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Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Royal Wedding and what weddings evoke

I did not set the alarm clock this morning to get up and watch Prince William and soon to be Princess Kate tie the knot. I knew there would be sufficient rec-cap, replay, analysis, etc., of everything from the gown to the food served to the carriage ride that i would be able to stay in the loop for casual conversation over the next couple of days. But, I woke up about 6:30 anyway and the ceremony was in full swing. I watched for the next hour and then went to work.

There is all kinds of skepticism and mockery floating around out there , but come on, this is a royal wedding. Being the kind of person who loves weddings of any type at any time this is one of the biggies for me! I have enough of the little girl left in me to want to be a princess some day, actually I want to be an empress, but that seems to have become an anachronistic title. Despite his homely appearance I can remember as  a teenager having a bit of a crush on Prince Charles, mainly because he was the only prince I had ever heard of besides some students from Africa  who attended CSU or Wilberforce.

It seemed that every black man I met from Africa in the 60’s and 70’s was either a prince or the son of a prince from some realm I had never heard of. We used to make jokes about it, in retrospect some of them probably did have the title back home. But, in that particular time and place the word prince was synonymous with white. Prince Charming was never brown in any fairy tale I ever read. The princesses, of course, were likewise generally pretty pale, but even in Victorian literature there would occasionally be an exotic Indian ( east Indian) or Indian ( American Indian) princess mentioned, but hardly ever a dusky prince.

Adding spice to the wedding for me is the fact that I am an unabashed Anglophile. I love all things British, always have. Since I have a kooky theory that DNA holds some memory– I could not explain being able to read French almost the first time I saw it otherwise, I have decided that one of my white ancestors must have been British. I have waffled on his ( probably my white ancestor was male for obvious reasons) nationality. I was, after ll born on St. Patrick’s Day, but I am pretty sure he was English. My favorite authors are from England, Emily Bronte, P.D. James, Arthur Conan Doyle, J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie, I love the British penchant for order, custom, tradition, pomp and circumstance. I like the idea of things being planned and happening at the same time, the same way with the same elements year after year. I do not have a truly spontaneous bone in my body.Breaking my planned schedule upsets me, no matter what reason!

I do hope to visit London some day and perhaps take a tour of the English countryside that I have read so much about and which, for some reason, seems so oddly familiar.

So, let’s enjoy the fairy tale, even though we all know there is no such thing as true happy endings, that the fluidity of chance and fortune means that no matter how much you work to live happily ever after there are still going to be times when you are the bug rather than the windshield, the leg rather than the Yorkie.  But for today we can look at a beautiful young woman in a stunning gown on the arm of her red-clad prince and at least hope that their happily ever after will at least last for a little while and that the rest of us can join them vicariously in enjoying their day. Weddings are about hope and faith and promise, about beginnings and promises and about optimism; I do love a wedding!  Good luck kids!

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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Stay at home moms may be an endangered species, good for them!

My cousin Miriam, a fabulous scholar from Minnesota, posted an article about Stay-at-home moms and the dangers they face by staying home. The article focused on the financial pitfalls, no retirement, no employment history or up to date skills in case they need a job, etc., but to me the dangers of staying at home are different, but equally as daunting.

As  Mother’s Day approaches I want to explore the idea of the life of the Stay-at-home mom and why I was never temped to try that.

I never, ever, considered being a stay-at-home mom, and could never, even to this day fathom why anyone would consider it. To begin with there is no time off, not even for good behavior. Oh, I know, some upscale moms might arrange for a few days at a spa somewhere, but compared with the vacation  days I have always had that is chump change. When I was teaching I worked 186 days a year out of 365.  And please, fellow educators, spare me the histrionics about all of your late nights and weekends spent grading and doing lesson plans. If you have to stay up late at night doing lesson plans or grading you are doing something very wrong.I used to tell my principal when I was still teaching high school, ” I do not run the sweeper here and I do not take schoolwork home.” When I was on the college faculty I taught nine classes a week–which was considered a heavy load and I actually got overage pay when I developed and taught an online class. That meant my face time with students was about 10 hours a week, not counting office hours which were not that onerous either. Now that I am a college administrator I get 24 vacation days a year, not counting the holidays observed by the university, which would add at least 10 more. That means, if my work week is 5 days, I get 7 weeks plus of vacation per year.

