Category Archives: About Life in General

opinions about life today.

Superwoman Bites the Dust, Part 2

You know how people say, “Listen to your body,”? It occurred to me this morning that I rarely do that. Instead I say, “Listen, body, do what I want.”

Since I had pneumonia, I must have had fifty people say, “Listen to your body.” I jokingly reply that the doctor should never have diagnosed walking pneumonia because I just kept walking around. Instead, she should have said, “Cindy, you have ‘going to bed and resting pneumonia.” I’d end up in bed only because I couldn’t do anything else, and I’d feel guilty about it.

Although I’m much better (I’ve turned the corner!), I’m still a work in progress. I may start off well when I get up, but I can hit the wall at about 11:00 A.M. Then I might be done for the day. So I’ve been trying to short circuit the fatigue by resting before I’m overcome by exhaustion. I make plans for what I can do—things that I never counted before like going to the market or dropping stuff at the cleaners.

When I walked this morning, I got quiet and went inward. I tried to listen? What was my body saying? It was hard to perceive any instructive advice because I’d turned that voice off years ago.

“How the hell should I know?” were the only words that came out—and those were from my mind. Which continued: “You can walk a little farther. You should be able to! You were walking five miles some days before. You need the exercise—you gained weight on your vacation! No pain, no gain! Don’t be a sissy!”

All of a sudden Dr. Phil was there in my head too. “And how’s that been working for ya?” he asked.

When the pulmonary specialist had said, “Don’t push yourself. Don’t walk too far so you’re too tired to walk back,” the words floated to my memory bank but not my conscious decision making center.

But Dr. Phil’s a big guy. His booming voice stood out in the crowd of bullies in my brain who urged me on. So I listened to him and turned towards home.

There’s more to this never-ending story, which I’ll share later. It includes chest X-rays, CAT scans, blood tests, pulmonary tests, inhalers, netty pots and a “No cancer,” diagnosis. It also includes me needing to make an attitude adjustment, which I’m working on. It’s hard to give up the feeling that you’re invincible. I don’t like it.

 

 

 

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In the Blink of an Eye

“Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the United States has entered a “post-racial era.” It occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country, when law enforcement and private security target people of color for humiliating and often frightening detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity and based on perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.”

 

I read a blog sent out by ACLU that said just because police are afraid of an African-American man (or woman) that is no excuse to kill them.

It got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

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He says that we make decisions in the blink of an eye. Sometimes this is excellent. Some could call it intuition. But it often leads to the kinds of tragedies that are played out on the streets of big and small cities across America.

Police officers answering calls, especially domestic violence calls, are afraid for their lives. They know what has happened to other officers and that it could happen to them. They pull their guns fast and use them faster. If it’s a person of color it seems even faster. I’m not sure it’s because of racial hatred. It’s definitely racial profiling.

Ruminating about this, I started thinking about my own quick impressions of people. If I see a white older man in a suit, I think to myself: If that guy is a senator and a Republican he’s probably a Christian who only feels charity to other Christians. If he’s a “southern gentleman”, I throw in that he’s a racist bigot. I know it’s wrong to think that way. I’m trying to get over it.

Living in California there are many Hispanic people around me. Yesterday I got my car washed and sat next to two women speaking rapid fire Spanish. I’ve been working on my Spanish so I always eavesdrop to try to figure out what’s being said. As usual, I could pick out a few words here and there, but it was too quick for me. The men washing the cars, the man who took my information, the young woman who checked me out—they were all Hispanic. Should I generalize that all Hispanics are working class so how could they afford to get their car washed? A scene in the movie Beatrice At Dinner illustrates this well. When Beatrice, a guest, comes up to speak to Lithgow’s character, he asks her to refill his drink. He assumes she’s a servant. It’s not only because she’s wearing casual clothing; it’s because she’s Hispanic by birth. It’s a cringe-worthy moment.

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The ACLU blog got me thinking about how I feel if I see a black man. Do I immediately blink and feel fear? I don’t. I’m very happy to say that. I do not want to be a racist. I do not want to jump to conclusions about a person because of his or her race.

I was fortunate to grow up in Seattle and attend schools that were multi-racial and ethnic. I went back and taught in my junior high school and learned as much from my students as I taught them. So I avoided a lot of the scourge of racism. Not all, of course. But like Spanish, I keep working on it.

Besides being “white”, I am Jewish, which makes me a little schizophrenic in America, and always a little afraid.

