Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Go to the park

Having grown up in cities and in apartments I have always thought of parks as communal backyards. From an early age I saw them as the place this only child could play with other children.  Where I could learn that sharing, cause you know how every parent of an only child heard the myth and is over the top OCD about making sure we only children share, did not mean letting someone take something home.  That it meant waiting your turn to get on a slide and that there are some mean ass kids out there.

As a teenager parks were the places you hid from adults in as night settled in.  They were you went to play handball if they had a handball wall or to watch a boy you liked shoot baskets through metal hoops.  These were the places that at night, especially Astoria Park - look it up, great view of the city and great Hell's Gate Bridge, you went to sit for hours on the railing and talk about boys and dreams and making fun of the adults that just didn't get us. You did some serious singing along too to whatever songs you were into.   It was where you saw boys going aimlessly back through a loop just to spin out by some girl they wanted to impress, or  for other boys who would appreciate whatever roar that engine gave.  It was where radios blasted next to us and from cars.  Where you learned to hide the beer you were too young to have bought, got the excuse for the reason you smelled liked cigarettes (but Ma I wasn't smoking the person next to me was that's why I smell like smoke).  It was the place you found love in dark spots and smoked that thing legal only in some States now, but for sure not legal anywhere then.  It was the places that fights broke out and sections were divided in unspoken rules but respected because it was better to be there than not.  Especially in the summer.

We walked to parks as kids, as teenagers.  We avoided nights in Central Park, Tompkins Square Park, Washington Square Park when NY was not cleaned up and these places were dangerous in the dark.  Probably learned our caution from them but who doesn't love to cross Central Park, smack in the middle of a wonderful metropolis, in the daytime. 

In recent years I have traveled with my kids and in London, Paris, Rome, Venice they got a kick out of going to the parks there.  While we of course sat and enjoyed the scene, the fact that they were getting some energy out and of course some wine (it is Europe they have great wines and beers at these places).

Parks - the places where I took my kids even living in suburbia because I did not want them to just play in the backyard with one another.  I wanted them to meet people from this town, took them to neighboring towns and they made friends that they count among their closest from those encounters.  I live in a town where it's a roughly 50 - 50 divide on caucasian, latino and other (mix it up in your head and we have it).  I love that about this town.  Just like when they were in Europe it exposes my kids to having to make friends with or deal with people who aren't like them but who like scaling that monkey bar or a good game of tag as much as they do.  They learned that not everyone plays fair in the sandbox because who the inside of a person is has nothing to do with what they look like. 

So imagine my dismay and my surprise to read that parks in Westchester are not always open to the public.  Now in my Village of Ossining they are.  We welcome all - how could we not?  They provide a good place to play regardless of economic status.  You learn "5 more minutes" said in any language is the kids common plea regardless of how long you have been there.   The Village part of the Town I live in has another Village in it.  The residents that I know who live there, both those lucky enough to be part of our school system and the ones that are not and part of their own good school system, are really nice people.   They are a town of much higher income and much lower diversity, ok almost none, but they seem welcoming.  Just painting a picture folks not making a statement. 

Our Rec Center allows non-residents to join at a higher rate than residents and theirs doesn't.  Our train station allows for non-resident parking, yes at a higher rate.  Our parks have no signs that restrict access except for the residents of our Village .. WAIT WHAT??? How do you restrict access to a park that is open, no gates, not gated community that sit where both Villages of the same Town are located?  It is not unique to Briarcliff but it is shameful to me.  I get it blah blah they pay taxes but don't we all?  How are their awesome kids going to be able to experience the wonder of meeting our amazing kids if they are kept apart by a sign??

When did public parks become not public?  I mean what is the point of a park if not to learn to play nice in the sandbox (that means for everyone).  They claim it keeps out people who may be disrespectful to rules and grounds - well then hate to break it to you we weren't always as kind to the parks we were in as kids as we should have been but have mostly grown up to be productive adults who taught their kids to be more respectful of those places than we were in many ways.   

