Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hope

People often laugh at optimists as if they are out of a touch with reality.  They dismiss them for having too much hope.

As a mother I truly want to pass along my capacity for hope, for love, for appreciation and for optimism to my boys.

It is not that optimism means you live in a delusional world it means that you can look for the path forward, evolve, learn from the mistakes.  Those who are pessimists see very little beyond the wrong step and the wrongs of the past.

It is only with optimists and dreamers that the world has evolved.  It is not from the it can't be dones, the we are doomed, the hell and damnation people that the world has moved forward.  It is from those who were told no and saw why not.  It is from those people who got kicked and pushed back who took a different road.

Two nights ago I went to see a magnificent read-through production with my oldest son called Mad Forest.  It was put on by a non-proft group called Upstart Creatures.  They work in Manhattan and all they see is potential.  They perform out of a church that includes all and embraces people for who they are today.  They are not a religious group.  The founder Michael spoke of having this idea of combining his two favorite thing; feeding people and putting on theater.  Entertainment for the soul and the body.  That alone is enough to have me, to make me glad I exposed my son to.  Feeding people from the heart is among the best things to do - it truly is a bonding experience and the art of the dinner party, or making food for a lover or a friend or your family brings you closer.

I digress - it is such a cool idea and if you have a couple of extra bucks lying around donate it's tax deductible.

The play was written by a Brit about Romania after the 1989 Revolution.  I don't know why Brits like to write about Romania, rumor has it some guy wrote a book about a vampire set there and it's kind of popular.

It was mind blowing - the writer went there with a group and lived and listened to the story of that event.   It is done in 3 acts, the first is pre revolution, second is the nights of the revolution and the third shortly after the revolution.

It took me back.  The fear, the turning on of the radio in your own house because you weren't sure who might be listening to you from the government and how you may suffer consequences for anything seen on dissent.  The lack of food, the lights going out.  The pandering to what you knew was wrong to keep your job.  There was a scene in the first act that truly touched a cord.  A woman playing a teacher who read the communist written history of Ceausescu.  He was great, he built big things, he was building another super gaudy in your face with expensive but tasteless gold overlay palace.  He was the savior, the founder, the only thing they had so they better not ever think about changing him - the underlying theme of despair, of a drug dealer almost asking the addict can you really live without him.

Ceausecu and his horrid wife were in the process of having something they called the People's Palace because he believed his own rhetoric of how great he was, how people loved him, how the polls agreed with him.  He did not see the fear in their eyes, the swallowed anger, the fact that people left Romania not because they weren't patriots but because they were and could no longer live in a place that was not the country it could be. The People's Palace - his family the only people who would live in it and it was done on the bankruptcy of the people leaving them with nothing but a "palace" to walk by, not too close.

He was a leader who took no advice, in fact disdained those with more knowledge then he.  He was a typical dictator, fully of venom and narcissistic.  It brought me back that scene where the woman playing a teacher tries to instill in the children not a sense of hope that they could build, become, be who they are but instead the slow erosion of their individuality, their need to become people who look down, to not ask for change but to mindlessly accept what he was a leader like.

There was such violence and such death the night of the revolution.  A people who truly had lived in a gray world, a world of suspicion saw through the red of the blood on the streets, the flag with it's red, yellow and blue and no dark insignia in the middle - they saw hope.  They saw that who they could have always been.  They thought that night that it was horrible and amazing at the same time. It was the optimists who went to fight, who died that night.  They brought about change. It was the pessimists who cannot see a future that differs from what they know who put many of those who had brutalized them back in charge.  Yet today Romania, like may Eastern bloc countries is moving forward because it took over 40 years to try and break them so it sure going to take several generations to show them all they can do.  The optimists are winning and they have patience.

I cannot stand by and see an election in my chosen country of  residence where a candidate runs it on pessimism.  He offers no hope, he offers himself as a cult leader.  His campaign is built on what has not been done and what he wants to give us to do is sacrifice our freedoms, our thoughts, our ability to process complex ideas like global warming and submit.  Submit to him and his houses of gold overlay, tasteless furniture that he did just like every Communist dictator ever seen.  They need that kind of furniture that reflects themselves, the reassures them.  He talks in the parlance of how he is the savior.  That is not hope - that is submission.  A true leader speaks of the possibility in you - not of the possibilities for them.

