BE ONE WORLD

This was the theme of our B-1 day today. Eleven years ago, in response to the Columbine Massacre, a group of students came together wanting to do something to address the horrible incident at Columbine. They came up with a day entitled B-1, a day about students created by the students. Over the years, I have been touched again an again by what I have witnessed by the students at my high school on this day– one that they come together as a whole community with the sole purpose of celebrating our diversity in an effort to realize our commonalities.
Typically, the day begins w/ a panel and a video, both student run/created. The panel usually has about 7 speakers whose speeches generally speak to an obstacle they have overcome. Half of the school sits in attendance of this panel listening attentively to their peers, an often one adult, relating a personal story of adversity, strength, courage… At the end of the panel discussion, there is always open mic time where students spontaneously can come up to say whatever is on their minds. Meanwhile, the other half of the school, is watching a student made video with diversity/ tolerance themed topics– completely executed by a host of members of the student body. Both groups switch. Afterwards, there are break out sessions in various parts of the building; some of these include, a coffee house, open mic, free store, crafts, poetry readings, live musical performances, demonstrations… they vary from one year to the next.
Today exceeded any other B-1 day I have been a part of. I’m not sure of the reason, or perhaps I feel this way every year, then life resumes and I forget only to be reminded again at the next B-1 day. It’s funny how life does that, isn’t it?
I’d like to share some experiences of my day that will last in my memory of it.
In the video, there was a short film about a girl who had died in an accident, but she didn’t realize she was dead until half-way through the film. Revealed was the presence of empty alcohol bottles- the cause of her death. I was amazed at the professional quality of the video and the strong message. The film ends w/ her parents bent over her grave sight, and the girl looking down upon them grieving.
During the video, there was a flash-mob type skit, where students enacted destructive behaviors (peer pressure, drinking, smoking, fighting, abuse, violence, suicide, bulimia) all through non-verbal communication. It was very powerful.
The visual image of a student, who is absent of her hair due to her chemotherapy treatments, holding up a sign that reads “I feel ugly.”
At the panel I attended, I witnessed 3 students of teachers, discussing different subjects:
1) She is the epitome of grace, an academic student, always seemingly put together, revealed how her first relationship w/ a boy was physically, violently, sexually, & verbally abusive and she masked her pain for so long.
2) This student revealed she suffered from delayed development as a baby in an orphanage in Russia before she was adopted which resulted in her inability to bond– this caused difficulties learning, depression– she cut herself to feel better– and several hospitalizations.
3) This young man spoke about his dedication to B-1 day for four years. He spoke w/ a maturity few high school students possess. He gets the meaning of B-1 day!
And the open mic brought out students who realized achieving perfection was impossible, that only when she focused on what she cared about more than others that she truly found happiness, also students who came out as gay or bi-sexual, those bullied and alienated, those who lost friends through death or abandonment. Perhaps the one that touched me the most was the football player who accompanied one of the Best buddies kids up to the microphone to talk about how he found his family at CHS. Then there was the guidance counselor, who will be retiring at the end of the year, who said at the end of his speech about personal, face to face communication, that he had one thing left to say,
“I love this place!”

I can write so much more about my day, but I’ll end it by saying that today reaffirmed for me that one should never ever judge another because you never know what is really going on in another’s life. Also, that people need to go out of their way to be kind, to make a positive difference in someone else’s day.

At one point, I thought about going up to the open mic, but I didn’t because I was emotional, as I always am on this day– not because I was sad, but because I was in awe of the courage I witnessed by so many. If I had gone up to the mic, I would have said that the next time you judge someone, to think about what you are judging, because it always says more about you than the person you are judging.

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Firsts and Lasts

The first time my eldest son, Ryan, saw his shadow marked the moment that I began living through my children’s eyes. I remember a poem– where mostly I was questioning the existence of God, in which I wrote “he put my eyes right inside my child’s, so I could see, again, how beautiful it is to live.” I didn’t know, then, I’d hear those words some 19 years later resounding through my thoughts. At each step of Ryan’s development, being my first born, I anticipated the milestones. I welcomed them. His first step, in the living room, when he let go of the coffee table that had stabilized him, and the grin on his face– both exuberant and questioning. The first time he acknowledged the stars (then pronounced stores) in the sky and the gasp that followed. I used to fight with my mother when she wanted to do something new with him because I didn’t want to miss a single first.

