Advice from a Friend Who’s Been There

Sometimes the advice friends give are better taken as expressions of concern from a friend who cares but certainly not advice to be acted upon. But yesterday I spoke with a friend who gave me the advice that I needed to hear and the advice that I think is the right advice to act upon. And for that I sincerely thank her, even if she was cleaning her refrigerator while we were talking. I’m taking the liberty of passing on the advice that cost her many hours and dollars in therapy and challenging moments with her own daughter and psycho-ex (her phrase).

You need to have mantras. These are some of the mantras she shared with me for dealing with exman/slime on custodial issues. We are only one week into younger daughter going back and forth and already he is being himself, causing problems, lying and bullying everyone around.

Take the high road. Get yourself out of the conflict between you and your ex because that is over, and put your daughter in the center. It is no longer about your failed marriage and bitter divorce; it is about taking care of your daughter as best as you can, regardless of what he does. It is about enabling her to grow up as independently as possible from the conflict that her parents have wrought.

Take the pressure off her. Don’t make her choose between parents, and don’t make her any more anxious than needs to be. Just step back.

"I will support whatever decision you make." This mantra is to be repeated to daughter instead of transmitting to her any of my fears of loss (of her love and attention) or anger (at exman/slime).

"I will do whatever you choose." A variation on the previous mantra, because it’s not good to keep repeating myself. Again, stepping back and letting her find comfort as best as she can without the added agony of worrying about how her actions will impact me.

Though these will surely be hard to act upon and say, they make sense and seem worthwhile to recite to myself and daughter. When she said them, I knew she was right. Right in the way the friend who told me to just put daughter on a bus to visit her grandparents in New York regardless of ex’s games was wrong. Sometimes there is a difference between what would feel good for me and what would be good for her, and that is what I need to remember. It is about how I continue being the best mother possible for her. That is the only relationship that counts now.

Mideast Peace, Northern Virginia Style

A day after Obama made his Mideast speech in Cairo I went to dinner theatre at my daughter’s middle school. The lunch school tables were set up around the cafeteria with white table cloths on them for that special school dinner theatre feel. Since we got there early, my parents and I sat at an empty table. As the room started to fill up one woman and her two young children sat next to me. Then, when it was already quite full, another family joined the table; there was a husband, wife, two older sons and a grandmother with a kerchief tied around her head.

I’m not sure how they got onto this, but it turned out that the woman next to me is Iranian and the husband and his mother on the other side of the table are also Iranian. It seems that people have sensors about people from the old country or maybe they detect a slight vocal inflection, in any case, they immediately identified themselves as homies. The woman sitting next to me saw my daughter and asked if we were Iranian too. No, I said, she’s Israeli. Well, we’re all from the same part of the world, she commented. I didn’t tell her that on all sides of the little Israeli’s family we’re from Eastern or Central Europe because my family is originally (just go back a few centuries and then a few more centuries) from that part of the world.

After the first act the woman next to me and I were served our cheese tortellini because neither of us went for the meat lasagna; she commented on how Muslims and Jews both eschew pork and shellfish. Yes, we both commented again on the similarities and how we’re from the same part of the world.  Which made me think of Mideast peace and how it’s so easy to hate someone or deny someone or ignore someone or harm someone when she is never sitting down to share a child’s play and a meal on paper plates.

Obama and all the other politicians can say what they want about the Middle East, and even pieces of paper can be signed, but until there is sharing of lives around tables, there will never be peace. In conflict studies there is something called negative peace; that’s where the sides don’t fight, but they don’t exactly partake together. Surely the paper signing is a goal and one that seems so far into the future because, honestly, having yet another American president trying to bully everyone to do what he wants is not the path to peace. I remember one day in class (for my master’s in conflict studies) we were bandying around the idea for a project that would involve baking bread and sharing it, how that would bring Jewish and Arab women together for a real peace conference, not the men with their weapons and hot tempers.

Could a kind of shared meal be an indicator? Could all of the interreligious dialogue and work be an indicator? Could a student who is Palestinian and a teacher who is Israeli be an indicator? Could humanity be an indicator? Could the throwing of weight and desire for power and control be a negative indicator? Could an intense desire to protect one’s own above all others be a negative indicator? What will it take for the men who control the delivery of flour, at whatever level, to realize that breaking bread together might be the ultimate goal? What will it take for tears to overpower rage and fear? What will it take for people to realize that we all break, but we don’t have to?

Maybe we all need to go into the desert to wander for forty years to see what is really worthwhile in a life. Maybe the longer we are away from the desert the more we forget about what is essential, about how we need each other to survive, about how we each have different skills that are necessary for survival. Maybe we need to know that an oasis is communal, as are the sands and dust storms. 

And those on the same side who are not on the same side, need to make those same realizations too. A somewhat related metaphor applies: there are as many opinions as there are ways to cook, but there's only one way to eat. What's more important: getting sustenance or how it's flavored?

The Symbolism of a Frozen Pizza

On my way back to the house, I stopped at a supermarket to get a frozen pizza for dinner and some other things for the next few days. In the same shopping center I stopped at Starbuck’s to get a Java chip frappuchino for my at-home daughter. Doesn’t sound like anything special, but to me it was smile-inducing because these stores are in my new shopping center, as in the shopping center near my new apartment—a home. I practically skipped out of the store, and I surely smiled at far too many people inside.

Oh, the joy to walk down aisles that are new to me. To be in a place that is mine, that represents where I am going and not where I have been. So many things encompass a life, there are so many things that can bring happiness and sadness, surely supermarket shopping is not one of them. But what could be better than to feel freedom, wherever it may occur, because that’s what I felt being there, in a new place that I have envisioned for years. Well, not quite the supermarket, but in a new neighborhood of my own—of being on my own.

Now I am back in the house and his loud steps are right above my head, muffling my thoughts. And I can hear that he has turned the water on. And again his loud steps, even with the carpeting. But this invasion into my thoughts will be over soon, so very soon. Tomorrow the movers are coming to move my things and younger daughter’s things to our new home and then on weekends until the closing I will be there with younger daughter, and then, on the same day that the school year ends, so should my association with this house and the day-to-day “living” in the same place as this man.

In the midst of my joy, though, I spoke with my mother who told me that a second-cousin is getting divorced. She has a restraining order against her husband. He has worked on and off, mostly off, for years. And he apparently has a drinking-various-things problem. So while I am about to step out of the tunnel, unfortunately I see someone else in the midst of her tunnel, with it getting farther and farther away from a light source. How, why, how, why does this happen to so many of us? Why are so many of us unhappy in our marriages? How is it that no matter how smart and self-aware we are, we find ourselves trapped in what had been love? Who is to blame? What is to blame?

