Monday, July 25, 2011

Growing pains

His little hand would encircle mine and he would plead with the deepest blue eyes, “I wanna hold you, I wanna hold you.” Now those same eyes can slice through my heart with the most hateful glare or tone and declare any question an inquisition or invasion into his privacy. Yes you guessed it I have a 16-year-old son who is living under the same roof.

After a particularly difficult day I took solace in my younger son Jack and hugged and pleaded with him, “Jack can you please not hate me when you are 16?” He laughed and replied, “Tom does not hate you because he is 16, he despises you because he is 16.” Out of the mouth of babes.

At one time he was moon and stars what orbited my Mommy Planet. We went everywhere in our jogging stroller and wagon. I was lucky enough to have 5 years with just my Tom before another sibling came along. There were many little golden moments with my Tom in Michigan and Minnesota and even in Kansas. Farmer’s Markets and the garden were special places for the 2 of us. In Michigan we had a large lot on a Biological Station where I planted numerous gardening experiments. Tom would roam the garden eating fresh peas from the vines pulling weeds or what he thought were weeds and happily watering the plants and me. He would throw the zucchini dog toys after a disastrous miscalculation and over production of 8 zucchini plants.  With the zucchini logs that were produced from this mistake, I could have constructed a small addition to our home. Instead Tom used them to entertain the 2 beautiful chocolate labs.

Our time together as best buddies making homemade pizza dough and cooking from the fruits of our labor was our golden age. Walking to Har Mar Mall and Como Park and its attractions are memories that I treasure and will carry me through the tough teen years.

As with all Golden ages there must also be Dark Ages to go through. I know that the time spent with my fair-haired little Tom helped make him a kind and confident young man. Growing apart is a natural process and if he was a clingy Momma’s boy I would be disappointed in myself for not making him independent enough to strike out and be free from my apron strings.

Tom is a charming young man and I know will be a fine warm adult male who will be a wonderful husband, father and a most loving son but the transition to my little guy and my man is a tough and bumpy road that is more heartbreaking than I expected. It maybe because we spent so much time together and he was such a desired child that his mutiny from my ship is so painful and heartbreaking. I called him my ¼ of million-dollar miracle baby and it is just so naïve of to me to think that this was going to be a smooth process. Nothing about him has ever been all that smooth or easy. (This process is again another blog topic, I digress yet again, damn you circular thought)

The fact I am also a well thought of teacher at his high school maybe contributing to the force of his rebellion and need for independence. It is hard for me to understand as the eldest child of 6 to live in a shadow and I know that this cannot be easy for him either. I see even in the disgusted sneers he hurls at me a bit of regret and longing when I hurl my acid tongue at him after a hurtful moment in defense, “I know you hate me now but if you could just be civil we might have something left to repair after you grow up.”

So I guess it will take time, patience and understanding and remembering my little buddy and our forays into the farmer’s markets when he was my moon and stars. And I will take comfort in the fact that all my hard learned lessons could be so much worse and like my Mom said this too shall pass and when they have children smile because you know that soon he will finally get you and you can then be just a little smug as his 16 year old decides he no longer needs to orbit his universe.  
Tom at 16 in Ireland this summer. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jack's video.

Often Jack is attacked by the self confidence game of quicksand. I am awful at this, I am the worst, no one will ever love me, I will never have a boy friend, no one likes me, I have no friends,  I am the worst skater Yada Yada Yada. It maybe part of his age and it maybe part of who he is part filled with self doubt somedays  and mister self confidence the others. I hope as he grows he will have more I am confident days. I worry though that faced with junior high it will be quite the struggle. He is too bright to play the mind game of self confidence building with because he can argue an apple into thinking it is an orange. He will be one heck of a prosecuting or corporate lawyer. I can foresee this talent of verbal sparring turning into a highly profitable career if the whole gold medal winning olympic skater does not work out.
So his father has decided to let Jack make these little videos. This is his creation, he picked the pictures and the descriptions. It is an idea that allows him to create on video what he sees in his mind. (This could be scary.) I will be posting these on occasion  just so I can talk a little about them and how I hope this will boost his self confidence.
As a parent I struggle not just with the obvious difficulties of raising a child in today's society but arming Jack with confidence and coping skills keep strong against so many haters I find out there for LGBT individuals. As part of several groups that support and vote for rights for those we love in the LGBT community, I am always looking for new ways to arm my child make him safe to be who he is and confident that he is and always will be loved. I am just hoping these little videos help build a strong confident young man.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Game of life: Tag...

