Vacation Anywhere

Man, I would love to go to the Bahamas.  Or cruise off the coast of Greece.  Maybe travel through Italy.  If only my budget agreed.  Nope, my budget says things like “What a nice hometown you have” and “Don’t worry, you will be able to retire someday.”

Who wants to wait for some day?  I refuse to allow my finances tell me I can’t vacation. What do I do?  Several things.

I staycation.  Yup.  Stay put.  But while I am in the same location, I occupy myself with things I enjoy: reading, hiking, finding a new mini-series to watch, go for a nature walk. I treat myself to extra time in the shower and drink my coffee outside in a lawn chair, appreciating the breeze.  I ignore the phone and light candles, build a campfire or pull out a board game. I bring flowers home and cook something out of the ordinary. I create, sing, draw, drink coffee and write.  Housework is strictly forbidden as is paying bills.  If you wish to tidy up do it because it is a source of personal pleasure.  If something is an abhorrent chore to you, resolve to tackle it when your chosen vacation has come to an end.

I take day trips.  There are so many great sites and places to visit within traveling distance of your home.  I have found locations I never knew existed simply by paying closer attention.  Swim and study the stars.  Hunt for salamanders and capture minnows.  Pop a tent, indoors or out. Spend time experiencing local history.  Grab lunch with a friend.

A break does not have to be a week long.  A relaxing swim or soak in a jacuzzi can be a conscious escape from daily worries and stress. My favorite moments often come from activities like reading, which place me mentally in another place. My mind travels as my body relaxes. Sitting by a fire in the evening with a beverage , even for fifteen or twenty minutes can do a body good. You can choose the timing and length of your vacation, but for it to be successful you need to accomplish a few things.

First of all, recognize this is special time that just belongs to you.  Consciously allow worry to recede and focus on whatever your activity or new location is. Be mindful, actively present in the moment. Take time to be grateful for all the positives in your life. Vacation attitude is key.  You decide that this time is unique and special , something to be savored and appreciated. Understand that this is necessary time for you to recharge your battery, so no guilt is allowed.  You deserve happiness.  Create it in your life.

I am returning to work this week after a summer break.  This does not mean I am done with vacationing.  In fact I am already looking forward to my oases of dedicated time. Some of my getaways will be on the weekend, others simply between professional and personal commitments.  Nope.  Won’t be in Disney or Australia, but I don’t need to be.  I can choose to be happy wherever and whenever I wish.



Motherhood is Fierce

The Vikings had nothing on mothers.

There is an innate protective instinct to guard our young.  It is instantaneous reaction. Fears and inhibitions instantly retreat, subservient to the driving need to shelter from harm.  It is not something we ponder over or deliberately choose.  This ferocity simply is.

An enormous dog once threatened my son.  I launched myself at that animal without a second thought.  I have witnessed moms foaming at the mouth in PTA meetings.  We regularly take on other mothers, husbands, neighbors and the domestic elements.  We are a driven population.  Nothing will stand in the way of our child’s wellbeing.

My husband refers to my sons as my cubs. It is an apt description.  Do I recognize their faults?  Oh yes.  However, you had best be careful if you are attempting to belittle one of them in any way.  These are my chosen, my beloved, my responsibility to guard. Like every mom, I will rabidly defend my children to the death if necessary. If you choose to threaten I will roar, gnash teeth and unleash the beast within.

You may fail to recognize the smallest signs of my dedication: the food I select, the clothing I purchase, the recreational activities I arrange. I have constructed a zone of safety wherein my child may flourish.  This is not a function of age or helplessness.  Yes we wrap our newborns in the softest of blankets, nursing them to growth.This is but a launching point, the veriest beginning of lifelong effort. We actively continue on, encouraging and nurturing at every stage.  Long after adulthood has been reached we are still there, our metaphorical blankets ready to enfold.  The empirical demands of motherhood never cease.

Heroes of legend have been born of women who struggled, sacrificed and endured. Endless stories abound of mothers who wrought miracles, who gave life and shaped it against all odds.  We bear witness for those who gave their very lives to ensure their offspring knew survival.  It is not a choice we make.  It is instinct.  It is who we are.

We are warriors.  Our battles range from the smallest of mundane things to acts of great courage. We go through labor to achieve our state and continue our labors for our time on earth.  It is our honor to do so. We listen with open hearts.  We take time to talk out our issues. We cook, clean, argue and defend.  We are present, half of an eternal bond, a sacred trust.  We ensure our children know security. We battle. We endure. We protect. We love. Motherhood is fierce.



