Friday, February 28, 2014

Hectic; Because Life Just is....

I have been doing my duties as a mom of three and by it's nature, it is hectic.  To add to the mix, I am the PTA President for my kids' K-8 school of 830 students.  I have also volunteered to be the local PTA liaison to Portland Public Schools for the 482 million dollar bond to rebuild three high schools, one middle school and to repair countless others.  Neither one of those jobs is glorious.  I am blessed to be in a position where I can be a "stay at home" mom, though staying at home rarely factors in.

Our school has grown from 450 kids about 6 years ago to 830 this year. Our rapid growth has created lots of stress and for next year and upheaval.  Our first and third graders will be sent to a third campus about a mile away next year.  That campus is already occupied by a program called ACCESS and they will have to adjust to this change too.  The hope is that this is just a one year solution and that boundaries will "fix" the issue going forward.  The idea of moving some of our community members out of the school is nothing short of crappy but in the end, I believe that is what will happen.  On the plus side, the school that they are likely to attend will have many of the same folks from our current school.  It is highly a emotional subject and uncharted territory .

Kees will be going to the third campus.  This is good because as the PTA President, I have some skin in the game.  My family will be effected so I get to chime in and have my vote count.  Yesterday Coulter said he wished he could go to the new campus, Rose City Park.  I asked why and was very pleasantly surprised by his answer.  He said "I'm worried that Kees will get school sick.  You know, like home-sick but for your school.  If I was there then he wouldn't have to feel alone."  I was so struck by his love for his brother, his thoughtful feelings and what his solution was.

In talking to Kees he is not really worried.  Yes, it will be his third campus in three years but he is basically fine with it.  Our children are generally more resilient than we give them credit for.  I have listened to the concerns of parents in reference to their precious little children.  I went to 12 schools and I turned out this awesome.  Purely by the nature of having parents that care so much, these children are ahead. It also means they have the support of their parents and probably are pretty solid kids.  I wish the parents would recognize their children's strength.  I remember as a child when someone spoke to me in a condescending tone I thought, "I am short, not stupid."  I knew I was strong and until proven otherwise, I will assume my children are strong.  I know they have support.

Our community will slog through this together.  There are many issues that need to be addressed and three campuses are messy.  There is funding, transportation, library, computers, teachers, principals, councilors, moving, aftercare, moving of the existing program, working with the other community in the building, support staff, scheduling and so on.  It is a never ending list at this point.  I am afraid that until the first month of school is over there will be fear and uncertainty.  Until that point, I am pretty sure my life will be hectic.  Wish me luck....I need it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sophia's Birthday Present

Sophia turned 13 last month and I wanted to give her wisdom.  I have some....but I know so many women that are wise. It only seemed right to ask for the wisdom of the tribe.  I have had some requests to post my letter.  Here is my request to these women.

Dear women of the tribe,
I am writing to you because you are wise, have good advice, are smart, talented and I love you.  Sophia is turning 13 in January and I am putting together a retreat at the beach with a few relatives.  There are not enough rights of passage for young people (in my view) so I am creating one for Sophia.  I want her to know that becoming a woman is exciting and challenging and that she has support all around her.  I want her to feel your wisdom and know that there are hundreds of years of experience between us that we will share with her if and when she needs us.

My plan is to create a book with all of our collective wisdom, stories, hopes, dreams, failures, successes and ultimately, lessons.  This is yours to create and make what you want.  You can include pictures, articles, poetry, letters, clippings, diary entries, anything you want.  I have listed some questions as a jumping off point but in the end it will be whatever you want to share with Sophia.  Please know that this can be long or short.  I know how busy life gets.  You can type and print it or hand-write it and return it in the enclosed envelope.  Or, if you’d rather, you can email it to me ( and I will print it.  Thank you for your time if you choose to participate.   Sophia’s book will be a treasure for her for a long time and will be her big gift at the retreat.   The retreat is on the weekend of January 24th, 2014.  If you miss the date please do not hesitate to mail it later.  Again, I know this is asking a lot of you and time is at a premium. 

I want to bind the book of 8 ½ by 11 sheets so please leave an inch on the (long) left hand side of the paper (and if you use the back, an inch on the right) so I can bind the book.  I don’t want any wisdom to get lost in the binding. 

The following questions are for reference.  You can answer them or write about anything you want.  The main point is for you to impart your wisdom to Sophia.   

