Friday, August 31, 2007

Hump Day Hmm for Weds, Sept 5: Values

In the event that you do not dedicate your days to returning to read carefully each and every comment made to my posts (and really, if you did? your life would be the richer for it) you might have missed how---in the Senators are Total Homophobes post aka "Is outrage over sexual propositioning ethics and morals, or simply prudery?"---Gwen oh-so-unintentionally-and-subtly suggested next week's Hump Day Hmm Topic:
Julie, you bring up a great point about values ("deeper, wider, more serious problems"), and one I've been thinking of writing about. But why not just do it here? lol.

I remember after the last presidential election, there was talk about how people made their choices based on "values" and there was scattered applause for the fact that "values" still mattered in this country. The subtext was that people were voting against legalizing gay marriage, since Rove had pushed that agenda so hard in the last days of the campaign. That really pissed me off, because I, too, voted based on values--the value of a sustainable environment, the value of not bombing the shit out of innocent people, the value of finding ways to help the desperate instead of blaming them for their desperation. The idea that these don't count as "values" to be lauded is ridiculous! How can we really be so simple as to believe that values applies only to sexual morality? It's one of the tenets of the far Christian right, this focus on sexuality to the exclusion of all else, and I know this, having grown up in that culture where losing your virginity was the WORST thing you could do.

It's maddening, really, and I've had more than enough with the prurient interest we take in something so monumentally unimportant.

I said:
Gwen, by all means...do it here. :)

I agree. Values are relative.

And let's not confuse values, morals and ethics, especially the subjective.

Oooh babe, I think you just suggested next week's hump day topic.


Let's talk about this fast and loose use of the word "values" that has somehow become the catchphrase conservative political candidates bandy about.

They don't mean any sort of value, a la sociology or ethics:

Sociology. the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard. These values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy.

Ethics. any object or quality desirable as a means or as an end in itself.


When politicians and most people these days use the word "values" they mean a specific set of conservative values.

So let's discuss that...what is a value? What is valuable? What are ethics, morals and values?

Do we have in our society a cohesive concept of ideals and customs towards things such as in the dictionary definition?

Do people suffer internal about what is expected versus personal values? Do we feel too apologetic about our values if they don't align with the vocal majority/minority values?

Or...simply discuss values in general, whatever angle you like.

Looking forward to it as always!

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Picture Maven
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Let the record reflect...Patience and I both trusted her independence today

I went through the car-rider line today to drop Patience at school. We talked about the hall and landmarks that lead to her hall that leads to her classroom. We reviewed the route three times. We talked about what to do if she feels lost or uncertain.

I reiterated my confidence in her, her ability to do this, to be fine. She agreed.

We pulled up to the drop off spot. She jumped out of the car with her backpack and identifier tag. She walked to the entrance, looked at my (paused) car, gave a little wave, took a deep breath, put on her Resolute Face and walked in to the school.

I only had to yoga breathe for five minutes.

I have not called the school. She is fine.

And this afternoon she will be very blase on the outside and very proud on the inside that she---on her own---achieved another Big School goal.

Patience was never a child for "I do it myself" or "No! Me do it!" or "Back away Mama, I indepewent!" like Persistence is. She preferred babying, help, someone to do it for her. I've always had to push her out there to meet challenges. Each time I do so, I have to remind her about how she rose to the challenge and succeeded last time.

She's got her confidence and feet under her, and she always takes a deep breath and agrees she can do it.

Her favorite analogy is the Ferris Wheel.

She was so scared of going on that, and stuck to the baby rides: the little airplanes and carousel.

One day we said you will try it. So she did. And she loved it!

So now, when we bring up a challenge, she says, "I was scared of the Ferris Wheel and from the ground it looked too scary. But I got on it, and once I was there, it was fun. It's like that, Mom, isn't it?"

Baby. Big girl.

I don't get choked up taking her to school. I do get choked up at moments like these, the moments when she feels her wings, unfurls them, and takes off...albeit cautiously.

Next week, she'll tackle the lunch line.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is outrage over sexual propositioning ethics and morals, or simply prudery?

By now, you've probably heard the story about Idaho Senator Larry Craig. An undercover policeman alleges that while in the airport bathroom stall next to Craig, Craig used silent signals and body language along with "stall peeping" that are "well-known" methods of propositioing for sex. Apparently men propositioning other men in the Minneapolis airport bathroom has become a problem, and the police began an airport bathroom sting four months ago.

Since then, they've arrested 41 men including Senator Craig.

The cause for the arrest? Peeking in a stall, placing one's luggage in front of the stall door, tapping a foot, and reaching a hand under the stall wall. This is exactly what Senator Craig did.

Senator Craig protested the arrest and stated his actions had been misinterpreted; he also cited his position as a senator. However, when the police did not dismiss the charges, Craig quietly---without legal representation or disclosure---plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, which was probably a compromise from the peeping charge he could have received.

Most of the other men also quietly accepted the criminal charges.

I think we can imagine why. Homophobia is rampant in this country, and many of the men were prominent businessmen.

Some of the cited evidence seemed awfully thin to me, for example, the man arrested in a "raid" of the bathroom by police because, as the officer left the bathroom with three men under arrest, this man turned from the urinal and "exposed himself."

Ummm, aren't urinals sort of out in the open, and wouldn't one, you know, in the "act," be exposed when turning?

I imagine, like Senator Craig, most men wanted this settled as quietly as possible.

I'm sure that a good number of the cases were men on the make, so to speak.

But I admit I'm a little stymied about the outrage over this. It's poor manners, to be sure, and one ought to be able to go to the bathroom without being solicited. But is it a crime that is worth the outrage and calls for Craig's resignation?

I can tell you from personal experience that you have a chance of meeting a man on the make almost anywhere. I've met men on the make in grocery stores, offices, pharmacies, restaurants, bars, open air festivals, and more. And I'm no Michelle Pfeiffer. To be fair, I'm sure there are plenty of women on the make too. I've known a few. Flirting happens; I've just grown to accept it to a degree and have developed the ability to deal with it.

I think that most people have developed fair judgment and use wisdom and courtesy in this. However, some people seem to believe that, regardless of where you are, the simple fact that they find your attractive or that they are sexually aroused means all's fair in propositioning. In underground sexuality---which seems to be almost anything other than sexually objectifying females of any age---there is a network, out of a degree of necessity. I'm sure word spread about the bathrooms.

I strongly believe that so long as we continually repress most healthy sexuality and force homosexuality underground in large part, we're going to continue to see "bathroom" sorts of incidents. It's tricky, isn't it? Especially if you are gay...how do you tell if someone is not just available, but available to you?

A tapping foot is pretty vague, as is luggage placement. If you don't know what this could mean, you probably don't even notice it. You certainly don't respond. A woman might inquire if her stall neighbor is in need of paper, but I have it on excellent authority that Men Do Not Speak to One Another Period in the bathroom.

I find it interesting that this sting is limited to men.

Are there no similar incidents with women? Or do women just not---pardon the expression---get their knickers as twisted over it? Are women simply used to being propositioned?

Also, why the outrage, in particular over Senator Craig. he's being asked by his party---who is loudly sanctioning him---to resign.

Seriously?

Although he is technically guilty, he does deny that he intended his actions as criminal level disorderly conduct, peeping, and solicitation. Still, I'm hard-pressed to figure out why I ought to care.

I'm more concerned about how he's been caught up in sexual impropriety in investigations at the senate on more than once occasion; each time he skated free, loudly proclaiming his innocence. In those case, it was mostly about bosses propositioning employees.

That does cause me concern.

I lived through extreme sexual harassment in the workplace. My story (a small sampling of which I shared here) would horrify you.

If two coworkers voluntarily, with no coercion, opt into a relationship, that's one thing. But when an authority figure uses his power to pressure or harass, that's appalling. In general, I have absolutely no interest what two willing adults do with one another.

So again, I ask, why the big public GOP outrage against Senator Craig now?

"Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. "He should resign."