When Tyler came along, I’d become cognizant of how quickly the season of firsts passes, and so, instead of eagerly anticipating them, I tried to stutter them in an effort to savor each moment. My reactions now began with, “Oh no, he’s _____________ already!” What I didn’t understand is that I couldn’t do all that I had done before– cook, clean, work, care for two children now instead of one– AND simply enjoy them.

With Alexa, I’d learned balance. I embraced her firsts, setting my priorities by giving up control of the things that didn’t matter. I sat down with her on the floor for hours playing dolls while the dishes waited in the sink or the balls of dog fur collected at the corners of a room for longer than a day. The concept of quality time became first and foremost in my mind.

As difficult as it had become for me to adjust to the sacrifice of having children, it was even more so fulfilling BEING their mom. They had transformed me– during those sleepless nights when they’d only sleep while nuzzling their sweet faces against my neck when I could feel the breath from their lips and their chests rise and fall– during those moments of exacerbation when I felt my blood boiling and I wanted to scream, but then those eyes would look up at me, regretfully and lovingly, and I’d melt– during those moments when they did something noble and responsible that took my breath away.

In 2009, Ryan, graduated from high school. While I anticipated this moment, I’d foolishly thought it would all be about the pride I felt watching my son grow into a young man, taking this step he’d longed to take and worked so hard for.

The summer before his senior year, once again, I realized I’d been mistaken. He left w/ his guitar and hockey gear–props that spoke to his personality– on an August morning, and I sobbed. The tears took my by surprise on that day, as they did for each of the milestones that year which would follow: each and every award he was selected for, receiving his college acceptance letters, Homecoming, hockey, Prom…

This past week, Tyler, now a senior, played in his last high school hockey game. Four games prior, the imminence of this day became prominent in my mind. Hockey has been the single love of his life for fourteen years. Tyler, the 2nd child, always in his brother’s shadow, decided to play goalie on a whim (Ryan had played forward). Up until this point in his young life, Tyler had always done everything Ryan had done– in part because it’s what I knew, but I always believed it was his choice too because he looked up to Ryan. This is the first choice Tyler made that marked him as an individual– something NOT to be compared to the shadow of his brother. At five, he put on all of the equipment, planted himself in between the pipes and played, determined to stop every shot. It was clear, early on, that Tyler had raw talent for this position and this game. For years, he played with his friends in the league they all played in. He was known as Wacky, then, who developed this ritual of eating a Snickers bar before every game. One year, he was pulled up to a higher level team for a game; his team mates chanted his name as he skated onto the ice, “Wacky! Wacky!”; it was clear, his older peers believed in him, and they won! For two years following, he was pulled up for the year to higher level teams– those more commensurate to his skill level. To hone his skills, he enrolled in goalie camps, triple A and special tournament teams. Tyler was determined. My ritual became following him each period to watch from the zone he was playing in. I admired his focus and his drive to excel. I used to say he was a Once and Done goalie because once he’d let one puck by him, he stepped up his game and refused to let any more by. The more fierce the competition, the more fierce he played. I wish I had video footage of some of the highlight saves he’s made.

Fast forward to high school hockey. Tyler has had a phenomenal four years. With varsity letters all four years, he’s had his share of accolades… from articles, to interviews, to commentary, to awards. One commentator referred to him as “the best goalie in the state.” After all these years, he still has his game rituals: five hour energy before every game, a soak in the hot-tub and stretching for an hour. I still follow him from one end of the ice to another. His name is still cheered from the stands: “We have Carbone! We have Carbone!” It warms my heart to hear his name called. The bigger the crowd, the tougher the team, the harder Tyler plays. More focused on this one passion than either of my other children, Tyler embodies the position he plays before and after the game, during and outside of the season.

