Category Archives: parenting

Homework or Flowers?


Look: I’m the last person in the world to be ragging ANYONE about homework, because I spent most of my childhood simply acting as if homework were merely an absurd suggestion from ridiculous grownups – grownups WITHOUT weaponry to enforce these hilarious suggestions.

That is, until I hit Catholic school. There, to my dismay, I found someone had equipped the nuns with a secret wooden arsenal of rulers – and slapping hands, besides, which they clearly were highly trained in the use of, particularly in the application of maximum pain and minimum trace marks that might reveal their cruelty beyond the crumbling walls.

Nasty stuff.

Still: that only made the game of homework avoidance more of a challenge.

I spent sixth grade math class playing a diabolical game with Mr. Elvins. I would prop up my book right on my desk, hiding my empty notebook. To me, it seemed so blatantly obvious that I wondered at times, even then, if I was trying to get caught.

The trick went like this: chubby Elvins was too lazy to collect and grade any homework. So all he would ever do was randomly choose students each day and have them give him the answers to the math problems from the previous night’s homework.

If he called on me, I’d simply look down at the problem, solve it in my head, and give him the answer.

Mr. Elvins was so rigidly blinkered at the idea of any student, much less a GIRL student, being able to pull off such a Las Vegas trick, that although every once in a while he’d cast a suspicious glance at my book wall and my wide-eyed innocent gaze, he was not about to rouse his low-belted, big-bellied body off the chair behind The Big Desk and actually CHECK to see if I’d done the work.

Even in college, I was able to scam a bit.

I was scholarshipped to college, but worked my way through the rest of it: there’s more than tuition, of course: there’s drinking and partying money you need.

So naturally, I was loathe to waste my money on $400 books. Actually, what used to end up happening to me at the beginning of each semester was this:

I’d enter yon bookstore with all good intentions of buying the books I was supposed to buy, but then I’d get so very intrigued with all the OTHER cool-looking books from all the OTHER classes that I’d buy THEM instead, leaving me, er, a little short when it came to MY books.

So I’d make deals with the other students. I was a phenomenal studier – a perfect test-taker. I knew JUST what professors wanted to hear in essays, on tests. So I’d find myself someone who was NOT, and pair up with them.

They had the books, and I had the savvy, so we’d both make out.

Now, I have two daughters, and I’M the one who’s supposed to be getting on THEIR case to do their homework.

What an ethical conundrum.

Considering that despite all my rackets and schemes, the whole problem with the homework thing throughout my whole life was that I didn’t believe in it to begin with – and I still don’t.

After all, unless you’re on salary, and have major responsibilities at your job, which you for some reason have to take home – most adults go to work at a certain hour – say, nine a.m. – and come home at five p.m., and then they’re DONE.

Kids, on the other hand, get up at around six a.m., get home around three p.m., and I’ve seen mine – and others – work on their homework for HOURS.

In New York, I queried one teacher: “How long do you expect a student to work on homework for your class?”

“I expect them to spend about 45 minutes,” she answered blithely.

At the time, my kid had seven periods. That would add up to five hours and fifteen minutes of homework a night if all her teachers expected the same.

In addition to a day’s worth of school? That’s just wrong.

So I face an ethical dilemma, as I try to align myself with my kids’ teachers.

Sure: boring homework has its place in life. It’s good practice for life, since we all will someday face a life of work with incredibly useless, boring tasks that we will have to perform.

But will we have to perform them for hours and hours, after work, and all weekend?

I dunno. I’m a grownup now, and I still think homework sucks. And I sometimes still write notes to get my kids out of it.

“Dear Teacher: Please excuse my child from her homework last night because we were attacked by a giant squid. Love, me.”

Okay, maybe NOT that outrageous. But I DO make sure to write it on my InklessTales.com stationary, to ensure my “authority.”

I just can’t stand the idea of watching them do 100 math problems when we could count flowers outside instead.

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You just don’t think of principals as black.


You know, the same way you just don’t think of women as your boss, or Asians as doing much besides pulling rickshaws, or Mexicans as anything but fruit-pickers or housecleaners. YOU know. Isn’t everyone who COUNTS… just like me?