I might be stepping out of my tunnel, but my tunnel-vision will remain with me to some extent because I never want to find myself in a tunnel again. As long as I remember what it has been like, I’m hoping I’ll be able to better direct my path.  And as long as someone else finds herself in her own dim tunnel, I hope I can offer some degree of solace, even if it is just out into the ether.

Talking to a Daughter, or Two

Older daughter has been in California since May 16th, which would make it ten days. The weirdest thing for me about her not being here is having to speak to her on the phone. Since when do we speak to our children on the phone, except for the “Can you pick me up now?” type of conversation? It feels so distant; it really makes her physical absence so stark.

Not only do we talk on the phone, but we actually have conversations. Yes, we have had conversations since she moved to the opposite side of the country. And the other day, for the first time that I can remember because it was the first time ever, she asked me “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Could it be that I am becoming a person to her? Could it be that we are really on our way to that mature mother-daughter relationship? Granted, she may be bored, but still, she didn’t have to ask. Oh, happy, happy day to see that apparently we have managed to withstand the onslaught of exman, who has done his utmost to figuratively push me off a parenting cliff.

I was so excited by this development that I told younger daughter what her sister had said. And just to prove to me that she can be just as charming as her sister, when I came home the other day she asked me, “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Wit, what’s a conversation without wit? I guess I have succeeded, am succeeding.

What made you realize that your child has, indeed, absorbed some of your lessons or has moved to the next level of relationship with you?

Love Letters and Children’s Stories

This morning, in the throes of throwing out and packing up, I found a packet of love letters to and from exman. I had them in the car from when I found them at my parent’s house. At that time, just a few months ago, I figured that at some point I would want to read them, or that they were an important archaeological part of my past that had to be preserved. But today when I saw them I opened one card that I had sent to him and just seeing that I wrote the word “kisses” to him turned my stomach. Without further ado, I dumped the whole packet in the dumpster. There is nothing to see there, there is nothing to recount or relive. Garbage, it’s all garbage. Harsh? Perhaps. But why excavate to the good when the bad has poisoned it all. Why think back when I need to look ahead.

In that same bag, though, I did find two children’s stories that I wrote in 1992, when my eighteen-year old was one. Of course, they were rejected by publishers, but, of course, I think they were wrong. At the time of writing, I thought that it was a fun, educational book teaching the very young about sounds and the fun of words. Enjoy one part of my past that I am pleased with.

Down Went the Spoon, by Laura G.

Down went the spoon
with a great, big boom!
the pancake batter.

Down went the cup
(certainly not up)
and out spilled the water
to make a new brook.

Down went my cookie
all ready to munch
well, it broke into pieces
and now is a bunch.

Down went the soap
right into the sink
where it started to slide
so my eyes I did shut
to suppose a round rink.

Continue reading "Love Letters and Children’s Stories" »

The Threads of a Life

So many threads to a life. So many threads interweaving with other threads. Some threads continue interweaving, some go in new directions, and sometimes we need to tie a knot in them to see where we are at the moment. That’s where I am right now, at the knot-tying stage, looking at some of the threads in my life.

The husband of my colleague, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer about six weeks ago, died a little more than a week ago. Still in shock, her refrain, her complaint (if it can be called that) is that “it happened so fast.” Even so, a few days before he died they managed to arrange for their engaged daughter to get married in their backyard for a true blending of the bitter and the sweet into their lives. (May his memory be blessed.)

My wonderful student from last year who was supposed to have brain surgery in July was notified that, no, they cannot wait, and so she has already been operated on. I cannot tell you how hard it is to see a 15-year-old child need a wheelchair to get back to her room from just a few feet away. Sure, I saw her two days after her surgery, but there are some images that you don’t want to reconcile with the picture you have in your head of how a teenager is “supposed” to be, and how this lively, enthusiastic, intelligent, perfectionist always was—is.

I was invited to take part in the teaching of writing class that I interviewed for in March. Last night was the welcome dinner. It is fascinating to hear the ideas that other teachers have to excite, instruct and inspire their students to write. Why the creativity of teachers is not a thing more discussed is a wonder to me. We each need to make a 75-minute presentation; I heard the ideas of about half the teachers who will be taking the class (25 all together) and they were all so interesting and inspiring, for me both as a teacher and a parent. You have to wonder how it is that kids are missing out on the sparks that are coming their ways. What is it that they need? Or is the best that any teacher can expect in a year is to reach a few kids, and with that, to feel “mission accomplished” and not stress too much over those who did not have a spark-detector for her?

The assistant principal “raved” about how well I handled psycho mom in the parent-teacher conference the other day. Apparently the “can get defensive” label that I had been given has been replaced with “handles tough parents well.” I certainly like the sound of that more.

Older daughter is moving to California on Saturday, days before her 18th birthday. “Mixed emotions” could cover it, but what’s the mix if it changes all the time? I am certainly proud of her that she is going where she wants and is facing her future as opposed to acting like someone already worrying about retirement before she is even old enough to drink. There is a heavy feeling of hoping: hoping that I have been as good a mother to her as possible and that she is prepared and comfortable to become herself. She did get a letter from a professor the other day who called her brilliant, so on that side of things she seems to be doing well. She is, as I was, as unprepared for the minutiae of life, you know, cooking, cleaning and organizing, but I hope it will come when it needs to.

I will be moving on June 1st. The settlement on the house is to be mid-June. There are countable numbers of days until the end of this ordeal. There really is a tunnel with two ends, for so long I thought it was a dead-end tunnel. I am imagining myself getting up in the morning from a bed and walking a few steps away to see my younger daughter sleeping comfortably in her room, and then walking over to the little terrace, which will become my outside thinking spot, for a few moments of clarity before heading into the shower. Yes, I can finally imagine a lightness to living, and not just dreading hearing heavy footsteps and a tape recorder and another demand for money or twisted interpretation of reality. Freedom. It’s coming.

I told the mediator that I will not pay the bill he sent me because he let ex-man insult me and he tried to pressure me to agree with him. He wrote back that he will cancel my bill, and he won’t have us back again to mediation. No kidding. It was for a really small amount, but I stood up and kept standing.

Today I will be meeting nasty lady lawyer to ensure that I get the full amount due to me from the sale of the house, and that I will not have to pay for his non-payment of the mortgage in the past few months. Soon, soon this will end.

And there is a 35-year-old man who keeps writing me lovely emails. And there is the lovely, laid-back South American scientist with whom I will eventually have a second date. The back, back burner idea of romance suits me. Pseudo-man contacted me again, ugh, and I told him, in between silent treatments, that I have moved on, and I have. I will not have anything to do with someone who is not good for me, or who I think will not be good for me. I am for me now, so how can I let someone in who is so obviously for himself?

