Has anyone else noticed that the whole “we’re in this together” thing has sort of morphed into “now I’m depressed and you’re in this alone”? CALL ME!!!
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Backpack ban. For real?
My 12 year old son, Levi, will be starting middle school in August at a brand new public school. We’re all excited and nervous and trying to figure out how life operates in this totally unknown environment. Up till now, he’s been highly sheltered by our local private Jewish day school.
There’s a steep learning curve here and I admit it is causing us some anxiety. LIke the other day, for instance, he was perusing the district web site and confronted me in a panic.
“Mom,” he voiced fearfully, “It says on the website that kids are prohibited from carrying backpacks on campus.”
“Levi,” I responded with a doubtful glance, “That’s ridiculous. I’m sure you didn’t read it accurately. I mean, how are you supposed to carry your stuff to school? Picnic basket?”
He assured me that what he had seen had been real and urged me to call the district office to confirm it. His anxiety was growing and I figured that calling the office was the perfect way to allay his concerns. “Hello,” I started to the kindly woman who answered the phone, “I’m a parent of a new student who will be coming to your school in the fall and my son saw something on your website about backpacks not being allowed on campus. I know that sounds rather crazy. So I just wanted to check and make sure that he misunderstood whatever he thought he read.”
“Um…I’m not really sure what to tell you,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Can you hold for a moment?” Then she disappeared for like three minutes and I waited, wondering if she was using the same trick my insurance company uses every time I call to check on a benefit. I like to call it the “indefinite hold tactic.” It’s when certain organizations systematically put you on hold forever, knowing you’ll eventually get so frustrated you’ll hang up and decide it’s easier to just pay whatever remaining balance they insist you still have, even though you’ve already paid them three times already. But I digress.
Finally she returned, “The backpack rule is a campus by campus decision and I’m afraid no one at the district can give you the backpack requirements for an individual school. You’ll have to wait till the school reopens for the school year to call and inquire about it.”
“But…I mean…Are you saying there may be some rule against students carrying backpacks?” I’m stammering at this point because this sounds as silly to me as if she told me that number 2 pencils were being outlawed.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to call the school after July 22nd,” she curtly ended the conversation.
Baffled by this, I started to do some research and found that yes, backpacks have been items-non-grata at schools across the country for over a decade. Huh?
I found articles as far back as 2003 explaining the dangers of backpacks containing concealed weapons, drug paraphernalia, even bombs. The answer to some lunatic potentially stuffing a bomb into a backpack? No more backpacks. Maybe it’s me, but that sounds like the most inane answer to school violence and drug abuse that I have ever heard.
But that wasn’t all I discovered. There were other equally lame reasons for prohibiting the dreaded back carriers. The Academy of Orthopedic surgeons had come out with some declaration a few years back about the risks of long-term back and neck injuries and posture problems from kids hauling around overweight backpacks.
Other schools had outlawed backpacks because, and I’m not making this up, they proved to be dangerous threats to teacher safety both inside the classroom and in the corridors of learning. Apparently, teachers find themselves tripping over backpack straps on a regular basis during the school day. They also complain that they have been severely injured in the hallways by backpack-clad youngsters racing from one class to the next.
OK, now I am deeply sensitive to teachers’ needs. Teachers deserve all the credit, gratitude and respect we can give. Their jobs are important and critical to our society. However, this is a little bit silly, don’t you think? I mean, are they sashaying down the aisles between desks while reviewing the Spanish American War? Tap dancing around the classroom as they pose thought-provoking questions about Odysseus? Kids can’t carry backpacks because teachers are tripping over them en masse? Maybe we need to have an in-service day focused on cautious strolling protocol.
And one more question: in what, pray tell, are our children supposed to carry their personal items, notebooks and other school supplies? Hefty trash bags? One girl somewhere out East faced this very dilemma and started carting her load around in a plastic, yellow sand castle pail. Come on! We have got to get a grip. Yes, someone hid a pressure cooker in a backpack and murdered innocent victims. That’s deplorable and hideous. But banning backpacks wouldn’t have stopped the Boston bombings. Believe me, they would have found another way to hurt people. That’s what evil people do. They figure out ways to destroy and ruin good, unsuspecting people’s lives. We need to address evil, not the outward accoutrements of it.
We didn’t ban underwear after the underwear bomber tried to blow up an airplane. We can’t outlaw every single item that some sick, twisted cretan uses to accomplish some heinous activity. We just can’t. It would be like…like…like…trying to eliminate peanuts from every elementary school in the country. Oh wait, we have done that.
No news would be good news!
The news is so terrible these days. Kidnapping in Cleveland. Bombing in Boston. Murder in Mesa. I can’t take anymore. I feel like I’m living under a fog of darkness. Somebody, please bring me a bouquet of sunflowers and some stevia lemonade to brighten my day. And how exactly are we supposed to talk to our kids about this stuff?
