You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

Lyrics from ‘South Pacific’

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught from year to year,

It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

I must admit I didn’t get the underlying social messages when I watched this wonderful movie as a youngster. I was more interested in the beaches, and later as a teen – in the beefcake – to give much thought to a little bit of a song in the midst of all that glorious technicolor – sun, sand, the United States Navy, and the US Marine Corps.
That little throwaway number has become an earworm for me over the last few weeks, as I try to make sense of the senseless. I did a bit of research about the song, which actually had a pretty powerful message for 1949; and again in 1958 when the movie was released. Apparently Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein felt so strongly about the importance of that message they insisted it remain in the performances, even if it meant that the production failed. In essence, this song was the lynchpin of the entire play/movie to them, and could not be removed. And it was not, despite considerable political pressure to do so.

Humans are not born racists, homophobes, bullies, misogynists, thugs, or criminals. We are taught, and as the song goes – by “six or seven or eight” – taught to hate. It’s pretty easy actually. You just have to point your finger at someone who looks or acts different than you and blame them for your misfortunes. It’s easier than blaming yourself, after all. You just have to be afraid of the different. It’s kind of genetically programmed into us – right? Biology and survival of the fittest ; we cull out the mutations. We make snapshot judgements about others and we pass on what we think we “know” to our little ones. With our words, and with our actions, we teach our children to mistrust and/or hate people who aren’t exactly like us. Chips off the old block, as it were. We’re becoming increasingly polarized, intolerant, violent, and murderous. It’s almost impossible to even agree to disagree these days. The uber liberals and uber conservatives belittle and scoff at one another in their quest to be “right” and get the last word. Centrists don’t seem to have a voice – and a loud centrist voice is sorely needed. I had hopes at one point that our POTUS would be that voice, hopes that have been dashed by the realization he can’t even get out of his own way, much less facilitate an environment where all can come together to work towards solutions.

So I guess it’s up to us folks, and not the politicians. And maybe that’s as it should be. If change is not coming from our government, we must bring it to our government. Rightly, righteously, respectfully. We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We need a different lesson plan for People; for Families. We start with self respect; we set a standard for behavior at home and in public and we hold everyone accountable. We talk TO our children rather than AT them. We do not tolerate bullying or demeaning behavior and we support our children to speak out if they are targeted; and to stand up for others who are being harassed. We stop making excuses for offenders and we expect consequences for offenses. It’s based on the Golden Rule. Do unto Others…. We have the talk with our sons about respecting our daughters. We have the talk with our daughters about respecting our sons. We encourage learning – more books and less TV. We work at making our adult relationships work so that our children can see that these commitments are neither convenient or disposable. We admit when we are wrong, and we apologize. We can reeducate, but it will take some hard work. . I feel sometimes like I am screaming at the top of my lungs to what at best is echoing silence. These truths I have outlined, this lesson plan for humanity is SELF-EVIDENT. A no-brainer. A return to that Golden Rule and the Core Values our society is based on (see above).

Above all we need to get mad, in the proactive sense. We have to stand up and scream “No More!” No more hate speech, no more name calling, no more profiling, no more beatings, no more rapes. No more feeding a beast that deems softcore porn appropriate entertainment matter for a globally televised awards show. No more judicial system that says a 14 year old girl bears responsibility for consenting to sexual activity with a man more than twice her age… Just exactly how does one become “older than their chronological years” anyway? She is not an emancipated minor – just so that’s clear. 14 is not capable of legally consenting to ANYTHING. Coercion is implicit when a much older person gets a minor to perform sex acts. Apparently this is something the judge chose to ignore in his statement of ruling. No more mothers who sit bored and yawning in a Georgia courtroom where their son is on trial for cold bloodedly shooting an 18 month old toddler. Society’s Moral Compass is severely misaligned at present, quite obviously.

It bears repeating – This is what we need to be CAREFULLY TEACHING:

Respect yourself.

Treat others with Respect and Kindness, even if you do not receive Kindness in return. Remember that a difference of opinion is not a personal attack. If you can’t say something nice(ly); don’t say anything at all. (“You Stay Classy San Diego!”)

Play by the Rules.

Help your Neighbor.

Speak out about Injustice and Inequality. Be that shining light in dark places when all other lights go out.

Own your mistakes and strive to do better.

Get – and stay – Educated. Learn to read, speak publicly, write well, and most importantly LISTEN. You’ll find out much more when you are silent and observant.

