Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Commentary: The Importance of Values and Principles

Tuesday June 17, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10 (c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved Grammy's Axioms, Special to the Grand Junction Free Press

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: You cannot have sunshine without shadows, good without bad, nor success without failure.

     Have you ever noticed how the world seems to be made up of opposites? I used to ponder that concept when I spent so many hours sitting on airplanes. I became fascinated with the laws of nature as a result of meditating about it.       Does nature provide rules to produce a compatible worldly path for all animal life? I speak here of our current existence in physical bodies, not of spiritual life or evolvement.       An August 1999 news story tells of researchers who released organisms into their computer environment. They watched them "evolve" and recorded the results in a controlled experiment.      A senior research fellow in computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology, Christoph Adami, explained, "These creatures have no idea that there's any other world but this. The world is unreal, but the creatures that live in it are not."      Some would explain human society in the same way.      The organisms could mutate. They could reproduce. Their string of life was, said Michigan State microbiologist Richard Lenski, "the cyberequivalent of ...DNA because it carried instructions for all the organism's functions."      Lenski said that after all of the various tests involving mutation and reproduction, results "suggest there seem to be governing principles that exist in life." What a concept!      There are laws of nature, whether they occur in cyberspace organisms or in our biological, human world.      There are governing principles that exist in life. I believe principles are black and white. Nature tells me that is true. Throughout history, societies have survived because they learned to recognize and honor positive principles.      But humans do not live by principles, alone. They have social values, too. What is the difference between these two thing -- values and principles?      Values derive from principles, principles do not derive from values. Understanding this is key to understanding the meaning of "values."      If a changing social value is not strongly connected to an unchanging principle of nature, it is not a value. Society may choose to call a mode of behavior a social value, but it cannot be defined as holding value unless it is tied to an unchanging principle. Ever-changing values must be tied to unchanging principles.       There are those who disagree with my interpretation of the importance of nature's laws in the establishment of social values.      Some people believe values should evolve from recent human experience. They believe there is no need for ties to historically successful social principles. Values, some people believe, should reflect what they feel, what they want, what they need.      If people want drugs, they should be legalized. If they want promiscuous sex, it should be okay. If pregnancy results, abortion will be a legal alternative to birth.      Nature's laws tell me that actions have consequences. Because other people see no reason to keep values tied to principles, they do not believe in consequences. If you have wondered why no one is accountable for anything these days, this is it. Too many people see no reason for accountability and so it has become an acceptable "value." It is, in fact, a good example of just how "value-less" social values can be.      When people establish values unassociated with historically successful principles, the resultant value structure is unprincipled. That is not a moral value judgment. It is simple, extended logic. If something does not attach to principle in any way, it is unprincipled by definition.      Only by being unattached to unchanging principles can unprincipled values change as often as people's wants, needs and feelings demand.      I love nature's laws. They are clear. They are as old as the earth. They are our guides while we dwell in Caesar's world. All we need to do is observe and learn what Mother Nature has to teach us.      As one of my favorite philosophers, Ayn Rand, points out, we share two-thirds of our human nature with all other animal life: perception and sensation. As Ms. Rand also points out, the other third of our nature is conceptualization. Only human beings can conceptualize. And, conceptualization must result from personal choice. No one can force Henry Ford to conceptualize the Model "T."      My personal belief is that until we understand and have control over the animal two-thirds of our nature, our ability to conceptualize in a spiritual sense is quite limited.      What things has nature pointed out to me? The same thing it tells everyone: What goes up must come down. Isaac Newton became the Father of Physics by noticing that apples never fell up, always down.      