Racism Run

You can’t watch the news today without hearing about racism.  Social consciousness is a good thing, and we all should be treated fairly.  Racism exists.  It does and to some degree always will. What I believe, however, is that current dialogue is doing nothing to improve our social situation.  It is merely exacerbating our problems.

For the record I am a white woman.  To many of you that disqualifies me from having a relevant opinion. Not true. I understand my experience is not comparable to a black person’s, nor to my Hispanic husband’s.  I have experienced racism in relation to my ethnic last name.  I expect to experience more as my ethnicity is not deemed diverse enough to qualify for consideration.  Being a white person, I now encounter rhetoric daily that claims any status of white citizens needs to be immediately reduced.

We have been swinging on a pendulum.  Before Martin Luther King, yes, even before slavery days, we have had a problem with fairness.  I would argue that it is not simply skin tones but economic circumstances of many peoples who have had to fight to earn their social status.  Women fought and still do, as do many ethnicities including Japanese who once inhabited internment camps, the Irish who were acknowledged as scum of the earth immigrants, the Italians who scrapped and scraped their way to prominence, and the list goes on and on.  We are all descendants of various races and there is not a heritage among us that does not carry a fair amount of injustice within it.

That being said, we have come a very long way.  We made real, measurable and solid progress as a nation. We have a black president now and a woman on the presidential ticket.  Americans as a people should be proud of the strides they have taken.  Not only were we the first nation to legally abolish the practice of slavery, we also have a proven history of correcting inequality as it arises in any way we can.  We have implemented multiple policies , scrutinized our educational systems and actively worked for decades in the pursuit of equality.  The women’s gymnastic team in our recent Olympic Games was a portrait of diversity.

My children have relatives of all skin tones. They accepted children of all races without question.  Color simply wasn’t relevant. I was grateful that the shows they watched, starting with Sesame Street, reinforced that concept. Growing up in the generation before in a rural location, I was largely unaware of how diverse our population was and appreciated that PBS among other stations presented thoughtful, relevant and inclusive programming. Our children are more educated and accepting than we were.  They are aware of ethnicity and have learned to appreciate varied culture.  And yet they remain American.  Having an American identity matters.

Let us face facts. Americans should foremost be Americans.  We live together, work together, play together and where your ancestors came from has nothing to do with it.  We were almost to the point, though there were still inequalities that needed to be addressed, when peoples were living in harmony, working together to achieve the common good. We took pride in our families, friends and neighbors.  We sought to be productive citizens. We saluted the flag and it was not considered offensive.  In fact being a citizen was something to be proud of.  We celebrated diversity and understood the concept of being part of the “melting pot”.  We lived in America and that was our common ground.

The pendulum however swung too far.  We are no longer simply Americans but are becoming a nation of individuals, each with a loud list of demands.  There are parades to celebrate every difference, protests  against the common. The minority has greater voice than the majority.

Be proud of your heritage.  I am certainly proud of mine.  But to put your heritage first, as a criteria by which all others are measured is unreasonable.  To use past history and claim rights to reparations  for sins committed by ancestors is unreasonable.  To assume that every minority should be empowered and the majority silenced is not only unreasonable but actually harmful.  It is racism all over again, separatism revisited, and the death of true democracy.

My liberal Democratic friends would define my stance as heinous and insensitive.  To my way of thinking, ironically, the media and the liberal thinkers are doing the most damage. Their intentions are honorable, as they are in favor of social fairness, but their emphasis on putting the individual agenda first is tearing the fabric of our nation.

Why?  Because we need to work together as a people, to sacrifice some of the personal to gain progress for the whole.  We can be individuals with our own histories.  We are individuals.  When, however, we begin to assign value to our identities based on race or history we are repeating the mistakes of the past.  I disagree with much of what the media proclaims.  I am no fan of the Black Lives Matter movement.  People say this automatically qualifies me as a racist.  Not true.  The opposite is true.  All life matters, period. To run an organization titled on a racial basis is divisive.  To harp on our differences and inequalities is divisive. The more emphasis we put on difference the angrier the rhetoric becomes, the more volatile the demonstrations. Videos of incensed protesters litter the internet.

