Monday, December 21, 2009

Poet laureate recruiting for her successor

In only a few short months, it will be time to welcome another Lake County Poet Laureate. Whomever is selected will have to fill the shoes of giants. Five pairs of them, in fact.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Listing helps manage Twitter feed

Responding to some Twitter accounts’ demonstrated interest in tracking Calistoga Junior/Senior High School alumni, I prepared an overview of Twitter for the alumni newsletter.

I reprint it here in the interest of sharing it with a wider readership:

Twitter is a Web site that allows users to distribute short messages to large groups of other Twitter users. Each Twitter post, or “Tweet,” must be no longer than 140 characters. To receive updates from a given Twitter feed, readers sign-up to be “followers” of that feed. Twitter users may view received messages on their cell phone or by logging in to their Twitter account through Twitter’s Web site.

Twitter users can reply, using the @ symbol, or can refer to another user when composing their own posts. For example, if another user is replying or refering to me, he or she uses @cynthiaparkhill.

Some users additionally use “tags,” relevant key words, to make their posts searchable by topic. These are formed by adding the # symbol directly preceding a key word in the Tweet. #calistoga is one example of a tag. On any given day, a display of “trending topics” will give users an idea of what other users are tweeting about.

Twitter recently introduced a “lists” capability that allows users to conveniently group the feeds that they have chosen to subscribe to. Lists are identified by the name of the Twitter user who created the list and the subject to which the list relates. For example, a number of lists have been set up to follow Calistoga locals. Some of these lists include:

@CafeSarafornia/locals -- Following: 43 users; Followers: 1
@CalistogaNEWS/locals -- Following: 38 users; Followers: 2
@Calistogan/locals -- Following: 38 users; Followers: 3
@CalistogaWater/locals -- Following: 32 users; Followers: 2
@CalistogaDaySpa/locals -- Following: 35 users; Followers: 4
@CalistogaSpa/locals -- Following: 30 users; Followers: 5
@CalistogaInn/locals -- Following: 47 users; Followers: 7
@Calistoga/locals -- Following: 65 users; Followers: 8

List statistics were current as of Dec. 20, 2009.

-- Cynthia Parkhill, ’86 (

Saturday, December 19, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library: Watch for new arrivals

Watch for continuing new arrivals to the UUCLC Lending Library. Church members are enriching the community through donations of various books.

Some of the newest additions include The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and a second copy of Forrest Church’s Love & Death. If you would like a deeper reading of Rev. Church’s book, you can download a UU leaders’ guide, available as a PDF, from

Thanks to a contribution of funds from the UUCLC Membership Committee, your librarian will soon place an order for additional books produced by the UUA imprints, Skinner House and Beacon Press.

Distributed via email newsletter

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 helps people meet face-to-face

My "Meetup" calendar arrives each week in my e-mail in-box, alerting me to activities by people who have grouped around a common interest.

Scanning a list of the newest groups, I target the "North Bay Skeptics" for taking a closer look. After reading the "Meetup" group's description at, I'm convinced that I fit right in:
"The North Bay, and Sonoma County in particular, is a hotbed of anti-scientific thinking. Vaccine hysteria, modern medicine denial, ideological faux-environmentalism, you name it, we've got it.
"I'm starting this group in hopes of connecting with some like-minded locals. Even if changing the tide is a futile effort, at least we'll be able to commiserate. Preferably over drinks."
I could do without the drinks, but nevertheless I request to join and introduce myself to the group: "I am a person with Asperger's syndrome who believes that improved detection and expansion of qualifying criteria explains why there are more people today on the autism continuum. I don't agree that these increased numbers are signs of an 'epidemic.'"

More and more people are forming bonds these days that transcend geographical connection. Like-minded attitudes, shared hobbies and beliefs are far more meaningful to me than the accident of proximity.

Some time after Molly Ivins died on Jan. 31, 2007, I created a Facebook group to honor the multi-pronged influence that I felt she had on me: "Molly Ivins inspires me to do what I do." The group, which has all of three members, "welcomes anyone who acts from Molly's example." But having stated Ivins' areas of influence once, in December 2007, I've had little reason since then to elaborate -- thus sentencing the group to obscurity because it fails to show up in my "feed."

Even before we could connect instantaneously through social networking sites, shared interests formed the basis of my first successful relationships. In my mid-20s I joined a group called the Society for Creative Anachronism that promoted reenactment of an idealized Middle Ages: absent the religious intolerance and the wholesale disenfranchisement of the lower classes. We had the ability to explore and create the Middle Ages as they should have been -- and invent ourselves in the process. The SCA was a supportive and hands-on environment in which to learn and explore.

Fast forward to today and sites like give users an additional resource to meet face-to-face with like-minded people. When you supply the Web site with your zip code, it will generate a list of groups within a designated-mile radius. Groups native to Lake County include the Wine Country Boxer dog lovers' group, the Lake County Flying Saucer Club and the Lake County Social Media Workshop.

Supplying the Web site with a topic or an interest may result in a list of groups outside of the designated radius. Sometimes there may be no match, or if there is, the match is bizarre.

The only match that came back under a search for "Gilbert & Sullivan" was Sacfoodallergy -- Food Allergy Support of Sacramento. The group's inclusion is apparently due to the last name of one of its creators.

"Savoyard" is even more obscure and the site's apologetic response is that there are no matches. "But you can browse the 8 Meetup groups within 25 miles of Kelseyville ..."

For more information about, visit its Official Meetup HQ Blog:

Published Dec. 15, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Church donates to bullying prevention program

Three women pose holding a check
Carol Cole-Lewis, Cynthia M. Parkhill and June Wilson
LAKE COUNTY — The Unitarian Universalist Community of Lake County (UUCLC) has taken a special collection that raised $144 toward bringing “Challenge Day” to Clear Lake High School (CLHS).

Friday, November 27, 2009

MakeBeliefs Comix: Trust Walk

Comic strip in three panels. The first panel's narrative reads, "A Terrible Catch-22." A human-looking rabbit says "OK class... We're going to do a trust walk. You'll be divided in pairs." A human-looking cat thinks, "Oh no ..." In the second panel, the rabbit says, "You'll be divided in pairs. One of you will be blindfolded and the other will lead you around." The cat thinks, "I can't trust the other children." In the third panel, the cat's thinking continues: "They'll purposely walk me into things just so they can laugh at me. But the teacher is making me do this. I am so doomed."
Created with MakeBeliefs Comix
Does anyone else remember the terrible moral dilemma of “trust walks” from religious education? Speaking from her position of unquestionable authority, the teacher demands behavior that counters the child’s instinct for self-preservation.

Originally posted to Facebook

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Businesses need to be open when customers are free to shop

At least once a week on my way to work, I like to veer off of Highway 29 into downtown Kelseyville to pick up a loaf of fresh bread. Main Street Bakery is open early so I make my customary selection, a hearty multi-grain boule, get back into my car and continue on my way to work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Challenge Day addresses bullying head-on

A group of high school students from around the lake are raising money to finance Challenge Day at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport. Having heard first-hand from community volunteers who participated in Lower Lake and Middletown, I think this would be a worthwhile program at any and all of our schools because it deals with bullying head-on.

I especially like its motto, “Be the Change,” which encourages community residents to “Notice” what needs to change in their communities, “Choose” what they can do and then personally commit to “Act.”

A Clear Lake High School student did just that by submitting a guest commentary to the newspaper saying that bullying had to stop. The volly of objections that were raised to his column confirmed me in my belief that bullying is too often trivialized when it is not actively denied.

At an online forum, people fixated upon rallies at which upperclassmen boo the freshmen, taking a “who cares,” “it’s tradition” attitude and not devoting nearly enough attention to the writer’s account of having objects thrown at him and being the recipient of threats — except to elucidate the ways in which he somehow provoked it.

In other words, the victim of bullying is at fault for being the target of abuse.

