Sunday, November 7, 2010

Special Delivery

We all know what the words “going postal” mean but what is the term for avoiding the post office? It might not even be the post office, as much as it is a bit of extreme separation anxiety experienced from sending mail. Not all mail, or not all mail, all the time. There are times when I mail certain pieces of correspondence with haughty disregard or aloofness. A prepaid pre-postaged, pre-printed response, typically gets mailed with little thought.

So, is it the printing, or the free mailing that I can cope with or feel somewhat entitled to? No, I don't think so. I typically buy stamps or have them nearby without much to do, or ado. Sometimes there is a bit of a frenzy at finding them in one pocket, purse or pile of ephemera. But that appears to be my unique system of locating items of varied nature. At times finding keys or lotion in the freezer or garage shelf as I was distracted along the way. Anthropologists assigned to my historical artifacts will surely wonder or make way-off hypotheses about eating rituals and daily life from these findings.

I am not long-scarred from the original “postal” crime scene. I am not particularly concerned about the “uni-bomber”, or the anthrax scare. I like the post office. It is the one place left from days gone by that remains in tact and still in use, although much less so. The post office in my own town is quaint. It could easily be recreated in a Williamsburg Village-type theme park. There are murals painted on the walls that were commissioned during FDR's reign in an attempt to put this country back to work. A scene depicting early life in this 400 year old village covers the expanse of the room. Exposed beams and a wooden door that may have been culled from wood remains of "The HalfMoon" add to the historical ambience. Ok, I am sure they weren't culled from Henry Hudson's sailing vessel but I am an adventurer at heart with admiration of historical artifacts and perhaps a tad like Junie-B-Jones in, and with, my imagination. I do like the post office, second to an old fashioned bakery, and that's big, for me.

We've ruled out the building, the terror-associated with, and the cost of stamps. I am left with two possibilities but there might be more. First, adventure. Risk-taking behavior. Yes I know, I said mail and risk taking, not skydiving and risk taking or pharmaceutical chemicals and risk taking. We all have our crosses to bear. It sometimes works like this-I need to get something to someone else by a certain date. A bill, a greeting card, an important time-sensitive document. There is pressure, there is control, pressure, control. Thrilling, dontcha think? How close to the wire can I go? It does become exciting. I don't recommend it to everyone and certainly travel, a ride in a fast car, an amusement park, an adventure movie and even, skydiving are generally viewed as exciting, but I'm not your regular cup of joe-I need a little more, or less in the way of excitement. And there is the built in punitive risk of late fees or letting someone down on their special day. Rewards and punishment-just what risk-taking is all about, No? I am one of those empty gas tank drivers too. I've gotten better, but only recently and I still know how far into the reserve tank section of the fuel mileage meter I can drive on my way home from work, sometimes.

The other possibility is more to do with departure and delivery. This one has become a bit more of a possibility for me of late. In early child development it is akin to the fear of going potty-losing a bit of yourself into this great unknown universe. Irrational, sure, but don't we all suffer from some irrational thoughts and fears? A few times this year I have needed to mail different items to my son, far away in New Orleans. And recently I wanted to send a care package to my daughter in Albany. Each time I blew it. They did get what I wanted them to have but my son's items were a tad late and my daughter's package was hand delivered. They miss the joy and thrill of snail mail and sealed with a kiss packages of love. (I have done the same with a few long distance birthday greetings for years.) I don't want to admit they are not within hugging distance and I also have been struggling with my knack for typically being reliable and responsible- I am relaxing a bit and the mail is a safe place to let go, but I have had this trouble for a much longer time, to be honest. Just maybe, somewhere deep in my subconscience underpinnings, I may just imagine if they really want what I have, they will find a way back to it. Genius, Right? Ok-they haven't had the need and have decided to just chalk up another little piece of mother-quirk into their own deep subconscience minds.

It may be worth noting that I can't wrap my mind around radio-waves and music being sent from one location and being caught by transistor radios far and wide. Why does Federal Express operate by mailing a package from one small neighborhood to a city hundreds of miles away before shipping it yet again to a town not 80 miles from the original location? How does my personal mail get from my heart and soul all the way to my children without a hug and a kiss reaching out to them, without the scents of dinner cooking or the promise of a kiss good-night? How the heck did they grow up so fast and why is the Post-Office involved in this new conspiracy? I will get to the bottom of it, and when my garbage bill comes I will dream of sending all of my love and care to the kind receptionist who deals with my panic filled plea for assuring that I have sent payment since the last threatening letter warning me about service disruption. Maybe she can explain my sense of adventure and thrill seeking to the Village Clerk who has handled my water bill all of these years.

Attention-seeking? Three letters from the waste management company as opposed to the one that everyone else gets? Hmmm.....Nah, that's just silly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Love Means Having to Drive on Down the Highway

A week ago I decided to remodel my second bathroom. It is located in my finished basement but it has always appeared a bit, unfinished, lacking in finesse or final touches. I went about this project with excitement and confidence. My son helped set up a mini-workshop, measured and cut some of the materials and assisted as I did the same. Happy with the results, I admired the near finished bathroom with pride and satisfaction. Fresh paint and a couple of cornices will make this room shine! The very next day the septic system backed up. All is not lost, however, quick, offensive work with a wet vac saved all of my labor. Just the same, not something to expect, wish upon your worst enemies, or have any interest in dealing with. It felt a bit like a reminder. A wake-up call and a strange parallel to my own redesigning. A little weight loss, a lot of physical activity, a fresh coat of cosmetics, and a new hair style, don't ensure that everything is working properly. On the other hand, the knowledge that sh-- happens, doesn't have to eradicate all the positive results. Yet, I am a sign-seeker, so I examine things very closely before determining meaning and purpose. Currently I am examining, or determinedly peering at my own next move. Hawk-like I seem to be watching and waiting to see where I may venture. But the wake-up calls keep me grounded.

When I meet with a few close friends we inevitably discuss marriage and relationships, what's working, what's not. We collectively struggle with common aspects and individually appreciate joyous attributes. Maybe not joyous, for some, as much as working attributes. Men, and women both. This is not a one gender only issue or collection of issues. When just the "girls" get together we understand that the "boys" in our lives are not sitting elsewhere, dreamy eyed waiting for us. When we converse with male friends, we are not surprised by their concerns and complaints. In this capacity we all seem to get it, and we all seem to know that we don't have many workable, long term solutions to our issues. Why is that?

One place to start may be home design, remodeling or at least redistribution of space. Many of us with children believe they should have their own space, when space allows. Privacy, room to grow, a place to be alone and contemplate the ever changing landscape of their developing selves. But the expectation that the adults in the home should be coupled in the same room seems a bit unrealistic. Do we truly expect to have the same contemplative thoughts, to have the same needs, are we trying to limit the desire for individual growth? Why would adults ever need time alone, when we can always be with that special someone that is forever special? Don't we grow up with the one desire to simply find that incredible soul mate and never depart from their side? Or perhaps we are adhering to the notion that love and romance equal marriage. The notion that we will be with our incredible, romantic, soul-mate, lover and friend is a fairly new notion and one that needs a closer look.

The idea that we would be marrying for love as opposed to finding a suitable partner with clearly defined roles and long term goals is incredibly new and maybe not so well thought out. Certainly, love is phenomenal. Everyone should have that in their relationships. But love means so many different things at different times. And there are so many other tasks and requirements that must be met within and outside of the confines of that loving home. Is it possible to define some roles, establish goals, mutually and individually, as well as strive for love that is personally identified as opposed to some prime-time, generalized, prototype that has very little to do with our own experiences, interests or desires?

Most of us seem to equate love with mutual, steadfast agreement. Love with no conflict, ever. Love with sex. Love with slippers and a martini glass. Love with a shiny new bauble. With these equations come distrust and territorial score-keeping. Did you love me enough today? Did I get what I needed? Who's turn is it to say, “Honey, I'm home”? Who's turn is it to run and greet with a warm, loving hug? We both enter, we both have hard days we both need the same thing. Or we need very different things. A little space, immediate attention, start the dinner, attend to the kids, 123 Go! Who? Where? Who does the loving, Now!?

For starters, can we find a place in our homes to call our own? A refuge, a corner, a door that closes, a window that looks out onto something calming? I knew immediately if my kids came in and went directly to their rooms they needed space, after a few false starts, some bumps and slams, I grew to learn how and when to approach the need and when to wait it out so that I could be approached. Space, time, respect. What a dream! What a concept! Why can't the adults have a little bit of that real estate space? Oh, that might challenge the notion of love. If I need to be alone, I must not love you. Or if you need to be alone, you don't love me anymore. Now add to that idea, the great test. The test of love: The Standardized Test of Love Act Frequency and Duration. The perfect time to test this out is directly after we see our partners needing to claim space. And the results? Well if you come looking for me to perform, right after I made a leap to gain some space and perspective, I probably now think you don't love me enough to see I need space. Or, if you think that's how you show love and I won't accept your love, clearly something is wrong, because EVERYONE wants love. And isn't that what that one big bed in the center of that one shared room is for? Certainly that has been the message pushed, forced, and shoved down our, well, you know...

The romantic notion of love that is promoted and proliferated from every deodorant commercial, movie, and product launch is hardly the thing that life is made of. (Think back to the septic system and the wet vac). Worth noting that the man I share my home with, on a very difficult day of his very own, rolled up his sleeves and offered assistance. An act of love? Not likely seen in any movies any time soon, or written into a romantic novel, but an act that was surely noted. Love as imagined in marriage, so often fades and twists and turns before becoming simply a term in tennis; Love that equals nothing, the score of zero. Maybe if we start to identify what love means for us as individuals and then as partners, we may be able to sustain it. Maybe we can remodel our lives, our homes and our belief systems around the idea that love might mean having a little space to call our own. Space in the home, space in the world, space in our hearts and mind to fill with feelings of our very own.

