Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coming to America...Part 2

For purple mountain majesties, 
Above the fruited plain, 
But now wait a minute, I'm talking about 
America, sweet America, 
You know, God done shed his grace on thee,....Ray Charle
s

....so I arrived at JFK after many, many hours...pigtails in tact, suit slightly rumpled, papers in small bag, anxious ....got off the plane and the family that had so graciously helped me along and I were separated.  They lived in Chicago and were moved along to try and find a connecting flight considering how long we were delayed.  I never saw them again...I have thought of them periodically since.  I looked around and was moved to a kiosk....back then if you were coming as a minor to parents with a Greencard you got one too, at the airport! So I answered my usual "hello my name is Juliana Badescu"...smiled at the first black man I ever saw in person and touched his skin and then pointed to mine.  I remember bits of him, he was large and he smiled and patted my hand.  Now some of you may wonder why would they make a child do all that paperwork on their own with no translator...I got nothing for you.


Meanwhile on the other side of the sliding glass doors you had 2 parents, who have not seen their child in a few years, a mother pacing and crying, a father nervous and making jokes.  You have 2 people who see all these folks come off the long delayed flight, a flight they knew was stuck in Amsterdam for many hours - how did their baby (in their minds a 5 year old still) survive and the people keep on coming and their daughter...not.  They are desperate, maybe they never let her go, though a phone call had confirmed she had gotten on the plane, maybe something went wrong...maybe, maybe ...where was their child?  As the last of the passengers get off my Mother in a desparate state, with tears, grabs a young boy coming through the doors..his mother grabs him back and says "please do not take my son...please" the mothers start to cry...my Mother asks "I am looking for my daughter..her name is Juliana'..and the mother and son laugh.  They tell my mother of how I spoke to all on the plane, how another family had helped me and that I too must be doing my paperwork.  This relieves and troubles my Mother...paperwork, she does't speak English. She looks up and among the last of the people is a taller girl than she remembers, with the same smile she knows, pig tails with big bows (you know the ones every Eastern bloc girl had them in pictures from that era) that my Mother hates ...her baby but not...a bigger girl.


I loved the reunion, the laughter, the crying, the hugs...my parents.  The relief they must have felt.  The hard work they both had, both having to work the next day (my father nights).  I got up and my Mom had left, I accidentally locked myself in their bedroom (the door would jam due to weathering if you closed it), I cried and beat on the floor thinking my father was in their friend's apartment (he was ..their friend is my 2nd Mom who now lives and lived in Spain at the time). I cried because I thought they would, maybe...send me back for making such a mistake.  My Dad got me and told me that it was ok...he held me...he told me we had to get milk, bread...I laughed at him.  Did he not know that unless you lined up at 6am you got no milk, did he not know that bread only came on certain days?...That is the things every child knows in a Communist country.  You know that lines are how you hope you to get food...that you hope they do not run out before you get to the front.  He took me to the supermarket, I had the same reaction anyone who came after me and I saw had,  stared at the abundance..what kind of magical land was this? I stared at the milk, at any hour, available to get.  I asked him to stay in the bakery with me, Parisi in Astoria-still among the best bread ever, as I have never smelled fresh baked bread before.  There was a small line to pay...only to pay because they had plenty!


I am an American by choice.  I have dual citizenship and I am proud of my European traits, beliefs and blood...but I am an American now because it is the most imperfect and perfect place I have ever been.  I love American optimism and the generosity of this country.  I still get teary at the national anthem and sad when the country is going through tough times. I am European in not beating myself up about what the government does, hell the Europeans have done and do much worse but count on the Americans lack of interest in history and geography to not know that.  Americans who only have negative things to say about their country are so American in my view...disgruntled because they have the privilege to be so publicly, with a bit of child like petulance.  I love my friends who believe they can make a difference because in small ways and maybe in large they can.  We owe fellow Americans the generosity we as a nation extend to other nations and I know we can be great because of the diverse people and cultures that chose to make this their home.
Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Every time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America....."America" Neil Diamond

