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Musing

The more I learn about God, the less I know. I listen. I study. I have so many questions.

I don’t think of God in the same way as I did when I was a kid. I believe that there are a lot more components to what I was taught while growing up, many more facets to what is spiritually acceptable and what is not.

It’s a little frightening to think this way. Hellfire for stepping over the human-drawn line is always lurking in my subconscious, but I’m learning to let my God-given intuition lead me rather than spoon-fed religion that made me paranoid and anxious. I’m learning to trust that voice within.

I’m giving myself the freedom to learn who I am, spiritually and metaphysically. I am a Christian, that has not changed one bit. What has changed is that I’m going to accept what I’ve been given, what I’ve known since I was small, to explore my potential without fear or restriction. I’m going to stop fighting it. What I learn leads to more questions, but it’s a delicious treasure hunt.

Amen.

 

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‘Fessing Up

Confession time… I’m a snob. Yep, a full-fledged snob. I freely admit it, although it can be embarrassing at times, but owning our faults is a good thing, right? Except I’m not altogether sure that I’m wrong on this.

What kind of snob, you ask? The worst kind, as it turns out.

I’m a history snob.

I wasn’t always this way. I didn’t know any better when I was a kid. It really didn’t start kicking in until I was around sixteen and I started learning about real period clothing (By the way, period clothing means clothing specific to a certain time period and has nothing to do with that time of the month, in case you were wondering.). I began modeling for my friend, Jackie, who owns her own period clothing company, and learned what was accurate and what was not. It turns out that a lot of so-called “historic clothing” is not historic at all. I had had no clue. I realized that my 5th grade costume for the field trip to Greenfield Village had been a total sham and I cringed in shame. The seeds of my snobbery had been sewn.

When I started working at Greenfield Village, it steadily got worse. A group of farm friends went to see the new movie, The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore. For the length of the movie, our boss pointed out every inaccuracy, down to the hinges on boxes. I was fascinated, and a little irritated. Why did they (meaning Hollywood) do everything wrong? Why couldn’t they do it right? Ugh. I was turning into an early version of the snob I am today.

It only intensified. I read, I studied, I went to museum conferences and learned so many cool things about clothing, social customs, animal husbandry, farming and farm tools, and of course, my forte: historic hair styles.

I regret nothing.

My snobbery is the reason why I can’t get into shows like The Tudors. I hate twisted history, especially when the real history is so much more exciting. I mean, seriously, if people really read the story of the real Tudor family it would blow them away. It has all of the things people want on Netflix anyway: sex, knights, sex, beautiful princesses, sex, murder, sex, betrayal, sex. You get the idea.

My big problem with inaccurate history is that people believe it. It’s not their fault, they don’t know any better, and the “history” is presented in such an attractive way that they think it’s really cool and spread it around. This is how rumors get started and we get stories like George Washington chopping down the cherry tree or we make a rat like Columbus into a hero or wear god-awful Civil War-style clothing.

Shows like The Crown and Downton Abbey give me hope, though. There is such attention paid to detail and social norms of the time and I find it refreshing. Of course, they’re not perfect, but they give a much truer portrayal of life in those times than many other shows and movies.

So there it is. I came clean with one of my (many) issues. There are no support groups that can help me and I don’t think I’d go anyway. Now, it’s your turn.

What are you a snob about? Time to ‘fess up.

Beautiful Things

Coming out of a deep, but thankfully short, depression hole a couple of nights ago, I was reminded again to take in the beauty around me and to be thankful.

I love looking at the sky. I always have, no matter what the weather. I love the moon in all of its phases, the clear perfect blue of a crisp autumn morning, even the tempestuous storm clouds as they angrily dance by.

This morning, the sunrise was stunning as I was driving to work. Streaks of blue, pink, gold, purple, and orange blended together to take my breath away. The Detroit skyline was in the distance and wispy, pink-edged clouds were beginning to fill in for the rain that will come later today.

I was amazed, even though I’ve seen many sunrises. They never get old. God is a wonderful artist.

I was happy.

May you find something today that takes your breath away. If you do, tell me about it.

Who Are You?

Where do you come from?

Who are you?