I used to believe that Woody Allen and Mia Farrow had it all going on. Separate houses, space to come together and space to be apart. Unfortunately because Mia was the parent and care-giver in her separate living quarter, Woody never realized that parenting love was decidedly different than partner love. He didn't understand that love and sex were not the same feelings or freely interchangeable and available to anyone that lived in the separate home. He blew it. I still like the concept, but it needs a little more work. Clearer boundaries and mutual respect. Time and space to be together and apart. Maybe I would prefer to live closer to the B-52's Love Shack. The Love Shack is a little old place, where we can get together. This implies that we can also get apart. It doesn't have to be rigid. Get in that big whale of a Chrysler, drive on down the highway, take a few breathes along the way, have some fun. Enjoy the ride. Share some love. Feel the love.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Woman in Control: Have-It-All Day

Woman in Control: Have-It-All Day: "I keep coming across articles, reports, conversations and media bites about mid-life women leaving their marriages, “in droves” it's reporte..."

Have-It-All Day

I keep coming across articles, reports, conversations and media bites about mid-life women leaving their marriages, “in droves” it's reported. A new trend, some say. Speculate, proclamate and surmise to say this occurrence correlates with several trends. The first generation of women to have choices and opportunities beyond the kitchen have a collective bit of status, financial freedom and perhaps wanderlust of their very own, right smack in the middle of menopause and the launching of their children. Research has also revealed a pervasive decline in happiness in women as compared to men over the past 25 years. Women seem to be attempting to take control over their lives at a time when their lives suddenly belong to them.

First, when looking at the population that this trend most applies to, women over 40, it is not surprising that we are changing the rules and rewriting some of the regulations. We are the women that were brought up at a time when options and choices were promoted and offered like "Bat Day" at Yankees Stadium. Buy your ticket; get a free bat; a large coke and a hot dog. Dream big about your future, ladies! Step right up, go to college, get a career, a partner, a family and have it all. The big difference? "Bat Day" was only one day, you came, you cheered, you ate, you got the souvenir and you went home with a fond memory. Something new and exciting was offered up next season. We were lead to believe we could “Have it all”. “Have it all” Day was going to be a new way of life, not an attempt to create an ongoing event. (I believe “ongoing event” is the oxymoron here).

We also grew up in a time when divorce initially seemed an epidemic to be quarantined from. We learned, the hard way, that it is also survivable. Maybe not the best case scenario for all parties, but life goes on and it can go on successfully. We also decided that marriage is not for everyone. Families come in all different shapes and sizes and tolerance for differences can move toward acceptance. Hopefully, in our lifetime. We learned we don't have all the answers, but we can continue to ask questions. Maybe we are learning that one size doesn't fit all and we get to make the alterations.

The timing of this great female exodus from the land of marital bliss seems to be worth noting. Many of us were raised up and went right into marriage. From daughter to wife and mother in a nano second. Sure, some travelled, threw themselves into those careers and satisfied desires and yearning before settling down. Those are more the exception, less the rule. Don't pass go, don't collect $200, don't forget the pressures to conform. We went from crib to crib fillers with careers. As women born in the late 50's through the early 70's launch their grown children, there are new possibilities suddenly available. Maybe the very possibilities we had hoped for. The icing on the Hostess cupcakes. The Kool-Aid Mom days behind us. There may be a need to self-regulate but we don't have to self-sacrifice quite so much as our mothers and grandmothers.

The realization that the time comes when children grow up and leave, has been for me, initially debilitating, grief stricken and somewhat surprising. It has quickly turned toward a monumental time of possibility and I find myself examining my potential. What that means, I haven't committed to yet, but the dalliance with a chance to recreate and begin a new life is wide open and welcoming.

Of course throwing in the menopausal hormonal release like the grand finale of a fireworks show keeps me guessing, and those around me bobbing and weaving. Eventually I will see where the chips land. Certainly this all feels a bit mind-boggling and somewhat tantalizing. Truth be told, mind-boggling and tantalizing are more in line with my free spirited self than some of the constrained costumes I've been wearing as mother and wife. Don't get me wrong, I haven't been play acting as much as attempting to ensure stability and safety. I am ready to be a little more of a risk-taker, I think, a wee bit cautiously, perhaps.

Mid life seems a time to give up a little sanity, discard a few behaviors regarded as morals and values, or maybe in some areas, the false adherence to the morals and values that are more generalized and less personal. The freedom from the need to prepare and offer three tightly scheduled square meals is way more liberating then burning a bra. Quite honestly at this point in the game, most of us don't exactly fill the bra in a manner that the bra was created to uphold and maybe fully fill. The burning of it would be just one more added frustration that we just don't need to burden ourselves with. Simply throw it away or tighten the straps, maybe just a few small adjustments are needed (to the bra and the life design).

With no role models to look to, and little support (no bra pun intended) and no one handing out the bats or free refills, peanuts, or cracker-jack, it is no surprise that we couldn't sustain the promise or create the exemplar for marriage, motherhood, and mortal, lest we resort to martyr, as we sometimes do/did. Many held on until the kids were grown. Not the best way to manage but maybe the best that some could offer. We were for the most part, going to Have-It-All and Give-It-All for and to, the kids. With little left, it seems time to reevaluate and redesign. We may not have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps we want to throw the baby out and keep the bathwater. I don't know. I do know that I am ready to be more of myself with the safety and knowledge that my children are taking flight and their wings are strong. I want to fly, to try out those wings of mine that have been too long grounded. I may fly solo, I may fly with a friend, a partner, a true companion. Maybe a combination of the two. Rather than an exodus maybe I'll venture towards an alternate flight plan.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A coat, A girl, A change of perspective.

I have this early memory that is like an important passage in a good book. Each time I go back to it, it reveals more. Different details become exposed and heightened in a way that calls out, "How was that missed before?" I was a young child in the 60's. Too young to have passionate feelings about the sexual revolution, women's lib movement, the Vietnam War, or even Woodstock. And yet, somehow, there was certainly some infiltration into my development and journey. Likewise, my youngest son was in kindergarten when the twin towers went down. My sense of loss was staggering, for him it's historical, but not quite personal and yet it has changed the climate of his generation in a multitude of ways that will forever alter their collective experience.   In addition to the generalized pain, I have the distinct, and personal memory of seeing the twin towers being planned and built. I watched the cranes, emerge atop. I recall being disheartened that the Empire State Building, in full view from the street I grew up on in Queens, would no longer be the tallest. I felt it's pain. It beckoned to me each day on my way home from school, as I played on the sidewalk, or sat on the stoop. The twin towers seemed stark, clinical almost, lacking in heart and soul. I was a bit cynical and curmudgeonly even then, or a romantic with fine appreciation for architecture. Yet when they were attacked, I felt a larger, visceral pain. My son came home from first grade unknowing, excited about friends, or a project, or the brilliant, beautiful, blue sky of that day.

The early memory I refer to is about being independent. All children want to do “it” themselves at some point. “I can do it, myself!” Turn the light off, on, off, on again because they can, and a short time earlier they could not, yet. Go potty, sleep in their own bed, pick out their own clothes. Independence is one of those stages in early childhood that is a boon and a burden, both. Sometimes those pesky little tikes just really can't quite do it yet, or doing it themselves takes approximately the equivalent of whatever the mathematic percentage of 3 years times x amount of children removed from your livelihood is. (Note to self: Efficiency expertise data would be useful here.)

Anywho... The memory. The sixties. Women's Lib movement. Childhood independence. I was a sparky little thing. Sass and attitude. Spirited and determined. I recall with great clarity a situation that occurred when I was around four years old. My father's friend, Mr. Finkle, was attempting to help me put on my coat,"Allow me." Oh the nerve, the injustice, the long, hard, history of women everywhere.....No, not really, the strong desire for a young child to be independent. Mr. Finkle was put off, but charmingly. He made a big to-do. “Oh, a feminist!” he proclaimed. “Oh, she doesn't need any help”. “A women's libber”, “You have a real live wire here and she doesn't need any help!” He snarked. I remember my father rolling his eyes in jest. I put that coat on and good! I can even remember my body and posturing. I was not going to need or take any help, damn it!

The memory is somewhat disjointed and interconnected at the same time. I felt a sense of pride in not needing help, but I was also aware a larger message or meaning was being communicated. My pride was also the bane of accepting help, it has infiltrated my being. I did not realize at the time that this was a courtesy, and also a way to treat me as a woman, not a child, perhaps one in the same?  It was also a way to demonstrate chivalry. It was not meant to scourge or condescend. It was a politeness bestowed upon me, and women, not a way to keep the girl-child down. But damn it all, I expressed with authority, as I turned abruptly, “ I can put my own coat on!” I can even remember a slight scowl and pulling away, more than likely a foot stomping.

Here I am, forty some odd years later. I am still unclear what I want to do myself versus what would feel really nice if some man-folk did it for me or with me. Would I still feel independent and worthwhile if someone helped? What are the rules here? The double standards and confusing messages few of us can decipher are in need of a little, ahem, assistance, or help. Opening a door for me feels nice, thoughtful. I generally don't wait for this to occur, though. I move around with speed and determination. Does that interfere with the rules? How will I ever learn them? Do I value them or even recognize them? Do I want help? Will it imply that I need help, that I can't do it myself? I suppose all of the above. I do need help, sometimes. I also like to help. Courtesies, kind gestures, opportunities for self and others to help, avail. I may just slow down a bit and participate, in the moment. I may wait for someone to help me put my coat on. I might even like it, damn it. I might slow down enough to feel it and accept it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Please Excuse My Dear Ad Nauseam

Dear Mrs. Teacher Lady,

Please excuse Butch, Mahalia, Watson, Marley, Dylan, Sam, All God’s (Allah's, Buddha's, Krishna's) Children Great and Small, non secular types, each and everyone for not having his/her project, homework, permission slip et al. He wasn’t able to find it in his room. She couldn’t remember where she left it. I will help her find it and probably clean his room for him. We are busy with piano lessons, video games, holidays, mental health breaks for quiet meditative reflection regarding what may or may not be important in our lives. We may have been shopping, out to dinner, at a soccer game or finding dust bunnies under a bed or two, we may have all been on our laptops, ipads, blackberries, or cell phones. We may be juggling 2 jobs, home mortgages, divorce and illness. Our lives are overwhelmed and our quality time is scarce.

