Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dress Codes

                Interestingly, and gratefully, my children are helping me slay my prejudices.  Let me begin by saying I am a liberal, open-minded person who prides myself on being progressive and accepting of alternate beliefs.  But I met my match when it came to discussions about dress codes.  You see, I identify with the ‘old-timers’ who want to regulate the garments that students wear to school.  I feel compelled to agree that revealing clothing is inappropriate in the school setting. 

But my kids (mainly my son) have made the effort to explain an alternate viewpoint to me. That maybe, just maybe, the whole ‘modesty’ ideal is simply based on shame. Maybe the idea that what a woman (or girl) wears has NO bearing on ANYTHING other than being a vehicle of self-expression, or as a way to be comfortable, or as a reflection of who they see themselves to be. My kids have endeavored to show me that the clothing a woman chooses, no matter how skimpy or small, is NOT an excuse for inappropriate behavior.  Moreover, it is very possible that by holding girls to different dress codes than boys, that we are perpetuating gender inequality and fueling the prejudice against women. 

Admittedly, it has been hard for me to totally accept this idea.  But the more I read, and the more I discuss it with my children and other young people, I’ve begun to understand their perspective.  I’ve begun to understand that my fears – that society’s fears – fuel the sexism behind dress codes and perpetuate a culture that objectifies women.  Perhaps every time we suggest that a female is dressing provocatively we are actually supporting and growing a culture of victim blaming.

As a very young person (maybe eight?), I had an awful experience swimming at a lake.  My baby-sitter had taken my brother and me to go swimming at a resort – such a treat for children growing up in raining Washington State! While the baby-sitter stayed with my brother, I went in to the girls’ bathroom to change into my swimming suit – which happened to be a bikini.  Now, I have no recollection of buying the swim suit, or if I wanted a two-piece as opposed to a one-piece.  Honestly, I lived in WA state….I didn’t do a lot of swimming. For all I know, it was a hand-me-down.

After donning my suit, as I walked to meet my baby-sitter and brother, two older boys (maybe 14-15?) blocked my path, stopping me. Leering, one of the boys said, “I’ll give you 5 bucks for a f*ck”.  Um, I didn’t even know what he meant. I was eight!  But what I DID know is he creeped me out and I felt deeply ashamed.  I immediately felt like I had done something wrong.  

Of course, the reality of the situation is that the boy was crass, inappropriate, and abusive to a young girl.  But at eight, with no adult to tell me otherwise, I blamed myself. In fact, I was too ashamed to tell anyone what had happened. Then I carried that experience with me, believing I needed to protect myself. Believing my clothing choices could control the inappropriate actions of the people around me.  Looking back I understand the situation much differently. Yet, even now, I still cling to the belief that modest dress is a protection.  

That’s the problem.  Why are we expecting women to protect themselves from men? Why are we still insisting that women are somehow culpable for inappropriate sexual comments or advances? Why are we still insinuating that if only she dressed like ‘a nice girl’ this wouldn’t have happened? Why are we holding female students to different standards than male students?  Why are we not addressing the REAL problem – the fact that as a society, as a culture, we still undervalue, we still undermine, we still blame women.  

Europe as a whole has a much more relaxed view on sexuality and dress.  Nudity is far more accepted, as are ‘diminished’ clothing choices.  The antiquated ideas in the USA about appropriate dress have not improved our country’s incidence of rape. Researchers found that an average of 7.5 percent of women worldwide REPORT sexual assault in their lifetimes. In the USA that figure is higher:  13% (  Clearly, covering up doesn’t stave off criminal behavior.

The other aspect to this discussion revolves around sexual power.  We continually throw out the images of women as sexually powerful; scantily clad and dominating – on the stage, on the screen, in the tabloids.  We are fed this imagery at an early age, from cartoons, in children’s programming (, movies, and more.  If as a society we are continually canonizing women as beautiful, powerful, sexual creatures, how can we possibly also blame them for having those qualities?  What damage are we doing to our young people by sending these mixed messages? 