The line of least resistance makes crooked rivers (and crooked people). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every cause, there is an effect. All living things grow to maturity, level off and die. A garden left untended is quickly filled with weeds. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.      Axioms and principles are quite different. Axioms are social lessons learned... like: A smile gets you further in life than a frown. We are all in life what we have prepared ourselves to be. If you lay down with dogs, you may get up with fleas. Axioms are things that are generally good rules to follow in most situations. Unlike principles, however, they can change. Sometimes it is better to frown. Some dogs do not have fleas.      The group that does not use unchanging principles to establish values will look at my statement that "We are all in life what we have prepared ourselves to be" and disagree.      "Not all people have the opportunity to prepare themselves to be someplace other than where they are. All things are relative." That is how relativists think.      It is a true statement -- but has little or nothing to do with the equally true statement that we are all where we have prepared ourselves in life to be.      I did not say all of us in life are what we are capable of being or that we all have equal opportunities. I merely said we are all where we have prepared ourselves in life to be. It is a true statement.      Values based on relative truths represent the philosophic perspective that nothing is ever totally wrong, nothing is ever totally right. All situations have gray areas. Truth is in the eye of the beholder. The values that result from relative truth are always gray.      Black and white truths are never relative. Values based on unchanging principles represent the philosophic perspective that all things can be judged right or wrong and that nothing is ever relative -- especially truth.      I prefer to live life in black and white. The way I see it, relative truth offers no anchor to define right and wrong for the total society. Relative truth changes from day-to-day and so values based on relative truth change from day-to-day. In other words, there is no truth.      Values of right and wrong that change from hour-to-hour, or business-to-business, or family-to-family, or courtroom-to-courtroom lack the very stability society needs to thrive. One of the things I appreciate from my childhood is the concept that what is wrong today will be wrong tomorrow and next year and ten years later. Yet, today these gray "values" become more and more dominant in American society.      To my good friend who recently said "The pendulum is beginning to swing back the other way. We just have to be patient and wait it out," I say this: A garden left untended becomes quickly overgrown with weeds. Weeds kill flowers. Nature says so. It's how we ended up with 30 million abortions. We let our garden of moral certainty get overrun with the weeds of self-gratification.      The biggest problem we have with our system of justice is that policemen function from the perspective of absolute truth -- violence comes in black and white. It offers no shelter under the aegis of relativist gray.      However, judges, safe in their courtrooms, function from the perspective of relative truth. The lawyer who can paint the best gray area wins. Our concept of justice thus falls victim to the gray people... the relativists and the gray principles they use to determine truth. They forget that when everything is gray, never black and white, there is no truth.      When you think about it, nature achieves balance by pitting two forces of equal strength against one another. We could not have success if failure did not exist. We could not have light without dark. We could not have love without hate or good without bad.      Remember the scientists who injected live organisms into their computer system? Remember what they said? After all of the various tests involving mutation and reproduction, results "suggest there seem to be governing principles that exist in life."      If that is true of simple organisms structuring a simple society, surely it has application to complex human beings.      Yet, what good is "governing principles" if everyone is so politically correct that no one acknowledges their existence?      Deciding what things I stand for requires me to walk out of the gray areas of life and take a stand that certain things are right, certain things are wrong. They are black and white, not gray. By selecting the things for which I stand, I define my character -- or, lack thereof.      Everyone does.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Men and Women: Equals and Opposites

Tuesday June 3, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10 (c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: Women are equal to men because they are their opposites. Men are equal to women for the same reason.
