Fearless Girl…

…and the fearful male.

An instigator decided he didn’t like Fearless Girl disrupting the integrity of Charging Bull. In response, he slapped together an intentionally poorly designed dog to urinate on her leg, installing her last night.

Alex Gardega insists he’s a feminist. He says he’s simply incensed by the marketing ploy by State Street and feels Fearless Girl doesn’t belong. Ergo, he’s protesting. Protesting by having a dog urinate on a child’s leg. A female child, at that.

Let’s say Gardega is genuinely enraged by the disruption of Charging Bull. Is it remotely appropriate to have a dog urinate on the leg of a child, even in statue form?

Additionally, even if Gardega is a “feminist” (which I doubt) how is it not blisteringly obvious that misogyny isn’t alive and well in 2017? That someone would think it’s wholly appropriate to urinate on a woman, without consent. To shame a woman in public. To degrade a woman “in the name of art.” We are not your tools, men.

On Twitter, someone suggested placing Fearless Girl elsewhere. And, you know what? I agree. She needs to be moved. She needs to face the White House until our society recognizes and accepts that a woman can effectively govern this country.

Lastly, sponsored/commissioned art has been going on for centuries. Stop making State Street the problem in this scenario. The statue is brilliant. It stands on its own and conveys a message. Making it about its sponsor dilutes the message. That said, I’m thinking a dilution of the message might be the intended consequence given how intimidated many are by women in positions of power, especially women of color.

The more vehement the protest about Fearless Girl, the more obvious one’s feeling threatened becomes. It says everything about the protester and our society, in general. We live in an age when a bronze female form is a threat. Think about that.

Pantsuit Nation

please note:  my usual laziness and ambivalence will be suspended for today.  As various ideas pop into my fragmented mind, I may or may not blurt them out in manic fits of euphoria, paranoia or confusion.  It’s been a difficult election cycle for all.  On the verge of potentially (as a Philadelphia sports fan, I know better than to hope for any positive outcome) witnessing the election of a female president, I’m finding myself genuinely overcome with emotion.

During my years as a member-facing consultant, I never procured a single pantsuit. That was a pointless endeavour, as I’m short and didn’t feel like spending money on a tailor after buying an expensive suit. Skirts it was. Sadly, no pantsuit in the wardrobe for me today.

Undeterred, I yanked out one still-on-the-hanger-from-the-cleaners navy blue jacket and paired it with a red and white striped shirt, dark grey skinnies and my sugar skull boots which are embroidered with the phrase “Don’t walk in fear.” Kang’s version of a pantsuit will have to suffice for the only time I leave the house: the carpool.

Rock on, Pantsuit Nation.

The Millennal Whoop…

…that one and maybe the other one.

Earlier today, I was listening to Spinning by GROUPLOVE.  Why does that matter, you ask?  Because it’s fucking music and fucking music dictates my existence, that’s why.  And, since not even Dock is immune to a power pop song, I thought I would play Spinning for him on the way to McTeacher night at Mac-Don-Ald-Ssss because we had to dump some money into this valiant fundraising effort while slowly killing ourselves via chicken fusion, “beef” and filet-o-fisk (the word fish in Swedish is fisk).

Around minute who-gives-a-fuck Dock says “Oh!  The Millennial Whoop. Gotta have the Millennial Whoop.  Can’t have a song these days without the Millennial Whoop.”  I What-You-Tawkin-About-Willis him and wait for his knowledge drop.  Whether I like it or not, Dock is way more au courant than I in the music scene.  “The Millennial Whoop.  You know, where all the Millennial bands full of 90 members sing songs that have to include at least one ‘Wo-Oh,’ typically two.”  I’m all what-the-fuckity-fuck-are-you-on-now?  Dock patiently repeats himself and then launches into a diatribe about the Millennial bands with their eleventy billion members, their lutes, their mandolins and their ukuleles.

“Millennials have to be special, creative and different so they decided to add in a ‘Wo-Oh’ so their friend who can’t carry a tune gets a star for participation.  As for the ukuleles, well, there as many of those as there are strings on the instrument.  Each ukulele has one string and it’s played by a single person, reflecting the individuality and specialism of the player and the instrument because, in keeping with the spirit of Millennials, special things require special dedication.  A ukulele will not be sullied by a player playing all four strings at one time.  Oh fuck no.  A ukulele and its string gets the respect it deserves:  one instrument, one string and one player.  Just like the singer who can’t sing but doesn’t like feeling left out:  that person gets the ‘Millennial Whoop’ credit on the liner notes.”

You can see where we’re going.