This is like the rhetoric of a certain candidate who shall not be named in all of these towns - it is keeping out anyone who is not already here and that is not the nation we should be. Tear down these signs people, if Ronald Regan can ask this of a wall dividing a city and a whole government system and that city survived I am confident tearing down the sign and letting children play together will not be the death knell of Briarcliff Manor, Dobbs Ferry, Croton or any other other place.  Maybe their residents for the most part don't know about these signs, don't know that they appear to endorse exclusionary, elitist, outdated rules (since I grew up in the late 70s I am hoping these archaic ones around here predate that).  I believe that people love the areas they live in and I believe that we all agree if someone is destructive they should be punished by fines or arrest if warranted.  A sign won't deter either of those but it will deprive our children of each other and of understanding that the best place to learn to meet and deal with others is in a good game of tag at a public park.   Funny as an only child I was reminded over and over to share - hmm saying the same thing to the adults who make these rules, share the park.   "Briarcliff Manor, Dobbs Ferry, Croton and others tear down those signs".... in the immortal words of JFK "Ich bin ein Berliner".

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Stranger Things and First Times

My boys like to have certain activities with me, often not inviting each other so it is just time for me with one or the other as well as the times when they reluctantly agree to let the other one join.   

I treasure time with my kids for I understand it is fleeting - before long, they will be just like we all were, teenagers with their own plans and then on to college morphing into planned visits.  So I will watch some crazy movie with superheroes and pick my favorite ones, Batman and Iron Man of course (hot guys with billions who want to save the world .. duh), and partake in the debates that follow about who would beat whom.  I have played paddle ball at the beach more times than I can remember, swam and played tag in the ocean even at 49 and generally can be persuaded into their games except for video games.  I hung up my video games when it no longer required either quarters or playing tennis with a square ball was the bomb when it came out.  My skills though quite impressive were in the realm of Pac-Man, QBert and Centipede/Space Invaders/Tetris not these realistic things that they play. I have no patience to match my lack of skill on this front.  However, a good board game and I am in. 

One of the things we do is we find series to watch together.  It started when they were little and we watched a lot of Backyardigans, Jack's Big Music Show,  Noddy, Calliou (which I found strange), Little Bear and Kipper.  They were not Thomas the Tank fans.   These were all cute and bearable.  We moved on to Scooby Doo (the newer ones) and enjoyed the mystery, all 3 of us.  It was hard to find the next thing though we kept trying. I either gave up or they did.  These days my younger son seems enthralled with some of the tamer Brit detective stories like Death in Paradise so we watch those together.  My older son was partial to Luther and is trying to make a case for the Wire, think he should be at least 14 for that one so we have a couple of years to go.  

We just found a new show on Netflix - Stranger Things.  Now it appeals to me because it is 1984, ahh such a good year, details are awesome.  It takes me back and the soundtrack is great.  It is a good mystery and the child actors are truly outstanding.  Matthew Modine and Wynona Rider - seriously traveled back in time right there.  It appeals to the kids because it is creepy and has a sci fi undertone. 

In a recent episode there were a few scenes about that first real (not the one you held hands with and kissed only at spin the bottle parties) boyfriend, you know especially for the girl who isn't the most popular but just popular enough.  There was that first kiss, slightly awkward and tenative until it wasn't (ok that happens with every first kiss even later and if you are lucky with some people every time you get to kiss them - wowza, sigh you know what I mean).  

There were the moments where no one but like your closest friend knew you made out, once ok twice ok ok three times.  Where you debated how far to let him go each time, the horror of people finding out and being their usual mean judgmental selves battling with wanting people to know the super cute boy picked you.   There was the moment when you were kissing and you could literally feel how much he wanted to go further and you just weren't ready or weren't sure what to be ready for (bathroom talk, movies, some ed in school and of course everyone told you but it still was all fable for you).  You knew you liked it but was that good or bad as a girl? The pressures even in 1984 were to like it but not enough that he thought you really liked it.  Oh for fuck's sake it was all so complicated and delicious.  That thrill when you saw him and the kissing, man that could go on for hours.  That first time you took off your shirt, shyly getting a little bolder, your bra in 1984 was either pink, beige or more likely white, cotton not a thing of beauty I might add.  Yet there you were wondering if you should make eye contact or if his eyes were going to lift to make eye contact.  That first time when you felt his hesitation and then the power that touch had on both of you. It was amazing those firsts  - probably many times better, from what I know and hear, than the first time for sex (which was often fast, uncomfortable and frankly while you may have been thinking about what you should be enjoying it was done and he had that goofy grin on -- what was all the hoopla about is what most of us thought).  Those other firsts are great memories, I can see the growing facial hair of the boy(s) that these moments happened with and I was thrilled because mostly I was funny and boys liked me but many liked me only as a friend.  