1.     Please tell Sophia about yourself as a young person.  What were your biggest accomplishments? Fears? Things you loved? Hobbies?  What was your life like?  What did you think being an adult meant?

2.     Please tell Sophia about yourself as an adult.  What are your biggest accomplishments? Fears? Things you love? Hobbies?  What is your life like now?  How is being an adult different than you thought it would be?

3.     Tell a story about yourself as a young person.

4.     What do you remember that was great about being a teenager?

5.     What is challenging about being an adult but you still have to face?

6.     What is something it took you YEARS to realize that you wish you had known sooner?
·      For Example - Just because you have known someone a long time doesn’t mean you have to remain friends with them.  If someone is an energy suck, complains all the time or is overly self centered I can just move on.  I don’t have to carry people around that don’t treat me as I deserve to be treated. 

·      Superfluous drama is for weak people with small minds and nothing better to do.  Cut them loose.

7.     Write about your memories of being 13ish.  What do you remember that was good? Bad? Challenges?

8.     What is your opinion of today’s media’s images and definitions of women?  What do you say to a 13 year-old girl who sees these depictions every day and may not believe it every time her mom tells her she is a perfect Sophia.

9.     Write about an obstacle that you faced when you were a young person and how you overcame it or didn’t and how you handled it.

10. What do you see now in your former self that you wish you could go back and tell yourself, “It’s going to be alright.” in the long term? 

11. What do you remember was a REALLY BIG DEAL that the mature you now realizes it wasn’t.

12. Share an experience that seemed terrible at the time but has given you perspective now.

13. Is there something you did that seemed like a good idea at the time that in retrospect wasn’t such a great move?

14. If you could go back, what would you definitely do that you may have been afraid to do for fear of being embarrassed?

15. What piece(s) of advice would you give to your 13 year-old self?  What do you wish someone had told you? 

16.  What’s the best advice you can give about love relationships?

17.  What does success look like?

18.  What does a powerful woman look like?

19.  Write anything else you want for Sophia or any young woman you think could use good advice. 

Thank you so much for participating in this gift to Sophia.  I want her to know that she has many women who love and support her and that collectively, we have hundreds of years of experience.

All the best,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

2013 Holiday Letter

It’s been another great year with the Leeks here in Portlandia (just like the TV show). We are blessed with good health, growing smart kids (smart parents…not growing), a wonderful community, a comfortable home and many positive experiences over the past year. We are truly living the dream and I am reminded of our blessings every day. 

The kids are all very active. With each one in just one sport and one activity this fall we hardly had time to eat dinner. Because it is a priority to eat together, we often didn’t eat until eight in the evening. And getting homework done…that is a whole other challenge.  It wasn’t pretty, but we managed to have a lot of fun in everything we did. 

Sophia is in 7th grade, will be 13 in January and continues to be a terrific kid. I keep waiting for the “other shoe” to drop but she is still as sweet and kind as ever. Of course she has moments of teen angst and attitude but they are usually followed by her bright smile. Her smile that got braces just 2 weeks ago! She loves her aerial dance with AWOL ( and is in the advanced teen class. Man she is strong. There is also soccer in the mix. She does very well in school and has the nicest friends. That is a big deal to mamma. This summer she ran a camp with a friend. They had “employees” and even had some HR and P&L issues to deal with. It was a great learning experience and a great success! They already have parents that want to sign up their kids for next year.

Coulter will be 10 on the 29th. I can’t believe my first baby boy will be in double digits! He does well in school and has lots of friends. He makes friends everywhere he goes and has an amazing ability to engage anyone. He has what most leaders want… he has ”IT!” He played baseball and soccer this year but what he loves most is rock climbing. He’s a natural. The first day he climbed, he made it to the top of the gym using a fairly difficult route and really impressed his instructor. He moves confidently and quickly and is strong from head to toe. Oh to have that strength to weight ratio again.  He keeps us all laughing and is a really snuggly boy.  He still likes to sit on my lap. I consider it precious time.

Kees is 8 and keeps us all on our toes. He is one of the oldest kids in his grade. Holding him back a grade has proven to be one of the smartest moves we’ve made as parents. Score one for M&D! He is thriving and is oh so smart. He often thinks in an abstract manner and truly amazes us all. His natural ability to think “outside of the box” will serve him well. He played baseball and soccer and just recently joined his brother in rock climbing. He is pretty excited about it. I can just picture my boys climbing together some day. The idea makes me smile.

