Bev, Harriet and Joyce

My mother, Janet Alice, was tremendously vital to whom I have been and to whom I have become. Three other mothers, Bev, Harrriet and Joyce expanded my concept of motherhood. These women were also role models to me for becoming the best mother I could be:

It is possible.

As a mother, I want to see a world
with less competition
and more cooperation,
Less exploitation
and more mentoring,
Less meager and more real funding,
for services and education benefitting
mothers and children …

Every day of every year.

Bev, Harriet and Joyce were mothers of children with serious mental illness. I met Bev and Harriet first. They were the co-founders of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Dane County, which began in Madison, WI in the late 1970’s. The Madison, WI affiliate birthed the national organization.

Bev was driven to be an advocate for people with mental illness. She wanted essential services and better health care for those most seriously affected by a mental illness. Harriet wanted the same. Bev had a gift for advocating …  fiercely. Harriet’s gift was communication. She was a very fine journalist.

Bev and I got to know and respect each other. She was active physically and mentally throughout her life. Indeed, late in our relationship we discovered her north woods Wisconsin cabin was just a few miles from our families north woods cabin!  I recall the day Bev told me she and I were alike; committed and bold in our NAMI work, be it public or private. (Being alike meant occasionally we were at odds in terms of what we thought was best for people with mental illness.)

Harriet and I became friends through our commitment to leadership and writing. After I had written an article for the NAMI Dane newsletter that was respectful of parents of children with mental illness, she began to trust me. We admired and loved each other. I smiled when I entered her retirement apartment. The bookcases were filled, every inch. She and I were both avid readers. Harriet and her husband had an agreement: neither of them would buy another book until they gave away one of their current books. 

Joyce entered my life in 1993. When told by physicians that she was the cause of her daughter’s mental illness, she rebelled! It was common practice by MD’s and others to blame mothers for their children’s mental illness. Alas, my mother told me my paternal grandmother was thought to be the cause of my fathers recurrent depressions.

How did Joyce rebel? She obtained a PhD in psychology and began a private counseling practice. After gaining experience as a psychologist, she taught families in her home state, Vermont, how to help themselves and help their relatives with mental illness. She conceived and wrote a 12 session Family to Family Education curriculum. Initially Joyce gathered families together in the homes of people like you and me. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers and sisters talked and listened to each other. For most of the men and women attending the classes, it was the first time they openly discussed mental illness and the challenges they and their well and affected family members faced. It was a blessing and a comfort to express their concerns in an unguarded manner. To problem solve. To grieve … and to rejoice together.  

The Family to Family program expanded. Wisconsin was the thirteenth state to get onboard. Lucky thirteen. Eighteen people gathered in a very small room for a three day training to learn to teach the Family to Family program in Wisconsin. I was one of the eighteen trainees. From those nine sets of teachers, the program expanded to 100 sets of teachers, as of 2013, when I retired. Becoming educated on mental illness was and continues to be life changing for me … and for people throughout the 48 states of the continental United States.

Here’s the rub: Many mothers like Bev, Harriet and Joyce are thrust into the role of advocate, educator, support person, and major caretaker. 

Sometimes for the entirety of their lives.  

Thank you kindly,
Gail Louise

… I was inspired to think carefully and in depth on motherhood’s impact on children’s development by the writing of Anna Malaika Tubbs in her book: The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped A Nation.


You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it does. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the
landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whomever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls you to the wild geese, harsh and exciting
Over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver

You Do Not Have To Be Good

Some people can live without nature and wild geese; some people cannot. I cannot. It has always been that way for me. I had a lot of time to spend by myself when I was young, despite having two brothers and three sisters! For the two brothers were 4 and 5 years older than me, while the two sisters were 4 and 5 younger. A final sister arrived 15 years younger than I.

Being alone was generally an advantage.

I learned to be an excellent observer of nature, the farm animals, the trees, flowers, grasses, sky as well as an excellent observer of human nature. I had time alone with each of my parents. Good times. That was an advantage as well. Mom and Dad mentored me. My Mother taught me sewing, cooking, baking, preserving, housekeeping, child care, how to speak and sing in public with poise and how to be a public servant. (She was a census taker and worked at the voting poll. Those days for her were vacation from a family of eight!) My Father taught me milking, haying, combining oats, detasseling corn, how to listen to football on the radio when working outdoors, how to drive a tractor and a truck, and a great deal about the good and bad of politics. He took time from his businesses (dairy farming and a hybrid seed business) to take me to two local fairs, and the State Fair, with blue ribbon Holstein yearling cows. One has to learn how to show or exhibit animals, it’s a technique and mannerism to learn. Dad too, always supported voting. Both parents read the newspaper every day.