Tag you’re it…

Ever feel like you are always IT? The past few weeks, I have had trouble putting my finger on the exact feelings I have been struggling with and then this morning it hit me. I am stuck in the game of life tag game and I have been unable to tag anyone else.  I am IT.

I am the oldest out of 6 kids and the first person my Dad would call for when he got home when my Mom was not home. The first words always out of his mouth when he came home from work were…”Where’s your mother?” When it was apparent that she was out of the house the next sentence out of his mouth would be “Where’s Annie?” I guess my mother was also it. Maybe I should have had a first clue when my baby sister Jean’s first word was my name, in a hollering tone, “Ann!!”

I do think there was a brief period in time that I actually got to tag someone else when I lived alone. I could tag the dog Opie. This lasted about one year then I married ever since then I have been IT. Maybe I tag myself in some situations and have created a vortex of being it. Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy of female guilt. You know the type, Oh, I will do it because the response or action was not fast enough or the way you wanted. So you gave up and tagged yourself.

I am not sure if anyone else can now be tagged because I have enabled so many of the members of my family I seem to be the default button for their lives. Mom will do it. She can handle it. She can find it.

I am sadly not even sure I want to tag anyone else because I wonder if I was not it would they still want me around or need me? So I guess I am stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Damned if I do and Damned if I do not. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Remembering Maggie

My little sister Jean and Grandma Peggy 

Brave little Maggie.

I have had the profound good fortune to have my life fabric intertwined with strong vibrant women with amazing stories. Many people may think I make this stuff up about my relatives but if you know me and my family you know, we may shine the brass of a story a bit but the real luster to us are in our dents and scratches and are all mostly true.

My Gram was one amazingly strong wild Irish lass. As a prepare my eldest son to take a journey back to Ireland this summer for a school trip, I am trying to in vain to remind him how his own great grandmother Peggy made this trip in reverse almost 100 years ago to this country for a new life. Tom is a sweet, kind son who has sensitivity and an open warm soul. He is however a sixteen year old who has the gift of omniscience and obviously is burdened by an overbearing intrusive mother. Join the club kid, we all have that type of mother in this family. It is this type of mother that could collect her meager belongings in 1919 leave her home town for the first and last time for a new unknown foreign country alone. She was not only brave but a bit fearless. I can remember asking her when she was still with us if she was scared and she said a little but she was just too naïve and stupid to be scared. She really had only 3 choices: stay and marry a local, become a nun or leave.  She chose to leave.

My Gramma Peggy was known as Maggie Kneafsey and was born in 1900 in County Mayo Ireland. She lost her parents in her tales when she was 7 and 8 but when I did a little digging in records it may have been when she was 10 and 11. Her parents were illiterate farmers in Ireland who scratched out a hard life for themselves and their 8 children on a small farm by the river Moy. She went to school for a short time and learned the basics.  After her parents passed away, she was taken out of school to work on the farm and was raised by her eldest brother Michael and sister Bridget. She was a bit of a hellion and had a spirit that drove her to be internally busy always. She fretted and was a worrier and planner. We call it “being Peggy”. She left for a better life to the US at 19, worked hard for a German businessman who leapt from his office after Black Tuesday in 1929. She won a 20 dollar gold piece in a step-dancing contest in Chicago and she caught the eye of a Canadian Railroad man name Morgan O’Neill who was devilishly handsome but a bit of a womanizer and a serious drinker with a bad temper. She once cooled that temper dumping a pot of boiling peas on his head after he came home with a bit too much drink.  She raised 4 children with Morgan until his death in his 50’s. She went to morning mass, was a devout Catholic and whether she had sinned or not without fail went to confession every 2 weeks. She worked rosary beads like no other and was the fastest novena in the Midwest. My strong pangs for the need for faith I am sure are rooted in watching my Gram and taking her to Mass. Gram learned to cook from her Canadian mother-in-law and made a killer Date nut cookie. Although no one would describe Peggy as a beauty, her personality and no none sense approach to life, people and her faith made her one of the most beautiful stunning interesting people I have known. I could only hope to be half as interesting and strong as she. 

When I was 6 weeks old my Dad moved my Gram into our home after she was left a young widow with my Uncle Joe still in the home. Joe was headed out soon for the army and my father wanted to provide a place for his mother. She was a little woman who stood maybe 5 feet tall with pearl white hair, steel blue eyes, creamy skin and sweet little cotton dresses and shoes that looked like she stole them off of Minnie Mouse. She shopped Evergreen Plaza long and hard for that uniform of sensible shoes and cotton cap sleeve dresses for the summer and long sleeve housedresses for the winter and fall with a cardigan. Never in my entire life did she ever wear pants or go without stockings. It was shameful to have “Naked legs”. Her hair was white as snow, curly and always kept short. She wore White Shoulders perfume used cold cream and always wore just a touch of powder and the same shade of petal pink carnation for years.  She had a fine sense of style was proud and always a lady.

