Archive for March, 2011

31
Mar
11

fasten your seat belts

This country is going to hell in a far-right Republican handbasket.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/opinion/31thu1.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha211

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/opinion/31thu3.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha211

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/opinion/31thu4.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha211

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/education/30professors.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/us/politics/29michigan.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha24

Can anyone explain this shift to the hard right?

Can anyone tell me how to start a revolution? No guns, please.

29
Mar
11

wide open spaces

There’s a feeling sometimes, that catches in my chest, and I wonder if I can possibly describe it. Is it actually possible to feel tremendous joy and sadness at exactly the same time? And I don’t mean in the form of two conflicting emotions, but both part of the same, singular thing, at a single, cellular level.

I suppose we’re all capable of holding two opposing ideas simultaneously — who was it that said this was a sign of adulthood? Or was it of insanity?

So I eat ice cream I shouldn’t eat, and drink too much wine with dinner, and smoke cigarettes I shouldn’t smoke, and stay up too late at night even when I have to set my alarm for the morning; I consider myself to be an adult, a reasonable, intelligent adult, who knows this is her one mind, life, body, chance, and should think of herself as a body to live from not in.

Meanwhile I watch my older children struggle with difficult bosses or worry about if they’re going to make enough money to feed themselves adequately or help pay their college tuition so they don’t owe their firstborn when they’re done with school, and realize how little our lives and concerns differ. At their age, I figured that, by my age, I’d have it all figured out; I don’t know if I’m more saddened that I don’t for me, or for them.

I was looking at my hands today while I was practicing the piano, and again just now, as I was thinking about all of the joy I’d like them to hold on to, and the pain I’d like to catch and carry away, like taking the compost out and throwing it into the pile by the fence where it can become rich black dirt, or food for the deer so maybe they’ll leave my hostas alone in the spring. But they’re just these little, bony hands, with constantly clipped fingernails and callouses around the corners from hammering away at the piano keys for hours a day, and despite all that, they don’t really seem to be all that strong.

I want to laugh, and cry, and my stomach to stop hurting, and my right ear to stop chirping, and a day just to sit on the front porch in a chair in the sun with a good book and a lightly-chilled under-oaked glass of chardonnay and my husband in the living room with Mahler on the stereo and something good bubbling on the stove.

I’ve decided to be a rabid feminist when I grow up, but am also a wife and mother and daughter and teacher and friend and musician and writer and wonder if the others somehow preclude the one (Isurehopenot), and there are so many things I think I might like to be if I had enough time to think of them all; when all I really want, sometimes, is just to figure out who the hell me is, and what exactly it is that I want.

What I want – a healthy body and mind, my husband in bed next to me every night, happy, successful children, a life free of worry. I have most of that, most of the time, except for the last; wonder if there’s a way to just turn that off, then.

28
Mar
11

child labor laws

So Second Son’s manager is a control freak.

She deems it appropriate to bully 17-year-olds into working more hours than is legal in our fair state under threat of being fired; a necessity brought on by the fact that she’s such a stark raving lunatic two people quit and one got fired in the past 7 days.

The turnover at this “restaurant” has been ~ 20 employees over the past year. I am actually quite proud of Second Son for sticking it out this long, but I think maybe enough is enough.

Out of curiosity, I decide to peruse our state’s child labor laws, and find this interesting list of prohibitions regarding tasks one might find in the workplace:

Restricted Occupations

Agency: Energy, Labor & Economic Growth

  • Minors 14- to 17-years-old may work in businesses where alcoholic beverages are sold as long as the sale of food or other goods is at least 50 percent of gross sales. Minors less than 16 years of age may not work where alcohol is consumed regardless of sales percentage.
  • Minors under the age of 18 cannot sell, serve, or furnish alcoholic beverages.
  • For information on Liquor Control Commission regulations concerning selling and serving alcoholic beverages visit http://www.michigan.gov/lcc or call 1-866-893-2121.

