Category Archives: Uncategorized

November 3, 2017 – When Fear Controls Us Into Complicity

This local election season in Niskayuna has taught me a lot about people in my community and those who work or are active in the town.  Many of them over these last few years have been driven by fear.  Sounds pretty strange for your basic upper to average middle class community. But it is true.

Last weekend one of the Democratic candidates for town board brought her family to meet me.  She wanted me to know what a great family she has and that she is a good person.  It was really strange to the people who were with me and who asked me what it was all about.  What she does not realize is that I know she is a good person, I know she does lots of good things for our community but none the less she has been complicit in ignoring or allowing the Town Supervisor to do some pretty questionable things.  And if she really did not know then why did she not know? Not just her but the other Board members as well. I know at least two of the other members and they are good people. I like them but either they were blind or this guy really had them under this thumb.

I realized the other day that much of the complicity of the folks who might have been able to put a stop to this was fear.  “Will I lose the backing of the party if I want to run again?” “Will my wife lose her job that I just got her or my son or my husband if I speak up?”  “Will there be retribution against me if I speak up after being forced out of my job?” (Mailboxes being ploughed over, a sudden rise in just my taxes, picky fines etc)

Fear is a terrible thing.  The newspaper has spoken to many of the people who lost their jobs and they give info but don’t want to be personally interviewed, because they are afraid.  Current employees also have talked privately about what is going on in Town Hall. But you will never get them to speak on the record. They are afraid.

As for me, yes I suppose there is anxiety and fear at some level.  I know a lot of people and I get a lot of messages and emails from folks sharing more about what they hear about.  All I have done is ask questions and encourage them to speak out.

I want to know why the wives of two town board members were hired to work at the Senior Center?   Why were the staff who were professionals harrassed into leaving? Where was their supervision if they were not doing what was expected of them? Why was a clerk over the period of a brief couple of years turned into a Deputy Town Supervisor?  What is her relationship with the Town Supervisor? Why in God’s name would the Town Supervisor not put a light up for the Court Staff and instead lock the door so they could not go out their door and had to walk by the folks they had just sentenced in court?   Sounds like one angry guy to me.

People have asked me why I am speaking out. Well, if you want to know it is because if one of those running for office had called me the first time I asked I would have had my answers. But no instead they tried to quiet me.  Sorry, my genetics does not allow for that to happen. There is something very wrong in our town and there needs to be change.  I was talking to my neighbor yesterday and he laughed at the signs for Ms. Syed on my front lawn.  I laughed to since I have never in my life put up political signs and since I absolutely dislike the current national administration it seems counter intuitive for me to be voting Republican. But there needs to be change in this town and many people I talk to see the need for that change.

But if we do get change the first thing that needs to happen is some healing for the Town Employees and some sense of respect and honor to replace the fearful atmosphere.

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November 2, 2017 – What Makes Me Tick?

Recently I found out a person I care a great deal about had left a job with the town I was stunned.  This was an important job and this person really loved it.  I checked in and when I was told what had happened my jaw dropped.    Then I found out there was a group of women who had all been harassed out of their jobs.  Since I did not know most of them I reached out and talked to them and was shocked.  They each had a terrible story to tell.

In recent years voting for Democrats has been a norm for me especially since the Tea Party came to life.  But after talking to numerous people I decided to support the Republican candidate in my town.  In addition, when a discussion began on a neighborhood site I spoke out.  Many people were upset about retribution against the Town Court staff after they filed a complaint about not having a light outside the court door when they left late in the evening.  Then again people were upset with a nasty political flyer which suggested that the young woman running on the Republican line was racist.

When I got home from vacation I found that the staff of the Senior Center had been replaced with wives of Town Board members. When I inquired about their credentials I found they have none.   They are trying but really? The Board could not find professionals for those positions?

A call came to me recently suggesting that maybe I was representing one of the many organizations I belong to when I was speaking out.  That was totally false since politics has never come up with those folks. But as a result of that call I spent a few days examining my conscience.  What is driving me to care about this negative behavior and these frightened ex-employees?

I spent a few days off thinking about where my passion for defending those who are afraid to defend themselves come from. The following will explain where my passion comes from.

