Roseanne’s Meltdown

Roseanne Barr is a national headline. She has a history of obnoxious public behavior, and somehow managed to land on her feet. This time, she tweeted a blatantly racist comment and her show was cancelled. Roseanne can’t be both an outspoken racist and a star on a major network. But strangely, she could be our president.

Since the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump crashed into the spotlight as a role model for rage and hatred. He didn’t plant bigotry in the United States — not even the leader of the free world has that much influence. Those beliefs already existed, waiting to be tapped. When he legitimized rage and hatred, The Beast lying dormant in our country took its first tentative steps, then broke into a gallop. 

Bigotry is running rampant, and Roseanne is a part of an ongoing problem. To worsen the impact, Barr posted her tweet just after Memorial Day. On the surface, the timing seems unimportant. But it is.

My father fought in World War II and died decades later, of natural causes. If he were alive today, he’d march for our lives and kneel with Colin Kaepernick. He’d stand with the LGBTQ+ community and Time’s Up. He’d raise his voice for the free press and immigrants. He’d encourage young adults to vote. He’d write to support #BlackLivesMatter. Those are the values he fought to protect and preserve. Every Memorial Day, Dad spoke to me about his friends who died in combat, and he would have experienced Roseanne Barr’s tweet as an insult to their memory.

The tally of innocent victims caught in the Trump-era-crossfire is already astronomical. Many people aside from Roseanne Barr worked on her show, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. They’re all out of a job. On a much larger scale, President Trump’s legacy will leave millions of lives shredded. My father fought for a world where Roseanne Barr’s tweet would never have happened, where Donald Trump never would have been elected, where our nation would hold our truths to be self-evident. 

When I was around 5 years old, I asked my father — an author and a screenwriter — why he wrote all the time. He said he felt a push to write, an insatiable need. I asked what insatiable meant, and he said he was always hungry to write more. At the time, I offered him a bite of my snack (a carrot); years later, I understood. Each article or book or script felt like his first, and when it became his next, he felt a magnetic pull to begin a new first.

I miss you, Dad, and I always think of you and your friends on Memorial Day. The country you fought for has dug itself into a deep cluster-mess. Too many are suffering. At the same time, a growing number work and write and march and speak to get us back on track — a diverse group spanning broad demographics, offering an enormous spectrum of talent. Eventually, we’ll come out of this terrible time, and begin the long process of healing — a series of first steps, followed by next steps. So Dad, you can rest in peace. You did your part, a new team has formed, and I stand with them.

This is my first next piece.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality and parenting. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page — check out her novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4  

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Roseanne Barr, Uncategorized

Brighten Your Darkest Night

Close your eyes and think of me                                                                                                    And soon I will be there                                                                                                                     To brighten up even your darkest night

“You’ve Got A Friend”                                                                                                               Written by Carole King                                                                                                       Performed by James Taylor 

 

On the morning of Friday May 18, 2018, a shooter entered Santa Fe High School in Texas, leaving many dead, several wounded, countless traumatized. 

That evening, I attended a James Taylor concert. 

The following day, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged wedding vows.

However you slice it, whatever your perspective, that was one helluva 36-hour stretch. 

As the Sante Fe High School massacre hit the news, I followed reactions on the internet. I was deeply disturbed. A large number referred to school shootings —  the dead, the wounded, the gutted families, the torn communities — as our “new normal.” 

Several hours later, I watched James Taylor take the stage. James is a curiously compelling presence — curious because he radiates a quiet energy instead of the crackling voltage typical of the rock and roll era. He’s upfront about his struggles with addiction and mental illness, relating a story of being in such “a bad way” that his father rented a car and drove from a different state to find him. At another point in the concert, he described hanging out with The Beatles, admitting that he doesn’t remember the occasion “but I’m told I had a good time.” The audience laughed sympathetically, but James clearly wasn’t trying to recapture or glorify his younger days. He conveyed a message that we’ve all travelled a long and strange journey, that we’ve all survived pain and loss, that we’re all grateful to be here today. When he sang, his pain and his resiliency were palpable, standing shoulder to shoulder.