Monday, June 27, 2011

Coming to America...Part 1

Since the Fourth of July is this week I started to think about my own arrival in the States and what it means to me to live in the US. I was slightly over 5 when my parents, after waiting and bribing and filling out lots of paperwork, finally got approval to take a vacation outside of Romania.  In Communist Romania, like all other Communist nations, you did not get to choose where you went on vacation outside the country without the goverment's approval.  I am not talking about just getting a visa. Instead imagine being prohibited from that trip to Cancun or whatever your destination of choice is (not due to an embargo for one specific nation) but due to the fact that the goverment controlled your every movement.  My parents applied for a trip throughout a few of the Eastern bloc nations, not easy to get approval for but not impossible, with a last stop in Austria before their return, almost impossible to get to a non-Eastern bloc country.  They got this permission with the caveat that they leave me behind, what better collateral to ensure that they were not yet another couple who would not come back. My parents told almost no one, especially me, that they were planning on not coming back (to protect themselves from being potentially exposed as well as to protect the people they were leaving behind - this was punishable by jail time).  I remember my parents leaving, standing in front of our aparment building and waving as their car drove away.


I was not privvy to their plans even after they left, in fact I spent 2 years with lots of instruction from my mother's aunt (who in her 60s took me in) and her daughter as well as many other relatives learning to tell all who asked outside this circle that my parents were on vacation.  This is what I told the teachers at school and my friends....they knew it was not true but really did not want to expose themselves with the knowledge of what the truth was.  I spent time learning English, private tutor who smelled of brandy and often fell asleep during my lessons so pretty much all I could say at the end of these was "hello my name is Juliana Badescu" and a few other British accented phrases.  She was nice and her excessive blue eye shadow always made me smile.  I spent time writing letters and asking why if I was really good, finished with the best grades in my class could I not be united with my parents ?  My mother said those letters asking this and telling her how well I was behaving broke her heart when she got them.  How do you explain that a system is so awful that the only option is to leave everyone and everything behind to hopefully bring your child out of it to that child? To this day my favorite President is and will always be Gerald Ford, not for the fact that by all accounts he was a decent man who truly wanted to do a job well that he never even aspired for, but because it was his visit to the Romania to lend them money that led the goverment to reduce some human rights abuses (those that could be easily identified anyway) including not keeping minor children from their parents who had left.


No one was allowed to accompany me...that's right an 8 year old child on a plane headed for a foreign country and no one was allowed to accompany me by the Romanian goverment.  I bid a tearful farewell, with a secret happiness that I was going to see my Mom and Dad, to my family.  They bribed the stewardess to take care of me and I got on a plane headed for America. If it shocking to hear of bribes as a daily occurrence at every level, well then you have never lived outside of a democracy.  Bribes in places like the US happen without the frequency that they do in these other places,and not as a routine way to work with everyone from the cab driver to the highest level of an institution.  


America...a land so much talked about, with reverance in private and scorn publically, that it held it's own pull for me....the main attraction of course being that I just wanted to be with my parents.  None of the flight staff on this Romanian airline did a thing to help me, they ignored me for the entire ride.  Social butterfly that I was I spoke to almost anyone who would talk to me on the plane including one family who had a little girl, who only spoke English to my only Romanian, and they in many ways saved me.  Our plane was delayed in Amsterdam and the really unpleasant flight attendants told me to get off the plane with the other passangers, for the entire 5 hour delay.  Yes, an 8 year old child who spoke only Romanian was asked to wander the airport....I can only say maybe they were tired since they were not allowed to disembark at any of their destinations because of the number of them that kept defecting or maybe they were just not nice people.  The family I mentioned took care of me, bought me chocolate and ensured that I was not alone.  I often get asked if I was scared...I do not remember being anything but excited by all I saw around me and that soon, so soon I would once again be with my parents.  We got back on the plane and we were off to New York, city of Kojak (reruns were on in Romania too..who loves ya baby?), tall buildings, a brand new car my dad had written about that was big and silver (Buick LeSabre 1975) and of course my parents!! I do not remember sleeping but am sure I did, I played backgammon with my little friend and read my book until I saw it ...New York...as we circled the island of Manhattan...just like on TV only the buildings seemed taller.  I had arrived ....JFK...Eastern Airlines building....

