A Fork in the Road

     I have been writing this blog for 3 years.  I like the fact that I write about many topics, but it doesn’t work well in the world of blogging.  The WordPress format is great, but I can’t add any advertising which I believe is my next step.  I have been thinking about what to do, and I have come up with a solution.

     As much as I love my title, Simple Sensibilities is going to retire.  The website will still be open, but it is time to come up with something that reflects the content.  Also, I am going to write 2 blogs.  One will deal with current issues, another will deal with parenting, education, and children.

     I have a diverse group of readers.  They are moms, dads, teenagers, educators, veterans, environmentalists,  politicians, and musicians, and artists.  The fact that the blog has appealed to so many is gratifying.  I need to focus the writing so that it can be marketable.  It is also a way to increase readership.

     I thank everyone who has supported this blog over the years.  I appreciate your comments and encouragement.  In the next couple of weeks, I will set up my new sites and will post the addresses here.  Until then, get out there and enjoy the sun!

Angela

Little Patches of Green

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     For sale signs are increasing across small town America.   As nearby cities grow larger, developers begin looking for plots of land to build housing and commercial enterprises.  Suburban areas continue to spawn, with rural areas being eyed up for the future.  People who move to areas with less conveniences end up being divided into two categories. Those who want more, and those who wish things would stay the same.  Who is right?  No one, but it is a reality that land is a finite entity, and once it is built upon, nothing is ever the same.

    I live in a small New England town. Over the years we have seen our share of growth.  Housing continues to go up, even though our school age population is decreasing.  A small nearby airport is increasing in capacity eliminating an entire neighborhood due to an expanded zone.  A movie theatre proposal is in review, and more office space is being approved.  There is talk of building a YMCA at a time when many Y’s across the country are struggling financially, leaving some with no choice but to close.

   Some residents in the area favor growth and view it as a good thing. They profess it will help the tax base, and provided more opportunity for residents especially the elderly and the youth.  I am sure people who crave these amenities will take advantage of their offerings. There is belief that critical social issues can be addressed by cement and mortar.  My concern is that slowly but surely, we are witnessing the gentrification of America.  Cities become larger, suburbs continue to grow, and one is left to wonder what will happen when the space runs out.  How much time do rural areas have left?  Where does it all end?

    As you drive along, take time to notice the little patches of land available for development.  Gas stations, retail, office space, and housing are eating up the available landscape.  One project here and there does not create an impact for many observers, but over time the small city or town is overrun by too many approvals.  I’m not against growth, but all not all growth is beneficial.  I have yet to live in a town where taxes went down because of development.  In fact, some of these people “helping” the community often receive tax breaks, while residents are left picking up the tab.

   I moved to a smaller community by choice.  I don’t understand why those who do so suddenly decide they want more at their doorstep.  Didn’t they consider what the area had available in terms of convenience when they looked for real estate?  Some state they will move out if more isn’t available.  Somehow that is considered a threat to the entire population of the town.  They however, do not speak for myself and many others.  The benefits of space and a slower pace are quietly slipping away.  I want to see little patches of green, and I want to see it where I live. 

The Housework Aerobic Workout

images0UUNGUOT     Thirty years ago, Jane Fonda came out with her first workout video.   It became a sensation.  Every woman over 30 wanted to look like Jane.  Aerobic exercise was all the rage, and people started flocking to gyms to get themselves fit and trim.  My mother watched all this with great interest.  Having 5 kids, she did more than her share of housework.   Her statement at the time was….”I don’t have to do aerobics.  I run up and down those stairs a million times a day!”  Now that I am in her position, I know exactly what she means.

     I have it easy compared to my mother.  I only have 2 children, and appliances have gotten more advanced in terms of cleaning.   That doesn’t mean I enjoy it, but there is less scrubbing and rinsing than I remember when I was young.   Still, there is a certain amount of energy and movement that is required for doing these chores.  Lifting, bending, pushing, and stretching are what this body of mine experiences every day.

     I have tried many forms of exercise.   My past workouts consisted mostly of swimming and walking, but I also have lifted weights, used machines, and have done some yoga.   I was in the best shape of my life when my girls were babies and toddlers.  Your arms and abs get fully toned from lifting baby carriers, and taking kids in and out of car seats, shopping carriages, cribs, etc.   You are constantly running after them when they learn to walk.  Now that they are older, the lifting has stopped (not the running), but the work goes on.  Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry, cooking, food shopping, being a taxi never ends, and never goes on vacation.