Boy, was that a familiar story; I’d been told the same thing after writing about my experience with bullying in Calistoga schools. A vitriolic response to one of my columns exhibited classic hallmarks of bullying: verbal put-downs and threats of social exclusion. The writer took the view that I was responsible and that I could have fit in if I’d chosen to or tried.

I felt vindicated when a contemporary student’s account in my hometown newspaper confirmed the existence of bullying.

When I attended a production on my high school campus of “Bang, Bang You’re Dead,” not only did I observe that bullying was acknowledged but that it was also being addressed through programs like Challenge Day. I wish there had been a Challenge Day when I went to school.

The Challenge Day program clearly made an impact when it took place in the Lake County schools. “It’s an experience that’s difficult to explain,” stated letter writer Anita Gordon in  October 2006, describing her participation as an adult volunteer during Challenge Day at Lower Lake High School.  “You had to be there to understand the emotion and impact. Throughout the day I learned about what these kids and other adult volunteers have been through in their lives, and what students face both in and out of school. They learned about me as well. These kids were strong participants and it was a powerful day!”

Brien Crothers, a member of our Toastmasters club, shared similar observations when he described his experience with Challenge Day at Middletown High School.

Challenge Day asks communities to “Imagine a school where every child feels safe, loved and celebrated ... where bullying, violence and other forms of oppression are things of the past. This is the work of Challenge Day.” For more information about Challenge Day, visit

A group of people have pooled their efforts to bring Challenge Day to Clear Lake High School. The group includes several student participants from Clear Lake, Kelseyville and Lower Lake high schools. Meetings take place at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Round Table Pizza in Lakeport.

Group publicist June Wilson said the goal is to sponsor 200 students, at $35 apiece, for the first event as well as to pay for substitutes for each teacher who would like to attend. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 1314, Lakeport CA 95453 with checks payable to Challenge Day. All donations are tax deductible.

In addition to requesting funds, the group is also asking people to send brief letters supporting this event to CLHS principal Steve Gentry, 350 Lange St., Lakeport CA 95453.

Published Nov. 17, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book cart debuts in UUCLC Lending Library

Books shelved on three-level wheeled cart
Photo circa June 2010
The mission of the UUCLC Lending Library is to serve as a resource for deeper understanding of the Unitarian Universalist faith and to present our congregation with reading material from a variety of spiritual traditions.

A double-sided, wheeled book cart debuted last week, which enables us to bring the lending library into the main hall each Sunday as part of set-up for services. Members of our congregation can sit and browse the books. As our library continues to grow, the cart will feature a rotating selection.

Any books checked out this Sunday, Nov. 15, have a requested return date of Sunday, Dec. 13. (The due date is always four weeks after the checkout date, although you are certainly welcome to bring books back before that time has lapsed.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There's never enough money for libraries

I spent some time placing requests this week via the online library catalog that connects Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma County branches. A few days later, I received a phone alert from the Sonoma County Library, letting me know that my books were ready at the Lakeport library.

My first stop when arriving at the Lakeport branch was the Friends of the Library sale shelves. Their continually-changing inventory includes classic and contemporary fiction, as well as non-fiction books on a variety of subjects. You can't beat the prices either, $1 for a hardcover book and 50 cents for a paperback.

Next I headed over to the shelves where requested books have been filed.

Whenever I check out books I've requested, I like to look on the barcode label to see where the books originate. "Warriors No. 6: The Darkest Hour" by Erin Hunter came from the Lake County Library while "Inkspell" by Cornelia Funke arrived for me in Lakeport via the Sonoma County Library. Because Lake County participates in a shared online catalog, the books can come from any branch library within our three-county system.

Friends of the Library describes the public library as "one of the main cultural and information centers of the community." It's a sentiment that I agree with.

Sadly, during the winter break, 13 Sonoma County libraries will go dormant. The Sonoma County Library system plans a 10-day furlough to help make up for a budget shortfall. During this furlough, its Web site and online services will also be shut down.

Because these libraries are linked online to our own library branches, these closures will also affect the patrons of our Lake County libraries.

Noting my place at 14 in the queue for "Parallel Play" by Tim Page, I observed that there are three copies within our three-county network and that they are part of collections at the Santa Rosa Central Library and at the Rohnert Park-Cotati and Windsor regional libraries.

I contacted the Sonoma County Library via Facebook and asked how the closures would affect libraries in Lake and Mendocino counties: specifically whether there will be anyone at the Sonoma County libraries logging returns and forwarding requested books to the next user in the queue.

The administrator of the Facebook page stated, "If you request a book that is only owned by Sonoma County Library, you will not receive it during the furlough. No one will be forwarding requests from Sonoma County Library during this period." The administrator added, however, that I can still place new requests during the furlough period.

This experience is a perfect example of our libraries' interconnected relationship. Besides, I don't kid myself for a moment that our Lake County libraries are magically immune to shortfalls. There are always additional needs not covered in the library budget. Hence I contribute via book sale purchases to Friends of the Lake County Library.

Sherman Alexie, a novelist and author of several short-story collections, says in a Mother Jones interview that reading a book involves all your senses, but it's about conservation as well. "If I had been talking about drowning polar bears, people would have been weeping with me," he says. "But nobody recognizes that a bookstore or library can also be a drowning polar bear. And right now in this country, magazines, newspapers and bookstores are drowning polar bears. And if people can't see that or don't want to talk about it, I don't understand them at all."

You can read the abbreviated interview in the November/December issue or read it in-full online at And you can request Alexie's books, by the way, through your public library.

How many books would be out of my reach, due to personal budget limitations, if not for our public libraries? The upcoming furloughs at Sonoma County libraries make it all the more important to support our local libraries.

To learn more about our public libraries and access the card catalog online, visit

Published Nov. 10, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Monday, November 9, 2009

Toastmasters: Tenacious Talkers hosts open house

By guest writer Suzanne Frey

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA -- Eighty-five years ago on Oct. 22, Dr. Ralph C. Smedley held the first official Toastmasters meeting in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana.

Clubs around the world will celebrate the anniversary with special meetings. Locally, Toastmasters club No. 8731, Tenacious Talkers, will hold an open house, 6:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at 2150 Argonaut Road in Finley. For more information, contact club Vice President of Education Greg Scott at 707-263-5350 for more information.

Not even Dr. Smedley could have envisioned the history he was making on Oct. 22, 1924. The organization that started as a small group of people dedicated to teaching after-dinner speeches to young men has evolved into a worldwide leader in communication and leadership development. Since that first meeting in 1924, more than 4 million people have benefited from the Toastmasters experience.

“Toastmasters’ long-term success and growth is a tribute to Dr. Smedley’s vision,” said Toastmasters International President Gary A. Schmidt. “He understood that communication isn’t optional and leadership isn’t always innate, but both can be learned through doing.”

Today, Toastmasters’ 250,000-plus active members participate in more than 12,500 clubs spanning 106 countries. From Dubai to New Zealand, Saskatchewan to Connecticut, each day thousands of Toastmasters participate in meetings to learn and practice valuable communication and leadership skills in a supportive environment.

Michael Avedissian of Reading, Pennsylvania, is one of the organization’s longest-term members. He moved from Germany to the United States in 1954 and joined Toastmasters the following year. He credits the Reading Toastmasters Club with saving his engineering career and his new life in America by helping him learn and practice English. “Toastmasters gave me the ability to deliver the reports and presentations that were required for my career.”

Many organizations stall or even crumble during difficult economic times. Toastmasters has withstood the test of time and has even grown 5 percent annually since 2005 because it offers practical skills that are critical for success in today’s competitive environment.

Ann Maxfield of Austin, Minn., recently was able to begin a new career as an e-learning coordinator at Hormel Foods. With her Toastmasters training, she aced the interviews. “People in management know about Toastmasters and look to it as valuable training for the skills and experiences they require in employees,” she said.

