d share a laugh about the late Erma Bombeck’s descriptions of life as a mom. I remember laughing about Bombeck’s titles such as “Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession” and “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.”
My mother was willing and able to talk about whatever topic interested her children. She was also like Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds of curiosity and enthusiasm in the hearts and minds of each of her children. She loved to talk about progressive politics, always speaking about topics of social justice. My mother believed it was her moral responsibility to insure fair elections, working as an election judge even as her own children were very young.
She was the only woman I knew who could create gorgeous heirloom Christmas ornaments equally well, whether she was using toilet paper tubes, walnuts, birch branches with cotton balls, or glitter with spun glass.
So, I could go on about my mother, but one of the important lessons Lily Knott Beckman taught me was the importance of sharing. So, today is all about all my siblings sharing my mother’s love, sharing my mother’s energy, and her belief that the more you share of your heart, the more you freely give your love, the more you have to share with others. Most importantly, my mother taught me importance to be a good mother, that is, to give away my heart to children of any age.

© Jeanne D. Beckman. All rights reserved

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The kindness of strangers-Blizzard edition

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry about the kindness of strangers (see Having survived the Blizzard of '67 as a young teenager, I was struck with the way in which neighbors helped neighbors, and strangers helped strangers.

While life is much more contentious now, with Congress routinely passing legislation that disenfranchises individuals while empowering corporations, I am struck by the ways in which communities and individuals still do what they can to help out others. Here's my earlier blog entry:
In the New York times today, Ted Gup penned an article about the kindness of strangers during the Great Depression:

IN the weeks just before Christmas of 1933 — 75 years ago — a mysterious offer appeared in The Repository, the daily newspaper here. It was addressed to all who were suffering in that other winter of discontent known as the Great Depression. The bleakest of holiday seasons was upon them, and the offer promised modest relief to those willing to write in and speak of their struggles. In return, the donor, a “Mr. B. Virdot,” pledged to provide a check to the neediest to tide them over the holidays.

Not surprisingly, hundreds of letters for Mr. B. Virdot poured into general delivery in Canton — even though there was no person of that name in the city of 105,000. A week later, checks, most for as little as $5, started to arrive at homes around Canton. They were signed by “B. Virdot.”

continued "Hard Times, A Helping Hand":

In the communities around the North Shore of Chicago, as well as around the country, there are many who have known difficult times as well as those who like to discretely help those who are less fortunate. Your gifts to others do not have to be financial. Perhaps you can read to a shut-in, tutor a student, drive someone to a doctor's appointment, invite someone to dinner, or make books accessible for those who have print disabilities. What can you do?

Blizzards and other big events are great for reminding us all that "random acts of kindness" can still grow like a rolling snow ball into making a difference, even though it often seems that one small act cannot bring about change. A snow ball grows bigger as it rolls down the hill. Voices can snow ball, too, especially with social media. One voice, 2 voices, 4 voices, 16 voices, 256 voices, 65536 voices, and so on can grow into change against hunger, homelessness, and legislative disenfranchisement.

Using social media to speak out about political disenfranchisement is bringing about change in Egypt. While I still believe that our current Constitution is fixable, I believe we must speak out against the Congressional members who continue to put forth legislation that disenfranchises entire groups of individuals, continues to disenfranchise entire families and communities. These Congressional members swore to uphold the Constitution, yet they repeatedly pass legislation denying entire classes of people equal protection and privacy. They deny equal protection and privacy by passing DADT (#DADT) and DOMA (#DOMA), repeatedly pass legislation denying equal protection and privacy of women by interfering with their private medical decision-making, and pass legislation that denies separation of church and state by allowing certain religious groups to define what aspects of a person's equal protection and privacy the government will protect. These Congressional members in essence are beholden to the special interests represented by lobbyists, yet these huge "contributions" are never represented as the bribes that they are, bribes that color the equal protection that every individual within this country, citizen and noncitizen alike, is supposed to have by default. Fears of whistleblowing and retalliation will go away when enough people speak out and hold corrupted officials accountable.

And so, let this blizzard be a reminder of the humanity, of the power of individual random acts of kindness, and of the power of one person to bring about change. Be the change.

Gandhi stated, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Margaret Meade stated, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Speaking out about injustice is every individual's equal right and every person's obligation.

What acts of kindness have you done today?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Midwest Edition: Where were you in the Blizzard of '67?

As Chicago braces for the Blizzard of 2011, I am reminded how communities came together during the Blizzard of 1967. Entire blocks of neighbors helped neighbors, sharing what they had, shoveling for those who could not shovel for themselves.

