Sunday, February 27, 2011

If it takes a village then why oh why did my soul designate me as the towne crier?

My young childhood consisted of a neighborhood of boys (and a few girls) who bullied me endlessly. Despite eventually learning how to stick up for myself, and to be more assertive, I never did really learn how to let things roll. I take things to heart all the time and its starting to ANNOY me but I am not sure how to change this.

I have once again opened my mouth, just trying to make sure things were fair and have alienated a great deal of people. When did my soul decide that I had to be the one to proclaim the rules in the village that is raising my child? I need these people yet I find it really difficult to follow the mantra "sometimes the best thing to say is nothing".

On my way home from upstate today I stopped to add to my road-trip feature that I will be releasing this week on the Ledger. I was on the campus of my alma-matter, New Paltz. I went to the view the exhibitions that i tried to see Tuesday. While I was looking at the "Illustrious Mr. X" I came across one of my favorite Goya self portraits, The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters. I sat there drinking in that print for a good long while. Here a sleeping Goya is haunted by demons of the night, taunting him with the means for him to work. I decided I was wallowing in guilt. I was being haunted by the demon calling for fair play and sometimes while I struggle to make sure that this voice is heard it backfires and I become the adversary. I have decided that I actually think I need help dealing with my own insecurities, but that is a story for my private files.

I thought about this for a bit, history is deemed to repeat itself. It happens personally. It happens locally. It happens globally. It happens. I am starting to wonder if it is because we allow the status quo to exist even when we are proclaiming that we want to change it? Are we too tired, scared, or something other?

My son won the overall event this weekend. It was bittersweet. While trying to make sure that what he skated was a fair competition for all this morning I again found myself on the gallows. I know what I said and I know other people heard it the way I said it, but there is always that one that hears it wrong and things escalate...Am I destined to be a drama queen forever?

I am an intense person but I have a soft voice. Many times when I raise it just to be audible it comes across as anger. Maybe I just need voice coaching?

I feel horrible, beating myself up all because I wanted the rules to be followed. I hear Dave's voice in my head, telling me to lighten up because people hate that... I only have one question about the rules, and I am not being sarcastic or aggressive, I am being sincere. If we claim that they are often changed and made up as we go along and that is really bothersome because it lessens accountability, then why is it so horrible to request that they be followed?

A towne crier was the one that was asked to proclaim the mandates of the soul seems to have deemed me to that position in my son's village...I wish I could be the one that turns my head to look the other way, just once!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Roadtrip...its not what I thought either

I was off to my second ROLFING session yesterday in Gardiner. The plan was for Chris and I to head up state eventually, but he had to be in NYC to do some research for his AP Environmental class. In other words, it looked like I was going to be playing the drive 1/2 way to Albany, drive home just to pick him up, only to drive back game. It seemed like such a waste of time and resources.

 I had Chris take the train to Poughkeepsie. Now, what to do with the rest of my day?

I had been thinking about my column quite a bit after the first article got some positive feedback. I decided that I would write a major article once a month, each one about a poignant topic in the art world. I also decided to do this weekly/biweekly road trip feature where I highlight some of the interesting art venues local to New Yorkers.

Yesterday, while I was trying to solve my transportation problems, I decided to concentrate on the things in and around New Paltz. I was so excited, after rolfing I would go get a quick ski in on the ridge before heading down into town to do some research for my column. I would give me that push to finally formally visit the Dorsky museum. I was even excited about the exhibitions. The coverlets from Huguenot Street were on view, something historical that had its roots in craft rather than fine art. I don't think there should be a distinction except maybe that the craft artist thought about utilitarian needs...don't get me started I might end up with my very next article being written right on the spot. I would then tie it in with some things I think I might do today around the Saratoga area and then a plan for the High Peaks region later in the week.

It was a beautiful day on the ridge and because of that I didn't even mind skiing alone. I decided to ski Monhonk, I figured after the thoughtful well intended brutality of fixing my breathing capacity (sorry Rich) this would be a quite refuge where I didn't have to think about it much, just ski. Though the thought of Minnewaska's challenges did tempt me. I skied for about an hour, just enough to get sweaty and smelly and experience winter temps at there best by taking a baby wipe shower in a composting restroom, as if the cold air wasn't enough. I changed and headed into town, stopping at Starbucks for some tea before heading up to campus. I was pumped to see some art, be studious in the library, research the Huguenots, think creatively...I am trailing off for a reason.

