Journal of the
              Lecture Series

 Volume 3, Issue 3
In This Issue
Happy Spring! The flowering trees are at their peak glory, and so are my allergies! I do love Washington, DC, in the spring, though the irony is not lost on me that what I love brings me some measure of seasonal misery. Alas! It doesn't stop me from haunting garden centers for lovely scented flowers and shrubs though....

At this point in the WMG year, we have had three major social events: the New Member Tea, Winter Brunch, and the all-important program meeting; you'll find a mini-collage of the brunch in this issue. Though we primarily focus on speaker recaps in the Journal, we really want to celebrate the other very important component of WMG--the social element. Though there are no WMG-sponsored social groups, per se, a number of such groups have been formed over the years: At least two book groups, a group that does various outings, one that has focused on visiting gardens...these in addition to the many friendships that have developed over the years. 

In our quest to make the Journal a more visually stimulating experience, we would love to include photos of WMG members at play together. We would also really like to include a bit about what you have done and are doing: What books are you reading? Are there destinations or activities that you have enjoyed that you would like to share with the other members? Are there other lectures that you attend, organizations for which you volunteer, causes about which you are passionate? Restaurants, coffee-houses, wine bars? We are interested in it all!

Send your shareable experiences--in word or image--to WMGJournal@gmail.com

Enjoy the Journal, and enjoy the gorgeous weather!
 
Adrienne Athanas
Data Transparency for Better Government
Hudson Hollister--December 5, 2018

Hudson Hollister
Photo from the Data Foundation
Hudson Hollister is a man with passion and energy for everything in life that grabs his attention. His main goal is to make our federal government run smoothly and efficiently, and though his career has run into many hurdles along the way, he has had major successes--including garnering many awards for his work getting a major law passed in Congress. 

Hudson began his life in Joliet, near Chicago, Illinois, where he was home schooled. He earned a degree in political science and a law degree from Northwestern University and became a securities litigator for Latham and Watkins in 2008. After his stint at Latham, Hollister worked at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and then for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As he amusingly relayed it to the group, his work trying to make government information more open and accessible has involved "three resignations, two non-profits, a stint for the executive branch, and a position working for a congressional committee." 

In his view, the biggest problem in achieving this goal has been the indifference of many government employees, an approach to life that Hudson calls "the government shrug." Turning the ship of state can be cumbersome, and he believes that many government employees adopt this strategy to cope with the difficulties of achieving significant progress. Not Hudson Hollister. He, too, found working at the SEC and on Capitol Hill a slow-moving, unsatisfying process, so he took a leap, and created the Data Coalition, a non-profit organization, to galvanize support from technology firms, federal agencies, and Congress. The group helped draft and push through legislation to make government spending data open and machine readable. The result is a law called the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), and now anyone can go to www.usaspending.gov  to see how their tax dollars are spent. 

His current passion is to create a common data structure for organizing information about financial institutions that report to the SEC. If achieved, a common reporting format would produce greater transparency for tracking institutions, a better ability to manage financial information, and the automation of this process.

In 2008, there were 6,000 public companies. There are 600 different complicated forms required when a company goes public. Public companies allow for a broad base of investors to share in the risk and profits. The majority of companies would like to go public in the United States, but the reporting requirements are so onerous, that the number is dropping dramatically. However, the reporting complexity is a bonus for rule writers such as law firms and accountants who specialize in the intricacies of these forms. In the past, both Democrats and Republicans have tried to simplify the process for companies to go public, but the efforts have failed. 

The emergence of technology has offered the possibility of simplifying the reporting process. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has consolidated their requirements into a common data structure which allowed for the emergence of companies like TurboTax, which fill out forms by automatically posing questions to the end user. This is possible because in 2001, the IRS and states agreed on a common format for data which has led to the automation of tax forms. There is an ironic downside to this: Intuit, which owns TurboTax, would like to increase the complexity of this process to limit the ability of competitors to succeed in this market. Regardless, the upside for consumers has been significant.
Recap by Emily Hoffmann

Unfortunately, the SEC has not adopted a consistent format. The process of reviewing accounting rules is done manually, rather than  via automation. There is huge inertia against change.

