The Roots of the Revolution


I might be biased. I understand that.    First of all, I once joined the Communist Party at my urban college.  I later came to understand the weaknesses in the communist utopian idea, but I didn’t swing too far to the right.

I have voted Socialist in several local and national elections. I have voted Green Party.  I am a card carrying member of the ACLU.

Yes.

I am a lefty.   A wicked far to the left Lefty.

But that’s not why I am writing tonight.

I am writing tonight because I keep hearing the word “income inequality” as I listen to BOTH parties in this Presidential election.   I have heard many references to the 99% and to the 1%.

I have heard candidates of both parties speaking with passion about universal health care and reducing student debt and limiting the influence of the corporate elite.

And all I can think of when I hear these things is this:

“Wow. Occupy Wall Street really made a difference.”

And, once again, I am biased.

Because, look:

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Yep. That’s my son in the background.

Occupy Wall Street October 1st

Yep. That’s my daughter.

And there was another kid who got arrested with Occupy that night on the Brooklyn Bridge.  He just managed not to make it into the New York Times.

Still.

Anyone who has followed any part of the Occupy Movement must recognize the themes and the slogans that have been adopted by the Presidential candidates.

I am in equal parts amused and annoyed when I hear the candidates talking about the dangers of income inequality and the need to make higher education more affordable.

I mean, really?

I am amused and excited when I hear these ideas being touted by everyone from Bernie Sanders (a real live lefty who talked about these things way before Occupy happened), to Marco Rubio, who honestly sounded like he wasn’t sure of what he was saying.

I am excited when I realize that maybe for the first time in my life the idea of a corporate oligarchy is carrying some weight in a national election.

And I am hugely, enormously proud when I realize that my three children, as well as my son-in-law, were involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I know that without even casting a vote, these four young people have had a huge impact on this Presidential election.

This activist, lefty Mom is very very proud.

And very very hopeful.   Maybe something will finally change in this country.  Maybe we will finally begin to realize that this is in fact supposed to be “government by the people, for the people”.   You never know.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And one more note about Occupy Wall Street.  My daughter met her future husband when they got arrested together on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now that’s romance.

 

The Wintry Sun


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She was standing alone, leaning on a black metal cane.  She was small, thin, not quite fragile, and supremely alert.  She watched us with obvious interest as we slowly drove down the bumpy drive toward the old gray house.

We stopped the car, and I got out.  We had driven past an empty horse paddock, outlined with worn split rails.  Both of us had chuckled at the hand painted sign that stood along the driveway: “Caution: deaf dogs”.  There was a battered three sided garage on the left, filled with broken farm implements, part of a tractor, and a blue four door sedan bearing the bumper sticker “War is not healthy: Sick of it yet?”

I smiled broadly as I stepped out of the car.  The old woman watched me with interest, her wrists crossed on the top of the cane.

“Hi!’, I called. “We’re with the Bernie Sanders campaign.  We are looking for Diana?”

She nodded, but didn’t smile. “That’s me.”

“Oh, good!  Hi!”, I repeated, stepping closer.

She was slim, almost gaunt.  Her hair was dyed a bright orange/red that made me think of henna, cut short and straight.  She wore dark blue plastic framed glasses, but her eyes were bright behind them.

“I’m enjoying the sunshine”, she told me happily.  There was snow on the ground, but the air was warm and the February sun very bright.  The sound of dripping came from every part of the tin roof behind her.

Diana wore a faded yellow sweater over a pair of denim overalls.  Brown leather boots were on her feet.

She still hadn’t smiled, but I forged ahead with my mission to “Get Out the Vote for Bernie”.

“I want to make sure that you know about the primary election on Tuesday, and I hope that you’re still planning to vote for Senator Sanders.”

She nodded her head vigorously. “Oh, yes, I’m pulling a ballot for Bernie”, she stated firmly.  “Isn’t it all just the most ridiculous show this year?”

I smiled my agreement, noting her British accent and wondering how long she’d been in this country.

“That Trump”, she snorted, “I can’t even imagine! What a lot of nonsense.”

We chatted for a few minutes about the election, sharing our stories of mingled horror and amusement over what we had been seeing.  As I gently asked her how committed she was to voting, and reminded her of her polling place and time, I noticed a hand written sign on the rusty storm door of the house. “Please do not let the big white dog outside.  She is blind.”