She could be a force to be reckoned with, had a glare that could melt steel and was a fierce protector of her children and grandchildren. Her temper was legendary. She once defended me after my Dad came home with a bit of the drink and teased me to tears. Gram came to the rescue and never have I seen my father so humbled and sorry when she shook her little crooked finger at him.  I remember her words that echoed in the large hallway as she let him have it. I can still recall her brogue scolding him as if I was that 13 year old to this day, “Jack, you are a better man than this! Shame on you for making that little girl cry. You are acting just like your Father with Mickey.  (His older sister) You are a better man than that. Shame on you.” As she walked away she clipped those Minnie Mouse heels on the tiles leaving an echo that scratched wounds in your heart.

She was the center of our gyroscope as a family. She was the one all her children, grandchildren, sisters and family ran to for sage advice and comfort. Although she was not one to display affection openly if a hug was offered she would hold you tight and you know there was love and strength in her arms. Once my Mom came to her upset that a woman she was friends with at church had ignored and acted dismissive to her. Gram in her usual blunt force trauma honesty said to my Mom, “Don’t pay her any attention. Your ass would make her a good Sunday face.”  Comments like that floored us all but she was our rock.

After Gram left us at 94 it was the last time the whole family was together and our family has lost a bit of its center. We are a bit of a wobbly gyroscope banging into walls without her. We have scattered ourselves all over her new land but are still bound together by her brave fearlessness in our hearts and souls. 

It is my hope that when my eldest son travels back to Ireland and sees the places she came from he will help establish a bit of that center in himself to the connection of his past and the brave little Maggie who ventured far to give him a chance at being here today. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Know Thyself ... gift or curse?

Know Thyself to be wise, the unexamined life is not worth living.”

To understand and know yourself is a completely ongoing process for me but seems for my Jack he seems to understand himself and the world around him more clearly than most adults and it makes me wonder; is his gift of self-awareness a gift or a curse?

As a parent you go through so many emotions on a daily basis in no particular order and on random repeat:  joy, sadness, doubt, angst, frustration, anger, loneliness, dread, fear and astonishment. Jack has the talent of taking his observations and distilling them down to profound little glib quips that make me breathless. The most soul shaking was when he was about 3 maybe 4 and he looked up at me and said, “I waited a long time for you to be my Mommy.” This left me dumbfounded. Had this little imp been waiting for me or have I been waiting for him?

He exasperates me daily and many times he is the most incessant being either in constant motion or constant speech. My Dad a kind, soft and profound little Irishman, said to me one day after spending an afternoon with my young son and his namesake Jack, “You know it is a wonder that he just doesn’t collapse after all his talking.”

So when my husband took Jack for a father/son bike ride then a movie, I was more than happy to welcome the silence, solitude and time to catch up on the 15 tons of laundry my family has managed to accumulate this week.  Somewhere between the 3rd load of towels and a first pass through Mount filthy whites my men returned. I asked my little man Jack how was the film; he gave me a thumbs up and ran off to play in his homemade Tardis and Dalek in the basement. (Doctor Who references) My husband came in and I asked him how he survived the day. He was happy and thought that Rio was one of the best-animated features he had seen. He then went on to explain a bit about the movie how many of the featured cartoons were grounded in little love stories about the animated animals. He then explained how after the film he had asked Jack how he liked the movie. Apparently Jack had a lump in his throat and said it was an okay movie but asked rhetorically why all the characters in love in the film had to be straight? Upon retelling this, my husband’s head hung low and was a bit overcome with emotion. As I type this, I too am filled with mixed emotions and some sorrow about isolation for my Jack.  I get that Disney or Pixar is not ready nor is society willing to introduce openly gay cartoon characters so my kid can relate but… even with my sense of adult understanding about the media’s need to feed the masses entertainment that is accepted by most of society, I am saddened that my little boy will not see anything he can relate to about falling in love or give him a film he can watch over and over and fall in love just as the characters did. I cannot tell you how many times I watched, Cinderella,  Ice Castles and Ladyhawke and imagined myself in the roles of the leading ladies with the handsome men swooping me away.  This kind of breaks my heart a bit. I know things are changing and with Glee and Modern Family. There is hope and Jack watches these and feels connected. So there is some bright light at the end of the tunnel for him.

