Model Behavior

I don’t have a television, so I don’t see a lot of commercials. Still, I find NBA games on the internet and catch a few ads in the process. There’s one for a fried chicken franchise that particularly bothers me. Here’s the set-up: two teenaged kids have made a rare venture out of their rooms to join their parents for dinner. They are still plugged into their media devices and never speak or make eye contact with the camera or their parents. The African-American family sits in the living room with a bucket of chicken on the coffee table. Mom & Dad tell the camera that the chicken is the occasion for them to have this special “family” experience. Dad jokes that if the batteries run down, they might actually have a conversation.

 Sigh. Is this an accurate snapshot of our current culture? Rewind about 100 years.

 I’m reading a book called Nothing To Do But Stay: My Pioneer Mother by Carrie Young. The author describes her life in North Dakota during the Great Depression. Her mother had acquired land as a homesteader, married and raised 6 kids on the farm. Her sisters struggled to become educated and get jobs as school teachers in local one-room schoolhouses. One particularly brutal winter, their parents found it more sensible to drop off the 18-year-old daughter, the teacher, with the two younger sisters at school and let them stay there during the week instead of transporting them back and forth through the snow drifts by horse-drawn wagon. The week turned into months. Fresh supplies were delivered every week, but these 3 young ladies spent that winter relying on their own resourcefulness for their daily life — with no electricity, simply a coal-burning furnace in the basement and a woodstove with one burner in the classroom. How is that possible? I’m sure that life was one that their parents had modeled for years.

 Compare these two snapshots and imagine the changes that have swept through our country. What has “adult living” become? What do we model for our children these days? What skills are being delegated to machines or service companies or ‘experts’ that used to be more universal and personal? Besides modeling tasking skills, how do we model social and moral skills in this decade?

 When more families were farming, children grew up alongside their parents and were incorporated into communal activities. They helped milk the cows, tend the garden, and make the food and clothing they all needed to live. In the 50s, when more families lived in cities and suburbs, Dad would drive off in the morning and work out of sight of his kids all day while Mom would turn on appliances to do the chores around home. The kids learned consumerism. Then the Moms left the house and went into the workforce leaving the kids in daycare. In 1992, someone came up with “Take Your Daughters To Work Day”. That was expanded to include boys a decade later. What was first perceived as a Feminist issue of role modeling was recognized as a parenting void: children had no clue how adults spent their work days.

 Musing about these changes made me consider what my own children had learned from my husband and me. My daughter made a calligraphy sign when she was in High School: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.” (Clarence B. Kelland) She was 23 when her father died. What we intended to model and what she actually learned are most likely two different things. One thing I do know. She did learn to cook her own chicken.

joy 2

© 2014, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

This week’s prompt for the photo challenge is “Culture”: a broad topic, an umbrella under which humanity sits.  I tend to spend more time with the artifacts of a culture than with big groups of people.  Steve & I sell used books and estate sales items and see a lot of different artifacts of this last century.  We work at a living history museum and handle artifacts from the 19th century.  And we find artifacts from this century around the neighborhood.  So, I thought I’d share a mosaic of shots I’ve taken showing some American artifacts of different centuries.  I hope you have fun trying to identify them!

Mensch sighting!

In my post a few days ago, (Oh!  The Humanity!) I sent out a plea for examples of admirable human beings as an antidote to the kind of internet sensations who fail to inspire and instead make me nauseated.   You know what I’m talking about, right?  The rampant  dumbing-down of our species, “urgent” stories of greed and fear and violence and stupidity and pettiness and the like are probably a dangerous toxin to our culture.  Where are the role models who will help us do better and why aren’t we using our advanced media to promote them more often?  For every “Who Wore It Better?”, we could be viewing 5 “Who Lived It Better?” stories.  Why not?

I have enjoyed a morning at work in the kitchen and with the book business while listening to the music of my Mensch of the Day.  This is an artist who has inspired me since my pre-adolescent days, and I’ve only just discovered this live recording from 2 years before his death.  He is the recipient of the 1993 Albert Schweitzer Music Award and the only non-classical musician to be so distinguished.  His humanitarian efforts supported the National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, The Cousteau Society, and the Windstar Foundation.  The CD I have was a concert for The Wildlife Conservation Society’s 100th anniversary.  Ladies and gentleman…….John Denver: a singer and songwriter whose lyrics ring with authenticity and passion, whose music spans genres from country to pop to blues to rock, and whose commitment to peace and preservation permeated his career.  As a cultural ambassador for the U. S., he visited China, Viet Nam and the Soviet Union and recorded a duet with a Soviet artist, becoming the first American to do so.  In my mind, he follows in the footsteps of another hero of mine, Pete Seeger, who, at 93, is still active in the same kind of musical ambassadorship that promotes cultural tolerance and environmental responsibility.  I did have the privilege of hearing him give a concert for children when I was in my single digits. 

Who will carry the torch when he passes away?

To read more about the Schweitzer Award, see  For more about John Denver’s career, see  For a good listen, go to “You Say the Battle Is Over”.