We live in a time when the social pressure to conform is immense.  It is constant angry buzzing discussion, ending in statements like “Well, if you don’t stand for this then you are a (insert derogatory term of choice here)”.   This is not helpful.  As good as it feels to stand on a soapbox sometimes, the real skills we need are listening and cooperation.  We need calm, not outrage, and intelligence as well as emotion.  Perhaps most of all,  we need to be really careful of the terms we use in defining each other. We are all human and not one of us perfect.

Hilary Clinton frequently calls Donald Trump a racist and bigot.  Yet her own political history is littered with incidents that meet the definition of these terms.  Trump is not the most tactful of men. Hasty words have gotten him into trouble. It is clearly the most impassioned, least logical election to take place in my lifetime. The political atmosphere is very like a witch hunt. Everyone is ready to point fingers, condemn and be righteously indignant.  No matter who your chosen candidate is, the rhetoric is inflammatory and divisive.

We face enormous political challenges ahead.  Our system is designed so that (at least theoretically) people of differing opinions or alternate parties have the opportunity to work together for the betterment of our nation.  Checks and balances, yes, but utter angry gridlock, no.  Inflammatory race rhetoric may be swaying votes but it helps no one.  It encourages the very judgements and behaviors that it professes to be fixing.

Running elections is a difficult process and anything that sways voters will find its way into the spotlight.  Aggressively revisiting largely settled topics like that of race, and emphasizing the negative is not progress.  It is not social awareness.  It is not working towards the common good or adding to our society in a positive way.  It is instigating unrest, aggravating the citizenry, spawning new aggression. This path leads back to the darkest places we crawled from, threatening to undo years of positive progress.

There are so many topics, urgent matters that should be under active discussion. We are hurrying toward many a crisis, and yet here we are, our focus skillfully distracted, turned inward in examination of ideals we already know to be true.  Like squabbling children we revisit arguments won in previous decades, neglecting to look forward at obstacles hurtling into our future. We are fast losing the race to become a unified enlightened nation.


Teachers Serve

Some teachers mark you for life.  They inspire in an unexpected way, leaving an indelible imprint on who you choose to eventually be. Not all lessons you learn in school are academic. Not all messages teachers send are intentional.

I had a phenomenal English teacher in high school.  Her passion for literature and excitement over writing had me putting forth my best efforts, totally engaged in the classroom.  I had always been an avid reader who loved to write.  She honed my skills and taught me how to better express myself.  She added fuel to my artistic fire, forever cementing my love of the subject.

I became an English teacher myself in hope that I too could share my passion.  As part of my training I was required to do a series of academic observations in the classroom, shadowing teachers on their daily rounds.  Of course I decided my mentor should be one of those I followed.  She did have more to teach, but not at all how I expected.

I arrived at school, we had our moment of nostalgia and moved into the first class of the day, which was an honors English course.  The subject was Edgar Allen Poe, and I sat in the back listening and smiling, witnessing the growing enchantment as students fought for deeper understanding of the material. It was just as engaging as I remembered. Hands avidly shot into the air to answer questions, colorful opinions clashing.  Students read passages aloud to support their points, eager to share their insights.  The hour flew.

The next hour belonged to a basic English language skills course.  We carried our bags in and placed them on the desk in front of the classroom.  My mentor reached into her briefcase and removed a set of mimeographed sheets to distribute.  She leaned in and whispered, “These are my cabbages.  It is the longest hour of the day but a good opportunity to grade papers.”  Wait- What?

There were no questions during this period.  In fact there was no interaction at all to speak of.  The teacher distributed paperwork to be completed with no talking allowed.  She merrily graded essays from the students she had last period while dully complacent kids struggled to complete sheets on basic grammar.  When they finished, which most did not, they were told to take out the evening’s homework and get started.

Who was this person?  What had happened to the sparkling enthusiasm of an hour ago?  I smiled at the students as they shuffled out, some of them nodding politely back at me.  “Alright, that’s done with,” the teacher muttered with a twist of her lips.  I followed her to the next session, which involved more paperwork.  She did take questions and address this group but her patience was minimal, answers short and clipped.  The final class I attended was another round of Honors English. She was a completely different person, animated, sparkling and performing, drawing verbal caricatures of Ahab and his obsessions.  I thanked her for sharing the day with me and left in a daze.

I was outraged. I felt betrayed, shattered by ugly revelation. Yes, she was an amazing teacher to those who could rise to her preferred level of understanding. Those challenged or those she deemed lacking imagination or ability were left in the dust. The greatness I admired had more to do with her own ego than any true desire to instruct.  Successful students were a reflection of her own brilliance. The less successful were not worthy of her time or attention.