Please call to set up a conference regarding the lawsuit, district office visit, state ed investigation, or family curse if you choose not to excuse my son or daughter.

Peace and warm fuzzies to you and yours.

Kisses?.....hugs?…. laughs and guffaws way out loud?

Maybe. Maybe not so much. I am a parent and a teacher. A crazed, conflicted paradox. On the defense and offense simultaneously, so let me cautiously dissect this issue from both sides, if I may.

As a teacher, this type of note tends toward outrageousness and then calms itself to ignorance and maybe hovers around disregard and back toward misguided support, on a good day... Rather than excuse the student from being responsible, why not help support the purpose. Admittedly, the purpose is not always clear. The homework may not seem prepared to motivate or engage or instill great knowledge seekers. Maybe it is a ditto, worksheet, or mindless activity. Maybe it simply appears that way out of context. As a teacher, I have room for growth and development, continued education and the ability to learn more. I am open to the idea of communication that may inspire such radical changes. I may even have the opportunity to explain why the lame-seeming assignment was issued. Honestly, at times, students, workers, and even dreamers need to learn to do stuff that just isn’t fun. Sometimes that is enough of a purpose, although that isn’t typically the aim or purpose of homework. A note that explained why the assignment was attempted but not able to be completed would be better suited. A note that hinted toward a confidential matter with intent to honor said assignment would also work, perhaps the student was not able to do the assignment because they didn't understand, this is important information to share. Blatant disregard doesn’t much build strong connections, support systems or respect for the education of our children.

As a parent, I would have loved for my children to receive homework that was motivating and stimulating. I wasn’t always able to engender those feelings when I asked for tasks to be completed but I definitely would have had fewer struggles around homework and more positive times with my children during the homework crunches before, after and at times during dinners if homework was always stimulating. Who wouldn’t want their child to come home excitedly charged to share news about something interesting? How often do we have to hear about recess, and later, nothing? The flip side, as a parent, I continue to wish that some teachers, coaches, extra curricular activity directors, instructors and persons, et al did not believe that their role in the life of my child was to instill unwavering passion and dedication for one cause. Nightly practices that stretch on past 11 at night for a play that will not garner Oscar nods, Athletic training that lasts 1 or 2 hours overtime and is carried out 7 days a week to prove dedication, assignments that are less tangible then a doctoral dissertation and almost as belaboring seem unnecessary, teetering toward abusive, and egocentrically motivated and cuts into the time needed for the very important homework, limited family time and sleep.

As a parent I was stunned to find out that my battle cries for developing responsibility and respect regarding homework were done in near isolation, merely optional on some counts. One very early occasion that had me suited up for the fight went something like this-

Me- Do you have any homework?
Child- No.
Me-Are you sure?
Child- Yes, I finished it all or It’s the weekend we don’t get homework on the weekend or some such business.

When later that same weekend attending a pool party because the homework was completed….

Family Friend- How’s school going? Any big projects due?
Child - Yeah, I have to create a diorama and do a speech on Monday about a Native American clan, I get to choose.

Child slowly walks toward friends realizing we are in public, at a friend’s party and will not likely be leaving to complete assignment, and I will probably not put on a public display or wrestle the child.

The rest of the tale ended with me deciding said child would not be working on said project that evening. Hah! That will teach said child! I called the teacher, explained the situation and asked that the consequence be given at school, where it would count. I was imagining, a poor grade, group pressure and personal admonishing of the sort 4th graders assign. I was also not going to be tossed into the unsupportive parent file. I think I ended up in the parent that puts too much pressure on child file instead. The teacher had other ideas and told said child to finish the project when said child could. Said child did said project on the bus got a passing grade that was not so painful and moved on to bigger brighter battles, victories and good times. The teacher told me, defeatedly, most of the students don’t do homework most of the time. We were sort of united, parent and teacher, knocked-down, beaten.

So was/is homework so important and necessary? Yes and no. A larger problem that arises from these parent supported notes and excuses involves respect. Respect for education. Teaching children respect for others and respect for themselves. If a teacher is giving an assignment and a student believes they don’t really have to complete the assignment, the student is offered a place of power that is not theirs to hold. They are not developmentally ready to decide that they are more important than all of the other students and the teacher. They are not in a place where they can call the shots and decide who and when to listen to and follow instructions from. They are interfering with the instruction and academic opportunities for other students by their indifference and contempt for the system.

Do your homework- systems work when members buy into them. Systems crumble when there is anarchy. I for one, am attracted to anarchy when it is done for a meaningful cause and certainly homework might be a place to start a revolution or reform at least. Simply disregarding it? That's just not right. Teach your child to advocate and make meaningful change. Empower them, don't make excuses for them.

We need to look at the system and make changes, carefully and respectfully. How do we create experiences that engage and motivate? How do we learn how to work together? How do we manage our lives when there is not enough time in a day? How do we acknowledge when to throw in the towel? As a teacher, when can we add more time for concept mastery of needed skills? More important, what do we want to teach our children about life, responsibilities, consequences and opportunities? Homework may not be THE answer but wouldn’t it make more sense to practice courtesy and respect? Can children self-advocate, review other options and assess their own progress? Let's teach them.

Isn’t life easier when you go to the supermarket, doctor’s office, airport, movies etc. and the person required to perform a service or task actually can and will? Isn’t it better yet when they are polite, enthusiastic, engaged and interested? When they can’t provide the service, wouldn’t you prefer an honest answer or alternative solution? Or maybe you like when they shrug and walk away, not even knowing what they don't know how to do. As an employer, would you want to hire someone willing to do the job well or do you like those personal challenges trying to motivate someone that is unwilling and uninterested? Life. School. It can all work. Balance. Change. Peace and kind regard.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hostile Feminist

There persists, in our culture a very real and pervasive devaluing of women. Shhhh. Don't let anyone know. If we talk about this we are hostile feminists. If we don't talk about it, we get to stay victims. Pick one. Which is more appealing? For me, the hostile feminist route has not been more appealing, but it has been more true to my fury with some of my experiences. And I have no interest in being a victim or being victimized.

I originally started writing this blog following an event that occurred at my place of work, my professional workplace. The one that is predominantly female, and in the industry of educating young children. The event was so disturbing and the immediate response to down-play and modify the intent of the particular event, opened up a wound that has been festering for a very long time. The initial workplace event let's suffice to say, involved blatant misuse of technology in the form of e-mail. The e-mail was chock full of descriptive violent acts against a woman, a colleague, an important friend. The immediate response to treat this as a joke, “jk”, “lol”, was infuriating at best. The very thought that it wasn't immediately seen for what it was-violent, sexual harassment, created a very clear sense that this branch of the workplace is not in the industry of educating it's staff or leadership. The specific event was taken more seriously at the next level and seen for what it was. Somewhat appropriate consequences followed. However, that's where it ended. Further investigations were not pursued and therefore underlying, long-standing belief systems remain unchallenged and unaddressed. So, it goes on and the culture of dominance and devaluing of women continues to be supported and perpetuated.

In some circles I am considered strong, intimidating, and forceful. In others, I am considered deeply intense, and yet others meek and socially awkward. I am all of these and more, but as a woman I am still expected to be somewhat polite and quiet. At a conference room table, I need to be calm and composed lest I appear hormonal, or evidently in need of getting you know, laid. I have a very difficult time with this because it is integrated into my experience everyday. Worse yet, it is discounted and downplayed and ignored. I am asked to “lol” at a sexually offensive comment, or violent e-mail, or surely I must be uptight and too politically correct, or a trouble-maker. I am not typically permitted a voice at the table when it is predominantly male. I am at times, challenged for wanting to have the authority to manage a situation when a male staff member is available to manage the situation. It doesn't matter that this male is not involved with the original event- there is a systemic belief that he will be able to handle a problem quickly without drama, although these actions keep the drama fueled. It does not matter that I have 6 plus years of education and he does not require more than 2 in a field unspecified. He is after all male, and isn't that more important than my education, or me and my gender?

As aforementioned, there was a festering wound. When I was 7 or 8 I had a very unfortunate experience with a male stranger while entering my apartment building. I was 30 when I finally understood the nature of a re-occurring nightmare and then became free of the nightmare. The experience itself was not fully faced until this year when the work-place event occurred. The e-mail author worked with children, as well as women. My reaction was large and possibly disproportionate, but based on my personal experience this is where I went. My own sense of not ever being “heard” around this experience was replayed when the initial response was to “not take it so seriously.” The need to stifle is disquieting. It was a matter of transference to be certain. I was unnerved. I was angered and I was outraged. The larger truth is that these are not unusual events. They are commonplace and the statistics are staggering. Some studies report an incidence of 1 out of every 4 women being sexually abused before they reach 18. What is the story of the women in your life? What is the story of the men? Victims? Perpetrators, willingly or misguided? How can this information be shared, and understood on a deeper level, acknowledged and changed?

I am fully aware that men also suffer from sexual abuse. While it occurs less frequently, it is not less disturbing or less important. It is not my intent to minimize or ignore this. It is not my personal experience. The culture of power that exists is predominantly male. This factor further promotes the unfortunate consequences of sexual abuse of males needing to be stifled even more. This also needs to be acknowledged and challenged.

