Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rant On

I was all set to write a witty and sarcastic post about drivers in the metro Detroit area when I got into work this morning. Then I opened my email. And I read the news. And suddenly writing jokes about aggressive drivers seemed really petty compared to all the woes facing my community and nation.

If you haven't heard, our dear Governor Granholm vetoed state funding of 39 school districts in Michigan. My children's district is among them. I have no idea how the district is going to deal with this loss, which amounts to around $100,000 per school. As a letter from the superintendent puts it this amount equals the entire transportation budget or nearly 100 teachers. Clearly, you can't cut teachers in the middle of the school year... but you can drop the art, music and sports programs. You can fire the few librarians and library aids left in the district. Our school is down to 2 custodians from about 7 two years ago, so I don't know how we can cut them but I'm sure someone will be going. It's just so frustrating! When will elected officials wake up to the fact that the ONLY way this country will ever be able to compete globally is to have better educated workers? Michigan in particular has never been strong on education, since for generations people could get high paying jobs in auto manufacturing without even a high school diploma. Those days are gone though. Our kids will not be competing against their uneducated neighbors for jobs, they'll be competing against men and women from India, China and Europe who have excellent higher educations. Jeez, my step-daughter is better educated as a senior in a German high school than most American's with a Bachelor's degree!

Of course, Jenny says that it's all the Republican's fault, since they won't raise taxes. She's right that taxes in Michigan must be raised as the deficit is staggering. Less gas and sales tax revenue means the budget is woefully underfunded. But she's mistaken in thinking her strong-arm tactic will have any effect on the Republican Senators she is trying to bully. They don't care if public schools are underfunded, all their kids go to private schools anyway! Education is for those who can afford it, all the rest can go work at Walmart when they're adults.

And then there's the nation. Health care. Deficit. Child abuse. Drunk driving. War. All these problems, so many seem insurmountable. Is it any wonder that the most viewed articles on Yahoo News are about "Dancing with the Stars" and "Balloon Boy"? Who wants to read all the depressing crap about things that never get any better? I really wonder if there is any hope for this country at all, or are we doomed to go down in flames.

Sorry for being so depressing and antagonistic this morning. Rant off.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Daddy's Girl

Growing up, I was a mama's girl. I was prissy. I liked the things my mom liked, reading, sewing and not getting dirty. My sister on the other hand was a tom-boy and total daddy's girl. When I was in the kitchen helping my mom can preserves, my sister was out riding the tractor with my dad. As we morphed into teenagers, that pattern remained consistent, I went to mom for advice, she went to dad. I fought with dad, she fought with mom.

I don't know if I was a mama's girl growing up because I naturally shared my mom's interests, or by default because I didn't get along with my dad. I know when I was very small, I adored my daddy like all little girls do. But as I grew, adoration changed to fear. My dad was very critical. He was a perfectionist. He was demanding and loud and often in a bad mood. So many of my memories of my dad from when I was young were of him yelling at me or punishing me. Because of this, I grew away from my dad. By the time I was in high school I was an angry, bitter and messed-up teenager who thought I hated my dad. I thought he hated me, to be honest, and I was just returning the favor.

I put my parents through a lot of grief as a teen, and now as I look back I realize the one I hurt the most was my dad. Because under his cold exterior he loved me more deeply than probably anyone else on this earth ever has. Now as an adult, I can understand why he was the way he was when I was small. He grew up poor, with a verbally abusive mother. He served in Vietnam. He worked in an environment where he was hazed for years. Basically, he lived through and with a lot of awful things and he was trying to figure out how to deal with them while also being a provider, a mentor, a father. A son, a husband, an employee. A Christian, a servant, a human. Basically, he was just like everyone of us on this planet! But as a child, we don't see our parents as human. Father's aren't allowed to have problems. They aren't allowed to have their own traumas and ghosts to deal with. As a child, I held my father to such a high standard that their was no way he could avoid falling in my eyes. Why did I do that?

As an adult, I understand so much more than I did back then. I empathize with his struggles, his issues, and his way of dealing with life. I forgive him his mistakes, and I pray that he forgives me mine. I see all the good in him, I see the depth of his compassion, grace and love and know that I am blessed to have such a wonderful father. As an adult, I have become a daddy's girl.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Margo Timmins Rocks My Soul

First of all, if you don't know who Margo Timmins is, you should be ashamed. Bad internets! Margo Timmins happens to be the fabulously talented lead singer of the Cowboy Junkies. And I got to see her and her awesome band last night in concert with my awesome daughter, Saskia.

From the top...

The concert was held at an adorable little folk music theater called The Ark. When I say little, I mean it. I bet they only fit a few hundred people in there. It was a sold out show and they had clearly shoved extra chairs in every aisle. Still, it was cozy, homey and a great atmosphere. Saskia and I got really good seats in one wing, she could see the stage fine which was my main goal.

The opening act was a bit over the top for Saskia. It was a band called Lee Harvey Osmond. Honestly I thought the music was great, I really liked it, it was just a bit dark and sad for Saskia. She actually cried during the first song. Said, "I feel sad and I don't know why." After the first song the beat picked up and she started to enjoy the music better... but neither of us enjoyed the lead singers stories about the first time he did LSD or how he threw away all his money on booze and women. But eh, I take her to a grown up show, I gotta expect she may see and hear some things I'd rather she didn't. We'll consider it a learning experience. Later I can tell her, "don't do acid or you'll end up like that scary guy at the Cowboy Junkies concert.". So it all works out.

When the Cowboy Junkies came on I was blown away. You know how most bands sound better on their albums, because of all the digital stuff they do to enhance the music and vocals? Well the Cowboy Junkies sound better in person. Margo's voice is so unbelievably pure and strong and beautiful. And the band is phenomenal, the guitar players in particular created sounds that I can't even begin to describe. Pure, haunting beauty. About half way into the concert I just closed my eyes and listened to the wave of sound washing over me. It's the kind of music that can transport you to another place and time. It's the kind of music that can elicit a spiritual rapture.

Before the end of the night Saskia became tired, and as we had an empty seat next to us I was able to move and let her lie across the seats and rest her head in my lap. I sat there in the dark theater, stroking my eight year old's hair and letting myself be absorbed by the haunting music, while also remembering those many nights I sat in a dark room, rocking my babies and singing them Cowboy Junkies songs. "Misguided Angel", "Cause Cheep is How I Feel", "Crescent Moon", "Ring on the Sill", "Sun Comes up, it's Tuesday Morning".... I sang these songs and more, hour after hour, night after night, nursing and rocking and just being with my babies. They still request that I sing them "The Mama Song" (i.e. Misguided Angel) on a regular basis. As I sat there holding my girl, remembering holding my baby, I felt the thread of our lives from that moment to this. I saw it stretching off into the future. I saw that no matter what, my girls will always be my babies and we will always be bound together with a thread as strong as it is invisible. That bond is love, and song is how I often choose to express that love.

I am grateful that I was able to have this experience with my daughter. It was a magical night, and I will never forget it.