Tag Archives: Education

International Day of the Girl

Today my daughter spoke to a group of middle schoolers about bullying. She had originally created an anti-bullying campaign for the elementary students at her school. When the principal of the middle school saw the posters and asked her to speak to the middle schoolers, this ten-year-old girl spoke passionately about standing up for yourself and doing what’s right.

Afterward, students came to her to thank her for speaking out.

Bully Buster
By Daisy Maldonado

All children should be able to do this.

International Day of the Girl.

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Venezuela’s Avatars Remind Us to Vote

Sometimes our heroes live under the ground, having never even been written about.
Sometimes our heroes live so far from us, we don’t even know who they are.
Sometimes these heroes are just walking along the streets that no one else will walk.
Sometimes our heroes need us to be heroes, speaking up, supporting them.

Some of my heroes brave the streets of Venezuela every single day, careful to watch who’s around them, careful to steer clear of this street or that, not that it makes much of a difference. They’re still robbed and kidnapped, often enough, they’re murdered. With crime increasing year after year, I wonder if I’ll ever see Venezuela again.

Capriles vs. Chavez

My husband’s family, those who remain there, visits us. They won’t let us visit them. Why can’t we visit? Why can’t we take our children?

It’s the same old story:  Politics. Men. Ideals. Ideas. Egos. Egos. Death.

My children might not ever see the way the mountains look when the sea meets them along a dirt road free of stoplights and buildings in the small islands just off the coast of Venezuela. They might not see the tiny, wooden restaurant ahead. They might not sip the fresh pineapple drink then break the soft-corn cachapa with their fork and mix the tangy with the sweet on their tongues.

But, it doesn’t matter because they’ll be safe. Safe from the violence that taunts Venezuelans on a daily basis, safe from the mask of right and wrong.

This weekend millions of heroes, just like us, will vote, here in the states (in particular in New Orleans) and in Venezuela. Chavez shut down the Venezuelan consulate in Miami. So, the Venezuelans now living in the United States have to vote in New Orleans because they can’t vote in Miami where many have taken refuge since Chavez became president.

When they vote they’ll attempt to right a wrong, a clear, undeniable wrong:  Hugo Chavez is president. It’s wrong because since he came to power  the crime and death rate increased so drastically that paranoia seems a silly, antiquated word.

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, Venezuelan’s will vote for Hugo Chavez or his challenger Henrique Capriles.

Hugo Chavez has managed to remain in power for about 14 years. The opposition and human rights observers call his government repressive because of his control over the media. Moreover, according to Venezuelan Violence Observatory, there have been 118,541 murders in Venezuela since Chavez took power.

To make matters worse, the Venezuelan government has condemned the American Convention on Human Rights withdrawing from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Guadalupe Marengo, deputy director for the Americas at Amnesty International said in a press release, “This move is an affront to the victims of human rights violations and to future generations of Venezuelans who will no longer be able to access this regional body when their rights are not respected in their own country.”

Venezuelan’s are heroes just for enduring. Their voices are being shut down by the man who’s supposed to fight for them.

If the voters are heard, someday you may be lucky enough to visit Venezuela, you’ll find beauty beyond Caracas, its capital. You’ll find islands and tiny villages with people who create possibly more amazing art and other products than any of us could dream of.

Most of you may not even care much about Venezuela. It was only mentioned in Avatar by the “American” colonel who fought Jake Sully to the death. The colonel spoke of Venezuela as a “mean jungle.”

That’s actually true as of the time of this post, but it wasn’t always that way.

Fifteen years ago my then-boyfriend and I, my now-husband and I, took our first trip there together. We knew then, like with many major cities, that we shouldn’t go to certain places at certain times when visiting his family in Caracas. We knew where to go, when to go. He had left because of crime, his Christmas presents stolen, and there weren’t many to steal.

Crime was a problem even 25 years ago when my husband’s family left for the United States. But, Chavez promised to close the divide between rich and poor. To say he did not deliver is an understatement. In fact, he lied. He still lies. The facts tell the truth.

