Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dedham Rocks - Godspell

Once again I'm back writing because there is this terrific blog in my town (or, as we say "wicked aswesome" blog) that gets me to write the things I love about my kids' school and the town were I live.

This weekend my family will be part of its fifth Parish Players’ production, an enthusiastic and uplifting version of Godspell. One son and I sang in a musical review in 2006, which is when I almost had to stop singing “For Good” from the musical Wicked (you can visit my blog to read the full story). The following year both of my twin boys and I were Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. When the youngest child got into the shows, I helped from behind the scenes watching them in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and this spring’s Guys and Dolls.

This time around all three kids insisted I be on stage with them. So I tried out in early September, singing “The Preamble” from the Saturday morning classic, Schoolhouse Rocks (c’mon, you know it – “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union….”).

Unfortunately I did such a good job I ended up part of the 8 person opening number, one of the hardest pieces I have ever had to learn, and sing. And this weekend I have to sing it before an audience.

Godspell is the retelling of the Gospels of Saint Matthew (for instance the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son) with short skits and songs. The show lends itself perfectly to the type of productions the Parish Players’ puts on. Everyone who auditions gets a part. There is no “type” of performer or expectation of previous stage experience required. We have had cast members as young as four and as mature as 90 years old. So while the original 1971 show had only 10 cast members (including Sonia Manzano aka Maria from Sesame Street), our intergenerational cast of 26 are able to share speaking roles and songs.

And the Parish Players, while affiliated with the First Church and Parish in Dedham, is open to all. We have performers who have never set foot in the church sanctuary because they worship elsewhere. For instance, Mary has never in her life been on stage or sung in public (and her first ever singing in public will be in that opening number I mention above). But she played the Godspell cast album over and over again in high school and knows every song by heart. This is her chance to sing it.

We have been Dedham’s local amateur theater company for 16 years. So come see a wonderful show this weekend. And think about your audition song for the next production. We’d love to have you there.

Godspell will be performed this weekend (November 12-14) at the First Church and Parish in Dedham, 670 High Street, Dedham, MA. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:00pm and Sunday’s show is at 2:00pm. To purchase tickets, either call 781-326-7463 or email firstchurch@dedhamuu.org. Tickets are $10 ($5 for children under 12 and seniors 65 and over).

Friday, October 08, 2010

Dedham Rocks - Apple Picking

So I'm back writing because there is this terrific blog in my town (or, as we say "wicked aswesome" blog) that gets me to write the things I love about my kids' school and the town were I live. Who knew this is what would get me back on the blog saddle?


Oakdale Elementary School recently had the annual first grade field trip to an apple orchard. All four classes - nearly 75 students - pile into two school buses to travel an hour to go pick apples, eat a brown bag lunch and enjoy cider donuts.

This is not only a part of fall but a school rite of passage. For at least a decade Oakdale first graders go on this field trip, to Honey Pot Orchard, on similar yellow buses and fill their clear bag of apples. Plus pick an extra apple to eat while walking along the trees.

This was my first time being an "official" chaperone - meaning I had the honor of riding the big yellow bus with the kids and the teachers. But it was my second time going to the orchard with a class of first graders from Oakdale (another tradition is Oakdale parents will follow the buses in a caravan of cars/vans to join the fun). The first time I went one of my twin sons lost his first tooth in the orchard. While biting an apple. We found the tooth sticking out of the apple. It is still being talked about to this day....

There were farm animals, simple machines (a perfect recap of this week's science lessons - I got a full explanation of how levers work from one of my daughter's classmates), and the incredibly popular cider donuts.

Mrs. Ward said, as we bounced on the bus, how important this trip is. How it brings the students together, students who will become middle schoolers and high schoolers and creates shared memories. And as I looked at the turning leaves through the clean bus window there were shrieking voices. Little children singing, yelling as they bounced in seats, and seeing horses, stone walls and fall leaves from their own windows.

They were making memories.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Dedham Rocks guest - Meeting the new teacher

"I'm a guest, I'm a guest/ Dedham Rocks is just the best".

Apologies to Beauty and the Beast. I wrote the following post below for Dedham Rocks, a wonderful blog which celebrates the town where I live.

Meeting the new teacher

Oakdale Elementary School has a lovely tradition on the last day. Each classroom is broken up into groups, in the hallway those subgroups merge with other subgroups of similar grade students and they march into the classrooms of their new teachers. This is both how they find out who their teacher is and who their classmates will be for the new school year.

One of my then 3rd graders got into line and marched into his new 4th grade teacher’s classroom. He was warmly welcomed by her and handed the all important list of school supplies needed. The list my children seem to obsess about all summer long.