They had patience with me. The other children, especially those close in age to one another, may not have experienced as much patient guidance from their parents, especially my Dad.

I learned to think independently. I thought a great deal.

Being born with no siblings close in age to me was a handicap in one major way: When there came a crisis in our family I had no one with which to discuss what I observed. I had to work things out in my mind, but usually I was left with little understanding and by myself.

I never discussed my thinking or worries with anyone. My dear neighbor friend, whom I’m still in touch with daily, did not hear of our family’s dilemma – of my father’s major depressive disorder (MDD) – from me. Nor did my siblings, grandparents, school friends or guidance counselors at school … if there were guidance counselors back then. Nor did friends of my parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, or the Pastors of our church.

I was left confused, greatly saddened, and sometimes very lonely. Very, very lonely.
I played in the sandstone by our barn.
I played under the sumac bushes of our neighbors field.
I played in the huge front lawn and swung on the swing in the back side lawn.
I laid awake at night.

Nature was and is a solace.

For any of you reading, listening and hearing, and especially those who find themselves in circumstances similar to mine growing up, playing out the concerns over and over in my mind, I hope you find solace and peace in the poem which began this posting: WILD GEESE by poet Mary Oliver.

You do not have to be good. I thought if I was good, as a child and as an adult, my hurt and episodes with MDD would be fixed or at least lessened.

You do NOT have to be good.

Thank you kindly,
Gail Louise

All flourishing relationships are a two way street.

Love at 75 is a work of art and craft, of continuously paddling a canoe together. Forward. 

Love is an art and craft both tender and kind and thoughtful,  … very, very thoughtful. Throughout life together those who truly love each other consider the effect of what they do and say on their soul-mate.

Romance lives! My Jim brings me treats and flowers and watches me throughout the day. He tells me I am adorable when I pucker up to share a kiss. Yes, kissing is still a very big deal. 

Our touches are lingering. A continuing communication.  A sharing.  A bond of strength. We are known for holding hands when in each other’s presence. 

Indeed, tears form happily as I realize our children still enjoy holding our hands. Holding hands with each of them from toddlerhood on through early adulthood.  And we thrive in each other’s companionship. One daughter and one son.  Add now our daughter’s husband of 20 plus years, their soon to be 17 year old son and their 13 year old daughter.  Seven of us. 

Seven has been my favorite number since I was a child. 

Why am I writing of our love and marriage on this website? My lived experience with mental illness has tossed challenges in our relationship. 

Sometimes, others have hinted that I have been lucky that my husband stayed married to me. As if we were not worthy of this love and commitment these 53 years! 

But we are braided together, strong, flexible, and happy in each other’s arms.

All healthy lifelong relationships are a two way street. 

My challenges have been public. I have always believed in my heart of hearts that being open about mental illness is essential for reducing stigma. Perhaps my writings have helped others feel hopeful.

And hope is absolutely necessary. Our children, son-in-law, grandchildren and our sons’ close friends all have an enlightened, accurate and knowledgeable appreciation of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other brain disorders.  

Jim and I have grown together since our first date, May 1965. Paddling and correcting our course as needed in a life enhancing way. Sometimes we paddled along the lake shore. Or perhaps we meandered down a river and explored a cove filled with stunning Venus fly trap plants, lily pads and wild irises (True story!) Only a few wrong bends but we worked together to navigate our way onward.

My husband taught me early that like so much of life, there is a learning curve with a canoe and a river. Yes, paddling must be learned. It’s not automatic, and if you think it is, you will flounder … maybe tip out … maybe perish, when life’s rapids occur. 

Each river, lake, stream, and cove is unique and a part of life’s journey. Each offers a growth experience. The weather and the landscape, the water and the sky  — and other people canoeing the same water, maybe or maybe not with respect for canoes and water! — are part of our journey and yours. 

Yes, I am fortunate.  And Jim is fortunate to be my husband … he’s always the first to say so!

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments, love is not love
Which alters when it alterations finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempest and is never shaken.”

 – From Sonnet CXVI
    William Shakespere, 1564-1616

Thank you kindly!
Gail Louise

Care and Tender Loving Care

I have been mourning the past several months:  My sister Ellen died six year years ago on January 31st. I miss her every day.

And I’ve been reading – All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks.  Here are some quotes from this extraordinary book:

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s growth.

“Love is as love does. Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.

“To truly love, we must learn to mix various ingredients: care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect as well as honest and open communication.”

What is love? What is care and caring?  I thought long and hard about the kind of care my sister experienced the last several years of her life.  Care is one dimension of love. But simply giving care does not mean we are loving.  I re-evaluated my care to her. I could have done quite a bit more to bring simple happiness into her life.

