Thursday, July 24, 2014

Things I Dare Not Say

I still can't tell who's right, Israel or Palestine, so I don't say anything at all and I fear that makes me, in part, to blame.

I can't tell who's to blame, the people who live in the shoot-'em-up neighborhoods, for letting it be like that or the people who don't live in the shoot-'em-up neighborhoods, for not helping those who live there.

I understand my kids' anger because it comes from me.  I am more sorry for passing along that trait than any other I can think of.

Illegal immigrants are committing a crime by entering our country illegally and that's the plain truth.

We are permitting illegal immigrants to enter this country because we want them here, and then we treat them poorly and shame them for being here, which makes us disgusting.

I believe public education is a good idea that's being managed badly but I'm o.k. with its inadequacy because I think it mirrors the dysfunction in real life, where good ideas like being a country of immigrants or sharing a holy land among more than one religious culture can get pretty tangled.

I'm afraid of my own potential, so I keep it tamped down as best I can and then laugh it off when it escapes from me anyway. (And no, for the love of peanuts, I am not running for office.)

I think we'd all be better off with more lives of faith rooted in love for one another than lives of faith in higher powers that lead us to be in conflict with one another.

I don't think Hillary should be President because the woman who breaks that barrier has to be her own person, not someone we know because of her husband.

I'd rather be a little fatter and happier than a little thinner and miserable.

I'm a lot poorer than I look but I don't give a damn any more.

I'm disappointed when my children do not get the honors or prizes they are aiming for, but I'd rather they get kicked in the shins and walk with a limp than never get kicked and not know how to stand on their own two feet.

All babies are beautiful, pure and deserving. Some don't get a chance and we all bear some responsibility, both for that fact and the change we could effect if we stopped being comfortable with that fact.

The fact is, I do what I can but it is never enough.

I dare to say first, because I hope to change my own self and be better.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Here's What I Don't Get

I heard a woman on the radio today talking about why she's camped out in Arizona protesting attempts to bring minor children from a detention center there into other parts of the U.S. for housing and care. The children are 'illegals'. She said it was a shame that they were children, but "clearly their parents didn't care enough about them to keep them and take care of them so...

Left hanging in the air was the end of the sentence which was "why should I care?"

I don't get that.

My son is away for a few days at a friend's house and the longing I have for his face, his warmth, his presence in my house is absurd and painful and silly, but potent and consuming nonetheless. I cannot even fathom the pain of looking that boy in his sweet face, holding his hands, putting my arms around him and his sisters and saying 'I think this is the best thing for you. I love you. Please, please be safe. Go. Stay together. I promise you I'll do my best to get to you if I can. Don't ever forget that I love you.'

Can you imagine that pain? That terror? That self-doubt and fear? What would drive you to that? Anything? I might not ever have the courage. But to save my starving child, I would pray for the strength.

So what was that woman on the radio saying? What kind of filth was she thinking? My first reaction was to call her disgusting. I said that, out loud, in my car. "Disgusting!"

And then I caught myself judging her the way she's judging these parents, without knowing what her pain is.

I don't know what it's like to live in Arizona. I don't know what it means to have to deal with so many strangers just trapsing through your town. It might be frightening or nerve-wracking or downright aggravating. It might be more than you could bear and you might lose your sense and think that little children coming to a new country with no family, no security, no sense of what might happen to them deserve to be yelled at and scared and detained and shipped back, without regard for where they might land when they get back 'home'.

You might be so mangled in your thinking by all the stress you're dealing with you might get on the radio and suggest to the world that I don't love my children.

I may be wrong to send them to another country; God help me so I never have to even contemplate such a thing. But you are wrong - wrong, wrong, wrong - to believe I don't care. And should fate ever ruin me to such a degree that my children must go away from me for some condition like the ones those parents suffer, I should pray with great passion that they do not meet that woman on the radio. I should call to God to deliver them into the hands of compassion, understanding and love that we should all enjoy when we are at our lowest. Isn't that the damn point of being an American?

