School Blues or Blessings?

August 11, 2011

There is something very lazy and carefree that comes with the summertime.
The warm days, suntanned skin, watermelon, tank tops. They soothingly whisper, Take a deep breath. Move a little slower. Drink in the sunshine. Put on your wide-brimmed straw hat and spread out under the sun. Work can wait. Another thing these months bring is the inundation of everything youthful. Those peaceful, beautiful hours from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. when children were safely inside their classrooms become only a dream. Like the days when a gallon of gas cost 99 cents.
For those three months, we listen to the bass of their rap music as we drive to the post office, sidestep their hurtling vehicles in the gas station parking lot, feign oblivion of the dressing room tantrums.
These are sacrifices that must be made in exchange for the wind in our hair, the warm summer air and the smell of suntan lotion.
We remind ourselves that soon enough, the tykes will return to their academic pursuits and pep rallies for another year.
And then will come the sweet reprieve of fall and child-less shopping.
It takes me back to my school days. I find it amazing how time has flown since my high school graduation. But those years leading up to graduation couldn’t have crept by any slower.
I remember walking to my first hour history class in seventh grade and thinking, I still have five years to go.
I seriously considered dropping out in eleventh grade. Not because I was rebellious or unwilling to learn. But because my time felt too valuable to waste.
I’m probably one of the only kids who ever begged her parents to let her home school.
I enviously eavesdropped as home schoolers talked about their 4-hour school days and various extracurricular activities. None of which involved sitting through a wrestling match for the last two hours of the school day or watching cheerleaders lead cheers about how our football team was number one.
Our football team was not number one, by the way. Obviously, no one wanted to admit that.
No, when it comes to most social activities, I find that I must be forced.
This was even true academically at times.
I must have been in a very overachieving mood the day I selected my senior year classes. I picked three Advanced Placement classes—English, Economics and Math. By the time the school year rolled around and I had to actually follow through on my decision, my self-confidence and willingness to exert myself had left me entirely.
I remember sitting in the counselor’s office begging to be moved to less-intensive courses.
He took one look at my above-average grades, and said, “No.”
I hyperventilated that evening to my parents, and they just looked at me and chalked it up to female hormones as they ate dinner.
I realized that I had dug my grave.
The girl I was six months ago was the one who pushed me then.
It was my parents who pushed me all through school to remain in public education.
“It will teach you endurance and make you stronger,” they said. “We all have to put up with situations that we don’t like sometimes.”
Well, they were right. As much as I wouldn’t admit it for a long time after.
So, I say–return little ones back to your lockers, pop quizzes and textbooks.
It will only improve your characters.
And give the rest of us time to rest.

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Roses for the less-hurried

January 22, 2011

Time is a funny thing. I caught a glimpse of my high school graduation keyring from oh-so long ago–an item I cared so much about at the time–which catapulted me back momentarily to my awkward days of ill-fitting clothes, acne and general teenage insecurities that are only grown out of with time and experience. (For me, the baggage seeming to hang on for a painfully long time.)

I remember days that I would gaze in a sea of despair at my calendar, confirming the 85 dreadful days I had to travel before summer vacation. My growing anticipation and sure belief in the greatness of life after high school felt like a boiling pot inside of me waiting to overflow unless I pushed for the premature exit. Fortunately, I knew better.

And then, as it happens for most of us, life pushed me forward, and as slowly as it seemed at the time, I soon saw myself take my first final in college, finish my senior project and then grasp my diploma proudly, all in what seemed like a week’s time.

Life has a way of gripping us so tightly sometimes that we almost can’t grasp where are until we are on to our next challenge. Events swirl around and keep us occupied with tasks that are so important in the moment, making it a struggle to appreciate, or even acknowledge, what we are experiencing the moment we are experiencing it.

Roses really do have a wonderful scent. I, for one, plan to continue to stop and smell them.

sex kitten at 17

May 16, 2010

I don’t know what else there is to say about pop culture and its love of 12 year olds and obsession with manipulating them into sex-crazed 16 year olds with heroin addictions and STDs and then subsequent pleasure in cackling over their utter destruction: multiple rehab stints, abuses, addictions, divorces, sex tapes, money scandals, all the while aging 20 years before our eyes. (Have you seen Lindsey Lohan lately?)

My tirade comes on the heels of the recent Miley Cyrus happenings.

What would entertainment news do without her? Giving lap dances to a gay man, gyrating with her female dancers, pole dancing for her audiences. Parents of Hannah Montana fans must be so happy that their children have such a stand-up role model.

And all of this success at only 17. I see so many exciting things in her future. Sex tape at 18, alcohol addiction at 19, rehab at 20, abuse allegations at 22, drug addiction at 23, total meltdown at 24, rehab at 25.