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I don’t “look Jewish” so I can pass easily in society. Until someone spouts a Jewish slur. That’s why I announce early into a conversation with a new acquaintance that I’m Jewish. I don’t want to suffer again the embarrassment of hearing someone say: “Don’t Jew me down.”

I’ve never wanted to admit that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. I love that myth. I love the stories of the Pilgrims and the Indians sharing the first Thanksgiving.

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It’s so sad at 71 to be aware it was a mythology we were taught. My generation was raised on Westerns where homesteaders and cowboys were heroes.

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We never realized that the scalps being taken and the arrows being shot were from the knives and bows of the people the land belonged to.

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They were defending their property! We had no compassion whatsoever. It’s taken me a long time and perhaps the Donald Trump administration to pull the blinders fully from my rose colored eye-apparel.

I’m not saying I’m not proud to be an American. I am.

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I know how lucky I am that my grandparents had the courage to immigrate here, to a democratic capitalist nation. To a place where they had opportunity. I’m just acknowledging that the United States is not perfect. Nothing is. (Not even me.) But we can keep learning and growing.

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We don’t have to be a melting pot to create a fabulous America. We can be a mixed salad with innovative and flavorful ingredients. Remember the posters United WE Stand after 9/11? Let’s remember that is our greatness.

Miss Smartypants Bites The Dust

So for some reason I’ve been putting off writing this blog. I could plead fatigue. I could plead that my worries are so small in the face of all the disasters around us that I’m embarrassed to focus on me. But I realize most of it is avoidance and denial.

Our mother always said: Pride comes before a fall. This can be a crippling refrain if it plays constantly on your brain’s radio dial. But in the story I’m about to tell, it plays a big part. I let my ego take control and it all got out of hand.

I was so proud of myself at the beginning of May. Here was my mindset: Seventy-one years old and close to being in the best shape of my life!! Walking four to five miles a day, working out, doing yoga, eating well (well, mostly well), and in fantastic health. Working on my memoir, writing short stories, writing my blog! And I only needed 6 hours or less of sleep a night! Others around me might be aging, but not me!! I was like good wine. (Muscato fine vintage.)

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Then on May 25th, I got a sore throat. But because of allergies, I often get a sore throat and then it goes away. Or if I get a cold, I easily get over it. Positive thinking and meditation helped with that. I even wrote a funny blog about how sick I felt. But after a month, it wasn’t so funny. I made it to the important things like my grandson’s high school graduation, but I’d have to rest all day. My brain was a little fuzzy—I’d mean to say kitten but I’d say cotton. Even though I couldn’t manage to go to a manicure appointment (that should have told me how sick I was) I managed to finish a memoir piece about being sexually harassed when I taught school in the Sixties.

And I did start to get better. “I can tell I’m turning the corner,” I’d say to people when they asked if I’d gone to the doctor. “Look at Rachel Maddow. She had this thing too and it knocked her out of work for over a week.”

But then I started to get worse. I began to feel like a vintage wreck.

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“You’re still coughing?” my son said at the beginning of July when they returned from their trip to Thailand. “What did the doctor say?”

Well, unfortunately my doctor was away on a trip also. And it was a holiday weekend. I found out a month later that no one had really read the results of my chest X-ray to see the pneumonia and other issues. So I kept going like the little engine that could barely get up the hill. I thought I should be done with a cold so I started walking three miles. Yeah, not so smart.

After two months I went to Seattle. My daughter took one look at me and called her doctor. We went first thing the next morning: her doctor diagnosed walking pneumonia and I got on an antibiotic. It probably would have been better if she had said I had lying down pneumonia or stop what you’re doing pneumonia because I thought I could still walk around. Me, who thinks I’m so smart, just didn’t hear the message that I needed a lot of rest.

I guess my hearing is non-existent when I’m supposed to be listening to my body. I always push myself beyond my limits so was I going to quit now? No, not me. I went to Canada as planned and to the Bruno Mars concert. IMG_1719

 

I didn’t cancel plans with friends in Seattle though I was having trouble breathing, especially in the smoke filled air. I couldn’t really talk because it made me cough, but I went to a party and tried.

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I could go on and on, and I did. When we got back home, I finally shut down.

 

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So now we’re past the third month. I am better. I am. I’m trying to do less while keeping up with must get done. I prioritize better.

I’m not good at staying in bed. I get antsy. Fortunately, I’ve kept busy at home with little projects. Researching sponges was fun!

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Yes, I did become addicted to Facebook and the news.

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I found Facebook to be similar to leafing through magazines in the old days when you were sick. Oh, and shopping online!

