Celebrating with a thick layer of Funfetti

I don’t know why we celebrate the anniversary of our debuts on earth, except to the end that, Hey.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
The love of two people; the labor of two legs, or the toil of two forceps.
That raisin-faced creature has emerged from her amniotic cocoon.
Now she welcomes giftings and attentions on a date over which she had no choice or control.

I don’t know why we celebrate the full lap we’ve made around the sun, when defying gravity was never an option nor planet-hopping in the realm of maybe-could-bes. Or was it? Maybe we all feel, crouching toward another candle on the Funfetti cupcake– We’ve been pushing forward and upward from the magnet threatening always to hold us still. Laws of motion we memorized, thinking as they only applied to roller skates and tennis balls. Today I mark my 35th lap around the topographic track. I hope there is still air in my lungs sufficient to blow out those many tapers.

I am the sum total of all these cavities and misconceptions, tax deductions and torrid dreams. I am 35 years-young, eligible now to vote myself into the Oval Office, at-risk for every health malady, ashamed for having not read so much of Toni Morrison and Thomas Wolfe.  Perhaps I am already middle age, aged, an elder, older than I feel, mature, seasoned, in possession of a skincare regimen that is altogether age-defying.

I love getting older because the arbitrariness of aging–the very thing we don’t do on purpose that we are yet hellbent on celebrating with a thick layer Funfetti as if we do–accompanies all the glory of things we do on purpose: sipping and spooning and cry-laughing; reading and writing and punching our tickets at the museum; sleeping in and reading until our eyes go googley late at night; dancing and singing and running our aging guts out. 

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A college professor responds: This American Life #562, #563

The recent two-part This American Life program “The Problem We All Live With” generated a lot of buzz. More than being buzzworthy, though, the investigation offered a real solution to education in America, however difficult it has been and may be to employ. It’s so hard for journalism to not offer a thesis statement in order to appear balanced. But this program did more than peel back a few rotting floorboards on schools, which is oftentimes what education reports tend to do. It offered listeners a well-tested theory, a theory that seems so basic that it’s laughable:

Integration is the most powerful way to bridge the achievement gap between underresourced and well-resourced schools. Period.

It’s much easier, one reporter noted, to dream up fixes for failing schools than it is to try to dismantle the systemic racism and classicism that rendered certain schools a failure.

I can get behind this. Even though I’ve spent less than 10% of my entire student life in public school. I believe in integration not just as an ideal but as a cornerstone of effective education.

N.Y. school - Italians  (LOC)

I teach at a private university with roughly 40% students of color. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to teach this mix of students. We build circles of trust in classes, in residence halls, in intramural sports, in clubs and the hope is that those circles enlarge to spheres much greater than our little campus. Prior to this gig, I taught at a diverse, urban community college. Most–not some–of my students spoke English as a second language. I taught English composition which was a delight since so many students could empathize with one another in the struggle to master another language. My classes came ready-made integrated. College is obviously elective, unlike public schools grades K-12 in which teachers must educate every child. Still, I agree with the findings of TAL: integration is the clutch in the manual car driving us toward educational reform.

[African American school children entering the Mary E. Branch School at S. Main Street and Griffin Boulevard, Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia] (LOC)

But as TAL’s reporting demonstrated, integration is the hard-fought battle, often trying to sell school integration without attaching it to the stigma of busing and without tokenizing students. Ayeeee. Hand me that magic wand….

The reason I believe so much in the power of integration goes well beyond my time in the classroom, however. I identified especially with TAL’s coverage of parents expecting so much of schools that they “hand-picked” them. Parenting in America has swung so far to extreme protectiveness that schools seem to get stuck in a holding pattern of incubation rather than true education. Are parents in 2015 truly excited about the heightened challenges of their kids’ classes or about the independence their children are gaining through projects and extra-curriculars? It does not appear that way, from the little I’ve gauged. Parents do their kids’ entire projects for them. They “coach” by teaching their kids the position for which they want their kid to specialize. Rather than have their child experience the chagrin of sloppy penmanship or the pride of a job completed by hand–the pervasive attitude for parents seems to be akin to the LA Police Department: serve and protect.