Have you ever stopped to think what you’ve inherited from your parents? Your grandparents? Not monetary things or objects, but what makes you you. Your hair? Your eyes? Your sense of humor? Have you ever tried to sort out what you got from whom? Youngest Child looks like the male version of me and feels all of my deep feels. Middle Child says that he has my road rage. He definitely has my sense of humor and laughs like my uncle when he gets going. Oldest Child looks scarily like my father and has a combination of personality traits from Marty and me.

I thought about it after I was telling someone about where I got my (lack of) height, a definite gene from my maternal grandfather, who was also vertically challenged. Ordinarily, I don’t think that I have much in common with him besides that and then I tried to think what else there could be. However, I did come up with a few fun things.

  • My propensity for using mild swear words often. Grandpa used to use “damn” and “hell” a lot, especially when watching or listening to baseball and football. Watching him yell at the TV or radio during a game was always entertaining for us when we were kids. My brothers and I used to call them “Grandpa Nick words”. I don’t (voluntarily) watch sports, but I admit to using Grandpa Nick words quite often, especially from driving. I do use stronger words, but not as often. Grandpa Nick words are the way to go.
  • My temper, often punctuated by Grandpa Nick words.
  • Possibly my hair color. Both of my grandfathers had dark hair. My grandmothers both had light hair, so one of them is the culprit.
  • Not a gene, but my enjoyment of playing baseball. I don’t like watching a lot of sports, but I do like to play. Grandpa used to pitch to us in the yard and I carried on that tradition with my kids. I remember him when we play.

That’s probably not all he passed down to me, but he wasn’t a talker so it’s hard for me to know. He was quiet when there wasn’t a game on, but he did a lot for me throughout my life, including paying for cosmetology school when I couldn’t pay for college on my own.

I look a lot like my father’s side of the family. My cousins and I all look similar, like we could be siblings. I have my grandma’s attitude about cleaning and I’m a sucker for any animal, including the injured skunk I convinced my mother to drive to an emergency vet when I was a teenager.

My great-grandmother was involved in theatre, just like me.

According to my mother, I’ve said a lot of lot things similar to what my father has said. I never met him. I have my mother’s laugh.

I find it all amazing, these links. Seeing and learning all of these things makes me feel connected to my past, to my history.

I’m not alone. I came from somewhere.

Where did you come from?

Tell me.

Another school year is beginning, for some it already has. I am in my 9th year of teaching, not counting two years of subbing, student teaching, and several years of teaching classes at The Henry Ford. It’s safe to say that I’ve been working with kids for a long time. There are some things I’ve learned along the way to help you and your kid have a successful school year. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I hate sugarcoating so here we go.

  1. Make reading a priority in your home. I have SO many kids who do not come from a reading background and it shows. Read to your kids when they’re small and continue it as they get older. Reading is so incredibly important in school, so put the electronics away and make them read. Start small and gradually increase the time they spend on a book, it doesn’t matter what the genre is an show them that you read, too. Your example is the most important thing.
  2. Help them improve their attention span. I have middle schoolers who can’t focus for more than a couple of minutes on a daily basis. Do they have ADHD? No, they’ve just never been taught to stick with something. Now, I do have kids with ADD and ADHD who legitimately have trouble focusing, but a lot of the kids I teach don’t have an attention span because they’ve never been taught to have a work ethic. Give them jobs at home that they have to complete until the end, until they get the job done. Life skill.
  3. Teach them to respect. We teachers can handle a lot of things. Your child is struggling in English, math, science, social studies? We can handle that, it’s our job. It’s what we do. But when we have kids who routinely curse us out, I’m talking daily, openly talk back in class for no reason, and shamelessly lie, it makes our job ridiculously difficult. If you allow your child to be disrespectful to you at home and or to other people, they will be disrespectful at school.  Please, please, please teach your child how to speak and act respectfully, not just to adults, but to everyone, including you. I don’t mean that you should teach them to be a submissive little mouse, but if I had a dollar for every time a child openly challenged me at school, I’d be a rich woman. Learning how to treat others and situations with respect is a HUGE life skill. Look, kids are going to test limits, we teachers know that, but when you don’t back us up or worse, you take your kid’s side when he or she has been an absolute brat, you are teaching them that it’s okay to abuse people. Chances are, by the time we call you, we’ve already tried a lot of strategies. I’ve actually had parents tell their children, right in front of me, that they believe their child over anything I had to say and that’s true for a lot of my colleagues, too. That only teaches your kids that they have the power to behave any way they want and won’t receive any consequences. The trouble with that is a boss or, God forbid, a judge won’t see it the same way. Actions have consequences, good and bad.
  4. Don’t blame the teacher for your child’s shortcomings. I had a kid one time, 5th grade, who did not turn in any homework. When his parents came in to see the principal and me about his Es, his father rifled through the mess under his desk, fished out a paper, shook it in the air and said, “All she had to do was look here!” No. One hundred million percent not okay. Students are responsible for turning in their own work. Period. Responsibility is a life skill; teach your kid to own their mistakes. Again, life skill.
  5. Let. Them. Fail. It’s not the end of the world if Junior forgets their homework or forgets to study for the test. It will be okay, they will learn. Stop saving them; it will help them stand on their own two feet. Don’t make excuses for them. I once had a dad who caved and did his 5th grader’s homework for him because he cried if he didn’t understand it. I asked him if he would be doing his child’s calculus in high school. On the other hand, do encourage them! Ask them about school, what projects they have, tests, grades. Ask them about their day. Do you have a kid who won’t talk about it? Email the teacher! We’ll be happy to fill you in.
  6. Don’t take a phone call from your gynecologist and have a conversation about vaginal suppositories during a Parent-Teacher Conference. Seriously. I cannot scrub that from my brain and it’s been about eight years. Just… no. Not kidding.

