Working Smart?

Those white shoes, cushioned platforms of sorts, left our house sometimes for 24 hours. When she returned, she slept. Twelve hours sometimes then worked for 24 more.

 

My mother worked hard and smart. I missed her all the same.

The 24-hour shifts paid more but meant that we’d see her less. She made up for it by taking us on road trips to Disney World for a day. That meant donuts in the car on the way and midnight car rides while we slept and she drove.

For her time, she worked as smart as she could, given the circumstances. She was a tough, single mom who was as pretty as she was smart.

Today, we all work smarter in many ways. Our smartphones make it easier for us to multitask and stay in touch. Our technology seems to improve our lives. We all appear to even have our own personal assistant named Alexa or Google.

And yet, we feel overwhelmed often enough.

We seem to have turned what should make our lives feel easier and freer into a tool to make our lives harder. Our smartphones are overloaded with apps for everything, even apps that will organize our apps. And, stress, oh the stress of perhaps losing that phone that encases everything we hold valuable.

Our computers allow us to create and communicate within seconds what may have taken days or years to accomplish less than 20 years ago. The internet is nothing less than a superhighway taking us anywhere we desire.

But, here we are:  Stressed.

Shouldn’t we be working less? Shouldn’t we be happier?

Some may argue that they are, but as I see children grow up, I see more stress and tension. I see a more insidious sort of self-deprecation that keeps us from seeing who we really are and who we actually want to be.

Our demons are summoned daily with a tap on the f app or a scroll down in Instagram. We aren’t working less. We’re working more, being told what to be, our minds overloading instead of focussing.

Those white shoes walked away so many times that the little girl who watched them resented them. She hated that they needed to work, which meant they rarely stayed in the closet where she wanted them to be. They took her mother somewhere too far away.

Now, with technology, where would her mother be? Close or far? Or walking around in an app?

 

Advertisements

Back to School: Conversations with Kids about Safety and Speaking Up

Preparing for the start of the school year seems even more somber this year than others. Back to school mayhem has begun in some parts of the country. Florida just had its tax-free weekend and parents were no less aggressive about stocking up on supplies. But, all of us, at some point, looked at a pencil pouch among our stacks of spiral notebooks while snagging glue sticks on the way to check out and wondered if our children would really be safe.
None of us needs to watch the news in order to understand the anxiety that many children, parents, and educators feel when thinking about the start of a new school year after the horrific violence so many students experienced last school year.
And, yet, it’s there, coming straight toward us.
Anxiety Looms
The opinions and arguments about who ignored what in the recent school shootings riddle the news and the Internet. In hindsight, anyone would have done more if they knew there would be this kind of violence targeting schools.
I know, when thinking of my own students this coming school year, I just want them to feel safe with me. To just tell them this would be pointless. They won’t be able to look at me and think, Yeah, this teacher’s tough. She can deal with a school shooting, no problem.
I certainly pride myself on being a strict teacher simply because I can’t stand it when kids bully each other; however, my demeanor isn’t at all tough even if you stuck me in a security guard uniform. Then again, I don’t know that many people, let alone school children, have much confidence in security guards at this point.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to dialogue and taking the time to actually, yes, literally, really, genuinely care. Enough teachers and educators just don’t care and the students know it. The fact is that teachers are human and have an extremely stressful job.
Ensuring SafetyTalkSchool
Here’s the thing, any school worth its salt will be putting together several plans to maintain a secure environment as well as other important safety precautions.
But, dialogue, conversations between the administration, teachers, parents, and students will create a powerful bond and help everyone deal with their concerns and outright fears instead of hiding them.
CBS News addresses dealing with students’ concerns in How to Talk to Kids about School Violence.

Reminding students that they do have control over what happens to them and that they are in a safe environment in general gives them a sense of peace in the midst of an already stressful circumstance.
Many schools encouraged student Walkouts last school year, giving students a much needed voice at a time when so many were left speechless not just because of the violence inflicted on students but the repeat violence. Just watching the news and listening to the fears of the students involved in the shootings caused students across the country to worry about their own safety.
Speak Up
Students know that they are returning not just to schoolwork and homework but also to gossip, bullying, and social interaction that some love but most have a hard time dealing with in one way or another.
They need to talk to someone about their worries, so it’s important to ask questions as teachers and parents and then to listen and reassure them that there’s no reason to believe that their school will be attacked. However, if there is a reason to believe that, then students need to be encouraged to speak up.
They especially need to feel safe when speaking up. So many students don’t want to “tattle” or “rat out” other students because they are the ones who have to deal with the insidious ways bullies operate.
Watch Out for Bullying
Students experience bullying in various degrees and forms on a daily basis and often don’t speak up about it for fear of being bullied even more afterward.
A former teacher, school counselor, and school administrator wrote a good piece titled Bullying: What Schools, Parents, and Students Can Do for the Huffington Post.
Often enough, students handle the bullying themselves thinking of how much worse it would be if they were to ask teachers or administration for help.
But, students need to know when to get help. That’s something they need to be allowed to figure out for themselves.
That’s why there needs to be multiple conversations every day between teacher and student and student and parent and student and student and school counselor and student and administrator and student and right back to teacher.
And, it shouldn’t stop there. The whole of our communities need to look and listen. Ignoring problems often makes them worse.
Conversations 
Conversations need to happen often and need to be ongoing and available. The teachers are asking students how they are, if they got sleep, why they didn’t do the homework, why were they late? That’s just the basics.
There will be rules, oh so many rules. There is and will be security. Then, there’s life.
Students may not roll their eyes to your face, but they’ll definitely do it behind your back and then some if they think you’re anything less than genuine.
In other words, they aren’t stupid enough to think that if they simply tell on a bully that, poof, they’ll find themselves in a magical world of unicorns who fly them away to a cloud city with no guns and only sparkly do-gooders. For the most part, they wouldn’t even want that.
So, when you strike up that conversation, be ready to talk about everything… oh yeah, and be ready to talk about nothing at all, especially if it’s a tween or teen.
Then, try again tomorrow.