Compare that to doing breakfast, lunch, dinner, laundry, cleaning, volunteering ( you are the stay at home mom which means you are tapped for every field trip, bake sale, book sale, and holiday celebration) and plain old mothering. That includes changing diapers, toilet training, taking the kids for well baby visits to the doctor, sick visits to the doctor, inoculation visits to the doctor, dentist check-ups, soccer practice, piano lesson practice, football, baseball, basketball practice, play practice, being a Girl Scout leader, you name it, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Now, I admit, particularly in my high school teaching days I was involved with a lot of the things mentioned in the above paragraph, but the difference is that I usually had about 8 hours a day that belonged to me. My students were always old enough for me to tell them to leave me alone for a period of time if I needed some “me” time. They had seat work, there were films to be shown that supported the curriculum, add in group work and the fact that lecture is one of the worst ways to teach and the students were not really going to bother me much. Of course, I liked my students and enjoyed teaching, that did not hurt either. But, being in control of your interaction with them was definitely a plus. Try achieving that with a toddler, even the bathroom is not considered private space to them.

When I taught in secondary school we were required to arrive 45 minutes before school started, I had that time to visit with my friends and co-workers, get ready for the day, have a cup of coffee, or just sit there. I also always had a prep period, so 1 of the 7 periods of the day, or around 50 minutes, was mine, all mine to do whatever I wanted to do, or to do nothing. Like most of my colleagues I had either hall duty–read, do nothing and sit in the hall, or study hall, read give glowering looks over the top of your glasses to students who tried to talk and do nothing. Or, you could grade papers during hall duty or study hall and/or your prep period.  Generally speaking I taught 5 classes a day, and since I did not teach English I rarely had to grade essays.(English and Literature teachers and profs my get some sympathy about grading.)

In my career the jobs have gotten easier each time I transitioned. It is easier being a college professor than a secondary school teacher and it is easier being a college administrator than being a college professor, although the challenges are different, more politics, less instruction , knowledge or skill level.

Stay-at-home moms cannot make any such claim. It may be easier completing toilet training than changing diapers, but having to maker certain the training holds and having to learn the location of every bathroom in every  Target, Walmart, Kohl’s , Macy’s and JCPenny’s in your area is not easy either. It may be easier to be homeroom mom to a second grader than to have the toddler at home, but the toddler does not usually expose you to the censure of other moms, at least not for any longer than it takes you to slam your hand over his mouth in Panera when he announced he has just pooped his pants.

It may be easier to have a teenager than….. never mind, forget that. There is nothing easy about teaching someone to drive, worrying about them driving, talking to them about sex, warning them about drugs, and praying they know how to use a seat belt/condom/cell phone properly. And let’s not even go there about what they might post on Facebook for the world to see.

Stay-at-home moms are probably on the endangered list for a good reason. The jobs is hard, dirty, exhausting, unappreciated, poorly paid and means nothing on a resume.

Children no doubt would benefit from having their moms at home more–provided she had a good attitude about it and was not cranky about being there–but our society has not gone in that direction. Moms who “do not work”, ( I love that one) are considered throw backs to June Cleaver, an anachronism. And, they are not exempt from the other things moms are supposed to do.

The perfect mother in our current society holds down a lucrative job, supervises a crack staff of nannies, cooks, gardeners and maids at home, makes her own holiday ornaments from scratch, bakes her own bread, wins prizes for her roses, wears a size 6 ( she let herself go a bit, and the 4s got too small), has perfect hair and make-up, volunteers enough to be publicly honored for her civic work, writes a blog about “Having it all”, has children who are always dressed in coordinating, expensive clothes, has a husband who adores her, and who she always dresses in expensive, coordinating clothes,  and with whom she is always, always ready to have steamy and imaginative sex whenever he likes, goes to church at least twice a week and has a gaggle of accomplished women friends to prove she has not lost her sense of self by immersing herself too fully into the family dynamic.