So in my things I share with my boys I am sharing this show and it is leading to some good conversations on a variety of topics with my boys.  The older son is also wondering as he heads into that first zone about so many things I think we all wondered about, I did not talk to my mom as openly, and his curiosity reminds me of why I started watching these shows with them to begin with.  It is to have the time together, to talk, to make memories and to be there for them before they go on to adventures that I hope are amazing as their "firsts".  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Smart is as Smart does

Access to information is more readily available to more people than ever in the history of time.   Reliable information as well as pure malarkey (what I can use the word too) out there, for most the world with just a few clicks on a keyboard.

Yet increasingly we have seen a push for what is politely called anti-intellectualism and I call if we keep them uninformed they will follow.   This is not a new tactic.  Information and education have always been closely guarded and parsed out.  Religion has been great at this tactic and as usual religion and power are closely tied together, so those supporting said religion have encouraged this throughout the ages.  I do not want to use the word stupid because that implies a lack of ability to process no no I am going with ignorance. 

In previous eras religion and rulers were able to keep people uninformed by not giving them access to literacy and written documents.  Today they have found they could this through memes, websites and the old fashioned threat that it is Evil to be educated and embrace philosophy, science, knowledge or admire those that do.  
If you are a history buff, like me, you see that reading was kept from the masses for many years, the printing press through a wrench into that plan when handwritten, guarded manuscripts could not be produced and disseminated on a machine, literacy still lagged behind but all you need to plant a seed for knowledge was say one or two people who could now read the things.  In the Dark Ages the powers that be were afraid of the power of the Enlightenment movement.  In current day only certain people are still allowed access to scriptures within their religions (yes that would be most - need to do more research but even believe Buddhist monks fall into this, see full disclaimer I did not know everything).

We have terms for smart people and they are often derogatory, we do embrace the successful smart people of the world but is that for their smarts or their financial success? We reward physical beauty and strength financially and with power but do most of us know the names of the folks who invented rocket fuel, cures for diseases, the people's names behind some of the more successful apps?

I am not a conspiracy buff, hey among ten people a secret (never mind a plot) is hard to keep imagine that times a lot of people, but this is not a conspiracy.  It is not funny to applaud people who wear their ignorance like a badge of honor, it is not good to deny what is plainly demonstrated scientific fact because it is inconvenient to a belief and most of all it is ok to question science and other sources in a way to get clarity.

I am a mother of two growing boys in a world where they do not have to go to the library, pull out a little drawer, understand how the decimal system for book shelving worked, deal with that smell of those cards, only during the times a library is open to have access to educate themselves.  They should learn to be proud of the knowledge they seek and find.  It is so much easier to make a people frenzied and divided when you are the source of their information, but today unlike in previous eras we do not have just the people at the podium or in the media telling us their version of the truth we can research for ourselves, we are that smart as a people.  

Knowledge is power and as a mother, a voter, a person I will battle anti-intellectualism in any way I can because I believe in the possibilities that people can have not the small mindedness of those who want to keep them from that potential.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I'm Bored

Summertime and the living is easy - well except when you hear "Mom!!!!! I'm Bored!" .  Ever heard that from your kids ?  Really ?- stop it - of course you have.   I hear it from mine on a regular basis.

Summertime in particular should be a time where boredom is not only permitted but encouraged.  We have become a society, particularly in the US, of no downtime.  This is not kid specific only but it is all of us.  Downtime is high on the list things we seem to be good at shaming people on - social media is the new stockade.  As a world we easily brand people, throw virtual rotted fruit at, and of course pass judgement on many things.   It is slightly appalling and I try and control myself and apologize when I do it.   There is something so base and primitive at pointing at someone and feeling some sense of superiority over not behaving like they did.  It is the basis for much of faith based teaching and as someone who came to being an atheist by studying as much as I could about faiths in every one of them there appears to be a whole balance to that about not casting such judgement and leaving that to the deity.  That seems to be less easy to embrace from what I see vs the scarlet letter that we can steam on.   Boredom, downtime, lazying is frowned upon.