Minors covered by the act may not work in any occupation determined by act or rule to be hazardous.  Examples of hazardous work include, but are not limited to:

  • Contact with hazardous substances, chemicals, explosives or radioactive substances.
  • Driving and work as an outside helper (pizza delivery, etc.).
  • Jobs in the mining, logging and sawmill industry.
  • Jobs using woodworking machinery.
  • Brazing, welding, soldering or heat treating, for those less than 16 years of age.
  • Work on construction sites, roofing operations, excavation or demolition sites, bridges, streets, or highways.
  • Slaughtering, butchering, meat cutting, meat packing, rendering, or tanning.
  • Occupations involving power driven equipment, tools, saws, or machinery. (Bakery machines, paper product machines, meat slicers, metal-forming, punching and shearing machines).
  • Occupations involving the operation of, assisting in the operation of, and riding on hoisting apparatus including forklifts.  Minors 16 to 17 years old may work under elevated equipment.

Minors covered by the act may not work in any occupation determined by administrative review to be hazardous under the authority of Section 3.  Examples of hazardous work include, but are not limited to:

  • Occupations involving assembling, disassembling, and operating power-driven amusement rides.
  • Jobs with exposure to contagious diseases and bloodborne pathogens.
  • Operating a boat or other watercraft on a public waterway.
  • Loading and unloading goods from conveyors for those less than 16 years of age.
  • Handling loaded firearms of any gauge or caliber including those that are air powered.
  • Operating easy tippers used to lift garbage carts for emptying into dumpsters.
  • Operating golf carts and gator type utility vehicles on public roadways, for those less than 16 years of age it’s entirely prohibited.
  • Occupations as go-cart spotters for those less than 16 years of age.
  • Removing filters, pouring through filters, and moving receptacles containing grease or oil when the temperature is in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Un-jamming, servicing, or repairing Kansmackers.
  • Jobs using power-driven mowers, edgers, weed eaters, hedge clippers, tillers, wheelbarrows, thatchers, aerators, and snow blowers for those less than 16 years of age.
  • Life guarding at natural bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers.
  • Filling prescriptions, working behind the counter where prescriptions are filled or delivering pharmaceuticals by car, foot, bicycle, and/or public transportation.
  • Dispensing propane (LP) gas.
  • Operation of power-driven tire changer used to mount or dismount tires from vehicle rims.
  • Occupations involving door-to-door and street sales for profit making companies including mobile sales crews for those less than 16 years of age.
  • Jobs using chef, boning, butcher, meat cleaver, filet, and skinning or machete knives.

I’m good until I get to the 10th bullet in the last category.

Kansmackers?

Seriously?

This is listed so casually, between a long list of things I recognize: golf carts and filters and grease or oil and power-driven mowers and hedge clippers and natural bodies of water, it is obviously expected that I know what this is.

I think perhaps it has been included as some kind of a joke by a malicious state employee, perhaps to see if anyone is paying attention, but alas, no, this is an actual thing.

Who knew?

27
Mar
11

and the winner is:

Got this random catalog in the mail yesterday, and was flipping through when I encountered a 2-page spread displaying these treasures:

Having a hard time deciding which are the most hideous, so have decided to open it up to a vote. Click on individual pictures if you want to get a closer look, but if you have a weak stomach, I suggest shielding your eyes.

Extra credit to who among you can identify the pair fitting my husband’s description: “Achilles was wearing those when he killed Hector.”

25
Mar
11

beauty and the beast

Here is an example of everything that is good and “holy” in the world of shoes:

These, on the other hand, are evil incarnate: Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, but they certainly should not be allowed.

Of course, that’s just my opinion.

25
Mar
11

3 april 2003 – 30˚ and raining

Yesterday’s poem reminded me of this one, from 2003:

 

Nicholas went out to play today–

first sitting amidst the pile of

shoes and coat and stocking caps

discussing which jacket he should wear

and whether it would “work” under his cape.

I pointed out the puddles in the low part of the yard;

checked the thermometer

and encouraged the parka.

