clearly, this bullshit did not end in the ’80s. pity that.
recently, i was talking with another parent about college. he was pretty insistent about his child going into engineering. now, nevermind he has no idea whether his child has any interest or inclination toward engineering (and science in general): that is what said child will be pursuing in a few years. if his child is not interested in becoming some sort of engineer, then said kid can pay his way through school. this parent will not be contributing toward something stupid and useless like an english degree, for example.
(you know, the degree i happen to hold.)
when i was a college kid in the go-go 1980s, it was tough to be an english major, especially when you were child #3 following child #1 (a doctor) and child #2 (computer science dude.) and here i was, in love with language and meaning and, to be honest, writers in the earlyish part of the twentieth century. preferably, but not exclusively, women. oh, and usually american. and i often answered the barrage of questions which really boiled down into one: what will you do with that english degree?
indignantly, i did what any self-respecting women’s college editorial editor would do: i wrote what ended up being my most popular column in college. who’s afraid of liberal arts? was so popular that it was actually reprinted. (evidently, i was not the only person with this conundrum.) i was tired of people asking me when i was going to get a real major, a pre-professional major. i was tired of people asking me if i sat and made daisy chains, too. “i am sure,” i wrote, “that somewhere, someone in my family is squirreling away an English Major Fund so that when i’m big and in the real world, i will have a financial supplement.”
and, being pedantic in the way only a 21 year old lit student could be, i quoted john henry cardinal newman from the idea of a university noting that education should be for it’s own sake in order to help you grow as a person. education should be:
something intellectual, something which grasps what it perceives through the senses; something which takes a view of things; which sees more than the senses convey; which reasons upon what it sees, and while it seeks, which invests it with an idea.
i argued that it was easier to live with yourself when you were someone and not some thing. it is difficult to change gears if you make yourself narrow; but the study of liberal arts broadens you and makes you more of an intellectual utility infielder. in short, it helps you adapt.
decades later, i am glad i chose the path i did. yes, i went on to graduate school and specialized; but when i wanted more than what a career in that specialization offered, i duck and dove into something completely different: i crashed into the early days of the internet. on my interview, my boss showed me how to build something and then asked me, the english major, to build it. i froze at first (i’m an english major, remember?), then slowly attempted to make things happen as he had done.
and i messed up.
but, i took a deep breath, backed up, and tried something else. which worked. (mercifully.) and i got the job.
later, i asked my boss: why did you hire me when i messed up on the interview?
his reply? you backed up and figured it out. i need people who know how to think and who can learn. (it was a new industry at the time.) i don’t need specialists: it’s a new field and there are none. (in 1995, there really weren’t.)
so yeah. english major here. english major who has developed and built web properties. who has done research studies in education policy. who has performed regression analysis. who has put together several major events, uniting cabinet level secretaries and their entire departments in the process. who masters the world and delivers it daily to her family. (note: i am still a crappy cook. but so far, i have not killed anyone.) i’ve changed careers plenty, and now, i get to do what i always loved best: writing.
i’m not starving. i’m monitoring my world and changing with it as needed. i can write cogently (most of the time.) i can think. maybe i can’t fuse my identity to some specific career, but actually, i like being stealthy like that. and i’ll be damned if i make my kids tether themselves to a pre-professional course of studies unless it is the course they choose. sure, there are consequences in all choices, but should they be the deciders of their destinies? i think so.
so to that parent who is willing to carrot-and-stick his kid’s future with his own demands? maybe you need to be squirreling away a Therapy For My Kid fund.
oh. and while i am not using capital letters in my blog, for the record: i do give a fuck about the Oxford comma.
