Freudian Foreshadowing



    They make it to the blog frequently enough so you probably get that I work with college kids (oops, I chastised one just the other day for using that term; I mean adults). And also that I like what I do. And that I like them (most of them, most of the time).

    
What may not be clear, however, is that I haven’t really been working with them all that long. In fact, my first batch of babies (adults) will be leaving this spring. Flying out of the nest, so to speak, off into the great beyond.




    And I have mixed feelings about their noteworthy transition.




    Many of my own friendships are older than these students I tutor, so I get that four years can be but a blimp in a relationship’s foundation. On the other hand, I’ve spent some serious “quality time” with these young adults. They’ve shared much with me. Way more than you’d think. Way more than I ever imagined they would.




    When I recently found out that a student of mine had cut class before she’d had a chance to fess up to me, I asked her if she would have been forthcoming with the info.




    “I tell you everything,” she said.




    And she just might.




    Not in the every-detail-of-every-day sort of tell, but in a kind that matters a whole lot more. She’s been through a lot in these past four years. And the thing is, I’ve been through most of it with her.

    
Now, she’s at the threshold of the other side -where she should be, where she deserves to be.




    She’s arrived with grace and resilience and I’m proud of her and who she is today. I am proud of my other students, as well. They’ve turned from teenagers to adults, and as they graduate, they seem to be truly prepared for the next phase of their lives.




    I’m happy for them.




    I’ll also be sad to see them go.




    Changing the subject (not really).




    I’ve been, on occasion, technically challenged. The combination of an utter lack of knowledge about what it exactly is that runs the computers that run most of our lives and a sometimes senseless sense of speed are  often a poor mix. 

    
Case in point.




    I don’t delete the emails and text messages most normal people might. There’s a history here which I won’t go into. Anyway, among the non-deleted text messages on my cell phone were a few (several) from my students.

    
The messages weren’t left merely to clutter the inbox; they’d been intentionally undeleted.




    And then, in a too quick moment of parsing the list, I said yes when I didn’t mean to and every message was gone.




    Poof!




    I wonder how long they would have remained, had I not make the mistake.




    I don’t know. But now they’re gone –for good.
    
    
And soon too, will be the kids who texted them.




    Because they are ready, perhaps even more than I am, to separate. From their school, from their roommates and college friends -and from me.




Firefly Light

firefly light   I’ve been going about it all wrong.

    I keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, some blazing sure sign that everything’s going to work out for the kids I know.

    As if life comes with that sort of guarantee.

    It doesn’t.

    Instead of allowing myself to be engulfed by the darkness, then, maybe I need to embrace a little night vision. As if I’m stepping in from the blinding white of snow, perhaps all it requires is an adjustment of perspective.

    Because the light is there, even if I can’t always see it.

    So I’m going to start looking for small flashes of light -from wherever they may come.

    When my student agrees to lay off the partying for awhile and seems to be following through, there’s a blink of light. And when I see the little girl who clung to her mommy’s leg as if she were gripped there with adhesive, now self-advocate as a teenager –again, I see that spark of light.

    My son’s hits of light may seem more moth-to-fame to his mother. Maybe with Michael it’s a little more difficult because he’s mine. Too many of the traits that frequently frustrate are those which are also too familiarly my own.

    But still there are flickers.

    Even if I sometimes have to be reminded when they occur.

    When I recently started a story with my sister-in-law, “Michael and I had a conversation-“ she stopped me mid-sentence. She wanted me to note it for the pleasant anomaly that it was.

    We had a conversation.

    They’re fairly infrequent. And should be appreciated.

    I might have missed it for the glimmer of light that it was.

    So here-on-in, I’m looking for light, however brief and undramatic. It likely won’t hit with lightning bolt clarity; I’ll have to pay attention.

    I’m not going to look to be bedazzled by the ten thousand degree flash from a star. Instead, I’ll lay in wait for those pinpricks of light, like the eye-catch of white that comes with firefly flight.

    So when Michael exits the car and leans in to give me a kiss on the cheek as if it’s still habit, I’ll note the spark. But I’ll also remind myself not to reach out for the flutter of light, lest I risk dousing the flame and turning it to ash.

 

Pay It Forward


    I’m translating her advice into my words: better to do something more than you should, than to not do enough.


    And so I blame Kelley, in part, when I perhaps did again –more than I should have.


    Because it’s still good advice.