The Royal Wedding coverage was in full swing when I awoke on Saturday morning. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have established themselves as role models for surviving adversity, giving to others, bringing a fresh vitality to the monarchy. Both have overcome tremendous personal obstacles. They reached deep within to find a different path forward — first separately, now together. Like James Taylor, they radiate hope in a troubled world.

Through the concert and the royal wedding, I thought about Santa Fe High School. Too many lives in too many schools have been shattered. In the face of our president’s unchecked belligerence, our citizens are responding in kind, lashing against each other. It’s hard to keep a clear head in the face of one massacre after another. It’s hard to think rationally when our country’s administration insists on a relentless political bar fight. It’s disorienting when we’ve reached the point where a school shooting is considered any kind of normal, new or otherwise. My homeland has lost its way in a “darkest night.”

James Taylor, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no strangers to darkness, so I’m following their example. I will look my country’s “darkest night” straight in the eye. I will never normalize a school shooting. I will not recalibrate “normal’ to accommodate an ongoing upheaval. When I feel overwhelmed or exhausted, I’ll replay James Taylor’s voice in my head and remember how much he has overcome. I’ll think of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the inspiration I felt as they clasped hands. I’ll step forward to meet the darkness, trusting that in time, with great effort, the United States will rediscover the source of its own brightness.

____

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality and parenting. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page — check out her novels and latest blog posts      https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Leave a comment

Filed under James Taylor Concert, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, Royal Wedding, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe Shooting, Uncategorized

Parenting The Popular Crowd

It began in Kindergarten. 

Raising my three children into adulthood, I can trace the threads of the social hierarchy back to the earliest days of elementary school. At age 5, some kids mocked others, refused to play with them — and The Cool Crowd was born. Standing in a pack of parents, watching the playground from the sidelines, waiting for the opening bell, I was always struck by the way the children’s behavior was reflected in the parents. A clear social hierarchy existed among the moms and dads and unsurprisingly, the kid and adult hierarchies often mirrored each other. 

I remember a group of children loudly reliving a birthday party, making sure those who weren’t invited heard every enviable detail. One girl who was excluded began to cry. I waited for parents to step in, which they did, but not in the way I hoped. Instead, a posse of adults launched into a discussion of the same party, putting on a show for the excluded parents. As a mom with kids in different grades from the grand event, I watched the drama unfold from an emotional distance. Still, I was appalled. The cool crowd was alive and well, rejecting and mean, spanning generations.

An elevated seat on the social food chain makes people of all ages feel safer, stronger, less vulnerable. When rising up is based on pushing others down, the resulting sense of security rarely lasts. The shot of power is temporary, the vulnerability resurfaces, and the need surges to find a target again and again. 

Parenting the popular crowd was a challenge, no matter where my kids landed on the hierarchy. With parents endorsing Top-Of-The-Food-Chain behavior, The Cool Crowd was clearly here to stay. My job was to help my kids feel steady, to behave with decency, whether or not they were tagged as “cool” or “uncool.” Sometimes my task felt effortless; other times, it felt impossible. 

I carried my prototype of popular from personal experience. Nope — I wasn’t Cool-Crowd-Material (much too nerdy), but I met my role model for cool in high school, taking a ceramics class to fulfill an art requirement. The students were randomly assigned to tables of six, and I found myself seated with one of the school’s most popular girls. She was so beautiful that I could barely tear my eyes away from her to work with the clay. On the first day of class, she looked around our uncool table, and didn’t balk for an instant. She was kind, inclusive and she proved that being popular does not necessarily entail being mean. In a run-down classroom, bottom-of-the-line equipment, age 16 — she showed me that using popularity as an excuse to hurt others is just that: an excuse. There’s nothing wrong with being well-liked and respected, and there’s nothing wrong with being cool or popular. There’s everything wrong with using social status as a weapon. 

