Graduation – Hope In All the Right Faces

And since we are on the subject of education…I recently attended the college graduation of a friend. She is what is commonly known as a “mature” student. She is many years out of high school, three kids and a world of living later. She has been in school almost as long as I have known her; about five years. Raising her kids and doing homework. Wow, do I have respect for that. I have accomplished a lot but I don’t think I could have accomplished that. But I digress, as usual. We raced over to the campus stadium, about an hour from home, at the crack of dawn and found our seats (her parents got there before the crack of dawn and saved them for us!). As the hundreds of graduates began to file in and take their seats I found myself truly moved, looking on as I was from my “mature” vantage point. I looked into the sea of faces, mostly young and untried, and what came to me was that the hall was thick with hope. Many of the graduates had painted messages of thanks to their parents on their mortarboards, that was truly wonderful to see, that there are still kids who don’t believe they are “entitled” to everything and who have gratitude. What was astonishing was the number of graduates in the bachelor’s of education program. Teachers are so terrifically underpaid and under appreciated these days. It seems generally that they now have to pay for and beg parents for supplies for their classrooms that underfunded school districts are unable to provide. I have to assume lots of them know this. But there they were, faces shining, diplomas held high, hopeful to start their careers. These are not just the hopeful, they are the hope. In their hands are the future of our country, those who will make policy and care for us when we are old, those who will forge our place in the world, those who will teach the next to come.

Shout It From the Rooftops ~ We’re Ignorant and We’re Proud

Back to bumper stickers. It has been raining for so long that I have spent much more time than usual sitting at red lights or at long lines of cars where lanes are blocked off, intersections under water, etc. So here’s one that has been around a long time “My kid can beat up your honor student”. Good grief. Since when has it become an American value to be violent and stupid. I know, many of you will say oh, that’s been happening for a long time now. How sad is that? Certainly in politics we have seen that literacy and education have been conflated with arrogance and elitism. “Alright, so you got an think you’re better than me?” “Yep”. I admit it, I am a snob, not an elitist, a snob. I believe that lifelong learning is a value to be cherished. Even if you don’t have a formal education, there is always something to learn. There are so many ways in this technological world to educate yourself, to be interested, to be curious. I am not a snob about formal education. I am a snob about those who think they have nothing and no reason to learn. So sue me. Even in a job you don’t love, you are bored by or just plain want to change, there is something new to learn. One of the great joys of living another day is that there is always something new to learn. It makes me nuts that I can’t seem to instill this curiousity, this love of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, in my teenage son. I am just hoping its in there and will come out later when he passes through the hormonal fog to the other side. There was a woman where I work that couldn’t make friends with her computer; I can really relate. But her solution, for the same problem over and over again, was to call IT for help, never learning her way to a better solution. Now I grant, we can’t all be computer whizzes. But we can learn new things. To live in the world today we have to learn new things. I learned how to make a blog, at first so intimidating I thought I would kill myself. Now I have two. I have a touch phone. I was the woman with the oldest cell phone in America, a phone my son called the dinosaur. Even my dad, who’s memory precludes him from a lot of technological learning, will sit at the computer and try. That’s all it takes, Try. Like Ty Murray on Dancing with the Stars; he was still a bullrider but he had a lot of Try. We should not be proud of our children’s ignorance, let alone our own. We should strive to find the teaching in every new day and shout that from the bumper.

The Sense God Gave a Flea

What happened to common sense? I was reading someone else’s blog and the article was about teaching kids safety ( and the issue was whether it is safety or fear that we are teaching. Great concept, spawing many ideas. And there was a comment that was aggressive but didn’t really disagree with the author’s point of view that we should try not to make our kids scared of their own shadows. I agree. And there are a lot of bogeymen in the world, I know, I represented a lot of them. But whatever happened to common sense. Don’t run with sharp sticks if you fall it will hurt. It will hurt if you run and fall no matter what, and that would be ok, its the addition of the sharp stick that makes it a non-starter on the common sense front. I know that I have probably caused my child to be too cautious and that is a shame. I believe that some risk is required to live a full and fulfilled life. If you give your heart you won’t know love, or the pain of having it broken; just try to see truthfully who you are loving. If you don’t venture into other people’s cultures you won’t see the richness and beauty of sharing that experience, or possibly experience the painful prejudice of being the outsider; just don’t go where you might be shot for it. If you don’t go out in the rainstorm you won’t see the beauty of the lightning, although you may be struck by it; just don’t hold up a golf club. This is hoping he has the “sense God gave a flea.” You get the idea. How many times have I said “you don’t have the sense God gave a flea”? I want him to have that, and more, but not too much. I want my child to have the most wonderful life filled with every kind of experience and yet, to to that, he will have to take risks that frighten me. I will just have to have faith that luck, God and common sense will shield him from the worst the world has to offer. For the bad he must suffer; just make it survivable.

