gossip down the lane….

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Some days I feel as if I wear the Scarlet Letter. No, not the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, although in a sense it’s similar. The Scarlet D for different. Yes, yes, shocking and sad as it may be, apparently once again I am failing Stepford Wife school? Whatever shall I do, gentle readers?

“People will question all the good things they hear about you but believe all the bad without a second thought.”

Today I learned among other things that apparently I wish to control local social media. That is pretty amusing a comment and perhaps I should be flattered but mostly I am amused at the preposterousness of the statement. Yes, the adult gossip girls are at it again and to them I say thanks but no, I prefer a healthy balance between the tom foolery of social media and my real life.  My real life is far more satisfying and amazing. I wish their lives were  as well.

Where do these people come up with this stuff? And how is it they feel so free to trash talk and gossip about people they don’t know and have never had an actual face to face conversation with? Or they feel free to be nice to you to your face when you help them with things, and then just gossip and trash talk you when your usefulness has finished?

Sadly, there is in human nature the desire to gossip or chatter about others.  Anyone who says they haven’t done it isn’t being honest with themselves. I have written about it before because it is an interesting study in basic human nature or human flaws, take you pick.

Gossip is described as:

Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander. This term is used pejoratively by its reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted, and it also describes idle chat, a rumor of personal, or trivial nature….The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion….

What is it about human nature that makes some people relish causing distress of others?

Why is it in the human dynamic to be cruel to one and other?

Have I lived the perfect life? No. But I like to think I am honest about who I am and I do actually try to be nice to people. Are there some people it is virtually impossible to be nice to? Yes indeed. And if you know me, you know I don’t suffer fools gladly.  I try to avoid those people.

Truthfully, those who are mean and spiteful gossips  “spreading the love” fall into the category of those people you choose not to have in your life after a point or at all in the first place.  Psychologically I can only wonder what they are punishing the world for, but the truth of the matter is none of us are getting any younger. Sooner or later you have to let crap go and move on. And you also have to accept people are different from you and as human beings we are not designed to be carbon copies of one and other.  We are truly allowed to have different opinions and to be different people.

Maybe have an actual tea party instead of sharing the tea? Mean Girls is after all,  so 2004 already.

I have met men who were terrible gossips, but truthfully it is an especially female weapon. It is used in my opinion most often to wound and hurt instead of the person really addressing what is wrong, even within themselves.

Why are women so cruel to each other?  Some say it is a basic evolutionary drive of women that men don’t have.  Some say it is low self-esteem. I think personally some people are just mean and have nothing better to do.

An article in Women’s Day Magazine asserts the reason gossip exists is to figure people out:

“Psst…what’s the latest?” We’ve all done it: passed on a juicy piece of  gossip or listened eagerly to someone else’s dish. And although we may have felt  a twinge of guilt, we kept gabbing anyway.

The truth is, 80 percent of our everyday conversations are purely personal,  with more of them being gossip than anything else, according to a 2009 study by  Nicholas Emler, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Surrey in  England. The main reason we keep going back for more: “It’s irresistibly fun,”  says Frank McAndrew, PhD, a professor of psychology at Knox College in  Galesburg, Illinois….But that’s just part of the story. Why we do it…..The short answer: to figure each other out. Since we don’t ever really know what  other people are thinking, collecting information from and about them—in effect,  playing amateur detective—is as close as we can get to being inside their heads.

And then there is this whole theory of gang gossip. and it thrives on social media.

And again, I am not perfect, have gossiped a day or two in my life. So maybe I am just evolving as an adult, but I have noticed how women use gossip and words as a weapon.  Some of it has been directed at me, some of it  directed at people I know.  And in each and every case, not for any positive gain.  So at the end of the day I have to ask: maybe we should all try to be nicer to each other and stay out of the pain of others?

I know a lot of women I have encountered in one way or the other since I moved to Chester County do not know how to take me.  I speak my mind, and I do not really play girl games.  I found those games childish at the junior high lunch table, and pretty much have maintained that sentiment all of my life.

I just do not get these women who are all about things like female empowerment, yet everything they do is about tearing a woman down.  They want you to love them and what they do, and they hope on a certain level they can control everything and everyone around them.  And when you disagree with them you are a bad person. And above all else you cannot be different.  You must be Stepford-esque as that is their sole comfort level when you get down to brass tacks.

These women will take to their local Facebook groups and beat their collective breasts about one thing or another, and it is especially humorous if someone points out they are incorrect about something.  Then you are MEAN and you can’t be MEAN to them. (You see we didn’t get the memo that only they are permitted to be mean.)