A colleague will be 40 today. She’s feeling the life marker. Me, I’m feeling a different life marker, or marks of my life, and so happy to have a head that can finally look ahead and is not just stuck in the now.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping me this past year. My strength has been your strength. You, readers, have no idea how invaluable it has been to me to know that people are reading about my struggles, and passing on to me encouragement and strength, not only through your words, but your presence too (for the non-commentators out there). Your presence has truly lifted me up as a prayer. May life be full of fulfillments for us all.

Parent-Teacher Conference

I was in the middle of writing this humorous slash ranting post about a parent-teacher-teacher-student-assistant principal conference I had the other day when I thought, hmm, the mother is a lawyer, the mother is irate, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to post this. Even though there is no way anyone could figure out who I am talking about, why tempt any issues. And so I switched gears; rather than write about what this particular student does to annoy her teachers who she does not like, or talk about how insulting the mother was to my colleague and me, I’ll skip right to the point that I think I was going to lead into.

Why do parents think that their attitude-rich, participation-free kids are any different in school than at home? Why do they think that their every interpretation of events in school is exact when they know that there have been evasions, half-truths, and even outright lies coming their way from said prodigy? Why do they think that we have to make their kids meet their expectations? And why do they belittle us when they expect so much from us?

Which reminds me of an incident I had this week with another student. He was mad that I apparently threw out his homework in my effort to derail his attempt to get his grade up. Yes, it seems that I did that to give him an undeserved zero because,it is clear, I do not like him. On day two of his contest of wills with me he looked through the folder where work goes if a student is absent on the day the materials are returned. Lo and behold, there it was. But with one little problem: there was no name on the paper. That must be my fault.

Why are we always to blame if something doesn’t go right? Why is my co-teacher blamed for her daughter not doing her work? And why am I told that I “should pick on someone your own size” if she knows that her daughter gets belligerent if criticism of any kind (and I mean “any”) comes her way? How come I have to figure out how to deal with this girl when both of her parents deal with her by yelling at her and buying her clothes? 

Seriously, I’m here to teach English, with some ethics lessons mixed in, but I am not their parent and I am not a therapist. And how the heck am I supposed to figure out how to handle the personalities of 125 kids when the parents can barely figure out their one or two or three children who they have had in their homes for years? Why can’t we go back to the good ole days of respecting teachers, bending our fragile children’s personalities to the teachers’ personalities, rather than trying to break the teacher down?

On the same day of my conference, another teacher was dealing with a student and parents who have escalated the “she can’t take this test because the final day to take it has passed” into a big dramatic scenario whereby the teacher is accused of doing something she did not do. (I know this because I was in her room at the time.) So now this teacher has to stress about her reputation and her relations with her students rather than to focus on preparing them for their exams.

Seriously, what is the world coming to? Since I started teaching four years ago I have found the vast majority of the teachers I have worked with or took classes with to be committed to teaching their students, and have cared about their students as people. We spend hours trying to come up with lessons that will excite and intrigue, and to get them to remember those things that don’t excite anyone but need to be remembered. Why is this not seen?

And this is the thanks we get. I shouldn’t focus on the few parents who are nasty to me in meetings or barely veiled condescending emails, but that seems to be the nature of human nature. I should focus on hearing what they have to say, see if there’s any validity, and then figure out how to improve. But honestly, what are they doing when they get home? Are they thinking about how to better discipline or instruct or guide their children or do they feel satisfied that they got a professional to jump through their hoops? We’re professionals for content, not raising kids—that’s the parents’ job. How about the blame game not being so one-sided? How about parents acknowledging their own lacking and seeing if something that they have done could have somehow, maybe, resulted in a child who is belligerent, disrespectful and entitled.

There is a difference between parenting and teaching, and parents need to understand that. And kids need to understand that, too.

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, except for the few goodies from my school, I received one bag of chocolates and a “thank you” card from one student. I will try try try not to let some parents get me down, and I will try to focus on my successes. But it’s darn hard when I’ve got nasty mom reverberating in my head and only the silence of barely uttered “thank you’s” from other parents.

Maybe next year on the syllabus in addition to paper and pencils I should write that students are required to come every day with a positive attitude and a desire to learn.

Back Home

Here I am, after a four-day trip to LA during which I did too much driving through too much traffic amidst inconsiderate drivers (even taking into consideration New York drivers) and in full-view of too many accidents. The car that careened into the dividing wall after, I assume, the driver pressed on his brakes too hard was far too much drama for me. Older daughter’s response a few moments later was: “Why are you driving so slowly?” And younger daughter’s response when I told her about the accidents I saw was: “Maybe you’re bad luck.” You do have to love those girls: they are committed to not being a support to their mother all the time but becoming their own people with their own thoughts and causing me no end of concern as to their compassion… or lack thereof.

I was free of thoughts of ex-husband, which was good because the moment he noticed my return this morning he was back in slime mode. As I sat down to a plate of too much matzo brie (matzo that is softened in water, then mixed with an egg, heavily salted, and then fried) he took his egg carton out of the refrigerator and said: “Excuse me, these are my eggs.” Yes, he refers to me as “Excuse Me.” Lack of class cannot be made up for by using a term like that when it is dipped in bile. And since my daughter finished my eggs (I guess he knew this because he keeps tabs of things like this) and I knew what response I would get from him if I touched one of his eggs, I calmly responded: “I bought a container of 18 this morning.” And off slime went, leaving behind his dirty and clean dishes for someone else to take care of before more people were supposed to see the house, but didn’t show up.

I shall not dwell on seeing the university where older daughter wants to go except to note that she really wants to live in the LA area and study at this one school and is not concerned about going into massive debt to study there. In my role of mother I have tried to talk to her, but she will be 18 very soon and is very smart and confident. Grandma will try to talk to her tomorrow. It is true, I am not one of those mothers who sets down the law but have tried instead to make my daughters independent women. While I am sure that is the right way, sometimes I wish they would just do what I say!

Dinner with my blogging friend and her family showed me that blogging friends can be real friends. If I had met her in “real” life I am sure that we would have been friends. Dinner, then talking and meandering in a bookstore, and then ice cream—that’s the way to spend some time together away from a keyboard.

Even while ensconced in a hotel room that was formerly part of a silo (with round cement walls to prove it) and the rails of the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe a few yards from the room so that I could hear and feel the trains rush by I was not disturbed into thinking about men or the men who are either not that into me or who are not that into keeping up email correspondence at a Laura-suitable pace. This was good, very good. I was focused where I needed to be.

But just in case you were wondering, I had two emails when I returned from Chemistry-related gentleman: one who seems to be illiterate and the other who is taking too darn long between contacts. I had written him off, and oops, there he is. Oh, and there is a Craig’s List gentleman who seems to be more of a gentleman even though he has no degrees than many of the men who have graduate degrees. No, you cannot be my "pronce charming" whoever you are. And if you start every sentence with “I” in your profile I will archive you. And no, I don’t trust you when you say you want a faithful woman—not with my controlling-man experience. And if you say that a woman should never be in front or behind I will question you too (it was the never in front part that was a real turn-off, why can’t we take turns leading and following?). But we shall see, and if nothing comes of these, then c’est la vie, or c’est ma vie.

