About Me

Welcome to Annie Asks You: Seeking Dialogue to Inform, Enlighten, and/or Amuse You and Me.

My interests are diverse: just about every aspect of what is sometimes called “current events”; health and wellness; the environment; animal behavior and the human/animal bond; and efforts to find common ground among people to lower the temperature of our national angst and strive for a more peaceful country and world.

I began writing decades ago, when The New York Times introduced a New Jersey Weekly section. Delighted by this publication giant’s neighborly interest, I sent off three letters to the editor in quick succession. To my amazement, The Times ran all three as Op-Eds and sent me payment for each.  The result: I started my career with the hugely erroneous assumption that life as a freelance writer was easy and potentially profitable.

Years of hard work, revisions, and rejections followed, but so did many essays and articles published in various newspapers and magazines, as well as two longer, coauthored documents: a book written with a plastic surgeon and a monograph published by the American Library Association.

There were also some interesting long-term projects: editing the Bulletin of the Association for Psychoanalytic Medicine (Columbia University); serving as Project Editor for a federally funded study of the ethical, legal, and social implications of the Human Genome Project; and acting as vice president of a nonprofit foundation that was an early effort to provide the public with access to public information via the Internet. I then served as a writer/editor for a magazine for physicians and as managing editor and subsequently vice president for a continuing medical education company.

It’s the emphasis on “common ground” that has led me to focus on seeking dialogue in this blog. I’ll sometimes express strong opinions, and I hope you’ll do the same with your comments. But I also hope our shared goal will be not necessarily to agree–but to politely and respectfully give serious consideration to one another’s views. I’d like us to be the Johnny Appleseeds of empathy, spreading good will as we learn from one another.

Think this will work? It will only if you collaborate with me. Your thoughts?

Here’s hopin’!

Annie

26 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Annie, thank you for your lovely words. That kitten-dog connection is beautiful and a very nice example of how to embrace what we regard as the “other.” Of course, the kitten is soft and friendly, the dog is amiable and accepting, each received something from the other, but in our human realm, the “other” can be scary and/or do damage. Serious things, crimes against humanity, cruelties . . . How do we mere fallible souls incorporate that much otherness and still move ahead in a positive direction? How do we reframe our differences to absorb them in a more positive, workable path forward? Start with the commonalities? The lowest common denominator and go from there? Mere conversation, steeling oneself for the possibility that it can devolve into nastiness shortly after “hello, how are you?” These approaches can seem too little a connection to span vast divides. Clearly, I have things to learn. Keep writing, Annie. And thank you for your wisdom and effort.

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    1. I am deeply grateful for your thoughtful comments, which enhanced my thinking not only by adding texture, quite literally (I love the soft, friendly kitten and the amiable, accepting dog), but by posing the questions I’m grappling with in your succinct manner. I’d love to think we don’t have to start with the lowest common denominator–that we can somehow find some commonalities. This is a time when the most promising step would be for more of us to believe and act upon what you have written and I strongly feel: “Clearly, I have things to learn.” So glad you’re on board!

      We’re touching on questions that are wrenching for our society, and I have no illusions that we’ll resolve them here. But I’m encouraged by references to seeking our better angels, and I plan to look into the film about Mr. Rogers and his use of puppets to teach kids about love and kindness. And there sure seems to be a lot of commonality around the richness that animals add to our lives. Maybe that’s one way to reach across divisions.

      If anyone else who’s reading these comments wants to jump in–agree/disagree, take us in a different direction–please do.

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  2. I am one of those “cat haters,” and my experiences with cats as a child definitely played a part in the way I feel today. For a short time, we had a cat that my sister and I found roaming around outside our home without a collar. We certainly wanted to love this cat and make her a part of our family, but she would attack us all the time for what seemed to be no reason. I remember having similar experiences with friends’ cats…so I think my bias is definitely fear based :-).

    In regard to what’s going on today in, as you stated, “our woefully polarized times,” I think your analogy is spot on! We all have preconceived notions and, unfortunately, many people do not want to step out of their comfort zone.

    I was just listening to Maria Shriver interviewed on a Podcast. She explained to the host that everyone has preconceived notions about her (she is an Irish Catholic Democrat), and this upset her because she feels that since her time as First Lady of California, she has had lots of experience with Republicans who she views as brilliant leaders. Maria said she grew up hating Republicans and would never give them the time of day but now feels very differently. So, in her mind, to become more effective, she has changed her political status to “Independent.” This did not go over very well with her family, but they are beginning to come around and understand why she made the change.

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    1. Janet,

      Thank you for your honest depiction of another side of the pet story. Unlike some other situations, your hatred of cats wasn’t arbitrary: based on your description, I think you’re right that it stems from fear arising from experiences you’ve had. We’re all hard-wired to protect ourselves from danger by “fight or flight or freeze”–and your reaction has been flight via avoidance. Though rescuing stray animals is terrific, doing so sometimes has unintended consequences.The animal you rescued may have been traumatized in some way–or may have been abandoned because of its aggressiveness. I don’t know too much about training cats, but I understand that aggressiveness can be modified. If anyone with more experience wants to weigh in on these issues, please do.

      Thanks, too, for the interesting story about Maria Shriver. I can imagine how tough it was for her family to accept her changed registration, and how much thought she must have put into the move before she made the change. She sure did overcome her own preconceived notions!

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