 

It rained tonight still

as I drove home; wheels

wallowing through the water

on the road.

The grass reflected strangely gray

in the headlights, each blade

coated in its thin skin of ice;

the color of Sam’s hair, when he was

so palely blond,

and it lay in its heap of clippings on the floor.

Separated from its roots, its glowing light extinguished,

the absence of color,

lack.

 

As I walk to the house the

tree branches rattle

like bones.

24
Mar
11

branches of glass

There was an ice storm two nights ago,
well into March; and our collective
indignation at the perpetual rebuttal
of spring did little to counter the
wind and rain.

I dreamt that night, to the clatter
of ice pebbles against the windows,
of water at the window ledges
and people wandering, stranded by
floodwaters and picnicking on the grass.

Today the sun gleamed apologetically
and the lilting light of early sunset
shone against branches and grasses of glass
surrounding murky brown ponds.

I thought of the green centers of things
waiting for warmth,
and of the days our breath is caught by
beauty, or pain,
and that center of pale loneliness
we all carry within;
that by which we know ourselves —
or our source of gratitude on those
spare, sunny days.

23
Mar
11

everything inside of nothing

 

I dreamt last night of

myself a small

red dot

floating, centered, in a stark white box

the silence a high pitched ringing in my ears

against the wind rattling my windows.

 

People came and went

brief exchanges

a job offered

a child needing a hug

the dog barking;

you brushing your fingers along my back,

then turning away,

and turning away,

and turning away.

 

The dot expanded like heat to fill the stark white box

the high pitched whine a thrumming hum

which disappeared

as the dot shrank and shrank

and shrank.

 

The weight of the galaxy,

the light of a pinhole camera during a solar eclipse,

the sound of everything inside of

nothing inside a stark

white

box.

23
Mar
11

on turning ten, billy collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel

like I’m coming down with something,

something worse than any stomach ache

or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–

a kind of measles of the spirit,

a mumps of the psyche,

a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

 

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,

but that is because you have forgotten

the perfect simplicity of being one

and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.

But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.

At four I was an Arabian wizard.

I could make myself invisible

by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.

At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

 

But now I am mostly at the window

watching the late afternoon light.

Back then it never fell so solemnly

against the side of my tree house,

and my bicycle never leaned against the garage

as it does today,

all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

 

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,

as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.

It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,

time to turn the first big number.

 

It seems only yesterday I used to believe

there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I would shine.

But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,

I skin my knees. I bleed.

 

22
Mar
11

more of life’s persistent questions

Is it a source of concern that the ribbon of toothpaste in the bottom of the sink looks an awful lot like the ribbon of toothpaste probably looked on Only Daughter’s toothbrush?

Does anyone else wonder, after cleaning their bathroom, how it is that anyone still has any hair on their heads?

If First Cat repeatedly escapes, and spends more time with his Other Family than he does here, should we continue to let him back in and feed him?

Why is it that Governor Rick Snyder can overthrow elected officials and install hired “Emergency Managers” without a recall process, but we can’t do the same to him?

Who knew that nutella + banana = pure delicious-ness, and why wasn’t I informed of this sooner?

 

Do some things ever change?

18
Mar
11

stuff I wish I’d said

Click here to watch. You’ll probably want to watch it twice.

18
Mar
11

Wake Up!

Republicans want to cut taxpayer funding of NPR. They argue that this is in the interests of fiscal responsibility, but the effects of this cut on the budget are negligible at best.

What they really want is to silence the voice of reason, one which presents all sides to the story, a “fair and balanced” view of the world and the events going on in it, rather than the FOX news version.

It’s so much easier to govern the ignorant.

I also worry that it’s yet another step in the efforts to privatize everything. (David Mitchell writes effectively about this in his beautifully-written book Cloud Atlas, although I wish the part about the journalist researching lax safety practices at a nuclear power plant had been “real” rather than “fiction.”) In Michigan, the governor is trying to overturn democracy, all in the name of handling our “financial emergency.” These steps include giving him the right to dis-incorporate towns and take over school districts and turn them over to “financial managers.” Of course, these would be privately-run companies, and there would be no guarantee, for example, that the person put in charge of your school actually has any experience at all in education.

