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Tuesday, June 28, 2011
But, as night falls, all is now calm and still on the street before me.
A few birds chirp as a light breeze stirs the leaves slightly. The laughter of a few neighborhood children drift up the street as the chime of crickets join the thong. The last few rays of sunlight wink out of sight and the blanket of night wraps itself around the neighborhood.
From under the covered porch I sit on a rocking chair, smelling the night breeze and relishing in its coolness as the night as the pale glow of accent lights twinkle green, red, yellow, and blue—changing colors like lights on a Christmas tree.
My phone is silent.
My wireless is haphazard at best.
I’m more or less cut off from the world at large.
It’s a good – as well as different – feeling.
I lean back in the rocking chair and close my eyes.
Life is wonderful...
Friday, June 24, 2011
One is not born a woman, one becomes one. ~Simone de Beauvoir
So I mentioned a few weeks back that I was indulging in some massage therapy to help with…well with tension and the tight back muscles that come with all that. I don’t do it as much as I probably should. I really only do it as often as I can afford, but it has really helped and I can certainly feel when it’s getting to be time for another massage.
Now this is massage therapy, so there’s a certain expectation that it will be pretty “New-Agey” if you know what I mean. There are scented candles and a lot of books about cleansing your energy pathways and centering your chi or whatever. I find it a little abstract and ethereal sometimes – but who am I to judge? My back hurts, these people can help me so bring on the ocean wave music and green tea extract. But this last time I got some news that has stuck with me some over the past week or so since my last massage.
It’s pretty standard that my left side is more sore and tight than my right side. I haven’t really been able to pinpoint exactly why, but when I think back I believe it has ever been thus. This last time though, perhaps because I hadn’t been there for awhile, I was quite a bit tighter than usual and my massage therapist really had to work the lower left. At one point she said she was just going to step out for a minute. I thought from all the effort she’d was putting in that perhaps she was just tired and needed a break. But no, she wanted get her reference book and check out something about my body. Of course with my face squished into the face holder donut I’m thinking “Oh crap, what has she found back there?” When she came back she announced that the tightness on the left side in the lower back and hip area means, according to “the book”, that I have issues with femininity and could in fact be suppressing my femininity.
Issues with femininity?
Suppressing my femininity?
What does that mean?
I think I’m ok being a girl. I mean, I was a tom-boy growing up, but I wasn’t so much a tomboy that I didn’t enjoy getting a new dress. I’ve never been a really girly-girl, but I’ve always been ok being a girl – I’ve never wanted to be a boy that I can recall. On the other hand I don’t paint my nails. I don’t have my ears pierced. I don’t like wearing jewelry, I don’t like wearing floral patterns….or any patterns at all really. But on the other hand I enjoy making flowers and jewelry for other people to wear (like every other gay designer in the world come to think of it). And hey, I also own a pair of red suede pumps with 3 inch heels. I don’t take them out for a test drive much, but I enjoy looking at them from time to time (possibly something else I have in common with gay designers). I’m not currently married but I have been…twice and I don’t believe I’ve switched my gender preference without my knowledge. Daniel Craig + Russell Crowe+ Mr. Darcy still equal swooney heart palpitations. On the other hand, being single – let’s face it - I probably am suppressing something.
I must say all this confliction has been very vexing and hard to navigate. So maybe I should try a weekend of Bridget Jones’ Diary and Gilmore Girls and see how my back feels then. Or maybe I’ll just go shoe shopping - that's a pretty girly - feminine thing to do. And if I don't actually carry my 900lb purse that generally hangs across my left shoulder, perhaps then I'll start to feel more feminine.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It was the one particular word that caught my attention.
This isn’t a word one uses in civilized conversation. In fact, this isn’t a word one uses in any type of normal conversation.
The mancub looked at me.
He asked me what that word meant.
A blankness flashed across my mind.
This was not a topic to be broached by someone to their friend’s kid because the subject matter. Heck, this wasn't even covered in the 5th or 6th grade maturation sessions at my elementary school.
I made ready to deflect the boy, letting him know that he should ask his dad at a later time what this particular thing was, but the mancub seemed to catch the gist and said, “Oh, I get it…this is something inappropriate, isn’t it?”
I concurred with the statement and felt a rush of pride in this boy as he went on to say, “Then I don’t think this is a movie we should be watching,” right before I was about to suggest changing to something else.