So this week, his team, after moving from Division II to Division I, made it to the State Championship. They lost in the quarter finals to the #2 team in the state (Tyler’s was ranked #15). The tears I cried were not so much for the loss, but the demarcation of his last high school game– his high school career, which had given him such pleasure, pride– it was the source of so much growth. More proud than I was of his game (and I’ve been extremely proud of his game for all of these years), I am in awe of his ability to communicate his thoughts and appreciation so eloquently with each and every interview. It really speaks volumes of the young man he’s become.

It’s surreal. The firsts, the lasts and all of the in-betweens. I looked at each of my children after they were born and thought, is this real? is this child part of me? this child IS mine.

But the truth is, they are mine for a time– 18 years is a short time; I have conceived of these children only to let them go. The adjustment is painstaking, but necessary, and I will realize the adjustment; I know I will.

The parenting phase of my life is turning as their journey of being under my care and my wings is taking a different path. I need to adjust from living through my children to being content living outside of them, beside them, always here for them, but respecting the choices I’ve taught them to make, allowing them to make the decisions that mediate their needs and their desires, watching them flourish with pride. Firsts and lasts are cyclical, as life, after all.

Yes! Again.

A week has passed since the 2012 Oscar Ceremony has commenced and what has resonated most is Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech for Best Leading Actress, so I write this blog in dedication to Meryl Streep. While I have yet to see the film, The Iron Lady, which is the performance that earned her the award, I’m sure it was as outstanding as her other performances for which she was nominated 11 times and received her 3rd on this night (only to be outdone by Katherine Hepburn, who has won 4, — so far). As usual, Streep exuded class and grace in her acceptance speech. Contrary to her thought that “half of America was thinking, Oh no! Not again. Not HER!” I thought just the opposite.

I recall one of my first memories of film viewing was watching Kramer vs. Kramer, which earned her a nomination, in which she starred with Dustin Hoffman; together, they portrayed a couple going through an amicable (?) divorce. I thought divorce to be an non-amicable event until that film, but the couple portrayed it lovingly and genuinely. It’s one of those movies that has “stuck” with me, and later in my life I was able to draw from that experience, being the product of my own parents’ divorce. At that point, the film enabled me a perspective on what a couple endured from their perspective.

My second profound memory of a Streep film came when I viewed Sophie’s Choice, a film for which she did earn her first Academy Award. Sophie, a polish prisoner in the Holocaust stood in line with her two children awaiting selection and was posed the ultimatum of choosing which of her two children was to live or die. At that point, I understood the gravity of the Holocaust; moreover, I empathized that I could never make that decision as a mother, for I would rather perish myself.

The Hours, another Streep film, that stands out in my mind was an outstanding performance of an adapted Clarissa Dalloway– based on Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

In it, her character defined, for me, what true happiness is in the following quote:

“It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk. The anticipation of dinner and a book. The dinner is by now forgotten; Lessing has been long overshadowed by other writers. What lives undimmed in Clarissa’s mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and its perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.”

Mama Mia, a feel good film, that I sung my way thru, myself being an Abba fan back in “the” day… struck me as what a stretch. She isn’t a wonderful singer, but she pulled it off and it worked! It sent a message to try… to move out of the comfort zone.

Julia Childs was a woman who annoyed the hell out of me– THAT VOICE!… that is, until she was portrayed by Meryl Streep, who completely redeemed her for me, not to mention she nailed the accent.

One True Thing, The Bridges of MadisonCounty, It’s Complicated, Adaptation,

Postcards from the Edge, Devil Wears Prada, Out of Africa, Silkwood, The French

Lieutenant’s Woman, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, Doubt, Heartburn, The Manchurian Candidate…

 

A film needs to resonate in your mind long after you’ve seen it. A character needs to stand apart such that she will not be forgotten. An actress needs to embody that character and her story to make her believable, sympathetic, relatable.

Meryl Streep, in her performances, have made me laugh, cry (happy and sad tears); she has shocked me, left me in awe, left me wanting a continuation of the story as not to let go of the character who made such a lasting impression. Her characters and work have lived long in my heart & mind– they have changed me, somehow.

So, Yes, Meryl Streep, you have won, and, once again, I applaud you with the confidence that in the future, I will be applauding you again.