Thursday, December 23, 2010
The husbie is at a meeting with an acquaintance of ours who was shot in the head at a pizza place minutes from our house about a month ago. Eric is expected to make a full recovery, thank God, and as a result, he wants Dick to design some anti-violence posters for an organization called High Impact. I question the efficacy of a poster to stop someone with a gun, but being a supportive wife, and being completely shocked at the rise of violence in our neighborhood the past few years, I helped Dick brainstorm a few ideas, and off he went, designs in tow, to meet Eric at the aforementioned pizza place. Godspeed, Eric. You're a braver man than I.
How does this tie into my wanting a Do-Over you may wonder? Believe it or not, it does.
For over a decade, I volunteered as Youthfriend for Longfellow school, an inner-city school not far from work. Every week, I spent my lunch hour with a kid who made my not-so-perfect childhood look like Disneyland.
I'll never forget my first student, a first grader named Pierre. Pierre's dad was in jail, and his mom was a drug addict who'd left him to be raised by his grandma. Pierre was the sole survivor of a set of twins. His twin brother died at birth. Pierre almost died because he was so sick, and he'd lost all his "electric lights" as he explained to me.
Pierre was a handful. Mind you, I had NO experience with kids. I wasn't even an aunt yet, and I knew nothing about how kids, like dogs, can smell fear. Pierre surmised I had no experience in exercising authority over kids from day one. The me back then would say "Pierre, please don't tip back in your chair, Honey, you might fall and crack your head." The me today would say "Pierre, you know better--all chair legs on the floor NOW before you bust your head wide open." Just one of the things I learned about dealing with kids since then. You have to show them you're the alpha in the relationship.
Pierre was my Youthfriend for four years. He was funny and entertaining, and he could do his school work, if he just had someone to help him concentrate and focus. But students don't have that luxury at Kansas City public schools.
Here's my do-over. One Christmas, Pierre gave me a gift. I unwrapped a box to find a dishtowel and two pot-holders with a basket of little gray kittens on it.
Here's what I did wrong. (Remember, I knew NOTHING about kids at this point.) I let a millisecond too long go by before reacting favorably.
"You don't like it, do you," he said.
"Yes, I do, Pierre. I love it. I really do," I back-pedaled.
But it was too late. The moment had passed. I blew it. Now I realize I should have made a HUGE deal about this gift. I should have gushed immediately and showed more enthusiasm. Pierre and his grandma barely had money for food and clothes for that kid, let alone a gift for his 30-something, white lady friend with a good job.
Geeze. Is there anything worse than disappointment in a little kid's eyes? ESPECIALLY if you're the source.
I think about Pierre quite often. When he was in 5th grade, he used to roll his eyes at his buddies when I came to get him.
I said "Pierre, I can get you a new Youthfriend, if you want. I don't want you to feel like you have to do this." I even talked to the principal.
"Find out if he wants to quit but is afraid to say so because he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. Find out if he'd feel better with a guy, " I asked her.
She called me at work later in the week. "I talked to Pierre's grandma. He likes you, Renée. He talks about you to his Grandma. He even has pictures of you two together thumbtacked to the wall in his room. Stick with him. He needs you. "
And then she went on to say "I'll never forget the first time I read about one of my ex-students getting shot and killed in a crime. I hope Pierre doesn't end up to be one of those boys. He could you know. Hang in there with him. You make a difference."
So I hung in. Did I make a difference? I have no idea. The world is a hard place for a black males, especially when they start out
I know he made a difference in my life. He taught me to be patient. He taught me what it was like to grow up poor without a mom and dad in a questionable part of town. He taught me what it was like to go to school with a bunch of kids whose teachers spent a lot of time policing their rooms, rather than teaching. And he taught me there are some moments with kids that you can't do over. I just hope the good moments we shared made up for that one where I messed up.
Merry Christmas, Pierre, wherever you are. And I hope it's somewhere good.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sometimes I misjudge what I think might be interesting
to other people
Another thing I wish I could do over
was trying a new "healthy" recipe for Roasted Cauliflower
with a Dijon Garlic viniagrette. It was tasty but not filling.
