Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2015

In a few days, Oldest Child is leaving for Europe. He’ll be gone for nine days in France and Spain, accompanied by 30 other students, many of them his good friends, and five teachers. He’s excited, of course, and so am I. It’s kind of surprising how many people I’ve mentioned it to on the last year who have reacted differently, that they wouldn’t let their child go unless they were with them, or that they wouldn’t let them go at all. I disagree, wholeheartedly.

When I was younger than Oldest Child, I went halfway around the world to Australia and Hawaii with my best friend, Jenny. We both auditioned for and were accepted into the Michigan Lions All-State Band, which was sponsored by the Lions Club, an international service organization. The band went wherever the conference was held each year. Sometimes, it was in places closer to home, such as Colorado, but that year it was in Brisbane, Australia. We had to play several concerts in Brisbane, Sydney, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, to represent the organization.

It was an amazing experience. After a 24- hour plane ride, not including layovers in Chicago, San Diego, Auckland, and Sydney, we finally got to Brisbane. I won’t go into great detail, but Australia was awesome. We pet kangaroos, held koalas, and smushed giant cockroaches on our walls with extra bricks in the school dormitory where we were staying. After five days in Brisbane, we moved on to a haunted hotel room in Sydney. The shower turned on and off by itself and there was a bullet hole in one of our walls. Ladies of the night frequented the sidewalk outside the hotel (prostitution is legal there) and we were not allowed to go outside by ourselves. Downtown Sydney was beautiful, though. We were free to wander for a few hours at a time and learned all sorts of wonderful cultural differences in between performances. Apparently, it’s normal to put beets on hamburgers there.

The rules were very strict. To break a rule meant a one-way ticket back home. We were a pretty well-behaved bunch of high school kids and there weren’t any mishaps. Jenny and I had a small, accidental snafu, but it all ended up well and it’s something to laugh about today. Perhaps I should explain…

To get around Oahu, we used the bus system. One night, we wanted to go to the Hard Rock Café. The Hard Rock Café, no matter where it was, was a pretty cool thing back then and we had already gotten shirts from the one in Sydney. The hotel told us to take the No. 2 bus there and back. We got there just fine, enjoyed our outrageously expensive hamburgers, and then jumped on the next No. 2 bus to get back to our hotel. Well, it didn’t quite work that way. We soon found out that there is a red-light district in Honolulu and since we were at the end of the bus line, the driver made us get off the bus right in the middle of it. To make matters worse, I was wearing an oh-so-cool T-shirt that proclaimed, “I got lei-d in Hawaii”. When we were being kicked off the bus, I promptly burst into tears while Jenny laughed hysterically. I was certain we were going to be given a one-way ticket home and that my mother would never let me out of the house unsupervised ever again, but Jen saw the funny side of it.

To make a long story short, we could actually see our hotel from where we were and figured that we could probably get there in the two hours we had left before curfew. We started walking, fast, and it wasn’t long before we came upon another bus stop with a bus arriving. It took us very close to our hotel and we were back in our hotel room almost two hours before curfew. Not wanting to tempt fate again, we stayed in the rest of the night, and were quite content to do so.

Anyway, even with our small adventure, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I met new friends, learned about other cultures (Hawaii is awesome), and got the itch to travel to other places. It’s everything I hope will happen to Oldest Child and his friends in the next couple of weeks. He’s always wanted to go somewhere far away. like this, but hasn’t had the chance yet. In response to the concerned parents, yes, bad things sometimes happen. One only needs to watch the news to know that, but bad things can happen at home, too. I would rather travel and see the world than stay at home hiding under a blanket of ignorance. See the world, learn about people other than Americans, get some culture.

I’m going to Italy in June, my first trip to a place where English is not the dominant language, and I’m excited, not only for me, but for Oldest Child. I know he may have his own snafu, but it will be one that he will remember forever.

Read Full Post »

In a few days, Oldest Child is leaving for Europe. He’ll be gone for nine days in France and Spain, accompanied by 30 other students, many of them his good friends, and five teachers. He’s excited, of course, and so am I. It’s kind of surprising how many people I’ve mentioned it to on the last year who have reacted differently, that they wouldn’t let their child go unless they were with them, or that they wouldn’t let them go at all. I disagree, wholeheartedly.