The Toastmasters program also helps political and business leaders prepare for the demands of their positions. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is one of many with political aspirations who found help in Toastmasters. “It is the best and least expensive personal improvement class you can go to,” said Lingle.

For more information about Toastmasters International and about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit For more information about Tenacious Talkers, visit

Blog author’s Note: This essay was provided by Toastmasters International to club vice presidents of public relations to personalize with information about their clubs.

Friday, November 6, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library book cart

Imagine a portable double-sided book shelf, parked next to the most comfortable chairs in the Kelseyville Senior Center’s main hall, where members of our congregation can sit to browse books in the UUCLC Lending Library. Your librarian ordered a book truck, which arrived this week. Look for it to make its debut with a rotating selection of books.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can musicians' clout shut down Guantánamo?

A group of musicians has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out whether their music was played at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. In my opinion, wielding music as a weapon or as an instrument of torture is a gross perversion of its significance.

The Doonesbury Flashbacks that appeared in the Record-Bee this week provided a fictional illustration of music forming a soundtrack to U.S. conflict. Toggle, a young soldier who has been deployed to Iraq , explains that he creates battle mixes for the soldiers in his brigade. "Whatever the guys want. Mostly rap and heavy metal -- evil, heart pumpin' stuff.

"If we're headed for bandit country, I need ear-bleed music like Slipknot to get pumped," Toggle explains to his passenger. "But if the mission's mellow, like today, I like bar bands."

Many of us can relate to Toggle selecting music that compliments his day. We load our iPods with our favorite tunes and retreat from the outside world into an audio sanctuary. Some of us even mix compilation CDs for our friends. Selecting and sharing your favorite tunes is an intensely personal communication.

But the use of music by our U.S. military goes far beyond soldiers' personal enjoyment. The American Civil Liberties Union has compiled numerous documents through a five-year-old Freedom of Information Act request. More than 130,000 pages of official government documents detail ways in which music was used as a method of interrogation.

The ACLU also interviewed former Guantánamo detainees about their experiences in U.S. custody.

"[W]hen they have something [like heavy metal] to replace your thoughts …it’s extremely hard to concentrate on things and it would make you hallucinate and it would make you see… things that is not there," said Ruhal Ahmed, a 27-year–old, life-long British resident who was subjected to a combination of loud music and stress positions during his two-and-a-half years at Guantánamo.

I've experienced adverse reactions to music that was played too loudly. I've observed that fatigue and stress further limit my resilience in a loud environment. So I believe that Guantánamo inmates experienced pain that was deliberately invoked.

The musicians' requests for information about the way in which their music was used stems from former detainees' testimony and from released government documents. According to Mother Jones and the ACLU, participating artists included REM, Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, the Roots, Rise Against and Billy Bragg.

“When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo , shackling and beating people — we were angry," The Roots said in a statement. "Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings. Congress needs to shut Guantánamo down.”

If you think musicians don't have clout to back up their rhetoric, guess again. The open mic in Clearlake had to shut down briefly in mid-2007 after the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers asked for a yearly license fee of $388. The monthly venue was able to resume in March 2008 after two KFOG D.J.s offered to pay the license fee for two years.

I thought such licensing demands against a small-town open mic were draconian and excessive -- but imagine if that clout could be wielded against the U.S. government for what were surely unauthorized broadcasts. That's a cause I'd support.

I appreciate what must surely be a sense of horror and disgust with which rock musicians are seeking to learn whether or not their music was wielded as an instrument of torture. For more information about the ACLU's investigation, visit The gross misuse of music is detailed under "Tortured Tunes," dated Oct. 22.

Published Nov. 3, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autism prevalence rates are sign of improved detection

The highly-politicized responses to revised autism prevalence rates underscore the importance for me to articulate my own viewpoints and experiences as a person on the autism continuum.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Animals enrich our lives

Left to right: Elizabeth and Sasha
The rain has been a welcome respite to everyone but Elizabeth, the ruling queen of our household. While Sasha remained content to warmly bask indoors, Elizabeth became restless and desperate to be let outside. She views the rain as a personal betrayal of infathomable magnitude.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Emotional Intelligence

Book cover; Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
I recently finished reading a book called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. Written in 1995, what I thought intriguing about the book was that it described individual traits that today are recognized among tendencies attributed to Asperger’s syndrome.

Alexithymia, for instance, from the Greek: a- for “lack,” lexis for “word” and thymos for “emotion.” People with this tendency have difficulty expressing their emotions.

Psychologists also applied the term dyssemia, from the Greek: dys for “difficulty" and semes for “signal.” The condition is a learning disability in the realm of nonverbal language.

The book was written in 1995, immediately prior to Asperger’s syndrome becoming a recognized diagnosis in the DSM IV.

I’ve now begun reading Social Intelligence, which is by the same author but was published 11 years later. What a difference those 11 years make! Asperger’s syndrome is referenced by name in Goleman’s later book.

Transcribed from a personal journal

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toastmasters club meets in new location

FINLEY — Toastmasters Club No. 8731, the Tenacious Talkers, meets at 6:15 p.m. each Thursday at its new location, 2150 Argonaut Road in Finley.

From Highway 29, turn onto Thomas Drive (at Steele Wines and Rainbow Ag) and right onto Argonaut Road. Take the first driveway on the left-hand side across from the Steele Wines crush facility.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit organization that provides its members with training in public speaking and leadership. For information, visit

For more information about Tenacious Talkers, call 263-5350 or visit

Cynthia Parkhill
Vice president of PR
Tenacious Talkers

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Advanced Leader Bronze in Toastmasters International

Next Thursday, Oct. 1, I’ll be giving a presentation in Toastmasters International’s Successful Club Series: “Evaluate to Motivate.” The presentation will complete my final requirement toward earning Advanced Leader Bronze.

Requirements that I’ve accomplished to-date include achieving Competent Leader on Aug. 13, 2009, achieving Competent Communicator on Dec. 19, 2008 and serving six months as an officer for my club (vice president of public relations) from January to June 2009.

During that time, in June 2009, I helped prepare a Club Success Plan for Club 8731 and attended a district-sponsored club officers’ training. I also completed the first of two programs for my club. I presented “Creating the Best Club Climate” on March 26, 2009. So next week’s presentation fulfills that last requirement.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

‘Shop local’ includes local media

"Don’t want a newspaper? Buy one anyway," urges a video produced by Slate V, reposted in Utne Magazine's online media blog (archived under July 2009 at "For less than the price of a cup of coffee per day, you can feed and clothe a newspaper professional."

The video is modeled on those television commercials that urge support for a child overseas at a cost of mere pennies a day and while it's heavy on irony, it delivers an essential truth: Journalists are full-time professionals who live and work in their local communities.

Friday, September 18, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library wish list

Please consider purchasing a book on behalf of our lending library. I have posted a wish list of books produced by the UUA imprints, Beacon Press and Skinner House, on the bulletin board in the main hall. There is space for you to sign off on sponsoring each book I have requested.Your donation will be noted on the inside front cover of the book, in much the same way that the UUCLC acknowledges donation of hymnals.

Distributed via email newsletter

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

‘R-word ’ is label that can hurt

Should the word "retarded" be retired from popular usage? The question is circulating this week among readers of Justice for All, an e-mail publication of the American Association of People with Disabilities. I think it is worth considering.

The AAPD reposted a link to an article by Neda Ulaby on The article can be found under Arts & Life: Pop Culture.

 In the article, E. Duff Wrobbel, the father of a child who was born with Down syndrome, relates how he caught himself applying the r-word to a driver who had just cut him off. "And I actually said that word ... And then I stopped my car and got teary. And I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe I just said that.'"

Wrobbel now campaigns with other activists against the word "retard," arguing that it's hate speech and not a hilarious put-down.

The article notes that medical and social service organizations have already retired the r-word and apply the term "intellectual disabilities" instead.

But Jesse Sheidlower, an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, argues that the term is not meant to be taken literally.