Sigh. And here we all were, thinking it was 2010, not 1910.

movie poster, original 1975 Stepford WivesMy daughters have been complaining about school here in Stepford.

Not the daily four hours of homework, although that has certainly put a damper on our typical wandering around, exploring the world, talking-to-strangers kind of things my two daughters and I tend to do.

Not the quantum leap in difficulty this new California school has presented them with, loading them with academics far beyond what they were accustomed to in New York, a few months previous. They’re fairly smart kids. They pick up things fast, and besides, we’ve always done something I now know has a name: “afterschooling.”

While my two sisters “homeschool,” a tradition that sends a frisson of horror down my spine, for so many, many reasons, I instead send my kids tottering off to public schools. In this way, no matter what they learn (or don’t learn), they at least get a taste of real life – as in: showing up every day; dealing with other humans your age and thereabouts who range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are; and teachers (much like the bosses to whom they will someday report), who also range from the mind-staggeringly stupid to the much-smarter-than-you-are – only the proportions are different, and I’ll refrain from giving my personal opinions here.

<Insert extremely loud throat-clearing>

So public school has its place. I was always sort of against private school, because of its exclusivity. It sort of – well, it TOTALLY went against the whole reason I sent my kids out in the world to begin with – private school creates an imaginary oasis of cookie-cutter sameness.

Play-Doh Fun FactoryIt’s sort of like a school-shaped version of that Play-Doh® toy, where you shove in the neon-colored goo, push down the lever with one hand, get your little plastic knife ready in the other, and squirt out slice after slice of the same brightly-colored shape.

Perfect, if you want to create a bunch of automatons in Izod® polo shirts, marching in lockstep into mortgage brokerages to buy McMansions in (sometimes, for variety) gated communities, razing more and more of the landscape in the furtherance of making every place, everywhere, look exactly like the same three or four house plans – all of which boast half-circle windows.

half-circle windows(Ever notice? What IS it with the damn half-circle windows, anyway?)

Everything the same. Like, you know, milk. The same four blonde popular girls. The same one ethnic kid. Maybe Indian. Maybe Asian. Maaaybe black. Maybe.

If the school is lucky, that kid has siblings, and then they have more than ONE token.

Otherwise, the school is all-white, all-perfect, all-C+ or better.

The athletics department is better funded than the arts, of course, because heavens, who wants Jack or Brittany to grow up to be an ACTOR, my GOD…

In the New York area where we came from, in our old, historic neighborhood, the Board of Education redistricted the neighborhoods in a labyrinth that looks like suspiciously like scribbles on the city map. The effort was to get the poorer kids out of the oldest schools – the ones with the crack pipes in the playgrounds – and into the better, bigger, newer schools where my kids attended.

It worked. In fact, it worked so well that my kids, who look as white as snow, despite their mixed heritage (their paternal grandfather was half-black, and their maternal great-grandmother was Jewish) were actually in the minority.

Mocking Shane DawsonTherefore, my oldest daughter can speak ghetto better than YouTube’s Shane Dawson, and can swear in Puerto Rican almost better than I can. In fact, if I were to record her voice and play it for you here, you would never in a million years believe she was white.

So when one of her classmates in her new, nearly all-white, affluent, sunny California, blonde, blue-eyed school, made the following comment, you can just imagine.

School chum: (as if divulging information like: “you know, the principal is secretly a man”) “You know, three years ago, we actually had a BLACK principal.”

Daughter: (as if hearing “the principal is a principal.”) “So?”

School chum: (with a “duh” tone in her voice) “Well! You just don’t imagine a principal as being BLACK, that’s all.”

Daughter: (too dumbfounded to speak.)

My kids love the stories Rudyard Kipling wrote: Rikki Tikki Tavi, The Jungle Book – but the one story I’ve yet to tell them is the one fairy tale Kipling himself bought into: the one of “the white man’s burden.” You know: the burden of the so-called civilized, “enlightened” white man to bring his own bullshit down, nice and hard, with weaponry, when necessary – onto aboriginal and indigenous peoples.