Above all – Love one Another.

That’s not really so hard to do. The government isn’t going to legislate that for us. We have to do it ourselves. It starts with an individual commitment to change, and a commitment to raise our children to be better people than we are. How many of you reading this are willing to make that commitment, take that step, and for example perform an act of kindness for a total stranger? Give up getting a few extra presents under the Christmas tree and instead donate that money – or some of your time, to a food pantry or homeless shelter? Set limits with your children and enforce them? This includes curfews, and dare I say it again – some form of dress code? We can carefully teach our children by our loving example. They pay far more attention to what we do. What we say – not so much. (Ask any mother of a teenager about that – we’ll tell ya!) Hold the door open for an elderly person, offer to help someone struggling with grocery bags. Show our kids that we have respect for one another and I’m pretty sure our kids will start showing respect too.

I do not want these people, and countless others I can’t name, to have died or suffered for nothing – please remember them:

Delbert Belton. Christopher Lane. Antonio Santiago. Trayvon Martin. Matthew Shepherd. Islan Nettles. Cheryl Green. Jyoti Singh. Brandon Teena. James Earl Chaney. Andrew Goodman. Mickey Schwerner. Martin Luther King. Phoebe Prince. Jamey Rodemeyer. Reginald Denny. Paramjit Kaur. Satwant Singh Kaleka. Prakash Singh. Sita Singh. Ranjit Singh. Suveg Singh. Francois Chenu. Ginger Slepski. James Byrd. Jennifer Daugherty. The Victims and Families of 9/11. The Victims of the Manson Family Murders – included because it was Manson’s stated intention to incite a race war. The 11 million + Victims of The Holocaust. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………

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The Slippery Slope

http://jezebel.com/girl-gives-boy-blow-job-at-music-festival-boy-is-hero-1170516814

This past weekend there was a music festival in Slane, Ireland at which a young woman was photographed engaging in sex acts with at least two different young men. The photos went viral quickly and the young woman has promptly been slut-shamed; while little if anything negative fallout has been attributed to the young men who participated in said publicly indecent behavior. I cannot even begin to tell you how upset this makes me – on many levels.

First off – it takes two (or more in this instance) to Tango, folks. The young men who engaged in this activity with her are just as “slutty” if not more so – than the woman in question. They ALL should be ashamed of themselves, and probably should be arrested for public indecency and placed on the sex offender registry when convicted. Since 17 is the age of consent, child pornography is not an issue in this particular case. Yet, I fail to understand why young people these days deem it OK to photograph, videotape, and share what should be extremely private moments. There is certainly  more than enough information out there about the dangers and consequences of sharing explicit photographs and messages via cell phone or on the internet. Once it’s out there, its out there FOREVER. I don’t completely understand why folks aren’t more careful about what they do – or don’t do, in the internet age. Hel-lo!?! It ain’t rocket science to figure that one out – and act accordingly. Secondly, there was no expectation of privacy…. Moreover, since when did it become OK to get a blowjob in public? So for the young woman to be “distraught” by the publication of these pictures doesn’t make sense. Duh – they were in PUBLIC. If this woman was inebriated, where were her friends to talk her out of doing something this dumb? Oh wait, they were probably all inebriated…… and thought this was HILARIOUS….

I think, perhaps, there’s a very slippery slope here – and what we see in this instance is the pileup at or near the bottom of that slope. The code of conduct for public behavior, hell – even the dress code, has relaxed considerably in the last few years. For example, \10 years ago I don’t know of a single person who would have left the house in their pajamas for any reason other than a critical emergency room visit. Just stroll around your local mall this weekend and you will see a lot of people wandering around in their nightwear. Standards of decency have lowered too – as evidenced by the fashion of wearing ones pants below the hips with one’s tightie whities or boxers showing to all the world. Shirts showing either under-boob, side-boob, or uber-cleavage. Low rise pants that stop millimeters from revealing the upper pubic area. Short shorts clearly outlining one’s genitalia, and buttocks hanging out the back. The attitude is “anything goes” – fashion wise. It’s a short step down to “anything goes” behaviorally, is it not? Especially when, alcohol and drugs are involved. These music festivals are notorious for such things. Is the lack of decency in fashion a cue to act less than decently when wearing such costume? I think that’s highly probable.  I am not saying one cannot express themselves via their clothing.  I am saying that one should be careful and thoughtful, always. Just because you CAN do something does not necessarily mean you SHOULD.

