Today I…

Today I … thought of this picture because my meandering mind was all over the place! It was painted by a former student . It was a very interesting person with a very complex background. While he was in my class he was having a show of his paintings. I went to see them and was overwhelmed since all of them were in this style. I planned on purchasing something but as I look at the paintings I wondered what I would see that I could buy. Then there it was – this picture. It spoke to me loudly and I do believe many of you can identify with it. The brain is on such overload you just want it to shut up.  So as I continue with this article I’m sure you’ll understand why posting the picture was a necessity!

Why am I thinking of all these things? Being chair of the women studies program. Bernie Sanders and young people. Jean Houston’s comment so many years ago “ there must be breakdown before there can be breakthrough”. Recent book she published 2012 and restates that phrase but goes on to say “we are in breakdown now”. Wow! 2012? John Gardner - I recently re-ordered his book Self Renewal as it was one of many I gave away as I left Illinois to move to New Mexico 20 years ago.

But why did I buy it even then? Who told me about it? Can’t remember any connection! Go get your new copy and check the date. Can’t do that either as the chest that has new books that I want to read is currently blocked by a couch, and I can’t move it because of my recent heart surgery. #*=&@ !!!!!!!  Calm down! Not good for your blood pressure! Breathe! You can solve this! Of course I can; google Mr. Gardner on my IPad. Oh my! Now all this crazy stuff makes sense.

My last year before taking early retirement at SIUE, the Women’s Studies Program was in danger of being cut. Some of the women wanted me to be Chair and fight. After all, I was taking early retirement . What could they do to me. I was a little embarrassed because as I’ve said somewhere else on one of these pieces student said I have been liberated all my life which I guess was true. While I certainly was very familiar with the national leaders at that time, I had never really been a member of the groups. I’m embarrassed to say I had to actually look up Alice Paul as she was one of the scholarship awards the group made annually. So I did my homework and got caught up as those teachers in the program were some of the original women fighting for women’s rights. So I’m in my little office for that program which was away from my main office; daily I dealt with the young girls coming in to complain about those teachers. Why did they have to learn all that stuff? The one teacher practically built an altar to those early women the one very young student shouted . I tried my best to explain why. John Gardner - Self Renewal.   Yes ! That’s it. His major thesis was: Each generation has to rediscover for itself the meaning of our democracy. Bernie Sanders with his huge group of young followers…that’s it. But how did I get tied up with John Gardner? Please ! For those of you who have been kind enough to read my crazy writing thus far Google Mr. Gardner. There is so much there. Shortly I’m going to give a quote that was in the New York Times when he passed away in 2002. I highly recommend that article because it is lengthy, and it covers the extensive work this man did. Lyndon Johnson put him in his cabinet even though Gardner was a conservative Republican. Aha! John Gardner founded Common Cause and I joined then. The connection!

I leave you with this quote as printed in The NY Times article at the time of Gardner’s death. “Mr. Gardner’s time in Washington had convinced him that major problems cannot be solved unless the political system was reformed from within. With the Democratic and Republican parties in mind, he told the New Yorker: I think of people sitting in an ancient automobile by the side of the road. The tires are flat and the driveshaft is bent, but they’re engaged in a great argument as to whether they should go to Phoenix or San Francisco. In my imagination, I am standing by the road saying, ‘You’re not going anywhere till you fix the goddamn car.’” His solution was to found Common Cause.

If you go to this article what he describes next is actually an accurate description of the times we are living in now.

Okay I will stop here. Would love to hear from any of you who have been kind enough to read my meanderings. Sign in to follow my site.

Motherhood: the Second Oldest Profession

In the past few days several friends have shared with me their frustrations over parenting issues. These discussions brought to my mind a book I read years ago - Motherhood The Second Oldest Profession by Erma Bombeck. This book came out when women were just being liberated. We were wives; we were Moms. We were professionals; we were super women. We were foolish! Growing up in the apathetic 50s we also carried that mother model which conflicted with our new superwoman.

