Resolving to Forgive

Happy New Year World (2010)

The New Year is right around the corner. As usual I have put in the back of my mind the resolution to lose weight, to get healthy, to exercise more, to write more, etc. However, those are promises I’ve been making and breaking too often now, and I just recently recognized that there is one resolution that I must stick to before I can accomplish any of the others.

I am resolving to forgive.

This resolution runs deep, and underlies my ability to succeed in any other resolution I could possible make. This is not just about forgiving others for any perceived wrongs on their, part. This is about forgiving myself for the abuse I have given myself over the years, both mentally and physically.

Thus, my New Year’s Resolution for 2011 is to Forgive.

I forgive myself for the weakness that made me make some poor choices in the past, especially when it came to friends.

I forgive myself for not becoming the person I thought I wanted to be. After all, I may still be wondering what I want to be when I grow up, but the person I am right now is pretty interesting.

I forgive myself for gaining weight and not taking care of myself physically. I can only change that if I can forgive myself for doing it.

I forgive myself for my failures as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. I know that I have many failings in these ares, but I also have many successes.

I forgive myself for my inability to completely forgive those who have hurt me. At the same time, however, I think I am very close to honestly forgiving if not forgetting.

I also must include in this resolution forgiving myself for the mistakes I have yet to make. I’m finally learning that I dwell too much on mistakes and not enough on achievements. So perhaps part of this New Year’s Resolution is to not just Forgive but to Honor.

That’s it! I hereby resolve to Honor myself  and others throughout the year 2011 as well as the coming years. I also resolve to continue to forgive.

I honor you, my readers. I hope you forgive me for this post.

Later in the day . . .

I spent much of the day reading The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry. It’s a beautiful and intriguing book overall, but the following passage gave me chills as the universe sent me a message:

“All forgiveness is self-forgiveness. . . . But I do not yet know how to forgive. Or who, in the end, really needs to be forgiven. ” (Barry 383)

Marketing Gender

Mary Frith ("Moll Cutpurse") scandal...

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The only time I give into the gluttonous lure of fast food is when I am on a long car trip. I don’t know why, but I cannot resist the greasy goodness calibrating my stomach as the miles roll under the cars wheels.

Yesterday, as I licked the last bit of tartar sauce off of my fingers, I realized that I would probably regret my choice of lunch later in the day as the longest car trip of my life stretched into the double digits. I decided to distract myself by reading the box of my daughter’s Happy Meal. This, however, added to my problem by the simple mechanism of gendered and stereotypical marketing that added food for thought if not for digestion.

One side was blue and clearly geared at the boys, picturing an anime character with an aggressive look.  The game on the side recommended that boys add power to their names so they too can become kick-ass fighters (okay, I’m paraphrasing here) by simply adding -oid or -tron to the end of their names.

The pink side showed pictures of the fuzzy little stuffed toys for the girls. In the corner, a pink heart that could be punched out of the box and divided in half. Give half to your friend, it says. Keep half for yourself. When you are separate, you will have half a heart, but when you are together your heart will be whole. Gag!

I guess that the girls don’t need to worry that they can only be whole through the support of someone else, or that only having half a heart might make them weak, because Paul-tron or Stephen-oid can always come and protect her collection of fuzzy animals.

I wish that my daughter would rather be Sarah-tron, but of course she spent time talking baby talk to her new tiny unicorn.

A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends who is a super intelligent person, posted for input on how to refer to a male with an effeminate term that would not be offensive to gay men.  I didn’t respond because I was disturbed by the question. Why does there have to be a word for it? Why can’t a sensitive, non-macho man simply be a nice guy?

Even as gender roles have changed in some ways in our society, I realize that we have NOT “come a long way, baby.”  We can pretend all we want that women have more opportunities in this world (if still unequal pay). We can be shown images of men being house-moms or crying and being sensitive but still winning the girl.  But underneath that, the expectations remain the same. Girls are supposed to love pink and play with dolls. Boys are supposed to get dirty and roughhouse. Women are supposed to have a mothering instinct and men protect their family. In the family, women are still expected to take time off for sick children while the men bring home the bacon.

We talk as if the above isn’t true, but the little pink and blue box proves otherwise.

I think it is time for everyone to choose his/her own color and for gender to be self-selected. How do we make that happen when every detail of our lives is marketed to us with gender identity attached?

