Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Last NYC Commute

I have big news to share, news that is predicated by a conversation with my children.  As I shared with them the possibility of my taking a new job, from the backseat of the car, they asked me really insightful questions.  Taking in my honest answers, my son said, "Mama, I think you should go for it."  I trust them, and I trust my gut.

So after 11 years at Fordham, I will be moving to Drew University, where I will be director of teacher education.  This move means big changes for our family, all of them good, but it also means leaving a place that has been formative to me.

This week, I completed my last semester at Fordham, and I reflected on "place."  I've left several places in my life, all of them churning emotions in me.  From my high school, to my college, to my parents' home, to my first apartment and house with my husband, to the high school where I taught, place has always mattered to me.  This week, I asked why.  I share my reflection on leaving this most recent place in this digital story.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


When my kids entered 3rd grade, I made them stop bathing together. I took the advice of my mentor twinmoms that age 8 was the dividing line for B/G twins. My daughter's response underscored their innocence:

"Awww, I'm never going to be able to play in the bathtub with my brother again?"

Both of them didn't understand, but for the most part, they accepted the new rule.

Of course, to be honest, we are a very open family, and everyone is using everyone else's bathroom all the time. No one seems to notice a naked butt passing through now and again, and I'm constantly being interrupted in the bathroom. We still live in innocence.

Tonight my bath was interrupted first by my daughter, who couldn't sleep because of some girl trouble at school. "Can I talk to you about something?" she asked.  I listened.  I counseled. I  sent her back to bed.

A few sips of wine minutes later, my son walked in the room. I nonchalantly covered myself, as he said, "Can I talk to you about something?"

He proceeded to tell me about some boy struggles at school, so very different than what my daughter had just described. And as he shared that a boy in his class was using foul language, which he knew was wrong, he described a conversation that included hand gestures and the word "sex." Perhaps this one isolated moment wouldn't have piqued his curiosity but to my dismay serendipitously, another friend used similar hand motions and the same word (SEX) on the bus. He couldn't sleep because he had no idea what they were talking about.  And he is a curious creature.  He wanted to know.

Guided by my own parents, I have always taken the stance that I answer my children's questions honestly - within their cognitive understanding.  The first time they asked me where babies came from (when they were tots), I told them that they grew in a woman's tummy, and I showed them pictures of my expanding belly.  The next time, a few years later, I explained that it takes a man and a woman to make a baby, but that families come in all forms and babies are made in many ways.  But this question from my son tonight was different.  My son asked me specifically what "sex" meant.  And he did this while I was naked in the bathtub.

So naturally I said, "This is a big conversation.  Do you really want to know?"

"Yes," he replied, his face ensuring to me that he did, in fact, really want to know.

"Then I need to get dressed. Go ask Daddy to meet us."

So what is the cognitive truth to a 9-year-old who has seen the puberty video "Always changing, always growing" and who is inquisitive by nature?

My spur of the moment decision was - it's the truth.  And together the three of us sat, my little boy, my incredibly uncomfortable hubby, and me, while I tried to tell him that truth.

I asked my son if he ever wondered where babies came from.  He answered with his own theory - "They are dropped out of the sky, which is why they don't remember anything."

My husband and I looked at each other.

"Who told you that? That's not the truth."

He responded, "It's my theory.  Because babies don't remember anything."

A little bit proud of his answer, I continued, "Well, babies are made in a couple of ways.  I've told you before it takes a man and a woman.  The woman gives eggs (I pointed to my ovaries) and a man gives sperm, which is made in his penis."

"Not true," said my hubby, who, though incredibly uncomfortable, decided to enter the conversation as a fact checker.

"Testicles," I corrected.  "But it comes out of his penis."  My hubby nodded approvingly.

My son looked inquisitively at me.

I continued.  "So to make a baby, you can take the eggs out of the woman and the sperm out of a man and mix it in a dish."

"And the baby grows in a dish?!?!?" he asked.

"No, you put the mixture back in a mama," I replied, trying hard to meet him on his cognitive level.

"Ok," he said, seeming to make sense of the science.

"Or..." I hinted....  "The man and the woman could make it together without the dish."

"How?" he wondered.