Hiding You

Our secret desires often stay hidden away until death or until we just can’t take it anymore and go crazy, delivering spurts of truths until death–the luxury of finding solace in an insane asylum wavering somewhere between picking up the kids and drinking the next Starbucks coffee.

So much of our lives are full of secrets because we’re afraid to tell the world who we really are and in many circumstances we’re right to stay quiet, but I love stories about people who find a way to express themselves anyway.

Karamo Brown from Netflix’s Queer Eye recently spoke about not hiding from who you are.

We all love to announce who we are when we’re little, before maybe age seven, maybe eight. Then, we notice the disapproval, the stares, the outright punishments if we push it too far.

Then we become teenagers and, well, we all know that changes everything, even if it’s momentary.

My husband donned a mohawk that rivaled that of a horse’s black mane. I drove across country and back again by myself just to prove I could do it. Both of us could dance at the hottest clubs in Miami almost every night and still show up to class or work the next day.

Did we change? A lot.

The vast majority of us begin to hide our real feelings in order to acclimate to the social norms that make us the good, upstanding citizens who are allowed to participate in going to a good college, finding a good job, renting an apartment, and maybe, just maybe, buying a home and keeping it.

But, it’s the remarkably brave ones like Karamo Brown who remind us that sometimes we don’t have to hide and it turns out a whole lot better than being like everyone else.

Who are our heroes?

When the days bleed together and feel like a blood clot pulsing in your leg, you know you need to take a moment to do something, anything to relax. Nowadays, people often turn to YouTube, Netflix, or television in general.
I turn to Conan, Team Coco, anything Conan O’brien.
I recommend his show for adults who are stressed out of their minds, who are having a crappy day, who just need to laugh, a genuine, guttural laugh that leaves them wondering what the hell they were upset about anyway.
Right now, I’m watching The Invincible Conan San Diego 2018, where he conducts his show in the midst of the yearly Comic Con held there.
My children sometimes sit and watch it with me, sometimes roll their eyes and retire to their phone zone, but I bellow the kind of laughter that usually sends me scurrying from a room with someone of similar noise level.
He is my hero. He has saved my sanity ever since I spent my days breastfeeding my newborn daughter at 11, then 1 a.m. I would sit and watch him to keep me awake but mostly to make me cry tears of such therapeutic laughter that I was not only able to continue the bootcamp conditions of motherhood but do it happily and sometimes even with grace.
I’m not only writing about this at the moment because of his current special at Comic Con but because I want to highlight heroes in our lives who help us stay brave, smart, and bold.
After reading Philately. Lately. on Discover, I began to realize that I’ve missed the mark when writing here at WordPress. I created this blog/website to explore the ideas of being brave, smart, and bold, and yet, I ended up writing about those moments without focusing on any one element except for writing itself.
Philately. Lately. zeroes in on one topic and sticks to it.
That’s what I hope to accomplish here, more often, mostly, all the time, I hope.
If you have suggestions, if you’d like to be interviewed as one of those heroes, if you just want to chat about what a hero really is, please take the time to comment and continue this dialogue.

Who are You? New York or LA?

Plunging into LA has been a summer indulgence that I’ve learned how not to live without. I crave the perfect weather, and when I mean perfect weather, I mean perfect weather. The consistently bright sky free of dark clouds, which translates to little if any rain, which translates to no mosquitos, no racing inside and yelling “Go, go, go!” to anyone in front of or following you, no mildew smells, none of it.

This summer wasn’t any different when it came to the weather, but other things dug under my fingernails. Really, just one thing got stuck in there. It was the degree to which the people in LA can fake it. In fact, they fake it so much that you can feel their nerves splitting as they speak.

They talk a lot about energy and crystals and energy and, really, I agree, energy is there, everywhere. So, when we went to a restaurant, a party, or even just for a walk, I felt it, even saw it.

“HHHHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” she would say in such a high-pitched voice that I could feel her frayed nerves followed by the shrill lies muted by her hand shake that she tried to cover with the steadiness of an extra hand on the outside. Ouch! It stung a little.

And, it went on and on, daily, hourly sometimes.