Boredom is up there in the social scolding category, as if for some reason we are not busy and entertained we are failing.  Our children are being raised very often, again my point of personal reference is what I see and experience in NY, to be busy.   They go to school, like real not just finger paint/recess/nap school, from 3 years old if not younger.  They are put on colorful mats and watched to pass milestones and be baby Einsteins and use sign language and be on schedule all from the time they come out.  As they get slightly older there are music, gym, sports, acting, STEM, coding, gaming, blah blah blah classes.  We do this because we are encouraged as parents and they each serve good purposes for our kids but for me they have never had to be all at the same time.  Our kids come home from school and go to devices to do their homework, go to practices and rehearsals, come home and go back on devices and at no point is there just plain old fashioned stare at the wall downtime for many kids.  We don't like it when they are sitting around twirling their fingers, we bemoan the fact that they just don't go outside and play and blame it on electronics.  You know the electronics we bought them and the fact that we are sort of scared to send them outside and have taught them that play is scheduled .. umm by us.  Not judging here, put down the tomato emoji, just stating what I see.

Boredom especially in the summer is a good thing.  I long to be bored and not have tasks to complete, I try and make time to watch some mindless TV,  or read , or do nothing but enjoy sitting by the beach or pool and watching people.  It is precious time where my mind can wander. My kids are learning that I am not going to help them with boredom.  That on certain days they need to find a way to entertain themselves without my planning, without electronics and maybe just to fill in some of that downtime.  I am not advocating that they are bored all the time, but let them be bored to the point where they can rest and then go on to be creative, fun, energetic, self-entertaining and be kids for a bit. 

Life is a weird marathon that we treat like a sprint.  We sometimes forget that in a marathon you have to go a little slower to make the length of the run, that we need to replenish our energy and that the finish line in life is the end of the line so really if we do not come in first it is a good thing.  It is the race that we should be enjoying and sometimes we just need to sit and rest in order to continue.

So next time you hear "I'm bored" smile and maybe be bored with your child for a while.  Let them be bored and enjoy that sprint part of the marathon of life which we know as childhood.  There is nothing better than those lazy, hazy days of summer after all.  Books were written about adventures, songs praise it, so let's not stop boredom for it often leads to creativity or just good recharging . SO go on be b o r e d!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

If I could turn back time

Starting my last year in my forties hurling at warp speed to 50 it seems like.   It is so easy to fall into the woe is me "nuh huh not me am not going to be 50" mind set.

After all pretty much all media tells me I have to fill them wrinkles.  Yet they are my reminders that my eyes wrinkle when I laugh and I have laughed a lot.  A LOT.   For me the people that make me belly laugh, snort at times, tears in eyes laugh are the ones that I am most comfortable with because I relax enough to know they will eye roll at my snort and give me a tissue for those eyes.   My wrinkles are from time spent squinting at the sun at  the beach, a place that gives me inner peace and always makes me happy.  My wrinkles mark the times I tried to look older when I was younger by putting on make up that I thought screamed sophistication ... it probably just screamed at times, many things but not sophistication.  My wrinkles are not many and mostly come when I am showing emotion - like displeasure at something said, like anger when I see something that is unfair, like a smile I give someone when our eyes meet and they need a little encouragement, when the area around my eyes is lifted along with the corners of my mouth because I have locked eyes on someone who is setting my soul on fire.  My wrinkles that hug the corners of my eyes when I look upon my sons and cannot help but sigh with pleasure.  They are not defining me as older I am defining them as memory holders.  Go ahead fill the wrinkles if it makes you smile and feel good but not because someone else is defining beautiful for you. 