I just don't get why we all don't get that.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh No They Dih-Int!

But yes, yes they did. In the typical nutcase-versus-hippie split decision the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a 5-4 decision which favors private companies' rights to exempt themselves from portions of the Affordable Care Act. Medical treatment or prescriptions otherwise allowable under the law, and decided upon by a licensed physician in consultation with a patient, can be excluded from coverage if a for-profit, private business can demonstrate the treatment's conflict with the business' religious views.

Because in yet another stunning victory for stupidity, our highest court has underlined the essential passage from the Rich White Man's true scripture: Chapter 1, Verse 1 "Corporations are people, my friends."

That's right. You heard it from Mitt (ironically, a Mormon) first, but the Supreme Court has generously donated tons of credibility through its display of complete disregard for history, our constitution or a freaking dictionary. A corporation's ability to act as an individual has now become its identity. I suppose corporations can have color preferences, allergies to legumes and dating habits, too?

What I find most fascinating about the absolute dirtiness of this decision and its implications is the trading of one kind of morality for another. So we say, in the voice of our highest secular authority:
It is more moral to support a corporation's desire to wear the cloak of human characteristic than it is to afford every citizen equal rights under the law. 
I can just hear Jesus giving up the "what what!"

Are you surprised that women are the subjects of this degradation? I'm not.  If corporations attempted to wear religion in order to deny men a service or treatment you'd be hearing the laughs for miles.

Are you at all taken by the fact that the 'winners' in this case are Christians? I'm not. Because you'd be hell bent to find the Tibetan monk who would get this case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court and you'd never find him. Same for the Orthodox Jew or the Muslim who might want to win the argument to have you cover your women up when you bring them into their shops, their restaurants, their offices.

The whole thing is embarrassing.

Americans do not win this one. Christians do not win this one. We fail. We fail to love one another as He loved us. What greater sin against God is there?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Where I Reside

I haven't talked to the man I think of as my father for nearly thirty-five years. I should wonder if he cares, but honestly the years have worn away the care. Now, it is nearly bore.

That is what I will tell you. I am loud out here so you cannot see me in the quiet.

The man my mom married was not my biological father but for as much as it mattered, he was. I had aunts, uncles, cousins, a grandmother. A whisper. When the marriage ended, the relationships carried on for a while. Then days and distances and no more.

They are my family. But then, too, for as much as it matters they are not.

And all the accoutrements of family -

the comfort and taste of my aunt's food

the familiar ripple of my uncle's gold chain against his neck

the laugh that shares and shakes cousins on a couch too small for all to fit

those are for dreaming days in a waking world.

And there's no one to blame and no tonic but your own.

I'm currently on a path to reconnect with my father's family, a ride on an un-beckoned wave. For what purpose? Really, I will not know.

I'll say I go to show my children. I do not urge them past their own fears or deepest weakness capriciously. I travel in the direction of my hurt as I would point them in the direction of theirs, to face it. When for them, I hold them firmly against me so my heat can be felt through whatever armor, so they know they are loved. We walk together.

Still, I fail in that I do not believe it for myself.

That is the damage that cannot be undone.

Most people look at the family I have made and think it's idyllic. I am cured with that irony and laugh for its deliciousness. It is real. And then, despite my wanting not to, I brace for the hurt and return to the quiet.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

For JB. And The Rest of Us Who are Being Ruined by Education.

My friend JB found herself at once pleased and alarmed that she was able to use the word 'rigor' in a game of scrabble. Pleased, because, heck, any well-placed word feels good in a game of scrabble. Alarmed because she found herself using the buzzwords of the edu-world in her non edu-life. JB is a teacher.

As such, rigor is really the least of her worries. She could find herself trying to ALIGN everything in her life. Alignment's a big deal. Check a teacher's pantry... it's either eerily OCD, bordering on the 'needs medical attention' or rebelliously chaotic - jars and cans facing opposite directions for no apparent reason, on the same shelves with boxes and bags, madness! Edu-speak is ruining them.