Any thoughts on this?

I Am Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

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Okay, not really. He’s male. I’m female. He’s famous. I’m not. He makes people laugh with him on a daily basis. I make people laugh at me.

But still, I am Jon Stewart.

The only obvious thing we have in common is that we are both short and Jewish. But, at a different level we are similar in the way we think about the world. He’s just much better at expressing his opinion and making other people listen to him. He is also much better at arguing his opinion from a knowledgeable stance.

But still, I am Jon Stewart.

As we were driving yesterday we listened to this NPR interview with Stewart More From Jon Stewart’s ‘Fresh Air’ Interview : NPR and I found myself responding to so many of his comments with one word, “YES!” His thoughts about the corruptness of the media, Yes! His thoughts about how “regimented” they need to be in order to have the “freedom to improvise” or the freedom to truly create, Yes! His thoughts about feeling “other” because of being Jewish, although he does not completely follow the religion. Yes! His thoughts about religion in general, and that there are other ways to become moral people, YES! His attitude that work stays at work so that when he is at home he is “locked in and . . .ready to go and . . .  focused on home.” Yes! (The only place we differ slightly here would be that I will not play with Barbie anymore, but I’ll let that pass)

I listened to that interview and the realization hit me, Jon Stewart is who I would like to be. He is the person I dreamed of becoming; someone who makes a difference in the world through words, through entertainment, through challenging others to think and not merely accept the status quo. I know  that, in my own small way, I do some of those things. Stewart just does it better.

So, okay, I’m not really Jon Stewart. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

Knitting Warm Words

Wrap, wrap, wrap.

Hook, hook, hook.

Repeat.

My new obsession is this knitting loom which allows me to make cute hats in a short amount of time. Most of them have turned out pretty well, except for the one I made for my husband where I got a little carried away and added a few too many inches. He likes it though.

I call it an obsession because, as often happens when I get inspired by a new project, I have focused on this and ignored other things I have been doing. Like writing. I’ve been writing in this or my other blog  (http://pppwritingpractice.wordpress.com/) daily, sometime several times a day. I’m not saying that everything I have written is brilliant. Some of it is total garbage. But, just the practice of daily writing has helped me focus on other aspects of my life.

But then, I discovered the calmness of wrapping warm yarn around a loom. Wrap, wrap, wrap. Hook, hook, hook. No thought. Romantic comedies that I have watched a million times playing in the background. Or maybe a schmaltzy Christmas movie. I enter  a zone of calm peaceful achievement that I have not felt in a while.

Yesterday, I thought, I should really work on developing my classes for next semester, especially the new ones. But, no. The soft yarn slides through my fingers, beckoning me sweetly to create another hat. Wrap, wrap, wrap. Swish, swish, swish. Hook, hook, hook. Classes do not start until January 11th, I have time.

Or, I should be planning for the musical which I start directing as well. A show that is already filling my nightmares with images of my own insecurities. But instead I relish the warm colors, browns, greens, reds, blending together to create something new.

This morning, as I knit,  I realized I haven’t written since I vented my anger at the evil hackers who added more stress to my days. I know I tend to write more when I have something to vent, rather than focusing on positivity and joy.  The swish and tickle of the yarn spoke to me, write words of warmth, write words of peace, write of kindness.

So here I am, the knitting at a pause and all I can write about is knitting.

I feel like that’s a good thing. Now, however, it is time to go back to

Wrap wrap wrap

hook hook hook.

See you in the warm comfort of words, if I don’t get buried in hats.

Technologically Violated

Monumento alla difesa di Casale, bronze sculpt...

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It’s not funny anymore. In fact it is downright creepy.

When the person who hacked into my husband’s e-mail account started communicating with a wonderful long time friend and using my name, my daughter’s name, and my sister’s name he (or she) crossed a line. Now I am mad, but I’m also scared.

Have we become too reliant on technology? I know, it is kind of strange question to ask while I am typing on a computer into the blogiverse; my writing fix fulfilled by reaching out through technology to unknown readers. While I am fearful of technology, I am addicted to it.

I guess the real problem isn’t technology but humans. Humans are the ones who corrupt technology in the name of greed or improvement. Humans are the ones that relish the victory over others that comes with more power, or in our case with the ability to take over a simple e-mail account and disrupt lives.

