Unity

I am a strong believer in individual rights.  I also believe that my country was founded on the premise that multiple viewpoints are acceptable and that this is a nation where all citizens are valued.  One nation, unified by our commitment to freedom, liberty and justice.  Thousands have died fighting for our democratic ideal, given their very lives for the society we enjoy.

Is this utopia? No.  Are there issues that need to be addressed? Absolutely. We will accomplish those goals through working together.  We will not achieve anything through screaming, vitriolic posts or gunning down police officers in the street.

We each have our go-to issues.  Perhaps gay rights is your personal cause or Black Lives Matter.  Perhaps you have faced weight discrimination or suffered at the hands of a bully. Perhaps you are an immigrant seeking to improve conditions in your neighborhood or are trying to remove corruption from government. Maybe you choose to fight against childhood hunger or for abused women.  Good for each and every one of you.  Keep on fighting the good fight. These battles must be won.

But address your cause as an adult, a conscientious member of society. Respect your fellow man and allow opinions that differ from your own. Don’t fall prey to the feeding frenzy of emotion and mob intellect. Be conscious of how the press and peers opinions have impacted your own thoughts.  Think carefully before taking action and ask the important questions:  Is this really the best approach to accomplish my objective?  Am I causing collateral damage?  Am I spreading as much negativity as I am helping the downtrodden? What is my own signature imprint that I am making upon the world?  Am I respectful of all?

We have gotten accustomed to thinking of ourselves as individuals first and members of society second.  We want to shine goodness from every pore and do it in as public a way as possible, that we may feed our own egos and surround ourselves with admirers.  In the process we are destroying the best single example of human cooperation and brotherhood that our world has ever known.

Our motivations are good but we are not thinking.  We are acting on pure emotion without the intellectual framework necessary for real growth.  We are better than the acts currently peppering our front pages.  I know students, brilliant students who are throwing their hearts behind worthy causes and in the process are rending holes in the fabric of society.

Stop spreading intolerance. Stop aggravating and exacerbating. Causing more rifts in a struggling society is not helpful.  If you are busy judging others then you are part of the problem.  Put condemnation aside.  Appreciate the positives of the world you are inhabiting. Maintain your equilibrium. Keep a balanced perspective. Stand up but be upstanding.

Sounds trite, yet is easier said than accomplished. It is understandable to be angry or frustrated with the status quo. Violence and mockery is the easy response. Sarcasm makes us feel clever as does looking down from a position of moral superiority.  Try taking the actual high road. Stop posturing long enough to really listen and strive for common middle ground, for understanding. Build rather than destroy.

We are supposed to be indivisible…one nation working together towards the betterment of ourselves, not a thousand little groups angrily hurling their insights at the nearest target. We are all members of the same team.  Teamwork and respect does not preclude appreciation for the individual. I am proud to be an American.  I am also proud of my own heritage, logic and belief system.  I try to be the best person I know how to be.  Part of my process is to want betterment for all of us, which means not tearing down or trampling other individuals in order to meet my objective.

Our children will inherit the nation we leave them.  I wish our legacy to be a country founded on principle where we work together in harmony and respect, a nation that not only lives up to but exceeds the visions of our founding fathers. It is possible if we remember cooperation and what being a productive team member really means.  God bless the families suffering from intolerance in this nation. Grant us the wisdom, patience and love to see to our personal agendas while still functioning as a unified , enlightened people lucky enough to live in the United States of America.

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Life Matters. Period.

I am saddened, as is anyone with a heart, by the unnecessary death of any American citizen resulting from injustice.  If police or authority figures abuse their power they should be disciplined without exception.  I understand that minorities suffer more frequent abuse and that sadly, racism is a factor that must be taken into account when judging motivations. However, reversing that racism is not only ineffective, but critically damaging to the progress we have achieved as a nation.