I’m sure that girl doesn’t remember me. I was the quiet one at our table. I watched, listened, barely spoke. I finished my art requirement, and barely gave the class a thought…unless I was thinking about her. She showed me the definition of popular that, decades later, I handed to my children.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, with her circle of friends, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about parenting, gender equality, LGBTIQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Leave a comment

Filed under parenthood, parenting, The Cool Crowd, The Popular Crowd, Uncategorized

International Day Of The Midwife

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE MIDWIFE

I’m posting this chapter from the novel Tightwire to celebrate International Day Of The Midwife. For the extraordinary people who choose this unique career  — deepest gratitude. With special thanks to Mary and Pama, who guided me through nearly two days of labor, and launched me into the journey of parenthood 26 years ago. You were my inspirations when I created “Deborah” and “Rose.” 

                                                                                                                            

                                                                 CHAPTER 2

                                                            A Healthy Baby Girl

July 3, 1958

“Breathe, Mrs. Black,” Nurse Rose clasped her patient’s hand. “Have you heard of the Lamaze technique?”

“Sure,” Geoff answered for his wife, who was in extremis. “We took some classes last month.”

The two nurses exchanged impressed glances.  They were both five-five and slender, but the resemblance stopped there.  Deborah was all shades of brown, with black hair. Rose had red hair, hazel eyes, and wall-to-wall freckles.

“Good for you,” Deborah said. “Most people don’t know about Lamaze. It’s such a new idea.”

They watched Leah as they spoke. She lay still, panting. Even with her gargantuan belly, bathed in pain, she was a stunning woman: small boned, five-two, Mediterranean blue eyes, creamy complexion, jet black hair.  She had refused morphine, as Geoff nearly body-checked the outraged Dr. van Heyst, the maternity ward’s holy terror attending, who insisted that “the little lady needs medication so she won’t remember.”

“Little lady my ass; I’m a rhino,” Leah snapped in the doctor’s face, then turned to her husband. “Get him out. He’s giving me hemorrhoids.”

Rose and Deborah gaped as Geoff, an ex-running back at Harvard, finally threatened to punt the obstetrician “into the next county if you come near my wife with a needle.”  Leah had laughed between contractions.  Now she was light years beyond humor.  

“I’m overheating,” she managed to whisper. “I’m dizzy.”

Her nurses reached for cool washcloths. Women in labor, at some point, always felt like they were in a roasting pit. The Los Angeles summer heat didn’t help, bringing temperatures to the high nineties. The hospital’s state-of-the-art air conditioning system had just shorted out, and only brute agony kept Leah from fainting.

Dr. van Heyst strutted in to measure her cervix.

“Not a word from you,” Leah ordered fiercely. “But feel free to examine me. At this point, you could drive a tractor right in, and I wouldn’t feel a thing.”

The doctor nodded, tight-lipped. Rose and Deborah stifled their laughter.  Their tyrant boss was actually intimidated by this tiny, laboring woman.  Soundlessly, he

finished his work.  He shot the nurses a surly look, mouthed ‘It’s time,’ and stalked out.

Two orderlies appeared, and lifted Leah onto a gurney. They spoke gently, and she trusted herself in their arms. Rose and Deborah wheeled her into the hallway.

“I’m so sorry, Mr. Black, but you need to wait here,” Rose said. She and Deborah had it down to a science – handing off the dads, when the moms went into surgery to deliver.  “We need to put her under anesthesia to have the baby. Hospital policy.”

“It won’t be policy much longer. Lamaze will take over.” Leah spoke weakly, then her eyes widened as her cervix stretched impossibly to ten centimeters. Geoff took her hand, and their eyes met. She nodded to her husband as she felt her first urge to push. The pain was beyond imagination. Geoff grabbed the gurney.

“She’ll be fine,” Rose soothed him.

“In a few minutes she’ll be asleep and she won’t feel a thing.” Deborah took Geoff’s arm with the perfect blend of respect and empathy. “Come with me, Sir.  She’s in good hands.”

“Stop the gurney!”  All eyes snapped to Leah, but Nurse Rose and Nurse Deborah kept moving. “STOP THE FUCKING GURNEY!” The women froze. The year was 1958, and fuck was not standard fare, even in the throes of labor. “Push me down that side hallway, behind the heap of laundry!” Leah commanded. The nurses followed, as Geoff eased his wife’s transport out of sight.  Leah forced herself up on her elbows. “I was under anesthesia for my first child’s birth.  I am not missing the birth of this child. I’m having this baby right here, right now, in this hallway, with no anesthesia.”