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's not the Orient Express..

I totally have one of those faces...yes the one that seems to attract strangers to cross Grand Central through the throngs of people to stop and ask me for directions.  I am the one who on a subway, a New York City subway where people are known for avoiding eye contact as if the laser beams would melt the other person, who people not only sat next to but would ask (multiple occurrences) what I was listening to on my Walkman then iPod, would read the short stories I was writing and add "helpful" comments and even discuss whatever reading material I had.  Yes I have that kind of face.

I defined myself as a commuter, though I always took the "train" aka subway or bus to work I never really thought of myself as a commuter, when I moved to the 'burbs and had to get on an actual train with a schedule, a clearer PA system (no more Stan Clea Clos Do), and an expensive monthly ticket.  Have to say I laugh when these folks from up here complain that they have to sit 3 in a 3 seater (2 on each end is preferred) or switch from their "usual" spot.  Lightweights, guess they never took a 7 train at rush hour, seats hah - sardines have more wiggle room.  Usual spot - yes shoved against a pole with what on a bad day can be nicely described as human funk.  Now  we all know I love the subway but am not delusional about the quality of the ride.

I really like my train ride, on the side of the Hudson River, quiet, pretty much on time, runs frequently....but I have also come to look forward to my "usual" crowd.  You see, for those of you who do not partake in this chariot of choice to work, when you commute from the same location on the platform at roughly the same time in the morning you tend to get to know your fellow passengers.  You get to share names, get asked if you were ill or on vacation when you switch your train time and they do not see you for a while, you may hear more information about a divorce or a marriage than you anticipate and you tend to sit in the same formation in the seats.  There is train etiquette (men read the paper first and then a book and talk less, not a lot of talking on cell phones or trust me your fellow riders will have a comment, women talk or read, you keep the voices lowered - stereotypes yes but pretty accurate ones). There are the odd people who you and your friends talk about, you know High School style name calling like the Oompa Loompa (year round fake tan orange woman, nasty and ready to run you over in the lot by the train), the weird guy with the gym bag who huffs and puffs if someone sits next to him, there was even a woman who used to bring scissors (multiple sizes) and clip her arm hair (that one freaked me out people and of course she sat next to me repeatedly and talked to me), the woman who smelled so strongly of booze every time (yes she likes to sit and talk to me also) that I sometimes felt I had a hangover when we got to Grand Central.There is a crowd of men who plays poker on the 5:38 pm every day - 4 seater, cardboard on their laps for a table. 


There are also friends who I commute with which become part of the seating arrangement  ...non-stop chatting here at what you hope is not a loud level except when you crack each other up....and who the men, I have befriended in this group, will razz us both mercilessly about how much we can talk in 45 minutes considering we see each other almost every day.  You text your friends to see what time they are going home.  You get a lot of reading and music time in...oh OK and Facebook (whatever!!).  Mostly though, since I have one of those faces that even in more hostile environments encouraged camaraderie, I found a group of people who befriended me and understand we all just need to get there and get through the day.  I like my first car 7:40 am crowd...I miss my 8:09 am group...and I look forward to looking out the window to start and end my day with a view of a gorgeous river that I glide along in a silver bullet from a skyscraper wonder of a city to a tree lined quaint town. Now if we could only get that bar car that the Connecticut line has....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Different but not Less

I finally had a chance to watch the movie "Temple Grandin" which was quite an extraoridnary story for anyone who has seen it or is familiar with the topic.  Temple is an autistic woman who has gone on to be a very famous thought leader in the animal husbandry industry, her studies and designs have led to a much more humane way to treat livestock.  The movie is well acted and the story is really remarkable because it shows  a mother's determination to make sure her child achieves as much as their potential can even when there are huge obstacles.