I still enjoyed it. I still chilled with my sister, my family, but it felt strangely different. Even the Elvis impersonator who I loved catching on his way to work had left us. Not surprisingly, he had moved away, maybe to Vegas, a whole other story.

I doubt it if he would head on over to New York, but it’s still a place for impersonators. I mean, New York, in particular, New York City has its share of the inconceivable and the outright bizarre, but the fake? Absolutely, emphatically NO.

Do I want to live there? Not really, but I don’t necessarily want to live in LA either, no matter how much I love to visit.

I think an actress who was interviewed on Conan O’Brien said it best.

Although, I don’t want to live in New York either, I have always preferred the rough-edged realism of New York to the giant teeth shining behind often-oversized lips in LA.

Who are YOU? New York or LA?

The Art of Living with Artists

There are those days when I wondered if I should’ve encouraged them to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, anything but artists.

“You know, Ya Ya always says, ‘That’s why you need to be a doctor papito. So you can take care of me,” my son said the other day. “She says it to all of us.” He’s referring to all of his cousins, her grandchildren.

My son and I were in the car outside a doctor’s office. “Yeah, doctors have it easy,” I said.

“What do you mean? It’s really hard to be a doctor,” he argued, which has become a regular routine lately.

“Yeah, no, I mean, they have to work hard, but they make so much money. You saw your cousin’s house. You know what I mean?”

He nodded but continued to talk about how difficult it is to be a doctor.

I reluctantly agreed and accepted my fate:
to add another artist to my household.

I think every parent feels conflicted about encouraging a child to take the artistic route. It’s more unpredictable in our eyes.

You’re so smart. Be a doctor, a dentist, an engineer, a scientist, a lawyer, they say. Many parents I know outright announce that artists make no money. You can draw, even paint, but don’t try to make it a career.

And, what’s most disconcerting is that many teachers announce that students can’t do anything with a degree in art, let alone make a living with one in the fine arts. So, parents waver and our kids waver, sometimes they even give up on the whole idea.

I didn’t tell my kids to be a doctor or lawyer. I taught them to explore their worlds. I actually encouraged my children to be as creative as possible, not as a hobby, but as a way of life.

And…it…has…been…a…very…wild…ride.

A once-white sink full of blue paint sits clogging one of our bathrooms. Drawings on walls are commonplace. Clothes splattered with paint seem expected.

But, when I want to hang a painting on the wall, I’m met with protests that it’s just not good enough or friends will think it’s stupid. You’re reminded of how fragile such creativity can be.

IMG_0384
Art by Daisy M.

Yet, there’s a magic to living with artists that surpasses the often stressful or methodical worlds of academics or athletes.

Artists live on the brink of ecstacy or the edge of insanity more often than not, so when you live with them it can feel just like you’re in the swirling winds shot from a magic wand.

My daughter left for a pre college art program and, because I share her heart of an artist, I sit wondering what to do without her and hoping she has a good time while worrying that she’s so fragile she could break under her guise of strength.

Then I remember that guise is not a disguise at all.

It’s actually her reality.

She bears a resemblance to a Greek goddess in the midst of a tumultuous highway of mindsets bent on nearly crashing into her.

She stands, sword in hand, striking the sounds of doubt from her stance, sometimes, often, receiving their criticisms, wounded, in pain, dropping her sword, lowering her head, lying down.

She heals eventually and returns to her power.

The number of times she has stood her ground when she fought with me has increased over the years. The power with which she uses and doesn’t use words can set a room on fire. The intensity of her work puts shame to anything I’ve ever accomplished.

That’s magic mixed with a power so intrinsic to an artist.

And, we are all artists.

Accepting that makes our lives easier to manage and enjoy. Otherwise, we’re sent plugging away in drudgery at the daily confines of tasks to be finished and jobs to be done.

Those not just content but happy doctors, lawyers, and engineers are creatives in their own right.

They stand over patients and inspire them to fight for their lives and wellness.

They plunge into difficult cases emerging with solutions to difficult problems.

They sift through data and documents creating new ideas out of old structures.

Parents living with teenage artists find solace in their art.

Our artists are abstract and concrete all the while leaving us breathless with what they can conjure up for us, what they can pull from nothingness.

And you writers, well, you tell us the stories to keep us going when we find ourselves lost in worlds that have abandoned the idea of being artists.

So, as a parent of two artists, I watch in awe of their resolve, saddened by their wounds, hoping for their healing, and waiting for the next burst of magic, bound to love them through it all.

Transforming Joy

There she is, a child laughing, sugar her best friend. There she is, dreaming, wanting more than this. Her transformation moved quickly then slowed then sped up again.

She found her voice in comedy as she explored the world of acting, becoming herself on MADtv, Reno 911, and too many other projects to name. Most recently, she wrote, produced, and starred in This is Meg, based on her wild ride called life. Soon she’ll be releasing her one-woman show.

In between, the laughter came tears and growth. She left the sugar behind, finding the thrill of exercise instead, finding herself on a spiritual journey as well.

As her older sister, I see her as a child at the same time that I see the transformation. When she came to us, she brought so much joy and happiness and now she shares it with the world.

Transformation

Advertisements
Advertisements