Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Battle for Independence


I love history and always have.  I see the truth in the adage about repeating it if we are not familiar with it playing out over and over.  One of the things in history that I have read a lot about are struggles for independence.  The power in charge being fought for equal voices at the table when making decisions - the break from a monarchy  - the break from dictatorship even if it is benevolent.


However, I did not expect to be living through my own 1789 Vive Le Difference, 1917 Soviet style proletariat uprising in my own home so soon.  I understood that my reign, benevolent dictatorship to them and Royal Queen to me, would have it's challenges from my two sons but you know 1789 and 1917 and 1776 all happened hundreds of years after being under these reigns which in human household years roughly translates to teenage years.  Before you get ready to call Child Services, you know once in a while I could use an office called Mommy Offices that comes in and I don't know gives me a month in foster care on the Amalfi Coast, I do not treat my children like serfs.  There are fair wages agreed upon for chores - more Norma Rae then Marie Antoinette (though often cake is requested and granted).  There are many advantages to taking care of their parcel in our house (aka pick up after themselves) such as full vacations, food and whims paid for.  Healthcare, vacation days, continuing education classes and sick days are all fully covered.

Now with all that why oh why do they want .... independence.  I know it is a good thing in my head - it is what I had and anyone who knows me knows I am one independent need nothing can do it myself type of woman and have always been.  Yet I was not ready for the dissent is going on now .... and they are not teenagers.

I grew up in New York City during a high crime, it was not a nice place, time.  I walked to and from school much further than the current school is for my older child.  I did not have a cell phone because even if they had been invented we could not have afforded one.  I and many if not most other children did this.  We survived, we were fine, we actually liked it.  Yet when my son asked if he could do it in our nice town I nearly passed out.  Why would he not want to go to daycare - where his friends are?  My crown was askew at his asking.  I gave in, well sort of, by dropping by a mutually agreed upon location on a day I could pick him up as was not working in afternoon ... I was met with Le Mis barricade in the form of "Do not get out of the car -- please -- do you see any other mothers here?"

It is natural for these dissentions -- this break from what mom says to what I want to do.  There are parts of me that watch the news and want to protect my boys from everything.  I know I cannot.  I am not a ruler but their mother, in all my queenly glory, and I have spent a lot of time trying to raise them to be ... independent.  I want them to be aware and happy and able to go out in to the world.  It is just like with a lot of parenting moments it may be right but it ain't easy.

So as I learn to grant more independence with prudence I guess I have to look at what happened to most places who revolted -- the US thrived, France well they did have the Reign of Terror but then revolted again and they are a cool place, the Soviet revolution has what not to wind up like and overall even Scotland decided that staying with the Queen Mother may not be as awful as leaving her totally.  This will be the Velvet Revolution not a battle with lots of cake for all, and lots of wine for me.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Captain oh captain

I like to start my blogs with facts, imagine if reporters put that in their stories a little background on how they feel so you know what the story will be like.  So here are some facts I find baseball boring for the most part, live or on tv.  There are moments that are exciting but overall snoozer for this girl.  Ironically though I have been to a lot of ballparks, I enjoy the history or architecture of some (Fenway, Wrigley Field, Camden Yards, Yankee stadium old and new) and wonder at the pure ugliness of others (the old Expos stadium in Montreal, the Oakland Raider park which was so hideous the name eludes me).  I like the whole camaraderie of it (and those hot dogs at Wrigley Field this girl can chow down).  I am beyond annoyed at current ticket prices because to me this game is working class family time and it has been robbed from them, first with the games moving to cable from tv and then with these exorbitant ticket prices.  
I also have enjoyed a lot of baseball themed movies, the Natural, A League of their Own, the Ken Burns documentary come to mind as does the Bad News Bears (original with Walter Matthau).   The things I do not like about sports are same with baseball as with every other sport - the over paid athletes, the jerk behavior of owners.  

In our house since the person who cares about baseball, aka my husband, is a Yankee fan I am a Yankee fan.  I am also a real girly girl at times and you can start the cringe .. I like them because I happen to also like their look ...warned ya!!! I have watched games, snippets of games, and the team in some of the above mentioned stadiums.  I get a kick out of the passion that arises between the Red Sox and the Yankees fans.  I do not happen to hate anyone of these teams and have long ago given up on the logic of explaining that players today have no team really  -- they go from place to place chasing the $$ it makes sense considering the size of that $$ pot.  Then there is Derek Jeter. 

I have always admired him, not for his stats which there would be loss of life should I be held at gunpoint to recite, but for the person he is.  As this season has been besieged by all the fanfare that has surrounded him, I have seen the social media posts and heard the comments, particularly from those who have this weird obsession with disliking the Yankees (I get it but it elicits eye rolls from me because I can see hating oh say ISIS or Monsanto now those are Evil Empires) about the fact that it has been too much.  