The sort of nice way of rationalizing the British Empire’s habit of wandering around the globe, stumbling upon some grassy spot, and planting the Union Jack flag, and claiming it for King and country. THEIR country, that is.

Um,” native peoples would – at first – politely protest, from their existing dwellings. “Have you lot happened to have noticed that we’re already peacefully, happily living here? That we’ve even named our country, have our own laws, government, etc? You Brits wouldn’t mind shoving off, now, would you?”

“Sorry, chaps, can’t do that. White man’s burden, you know. You don’t know it, what with all your extra leisure time, your happy life, your low impact on your environment, and all that, but you aren’t like us, and you need to be.

Er,” responded aforementioned natives, growing a bit irritable. “Says who?”

Well, says us British invaders,” would proudly proclaim the British invaders.

Natives, now thoroughly vexed, would hold up spears, or what have you, and repeat: “All right, then, that’s quite enough of that. You’ve worn out your welcome, now: shove off. We really don’t give a donkey’s behind what you say.”

At which point, yon British invaders would smile – sort of creepily – stick out their shiny red-coated chests with the bright gold buttons, and hold up their superior weaponry, like muskets and cannons. “What does your donkey’s behind think about what our gunpowder has to say, mate?”

At which point, most natives got blown to smithereens, or assimilated, rather like Star Trek’s The Borg Collective, a hive mind nemesis whose slogan was “Resistance is Futile. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated.” Borg victims were then basically turned into mostly cyborg, emotionless organisms whose minds would join the single mind of THE Borg, whose aim it was to crush out the individuality of the entire rest of the universe, etc.

History, obviously, duh, repeats itself.

Sorta Borg. Sorta Stepford, if you think about it. (Does anyone, actually, think about it, except for me?)

There’s this thing about history: if you don’t learn from it, you’re kinda doomed to repeat it. I KNOW this, because I’M not the one who came UP with that saying. So SOMEONE must be thinking about this stuff. Why isn’t it working?

Welcome to sunny Northern California. It’s not exactly golden here. It IS very very nice. But the color is more of a very, very …. white. Not a vanilla white, really – sort of a Stepford white.

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Red Ribbon Train Wreck


prescription pills with a red ribbon on themWell, the community in Manatee County, Florida, as reported in the online periodical, “mysuncoast.com” last October, 2009, is united by a red ribbon breakfast against prescription drug abuse by teens. They say their mission is to be “the wall.”

I guess they’re going to be a beribboned wall. “Pounding the pavement” with their ribbons and bows.

Not really sure how that’s going to help the estimated 2,500 teens SEEKING illegal prescription drugs, but that’s their plan, anyway. Guess it’s better than nothing. It might make the teens laugh too hard to take drugs.

The Connecticut Hartford Courant reported this month that although a federal survey says teen drug use is down, teens don’t see drugs as all that terrible, which the feds find vaguely disturbing, natch.

Hmm…

While I am terrific at picking out things like computers, colors, solutions to most problems, etc., there is one thing I am really, truly horrible at in my life.

Choosing boyfriends.

Two spectacular mistakes in my past spring immediately to mind.

One was a crack addict, desperately in need of drug treatment.

The other was a FORMER crack addict and blazingly explosive alcoholic. (He could seriously have used some genuine alcohol rehabilitation – but then, one has to want the help.)

While I was under no delusions I could CHANGE either of these idiots, I was delusional enough not to NOTICE either gigantic flaw until I was in too deep to get out fast enough.

The soft HEART in me, unfortunately, softened my HEAD.

The thing was? Both of these <ahem> fine gentlemen would have done well to have gotten help in the teen years. BEFORE they stumbled along and cut swathes of destruction through the lives of women like me, and others, before and sadly, after me.

(Don’t, whenever you sluff off a moron, wish you could phone the next poor victim and warn her? Totally NOT out of jealousy, but rather out of pity for the next girl? As in: “Honey, sit down: Let me just tell you what this jackass is REALLY like…” Ah, if only they would listen…)

Early course correction. When I was a teacher at a college, the math department had this GREAT picture of a train wreck.

“This train was only off by .0000023 degrees.”