I still dress modestly myself and I still cringe at some of the clothing choices my 20 year old daughter makes.  I admit to passing judgment on many of the outfits I see girls wearing at my children’s school. But I’m working on it.  I’m working on shifting my perception from judgment based on shame and blame.  I’m working on seeing what the younger generation is much more adept at seeing: that men and women, girls and boys, are equally powerful and culpable, and that no amount of undress justifies inappropriate behavior. That we all have bodies…believe it or not, they are all mostly the same. Girl parts are girl parts, and boy parts are boy parts.  Ho hum.  Let’s move on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In everything, give thanks

That is the saying posted over my back door. Most of the time, I do heed it. After all, I have so much to be thankful for! Though sometimes I take the big things for granted and just simply miss the little things. So it is good to have a day like Thanksgiving, to slow down and take time to remember all of the amazing things - big and small - that I am thankful for.


I'm grateful for my car. It gets crappy gas mileage, but it takes us where we want to go and we would be so limited without it! I'm grateful it's heater and air conditioners work, that all the doors close securely and that the speedometer is dead on.

I'm thankful for my children because they make me a better person. They remind me to laugh and to not forget the beauty in mud or the hilarity of life. They are my raison da etre and bring me immeasurable joy.

I'm grateful for having enough food, for a warm home, for clothing, and computers and books. All of these things I regularly take for granted, but use everyday. There are too many people who don't even have a simple warm bed to call their own. And while I tend to hate cooking, I am ever so grateful to be able to afford the food that keeps us healthy, well, and full.

I'm thankful for my friends, the close ones and the acquaintances. It is through relationships that I discover myself and am able to become a better person. These are special gifts only friends can give.

I'm grateful for my animal friends, too. They love me unconditionally - and, believe me, sometimes that ain't no small feat.

I'm very thankful for knees that work. While I am not able to play the sports that I love, I am able to walk. Walking is a huge gift! I never realized just how important and special it is until I was unable to take the dog for a walk or go to the zoo with my kids. I will never overlook the value of walking again!

I'm so grateful for pretzels! My low fat, high crunch, salty snack that keeps my hips in check. Yum!

I'm thankful that I live at a time when people are nurturing their social responsibility and coupling it with integrity and action to mold our world into all it can be - for all of us. I'm thankful I live in this great country where women have rights and a vote, where we are free to worship in whatever manner we choose and where hard work and diligence can lead almost anywhere.

I'm grateful for the checker in Ralphs. I've read her name four thousand times, but can't remember it. Yet she remembers me and even though weeks often go by between my grocery visits, when I meet her she is full of stories and questions and general good cheer. I used to be embarrassed by all the acquaintances I collect (my children are thoroughly embarrassed....."Mom, is there ANYONE you don't know or talk to??") but now I see how those seemingly silly little conversations connect us all, drawing us closer, and help me to see just how ordinary and extraordinary life is.

I am thankful for my teeth. They have caused me great pain and way too much money, but I can not imagine my life without them.

I am grateful for FaceBook, and Blogspot, and email. My life would seem tiny and isolated without being able to connect to the wonderful, rich array of people in my life via the Internet. I know we lived without it once, but no way I could do without it now!

Perhaps most of all, I'm thankful for time. Time with my family, old and young, close and distant. Time on my own, to preserve my sanity. Time to make amends when I've screwed up and time to start anew. Time to discover more about myself and time to learn more about others. Time to read, to play, to exercise and to sleep. Time enough to live and enjoy this wondrous, sad, breathtaking, horrifying, incredible, joyous adventure called life!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Zombies for Breakfast

I don't know about you, but I regularly have the pleasure of breakfasting with two Zombies. Yes, teenagers who have stayed up too late the night before and must choke down some sustenance prior to heading to school. The good thing - and the bad thing - about Zombies is they don't talk much. They tend to stare off into space as their eggs get cold on their plates.
Occasionally I see a glimmer of the children they were prior to their son will look up and ask, "Mom? Can we stop and buy DnD dice on the way home today?" or "Where are the spoons?" This last one isn't very comforting, considering the spoons have been kept in the same spot for forever......apparently the process of becoming a Zombie causes some memory loss.....

Another nice thing about eating with Zombies is they eat very to keep. They rarely complain about the food placed before them and robotically return their dishes to the sink.

