childhood, Uncategorized

Odd Jobs

People who know me are aware that in December of 2012, after nineteen and a half years at a position I loved (heading a program I had developed and grown) my work world changed dramatically on a Monday morning. The company had been operating somewhat in limbo for a few years after the death of the company’s owner, being run by a trio of trustees who opted to dissolve the trust and pass along ownership to a designated Foundation. I had been scheduled to have my first meeting with my new supervisor who I was anxious to share ideas with regarding changes that might be implemented to improve the operations of the student housing complex and the residential life program it housed.

Working in a college community, this had traditionally been among my favorite times of year, third only to staff selection and staff training week. I enjoyed it because of the traditions of purchasing Christmas trees for the building’s lobbies and decorating them with lights and candy canes that residents and guests were encouraged to take. The night prior to this meeting I had hosted my staff of live-in employees for a holiday meal and gift exchange. A favorite activity of mine was purchasing a book and writing a personal inscription in it for each of my employees. Over the years I had purchased hundreds of books that reflected the hobbies, interests, majors, career aspirations, or simply the humor of those I worked with. Each a memento with a message as unique as they were as individuals, intended to show my appreciation for their work. During this annual ritual I would verbally thank the group for their commitment and acknowledge that working for a company that operates 365 days a year requires sacrifice and hopefully a shared holiday meal with coworkers would not only prepare them for impending finals but also soften the disappointment of missing out on some of their own annual traditions. Somewhere among my things I have cards of appreciation from over the years that reflect that this gesture was as important to many of my workers as it was to me. Six years ago last Sunday, the event wrapped up about 9:30 pm.

The next morning at 9:30 am was my first meeting with my new supervisor and I was surprised by the presence of another person who was employed by the Foundation. It quickly became evident that they was not interested in maintaining the program that the Foundation had been gifted, viewing it only as a real estate asset and I was told to turn my keys in that Friday. It was then that I realized that even the wishes of a multi-billionaire don’t need to be honored once they are deceased. Not only did I have less than a week to pack up an office of nearly twenty years but I needed to step down from the  business association I was serving my sixth term as president of and leave behind numerous associations, boards and committees in the community I had been an integral part of as well.

My eldest was a sophomore in college, preparing for a semester in Europe and my youngest was a high school senior who had already been accepted to college. This new reality was not only a shock to me but to them as well. I had started my employment as a live-in Resident Director when my daughter was just nine months old and we lived on-site during the birth of my son who came home from the hospital less than 24-hours after he was born. My work had not simply been a job but a lifestyle and the only one my kids had known. While our health insurance ended, the household income was slashed in half and the tradition of summer cookouts and holiday celebrations with my team abruptly ended there was also concern for how my staff members would fare in my absence. Hiring, training and developing University of Minnesota students for work opportunities beyond college had always been a top priority of my role.

Now that the history of how my un(der)employment has been covered I can share some of the amusing tales of what has been the most challenging six years of my life. Last year I had six W2 forms to earn about 10% of my previous salary. While financially this has been a devastating period for me and my family, it has also been an opportunity to appreciate what we have. Having both integrity and a sense of humor has perhaps made this easier for me but it has been a truly wild ride that can best be summed up with “you can’t make this stuff up!’. So fasten your seatbelts and prepare to be entertained by what opportunities have come and gone over the past six years.

I’d be remiss if I did not acknowledge the many people who have reached out with potential contacts, suggested employers and supportive suggestions. At an age where I am keenly aware of what my skills and assets are, I am also aware of what is not a good fit for me. While nothing has lead to what I refer to as “my next big girl job” I truly have appreciated every idea and offer that has been passed my way. The following are but a sampling of “Odd Jobs” not in the sense of occasional work (which some have been) but as in truly peculiar!

I’m going to dive in by starting with what is surely one of the most whirlwind bizarre opportunities I was given about five years ago. A friend put me in touch with a consultant that the large corporation she worked for frequently used. I was to meet her at 1:00 pm at a coffee shop in St. Paul. I met with a high school friend that morning for breakfast as the weather began to deteriorate into the first significant snowfall of the season. Rather than return home between breakfast and my meeting, I ran some errands and gave myself an adequate amount of time to get to the designated location and order myself some coffee. Once seated I texted the contact to let her know I had arrived and where I was seated. I immediately got a response “I left a message on your home phone regarding a change of location.”. So I transferred my beverage to a to-go cup and headed to the new meeting place where she introduced me to two college interns in suits. She explained that they were preparing a bid for hosting the World’s Fair and was hoping to use me for some communications work. She was taking calls, responding to texts and emails and instructed me to meet them at a building adjacent to the State Capital. The road conditions were now beyond horrendous, I basically slid over to the meeting place and found metered parking, climbed a snow bank and met up with the interns in a hallway. The woman explained that they would be filming a Russian delegation and I was to have them sign waivers permitting use of photographs and film from the event. As equipment was being set up I was shown to a table where I was given a pad of paper to take notes of the meeting. We were all instructed to silence our phones. In what seems like an almost dreamlike scenario, I was introduced to the Secretary of State and then a number of Russian visitors were introduced and seated at an adjacent table. I furiously documented the entire meeting from their review of their trip earlier in the day to the Mayo Clinic to the Secretary of State sharing the horrific story of the death of his daughter due to an accident with a drunk driver. Midway through the nearly two-hour event a cell phone (belonging to the consultant I was “working” for) rang on the table I was seated at, I silenced it while getting a dirty look from the Secretary of State. As the meeting ended, we regrouped in the hallway and I was instructed to send the meeting minutes and my hours to the consultant. It was the last exchange I had with her. I sensed that perhaps the Secretary of State instructed her to have nothing to do with the woman who left her phone on during the meeting and she never owned up to it being her own phone. I am the only person I know who has had a an uncompensated gig documenting Russians in a meeting with the Secretary of State. My only regret was not at least getting reimbursed for my parking.

From the moment my job ended I made it very public that I was looking for work and eventually a high school classmate reached out with what he described as an opportunity “beneath my skill set and pay scale” that I could do remotely for his Washington-based company. For two years I checked my email nightly and reformatted resumes to a specific company criteria and had them back to them by opening the following day. While the work was exacting, it was not difficult and I appreciated not only the income but additional insights regarding resume formatting which I have used in helping friends and family in their job searches as well. Eventually he sold the company which ended the opportunity.

