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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic School’

How to properly apologize should be an AP course in high school. Especially for boys, who seem to barrel through life taking no prisoners, like they are entitled to step on a few toes along the way. Girls and women apologize too much and too easily; what are we so sorry about anyway? “Excuse this mess…Sorry for the inconvenience…Please accept my…” You might think we were born with a need to make excuses for taking up space!

Certainly my Catholic education prepared me for a lifetime network worth of apologies. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those nuns had us feeling guilty for any minor indiscretion, and made us write, “I’m sorry and I will never do X again” a thousand times on a blackboard. In proper cursive mind you. No wonder we all vied for the privilege of erasing the blackboard after school.

Bob and I watched the Cohen hearing with eyes wide open: I thought it was an act of redemption, while Bob focused on the broken-record belittling by the GOP. The most absurd moment came when Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a Black woman standing in a white cape behind him. Rep Rashida Tlaib lashed out at this pathetic attempt to prove our Commander in Comedy is NOT racist because he hired her. Tlaib scolded:

Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaid said. “And it is insensitive, and some would even say that the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee”—here she took a heavy sigh—”is alone racist in itself.”

Well did he take umbrage? Of course, he didn’t like this woman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, suggesting that he pulled a racist stunt. HOW DARE SHE! So she immediately apologized in a polite, that wasn’t my intent way, “To my colleague, Mr. Meadows, that was not my intention, and I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like. But I said ‘someone’ in general.” This is called a hedging your bets apology.

OK so I understand it takes a lot of guts for a freshman/woman legislator to call that old white guy to task in a public hearing, and it certainly takes a good amount of grace to apologize and later hug it out. But this morning the Twitterverse would like HIM to apologize to HER. We all know that will never happen, but what if it did?

May I present exhibit A on how to apologize… the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

In 2017 he delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Commons apologizing for the dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ service members and other government employees throughout the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t the common, half-baked apology, “If I managed to offend your poor little ego I regret it, it was not my intention…” Which is basically a “I’m really the good guy here and you need to grow a pair” kind of non-apology apology.

It was a good and proper apology, one that my old nuns would approve of, if they ever accepted the human race as sexual. It was eloquent and moving, hitting all the right notes, and I happened to read it again on a quilt last weekend. You can read the text here: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-english-text-of-prime-ministers-apology-to-members-of-lgbtq-community

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Long flowing hair…

“I want long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided
Powered, flowered and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spahettied”
Read more: Hair – Hair Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Here are the things my mother, the Flapper, told me about my hair:
“Get it out of your eyes.”
“Brush it every night.”
“It’s your crowning glory.”
“You have to suffer to be beautiful,” while pulling tight on my braids. A message I did not internalize.

She never told me to cover it, unless it was cold outside. I’ve been thinking about hair because of FLOTUS’ scarf-gate. Y’all knew I’d have to write about it, that place where feminism, culture and religion intersect. To simply say it’s much ado about nothing, another political prank, is the obvious reaction. After all, we see Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton sitting, heads uncovered, with the Saudi royals. Oh, and that time when FLOTUS did cover her head in Indonesia? She was inside a mosque; similar to going to the Vatican to meet the Pope with a doily on top of your head. You pay some respect right?

But even as a child in Sacred Heart Church with a beanie or a doily on my head, I thought it odd that men had to take OFF their hats for Mass! Children are really good at spotting inequality. Back when men wore hats all the time, they would customarily doff them for a woman. It was a sign of respect, a greeting, “Top of the Mornin” and all that.

So what is it about our hair ladies that’s got severely religious Muslim and Orthodox Jews wanting us to cover up whenever we venture outside? From an Hermes scarf for an Arab princess, to the burka for a Persian schoolteacher. Granted with Hasidim the women can wear elaborate wigs that probably look even better than any hair style I could create with ten children hanging on my skirts. Aha, that’s it! Think about it…

It’s really not about our hair, it’s not that we wouldn’t want them to see our beautiful, long, flowing hair. Hair down to there hair. It’s about control. And it’s not that the men in these religious communities/countries wouldn’t be able to control themselves when confronted by our hair.