It just makes me wonder about his sense of self, intelligence, confidence and courage to be Jack. Although his self-understanding is a wondrous thing it can come at a high cost to his happiness. When I was a little girl the concept of self-perception and societal judgment was never a worry for me. I could see me reflected positively in society in the bedtime stories, movies and books I read. These children were like me and I know I felt comfort in being part of the club. Jack is not in this club, he often tells me how he feels alone and no one is like him and he is worried he will never find another person like himself ever. He is sure he is the only openly gay little boy in our town and already even before junior high school is isolated.  Even though I have surrounded him by many of my friends and family who are homosexual and tell Jack things are better the older you get, I worry about his isolation. His intelligence is a gift; his self-awareness is a gift and he is my gift. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Way to go Hillary!

I just read the statement made by Our Secretary of State Clinton.

I know at times she can be brash but I love her, always have and always will. She is smart, intelligent and has serious courage. Not just for this but for numerous other things I have seen and admired. I know she "stood by her man" when he was a pratt but she did what SHE wanted she called the shots and she made a decision that may not have been popular but for her it was what she wanted. I love this about her and I love her more for standing up for what is right. In her statement she made today about the LGBT community  she said,
"So to combat this terrible scourge and break the cycle of fear and violence, we must work together to improve education and support those who stand up against laws that criminalize love and promote hate. ...On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am proud to reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs. ... These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights."

This is one time I can honestly say I am proud to be an American. 

Statement By Clinton: Secretary of State:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Raising Jack

Raising Jack:

He bounded into the house on Saturday morning filled with glee, “Mom, Mom, Mom! Look what I got from Diane’s garage sale!” Without a hint of any self-consciousness he proudly and carefully laid out his dollar and 2 dollar purchases and treasures from the free bin. His treasures included: cat-style reading glasses (sadly without rhinestones), a Mary Kay make-up mirror with case, a black velvet spaghetti strap cocktail dress and a pair of black slide mule medium heels. He immediately disrobed and slipped the dress on and was a tad disappointed to see that the straps were too long and needed to be shortened in order to make it a perfect fit. The begging for instant alterations commenced. I promised to fix it and his smile returned. Jack has worn the shoes every day since getting them at the garage sale and asks me is the dress done yet?

As a Mom I am torn.  I am so happy and so proud that Jack has the confidence and courage to be who he is. He is my Jack, my wild imagination boy who has always preferred girl toys and dress up. I am also grateful that he knows he is loved and perfect just the way he is and is safe. I have done my job giving him personal security, love and support. What worries me is how others will see my sweet, highly imaginative, intelligent and creative child. Jack knows he is different. He is no fool to criticism and stings from others that do not accept him for Jack. Even at the tender age of 10, he has to check the crowd before he speaks and this breaks my heart. I am so saddened by the lack of support and understanding and the narrow-minded people that believe it is okay to pass judgment so freely on my son and myself.  

Jack is who he is. He has always been Jack, always will be and was born with a gifted mind and engaging personality. He is talented, bright and true gift to our family as all children are to their parents and families. Raising gay, lesbian or transgendered children today is by far a much easier job than in years past. Many people are more accepting and can offer insight helping us as parents raise confident, caring, productive, and happy members of society. Even with all the advancements, it is still a heart wrenching process. I struggle with worry about Jack being accepted and finding love and a partner more than I do about my other son who is straight. I want the same things for both my wonderful boys but know Jack’s road although easier than in years past will be harder. He will face scorn, bullying and teasing at a higher rate than my eldest. He will be a target at school just for who he is and will face a higher chance of depression and suicide rate in his coming years. He will be the object of hate and distain from overtly religious groups including our own church and faith. He will be faced with legal issues for partnerships his married brother will not have to face. His life at 10 is already different and a bit lonelier than his older brother. He at 10 has been the object of hate, threats, bullying and the object of ridicule and distain from his classmates, teachers and from his own grandparents. He already although loved by my Mother has been ridiculed for his choices of clothing, toys or Disney movies to watch. When he tries to show his Grammy something he thinks is wonderful but highly feminine she will with her words be supportive but with her facial expression be somewhat filled with distain and a bit disgusted. He notices and feels the rejection and I can see the hurt in his eyes. Believe it or not she has come a long way. In the beginning she accused me of being too accepting and being a bad mother because I needed to remove or discourage any thing feminine with him and change him.   (this is another blog for another day I digress )

So as I struggle to be a better parent, teacher and member of the society, I make this wish in the vapors of the blogosphere. Be kind, be aware and remember judge not least you be judged because it is from loving and acceptance in others we find love and acceptance for our own self. How you treat others is a reflection of what you think about yourself.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Am I a better parent?