Look, I know that some people say there really isn’t more bad stuff happening today than in decades past. It’s just the media mayhem that magnifies everything. But I’m sorry, I don’t remember all this crazy shit happening when I was a kid. Did I just not know about it? Really? How can that be? My kids, and my youngest is 9, hear all the gruesome details about almost every tantalizing media-hyped tale that circulates. Was it different in the 70s and 80s? I do kind of remember tuning out totally in the 90s. It was a very hip, boho way to go for an actor in Chi town. “The news is so negative,” I would lament in what was probably Chicago’s version of a valley girl twang. “I just choose not to allow those thoughts into my psyche.” Dear Lord, how many things from our past come back to embarrass the hell out of us. At least I never got a tattoo. (JK. I know they’re totally mainstream nowadays.)
But I cringe when I read the story about those three girls locked up for a decade. Nobody knew. This Castro guy was a fine, upstanding neighborhood fellow. The youngest girl was his daughter’s best friend. How are we parents supposed to combat that kind of evil? That is definitely the most horrifying part of this ordeal. That some sick, twisted bastard who holds an ordinary job and hangs out with people on a regular basis could manage to hide three girls and a baby without anyone ever suspecting anything. And who can you trust? Pedophiles lurk everywhere. I want to stop trusting everyone I know and everyone I meet. I mean, why has it taken me 12 years to meet anyone in my neighborhood? Hmmm??? Maybe because they’re all hiding something and don’t want to interact with me which might tip me off to the captive whatevers locked in their basements.
I tell my kids not to go in a car with anyone they don’t know. But I wouldn’t think to tell them to avoid their best bud’s daddy. For crying out loud. How can we keep kids safe? They can be “stranger danger” savvy and still end up missing for 10 years because some disgusting cretan, who masquerades as a normal, upstanding member of the community, abducts them on the way to the playground or coming home from the bus stop. I really can’t take this.
We need to hold fast to our children. Unthinkable evil exists and it could happen to anyone at any moment. I think I might be having a panic attack. Does anyone know if the odds of having your offspring abducted is better or worse than winning the lottery?
The Boston Marathon bombers’ mother swears that her boys are innocent. “It’s some kind of hoax,” she keeps repeating. I’m watching her words tick across the bottom of a muted television in my Dentist’s office. I can only read the larger headlines from across the room, not her actual words. Why do they silence the volume? We’re all sitting here struggling to read the small type. She is gesticulating madly and I manage to surmise that she truly believes her boys are good, solid citizens, going to school, chasing the American dream. Who could actually believe their offspring were capable of killing and maiming hundreds of people in a violent, inhumane terrorist attack?
I think I could. Honestly. I think I pretty much can assess my boys’ capabilities to do evil rather accurately. At this point in their young lives I can sincerely boast that terrorism is not on either of their agendas. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if your kid commits a heinous act of violence, your only means of self-preservation is denial.
I have a friend who takes pride in asserting that her kids are average. She says it all the time. Laughs when she tells people. “My kids are average looking, average intelligence, average in every way.” I used to think she said it to stun other parents who were gloating about their children being intellectually gifted or having some kind of superior artistic or athletic prowess. But now I think she actually believes it.
I don’t see my kids as anywhere near average. But maybe that’s my version of bomber mom’s denial. The other night we went to my 12 year old son, Levi’s, Spring Showcase at school. I can tell which teachers recognize his unique inner sparkle and which do not. Some of them see him as average and I know they are missing the boat entirely. They seem more focused on what he inadvertently blurts out in class or his messy hand-writing. I feel sorry for those teachers. They don’t see his quirky creative mind or his sunny, delightful disposition. They want him to fit in, to act like everyone else, to be…average.
I try to teach my kids how to “act” average so that they do fit in in school, with peers, in life. It’s a challenging task for a mom who believes whole-heartedly in shining your inner light and allowing the world to see you for who you really are. But the world of kids celebrates “average.” I can’t tell you how many teachers, administrators, and therapists have warned us about the ever-encroaching middle school madness where fitting in is the only way to get by and standing out in any way makes kids automatic bullying targets. I want my boys to know how to fit in.
But the more I teach them to fit in, the more I remind them that it’s only an act. That in society we all learn tools to make our lives easier, more comfortable, less stressful. Fitting in is one of those tools. But it doesn’t mean you stop thinking, acting and believing in all of the charming inner traits that make you unique and extraordinary. That’s the louder message I hope to convey. And if that puts me somehow in the same category as my pal who really sees her kids as average, or bomber mom, who’s incapable of seeing who her children have become, so be it. I’ll live in denial. Recognizing indubitably that my children are spectacularly gifted with a sense of kindness, a creative wisdom, and a flair for the eccentric that sets them apart from the pack, and that if used well, will bring them success, inner fulfillment and joy as they share it with the world.