I always try to learn from my experiences. This time I’ve learned that I’m an idiot. My husband is happy with that thought, and the fact that I’m no longer giving him advice on how he should follow doctor’s orders. The blind can’t tell others how to see.

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Okay, there’s more to this story, but I’m tired. I think I might listen to the doctor’s advice and go rest. He did go to medical school, after all.

 

Believe it or not: I Found a Hair Volumizing Product that works!

This is a message for those of you who are folliclly-challenged. The rest of you who have full, thick heads of hair probably won’t be interested, including my sister who was handed out all the hair anyone could ever want at birth. She still has lots of hair she can have fun with.

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I, myself, would do almost anything to have thicker hair…and I probably have. I can resist other types of products but if anything has “MORE VOLUME” written on it, I buy it. I have more products under my sink than Johnny Appleseed had seeds. IMG_1646

Some of these things above have been helpful but I want to announce that I have found a new hair produce that actually seems to work: Toppik Hair Fattener.

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It is giving my limp, lifeless strands more body! Just a little before I blow dry and my hair is so much thicker. How it works, I don’t know. I’m just seeing with my own eyes that it does.

I am obsessed by hair. When I’m in a crowd, after I’ve checked that no one is carrying a suspicious package, I’m checking out everyone’s hair. I can honestly say it’s the first and last thing I notice about a person. “Why can’t I have a swinging ponytail?” I mutter under my breath as I watch a woman walk by. “Why can’t I have a thick bob?” I whine to myself. You can’t really let people know how you feel about this, especially when there are children starving and good friends are losing all their hair to chemo. But, I know I can confide in you.

My story of hair deprivation begins early and with a mother who had scads of hair. You can see that she’s already wondering if the bow will cover the bald spot. I’m already questioning the fairness of the Universe: why I didn’t get the thick hair genetics?

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By nursery school, my hair wasn’t lush like my friend, Chi Chi’s in the foreground, but it wasn’t bad except for the bangs. I’d suffered a burn to my forehead so the bangs had to be short.

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Grade school I don’t know how my hair looked because I didn’t care. By the end of high school I got interested, but the results were mixed.

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In the Sixties, big hair was in. Everyone teased and sprayed and wore these little dome wiglets on top of our own hair.

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I wore one at my wedding:

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That began my life long love of wigs and falls. Here my granddaughter is modeling one.

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An extension of the wig is extensions, which I adored when I wore them. Unfortunately, they are hard on the hair, creating more hair loss.

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My amount of good hair days compared to bad is miniscule. My hair is not only thin, it’s baby soft. Also it has just enough curl to cause problems, better known as frizz. My hair won’t stay down or straight. ( My oldest granddaughter and I were measuring the other day to see how tall she is now. My son said if you discounted my Afro, she’s as tall as I am.) My hair is unable to withstand humidity or a windy day. If anybody touches it, they run the risk of great personal injury. I almost divorced my husband once when he insisted on driving his father’s classic 280SL with the top down to a party. Has he no sensitivity?

In order to counter effect my reality, I wear a lot of hats. And once I wear a hat, I can never take it off until I get home. If anyone playfully tried to take it off, they’d probably lose a hand.

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I grade photos of me on how good my hair looks. Here’s a couple of examples:

You might think I like this photo because my little grandsons who are now 18 and 19 look so adorable. No, it’s because my hair looks great!

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Here’s another one. You might think I like it because I’m with Charles Schultz at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference–nope, I like my hair.

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I do like the following one because I had a great lunch with Judy Blume, but also my extensions looked fabulous:

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You might think I like the next one because it records a very special time, but get a load of my hair! It looks amazing! It lasted through the B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies and then it was toast for the next ten days.

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You might think I like this one because I’m surrounded by my family. I do, but the hair is the main thing–it looks thick!

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Besides just having lousy hair, I have a long and sad history with hair loss. Each time I had a kid, my hairline receded a bit. I had a widow’s peak before them.

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Widow’s peak was gone after. (I wanted to have three kids, but I guess it was prudent that we stopped at two.)

When I had malaria, my hair fell out in handfuls. And then grew back sparsely. That’s when I joined the American Hair Loss Association.

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My dermatologist saved my sanity when she suggested Kenalog injections. She felt that the malaria had sent some of my follicles into a dormant state and they could be “reawakened.” Yes the injections hurt but they worked!!! And yes, I’d do it again in a second.

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This is the photo I had my daughter take of me a couple of weeks ago, trying to show I was getting better from the virus. Actually, we had to do it that night because I’d had my hair done earlier in the day and it looked good. No matter that I needed my bed, I wasn’t going to waste any opportunity.