Ever the reluctant optimist (Me.  No, really.) says “You know, I have been observing a weird trend.  It seems like the entire world has had enough of the Millennials’ handcrafted, *artisanal bullshit.  Even social anthropologists are like ‘Ugh.  I can’t eeeeven any longer with you snowflakes.  Lemme go find a hairblower to melt your sorry asses.'” Dock, being the curmudgeonly skeptic that he is offered a plate of doubt but I persisted.  I even said “Remember all those years I said, ‘let the Millennials try to change the workforce?’  No longer.  Fuck ’em.  Let them get lost on the way back from yoga or the food co-op and miss a meeting.  I’m busy raising a seven year-old and nagging you to take out the garbage.  I can’t be arsed to remind them to do their jobs or show up for a meeting.”

We came to the conclusion that, like everything else, the Millennials kind of suck.  But, we’re Gen-X so we really don’t want to invest the energy into actively disapproving of them, let alone disliking them.

Then, we decided to do a comparative analysis about shopping for a vehicle:  Gen-X vs Millennials, reality vs life through rose colored glasses.

Car salesweasel:  Hi there!  I bet you’re looking for a car!  What can I help you drive off the lot today?

Gen-Xer:  A car?  Is that what you’re selling?  I was hoping for a kidney or one crack, please.  Also, can you confirm the rumor that Mudhoney is playing a rent party in the backroom?

Millennial:  Oh wow!  Hi!  Thank you for being so helpful!  Why yes, I am looking for a car!  Can we be friends?  What’s your user name on Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik and Waterbuffalo?  Are you on Yelp so I can review you?  What about FourSquare?  Will you give me positive feedback as a super-extra-awesome customer when the transaction has concluded?  Also, I’d really like a t-shirt but please make it one that looks like it’s from the 90s.  I’m totally dedicated to retro.  Can’t you tell I’m going for the Cobain-meets-man-bun look?

Car salesweasel:  So, whatcha looking for?

Gen-Xer:  Something that goes backwards and forwards.  Relatively reasonable fuel economy.  Carplay or other stupid interfacing whatever. Turn signals would be nice.  One of those rearview cameras, too.  Just so long as it doesn’t jack up the price because I’m not paying list.  You hear?  I am not paying list.  If you have it in black with tan interior, we have a deal.  You dig?

Millennial:  Ok!  So, this is what I’m thinking about!  I have a few pictures if you want to see what I have downloaded!  I have added some stickers and emojis to convey my feelings because I’m not really great with the words!  I’d like a car that is environmentally friendly because we don’t care enough about the environment these days and I’m super-extra-passionate about the environment and none of the candidates even addressed that in the debates!  None!  Can you believe that!?!  Well, Bernie did, at least!

Next, I need really gentle tires for the blacktop!  I hate hurting things, physically and/or emotionally!  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I caused any form of pain!  Also, I left my favorite fluffy at my parents’ house when I was there doing laundry and they told me I wasn’t allowed to come back for two weeks so sleeping has been really. really, really hard.  :cry cry cry:

Super critical!!111! Do you offer carbon offset credits? Because, again with the environment!!! I cannot buy the Grand Wagoneer without the credits! I just can’t! And I really can’t see myself and my 20 dogs in a Fiat! There’s just not enough room for that!!! We can’t have the dogs cramped on the long trips to the mountains for the weddings I have to go to! Also, I haul *a lot* of mason jars and pickled vegetables for my side business. Are you interested in purchasing pickled gourds for your Thanksgiving dinner? I handcrafted them myself with help from my friends who make their own diaper cream. :sticks screen in salesweasel’s face: LOOK AT MY WEBSITE!!! Helvetica is the best!!! I masturbate to style guides. Oh. That was TMI, wasn’t it?

Car salesweasel:  Are you financing the purchase or…?

Gen-Xer:  What the fuck is wrong with you?  I’m financing this like I financed the toilet paper I had to buy yesterday.

Millennial:  So, here’s my concept of how we should be paying for things!  Money is corrosive to the soul and thus corrosive to society!  In order to build a more perfect world, I suggest we trade!  You will give me the car and I will give you two hours of manual labor at your home!  I can empty the dishwasher, take out the trash or clean the litterbox! Wait!  You look disappointed.  Fine.  I’ll throw in a case of my special, birch scented homemade beard wax if you promise to give me a year’s worth of oil changes, too!  What do you say?  Do we have a deal?  OMG OMG OMG!  If we do, I will totally meet you at the park for a game of kickball!  You’ll love my friends!  They make the best moonshine you have ever tasted in your life!  Right in the bathtub!  I’m telling you.  The things one can do with what one already has.  If people just stopped, slowed down and appreciated what was around them and the unique gifts life has to offer…

Then we started making fun of the Millennials’ farm-to-table lettuce sammiches on stone ground wheat bread.  Little did they know the lettuce was sourced from Compare Foods on Avondale Drive in Durham and the bread was stolen off a delivery truck parked by the Sheetz on Miami Blvd.

Being Gen-X is whatever.  We knew from a young age no one gave a shit about us or anything other than themselves.  This was impressed upon us every time we came home from school to an empty house with only the television to keep us company.  We’re not necessarily the bastards of the young but we are the bastards of the Boomers.  There’s a lot to be said for being the progeny of the narcissistic.