Now that I'm a mom instead of an eighth grader, my focus has shifted from "Yippee, no school, bring on more snow" to worry and attempts to pass on cautionary blizzard wisdom to young adult sons who still believe they know it all.

As an eighth grader during the blizzard of '67, I remember roads being completely closed because the plows could not keep up with the drifting snow. Our family used a sled to trek to the grocery store for milk and bread. My siblings and I shoveled snow for the widow next door. I think the blizzard started on a Thursday, but it took so long to clear the streets that businesses and schools did not open until the following Tuesday. Although the blizzard came in January, vestiges of the piles of dirty snow remained until March or maybe even early April.

I have heard many blizzard stories over the years of how emergency personnel, sleeping on cots in hospitals (both because they could not get home and new shifts could not get to the hospitals) still managed to find ways to pick up dialysis patients who needed hospital treatment.

Do you have survival tips to pass on to those who are blizzard newbies? Do you have a blizzard story (past or present) to share? If you email me at, I will try to post your stories as I am able.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hometown Woman Endorsed for Cook County Commissioner!

I've only had the pleasure of knowing Jennifer Bishop Jenkins directly for a month, but I have discovered that we've been part of the same community web of friends for over 20 years.

I have to admit I've not previously been involved in speaking about Cook County politics, but I have been energized by Jennifer's candidacy. She is knowledgeable in regard to the necessary reforms to make the Cook County Board work for the citizens rather than the "business as usual" politicians. Jennifer has pledged to be a full-time commissioner who is dedicated to clean out the corruption and to be part of the team of board reformers.

Here are some of her endorsements:
"Jennifer Bishop Jenkins is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable candidate, and we endorse her as the best person to keep the new board president on a path of reform . . .We are impressed and encouraged by Jenkins' depth of knowledge of Cook County government . . . We believe Jenkins will be the "agent of change"
that is needed to make county government responsive again to the public interest."
- Pioneer Press (10-14-10)

"Few candidates for county board commissioner are as well prepared as Jennifer . . .
[We commend Jennifer's] understanding of the budget crisis and the role
criminal justice, healthcare, and a corrupt bureaucracy play in the fiscal mess."
- Independent Voters of Illinois

"Voters in many parts of Cook County should envy the residents of this district... Jennifer Bishop Jenkins appreciates the damage that taxation imposed by the County Board's Democratic majority has caused as businesses in collar counties steal trade from Cook retailers...Jenkins is an impressive candidate who deserves a future in electoral politics."
- Chicago Tribune 10-5-10

Every vote counts, especially if we want a voice in issues affecting our small communities. Please vote, and please join me in supporting Jennifer Bishop Jenkins for Cook County Commissioner!

Find out more about Jennifer at

Monday, September 27, 2010

One Book, One Nation

There are so many good books I'd like to read, and so many book clubs...for example, I've yet to read most of Oprah's selections, but it's on my bucket list.

In the meantime, each day I hear more venomous commentaries disguised as news from political hacks and worry the effects of these tirades on our developing children and our families. These politicians and commentators often seek to build their own insular (i.e. segregated) and financial empires at the expense of the families, the very foundation of our country.

As a child and family psychologist, I am deeply disturbed about the messages that this venom, (as well as the continual "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality of our news) conveys to our children. And so, today, I am launching a national book club. I invite those who are willing to park their egos at the door and who are willing to focus on ways to build communities, not isolate them to join me as I explore this book.

And so,(drum roll) my first book selection is Better Together, by Putnam and Feldstein