I walked a lot. I drove a lot. I didn’t eat too much. I adhered to Passover restrictions except for a couple of self-granted leniencies (I tried not to eat too many of the dry noodles in my awful Asian chicken salad that I didn’t know would be there, and I pretended to be Sephardic one day and had some pinto beans with my rice-less, taco-less Mexican lunch). While I am still not drinking coffee I have not been as good on the chocolate ban. How I wish the cashier at Trader Joe’s in Pasadena would not have wished me a “good evening with your chocolates” on Thursday night. Who says things like that? Besides, I bought the small box of truffles (only 30) and not the big box (50) and there are still some left.

My daughter and I got along most of the time; there were a few snips from her, but she’s really not used to being with mommy so much (or anyone or that matter), and even she said what a good time she had. That would be (as in the good time) except for my repeatedly bringing up the subject of the cost of tuition and her wanting to say “I do” to indebtedness.

And on the subject of meaning of life I decided that I need to do more and think less. So even walks during which I mull to myself need to be supplemented by real action. I’m not quite sure what, but perhaps hiking with other people would be a start. Maybe take a crafts class; I’ve wanted to learn how to throw clay (on a potter’s wheel) for more reasons than creativity.

Which brings me to a discussion of my writing and blogging. I think that I will be cutting back on the number of blog posts I do—that would be daily, and focus more on the questions and then one or two posts a week. This would enable me to start the book that I decided that I need/want to write. I’m not quite sure what shape it will take since the words “fictionalized real-life,” “philosophy of life” and “funny” are battling for control of my mind. I want to keep my connection with my readers, with the blogs I read and with the wonderful world of immediate communication but I also want to explore my depths even more, hence “the book” project.

Lastly. Happy Passover! Happy Easter! May happiness emerge from within us all.

This should be an interesting week: another mediation session.

Watching Romeo and Juliet, or Parts of It

Since we will be reading Romeo and Juliet after spring break, I decided to have my classes watch a movie version before the break. I’m hoping that maybe if they see the movie first it will help them understand the lines better when we read the play. Which brings me to an interesting dilemma that I have had to face: in the movie version of the play that we watch (the Zeffirelli version) there are two murders (there are three in the play), two suicides, and about two seconds of Romeo’s butt and two seconds of Juliet’s breasts.

Why did I cover the barely naked and sincerely lovely bedroom scene but not the two murders and two suicides? And why did the religious boy in one class look down during the bedroom scene (that is supposed to be a balcony scene) for fear that I would slip and reveal a sliver of something but watch throughout the two very, very long sword fights?

Is this a sign of how silly or perverse our society is that it is okay to watch violence but we should not view the beauty of love and the human form? I’m not talking porn here, I’m talking of glimmers of “forbidden parts.” It seems to me that our society needs more adjusting than in the way we spend our money; we need to reconsider what we value—what should be valued. How could I fear getting emails from parents because of a momentary butt (a very lovely one at that, since I showed it last year) and not from three impalements and one dose of poison? Why was the intense intimacy between the newly-married Romeo and Juliet more fraught with possible repercussions for me than seeing Mercutio’s stab wound?

I so wish it weren’t so. I would so much prefer beauty over violence. Wouldn’t that be better for us all? Why protect their innocence from nudity but not from barbarity? Surely in these days when people are talking of domestic violence it would be better for kids to understand the difference between love and violence; moreover, they should be encouraged to groan at the sign of pain and look head-on to the unveiling of love. Maybe this year when we read the play I need to stress how the violence led to the destruction of Romeo and Juliet’s love. This year as we read the play maybe I should get the most aggressive boys to take turns being Romeo and not succumb to their desire to play Tybalt the aggressor.

Yes, this year I will counter the internal movie censor that I was with a different kind of censorship. This year I will try to not have the boys laugh at the effusive pronouncements of love—this year I will try to get them to see into themselves and to admit that to love is far more powerful than to succumb to tawdry threats and aggression. And the girls, they should see that tenderness and love makes one stronger, not weaker. 

Highlights of a Weekend in New York

The drive from Northern Virginia to Long Island (east of New York City) should be five to six hours. My younger daughter and I got onto the highway (495) at 4:22, after stopping at the store for essentials (aka junk food, but we did each get an apple, too), getting gas and returning a book to the library. The easy, breezy longish trip that should have gotten us into my brother’s house at around nine ended up becoming a trip to see how long we could be delayed in traffic in Maryland and Delaware. Delaware may be one of the smallest states in the Union but it sure didn’t feel that way as the hours ticked by. But we were both in good moods the entire time. This proved that, indeed, the journey is the key part of a trip. Or, if you’re going to get stuck in traffic don’t go with your extremely impatient child. We didn’t rouse my brother from his slumber on his LaZBoy until 1:30.

On Saturday I took my daughter to her camp friend’s Bat Mitzvah, and then I was independent until Sunday morning since the invite ended up including much hang-out time, including a sleepover at a hotel after the big party at a country club.

I was off to Manhattan to meet a friend. The rain cleared for what would be a glorious spring day. I was in the mood to walk (as I always am when I am in Manhattan). So I walked from Penn Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue to 54th and Fifth Avenue where we were to meet, in front of Tiffany’s. While I waited for her I watched as countless tourists took pictures in front of the Trump building or the Tiffany’s sign, while others came out of Tiffany’s with their little TIffany blue bags. Me, I leaned against a planter and watched the river of people walk by.

As usual, I’m thinking that all or a part of my wardrobe is lacking. So while I’m thinking that I should have waited to buy more attractive walking shoes my friend comes up and greets me, telling me how great I look and how my red jacket looks so nice. Her, I haven’t seen her for at least six months and I was surprised and saddened by how drawn and drained she looked. She’s been trying to find a job in New York for a while but has only managed to land temporary things here and there, and it seems that even temp jobs have completely dried up in New York.

We walked up Fifth Avenue on the Central Park side to the Metropolitan Museum. Instead of going in and looking at the artwork (which we did last time), she used the restroom and then we walked and talked our way across a very crowded Central Park. We were on the search for Thai or Chinese food, but we could find neither. We walked from the park to Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue and then down from 84th Street to 72nd Street to find a Chinese restaurant. Not only was I surprised by the lack of expected diversity of restaurants, I was surprised by how many closed stores there were; although, the pizza places seemed to still be intact.

After lunch I headed back to Penn Station. I should have taken the subway, but I was in push-yourself mode, so I walked back down to 34th Street. At one point I was glad that New York didn’t have the muggings it used to have, since I didn’t think that I would have the energy to fight someone off.