D’var Torah

We have this really cool idea in Judaism, that anyone can and should interpret the Torah. In our world it is not just the Rabbis that have the power, intellect, right, whatever to interpret scripture. In our world scripture is personal, to be understood and explicated by each of us. I love doing this. I particularly love writing the D’var Torah for a shabbat service (this is equivalent to the sermon, its a commentary). Finding a theme, particularly one that resonates in the modern world, is not always easy. Some Torah portions are filled with terrible things. This week was all about the punishing God, the torments to be inflicted if we don’t observe all the rules. Its a difficult portion unless but the good news is that God loves us nevertheless. The last one I wrote on was all about skin sores (often interpreted as leprosy) and things unclean. I have been asked to write about this particular portion several times; not easy or attractive (its just a matter of dates). Each time the Rabbi says the teachers at the seminary say only the best get to write this portion because it is so difficult. I think he is just glad I did it, rather than leaving it to him! Nevertheless, it is interesting to do. It stretches my mind. And it makes me glad to be a Jew, because everyone’s Midrash (commentary) is welcome and encouraged. I love that egalitarian approach to the bible, to religion. And while I know that in the more orthodox corners of our religion women’s commentaries are not always welcome, I sit in a corner where my view is solicited, welcomed and praised. How cool is that?

psych a delic state u

Driving home in my car the other evening I was amusing myself by looking at signs and bumper stickers as I always do. I am a big fan of words and am endlessly amused by how people use and abuse them, especially here in the US of A; we are language manglers of the first water. One small example (although off topic) there is a small local restaurant with an out of proportionally large sign. It is an old fashioned sign in a 60’s sort of geometric shape. Now this sign has said the same thing probably for as long as I have lived here, but I never noticed the message quite as I did today. It says: “Old homemade Italian style bread”. I am thinking what they actually meant to say was “Old style Italian homemade bread”. I am guessing they didn’t really mean to advertise that they would be providing their customers with old bread. But whatever they meant, that is what they said. I saw a sticker that really struck me. It was a rear window sticker fashioned after those that are the names of a college or university; kind of arched and florid. Here is what it said: “Psychadelic State U”. Yep, it really said that and….no that is not a typo. You and I both know that psychedelic is spelled as I just did. And all I could think was that not only should a person not be all that proud that they think acid trips are a good substitute for a college education, but the proof that they are not is in the spelling. How fitting that they couldn’t even spell their own joke properly, and how pathetic. We live in the strangest country in the world where people think this is funny, where my former clients showed up for felony court wearing “things go better with Coke” t-shirts and rednecks hang tennis ball testicles from the backs of their pickup trucks (yes I know this last is not about words but it is so weird I had to include it). As a nation we seem to have virtually no boundaries about what we will say and do in public and although we know othat the internet is providing a new and sometimes devastating means of memorializing our dumbest moments, it is still the words that live on. Our words live on to haunt us, to remind us and to evidence how we abuse them. I think “Psychadelic State U” says it all, illiterate minimum wage worker with a wasted education.

Happy Mother’s Day

Wow. There are so many things about mother’s day I could talk about. Amazing that what is essentially a holiday created by Hallmark has taken on such vast significance in this country. We tried to do a couple of errands today and the stores were closed?? As if this were some major national holiday. And I get just as sucked in as everyone else. But it feels good to be appreciated, I think. But I think further that this falls into the same category as food banks at christmas and turkey dinners for the homeless on thanksgiving. We fill the food banks at the holiday out of an abundance of good will but ignore the need the rest of the year. We make turkey dinners for the homeless for thanksgiving but we don’t concern ourselves with how they eat the rest of the time. We should not need a national day to honor our mothers. We should do it every day. We are taught this from kindergarten, but unfortunately we do not learn it until much later in life. For goodness sake it says this in the ten commandments, for those with even a mildly religious bent this is a cornerstone concept. Our mothers, good and less so, for most of us did the best they could, gave their hearts, their time and their minds to try to make us the best people possible. Not everyone’s mother was good or loving or even a parent at all. In our frenzy over this national holiday we forget this fundamental truth: not everyone loves their mother and not all mothers deserve our love. But most do. So even though I know that it is a hallmark holiday, and I know I am loved and respected all year round, it is nice to hear it out loud once in a while.

The Marching Band Maven

Ok, so on the subject of heroes. I was watching the news and amidst all the usual annoying crap, trivial bullshit and depressing bad news there was a gem of a story. I didn’t catch the whole thing but… Apparently there is a gent in New Orleans who decided that there was not enough for the children to do. So he started, of all things, a freelance marching band. It is not clear to me how or where the instruments come from, but this guy apparently teaches the music, and the marches and moves to the kids. This has become an enormous success. In fact it is such a success, that there is a 400 place waiting list. The man said in the story that there is an eight year old who calls him every day and says “are you the man with the band? I want to be in your band.” Wow. This also falls in the category of what one person does can make a difference, despite what people often say. This man’s perseverance and clarity of vision is making a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of children. Although he has the most impact on the kids in the band, he has also already affected the lives of the 400 kids who want to be in his band. This is a hero, real deal. He isn’t trying to make a reputation, be in a movie, get famous; he is just trying to do some good in a world really short on selfless goodness. Let’s see… your role model can be a multi million dollar athlete rapist, or some musician in New Orleans who loves music and loves kid. I know who I pick.