Craig "represents the Republican Party," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, who called the behavior unacceptable and was the first in a steadily lengthening list of GOP members of Congress calling on Craig to quit.


Is it the propositioning aspect?


Or is it the homosexual aspect?

Hoekstra denies both of these and calls Craig's denials unbelievable

"I think it's important for Republicans to step out right now and say, 'No, this behavior is not going to be tolerated,'" he said. "It's not a judgment on gay rights or anything like that. This is about leadership and setting a standard that the American people and your colleagues in the Republican Party can feel good about."


Where is this outrage when we find politicians involved in financial improprieties and conflicts of interest?

If the allegations are true, and Craig did proposition someone he believed was simply a fellow traveler, then that's where it ended. He didn't touch the officer, didn't rape anyone, didn't harm...merely propositioned, and, at this point, he denies doing so.

Consider what he plead guilty to: disorderly conduct. Consider what he was charged with

Craig was arrested on June 11 in a Minneapolis airport men's room after an undercover officer observed conduct that he said was "often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct." He pleaded guilty by mail this month to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.


There was no lewd behavior. There was no contact.

Was there even really a crime?


Check out the police report at The Smoking Gun.

See what you think.

Does that meet these criteria

(c) A person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor who:

(1) surreptitiously gazes, stares, or peeps in the window or other aperture of a ... place where a reasonable person would have an expectation of privacy and has exposed or is likely to expose their intimate parts, as defined in section 609.341, subdivision 5, or the clothing covering the immediate area of the intimate parts; and

(2) does so with intent to intrude upon or interfere with the privacy of the occupant.


If you answered "yes," then is that behavior worthy of forcing Craig to resign his position and the current level of reaction by many of his fellow Republican politicians?

Is the real cause for concern Craig's behavior, or is it---and let's be honest---the election coming up, and does the GOP not want a stain on its reputation as voters consider who to cast their vote for?

The outrage, in my opinion, seems politically motivated. Again.

I have tried and tried to find the numbers and types of criminal charges filed against politicians because, in my mind, it seems that hardly a week has gone by without some allegation of a crime by a politician, some of them egregiously wrong.

I'd like to see this level of energy and concern directed in some productive directions, such as healthcare, education, poverty, disaster struck areas, and so forth. I'd like to see this level of outrage when crimes that really harm people are perpetuated by politicians.

This seems disastrously like worrying about mowing the lawn when there is a nuclear bomb falling.

But politics and politicians aside, I'm curious what the average person thinks about this.

Am I desensitized, or too accepting? Should we be appalled by his behavior to this level? What is an appropriate response here? Is this about ethics and morals, or is it simply prudery?

And what, I wonder, provoked police to prioritize this sting and assign undercover officers to arrest men who simply "sent signals" but had not engaged in any "lewd acts."

Is this a valid priority in Minneapolis?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cave liberum...the Hump Day Hmm for 8-29-2007

When we lead our shiny, trepidatiously excited little children to kindergarten in Big School for the first time, I think our real fear is what school will do to our children, what it will turn them into...what they'll learn outside of the lesson plans.

I think we fear this because every one of us knows exactly what else we learned in school...the things our parents probably never knew about directly (although I expected they figured it out to some degree, having been there, done that too).

I think we fear this because every one of us on some level spends the rest of our lives undoing at least one thing we came out of school with that we don't really like.

I've never heard anyone say this out loud, but I think we all realize that school will be, to some degree, both the making of and ruination of our children. And we know our job has transitioned from CITB (Chief Influencer of Thought and Belief) to PUP (Picker Up of the Pieces).

I'm not being melodramatic, friends. I'm simply voicing aloud the deep down concerns I have. I suspect I am in good company here, too.

We have carefully knitted our children up to this point in time: selected the yarn (color and texture) and pattern with much thought and love. But with the start of school, the needles are increasingly out of our hands---more and more in our children's, and shared with others---and it's up to our children what they knit.

Our role now is---with gentle guidance and support---to provide the wisdom we have learned as we knit our own lives.

But that's so hard, isn't it.

This has been coming, slowly but surely, for a while. In the last year of pre-school in particular I noticed Patience coming home with more and more...well, for lack of a better word, crap.

It started with the "poopyhead" insult she picked up two years ago from a classmate who got it from an older sibling who got it from Big School.

Now it begins, I thought at the time, and steeled myself to deal with the rest of the usual that comes down that pipe.

Then she came home with some crazy ideas about how things in the world work, things she believed even though it went against facts and information she had already learned from books and science programs, simply because this Admired and Trusted Friend said it was so.

She's so literal and trusting, I thought, she'd only tell the truth and she expects the same from others. She fought me on the facts because for her it was easier to believe that "trees held monsters that came out every night to lure children into the trees to eat or take their place" than to accept that her friend led her astray, however deliberately or accidentally it might have been. I tried to explain storytelling versus lying, and making up versus knowledge, but it fell on deaf ears.

I've watched Patience try different language, patterns of speech, attitudes, new interests and styles, new priorities, and I've held her as she cried when girlfriends changed allegiances. I know, too, that this is the tip of the iceberg.

I could talk and talk about what schools teach and how challenging it is transitioning into the modern public school---from private, where I sat on a board and helped guide the educational direction of the school; and from the past, when I was in school and recall vividly things I liked and did not like, as well as experiences I'm still processing---and mention things such as

* the aggravation of schools' need to "sort" children and "label" children, which has already begun;

* the frustrating but necessary red tape procedures that feel so impersonal and frequently make me want to moo;

* my confusion about such limitations on art (only once a week? how is this?), music (only once a week? how is this?), physical education (only once a week? how is this?);

* group standardized tests (which I find asinine but lack any constructive criticism or better solution, other than something that veers alarmingly near judgmental talk against parents and teachers and priorities)

* questions about creativity and critical thinking, and flexibility within a structure

* worries about my quiet daughter slipping through the cracks (as I did too often) or being singled out because of her questioning and different way of thinking

* concerns about other children's needs taking too much top priority (and whoo boy the guilt I feel about this one...I know, I know)

I could also talk and talk about my own school experiences and everything I learned, outside of the lessons being taught such as

* the subtle (or not so subtle) preferences each teacher had for certain types of or sexes of children

* Eric showing me what marijuana looked like from the stash he had in his locker, the Ecstasy posters seniors put up in support of drug legalization, and the big protest when they went to change the drinking age from 18 to 21

* the disdain I developed for adults due to overwhelming number of dreadful teachers I had (and the permanent disdain I developed for public school)

* doubt of my own talents and abilities due to the aforementioned teachers (despite parental support)

* confidence in my ability to get through tough times, anyway, in spite of, and come out as such, because of

* how to fake it until I could make it when I landed in a school that was a level or two beyond my last one, and how I transitioned this into working too

* how to become the person that is more easily accepted than your own true self, including the theory that let's face it: very, very few of us are the sorts who can make who and how we are Cool---do your own thing and enjoy life but also, let's be real here people, that isn't necessarily going to gain you widespread acceptance and popularity

* friendship challenges I face to this day, largely due to bad habits I formed in school but also probably due to moving schools so frequently

If I had to narrow it down to one topic now, I'd probably go for the jugular of people abusing the educational system as a pulpit for their own agendas and beliefs. Although this sounds potentially extremely hypocritical, trust me, it is not---you don't see me passing state laws that require school children to recite a belief in God every day.

Oh the things I could explore, share and talk about without end, from memories to injustices, from good lessons and bad. I know I'd sound insightful and horrid, all at once. I know you'd agree with me and also want to set my expectations straight, too. It could be long and messy.

Luckily, though, other fantastic bloggers have tackled this topic too so we can see what others have to say and I don't have to worry about trying to capture all the areas, angles and nuances of school, by myself.

Kim wrote Kindergarten Declassified: School Survival Guide for Parents (MUST READ!)

Emily wrote Don’t know much about history

Stephanie wrote rambling thoughts on education

Snoskred wrote The Worst Year At School

Catherine wrote Just teasing?