Schools have become like restaurants rated on Yelp.com. Friendly service and immaculate facilities will earn high marks. High expectations of students and varied social dynamics are not always comfortable for patrons. Maybe the place down the road will be better–I hear they have even have a Groupon.

Universities are regarded as country clubs that exist to furnish four-star accommodations and luxury amenities. My students will rate me on the ease with which I grade assignments, the accessibility of my lectures, the availability of me in my free time. It is not enough to teach; teachers must aim to please.

Which is why I think TAL’s program sounds the battle hymn for every teacher. We are helping to prepare a generation of students who will need to be problem solvers–solutionaries, if you will. These students will need to experience integration, which may (gasp) entail discomfort. These students will need to learn how to resolve conflicts and stand up for their beliefs. They may even need to learn to innovate using a limited budget, versus waiting for their parents to find something suitable on Pinterest to copy.

It’s never our goal to fail: our kids, our schools, our communities. But there’s an awful lot to learn through failure, largely so that we don’t make the same mistakes–systemic and microscopic alike–again.

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On being a one car family

We are a family of four with one car.

Before I go further, I want to be clear: this is not a thing. This is not a slow cooking movement. This is not the capsule wardrobe gimmick. You will likely not find a One Car Family Ideas board on Pinterest.

Six people, including Captain Edward Robert Sterling, in a car

This is also not a ponzi scheme or some other elitist scam for the 1%. This is written with full awareness that to own even ONE car is a privilege not enjoyed by a great majority of the world’s population, nevermind an ability to fuel one’s car on a regular basis.

This is, however, something of a lifestyle choice in an overprivileged overconsumptive sovereign nation and one I would choose over and over again. Do you like how I just cleared my throat for three straight paragraphs?

I’ve been asked by several people about being a one-car family, which appears to be something of a distinction in the carpool lanes in which I idle. I’ve thought quite a bit about this and what this says about me: that people would assume this would pose difficulty for us. Fair enough, I say. Because both adults in our family work outside the home in a geography where public transportation is not accessible/reliable for our purposes. Because we send our kids to a school that is not serviced by big yellow schoolbuses. Because we live in an age where 3-car garages are becoming standard in newly constructed homes.

one car family

So, I’ll claim it as a thing–our thing. We are a one-car family. We have only ever been a one-car family. I brought no car to the relationship. My hubby inherited a green Honda CRV from his parents when we married, but she has since died (RIP Green Bus) and now we drive what I am told is the official car of the New England lesbian: a Subaru Outback. And we love her.

I’ll also fully disclose that my hubby and I also own a mo-ped which he is crazy kind enough to drive much of the year to work and back.

There are many obvious perks to being a one-car fam. We pay less in auto insurance than if we owned, operated more vehicles. We only ever have to gas up one vehicle (the mo-ped uses less than $3/week in gas). When we lived in the city, I took the train everywhere, even when I had a double stroller for which I apologize to all who had to make room for me and my Hummer on the T. Now that we don’t live near public trans, we work hard to economize our trips instead of just going out whenever we feel like it.

There are some less obvious perks, though, and these are the ones I value most. After speaking with another family who enjoys being a one-car fam, we agreed that there is a heightened communication system that is necessary with owning one car. Simply put: you have to share more. You have to share where you’re going, what time you’ll be home. I’m sure folks with multiple vehicles do this, but, in the case when my hubby drives the mo-ped to work, I have to stay mindful of the weather patterns. If it sleets, rains, or heaven forbid snows, I know we’ll be packing up the kids in their jammies and schlepping downtown in the car to pick up Daddy. I love this about being a one-car family. We spend a lot of time catching up in the car. We work together as a family to keep it clean, inside and out.

Because of Loverpants’ and my disparate schedules, we don’t often share meals. Instead, we share the wide open road, sharing pieces of our day as we both gaze in the same direction, with our little backseat drivers chiming in and driving us absolutely nuts. And I would not have it any other way.

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