Archive for September, 2010

“I Can Sleep When I’m Dead”

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I was driving carpool this morning like I do every Monday morning now that Casey is in school, and I asked the girls in the carpool if they had a nice weekend.  One of the girls replied, “I did absolutely nothing”.  Nothing, I thought, absolutely nothing?  How is that possible I deliberated, as I was driving up the I5 freeway at seven in the morning still trying to recuperate from my crazy busy weekend? 

It all began Friday evening with Casey’s 15th birthday bash.  After making a decadent chocolate chip mint brownie ice cream dessert, preparing a yummy barbecue dinner, and clearing all the furniture for a dance floor, twenty teenage kids showed up and were dancing, grinding, jumping and singing “Poker Face”, “Dynamite” and “Shots!” into the wee hours of the night. 

Saturday morning came, I went for my run, the rest of the kids from the party were picked up and we hurriedly cleaned up the mess and got ready for a realtor to bring a prospective buyer to see our home.  Yes, our house is up for sale.  We had to leave for a bit while the possible future owners checked out the place.  We used the time to run a few errands;  the pet store for mice for our hungry California King Snake, Pep Boys for a tail light for the Jetta,  then off to Maggie’s soccer game in 100 degree weather.  We were under time constraints because our bands, “Disturbing the Peace” and “Maggie and the Maggots” were asked to perform at Gary’s 50th birthday bash that evening.  This means packing up all our guitars, drums, PA system, setting up at the venue, performing, breaking down, blah, blah, blah.  It’s a huge job.  I finally crawled into bed after midnight exhausted only to wake to another crazy day. 

Sunday was our friends Bar Mitzvah, Riley and Casey’s basketball game, soccer pictures for Maggie and another birthday party on the beach.  I passed on this one and did some laundry and sent Kevin off with a “honey do” list.  Whew!  I will stop here.  It’s exhausting rehashing it all. 

I hope it does not sound like I am complaining. I’m not, although I admit that I get tired and a bit overwhelmed at times.   I think I am simply surprised (OK, I admit it, I am shocked) that an entire weekend can go by without doing anything.  I realize that our carpool friend has been in school all week.  She is a busy girl.  School does not get out until 4:50 at OCSHA and she has homework in the evening.  She deserves some time off.  The parents both work so they also probably need a rest.  I get it!

I was just wondering why my days seem to be so full.  Then I laugh at myself and realize this is a silly question coming from the “Yes Mom”, since my goal is to experience as much as I can in this life before I die.  Sometimes I wonder if I should say “no” a little more often.  But then I realize that if I said “no”, there would be no decadent cake for Casey’s birthday bash and Maggie would have never made that great assist in her soccer game.  I would never get to experience feeding a snake first hand or watch Casey make 10 points in a game.  I would have never had a chance to see my daughter sing on stage with her two big brothers playing bass and drums or heard Gary’s incredible speech about following your dreams as he introduced our band right before our performance at his 50th birthday party.  So, I have concluded that I will continue to say “yes” and remember what a friend of mine, Bob De Pauli said years ago, “I can sleep when I am dead”.  He died way too young, before his 30th birthday.  Rest in Peace Bob.

The Great Yes

Monday, September 20th, 2010

This poem was sent to me from my dear friend Clare.  She and her family have chosen to say the great “Yes”.  They left their old life behind to explore unchartered waters living on their sailboat and travelling the world. 

You are such an inspiration. 

 Che fece …. il gran rifiuto

To certain people there comes a day
when they must say the great Yes or the great No.
He who has the Yes ready within him
immediately reveals himself, and saying it he goes

against his honor and his own conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Should he be asked again,
he would say no again. And yet that no —
the right no — crushes him for the rest of his life.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1901)

If you have any poems, quotes, art or photos that exemplify the Great Yes, please send it to me so I can share it with others. 


From No School to High School

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Last Thursday, Riley decided to go to high school after eight years of no school. Friday morning he was enrolled as a Junior.  Today he is five days in and already full of stories.

Yesterday, he had his first test, an English Lit III vocabulary test.  Only two people aced it, Riley and another guy.  The other half of the class failed.  In fact, one very hot girl (according to Riley), got two out of 25 correct.  Ouch!  Riley had the pleasure to grade her test.  The thing is this was not a pop quiz.  The kids were given the vocabulary words last week and the teacher explained the exact format of the test. It was matching and fill in the blank, 2nd grade format, 11th grade vocabulary. 

Riley was truly shocked.  He had learned while taking classes at the local college, that if you show up for class, listen, take notes, do your homework, and review for the test, you can get an “A” (unless you have a learning disability of some sort).  He said, “It seems a lot of the kids just don’t care”.  The hot girl simply laughed when he gave her her test back. 

