Friday, April 27, 2012

Field Tripping: Can You Spot the Anachronism?

By Sheilah

I’m thinking my son might make a good detective or a writer. His detailed description of Old Salem was telling in what he focused on.

“I was expecting all old houses and dirt roads, but NOOOO, there were air conditioners outside every house, cars on the streets, ‘No Parking’ signs, ‘45 Minute Only Parking’ signs, posters on every house…(he’s sounding personally affronted about now)….The least realistic was the print shop--because they had a volunteer dressed in fancy Nancy clothes. ‘Fancy Nancy? I say.’ Well her name was Nancy. (LMAO here.) There was another volunteer named Britt who talked like this: ‘I will now show you how to dye and make a paper something’… (spoken in dry monotone—he’s a ham, my son)… Because it’s like a print shop, in the 1700s. You don’t see those very often. So I think they just made up that they had a print shop in the 1700s. It had a machine that said built in 1891. Back then it wouldn’t have even been …Old Salem wouldn’t have bought something of that price.”

He returned with a box of ginger cakes that he loves, a wooden bookmark, a small bag made of rabbit skin with 2 souvenier pennies and 2 wax ants and a pin. I was admiring the ants, talking about how cool that he had a real something not plastic made in China, when he says, nope, they have China stamped on their butts. Dammit. Old Salem imports.

All kids naturally do what Dylan did, see what he saw (I hope)--that’s why they say the darnedest things. They see what’s here and now in front of them, all is new and curious and like other things, hence they’re naturally metaphoric. To recapture that awakeness to a new world, to see through a child’s eyes—that’s why I write. It is a strange and curious and beautiful and scary world in its awesomeness, one to not let my eyes brush over or close on. When I’m once again dulled and beaten by the harshness of life, I have to see anew. Religion, spirituality, exercise, new love, birth, death, pain, music, art—all these things can bring us back to the point of seeing anew. What wakes you?

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—        
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.        
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.

--From Edna St.Vincent Millay’s “Renascence”

It’s the first anniversary of Mom’s death today. I know a mother’s love because I had one, and because I feel it for my son. It is divine, bigger than we are, and it must, it must, make us know God. When it’s gone, I don’t know what that means, but I’m left feeling that now, now, now and forevermore I don’t have anyone to take a bullet for me.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

--from “Dirge Without Music,” Edna St.Vincent Millay

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Broke on Me


Wednesday: Let’s go along on Daddy’s work trip with him. Sure, why not?  I mean there was that week in Florida, that was fun, right? Where we rented a car and played and took that air boat ride through the Everglades, and the water taxis, and the mahi mahi every night. We haven’t done that in ages. And it’s spring break week, and I asked for two days off, and Daddy’s headed to Tennessee, so let’s go.

Thursday: 7, as in the a.m., we have to leave? Are you kidding me? Jeez. Okay, ok, I’m up. Got your DVDs? We’re headed where? What state is that in? Oh, you’re dumping us off with a rental car, and we get to drive it to where? And you’ll meet us when? And there is what to do between here and there? By day’s end, Dylan and I are in Chattanooga, which I must say is a fine town. It has a waterfront. We got the best suite the hotel had.

Friday: Major traveler’s poo problem. I mean of the colon-blow variety. I felt all shiny and new after those hours on the john. Unfortunately, Daddy’s working and we have to hightail it outta town. Rental’s gone, and now me, weakened from losing half my weight and all my fluids, and Dylan have to be dropped off at a national park while he works. He says he’ll come back for us. I have a déjà vu feeling like I read this book. I think it’s a Flannery O’Connor short story, and you know what that means. Somebody’s gonna die, but not until there’s been a miraculous revelation.
He returns two hours later after I’ve wandered the park, which is a DRIVING park mind you, with Dylan on foot sans food or drink. We got the junior ranger book and have been busily trying to fill in the damn blanks so we can get our damn medal and badge. It’s important. It’s very boy scoutish feeling. It’s freaking desperation. There’s no comfort away from home when you’re sick, especially when you also have to walk for miles and pretend to like it. I don’t pretend well. I don’t suffer long. But we did it. I begged off to lie in the grass on occasion and tried to lie in the way too educational for me theater but the damn benches were made of wood. It was like a Parks & Recreation sit com episode. Ten employees but nothing to employ them with. If only they’d sold food and drink, give them something to do. Dave brought Saltines and Sprite on his return. Yes, he came back for us. After asking for ginger ale all day, I’ve learned Tennessee has never heard of such a drink. They are backward freaks like that, or maybe it’s just my attitude.
On to near Nashville that night. Yes, it turns out Daddy had no time for a little mini-vacation, a fact he kinda forgot to mention before signing us up to go along. Why did we come I ask again? Well I like you guys. I wish traveler’s poo on him.
I fall face first into the next hotel room bed while he goes to his next job. I awake to Dylan riding the rolling ottoman across the length of the room.