The smalls are all very funny…. The other day the boys were making cookies when they called me in. “Mom, do these look good? Can we put them in the oven?” I said, “Boys, your balls are too big.” They immediately went into hysterics…. Great, that’s the path we’re on now. And Sophia can make me laugh at will. She recently saw a kid with a Cabbage Patch Doll and asked, "What's with that doll’s legs?" I said, "It's a Cabbage Patch Doll. It just looks like that." She said, "Well it looks like ‘Needs an EpiPen Doll.’"  Her sense of humor is falling fairly close to the tree.  I can’t decide if that’s good or not.

They are all pals too. Sophia runs a “school” for the boys with a full curriculum when they’re out of their “real” school. They do art projects, read and do math too. It’s very cute. And the boys play together so nicely (most of the time). When they laugh together there is not a better sound in the world. It makes my heart smile.

Bob is the new Deputy CIO for Multnomah County.  The County includes Portland. Yep, he left Kaiser after almost 10 years. He worked tirelessly in the effort to successfully open Kaiser’s newest and most technologically advanced hospital in the country. Then the next week he was working for the County. He loves it. His office is 3 miles from our house and the hours are much better. He is usually home by 5:30 and is able to coach the kids in various sports. Our “Bob hours” have greatly increased vs. “non-Bob hours” and that makes me and the “smalls” very happy. He is even playing futsal.

I am still a stay at home mom and I love that title. I am the president of the PTA for the second (and final) year in a row. It is a job that takes WAY more time than I ever thought it would. Our school is very successful and crowded. We will need to do some adjusting next year for a one-year “fix” and then the boundaries will be redrawn the following year. I still volunteer outside of the school and am still surprised how little time I spend at home given my “stay at home” title.

We spent time at the beach, zip lined, rode horses, threw parties, played sports, rode bikes and traveled a bit. The kids and I drove to San Francisco and Disneyland with a girlfriend of mine and her two kids. We did 2080 miles in 40 hours over seven days with seven people in one van. We covered a lot of ground walking all over San Francisco and then spent two 12-hour days at Disneyland. We had sore feet but we got our monies worth. Best of all, we parted as friends even after all that time in close quarters.  The 4th of July was spent camping at mom and Ed’s…heaven.  A few weeks later Bob and I spent five days in San Francisco just enjoying each other’s company. It was great fun. We attended my dad’s retirement party in September where he was greatly honored. In August Bob and I went to my 30th high school reunion and had another great weekend. The friends that I made in high school continue to be the quality people that I knew they would be. I have reacquainted with old friends and have really enjoyed getting to know my high school friends as adults.

It has been a great year and we’re looking forward to a wondrous holiday season.  May you and your family and friends enjoy the season and each other.  If you are ever in the neighborhood please come visit.  We love you all. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Equity for All

I have so much to write about right now.  I have been doing LOTS of PTA stuff and we have raised about $50,000 this year already.  Amazing!  I have been advocating for our school by making sure that the PPS board and Facilities people know how desperate we are for space at our schools.  I am involved with the high school redesign process for the 3 high schools that will be fully rebuilt over the next 6 years.  The BCS Foundation has kicked off their fundraising efforts and I am there to be supportive.  There is also the parenting thing that includes, 5 soccer practices per week, 3 games and now parties (thank goodness that is drawing to a close).  And there's AWOL 2-3 times per week, rock climbing, band and choir.  There are other responsibilities like, playing ball with the dog.  The meals 3 times a day....every day, seriously, I feel like I am always in the kitchen.  Maintaining the house....kinda.  6:15 daily walks with Bob.  Yoga.  Stair walks.  And so on.  There is no way I could do half of that if I had a job.  Kudos to those of you that can do both.  I couldn't.

I am not going to write about any of that today.  I am going to talk about equity.  It is something that most of us understand conceptually but really we only know the word.  I don't think most people feel it in their soul.  Equity is greatly misunderstood and I want people to really stop and look at themselves and consider what equity is and how it effects what and who is around you.

First, I want to talk about equity between men and women.  This is one that we can all basically understand ........ sort of.   This one goes way back in our culture.  There are other cultures where men and women are equal but ours is not one of them.   Women have not been equal on any level.

Women have been put in the kitchen to feed our families, have been the baby makers and been there to please men for generations.  Look all around you and it's everywhere.  In the Bible a wife must submit to her husband. Check this out, numbers 3 and 8 are my personal favorites.  