Here's what they say about the book, Better Together
From Publishers Weekly
Putnam's much praised Bowling Alone put the concept of social capital (social networking) into broad currency by remarking on its growing absence. Now the Harvard prof and fellow public policy expert Feldstein approach the issue from the opposite direction: without suggesting communitarianism is sweeping the nation, they offer a dozen case studies of what groups of varying size have accomplished by cultivating networks of mutual assistance. Examples range from a neighborhood subdivision in Boston to an entire Mississippi county as well as the "virtual community" of Craigslist, an online bulletin board that has become the prime "go-to" source for job and apartment listings in San Francisco and elsewhere. The authors stress the importance of participatory involvement, championing networks that create opportunities for people to find their own public voice rather than relying on organizers to speak for them. Thus, one chapter recounts a New Hampshire public arts project in which townspeople's stories created the structure of an interpretive dance about a local shipyard's history; another chapter has schoolchildren in Wisconsin writing to local and state leaders to propose public improvements. Though each group is, as one person puts it, "recreating our neighborhood into the kind of village we want it to be," the book emphasizes no particular approach, juxtaposing the work of local governments with neighborhood associations and churchgoers with union organizers. The overarching argument, supported anecdotally rather than statistically, is tentative-something's going on but it's too early to tell how big it might become-but Putnam's reputation will guarantee the book a hearing.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist
Putnam, Harvard professor of public policy, ended his highly acclaimed Bowling Alone (2000) with hints that renewed social activism would soon counteract social alienation in America. In this follow-up, he and his coauthors examine the hopeful signs of reconnection in a variety of organizations, activities, and places demonstrating concerted efforts at reawakening ties between communities and individuals. The authors highlight case studies of building and applying social capital, defined as social networks and mutual assistance. The case studies, based on strong success, longevity, impact, scope, and established reputation, include the rejuvenation of branch libraries in Chicago; an interfaith effort to improve schools in a small Texas town; an arts project recalling the history of a New Hampshire shipyard; and an economic development project in Tupelo, Mississippi. These are not all feel-good stories--some highlight conflict and controversy--but each offers a compelling story of individuals and communities establishing bonds of trust. Readers who enjoyed Bowling Alone will appreciate this inspiring follow-up. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Won't you please join me in reading this book as a first step toward rebuilding your own communities?

Let me know if you'd like to participate:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Taking time to notice a fleeting pocket of joy

This morning, I longingly looked out the window at my poor garden, overgrown with five-foot tall weeds. The weeds are so pervasive, it is difficult to see the pink and white stargazer lilies, blue balloon flowers, and purple coneflowers that have somehow hidden themselves from the voracious deer’s nightly feeding frenzies. And then, I saw it. An emerald glimmer of beauty darting from one orange lily to another. A tiny hummingbird, and then a florescent yellow goldfinch, visiting my garden which only moments before seemed hopelessly, irretrievably choked off from anything resembling its former self as a source of joy.

I remember how this garden evolved. When my sons were small, I would tend this garden after work as my boys played in the front yard and sidewalk. This garden was always known as "Mom's garden" and it grew like my sons: starting out as dreams hatched while poring over January's blitz of garden catalogs, then planting the tiny bulbs, seeds, and plants, full of promise of what they would become. Despite my organic battles with slugs, rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels, despite my battles with the school district to provide appropriate educations for my sons, despite my desperate entreaties to prevent my husband from compulsively borrowing yet more money to buy his custom-made shirts while continuing to pay off a corrupt contractor bent on cheating us with an addition that would never be completed, my garden and my sons grew into sources of great joy. I allowed myself to feel pride as my neighbors would compliment me on my garden, bursting with color and surprise pockets of flowers that enticed Monarchs, hummingbirds, and goldfinches. I allowed myself pride as my growing sons achieved in school, sports, and Boy Scouts. Ashamed of my inability to have a home life like my neighbors, I hid my efforts to single-handedly rebuild the kitchen, to patch kicked in doors, to save money while he went off on "guys only" scuba trips to Bonaire, and to fend off the verbal detritus of never being "good-enough."

And so, the festering winter of family dysfunction and divorce that had gradually sneaked into my life took over like dandelions in a yard during vacation. Shoved out, locked out, starved out, and cut off from adequate funds to defend myself in court and to pay my obligations, my garden and my relationships with my sons lay fallow. Occasional fleeting pockets of past joy would peek out as perennial flowers or furtive get-togethers with my sons tried to push their way through the choking weeds of dysfunction to sparkle in the sun before being stomped down by a neighbor's dog-do or a nasty Narcissistic communication from the Ex.

How can it still be such a Siberian winter when it is ninety degrees outside? Even though my ex took essentially everything, the Courts still seem bent on perpetuating, bent on enabling the continued denial of equal treatment, denying due process to those who, like me, do not have funds to fend off scorched earth divorce tactics. Friends ask how this could happen, aren't there laws to protect women in 26 year marriages? Aren’t there domestic abuse laws? Aren’t there laws preventing him from taking essentially all of the assets and retirement funds? What about the contributions I made to the marriage? How can the Court allow the father of my children to get away with taking everything, to get away with continued coercion, to get away with enforcing an unconscionable agreement forced upon me after continually denying me time and funds to hire adequate representation to protect my rights in court?

I only know that our legal system has become so inaccessible to those who don't have deep pockets to fend off abusive legal maneuvers that innocent people, coerced into confessions by the John Burges of the world, sit on death row awaiting vindication. I only know that the Goldman Sachs of the country can avoid admitting guilt as they pay a fine that is a mere pittance of the funds they stole. I only know that students with diverse learning needs only get an adequate education if their parents can afford private tutoring. I only know that women who are abused are only protected if they have their own deep pockets, their own funds to hire top-notch legal teams complete with public relations savvy.