I hear that I should have .. I should have done this or that or worse yet that I cannot do something. That I am too old for this fashion, that length of hair.  That I cannot be silly or try certain things.  That at my age I should know better.  I do - I know better - I know that I do not need to listen to all those things "they" say because I am getting more and more comfortable with the decisions I make.  I see opportunities to try things because I no longer care as much what people think and if I fail.  I lived a life of both accomplishments and tons of mistakes, I missed chances to try and go for things because of too many reasons, I didn't demand enough of myself when it came to telling people how I loved them and let them get away without demanding that they love me as I deserved.  I should have but I didn't and I regret it not at all because instead I found other experiences, learned from those mistakes. I started painting in my 30s, blogging in my 40s, being a mother post 35 and tennis on the down side of 47.  There is nothing I cannot do because of my age or the age I will be - it is freeing to know what I want, to learn to really think about what I deserve and to know whose advice and opinion actually matters besides my own. 

In my teens I wanted so badly to be noticed in a good way, in my twenties I wanted to prove that I didn't care but really I spent so much time caring so much about what others wanted of me, in my 30s I started to embrace parts of who I was especially as I became a mother and in my forties I started to understand that the person who has to like me most, who has to have confidence in what I need is me. In my fifties and beyond I think as a woman I will be that much more comfortable in my needs, my sexuality, my asking of others to be on the trip with me and not need them to buy me a ticket.

I plan on making my last year in my forties a celebration of life and really focusing on what I want for the next 50 years.  Yeah I need reading glasses, but boy are there some cute ones out there.  Yeah I need some more medical care but I met some new interesting some folks that way.  Yeah the world is out of it's fucking mind but I can be part of the solution of my sphere of influence. Yeah my body sometimes reminds me of some of it's limitations so I can remember to take care of it.  There isn't a No, Can't in there - there are yeses of how I adjust not how to avoid. 

I am not a marathon person, not a runner, hell I don't really like exercise but I love my walks, my tennis, my dancing around the house and of course my fabulous ability to belt out lyrics and sing along as if I actually had a killer voice to go with my kick ass dance moves.   I am a woman in my last year of her 40s  -- watch out world I am ready to roll.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

While my guitar gently weeps

It was hard writing a blog today because there is so much I want to say and the words seem choked inside of me.  "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing " well I may be many things but I am never a do nothing woman.

I am raising boys, boys who are caucasian but who could very well marry or have children with lovely people (I hope they are wonderful partners to my sons) who are not caucasian.  I am raising the next generation who sees differences in people based on what their interests are but not in their race, religion, type of parents they have who love same sex or other or no longer the part of picture, who look like them and who look nothing like them.  They see people still for who they are -- people. Some are asses, most are fascinating, the vast majority are good and then there are the ones that they don't understand. How could they understand when I do not understand and I am an adult - how can they comprehend how someone could kill another living, breathing person because they find something they just simply can use to condone doing it?

It is hard writing a blog because we all may have healing words but have gotten better at using screaming hurts.   He did this to me - You are wrong - I know someone -- You don't see me - I can't breathe - officer down.  We hear these over and over and over.  Surrounded by a cloud of misinformation and memes that make it seem true when they are too often not.  Reporters don't report the news they make a story, one that draws us in, gets ratings because facts are no longer what we seek -- vengeance and justification is what we sells.   We have politicians who sole defense seems to be "well the other guy/lady did it too or did it worse".  If you did something wrong be held accountable as an elected official - I couldn't get out of ticket if my excuse was "well officer there was a guy last week who was driving way faster than me".

I have boys who could have children who look nothing like them, who look like the children that are getting killed for being people of color.  I have boys who could lose friends who choose to become police officers.  I have boys who have lived through the horror of Sandy Hook, Orlando shooting who do not know a world where 9/11 was just a date.   They live in a country that comes with a legacy of being an amazing melting pot of all the world has to offer, it's best and a place that carries the chains of wrongdoings that we need to acknowledge and move on from in a way that is not dismissive but like everything they have learned as children... you do something bad, own it and then learn from it so you do not keep doing it again and again.  Nationality means nothing more than being where you were born.  We should celebrate accomplishments not as that nationality but as humanity and condemn ills not because a certain belief drove it but because it is not acceptable to us.