Am I a better parent?

I guess I believed with each generation we gain more experience and education. Learning from our collective past is supposed to be an evolutionary advantage of our species. This I hope has lead me to a deeper and more enlightened parenting style. I can dream. I hear stories from my Mom how she was treated as a child and how my Gram was treated and how my Great grandmother sacrificed all for her son’s future and I wonder am I doing the best I can?
When my Mom was growing up she dreamed of college and being more. My Gram worked hard and raised my Mom to have confidence and educated her at good private schools for elementary and high school. When it came time for my Mom to go to college she was accepted into a wonderful Catholic College called Mundelein in Chicago. She worked hard for a years to afford the tuition and put every cent she made into a savings account. Being the trusting daughter and needing a second name on the account she placed her mother’s name on her account. She was filled with hope and promise for her bright future. She heard stories from her Grandmother Anna of how Anna had been hand picked by a local doctor to be a nurse but her parents pulled her out of school and said that she was needed to be the cook for all the farm hands and the family. Anna’s hopes of a less subservient life were dashed and she never graduated from High School and was trapped. She instilled in my mother the desire to educate one’s self. 
When the time came to enroll for classes, she filled out the forms and quit her position at the Johnson and Johnson factory where she measured the circumferences of cotton balls monitoring quality control and the machines. This must have been a mind-numbing task. First day of classes rolled around and she got her text books, paid the first installment of the tuition with her hard earned saving and set off for a new path and a bright future. Classes exceeded her hopes. New doors were being opened everyday for this blue-collar working class woman. She would not only be the first woman to graduate from High School but the first woman to graduate from College. All the new ideas and knowledge not only fed her mind but her soul. She loved learning and still does. After the first month, the second installment of her tuition was due. She went to the bank to get the money and was horrified by the sight of her account balance. Apparently her mother went to the bank and cleaned out the account except for a measly 10 dollars required to keep the account open. Panic filled her heart. How was she going to pay for school and how could her mother do this?
Scared and confused she retuned home and confronted her mother with the passbook. My Gram a good woman on many levels but a selfish small person on more, responded with indignation. “Why are you angry? You live in this house rent-free, eat my food and have for 18 years. It is only fair you contribute. I needed the money and my name was on the account.” My Mother was shocked and dumbstruck by the cold calculation dash to her dreams of a better future. Then the final blow which still stings her today, my Gram delivered the final stake in her heart, “You are probably going to just get married and have kids and stay home anyway, what do you need a college education for? What!?! You think you are better than me?”
My Mother was wounded beyond belief. Not only did her mother not believe in her enough to ask her for the money, which she would have given open heart if it was needed, but her Mother was in competition with her and thought by educating her daughter beyond her, she would somehow disintegrate her own self worth. It was a devastating blow to my mother who continued to attend classes until the administration had to pull her out of one of her classes and ask her to leave since she could no longer afford the tuition. I asked my Mother why she did not explain it to the monks and ask for assistance, she told me she was too embarrassed by her poverty and betrayal of her mother.
My Mother did after some hard work and odd jobs and transfer to 2 more colleges manage to get her bachelors degree and become a teacher. Yes, she did get married and stay home to have 6 kids and raise us all to become productive members of society but most importantly she taught all of us that an education is a valuable asset to have and no matter what the road blocks. She instilled the desire to fight for your dream. They may betray you, leave you, take your job/money and your house but no one can ever remove a good education from your heart and soul.
This story haunts me as a parent and I use this lesson and story sometimes to my own detriment. I may sacrifice a bit of my own self for the hopes and dreams of my children but in a completely stage mom way I love watching both of them soar higher and shine brighter than I ever could.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day Diary

Oh the glee of the snow day for kids and teachers alike.  Yesterday, I spent the day watching the weather and having a sinking feeling that no snow would show up at our door. I was so wrong and I am so glad I was so wrong.
I got up at 6 am, snuck downstairs and was searching for the remotes for the TV to check the local channel, when my sleepy husband called down to me, “schools cancelled, snow day”.   I thought for a minute he was teasing me but looking out the windows I knew I got my wish, a snow day. I promptly went back to bed. Sleeping in is always wonderful on a snow day. It is always wonderful and it seems to provide the best extra 2 hours of sleep all year. The husband rushed out of the house to avoid waking the family after he started a fire and shoveled the drive. Sweet guy.
A leisurely morning baking cinnamon rolls for the kids, sipping on coffee and snuggling with my youngest. I could not help myself, around 9 am; I had to go into the 15 year old’s bedroom and announce OMG! We must have over slept and are late! He rolled over and lazily said, “What time is it?” I said 9 and you could feel the panic rise. I then told him we had a snow day.  He jumped out of bed and looked out the window exclaimed “how pretty!” hugged me and went right back to bed for another hour.