My viewpoints are strong. My personal experiences and those close to me, have colored these viewpoints. How do I manage respect and tenderness toward men? One by one, not always easily and often with residual and age-old distrust. Which is similar to my sense of respect and tenderness towards women. I'm working on it. The process has been akin to cleaning out a sewer at times. Looking closely at my own choices in relationships, attempting to find closure and lay some of this to rest. Writing and responding to articles about this issue has been helpful to me but possibly problematic to others. My experience is important and I no longer want to be quietly angry, or hostily polite. I don't need to be a forceful feminist but I do need to speak to these issues and hope that they provoke thought and acceptance and change.

I have great hope in humankind. I don't hate men. Not even close. I do strongly dislike the culture of devaluing women and I wish more women were able to stand up to these problems. Assertively, in control and with respect. I will continue to speak out and stand up. I hope more men can come to understand that these issues are pervasive and detrimental and frequently everyday occurrences. I will not be quieted. I want the future to be better for my children, for sons and daughters, all.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

These Are The Friends That Hate Me

A very funny character that happened upon my path well over a decade ago and became a friend to my children, (he was a year younger than my son). He was explaining his relationship to a small group of boys that lived in the neighborhood. We were fairly new to this particular neighborhood and welcomed any input or advice we came upon. "Those are the friends that hate me," he explained with no sign of malice or sarcasm. This young man was explaining a group of boys that were cliquish. Sometimes they allowed him to play and sometimes not depending on the whim of the leader of the group. His value was not based on anything he could control or for that matter even determine. This phrase has become a vernacular family term.

I think it may derive from the innocence that children view the world from. Every child a potential friend for a brief, but joyful time of life. As you make your way through dialogue and non-verbal cues, you decide if these are the "friends" that like you or the "friends" that hate you. My husband and I still laugh at this expression and use it to describe how a connection may go sour, or an interaction may start off from a place of unknown angst or hostility without any visible signs or perhaps some masked background knowledge or pre-interaction gossip founded or not on anything deeper than input from another friend that hates me.

Over the last year as I was catapulted into the second phase of the emptying of the nest, (3 children = 3 phases) I have come across a few friends that hate me, but more importantly a few more friends that don't. Perhaps in my effort to back-fill the nest and add some new "eggs" to it, I have let my guard down a bit too much and allowed some of the friends that hate me to enter, and do some brief but seemingly, serious damage. I have attempted to be open and loving and tolerant or at least I tried to convince myself of this. I have looked past some of the tell-tale signs of instability and qualifying friendship traits and suffered for it. I have also learned from the experience. And been reminded of a few stinging truths. 1) Not everyone is going to like me. 2) If a friend hates you, they probably are not your friend- a redux on "if someone treats you that way they probably weren't your friend to begin with" 3) You can't make everyone happy.

The stinging truth that not everyone likes me is an easy one. I don't like everyone. It balances out. It's sad when someone I think I might like, isn't very friendly or interested in my quirkily likable self. "They may come along at a later point", and "Oh well, their loss", get me through this eventually.

The couple of friends that hated me last year were real-people pleasers. I say this with a bit of disdain but there are residual hurt feelings. People-pleasers are typically insecure. (This is something learned in middle school to get you through all of those friendships that come and go and come and stay and go and so-on.) Believing that someone is insecure is supposed to lessen the pain and allow for us to be free from our own insecurities. But, let's look a little at the insecurity anyway. If you believe that people can be pleased by you and you get something good from this behavior, you may keep pleasing people. You may forget what pleases you though, and eventually pleasing someone will call for letting someone else down. Inevitably we all get into this situation where we accepted an invitation or requested someone's presence and something better came along. We must make a decision. If we operate from this pleasure giving mode, we can't exactly be honest because that will hurt and disappoint someone, so we lie, or avoid. A few too many of these activities and someone is ultimately going to be a friend that is being hated. Knowing how pleasing we are, we generally blame the other person for being so needy or pathetic, or what have you. We don't have to deal with our own behavior and there are so many more people to please. Up with people, because there are people wherever you go!

We humans have so many useful tools to promote the avoidance of growth. Do you think the queen of the ant colony needs to play around with the neighboring colony royals this way? "Sorry, I did want to come to your colony but I have an appointment that I forgot." Why can't we just be direct with one another, "Oh, the carcass at Pearl's colony is so much bigger, can we reschedule?" Some honesty can be downplayed, "I know we had plans, but if I go to the Smith's party, I will get to do some networking for my new business, or I won't get the chance to see so and so for another year because they are leaving town works a lot better than: I want to see that movie with you but the Smith's have the best parties, even if they never invite you.....

Directness hurts too. Is there polite directness? Would I make a friend that likes me or a friend that hates me if I said, "I understand that it's important for you to please everyone, or feel like everyone likes you, but believing that I will be more understanding when you hurt me isn't working for me." I imagine it might make one less friend, but it would give me dignity and ownership in the ending of the relationship. It might even take the friendship to a deeper, more meaningful level.

We seem to all get a little bit caught up in these ideas or beliefs about our own worthiness and value. We seem to take the cues from outside rather than gaining an understanding of our own worth and then allowing for the possibilities of friendship to come because we are all worthy. I am definitely not everyone's cup of tea. I am ok with that for the most part. Sadly, however, I have given a little too much energy into the why's of preferred tea flavors instead of staying true to my own preferences.

The friends that turned out to hate me? They weren't exactly the type of people I would really call friends. They were fun to be with and I sometimes have a difficult time determining the difference between a true friend and a fun neighbor or colleague. They were more of a diversion from my empty nest phase. They were fun at times, but I was more concerned with filling time and space than developing the friendship or discerning that we were not really suited for a deep, meaningful friendship. I am learning to recognize some people are fun to be with and I don't need to stake a claim to much more than that.

My recent group of friends that like me are fun to be with and much, much more. They offer support, a good laugh, a late night phone call when no one else seems to understand, or a very early text message. They are not afraid to be direct and get to an issue or area of concern that might cause scary feelings of vulnerability. They are also open to the same from me. We are not all always on the same page or in agreement but we like each other just the same. Friends are so important throughout the lifespan. I'm going to stick with friends that like me. I may even lighten up and not look so deeply for friendship where there is only fun. Fun definitely fills a lovely niche.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Undeniably, Comfortably Numb

Suzi Parker describes a new trend in dealing with marital un-bliss in her article, The Un-Divorce: When Leaving Your Marriage Is Just Too Much Work. The trend toward Un-Divorce seems more like a return to the pre-sixties model of marital un-bliss. The Un-Divorce as I un-derstand it is a decision to stay married but exist separately. Roommates. You don't pay for the messy divorce. Neither of you have to initiate the pulling of the plug. You get to attend family functions without answering questions, or maybe you can discontinue attending family functions. You get to share insurance benefits, social security and pension perks. Custody battles are avoided, the furniture stays in place. For some you even get to partake in un-extra marital affairs. Everyone being so understanding or uninterested or undeniably, comfortably numb.

Why is it that there are still so many issues in the blending of a couple? A marriage, union, legal contract between two individuals? Why after so many centuries, do we still not quite know how to get through or beyond some of the basics? Aside from the Mars and Venus citizenship issues and acknowledging opening up the arena to homogenous couplings devoid of mixed-planetary-citizenship concerns, why can't we figure out some of the basics? Maybe we need to start with identifying what the basics are. By all means, please send comments and suggestions. What are your basics? That should be one of the first questions before deciding compatibility. What are your basics, followed by how do you see yourself respecting and acknowledging my basics?

For some, a basic issue might be toilet seat up or down and the direction of the toilet paper roll as it's dispensed. Maybe it's the shower curtain, open or closed when finished showering, laundry on the floor or in a basket? Dinner at six or when you are hungry, with TV on or off? For others it might be determining how finances are financed, distributed and saved. If I take that on, do I need to make you feel guilty for getting the loaf of bread from the bakery as opposed to the bread aisle? The fifty-seven cents didn't really put us into the red. If I take it on, what are the basics around this? (Turn and talk.) You see the basics will need some breaking down and rebuilding. There will be a need for work here.

Some might be very bothered by the need for equitable job distribution or role assignments. Who takes out the garbage, calls for the kids doctors appointments, notices the need to fix the water that is dripping from the ceiling? What might equally shared parenting look like? Whose turn is it to cook? Which side of the bed? Who takes the calls from the relatives? Who does the gift shopping? Do we have any idea how to approach the possibility of sexual dysfunction, temporary or long term? Oops, we aren't supposed to admit that... it might mean.... no, maybe......

I know someone who hates when his wife tells him what to do. He resents feeling like an adolescent and the role that she takes on as his mother is a real turn off. Ok so I wonder, why does she tell him what to do? Is she doing what she knows, what was modeled for her? A habit, unnecessary? Does she tell him because his head is in the sand, poised for avoidance? Does he share responsibility as an adult, or does he procrastinate until she gets tired of doing the extra work? Maybe he doesn't realize when she asked the first time, she had a predetermined time that she imagined it would get done and he thought he would get to those jobs on the week that he has off in August, or December. Again basics- are not quite so simple, they differ or dredge up so much other hairy nonsense when they aren't understood. But wait, if the boss asks you to do a task why don't the same free-flowing interpretations apply? Why do we understand the expectations of one system and pretend they are non existent in the most important system?

I find more and more that we not only don't know how to deal with one or two or more of these issues, we never even consider broaching them or admitting that we grapple, wonder, rage, fluster, and anxiously think about these and more. Instead we pick and poke. We sulk or provoke. We kiss and make up and hope for a better tomorrow. We age and add new basics to the list. Who sets up the driving tests, additional insurance, keeps track of SAT prep and test dates? Who discusses and supports the application process for college? Who keeps up contact with the children? Who plans the vacations, investments, or debt consolidation? Who takes a leave from work to care for the child or the ailing parent or parent-in-law? Who decides the adult child or parent can or cannot move in? Who does what? And how? How was the decision made? Knee-jerk or thoughtful, and messy discussion. This stuff is hard.