When we were able to visit, the city itself, Caracas, made no difference to us except for family, food, and certain sites that we found necessary to visit and revisit as if we knew it might disappear someday. Simon Bolivar had once liberated the people, so we visited his statue and smiled, not really considering we’d spend over ten years without seeing it again. Certain districts such as the clothing centers, we frequented because, really, we loved buying great, cheap souvenirs.

Catholic churches, yes, a necessity.

Cachapas. Empanadas. Café of any kind. Arepas, Venezuelan-style. We ate. We drank. We enjoyed.

I miss it all so much as I sit safely here, in Miami.

We Americans take certain rights for granted. We also don’t understand the extent to which voting affects these simple beauties in life that go without our appreciation.

We also don’t recognize the hero within because, well, we’re everywhere. We’re Avatars and we don’t even know it. We definitely don’t appreciate our powers.

Let Venezuela’s plight, those invisible heroes among them, among us, let Venezuela’s vote count. Let it remind you who you are:

Powerful.

Powerful.

Avatars.

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The Little Christian Who Thinks He’s Jewish

With Yom Kippur coming up this Wednesday, my son reminds me that this teacher planning day is a Jewish holiday.

He says, “Memember?” tugging on my shirt, looking up at me. Yes, I thought, I do. I remember it all. How could I ever forget?

When he was turning four years old, I searched for a good school because the one he had attended when he was three left him acting like a mini hoodlum. I found a lot of good ones, but they were either too expensive or too snooty. I kept rolling right back to the Jewish Community Center. It housed a small, early childhood education center, and everyone there seemed so welcoming. I’d also heard some wonderful word-of-mouth reviews about the school and read some great articles about it.

So, I consulted my husband whose very Catholic parents applauded the idea. They themselves were members of the JCC gym. So, with the whole family’s approval, I confidently registered my son for Pre-K.

Not everything went smoothly. For one, I hadn’t thought about the difficulty of packing a Kosher lunch.

But, that wasn’t the most difficult part. It was the part about Christ because, yes, this four year old asked me about it. So, I did what any self-respecting parent would do. I first contemplated lying. After scrapping that pathetic idea, I asked him some questions instead.

The answers I got made all the difference.

According to him, Christ was a Jew so anyone who was Christian should also be Jewish. I told him that was the best answer to any question I had ever asked.

And it was. Not because it fulfilled my desire to avoid an answer I didn’t really have but because it was the kind of answer most adults can’t give.

We can’t give an answer because we forget. We forget the real meaning of religion. With all our piety, we forget that religion offers us a set of standards with which to understand our fellow human being, not destroy him.

The world we live in right now. This angry, vengeful place we all should share but can’t and won’t. In this world, we refuse to share. That’s the most basic concept we teach a baby. a child.

We can’t seem to get past those moments when we first possessed a toy and screamed then cried when another child tore it from our grip. We grow, we learn then we return back to being a baby, constantly craving more.

All those babies, screaming over who’s right and who’s wrong, could learn a profound lesson from a little boy.

One of my son’s collection of kipas (yarmulke).

He will always feel that a piece of him is Jewish. He keeps his kipas or yarmulkes in a drawer and asks me when’s the next Bar Mitzvah. He likes to bring out his menorah placemat during Christmastime. When we’re driving and pass the JCC, he asks when we’re going to visit again. I smile and remind myself we have to go back someday soon.

Liquid in my Eyes

Then, I read the latest news or listen to a report on National Public Radio and I’m reminded of the divide, the extreme, the hell we put each other through because of our beliefs. Instead of proudly admiring my son’s views, I begin to obsess over when he will change. When will he become one of us? Or worse, when will he turn into a baby all over again, screaming for what belongs to him, for what is “right”?

The shape of our world feels like liquid in my eyes, things always changing, but there’s a fire burning that the water can’t seem to extinguish.

We’re so furious, so hateful. It’s not just religion that fuels this fire. It’s the fact that so many of us lost the true value of it.

This is not to say that only a four year old possesses the ability to catapult right over knowledge into power.