I find faulty with Hillary and I think she is part of the broken campaign finance road but it is a road I can see fixed.  I liked Pres Obama's campaign of Hope, Ronald Reagan's asking to tear down a wall, JFKs asking what can we do for our country.  These men thought of the country and they thought with all it's boils, warts and need for correction it was a great country because we had the potential to keep making it right even if it takes a long time.  The African American museum opened this past weekend, it took a long time to get it done but it was done because we have to celebrate that people triumphed against those who tried to keep them in chains, to work together to acknowledge the past and learn from it, to show our kids what the future could be with people who saw the potential beyond their circumstances.  The optimists!

I truly enjoyed the play and it was great to speak to one of the actors who recently moved here from Romania.  He too was frightened as were his friends back home of what they saw in the parallels of the dictator they toppled and the one rising here.

Vote  - because voting is one of the first things people who lack hope take away from you.  You vote to be heard, you vote to move forward and you vote to say that you believe Yes We Can.  We have seen what these man have done in the past and the optimist in me says we can keep moving forward and not be dragged down by those who want us to live in a state of pessimism.   Optimists have stamina, they can wait and wait because they can see the wonders of what could be. Pessimists do not have any - they want to sit down and give up.

I am a mother of two children and of all the gifts I can give them hope must be among the strongest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Girlfriend Time

Image result for girls weekend Before anyone thinks this is a coming out blog -- brakes on - no I am not embracing my sapphic inner sister.  

I am instead embracing a culture of time with friends, special friends, friends who get you and my girlfriends who are my chosen sisters, confidants and overall sanity checks. 

In my life as an only child I understood the importance of friendships, and pretty much saw every only child then and now debunk the whole they can't share myth so much more than those with siblings.   If we did not share, unlike a sibling, or learn to compromise then our friends could just go home.  There was no built in parental "well you got to love her because she is your sister". 

I exhibit many only children traits, very social, comfortable with different age groups (after all I was a vastly different age then the other people living in my house - my parents were after all adults), incredibly independent.  I also exhibit the less woot woot traits.  I am fiercely independent which means I have a hard time asking for or accepting help even when I need it.  I tend to let others rely on me but do not open up to many and rely on even less.   I tend to not give up on people and forgive more than at times I should have.  I also tend to be incredibly good at self entertainment, imagination and like my quiet time alone as much as I enjoy when I choose to do things socially.  Yes it is all about me because I am only child.  

In this mix there are my friends and in this blog it is my female friends.  I am sad at how much less I get to see them for drinks or dinner because our lives are so dedicated to others but accept it because well our lives our dedicated to our kids.  We juggle if not always balance a lot in our lives, willingly, voluntarily.   Then we of course complain to one another about it. 

I do not usually go away for weekends with my girlfriends though many I know do.  I enjoy my time with my kids and most times prefer to spend my weekend free time with them.  I know they are growing too quickly, especially my 12 year old, and will soon choose friends over time with me. Natural, as it should be, I encourage it -- I will need a box of Kleenex. 

I do not go away because it is not something I do but I realized this past weekend that once in a while I should.  I went with a friend who does no live near and we had an amazing time.  We laughed, a lot, and had no real plans so we lived in the moment. Lived in the moment, I had to re-read that after I read it because my life with work, kids is all about planning and organizing.  Enjoying a stop in a store, a leisurely discussion in a bookstore, a lunch without anyone looking at a watch.   We had one thing that was appointments at a spa and before that we woke up without purpose, got coffee and wandered to the beach near the place where we were staying.  Sitting on rocks, no gear, watching the surfers (well now single ladies do not Tinder instead swipe yourselves to where guys surf -- enough said) and just enjoying not having to keep an eye on anyone, listen to anyone or really do much then just inhale the great salty ocean air and the rays on our faces.   

Our evenings were spent dining with no real hurry and then it's like being 15 again, lying across from one another, putting on masks (some of a less than wonderful aroma) and laughing at the things that you laugh at when you are truly comfortable.  It was as much of a treatment as the massage the next day.   

It helped that I was in one of my favorite spots ever, The Hamptons, but it mostly was that I was with someone who was there like I was just to enjoy things for ourselves.  It was great talks and it was recharging. 

I need to find more time and so do we all in our lives for us.  Weekends away here and there, without anyone but our girlfriends remind us of all that we are and who we keep wanting to be, not defined as mom or wife or girlfriend or whatever but just ourselves.  It reminds us of the people we are and our girlfriends will always remind us of how much more we could evolve to. 