    I think.


    I’ve been warned to the contrary.


    Kelley and I both have been scolded for being “too nice.”


    Sometimes -maybe.


    Not such a horrible moniker, though, is it?


    Kelley is also one who tells me frequently that I’m doing just what I was meant to do. Finally. With the whole writing thing, of course, but also at the little college where I play life coach and tutor to semi-adults trying to navigate through their lessons and their lives. And it’s in this setting where I inch too close to that more-than-you-should.


    I don’t care.


    I can handle the consequences of too-much much better than I can the what-ifs which arise from not doing enough.


    My guess is that the roots to the philosophy go pretty deep.


    Our holiday dinners offer apt metaphor. You might see it all as too much food; I see it as always enough. No chance of us running out of anything –ever.


    And you gotta love the leftovers.


    Maybe human interactions can also result in the spillover of thoughtfulness, with ample to share.


    So when I do for my students –even if admittedly more than I should- I don’t look for payback in reciprocal reward. I don’t really require return on an investment of kindness.


    Maybe what I hope for, though, is a sharing of leftovers.


    Paying it forward.


    It wasn’t a literary gem or a blockbuster movie. But what a blockbuster message. And so simple.


    But the concept was ingrained in me as ideology long before the book’s publication. I think because there was always that lesson of reciprocity. You were given a gift, you gave one in return. You were invited to dinner, you invited in kind.


    But when the deed was immeasurable –and the thank you a trifle for its intended worth, the return impossible, how to repay?


    Not.


    So then to the answer of paying it forward.


    Not a bad responsibility with which to shoulder a younger friend.


    Or legacy to leave in the corner of one’s life.


    So if I do for them, perhaps they’ll do for someone else –some day.


    Maybe.


    I don’t know.


    I get a lot from these young adults I’ve come to know too well.


    I’m not entirely sure what.


    It doesn’t matter.


    I know I teach them a bit, too.


    I wonder, though, if they’ll understand the lesson of leftovers if I leave it to instinct instead of instruction. When they’re out in the world, as real grownup adults, will they intuitively sense an ongoing obligation when it’s their turn to act in kind, and in kindness?




A Not Guilty Jury


    The thing is –she’s guilty.


    But I get it, I really do.


    The jury foreman said that the State didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Juror number two further insisted that even though she and her fellow jurors didn’t put much credence in the defense counterarguments, the ultimate verdict wasn’t at all about the defense. It was about a lack of prosecutorial evidence.


    And so they had no choice but to acquit.


    A few years ago, I was on a jury.


    Before you offer your condolences or tips on how to evade service next time, I should be upfront: when I was tapped, I actually wanted to serve.


    Save your groans –my opinion has changed.


    However, back then I bought into the notion of jury duty as civic obligation. In that pre-jury service world I inhabited, it was a chance for me to be a real participant in the legal system, to see its inner workings, to contribute, hands-on.


    But jury duty jaded me –big time.


    First, our guy was guilty. Absolutely, no doubt in my mind -he not only raped her, but was damned sure he’d get away with it. He and his victim were in the country illegally and he probably figured she’d be too fearful of deportation to point a finger. He figured wrong. She pointed. He ran -out of country.


    Eleven years later, as a legal U.S. resident, she spotted her attacker back on a city street and yelled rape –again. This time, he couldn’t run. She demanded justice.


    Instead, she got us.


    I wish she hadn’t.


    At one point or another during deliberations, six or seven of us voted to convict.


    And then we deadlocked.


    The judge urged us to try again to render a verdict.


    In her entreaty to us, what struck a particular chord with me was the notion that if we were unable to do our job, somebody else would have to do it. Another set of twelve would go through what we were going through. Witnesses would be recalled, the defendant would likely be held while he awaited a new trial. And the victim would relive her ordeal yet again. None of that was okay.


    The underlying point that kept surfacing throughout our deliberations was that the State hadn’t fully proven its case.


    I didn’t care.


    We garnered quite a bit of backstory during our week of jury service and all that stuff we were supposed to ignore –I couldn’t. He did it and I didn’t care that the State hadn’t done its job well.


    I’ve always believed in the overall integrity of our judicial system. And in the principle that it’s better to let a guilty defendant go free than to imprison an innocent one.


    In theory.