Christine wrote School House Rock

Karen wrote September

Ali wrote Public versus Private

Julie wrote Too cool for school

Sephyroth wrote Back to School Shopping...out of control!

Lawyer Mama wrote Private School Angst

Magpie Musing wrote Daycare

Mary-LUE wrote To Sir, with Love: A Hump Day Hmm-er

Bon wrote Well Schooled

Kyla wrote Transference

Gwen wrote Feed Your Head

Aliki wrote Unschooled

Mamma of Pearls wrote All I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten:

Send me your post today (or anytime this week) and I'll add in your link. To do this, simply mention the Hump Day Hmm in your post, link here to http://theartfulflower.blogspot.com and email the link to your post to me at j pippert at g mail dot com.

Thanks to all who join us as readers, writers or commenters.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Monday, August 27, 2007

No, really, I insist on it

Dear WordPad/TypePad/Whatevah,

You and your little "Are you human? Just one more step! Type in these tiny letters in bizarro font swimming under nearly 89% opacity freaky pattern and we'll hold a board meeting to decide whether your comment passes muster and can be posted!" routine?

It stinks, like rotten egg cat box level stink.

For the record, shockingly few of us have been through some bizarre accident in which a nuclear waste truck dumps its load on our car, rendering us capable of superpowers such as ability to see through solid surfaces or capacity to distinguish an 'rn' superimposed on one another from an 'm.'

I know this is surprising news. But it's true.

I don't blame your users. They are understandably wary of spam. Frankly, I'm tired of the, "From Geek to Sheik, Super Large for 36 inches and longer" stories that arrive in groups of 40 in my email.

So it's you. You need to change.

I'll try twice to post a comment, maybe 3 times if it's a long one that required me to check a spelling in the dictionary. But then I'll abandon my efforts. You make it too hard. You're coming between me and my favorite bloggers like a mother-in-law from a Lifetime movie.

Ease off the Medieval fonts and slacken off the strange and opaque patterns, eh. Show us some love. Don't make me go all Capulet on you.

Sincerely,
Julie, The Ravin' Picture Maven

P.S. To my lovely readers...I'm off to pick up Patience. From kindergarten, lo these many hours later. I'm still standing, for what it's worth, and I'm sure she is too. I'm getting by with the help of my friends. :)

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

I had a weird dream last night

Do you like it when people talk about their dreams? I go back and forth about it. I often have strange, interesting, bizarre, and vivid dreams so I always seem to want to talk about it, but as soon as I utter the words, "I had the weirdest dream last night..." I usually see my companion's eyes glaze over.

Every now and again I meet a Dream Interpreter. Sometimes these people seem to want to suck every dream from my head for examination and instead of my usual forthcomingness (call Webster's), I sink back into a shell and hide my dreams, saying something like, "Oh I never remember my dreams."

Other times these people are happy to listen to every recalled nuance, and deconstruct my dream as if it was just as important to them as to me. They often have books or knowledge of dream symbolism and meaning. The times when you wonder if you've gone nutters and missed the memo because you had a dream so bizarre, these people are blessings.

In case you are wondering, I had a weird dream last night.

I was at home, a home you understand, not per se my own. It was important this was not my house because it needed to have certain elements to help along the plot. Sort of sloppy CSI-style writing for dreams, only no blood and gore.

Different bloggers I know dropped by unexpectedly, one after another. Some of the visits weren't part of the dream; I simply mentioned them to others who came by, and suddenly I had memories of the visit. I won't specifically name who did or didn't come by; if you're wondering, it probably was you. :)

Until the last visitor/blogger came and suddenly it turned from something simply enjoyable to something enjoyable and meaningful. I don't know if this visit lingers most strongly in my mind because it was last or because it varied from the others. This visitor, I had an obligation to in some way. She didn't ask, but I knew I had something she needed, knew something she might not realize she needed to know. I wasn't the important thing in the dream, I was simply a sort of conduit.

I could tell she was worried, even though she was very pleasant and fun.

She was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and I remember thinking, oh she looks just like her photo...because all I've seen of her is a photo. Slightly out of place (now that I think of it although it didn't strike me as odd at the time) was a fanny pack that was so neutral it faded into her clothes. After a bit, she unzipped the fanny pack and pulled out a carved stone rabbit, some grade of stone that somewhat resembled wood with variations in tone and grain.

The carved stone rabbit was small and would fit in the palm of your hand. Somehow I knew the rabbit was a symbol for her son. So I pointed to it, and asked. Her son had given it to her, trusted her with it, she told me, even though it was really his. But he wanted her to have it, she explained, when she left to come see me so she'd have something.

"Isn't that funny that he's the one being left behind and he's worrying about me," she said, very fondly.

"Sometimes it's easier to worry about someone else than ourselves," I said, "And sometimes you need the person leaving to carry a sort of talisman that you believe will bring them back."

"Oh I promised him I love him and will always come back," she said.

"I know. I think he knows," I told her, worrying I'd upset her, "But some of us need love to be tangible, especially if we're being left behind, something to tie us together."

I saw her concern for her son etched in lines on her face, a sort of shadow that cast over her features. Suddenly, I knew what had been worrying her the entire time she'd been visiting and I knew what she needed.

"I know where he got that rabbit," I told her, "Or rather, I know where ones just like it are."

She looked happier and I realized I was right: she needed another rabbit.

So we went to a place, maybe the zoo, and there were people with stalls of things they were selling, including one with carved stone animals just like hers. I looked carefully through the selection. It couldn't be any animal, it had to be another rabbit, but this one needed to be smaller. After some shifting of animals, I found it: a slightly smaller rabbit, like a baby size compared to the other one she held.

"Here it is," I cried triumphantly, "Just the rabbit and size you need!"

I held it out to her and she took it joyfully.

"See, they both fit in your hand."

We both stared at the two rabbits in her palm for a minute and then she said, "Thank you," tucked the two rabbits into her fanny pack, waved goodbye and left.

I woke feeling happy.

And then, I got up and got my family ready to take Patience to her first day of kindergarten. It went well, the drop-off.

When I get my thoughts together, sooner or later, I'll write about it or something else. But for now, my dream stands alone. :)

Have a great Monday, a great week and if you are starting school today like we are, a great beginning.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More about neighbors from neighbors and what about next week?

Two more entrants for the Hump Day Hmm about neighbors:

Mary-LUE wrote about being a Good Samaritan

Lawyer Mama wrote about My Neighborhood on DC Metro Moms

So what about next week?

I know, I know. I haven't been good lately about providing one week's notice. Ahhh if you lived my days you'd understand, LOL.

Next week, the Hmm is about school---any angle you want to take. Tackle the idea of public versus private education, the concept of privilege inherent in education due to socioeconomic neighborhood, a personal school experience, viewing school from an educator's POV or from a parental POV...any kind of exploration you'd like about school.

Remember, link to me here (http://theartfulflower.blogspot.com) and mention the Hump Day Hmm in your post, then email the link to it to me at j pippert at g mail dot com.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Everything I need to know I learned...at kindergarten orientation

Last night was the Big Kindergarten orientation. We walked in with misgivings and concerns. We expected/hoped to have them appeased. We wanted to leave feeling ridiculous in ourselves, in our worries. We wanted the school to show us how awesome it is. We walked out discussing home schooling and wondering whether any private schools would still take on a charity student.

Let me ask: what does orientation mean to YOU?

How about this: an introduction, as to guide one in adjusting to new surroundings, employment, activity, or the like.

Me too.

Here's what it means to our local elementary school: Keep parents waiting outside in heat and humidity until 6:00 on the dot at which point you throw open the doors, herd them through the entry hall like cattle and then...that's it. We were ushered into the school where it was every man for himself.

We stood at the end of the entry hall and noted with dismay that the main corridor split off into two directions. We had no idea where to go, who to see, or even who to ask. That would have been nice to know.

"Which way?" I dumbly asked my husband, as if he knew.

"I dunno, a lot of people are going left, let's try that."

"Okay," I said, thinking if this were a bridge...