I do wonder, though, about what that first block at school is like - it is then, I believe, that all of the Zombies are returned to their human selves for the rest of the day. Occasionally, for a hard case, it can take until 3rd block, but I'm told that the awakening can be cacophonous and sensational. Makes me a bit grateful that I don't teach high school!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Triple Ten

I've been wondering how I can transform my love of exercise into something I enjoy now that my long distance jogging days are over. Given that this is the one year anniversary of my first knee surgery and that this past year has been all about my knees, it is appropriate to begin by sharing something about building strong muscles to support knees.
First off, I had no idea how much my knees accepted in the form of punishment prior to their injuries. Luckily, through martial arts, I'd developed strong, supportive leg muscles that helped to stabilize those overworked joints, but as with all things physical when I stopped using them, I started losing them. My initial six week hiatus from doing anything remotely aerobic or strength building following my first surgery rendered me soft, inflexible and generally out of shape. Then came the next surgery and, well, you can see where this left me.
So, now, a year later, I'm busy trying to rebuild those leg muscles, to find a level of cardio that supports my heart yet doesn't wreck my knees, and to work at regaining the flexibility I had just a year ago. Maybe if I share the slow process I'll inspire someone - MYSELF - to keep moving forward even without the joy of sparring!

Triple Ten - what is it? My little alliteration naming my first foray back to health and fitness. It is a simple formula that anyone can follow and, believe it or not, you will get results, especially if you're starting out untrained. I do more than ten of each now, but this is where I started.

First Ten:
Ten minutes of cardio. Cardio is different for everyone. At one time I could jump rope for ten minutes and not really break a sweat......have you tried to jump rope lately? That is some of the best cardio out there! It is no wonder that boxers are always seen jumping rope. If you are out of shape I do NOT recommend jump rope - but keep it in mind for a quick cardio in the future! Ten minutes of brisk walking count for most of us old fogies. But what is brisk? We are not talking a gentle stroll here. Brisk by my standards is walking almost as fast as you feel pull to start jogging. But I hate to jog, you say, so I will never feel that pull! Then you have two options. Carry a metronome (an excellent tool for exercise, believe it or not!) or listen to music that has an upbeat tempo that you can use to pace yourself. Let's be honest: ten minutes of fast walking is very little. If you are at all fit, this will be nothing. At that point we change up the cardio by adding more, faster, or different. But this is the baseline, where I began.....we'll step it up later!

Second Ten:
This Ten relates to muscle building exercises. For me, they focused almost exclusively on lower body, with abs thrown in for good measure. Remember good ole' squats? Did you learn to do them correctly? Very important to do them accurately or you'll hurt your knees far more than you'll help them. Practice by standing in front of a chair with your feet shoulder width apart. Now sit back into the chair......feel how your bum stick out behind you? Your knees never go over your toes. THIS, my friend, is a proper squat. Often, to keep your balance you'll need to put your arms out in front of you as you stick your behind out and sit back......this is perfectly fine, though you may want to close the blinds!! LOL Ten squats to start with sounds like nothing, but done properly - slowly, accurately, with the emphasis on the sit part not the up part - you will feel these the next day.
Ah, but there is more! Ten squats by themselves are not enough. Next is ten step ups with each leg. For a step up you can use a stair, a step stool, a chair or a sturdy phone book. Obviously the more trained you are, the higher the step you would choose and the more reps you'd tackle. To begin with, I used a short step stool, doing only ten on each leg. A metronome would again be helpful here, as a fairly brisk pace will yield better results.
Next, come bum raises. Yup! Lie on your back, bring your heels to the tips of your fingers, put your knees together, now squeeze and raise your bum so that it creates a ramp from your knees to your shoulders. The emphasis is on the UP not the down. Once you can do ten like this, try ten on each leg - raising the opposite leg so that it is extended straight out next to your bent knee. Those are harder! If you can do ten together and ten on each leg, you will soon have buns of steel!
Now Ten for the abs! A strong core means a better supported lower body. Ten regular, bent knee sit ups WITH simultaneous pelvic tilts. A good sit up has bent knees (your outstretched fingertips touch your heels), hands behind your neck with elbows out along your ears (not bent forward by your chin), shoulders NEVER touch the floor. This last part ensures that your abs are engaged the entire time, not resting between sit ups. The pelvic tilt means that you tilt the bottom part of your pelvis up as you squeeze your abs into your sit up. Ten of these are not easy! But once you become used to them, add ten more with hands going through your knees. When I stopped studying kickboxing, I was doing four hundred situps at a time - and I want to get back to that!