If you disagree with those who would be queens of one local society or another you are gossiped about and even flat-out lied about.  It’s one long tall tale spread out across social media and you are supposed to accept it as gospel and never challenge it. Truthfully, it is sometimes easier not to challenge the idiocy because they move along to the next bit of inanity, but sometimes you just can’t.  And you commit the cardinal sin of using the brain God gave you. Then it’s game on with them. They must at all costs beat you back into submission (or so they think.)

Some women are cruel to each other over some sort of unconscious fear or need for control being triggered by someone they perceive as a threat for whatever reason.  (Even if that reason to most of us makes no sense whatsoever. ) Some women just behave badly because they feel they can, that it is their divine right. Some just have poor interpersonal skills and some are just keyboard tigers who barely open their mouths in real life, but online have a completely different persona since they think they can just hide behind a keyboard and their words do not matter.

I was in a sorority in college that was an actual sisterhood and pretty cool.  Since then as I have aged, I keep encountering these groups of women who think they are a sisterhood, but if they were they wouldn’t behave the way they do.

These women don’t realize that when they complain about kids being bullied in school that HELLO where do they think the kids are learning the behavior?  They want to lead the march against cyber bullying, yet they do it.  If it wasn’t such a sad bit of commentary on human nature, it would truly be funny.

Women on women meanness is nothing new.  It is written about all of the time. I am not breaking any new ground here. It just causes me to marvel. Probably because hypocrisy never sits well with me. They all decry negativity, yet what are gossip and rumors anyway?

Gossip is driven by people who need to feel better about themselves by tearing down or spreading crap about others .  It is destructive to the fabric of a community, which is why when these are situations when you need a community to come together, they sometimes won’t.

The flip side some say that socially we probably could not function without gossip.  Maybe that is true since it is human nature to try to share with others in the hopes of finding commonality, or an attempt to fit in better.

People spread rumor and gossip to feel better about themselves, exert power, try to gain control, to get attention and to seek revenge.  It’s all about the drama.  To quote Bernard Baruch (and the quote is often attributed to Dr. Seuss) : Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.

I can’t control what people say or think about me, I can only control who I am.  And at the end of the day, if these creatures want to tear me down or anyone else, that’s on them and it’s their loss.

We are just days before Thanksgiving.  Couldn’t we all put our time to better use?

Just what I am thinking about today.

Pax.

are women really liberated?

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I took this photo of the Woman’s Lib Barn in Malvern about five years ago (I think – it could be longer) from across the road. The colors have been played with courtesy of filters, so pardon the artistic license.

So. Are women really liberated?

Yes, I am serious. I was thinking about it last night and this morning.  And no, I am not and never have been a text-book definition of a “women’s libber”. Unless speaking my mind and being somewhat independent minded make me one?

As history likes to tell it, The Women’s Liberation Movement was a political alignment of women and feminist intellectualism that emerged in the late 1960s. This movement was heavy into consciousness awakening and if you follow the historical timeline, grew out of civil rights.  The predecessor movement was the women’s suffrage movement of the early 20th century which enabled women by their hard work to obtain the right to vote. All of this had roots in a theory that social freedom was necessary for women to no longer be second class citizens.

And we were. But I have to ask if we are to an extent today or is it just a weird feeling because so much seems to be regressing right now?

Yesterday I wrote a post about politics and the mid-term elections which occur next week. The post centered around one writer’s article and another’s editorial. Interestingly enough, a lot of the greatest umbrage taken by my thoughts added to what others had written were from other women.

One woman said I was endorsing specific political platforms and vis-a-vis candidates because I suggested people read these pieces because I found them interesting. She went onto basically describe me as reprehensible for doing so.  I wasn’t telling anyone how to vote, I said it was an interesting read and what I was thinking about. They said specifically ““Well worth taking the time to read” is a political endorsement. Your message is not sharing information but suggesting endorsement of a political view that many in Chester County find reprehensible.”

The second woman came in via a rather strange comment and said : “You most likely have lost me as a follower. You sucked me in with Chester County Ramblings. I have enjoyed your writings over the past few years, until today. I want to hear about the history and happenings in the county that I adore. One thing I sure do not want to read are your political ramblings, pro, con, undecided or what you color you are wearing today. If this is route you plan to continue in your Chester County Ramblings, count me out. Ruined a good thing.” (I am guessing she missed the part where I write for myself and what interests me? Or that no one is compelled to read every little thing they stumble across?)

This is the stuff that blows my mind. The pretzel logic here is women are supposed to be free and liberated now for decades and allowed to express their opinions as long as their thoughts are sanitized with bubble water so everyone can float along on fluffy blue clouds?

So are women really free if other women feel the need to tear us down because we express our opinions and/or have an opinion they don’t care for?

