Monday, October 27, 2008

Lita gets the thanks for this one and a hearty, vodka soaked thanks at that! On the decidedly utilitarian, often unshaded playground of our elementary school, Lita handed me "Mother On Fire: A True Motherf%#$@ Story About Parenting" and am I ever glad she did. Sandra Tsing Loh, author and performance artist (as well as NPR commentator) wrote this book as a shout against the insanity of her own search for a school for the elder of her two daughters. She calls this "the year I exploded into flames." This book is hysterical and convicting without being preachy or elitist. I was worried about reading this book, as every time I read a book about parenting, I inevitably feel guilty that I am not doing enough or have done something wrong or just don't care enough. Parenting books usually suck if you have a low self-esteem to start with. I'm sure there are some of you who love them. If you are that person, we probably should not hang out. Sandra Tsing Loh, however, is invited.

I often have guilt,especially in the circles I tend to unintentionally end up in, because my children attend public school. The guilt is self-induced I am sure, but the "pity eyebrows" (oh you know the ones, where the well meaning parochial school mother raises her eyebrows and wrinkles her nose in an "Oh dear, it's so nice that your son goes to the local high school. Do they give him his own 'will work for food' sign with his diploma?") certainly don't help. It gets on my nerves from time to time. I love my public schools. No, they aren't as shiny as some of the private schools. No, our football field isn't maintained by an army of NFL retirees who just want to give back. No, we don't have field trips to the Great Wall of China or Science Camp on the Space Station. But what I do have is a great school filled with great people and great teachers who love children. I have a school where my kids can be a part of their local community and of their world, learning that making a difference doesn't mean having the most money to throw at what ever needs fixing. I have a community of parents who love their children, just like I do, and want what every caring parent wants: for their children, and for everyone else's, to grow up healthy, safe and happy. All kids deserve that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I really like kaleidoscopes. I love the "oh" moment when I am looking through the viewer and the combination of color and light and pattern are just right and my heart is filled with a tiny jump of joy. Then, inevitably, my hand shakes and then colors are mixed up again and I know that I will never have that same moment ever again. Sometimes I pick up a cheaply made kaleidoscope and take a peak through the viewer and find that the colors are muddy. Whether this is because the colored pebbles are too dark, not enough light is able to enter the chamber or the quality of the mirrors inside are poor, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that what I see isn't that great to look at. Every once in a while, though, even with the poorest of kaleidoscopes, I get an "oh" moment.

That's how I felt while reading "The Maytree's" by Annie Dillard. I felt as though there were so many words, so densely packed onto each page, that no light could shine through. The plot and character development felt thick and muddy. It was like looking through a poorly made kaleidoscope. That is not to say that I felt that "The Maytrees" was poorly crafted, quite the opposite in fact. It is obvious that Dillard spent a great deal of time and effort choosing each word she used in this novel. It is extraordinarily crafted. And every once in a while, I would catch a combination of words so lovely, so beautifully chosen, that I would have that "oh" moment that I do so love.