It would have been much more delicious had I not omitted the bacon, thereby
totally undoing the whole "healthy" idea.
Why can't anything healthy taste as good as everything unhealthy?
OK, back to trying to thing of another topic
to write about.
Let me know if you want the Roasted Cauliflower
recipe. (I know, Russ, you absolutely do NOT.).
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The first time I confessed to a friend that I knew I was making a mistake the minute before I walked down the aisle, she looked at me in disbelief. I thought she was surprised by my confession, but she wasn't.
"I felt the same way right before I got married," she said. "I always thought it was just me."
The more divorced women my age that I've talked to, the more I've discovered that I wasn't the only one who knew she was making a mistake.
Last week, I got together for dinner with a some of my closest friends in high school. We hadn't seen each other in nearly ten years. I brought up the issue again because I had to make sure I remembered
"So, did we all know we were making a mistake the first time?"
The answer was pretty much "yes."
But we did it anyway.
I have a theory.
In the late '70's, if you didn't move away to go to college, that's just what we did. In fact, five of my six bridesmaids and I all married within three years of graduating from high-school. Now all of us are divorced from our first husbands, some from their second.
I can't speak for them, but here's my story.
When I came home and told my parents that my boyfriend proposed, I'd figured they'd say "No, you're too young.
You've got to finish school." And I'd pretend to be all mad but really I'd be relieved because I knew deep down I wasn't ready.
Instead, my mom and dad said "Congratulations and start saving because we're not made of money. We're not paying for the whole thing." Or something like that.
So, I put school on hold for awhile, got a full-time job, and got married. After I got married, I started going to school at night, pursuing my B.A. in English of all things (marrying young wasn't the only mistake I made), and I graduated nine years later.
Here's what I wish I would have done instead:
I should have told my boyfriend the truth--"I'm too young, and frankly, so are you to make this kind of decision. Neither of us even knows who we are ourselves, much less what we want in a life partner," except I would have talked more like I did in 1979, using words and phrases like "bummer," "no jive" and "catchya later." I would have saved both of us a lot of heartache, and I would have saved myself a lot of guilt that I carry to this day.
As it was, I lived with my parents until I got married. I walked down the aisle, knowing I was making a mistake. And when I got divorced at 31, I had never spent the night alone. I'd never made a mortgage payment or balanced a checkbook in my life. I knew nothing about being an independent adult. NOTHING. It was hard. It was worse than hard. It was horrible. Being alone and not knowing how to do it. And having no one to ask how to do it because, oh, by the way, among other things I wish I could change, I wish my mom hadn't died when I was 24.
OK, I'd better stop or my friend Russ will have to say "Another bummer post."
So, that's a pretty big "do-over"--I wish I hadn't married my first husband.
The only thing that makes me feel slightly better is that I'm sure he wished he hadn't married me either.
Crap. Now I can't find a way to tie this all up neatly.
But that's life. Life is all about making mistakes and not being able to tie things up neatly.
And yet, we go on. We pick ourselves up, and we go on.
If you're lucky, you get a chance to say you're sorry. If you're lucky, you get an apology in return. My ex-husband and I exchanged sincere "I'm sorry's" at his grandmother's funeral about twenty years ago. From me, it was sincere. It felt sincere from him. We were apologizing for different things, but no matter. We were both sorry. We'd made mistakes. We'd moved on.
But I still wish none of that would have happened.
My last do-over post was about standing up for myself. This one is about standing up and admitting that I made a mistake. My ex-husband? He didn't make a mistake. It was me. All me. I made a BIG mistake. Two big mistakes. The result? I ended up hurting a really decent, stand-up good guy who did nothing wrong.
What happened? I let someone else turn my head and make me wonder. I let someone else make me think I could be happier.
I left my marriage for someone else who turned out to be an even bigger mistake.
So, yeah. Big, gigantic, embarrassing, shameful do-over. Those are the worst.