There’s not a clear line to distinguish the acceptable from the unacceptable anymore. Is it then surprising when we (ie the rest of us)  get treated to the free show? If we are surprised, we shouldn’t be. We are not holding anyone to acceptable standards of public behavior when we make ridiculous allowances for “freedom of expression” that cross the line into indecency and immodesty. I am not saying that fashion choices are the sole determining factor in this debacle – but I do think that it was a big part of the slippery slope these folks were on when they fell. Its all connected folks – don’t let anyone tell ya different. I believe it does no one harm to be told “NO” once in awhile. No – you can’t go out of the house dressed like a hoodlum, or a 5 dollar hooker, period. That boundary allows us the structure to eventually determine our own levels of self-respect.

In the festival fellatio fiasco, there was a serious lack of self respect shown in regard to all the participants in the “event.” Certainly more than enough blame to go around for all involved. Is it slutty behavior to perform sex acts in public? Absolutely. All should be held accountable, not just the female who performed the favors. A young man with any self-respect whatsoever should have declined any ‘offers’ and assisted the woman to a safe location. Any young man who was raised correctly, that is. And any woman with any sense of self worth should absolutely know better than to engage in such behavior. If both consenting individuals were interested in a hook-up – it should have been conducted in PRIVATE. I am hoping that all parties will have charges brought against them, that they will learn a tough life lesson, and conduct their sex lives in private from this point on.

 

Stream of Consciousness and Relationships

Greetings All!  I have been away for awhile here, attending to things at Hacienda Del Chaos. (aka My Life) July was insanely busy with amazing social events, including but not limited to 2 weddings and a family reunion. Then I also managed to get sick; which as my British friends might say, took the starch right out of my knickers.  The amount of tired I have been is unmeasurable.  We also have several extended family members who are quite ill at the moment.  Last summer was much worse in terms of stress and  family illness  – but I could certainly do with  less of that this year – and all the years to come. Sadly, I am also sure that will not prove to be the case…..

I have been too busy or worn out to feed my muse lately and she has begun screaming at me so I think it past time to unlock her from the padded cell again,  😉  I do feel better – connected and grounded somehow, when I write or work on my photography.  So this  post is going to be about whatever pops into my head – just so I can get back into the swing of things.    The girls have been busy this summer spending less time at home and giving us a dress rehearsal for the empty nest looming on the horizon.  Not sure I’m liking this, but it definitely serves as a prod for me to develop and nurture my hobbies and interests. Hello!  I will need something to do when they move, right?   I may be entering some photography contests or local exhibitions during fair season this fall – not sure yet.

Back side of the Sunset August 2013

Back side of the Sunset August 2013

So what keeps us going when life gets so busy?  I find myself more and more just moving through my daily routine without much active thought. My goal is getting through the day so I can collapse on my couch or in my bed at the end of it – thankful to have a place to lay my head down.  If I have to guess in a word, I would say the answer is “Relationships”  That connection to others.  And relationships are hard work.  Like gardening, we need to water and feed – develop, maintain, and enhance. Sometimes, we also weed and prune; reassess , re-categorize, or just move on.

Most always, the process of staying connected takes relatively little time –  a shout out text or email; a quick note or phone call;  a sit down dinner, a sofa or pillow conversation is  generally all that’s needed to maintain the status quo.  ‘Whats up with you? Hows it going?’ and then listening. Generally, the person on the receiving end of your communique will be delighted that you thought of them and glad to hear from you. I do try to stay connected to my friends and family regularly.  Most often, this involves a phone call, but texts and emails  work as well.  My immediate family ( The Viking and The Girls – we are all pretty good with the communication dept for the most part) So what happens when things break?  When you send those texts/emails and make phone calls/leave voicemails and hear nothing back for weeks at at time (if ever)? This is especially hurtful if you value that relationship considerably.  Or, you drift so far away from someone you don’t know how to  reconnect – or even if you should?

