Tuesday, July 11, 2006

WE GOTTA GET OUTTA THIS PLACE...if it's the last thing we ever do

Done and done!! Find me here: http://wordgirl5.typepad.com/half_of_the_sky/

Monday, July 10, 2006

Some thoughts about camp...and also about knowing who you are


"Self Knowledge Brings Happiness"


Years ago I remember reading in People magazine about celebrities who were helping to run a pediatric AIDS program in memory of the late Elizabeth Glaser. One day each year Hollywood devoted a day to fun and games where sick kids were allowed to get their faces painted by Madonna or kids played dodgeball with Kevin Bacon. All in all...a good thing.

But it bugged me that the photos all featured famous people wearing baseball hats printed with the word "Hero" on it while the kid with AIDS went without. I mean...isn't that a little strange that the concept of heroism was, at the time, only applied to the rich moviestar who donated a few hours for photo ops...and not to the kid whose life had been severely compromised by a disease??

Someone must have tipped them off that the thing with the hats was in the poorest of taste because I haven't seen anyone wearing them lately. But the whole thing made me think about last week at cancer camp. It would be the understatement of the year to say that I've learned a lot about cancer in the last few years. I've also learned a lot about myself and it's not all good news.

More than once this week I've had to ask myself just whan in HELL I was doing there with kids who need a sensitive and warm/fuzzy person to teach them art/crafts. Who do I think I am? Granted, Mr. Half and I give a lot of our time to "causes", but we're no "do-gooders" and despite the way I vote, I can be as intolerant as anyone else. It took me years of folks hammering at me before I came aboard to be associated with this camp, and when I did it was only to fill the space as Arts & Crafts teacher. I had no desire then--or now--to be glued 24-7 to a cabin of kids. And I think I've done a good job. When I devise an activity or order the materials for it, I approach it like an artist, but once I'm with the kids I approach it like a teacher. I can honestly say that I've raised the bar in making the A&C program better than it's ever been. No more paper plates glued together with pinto beans inside to make a giant tambourine. B-O-R-I-N-G! That said, I must also admit that my methods don't completely take into account the many different kinds of kids who pass through the art building. That became obvious to me in the past few days and I'm not entirely happy about it.

In conversations with my middle sister where we're asked to categorize ourselves as being "justice-oriented" or "mercy-oriented" people, we've both had to admit that we both fall in with the former group. That's not to say that I don't get a lump in my throat when I see little bald kids slumped over in their wheelchairs. What it means is that I question how much a camper with asthma, leukemia, rampant excema and Down's Syndrome is going to get out of an hour in my class. Can I really count it as therapeutic or is it just babysitting? If it's just babysitting, then why am I there?

And because I question whether or not that kid is getting anything out of it, I wonder if my goals are being met. That leads me to ask myself if my personal goals are getting in the way of a "child-focused program"...which is something we're supposed to be. Being "justice-oriented" means that, cancer or not, I still get hacked off when kids waste materials or ask to be granted special favors. I sometimes can't tell the difference between a kid whose brain has been scrambled by umpteen rounds of chemo and a kid who would be a total ass even if he/she had never been compromised by something like cancer.

We, none of us, are heroes. The volunteers who show up summer after summer and toil equally hard at the helm of the camp's board are just trying to make a good thing out of a bad situation. We're teachers and firefighters and radio dj's and restaurant owners. Everyone of us has our limits. But I don't see the limits of others as well as I see my own. I can't decide if I'm supposed to constantly keep in mind the idea that these campers are cancer patients, or if I'm supposed to immerse them in an attitude of "normal" and treat them the way I should treat anyone else. One scenario demands that I have no expectations and the other requires me to have many. I think the answer is in the gray area and that's a place I have a hard time staying in...let alone locating.

So the whole "self-knowledge" thing is, according to the Chinese saying, supposed to bring happiness. For me, it often brings more self-doubt. The more I go to camp, the more I learn about others as well as myself. So when people ask me how camp went this summer, I have to pause. I think it went okay, but I can't tell if I'm supposed to use my own experiences as the template for a good time. Or if I'm supposed to remember the smile on the face of the kid clutching a shapeless, fist-sized sculpture made from four bar$(!!) of Sculpey polymer clay after I said to only use a tiny bit. You tell me.

Laundry Day...and then some


We're back. All of us. The youngest boy is back from scout camp. The two older ones have returned from five weeks of staffing (and living outdoors) at scout camp plus one week of intensive Aquatic School training (also outdoors) which qualifies them to be lifeguards as well as instructors. And I have returned from cancer camp. (More on that later) All of us have been living in the same house for over 24 hours. The last time this happened it was May 25th.

