Thursday, October 27, 2011

We Found Love (In A Hopeless Place).

Finally! I am waiting for some cupcakes to cool before frosting them, so I thought I would take this brief reprieve to post a little something, since it has been a while. The cupcakes are for the school Harvest Fete tomorrow. (It's really just the fall class party, but "Harvest Fete" sounds so much more soignee, no? Anyway, the school cannot call it a Halloween Party, being that they are affiliated with a religious institution. Perhaps you will see a photo, perhaps not. Of the cupcakes. Not the religious institution. But I digress.)

Parent-Teacher conferences were yesterday, and unusually, I showed up a little early. Bored with trying to figure out the latest on the Ashton-Demi debacle through the wonders of my smartphone and internet tabloid rags, I wandered the halls a bit. Fortunately, my girls are great students, so I don't have to visit the school much. Not that I am not involved (see above description of cupcake crafting); I just (knock on wood) haven't had to do more than provide treats and chaperone field trips. I like it that way. I was not born to be a room mother or helicopter parent (not that they are necessarily the same breed, mind you). I do communicate with the teachers, and with other parents, just usually at carpool and birthday parties, so it is rare that I actually enter those hallowed halls.

My girls and their classmates had just completed a project on a timeline of their lives. The posterboards lined the hallway, and it was such a delight to read about the seminal events in these children's lives. Some of the kids had been with the girls since the three-year-old class, and I felt a little twinge seeing pictures of them in chubbier states, toddling along with various stuffed creatures tucked under their tiny arms. I remembered how some of the students came in to school speaking only the foreign language they had learned at home, like the little girl who only spoke Korean until four years ago. Now, her English is unaffected, strong and sure - but she still has the benefit  and gift of that first language. 

It was obvious that some of the parents had a heavier hand in the production of these projects - the handwriting was too neat, the wording too advanced for that age group. Although the posters were all different, there was an element of sameness in them: trips to Disneyland, to the beach, first football games, swim meets and soccer tournaments. Even the more esoteric events were products of privilege: Renaissance Faires and swimming with the dolphins, sleepaway camps and horseback riding.

At first glace, the mini-biographies could be seen as the banal outcropping of a solid middle-class suburban life.I thought about the events around the world the last few weeks, and felt humbled by good fortune. A lot of us are ground down a bit by the day-to-day, shuttling kids from school to activities, trying to schedule family time between work and errands. The displays at school yesterday were happy, colorful pieces of art, innocence untouched. There were remembrances of parents who had gone to Iraq, and perhaps the death of a beloved pet, but for the most part, they were joyful celebrations of lives just beginning. Think of the children in Misrata, or Kabul, or Baghdad. What would their timelines look like? Instead of trips to see Mickey, we might read about relatives that had been brutally murdered by a corrupt regime, the wish to go back to school and learn, the longing for something more than a bowl of rice as the once-a-day meal. All of us have our own struggles, and I know, though I hate to contemplate it, that those happy posters may not reflect the reality of all of those children's lives. We know what can lurk in a family's shadows. That isn't my focus, now. My focus is, for myself,  to remember to be grateful for the freedoms and choices I can make, and the relative safety I enjoy - and to remember to not take these things for granted. 

When somebody asks me, "How are you?" I try never to say "Great!" or, conversely, "Terrible." I say, "I'm OK, thank God." Because that is what I am. It could always be better, always be worse. There but for the grace of God go I, right? In a world in chaos (I'd like to give a big shout-out and a "whoop whoop!" to Angela Merkel and her smooth moves that helped get that European debt crises in go, girl!) I am doing my best to keep perspective. It's all I can do.

And now...a message from your sponsor!


  1. Well done! I believe it is really called 'vlogging' - very weird word!
    I enjoyed this post. You've put into words what flits through my mind as I read the newspaper, skype with the kids, watch TV. I don't ever need to win a lottery - I won one when I was born in this country.

  2. Miss you.

    (Post Halloween pics. Pretty please with candy corn on top.)