A few years ago another high school friend suggested that a temporary gig working for a local business run by another graduate from our high school might be a good fit for me. That is how I began selling dog bandanas at a Minnesota State Fair booth (a position my husband affectionately refers to as “barking for the Yak woman!” a nod to the career trajectory of Cousin Eddie’s son in the movie Christmas Vacation). As an extrovert, I enjoy talking to customers and as a dog lover I never grow tired of hearing about the recipients of the amusing and clever bandanas or legendary Dog Biscuits on a Stick. As a Minnesotan I appreciate the tradition of the Fair and it’s been a great place to annually meet up with people from all areas of my life; with visits from a high school friend who resides in Hawaii, a college friend visiting from California, old neighbors who now live in North Dakota and many others. The accompanying photograph is from this year when the parents of two of my former staff members stopped by the booth for a visit. Not only available at The Great Minnesota Get Together, treat your canine friends and family members with gifts available at http://www.fundogbandanas.com

Currently I am overlapping a couple of seasonal positions. Wrapping up a season at a local garden center that closes when Christmas tree season ends and starting out a season at the local ski hill where I work in the retail shop and food court. There is an irony that I neither garden (beyond containers, hanging baskets and window boxes) or ski (I can fall pretty well on my own driveway which is flat) but I do enjoy talking to people and welcome the chance to work alongside high school and college students, as well as retirees. Both locations offer ample room for a favorite pastime which is simply the observation of people. While the State Fair is the epicenter of people watching, the ski hill allows for me to watch the awkwardness of budding middle school romances and the garden center has its own supply of amusing regulars. It’s certainly not the kind of work you take home with you and if I were to put a notch in my belt every time a customer said “Well it must be free!” when an item doesn’t register on the till or is missing a tag, my pants would be at my ankles. Every position leaves me with some sort of insight, be it profound or mundane. My most recent epiphany being that pine needles are merely “nature’s glitter”, equal parts beautiful to look at and annoying to deal with.

While nothing I have done over the past six years has truly utilized my skill set or provided me with any real challenges or growth opportunity, there is one job that I am literally reminded of daily that I found to be particularly soul-sucking. A temp agency hooked me up with a “Brand Ambassador” position which is a glorified name for “Consumer Harasser”. As someone who dislikes being approached while shopping, I found myself in the unseemly position of being the perpetrator of that very activity. After many hours of online training provided me with more information about a dog food brand than I ever cared to know, I worked shifts at various pet store chains, wandering the aisles and suggesting reasons that pet owners should try “my brand”. My shift ended with the completion of “call reports”, including all interactions and documentation of the “conversions” I’d made during my shift. While I enjoyed interacting with people and their pets I often found that the most rewarding part of my days were cleaning up the occasional accident of a puppy or senior dog, as it seemed to provide me with the greatest sense of accomplishment. The most awkward part of the role was the training with a ten-year veteran, which took place in the back storage area of one of the stores. The location had a motion sensor for the lights which meant every ten minutes my trainer and I were plunged into darkness, which caused him to spontaneously rise from his chair and flail his arms to trigger the lights. My company shirt and name tag never came, despite the reminder I submitted with each time sheet. The promised lap top for company use also did not materialize. It was work I did not look forward to, often scheduled over Viking’s games. This meant not only was I missing the game but that few people were in the stores. The upside to the job was I got a lot of steps in, occasionally ran into people I knew and interacting with the representatives from other brands, who were easily identifiable by their company shirts or lab coats (I needed to report which ones were present on my end of shift paperwork). I eventually found out why my own insignia wardrobe never was sent, the brand was changing temp agencies. I can think of only one previous job I was happier to have end. It’s been over a year now and I still get a DAILY reminder to submit “late call reports” and the automated request can’t be responded to, so I have that to look forward to for the rest of my life. While the temp agency was quick to find another dog food brand for me to rep, I simply could not justify using any more of my memory-capacity to retain ingredients, kibble sizes or other pet food jargon! A career move that went to the dogs.

I’ve often mentioned to people that one of the hardest parts of being out of work is that unlike when you are employed, there is no “time off”. You go to bed unemployed, you sleep unemployed and you wake up unemployed. It’s all-consuming and not quite the “extended vacation” that those working imagine it would be. The world keeps turning, the bills keep coming, people are born, while others die. There are weddings, there are graduations and anniversaries. The milestones continue but you remain somewhat frozen in a state of the unknown. In no way am I implying that I have been living in an endless sea of misery, in fact events and occasions to look forward to have been highlights of this period of my life.

Girls weekends and cabin getaways have provided me some “normalcy”. During one such occasion, a trip to my best friends cabin (a year ago this fall) we sat fireside while she scrolled through neighborhood websites where she had often found used furnishings for her lake place. She came upon a listing for a person near her community who was looking for what can best be described as personal assistant. She contacted the person with my information and the following week after a phone conversation I went to meet with her. I located the somewhat remote home and pulled up to the three car garage. I sat at the island in the beautiful kitchen while she went over the contents of a file folder which listed some of the things she needed assistance with. She then toured me through the lovely home where I was fascinated by the idea of having enough space in a Master closet for a washing machine and dryer. In the lower level were the bedrooms of her two teenaged daughters and across the hall their own laundry room. As she showed me the indoor swimming pool we exited through the adjacent bathroom which had an additional washer and dryer. The palatial home had a complete downstairs kitchen as well. Her husband owned a company and she homeschooled their youngest daughter and managed the books for the family business. They spent their winters in Florida and she suggested that perhaps I could collect their mail, check on the pool and perform other tasks in their absence over the winter months.

After reviewing her needs I set about tackling the tasks at hand; contracting a dumpster, booking a plumber to install a garbage disposal, arranging to have the carpets cleaned, contacting the pool company for cleaning and maintenance. I then moved on to organization of the pantry, cleaning of the refrigerator (it’s the third week of October, so I got rid of the meat that had expired in July). She asked if I could move my car so she could get out and asked that I park in front of her husband’s garage door in the future as he left for work by six a.m. daily and was rarely home before 10 p.m. I then watched as she headed out for lunch in her Maserati. Her homeschooled daughter took off on a four-wheeler to take care of her horses. I then moved on to breaking down boxes from Amazon, not simply a few but perhaps thirty. After that I went down to the piano room where she suggested some things be pulled out to go in the dumpster that I had ordered. All of the boxes and wrapping paper from Christmas the previous year were there and some gift bags with items still in them and a beautiful two piece dress which I hauled upstairs and placed on a table. The daughter returned and said she needed cash for gas and then called her mother. So I gave the 13-year-old a twenty-dollar bill from my wallet and wondered to myself if it was even legal for her to pump gas or be on the road. I was starting to experience the same dreamlike weirdness I had experienced while chronicling Russians meeting with the Secretary of State.