"'Retarded,' like 'gay,' functions as an all-purpose put-down," he states in the NPR article. "If you say, 'Stop being so gay,' or 'That movie was retarded,' it's not meant to be taken literally — as in 'Stop being so homosexual,' or 'That movie was intellectually disabled.' That differentiates those words from racist slurs."

But can Sheidlower honestly say these words are never applied as pejoratives against human beings? Wrobbel's own experience suggests otherwise.

I think reactions to the r-word can be intensely personal. Examining some of the comments that were posted in response to the NPR article, I believe other people feel the same way.

A person in my family once told me I was "retarded." She didn't specify which traits of mine she believed to be under-developed, so I interpreted the r-word to to apply to my entire being.

Like the scarlet "A" on the breast of Hester Prynne, I felt like this person had branded me with an enormous "R" that summed up everything there was to know about me and dismissed me as being of no worth. I think that is a very damaging message to send.

My early experience with pejoratives included latching onto a word whose explosive fire-cracker sound was irrresistible to me. I had vivid images in my head from the Batman show, where similar words would appear on-screen with each swing of the caped crusader's fist.

With no knowledge that this particular word was a racial slur, I debuted my use of it by appending it to a high school teacher's nickname and uttering it to his face. Fortunately, I was not punished but was told what the word meant. As abruptly as I had first used the word, I retired it from my vocabulary.

Earlier still, I brought a doll to my elementary school who had a prominent grin that the Cheshire Cat would have envied. For me, this grin was by far the doll's most pronounced feature. I was fascinated by the grin's sheer unambiguity and can see it in my mind to this day.

A classmate said my doll was "gay" in a tone that seemed very negative. I asked the vice principal what "gay" meant and he told me it meant "happy."

At the time, I was satisfied with the vice-principal's definition. It made complete sense to me that someone would use "gay" to describe a doll that was so obviously happy; but at the same time I was puzzled as to why this would be something negative.

In later life, I acquired two insights: one being that the word "gay" had an entirely separate meaning from what the vice-principal told me. But I also observed that our society tends to disparage happiness, especially when displayed by adults.

I'm glad to see our society examining whether certain words give offense. Consider that, as the article points out, other hateful, derogatory terms have already disappeared from most people's vocabularies.

"What happens is, if you're lucky, you come to understand those words describe actual human beings," says Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Yes, they do. And those labels can hurt.

Published Sept. 15, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lesson of the Sorting Hat (UU homily)

Cynthia Parkhill in Hogwarts cardigan at Unitarian Universalist Community of Lake County, Calif.
You are a first-year student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You boarded the train at Station 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express has transported you to Hogwarts.

You disembark from the train and are met by the groundskeeper Hagrid. You are ferried across the lake and ushered into the great hall.

Now you face the pivotal moment that will forever define your career at Hogwarts. When the Sorting Hat is placed upon your head, into which house will you be placed? Gryffindor? Slytherin? Ravenclaw? Or Hufflepuff?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Not having children requires an excuse

Forty-one and counting! At last, an iron-clad excuse for why my husband and I don’t have children: it’s no longer medically advisable.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Print media ‘campaign killer’: Ignoring deadlines

At iMedia, Tom Hespos declares that “There’s no fun quite like the period immediately after a new communications medium rises to prominence.” He’s talking about social media, and identifies for companies, social media “campaign killers” that need to be avoided at all cost.

As an advocate for continued outreach through traditional print media, I would like to point out a “campaign killer” that is particularly burdensome to people who work in print journalism.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Shelving cart for UUCLC Lending Library

Book shelving cart with books on it
Schoolhouse Outfitters, LLC

As we begin to accumulate more books for the UUCLC lending library, I envision a sturdy wheeled shelving cart that can transport books from the annex into the main sanctuary during social time after the services.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tenacious Talkers earns Toastmasters ‘Distinguished Club’

LAKEPORT — Toastmasters club No. 8731, Tenacious Talkers, has earned “Distinguished Club” status for the year 2008-2009.

Each year, clubs participating in the “Distinguished Club Program” work to meet 10 goals set by Toastmasters International. The local club met five of these goals to earn “Distinguished Club” recognition.

Tenacious Talkers has consistently earned TI’s “Distinguished Club” status. During fiscal year 2007-2008, it earned “Select Distinguished Club” by meeting seven of the 10 goals.

The local club meets at 6:15 p.m. each Thursday at Sutter Lakeside Hospital. On first, second and fourth Thursdays, the club uses the hospital café.

Tenacious Talkers will use an alternative room at the hospital for its third-Thursday meetings.

For more information about Tenacious Talkers, call 263-5350 or visit For more information about Toastmasters International, visit

Cynthia Parkhill
Vice president of public relations

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Internet is no substitute for library

The online library catalog is the first place I look when a new book catches my eye. Lake County is fortunate to have a public library system that is tied to library systems in Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Our shared library system equates to thousands of books that are readily available.

This week, I moderated a debate between two of our local Toastmasters from club 8731, the Tenacious Talkers. The resolution that was put before them concerned legalization of marijuana -- but it could as easily have concerned the place of libraries in our Internet age. I put forth that idea a couple months ago when we were screening potential topics that could be subject to debate.

Specifically, I wanted our club's debaters to address whether or not the Internet has rendered libraries unneccessary. When I proposed the resolution, I had already formed an opinion that libraries remain vitally important -- even with the Internet.

To begin with, Internet resources are vast but are not automatically credible. As Danielle Maestretti points out in the July/August issue of Utne, "A Google search for 'nuclear energy' won't give you a well-rounded group of sources that are pro, con, and neutral -- it will return a Wikipedia page at #1; the slick, 'clean energy' home page of a nuclear industry lobbying firm at #2; and a cheesy-looking U.S. Department of Energy informational site for kids at #3. You have to get past three or four pages of results in order to get a taste of the surging debate that swirls around this topic" (

My co-worker Mandy Feder made a similar observation about an Internet search on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One of the higher-ranked sites was promoted as "a valuable resource for teachers and students alike." This site was actually created by a white supremacist group. A superficial, uncritical reading could accept the site's political rhetoric as documented historical "fact."

In order to make effective use of a resource as vast as the Internet, we need to develop the vital skill of critically analyzing sources -- and who better to guide us than public librarians -- reference and information professionals who have the responsibility for connecting people with the information they need.

Librarians put a lot of thought into acquisition and weeding of materials in public library collections. Shortly after I began to organize a lending library for the local Unitarian Universalist congregation, I began to research the policies at various public and school libraries. I now have a much greater appreciation for the meticulous care that goes into screening credible, timely resources that reflect the unique character of the community a library serves.

On the other side of the coin, I watched school libraries in the Konocti district be systematically weeded of materials that were out of date. The items to be weeded came before the school board for a vote, with a library professional providing a detailed explanation of why each item's removal was advised.

Some library policies state that members of the public react negatively to the "weeding" of books. That reaction would be understandable if it was an attempt at censorship that was imposed by an outside agency. Weeding, however, is something very different. It's part of a library collection's evolution as it keeps pace with the needs of the community.

Decommissioned books frequently continue to enrich the community. Some of my best finds at Friends of the Library book sales began as library books that were later marked with the "Discard" stamp. My very first adult chapter book, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, was a library discard that was given to me by Beth Volkman, the Calistoga Junior/Senior High School librarian.

The amount of care that a librarian devotes to maintenance of a collection can never be equaled by the Internet, where search rankings are bought and paid for. There is no equivalent of "weeding" for Internet search results, to ensure that the results you get for "Martin Luther King" are accurate historical resources.

Best of all when making the case for libraries, I don't have to abandon the Internet. Thanks to computer terminals and Wifi capability at our local libraries, our access to the Internet is, if anything, expanded. The same cannot be said of the Internet, where current books are only partially accessible. In order to read all of a book you've found via Google search, you will likely have to purchase a copy -- or place a library hold.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Toastmasters ‘Competent Leader’

Toastmasters club hosts a debate
Aug. 13, 2009: Toastmasters Club No. 8731,
Tenacious Talkers, hosts a debate.
I completed my “Competent Leadership” manual, applying moderation of last night’s debate to my remaining requirement. The resolution of the debate was that marijuana should be legal but regulated.