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Observations from a Kindergarten Classroom

On Sunday morning I had the pleasure to substitute teach a kindergarten class at my synagogue. In “regular” school I teach 9th grade, and in religious school at the synagogue I teach 7th grade and 3rd grade, so this was quite an age difference, but not as many significant differences as I had expected.

Crying: This is one that is different, but not too different. I have not had to face a child clinging to her father that she wants mommy before coming into class tearfully, but I have had to deal with tears in class. As much as she clung to him and as much as I sweetly sweet talked her into the class with the temptation of drawing pictures, I must say that I was shocked by how quickly she forgot all the turmoil and became a calm, attentive little girl. I know they tell us that they forget us quickly when we drop them off, but I never saw it from that angle before. 

In the past year I have had two “big” girls cry in class. One girl cried because kids said something hurtful to her while they were in the hall working on a project and another after a confrontation in the cafeteria with another student. Teen teasing really does bring the maturity level down, or maybe keeps it at kid level, which we try to forget that they are. Although I didn’t see teasing with the little ones, I could see the potential.

There was more crying in the past year. I had a third grader cry when he couldn’t do an in-class assignment. And me, I cried in class last year when I read an email from my lawyer about another court delay. I yelled out “Oh No!” and turned around to face the board so my students wouldn’t see that they in control lady had lost the control. Maybe we all cried for different reasons, but it certainly was a needed release. The tension of being in a small room with twenty five other people and their egos and “issues” really has potential for more problems than arise. Perhaps we are at the core compassionate.

Storytime: There was one big-time difference during story time. I have never had a student climb over me as if I were a piece of playground equipment as one of the girls did. It was fascinating to watch as they sat in a circle for story time. Initially, only one boy was sure enough of me to sit really close, but by the time we got to the middle of the story, I had to shoo them off so that I could turn the page. It was like a huddle around a trusted leader and not a tentative group of kids around the new teacher.

Right in the middle of me feeling so confident in my role, one of the girls started crying quietly that she wants her mommy. She put her head down and let her hair cover her face until she was ready to rejoin the group. I don’t know what triggered her, but their inability to hide what they’re feeling and thinking made me realize that being a child is certainly not easy. It really is finding your way without a compass, because parents are their compasses and what are they when they leave us, even for two hours, at that age.

Slavery:  My assignment was to read a Passover story and talk about it with the students. Could someone explain to me how a kindergartener knows about slavery? There was a girl there who started talking about how black people were brought from Africa and were forced to work for white people in America and how bad that was. Unbelievable. I was impressed that she knew that, but wondered if it was perhaps too much to know at that age. Do five year olds have to have the weight of morality on their shoulders?

Script: How is it that kindergarteners can write their names in script? The students needed to write their names on their drawings of Pharaoh in Egypt, while some barely got sort-of letters on the page, others were scripting away. I’m not sure if this is a sign of small motor abilities, intelligence, or the sign of pushy parents, but really, script at five?

Snack: Oh the joys of snack time. We had challah, juice and graham crackers. This was toward the end of a two-hour class. Apparently two hours without food counts as fasting. Seriously, they can’t wait? Do we really have to keep reminding kids to eat? Wouldn’t less snack time and less snacking be better—for them and us?

Joy. When they were full of energy and I could tell that they could not be shushed successfully and seeing no need to quiet them down and get back to task, I just went with the flow of their energy. I didn’t have to force them to sit and do the work, no, the work became a reflection of their energy. I had them channel that energy and re-enact nine of the ten plagues (I thought the tenth plague of death to the first-born Egyptian son was unseemly). They quite enjoyed being bugs, frogs, wild beasts, people being hit by hailstones, and having a bad case of the itches and being caught in the dark. It was wonderful to see them unbridled.

While I found the mental stimulation not quite what I need on an on-going basis, it was surely a joy to direct children a little as opposed to being a constant dictator. There surely must be some take-away lesson for me here to bring to my big kid classroom. Could it be that I should let their energy flow more? Maybe I should worry less about the wasted minute getting them to be quiet between tasks and see it as their big kid way to release and use some of the energy that is stored in them. Maybe another plague is not letting kids be kids—sometimes, even when they are in high school.

Getting Up-to-Date

A coincidence, times two. I went to the neighborhood supermarket yesterday and who do I see? My realtor, the very woman I said to myself as I got into my car to drive to the supermarket that I need to speak to. So I did. A few aisles later I looked up from my perusals and there was the previous realtor. I saw him see me and then turn and walk away from the aisle I had apparently made poisonous. We changed realtors because he didn’t sell the house. But honestly, he could never get exman to agree to change the price and so the house never sold because it was priced too high because these realtors are all optimists. And they listened to exman’s analysis as if he knows anything about real estate. Now, well, now the newest realtor is facing his obstinacy and delaying tactics, and has started singing the same “but exman thinks this and exman thinks that” bullshit that has led me further into this tunnel with a light somewhere, very, very far away.

Speaking of home repairs. The newest realtor is now dealing with exman who will not commit to doing any repairs and whining about the ones that she suggests be done. We are both committed to spending $1,000 each on the repairs and so far we have only spent $300 between the two of us. All of a sudden he’s saying the condenser repair that we did a couple of months ago should be included in that. And he’s always too busy to get back to the realtor about which repairs he will pay for, and he is remarking that much of it doesn’t need to be done, we should just wait for the right buyer who will buy the house without those repairs. Stupid little man—have you not noticed that that strategy has not worked for almost two years! But me, I’ve had it. I told the realtor to go ahead with the repairs I told her I would pay for and I had her relay that information to him. Get the handyman was my big message at the supermarket meeting. Enough already. No one wants to do your dishes anymore and no one wants to smell the food you make.

And on the topic of men who are not really men at all. On Tuesday pseudo-man sent me an email after more than a month of silence; a silence which I expected to last forever. And now that I am a woman who is acting on her instincts and one who is also not so desperate for sex and to be called “babe,” I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just not answer him. There’s no law that requires that I respond to someone’s email, especially if my INSTINCT tells me not to.

And more lesser men. In an email to a friend I remarked that it would be easier to keep to my decision on pseudo-man if I had moved on, if I had another man in my life so that I wouldn’t see the relationship as any rosier than it was, and it wasn’t very. So I decided, after reading a New York Times wedding announcement wherein the couple said they met on Yahoo Personals through the Pen Pal section, to go to the Platonic section of Craig’s List. If there’s no spark, at least let there be someone I can have an occasional dinner with not at a diner in a mini booth for one. And low and behold the request was answered, and he was Jewish, too. We seemed to have a lot in common, and we even did a phone call. We were talking talking talking. We were laughing laughing laughing. We were entertaining each other. And then, all of a sudden, he said that someone’s at the door, that no one ever comes to his house unexpected. He asked until when he could call me back, I told him until 10 that night.