Eventually the daughter returned, a brother inlaw dropped off some neices for piano lessens, a piano teacher arrived and the oldest daughter returned home from school. None of them seemed to find it unusual at all that a stranger was in the kitchen, as though it were totally normal for an unknown person to be present in the home.

By the end of the day the mother had returned and wondered where I had found her daughter’s Homecoming dress that was lying on the table. “In the piano room armoire with the discarded Christmas wrapping paper”. I had also created a menu for dinner the following day and suggested to her that I grocery shop on my way over the next morning, which she agreed was a good idea.

The following morning I headed to the store and texted her at 8:45 that I was on my way. I let myself in and she shouted from the master bedroom “I’ll be out in a few minutes!’. I cleared the breakfast dishes, met the plumber and got him the “spare” garbage disposal from their Florida home that was in the hallway closet and set about prepping the white chili to go in the crockpot. I then met the dumpster delivery driver and made several trips from the garage with the boxes from the previous day. The youngest daughter and a cousin came into the kitchen and began making slime with glue, food coloring and glitter. By noon, with still no sign of the mother emerging from the Master the girls asked if I would make them pizza, which I did. Midway through day two and I’d seen no sign of “homeschooling”. By 1:00 the mother emerged and I updated her on the status of the day and she promptly left for lunch with the eldest niece. I was uncertain if I should feel flattered or concerned that she so nonchalantly left her daughter and niece with a virtual stranger or that they were seemingly so comfortable with the situation as well. I set about prepping side dishes for the evening meal. Upon the mother’s late afternoon return she grabbed her checkbook and wrote me a check for the groceries, the gas money and my sixteen hours of work and said “I’m meeting with a couple of other people who responded to the ad.” Somewhat perplexed, I left and the only contact I’ve had since was twice when I texted her to let her know “Your pool service is on their way” and remind her that all furnishings needed to be moved in the basement because the carpet cleaners were scheduled.

Nice work if you can get it. Albeit brief as it was!

So the search continues and as I often told my employment counselor “every day when I wake up brings me one day closer to my next job!”. Perhaps my next blog will be about the things I have applied for and the interviews I have had, the jobs I was excited about and didn’t land.

In the meantime don’t hesitate to send me job opportunities suitable for a creative, good-humored extrovert!

Advertisements
Standard
Blogging, childhood, Uncategorized

Ramblin Rose – musings from a full mind

jukebox

 

I have not made a blog post in a few months. I have started several but life and the accompanying distractions get in the way of completing them. However, my mind is a pinball machine of thoughts and ideas, each of which I could flesh-out into a full blog if time and focus permitted.

As I turned 55, I decided to do for myself what I had done for others at milestone birthdays or events. I created a list. The following are 55 things I have either learned, observed, believe or have been amused (or frustrated) by over the past 55 years. You may agree, disagree, or simply not understand them. That’s okay, you can make your own list!