What is going on?  What happened to half the class? 

There is a documentary called “Race to Nowhere” that tries to explain just this.  The filmmaker, Vicki Abeles, shows the pressures faced by our school children in America today.  “Race to Nowhere” depicts how many students are burned out, stressed-out, disengaged, depressed, and not prepared or inspired for college or the workplace.

I saw this coming when Riley was very young.  After being in school for a few years I noticed that Riley’s natural curiosity, imagination, and love for learning slowly began to deteriorate.  Learning became a task, something he had to do instead of wanting to do.  It is ironic however, that he was earning straight A’s, was well behaved and was considered a very good student.  It did not feel right to me.  Were straight A’s and good behavior worth losing his imagination, natural curiosity and spunk? I don’t think so.  So I took him out of school and began our journey into unschooling.  Honestly, it was the best decision of my life. 

Riley got his spunk back and then some.  He is a creative, bright, intelligent, able, thinking 17 year old.  I know it is such an incongruity in many people’s minds, but no school has prepared him for high school. He is not burned out, he is excited to learn, very engaged and looking forward to his future.  It seems you can take the kid out of unschooling, but you can never take unschooling out of the kid. 

Thank goodness some kids get through school unscathed, but for the rest of them I am truly concerned.  These kids are our future.  I was able to save Riley, but what about the other half of the class?

Link to “Race to Nowhere” trailer:

44 Going on 16

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

I turned 44 two days ago.  I have been on this planet 528 months.  The average life expectancy for a woman is 80 years.  If I live to be 80, I have 432 months left on this planet.  This means, I am possibly more than half-way through my life.  Of course, I’m banking on the fact that all goes well, no unforeseen accidents or illnesses.  If I was born in the 18th century however, I would probably be dead since the life expectancy back then was 35.  Considering this fact, I am grateful.

I threw a birthday bash for myself with all my 40 something friends and their kids over the weekend.  We danced, chatted, drank, ate, laughed, and jumped on the trampoline until some of us peed our pants.  You know who you are.  It was so much fun.  I noticed that the teens were doing the same, minus the drinking and peeing in their pants part.  In some ways, 40 something year olds are really not that different from teenagers.  We just have a lot more experiences and responsibilities.  I like to believe we are more mature as well but sometimes I’m not sure.  It seems that many of us hit a mid-life transition, an identity-crisis or go through a “she’s gone mad” phase at this stage in life, not too different from the rebellious stage our teenagers go through. 

I heard a disturbing story the other day when I was listening to a morning talk show.  A 16 year old girl was given a DUI after being stopped at a checkpoint over the weekend.  A couple hours later, her 46 year old mother was stopped at the same check point and arrested for driving under the influence.  A little later in the evening, her 45 year old father was stopped at the same checkpoint and arrested for drinking and driving.   I was overcome with mixed emotions.  It was so ridiculous, so hideous, so hilarious and so sad I wasn’t sure if I should laugh at them or cry for them.  The DJ’s laughed. 

There is a great quote in “The Breaking Point”, a book about a woman’s mid-life crisis as she tries to make sense of her ordeal while raising teenagers.  The author, Sue Shellenbarger writes, “My mid-life crisis gave me more common ground with my two teenager’s hormone drenched moods than I would have liked. It also led us to many adventures together.”  I don’t think jail time, fines and community service is the type of adventure she was referring to.      

Did this family just hit some bad luck?  Was it merely a little too much fun gone awry?  Was the 16 year old being rebellious or did she simply want to feel grown up?  Did the parents want to feel younger, let loose and have some fun, or escape from the everyday hum drum of life?  Or, does alcoholism run in the family?  Is it a mid-life crisis or just plain stupidity; whatever the reason, this family has been hit hard. 

I do not know many people in their 40’s, myself included, that have not been hit by something quite difficult during this stage of life.  Things like job loss, health issues, death of a parent, alcoholism, drugs, affairs, rebellious teenagers, DUI’s or divorce.  I admit that it has been a hard, tricky and complicated time for me and my family these last few years.  During a conversation I had with my mom once, she told me, “hang in there sweetie, the years from 40 to 50 can be really hard”.  Ten years?  Really?  120 months?  Hang in there for an entire decade?  Damn, only six more years to go.  I should have some really strong biceps by then. 

My husband put a “16” candle on my birthday cake.  It was very cute.  But the reality is that many of us do things that make us feel like we are 44 going on 16 that get us into trouble.  This is probably our way of avoiding feeling like 44 going on 80.  Maybe the real trick is to be 44 going on 45.