TrumpCare: Detached and Distracted

President Trump has repeatedly declared that simply allowing the Affordable Care Act to

Marie Antoinette: detached and distracted.

fail is a potential solution to the health care stand off. Every time I hear or read this, I can’t help thinking of Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, who when hearing that the people had no bread to eat, declared they should eat cake instead. While it’s not likely that she ever actually said this, the statement stands as an example of her detachment from the plight of her starving people.

Similarly, when President Trump proposes allowing the ACA to fail, he reveals his detachment from the millions of Americans who, with no other option, are relying on the ACA.

The French royalty were too mired in their own excesses and too distracted by the complexities of life at court to think about the people they ruled. Similarly, President Trump retreats to his lavish resorts and has from the beginning of his presidency been distracted by White House intrigues. He is surrounded by family and business leaders rather than experts. As a result, he has yet to provide the governance our country deserves and requires.

Candidate Donald Trump promised Americans a great health care system. This will not be easy and it won’t be fast. We know that now. But it is imperative. According to a 2014 report published by the Commonwealth Fund, the US ranks last among eleven industrialized nations including Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in patient access to health care and in the delivery of care to patients. This is true in spite of our spending significantly more on health care than any country in the world. Much more.

I can’t think of a more outstanding legacy for any Presidency than motivating government and health care leaders to come together to solve this problem. The President’s complaining, blaming and threatening has not worked, and many Americans are anxiously waiting for reassurance that someone in Washington understands.


Copyright Susan Motley 2017

Living on the Minimum

“Mrs.Motley, what do you think of old people working at MacDonalds?” the student asked. I hadn’t thought very much about it all I confessed. But he was pretty worked up, and so were several other students who were finding their hopes for employment dashed by “old people” clinging to young people’s work. It’s these same old people with their pesky old people needs who are driving the current minimum wage debate. MacDonalds and Visa really did partner to create a budget to assure their employees that it’s not just a minimum wage, it’s a you-can-live-on-it wage.

Copyright Susan Motley 2017

Cece Bell’s Graphic Memoir

If just for a moment last night you felt a hiccup in the earth’s rotation, I have an explanation: My eight-year-old granddaughter recommended a book for me to read. Even better: due to an error in the placement of the Amazon order, she actually had a spare copy to lend me. My heart skips a beat every time I think of it.

She and her mother had plans to begin reading the book that night, and she explained to me that she had already done a picture walk, so she had an idea of what the book would be about, and she could tell it was going to be a good one.

“What is a picture walk?” I asked.

“You don’t know what a picture walk is?” she exclaimed.

Her mom defended me by reminding Harper that I had not had the good fortune to have Mrs. Kinnert for second grade. So Harper patiently explained what should have been obvious to me.

While her little brother was sleeping and she and her sister were at swim practice, I started reading, and Harper is right. I love this book, and you will love it too. It is a Newbery Honor Book, a graphic memoir by CeCe Bell.

Of course, I am looking forward to discussing the book with Harper, and my mind is racing ahead. Could this be the first step toward showing my grandchildren that Shakespeare’s works are relevant and beautiful? Do I have a shot at convincing them that poetry has value?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But no matter where this first step leads us, I plan to savor it with this outstanding work by Cece Bell. I highly recommend it!


Copyright Susan Motley , 2017

With Farm Markets, It’s All About Location

After our family had been settled in our Norfolk home long enough to think about what we were eating, I asked my new neighbors for the location of Norfolk’s farm market. No one knew of one. That was eighteen summers ago, and that is the only time I have ever doubted the wisdom of our move from Virginia Beach to Norfolk.

What a relief to find the Five Points Community Farm Market and Bev Sell operating out of a remodeled laundromat. The green beans, sweet corn, and farm raised tomatoes picked at peak were all there along with a prominently and proudly displayed WIC sign. I was elated when the market moved much nearer to me on Church Street. I attended the grand opening, and now all these years later, the market shut its doors on Sunday.