All of these exercises can be done sloppily, quickly and without much benefit. Doing them carefully, slowly and correctly, however, will yield benefits!
So, to recap, this Second Ten includes:
10 squats
10 step ups (each leg)
10 bum lifts (add 10 each leg once you are able)
10 sit ups/pelvic tilts (add 10 more of a different type once you are able)

Third Ten:
Stretching! So important! I'm a firm believer that a limber person is a happy, able person. 10 stretches, each held for 25 sec, with a five sec rest, then repeated. I will spend much more time talking about my love of stretching some other day! But the list of ten are as follows:
Seated hamstring stretch (each leg)
Standing quad stretch (each leg)
Standing calf stretch (each leg)
Standing V stretch (center)
Overhead stretch (each direction and out over center)

More on all of this wonderful stuff later! I become too verbose while writing about something I love and I must now go teach Subtraction with Renaming.....oh so much fun! No time to even edit or reread, so sorry if I ramble or make no sense......change tense or point of view. Too much coffee!

Exercise can be a joy of life!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Time to move along - no more bitching, at least for a few days. Time for work! Time for fun! Time to eat! Yum!!

Or perhaps just time to type. Not only is blogging cathartic but it puts off those dreary household chores that never why not? LOL

A friend once told me that the age of 44 was the nadir of your life. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm thinking that my advance toward that palindrome is explaining my scrabbling and struggling. The good thing about approaching that low point is quite soon, I'm sure, the direction of this downswing will turn, climbing upward and onward. See? Life is a parabola! At least that's my theory ;)

If my life can be expressed as a quadratic equation - yes, Téa, all life leads back to quadratics! - then perhaps I am:



a=44, the nadir of life,

b=-2, the balance of the amount of sleep I have each night and,

c=3, the number of my children.

Hence, my life can be represented thus:

Hmmmmm......maybe I should go make another pot of coffee??

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bitch Blog

Yes. You did read that title correctly. Bitch Blog.

Could be referring to the writer - I'm not going to deny that moniker lately. Could be I left off the dated "in!" from the first word, meaning I think a great deal about myself and my words. OR could be that I feel like a good bitch - the verb.

This time of year is reserved for reflecting on the many blessings of our lives. Believe me, I have many, many things to be grateful for. But the more I try to focus on the positive aspects of my present circumstances, the more I feel like bitching. Not particularly pious, I know. But honest, and at least that is something.

Let me begin with my discourse on the state of the economy. In a word, it stinks. Obviously this is not big news, but it seems that just when I hear on the 6am news that we are finally turning it around, two more local stores close and someone else I know loses a job. Salaries are down, expenses are up....for goodness sake, just feeding a family is becoming amazingly expensive! My dollar buys less yet is harder to come by........I am beginning to understand my grandmother's obsession with saving every plastic wrapper, cardboard container, outgrown clothes or dried out bread crusts - just in case we can use it for something and pinch another penny.

That's understandable, right? Everyone is bitching about the economy, especially now with the holidays approaching. But hopefully one day soon money will again flow abundantly through USA veins, making this particular bitch fade into memory. Unfortunately, no amount of monetary infusion will stave off this ugly aging process (see Michael Jackson). Time, that stealthy thief that just can't stop stealing my vitality and health. And it isn't just me! Good Gods! We're all getting old, more decrepit, sluggish, and dim-witted while our once best assets slide to the floor. Yeah, least I have my health. But not all of us do! I'm sick of seeing my loved ones suffering and hurt, unable to live the lives they long for.....unable to just enjoy some of the most basic and simple pleasures. It breaks my heart and makes me bitterly grieved.

