What Would You Do?


There’s a show on broadcast television called, “What Would You Do?”  Immediately after one of our favorite shows, it came on.   We just started watching it, so horizontal and lazy were we that changing channels seemed too huge an endeavor.   It works like this:  actors portray a brief scenario in public while being filmed.   Whatever it is, you are compelled to ask yourself:  What would you do in this situation?  An online stalker propositioning a young victim, an racist mother talking her daughter out of buying a brown-skinned doll, a couple arguing loudly about whether they should divorce.  Then-you guessed it-we see what happens.   A person will step in at some point and try to help, or to confront, the actors.  Then our host comes from behind the shadows and surprises everyone!  And interviews him/her!  And makes everyone feel good!  It’s overproduced and inauthentic but has sparked some great conversations with my kids.

There are a couple things which have always bothered me about this concept.  First of all, it feels like you are tricking the people into reacting.  After all, it’s not really happening, it’s actors.  I always appreciate the ones who step in and try to help, I’m not sure I always would under the circumstances, but still…It’s. Not. Real.  The other thing that bothers me is that my kids are just sitting and watching.  It’s reality television after all, everyone is always waiting for the train wreck to happen.  It’s not active, it’s passive, even if they are yelling at the television.

As I read “The Whole Brain Child” by Dr. Dan Siegel last week, I was thinking about the show.  He talks a lot about the “upstairs brain,”  which is the thinking and reasoning part of your brain.  And then there is the “downstairs brain” which is ruled by emotions and reactivity.  You know when your child has a tantrum (yes this happens even when they are teenagers) and it’s impossible to talk to them?  That’s when the downstairs brain is at work.  When you wait until they are calm to have a discussion, that’s when the upstairs brain is operating.  Newsflash frazzled parents! You are also calmer once the tantrum is over.  Dr. Siegel mentions using “what would you do” questions to develop your child’s ability to problem solve!  Imagine how brilliant I am that I was thinking the same thing as him!

So I sat down, thought about the ages of my kids, and wrote a bunch of questions on index cards.  They range from “what would you do if you saw your friend cheating on a test?” to “what would you do if you saw your friend’s boyfriend kissing another girl?”  and everything in between.  It’s actually kind of fun thinking of these questions.  Sometimes I throw them out during a long car ride, sometimes at dinner.  But someone always says something I wasn’t expecting.  It’s not really an opportunity to correct them but more connect to them.  It’s cool to know what they are thinking, even if I don’t agree with them.

We all have times in life that we have to make a choice.  For me, that comes down to asking myself what kind of person I want to be.  For my kids, I hope that I can guide them into asking those kinds of questions of themselves.  After all, I won’t always be there.  You take them to practice to help them be better at sports, why not practice being a better thinker?

What would you do?


photo at top of post by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com


The Ring Stolen From Me



My fingers are tiny, I don’t even think a size 4 but

the ring it unraveled into 7 diamonds nonetheless floating round

and round my eensy weensy digit.  It was (or rather is) gold 14 karat

diamonds scattered throughout shiny new precious and

intoxicating like love and marriage and romance and pain.


You bastard I came home and the house was a wreck

overturned dressers opened drawers clothes hanging out

the door broken and kicked in and my jewelry box broken in pieces

on the floor.  I walked on clothes and boxes and dirt from your shoes

when you emptied the contents not caring not thinking.


Making a beeline for the place of my ring in it’s place I found the

detritus of a staged assault on security willingness safety peace.

You asshole it took about 15 minutes to scour the house  you were looking

for objects belongings  money  you took jewelry computers  a telescope

and you left behind questions and footprints.  I wish you had just taken

the television.

The Town I Remember


There was a young girl and she was from

A beautiful little town

And then it occurred to her as she stirred

That this place was now dragging her down.


When little, there was so much

That made her laugh and play

Then as she grew she realized too

How she didn’t want to stay.


The frozen lake, the grand canal

The endless big green lawns

The after-schools, the long carpools

With the sports team we played on.


It all looked great upon first glance

Those houses so lovely and huge

But keep your word in this suburb

That there’s nothing wrong with you.


If you have an drinking problem

Or an affair you want to keep quiet

Can’t pay your bills?  Your son’s on pills?

Those things you’ll want to stay silent


Everything here is about the address

And the utter prestige of your zip code

Because in this place it’s an utter disgrace

For your weaknesses to be shown.


Oh if only! I could embrace the sweet warm days

I remember from most of my child-hood

Ignorant of the class warfare that was cast

In my beloved, my flawed neigbor-hood.

photo from Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.


















In Praise of the Road Trip

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There comes a time in a family’s life

When the constant busy-ness causes some strife.

Runaway calendars, carpools from hell.

The to-do list you made continues to swell.


At this very time, before you explode

You decide its time we all hit the road.

You cancel appointments, you cancel them all

You then pack up the van with all it can haul.


The van seems to actually burst at it’s seams

So much it is packed with luggage and dreams.

As you pull out of your driveway, map in your hand

“Stop touching your brother!” Your husband demands.


The open road beckons with sights worth praising

The vistas and lookouts that are just plain amazing!

The van becomes littered with wrappers and bottles

And you realize your kids’ throats you don’t want to throttle.


It takes a few days to let go of your phone

And surrender the fact that you’re never alone

But along the way surely you realize with schmaltz

You love these three people despite all their faults.


You use your binoculars, your travel games too.

You laugh and you laugh until your face turns blue.

You rest and you think, you wander and roam

And pretty soon it’s time to head back towards home


Your road trip was filled with photos and time

To reflect on the good stuff you have with your tribe

You didn’t realize all the places you’d visit

Or how high the fines are on a speeding ticket.


So now that you’re home,  everyone has spread out

They’re working, in school and out and about

In your heart, warm feelings they wiggle and flow

When your mind starts reflecting on the open road.




photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.


The Bravery of Words


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I hope it’s okay to be silent

               in a world that is so loud and violent

I think it’s enough

               to be quietly tough

                                         in my own way a life I can brighten.


The acts you may think of as brave…

                           the ones that draw all the raves….

                    big deeds and big actions

give the same satisfaction

                              as the words you authentically gave.

photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemehoes.com.



Your Skin, I’m in.




When you are in your skin you are livin’.  Man, I mean your skin it captures you, coats you, lays it down on you.  Feeling it through and through whether be me or you.   Our skin, we are livin’.  Your skin is my skin, I be breathing your skin on mine.  Loving it, smoothing it, warm and tight.  Like a sheath it covers but never enough.  Because my skin, your skin, I feel it.  I know it like it were full of holes.  Which it is because your skin my skin are one and the same skin.  One long smooth sheet, baby.  It’s there.  Beware.  Thick or thin, your skin.  I feel it.  I’m in.


photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.


She is Pretty Cool



Damn this girl drives me crazy all the time, she is

Always leaving her shit around, complaining about this or that,

Under her blankets hiding her phone or otherwise

Getting on my last nerve, really knows how to

Hurt my feelings…or her sister’s or her dad’s but

Then we always forgive her anyway because we know that

Even behind the mascara and the black outfits and the door slamming,

Real girl is in there and when she comes back to us this teen thing doesn’t

Seem so bad…she even seems like herself again, and she is pretty cool.




this amazing photo is by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.



Is a Screen a Door?

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It’s obligation

To look at the black mean screen

Perfect for my hand


The glow draws me in

Sometimes it’s simply boredom

That keeps me here, there


What doors would open

If I could just switch it off?

Is a screen a door?


Where does the door go?

I can open it by touch

Turning my mind’s knob.


photos by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com