The Jack man wanted to go out, so I pulled everything out of the hall closet in search of all the accessories that have been buried for 10 months.  Coat, check, Hat, check, snow pants, check, gloves, check, rubber snow boots, NO check. oh heck! So then I pulled all the stuff out of the hall closet, his closet, nope. Pulled the stuff out from his bed,  my bed and the guest bed, nope. Pulled the shoes out of my closet, nope. damn… Searched the garage and basement, nope. (man did I donate them this summer? panic rose as I entered the laundry room.) Safely tucked away behind the mountains of unclean clothes there they were. Jack hurriedly pulled them on and shot out the door to Olivia’s house. He stayed there until about 3:30. ahh one down. The older boy as I shuttled Jack down to the neighbors came down and answered the door; his friend came over to deposit themselves to the cave basement to kill imaginary soldiers. That lasted for about 2 hours until he announced he needed $$. Oh heck who has cash anymore?  and oh yeah where are my gloves? So again the hunt begins. Luckily, I had hunted early in the am for missing boots and collected a variety of gloves, I had that mother sense of pending "have you seen my ...(fill in the blank)?". I had several pairs to offer the eldest and as for the cash, after raiding the piggy bank in the kitchen, my wallet and several jacket pockets; I was able to come up with a measly but satisfying $12.00 for his lunch. 

He also asked for a ride and I looked at him as if he had asked for a kidney. I am not driving the Mom gerbil ball in this unplowed town. So he quickly found “a friend’s” Mom to brave the streets and take them to the “hill”, Campanile hill to be exact. (see photo from Ken Wolf to the left of Campanile Hill) He grabbed his gear and purple plastic sled and off he and his friend went.

Ahh 11:30am and an empty house except for Murphy and a mound of coats, gloves and disheveled closets. So I logged on to the internet, kept the fire going using the wood provided by the man of the house, watched a little TV, cleaned a kitchen, straightened closets and planned the weeks lectures for AP Biology.
So after a quiet day I decided to move a bit and shoveled the drive since another close to 6 inches had fallen. As I finished ½ the driveway Jack came home jacket open, missing hat and gloves. Typical. I finished the driveway just as the hubby drove up with supper and red wine in his arms. He really is a sweet guy. While we cooked supper, Jack decided to reenact the Harry Potter scene with Hedwig (Stuffed toy) his robes and scarf in the back yard. 

Bummer. He got too cold before I could get a snapshot, so this will have to do. 
 The oldest came home after 5 cold and hungry and without the sled. His buddy has it. He took the bus with his girlfriend and ended up at a BBQ joint. His Dad went to get him and I finished making supper. So here I sit typing this, waiting for school to be cancelled one more day and sipping red wine. Snow is expected to fall until midnight and wind chills will be crazy cold here. The joy of a snow day and the shuffle of crazy activities leave me with a sense of calm and nostalgia. So bring it on, one more time. Snow days are remembered forever; school days blend into one long day.

Side note: yes… they cancelled before I finished this! One more morning with the kids. Maybe pancakes, eggs and bacon for tomorrow am. At least now I know where all the snow gear is. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Writer’s betrayal of a fandom:

“I give them what they need not what they want.” infamous words of the Whedon. Sometimes don’t we deserve what we want? I have long been a warrior defender of the broken Byronic characters. I all too often feel set up by writers after they have taken care to develop rich lush storylines for a complex character and in one fell swoop slash at the character and our hearts. Much like the set up for a volleyball setter the writers lift up the ball above the net only for one player to come along and pound the ball back down to earth. The 2 best examples I can recall and still leave a sting in my heart are two much loved, hated and debated characters Spike and Guy of Gisborne. Many similarities exist between Guy and Spike. They both deeply loved a woman they could never have. This amazing woman, the one, was part of their salvation and treated them like men and not the monsters they were. They made these men believe they could with their love be better and redeemed.