Thank you Erma wherever you are! I devoured every page and story. The professional Mom whose kids preferred their friends’ Moms who lived the traditional model, who didn’t work outside the home (We all know they worked in the home…no credit for it because that’s just what Moms were supposed to do) and who baked cookies greeting the children as they came home from school. But then those children preferred their friends’ Moms who didn’t stay home but worked professionally - lawyers, nurses, teachers, bankers, entrepreneurs .

Trying to be one of those “super women” three memories remain vivid in my brain. My daughter was a Girl Scout where the leaders were the stay at home types. One year they were having a celebration meeting for Moms and their daughters. It was scheduled in the afternoon at the close of the school day. I made certain to clear my schedule so I could attend. I can’t remember right now if one of the leaders was ill or what. I do remember that celebration session was rescheduled three times making it impossible for me to attend. I was furious! Then my husband stepped up to the plate, and he went to that meeting. These days thank heavens that would not be unusual. But then – oh my the tongues did wag!

The second time was when a parent meeting to cover information about the upcoming trip to Europe some children including my son,were taking that spring. I remember this happened after my divorce. I told my son to go to the meeting ; I would come as soon as I could. I was to attend a different meeting where I was being honored for my work with the Very Special Arts Festival. I planned to do both but arrived at the parents’ meeting just as it ended. I was greeted by a very disappointed son.

The third happened when I was head of a Statewide group for implementing a comprehensive arts plan in the schools. A few days before our meeting I literally dragged my husband to the Doctor. He had a burst appendix. Our Doctor told me if I hadn’t got him in when I did he would be dead. I knew I had to go to the state capital for this meeting the third day my husband was hospitalized . Feeling torn in two I went, and it was a disaster! Much later I realized that we “super women” were as I described it “burning the candle at both ends only to realize you collapse in the middle”!

Erma also had stories of single parent Moms and Moms who had children in prison. Wow! I hadn’t thought about them before. Remember this was in the sixties. Teaching in recent years I’ve had many of those single parent Moms; they are almost the norm. I also remember a student who told me she had to miss school on the day of her report and hoped that I would let her give it later. When I asked why she would be missing. She told me she had to go to prison to pick up her mom. She added “I’ll pick her up and drop her off somewhere, but I don’t want anything to do with her after that!”

I’m sure the current generation operates under a variety of Mom models. However, I also believe this book still has meaning for them. The second to last chapter she talks about her mother. She thanks her for never giving her advice except when asked for and also for not being one of those “I told you so but you wouldn’t listen!” types. The message I wrote in the copy of the book that I had given my Mother was that Erma’s Mother seemed to be like her. So often I heard my Mom say “I don’t give advice unless I’m asked.”

The last entry in the book she calls “Epilogue “. Over the years I have seen this piece in a variety of places, but I read it first in this book. I’m assuming Erma did write it though when I’ve seen it elsewhere no author credit is listed. I quote it here . I don’t care what generation you are; past present or future, this selection will have meaning! In just the past three days four different friends have talked with me about Mom issues which have once again stabbed at their hearts. I will not talk about this here because of privacy concerns. I suspect those reading this will understand.

Epilogue from Erma Bombeck’s book Motherhood

While the Good Lord was creating mothers He was into His sixth day of “overtime” when the angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the spec on this order?”
She has to be completely washable, but not plastic.
Have 180 movable parts . . . all replaceable.
Run on black coffee and leftovers.
Have a lap that disappears when she stands up.
Have a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair.
And have six pairs of hands.
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands . . . Not possible.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord. “it’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers have to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. “One pair that see through closed doors when she asks,
‘What are you kids doing in there?’ When she already knows. Another here
in the back of her head that sees what she shouldn’t, but what she has to
know, and of course the ones here in front that can look at a child when he
goofs up and reflect, ‘I understand and I love you’ without so much as ordering a word.
“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve gently, “come to bed. Tomorrow . . .“
“I can’t,” said the Lord, ”I’m so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who Heals herself self when she is sick . . . Can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger . . . And can get a nineyear-old to stand under a shower.”
The angel circled the model of The Mother very slowly. “ It’s too soft,” she sighed.
“But tough,” said the Lord excitedly. ”You cannot imagine what this Mother can do or endure.”
“Can it think?”
“Not only think, but it can reason and compromise,” said the Creator.
Finally, the angel bent over and ran her fingers across the cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced.” I told you you were trying to put too much into this model. You can’t ignore the stress factor.”
The Lord moved in for a closer look and gently lifted the drop of moisture
Julius finger where it listened and sparkled in the light.
“It’s not a leak,” He said.” It’s a tear.”
“A tear?” asked the angel. “What’s it for?”
“It‘s for joy, sadness, disappointment, compassion, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
“You are a genius,” said the angel.
The Lord looked somber. “ I didn’t put it there.”