 

First, I realized that Catholic social teaching is my first influence.  Since the late 1970’s I have been involved in various organizations in my Church which promote Catholic Church social justice teachings.  So I guess you could say St. Kateri’s Church is one of my great influences and our current Pope Francis. Based on the teachings in the New Testament I believe that all people should be treated with respect and dignity. And those in charge with the power have an obligation to treat their workers well.  And when those in the community realize that those in power are abusing that power and abusing their workers they are obligated to speak up.  And if you work in a situation where abuse is going on you have an obligation to speak up.  That appears not to be the case in our town. Our Town Board has sat back and allowed the Supervisor to act out against various employees over the last few years and have not said a word.

Secondly, I have a genetic predisposition to speaking out when there is abuse or injustice.  Now please don’t laugh but I have grandparents on all sides who would not tolerate injustice.  First I had thought about James Vint Laughland. My Grandfather who fought in England for dock workers rights and other labor rights in the 1920’s.  Then in the US he worked for the laborers who were out of work during the depression, setting up sites where trades people could exchange work for food, or other needs. This helped people to feed their families until things got better. He is a very strong role model in my life.. He was so passionate that the Unitarian Church would not let him preach.

Then there is my Irish side.  All the way back to the 1830s my O’Connor grands were not afraid to speak out.  Daniel was the first who was known in his community as a person others would come to to as an impartial judge to settle disagreements. This as a Catholic in a primarily Protestant community.  Then his son, Charles, when the priest told him he should not be attending the funerals, weddings etc of his neighbors in Protestant churches, informed the Priest that these were the members of his community that he depended on and who depended on him to support each other during the good times and bad.

Recently I learned that my Grandfather was called in by the Archbishop who told him to stop my mother from marrying my father because it was not good example for a community leader to allow his daughter to marry the son of a protestant Minister.  My Grandfather thanked the Bishop for his opinion and told him that they could always arrange for his daughter to be married in another place.  I was so proud when I heard this.

So, even though under the current political climate in this country at this time I have decided I will be voting for the Republican candidate and her team.  I was fortunate recently to meet Ms Syed and found her to be open and honest and aware of all the bad things that had been happening in our town.  And  I will speak out because I am speaking for myself and my first amendment right to speak out.  The efforts of the other side to try and silence me is offensive.  If they want to get someone to get me to stop speaking they probably should be talking to the folks at St. Kateri’s. They are the organization that leads me to act.

I doubt even then if I would change my position.  I once worked for a bully who everyone was scared of because they were afraid of retribution if they spoke up.  It took me a couple of months to get out of that job but what I did learn was that those beneath who stayed or had been there a long time had adopted his attitude in order to keep their jobs. They were all complicit in allowing his terrible behavior to continue. I refused to work in that setting any longer than I had to.

That is what moves me to speak out.

 

 

August 29, 2017 – More Trump Agony

The US is in the middle of a huge crisis.  Trump came out and said everyone would be back to normal quickly because that is how he does things  I wonder if after seeing the area today he will still want to say that?  I heard one woman interviewed who had been through Katrina and now is suffering from Henry.  Her comment was that the man had no idea of what he is he talking about.  This is not going to be fixed any time soon.

When is he going to use his speech writers? My son was a speech writer for Mayors and Governors and would tell us about the hours spent getting it just right.  How to make the boss look good but also make the people respond positively. It is an art and those leaders also knew they needed to pay attention and use those words.  This man does not have a clue.  People in Texas and Louisiana do not need a political speech today. They need compassion and caring, not false promises. I hope he comes through for them but I fear he will only disappoint.

And just last week he signed a change in policy around flood plains and restrictions and protections.  So next time it floods anywhere and the protections are not there you will all know who to thank.

Was also wondering what 40 to 50 inches of rain would look like at my winter house? I have always thought that because we are higher than the house behind us and the road we would be okay in a flood. If the power went out we would suffer basement flooding but that would happen on a good day if the power went out. Here we are up a hill but even that might not protect us and we would be trapped for a good while if the roads washed out.  Good reason to have a stash of emergency foods. things that don’t need to be refrigerated – nuts, juices, dry cereal etc.