Saturday: Our day to do something and we’re too pooped to pop. Untrue, I’m totally unpooped for a week to come, but he’s a walking dead man. Turns out Dylan’s a great traveler—content to watch silly movies and laugh out loud. I say forgetabout Nashville, let’s go home. Except I have to drive. The whole way home. You know, this reminds me of something. Oh, yeah, I have sooo done this before. Yes, last time I was six months pregnant, leaving Arkansas for Raleigh, driving through the middle of the night on I-40 in fog. Going about 50 mph. Tennessee is one mile-ish state of being that I will not volunteer for again. But the day after you’ve felt so sick, you’re kinda on your game. I drove those 8 hours home and will do it again to get out of such a spring break. Anytime.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting Carried Away

There is music in the mockingbirds’ squawk and the squirrels’ chatter. It’s all drawn together by the thump, thump, thumping of a car going down the street with its bass vibrating. Two hooded youths walk towards me, greeting me with smiles as we go by each other. A woman pushes a stroller humming lullabies to her baby, happily cooing at the sky. Is there anything more magical than a walk outside?

There is a walking club where I work. For the price of a dollar a year, one can join and have an extra twenty minutes tacked onto the lunch hour. My work hours, home hours, and errands, have forced me from the gym, so I thought what the heck, maybe this will get me motivated. It has me addicted, and it’s not all about the obvious health benefits that are gained. The addiction is something that until recently I don’t think I fully understood.

Me time. What the heck is that? I used to think it was the time spent creating, writing, playing music, doing, controlling something, some aspect of ourselves. At this point it seems it’s just enjoying the surroundings with little to no expectations. I’m just walking and taking it all in. Some days I grab the iPod and put it on shuffle and then I smile at the random selection of songs that play, seemingly so right for the moment. I find myself stepping in time with the beat. Heaven help any passerby’s if “Footloose” plays. I might just break out singing and start dancing. That would really get those squirrels chattering.

It helps that I work in a small town and the building I work in is surrounded by lovely old homes. Some of the structures are Antebellum, some Victorian, and some just ooze welcome from the delights of their gardens. A little further off the beaten path, the Neuse River winds its undulating muddy tail. The water gurgles and the dragonflies brush the surface of the water, skimming at their reflections. By the time I walk back into the office I almost feel I’ve had a mini-vacation. The first day I walked, I lost track of time and missed the actual lunch portion of lunch. I was tired, my legs were a little sore, and I couldn’t wait until the next escape.

When I was very young, my mother used to take us on long walks. My mother, my sisters, and I, would go visiting and my legs would feel like they were about to give out from the length of our walks. I remember my sisters crossing their arms and linking hands, so I could sit in the crook they made and be carried. That’s how I feel when I walk. I’m being carried away from myself, away from my woes or random foolishness and into the outside of it all. I don’t know where my shoes will take me tomorrow, whether it’s to the river or the church yard. Sometimes I just get carried away.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Grocery Shopping in the Mine Field

Well, it seems the theme continues from Evelyn’s blog, “It’s Such Hard Work…Eating Bon Bon’s.”  Tired from a full day of working both in and out of the home, I went to the grocery store at 8:30pm, after the family had been fed, watered and the kids were bunkered down for the night. I rounded the corner between the bananas and the melons and ran smack into someone, who I now believe, clearly shouldn’t be allowed to speak, ever.