We watched The Incredibles instead.
I’m still proud of him for making that decision - and for parents who teach their children about making appropriate decisions...even when they aren't always there to help them do it.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Hello, my name is Cheeseboy, but it could be 'Teachinfirst', as I teach first rather than fourth grade. But I'll tell you what, you can call me Abe. I like to blog. I blogged on my very first try, too. You could read more of what I've written over at The Blog O' Cheese, but only if you're awesome like that...
It has come to my attention that a first grade teacher at your school is having the students sit on the floor "Indian style". I'll have you know that my child is 1/16 Cherokee Indian and I find this deeply offensive.
Further, I'd like to point out that it is a complete misnomer that American Indians sit with their legs crossed all the time. Look, they have chairs just like everyone else. (Yes, occasionally they do sit with their legs crossed on the chair, but that is generally the exception, not the rule.)
I implore you to require this teacher to stop using this horrifically offensive phrase. I'd never ask children to sit "White Man Style"! (Sitting like you are watching a NASCAR race while eating mayonnaise with a Hooters waitress in your lap.)
Thank you for your time,
1/8 Cherokee Indian
It has come to my attention that a teacher at your school has recently replaced the phrase "Indian style" with "Crisscross Applesauce". I would like to voice my concern regarding this issue.
My name is Chris Kelley and I was one half of the 90's rap duo "Kriss Kross". My daughter is now in the class that this phrase is being used. I have to say that I am deeply hurt and offended by this. During our band's heyday, we never once sat on stage with our legs folded. That would have made for a very awkward moment.
I would appreciate it if you spoke with this teacher and told her to stop using this offensive language.
PS: I would also like to express my dissatisfaction with the removal of "backwards clothes day" from the school calendar.
My son recently came home from school and told me that his teacher asked him to sit "Crisscross Applesauce" on the floor.
My name is Dale Mott, owner of Mott's Applesauce and I can assure you that we did NOT intend our applesauce to be spread on the floor and sat in by a bunch of children. I presume that you will remedy this situation.
As a thank you, I have included a free sample of our sauce.
Owner, Mott's Applesauce
My name is Gerald Smartington, CEO of "Frankleton's Pocketless Pants".
In the last couple weeks, my daughter has come home from school complaining of her teacher asking her to "sit on your pockets". I'll have you know that my daughter does not own a single pair of pants with pockets on them.
I am deeply offended by the use of this phrase. What ever happened to sitting "Indian Style" or "Crisscross Applesauce"?! I think you will find that as our business booms more and more of your students will not have pockets on their jeans.
Unless you remedy this problem, I will have my lawyers look into what can be done.
Thank you for your time.
CEO, Frankleton's Pocketless Pants
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I know that I have.
I think there have been times in each and every one of our lives that we’ve said something that we wish we could take back; however, once we’ve said those particular words, it has already become too late…they suddenly become history. The terrible thing about words is that they also seem have a way of coming back to haunt us…
You see we live in a world where much of the communication we have is shared verbally, as well as with the written word. Obviously you must be a person who shares things with written words because you’re reading this blog post. But how often have you been reading something and then had to reread, positive that you must have read it wrong? After all, there’s no way that somebody would have written that and put it out there for the entire world to see.
Yeah, you know the kinds of things I’m talking about.
Sometimes these choice little tidbits have been put on peoples’ blogs, or on their Facebook statuses, and these individuals were seemingly confident that the person they were writing about would never see them.
But like I said before, words have a way of coming back to haunt us.
My good friend, Karen, from A Peek into Karen’s World once said, “We've gotten so used to our LOLs and JKs, and hiding behind a computer screen that we often forget [that these] there are real people on the other side with real feelings.”
Now, I’m not saying that we should sugar coat everything we write, but we really should be more careful that the things we put online aren't things we wouldn't be willing to say to someone else face to face. Chances are, our words will come to find them somehow, and then have a way of coming back to us as well.
I think of Madonna, a woman known for her singing for the past few decades – but slightly less well known for the books she’s written for children. One book Madonna wrote a few years ago is set in 1949 and is titled, Mr. Peabody’s Apples.
Mr. Peabody was instantly judged by the people of the town—and most of them started to avoid him after that. Mr. Peabody decides that he needs to show this rumor-spreading student, Tommy, that what matters is the truth – not how things might simply appear. He teaches Tommy a lesson about how important it is to carefully choose our words and to not cause harm to other people around us.