Leah collapsed down for another contraction, and Geoff took over.  

“We’re doing it her way,” he stated flatly. “You both can go. Leah and I will do it alone if we have to.” The nurses looked at each other, then up at Geoff. He stood a rangy six feet, with the easy assurance of an athlete.  His curly blond hair was graying, his eyes green.  His mouth was full, his nose straight.  He was a handsome man, and with his wife, a striking couple. “It’s Leah’s body, and this is our baby. I know it’s not conventional, but we’re going to have a natural childbirth.”

“But the doctors say…” Rose began.

“She’s a doctor,” Geoff interrupted.

Leah gritted her teeth as the next contraction seized her – a vise gripping her lower back, radiating outward to clamp her hips, her pelvis, her thighs. Her hair was plastered to her forehead. Her face dripped sweat. She whimpered, no longer able to control her breathing.

“She doesn’t look like a doctor,” Rose said absurdly.  

Deborah watched wordlessly, her brown eyes enormous.

“She graduated from Radcliffe, Phi Beta Kappa,” Geoff bore into them. “She just got her medical degree from UCLA, only two women in the class. She graduated number three out of fifty. She’s a doctor, and a woman, and childbirth hurts. Her pain is normal. She wants to be conscious for the delivery, and your hospital policy won’t allow that, so she’s going to have this kid right here, right now, in this hallway.”

“Geoff, shut up and breathe with me, goddammit!”

“Is she always this determined?” Rose whispered to Geoff as the contraction tapered.

“She’s right here, ladies,” Leah barked. “And yes. She’s always this determined. But at the moment, she’s unusually dilated, which makes her dangerous.” Geoff looked at Deborah and Rose; they looked at each other; suddenly all three were laughing.            

“That wasn’t a joke,” Leah snarled, “and the next one who cracks a smile while I’m having contractions will…”            

“Dr. Black,” Deborah touched Leah’s shoulder, “it’s okay. Where I come from, they said only white girls could be nurses. Some rules need to be broken.”           

Rose bent towards Leah. “I’m Jewish. In the first grade, my teacher told the kids to be kind, it wasn’t my fault. The hallway it is, Doctor.”           

Leah reached for her midwives.           

Deborah squeezed her hand, dodged into a locked room, grabbed a cup of ice chips.  Tenderly, she spooned a few into Leah’s parched mouth.           

“I’m scared,” Leah whispered.           

“Stay angry,” Deborah answered.           

“I’m always angry,” Leah began to cry. “I usually hide it.  Now I feel like I’m leaking.  What’s wrong with me?”           

“You’re in labor,” Deborah placed a soothing hand on her forearm.  “This would be a good time to stay mad as a lioness.”           

“Keep your hand on me. It’s so comforting.” Leah’s eyes widened in horror “What kind of a thing is that to say?  I’m sorr–”           

“I’m right with you,” Deborah answered simply.              

Rose cooled Leah’s face with a moistened cloth. Deborah held her the entire time. Geoff coached her – when to breathe, when to push, letting her nails tear his hands when she lost herself in the pain. The head crowned, a burning bowling ball forcing its way through.  Leah tried to tell them that something was horribly wrong, that she was ripping apart, that her Lamaze instructor’s description of “opening like a flower” should be punishable by dismemberment. But before she could find the words, there was a soundless popping, a vicious wrenching, and Deborah caught the baby in a clean sheet. The pain was immediately bearable.           

The adults wept.           

Deborah nestled the baby in Leah’s arms. She cradled the warm bundle, stroking a tiny cheek coated with moondust. Her nose was squashed, her ears proud and prominent. She had two tufts of hair, one dead center, and one towards the back.           

“She’s beautiful,” Geoff breathed.           

Rose touched Leah’s hand and whispered, “Ready for the invasion?” She mussed her own hair, untucked a shirttail, and ran into the main hall. “Get a doctor!” she screamed. “It happened too fast! Someone help us!”

“What the hell’s going on?” Dr. van Heyst charged to the rescue. He grabbed

the bleating infant and did a quick exam. “It’s a healthy baby girl,” he glowered. “Congratulations, Mrs. Black.”