My other then 3rd grader was in his line and marched right into a classroom with the principal standing before them. She told the class their teacher would be hired over the summer and they would have a chance to meet this person before the new school year began.

So he spent a good part of the summer, whenever asked who his 4th grade teacher was, saying “TBD”. To Be Determined. Then in August the letter arrived from the principal announcing the new teacher and the September date for the meet and greet.

Several days ago, my son and I both eagerly stepped into the grand school building with the stone arches and beautiful wood hallways to climb the stairs to the 4th grade classroom.

We were the first ones to enter the bright, clean room with desks arranged in groups. The teacher walked over to my son and extended his hand. “Hi, I’m Mr. Paris. What’s your name?”

The other students filed in with their parents with warm greetings for those they hadn’t seen since June. Adults commented on how much the students had grown while the students tried to take more candy from the bowl sitting on one of the desks.

As we left the building I asked my son how he thought the year will be. “Great!” he declared.

“Because he has a candy bowl.”

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Be safe cake lady

Twelve days ago I went to pick up my sons' birthday cake from the bakery section of the supermarket near our vacation home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While we get to be known by a few locals over the course of those two weeks, we didn't have a sense of interacting with the same folks year in and year out. Except for the folks my husband buys bait from. They remember us.

I asked for the cake from the woman behind the pastry case. She disappeared and a few minutes later returned with the large sheet cake with two photographs scanned onto the white frosting. She had written their names and the birthday message in red, white and blue icing.

"I made their cake last year" she said to me. Then she looked down and thought out loud "I've done their cakes for the last few years".

It was true. We love how they put our boys' faces on the cakes.

And now, the woman who makes our boys' birthday cakes, the couple who make the best pizza, the folks that sell my husband his fishing bait, and thousands of others, are facing a category 4 hurricane.

Be safe cake lady. And Cosmos Pizza. And Corolla Bait and Tackle. And everyone else.

Be safe.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Brave - Part I

During our recent vacation to the shore we dealt with pretty strong rip currents. Never far from my or my husband's minds was the knowledge that last year a 12-year-old boy drowned at the very beach we visit. He was taken by a rip current during our final day of vacation. We were not there but the news rippled through the little vacation community we visit.

We spent the two weeks this summer being extremely vigilant as my 10-year-old sons and 6-year-old daughter became more comfortable throwing themselves into waves and riding boogie boards into the shore. We talked with them about how to get out of a rip current. I never thought to talk through with them how long it would take or how much energy.

Every year as we return home we visit some of my family. On a beautiful sunny day this past weekend, the boys and I joined my cousin and her two oldest sons for a swim across the small bay to a dock and then swim back. My guys are full of energy and can run for hours. They are strong swimmers and I figured it wouldn't be too far for them. I grossly misjudged the distance since it was over one half a mile to the far dock and back. It was fairly easy for one of my guys.

It wasn't easy for the other one.

Before we had crossed over to the far away dock I heard a pretty sickening sound. The sound of someone gulping air, taking in some water then trying to cough it up.

My guy was really struggling.

I talked to him, encouraging him to get to the far dock. Once there he declared he wanted to get out and walk back. The other boys were ready to go back so my cousin swam with them to her dock.

After catching his breath, he agreed to swim back. We swam to the closest dock and I thought that would be our strategy - to go from dock to dock until we return to the original one. But he decided to go straight for it.

I encouraged him to swim on his back and use less energy. He did and stayed in control of his breathing. I told him how great his was doing, how we were getting closer, how he was showing real stamina. And I was thinking this was the best way to show what it takes to get out of a rip tide.

After a while, I waved to my cousin and she swam the last bit to us with a styrofoam noodle. Little man gratefully tucked it under his arms and did the breast stroke back to the dock. Then he pulled himself up the ladder, turned toward the water and jumped right back in.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Love, more

Not only am I coming out of vacation but I am coming out of non-blogging mode to honor my boys' 10th birthday. And even though they are twins, they deserve their own letters which makes this a bit long for a blog post. But it is their birthday. And their first year in double digits.

Dear little man,

I sometimes can't figure you out. You can be maddeningly mean to your younger sister, mocking her 6-year-old illogical comments or fantastical stories, to the point where I think I've raised a vicious young man. You and your brother can gang up on her and just be merciless.

Yet you carefully help her make "parfaits" just like her favorite book character, Fancy Nancy, and use all the fancy words that Nancy uses ("Why YES! Putting a layer of jimmies in our parfaits is just stupendous!!!" you said to your little sister, making her beam with pride). You offer to fix her hair or play with dolls. I celebrate your kindness and practically cane you when you are mean.

Then, during the last parent-teacher conference for the grade you just finished, your teacher told me how you are the one she went to when a classmate was struggling. She shared that she often would pull you aside before recess, tell you that she was worried about one classmate or another, and ask you to "check in on the playground".