In March of 2018, while on vacation, Hudson realized his non-profit was doing just fine without him. So--he has decided to start over again, founding a consulting company based in Joliet to continue his passion for making government open and transparent. Though the task is huge, Hollister is undaunted in his zeal. We should wish him luck in his endeavors.

Invited by Vera Ashworth
Message Unit Theory
Katie Romano Griffin--December 12, 2018
Katie Romano Griffin
Photo from Cedar Lane UU Church

Through an interesting and thought-provoking conversation, Rev. Katie Griffin explained in simple terms how our minds react to stimulus and how understanding what's really going on provides us opportunities to form new habits, reduce stress, and build resiliency. This new awareness is grounded in Message Unit Theory, which, in part, leads us to utilize self-hypnosis to calm ourselves and control our reactions. It was eye-opening (and rather validating) to understand that only 12% of our mind is conscious and within that 12% we house our voice, will power, and decision-making ability. The big ah-ha moment, though, is in understanding and manipulating the remaining 88%, which we can do through intentional awareness building. With this process, we can learn to reconfigure our unconscious reactions and transform our habits. Staying calm and relaxed leads to better decision-making and healthier living.  
 
               A map of the mind
We have all felt the physical reactions to being overwhelmed (sweating, a racing heart, anxiety, and irritability) and experienced some of the resulting behaviors (over-eating, gossiping, and binge-watching TV). These are all expressions of overloaded brain circuits. To control these, Rev. Katie made the following suggestions:
 
1.  Breathe...


 
a. Each morning hit the snooze button and use the next 9-10 minutes to focus on your breathing -- letting go of anything that floats into your mind, thus training your mind to begin each day in a controlled state. 

b. During the day take 3-5 minutes to focus on your breath and use the self-hypnosis trick "You are here now" we practiced during the session*. (If you were not there, feel free to contact me and I will explain this practice.)

c. At bedtime, again focus on your breathing, relaxing your mind and body. Better sleep is a great way to combat the effects of daily stress. 

d. If you struggle with focusing your breathing, Rev. Katie suggested blowing bubbles! 
 
2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink. 

a.  Small, frequent meals keep the body in sync; eat every few hours. 
b.  Try to avoid sugar and caffeine, which exacerbates the feeling of being overwhelmed, with its subsequent effect on the body. 

c. Don't skip meals. 

d. Stay hydrated. 
 
3. Understand your own personality and what drives individual responses. Are you a physical-suggestible personality or an emotional-suggestible personality? Do you get angry in response to powerlessness? Take steps in your day to support your mind and reduce the activities that trigger negative responses.
Recap by
Cathy Bamji

Rev. Katie has a unique background, traveling through the nursing field--primarily as a psychiatric nurse--to stints in marketing, coaching, and other areas before reaching her current destination in the ministry.  All stops on her journey taught her the value of good relationships and making connections, and have led her to create space for Community and Connection. For greater insight you can reach her at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church (301-493-8300, etc. 204) where she is an Assistant Minister. 
 
*The "YOU ARE HERE NOW" exercise involves touching your thumb to each finger as you repeat the phrase "you are here now," changing the word emphasis as you go.

Invited by Francesca Ryan
Concerning Immigration 
George Clack--December 19, 2018

George Clack
Photo by Kirstie Saltsman
Again, a very relevant topic and speaker!  Immigration policy, funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and a looming partial Federal government shutdown dominated national and local news. George Clack's timely overview, "Understanding the Immigration Debate," highlighted the range and complexity of immigration concerns. Big questions include how to gain better control of our borders and what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. 
 
Illegal immigrants residing in the United States comprise about 3.4% of the U.S. population, and on average have lived here for about 13 years. Many undocumented immigrant families include children who were born in the United States, who by their "birthright" are U.S. citizens. George emphasized that addressing the problem of undocumented (illegal) immigration is far more complicated than "they're violating the law, so deport them."
 
Now retired from the State Department, George teaches literature, film, and social media courses at Johns Hopkins University and Howard Community College. He became active in the immigration arena about two years ago after attending legislative hearings in Maryland regarding immigrant rights and sanctuary cities. (The proposed legislative measures failed.) He joined Indivisible HoCo, a grassroots Howard County group dedicated to building a fairer, more compassionate democracy. He's an active member of the group's Immigrant Action Team, which is particularly concerned about the current Administration's immigration agenda and family separation policies.
 