(there’s no way on Dog’s green earth i would link to frank zappa’s song on this topic. just so you know…)
can six life-impaired, personality-stunted millenial women from my tribe grow the fuck up and get lives? yes, this is but one of the questions i ponder now that bravo tv, home of such important television productions as the real housewives of new jersey and don’t be tardy, unleashed a new show onto the world: princesses: long island. they were four men, living all together. yet they were all alone. whoops. wrong show. it’s what i call car crash tv — so awful, yet i cannot look away from these six glamazons, all vying to be the poster child for a long-standing stereotype of jewish women: the jewish american princess, or JAP for short.
so may i present to you exhibit a: the ladies, in their late 20s/early 30s — each one more frightening than the next. there’s amanda, who met her smarmy, stalker-like beau jeff on the LIRR. she lives with her divorced cougar mom who seems a little too eager to insert herself inappropriately into amanda’s existence. there’s ashlee (and i always have trouble with women whose names end up cutie-pie-spelled, like what a double e does here), a very spoiled young lady whose middle name i’m betting is veruca salt, who clearly has daddy issues, and who probably will never be able to function in a life by herself. (in a rental beach house in the hamptons, ashlee calls her mom, freaked out because she has issues sleeping on sheets other people have slept on. oh. and she has a small stain on her sheet in her bed. can her mom help her via phone?) casey is as close to normal as you get on this show, though she is still crushed over being betrayed by erica (you’ll hear about her in a sec) back in high school. there’s chanel, named for the bag in which she was conceived who may end up banished from her home shtetl, anatevka, as her younger sister is engaged and she herself has no visible prospects for love. erica, who trumpets the fact that she was apparently the biggest slut on long island of her day. her day, unfortunately, has come and gone, and she finds herself surrounded by women whose boyfriends she has stolen in earlier times. (uh oh.) last but not least, there is joey, who lives in the poor area (according to a screeching ashlee who braces for a carjacking while driving through joey’s ‘hood) and, while she lives at home, is attempting something entrepreneurial but who is shaping up to be a little two-faced conniver. (mark my words.)
all of these women still live at home. most of these women do nothing every day except shop (with mommy and daddy’s money), tan, get mani/pedis, drink, and meddle in each other’s affairs. they are waiting for their rich guy to take them away from all this… and then give it right back to them, preferably at an even higher $$ level. this is the prequel franchise, if you will, for the real housewives. they all make marjorie morningstar look like a bra-burning radical. there’s something very sad about women who, in 2013, expect men to take over their care and feeding. there’s something also very disturbing about how entitled these women are: as if somehow, they are deserving of this material wealth; it is their birthright, though they had no part in creating it — and some man needs to come along and pick up the tab from mommy and daddy.
to be sure, it is a bit unsettling watching a show that is perpetuating a stereotype, especially one i know my jewish girlfriends and i have worked very hard to kick to the proverbial curb. i still remember when a friend of mine nicknamed my cousin and i the JAP cousins (when nothing could be further from the truth for either one of us.) clearly, no intelligent person who watches bravo reality TV thinks that this is real life, right? it’s escapist bullshit spun into expensively bleached and teased gold. but because it is called princesses, it brings to mind the concept of jewish princesses; and for those idiots of the world who take this as literal truth in tv, this becomes their absurd perception of the reality of all jewish women.
now, i would be lying if i said i never encountered these sorts before. when i was going into ninth grade, my mom and her friend worked one summer as teachers/counselors at a tony summer camp in upstate new york. this camp was the domain of jewish kids from long island. her friend’s son and i went to camp that summer in exchange for their labors.
it seemed like a good idea at the time.
i wrote about that experience awhile back. in short, though, it was a disaster. i didn’t get on well with the JAPpy girls in the bunkhouse, as i had more on my mind than just polishing my nails. i spent my time with the counselors after hours, as they liked me and loathed the other campers. and admittedly, i carried that bad taste and stereotype around in my head for a long, long time.
fortunately, time has shown me a lot of long island jewish chicks who don’t fit into that mold — and plenty of other women, not necessarily from long island and not necessarily jewish — who do. i wish some of those amazing long island jewish women could get more airplay for the feats they’ve accomplished, as some of them are just stunning. but i guess that doesn’t make for great reality tv. only stereotypes make for great reality tv, apparently, as stereotypes provide a mental shorthand for the mentally weak.
so, for those who require such categorization (and with sincerest apologies to the seven dwarves), we’re stuck with the six dipshits: dumpy, dopey, stunted, old maideleh, slutty and the kvetch. but the twist?