    But then I was confronted with the reality of a young girl, new to the country, scared and alone. And all the black and white tenets of our legal system muddled to gray and seemed just an impediment to the truth. I wanted justice for this girl, punishment for her attacker.


    Our foreman kept reminding us that a not guilty verdict shouldn’t be construed as a finding of innocence.


    I’m sure that would have been of little solace to the victim.


    I wasn’t in the room during the Casey Anthony trial, but I can relate to the frustration the jurors must have felt. Still, I look to the sweet picture of a little girl and want justice for her –and punishment. I don’t blame the jury and I could never align myself with the nuts now threatening their lives. They had a job to do and I am certain they took seriously their obligations. But I, for one, would have quickly forgiven them had they ignored the letter-of-the-law and chosen, with that angel’s face in mind, to follow their hearts instead of their heads.

Roller Coasters


    I used to like roller coasters.



    Ups and downs, twists and turns, even upside downs.




    And I’d often do the exit runaround to get back on and ride again, from a different seat -to get another perspective, a different experience.

    
It was all fun.




    Not anymore.




    Because the roller coaster on which I’m now stuck is way bumpier than any I experienced as a kid. It’s a white-knuckled ride with metal-screeching hairpin turns, plummeting downward spirals, and careening ricochets of off rickety lattice work of questionable stability.




    And its driver isn’t a qualified computer with a vacant-stare carnival worker at the controls. Rather, at the helm is a sleepy-eyed teen, without benefit of technology or any industrial safety standards. Captained by the horrors of hormonal flux and teen angst, this ride is unlike any other. Although perhaps universally experienced, it’s still unfamiliar to me; I’m not sure where and when the curves come, and I can’t see what’s around the next corner. Space Mountain meets Hotel California, where blindness rules and you can check out any time you like, but you can’t get off the damn ride.




    The only sure thing about my ride is the inconsistency of its terrain. Conditions change not merely day-to-day, but hour-to-hour, minute-by-minute. And although I know I’m not alone, it often feels as if I’m riding solo on the front car, headed for a wall.

    
The thing is I always used to believe that the highs were worth the lows –it’s why we ride in the first place. A bit of anticipation, a flood of excitement, and then a gentle pull into a sunlit station. Now, I’m looking at the kiddie rides with longing. And at those sad and staid skyview gondolas that take in the whole park with a bird’s eye view –from a safe distance. What’s wrong with getting the story from afar?




    Lots, I know. 
    



    But still, it would be nice to occasionally forgo the up-close-and-personal viewpoint.

    
But of course, it is my fault.




    It was my choice to hop on the ride, after all. Not just by having kids, but also by forging a relationship that was different from the one my parents had with me. Honesty, involvement. Not answering their questions with because I said so

    
What was I thinking?

    
Because I said so seems a perfectly acceptable answer to me now. Seriously, it’s not like he answers my questions. Monosyllabic murmurings and grunts are more the norm. This from the kid who came wired for sound straight from the womb. Non-stop chatter was the white noise of my life from our earliest engagement. Now, I’d welcome that staticky repetition of mom, mom, mom, as he tried to get my attention for answer to the query of the moment or to include me in the latest of his world discoveries. Back then, it was as if my input was vital fuel for the exploding synapses of his brain. Now, the less input from me, the better.




    This too shall pass.




    If one more person offers up that sage bit of fortune cookie wisdom   -aargh!




    Because just as it does seem ready to pass, the ride hits its skittering stride and plummets to a new depth. And at the next curve, I wonder  -is this where we skid entirely off track?
 
    
And don’t tell me that I’m going to look back at these days with some sort of revisionist reminiscing that turns all the turmoil into fond memory.




    NOT.




    More likely, I’ll look back and wonder how the hell did I survive the ride at all??

Friend Me


    I think Hallmark may have hyped the notion of friendship a bit too much.

    
Inflated the premise and oversold its availability to the masses.

    
Or maybe it was those afterschool specials and sappy sitcoms.




    Or the mean girl movies in which good prevailed and true friends stood solid.

    
Something has given our kids a misguided view of where they’ll find real friends and just what they’ll look like.

    
Perhaps the culprit is Facebook –so much else is blamed on the social networking site.




    Eight hundred and eighty-three friends -Seriously?

    
I used to cringe when my husband came home from a business meeting referring to his friends in attendance.




    Those aren’t friends- they’re business associates,
I would practically shout every time.