Yes it has - it has been too much.  Some of it driven by the Steinbrenner management to make money and some of it driven by other corporate interests for the same reason.  Most of it though, I humbly submit, is driven by the fact that sports figures are so not our heroes any more.  Sure kids may still want to be like them ... but for the fame and fortune.  There are sadly too many athletes on all levels (from high school to professional) who flood our media for all those reasons that we should actually cringe .. sexual abuse, steroid abuse, child abuse, drunk driving, domestic violence or other criminal acts.  That is why the Jeter story brings people to tears  - yes his stats I am sure are amazing, yes he was a phenomenal athlete and yes even in this day and age when they chase just the $$ he committed to one organization, one city and yes he got paid handsomely for it but there were times I'm sure you knew, sorry too hard to resist, when he could have gone for more elsewhere.  

The Jeter blitz is about what he stands for - a return to honoring someone who is just a decent person.  I do not know him so I cannot say he is a nice person or a cold person or whatever on a relationship level but he is a decent man.  This should not be newsworthy but it is.  He is an athlete, and there are others, who was grateful for the gift to do what he loved so well and be successful and he was an athlete who made headlines good and bad for his time on the field not for his time away from it.  So I say goodbye and thank you Captain for reminding us that we should celebrate those who are doing the right thing just as much if not more than giving headlines to those who are not.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

Really Tammy "sometimes it's hard to be a woman" ?  Umm am thinking it is mostly hard to be one but I wouldn't change being one for anything.

I read a book about empowered women and how women need to be comfortable with ambition, go for things they may be only partially qualified for and not feel as if doing that they are asking to "have it all" perfectly it would stick.  Then I get to work and within the first 30 minutes at work instead of saying "Sure that's a great opportunity" to a comment made that I should lead a project I say "umm yeah sure okay if no one else wants to do it"  Really ??? I almost slapped myself - what does that say "if there is no one else who finds this a worthwhile project and you need to scrape the bottom of the barrel well then I'm your choice".  As a mom instead of thinking I do all I can for my boys even while I work outside the home full time with commute time added in I say "Oh I will be class parent" because after all I need to feel that I cannot miss anything or it is a major fail .. major fail.  I know I try to cut myself a break but in the end who are we kidding?? In the dark before I go to bed there are lists going through my head like trains in Grand Central Station at rush hour.

There is the list of what I have not accomplished, that day at work, in my aspirations, if I even remember some of my dream goals, my relationships and where I may have missed a great opportunity (work, with the boys).

There is the list of what I still need to do  - started but not done, could be the bills, the scheduling (house, kids, car - self for hair and boy talk about thinking that I am wasting time then), the prep work for projects at work, the blog, the painting, the two books that I started and need to at least finish one, the one the kids want to write of course.  I enjoy these things but I count less the stuff I have done for them  and more of what is still missing.

There is the list of books that I would like to read, the art exhibits/movies that I would like to see, the amazing friends who I miss and that we now rescheduled our dinner due to conflicts for the 4th or more time and yes this another somewhat how I have not done enough list.

I am one of those women who this book talks about - the one who does not go for a job if not 100% qualified, unlike most men this is very common with women.  I find that I like my job, my career and what it means to me in many ways yet I apologize for it too often - sorry can't do that I have to work, sorry can't travel for that meeting I have to take care of kids.

I consider myself outspoken but in reading Off The Sidelines there are times when I think what should I be doing for women's causes? Which seems to no longer be in the hands of women.  I know I don't have the time but ... deep breath.  People see me as confident but I often am incredibly tough on myself.  That is exactly what the book is trying to say - do what you can and go for whatever you want without feeling badly about either.

In the book she talks a lot about dropping the whole "have it all",  lean in , lean out mentality.  When we work as women it's not cause we want to have it all but because we want to explore different parts of our own ambitions and develop who we are not what we are.   We work because many of us have to in order to provide for our families.  We work as stay at home moms (who rarely just "stay"). As women we are incredibly tough on ourselves and our need to do it all perfectly is stopping us from enjoying our own ambitions, our successes and moving further and further in whatever our goals are. I work because I happen to also enjoy my career, the company I work for and the hard work it took me to get to the place and there should be no apology needed in that.

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman but I have to admit I never really have wanted to be a man.  I have come to appreciate the power of the women friends who I surround myself with, the women in my town who are Moms who help one another and all the women who have helped me succeed.

It is not always easy but it should always be ok for us as women, wives, lovers, mothers, daughters to do things that make us happy - that allow us the choices we want to make and most of all to embrace what it means to be a woman ...




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Blame Game

I have, along with many, seen the recently released video of a football player hitting his girlfriend, knocking her out and then dragging her out of the elevator.  I wince when I see it every time.  Yet our dialogue on this has been "should he be allowed after a X number of game suspension instead of the firing he got" "there are others who have done as bad if not worse" and many other statements about him.  Those about her have been anywhere from the insensitive "she seems out of control prior ..." to the usual "but she married him the next day".

