I watched a movie this morning “The Great Debaters”. If you havent watched it, do.
We took our five year old grandson to Disney last week. It’s a tradition with us, once a grandchild turns 5 we take them on a trip — he is the third one, and the second to pick Disney as his destination.
I’m not a Disney girl. It often feels staged and pushy, the crowds get me confused and I don’t have the patience to wait for 20 minutes ( with fast pass ) for a four minute “attraction” which may be little more than a loud neon painted carnival ride.
But, it seems to be an American Right of Passage and the grandkids love it, so I suck it up and ultimately get pulled into the pageantry and hoopla. The one on one time with a grandchild is a treat indeed — so I push my cynicism aside and experience the Magic that is DisneyWorld.
Last Thursday evening I sat on the curb, grandson between my knees, surrounded by glow sticks and 5 year olds and watched a High School band march around the circle in Magic Kingdom. And, as I experienced and shared the things a child’s life should be made of — friends and music, adventure and accomplishment, Light Sabers and giggles — I tried to wrap my head around the chaos of the news that had come to me from my home town, hours earlier in the day.
You may have heard of, but probably not, Wilmington Delaware. I grew up here, an iconic place to live, diverse, blue collar, close to the beach, Philadelphia and New York. My friends and I thought nothing of unlocked doors and late night walks and going to dances to listen to the band.
Lately though, things have changed. Plagued by violence, unemployment, heroin gone wild, the city has become dark, dirty, sadness and despair permeate the air. The news paper and television call it “Killmington” and “Murderville”, guns are everywhere, parents scared to let their kids go to the park, or onto their own front stoops.
And, on Thursday a 16 year old girl was beaten to death, TO DEATH, in the bathroom of her school. Good God, her school. There are rumors flying about the reason, as if there could be one, or the manner in which the death occurred, but whether her head was slammed into a sink or she was stabbed, whether there were 2 assailants or 6, whether she went into that bathroom to fight a peer or discuss a problem, one thing is certain, she is dead. All the blue balloons sent to the sky as children yell “RIP AMY”, all the vigils and television interviews won’t bring her back. There is nothing poetic or symbolic about this. It is sick. It is unacceptable that a young person could walk into her school at 7:45 and never walk out. killed at the hands of her peers, beaten to death.
I didn’t know Amy, I don’t understand the anger that could make you kill someone, and I don’t know how to solve this rage that fills so many of our young people. Church? Parenting? Mentoring? Hope? I don’t know, I am so saddened that I just don’t know.
And, as I sat and wondered, my grandson lifted his head and said, I love you grammy. My joy was muddled with the thoughts of a mother that will never hear her daughter say those words again.
it happened again. Kids killed in school. In a community college. in the center of a little piece of America where people are just trying to do better. And the news covered it — for a minute. And the President pleaded with America to fix things — for a minute. And I shook my head and lowered my eyes in prayer — for a minute.
And today it may happen again. Or tomorrow. How do we continue to send our children off to school with this happening. How do we do nothing.
Googled a website today that was instrumental in helping ME survive my daughter’s illness, 8 years ago. My last couple attempts to log in were met with failure so I thought I’d see if I could figure out what was going on. Google sent me to a list of articles and restaurants (?) and, surprisingly, a blog written by the founder of another organization that set me back years during the recovery stage of my daughter’s illness.. Weird.
Long story short, and I think I have written about it on this blog somewhere, I was asked to become a board member of an organization working in the field of my daughters illness. Asked after MANY long conversations and emails. The founding Exec. Director was stepping down and I applied, on a whim. Im one of those people who wants to pay it forward, and since we had been helped by so many when our daughter was struggling, I thought this might be the opportunity to step it up and be a force. WRONG. So, anyway, we talked and talked and talked. They ultimately chose another applicant, but called to ask me to take on another role, sort of a face for the organization. Someone who could speak with parents, the press, the former exec., the new exec. Great gig, right? WRONG.
