She . . .

Charms- pouty, kissy mouth,
Trusting eyes, a blessing;
Arms and heart so open,
Knowing she is loved.

Grows- mind filled with wonder,
Bending to life’s breezes;
Centering her heart,
Knowing she has worth.

Gives- bearing babies, baring soul,
Teaching- learning, above all;
Heart breaking and becoming,
Knowing she is strong.

Reflects- wisdom sought, wisdom earned,
Life’s nuances, a delight;
Arms and heart still open,
Knowing she has loved.

. . . she.


On this day, the first anniversary of Trump’s presidency, the same day our government has been shut down, women are marching all around our country- AGAIN.  Women are claiming their power to define, establish and maintain their human rights as citizens of the United States and of the world.

This is nothing new.  For centuries (possibly millennia!) women have had to defend their very femininity against concurrent cultural perceptions of their intellect and abilities, as well as their worth and status in society.  It has become tedious to address each cultural nuance, each new attack against womanhood, which presents itself.  Given that it is our female anatomy and physiology which allow for the continued procreation of humankind, what in hell is the problem?  Remember, “it takes TWO, baby!” to make a baby.  Women and men are equal partners.  Why have our cultures throughout the ages failed to reflect this equality?  The likely answer is: PREGNANCY.

During pregnancy, women are somewhat physically and emotionally vulnerable.  While this vulnerability is temporary, it can be misperceived as weakness- and therefore exploited.  Further, until the recent era of ready access to dependable methods of birth control, it was common for women to get pregnant every two to three years.  They spent years of their  lives in a  vulnerable state.

Throughout history,  we have attempted to control our fertility.  Anthropologists have discovered condoms made from a variety of materials dating back as far as 3000 years ago.  Yet the use of artificial contraception (any method other than abstinence) has created enormous cultural and religious controversy for centuries.  Changing the number of pregnancies women experience would of course create change in society.  Those changes are not totally predictable, nor are they necessarily desirable to all.

When I was a young teen, I occasionally heard men joking about their wives, saying, “It’s best to keep ’em barefoot and pregnant!”  That is: “barefoot” to keep women in the home, and “pregnant” to keep them vulnerable and more easily controlled.  Consider a few other bits of American history:

  • 1873-  The Comstock Laws passed by Congress under Grant intended to “suppress trade in, and circulation of, obscene literature and articles of immoral use.”   Among those were “articles used for contraception or abortion.”  [Wikipedia]
  • 1960-  Enovid, the first birth control pill, cleared the FDA for human use.
  • 1965-  “Grisvold v. Connecticut struck down one of the [last] remaining Comstock laws.”  [Wikipedia]
  • 1965-  The US Supreme Court gave married couples the right to use birth control, but  unmarried women in 26 states were denied access to birth control pills.
  • 1972-  In Baird v. Eisenstadt the US Supreme Court legalized birth control methods for all citizens regardless of marital status.
  • 2018-  We’re still marching.  Sexual harassment against women reached a tipping point last year, and our hidden shame has been thrown off by giving it our voice.  Epidemic domestic violence continues despite all our efforts.

It seems we must keep on marching.

Dedicated to my four granddaughters: Allyson, Christina, Amber, and Elizabeth;             and to my two grandsons, Joseph and Jacob.





Holidays are times of celebration and cheerfulness. In this atmosphere, people have a tendency to feel friendlier and more magnanimous.  They may also reflect upon the origin and meaning of the holiday itself.  Quite possibly, they may even put those reflections into a more personal context, become introspective, and take a look at what the holiday represents in their own lives.

While Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, it is important to remember that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all based on the very same Old Testament of the Bible.  Those faiths all revere the Old Testament as a guide for how to best live our lives.  It teaches us lessons about right versus wrong, defining the morals we are encouraged to embrace.  Perhaps NOW- during this season of cheerfulness, nostalgia, and enhanced openness toward introspection- is a good time to evaluate our moral code.

About the Quiz

Answer the following questions honestly, for yourself.  No one else need ever know your answers.  The point is to see typical moral issues in writing so you are inclined to think about them.  When answering, consider ONLY the exceptions noted.