Why? Why do we believe that we need to have these long term relationships that will not have problems? Hiccups? Huge and minor, discrepancies in values or judgements? We somehow believe we will pick our perfect partner and love, honor, and obey them, or some such configuration of blending two very different people for the long haul, or we fail. These are the options. We may ask some of these questions early on but then we just expect, assume, and presume. We may go for counseling and accept some level of outside support but even this is not too widely valued or honed and it is often unrealistic because we don't understand or want to know the scope. Ok we have 50 minutes to convince someone that one or both of us needs to change to save our marriage- do you feel like taking that risk? Ok, go! We want everything to work with minimal effort. Some of us enjoy the effort but don't want to know why it isn't working for our partner because that's his/her problem and we are exerting so much effort just to stay abreast.

Let's be honest. I know if I say that it implies we aren't usually. But are most of us honest? With ourselves? About ourselves? So, if I have to share with you what I need or want, I become vulnerable. If you don't just know what I want or need that means you don't care. Or maybe it means...nothing. Maybe it means it's not on your radar. You don't even know it's something missing because you don't need it, it wasn't important or valued or available in your culture or family. You would love to believe in the power of ESP, but truly, you are more devoted to ESPN or QVC, or anything in-between. You can't read my mind, but I still wait and hope just the same. If you look very closely at the way my fingers are rubbing nervously and I am staring at the ceiling certainly, by now you know what that means! Oh, last time it meant that I had a popcorn kernel crumb and I noticed a small area that needed a double coating of paint when we painted 2 years ago? No, that's just not so, we painted 18 months ago.

A friend wonders why her husband doesn't leave the light on for her when she goes out. For her it evokes feelings of the possibility that there is a lack of caring. She remembers her mom frantically running to the door in a bit of a tizzy, realizing she had forgotten to leave a light on for the guests about to arrive. Shivers run up her spine at the thought of being so cavalier. What if they felt unwelcome, unnoticed, unimportant? My daughter came home late a few weeks ago, and said, “My God, Can someone leave the light on! I was afraid of killing myself in the dark garage!- She didn't wait for a reply or validation. The light has been left on for her since. I felt badly that the light was not left on, but I got to it. (The truth be told, she went out after I was already in bed.) I didn't feel chastised or offended. She stated the need boldly, with a little drama and humor for good measure- but wait, she is like me- I get her. She has probably seen this behavior, modeled, she had “permission” to state her needs this way and I responded in a way that was acceptable and met her needs. Shazam! In the same household, my husband diligently goes through the house and locks all the doors and shuts off all the lights. If the light is on, a potential prowler can see where they are going and get in! Everyone should know that! Or it means that we are available for visitors and who wants unexpected visits? What's the compromise? For us, if someone is still out, they come in and have the responsibility of screwing with those prowlers, or it's on his/her conscience for eternity if we are all killed in the night. Easy.

If in the future, my daughter's husband, partner, or friend that she may live with, said the same thing to me about leaving a light on, would I feel he was too forward? Would I question why he was coming home so late? Would I tell him to put his own light on? Would he understand nuances, the precise measure of humor and assertiveness? More importantly, could I be expected to embrace him into my family? How does this happen? Who is the manager of family acceptance and perhaps assessment in your family? Do they need help learning how to loosen the reigns and allow permission for others to join with a little ease? Have I modeled or expressed the need for my children to communicate effectively so they may recognize their basic needs and also those of others near and dear to them? Will they be able to balance their needs with someone else for the long haul?

The need for the marital model to change, has been drastically ignored. Maybe not the need as much as the nuts and bolts. We haven't updated the system. Can you imagine a business succeeding without the rolodex, and soon after that, the internet? Why are we still attempting to mirror the model that didn't work so well forty and forever years ago? You hunt, I gather. You take care of the mortgage, I take care of the kids. A few adjustments here and there, Oh, thank you with the laundry, yes I am paying for the groceries, the insurance, household expenses, etc. Oh, you want to go away with the boys? Sure if I can go away with the girls. Remember when we...Oh, I didn't mean anything, I just wish... We, or many of us seem to have developed this polite avoidance. The un-divorce polite avoidance. What's the worst case scenario? Please leave the light on, it helps me see. It makes me feel cared for. It tells me you love me. Wow, it does? The stinking light, that's all it takes? How easy. How easy to love you! And you and even me.

Isn't that what we all want? Someone to understand our basic needs, as needy, or quirky as they might be or seem. Maybe someone to simply go along with them and not question the intent, the development or the potential and likely projected, hidden meanings of our requests or needs. I don't think this is so difficult or impossible. I think we go into this life-time partnership routine with very little basic needs training. Before long, the light being left on, or left off leaves you with the sense that nothing will ever work and you end up divorced or undivorced. When sometimes a direct conversation (or 2 or 3) might really effect change and growth and love will blossom in that dark corner of the entry way to long term wedded bliss. Maybe for the martians they don't like the word conversation, so they may need a list. Oh for goodness sakes, maybe they can decide how they want communication delivered, but the delivery is necessary as unpleasant as it might be, or only seem. Easy. Easy as pie, mostly. Coconut custard anyone?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

August- What is is Change

August comes up on me like one of Charles Dicken's ghosts in Scrooge. Probably most like the ghost of life to come. I reluctantly follow along knowing I won't like what's coming. I lived in Rochester, New York for thirteen years. I enjoyed a great deal of the surrounding environs, cultural opportunities, human service vibe, friends and family. Unfortunately, the seasons somehow had some sort of screw up when they divvied up and allotted time and Summer got the short end of the stick. Or it was confused by Spring. Spring in Rochester, attempts to make a bold announcement, but Winter doesn't give up easily and it is not unusual to spend Mother's Day in your winter woolies, shoveling the driveway. Spring tumbles into Summer, blink and you miss it. Fall behaves like a middle child or more aptly, the black sheep of the family. Occasionally it outshines all, seemingly without regard for anyone. Generally the risk of gaining that attention causes it to go underground by way of gray, cloudy skies submissively allowing Winter to step in and overshadow. Winter definitely won out in Rochester. August is very clear about this battle of the seasons and like a child raised in this seasonal dysfunction, I still don't trust August. I won't be fooled. I know it's coming and I know what it means.

I use to roll with summer and enjoy the spontaneity. The life and liveliness it brings. Flowers brightly peaking. Beaches, pools, sprinklers and chasing lightning bugs. Ice cream trucks, doubling up on bicycles and riding fast! Being barefoot. Sundresses, first kisses, rooftop parties. Summer, come what may, the living so easy.

I love the night sky of August, how close it appears and with it a sense of possibility and connection. Most constellations visible and identifiable. I loved to show these to my children when they were young and still amazed by me and the night sky. Can you remember being able to stay up that late? Or your first shooting star? I do. My parents brought their four antsy children upstate for a vacation. Away from Queens and the inner city we could see the night sky. It stayed with me. I passed it on, but I still look into the sky of summer and can feel my parents with me, and the wonder.

I am perhaps, in the mid to late summer of my life cycle. Autumn is not quite here but it is certainly calling to me. Maybe it's happening slightly prematurely. Or I just ended up on that end of the continuum. Some of my peers have preschoolers. I have a college graduate, a sophomore headed abroad for her Spring semester and a high school sophomore. I am struggling with the high school sophomore. Not him personally, more the distribution of seasons, so to speak. He seems to be getting a Rochester summer-type family. Sometimes it's fun and light. Sometimes almost non-existent. The journeys began by his older siblings seem to be pulling him away, quicker. This is hard to grapple with. I want him to have the “same” experience. I am beginning to understand this is impossible, as much as unnecessary. His experience will be important, thoughtful and valuable, just different. This is what happens in the summer of one's life-cycle. You start to actually believe what you have always known but refused to accept. You gain acceptance. You can't control what's going on. Your flowers can peak brightly, but ultimately the petals will start to brown and wither. All the miracle-gro in the world isn't going to change this. It may add a week or two, but it won't stop the process. I am coming to terms with my age. Albeit, reluctantly.

I went away earlier in the summer but had a hard time leaving my “kids”. I have left them before, but generally it has happened under the careful watch of a grandparent or two, or there were two young adults, no one was ever home alone. It wasn't normalized or typical. My husband found an amazing restaurant in Westport, New York. The Normandie Beach Club- great view, incredible food, great wait staff. The wait staff, as it turned out were prior students in a school where my husband was principal- three and a half hours south, infinitely small world that we live in. After the initial surprise, and small talk they asked about our children. I am certain that I sounded pathetic. I shared that we were up in the Adirondack's alone but my tone was not upbeat. The idea of being alone before, meant a romantic weekend. A break. This feels so different. It's difficult. Change. This was a huge change for me. It seems to be hanging over me like August in Rochester. I'm not ready or willing to get the sweaters and warmer clothes out yet. I don't want the extra blankets but like it or not I have no control over this.

What's next? What does it mean that I can leave my children, or that very soon they will all have “left” me? The feeling is palpable. They have tethered me to this earth, or at least my current location. They have given me purpose and very clear parameters. The sun came up every morning and went down each night. In the cycle of each day they have been at the center. This may seem a bit, shall we say, rectitudinous? That's not the intent. They had stability- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and I was able to provide this. Meals shared and for the most part, prepared with love or at least with a clear sense of nutritional value, some variety and almost always a degree or two of desirable palatability. Laundry was done, clothes were purchased, homework was overseen, projects guided, sports, music, creative events attended. Cookies baked, birthday parties thrown, scoldings delivered. Boo-boos kissed, hands held, eyes understanding and all-seeing.