I refuse to let this become a blog about all that is wrong with the world because there is much too much right with the world.  I have multiple comments from readers, both those I know and those I don't, from near my home to as far as Sri Lanka that agree with the fact that we need to take better care of our planet, that war and killing must stop, that they are us and we are them.  We are not different we are each novel.  We add to the mix not dilute it.   We can change but we must start conversations with our children who cannot keep being afraid of what they see, what they hear and of each other.  They need to teach us to listen to them - to their needs - to dispel the boogieman.  Our police officers are not bad but must hold accountable those among them who behave in a way that disgraces the uniform and brings harm to the communities they are there to protect and serve.  We all learned in "Shawshank Redemption" all men are innocent in jail, except they are not.  Our poor neighborhoods need to get support to break the cycle of poverty and not see the only options be those that put them in conflict with those very same officers.  There are poets, artists, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers in every neighborhood and they must be what we nurture.

It was hard to write a blog today but how could I stay silent ?  There are plenty of things that want to kill all of us - climate change, cancer, illness, accidents - we need to fight those things and those who want to teach us to hate not each other, not the "us" across the world who wants the best for our children.  The question is not who was wrong but who will lead us all to do right!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

This is a guilty confession blog - no it is not about any extra ice cream or carbs or gluten thing I ate, those I eat with pleasure - nor is it about a bender or anything truly embarrassing I have done (those things are pretty much in my past).

No this blog is about something much less talked about - thinking of running away as an adult and more specifically as a Mom.  As a kid I thought about running away - twice.  My first attempt was done not out of angst or rebellion but because it looked kind of cool in some show I saw  Now I do not camp or like to "rough" it and apparently this held true from when I was a kid.  I packed a suitcase and was going to .. oh I don't know where I was going but it looked like an adventure.  I was home and unpacked before my parents got home from work.  My second attempt was a threat to which my mother rolled her eyes and told me to go for it because she recognized it for the teenage angst it was - I never left the house it was freakin' cold that night I remember and I do not like the cold.  OK so this is obviously a failure for me or maybe I am more of the passive resistance mindset.

However, as an adult and especially as a mom the thought has crossed my mind a lot more than I ever counted on.  I get the Bruce song more than ever.   It is the dirty secret I have whispered to other moms and they whisper back that they know, they get it, they want to know if I could come by and get them as I do it.

It is overwhelming in so many ways to be a mom - there is the physical exhaustion (especially when they are little) and then there is the responsibility.   Oh the responsibility they are just so needy, they want you to answer and deliver and know so much and there are times when frankly after a day of all day work and commuting I just want to walk in and have .... SILENCE.   Just silence, no one coming at me to ask or share or need or be hungry.  To sit as I did in my apartments and just do nothing but decompress for an hour or so.

It is also daunting that you have to give up so much of yourself for them - your activities, your plans, your time to blog or do whatever it is in the house that you wanted to do and goodbye spontaneity.  It is the constant calls of "mom", "mommmm", "mommy"... constant.

I love my kids and being a mom but there are times when I miss my me time and this is not my secret apparently but that of almost every other mom I have shared it with.  There are two approaches you could take to this - the one that I have found my friends and I have where you find a way to escape enough to recharge or the one that winds up Mommy Dearest style therapy blame the kid.  They are not at fault so not something I would ever go to, nor did the friends I have spoken to on this subject but we all witnessed it as kids and it is seared in our brains as cautionary tales.

You need you time and teaching your kids that they are worthy of doing same for themselves by modeling this is actually a good mothering technique.  I blog either in the morning when they are not up or frankly have learned to tell them that unless there is an emergency my allotted time to blog is mine not theirs to take away.  As a woman raising boys I want them to see women as individuals who have needs and who are amazing mothers (plug for me) but also independent beings who need other things to keep growing.   We live in a different time - a time when parenting is all engrossing and your time is spent with laser focus on kids' needs but that can be a bit dangerous too as we do not want them to think that this is the world - it is not, they may be awesome but they are part of a world not the entirety of it.

So go ahead - run away, to an activity where you do not do grocery or to do lists but immerse yourself in it, to a shopping trip of the kind you did pre-kids with leisurely strolls and not for anything you actually "need", to a movie, to dinner with friends or even to a mini break.   It is ok to want to runaway because as a mom the place you most want to run back to is those same kids.   After all the other side of this coin is less Thelma and Louis and more like Ferris Bueller's day off because we love our kids, we enjoy spending time with them and let's be frank we bask in the glow of being so needed.

In honor of the original Brexit and in the spirit of the 4th of July - I declare we are all entitled to the pursuit of our happiness.