The Quiz

Answer Yes or No:  Do you believe it is OK to:

  1.  Cause physical harm to another person? [Exception: acting in self-defense.]
  2. Impose your own will on another adult person?  [Exception: preventing another from harming him/herself or others.]
  3. Purposely cause psychological pain to another using degrading name-calling or by berating them, no matter the reason or impetus to do so?
  4. Treat anyone with incivility or disrespect?
  5. Deliberately lie to another?  [Exception: when facing mortal danger.]
  6. Steal from a person, business, or other entity?
  7. Break a promise to an individual or a group of people?  [Exception: when facing harm to own psyche or body.]
  8. Make a promise you know you cannot keep, or one you do not intend to honor?
  9. Fail to speak up or intervene for those being harmed by others?  [Exception: when doing so might cause even more harm.]
  10. Ignore your own sense of right and wrong, even if you think “the end might justify the means?”

Most probably, few of us would answer “yes, it’s OK” to more than a few of these questions.  Yet it is just as likely that each of us has done some of the things we believe are wrong.  We are human, after all.  We rationalize our decisions by defending them and claiming circumstances or other people have “forced” our hand.  Nevertheless, deep inside, we know the truth when we decide to LOOK inside and understand ourselves.  Introspection is a beautiful thing!  It gives us the opportunity to make reparations when we have chosen to ignore our moral compass.

As we celebrate the holidays, let us also celebrate each other!  We are good and moral people who sometimes need to be forgiven, who sometimes need to forgive.  Cherish the chance to be a part of the giving, the receiving.  The Golden Rule cannot be wrapped in glitzy paper and bows, but it is the best gift we have to offer.

“Me Too!” ~ with a twist

The Intruder

. . . . ENTER:  the intruder . . . .

We all imagine he might come one night-
The man so angry, so full of hate,
Disturbed, defensive, deliberate distraught;
He might enter our lives with kisses, sweet words,
Or barge through our doors, violent- violating
Our homes, our bodies, our peace, our souls-
Ravaging, rampaging, ruining- rendering
Our lives devoid of sanity, of hope . . .

. . . . EXIT: the intruder.                                          1/1/93


By profession, I am a registered nurse practitioner specializing in anesthesia. In 1990, I also completed a BA in Cultural Anthropology.  While pursuing my studies, I’d been enthralled by Margaret Mead’s research in American Samoa for her doctoral thesis in Anthropology.  I’d also had the opportunity to meet her daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson, when she was a visiting lecturer at George Mason University.  So when an advertisement appeared in our anesthesia journal in early 1992 seeking volunteers to work in American Samoa, I knew I had to respond!  I wanted to experience Mead’s South Pacific paradise for myself!

Making it happen was no small task.  I didn’t want to move out of my condo, so my son Michael agreed he would stay there and cover the expenses.  I contacted LBJ Tropical Medical Center and told them of my interest, sending my resume and  copies of licenses, etc.  I also began looking into possible free-lance work to do after I returned.  I told my boss about my plans, and to my surprise, he offered me a leave of absence instead.  I happily accepted.  Finally I was ready to go!

Dr. Sam met me at the airport on July 1, 1992.  He told me I would be staying at the Rainmaker Hotel temporarily because a hurricane the previous year had damaged the volunteer apartments.  The hotel was lovely; I settled in and began working the next day at the hospital, which was about a mile away.  But by July 7th, I wrote in my diary, “I’m bored staying here!”  So I visited the damaged area to assess the condition of my future “home.”  The apartments were filthy but some were structurally intact.  I chose one with a roof (!!!) and then went to speak to the head doctor of the hospital.  I suggested I could clean up the place myself.  He agreed, so the next day I moved my belongings and went to work!

For the next few days, I provided anesthesia services during the day under less than optimal conditions.  Medications were in short supply, equipment was outdated and un-serviced.  I had to be constantly alert for the types of problems I’d never encounter on the US continent.  Evenings at “home” were just as challenging! The apartment was not air-conditioned and depended upon louvered windows (with no curtains) for air circulation.  I had also quickly discovered my four- and eight-legged roomies!  Roaches, rats and geckos had preceded me!  I cleaned to discourage the roaches, repaired the cupboard bottoms which allowed  constant access for the rats, and decided the geckos were my friends!  So when I went to bed on July 11, 1992, I was exhausted!

[Diary entry referencing events of July 12, 1992, early AM]

“I was awakened from a sound sleep by the click of the door opening (outside door near my bedroom.)  Still lying down, I looked and saw  the shadow of a tall thin man at my bedroom doorway.”