  1. I’ve learned more by engaging with people I don’t agree with than from those I do. Don’t surround yourself with only like-minded people.
  2. You get to choose your attitude every day, not always your circumstances.
  3. A Jukebox holds memories in the same way a photo album does. The songs are the pictures and capture the essence of your memories or perhaps take you to a place or time you’ve never actually experienced.
  4. My kids learned more from our providing food and shelter to a homeless veteran than they ever would have by us writing a check to a Veteran’s organization or carrying a sign at a rally. Thoughtfully modeling your opinions creates more impact than shouting your opinion ever will.
  5. Sarcasm is a gift that allows you to convey a message to the amusement of others and the confusion of those who would never “get it” if you were direct with them.
  6. Children are not intended to fulfill your dreams they are to be supported and encouraged to pursue their own.
  7. The most important investments in life aren’t financial at all. While fortunes may turn, your experiences and memories can never be repossessed!
  8. You don’t attend a funeral to honor the person who died, you attend as a show of support to the living.
  9. If someone is truly sorry, accept their apology. Forgive but don’t forget.
  10. Talk to strangers. You likely know someone they do or have something in common with them or can learn something from each other.
  11. I told my children from a young age “The worst thing you can lose is your imagination.” I further explained that while there are correct answers to some things that creativity and thinking differently than others, seeing things from a new perspective is where literally every innovation, invention and cure has come from.
  12. Not teaching cursive is a horrible idea. Connections in the brain will go unstimulated that create necessary pathways. Someday people will pay tuition to learn cursive at the college level so they can read historical documents or even the handwritten letters of their loved ones. How sad to think of future generations unable to read the founding documents of our nation. When you are unable to read something, you can be told it says anything.
  13. While politics create organized infrastructure for how things are done, they aren’t intended to be the dividing line between who we like and don’t like.
  14. ACT and SAT scores are only indicators of how well people take tests. They do not measure intelligence, a person’s aptitude or how well a person will do in life or succeed in college.
  15. The Minnesota Boys State High School Hockey Tournament is the greatest annual sporting event! Epic rivalries, youth playing with the kids they grew up with, a rich history and damn good hockey!
  16. Ugly is on the inside. When a person shows you their ugly, believe what you observe and recognize their damage is not your issue, they own it.
  17. Traditions are wonderful but so is changing them as situations change, people change and when maintaining them becomes more of a burden than a celebration.
  18. It’s okay for your opinions, views and sentiments to change as your life experience teaches you things.
  19. You are not the axis. The world does not revolve around you. Be cognizant of how your actions and choices impact others.
  20. You don’t have to choose a candidate for every office on a ballot. I have no issue letting others decide about a race in an area I don’t feel strongly about.
  21. It’s perfectly appropriate to advocate for things that don’t personally impact you.
  22. There is an abundance and someone else having something doesn’t necessarily mean you have any less.
  23. Sometimes a line from a movie is a better response than any statement you could craft yourself.
  24. An inside joke isn’t intended to be exclusionary, it is intended to acknowledge a bond forged in a shared history.
  25. While it might be annoying, it really doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of you. What matters is what you know to be true about yourself.
  26. Always acknowledge the kid who boldly wears a costume to a store or other public venue. That Disney princess or super hero may be your president some day.
  27. Invite people new to your community or visiting from abroad to share your Thanksgiving dinner, your July 4th celebration or simply a weekend cookout. It’s the best way to learn (for you and them) about another culture.
  28. Learn to graciously accept a compliment without pointing out some fault you have to counterbalance it.
  29. Friendships are like recipes in a cookbook; some are good, some are bad, old favorites you know by heart, ones that you regularly used to rely on may no longer suit your palate, ones you forgot about resurface and are exactly as you remember them. Ones on pages that have been lost cannot be replaced. Sometimes it’s fun to have several of your favorites together! Some of them are ones that people always associate you with. There are ones you think you might not enjoy but end up loving. A new one is always worth trying. It doesn’t matter if everyone else likes them, only if you enjoy them.
  30. While having a direction to move in is good, life is a trip you don’t get to plan in its entirety. Just like with travel there are unexpected detours, reroutes and pit stops that add to the adventure. There may be places you never planned on going that end up being beautiful destinations and other times the very place you wanted to be is not as charming as you thought it would be.
  31. Who somebody else loves has no real impact on you. Unless someone is in an abusive relationship you don’t need to approve or disapprove, simply accept.
  32. I love bargains, thrifting and repurposing! I find it all gratifying.
  33. It’s never the wrong time to express gratitude or give thanks to someone who has made a positive impact on you or others. As my son completed graduate school by writing the mission statement and vision (for a startup in Barcelona) I reached out to the woman who helped him learn to read and let her know that despite being retired, her work was still making an impact on a global level.
  34. When your order is wrong in a restaurant or the service is slow is not the time to tip your server poorly. Perhaps they have a sick child at home they’ve been up with, maybe they are dealing with an aging parent or are stressed about making rent or a car payment. It could be the result of the kitchen being short-handed. The only time I think it’s appropriate to tip poorly is if the server is rude or dismissive.
  35. Yelling the loudest doesn’t make someone more “right” than the person who simply stated the opposing opinion.
  36. Don’t think a single thing is your life purpose. You will have many purposes, some of your choosing, others you will never even realize, though others will.
  37. Prospective parents think parenting is about having and caring for a baby. It’s actually about having a person to champion throughout the remainder of your life.
  38. Don’t let people tell you that you’re going through “a phase”. It might be true, it might not be. I love the Betsy Tacy books more now than I did in 1968 when my mother began reading the series (from her childhood) to me. They are part of why my daughter was named Betsy.
  39. Yelling at your TV apparently doesn’t change anything about an athletes performance. Yet, I do it anyway and my family is amused by it!
  40. The phrase “Dance like nobody is watching!” was clearly meant for introverts! I say “Dance like everybody is watching” (even when alone) is what the extroverts are thinking. Come on extroverts, admit it, you know it’s what you want!
  41. Ladies only: Can we talk about public restrooms? I don’t imagine at home you squat and firehose urine all over the seat! Please don’t do it in public, you’re the reason others need to squat!
  42. When you have a full cart, let the person with two items go ahead of you. Same goes for the parent with a kid whose cart is fuller than yours.
  43. Don’t assume you understand what someone else is going through, since you never know. Being compassionate is never wrong!
  44. At a Pot-Luck, always take a serving of the untouched offering. You aren’t required to eat it.
  45. Offer your old couch to a college student, your extra dishes to a person leaving a relationship, your old towels to an animal shelter. If you can’t find a recipient, donate to an organization that funds their charity through resale of used items.
  46. Stop and look, watch kids play at a park or pool. When you are shopping, look at the babies and kids. When you’re in a restaurant observe the awkward couple on their first date and the older couple who assist each other with reading the menu or cutting food. Observing strangers in their natural habitat is more entertaining than anything on TV.
  47. Many small and anonymous gestures have a greater impact than a single grand gesture broadcast to the world.
  48. If you’re ever tempted to post a mysterious comment on social media like “Here we go again!’ in hopes of having a bunch of “What happened?” responses…just don’t!
  49. It’s never wrong to defend your opinion. It’s never necessary to apologize for it. Extend that same courtesy to others.
  50. If you are ever given the opportunity to prepare a eulogy, here are some guidelines: Share insights regarding the character of the deceased and anecdotes relatable to those in attendance. Seek out feedback from others close to the departed for recognition of aspects of their character that you may not have personally experienced. Include acknowledgement of meaningful relationships (work, church, organizations, family, friends and neighbors) sharing what they meant to them and acknowledging those in attendance.  One should walk away having gleaned additional insights to the life of the departed. A eulogy is intended to be a time of inclusiveness, a tapestry woven of all of the various threads from a person’s life.
  51. Laughter is like sneezing to me; sometimes it comes out of nowhere, arises at inopportune times such as a wedding, funeral or during an important speech. It feels pretty good, is only worse if you fight it, can be a hazard when driving and might make you pee!
  52. Share what you have with others and happily accept the generosity of others. An umbrella from a parking lot to a store offered by a stranger costs nothing but is valuable.
  53. Age and maturity are not the same thing and people only have control over one of one of them. My kids were likely born more mature than I’ll ever be, perhaps we don’t have control over either of them.
  54. Use what you have to inspire others, whether you write, build, sew, sing, act or pray, know you are a pebble being tossed into the clear surface of a lake. Those ripples are going somewhere.
  55. Don’t rely on your government to take care of you. Don’t expect teachers to provide children with values. Don’t give your responsibilities over to organizations or others. Learn self-reliance and choose to contribute to the good of your household and community locally and at large. Appreciate and support those in professions that help others; educators, caretakers, the military, police, fire and first responders but don’t live under the assumption that they are able to meet your needs in all situations.
Standard
Uncategorized

Looking Back for Answers in Moving Forward Regarding Youth Violence

It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation.  https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has

The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”.  Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.

While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.

What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”.  Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.

Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.

While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others.  They are not familiar with:

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.

Additionally the NRA  are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.

Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.

With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?

Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks.  We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.

Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and  laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Looking Back for Answers in Moving Forward Regarding Youth Violence

It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation.  https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has

The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”.  Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.

While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.

What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”.  Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.

Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.

While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others.  They are not familiar with:

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.