     I once had a doctor ask me what I did for exercise.  At the time, I was walking the dog 2 miles a day, and taking yoga classes.   HE didn’t seem satisfied with my answer and kept pressing for more.  I finally said…”I never sit.”  That ended of the conversation.  I still walk the dog, try to fit in yoga, and yes, I still do housework.  This being a long winter, the snow blower became my best friend, and I used the shovel so much that my arms didn’t hurt after the third storm.

     I often see groups of women running up and down Main Street where I live.  They have on the all the gear, headbands, running shoes, and seem to do it every day.  They are in perfect shape and look good even when exercising.   But to all the moms out there, who feel they should do more to stay fit, don’t worry about it.  You are all beautiful.  Years later, Jane admitted to surgery.  Take out that vacuum, run up and down those stairs, and know you are great the way you are.

The World’s First Popular Nerd

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      My twelve-year-old daughter Tessa recently had an interesting conversation with a classmate who happens to be male.

Classmate:  You know Tessa; you’re like the world’s first popular nerd.

Tessa:  What do you mean by that?

Classmate:  Well…it’s kind of like you’re a geek…no offense….

Tessa:  I’m not offended by that.

Classmate:…but everybody likes you!

     We laughed when she told me the story, but later I realized how insightful this dialogue was for both parties.

     The idea that someone could like school and work hard, provokes images of the stereotypical bookworm holed up in a corner.  He or she is the loner with no friends and no interests other than academics.  A person wearing thick glasses with frames out of the 1950s, and who talks in a nasal sounding voice. Perpetuating these images, especially in the media, reinforces the idea that kids can’t enjoy learning, strive towards excellence, or take on challenges and still be a normal kid.   The young man quoted above saw that none of those concepts applied to my daughter, and it made him think about the image and personality of a “geek.”

     Before my daughter started middle school, I explained that kids will start changing and not everyone will want to be her friend.  Groups begin to form, stereotypes develop, and minor forms of bullying might occur.   She has handled the transition extremely well.  She does not let words define who she is, and is comfortable in her own skin.  She explained she is actually proud to be a geek, but she also loves to dance, sing, watch movies, and play outdoors.  She isn’t “popular” in the way most of us remember from our school days, but rather because she is helpful, kind, and always has a smile on her face.  She is happy for the success of others, and does not possess feelings of envy.  She sees the good in everything.

     We hear so many stories about children who are depressed, lonely, and don’t feel good about themselves.  Maybe it is time to stop portraying people in singular categories and understand that as humans we are multifaceted.  We all have good qualities and different personalities.  Instead of focusing just on bullying, we need to teach acceptance and kindness.   We need to make kids realize that everyone is different and unique. It takes more than one word to be defined.  The world needs more “firsts” of their kind.

Talk to the Elderly

imagesXIRH0EZQ     Recently, my husband and I took our daughters to the movies.  Afterwards, we went for pizza at a very well-known establishment.   We were seated after waiting 30 minutes in the lobby.  Once we were settled and gave our order, I noticed an elderly couple sitting diagonal from us.  It seemed every time I looked up, they were staring at us and neither was speaking.  A small wall divided our tables so I couldn’t see the rest of their party.  Eventually, a man I assumed was their son stood up, followed by three boys around the ages of 10 to 12.   Two teenage girls also appeared.  I then knew why the elderly couple wasn’t talking.

     Each of the boys was holding their own tablet, and both girls had earphones attached to either a phone of other device. They were probably so involved in their own virtual world, that none of them took the time to talk to the people sitting directly in front of them.  I felt sorry for this couple. They are of a generation where being “social” means going out, having fun, and making memories.  The word “media” is not part of the scenario.

     I was lucky enough to have known my grandparents and other relatives for a good part of my life.  What I remember most are the conversations.  They were filled stories that only come with a lifetime of experience.  They provided lessons in history as seen from the eyes of people who had lived it.  There are conversations fondly remembered because of humor and laughter.  None of it recorded except in the recesses of my mind.  The place, the time, and the experience lived again as if it were yesterday.

     My opinion concerning electronics has been stated before in other posts.  I am not against them, and understand they serve a need.  But why has it become a substitute for interaction?  Why does it have to go everywhere and be present at every moment?  Some day in the future, these kids will not have the opportunity to talk to their grandparents.  What will they remember?

Stereotyping Our Boys

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     During the holiday season, I had the opportunity to buy a shirt for an 8-year-old boy.   Having two daughters, this was a new experience for me.   Walk into any store selling clothes for girls, and you are instantly bombarded with bright colors, glitter, and sequins.  Many skirts are trimmed in tulle and almost all shirts have some grand graphic design.  Trying to find clothes that are more understated is a bit of a challenge.  So, when I walked into a couple of well-known stores catering to kids, I was surprised and ultimately a bit sadden when I saw what boys have to choose from.