I got out of the car with a giddy step, walked by the new Atrium that was added to the Student Union building, thought about how much this place had changed since I went here, all the while remaining focused about what I had to get done. I practically ran to the front door of the museum only to be stopped dead in my tracks by the sign...The Samuel Dorskey Musuem is open Wed- Sun, 11AM -5 PM. The suggested donation is $5. WHAT??? Now what was I going to do, I had 2 hours before I had to be in Poughkeepsie and despite New Paltz having this HOT Visual Arts program, it has little to offer in the line of galleries in town. UGGGH... Think, think, think...what is in Poukeepsie? Marist, Vassar... they both have galleries. Of course after I crossed the bridge I realized that I could have gone to the Unison Art Center or even to Huguenot Street.  I used my (stupid) smart phone to gather the information I needed, spent an hour trying to find the art building on the Vassar campus, with almost no one, including the security guy I talked to knew where it was (thank you Nerd guy, you have redeemed your institution of higher learning). Back to the phone, had the campus map been able to be viewed without pixelating at a larger size I would have seen that Marist has a highway called route 9 running through the campus. I thought the campus was only on the river side of the street. I finally found the Steel Plant Studios building, and a place to park without the threat of getting towed as signs warned. The building, by the way, is nicely located on route 9 with BIG BOLD LETTERS on the side of the building. Who pays attention to those kind of clues?

The exhibition I saw was interesting, worth the look, even more so when I read the artist statement. I felt though that one of the two artists could have edited his choices a bit more. This is a really large exhibition space and someone like me who works small might have a hard time with the overwhelming space, however, I think its still the responsibility of the maker to edit accordingly. It seemed like he through things in at the last minute that may not have had anything to do with his original intent? Exhibitions are not just about the artwork but about the space as well. How well can they work in concert. In this case, there was a hiccup, which was a shame considering how strong the work was.

OK, you are probably thinking that this was because the curator set it up poorly? That wasn't the feeling one got from the show. The curator actually did a wonderful job of composing. It appeared that the artist just threw in one to many similar items of varying quality, taking away from the strong statement by showing too much of the weaker work.

I managed to fetch Chris shortly after, which went off without a hitch. We took the liberty of driving to Albany on Route 9, a beautiful drive, took care of a few errands and then headed to the Public House for dinner.

I will update you on the rest of the story later, when I finally put my review of the actual artwork, venues and space into a proper perspective. Right now I am off to help my mom with her PET Scan.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teach to Learn, Learn to Teach: Are you sick of highly paid teachers?

My friend Karen turned me on to Michelle's blog today. I felt that I needed to share it as it is in line with what I said yesterday. It is definitely food for thought!

Teach to Learn, Learn to Teach: Are you sick of highly paid teachers?: "A friend put this up on Facebook a while back and it stuck with me. As teachers, our goals are so much more than to babysit other pe..."

Friday, February 18, 2011

My latest endeavor ... and defensive ramble

I agreed several weeks ago to write for the Knickerbocker Ledger and today I am thrilled to say that I posted my first article. If you get a chance I hope you will give it a read.

I hesitated with posting it a bit, honestly, as I have been glued to what is happening in Wisconsin. My first inkling was that maybe being a teacher was not the best thing to broadcast right now. The country seems ready to crucify us because we stand firm on not wanting to make concessions to a legally binding document. I ask all of you to consider how this would play out with your creditors, the contractors you hire, the mechanics and service companies you do business with. I am not talking about negotiating a new agreement and shopping for the best deal one can make, I am referring to the agreements you already have in place. How would that work out? imagine agreeing to a price for a repair to your car and then trying to re-negotiate it after the work is done?  I realize that everyone must help tow the line, but have you stopped to ask the politicians that are trying to push this legislation what happens to their pay when there is a state mandated furlough, do they give back their check too? In some cases, they don't have to. That varies by state.