She needed new knit type pants. I never purchased a pair for her, although I don’t know why. Was she a bother to me? I did buy her other clothes, but not the most essential piece she needed.

I also remembered how often she and I discussed food. In nearly every conversation she would ask what I was preparing for the evening meal. Ellen would ask me how I was going to fix the baked chicken, or if I’d make the chili with or without macaroni, or what I would add to our green salad?  Had I experimented with this herb or that spice?  She preferred chili with macaroni …. The way our mother made chili.

There were many foods she preferred the way my mother prepared them. Roast beef well done with rich gravy and mashed potatoes, for example. My roast beef did not measure up. Neither did my scalloped potatoes.

I understand now. Food made by our mother was the food of our childhood.  Growing up was full of love and care. Full of the comfort and warmth of a well-worn slipper. Familiar.

I rarely bought any of my home prepared cooking or baking to my sister.

One evening, I stayed overnight with my sister in her modest apartment near the end of her time living in Chicago. We mutually decided I would sleep on the coach and Ellen would sleep in her bed.

What happened next has always haunted me.

I entered her bedroom to tuck her into bed. I fluffed her pillows, smoothed her hair and arranged the blankets comfortably and snuggly around her. She turned her head away from me … so I would not see the tears rolling down her cheek.

I wondered then and I wonder to this day:  How often did my sister Ellen have tenderness in her life? 

I gave her care, and so did others.

But tender loving care was rare, if ever, present in her life. Then and now, I pray Ellen would be able to forgive.

Ohenten Kariwatekwehn “The Words Which Come Before All Else” *

Indigenous People’s Day is observed in the US on October 11th. I celebrated the observance with my husband Jim by enjoying a meal featuring The Three Sisters, a trio of delights: corn, squash and beans. 

These staples have fed the world. Sisters?

The story Lize Erdrich, Ojibwe-Turtle Mountain Band, tells of The Three Sisters is fascinating. I discovered the tale when reading Original Local: Indigeneous Foods, Stories, and Recipes. (Heid. E. Erdrich, 2013.) 

Kernels of corn are planted in a depressed cavity in healthy soil. Beans are then added. The corn will raise its stalks to the sky, and will be hugged by the climbing bean plants. This is an advantageous duo as the beans (belonging to the legume family) fix nitrogen into the soil. The nitrogen is fertilizer. Squash seeds are added to the duo. Tantalizing blossoms, bright yellow, both male and female emerge from the squash as they grow. Squash plants have large leaves which shade the soil, keeping the ground moist and weed free. Their vines are itchy! As a result, animal pests are not attracted to the squash. The reward is colorful fruits hiding beneath the squash leaves. Hence, The Three Sisters.

Our three sisters’ meal featured delicata squash topped with  nuggets of gorgonzola cheese and a stew rich with black beans and kernel corn.

I became interested in Indigeneous people as a sophomore in college. In 1966, I volunteered to tutor Indigeneous children attending a nearby grade school. I encouraged the children as they practiced reading and completed arithmetic assignments.

Three years later, during my dietetic internship at UWHC in Madison, I enrolled in two graduate level courses. The first course was biochemistry. I had taken biochemistry as an undergraduate and was surprised how much I enjoyed the study of the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, amino acids and other nutrients. This was a tougher biochemistry course than my first biochemistry course, but I did alright. The second  semester course was advanced nutrition therapy as applied to diseases in humans of all ages. The research project I selected was the nutritional status of the Indigenous Peoples living in Wisconsin. I spent hours reading papers in The State Historical Library of Wisconsin, after working eight hours five days a week or more, as a dietetic intern.

Years passed.

Vacationing with our two children, Jim and I visited the Blackfoot Nation in Montana, The Lakota Nation in the Dakota’s, The Rosebud reservation in Nebraska, and the villages and cultural sites of the Maori people in New Zealand. An unforgettable adventure presented itself as we traveled into Alberta, Canada. We witnessed a dig and visited the museum at the Head Smashed In archaeological site.

While preparing food for my family, I also explored many cultures of the world. I started with my 28 volume Time Life Series: Foods of the World. My interest expanded to include the interrelationship of a people’s history, their culture and the land they inhabited as influences on foods consumed and cooking methods used. More recently I began to search for similar relationships within many Indigenous communities living in the United States. 

There is much for non-Native people, like me, to learn about First Nations mental health challenges. Having investigated Indigeneous history in the US as recorded by First Nation author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, having enjoyed Inuit art for decades, and savored the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass) and Patty Lowe'(Seven Generations), I have learned to appreciate and respect Indigenous ways of knowing.

The needs of First Nations concerning mental health are complex and often misunderstood. 

Here are 4 take-home messages I garnered from my studies of Native American mental health concerns.