That was on Friday. I guess it was a line and I was “not that into you’d” on a phone call. I know that this man has absolutely no obligations to me, for goodness sake’s we only communicated for two days, but still, it was odd. Or was it just disappointing because odd seems to be so commonplace these days?

Not quite a mother-daughters event. My daughters wanted to go to the outlet mall and since the father does not let the daughter drive the other daughter, I got to be the driver of choice. On the way there I was called “bipolar brain,” upon which I turned around. Then we continued our fight about college money and how it would be handled. Did I tell you that my daughter got into college in California and now plans on leaving for LA as soon after her 18th birthday as possible?

Somehow we managed to get to the mall. They went their way, and I went mine. How much fun. I figured that since I have the two of them together we’ll go out to eat at a nice Chinese restaurant after the shopping. But when we met two hours later they had already eaten fast food and just wanted to go home to complain that there is no food in the house.

At this point I am blaming no one for my daughters and their attitudes and words. I have no energy. I don’t want to cook for them. I don’t buy what they want in the supermarket because I really have no idea what they want and I don’t want to be told the food I cook is bad. I just want to be showered with love and pampered. I want to be left alone until I absorb enough love to have the energy to shower it back on them.

Weekend work. Now, now I need to start compiling my list of harassments, non-payments, non-compliances by exman. And I am sick sick sick of it. Since October 2004 when I first filed for divorce this endless game has been played. And, obviously, things were bad for a while before that to have gotten to that point. My satisfaction with him being served the papers while he was dressed in just a towel that barely gets around his stomach has long since ceased to bring a smile to my lips. I have been paid back in nastiness to such a degree that my little victory is as a breeze in a hurricane.

Looking ahead. Just let the future prevent the present from being my past, present and future. 

One Day, Seven Kinds of Therapy

Good Mother Therapy: On Saturday morning I took my daughter to her basketball game; it was the first game in the post-season playoffs. She played her BFF’s team, and they lost by one point after a very close game (they lost to them last week by more than 20 points). Except for grabbing the ball, I love watching the determination and skill of those 12- and 13-year old girls on the court. After the game I took my daughter and her best friend and another good friend from the “opposing” team out for ice cream and then a day of going back and forth between homes and activities.

This lovely “I am a good mother” morning was negated when my older daughter repeatedly banged on my wall screaming at me to lower the volume of the live opera I was listening to on the radio after I had cranked it up all the way (on a clock radio mind you, so it’s not too loud) to drown out exman yelling at me through my locked door that he would file something against me because I stole his things. (See below.)

Clean House Therapy: The realtor suggested cleaning out the basement storage area and the mudroom. So that’s what I did. I moved bags of old clothes, toys and books to donate and rearranged exman’s boxes so that they would be placed on shelves and not on the floor making the whole place a mess, and putting his shirts (that he just threw down there) into plastic bags. There were only two boxes of my things there, which I didn’t realize I had, since I moved everything to storage when we put the house up for sale and agreed that we would move our things out of the basement and into storage to make it look less crowded. He, of course, moved his things right back into the basement storage area instead of out of the house and into storage.

I got a lot done and was feeling good about it, but I still hadn’t found the dead mouse that could be sniffed down there when exman came home and got into a tirade that I was stealing his things. I dropped the box of things I was about to put into the garbage so that he could inspect it and went into my room not wanting to deal with what I knew would be coming. Not only did I not steal his things but his things mainly comprise boxes and boxes of papers that he brought with us when we moved from Israel and he has not opened since putting them into those boxes more than eight years ago. Apparently there are amazing contracts that he wrote in Hebrew in those boxes which, I am sure, are useless in the US and useless because he hasn’t worked as an attorney since we came to the US.

There he was with his recorder friend again at my door screaming about theft but by that time I had turned the radio up and was listening to Il Trovatore.

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More ENOUGH Beads

Yesterday at seven in the morning my boss came into my classroom to tell me that students have been complaining about me to their counselors. A number of students have said that I am mean and they think I hate them. She then asked, “Do you hate them?” Wow. Glad to see that she knows me. Then she said that they think I’m brusque. To which she added as a statement of fact, "well, you are brusque." Thanks for that support, lady. Some more words of how horrible I am and onto the next topic. Oh, but she did say, in a I-can’t-believe-this tone, that she knows some students like me because they give me cards, but really, what are you going to do to make them think you love them?

Honestly, I have no idea. Some days I feel like a snapping turtle; there I am, calm in my mud and then all of a sudden someone says something, or does or doesn’t do something and SNAP. I know that it is not professional to bring my outside life into the classroom, and I don’t, I don’t talk about my life, but sometimes my nerves don’t realize where they are and SNAP. The SNAP could be a tone that is not the most loving or a comment that is not the most supportive. I’m sorry kids (you boys especially) but honestly can’t you just sit down, stop talking, stop chewing gum like cows, start doing your homework, start doing your classwork, stop talking, stop interrupting me when I’m talking to ask irrelevant questions, stop talking (oh, I said that, but did you hear me say that?), start caring about more than getting out of class to talk to your friends, stop thinking that you know more about everything than me, start paying attention. (That could be an example of a SNAP.)

The next topic was about my colleagues and how she says they feel that I don’t shoulder my weight or I’m not committed enough to the cause. This stems from the fact that I had to cancel helping out at a workshop one afternoon because I had a parent-teacher conference (not for my own child mind you, but at school for a student), and instead of going from person to person to see if someone would cover for me, I just sent out an email. Now I know that that is a big no no. Thanks everyone. One slip-up and you’re on the bad colleague list. Oh, and I came late to the last department meeting, or should I rephrase that as saying I was late to one meeting and poof, I am not a full member of the team.

And with that she left.

At that moment a student walked in (can’t you hang out with your friends and not come to my classroom 20 minutes before class starts?), so I had to pretend that I wasn’t as weak as a 14-year old inside. Then a student, whose sister I had last year and who often comes to visit me, came by herself to visit me. But I was about to cry, especially after I told her that I’m having a bad day and she asked me if I wanted a hug. (I saw her today, and she asked me if I was feeling better. Sweet, sweet girl.)

Then I read an email that notified the staff at school that the mother of two students had died. (I had her daughter two years ago. Another sweet, sweet girl.) I thought, oh no, not another woman dead from breast cancer. But no, I was to find out during my break, this mother of three committed suicide. That information just made me sit, sit with new tears brimming thinking of this woman and how horribly horrible the pit she was living in must have been. Then I just sat some more, unfolded. And there I was, at the wall of ENOUGH, unable to do anything but sit in stillness.