My husband and I planned on making the trip to DC for their National Conference, I bought a new suit — took a day off work and drove down. After signing in, with a wonderful lady who knew my name and seemed excited to see me, I wandered around for about a half hour, introducing myself, unsure of what or where my place was — feeling like I had stumbled into a Sorority Mixer that I wasn’t really invited to. Finally the new Exec. Director approached and told me “don’t introduce yourself as a board member, the members are getting offended.” Huh? “There are people on the board who don’t know about this decision, people who have worked with us for a while, who are unhappy, trying to figure out who you are.” HUH? Wouldn’t the business meeting the night before have been a good time to tell them about me or the role you had in mind for me?
Needless to say, this did not end well. We stayed the day, listened to the self congratulatory speeches about all the organization had accomplished, watched the new Exec. Director be introduced — Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I remember my husband’s face as he tried to gauge my disappointment, tried to say the right thing. I had been “removed” , belittled and dismissed by people that I thought shared my vision, people I wanted to work alongside. His proclamation? “You don’t need them, bunch of stuck up women”. Gotta love him.
Which leads me back to where this post began. Google led me to a blog entry, written by the former Exec. about another website set up to help people suffering from this illness, and their families. Very similar initiative. The former Exec. had been ‘removed” from this site for a difference of opinion, belief, whatever. Years ago. Apparently her removal was the impetus for starting the new organization. Apparently she feels the former site was detrimental, archaic and giving bad information. Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t think so. The former site had, truly, given me solace and comfort when my daughter was suffering. I could turn to the site and post my feelings, my fears, my challenges, our triumphs. I didn’t fixate on the ads or the promos, didn’t see this organization as promoting themselves as experts, just purveyors of information for you to analyze yourself — I needed moms and dads, brothers and sisters, to listen to, react to and empathize with what we were going through. That is what I got there. No preaching. No “our way or the highway”.
So in her blog she ranted about the horrors of the site and demanded it be taken down or revamped. Sometime in the period of her writing the blog and the time I found the entry, the site had, indeed, been taken down. Because of her feelings? Because of her blog? Doubtful, but who knows. On that former site I had shared information with parents. People had contacted me, comforted me — given me advice and led me to resources that , I believe, helped our family survive.
And yet, the other site couldn’t stand the presence of their existence. Ironic, right?. She described her hurt at being removed from the original site, the pain it caused. I offer up, as a comparison, the pain this group of women caused me when they dismissed me , revoked their offer to work ( for free, obviously) with them. They missed out on something good. Im good at this, this advocacy gig. I am working to better the lives of women, to eliminate racism, to promote health and joy and empowerment. Your loss, dude. look in the mirror.
You just never know what’s gonna pop up when you hit “search’
So, I retired 2 years ago this month. went back to work part time the very next day…..then a year later found the perfect fulltime gig == great job, great people, strong mission…..good stuff.
But, yesterday, the job interfered with the life. Family situation that I needed to deal with, right in the middle of preparation for an important presentation. Juggle. Family wins, of course. So I took care of that, and have the privilege of being able to telecommute, so did some work last night to catch up.
And this morning, it continues. Needed by family for a few hours. Supervisor excellent, understands, all good. But, do I ? Do I want to be in that place where you have to decide whether to spend time with the grandbabies or the office? Do I want to do 8 hours a day behind a desk or at meetings? Or do I want to sit in the backyard watching the kids play….
time will tell. I dont do anything halfway, so it will be a conscious decision, for sure. Time will tell.
Some of my best friends are teachers. I was a teacher for over 20 years. So, the rant that follows may seem a bit, well, treason-ish, but I have to get this off my chest.
Why is it that teachers bemoan the upcoming Monday return to work every Sunday? Why is it that social media is full of “I don’t want to go” and “Oh ,6 am, how I hate you” when the end of a vacation looms. Why is it that the mere mention of a “flurry” brings out the “snow day” cries — and why do teachers start counting down to the end of the school year the minute Spring vacation is over?
And, do these teachers really think that their kids don’t sense this?
Now, I know, lots of it is in fun. Teachers love teaching. Why else would we stay in a field that pays so poorly, garners such little respect and has such ridiculous hours….but really guys.
Let up a bit on the “Woo Hoo! I don’t want to go to school.” It’s just not very becoming.