Women have been reduced to objects, objects to make fun of, judge, take revenge on, belittle and to put in their place.  Well I am here to tell you that that reduces us all.  Every time a man makes fun of or harms a woman it reduces him.  It takes away part of his humanity.  In reality it makes him less.  The woman feels less than but the truth is, it hurts both parties.   Many times when this happens other boys or men see the put down or harm of a woman and encourage it.  "Awe man, you told her." "She had it coming." "She deserved it." They give the harm power. It's wrong, so very wrong.  As that man reduces himself he looses self esteem.  Let's be honest here, if that man had high self esteem he wouldn't hurt another.  Both parties loose.  Objectification is what makes it easier for men to rape women and even kill them.  Take the case in Maryville High School in Missouri.   She was an object and he was the conqueror.  Take a look at the young man's statement at the bottom of the page, he has no remorse and there was no ultimately no penalty.  This is just one of a million similar stories.

In advertising women are objects.  Go ahead, click it, it's obscene!  Women don't have anything to do with most of the objects being sold but there they are, naked, beaten, choked, stunned, unconscious, shown with heads covered.   These objects belong to everyone but the women in those bodies.  Those aren't women.  If you aren't skinny enough you should be ashamed and withdraw.  You are worth less and there by end up feeling worthless.

These are real women.  They are all shapes, sizes, colors and look, most of them are smiling.  You don't see that in the objectified women because what, a smile is not sexy?   I don't know.  And while these images are beautiful and real they are from one campaign that I can see.  DOVE!  Thank you Dove for standing up for the 99%+ of us that are real, have lumps, scars, crazy hair etc.

It is frightening to think of what our kids are seeing.  They're little and don't know what's being thrown at them.  I have tried to teach my kids but not everyone does.  Many go along with the notion that you need to be what you see.  I try very hard to introduce my kids to all sorts of things so they have many options of what they can be.  Skinny is not one of the things I want my kids to be.  I want them happy, healthy, smart, successful and fulfilled.  I want them to respect and see themselves so they can respect and really see others.

And some of my favorite disses of women are in politics.  When men discussed Hillary Clinton it was often times more about what a "bitch" she was, how she acted "Hysterical" or what her her pant suit looked like or how attractive she is/was or is/not.  What the hell does that matter?  Not any of that speaks to her politics.  How often have you heard "real news" outlets report what a "bastard" any male politician is or commented about his suit or what his hair looked like?  I am not a Sarah Palin fan but I was out raged to hear men speaking about her in a sexual manner and that it was on "legitimate" new channels.  The same thing goes for Michele Bachman, I'm not a fan but let's talk politics.  I don't care what she looks like or what she wears.

And there is social inequity. "Haves" vs. "Have Nots" is always a big one.  It is in play in our country and all over the world.  The real "Haves" are the top .01% and they are in such control that we, the other 99.99%, can't even imagine their wealth and power and how far it goes.  If you are interested in how big the disparity is check this out, I think it will blow your mind how inequitable our finances really are.

Most of the people I know are "Haves," not the .01% "Haves" but are well enough off.  When a "Have Not" sees all the stuff and the life that a "Have" has they may think, "I want that stuff and that life."  Let's say that person is a hard worker and they go get their first job at a fast food place.  They'll probably make minimum wage of $7.25 (in Oregon it's $8.95) or $15,000 per year.  That does not get you very much stuff.  It's discouraging.

That same person may have a kid.  That complicates things.  Or maybe they decide to get an education so they take on debt and are still working a job.  There are lots of scenarios.  In the best circumstances that person succeeds and they become a success.  Terrific.  Or, in another scenario, that person becomes a criminal.  When you are at the bottom of the food chain and have nothing to lose it is easier to take risks to potentially improve your life.

It seems that it makes more sense to even things out.  If someone makes $15.00 per hour that takes their pay to just over $30,000.  Now that makes life a whole lot more comfortable.  Someone with health care and a decent home is much more apt to be a law abiding citizen.  They are now part of the group with more to lose and thus more of a part of our society.  They also pay more taxes so it's good for the city, state and federal governments.  They can participate in consumerism  Heck, they may decide they need more education so they can make even more money.  I see that as only positive.

That is a different topic of equity but again, it seems that when we have more social equity, we all have more to gain than to lose.  I am for giving a hand up and out, not a handout.  

There is inequity in marriage, education, living conditions, pay, health care, mental health, incarceration, for people of color, people from other countries and of other religions.  As those with more power drive the top higher and the low, lower we will see more of the same.  I am not saying socialism or communism is the answer. I do believe the ideal is much different then the reality.  Again, fiscally I refer to above mentioned video.   I think those graphs suit social injustices too but they are much harder to measure.  So much inequity starts with money.