    
And I was often surprised at the reaction of those newly moved to town who were disappointed by the no-entry cliques that were too reminiscent of high school for my liking. I was never really sure why the newbies wanted in to the select town circles. Did they really think those people jockeying to get their own kids on the best soccer teams were going to pull another’s kid along?

    
One of my students was recently disappointed by her so-called friends. After what she saw as a betrayal, she said she was now going to trust no one.

    
Ouch.




    In talking her off the ledge, I assured her that this new philosophy was extreme.




    And then I delved a bit into just what her expectations of her friends were. But before I reached that bar, I had to ask –who she considered to be her friends? How many did she have? And the question which spoke more to my own philosophy than hers –how many exactly did she think she deserved?

    
I brokered my own response before she had a chance to answer. If you can count your close friends on a single hand, consider yourself lucky, I told her.

    
She is lucky. And she knows this. And she also acknowledges that she was perhaps misguided to label every acquaintance on even a small college campus as friend. Because not every project partner or kindred classmate is a friend. Tight living quarters don’t make tight friendships. And slurpy sentiments proffered at local bars are often forgotten before the sticky floors have been mopped dry.  

    
My daughter’s been tricked too many times by the illusion of friendship. At 21, I think she’s finally getting a sense of what she needs from the people in her life. And just how much she’s willing to give in return. Her foundation of friendship rests, in part, on membership in a sorority. When she first considered joining, I have to admit I wasn’t entirely on board. It wasn’t just the what-would-I-do voice in my head; it was that other, much louder voice of parental caution. She’d been hurt before –by girls- and the thought of such a large assemblage of them struck me as that many more chances for pain.




    I was wrong.

    
Theta Phi Alpha has given Alex the friends she missed out on in high school. And I think they may be true friends. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. It’s what she believes that counts here. Time will tell. Alex has always been quick to jump into new friendships, but quick also to abandon them when they didn’t measure up. In Theta Phi, loyalty is a requirement of membership. 

    
My student is under no such contractual obligation to give her own friends a second chance.




    But she will.




    Or at least she will to those who now fit her narrower construction of the word.




    She doesn’t know it yet, but that definition is likely to grow narrower still.




    Because I’m that old, I’ve had friendships as old as my student. And I can vouch for the genuineness of them because they’ve stood the test of time. I could teach her much about what constitutes a true friend.

    
But I won’t.




    She’ll figure it out -she’s smart. Although it isn’t often one’s intellect that speaks most loudly where matters of the heart are concerned. And a true friendship is indeed its own sort of love affair. In fact, most friendships last longer than love affairs; many outlast marriages.  

    
So while I’ll pass on giving advice on the girls in my student’s life, I will tell her that when she’s choosing a boy to try seeing first if he measures up as a friend. Because not only is that a great place to start, it’s also not a bad place to end.

There’s No Such Thing As Normal


    I suspect that my 20-year-old self would be aghast at the notion that this other version of me would pine for just plain old normal. Boring, even.




    Ahhh –how time does play with the perceptions of life.




    Once upon a time I had no idea of the twists and turns one’s journey could take. Now, I understand all too clearly that a world view can easily be skewed by the prisms of a differing  vantage point.




    I love the Whoopi Goldberg quote –Normal is in the eye of the beholder.




    How true.




    I also love when the young people with whom I work and live try to tell me of the oh-so-out-there exploits of their friends and families.




    Because I often think, OMG –you have no idea.




    There are secrets in every family and fold. And there are stories that veer so far from normal that I wonder of the word’s constraints. I looked up its origin –made in accordance to a carpenter’s square- and thought to the confining nature of squares and boxes. No wonder so many of us don’t fit to normal. It’s a shame that too many of us pretend we do.




    A little crazy is a good thing.




    The campus on which I work and the community in which I live both squeak a little too loudly with that hollow echo of normalcy. Pretty houses, pretty people. Good kids, good grades. Standards and squares. Lots of squares.




    Yikes –how did I end up here?




    And what ever made me think that this idyllic setting would be such an ideal one for me and my family?




    Michael could look and act just like all the other kids. If he chose to. He doesn’t.




    I would love to fully support his conscious efforts at non-conformity, his unique view of the world and of himself. I want to high-five his many talents and the philosophical bent that assures me that just because he’s not going about it my way, doesn’t mean he won’t eventually get to where he’s meant to be. I want to remain his number one fan, cheerleader, the one who “gets” him more than anyone else.