THEY want to take THEIR country back? From who? And so they can give it to the corporations? Are this many of MFA really that stupid? How can these people, middle-class, hardworking people, believe that any representative of the current incarnation of the Republic party is looking out for them? Do we really need to protect the interests of the wealthiest just in case someday you win the lottery and don’t want to pay any taxes on it?

And don’t we all realize that if we prodigiously pollute our planet, and don’t educate our children, and don’t provide basic services for the ill and the poor, we all will pay? That we’re paying already?

I feel like we’re at the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.

Fire Rick Snyder

17
Mar
11

life’s persistent questions

Should the Western world stand by while Quaddafi annihilates his people?

Can a system of government concerned principally with advancing capitalist principles truly function as a democracy?

Do I really think I’m making a difference by clicking on every MoveOn petition that I agree with?

Am I pathetic that I have time to click on a petition, but not to call my senator?

Should we use nuclear power?

If we’re going to use nuclear power, should we, oh, I don’t know, maybe go so far as to have a method for disposing of the waste and of averting nuclear disaster?

If we’re going to build nuclear plants should they maybe not be built near a major fault line?

Should we buy goods because they’re “cheap” even if the cost of those goods to the environment — both in terms of their production and their disposal when they stop working in record time — has not been included in that calculation?

Should we buy goods from countries which don’t protect their worker’s civil rights?

Should we drive cars fueled by gas drilled for and/or refined in countries where women are treated as property rather than people?

Do we realize that 40% of the food that’s produced is thrown away?

Should we try to do something about that? (I’m NOT eating that I-think-it-used-to-be-a-cucumber I found in the bottom of the crisper, btw, but maybe I should be more careful about if I really wanted/needed to buy that cucumber in the first place?)

Should we pay for our children’s college education (“free ride”) or should we have them pay for it themselves (“responsibility,” “accountability”), even if it means they’ll be in debt for the first 20 years of their “adult” lives?

Should we spend some of our free time writing a blog that 100 people read a day, or should we play a game with our 10-year old instead?

Why is it that the older I get the more questions, and fewer answers, there seem to be?

16
Mar
11

Politics as usual

This just in.

First comment: 20%? Aww, poor babies. Welcome to the real world.

Second comment: What many are saying: What? You mean he’s going to cut taxes for businesses and pass the cost on to the middle class? You’re kidding! That’s outrageous!!! Let’s go protest and get arrested like we wish we had in the 70s but were too young or well-behaved. What the rest of us say: Well, duh? You’re surprised? You voted for him, what did you expect exactly? Then we shrug our shoulders and go about our insanely-overscheduled lives trying to keep our financial heads above water.

Is it actually possible that they didn’t see it coming?

I know, I know. Of course they didn’t. Alas, the average American just can’t pay attention long enough to make such predictions.

I’m so tired and disillusioned by this, and so many other things, I can think of nothing better to do than to go to bed and hide my head under my pillow.

Maybe by tomorrow it will all go away.

At least we’re not victims of a recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster.

That makes it seem so much better.

**************

p.s. What’s the difference between “As if?” and “Who knew?” I think I’ve inadvertently created a redundancy.

14
Mar
11

who knew?

(I know, we all did. Duh!)

 

13
Mar
11

do you want him or not?

Second Son is going to Michigan State University next year. That is, if we manage to complete the post-admission process successfully. This no longer seems to be the simple task I once thought it would be. I mean, I’ve managed to raise him for 17 years (ADHD, sensory integration disorder, booming voice, sophomoric sense of humor) without strangling him in his sleep; he gets good grades, scored respectably on his ACT test, has been accepted at the three colleges of his choice, and, as far as I can tell, has abstained from illegal drug use and has yet to impregnate anyone. One would think that now would be the time that I could pat myself on the back and complete a few easy online forms to send him on his way (off you go!). Unfortunately, this has proven to be one of the more formidable tasks to date.

