Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mockery Revisited

When I said I was almost done mocking the school district, I meant it. I really did. But that was before they set about teaching my child nouns.

"What," you may be asking, "is wrong with nouns?" You might even think that as a writer, I'd be happy to have my child learning grammar. And so I was, when she learned to identify nouns the first time, in the third grade. Now that she's in 8th grade, and in an enrichment class for the gifted and talented, not so much.

But no worries--that's not all they're doing. She's also learned what "glossary" meant and been quizzed on her ability to circle pronouns in pre-written sentences thus far this quarter. I can only assume that the regular class is working on the alphabet.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's the Internet Age - Do You Know How Your Child's been Tagged?

I've mentioned before that I'm cautious about what I say about my children online. Not cautious in the "there are predators everywhere" way (although there do sometimes seem to be), but cautious in the "is it really my place to be sharing this information with the world?" way. I've addressed this from a professional perspective on my writing blog; it's a common pitfall for parenting writers. And I've addressed it from the standpoint of a concerned citizen on my social commentary blog
, after I was appalled to stumble upon a blog devoted entirely to the trials and tribulations associated with the unwelcome arrival of a baby whose father was going to "do his best" to love it because that was his job.

But the Internet is ever-evolving, and even the most vigilant among us make missteps. For instance, I never expected my post about my daughter's first Jonas Brothers concert to end up on the front page of a Jonas Brothers fan site. Before that day, my readership among middle-schoolers was fairly limited, but a well-placed RSS feed can change everything.

This time, though, my oversight was a little more serious--and one I'm not quite sure how to protect against in the future. It's the result of strangers tagging content. It might be useful, and it might mean that a lot more content gets tagged, and it might mean that multiple users tagging the same content results in better tags, but it's looking mighty ugly to me at the moment. Back in July, I posted about how learning to swim had been a long and harrowing process for my daughter after an unfortunate incident on day one of swimming lessons. That post included a photograph of my daughter (13) and her friend (12) holding on to a bright yellow inner tube at the park district pool. You may have seen it; it's a cheerful snapshot (taken with my phone) of two CHILDREN laughing in a public swimming pool.

Unless you ask Bing. On Bing, it's currently the number one image result for "waterslide bikini".

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Monday Morning Greens

Okay, I know "greens" isn't technically the opposite of "blues", but I picked it for a reason. It's my favorite color; there's nothing negative about green. And it's also the color that--in the United States, at least--means "go".

Most Monday mornings, I post something in my Facebook status about how excited I am about it being Monday morning, and invariably I get a pile of responses questioning my sanity. Except this morning, the invariable responses...well...varied. This morning, no one suggested that I was crazy. Five people, however, wished to know my secret. So I've decided to share.

Like most secrets to happiness, love, positive outlooks on life and good parenting, this one is no secret. It's all a matter of perspective. Monday morning is traditionally viewed as the day we have to get up early again, the day the "daily grind" starts anew, the day we have to run to get the kids off to school and ourselves off to the office by some usually-outrageous hour of the morning. And it is all those things. But it's something else, too.

Monday morning is a blank page. A clean slate. Okay, I'll stop with the cliches, but since I'm a writer, those are powerful images for me. It's a new week I can do anything with. Monday morning I can take stock and prioritize without pressure. Sometimes by, for example, Thursday afternoon, I'm starting to feel the pressure, pushing hard or working late to get something done before the weekend. But on Monday morning I have forty hours laid out in front of me to chip away at my "to do" list, and that makes it easy to focus and easy to start knocking items off the list.

My daughter is in middle school, where drama runs high but memories are short. If conflicts arose during one week, odds are very good that they'll be forgotten by Monday morning. And while my memory may be longer, I find that I can make the same choice: I don't bring last week's stresses to the table. I'm not running behind, even if I was when I called it a day on Friday. The re-set button has been pressed, and it's a brand new week with a brand new list.

Top it off with the fact that I'm usually reasonably well-rested by Monday morning and my house is as clean as it gets, and my stars are perfectly aligned for a positive, high-energy day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Little Hope on a Dark Day

I’m not really the type to write a blog post about how much I like my friends. First, as you all know, I’m not exactly the warm and fuzzy type. I’m pretty logical. And logic tells me that you all KNOW that I like my friends, because if I 9/didn’t I…well…wouldn’t be friends with them.

But last night, I wrote a short post referring back to my pre-9/11 post last year. That post was all about how sad it was to me that the one positive thing we’d gained from 9/11 had been so quickly lost. In the immediate wake of 9/11, everyone was nice to everyone else and people donated whatever they had and those who were near to the scene reached out in any way they could. Perhaps my view was a little different because of my religion, but in that moment I saw the closest thing I’d ever seen to the world I believe God made—a world in which we were “one body”. And despite the terrible tragedy that inspired it, it was a beautiful, hopeful, affirming thing to watch and to be a part of.

And then we moved on.

Eight years later, we remember the tragedy. We remember the anger, and maybe the fear. We mourn for those lost and maybe even for the sense of security lost, but we don’t seem to remember that we discovered that we were all one people, in this thing together.

While I was lamenting the loss of that feeling and wonderingly vainly and naively (ever notice how close those two words are) why we couldn’t live that way every day, I suddenly thought about my friend Barb Cooper. Because Barb is that person every single day of her life.

You may know this already, because you may read her very popular blog, So, The Thing Is… Barb’s blog is, in a funny, non-preachy, self-deprecating kind of way, all about love: loving her family, her friends, her neighbors, her babysitter, the postman, and the stray cat peeking around the side of the house. Offering them her heart, willing their best good, and greeting every problem with an earnest, “Gosh, how can I help?” It’s an added bonus that she makes us laugh out loud in the process.

She’s a wonderful friend to me every day, but on this sad day, she’s more. As I contemplate the way most of us have drawn back into our shells and reverted to “me and mine” thinking, she’s an inspiration, and a point of hope. They may be few and far between, but there are people out there who live every day as we all should be…and maybe in a quiet, simple way, they’ll be the seeds of sustained change in a way that a national tragedy couldn’t.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Faded Memories

Earlier this evening, I re-read the post that I wrote on the eve of September 11 last year and realized that what I see as the most important message surrounding that day hasn't changed. I wish that weren't the case, because when I wrote that post last year it was with a deep sense of having--as a society--dropped the ball. September 11 was undoubtedly the most powerful message this country has ever received...and we couldn't hold on to it for even a handful of years. That may be sadder than all of the raw tragedy and loss that occurred on that day. It will certainly have further-reaching effects.