While other generations have said our attitude sucks and we’re slackers, thinking that was going to incite some form of change or emotional growth and development, we stayed true to our ambivalent selves and did nothing.  We don’t fucking care about what people think.  Never have.  Never will.  We remain the generation just trying to make it across the hellscape.  We’re the generation that took existentialism and nihilism and made it something for the masses as opposed to the intellectually sanctimonious and elite by merely breathing and rolling our eyes while smoking a blunt and drinking PBR from a CAN.

And, as we sit on the cusp of this nation’s destruction, some of us are concerned but we’re also not. Gen-X continues to see your bullshit. Be it the selfishness and narcissism of the Boomers or the complete inability to accept that humans are ordinary from the Millennials. Whatever comes to pass, as the circus continues around us, Gen-X, sandwiched by The Bearded generations (patchouli Deadheads who refuse to let go of the past and hipsters who really have no fucking idea what irony is), will remain spectators, quietly singing along to the Millennial Whoop in our financed vehicles while consuming processed food, drinking overpriced coffee, comforted by the knowledge that we don’t look through rose colored glasses.  We’re not snowflakes.  We’re not special. We’re not seeking “experiences.”  We just don’t want to be assholes – bearded or clean shaven.

Oh well, whatever, nevermind.

*Look at this.  Even spellcheck won’t acknowledge the existence of artisanal.  That’s how fucking lame this word and this concept is.  To prove my point further:  the word includes the word ANAL as the suffix.

La lutte est cruelle…

…Madame Kardashian West

Poor Kim Kardashian West whose pain we can all relate to. I, too, understand the sheer terror of being held at gunpoint in a *Parisian bathtub, losing that which I hold dear and value highly.

As the day wears on and we remain distracted by the news, as we so often are, let us remember all that is important for it is not Syrian refugees. It is not children without food, schools without textbooks or adults without jobs. It’s the fate of a woman whose diamond ring and grill was ripped from her possession. A woman whose sole existence is to promote an unrealistic body type to attain and lifestyle to emulate. A woman whose come-up was a sex tape. A woman who understood and upheld the integrity of marriage…for 72 days.

That is the true tragedy of the day. And a truly awful way to begin the Jewish New Year.

Let us pray.

*Change Paris to Rouen
Change bathtub to bathroom
Add:  stench of cat urine, three bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau, two hours of vomiting and not knowing where the wine ended and my insides began
Also:  jetlag

Heart Feelings Linger

Science.
For all you’ve given us,
You’re not much of a romantic.
Love, you tell us,
Is only in our heads.
Just a chemical reaction.
Elevated levels of dopamine,
Seratonin, and ocytocin.
Flooding our brains and bodies,
With intoxicating pleasure.
High from the uppers and opioids,
Created by our own brains,
We wouldn’t mind staying,
In this crazy-in-love,
Can’t-get-enough-of-you phase,
Forever and ever.
But, Science tells us,
Such feelings are fleeting.
Your feel-good chemicals,
Will level off,
Because love, you tell us,
Is only a chemical reaction.
Elevated levels of dopamine,
Doping our brains.
Seratonin, soothing our souls,
And intoxicating oxytocin.
Nothing more.
But love is more complicated,
Than chemistry.
What if the chemical levels,
Drop in our brains,
Because they’ve migrated to our hearts?
Settled in the neurons there.
Which is why when we’re apart,
From the one we love,
We feel a physical ache in our hearts.
It’s because heart feelings linger.
And if you don’t feel that pang,
Then those feel-good chemicals,
Never made their way to your heart.
They were, sadly, only in your head.

Shitty Pizza, The Past, The Future…

…and The Now

Last night, John Oliver did a bit on charter schools, primarily the regulation or the lack thereof.  Believe it or not, Opinionated Public School Teacher’s Step-Daughter has no clearly defined opinion on charter schools.  I have seen models which are disasters.  I have seen models which are successes.  My son is currently number 78 on the waiting list at a charter school in our area.  We find that mildly hilarious because number 78 should really be “OHAHAHAHAHA!  Why bother?”

After flirting with and subsequently becoming involved in a two year relationship with private schooling, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is one significant component missing from private school – baseline (quantifiable and measurable) standards for performance.  This conclusion helped me realize that private schooling may not be the best approach for our family.  It’s simply too loosey-goosey and subjective for my comfort level as a parent and that is before we address the annoying political bullshit of dealing with the private school mentality.  I am a busy human who doesn’t have time for that nonsense and even if I did, I find that sort of thing too tedious to entertain.

In Oliver’s closing, he summed up charter schools by addressing the business aspect of the “scheme” (or scam, depending on one’s perspective).  While tangentially related to private schooling, based on the tax status of the school, that isn’t as relevant to this essay as his last statement which I have highlighted for emphasis.