Has Britney been secretly tutoring her? Or has she found a way to actually transfer her life into Miley’s body? Because Miley’s not just taking tips from Britney’s steller example; she’s a carbon copy. Only about four years ahead of her. I mean, at 17, Brit was still singing about sunny meadows and flowers. Miley, on the other hand, skipped right to post-virginal Britney.

Well, at least she’s being honest. No lies about chastity. Just pure, raw sexuality for this teenage puppet.

And I can tell you one thing, Billy Ray couldn’t be prouder. His buttons were surely bursting when she slid down that pole just a few feet from him and her mama. And he no doubt approved of the video of her lap dance for Mr. Shankman and saw to its distribution all over the Internet. After all, according to him, all 17-year-old girls enjoy a little stripper pole, or lap dance, once in a while.

Needless to say, if you’re a 17-year-old girl and you’re not engaging in these activities, you better get on the bandwagon. Because with a name like Billy Ray and a daughter like Miley, how could he be wrong–or a completely inept parental figure at that?

Just remember his hit song and mullet from 20 years back. That should reinstate his respect.

I needed to find a thank you card.

I used to love looking for cards; I still do to a large extent.

But I’ll tell you what I don’t like: passing by aisles and aisles of birthday cards until I finally spot the small location at the back of the store where they’ve placed the five cards of various other subjects: thinking of you, thank you, friendship, sympathy, blank.

I’m all about celebrating people–granted, not through birthdays, but through various other card subjects. Dropping someone a line to say “I miss you” or “Thanks for being a good friend.” Everyone loves getting cards. And most love giving them.

But could we work on the originality please? Hallmark recently unveiled a new line of cards to encourage young ones. That’s original. And admittedly, something that our youngsters could use more of.

I remember the days of finding a colorful, poetic card when I was searching for something to do the talking for me. Or sometimes it was the card that worded it just right, but still leaving me ample space to add my thoughts. Or some days I wanted to laugh and pass it on to my friend. Before long, I would have six cards in my hands, conflicted as to which one I would choose.

I miss those days.

Looking back, they somehow felt simpler.

And yet, as everything does, it goes back to our day and age. While we all still love cards, we are too busy to take the time to find one for someone–unless we’re forced, such as in birthdays or anniversaries. We are even too busy to think of the idea. And by the time everyone realizes it, thanks to technology, written communication will be almost lost and our postal system will be a fragment from the past.

televised trash

February 16, 2010

I have sworn off television.

I actually feel dumber after watching it.

Partly because I know better.

Partly because, try as I may, I know I won’t be able to find anything worth any brain power.

Today, I witnessed Judge Judy humiliating her guests as usual–and herself at the same time. Tyra talking about herself . . . or sex–it’s always one of the two.

I paused to check out Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Unquestionably, the longest two minutes of my life.

What were Brad and Angelina thinking when they accepted these roles? Maybe they saw it as a way to work together; far be it for the script to be any good. They probably figured that with their breathtaking looks and neverending star power, they could scoop dog poop for two hours, and audiences would giggle in ecstasy.

They weren’t far off, unfortunate to say.

Another show that helped bring up my lunch for the day was Secret Life of the American Teenager. Now here’s a sure-to-be classic. 15-year-old girl gets pregnant. Lives with no obvious consequences. Goes to school like a normal girl without a baby. Comes home to a nice, spacious house and a loving family–albeit with obvious mental problems. But no economic issues. No discussion of money. No dreading of bills. No crying over depression or lost opportunities that come with mothering a child. Just smooth sailing. Dating with no concern for her baby’s future. No late-night feedings or changings. The season finale might even be that her baby is simply a figment of her imagination. I haven’t figured that out yet.

Reminds me of Rachel from Friends when she had a baby. But where was that baby? The gang at the coffee shop hardly ever saw her and definitely never heard her. Best baby ever!

And Rachel sure didn’t look any worse for it. Her hair was always quaffed in her Rachel way. Outfits always neat and ironed. No baby spit-up for her. No, her baby never did that.

Man, if parenthood were that easy, what’s all the fuss about?

Molly Ringwald plays the 15-year-old’s mother on Secret Life. She was bragging about the program one day, calling it a family show that kids and parents could enjoy together. Storylines for everyone.

Except, that is, for people with standards. And those who want their kids to grow up well-adjusted and not sex-crazed.

Those people might want to just say no to the show. Maybe even tv in general.

Weekend Lover

February 10, 2010

Back in elementary school, I remember these t-shirts that said “Gymnastics is life; soccer is life; dance is life;” etc. All the kids wore them, touting their favorite after-school activity.

Today, I have come to the conclusion that those same sentiments can be attributed to most adults and teenagers alike. Just erase the given hobby and replace with “weekends.”

It’s pretty obvious that people live for the weekends. Our whole society propogates that ideal. Beer commercials. Billboards. Magazine ads.