Additionally the NRA  are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.

Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.

With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?

Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks.  We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.

Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and  laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.

 

Standard
Uncategorized

My Dad Was the Best. Hope Yours Was Too!

Father’s Day is fast approaching, an annual celebration of the paternal and the sad anniversary of my own father passing. While memories of him cross my mind several times a day, at this time of year I find myself digging in my mind for some forgotten memory, thinking perhaps I have some tucked away like a forgotten sweater in a cedar chest, an old favorite that simply has not seen the light of day for many years.

I have used my father as the topic of previous blogs (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century & https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/my-roots-lead-back-to-november-fifth) and his humor and life lessens dot the landscape of other musings in my posts as well. While my mind is percolating on him as a subject, I will share some more.

My dad (just like my best friend’s father, another amazing man) was an electrician by trade, as was my grandfather. Though he worked on many job sites through the years, some of the more memorable ones included the construction of the Thunderbird Hotel, The IDS Tower, The Registry Hotel and the story I’m about to embark on  from his work on the MSP Airport.

My dad started work early each morning, usually packing a lunch and carrying a thermos of coffee. As a union man he also had “coffee breaks” during the day and while working on the airport runways a silver truck would stop out to his work site that offered hot coffee, sandwiches and pastries for sale. I imagine his first break took place about 8 am. An affable man, my father built a rapport with the truck driver during his daily rounds. When dad became aware that his work at the airport was winding down and his company was preparing to assign him to a new job he hatched a plan.

When the silver truck headed out to my dad’s location, on what was scheduled to be his last day, there sat my dad at a card table (with two chairs) covered with a white table cloth, an electric frying pan had been used to prepare bacon and eggs, he pushed the button down on the toaster and invited the driver to join him for breakfast, right there on the airport runway. Juice was poured and there the two sat and enjoyed a final conversation, the table complete with a milk-glass vase with two red plastic roses (that had come free with a bottle of dish soap). It was a funny and kind gesture of his appreciation. “Memorable”, that is a word that aptly describes my father. I imagine the driver never forgot that special breakfast or the man who prepared it for him.

My dad loved animals and they loved him. Unfortunately, his allergies could make his being around them a less than pleasant experience for him. While growing up we had rabbits, I had a parakeet, we had tropical fish, my brother acquired the rat from his elementary classroom “Milk vs. Soda” nutrition lessen.  We also had the cutest dalmatian puppy who in reality was the worst dog I have ever known. At some point in the late ’70s (sometime after a divorce) my aunt was moving with her youngest from her house to an apartment, a pet-free destination. For many years the family had had a beautiful long haired calico cat that they all loved, named Mama. Despite his allergies (and the fact he was not that fond of cats) my dad was very fond of his high-school classmate and the mother of his nieces and nephews. That is how Mama came to live out her final years with my parents. Meanwhile my uncle moved on, got a new wife, got a new puppy and eventually got another divorce. The Whippet/Collie mix was not going to work with either of their new housing arrangements, so Tara came to live with my folks (and Mama) where she slept on the floor next to my father’s side of the bed. My father loved that dog but when my uncle retired, my dad insisted that Tara move with him to the cabin. My dad was accommodating, compassionate and fair. In both instances it was not that he “wanted” a new responsibility at his house but that he didn’t want to see someone he cared about suffer any more than they already were due to their present circumstances. He gracefully made these situations appear to be nothing and just used his ever-present handkerchief with greater frequency. I bet you’d already forgotten about his allergies, that’s exactly how he wanted it.

My dad wasn’t into gender stereotypes, he grocery shopped, did the laundry, gave his kids baths, read bedtime stories and even took on the role of “room mother” one year when I was in junior high. In many cases, if something needed to be done, he would just do it. He could work a full day, come home and make dinner and still remain engaged in what you were learning in school. When he went to bed we assumed he snored so loudly simply because he was tired, not because Sleep Apnea was just another medical malady stealing time from him. In other cases, if something needed to be done, it simply waited. Taxes were something he loathed doing and I think at some point he delayed filing for five years. Red Owl Grocery sacks filled with receipts and medical bills all waiting to be collated and submitted. He wasn’t avoiding paying taxes, he was delinquent in filing for money owed to him by the IRS. In retrospect I think he knew his time was precious and he would rather spend it occupied with people than with paper.

My dad was strict but you knew what was expected. I vividly remember arriving home five minutes late one summer evening and after listening to what my excuse was he simply said “I didn’t tell you that you couldn’t be early.” So I credit him with the fact that I am slightly early or prompt at nearly every appointment I have, as a general courtesy.

Growing up, my brothers and I didn’t get an allowance but Dad gave us our lunch money weekly and we were allowed to pack our own lunches and use the allotted money however we chose. That taught responsibility, decision making and flexibility. He also allowed me to pack a lunch for my brother and have him pay me a portion of his own lunch money.

My father had more interests than could be explored in a lifetime, he loved concepts, new ideas and possibilities. He was fascinated with black holes and could wrap his mind around things I never could. While his mind was sharp he was not impressed with phonies and would make time to chat with a loner or buy a guy a beer. I remember that he joked loudly to my mother as they were leaving one of her class reunions (perhaps her 20th) “Hurry Dorothy, we have to get the rental car back.” to mock some of the blowhards who had spent the evening trying to one-up each other.  He both literally and figuratively just didn’t have time for that.

Though this blog comes to an end and he is no longer among us, his story is far from over. I like to think that I have fostered in my own children some of his curiosity, his ability to learn something from everyone, his sense of fairness coupled with compassion and an ample dose of his humor. His greatest teachings were never in the form of lectures, they were in his actions, small gestures, mundane tasks that were eventually completed, behind the scenes maneuvers that brightened someones day, lightened someones load or simply made somebody laugh. His legacy lives on in that laughter.

 

 

 

Standard
childhood, Uncategorized

Purple Indians, Red Cow, Golden Friends

X

Despite truly meaning it, when we say “we should get together” somehow life gets in the way and the weeks turn into years and the years turn to decades and it just doesn’t happen naturally to fall into place. There has to be some effort. Social media has been both a blessing and a curse to relationships. Some feel there isn’t really a need to gather physically because they “know” what is going on with someone based on occasional posts and photographs. Others feeling that perhaps when their own life somehow measures up to the vacations, grandchildren and celebrations of others, then the time will be right and they will feel worthy. Perhaps when they drop some weight, have a better hairstyle or update their wardrobe, that will be a good time to get together. If we wait until our lives are perfect, it simply will never occur.