“It’s Doctor,” Deborah grinned, as the Birth Squad burst out laughing.

“It’s Caroline,” Leah reached for her daughter.

____

Tightwire, a novel by Amy Kaufman Burk, is available on Amazon. 

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Leave a comment

Filed under International Day Of The Midwife, Uncategorized

Defending Normal

It’s hard to defend normal.

The quirks every person carries hidden within — the eccentricities we all display — the oddities we’re barely aware of that cause others to stare and quickly look away. Ironically, in healthy humans, many abnormalities are actually signs of normality. The issue becomes confusing because in our culture, all Normal is not created equal. 

For instance — suppose I put a bright blue streak down the middle of my bushy gray hair. I’m 59 years old, Caucasian, 5’4”, therapist-turned-author, mother of three grown children. Most likely, people would smile and shake their heads in quiet amusement. Some might find me ridiculous, but others might admire my moxie: “Kudos to embracing middle age!” 

Suppose a teenager put the same bright blue streak down the middle of her thick brown hair, and gave a speech to support #NeverAgain. Her blue streak might draw an entirely different reaction. For people who disagree with gun control, hunting for a way to discredit that girl — her blue streak would provide the perfect lightning rod. “She’s just a teen pitching a tantrum; I mean, c’mon, look at that blue streak!”

Finally, suppose a gay or lesbian parent put a blue streak in his or her or their hair. For those uncomfortable with same sex moms and dads, an entirely different reaction would rocket to the surface. “Gays and lesbians shouldn’t be parents; I mean, c’mon, look at that blue streak!”

The LGBTQ+ community continues to be under attack, and Oklahoma has now enabled adoptions to be banned if the parents are gay men or lesbian women, single mothers or interfaith couples. To me, the LGBTQ+ spectrum, added to cisgender and straight, is simply the range of normal. But as I said, it’s hard to defend normal. If you’re bound and determined to find quirks in these potential parents, you’ll have no trouble finding them, not because they’re gay or trans or single or bi or straight or interfaith or non binary — but because they’re human. And if you’re equally intent on viewing those quirks as flaws, then you’ll disqualify a lot of loving and stable homes. 

We all carry a blue streak of one kind or another, literal or figurative. But a blue streak in a cisgender, straight, Caucasian mother of three grown children is often assigned a vastly different meaning from that same blue streak in others. If somebody makes you uncomfortable, then suddenly their blue streak is evidence of a massive character deficit. All blue streaks are not created equal.

If you’re judging parents for being gay men or lesbian women, then I wonder if you’ve actually met LGBTQ+ parents. Do you know them well? Did you have a friendly conversation, or were you digging for evidence of flaws? I do know parents who identify with various parts of the gender and sexual spectrum. Lesbian parents, gay parents, cis parents, bi parents, trans parents, straight parents, other parents —  we’re all in the community of parents. Would you consider that maybe, possibly, we might share more common ground than you expect?

Since I write fiction, I decided to do a bit of research. I googled lesbian parents in literature. Then gay parents. Then novels with LGBT parents. I was extremely glad to see that the number of children’s books on the subject is growing. But novels that include in the plot a same sex couple raising children — a portrayal of perfectly imperfect people who are loving and stable parents — I couldn’t find much. I did find some, and my second novel is among them — Tightwire. Meet Jeanne and Tracy, a lesbian couple raising two children, Heather (age 6) and Henry (age 9). As the plot unfolds, Jeanne and Tracy become role model parents for the main character, Collier — a young adult sorting out a troubled childhood. Jeanne and Tracy are caring and funny and lesbians and steady and quirky and loving and flawed and most of all — normal. 

Oklahoma, I’d like to introduce you to Jeanne and Tracy. They’d like to meet you, too.

____

Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of clinical training, treating a stormy, troubled and talented young man, Collier. Two characters vital to the story are Jeanne and Tracy, a lesbian couple raising two children, who become role model parents for Collier, giving him the opportunity to experience a home built with love and stability. Tightwire is a story of the empowerment of becoming your full self.

Leave a comment

Filed under Equality, family, gay and lesbian parents, LGBT, Uncategorized

March For Our Lives

“You can’t cast too many Blacks in one film. Nobody will watch.”

