Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My so called motherlode

After the events of the weekend, I felt like I needed to escape into some movies.

A few weeks ago C and I started to watch Peggy Sue Got Married together http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj9hDe8VhpU. It was strange. I had seen it lots of times... but through teenage eyes. I related to the young Peggy Sue. Sharing it with my 13-year old was surreal (and a little weird, I had to go check something in the kitchen during the somewhat hot-n-heavy portions). We watched the end of it and it was enjoyable, but strange. Lots of these coming of age movies are strange to see now that I'm on the other side of the age spectrum. Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo's Fire... even The Big Chill all have me older than the main characters! When did I get old??!!!

This weekend we started to watch Moonstruck together. This time I was thinking about MY mother. Olympia Dukakis had my mother's mannerisms to a tee (including assuming someone died if we got an unexpected call). But it wasn't just my mom, it was the small details of our Italian-American life. The food, the expressions, and my grandmother's house even had a few pieces of near-identical furniture. I could hear my Mom's voice (if not her words) when she was berating Cher with "your life's going down the toilet!" Both mothers had a very clear sense of who they were in this world and in their relationships. (Again I had to walk out to check the kitchen... I didn't remember it was quite that racy, it's rated PG).


Finally, we watched a couple of episodes of "My So-Called Life". This time it was C who was overwhelmed by the similarity to HER mother! The girl on TV dyes her hair red, and C has been begging to do things to her hair too (this week it was feather extensions, but she has also wanted to color it purple!). The mother says verbatim the same things that come out of my mouth, "Why am I always the bad guy? Do you think *I* want to be the bad guy?" Afterward watching this with her, I felt depressed. I'm a cliche'!

Watch these and see if it resonates with you:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qruKmf0B0l0 (from 3 minutes in)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duwUFFGivH0 (again, from just less than 3 minutes in)

When did I become the strict, sour, unpleasant mother? All I do is yell at children, it seems. I don't necessarily need to be everyone's BFF, but I do want to be loved.... and loving.

The good news is, there was another portion that I think C could relate to, albeit without admitting to. Angela and her friend are driven home by the police. Her friend was too (see episode 1, part 4, toward the end for that). Angela realizes she is glad to have her mom after all... (see 4min 45 sec in)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?=P4JkJb4svZ4.

In general, I think C is too. Despite the yelling and consistent conflict, she knows her parents love her, support her and will always be there for her - no matter what color her hair is. And it's our job to keep it brown for a little while longer!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nightmare

I don't know what to say. In my mind I'm completely distracted and overwhelmed by what we've seen from Norway. It's too beautiful a country for this to happen there!

I've written and deleted this blog twice. I don't know how to express my thoughts to sound anything anyone would want to read. To me this attack is very person!

* I have been visiting Norway (or living there) nearly every year since 1988.

* My husband and both my children are citizens of Norway.

* My children were at a camp when the attacks took place.

* No one wants to hear the perpetrator's crazy Neo-Nazi propaganda, but as a former foreign resident of Norway, his message of hate hits me personally.

My feelings remind me of 9/11 when my country was under attack. At that point we lived in Norway, and my friends, neighbors and especially my colleagues were exceptionally kind to me. I wish I could be there to console them today.

My hope is that people will focus on the victims and ignore the perpetrator's message of hate. Listening to NPR's reporting this morning I was struck by the free advertising his message has been given throughout the world. By explaining his position, he is spreading his word and winning his fight.... the irony!

As a reminder to my son of how happy I am to have him home, I'll make his favorite: Norwegian pancakes. My daughter is too, but she slept over at a friends house... so she'll have to wait for a welcome home treat.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Finding what I'm looking for at U2...

The stage was an integrated part of U2's performance
My ears are still ringing from the loud music and my heart racing a bit from the adrenaline. Bono rocked it until midnight and I'm guessing he's still sleeping now. It was part concert, part mission, and while some audience members weren't into the lecture, I drank it up. He celebrated Aung San Suu Kyi's release by having her to speak (in a video) about what one person can do. Later, Bono had a duet with Mark Kelly who was videotaped from aboard the International Space Station, and speaking Bono's lyrics for his wife, Gabrielle Giffords. I was probably most touched was when he dedicated an impromptu song for the recently deceased Clarence Clemons after seeing a poster that said "For Clarence" in the audience. For me, it wasn't just about Bono, it was about the experience.

The wait for U2 was LONG, but we had plenty of fun. At one point a man came through our section of the Meadowlands selling Italian Ice. My friend asked him if he had Vodka to go with it... and from the center pocket of his black apron he pulled out a small bottle. The $16 pricetag was slightly beyond what my friend was willing to pay. The rest of the night I wondered if he had sold someone else something more... um, organic, because we certainly could smell something in the warm summer breeze.