Let me tell you a true story.  I had a dear friend at one point a few years ago.  A long time friend.  The type of friend you speak with every morning before work, and generally chatted with several other times during the week as well. The kind of friend you were matron of honour for at her wedding. Whose daughter is your goddaughter and who was flower girl at your own wedding. We had our arguments, but patched things up fairly quickly all in all.  Her dad got sick with that long slow journey into darkness (the dreaded A- word) and she moved in with him to take care of him. I had issues with my family, including the death of my father in 2007 as well. She and her husband came to the wake.  Our daily conversations became weekly, then sporadic, then practically non-existent.  I’d periodically think  “I really have to call her and catch up”, but something always came up that needed my attention immediately, and by the time I thought about it again it was well past an acceptable time to pick up the phone. At the time, mornings with a high schooler and a middle schooler were (and probably still are) not conducive to telephone conversations  – so our former pattern was not an option.   Then, I ran into her daughter and granddaughter at the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Town Square a few years back. I asked her how her mom was, and how her grandfather was doing.  She looked at me funny, and then told me Pop had died the previous year.  I was dumbfounded. No one had told me, and I don’t get the paper or read obituaries online.  Of course, karma being what she is , I turn around after mumbling some very embarrassed and extremely belated condolences, and my friend was standing right behind me…. I offered my condolences again, saying I’d no idea he’d passed away. They were accepted quite frostily – and that, as they say,  was that. Can’t say I blame her on that one.  I run into her daughter occasionally and we chat.  I do miss my friend, but I have absolutely no idea how to fix this one – or at this point if it is beyond a fix and I should just continue moving on….  The whole situation saddens me immensely.

In other relationships, for example – the actions of my toxic monster in law; and the sister in law I’ve never met in the 29 years I’ve been with my husband; have made the choice to stay away from them  super easy- breezy.  I guess there’s always at least a few in every family. And conversely – in every family I’m sure there are members we would love to stay in closer touch with – but for whatever reason(s) we are not.   I would be interested to see how you all address these issues, particularly with a view to reestablishing and reaffirming broken connections with valued others. So please feel free to comment, and take my poll!

After the Storm Comes the Sunshine - and the Rainbows

After the Storm Comes the Sunshine – and the Rainbows

Happy Birthday America!

I am posting this as a birthday wish. I wish we could treat everyone equally, with respect, with dignity, and with courtesy. Every day.  This young woman illustrates the best in us.  Blind and developmentally disabled – she soars – and becomes the most able. There is hope, but we have to – we MUST – work at it. Happy Birthday everyone, love and light to all!

Is it Just Me, or What? Community, Neighborhoods and Crime…

I’m not feeling safe. There seems to be a spike in violent crime in my city and more importantly my neighborhood lately. A home invasion less than 3 blocks from my house,  a domestic/drug related shooting literally behind the parking lot of my youngest’s elementary school less than a mile from the house (and a neighborhood wide lock down complete with staties and K-9 patrols while the suspect was at large) And just last night an 18 yr old drug dealer stabbed a 30 yr old downtown – also less than a mile from the house.  The Viking was walking the dogs in that area literally minutes before the incident.  I think he dodged a proverbial bullet. Having the dogs with him probably provided him with a measure of safety – or at least distance.  See below for links to the related articles.

Last summer the Viking was awoken to the sound of Sophie and her “Big Girl”,  “I Mean Business” bark.  He checked around and didn’t find anything or anyone. But the next morning he noticed the living room window screen had been completely slit through at the bottom.  Good Girl Soph!  Two summers ago we had a rash of break ins in the neighborhood where women’s pocketbooks left in their kitchens were rifled through and money/credit cards stolen.  Please note: this is a very blue collar neighborhood and section of town.  We aren’t well off by any means and we ALL work very hard for what we do have. Not sure why these neighborhoods are being targeted – other than propinquity.  And if that’s the case then the offenders have obviously never listened to the old adage about not pooping where you dine.   Our dogs provide at the very least a good alarm system but frankly I do worry about my Mom and Stepdad down the street, and others in the area who either can’t afford an alarm system or don’t have a dog.

For years now, I’ve kind of scoffed at my mother for locking her doors during daylight hours when she is home – but I am now seeing the great sense in this. Most of my life I’ve been relatively fearless after taking reasonable precautions.   These days, I’m feeling much more insecure.  Is it aging?  I’m certainly not 25 – but I am in much better health than I was at 40 – so maybe?  Or maybe not. These are our streets, and I would like to be able to sit on my front stoop and watch the world go by – without thinking that every person walking by my house might be casing the joint.  Not that I have anything in here valuable enough to steal – but still…. its mine.