When I was younger than Oldest Child, I went halfway around the world to Australia and Hawaii with my best friend, Jenny. We both auditioned for and were accepted into the Michigan Lions All-State Band, which was sponsored by the Lions Club, an international service organization. The band went wherever the conference was held each year. Sometimes, it was in places closer to home, such as Colorado, but that year it was in Brisbane, Australia. We had to play several concerts in Brisbane, Sydney, and in Honolulu, Hawaii, to represent the organization.

It was an amazing experience. After a 24- hour plane ride, not including layovers in Chicago, San Diego, Auckland, and Sydney, we finally got to Brisbane. I won’t go into great detail, but Australia was awesome. We pet kangaroos, held koalas, and smushed giant cockroaches on our walls with extra bricks in the school dormitory where we were staying. After five days in Brisbane, we moved on to a haunted hotel room in Sydney. The shower turned on and off by itself and there was a bullet hole in one of our walls. Ladies of the night frequented the sidewalk outside the hotel (prostitution is legal there) and we were not allowed to go outside by ourselves. Downtown Sydney was beautiful, though. We were free to wander for a few hours at a time and learned all sorts of wonderful cultural differences in between performances. Apparently, it’s normal to put beets on hamburgers there.

The rules were very strict. To break a rule meant a one-way ticket back home. We were a pretty well-behaved bunch of high school kids and there weren’t any mishaps. Jenny and I had a small, accidental snafu, but it all ended up well and it’s something to laugh about today. Perhaps I should explain…

To get around Oahu, we used the bus system. One night, we wanted to go to the Hard Rock Café. The Hard Rock Café, no matter where it was, was a pretty cool thing back then and we had already gotten shirts from the one in Sydney. The hotel told us to take the No. 2 bus there and back. We got there just fine, enjoyed our outrageously expensive hamburgers, and then jumped on the next No. 2 bus to get back to our hotel. Well, it didn’t quite work that way. We soon found out that there is a red-light district in Honolulu and since we were at the end of the bus line, the driver made us get off the bus right in the middle of it. To make matters worse, I was wearing an oh-so-cool T-shirt that proclaimed, “I got lei-d in Hawaii”. When we were being kicked off the bus, I promptly burst into tears while Jenny laughed hysterically. I was certain we were going to be given a one-way ticket home and that my mother would never let me out of the house unsupervised ever again, but Jen saw the funny side of it.

To make a long story short, we could actually see our hotel from where we were and figured that we could probably get there in the two hours we had left before curfew. We started walking, fast, and it wasn’t long before we came upon another bus stop with a bus arriving. It took us very close to our hotel and we were back in our hotel room almost two hours before curfew. Not wanting to risk fat again, we stayed in the rest of the night and were quite content to do so.

Anyway, even with our small adventure, it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. I met new friends, learned about other cultures (Hawaii is awesome), and got the itch to travel to other places. It’s everything I hope will happen to Oldest Child and his friends in the next couple of weeks. He’s always wanted to go somewhere far away. like this, but hasn’t had the chance yet. In response to the concerned parents, yes, bad things sometimes happen. One only needs to watch the news to know that, but bad things can happen at home, too. I would rather travel and see the world when I can than stay at home hiding under a blanket of ignorance. See the world, learn about people other than Americans, get some culture.

I’m going to Italy in June, my first trip to a place where English is not the dominant language, and I’m excited, not only for me, but for Oldest Child. I know he may have his own snafu, but it will be one that he will remember forever.

Read Full Post »

Dear Future Family Member,

You don’t know me yet, or maybe you do, but we’ll meet in a different context in the next decade or two. I’ve been praying for you for a while now. You see, I have three sons and chances are pretty good that at least one of them will get married at some point. I look forward to that day when you will be a part of our family. I don’t have any daughters and it will be nice to have another woman (or two, or three) around. After living with four males over the years, the excess of testosterone wears on me once in a while. Of course, you may be the kind of woman who enjoys burp jokes and who doesn’t mind dirty socks and underwear on the floor, but a mother-in-law can dream, right?