We shepherded the two wee girlies to the left. And swam along with the hordes of people, big and small. Some of them stopped at a wall and gazed at some paper hung there. It was a mystery what it was and the purpose it served. That would have been nice to know.

"What's this?" I dumbly asked my husband, as if he knew.

"Looks like paper hung on the wall," he explained.

"Thanks," I said sarcastically, edging my way forward to see. "Oh, look, it's class lists." I jockeyed forward and leaned over a woman who was not gifted with a height much above five feet, as I was. Tall is always a blessing in these matters.

"Here!" I cried triumphantly after about ten minutes of searching, "Here's Patience's name!"

"Great," my husband called back over the crowd, "What's that mean?"

"I don't know, but I think she's in the canine class!"

"They don't name classes in elementary school, Jules," he called back.

Hmmm. Probably true. Oh I see, it is a ROOM number with grade designation. That would have been nice to know.

We swarmed a bit down a hall, and noted more small pieces of paper with teachers' names on it. Not ours. We swarmed down another hall and eventually found our teacher's classroom. Not easy. It's a jig, jag and jog from the main corridor. There were no maps, no directions, nothing. That would have been nice to know.

We walked in and I glanced around the room, overwhelmed, largely with confusion. There were a couple of families in there already. The kids rushed in to check out the centers. As I would have guessed, Persistence made herself right at home. Patience, as I would have guessed, stood in place a bit longer, slowly surveying the room. She decided to try the home center first, and went there to investigate. That's what Patience does: investigate. Other children madly, loudly, happily played, even interacting with one another. Patience would quickly scurry away if another child came up to her, or would turn her back or shoulder as a sort of shield between herself and the other child.

She ran back to me and hid at my legs after a person spoke to her. "Hey, honey," I encouraged, "It's okay to say hello. These are the children who will be in your class starting Monday. You don't have to become best friends right now, but you do need to use Manners and be Polite. When someone says hello, say hello back." She shook her head hard no. Realizing her ally had abandoned her, she gave me an evil eye and walked to the book center.

My husband and I exchanged aggrieved looks. To anyone else, her careful investigation of the room might pass for comfort in the space. It is curiosity, but we also knew she had shelled herself up. The more crowded the room got, the thicker her shell got. She rebuffed every child. I can't force her to be friendly; I can only guide her to ways she can at least be nice. I walked over to join her at the book center, and she happily displayed two of her favorite books, The Napping House and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

"Patience," I said calmly, "It hurts feelings when you give mean looks and turn away when someone says hello. That's not okay. You don't have to be buddies, but you do have to be polite. When someone says hello, wave or say hello. Before leaving, wave again or say goodbye. These aren't Strangers, they are just people you don't know. But they are children who will be in your class and you need to be polite."

She gave me her usual defiant, inscrutable stare and I tried hard to tamp down on the aggravated impatience I get with her in this matter. I swallowed the words that wanted to tumble out, "For God's sake girl, get a grip! It's a CHILD and all she did was say HELLO very quietly and shyly...she could make a nice friend, stop being so RUDE, say HELLO. It's not an option, YOU SAY HELLO!!!!!"

At this point, my understanding is eroded. There is nothing wrong with her. She's old enough, it seems, to begin using manners and being aware of how she affects others. She need to be kind. I always tell her this. She nevertheless too frequently skips through life only self-aware, not aware of others. As her mother, I worry, and wish I were better skilled, I suppose, although I wonder if that asks that I be more of a sculptor than parent, re-molding her from what she is into what I know the world expects her to be.

I respect and value who she is, as she is. I try to make sure she knows this, and does the same for herself. But somewhere I have failed so far to communicate that she must do the same for others. She can't always expect the world to bend around her, accommodate her way.

I know all too well that it will not.

And I also know that begins now, in kindergarten.

I noticed that amazingly we do not know one single child in this class. I am simultaneously relieved and frightened. I know if there was one familiar face she'd settle down more easily. I also know she'd latch on to that friend to the exclusion of everyone else.

If you don't have one, it's hard to help you understand how painful it is to watch your child in a scene of children like this, knowing that yours is the one out of sync with the rest, and yours is the one who will have her heart hurt time and again because of it.

I wish I had words for how broken my heart is over this. I wish I could explain how difficult it is to know that it is my job to help guide her in life, to give her the tools she needs, but to find that I lack the tools I need to do this. I mentally and emotionally wring my hands time and again about this. I read, I ask, I try. I feel, too often, like a helpless spectator, watching a boat without paddles, rushing downstream. Do not mistake this for giving up, it's not. It just feels, sometimes, as if all my efforts are for naught.

In moments and situations such as this, I often second-guess myself, at least for a minute.

I gave Patience's back a little rub and walked over to my husband, where he still stood by the door. Other than parenting, we were still unsure about what we ought to be doing.

While we stood there uncertainly, some parents entered behind me. They stopped to talk to the woman standing by some cabinets. She had smiled at me when we walked in, but said and did no more than that so I assumed she was one of the moms.

The parents introduced themselves and their children, and I thought, "Dear God, I've already blown it...introductions. Damn. I hate that. Friendly, right, be friendly. Pretend you are not shell-shocked and make nice with people." As my husband and I swung to do the pretty with the other parents, I heard the woman say, "Hi Small Child, I'm Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher."

And my husband said, "Holy crap. Is that the teacher? My God. Should she have a chair? Is she...about to drop a baby, or more???"

"Don't assume things," I hissed. "After childbearing the belly is..." and then I got a good gander and well. Sometimes there is only one assumption to make after all.

My husband and I froze and stared at her clearly very pregnant belly in stupefied fascination and horror. Here we were already freaking out about how rough our daughter's transition will be into kindergarten (and our own, let's be honest), knowing how slow to warm she is, how difficult it is for her to build trust and relationships, the behavior we'll have to deal with until she settles down and so forth and...well, her teacher is clearly a short timer. We looked at each other, utterly distraught.

"Oh look, you're pregnant!" we heard a brave parent exclaim, "When are you due?"

"Beginning of October," we heard her reply.

One month in, max. She reassured the parent she was speaking to that she'd return but my husband and I sat and counted the number of transitions and months of pain this would mean for our family and felt sick.

I felt like a rapidly deflating balloon. All my reassurances to myself how FINE this would be and how FINE it would go and how FINE we'd all be...poof.

We hung out in the room for a bit, trying to digest and process everything. I am a person who plans. I expect plans. I like plans. I expect plans to be communicated. I want to know what I am supposed to be doing. I need to know. So it was shell-shocking to stand in that classroom with a teacher who stood to the side and waited for us to figure it all out, I guess.

I admit that yesterday was not one of my good days. I'd had to take a lot of medicine to try to compensate and was feeling like a sort of pale hologram of myself. However, I wasn't so badly off, and that doesn't explain my sharp husband feeling the same way: lost.

After a while, during which we sort of waited for It to Start, the teacher called out over the din, "There are papers outside, and I need parents to sign up on those sheets."

Another mom and I hurried out to the hall, both probably glad to have something to do. The teacher hustled behind us, suddenly invested in what we were doing.

"Here," she said, pointing to some markers, "Just fill out all the information with one of these, on that sheet."

I turned to see, with great dismay, that she was asking me to put down all of my daughter's private information on a gigantic sheet of paper, large enough for astronauts on the ISS to see, with a wicked bright marker that probably glowed in the dark. We already wrote most of this on a registration form, I thought, and at the last school hey every school we write this on paper they file for privacy.

Nevertheless, I dutifully wrote out the information. I hesitated at the "how your child will normally arrive and depart from school" block. Other parents had queued up behind me, creating a traffic jam in the hallway. I felt pressured. I carefully wrote, "Car or walk, with mom or friend," and felt worried. At preschool you carefully write in names of people who are allowed to pick up your child on an information form, and they have to go to the office, and show a photo ID, even if they've been there before. I like that. It's logical, organized, controlled, safe.