We know your kids aren’t perfect, mine definitely aren’t. Youngest and Middle Child had some “fun” school moments last year, oy, but we learned from it. In my case, I need to check ParentConnect more often. Teachers don’t expect kids to be little angels, but for a child to have a successful year, we need the cooperation and help from you, the parents. It’s a partnership.

It’s more important than you’ll ever know.

Have a great school year!

 

Everyone has hobbies, right? We need hobbies to explore our passions, to relax, to stay sane in a crazy world. Normal ones, weird ones, who cares? As long as your hobby doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, they’re fine. My hobbies include writing (duh), reading, history, theatre, music, travel. sewing/crochet, running, my garden (when it’s not a million degrees outside), and learning about the supernatural. It’s safe to say that I have a lot of interests and that I’m always busy.

Now, you may look at one or more of my hobbies and wonder why the heck I’m interested in that. Maybe, God forbid, history bored you to tears as a kid or the thought of running anywhere makes you anxious. Whatever the reason, you probably don’t share all of my interests and that’s okay. Life would be boring if we all liked the same things.

A hobby that I have trouble understanding is maintaining the perfect lawn. I just don’t get it. My lawn is green and made up of a lot of different things: clover, dandelions, a bit of grass, and some other unidentifiable stuff. I mow it once it week and that’s the extent of my lawn care. Some of my neighbors have beautiful meticulous lawns and they spend a lot of time and care to make them look that way, but I can’t see myself doing that.

Another hobby I don’t get is watching sports. My husband and sons love to watch football and baseball throughout the year. I would rather watch paint dry, unless it’s an important U of M game. Then, it’s a matter of principle. They love it when I have rehearsal because that means they can watch whatever game is on that night. It’s just not my thing.

So, what are some hobbies that you could not see yourself doing? Rock climbing? Skydiving? Fishing? Now I don’t mean things that harm others or the environment, just ordinary hobbies that you are most definitely not interested in. Don’t be shy, put it in the comments.

Last February, I signed up for a work conference that was to be held this past week. Admittedly, part of the reason I signed up was because it was in downtown Detroit at the Cobo Center. I get weirdly excited anytime I have a reason to hang out downtown or in midtown. I have a strong attachment to the city where I was born, in a small hospital on Tuxedo Street, and it’s such a treat to explore.

I live about 15-20 minutes from the heart of downtown, depending on the traffic and I don’t get there nearly enough. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love big cities and Detroit, while not as big as some, is no exception. They’re so busy, the energy is so high, and there’s always something going on. I can’t explain it, but I love it. I love the country, too, but for different reasons and I’m ready to leave after a few days, but I haven’t gotten tired of being in a big city yet.