  • There are 500+ federally recognized separate First Nation groups in the US. 
  • “People get things wrong about suicide on Native Lands; non-Natives need to learn Indigeneous perspectives on suicide.” (Native Hope website)
  • Rates of suicide, the contributing factors teading to suicide and the methods to deal with  mental health problems vary with each individual Native nation.
  • Culturally aware high quality resources are available as developed by and with many First Nation peoples. 

Two resources I recommend:

 We in the United States are observing our annual fall feast on Thursday, November 25th. This abridged version of “ The Words That Come Before All Else “ gently instills in me a  thankfulness for each of the blessings bestowed upon us .

Ohenten Kariwatekwehn : “ The Words That Come Before All Else ”

We express our thanks to our Mother Earth, who provides us with all we need to live upon her.

…  to all the waters of the world, for we cannot exist without the lifeblood of Mother Earth.

…  to the animals which live within the earth’s waters for carrying out their duties in harmony with natural law.

… to the insect beings which are upon and within the earth.

… to the animal beings and their leader the deer, as we are  grateful for sustaining us.

… to the medicine plants, which give us their energy so that we may be healed.

… to the food plants which nourish our bodies, particularly the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash.

… to the trees of the world and to the Maple tree, the leader of all of its kind, whose sap renews our spirits and bodies.

… to the Four Winds without whom life would not exist. 

… to the Thunders of the world who carry rain and energize the earth for our seeds.

… to our grandmother Moon, who gives us light and controls the movement of water on the earth.

… to the stars who give us beauty and direction and to them we return when our spirits leave this earth.

…  to the spirit beings who guide and protect us.

… to those yet unborn that we are to ensure they also have clean waters, clean air and fertile soil.

… and to the Creator for the blessing of life and the gift each one of us is to the other and the world.

So let it be in our minds.

Thank you kindly.


This blessing of thankfulness – *Ohenten Kariwatekwehn, “The Words Which Come Before All Else“ – was submitted to Indian Country Today  (ICT) e-news by Doug George-Kanentio, Akwesasne Mohawk, a former member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian and former editor of the journal Akwesasne Notes. 

I subscribe to ICT. Reading ICT has immensely enhanced my awareness of North American Native Nations, Inuits and Aleuts. My respect for Native ways of knowing and experiencing our Mother Earth continues to increase, a rewarding journey.

Father’s Day, 2021: A Tribute to My Father

My father was a flawed man.

Many would agree with this assessment, especially my siblings and my mother.

Many people are flawed, including my siblings and my mother and myself. Often our flaws aren’t as apparent as they were with my dad. We hide them as best we can.

My Dad’s flaws happened to be known and obvious. He suffered major depressive episodes, with at least 4 suicide attempts. He barely survived one. I know this as one of my psychiatrists, on staff at the hospital where my Dad was treated for that attempt, had rights to retrieve old medical records.  So my physician had reviewed Dad’s records – in particular, whether my Dad was bipolar or unipolar – to better treat me. He also said my Dad had clearly meant to end his life. 

Dad could be sharp with his criticism of my mother, my siblings and me. Sometimes all we heard were negative barbs on our competence at the task we were asked to do.

Dad once humiliated me by marching into the high school gym to literally pull me off the dance floor. I had “committed” some infraction, in his eyes. He was furious. …It was obvious to all the teens who witnessed what was going on. I was humiliated. 

He could also put us on guilt trips. The hardest guilt trip for me … that I remember … occurred during a Christmas holiday. The previous night I’d just returned home from college for Christmas vacation. I had been out late on a date with my steady boyfriend Jim, now my husband. Early next morning, with the dairy cows needing to be milked, he woke me up to help. This was our routine when I came home for weekends or breaks. But this time he threatened: “Gail, how you help during the holidays, is how Christmas will go for all of us! He meant, if I didn’t help him the precise way he thought I must, I would ruin the holiday for all eight of us, plus any grandparents and boy or girlfriends that might be invited. 

Imagine the burden Dad put on me: Everyone’s happiness – especially my Dad’s – and more importantly, how Dad would act toward the family, the amount and the severity of criticisms, barbs, pouts, etc. – depended on me. 

Dad was SO out of line, but I did not realize this until a caring psychiatrist told me straight out, thirty years later, no father has the right to say or imply such a treat. 


Dad did not need to threaten me. It was nonsense. I had always been a conscientious and careful helper with the milking, any barn chores, making hay, combining oats, etc. 

When Dad attempted suicide in 1968,, I came home to help on the farm, especially with the daily milking (Dad was in the hospital). My grades suffered badly that semester. One of my advisors, on seeing my semester grades, said “That must be when you started dating Jim.” I replied, no, I had gone home to work to help out after my dad’s suicide attempt. She never bothered me about those grades again. (Jim and I were already a couple.)