The topic of a child who is different is very personal to me.  I have a son with a non-diagnosed spectrum disorder.  That term is as confusing as it sounds.  When my elder son was about 2 I noticed he flapped his hands a lot, I mean a lot, he sometimes walked on his toes and he seemed to be fascinated with fans.  As a mother who watched every milestone and as a psych major these things worried me.  He was a loving child but he had some odd reactions to certain noises and textures.  He made eye contact and was advanced in his speech but he could also not seem to hold a crayon.  I shared my concerns with my husband and with the pediatrician who really said these were not atypical behaviors.  Sometimes though you just know...you know that these are not things other kids are doing.  One of my most painful moments as a mother came when I had a parent teacher conference at his nursery school when he was 3.  The teacher told me that he sometimes stared at the wall and flapped, that he had some personal space issues, and that the other kids asked about his behaviors.  My baby, I imagined not what he had but how mean the world could be to anyone who stood out.  I sat in my car and cried for an hour after.  Yet in some ways it was the best conversation because someone else was validating what I saw and there needed something to be done.  He was tested and he scored off the charts in IQ and at the lowest in fine motor skills.  He started therapy twice a week and we tried a lot of different things. We tried omega supplements, taking away dairy, holistic and traditional treatments, tramopline to help him release the energy, brushing for sensory integration on his skin and they all worked and they all didn't. The occupational and physical therapy were incredibly effective and he no longer needs them. Today, because of our diligent and early intervention, he is probably one of the most popular kids with his peer group that I know...he has learned where he is safe to show his quirks and how to manage them.


The developmental psychologist who saw him said he was not autistic because he had great social skills but yet he was not typical (normal is no longer used) because he had his quirks which would possibly change to new quirks as he got older.  The therapy helped with his fine motor skills and he has learned not to flap in social settings because he has felt the pain of kids being quite cruel about it.  He still flaps at home and I let him be.  I am sharing this story,with his permission by the way, because if there are parents out there who notice something may not seem "right" about their child they should pursue it until they get whatever they need to help that child be the best they can be.  I do not know what causes these things, no one does and non-science myth is being sold as truth. It could be vaccines combined with mercury combined with insecticides all a combo that effects any child with a genetic predisposition to these disorder but who knows...no one.  I only know that the therapy helped, that I spent many nights on my kitchen floor crying because I was so scared that I would not know how to help my beautiful, intelligent, funny boy.  I know that he is different but not less, just like Temple Grandin says, and in the end I know that anyone who knows him will be better for it.  I also ask that if you do not have children with special needs you try to teach your children to be kind to those kids whose twitches, grunts, and general "weirdness" is who they are. I share this with you because without the help of a few friends who accepted and shared their own stories I would have probably not been able to get it together enough to get through what needed to be done.  I write this for him, to let him know that different is not easy but that he is loved for it not in spite of it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Father's Day

I'm gonna watch you shine
Gonna watch you grow
Gonna paint a sign
So you'll always know
As long as one and one is two
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you...Paul Simon "Father and Daughter"

It is so easy to become a father.  There is no pregnancy, no birthing, no thought to anything but a moment of release right?  Yes, but it takes so much more to be a Papa.  In today's world there are so many combos of families that I am not sure I can list them all - this blog is dedicated to all the Dads. 


My own Dad was a flawed man and a parent who could have really used some parenting skills. Now that I have had many years of therapy and a lot more maturity he has become the Dad I have come to love and appreciate.  My Dad was of a different generation and so I have learned to no longer measure him by today's standards.  I have learned to forgive the errors he probably never knew he made.  My Dad was not a Hallmark/made for TV Dad but he was one of the most incredible people I have ever known and the person I miss so very much since he died at a young age (not even 60) when I was still of a young age (20s). 


Father's Day always reminds me that I do not have a Dad to send a card to, that my sons do not get to know him.  My Mom's husband is a nice man, who has been in my life for over 20 years, and who to his credit has been a tremendous addition to the family.  My elder son, they have no grandfathers since my husband's Dad passed away when my husband was 13, once said it is a good thing that my Mom remarried so they had a spare grandfather.  That is my Mom's husband, a really good fill in so that the motion of our lives keeps going. He is my sons' grandfather if not by blood then by emotion.  However, he is not my Dad and to his credit even after all these years he never has tried to be. 