It’s all about controlling our bodies. And in this country, religion and state are separate, so our government cannot tell us: not to use birth control; not to drive a car; not to leave the house without a man; not to shake hands with a man we do not know; and on and on. Although some legislators in our government would like to limit our access to reproductive health care, would like their religious views imposed on us. But we, the female people, have prevailed so far, so good.

And as for Michelle Obama? Well played First Lady, well played.

Rag Curls before SHS

Rag Curls before SHS

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Yesterday was Bastille Day, so happy holiday to our French friends belatedly. I love following the Instagram pictures of the French student we hosted one summer, who is now a lawyer and mother of two young boys in Paris. Her shots are miniature art works: a still life of different flowers in bud vases; a building in the south with violet shutters; the backs of her boys in shorts entering a garden with dappled light; or the colorful play of fresh vegetables on her kitchen table “Retour de marche.”

Whenever I see Stephanie’s children, I think of Madeline.

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

She is turning 75 this year and is currently on exhibit at The New York Historical Society. “The Art of Ludwig Bemelman” will be shown until November 19 and then travel to Amherst, MA. “Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, has continued his grandfather’s work with three more books of Madeline’s adventures. He says that Madeline is not French, but a real New Yorker.” http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28233820

Ludwig Bemelman immigrated to the USA in 1914 from Austria-Hungary. Because his mother was German, he was not allowed to go overseas in WWI, though he did serve in the Army. He was assigned to a mental hospital in upstate NY where he nearly suffered a mental breakdown.

He saved himself by creating what he called “islands of security”: “I have started to think in pictures and make myself several scenes to which I can escape instantly when the danger appears,” he wrote in a memoir, “instant happy pictures that are completely mine, familiar, warm, and protective.”

Like Bemelman, I will often see my prose in pictures first. He considered himself more of an artist and less of a writer, and like many artists he had to support himself over the years by working in the real world, and in his case it was the hotel industry. His first Madeline book was published at the cusp of WWII.

I find it fascinating that his red headed girl in the yellow hat was always the one in 13 girls who did not fit into her convent school life – she had a personality and some spunk. It’s as if he took a New York schoolgirl and dropped her into Paris to deal with an ancient regime, because God knows nobody likes what happened to France during the war. Whenever Madeline left her house covered in vines, in two straight lines of girls, we always knew she was in for an adventure. And we always knew she would step out of line. I must remember to get the first book for my Love Bug to read!

Here is a self portrait of my beautiful sister Kay, a gorgeous artist who also worked in the health industry, and sent her daughter to the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The school was founded by French speaking nuns in 1881. Thank you Kay for putting me up, and putting up with me, during Sue’s shiva. Your apartment was my island of security in NYC.

My Sister Kay

My Sister Kay

I believe we red headed girls think alike.

 

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hr-angels-600x320“I think my guardian angel drinks.” This just popped up on my Facebook feed. It made me smile, not guffaw mind you, but it also made me think of Virginia Woolf’s famous advice to women writers. She instructed us to, “Kill the Angel in the House.”

By the Angel, Woolf meant the female — more specifically, the mother and wife — whose role in life was to be the gracious hostess-cook-and-mender, smoother-over of family tensions, and graceful supporter of the endeavors of husband and (male) children. Woolf had to kill the Angel, she said, because its top priority is self-suppression and conciliation, while to write one has to display “what you think to be the truth…” reblogged from “YeahWriters” on Tumblr

Granted Woolf was raised during the Victorian era, and started writing between the two great wars of the last century; and then there’s that messy part about her suicide at the age of 59 in 1941. When I was younger, I was slightly afraid of reading Woolf, like depression might be catchy and if I wasn’t strong enough… Still I often thought about her dictum to have a room of my own. In particular when I was trying to meet a deadline in the corner of my dining room with the Rocker’s band in the garage before the Bride had to be picked up from field hockey. Oh, and what would we do for supper?