This is some of what I was thinking about when I was in my garden working on my flower beds this morning.  It amazes me how quick women are to tear other women down.  That has always amazed me.  It’s so…well…high school.  If you do not conform to someone else’s comfortable notions you are bad.

Take an article which appeared in The Daily Local this summer about The Women’s Lib Barn:

….The Keegans plan on staying in the home they’ve loved for the past 50 years and have no plans on removing the unique message. They’ve had people ask about the barn, including a woman who recently asked for permission to make a painting of it, though they found it annoying when some bloggers posted stories on the barn without having all the facts.

“People today don’t understand it, they think all of a sudden it appeared. They don’t know it’s from the ‘70s,” Ronnie said.

“It isn’t women, it’s woman,” she stressed. “It’s my statement.”

I am guessing the lady is referring to this blog? What I have posted is what I have found elsewhere about their barn, including old articles but it got all lumped together seemingly at me? That baffles me.  Her barn is literally one of my favorites if not my favorite because it is quirky with its painted statement .

This barn was even part of my photography show at Christopher’s in Malvern a few years back in 2015. She sent me a note because one of my photos hung was of her barn. And to kind of criticize me for changing the meaning (in her mind) by cutting off the question mark at the end of her statement. (Well truthfully it wasn’t cut off, I did canvas prints and it was wrapped around the side.)

She invited me to come sit on her porch and she would tell me the story.  I emailed her back promptly to say I would love to hear about how the barn came to be the woman’s lib barn and that I would also love to give her the photo…and I never heard another thing.   I followed up again, and then just sort of thought “oh well” and went about my life. And then the reference to me (I presume) in the 2018 article someone I know wrote for the Daily Local. And then I again wondered if women were really liberated or just liberated enough to criticize other women?

Now when I ponder things like this, I do not extricate myself from the woman equation.  I can be as guilty as the next woman in the criticism of other women category.  But it does make me think again and again what are we liberated from exactly?

As time goes by and the seasons fold into one and other, I grow more at home here in Chester County and love the feeling of belonging.  I kind of love that I have shed my Main Line skin and enjoy the simplicity and beauty I have found.  I love my garden, my little house, my family.  The thing about Chester County which I have never felt anyplace else in my life is I can just be. Maybe it’s an age thing where I now realize I do not have to live up to everyone’s expectations, nor do I want to.

Yet occasionally I pause and ponder and marvel at the boxes women are still expected to be put into…even by other women. Like is the case with this blog and some of what I write.   If it’s my blog and I am the writer, aren’t I supposed to write about what I think about or enjoy or dislike? I am not a compensated blog, so I am not paid for my writing in this format of this blog.

I also wonder if my younger self was more of less free and liberated? Does this all vary with age and responsibility?

I accept that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s impossible to be that person because we are all different and it should be o.k. to be yourself not a mirror image of every other person around you.

Like many other women I find it irritating when people contact you just so you can tell your husband something for them.  Every time it happens I imagine myself as a 1950s housewife complete with apron and starched hair.

Or then there are the occasions when you are having work done inside our outside of your home. I have had those who preferred to speak only to my husband. Not because I couldn’t grasp the tasks at hand but because they wanted to deal with a man.

This summer I wrote a post “life in the land of women” – it seems this post has been a continuation of that so I will close with what I said then:

We can’t teach tolerance if we can’t be tolerant at least some of the time ourselves.

We can’t teach the value of individuality and independance if we constantly go after those the least bit different from us.

Are we really free if we are confined by the perceptions of others?

 

empty nest…college, the first stage

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This morning before dawn broke, we became first stage empty nesters as my husband left to drive our son to school. The car was so packed, there wasn’t room for anyone to change their mind, let alone room for me.

It seems like yesterday he was 10 and we were meeting for the first time at a First Friday Main Line long, long ago. I bought him a hot chocolate at MilkBoy Coffee when it was in Ardmore, and I was smitten.

We are a blended family, and I was never able to have children of my own, so my stepson is it for me. I like to say in some ways, we have grown up together, and now I get to begin that parental process of learning to let go and watching him spread his wings and learn to fly as the transition from teenager to adult really begins.

Damn this is hard. This morning as I stood in the rain in the doorway watching the rear lights of the car get smaller and smaller, I was a kaleidoscope of memories and emotions.  All of the years so far twirled and swirled before me in my mind’s eye.

Yes I cried when I hugged him good-bye.  I swore for days before that I wouldn’t. But I did.  And I had a good cry when they were gone when I walked past his open bedroom door.  The room was still and quiet.  And he had made his bed for me.  Yup. Puddle. Tears. This adulting stuff, oy vey.