Is this type of crime an unintended consequence of the current generation’s sense of “self entitlement” ? In other words, “I want it, don’t care if its not mine, I’m taking it….” Are we not teaching our children proper boundaries?  Does it harken back to valuing things that are worked for; not handed out?  I’m taking an educated guess here, but I’d say yes to all of the above.  And these days  I often think we are more focused on blaming circumstances /bad parenting etc than on holding offenders accountable for their actions.  If you break the law, there are consequences, period.  That’s the way it should be anyway.  Too often theres too many excuses and not enough restitution or justice.

Which brings me to another point: If greater pride was taken by the neighborhood community perhaps the crime rate would decrease.  So:   How do we instill a sense of pride in our neighborhoods when we barely speak to our neighbors? The Northeast has a pretty frigid reputation when it comes to being neighborly. The lack of fluency in English makes it difficult to communicate well with the increasing number of immigrants in the area. They are often not willing to embrace “American” culture, either. They certainly do not trust the police.   Hardly anyone on my street allows trick or treaters at Halloween anymore – the kids have to go outside the neighborhood.  Another good example is our neighbors across the street hanging their laundry – including unmentionables on the shrubbery in front of their houseQuite the eyeful as I sat here on my front porch, I must say. Repeated requests from all the neighbors went unheeded (a communication issue perhaps), but finally our community police officer had to tell  them in no uncertain terms to hang their laundry in their backyard…. But anyway – we are isolated in our home bubbles.  Going to work each day, coming home, doing our yard work and chores etc and focusing internally.  I  have never ever been to a block party or community party in my neighborhood, and I only know my neighbors a few houses up or down the street on either side.  Which is kind of sad, and admittedly at least partially my fault.

So here’s what I AM going to do.  Continue being nice, first.  It costs nothing to smile after all.  Increase my vigilance and awareness of whats going on in the neighborhood. Including getting out for walks with the Viking and the puppies more often.  The more familiar I am with things, the more likely I am to spot something out of whack. I’ll be checking on our elderly neighbors.  And lastly – we’ll be making sure the canine alarm system stays healthy, and will definitely be locking our doors even when we are home during the day. Any other suggestions or comments would be  most appreciated. Thanks all!

The Times – are They a’Changin?

I have been having a multitude of conversations with my 14 year old lately dealing with behavior, morality, human sexuality, sexual orientation, social acceptance, bullying etc.  More than I ever seemed to have with my oldest at that stage of her life. Times have gotten tougher everywhere.  These times, they are a changing  – or are they? Its not that my youngest doesn’t get it, or is having trouble socially – it’s just that what’s out there is so darned overwhelming. She starts high school in the fall. It’s a whole different world – even more so than when her sister went to high school – and CERTAINLY much different socially than when her dad and I attended,  way back in the “olden” days.  (and it’s a whole ‘nother planet when you think of the differences between now and her grandmother’s generation – who probably graduated in the 50’s or 60’s)  But perhaps not.  There is so much further we still have to go in terms of  inclusion, equality, and respectful social interaction.

I read this online today at www.aholyexperience.com   and while my prevailing thinking does not generally run toward a religious bent – something she said really resonated:  “When the prevailing thinking is ‘boys will be boys’ – then girls will be garbage.”  And I went: “Wow…”   since I have those two girls of my own. Being young – and female, in today’s society comes with enormous challenges; and becoming a successful, self assured, independent female adult requires great sacrifice, a strong steady moral compass, sheer cussed stubbornness – and a big mouth.  Raising such women has been supremely difficult – and supremely rewarding.  Raising girls sure is tough. Girls are, well….girls. There are days when I feel extremely sorry for The Viking – trapped in an unending sea storm of estrogen.

We’re up against it aren’t we, after all? That glass ceiling – career-wise. A woman earns 70 cents for the dollar that a man earns to do the same job.  Hypersexualization of women in our culture from an early age Toddlers and Tiaras, anyone? Jon-Benet? . Madonna provided a hypersexualized portrait of women in their early 20’s.  Brittney Spears brought the age level down to 17/18 and Miley Cyrus – 14/15.   This society we live in, with its severely delinated and defined gender roles that allow no room for people to just be people. Outdated patriarchal thinking that allows women to be objectified; and is more concerned with blaming a  woman for her clothing choices on a Saturday night out with friends – rather than blaming the drunken lout who assaulted her.  “Boys will be boys” after all. Boys are not accountable simply by virtue of their gender?… Wait, what?  Yeah, I went there.  The “rape culture” that blames the victim and elicits sympathy for the offenders.   Witness Steubenville, Ohio.The media laments about  “promising football careers lost” while simultaneously – and gleefully – reporting that the underage victim had been drinking.  Witness Delhi, and Datia Province – both in India – where one only need be female  in order to be assaulted, defiled, and murdered.   Witness Elmont, NY – where a 15 yr old special needs student was gang raped beneath her desk while class was in session – with a teacher only feet away.  They were all asking for it?  By being drunk? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Being developmentally disabled? Or merely by being female? Oh I think not! Things like this make me want to keep my girls home permanently. Only I didn’t… haven’t… won’t.