Summer is coming to an end and I will be back in TV land again.  We were discussing whether we could not watch as much TV when we are back home.  I tried to do that before but I have doubts if I can do it.  Every morning I enjoy listening to the morning news on the radio and then the Roundtable also on radio.  And since retiring I have made a rule not to watch TV before 5 pm. With dinner that delayed it even later.  Since the election I have seen those rules slipping away.  How can one not be tuned in to the next disaster? Everyday something seems to happen to increase stress and concern.  North Korea shooting off missiles.  Policies that help people, like safe water, disappearing.  And more stupid statements on Twitter.  God help us!

What I cannot seem to control is the increase in swearing that I seem to be doing.  I think my kids must be shocked at my language although maybe not. When I worked in Detox I learned to say a bunch of swear words I had never in my life used.  But this has been ridiculous.  I might say “what an A-Hole” but then it always turns into “a f-ing A-H”. When is this going to stop!  I just want to scream and hit my head against the wall. But I promise I won’t do that.

It was lovely and sunny out five minutes ago so I wanted to finish this and go outside and read. After two hours of grant writing, and the time to write this reading my current book would be nice.  But darn the clouds are there again. Guess I will make lunch and read inside. Darn!

Owe at least two of you an apology. I accidentally deleted your comments. This computer is touchy and the cursor jumps all over the place and I was writing to Maureen Cochran (sp) and all of a sudden my comment and hers were gone as well as the one above it shoot.  Thanks for the kind comments both of you. Never sure if anyone really enjoys it so glad to hear.

 

August 19, 2017 – Final James Vint Laughland Segment

James, Margaret and the two boys returned to Canada via NY City in 1924. They passed through Ellis Island where the records reflect that they were going to Canada. But first he went on a lecture tour for several months which included speaking at Cooper Union, Ford Hall, Harvard Liberal Club, the House of Commons in Ottawa and several Unitarian Churches in Chicago and Montreal.  These presentations were all set up by the Open Forum Speakers Bureau of Boston.

From one of his letters it appears he had left wife and kids in Ottawa while he was out touring.  He became ill while out touring so at some point decided to engage with the Presbyterian Church in Canada and they sent him to Richmond Ontario to the Presbyterian Church where he served as a fill in pastor for a period of time.   There is a booklet about the Church with pictures of JV and his family. My dad was around 15 then.

A year or so later they moved on to Amherst Island on Lake Ontario near Kingston to again a Presbyterian Church.  This information was why I always thought he was a Presbyterian minister.  Guess he kept evolving depending upon his needs. They were on Amherst Island for four and a half years. During their time on Amherst Island my Dad finished High School at Stella and was accepted to the University of Toronto to study pharmacy.  He did well there, made friends which I am sure he was good at from all that moving around.  He got an internship or placement at Bests Pharmacy in Kingston and at some point met my mom who was at Queen’s University or maybe she was just graduated. She went to University when she was 16 so graduated quite young.

In May of 1930 James Vint and Margaret moved down to Rochester NY.  Their second son ended up going to St. Lawrence University in Canton NY at some time after they moved to Rochester.  In Rochester, James again affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and continued to preach and give lectures in that area.  He also had a radio show during the depression years.  In his letter from 1940 to the Unitarians he leaves out about working for the Townsend Plan during the depression and setting up labour exchanges so people could barter work for food etc

The letters only provide one other picture of his life from the time he was going to leave England and then during the 30s and 40’s.  James Vint wanted to get back into the Universalist Society and start preaching again and there were people determined to prevent him from doing this.  His Unitarian friends in Rochester who had known him for years by 1940 tried very hard to get him reinstated but they resisted passionately to keep him out.  And in the end, he was not accepted back into the fold. Mainly it appears because of his passionate style and lack of acceptance of others who disagreed with his more socialist leanings.  The comments, by those writing to keep him out for actions which occurred when he was in his 20’s, were unforgiving.  They had totally tainted views of his behavior and did not consider he might have matured over time and calmed down.  It would be interesting to find comments about him which reflected how others saw him as he matured.  His Unitarian friend David Rhys Williams gave the eulogy at his funeral and was totally positive about him and by then they had been friends for 30 years or so.