And now...the laundry. I'm tempted to simply aim a flamethrower in the general direction of the older boys' trunks which contained an astonishing tangle of sheets and blankets which had not been washed in six weeks. Awesome!! And the damp towels! And crusty, crusty socks! (oh...the humanity!!) The washer has been going non-stop since early this morning and we're still not finished.

On top of that, that house has been (*cought*) a tad neglected in my absence. What with work and keeping up with the youngest (non-driving) son and also helping him with his pet-sitting job that involved twice-per-day visits to feed and attend two dogs and four cats...well...let's just say that the beautiful bouquet of yellow roses on the kitchen table didn't completely disguise the devastation that was so obvious throughout the rest of our abode. After passing out in front of the humidifier (to relieve the headache brought on by a sinus infection), I feel more like a human being and am tackling the cobwebs and dust while Mr. Half is making like Edward Scissorhands in the front yard.

We...all of us...feel as though we'd spent some time on another planet (I've lost a few heat shields upon re-entry) and we're trying to adjust to living together. So far...so good. The week ahead promises not to be too busy and Wednesday night Mr. Half and I will drive to Dallas to see Steely Dan in concert. I can't wait for that and I can't wait to check in with everyone and see what's up. I've missed you guys!!

P.S.

Dear Blogger,

Your days are numbered here at Faber --er--Half House. I spit on you and your outages! I'm enraged at the idea that a free service translates into occasional loss of text and every attempt to fix your Stone Age technology wipes out my entire blogroll. This very evening, I plan to make the switch to Typepad. I know we've both seen this coming. The horrible snafus. The horrendous templates which cause me to rely on constant background color changes which cause some readers to suffer temporary blindness (sorry, Nilbo) or question the possiblity that I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Like the Godfather says, "It's not personal...it's just business". Well...maybe it's personal, too. I break with thee now and forever.

Wordgirl

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Help

What's going on

Friday, June 30, 2006

Just a few things before I go


Okay kids, it's about that time. I'm leaving tomorrow for camp and I won't be back until next Friday and you won't see any posts from me until Sunday. I'm taking my laptop with me and I wish I could post pics from camp, but that's not only a matter of posting pictures of children without parental consent (bad!!) but also a violation of the HIPAA (also bad!!) rules that I am honor-bound to follow, given that this is a medical camp for kids with cancer. It would probably be kosher to link you to the camp's website, but lacking- as I do- the time to ask permission I'm going to err on the side of caution. Before I go...

1) My June Perfect Post Award goes to Nilbo at Truths & Half Truths. Scroll down to the post entitled, "Love Story: Prologue" and then keep reading. He's chronicling the "how we met" story of his parents and it's a series worth reading. Nilbo's a fantastic writer, but the story would be worth knowing even if he wasn't doing the telling, so check it out and give him some love. I'd put the pretty little Perfect Post button here, except that I've forgotten how. I'm such an idiot.

2) You should know that I checked out the new Super Target near downtown the other day and I had a near-religious experience. Clean, quiet, good smells, a fabulous feng shui and the Isaac Mizrahi collection is three times the size of the Target nearest me. Plus, they carry Nick & Nora pajamas!!!! No wonder Mignon at Thought Concoction claims that Target is her boyfriend. Who wouldn't want that?? Unfortunately, she's mistaken on one count. He's mine.

P.S. to June Cleaver who is moving to Canada where there is no Target. Let me say that again for those of you who are now stunned by the incredulousness of that last statement. THERE. IS. NO. TARGET. IN. CANADA. A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E.

Oh, the bitter pill that is this cruel reality...and the sorrow that it brings. Our sympathies are with you as you navigate this lonely road. Everybody...go give her a hug.

3) Rock's ("Rock's Hard Place")been trying really hard to do some navel-gazing and bring more of himself to his blog. He's still claiming that "it's not about him" (writerly content of blogging) and I still think he's wrong. I think people definitely want and accept opinions from a blogger, but I also think they want to know a little bit about the blogger from whom these thoughts originate. Take a minute to go over there and tell him blogging is more than just "what you think"....it's also about "who you are".

No fighting while I'm gone, kiddos. Take your vitamins. Watch both ways before you cross the street. I'm going to attempt to access the wireless system at camp and, at the very least, keep up with everyone. See you next Sunday!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Where everybody knows your name


"In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of women. It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer."
--Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Today's local paper included a story about a Vietnam veteran in Philadelphia who is looking for a Fort Worth woman he met in 1966, just before he shipped out for the war. Lenny Cohen had taken out an ad in the paper hoping for clues to her whereabouts using the information he had about her at the time.

I thought about all the things that can happen during a span of 40 years that obliterates the trail of a woman. We leave our parents' homes for college or work. We move to another town, state or country. We quit one job and take another. Sometimes...we die. There's at least a record of our death and moving geographically makes it difficult--but not impossible--to find us. It's only when we marry--and take the name of our husbands--that we rub out the last clue to our whereabouts.