Cabbages?  How dare she. Each and every student is a person deserving of respect without exception. Minds belong to individuals who need warmth, support and understanding. They are our responsibility , entrusted to our care.  We exist to serve their needs, to brush upon their canvases the knowledge, aid, and  humanity we can share. Teachers exist to serve, support and nurture.We are a vital part of development, and students soak up messages like a sponge.  The influence we wield need be positive.

Honors students will learn in spite of us.  They are academically successful because they seek knowledge.  The students most in need of direction and support is where teacher input is critical.  Those faltering and in need of help are counting on us to guide them.   If they are treated as unworthy, that is the lesson we impart.

As part of my educational instruction I was required to write an assessment of each teacher I observed.  My favorite teacher of all time received my worst evaluation. Don’t misunderstand.  She gave me many hours of joy and launched me onto my chosen career path. I remain grateful for all that she taught me, including her final lesson. Teaching is not about ego.  It is about service.





Novel Confession

Okay, okay, so I admit it.  I love a well written romance novel.  Even more I love a great fantasy series, one that creates an exciting new world packed with colorful beings. Elves, faeries, wizards and mystical creatures are my jam.  Paranormal romances?  Oh yeah. Vampires, magic wielders, ghosts and grave minders…I devour every page.

Do I have a degree in English?  Yes, I do.  I have analyzed multiple poets, scrutinized Shakespeare and visited Milton’s Paradise Lost. I have written essays, hundreds of them, on what makes a certain piece unique or memorable. Yes, I really do understand what makes a literary piece withstand the test of time. I even went to grad school. I am an educated adult. So?  I like to indulge my appetites.

Lust is an entertaining concept.  Who doesn’t like to fantasize or exercise their imagination?  My mind travels to new kingdoms and I vicariously live through characters whose world experience is vastly different from my own, yet whose emotional rollercoaster rides are relatable. Obstacles are faced, dragons vanquished or in many cases unexpectedly prove to be the hero. I love surprise and excitement. Don’t you?

These books are trite, you argue.  Stereotypical sometimes.  Shallow, lacking true artistic flair or literary depth.  Yes, some books fit this criteria.  Others are like undiscovered treasures simply waiting for you to unearth the wonder.  George RR Martin has been busy proving that such adventures can be vastly entertaining , just as JRR Tolkien did in the past.  How fortunate we are to live in a time when endless reading choices are available to all.  There are so many amazing authors, teeming with originality, vision and literary talent.

If however, you are too full of your own importance and are busy being a literary snob, you will never experience them. I still revere Shakespeare and Poe.  I am not cheating on the classics.  My education only enhances my appreciation. I can love Geoffrey Chaucer and J.R. Ward at the same time. The Bronte Sisters were but a beginning.  Sherrilynn Kenyon, Nora Roberts, JK Rowling and Laurel K Hamilton… the list and scope is endless!  The best part?  They all bring pleasure. More than you can imagine. Shocking. I know.

Though they suffer the slings and arrows of educational misfortune, the fact is popular books are popular for a reason.  Be adventurous.  Dip your toe in the scandal pool. Indulge. Cater to your whimsical side.  Read, and read whatever you want without fear of judgement. Adventure, imagine, explore, escape but go…entire worlds await.

fantasy 2

Free to Be

I wear makeup daily,  try to wrestle my weight down a pound or two and fluff and spray my hair into place. I keep my clothing at least somewhat current.  I mother, teach and wife. I work and sometimes housekeep.  I pay bills, maintain relationships and actively try to live a positive life.

Unless I am at the lake.  Notice that frumpy woman in a lounge chair with a book?  She has left the bed unmade and dishes on the coffee table. She hasn’t answered a phone in days. She hasn’t solved anyone’s problems.  Her hair and skin are lacking product. What on earth is she wearing?  A cotton lounger that resembles a worn out t-shirt? And she is barefoot. Yup, she is hardcore frumping it up.  That woman is me.  I am loving life.

It is a glorious thing to free yourself of expectation.  We worry too much.  What if someone sees me?  What will that person think of me?  The real question should be who cares?  It is nice to think of ourselves putting our best foot forward.  It’s also good to take pride in our appearance, but we need to remember that looks are a very shallow indicator of our person.