Getting older for me has meant more and more dependence on pharmaceuticals......I never envisioned myself as the lady with the lined up medicine bottles. Each and every day, first thing in the morning I have to take a fistful of meds and supplements just to hold the old girl together. How I HATE being dependant on medication every day - for those of you who don't know, I have no thyroid, so must take replacements everyday. Sounds like no big deal.....and I didn't think it WOULD be a big deal back when I said 'Sure! Rip it out!' But now the FDA has halted the production of the natural supplement I use - the one I MUST have to feel even close to right - and I am reduced to buying drugs at exorbitant prices from Canada. Small bitch, really, considering those I know dying of cancer or struggling with life altering disease and trauma. But a daily bitch, one that rankles me every morning and niggles me every afternoon when I start to yawn and wonder if the meds I am taking are truly the strength they claim to be......

Not only am I getting older, but so are my offspring. I am now the proud parent of two teens - my son won't be 13 until January, but believe me, he qualifies. I would rather swallow tacks and face Chinese water torture than to relive my teenage years......I don't envy the trials and lessons that these kids have yet to face. But who knew that parenting teens could be equally harrowing? Conversations about sex and drugs, about gender and hate, about the ugliness in the world that I can no longer shelter them from......yuck. None of it is as easy as it seemed like it would be. Oh, and driving lessons! Good grief! You can not fully appreciate the difficulty of parenting a teen until you sit in the passenger seat while your child narrowly avoids smashing your van into a stop sign. True and total powerlessness - not pretty. Come to think of it, this is probably directly related to the escalation in the aging process that I'm so lucky to be least there is a bit of order to the bitchiness.

I'm lonely. I'm tired. I feel like the brain cells are leaking out of my ear. I eat things like bananas and oatmeal now, which once were reserved in my mind only for babies or old folks without teeth. My vocabulary has been reduced to slang from my childhood and my most technical reading material is a crochet book. Four loads of laundry and dinner in the crock pot means it is a good day. My half marathons have been reduced to half blocks - with pain. I no longer have the pleasure of kicking and punching people, so instead grind my teeth. I can tell you nearly every way to Laguna Beach and to OCHSA from anywhere in Orange County and I probably will try to bum quarters off of you since I keep running out feeding my meters.

The floors are dirty, the bathrooms need to be cleaned, someone should wash the dog,, strip the beds, load the dishes and do the laundry. Can't we just eat cereal this week? For all of our meals? No, I didn't buy milk. Try water.

Sigh. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Me? Probably.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Where are Téa and Dominic?

This is the first thing my seven year old, home schooled, second grader has said to me each morning for almost a week. She seems surprised each day that her siblings aren't here. I admit, it is very different. Quieter, for sure. A little lonely. Yet, somehow, we seem far more busy than ever before.

My oldest two children have entered the public school domain for the first time in their lives. They now attend a public charter school of the arts. Henceforth, they are subject to a bell schedules, school planners, timed tests, and tardy slips. It has been quite a transition for them, having home schooled exclusively for the first 10 and 6 years of their school lives. Téa, my tenth grader, seems to have fallen right into place, having no issue with homework, friends, her schedule or teachers. In fact, I think she rather enjoys the spectacle that high school can be. She painted her nails (black, of course) last night, and covered her belt with orange duck tape to honor her first day of Conservatory classes at OCHSA. OCHSA stands for Orange County High School of the Arts, a school that not only provides a high school education, but allows students to pursue excellence in their field of art. For Téa, that field is creative writing.

For my son, the shift to public school has been a little more bumpy. He has found many kindred spirits to befriend, but the idea of a timed schedule has been a little daunting. He expects so much of himself that trying to please eight teachers instead of just one (me) is a pressure that is new and uncomfortable. But at the tender age of twelve, he has shown much maturity in navigating the bureaucracy that is a high school, changing his class schedule and finding his way through the physical labyrinth of OCHSA. His conservatory is called Integrated Arts, a group that explores many avenues of art, including writing, film making, dance, voice, and acting - his passion.

So, while the mornings are a bit quieter and our schedule now more full with our carpool duties, my youngest - my home schooler - has my undivided attention. The fact that her first question is always about her siblings, though, may not bode well for me!

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