A Season of Change

I think we made it past another winter.  I had a birthday, and usually that means we are out of danger of anymore snow!  I was born on Mother’s Day, but this was not a year where I got to celebrate both on the same day.  I’m glad, because it still doesn’t seem correct to celebrate both without my Mom.  Yes, I am the family matriarch.  That doesn’t get me anything.  It just means I am getting old.

When does getting old happen?  I never really thought of my parents as old when they were 66 years old, my age now.  They were still active and enjoying life, as am I, but….

There are some really good things about being older, like retirement.  We tried to enjoy the journey to retirement.  We were not among those Americans who refuse to take vacations.   We have crisscrossed the country, just for fun.  We have also traveled to several foreign countries.  Hubby traveled to more countries due to business.

I would like to travel the country again.  Or course, am excited about my home-coming together.  It looks like a building that could become a home again.  We still need a kitchen, and bathroom.  We have selected everything, and we are eager for installation.  Then, we need our stuff back.

There is no doubt things are changing.  There is a little arthritis, bursitis, things that are giving out.  Other conditions, that need to be managed, watched.  We now have a stable of -ists:  Orthopedist, Podiatrist, Cardiologist….  The list is growing.

I am not looking forward to this season of change like I have to other seasons:  starting kindergarten, starting High School, High School Graduation, College Graduation, getting Married, having children, watching them grow and follow along my same path.  Now there are grandchildren following the same path.

The path ahead for us has fewer firsts.  That is what you get for being the matriarch or patriarch of your family.  What is left is to get the most enjoyment you can out of the final season.

 

Vegetal Beginning of a Story

Yesterday’s post seems to need a little clarification.  I hope you will forgive my vegetal beginnings of what I hope can be turned into something good.  I’ve written several essays that have been very well received, but yesterday may have been a little two dark.  Maybe this beginning would have been better written in my private journal.

Recent political rhetoric has stirred passions about how women are treated, and how women are valued.  As one who grew up with the Women’s Lib Movement during the 60’s, I was almost convinced that the discrimination and marginalization of women in the United States had come to an end.  The tolerance of sexist language and attitudes during our recent election shows that woman are not on an equal footing with men, even though one of the candidates was a woman.

In the story I tried to write yesterday, Appearances, I think I missed the mark.  Yes, it contained a collection of real events.  There were girls in the high school restroom every morning, monopolizing the mirror, but my personnel feeling about the situation were not so harsh.  I thought they didn’t need it.  However, make no mistake, we girls were judged and if you were willing to play the boys games, they were all over you.

I was painfully shy as the new girl in town.  I held back, they didn’t snub me.  Did they notice and try to make me feel included?  Come on!  This was high school.  We were all immature.  I was the shortest girl in the school, but not the only one with short hair, but the boys do love that long hair.

Only in retrospect do I realize the girls who monopolized the bathrooms, where doing what they couldn’t at home.  They also rolled up their skirts to make them shorter.  It is my understanding that even those in all girl schools did the same.  Why did we do it?  To be stylish.  Plus, we liked attention from the boys.  Our self-image was strongly influenced by boys.

Yes, there was some touching.  These were boys and girls who had known each other since kindergarten.  I was a total unknown.  Only one day, and I don’t know why, a boy put something, including his hand down a girls bra.  It started a free-for-all.  I would have decked any boy who touched me, but to be truthful, they knew I wouldn’t like it, and neither would my boyfriend, nor my male friends.

The teacher, was in chemistry, and was every bit at bad as described.  I should have told my parents, but I never did.  I was 17, I thought I should be able to handle things on my own.  My mistake.  That teacher was a bully to all the girls.  He absolutely said those things, day after day.  Going to the administration never occurred to any of us.  I didn’t need the credit to graduate, but it did affect my GPA, and I wasn’t allowed to go away to college and went to x-ray school instead, because my grades were not high enough.  My parents feared a lack of commitment to my education.

There were many nice boys in my high school.  Both boys and girls thought I was attractive, nice, kind, honest, and intelligent.

Now you may think my experience with high school is unique.  I assure you these things still go on in high schools.  I volunteered at the local high school when our boy, our youngest, was in high school.  What I saw were boys and girls groping each other in and around the school, behavior that in the late 60’s would have gotten us detention, and possibly a paddling.  Teachers walked by without a word.