If we are going to treat charter schools like pizza shops we should monitor them at least as well as we do pizzerias.  It’s like the old saying ‘Give a kid a shitty pizza, you fuck up their day.  Treat a kid like a shitty pizza and you can fuck up their entire life.’

The reason why this statement is so impactful is because it isn’t limited to any particular form of schooling.  This can be applied to charter schooling, private schooling, home skooling and public schooling.  This statement is the most succinct summary of my son’s first year in JuniorMAPP (otherwise known as a combined first and second grade classroom) at his old private school.  It defines our current reality and every single obstacle we as parents have to help him manage, that he as a student must overcome and that his teacher has to work with by luck of the draw.

Last year, my son was treated like a shitty pizza.  The toppings were one teacher (nicknamed “Lizard” by my son) and one autocratic, considerably neurotic control freak of a school administrator who goes by various names depending on the source.  The side-effects of said treatment have been generalized anxiety, erosion of self-esteem, stomach ailments, occasional vomiting and nightmares for the child.  For the parents, a leave of absence from work was required to manage the exhaustion as I could not keep up with the demands from work, an ailing parent and the train wreck that was happening to my child at school on a daily basis.

The shitstorm began approximately five weeks into the new school year for the Milkface with minor, aggravating issues.  Initially, I thought he was just being petulant and having issues adjusting to a new teacher given that his previous teacher was so stellar, anyone who had the misfortune of following her would be bound to fail in some way, shape or form.  I was quick to coach and possibly quick to dismiss some of his concerns.

It took Milkface’s bursting into tears and refusal to leave the car during morning drop-off to make me understand something was critically wrong.  Milkface had been in daycare and/or a preschool environment since 12 weeks old.  The only other instance when he refused to get out of the car was while he was being bullied at the YMCA camp.  It was at this moment I realized there was a serious problem and requested a conference with his teacher.  His teacher, following protocol, extended an invitation to the school’s director.

In spite of what we (Dock and I) thought was a productive conference identifying gaps and weaknesses, along with developing a plan to keep Milkface focused, busy and engaged, nothing improved.  Milkface remained disconnected and physically ill.  His teacher continued to verbally intimidate the students, yell and refused to engage six and seven year-olds in a manner which six and seven year-olds should be engaged.  Milkface was legitimately terrified of school for the first time ever.

Over the course of the school year, what seemed like millions of emails were exchanged, heated conversations were had, unpleasant conferences were attended and accusations were lobbed by all parties.  Dock and I had enrolled Milkface in the program with the intent that he would stay there for his entire K-12 education.  Milkface approached me and asked if he could explore other schools to attend for the following year (hence the charter school reference).  I approached the director and asked if it would be possible to skip his second year in JuniorMAPP (as he had started first grade at the second grade academic level) and promote him directly to SeniorMAPP (and a different teacher) to avoid the horrible Lizard.  We made it clear there would be no re-enrollment until we had a guarantee that Milkface would not be looping with his current teacher.  Then, we started the search for another school.

Around the beginning of April, after another trip to the doctor for vomiting and stomach upset, Milkface decided he couldn’t take any more of his current school.  He stoutly refused to return to the school in the fall.  He did not care about leaving behind his friends and other teachers he adored.  He did not care about ending up ridiculously out of contention in the charter school’s lottery.  He did not care about being the new kid in a huge, public elementary school with a year-round calendar.  Milkface wanted out and that was it.  Dock supported Milkface’s decision.  I did not.  I reluctantly completed the enrollment paperwork for the public elementary school near our home but held off as the director said she would have her answer for us on May 1st.

Then, this happened:

Sad Max

I promptly enrolled Milkface in his new school and sent an email to the director the next day informing her of our decision.

So, that’s the past.  The relatively recent past.  The close enough past that we’re still dealing with Milkface’s nightmares, his uncertainty about his academic performance (which was excellent in KinderMAPP), his low self-esteem and his anxiety about school.  Fortunately, we don’t seem to have any more issues with nausea and vomiting from nerves.  Thank goodness for that.

There are days I will vent to my friends who are still involved with the school on one level or another even though three months have passed.  I vent even though Milkface has started his new school three weeks ago and appears happy in the new environment, is making friends and managing the new kid blues really well, has a lovely teacher, the school runs like Mussolini’s trains and he’s catching on to Common Core quite well.  I mention the past because it’s not so long ago and the differences between the two institutions are so significant, his new school makes the old school look like some faith-based home-skooling network run by Trumpanzees and Duggarfangurls.  I mention the past because when you leave Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, you become a Suppressive Person; not unlike Scientology.  You made noise and challenged authority.  You pointed out the flaws.  You may have even said unkind things while your child was being treated like a shitty pizza.  Worst of all, you showed your emotions because observing any child being treated like a shitty pizza upsets you in ways people who do not know you (or don’t know you well) will never understand.