I have come to believe that protective laws without adequate enforcement are worse than no laws at all. Reasonable people believe that, because there are protective laws, if a spouse is denied an equal share of the marital estate or a suspect is convicted of a crime, then it must be due to clear-cut fault or guilt. Claims of coercion are ignored and lives are forever ruined. Only if reasonable people, such as the Innocence Project at Northwestern, persevere to challenge the John Burges of the world, are convictions overturned, but many lives are forever ruined because of our two-tiered system of justice. Most of those who are cheated out of justice in divorce courts are told their only choice is to walk away and start over. Corrupt divorce lawyers, pockets bulging with family assets seized through churning cases, are never reported and move on to the next case.

Unfortunately, my ex is apparently not done with me yet. It seems he will not be satisfied until he has kept his promise to make me destitute and not satisfied unless I am homeless. He continues to use his attorneys to prevent me from reclaiming what belonged to me, to refuse to uphold his end of the unconscionable agreement, and continue his legalized harassment.

However, I also know that in the middle of this July day, this ninety degree winter of domestic abuse, I found a fleeting pocket of joy today. As I longingly looked out the window at my poor garden, overgrown with five-foot tall weeds, I saw that fleeting pocket of joy. The weeds are so pervasive, it is difficult to see the pink and white stargazer lilies, blue balloon flowers, and purple cone flowers that have somehow hidden themselves from the voracious deer’s nightly feeding frenzies. Right there, I saw it. An emerald glimmer of beauty darting from one orange lily to another. A tiny hummingbird, and then a florescent yellow goldfinch, visiting my garden which only moments before seemed hopelessly, irretrievably choked off from anything resembling its former self as a source of joy.

I must remind myself to nurture my garden, to hold onto those fleeting pockets of joy in relationships, and realize that, despite my current life of destitution, I AM capable of new ways to nurture healthy relationships with my sons, of creating things of beauty, and giving to others to make this world a better place.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mentoring the Love of a Book

Yesterday, I wrote about the upcoming 15th annual Winnetka Alliance TV TuneOut, where an entire community helps families find fun, bonding alternatives to watching media like TV, computers, video games, etc. The TuneOut book of activities is so full, the biggest problem is choosing WHICH activity to do. Here's where you can find the activities to share with your child:

What if your schedule doesn't allow enough participation in the activities of the TuneOut? How can you bond with your child while nurturing the love of learning? Find out how to pass on a positive legacy of loving books at a presentation by Dr. Beckman:

Do you need a book that's lots of fun? Dr. Seuss is always an author to tickle any child's funny bone! In honor of the TV TuneOut, I'm inviting local families to email me for a chance to win a stuffed Horton and a book, Horton Hears a Who. Here's where to sign up for a chance to win:

Other questions? you're welcome to contact Dr. Beckman at 847-446-1251

Thursday, March 4, 2010

TV TuneOut time is here: Stop your child's exposure to media violence

Fifteen years ago, the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood asked me to write an article about the effects of media violence on children. At the time, the message of TV violence research was loud and clear: exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively, both immediately and when they are older.

Concerned parents and teachers from around the world downloaded this article, quoted it, referred me to Time Magazine (see Mother, and others. Parents of today still care about this important topic, as it is still the most popular article on my website. See

There is a recent article in Psychological Bulletin, 2010 Volume 136, Issue 2 (Mar), examining multiple studies ("meta-analyses" ) on the effects of violent video games on children. They stated,
exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.

Essentially, media violence desensitizes individuals to violence, desensitizes their ability to empathize with others, and decreases their ability to demonstrate positive social interactions.

In response to this study, media people, reported in USAToday, are already trying to argue that it is mostly the parents' fault that their children become violent.

Regardless of what the media says, there are many things that parents CAN control, can do to help their children grow up to be responsible community members. Parents CAN limit the effects of media violence on their children: Limit their exposure by turning off the TV and computer, and do alternate activities with your child. Read to them. Cook with them. There's a multitude of activities to do with them. Take back your family!

Once a year, an entire community stages a series of events to help families in their quest to reduce screen time. Sunday kicks off Winnetka's Fifteenth Annual TV TuneOut. For more information, please visit It's great fun, and a great way to banish the last vestiges of winter.

If you have questions about how your child is developing, please visit my website: or contact me at