     From the time human beings lived in caves until very late in the 20th century, men protected women, women protected children. That probably represents millions of years of conditioning... hardly something a generation of liberated females can overcome in a few years.      I’ve always been comfortable with the philosophy that the only thing that makes women equal to men is that we are their opposites. Equally, the only thing that makes men women’s equals is they are our opposites.      I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the commercials designed to appeal to women. You’ve seen them. They make men look like idiots, liars, incompetents… pandering jerks at best. I love men. The ads anger me.      When our boys came home from war in 1945, I was eight. The government had to get all of the Rosie Riveters out of the work force. Our returning heroes wanted – and needed -- their jobs.      My generation of women was taught a female’s place is in the home. Beautiful women like Doris Day told me so in every movie. In living color. On big screens.      By the time I was 16, I had a clear view of who society thought I was supposed to be and what everyone – except me – expected of me. At 17, my first article appeared in the Denver Post – a sports story about the Denver Bears.      A popular adage of the day was “Send your sons to college, not your daughters. Girls don’t need a costly education to have babies.” I was still going to university in my 40s (to get a graduate degree) because of that adage.      Unfortunately, social engineers of the 40s and 50s did not know I would have to support two children, alone. They did not project the millions of women who would be forced into the role of total family provider. They did not calculate the number of men who would drop out of sight and refuse to support their children.      Neither did I.      Men do not desert. Little boys who never grow out of the “I am the world” stage do this. When I refer to the importance of men in this article, I refer to men, not little boys.      After my first year as a newspaper reporter for the Wyoming Eagle (Cheyenne, 1957), I moved back to Denver for family reasons.      I got a job at the Denver Police Department and married a police officer in 1958. Three years and two babies later, he was arrested for his minor role in the Denver Police scandal. He got a one-to-five year sentence. (He caught fellow cops burglarizing places, reported it the first time, was threatened, and did not report it after the threats… I knew nothing about it until his arrest.)      Just prior to his arrest and while seven-months pregnant, a woman came through a stop sign and hit me broadside in the driver’s door. I was driving.      Though I carried the baby full-term, I was in hard labor for three days. The accident caused health problems for me in the aftermath of my daughter’s birth. It is why I am disabled with arthritis, today.      My husband was arrested three months after her birth and my second hospitalization was caused by it.      While Joe was in prison, I had to have surgery. I had no sick leave from my job. I had surgery one day and two days later I sneaked out of the hospital to go back to work. I was the sole family provider.      Two weeks later, I collapsed. I had to go on welfare. It was there that I learned the cost of something for nothing is human dignity. I became conservative as a result of my welfare experience.      To make a very long story short, I stayed with my husband when he came home from prison. He was on parole for several years. The experience so destroyed him he could not work. I cannot explain to you the difficulties or the pain of those years, so will not try.      Six years after his arrest, we divorced. At the time, I was a high school graduate who loved to write and who could type 92 words per minute. I was terrified. I asked for a huge $50 per month per child as support. I knew he would have a hard time and didn’t want to add to it. I might as well have asked for a million a month because he disappeared. Desertion.      Child support payments were never paid. I did what all women who needed to get ahead did in those days: keep changing jobs. I had just become a magazine editor and assistant to the publisher when I met Gordon Barnewall and remarried.      He and I got along well… but he was a terrible stepfather. The children were my primary responsibility. We stayed married only two and a half years. When I divorced Gordon, I went to work for a downtown Denver bank. I vowed I would not remarry until my children were raised.      As I began my career in the white male-dominated world of banking in the early 1970s, I knew my limits. Society had taught me well.      Don’t compete too effectively or you will threaten male egos. Don’t be too bright, too intense, or you invite competition – and, it’s not ladylike to compete with men. It’s even less ladylike to win.      It was men in my world of banking that expanded their views of my capabilities. They were the ones that took me out of the socially acceptable “woman in marketing or personnel” role. Fiscally conservative males put me in the non-traditional female position of managing a major credit and deposit portfolio.      Men who had to fight their own social views -- taught them by preceding generations -- supported and promoted me. I had to fight my social views, taught me by preceding generations.      I’m not sure who had the toughest time with attitude, the bankers who helped me learn and succeed – or, me. It’s hard to step from a support to a line management role. One job requires a reaction to decisions made by others. The other, to create the concept and make decisions for others to implement.      Some of those men who supported me expected me to fail. Some hoped I would fail. They wanted things to stay the same. They wanted to say, “See, women cannot assume a stressful, logical, decision-making role like credit management.”      