Finding Folly with Frederick

I met a little guy named Frederick. He lives in a garden with an old timey clock planted firmly in the center. It quietly decorates the corner of East 77 and Lexington Ave. Frederick spends his day running back and forth in the garden and on its wall, where a metal fence sits atop. His path to food is a space, just the right Frederick size, is ‘tween the old stones of the neighboring building. He sits and watches the world. All kinds of people to and fro on this and that. Those going to school, those returning home from work, somenfriends chit-chatting, the tired, the exhausted, the kooky, the doctors from near by and the few waiting for their jitney to the beach. Today to Frederick’s surprise I initiated a game of cat and mouse with my camera. However, being adept at any such game, having been raised an urban fellow, (dare I say City mouse) Frederick won and I possess a blurry picture to remind me of what was.

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To My Fellow Teachers

 

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I have come to realize that there are teachers who teach all children no matter who they are because they believe in them and then there are teachers who believe that not all children can be taught because of who they are. I have also come to realize that the later … don’t realize that they are the true failures. Perhaps we can teach them.

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I wrote this for several reasons.

1. – I heard about a teacher, from another school in our district that has very different demographics, talk about how poverty is ruining our school, moving to a new building won’t change anything, and it doesn’t make a difference if a good teacher leaves the classroom because the parents don’t know enough to stand up. To which I say – Of course poverty can ruin one’s education, but what will you do to change poverty in society so that this is no longer true? How does pride and a good feeling about your school not make a difference? What if the parents see the potential and don’t want to hold anyone back even if it means their child won’t have that teacher?

2. I know of a teacher who views all poor children of color as beneath them and blame the child and the parents. Why can’t the parents just send in snack or lunch everyday – they literally cannot afford it.  But they obviously do not care about the children enough to work hard enough to see them succeed. Teaching is a LOT of work. It is not for the lazy.

3. Another teacher, believes that they themselves are such a victim and they alone are fighting for their students because NO ONE else will, is failing their own students by saying the students can do far more than they actually can. So when they are challenged in the next grade, they fail miserably. There is no shame in being a solid C than a fake A. The C will grow, the A will fall.

++++ What I would like to see is, instead of society blaming all teachers, that teacher training be amped up and principals make sure they hold all teachers accountable.  And… if you do not like working hard and you do not like ALL children – get out of teaching – for the sake of our future society.

Nature wins – every time – can you see it?

 

 

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I have seen nature do amazing things.

We all know about Tsunamis, Earthquakes, trees growing through fences, animal adaptations, and more.

When I visited Australia I went on a tour of different places where the forest had already reclaimed old mining settlements.  You might see if you looked hard an old rusted out thing sitting under regrowth.

The book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman talks about what would happen if we all just upped and disappeared, not a single human left.

Could his predictions be real?  How fast would it happen?  Ask the wolves coming back into the city.  Ask the butterfly who will emerge from the chrysalis hanging in the subway.  Do you see it now?

Look Up!

Each person you meet in your life has a potential for impact, realized or not.

Good and bad.  Once we have realized the bad, it is up to us and us alone to take the experience and turn into a positive by learning from it.

But I digress.  I have met someone for as short as a train ride downtown and our conversation has stayed with me for years.

But then there are longer relationships we have had and we all hope we have taken something away from it (or still are).

Many years ago, almost half my life ago at this point, an important person in my life at the time said, “look up.”  He went on to say that most people don’t look up but they should.  He told me to look up at the buildings in Manhattan.  It is amazing what you may see.  The structure, the architecture, and you can even tell the age from the corners of the buildings as they reach the roof.

Since then I have always looked up.  There are great buildings in this city and views.  It has engaged my sense of aesthetics and made me carry my camera around at all times (until my phone started taking better pictures).

So today as I walked to a lecture today, I looked up.  I was so glad I did.  I took a picture.  I hope you can see what I saw and the reason why I took the picture.  It is part of the magic of NYC.

I am now passing on these great words to you…

Look up – it is worth it.

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Gute Vaynakhtn un a Gut Nay Yor

I am Jewish and it is Christmas, cue in the Chinese food jokes….