Reading these letters from the Harvard collection have been quite eye opening to me.  As I have said before I wish I had been old enough to find out something about James before he died. What fun it would have been to speak with him about this time in his life.  And my grandmother who was always judged so harshly for her attitude and some of her behavior, I can see how she might have been angry with this man she loved.  He had not made life easy for her.  I was not a youngster when my grandmother died so I could have if I had known anything asked her questions or encouraged her to speak to me about this time in her life. But alas, I knew nothing to ask.  And I never thought to ask my Dad either. In fact, I doubt if anyone of my siblings had a clue about so much of this. Will have to ask them.

Picture of Margaret and James Vint with my dad in front and his brother behind.

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August 15, 2017 – Thoughts on JV Laughland – 2

Wow, what a day it was today.  Sunny and nice in the morning so decided to go and visit the cousins from the Yukon and Winnipeg down at the water. First visited with the French contingent.  Then it poured, and thunder and lightning. Thought we would not be able to get home.  But we did. On the way back we put on the radio and everyone was all up and talking about the press conference.  It appears it will be another backfire for the person living in the White House.  Wow, throw your support to White Supremacists, and separatists. We were stunned when we heard the replay.   God help this country and all others. When we got here we sat in the car and continued to listen.  Just blew us away, who would have ever heard such terrible things from the supposed leader of our country?

So forgive me not moving too forward with the adventures of James Vint. I will but the framework might be different.

In 1915 JV attended the Meadville PA Seminary.   It had been recommended to him that he get some ministerial training.  This after being a preacher since 1902 or so.  Once that year was over he was offered a job at the London Unity Church.  James took his family to England in 1915.  During that time he was affiliated with the Unitarian Society in England. First in London and then in Sheffield.  WWI was going on and JV was very passionate in his beliefs and was outspoken in his positions. This did not win him followers in the Church.  At the end of the War he spoke out from the pulpit and in the public about his opposition to the Treaty of Ghent which he believed would bring on another war.  Soon they bid him farewell.

In each Church he seemed to have lost members due to his rigid thinking which then caused all kinds of other problems for him. I think my next project should be to try and locate copies of his sermons. They might be quite interesting.

In the end he left the Unitarians and took a Baptist Church in Liverpool England – the. Pembroke Chapel.  He again moved his family to Liverpool and they remained there for four and a half years.  But it was not a calm time for him or the family. At some point he moved his wife, and two sons out to the Isle of Mann.   Once I found out he was not a minister out there I wondered why.  Now I believe it was for their safety.   While in Liverpool JV became very involved with the labour movement.  He lead dock workers strikes, got himself arrested, ran for the House of Commons, and was very involved and wanted his congregation to be as involved.  Seems his approach to ministry tended to drive the flocks out of the churches.

In the end the Pembroke Chapel appears to have lost its connection to the Baptists and became a Community Church.  When they were running out of money James collected his family and headed back to Canada via the US.

All this fascinates me because I never really knew my Grandfather.  How at age 10 could you understand who this person was other than the old fellow down on the farm?  I find myself wondering how my grandmother put up with it all those years and that was just the start. I never thought to ask my Grandmother about their life because I knew nothing of all their travels. Dad did not sit and tell us the stories of his childhood although I wish he had. Probably too much pent up anger to think about doing that.

By the age of 15 Dad had lived in so many different places and gone to so many schools that one has to wonder and what were the conversations like between his parents that he overheard.  I also have wondered how much of an English accent he had. I only knew he was Canadian and never understood that he had been in England from age 5 to 15.

When he left England JV was sent many letters of sadness at his leaving from various  Labour leaders, communist party leaders, socialists, ministers, and Members of the House of Commons.  I have those which would tell a very different story than the letters that arrived on my computer from Harvards collection.  They tell a story of a man hell bent on a course which led to the ruination of several congregations and his own need to flee England.  His letters make it all sound like things were very good over there but I seriously have my doubts.

More tomorrow……

August 14, 2017 – James Vint part 1

Before I start just want to say today was my parents wedding anniversary.  they would have been married 82 years… they only made it to 40 years when my dad passed away suddenly at age 65.  It is also the birthday of my cousin Maureen… Happy Birthday Moe.