The lesson is simple, and yet powerful…like feathers in the wind.
We use words to communicate each and every day. I know that I do. I try to make it so that I choose my words carefully.
Do I always? Unfortunately not.
Am I trying to do better? Absolutely.
In the words of Thumper’s mother from the movie, Bambi, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
What wise words indeed.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
The film version was no less beautifully "written" than the text, the actors and cinematography all poignant words on the screen. There was this one scene that tugged at me, a flashback where the protagonist recalls a pivotal conversation with his wife. In it, she raises the question of survival in their post-apocalyptical world. They live in a world where humanity is all but non-existent, and existence itself is marked by constant struggle for food, shelter, and protection from bands of cannibals. As a mother, she comments that the day their son was born was both the best and worst day of her life. She means to end her life as soon as she has the opportunity.
"It is not enough," she tells her husband, "to just survive." Unspoken is her desire to live fully, and see her son live as well.
Later, as they make their way through a barely recognizable ash-strewn world toward more southerly climes, the father pauses for a brief stroll through memory lane in his old childhood home. While his son looks on in confusion, he touches a doorframe that bears the faint measurements of a growing boy. He reveals the holes in the mantle where stockings once hung. He traces the pattern of a sofa cushion lovingly. His son,though, does not and cannot understand his attachment to these things. He has never known this childhood. His own has been filled with tramping through a barren world, scavenging for meals, flinching from human contact. He does not know what it means to have holidays, and relationships, and comforts.
He knows how to survive. But is he truly living?
It's hard to envision a world such as this. As a mother, I hate to think of a time when my children would need to be consumed with survival over living. There's a Suzy Sunshine part of me that holds on to a faith in the greater good of the human race...I have to believe that we wouldn't simply give way to that tiny terrible ego that's in us all, but would instead take whatever circumstances we were dealt and turn survival into living.
Your religion is what you do when the sermon is over. ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
It’s ironic that we have a kind of heavenly theme going on here at Four Perspectives this week. Ironic because I’ve been thinking a lot about something that we talked about in my Sunday School a few weeks ago. I say my Sunday School class because I actually teach the class which is, again, ironic since I’m not really convinced I understand the gospel well enough to teach it to anyone else. But it’s the 14 to 18 year-olds so we can kind of…learn together.
Anyway, we’re studying the New Testament this year, which I have found to be a little tricky sometimes to translate into teen-speak. First of all the speech patterns in the New Testament are just hard. I don’t know if it’s the translation from Latin or Greek or whatever language it was originally written in to English, but it can be very stilted sometimes and awkward to read. I’ve always kind of thought of it as the scriptural equivalent of reading Shakespeare. Plus it’s hard sometimes to get the kids to engage in what is essentially a history lesson about the life and ministry of Christ. There’s not always a general theme of the day, sometimes it’s just a story about what happened and what he did. But on the other hand it’s the first time I’ve had to teach the New Testament, chronologically that is, and studying it has given me a lot to think about. Some of these thoughts coincide nicely with acceptable doctrine and some others probably veer off a little into blasphemy. Ok, maybe not blasphemy, but certainly occasional irreverence.
For example, I’ve mentioned before that I’m still not sure I agree with the Lord’s chastisement of Martha when all she wanted was for Mary to help her out a little bit. But through more reading I've realized that maybe the problem wasn’t so much that Martha wanted Mary’s help, it was that she was judging Mary for not helping – which I have to admit sounds familiar. I find myself wondering too with all of the blind people that Jesus heals, did they ever have a hard time adjusting from being blind to suddenly having their sight? They don’t really mention that anyone freaked out. And not that they wouldn’t have been grateful, I’m just saying it must have been tremendously disorienting.
But none of that is actually the thing I’ve been thinking about. A few weeks ago the lesson was from Matthew 23. In this chapter, Jesus is dressing down the Pharisees for being hypocrites. The Pharisees were the chief priests and elders of the Jewish people. They were pretty critical of Jesus because he was very unorthodox; healing people on the Sabbath, not stoning the woman taken in adultery and generally just for claiming to be the Son of God. But rather than worry about what the Pharisees thought of him, Jesus pretty much spent the whole of Matthew 23 telling them that everything that they are doing in their lives to show how righteous they were to the world was complete crap. It was crap because their intention with all of their tithes and offerings sermons and prayers wasn’t to prove their devotion to God, but for all of their works to be seen of men.