If Bev erred, it may have been in putting the Five Points Community Market under one roof. By all accounts, farm markets are proliferating; however, recent studies reveal that consumers site inconvenient location as the primary reason for not patronizing a market.


For this reason, I am willing to believe that Norfolk citizens want more of these markets rather than fewer.  Only a few years ago, a Saturday morning market in downtown routinely sold out in the first hour. Williamsburg’s Market Square is flooded with shoppers and fresh produce on Saturday mornings. In last week’s Virginian Pilot, Lorraine Eaton wrote in glowing terms about the Smithfield market. In Yachats, Oregon, the Sunday morning market, flush with farm bounty and the work of local artisans, is crowded with shoppers. Grandy’s market on the way to the Outer Banks is nearly always packed with locals and tourists stocking up on the good food they want for the week ahead. In Virginia Beach’s Town Center, the weekly Wednesday evening market invites shoppers onto the plaza for live entertainment while conveniently offering fresh produce for those on their way home from work.

Because local food fresh from the field, vine, or tree feels a bit luxurious, travel guides always alert their readers to local markets and the days they are open; and many friends have proudly taken me to their local farm markets just to see them.

Bev Sell has worked tirelessly and dreamed generously that every citizen of Norfolk have access to fresh nutritious food. For now, I can only thank her for her years of dedication. For now, I can only hope that somehow our community will capitalize on her knowledge and efforts and continue to guarantee access to nutritious farm food for all the people who live and work in Norfolk.


Copyright Susan Motley 2017

Win Big with Summer Community Swim Leagues


Blazing sun. Sweltering humidity. The splash of legs and arms slicing through water. The tinny clatter of the megaphone. The “wonk” of the buzzer. The crack of the pistol. The smell of chlorine in the morning air. It was deja vu all over again as they say.

There were my two granddaughters participating in a swim meet just as their mother had years before. The eight year old’s free style and breast strokes have become beautiful . She tells me, “This is hard, but I like it.” And the four year old swam the twenty-five meter freestyle and backstroke in the six and under category finishing dead last in both events. She was the youngest swimmer in these competitions and the last swimmer out of the water. If there is a place more last than last she was in it, but the entire crowd on the pool deck was wildly cheering her on. This is summer swim league.

Individually swimmers learn that practice really does result in improvement. Swimmers are competing for their teams, and they are also competing against their own best times. So while a swimmer may not come in first, a significant improvement in personal time is a big win individually. With daily practice capped by a swim meet on Saturday morning, week to week the improvement in the swimmers’ stokes and speed is electrifying.

After her competing in the breast stroke, the eight-year old’s coach exclaimed, “Your breast stroke is perfect. Don’t change a thing.” The four year old backstroked the entire length of the pool resulting in her first official time. Just a few weeks before she had giggled as she said, “Nana, I’m on swim team, and I don’t even know how to swim.” The coaches fixed that.

I have never met a summer swim coach who does not love the work and the kids, and I have always marveled at how quickly they learn the names of the swimmers who in swim caps and goggles appear almost identical in the pool. Swim coaches guide swim practices and advise swimmers on their strokes. At swim meets, they celebrate swimmers’ improvement with parents. They connect with their swimmers as they come out of the pool congratulating and encouraging and inspiring confidence. “You’ve got this,” they say.

Swim team is a great vehicle for the whole family to bond with new friends and to contribute to the community because the meets are run by parent volunteers. They manage the zoo where swimmers check in and assemble prior to their scheduled swim events. Armed with stopwatches, they serve as timers. The stroke and turn judges make sure swimmers compete in the designated stroke and that they touch the side of the pool correctly and don’t push off the bottom on the turns. Parents record times and keep the team scores at the stats tables, and they write hundreds of ribbons for every meet. They keep the concession stands interesting starting with coffee in the morning giving way to water, soda, and lunch items as the meet and summer heat progress. Week after week, parents make sure that swimmers get to practices and arrive at the meets on time. Needless to say, the swimmers who are grouped by age, make friends at practices, and between swim meet events, they hang out together and cheer on their teammates.

Checked in and ready to swim.