they’re not looking for prince charming. these girls are all looking for doc.
is anyone watching them now?
since anyone can remember, the big kids at the elementary school get important volunteer jobs. some are bus patrols. some help inside the school, like BC, who at the time asked to be a music helper because there’s no way on earth i am doing a job where you have to stand outside in the rain and the snow somedays. and of course, there are the kids who work the kiss and ride.
the kiss and ride is a critical part of the morning for a lot of us. sleep-hazed parents and children start to pull up at the designated strip of land around 8:30 or so, where, if they’ve shown up by then, one of six 5th graders opens the door, announces good morning! in a voice suitable for a mickey mouse club audition, waits for various numbers of children to tumble out onto the sidewalk, declares that you should have a nice day! in the next breath, and slams the door (hopefully not on the backside of the last child out. ) they also direct traffic, waving drivers to move up as far along the path as they can be, to accommodate as many cars as possible in a short period of time. it’s actually not an easy job, especially for 10 and 11 year olds.
now, in theory, these kids are supervised, much in the same way the bus patrols are supervised, in theory, by the bus drivers (who have nothing better to do than navigated miles and miles of suburban and urban tangles amidst drivers who really ought to consider valium prior to getting in their respective vehicles.) but as of late, i have scratched my head and wondered why kids are directing traffic without an adult nearby.
maybe it’s because i come on the early shift — usually between 8:30 and 8:40. perhaps the grownups come out afterwards in the height of traffic — the 8:40-8:50 timeframe when, i suspect, all you-know-what breaks loose. (or can. i wouldn’t put it past a lot of these adults, all of whom are so.very.important.people.in.dc.don’t-you-know-who-i-AM?) but i don’t usually see any grownups there supervising the kids. i should note i have been doing this run for six years now. i have a lot of years of kiss-and-ride patrol experience here. and while last year’s crew was head-and-shoulders the worst bunch of patrols ever, this year’s is giving them a run for their money. i have been driving up when one child is walking backwards, as if on a balance beam, on the very edge of the sidewalk, while cars nearly miss him. i have had kids nearly taking out my kid’s leg as they absentmindedly close the door behind him (too bad for my son, he’s not a speed demon every morning.)
and this morning took the proverbial cake. i pulled up behind a car where one of the patrols was holding the door open. unfortunately, there was no child getting out — in fact, the child was already down the sidewalk, turning the corner towards the school building. but the patrol, deep in conversation with the five other patrols, who were all sitting on the fence like little birdies, chirping amongst themselves, didn’t notice. i saw the mother behind the wheel yell something to the patrol. the spell broken, he turned and, realizing his error, closed the door so that she could proceed.
meanwhile, jools, who had by this time undone his seat belt and who had leaned forward to give me a goodbye kiss, had realized that no one was coming to open his door. those little birdies were still yapping away on the fence to the one standing, who somehow didn’t realize that another car had been waiting behind the first. taking the initiative, jools started to open his door and proceed out. the birdies were suddenly awakened — they leapt off the fence and started yelling at me to move my car up. hello — you didn’t get up off your butts to let my kid out, so you can wait until he safely gets himself out of the car. they continued to yell at me while jools made his way. i don’t tend to get into arguments with kids, mine or other peoples’ – but i did announce to them — maybe if you paid attention to your job and stopped yakking, this could have been different.
they were not amused.
but, my goal was not to get into it with a bunch of 5th graders (i do consider myself smarter than a 5th grader, at least most days anyhow) but rather to get my son safely off to school. and i did, though i didn’t get to tell him i love you like i do on most mornings — i just saw him slink sadly down the street toward school.
now, i realize that these are 10 and 11 year old kids. but that is exactly my point. i see the adult crossing guard who really has a time of it up the street from the school, trying to get people to stop so that pedestrians on their way to school don’t end up as road pizza. and she is an adult. and when kids are supervised at the kiss-and-ride, they are on the ball and pay attention to this job which they probably should hand off to grownups in the first place. but. left to their own devices and without supervision, kids will be kids. they will zone off. they will space out. they will chatter. and they won’t necessarily be paying as close attention to a job in which safety is paramount — for themselves as well as for the people whom they serve.