Yet, I am grateful to him for many things.

1. Stressing the importance of voting.

2. Stirring my interest in local, state and national politics.

My dad’s favorite president was FDR, not JFK, as some think.

3. Taking the older children, including me, on trips, especially to Washington, DC, where we meet our state senator and congressman, both honorable men.

There were simpler trips: to see a fish hatchery, an apple orchard to witness the apple trees in bloom, a lake side short vacation, visiting the University arborteum in early spring, and more.

4. My Dad’s eagerness and happiness to see our newborn children.  

5. My Dad’s (as well as my Mother’s) happiness for myself and my family when we traveled to New Zealand in 1986. 

At the time our daughter was 11 and our son 6. We could hear the expressed joy from my parents that we landed safely (And had connected with the company from which we’d rented our caravan!). A twenty-two hour flight with three stops for fuel, in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Fuji, before reaching New Zealand. 

More delight and happiness was expressed by my Mother and Dad when we arrived home three weeks later, and they picked us up at the airport . We rested in their pleasure at seeing us safe and sound.  The return trip to the United States, and eventually to our state, was much more tiring than the trip out.

Mom and Dad treated us to breakfast at the airport and drove us the roughly 30 miles to our home. 

6. Taking us to church, 30 miles from our farm, each Sunday. We all were baptized and confirmed. All six of us children.

7. Emphasizing 4H as important to our development.  I had a very active 4H life: sewing, cooking, and dairy.

The best was winning purple ribbons for raising two heifers to maturity.  These were both 50/50 projects.  That is, I raised another farmer’s Registered Holstein heifers from 6 months until they were “freshened,” i.e., had calves and thus began producing milk.  I showed these two animals at the Wisconsin State Fair. Poise was required – and I and the original owner split the profits when these now productive cows were auctioned off! 

8. Hosting our holidays, especially Christmas, every year. 

9. Attending his six children’s and grandchildren’s gatherings – high school graduations, for example. Only one sibling lived far away, half way across the continent, so visits to her were infrequent. 

10. Flowers, always your love for flowers. We remember. Now our children raise your favorites: Iris, roses, snap dragons, dusty Millers!

My Dad graciously handled his diagnosis of diabetes when he reached his seventies.  He had to change his diet, of course, and after a trial with oral hypoglycemic agents, he learned how to take insulin. He tested his blood glucose faithfully and kept the records and doctor’s appointments.

Then his kidneys started to fail. More dietary restrictions, this time protein …meat … was limited along with high potassium foods, a reduction in milk, fruits and vegetables. As a retired registered dietitian, I learned in 1969 what diabetes and renal dialysis could do … a heavy impact on the individuals quality of life … fatigue … stress … and a unavoidable but constant pressure to do the right thing to prolong life. 

He was gracious also, when he had to undergo renal dialysis. I can’t imagine spending the better part of three days a week traveling: And then hooked up to a dialysis machine. 

I’ve often wondered how his life and our lives would have differed, had he had more help in the form of counseling and empathy, even from us, his children. We did not like to listen to his recounting his symptoms, for one thing.

We had little patience with him.

Now I think surviving and then tackling physical rehabilitation after open heart surgery, in the early days of heart surgery, the 1970’s, was an immense accomplishment. Think of having your chest opened up twice!!!

Twice. A few blood vessels were not tied off completely during the original surgery. He began to lose blood and all blood brings to life. So the surgeons took him back to surgery. They forcefully had to work around the breast bone, or cut it.

Science now has demonstrated that diabetes and heart disease are bi-directional with depression. Today, people are prophylactically counseled on watching for depression after major illnesses and procedures.

There was also a time he survived a near fatal reaction to a dye injected for a test.  He had to be resuscitated. I remember my mom telling me later his attendants had implored,  “Richard, hold on, hold on.”

He held on.

Father, I was not permitted or asked to help plan your funeral. I was not consulted regarding hymn selection, or asked to speak at the funeral. 

I was not asked to sing for him, although I have my father’s beautiful voice. He was a tenor. His favorite tenor was Mario Lanza. I have been singing solos since fifth grade. I still sing.

I was outraged at being left out of the planning and being left out of the service.

I called the minister at 8am the day of Dad’s funeral to ask the minister to inform my mother that I would not attend, nor my husband nor our children.

I did attend, arriving barely before the funeral began. I went out of respect for my mother.

You see, my Dad and I both had said to one another, he and I were the most alike … of the 6 children, I resembled him most. I have a letter from my dad to me, dated July 1989. He tells me we are the most similar and of one mind. He tells me he is proud of me.

I think he wrote to me because in the Fathers Day card I sent to him I had written I was proud of him.