And you would.

You also in front of all your friends come up to me, slide your arm around my waist and lay your head against me. It still floors me that you continue to show such affection in public. In private you are even more cuddly. While I was cleaning the kitchen in our vacation home this week you came up behind me, wrapped your arms around me and starting singing Taylor Swift's You Belong With Me.

If you only knew how true that is.

Happy birthday little man,


Dear little man,

You are convinced you are going to be discovered on the Internet on some home video. Or you will single-handedly save an entire nation from ruin. It depends on the day. Or hour.

One excitement during your 9th year was you and your brother were hired to be "mother's helpers" for a mom with three-year-old twin boys. You got to spend 1/3 of your earnings that week, place 1/3 in savings and after several months designate the final third for a charity. We had talked during that time that you would donate to the local food pantry because it would make a real difference in our community.

And then an earthquake struck Haiti. You have classmates with family who live there. You had to listen to me talk about my own friends who were trying to locate their families. And you decided that your $18 from babysitting should go to Haiti. Three days after the earthquake. We eventually agreed to give the money to the pantry because it wasn't clear if the money would actually get to people in Haiti.

When you first heard We are the World: 25 for Haiti you were floored. Months later you continue to sing along with the song with a sincerity and passion that humbles me. I'm pretty grateful for the sunglasses I wear in the car while driving when you start singing "send them your heart/ so they know that someone cares..." You sing the entire song with feeling, eyes closed, and as loud as a you can. Your sincerity makes me weep which I hide behind the sunglasses.

And then Katie Perry's California Gurls comes on the radio and you sing that perfectly, loudly and with great zest. Making me wonder just where your passions are. Saving the world, or being a star.

I'm looking forward to seeing what it will be.

Happy birthday little man,


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Running with the Bulls, New Orleans style

In the summer, Unitarian Universalist churches do not hold formal services, if any, because - as the joke goes - God goes to Cape Cod (or the beach, or the lake, just insert your vacation spot of choice). My congregation has lay led services throughout the summer and I volunteered to give my own reflections on New Orleans. Here is what I said this morning:

There is a song, Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans, famously sung by New Orleans native Louis Armstrong that includes the lines:

Miss them moss covered vines… the tall sugar pines
Where mockin’ birds used to sing
And I’d like to see that lazy Mississippi…. Hurryin’ into spring
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
My family has many layered connections to New Orleans, Louisiana and the deep south. My mother spent her first ten years of life in Baton Rouge, LA as her father worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. My maternal grandmother’s family was for many generations from Natchez, MS - in fact the first Allison in the family was a 6 foot, 3 inch red headed man named Allison Foster from New Hampshire who moved to Natchez following the Civil War. There are family tales of those Natchez ancestors going to the “big city” - New Orleans - for shopping, theater and general merriment.

One such story comes from this century and involves people still alive. My 96-year-old grandfather still tells of going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1949, the year Louis Armstrong rode as the King of Zulu. Mardi Gras is actually only one day in, what the locals call, the Carnival Season. My grandfather, grandmother and aunt (my mother was too young to attend and stayed behind in Baton Rouge) went to the office of a family friend’s who was a dentist. His office was on the second floor of a building which was along the parade route. My grandfather recalls watching Satchmo Armstrong riding down the wide street, waving and, in his words “having a grand time”.

After graduating from college, I ended up living in New Orleans when I was placed by Teach for America in a 1st through 3rd grade emotionally disturbed/behavior disorder class. I lived in a neighborhood called Uptown in a grand if slightly decaying old home with three other teachers. During the time I lived in New Orleans I was introduced to a young man in his early 20’s. He was half Cajun, half Italian and cooked food I never experienced. He managed to find on-street parking next to the French Quarter during my first Mardi Gras, taught me how to properly eat crawfish and had a deep love of his home city. I married him three years later and we are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in September.

My husband moved to Boston when he finished his MSW and this is where we’ve lived for our 15 years together. Of course, you can take a New Orleanian out of New Orleans but you really can’t take the city out of the person so we would return to the city once a year if not more often - for weddings, baby christenings, holidays, family vacations and the never ending festivals. One vacation with his family involved flying into New Orleans, renting a red convertible and driving to Pensacola, Florida to spend the week at the beach. There are photos of me, 6 months pregnant with twins, floating in the Gulf Coast waters that are affectionately called by locals as the “Redneck Rivera”.

Perhaps the best known of the festivals are Mardi Gras and the wonderful food, music, and art celebration known simply as Jazz Festival. When our twin sons were born we would make an effort to go to one or the other of these big events each year. There is a photo of my husband and I at a Jazz Fest in which we each have a big baby carrier on our backs and little 8-month-old heads stick out from the tops.

