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Know Your Neighbors

18 Jun 2014
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My dad couldn’t wait to retire. He started working at 14 and had done whatever he could, without an education, to support his family. I remember when he worked three jobs a week: running a catering truck, collecting coins from vending machines, and working in a gas station on weekends. He budgeted and saved to make sure he and my mother could have a comfortable lifestyle once he stopped working. He was proud to be able to retire—to do, in his view, “nothing.” I can’t help but compare my dad’s notion of retirement with what I see playing out every day here in the Coachella Valley—particularly the women in second and third careers who make a difference for their neighbors. The Democratic Women of the Desert recently presented their 2014 Women Honoring Women Awards. I was one of the recipients, given the Voice of Women’s Rights Award, partly for my…
04 Jun 2014
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If you belong to any local business or social organizations, you’re familiar with the practice of honoring students by giving out scholarships at this time of year. Almost every group raises money to support education for local students. Some groups identify students to be honored based on a student’s volunteer time with that organization. Others accept applications from all students and evaluate their achievements to select scholarship recipients. Yet others require students seeking scholarships to show their understanding of or support for the group’s interests. The Palm Springs chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), for example, required applicants to write an essay detailing their support for women’s rights and their intention to use their continuing education to further that support. When I led that group in the early 1990s, we instituted the Barbara Wade Salm Scholarship, endowed by a former member, which is currently administered through College of…
21 May 2014
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Unless you’re one of those people targeted to receive vitriolic mailers from candidates blasting other candidates, you may not even know there’s a primary election taking place in California on Tuesday, June 3. Even if you do know about the election: Are you one of those who doesn’t think it really matters—and might blow off voting? Midterm elections are notorious for low turnouts, largely because the hype isn’t as great. They’re the elections in which nasty low blows and last-minute revelations dominate, yet they are often the elections which affect us most: city council members, judges, county supervisors, sheriffs and school board members are chosen. These are the offices closest to our everyday lives, and yet only the most ardent citizens follow these elections. In the Coachella Valley, we have a couple of really interesting races, especially in light of the new open primary that means all candidates are in…
07 May 2014
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Just before my brother’s wedding in the early 1980s, I got a death threat from my father. He said if I showed up at the wedding with my live-in significant other—in front of my grandparents—he would kill me. He may have thought he meant it. Did I mention my guy was black? My brother called and pleaded with me to come without Milt, to keep peace in the family—in spite of the fact that he and Milt were quite friendly, and we had often socialized as couples. “After all,” he said, “this is the only time I’m going to get married.” I finally agreed, with Milt’s support, to attend the ceremony, but to make a statement by skipping the reception. My brother is now very happily married to his fourth wife, and I have forever been ashamed that I caved. Another wedding just took place. My oldest granddaughter married a…
23 Apr 2014
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At this time of year—when Passover, Easter and Earth Day are upon us—we tend toward reflection on rebirth, resurrection, the passion for freedom, and the hope for preservation and continuity of our species. Some do this reflection through religion; some do so through nature; others do so through an honest belief in the triumph of reason and the power of knowledge. William Edelen is one of the latter. Born in West Texas, Edelen was originally ordained as a Presbyterian minister after studies at the University of Chicago, but he migrated to the Congregational church more than 30 years ago. Why the shift? “The Presbyterians were always looking over my shoulder, listening to what I was preaching to make sure I was doing the dogma,” he says. He has ultimately come to see himself as a humanist. How did that come about? “Just through thinking.” Edelen taught comparative religion at the…
09 Apr 2014
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I recently attended a seminar on technological literacy in K-12 classrooms, held at California State University San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus. It was conducted by one of the five 2014 California Teachers of the Year, Jessica Pack, from our own James Workman Middle School in Cathedral City, along with Derrick Lawson, principal of Colonel Mitchell Paige Middle School in La Quinta. Soon after, I received an amazing book, Fear and Learning in America: Bad Data, Good Teachers, and the Attack on Public Education, by John Kuhn, superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District in Texas, about what he sees as an attempt to destroy public education. Let me explain how these subjects are connected. Jessica Pack is one of those teachers we would all remember if we had been lucky enough to be in her classroom. She teaches language arts, social studies and technology to sixth-graders. Her enthusiasm about…
26 Mar 2014
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It’s funny how seemingly unrelated events can coincidentally coincide. I recently wrote about Cathy Greenblat and her stirring book, Love, Loss, and Laughter, featuring photographs of people with various types of dementia and reminding us that “someone is in there.” Cathy has inspired a local coalition of individuals and organizations to make Coachella Valley into a “dementia-friendly community,” patterned on similar projects around the world. And now for something seemingly unconnected: The Board is a group of men, mostly of a certain age, that gets together monthly for lunch to gab, exchange stories, listen to speakers and generally socialize. They also occasionally have an event where womenfolk are invited. I recently attended just such an event, the day after attending a meeting of the “dementia-friendly” group, where one of The Board’s members, Larry Delrose, showed a film he wrote and co-produced, called Night Club. Delrose’s film includes such film stars…
12 Mar 2014
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Although sexual orientation and dirty-trick campaigning have dominated the headlines regarding the Rancho Mirage City Council election, to my mind, there is a more interesting issue that has emerged: Should only older and more-experienced individuals be elected to represent the city’s residents? Councilmember Dana Hobart recently made that assertion, casting Councilmember Scott Hines as “younger … (with) just ambition.” Hines attended the Air Force Academy, earning a degree in political science in 1992, and then master’s degrees in public management from the University of Maryland, and organizational management from George Washington University. With more than 20 years of business and entrepreneurial experience, he is hardly a kid. Hobart served in the Air Force for four years, then graduated from California State University and earned a juris doctorate from the USC School of Law in 1963. In addition to a long legal career and positions of prestige within the legal community,…
26 Feb 2014
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My intention has always been to write about issues by introducing neighbors who are making a difference in our community, while hopefully informing readers about something they may not already know. Once in a while, however, I feel the need to sound off on something about which I am outraged—something that affects all of us. When I studied the Constitution in law school, I was particularly impressed by the guarantee of equal rights, an aspiration our nation has consistently pursued, and a cause in which I have been involved since “the good old days.” You remember those times, don’t you? The days when if an unmarried woman got pregnant, she had to get married, and the days when child or spousal abuse was something that happened behind closed doors. It was a time when women didn’t even get close to the glass ceiling, and when blatant discrimination in the name…
12 Feb 2014
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He’s known as Peter the Reader to the students he meets with weekly at Bubbling Wells Elementary School in Desert Hot Springs. Peter Fredric of Palm Springs is literally—and literarily—changing lives. “I saw an article in the paper,” says Fredric, “and I was looking for an opportunity to do something in the community. So, since I love reading and communicating, I decided to check it out.” What Fredric checked out was BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools). The original idea was to use actors to engage students in the joy of reading. “I did some work as an announcer and reporter for television, became a tech writer, an account executive, came to the desert to build affordable homes, and worked with local KESQ in their creative-arts department,” says Fredric. “I began my first classroom assignment with BookPALS in 2007. I just wanted to make a difference.” That same impulse…