So now you know more about me, probably more than I’d reveal on an every day basis.  Probably TMI, actually. But if you’re interested in any other products I’ve found useful, just ask. Oh, and for those of you who have oodles of hair

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and tell me how difficult it is to take care of, (you know who you are) be nice to me and others like me. You never know when we’re carrying scissors.

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All About Me! or Get Her Well and Shut Her Up!

Since there’s nothing happening much in the news, I thought I’d give you all an update on my health! I mean, let’s keep what’s important in perspective, right?

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I’m well into week 5 of this virus, no pun intended. I do think I turned a corner last week in that I’m not as flat-out sick as I was. But still, once I start feeling tired, I’m done. There’s no cushion to the fatigue. And once it comes, so does the cough, which tires me out more.

I’d like to first say that I have so much more compassion for people who have chronic illnesses. And I’d like to say that I’m sorry for not understanding how debilitated a person can be. I now understand why people become incommunicado—it’s just too much work to get in touch. It takes too much energy to go to lunch or even have a manicure. I don’t mean to say that my virus is on the par of chronic illness—I fully realize it’s just a virus. But it’s given me a taste of what people go through.

I think it also gave me a taste of what I may be like when I’m old, in my late 90’s. Right now my energy bank is not very full. I rest a couple of hours a day, especially if I have to go to an event. Otherwise, I wouldn’t make it. I make tradeoffs, also. If I’m going to go to the grocery store, I can’t take a walk or go to yoga. Not enough energy to cover both.

But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do the important things this month. I made it to my grandson’s high school graduation and to my granddaughter’s dance recital. I made it to my daughter’s birthday and to our neighbor’s birthday. I made it to the family celebration of birthdays, Fathers Days, graduations and anniversaries. I even finished the chapter I’d been working on.

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I couldn’t eat much with this virus—too tired and slightly nauseous from the fever—so I lost a few pounds. (there has to be a silver lining!). My brother saw one of the family celebration pictures and thought I looked too thin.

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So last Friday, after I had my hair cut, I put on a lot of make up and had my daughter take my picture. That way I could show Steve I felt much better.

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One disturbing thing I realized during this siege is that if you don’t feel well, you make a lot of mistakes. My mind was kinda fuzzy—from the virus or the meds, I don’t know. I tried to keep going and accomplishing, but I’d come back to find out I hadn’t actually finished a task or had not done something correctly. Imagine if I were your pilot! Or your lab technician.

I want to thank everyone for the good advice, encouraging words and help. I did go to the doctor three times and I did get a chest X-ray. I did take more vitamins and kept up my fluids. Part of it was fear engendered by midnight coughing fits. Didn’t Jim Henson die of pneumonia? I’d think as I chugged cough medicine. Oh, and that reminds me. I had a lot of trouble with cough medicine—I tried it with codeine and I had weird dreams and sores in my mouth. And most over-the-counter ones have sucralose in them, of all things.

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A final thought: I realize as I read this over, that I must be very grateful to be such a healthy 71-year-old. If I can complain so much about this virus, I’m mostly in good health! I may be a rust bucket but I have classic lines!

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There’s No Flu Like An Old Flu

 

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I’m not done moaning about my virus. I still don’t feel good enough to do anything constructive so I’m filling in my time… I found that watching the news was too heartbreaking. I love the London Bridge. I love London. I love Nice, actually. But we’ll never feel safe there again. Now I know why they have those cement blocks in front of airports and on certain streets.
I turned off the television and went to sleep for awhile. My dreams were crazy but then I woke up to the reality of a world gone crazy. In so many ways. I fear the Salem Witch Trials can’t be far from restarting. One little word, and they cut off your head. (THAT’S A JOKE!! A QUASI PUN. Actually, most of this post should strike you as humorous. I feel I need to point that out in today’s world were context isn’t given any value. )
My head started spinning as I tried to keep track of everything. I just couldn’t so I went to sit outside. My dog sat next to me and I began wondering if he was seeing what I was seeing. I mean, do dogs do that? Is their eyesight the same as ours’? Then I began to wonder if I couldn’t get well because I’m in my seventies. Maybe I had something worse going on in my lungs??????? I told myself “to calm down”, “be happy,” “don’t worry”. I sat back and tried to take deep breaths. The smell of the jasmine was so sweet…that it started a coughing spell so I had to go inside.
Then our grandson stopped by to show us how handsome he was in his tux for prom. We even took a picture, which you’ll never see. Take my word for it, he is gorgeous and I look like death on a low burner.

