Monthly Archives: September 2009

What’s Up With Me, Part 1 or “Fuck You! I AM Happy!”

Recently, someone who is no longer my friend said I was too negative for her.  (More on the “someone who is no longer my friend” part in a later blog post.)

I found this characteristic surprising. Granted, I don’t know if she was trying to say I am negative in general or lately or what because she wasn’t open to speaking directly to me about ending our friendship. I couldn’t ask questions or get clarifications. Apparently, since we hadn’t spoken in several weeks, she was reading my tweets, updates and posts and decided that I am in too negative a frame of mind right now. She can’t deal with my issues because of her issues. (Again, more on that later.)

I am taking this viewpoint to heart, and kind of agree.  I HAVE been negative, at least from August 24th to about a week ago. Bottom line, when my daughter began Kindergarten, I was incredibly lonely. So lonely, I spent most of my time sleeping, reading depressing news articles and ranting about them online and watching season 1 of Lost.  The title of the show is an appropriate word for how I felt – I described myself as lost.  L was in school, my husband was working 12-14 hour days so was never around, and all my friends were taking care of their kids who were going back to school. I spoke to no one except my child and my husband for 5 days, minus 30 minutes of her ballet class on a Thursday. I felt like I was sinking.

Normally, I reach out to people and ask for help, especially when things are of an emotional nature. This time, I felt embarrassed to ask for support. “I’m a housewife. I don’t need to work. I can do anything I want. I don’t have the right to be depressed about, of all things, free time,” was the jist of my conversation with myself. I hid in my house, I complained to my husband, I called a couple of people and didn’t reach them.  That was about it. I just sulked.

Here’s the thing, though: I trusted myself to find my way out. I know me – I wasn’t going to stay depressed forever. I just needed to go through that space in order to find what I wanted to do with my time. Writing wasn’t it – that would put me deeper into alone mode. I needed to find things where I would be around people but not a job.  And I did. I researched, called around, weighed options, and found some shit to do.

1. I am taking an art class. I have always wanted to draw and now I am learning how. I am almost done with a chair that looks like a 3-dimensional chair, for realz, and can’t wait to be done.  Also, I am around a small group of women who are enjoying themselves.

Here is a photo of my very first drawing. IMG_0729

2. I am taking an adult jazz dance class. I love to dance, have done it all my life. If I’m not dancing, or don’t have a regular dance outlet, you might as well encase my feet in concrete.  Not all the women are experienced, some are beginners. But they like to talk and have fun. I could take the class every night if they offered it.

3. The political group has worked itself out, I am still the Chair and it is a lot more fun. We have a big training coming up that we are all organizing together and it is keeping me busy and talking to people.

4. I will begin a volunteer stint at Planned Parenthood of North Texas tomorrow. Once a week for 4 hours with my friend Linda. Again, an opportunity to talk to people while helping out a needed non-profit. I guess we are going to deal with old charts or something. Sounds appropriately boring – I am not in it for the interesting work, I am in it to be social and make good use of my time.

So now you know. I had a really dark period there for a while and I turned it around. All by myself. Sorry for not keeping you posted on my progress, or for leaving you thinking that I am an angry person in general. I get passionate but I am a positive person. I believe that about me and I hope that now, you do, too.

Support whatever group you like, but I don’t have to help you do it.

This year we want to have professional photos taken of L for the holidays, like we did two years ago. We loved our photographer, who is extremely talented. She and her husband run the business.  I figured we would just use them again this year. (I can’t upload any of the photos – she has them protected, as any smart photographer would.)

I go on her website to get her phone number and begin looking around in the “Giving Back” section.  I first spend 10 minutes weeping while viewing photos from an “Operation: Smile” photo essay this woman did in Hondouras.  Incredible before and after photos. I was really moved.  Then I clicked on something called “DPRC” with a little “uh-oh” in my mind. Afterall, I do live in Texas. This could be anything.