There is inequity all across our planet.  I don't know what the answers are but I encourage you to look at equity where you are.  Study it.  Empathize with the "others."  Try to see things from their perspective.  Where have you not been treated equitably?  How are you teaching your children about it?  How are you teaching them to treat others equitably? What are you doing to make sure your daughters are treated with respect and your sons treat women with respect?  What do you do to show that equity is important in your life?  Will you step in to right inequity when you see it?  I believe until we are all given the opportunity to be on equal footing none of us is free.  It is an ongoing conversation that I look at every day and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Sweet Spot

School started last week.  Bob started a new job 2 weeks ago.  PTA stuff started 3 weeks ago. Soccer is back.  Aerial dance has started up again.  Rock climbing is in the mix too.  Yes the Leeks have a lot going on.  Wednesdays are particularly busy with Aerial dance, 2 soccer practices and rock climbing.  Yes, today is our busiest day of the week.

With Bob's new job he is able to be here in the morning.  It's so great.  He's a morning person so it's nice to have him here helping the kids ready for their day.  They are handling most of their stuff (getting dressed, making lunch, determining a mode of transportation) on their own but they often need to be reminded to "stay on task." Reading, building Legos, checking out a comic book... those are all secondary to the morning task of eating breakfast and making a lunch.   I know it's early in the year but Sophia has been setting her alarm and getting up every day.  They boys are easy to get up too.  As the days get shorter and the mornings darker, I'm sure it will get harder to get going in the morning but for now it's great.

While things are rolling downstairs I am able to move a bit slower than in past years.  I check my email and get ready for the day.  I am loving that part.

This morning I got up, got dressed and came downstairs at about 7:45.  I asked Bob what his day looked like.  He said he was going to take the kids to school and then go in for a meeting at 9.  I said, "Why don't you ride your bike?"  He's been talking about doing that since he got his new job.  His work is about 20 minutes from here door to door on a bike.  I timed it yesterday.  He said he couldn't get there in time after dropping off the kids.  I asked Sophia if she could get everyone off and she said, "Yes!" So now it is 8:05 and there are no excuses.  Bob agrees to ride.

We got out our bikes, put his stuff in panniers and took off.  It was a nice ride and it's almost all down hill on the way there.  It was a bit humid so Bob was pretty sweaty when we got to his office 20 minutes later.  Poor guy, I hope he cooled down.

I headed home up the hill. Yes, it is almost all uphill on the way home. Once again, this is confirmed.  As I rode I was noting what a sweet spot we are in.  We have nice kids who are pretty responsible.  Their "responsibleness" has allowed Bob and I to go out on dates and leave them home alone.  And today it allowed us to leave them home and for them to take them selves to school.  I was confident that they could do it and be on time.

We have good kids.  I am told fairly often how nice my kids are, how personable they are and that they are kind.  It is a huge compliment and I choose to believe people when they tell me these things.  If they were rude or unpleasant I don't think people would say anything.  No one is forcing anyone to say anything yet I hear the same compliments very often.  I am grateful.  And, I will take some credit along with Bob.  We have worked hard to instill good values and manners in them.  They are over privileged and indulged just like most kids are in our neighborhood but they also know how to work.  They do laundry, clean their rooms, are learning to cook, they make their lunches, balance their own finances, vacuum, sweep and pick up dog poop.  They have also been taught to carry a conversation.  That is big with adults.  My kids ask questions and engage.  Heck, Coulter is great at a party because by the end he knows everyone and can tell you something about them.

We (mostly) enjoy being with our kids.  Last Sunday the weather was perfect!  We were all up and at 'em by 9.  I noted that there was nothing on our calendar and decided we needed a family adventure day. We have been in Portland for 14 years and have NEVER been to the Vista House. That's ridiculous.  It's 20 minutes from our house and it is stunning.   That's where our day began.  We did a bit of hiking, viewing, skateboarding (the boys), fish viewing and dam touring.  It was such fun.  Again, it's part of the sweet spot.  Sophia wasn't so keen at first but once we were on the road she was happy.  Everyone was happy.  We enjoyed the weather, the experiences and each other.  Perhaps soon the sweet spot will change and the kids won't want to spend time with us but for now they do and I am going to enjoy the heck out of it.