There is another photo of our boys as two year olds at Mardi Gras sitting atop step ladders in little boxes that resemble old fashioned tool carriers. These are the best places to sit in order to be seen by the riders of Mardi Gras floats.

A moment to try and explain Mardi Gras. Mark Twain wrote in a letter in 1859 “I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.” The season begins on January 6th, all Kings’ Day. This is the time that teen-age girls are presented to society and that tradition continues as the local newspaper publishes photos of girls in white beaded gowns and tiaras prior to the large balls. Small parades are held on the weekends through January and February. The season culminates the day before Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday, just happens to be biggest day of the season which makes it the best known. There are more parades that day. Large floats wind their way down the grand boulevards of the city and surrounding suburbs with riders throwing plastic beads, large coins called doubloons, plastic cups, plush animals and trinkets.

It is difficult to convey just how much the city and surrounding area literally shuts down and rules go out the window. Like Hemingway writes in The Sun Also Rises about the impact of another festival on Pamplona, Spain, “it seems as though nothing could have any consequences”. Grown women dress in pig costumes or as Maid Marion, men wear superhero costumes, people wear masks so they can hide. One man I know has a note from the actress Brook Shields thanking him for creating the mask she wore in the French Quarter during one Mardi Gras. She wrote that no one recognized her as she wandered the streets for hours surrounded by people and she loved the anonymity.

Before our daughter was born in 2004, we had taken our boys to one Jazz Festival, two Mardi Gras and several Thanksgivings in New Orleans. For one reason or another - for instance no one we know getting married, suddenly traveling with five seemed much more cost prohibitive - we didn’t get back to visit once she was in our family.

But in August of 2005, my family’s relationship with New Orleans changed. On Monday, August 29th, a hurricane named Katrina plowed into the city. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning the 30th was the gravity of the storm and its after effects were starting to be understood. While our immediate family had all evacuated and were accounted for, several close friends were determined to ride it out. The news we were hearing was frightening and fragmented. During breakfast my husband walked over to our then 16 month old daughter, rubbed her head and said sadly “I never got you to my hometown, Baby Girl”. He used a term of endearment with her that I had never heard him say and in a tone that mixed both his native accent with mourning. She kept happily eating her Cheerios in her high chair, clueless of what was said to her or what was happening to her daddy’s beloved city.

I think, in many ways that was the sadness and fear many who lived in New Orleans faced that August, 2005. That their hometown - either actual or adopted - was gone. That there was no way it could come back.

However, by February of this year - as a certain team was winning the National Football League’s championship game - New Orleans showed that if there is one thing it is, it is a town that survives. Through determination, grit, humor, food and music, New Orleans manages to rise again and again through storms, financial woes, and other awful events. I visited New Orleans for a conference in April 2007 and was struck by how some neighborhoods didn’t look like they had been underwater 18 months earlier.

However, the oil volcano - a rap video called Sorry Ain’t Enough No More by local New Orleans artists appropriately question the use of the term “leak” - in April of this year has done something that I have rarely heard or seen in the Crescent City, put a note of sad resignation in the voices of people I know down there.

Several weeks ago I posted on Facebook the New Yorker cover by Bob Staake. It was a near perfect replica of an Escher painting with lone turtle at the bottom of the diamond and two fish above it and different species above them. Then past the line where water meets the sky three birds fly below two other types of birds and a lone pelican flies at the top of the diamond. However, in this New Yorker cover entitled “After Escher: Gulf Sky and Water”, the water is actually an icky black and the birds fly with globs of oil dropping off of them.

A friend who lives in the French Quarter called me to express how grateful he was to see that cover art because it showed that people were still paying attention to the crisis in the Gulf. Earlier this month I asked the owner of a funky little t-shirt shop which also prints bags, bumper stickers and other items to showcase wry political sentiments why he hadn’t made any bumper stickers about the oil in the Gulf. “We all thought it would be plugged by now” he resignedly responded.

While our national addiction to the oil fouling our coastline continues to be talked about, what doesn’t get as much attention, at least in the northeast, is the economic boom the oil industry provides Louisiana. The Times-Picayune, New Orleans newspaper, published a lengthy article a week ago (July 18, 2010) about the region’s historic relationship with offshore oil industry. According to reporter David Hammer, the oil industry at one point paid taxes that once financed 40 percent of the state budget and now pays one out of every eight dollars it spends. For a state mired in poverty this is a difficult revenue source to lose.