Jonathan Donihue and Jim Goetz had to research both positions as their actual debating positions were determined by the flip of a coin.

Everyone present got to serve as judge, awarding 1 to 4 points in a variety of proficiency categories. They also had 100 points to distribute for what I called the “Blarney” award.

Jim won by approximately 200 points. As he and Jonathan agreed last night, there is no real “con” position unless you selectively use quotes out of context. So blarney was all Jim had to work with and it was the “golden snitch” of our debate.

It doesn’t matter how many goals you make; the team whose seeker captures the golden snitch wins the Quidditch match.

Transcribed from a personal journal

Monday, August 10, 2009

UUA public relations: Journalist talks back

My congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for using Web 2.0 to promote its advice about utilizing public relations via the local media.

As both a media professional and a member of a local Unitarian Universalist community, I have a vested interest in the UUA's approach to working with traditional media. Unfortunately, the UUA's advice is not compatible with the needs of working journalists.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sasha the cat could be the Doctor’s companion

A long-haired tortoiseshell cat has a gray, green, yellow and burgundy scarf draped around her as she sits on a woman's lap.

A multi-colored scarf, suitable for Quidditch or for travels with the fourth doctor, is modeled by sweet little Sasha!

Originally posted to Facebook

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

‘Fiber yoga’: Crafting as meditation

“You need to stay present when you knit, even if you are just doing a garter stitch and don’t have to pay super-close attention. Touching the yarn and needles gives us a feeling of being connected to ourselves and our world. This kind of connection is what yoga is all about.”
— Cyndi Lee, knitter and director of OM Yoga
The latest issue of Yoga Journal (September 2007) has a good article about knitting, a.k.a. “the new yoga.” I have long thought that handicrafts like knitting and crochet had meditative validity and it is nice to have my belief corroborated. A particular book that might be interesting might be interesting to read is Knitting Sutra: Craft As a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydon.

In the words of Tara Jon Manning, author of Mindful Knitting and Compassionate Knitting, “Each [yoga and knitting, or in my case crochet and loom-work] allows the practitioner to leave thoughts and distractions behind and focus on a specific object or action.” To me, this meditative practice can be described as “fiber yoga.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Advice ‘for’ and not ‘about’ us

“Adam,” a romantic comedy, opens to limited release July 29 in the United States. Its tagline sums up the film as “A story about two strangers. One a little stranger than the other...”

Publicity compiled on the Internet Movie Database ( reveals that the male romantic lead, Adam (played by Hugh Dancy), has Asperger syndrome (AS), which is often characterized by difficulties deciphering social nuances and understanding and expressing one’s emotions. In the movie, Adam develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbor, Beth, who is played by Rose Byrne.

Dr. Jackie Marshack, a psychologist and marriage therapist based in Vancouver, Wash., is using the movie's upcoming release as an excuse to promote her new book, “Going Over the Edge?” (

Marshack reports that she has observed Asperger/neurotypical (NT) couples developing very strained relationships. “Worse yet, conflicts can escalate to damaging proportions involving divorce, domestic violence and depression.”

Another family therapist, Maxine Aston in the U.K., coined the term “Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder (CADD)” (, singling out Asperger syndrome as the causal factor in a relationship where a partner or spouse has unmet emotional needs. Cassandra, in mythology, was cursed with always stating the truth and never being believed.

As I understand CADD to be described, the neurotypical partner doesn't feel loved or understood by the partner who has AS and the AS individual may either be undiagnosed or may deny his or her diagnosis.

There are surely multiple situations about which a person can be in denial and leave a partner feeling isolated — alcohol or drug addiction, to cite just two examples — so I question why Asperger syndrome was singled out in this way.

I’m growing increasingly concerned about the potential for discrimination against people with AS based upon wholesale application of the ideas of Marshack and Aston. Their ideas seem solely to be based upon their work with their own clients and their personal relationships.

In May 2009, noted AS researcher Dr. Tony Attwood issued a statement on the Web site of Families of Adults Affected by Asperger's Syndrome (FAAAS, “I would like to state quite clearly that having a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s syndrome does not render a person automatically incapable of being a good partner and parent,” the statement reads in part.

From personal experience I am well aware of the constellation of behaviors that my AS diagnosis encompasses and I acknowledge that weaknesses are co-mingled with my strengths.

If we fall short in any area of life, then surely we could benefit from advice that is written for’ and not ‘about’ us: but the available literature is lacking in this area.

The search of an online book retailer with the term “Asperger relationships” gave me “Asperger Syndrome and Long-Term Relationships” by Ashley Stanford. The “Frequently Bought Together” section suggested “The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome: A guide to an Intimate Relationship with a Partner who has Asperger Syndrome” by Maxine C. Aston and “Alone Together: Making an Asperger Marriage Work” by Katrin Bentley.

All of these books are written by and for a neurotypical woman with an AS male partner. None of them mirror the dynamic of a same-sex relationship or a relationship in which the female partner is the one who has AS.

Even if a book speaks directly to a person who has AS, it frequently makes the assumption that the person with AS is a male. In doing so, it fails to encompass social expectations that women uniquely face.

Part of the problem is that females are under-diagnosed compared to males with AS (a ratio of 1 in 10) in contrast with what researchers believe is the actual rate of occurrence (closer to 4 in 10).

I hope that as women with AS achieve a higher profile, authors and publishers will tap this market and offer them assistance that speaks directly to their needs. You will have at least one reader who avidly awaits such a book.

Published July 28, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sasha: A cat so glad to be loved

In July 2009, we brought home a little cat who had been hanging out in our neighborhood. She was so skinny, her fur was so matted; it was clear she'd been on her own for some time but she is so glad to be loved!

Originally posted to Facebook

Saturday, July 18, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library brochure

An informational brochure about the UUCLC Lending Library debuted last Sunday at the welcome table inside the front entrance of the Kelseyville Senior Center. You can read about the lending library as well as other informational brochures about our congregation and the UUA. The UUCLC Lending Library can be found in the senior center annex.

Distributed via email newsletter

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tenacious Talkers installs 2009-2010 officers

2009-2010 officers, Tenacious Talkers toastmasters club in Lakeport, Calif.

LAKEPORT — Toastmasters club No. 8731, the Tenacious Talkers, installed its officers for the new fiscal year during a potluck celebration held Sunday.

Jeff Shute will serve as club president for 2009-2010. Greg Scott is vice president of education, Cynthia Parkhill is vice president of public relations, Jonathan Donihue is vice president of membership, Louis Rigod is treasurer, Tom Kalk is sergeant at arms and Marion Smith is secretary.

The club also honored Cynthia Parkhill as its Toastmaster of the Year. She is serving her second term as its vice president of PR.

Tenacious Talkers is part of Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization that provides its members with training in public speaking and leadership. The local club meets at 6:15 p.m. each Thursday at Sutton Associates Wealth Management, 290 N. Main St. in Lakeport.

For more information, call 707-263-5350 or visit http://tenacioustalkers.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

UUCLC Lending Library serves first customer

The UUCLC Lending Library recently served its first customer. OK; so I checked a book out to myself, it was so inviting to see the books that members of our congregation have donated. You can read about a couple of those books in the discussion forums on the UUCLC’s Ning site. June and July books of the month have been posted there. A new title will be featured each month.

Hand-crocheted Hogwarts cardigan

My Hogwarts school cardigan is crocheted in Lion Brand "Wool-Ease" worsted-weight yarn. No. 152: Oxford Grey, No. 138: Cranberry and No. 171: Gold. To it, I added a Hogwarts crest and pewter buttons.

The pattern comes from Crochet with Style by Melissa Leapman; however, I adopted her pattern for an oversized nubby cardigan to create it in the colors of House Gryffindor.