This feels...crazy. It hit me like a ton of bricks how difficult this was going to be, transitioning into public school. I'd suspected, remember, but had hoped to be proven silly. Everyone who had already traveled this path had told me I was silly, and it was no big deal. It's like childbirth, I thought, everyone forgets how hard it is.

After about twenty minutes or so, I started to regain my wits. I thought of a lot of questions, now. Probably the exact same ones the other parents who had clustered around the teacher thought of. A little presentation would not have been amiss, I thought.

My husband steered me to a low table covered in papers. "I think we're supposed to look at these, maybe take some." That would have been nice to know.

I saw some information sheets, and some sign-up sheets for snacks and parent helpers. I signed up for both. Took one of each of the others. Then I returned to the front of the room, to the teacher.

"Hi," I said, introducing myself, "I have a couple of questions?"

"Okay," the teacher said.

"I was wondering about..." I began, only to be cut off by two mothers who pushed their way into the room, grabbed the teacher and seized the conversation.

"How are you!" cried one to the teacher. "How are you feeling!" cried the other. Then they peppered her with questions about her pregnancy, life, family and so forth. Finally one said, "Are you having a shower?" And when the teacher nodded, she said, "Oh INVITE ME, I've been collecting stuff for you all summer."

I stood dumbly to the side. I would have moved off, but, well, in the crowded room there wasn't much "off" to move to, and anyway, I didn't want to lose my slot by the teacher, lose my chance to ask her the questions I hadn't yet had a chance to, when I finally regained her attention. So there I stood, trapped, to the side of a conversation whose participants utterly ignored my presence.

The teacher turned to me after a minute, "These are my room mothers from last year," she explained. I stared at the gushing women and I knew them. Well, their sort anyway. Hyperinvolved moms, the pushy bossy girls grown up to be inserting pushy adults. Competimommies, with a focus on popularity and being needed, not just themselves, but also their kids. I'd run across them before, but only one at a time, and rather infrequently.

I'm in a big pond now, I thought, and there will be tons of these. I know they thrive in this type of environment, so they'll be plentiful and visible. A tangible craving for the homey, safe confines of my boutique preschool washed over me. If I felt it this keenly, I can only imagine how the kids feel.

I hope the teacher likes the sort of mom who is more ploughhorse than thoroughbred. I don't snort and stamp and look real pretty, but I can cut through rocky soil.

By the time the women moved on---finished completely stamping on my conversation---and the teacher turned to me, I'd lost most of my questions. It felt a little pointless anyway.

We'll figure it out, either the easy way or the hard way, I thought, and anyway, we'll have about three weeks of this teacher, then another one, then this one back again.

We decided to leave.

On the way out we saw a few friends, including Patience's best little friend, who was sulking impressively in the hallway, "I wanted Patience in MY CLASS," she managed to choke out. Her mother said, "She's pretty upset, even though she's got other friends." I looked at the little girl. Poor thing, she's really upset, I realized, honestly doing her best to hold back tears. My heart broke for her. Patience paused to pat her on the shoulder. "We were just looking at the gym," the dad added.

My husband and I looked at one another, dismayed all over again. The rest of the school. We'd forgotten.

"This is a bizarre layout of the building, I don't know what crack those architects were smoking or why the school district would want something this convoluted," he said, professionally irked because this should have been his project and the competition got it. But I agreed; I've seen his schools and they are lovely. Very organized, logical traffic flow...tons of signage.

With minimal fumbling, we managed to find the art room, the music room, the cafeteria and the gym (with a carpeted floor, surprise to me but none to my husband who said this is common now). Then we found the playground and let the kids run crazy. My neighbor and I planned a walking group when the weather cooled. I saw some more friends. One mentioned the library and I mentally slapped myself again. Of all the rooms, how could I forget that one. Then I felt annoyed that I'd had to think of all of this on my own, with no guidance. Then I felt irritated with myself for being annoyed. Perhaps this is SOP. I hear public school is sink or swim. Maybe this is some sort of test, you know, how well can you manage in the Big School. No more hand holding, Dorothy, you aren't in Kansas any longer.

We concluded by walking quickly through the library and left. More disheartened than when we had walked in.

We had figured it out. We had gotten some feet under us. We knew we would continue to improve. We knew that we and Patience would settle in and do fine. Fine enough is another question for another day. But we also felt a lack of trust in the school, because this felt too chaotic and disorganized. We don't believe that the school will do all it can to make our settling in as painless as possible. We don't trust that the school will be there to offer a supporting or helping hand when needed. We don't feel a partnership with the school after this night. In fact, we feel it is an obstacle to overcome. We feel confident that we'll figure this out and do fine because we believe in ourselves, and this is the only source we believe we can depend on. So far.

I can't tell you how fish out of water we felt last night. I can't find words to express how out of our place, time and element we felt. Perhaps...we ought to pay attention to this and not pass it off as simply charting unfamiliar territory. I saw how things are, I think, last night, and I saw how we needed to be to succeed there and to be honest? I think it might be more than simply getting used to something. I'm not sure I ever want to get so used to something that I change into...well, something I'm not, and expect the same from my child.

I hope next week will run better, and it probably will. I'm sure this will all be a faded memory soon. I'm sure we'll be old hands at this before we know it.

I just wish I had certainty that this was so because the night had gone well, instead of simply having faith because I believe in our family's abilities.

I just wish I wasn't left wondering if we made a big, big mistake putting our trust in the public school as the best environment for our daughter, our precious daughter with her grand mind. I'm trusting this school to be the partner in parenting my child. Perhaps we ought to have courted one another a bit longer; that's a pretty heavy commitment. It's not all just me, and I know that. I want her fostered and built up, not crushed under the wheels of a public system.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

That Distance was between Us


That Distance was between Us
That is not of Mile or Main—
The Will it is that situates—
Equator—never can—

---Emily Dickinson


I like the back chair of the table in the corner, by the wall. I'm not a SuperSpy nor have I ever been trained as one; it's simply my natural inclination. I like a position from which I can see but not be seen, have my back covered, and keep my personal space protected.

Sitting at a table in the center of a restaurant, where servers and other patrons can surprise me and brush behind me---where my personal space is open and unprotected---is so uncomfortable to me that I will wait until a side or back table is available if at all possible.

In a situation of imposed intimacy, I do my best to protect my distance, my privacy.

I know both of my next door neighbors to nod and say hello to, but we are no closer than that. They are nice people, and I am glad to have these good neighbors. In fact, I can't think of a single immediate neighbor to complain about---not that I'm trying. One house past next on one side is a lovely woman. We've been town meeting buddies before. One house past on the other side is a nice family with teenage sons, also nice. Around the cul-de-sac is the marvelous snake catcher friend, a retired couple, and some friends of ours. I like and enjoy my neighbors. I feel fortunate in them. Yet, none are my best friends.

People have often asked what drives each of us to the Internet, to this cyber neighborhood. To me, it seems as simple and as complicated as seeking what we don't find in our own neighborhoods. But that's another post.

I do think that in our own neighborhoods, there is a day-to-day knowledge we have of one another that creates a need---at least for me---for a bit of space. I don't think any of us prefer to be so closely observed by those in a position to do so. In our online neighborhoods, we can more easily control what you hear and see. It's a better shield than closing a door and pulling down the blinds.

The in person presence of another person is revealing, simply through actions, body language, the sense we get of one another. In person, one on one, we gain knowledge of each other, even if we say nothing. This creates an individuality that can be intensely personal, sensorily overwhelming.

And yet, this is crucial, this awareness, in order for us to have the respect and courtesy we need to live side-by-side with one another, either in our close-knit neighborhoods, our cyber communities, or on a grander scale: the countries, cultures, methods of living and being that the diverse populace of our planet bring.

What kind of neighbors, neighborhoods, concepts of sharing space did others find and share?

Read on...

Chani wrote Good neighbors....

Planet Mom wrote Neighborhoods: The Fabric of america

Catherine wrote Stand Up!

Slouching Mom wrote The Back Yard

Snoskred wrote Everybody Needs Good Neighbours..