George explained different categories for legal entry into the United States, including VISA status (visitor, student, work, etc.); refugee or asylum status (granted to those fleeing countries due to war or persecution); and temporary protected status (afforded to nationals of certain countries affected by armed conflict or natural disaster). He also summarized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects from deportation eligible immigrant youth  brought to the United States illegally when they were children. This program gives temporary relief from deportation, but does not provide a path to lawful permanent residency or citizenship. In addition, George spoke about categories of improper (illegal) entry and noted that such entry may result in criminal and civil penalties as well as immigration consequences (deportation and being barred from future entry).  
 
George also spoke briefly about sanctuary cities, an umbrella term for jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with the federal government to enforce immigration law. For example, a sanctuary city would not check for and report immigration status of local detainees to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, whose job is to track down and pick up undocumented immigrants and run detention facilities for immigrants awaiting deportation hearings.
 
Recap by Sharon Winick
To become involved locally with supporting immigrants and refugees, George suggested contributing to organizations such as Maryland's Foreign-born Immigration Referral Network (FIRN), getting involved with state and local programs and politics, and getting to know an immigrant or refugee family.
 
For further information, go to: 
the ACLU  https://www.aclu.org  
 
George Clack's contact information is:   gclack@gmail.comhttps://facebook.com/HoCoReaders/, or https://twitter.com/IndivisibleHoCo

 
Invited by Marie Callahan
Maximizing Your Impact
Anna Hargrave--January 2, 2019

Anna Hargrave
Photo from Community Foundation
The first WMG lecture of the new year was well-timed to help us make good on any resolution to contribute to our community we might have made. Anna Hargrave is the executive director of the Montgomery County office of the Greater Washington Community Fund (GWCF), which exists to help donors large and small achieve their giving goals. 
 
She began with an apt quote by Pablo Picasso, "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." On a trip to California, she reassessed her own life, developing a life plan with "a pen, an unlimited supply of cocktail napkins, and four hours." She realized that what mattered to her were stories--the stories of people in her community--and how she could help to bring them to fruition.  And not just of those in need, but also of those who have means to make a difference but lack the knowledge of how to do so.
 
Her lecture was packed with information on why people give, stop giving, the need that exists in the DMV, and how folks are making a difference. What the Greater Washington Community Fund does, through its various local offices, is provide logistical and administrative support to donors, as a private fund might.  
Adrienne Athanas
Recap by Adrienne Athanas

It also provides considerable information about ongoing funding initiatives, and how to start a fund of your own, based on your passion. There are varying levels of involvement available to donors, from intense involvement in directing funds, to limited engagement. The GWCF exists to make it possible for donors to do so with as much or little visibility as preferred, using professionals who can manage all of the tax implications associated with giving.
 
Though the idea of creating a fund seems intimidating, the desire to put limited resources to the best use possible is considerable. This Fund exists to turn your giving story into someone else's life story. Visit the Community Foundation website for more information on its work and how to donate.  

Invited by Laura Forman
The Art of Grace
Sarah Kaufman--January 9, 2019

Sarah Kaufman
Photo by Kirstie Saltsman 
Pulitzer Prize-winning dance critic and senior arts writer of The Washington Post, and author of the book, The Art of Grace, Sarah Kaufman enlightened us on the meaning of grace. Grace and discipline were two things she learned from the dance world. Born with a heart defect, Sarah was used to sitting on the sidelines and observing while other children were running around. At 7, following surgery, Sarah began ballet class, moved through a life filled with dance, and eventually found her way to becoming a dance critic. At The Washington Post, she was given the assignment to look at movies from the Golden Age and write an article about how actors moved. This sparked her journey into the world of grace.
The Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

The article for The Washington Post became all about the graceful Cary Grant. Sarah watched The Philadelphia Story and Grant quickly became her guiding spirit. Grant epitomized more than just physical grace; an example of Grant's grace was when he was working on a movie, if other actors messed up their lines, Grant would intentionally mess up his lines too just so that they could have another chance. He also stood up for Charlie Chaplin during the McCarthy era. 

Sarah described three forms of grace: physical, social, and spiritual grace. Examples of people with physical grace include Cary Grant and Roger Federer. Someone with social grace would comfort, reach out to help another, and anticipate needs. To describe spiritual grace, Sarah used the words "tolerance," "generosity," "harming no one and looking beyond." 