Originally posted to Facebook

Fingerless gloves in colors of House Gryffindor

This is the Lion Brand pattern for fingerless gloves, created with Wool-Ease yarn left over from my Hogwarts school cardigan.

Like the cardigan, the gloves were created in the colors of House Gryffindor (No. 152: Oxford Grey, No. 138: Cranberry and No. 171: Gold), perfect for keeping hands warm when mastering the use of one’s wand.

Originally posted to Facebook

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

‘Alternative’ festival needs to practice what it promotes

The rutted dirt driveway seemed to go on forever and we shifted uncomfortably on our hay-bale seats as a man on a tractor pulled the makeshift shuttle up the road. Uncomfortably jostled by ruts in the roadway, I was relieved to disembark at journey's end.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How do you ‘Stand on the Side of Love’?

A potluck gathering assembled Wednesday, June 24, to observe the opening plenary session of the Unitarian Universalist (UU) General Assembly, taking place hundreds of miles away in Salt Lake City, Utah. Enthusiastic cheers responded to the announcement of a new public advocacy campaign that urges everyone, not just UUs, to "Stand on the Side of Love" and promote everyone's worth and dignity. Learn about this fledgling campaign at

Marriage equality is among the new campaign's most immediately visible platforms. Subsequent posts via Twitter and Facebook have also promoted advocacy for "family-friendly" immigration policies.

One of the side effects, however, of being in a "lay-led" congregation is that it's easy to buy into the notion that I, in fact, am in charge instead of some higher authority. While I take interest in the platforms that are being formed nationally, I have my own personal ideas about "Standing on the Side of Love."

The most insistent concern for me is to have zero tolerance for bullying and social exclusion in our schools. In order to achieve this objective, everyone must buy in, especially the teachers and the other school employees who will be the "first responders." They would be responsible, in my ideal campaign, for creating a "caring majority" among the 85 percent of children who are neither bullies nor victims.

This is the premise of a book loaned to me by Pomo Elementary School principal April Leiferman: "Bully-proofing Your School: A Comprehensive Approach for Elementary Schools" (Sopris West, 2000). Written by Carla Garrity, Ph.D; Kathryn Jens, Ph.D; William Porter, Ph.D; Nancy Sager, M.A.; and Cam Short-Camilli, L.C.S.W., the purpose of this book is to prevent the school environment in which bullying is permitted to flourish.

Students at Pomo sign a pledge agreeing to "stamp out bullying." The pledge holds onlookers just as guilty if they fail to report or stop the abuse.

Don't believe that a school can shape a bullying environment? Think of a physical education curriculum of exclusively competitive activities in which the most popular children are allowed to choose sides for the teams. The person who is always chosen last is put painfully on display. Or school assemblies in which those same popular students are allowed to single out classmates in front of the entire school -- supposedly in the name of fun.

To this day, I don't want to be a member of various civic clubs that raise funds by publicly fining their members. It feels, to me, too uncomfortably like those high school assemblies. Please don't think I am in any way disparaging these international clubs that do so much good for so many.

Most commonly, bullying will flourish when teachers and administrators decide that "kids will be kids" and leave the children to work it out for themselves.

It is inexcusable to me, however, that a victim should also have to take the lead in advocacy for the right to be treated with respect.

Do you think I unfairly hold teachers responsible for the climate in schools? In my opinion, it's part of the job that you signed up to do. It is your trust and responsibility to promote a climate of equality.

And think about much of the prejudices based upon our perceived differences. Chances are, adults learned these attitudes when they were still in school. Where better to quench these tendencies?

"Standing on the Side of Love" would do well, in my opinion, to include anti-bullying among its platforms.

I realize, however, that many other people make up my local congregation. Expand that number to include everybody else that this campaign wants to mobilize and there are probably just as many personalized opinions. I encourage you to get involved and contact the movement directly. In addition to considering the platforms that it already promotes, be willing to advocate for how you "Stand on the Side of Love."

Monday, June 22, 2009

‘Hattitude’: The one that people hate

Cynthia Parkhill wearing black hat with the brim folded up in front and a large pink and white flower attached to it.
For some reason a few people really HATE this hat! A couple of people have come up to me and abruptly volunteered that they don't like the hat; others have posted disparaging comments about the hat in an online forum. But I like the hat. It works perfectly with many different types of things.

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

Sunday, June 21, 2009

U.S. policies should honor our troops

In the Moving Wall hospitality tent on Friday afternoon, volunteers responded to a steady volume of requests to look up the names of loved ones to find their position on the wall. Looking ahead to the weekend, they expected much more visitors to arrive from all over California.

Flowers and mementos decorated the foundation that held the panels of the moving wall. Tents were set up to assist with grief counseling and to put veterans in touch with Veterans' Administration services. Statues by Rolf Kriken provided focal points to meditate upon the war and the soldiers who fought in it.

The Moving Wall justifiably occupied a priority in Lake County's consciousness, from its opening ceremony on Thursday morning, June 11, until its closing Monday, June 15. During that interval, the wall was accessible 24 hours a day, with volunteers working in shifts.

I was gratified to see our community respond with so much generosity to assist our local chapter, No. 941, of the Vietnam Veterans of America. This was the Moving Wall's only stop in Northern California during its tour in 2009 and the VVA deserves to feel proud of its members' accomplishments in bringing the Moving Wall here.

The VVA's intent was to give Lake County an opportunity to honor and respect the soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam, as well as to contribute healing toward lingering scars.

To see our nation's soldiers respected is a personal concern for me; my father was a staff sergeant in Vietnam. I also have two brothers in the U.S. Air Force, one active-duty and one reserve.

Some stories I read in recent years gave me reason for concern, however, that our policies may fall short when it comes to how we care for our living veterans.

In "Surviving on Military Pay," published in Today in the Military" (, retired Navy chaplain Gene Gomulka calculated a balance of $49 left over from a military family's base pay, housing allowance and other income after expenses were factored in.

In a follow-up article, "Food stamps are not the answer," Gomulka elaborates on military pay structures, suggesting that pay determination for grades E-1 to E-4 is based upon the belief that these personnel are all single and that the pay they receive is adequate to meet the needs of a single life.

"Programmed pay increases for E-5 and above were not simply based upon their greater knowledge, experience and longevity, but also on the fact that most E-5s and above had spouses and children to support."

The testimonies of military respondents cited in that follow-up article make clear that the situation is different today. Many junior-grade military personnel have families to support and even families at E-5 report living from paycheck to paycheck.

An article in Mother Jones, "The Few, the Proud, the Indebted," May/June 2004, cited payday lenders' figures that 2 percent of their customers are active-duty military but that the figure is nearly four times the percentage of active-duty military in the total population.

Put another way, if active-duty military made up as much as 5 percent of our total population (the actual figure is quoted at less than 1 percent for most of U.S. history), they would make up 20 percent of payday lenders' customers.

"Soldiers and sailors, often struggling to make ends meet, go in for a quick short-term loan, unaware of exorbitant interest rates — typically 390 percent annually — that can lead into a cycle of debt," author Paul Fain states in his article.

The solution to this could be state or U.S. laws that cap interest rates -- not just for payday lenders but credit card companies as well.

The other area in which I believe we are failing the members of our U.S. Armed Forces, is that the funding that Congress gives to the VA is not nearly enough, particularly when it comes to funding the treatment of mental disorders.

An article by Christoper Getzan in the New Standard (, "VA Funding Fails to Meet Increased Demand for Services, Groups Say," cited a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) report dated July 2004 that showed an increased risk of mental health disorders among Middle East veterans. It reported that between 11 and 17 percent of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan exhibited symptoms of mental illness -- such as generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol misuse.

Adam Weinstein, writing in Mother Jones, September/October 2008, puts the figure at 20 percent of active-duty soldiers and 42 percent of reservists returning from Iraq with psychological problems ("The Pentagon's PTSD Denial").

