Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I'm just a bill sitting here on a Capitol Hill

I loved Schoolhouse Rock and I am pretty sure I learned a lot of information just based on the catchy songs they used to have.

One of my all time faves is the "I'm Just a Bill" one learning about how a bill gets passed into a law.   I can picture the face on the rolled up piece of paper with the word bill on a button.  If you were not a child of the late 70s and 80s then you may want to google these, they are still spot.  Nothing much has changed and they are still relevant, graphics sure got better but there is something so comforting about these and the way they look.

I have always wanted to keep my boys informed on world and current events.  I of course filter some of it, there is too much hurt out there and some things are just not age appropriate in detail but I have never shied away from telling them when things are wrong just as much as I tell them when things are right.

It is a balance to do this and one that I try and navigate carefully.  I also have to be mindful of the fact that not all families are open to sharing the news with their children for a variety of reasons so mine cannot be the Google of the school bus on certain topics.

However, I never really thought I would have to have so many conversations about candidates who are running for office as I have this year.  We started out as talking about who is running, why people may be supportive of the different candidates.  So far so good but then this reality show pretending to be an election seemed to take over.

It is hard to teach them about democracy and how the process works when most things are reduced to Saturday Night Live skits that are so close to the real debates that it is hard to not wonder if they are not using same writers.

It is hard to teach children about integrity and dedication when one candidate is surrounded with questionable deals and has been found to be less than forthright multiple times.

There is a challenge in teaching them to respect people with disabilities, immigrants, people of color, women, veterans who were POWs, veterans who suffer from having suffered and more blatant lies that get passed off as "tells it like it is" -- no that candidate tells it like his interests require, truth and facts optional at best.

I am trying to raise children who are aware of issues, who understand the workings of the globe, who are horrified by wars and terrorists and who are also open minded and appreciative.  Kids who appreciate what democracy is and want to foster it.

These candidates and this election cycle, the media included, are making my job as mother in this respect harder.  How can I tell them our system is flawed but with great merit, that we should respect one another and that our goals for elected officials is that they put the country first even when those choices are hard?  How can they have faith when lies are spouted about rigged elections instead of understanding that rigged and bias have different definitions.

My youngest son just ran for class representative as did one of his female friends.  I think these two 10 year olds could teach our candidates for president quite a lot.  My son wrote a speech, which we worked on together and that he practiced multiple times, his intro was about why he was running, the body was why he would always represent the entire class and how he wanted it to be a great year for all and the conclusion thanked the other candidates and asked for his classmates vote but no matter the outcome he was hoping he could work with whoever won to make 5th grade a good experience. His friend made a poster telling the world that while she may be small she was a powerhouse and that she was dedicated to being the best for them.   My son lost, he was upset but I told him that he should be proud of how he ran his campaign and how he had really tried.  The girl who beat him is nice he told me but he still thinks he would have been the better choice.   They were perfect these two kids - they were cooler than the "I'm Just a Bill" video.  His friend also did not win but got alternate.  I personally think of course they both should have won but here is an example of my bias (just since it seems that is a hard concept for some out there to grasp).   I am awed by these two, and their friends and older siblings.  They are ambitious with their own merit.

These two 10 year olds got it - I mean really got it.  The idea of serving for office was clear to them, you listen to all, you take it up to whoever needs to pass the rule, you try to make it good for the class and oh yeah they are both all about the "pursuit of happiness".  They are too young for scandals but they are not too young to be childish and fight that way yet they showed more maturity than one candidate has shown pretty much since he has been in the public eye and more integrity that we had hoped for from the other.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Do people change ?

"Luther" is a show that I discovered on Netflix and that I liked for the intelligent writing, great plots, clever character development and oh yeah Idris Elba - handsome, smart and kick ass accent, impossible not to swoon.

In one episode two of his co-workers are talking about how shocking it is that his marriage unravelled.  After all they are two smart people in the show who are written as having had a solid relationship with loads of passion in it.  Yet that is the outside view.  No one knows what a marriage looks like, not in films and not in real life.  There is the public view and then there is the reality of the day to day.  No one knows what the reality is and each person in the marriage sees it truthfully from their point of view, which means that somewhere in the middle lies the reality of the events that transpire in that marriage. 