    But he makes it hard. Really hard.




    It’s not just the disdain with which he often showers me. Or that his teen angst can explode like messy carnage.




    It’s more the gravity pull of expectations. My own and those of others. And it’s because without the rose-colored glasses I may once have worn, it’s hard not to see the doors he’s closing around him. With clear-eyed vision, it’s too easy to think of wasted time and talent, of lost potential. It’s frustrating and discouraging –even sad.




    Normal would be easier.




    Even if I don’t believe in it.




    I have seen behind the curtains of those picture-perfect windows where dysfunction functions in disguise. And I know the outward reflection can be pleasantly distorting. But not at all real. And I think real is better.




    And Michael is, if not anything else, real. And honest. Beguilingly, candidly, painfully honest. He’s also bright and funny and capable.




    The parent of one of his friends recently made it a point to offer a positive picture of my son.




    He’s a good boy,
she said.




    Well, that’s something.




    When parents of today are queried about what they want for their children, the go-to response is that they want them to be happy.




    I do, too. Of course I do. I want him to pursue his dream, to find something fulfilling to do with his life. I want him to be happy.




    But I also want him to be a good person, a man of whom he –and his family- can be proud.




    We have a bit of a family joke when it comes to the young men who pursue my daughter, that they often look good on paper.




    I see a lot of kids on campus and in town. Most of them look good on paper. And some of them are good kids, good people. But some of them are only the ink of their resumes and not its heart. And quite a few of them willingly tilt their “honest” answers to fit the questions and the questioner. It’s probably why I so appreciate it when one or another will quite candidly state that no, they didn’t bother to read the assignment or attend the class. My favorite assessment came from a student who when asked about a poor grade he’d been given by an oft-maligned professor, admitted –it wasn’t her fault. I deserved the grade. An honest answer –a good boy.   




    So when Michael declines to answer a prodding question of mine because he says he doesn’t want to lie, I back off. At the base of the man I hope for him to become I want there to be a solid foundation of honesty. With the often earthquake activity in our pretty house, at least I am  -so far- still assured of his one true beginning.



The Academics of Life

     Someone recently reminded me that my job title is academic tutor. In that capacity, I’d like to say that I’m at least marginally qualified to impart some sort of knowledge onto my students. On the other hand, I’d also be the first to admit that I may be completely ill qualified in most other areas in which I offer counsel to them.


whiteboard  When we set out in the semester, my fellow learning consultants and I are supposed to outline the student support program, explain the requirements of participation and tell the students what they can expect from us. Each year, I’m quickly able to click through the points and offer my assistance on a host of academic, organizational and campus navigational tasks without hesitation. 

 

     Until the last one.


Be a mentor.


My first year, I balked at what I thought was a pretty presumptuous offering. Of course, I understand that anyone can be a mentor, that it requires no degree or specialized training. I get that even I am vaguely qualified.


Still.


I didn’t even know these kids, yet. And, more importantly, they certainly didn’t know me. Why would they sign on to take counsel from a stranger more closely aligned with their parents and professors than their peers. How could they say yes to a pretty big trust connection with such a blank slate?

 

Luckily, my students aren’t nearly as jaded as I.

    Lucky also, that my boss is a bit of a sorceress. Not only does she perform a pretty neat trick with regard to the space-time continuum –accomplishing way more hours of work than should reasonably fit in a day- but she also seems to possess some intuitive knack for fitting tutee to tutor. At first glance, she’s merely linking business students with business tutors; communications kids with the likes of me. But there’s something more to the doweled fit she seems to construct.


Kelley would likely not allow me to attribute the pairings to the mere technical savvy of my supervisor. Rather, she’d be more apt to point to a grand scheme for the universe in which I am supposed to be doing just this job at this point in my life and with these particular kids. What I try to lay off on coincidence, she sets before a higher power. A concept over which, I have learned not to roll my eyes. Not only because I truly respect from where she comes, but also because she seems to have some sort of belief in me –that perhaps I still can be taught. And in weaker moments, she does have the ability to suck me in. 


And I understand now, that this is a good thing.

     For me.

    But also for my students.

    And for my own children. Because of all the jobs I have held, the one for which I often feel most inadequately prepared is parent. And sometimes also this position as mentor.

    But with voices other than my own in my head, I take a breath and try to listen to the universe. And rather than assume myself ill-fitted to any role, I think to all of the people who would have been considered such a mismatch to my own life. And thank that they were there.