The dictionary says hypocrisy is pretending to be what one is not or pretending to believe what one does not. I think that anyone who has ever been involved with any organized religion can sometimes pretend to believe something that you may not have a sure knowledge of. Sometimes we go along with tradition or convention because it is simply the easiest thing to do. And I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing to do – it’s just difficult to sustain. Eventually performance needs to converge with belief otherwise the devotions and offerings become hollow and can turn into something we do just for the admiration of other people.
But with all due respect to Jesus, I also think that sometimes it can be the other way around.
In my readings about hypocrisy for this lesson, I came across an idea: hypocrisy is the opposite of integrity, which is not just honesty but unity of personality. I found myself wondering, do I have unity of personality? Do I behave one way with some people and another way with others? I have to say….I think I do.
I have a friend that is going to come and teach at the detention center school for a few weeks this summer. He’s a little apprehensive about this because it’s a completely different venue than he’s used to plus it’s, you know, it's a detention center. So I asked him to come by so I could show him around a little bit, he could meet some of the guys and just acclimate a little bit. This friend has known me for a long time and knows that I am not what you would call a jolly soul. I am not Miss Merry Sunshine. It takes a concentrated effort for me to shake off the little black rain cloud, put on a happy face and not just find a shadowy corner from which to observe and make sarcastic (and sometimes snarky) comments. I mention this because as I was introducing him to the guys he saw me being, well, other than I usually am. I was happy, I was smiling, I was, dare I say, friendly. He mentioned this as we were walking back to my office – as in “who the heck are you and what have you done with Mel? I have to admit that he was right. I decided a while ago that the guys have plenty of other people in that environment to tell them what is wrong with them and that it just wasn’t my role add to that. So, I do make a concentrated effort at work ( with the students anyway) to be cheerful, engaging, encouraging, happy and generally happy to see them.
But does this make me a hypocrite?
Technically I suppose it does. It’s definitely schizophrenic Mel syndrome and not unity of personality. But I like to think it helps the guys…and I think it helps me too. I have a quote hanging up in my office that says; Misery is easy. It’s happiness that takes work” and I do have to work at being happy. But with this job I have incentive to make that effort at least a little bit every day and I find that it has been good practice.
Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:25 that Every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. I believe that – I really do. Actions should converge with beliefs just as faith without works is dead. But just maybe, even though I'm faking it a lot of the time, if I keep working at it, the happier house will be the one that becomes stronger and that will be the one that will stand. Even Jesus might approve of that kind of hypocrisy.
Friday, June 10, 2011
I blog about the blessings and absurdities of everyday life. I am a writer, a reader, a bike wife, a mom, and a music fan. They don't call me Aunt Blabby for nothing...
Looks like spring has finally come to stay. The robins are chirping, the allergy-prone are sneezing, and every weekend the street corners in my neighborhood are blooming with garage sale signs, as households attempt to part with the detritus of another year of American accumulation.
I understand the concept of a good, sinus clearing garage sale, one that leaves the seller (slightly) enriched and clutter-free. It's just never been the outcome of any garage sale in which I've participated.
When I was growing up in suburban upstate New York, the Neighborhood Garage Sale was one of the social events of the year, a day where everyone sat out in their driveways in folding chairs and making change from a shoebox full of cash, all the while yelling affectionate insults at their neighbors about the quality of their items for sale.
On the appointed Saturday morning in June, nearly every driveway in the Virginia Colony subdivision was filled: racks of outgrown clothing, bikes with bent frames, boxes of books and record albums. Like lions stalking a slow-moving antelope, cars that we didn't recognize would cruise slowly up and down the streets before we'd even opened for business at 7:30 am, stopping with the wheels on someone's lawn to issue forth a passenger who would examine a floor lamp or treadmill before hopping back in to move on down the line.
My mother had a pricing system honed through years of practice. Each item had a little white rectangular tag marked with the initials of the family member who'd put it up for sale, and the price. The cashier on duty (also my mother) would take the buyer's money, peel off the label and stick it on the appropriate page in a wirebound notebook, one for her, one for my dad, and one for each of the three kids. Over the course of the day, as the hagglers descended and tried to talk us down on price for wilted stuffed animals and rickety chairs, I'd sneak a quick glance to see how much I'd earned.