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Just before I started writing this, I realized I had been on Facebook for at least a half hour. (Hour?)I was reading every post carefully and playing every video presented.

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Trevor Noah, the puppeteer on America Has Talent, the Canada Salute, the giraffes on the high dive, Animals on Twitter. You name it, I watched it today.

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I even started reading some tweets. I didn’t post anything but I did reply to a Joe Scarborough post.
OK. So you get the picture and it ain’t pretty. The Tylenol, antibiotics and Codeine Covfefe medicine better start working better or I’m toast. And Facebook will own my soul.

Burn Baby Burn

My essay, Burn Baby Burn, was published this winter in WESTVIEW. It will be a chapter in my book about the days I taught in Seattle’s Central District.

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I don’t remember whose idea it was—Sunny’s or mine. One of us decided we should have a drama festival for our ninth-grade English classes. It doesn’t sound like a big deal today, but in 1968 it was completely crazy. America was in terrible conflict—the fabric of the country in tatters. Assassinations were commonplace. Nonviolent and violent demonstrations for civil rights and against the Vietnam War spread through college campuses and spilled into the community at large. “Burn, baby, burn!” wasn’t just a slogan, as we all learned to our jeopardy.

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It was almost impossible to teach anything at Meany Junior High at that time. We were located in the Central Area—Seattle’s inner city. Kids came from every ethnic and economic group, but the school was becoming increasingly African-American. So many were poor and underprivileged. My colleague Sunny and I were twenty-two—barely out of school ourselves. We were blue-eyed optimists filled with energy and ideas of how to ignite our students’ love of learning. We were passionate about what we did—we knew that education could be the ticket out of the ghetto.

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It was tough going. Sometimes you’d give yourself a high five if a few students wrote their names at the top left side of the paper. At first we used the same curriculum I’d had as a student there six years before, including Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a complicated play with so many characters whose names began with C—Caesar, Casca, Calpurnia. If it had been Romeo and Juliet, maybe we could have sparked some interest in these teenagers, but all I saw were blank stares as I plowed through the lessons.

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It wasn’t that my students weren’t well acquainted with the concept of dramatic arc. Every day, they were involved in some drama. At Meany, we had to keep our doors locked in case the Black Panthers, Black Student Union, Students for a Democratic Society, or any other protestors wanted to hijack our classrooms. Our classes were disrupted several times a day by fire drills, making it impossible to build any momentum in the classroom. It drove me crazy and one day, I’d had enough. I marched into the principal’s office after the third drill to complain.
“How are we supposed to teach anything, Dr. Patterson?” I asked. “And why are you making us walk across the street for each drill? It’s pouring down rain.” I’m sure my hands were on my hips.
Dr. Patterson gave me a sardonic look. “Because bombs burst out,” he said.
I remember his smile when my angry expression turned to shocked fear as I registered the fact each fire drill was actually a bomb threat. I mumbled something like, “Oh,” and turned to leave.
“Also,” he said to my back, “I’d walk in the center of the hallway if I were you. Lockers make the best hiding places for bombs.”
I could hear him laughing even after I left the office and made my way carefully down the center of the hall.
Dr. Roland Patterson, who came from the East Coast, was the first African-American principal in the Seattle Public Schools. He was a short man who I thought had a Napoleon complex. Not only was he autocratic, he didn’t take well to criticism. But he did humor Sunny and me, going along with many of our ideas. In contrast, several of the old guard viewed us with derision. One ex-marine, who’d taught there when I’d been a student, snorted every time I walked into the teachers’ room. I half expected him to ask for my hall pass. While Sunny and I worked to engage the kids’ interest, he ruled his classroom as if he were still a drill sergeant. I thought of myself as my students’ coach, not their adversary. I’m not saying I wasn’t tough if I had to be—I’ve been told that my look from across the room could freeze a recalcitrant student in his tracks.
Still, I was glad that the week before the drama festival, Obie Tate chose to hold Steve Wilson’s class at gunpoint instead of mine. Obie was a recent transfer (which was what the schools did—transfer a troublemaker anywhere out of their school). Mr. Wilson was a big guy—nothing much seemed to bother him. Obie, after holding the gun to several students’ heads, had stood down. I don’t think I would have had Steve’s calmness to defuse the situation as he’d done.