A beautiful gray and orange cat sat behind the glass, watching me with bright yellow eyes.

“We run a sort of assisted living place for old animals”, Diana stated when she saw me looking.  “We have an old pony, two deaf dogs and one blind one, and two old cats.”

At last she smiled, a mischievous grin that lit her round face. “And my husband and I, too, of course.”  She lifted her left wrist, showing me a black brace. “I tripped on a board in the barn.  Broke two bones.”

We smiled at each other for a moment, then she tilted her face back toward the sun. “I’m just enjoying the sunshine”, she said again, “I don’t dare go too far, you know? I don’t dare tumble again.”

She lowered her head to look at me once more. “But I’ll be out to vote for Bernie on Tuesday, as long as it isn’t too snowy. I was from England”, she said, “But now I vote in America.”

She straightened a bit, looking toward my parked car.  “And who is your driver, dear?”, she asked me.

“That’s my son, Matt”, I answered. “Keeping me company.”

“And he’s a Bernie man?  Bless his heart!”

We chatted for a few more minutes, with the melting snow pattering down from the eaves behind us.  It was a beautiful spot, surrounded by pine trees and snowy fields.  The sun was warm.

I don’t know if we managed to garner a single vote for Senator Sanders today, but it was well worth the long drive and the time spent walking in the snowy streets of New Hampshire.   It was worth it to have met Diana and to share her great pleasure at standing in the late winter sunshine today.

 

 

A Good Kind of Surprise


Now that I have an empty nest, I am used to having nearly complete control over my environment.

I mean, other than the mountains of dog hair and Paul’s habitual pile o’ stuff on my kitchen counters, I have a lot of control of my space.

I now wash, dry and carefully fold the towels so that they are placed neatly on the closet shelves.  The beds are made.  The shoes are either in the closet or neatly lined up by the door. The dishes and cups are clean and dry and waiting in their respective cabinets.

There is very little unexpected and unwelcome mess in my house.

I very very rarely come across a dirty dish on a windowsill.  I am no longer surprised by a pile of muddy clothes in the bathtub.

My life is predictable.

When I open the hall closet, I know which coats and jackets I will see.

Except when I am surprised.

Delightfully, happily, joyfully surprised.

Like today.

I opened the closet to grab my down jacket, planning to step outside to shovel some snow.

And there it was.

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Surprise!

A tiny purple jacket, decorated with pink and blue hearts and circles.  A puffy, warm, cozy little jacket, just right for keeping a baby girl warm.

I must have hung it up there not long ago, when I was sorting through a big bag of hand-me-down clothes. I probably put it on the hanger and nestled it into the pile of coats. Somewhere between my old bulky white coat and Paul’s blue winter jacket, it must have settled in and gotten comfy.

And I must have forgotten all about it.

Until today.

When I pulled open the door and pushed aside the hangers.  And there it was.  Reminding me that my neat, orderly, predictable house is no longer entirely under my control. Telling me that it will soon be overtaken once again by toys and blankets and cast off cups and dirt and leaves and twigs and bandaids and juice boxes.

Thank God!

That pretty little jacket, hanging so sweetly in my closet, reassures me that life continues to go on here.

My nest is not quite so empty anymore.

 

 

Turned Upside Down


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How I spend my days

Life is such a funny old thing, isn’t it?

I remember way back when I was in my twenties. There were definitely times when I stayed up more than half the night and then slept through half the day.  That’s just what we did back then, you know?  Friends would be getting together to see a band in Boston at 11 pm, so we’d head out at 10:30 and get back home at dawn.

I remember those days. I do!  Lots of Scotch, lots of dancing, maybe a stop at an all night diner for waffles before the sun came up.

Then we grew up.  Got jobs.  Got married.

We gave up the all nighters in favor of early to bed and early to rise.  We became responsible.

When Paul and I had our babies, the day/night thing got sort of all mixed up again for a bit.  I remember those middle of the night nursing times, watching really really bad TV (this was before the 500 cable channels) and trying to stay awake long enough to change a diaper.  I remember stumbling through my shower and getting through a full work day when my brain really wanted to be completely unconscious.