I asked about the proper response to the public displays of affection, and very physical reactions to each other these young people were engaging in.  It was not considered a problem.  So why was I there?  I lasted about three weeks.  Maybe my experience is still unique.

Maybe it was only that school?  I think the teenage pregnancy rate illuminates the issue. For several years the teenage pregnancy rate has declined, but 7 percent to 12 percent pregnancy rates still exist depending on ethnicity, for a total of 249,078 babies (2014).

So I am asking for some feedback that can turn this embryonic story into something worth reading.  Maybe a story can change attitudes where demonstrations can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

One Small Point of Light

The flame of a candle is one small point of light.  One standard candle is estimated to give off 12.5 lumens.  One candle shines brightly in a dark space, but doesn’t reveal much about that space.  Each candle added increases the light, until every dark corner is illuminated.

There is a darkness that is being brought to the light from a surprising source, the political arena.  Being brought to light is something women everywhere have to deal with, from the most progressive societies to the most socially repressive.

I am not going to try to make a judgement on the political firestorm, because it seems that everyone has already decided the importance of the language or possible reality of the sexually aggressive, bullying actions.  I do want to do is share my experience with men.

I know many wonderful men.  My husband, my father, uncles, brother, sons, cousins, many men I went to school with, and many men I worked with are all wonderful, respectful men.  However not all men are respectful.

At age 12, greeting my uncle with a kiss after not seeing him for a long time, he made it clear that such actions were “asking for it ” and would deserve anything that happened. Our relationship was never the same again.  After this I avoided not only this uncle, but men in general.

In Junior High School, a boy grabbed me roughly, and I couldn’t get away.  Every boy in the school let him know this behavior was not going to be tolerated.

Sitting in a high school English class, a couple of boys were putting their hands down the blouses of some of the girls.  Everyone was laughing, even most of the girls.  If they came near me, not only would I clock them, but so would my marine boyfriend, his friends and every other male I called friend.

At age 18, I was talking to a fellow student about my brother studying Judo.  My brother, several of his friends, my sister’s boyfriend,  were all black belts.  The man I was talking to said, “A man would have to be crazy to mess with you!”  It was at that moment that I realized how important it was to be under the protection of the men in my life.

At age 19, two weeks after getting married,  a man I had known for several months offered me a soda while waiting for my ride.  I thought I knew this person, but found myself in a sexual situation that I was lucky to talk my way out of.  Exactly the type of situation my Mother had warned me to never get myself into.

The next day he grabbed me, and wanted to press his case, telling me how I should be complimented by his attention.  I informed him that my uncle was the head of the radiology department in the hospital where he was a resident, and if he ever came near me again, I would report his behavior and he would be out of the hospital.

I had more than one husband of a woman friend “make a pass,” and I have had to give up long term friendships with women when their husbands would not take no for an answer.

I’ve had to work with men who described their exploits and considered themselves a gift to women.  They could not believe any woman would be serious about not wanting his attentions.  These were men I had to be careful to avoid being alone with in the workplace, but they “did the job.”

Why complain?  Nobody would do anything.  It was just something women had to put up with.  Men were the sexual aggressors, and women should be complimented.  But no means NO!   At best, we would warn each other of the danger.

Sexual aggression must be stopped by men.  Only men can stop the locker room bragging.  Only men can keep these aggressors in line, but only if they care about their wives, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and other women they know and work with.

That Moment You Realize

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Looking through that window, I realized, I had made the wrong choice.  I should be on my cruise ship, not looking out a window at one.  I should be drinking a Bahama Mama, and not listening to a sales pitch.  This is what happens when an offer comes to you.  It turned out okay in the end, but this was not the start to this vacation that I expected.

realized I’d been burned.

Looking around for an investment, the son of a friend was working for this great firm.  The fund managers were doing well.  Everyone was doing well.  It was a boom economy.  Everything seemed to be moving comfortably along, for a couple of years.  We found out the investment was bogus.  It was a scam.  People with more money, and a lot more financial knowledge than us lost big.   I had to start over.

I realized I’d been burned.

Bought a house, at the top of the housing bubble, and the bubble burst.  The banks got a bailout.  I got no bailout.  I was sitting with an asset that was less more than I owed. Hubby’s job was a casualty of the financial crisis.  We had to move.  Ruined my credit getting rid of that house.