UPDATED: Additional posts for the Hmmm...

Sephy wrote We all need good Neighbors

Gwen wrote Dos Robertos and the Hump Day Hmmm

Emily wrote Is it worth the waiting for?

Q as in Cupid wrote Hump Day Hmmmm

Kim at After the Ball wrote Who's Your Neighbor?

Katie wrote I’m a Bad Neighbour

Christine wrote of neighbors furry and feathered

Painted Maypole wrote How to be a good neighbor

Bub and Pie wrote Neighbours

Thank you to all for these marvelous contributions!

Remember, I'm happy to add you to this list anytime (which I will keep up for a bit). Just email your link to me at j pippert at g mail dot com.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who are the people in YOUR neighborhood?

Your neighborhood matters. On the Today show this morning, a real estate expert explained how your home value is related to your neighbors, and bad ones can drag it down. In fact, she said, a major reason people move is to escape bad neighbors.

I know this can be true.

When we lived in Boston, we rented half of a two-family. It was divvied up with one small unit on the first floor (ours) and one larger unit on the second floor (theirs). When we first moved in, our neighbor was a nice single lady with a son, about ten years old. Great neighbors. She moved out a year later, and the New People moved in. Whereas our previous neighbor had respected the fact that she shared space, the New People didn't seem to at all. They hung out on the porch directly in front of our room, with no concern for the fact that they were loud, it was late, it intruded on our space, and they were using our furniture. One gorgeous day we had all the windows and doors open. I came in from outside to find the woman and her daughter inside, and she was letting the toddler bang on my computer. "What are you doing?" I asked, incredulous. "She was curious about the buttons," my neighbor said, "And since your computer is off, I thought it was fine." "Umm, no," I told her, "The computer isn't off, it's on screensaver, and it's not fine, this is my house, you need to leave." As I tried to fix the damage the child's random button pushing had wrought, I thought of all the lost nights' sleep from their nocturnal activities and how sharing this space was not ever going to work well. My husband and I decided to move, as quickly as possible.

More recently, my friends and I were gathered, chatting, while our children played. One friend seemed stressed and another inquired why. "We're selling the house," the first friend told us. We all gasped in shock. Only two weeks before she'd completed some gorgeous remodeling to the downstairs, including a completely brand-new kitchen, top of the line custom-made everything. She'd proudly taken us all on a tour, and smiled as we ooh'd and ahhh'd. "What in the world...why would you sell?" someone asked. Our friend looked sad, but resolute, "We have to. I don't see any other way and I've tried for years. I can't take the neighbors any longer. Do you know, some days, if I see them outside, I just drive past the house and keep driving for a while until I think they're gone?"

Apparently this is more common than I realized. I can't find any statistics, but I found thousands of Web sites dedicated to support of people with bad neighbors, advice on how to sell when you have bad neighbors, instructions about how to deal with bad neighbors, and ideas about how to avoid bad neighbors when moving. There is even a Web site called rottenneighbor.com that allows people to write and read about bad neighbors. "This service saved us from living next to bad neighbors," endorse Ted and Marlene from San Diego.

This got me thinking about boundaries. What causes such an intrusion across boundaries? Is it an issue of entitlement? Misunderstanding? And, why does it continue?

In the case of our neighbors, although I politely let them know they were crossing our boundaries, they refused to alter their behavior, and in fact, asserted a rude sort of superiority. In short, their belief was that my husband and I simply had to adjust to accommodate them as they were. Some of the most egregious behavior involved their child. My husband and I are as kid-friendly as the next guy, but we believe in boundaries for kids, too. No, it's not my job to stop and let your child stroke my fleece jacket as long as she wants when I am rushing to catch the bus to work. It is your job to teach her not to come into my house and get into my things.

In fact, when I scan the bad neighbor stories, complaints about how parents allow their children to behave are not only common, but are prevalent. People don't seem to blame the kids, from what I read, but they do hold the parents accountable. Although castigating parents is a national past-time these days, that doesn't mean there is not some validity to it too.

A friend of mine told me one time she was bewildered about how to deal with her neighbors who seemed to consider her a drop-in babysitter. "Any time we happen to be home," she told me, frustrated, "Seems to indicate we are open for daycare business. They'll pop by with their kids, their kids will start to play with ours, then they'll say, 'Oh, we need to run, but the kids are having such fun, how about we come back to get then in a few minutes, instead of prying them away now?' I'll say okay, then not five minutes after they leave our house, I see them hop in their car and leave! Somehow I end up stuck with their kids for hours! I've tried saying, 'Not today, we have to leave in ten minutes,' but they'll counter with, 'Okay back in five!' and I'm stuck...again. I've just stopped answering the door, and I've started turning the kids away all the time now. I don't know what else to do."

I feel safe hazarding a guess that someday when these kids are adults, it's a strong possibility that their neighbors will be complaining about their lack of respect of boundaries.

I don't think it is so much that a problem occurs, but that some neighbors are unwilling to address the problem. My dog has run outside after dark and suddenly let loose a ferocious string of loud barking. I'm sure my neighbors wince. But we don't make this a habit, and when it happens, we immediately address it and bring the dog inside, quiet him down. My neighbor has a sawing habit. I'm not sure what he saws, but he does it frequently. The high-pitched whine can be irritating, but he restricts it to daylight hours and is respectful of others' schedule. My next door neighbor asked before extending his fence, and when our tree crushed their back yard, they were nice about it, and we had the tree removed as quickly as possible.

I think for most people, willingness to try---to try to understand the other point of view, pick up on cues, understand communication, respect boundaries, address issues, etc.---is what matters more than never having a problem.

It seems as if there is a common, generally-held idea of what makes a good neighbor. Do you agree? Is it possible in such a diverse society of individuals that we can hold a common idea of how to be a good neighbor?

Have you had a good or bad neighbor experience? What made it so, and how did you resolve it?

How can we be good neighbors and add value to our neighborhoods?

Tomorrow...it's Hump Day.

For the Hump Day Hmmm, how about we talk about being good neighbors in the world? Macro or micro, general or personal, workplace or socially...it's up to you. Old posts or new posts are equally welcome.

To join in the Hump Day Hmmm...

Write a new post (or use an old post), link back to my blog (http://theartfulflower.blogspot.com) and mention the Hump Day Hmmm roundtable, and email the link to your post to me at j pippert at g mail dot com. I'll add your link in to the Hump Day Hmm post. Enjoy!

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Summer's almost out

Next week you'll hear half a sigh of relief from me.

The sigh of relief half is because public school begins next week, and thus ends my ridiculous attempt to juggle working from home with caring for children (or at least for one of them; preschool starts on September 5, after Labor Day...a mixed blessing since it means one week of still juggling, but also one week of adjusting to public school before adding in two schools each day).

If you wonder why I tried to juggle working with childcare, I'll be honest: it's because I can't afford to do otherwise. It's been an enormous strain on my entire family and has strung me practically to the breaking point. Taking the summer off isn't an option for me. But my earnings don't accommodate paying for childcare.

You might reasonably ask why not forget working right now, in that case. It's because my career is important to me, not as important as my children, but nevertheless, valuable and something I've invested heavily in as a person. I ultimately hope it increases in earnings so that I can provide better for my family, take us out of this hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck strained budget way of life. But first, I have to build up from the bottom. I know that upfront this can mean some compromise and sacrifice. My big plan was to split my schedule: mommy by day, professional by night. However, this plan relied on a 50/50 two parent family.

Unfortunately compounding this summer as difficult was my husband's work schedule, which has him working evenings and weekend, frequently.

At play here are some of the major conflicts of interest modern families have to deal with: increasing work demands, increasing cost of living that more and more requires two salaries to remain middle class (despite a strong economy), and decreasing public assistance and sense of responsibility.

This week in my about-houstontx.com column I'm exploring the effect recent legislation has for students in the 2007-8 public school year. In Texas, there are some interesting changes, including a new stipulation that sets a boundary for the earliest date school may begin and a controversial addition to the state pledge: the words "one state under God."