“It’s just how it is.” 

“It’s an absolute truth.”

As a child (born in 1958) growing up in a film industry family, I heard this “absolute truth” from the experts — writers, directors, producers, actors, costume designers. Although everyone I knew seemed to agree, I was puzzled. I remember asking what the difference was between an all-Caucasian cast and an all-any-other-racial-heritage cast. I didn’t understand why the industry, brimming with creativity, insisted on following the herd regarding this specific convention. Some expressed regret, so I asked why they didn’t do something to change it. Their answer was always a variation of “It’s-Just-How-It-Is.”

With its rocketing success, the film Black Panther has rewritten that “absolute truth” of my childhood. Of course, several other films have already shown this “truth” to be nowhere close to “absolute.” Black Panther is a strong and timely reminder that “absolute truths” should always be questioned. As a kid, I was also told that an all-female cast wouldn’t work, that if actors came out as gay their careers would grind to an abrupt halt, that females needed to be frighteningly skinny because everyone looks heavier on film and “nobody likes a girl with a fat ass” (a quote from an actor, at a dinner party, which drew raucous approval from men and women alike). I was told these “absolute truths” would “never change.”

Even the most decent adults can get bogged down in business analysis, lulled by the familiarity of convention, and lose track of the purity of an idea. Claudette Colvin was 15 years old in 1955, when she was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. Malala Yousafzai was in her teens when she was shot in the head, and lived to become a voice for females and education worldwide. Emma Gonzalez — a survivor of the February 14, 2018, high school shooting in Parkland, Florida — has catapulted the #NeverAgain movement to unprecedented levels. Naomi Wadler was 11 years old when she took the stage on March 24, 2018, and stunned the nation with her eloquence in support of Black lives. Samantha Fuentes, wounded at the Parkland shooting, showed us that vomiting onstage can be an act of inspirational courage.

It’s-Just-How-It-Is can’t stop the Claudettes or the Malalas or the Emmas or the Naomis or the Samanthas. Sometimes we need young voices to remind us of the power of decency — hearts and minds unburdened by cost-benefit analysis, less tied to socio-cultural infrastructures. Until February 13, 2018, school shootings were “just how it is.” After February 14, 2018, with several killed and wounded at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School, It’s-Just-How-It-Is transformed into Never-Again.

Young people are rewriting our absolutes. They’re today’s self-evident truths and tomorrow’s inalienable rights. They’re our nation’s We-The-People, leading us as we renew our vows to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They’re our future and our now.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, with her circle of friends, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including the resistance, gender equality, LGBTIQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

2 Comments

Filed under Black Lives Matter, Black Panther, Claudette Colvin, Emma Gonzalez, Film Industry Values, Malala, March For Our Lives, Naomi Wadler, Parkland Shooting, Samantha Fuentes, Uncategorized

Book Review: Sex, Talk, Honesty

I met Daphne de Marneffe over twenty years ago, waiting for our children to finish their day at preschool. Standing on a foggy sidewalk in San Francisco, bundled against the chill, we gravitated together. Daphne was funny, irreverent, lightning-smart and (most importantly) entirely unfazed by my tendency to curse as soon as the kids moved out of earshot. We spoke about our ongoing parenting questions, about the unresolvable balance between parenthood and career. We talked about the fun and the grit, the triumphs and the crashes. She was one of the most honest people I’d ever met.

Now, more than two decades later, Daphne has written a stunningly honest book — The Rough Patch.

In the zillions of books available about sex, communication and relationships — most of them fifty shades of annoying — I loved The Rough Patch. We’re primed to think that if a relationship entails hard work, something is wrong. Daphne, with her signature honesty, disagrees. Even the strongest couples navigate inevitable rough patches. According to Daphne, hard work and healthy relationship aren’t antonyms; they’re realities.

The Rough Patch does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions. The book does not tell you how you should feel, what you should do, whether you should remain a couple or break up. Instead, Daphne presents several paths that readers can choose, to match their personal styles. She offers diverse strategies for effective communication, addresses the wide range of sexual practices, acknowledges that rough patches can have many meanings.