Bob and I decided that there would be no screen this month.  It's not hard core but there is no gaming and no TV shows.  The rules have been broken a couple times; once for a sleep over and once for a daddy and Kees night.  So now we have more of the sweet spot.  More games, more family time, less arguing and less whinny kids.  I am loving this.

So I, we, all of us are in this great sweet spot right now.  I am aware that it will change.  The kids and our priorities will be different and the sweet spot will look differently.  But for now fun family time is in our sweet spot.  Allowing the kids freedom to go to and from school alone is in the sweet spot.  And being able to go out to dinner alone with Bob and without hiring a babysitter is in our sweet spot.  All of these freedoms and all of these experiences are sweet and I am savoring the right now.  I appreciate all the hard work it took to get here and I know that it was totally worth it.  And knowing that makes all the hard work to come more acceptable and tolerable.  We will keep working with our kids and giving them the skills to become responsible, friendly, honest, hard working and capable people.  Those life skills will give us more sweet spots in time and hopefully, the ultimate sweet spot in the future where we can watch our great kids become great adults who create their sweet spot of a future.   But for now I am going to totally absorb this sweet spot and take in every positive aspect of the NOW!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

ATDC the 2nd Generation

When Sophia was little she went to a day camp called Apple Tree Day Camp.  It was run by 3 teenage girls; Clara, Mackenzie and Alice.  It was very cute and they really did an excellent job.  They started it when they were 12 and did their last camp at 21.  That's 10 years!  All my kids attended this camp at one time or another and many of their friends attended too.  It was fantastic.

Clara and Mackenzie have been babysitters for our kids for about 10 years.  Just this summer Mackenzie stayed with my kids when Bob and I were out of town.  Both girls have travelled with us extensively and even went to the Bahamas with us.  Clara's parents have become good friends with Bob and I as well.  It's been a great experience witnessing the growth of these girls and their journey to becoming adults.  They are lovely adults.

Fast forward to today.  Mackenzie and Clara bequeathed all of their "stuff" from the camp to Sophia.  I look around my house and I think, "What do I need?" and the answer is not more stuff.  But this stuff is the stuff of love, of sweat and of tears.  The stuff the original 3 girls collected and boxed for use in the future.   In this case Sophia's future.  Sophia has been talking about taking over ATDC since she first went to the camp.

Sophia talked to a couple of her friends about a month ago and they decided they would do it.  Grace was the first one to meet with Sophia.  Grace went to ATDC and she and Sophia have been friends since Sophia was 3.  They spent about 6 hours working on plans.  Next her friend Ella joined in.  Sophia and Ella have been friends since birth.  Unfortunately, Grace's grandmother fell ill and she had to leave town.  Ella and Sophia spent the next week, almost 9 days working diligently.  They put in about 40 hours each working hard and very well together.  They worked the neighborhood getting kids to sign up, they arranged before and aftercare, put together projects, made schedules, considered what snacks to have and did most of the planning on their own.

The way the camp was run in the past they knew they would need 3 people to do the same kind of thing.  They hired Sophia's friend Reese.  They have been friends for a long time and his personality was such that he would fit in nicely.  He was out of town the 5 or so days before camp so he was hired as an employee.  As it turns out, Grace's grandmother got better and she came home just in time for camp to start.  She couldn't help that her grandma got sick.  So she was hired as an employee too.

The first day of camp the kids (the councilors) were so excited.  They were driving me NUTS!  But, the camp looked great.  They had a welcome sign, a sign in sheet, their projects were all tidy and in boxes ready to go, they had their song lists and all was in order.  They even made chalk art welcoming the families.  It was very cute.

The kids arrived and there was singing, chanting and lots of excitement.  There was also lots of chaos!  The councilors were talking over each other, changing direction, disagreeing and the like.  As a former boss it was torture not to step in.  I tried my best but eventually I had to step in and assist Sophia and Ella.  I tried to guide them.  My friend Nolee, Ella's mom, was here too.  She too jumped in.  We both agreed that something had to change.  Nolee was more hands on for the projects and the day to day schedule.  I won't get too into it but the week before school starts is not a lot of fun for the PTA President, i.e. me.

At the end of the camp day Nolee and I told the kids that they needed to have the kids singing songs.  That no matter how the day went, if the parents saw their kids organized and singing songs the perception of success would be inevitable.  BINGO!  Every parent that walked in sighed and commented on how cute the camp was.  The kids had done 2 art projects to take home so those were all set up on the table.
The parents were very impressed.  Each kid got to take home a decorated can (a can with a face, then filled with dirt and seeds so that it would grow "hair" and a paper flower.  They were simple projects but they were cute and done!