I did not mention him by name on purpose, publicity is good even when it is negative and I am not here to give him any.  This is about her and all the other victims of domestic violence and violence against women.  There are men and boys who suffer from partner abuse but this blog is about women and girls only.  Not to marginalize the others but men have a powerful voice that is often heard women and women's issues somehow are getting lower and lower priority.  Women are an incredibly powerful force if they join together and yet we do not band together as much as we could.  

The woman who was punched married him the day after, many shake their heads and then to some degree either verbalize or think "Well it's for the money" or "Must not have been that bad" or "She provoked him" or "Well if he hits her again it's her fault".  I see and hear this a lot of with victims of sexual abuse.  From the gossip "what was she thinking getting drunk/high/lost wearing that" to the disgusting texts of people pics from the rape scene of the victim conscious or not or people recreating the pose of one victim as she lay after being drugged and raped.  We see women in parts of the world having their daughters taken hostage from schools and while I appreciate the "Bring Back the Girls" initial tweets -- those girls are no longer even a topic on any page to describe the horror they are living in... those mothers still do not have their daughters.  Their criminal captors throwing it in all of our faces that they are to blame "for seeking an education" so that they deserve to be taken, beaten, killed maybe, tortured, raped and sold as slaves.

Women are victimized and then victimized over and over again because somehow women do not stand up and scream in outrage, do not as one loud voice condemn the criminals but instead often fall into step and do not want to call attention to themselves, even if they feel safe to do so, by saying this is not ok ever!!  We are entitled to laws that protect us, that punish the criminals and never ask us how we were to blame for being victims of crimes against us - ever!!!!

It is very common for victims of abuse, at any economic level, to not leave their abusers.  This is such a complex issue so before you want a simple answer let me stop you  - there is none.  It is not uncommon for young people including girls to not always understand that a situation may not be as safe as their youth invincibility makes them think it is.  Do we blame these women because we want to feel as though we would be strong enough to leave, not be in that situation to be raped, not live in a country where girls are killed for trying to get an education??

We are powerful as women - throughout history and especially under the banner or religion women have been disempowered because men who are weak want to ensure that women fear that power and see it as something they are not entitled to or should aim for.  I was really disheartened seeing that football player have people line up to take pictures with him.  This is not just damaging to his wife and whatever thoughts she may have of leaving but to all women who see it and now are even more marginalized.    Leaving is often the most dangerous time, it is not a guarantee of safety.  Being raped, even if drugged, is not guaranteed to get you justice.  I can go on and on but instead I will end and ask that we all go on and on.  Go and talk to our sons and the men in our lives and tell them that all of this is not acceptable.  Go and write to our elected officials that women's bodies are their own and they are not the property of anyone, allowed to be abused in any way by anyone and most importantly that they have the ability to make choices for themselves because they are empowered.  Go and use your shopping might by not supporting organization that deny women these rights, don't give your hard earned money (still as hard earned and still not as much as a man's in many instances) to sponsored materials from men who do not respect women.  As for the wife of the football player I will hope she finds her way out or that maybe he will be that one in a million man who really only did it this time .. but until then I will use my might to be heard and not forget.  It is time for us to speak in one voice and BE HEARD on women's issues like these and all that matter to us.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nowhere near the finish line

My younger did not 1) like playing sports except for kickball and handball which outside of urban areas am not sure either is even frequently played 2) did not care that I did not like sports and 3) did what I had to (pain, fake asthma with Primetene mist, lots of menstrual cramps) do my Oscar worthy performances to get out of gym.  I did not like high school gym in particular - I went to a school with a dress code and there is nothing appealing about taking off a white button down shirt, stockings and having to do them back while maintaining make up in place and hair not looking like a Brillo had decided to make it it's poster child.  I also had no desire to hit the soccer ball with my head, pretend that the mere fact that I shared an ethnicity with Nadia Comanici meant I had any interest in hanging from uneven bars, walking on a toothpick sized, high off the ground wooden beam and jump (say whaa?), tumble (see Brillo hair comment) or let's see maim myself jumping over some sort of medieval torture wooden block called a horse.  Oh high school gym was fun ... not.  I remember doing something called the President's Fitness test we had to run around our high school, it was a pretty long schlep around 2 long blocks, I had someone wait for me out of teacher sight, drive me while we shared a smoke and hang out so it was not obvious because let's face it they knew there was no way I suddenly found my inner Hermes.