The past isn’t exactly the past.

Your friends will tell you, encourage you, to look toward the bright, brilliant future your child has ahead of him.  Focus on the positive!  Be happy you made a great decision for your child (or, in this instance, listened to your child as he made a great decision).  Think of all the negativity he is avoiding.  Enjoy the fact that he is thriving.

This is wonderful advice.  It comes from the right place.  It is said out of love and concern.

Unfortunately, it overlooks the immediate:  The Now.

Today, because my son was treated like a shitty pizza by shitty adults, I have a child who is damaged to the point where he is afraid to seek help or clarification from his teacher because the previous teacher wouldn’t allow that behavior in her classroom.  She either refused to help the children because they had to be “self-sufficient” or “independent” (she is a lazy one, that one) or she would yell.  As Milkface adjusts to Common Core, he has questions but is reluctant to ask for help.  When Dock asked him when his library books were due,  Milkface said “I suppose I could ask Henry.”  Dock coached him “Well, isn’t there anyone else you could ask?”  Milky responded “Logan is very nice.  I could ask him.”  Dock prodded a bit more “Milkface, think for a second.  When you have a problem, you ask a…grown-up.  Who is the grown-up in your classroom?”  Milkface said “Oooh!  Mrs. T!  I guess I could ask her.”  But the latter part was said with a great amount of apprehension.  Milkface remains terrified to engage his teacher unless he is engaged first.  He is entirely reactive in this situation.

It’s not limited to asking questions, either.

Last week, Milkface melted down over instructions for his Math Mountain homework.  The word “and” threw him for a loop and it took him well over 30 minutes to calm down enough to approach the worksheet again.  Math has always been his strongest and favorite subject.  By the end of last year, he was so deflated and demoralized by being told he wasn’t smart enough to learn material that he was already learning on his own, he has zero confidence in his skills or his intelligence.

I can look to the future but not right now.  Right now, Milkface needs me to help him get through The Now.  Milkface needs all of the adults to help him find his safe zone, rebuild his self-esteem and restore his confidence so when he makes a mistake, it’s not the end of the world.  In our family, mistakes have always been a learning experience.  A wrong answer is still, in a round-about way, a right answer because we learned what not to do.

The Now is so negatively impacted by the past; we do not have the luxury of time to fuck around.  We are in the process of rebuilding what was considered an ideal student because two adults didn’t do their jobs.  And this makes me angry, hurt, devastated and sad.  This makes me a ball of negative emotions I have to hide when my child is around.  This makes me feel terrible.  This makes me question my decision making:  was I right in leaving Milkface in a toxic environment for an entire school year to avoid the trauma of forcing him to be the new kid in the middle of a school year somewhere else?

While it’s natural to think that I’m overreacting because that is something a mother would do, it’s important to understand:

  • My child was in the first grade last year.  His first year of elementary education was phenomenally negative.  The foundation of his education was traumatic.  One of the most important years in a child’s education was an emotional nightmare.  This is wholly unacceptable.
  • The behavior on the part of the teacher was not an isolated instance.  Complaints were lodged by other parents in previous years.  This is a problem that should have been solved years earlier.
  • Administration’s response was, at best, marginal.  The issue clearly was not a priority if the bad behavior was permitted to perpetuate year over year.  For a person who speaks of her institution as “her life’s work,” she seemingly overlooks a crucial detail:  a parent may view their children as their life’s work.  Mutual respect goes a long fucking way in my world.

How does one let go of the past when it is present and requiring attention?  One can look forward and set all the goals they wish but that amounts to nothing more than daydreaming if you are not addressing The Now.  Willing things to happen, wishing for things to happen does not make things happen.  Working on things, fixing what is broken and healing will make the future happen with positive outcomes.  Ignoring the past, living in denial and pushing aside the past’s problems that exist in The Now is merely perpetuating bad behaviors.  Pure and simple.

(and I say this not to chide those who are encouraging me and helping me through a really difficult time)

After Milkface’s experience, I want him to have what I have always wanted him to have; what I want every child to have:  an emotionally stable, safe, secure environment in which he can grow and learn to the best of his capabilities.  An environment which fosters respect for others, a love of learning and fun.  I want him surrounded by positive behaviors exhibited by children and adults, alike.

Neither Dock nor I are perfect parents, let alone perfect people.  We’re flawed.  We fuck up.  We parent in ways people find atypical, nontraditional or entirely bizarre.  And you know what?  We give zero fucks because this works for our family.  When we make a mistake, inflict harm or screw up as it relates to Milkface, we own our foibles and apologize, just as we expect Milkface to do in turn.  We also do not expect any other person in our lives to be perfect but we do expect accountability.  We saw very little of that at Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns last year which, in comparison to the year prior, contributes even further to our heartbreak and pain.

