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This blog is a small, first step toward encircling all of our community members in friendship and sharing. Are you intrigued by the concept of a common place for those who believe in the value of inclusion in the fabric of shared community? Email me at

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