Once I was co-leading a social language group with our school counselor.  I had been awake every two hours all night to administer a nebulizer treatment to my son.  We were all sitting on the floor of her office in a circle. I had a cup of coffee on the rug in front of me.

I woke myself with a loud snore.  Ten learning disabled kids were staring at me.  The counselor calmly stated, “Karen had a bad night’s sleep.”

Then my kids grew out of those difficult nights, and life settled into a pretty normal cycle. We are awake and productive by day, we sleep by night.  I understood this concept.  It fit quite well into my daily life as a teacher.  All was well.

But now I am retired.  I have no pressing need to be articulate, alert or entertaining during daylight hours.

Now I spend my days as Nonni, and life has settled back into that old familiar upside down pattern.

Now I wake up early, shower and have my coffee.  I am alert, happy, awake and ready to go.  My sweet Ellie comes to spend her day with me, and we have a wonderful two hours of cuddles and books and toys.  Then there is a bottle.  Then there is a blanket, and a yawn, and that warm sweet bundle of baby relaxation settled herself on my chest.  The recliner goes back, my cheek rests on her head, and the snore fest begins.  I sleep the deepest and calmest sleep of my life while my hands cradle that round little diaper wrapped bottom.

And after a couple of hours we wake up, and there are diaper changes and snacks and books and some toys.  There is tummy time and sitting time and music and another bottle.

And the cycle repeats itself.

Yup.

I pretty much sleep my way through half of my daylight hours.  With that beautiful child held tight in my arms, I am so happy and at peace that my dreams are filled with rainbows and ponies and fairies and glittering stars.

Its the BEST.

But all that daytime sleep means, of course, that I am usually awake in the darkest deepest part of the night. I get up, I make tea, I read a bit, I stroke the dogs.

And I don’t mind at all.

My life is turned upside down once again, putting me back in touch with my youthful, carefree self.  Reminding me of my young mommy self.  I can watch the moon set. I can sit alone on my couch and think about life.

I know that tomorrow Ellie will come.  And we’ll play and laugh and eat, and then we’ll cuddle up and sleep our peaceful sleep together.

Life is such a funny old circular rhythm, isn’t it?

 

My Get Rich Scheme


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I spend a lot of time at home now that I’m retired.  And for a fair amount of that time, I’m lounging in my recliner with a sleeping baby on my chest.

Which means, of course, that I watch way too much daytime TV.

This can be bad.  Especially on days with marathons of “Houston Animal Cops” or “Haunted Amish”.

But sometimes watching endless hours of TV can be inspirational, too.

For example, I think I have finally found my Get Rich Scheme.

I am going to invent and market some kind of medicine!

I’ve figured out the whole medical marketing thing, and let me tell you, it is pretty damn predictable.

Step 1: Identify some kind of physical ailment.  It can be anything from chronic diarrhea to heart disease to a fading libido.

Step 2: Give that ailment a name that you can immediately turn into an acronym or a set of catchy initials.  Have you noticed this trend on the medicine ads?  “I have IBS; ED; Low T; OBS; DNV”    I don’t know when sickness became the Alphabet Game, but its part of the pattern, so I’m gonna use it.

Step 3: Come up with a drug to treat the ailment. (OK, this part might be hard, but I’m a good cook, and vodka seems like a cure all to me. I can do this!)

Step 4: Name the drug.  You MUST create a name that sounds both encouraging and serious.  The name should definitely include at least one of these letters: x, z, j.   Even better if you can include more than one. (Right? Zyprexa, Xarelto, Xeljanz).  These names inspire confidence in the patient! “Wow, my doctor must be a genius if she can pronounce that name…….”

Step 5: Film your commercial.  You must film it someplace that looks like Pleasantville USA, with wide tree lined streets, impeccable homes and manicured lawns.  There should be children on bikes, smiling and lifting their sweet faces to the gentle breezes.  Your main focus should be on your patient, who has to be an attractive, vibrant middle aged man or woman with perfect teeth and just enough smiley wrinkles to look convincing.  This person has to move in slow motion through Pleasantville, smiling, eating, going to the park, kayaking, dancing or doing yoga very very gracefully.  You must include a voice-over in which your patient refers to the disease as “MY CSR” or “MY OBS”.