If you've ever served on a high school reunion committee you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about. Ten, fifteen, twenty years after graduation, former classmates are using phone books and search engines to find us. You want to locate a guy? Look up his name. Get a friend in insurance to run a DMV check on a guy who is your age and who still has the name he graduated with.

You want to find a woman? Hmmm. What name do you look under? There's no guarantee she held onto her real name. The last time you saw her she was Genevieve Buckholtz and she was making out with Barry Urbach at graduation. Who is she now and what combination of words do you plug into Google to find her? What about the phone book? Even if she's married she's probably not mentioned in the listing. You'll be one lucky hunter if you can find her listed as Barry & Genevieve Urbach. Otherwise...you'll have to find the friend of a friend who still knows her and can offer up a phone number. Or wait until she finds you. Unless we have the presence of mind to hang onto our names, women drop like stones into the bottom of a silent, muddy lake.

In the interest of full disclosure I'll say here that I added Mr. Half's last name onto mine and I use both. Even though I never really got rid of my real name (I use both in my newspaper bylines), people assume that I did. Still...church, the PTA, people in the neighborhood just think I'm Stacy Half. I should have sent out announcements immediately after the wedding saying as much, because without any information or provocation, friends and well-intentioned family (both in-laws and outlaws) will bombard me with mail addressed to Mrs. Bryan Half (not his real last name...of course). EVEN ON MY BIRTHDAY....a day where, if nothing else, I should get to celebrate the identity I possessed when I came into this world. I mean...c'mon! The guy married me, he didn't adopt me. And no matter how many times I say it, few seem to remember.

When telemarketers call and ask for Mrs. Bryan Half I tell them that there is no woman named Bryan living in our home. You should hear the confusion that one statement causes. After witnessing years of watching me have an aneurysm each time someone referred to me in a manner indicating I was merely one of Bryan's appendages...rather than a person with a first name of my own, Mr. Half told me I should go down to the courthouse (for our 20th anniversary) and plunk down the necessary coinage to get my real name back LEGALLY!! (Imagine a country where one must pay to get a name back which was given to you at birth!)

I've given the matter considerable thought and my biggest reason for holding back was the idea that people would think we were divorcing after all this time. It's been hard enough spending the last two decades getting people to stop referring to me as Mrs. Bryan Half. Now I have to back up and tell friends and relatives that my real name (which they already knew) is the name by which they must call me. I should have had the foresight never to change it in the first place. It wouldn't have made us any less married or any less happy.

Any number of pointless observances, whether they be for religious reasons or societal, are still foisted on women today. Traditional apologists, including many religious leaders, claim that "it's the natural order of things" to abide by a patriarchal society. It's in keeping with "natural order" that cats cannot do trigonometry. There's nothing natural about one person changing her name in order to comply with the superior/subservient relationship it was meant to indicate when the practice first started.

But I wasn't thinking back in 1986. I was hard in love and anxious to move to another city with the man of my dreams. I held it together in the planning stages just enough to warn the minister that there would be no "giving away" of the bride, as though I was a prize heifer at the county fair. I was 27 years old and supporting myself. We used the term "presents the bride" though I guess semantics can't change what it means when one man hands a grown woman over to another man. Nor did Mr. Half ask my father for permission to marry me...nor for his blessing. What's the point of asking a question where the answer really won't change the outcome? I also told the minister there would be no mention of the word "obey" in any form or fashion. Homie wasn't playing that game either. So it wasn't until we turned to face the congregation after saying our vows and the minister introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Half that I realized in one stunning moment what I had forgotten to take care of.

Yeah... I wince every time my birthday rolls around as I open my cards, even though our return address stamp on outgoing Christmas/birthday cards and all other correspondence bears my name (both last names) and Bryan's name on separate lines hoping someone will pay attention. Few do. So Lenny Cohen....I hope you find Sharon Johnson. I hope she recognizes herself from the description or that someone else who knew her has read the article and will try to find you. Because, dude, looking for her and actually finding her is going to be nearly impossible on a trail as cold as this one. Good luck to you. And Sharon J....wherever you are....I hope for your sake, for Lenny's, and a little bit for mine, that Johnson still your name.




Monday, June 26, 2006

Thirty Years Ago





During the summer of 1976 you couldn't enter a music store (or the bedroom of many a teenaged girl..or guy) without seeing a nearly life-sized image of Peter Frampton. Soulful-eyed, open-shirted, angelic-faced Peter Frampton. Armed with his guitar and a soft corona of golden curls he was like a Rock n' Roll Jesus and it was impossible for me ( I'm sure I'm not alone in this) to gaze upon his stunning face without a sharp intake of breath.