The past is not the past.  Not yet.  It’s still very much The Now for all of us.  Maybe, this time next year, we can all look back and all that we will have to talk/laugh about with regard to PCSGU is the music teacher who cannot sing, the amazing friends made and that magical first year.  Maybe, this time next year, Milkface will be whole again and his new school will be his domain – a place where he can come out of his shell, entirely, and his love for school will not be dampened by adults who let their pettiness, selfishness and personal grievances snuff out what little professionalism lies within.

Teachers and administrators remember:  Treat a child like a shitty pizza and you can fuck up their entire life.

No amount of rationalization, blame-shifting, saying the problem is with the student or his parents will change that, either.  The burden for the student-teacher relationship never falls on the student when the student is six years-old.  Additionally, if you have enough time to spare to critique parenting methodologies (yes, the erstwhile Lizard tried to blame Milkface’s performance issues on us), you have enough time to ensure your administrative tasks are complete and correct (something Lizard never seemed capable of doing).  And, portraying a well-behaved child as a discipline case only makes you look inept when the next school sees no evidence of what you tried to pass off.  It’s your own form of bad press.

For us, The Now will consist of repairing the broken child and guiding him towards a (hopefully) auspicious and happy future.  This entails working with him to ensure his self-esteem is not defined by a very unfortunate experience.  His new teacher is aware of what she inherited and is on-point.  Milkface adores her (“She doesn’t yell, Mommy!), so we’re fairly confident that he will do his best to please her.  Furthermore, we have seen his excitement for school return in the way he approaches his homework.  There is very little grumbling or pushback.

But, I also have some work of my own to do for The Now.  I need to remember while I’m healing Milkface, I need to take some time to make sure I’m healing myself because this process took quite a bit away from me, too.  Watching your child hurt is brutal.  Hurting along with your child isn’t exactly a good time.  Openly hurting and feeling as if others are not only watching you but judging you for what they do not understand is frustrating at best.  Heartbreaking is more appropriate.

Throughout this entire ordeal, I forgot to do one of the things I’m really quite good at:  giving zero fucks because people, as a rule, don’t understand what makes a person who they actually are.  They don’t know the experiences that formed you.  Shit, people don’t know what you had for lunch.  As you go through a significant trial with an audience, you suspect you’re being judged for whatever loopy behaviors you may exhibit (and maybe you’re merely being slightly narcissistic because it could be that no one gives a damn); crying, puffing steam through your nostrils and ears, kicking rocks, laughing manically, babbling to yourself in a foreign language you don’t necessarily speak well.  For a long time, until PCSGU entered our world, I didn’t give a good goddamn what people thought of me.  I have no idea what changed my attitude but I found myself less Kang and more Maxsmom.

Fuck that.

I’m 45 which should be “old enough to know better.”  I get angry when children are treated like shitty pizza and I’m done explaining myself or apologizing for it.  If you don’t want the side-eye of doom or my wrath, don’t treat kids like shitty pizza – directly or indirectly.  An adult’s series of bad days can very well become a child’s legacy and battle scars.  If you’re not remotely prepared to accept that level of responsibility and accountability, you need to get the fuck out of education and stay the fuck away from children.

Hillary Clinton…

…and smashing the glass ceiling.

Milkface, being born in 2009, does not understand the significance of Barack Obama’s presidency. In his frame of reference, a person of color could always be president, should always be able to be president. As of tonight, we can add women to the talent pool. Milkface, his friends and many children will be blissfully unaware of the significance of tonight’s event, too.

Regardless of one’s feelings for Hillary Clinton, tonight we should celebrate an event I honestly believed I would never see. And when the celebration is over, we need to resume the hard work of advocating and supporting those who remain unrecognized and overlooked. Our nation has come so far but has much further to go.

I look at Milkface’s friends, my friends’ children, random children and want them to live in a world where opportunities are not limited by gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, economics and geography. The notion “It was that way when I was a kid and I turned out fine” must be rejected.

I’m not saying this as a mother. I’m not saying this as a professional woman who has been sexually harassed at work, paid less than a male peer, denied a job because I was “at the age most girls have children” or invited to make someone a sandwich. I’m not saying this as a woman who has been the victim of sexual assault.

I’m saying this as a human being who happens to be a woman, who recognizes that a single hole in a glass ceiling doesn’t automatically mean there is a ladder for the rest of us to climb. We, still, have to build the ladder.

Tonight, we celebrate.  Tomorrow, we get back to work.

Munich…

…and jumping to conclusions.

Why wait for the facts when it's easier to act like a total asshole?

Why wait for the facts when it’s easier to act like a total asshole?

Completely emotionally drained from yesterday’s bullshit, I went to bed early.  Early enough that I didn’t stay glued to the news as I usually do when stories such as these break.