There are some things that I can tell you about your future husband. He will know how to wash dishes, load and empty a dishwasher, sort his laundry, dust, vacuum, sweep and mop floors, perform all personal hygiene daily, and know to treat you with the highest respect. I cannot guarantee that he will do all of these things all the time, except the respect thing, but the knowledge is there. He will be able to cook at least basic things, although Youngest Child shows the greatest interest in learning more in the kitchen. I haven’t always been the greatest teacher there. I don’t have a lot of patience in the kitchen because I hate extra cleanup, especially in the kitchen, I hate cleaning in general and want it done it done my way, but I’m trying to be more tolerant, especially since I know they’ll be leaving me soon. Middle Child shows the greatest willingness to help with cleaning. You may be more willing to let him make a mess. He would enjoy that.

They were raised in church and taught that faith isn’t about visiting the building once a week, but living it by not being ashamed of God, believing that He is there, and doing things that Jesus commanded us to do: Love one another, no matter what their lifestyle, respect all colors, races, colors, sexual orientations, and help others who are less fortunate than you. Oldest Child, in particular, has a passion for social justice and giving back to the community. While I hope that you share those feelings of faith, in whatever form they take, or that you are open to it, I won’t hound you about it; your faith is personal and none of my business.

I know that you may be anxious about how we will accept you, I was anxious when I met my future in-laws, but don’t worry. We know that if one of our sons brings you home to meet us, he loves you and that says a lot. I don’t care what race you are, what color you are, what you’ve done in your past, or who your parents are. I don’t care if you have children already, if you went to college or not, or how many times you changed your mind about what you wanted to be. None of these things make any sort of difference to me at all.

What I do care about are things that matter in life: Do you love my son? Do you treat him well? Also very important is how my son treats you. We raised him to treat everyone with respect and dignity, especially his life partner.

Will you be a loving mother to any children that the two of you may have? You may choose not to have children and that’s okay, too. It’s your life and I won’t bug you about it, even though I adore babies. (I have a reputation as a baby-stealer, just ask my family.) If you already have children, they will become a part of our family, too. That’s how it works.

I hope that family is a priority for you. I’m not the kind of mother who is going to expect her children to always stay close by when they’re grown, nor do I expect to see them every day or two, but my door is always open to you and to my sons and I hope that we see each other often. I won’t fuss about seeing you right on a holiday or demand that you choose between our family and yours. Holidays are stressful enough, especially if you do have kids. That’s not fair to you or my son. We’ll work it out, don’t worry, and it will be relaxed. I will respect your boundaries and not just “pop over” uninvited, walk into your home without knocking, or expect you to drop everything for me. I’m a pretty independent person and I don’t expect to be catered to. I want us to have a good relationship, to be a family.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, and that’s okay, too. Different perspectives are good and keeping an open mind is even better. We can always agree to disagree on things. I just ask that you respect my decisions as I will yours. I won’t be that stereotypical, horrible, mother-in-law to you.

With all that being said, I’m very excited, and a little nervous, about the occasion when we’ll meet someday. I wonder about you and what you will be like. Will we be instant friends? Will it take a little work? Will you just tolerate me and want me to stay far away, or will you want a mother figure? The possibilities are all there and only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll keep raising these boys to be the best human beings that they can be and hope for the best.

A presto.

Read Full Post »

Last Friday night, the theatre that I belong to opened a new show, To Kill A Mockingbird. This is the reason that I haven’t blogged in a while. Every spare moment I’ve had in the past six weeks, and even those moments that had to be shared instead, have gone into rehearsing for this play. It has been challenging. It has also been fabulous.