I am not at all sure why these beautiful slow motion patients all seem to have such loving relationships with their diseases, but they do.  They all use the pronoun “my” as if the disease is a dear dear friend who has become a very part of their soul.

Personally, I refer to my illnesses as “the goddamn fibromyalgia”  or “the f’in arthritis”. I do NOT want to make them any more comfortable in my body than they already are. They are not welcome. They are not “mine”.

But I digress.

Now that I have laid out the five steps to fame and fortune, its time to brainstorm a bit. I’ll be right back.

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Eureka!  I’ve got it!

The commercial opens with a tall, slender, middle aged woman looking into the distance. Close up on her face. Her blue eyes are warm and gentle.  There are a few small crinkle lines near her eyes.  She brushes back her chin length hair, and hooks it over one ear. Her hair is thick and shiny, a dark blonde delicately laced with silver.

As the camera pulls back, we see that the woman is looking into a gorgeous flower garden, where all kinds of things are in bloom at the same time, even though in real life, they would all appear in different months.  The woman is holding a pretty straw hat in one hand and a rake in the other.

A rich alto voice begins to speak as we watch the woman moving in slow motion around the fantastic garden.

“Before my AOA, I used to garden all day from dawn to dusk. But when I started to experience fatigue, pain and an overwhelming desire to lie down and pull a blanket over my face, I lost my will to prune.

Luckily, my doctor diagnosed my symptoms as an acute case of Achy Old Ass, or AOA.  He prescribed Jazubax, and now I am back to drowning slugs in beer.”

We see the woman laughing in slow motion and elegantly placing the straw hat on her lovely head.

A man’s voice comes on next. “If you are one of the millions of Americans who is living with AOA, ask your doctor of Jazubax is right for you.”

Close up on the woman, leaning in to smell a rose.

“Thanks to Jazubax, I haven’t napped in weeks.”

The image fades and the same man’s voice comes in, speaking at a rate that would put Alvin and the Chipmunks to shame.

“Jazubax is not intended for use by those who have arrhythmia, nervous tics or anxiety. Side effects may include rapid heart rate, increased rate of speech, a compulsion to clean under the bathroom sink at 2 AM or sudden heart attack.  Do not use Jazubax if you are allergic to caffeine, Red Bull or vodka shots.”

 

I think I’m onto something.  If you don’t believe me, just watch a little daytime TV.

The Pioneer Child


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Yummy Veggies, Nonni!!!!

Well.   It was certainly an interesting day in the life of this Mamma Nonni.

My Ellie and I were invited to a baby shower in honor of one of my young former teaching colleagues, and I was beyond excited to be going.

In the first place, I think we have established the fact that I am somewhat baby crazy.  I mean, what could be more hopeful, inspiring or uplifting than the promise of a new life?

But in the second place, this would be the first school-wide event that I would be attending since my sudden retirement last June.

I desperately wanted to be there!  I really admire and love the teacher who is about to become a first time Mom. She will be such a lovely and loving mother, and I am so happy to be able to help set her on that path.

But I also wanted to be there because I really miss being part of the wonderful community of professionals that I left behind last June.

And my sudden departure from the school in the spring had left me feeling very shaky about my place in that community. Would I still be welcome? Did I still have a place in their hearts and memories?  I wasn’t entirely sure.

When I was invited to this shower, I knew that I had to attend.   I wanted to be there for the baby and the Mom, but I also wanted to be there for ME.  To remind myself that I had done good work for many years at that school, and that I really could always come back for a visit.

So this morning Ellie and I got ready for a big day back at my old school. Her Momma had dressed her in a cute little onesie that was both gender neutral and adorable.  We had a morning bottle and a morning diaper change. We had our AM nap and some floor time sitting up and stacking blocks.

All was well.

I started to get us ready for departure a full 30 minutes before our deadline.  I packed the diaper bag with extra clothes, a clean burp cloth, a rattle and three bottles of milk. I made sure that Mavis Hamwater, Ellie’s favorite rag doll, was close at hand. I put on my good clothes, brushed my teeth, slid in some earrings.

And scooped Ellie out of her swing.  I leaned in to kiss her neck.