The writers in the Mutant Enemy stable tore at my soul for 3 seasons in Buffy with Spike. Likewise the writers for the BBC series Robin Hood 2006 also set up over the course of 2 seasons another great baddie with depth and a redemptive story line, Guy of Gisborne. Redemption stories are ripe with this kind of fan betrayal. Writers hook us then after building hopes and redemption characters into complex organic beings, they with one fell swoop want their viewers to develop amnesia and bring back the cardboard 2-D baddies. Spike my beloved bad boy in leather vampire was developed over more than 3 seasons to be torn to shreds in an episode called "Seeing Red" during season 6. Just typing the name of the episode gives me a sick stomach. They made Spike into a neutered vampire for convenience sake for season 4 after the absence of the comic relief, Cordy. Spike did not fit easily into comic relief but did however pose a mirror for the other characters when the lines between good and evil needed examination. Spike developed an unhealthy attraction for Buffy and was convinced she was his key to redemption and “the one” who would be his soul mate. So many of the fans debated and argued over the net about Angel verse Spike (2 vampires fighting for their souls, redemption and the love of the slayer). Spike became someone who was an ally, a valuable member of Buffy’s team and a lover. The relationship was part and parcel developed over 3 seasons and Buffy came to understand Spike and his uniqueness through key episodes such as “Fool for Love” and "Intervention". Their relationship was an organic one that changed overtime and grew into something real. When the time came for a conflict point in the relationship the writers opted for the monster not the more complicated man side of Spike and with less than 2 minutes undid what took 3 years to build with what we like to term the AR (attempted rape) scene from “Seeing Red”. The writers wanted to remind us that Spike was not a man but a monster even though the whole season they were setting us up with the better man storyline. It was a cold hard betrayal and slap in the face. I am not sure that scar will ever heal in my viewer’s heart. It was as deep as a first love broken heart.  I vowed to never trust another stable of writers again with this kind of storyline and my heart. 

Never say Never I now say because … Along comes Guy of Gisborne and just like some teenage naïve girl, I again was drawn into a storyline of redemption and love. I should have known. I should have noticed all the signs again but nooooo. I was suckered into believing that even if the character was originally meant as just a 2-D baddie, he could over 2 seasons develop into more of a complicated antihero. Sure I should have known from the title of the series Robin Hood that Guy of Gisborne was not going to be the shining redemptive hero but the writers took almost 2 years developing a sympathetic troubled rich character. In the Robin Hood series it was just cruelty to the viewers to take the antihero, Guy, and develop him into such a rich lush character for us savior complex women and leave the hero Robin more of the 2 dimensional cardboard hero. Poor Robin, he often seemed as an afterthought in many of the stories. They also tortured us with Marian who they developed into a heroine who believed in Guy’s goodness and potential to be a good man. She stood by his side when Prince John’s soldiers were storming the castle; she sympathized with his plight and offered a road toward redemption. He in return for her faith saved her life when he found out she had betrayed him for more than 2 seasons as the night watchman, by crafting a dangerous shell game with another character that had gone “bad” Allan a Dale. Guy was a damaged soul that was expertly fleshed out by the writers into a complicated multi-layered character only to be torn to bits in one fell blinding swoop of a sword in the final episode of season 2. You could hear and feel the vacuum of air leave the planet as many viewers offered a palatable gasp of horror as Guy’s sword plunged into Marian’s heart. It was beyond betrayal it was an act of pure torture to a most faithful audience by Dominic Minghella. I will never watch anything that man creates ever again. That scene still leaves a pit in my stomach and seems to have been written more out of convenience than actual continuity of storytelling. I am always astonished when an artist/writer pours efforts and time into developing a piece and then slash the canvas, smash the clay or destroy the character. It seems very similar to the actions of a small frustrated child who tears his drawings up after hours of efforts. Then cries at the sight of his torn picture. I sadly have to say the viewers are the ones shedding the tears in this case not the creator. I am always left with astonishment, horror and disappointment when it feels like the writers have taken the easy way out by going against everything they have crafted and shred the storyline by incongruous actions. They often respond to the outrage by going back to the character’s attributes in episode one, “He was the baddie and could not be the hero.” blah blah blah. “I give you what you need not what you want” blah blah blah. Lame! Part of me thinks this behavior is due to lazy writing and hurried film making giving an easy out to a storyline the producers are uncomfortable with for their series. I am sure this type of writing will always happen. I fell a bit for it this year with MI-5 and Lucas North but this time the wound was less painful. I am now more wary of carefully crafted baddies on screen and often spend the series waiting for the other shoe to drop. It is a betrayal to the viewers and it feels like a punch in the stomach. So a word to the writers out there to take care, at some point you will lose the trust and faith of your audience. This is something that you cannot write your way out of and you will lose viewers and their loyalty.  This is something the talking heads in the business offices will notice. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reset button:

No sooner had I posted yesterdays blog when I got a karmic kick in the head. I may not be living my dream life but this man is living his. I need to be more aware and grateful for all I have and not what I am struggling with because after seeing this I gotta say it's not so bad.