Most, however, did what they could to be non-judgmental.      When I succeeded, many of them changed their attitudes. It opened the doors for more women to progress into the male-dominated world of bank credit. I can promise you however, it was no fun being a pioneer.      I constantly fought the sense of displaced housewife and mother and all the inherent feelings of guilt that accompany both. When there is only one working parent in the home, it is true that children suffer the consequences. In my opinion, the parent who must be both mother and father, who must be provider and housekeeper, loses, too. Loses what? The right to be young, to mature slowly, to have time for friends... even more important, to have time for self.      I didn’t realize that until years after both of my children had left home.      At one point, I worked 60 hours a week, sat on five boards, and worked on my graduate degree so I could continue my upward mobility at the bank. I had two teenagers. I had to earn enough to pay for braces on teeth, a home in a good neighborhood, medical insurance and care, clothing, car, insurance – all of the things a father provides, or should.      Maybe that’s why I have so much respect for fathers. I know how hard the job is!      There were Sunday mornings when after a Saturday spent cleaning the house, washing and ironing and doing the grocery shopping for the week, I took my kids to the mountains. We’d get a campsite by Bear Creek and cook breakfast outdoors. I taught them to play tennis and to swim.      Today, psychologists tell us that kids raised in fatherless homes really do not suffer any sense of loss. These “specialists” need to go back to school – and study something else.      Two years ago, the children’s father died of cancer. My son was 21 months and my daughter three months old when their father went to prison. For most of their lives, I raised them. Over all those years, Joe came to Colorado less than six times. He always called to make sure I wouldn’t call the Sheriff to arrest him for non-support before he stopped to see the kids.      Before he died, both children (now in their 40s) flew far from their homes to his bedside. They stayed with him through the ordeal. I knew that his only fatherly act was that of sperm donor. They did not know that.      From their perspective, he was their father and he was dying.      Women’s libbers try to make men insignificant. They cannot. And, since the world is made up of equals and opposites, if there were no men, it is likely there would be no women, either.      I may add companies to my list of “Do Not Buy Their Products” if they run ads that demean men.      When advertisers demean men and make them look like idiots who are barely tolerated by a superior female, they demean me as a woman, too.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Grammy's Axioms -- Old Endings, New Beginnings

Tuesday June 3, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10
(c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights Reserved

By Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall

Axiom: We need to welcome endings in our lives. Each offers opportunities for new beginnings.
     Have you ever noticed how impossible it is to focus on one thing when you are even slightly distracted by another?      Too often we encourage our own distractions by holding on for dear life to a past we want to lose or change. We try to walk away from an old, familiar path to place our feet on a newly chosen one... but something prevents us from making the transition.      Retirees, for example, often face the challenge of establishing totally new lives. After spending a lifetime establishing close relationships, they leave parents, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, and fellow employees.      These are the people who once gave them a sense of self. We all gain a portion of our identity from our relationships with others.      When retirement time comes, they implement plans they designed to help them enjoy their “golden” years. (Those of us in our golden years know what the quote marks mean.)      They have worked hard. They have earned their moments of rest and relaxation. They envision a warm moment in the sun. They can sleep late, eat when they want, go to bed late, watch television or not – they will have time to do all the things denied them during their working years.      They move to a beautiful place but never really become a part of the community. Things aren’t like they used to be in their old hometowns. Their traffic signals were better coordinated, their license plates were less expensive, summers were a little cooler, they had air conditioning rather than swamp coolers (like the ones we use in desert country).      In other words, they are so busy remembering the good part of their old lives (memories of the bad are easier to forget), they never totally enjoy the new one. They have not embraced an ending. Until they do, they will not enjoy the new beginnings they expect.      Those who lose an endeared friend or family member may have a particularly hard time embracing endings. Such endings are usually not sought and are most often unwelcome. Regardless, a grieving process is the normal way humans learn to embrace (if not happily) an end so a new destiny may begin.      Like me, you may have had many opportunities to learn this principle of life. There have been a lot of endings and, thankfully, a lot of new beginnings for me.      Writing this column, for example, is a new beginning. Since my last book was published in 1998, I had pretty much stopped writing (at least on a disciplined basis). I don’t know why. It is my strongest form of expression.      