So while I have been violated technologically, it was ultimately done with human hands.

Is this just more evidence of the overall corrupt nature of humans?

I hate that I am thinking like this. I know it is an over-generalization that all humans are corrupt figures that will leap on a tiny glimmer of advantage. But everything I read lately reflects on this mindless evil of people with power over people with less power. Why can’t we just accept each other and leave each other alone?

Right now, the anger is rising in me. But, I refuse to become one of the corrupt. I choose to pursue kindness and caring. However, this does not me I will like down without a fight and let the world walk all over me.

Whoever this creep is, he/she has taken something valuable from us. No not money. Not friends. But a feeling of safety.

I do not want to feel afraid every time I turn on my computer, just as I don’t want to feel afraid walking out the door.

So here’s a message to all the creeps in the world.; whether you are a master at hacking into technology or someone who intimidates physically or spiritually. STAY AWAY FROM ME!!! I’m angry. I’m not going to take it anymore. I am only going to welcome positive people in my life, and you have NO POWER over me.

Got it?

I will fight to make this world a better place. I will not let creeps like this take me down.

Anyone care to join me?

Hacking for Fun and Profit

Victorian Christmas Town

Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

Yesterday, I was informed that my husband and his family went on a lovely holiday to England.

Wait, why didn’t I get to go?

Unfortunately, the vacation was cut short when they were mugged, and everything was taken but their passports.

Luckily nobody was hurt except for the mysterious Donna, who was injured on ”his” shoulder. I can only assume that my polygamist husband’s family includes a transvestite who goes by the name of Donna.

Of course, the American embassy will do nothing to help my poor husband and woe-begotten family, and now they need $19,000 to pay hotel fees and get home.

$19,000. That must be a luxury hotel. The last holiday  he took me on, I think we stayed at a Day’s Inn in Albuquerque. It was so long ago, I can’t quite remember.

Needless to say, Nathan received the phone call where he learned of this horrible tragedy while sitting next to a Christmas Tree at a tree trimming party. An old friend got his phone number from his parents and called to make sure he knew.

Nathan did not have much fun at the party after that. He spent the time trying to figure out how to change passwords on his e-mail and Facebook, and deal with the repercussions of a stranger having access to his on-line life.

Now here’s my question, WHY BOTHER? Not Nathan fixing things, that make sense of course, but why bother hacking an account and asking for money when anyone who is a true friend will recognize the fallacy of the story? Why bother asking for money, when you don’t even provide an address to send it to?

I understand that once someone has access to e-mail everything done on-line can become a risk, and that is truly problematic. It means hours of work to make sure you’ve protected yourself and every business transaction you’ve made. It basically means making someone worry, and destroying a few days (or weeks) of their lives. But again, WHY BOTHER announcing the hacking success with an asinine, poorly worded missive to masses begging for money you never will see? The announcement only leads to immediate remediation of the problem.

I simply do not understand the purpose or joy that is found in hacking someone’s account. Could someone please explain?

Alternatively, if anyone feels the urge to follow through and send money, please make sure to send it to our home address. I mean, seriously, I’ll make good use of it, and if my husband is really off in England gallivanting around with his second family, he can wash dishes to earn his way home.

Meaningful Messages

Puzzle globe (partial view)

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Have you ever had one of those days where the universe seems to be sending you an important message, but the message is hidden in symbols so complex that you just can’t figure it out? It’s like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don’t quite fit together yet. Or maybe a couple of pieces are missing. If you can get them together, the image is going to be something you never imagined.

Today is one of those days. It started off normal, except for this inner feeling of strangeness.

Then, I watched Bones on Hulu, and nearly sobbed when Brennan realized what she wanted and couldn’t have. Or, more importantly, that she didn’t want to have regrets.

From there I watched the surreal claymation version of Community which, in its typical fashion, uses sarcasm and humor to reach some real truths. The truth for me was that everyone is searching for something at this time of year; a sense of belief or a feeling of belonging. Sometimes a combination of both.

Next I log onto Facebook and find a friend who has not been on for a long time. She posted this Huffington Post article James Baraz: Can We Afford Joy in a World of Suffering? which made me think about a life without joy. Actually it made me recognize how often I live my life without joy. That’s not a good thing.