I belong to the Facebook page of the synagogue I sort of belonged to as a kid (in an effort not to fizzle into non existence four synagogues joined together to become the one that exists today).  Someone posted a query from another site about our Christmas traditions.  The Rabbi answered with his and how it has changed.  Those made me start to think about mine.

My mother’s best friend is Irish Catholic.  In fact before marriage and children she had spent some time as a postulate.  So I grew up with her kids and their traditions.  When we all went on vacation for a week in the summer, we would stop at the synagogue on Friday for services and then on Sunday we all went to Church before the beach.   Every Christmas Eve (although it could have been a day or two before – childhood timelines are a little fuzzy) we would go to their house and help trim the tree, enjoy really good baked ham, and exchange gifts.  Our gifts were of course dutifully wrapped in Chanukah wrapping.  We did this every year up until the eldest had been in the Navy for a few years, we got older, my brother joined the Navy, divorce happened, a child was born, and some of us left Queens.  So our tradition slowly came to an end as we reached into our mid and late 20’s.  Those are some of my fondest childhood memories.  I do miss that tradition but life moves on and new traditions are formed and those are just as important.

Since then, I have had no new tradition myself.  Each year has been different.  A couple of times I have been in a car on the way to Florida.  I spent my Fulbright year at my exchange partner’s parent’s house.  I took his place because it was his first Christmas away from home in over 30 years.  So I got to experience a traditional English Christmas full on with Midnight Mass, Christmas crackers, and squishy Brussels sprouts.  Last year I joined a friend and her foster daughter for dinner and gift exchange.  I got to see her daughter give the official engagement ring to her girlfriend.  Ahh young love.  Meanwhile back at the home front my brother proposed to his girlfriend.  We were always on semester break during Christmas when I went to St. John’s University but it would have been interesting to experience Christmas at a Catholic University.   There are many other years that I have no memory of what I did.  But there are a couple of years that I have recounted to others because they speak to the cultural and traditional Jew in a Christian world.

I once was sent to UCONN for a conference during the summer.  As I got off the Grey Hound, I noticed one other person get off.  We bonded immediately – I mean who else doesn’t own cars and takes Grey Hounds to be stranded in the boon docks for a week besides New Yorkers in education?  A few years ago I joined that friend for a play and dinner.  We were meeting another friend of hers.  As my wonderful friend who is a WASP with DAR roots described what her traditional Christmas with her family would be, her friend (a Jew from Vancouver) turned to me and said, “so you are a Jew and I am a Jew, what are you doing for Christmas?”  Who could resist that line?!  We made plans immediately.  I got introduced to one of my most favorite bands, The Moshav Band.  We were in a room full of Jews having a blast.  I think the only other place that had more Jews on Christmas Eve would have been the Matzo Ball.  And I avoid that at all costs – once in my 20’s was enough of that!  That concert was one of my best Christmas Eve’s.  And I made a new friend to boot!

A few years ago my brother got divorced.  I was sorry, no one wants to get divorced nor should they have to go through that pain.  Our relationship had been strained during his marriage so we had just been getting together again and I was getting to see my nieces more often.  He invited me over for Christmas Eve that year.  I had to admit I was a little shocked that he had the kids at all on Christmas Eve as his ex is Christian, but that was the arrangement.  So I went over with Chanukah gifts.  I remember walking in and seeing a big Christmas tree in my brother’s living room.  It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen one in his living room when he was married.  I just hadn’t expected it afterwards.  I immediately asked in a bit of shock about the Christmas tree.  My brother said yes of course he had a Christmas tree and did I notice the Star of David on top, did I like it?  I said no.  But why lie and my brother knows me well enough to understand.  It is his choice.  I would never tell him not to do it.  I just don’t have to love it.  We lit the Chanukah candles and had a great night.  Then after the girls went to bed, my brother turned to me and asked me to help eat the cookies and drink the milk (wait what?!) and write the letter from Santa to the girls because they knew his handwriting.  Wow!  So I did.  What is an Aunt to do?  The next morning I woke up with two girls, standing over my air mattress, trembling with excitement.  “It’s CHRISTMAS.  Let’s go downstairs!” was my good morning greeting from the girls.  I went downstairs and saw the joy of opening gifts on Christmas.  I had never experienced that at all before, it was exactly as I had read in books and seen on TV.  It was by far the most surreal Christmas I had ever had.