Because I spend a significant amount of time serving coffee each week to those sad souls headed to work, I find plenty of time for reflection. Listening to them you’d think they were headed to the guillotine, instead of an office desk.

Our quick coffee conversations consist mostly of parting grunts:
Ugh, It’s Monday.
Tired, need coffee.
Back to the grind.
Friday’s almost here.
Week’s halfway over.

I don’t know about you, but something doesn’t feel right about living for two days of every week. It feels more like settling. And I don’t settle.

But if I did, living for two days a week means that instead of enjoying 365 days each year, I would enjoy 104.

Logically, then, I wonder, why does work have to be such a drudgery?

Now, I understand that some jobs just can’t be turned into an enjoyable experience. Working in a call center, for instance. For me, there’s nothing that sounds more gloomy. But then again, for others, especially the sunny, cup’s-always-half-full type people, calming down irate customers all day long does not seem so depressing.

The key, then, is finding the job that’s right for you. Not for your parents or your spouse but for you.

Not settling for what’s easiest or most convenient or safest but searching and finding what’s most fulfilling.

Breaking News

January 2, 2010

Let’s discuss the marvel that is Facebook.

This is an idea that revolves around two human desires.

One: to be social.

We are social creatures. We need people. No man is an island. We’ve all heard that expression. It’s true.

But when did it become necessary to have another human involved in absolutely every nanosecond of every moment of our lives?

I personally find it very disturbing to have people around me for more than five hours a day.

New technology and lack of self-restraint have turned A.D.D. into the norm. Entitlement has birthed newborns with texting addictions and Facebook profiles updated by the minute. Technological advances have turned our world into a playground of egotistical crybabies.

Two: to be heard.

Thanks to Twitter, people can publish their every thought, uncensored, for the world to see. Because who isn’t interested in the fact that at this very moment, I am standing in my kitchen making macaroni and cheese. Well, actually, I’m not doing it anymore. Now, I’m on my iPhone telling all my friends that I’m doing that. But once I’m done posting, I’ll go back to my mac ‘n cheese. That is, until a friend posts a response and then I’ll have to reply to her reply and then that will go on for a while so that I’ll forget my dinner and it’ll burn on the stovetop. So I’ll just end up chatting all night about Taylor Swift and if she and Taylor Lautner are really broken up.

Really, Facebook and Twitter (‘Tweets,’ seriously? Who is the genius that came up with that intelligent lingo?) can be summed up in one word: distraction.

That’s all it is. Distract us from working. Distract us from learning. Distract us from educating our minds with events happening outside our immediate jurisdiction. Distract us from living.

Or maybe distract us from ourselves.

With the economy limping along at a tortoise pace and consumers’ pocketbooks closed tighter than ever and the holiday season staring us down, stores of all kind should be beating people over their heads with kindness to lure them in to buy. And yet, day after day, my theory is proven wrong. I find more self-involved store owners, aloof employees and an overall don’t-care attitude hovering over me in these amazingly overly expensive shops.

Do they really expect that by not greeting me for ten minutes after I walk through their doors, when they finally privilege me with their acknowledgment, I will hand over my money? When did this too-cool-for-customer-service attitude come about?

Probably with the evolution of iPods and emo rock and skinny jeans and the general “what’s in it for me” viewpoint of our newest generation of just adorable young adults.

But are they really to blame?

Of course not. Because if it were only them, we could easily become responsible parents and send them to their rooms without dinner to think about what they’ve done. Or at least, that’s what June Cleaver would have done. We, the adults, the supposed mature ones, have become infected as well.

Did technology cause this? Or maybe the ease of accessibility to absolutely everything in the free world? The ability to get whatever you want, whenever you want it? The replacing of intelligent conversation with constant scrutiny and idolization of celebrities? The me-first mindset, giving way to road rage?

June Cleaver would be appalled.

I was in my car one day when a young boy pulls up next to me blasting the most recent rap song, from the newest thug on the music scene. He was very enthusiastically, yet aggressively, shaking his head. If I hadn’t heard the music, I would have thought he was getting water out of his ears. I felt instant pity for his head. I can’t begin to wonder how his brain handles the constant rattling.

I must admit, the new breed of youngsters frightens me: what they’re being exposed to and at how young of an age they are being exposed to it.

Rehab has become “in.”

High society priveleged teens are the associates held out to impressionable young ones on evening dramas. 

Current radio tunes, and the djs who sell them, tout nightclubs and promote the normalcy of partying and drugs. With no apparent consequences.

Why can’t we just tap our red slippers together with Dorothy and say “There’s no place like home.” And vanish the gangsta rap and the mindless bobbing heads that gobble up the newest Soldja Boy song that sounds curiously similar to his last hit song. Maybe then we can start to teach our children how to live, without allowing their associates, music and television to do it for us.

Wait a minute… why don’t we start now?