Facebook has allowed my generation to locate people from our past in addition to seeing what our own kids, family members and social circle did over the weekend or are having for dinner tonight. One can get lost looking at friend lists of other friends and trying to decipher if that thin red-head was once the chubby brunet cheerleader who was hilarious in your English class; same first name, married, living on the west coast. Could be her, maybe not. It’s like winning the lottery when you locate someone from your past and reconnect, catch up and find yourselves much the same. There are the other scenarios when Facebook suggests that you “might know” someone and “Yes, you do” and you have been avoiding them at all costs because they are toxic and don’t need to know you “might” meet at Bunny’s for Wing Night next week.

 

Facebook has replaced Hallmark as the way to send a birthday greeting and makes a better source than a local paper for birth announcements, engagements and marriages, as well as obituaries. The arc of life, all happening in real-time and available via phone or computer. Though one is never truly alone anymore, the constant connectivity seemingly causes people to interact less with those around them. Lack of eye contact when checking out with a cashier, tapping on a desired menu item while simultaneously talking on the phone with someone not present or being part of an entire table updating their statuses but not really “experiencing” the company of those present or engaging in the event they are attending.

Yesterday I experienced what is the best of what social media can do, gather people for real social interaction. The only thing that could have made the gathering more like the childhoods we’d all shared would have been convening in the rocket at Linden Hills Park or all arriving by bike and leaving them pedals down on their sides on a grassy spot outside the restaurant (Red Cow) we chose to meet at. My use of technology was having this single picture taken before we ordered, others used their phones as photo albums and one table-mate ignored an incoming call but showed her phone because she was filling someone in on her brother and it happened to be him calling. The two-year age gap meant a couple of the older girls couldn’t place the youngest one, so she pulled up a picture from thirty years ago and got “Oh, I know that girl.” to which she responded “That’s me.” Beyond that, everyone present was truly present!

An initial Facebook invitation to neighborhood girls swelled into an unmanageable number of invitees and then settled back into a table-sized gathering that allowed for multiple simultaneous conversations but conveniently allowed for shared laughter as well. To an outsider (or our waitress for that matter) I imagine we looked like a group of ladies who meet monthly for lunch. The reality being that with six of the eight having been 1980 graduates from nearby Minneapolis Southwest (Purple Indians) we had not all been under the same roof since the Carter administration. We used to bike over to each others house and ring the doorbell to see if someone could play or call their house and hope the line wasn’t busy when we wanted to extend an invitation. With a Facebook invite our friend who has lived in Hawaii for three decades received the same information in real time.

As I pulled up, I saw Laurie arriving. I parked down the street and walked up, giving her time to put our name in for a table. The weather being nice we stood outside as the remaining five arrived and a sixth slid in once we were seated. Laurie and I had played on the badminton team together and she had played volleyball in high school as well as in college. Badminton was a spring sport and we often found ourselves walking home together in weather thirty degrees warmer than the temps of our morning walk. Wet sidewalks and muddy ally-ways, our route included a couple of blocks that had formerly been the path of the streetcar line, a mode of transportation abandoned before our births and replaced with MTC buses that shuttled us to Southdale, our suburban mall or downtown which was a grittier urban destination for us to find everything from magazines at Shinders to department stores, restaurants and where all sorts of options for teenage girls to make bad choices were available. Laurie stood in her overalls and dreadlocks and lamented the fact that she had not seen me since she’d graduated and then she simply said it “We’re old!” and we laughed about it, me realizing only later that I had only been sixteen the last time we had seen each other. When a neighbor girl arrived that I had more recently encountered at funerals over the last several years she hugged me, commented that I’d lost weight and looked great and I glanced over at Laurie and laughed again, “Lost weight, gained weight. All depends when you saw me last.” and the two of them laughed harder having seen each other a few years earlier and a few pounds lighter. Same struggles, different decade.

The majority of us had attended Lake Harriet Elementary school, most starting kindergarten in 1967, I started in 1968 and Doreen, the youngest attendee being a 1969 kindergartner who looked exactly like the little girl Buffy from the show Family Affair (with ringlet pigtails) when she started school. Though the school was physically gone by the time we entered high school, one of our lunch friends currently resides in the home she was raised in, located across the street from the massive brick structure my own grandmother had attended. Her renovated childhood home located diagonally from my block, the other two corners being where responsible sixth-graders stood as school safety patrols and lowered their flags to grant me safe passage on a daily basis.

There we were; infants of the sixties, school kids of the seventies and all having graduated on the cusp of the eighties. High school graduates before most of us had heard the word “aerobic” and at a time when Ayds was a dietary candy to be taken with a hot beverage, a half hour before meals and AIDS was not yet coined as the name for a sexually transmitted plague. We were a new generation of women with Title IX rights. In addition to Typing (later useful for keyboarding), Clothing (sewing) and Foods (cooking) classes we could take Metals, Woods and Electricity classes, once considered the trades classes for boys. Thirty-five years later all of these basic skills classes that provided one with the capacity to sew on a button and press a shirt before a job interview or prepare a nutritional meal on a budget, even classes that taught one how to simply follow directions to complete a basic task in an office or factory setting are gone. A multi-million-dollar renovation and addition to our 75 year-old Alma mater has added dance studios, put a greater emphasis on the arts and offers computer coding, now considered the skill that one might learn while a high school student that could lead to employment beyond graduation. Most of us did not touch a computer before we graduated, ditto for the majority of our teachers.

Teachers; we reminisced about the ones we loved, the ones we feared and the ones that reminded us that we were in fact skipping class when they encountered us in the hallway. There were the ones whose children were our classmates, the ones who coached us, the ones that encouraged us, the ones who prepared us for college, believed in us and were well suited to their careers. There were the ones who seemed miserable, hated their jobs, likely hated us and took pleasure in tormenting our classmates who really didn’t want to be there in the first place. My childhood neighbor shared an amusing anecdote about being a server at a country club and being invited to a coworkers home for drinks after work, only to realize that her coworkers “boyfriend” was actually a despised teacher.