What I want to do is call and ask the admissions department: “Do you want him, or not?”

The letter came months ago. We rejoiced, (some more than others). We finally manage to find an opportunity for the two of us to sit down together to complete the admission process. (We also finally find time to decline the other two schools, who call almost daily. Interestingly, we have not heard a word from MSU. Guess they have more students than they need, and supreme confidence in their desirability. Good thing their interest in him is not one of his/our most important considerations.)

The first thing that needs to be done is he must enter his Personal Identification Number (PIN) and Password Authorization Number (PAN) and the system will create an email address for him. We must then register the email address to continue to the next steps — pay the registration deposit, register for the academic orientation program, request a housing request form (seriously). He (certainly not me) takes the online mathematics placement exam; I fill out the immunization form.

The problems begin early in the process. MSU has already created the PIN and the PAN, but we have to wait 24 hours after creating an email address before we can proceed. Fine. It’s not that difficult to corral a 17-year old with a job and involvement in the school’s theater program while I’m working ~ 60 hours a week.

Today, finally, we sign back in and register him for orientation and request a housing request form (seriously). I begin to feel pretty confident that we are now on the official “home stretch,” then click on the link to have a look at the immunization form, so I can find out what information I need to get from the pediatrician’s office.

I get an error message, bright red block print: I must wait 24 hours after paying the deposit before I can continue further.

Seriously?

This is a problem?

Imagine this: couple, sitting around, discussing whether they want to read the Sunday paper, “go to bed early,” or watch one of their latest Netflix deliveries, and one suggests: “I know! We’re bored, with nothing better to do, let’s log in to random university websites and FILL OUT IMMUNIZATION FORMS!!!!!!!!!”

Are you wordIcan’tsay kidding me?

Isn’t modern technology supposed to be making these kinds of processes easier?

Good thing we’re so darn motivated (some more than others).

11
Mar
11

chicago, part ii

Three moments of grace:

Yesterday, the Lincoln Park Zoo parking barricade won’t let the bus out. We are due for a rehearsal in 25 minutes. The church is at least 30 minutes away. The director must be stressing out beyond the comprehension of anyone who isn’t a performer, (although she appears to be completely calm), but she stands up, “ooohs” on a pitch (G, I think) to get the choristers attention, the choristers join in, and she asks them to rehearse the 3rd verse of one of their pieces for their concert. Forty young choristers sing, a capella, filling the bus with an ethereal, beautiful sound.

Today, at the pool, the choir director wants to make an announcement. As she walks past, someone says “Good luck getting their attention,” so I start the G “ooooh” — by the time she’s at the end of the pool the whole group of children is singing along. It’s like magic. Works as well as in my piano classes when I turn the pianos off.

Tonight, after pizza at Giordano’s (40 children, 14 chaperones, LOTS of pizza) the children stand around in a big disorganized blob and sing “People who make music together.” The whole restaurant pauses to listen.

Ah, the calming, unifying power of music.

11
Mar
11

Chicago “Tour,” Part I

I’m riding today on a chartered bus with 35 members of a youth chorus (grades 4-9) and chaperones, on the way to Chicago for the choir to perform at a choral conference. I had been reading, (and, I admit it, napping a little), and looked up just as we passed through Gary, Indiana.

Everybody knows what a desolate place Gary, Indiana is, the city almost the euphemism for the word, but it never ceases to surprise me. There are clusters of abandoned houses, some just burned-out shells, others with siding in bent folds on the ground around the house and black tar paper hanging in strips. Piles of scrap lumber sit at the ends of muddy “roads.” Grain elevators seem abandoned, islands surrounded by marshes of dead grass and puddles of snowmelt.  At one point there is a roadside park, sandwiched between a muddy dirt road and the highway, which consists merely of a roofed concrete slab sans picnic tables, and a home-plate fence at a corner of a narrow, narrow baseball field. There are no houses, no people, anywhere. Maybe it’s not fair of me to judge a city by what I see from the highway. But how does the impact of one’s approach to a city affect your perception  of the city itself?

