Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Tent

I was thinking about my marriage tonight, and whether or not a defense of the institution of marriage was necessary. Because a defense of marriage implies an attack. And I wondered if my own marriage required such a vigorous defense, which would I finger as the likely attackers.  

But first, let me address one thing that bothers me greatly in this discussion. My marriage and the institution of marriage are not two distinct things. It’s not like I’m married, and somewhere in my house is a hidden safe where I keep the institution of marriage, tucked safely away so no one will ever steal it or tread on it. I’m married. I feel like sometimes people like to talk about marriage as an institution because it depersonalizes the entire debate. Oh, it’s not you I don’t want to get married. It’s just the institution I want to protect. All hail the institution. Trust me, marriage is indeed sacred and can often feel like a special all white place with padded walls. Yes. But somehow I don’t think that’s where they are going with it. I’m married. It’s a marriage. That’s it. I’m as totally done with the fake-o association between the words marriage and institution as I am with the words fiscal cliff. We’re just fucking broke. Period. Let’s move on.
But I digress.  Were my own marriage in need of defense, it would most likely be because it were under attack from one of the following things: the laundry, fantasy football, Andy Cohen, that weird whole chicken that my husband’s grandmother manages to stuff inside that giant platter of rice because that just freaks me out, the $1 bins at Target, anything online that offers free shipping, Facebook, the children, my pride, Cuban cigars, or crème eggs.

You know who my marriage would not likely be under attack from? Gays and Lesbians that I may or may not know who also want to be married. They are not outside intruders threatening to destroy my fake safe-ridden institution. They are not internal vices or external temptations. They are just people who want what I have which is a particularly humbling thought considering that sometimes, I probably take that for granted.
I remember the planning of my wedding and how my mother took charge because, well, she was really good at planning weddings and she liked to do it and I wasn’t so good at planning weddings. And I remember once kind of venting some frustration over this lack of control to my amazing friend. She was also our Rabbi, offering us pre-marriage counseling as we prepared for the big day. She leaned in close and whispered, “It doesn’t really matter. That’s just the party. You will completely control what happens during the marriage, the wedding. That is what matters.” And she was totally right. Because when I think about my wedding I am under that chuppah with sweet, wise Rabbi Elianna and I am looking into my husband’s eyes, and frankly I don’t really remember much of anyone or anything else there. It was only us. It was meaningful. It mattered. Our chuppah (a canopy that Jewish couples are married under) symbolized many things, including the Jewish home that we would build together. As with Abraham’s tent, it was open on all sides, reinforcing the belief that the strength in one’s home lies in our willingness to let others in. Indeed, my marriage, my tent, is stronger with everyone in it.

The fact that in 2013 we are still talking about this given the severity of so many other pressing global and domestic issues seems silly. The time is now. Equal rights for all.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blog-aversary

This month marks a rather strange and oddly special occasion for me: my one year blog-aversary. For exactly one year I’ve been sharing way more than anyone ever wanted to know and the strangest part is, I’m not really sure why.

Writing for me feels something like this. Sometimes, it is like pouring blood from a stone or compliments from a toddler. I want it – I want to, desperately. But I just can’t. And every word and sentence feels like a painstaking struggle. Usually the finished product feels like a struggle to read. And then are those times that I absolutely don’t want to write a thing. I want to finally get in that great workout, or run to the store or do 20 other different things and I just can’t. I literally have to write. I don’t even know what happens. Suddenly it’s mid-morning or the middle of the night and I’m not even sure what I’m typing or how much time is elapsing and suddenly, well it’s as if it’s written itself.
And that kind of writing is seriously exhausting. But I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (and as Nicki Minaj would say – I’m obsessed with it) and she’s teaching me that to be brave is to allow myself to be vulnerable. And there is no where that I’m more open and vulnerable than buried deep within the nooks and crannies of these words – whatever they do and don’t say or imply about my insecurities as a wife, mother, friend, or citizen. To write it all down feels scary. To share it feels like I want to vomit.

No, I mean that literally. You know that feeling that you have right before you are going to throw up? That lump in your throat that is welling up and you are thinking to yourself objectively, jeez, I’m so not in the mood to vomit right now but before you can finish that concrete thought, your head is already in the toilet. This is what it feels like every single time I hit the share button. I am dangling over the toilet about to let loose my dinner.
And then I talk to my really awesome partner who I am so lucky to have found. And he reminds me that it doesn’t matter. Because I already did the hardest part: I wrote it. The writing of it is what matters, even if no one ever reads it or no one likes it or one person likes it or 12 people hate it. That the writing of it, in and of itself, is what makes me brave. This blog makes me the virtual equivalent of the tree falling in the forest. Even if no one hears or sees me toppling over or getting back up, it still matters because I know what I put out there, what I finally let go of.

And I am proud. I am proud that I have stuck with something for a whole year because I am a serial quitter. I am proud that in being super scared and vulnerable, I have become a little bit more brave. And I am also super grateful, because everyone has a blog now. According to Disney, even dogs have blogs. So really, I’m not so special. And people are super inundated with random crap to read from every which way. And if you took even one minute out of your day to read my random stuff at some point, than I’m ridiculously grateful and humbled. So to you Dad, who’s clicked through to my site 6,975 times, thank you. And to the other 25 folks who maybe even gave me just one precious minute of their day. Thank you from the bottom of the heart. Stay tuned, I promise to keep trying to pour more blood from this stone with just the right blend of random crap and nourishment to feed our souls.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ninth Amendment