Living in the Moment

hibiscusAll Winter I have asked this hibiscus plant which had been on my patio for the summer and fall to please bloom again. Several days ago I noticed that one bloom had developed. Today, March 17, 2016, I climbed out of bed noticing the bud was still tightly closed. I moved into my usual routine of coffee, reading the paper, answering emails. Just ventured back to bedroom and discovered a full blooming flower! I have learned as I wrote about in this piece, that one must enjoy the here and now. My beautiful hibiscus flower will be gone in a day or two. So will friends, relatives and perhaps even me. Live in the moment!

Today I… Had Thanksgiving on my mind

Had Thanksgiving on my mind. Surrounded in recent days with so many planning the family gatherings and celebrations, of course I would go back to my past. I must check with my sister because I remember growing up, and at Christmas we had my Mom’s family over. In January it was my Dad’s side because he, one of his brothers, and a nephew all had January birthdays. But right now I can’t remember the Thanksgivings of my youth. My sister will be able to tell me about that. Whenever we had any of these gatherings, I remember there was a hierarchy of sitting at the big dining room table. (That table by the way now resides in the Catholic priest’s dwelling as Mom and Dad downsized then they sold our big house next to his.) I know there were two shifts of grownups, and the wee ones were in the “breakfast room” with the goal of making it two second shift of grownup status.

In recent years I have been alone for this holiday, and that has been okay. Since my friend moved back to Santa Fe last Christmas, she and I will go out to dinner this evening. Having been raised for many years with the huge family type holidays, it is at times nostalgic to think back . Each year it gets easier. But this year a memory came back, and it is not a pleasant one.

While still married and my children being very young, the holidays were spent with my family in my home town. When my Mom got up in age, my brother and his wife took over the holiday get togethers. Of course it was like most families, a bit chaotic. I loved it; a time my children could meet or renew relationships with their many cousins.

This one year however, my husband said he preferred we have our Thanksgiving dinner at home.   I told him I thought my brother wouldn’t understand this change after all these years. He said to tell him we might stop by for a drink. As per usual, I gave in. It was not pleasant, and from then on there was a drifting apart. So Thanksgiving became my immediate family and not much else. In fact it was one such dinner that sparked my divorce. But that’s another story.

I said earlier that this memory was not a pleasant one. The “not pleasant” was because years later somewhere along the line, my daughter made the comment “Well Thanksgiving we really never did much anyway.”   That hurt!   In retrospect (and why must it always be in retrospect!) I realize that my husband had a life long aversion to being with family groups which was in addition to his saying he wanted leftovers, and if we went somewhere he wouldn’t have any. In those days I would have loved to invited some of our International Students to our home for Thanksgiving, but of course I didn’t.

Thinking of the best that I could remember, it was when a student who I was supervising in the Alternative Licensure Program, invited me to his Mother’s home for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was part pot luck, but to me a pot of gold. It was the type of experience I loved. There was a mixture of cultures, ages, Jungian scholars, musicians, artists, everything! As we sat down to begin our dinner, we each were asked to state what we were thankful for. For me, finally a great experience.

I am happy to say that my daughter does have great Thanksgiving Dinners these days. She creates memories for her family and their friends. And…it’s okay that I am not there.