Groggy confusion quickly gave way to pure terror.  I screamed at him to get out, irrationally demanding to know who he was and what he wanted.  As he slowly walked toward me, I sat up and wrapped myself in my bed sheet and grabbed my glasses.  Then he plopped into the chair near my bed and said, “I just want to talk.”  Right!  Although it was quite dark in the room, I could see he was wearing only swim trunks. I demanded to know how he’d gotten in and he told me he’d broken in with his knife; then he reached for my cigarettes on the table and knocked over a glass of water at my bedside.  It shattered on the floor. ….. Shorts. Knife. Broken glass…..  No idiot would believe his intentions were to merely “talk” to me.  My heart sank; I put my hand to my forehead wondering how I was going to get out of this alive.  He asked, “what’s the matter?”  “I’m tired,” I lied.

Over the next hour or so, my mind raced to accommodate the reality of my circumstances. Years before, I had taken a US Department of State class on how to deal with a hostage situation.  The keys to safely surviving were: be calm and avoid escalating fear or anger in the situation; try to get the hostage-taker to see you as a person, not a target; above all, stay alert for any moment during which you might escape.  So I talked, trying to get a feel for who he was, and to see if he was sober.  I alternately raged, placated, cajoled and shamed him.  My emotions sometimes got the better of me, and I spoke with anger and derision, backing off when he responded negatively.  Several times I considered just getting up and walking out.  But then I’d remember the knife and broken glass on my floor, and the possibility he might try to stop me- or worse, attack me.  I’d be no match for him. Then:

“I’ve gotta pee.  Where’s your bathroom?” he asked.

“Right across from the door you broke into!” I barked.

The time had come.  I waited until he got through the bedroom doorway then said I needed to get some water.  Carefully, I got out of bed at the foot, avoiding the shattered glass.  He didn’t turn.  I hurried toward my kitchen, opened the outside door and ran!  The slamming door alerted him, but he couldn’t have had time to pee- he chased me!  Thankfully I had enough of a head start toward (hopefully) inhabited apartments.  He saw where I was going, then turned and ran the other way.


The person who responded to my door banging called hospital security, who chased down the intruder and called the police.  They brought him in handcuffs so I could ID him.  But he looked me in the face and said, “It was me.”  I asked him why, and he said he’d seen me through the windows and I’d looked “nice.”  He was taken to jail briefly then sentenced to be publicly shunned.  Several days later, the Assistant Attorney General of American Samoa called to tell me about how shunning is used to shame people for certain crimes when no physical injury had taken place.  He said it works very well in their culture, as public avoidance causes much shame.  He also asked me to please stay for my promised three months, as Samoans depended on their volunteers for health care.  I assured him I had no intention of leaving.

Local people and my friends and family were very concerned and supportive.  The emotional toll wasn’t a burden I could have easily carried without their help.  Yet there were just a few who asked, “What’s the big deal?  He didn’t hurt you, so. . .   ?”  But of course pain is rarely only physical.  The comments and attitudes of those few still haunt me, just as the sight of the intruder’s knife left behind  near my chair haunts me.  They are just a tiny glimpse of what the “Silence Breakers” must face.










Donald Trump should be removed from office immediately.

This missive is not meant to convince you of Mr. Trump’s incompetency in his role as President of the United States.  Your own eyes and ears have informed you of his instability, narcissism, paranoia and lack of a normal moral compass.  You have no doubt felt waves of disbelief, disgust, and fear in your heart and gut as you witnessed his behavior, listened to his words, and read his “tweets.”  Your internal body wisdom has been flashing a neon warning sign! Yet you have a job to do, a career to pursue.  And so you have attempted to accommodate him and “give him a chance,” because after all, some of his beliefs mirror your own.  And of course what can you accomplish for your constituents if you are not re-elected?   But being co-opted into Mr. Trump’s mindset and allowing him to set normalcy standards of behavior and belief are not conducive to fulfilling your duties as our representatives.  Neither will it be possible to try to work around him.  He is a dangerous and unpredictable man.   [Please read The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, October 2017, ed. Bandy Lee, MD.  Contributors are 27 mental health experts who felt it was their civic and moral “duty to warn” us of the danger Mr. Trump presents to the USA in his presidential role.]  Therefore it is incumbent upon each of you to ask yourself some difficult questions:  Who am I?  What do I believe?  What are my most cherished goals?  Each must be answered honestly (if only to yourself!) without prejudice or rationalization.  Then remind yourself there is strength in numbers!