My 12 year old son, Levi, has anxiety issues. This isn’t a secret. So to those of you who might suggest that I’m exposing some kind of family skeleton, I want you to know that I always check with my family first before airing our dirty laundry in public. As long as they’re okay with it, I figure it’s fair game for public consumption.
That being said, the other day at school his math teacher sent him to his homeroom classroom to make copies for her during class. He happily complied and set off to do so. Apparently, only seconds after leaving the classroom, word got out about a ponytailed, pistol carrying stranger at a school a few blocks away. Our school went into immediate lockdown. I’m not talking “drill.” I’m talking serious, “we’re in a different kind of world after Newtown” lock down. So while Levi haplessly skipped across campus, everyone else bolted their doors, pinned up paper to cover the windows and huddled in bathrooms, closets and corners.
Levi thought it was more than strange when the door to his classroom was locked. Even more odd were the darkened windows that left no view to the inside of the room. He looked around and noted that no one else was anywhere within sight. Hmmm? He remained calm and clear-headed though and knocked softly on the door. Luckily, his teacher slyly squinted through a side gap in the papered window. Then, like an episode of “The Munsters,” the classroom door opened a crack and a hand emerged, grabbed my son, and dragged him into the room. It wasn’t until after he was safe that he felt the anxiety of the situation catching up to him. But to his amazing credit, he held it together and was able to talk himself down and maintain control of his emotions.
Maybe there’s something wrong with me. But I find the irony of this inane confluence of events staggeringly comical. I mean how is it possible that my kid, the one with severe anxiety issues, ends up on the wrong side of a lock-down, only days after the most gut-wrenching massacre in our nation’s history? I guess it’s okay to find humor in the irony since no one was hurt and nothing bad really transpired. I can’t even contemplate the real devastation that could have occurred had a copy-cat ventured onto ours or a nearby campus. Maybe the humor is simply survivor’s guilt or some kind of defense mechanism to protect myself from the overwhelming pain etched into our souls by last week’s horrific destruction.
Sometimes it’s just too painful to contemplate the very real risks we endure every day as we try to live our lives, watch over our families, and protect our precious children. And so to all who suffered a loss in Connecticut, our hearts ache over your pain. The nation grieves along with you and sends love, strength and healing to you.
May you all be blessed with a sense of peace and may God bring comfort to those in mourning who must now learn to accept the unfairness of life as they struggle to live without the earthly presence of someone so deeply cherished.
Do you need to feel better about yourself? Seriously, I watched a tv show the other night and I realized that whatever problems I have, they are MINUSCULE compared to problems out there in the world.
I hate to sound like an old fart, but tv has really sunken to a new low. I watched this show called “Strange Addictions” on TLC because my only other viable options were the Kardashians and Bill O’Reily. I couldn’t stomach either of those. Not surprisingly, this show deals with people who have strange addictions. They basically define an addiction as something that distracts a person from the real pain in his/her life. Last night they profiled 4 addicts.
The first was a man addicted to his “synthetic partner.” Basically, this odd little guy was living with a human size (quite beautiful) doll with whom he was deeply in love. He spent all of his time with her. He loved conversing with her and described her as open, loquacious and clever. He was rather shocked though, by her surprising bashfulness during the television interview. He ate every meal with her. Fortunately her dietary needs were negligible. He even slept with her, and yes, I mean that in every sense of the word.
I felt badly for this man. But he kept insisting that he was perfectly happy this way, that his “girlfriend” kept his loneliness at bay, and that there are hordes of other people out there enjoying the benefits of “synthetic relationships.” Really? That’s kind of alarming.
Next up was a woman addicted to her blow dryer. (I’m not making this up.) She needed to have it with her as some type of security blanket. But the key component to this addiction was her inability to fall asleep and stay asleep without having the dryer turned on and lying next to her in her bed. I’ve done a bit of research and there are actually a lot of people who suffer from this addiction. There have even been documented tragedies of fatal house fires that began due to blow dryers catching fire in beds or on carpets. But even this dangerous reality could not sway this woman from sleeping with her nighttime hot air machine.
There was a young woman addicted to tanning. It was scary and sad, but not all that uncommon. But the final segment featured a woman who was addicted to eating coach foam. This was truly tragic because the synthetic fibers were poisoning her insides. But all I kept wondering was, “How does an addiction like this start?” I mean, what prompts someone to begin chowing down on her sofa? I’ll admit I often find myself too tired to meander over to the fridge during Jimmy Kimmel Live. But I’ve never even contemplated digging into the couch for sustenance. Frankly it sounds kind of primitive and cannibalistic to me. I mean, my couch is like part of my family.