Girlfriend time - even if it has to be booked and rescheduled will now be something I try to do more often because as I try to teach my kids to nurture what makes them happy I should do the same for myself.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kids who never lived in a world where 9/11 was just a date

It is hard to absorb that 15 years have passed since the attacks on 9/11.  For those of us in NY, much like I assume DC and the relatives and friends of those who died in PA, it is still a date that divides itself into our lives as before and after.   I also assume this is true for all survivors of terrorist attacks or wars or trauma. 

In these 15 years my world was altered by other events but the two that most changed me after 9/11 are the births of my two sons.   As a mom you worry about things that are rational, they could fall and injure themselves, and irrational like mine is tsunami.  I do not know why one terrifies me so much as I am no where near where one could happen but the idea of that kind of powerlessness and it's pure magnitude means it could take my kids.  I get it not likely but Dr. Freud sees the underlying I can't protect them from everything subtext.

How do you teach kids about 9/11 when you tend to be a wreck about it?  Recently the boys and I were downtown and found ourselves near the 9/11 Memorial Tribute museum.   I don't go down to that area, it is not a tourist attraction for me and it still is very raw for me.  Yet there we were and they wanted to go inside and we did -  it all came back, the news flashes, my seeing it, the missing posters, the firefighters and first responders (among which a friend of mine is one who sacrificed himself because "that's what they do" and his family and friends in the department who spent hours there and who now our elected officials have the nerve to even waiver for one minute on giving them the health benefits they are owed).    I was a mess and my boys did everything to comfort me.  We listened to the story of a relative who lost his brother in the attack, who hugged me at the end because he saw that I was not just another visitor but a wounded New Yorker.  We New Yorkers share that grief much like we shared our humanity that day, silently and quietly for the most part but never forgetting it. 

So 15 years later when I as the mother of a 12 and almost 10 year old have to explain to my post-9/11 children about that date I do it in the way that I have tried to live my life particularly after that date more than before it. 

I live my life and tell them of the humanity of that day, of how all people around the world did not see anything other than how they could help, how they mourned.  They did not allow the hijackers to hijack their religion except if they were terrorists themselves looking for anything to justify a hatred that has made them into the living dead.  The zombies who see no pleasure, no love, no hope and want to spread that but keep running into the wall of humanity that just won't allow it.  

I tell my kids that wars and people who wish to do ill cannot be given our hatred for them or anyone who has any common background to them because they are not worth it.  I teach them the beauty of the people who rebuilt, build, invent and give back because those are the names we read each year on the anniversary of this event never the names of those who deserve no remembrance for the pain and death they caused. 

My boys are raised to appreciate life, to enjoy the little and big experiences and to look to things that hurt as parts of what life is and that we can learn from it.  They are empathetic and kind and never refer to anyone who committed these atrocities by anything other than the bad men  - that is all they are.  Those are the people who make their mom cry, their mom who is usually good for a laugh and smile and who does not allow her sadness to win but rather to allow it then move to understand that it is there less than her appreciation for the beauty of this crazy city, wild life and them.  

How do you raise kids in a post 9/11 world?  You raise them to never forget those who were kind and good and are no longer with us.  You raise them to be kind and to not judge people.  You raise them to embrace diversity.  You raise them with the hope that 9/11 is a historical event and that while other attacks have happened and may happen they are singular in a multitude of days where the world does really try to move forward.  Those towers did not take down our ability to be our best selves unless we let them.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Standing Up by Sitting Down

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"  - Kris Kristofferson

Unless you live off the grid, in which case you aren't reading this anyway, you have seen in the States (and maybe outside) that there has been a controversy about a football player who has chosen to take a stand by sitting down during the national anthem.  

I first heard this from people who actually know sports, stats and how good a player he is. They said he wasn't a great player, mediocre at best who had a good chance of not making it next year.  My cynical mind went to is this genuine or a ploy to get him some good ol' fashioned publicity?   You can't cut him now or you will look like you are against him personally.   That's the cynic in me and the one that is part of this world where judgement is swift in the ether - I mean let's look at the polar opposite.  Ryan Lochte, yes he did a stupid thing, yes he should get some sort of fine, yes he is not a team player but man was he crucified from all of us as if he hadn't kicked down a door but more as if he kicked down an old lady crossing a street.  He should be made aware that his behavior frankly was an embarrassment to his team, himself and to the flag and country he represented but let's put it in perspective people we have all done stupid things and if you say you haven't then you need some self-awareness.  