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It was in this anarchical milieu that Sunny and I decided to have the drama festival. For several weeks the kids rehearsed and gathered props and costumes. Meanwhile, we decided to invite important people in the community to be the judges. One was Fitzgerald Redd Beaver. He was the editor of The Facts, an African-American weekly. A large man, his facial expression was a permanent scowl—at least it was when he looked at me. He didn’t like whiteys teaching in the black community, and he wasn’t shy about announcing it to the world. One of his kids was in my class and at Back-to-School Night, Mr. Beaver glared at me throughout my presentation.
“Why do you think you can teach in this school? You’re white,” he said afterward. “You can’t possibly relate to my son or any of the other African-Americans. You know nothing.”
I wanted to say I’d been involved in the civil rights movement for years. I wanted to explain that I’d grown up with black kids and had known them all my life. I knew our experience was very different, but I felt I could make a difference now. Being Jewish, I’d also known the sting of prejudice. I wanted to explain that we were trying to create change within the system—that we cared and wanted to right wrongs.

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I wanted to say I was changing the curriculum to include African-American authors like James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Langston Hughes. I wanted to say that just because I was Caucasian didn’t mean I couldn’t teach everybody of every color. I started to say, “I’m here because this is what I know how to do—it’s what I can do to help,” but he cut me off. How we had the guts to ask him to judge the drama festival, I don’t know.
The other judge was Roberta Byrd Barr. I had seen her at the Cirque Playhouse when she starred in A Raisin in the Sun with actor Greg Morris. (She became principal of Lincoln High School in Seattle in 1973, the first woman principal of a high school in Seattle.) She was an outstanding woman, a busy and multitalented person who generously agreed to “judge” this tiny endeavor. We felt honored.
The day of the drama festival I woke to sunshine. A good omen, I thought. I drove my husband to work because the car was filled with props. “I know it will be great,” he said as he got out.
“I hope so,” I said. “The kids deserve it.” We were all tired, all burdened by the assassinations, by the civil rights struggle, by the Vietnam War and the protests. I loved that the kids were getting to just be kids having fun, if only for an afternoon.
My first period was ninth-grade English—almost everyone was participating, which was an amazing feat in itself. Students broke up into groups and rehearsed for the final time. I felt so encouraged to see their focus and also the camaraderie building between the kids, no matter their race. We can do it, I thought.
We met in the auditorium right after lunch. We’d gotten permission from the other teachers to let participating students leave their classes for one period. The kids were excited about their scenes, their costumes and makeup, and being on stage. You could feel it—the energy, the joy. As for Sunny and me, we had the feeling that we were actually doing something constructive. Learning was taking place—amazing!
Mr. Beaver was late and I remember pacing back and forth, getting more agitated with each passing minute. Should we start without him? I wondered. Would that make him angry? We only had an hour and a half to get all the acts in. Ms. Byrd had been early. She’d smiled and given my hand a squeeze when she came in. Just her presence gave me confidence.
Mr. Beaver walked in just as I was about to start. Surly, he didn’t offer an excuse. Only when he saw Roberta Byrd and sat down beside her did his sneer lessen, but not by much.
We began with a condensed version of the 1943 radio play Sorry, Wrong Number. Certainly it was an old play, but it still had a punch. And it had the advantage of being in the textbook. The kids stood with mikes as if in a recording studio and read their lines from the “script” they held. The audience loved it and so did the actors. You could feel the excitement and it was contagious. I stole a look at Mr. Beaver—even he looked entertained.
Next came the scene from A Raisin in the Sun. This required scenery and costumes. It was in the middle of this act that Dr. Patterson came in. My first thought was that he was going to sit in on the judging after all.
Instead he came up to me, frowning. “You’ll have to leave the auditorium,” he said in an undertone.
“What? We’re right in the middle of the drama festival.” I shook my head. “No, we can’t leave. We’re doing something wonderful here!”
“The school is on fire,” he said in a slow staccato. “We need to evacuate.”