This morning, I woke up and did my usual routine of coffee grab, dog duty, breakfast for the Milkface and checking Facebook for birthday reminders.  I was distracted by two things at the top of my feed:  an article from The Local – Germany and a rambling verbal tantrum about Obama’s failure to protect German citizens from Muslims who want to see the world burn.  It came as no surprise that an American would ignore basic facts and twist a story to suit a political narrative:  Obama is the problem, our foreign policy is weak, we are soft on terror, we enable terrorism by allowing immigrants entry into our country.

The tragedy in Munich is not an IS related incident.  The tragedy in Munich was committed by a man called Ali Sonboly who was born and raised in Munich.  He has no ties to IS.  Per reports, Sonboly was obsessed with mass killers and inspired by Anders Breivik.

For those who do not remember Anders Breivik, he is the far-right extremist who shot up a summer camp on Utøya in Norway in July 2011.  Breivik had written a manifesto of explaining his ideology and his desire to to deport all Muslims from Europe.  In short, he’s a racial purist. Utøya was carried out as a means to draw attention to his manifesto.

This morning, there are people who are inferring that the atrocity in Munich is related to the nightmares in Nice, Paris and Istanbul.  This line of thinking needs to stop immediately.  We must understand the difference between Utøya and Munich and Nice, Paris and Istanbul.  Utøya and Munich were perpetrated by members of the far-right who want Muslims, non-whites and immigrants out of their country.

Not unlike many people who are currently supporting Donald Trump’s “platform.”

Obama is not the problem.  Muslims are not the problem.  Hispanics are not the problem.  Immigrants are not the problem.  The problem is with people who are reluctant to embrace change, accept those who are different (from them) and perpetuate hate because they are unabashedly ignorant.  The problem is with those who live in a fear of losing control and no longer being a majority.  The problem is with those who actually believe that being white and Christian means that they are better than those who are not.

The summer of our lives…

I’ve always found the term “midlife crisis” to be a bit of a misrepresentation. Basically it means that you’ve reached a point in your life when you’re suddenly aware of your own mortality and you’d better goddamn well have some fun before you die. Where’s the crisis in that? Thank god you came to this realization before you got too old to do anything about it. At this point in your life, if you’ve followed the conventional path, you’ve probably been working and raising kids and acting like a responsible mature adult for years. Empty-nest syndrome has a lot to do with it as well. One day you discover that the kids are old enough to look after themselves. Then they move out to go to college or start their own lives.

Assuming your relationship has survived the trials and tribulations of raising kids, suddenly you and your significant other find something that was carefully packed away or misplaced for years: Your Lives BC (before children). What to do…what to do? It’s only natural to pick up where you left off. What were your passions and interests when you were younger? What kind of fun did you like to have? Now you have the time and, most likely, the money to do all the things you always wanted to do, but couldn’t afford to, when you were a kid.

In other words, it’s summer time, baby. The season of prolific spring is over and it’s now time to revert at least partially to a child-like state. Play, relax, take that trip, drink too much, buy some kind of over-indulgent grown up toy like a Ferrari, or a sailboat, eat a lot of ice-cream, get a tattoo, take ukulele lessons.

Buy something completely pointless. Like a bubble machine.

A friend of mine recently posted this on facebook:

You know what I’ve always wanted? A bubble machine.
You know what I just bought? A bubble machine.
You know why? Because fuck you, it’s my midlife crisis and I’ll do what I damn well please.
Kidding. I just love bubbles.

This got me thinking about the whole midlife crisis idea. People tend to use it as excuse for doing something crazy and uncharacteristic for a person their age. The thing is that my friend and I are the same age, and we’re hardly middle-aged. I told him that this isn’t a midlife crisis at all. We’re in the summer of our lives, when it finally becomes “okay” to have fun again, to be immature if we want to without having to explain anything. In Sweden we have a saying: “Sommaren är kort.” It means, “summer is short.” Winter is just around the corner so you’d better lap up as much of the summer while you still can. However, I see no reason why we shouldn’t make our summer time last until the very last day of our lives.

So have another drink, put bacon on that sandwich, turn that that music up, stay up all night finishing that book, binge an entire season of Game of Thrones. #YOLO

And yes indeed, buy that bubble machine. Sommaren är kort.

Paris…

…how you see the world and how you will teach your children to see it, too.

About a month or so ago, Milky said to me “(classmate) says Paris is a dangerous place. There are bad people there.” I did some digging and discovered that she must have heard this after Charlie Hebdo. Her father is an art director for a magazine. It makes sense that her six year-old perspective would be such.

Paris is a special place for me. If you spend 10 years of your life studying a language and a culture of a particular place, the epicenter of said language and culture means something. When Dock and I took our first taxi ride into The City of Lights, I openly wept. Sweden owns my heart. France owns my brain. Knowing that I would soon have a chance to walk around this magical city, the core of it all, was simply too much to process. It was 10 years of studying, six years of using my knowledge at work (albeit intermittently), two weeks of slogging my way through trenches, forts and bunkers in the making. I was excited but overwhelmed. The teachers who never knew they inspired me would likely never know the dream would be realized. And all of those hours spent making a stained glass window in high school would pay off the minute I stood in La Sainte-Chapelle (which also made me cry).