I was proud of him. And I still am.

Dad, here is the song I sang to Mother, just after she passed at Hospice. I sang it at her bedside. I sing it to you now.

Morning Has Broken
Lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Asian American Mental Health and Illness, May, 2021

“From a very early age I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts or behavior tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be.”

    – Ai Weiwei, Chinese Contemporary Artist and Activist
     (as quoted in: The Botanical Bible, Sonya Patel Ellis, 2018)

When Jim and I were first married, we had three friends of Asian descent. 

Shu (S-h-u) was from Taiwan. Shu was serving an internship with me – I was her perceptor as a practicing registered dietitian; Shu was an intern. Two other friends were a Korean. They  were a married couple, Mr and Mrs Bae.  Jim worked with Mr B.

Shu and Mrs Bae were excellent cooks. Both women were my earliest introduction to the interaction of food, culture, politics and the limitations imposed by authoritarian regimes. Shu was from a rich family. Mr Bae’s family was poor. 

Mr B and his generation were small due to the poor diet imposed on Korea during WWII by the Japanese. In contrast, as a child, Shu C. had all the food she desired to eat. Once her skin turned livid orange from eating so many fruits rich in beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A!

The most tasty, authentic, and intriguing Asian meals Jim and I have had the pleasure to eat were those prepared by Shu and Mrs B in their home and in our home. Mrs B.along with her 1 year old son, lived with us for several months. During that time, we ate …  oh so well. To this day, rice is as frequent at our table as potatoes and pasta.  As we raised our children, we ate with chopsticks, every dinner. And Jim and I still eat with chopsticks. Eating with chopsticks is aesthetically pleasing. Chopsticks are quiet and clean. There is no clanging of silverware during conversations.  We use Korean/Japanese sculptured chopsticks.

Ah, you did not know there were different types of chopsticks? And many varieties of rice?

Do you know that Asian people do not all look alike? They do not!

Everyperson, everywhere is unique. 

I am thankful for our uniqueness.

I am thankful for our commonalities.

Hate of Asian Americans and all Asians is on the rise. The shrinking of the white male majority in America, the history of WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the loss of jobs and industries to Asia, especially China, and the many misconceptions about Asians, have blighted the wonderful assets many Asians have brought to America and the world.

A tiny sampling of those accomplishments: 

Mya Lin, the architect of The Vietnam Memorial Monument. Amy Tan, the writer. Chien-Shiung Wu, the nuclear physicist … and so many others. Can we forget the laborers who constructed the transcontinental railroad, many of whom were Asian? Athletic stars such as the NBA’s Jeremy Lin, and linebacker and coach Eugene Chung. …Or quarterback Kyle Murray, whose mother is half Korean and whose father is African-American (Love it; wow!) Finally, my children’s and grandchildren’s friends, who are ethnically much more diverse than my generation’s cohort. I Think of bonsai and the art of flower arranging, ikebana. Forms I hope to learn to enhance my floral arrangement skills. The most exquisite scarves I have ever worn are shiboru, a three dimensional form of folding, stitching, and pleating, all in silk, created by Suziki Kanezo of Japan. These shiboru drape over my shoulders .. under my long hair … so gracefully. 


Shame dominates as the most hope and life- killing force on earth. 

For many, death is better than enduring shame. 

Ask me and ask my father.

For all of us, shame comes from stigma. 

My Dad did not seek mental health care and neither do many people of Asian descent. Suicide of young people, ages 12-24 is greatest in Asian-Americans!  Stigma stems from the fear of being identified as disabled. Societal norms and values place a premium on our ability and actual performance towards taking care of one’s own family  and in contributing to our communities.

I do not believe there are many differences here in the things that shamed my father, Asian Americans and myself. For myself, I feared I would not be able to care for our two children and be a loving wife to my husband Jim. All those fears were not in evidence, but they all overshadowed my thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  For my father, I do not know his shames, although once committed to a mental health hospital, and with the possible loss of the family farm just one serious consequence of this, I believe he endured shame as a life sentence. He never discussed his feelings, but lived through many serious suicidal depressions and suicide attempts. 

Asian Americans live with the stereotype as the model minority. The myth goes like this: Asian Americians are fully-integrated, intelligent, industrious, and have overcome racial bias. Individual Asian people feel pressure to meet these standards and expectations.

 The pressure to live up to the image as a model Asian American results in the denial of any  letdowns, failures, pain and loss … all of which we all experience or will experience. The drive for perfection can kill. I know the drive for perfection too well, and the toll it takes on family and on oneself. Thinking perfection will cure everything … can be fatal.  

Talking about mental illness/mental health challenges is taboo for most Asian Americans.. As it was in the family into which I was born and was raised.