Do women ever work – either inside or outside the home – without all those crazy household and childcare thoughts buzzing around in their heads? You know that men do not have those same thoughts while working; I dare you to find me the man who is wondering about his (insert anything we worry about here – child’s ear infection, dry cleaning, dog’s vet appointment, grocery shopping) while he is at work. When my wise mentor Great Grandma Ada headed off to get her Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling while her boys were still in school, I remember her telling me how she wished she could sit on the porch, like Lucy, her housekeeper/nanny, and snap peas with her youngest. But she had a Wild Heart, she cut her teeth on Betty Friedan, and so she left the Angel in the capable hands of Lucy. Ada was lucky, most women in the 60s didn’t have a surrogate homemaker.

Betty’s bible said, “Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.”

I find it disheartening that in this day and age the Angel in the House is still so much a part of us. Women are asked interview questions that are never asked of men with families. Even the top CEOs in business will make only 69% of her male counterparts. “Low expectations based on external factors like gender or race, rather than on personal skill sets, are particularly pernicious. Ambition (that Wild Heart) depends on belief in oneself, which requires recognition and reinforcement by others.”

And there’s the rub, the problem that two journalists, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, tackled in a recent Atlantic article titled, “The Confidence Gap.” http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/the-confidence-gap/359815/ Why is it most women don’t believe in themselves, or they downplay their promotion by saying they were just lucky; while demonstrating competence, why do we lack confidence? OK, so if you went to Catholic school it was kind of a sin to be too full of yourself. Still, it’s impossible to sum up Kay and Shipman’s research, but let’s just say it’s a combination of nature and nurture.

And the Angel in the House. It’s hard to feel confident when you’re juggling a home with children and a full time job. When women my age were defying their mothers and entering the work force, I often heard them opine, reluctantly for a “wife.” Because they knew beyond all doubt that no one would pick up the slack of laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning, getting up in the middle of the night with a sick child, nobody. If they wanted something done, they had to ask for it because it just wasn’t in a man’s sphere of thought. “Honey, you’ll be at such and such a place at 5, could you pick up the kid, please?”

This Angel was always in our head. I was taught my guardian angel lived on the tip of a pin, I had no idea it could fly right into my brain! It’s about time we banished her, make her a margarita and bid her “Adieu!”

It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her…And when I came to write I encountered her with the very first words. The shadow of her wings fell on my page; I heard the rustling of her skirts in the room. I turned upon her and caught her by the throat. I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self–defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing. Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality…Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer. Virginia Woolf

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1993 A farm in PA

1993 A farm in PA

When I first joined Facebook, I thought it was a bunch of solipsistic nonsense, and I said so, all the while encouraging my friends to join. Why? Because for me, the youngest of 6 children to be raised as an only child, it seemed prudent. My foster mother didn’t know how to drive and she was old enough to be my grandmother – which in those days was really old! I was marooned, on top of a hill in Victory Gardens after the war, and to top it off I was sent to Catholic school.

Facebook was a way for me to reconnect; to see all the new baby cousins, to catch up with old friends, to stay in touch with our French summer student. Plus, it could interface with my blog!

Yet something was amiss. My friends noticed it too. And it’s not just people accounting for every minute of their day, or all the targeted ads popping up. It was all this preening in front of a camera, young people changing their profile pictures like you would change your clothes. The nuns would not have approved. And yet, here we are at the end of 2013, and President Obama is taking a “selfie” with David Cameron and Denmark’s Prime Minister, Helle Thorning Schmidt: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/12/10/250027162/to-thy-own-selfie-be-true-but-not-in-all-places-at-all-times

Now who am I to say where one should take a selfie? After all, even our Person of the Year, the dear Pope Francis himself, allowed his selfie to be taken with a trio of Italian teenagers. He said he wanted to meet with them “…for selfish reasons … because you have in your heart a promise of hope.You are bearers of hope. You, in fact, live in the present, but are looking at the future. You are the protagonists of the future, artisans of the future,” the pope told the pilgrims.