next year, jools has a shot of being some sort of school helper. i sincerely hope he opts to help out the music teacher, like his sister did. i don’t know how much she was supervised when she was a music helper, but my spidey sense tells me that the worst thing that might happen there would be he might drop a cymbal on his foot. i can live with that sort of mistake.
and so can he.
i heard george harrison in the car today and i had an epiphany. go figure.
tragedy has struck again in boston. strangely, there were people attending the marathon who had experienced a recent tragedy in newtown, connecticut. tragedy strikes at an alarming rate these days; i’m not entirely certain whether there are more tragedies actually occurring or whether the 24-hour news cycle is just better at bringing them into our lives, up close and personal.
and while some may become impervious over time to nonstop horror, i fear i may never achieve that. it tears me up inside thinking that there are people so disturbed in the world who would take others’ lives, who might even take their own lives, maybe for a cause — or maybe for madness alone. services to help the disaffected, the mentally ill, are not easily obtained. the weapons to create mass destruction are readily available. it was patriot’s day in massachusetts, the boston marathon, and even tax day in america. was some sick individual or group trying to make a statement? time will tell, and while we armchair crime scene specialists ponder the few shreds of clues we have, we can’t jump to conclusions. we must wait for the professionals to do their important work.
so back to george harrison. at times like these, when i know i can’t jump to conclusions, i want to know how to find peace somehow in all of this. i struggle to make some sense out of the senseless. and this, of course, brings me to thinking about G-d.
see, G-d and me, we have a strange relationship. i wish with all my heart i could believe in G-d, unfailingly, the way my son believes in the tooth fairy or even in me. but whereas my son sees a coin under his pillow or clean clothes unfailingly piled on his chair every few days, i don’t see anything tangible that cannot be explained. my heart has always wanted to believe, but the analyst in me has struggled. after all, there is a lot of scientific evidence which, for me, makes it pretty clear. personally, i don’t believe in the bible as the word of G-d; i believe it is a wonderful recounting of how the world happened, according to the people who wrote it, full of their attempts to make sense of what was happening, complete with deus ex machina moments galore. (i have loved reading it, as literature, since i was a child. when i think about it, english major that i am, it isn’t very different from the way the greeks and romans wrote their mythologies.) and yet, i find myself praying to G-d at services, talking to G-d when things make no sense. and then, i am left wondering: with Whom am i actually talking? am i talking to myself?
and these awful things that happen. if there really was a Being who loved us, why would He/She let this stuff go down? who lives and who dies — it is all so capricious. maybe i’m still bitter. see, in high school, my mom ended up with cancer. at the same time, my friend’s mom did, too. my mom survived two bouts. his mom didn’t. grateful as i have always been that my mom is still a pain in my ass to this very day, i never, ever forgot what a heart-wrenching, horrific shock it was for my friend and his family, all good people who didn’t deserve such pain. so, in short, i have read what theologians have had to say about this — why bad things happen to good people, yada yada — and yet, for me, it doesn’t compute. it doesn’t work. it simply doesn’t add up.
but today, as i was singing along with george in the car, i realized: maybe it will never make sense. and maybe by not understanding why horrible things happen grinds home the idea that yes, i am just human. i need to accept that. but maybe, just maybe, i need to appeal to something bigger than me. maybe i am talking to a spirit of goodness. (no, i’m not a hippie here. just a mom.) yeah, other people can call that spirit G-d or whatever, but to me, i want to believe that there is some spark in the universe, a flash of goodness that can be inside all of us if we let it. no, it probably didn’t create the universe or hear my prayers to save my cat (he died though i prayed and prayed he wouldn’t) or outline one specific way that all people must live their lives. but that spark is the infinite possibility that there can be and there always must be something good in all of us — and that all of us can use that good for the world. clearly, on dark days like this, i realize that not everyone is possessed by that positive, and it saddens me. and in prayer, or in my conversations, maybe i am reaching out to the universe, hopeful for a better day, for strength, and for peace.
all of which i might find within myself, if i just look carefully.
you don’t have to be jewish or christian or muslim or buddhist or a subscriber to any particular organized religion to feel this way, i think. (and if your religion gives you the comfort that i was lacking, more power to you. just use that power to bring about peace.) george sings about really wanting to know his lord, really being a part of his lord. and on days like this one, i don’t know about knowing G-d. but i do know that i want to believe — and i have to believe — that good does start out inside each and every one of us. some of us ignore it; some of us are ill and can’t find it. but it is there.
and believing that buoys me.