The other great line that was in the show was "Men and women get divorced because men marry a woman and hope she never changes and women marry a man and look to change themselves and him along with it".   I know it is a generalization but it seems so spot on.  I have had the pleasure of having both male and female friends and I feel slightly voyeuristic, and the psych major too, listening to them describe relationships.  Aren't we all though as friends - front row seats to hearing about it. We don't listen out of malice but rather out of a need to be there, to be helpful.  

In these years I have seen this happen a lot.  My male friends are smart, funny, good looking and over all good guys but most of them have been pretty much that guy all of their lives.  Nothing wrong with that, I wouldn't have been friends with them if they were jerks.   My female friends are smart, funny, good looking and over the years have changed in so many ways.  Those attributes a constant but their expectations, their wants, their needs vastly different from the times we were younger. 

I know this to be true for me.  I have needed different things throughout my life and as I get closer, and really close, to being 50 I look back and know that the girl I was in my twenties, the young woman I was in 30s, the woman I am in my 40s and the middle aged woman I am going to be in my 50s are very different with a foundation that is the same.  

In a marriage we look for partners who have similar dreams and ideologies to ours.  We hope to have the same goals and see the same road that we are heading down.  

Yet if women so often decide they want to take a different road, explore a different avenue and men become more comfortable finally not having to ask for directions because they know where they are headed is it any wonder that so many relationships do not last ? 

Maybe we are not meant for the long term, the monogamous.  Maybe we are meant to find partners for the stages of our lives.  Then again maybe not.  Maybe for some people growth is a joint venture or they learn to live together but grow in different ways.  

People only change if they want to.   It is not fair to ask them to for ourselves because they may be perfectly content with who they are and we should respect that.  

Marriages are not easy and they are a journey but unless both members agree on how to navigate then they are bound to hit the rocks instead of the shore.  

I think as we have populations that stay alive longer this long term marriage becomes that much more of an equation to be worked on.  There is not much in this world that we really need but to find yourself in a relationship that does not make you more lonely than being alone, being happy, being passionate and being supported in growth is something worth working on and striving for. Otherwise, let's stop the judgement and go back to just being there for our friends as they make choices that are right for them. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's only words.. but words can mean so much

Image result for no means no This is a hard blog for me to write yet silence is not option anymore, it implies consent apparently and it is important to add my voice to the discourse going on. 

This past weekend I too was horrified by the words used by a certain candidate, not because I have an issue w the word pussy or the idea of men talking about women they would like to have sex with (sorry gents but women talk in detail at times about the things they like and don't in this area).  I was horrified at the way it was bandied about that he took, he groped, he grabbed, he was on someone like a dog in heat (bitch).  All that imagery is about taking, invasive, not sex it is about power as it usually is and demeaning the recipient because their most intimate thing to give is not up to them to do so. 

I have also watched a few Netflix documentaries that dealt with women in peril  Women who like sex and get vilified for it, women who are survivors of sexual assault who are vilified for it, women who partake in this vilification and how men, too many not all, just don't get it.  Do not get that this is not their for the taking, that we are not property (and hell if you think seeing a watch at Tiffany's is wrong to grab and go because it is stealing how do you not see it as the same to grab something on my body?).   

I was a volunteer crisis counselor for 10 years in NYC for rape and domestic violence survivors.   Here are things I learned during that time and seem to not have changed much since; 

1) NO - means no but it is not heard as such it is heard as no..no.. maybe,  the silence and fear in the eyes taken as consent but NO MEANS NO
2) Passed out or incapacitated does not equal consent
3) False sexual assault reporting is on par w false reports of robbery about 2-8% according to FBI statistics -- however, the number of women who do not report sexual assault is significantly higher than 2-8%.  They seek medical help but they do not want to report it 
4) Most of us have been subjected to some level of this behavior in our lifetimes, us means women I know of various ethnicity, races, religions, sexual orientation 
5) It is insulting and a cop out for those who commit the attacks to use the "boys will be boys" excuse - boys and men will be boys and men with good behavior.  Abusers will be abusers not due to their gender but due to their lack of compassion, empathy.  