  3. Pondside:

    Thank you! Is it really called that? It sounds...well, anatomical. You are so, so right. I don't want to sound AT ALL (especially with my cultural background) that I have a superiority complex about being fortunate enough to live in the West, or to sound like it's the ONLY place worth living. I hope that's not how it comes across...


    Miss you too. It may be too cold for me to get Halloweened up...we will see. :)

  4. Hello Maggie:
    The description of the children's work put on display in which they recount everyday events and happenings of lives which are, for the most part, normal [whatever that really means] is somewhat refreshing in times which are so very uncertain for so many people throughout the world.

  5. Hi Maggie,

    A post without fireworks, and therefore so much more like real life than the 'wow' and CAPITAL letter shoutings.
    You have it right, being aware of the good fortune some of us share, when the only hardships we experience are second-hand, via tv and the news, should be givens. Of course, we moan and complain, perhaps we should have one of your delicious looking cupcakes shoved down our gullet when we do. Or would that be piling on yet more good fortune.

  6. What a wonderful, wonderful blog and vlog! I think you're on to something with that vlog, and I think you've come up with just the word for it. AND, we have a match: Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, of course, given my age--though it's the Dylan version I grew up with, to be sure. Still good, still right on the money, as is your post. (Oh, and let me not forget to mention I'd like to jump right through this screen and grab one of those cupcakes.) What a good person you are, all round.

  7. I sit in the middle, between extreme guilt (and the devotion of my life to the welfare of those less unfortunate) and the other end, which could possibly be complete abdication from any responsibility to use what I have to help. Actually, I'm not right in the middle. I've got my hands over my eyes most of the time except when I write a cheque or send a shoebox of school supplies. Pointlessly, every time I turn on the kitchen tap, I think of people for whom that would be a major miracle.

    Friko said it all really well. I like you at least as well as she does. And your vlog was probably the least self-conscious I have ever seen. Well done. I also think Angela Merkel is exceptional at her job and I would like to see her as Boss of the Universe.

  8. Dear Maggie,
    thank you for that post! It reminds me of the time when our son went to school. In Germany Halloween is part of the tradition now (initiiated of course to buy more things - but that is not important to the kids, who like it).
    It is a very good thing to remember how sheltered we live (knock on wood!), and to be thankful for that.
    To see you on video is a great idea! (Today I met a journalist I only 'know' by mails at a congress, and she told me: "I recognized you at once!" No video, but Facebook. I love your term "vlogging" - a new dimension in blogging is possible by that. Must look up whether I manage the technical side without blowing up my blog as a month ago time, when I "just want to try a new device, humdidudidum..."

  9. So-- voted most sexy costume at L's annual shin-dig-- what's it gonna be? Pic or no pic ... ?

    Your public awaiteth.

  10. Word veri: foing.

    Actually laughed.

  11. It seems like I missed this post. I agree, we are indeed fortunate and have a lot to be thankful for. It makes me weep when I watch the news and see what some children have to go through. I need to come back and listen to your message (I am at work right now, naught me).

  12. Oh this is such an exquisitely written post!!!!! AND YOU ALREADY HAD CONFERENCES? I need to prepare for mine that are coming NEXT WEEK!!!!!! Thank you my dear for your sweet words and visit last night! Now to run off to get ready for the classroom! Anita

  13. Interesting post. I like the idea of vlogging. It gives more variety to the blog. Also those cupcakes look yummy.

  14. I agree with Cindy - "Interesting post." To be able to live free, enjoy freedoms, special moments, family times, vacations... and to be able dsiplay them tell much about how we live and feel.

    It's wonderful that the displays were, as you said, "happy, colorful pieces of art, innocence untouched."

  15. i loved being able to put a beautiful face and smile to your beautiful words. nice to finally 'see' you maggie!!

    p.s. when my kids were yours' age, i always was amazed by parents who did their kids work - it was so obvious, seeing the perfect writing displayed on the school room wall on parent's night. the messy, honest creations of the kids are so much more beautiful. i guess helicopter parenting extends all over the world~

  16. Oh my goodness, I am so behind on replies...sorry!

    Jane and Lance: I really do try to be focused on my blessings in this time of uncertainty...