It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I was working at Six Flags and I wore the senior ring of my boyfriend of the moment. One of the gift shops where I worked played nonstop rock and the music from the "Frampton Comes Alive" double live album and, of the posters of rock stars which we sold by the hundreds, none sold as well as that displaying the beautiful visage of Peter Frampton.

For the uninitiated, Frampton, a former member of Humble Pie, set the world on fire with his "Comes Alive" contribution in January of 1976 and it ranked Number One for 10 weeks. The album stayed in the Top 10 for over a year and it was declared the BEST-SELLING LIVE ALBUM OF ALL TIME, a record it held comfortably for over 20 years. For you youngsters out there that means that, while you were unknowingly salivating over the newest offerings from musicians in 1996, Peter Frampton still held the title for Best Live Album...EVER. Many music analysts still consider it to be among the top ten live album releases ever produced...keeping good company with Joni Mitchell's "Miles of Aisles", War's "War Live", The Who's "Live at Leeds" and my personal favorite, The Allman Brothers' "Live At The Fillmore East".

None of this matters much in the total scheme of things, but I was sitting by the neighbor's pool today and thinking about what I was doing 30 years ago. I was a skinny teenager whose teeth had recently been released from the captivity of braces and "Baby I Love Your Way" was on every rock station. While thinking about that magical summer I remembered what Time magazine writer Richard Lacayo wrote about the death of George Harrison when comparing the passing of years to the face of a great clock: "Year after year we have looked at them--at the aging of those faces--at the mellowing of their lives--to see what time it is for all of us."

I think this is true of anyone whom we held in high regard in our youth. We get older...and so do they. Time, however, has been good to Peter Frampton. He continues to mentor and produce music. He had a part in Cameron Crowe's movie, "Almost Famous". He did the voiceover for his cartoon self in an episode of "The Simpsons". He's recorded a new cd. Sure... the long hair is gone, but the face is the same. I've learned that as long as you're doing what you've always done, it's never pathetic or desperate. That's not to say the one if forbidden to pursue new interests or skills, but to see a 56-year old man take up the guitar in the hopes of being a rockstar is uncomfortably sad. To see a 56-year old man doing what he's always done is an inspiration. Here's to you, Peter Frampton. Baby....I love your way.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What's Happening to me??????


My middle sister is a pusher. A drug pusher, but the buzz she's selling isn't in the form of illegal pharmaceuticals. Her brand of poison is the "Gilmore Girls". You heard it here first. Before last week I SO did not care about the lives of Lorelei and Rory Gilmore. Do you hear me?? I. Did. Not. Care. I am the mother of three sons. I gave up living in the Land of the Girlies a long time ago. Cheerleaders make me cranky. I threw out my curling iron before I got married and, for a good ten years, I stopped wearing perfume altogether. I hate to shop. HATE IT. Also the color pink. Detest it.

But my husband and sons went out of town on a scout-related venture as they are wont to do...oh...EVERY OTHER WEEKEND OF MY LIFE!! and leave me to my own devices so my middle sister offered her copy of the Season One of "The Gilmore Girls".

And...uh...now I'm hooked. Painfully. Pitifully hooked.

I tell myself that it is a fiction...a fantasy. Mothers and daughters who paint each other's toenails and borrow each other's clothes. Mothers and daughters whose phone conversations don't require an NFL-endorsed referee to negotiate the verbal minefields. I can't relate. But. I. Want. To.

What's happening to me?

I'm becoming the woman I never was. I'm looking at women's sweaters and saying, "Hey....I want that!". I see people so addicted to coffee (Lorelei and Rory) that they're in serious need of a room at The Betty Ford Center. I see the fictional town of Stars Hollow and am reminded of Andy Griffith's Mayberry...except it's in vivid color. More twinkle lights and bungalow houses. A quaint town with a charming downtown area...only populated with people who went to college instead of Floyd the crazy barber. Pumpkin patches and good-natured county fairs. Sally Struthers as the strange neighbor next door who has gnome statues in her front yard. Snappy dialog. It's like a Nora Ephron wet dream.

I claw around for this week's copy of my "New Yorker" subscription. I try to orient myself to that which usually stimulates me. Yet, I must know if Luke will ever tell Lorelei how he feels and I walk zombie-like to the television. One more episode? Whose going to know?? The cat? There's no one else here.

I'm almost sure that "Gilmore Girls" is a gateway drug. A gateway to what....well...I'm not sure.
I'm so behind. The show has been on for....uh....about six seasons. I'm going to have to watch all of these on DVD and then be ready when the new season starts this Fall. And then...I'll be setting the TiVo to a channel I've never watched before. The "WB".

Pray for me....I'll be sitting in the same spot. Glass of wine. Wearing my Chinese bathrobe and waiting for a "fresh Gilmore Girls". Three words I thought I'd never say.

And I'm loving it.