DPRC isn’t just anything: it is an anti-abortion clinic that talks women into giving birth through what I consider misinformation. The website uses language like “post-abortion syndrome” and “sexual purity.” They claim to talk about birth control but I don’t know what or how.  They also have a statistic about STDs on the front page which was at first encouraging, since most abstinence only groups don’t like to even mention STDs, but if they are using it to further abstinence and not education, then that is bothersome for me. (I admit, I didn’t research it too closely. I picked up on the rhetoric quickly enough.) It goes against all my hard work this summer on those articles for The Democratic Blog of Collin County. It goes against my personal moral belief system.

Here’s the except from the photographer’s blog (I am purposely not giving her name or web address):

“We were honored to photograph some of the women who have sought the helpful guidance of the Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center during their time of need. It was a blessing to meet and photograph these strong ladies again after their precious babies arrived. Click here to visit the Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center website and see the great work they are doing. On March 29, 2007, Angie’s images of these women and babies were displayed during a “Concert for Life” at the Lakewood Theater starring Christian artist Nichole Nordeman and benefitting the DPRC.”

Clearly, this photographer is anti-abortion and strongly Christian.  I am about as Pro-Choice as anyone can get and feel that Evangelical Christianity is hurting our country.  I am not against this photographer choosing to support this group as a matter of Freedom of Speech. My issue is, I don’t want to give her my money. But I really want beautiful photos of my child.

I shared my conflict with my husband who, without much thought, said, “We aren’t doing business with them not matter how good she is.” (If you know my husband well, then you know that is a kid-friendly version.)

This is the issue, I guess.  The photos of L the first time around were the most incredible photos I have seen.  I want that again – for the cards but also for posterity.  But can I hand over a LOT of money to someone who is going to use her resources to benefit a group I think is doing harm? Can I let go of what I want in order to stand up for what I believe?

Of course I can. I might not like it, but I can. And I must. Because no matter how beautiful my child looks in our holiday cards, if I can’t look myself in the mirror because of it, then it isn’t the right thing to do.

Thomas Jefferson Didn’t Want The Government In Our Religion. It Is A Fact. Glen Beck Can Suck It.

You know, I’m really sick of Conservatives trying to own the Founding Fathers.  GOP leaders and their followers speak as though each one of them are descendants of our great nation’s creators, like they are infused with their DNA. At the same time, they quote them erroneously and with out apology or correction: The Founding Fathers established this country based on Christian principles! The Founding Fathers intended Christianity to infuse every part of public life! The Founding Fathers peferred abstinence in schools!

I just read a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, one he wrote WHILE HE WAS PRESIDENT stating clearly that the Constitution doesn’t allow the government to get involve in religious matters to protect religion.  And when I say “clearly,” I mean it.  I normally don’t understand letters from the 1800’s but this one I get.  Read it yourself.

Letter to Rev. Samuel Miller

Jefferson’s letter to Rev. Samuel Miller, from Washington, January 23, 1808.

ir, — I have duly received your favor of the 18th and am thankful to you for having written it, because it is more agreeable to prevent than to refuse what I do not think myself authorized to comply with. I consider the government of the U S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U.S. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government. It must then rest with the states, as far as it can be in any human authority. But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting & prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the U.S. an authority over religious exercises which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant too that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation the less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct it’s exercises, it’s discipline, or it’s doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting & prayer are religious exercises. The enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it.

I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted. But I have ever believed that the example of state executives led to the assumption of that authority by the general government, without due examination, which would have discovered that what might be a right in a state government, was a violation of that right when assumed by another. Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, & mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.

I again express my satisfaction that you have been so good as to give me an opportunity of explaining myself in a private letter, in which I could give my reasons more in detail than might have been done in a public answer: and I pray you to accept the assurances of my high esteem & respect.

( Thomas Jefferson, letter to letter to Rev. Samuel Miller, from Washington, January 23, 1808; Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Thomas Jefferson: Writings, New York: Library of America, 1994, pp. 1186-1187. )

So there we have it. The Founding Fathers didn’t want religion anywhere near their government, on purpose. So Glen Beck, you think you understand Thomas Jefferson. As someone who has read (admittedly only) one of Jefferson’ letters, I feel safe to say, you don’t know Thomas Jefferson. And you can suck it.