In reality being a stay-at-home mom is like trying to push an elephant up a hill with a rope. The wonder woman mother does not exist, nor should she. I applaud all stay-at-home moms and hope they get paroled soon.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Xenia Tales: Eating in Xenia, old school!

I am ancient enough to remember when we only had certain opportunities to buy cooked food in Xenia. There were always small, usually family owned restaurants and, at least in the East End, there were a few casual eateries run out of people’s homes. Some of them like Ma Davis on Market Street across from East High were carryout only–she made a chicken pie to die for! Some like Mama Thelma’s on Fair Street actually had a table you could sit at with other folks and eat. I am sure there were others I did not know about. We were very territorial in those days. It is hard for young folks to grasp, but my parents frowned on me wandering more than a few blocks in any direction, that was one thing that made getting integrated so exciting. Central Jr. Hi was a good three or four blocks from my house, compared to going to school next door at East.

Casual dining was available downtown at several places. Although Dirty Greeks/Candy Kitchen and Geyer’s Restaurant did not cater to black folks, the lunch counter at Kresge’s had no such bigotry, and their food was probably way better. Nothing like a good grilled cheese sandwich made with real butter, or a turkey hot shot dripping in turkey gravy that did not come from a can.  After you had your entrée, if you still felt hungry Kresge’s could satisfy your sweet tooth with a root beer float, with the root beer pulled from an enormous fake barrel, or you could visit the extensive and marvelous candy counter.

If it was baked goods you craved, Smith’s Bakery on West Main was the place to go. I have never had chocolate chip cookies that good since they went out of business. I presume Ruth took the recipe with her to her grave. Another bakery the Dutch Oven opened on North Detroit Street sometime when I was in high school or slightly before, it was okay, but nothing to write home about and the lady that owned it always acted  like she felt you were disturbing her for some reason, nothing like the warm, friendly welcome and chatting up you got at Smith’s.

If you were mobile, had a car, you could go to Frisch’s Big Boy out on Rte 35 and Allison Avenue, or you could swing by the A&W Root Beer Stand, run by my classmate Sally A’s dad which was on Dayton Avenue. Both Frisch’s and the Root Beer Stand had waitresses who would come out to the car. I do not think they wore roller skates at either establishment, but I am not sure. Frisch’s was popular as a hangout spot for the white kids in Xenia, I think it eventually spread to the blacks, but was never as frequently by black teenagers in cars cruising and stopping to talk and eat as it was white white teens. In the 1960’s it was a rare teen who had his or her own car, regardless of color. My boyfriend then, husband now, was lucky in that respect. His parents had a relatively cool car, a Chevy Impala, and they never went anywhere in the evening so it was almost always available for his use. We did not cruise Frisch’s together, have no idea if he cruised after he took me home.

As I got to be an older teenager we had some additions to our choices for food and hangouts, noticeably the Red Barn on West Main Street. This was fast food at its finest, drive-thru and all. They had great fried chicken and the first salad bar that I ever encountered in Xenia. Mrs. Billingsly, the mother of one of my friends was the head cook and seemed to run the entire place so we always got a little extra in the food department when we went there. The Red Barn rather usurped Frisch’s as the hang out parking lot, or more accurately, it became the hangout parking lot for the black kids while Frisch’s remained popular with the white kids.

Out on North Detroit was the Say-HA-Do restaurant, which morphed into Nick’s bar. Say-Ha-Do was famous for its fried chicken, something that continued when it changed into Nick’s. My father used to stop and buy us chicken dinners there and bring them home, we never ate in during those days. I do not think it was segregated, even though the same family owned it that owned Dirty Greeks, but they served liquor and beer there and my parents did not consider it an appropriate place to take children.  I have to admit to having taken my own children there to eat on more than one occasion, but then by that time we knew all the people, regular  just plain folks and drunks, who frequented the place and that seemed to make it more harmless. Nick’s was and probably continues to be a hangout for Xenia High Teachers when I was working at the high school .