Let's get to the flag that Mr. Lochte should have thought about as he draped himself in it after wins. The football player, Mr. Colin Kaepernick, looked to that same flag and decided he understood what it stands for.   He understood that if you love your country you want it to be a place that is represented by ideals such as equality, opportunity, power that is amassed to mostly help, to be a place that learns from it's mistakes even when you know it will make new ones.   He looked at the flag and did something very American - he protested against the abuses that he has seen, that we have seen, by people who are supposed to protect all of us against people of color.  

The show Le Miserable ended this week on Broadway and it is fundamentally the story of the French Revolution - "Look down, look down you'll always be a slave" loses out to "this is the voices of a people who will not be slaves again" in the play, in life.  So why do we continue to let the few think they have the lead of the prison guard, who is wrong in the Le Mis about his deep held convictions, in life?

I grew up in a Communist country and there is a definition of patriotism there that is founded in fear.  You see it still in many parts of Russia, North Korea, China, Syria, Iran.  It was enforced on me as a child, and still is in those places I just mentioned through brute force.  You had to go and wave the flag and smile at parades for the rulers or there could be jail time.  You could not speak out against the government for you would be jailed, tortured, disappeared.  Lest you think this is spy novel nonsense it just got a cabinet minister executed in North Korea for appearing to disagree with their current "supreme ruler".  Dictators need this fear to get you to pretend you love them and whatever the government is doing because they are fundamentally narcissists.  

There is a difference between nationalism and patriotism that we seem to forget, that some of our people running for office encourage us to blend.  Nationalism is fanatical, it is Isis, it is the Nazis and it is a sense that one is better than another just because of the accident of birth, for that is all your nationality is.   Nationalism is running with blinders and wanting nothing to change for those who are in charge. Patriotism is an admiration for the country you are living in, no birth there required.  It is seeing it for the warts as well as the beauty.  It is a dedication to it's ideals and wanting it to constantly evolve and be better for all it's citizens, because you believe in it's citizens and what they can accomplish together.  

I listened to the strong feelings about Mr. Kaepernick and I think of how ironic and hypocritical it is to think that they have the right to speak out against him and yet he hasn't the same basic right to speak out for his beliefs.  Too many young men and women have died and been wounded to protect the right for people to have freedom of speech.  The founding fathers of the US started out with protest and a Declaration of Independence from what they saw correctly as an unjust government.  Mr. Kaepernick isn't disrespecting the flag he is actually embracing everything it stands for.  None of us have to agree with him, with this blog, with each other but we all have the right to our opinion and to discuss it in a peaceful manner that draws attention to those things we think are important.  

My parents left everything they had, their family, their 5 year old child to embark on a dangerous journey just to have freedom.  To have the freedom to live where they wanted and not be told by a government if they could or not have an opinion. The freedom to complain, support and vote for a government and the freedom from fear.  From a fear that anyone at a table could be a government informant that passes on their name and it leads to jail time (happened to my father's cousin, hard labor for telling a joke as a student in college). 

Everyone who disagrees with Kaepernick's stance is perfectly within their rights to do so, you can choose to not buy merchandise with his number, or products he endorses but for that right to exist it must be acknowledged that he has the right to sit down and protest what he sees as injustices.  I do not agree with his socks which seemed frankly childish and lacked the protest element, instead they went for being as stereotypical as his protest is asking police officers not to be. His message is not wrong, people of color and people who are poor have seen police officers time and again get away with crimes against them,  Ghandi, Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Elizabeth Candy Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and many others started out with peaceful protests against what they saw as injustices that could no longer be tolerated.  They loved their countries and their people more than their own safety.  They asked for freedom by sitting in, starving, writing to declare that all have a right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".  

The flag will wave high and proud when we embrace those that expose our flaws and we work together to fix them.  "America is not just a countryit's an idea, and real Americans are getting busy" I heard this quote from Bono and not sure if it is his but it is perfect.  America is the idea that we have the right to love our country enough to know when we could do better for all of it's citizens.  I have go on long enough and I am thankful for being in a country where I can write this blog, get criticized for it, get agreement for it and can publish it without the fear that forced patriotism has in other places.