In the afternoon I went to see two short-term rental apartments. One was nice, in that it wasn’t expensive and there was no need to sign a long-term lease. But it really was for a single person, and not one with two teenagers. I imagined the reaction of my daughters if I would take them there: it would be that mom doesn’t want us. It was so obviously a place for one. And it was far, so far from the house, and more importantly from my younger daughter’s school that I wouldn’t be able to drive her in the mornings to school and get to my job on time which would be essential since the house was not in her school district. And the second apartment was actually a wing in a lovely woman’s home. I wish I could have taken it because it seemed that we would get along so well and her daughters are the same ages as mine. But it was too expensive to seriously consider.

And today I am back to wondering how I can save myself and leave them? Yes, I know this situation is unhealthy, but the price that my daughters would have to pay unless I find a place that is really suitable for them would be too high. How good would I feel sitting alone in a basement without exman around if I feel that I abandoned them to him? Would I really be able to start healing? And, would I really be able to start losing weight (thanks for the reminder that I have gotten heavy, mom) and exercise and get my life in order if I thought about them, alone in the house or with his toxic presence.

So this weekend I will be doing the realtor’s “to do” list, and she will help organize some repairs that she thinks will help sell the house. I’m still looking for a short-term rental, but it has to fit us all, hopefully I will find it before my birthday or we will have a contract by then.

Lastly, please drive carefully. In the past two days I have passed three accidents. 

Some People Have Worry Beads, I Have Enough Beads

The string of enough-beads that I have been stringing through the days of late has gotten so long that if I wore it I would be so weighted down that I wouldn’t be able to stand and walk into the next cause for an enough bead to be created and added to that string.

  • mr-ex is still here and as “vibrant” as ever. He has taken to calling my daughters into his room for a conference if voices rise when I am discussing something with them. Having him call them in disgusts me on so many levels: since he is not parenting he doesn’t get to pretend that he is the supervisor parent. He also doesn’t get to be the decider parent telling them what to do and say, especially when they never hurl at him the things they hurl at me because they are scared of him and because he is not involved in their lives, except in this role, while I have to somehow deal with them while they are fuming and spewing.

  • mr-ex appears to be one of the unemployed (he worked for a financial institution), although he seems to be trying to establish some kind of business. Not that that would impact me monetarily since he pays nothing to me for me or for the girls, but it does mean that he is in the home much more often than before--he is there just about everyday when I come home from work. You’d think that maybe he would be more stressed for money now and agree to really reduce the price of the house to sell quickly, but no, he seems even more determined to make the amount of money that he wants from the house.

  • At school I have spent the last week on our new unit, the Holocaust. I spent two days watching a movie (A Survivor Remembers) about a Holocaust survivor five times. Then, I had my students do an activity where they try to identify pictures of people to see if they can figure out if the person was a victim, perpetrator, rescuer or bystander during the Holocaust. That’s not so bad, what’s hard is that five times in two days I needed to read the biographies of Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, and Herta Oberhauser. Don’t bother looking them up, one was the “mastermind” of the Final Solution, and the other two were “doctors” performing “medical” experiments on people. Not a light-hearted way to spend my days at work. And we’re heading into more days of Holocaust and World War II research, and from past experience, I know that I will get upset from insensitive comments from teenagers, or even worse, from uncaring teenagers.

  • After a week of worrying that pseudo-separated man was in a coma or coffin after disappearing for a week after we had been back in touch for a few weeks, I found out that he wasn’t in either place. I did find, though, cause to change his moniker from pseudo-separated man to pseudo-man. Let’s just say that the disappointment that lead to that was utterly disheartening.

  • The other day, after I yelled at older daughter for picking up my laptop by the top when it was open, she actually uttered a word that I never expected to be hurled at me from my daughter. From my ex-husband, been there done that, but not her. Not the c-word from my 17-year old. Yes, I understand it’s a phase, but she just keeps crossing lines that I didn’t expect to ever cross. And since then I have been called that again, and the f-word and even given the finger. Any wonder that I left her at school today when I went to pick her up between her classes and told her I'll come back when her last class is over. (She then called mr-ex to rescue her from her evil mother--he did.)

  • And lovely, sweet younger daughter was mad at me because I went out with a friend the other night and I did not inform her that after dinner I would be going to a movie, because sometimes I need to pretend that I can do that—make a decision without consulting a 13-year old. So after being called the c-word, all that came out of the other mouth in the room was “shut up shut up shut up” aimed at me.

I went into my little room, locked the door (after Poops the maltese came in), and just lay down on my love seat. Sometimes thoughts are pushed aside by amorphous emotions. This was not meditation, this was me hitting the Wall of ENOUGH.

Is Grandma Okay?

This story was written in honor of my parents and their 54th wedding anniversary, which they celebrated last week. I might not have sent a bunch of flowers like my brother and sister-in-law, but I don't think they wrote a story. So there, mom. This story is cross posted over at +StoryRhyme, a great site for children's stories.

Corinna is a nine-year-old girl with dark dark brown hair that is almost black. She has very dark eye brows that sometimes make her look as if she is scowling when she is not because she is generally smiling since she is so very very sweet.  Her eyes are a soft dark brown that twinkle when she is happy, which shows that she likes to share, because that certainly is the best way to share your happiness.

Corinna lives with her mother and her older sister, Amanda, and her little white Maltese, Mr. Small Tongue, in Virginia. She likes to talk to her dolls about her day at school and look out the windows of her bedroom. Her best friend is Meghan, who lives down the street; they always wait at the bus stop together and talk.

One of the things that Corinna likes most is to visit her grandparents in New York City. Every summer since she was six she would spend a week with her grandparents. Her sister would go a different week and her mother wouldn’t go at all, which is what made it especially special. She would pretend that she was an only child that week, and be happy not to have to share anything with Amanda. For one whole week she would not have any fights with her sister. Their fights weren’t very bad and they always made up, but sometimes Corinna got tired of storming off to her room because Amanda would get their mother to agree with her, or else she would give in to Amanda because she didn’t want to fight.

Her week in New York was also special because her granma and granpa would always take her into Manhattan to do exciting things. They would also always have Chinese food at least two times (Chinese food is Amanda’s favorite). In their favorite restaurant they would always order soup dumplings which were so amazing because the soup was inside the dumplings. Corinna didn’t know how they did this, but the idea of biting into soup was quite exciting, especially since Corinna loves all kinds of soup. Her mother calls her a “soup nut” sometimes because of her love of soup.

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The Value of a Life

What makes people not value their own lives and at the same time value it so much that they think others can't live without them?

Last week in California a man killed his family (his five children and his wife) and then shot himself after losing his job. In October there was a similar story, also out of California. I’m sure, unfortunately, that there are other cases that I’m not aware of. I guess the thinking that goes on in the minds of these people must be: my family needs me, if I can’t support them, then no one else can support them and they should all die because they need me, and since I can’t support them, then they should die. Um, I’m thinking that this is more narcissism than anything else.