Next, I check my work e-mail to find a message from a friend commenting about my husband looking like a five-year-old (oops, she asked me not to say anything, but he won’t mind . . . he knows). That comment made me laugh out loud, and think about the joys of childhood.

I went back to FaceBook and starting chatting with a friend. We ended up talking about forgiveness, especially the need to forgive ourselves. This then led to my friend saying “emit goodness and goodness will come.”

Words of brilliance in a simple chat.

Next, I hear a strange jingle and bump at the front door. Is it Santa coming for a chat? No, it is my incredible escape artist dog knocking on the front door to come in. I didn’t even know he was gone. And of course, rather than get angry I had to laugh.

Finally, I make a (slightly belated) presentation about Chanukah for my daughter’s second grade class. The questions they asked were complicated. Why did the war start? Why did they leave a mess? etc. The teacher did not want to go into detail about those issues, but we did say that is was people being mean to other people for being different.

None of these stories are related, and yet somehow there is a message in there. It is about finding joy in who you are and embracing the things that make you different. It is about making connections with life. It is about living. And yet, the message is still unclear.

Sometimes I really wish for a blazing message written across the sky.

But for now I will just have to settle for jigsaw puzzles.

So, what is the message the universe is sending me today?

Show Don’t Tell, From Page to Stage Version

Each of my young students has a magic invisible box.  I gave it to them a couple of classes ago, after they did excellent jobs at whatever the activity of the day was.

These boxes can grow or shrink to hold anything imaginable in them. They come when called, or can be stored in a pocket. When they are opened, each student can pull out their dreams or their nightmares, things to make us laugh or things to make us squirm in disgust. There are no rules except that they are supposed to show the rest of the group what is in the box so that the group can guess.

One student made her box grow significantly and then dove in to bring out whatever was inside. She made a magnificent display of this action. But then, as she climbed out, she told us “I’m all wet. It’s a squid.”

I didn’t correct her at that point because of her enacting the hunt in the box.

Two students later, a younger student opens the box, pulls something out and promptly says “It’s an octopus.”

“That’s cool,” I said realizing I should have corrected the other student, “But you need to show us, not tell us what is in the box. How can you show us an octopus?”

She turns her hand toward her face and says, “Aaauuuggh! It’s got me!” (Which, I might add is a typical response for this girl. She loves screaming and acting horrified).

“Okay,” I say, still wanting more showing, and less telling. “Everyone help her get the octopus legs off of her.” The students rush to her aid, pulling legs off one at a time. By now there must be multiple octopuses, because I count many more than eight legs. But, at least my point was made, as revealed by the students who followed showing me a dog and a microphone without a single word.

Show, don’t tell.” The axiom every writer knows and perhaps struggles with took on new meaning today, as it came to life beyond the page.

I’ve always known that my training in theater and improvisation has influenced me as a writer. It makes me more confident writing in first person and writing dialogue. I sometimes struggle more when writing in third person because of the narrative focus of that form, rather than the character focus.  This is a reality that I have come to accept about my writing, and I am working to deal with it.

But, as I began to settle down for the evening, the phrase “Show don’t tell!” flashed into my head along with this vision from my class this morning. I am trying to get my students to enact the living version of show don’t tell. Wow! Is this something that I can offer other writers?

A few years ago I wanted to offer an Extended Studies course that explored this concept; using improve and drama in the classroom techniques to motivate writing of all sorts, not just plays. I thought it would be a really interesting way to explore character and relationships or develop problems that then could be placed in a story. I’ve used improvisation and reenactments in lesson plans for young people to introduce a variety of topics.  My favorite has been creating a mysterious island retreat which they get to explore and uncover clues. They find books in the library of a creepy old house and each have time to read some of them. (All enacted in their imagination)  I then ask the students to write a page from the book and then share that writing. The results are always fascinating!

I never did get a chance to offer that class, but I think the time to explore that option has come again. Playwrights often use improvisational workshops to develop their plays, so why not fiction writers of all sorts? Or people who write poetry? Or memoir?

While writing is an individual act, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. I am learning that through the blogging community. Now, I think, the time has come to make my two passions come together in a new and interesting way.

Anyone care to join me?

Kindling the Lights of Hanukkah

A Brooklyn resident lighting candles on Hannuk...