Strangely, I wasn’t aware of our approach to Gary as I usually am. You know, as you’re driving along and suddenly ask whoever is in your car with you “What’s that smell?”  I always wondered who could live there — do they have a sense of smell? Do they die more frequently of cancers? Does anyone even live there any more? Is it naive to ask, What do they DO? Is it a ghost town, as it seems to be?

Since First Son is a college student in Cleveland, Ohio, we get our share of visits to the decaying rust belt of the midwest. The drive into Cleveland is also quite bleak — abandoned rail yards, decrepit factory buildings with broken and boarded-up windows and parking lots choked with weeds, rows of newly-built, fashionable, red-brick townhouses bumping up against what look like crack houses as you near the world-class chain of hospitals and medical centers.

How does one rebuild a city? is it the idea of the city which needs to be rehabilitated first? What was Detroit at its heydey? Cleveland? Is the fact that these declining cities were originally built on one particular industry the reason for their thriving and the cause of their doom?

The choir performed tonight in a “chapel,” (seating at least 3000 people), in Hyde Park, Illinois. The streets are lined with hundred-year-old genteel brownstones, a Frank Lloyd Wright house stands on the corner. The streets are clean, seem relatively safe (a perception not adversely affected by the Starbucks on the corner.)

What memories do these cities hold? What hopes? Is it a mistake when “we” abandon them? Isn’t the society created by man living as neighbor to man more likely to be one governed by peace and cooperation?

In one of the meditations read during the choral service tonight, we were asked to remember that the world and all men in it cry out for peace, that the earth requires our stewardship as much as, if not more than, it meets our needs. John F Kennedy says, ”We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.” I think this is right, and meaningful, on many levels, in many ways.

But a long day, and tomorrow, another:  Shedd Aquarium, and the pool at the hotel.

And $10 every 24-hours for internet service. Whatever happened to free internet in the room being part of the selling point of the hotel?

10
Mar
11

ashes to ashes

I don’t get it.

I did it, but I don’t get it.

Tonight’s reading, from Matthew — When one fasts, don’t disfigure your face as the hypocrites do so that those who see you on the street know that you’re fasting, for there your reward will be, but put oil in your hair, and go out into the world with a smile on your face, and your Father, who sees you fasting in secret, will reward you in heaven.

And then we have the pastor put ashes on our forehead.

For those of you who haven’t figured it out already, I am very !!! conflicted about religion. I have often in my life felt the presence of an enormous spiritual power, although it seems to me to stem more from our collective energy than from a Benevolent Dictator, but there it is — something enormous and beautiful and far beyond the understanding of my feeble little mind.

And, I have a church job. This church job allows me to a) teach ~ 4 fewer hours less every week, and b) play great music every Sunday, working with other wonderful musicians and for a congregation which really seems to appreciate what I have to offer from a musical standpoint. (After the service tonight, as I finished the Postlude — the second Barber Excursion, which conforms to the dark and somber mood of Ash Wednesday — my biggest fan, Paul, whom I believe to be in his 60s, gave a silent “whoop whoop” with his fist.) I don’t generally take communion, as I am usually playing during Communion, and am not really sure I’m comfortable with the cannibalistic-ritual of consuming the “body” of Christ anyway. But as I waited for the pastors to complete the imposition of ashes, and wasn’t playing the “background” music at the time, I listened to them intone repeatedly, “From dust you come, and to dust you shall return,” and decided there wasn’t really anything wrong with being reminded of that, so up I went.

But doesn’t this count as “disfiguring my face,” as do the hypocrites?

I do like the last line of the Matthew reading: “For where your treasure goes, so goes your heart.”

Nothing wrong with being reminded of that, either.