We are so proud of him.  He did extraordinarily well in high school and has a very bright future ahead of him.  This is part of the natural progression of life, but damn don’t try it without Kleenex.

Another thing that gave me pause today is that I was experiencing something today like a regular parent, not just as a step-parent.  This new journey beginning today is something he, his father, and I share together like the family we have become.

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As today is the check-in and freshman orientation for college, I call it the first stage of becoming an empty nester.  He will be home for break and vacations and occasional weekends, but he will never truly be here full time 100% of the time ever again.

He’s growing up (and yes he has been doing the growing up thing for a while – don’t mind me I am just enjoying parental denial.)  And some day, he will be having a day like this with his own children.

I am not old enough I said to myself this morning. I remember when I left for college.  I was excited and terrified all at the same time.  Now it’s his turn.

So what did I do this morning after I had my parental meltdown because the kid left for college? Well I cleaned and rearranged my spice rack. I oiled the cabinets and some pieces of furniture. It’s like I have an unnatural need to stay busy today.

Now I am sitting here writing this and listening to really early Madonna.  I never listen to Madonna.  Or I should say, I haven’t since I was about 21.  Holiday. Borderline. Material Girl. Lucky Star.

An hour or so ago I got a photo of the dorm room. That takes me back.  I remember that. Unpacking. Arranging my room.  But time flies.  37 years ago I was a just 17 year old freshman.  Seems inconceivable. I had a bright green bedspread.  My mother insisted.  I did not do that to him.

Now it’s his turn. He seems to like his roommate and survived his first freshman orientation gathering.  I remember I liked some of the freshman orientation activities, and felt like an alien at some of the others.

I have a feeling I will be cooking and gardening like crazy for just a little while.

I just got a text.  A photo of his first student i.d. He looks older already….sigh…

Have a great Sunday everyone.  Thanks for stopping by.

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perception is like a bend in the road….

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Being a writer and a blogger is a funny thing.  I am not a compensated blogger (and to check out how they often plan about things to write read this post), I write because I like to write.  I also write  because it’s my catharsis and way to work through things. I share my opinions, my garden, things in my life, and I even share my photography and recipes.

“Blogging” is a very widely used phrase today and face it, it is is fairly common  that with everyone you meet they either blog on their own or follow blogs. It is rare that you meet someone who doesn’t follow something.

Some people incorrectly refer to social media pages as blogs.  They aren’t, although bloggers share their work most easily via social media.

Perception, as defined is first of all from the Latin “perceptio” and is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.

Perception is like a bend in the road. Everyone sees the bend a little differently.

Human beings all see things differently.  Put a bunch of people in a room and show them a photo.  They all see different things.  Leave them in the room, and human nature takes over, and some of those who are stronger willed than others will try to impress THEIR perception upon people, tell them that their individual perception is the only one that matters.  You can literally watch as something goes from individual perception to more of a mob mentality. It’s fascinating.  (It happens in social media groups on Facebook all of the time. )

People are often so uncomfortable with the perceptions of others, no matter how benign. Some of these types like others to think blogging is a four letter word.  Or that the blogger is a bad person merely because their opinions and experiences are different from theirs. Or because a blogger is expressing some of their perceptions, experiences, and opinions openly.

Recently, I wrote a post about essentially the end of one chapter of my journey as a stepparent with a child graduating high school. I wrote about my perceptions, my feelings, my experiences. Today I heard from a friend.  Passing along a message from parents who did not like what I wrote.

Seriously.

I wonder, did they also have a problem about an article on stepparenting I wrote in 2017 for a regional magazine?

I am sorry they did not like what I wrote.  It was about my experiences. It makes me understand once again, why so many stepparents do not like to talk about their experiences.  It is often like we are not supposed to have feelings and experiences.  We are just supposed to soldier on and never talk about it at all.

Being a stepparent is the hardest best job I have ever had. At times it is exhausting and frustrating. And then there are those moments, those magical moments, where it all comes together.

I became a stepparent in my 40s. Most of my friends had been at parenting since their 20s, maybe early 30s. I knew when my sweet man and I got together it was a package deal, father and son. (They even have the same shaped hands.)

But being a fair bit older than parents with similarly aged children, I have felt at times like I was walking a tightrope without a net. When I am unsure, it is sometimes really hard to know what to do. Everyone wants to help and give you parenting advice. You don’t want to offend, yet sometimes you want to scream “stop” because the role of a stepparent is so different.

A stepparent is not a traditional parent.  You can’t replace the parent who is absent, and shouldn’t.  No matter the state of the relationship the natural parent (in my case mother), a stepparent must respect that bond.  And be aware, even if the bond is fractured, it does exist.