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My daughter quivers with excitement, unable to sit still or concentrate on homework. It is the first night of Hanukkah, and she cannot wait. I wonder though if to her this night is only about opening one of the presents that are piled on the table. She counts the number daily to see if there are more. Eight presents, eight nights, but she hopes for an extra one.

She watches the sun waiting for the minute she can light the candles. My orders are clear, “Mommy, you light the helper candle (the shammas) and I get to light the other one.”

“Of course,” I say, thinking back to my own childhood memories of Hanukkah.  I remember wondering if it was my turn to light the candles that night (since we alternated between the three of us). I loved the sound of the match striking, the smell of the sulfur sparking, the sizzle of the candles lighting. I loved deciding how to put the candles in, alternating colors some nights or using all one color the next.

I also remember debating the present issue. Should I open one present or all of them? Should I open the big one or the littlest one? (Often the best things came in the small packages as I soon learned). I know that presents became the focus often, but I don’t think it was just that for me.

To me the holiday was about light in darkness. It was my little bit of color in cold winters.  I had this tiny little ceremony that warmed up cold winter nights. The colors of the menorah were as bright to me as Christmas lights. It was what made being different, being Jewish, worth it.

I think that is why I still light them with my family. They represent something joyous to me. I’m not super religious. I’m not even sure what I believe. But I cannot let go of the tradition. I want so much to leave Sarah with fond memories of candles lighting the house on a cold winter’s night.

I worry that all she sees is the presents.

As I type this, Sarah runs into the room, a smile on her face. She doesn’t say anything, just glints at me with a twinkle in her eye. She runs into the other room and says “The sun is down!” as if I am not sitting in front of a window watching the colors of day fade.

I ask Sarah, “Why are you so excited to light the candles?

“Because it’s fun.”

“Do you know why we light the candles?”

She answers, “I know part of the story. The oil lasted eight nights. I think we have a book.”

“Would you like to read the book?”

“Yes, after I finish my homework.”

Maybe I am creating a tradition that goes beyond the presents.  It’s time to light the candles.

It’s the Loneliest Time of the Year

Bah humbug!

Okay, maybe I’m not that bad. I like Christmas. I like the holiday season. But, every year at this time I feel lonely deep inside.

Maybe it is the number of required festivities that bring me down. There’s nothing like an Office Holiday Party to make me feel like I am a stranger in the midst of people who have only one thing in common, the place they work.

Maybe it is the number of parties I don’t get invited to. Last year, we didn’t get invited many places because people felt bad about our leaving, this year, we won’t get invited many places because we are so new we only know a few people.

Maybe it is leftover from my childhood, when Christmas was something I saw only from the distance. Friends celebrated and I did not, being raised in a Jewish household. Of course, I always had the obligatory explanation of Hanukkah in school, which only served to make me seem even stranger to my peers.

Maybe it is the constant explanation of Hanukkah which is not really the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar, but has taken on the aura of Christmas. I love lighting the menorah, but at the same time it is a symbol of my difference. This year in particular our menorah will be one of a very few.

Maybe it is the hope of magic and mysteries that fill the airwaves, or the movies that always end with new love or Christmas miracles. Hope is high at this time of year, but after it is over we go back to the status quo, and that feels discouraging.

Maybe it is the fact that, since I work in education, I’m always facing my failures at this time. The students who should have done better. The grading that shows nothing has changed. True, I often have successes as well, but as any instructor knows, the pain of grading has the tendency to cut into the joy of the season. At least usually that grading can be supported by the decadence of chocolate, cookies, and egg nog lattes.

Or maybe it is that I look back at the year and see all the things I promised myself last year and did not achieve. Where did my weight loss go? Down and up on the scale as usual. Where is the sense of achievement? My portfolio keeps growing, my cv gets longer, but I’m still looking for something.

 

Maybe it is watching my daughter soak in the joy of the season and knowing that she will be a little disappointed when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants, or misses out on some festive fun. I love the smiles of children at this time; but the “I want” attitude really bothers me.

Whatever it is, at this time of year I find myself withdrawing just a little bit. I love the songs. I love the lights. I love the feeling of hope. But somehow, each year, it just feels a little bit lonelier.

Does anyone else feel that way, or am I alone?