Sarah distilled her idea of grace as "the transference of ease from one body to another." There can be grace when dancers have swinging, swirling energy, or if someone is providing comfort and warmth, or guiding someone toward a new path or way forward. A priest told Sarah that his idea of a saint was someone who experienced grace at every moment. Grace is about deep connections, and is a "philosophy for life."

All religions talk about love, compassion, empathy, softness, tolerance, giving and generosity. In the Islamic tradition one has the duty to receive grace as a form of compassion. There is an expression that says you must turn your bucket up to receive the water. In current politics, grace calls for people to speak up to spread kindness. It is important to seek to do what we can to help solve problems for those without a voice.
Recap by Naira Darius

Today is a good time to reflect on grace, but the idea goes back centuries. In a 5,000 year-old Egyptian manuscript, a central point was to be kind, and it stated that those in power must be extra kind. We all have grace inside of us. Some have it naturally but it can be practiced. Eleanor Roosevelt was very shy and really had to work at gaining ease.

Graceful people are everywhere--not just on the movie screen. Grace starts with breath, good posture, an open mind and heart. Practicing yoga can be a helpful beginning to a graceful life. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahLKaufman and learn more at  www.sarahlkaufman.com .

Invited by Karen Pettigrew
Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder: A Therapist's Journey
May Benatar--January 16, 2019

May Benatar 
Photo from maybenatar.com
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), or multiple personalities, is not as rare as we might think. In fact, says therapist and author Dr. May Benatar, Ph.D., it's almost as common as bi-polar disorder!  

Beginning in 1991, Dr. Benatar, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW-C) and psychotherapist, began to treat a new patient, Emma, who came to therapy for treatment for depression. She had violent tendencies and was trying to do better as a mom for her two children. About a year into treatment, Dr. Benatar uncovered her underlying condition. "She was dropping breadcrumbs," said Dr. Benatar. "It just took me a while to follow them." Dr. Benatar's book, Emma and Her Selves: A Memoir of Treatment and a Therapist's Self-Discovery, chronicles years of treatment to identify Emma's multiple personalities and treat Emma as a whole person. 

Emma and others who suffer from DID endured severe repetitive trauma during childhood. Emma developed multiple personalities as a defense mechanism, a survival technique. In an effort to cope and survive, her brain segmented memories that were too painful to process. Her personalities were sequestered from each other. As a result, there were big gaps in Emma's memory, and Dr. Benatar's attempts to treat her were difficult and frustrating. Emma's descriptions of her challenges were vague, which often left Dr. Benatar stumped and at a loss.  
Emma and Her Selves 
by May Benatar

Dr. Benatar learned of Emma's multiple personalities from a letter Emma handed to her. The letter was addressed to Emma's father and was an accusation of years of abuse. In the letter, Emma spoke of herself in the third person and used language that alluded to and specifically named "parts."  Even her handwriting varied in the letter. Dr. Benatar began to recognize a shift in Emma's personality, a shift in her posture, a change in her facial expressions. Finally, a new personality--a 10-year old boy--emerged and introduced himself to Dr. Benatar. Dr. Benatar then realized that Emma had many "parts"; Emma was only one part of her whole person.

As Emma's condition became clearer, Dr. Benatar began reaching out for help. Little was known about DID at the time. She described for WMG how she undertook large amounts of reading and research on her own. And, she wrote about her experiences. She said that through writing about the therapy sessions and her own experiences, she hoped to understand both the disorder and herself better.

Dr. Benatar wrote Emma and Her Selves--describing Emma's 20-year treatment--for several reasons: first was to acquaint others with the manifestations of childhood trauma and to correct stereotypes about DID. Emma, for example, was a fully functioning adult. She was a college student, a wife, a mom, a professional. The ability to disguise, to keep the condition hidden, said Dr. Benatar, is how and why the disorder works. Compartmentalizing is what made Emma able to function in society in spite of her childhood trauma. 