I need to be tethered. I have this great propensity toward flight. Or at the very least that has been my belief of myself. The great winds of change are here, and I fear being blown away, or gliding along. Where may I land? (It is no surprise that the hurricane season is in the fall.) Change is a comin, and I need to find something to hold on to. Time to figure out how to batten down the windows and stay the course. Have I planted enough seeds to spread possibility and color into the lives of my children? Have my interests been interesting, will they sustain me? Can I, will I develop new ones at this point? Have I built a levee, that will protect the fragile, unknown shore of what is to be? I suppose I will find out, soon enough, and learn to roll with it. Creating toilet paper cozies has very little appeal even if I were equipped with the talent, but maybe I will be able to create something just as engaging. I may be wearing clunky Earth shoes to help keep me grounded on my way to the next phase or at least into the nearest arts and crafts supply store.

Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.

- Edwin Way Teale

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Everyone Who Is Anyone Knows Peter Dinklage and Chelsea Clinton

Everyone who is anyone, and those that wish to be, are abuzz with the upcoming wedding that is to take place in Rhinebeck this weekend. Unfortunately some seem a little put off and disgruntled by the affair. (Most likely the same folks that clog up the intersections on a regular basis driving their children two blocks away 5 or six times a day.) But groans and moans about traffic and commotion aside, it is nice to recall the attraction of this special town I call home.

While the Hudson Valley is certainly and apparently a natural choice for the wedding of Chelsea Clinton or anyone else for that matter, Rhinebeck is truly spectacular. I can think of no other setting that closely embodies the best features of the Hudson Valley in history, beauty and romance. The splendor of the valley, the Hudson River views framed by the rolling hills of the Catskills and Shawangunks, make this an area unique and abundant with visual charms. Isn’t that what most brides wish for? A beautiful visual back-drop that will frame the event?

The early Hudson River exploration lead to settlements that were among the first in our nation. This is a region founded for freedom in a state that early on offered varied resources and forward thinking. What's not to love? Few other early colonies were open to diversity and valued tolerance. Numerous industry magnates who built up this nation, culled this region for their leisure. This is evidenced in the many Hudson Valley estates that enrich the scenery. Wouldn’t the former President’s daughter want national history to be sprinkled about without overshadowing her day?

Gore Vidal, once and for many years, a resident of Barrytown, noted the Hudson Valley’s long standing attraction with the rich and influential. He observed the positioning of the homes of the Roosevelts, Vanderbilts, Astors, Delanos, Millses, Chanlers, Aldriches, and Montgomerys. Lined up along the Hudson River from Staatsburgh to Clermont with Rhinebeck in the center. Proudly and dramatically. Vidal observed, as these wealthy American’s began examining their brief national history, they collectively gathered inspiration from their European heritage. This is evident in the design and construction of their country homes. Gothic architecture is a theme throughout some of the estates and detailed in numerous village homes. Vidal also decribed the interest and correlation to democratic ideals of ancient Greeks as the inspiration for the Greek Revival style evidenced in many of these homes and landscape designs. It is worth noting that Poughkeepsie and Hudson stretch this landscape with Locust Grove and Olana. I believe a tour through Olana boasts the relics of the Parthenon picked up, rather innocently, on a vacation. The Clinton’s may not appeal to all, however, the nation was certainly on an economic upturn during President Clinton’s command. Remember the word surplus? Wealth, abundance, productivity? (I think Bush is the antonym for surplus and Obama’s promise of hope seems a fuzzy dream. Too bad he won’t be able to attend- the charms of this region could certainly inspire.)

Perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton’s interest and admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt is what introduced the Clinton’s to this area. Perhaps, the beauty alone was enough of a draw. We, who make our homes in this area, are truly lucky to start each day amidst the storied pines of Ferncliff Forest, the meandering stone walls and the newly burgeoning, organic, as well as, the long established farmlands. The vast estates don’t hurt either.

Best Wishes to Chelsea and Mark and thank you for helping to remind us of our daily good fortune. Rather than groan and complain about the traffic, or whether or not Bill will personally pay the local police for their additional tasks, why not pack a picnic and head to one of the other local estates. Blythewood at Bard boasts a beautiful garden with a fountain leaving you to feel like you just walked into "The Secret Garden". At any moment a wood sprite will meander through playing Pan’s flute. The children can frolic and dirty their knickers the way the little Vanderbilts, or Astors, or Alriches once did. Perhaps you can drive through Barrytown and guess where Gore Vidal once lived. Maybe you’ll spot some other famous visitors. Peter Dinklage is known to travel these parts. I’ve had the great pleasure of spotting him on three separate occasions. I don’t believe he offered to pay any police for the cost of his fame. Oh, you don’t know who he is? Oh, everyone that’s anyone knows who he is! Look around. Enjoy. And I might actually say hello familiar-like the next time I see Mr. Dinklage, unless it causes a ruckus, or slows traffic, or I become star struck.

Hey, on second thought, stay off the streets, have a Peter Dinklage film festival, give me a call, I'll bring the popcorn, or the syrup covered spaghetti, (wink) maybe the leftover Amtrak snack-pack(wink-wink). Ok, Im giving too much away.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This is Your Mom on Vigilance....

A few weekends ago I went to a community drug awareness forum. I feel it is important to make a showing at these events. At least, at this point in my parental career, a showing will do. I might even leave with some new information that I can annoy my remaining teen with. I end up with the same credibility as a “Jew for Jesus” around my kids following these events. I have seen the light even though it’s not shining the same for them.

I used to feel downright energized and electric with the intention of changing the world. I am older and my children are as well. The knowledge that there is heroin in my local middle school does not shock or frighten me. I have been on this for awhile. (On this news, not on heroin.) I became well informed seven years ago when I attended the last drug awareness forum that was held and made certain to stay abreast of all news related to drugs and drug-taking in the community. Vigilant. Alert. Not on my watch, I figured, at least for my kids. I wanted my children to be safe or buffered from the reality of drugs in this community for as long as possible. I wanted them to have real life strategies to avoid the temptations, withstand the peer pressure and also be clear of mind when they saw their peers vomiting and making really bad choices that they later regretted. I wanted them to see this for what it really was. Not as attractive or as harmless as we are lead to believe. I hope I have been successful on this front, so far.

I don’t live in the mean streets of New York or Yonkers or Poughkeepsie even. I live in an affluent, bucolic town in the Hudson Valley. We are not too good for heroin, or methamphetamine or other standard issue street drugs. We also seem to have access to a wide variety of opiates that come in shiny amber vials with enough pain-killing power to stop a few charging bulls. I have been vigilant. I have forewarned and foretold. I have pointed out and been very strong about my feelings. I have not toked a joint or discussed the medicinal value of pot around my children and I don’t intend to. This doesn’t make me right, or right-winged, or better than. I do have to keep my righteousness in check and it does come seeping out at times with the same bitterness of an ex-smoker. This is also not so attractive and may lead to drug-taking behaviors if I’m not careful. Vigilance being a dangerous thing. (What would the ad campaign look like? “This is your mom on vigilance…." pan to a mother wielding a frying pan toward a teens head?)

I am astounded and put off at how often I hear some of my parental compatriots. We, the seemingly, upstanding and educated discussing the merits of pot and the need for legalization. We proclaim that kids will be kids and we all did it and survived. Some provide alcohol for other parent's children or knowingly allow parties to take place with drugs and alcohol around and watch as kids drive away. Some in positions of power and leadership look the other way regarding athletes, or students in the schools. They apply their personal philosophy onto their decision making about minors. They fear the consequences of getting caught may be too harsh. Not too much consideration for the consequences of the illegal behavior I'm sad to say.

Does this seem to be unusual behavior? Does it occur elsewhere? Help me out here. Stretch it a bit. Would we openly discuss the merits of sexual enjoyment and look the other way when young minors, starting at say, 12 years of age, or maybe 9, were sexually active? Would we explicitly model our sexual activities so that our children can learn how to be sexually responsible? C’mon we have all heard or even shared the idea- “I let my kids drink at home because I want my kids to learn how to drink responsibly so that when they go away they won’t be so tempted and irresponsible.” Maybe we could stop being so hard on ourselves about other responsible behaviors as well. Why keep working and paying those bills? All of the stresses associated with work certainly impact our children. Wouldn’t it be more fun to just see what the world has in store for us, give up the mortgage, the cars, the assorted toys? Why fill our children’s heads with false illusions, let them know now when they are young, say 11, that there are no promises in life. Stop providing for them so they may learn how to do it themselves. Why make them feel secure? Besides a few tokes will mellow us all out and help us face the next day.

Preposterous, yes? Extreme? Not the same situation? For me, yes and no. I definitely struggle with the concept of hypocrisy around these behaviors. I enjoy a glass of wine, sometimes a bit too much. I don’t want to pass on the message that drinking and drugs, or herbs if you need to feel a little better about the substance, or pharmaceuticals if they are carefully prescribed and monitored, are evil. They have their place. But I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that we need to somehow show our children how to partake. I’m grateful that parents don’t typically feel the need to explicitly show their children how to be sexual. Why then do parents believe they need to show and provide their children with opportunities to drink and do drugs?

I don’t know what the right answer is about illegal substances and minors. I do know that I don’t have to try and figure that one out, the laws take it off my hands. It doesn’t matter much to me if it is good or bad. It is illegal and that’s enough. I don’t particularly like to drive 55 or 65 miles an hour but I know I will receive a costly consequence for such behavior and I would be foolish to tell my children it is ok to drive faster than the speed limit, because it’s more dangerous to take a bath or hurt yourself at home. (Many feel the need to state that drinking is worse than smoking pot.)