Did you know that most teachers in this country make so little that they have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. I am not only talking about disadvantaged districts either. I am talking about districts where the per-student expenditure is well above the national average and the teachers make only 30K a year after 20 plus years of service. It is not the grand cash cow everyone makes it out to be with lavish vacation time, endless sick and personal time, and great benefits. It can be a bear of a job with extremely low pay, 10 hour days, and the time off being used just to catch up on the endless paperwork and lesson planning. As for the personal and sick time, I attest that I have no more than my corporate counterparts and I have to account for the time I do take to make sure its in line with my contract.

Then, there is this little thing called education to land the job. I have as much completed graduate work to my name as your average family physician, I have to pay a similar amount of malpractice insurance which my union has thankfully negotiated for so that my premiums are lower, and have similar loan burdens as that physician but I don't have a similar salary though will admit that I am one of the "lucky" ones to have a district that values its employees and pays them accordingly.

Your next argument will be tenure I am sure. I'll do my best to explain it. A tenured teacher can be fired for the very same things most of you can be fired for: insubordination, breech of contract (which includes things like not being prepared for class, being late, leaving early, being negligent, abusing leave time, etc ) and breaking the state labor laws. We can also be fired for being immoral (engaging in inappropriate behavior) and for breaking civil laws despite the baring or relevance to in class performance, meaning it happened on personal time. The only thing tenure does is grant us due process so that if there is a case of an impending termination decision, more than one person would be making that decision and the teacher would have representation. It limits the subjective possibilities.

I am not usually one to share my own personal political thoughts but in this case I feel very empathetic and a good deal of that is due to the fact that I also continually find myself trying to defend my chosen profession as if I am getting away with that pot of gold, stealing it even.

Yesterday, while being admittedly glued to the events in WI, I was listening to this one radio commentator talk about how egregious it was that the schools closed in WI and now students were starving (physically) because there were no meal programs available. He was less concerned about the teacher who called in to say that the students wanted to be in school learning and that they felt like the government (not educators) was cheating them out of their right to do so.  It seems that in this case the WI students have learned that their own rights were being violated by a government who decided to go back on its word to the people. Its heart warming to see them stand up with their teachers and make the argument that what was OK in Egypt a few days ago has to be OK here too. What a testament to the students. Dewey would be proud as education is the only way democracy can exist!

I ask you to consider all of this before you bash the institution that you are asking our young to have faith in. Remember most learn by example and follow the lead of those they care about most. How can you ask a child to believe in the importance of learning if you then bash the institution and its functional assets (teachers and support staff)?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wrapping my head around it all...

I skied "The Ridge" last Saturday and it was an enormous treat. I have always found peace up there with the hawks and knowing that my week might include some difficult news I embraced the chance to be up there, on that ridge despite the weather and the conditions. I was with my skiing friend Jon, who is always encouraging and always patient despite me skiing so much slower than he does.  Jon would wait up for me, then ski off as I arrived, I never had a chance to have a break so it was a constant 3.5 hours of skiing. I only stopped to take the occasional photo, which eventually became my excuse to stop, by the time we reached the end of the Castle Point carriage way where I had to change my focus from skiing forward to controlling speed I was spent enough to have major muscle spasms going on. It was difficult to say the least. I remembered what it was like when I learned how to coach an endurance sport such as cycling where there was a group of people who were mismatched ability, the front guys would not get a workout and the rear of the pack would bonk. I attributed some of my fatigue to the first person we encountered on the trail, about 5 miles in, he was sure to tell us about the conditions on the cliff face where the tracks were almost non-existent but the surface was icy and very dangerous. The stress of thinking about it robbed me of precious energy. Had he kept his mouth shut I probably wouldn't have thought much about the conditions I had already suspected and just skied them. The next day, I was fine, not sore, but my back was screaming. I couldn't move off the couch. I have been nursing those spasms all week. Today I tended to it.

My mom had a biopsy done on an area of suspicion that was found in her lung a few years ago. When it was first found they watched it for some time and thought it had encapsulated and sealed itself off. She had a car accident in December that required a cat scan and learned that "the spot" had grown, considerably.

My mom has CANCER...