My Dad gave me a love of learning, reading, dancing, fashion, travel, movies (especially scary ones) and music.  He had champagne dreams and a Coke budget but he never let you know that.  He lived for the moment, for the joy, for the love of something....hard on a family many times but never dull.  He was the life of any party, a chic dresser, and he was fun.  One of my best memories is of when I was younger and we spent Saturdays together going to the movies then walking the city until my Mom got out of work.  I remember his laughter and the joy he had when he made others laugh.  He fought me tooth and nail on politics at times and admired my ability to argue with him intelligently.  The one thing I sometimes doubted, but now am sure of is that my Dad loved me as well as he could.  I could choose to remember my Dad for the things that he did poorly in his role, the way he did not bring out the best in me but I have learned to acknowledge those areas as something he lacked in his own psychological make up, things that I choose not to let rule my life.  I am a better parent in many ways because I learned from where he failed and replicated all those things he did so well. I miss my Dad but these memories are with me when I need them.  


I admire those fathers (and among our friends who have children there are plenty) like my husband who understand that being a part of their children's lives will help them grow as much as it will help their children.  They know that a moment spent with your child is not a chore but rather something to cherish.  This Father's Day if you can; remember the moments that your Dad was there for you (brief or many), the moments he was imperfect but your hero, and most of all the moments that make you want to say Happy Father's Day wherever he may be.


Bit by bit, I've realized 
That he was here with me; 
I looked into my father's eyes.   Eric Clapton "My Father's Eyes"  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Prom

Friday night I got off from my train and the parking lot was full, I mean past capacity, with cars blocking in those of us who were hurrying to get out.  The commuter lot where I park my car is right on the Hudson River.  The waterfront was full of parents with cameras (and tissues) taking pictures of the high school seniors going to prom.  I wanted to be a little annoyed about my car being blocked in, after all my non-senior children were waiting for me to get them from day care and take them to a party that night, but I could not be.  I looked at the high schoolers, man they seem so young - did we look that young ?, in their gorgeous dresses, perfect hair and makeup, heels that must already be hurting, boys with tuxedos and slicked back hair and smiled.  I smiled for the moment and also for the past and future.  I waited patiently, honked lightly, to which a very nice father (assume) holding a camera came and moved the car blocking me in.  He wiped his eyes getting into the car and emerged with a smile once he had moved the car, camera in ready mode.


I remember my own prom, it was the second time this week that I thought of it actually, very well.  I thought of it earlier in the week passing by the Plaza Hotel the place that is forever tied in my mind to it since that is where we had ours.  The Prom...THE PROM...stuff of myth, anticipation, heartbreak, sex (yes and stop looking shocked), pushing that limit more than ever for one night.  The night when curfews were lifted, pictures were taken, neighbors looked on as limos left.  Senior year in high school is all about the struggle between kids thinking they have arrived into their adulthood and parents trying so hard to keep them in their childhood.  Nothing else defines the end of that struggle, with the kids winning, as the Prom.  The night that required months of discussion, preparation, and of course the 2 most important things from a girl's perspective; the dress and the date.  My dress was bought my Dad (nothing poofy was my only request so wound up with a dress I like to this day that was not as mired in the 80s as it could have been) and he also bought my shoes (at a height that I chose and my mother thought he used no judgement about).  The month before the prom my boyfriend and I broke up and well that left me with NO PROM DATE.  This was 1985 the option to go to the prom alone (especially for a girl) was well not an option. I was sad, looked at the dress, ready to cancel the limo when my friend Maryanne broke up with her boyfriend and our friend Tom was still looking for a date. The 3 of us went together, sat together, laughed with the Led Zeppelin playing "don't ask don't tell" limo driver who helped get us into nightclubs after the prom and got us home with the break of dawn.  My feet throbbed, stockings had been thrown out to be able to walk barefoot, my hair was a mess and I am pretty sure the acrylic nails I had on had broken.  The Plaza Hotel was beautiful and probably not ready for our chorus of "Where's the Beef?" when they served us filet mignon(you know a HS crowd is not impressed by high end small sized meat).  The combination of 2 girls and 1 guy was not something conventional, we were the only ones, but we were in some way more honest then the couples where one thought escort and the other thought "getting lucky".  Obviously our threesome was a platonic one which actually let us relax, laugh at ourselves and enjoy the night for what it was ...a last celebration among people who we had really grown up with during the past 4 years, complete with overpriced drinks, music and big hair and who we were getting ready to part from.