I have written about my Grandfather James Vint Laughland before but there is more to his story then I knew about.  To explain a few months ago I was googling people just to see if there was anything new on them and lo and behold I found that there was a file on my grandfather at Harvard Theological College.  I contacted them and finally received three files with over 100 pages of letters from him and about him.  The information contained was quite revealing.  This is just the info I learned from a letter he wrote from 1914 about his years before that time.  I have always said I could not imagine what my grandmother’s life was like being married to him and I am beginning to see it was more difficult than I imagined.  This is just part one of the story. Gets more interesting from here.

 

James V grew up in Southampton England in the Presbyterian Church as his Scottish father wanted.  His parents wanted very much for him to attend the Edinburgh University Theology School to become a Presbyterian Minister.  His father was a tailor and a town councilor and was working hard to see that all his sons had good educations and his daughter’s good husbands I am sure. It appears they were part of “society” in Southampton and would have had great expectations for their many children.

James had no interest in his father’s plans for him.  In 1902, he had been working for a bank in London after matriculating but then found the Methodist Church and started preaching in various Churches. After preaching in various Methodist Churches he made the decision to move to Canada.  In 1907 he went to Port Arthur, Ontario, Canada and went to work as a bookkeeper at Marks, Clark and Dobie LTD.  After a few months, the Methodists asked him to fill in at a church in St. Francis and then was asked to go to Stratton, Manitoba.  After a year he transferred to Dryden, Ontario.  During his year in Dryden he lived in a boarding house where the Baptist minister also lived there. The minister preached at him for a year and at the end he made a switch.   He changed from Methodist to Baptist and was sent to Gravenhurst, Ontario.  There he met my grandmother and then were married there in 1908. From there he went to Flesherton, Ontario in Grey County.

After a while he was not happy with the orthodoxy of the Baptist Church and decided to return to the Methodist’ convention.  They sent him to Massie and to South River. In the fall of 1913 he decided to attend college for a year. I suspect that was in Toronto.   Before the end of the year he threw up his hands and started a non-denominational church in the west end of Toronto.  That church community could not support itself so they decided to join with the Presbyterians.   James could not do that so he reached out to his Unitarian friends and applied to join the Canadian Unitarian Church.

I suspect that he failed in that effort and finally packed his family up and moved to England.

August 10, 2017 – Everyone should paint a tree

 

 

In the past few years we were made aware that we had two dying elms on our property.  After a bit we decided to get them taken down. Except me being me I asked them to leave me 6 foot stumps.  Yes, 6 foot little trees.

The first year my darling daughter came up with all kind of things to hang on the trees and we told the grandgirls they were fairy trees.  They played out there and seemed to enjoy them.  The second year we redecorated after winter  and again the girls had fun playing with the trees.

Last fall as I was taking things off the trees I realized the bark was getting all weird and the tree was truly starting to rot. It was cracking and had lots of bugs eating away at it and there appear to have been cicadas living around it as there were the shells of the bugs that came out of the earth clinging to the bark.

So in a moment of inspiration I decided to peel off all the bark and then sand the wood and paint it.  By this spring there was very little bark on the tree but lots of weird colors and bug homes etc.  My first project was to sand as much as I could to get the gray stuff off and make the wood grain show better. I make the mistake of using wood putty to fill in holes and it kind of looks crappy. But where there is a will there is a way. Paint will cover all the flaws.

On one of our trips back home I went to the craft store and bought paint, brushes, podging(?) materials and some kind of sealant for the wood.  The painting is fun because unless you get up closed it actually looks pretty good.  I found a big knot on the tree and put a picture of the girls in it and painted around the picture. That is where the podge came in. They have been rained on plenty and so far the picture is still in good shape.  Today I finished the decorating around the top of the tree and started a family tree vine for the girls.  It will have their four grandparents, their parents and themselves on their vine and I may add the aunts and uncles and cousins.. In years to come they can do with it what they want.

Next steps after all the vines will be windows and then sealing and then more decorations.  Will post a couple of pictures of what it was like before today.  Then if I get all done that I will post a finished product picture.  Also have to dig up around the base and put down some new dirt and stones to make it look pretty and then in the spring I want to expand it and put in a flower garden.  Why not? You only live once right?

was going to write about my new revelations about my grandfather but will get to that later. Tree painting is more fun anyway and takes ones mind off of nuclear wars.