Then there's the question of SCAFFOLDING and let me stop you right there! This has nothing to do with construction or window-washing downtown. If that's what you're picturing, you don't know squat about education.

Are you familiar with all the PIECES? When you try to fit that piece in or when you talk about that piece or think about that piece you need to be aware that there are lots of PIECES in education. Lots. Not for the weak or weary, the pieces.

JB ought to be pleased she didn't find herself blurting out ROBUST! in answer to a question. Sure, people of a certain age will remember a coffee commercial with an excellently placed nose over a teaspoon of Sanka grounds, but those people should banish that image from their memories and replace it with an image of curricula. How do you picture curricula? That's not the point. The point is curricula should be robust. If you don't know that, back away from the education.

Speaking of backing away, I might suggest a little BACKWARDS PLANNING. This one kills me. 'We are intentionally backwards.' Really? That explains so much.

In fact, we're INTENTIONAL a lot. Very important. Be intentional. (Don't accomplish anything - 'accomplish' is not an important word in education. Just intentional.)

Everything is about METRICS and MOVING FORWARD, even though you are backwards planning, which may explain why often you are traveling right off the edge of a cliff. Irrelevant. Just measure and move.

And make sure you're NORMING and ASSESSING all the while! If you're not, get out of the game. You have no VALUE-ADD.

Something we don't talk about too much? TOUCHING. You have to look at how many students you touch, whether or not you touch them at all, whether you failed to touch. Interesting, isn't it? Because you have to do a lot of touching, but you can get pulled off the floor for hugging a kid.

And don't forget to address the needs of your DIVERSE POPULATION. If your population is not diverse, make that up, because having the needs of a diverse population is mission critical. Then, you have to address the needs. You don't get resources or support in doing that. You just have to do it. Like magic! Isn't that fun?

Last but not least, make sure you are DIGGING DOWN if you plan to get into the edu-world today. You need to really dig deep. Big deal.

In fact, invest in a shovel. It'll come in handy for more than one thing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Exercise is Good For You

Reprinted from an earlier post on another site:

I had an interesting day in the city today, one which reminded me why I love to live here. I attended a meeting downtown and as part of an exercise was presented with a quote from John Holt, a well-known author on education

 “The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do.” 

I had this rumbling in my mind as I headed to the train and the repetition of the phrase took on an almost musical quality in my head. Then I realized there was a gentleman playing clarinet at the corner under the tracks. Jazz. It was sultry and sweet as a slow rain seeped over the city. I kept his rhythm with me as I headed up the stairs and waited for the train.

I found a seat headed back to the office and busied myself with emails. So immersed in my own importance was I that I barely noticed when an older gentleman sat down beside me. I did notice when he offered his seat to a gal carrying several packages, only so long as to be mildly annoyed at the thought of her clumping down next to me, and then to smile at the gentility of his offer. I thought it quaint, and pleasantly uncommon. She demurred, however, so I returned to my urgent emails about nothing urgent at all.

A few moments later our overburdened friend found a spot right across from us and fumbled with boxes and bags on her lap. She smiled sheepishly and the gentleman who’d offered his seat took the occasion to smile broadly in return, flashing a full set of brown and broken teeth.

I hope I didn’t shudder obviously when he turned to me and said, “You must be so pleased to still be able to read such fine print,” motioning to my phone.

 “It’s getting harder and harder,” I confessed.

 “I had to get glasses shortly after I got one of those,” chimed in the box and bag lady.

I had a choice at this point to return to my silent, imaginary space or to engage a bit more and see what came of it. I didn’t know what to do. She might be too gabby. He might be more brown teeth than genteel. I might tire of the conversation and then – since mine is the last stop – I wouldn’t have a way to extract myself politely. But there was something so sincere about that moment I couldn’t help myself. 

“I’m reading an article about voter apathy. I just can’t stand it!” I blurted.

“Ugh! In this day? I can’t believe it!” he fumed.

She shook her head, too.