For all the complexities that poverty brings, the city and region are equipped to deal with hurricanes. An inn manager from the Alabama coast told the New York Times last month “Hurricane, it comes, it does its thing, then it’s over with and we can fix the damage.” New Orleans has one of the most complex systems of canals and pumps that continuously keeps the city dry. The rain storms we are experiencing this year causing massive flooding in Somerville’s Union Square and elsewhere would merely cause puddles in New Orleans.

Yet that Alabama inn keeper captured the sentiment perfectly when he went on to tell the Times, “ain’t nothing I can do to get the oil off the ocean.” You can’t put plywood up on the marsh like house or store windows or move all the birds and fish to a safer place like we can our children and families.

I went back to New Orleans earlier this month to visit that friend who appreciated the New Yorker cover. Originally from upstate New York, he has lived in and around the French Quarter for nearly all of his 20 years in New Orleans. He has fully embraced living in New Orleans - the humor, the food, the bugs. When I walked into his beautiful condo which he shares with his partner there was one of those huge Creole butterflies - commonly known as a cockroach - as big as my thumb crossing his kitchen floor. “Oh” he barely uttered, as if seeing a dust bunny.

[I want to stress that every home, business, church, office, and hospital has cockroaches in them. It is in no way a sign of cleaniless, or lack thereof.]

This just shows how much of a New Orleanian my friend has become. A roach the size of a human appendage doesn’t faze him.

While visiting with my friend was the main purpose of my trip I also had a personal goal - to run with the bulls. July 11th this year was the 4th annual San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, which is modeled on the famous running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Early that Saturday morning I wore my all white outfit, a red handkerchief and red sash (made by my French Quarter friend) and a red straw cowboy hat. There was a man in a large pontif style hat announcing run information from a bar balcony and a group of men carried in a large paper mache saint, or saint-like being since it was wearing a propeller beanie on its head. The 2000 plus runner were told to kneel before this golden being and then they started yelling at us to run through the streets of the French Quarter.

After several blocks of running folks started to slow down to a trot, walk, or stroll, which seemed more appropriate for those carrying a beer in a plastic cup at 8 o’clock in the morning. Then as we turned onto Bienville Street someone started yelling “the BULLS!!” and suddenly members of various all-female roller derby clubs started streaking through the crowd. Dressed red and black they had bull horns attached to their helmets. They wielded plastic bats of various sizes and went after the delicate backsides of the runners. Some runners had attached appropriately named bull’s eyes to the back of their shirts. The roller skating bulls did not disappoint them.

The run ends at, where else for New Orleans, a bar and runners mingle with bulls. One bull caught my eye. She had the BP’s now infamous green sunflower looking logo on a cloth skewered on one of her horns. Folks cheered as they walked by her and many, including myself, asked to take a picture of her.

And so I have a photo of a young woman with a black helmet sporting huge horns and fake roses surrounding them. BP’s logo is dangling from one of the horns and she has a look that defies you to think she is crazy.

Because, for all of the talk that New Orleans is built is a “bad location”, that it is mismanaged, that it is too poor, it is America’s city. Twain recognized its importance before the United States was even 100 years old.

New Orleans is the crazy aunt of America. The crazy aunt that always says those things you don’t say in polite company, comes a bit tipsy to the family gathering and keeps on drinking (and we’re jealous because that is how we would like to deal with the family gathering) and has a garish way of dressing. But we would be such a boring American family if New Orleans wasn’t our aunt.

As Hemingway wrote in The Sun Also Rises during another bull run, "Oh, darling, please stay by me. Please stay by me and see me through this." New Orleans, I will stay by you. I hope you all will too.

May it be so.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Music that makes her dance

Little lady had her birthday party this weekend. Part cooking show (they made pizzas and decorated cupcakes), part playdate and part dance party - it was exactly the low-key affair we like.

Of course the dance party had a soundtrack. As is our custom we gave out CDs with some of her favorite songs from the previous year. Here were the songs we gave our guests:

  1. First Train Home - Imogen Heap
  2. M.A.G.I.C. - The Sound of Arrows
  3. Fireflies - Owl City
  4. Replay - Iyaz
  5. Don't Stop Believin' - Glee
  6. Waterfalls - TLC
  7. Popular - Wicked
  8. Thriller - Michael Jackson
  9. Million Dollar Bill - Whitney Houston
  10. Got to Be Real - Cheryl Lynn
  11. This Heart Is a Stone - Acid House Kings
And this year, there are serious credits to give out for introducing my little lady to the songs. A long-lost, but blessedly found, high school buddy introduced her to no less than five of the eleven songs (numbers 1, 2, 5, 9 and 11) while my very own Ambassador got her hooked on TLC's Waterfalls. Then beloved sister-in-law got little lady and me to Wicked over the winter.

In each birthday CD I usually like to slip one song in that my kids don't know but makes me think of them. Kind of like that extra candle on a cake to grow on. This is an extra song to enjoy as their new year begins.