…because her mama trained her properly, that’s why.
no, she’s not waiting in that way. or at least, not what you folks might think. this is a pet peeve of mine, and on this last day of NaBloPoMo, i thought i would end on a cranky note. (cos that is what folks expect of me.)
i am a carpool queen. i shuttle kids here, i shuttle them there, mama wreke shuttles kids everywhere. as a stay-at-home mom, i tend to take on rides in the early afternoon, when a lot of my kids’ friends’ parents are still working or quite possibly sitting in traffic somewhere, cooling their heels.
i don’t mind it, really. i get some of my best material listening to the kids talk. i’ve learned more about which boys are awful, which girls are snooty, which kids are kind, and which people should just be avoided at all costs. i’ve listened to silly-ass knock-knock jokes, i’ve listened to retellings of some pretty nasty pop music lyrics. sure, i make the kids listen to whatever is on my mp3 player, though anything with NSFW lyrics gets the fast-forward treatment. i don’t care whether my kids hear these things, but i suspect the rest of the world would be upset if johnny or janie listened to some of the finer verbage from panic at the disco. like, say, this:
anyway, my kids are trained from the get-go: when someone is picking you up, you wait at the appointed time by the window and watch for your ride. when they come, you shout out and let me know, and then you proceed directly to the car. people are kind enough to give you a ride, and you need to be kind and not make everyone else late by dallying.
apparently, though, this concept is not common knowledge. i can’t tell you how many times my kids and i have to come to people’s doors and knock and collect them. worse than that, though, are the times when the person isn’t ready, and when i mean not ready, i don’t mean that someone had to suddenly hit the loo before leaving. i get that, and i’m actually okay with that. but i have had situations where the person had to finish homework, finish texting someone, or finish talking to someone on the phone. and, in all of these cases, the people weren’t immediately trying to wrap things up, either; they were taking all the time in the world.
i get that stuff happens, and so when it does, i don’t get annoyed or upset. but i have noticed as of late that there are recurrences of these sorts of events with the same folks. it really burns me up. am i supposed to be teaching the kids that they need to stop what they’re doing and get in the car if they have any intention of getting to point B? then, of course, i will get the rep as the mean-ass mom who scares all her kids’ friends.
then again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing…
just give me some steam.
wow. i have been struggling to write something every day for a whole month, courtesy of NaBloPoMo. i have actually done this bloggy endeavour now for several years, but this year, it has been tough going. this year, i decided to not to use a theme, probably to the dismay of everyone out there who reads this. in previous years, i have spent the month happily skewering 70’s or ’80s music, pet peeves, and all sorts of other things. somehow, it takes less effort to criticize things than it does to create something.
not that i c a n ‘t create something.
but it’s not as easy now for so many reasons. when i started this blog, almost 10 years ago (yes, it’s true), i mostly threw a combination of funny memes up as well as tales of my one, then two, children. now, memes end up on my FB page when they end up anywhere; and it gets increasingly tough to write about the kids because both they and their friends are old enough to read and surf teh internetz. once they put two and two together, they’ll realize that them there’s some good fodder in here, if you’re willing to dig. (note to all current mommy bloggers — one day, your children will hate you for writing about their toilet training/bed wetting/nose picking/etc. i’m glad i never went down that path.)
so, with my favorite topics somewhat off-limits, i have to either tilt at windmills, review concerts and music, or simply blather about the weather. well, maybe i don’t do the latter, but i suspect some of my navel-gazing may seem that way to some people… in which case, let me share my two most hated (by others) works with you.