For those who are unaware, TKAM began as a novel, written by Harper Lee, a reclusive author who, until recently, was thought to have written only one book. In the past month, the public has discovered that she had actually written one before TKAM that involves the same characters and had been hidden in a vault for the past sixty years. It will be released this summer, much to our cast’s delight. I believe that the information about the new book came to light only a week or two after our auditions had passed, so the news made some of us absolutely giddy. If there’s one thing an actor loves, it’s an audience, so the prospect of renewed interest in the book practically guarantees that people will want to reacquaint themselves with the story. What better way to do it than in our little theatre? (Shameless plug, had to be done.)

TKAM is one of those stories that stays with you forever. I read it for the first time in 5th grade. I didn’t understand all of it then, but what I did get out of it was that judging people for the color of their skin was wrong, a good lesson for a suburban white girl who knew exactly one black person at that time. I read it a few more times on the way to adulthood and each time I got something new out of it. It appalled me that a black man could be convicted of something he didn’t do, even in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary. I wished that I had a father like Atticus Finch, who wasn’t afraid to stand up to a whole town on the basis of being fair and doing the right thing. I was angered by the lies told, the two-faced commentaries of the town folks, and the absolute injustice of it all. I was envious of Scout, and felt her apprehension at having to grow into a young lady. I wanted a big brother like Jem (I was the oldest), a cranky Aunt Rachel to live with me, and a Miss Maudie next door. This book began a short love affair with all things Southern and I began practicing my accent when no one else was around.

Reading that book changed my perspective on so many things. When I was a child, it was common for racial jokes told be told and comments to be made in my mother’s husband’s family. After reading TKAM and other books like it, I realized that those jokes and comments were not only wrong, they were destructive, unfair, and damaging to a entire group of people that I was just learning about. TKAM began to teach me about the sad history of racism and how standing up for the right thing could be difficult, but so worth it. As Atticus states, “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”   My own conscience was growing, developing, and every time I heard derogatory comments about other races, it rankled me. It still does.To Kill A Mockingbird began that process.

I hadn’t though about the novel for quite a while, but then the shows for the next year were announced. To Kill a Mockingbird was on the list and I was intrigued, but dismissed it almost immediately. I had never gotten into a straight show (non-musical) before, even after several auditions. My heart just wasn’t in it, even though I knew it would be a great show, but then a theatre friend of mine suggested that I audition.

“It’s a memory play!” he said, “You should audition for the adult Scout.” He told me that he thought I would be wonderful in that role and for the first time. I began to actually consider auditioning for it. I ended up going for it and while I didn’t get that particular part, (which went to someone who is AMAZING, by the way) I was so fortunate to get the role of Miss Maudie, neighbor of the Finches and adult friend to Scout and Jem. I’ve come to know Miss Maudie in a new way; I have to become her, I have to make her mine and I think that I’ve done the best I can. I hope that I can do her justice. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is absolutely stellar. The kids are fabulous, our Atticus is exactly as he should be, and everyone has become this small community of Maycomb, Alabama. That being said, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would come to the surface. Actually watching Tom Robinson being grilled by Mr. Gilmer on the witness stand still makes me feel sick inside, even knowing that the actor playing him is his exact opposite in real life. Waiting for the jury verdict still fills me with dread. Somewhere in my head, my brain is screaming that they HAVE to find him innocent this time, even though I know perfectly well how it will turn out. I tear up at so many parts, even after all this time.

Being a part of this wonderful show makes me realize that it’s a story that still needs to be told. No, we don’t live in 1935 anymore, there are no more Jim Crow laws, but just this morning, an Oklahoma fraternity was effectively closed down for shouting derogatory racial slurs on a YouTube video. Racial injustice is still a problem, a huge problem. There are still people in this world who are raised on hate and prejudice, where a person’s skin color is the determining factor in how they are treated. How do we solve this problem? I don’t know. I don’t even pretend to know. Maybe reading and discussing TKAM should be a part of every middle or high school curriculum. Maybe it won’t change every student or their parents, but it may touch a few who are open to the idea that al people are created equal. Well, not really. As Atticus puts it, “…some ladies bake better cakes than others.”

I’m grateful for so many things, but the one thing that stands out for me at this moment is that I read To Kill A Mockingbird and it changed my life for the better. Peace be with you all.

Read Full Post »