We have history. It is important that we try to gain unbiased understanding of all factual events of our development.  Textbooks can be revisionist. Yes, white accounts form much of our narrative as whites were often more educated and in a higher position of wealth when that history was recorded. That does not mean that our comprehension must be limited to what we were taught in school.  Thanks to the internet there are myriad sites at our fingertips and endless accounts of people from all nations that are accessible. I am fascinated by the viewpoints of all peoples. I am grateful for the opportunity to deepen my understanding of all cultures.

Ostensibly the”Black Lives Matter” movement exists as a support for racial education and appreciation.  It is not working that way.  Instead it is aggravating tensions. I have many liberal, openhearted friends who are whipped into a frenzy over the current rhetoric in use. They are rabid in their enthusiasm to condemn the white man as oppressor.  Really? This is not 1950, when segregation was commonplace.  We have a black president.  We as a nation have made tremendous strides in overcoming racial prejudice.  Yes, there is always more that can be done, but it will not be accomplished through replacing one victimized group of citizens for another.

Whites have a more established history, but are they to apologize for their previous successes?  Are whites to suffer now in atonement for the actions and perceptions of previous generations?  If so, then all the progress we have struggled to make as a nation has been fruitless.  Reversing the status on the ladder is not erasing racism.  Laying the ladder on level ground where all are respected should be our goal.

The Hispanics in our nation are currently experiencing many of the socio-economic difficulties that other immigrant groups have faced in the past.  Yet they are not the focus of this “lives matter” movement.  Are they not of equal stature? Being a white woman married to a Hispanic male I have experienced prejudice myself and certainly have witnessed the struggles of my husband’s family in difficult situations.  I have heard a certain amount of “reverse racism” in their complaints about the current establishment but nothing close to the angry resentment spewing forth from “Black Lives Matter.”

Of course black lives matter, as do Hispanics and white, brown, yellow, gay, blue, transgendered, differently abled, and every other human citizen of our society.  Harping on differences and angrily emphasizing cultural disparity is not fixing anything.  Violent protests achieve nothing.  Escalation and ugly incidents result. Police lives also matter. We do not need anger.  We need respect for all.

We are so busy being judgmental and pointing fingers that we are fostering more division than understanding.  The new pressure to be vocal constant critics, to embrace one race while condemning another leads to the same exclusionary society we wish to eradicate.  As each race seeks to defend its own we are striking out instead of reaching out.  The motivation may be positive, but the result is not. We are erasing the very real progress in race relations that Dr. King and many others fought so hard for.

We need to stop differentiating and seek common ground. Your skin color and ethnic background are part of who you are.  Respect your own history and the history of others. More importantly,  welcome and appreciate the present moment that we share. We are Americans. We are a nation of all races working and living together. Stop blaming.  Accept personal responsibility for being a worthwhile human being with a strong moral compass. If we take the same time to improve our own understanding and behavior that we currently waste on judging others we will begin to see real progress.  We owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens to do better.  Take time and show respect.  All life matters.

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Time in Mind

We take so much for granted that I like to stop sometimes and just breathe.

My great-grandmother Bessie who encouraged my love of reading had a Civil War portrait hanging in her living room.  It was a relative of hers, dashing in full dress uniform ,who would smile at us when we would go to visit. She kept up with current events and minded her health regimen, always interested in the latest and greatest vitamin supplements available.  Books, gardening and crossword puzzles occupied her free time. She painstakingly researched the family tree, spending countless hours at libraries.  Never could she have envisioned something like Ancestry.com.

My  grandmother Berthe lived to be nearly one hundred. She reminisced about growing up on the farm where she remembered the advent of indoor plumbing.  She was a businesswoman, homemaker and renowned cook. In her time she witnessed innovations galore, welcoming marvels like television and microwave ovens.  She loved the newest products in the grocery stores. She gardened and canned and entertained in her later years, always excited by events around the world. Imagine her amazement as a human being stepped onto moon surface.