Let us all be more than tolerant to one another. Let us begin to trust, admire and appreciate each person.

Let us share a spirit of gentleness and work toward a better society.  Many times song expresses what we have not ventured to put into conversation:

 “ Tale as old as time, true as it can be, barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly. Just a little change, small to say the least. Both a little scared, neither one prepared …  Tale as old as time.”

Thank you kindly,

Gail Louise

(Lyrics by Alan Menken 1991)

Mothers Day, 2021: A Tribute to My Mother

Sunday we celebrated our grandson’s 16th birthday as well as Mothers Day. The birthday boy and his sister, children of our oldest child and her husband, our son and ourselves met at a local park and had a picnic. We laughed, ate really good food, and hugged each other often as it was the first time in over a year all 7 of us were together. 

My mother, Janet Alice, knew both our grandchildren before she died. I remember my Mom’s delight at our grandson’s first birthday party.  Born on May Day, his birthday party was an outdoor potluck. Our granddaughter was born four years later on Valentines Day …  6 months before Mom passed. Our daughter made sure to visit Mom at Hospice with the new baby girl well before my Mom’s final days.

My mother taught me many things.

  •  She helped me learn how to read.

Picture this:  She was tired. It was evening, after preparing a big dinner and after doing dishes by hand. Perhaps it was 8 pm. Mother and I sat on the floor of the dining room, to be near the heat register. The book was the traditional “See Dick Run, See Jane Run.”

  •  She taught me how to sew. Mom was a skilled seamstress.

Famously, she sewed the black wool cape I wore to a Big Ten University Homecoming Dance with my husband to be, in 1967. The dress was red velvet, enticing to the eye and soft to touch.

Twenty years later our daughter was invited to her first prom. The prom dress needed alteration. By this time my sewing skills were rusty so we enlisted the help of a tailor.  When our daughter donned the prom dress and the black cape, the tailor marveled at the quality of the cape my mother had sewn.

  • She instilled in me a desire to have beautiful handwriting. Every time she signed her name, she wrote carefully, be it a check, a greeting card, or a gift tag.

    … And she had a long career as a bank teller.

When senior citizens needed to cash or deposit their Social Security check, they lined up deep at my mothers window.  My Mom would serve all patiently and carefully, so they could visit briefly with her and she with them. She was astute. Mom recognized an older woman customer was about to be cheated out of a large amount of money. She alerted the supervisors of the bank who advised the elder customer appropriately. The woman’s money was not stolen.

My Dad had major depression. He could be very verbally abusive. He belittled my mother frequently, in front of all the children. I never heard or saw her defend herself. To this day, I remember vividly watching her cry in silence while sewing.

Dad attempted suicide four times: in the mid-1950, 1968, 1972 and 1979. Perhaps there were more than four times. I will never know. I never asked.

Neither did I ask her how she got through all this.

After my Dad passed in 1996, Mom began a new life for herself. She painted. She learned how to write stories describing and illustrating her past and current life. Mom began to decorate the Christmas tree the way she preferred. In fact, she invited her grandchildren to help her assemble and decorate the tree. She was talented with houseplants and arranging home decor. Mom also worked out at Curves several times a week. She became more physically fit while chatting with the younger women trainers. She had more fun.

It is extremely challenging to be a relative to someone with a serious mental illness. Did her parents advise her to divorce my Dad? – They did not approve of my Dad or my Dad’s parents. What unwanted remarks did her siblings make? Did she think of divorcing my Dad? 

My Mom remained married to my Dad to keep our family intact, even though she lost some love for him. I know this was so as she told me.

I believe for her, staying married was the right thing to do.

Thank you, Mom.

Gail Louise

Honor the Earth and Each Other – Notes on Earth Day, April 2021

From out of the earth
I sing for the animals;
I sing for them.

– Red Streaked Around the Face, Hunkpapa Sioux

Because my husband Jim and I limited our travel during 2020, I was delighted to discover acceptable flowering and foliage plants from local hardware stores. We selected two hanging baskets for our porch, identical baskets of flowering calibrachoa. Then, I could not resist two more plants: a type of sedum plus a sun loving coleus.

The calibrachoa, sedum and coleus all needed work. But each plant had promise. So I did what I had seen my father do so often. I pruned the plants … prudently and thoroughly.

Calibrachoa was just the ticket! Their flowers remind me of miniature petunias. They glowed in shades of coral, pink and red. Nature had sprinkled dabs of yellow deep inside each petal.

They thrived, and Jim affectionately named me “ The plant doctor! “

I thrived too. 

Nature can have a healing touch.

I prefer flowers, like other visual arts, to have an appeal from a distance and close-up. The bright colors of the calibrachoa beckoned to people walking by our home: Hey! Look at me! They were so intriguing I looked more closely than I intended. I peered into their depths and was rewarded by their subtle beauty.