The bodies of even the youngest participants bear evidence of the health benefits of the sport. Legs and arms are strengthened. Shoulders broaden and waists tapper. After the required daily swim practice, swimmers eat heartily and sleep soundly.

The much anticipated days of summer vacation become long and hot, and they are too quickly filled with mindless eating, mind-numbing television, squabbles with siblings, and boredom inspired mischief.

So parents, take your mark. “Swim to win,” we used to say. “Swim to win,”
and let Community Summer Swim Leagues give shape and purpose to the days and weeks of summer.


Copyright Susan A. Motley  2017 July

Yachats: What a Gem!

The rock formations that dot the coastline are sometimes called sea stacks.

It was all my sister’s idea: a bucket list trip to the Pacific Northwest that would need to be crammed into ten days including round trip travel. We settled on seeing California’s Redwoods and exploring the Oregon Coast.

My husband and I had toured the Redwoods two years prior so we knew a little about the California location, but Oregon was new for all of us. We knew we wanted to focus on the southern and central Oregon coast. We knew we wanted a centrally located spot that would allow for driving back south or exploring further north. Towns such as Florence, Depoe Bay, and Lincoln City jumped off the map, but my husband could not find the desired ocean view at an affordable price until he found Yachats (pronounce ya hots) with a cozy Airbnb on a street that ended just steps from ocean waves crashing over basalt rocks


The view from our Airbnb on Gender Drive in Yachats.

The Oregon coast is spectacular, and each ocean overlook along highway 101 is more awe-inspiring than the last, but Yachats captured our hearts. Just about 700 people call Yachts home. Perhaps that is why the spirit of community and volunteerism is strong there. The Visitors Center, for example, is staffed only by volunteers who work three to four hour shifts.








Someone must have spearheaded a drive to plant calla lilies because they are growing and blooming everywhere.



Tropical plants thrive in the Oregon coast’s temperate climate.

We walked the small but impressive Gerdemann Botanic Preserve that features exotic plants gleaned from around the world by the educators who established the Preserve. We walked a trail through a part of the Siuslaw National Forest on the town’s eastern boarder and walked a portion of the Oregon Coastal Trail.

View from the Oregon Coastal Trail: water rushing under the rocks creates a gush.


We drove back south to see the historic lighthouse at Cape Perpetua.Most of the Oregon coast is basalt rock, but Yachats is bounded by large sandy beaches at both ends of town.

An evening view of Yachats from the beach at the southern end of town.







One afternoon, we enjoyed a snack and coffee at Bread and Roses Bakery, and the next morning we came back to relish a savory strata for breakfast. That morning, fragrant loaves of bread were tumbling out of the ovens.

In each restaurant we found a dedication to fresh organic food and surprising global influences. On the nights we ate at Ona’s and the Drift Inn, the food and drink were excellent. At the Drift Inn, there was live music, and the gift shop sold the requisite T Shirts and the works of local artisans. Anita Hayden’s expertly woven natural fiber rugs displayed there were beautiful but too bulky for our trip home.

In a shop dedicated to local arts, we looked longingly at handmade women’s felted wool hats but knew we could never get them home uncrushed.

On our last night there, the Yachats Academy of Arts and Sciences (seriously) was hosting a speaker who had just published a book on Oregon’s hiking trails.

We ended our stay with a tour of the weekly Sunday morning market held in the parking lot of the town’s Commons area. The farm tables were gleaming with colorful and vibrantly fresh farm bounty. Artisans were exhibiting too, and my sister and I couldn’t resist the handmade jewelry crafted from repurposed copper wiring.

As the summer wears on, Yachats will be teeming with tourists driving the coast or escaping inland Oregon’s heat. Residents are already bracing for August 21 and the solar eclipse. We’ve been told that every campground is full and every hotel room is booked.

Yachats, the town that calls itself “the gem of the Oregon coast,” thrives on tourism, but I am pretty certain its citizens are secure in their knowledge that the multitudes will eventually go home leaving them to delight in the many charms of their jewel of a town.