I realized I’d been burned.

Took a pan out of the oven, and got the plates to serve dinner.  The pan handle was sticking out.  I took my hand and grabbed the handle to move it back.

I realized I’d been burned.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.  No permanent harm.  Just momentary inconvenience.  Sometimes you have to cut your loses.  Sometimes you have to start over. Sometimes you just need time to heal.  Hopefully, you learn a lesson and move on, better prepared the next time you have a decision to make.

 

Feats of Daring

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Flying at Jockey Ridge, Outer Banks, North Carolina

This was one of the most exciting, fun times I’ve ever had.  Flying!  That is me hang gliding.  It is like hanging from a kite.  The technical term is a flying wing, designed for the capsule on re-entry upon completion of its flight into outer space.  It also makes a fun sport for the daring.  This was my first time.  Note the instructor/handler.

I am not really the daring one.  That would be my son, testing the limits of his abilities.  One day I told his son of some of his childhood exploits.  My grandson was suitably impressed.  I told him about his young Dad being way up high in a cherry tree, riding a skateboard down a hill his very first time on the thing, and walking along the top of an 8 foot high wall.  My grandson thought his Dad was a superhero!

I did include the part about the road rash when his Dad slid down the hill, and a passing motorist came to the door to tell me my son was bleeding on the road.  I also included the story of the trip to the emergency room for stitches in his Dad’s head, after he fell off the wall into a bush.  The climb up the cherry tree ended without injury, but it was a terrifying experience for me, with the tree in a narrow strip right next to the driveway.

My grandson asked how his Dad could do all those things.  “He just kept trying until he could do it,” was my answer.  If his Dad wanted up a tree, he kept trying until he did it.  He might not be able to do it something the first time, but he kept trying until he did it. Nothing would stop him.

My grandson went home, and in a matter of days his Mom was calling me.  My grandson had climbed a tree, and ripped his shirt.  I was so proud.  He is just like his Dad.

Talents

We live in a world where we are tested from the time we are born.

At first the “test” is merely observation.  Do we sit up, roll-over, walk, talk and other “skills” within a normal period of time following birth.  Then we prepare to enter school.  Again a test determines our readiness, and each level thereafter, a test determines our progress.  Are we learning what we should?  Are our teachers doing their job well enough?

When we pass a test, others express pride, pat themselves on the back, and we move on to greater challenges.  There is ever another test.  Through college, into our jobs and careers, and nobody knows where the test ends.

Here are some stories about failed tests.

Case 1:

I’ve written before about having difficulties reading when I was in school in my post Difficulties.   So imagine taking a test, usually timed tests.  How well do you think I did on those tests?  For one thing, I never finished them.  I froze on tests.  I did about average, which says to me, a test, not a single one, ever came close to being a true measure of what I knew, nor what my intelligence was, nor a proper assessment of my talents.  Imagine my surprise when I did well on a computer Mensa test.

I never thought I was a genius, but I didn’t think I was stupid either.  I just didn’t apply myself, is what I was told.  I knew I could have done better, if I had finished the test.  I could have done better if I wasn’t filled with anxiety.  No-one particularly cared if I did well in school.  As a male science teacher told me, I was just going to get married and have babies, so why was I wasting his time.

Case 2:

My sister, Karen, in third grade was given the standard intelligence test.  Karen was experiencing some of the same difficulties I was experiencing.  Karen scored so low on the test that it was recommended she be transferred to a special school for the mentally challenged.  Our parents vetoed that idea, keeping Karen in the social environment of her peers.  Now study after study show that students whose teachers think of them as intelligent actually do better in school.  Karen did not have this advantage.  Karen was passed along with C’s to keep pace with her social peers.

Karen graduated high school and served in the US Army.  When her time of service ended, she enrolled in college.  Testing was part of that process.  This round of testing did not show that Karen was retarded, developmentally delayed, nor intellectually challenged.  Karen tested as an actual genius.  Unfortunately, she died shortly after.

Case 3:

Our boy was challenged, but you would never know it to sit and talk with him, leaving us to question just what are his capabilities.   No child left behind, left him in the dust.  His AEP called for oral testing, but neither his classes nor the testing was set up to either teach nor test orally.  Our boy dropped out in frustration, but found he could not get a job without a high school diploma.