The laws about drugs and minors seem pretty straightforward to me. I have always thought the argument about being able to vote, and serve in the military can occur at 18 indicates a need to change the drinking age to match, was odd. Did this originate after someone had a few drinks or pills, or inhaled long enough to alter their thinking? Why not change the laws to match the current drinking age? Why not expect the age for all of these so called “rights” to be 21? Would as many young people join the military if they were a couple of years older, perhaps involved with a few real-life decision making events? I imagine it’s a lot easier to decide to join the army when you have few other options. Hmm, do I stay home and have to ask to borrow the car and clean my room and get nagged about getting a job, or do I join the army and get to pick my weapon of choice? Generally, those that join at 18 weren’t choosing between an acceptance into the college of their choice, an athletic or academic scholarship, an apprenticeship at Apple, or possibly getting killed or killing someone else. Talk to those returning soldiers. Really listen. Many are seeking help to relieve the stress, the guilt, the trauma. Many look for therapeutic interventions. Sadly, many more are drug addicted or drinking away the pain. But I digress.

Certainly there are messages we can share with our children to help them make developmentally appropriate choices when they are old enough to make them. Allow them to grow up with healthy skills and strategies. With respect for themselves and others. Help them to understand their full potential. Teach them that adults are different from children and walk the walk as much as you possibly can. Life is a gift, each new day ripe with potential. Let moderation and your conscience be your guide. My legs are starting to chafe from this ride on my high horse (no pun intended) so I'll get down but I won't be a downer. Be well.

After I apply chafing cream I may go get fitted for my Guardian Mother beret and my safety guard vest. (It could happen.) I wonder what vigilance in moderation looks like? I'm sure my kids will keep me in check. Kids will be kids, after all. Just say "No!" and tie a red ribbon around my old oak tree at least until your 21 or legal or both.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Transference of Love or The Misery of the American Male Perspective on Marriage and Children

As luck or karma would have it, I recently perused 2 seemingly different pieces of literature (I'll use the term loosely). One was an article in the July 12, 2010 edition of New York Magazine, the other was a recent interview in the New York Times magazine section. Hold on to your hats as I weave these two together. Friends, sit back and pour yourself a glass of wine, or seltzer, or maybe for old time sakes, since I’m writing about magazines, go for a Cosmo.

The New York Magazine front cover starts us off with the following headline: I Love My Children. I Hate My Life. The premise: children are tough on relationships, burdensome, loads of work, real life buzz-kills. Mothers are less happy than fathers, and single parents are even more miserable than the mothers is the general theme. This seems redundant to me, but I’ll let that go. Ok, maybe I can’t. Aren’t most single parents mothers? Or most custodial single parents mothers? Most is the key term here. Most mothers single handedly parent? Ok maybe I'm pushing it... One man who was featured and complimented for his frankness states “I already felt neglected, and once we had the kid, it became so pronounced. It went from zero to negative 50.” (This is a good time to stretch and yawn and take a sip of your refreshing beverage.)

This little gem is my all time favorite from the article. I almost want to laugh out loud or slam my fist on the table like the scene chewing part of Jaws when Robert Shaw, aka Quint talks about his adventures with the Great White. So, let me recap: I (he) felt neglected. We (they) had the kid. I am just wondering. Just a little wonderment regarding the female experience at the risk of generalizing such a shared and common female experience. When he was feeling neglected, what in Gunga Din's name was she doing? Let’s see if I can recall any of this long ago experience. Oh I remember. I was working at a job full time. I was sick and nauseous followed by vomiting and dry heaving. I was stretching my skin to proportions that were not ever possible before, and unfortunately not ever capable of fully returning to again. I was sore and swollen, leaking and crying. I was elated and frightened in the same breath. I was tired all the time at some points, most. I was preparing a room and purchasing more equipment then I ever needed, to complete a variety of tasks I was uncertain of, all for the opportunity to love and care for an infant that was mutually desired.

Oh just kidding. I’m such a joker. We women like to kid, we joke. I was pretending to do all of that just so I could avoid spending time with another adult that I loved. The very adult that I chose to have a baby with. I never expected he might have felt neglected. I thought all of those carefully performed hi-jinx would be a turn on. Oh c'mon men love when women vomit. Actually, the books us gals read during pregnancy all warn us of these feelings that men have. What to Expect When You’re Expecting dedicates a section to this. I think the section needs to be revisited and perhaps the men folk can see what they might want to do to help understand that the needs of a developing infant will absolutely trump the needs of a full grown man. That should be a little easier to get at this point in the development of the species, or lack there of. Anyway, the article does end up providing some hope and the need to look at the lifespan and not the moment to moment level of demands, neglect, and frustration.

This is a nice segue to the New York Times interview. You may want to tighten up your lingerie or let it all hang out at this point. Hugh Heffner. Need I say more? First, and again note the frankness; when asked about bachelorhood versus family life offering a better chance at happiness, Mr Heffner responds that he was not happiest when married. (That is soooo surprising, don’t you think?) He goes on to say, “Part of the problem, quite frankly, is that when you get married, the romance disappears and the children arrive and the love is transferred. It shouldn’t be that way, but too often it is transferred to the children." Damn those little needy infants. Why can’t they just get up and go to work and allow the couple to carry on the way they want to! Who started this trend? Some selfish baby no doubt, plotting to make men feel unhappy and neglected.

I’m sorry. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Is it ok to state, frankly, these two particular men (and there are others, you betcha), are a bit shy of understanding the concept of parenting and the disproportionate physical and emotional demands placed on the mother before, during, and for quite some time after the birth of these babies? Can we start informing our sons that they were not made single handedly by Mrs. Robert Shaw as she was simultaneously beating a Great White Shark and fixing a few martinis while giving her man a foot massage? Can we break through this bizarre fantasy and help men understand that this is meant to be a shared partnership and since they can’t do too much along the lines of birthing and nursing at the very least they may be able to learn how to provide support and attend to their partners needs?

Really, we still have to have articles and interviews blaming women for neglecting their men for some fly by night infant? Jeez, everyone knows they don’t stay infantile forever, well they don’t have to. And some of them can even grow up and learn how to get dressed in their big boy clothes instead of remaining in their pajamas or bathrobes all day.

My experience with parenting: Work? Yes. Burden? No. At times, unpleasant, but overall, amazing and incredible. I would do it all again but I am at the other side of the lifespan and enjoying time with friends, my children, and my husband. I might even take up shark hunting with some of my free time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting My Irish Up

Years ago, ten in fact, as my husband and I sat through an unpleasant parent-teacher conference that went from bad to worse and downhill quickly, the teacher referred to one of my children as “intense”. Now this may seem a bit odd, but this name-calling as it were, outraged me. Intense? Clearly she had no idea who my child was. Not a clue! Clueless creature that she was had no right referring to my child at all if she didn’t have the decency to at least get to know this particular child of mine. Intense! The very thought! This child was cherubic. Sweet, round-faced, gentle, little muffin of all children from here to the land of Nod.

My association to the word intense was um, intense, and I was so put off by this encounter. Fiddle-de-re! How did this woman receive certification? She wasn’t cut out to be in the presence of children, let alone tell me anything about mine. The mention of her name would send me a-dither. It took about 2 years to come to terms with this. Two years went by before my sweet child was called to the office for a bit of a tousle, as-it were. The child apparently would not let go of his friend’s lei. Or the friend wouldn’t let go of his lei. Some lucky set of grandparents brought it back and bestowed it upon, Oh yes now I remember-the year we all received matching tropical outfits, shirts, sundresses, leis. So the child had the lei on, the friend wanted to touch it, or stretch it or pull it to see if it would rubber-band and snap my child’s neck and so this child of mine reasoned there was nothing else to do but bite- at a time when biting should have been about 4-5 years out of the problem-solving toolbox. Intense. Now I was starting to get it. “Robust” would have garnered familiarity and mutual understanding. Intense sent me down the wrong path. But intense it is, and apparently it is genetic.

I bring all this up to stress my new-found wisdom about myself. My Irishness, as it were. I come from a time and place when the first thing you said on the playground was, “What are you?” When the fool you were talking to said, “Duh, I’m a boy (or girl)” You added and repeated, “No, Duh, but what are you?” They would finally get it and say, “Irish” or “Italian” or “German” or sometimes, “Jewish”. Some combination thereof was becoming more possible and even probable based on the immigration cycles. There wasn’t much diversity beyond this small sampling. It was not quite acceptable to admit: Puerto Rican, or Cuban, Mexican or any other Hispanic allegiance. If you were Black, or African-American, the likelihood that you knew your original heritage was pretty slim. At the very least it wasn’t being shared in the classroom or playground. Certainly not with us Euro-American types. The reality is, most of us were from families that were just surviving, making ends meet and having a difficult time achieving this. Your relation to your ethnicity was a source of pride, and honor that allowed you to feel better than, more important than, and a sense of belonging.

When I first heard the term “Getting your Irish Up”, I thought it was a compliment, a source of pride. Roll your sleeves up and get dirty or feisty or prepare to give or take a tongue lashing! That’s how I have always associated the meaning. I looked into it and stumbled upon its association with negative reactions such as, anger, being quick tempered, short fused. I don’t feel this way. I prefer the concept of an inclination to challenge anything that he considers a slight or a violation of his rights. Well, maybe the part about a violation of rights. Not just mine but anyone’s rights that are being violated, unduly and intentionally violating of rights, really gets me going.