“I heard all about your good news Mary! How does it feel to finally have a real job?”

Can you hear the crickets?

For a full two to ten seconds my mouth just hung open. Clearly it doesn’t take a Hilary Rosen to get it all wrong. Why Mike Rowe would have a field day following Moms around. Dirtiest Jobs would take on a whole new meaning watching cute-as-pie Mike clean up biological accidents, whether from sickness or an occasional “spill.” Ever clean a sippy cup that was stuck under the car seat for several days in 100 degree weather that had been full of milk? How about the days when everyone is sick but you? That’s what you call living it up, it’s like a day at a posh gym, the stairs have never been worked so hard! Nah, I didn’t have a real job when I was at home.

In a way, I feel sorry for that poor woman. She clearly didn’t know who she was speaking to when she congratulated me on my “real job.” I was tired, cranky, my ankles were swollen, my eyes were red-rimmed from computer work and my nose was running from the irritating scent of toilet bowl cleanser I had used earlier. She was dancing in the mine field without armor, and I lobed a grenade.

“You know Dr. Laura Schlessinger wouldn’t agree with you, she thinks working moms are just trying to have more, more things, more trinkets, more pedicures,  but then Rush thinks women who work outside the home are "Feminazi’s." Of course, writing two blogs, one essay, a column and a review every month is more of a hobby, don’t you think? That’s only after fitting in laundry, errands, band, Kung Fu (even though I’m not in a band and I can’t lift my leg to do a crane move), supper, baths and whatever else the family needs. No, work is like a vacation for me now, I get to try and fit in all of that other stuff along with “work” and go to the grocery store at 8:30 at night! Yes, I love my new “REAL” job.”  I grinned and walked away.

Clean up on aisle three.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Such Hard Work...Eating Bon Bon's

"Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life." 

And just like that, another political pundit has demonstrated that STUPID has no party lines. The fact that I can use the word pundit correctly in a sentence demonstrates that even though I don't work, I ain't stupid. Let me issue a disclaimer. I do not mean this to sound as if I am siding with one political party over the other. But I am pretty pissed off right now at a certain female strategist for the Democratic party - Ms. Hilary Rosen. In case you missed it, she used those exact words when discussing her disdain at Mitt Romney's reliance on his wife's guidance regarding women and their take on economic issues. What Ms. Rosen has tried to characterize as a poor choice of words is in fact a quite clear illustration of her opinion of those of us who stay at home. We ain't working, y'all. So we obviously shouldn't be relied on for any guidance. Dang - we probably shouldn't be given the vote. Oops, too late on that one, huh? And wait, aren't you a WOMAN, Ms. Rosen? 

I've read several of the articles written since this little tempest and watched the clip. The condescension and arrogance practically drip off the high definition screen. So let me just throw a little something out there to consider - staying home with children does NOT mean you are incapable of following the issues and providing an opinion. We just don't get PAID.

Years ago, I came up with my little reply to, "What do I do" - it's all about the bon-bons. It was my way of recognizing that to our society if you do not bring home a paycheck then you do not have an inherent value. Moreover there is the perception that you lead a fairly relaxed life. But to say that a woman - Ann Romney - who raised five well adjusted sons while also beating breast cancer and enduring multiple sclerosis has not "WORKED". Goodness - what a concept Ms. Rosen must have of work.

Now I will say that raising my two sons has been a labor of love. There's been a lot of labor and a lot of love, and I didn't love most of the people I worked with outside the home. But here's the deal - when the kids were younger if I hadn't had the kids with me, then we would have paid someone to watch them. If I don't clean the house, then we would pay someone to clean it or claim our spot on Hoarders. If I don't do the yard work then we would pay someone to do it or enslave the teenagers - my personal preference. So if so much of what I do would have to be replaced by somebody being paid to do it as part of their JOB...why is it WORK for them and NOT WORK for me?? Now I recognize that there are many women who handle all those responsibilities and a job outside the home. But see - there's the difference between me and Ms. Rosen - I CAN RECOGNIZE THAT NOT ALL LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE THE SAME. 