Ewwwwww.  Cheese.  Really old cheese.

My baby smelled like spoiled milk.

Quickly, fully aware that I wanted to arrive at school before bus dismissal time, I stripped her down, washed her up and popped her into an adorable pink onesie and cute purple socks.  I buckled her into the car seat and sped on down the highway to the place where I had spent so many hours, days, weeks, months, years.

As we got closer to school, my heart began to race.  Would I still be welcome? Would anyone notice or care that I was here?

I pulled into the parking lot, smoothed back my hair, and got out of the car. I double checked the diaper bag, and then lifted my sweet Ellie out of her car seat.

And I felt the slimy warmth of the bright yellow ooze that was leaking out of her back side. What on earth……?

Ellie has begun to eat solid food.  Her poop has gone from benign deposit to toxic sludge, all in the space of a week.

Holy Poop, Batman!

My sweet baby girl had produced enough toxic waste to coat herself all the way up to her hairline. In fact, as I looked closely in horror, I could see that there was poop actually IN her hair.  And up to her neckline.  And down to her knees.  And there was poop dripping from her backside, down her legs and onto the pavement of the parking lot.

There was poop on my sleeve and on my hands and even under my fingernails.

What the hell was I supposed to do?

I couldn’t gather her up and carry her into the school building: I would have been covered in sticky yellow goo and I did NOT bring any clean clothes for myself.

No. I would have to change the poor kid in the parking lot!

So I opened the back door of the car, and laid the baby down on the seat.  It was very cold out, and a pretty hefty snow squall had hit us just as we’d arrived at school.   I knew that I had to strip off all of poor Ellie’s clothing, but I didn’t want her to freeze!

So I draped her crocheted blanket over my shoulders as I leaned in the backdoor of the car.  As fast as I could manage it, I pulled off her clothes (smearing more poop in her hair) and then wiped her down from head to toe with wet wipes. In spite of the fact that the car was running and the heat was on, the poor little baby was shivering in the cold by the time I got her all cleaned up.

I put on a new diaper, and a clean onesie and a new jacket.

I wrapped her in a poop free blanket, and gathered her into my arms.

And as I walked back into school, I started to think about those brave Pioneers that I used to teach the kids about, back when I was a fifth grade teacher.  I remembered the stories of strong, unshakable mothers who raised their children on the open plains.  I pictured myself as just such an explorer, courageously facing the unknown.  I straightened my spine, lifted my head, and held Ellie close to my heart as I walked back into the school that I hadn’t seen in more than half a year.

I felt like a Pioneer Grandmother with her Pioneer Child.  Entering the wilderness, heart in her throat.

Until I was greeted by so many familiar, beloved faces, greeting me, welcoming my Ellie, celebrating my return.  “We miss you!”, they said.  Mothers of students, teachers of students, and most importantly, the students themselves.  “Come back to us!” “We wish you were here!”

I held my little Ellie, so happy to have her in my arms and in my life.  I embraced my friends and my students.  I was so happy to be back.

Suddenly, I saw myself not so much as a Pioneer, but more as a settler, secure in her place on the village green.

Happy Baby, dear Laura!  Thank you, thank you to my friends and colleagues and to the wonderful kids who greeted me today! I miss you all!

 

Touching the Future


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“I touch the future. I teach.”

It was thirty years ago today.

My firstborn child was a tender 17 days old.

I was in love with her.  Enthralled by her every breath, every tiny frown. Enchanted by the shape of her cheek, the satiny shine of her skin.

That bitter cold January morning we were at home alone.  My husband had gone off to work. Baby Katie and I were in our little apartment in one of Boston’s poorer neighborhoods. Our two cats were sleeping on the sunny windowsills, leaning against the plastic that we’d put up to keep out the winter chill.

I remember clearly that I was wearing a big bulky shirt. One that buttoned up the front to allow me to nurse my baby and to keep the pressure off of my C-section scar.  I remember that I had bathed my Katie and that she was wrapped up snugly in a little onesie.  I held her in a pink blanket, in my arms, walking from the nursery to the tiny living room of our apartment.

The shape of the room was almost rounded, with three windows that faced the busy street. We were in one of those old two family houses that were built in the 1930’s and 40’s. The old wood floors had been sanded and polished by the young couple who owned the house.  They gleamed in the sunshine that came through the windows.