"Well, what's different between a man and a woman?"

"Their privates," he answered, smiling shyly.

"Yes, so think about it.  What do the hand motions you showed us earlier mean?"

He looked at me.  As the realization hit, his face transformed into a mixture of horror and disbelief.  He burst out laughing (sobbing?) and couldn't control himself.  "You mean????" he stuttered, unable to control the laughter/sobbing, unable to ask the question.

"Are you ok?  my husband said.  "BREATHE...."

He continued to laugh, his entire body convulsing, his face pressed into his hands.  And then finally he looked at us.

"It's just.... so.... GROSS!" my little boy exclaimed.

My hubby and I exchanged relieved glances, and I went on to explain that sex is something that people who love each other do to make a baby, and it's not something for children to do and/or talk about.  He assured me he has never used those hand gestures and that he wouldn't say anything to anyone else about it.

Of course, then he asked the all important question in this conversation -

"How was I made?"

For the first time, being able to say my kids were made in a petri dish didn't feel awkward.  It gave me a sigh of relief.  I'm pretty sure he thinks his parents have never had sex, which allows us him to keep our innocence just a bit longer.

Of course, now I have to initiate "the conversation" with his twin sister - because I want her to hear it from me, not from her brother, or from the boys on the bus.  And in order to do this, I need to accept, as my mom has been telling me recently, that I've entered TweenLife.  I need to embrace this moment between innocence and experience - and just keep hoping that they continue to talk to me, to ask me questions, and that I'm strong enough to tell them the truth.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

My Women's March Story

I don't have much to say, except thank you to those who came before, those who marched now, and those who will continue to fight for ALL humans.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Why I March

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

Approximately 250,000 people attended the March on Washington.  They came from all over the country.  They came for many reasons.  History says they changed the course of history.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.

Our country was divided.  Many were disenfranchised.  Many did not enjoy equality - both under the law and in the hearts of their neighbors.

In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Leaders called for peaceful resistance.  The majority went high when others went low.  

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.We cannot turn back.

They weren't alone.  In gathering together, they supported one another to stand for what is right, what is just, what is the path to a better world for all humans.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all (hu)men are created equal."

I march so that my daughter knows she matters and my son sees my action.
I march so that my mom's generation knows they did not fail.
I march because all people deserve personal liberties.
I march because our country was founded on civil discourse. 
I march because I could not march with Dr. King and all of his contemporaries.  

I have stood in the Birmingham Civil Rights museum and marveled at the courage of the Freedom Riders.  I have studied the Civil Rights Movement and applauded the stamina of all who contributed. I have wondered whether I would have their courage given the same situation.  I have doubted that I would.

I march because I stand for them, and for us.  All of us.

August 28, 1963, Lincoln Memorial

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Tough Day

I just created a playlist called "Keep from Crying." I'm trying to keep the tears in as I sit on the train. I'm trying to figure out how I make it through the day, go to meetings, teach, without losing it. I know my colleagues in K-12 are already struggling in front of their students this morning.

What do we say to the children?

I lay awake last night trying to figure out what I would say to my own kids. I knew they would be worried about their friends who had already expressed fears about what a Trump win would mean for their families. This video expresses my angst as a parent more eloquently than I can.

I told my children that there would be many people today who would be scared about the results of this election. I told them that it was our job to let them know we love them, we want them to be part of our lives, and we will stand up for them. It's our job to spread love.

And now every time I think about the fact that I have to coach my children to be advocates for love, I lose it. I wanted them to live in a world where love for all was the norm, not a position of advocacy.

The playlist isn't working very well.

To my Hispanic, Muslim, Black, LGBT, female and otherwise marginalized friends, I'm with you. To Hillary, I'm sorry. Your strength and poise is an inspiration, and you did not deserve to feel the brunt of our ignorance. I will find it within me to live up to your example.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Crying on the train

The white men on my train don't get it. If they noticed me, they saw a woman who was crying, but I know they don't get it.

A while back I posted my depression about this election, and I was bolstered by the response to that post.  I learned I was not alone.

But I continue to read the vitriol against the most qualified candidate we have ever had,  equating her with perhaps the most self-serving, openly prejudiced candidate to walk the halls of democracy. I do not understand how people equate them, how it has become the "lesser of two evils." I do not understand living through hate and fear rather than love and compassion.