I have looked back on that night periodically and it is always a memory that is filled with a smile.  The girls the other night looked slightly more polished (think the fashions have a lot to do with that) and the boys seem timeless in their attire (rentals still so much cheaper than what the girls have to pay for this event).  I hope those kids had a night from which they are recovering with memories they choose to relive when they get to be older. I smiled at the sight of these kids, at the memories of my own prom, and with a tissue in hand thinking of my own sons' future proms.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living in the 50s


Oh-oh, yes I'm the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own..."Great Pretender" THE PLATTERS

Occasionally, after some above average stress in my day, I wish for a moment to travel back in time. Not to a time I actually knew, or a time when I was single and just enjoyed my time and paid a few bills, not to a time when I myself was a child, but to a time that really only lives in my imagination.


I periodically want to go live in the Fifties.  I know it is a product of media brainwashing and yet I cannot help myself.  Since I live in an age where daily news tidbits include things like raging wars (globally), a downward spiraling economy, horror stories of things done to children, boring but ever present sexual exploits of politicians and basic doom and gloom I sometimes long for those images from the days where people just seemed happy.  I want to wear those torpedo bras, the cute little dresses, the cat eye glasses and I want to be amazed listening to 45s of that new fangled rock and roll (or any of that great music of the time) on the jukebox at the local malt shop.  Since summer is here I want to meet up with Gidget and Annette and play beach blanket bingo (whatever that is) and learn new words like groovy. My hair would be shellacked to a perfect bouffant platinum blonde, red lips, kitten heels on.  I look forward to going to drive in movies, wrapping my telephone cord around a finger while I talk to my friends about the "to die for" new guy, and look forward to getting pinned (easy there this is the 50s and it is not the pinned you are thinking about).  My only exercise would be that shaker machine, the one that just had a belt you put on your butt and it shook you, while holding a drink and cigarette of course. Maybe for a minute I could be Sandy in Grease (both the cheerleader and sexy hot pants at the end), it all appeals to me.  It all appears like a slightly more innocent, less jaded time. 


Since I am in reality a child of my generation I do not believe the above is the way life actually was.  Maybe some of it is accurate but they had problems, issues, predators, wars and many people suffered because they had almost no rights (women included).  However, with the price of airline tickets these days the trip back to a place of idyllic sunshine to enjoy while cruising in a convertible, Elvis and milkshakes maybe all I get as travel time when reality pushes me to need a break.  I do not think there is anything wrong with finding a place you can go to in your mind, a place you make exactly as you wish it to be, as long as when you open your eyes you open your mind and think of how to make your time in your current era something someone in the future would want to visit.

But don't forget who's taking you home
And in whose arms you're gonna be
So darlin', save the last dance for me, mmmm..."Save the last dance for me" Ben E King

Monday, June 6, 2011

So you think you can teach....

I have tremendous respect for teachers. I say this not because I have friends who chose this profession, though I do admire them, but because as a mother I have to come appreciate the importance of having a good teacher for my children. My children are at the very beginning of their, hopefully long, academic journey being in first grade and pre-kindergarten only.  Yet, they already have had a series of teachers in their young lives.  Today's children are incredibly well taught, or so my experience with my children's peers leads me to believe, from library programs for the infants who could barely hold up their heads, to nursery schools, pre-schools and of course a host of in home lessons from the minute they are born.  I remember my own mother looking at me indulgently, if not convinced, as I read to my week old sons.  She saw this as a nice thing, something that she and her friends would not have even thought to do with their own infants, but it took my children's excellent and early onset of vocabulary to have her see the benefits of this activity.  


As new parents we are bombarded with information on how to help your child achieve, excel, learn from the minute you conceive.  I do not know if these hours of Baby Einstein videos do anything, the makers and developers were pretty genius themselves with this financial power hitter, other than be a source of obsessive focus for the little ones so you can get a few minutes of time to do some chore that needs to be done.  I do know that the way we now pay attention and help our children understand their world as they develop is turning out children who say things like "nocturnal" at 3 (and understand the meaning) and are great negotiators.  I believe our parents when asked a question like "where are we going?" would have usually responded with "to your aunt's house".  Today I find myself, and my friends do this too, responding with "we are going over the Tappan Zee Bridge sweets, which connects us to Rockland county and then New Jersey, that is another state since we live in New York".  I laugh writing this and know I will continue in this manner because the kids seem to now expect it and short answers just beget more questions. 