We, the people of the United States, have elected a group of wise, moral and powerful women and men to help us maintain and improve upon the nation our forefathers created for us.  To do so, you must reclaim your power and become a united front!  Together, your primary responsibility must be to help heal the divisiveness in our country.  All other agendas must wait.   A gentle, non-judgmental hand will be needed to accomplish so noble a goal.  Keep in mind Mr. Trump won the presidency by acknowledging and validating the concerns and fears of some among us.  That in itself is commendable for all who aspire to leadership, as the knowledge may be used to realistically address common concerns.   But such was not Mr. Trump’s goal.  He inflamed fear and anger while emboldening incivility toward one another.  He encouraged scapegoating- blaming the “OTHER” for our problems.  Then he decreed only he could help.  Mr. Trump appeared to be understanding, empathetic.  But his goal was to create an image that would buy him a win, the power of the presidency.  The image is a sham.

By reclaiming your power and leadership, you who represent us in Congress can stand united and reject the “malignant normality” presented by Mr. Trump. [Terminology used by Robert Lifton, MD, in the aforementioned book. It refers to creating a culture in which abhorrent practices are deemed “normal.”]  Using either impeachment proceedings or the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, you can reveal the sham Mr. Trump has engendered.  By being truthful and sincerely empathetic yourself and by avoiding making Mr. Trump himself a scapegoat, you can remove him from office and prevent further damage to your integrity and the integrity of our country.  Then through legislation and public discussions, you can encourage us to reaffirm that all human beings deserve dignity, respect and kindness.  You have the power to empower, to remind us we are each in control of our own destiny; blame and shame have no useful place in our lives.

I beseech each of you to do your part as an elected and trusted leader of our country.  Thank you for choosing to serve us.

Most Sincerely,

Sue Valk

[Sent to Virginia Representatives.]


We are wholly human:
The  soul-mind-body share
Each moment in time-space,
With just one chance to care.

We are holy humans:
Hearts whispering a prayer;
Urgent voice within us,
“Please spread love everywhere!”

We are wholly holy:
Our minds charge, “Be aware!
Our conscience and our love
Can ease the world’s despair!”

Wholly Holy Humans:
Whose souls scream, “We don’t dare
Ignore our primal cry!”
We must answer . . . . .
. . . . . with a prayer.


The need to love and be loved: our primal cry is just that simple and just that complex.  Love demands much from us.  Caring, compassion, kindness and commitment rank high among those requirements.  Without love none of us would survive beyond birth.  We need each other.  Alone, we die.  Together we flourish and have the opportunity to experience joy, hope purpose and contentment in our lives. Yet nothing is guaranteed.  That means we have work to do!

Fully understanding who we are as human beings is our essential task.  When I refer to us as “wholly holy humans,”  I mean we are the embodiment of conscience and love [holy] with the instinct for personal and species survival [human.]  These two primary aspects of human nature are permanently intricately intertwined.  Nevertheless, tension exists between them.  This tension may be thought of as a tug-of-war for dominance.  Our holiness and our humanness are constantly competing for our attention as we choose how to view both the world and our place in it.  This tension gives birth to most of the challenges we face throughout life.

Our personal and species survival rely upon our interdependence with each other, which in turn requires us to love and have compassion for one another.  Meanwhile, our humanness decrees we want to define the terms for interdependence!  Moreover, our definition of survival has become, “I want to be who I choose, live as I choose, while maintaining my self-esteem along with my reputation and status in society!”  Each and every time we perceive our desires are threatened or under attack, we feel afraid.

Fear may lead to anger, antagonism, even war.  But on a day-to-day basis, fear often lurks beneath our awareness, creating suspicion, hypervigilance, and anxiety.  Such states of mind may lead us to misinterpret the people and circumstances in our lives.  Too often, we don’t recognize our fear and ‘own’ it as an essential and useful part of who we are.  Instead, because we have come to believe fear is a human weakness, we externalize it.  Consequently we mislabel our fear (often in a self-serving or righteous manner!)  then name a scapegoat.

Our scapegoats take many forms:  another person; a group of people; natural and accidental events; a world view or a religion; a supernatural being like a devil.  All become diversions which prevent us from correctly understanding our own issues and finding useful solutions to  them.  They waste our time, emotions and energy while leading us down a rabbit hole.  We may war with our scapegoats, but we can never control them!