But it was enough, over time, to wreck the train.

I loved it. I use it as my own parenting philosophy.

Get help early on with addiction recovery. Save the teen, and save the adult a world of misery – and the rest of the people’s lives they touch. Including your own.

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La La La La Lasik…


Mr. Magoo

I don’t know how many people out there recall the lovable Saturday-morning cartoon gentleman Mr. Magoo, but for those of you not as addicted to YouTube YouTube as I am, his gimmick is that he’s blind as a bat.

(For those of you who’d LIKE to get to know the old codger better, here he is in an old black-and-white beer commercial. You know, back in the good old days when kids’ cartoon characters were deemed perfectly suitable for, you know, beer.)

ANYWAY: While navigating some really ridiculously stupid outdoor steps the other day – put together, I swear, by someone who REALLY either wants a lawsuit, or wants NO visitors, ever – they’re unlit, and all different sizes – it’s like they’re booby-trapped or something – my oldest daughter runs up to me, as I’m slowly navigating down the perilous path.

What are you doing?” I say, a little irritably, as she gently takes my elbow, as if I’m elderly or something, and she’s helping me across the street.

Er, well, I dunno,” she says, non-plussed. “You ARE a little hard of seeing, you know.

Hard of seeing. Hmm.

Never quite thought of it that way.

I’m Ms. Magoo.

Elizabeth Williams Bushey with multiple=That’s when I thought to myself – not for the first time – or the hundredth – or the hundredth thousandth – wouldn’t it be nice to actually SEE out these eyes of mine?

Not just CONTACTS, which are a drag, really, sticking your finger in your eye, and not being able to fall asleep on the couch watching television, or reading a book in bed. Do that, and wake up with holes in your cornea, or at the very least, your eyes stuck shut.

But rather, really open up your eyes and SEE, when the dawn breaks, you throw off the blankets and stretch into the day.

I’ve never experienced that feeling.

You know: waking up and being able to actually SEE past my hand. Or even actually SEEING my hand. Clearly, I mean. I wonder what that would be like?

Maybe I need that LASIK surgery.

screen shot from Six Million Dollar Man: bionic eyeYou know: the one where they actually slice up your eyeballs? Make them better, stronger, etc? (Insert intro from 1970s hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man)

I used to be afraid of it – and I used to be right – because the whole trick of it was to find a doc with experience, otherwise you could end up worse off than you started.

But all the way in California (of course, now that I’m here in California, wouldn’t you know?) I just heard about some docs in New York who are pretty darn skippy good at it. At the Stahl Eye Center, with locations in Manhattan and Long Island, N.Y., they have doctors are graduates from top universities such as UCLA, John Hopkins and Yale. Their 35-year record is pretty good, too: they meet or exceed the norm for the surgery – and it’s independently verified, which is cool.

And, being in quite enough pain, thank you, having been literally run over by a truck on November 28, it’s nice to know the procedure is (a) virtually painless, and (b) the recovery is in a couple of hours, with most patients seeing clearly in a day or so.

Makes a girl want to fly back east, is what it does.

SEE what I mean?

(Little joke there. Very little.)

Because it’s not about vanity.

It’s about booby-trapped stairs, and independence, and not having to worry about losing glasses, and most of all? Not having to worry about worrying daughters.

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Michigan Goes Mad.


michiganI’m visiting my family in the deepest heart of rural northern Georgia, a place where the wildest action happening is watching the kudzu overtake the pines lining Route 20 to Atlanta – that is, on the extremely rare occasions we load up my sister’s seven children, ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years in the giant grey commercial vehicle her family uses for transport.

There are no chain stores here. No 7-11s, no Outback Steakhouses, no Galleria Malls. The biggest cluster of stores is located at a lonely intersection of country roads only locals travel, consisting of The Rocky Plains Community Store, Nancy’s Cuttin’ Up Salon, The Baptist Church, and while there are two new gas pumps, you can still set yourself up with dyed diesel and dyed kerosene from old-fashioned pumps that look like something out of the 1950s.