Each family makes their decisions based on a myriad of factors - income, location, health of family members, and on and on. It is not up to me to judge whether your choice is working for your family. And it's not up to you to judge either. Now pass those bon-bons...I've worked up an appetite. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who Knows?

Science is a mystery to me. I have never been good at it. I failed biology spectacularly at school, receiving a dazzling U for unrated for my final exam, chemistry nearly blew me up (literally), and as for physics, well, let us just say I accept things as they are and never really felt the need to question them. For me life is NOT about the how it works, but that it does. I guess you could call me simple in a non-offensive way. However, for some, science is their life, their be-all-and-end-all, and honestly I thank goodness for those people. Without them, the world would not be as it is today. They are our lifeline to existence and development.
Yesterday, whilst on a long car journey, I discovered an ongoing issue with science. My ignorance to this is not a surprise given my interest in the subject but it got my attention. I tuned in to a public radio station and happen to listen to a discussion about Evolution versus Creation. It seems that when it comes to public education there is a conflict raging here in the USA on how to teach science.
I did a little homework (this is science remember) and found that this ongoing battle has been running for decades and not just in the USA, but also all over the world. I found court case after court case reciting the first amendment clause, people battling a state or each other, and polls taken left, right, and center to see which side is tipping the scale. New names and scientific offshoots appeared such as Creation Science and Intelligent Design but when it boils down to it, it is nothing other than the battle of the two sides. It is a huge deal.
Creationism was studied predominantly in school science initially (obvious of course). Then with time and development of theories such as those of Darwin (let us just ignore the whole WW2 issue with Darwin's theory and elimination of the weak. That totally blew my mind!), and the need to separate religion from state, "Evolutionist Science" came into play. Some US states have passed their own rules to give equal time in the classroom for both sides of the argument but most do not mention Creationism at all.
Religion you may or may not know is a huge no-no in American public schools. Heavens, my son received a good telling off not long after we moved to America. He took his favorite joke book into school and one of the punch lines (out of at least a few hundred) happened to be, 'how the devil are you?' This is a common expression in the UK, a sin apparently in a US school.
Whether you believe our existence is as a direct result of the handiwork of God, or that we came from a monkey looking primate is not why I am concerned. It is the fact that education, it seems, is tilted to such an extent that we deny believers of either side of the scientific argument the right to learn and form their own opinion.
Surely to make your own judgment is a human right. If both of these theories are presented in such a way that it does not try to indoctrinate our children to any religion or belief, then our teachers are giving them the right to decide for themselves. In addition, could it be that giving a historic view of how science is viewed from both sides could possibly lead to connections for future development. There are always two sides to every story.
As so many high-ranking individuals have presented their stance on this issue, is it possible this conflict is actually a political and religious battle hidden under the guise of education and our classrooms are the dividing lines? If so, I for one am not comfortable with this. Education should not be a weapon to eliminate others view. It should be unbiased. It is there to help our children learn, grow, and develop into well-rounded educated individuals and they cannot do that without all the facts.
So, for me, I vote for my children knowing the facts of Creation and Evolution. I will trust that when they feel informed enough they will make their own decisions and be courageous enough to respect others even if their opinion differs.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Dating Game

I always knew the time would come when I would have to sit down with my daughter and have a one-to-one chat about the big wide world of dating, about the games that are played, the feelings involved, and the inevitable interactions of her friends. I did not expect it to come so quickly, I thought I had another couple of years at least, especially as we have only just conquered her school phobia and anxiety issues (admittedly with the help of her counselor, without whom we would still be battling it I am sure). So, you can imagine my schizophrenic attitude towards her when she came home proudly one day and announced she had been asked to be someone's sweetheart.