Everyone expects a blended family to emerge overnight.  That is a myth.  As much as you want life to be like a Hallmark Channel television movie, it isn’t.

Creating a blended family takes a lot of time and hard work.

As a stepparent I do not have that literal biological bond.   So there have been plenty of days I wanted to scream into my pillow “I can’t do this!” and I have cried buckets by myself out of frustration.  But underneath it all, if you nurture it and let it grow, is an amazing relationship.

As a stepparent you respect the family traditions you inherit with the relationship, and you work to create new ones.  Your job is not to erase the past, and together you create new memories.

For everything a writer writes, there will be at least one person who dislikes what you are writing about, and honestly, usually more.  And if you are a blogger, well just add to the numbers. Why? Because a lot of people do not consider bloggers real writers.

I am a real person.  I am a real stepparent.  I share some of my experiences because it makes others in my shoes as a stepparent feel less alone.  Much the way I also blogged my way through breast cancer.

Perception is a funny thing, and I am discovering it is especially funny when it comes to parenting.  I can never decide if it is because we are all supposed to have perfect Facebook-ready families at all times, or if people are just that uncomfortable if you are different, or your opinion is different, or if their kids think the moon is made of cheese and you think that is silly.

When it comes to being a stepparent, the parents I have met for the first time who are the least judgmental are individuals who were not born in the US.  As in people who grew up  elsewhere who came to this country and became citizens.  I think they are more kind a lot of the time because so many people can be so incredibly ignorant to those who are non-native born. As human beings we can be incredibly judgmental.  Sometimes it is very hard not to be.

I find this all to be a conundrum of sorts.  Here we are (in theory) supposedly teaching our kids to be good humans, yet often as adults we often can’t accomplish that on our own.

Well that’s enough from my catbird seat as a stepparent.

It’s all about perception.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

to the class of 2018

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Photo from my own high school graduation, 1981.   

The other day Spotify popped up with Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence in the song rotation.  Now it’s like an earworm.  The opening lyrics were playing in my head when I woke up:

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standing by

The song was written in 1989 by Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby.  Bruce Hornsby has been one of my favorite musicians since forever, and I liked this independent phase of Don Henley, so I have always loved this song.

I wonder if it is on my mind because this is the last week of high school for our son, my stepson?

I know that as a teenager about to graduate high school we are all annoying parental units, but where has the time gone?

GraduationI remember with great love the 10 year old with big eyes who loved hot chocolate and who used to make me apple slices with peanut butter on them.

Mind you I  love my 18 year old very much, but well…teenagers don’t make you apple slices with peanut butter or want to sit and drink cocoa with you.  They are here, and then they are out with their friends. Zoom. Zoom. Zoom.

Our son has done tremendously well in high school and we are SO proud of him.  He was accepted early decision to a truly remarkable school.  He is poised for success for the rest of his life.

And one of the best things I can say about our son, is that he is very much his father’s son in so many ways.  He is kind and loving and has a true generosity of spirit and loyalty to all in his world.  He has wonderful friends.

Time has flown.

In a sense, he (my son/stepson) and I have grown up together since as a stepparent I was late to this parenting game.

Sometimes it was very hard for me, I won’t lie.  Not because of our son, but the whole getting used to being a parent.  And being a stepparent is vastly different a role from being a parent.   It’s more of a supporting role.  And sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut, even when you don’t want to. (And well ME not having an opinion sometimes is torture!)

When he was in 8th grade I did not know if I could do it.  First of all, they all started dating then.  Dating in 8th grade is not something I did – probably because I was a year plus ahead in school, so I know back then, my emotional levels were completely different from my classmates. But it’s a different time and you do your best to adapt.

My growing up as a stepparent has not been without odd experiences.  Like the first dance.

I remember the first dance, the spring formal for our son in 8th grade like it was yesterday.  I was so incredibly nervous.    It was my first social function for the school as a stepparent.  They needed someone to photograph the group of kids going together to the dance, so I volunteered.  It is something I already do, and having a camera in my hands in new situations is very calming.

We were going to the house of the girl our son was dating for pre-dance photos.  First girlfriend, first dance, official stepparent debut.  And no one spoke to me while I was there. Seriously.  I walked in and no one said hello, no one spoke to me the entire time.  Not even our son’s date’s parents at whose home the photos took place. It was like one of those dreams where you are speaking to people, but you are invisible, so they glide on by, not hearing or seeing you.

I was ready to hang up the stepparent dress right then and there.  It was awful.  Almost as bad as my first experience in the car rider line when I accidentally got into the wrong line and people surrounded my car and started yelling at me like I was an ax murderer. But then it all changed. Then I met the parents that helped me grow and get through high school as a learning stepparent.