I turned to Milky and said “Paris, like any big city, can be dangerous. It can also be safe. Big cities require big city posture. You and I call that Philly Style, right?” Then, I explained Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. To a six year-old. To a six year-old Jewish kid. It was arduous work, thinking of how to minimize the fear, especially since Milky will be taken to Paris, at some point. The city is too important to Dock and me for us to keep Milky away.

Towards the end of the conversation, I shared my story of one time when I was in Paris, when in the hunt for cheap lodging, away from tourists, I decided we would stay near La Marais. Being the history fiends that we are, I wanted to inject a little Jewish history into our adventure. I admit, I’m not quite ready to experience anything Holocaust oriented, at this point. My stepfather’s family died in the Holocaust. It’s too painful.

We ended up in a predominately Arabic district in Paris six months after 09.11. The general mood was quite peculiar. The French, as a whole, were thrilled to see Americans returning. One bar owner said “You have been gone too long. We miss you.” which is something I expect from smaller towns and rural areas. It is not something I expect in Paris proper. It’s not something anyone with a lick of sense should expect to hear in any large city (so, kindly refrain from saying Parisians are snotty. They’re not. They’re urbane, just like every denizen of every large metropolis.). We courteously thanked him. He was also gracious enough to speak English to us which is also sort of an anomaly because very few people in France speak English to me. Dock, yes. Me, no. I learned too well and no matter how exhausted I am from a day of translating, no one gives me mercy.

As we wandered around our little temporary neighborhood, it was evident there was an American in one’s midst. Dock felt slightly uncomfortable. I shrugged it off. I shrugged it off to the point where I left Dock and our traveling companion behind one afternoon and took off for a walk by myself. “That’s how dangerous Paris is,” I tell Milky. Mommy, all 63 inches of her, all 130 pounds of her, can go for a walk by herself in a big city and feel just as comfortable as she would in Philly. Or anywhere else. And, being me, I bought souvenirs for friends and candy (it was near Easter and chocolate eggs are ubiquitous) for my colleagues. I also scouted for kebab stands because Dock and I love authentic kebab.

This tangent is important: Dock looks very WASPy and American. He doesn’t dress typically American when he travels but his general appearance is very much American or Scots-Irish. I, on the other hand, am ethnically ambiguous. Thanks to my paternal DNA and the ability to speak more than one language (well enough to survive), it’s hard for the locals to determine where I’m from. Most natives know I’m not from their country but thanks to my table manners, my appearance and a few other factors, they just cannot figure out where I’m from. My father reports the same thing only everyone assumes he’s Middle Eastern (he looks eerily similar to Yasser Arafat).

We arrive at the kebab shop I found earlier and the shop keeper stops us at the door. He looks at me, looks at Dock and then says, in French “No. You can’t come in here. You’re American.” I respond, in French, “Why not? We’re hungry. I speak French quite well. We don’t have proper kebab at home.” He twists his face, pauses and relents “Fine. Come in.” As I’m eyeballing the menu he says “No. Go sit down and I’ll make you something. You’ll like it.” Now, it’s challenge time. Do I accept food that could have expired or do I trust the man? I trust him, grab Dock’s sleeve and sit down. We look around and we’re the only non-Arabic folks in the restaurant. I whisper “Imagine what would happen if he finds out he’s feeding Jews.” in a joking way. For all I know, the shop keeper could love Jews but really hate Americans after 09.11. He had no way of knowing that Dock and I fundamentally disagreed with the Bush Administration. The meal was the best kebab I have ever eaten and neither one of us became sick. We thanked the shop keeper, left a standard, small gratuity as appreciation and went on with our evening.

Another night in Paris. Another night in a beautiful place, brimming with culture and brimming with diversity. Another opportunity to show that not all American tourists are hideous, chest thumping beasts.

I shared that bit with Milky, as well. We all have our implicit biases. Sometimes, it’s up to us to knock down someone else’s wall. Most important, in a post-09.11 world, it was imperative for Americans to not treat all people of Arabic descent like garbage for then we’re the problem.

Paris is not dangerous. Paris is not a scary place. Paris is not rife with evil. Paris is hurting. This year started horrifically for Paris. It appears that it will end horrifically, as well. When Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher happened, I said that Paris shouldn’t be defined by this, that Paris has survived much worse (you think it hasn’t?) and that Paris will recover. 2015 is a very small period of time in a city with a history dating back to the 3rd century…BC.

Today, I ache for Paris. I ache for the world. I ache for my child and children everywhere. Yet, I remain determined and committed to keep moving forward, keep pressing on – for this world can be better. Even if it’s only one kebab at a time.