Fine dining in that era meant leaving town, there were no fancy restaurants in Xenia. The Old Mill, out on US 42, almost to Cedarville was about as fancy as it got close to town. Although it was owned by the O’Rourkes, a black family, I am not sure if the diners were integrated. The gold standard at that time was, for some reason, The Golden Lamb in Lebanon which was widely touted by my white classmates as a very fancy restaurant. I have to admit to being rather disappointed when I visited it as a young adult.

Of course, people did not eat out nearly as often as they do now. Our big break from home cooked food was when my father would bring home boiled ham and cheese and chips on Friday nights sometimes and we would have sandwiches and chips and cupcakes from the bakery, all of which I considered delicacies!

I was in high school when the first pizza place opened. I had never had pizza before my first taste of I-T Pizza, and I almost never had it again. The host of the party where this avant garde for the time food was served had them put anchovies on it and I did not like the taste at all. I soon got into the glories of the pepperoni pizza though and love I-T, which was originally located on East Main.

I-T features in one of my favorite teenage stories. I have already written about how the males in our group had two different tiers of female companions, those who they took to public events like dances and proms and football games, who did not “put out”, and those who they then visited with after they took us home. Girls who did generally put out and who had either understanding or disengaged parents who did not care when, or if, they came home. One evening, as was reported to me by someone there, there was a card party at one of the After-Hours Girls’ houses. About midnight people began to get hungry and decided to see if they could order some food. Someone suggested they order some pizza from I-T. One of the AHG named Patti Lou, who was known for fighting and for rough language, but was actually quite an intelligent and funny person, volunteered to make the call. She called I-T and when they answered the phone proceeded with her order in great detail, only to be told when she finished ” I am sorry, but we are closed. ” Drawing herself up to her full height Patti Lou screamed into the phone , “Then what the fuck did you answer the phone for?”  Patti Lou has been dead for more than a decade, but I have to admit that every time I call a business and they answer the phone and tell me they are closed I think about her and laugh.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Why aren’t there any black folks here?

I went to the theatre last night to see a play entitled “Big River.” The last time I went to the theatre on campus was to see “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” about a year ago. Both times the audience was overwhelmingly white. When I lived in Ohio I used to go to the opera from time to time, especially if they were putting on one of my favorites like “Aida.” There were not many black folks there as a general rule, as a matter of fact sometimes I was the only “raisin in the rice pudding” so to speak.

Big River is a musical adaptation of “Huck Finn”, music by Roger Miller of ” King of the Road” fame. The Playmakers did a great job with the play, the singing and dancing were marvelous and the acting was great. I had been engaged with this play earlier, meeting with the cast, at the request of Joe, the director, to discuss the fact that the play has the word nigger in it quite frequently. There had been an earlier meeting, which I had attended where they decided not to remove the word, something I agreed with entirely, but to produce the play with Twain’s words, including the word nigger.

The first thing I shared with the cast was that they needed to get comfortable with the word, use it when they were alone, or with someone they could trust, until it flowed off their tongues as if they had always said it. If they stumbled or were self-conscious with it, the audience would be uncomfortable as well. The cast did a great job, the word was slightly shocking the first time it was said, but later in the play the word was obviously in context of the time and not as jarring.

The director did a great job of putting a statement in the program about the word, which he, unfortunately, called the N word. The play is about a black slave and a white boy who have an adventure. So why were there only about 25 black students, faculty, staff and community members there?

I can speculate, but I am more comfortable talking about what I know rather than what I can guess. If there are no black people there, or only a few, they are not there because they do not feel welcome. Black people are very diverse, we like opera, theatre, Shakespeare, classical music, NASCAR, Blue Grass music, bagpipe music, soccer, hockey, curling, gymnastics, French cooking, you name it and there are at least a few black folks that like it. Sometimes I have to shake my head and wonder why, but they do exist.

If blacks are not in anything it is because there is some barrier to their participation. Whether the barrier is real or imagined is another matter. Perhaps we do not feel welcome due to some hypersensitivity sometimes, but then as one of my colleagues used to say ” If you have a puppy who pees on your shoes every time you come home, it is going to be a long time before you wear your good suede shoes in front of him!”  I have had the opportunity (?) to know a lot of white people, most of whom have been fine folks and treated me like a piece of Jesus.  But, I am not sure my experiences are typical of most blacks for a variety of reasons.