This year's extra song is Cheryl Lynn's classic Got to Be Real.

And it is her new favorite. She sings it, complete with deep from the belly "got to be real! got to be real!" flourish. Because that is what I hope my lovely lady always is.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Happiness

Dear daughter,

Many days I find myself catching my breath, incredulous that you are in my life. You often wake up in the morning, face framed in golden curly hair, with a glorious grin and announcing the fabulous realization of what the day will bring. "I'm going to see a PLAY!" you yelled one morning. "I have LIBRARY and can get a NEW BOOK!" was another day's observation. You manage to find cause for celebration in the smallest things.

Last week, while dropping off your brothers at their school, you did your usual wander away while I stood near the spot where the third graders line up. As hundreds of children ran around I could hear "Mama!" over the yelling. I turned to find you standing alone in a swirl of children and pointing up at the sky. A flock of birds were flying over head in a perfect, backwards check mark. Eventually other children stopped and stared, yelling "cool!" and "that's a backwards check mark!" You just smiled and went along with your private jumping game.

You continue to amaze me how you get along with nearly everyone you meet. And if they are reluctant, you will get them to like you by force of will. I watched you, with great determination, convince a fellow ballet student to play with you following class. Her father watched in amazement, after she had hidden behind his leg, as she eventually grabbed your hand and ran off shrieking with you. He swore that wasn't in her nature. But there you both were, hanging from a stair bar talking about princesses, or bugs or ballet moves.

However, you are starting to hear when other children are mean to you. Up until now it seemed you didn't, or chose not to, hear mean words. This week at a playground you came sadly up to me after having another girl tell you that you can't play with her and her friends. I can't believe that someone wouldn't want you in their life. I can't believe that someone wouldn't see the fun, joy and laughter that you bring.

But in the end, those people will lose out. Because very quickly you found others at the playground to play with. And you were laughing again. And swinging in the swing so high you could touch the sky.


Monday, March 08, 2010

Women's Work

Gender Across Borders

I've been thinking a lot about my family's 96 gallon recycling totter - in some towns they are affectionately called "Big Blue". Our town, in an effort to cut down on how much trash homes produce, gave each household one large totter and only trash in that totter will be collected. It forces families to do a better job sorting their "true" trash from items that can be recycled.

So we fill up our 96 gallon totter for the biweekly pick up with cans, plastic items and others that can be recycled. And a large collection truck comes by and dumps them all together with other recyclables. And off they go to a plant to be sorted.

But who does the sorting? What is the safety standards of these plants? While we feel good about decreasing our overall trash, who is compromising her or his safety to sort our recyclables?

So on this International Women's Day, I'm inspired by the nameless women (and men) who do the work to make our planet green - sort our recyclables, weatherize our homes, create new items out of "trash" (e.g. a purse from an old rice bag).

Because they are not being thanked for cleaning up, or sorting through, our mess.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Thank goodness

As we got into the van at the end of the day...

"Mom, I had to go to the nurse today because I wasn't feeling well and she looked at my throat and it was o.k. and she looked into my ear and could see my brain and she said 'you have a headache' because she could see my brain and then she listened to my heart and told me that my heart almost was stopping."

Wow. You're heart is stopping? I think that means we can't do the special art project tomorrow with your class because you are sick.

"Oh. I'm fine."

Thank goodness.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pet Shop Boys do Cold Play

I admit it - probably one of my highlights from last year was seeing the Pet Shop Boys in concert. I mentioned back in September that they did a terrific cover of Coldplay's Viva La Vida combined with Domino Dancing.

And, duh, PSB released it back in December as part of an EP.

You know what I'm listening to on the train today....

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Which is Worth More according to a 9 year old

During Sunday's service, our minister read a poem by Rumi, the Persian mystical poet who lived during the 13th century.

Also during this point of the service one of my rather tall 9 year olds decided the only place he would sit was on my lap. His back pressed against my chest, his head laying on my ear, he gave a running commentary as she read the poem (his commentary in italics):

“Which is Worth More?” by Rumi

Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
or your own genuine solitude?

"Solitude!" he suddenly uttered in a loud whisper.

Freedom, or power over an entire nation?

"Freedom." he whispered in a what-are-you-stupid? tone of voice.

A little while alone in your room
Will prove more valuable than anything else
That could ever be given to you.

"Alone in my room" he repeated, in a reverent whisper.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I never said I didn't like Madame Gaga

I continue to be amazed at what posts of mine generate comments months, sometimes years, after I wrote them. I just got a comment the other day from someone who, like my son in 2007, found herself eating a clementine with worms.