I think back upon my own life and think of the times I have excused this behavior, or laughed it off and pushed back and while I was never raped I have been in public spaces where men have touched me on my ass, my breasts and it was horrible. I have had men feel that buying me dinner meant getting something out of it and being downright nasty when this was not the case.   A family friend asked me if I wanted him to teach me how to kiss when I was 12, he was in his late 30s, I feigned stomach ailments and locked myself in the bathroom avoiding him until my parents came home.  I did not tell people always about this or if I did it was in a joking I am over it way, because it was shameful - what had I done to encourage this?  I now know I did nothing but exist and that seemed to be enough. 

I watched Donald hover behind Hillary in the last debate, or walk toward her as she sat down and I cringed because this is what happens too frequently to women.   We now take it as a given too often and yet as a mother of boys I have to raise them to understand this is not so.   Our personal space is not ours but there for the taking from hovering to worse. 

Our male friends and partners have all seen us look away uncomfortably at parties,  laugh at jokes but our eyes were not laughing but instead looking around for an escape.  They have seen us get headaches, leave jobs, blame ourselves, suddenly no longer love that short skirt we so liked a few minutes before because it is not a fashion statement but a vulnerable spot.  They have helped us deal with this.  So boys will be boys and boys who are truly great humans understand all of this.  Do not let the others taint you with their words men. 

The movies I watched were the Amanda Knox story and Audrey & Daisy.  

I was not convinced about Amanda Knox before seeing it, she was odd, she reacted oddly, I judged her on that.  Watching the documentary though what struck me, more than the sheer incompetence of the police on the case, was that in order to make a case against her they had to make her a sexual woman, a woman who may have engaged in sex with more than one partner (not at the same time or maybe at the same time, consensual of course) so deviant, a woman whose sexual freedom was equated with lack of knowing wrong from right in terms of murder.  To do this they also had to make the victim saintly, the exact opposite.  The whole virgin Madonna syndrome at play.  How does this happen in the 21st century?  How is it that women should not like sex, should not have multiple partners, should not experiment because the message is if they do then whatever happens to them and other women is justified?! It actually goes hand in hand with "locker room" talk, the way they talked though I assume the locker room is behind bars in a sexual violent criminal section.  The idea that women need you to take it, to grab, to grope and that they are not really saying no but falling in line with the notion of virtue is defined by sexual conduct. 

The other documentary is "Audrey & Daisy" and it is going to be a must see now for my own sons. The stories about the assaults are truly chilling, the backlash against these girls even more so.   There is a sense that girls and women put themselves in vulnerable positions and that boys well they just can't help themselves.  But they can - if they can help themselves to wait for someone to be unconscious before they assault them - if they can help themselves to make a video of the assault - if they can stop and remember every detail of how drunk/incoherent she was but not if she was willing - if they are human beings who see women as human beings not tits, pussy, ass and conquest - well then I have full faith then they are just smart enough to know what they are doing is wrong.   Social media can be the advocate for these survivors of the assaults but they are much too often the mob with pitchforks looking to pin the scarlet letter on the woman.  I cried and then was humbled by the young women in this film, I was disgusted by the sheriff and frankly I was scared by the people of their age who would not stand up for them or worse tore them down.  They survived - how do we not recognize that - when the boys in these cases did not even deny their actions. 

I know why women do it - I remember years ago when the Central Park jogger was brutally raped.  I, along with the city and the world, was horrified at the viciousness of the attack.  Yet my first thought was "why did she go running through the park in the dark ?".  Because I would never do that .. ergo this would never happen to me.  That is why it happens - if we banish the victims with they were at fault, they put themselves in that situation, the what did you expects we are safe because we would not do those things and we are safe.  Yet we are not - this happens in our homes, this happens with people we trust as friends and we cannot banish the monsters by just not looking under the bed. 

It is not just words, it is locker room talk a place where it is still ok to have a range from "she's hot I would fuck her" to" I would grab and climb and take that".  It is permissions given to one another in those settings to not be accountable but to dominate.  It is about power and taking.  