Copyright Susan A. Motley, 2017 July

Language Study and the Brain

From the moment I heard of Diverbo’s Pueblo Ingles, participation in the volunteer English teaching program had been on my retirement bucket list. My not-to-be-left-behind husband and I applied and were accepted to serve as volunteer English speakers for the eight days of social engagement and language immersion for Spaniards in La Alberca. If everything worked out as planned, the experience would be capped by a week of travel in Spain.

I had also planned that in the weeks and months prior to departure, I would renew my acquaintance with the Spanish language. But you know what they say about plans. Instead we set out on our journey with a pocket Spanish-English dictionary and a translation app on our phones.

During our eight day program in La Alberca, English no permitando. No problema. But afterward in Sevilla, my language limitations became shamefully apparent. Although I could read with little difficulty, I found myself tongue-tied in some of the most elementary situations. For example when I needed to purchase a bottle of water, I desperately croaked “agua.” On another day, I needed a decongestant from the pharmacy. In Spain, as in much of Europe, one does not simply walk into a drugstore and pluck the product off the shelf. One must ask. It wasn’t until the ever-so-patient pharmacist, conjured up the word brand from his store of English vocabulary that I was able to produce the name of the product I needed.

With a return trip in mind, I resolved that I would not be the butt of the old joke:

Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
A: Bilingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
A: Trilingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks four languages?
A: Polylingual

Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language?
A: American
So I have begun using an online language learning program.
The lessons require concentration, and the learning is reenforced through repetition and review; and just when you think you’ve got it, introduction of new vocabulary. The lessons are stimulating and addictive. Every time I complete a lesson, I feel my brain sparkling a bit.

I began to wonder: Could language learning benefit older citizens? The research on this is relatively sparse but it is worth noting.

A Swedish MRI study of adults in an intensive language learning program reveals that the hippocampus and cerebral cortex actually grow when we learn languages. This is significant because the hippocampus is the part of the brain involved in memory formation, learning, and emotions. The cerebral cortex also is involved in memory as well as thought and language. Another MRI study at Penn State University found that the actual structure of the brain changes as a result of learning a new language. The grey matter becomes denser and the white matter works more efficiently to help the brain pull thoughts together and make connections.

Since practice makes perfect for any new skill, it’s not only studying the language that is beneficial; practicing in immersive environments, in other words speaking and listening, is also key. Dr. Thomas Bak of the University of Edinburgh conducted a study that “shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain.” Researchers at Belgium’s University of Ghent have found evidence that bilingualism can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. The research indicates that even older adults can become bilingual when placed in immersive situations.

There is much yet to learn about the relationship between brain health and learning and speaking a second language. While we wait for the results of the definitive study, learning more about an unfamiliar culture and its language is broadening and exciting.

So I have a new plan. What if a group of adult language learners met once a week to speak only Spanish, French, or German for thirty minutes or an hour? My brain is already sparkling.

Mother’s Day

I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.

Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom

Ola Mae Turner Myers, my mother, was born in Union County, Tennessee, a farming community outside Knoxville. She was the second child and daughter born to Elsie Seymour Turner and Ura Turner.

My mother’s father was only 22 when he was killed in a mining accident leaving my then 19 year old grandmother with two children under 3 years old.

My grandmother, Elsie Seymour Turner Heiskell

With winter coming on, my young widowed grandmother packed up a few necessities, bundled up her two babies against the November chill, and moved back home to her mother, Rebecca Seymour.

Rebecca Seymour, my great grandmother, was the

My great grandmother, Rebecca Seymour.

midwife for her Union County community. She had never married, so she raised her seven children alone. That’s right! Rebecca Seymour was one of many women of that place and time, who chose independence over being worked to death on a farm. But that’s another story.  She had a horse and wagon and land and work to provide for her needs; and she could do anything that needed to be done: plant, milk, chop, sew, and build. She could comfort her grieving daughter and her precious grandchildren.