But I am starting to think the Lady Gaga post last spring will continue to generate comments for years to come. You may recall my tirade about 5th graders performing a talent show piece with Poker Face playing as background music. The comments that drove me nuts were those that clearly HAD NOT READ MY PIECE. I stressed I personally, as a then 40-year-old, had nothing against her music. I stressed that teens should be able to enjoy her. However, 2nd grade was too young to be listening to lyrics about getting drunk, bluffing with muffins, and love isn't fun unless it is rough.

So when I saw last week that I had another comment to this, I just waited for another "get a life" (Jake) or "god you're one of THOSE parents" (yes, Jordan, did you notice I am one of THOSE parents who teaches sex ed at my church?). So I was pleasantly surprised to read this gem from Lady:

I'm 10 and I listen to Lady GaGa,SHE'S MY FAVORITE,and I just don't bother asking so if your kid asks about something,just say it's adult stuff. I understand if your chil (sic) is in 2nd grade,of course but 5th grade is fine

I'll ignore the fact that a 10-year-old commented on my blog (my sons will be 10 in August and the idea of them roaming around the blogosphere gives me stomach pains) and just marvel at her very grown-up response. She agreed that 2nd grade is young but 5th grade is just fine.

Thank you, Lady.

And, Lady, don't tell my kids that my new favorite song is Bad Romance. You're old enough to get it.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Friday, January 22, 2010

Six voters

My assigned task for the Martha Coakley campaign on Special Election day was to drive voters who could not get themselves to the polls. At first I only had three folks to drive, all southeast of my hometown, and figured I would get to return to finish the day holding signs or making a few last ditch Get The Vote Out (GTVO) calls.

The first voter, the note said, used a wheelchair. I arrived at the apartment building, Mrs. D buzzed me in, and I rode up the elevator to her floor. Turning down the hall I was immediately struck by the medicinal smell of a nursing home, although this was a mixed use building. Her door was all the way at the end and slightly ajar. I knocked and opened the door to find a tiny, frail woman sitting in a motorized wheelchair.

After switching to a chair I would push, and attaching Mrs. D's oxygen tank, we locked up and started down the hall. She proceeded to rail, in her tiny voice, about people in her building "who aren't even registered to VOTE!" She continued, aghast "Can you imagine?"

We arrived at my mini-van and she struggled mightily to get herself up into the passenger seat. As we started to drive I mentioned which polling station I was taking her to and she felt pretty strongly that she voted at another location. I suggested we go to the one I was told and run in to ask. She agreed.

I entered the large church hall only to find two precincts voting in that location. It became apparent I was asking for someone else and when I finished explaining Mrs. D's situation, a clerk declared "Well you should just bring her ballot to the car. Let me get one of the police officers to escort you". And like that I was able to bring a ballot and pen to Mrs. D and she voted in my van. It was an honor to have my dingy van be the site of something so important.

Another voter later in the day became a US citizen 35 years ago. Mr. A was born in Trinidad and Tribago but raised his three sons in the big city. He had a prosthetic leg, above the knee, that kept popping out requiring him to stop and either have me push it back while sitting in his wheelchair or he would rearrange it so he could stand. It took him 30 minutes to get out of his house.

While driving to the polls he talked about how the United States was the greatest country in the world and that voting was very important. At one point he declared "Let's get Martha elected!" with a broad grin and a clap of his hands.

Coming back he mused "maybe I should have gotten an absentee ballot" so that he didn't have to vote at the polls. "But then I would've never met you!" I replied.

It took 30 minutes to get him back into his house, through the garage and up a winding staircase. I left him at the top of his stairs, on a mobile stair chair waving goodbye.

I drove others that day. An 88-year-old woman who had never missed an election since she was 21 ("we couldn't vote until we were 21" she reminded me). A 56-year-old man living in an assisted living facility who had suffered a massive stroke and asked my help to fill out his ballot since he couldn't find the dot to fill in. One woman who told me about how she missed out on her chance to vote for McGovern (and declared with pride that Massachusetts was the only state to vote for him) because she had emergency surgery that day.

While I was on the losing side of the election (in more ways than one), I did win in other ways. I helped six people vote. Six people who each had very good reasons, and in some cases many of them, to not vote.

So while I am still sorting out my anger and disappointment from other parts of the election, I am hopeful.

Because people vote.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Girl Elephant in the Room

I spent the last few weeks devoting all my free time (all 32 seconds per week) to the Martha Coakley campaign to represent Massachusetts in the US Senate. I missed both my chance to volunteer during the primaries, and celebrate her win, when I had an emergency appendectomy the early morning hours of December 8th. But that didn't stop me from voting. My father brought me an absentee ballot to my hospital bed and I proudly filled it out, hours after surgery.