For me the most entertaining part of the concert wasn't the awesome music. It was a belated celebration of my 40th birthday. I brought together five friends who didn't know each other very well, but all had a good time.  I got a taste of what a 40th birthday dinner roasting would have been. It's been a long time since I laughed like that at myself. My hometown friend (MCM) didn't realize I had not shared most of my best stories with the Bridgewater crowd. My "newer friends" (the two in the group who I've known for 8 years) taught MCM their favorite thing to tease me about. Let's just say it's a woof, woof - dog eat dog - world.

You have to love someone a lot to make playful fun of them without it feeling mean-spirited. It was a nice reminder that my friends certainly do love me enough, and there is PLENTY of material to last hours of entertainment at my expense, should they ever choose to give me a roast. It was a wonderful night and I'm so lucky to have such fun, and funny friends. As Bono reminded us, there is a lot of tragedy going on in the world, but lots to celebrate too.

A year and two-days late, it was a great way to bring in my 40s.



Oh, and MCM - next time you think that they have a certain species of dog in Chinatown make sure it's not at a restaurant on another continent. OK? Way to give a woman unnecessary heart palpitations!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

to me, from me

Flowers... a very rare treat
This year on my birthday I lined up an interview, bought myself flowers and made myself (and a lucky friend) a pitcher of homemade sangria. Tonight I will take 5 friends to see U2. That doesn't count the presents I received that weren't from me! Happy Birthday to me, indeed!

If my 40th year focused on stepping outside my comfort zone, is this the year I put myself ahead of others?

The past two weeks my cherubs have been at a sleep away camp. I haven't been able to speak to them or see them (except in pictures posted online). It has been a test of my endurance and love to see if I really mean it when I say "I'm happy for them!" I am sure you can hear me sigh when I think "if they are happy, then I'm happy".

There is a big disconnect between moms and non-moms. I think that women who don't have children see us Moms as misguided, self-sacrificing martyrs who expect their undeserved pity. Why should they feel bad for our lack of freedom when we chose to get knocked up and willingly bound to our ungrateful snots??? But the flip-side is we envy their perceived "selfishness and self-indulgence". We think they can do whatever they want. We women have so many double-standards and are so horrible at supporting one another, so it's no wonder we don't support ourselves.

$$$ treat with my husband, sans kids
If I dabble in a world where my kids don't come first, am I a horrible person, a terrible mom, and ungrateful for my children? Will my friends judge me? Or am I realist? In a few years they won't live with us anymore. Part of the terror in that is that I'll be lonely and may feel I've lost the meaning in my life. So isn't it OK that I test the waters a little now: take a 6-day vacation by myself, or a weekend with my husband, without them? What if I look into new career options that aren't necessarily family-friendly? Or spend money on myself instead of on them? Just in the month of July we bought me a new car (a 7-seater designed to cart them and their friends), and I spent a week traveling in the most expensive country in the world alone. Even focusing on my weight or knitting could be seen as a self-indulgence.  Tonight I am going to a concert for a band that I've been waiting to hear since Reagan was president. The cheap tickets were $115, add to that parking, tolls, beer... (I prefer imports) and it won't be an cheap affair. And yesterday when I was returning from a day showing guests around NYC, I really imagined myself commuting to the Big Apple.

Let's be honest, once the kids return home, so will my pendulum. My schedule will focus on their activities, their schools, their friends and I'm happy about that. Even my obsession with the district really is about them, not about me. So this decadence may be short lived. I won't even treat myself for a pedicure, although I've been dreaming about it all week.

So are the moms in my readership going to judge my indulgence? Or will the non-moms who follow this blog (are there more than one or two???) looking at me with scorn for my misrepresenting them (it was tongue and cheek, but who gets that)?

Who cares?!!!! If my 41st year is about putting myself ahead of others, then what I think should trump what you do... And changing my perception of myself is probably the biggest step.

Either way, TONIGHT - we celebrate. I made it forty years, plus one. Mom or not. We all deserve to enjoy happy occasions with our friends!

BRRSD gets a gift...

I missed the big meeting on Monday... but I have a good excuse. It was my birthday, and as I'm not actually on the Board, I get to go on a date with my husband instead of an emergency BOE meeting. If you want to read two viewpoints, here is from Dick Bergersen's Central NJ blog and here is the Patch's take. So this blog is based on what I've read in these two sources.