Somewhere along the way women seem to lose perspective.  We feel it is our responsibility to maintain a polished appearance whenever possible.  Maybe it’s age creeping up on me but I am less inclined to worry about how I look.  I worry about who I want to be.  I worry about what I want to accomplish. If you are not oohing and ahhhing, if you are put off by my lack of polish, oh well. My concern is to be at peace with myself, to feel at one with the world and the people I value within it.  And you wouldn’t guess it by the number of times I have purchased and applied it, but mascara is irrelevant.

My authentic self loves to feel the sun on her skin and wind in her hair.  She may not look great in a bathing suit but she sure does love the water.  She loves to laugh and eat good food, enjoy the stars and warm up with a crackling campfire.  She frolics and plays games, reads and writes.  She thinks a lot.  She admits that shopping is her guilty pleasure and Christmas by far her favorite holiday. She is ageless. She feels relaxed and happy  which ironically also makes her feel prettier. The lake is one of her happy places, but all of her best locations include her husband, children, relatives and friends. She is grateful and loves her life.  At the lake she is simply herself and she is free.

Free makes me happy.  I will return to day to day expectations. I will present a professional appearance when I go to work. I will problem solve once more and pay the bills.  But hidden deep down in the heart of myself remains a still quiet place where the lake girl lives. She peeks out more and more these days, caring less about expectation and more about contentment.  I like her. She knows what does and doesn’t matter, and what real living means.




Class Dismissed

Something is missing in today’s youth: the concept of class.

From a political standpoint this is an excellent thing, but when it comes to training and manners, we are falling woefully short in certain areas. The problem with progress is that when we discard a concept, sometimes we throw away more than we intend. Hmmm…this is difficult to explain, but I will try to marshal my thoughts and look at this issue as it affects girls growing up today.

In Victorian times, Edwardian, or even going as far back as the Puritans, women were taught to emulate a set of rules that were associated with being proper, better educated, or at its most socially incorrect, better bred. Clearly, no one wants a return to those times. The feminine freedoms we have today were gained through hard fought battle. Modern women are fortunate to exist in a fairer time, free to experience more equal society.  We know that morally or through heredity, there is no such thing as one human that is intrinsically better than another. At least in America, social class distinctions have largely been erased.  Hallelujah!

There are ideas from those times, however, that contain value. Aspiring to be a better woman, to learn manners and appropriate conduct are noble goals. My grandmother and mother instructed me to “be a lady”.  In the early 1960’s this translated into dressing appropriately for functions, minding the words used to express oneself, knowing where to draw boundaries between the public and the private , and the importance of manners. There was always a definite right and wrong choice and I was expected to be able to distinguish between the two extremes. I was raised to give thought to my actions, and I was expected to behave in a way that reflected well not only on my self but on my family.

Moral relativism is more common today.  The world appears less black and white, our children negotiating shades of grey, encouraged to consider all perspectives without judgement.  Appropriate dress is much less important, clothing less formal and certainly less restrictive as time moves on.  Language is colorful.  Individualism is king, personal expression a revered right.  Technology has opened up the world, connecting us in new ways. The media has considerable influence on development, and programming that would have been unthinkable in past eras is now commonplace. Traditional family structure has changed. Our views on love, intimacy and marriage are irrevocably altered.

This is progress, and much of it is an improvement.  Yet something was lost when we tossed the old rules out the window.  We sacrificed a certain innocence, a set of behavioral guidelines that defined social structure, as well as losing an underlying sense of respect for ourselves and others.  What on earth would make me say that?

Well, my examples are from modern experience in educational environments. I admit to being shocked when a pre-school parent informed me that her child was encouraged to masturbate at nap times to encourage body awareness, and that she expected her child to be free to do so during the school day without restriction. There has been emphasis on the subject of school bullying but not as it presents in parents in dealing with teachers. I can testify that there are many aggressive parents.  Ask any sports coach witnessing sideline conduct at sporting events.  Often it is the adults present who are so focused and engaged rooting on their own child’s cause that they neglect the rules of good sportsmanship.  Boisterous arguments with coaches or fellow observers spontaneously erupt, some that  devolve into physical altercations.

Chaperoning a middle school dance I was truly appalled to see young girls grinding on their partners, though their peers expected nothing less.  Walking through modern halls I am saddened by student choice of clothing, some provocative, much simply careless.  Conferences with parents are often unattended by one or both parents who are too busy elsewhere to participate.  Social websites are easily available,  arranging meetings for all and sundry and are booming with business, much of it from our teenagers. Posts are made anonymously under screen names that hide identity. Because of ever evolving technologies many parents remain unaware of what there children are doing online.