Anyway, the point here is that you may be suffering. You may battle depression, feel enraged by society, yearn at times to strangle your two small children, but in reality, there are people out there eating couch foam, sleeping with their hair dryers and having sex with mannequins. Come on, how bad is your life really?
A political diversion
Hard to think about anything today other than the President’s speech yesterday in Cairo. Look, I’m a Jew, first and foremost. The whole wife, mother, sister, lover thing somehow always manages to take a back seat to who I am religiously. I guess that’s because for so many centuries people have hated Jews and worked to destroy us. I’m not paranoid. I feel genuinely safe in society today. But I do worry at times, and with good reason.
Statistics show that anti-semitism is on the rise in this country and world wide. As economies continue to plummet, distraught members of society often look for a scapegoat. There are multiple factions in society who believe that the rising costs of oil today are due to U.S. support of Israel. To any sane individual, this is absurd. But that doesn’t stop masses of people from calling on the US to turn against our long-term ally and join forces instead with the Arab nations who look to destroy her.
I believe in Israel’s right to exist. Hamas, the head of the Palestinian government and confirmed terrorist organization, does not. For the President of the United States to call Israel an “occupier” and suggest that Israel give back land taken in a war in 1967 is ridiculous. Returning to the ’67 borders, as President Obama advocated yesterday, would put Israel in an indefensible position while also leaving major population centers beyond those borders.
I’ve been reading incessantly on this subject. I actually watched the President’s speech on CSPAN and heard him irrefutably say that Israel should return to the 1967 borders. But as I talk to most of my liberal minded friends, who also claim to support Israel’s right to exist, they insist that the President said nothing about returning to ’67 borders. They have emails from “reputable” leaders who assert that this is just another desperate Republican attempt to destroy the President’s credibility and weaken his ever decreasing popularity.
And you can’t argue with these people. Because they refuse to believe the facts. Look, I’m all for a healthy debate. Like most people, I support a Palestinian state. They have the right to exist just as Israel does. But time and again Israel has withdrawn from areas, offered concessions and agreed to multiple conditions in order to secure peace with the Palestinians. But the Palestinian government insists on Israel’s complete and total destruction. They refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. How can that be a recipe for peace?
I am frustrated by this. Frustrated that people wont do the research and fact-finding they need to do to understand what’s going on. Trusting anyone as your sole source of information is foolish and naive. I listen to NPR every day on the radio. But I also force myself to listen to Rush Limbaugh and a variety of other radio hosts whose opinions I don’t necessarily agree with. But if you only watch CNN or read the NY Times, or at the other end of the spectrum, exclusively watch Fox News, how will you ever know what’s truly going on?
Look, believe what you want. But be honest and thoughtful about it. And don’t delude yourself into thinking that President Obama is a friend to the state of Israel, the Jews or to true democracy in the Middle East.
Passover has a lot of rules — what you’re allowed to eat, what you’re not, how you’re supposed to rid your home of “chametz” (the name given to all non-appropriate Passover food), your requirement to tell the Biblical story of Exodus to your children. It’s a heavy responsibility holiday if you try to follow it according to “Halakhah” (Jewish law).
And we do. At least we try. My kids eat special food, off of special plates, prepared in special pots and pans. I end up cooking almost non-stop for the entire weeklong festival, a task I’m not generally accustomed or predisposed to. The Passover story tells how the Jews left Egypt and were freed from decades of slavery. I sometimes wonder if my culinary servitude isn’t God’s way of offering me experiential understanding of my ancestors’ plight.
But in spite of the hard work and requisite effort this holiday demands, I love it. My fondest childhood memories are of Passover. I remember the mini
matzah-meal pancakes my mother used to make, the special Seders that lasted till midnight over which my grandfather, and later my beloved father, presided, the delicious fruit shaped jellies I craved all year long that now define the holiday for my two little boys. There’s something deep that connects me to my family, my community, and my past each spring when Passover arrives.
So I clean my cabinets, pack away my Blender, and get out my grandmother’s old recipes. I cry a lot too, remembering the innocence and wonder of those childhood years. I miss the people who make up my memories, and I feel sad that these joyous times will one day be merely a part of my kids’ recorded histories, like old home movies or a treasured tattered tablecloth.
I’m grateful that they will have the memories to connect them to me, to my husband, to their grandmothers. But the somber realization that time passes extraordinarily quickly these days is one that occupies my thoughts almost obsessively this time of year. It reminds me of an ancient bit of Jewish folklore that tells how King Solomon asked his wisest assemblymen to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad and sad when he is happy. They created the ring with a simple saying etched into the gold: “Gam zeh ya’avor” or “This too shall pass.”
I wish you a meaningful Passover and Easter and wish for you the joy of good times and the melancholy of beautiful memories.