These were the parents who welcomed me before the 9th grade dance.  Parents of boys and girls in his class, and I am appreciative of all of them.  I love the time spent with them. They welcomed me to their circle. And from there, we watched our kids grow.  I no longer felt such the outsider.  I felt I had a place among them.

I just spent time with a few of them over Memorial Day Weekend as a matter of fact. We laughed and talked about high school with the kids. It was wonderful.  And every single kid has a  bright future ahead of them.

In a way this is also like my graduation as a stepparent.  Sounds weird but it’s true. I survived and he survived me surviving.  We survived him learning how to drive and me being nervous, SATs/ACTs, girlfriends I didn’t like, and generally growing up.

And that growing up is both of us. My son deserves a medal for surviving me learning how to be a parent and stepparent.  It’s hard.  And some days I swear I still stink at it. But again, I love this kid.  To the moon and back.  I did not give birth to him, but he is firmly and forever etched in my heart.

His father and I love him so much and are  so very proud of him. (And he will tell you I had the total meltdown complete with tears this morning when I told him how proud we were of him.)

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Back in the Dark Ages before social media and cell phones when we graduated

I have many friends with graduating seniors this year.  Some of whom are close friends I have known since we were basically the age of our kids.

To my friends: I have loved every prom photo, travel photo, dance recital , sports event, travails of boyfriends and girlfriends and swearing we of course did NOT drive our parents as crazy, every everything.  You guys have been my rocks, my teachers on the learning curve of not losing your mind on dumb stuff. It is somewhat surreal to think our kids are graduating as I remember graduation with some of you.  Lined up in our white dresses, with our flowers.

To my friends with all of this ahead of them, get out your tissues…it’s emotional parental puddle time. And take time to smell the roses.

Where has the time gone???  It feels like yesterday I was in his place, getting ready to graduate.

(And yes, I am passing along my earworm)

Thanks for stopping by.

 

teenage consequences

By now if you live in the greater Philadelphia region you have heard about the latest thing out of Conestoga High School. Two very white girls vaping, out of it, saying the N-word. Repeatedly.

This is unacceptable.  There is no other way to couch it.

It’s racist. It’s ignorant.

And then there is the whole vaping thing with what looks like that Juuling contraption I read about in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The article written by Mari Schaefer says (and I quote):

Social media is a window into the growing use of Juuls. In June, there were 10,000 Juul-related posts on Twitter. By December that number had climbed to 150,000, Dobbins said.

Locally, a video of two Conestoga High School students that has made the rounds on social media, more for the use of racial slurs, also shows one of the girls using a Juul.

In an email, officials at the Tredyffrin/Eastown School District in Chester County stated that using a Juul “would be considered a code of conduct violation, which would be enforced.”

Calls to local school districts, including Philadelphia, about Juuling on campus went largely unanswered — though two Montgomery County districts acknowledged the use of the product in their schools.

On Tuesday, wellness counselors in the Lower Merion School District sent a letter to middle and high school parents about the Juuling trend, suggesting parents talk “openly and honestly” with children about not only Juuling but also drugs and alcohol.

 

Ok now two excerpts from articles on the whole N-word situation:

Video of teens using racial slur sparks outrage at Conestoga
By Linda Stein, lstein@21st-centurymedia.com, @lsteinreporter on Twitter
POSTED: 03/10/18, 4:45 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 DAYS AGO

DEVON >> A video featuring some Conestoga High School students casually using the N-word is now the focus of a school board investigation.

The video, which was not made during school, is going viral – and not in a good way.

The video shows two white, teenage girls who are apparently vaping, using the N-word and laughing. The video has been widely shared on social media like Facebook and Twitter. The two girls have not been identified.

 

Community Matters: The “N”-Word has No Place in T/E Schools — Or in Any Schools!
March 9, 2018

I received several copies of the recent live social media post by two Conestoga High School girls with racial slurs. The ‘white’ girls use the “N”-word multiple times in the racially offensive video which has since gone viral.

For African-American students living in some parts of the country, the use of the N-word by their white peers may be routine. But I admit that in 2018, living in the T/E School District, I found the racial vitriol  of the video shocking and extremely disturbing. Am I naive to think that this video by a couple of Conestoga High School students is an isolated situation or … is it symptomatic of a bigger problem in the school district?

Following the video going viral, the T/E School District families received a letter from Superintendent Gusick which contained the following message, “T/E School District strongly condemns this and all forms of racist language. Although this video was not made during school, it has hurt and offended many in our school community. This is unacceptable behavior, and it will not be tolerated. The school will investigate fully and apply consequences as appropriate. T/E School District will continue to stand for respect and inclusion, with schools where all are welcomed to learn and grow.”