She also wrote the book to acquaint readers with the idea of "parts" of one's personality. We all have parts, contended Dr. Benatar. "It's the access to our parts that makes us different." A normally functioning adult, she says, can identify parts in herself. We can recognize that we are in different states--anger, hunger, bliss--but we don't dissociate as a consequence.  A person with DID, however, gets stuck in a dissociated state.  
Recap by Kathleen Isaacson

Dr. Benatar then speculated that DID is more common than we might expect.  Prisons are full of people who claim they didn't do it. Perhaps, in some cases at least, these are individuals with multiple personalities at work. A WMG member asked if the condition is more common in women. Dr. Benatar speculated that perhaps that is the case. Women often come to therapy, she said. Men go to prison.

T o find out more about her work, visit: www.maybenatar.com.  


Invited by Laura Forman
Becoming Nicole
Amy Ellis Nutt--January 23, 2019

Amy Ellis Nutt
Photo by Kirstie Saltsman 
Wyatt was a baby when he, along with his identical twin brother, were adopted by Kelly and Wayne Maines. Wayne was thrilled with the baby boys, envisioning the hunting and fishing expeditions they'd go on together when they grew older. But soon after, young Wyatt began identifying as a girl--he preferred girls as playmates, dressed up in pink tutus, played with Barbie dolls ,and imagined himself as Ariel, the little mermaid from the Disney film. So began the story of  Becoming Nicole, the title of a 2015 book about the Maines family by Amy Ellis Nutt, a health and science writer at  The Washington Post. By the time the twins reached middle school, Kelly and Wayne had gone to court to officially change Wyatt's name to Nicole.
 
Kelly and Wayne had divergent responses to Nicole being a transgender girl. While the trans movement had yet to reach the small New England town where they lived, Kelly understood intuitively that Nicole was a girl trapped inside a boy's body. She allowed her to dress in girls' clothes and advocated for her at school, asking that she be called Nicole and allowed to use the girls' bathroom. She had two goals for her children--safety and happiness. Amy described Kelly as having a quiet, but fierce, determination.
 
Wayne, on the other hand, had difficulty processing the notion that one of his sons was, in fact, a girl. He withdrew emotionally from the family for several years, leaving Kelly to contend with the challenges of raising a trans child on her own. It wasn't until Nicole was threatened by another child at school that Wayne began to engage in the family's fight for Nicole's rights. Nicole's school initially denied her the use of the girls' bathroom, instead instructing her to use the one used by faculty and staff. The Maines family took the case to court, and several years later won upon appeal to the Maine Supreme Court.
 
As for Nicole, her female identity was crystal clear to her from the start and never wavered. Amy described her as an alpha female--assertive and outspoken. Her brother, Jonas, also intrinsically understood that his twin was a girl, and while more introverted, he would come to Nicole's defense if she was confronted at school.
 
Recap by Kirstie Saltsman
While the question of how identical twins could have different gender identities remains unanswered, Amy provided some tantalizing clues. She said that in utero, gender anatomy is set within the first six weeks, but the brain is not "masculinized" or "feminized" until six months in. This offers up the possibility that uneven exposure to hormones or other biological molecules in the womb at later stages of development could account for the twins' differing gender identities. Amy also shared that over the course of her research, she came to understand that gender identity lies on a spectrum, rather than being a binary characteristic.
 
Today, Nicole continues to be a transgender rights advocate and she has become an actress, making history by portraying TV's first transgender superhero in the series, Supergirl. Her character's superpower is the ability to see into the future. In real life, the heroism of Nicole and other advocates may help create a future in which acceptance of trans individuals is the norm.
 
Invited by Harri j. Kramer


February 10th, 2019, was the date of one of our favorite annual events, the WMG Winter Brunch, which was held at the Bannockburn Community Clubhouse in Bethesda. A huge thank you to our social chairs, Naira Darius and Katee Neal, for putting on the event, and to the many volunteers who helped set up, greet, serve and clean up. Thank you also to our clubhouse liaison, Catherine Sands.
The WMG meets most Wednesdays, September to June, at the
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church,  9601 Cedar Lane, Bethesda, MD

CHAIR: 
Laura Forman

JOURNAL MANAGING EDITOR:
Adrienne Athanas

JOURNAL LAYOUT:
Kirstie Saltsman
EDITORIAL STAFF:
Adrienne Athanas
Pat Cascio
Karen Deasy
Harri j. Kramer
Cathryn Meurer
Melinda Robbins
Kirstie Saltsman

MEMBER PHOTOS: 
Lisa Forte