Getzan further reported the study's findings that among those with symptoms, only 23 to 40 percent request mental health care, due to perceived barriers such as fear of stigmatization. He reports that the NEJM recommends that increases in confidentiality and access to mental health services become a top priority in future planning for the VA.

If there is good news in our nation's attitude toward its veterans, I believe it is an issue that transcends political boundaries. Whether you are conservative or liberal, I think most people can agree that we need to support our troops. Our U.S. policies need to reflect public statements of that support.

Published June 16, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee and June 17, 2009 in the Clear Lake Observer American

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lending library getting organized

I made excellent progress on the UUCLC Lending Library this morning, while the board of directors held its monthly meeting. I filled out binder sheets for more of the books and put borrowers' card envelopes in each of them. The library is getting organized.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Custom avatar: ‘Oops, Wrong Planet’

Here’s a custom avatar wearing a pale blue spaghetti-strap cami with the “Oops, Wrong Planet” Asperger Syndrome awareness logo by Autist Art (on a garment purchased through Cafe Press).

I downloaded the original, wearing a white cami top, from Yahoo! Avatars. I used Adobe Illustrator to superimpose the logo onto her cami top. I also changed the cami’s color from white to pale blue.

Monday, June 1, 2009

‘Hattitude’: Piecework hat from favorite fabrics

Cynthia Parkhill in brimless hat, visible from the top. The crown consists of pale blue circular brocade medalion on green velvet. The sides of hat are royal blue floral brocade with an edging of red and orange sunflower-printed cotton.

The best hats are the ones that I make myself. Here is a piecework cap assembled out of blue and green brocade and velvet fabrics, reversible to lining of red and orange sunflower-printed cotton.

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

Miss Elizabeth my sewing helper

Cat burrows her head into a sheet of sewing directions, next to a length of sunflower fabric that is spread out on the ground with pattern pieces pinned to it.

Elizabeth likes to involve herself in her human's sewing projects. She would consider it "helping."

Originally posted to Facebook

‘Hattitude’: Sunflower hat

Cyntbia Parkhill wearing brimmed hat made out of sunflower-on-white fabric. Her sleeveless dress is of sunflower-on-green-check fabric.

The sunflower hat is hand-made out of fabric featuring my favorite flower. The sunflower's face constantly turns toward the sun. Jonathan is much the same way in his ongoing quest for truth.

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

Thursday, May 28, 2009

‘Hattitude’: Black cap with decorative pins

Cynthia Parkhill wearing black hat decorated with button displaying two sour-faced critics who ask, “But is it art?”, Toastmasters International lapel pin and a cloissone Autism Awareness pin

One of my co-workers gave me this hat, which is great for wearing decorative pins. In this picture, it features a button displaying two sour-faced critics who ask, “But is it art?”, my Toastmasters International lapel pin and a cloissone Autism Awareness pin.

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Braid donated to Locks of Love

Cynthia Parkhill holding cut-off braid, 2009

On May 23, 2009, I had my braid of more than 10 years cut off to donate to Locks of Love. Kerry G. at A Beautiful You in Middletown did the shearing. Locks of Love makes hairpieces for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy. For more information, visit

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dealing with media requires its own fluency

Since July 2008, I’ve been in charge of publicity for the Tenacious Talkers, local club 8731 of Toastmasters International. I’ve submitted several press releases about our club’s activities.

Friday, May 8, 2009

‘Hattitude’: Reversible paisley-and-striped hat

Cynthia Parkhill wearing a brimless burgundy-and-gold paisley fleece cap while holding Gizmo, a white kitten with an asymmetrical black-tabby splotch between his ears. The cap is rolled up to display the brim, in burgundy, gold and green-striped fleece fabric.

I made this hat out of fleecy fabric. The shell is paisley and the lining is stripes. But it’s reversible so I could wear it the other way if I wanted to. As a bonus, I’m holding a kitten!

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

‘Hattitude’: The ‘Guinan’ hat

Cynthia Parkhill wearing a brimless, burgundy-colored hat that is shaped to flare upward. It has a decorative border of pale-purple sequins around the bottom edge of the hat.

This hat is reminiscent of the character of “Guinan,” whose lifespan encompasses the Enterprise’s tenure with both Kirk and Picard at the helm.

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

‘Hattitude’: Hand-made Tudor flat cap

Cynthia Parkhill wearing a Tudor flat-cap. The crown is pieced together from brown and green diamond-shaped pieces of fabric. The brim is brown brocade on the outside and lined with dark green. A pheasant feather is pinned to the hat on the wearer's right and drapes to the back.

The best hats are the ones that I make myself. Here is a Tudor flat cap, pieced together out of favorite fabrics in shades of green and brown.

Originally posted to “Hattitude” photo album on Facebook

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Childhood traumas can shape adult experiences

As details become available about the Moving Wall veterans' memorial, the more appreciative I am that our local Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has organized its appearance here in June.

The latest word is that there's going to be a tent with counselors who specialize in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This could be hugely beneficial -- not just for our veterans, but also for civilians who are in recovery from prolonged stress such as domestic violence or child abuse.

Dean Gotham, our local VVA president, recently talked about PTSD on Steve and Catherine Elias's radio show. Gotham said that Vietnam veterans served their country twice: first of all because they saw combat in the Vietnam War and, later, when they returned to the states, they were the first to speak openly and the first to seek assistance for war's psychological impacts.

Nearly everything that psychologists now know about PTSD has been due to Vietnam veterans.

Clincians and researchers have additionally distinguished between short-term and "chronic" traumas that continue or repeat for months or years. To distinguish the effects of the latter, psychologists apply the term "Complex PTSD."

Survivors can endure various difficulties in connection with long-term trauma, such as the abuse of drugs or alcohol to numb their feelings and thoughts. For information, see the National Center for PTSD,

The Lake County Child Care Planning Council recently drew attention to an Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionaire that seeks to document links between the impact of childhood experiences (prior to age 18) with the difficulties that adults encounter in taking proper care of themselves.

"An ACE score of 4 dramatically increases likelihood of smoking, depression, attempted suicide, hepatitis or sexually transmitted diseases," according to Shelly Mascari with the child care planning council. Lake County professionals are encouraging local responses to the anonymous questionaire, which can be accessed from a link at

The survey was adopted by doctors Vincent J. Felitti and Robert F. Anda at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. The doctors were conducting a weight-loss program for several women whose weight was life-threatening. Several women who had made excellent progress began to put the weight back on; when questioned by the doctors, many of them said they felt safer at a heavier weight. The doctors discovered that nearly all the women had suffered from child abuse.

Out of interest, I took the survey, which posed a series of questions about situations of abuse or neglect in the respondent's household.

My reactions to the survey were mixed. I was supportive of its premise that adverse childhood experiences can have devastating consequences. I was concerned, however, that the survey dealt exclusively with at-home situations that involved a parent or other adult. There was no mention of a child being bullied by his or her schoolmates -- even though the time spent at school equates to a full-time job.

That's not a criticism of local professionals, who had no control over composition of the survey. If anything, I support their intention to document local needs. I hope, however, that the doctors at Kaiser will expand their initial research because nearly every situation that the survey asks about in the setting of a respondent's home could be applicable toward bullying at school.

Please consider taking the survey if you have not already done so. Each "Yes" answer given in the survey identifies an area of potential concern and gives our local professionals that much more information about how to meet local needs.

The survey encourages respondents to follow up with a trusted physician, minister or counselor or to connect with a family support program through the Lake Family Resource Center, (888) 485-7733.

Published May 4, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Monday, May 4, 2009

Repeat broadcast of Temple Grandin interview

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What have we learned from Susan Boyle?

One of my co-workers pulled up a video on YouTube last week, of a woman named Susan Boyle, at She wins over her audience singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables.

Talk about a hostile audience! The lead judge is condescending. The stagehands snigger and mock her gestures. Some female members of the audience curl their expressions in scorn.