 

Now one of the girls was identified.  And her father posted a public apology. One has to feel his pain as a parent.

The actions of two teenage girls are going to have very extended consequences.  As I peered into the social media of it all, I was struck by something profound that a friend said to me:

I’m not saying in any way that what these girls did was OK – but the level of hate towards them is close to a lynching mob.

I have to agree.  Hate begets hate but somewhere we all as a society need to pause and think, don’t we?

Someone else said:

A number of problems have surfaced in this district but schools generally reflect the norms of their community rather than form them in a vacuum.

Also somewhat true.

I feel I have to ask why is it that only the girl who was the field hockey phenom on a fast track to UNC as an early field hockey commit was named by name?  Two girls are in that video.

And let’s step back and look at the other lesson here: two teenagers have learned that actions indeed have consequences and words do wound.

Teenagers never want to listen when you caution them about social media.  Even after the nationwide news in June 2017 when Harvard University revoked acceptances on students over…wait for it…offensive social media posts.

Words wound. Actions have consequences.  Teenagers are of the invincible age.  They imagine they are like teflon and nothing bad can happen.

Uhhh d’oh. Just because you think it’s cool to be an ass on social media, it doesn’t mean it won’t follow you.

Kids today live in a different kind of scrutiny filled world.  Instant communication is great, but now look at two teenage girls who have in essence, tanked their cozy little worlds for transmitting ignorance.

Someone else said to me today:

These girls were probably at home when they posted this video, not at school. So I don’t quite understand how it is the fault of the school district and not the parents. …There are so many good things that happen at Conestoga and so many amazing kids that go there. Just hate to see them all affected by the foolish actions of 2 students…please do not throw all the kids into one bucket. Take it from me, there are a lot of good things happening at Conestoga, You just don’t hear about them!

 

So we are back to the power of the Internet. Which, incidentally, is why we all hear about the negative things so often at Conestoga. And we have heard about a lot of negative incidents coming out of this school and the corresponding school district over the past couple of years, haven’t we? And while not indicative of every student, every teacher, every coach, and all parents it certainly does make one pause and wonder about an unpleasant culture that pops up every now and again, doesn’t it?

Expressions of hate aren’t cute little things to be tossed around while giggling with your friends.  Words wound and these are words that are just a big bag of wrong.

People speak of social media boot camps.  I think they should develop them for middle school and high schools everywhere. Make parents, educators, and students attend.

And as for the parents who will say things like they didn’t know.  Ok look, I am the step-parent of a teenager.  They are the secret society.  They communicate by text and various social media platforms and via their gaming systems .  But we are the adults.  And while we should resist the urge to be prison wardens, we need to be present.

Parents need to be clear that actions have consequences. Parents need to set boundaries. Have difficult or awkward discussions at times.

Teenagers need to realize that social media can and will follow them.  Even adults are turned down for jobs and even relationships because of what people see on social media.

Trust me, I know. I am a blogger.

I have the video the girls posted.  I was going to include it on this post, but decided NOT to include it.

I want to have a different conversation, and that is the conversation of how we can all work together as an extended community wherever we live to strive towards ending this crap.  

We as the adults in the equation need to set a better example for the future generations. We live in a crazy volatile world, as well as a crazy politically volatile country.

We need to teach our children well.

We need to appreciate differences in other.

And from the Lord’s Prayer:

And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
 

I don’t know what else to say except, this whole situation saddens me. I feel like this country is spiraling out of control and it is reflected on every level of society and age group.

I am going to sign off now.  I have struggled with this post for hours.  I felt I had to write, but even now I wonder if in this situation are any words the right words?

Pax.

No automatic alt text available.

 

 

gardening with kids

Me, circa 1968.

I was a kid who gardened starting quite early. One of the first things I ever planted was corn. Yes corn. I was somewhere around the age of 3, we did it in school and yes I transplanted my corn plants into our walled garden in Philadelphia (lived in Society Hill until I was like 11).

Some of my earliest memories involved gardening with my father and his father, my Pop Pop. Pop Pop showed me how to plant tomatoes – Plum Tomatoes to be specific (he was Italian!) We also planted herbs. That first tomato plant yielded a tomato that looked like a little baseball mitt!

Gardening as a happy place started early for me. I also understood I had my plants I tended to, but left others alone. I learned early to stay away from the leaves of three (poison ivy, sumac,etc.)

The garden was not a place child-proofed other than a locked side gate in the garden wall that was locked to keep us in and strangers out – it was a walled garden with old brick walls almost 8 feet tall. I will admit I had a friend named Ali who was as agile as a cat who would climb her tall brick garden wall, walk over the edges of neighbors’ walls and climb down into my garden to hang out. It was quicker than walking around a long city block. I am happy to report she is alive and well and living in London with her husband and children.