Words hurt for as long if not longer than physical scars - they are embedded in our psyche and impact so much of our actions.   Too many religions have also decided that woman is not an equal that we cannot be trusted to make decisions about our bodies, how we cover or not, our sexuality.  Women' s sexuality  - it scares the weak minded among men so they use it against us to take away our power to make decisions about it through laws, doctrine, physical assault. 

I love a good flirt as much as anyone and I admire a good looking man as often as I can.  This is not about flirting or about who we have consensual relations with.  This is about power.  I cannot say it enough - power that is exerted over someone. 

It's not only words it is scars. 

If you still cannot tell the difference here is how I try and teach it to my boys;

You my son are at a party - you drink too much, you should not because it can lead to really bad choices or harm you from alcohol poisoning, but you do it anyway cause hey what does mom know and after all EVERYONE is doing it.  You drink too much and you pass out and a group of your friends/acquaintances/strangers come in and take your cell phone, they take your watch, they undress you and take pictures and post them on line and they make fun of you and you are not quite sure what else they did.  You drank too  much, you had flirted, you may have even lent them your watch in the past.  Feels wrong doesn't it? It should  - they are awful - they took from you -- you did not matter just taking did.  They are awful people.  Why would sexual assault be any different - it is much easier after all to replace the watch but the trauma that would cause would be long lasting - imagine if they stole parts of your body, your self?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


 I am a woman who embraces her wanderlust and it conflicts with my love of being a mom and providing consistency for my sons which then is topped by a whopping dose of guilt about this. 

I have never lived any in one place for as long as I have lived in my current home, 12 years to be exact.   My sons on the other hand think of the idea of moving as totally unappealing.  For me being in one place really clashes with my sense of enjoying change, moving to a new place, starting fresh in a new location and no I do not like packing and unpacking, that would just be odd.  

It goes in line with my enjoyment in new things, new theories, different cultures and traveling.  It helps me cleanse things when I have moved and though I have done a great job decluttering (and am ready for round two of it soon) new spaces, new places jazz me.  
I miss spontaneity too - something you give up, willingly in my case, when you have kids. There are schedules to make, follow, implement.   Kids depend on us to get them from baby music together classes to drop offs at friends houses,  especially so in areas like mine where they cannot easily get to a friend's house without parental chauffeuring.   I like it but it is consuming, juggling with my career, with my taking care of most things that the family needs or does, squeezing in some personal things like tennis or writing/painting.  It is the focus of my days and when I do get some down time I am often found multi-tasking.  

It is maybe because I am only child, or because I did not marry young so was used to the independence of relying on myself and being to just go to a concert or a trip on the spur of the moment.  It is maybe because while I am good at scheduling and organizing I am also a person who likes to just go with the flow and try something because it suddenly became available.  I love to travel and one of my favorite things to do when traveling is have nothing scheduled - just walk around a place, take in a sight or not, sit and watch the people.  Probably why I love visiting cities so much - I do not consider hiking or trekking through a forest on the list. 

It is hard for those of us who are moms to reconcile this easily with the need and want we have to be with our kids, we know the time with them is fleeting before their own wanderlust kicks in.  We do not have to do anything except be the best moms we can be for them but we also should remember that we are in need of being the best person we can be for ourselves.  

They are not mutually exclusive, though the whole I decided to take off for a day thing probably will not work for most of us with our families - but the whole I decided to take some time for myself with advance notice should.  Prepare schedule though for the person left behind - trust me it will be to your advantage. 

I find it amazing as women how much we are expected to give and while men have different pressures I do not live them so I look at this from my perspective and that of the other women I talk to.  I miss spontinaiety and yet I do not resent not having it, it is there on the cusp and waiting for me along with all else that as I approach 50 am putting forth as aspirations for my life.  

Until then I will look and appreciate the pictures that my friends who are travelling post, take scheduled vacations and make sure the schedule I manage includes time for down time for the boys and I to just enjoy each others company.    Wanderlust not diminished just on hold.