I cry because people cannot see that this is not a normal election. I cry because I know the outcome tomorrow, regardless of winner, is a loss for women, for all.

I cry because my children live in a world where hate is acceptable.

I've told my children that I understand how people can't vote against their party.  I understand a difference in opinion on economics, on environmental preservation, and even on personal liberties. It's ok to have different beliefs and to argue about them, but that I do not understand how people can vote for hate.

I've told my mom that I've lost before when it mattered, and yet I never felt like this.

I told my husband that this election will make my world smaller, and it will.

I've told my brother that this election has ruined me.

I've told the people closest to me that tomorrow will not be an end, regardless of the outcome.  And this is why I'm crying on the train, unwanted tears streaming down my face as I try to contemplate where to go from here, from tomorrow, from this moment in our history.

I'm not writing this post to convince anyone to vote in a particular way.  I continue to, as I always have, to write when emotion demands it.  I'm hoping that some of my readers will know they are not alone in their feelings tonight.  Or tomorrow.  Or the day after.

I'm hoping that my smaller world can can brave it together and that my children can live in a world of love and acceptance, regardless of the politics that surround us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Has a psychologist diagnosed this depression?

I need someone from the psychological community to validate my growing depression. Very rarely are things so clear in my view that I cannot comprehend another view. In fact, my best friend and partner has completely different views politically - so I'm well versed in debate (heated argument), and I benefit by always seeing the other side.

But this election is different for me. Though I've disagreed with policies of candidates in the past, and I've worried about losing personal liberties through Supreme Court appointments, I've never felt the despair about the possibilities of a single person being elected. Our government was designed to be stronger than one individual, no matter how close to demagogue he leans.

But this election is different for me.

I'm increasingly depressed by the embracing of bigotry, self-promotion, and rhetoric over reasoned argument. I can't stand that so many - including people in my circle - equate the awfulness of two candidates, and support one who stands for nothing but personal gain. 

There is no question which person is better prepared, who speaks Presidentially, who can lead our country as a good force on this Earth.

Why don't we, still the most influential nation in the world, want to be a force of good? Look at the preparation and the experience.

Why do we want to be a bully? Why do so many embrace this perspective? Look at the preparation and experience.

To be clear, I do not think ANYONE, public individual or private, lives a perfect life. I actually think most people don't take ownership of the mistakes we make.  Politicians in general have these two issues magnified in our social media world. So compare the mistakes. Compare the ability to take ownership. And then compare the ability to treat others as you would want to be treated. Who works for individual gain? Both. But who works predominantly for the greater good. Only one.

I have, for the most part, stopped trying to change opinions, because I've realized most people don't care about evidence.

But I continue to read, and each time I read the "other" view, I'm struck by the vitriol, rather than the reason, by the hate, rather than the help. I just don't understand, and  I'm growing more depressed.

I want to make my world smaller, shake my head while having a drink with those who commiserate. 

But I can't.  Because this is my life, and no matter what happens, I need to teach my children how to be kind, compassionate people who think beyond their personal gain - despite the "role models" we put before them. 

So I've continued to read, and I try with open mind and heart to understand those who support him. But I can't.

I'm with her.

Because her record shows she works for the common good.

Because she fights for her constituents (see her efforts for NYC after 9/11).

Because she has experience negotiating international waters with success and respect.

Because the non-demagogues of the world would vote for her as an ally.

Because she respects all humans.

Because she knows how to negotiate and compromise.

Because she has had to work more than twice as hard to get where she is, thus showing she has the stamina.

Because she prepares, and it shows.

Because she can accept feedback and change.

Because she speaks coherently.

Because she cares about the children of this country.

Because, quite frankly, she is smart.

These are the qualities I want in the leader of the FREE world because these are the qualities that fight for good. Is it always perfect? No. But it's so clear to me who doesn't fight for good in this election. It's clear that one candidate doesn't respect anyone but himself. 

I do not understand, and I'm struggling, as a teacher, a thinker...and most of all a mother.

PS-I don't think this would be an issue if a white man were running against him.