here, for your reading displeasure are:
1) my somewhat ignorant but historic (in that it is the only bit i ever wrote where i had to cut off comments because people were insulting MY MOTHER, A WOMAN THEY HAD NEVER MET) diatribe on homeschooling; and
2) my feelings about the song wildfire, which, i must tell you, i still firmly believe, even if loads of people disagree with me and send me hate mail over (which continues to come on my old site, so if you’d like to see a total stranger call me an anus, click here.)
anyway, one more day of the bataan death blog march. hoping i have enough steam to cross the finish line.
lighted in a room, lanky room
lighted lighting laughing in tune
today, we hit the comedy place in ballston where there was to be a special improv show for kids. BS got some half-price ticket special, which made it even better. (top that off with a buy-one, get-one-free coupon from cold stone creamery and it was even better.) maybe because it was thanksgiving day weekend, but there were literally two other families there (and they were related to each other), so it wasn’t exactly a packed house. this is a shame, really, as the two people running the show did a great job rassling people and humor and keeping it at a disney-level of appropriateness…
which wasn’t easy considering our family. when they asked for something you talk about at the dinner table, the other family yelled out: turkey! we yelled out: politics! when they asked what’s something in your garage, i yelled out: jimmy hoffa! jools, not to be outdone, yelled out: a crime scene!
it’s moments like these where i am super-glad that no one from the division of youth and family services attends these things.
the other family was overly-hammy, which did get annoying to me after awhile. they apparently have been to these things many, MANY times before, sort of comedy groupies. (we’d been to grown-up comedy nights here before we had kids.) but again, if they hadn’t been there, it would have been all us, all the time. and their spirit was fun, so i shouldn’t gripe much.
as an aside, the boy neglected to eat lunch. and now, as it was 3pm and he was separated from video games, he realized he was hungry. he wanted to hit the concessions stand, but sadly, no one was staffing it. he wanted to check back, and he asked us whether he could go to confessions. that teachable moment alone was worth the price of admission.
anyway, we all ended up on stage at different times. i was an utter failure, playing some sort of charades-type game with julian and two other little boys. we were trying to convince the actor who was not in-the-know that we were running a debate, impersonating people from the big bang theory, with podiums that were actually guillotines. all without uttering a single word. (no, i am not making this up. and i am not on any meds that you might think i would be off at this particular juncture.) jools knew BBT, but the other two? not sure.
speaking of jools, i think he has a future in stand-up. both he and the girl were able to make up jokes on the fly during one exercise, and they both did a great job. but the boy’s delivery?
had me laughing. i’m laughing still.
yes, i am cheating by posting a link to last year’s thanksgiving day post.
but i am thankful to those of you who don’t mind.
here you go.
i realize i’m not exactly supplying any serious blog post here. i am just highly unmotivated. so instead, i provide you the song which i look forward to hearing each year at this time. it always makes me contemplate the importance of disposing of trash properly.
if you love something, set it free.
if it comes back to you, it is yours.
if it doesn’t, it never was.
if you love something, set it free.
if it comes back to you, it is yours.
if it doesn’t, it never was.
yeah, yeah. you can start laughing at me now. but when this song came out in 1985, i was completely hooked. it’s rock, it’s jazzy, there’s a marsalis in it. how can you not start tapping your toes when it comes on?
lots of my friends felt betrayed when der stingleheimer started on a different musical path post-police. stingerino seemed to start down a path away from the reggae/ska/punk-lite path and explore new stuff, ultimately destined for lite rock stations everywhere. and yet i love this stuff, at least up through the mid-1990s.
and if you’ve ever carefully watched the video for this song, you’ll notice some cool things happening. one person is slowed down. one is speeded up. one is filmed in black and white. and beloved branford? he’s a transparent ghost of himself. i just love it.
and as for the hackneyed cliché that graces the song’s title? it has probably seen it’s way onto many greeting cards and needlepoint samplers. there’s a load of jokes surrounding it including these. but me, i’m a purist. whoever said this said it best:
if you love something, set it free.
if it comes back to you, it is yours.
if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it.
if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it.
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