These terms and concepts really came home to me over the past couple of weeks. A friend was sharing an opinion about a neighbor,(for instance) let's call her "Mary Margaret" (just for laughs), another friend attempted to smooth it over by saying, "Oh that’s just how she is, she’s Irish, you know, opinionated, but she's really ok". I got it right away; my eyes glistened and danced the devil’s jig. I smugly thought, "Oh I’m sooo evolved". I used to carry on that way, let my Irish out like I was airing dirty laundry. Now I’m a bit more reserved, collected. We had a good laugh and went on our way. Then we got together again, I was carrying on about some work scenario or another. We started talking about gender differences and leadership qualities. Big, Hairy topics. My Irish can’t be contained. It can go beautifully or very poorly. Quickly. Intensely. Teetering near angrily, depending on what side of the topic you sit on. Depending on whether you just want to sit back and enjoy the company of others or get into a political diatribe that can almost assuredly choke the Blarney and leave it sucking air on the side of the gently rolling hills and green meadows of your desire not to take a stand on something in a moment of peace. My freak flag was flying.

So now what? How do some groups of people, races, genders figure out how to assert themselves appropriately, in a way that garners respect and success? Why do some groups continue to get in their own way and fall prey to the stereotypes and negative connotations? Do I embrace my ethnicity and throw on my Tam-o-shanter and woolen jumper? Do I tamp it down and find the balance of living in the moment?

I may do more research and attempt to more fully understand the ancestral predisposition. The Irish have been an oppressed people for centuries. They have been straightforward, aka, simple, farm people with an appreciation of life. Self-sustaining. Strong and hardy. Quick-witted to ease the challenges and burdens bestowed upon agrarian, early pagan cultures. Robust. Intense. Quick tempered to cope with the threat of tyranny and captivity. Maybe I’ll limit my fighting to the weeds in my garden for a bit until I can come to terms with this. I’ll enjoy life a bit robustly and master my wink while I manage my opinion.

Maybe my afore mentioned child was just attempting to ensure that rights were not being violated, but surely fighting or even biting isn’t typically the best approach. Irish or otherwise, but hearty just the same.

The fourth definition for intense is simply understated and agreeable to me: Deeply felt; profound, Tending to feel deeply.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Stay-free and Clear- Shiny Happy Products to be Proud Of

I have noticed this fairly new product, or product line lately. I've noticed it for two reasons. The product is boldly and brightly placed on the center aisle of several local grocery stores and I imagine many others throughout the nation. Maybe it's a worldwide advertising campaign. I don't know. Bright. Bold. Colorful. I think the product itself may be dyed to match the packaging. The brightness made me notice, do a double take. Disbelief runs through my mind, briefly and then I continue on, only slightly bothered, or perplexed and later somewhat offended. I also noticed because of the glaring placement on the center aisle. A big stand in way of grocery store marketing. Almost like airing a commercial during The Superbowl.

The product is a "feminine" product. A "sanitary" product. I recall with much humor the advertising campaigns for these "products" of sanitary fame from my own youth. No brightness, no boldness. We didn't even feel safe naming them or using them. We alluded to the use. We downright denied the purpose. We attempted to disguise them as tennis equipment or horse-lovers accessories. We could use this mysterious unseen, unnamed product only while wearing white pants or shorts and we might know the brand name but not the product. Pad, pantyliner, tampon- never. Kotex, Stay-free, Modess. Free and Clear would have been a more appealing product.

According to Advertising Age magazine, "Until the 1930s, Western doctors treated the female menstrual cycle as a disability and advised menstruating women to refrain from participating in rigorous physical activity." Ads from the 1950s gently prompted American women to avoid using their periods as excuses for being remiss in their responsibilities. "Tending the home, cooking, caring for children, playing hostess or serving their working husbands" could no longer be shirked because of this disabling infliction. I think we needed to be convinced that we could safely take showers during this menacing monthly interlude through advertising or magazine articles. Imagine that? (There may be more to this avoidance and showering thing in relation to that serving-those-working-husbands thing, but maybe that's just my spin.)

For heavens sakes, we just finally stopped needing the belt and harness in my youth. Nursing staff brought that mechanism out post childbirth. I didn't know what to do with it being born, or at least reaching "maturity" in those early stay free days. I do remember my sister behaving as though she had a secret that I would not be allowed to know for a looonnnnnggg amount of time. She is 2 years older than I am, but in early childhood years that makes dog years a bit easier to calculate. Assuredly the word mature was bandied about with her name attached much more often than mine. I, being the late bloomer in a few regions of development. She remained smug in her secret knowledge. She was one freed from the belt system to the beltless stay in place magic. I never felt the honor. I find it unbelievable when some of the "real" women out there attempt to promote some love of the menstrual experience. They are probably part of the current marketing campaign.

Now, we need color, and flash for our woman products. Why? I have two theories but maybe someone else has an inside connection. Until I get the scientific data, here goes:

Young girls who have recently reached maturity need bells, whistles, texting features, and apps to do anything. Or at least that is believed of them. U. This is the branding name because they can't understand Y-O-U. U. Because ""better u than me. U. Because "u have your period and are moody but I'm free and clear". These tampon, pad, panty liner wearing young ones can be marketed to do and buy just about anything and need that tease in order to attend to basic needs related to health and hygeine. We older ones were frightened to death by Toxic Shock Syndrome, TSS, and suffer PTSS along with PMS or PMDD we wanted freedom from belts sooo much we ended up dying from, or threatened by tampon use. No color, no dyes, no fresh scent. How did that fresh scent work anyway? Lipstick on a pig for sure! These young women may also believe (through marketing devices) that we should not need to hide our femininity. We should excitedly profess the need to catch our bodily secretions with fervor. (Did you catch the word secret embedded in secretions- subliminal hogwash? or blatant directive?)

My second theory is based on the hormone enhanced milk, dairy, and chicken products leading to cause our daughters to mature at a much earlier rate. How else can you get hormone-enhanced prepubescent girls to want to use products in their private parts that they just recently discovered? They are menstruating soon after they are potty trained. Check Out the New Line of U by Kotex* Thin Pads for Girls Today! That is the web based tag. Note the use of the word girls. Are they training sanitary products? We all know this is what separates the girls from the women. This is THE launching of womanhood. I'm surprised they don't come with toys in the box or hidden in the products.

The hormone-enhanced chicken and milk and dairy products might want to consider launching a multi-faceted campaign with the feminine products. Color coded for heavy days. Red dye tampons with reddened chicken fingers and rasberry colored chocolate milk. Blue sanitary pads with blue whipped cream covered cream puffs for those medium to light days. Yellow popcorn chicken and yellow panti-liners for those just-because or you-never-know days. No longer do we need to feel embarrased at the checkout line. Even the men in our lives will feel empowered to buy these products. Soon they will have their own boldly colored products. Did you know jock-itch is secretly cured with athletes foot cream? Why the tricks? I say go out there and sing about jock-itch. Hair-festers, warts, hemoroid suppositories- celebrate, feel the love.

All of this for U but not for me. I'm done- free and clear. The chicken, you can see, never enhanced my development.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Be the Change- Better yet be the history changer.

I am many things but undoubtedly the most surprising is history dork. Today I had the opportunity to go to Social Studies Facilitation Training to assist with the scoring of state history tests. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a colleague. She rolled her eyes and shook her head gently and said, “Can you believe some people actually like being here?” I snarkily thought,“Could she believe she was singing my tune?” but weakly submitted (not letting on that I was that very people). Finally, my tribe, my people. History. Conflict. Struggle. Victory, defeat. And all back again and over and over. Repeating itself, but not entirely. Changes, some minute, but others far reaching and emboldened.

If anyone has read even one of my blogs, surely you could read between the lines and determine that I am a history geek. I love the struggle. Most of all I love the suggestion of fighting adversity and winning. Big, glorious, celebrated wins and minor progressions along the way through history appeal to me. Honestly! How do we do it? How do we get up each morning and face the oil spills, the oil wars, the fight for oil? How do we face our children during the economic crises, the common bouts of genocide, the religious hostilities? How do we survive the natural disasters enhanced by the deteriorating geographical characteristics? I love the gumption of mankind or, a-hem, humankind. The very hope and ingenuity. How did we go from Stone Age to this? How far have we come? How much further can we journey, explore, design and implement?

I’m not sure if submitting to the colleague has a real bearing on my place in history. Would I make it, come out on top? I think so. A battle plan. At times we need to keep a low profile, infiltrate the front lines. Sometimes we need to stay the course and tow the line, store our resources for the real fights ahead. Count our losses and regroup. Maybe my place in history won’t be on top. Maybe my place is to keep things moving. Feed and clothe the troops. Sustain. Maybe my own gumption will be the inspiration for another.

But really, who wouldn’t want to be at the facilitation training? Learning about history. Taking part in history, really. We may stop administering this particular test. We may have learned all that we could from exposing young children to dated and difficult manuscripts from the past. Maybe we will provide more difficult manuscripts as a way to filter future oil tycoons or discover the geographical importance of the Gulf wetlands to stabilize a famous port city. So famous in fact that Napoleon Bonaparte was invited to hole up there for a bit during his exile, but never made it. How’s that for history buffiness?

Today I learned more about the Slave Narratives they were inaccurate and minimized accounts of slave history. The information was garnered in a way that did not illicit honest accounts of life as a slave. They were shocking nonetheless and evoked change. More shocking- we include these as primary documents and manscripts for our Document Based Questions. Most shocking- we don’t explain the important detail about how they were created to our students in this particular test and expose them to inaccurate and racially biased data. In essence, we create the cycle for history to repeat itself by not providing ethnically genuine records. Again, today I was taking part in history, but also given the knowledge to invoke change. Me. My fellow teacher's gave me that morsel of power today. Next week I will reveal this information to my students, they too will share this power. Can you imagine someone would not want to be around other professionals sharing knowledge, feeding this great monster called History?

Imagine the other amazing truth about me: Daughter of a Marine, proud and few, I am a peace-loving passivist. Opposed to war and against the use of violent means of all shapes and sizes. Semper Fi and visit forts. Learn about history and keep on keeping on. Be the Change- Better yet be the history changer. Above all else, embrace your geekiness- loudly or to yourself, and always pick your battles wisely.