Kids celebrate individuality but struggle to find common ground. There is an atmosphere of accusation and defensiveness. Everyone is hyper conscious of offending others, “safe spaces” and “triggering” common terms.  Yet students feel free, in fact are somewhat encouraged to speak derogatorily of government, parents, staff and peers alike.  We cannot mention holidays on public property or salute our flag yet individual sexuality is publicly pronounced and celebrated. It is fashionable to loudly express opinions.  At high school level, whether you are informed is less important than the ability to be viewed as conforming to current fashionable rhetoric. Ironically, this pressure to be seen as socially aware and liberally minded is its own stricture, noncompliant students facing loud public ostracism.  In some ways the freedom to think as an individual is more limited now than in times past.

It truly is a tough, confusing time to be parent, teacher, or concerned citizen.  With the current emphasis on total individual freedom there is a void, a vacuum where we are unsure of where or how to enforce rules. Losing rules can free us but it can also do the opposite: trap us in a world where we need to make our way and lack a road map.  Imagine the confusion of today’s teen negotiating her way through cacophonous mixed messages. Face to face communication, questions and differing viewpoints are largely restricted because of public pressure to conform to modern standards.  It is not simply the family or even friends but mass media exposure that is largely supplying those standards.  And in many ways, though we have benefitted from freedoms, we have erased limitations that kept our youth, particularly women, protected.

Take an obvious example of generational social change: our attitudes towards sex. We must acknowledge that sexual freedom carries risks of pregnancy and disease, not to mention our kids facing situations they are not yet prepared for, from potentially dangerous unwanted personal encounters to the simply awkward morning after walks of shame. There are consequences to our choices, physically, socially and emotionally. It is too late to put the genie back in the bottle. No one wishes to revisit 1950. Instead it is more important than ever that we revisit the concept of class.

Having class implies that you conduct yourself with dignity.  You do not lower yourself to indulge base instinct but choose to take the high road, the measured choice.  Reason takes precedence over emotion. That is not to say you lack feeling, but rather you elect to express your feelings in a socially acceptable way. You avoid scandal whenever possible. A classy person embodies sophistication, elegance and refinement.  Class implies a code of ethics to which you adhere, a set of internal guidelines that determine how you express yourself and interact with others.

As pertains to sex, exhibiting class means making conscientious and deliberate choices.  It means not only demonstrating respect for others but also carrying boundaries within yourself that you need to adhere to for the sake of self-respect.  For women it means that it is not only acceptable but desirable to set personal boundaries.  This does not equate to eternal virginity.  Rather, class necessitates putting reason behind our action. It makes our choices less casual.  Intimacy in turn gains a level of respect and importance that is somewhat lacking in current society.

In previous generations, privacy mattered.  Getting to know potential partners mattered. It took time to establish real connection, and the time that it took was appreciated, fraught with romantic uncertainty and excitement. Swipe right or left situations did not exist. Parents enforced curfews and questioned whereabouts. You dressed so that it expressed your individuality but also indicated that you held yourself in high esteem. Today if we mention the seeming inappropriateness of attire we are “slut-shaming”. Then, we shuddered at the thought that someone might perceive us as being easy, and took that into account when choosing our clothing.

In my generation our families set down clear expectations for our behavior.  If we acted outside these boundaries, we would be called upon to defend our actions.  If we were disciplined at school, we were often punished again for our transgression at home.  This common set of shared behavioral expectations reinforced accountability . Mom said to do your homework and be respectful. If you did not comply, word returned home via the teacher.  School and parent cooperatively functioned to discipline and instruct. The student learned that their code of behavior applied outside the home.

By the way, we were expected to address teachers and adults by their titles, using Mr. and Mrs. as a sign of generational respect.  We did not have teachers attired in jeans urging us to call them by nicknames.  The current informality is engaging yet removes some of the professional mystique, as well as the sense of inherent respect given to those who trained for their positions.  Likewise our focus on celebrating the individual has diminished our capacity to see ourselves as common citizens who share not only physical space but similar lifestyles and beliefs. Our focus is not on the similar within each other but on what makes us different.

Of course back then we knew how to swear and did it very well.  But we also understood when we  could use colorful language and when it was deemed socially inappropriate.  To pepper our speech with curses demonstrated lack of education and manners.  Because of this, the moments we chose to use colorful words held power.  We gave our language emphasis rather than using profanity as verbal placeholder.