This morning as I stumbled into the local Dunkin Donuts looking half-drunk but really just desperately in need of coffee, I paused to read the morning headline on the Hartford Courant. It said this: “Region’s Firearms Factories Booming.” And that got me thinking about this little story about Nelson, GA (population 1,300) that I’d happened upon the other day. In the town, city council members unanimously approved a proposal that every household in town posses a firearm.[1] Which got me thinking about this tiny little story that I read about the other day, where the governor of South Dakota signed into law a bill specifically authorizing all school employees to carry guns on the job.[2]

And all these gun factories, and gun-stocked houses and towns and gun-toting teachers somehow got my brain thinking about this little gem I read in the Huffington Post a few months back.[3] The article detailed how the U.S. ranked 17th among developed nations for education, and reported findings on a 2009 study in which the U.S. ranked 25th out of 34 developed countries. But the line that swam around in my head the most from this article read like this: “The study notes that while funding is an important factor in strong education systems, cultures supportive of learning is even more critical.”[4]
I turned those words over and over again in my head: a culture supportive of learning. What does our culture support? I look around me. I live in a state where 20 kids went to school one December morning with the expectation of learning and achieving, and they never came home. And our culture is teaching that what we should do in response to this event is make more guns, own more guns, keep them in our houses, and give them to our teachers. That in a society of violence and chaos, the answer is more guns. We are teaching that above all else, we value gun ownership. Are you listening Dylan and Ruby? Join with the NRA today on the steps of the state capital and fight for your right to keep and bear arms! Don’t worry, we’ll teach you fractions later.
And so then I thought, shit. No wonder our kids are so stupid.

We stopped teaching them everything after the 2nd amendment. We regularly show them in our words and actions that we can’t have a substantive debate where we listen and engage with people from different points of view and really hear their words, not shout over them. And so they only see that the people with the loudest voice win the argument. This is what our culture of learning supports. And they never really begin to pick apart arguments and ideas in a way that demonstrates critical thinking and empathy. In 2013, we’ve advanced so far as a society that I can order sushi by pressing one button on a phone the size of a 1984 packet of trident, but I still settle my arguments the old school way – a la Gettysburg. You go on your side – I’ll go on mine. And we’ll shoot blindly – literally and figuratively until one of us falls over. I guess that’s how we’ll figure out who wins.

And in the midst of all of this silliness, they never really hear about some of those other meaningful amendments like one of my personal favorites, the ninth. The 9th amendment states: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. Basically, just because our founding fathers didn’t explicitly spell it out 200+ years ago in this document, doesn’t mean you don’t have certain inalienable rights that don’t exist. It’s just that Madison and Jefferson had been going at this stuff all day and even they deserved to just cinch it with a nice little catch all like the ninth so they could grab a pint and watch The Bachelor finale.

And Dylan and Ruby, here is what the ninth amendment means for you. You have the right to teach the grown-ups a different way to do this. To model the world you want to live in, not the one which you are inheriting. To show us that thoughtful words, logic, education, and high expectations can create a rising tide that will lift all of us, even the stupid grown-ups that surround you. Whether it says it or not, you have the right to do better by us than we have by you.





[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/best-education-in-the-wor_n_2199795.html
[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/best-education-in-the-wor_n_2199795.html


Sunday, March 10, 2013

List

I’m not big on lists, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot on my kids and on how ridiculously fast they’ve been changing –Dylan lost two teeth in just the past month alone – and been thinking about all the different things I love about them right now. Because I know in 5 minutes they will change and that will be great too. But I just have this nagging sense of wanting to remember the little random stuff I loved about this version of now. Before this now is 5 years from now, and I don’t remember. So here it is: my random list of the top 17 things I love about you guys, before in my sleep deprived state and diet-coke induced lack of short term memory, I forget it all:

1.       I love that wherever you go and regardless of the time of day, one of you always has peanut butter on your face.

2.       I love that you aren’t too cool to where the superman sweatshirt I bought you at JC Penney.

3.       I love that my electric toothbrush still seems exciting and slightly dangerous to you.

4.       I love that sprinkles or parmesan cheese – added to nearly anything – can make anything taste better.

5.       I love the way you run to greet your dad when he comes in as if it’s never happened before and it’s still a really exciting thing.

6.       I love how seriously and legitimately you believed in every imaginary character at Disney World. Seeing you believe in silly things felt magical.

7.       I love that you are not too old to watch Doc McStuffins (and am glad that you are too old for Caillou, although sad that you’ve outgrown Little Bear).

8.       I love the way you whisper to and play with each other, even though it usually means you are joining forces against me.

9.       I love that you wonder about what you’ll be when you grow up. It makes me feel like I can still wonder about that too.

10.   I love that no matter how sad you are, you can be cheered up by orange tic tacs, the Village People’s YMCA, or some combination of both.

11.   I love that you still fit in my lap (sort of).

12.   I love that you haven’t learned to read yet, because it means I still get to read to you.

13.   I love your world of absolutes. There is good and there is bad. There is no gray and we never have to spend anytime navigating the complex feelings, emotions and questions attached to why good people do bad stuff or why bad people sometimes do good stuff.

14.   I love that you still won’t travel without your Pooh Bears.

15.   I love that you still let me tuck you in at night and that you aren’t too proud or big for a kiss or a snuggle.

16.   I love how you look when you are fresh out of the bath and your hair is combed and you are snug in your pjs and for what seems like literally one minute of our day – you are clean.

17.   I love that you find it super fun and fancy to have dinner at Subway.

I love that regardless of our clearly defined roles, you continue to surprise me and teach me new stuff every day. Today you taught me about the girl Skylander and that hummus can actually be eaten with a spoon. I had no idea who you would turn into and can’t imagine who you will continue to grow into. You are also teaching me that roller coasters are fun (not just deathly terrifying as I’ve always believed) precisely because you don’t know what is coming next: that this is the most wonderful part. With every day with you, I am starting to understand this more.