No one has yet to be able to explain to me what, exactly, dyed diesel or dyed kerosene is used for, nor why it is dyed, but they are politely apologetic as they forlornly explain to me that they do not know, as if they are announcing the funeral of a long-lost friend, and they ALWAYS call me ma’am when they do so.

This throws me, living as long as I have in New York. I still think of myself as a “miss.”

Nevertheless, as strange as dyed diesel, dyed kerosene, and sheets of relentless zudzu plants as intent on overtaking the entire state as horror movie triffids might seem? Michigan has Georgia beat, hands down.

Here’s the latest news from the Wolverine State – and some insight, perhaps, as to why Michigan acquired that toothy nickname:

According to Associated Press reports, in Muskegon, this week, a man was sentenced to 45 days in jail for biting his girlfriend’s five-year-old son in the face.

In the FACE.

Why did he do it?

Because the little boy bit him first, of course.

Duh – gotcha back.

The boy’s mother defended the boyfriend, explaining that the man was merely trying to discipline the boy – after all, said boyfriend was trying to get the kid to brush his teeth when the kid bit the man in the face.

Perhaps the man was trying to demonstrate the value and strength of a good, healthy set of chompers. Why, I wonder, were their mouths and faces so close together in the first place? Were they sharing toothbrushes?

Interestingly, the mother didn’t turn the guy in – school officials, noticing the bite marks on the child’s face, alerted Child Protective Services.

I don’t know about any of you, but I can NOT think of an excusable reason for ANYONE to bite my kids. Were anyone to attempt such a foolhardy thing, I can honestly say they would begin to know the true meaning of wolverine.

In Mount Clemens, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, a 33-year-old mother was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison. Her crime? She settled her 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son down for some soothing hot chocolate – laced with sedatives – then set fire to the house and expected them all to sit quietly with her and, well… die.

The judge basically decided she’d forfeited her status as “mommy” from now on.

Luckily, the kids shook off the wooziness and escaped the house in time.  Mom had taken the kids out of school early, too.

Big disappointment, huh? Usually when mom takes you out of school early, it’s a good thing.

Writing straight-like-that they are “scarred for life,” the kids have my sympathy – but so does the mom, to tell you the truth.

Apparently, she suffers from a mental illness which affects six million Americans – 5,999,999 of whom did NOT attempt to kill ANYONE today, FYI, although thank YOU, “fair and balanced” Fox News, for making darn SURE that’s the first “fair and balanced” item you mention in your “fair and balanced” report on this “fair and balanced” news day.

Way-to-go, perpetuating that old-fashioned “fair and balanced” stigma against mental illness.

Odd, isn’t it, Fox has to keep reminding us that they’re “fair and balanced?” How come The New York Times never has to defensive – I mean, defend – itself all the time like that?

While we’re at it, why do all crime news reports describe men who commit them like this:

Carpenter/Architect/Professor/Janitor Massacres Many….

NEVER ONCE MENTIONING whether or NOT the male of the species has even propagated the species?

But if a WOMAN commits a crime, her status as mother FAR OUTWEIGHS any other accomplishment she might otherwise have earned?

For instance:

Mother of Two Embezzles Funds…

It will only be in the last paragraph that we may or may not learn she’s also received the Pulitzer, a Grammy Award, AND the MacArthur Genius Grant.

Sigh.

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Love, Loss and Luck in Gotham City.


batsignalEvening in Gotham City.

No crime spree that we know of yet, but you can never call it quiet in this section of town. Darkish, yes, because here in the Batcave we’re half-underground: enough to let the daylight in, but once yon sun calls it quits, there’s no doubt about it: darkness rises.

Smoke rises, too, and all but one of us does, so the two windows – screenless, natch – are open a crack, whether the weather, so bring thou a sweater (or grab one of the skull-adorned hoodies tossed all over the place) and so, too, the studio tends to have a few more visitors: of the genus Insecta.

Tonight we tried to get Takeshi to summon his Japanese Ninja Warrior Side and decimate a 3-inch Something that strongly resembled a Flying Dragon, but he was deeply involved in summoning his Japanese Zen Peaceful Monk Side, instead.