“Make the future with beauty, with goodness and truth…Have courage. Go forward. Make noise.”

Well I certainly think it takes courage to attempt to take a selfie and post it anywhere on social media! Once I learned to actually push that little circular button to turn the lens around in my iPhone, I had to practice . Before, I might have snapped a picture in a mirror. Now I must hold the phone at arm’s length and attempt to push the button with the same hand – all the while getting into the “right” light and avoiding a double chin! Still a nearly impossible task.

As we are about to close 2013 and perhaps leave the word “selfie” on the scrap heap of history, I hope we can all laugh at my family selfies – a tasteful tutorial from the kids, and my feeble attempts at last weekend’s hospital party. OH, and at the top of this post is the latest profile picture for Facebook, which brings us into the 1990s with my Pretty Woman polka dot dress.

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Something psychedelic has been happening lately on Facebook. A friend from my high school’s Class of ’66 issued a challenge to her classmates to change our profile picture to our teenage self, preferably sporting that iconic hairstyle, the flip. Our generation bridged the gap between the long, straight hair type and the teased within an inch of your life Peggy Sue Got Married type. And nestled right there inbetween the greatest social changes imaginable, lots of us wore the flip with impunity.   CLR High School Web 20131107

Once your virtual self looks sixteen again, memories start floating back. I entered a public high school fresh out of Catholic school. My hair was the least of my worries. I had a severe case of poison ivy on my face Freshman year, and I only knew a few people. The bulk of Sacred Heart grads went on to a Catholic high school; I put my foot down. I was tired of memorizing Catechism. A girl named Margie introduced me to a boy named Bob and from that moment on my fate was sealed.

We sat together at the ‘nerd’ lunch table, which at that prehistoric, precomputer time meant the outliers. Those kids who didn’t play a sport, didn’t wear black leather, didn’t fit in. What we did like to do was drama club, so we would try out for all the plays and look dramatic over tuna fish sandwiches. Our town was salt of the earth blue collar, but most of this lunch table was headed for college. My counselor put me on track for secretarial school, so even though I wasn’t in many of their classes, they accepted me. We were brothers and sisters in Terpsichore.

Some of us became the Big Chill Thanksgiving troupe, gathering again year after year over turkey and cranberry sauce. Too bad my eyes are closed.12156_101119189911809_6561742_n

And it may be hard to believe, but we had a student at our school who suffered from polio. Before the ADA, this girl had to be home-schooled because she was in a wheelchair. I knew she lived in Victory Gardens, and that was all I knew about her. I remembered being lined up at Sacred Heart in the hallway, having to swallow some pink liquid. This was the first polio vaccine, and so I guess our generation bridged that gap as well.

Bob was just telling me how polio is making a comeback mostly because of war-torn Syria. How health officials can’t cross borders to get the vaccine to millions of children. He said it was nearly eradicated world-wide, a gem in the WHO world, and now this creeping viral outbreak.

Following reports of a cluster of 22 acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases on 17 October 2013 in the Syrian Arab Republic, wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) – See more at: http://www.polioeradication.org/Dataandmonitoring/Poliothisweek.aspx#sthash.FoP4dKlo.dpuf

Polio doesn’t need a mosquito as a vector, it is passed from person to person which makes it imminently treatable, and even more deadly. On this #ThrowbackThursday, let’s flip this disease around. Consider giving a charitable gift to Unicef this holiday season to help refugee children, to help contain this epidemic. http://www.unicef.org.au/charity-gifts/polio-preventers.aspx

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