Grandma has been gone for a relatively short time, less than twenty years.  What blows my mind is all the things she did not have the chance to see.  She would have loved On Demand and Netflix. The cell phones we carry that do not only conduct calls but are in fact miniature computers  would have amazed her. QVC and home shopping? Inconceivable!  Add in our laptops and I-pods… so many miracles of modern technology.

My children mock me for my limited understanding of technology. They have grown up with devices I can barely comprehend. In my own lifetime I remember the first color television coming into the house, the excitement of stereo, 8 track tapes, cam-corders, DVD and Blu-Ray.  Now with a tap of a button I can facetime someone across the world.  The world is so much larger because of these innovations, our ability to reach others unparalleled through time.

Yet we are also regressing as fast as we are progressing.  Not many people have earth knowledge as my ancestors did.  We lack the ability to research the old-fashioned way. We lack patience. Without the shortcuts of modern technology could we create fulfilling lives?  Could we provide for our families and survive in nature as our forefathers could?

When I was a child I perceived America and American history to be an aeon long, my ancestors stretching back in time through forever.  The reality is that a few generations separate us from the earliest settlers. We have lost much of the knowledge and experience they brought to our land, and in many cases we lack the iron determination to shape our own future.  This is a loss which we must endeavor to correct.

Standing atop a castle in Ireland, thanks to modern transportation, I felt thousands of years of history  under my feet.  For the first time as an adult I appreciated how temporary and small our life spans are. Yet how great are our capacities for learning, growth and change.  We must maintain a balance in the now, a welcoming of new technology with an appreciation for and understanding of the old ways.  We are in our lives a bridge.  To hold one side of the knowledge equation without the other is like building castles on quicksand. We must provide our children with true appreciation for history, skills for real survival, and methods of effective communication with which to face their future.

Their time will be upon us before we know it and ours but a memory.  Let us round out our experiences and share with one another so that real life skills and technological advance blend seamlessly, that the beauty of our world with withstand all tests of time.

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The Penis, Mightiest Sword

Being born female I never formed a true understanding of Penile Importance. Yes, the penis is a male physical organ that exists for procreation. But there is so much more, a whole world of situations and opportunities that only a penis seems to satisfy.

I am not writing about sexuality, though it would be remiss of me not to mention it. Yes gentlemen, we are overwhelmed by your swordsmanship.  You and your organ have brought smiles to millions,  satisfying us as only you could.  Many a girl appreciates her erection connection.  Romantic novels, erotic photography and adult movies showcase your hidden talents.  Books from The Kama Sutra to Lady Chatterley’s Lover have made sure that your gifts will not be overlooked.

No, I am concentrating on penis as an object of entertainment.  Most men have granted their appendages names.  Some are sly references to efficiency, others boast of physical size and some are just silly.  Boys find their penises at a very early age.  I was astounded at how entertained my toddlers were.  By early childhood their organs seemed to take on personas of their own.  Perhaps this is due to the external dangle.  The girls I know were far less fascinated by their subtler more hidden parts.

Boys draw penises.  Why?  I never figured it out. Whatever the motivation behind the art such drawings were met with laughter and approval.  I heard friends chortle “That’s hilarious!”  I was not personally amused but fascinated with the male bonding that occurred as a direct result of the well-rendered drawing. I frequently wondered how often teachers encountered these masterpieces in a school environment.  Frequently, I imagine.

There are universal fears among growing boys, one of which is injury to the private parts. Every male I know has at least one story in his arsenal about heroic recovery from testicular assault. Then there are zipper adventures. Shrinkage due to cold water exposure becomes a topic of discussion.  The left or right side packing of the package is another consideration. Width versus length. Can a boy effectively write his name in a snowbank?  I tell you, these are serious issues.

On the lighter side exists the penis joke.  I refer to it in the singular though there are indeed millions of variations.  Women are not the tellers of these anecdotes, unless of course someone dares them to write a blog on the topic.  Men revel in making fun of, threatening, and extolling the virtues of the penis.  Just the topic of size alone fuels enough jibes to fill volumes.  Failure to launch or inappropriate penile behavior inspires more humor.  To men, penises are funny.