I know my friends and family would tell you I’m strongly verbal – in the idiom of the day, I have a big mouth. That’s true. I love to talk. I love to argue. Passionately. But when I say things from the heart, it almost always has to be in writing.      When I found out I was disabled in 1993, I wouldn’t believe it. I thought “denial” was psychobabble. I learned that it was not.      Disability was an ending I could not – did not -- embrace. My professional life had been too good, too perfect. I was earning a lot of money. I was flying around the world seeing places I’d only read about. There was a lot of recognition. Who wouldn’t love such a lifestyle?      I thought the career and all its perks were what I couldn’t give up. Surely that was what depressed me. I learned that was not the problem.      I had to learn to redefine who I was. Physical shortcomings have a way of making you realize you cannot do certain things.      Okay. So I couldn’t consult anymore. Did that mean I couldn’t work? The concept of not being able to work and support myself was foreign to me. I had always supported my family.      In June of 1993, I bought a sandwich shop at the Denver Tech Center. I moved back to Denver from Battlement Mesa where I had a home I loved. It was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. Not understanding why you cannot get your feet off of an old path and onto a new one can cause you to make huge mistakes.      This mistake cost me a fortune. Within three months of the time I purchased it, my doctor told me to stop going there. He might not be able to keep me from it, “but until you do your pain is going to get worse. It will finally stop you.”      I hate it when doctors are right about such things. He was also right about the disability thing. When I finally accepted it, life became a lot easier. I moved back to Colorado';s West slope – this time to Grand Junction.      You see, the path my feet refused to leave was independence. It took me awhile to figure that out.      It had nothing to do with being a consultant or owning my own company or being called by national and international publications for my opinions. Those were great and very enjoyable perks, but had little to do with my confusion. My reality had changed. I had to redefine “independence” and “productivity” and “purpose.”      When you analyze why adjusting to a change in your life is difficult, examine carefully the precise path at the root of the problem. For me, it was the fear of losing my independence and life purpose. It had nothing to do with no longer being able to consult and travel and give speeches.      Such fears make even the most logical person do stupid things. I finally figured out that positive thinking must be kept closely aligned with truth to maintain its integrity.      My son, for example, was hurt because I never called to ask him for a tour of the new Denver airport. He was/is an air traffic controller at DIA. How could I tell him I was afraid there might be stairs and I was having great difficulty with them?      What if it required too much walking (no way was I going to appear before my son’s professional associates in a wheelchair – I wasn’t really disabled, after all!)? Too, all the anti-inflammatory drugs caused me to gain weight. I’d always been slender. It shamed me.      My son interpreted my avoidance of the subject as disinterest in him and his profession. He’s a little like his mother and didn’t say anything about it, but I finally figured it out.      I exhibited acceptance of my new self by writing a book. It wasn’t the book that made a statement of my acceptance. It was the subject matter. I did not even realize it at the time.      This book was different from those I’d written in the past... books about bank loan policies, profitability analysis, organizational structure, etc. My 1998 book became the loudest statement I could make about severing my ties with my banking past. I was already a published author, so writing a book was nothing new for me. Writing a book was not a means to chisel out a new life purpose.      My new book was called Cosmic Canines (Ballantine Books, 1998) and was about dogs and astrology. Now that’s about as far away from banking and my previous career as you can get What banker do you know who would accept business advice from someone who writes about dogs and astrology?      That was the way my psyche told me I was ready to move ahead.      That is what getting my feet on a new path meant to me. I finally kissed the old life goodbye by embracing an ending. I was then able to find what I’d been looking for all along: A totally new purpose for being alive. I found a new kind of independence, a new kind of productivity, a new life purpose.      My feet were now happily on a new path. I learned that to continue being a positive person, I had to redefine my capabilities. Before I reached that point, I kept getting depressed because my old guidelines for positive thinking no longer worked.      I finally figured out that positive thinking must be kept closely aligned with truth to maintain its integrity. I kept promising myself I would accomplish things it was no longer possible for me to do. Of course, I failed. Setting high but achievable goals is positive. Setting unachievable goals is the height of negativity.      Those people who relocate upon retirement may not really care a whit about the non-coordinated traffic lights. That may be what they complain about, but maybe what they really miss is their kids or parents or friends.      Maybe what they really miss is the purpose in life one receives from a job. It’s easier to complain about the traffic lights... while keeping their feet on the old path to the place they still consider home.      People who want new beginnings need to warmly embrace an ending. Until they do, new beginnings are put on hold.