As a parent I am really disappointed that the BOE chose to give $20 of tax relief per family. It's a symbolic gesture at best. It's less than half of what it costs to fill my gas tank (and for some of you I'd guess it's closer to 1/3 of a tank). It's less than half of what I spent on gifts for teachers in 2010-2011. My Mom (who died 10 years ago today) would probably say "it's 2 bottles of wine".  

We could have hired at least five teachers and reduced class sizes significantly in some of our schools.  this money could have brought back (even temporarily) the costs of many programs that have been cut over the past few years. We could have done much-needed maintenance around the district. There are lots of things we need in Bridgewater schools!

From what I understand there's still no contract for the teachers union and the district, so the timing of this windfall was probably part of the decision. Perhaps giving tax relief was a way to be "strong" in negotiations. I get that the district doesn't want to appear to seem anything but cash-poor when negotiating with the BREA. I have little respect for Steve Beatty, and I am still miffed about the union pushing members to politicize our K-8 schools (the high school is a little different, IMHO) by rallying in front of our youngest students and wearing red. That said, I still think the idea was that this money should go to the DISTRICT for educational purposes, not as tax relief. 

Finally, I wasn't there... so I didn't hear the public input session. I don't know what was said exactly, but I would like to shout out to one of the teachers quoted in the Patch. She is one of the finest teachers in the district, and one of the loveliest people I've had the luck of meeting. We have had several lengthy conversations. She loves her students, encourages their learning at whatever level she finds them, and she genuinely teaches from the heart. I wish I'd heard her speak last night.

Again I'm disappointed with the BOE. But I'm disgusted with the Union too! It's clear that they pushed teachers to show up at last night's meeting in large numbers politicizing this funding and perhaps making the BOE give it back to voters instead of to them. When I say I want the money to go to the schools, it isn't that I am looking for a change in the negotiations. I'm hoping for a return of lost programs, new teachers (even if only temporary) or capital improvements. In this heat, A/C comes to mind.......


***

Update:
http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20110721/NJNEWS/307210010/20-out-580-towns-use-school-aid-lower-tax?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pasta Dinner

(Written Wednesday, forgot to post)

I often tell people that I made my first friends in 7th grade. I claim they were my first friends, and accepted me into their already-well established circle of friends, and I never felt lonely again.

Nice fairy tale, but not exactly true.

Yesterday I saw two of my closest friends from elementary school. DJ and LK.

DJ was the boy down the street. Back in the day my Mom didn't like his dirty mouth (apparently he taught me the F-word, the S-word and showed me the difference between boys and girls), but he was nicer to me than the snotty girl up the street, and I did his paper route with him every day for years. Today he's in his early 40s, living with his mom after a tragic car accident (he was unhurt) a few years ago.

I ran into him yesterday, and he seemed a bit disappointed with his life. After I told him sob-stories of other friends down on their luck, he said he felt much better. He, in turn, made me feel like I was uber-accomplished. He said he remembered me as being a good listener! Really? It's strange what we remember. We had a pact. If neither of us had a date to the 6th grade dance, we'd go together. I don't remember how it ended up.... and I didn't think to ask DJ.

The view from LK's house
LK was the bride at a fairy-tale wedding last year. She has four daughters (from a previous marriage) and is a nurse, although she stays-at-home full-time now. When I look back on my life in elementary school I remember myself as unpopular, and my homelife as complicated. My parents were older, un-hip and did not do what most parents did. My dad wasn't a jock, and my Mom didn't hang with a single one of the other Moms at my school. I blamed my "unpopularity" on my parents being weird. Which is why when LK described one of her happiest childhood memories as sleeping over at my house and waking up to my Mom having made her a birthday breakfast celebration, it reminded me that mine is revisionist history. I had a Mom who loved my friends, and I had friends who loved me! How did I forget how much LK meant to me, especially in my early years? Or how kind my Mom had been to her? We had similar interests: she played bass, I played cello and we both sang. We were in lots of classes together and for the most part we had friends in common (and we both disliked the snotty kids from our elementary school equally, but for different reasons).

Last night I remember what I loved most about LK growing up. When you are with her, she makes you feel special. I was jealous in high school of the attention she got from all the boys. She was a pretty cheerleader, curvy and flirtatious. I was loud, with frizzy hair and lots of pimples. She did better than me in school, sports (she was on the diving team, I didn't dare try anything) and music. We had a falling out (about a boy) and lost touch. I am so happy to see how well she is doing now. Her daughters are wonderful, her husband is very nice and her home is gorgeous. I know she has some health issues, but she seemed very well yesterday.

It was a wonderful evening to share time with friends, laughing about old times. It made me wonder about the impact I will have on my children's lives, and whether the friendships they are forming now will last for thirty years? Will their friends remember me yelling at them or will they remember kindness I showed them?