I used to teach at a school that had a fairly active, and competitive “sunshine club”. They sent me 4 bouquets and at least 10 cards when I was out for 3 months with knee surgery….It had a birthday component. Some complicated sort of rotation that had us making or baking cakes for people’s birthdays. You didnt bake enough for the whole school, just for your little “clique”. So, way back several years ago it was my turn to bake for our phys. ed teacher, Sue. I’m pretty sure it was peanut butter and chocolate, but that memory may be wrong. The rest of it though is clear as yesterday.
The halls were electric. Noise, kids, parents, admin. on the intercom. Everyone was heading the same direction, towards the front door, but in little bursts. I was up by the nurses office, monitoring who was leaving, who needed to pick up their meds, who was having an asthma attack. Sue was about 30 feet down the hall — dressed up. In that dress that she always wore on Parent night, or special days — like her birthday. Over the hum of “its ok, it’ll be ok. We are ok.” I heard — loudly– “Hey Cindy? Wheres my Cake?”
It was noon on 9/11/01 and my girl Sue was looking for that birthday cake.
I read this morning that she had died. 62 years old. Alzheimers. And the first thing that came to my mind was her in that hall, looking for that damn cake. And I smiled. Because, for all her human imperfections, Sue knew that life would go on. She knew that there would be a tomorrow and that you had to keep your head about you and move forward. And, you damn well better eat cake while you had the chance. Rest well Sue.
Sitting on the couch, wrapped in a sweat shirt and long soft pants ( as my grandson Ryan would call them) — cold. Cold? Its August, on the east coast. HHmmm……and as I sip my coffee and savor the quiet and the sun shining on the back of the couch in the florida room, and how it contrasts with the shadow over my spinning wheel….
I have this little internal smirk going on. Because I know that next week teachers return to school. and the insanity begins. And, even though I am back to work full time,living with some sort of schedule, I am sO happy that I am not returning to the world of living life in 90 minute blocks ( or 45, depending on which paradigm is trending this year), of paying 3.50 for a slice of cold pizza and 3 pieces of lettuce and calling it lunch, of peeing and getting back into my “spot” in 3 minutes, of monitoring the hall, dreaming up “overaching enduring themes” and , oh lord, the paperwork….No, I do not miss you Public Education.
I do however, miss the interaction with peers and my wonderful students. I miss “teaching” “TEACHING”. That amazing interaction of push and pull that happens when you work with kids — kids who trust you to deliver, to listen , to guide. We did a lot more of that in the 90’s. Before business and “district” and fools who know nothing about the mind of a teenager decided they were going to save education….
So, I will say a silent prayer next Monday that all of my colleagues, near and far, will have the peace and privilege to teach this year — and to learn. and that the “powers that be” will respect their ability to do so.
And then, like I knew it would, things began to feel better. The situation with my son hasnt changed, he is still marrying a woman that hates his family. My daughters are hurt and sad, my husband is, how can i say it, wounded. And I vacillate between anger and sorrow — but it is all a bit tempered. You cant live like that, in that state of distress and pain. So you cope.
I often cope by retreating into my art. I will spin or sew or quilt or knit or try a new form of textile manipulation. I will clean my studio, organizing buttons and trims….
But yesterday I spent the day learning to dye wool. Wool for my spinning wheel. Surrounded by a group of wonderful women who are JUST LIKE ME!!! They dont laugh when I call my spinning wheel “her” or look confused when I go pot to pot touching the roving. These ladies taught me things, words like “mordanted”. they ate my carrots and hummus when they really wanted to chow down on the cake. We sat and chatted, wrapped lengths of roving around our arms, poured dye, baked it, watched the miracle that is indigo dyeing.
I took a day off of work. hesitated about 9:00 am, maybe I wont go, maybe I will stay home and clean. So glad I didnt make that choice, else the funk may have stayed hanging over me. Yesterday cleansed me. Washed off the grime that is hatred and animosity. Coated me in the soft fluff of color and texture and laughter. Wonderful wonderful day. Thank you Deb Mitchell and all the ladies of her guild. In not a small way , you saved me yesterday.