In Defense of My Child’s Education Part 1

Noah Adams interviewed Barbara Cargill on All Things Considered yesterday about the President’s speech to school children.  As Media Matters points out (audio and transcript here),  Ms. Cargill is on the State Board of Education in Texas and she is very conservative. So conservative in fact that she asks people who are nominated to serve on a board to rewrite curriculum if they consider themselves Conservative. When Ms. Cargill decries the President as someone who perhaps tampering with curriculum, one might laugh at her contradiction.  Apparently, Noah Adams didn’t get the joke.  He never questioned her about this irony, nor her repeated, and sometimes successful, attempts to put religion in Texas curriculum.

Because I live in Texas and fear for my child’s education, giving a woman like this a national platform to insinuate that her authority is more important than President Obama’s is infuriating.  Here is the letter I sent to NPR.  (If you find typos, don’t bother pointing them out. I already sent the note anyway and I’ll only be embarrassed.)

I am very disappointed in Noah Adam’s interview with Barbara Cargill. Ms. Cargill acted personally insulted that the President would “insert” his “agenda” into public schools, presumably over her authority. Ms. Cargill is part of a group of State School Board Members who continuously, and sometimes successfully, attempt to insert personal views of faith and politics in our public schools. Yet, Mr. Adams neglected to ask her about these efforts and let Ms. Cargill act as though the President is not important enough to make things a little inconvenient for a day. The hubris with which Ms. Cargill speaks is endemic of Texas conservative idealogues. They wax patriotic about our country’s values but at the moment they give no value to the Office of the President. That you gave this woman a platform to shout her rancor without doing your homework is irresponsible.

I know, I got a little dramatic. But people around the country don’t know what it is like to live in Texas and worry that your kid is going to come home and talk about God in a way that we don’t believe or tell me that some Great Creator designed the Earth and that evolution is against God. And if you think all it takes is saying, “Honey, that isn’t true,” try contradicting your kid’s teacher about anything – sometimes a child believes their teacher in spite of the parents, like a defense against parents always being right.

Perhaps I am just screaming into the void. But I get so mad, I’ve got to scream somewhere.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Since I knew the day was coming when my only child, L, would go to Kindergarten,  I decided to make this summer special.  Given that she would be home a lot and her fun was in my hands, I needed a goal to be sure she didn’t spend each day in front of the television.  With public school close at hand, and anticipating the big change it would bring, I wanted to create a summer that created connection and love, a kind of “you and me” celebration.  She might not remember much of it since L is only 5, but I wanted to remember.

The summer got off on a rocky beginning.  Our first week out of preschool brought a move to a new house and a change in schedule – both of us home, all day long, with just each other.  L desperately wanted to be back in class with her friends and I desperately wanted my 6 hour break.  Neither of us got what we wanted.  Camps didn’t begin for week. Mostly, we fought.

After that first week, though, we got a kind of rythm. No rushing. No appointments. L began to understand that summer was a time to relax. I guess I did, too. Gymnastics “camp” – 5 hours of playtime – began and though they rarely taught her any actual gymnastics, it took up time. And though I HATE putting on a swimsuit, I swallowed my trepidation and took L to our gym’s pool. A lot. Like most kids, L loves swimming and this brought her much joy.  I’d pack snacks and a lunch (most times, although sometimes I had to mooch off friends – in the beginning I just couldn’t get it together) and feel like a “real mom.” I didn’t get in the water much and encouraged L, instead, to make friends.  Sometimes we met Macaroni-and-Glue there with her girlie.  The fun L had in the water made exposing my dimpled thighs worthwhile.

dance camp recital

Dance Camp Recital

Dance Camp was also in June. Only 3 hours in the middle of the day, perhaps not the best set up. But L was with her close friend, V, and anytime she can bond with a friend I am happy.. I just love knowing that my child makes friends.  And she picks the nicest ones! Dance camp ended with a performance with girls getting to wear some kind of costume. My child picked a dress up dress I bought at resale.