The ideas in The Rough Patch are relevant to adults of all ages, both in relationships and single. First and last, we’re in relationships with ourselves. We wake up with ourselves every morning, and sleep with ourselves every night. I found Daphne’s perspective evocative and insightful for all stages of relationships, and for individuals as well.

People are complicated, and two of those intricate beings, navigating a life, create layers of complexity that defy mathematical limits. In the course of long-term relationships, individuals grow and change. Healthy relationships are dynamic, not static, and the ground always will be shifting. Daphne invites readers to explore and discover with her, with their partners, and within themselves.

Daphne writes that over time, we’ve seen our life-partners as beautifully, starkly, heartrendingly human — just as they’ve seen us. The intensity of that level of intimacy is uplifting, terrifying, exhilarating, baffling, burdensome, liberating. In our unfailing humanness, we sometimes soar to uncharted heights, and sometimes fall with a resounding thud.

So how do we get through the rough patches when our love includes deep vulnerability? How can we fight productively when we know each other so well that we can draw blood with every hit? How can we reconnect verbally and sexually as we struggle? How can we trust each other when we’re hurt and angry?

Ask Daphne. She’s got your back. Honestly.

The Rough Patch

Daphne de Marneffe

https://www.amazon.com/Rough-Patch-Marriage-Living-Together/dp/1501118919/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black and her friends through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including the resistance, gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

Leave a comment

Filed under book review, Couples, Intimacy, Marriage, relationships, Uncategorized

Thoughts, Prayers, Never Again

During my 25 years as a therapist, I found that couples spoke in code. Nicknames, for example, often radiated unspoken layers of intimacy. When couples referred to each other by nicknames, they were reaching out their hands, a code for reconnecting. At other times in the course of a treatment, couples used code phrases to highlight their struggles. For instance, some said “I’m listening,” or “I hear you,” or “I want to understand” — and then their eyes glazed with a subtle film of distance as they emotionally checked out. For those folks, their phrases were codes for “I’m dismissing you.”

Now I’m watching a parallel process with school shootings. Since our current president took office, a pattern has emerged. A terrible shooting takes place leaving people dead, wounded, traumatized. And what happens next? “Thoughts and prayers” — peppered through speeches, all over social media, .  “Thoughts-and-prayers” has become a code phrase with the rough translation: “Let them pitch a fit, then they’ll lose their momentum, then we can go back to ignoring the issue.”

I’m actually a strong supporter of thoughts and prayers. The capacity to think is a human gift. Prayers reflect belief systems which guide folks through this baffling world. However, the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has become the opposite of genuine thoughts and prayers. Those words have devolved into a brush off. Every time students are murdered in school, every time a bomb explodes in a public place, every time a mosque or a church or a synagogue is attacked, every time black people are treated as though their lives don’t matter, every time racism is the underlying motivation for a violent crime, every time a person on the LGBTIQ spectrum is assaulted — all are followed by hailstorms of “thoughts and prayers” — which are then followed by nothing. “Thoughts-and-prayers” has emerged as our country’s newest code phrase for “I’m dismissing you.”

In my sessions as a therapist, I found that each couple had their own unique code. When we cracked their specific code, then our work reached a new level. Going forward, I called a time out when those dismissive phrases were used. As we continued, couples learned to recognize the signs of disconnecting, and they called their own time outs. As their therapy progressed, they developed a healthy intolerance for being brushed off, and their dismissive code phrases tapered. They worked together, as a team, to set up a healthier set of emotional constructs. They felt stronger and safer, committed to repeating their mistakes never again.

Now our country needs to do the same.

#NeverAgain

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black and her friends through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including the resistance, gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

2 Comments

Filed under Never Again, Parkland, Thoughts And Prayers, Uncategorized

Eulogy For My Father-In-Law

Arnold Burk

April 8, 1932 – December 10, 2017

When my husband and I had children, we learned something about my father-in-law that we hadn’t known: Arnold was the Baby Whisperer. Our infants would nestle in his arms, filled with pure trust, a core sense of safety. It happened again and again, with all three of our kids. For every skinned knee, every tummy ache, any kind of distress — the solution was Arnold. Sometimes he’d sing to them and as they grew older, they’d mouth the words or sing along. Their bond grew in sleep, in wakefulness, in play, in work, in silence, in song.