The woman for whom I babysat should have remained only a neighbor and a reliable source of funds. Instead, in the fuzzy friendship we forged as I stepped into adulthood, she helped me become the person I was supposed to be. An unlikely pairing, believe me. Had we been the same age, our paths would not have crossed and we would never have become friends. But we did.

So when my daughter’s high school years were in turmoil and I was one of her closest friends, rather than fret over the time she spent with a woman I barely knew, I stopped and tried to believe. In the goodness of people. In my parents’ creed that what goes around, comes around, and in the idea that a good kid deserved someone good in her life. And it worked.

    I owe an immeasurable thank-you to that woman of long ago and to the woman who helped pull my daughter back to the surface.

    And I owe something to these kids I supposedly tutor. Because I often think that they’ve given me more than I have given them. 


Or maybe not. They thank me often and text me with good grades and give me credit that I don’t deserve. They share their work and their accomplishments and pieces of their lives. And they trust me.


I am an academic tutor, and I’ve tried to set some pretty clear boundaries –the most ironic of which might be exampled in a recent interaction with one of my students. I told her that if she ever felt compelled to text me in the middle of the night because she was under-the-gun with regard to an assignment, that I would indeed be angry. However, I added that I would be angrier still if she neglected to make the call when it had nothing to do with academics at all.

Fade to Grey

    Black and white is easy. 

    
I come from black and white. I don’t live there anymore, but it is where I started.




    Growing up, I had an ironclad vision of the expectations that were placed upon me. Black and white. Wrong and right. Not a whole lot of in-between.




    I’m sure at the time I probably didn’t view it all that favorably.




    Now I do.




    But it isn’t just nostalgia.




    Parenting in today’s 3D Digital world can be deeply disorienting at times.



    It makes me long for an era when the rules were simple and clear. And laid out by somebody else. Sometimes I think that the only thing scarier than the fact that my friends and I are in charge is the thought that someday our children will be.




    Yikes!




    And what tools have we given them to handle that responsibility?




    On off days, I think –not nearly enough.




    But then I look to the black and white world my parents gave me and wonder how grey became my favorite color.




    Like my parents, and theirs before them, I’ve tried to add to what they built.  My own structure may look different and feel unsettlingly unstable at times, but the foundation of it was long ago set. I started from the same premise they did –to give to my kids more than I had. Just a little bit more. And in some ways, I have. I’m just not sure I’ve always chosen the right ways.




    Our literal house is bigger and our town smaller. We have more land and less worries about it. We’ve taken more vacations. I’ve spent more time on fields, in parks and on playgrounds. More time in my kids’ classrooms. I’ve had memberships to the library, the PTO, the museum. My children have had a lot of lessons, and teams and coaches. My daughter orders her clothes online as if it’s a part time job. My son thinks Zildjian cymbals are the only kind worth having and so he has them. My kids have had access to a whole lot of stuff. Material things –lots of them.




    But they often don’t make their beds. And have to be reminded that dishes go in dishwashers. And clothes go on hangers that hang in closets. Their rooms are messy and they don’t share them with anyone else. They’ve never had paper routes or shoveled snow or washed cars to make a buck. My daughter forgets to make those birthday thank-you phone calls. My son goes to bed without saying goodnight.
 



    Something’s off-kilter. How is it that they do less, and get more?  How is it that I –and I don’t think I’m alone- have allowed this to happen?




    It’s different.




    Sounds like a cop out, huh? But isn’t it different? I want to say that times are different; were different. But then, that phrase sounds too reminiscent of my parents: Those were the days. You don’t know how lucky you have it. You have it easy. It sounds too much like my parents sounding like theirs. And I don’t want to lay blame on a past that’s faded by hues of nostalgia.




    Instead, I place the blame on myself. And I don’t think our parents did that. They might have known guilt, but not doubt. At least not when it came to raising their children. Black and white. Simple.




    I often think that my muted tones don’t measure up.




    But then I look to my own beginnings and realize that my parents laid some solid ground work. And I have built upon it. And in spite of the shaky ground on which it sometimes seems to stand, I’ve got to believe that it can withstand even the seismic activities of late.




    Because its pillars are made of some pretty powerful stuff.




    Pillars of strength -and love. Trust and belief. Respect and encouragement. Kindness and warmth. Family. And food. . .