We were a  mixed-bag of women, many of us the youngest (read “least supervised”) of our families. Some of us were involved in student activities, while others cut class frequently, hung out with older kids, pushed the envelope and took part in risky behavior. None of it mattered, then or now to us, we were kids with friendships forged in youth that treated each other kindly. One girl mentioned that she quit ordering yearbooks because of the unkind remarks other classmates wrote in them. When another asked for an example she tossed out “Titless Wonder” as one of the more repeatable torments, when asked who said that I realized he was the same guy that thought it appropriate to opine on my breast size (too big apparently) like some perverse male Goldilocks looking for “just right”. Neither of us realizing his Napoleon complex, his insecurity that he lost four inches whenever  he took off his Hockey Skates. I’m sad to say that he likely continues to take out his “shortcomings” as a Minneapolis Police Officer.

We discussed relationships; long marriages, divorces, remarriages, children, grandchildren, even Godchildren. We discussed death; former classmates, siblings, parents and God forbid those who had endured the loss of children. We inquired about our friends siblings and learned that not only relationships of choice sometimes end but even those of blood are sometimes severed when maintaining the bond is no longer healthy and amputation of a limb  of the family tree is the best option.  We talked about work, travel, moving, pets, concerts, camping and the ache that comes when children grow up, gain their independence, lead their own exciting lives and leave us with an empty space that we might lack the collagen to have close quickly and naturally and the choices we have about how to manually fill those open spaces. Nothing we said was shocking or judged or remotely evaluated. It simply was. We learned of those battling illness, those who we lost due to lifestyle choices, those who regained their footing after epic challenges, the wild youth who embraced sobriety as adults. We championed the triumphs of our peers and used each other to connect the dots and locate where some of our other lost childhood friends had landed. We confused names, described physical attributes and referenced addresses based on the family names of others who lived nearby. When I mentioned Kennesaw Drug and then said “It became Butler Drug” one of the women nodded “Where I got caught shoplifting.” I laughed recalling that my own dalmatian had entered the store one hot summer day and exited with an 8-pak of Snickers that had been on display in baskets along the lower shelves in the candy aisle. Kids and canines of the neighborhood all had some experience linked to the store. I remember my brother’s friend getting caught for stealing Hot Wheels it’s where shampoos and cosmetics we learned about from Teen magazine could be procured or you could sample perfumes. There was a pharmacy in the back and their delivery car was a Volkswagen beetle with a cartoon image of pharmacist “Herbie” on the side, it was across from the Tom Thumb “superette” where you could purchase milk in returnable jugs or purchase cigarettes with a note from your parents. Hell, it was an era where you pretty much could do anything with a note from your parents. One of the attendees took her little sister to Canada (while in high school) on a Greyhound bus and was reminded to “bring a note from your parents next time.” Hell, we could do nearly anything, including leave the country without a note from our parents.

Long before a TV show made a zip code synonymous with Beverly Hills, we were the women of Minneapolis 55410, we walked the same lake paths that Mary Tyler Moore immortalized during the opening credits of her TV show. We attended Story Hour in the iconic Carnegie-era Linden Hills Library, resplendent with leaded glass windows, built-in  benches and story-book tiled fireplace. We played SWAC sports at Linden Hills or Pershing Park and went to the Tastee Treet for cones afterwards  or the DQ (which we could see from our table) which closed in just the past couple of months, close enough to the high school to grab lunch at during the allotted half an hour, IF you were willing to eat while walking.

For over two hours, there was no lull in conversation, not even when the food came. We were noisy! We spoke loudly, we interrupted, interjected but mostly we laughed. We misheard, asked for clarifications, jumped conversations. We heard about wedding plans, impending grandchildren and retirement ideas. We agreed to not wait so long to get together again.

We were girls of the transistor radio era, we had listened to American Top 40 together while swatting mosquitoes. Later we tanned at Lake Harriet or skated to those same songs at the Roller Gardens in St. Louis Park, a suburb which provided many of my friends with their boyfriends. Sometimes they were older boys whose tastes in alcohol, music and muscle cars made them an appealing option.

We started our school careers as girls who wore dresses and being Minnesotans we wore pants under them to and from school during the coldest months. Our teachers were the edgy women  who marshaled in the revolutionary pantsuit which in the 1970’s did not consist of a jacket and pants at all but rather a dress that came with coordinating pants of the same fabric. Basically, these fashion monstrosities were the grown women rebelling by wearing pants under their dresses, just like the girls did on the the playground. We were exposed to lots of rebellion during our youth, with older siblings returning from Vietnam; boys grew their hair out, marijuana smoke wafted in public venues, music lyrics grew more graphic and the girls of Linden Hills mimicked the culture of our youth. Some of us followed the rules and some of us rebelled against rules, teachers, parents and laws.

We sat and talked about nearly everything but politics. A refreshing change of pace from a year of divisiveness. Some joked about their therapy. One is a full-time seminary student, having raised her kids and having finally found time for herself. While talking about the pro’s and cons of getting another dog, another joked that she hated to be cliche but she (a lesbian) owns two cats. While a divorcee with two adult children talked about her and her partner of three years going out for a birthday celebration another woman inquired “did you know in high school?” and before she could respond I jumped in “I don’t think that was really considered an option then.” to which she agreed. They talked about the other girls we grew up with whom they thought were likely lesbians as well. I marveled a bit that the last time I’d encountered these women the word “partner” had the singular connotation of being the person you were paired with for badminton or tennis.

We are no longer the little girls who went to school together, were antagonized by the same boys, who hung out at the same parks and venues.  We are all grown up and became the women we wanted to become. Not the ones that others had supposed us to be or shamed us into pretending we were. We’re the women who not only don’t wear pants under our dresses, we’re the women who don’t have to wear dresses if we don’t choose to, the women who could choose not to comb our hair if we don’t want to. We grew into the best versions of those sassy, silly, sneaky and snarky little girls and regardless of how different we are, we all have each others backs and appreciate each other for our shared beginnings. We have moved, we have traveled but we have in our DNA the water of Lake Harriet, the appreciation of the Indians who settled on the shores of Lake Calhoun and whom the original students of Southwest selected as their mascot and an abiding thankfulness that our parents opted to raise us in Minneapolis 55410. Hope to see you ladies all again soon (Golden Friends)!