09
Mar
11

the art of song

I think it would be worth taking voice lessons for 10 years just to be able to sing this song (it’s me at the piano, NOT singing; nobody wants to hear that):

08 Psyche

(Emile Paladhile)

And this might actually be one of the most beautiful things ever written:

03 Liebst du am Schönheit

(Gustav Mahler)

That or Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 6, or maybe Strauss’s Four Last Songs.

Hmmm. . .something to think about.

09
Mar
11

never underestimate the power of flowers

I’m in the middle of a long stretch of teaching, and it’s a lot of “young ones” in a row, sometimes two at a time, and there are people coming in and out of my house seemingly constantly and coats in the hallway preventing my family from walking through and Gavin has Ben’s piano book and they’re chasing each other in circles around my living room waiting for their lesson to start.

I’m thinking in the back of my mind it might be time for me to find a job that doesn’t involve so many people in my house every week and so many after-school hours, and maybe a little less babysitting; and am also very aware of the fact that I’m an hour and a half in and have three hours to go, when my first student of the day walks back in, carrying a bouquet of yellow tulips.

This kid is a cross between Dennis the Menace and the sweetest boy ever (as evidenced by the bouquet of tulips). He has to be 10″ taller than anyone in his grade, with this shock of straw-colored hair and a look on his face that says “I’m funny; I KNOW I’m funny.” We have had problems on and off with him not being very productive in his lessons  — some days I would hardly even be able to get him off the couch, or he would be quite determined to pretend not to have a CLUE what I was talking about so as to delay actually having to do something. He had been improving over the past several months, and then took February off because of conflicts with the ski team, so last week was his first lesson back, and it was not a good one. This week he came in and I had a plan. He gets 5 pokers chips this week (4 next, 3 the week after, etc.), and has to “pay” me one every time I need to remind him that he’s supposed to be doing something or wastes time. If he has one poker chip left at the end of his lesson he can have one of those silly bandz rings I give as prizes. OR he can try to save poker chips up and “buy” a better prize when he has 5 — these little rubber animals they call “Squishies,” which are all the rage.

(He starts to negotiate. It was pretty cute, actually, but had no impact.)

Anyway, he had a great lesson, decided he wanted the instant gratification prize, (big surprise there,) and off he went.

Until he came back with the flowers.

They’re lovely. They’re a breath of color in a dark, dreary day.

They were, apparently, all his idea, and his selection at the store, but his mother was kind enough to indulge him and bring him back here to deliver them.

I still wonder if I should find a job that doesn’t involve so many people coming in and out of my house every week and so many after-school hours, but I feel appreciated, and thought of, and that makes it feel a little less like despair.

08
Mar
11

Coolest F-word ever. . .

Forget “take back the night” or “take your daughter to work day.”

Let’s stop thinking of “feminism” as an idea whose time has come and gone, or one which is irrelevant to our daughters and their daughters.

We have to stop sticking our heads in the sand, imagining this fight has been fought and won. Fists in the air, heart in our hands, it’s time to fight for equal rights. For everything.

Read this.

Then read this.

Sign at least one of these. Or go here, register, and respond to one of the many (daily) pleas for help or support.

Speak up. Stop accepting “less” as the best you can hope for.

We all deserve more.

Dammit.

(Happy International Woman’s Day)

07
Mar
11

how much older is older and wiser?

There’s a recent development among state judiciaries reversing the trends of the 80s and 90s where younger and younger juveniles were tried as adults, sometimes even as young as 13. You can read the article here.

It is now being recognized that these young people actually lack the maturity and judgment skills required to be able to make wise decisions.

Can I just say, well, duh?

Is there anyone who actually believes that teenagers function as adults? Has that person ever spent any time with a teenager? We don’t even let them some of them drive. Our biggest hope for many is that they change their underwear and/or brush their teeth at least once a week and do at least 60% of their homework.