Because of his AEP our boy was permitted to re-enter high school after the age of 18 and complete his high school education.  Here were the requirements of graduation:  attend classes, sit through the test and color in the circles, and graduate.  Grades, learning, passing were not factors.

He is an excellent driver, with excellent spacial perception, but can’t pass the test to get his Commercial Drivers License.  The test won’t be given orally.  A job that pays well, and that he may be perfectly suited for, is denied him because of a handicap, and no willingness of accommodation.   There may be other jobs that he is suited for, but No Child Left Behind did nothing to help him discover what that might me.  Our boy’s reading ability is the determining factor in what jobs may be available to him.  He also has severe asthma, which keeps him from a host of other jobs, like gardening, that the school tried to get him interested in.

My conclusion:

I don’t trust the results of testing.  Testing is done under a narrowly defined set of conditions, and do not consider anything that may interfere with true results, such as illness, hunger, thirst, needing to go to the bathroom, anxiety, unfamiliar language, etc.  Testing doesn’t tell us what a person is capable of, but is only a snapshot of one particular moment, that may have been a bad moment.   How hard a person works, is not tested.  The determination of a person is not tested.  Outside of a very narrow set of skills, aptitude is not tested.

I believe testing does more harm than good.  Testing may be a necessary evil, but we shouldn’t let it direct our lives, nor the lives of our children.   At best, testing is a minor tool in directing us to where our true talents lie.

I also believe the reason testing doesn’t work for children, is the same reason testing doesn’t work as a tool for determining a teachers competence as a teacher.

 

 

A Thought

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I had a thought today.  The kind of thought that would cause my sister to say, “April, you are completely negative!” Or possibly prompt the response, “It was your choice to move away.”  A statement that causes me to think that might be good enough, if I’d had control over all the variables, but that is ridiculous.

Sometimes I miss family far away.  I wish we could do more together, without distance, money, grief, judgement nor time getting in the way.

Even as a child, I longed for relatives:  my Grandparents, a few states away, aunts and uncles across country.  When we went to visit, and I was surrounded by people I to whom I was related, and  half-dozen or so cousins who I barely knew, I was in heaven.  I felt somehow complete.

I see families in church together, and am filled with longing.  I envy those sisters I see shopping together at the mall, thrift shops, flea markets, and garage sales.  Seeing grandparents out for lunch with their grandchildren, or talking about the kids games, or performances makes my heart ache.  Sometimes it is just an object in my home, a childish gift made at school, and I am filled with longing.  Sometimes it is just something about the weather, the temperature, the wind that reminds me of days gone by.

Somehow, I seem unfinished just on my own.  I’m not sure this is a sign of good mental health, so I get busy taking care of my own life.  I turn my attention to my home and garden, my friends, my pets, and my interests.   I keep myself distracted and the feeling passes.

Most of the time, I am busy and don’t think about it much.  But once in a while, I have a thought.

Good in a Crisis

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Original painting by Carol Mazurek

Something I call panic occurs every time I see a spider, a bug gets on me, something terrifying awakes me from a dream.  When I am overcome, because I can’t see around me, I feel enclosed with no immediately visible way of escape, trapped, claustrophobia, an irrational fear that surfaces no matter what I tell myself.  Panic!

Walking along a moonlit street with branches swaying in the wind, I jump at every imagined sound.  I look for pursuers, hurry my steps, arm myself with the keys in my fist.  My heart pounds.  Panic!  I rush to my door, turn on the light, and only then do I feel safe.

I can approach a stage for a few words to an audience and become silenced  with panic, forgetting every word I had practiced.  Thank goodness the nightmares of having no notes and being naked has never, once happened.

But what about when something really serious happens?

My daughter broke her arm, her wrist at an unnatural angle, a bone sticking through the skin.  Did I run around screaming, distraught, out of control, in panic?  No.  I made sure to avert my daughters eyes, tossed a clean towel over the entire mess, called for ice, and headed for the hospital.  Calm.  Cucumber cool.