After camp the councilors had a meeting.  They started out with, "Let's all say what went right." and then said one right thing and the rest was bashing each other.  Let's keep in mind there were 3, 12 year olds and an 11 year old.  After about a half hour of heated talk I went in and tried to coach them.  Grace and Reese complained that Sophia and Ella were acting like the bosses and telling them what to do. "Do this, do that, go get....etc."  I reminded Reese and Grace that Sophia and Ella had put in a lot of time and they kind of were the bosses.  With that said, I reminded Sophia and Ella that there are ways to ask people that don't seem as pushy.  They all agreed to all of that.  Then they agreed that they would have a code.  If anyone said, "Snakes on a Plane" to you then you were being annoying and getting on their nerves.  They all thought that made sense.  Snakes on a Plane would make anyone uncomfortable.   Great.  A few more back and forth and then they needed to work on the next day.  I did have to pull Sophia aside.  Since it was our house and I was right there it was easier to fall back on mom.  She needed a little mommy pep talk.  It worked. 

Day 2 went smoother and day 3 smoother yet....until....  When the day was over and Reese and Grace had gone I decided to pull Ella and Sophia in for a financial talk.  We went over the numbers.  I explained how a profit and loss statement works and that their P&L was looking more L than P.  They looked concerned.  They hadn't planned on 4 people working.  This was an issue.  Their expenses were higher than either thought.  In the past moms had always picked up the tab.  And they didn't have as many kids as they originally thought they would.  All of that lead to the fact that they were going to make hard decisions.  Either they would get virtually nothing or they had to change things up.  They eventually decided that they would have to approach Grace and Reese and explain the situation.  

Grace and Reese had one of two choices.  They could stay on for the remainder of the camp and make only $3.00 +/- an hour for the whole of the camp or take their $5.00 to date and be off Thursday and Friday.  Grace took the $5.00 and Reese took the $3.00.  While that may not seem like much it was very stressful for Sophia.  She was the one who had to deliver the news.  Her first employee individual meetings.  The decisions made then were the ones that would either make a little money for Sophia and Ella or not.  It was very hard.   

Wed had been water day and their largest group of the week.  They had 10 kids and they did before and after care for a few of the kids. It was huge!  Water day was a great success.  Balloon tosses, guessing games, play in the fountain and so on.  It was great and I think all the kids had fun.  That evening was the kindergarten and 1st grade welcome back to school picnic.  There were 3 sets of camp parents there and all of them gushed about how great it was.  A couple parents even said it was the best camp of the summer for their kids.  WOW!  What a compliment!  I was so proud.  I had other parents come up and ask me about the camp and how they could get in the next year.  I think the kids were one to something here.  

On the last day of camp Mackenzie came over and brought cup cakes decorated like apples.  Clara came over too.  It was fun to see the first generation with the second.  Clara and Mackenzie were very complimentary of the kids and their work.  I know it felt good to hear that from the big girls, the really big grownup girls.   

I have heard something positive each day about ATDC from someone in the neighborhood.  I could not be prouder of my daughter and her pals.  They did an excellent job.  When Sophia first committed to this I told her that if she was going to do this, she had to do it right.  "When you do something you not only represent yourself but you represent me and our family and I will not watch you fail, you will properly prepare."  And she heard me.  I know my friend Nolee well enough to know she felt the same.  

So next year there will most likely be more ATDC.  It may involve the same players and it may not.  I know Reese and Ella play club soccer and Grace plays softball.  It's hard to work around everyone's schedule but I know they want to.  I am bursting with pride for my little entrepreneur.  She is a chip off the old block and an improved version if I do say so myself.  Keep it up little lady!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Selling to our Psyche

I have noticed an alarming trend in the media lately.  The “new” selling to our psyche is directed at a man’s worth and physical appearance.  I have seen this coming for a long time but it has become very apparent in the past few months. 

Ordinarily I am not very good at remembering exact examples but this time I do have two for you.  I saw the first one about a month ago.  I was flipping through the channels and ABC was advertising “Man Candy Mondays” coming this fall.  It was disgusting.  You can check if out for yourself.  This week I saw a commercial for a men's groomer.  Hey, I'm all for trimming hair here and there but this was ridiculous.  There was a man walking around and pointing at women.  He says something like, "This is Shelly.  She likes a man with no facial or back hair." Then they show a guy trimming with their product.  "This is Tina.  She likes a man with a smooth chest."  More trimming. And finally, "And this is Regina and she likes a man with no hair at all."  Then she responds shrugging and acting "innocent" "What?  It's true." Giggle, giggle.  The final statement by the man is, "Give her what she wants."  And then there is a final shot of the product.  I was shocked by the whole thing.  The media has been objectifying our daughters for decades and now they are going after our sons. 