Past the pristine and prominent, through the most pricey and on to its most humble abodes, the city offered a sometimes vibrant often grey backdrop to a conversation that traveled from politics to the economy to immigration and baked goods. It was funny and real and sometimes uncomfortable.

Our gentleman friend had served in Vietnam, spent time in Germany and had traveled the states and now, in his 60s, was back in school. The gal with the accoutrements was sympathetic to those who’d grown tired of the political system but, weary and wary, was still committed. She was taking flyers to an event.

I got off the train giddy, bade my companions farewell and good luck and headed out under a more persistent patter to my car. And then I sat there for a few moments collecting myself. I know an awful lot of people, as do many of us. But it’s not often that people I don’t know impact me so profoundly. I’m so glad I had the opportunity and good sense to enjoy that clarinetist’s serenade on my way to the train. I’m so grateful for the rich and robust conversation with the two strangers on the ride back to work. And mostly, most deeply, I’m so thrilled to live in a city that lays this feast of opportunity at my table every day. I simply love Chicago.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mom. You're bugging me.

I can't count the number of times I've said that. Out loud and to myself and to a closet wall and to the pillow I'm screaming in. Any number of inanimate victims has suffered behind the force and tire of my "Mom. You're bugging me!"

Sadly, I've been brash enough to say it directly to my mom, sometimes in a tone less-than commensurate with that owed such a fine and worthy person. (I mean, if you're going to be mean, you should at least be polite. Can't say I have always held to my own standard.)

But there are reasons!

My mom picks lint off of me, still. That bugs me.

My mom talks too long on the phone. Then she calls back two minutes later and talks more, because she finally remembered what she meant to say when she called the first time. That bugs me.

My mom never says what she means directly (unless she's pretty fired up).

Instead, she asks, sweetly, "Are you going to leave that there?"
  'Yes, mom. I'm leaving it right there. Don't touch it.'
"Oh. Do you think it's a good idea to leave it there?"
     'Yah. Mom. Leave it. It's fine.'
"Hmm. I bet if we put it over here that would be even better."
"You know you've gotten so angry as you've gotten older. Fine. I'll leave it there"

That bugs me. And as soon as I turn my back, she moves the cup. That bugs me!

My mom mutters a running commentary on everything that pops into her head, all the time. "Now let me see... yes... OH, I know... Sam... are you going to leave that there?... Sara where are my glasses? Can you go in my bag... Don't put your shoes there - ooh - I gotta remember to call Josie... I don't suppose you have any bananas? Carmi are we leaving now? I can't forget I have to go to the bathroom--Did you read that article about those girls? Oh I just love these flowers you have all over the house. How is Eileen doing? Remind me when it'stimetotakemymedicationisanyoneupstairs..."

This stream of consciousness and the oral history it has perpetrated on all the memories of my life? Bugs me.

My mom says, "the Jewel" and "K-marts" without affectation, even though I distinctly remember she and I making fun of her mother doing that. She was thrilled to learn that there was, in fact, something called "the Face Book" but deflated to realize that "the Face Page" was her own invention.

My mom keeps kleenex tucked in her sleeve, over-garlics and under-salts everything she cooks, and wraps everything in about twenty-seven plastic grocery bags. Everything. That bugs me like crazy.

She has a little lisp (actually, that's kind of cute) and articulates every word like she's speaking a love letter to annunciation. She still corrects my grammar and tells me when to 'ssshhh--beeee quiiieetttt--'.

My mother has the softest hands in the world and taught me how to be a mom and loves me so deeply and genuinely and so effortlessly that I've known exactly how to go about getting good love for my own self, and how to give that love to my children and share it with my husband, in-laws and friends. If you've known me for any length of time you've heard me say a million times "My mom always said..." because even now with all I have lived and learned as a grown person no one has or ever will be a more valued teacher, companion, co-hort or confidant than my mother. She's amazing.

That said, she's annoying. I think I've made my case. So, it's true, mom. You bug me.

And I love you for it.

Happy Mother's Day ~ 2014