I’m probably not supposed to be angry at people who are so distraught that they murder their families, but I can’t help it. So what, the world revolves around you and if your orbit goes off-kilter you need to take everyone down with you to prove how vital you are? Or are you so claustrophic in your mind that you can’t see a sliver of possibility for your “loved ones” without you being at the center of their universe?

How does a person become so lost that the most important role in his life is one that he violates so dramatically? Is society still too focused on a man’s worth as being reflected in his “being a good provider” that when there is an obstacle in fulfilling that role the man loses his ability to value himself as a person as separate from his paycheck? I know this is a great simplification, but I love to simplify things, after thinking deeply, of course. But if the straw that breaks the camel’s back is losing a job or losing the house, then there is that implicit link between one’s intrinsic worth as a person and one’s extrinsic worth as a provider.

How to rectify that, especially as we continue to ground into this economic morass? Who knows? I don’t write self-help books or sermons. Okay, I’ll take a shot. If you were to think of the things that bring joy to your children’s faces you could find a clue to who you really are and how you are really valued. Maybe it’s the things you buy, in that case, not much help there. But maybe, really, it’s that your children know you are trying to give them what they want—that you want to make them happy. And if you break that down, it could be grounded thus: they are happy when you try to make them happy.

When I get together with friends we often meet in a restaurant or a coffee shop. Not much money is spent, because that is not the key factor, time together is. We get together simply to spend time with someone we enjoy being with, and we tell stories. We tell stories of past meetings, of things we have done since last meeting, and we talk about aches and dreams, and frustrations and joys. The coffee or salmon salad is not the center of attraction, we are. This can be taken as the advice that time spent together is what counts and not what is done. Who needs fancy parks when it brings more angst to get there when the core of the experience is the being together?

Maybe I’m still simplifying too much or am unable to see into the psyche of a man who only values himself by his paycheck and how he provides and what he can give his kids, but you know what, the mind is a gymnast and can change how it views things. There isn’t yes and no, and have and have not, there is part and there is some. Maybe a part of the problem, too, is that people don’t talk to each other. They don’t tell their spouses about the battering that they are taking just trying to survive, or about the relentless thought of failure that accompanies them throughout the day, or about the longing to walk away from the trials placed in one’s path. If only, if only people, especially men, didn’t realize that sharing is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a sign that you are not an island.

For goodness sakes, don’t people get married and have a family so that they can share their lives with others? Is sharing about controlling it all? I especially detest the notion that a man or woman would not tell his or her family about problems in order to “protect them.” Protect them from acting on concern? Protect them from knowing that your spouse is considering murder and suicide? Protect them from what—their own lives, the reality of their loved ones’ lives? 

While this blog may not be the turn-to source for men contemplating killing themselves and their families, it is my source for thinking about our lives and our society. Trying to be like Atlas holding up the sky so your brood can bask in the sunshine is a pretty tough task even for a Greek God. It seems that the time has really come for the “man as center of the world in his castle” thing to come to an end. Maybe this is sexist, but I can’t help but feeling if these men had just talked to their wives about their FEELINGS they might have come up—together—with a solution that did not involve the end of all their days.

My thoughts go out to all those who are struggling, may they find hope in the future and a place of peace in the present. 

Mommy Whine

  • No, I do not want to get a roll of toilet paper for you from the basement.
  • No, I do not want you to take my tee-shirts, my sweatshirts, or my sweaters from my closet.
  • No, I do not want you to take my towel from my room.
  • No, I do not want to make dinner for you and you.
  • No, I do not want to make tea for you, even if you are not feeling well.
  • No, I do not want to get a glass of water, again, for you.
  • No, I do not want to explain to you why it is wrong to call me a “fucking woman.”
  • No, I do not want to stop at the supermarket for you.
  • No, I do not want to not stop at the supermarket so that I can get home faster to give the car to you.
  • No, I do not want to give to you every inch of the blanket we are supposed to be sharing on the couch.
  • No, I do not want to stop at the bookstore so that I can buy three books for you at $200.
  • No, I do not want to turn off the music I am listening to so that you can listen to the music you want.
No, I do not want to be on-duty today.

When’s Mother’s Day?


Day of Service; or Yes, I am a Bag Lady

On Monday morning (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) I took my younger daughter and her BFF to a “Day of Service” activity that Michelle Obama personally invited me to participate in. (“Personally” meaning I got an email from her and since she asked and it did not involve my donating $25 to the election, the inauguration, or saving the banks, I agreed.) Anyway, they—I was expressly told that I was unwelcome—were going to clean up a park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia (which is opposite Washington, DC, where I did not go to watch the inauguration because it was too cold and the closures of roads and metro stations, and the expected traffic and parking issues was just too daunting to try to overcome).

We got there at about 9:15 (fifteen minutes late because I was stuck behind a sand truck that was dumping sand on the road because there was the barest of indicators of snow flying through the air). By the time we got there the garbage picker-upper sticks had been picked up by other volunteers (my daughter was so disappointed, she was really looking forward to using one). My daughter and her friend picked up the last two garbage bags. Oh, well.

I walked off in the opposite direction that they went so I wouldn’t be publicly chastised for being within a mile of them and thus infringing on their freedom and ability to pretend that they are mature while swinging their pony tails from side to side as they giggle at the silliness of everyone else while cleaning up a park. When I was far enough away from them I looked at the frozen Potomac and the gulls flying and the geese waddling on the ice, and thought of how momentous the inauguration will be: momentous because Bush will be not be able to inflict any more of his pain upon us and the world any more (okay, he will from all of the rules and laws and judges he has put into place, but at least he will finally be stopped from doing more), and momentous because Obama will become the President of the United States—both him as an individual and him as embodying the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King himself.

I wandered back towards the sign-up desk and saw that a few people were heading out to clean up the park with supermarket bags. At that moment I realized that I can save the day, YES! I have a bag of bags in my car, ready to shove into the recycle container at the supermarket at any time (that is if I remember to take it out of the car). I raced off to my car and picked up the bag of bags which now did not look so much like garbage in the back seat of my car, but a way to save the world. Yes, those bags were greeted with enthusiasm by the volunteers. I took a newspaper bag, and wandered off to clean the park, pleased with myself and my saving ways.

And thus we spent about two hours. My daughter and her friend ended up in bottle alley (a part of the park, right along the shore, where there were enough bottles and cans to fill supersize garbage bag upon supersize garbage bag). And I mulled the need to require all smokers to at least ten hours of community service a year to pick up a portion of the cigarette butts that they toss out of their cars and from their hands as if they were as biodegradable as the air we breathe.

People hold onto your bottles and butts until you get to a garbage can. If we all just took responsibility for our own things there would not be a need for thousands of volunteers across the country to pick up trash. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have spent that time improving the park by adding to it, and not getting it to be the way it should be?