They have evidence of both... but I hope the pendulum falls on the side of kindness and love. And if it is a single memory they carry into their adulthood of what it was like at our house. I hope they remember it the way LK remembered us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A friend is someone who...

...knows everything about you and likes you just the same.

Last night I had a double date of sorts. I took two men to dinner...

...my Dad and his longtime friend Dr G, both men are in their mid-80s.

Dr. G and his late wife have been friends with my parents since before my parents knew each other. My mom and the (then unmarried) Mrs G were both very smart, well-educated and sophisticated women from my hometown, in a time and place when there were smart women, but not many well-educated or sophisticated (in the 1940s-50s). Both men still mourn their wives.

I can see why my parents' friendship with the G's lasted many, many decades. The topics of conversation last night were nearly endless. We talked about art (the G's have a vast collection of native American art that they collected over decades and have recently donated to a local museum) and literature. I told him stories about what is appropriate at a Bat Mizvah in New Jersey ca. 2011. We talked about travel, foreign languages, child-raising, the politics of special-needs children. But mostly we spoke of love and friendship.

What did I learn from this? Moving away from my hometown has cost me the day-to-day relationship with lifelong friends. My father and Dr G have so much in common: the same circle of friends, the same interests, the same profession, and as they age, even having lost their wives, and their lives have taken some difficult turns. Health issues has come and gone. Family crises have hit both of our households, but still Dr. G and Dad have each other.

Their friendship has lasted nearly five decades. I hope that when I'm 86 my kids will take me and my friends to dinner, helping my friend to the door from the car, as needed. When I invited Dr. G to dinner, I thought I was doing it to be nice to them. What I learned was, I really was the one being treated. I'm grateful for Dr. G's life-long friendship too!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where did the week go???

It's been quite a week!

When last I checked in with you, I was in Evenskjer, Norway. After that I flew to Oslo. I spent time with one of my most talented friends. You have them too - people that you are very happy for, but envy ever, ever so slightly. IRH and I traveled together for about a week in May 1991. We were supposed to last a month... but we were sort of the odd couple of travel. I was terrified after a hostel in Amsterdam which I thought reminded me of a crack-house, bomb shelter and wanted to upgrade to just staying with guests. Inga liked living on the edge and turned it into a career. She became a freelance travel journalist, learned Spanish and has covered the entire world! I've written about my yearn to travel before, and of course, I do travel and am very fortunate. But I am impressed by all IRH has done in her 40 years. She now shares her life with with her teenage son and charming boyfriend from Africa. I was extra lucky: in Oslo, rather than overpriced restaurants with so-so international cuisine, I got to have homemade Eritrean food. Unlike my travel journalist friend, I ate with my hands, as her boyfriend did. ;-)

This week I'm back to my life. I returned to my chaotic house with a very clean fridge. A possibly drunk, but definitely out of control driver joyrode through our yard, taking out lots of bushes and our electrical transformer. Better safe than sorry, T had to throw out everything from our freezer and fridge which were without power for GodKnows how long. He also had to deal with the insurance company and neighbors.

My job since I got home: prepare for camp! Lots of laundry. Do we really have this many clothes??? I'm seriously tempted to THROW the unmatched socks rather than attempt to match them - no one will miss them, since they have been in a pile on a sofa since it was cold enough to need socks. Have you ever thrown socks instead of matching them?! I also realize that I have to go to the DMV (I never updated my license after "the incident" although the sting has long subsided, I'm great at procrastinating) and my license expires at the end of the month. I could list the rest of my TTDs but it simply isn't that interesting. Suffice today it is going to be a busy day! I say good-bye to my car of 3 years. It was fun having a sedan, but you can't run away from who you are, and my life needs a 7 seater. Goodbye blue Acura TSX, hello silver Mazda CX-9.

Better get it all started. Looking forward to sharing my home area with BW friends. There isn't much to see, but I'm looking forward to it. Yes, parts of it look like where Deliverance, but the rest of it is quite nice, and the people.... are my peeps.

Finally: NPR is on in the background chatting away about the final space shuttle. I remember we were in a hotel room in Hilton Head, South Carolina with my Mom. She passionately said, "You need to watch this landing! History is being made here. You never forget this moment!" It wasn't quite like a walk on the moon, but she was right: I never forgot watching with her. I was also with her when the Challenger exploded in January of 1986. Finally, I'm remembering my friend Yngve. He was starting his Sophomore year at MIT when he was murdered. He had a 4.0 and wanted to work for NASA, so I'm guessing that was in the cards. He would have been there for sure today!