My daughters both have minds of their own – quite intelligent and compassionate ones. The 14 year old is particularly sensitive to social issues and is not shy about expressing her opinions even if they differ with mine. (The older one is even more vocal, hahaha) My views at this point in life are somewhat jaded (I guess that would be the most apt word).  “It is what it is, my friend – and life’s not fair – so get used to it.” That’s not to say I won’t pick any battles, but I have seen the futility of tilting at the proverbial windmills.

As my youngest starts to establish her adult identity she is of course interested in self expression.  Hairstyles, clothing styles etc.  I have always encouraged my girls to choose for themselves, – but within limits.  The conversation we had the other night is a good example.  There seems to be a fashion fad going around of people wearing informal style pants where the crotch hangs down around the knees by design. The waist is not pulled down manually – as has been the gangsta style (underwear showing) that’s been so popular. Below the knee, the pants (t shirt or sweatpants material) fit tightly to the calf.  I did not hesitate to tell her what I thought: 1. Looks like pajamas, which are NOT acceptable to wear in public 2. Looks like the person wearing it has a full diaper and needs to be changed – again, not acceptable in public.

Like it or not,  people will be judged by their appearance. If you walk out of the house to do business in public in your pajamas – you will be perceived as lazy, period. If you are dressed like a two dollar hooker – please do not be surprised when you are treated like one. Is it right or fair? – NO. But its not going to change anytime soon.  How do I teach the fine line between self-expression and immodesty? Or sloppiness? or laziness?    Hopefully it began long ago, when their father and I (again hopefully) instilled a sense of pride in themselves. By demonstrating that we do things the right way, not necessarily the easy way. And, by treating each other with respect and tolerance.  Walking the talk, as it were.

No one has the right to harm another person, no matter how they are dressed, what their IQ is, where they are from, or how inebriated they are. That said, however – it is also important that women remember to be proactive, self protective, and self aware.  This means understanding that choosing to wear the belly shirt and the micro mini-skirt may bring unwanted attention. It means being responsible – and response-able, making smart choices.  We cannot control how others behave; we can only control our own behavior.  We can hold others accountable for their behavior, but ONLY after the fact.  And by then – Damage Done.  Damage in the form of teasing or bullying, harassment, or outright physical harm.

The teenage years are horrid at best – so why would anyone deliberately make extravagant choices that would paint a target on their back? What about that self expression?  Well, living in adult society often means compartmentalizing and role-playing.  For instance – I’m a jeans and tee shirt kind of girl – who also happens to be tattooed.  However, I work in an office that has a dress code and I have to wear business casual attire Monday-Thursday and cannot go sleeveless even in the summertime.  Do I feel stunted or my freedom of expression impinged upon?  Not really – because who I am inside is always there and I don’t need to show it on the outside all the time in order to feel I’m living authentically.  I know I can go home and change when I get out of work. I have developed a public identity to go along with my private one. My personal friends and family see a more complex me than my acquaintances do. My professional contacts see me only superficially. Their opinion of me on a personal level means little. I merely have to do my job and be pleasant. I have a bigger obligation to be “real” to my acquaintances and even more so with my friends and family. This is the process teens are working through – developing their adult identities and coming to terms with the fact that our public and private faces do not necessarily have to match in order for us to live happily. Finding the balance, becoming OK with the layers.

Another issue is that we tend to over share these days. Somehow we’ve gotten the idea that unless we are acting uninhibitedly we are being untrue to ourselves. NOT SO. Just because we can do something does not mean we should. A bit of inhibition is a good thing. Self-restraint is a sign of maturity whether you’re male or female.   It’s a fine line to walk, and a big challenge to impart that lesson.   (The brain’s judgment center is not fully developed until the mid-twenties) Teen females also need to learn to navigate the patriarchy and carve out their own niche – not settle for whatever society determines is right for them  ie: The Trophy, or The Bitch.