Because my co-workers were familiar with the story and were explaining the circumstances, I don't know how I would have reacted if I’d been a viewer of the original broadcast. Would I have prejudged Boyle too, solely on the basis of her looks and her way of conducting herself?

Not since a Sebastopol bellydancing expo had I seen rude behavior that was so willfully and blatantly public. A dancer was giving a solo performance and some members of her troop had postured themselves behind her and were making fun of her gestures, nudging each other and goading each other on. Was this supposed to be part of the performance? It seemed very mean spirited and served as a pointless distraction from the solo dancer’s routine.

I didn't understand the other dancers’ rudeness then, and I was dumbfounded by the rudeness that confronted Susan Boyle when she came out on stage in “Britain’s Got Talent.” Seemingly everyone had decided that Boyle could not sing. They were expecting her to bomb! Except maybe the female judge, whose facial expression was blank.

Once Boyle began to sing, however, the scornfulness melted away. One of the members of my congregation, the local Unitarian Universalist community, said that hearing Boyle sing was an incredible blessing. And it was! Boyle has a beautiful voice and her choice of song complimented her ability.

Everybody who doubted her was shown up by her performance as a complete and utter jackass! It was a gripping and triumphant drama.

Boyle’s performance received widespread publicity. A YouTube video of her performance has been viewed millions of times. The Daily Record newspaper posted a recording of Boyle singing “Cry Me a River” circa 1999 that was also reposted on YouTube.

And the commentary! Numerous columns and blogs dissecting the implications of her triumph.

For those of us who could relate to her disclosure that she had learning disabilities and that she’d been bullied at school, her success was especially meaningful. Any of us could be a Susan Boyle, only seeking an opportunity to have someone be willing to look beyond pre-decided inability and let our talent speak for itself.

Even now, several people are saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

I wonder, however, why we need to be reminded of this axiom again and again. How long will it be before a Susan Boyle’s performance will face no prejudgement at all, and the only response it elicits from listeners will be simple admiration for its excellence?

I think it would be worthwhile if each of us took stock of where our personal prejudices lie and then ask ourselves if, like the television judges, we might ever have been wrong by making those preassumptions.

Published April 28, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Monday, April 27, 2009

I could write about bullying every week

I got a nice comment by a local teacher, Justin Braider, at church service yesterday. He encouraged me to continue speaking out against bullying because as a teacher, he knows it happens. I thanked him for the encouragement, saying that I could easily write about bullying every week and the only reason I don't is that I don't want people to get sick of the subject and tune me out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Temple Grandin on Lake County radio KPFZ 88.1 FM

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

School play promotes discussion of uncomfortable reality

A dramatic performance of “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead” by the Calistoga Junior/Senior High School drama department offers much-needed encouragement to talk about violence and bullying in our schools.

As a consequence of speaking out publicly as having been bullied in school, I've observed an uncomfortable phenomenon: people frequently do not want to believe that bullying or abuse took place and will respond to the victim with a viciousness that rivals the original abuse.

It’s bad enough that the victims of bullying face the day-to-day reality of abuse. Even when a victim is not provoked to wreak violence upon his or her peers, the consequences can still be devastating.

Bullying is a documented factor in many young people’s suicides and has also been identified as a contributor to Complex PTSD (that’s post traumatic stress disorder caused by cumulative traumatic events rather than a short-lived trauma).

But when you examine the clinical description of Complex PTSD, there is also an identified tendency to blame the victim for repeated abuse, to dismiss that person as being of “weak character” (National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder).

Imagine how an attitude like this could compound the victim’s suffering by holding him or her responsible for having failed to prevent the abuse!

But it’s not so easy to dismiss the reality that children are bullied and abused when you are confronted with a performance such as “Bang, Bang, You’re Dead” on stage right in front of you.

I attended the final performance on Saturday, April 4, in the CHS Black Box Theater. In it, five dead students forced their classmate to explain why he killed them with a shotgun.

The playbill included a list of Web sites that have resources to deal with bullying as well as a check list for depression and suicide that offered local contacts.

Cast members also assembled on stage and read statistics about violence and bullying before inviting comments from the audience. Representatives with the Calistoga Family Center, a student assistance agency, encouraged community referrals.

So much had changed in almost 25 years since I'd graduated from CHS. Talking afterward with the Calistoga Family Center representatives, I allowed myself cautious optimism that today's students at CHS will have resources made available to cope with bullying and violence.

In an article in the Weekly Calistogan, CHS drama teacher Tyrone Sorrentino cited one of the statistics that was recited at the end of the performance: that school violence has increased 82 percent in the last five years. Both teacher and students were ready to take on a serious subject like bullying.

I think this performance is a perfect example of the power of art and drama -- to transcend our disbelief and to facilitate dialogue.

Published April 7, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Calistoga schools finally discuss bullying

I would like to thank the Calistoga Junior/Senior High School drama class for being willing to address the controversial issue of school bullying. I am a 1986 graduate who was subjected to bullying and ostracism throughout nearly all of my K-12 career in the Calistoga schools.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

California finally moving ahead with EPR

State legislation, if enacted, will finally hold product manufacturers accountable for wasteful, unnecessary packaging.

It has been an ongoing source of frustration to me that manufacturers can package their products as excessively as they want. Consumers can exert what pressure we can by making our purchases accordingly — but only to the extent that these choices are available through the selection at local stores.

I was writing back in 2002 about “Extended Producer Responsibility,” which holds corporations directly responsible for their products’ environmental impact (“The Big Stick Approach” by Joel Bleifus, In These Times, April 17, 2000, EPR policies have been in place for years in Canadian provinces and the European Union.

The U.S. approach, in contrast, has been to hold manufacturers, retailers, consumers and waste management agencies “equally responsible” for products’ environmental impact (“What is Product Stewardship?” by the Environmental Protection Agency, The result, however, is that by purchasing a product, consumers become responsible for disposal of its packaging. Local governments face costly penalties if they fail to divert enough materials from California landfills.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board recently cited the City of Clearlake for failing to comply with a state-required 50-percent diversion rate for materials that are going to the landfill. The city could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day. See for information.

Watching our local governments — the two municipalities and the County of Lake — struggle to meet diversion mandates, it seemed a no-brainer to me that responsibility for disposal of packaging should be shifted to the producers that created it in the first place.

Thankfully, somebody else has been acting on this principle.

After being termed out of the California Senate, State Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro served in an appointed position on the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), which voted in January 2008 to support an EPR Framework. Now in the elected office of California Assemblymember, Chesbro has introduced Assembly Bill 283, which uses these framework principles.

While products that are to be covered are yet to be determined, effective July 1, 2012, those products shall not be offered for sale or used for promotional purposes in California unless the its producer or a product stewardship organization of the covered product submits a product stewardship plan to the CIWMB.

AB 283 has the support of the California Product Stewardship Council, which is made up of local governments and other partners ( Supporters believe that this framework legislation will streamline the process to include other products over time.

While waste diversion remains a valid goal, it is clearly not enough. CalPSC points out that even with new recycling programs, California still generates 40 millions tons of waste annually.

To follow AB 283 on its way through the California Legislature, visit

You may also want to consider legislation identified as top priorities by Californians Against Waste (

  • AB 479 (Chesbro) — Would set a statewide diversion goal of 75 percent and a local diversion goal of 60 percent. It would also require commercial recycling and increase the landfill tip fee to help fund local recycling programs.
  • Senate Bill 25 (Padilla) — Requires the California Integrated Waste Management Board to adopt policies, programs and incentives to increase statewide waste diversion to 75 percent.
  • AB 1358 (Hill) — Bans the use of expanded polystyrene food packaging and other non-recyclable plastic food packaging.
  • AB 68 (Brownley) and AB 87 (Davis) — Requires that consumers pay a 25-cent fee for single-use bags distributed at large grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.

Published March 31, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee