Friday, November 14, 2014

They'll grow out of it...RIGHT?

So I've been thinking a lot about how our kids get to grow up these days, especially in light of all the social media. Because social media is going to ruin our world entirely. What really concerns me is the forum that has been provided for kids who are just pissed off in general. They may have legitimate, valid reasons for being pissed off, but they will never admit it. Instead, they will start an Instagram account, because Facebook and blogs are out of vogue now. And they will make many of these accounts public, and they will make them look like well-researched, thoughtful places where people can learn and grow in their beliefs.

Lately I've been looking at a few sites that have recently come to my attention. Here is what I've encountered:

  • Accounts that claim to tout God's love and forgiveness, when in FACT they are vehicles for hatred towards gay people. And toward people who know, like, understand, or try to understand gay people. And toward people who disagree with them, or challenge them, or know more about Biblical interpretation than them, 
  • Accounts that stand up for conservatism and family values, when in FACT the actual purpose is to malign all other religions and countries, and accepting comments that include brilliant comments like "Kill all the sand-ni*#ers."  
  • Accounts that are liberal and open minded, when in FACT they are saying that religion and faith are stupid, and they are far too intelligent and evolved to "fall for that shit". Only idiots believe in God.  
  • Accounts that are based upon the premise of being proud of one's heritage, when in FACT they are thinly veiled Nazi-propaganda, hating on every single other race that isn't lily white.

So I have been unofficially following a few of these over the past several weeks, and have tried to talk some sense to a few. I am incredibly naive, because I still fundamentally believe that if you speak rationally and logically, and back up your argument with evidence and research, folks will hear you out and show you respect. I am wrong.

I'm thinking about all of these things...and how much growing and changing these people need, and how maybe something I bring up will sink in. I sometimes see my role as the trailblazer for the young ones, the devil's advocate, the cheerleader for critical thinking. It's a stupid role, and it isn't my job. I have many close friends in  my life who I love and adore, but may not share my views on numerous issues. So it's possible, right?  These young people can learn, and begin to be open-minded under my misguided tutelage....

NOPE.  The reason behind it came to me in the shower, and it's sad because it's not a remotely original thought at all.   Ready for it???  The notion of hiding behind a cause, belief, or politics to mask your basic adolescent angst is as OLD as TIME.  Where shall they fit their angst? At school they may get into trouble, at home they may face disapproval, with friends they may face the Angst goes Online. Angst Online!  I need a logo with a little stick-adolescent figure running across it. (AOL reference, young hip ones. Google it.) Online is the magical place where you can call the Chinese person a chink, an atheist evil, a Christian crazy, and a Middle Eastern person a "sand n$##er." There is no personal responsibility, no accountability, strangers are fabulous to hate! You don't even have to know their first name or what they look like, you can just UNLOAD on someone and no one gets hurt. But of course they do, because words are awful and the hateful ones get into our heads and they stay there.  The unfortunate thing is that the level of anger coming from the source doesn't diminish either, it grows. As soon as they find someone to beat down until they resort to ALL CAPS CURSING, the anger just feeds on itself. This I can speak to from a personal standpoint in that I have engaged in pointless debates online and gotten really upset, really angry. I always regret it, it's a waste of energy. I am a grown ass woman who has gotten over my teenage angst (mostly) and I still have to check myself in these situations.  These kids have no idea how to do that, they don't have the skills to regulate their emotions because so many of their interactions don't involve another actual human being standing in front of them. It's easy to have the last word if you can type it and log off.

Pissing Off Your Parents. A History.
  • Guess what, Greatest Generation? Your children are long haired hippies who believe in free love.
  • Hippies, your children will all become young Republicans, Alex Keaton if you will.
  • Look out Yuppies, your children will all become Goth. IZOD is gone, stock up on the black lipstick.
  • Edgy tattooed parents, your children will go to church and join sororities.
This is a major generalization, and there were of course "real" people that came out of these eras, many just did what they believed and stayed there. However, there is undoubtedly a HUGE margin that did it to upset their folks. Somewhere, someone has done an amazing longitudinal study about this and I really want to read it.

What hasn't happened before this generation is the incredibly unstoppable force of social media, and it scares me to death. Kids who use this medium for their anger hurt so many other people...they never have to know about it, so they never have to learn from it. No one learns anything, they don't come to a place of understanding and respect. I won't give up sharing my opinions, but I'll try to wait until I'm asked. If I share when I haven't been asked and am faced with vitriolic spew, I will stop. I will walk away and pick up a book.  I'll keep my faith that these kids will get some experience, learn some lessons and open their minds, but that's kind of all I can do. Why? Because Good Will Hunting. All roads lead to Good Will Hunting.

You're just a kid. You don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about. I look at you; I don't see an intelligent, confident man; I see a cocky, scared shitless kid.

We all had to live through it, these kids will hopefully get through it too. Everyone does eventually grow up, right?  (I don't actually want the answer to that question.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bottles and sleeping and potties, oh my!

I'm actually surprised I haven't written about this, all things considered. I haven't been a parent of a TINY child in quite some time now, but I saw a story this morning on the Today Show which made me start thinking about it again. A mother who had survived cancer and a double mastectomy was being hassled by strangers about not breastfeeding her infant son, and it prompted her to write an article about it. This made me reflect on the whole mommy-wars thing...

Myth...Pregnant Women and New Moms are Public Property

I don't know what this is about, honestly. Why total strangers feel that they can touch you and tell you what to do when you are pregnant is a mystery to me. I haven't been pregnant in a long time, but it totally tripped me out.  The two incidents that stick in my mind are thus: My OB-GYN told me that it was totally fine if I had a cup of coffee a day. This was good news, as I am a complete addict and slave to caffeine. Once day when I was in line at Starbucks, I kept getting the stink eye from another customer. I was cranky and late and just wanted my coffee. After I got my cup to go, she approached me and said, "You  know, you really shouldn't be drinking that while you're pregnant."  For those of you who know me, you think I'm mouthy now?  I remember, this was with Maddie, and I said, "Try to get it from me." And I walked out.  The other incident was at the hair salon, of course. I'm not prematurely gray now, I'm fully maturely gray. But I started going gray at 18, and have colored my hair since then.  When I was pregnant, my stylist assured me that there was a formula that was safe, and I'd checked with my doctor.  While I was letting my head cook, an older lady kept shaking her head and "tsk-tsk"ing me.  I just shot daggers at her with my evil eyes and said nothing.

Maddie was born in December, and as all new moms know, the cabin fever can quickly take over and make you feel like you're going crazy. I bundled her up one day in enough layers to make it possible for her to survive Antarctica...alone.  And yet...while getting her into the cart at Target, and older lady approached me and said, "It's WAY too cold to have that baby out!"  I smiled at her and said, "She's okay" and kept walking. When Stephen was a tiny infant, I met my sister in law at the local Starbucks, one of my first solo outings. An extremely strange man approached him and started saying, "Hello, holy spirit baby!"  He then proceeded to tell us how babies were particularly inclined to hear and understand the holy spirit. Well, alrighty then! I wondered how he knew this, since newborns don't talk much. He continued to move toward him and tried to touch his head, and my sister in law blocked him. One thing that I do recall is that I saw his well-worn Bible and EVERY WORD was highlighted...which defeats the...SIGH.  He became somewhat notorious in Elk Grove, because I know other moms whose babies were approached by Crazy Holy Spirit Man. Step away from the baby, dude.

Myth...Bottles are the gateway to Satan.

I did not nurse my babies. The number to CPS is 875-KIDS, I'll wait.  All kidding aside, the process was heart wrenching for me. I was among the first of my friends to have a child, I had ONE friend with a baby just 10 months older than Maddie.  I didn't take any breastfeeding classes. They were offered, but it was 2000, and no one had really talked to me about it, so I assumed that it would be this total natural, easy thing that would happen with no problem.  I was mistaken.  I tried to nurse when I was in the hospital, and I did it totally wrong.  How do I know it was wrong?  Oh, that would be because a nurse, in labor and delivery no less, walked into  my room and said these words-  "You're doing it wrong. She's never going to latch on with you holding her like that. Didn't you read any books or go to any classes or ANYTHING?"  Then she proceeded to not help me at all. Another thing I didn't realize about childbirth is the hormone crash, and I crashed hard. I was alone. My mom had gone home and I had sent Mike home because he had the flu. So what did I do? I cried, a lot.  When I got home, I tried and tried and tried. I clearly remember sitting in the glider in her room with my toes curled under my bare feet because it hurt so much. It just never took, I never produced anything. When I took her in for an appointment, the nurse saw my sweet baby crying and gave her formula immediately and said, "She's starving!" So I cried more.  My older sister was a die-hard breastfeeding mom and did it for a LONG time. She offered to nurse my baby for me. Ummm, nope, we're okay. She sent me a book called "Breastfeeding Anyway" which was about women all over the world in war torn countries and in abject poverty, and THEY were breastfeeding!  I kept crying. I finally bought formula, but continued to feel horrifically guilty.  One day my mom said, "Honey, it doesn't matter a WIT. She is thriving."  So I let myself give my baby a bottle. In an email to my sister, I said I knew she was a huge breastfeeding advocate, but I'd decided to stop. Her reply was, "I am a breastfeeding advocate, but I'm a bigger advocate for my sister!"  That stuck with me. Seriously, this whole issue had been heartbreaking, I felt like a failure and started to feel like I was losing it (more hormone crashing). Deciding to give it up was like being released from prison, for ME.  When I had my son, I gave it another shot but didn't torture myself. I gave it up within a month. My children are healthy, and smart, and perfectly fine.

Myth...Pacifiers will stunt your child's development. And happiness. And intelligence.

Both my kids used pacifiers, a lot.  Maddie called hers a Nu-Nu, after the creepy vacuum-like creature on the Teletubbies. They became Nu-Nu's in our house. They were both probably 3-4 before we totally kicked the habit, but that wasn't something I agonized over. I figured that they wouldn't go to high school with a Nu-Nu.  However, that didn't stop the comments. When my mom was a Reverend in Sacramento, she held a party for her house blessing. A number of her congregation comprised of old women, very very opinionated old women.  Maddie was maybe 5 months old or so, and had her Nu-Nu. One lady said to her friend, "Ug!  Look at these young mothers these days, they have no idea how to soothe a baby!"  I immediately turned around, smiled, and said, "You know, you're right. I am doing a TERRIBLE job!" There's Mouthy Jane again!  She laughed, and it cut the tension. When the time came for the Nu-Nu's to go, my kids got a visit from the Nu-Nu Fairy who left a note praising them for being such big kids, a drawing, and gifts. Maddie was sad for a single night. Stephen could not have cared less.  This past May, when finally trading in my 14 year old Honda, I found a Nu-Nu floating around with the spare tire and it made me SAD!  They get big way too fast.

Myth...Training Your Baby to Sleep is Cruel and Unusual

"Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" saved my LIFE. It was like a kinder version of Baby Wise, and I remember ordering it on Amazon, rush delivery, and reading it in one sitting. We didn't know what the hell to do, other than rocking a baby to sleep all the time was going to make things tough in the future, and they needed to learn how to go to sleep on their own. I believed in that, and I believed in having the babies sleep in their own cribs, I just didn't know how to go about it.  I think that I still have the legal pad where I wrote down the exact times, when I put them down, and how long they cried. They never cried for that long, but it seemed like forever. 5 minutes feels like about 500 when your baby is crying. But I stuck with it and it worked, and it was the best thing ever. What wasn't the best thing ever was the tendency of some other folks telling me that I was cruel to let them cry. I suppose we will never know, but I'd hazard a guess that my children are fairly well attached and secure. Especially considering that my nine year old is reading this over my shoulder right now. They survived the torture and lived to tell about it. Maybe when they get to college and start blaming everything on me, they'll reflect on these hardships.

Myth...Working Moms are Evil and Selfish

This myth is probably the most hurtful to me. I stayed home with 3 months with Maddie and 4 months with Stephen, and then I had to find care for them. If I could go back in time, I would try to make it work with working part time, but I didn't. Finding decent care was a long, arduous process, not to mention unbelievably expensive. Leaving my babies on that first day and walking out was among the hardest things I've ever done, it felt like I was leaving without an arm. It didn't feel natural at all, but I had to do it. What didn't need to happen were the comments from others. When Maddie was an infant, I had her in a home daycare and she was amazing. But when she told me that Maddie had taken her first step and I missed it, I went home and cried. When she told me that she was moving and wouldn't be able to care for her anymore, she said, "I'm so sad, I feel like I've raised her!"  She was a great lady and she provided wonderful care for my daughter, but it was hard enough to miss the milestones. She could have not told me that and let me believe that the steps I saw my daughter take were her first. She could have not said she raised my baby. The neighbor of my best friend used to liberally apply her judgment as well. She was the one who told me bottle fed babies had about a ten IQ point difference than breast-fed babies. Vapid woman. When my best friend was sharing about finding care for HER daughter, the lovely neighbor said, "I'd NEVER let someone else raise my children!"  Omg, SHUT UP.

Being a working mom is tough, folks. I have it amazingly well too.  I only work 195 days out of the year, I can take time off to go to field trips (I did that today), I'm usually off by 4. Mike is usually home by mid-afternoon now and is home when the kids get home. It was not always this easy though, he used to work until 6 and we both used to commute to Stockton. There's nothing quite like getting a phone call that your baby has a high fever and crying in the car for 35 minutes on the way to get them. Motherhood is a huge guilt trip, all of it.   To that end, I feel like I would be remiss if I didn't recognize that I would not want to be a stay at home mom. I personally feel like it's a much tougher road with less structure and limited adult interaction. I would not be at the top of my game if I stayed home. I'm not creative, or particularly active, I don't cook, and without being able to focus fully on something else that was important to me, I honestly think I would go batty. I'm a better mom as a working mom. My hat is off to every single stay at home mom I know. 

My Myriad Parenting Sins
  • I am too strict, my poor children have chores and have to try their best in school.
  • I am not strict enough. Maddie watches PG-13 movies now...she's almost 14.
  • I let my 13 year old ride her skateboard around the neighborhood which is horrible because an ax-murderer will kill her.
  • I let my 9 year old ride his bike around the block which is horrible because an ax-murderer will kill him.
  • I should not let my daughter be in a band because she will ultimately be around smoke and booze and drugs.
  • I don't push my son enough into other activities enough.
  • I let both of my children fall down when they were learning to walk.
  • I don't push church hard enough with them.
  • I push church on them too much.
  • We don't eat dinner as a family.
  • My son plays too many video games, has too much screen time.
  • My daughter is on her computer and phone too much, has too much screen time.
  • Neither of them eat as healthy as I would like them too. This is my fault, they should have eaten more of a variety when they were little.
  • I bought baby food in a jar.
  • My children eat candy and don't floss.
  • I lost my temper with my son while trying to potty train him. I was ready to throw him out the window.
  • Sometimes my teenager makes me feel like I'm losing my mind. 
  • My kids should be able to keep their rooms clean...but they don't.

Dear people. Please be kind to moms, all moms. This whole mom thing is a very tough gig, it's the toughest thing I have ever done. I am blessed and lucky to have friends who subscribe to all the parenting styles.  Baby-wearing, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, stay at home moms, you name it. I love and adore these smart, loving, caring women who I get to call friends. Does the fact that our parenting philosophies vary wildly affect our friendships? Not even a little bit.  Give us a break. This crap is HARD.  

Not all the commentary from others comes from women, but most of it does. We can do better than this, ladies. We may be different in a lot of ways, but we're all going through this. We all know that there is no exhaustion and despair greater than a new mom who has gotten 45 consecutive minutes of sleep at a time for 6 weeks. We all know what it feels like when it finally hits you how hard this is going to be, and how insane it is that you're expected to take care of this little thing when your body has just been shredded. We also knows what the first smile, laugh, and "I love you" feels like. We have the most important job on earth, let's prop each other up a little. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Are Not Immune

Everyone has been writing about Robin Williams, and compared to the absolute beauty of some of the things that I’ve read, I’ve hesitated to say anything. However, today thoughts have been swimming around in my skull and as usual, it’s going to bug me unless I get them out.

It deeply concerns me how so many people run from these tragic events. Not literally, but in trying to process them, they manage to distance themselves from the feelings and the possibilities in their own lives. I’m still haunted by what happened in Newtown and Santa Barbara. So much of what has been reported involves finger pointing and why these boys weren’t caught and stopped before they did these horrible things. It’s easy to characterize these boys as monsters, because it allows us to separate ourselves from them.  But they weren’t monsters. They were deeply, deeply sick, and in reality, probably misdiagnosed.  If we characterize them as being inhuman creatures with nothing but evil inside of them, it’s easy to say it could never happen to us. But what if we talk about them in terms of illness? Could any of us become ill? Of course we could. I suppose it’s freeing in a way to separate oneself from all that dark sticky stuff. It can feel so exceptional to be able to say “I’d never do that! I’d never harm someone else. I would never take my life and do that to my family.”  That may be true, but it’s not because you are superior and able to safely curl up and tuck into a little comfy corner of perfection. It’s because you’ve been extremely fortunate.

We Are Not Immune.

I can’t spend my time judging other people’s struggles and how they should have been handled. And as far as mental illness goes, I can always use a tune up. I have experienced depression first hand and it sucks.  “Sucks” isn’t even an appropriate word to describe it, it’s debilitating and it feeds on itself. I have had several bouts of depression in my life, probably never serious enough to be categorized as Major Depression, but they still kicked my life’s ass.  Probably the worst one was the year between college and grad school when I was 23-24.  I lived with someone I couldn’t stand, had a boyfriend I didn’t love, and was using my BA in Developmental Psychology to be a receptionist at a software company in Silicon Valley. My understanding of developmental stages was used to wash other people’s coffee cups and answer the phone. Looking back I can say it was the worst year I’ve experienced in my life. I was still drinking back then, quite a bit actually.  I got to a place where I was calling in sick to work every single day, and every day that I stayed in bed it got worse. I started crying and could not stop. My close friends from college had all moved on and away, I didn’t have anyone I fully trusted in my midst. I finally called my mom who immediately drove up from LA and made me get out of my apartment in Burlingame and walk outside. Things slowly got better and I began applying for graduate school, but MAN.  I would not relive that year for anything.  Since then, I have had little bouts of it but I know what to do when I feel like I’m sliding back in.  You know that scene from Poltergeist where the mom is outside in the rain in the swimming pool that is still under construction?  There are corpses down at the bottom, drifting around in the nasty, filthy water.  She tries to climb out but with all the mud and the rain, she slips back down into the horror and there is nothing she can do to stop it. I think about that and visualize it all the time because that is what it feels like.  I can find myself on the top edge of that pool, not fully slipping yet but close, if I have too much time and nothing to do. It sounds insane to so many, I know.  But if I have no plans and no structure for a long period of time, I start slipping. I sleep too much, I stare at the TV for hours, I never get out of my pajamas. Those kinds of days are fabulous once and awhile, but when too many of them are strung together it becomes dangerous for me.

The period of time after my father died was also really tough, and I was depressed for about a year and a half. I don’t remember a lot from that period of time, it was as though I were living under water. I was working but not totally coherent, parenting but not feeling, hearing people but not listening, talking to my husband but not loving him. I truly couldn’t enjoy anything for awhile, and it was a terrifying feeling, I thought I would stay that way. I didn't, but you can't see that when you're in the thick of it.  It’s all kind of a blur now. I did write some during that period of time and rereading it is difficult because it doesn’t even sound like me. Grief is brutal, and you have to just let the time pass, as cliché as that it. There is no shortcut or fast forward button, believe me, I tried to find them.

The things that help me are other people, but it can be hard to reach out when I feel that way. Having things to look forward to helps a great deal as well, specifically going to concerts and spending time with my best friends. Being outside helps a ton, and exercise always does even though I rarely do it. Music is one of the main things that makes me feel alive, so my ipod is almost always on.  I was put on an antidepressant years and years ago and switched to another because of the side effects. I still take it. I have no idea if I still need it or not, but there’s this weird thing with meds like that…if you feel better, oftentimes it’s because it’s working. If you decide to go off because you’re feeling better, there is a very good chance that you will do a full cannonball dive into the corpse pool. Why risk that?  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There shouldn’t be a stigma with anti-depressants, but there is. I will simply say that I know a number of people that take them and you would never know it, you’d be shocked at who they are.

We Are Not Immune.

About Robin Williams, much has been said about how much he made people laugh and gave so much of himself. So many seem surprised that someone so beloved could have such demons, but that doesn’t surprise me at all. I think fame these days is a tremendous burden, one I’d never want to have. I imagine having to be prepared to be on stage every moment of every day out in public and that pressure must be suffocating. Today I saw a lot about how people who are in pain use humor as a defense mechanism, and how that was probably the case with him too. Yikes. Yes, I absolutely, unequivocally do that, and those who know me well would agree. It’s a lot easier to see things in my life through my comedic lenses that are always within reach. I probably do it too much, and that's something I’m conscious of. I have a hard time being super emotional around other people, so it feels like a safe alternative for me. Is it totally healthy? Probably not, at least as much as I do it. Humor is how I’ve made sense of a lot of things in my life, and that’s been positive. The key seems to be allowing myself to be sad or hurt, and letting people I trust see that side of me and not always feeling like I have to make a joke. Psychologists are human too!

We Are Not Immune.

My experience with suicide was minimal until a few years ago. I never seriously considered it myself, although it has crossed my mind from time to time, especially in the young teen years. When one of the closest people on earth to me lost someone close to her to suicide, I got pretty damn close to it, a proximity I truly hope I will never have again. I attended the memorial with her and I have never been in the presence of so much pure anguish in my life. Years later, it’s still raw and when it pops into my mind, I try to push it out. Suicide triggers so many crazy intense emotions in all of the people it affects, and it’s horribly painful to see. The fallout lasts a long, long time and changes the lives of the people in its wake forever. It’s hard not to be angry, and I believe that it’s natural to feel that way. How could they do such a thing when so many people loved them? What a vicious, selfish thing. I’ve felt that way about it too, but in the time that I’ve had to think about it, I’ve realized something else. The extent of the pain and desperation these people feel is far beyond anything we are capable of comprehending. It’s insidious and overwhelming, it’s like hearing screaming in the brain 24 hours a day. Everything hurts, and they can only think about making it stop. Anyone who is in major pain of any kind can’t think about anything but making it stop! So the notion of “how could they not think about their spouse/children/friend?” argument has this answer…because they couldn't. Not in that moment, not in that amount of pain. All they are focusing on is ending their pain, and my heart goes out to anyone who has had to deal with this. It’s nothing less than devastating.

We Are Not Immune.

If you are struggling, please ask for help. It is not weakness to go into counseling, it’s the exact opposite. It’s a sign of self-awareness and incredible bravery. Counseling brings up all kinds of slimy little things that have been buried a long time. Having those things bubble up to the surface is incredibly unpleasant and it hurts.  But, like I’ve told students that I have worked with, “You have to claw your way through the jungle in order to get to the beach. There is no way around it.  You must go through it.” It’s not a crutch to take an anti-depressant. If your child were suffering from asthma, would you tell them that their inhaler was a crutch? Everyone’s body needs different things.

Depression is not a result of poor faith, or weakness, or cowardice.  Depression is not simply being sad or bummed out. Depression is a medical condition, and it’s as real as cancer. Please be kind. Don’t point fingers and remove yourself by distancing yourself from people who need help or who feel things differently than you do. You are not stronger or smarter or better than anyone else if you haven’t experienced it.  You’re lucky. I don’t believe that any of us are absolutely in the clear, not knowing what the future holds or what challenges are waiting. It can happen to any of us, and life is too beautiful of a thing to miss out on.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Deep Jane Edel (this is ironic for those who don't get the SNL reference!)

So I really need to write more, but I become easily discouraged when I try to think of a subject. I won't do political stuff because I get too riled up and too easily provoked into mean-spirited bickering.  It takes a lot for me to publicly get onto my happens, but it still takes a lot.  The other things that I think of sometimes seem either too whiny, too self-indulgent (aren't all blogs this??), or too boring. So I psych myself out and chicken out and write nothing and that sucks. So here is another stream of consciousness list of nothing particularly important...

  • Despite the fact that I am a vain person, I do enjoy roughing it on occasion. It was freeing in Mexico, to not care about my face, hair, or clothes. And I don't think the people I was with or the people we helped gave a rip about how I looked.
  • I am on the coconut oil bandwagon. It truly is incredible stuff and I don't even like the smell of it.
  • My belief system is rock solid, but I can't give a lot of attention towards what I think others would expect me to do. Example: If you TELL me I should boycott something or somewhere, I am not likely to. I think if I knew all the ins and outs of every corporation in America, I wouldn't end up shopping anywhere. And not shopping would make me sad.
  • I think, while well intended, there is an arrogance that goes along with some mission work. I didn't see it on the trip I just went on, but was hyper-aware. Those amazing people didn't "need" our help because they're brown-skinned and poorer than we are. They appeared to appreciate it for sure, but I am in no way above them. I met a mom in Mexico with the three most precious, well-behaved, gorgeous children ever. I HOPE I'm even a little bit like her! Her kids may be better behaved than mine...
  • I don't like getting older. I like the mental part of it, as far as being more solid in who I am and not feeling like I have to censor myself much, but the physical part blows. I'm not a fan of fatigue, gray hair, and my impending Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis that I continue to dodge. I want to stay young looking and feeling! 
  • My teenage daughter frightens me. She scares me with her intelligence and talent, her humor and compassion. But mostly she scares me because I can't see the future and I don't know what will happen. Kids have to make mistakes in order to learn, but giving both of my kids the leeway to do this is incredibly hard.
  • I'm always a little taken aback when people don't appreciate my sense of humor because I think I'm hilarious.  But I have come to the conclusion that I'm pretty odd. Odder still is the fact that I really enjoy being odd.
  • I hate kale. I tried. It still tastes like shrubbery to me.
  • I no longer miss alcohol at all. I did for a very long time, but I do not anymore! The smell of my friend's Heineken this past weekend was beyond vile to me. I sometimes glimpse the life we would have had if we had kept drinking and it makes my blood run cold.
  • It saddens me beyond comprehension that our society seems to jump all over the whack-job religious folks like it's going out of style, but they rarely focus on the good things faith can do. This is for ALL faiths. I'm weary of religion being something at which society throws tomatoes. I do think that good deeds of any kind are best done quietly, but maybe we all need to get louder.
  • I hate Dr. Oz.  He is a total schmuck and if I see one more enormous model of a woman's fat torso on his stage, I may lose it. And for the women gladly going on stage to display their cellulite and have him tell them what they're doing wrong? SHAME ON YOU! 
  • Now that I have a child who is becoming a musician, I am blown away by how complicated music is! I've loved it and music has been a huge part of my life for ALL my life, but I've never thought about how the hell they figure out how things will sound good together. It's a mystery to me. It also makes me think that there is a big section of brain I never developed.
  • I'm realizing that I have helped more kids over the years than I originally imagined I did. It's a strange realization, and still not a comfortable one, but nothing is more important to me than knowing I helped. 
  • I'm always surprised by the fact that some young people really seem to like me. What if they find out how lame I am??
  • I am amazed, AMAZED at how strong the love is within my friendships. The longer I have the friends I do, and the more we all go through together, the more convinced I am that I would do absolutely anything for any of them. A lot of it is tough stuff, but the bond is that much stronger.
  • I watch way too many repeats of Friends. 
  • I will forever be fascinated by dysfunction, addiction, and sociopathy. I suppose this is a good thing, considering my profession, but I wonder sometimes if it's a healthy interest. I know others who are also drawn to the madness, and they're all brilliant, so there you go!
  • I am a fan of not working. Couldn't do it forever, but 6 more weeks sounds MIGHTY GOOD!

That's it for now.  I do not presume to be horribly interesting, I just needed to shake out my brain

Thursday, April 3, 2014

School Dances. Sweet Lord.

Y'know, working in a high school the past few years and seeing my own kids grow up way too fast has gotten me thinking about my experiences with school dances.  My friends and colleagues are posting pictures of their beautiful children going to Prom, I just watched the Prom episode of Glee...awwwwww, what fond memories!  Yeah, not so much.

I need to make some basic statements.  I was in high school in the 80's, so the fashion and the hair aren't my fault. I had to troll for all three of the school dances I attended. I did...I had to go HUNTING for them, and my friends helped me find some.  I don't think, that in all four years, I was ever actually asked to a dance. Two of them may have "asked", but it was only after mutual friends had convinced them to do so.  Boo hoo.  Poor me. Looking back, I thank GOD. There is so much that goes on now that I never had to deal with.  I never had to end any of these nights on a romantic note, nor was I ever put in a position where I had to make decisions which, knowing me, would have been unwise.  I don't even think I kissed any of them.

"When You're Cool, The Sun Shines 24 Hours a Day."

Jane is a GOOD SPORT.
I just want to preface this by saying this date was so bad, I referenced it in the speech I gave at my dad's funeral.  Why?  To illustrate how my dad taught me to laugh at the absurd.

Ohhhh, where to begin? He was new to our school, and we had gym together. I didn't know much about Leroy, other than he seemed nice enough. In 11th grade, my best friend convinced me to ask him to Homecoming. I have zero recollection of the actual asking out, but the night itself will live in infamy.  I spent an insane amount of time getting ready, but finally I was, in my pale pink polyester contraption with shoulder pads and fake lace. So I waited to be picked up. And I waited. And I waited. And then I became 100% convinced that I was being stood up by someone I wasn't even interested in. (footnote for some of my younger readers...please understand that in the fall of 1986, there were no cell phones. NONE. People had to call on actual phones. And if you were my date, you managed to lose both my phone number AND my address.)  I must give the poor dude some credit. Under the unfortunate circumstances, he was rather resourceful. He went to the dance and searched madly until he found my best friend, then he made her show him where I lived.  By the time they got there, I was pretty pissed off, but I attempted to be excited to go and tolerated some pictures.

Oddly, when we walked out to the car, there was some other kid in the driver's seat.  As it turned out, he had hired his friend to drive us around. We had a driver. It was a sweet gesture, there were good intentions behind it. Upon arrival at the Homecoming dance, things began to go south (or just further south) fairly quickly. He just seemed over it. He sat at our table and wasn't really talking to me. He wasn't asking me to dance, so I attempted to ask him. The response I got was, "I don't want to, go dance with them!", pointing to a group of my friends. Alrighty then, don't mind if I do!  I loved to dance, so I made my way to the dance floor to dance with my friends and their dates, who were dancing because that is what you are supposed to do at a DANCE.  I was having a lot of fun at that point, but it didn't last very long.  My "date" walked up and poked me on the shoulder, telling me it was time to go. ?????  He revealed that he had made reservations at a really nice Italian place and we had to go. I asked if we could wait until the court was crowned or whatever, and he said nope, no time. So I sulkily said goodbye to my friends and we got back into the car.  Who makes reservations at a place AFTER the dance?  People don't eat AFTER the dance...  When we got on the road, I noticed that our "driver" was wearing sunglasses, but it was dark. I decided to ask about that. The response I got was, no joke, "When you're cool, the sun shines 24 hours a day."  Ohhhhhhhhhhhh noooooooooo......I got that awful cringe-y embarrassed feeling that you get when people do something incredibly lame.

I'd thought that maybe the night could be redeemed, maybe we were going to a really cool place and I could get to know him. Maybe it would be fun.  Or...maybe not.  From Pasadena, there are many many freeway options. You can take the 134, which will eventually lead you into West LA and Hollywood before turning into the 101 to take you up the coast toward Santa Barbara. You can take the 110, which will take you through downtown LA and eventually end in San Pedro. Or you can take the 210, which will lead you AWAY FROM EVERYTHING.  Suffice it to say, his paid chauffeur got on the wrong freeway.  We drove. And drove and drove and drove and saw less and less. We made it to Sunland!  Not knowing where we were supposed to have gone made it difficult for me to try to help, but I did try. I suggested turning around. I suggested stopping and asking for directions (should have known better, even then).  Both boys just got annoyed with me. I don't remember who started it, but I was pummeled with phrases like "Oh, good job Ranger Rick! Who do you think you are, trailblazer?"  So we just kept driving. (That's another thing the young ones should know...since there were no cell phones, there was no GPS. There was no interactive map, there was only the Thomas Brothers Guide.  Look that up!)  At some point, they accepted the fact that they had gone the wrong way, and turned around. It was probably around 11pm and I hadn't eaten since breakfast, since I was told we were going to have an amazing dinner. I was absolutely famished, and I had to beg these guys to pull over somewhere, anywhere, so I could get something to eat.  We finally found a 24 hour Winchell's Donuts.  I got a donut and a large diet coke.  When we finally made it back to my house, he was going to walk me to the door, and was holding the large diet coke.  "Do you want this?" he asked. Nope, no thanks.  Then he proceeded to toss the drink into the ivy in my front yard. Classy. Classier still, he actually leaned in as though he would get some sort of kiss after this disaster of an evening. I recoiled and then went inside and cried.

Apparently Jane looks fat.
Weeks later, our pictures arrived and I gave him his.  The next time I saw him, I asked him how he liked the picture and he said, "My sister said you looked fat."  A couple more weeks later, he wrote me a huge letter of apology, which I really wish I still had.  He said that I looked so pretty that night, and that he had really tried to make it a nice evening, having his friend drive and making reservations. I accepted his apology but really never talked with him again.  Poor bastard.

"Who Ordered the White Bread?"

So senior year rolled around, and again, here I was with no date. My friend Jennifer had introduced me to a friend of hers, Toby, who attended our rival high school. He was kind of a nerd, but actually a really nice, intelligent guy. I have no doubt that he is ruling the world somewhere.  I really don't have a lot of bad things to say about him, he was fun.  And yet....

The first issue was my dress. I had bought a shiny teal number with a peplum that I LOVED. I had taken it to the dry cleaners to have it altered and all was well. However, when I went back the day before the dance, the place had closed down. With my dress inside somewhere. There wasn't any phone number, explanation, nothing. Wow. So I had a date with a nice guy, actually, and nothing to wear.  My dear friend Karen quickly loaned me a dress of hers, a pretty white dress with puffy sleeves. I have since learned that white and very pale pink are bad choices for someone with skin like mine. Wearing colors like this make me look like a large pale blob.  But anyway...I had a dress! Hooray!

Toby arrived to pick me up on time, imagine! And he brought me the world's largest corsage. It was really pretty and it smelled good, but it seriously occupied my entire forearm.
It just keeps GOING.

This next picture just confuses me. Apparently I needed some guidance when it came to boutonniere placement. Is this complicated? Did I not know?  I find the fact that he had to point to his lapel pretty funny. (And how cool is that chandelier?  The house I grew up in was so incredibly cool, California Craftsman. Those chandeliers were antiques and once when I was little, my brother broke one playing air-drums during a Commodores song.  I digress...)

Here's the lowdown with Homecoming of my senior year with Toby. We honestly had a good time. He is not an adept dancer, but he actually danced, which was a huge improvement from the last dance. My best friend Renee was on the Homecoming court that year, so I was insanely happy for her and was generally much more focused on that than the actual date. The funniest thing to me about this particular date?  Seriously, have you EVER seen a whiter couple on earth?  I'm not just referring to the fact that my date was a Caucasian dude and my other dates were black guys. I'm talking about the COLOR WHITE.  My dress was white, my corsage was white (and a lot of it), my skin is incredibly white, his skin is incredibly white...I'm surprised we didn't vanish within the 1980's flash photography.  The irony of all of this is Toby's suit, white shirt, red bow tie.  He technically could have been one of the Islamic dudes standing on the corner of Lake and Washington selling bean pies.
Mr. & Mrs. CAUCASIA!!!

My friend Christina still had this picture, and it came up on a very large screen at my 20th reunion.  I audibly screamed, as my friend Ronda said, "That's you, isn't it?" I buried my face in my hands and whimpered.

And then there was Prom. Or, "Jane's date looks like Ichabod Crane!"

So there I was in the spring of my senior year and no one to ask. (Geez, I sound really pathetic...I had friends, I wasn't a total beast. I think that my dateless-ness probably had to do with the fact that since I was deathly insecure, I wasn't very nice to boys.)  In any case, Renee helped me think of prospects. There were like three guys I really wanted to ask, good friends, cute...but I was too scared. Then Renee thought of Thurman. Thurman used to go to our school, but for reasons I don't remember, he had stopped. He was cool, everyone got along with him. He was a waiter at Ernie Jr's, an awesome Mexican place in what is now Old Town Pasadena. So we went down there and asked, and he accepted. Yay!

Getting ready for the prom was the best part. I absolutely loved my dress, complete with the lace fingerless gloves of the Madonna era. I believe it was the only dance where my hair was not a complete disaster, although you could have still cracked an egg on it. By 1988 there was decent self-tanner, so I wasn't blindingly pale.

The prom was held at the old Disneyland Hotel, which is weird to me now since it's fairly far from Pasadena, about an hour.  My friend Mona and I were going to double with a dude from her track team. They came to get me, and my mom took the required pictures.  Mona was driving for the evening, her dad's burgundy Camry.  I don't remember why we needed to head up to her mom's house, but her mom and her older sister were videotaping it. I didn't find out about this until way later, but on the video you can hear Mona's sister saying, "Jane's date looks like Ichabod Crane!"  Oh dear.  This was also the era of the jheri curl, and Thurman had done a slicked back version.

I'm 5'8" with no shoes. I knew a lot of tall people.

The Prom itself was fun, and all our friends were at the same table.  Everyone danced, which was awesome. At one point while I was dancing with Thurman and he actually DIPPED ME, he said, "You know, Jane?  I'm really proud of you, you've come a long way." Umm, okay. Thank you?  The truth of the matter was that he really didn't know me that well and to this day I don't know what he meant.  Maybe he meant that I was really letting go and having fun, in which case he was right.  My feet began to hurt from my black satin pumps.  These pumps had been mauve previously, left over from being a bridesmaid at my brother's wedding. I took them off and chucked them under the table so I could go dance painlessly.

When the time came to leave, one of my shoes was gone. Just one.  It was highly unfortunate.  I walked around the outside courtyard with my date and my friends and I said, "What am I going to do with one black satin shoe?"  Thurman took my remaining shoe out of my hands and tossed it into the lagoon.  I still haven't quite gotten over that fact. Why was that an okay thing to do?  I often think about the stuff they must have found in that lagoon while they were remodeling everything.  I shuffled in my stocking feet across the parking lot, shredding my hose in the process.  Mona and I had fun, but neither of us were really into continuing our dates. We both told them that we were really exhausted and we dropped the boys off at their respective homes.  After we had, Mona asked me, "Do you want to go back out?"  Yes, please!!  We went home and changed, and went back out to Conrads, our local family restaurant.  We both had warm cherry pie and talked about the night.  It ruled.

The final picture is one of my all time favorites from all of high school.  Those are some incredible ladies in that photo, and I'm still very good friends with them today.  In the end, that's what it's about.  Renee coming to the rescue when Leroy lost my address, Karen lending me her white dress in her time of need, and Mona and I in her dad's Camry, ditching our dates and having cherry pie.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thank you, John Muir!

Not the naturalist, although he was lovely too.  I was lucky as hell to attend and graduate from John Muir High School in Pasadena. John Muir is known fairly well for a number of reasons. Jackie Robinson went there when it was still a junior college. Sirhan Sirhan also attended there, as did Rodney King. There were also professional athletes and Olympians, writers and musicians (David Lee Roth, ha!) We turned out some good folk! But they aren't the reason I'm so thankful to have gone there. 

The experience I had, that we all had, was a very unique one. It can best be described as "everyone was cool." I am not one of those people who say "I don't see color", I think that sentiment is completely asinine. What I can say, is that my experiences growing up made color a non-issue. Major kudos for this go to my folks and my older siblings, but I believe that attending John Muir had an even bigger impact on me than my family did. I look at pictures of all of us in high school and they make me so HAPPY. At the time, it never really registered that there were Black, White, Hispanic, Armenian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Japanese people at all those parties, escaping for all those ditch days, and sitting in the quad at lunch. It was just US. I am proud and honored to still call many of these people who appear in these pictures dear friends.

*I want to add photos, but if I wait I'll never post this, so check back later!

Was it one big 4 year long taping of "We Are The World"? Of course not, there were still rough things. It got to the point where we would see crowds of kids running like their hair was on fire in the direction of the "fight! fight!" and we just kind of watched them run by, no big deal. While waiting in line for a talent show, a loud obnoxious girl referred to me as "Snowbody."  I'm pretty damn white, in retrospect that was a masterfully executed insult and I applaud her, wherever she is. Another day in the morning, I was walking onto campus and a Lincoln Continental got onto the field somehow. The driver was clearly out of his mind high on something, and he was reckless, doing donuts on the grass. I got out of the way. He didn't hit anyone, and we all just kind of went about our day.That's pretty damn terrifying now that I think about it, but I think the main takeaway from things like this was that I wasn't scared. I don't remember ever feeling scared there. 

Ironically, coming out of high school I honestly thought that the rest of the world was like JMHS. I took it for granted that people were cool everywhere, at least in California.  I was sadly mistaken, and went through a major, albeit temporary culture shock when I went to college in Palos Verdes my freshman year. It was like Beverly Hills 90210. People snorted coke to study and drove new BMW's at 18. It was horrible. I lasted a year before I ran screaming back to PCC and then SFSU. This culture shock went both ways. One of my closest friends went to UCSB and met a new group of friends, who were all cool to me. However, once when I was talking to my friend on the phone, I heard her refer to me as "that white girl" to her roommate. Wha????  I was upset! That white girl, who is that? I'm JANE. This phase passed, and all was well. I think we all went through some growing pains once we left our bubble of "everyone's cool" and had to test the outside world out. God knows it was hard for me too! 

In my professional life, the aspect of not being scared has served me quite well. In my first 7 years as a public school psychologist, I worked in some really rough areas in South Stockton. I was right smack dab in the middle of the roughest. I'm not gonna lie and say I was never scared, but I wasn't easily scared. I was concerned when a man walked across the elementary campus with a gun, but he was just taking a shortcut. I did become alarmed when a parent who lived in the neighborhood told me, "When the sun starts to go down, you have to leave. All the junkies who have been partying all night are starting to wake up and do it all over again. You should just go."  That sure as hell got my attention, but I was more grateful to this sweet mother (who didn't want anything happening to the pregnant white girl) than scared something would actually happen. I've also worked with a number of families who have absolutely tried to intimidate me and it rarely works. I've had parents stare me down, scream and cuss at me, and be just generally nasty. It annoys me, but it doesn't SCARE ME. One year while working at a rough high school, I got a call that there was a parent cussing and screaming, insisting to talk with me. Well, okay then. She was indeed, very very upset, but I asked her to come back to my office and she calmed down instantly. Then she said something I will never forget. She told me, "Mrs. Edel, I'm a single mom and a black woman. I sincerely apologize for making a scene and using foul language. My entire life, that's the only way anyone would ever pay attention and listen to me."  WOW. That was so incredibly valuable to me, and I was honored she shared it. In other situations, not being scared of human beings just because they look different has helped me out again and again. I worked with a really tough principal who ran staff off on a regular basis. I kept waiting for her to lower the hammer on me but she never did, she never messed with me. I'll never know why, but I believe it's because I wasn't scared of her. When my kids were in preschool, I told this darling little girl that she reminded me of my sister in law, who is black. The preschool teacher, also black, said, "Is that why your kids aren't scared of me?" It took me by surprise, and I said, "Why would they be scared of you?" She then asked where I grew up.

I grew up in Pasadena and Altadena. I grew up around incredible people. I grew up in a young world where it truly didn't matter. I knew people who went to school in La Canada, or Arcadia, or San Marino and they were always regarded as being so privileged. But we were the privileged ones.

I'm not super active in alumni activities. I went to my 10 and 20 year reunions, but missed the 25th. One thing I know for sure is, folks that attended that school have a very special bond that's hard to describe. I've met alumni that were years and years ahead or behind me, but they still get it. We were all part of something incredibly special, and I truly wonder who we all would have become had we not experienced it together. I am forever grateful. THANK YOU MUSTANGS!