It sounded so innocent, the word sweetheart, but when I heard the whole story I knew my time was up. Our current mother-daughter relationship was going to have to change up a notch; she was going to need the big girl's mummy advice now. You see, one of her friends had carefully negotiated this invitiation of becoming a sweetheart on my daughter's behalf, but not on her instruction. It seemed the friend was quite happy to be the surrogate sweetheart and, as time went on, she proved it so. I sat back for a while offering gentle words of advice but unfortunately by the time my daughter had gained her confidence, she had also realized that the friend was the one wearing the boys jacket, sitting with her legs on his, and was involved in many a cozy tête-à-tête's with him.

She was lost, trying to make sense of the whole situation. On the one hand, she liked this boy and on the other, she was seeing her friend in a new light, the light of a young woman in the making. My first reaction was to wade in and protect, teach her how to play the games people play but that seemed unfair, she is a nice sweet girl, that is not in her character and, most importantly, she likes her friend a lot. I got my thinking cap on and made a decision, I would help her in another way.

A long time ago, in my professional capacity, I would train adults in the corporate world in the art of understanding human behavior and interactions to get the best result. I also had a vision of teaching teenagers these skills but, as life takes over, there never seemed the right time. I also realized that I had become rusty myself on these issues, after all, I was about to help her draw her weapons and shoot the girl (metaphorically of course). This seemed a perfect opportunity to resurrect the books and start equipping her with the right skills. I need my daughter to understand human behaviors and know how to deal with them and schools just do not do have that on their curriculum. I wanted to make sure that she came out feeling good about herself even if she didn't get the boy.

As it turned out, the boy solved the issue for me. He soon moved on to her friend's friend, and then repeated the pattern over again. The girls realized they were the ones to have been played, played against each other but I am not giving up on my idea. This taste of what is to come was a wakeup call for me. My books are out and I am going to go through them with my daughter one-step at a time. Who knows I may even devise a training plan for teenagers to help them cope and understand human interactions. I am no psychologist, just an individual who thinks that life skills are just as important as algebra and punctuation.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Entourage?? Anytime You Want...

So I've just returned from a trip to Florida as part of my eighth grader's entourage - at least that's what it felt like. I believe officially I was considered to be a chaperone. The eighth grade has a trip to Florida every year. It's earned based on conduct, and dang it, he's a well-behaved kid therefore there was no way to get out of it. We rode a charter bus, and we did Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Sea World, and Aquatica. It feels like I'm missing something in there - oh, yeah - sleep. Sleep is what I'm missing. In all fairness, I don't remember it being listed on the itinerary anyway.
It was a fun trip though I'm not really an amusement park kinda gal. Museums, architecture, historical stuff - that stuff turns me on. Roller coasters - not really. I already know how it feels to be scared senseless, I've been in hospitals before, and bulimia does not interest me especially with the prices these parks charge for food. So I did exactly one at the Harry Potter world stuff. It would probably rate a wimponus spell, but I survived which was important. I really enjoyed Sea World the best - shows and animals. Plus I had been to Sea World as a little girl. I have the most adorable bracelet with little dolphins on it and I found the old home movies not long ago. May I say that ponytails and Peter Pan collars quite suited me.
But here's the deal. I spent a fair amount of time alone. Thanks to the proliferation of cell phones, my son and his four friends were able to be in constant contact with me and they are all taller than me and the school approves of their going off without you as long as all numbers have been exchanged and you have plans for meeting up. So I would sit in Starbucks (there are only so many times I was interested in walking around stuff I didn't want to do) and read. They would text me. I would meet up with them, distribute money, pick up what they wanted me to carry, get my instructions and move on. See - entourage member - the one without a lot of power, but a ton of interest in being included.
But here's the point - I wouldn't trade it for anything. I got to see how our son and his friends interact. At times I could see the children they were - laughing and feeding seagulls and pigeons with such delight and abandonment, wearing silly hats and stuff. And at times I could see the men they are becoming - holding the door for people, showing good manners, disapproving of how some people were acting. They are good kids and I know just how fast time flies. Our son had his fourteenth birthday while on the trip. Which can't be possible since my profile picture shows me holding this adorable toddler. In the blink of an eye he'll be gone to college, but I'll always get to hold on to the memories. And for that I'll gladly be a member of the entourage.