So I jumped into phone banks leading up to the general election and drove people to the polls on election day who had no means to get there. I talked her up to anyone who would listen. I was committed to getting her elected.

It is old news that she lost. That she went down in flames. All the talk is about how poorly her campaign was managed. Few people are willing to acknowledge that something much more insidious was involved.


During the first hours of the polls being open, I stood with a large Coakley sign outside an elementary school. As young children walked on the sidewalk past me a man who looked to be in his 50's rolled down his car window. There was a sidewalk and an entire lane between us requiring he had to yell to be heard.

Very clearly he shouted "She's a fucking beast".

During the days leading up to the election I would call voters, asking them to vote for Martha Coakley and half the time they would say to me that they hated her negative ads. When asked about Scott Brown's ads they insisted he was never negative. And yet, several years ago during the Presidential campaign when Senator John Kerry ignored the Swift Boat negative ads, he was considered weak. So according to those callers a woman couldn't fight back.

Later, after the polls closed, I was at a town gathering unrelated to the Senate race. I was surrounded by Democrats, Republicans and unenrolled voters. I started talking to a man I know. He isn't someone I know well but we've interacted over the years. We got to talking about the Senate election and he made it clear he voted for Scott Brown in part for his position on abortion.

After a discussion of Brown's failed amendment to create a massive loophole in a bill to protect rape victims, the man suddenly said,"If my daughter was raped, she wouldn't get an abortion. Two wrongs don't make a right."

I thought I had been kicked in the gut. I started to cry, describing the hell of pregnancy - even when that pregnancy is a product of love - and asked him how he, sans overies or a uterus, could even think that he should have a say.

I returned home late election night, reeling from my bookend experiences. A man who felt no inhibition to yell such profanities in public and a man who would look a woman in the eye and say that a woman should be expected to carry a pregnancy from a rape. I cried until 2:30 in the morning. I awoke at 4:30 in the morning only to start crying again.

I would talk to liberal men about the sexism and be brushed off. "It was all about her bad campaign. It had nothing to do with gender" declared one young [male] colleague.

Yet every woman I spoke to agreed. Agreed that there was vitriol directed at a female candidate that would never happen to a man.

So why is it o.k. to diminish the impact of gender on this race? Why is it o.k. to yell obscenities about a woman candidate? Would the driver that morning have felt it was alright to yell a racial epitaph if the candidate was black? Why is it o.k. to be matter-of-fact about options for a female rape victim? Would the man at the party have said the same about denying treatment to the victim of any other form of assault?

I have no answers. I'm still too raw from Tuesday's results. Both inside and outside the polls.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Wicked Popular

In 2006 I wrote about how one of my sons and I sang For Good from the Broadway show Wicked in a musical review.

And how I barely made it through the performance without sobbing. Because I have been changed because I know him.

In 2009 I wrote about how a dear dear friend sent me a mix of songs which included Defying Gravity from that same musical. Which led to me lifting my daughter high in the air while we danced to this song and, of course, causing me to cry. Because I don't want anyone to bring her down.

So, incredibly, this past weekend, I finally saw a touring production of Wicked thanks to my fabulous sister-in-law. You would have thought by now I had actually seen it live and on stage. And we brought that 5 year-old girl I lift in the air.

Which led me to sob uncontrollably as Act I ended and Elphaba (the green witch) flies up singing "tell them how I am defying gravity". And led to my daughter to wipe my tears with her fancy party dress. And her winter coat. And then hug me. Causing many strange women around me to go "awwwwww......"

But that wasn't the song that grabbed my daughter. It wasn't the song that she sang over and over in the car.

No, that would be the song Glinda the Good Witch sings to Elphaba when she decides to "help" her.

I'll help you be popular!
You'll hang with the right cohorts
You'll be good at sports
Know the slang you've got to know
So let's start
'Cause you have a long way to go....

As she awoke the morning after seeing the play, literally the first words out of my daughter's mouth was "one, two, three BALLGOWN!!" as she waved a (practice) magic wand. Then she giggled and sang a little of Popular. Complete with hair swishing.

She made her aunt and uncle play the newly purchased cast recording on CD as she pranced around their kitchen.

"Someday she'll get the irony" my sister-in-law said in a slightly hopeful, with a tinge of concern, tone in her voice.

But I know she will. Because as the play ended the day before in this incredibly grand and old theater, my little lady in her fancy party dress climbed into my lap. Earlier in the day she had expressed concern about seeing Wicked because she was scared of the green witch.

Now she clutched my neck and hid her face. Because she didn't want to see the green witch die from the bucket of water.

The play begins and ends with the line "no one mourns the wicked".

Fortunately, a little five year old did. Even if she does want a practice magic wand.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

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