     Let’s start with color.   Yes it is winter here in the Northeast, but all I saw was brown, dark blue, black, gray, and dark green.  The only other colors were burnt orange and mustard green.  I admit, the neon colors of girl’s clothes can be a bit overwhelming, but to be so drab was depressing.   Then I looked at the graphics on the shirts.   The only choices were either sports or pictures of heavy machinery.   Since this was going to be a donation, and I didn’t know the youngster, I was at a loss as to what would be appropriate.  I finally settled on the one shirt I found that had stripes.

      It got me thinking about the messages we send kids.  Do all little boys have to be involved or like sports?  It is great if they have the talent and ambition to play, but what if they don’t?  Do all have to like tractors, large truck, and backhoes?  Is there something wrong with them if they prefer other toys?  If you don’t think this is has an effect, think again.

     My daughter is in the chorus at school.  They are having a hard time getting boys to join.  Oh they are in the band, and a few are in the orchestra, but for some reason, chorus isn’t cool.   With all the discussion we have surrounding our girls…have we left our boys behind?  Does he have to worry that his peers will think lesser of him because he isn’t cut out for sports?   Can he like science and math without being called a geek?  What if he is more interested in art and music?  How long does it take before he realizes his potential?  High school?  Longer?  It has to start younger.

     Parents have to take the lead from their kids.  I have witnessed too many forcing their children to participate in activities that they are clearly not enjoying.  I have heard grown men yell at young boys to toughen up, shake it off, run faster, work harder.  I’m talking about little kids here, not high school or college athletes.  There is a fine line between encouraging children to do better, and belittling them when they don’t live up to expectations which are usually set too high.  If kids find something they can throw their heart and soul into, they will usually succeed without pressure from their parents.  They will never know what they are good at if not given the freedom to choose.

     I hope the little boy is wearing that striped shirt knows he doesn’t have to identify himself by a graphic.  He can grow up to be anything he wants and not have to wonder what others think.  He can join the chorus if he likes to sing.  He doesn’t have to play sports if he doesn’t want to.  He can do well academically without being called a nerd.   He should have the freedom to choose.  Just like our girls.

Math, Science, and Girls

imagesRRCK1AFP     In 1947, a 17 year old young woman graduated from high school in Upstate, NY.   Having an A+ average, she was accepted into New York University.  The following fall, she traveled down to the city to begin her studies in biology.  Two months after receiving her degree, she accepted a job working in the cancer research labs at Sloan-Kettering.  In time, she was in charge of an entire lab.  Who is she?  She is my mother.

    I am perplexed by stories about young women not choosing careers studies in math and science.  So much is discussed and written in terms of the society preventing females from following this path.  While I don’t disagree that there may still be some obstacles out there, I do believe that the family has the biggest impact on the choices of our girls.   My mother’s family didn’t totally understand why she chose to study biology.  They thought nursing was a more viable option.  Yet, they did not prevent her from choosing her major.  The same followed for me and my siblings.  Whatever choices we made regarding school or career was ours to make.

     The fact that I had a parent who was allowed to make such a decision played a huge factor in knowing that I had the freedom to go into science.   My younger sister also made the same choice and became a successful engineer.   The achievement in math and science in my family was considered a good thing, and not something to disregard because we were girls.  I remember at the time some of my peers not having the same encouragement.  Their families felt that it was wiser for their daughters to work in a more traditional female job.  That is perfectly acceptable if it is the choice of the young woman, but if she has the talent and the interest to pursue areas pertaining to math and science, the opportunities are abundant.

     Society is not telling our girls they are not good at math and science.  That is a myth that has been handed down through the years.   Lest we forget the thousands of women who went to work during World War II working on projects that required a great deal of technical aptitude.  There have been many women who have made discoveries besides Madam Curie not present in our history books.  There are numerous female doctors, engineers, researchers, and professors who are presently working in a multitude of capacities.   There are a considerable number of female high school science teachers who present a role model to our children every day.  No one in “society” is telling our girls not to pursue their dreams.

     In 1947, a brilliant young woman walked her own path.  There were many others just like her who paved the road way before the issue of female equality was explored.  If they were able to do it during their lifetime, there is no reason why women today can’t as well.  It takes determination, hard work, encouragement, and a desire to live out a chance of fulfillment.  Let us stop telling stories about women not doing something because of society, and start telling about women who do because they can.