Last week, in Arnold’s final days, his rabbi visited. Rabbi Jen sat at Arnold’s bedside and sang in Hebrew, a song simple and soothing. Arnold lay still with his eyes closed, sometimes mouthing the words, sometimes singing from a place deep within, rooted in his own childhood. He fell asleep soon after, smiling quietly. I recognized his expression. I had seen that look of peace on all three of my children, held in his arms.

Now it’s Arnold’s turn to feel that peace. Contemplating eternal peace, eternal anything really, is a curious challenge. We humans are trying to define a concept that’s far beyond our realm. But whatever might happen in eternity, we can be sure of a few things. Arnold will bring strength and decency to his new world. He’ll bring his signature sense of humor that always felt like a surprise gift. He’ll bring his acute intelligence which will amaze even the angels. And if somebody is having an off-day in heaven, Arnold will reach out his hand, gather them in his arms, and sing.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk has published two novels. Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, follows Caroline Black through tenth grade as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, racial equality, parenting and a Rolling Stones concert. Amy also collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

To learn more about Amy’s novels and recent blog posts, visit her Author Page on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

2 Comments

Filed under eulogy, father-in-law, Grieving, Mourning, Uncategorized

Sexual Values In The Industry

Growing up a daughter of a screenwriter, I had no words to describe my intense discomfort with the entertainment industry. Years would pass before I found language to describe the pressure on girls and women to starve themselves, the relentless rating of physical attractiveness, the hype around sex and sexuality, the assumption that anyone would do anything to be tapped into the club. As a kid, I could have explained none of this. All I knew was that I’d never fit in, and I wished my father had chosen a different profession.

Many aspects of the industry feed directly and indirectly into a culture of rape. The sanctioned, artificial, forced sexuality woven into the fabric of the entertainment industry intensifies the problem, normalizing the sexualization of all interactions. I remember attending a party, and a man approached. He was in his mid 40s and when he leaned down to kiss my lips, I ducked my head and instead offered my hand. He took my hand in both of his and smirked. I still remember his words: “Sweetheart, you’ll never make it in the industry if you don’t change that attitude.” I knew that I didn’t belong in the industry, that the idea of being his sweetheart made me queasy, that whether I allowed him to kiss my lips was entirely my choice. Still, it was a gut-shot to be told that I was pathetically uncool. I was eleven.

Something creepy and dangerous lurked in the shadows, and I grew up on guard, waiting for it to pounce. This type of incident was a part of my ongoing experience in the industry and like most children, I didn’t question the values that my environment considered “normal.” And I was extremely lucky — when I said no, people backed off.

Today, I’m sick at heart as so many reveal how badly they’ve been hurt. I support and respect those who are stepping forward, calling out sexual predators in the industry. They’re showing courage on a level that awes me, and I hope that every survivor of every gender will speak out and be given the support they deserve. I also hope every person who ever used a sexual act as a power-weapon will be held accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted. Beyond the individuals, I hope the industry as a whole owns its role in enabling a sub-culture of sexual abuse.

As a child of the industry, I heard over and over that a good director understands how and when to begin and end a production. If the beginning isn’t compelling from the opening moments, the audience disconnects. If the performance stretches even one minute too long, the audience checks out. We need a new beginning, starting now, paving the way for a future of new endings. So cue the lights, fade to black, and stop. Just stop.

___

Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable

Caroline Black, age 15, leaves her college prep academy for the local public high school. Growing up in a film industry family, Caroline is a misfit, and her new school opens her world. Written in reaction to witnessing gay boys bullied in high school.

Tightwire

A psychology intern, who grew up in a film industry family, goes through her rookie year of clinical training, working with her first patient, who ran away from the circus to find himself. Written in support of healthy sex and sexuality, in support of lesbian and gay parents, as a voice against the stigma of therapy, and as a window into the behind-closed-doors values of the film industry.

Visit Amy’s Author Page on Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

3 Comments

Filed under Film Industry Values, Harvey Weinstein Scandal, NoMore, sexual equality, Uncategorized