My respect for teachers comes from the understanding that this is exhaustive work with curious minds, draining with minds that wander as they get older, challenging for those teaching higher education.  My older son has had one teacher who was amazing, she set the bar so high in Kindergarten, that I pity all the others after her.  The ones he has had for 1st grade have been good but not they are not her.  I also have been appalled recently at the improper use of grammar and punctuation that I have seen from some teachers....no excuse is going to make me change my mind that this is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.  I commend teachers for the patience they have to bring every day and want to reward those who truly move our children toward becoming more than even we adoring parents believe our little geniuses already are.  I also believe we should get rid of any that are not being the best in class (pun intended).  As the school year comes to a close take a moment to thank the teacher(s) who really added to your child's road success and let's keep teaching our children to respect education and those who chose to teach. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Volunteer work .....

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead
Considering that the media mostly concerns itself with publishing negative news items only I try and write most blogs about things that for a moment will hopefully counteract the terrible stories out there and make the reader smile.  I hesitated in writing this blog but then I remembered my own disdain for censorship so am not going to censor myself. 


In the past few weeks a rash of stories have permeated the media about men (financially powerful so think that is part of the story for the media) sexually attacking or abusing women, 2 extremely powerful men who both decided that a woman who was in a housekeeping position in a hotel was there to provide any service that they deemed appropriate, regardless of what these women may have said or done to disavow that notion.  I  believe the women and hope justice is served.  The other incident that had me horrified was one from the early Tuesday morning NYC news where a young guy is seen with a choke hold, dragging a woman on a surveillance tape.  He dragged her on an empty stairwell and then sexually assaulted her....the woman is 85 years old!  I too gasped when I first heard it.  


I spent 10 years doing volunteer work with an organization called at first RACI and then SAVI.  This organization was mostly volunteers, with a limited staff who was paid very little.  They provided at first rape crisis intervention at a few Manhattan hospitals and then branched out to Queens and included domestic violence crisis counseling.  I was looking for volunteer work and found this, admittedly the subject seemed a bit scary to me but the time commitment worked.  In my training I went through so many emotions, horror, disgust at the people who did this, anger and sadness that this happened with such frequency.  I was surprised at how often women were used in the world as a war terror tactic (at the time Serbians were just creating rape camps of Muslim women...as I write I find that you can change those country/religion designations since then with too many others).  


Once I completed the training I used to bunk with friends in the city when the service was not yet offered in Queens to be able to on call my one night a month.  I dreaded the beeper that I carried...for it would mean another person was in the ER, another person violated in a way that takes away all of your control.  It is easy to dismiss rape as a sexual act but it is an act of control and domination that uses sex as a weapon.  I met some really brave women in those emergency rooms and also some really broken people who had been abused, often not for the first or last time, by the people they chose to love.  The woman who runs the program asked me to be a trainer of new volunteers for 9 of my years with the group and this allowed me to meet so many incredible people who all felt they wanted to give their time to this cause.  I have trouble saying I miss it, but I do, I have trouble because in saying that I do not want to imply that I wish I had a case to be called to but because I felt that maybe for a moment I may have actually provided control and safety back to the person on that table that so needed it.  I miss it for the amazing people who I met during those years; volunteers, survivors, hospital staff, and yes even many of the officers who handled these cases. 


I do not know what will happen with any of the cases above, I am interested in justice but more so I am interested to know and hope that these survivors all had a crisis counselor who reminded them that no matter what the verdict says what happened was not their fault, that they found someone who gave them back their moment of control and was a sympathetic listener.  Unlike the media I choose not to focus on the attacks, attacker or the dark side we see in these acts but instead I choose to remember the strength and goodness that average people gave voluntarily during their free time to someone in need and the resilience of the victims who become survivors.