I learned that today just after I spent 2 hours dealing with my muscular issues. In other words I was in the car on my way home. I pulled over and parked. When I finished the conversation and found myself in front of Tiger Lilly Jewelers, my college friend/roommate's shop. I hadn't talked to her in a long while. We had lunch. I was so glad she was there.

I called Kenny. I called Pete and despite not wanting to leave such news on a voice mail, I did. I couldn't help it. It slipped out. It didn't really hit me until after that when I called my kids. I think I just needed the practice saying the words before calling my kids. I cried. POOR MIKEY, I cried so hard he couldn't understand me and then Justin thought I said Anna not Nana... and nearly went into shock.  By the time Anna got back to me she already knew and Chris well, he knew too... I love my kids, they are so intuitive and they take care of each other...I finally caught up with Pete and thanked him for letting me be comfortable enough with our friendship to leave him such a message.

What I really wanted to do was to go back up on "The Ridge" and scream the news to the birds. I have always felt that like there was this hole in the clouds there that opened up to heaven. Maybe its because that was what I was looking at when I learned my dad passed away. The sun was setting, purple, orange, blue... it seemed to linger for a long time that day just like the processing of the news. Its also where Kenny and I went on our first date and where we buried our first dog when I was pregnant with Justin. The GUNKS are my prayer circle, where the 5 flags meet my soul.

So I'm trying to wrap my head around my mother's illness and know I most likely will be for some time. All day I have been trying to decide what my feelings are. Why do I have to place a name on them? Is it because it makes it easier to own/embrace that way? All I can say is that the headache that I had yesterday that was being generated back pain has now been replaced by my own hard thoughts...Mom, if you are reading this...I love you! (All our life you had us practice taking things one day at a time...)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I am beginning to feel sleep deprived with the phone often ringing at 5AM to alert me that someone has no school,  or even worse in terms of sleep, I am being woken up to be told I can sleep for another hour. If you haven't figured out  already, I am a light sleeper and once I am up, I am up. Despite being so in love with my skates and xc skis and not being able to remember the last time I have been able to indulge in either on a regular basis I am so over this weather!  What's worse is that this upcoming weekend is the most important in Chris's skating season making this storm really stressful!

Originally I was going to write about my hectic weekend of heading to Lake Placid Friday night so Chris could skate a time trial coming home in a blinding snow Saturday night (ADK whiteout squalls) and then heading to Hartford for the January Thaw Short Track meet to chase blocks for hours and then hi-tailing it over to the U of H for the Scholastic Art Awards then heading back to the meet to spend another 2 hours on the ice...I woke up yesterday morning feeling like I was literally plastered to the mattress. Everything hurt after 9 hours on the ice.

I wrestled through the day yesterday and decided not to ski after work giving my body one day to rest. Today, when that phone rang I thought I would be stuck at home all day, which sucked because we had nothing interesting in this house to cook for a long period of time. We didn't even have yeast for bread. I was afraid my day would be uneventful... but then I got so bored that I decided to go out and ski, the plow hadn't come by in hours. I could feasibly ski the roads in the neighborhood. Just as I was getting ready to go out, the plow came by. I went anyway, and understood that skiing the snow bank was a total pain. I got in the car and drove to the middle school (1.5 miles away) and skied in and around the campus and then into the woods. It was great, tiring cutting trails in really deep snow, but great. As the weather worsened about 45 minutes into my adventure I skied back and aborted my adventure. I stopped at CVS for some stuff and proceeded to watch some guy totally berate a sales clerk and then attempt to steal an ice scrapper because he had a phone call and she was taking to long to deal with his emergency...

I came home, cleaned up, made some lunch and tea, then sat down to work on writing my new column for the Knickerbocker Ledger. I spent the better part of the day pulling the work together, e-mailing out some interview questions and then it hit me, despite my ski and the reprieve to get some other stuff done, I was BORED... so I decided to head out to the grocery store before dark. The precipitation had stopped.   We were out of any interesting ingredients.

A bottle of wine, greens, olives, garlic, tomato, rice, lemon, smelts; dinner. It was incredible! Now I am just waiting for tomorrow's verdict? 5AM will come too soon.