I get asked frequently how to increase participation, attendance, etc., of people of color to various events, programs, performances, etc. but it is not a simply matter to convince people who are used to being turned away, either literally or by the attitudes of the other attendees, that they should risk being hurt to attend some of these things. I, on the other hand, having been born positive that I am the center of the universe, consider anyone who does not appreciate the glory that is me, to be unfortunately handicapped with the dread disease of no taste.

So, if I got to a venue and the people there are not fond of me, not glad to see me or downright hostile, unless they are brandishing pitchforks and carrying torches, I frankly do not care. They are not giving me money, paying my mortgage or buying me designer shoes. If they do not want my company that is their right, and their loss.

When people ask me why black folks do not come to something I truly want to tell them the truth: You have not made them feel included, valued, wanted and/or welcome. It is that simple. For three hundred odd years America did not mean people like me when she hung up a sign that said “All are welcome.” If the laws guaranteeing I am at least legally welcome in public venues is less than 50 years old is it any surprise that we might not be sure we will be greeted with grins and hugs?

If you want black people to come you have to market and program so that it says very clearly, ” Yeah, we mean YOU too!”

Otherwise I will continue to go to some things and count brown and black faces and shake my head in dismay.

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The rich are different from you and I, or are they?

I received notice today that I have been nominated for a prestigious leadership program fellowship. This, according to the letter and the website is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to be groomed by and engaged with  a lot of powerful leaders in government, business and education. It is all paid for, requiring six different residential sessions over the course of two years, not counting the celebrations, dinners, etc

So, you ask, what is the problem? Or are you just bragging about how wonderful they think you are?  The problem is that I do not know if I want to do it  because I am certain that part of being around influential people is at least pretending that you admire them.  I have great difficulty admiring people simply because they are “important.” Although I know some wonderful important people and have had the pleasure of knowing others who are no longer with us, like Dr. John Hope Franklin, most of the important people I have ever met are important because they are rich, not because they are wonderful.

I understand the power of money, it is good stuff to have and good stuff to be around. I have a rich friend or two, but they are not my friends because they are rich, they are my friends because they have other qualities that make them desirable as friends, like a great sense of humor or an ability to discuss something that is not on television or the ability to take a trip down “what if” paths, and no, they do not give me money, although they do give great birthday gifts!

I am worried that my relatively moderate bias against important people will flare up during this program. I will most likely approach the folks who are deemed important with an attitude of “show me”, no doubt part of my pathology  caused by considering myself important people and, therefore, not subject to worshiping folks simply because they too are important.

Now, I definitely fail in one category of being important, I am not rich. I am kind of comfy, but not rich. I think I am important because I think I am smarter than many people (okay so modesty is not one of my virtues)  logical, love learning, am fascinated by my fellow human beings of all stripes, and because I believe that I am true to myself, not to what is convenient or easy or popular, or for that matter, wise.  I am kind, and caring–do not raise your eyebrows, I know I sometimes sound heartless, but sometimes people need to be told the truth, it will help them in the end, although it might sting at first.

I do not admire someone because he or she happens to be rich. Anyone can be rich, given the right opportunities, determination and work ethic, or almost anyone can.And, our society has become so enamored of money that it no longer seems to matter what other nasty habits the person has, as long as they are rich.

Money is not something that makes you smarter, nicer, kinder, more moral, well read, logical, reflective or anything else besides being able to take comfort in the fact you have more numbers in your bank balance than most.

A lot of people swear they are not impressed by financial wealth, but get them in a room full of wealthy people and they simper enough to put Uriah Heep to shame. The rich people I know who are worth knowing, and would be if they did not have much money, are not fond of the simperers. They like for people to be people and respect and like them for something other than their wallets and purses.

So, can I go around the important, rich people leading this institute and be appropriately grateful and impressed? We shall see, and I shall try–after all it is supposed to be an honor,  but I would not bet any money on it!