    Friko: OR SHOULD I SAY FRIKO?? :) It would be piling on more good fortune, but let's eat away!

    Deborah: YES to boss of the universe! That sounds lovely! Thank you for the compliment re: the vlog. I just wanted to introduce myself in "real" life. I am not sure it will be a regular feature. I don't want to inflate my self-importance too much. Also, I think it is good to always thing of our blessings, but also not feel guilty about them as well. We must enjoy ourselves as best we can, but not at the expense of others, and also using that good fortune to help others when we can.

    Britta: I SO look forward to your vlog! Try it! :)

    Suze: FOING! :) Hmmm. The next post will perhaps contain said costume. The only reason it won "sexiest" was because of who I was in competition with...the other ladies were dressed as pirates with big coats, and Princess Peach (to compliment her date, Mario. As in, from The Mario Bros.)

  17. Loree: Where do you work so I can turn you in? :)

    Anita: Ah,with children if it isn't conferences it's something else. Good luck with yours!

    Cindy: The vlogging is fun, but the key I think is to have something of substance to say. This will come back to bite me once I post something silly, I'm sure.

    Peaches: My girls are in third grade now, and it is very hard to see that innocence starting to erode in tiny bits. Through the behavior of some of their schoolmates and their widening understanding of the world, they are starting to realize that not everything is as sweet and simple as the icing on a cupcake. But that's life, right?

    Amanda! You are so sweet! Thank you. And yes, I agree with you. I help my kids and give them guidance (and ok, I held the ruler as they drew the timeline lines so they would be straight!), but they need to do things on their own, however imperfect it turns out. After all, life is imperfect, right? :)

  18. Happy Halloween!! What did you dress up as? My Halloween was celebrated Friday night, because I work overnight tonight and I doubt my patients would want to be cared for by a gangster. I'm sure they'd prefer a regular "un-sexified" nurse. ;-)

  19. My first time here, Maggie and my first experience of 'vlogging'. Great stuff. How lovely to see and hear the person behind the words. I'm not sure I could manage it though.

  20. Ooh, a vlog. I love watching them and it's great to see you in one.

    Those cupcakes look delicious.

    It's extremely rare for me to find homework that looks like it may be done by a a parent--it's all about the demographics--but I remember that being quite common when I was in school.

  21. Maggie,
    Sorry I missed this, just catching up now. Do you think some of those cupcakes would survive the trip to the UK, box up a couple dozen for me hun!
    I like your Vlog, great to meet you. Beautiful eyes!

  22. Hey Kimmy! Check back later for pics of what I dressed up as - I had two costumes! One year when I was in wait, I will save that for the costume discussion...

    Elisabeth: Thanks so much for your visit. I am going to encourage everyone to vlog. Even with a mask on. I want to "meet" everyone!

    Medeia: I am glad you liked the vlog! I would like to see you in one!

    Please, have a cupcake! There will be more of these to come, as well...

    And I never thought about demographics being an issue, but I suppose you are right. That really gave me a sad pause. Better a helicopter parent than a totally absent one...

    Di: I would be happy to! I am sure with the cooling weather they will be fine, and I will wrap each one individually in bubble wrap! :)

    And thank you for your kind comments. Oh, the things these eyes have seen...

  23. Love the vlog-post, the yummy cupcake pic, and the wise words!
    :) PS I'm actually not a big fan of Hallowe'en, either (shhhh...don't tell anyone ;) )

  24. After such an introduction by Suze, how could I not visit your blog! :-)

    I'm glad I did and I'll be exploring a lot more. :-)

  25. Have a quite arm's-length(or longer) relationship with the true horrors of the world is humbling. So much of what is VERY REAL for others, is just surface for us. ~Mary

  26. Elizabeth: REALLY? I wouldn't have guessed!

    KC: Thank you so much for your visit! I hope you enjoy your stay!

    Mary: It is humbling, and I hope it helps keep us grounded...