Even table manners were important, but of course we usually ate at tables with our families at a designated hour.  If you were spending a night at a friends, you endeavored to eat everything that was offered with a polite smile and effusive thanks, whether or not the food was to your taste.  Guest rules mattered if you were to be invited into someone’s home or were hosting a gathering yourself.  Likewise it was polite to pitch in with any work.  Picking up after yourself meant you were properly trained, and respectful of shared surroundings.

What is the point of this walk down memory lane?  Sometimes remembering reminds us of important facts. Formality has a function.  Rules exist for a reason. Respect is a critically important value, essential to our success not only as individuals but as a society.  In celebrating the individual and freedom we must remember that our ancestors ways, although different from ours, still had value. Perhaps we should check ourselves on occasion and make sure that we did not, as grandma used to say, throw the baby out with the bath water.  Perhaps we should  endeavor to resurrect some past values that improved our society.

Were people better in times gone by? Did old-fashioned parents perform better than their current counterparts?  Not necessarily.  We produce winners and losers in every generation. I know parents who are doing or have done a tremendous job negotiating the modern landscape. They have raised amazing children, fully equipped for success as productive adults.  How do they manage?  What is it that these parents do?

First of all they take time to fully parent.  They are present and actively engaged in their children’s lives.  They listen as well as speak.  They teach their children to take pride in their accomplishments, that hard work and determination matter.  They address the difficult issues, and face difficulties head on. They acknowledge that their children have faults and teach them how to listen to their own internal voices , to recognize their strengths and weaknesses.  They set rules and expect their children to live up to them.  They teach humility.  They teach that there is a clear difference between right and wrong and that it is important to take a stance for what you believe in.  They emphasize qualities of friendship and citizenship.  They focus on the positive whenever possible but are unafraid to voice the negative when necessary. They comfort, reassure and discipline. They love.

Not to sound like an old curmudgeon but I am glad my children are grown.

When I have a granddaughter I expect to be politically incorrect. Yes, I will marvel at her beauty inside and out. I will share soft quiet moments with her. I will encourage her to be strong and carry herself with pride. She should be adventurous and bold when warranted, unafraid to voice her own opinion. I will hope my granddaughter is true to herself and that she will respect her family, her teachers, her co-workers and peers. I will hope she has a personal code of honor and maintains ethical boundaries, able to recognize the difference between right and wrong. I will urge her to work hard. I will remind her that she always has choices, and a responsibility to face the consequences of whatever choices she makes. I will always love her. She must learn to love herself, to accept and appreciate the quirks and foibles that make her unique.  But be warned: Even though she will know how special she is and how precious she is to me, I will expect her to conduct herself with class. I will expect her to be a lady.


modern class



Outside the Fairytale

Womanhood begins in the innocent heart.  As little girls we gaze at the Disney princesses and listen to tales of true love.  Hidden in the magic and wonder there is an outline of a happy life plan:  Be good.  Be beautiful, and if you are among the lucky you will meet the prince of your dreams, have babies and live happily ever after.

Real life teaches us that it is not so simple.  Men and women alike are flawed creatures. We bring history, emotional needs and baggage into our relationships.  Few of us are physically perfect. Princes have foibles and princesses are not always reasonable.  A walk down an aisle in a beautiful ballgown does not necessarily lead to happiness. Poverty or riches do not guarantee success or happiness. Communication and connection skills are more complicated than leaving a glittering shoe behind on a set of castle stairs.

Yet there are those lucky enough, myself among them, to actually find true love.  It is not always easy.  While there are definitely moments and memories that live up to the fairytale ideal, there are also moments Hans Christian Andersen never dreamt of.  And that is okay.  That is real life.

I raised four little princes, who are now busy selecting their princesses and preparing to lead their own kingdoms. To all future queens I offer the following advice: If you truly wish to find happiness, keep the romantic alive in your hearts.  Revel in the time you share with your king and enjoy every moment of your shared lives.  But also remember that life is not a fairytale.  Your particular dragons to slay may include very unglamorous tasks. Balancing checkbooks, enduring bouts of colic and chicken pox, dealing with aging parents … myriad day to day heroic challenges exist. If you remember to look, the magic is still there but may need active help to resurface. Extend the effort. Work to keep humor alive. Cultivate patience and nourish understanding. Remember that the love and lives you share are precious.  There truly is magic in the mundane.  You simply have to be willing to see it.

Remember that your life is your own story and that you are responsible for the ending.