P.S. Sorry, Russ. Bummer, I know. They can't always be someone else's fault. Sometimes, they're my own.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Seems like something should happen today, what with the juxtaposition of 50 and 50. I'll let you know.
Something interesting DID happen last night, something that could have easily been avoided had I not sent a flurry of confusing e-mails about what night I was hosting Book Club. As a result, half the group showed up, and I wasn't even home.
Consequently, while my friend Pam and I were enjoying a poetry reading by two fine writers, Jo McDougal and Steve Paul, my friends Lois and Dee showed up at Chez Daniels, books in hand. Dick invited them in to check their calendars and try to figure out what happened. Our always-cluttered place, even more cluttered than usual, of course. My poor mother, Our Lady of Immaculate Housekeeping was, I'm sure, looking down on me and shaking her head with disapproval. (Sorry, Mom, but if you think my place is bad, you should see Jacquie's.)
Oh, and it gets even better. When Lois got up to leave, Dick saw something in her chair and went to retrieve it, thinking it was her cell-phone. "You forgot something," he said, before realizing it was one of my wayward black socks, you know the kind-- always shimmying out of the load of laundry you carry upstairs. What a graceful note to end on.
So book club is next Tuesday. I've got a lot of cooking, cleaning, wine-buying and kissing up to do. Wish me luck.
P.S. This just in--Thursday at 3, possible tooth extraction, likely root canal. The fun is just beginning . . . . .
Thursday, January 14, 2010
No such luck. We both suck at technical stuff. (And mechanical stuff. And math stuff. And lawn stuff. And reading maps. But we're really good at finding quality wine on sale, helping each other out and cracking each other up, so it all works out.)
Seriously, can you believe that there is no other I-thing in Chez Daniels? Or that my husband is the last remaining person besides my 78 year-old dad who doesn't have a cell phone? Truthfully, I love that about Dick. He is who he is, and he neither apologizes for or worries about what he doesn't know. He doesn't care that every time he borrows my phone, he has to ask how to use it.
Maybe HE should be my role model on aging gracefully or whatever you call it when men age without freaking out about it.
49 days. And counting
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I, who very rarely go to plays, may have to go see this. The elasticity of time is curious to me. I've had days when five minutes felt like five hours, and vice versa. You probably have too. The play may help remind me that my clock is ticking faster. That fact , as people who get on my nerves say about various ideas, "is neither good nor bad, it just is." They're usually right but that saying bugs me, especially if the one proselytizing to project Zen-like serenity has been known to shake the vending machine violently when their Fritos are hung up in A8. (That is dangerous by the way. And noisy. So don't do it, OK? I can't afford to lose any of my five followers. Plus I know who you are and I like you.)
The second, and cheerier piece, I saw in the Star is that Stephen Walker's documentary "Young at Heart" is on PBS tonight at 9 CST. It's about a group of people deep into their Second Act of life--I don't like the terms "senior citizens" or "elderly. Anyway, they form a chorus and perform songs by Coldplay and the Clash. I saw it a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. Especially the African-American woman who works so hard to memorize the Pointer Sisters' "I know we can make it. I know darn well we can work it out. Oh yes we can, I know we can can. Yes we can can, why can't we?" My friend Pam K. loved it too. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Very tender and inspiring.
So, about getting older, here's what I think--"I know we can make it. I know darn well we can work it out. Oh, yes we can. I know we can can. Yes we can can, why can't we?"
P.S. Thanks for reading. Also, sorry about the error in my use of the word "effected" yesterday. I'm usually so much better about that. Thanks to the reader who brought it to my attention.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I have no idea what to expect.
I've seen other people turn 50, and it's like watching people dance. Some look great doing it. You can tell they're having fun. They've got some moves and, to be honest, you're a little envious. Others try too hard. Some are graceful and quietly beautiful and, again, you're a little envious. And some, God love them, are having the time of their lives, clueless and carefree about how they appear to the rest of us. After all, it's their 50th birthday--they've earned the right to do whatever they want.
So tell me, what's in store?