Friday Night

What do you think about on the drive home?  (What can I make for dinner out of what’s left in the ‘fridge?)  How do you get comfortable?  (I take off my corset as soon as possible!)  Do you eat first or relax first?  (I eat and have a glass of wine.  Then I put my feet up.)  How long can you go before you fall asleep? (Not very long.  I often nod off by 8pm, and then I have to wake up to brush my teeth and REALLY go to bed at 10pm.)  Man!  Do I sound OLD!?! 

I have to be at work again by 8am tomorrow for an All Staff Meeting.  It’s gonna take me 45 min. to get there, too.  No boogieing for me tonight!  

My prayers to the Universe tonight include appreciation for the cooler weather today (a fleeting phenomenon…in the 90s again tomorrow) and a deep grief over the violence in our culture, a hope that kindness and respect for all life will prevail some day.


How Old is Old?

I am trying to wrap my brain around history.  As an interpreter at Old World Wisconsin, I talk about St. Peter’s Church, the first Catholic chapel & cathedral in Milwaukee, which was built in 1839.  The liquid glass in the windows is rippled with age.  Kids who come by can’t believe that the pump organ isn’t hooked up to speakers and that the stops don’t produce drum patterns or other synthetic sound loops when I pull the knobs.  My blog friend, Stuart, is posting amazing photos of Gloucester Cathedral (you must pay a visit…click here to see his shots) built in 1350 or so.  Stone masonry and stained glass and soaring vaults predating the little immigrant church by 500 years – shows you that history isn’t about straight-line ‘progress’, it’s a complicated story with twists and turns and explosions and annihilation thrown in.   Then compare this photo of Mesa Verde in Colorado, a cliff dwelling inhabited somewhere between 600 and 1300 AD, most likely closer to 1200 AD. 

What we do with the raw materials at hand, the technology available and our cultural values is totally up to us.  So much is possible.  So much has always been possible.  What are we doing today?  How will our imprint appear in 500 years?   It’s a lot to think about.

Cultural Awareness

I am about to venture out into the retail world in search of shoes that might pass as reminiscent of the 1870s.  Having come up empty yesterday at two Goodwill shops, I’m not sure if I will be successful.  It’s interesting taking stock of what’s out there in the resale stores.  This is the stuff that people give away…and other people buy.  It’s not marketed; it’s not about status or brand.  It’s about filling a need with something serviceable.  I would do all my shopping at a resale place if I could.  That’s probably why my kids call me “cheap”.  I don’t get the whole “status and style” idea.  I just want to get the job done.  I’m not trying to fit into a competitive culture of consumerism.  My “work outfit” for my new job will be a reproduction of 19th century pioneer clothing.  My “work outfit” for my last job was jeans and a T-shirt with the latest musical production logo on it.  I guess I have a different idea of dressing for success. 

One of Steve’s favorite fables is The Emperor’s New Clothes.  He often sees himself as the little boy at the side of the parade who looks on in bafflement at what everyone else is celebrating and asks, “Why are we doing this?”  He sometimes talks about it as being the one who points out the elephant in the room, that glaring awkwardness that no one wants to mention.  He’s not judgmental about it, he just wants to discuss it, bring it out into the open, make everyone aware of it.  He’s not cynical or sarcastic, he’s genuinely curious.  We don’t have a TV, but we do watch basketball games online that often include commercials.  Those ads bring up a lot of questions.  Why do we sell what we sell the way that we do?  Why is sex and violence so prevalent?  And stereotypes?  Why do we think having a good time is so important?  What do we really think is important?  And why?  Why?  What is the Big Idea?  Everything comes down to that level, that three year old inside who stands watching and asks, “Why?” 

It’s a really good question, I think, and one that I have been trained not to ask.  “Theirs not to reason why/ theirs but to do and die.” The military motto, President Bush’s command to go out and spend money rather than debate economic policy, my father’s and the Church’s instructions on being obedient…there are so many examples of hushing up that 3-year-old.  I admit that there are times when it’s useful to forgo the philosophical and act decisively and immediately, but shouldn’t we return to the subject eventually and periodically to keep our motivation clear?  There are members of society who are watchdogs to our conscience, in a way, and I very much respect them for their courage and thank them for the questions that I forget to ask.  I am more characteristically concerned with “How?”  I want to do things lovingly, primarily; efficiently, much of the time; and as correctly as possible.   That may say a lot about how effective my indoctrination into Judeo-Christian thought was.  

Intentionally asking both questions and fashioning a life around the answers we find deep in our experience is the focus of our Saturday Summit (what we call our “relationship discussions”).    The poetry prompt I found today on NaPoWriMo’s site challenged me to write a hay(na)ku, which is a recent poetic invention.  It’s simply 6 words in three lines of ascending (or descending) measure.   One word, two words, three words (any number of syllables) or vice versa.  We can link several together as well, we’re told.  So, here is my hay(na)ku series and a few photos. 


Keeps asking,

What is important?”


How –

Am I

A good person?”



Are for

Shaping my character.

How now, brown cow?

Why?  Just…why?