My sons are 21 and 17 and I would hardly call them mature adults. First Son is home for spring break this week, and has spent most of his time interacting with Second Son by egging him on with “Your mom,” “That’s what she said,” and body function jokes. When not being cooked for, they live on cereal, Cheetos, and Creme Soda. It’s been proven that the male cerebral cortex doesn’t mature until around the age of 25. (I hold this out as a constant source of hope; it’s not too late, yet. I also think it’s ridiculous that we’ll allow 18-year olds to vote, get married and join the military, but not consume alcohol, but this is a topic for another time.)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the “struggles” my children face with the struggles faced by those in the judicial system. I am grateful every day for the relative safety and ample opportunity available to them in the corners of the world in which they live.  But to pose the idea that because the act of a “juvenile” is violent they should therefore be prosecuted as an adult is ludicrous. Besides their immaturity, which includes an inability to see the possible consequences of their actions beyond the immediate future, one also must take into account the problems (if not horrors) of their day-to-day lives and the incredible influence wielded by peer pressure.

[In a related “story” there has been much talk lately about the “Millenial Generation” and the tendency of those within it to delay the rites of adulthood well into their 20s. Apparently these statistics align with the circumstances of people in their 20s up to the second World War, and by many is considered to be a good thing. Maybe that Pew Research Study would have been more helpful if it had asked things like: Do you think it’s a good idea to be gainfully employed before having children? and: Do you think it’s a good idea to have the vaguest notion who you are before you decide who you want to marry?]

In any case, the cost involved in treating (rehabilitating) juveniles has to be less than the cost, both financial and sociological, of not. This is definitely one case where it’s better for everybody if we can take the long view.

06
Mar
11

a model of pretentiousness, a.k.a. The Wine We Had With Dinner

Should have been warned by the name: Tempra Tantrum

But wait, it gets better.

On the back label:

Go ahead and throw a Tempra Tantrum tonight by drinking in the passion, flavor, style, and emotion that embodies modern Spain. As a new generation global vintner, I love to blend international varietals with the quintessentially Spanish Tempranillo grape for a wine that is vibrant, plush, and in a word — sexy. I have a passion for innovative winemaking, and my 2008 Tempranillo/Grenache is crafted from my family’s low-yielding vineyards in a modern New World style. Critics call it a “Best Value,” but I call it an expression of my life.”

Ugh.

Now I’m not saying there was anything wrong with the wine — it was actually quite delicious — one might even say “vibrant,” although I’m not sure I agree with “plush.” And sexy? What makes a wine sexy? I guess if I drink enough. . . (at first I wrote “I guess if I have drink enough.” I guess that means I have.)

But the self-consciously self-promoting rhetoric is perhaps laid on a bit thick to go with my Greek burger and sweet potato fries, although it wasn’t bad with the Lindt dark-chocolate-with-a-touch-of-sea-salt.

The conversation at dinner went something like this.

Husband: I can’t read this label without my glasses.

Me: I’ll read it.

Husband: You can’t read that.

I read it.

Ugh.

Husband: But the wine’s really good; I’m going back tomorrow to buy a case.

Me: But that will only encourage him!

06
Mar
11

seen on the street. . .

in Oberlin, Ohio:

A mannequin with the head of a bear, wearing jeans, a fisherman’s sweater and dark red scarf, on a vintage red bicycle, holding a purple pinwheel.

Discuss.

 

02
Mar
11

Enough

If my feet weren’t so cold right now

I’d go out on the deck and press

a handprint into the snow —

a mark that I’d been here; her;

I’ve only ever wanted to feel

I’ve done something that mattered.

 

We’re all such imperfect people

and even when we, at long, long last,

find that we have everything we

ever thought we wanted, we realize

we want more.

 

The living-room doorway is reflected

coldly in the glass sliding door, the faint

light from the bathroom nightlight casts its

weak shadow barely into the dark.

 

It’s March now, but early, and I can’t

shake winter’s grip.

 

Enough.

Enough already.

01
Mar
11

Hair!

Would this stuff work?

Should I try it?

Should I care?




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