We had a big old boxy TV, sitting in a heavy wooden frame; back then, the television was a piece of furniture rather than a wall hanging.  I remember that I had a potted ivy plant sitting on top of the big TV box.

I stood with Katie, watching the TV coverage of the Shuttle Challenger as it got ready for takeoff.  I wasn’t one of those people who was fixated on space. I wasn’t even sure that I believed it appropriate for the government to spend so much money on space exploration when there were so many needs here at home.

But I was watching this time.

I’m not even sure why!  Maybe it was just because I was at home and able to see it.  Maybe it was because this time one of the travelers to outer space was a teacher, a woman only a few years older than myself.  A young mother who wanted to inspire her children at home and at school. I had seen Christa McCauliffe interviewed on the news, and I’d been struck by her familiar, charming New England accent and by her effervescent smile.  I remember thinking in a casual way how cool it was that she was going to have such an adventure.

So I stood there in my sunny living room, holding my beautiful daughter in my arms.  I talked to her about the Shuttle, and about Christa the teacher.  I was happy at that moment.

I listened to the countdown.  I probably counted down the seconds myself, the way we always did.  I don’t remember.

But I know that I was standing, in the middle of the room.  I know that I held my baby in my arms.  I know that I was watching the screen and feeling warm and safe and happy.

And the Challenger lifted off, into the blue blue sky.  And the camera was on the faces of Christa’s family.  Everyone was smiling.

Until that terrible moment when the plume of rising smoke split in two, and no one was sure of what we were seeing.

I don’t remember what I thought.  I know that I was confused.

And then the camera caught Christa’s mother’s face, frozen and unmoving.  Looking up, toward the spot where her baby girl had disappeared.

And I understood.  We all did.

I looked down at my Katie, gazing up at me with so much trust.  And I began to sob.

 

Political Correctness?


Ambivalent_FaceLike everyone else in this country, I have been bombarded for the past several months with the term “political correctness”.
You know, as in, “It’s about time we stopped all this political correctness.”  And “Finally, we have a candidate who isn’t worried about being politically correct.”
So I decided to look up the term, to see if it is, in fact, an avoidance of “political correctness” that Donald Trump is demonstrating in his comments.
Here are a couple of typical definitions of the term.
po·lit·i·cal cor·rect·ness- Google definition
noun
 
  1. the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

    adjective

    Political Correctness- Dictionary.com
    1.demonstrating progressive ideals, esp by avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, esp concerning race and gender

OK.  I get it.

To be “politically correct” is to speak in a way that avoids insulting or offending others who are in a somewhat weaker positions.

That seems clear.

So I looked at some of the comments that people have claimed are being made in an effort to “avoid political correctness”.   (I put aside the intriguing question of why one would choose to be offensive or insulting…..)

Quote Number One:

“When these people walk in the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh, hello! How’s the weather? It’s so beautiful outside. Isn’t it lovely? How are the Yankees doing? Oh they’re doing wonderful. Great.’ [Asians] say, ‘We want deal!’”

— Trump discussing Asians at an August 2015 rally in Iowa   http://www.usmagazine.com/

Quote Number Two:

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”June 16, 2015

Quote Number Three:

“You can be politically correct if you want, but are you trying to say we don’t have a problem? Most Muslims, like most everything, I mean, these are fabulous people. But we certainly do have a problem, I mean, you have a problem throughout the world. It wasn’t people from Sweden that blew up the World Trade Center.”  International Business Times

This of course, coming after his call for a “Total ban on all Muslims coming into this country.”

Quote Number Four: On opponent Fiorina:

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Trump exclaimed in the magazine. “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

OK.  I agree; this language is most certainly not politically correct.  However, I also found another definition for the speech from this man.  Below I have included a much more accurate and precise description of what I hear when I am forced to listen to him speak.

Bully- Dictionary.com

  1. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Bully- Google Definition

verb
gerund or present participle: bullying
1.”use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”

 

It is one thing to avoid using vulgar language in an effort to sidestep a real problem. I suppose it is somewhat weak appearing to some people if a leader references “those of various races” rather than specifically saying “Black Americans”.  It’s another thing if a leader stands up and says, “All the blacks are criminals.”   And it’s yet another to use that ‘n’ word that so far even the Donald has avoided.