    A few weeks ago, my daughter texted me a rainbow. There’s a story behind it, but that’s not important. What is is that she knew that sending it to me would make my day. I kid often about how we’ve all lowered the bar with regard to the expectations we place on our children. But the rainbow wasn’t low. It was pretty high, actually. She looked up to the sky, appreciating a specter which many do. Then, she snapped a photo from her phone, and forwarded it along. To Me. Because she knows me. In a way that I may not have known my mother.




    So I’ve been thinking. If I had settled upon only the black and white I knew, I probably would have missed a whole lot of rainbows.

Unjustified Paranoia


    I had a friend in high school who warned me of the dangers of committing anything to paper.

    
There were a few things wrong with this right advice.




    First, she was talking to the writer of the group. Really? Don’t put anything down on paper?




    Second, writing notes was our version of texting. We all did it. It was a clandestine escape in boring classes, a lifeline in harried hallways.




    Third, her message that anything I put down on paper had the potential to come back to bite me, smacked of paranoia. As it turned out, although I don’t think she was so afflicted, her father was. Perhaps that was at the root of her cautionary note.




    Lastly, she didn’t take her own advice. Years after we had gone our separate ways, I found notes and letters authored by her. She poured out her heart and soul in every passage.




    Interestingly, I never did. In this regard, I know I was in the minority.




    And I still am.




    Even in emails and text messages, I edit. And reedit.
 



    Not so the legions of girls and young women of today with their up-to-the-second technology and lightning fast fingertips. They text with abandon, and with utter disregard for the backspace which could give their thoughts pause. The speed with which they communicate has rendered the delete key virtually obsolete.




    Thus it is that I hear from my students, while in class with an overseeing professor, immediately of the just-received grade on the test or the essay. Although I admonish them at the inconsistency of texting their tutor while in class, I have to admit I like when they share good news.




    And they do. A grade, a completed assignment, a pushed back deadline.




    But in the immediacy of their media-driven lives and hyperquick blip of their messaging, they share much more. So much more.




    In the jotted lines of their texts, I’ve been granted access to their world. And in the spaces in-between, into their lives. I know I wouldn’t give to them what they give to me. At least not in writing. The content is often akin to the stuff which we might have shared with a trusted friend through the lines of a telephone. It’s immediate and funny and potent and raw, and at times, heart-wrenching. And almost always -urgent.




    I wonder what it is about my young friends and my daughter that their messages seem so fully fraught with this sense of urgency. Even when it’s my daughter’s question about a song’s artist that comes from the midst of a party she’s attending, she needs to know –now.  Never mind that her phone has a direct link to the Google gods who could answer her much more quickly than I and my scattered brain. The question arises. She texts me her query. And I answer.




    In a different scenario, this would be called enabling. Maybe it still is. And maybe I and those of my kind are part of the reason our kids crave immediacy and lay bare so much out in their cyberworld.




    Facebook has hoards of detractors. And anyone advising students stepping into the workforce has warned and doubly warned of the dangers of revealing too much to the world through the site. I’ve done it countless times myself.




    But lately I’ve been rethinking the message. Just because I couldn’t have put myself out there the way my girls do, doesn’t mean they can’t. Or shouldn’t. It is, after all, their world.



No, I’m not advising that FB uploads of them taking ice slide shots through something resembling the male anatomy while wearing their bathing suits is the stuff that impresses future bosses. Instead, I’m saying that perhaps we can find middle ground. There are just too many of these less-than-perfect photos opps out there to expect anyone to come off as perfect. There’s also something a bit inauthentic about a college kid donnig a cap at the end of four years that too closely resembles a halo. I can’t imagine that anyone is served by an all antiseptic version of another’s life. It’s not terribly believable. Or likeable.




    So I liked the story of the young woman running for office in Virginia last fall who went on national television to confront her own FB photos. I actually thought they were pretty tame. (but then, as I’ve mentioned –my kids share A LOT, so maybe my view is skewed) However, she brought up a good point. If the only people who run for office from her age group are those who’ve never been caught in a bad photo, the ranks of the running are going to be pretty slim. And grow slimmer with time.




    I also liked her name: Krystal Ball. Seriously. Maybe she is one and maybe, despite her loss in the election, she’s giving us a bit of foreshadowing. If we continue to try to find perfect people, we’re likely to be perfectly fooled.