Fortunately there is another path.  By recognizing and embracing who we are as human beings, we can actually nurture our holiness by putting our survival instinct to good use, the use for which it was intended!  It is incumbent upon all of us to use our innate intelligence  to continuously question our perceptions with self-honesty and an open mind.  Our challenges were born within us. Their solutions must come from within.  Voila!  Control is in reach!


Dedicated to:

The people of Charlottesville, Virginia, who endured bearing witness to the consequences of fear run amuck while seeing events for what they really were, yet persevering with grace, dignity and forgiveness.

The people in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and all the Caribbean Islands who were in the path of recent hurricanes, along with those who came to provide assistance.  The world was privileged to witness your struggle as you faced catastrophic conditions.  You showed all of us the enormous capabilities of humanity,  giving us hope.  May your recovery be swift, your hearts lightened.







Consider the implications of these truisms:

  1. We must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.
  2. Charity begins at home.
  3. No man is an island.

Together these truisms exemplify one approach toward living our best life possible.  They tell us we must each nurture our own physical and mental health before we are capable of caring for another.  Then we must meet our responsibilities to those closest to us- our families and communities-  to the best of our ability.  Furthermore, we should do so while recognizing and relying upon our interdependence with one another.  Many of us prioritize our personal lives in this way, and we often apply the same truisms to any large body of people with whom we form an allegiance as well.  For example, we may put the needs of our own country above the needs of other nations.

While these truisms direct us toward a conscientious life path, they presume of course that we will be alive to make life choices.  They take for granted our survival as a species is assured.  It is NOT assured.  We must never ignore the fragility of our existence on this earth.  Therefore it is imperative for us to see the bigger picture.  We are each but ONE person living on Earth among 7.4 billion others who share the same needs, the same aspirations.  We are completely interdependent- not only with each other, but also with the planet we call home. Therefore we must align our priorities to match the realities of our life on Earth.  I believe three CO-EQUAL PRIORITIES must top our list if we hope to survive:

A.  PLANET HEALTH:  Gone are the days when we, as a much smaller number of human beings, could avail ourselves of the earth’s resources without much concern.  Now, given the enormous growth in our population, we cannot deny our presence here affects the health of our planet, its ecosystem and atmosphere.  It is essential for each of us to respect and nurture our environment. We are responsible for taking care of the only home we are likely to inhabit.

B.  HUMAN RIGHTS:  In 1945 after World War II ended, the United Nations was formed.  Then on 12/12/1948, those countries signed a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Preamble begins:

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. . . ”   [Full text available on the United Nations website.  There are currently 193 member nations.]

Try to imagine living in a world without our co-operation to maintain human rights.  I doubt many of us would care to live in such a world.  Our humanity must be cherished by all, for all.  We can only hope to enjoy human rights if we are willing to protect them for everyone.

C.  PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE:  During the 20th century, we created the means to annihilate humankind.  Before then, our ability to kill each other was limited to mere thousands at a time.  During the 21st century it is incumbent upon us to demand of ourselves that we create peaceful solutions to our differences.  War must not simply be the “last option,” it must be eradicated from our mindset altogether.  The alternative is obvious, inevitable. [Please read my blogs on this subject: A Rose. . . and War by Any Other Name Still Stinks of Fear and Death; Fighting Words: Our Misguided Constructs.]

We have heard a great deal lately about putting “America First.”  Our allegiance and commitment to our great country is honorable and commendable.  Yet our first priority must always be to humanity and its survival.  Our allegiances should and can  be balanced within the larger reality.  Our innate goodness and humanitarianism- the holiness in our humanity-  will guide us.







I published this originally with the intention of addressing why the average person lies,  how our lies affect us, and what we can do to change our behavior.  This essay does NOT address those who are chronic liars or who have personality disorders.  Those people are not likely to be amenable to either advice or treatment.


Wholly Holy Human

She believed-
Until the lie was whispered.
She had faith-
Until the lie was confirmed.
She hoped-
Until the lie was repeated.
She cried-
Until the lie was denied.
Then she left
When the lie no longer mattered;
And now,
She lies to herself.

We tell ourselves stories: stories which include part reality, part perception, and lies- tiny lies, huge lies, self-serving lies. Sometimes we even lie to ourselves about why we tellthose lies.  So can it be any surprise we lie to others?  Why are we so dishonest?

I’ve thought about this a lot and have come to believe the answers reside in our egos, our images of ourselves.  We all wish to believe we are good people, and we each have an internal definition of what that means to us.  I believe our stories to ourselves and others reflect our definition, and if it conflicts with an…

View original post 890 more words