I'm extensively researching educational issues such as these to better understand what my child and I will encounter as she begins public school this year.

And that's the other half, the not sighing in relief half.

I am quaking in my boots as we prepare to start Patience in Big School next week. I know I won't be in Kansas (so to speak) any longer as of next Monday. My small, private school that is "touchy feely and responsive to every parent and child" experience is finished.

If I had any doubt, the vice principal of the elementary school laid it to rest after a curt conversation with me the other week. After seeking much advice, I took the unanimous suggestion to call the school and alert them to my child's experience being bullied by a student entering kindergarten with her next year. The vice principal quickly told me that the classes were already assigned (even though open enrollment had only begun that day), and parents were not allowed to make requests for class assignments. She was uninterested in learning anything about the situation, and hung up quickly. This isn't the reception I expected, based on what the teachers and parents who had advised me to call had told me. But it confirmed my worst fears that my child and I are entering a big pond where we are merely one number among many, and her individual needs pale in comparison to the greater need of the whole.

As glad as I am that soon school will be back in session and our family can resume a schedule that will balance out better than the summer has, I also anticipate at least one month of intense transition.

I look forward to and dread in equal measure the start of school and the month of September. I know Patience will be equally thrilled and happily challenged by kindergarten as well as stressed by it. I know it will be the same for us, her parents. This is the first time we'll have two children in two different schools, which will also be an adjustment. We'll all have new schedules and responsibilities as well.

I think...wake me when it's October.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Other than hurricanes dead-heading (no pun intended), what else is going on?

Although it seems hard to believe, the earth is still spinning and regular life is still ongoing even though there is a hurricane out there.

There are a lot of things in life I didn't get around to this week, and hopefully that's just a "yet" but I acknowledge some things will have to be dropped.

Here are a few that won't:

1. A big heartfelt thanks to Chani for awarding me the Blogger Reflection award.



This award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy... of knowing them and being blessed by them.

Even with the blatant abuse of the word "impact" and the nebulous wording of "Godly example" I find this a lovely award. Even lovelier is what Chani wrote
Julie and I have very different cultural perspectives. She is also far brighter than me. Just the same, I am inspired by her absolute fearlessness when it comes to staring straight into the eyes of some of scariest ethical demons. She walks through the labyrinth and comes out the other side, with the results of her examination in her palms, offering it to the rest of us. She uses her superior intelligence for the betterment of us all, not just herself or her own personal aggrandizement. She recognizes it as a gift to be shared, not a battering ram to exert power-over others. She is never condescending. She always makes me think. And she forces me to keep my mind open.

Sometimes being a Scorpio is a real burden. LOL Just kidding.

It often worries? frightens? disturbs? me how frequently people use language to depict me as some sort of warrior of ideas and words. When asked to describe me, 'scary' and 'intimidating' are usually the first two words to pop into people's minds. Gut ping and heart pang. While I do not disparage myself or my abilities, I also recognize that my sort is not that revered. So when someone mentions my strengths without even a hint of backhanded compliment and in fact holds them up as admirable and positive, I'm flattened in gratitude. It's this sort of thing that allows me to keep perspective in the face of the rest of it.

Thanks Chani.

Because I like this award so well, I am going to pass it along to a few people...

A. Gwen, just because (a) it's true, this is something that definitely describes her and she also has uttered the word God on her blog. And not in a "save me from a hurricane" sort of way, plus (b) I'm just so grateful she's back from Mexico.

B. Kaliroz, because someday I'm going to be able to be more eloquent than AMEN after reading her amazing posts.

C. Citymama, who has been famous and super cool for a very long time but who I only recently really discovered and who wrote a post recently that rocked my world.

D. Whymommy, for the same reason as Citymama. She mixes strength, humanity, wisdom and insight into a post package that has me always nodding along, reaching deep, and finding something useful to walk away with.

E. Kyla, because she is Grace personified, without being annoyingly so...she pulls it off and makes you love love love her wonderful human self.

Congrats you guys...and seriously, if you are in my favorites, you know this means you too, even if you weren't in the list of 5. It's my belief that this award will make its way around to each of you, and that's why I'm stepping outside my comfort zone and am passing it along specifically to people. I ask each recipient look around and make sure this keeps getting passed along until it reaches everyone it should.

2. Cecilieaux added some good contributions to the Rainbow Connection week. So go take a gander at Shavings Off My Mind, and scroll down through the week.

3. After discussion the other day, I added a review of Stardust to my review blog.

4. I'm behind on commenting. Sorry. I don't know when or if I'll catch up...things are a little crazy here, and the usual amount of busy. I'll do my best.

Errr...seemed like there was more but I've been interrupted and lost it. If I recall, I'll come back LOL. Oh yes, right! One teaser: there might be some big, exciting travel plans in my future.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

Also blogging at:
Ravin' Picture Maven: Where PARENTING issues meet PUBLIC issues
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Hullo, Dean...where's the rest of the Rat Pack?


As of this morning, Dean had strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane, with some unusual properties such as hail in the leading edge.

Unusual properties + hurricane heading for Gulf of Mexico = Very Bad Thing

So far they have it heading straight at us. WOO HOO!

This story is slightly out of date for Dean (you know how dynamic hurricanes are), but: "Gulf States Mop Up After Erin, Ramp Up for Hurricane Dean"

National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mooreland said Erin dumped the most rain on south and southeast Houston, where nearly nine inches were recorded at Hunting Bayou and Lockwood.

Hey! We got the most rain! An award! An award!
Texas Governor Rick Perry Friday declared Hurricane Dean an imminent threat to Texas, initiating full-scale state hurricane preparedness efforts.

I'm just surprised and impressed that Perry knows how to say the word 'imminent' much less what it means!

If politics was a frat party, Perry is Bush's slightly less intelligent, slightly less good-looking sidekick who nevertheless knows the ace he has in his more charismatic buddy, so rides his coattails for success...of a sort.
The Texas fuel industry has begun surging fuel loads to all coastal counties to ensure adequate fuel supply, the governor said, and the Texas Department of Transportation, TxDOT, is displaying public service announcements in coastal counties, advising residents to keep their gas tanks full in case evacuations become necessary.

Tank full, bottles of water and packaged food on hand. Important papers gathered. House filmed for insurance. Toiletry bag already packed. Pillows and blankets collected. Now, emergency preparedness teams...WILL YOU FAIL US AGAIN LIKE IN 2005?

Or can we count on you to BE THERE TO SUPPORT AFFECTED COASTAL RESIDENTS?

It took us TWO DAYS to evacuate inland. TWO DAYS IN A CAR in RECORD HEAT using no A/C to save on gas because NO FUEL TRUCKS COULD GET HERE and the service stations ALL CLOSED.

Our car broke down about 100 miles outside Houston, along with THOUSANDS of other evacuees and what did the emergency personnel tell us?

RIDE OUT THE HURRICANE IN OUR CARS.

WITH OUR TWO BABIES.

IN THE HEAT.

My favorite parts?

Watching overheated people packed into the backs of trucks vomit onto the highway in front of me. EXPLAINING THE DEAD to my FOUR YEAR OLD. Getting my baby well after she got so sick from the evacuation. CRYING IN THE CAR when the lady in the broken down car next to us---a chemotherapy patient with cancer---said to QUIT CALLING 911 on her behalf because she was okay with DYING. The 911 operator saying they couldn't get an ambulance through (although other cars---including our rescuers---managed just fine) and the police telling us, "You evacuees...you guys aren't our town's problem." The FEMA guy who swore me to secrecy but told me, "Yeah, they are lying to you guys to keep from a panic or riot but they aren't sending buses or fuel trucks or any kind of help to you."

YEAH SURE FEMA and emergency response teams...like we have faith in YOU.

If you've ever wondered why people don't evacuate? This is why. The evacuation can be as dangerous as the storm itself. (The death toll from the evacuation? 107 people. That wasn't much reported. When I cite that number, a lot of people are surprised. They thought the only deaths were from the hurricane.)