Also, Takeshi has a new laptop, and the password to my wireless network, so there’s a strong possibility that he was summoning his Japanese Pokémon Cheat Hack side, too. I didn’t look, so I can’t say for sure. As the Zen parable, “The Farmer’s Luck” goes: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Aris and Psycho Cherry are currently sharing a MacBook, and were therefore IM-ing and DJ-ing at the same time, which was terrific for me, since when they AREN’T here, I’m usually too focused on what I’m doing to remember even to launch my iTunes, despite the icon in the dock of my own MacBookPro staring me right smack in the face.

Really.

No, really.

That peppy little CD with the blue music notes on it, just leers at me, going: “Uh, hello? Musician? Tunes?” Then shakes its digital little head at me, as if I am hopeless.

But when Aris and Psycho Cherry are here, the ambiance changes radically from a simple one-human digital sweatshop to a working party of discussion and delight. My daughters – who refer reverently to my posse as “The Cool People” – love it. Everyone gets magically fed, watered, intellectually stimulated, and entertained.

Those who grace my studio cherish my daughters, too, as mutually as my daughters cherish them: this past week, when my youngest’s much-beloved, much-too-young cat died suddenly, my daughter overheard them laughing in the Batcave as she and I were upstairs, preparing for the backyard funeral.

“Tell them they don’t have to come,” my 10-year-old said, fighting the most recent round of tears. “They sound so happy. I don’t want to make them come to a sad funeral.”

At that point, my own throat started to close.

Of my two daughters, the oldest, would throw herself in front of a train for you if ever you needed it, but from her manner, her bearing and her Dorothy Parker wit, you’d never know it.

My youngest? Her devastating but selfish charm would allow her to skip lightly over your bleeding body and make you want to thank her for it.

Ergo, lump in my throat.

Down with message went I to Batcave.

Up I returned: No way. All for one, one for all.

The ragged gypsy band of us lined up at the back fence grave, my youngest as “chief mourner,” asking only for a moment of silence in Toufou’s honor.

We all took turns trying to console the little one, especially Aris and myself, who have each suffered private losses recently; losses the little one could not yet understand, yet still our freshly-wounded hearts bled for her, our own scars only just beginning to form.

We resonated like tuning forks for her, grief upon grief, vibrations that we knew would lessen with time. Could the little one be made to understand? That time, and thankfulness, were all that ever help, in the end?

Time.

And gratitude.

“Gratitude?” My youngest was totally confused.

“Look around you,” I whispered into her silken, golden brown hair, as she wept into my lap. “Look at all the people who love you. Be thankful, even though right now you can’t be happy.”

“But I want Toufou,” she protested.

“You’ll have Toufou as long as you love and remember her,” I said.

“I can’t see her. I can’t talk to her. I can’t touch her. It’s not enough,” she said.

“Not now,” I said. “But eventually, it will be.”

It will have to be, I thought, my own heart quickening a bit.

“Eventually doesn’t come soon enough.”

“It never does, darling,” I said, “but that’s what Gotham City is here for.”

We fell asleep together for the next few nights on the futon in the Batcave, hanging on to each other, each, alternately mourning, alternately celebrating, the love of each other, basking in the glory of our friendships, the sunshine, the comfort of darkness, and the hope of time.

 

 

The Farmer’s Luck

A Zen Parable

Once there was a farmer whose horse ran away.

All the village came to him: “What terrible luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

The next day, the horse returned — with another horse.

All the village came to him: “What wonderful luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

The farmer’s son tried to ride the second horse — and broke his leg.

All the village came to him: “What terrible luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

The country was at war, and the next day, the army came to collect young men to fight: all but the farmer’s son — whose leg was broken.

All the village came to him: “What wonderful luck!” they said.

The farmer calmly said: “Maybe. Maybe not.”

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose. Duh.



Digg!

The evolution of... us.   

 

 

 

The evolution of... us.

Naturally, when I can hear Panic! At the Disco as clearly out of my daughter’s headphones as I can as if it were coming out of the CD player speakers, I turn around and nudge her –

All right, rewind (hey, rewind – that suits our topic – back to that later) since this IS a blog about reality, I’ll tell you “the reality.