I am a feminist.  If you think that means I am for women and not men you would be wrong.  I am for all of us.  I am a feminist because women have been made less than for centuries and damn it, the buck stops here.  Or I should say I wish I could stop that mind set.  Women are incredible, strong, smart, multi tasking, caring, supportive and dang it, we just get things done.  Because we have been taught that it's not lady like to brag about our accomplishments, we often go under the radar with our successes.  Men, on the other hand, have been taught to be strong, tough, non emotional and just take it, whatever "it" is.  When you get "it" you can brag about it and talk up your accomplishments.  It's a double standard.  

Over the past 40 years women have been overtly objectified by the media in increasing proportions. "In one week American teenagers spend 31 hours watching TV, 17 hours listening to music, 3 hours watching movies, 4 hours reading magazines, 10 hours online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day." courtesy of Miss Representation.  That is a LOT of media time.  Women are made fun of and deemed "less than" for being; fat, gangly, ugly, not pretty enough, dumb, smart, not wearing the right thing, having all the wrong clothes, not wearing make up, wearing too much make up, covering up, not covering up and so on.  It's a no win situation for our girls AND our boys.  They absorb all this information no matter what we do.  Our girls are being taught that their value lies in their external shell.  Our boys are taught to treat our girls as objects and to ogle at them.  They are taught that it is their right, nay duty to judge women according to the media's unattainable standards.  By being fed these values they are missing the greater part of the other, their being. 

Some say just look away.  Don't give them the power.  Unless you live off the grid and in a hole there is no way to get away from their message. It's written into movies and TV shows, it's on the "news," it's in the paper, in the supermarkets, drug stores, in commercials and don't get me started on the irritainment shows.  I don't get fashion magazines, I talk to my kids about what the media says vs. the truth, I challenge them to see people and not image.  We do not have cable or Dish.  I strive to educate and divert the attention of my children.  I want them to see people, really see them.  If you were wearing a blind fold and talked to someone what would you take away?  It is what we all should strive for.  It's what someone knows, stands for, how they treat another person and what their values are that count.  

I saw a Dustin Hoffman video today that made me think.  When he made the movie Tootsie in 1982 he asked the make up artists to make him "beautiful" and they basically said, "That's as good as it gets." It made him sad, very sad.  He knew he looked like a woman but he was not an attractive one.  He got to thinking.  He thought he made an interesting woman and was sad because our society trained him to ignore a woman that looked like he did.  He felt he had really missed out on some great people because of how they looked not because of who they were.  It was a hard realization.   

While this has happened to women for many many years, the media is now directing their machine at a man's value.  To the men, if she wants you hairless then you need to fulfill that desire.  To the women, if you want him hairless you don't need to accept who he is now, make him into a standard that is irrational.  To the women again, Man Candy Monday.  Oohhh, look at all that hairless tan skin, tight butt, big muscles, great head of hair.  There is Not one real thing about who that man is.  Does he have good values, work hard, is he smart, does he love kids, is he kind, funny, loud, quiet, introspective, caring and is he someone I could talk to.  No, none of those values are important on Man Candy Monday.  It is a sad state of affairs that has brought our culture to where it is now.  Bit by bit the fiber of our quality of being has been stripped away and is being replaced by smoke and mirrors.

I understand that there is a lot of money to be made by the companies that nip and tuck, by the companies that advertise for them, by the gyms, personal trainers, dietitians, supplement companies, specialty food industries, diet programs and so on.  I understand where their motivation lies.  They prey on our innate need to be accepted and liked.  It is unforgivable that the media is dragging us all down.  

Wouldn't we all be better off if we liked our selves for who we are?  Wouldn't someone be more apt to take care of their body if they were taught that it is a miracle vehicle to get your true being from A to B?  We need to celebrate who we are not what we appear to be.  I pray that I can get that message through to my beautiful, smart, talented, funny little people.  

As I move forward I will continue to celebrate my people, I will celebrate me and I will celebrate you because you are my friend and would be if I met you with (or with out) a blindfold on.