So I’ve told my girls: Be authentic – do what feels right, provided it doesn’t hurt anyone. Be respectful, and expect to be respected in return.  Harm none. Speak up against injustice and unfairness.  But, recognize that as a female they will have to do it better than the boys to even be considered half as good.   And that by speaking up, by demanding that respect – they’ll be thought of as Bitches. And that’s OK – a strong Bitch is hard to push around, isn’t she?   I want my girls to be happy and successful.  I have tried to make sure they have the tools to excel in today’s world, while also striving to assure that they have the dreams and vision to aspire to something better for themselves. So in the end, they can choose to be someone other than a Trophy or a Bitch. And THEIR daughters won’t even have to think about it.

Ridin’ the Storm Out

As my friend Kelly would say:  Here’s the song reference:

REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ The Storm Out – Live
I decided to keep a weather blog of sorts and keep a record of my musings during this historic event.  In Western MA we aren’t supposed to get hit with the worst of it, but we are expecting power outages due to high winds, and I’m thinking some flooding in this area as the Westfield River serves as drainage for the southern east face of the Berkshires. And of course Westfield holds the United States record for the most rainfall in a 24 hour period, 13 inches,  & most rainfall in a storm Hurricane Diane 19.75 inches  – and please,  note below that Westfield is on this list no less than 3 times…..  GAH!

Wettest tropical cyclones and their remnants in Massachusetts
Highest known recorded totals
Precipitation Storm Location Ref
Rank mm Inches
1 501.7 19.75 Diane 1955 Westfield [4]
2 324.4 12.77 New England Hurricane of 1938 Gardner [2]
3 317.5 12.50 Carrie 1972 Tashmoo [19]
4 312.4 12.3 1933 Outer Banks hurricane Provincetown [4]
5 251.0 9.88 Eloise 1975 Westfield [19]
6 236.7 9.32 Connie 1955 Plainfield [19]
7 231.1 9.10 Irene 2011 Savoy [20]
8 213.36 8.40 Lee 2011 Worthington [55]
9 179.3 7.06 Bob 1991 Westfield [19]
10 175.5 6.91 Donna 1960 Great Barrington [19]

Anyway, woke up this morning to misty drizzle and a brisk northeast breeze, gusting up to maybe 20 mph.  Work for me and classes for both the girls were cancelled last night, so I had planned on a bit of a sleep in. The Viking had other plans for me though  – calling about 9am to see if I could run up to  Blandford and pick up Sophie’s seizure medication. She won’t run out till the weekend -but who knows if we will be able to get up there by then. So Jill and I were off on a quick adventure, stopping at Dunkin for “coffee and” and also topping off the gas tank on the Saturn before the prices skyrocket again. Great to see that the utility companies and the Emergency Response personnel were (and are) already out in force.

As I left the house, I noticed that UPS had made a delivery.  It was from my dear friend Barney http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com in California- who sent me one of his handcrafted cutting  boards made of black walnut maple and cherry wood. It literally made my day – and I called him to thank him and chat after Jill and I got back from our errands. An expatriated New Englander, Barney is extremely concerned about how things are going, so I told him I would keep him posted.  Then, I thought I would do this weather blog  thing too.  This will help me I’m sure when my future grandchildren ask me what I was doing during Frankenstorm -the “Nor’easter-cane” of 2012.

The Viking came home for lunch at noontime, the wind is really picking up and my Dad’s windchimes are making music in very accelerated time. Jill and I decided to put together clothes and necessary equipment and get the animals stuff ready in case we do eventually need to leave.  I’m not overly concerned with that part of it right now per se; but better to be prepared to get gone than not.  Last year’s fiasco served as a lesson to everyone.

Mother Nature certainly seems to have it in for the Northeast lately. The tornado last year (which began in Westfield btw…) Hurricane Irene, the October “Snowpocalypse” at this exact time last year (that’s the weirdest thing, isn’t it?),  the minor earthquakes of last summer and again just last week up in Maine. I think she needs to get back on her HRT – and soon. Anyway, at the moment the wind is steady and the trees are swirling moderately; no real rain to speak of -just scattered here and there.   Going to sign off for now.  Will update with part 2 later (by phone if the power goes out) . Batten Down the Hatches! Full Speed Ahead, and Get the Whiners Below Deck!

For those of you not directly affected by this storm, but are interested in following whats going on here,  I recommend checking out  WWLP.com  They’re our local station and fairly accurate when it comes to weather stuff.