First, I will hopelessly raise my voice, even though the “any reasonable person” test would fail. Duh. Why would I even think she could hear me?

Then, despite oncoming traffic, and my meager driving skills, (having spent WAY too much time in NYC, where a car is actually a burden, unless you’re my grandmother, and you have a summer place AND a suburban house – oh, wait, she had drivers, too, scratch that – back to the fact that I SUCK at driving)  I will turn around and raise my voice again, in the incredibly stupid hope that the louder I am, the better she will be able to read my lips.

This is fruitless, because she is not only rocking out, but also poring over the densely-packed Panic! At the Disco lyrics I printed out for her from the Internet before we left, so she’s bobbing her downturned head.

Is her little sister helping me out, with a nudge, or a shove? No. She is observing, amused, because SHE is intelligent enough to see the futility of my behavior, but not the danger — until I turn back to face the windshield and turn the wheel back so that we’re back on OUR side of the highway, thank you very much.

“Mom!” they join in chorus as the van whips them both suddenly sideways.

“Ah,” I say smugly. NOW I have their attention. And: enough with the volume. Turn it down or go deaf.

Personally? I feel completely hypocritical.

I myself blasted music in my own ears as a kid.

No headphones in MY house, though. Headphones were inherently rude. Want to sequester yourself from the family? You’ve got a room for that, dear.

So I’d go. I’d face the speakers toward each other, with room just enough for my head, lie down between them, play my music as loudly as possible without disturbing everyone else in the house, and achieve maximum eardrum damage at the same time.

When CDs first came out, I remember hearing someone tell someone else in our house: “I’M not going to replace my record collection. These compact discs are just going to be fad, like 8-Tracks or Betamaxes.” (Always a lurking observer; like “Harriet the Spy,” I was always listening, and if I was not heard, I was seldom seen, even in plain sight.)

A comment all but forgotten until I stumbled upon a very old cassette (it was Junk Week in our neighborhood) of Jesus Christ Superstar. Thinking my daughter, who is obsessed with Andrew Lloyd Webber (why, heaven only knows; I really have to turn her on to Puccini, from whom the man steals everything), would be interested, I scrounged up a cassette player somewhere and pressed PLAY.

What a tremendous drag, having to rewind and fast-forward to the spot you want to hear!

My youngest was baffled at the clunkiness of the technology, repeatedly asking me: “What… what are you DOING, Mom? Can’t you just FIND it?”

As if she didn’t remember me having to rewind all her “Big Comfy Couch” VCR tapes.

Change is frightening when it comes barging rudely into our lives. We, in this age of technology, are constantly being thrown new ideas, and having to catch them or feel bypassed.

Even TV commercials mock us: “26 million people just Twittered this. Another 26 million don’t know what that means.”

My daughter begged me for an EnV phone, with a keyboard for texting. At the time, I thought it was a ridiculous splurge. Now she texts me so often I want one myself, just to keep up. People text me more than they talk to me.

“Google” is now a verb. MS Word has destroyed my spelling skills, because my brain works like this: if I don’t HAVE to store it, it gets dumped, to make room. Now I know I can Google something, or have Word spell it for me, or my little calculator do math for me.

When my Internet goes out, I’m lost.

But when I first got online, I couldn’t imagine what I’d ever do with it.

Now I can’t live without it. Well, okay, I could. But I sure would miss it.

Still, as different as all this seems: what’s really different?

I use Google the same way I used to call the reference desk at my local library.

I use MS Word the same way I used to use my College dictionary.

I use Twitter the same way I use the world: I’m gregarious to the point of ridiculous; I can hardly leave the house without making a friend, and my house is usually full of people to the point where I wonder sometimes if I’m a magnet and they’re all iron filings.

In a good way.

The French have a saying. (Actually, practically the entire language is sayings; it’s mostly the reason they’d just rather speak your damn English.)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Hmmm….

But things DO change. And if you’re looking for a very good, commonsense approach to dealing with change, here’s an excellent article on The Huffington Post from a correspondent/acquaintance of mine: Tom V. Morris – from Twitter, of course.

But remember: they stay the same, too. So relax. 

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