When a brake line came loose and my brakes went out, while going down hill, did I panic?  No.  I identified a way to slow the car.  I down shifted, braking with the engine.  The roads were paved concrete, but I turned to go up a hill.  I needed a place to coast to a stop and found an empty parking lot.  It was only when the car was stopped, and I was safe that I started shaking.  I had been on my way to an assignment, and called my editor saying I couldn’t attend the meeting.  I called my husband (pre-cell phone days) from a pay phone, and he came to pick me up and sent a truck to get the car.

The feeling of panic doesn’t seem to depend upon the degree of actual danger.  No, it isn’t actual danger that causes the feeling of panic.  Taking action when faced with a true crisis, is called being good in a crisis.  Some people lose their heads in a crisis.

So why do I think I am good in a crisis?   I imagine horrible things that could happen in advance, and think of solutions.  Even if a current crisis doesn’t match something I’ve thought of, I have at least had practice finding solutions.

Being Together

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The greeters in the parking lot of the Blenko Glass Company visitor center in Milton, West Virginia.  The geese and ducks approach together looking for food.  They got very close.  I was nervous, but kept my cool.

But wait!  This was a writing prompt, not a picture prompt.

I was out and about myself today.  I got together with a couple of friends and went to an amazing craft show.  I connected with another writer and we exchanged contact information. My friends and I ate fair food, talked all day, and were impressed by many amazingly talented artists:  Glass works,  wood carvers, papier-mache, leather workers, painters, photographers, soap, food, and wine crafts etcetera.

Seeing the lathe working and the furniture builders reminded me of my father.  Crafted metal sculptures of hummingbirds remind me of my parents and the many days spent talking on their back porch watching the hummers at the feeder.  The name of the writer I met is the nickname of my mother.

I’m not sad, but feel my parents are with me.  It is because I carry my parents in my heart, and when I see the things that remind me of them, I am not sad, but grateful they were my parents.  They weren’t perfect parents, but they did the best they could, and I love them for it.  They raised me to be a loving person.  Good enough.

Conversation of the day ran from old friends, and since I didn’t know many of them, it was really a history lesson of the community.  We talked about our children.  We talked about the area drug problems and how drugs have touched our lives, and the lives of those we know.  We touched on the stress of the current political season.

But mostly, we just enjoyed each others company and a beautiful day of friendship together.

Difficulties

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At my desk.

Have you ever watched a baby?  Everything a baby does, is exploring and learning.  You can just see the spark of understanding in their eyes, and understanding stimulates curiosity, and each new thing learned brings with it delight.

But sometimes things happen, and natural curiosity can get derailed with other feelings, such as anxiety due to a perception of being judged.  Sometimes this perception of being judged is within.  Some people are so sensitive to the reactions of others, that they become self-conscious.  Being self-conscious isn’t all bad.  When self-conscious, we are aware of the reactions of others.  Even before we have a clear understanding of what these reactions mean, we make the connection between our action and the reaction.  Some of us will repeat behaviors in an effort to elicit a certain reaction, like laughing.  Some of us are so concerned with the responses of others, like laughing, that anxiety is experienced and  we hide what we are doing until we feel it is fit for the public.  Each person is different.

I’m not sure where on the spectrum I fit.  I have been told that as a small child I was happy, outgoing and free.  Introspective and circumspect are words that have been used to describe the adult me.

As a child, I had a difficult time learning to read.  There were many reasons for this:

  • My German father and grandparents spoke with an accent.
  • I spoke English with a German accent when I started school.
  • Grandma would help me practice my reading.
  • The laughs of my classmates were my first clue that something wasn’t correct.
  • My ear was accustomed to a German syntax.
  • I didn’t attend the best schools.

So there may have been some reasons for becoming more introspective as I matured.

I did learn to read, but grown up reading to my own baby, I could barely get the words out while reading the little baby books.  Reading on my own, I took as long as I needed to read things (and I was a very slow reader).  It seems strange to me now, but even with the slow arduous process of reading, I loved it.  Stories so entranced me that I would read them over and over again.  (Doing this contributes to reading fluency.)

I guess I can’t really blame my family for being skeptical about my desire to write.  I read everything.  I took writing classes.  I studied and practiced, and the miracle of miracles happened.  The girl who could barely read, who was completely self-conscious, who can’t define more than a few parts of speech, and could not diagram a sentence, became a reporter and writer.

I owe all my success to the power of stories.

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