“Fire?” I said. I was terrified of fire. Three years earlier I’d walked past someone’s room in the sorority house and seen the curtains on fire behind her. I’d screamed something incoherent and then run down the hall to the fire alarm. I had to break the cover to set it off, and it seemed like hours before I’d been able to. I still had nightmares about the flames licking around Jackie’s head. I dreamed that we didn’t get out safely and it was my fault.
Now I turned quickly to the kids. I had to make sure they were safe. “Everyone, we need to exit the building. Please follow Dr. Patterson out the rear door,” I said.
“What? Why do we have to leave now?” one of the boys asked.
“Yeah, we were just getting to my part,” a girl said.
“I know. And I’m sorry. But the school is on fire,” I said, my voice shaky. I’d begun to smell smoke.
It was important to get the kids safe. We led them outside and across the street to where other students were already gathered. We all stood watching the smoke rise from the west wing of the building. I noticed some of the African-American kids had white cloths in their hands. At lunch, one of my seventh-graders had come up to me to ask if I’d wetted my cloth yet. I didn’t attach any significance to it at that time, but now I realized that this fire was no accident. It had been well planned.
I’m not sure how long it took, but the fire department succeeded in putting out the fire. Eventually we returned to the building. There was chaos, of course, with the smell of smoke and fear hanging in the air. School was dismissed immediately for the day. I didn’t see Ms. Barr or Mr. Beaver—they must have left immediately. I met Sunny in the auditorium, where the props and scripts lay abandoned.
Sunny looked close to tears. “Let’s take a walk around the school,” I said, trying not to cry myself. “Maybe the fresh air will clear our minds.”
It was a warm day, so we didn’t need jackets as we headed out. We walked side by side without talking. When we rounded the corner on 19th, we saw a big group of kids coming toward us. As they got closer, we realized they were throwing rocks at the school. The sound of broken glass filled the air.
Sunny and I looked at each other. “Oh, shit,” I said.
Here we were, these two very white women, and approaching us fast was an angry mob.
“What should we do?” Sunny asked.
We didn’t have time to consider options, which turned out to be okay. Because we were wrong about the group—the kids weren’t angry at all. They were just having fun.
When they saw us, they called out: “Hi, Mrs. Anderson. Hi, Mrs. Muscatel.” They stopped throwing rocks as they came closer, smiling and waving. I smiled and gave the occasional wave as they continued through us. A half a block away, they started lobbing rocks at windows again.
In those days in the Central Area, if the fire department was called out, the Seattle Police Department’s riot squad came too. Sunny and I had just breathed sighs of relief after surviving the rock throwers, when we looked up and saw the police marching up the street toward us. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. They were in full riot gear, their pink faces very piglike in the afternoon sunshine. I could feel their menace from three blocks away.
“We better get the hell out of here,” I said to Sunny.
We quickly turned onto school property and headed for the double doors. I felt we made it inside just in time. I have no doubt that the police would have grabbed us and maybe even roughed us up. We’d probably have been arrested before we could say who we were.
Sunny and I went to the teachers’ room, where many of the teachers had gathered, some angry and some in shock. No one talked—almost everyone smoked. After a while, we were told it was safe to go to the parking lot for our cars. In my mind’s eye, I saw the rock throwers and the riot squad and wondered who I was safer from.
“Let’s go to my house,” I said to Sunny.
It was a short drive to my studio apartment. I turned on the radio as soon as we’d started the car, wanting to hear if they were reporting the fire. There was nothing.
At the apartment, even though it was 3:00 in the afternoon and neither of us was a big drinker, I made us gin and tonics. Our nerves were shot.
We took our drinks and sat on the couch.
“We almost did it,” Sunny said after a few minutes. She had red hair, and fair skin that freckled and flushed easily. Now she was deathly pale.
“The kids were loving it,” I said.
Sunny nodded. “I know. You could see how excited they were.”
“It was the most positive thing I’ve seen for a long time,” I said.
“Now I don’t know what will happen. School’s almost over for the year.”
I leaned my head back on the couch. “I am so tired,” I said.
We continued to talk about our confusion and despair until it was time to pick up my husband. He and I took Sunny back to school for her car.
In the spring twilight, the school sat as if untouched. You couldn’t see that the windows were broken or that something had broken inside of us.