Jim has a green thumb too. His thumb is green from raising vegetables. Wherever we lived previously, we had a vegetable garden. Sometimes a huge vegetable garden … with a rambling red raspberry patch as well! The blue jay will always remain the raspberry cane pruning bird to me. Whenever I pruned the canes, she scolded me insistently, every spring. Was I invading her space? Were her babies near?

Early each morning, you will find us sitting in our four season sunroom, observing the dawn of the new day. We follow the sun’s progress as she arcs across the eastern horizon. It is a sweet joy to attend to the unfolding season from the comfort of our sofa. The sun sweeps like a rainbow each day … everyday … throughout the year.

At twilight we walk the neighborhood, waving to folks while we witness the daylight slowly dipping westward. Each day, the sun “sets “ to brighten other continents, other countries, and other people.

Jim scans the sky nightly. Never does a day end without my husband walking outside, binocular in hand, to view the unfolding heavens.

Paul Goble describes our interaction with and responsibility for our Earth in his beautiful book “I Sing for the Animals.” As I reread his words, I am reminded what Earth and nature can bring to us, if we give her an opportunity:

“Plants and trees, birds and animals, all things like us to talk to them. They want to speak to us too, but it is not easy for them. We have to find a way to understand what they are saying to us.“

“We need not feel lonely in the fields and woods. Birds and animals, and the butterflies, speak to us. Often we are not really looking or listening. It is the same at night: the stars speak to us. We have to learn to look, and to listen. We are never alone.“

“Man’s world changes, and we hardly feel at home in the places where we grew up. The natural world is constant: the sun comes up and goes down, and the seasons follow one another and return again like a great circle. In our own changing world, it is these things which give us strength and stability.“

Let us preserve the great circle.

Thank you kindly,
Gail Louise

The Personal IS Political!

Folks, data on women with depression is skewed. 

As I read the book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez, published in 2019, I was startled to learn women are prescribed antidepressants more often than men … Two and a Half times more often than men!


It is not that women report having depression more often than men, as many of us would assume!  A 2017 study discovered that men are more likely to report having symptoms of depression than women.

Even now in 2021, we assume women are the “ weaker” sex. Therefore, we assume they need treatment for depression and anxiety more than men. Physicians prescribe antidepressants, for example, for skin pain in women, where men will be prescribed pain medication for skin pain.

So why are women given anti-depressants when they are not depressed? Physicians are socially biased and influenced also.  

  • Women are prescribed antidepressants instead of pain medication for pain.
  • Women are prescribed sedatives for pain instead of pain medication for pain.

Yentl syndrome is at work. Still.

What is the Yentl Syndrome? The Yentl Syndrome describes the phenomenon whereby women are misdiagnosed and poorly treated medically unless their symptoms or diseases conform to that of men.

This is the heart of the matter: Research on most illnesses have been done on men. Female bodies are not afforded the same degree of medical attention as male bodies. 

In addition, sometimes people say, women live longer, so women do not need the same amount of medical research. Check again. Mens longevity has increased along with their years of good health. Women live on the average only 5 years longer than men now. But those 5 years are often burdened with ill health and disability! Women are the sex as elders who more often need assisted health care

And even if women did live a lot longer than men, why would less research into women’s health and well being be justified? What !!!

We must all become more political.

During your health care appointments:

  •  Ask uncomfortable questions.

How much published research, not only clinical experience or reports, have specifically included women in all aspects of health, be it dental, physical or mental?

  • Go elsewhere if you do not have a health care provider who is willing to answer uncomfortable questions. 

I hope this is an option for you. 

Before your health care appointments:

 Research your health issue, be it something that needs addressing now or is a developing or a preventable condition.  

(It is strikingly obvious to me the more I prepare for my health care appointments and make it clear to the physician I am prepared by coming with written questions and background information, the more RESPECT I obtain from the physician. I get better treatment and more options presented to me. My goal is to be on equal footing with the health care team be it mental, dental or other physical health care. )

If we persist with less data on women’s health, things do not look rosy for women.

If we persist with less research into the health of Latina, Black, Asian, Indigenous and other minority groups, things are still darker.

— Let us remember and celebrate all of us —

Thank you kindly,

Gail Louise

  • The book Invisible Women, Data Bias in A World Designed for Men was the Business Book of the Year in 2019 by the McKinsey and Company Financial Times, the winner of the 2019 Royal Science Book Prize, a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and The Orwell Prize, and longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellencein Nonfiction.
  • Antidepressants have been life-giving for me in the past. I advocate for antidepressants to be prescribed judiciously and for limited time periods.