I do see hope in the wisdom of his grandparents who rallied around my decision to put him in a Jewish school. I saw it in the JCC leaders and members. I see it in those who volunteer their time for various organizations such as Amnesty International.

But, for most it’s momentary.

The minute we insist we’re right and another person is wrong. It’s gone.

So, what if we didn’t try to be right? What if we just tried to make sense of the rights and wrongs by fitting them into each other? Like this little boy, what if we go back to Kindergarten and take our own basic lessons to heart?

Every Jewish holiday reminds me to do this. Don’t ever forget.

Written by Lisa Chesser

His placemat.

To all the writers, artists, and colorful characters:

You are all crazy-wonderful artists, but you know this already.
Because I teach fulltime and I’m obviously a mom, I’ve tried to reply to every comment, but it takes time. I’ve also tried to explore your blogs and follow some of them. But, that also takes time just like writing, at least for me.
For me, writing is a challenge because of time. It’s the one thing that consistently runs ahead then behind me, sometimes around me, like a wicked two year old. I wrote this challenge on torn spiral notebook paper and sticky notes as thoughts occurred to me throughout the days.
However, by meeting the Daily Post Challenge, I learned to catch up with this wicked two year old and keep it around long enough to play a game or two.

Freshly Pressed, WooHoo!

So, to all the wonderful writers, artists, small business owners, and colorful characters who liked and commented on this blog, I’ll be clicking my way through your blogs into next week and beyond. I want to know everything about you and support you the way you supported me. If I don’t find you, please find me again so we can reconnect. When I tried to click back to some of you, I couldn’t find your address or I got a prompt that your WordPress address didn’t exist any longer.
As far as following me, I promise to write and do it well. I write to breathe to sleep to wake to sing to love. I had forgotten how much I missed it until I started writing again. I had given it up to be a wife and raise my children. I changed careers to schedule my life around my family. Then, I wrote a story and published it two years ago. And, I haven’t been able to escape the need to write since.
I plan to post personally hand-crafted stories and profiles about great, often disguised as ordinary, people and moments we often don’t notice or acknowledge. I will write about the bizarre and the ordinary that make life so fabulous and sometimes terrible. I will bare my soul without making you feel like you wasted your time here. I might ask some of you to allow me to interview you.
I hope to discover, share, and teach you what I know and where I found it.
I may share some great stories I read about heroes, inspirational moments, or anything brave, smart and bold. I might reblog some of your amazing stories, art, poetry, etc. But, I promise to keep it interesting and make it worthwhile.
To the powers that be at WordPress and Cheri Lucas, thank you for taking notice. I’ve loved every second of it and plan to get Freshly Pressed 
again.
So everyone, please keep reading, commenting, and enjoying.
Love,
Lisa Chesser

 

A Few Sounds Later

Her notes struck the incessant thoughts from my brain. Each punch on the keys left me thinking only of the beauty the world had to offer, the drops of rain hitting the pool, the light touch of a butterfly.

I know when I’ve lost our fights because my daughter looks away from me, sits, and plays her piano.

I look at her in a state of reverence when she ignores me, her mother, her teacher, her prodder, her leader, her tormentor.

The sounds bleed from a part of her that no piano teacher could ever touch. She knows the notes from ages ago and I know I have no right to interfere in their delivery to this small space she’s found in a limitless dimension, so I stand distant, yet affected.

Her sounds leave me inferior and that’s when I know I can mother her from a place of love, bowing to the majesty of understanding music with only her ears.

A book, a lesson, exists somewhere but never meets this moment when she sits and creates from her soul. She plays by ear.

My daughter blocks my noise, my pressure to do, to checklist, to become and achieve. She seals my lips shut with a sound, the universal sound of song without words: music.

Times when I need her to listen, I have been cut short by the piano.

With her long, tangled hair draping her shoulders, she defies me. And, I’ve learn my lesson.

I stop my rant and listen.

That music plunges into every empty pocket of the house. No one speaks when she plays. She knows this and so do I.

The humility of knowing that my child may know more than me smacks me in the face.

A few sounds later, she leaves the song behind and we’re smiling again.