If they expect a storm surge, okay, we'll probably go.

But if not? We'll ride it out. Thanks. I'll take my chances with nature...it's a little more reliable than the governmental agencies I have to count on.

But I'm not like bitter or anything.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What's with the psychological need for the supernatural?


On Thursday night, some girlfriends and I gathered to go see a chick flick at the local dine and view movie theater. We saw Stardust. I suppose it's a sort of AdSense SmartSense advertising but every single solitary trailer was for a Chronicles of Narnia knockoff: young, idealistic person is "key" to some major adventure that involves passing from "regular life" into something supernatural, usually to save the world (or some world).

It's well-known in marketing that generics often do as well as if not better than originals. So when a formula for success is revealed, quickly rush to market with your version. It's trickier than that---sometimes you need to tinker with quality, dumb it down, make it cheaper, enliven it, take a fresh twist, etc. to better appeal to the masses---but that's the gist of it.

This affects any area of the market with a product or idea, but it is especially grueling in the creative world where instead of quality product driving the market, the market demand drives what you force your creative people to produce.

There are a lot of creative people out there, wanting to produce. It doesn't take much to have a topic or genre in mind and dig through your archives to find something you had and liked but lacked a market for at the time, or ask one of your current creative people to stretch into a new area. Naturally developmental producers of any type are going to focus on products that meet the current market demand aka fad or trend.

I've noticed that women's fiction, movies and television are particularly vulnerable to market piqued interest. My experience, of course, is with writers. The nice thing, generally, about writers is that they are often fairly affable about a change of genre or topic. The trouble is that sometimes where one excels is where one ought to stay. One can be exceptional in one genre and merely passable in another.

Therein lies the weakness for this marketing and developmental model: it relies too heavily on the belief that the current market interest is the sole demand, to the exclusion of the market being able to support any other interests, or one that was doing well already.

So the market is inundated with material on the current fad.

Right now, we're coming out of the crime fighting, action/adventure, suspense phase and into the supernatural phase. This transition has been happening for a while, and of course there is always some degree of demand and supply on other topics, but what I'm talking about is mainstream massive demand. Mass market.

It all starts with a smash hit product. Obviously the producers (be it movie, book, television, etc.) expected this product to profit, and possibly others were skeptical, but when anything hits smashing success level, it catches attention.

Consider a couple of fairly recent smash hits: Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Quest. Epic adventure. Virtue rewarded. A classic brought to life with stunning special effects.

Audiences and critics went crazy for it.

Now, we get a multitude of versions of these successes until someone comes along and breaks out of the box with something refreshing and new. Then, the producers sigh and say, ahhh they wish for [insert topic du jour] so let's make a slew of movies/books, shows exactly like that.

I understand wanting to ride a gravy train as long as possible.

But as a reader and a television and movie viewer, I'm not in marketing; I'm in it for the pleasure.

And I'm not too keen on this overemphasis on the supernatural (or any topic).

It seems that everywhere I look in books, television and movies we're inundated with the undead, the immortal, the bloodsuckers, the psychics, witches, otherworldly experiences, fairy tale heroes and heroines, ad infinitum.

I peruse book shelves at the library and bookstore, ooh ahh a new one from a writer I like; except, it's about vampires or some other supernatural topic. (Didn't we get past this phase ages ago when Cruise killed LeStat?) I pick up the book, give the TV show a try, or see the movie. I might even enjoy it a bit, but more often, I'm left a bit cold and unsatisfied. I miss what I liked about this talent in the first place, or I'm a little fatigued by the same topic over and over everywhere by everyone (or so it feels).

I'm a little past the "wanting to gorge myself until I am sick on one thing I like," part of life, I guess.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed the frontrunners. Lord was great, Chronicles moving. But from the moment audiences reeled in shocked and horrified pleasure when Haley Joel Osment's character confessed, "I see dead people," we began being overwhelmed with creative endeavors (and I use those words loosely) about people who, well, see dead people. It's the current cottage industry, along with the rest of the supernatural topics and fairy tale epics.

I understand that even if the story doesn't star humans it is, nevertheless, a story about humanity. We are nothing if not consistent in our desire to anthropomorphize. I also understand that these epics are frequently feel good stories that reinforce and reassure us that we, as humans---and moreover, as humans with these beliefs and values---are right, and that if we are good, that is continue to subscribe to these beliefs, ultimately we'll be rewarded. Our values and actions have a purpose, thus we have a purpose. (Even if we don't have an adventure.)

It's magical thinking, in a way, a step beyond magical realism, and a means to feeling a degree of power and authority. That's something, I think, we never quite outgrow. And I don't say that as if it is a bad thing. However, it does provide a marvelous hook for the current market for supernatural entertainment.

Tonight I think I saw trailers for half a dozen versions of Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, and I'd be hard-pressed to recall a title or actor or even plot line for one of them.

What is happening in the current US American psyche that there is apparently such a market demand for the supernatural? Why is this the trend?

What is it about witches, warlocks, stars who turn into people, vampires, immortals and so forth that so appeals to us now?

Are we depressed? Are we uncertain? Do we want to be happier?

Traditionally, psychology maintains that a belief in the supernatural can bring about positive improvements in life and moods especially during trying times. In fact, some scientists theorize that it might provide an evolutionary advantage, possibly by providing an empathic ability to reason out the minds, hearts and beliefs of others.

Are we obsessing collectively about the supernatural in order to make sense out of the seemingly unreasonable hatred and disdain of our culture? Is it exacerbated because we are at war, with people whose hatred of our ways moves them to acts of horrible violence?

Do we subconsciously need reassurance that we don't deserve this hatred and violence? And do we seek that reassurance through epic morality tales?

What do you think? Have you noticed a trend of the supernatural in the performed arts? Do you believe it is our society trying to reason out an understanding of others?

Would movies such as Stardust, Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia have done as well prior to 2001? A decade ago?

The last time this genre was popular we were at war with a culture we knew very little about; the same one as now.

I do believe that we seek the supernatural currently to try to make reason out of a culturally mystifying and traumatic time. Additionally, I think it is also rather simple: we seek escapism. But most importantly of all, I believe because so many of these movies, books, and shows reinforce Western morals and beliefs, we seek approval and reinforcement of our own way of life.

What about you?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!

Seven kinds of stupid: #1 driving in a tropical storm


At 11:15 a.m. right when I was driving home...


Driving anywhere nonessential in a tropical storm---even the edge of a sort of one---is seven kinds of stupid.

I? Am seven kinds of stupid.

For the record? The dentist is nonessential and not worth the twenty-five years I took off my life span driving to and from the office in this torrential rain.

I knew it was not good news when, as I backed out of my drive, rain band 1 hit, turning the sky gunmetal gray with rain slashing down at about a 45 degree angle. I had about ten feet of visibility in front of me.

I knew it was very bad news when, as I paid the dentist and prepared to leave, the sky turned black as night. That rain crashed down bone straight, and left about five feet of visibility. Everyone had to drive in the left lanes as the right ones were flooded.

As we drove, the radio made that ghastly shrieking noise and issued storm and flash flood alerts for...everywhere I am.

Then the sky and air got freaky weird. The edge of black cloud tapered into light gray, with a slight space in between rain band systems that opened up to nearly blue. It was so quiet right there, with no rain, or noise. I could see across to the bay, where the next line of rain was coming in.

We made it the rest of the way home and inside the house quickly before that band hit.

Now it's pounding rain and thunder outside.

We're so water logged here that the water is sitting too much on the surface, so I believe the flash flood warnings.

So it's just rain...and really, we're fairly used to it by now. But man, driving in it sucks and is seven kinds of stupid. (New England friends, it's like a Nor'easters and then some.)

South of us are under "boil water" warnings. If we're getting pounded, I hope they are okay.

Fellow Gulf coasters, if you can, please check in! Mainly tell me you are not as stupid as I am, LOL.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
Also blogging at:
Ravin' Maven REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Ravin' Maven RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
About-HOUSTON-TX.com: HOT scoop about H-Town!