There’s so much history, the architecture of the older buildings is so beautiful. Detroit has a wonderful collection of skyscrapers and other buildings that have gorgeous Art Deco designs and decorations that mix in with the modern, like the Fisher Building and the Fox Theatre. And construction isn’t finished! A new skyscraper is going up on the site of the old Hudson’s building in addition to the new (delayed) construction that’s going up in the midtown area next to the new Little Caesar’s Arena, better known as the LCA, where the Red Wings and The Pistons play, just down the street, literally, from the Tigers’ Comerica Park and the Lions’ Ford Field. And let’s not forget the beautiful Detroit Riverwalk where you can watch freighters and pleasure boats pass between you and Windsor, Canada on the other side. Couple that with dozens of restaurants and cool bars and you’ll never run out of things to do.

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A view of the Detroit River and Windsor from Detroit’s Cobo Center.

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Honoring Detroit as part of the Underground Railroad in Hart Plaza.

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Assorted skyscrapers

 

I didn’t always feel this way. There was a time when I bought into the ideology that Detroit was a terrible place, nothing but blight and run by corruption, a virtual hellhole. Like many ideologies that people buy into, this one was false and fear-based. I was taught those things and believed them because I was afraid of things I had heard, not because they had merit. Now, the blight and corruption do exist, especially in some of the neglected neighborhoods, but Detroit with all of her imperfections, is beautiful. I learned that by actually going there and doing things, not staying secluded in the suburbs.

I don’t mean to downplay the bad things; I’ve seen some of Detroit’s problems firsthand. I once dated a guy who lived in southwest Detroit, in one of those gorgeous old houses with a huge front porch. One lovely summer night, not long after we began dating, we were sitting out on the porch when I thought I heard fireworks. His dad stood up and said, “Honey, those aren’t fireworks and it’s time to go inside.” I’ve stood next to a crazed addict in a rage at a corner store while trying to buy coffee creamer for intermission at the Hilberry Theatre and have been yelled at by a prostitute who thought I was elbowing in on her territory when my car broke down in Delray. (Once she realized that my car broke down, however, she made sure to get me somewhere safe, then asked me for money, which I gave.) I’ve been lost driving in neighborhoods full of burned out and abandoned buildings where it would be foolish to roll the windows down and avoided rats as big as small cats. I used to teach Detroit students at a charter school and some of those kids had seen and experienced things that no child should. I see the stories on the news every night of violence and theft, of shootings and murder and rape and I pray. Detroit definitely has it’s troubles, there’s no denying that.

But I also see the wonderful things: the activists, the Detroit men who band together to mentor children with absent fathers and to protect women who walk alone, the Angel Night volunteers who have put a serious dent in the number of arson fires that used to be so prevalent the night before Halloween, the absolute talent that is fostered and nurtured in schools like Cass Tech, where students thrive in spite of drug deals going on just a block away. I see the crowds that gather for clean-up days, cutting grass, hauling old tires and abandoned appliances away, revitalizing playgrounds. I see the initiative to fix and install streetlights to help deter crime, the abandoned houses being either restored or torn down. I see the missions in full force, like Focus Hope, Gleaners, and the Capuchin Soup Kitchen who help thousands of people every year. I see growth and I see hope.

Of course, Detroit has it’s issues. What big city doesn’t? Detroit has had to come back from the white flight in the 1950s and 60s, the riots of 1967, racism and extreme political corruption, as recently as when Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor in the early 2000s, but Detroit bounces back. It rebuilds, it changes, and it thrives in spite of it all. The city’s heart continues to beat strongly, no matter how many hits it takes.

I took time this week to just stand at the river and watch, letting it soak into my bones, reflecting on how much it has changed in the last 318 years since Cadillac landed on these shores. I always feel my best when I’m near water. It gives me peace. I took advantage of the long lunch times to walk the streets, joining the downtown bustle of working people hurrying to and fro, absorbing the energy. I gave 75 cents to a man who wanted to get home to Inkster. (It’s all I had on me.) I watched families push strollers down the Riverwalk and saw the same philosophical homeless man sitting outside of the parking garage three days in a row, his spot, and took it all in.

It was sad when the conference was over yesterday afternoon, not because of the conference itself (although it was a really good one), but because I wouldn’t get to be in the midst of that every day. I did make a promise to myself, however, that I would get down there more, for no other reason than I want to be there, in the city. My city. I am a Metro Detroiter and proud of it.

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The Ambassador Bridge to Canada, taken from the Riverwalk.