June made way for July, the month of French Camp. The Dallas International School offers French, Spanish and Chinese classes for kids in the summer. (In the winter, they are a full day private school.) I like French better than Spanish so I got my husband to agree to putting L in a French class. Plus I know French (a little) and thought it would be easier to reinforce what L learned.  Ends up we didn’t use too much of it. L learned her numbers and few things here and there but mostly it was just fun. Not that I have a problem with that. She was exposed to another language and to another culture, which I am thrilled about. Plus she learned this great little song that gets stuck in my head with her voice singing, and how great is that?

Besides the camps, L and I had “Science Wednesday” which I created as a way to get/keep her interested in science. At first I got ideas off the internet but when I almost destroyed our stove top I decided to buy a science kit for her age.  No actual explosions but lots of fizzing and colors. Pretty sure she didn’t retain any of the information but she sure did have fun.  Here’s a photo of the first round of “change flower colors with food coloring” but had to be redone because this version didn’t work. (Here’s how to do it right.)experiment

Hula Hoop

L teaching Alex how to hoola hoop

August brought down time and lots of gymnastic camp until we left town for 3 weeks. Everyone should leave North Texas for August because, quite frankly, it is too hot for human survival. First stop was Detroit, my parents’ house. L hadn’t seen her Nana since before her open-heart surgery. (By the way, Nana is doing so much better since she began exercising and looks like her old self. Well, she doesn’t look old, really, but you know what I mean.) Papa, a dentist, put a filling in one of Lillian’s baby teeth, but L was a real trooper.  Midway through our visit, my sister and her kids came in, too.  L played with her cousins as much as they would play with her – they are 9, 14, and 18. The cousins were very patient and loving.

The day after we returned from Detroit, we left for Wyoming.  J’s dad and step-mom own a house in Jackson Hole and we visit most summers.  J fly fishes as much as possible while I spend the week worried about L getting bored. This trip was better than most, since she is 5 and can both entertain herself better and could do more things.  Also, J’s dad is always willing to play a game with her, especially chess, which she loves.

Three things happened that really surprised me:

1. L figured out how to paddle her own canoe and kayak.  Not that we let her go it alone on String Lake (Teton National Park). J or Grandpa held a rope while she was in a boat. But she actually managed to paddle herself around a bit. The coordination was pretty surprising.

2. L pet a couple of dogs.  She’s been terrified of them ever since a horrible experience with an acquaintance’s dog.  Well, in Wyoming, dogs are used to being around people unlike in the suburbs where dogs are locked up indoors and when humans show up they jump like mad. J took L to an outdoor supply store where she met Paco The Wonder Dog, a super mellow dog who  eventually L put a little fly box on its head. She then pet it. A breakthrough.

riding backwards

Yeah, she's riding backwards!

3. L rode a horse.  Not like she sat on it and someone pulled it around. She brushed Jake, cleaned his hooves, and walked him to an arena. Her instructor, Terry, put her on and then taught L how to control the horse. L managed to get Jake to back up and turn right and left.  The lesson was over an hour. I am not a rider and am actually afraid of horses, but even with my lack of knowledge I could see how this experience gave L confidence.  I mean, here’s a 50 lb. kid directing a 300 lb. animal! L absolutely loved it and asked to do it again and again. Here she is riding backwards while Terry’s granddaughter leads Jake around the arena:

We returned on the Sunday before school began, the official end of summer vacation. We didn’t do everything I wanted. I wanted to take L to a museum in Dallas. I wanted to drive to Louisiana because we live so close and I have never been. I wanted to take her swimming more and figure out how to get that darn backyard water slide to work despite our (new) slanted backyard. Even with those few regrets, I believe I gave L a great time. She played with friends, saw lots of family, ate plenty of icecream and popsicles, and created a few memories, I hope. And for me? I got to enjoy my child’s beautiful face as it lit up with joy, watch her run on various beaches, listen as her laugh rang out through the Teton canyons and kiss her goodnight as she snuggled up to her stuffed animals, exhausted from all the fun.

It was, in all, a perfect summer.