However, as an adult I found that I actually enjoyed exercise and even an actual sport .  I still have no desire to attempt gymnastics or soccer but I do my circuit training with some modicum of determination and I find that my love of walking has transferred to actually walking for exercise.  As a city kid I walked, a lot, everywhere but it was never for exercise it literally was to get from one place to another.  At one point I thought I might like Yoga, I did and then I did not.  I am not a "classes" person.  This is partially because for some reason my body chooses to display a dyslexia that I normally do not - they go left I go right because their left and my left well you know.  I also tend to always wind up next to that woman .. yeah that one.  You know the perky one who tells me this is her first or second time but yeah that woman somehow seems to be catching the eye of the instructor (hate the super perky ones or the ones that missed their drill sergeant water boarding calling - somewhere in the middle if it must be) and she is coordinated and not sweating and me well ... picture a red face, total confusion about the next step and a big FU look because I remember that I have no reason to be there.

I find that I love tennis  -- which I started in my 40s --- and I love walking.  I started doing some races with my kids.  Maybe I also hated sports because I am totally not competitive.  I do not care if I win and I usually am really good at encouraging those who are about to ahead of me.  I only do races that are for a charity that I support.  I have done the Komen race, and struggled one year when I thought they were going to go uber conservative and not support Planned Parenthood (they saw the error of their ways) but then they righted course, I used to do the AIDS walk (somehow lately this one is hard to do because it always interferes with a sport event for my kids) and I do a town race that raises money for enrichment and education in my town.

The Komen race always happens the week of 9/11.  I know we lost so much on that day, wound still open, and I know that at the Komen race there are so many who lost loved ones too.  I love that who we are as New Yorkers on the day of the Komen race is everything the terrorists who hit on 9/11 are not - diverse, loud, happy, willing to band together to do something for good, anonymous except for one loud, empowered voice.  We are also many women strong in this race - must make those psycho fundamentalists froth in their rabid small minds to see in action what they fear so much - women with power, women who do not need their permission, women who choose not to hide.

I do these with my sons because I like having them understand a sense of community, a sense that on a day off doing something that benefits others is a great way to spend their time and mostly because the power of the positive that these races generate has already begun to make a mark on the men they will be.  I love when we see the finish line ... but no where as much as I love the walk itself with them.  Maybe I did not hate sports, definitely didn't like them, as much as I just couldn't relate to them.  Maybe I was insecure and did not want to fail (long blog and many therapy session on that one) but now I see my presence as a win.  I am not sure of the change but it goes along with something I know is true -- for me, for many of my female friends in particular - where we start in our lives is nothing like the finish line ... and what a great, tough, rewarding, exhausting, adrenaline high, muscle shaking low the race we call life is.   I am glad in that one I am no where near the finish line.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

School's in Session

 I packed up my kids backpacks last night with all the supplies that they were required to get - seemed like a lot for elementary age children and in some ways so different then my supply lists.  

I actually like buying school supplies, always did.  I like the smell and the crack of a new marble notebook, wish they had the variety of colors they have now when I was a kid.  These composition notebooks always remind me of English classes, which I loved, and of journal keeping which was my therapy, memory keeper and at times even the version of text that we had before cell phones were an option.  I used to love those denim bound 3 ring binders that I could draw on - bubble letters, the bands I liked Led Zep's ZOFO sign comes to mind.  I also have always loved a good pen.  Some of these have carried with me as an adult - I buy my own notebooks for work and they are rarely the conventional kind, I do not write in black ink if possible and a good blue, not fine point, pen of any kind is still my favorite.  I do like colors too and for some reason for a while I was into mechanical pencils.  I guess as someone who is a writer none of this is that surprising.  

As I packed up their supplies the things that struck me as quintessentially different were things that in my school world had no existence.  I would never had to bring paper towels and tissue boxes to school - even in broke, brink of bankruptcy NYC public school that I first went to.  I would not have had to bring chalk - my kids don't bring chalk either since they no longer use blackboards in their schools and have always had smartboards in their classrooms (admitting am bit jealous) but they do have to bring dry erase markers - or blackboard erasers.  Even in a school district with good funding, good teacher salaries these things still are not bought by the schools?  I cannot imagine what happens with areas where there is underfunding.  I know they most likely do not have smartboards or even the limited class sizes that my kids have but these are basic supplies that many of those communities also cannot afford to buy for their kids.  

As I packed up their backpacks I thought a lot of these things - if we want to help our society become better we need to ensure that the funding is better managed by all areas of the government that have it and that our kids are the special interest group that all politicians have to be taking care of.  A society that provides quality accessible education is one that prospers for all.  I did not do the ice bucket challenge nor will I ,  great how much money they raised here's to hoping the ALS charity uses most of it for people who need it not on fundraising, but I am challenging myself in an election year to keep aware of who is running and who to vote for from local on up based on the issues that are important to me.  Education begins at home, is enhanced in schools and is carried forward by the students.  

Good luck to all students - good luck to all teachers and thank you - good luck to all parents who will have to help drive, encourage, tutor and keep filling the kids as much as the backpacks with all that they need.