I was told not to touch this subject with a 10 foot pole by a friend, but I feel I must. Yes I have certain plants that I do not plant because they are poisonous to domestic animals.

This topic comes up a great deal in my gardening group. And I do get frustrated sometimes by the questions. I understand that they are valid, but I grew up in a house that wasn’t childproofed to death, so did my stepson, and nieces and nephews. This also goes for a lot of my friends’ children.

Common sense dictates a lot of this. Watch young children carefully when playing outdoors. Keep indoor plants safely out of the reach of children. Teach kids from a young age to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Don’t eat wild plants in front of little kids who will mimic you.

You can have a garden and have small children. And the thing is, like teaching them to cook, or even just make cookies, they will probably have fun.

I have friends who often had a more grown up garden in the front yard, and out back where the kids played was more basic. That seemed to work.

You can give your kids their own “first garden” in a few pots, a low to the ground rectangular planter, or window boxes. Or you can give them their own section to tend in the garden beds you have already established. Start seeds early inside like sunflowers,zinnias , cosmos , vegetables or culinary herbs. Or buy starter plants somewhere.

Connecting with the earth and gardening is such a positive thing.  Many local arboretums even offer gardening – Tyler Arboretum, Jenkins Arboretum, Morris Arboretum, Mt. Cuba Center,Longwood Gardens, and more. Here is a whole link on Eventbrite (click on hyperlink) for all sorts of  gardening related events that are kid friendly.

There is this website called KidsGardening.org which has all sorts of information. They have an entire section on gardening basics. The have other sections on garden activities and even growing guidesThey are based in Burlington, Vermont and even have a spot on their website about designing school gardens. They are a non-profit. They have been around since 1982.  I think they are awesome.

We seem to partially live in a cotton batting world where kids are so scheduled and often overly protected.  Sometimes they just need to be kids.  I think gardening is one of those things that helps that along. Give them parameters like you do when teaching them other things. Most of all, remember, the garden doesn’t have to be perfect. It is a fun thing you can do together, learn together, and create memories with.

I still remember how fun it was when we planted my first tomato plant, and I learned how to tend my herb plants. As a child, I also loved learning how to make terrariums. In high school I was a Shipley Sprout and we even competed in the Philadelphia Flower Show!  I won a couple of ribbons too for forcing bulbs! (Not first place, but it was still awesome!)

On the U.K.’s Telegraph website there is this article:

Churchill family gardening
Seeds of success: gardening with kids cultivates life skills  

5 SEPTEMBER 2016 • 10:45AM By Victoria Lambert

Anyone who has gardened with children will know what a pleasure it is to pass on skills and see the next generation developing a passion for planting.

There may be the odd moment where “weeding” decimates your new bedding plants or a snail collection is released en masse into the veg patch, but research shows we should stick with it as experts increasingly point to the value children get from gardening and being outside.

These benefits range from the chance to be active and get away from the omnipresent screens, to real mental health gains.

Back in 2000, a Texas A&M University survey of children under 12 actively involved in gardening projects in school, community or home settings, found benefits to children’s self-esteem and reduction in stress levels.

Closer to home, Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) research continues to back this up. It suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg.

Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the benefits of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too.

“Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility.

“Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.”

Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted  – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot…”

….Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being. 

 

Rodale’s Organic Life also has an article on this:

The Importance Of Getting Kids Into The Garden

Turn digging in the dirt with your children into a lifetime of love and respect for nature. by Marti Ross Bjornson November 24, 2015

Gardens are magical, fun, and always full of surprises. Watch a child pull a carrot from the earth, brush off the soil, and take a bite, or see the anticipation in the eyes of a youngster creating a bouquet of flowers she grew. There is a natural magnetic attraction between children and the earth, whether it’s making mud or discovering a germinating seed emerge from the earth. Gardening with children, from toddlers to adolescents, opens new windows in a world dominated by technology.

Whether you are an accomplished gardener or a novice, gardening with children is your chance to partner with Mother Nature to make magic. Don’t worry about achieving horticultural perfection. Just dig in and grow something beautiful or good to eat. Your garden is your treasure chest; you and your young gardener—exploring together—can discover its priceless bounty for an afternoon’s delight or for a lifetime.

Memories last longer than one season.

 

Anyway, just wanted to point out teaching kids to garden is a good thing.

Now, to be safe click below for lists of poisonous and non-poisonous plants:

PoisonControl.org: Poisonous and Non-poisonous Plants An Illustrated List

California Poison Control System: Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Plants