That number in mind, I'd hop on my banana seat bike and cruise up and down our street trying to figure how I could blow my newfound fortune on something else. Maybe Carol Flannigan is selling her 10-speed, or Lizzy Cooper is finally parting with her Madame Alexander dolls! If there are parents and educators out there worried about the deterioration of a child's math skills over summer vacation, I heartily recommend setting the child loose on a garage sale with a budget of $7.89. They'll be doing long division and multiplication like MIT students in no time, figuring out how to get spend every penny of it (but not a cent more.)
The trouble is that as the day wound down, the parents began doing the same thing. Mom would stroll off down the street to see what was happening at the Melich's house, and when she got back she'd tell Dad to go take a look at the table that was still sitting in the driveway over at the Crane's, wouldn't that work better in the upstairs hallway than the one they already had? In the meantime Mr. Meyer would stop over and take a couple of swings with the aluminum tennis racket Dad was selling, mentioning how his old racket got broken when his son used it as a golf club. "Got change for a $5, Nance?" he'd ask, reaching into a worn out leather wallet.
By the time the sun set on our community garage sale, our neighborhood would have completed a massive transfer of goods, with a net change in wealth of exactly zero. It was Potlatch, Rochester -style.
Which is why I don't do garage sales. I can't afford that kind of de-cluttering.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I’d been told that he was our Father. I’d been taught that he lived in heaven and was always looking down on us, giving us help and guidance along the journey we take along this road known as life.
Without question throughout my adolescence I believed this. I never doubted that God was there; I never mistrusted that He wasn’t. I knew that He was orchestrating the pathways of the stars and planets - The Creator, The Navigator of the universe itself, intertwining our lives together in a masterpiece we would someday look upon and understand the true beauty of...
That is, until recently.
Now, it wasn’t as if I woke up one day and simply decided that God did not exist; it wasn’t anything like that…it was that I just started to wonder when I looked up into that big space above me.
I think it may have started with the death of Arlene.
I remember it like yesterday, sitting alone with her in the silence as the minutes passed on. In one of her more lucid moments she looked over at me and began to cry. “I don’t want to die.” She whispered, the tears flowing down her cheeks.
I cried, too. Knowing that there was nothing I could do as the cancer slowly ate away at her body from the inside out.
I was powerless.
She was scared.
And so was I.
After an excruciating few weeks she was finally whisked away from this mortal frame, and I was left behind.
I think that it is in moments such as these that people seem to find themselves dithering one way or the other. They either seem to find solace in the belief in the afterlife, or they carry a bitterment and anger directed toward the heavens – possibly even to question the very existence of a higher being. Perhaps the need for a God.
I recall a scene from the movie Signs when Mel Gibson’s character, Graham, is consoling his brother, Merrill, when he is in a moment of distress. In his character’s words:
People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance...what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?
As the years compress themselves together like the body of an accordion, I find myself slipping from one group to another. I discover that in my life, though having traveled a myriad of pathways and scores of years, I find myself wanting more, wanting the knowledge it to be deeper than it was.
I look at the heavens; I think of a world where there is no God.
It is a terrifying thought.
I have no voices that speak to me. I have no angels that descend from the heavens bearing tidings. I see neither grand miracles nor seas being parted—making way for me to pass through as the armies mount behind me.
Yet, I look upon the world around me, I see the looming splendor of the majestic mountains. I breathe in the heavy scent of lilacs and stand beneath the towering Redwoods. I feel the warmth of the setting sun on my face as it turns to gold and melts into a skyline of liquid indigo and buttery maroon. I stand at the edge of the ocean and feel the salty air as it coats my nostrils and the waves pound upon the shoreline and reverberate in my chest. I gaze at the billions of stars as they burst forth from the shadowy skies like handfuls of glitter blown about by the winds of spring. I stand in the midst of a thunderstorm as the rain drenches my skin, feeling the torrential downpour saturate me as the ominous clouds twist and moil overhead and jagged streaks of lightning shatter the skies.
I’ve been taught that God is our Father. I’ve been taught that he lives in heaven and is always looking down on us, giving us help and guidance along the journey we take along the road known as life.
Without question throughout my adolescence I believed this; I never doubted that God was there. I never mistrusted that He wasn’t; I knew that He was orchestrating the pathways of the stars and planets - The Creator, The Navigator of the universe itself, intertwining our lives together in a masterpiece we would someday look upon and understand the true beauty of…