Happy Mother’s Day

I was talking to a good friend this morning who told me she’d spent considerable time yesterday looking though photos to find one of her mother to post for Mother’s Day. What a good idea, I thought, but I have to write a blog so that I will keep up with my New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t have time to look through pictures. But this afternoon, the photo below triggered my walk down memory lane.

Facebook notified me that this had been on my post FIVE years ago today. We had gathered together then for Esther Muscatel’s funeral. Esther was Moe’s mother, my mother-in-law, Dave and Jen’s grandmother, and the munchkins’ great-grandmother. It’s been five years already since she passed away.

This is how she looked when Moe was just a little rug rat.

Here is Esther 25 years later at our son’s briss.

Add another 25 years, here she is with Moe.

And I love this great shot of her with Eli, her great-grandson.

  •                *                    *                     *

My own mom knew me from the time I was born!

She is looking a little askance at me in this photo. I think it’s because I was the exorcist baby.

At my wedding, she didn’t look as if she were still afraid of me–maybe just a little wary.

By the time our daughter was born, Mother looks like she’d gotten the hang of the baby thing.

My grandmother was a wonderful mother figure for me.

And so was my Aunt Lil who is with my mom and dad in this photo.

The two most important mothers in my world today are Jennifer and Gina. They are wonderful mothers–my grandkids are so lucky to have them. As are we.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Too Cool For School? Not Me

Source: Too Cool For School? Not Me

Too Cool For School? Not Me

I don’t know about you, but I have an affliction: when I try to be cool, I end up looking like a fool.

I think this all started at the end of junior high. Until that time I was a confirmed bookworm who never had time to think of things like being cool—my nose was always in a novel so I rarely registered where I really was in time or place. Nor did I care about how I looked or what I wore. Not until the day I saw Gloria wearing a cool sweater with a dickie collar. Wow, I really wanted one!

The poodle skirt phase was before my time, but I craved having a dickie collar.

I think I probably also wanted to look like the girl in the picture below. She was so white–so American. From her loafers to her plaid skirt to the shutters on her house, she personified the kind of girl who scared me to death. But I wanted to imitate.

Next thing I knew, I really wanted to shop at the Bon.

None of this was happening for me as my mother was against all of it. She thought shopping at Lerner’s was just fine for me. Somehow I wangled white bucks out of my dad.

The coolest was the white buck bag that accompanied them—it came out in almost every class so I could apply a little of whatever that powder was to my shoes, whether they needed it or not.

My mother did loosen up enough to buy me pedal pushers and saddle shoes, which was a great victory.

I was 14 when I started high school—being young was a disadvantage to coolness. I joined this high school sorority to be cooler and started smoking to be cooler still. But it really didn’t work.

I still wasn’t cool. Which was fine at Garfield High School. Just getting to go to school there was cool enough.

In my heart of hearts, I was still a nerd who loved being in the library more than anything.

This continued on into college. I loved to study. Well, maybe not loved—but I admit to liking it a lot. At the University of Washington, I used to study at Balmer Hall—it had big tables where I could spread out my books, notebooks, three pens with different colored inks, index cards and ruler. I remember one day acting very cool as I walked by a group of guys, pretending not to see them. I walked straight into a huge ash can that tipped over, spreading sand and cigarette butts across the floor. I can still hear the clang of the metal as it bumped over the floor. Not so cool, after all.

As I get older, a lot of my “too cool for school” episodes involve falls and/or being a know-it-all. My mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall,”—it seems my karma is to act that out again and again. It’s not that I’m unsteady on my feet…yet. I go to yoga to practice my balance and work out to keep my strength up. No, it’s more that I don’t pay attention to my surroundings.

Usually, before it happens, I’ve just congratulated myself on my fitness, and that my skinned knees and elbows have finally healed. (It takes so much longer now.) I’m thinking things like, I’m doing pretty darn well for a 70-year-old!

Like on our 50th anniversary. I wore a flowing dress and my new diamond ring—I felt youthful and beautiful.

As we walked up a few stairs into the oceanside restaurant, I was handed a glass of champagne. How sophisticated and cool is this, I thought.

I stepped forward to take the champagne, not realizing I was on the edge of the lanai. Yes, I stepped into empty space. I tried to get back onto the stair and keep my balance, but couldn’t quite do it. I started falling backwards and decided the wisest course was to just go with it. Fortunately it was only a short distance into the flowerbed. The horrified onlookers did give me points for the gracefulness of my descent. Except for a few scratches and a rip in my dress, I was just shaken, but unhurt.

My final point about being cool or being a fool concerns my fondness for getting things right. It’s not that I say, “I told you so,” (although I do roll my eyes quite a bit). Like when we were traveling in the Galapagos and Peru with friends. I was wise and ate according to the rules we’d be given. The rest of them ate off the street and tried the national dish, guinea pig. What fools, I thought, as they all succumbed to Inca Revenge, and asked to borrow Imodium.

I, on the other hand, was so cool that I had nary a stomach cramp. Until we got home. Then the 105 degree fever that goes with malaria hit me. Not so cool after that.

Another problem is that I try to stay current technologically: I’m so cool that I use the Internet all the time. This leads me to buy gadgets, which I can’t figure out how to use. Like this electric wine opener. You have to admit it looks cool and very high tech, but I can’t even figure out how to put it in the charger unit. Now, I don’t know what to do with it.

I hate to say it, but being cool is just not my thing. At this point, it’s a battle to keep from making that old saying true: There’s no fool like an old fool! 🙂