 

Standard
Blogging, childhood, sports, Uncategorized

Super Bowl – You Betcha

I hate to say it but were it not for living in a cold climate, I might not even follow pro-football. Yet, as someone who has lived the majority of my life in Minnesota (and a couple of years in Wisconsin) it’s a pastime whose bulk of the season takes place during our coldest, darkest, snow-covered weekends. While I most enjoy watching players doing their jobs in locales where they can see their breath, it does feel like a mini-vacation when a game is played somewhere sunny and warm and tailgating doesn’t require snow-pants and I imagine the fans smell of sunscreen.

Attached you will see the picture of my Superbowl. That’s right, that’s the vessel that typically holds the Tostitos, yesterday it was the bite-sized, sometimes it’s Scoops. If I plan in advance, occasionally it holds ripple chips, a sturdy transport for my homemade onion dip that is best made a day prior to consumption.

I have been a lifelong Vikings’ fan but with one peculiarity among most of my peers. I have a healthy respect for the Green Bay Packers, as I love the loyalty of their fans and have many friends who bleed green and gold. I also admire them for playing outside, the way the Vikings did when I first started watching them.

I’ll be honest, that I remember football being confusing as a kid, I recall watching games on black and white televisions where it was necessary to know if you were cheering for the light jerseys or the dark jerseys. Yet, I began watching football in an era when many fell in love with the Vikings!

The year I started kindergarten is the year the Vikings won their first division title. The following year, they won the title and their first ever play-off game and went on to their first ever Superbowl game which they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23 – 7. By the time I was in third grade the Vikings had won four consecutive division championships, meaning they’d held the title for half of my lifetime! What’s not to love?

The Vikings went on to lose two more Superbowls while I was attending elementary school. Followed by their fourth loss while I was in the eighth grade. It was an era of winters where I proudly wore my purple winter hat with the gold and white pom-pom on it and the Vikings logo patch sewn on up front. I wore it on my walk to school, I wore it when shoveling snow and I wore it while ice skating with friends at Linden Hills Park and on the rink at Lake Harriet. I even wore it in Wisconsin when I snowmobiled. I came to realize over the years that no amount of Vikings-apparel-wearing impacted the outcome of their seasons. My purchase of the Wild Card sweatshirt while working at Winona State during the ’87 season (probably the result of some euphoric pro-sports high after the Twins World Series victory) did not garner a victorious outcome. My most recent sweatshirt purchase for a party when the Vikings played the Saints for a 2009 NFC championship loss didn’t create good karma either. You may recall that last game mentioned as the era where the Saints did not behave like Saints but were incentivized to injure players with a bounty. Some thought it was wonderful they beat the Vikings because New Orleans was still recovering from hurricane Katrina and others thought that rewarding cheating and being poor role models blemished their eventual Superbowl Victory. Choosing to be an optimist, I look at each Vikings apparel purchase not as a means to ensure a win but rather as a wardrobe item that makes getting dressed for several Sundays each year an effortless task.

The Vikings have been having a bit of a dry patch, a spell only four years shy of the length of the Cold War. I’ve looked forward to having a couple of beers and watching the Viking’s play in a Superbowl game. I was thirteen the last they made a Superbowl appearance. Gerald Ford was packing up and preparing to move out of the White House. Fran Tarkenton was nearing the end of his second reign as the team quarterback and was less than a decade from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

This season began as another hopeful one, undefeated in the first five games it seemed like this was “our year” but any true Vikings’ fan knows that it is when a season appears to be going our way, heck even when a game seems to be going our way, the Vikings are able to lose a great lead in the waning minutes like no other. This is especially true when the stakes are high! If there is an opportunity to clutch defeat from what appears to be an obvious victory, the Vikings are notorious for it. Perhaps it builds character, puts the whole thing in perspective of “it’s only a game.”. The Vikings have allowed us to raise our children humble and learn not to take things for granted. The Vikings have taught us how to love family, even when the members disappoint us and we’d like to give up on them. Sometimes in life, if you want to bathe yourself in Gatorade you are going to need to pour it on yourself because even though you gave your best, you simply were outplayed, outsmarted or outscored.

With my own children in their twenties, they see pro-football as a tradition of Dad napping on the couch, Mom yelling at the TV and our family dog looking for a handout. As young kids they went along with the annual ritual of the season, lured in by Velveeta-based concoctions and midday pizzas. Once my son became a pescatarian the Hormel Chili-based temptation no longer worked. Instead of viewing regular season games, they would watch the Superbowl for the food, the commercials and halftime show, tolerating the intermittent interruptions of football game. Teams to cheer for were selected by jersey color, a disliked team member to cheer against or varied pop culture reasons such as being married to a hot super model. What do you expect? It’s been four decades since their “home team” has even been in a Superbowl.

Crockpot.jpg

Yesterday my daughter and her roommate came by after work to participate in the American tradition of the Superbowl. The disappointments did not come (for us) from the plays on the field but rather from a lack of Clydesdales and puppies and too many previously seen commercials. The bright spots included both the Justin Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy ads, the Honda CRV celebrities yearbook commercial and the series of amusingly awkward T-Mobile promotions.

The main attraction was actually gathering around the crockpots, a midwestern custom akin to gathering around a campfire. This act is less about warmth and survival and more about salty and savory concoctions that could be made any day of the year but cardiologists recommend against it. Totino’s pizza rolls in the oven at halftime and even the most cynical sports fan has something to celebrate!

The halftime show did not disappoint. It was an energetic spectacular. As a Minnesotan I am keenly aware of our most recent Superbowl legacy. In 1992 we hosted and the halftime show remains an epic embarassment. If you have time and don’t recall the winter wonderland themed showcase that seemed better suited to a 1970’s variety show than a major sporting event, I encourage you to look it up. The opportunity to regain our dignity is upon us, as we are on deck to host the 2018 Superbowl. While it seems inevitable that we will have some sort of tribute to Prince, I’ll be anxious to see who is selected to perform. How amazing might it be to have the Vikings compete with home field advantage? Shoot, I hope that didn’t jinx them.

While the game yesterday was unlike any former Superbowl with a huge comeback and firstever brief overtime, I’m going to say that the final outcome was that my daughter and her roommate were the winners. Sure, maybe it wasn’t the Lombardi trophy they took but they did not leave empty handed. The crockpots were emptied and we sent them home with Rotel-dip, Hormel dip, Italian meatballs in marinara, an unopened bag of Scoops. We Vikings fans may not have a Superbowl title but we have our traditions none the less!

Standard