A few weeks ago I went over to my brothers to bring over belated Chanukah gifts.  I was ready for the Christmas tree.  The previous year when I had met my brother’s girlfriend, I knew she loved Christmas.  This year my lovely new sister-in-law had saved the gingerbread village making activity for when I got there.  We sat as a family and made (the best we could in between children sneaking candy and icing) the village.  I have made gingerbread houses before but with kids that I was not related to.  I even make gingerbread people with my Pre-K class every year (and by goodness they run away each and every time!) but we do it around a winter theme.  I had a great time but again, it is a new tradition for me as a Jew.   We have already decided how we are adjusting the actual activity next year.

The building I live in is very special.  When you move in, at the board interview, we tell you that if you don’t like being nice and saying hello to your neighbors, this is not the building for you.  We also tell them about our annual holiday lobby party where we have a pot luck, make ornaments (guess which Pre-K teacher runs that!), trim the tree, have a visit from Santa, and sing Christmas carols and Chanukah songs (our Santa has an English accent and our board president Gordon misses seeing him every year – go figure!).  This year I noticed one of our Jewish families were not there.  I stopped and chatted with my neighbor, I had really needed her help for the Chanukah songs.  She told me why they couldn’t make it this year.  But she told me of her Kindergarten aged son’s surprise when she told him that they don’t celebrate Christmas as she explained they weren’t going.  His response was yes we do!  We celebrate it every year in the lobby with Gordon dressed as Santa!  Out of the mouths of babes.  We as Jews do celebrate Christmas, just in our own way within our Christian society.  Some of us join our friends in their traditions, some us form our own.

Yesterday I joined a friend for his Christmas Eve Day tradition, a walk through the Cloisters and a drink afterwards.  Today I am going to work on my much overdue filing, start to organize my taxes, shred some documents, and surf Facebook some more (I am liking the pictures of a former student and her family in Israel).  Perhaps I will even order in Chinese food later.  I am not sure what I will do next year but whatever it is, I will get to add it to my bag of stories and experiences.

A Merry Christmas to all of those who celebrate!

A Yom Tov to everyone!

Gute Vaynakhtn un a Gut Nay Yor (Yiddish to English loosely Translation:  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)

When you have to confront yourself…

We all have to make decisions in our life.  Some are simple and we never put more than the few second of thought into it.  “Coffee at Starbucks again this morning.”  Others take a bit more weighing of the options, facts, etc. “I am voting for….”

 

Then we have decisions that take the breath out of you.   Those are the ones that make you stop in your tracks and question who you are, what your beliefs are, and how far are you willing to compromise what you thought you believed in.  Yeah those decisions are intense.  There are no good examples of those because it depends on the person and their life and I guarantee that they are often not shared with others as often as the types of decisions above.

 

How often do we have to make those?  Can you think of a time where you had to sit back and really make a decision that was that life altering?  Did you see it coming?

 

I had to make one of those decisions years ago.  It was terrible.  I made the best decision for me at the time.  I still stand by that even though there are times I wonder what if I had chosen the other path.  What would my life be like now?  Not, would it be as fulfilling?  My life would have been good just in a completely different way.   I believe that.  The whole experience made me see myself in a different way and took a lot out of me.  Decisions like these take up your entire mind and you sometimes loose thought of events and people around you as you go through them.  I am glad I had amazing support then.

 

I found myself the other day suddenly being confronted with one of these types of decisions.  WOW!  I did not see that coming.  I was broad sided.  I was stunned and shocked about my initial reaction.   It wasn’t what I thought it would be, entirely.  In the past I thought that when confronted with such an issue it would be an easy decision and perhaps 10 years ago, it would have been.   Maybe….

 

24 hours later, and I can still think of nothing else.  Am I ready to concede to one side or the other?  The best advice I got today is to live with my thoughts for a bit, what makes me want to rush to a decision that could most likely change the course of my life.

 

The funny thing is that both the old decision and my current one to make revolve around the same theme.

 

I will be mature about this,    THBPTHBPT!