For those of us who have met the traditional expectations of marrying and having children, the authors really didn’t spend much time on later life detail.  There is no guide but a blanket “happily ever after”.  Women in their later years watch their children fly the nest and face a blank slate, thinking “what is my purpose now?  I have gone as far as the stories took us…is this it?  Is my life finished?”

Of course not!  This time is an opportunity to shed fairytale expectation.  We are not archetypes but individual women with personalities, professional and personal lives.  Our happily ever after can be whatever we wish.  I am glad the authors left room for interpretation.  We are essential complex beings.  We often put the needs of our families ahead of our own and that is an honorable path.  Yet we exist as women outside of our family roles. We have the right to our own goals and personal fulfillment.

I enjoy every aspect of being a wife and mother.  I am excited to become a grandmother. I love every moment of family life. That is my emotional base from which I extend my being. I am also really excited for new professional opportunities that have been cropping up. My job satisfies my creative urges. I look forward to travel.  I have found time to write, read, think and grow. I have made time for romance.

Fairytale princesses are two dimensional. I am a real woman. I have taken the best from the tales that fit my own dreams, and stepped outside of childhood perception to add layers and meaning to my existence.  My sense of self provides a unique roadmap that works in the everyday. It is possible to live a fairytale life in the real world. I know. I am living the happily ever after. It is pure adventure.




We all chug along day to day minding our schedules and getting life accomplished.  For some the focus is on family responsibility, for others an occupation. Bills need paying, children have needs, spouses have expectations.  There is always that one thing we can’t seem to get to: the dishes that should have been done, that last homework assignment that needed more time than you allowed, the car that really needs an oil change. There aren’t enough hours in the day.  There is always more that could have, should have or won’t get done. We move these items to the following day’s list, and keep on keeping on.

Step off the treadmill.  Take a much needed detour.  Ditch the schedule, if only for a day or two.  Why?  Because you deserve it.  Life is short and our lists too long.  We usually place our own need to relax and unwind at the bottom of our priorities, if it even makes the list at all.  How glorious the moment you choose to sidestep your ordinary path to pursue the destination of your choice.

For me today that choice is to add an unexpected day of relaxation at a lake.  I don’t have grand plans or any predestined things I have to do.  I am taking a day to recharge the battery of my soul, to simply be quiet, rest and relax.  I might read and will most likely swim, eat when I feel like it and let my mind wander.  Televisions and telephones are unnecessary.  I wish to be totally unplugged from the daily routine.  I am breathing and watching the sky. I am. That is all I need for today.

The peace reminds me to appreciate the things I often take for granted.  My mind drifts along at a lazy place, remembering moments with family members that brought me joy. The cool water on my skin is a gift on this muggy day. I float with the lake breeze gently caressing my face.  I dry off when I am ready and sip a coffee, appreciating the green and blue hues of the pines across the way.  A gorgeous blue heron takes flight and soars above me, its elegant wings gracefully flapping.  A child’s laugh echoes over the water.  The sun’s gentle warmth feels good on my skin.

From days like this in my past I have learned a few things.  The bills will still be waiting when I return. My house will still need cleaning.  Yet nothing will worsen in my short absence and much will improve.  Upon my return I will re-enter the fray refreshed, with renewed focus.  I will attack my problems with a more positive attitude, and accomplish whatever needs to be done. The sense of inner peace and balance that my detour restored make me more effective.  My sense of humor and perspective will be renewed. Any lingering negativity in my life will have diminished, dimmed by a renewed sense of strength and hope.

Nature and solitude are my well of refreshment, but there are so many ways to rejuvenate yourself.  Perhaps a long ride in the car is your answer, or a day shopping or at the beach. Picnics, a good book or flying a kite can work as do an hour in the garden, or a night out with friends.  Whatever lets you connect with your best self, whatever reminds you of your inner child is an appropriate option.  Even if you can only steal an hour here or there the reward is worth it.

We work to treat others in our lives with love and respect.  We should do no less for ourselves.  There is no place for guilt in this process.  It is not only okay to take time simply for your self, it is an important part of well-being.  The world deserves a rested, refreshed you at your best, renewed and ready to shine.  Let that laundry pile wait one more day. The world will not stop spinning. You can pick your schedule back up whenever you are ready.  Most of it will wait if you let it. Go ahead.  Take some time. You deserve it. Sidestep. Take a spontaneous detour. It is glorious!


lake sunset

Shoreline with pine trees and rocks, Sand Harbor, East Shore, Lake Tahoe, Nevada. USA