From a CNN special about heros and

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bummer Tuesday Ramblings.

Maybe it is the terror of the new semester but I feel like I had settled in for a long winters night all comfy and cozy and … SLAP…. you must return to the reality of life go back teach the kids. I know, I know, I have a god job and decent career and in this economy; I have a job and I need to be thankful for that; so I am trying to write down what I am grateful for and what I am trying to do for the new year. I hate blogs that start with the list if 10 things  blah blah blah… SO I decided to write a bit more like William James and be a bit stream of consciousness.

As I drug my sorry tired old fat booty back home from a long day of teaching, I knew I needed to get more sleep. It would also be easier to be on my game with about 30-40 lbs. So I have checked into a good aqua aerobics class and am considering signing up again for Tuesday/Thursday night, only problem is it is at the high school I teach at and “swim season” is now on going and it is not so great to hear “Hey Mrs F.” from across the pool as I am dragging my flabby butt in the water. Maybe I should look into Pilates. In the mean time I am walking on the treadmill to the “Pillars of the Earth” dvd.  So far I have been good, no high carbs, no alcohol,  no refined sugars and no chocolate. Although the ½ a bottle of red wine began to sing to me as I entered the door today but I put ear plugs in as I ate my hummus and celery and drank my low cal cranberry juice. Not as much fun but I bet I will sleep better.

As far as gratitude and job satisfaction, I need a serious readjustment or that lotto win. I had a whole new group of classes and yes they went great. Kids worked, I think, I taught some new ones some old material again but sometimes I question my decision to teach again. I see so much being left behind, people working long hard hours for little pay and recognition, little back up and poor materials. This lack of support for the staff, I think wears on me more than anything. I had the best computer I have ever worked on at the school, decommissioned for another department. It made me sooo mad. That computer sat in my lab/classroom for almost 3 years. While the male teacher used it was not moved but a female moves in and zap the computer is taken for another male teacher. Coincidence? maybe, maybe not. I love the excitement of their eyes when they get something. The whining I could do without. I love when I feel like I have made a connection and give someone direction. I wish I had more direction. I have considered going into academic counseling and am thinking that is absolutely the path I have considered hardest. I would love to go back to school for genetics counseling but the tuition is far too high. So counseling on the academic level is the wisest choice. and this is what my life boils down to most times… The wisest decision for now. I wish I had a little more seeing eye for the future so I would make the best decision and not the best one for now.    So I guess the end of it all I will drudge along doing the best I can with what I am, what I have and what I am doing maybe that is the best anyone really can ask for in life. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Planet of Jack

The Planet of Jack:

Jack, my 10 year old, has spent winter break at Hogwarts, Mount Olympus and on the imaginary stages of Auditoriums across the nation. When Jack is into something he is totally there mind, body and imagination. I love how his mind works and how it saturates all things. He has been reading, watching and playing Harry Potter for most of the break. He has researched wands on-line and found a wand maker website and then proceeded with gps missile guided accuracy found the only rosewood wand on sale. We have ordered his wand from Alivans and he checks the mail and watches the sky for owls. He and his friends across the street, Meredith’s daughter Olivia and now her step-sister and step-brother Helena and Thomas, have spent more than 3 days running around the neighborhoods in robes, scarves and wands, dueling and battling evil. He has made his own potter puppet pals and written scripts for his performances. He recorded them on the photobooth and flip camera and has performed for us in the front room.  He confided in me last night, as I was putting him to bed, how nervous he was for his 11th birthday and how he was not sure he was ready to go to a boarding school even if he got an invite from Hagrid. I nodded and reassured him if he was going to be asked he would be ready. I marvel at how his mind works and how fully engaged he is in imagination and creativity. I marvel at his wonderment and gleeful play. I hope even as he grows, he never loses his creativity or full engagement of his activities, work and play.  I know someday that Peter Pan Jack and the planet of Jack may dim because life beats a bit of the wonderment and joy out of it but I am hoping for a little time longer I can continue to visit the planet of Jack because it seems like an amazing place and I would be all too sad to see it disappear from my world.