My mother Ola Mae Turner Myers as a young woman

I have small girl memories of my own mother in a navy blue suit and a hat. When my mother went out, she came home with paper dolls and helped me cut them out. She played piano by ear, and she had a pretty voice. She mashed butter into white Karo syrup for eating on her hot brown biscuits. When I was sick, she made egg custard in a double boiler. Our red and white striped slip covers and curtains matched, and she had sewn all of it herself. She sewed my seersucker night gowns too. I remember slipping them over my head while I was still damp from the bath.

Those were the good days. Bad times would come for us too, and my mother stood strong. Today I am thinking of these women, the mothers who came before me, and hoping I am just a little like them.

If You Saw Something in the Metro, You Would Say Something.

If you saw something in the metro, you would say something. Say something about this.

One casualty of Donald Trump’s first 100 days may be my sense of humor. While Tump’s theater-of-the-absurd candidacy for President often elicited guffaws and head-shaking disbelief, his Presidency has been no laughing matter.

George Will’s must-read column appearing in Thursday’s Virginian-Pilot only darkened my gloomy outlook. Will, a conservative, has a long association with the Koch brothers, those ultra-conservative, self-serving, big money plutocrats. This makes yesterday’s column all the more chilling.

After documenting the worst of Trump’s many displays of “mortifying” ignorance, Will concludes with the following directive:

“So it’s up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.”

This mandate demands our attention. And it’s not just about my sense of humor. It’s about the future of our nation. It’s no laughing matter.  Speak up!


Susan Motley copyright May 2017

Tomi Wortham Short


It’s hard for me to believe that it has been nearly thirty years since the day I first met Tomi Short. Hard to believe because I remember the day so vividly.

I can see my hand on the knob of the metal door that opened to The Starting Pointe School of Dance in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I remember pushing the door thinking it was not going to open; and when it did, finding Tomi seated at a desk just inside. Her smile was quick; her eyes sparkled. “Have a seat, Mom,” she said, “while I talk with your girls. Feel free to look through my scrapbook on the table there.”

Emily wanted to take ballet class and Elisabeth wanted to tap. I mindlessly flipped through the scrapbook focusing more on the conversation taking place with my children. Tomi coaxed Elisabeth into ballet explaining that the dance form is the foundation for all dance. We talked about their ages and the clothing and shoes they would need for their classes. I glanced at the framed photo signed, “Tomi, there will always be a place for you here, George Balanchine.” We settled on two ballet classes per week for two eager little girls, and the rest, as they say, is history.


Over the many years Emily and Elisabeth danced with Tomi, they learned so many things. They learned the mundane but powerful truth that practice makes perfect. They learned life skills such as the importance of punctuality and preparedness; how to work within a group to achieve a common purpose. Tomi stressed the importance of taking care of the body including the feet. Once after looking at a photo of feet bruised and blistered from pointe shoes, Tomi snorted, “That’s ridiculous. Mine never looked like that.”

That spring the students of The Starting Pointe didn’t have a recital. They had a performance: Jack and the Beanstalk. I don’t think our region had ever seen anything quite like it. The experience developed in her students self-assurance and discipline and pride in being part of something bigger than themselves.

I at last came to understand the significance of Tomi’s relationship with the New York City Ballet, George Balanchine, Ninnette, and Jacques d’Amboise and others; but she was always just Mrs. Short to us.

She was the Mrs. Short who, unable to find affordable costumes with fur accents, cut up her own mink jacket. When I expressed my disbelief, she was matter of fact. “People here don’t wear fur,” she explained. “and if I were to wear it in New York these days, it might be spray painted. Better to use it for costumes.” I am certain the mice scampering across the stage never knew they were adorned in mink.

In the end, Mrs. Short left us moving on to Richmond and Abingdon where she continued her engagement with the arts and dance. We stayed in touch though, and I will miss our visits with her infrequent as they were. She never failed to ask for information about her former students. She never failed to inspire me with her spunk even as she railed about the ravages of time on her body.

From her instruction of young dancers to her more recent work with senior citizens suffering from dementia, Tomi Wortham Short has left a powerful legacy. So many of us are better because we knew her. We will miss her.


Copyright May 2017

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