Now, they do not want you to find penises funny, unless of course the man generates the mockery himself and invites you to share in the moment.  If however you mock without permission you have committed the most heinous of offenses.  Even the most heartfelt apology does little to repair damage inflicted.  A direct hit upon the penis involves pride, heart and ego.  Tread carefully.

Being born female, I had no idea.  There is etiquette and sensitivity involved, humor and understanding.  My husband and sons have educated me.  A penis does aid in procreation, but also has a personality, history and life of its own. It stands at attention and demands our respect.  You may call it a variety of names, and acknowledge its importance.  It is more than a simple biological organ. Ask any man. It is legend.

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Drama Mama

I teach kids to be dramatic.  Actually, they are already dramatic with a wealth of imagination and natural ebullience.  Even the shyest of my students loves the chance to become another person, even if only for a few moments. I merely coax, and laugh and share their enjoyment of theater and of each other.

My purpose is not to prepare kids for Broadway, though a few may head that way on their own.  Rather I concentrate on the gifts that creative expression brings.  Growing up as a drama kid myself my theater experiences enriched my life, nuancing every fiber of my being. I take my past and present enjoyment of the arts and pay it forward. There are so many great lessons in the dramatic process.

First of all drama teaches empathy.  If the goal is to walk in another’s persona, it makes the actor take a moment and really consider what the exact experience of that character is. Where did they come from?  What are their hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses? What is it that they are trying to say or be or know?  Once a child stops and considers lives from other perspectives a whole new approach to others is possible.  Kids instinctively apply this new skill in their own lives, becoming more socially open as a result.

Communication skills are a critical part of every child’s development.  As a teacher it is my responsibility to create an environment of encouragement, free from fear.  Constructive criticism is expected but it is offered with humor, understanding and affection.   Self expression is a very human need.  Game playing, skit building, sharing and performance all encourage communication.  Once comfortable, kids very much enjoy the connectedness, the sense of belonging and acceptance that comes from sharing their selves with one another.  As they become comfortable, their ease of expression grows.

I love to see my students bloom into confidence. Once they understand how much their contribution is valued they are eager to display what they are capable of and to try new things.   I sincerely want to know how my students feel, and they know it.  I take joy in their accomplishments and appreciate the great moments that I get to be a part of.

My students actually grow to love book reports and oral presentations.  As adults they will know that they can get up and speak at a board meeting.  Public speaking is listed very near the top of American fears, but an enjoyable drama education program can prove that those fears groundless.  Everyone gets nervous.  It’s okay to be nervous.  Those nerves add extra energy and focus to presentation.  We work together to learn that the fear does not have to rule you and that performance can bring true joy.

I love out-of-the-box thinkers and creative risk takers.  Their successes are breathtaking, and when they don’t succeed it was worth the try. It is okay to fail sometimes. Before every performance I ask the kids if the show is going to be perfect.  They all laugh and yell “No!”.  They have learned that live performance rarely if ever goes the way you picture it.  People will forget lines, someone may trip or the sound cues won’t work.  We are not there to be perfect. We are there to have fun, to share the joy of performing as a team.  Failing is part of life.  To learn that life will not end if plans go awry gives children coping mechanisms.  They learn to appreciate the good and less than perfect moments, and how to respond in positive and supportive ways.  They know the show will not be perfect, but when I ask “Are we going to have a blast?” they enthusiastically shout a resounding “YES!”

Mine is not an international program but a small studio in a small town.  Workshop class size is limited, the experience very personal.  I am not getting rich but I am certainly rewarded and fulfilled.  I truly love what I do.  I try my best to foster communication skills, self-confidence and joy in performance.  In return my students bring their energies, imaginations and enthusiasm. Together we cooperate, understand and create.  Drama is improving our world.

 

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