I’m OK with honesty.  In fact, I admire it quite a bit.  I’m OK with calling specific people out for their behavior when that behavior is dangerous, cruel or offensive.

 

But I was a teacher.  I despise bullies.  I have a zero tolerance policy for them, especially when they want to run the country.

So, I will temporarily throw my own progressive political correctness out the window and say what I think.

Donald J. Trump is a boorish, foul mouthed bigot. He is a hate filled misogynistic racist. He is offensive, ignorant and egotistical and he uses the vocabulary of a fourth grader.

There. I said it.

Notice that I didn’t label all middle aged Christian white male billionaires as dangerous blowhards.  I’m bigger than that.

 

Last thought: a quote from a ten year old, said to me recently. “I don’t get why grown ups like Trump. If he was at school, nobody would ever play with him at recess.”

 

Life is a tender thread


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When a life begins, we greet it with so much hope and love.  We hold our precious little ones in our arms, gazing into those mysterious eyes.  We whisper, “Be safe!”   We pray, “Be healthy!”  We promise, “I will protect you.”

But life is not so simple.  Life is not a smooth, straight road, leading us from birth to a quiet death in our old age.

Life does not promise us health or peace or love or joy.

Life is such a tender threat. It can be snapped by so many unforeseen things.  It can be broken in a heartbeat.

Today was a day when I was given the great gift of sharing lunch with a former student. She is beautiful, accomplished, happy.  She will be getting married soon.  We have known each other for 13 years, and I have been so blessed to have watched her grow and thrive.

Today was a day when I heard the awful news about the sudden death of another former student.  She was beautiful, kind, sweet, thoughtful.  She was cautious, unsure of herself. I remember her as hesitant to answer a question. I remember her face lighting up with pleasure when she was right.

Life is a tender and fragile thread.

Every minute that we spend with a young person is a gift, in which we both give and receive.

Tonight I am filled with joy at the knowledge that one of “my” kids is thriving. I am filled with sorrow that one is gone.

Hug your children.  Hold them close. Tell them that they are your greatest gifts.

 

I Hate to Brag. Wait, no I don’t…..


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So ahed of the curve, this family

I have been following, with great interest, the recent study out of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

You know, the study that says that we need students who are more concerned about how they can help others than with how they can help themselves.

The study that is entitled “Turning the Tide”.

I am intrigued by this study because I so completely embrace and welcome its message.  I admit that after having fought through so many years of watching public education turn into a race for top scores, I find it somewhat frustrating to see that those ideas that I have always believed are suddenly being embraced by the pinnacle of educational wisdom.

I am trying to stay positive about this shift, and not to be bitter about it.  And you know why?

Because I have somehow managed to raise three young adults who encourage and inspire me to remain positive and who seem to always understand varying points of view.

Let me put this another way:

Paul and I have raised three children who were way, way ahead of the educational curve. All three of them grew up understanding that test scores did not equal personal worth. All three grew up understanding that the greatest sense of happiness and fulfillment would come from what they could give back to their communities.

One of my children is a teacher. One is a teacher aide in a school for severely emotionally challenged adolescents.  One is a success coach for people in a struggling community who have been given jobs in community services.

None of my kids went to the Ivy Leagues.  None has a three figure income.

But here is what they have: jobs that make them proud.  Jobs that give back.  Jobs that take care of others.

And here is what they have that I could not have predicted: Communities of other young, inspired, altruistic people who work hard every day to fill their communities with learning and art and music and kindness.

My sons are surrounded by other “Millennials” who make sandwiches for the homeless and put on shows with local artists and who support small farmers and local businesses.

These young people are the anti-80’s generation.

They knew, even without Harvard telling them, that life is not about making money.  Life is about making friends, giving back, enjoying life, giving love and getting it back.

My children are way ahead of the curve.  They are my inspiration and my teachers.

My kids and their incredible community of caring friends are the reason I have so much hope for the future.

I hate to brag, but either Paul and I did an amazing job, or we managed to not screw up the natural tendencies of our kids. Either way, all I have to say is, “Gee, Harvard, took you long enough to catch up!”