The Stock Market….huh?

Stacks of coins

Up or down?  Does it matter?

So as an old retired lady, I don’t always take the time to follow the vagaries of Wall Street.

I mean, really. I’m busy rocking my granddaughter, deadheading my marigolds, making cucumber relish.

I don’t sit around on my comfy blue leather couch watching CNN.  I mean.  I hardly ever do that.

But if I did sit there all day following the ups and downs of the markets, I would probably just yawn.

I seriously doubt that I’d be all upset.  I probably wouldn’t tear my hair and grind my teeth.  I don’t think for one minute that I’d burst into tears and try to call my broker.

Know why?

First of all, I don’t even HAVE a broker.  What is that anyway? I have some money in the stock market, because I did the easy thing a lot of years ago, and I started to put a part of my salary into a “403B”.  Which apparently is very similar to a “401K”. Except for, you know, the numbers.  And the letter.

Whatever. My 403 B is my easy peasy “put some money in here and watch it grow” fund.

I have never ever paid attention to individual stocks. Or bonds. Or hedge funds.  Or bulls. Or bears.

I just worked, cashed my checks, assumed that smart money people were handling my money.

So here I am, in the very first week of my retirement.  The stock market is apparently having a major heart attack and all of the people with actual money are having a conniption.

I, however, am not.

And here is why:

Our family motto is this: “Money. Never had it; never will.”   We understand that as long as we can afford three meals a day and a roof over our heads, all is well.  We know that we are not smart enough to decode the meaning of China’s decreasing sails of durable goods.

We are happy. We are content.

So far, that money in the 403B has been nothing more than a row of digits. It has never seem very real to us.

And that’s wonderful!

If it disappears in a puff of blue smoke in the next two weeks, we will hardly notice that our money is all gone.

As long as we have carrot soup and veggie stock in our freezer, we’ll be able to laugh at the news and ask each other, “Stock market? What on earth is that?”

Searching for detachment

You know how you can get a song stuck on your mind, and it plays over and over and over and over, day and night, no matter how hard you try to erase it?  Well, this is kind of like that.

You know how it is when you have a sore tooth, or a canker sore, or a spot on your cheek where you bit down unexpectedly, and now it is all swollen and painful?  You know how, when that happens, you can’t stop your tongue from prodding and probing and making the pain worse?  Well.  This is just like that.

I can’t seem to let it go. I can’t force myself to stop poking that sore spot, to stop probing the painful, erupting lesion that is the gun violence issue.

See, I’m a teacher.  I’m a mother.  I made a choice almost thirty years ago to dedicate my life to taking care of children.  It’s just what I do.

How can I step back and stop thinking about the threats that face my kids every single day?

I can’t.  So I lie awake in my bed and I poke and I prod and I toss and I turn and I tremble.  I cannot make myself turn it off.

As I try to fall asleep, I find myself arguing with those who declare with confidence that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”   I find myself shaking my head as it lies on my pillow, and I hear my cry of rage as I try to explain that “People with fucking GUNS kill people!”

I stand under the hot shower spray, trying to relax and get ready for my day. I try to clear my mind, but I can. Not. Do. It.  I can’t disconnect my heart and my brain from the problem that is giving me such pain.  Instead of enjoying the warmth, I stand there in the steamy heat and argue as hard as I can against those who claim that they have a fundamental “right” to carry any weapon they want to carry, no matter who will die because of their choice.

I am sleepless and irritable.  I am impatient and tired and weepy.  My blood pressure needs me to step back.  My crazy arrhythmic heart needs me to detach from the insanity.  I am just an aging fifth grade teacher. I need to let other people fight this fight.

But I can’t do it.

I find myself caught in the amazingly circular illogic of the “gun rights” argument.   I find myself speechless, my jaws agape, my eyes bulging in disbelief as I listen to the arguments of the NRA and its supporters.

I won’t go into all of the nonsense now; I can’t!  My brain will surely explode if I try.  Instead, I will focus on the one unbelievable argument that has kept me spinning for the past two weeks.  Its an argument that I have read on line, heard on talk radio, and seen on TV.  But most incredibly to me, it is an argument that I have heard from some of my closest relations.

It is an argument that has been made to me by people who are former military and who right now work for, wait for it…..

The US Government.

What makes this so shocking?  Well, when I ask the question (over and over and over again) “Why on earth would anyone need a military grade assault weapon whose only purpose is to kill as many people as possible in as little time as possible?”  the answer that I keep getting is that the weapons are necessary “In case the government becomes a tyrannical dictatorship who intends to take away all of our rights!  We must rebel! We must fight back!”

Uh.  You mean you intend to use your weapon to murder government agents? Like, your colleagues in the government? Your gonna kill them?

You mean that you plan to rise up and use violence to oppose laws with which you disagree?

Scuse me?  How is this not domestic terrorism?   How is this not criminal?

How is it that every single government official isn’t standing right up in their tax-payer -supported seats and shouting out, “Hey! If you threaten to kill government officials, you are EXACTLY the kind of people who we all agree should never have weapons!”

How the hell is this kind of talk even allowed?

I don’t get it.

So I stay awake all night trying to wrench it all into a shape that makes some kind of sense.

A few years ago my children, all young adults, joined in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  They went to New York, they held up some poorly painted cardboard signs, and they walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Traffic was slowed down, and the marchers all got arrested. As in, “sent to jail for walking across the bridge.” Some of the people who observed this activity accused my non-violent, chanting, singing children of being “unpatriotic”.  They said, “If you don’t like this country, why don’t you leave?!”

Now we have thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of citizens who state publicly that they fully intend to use their weapons to mow down any federal agent who tries to enforce any law that they deem to be “tyranny”.

I notice that they are not being arrested. They are not being called “unpatriotic”, although I can’t imagine anything less patriotic than what they are screaming.  They are not being put on watch lists, or “you shouldn’t have a gun because you’re a threat” lists.  They aren’t being told to “leave” even though they clearly fear and hate the country in which they live.

So I don’t get it.

I can’t stop tossing and turning and poking my tongue into the wound that was left after Tucson and Aurora and Sandy Hook.  I try, but I can’t let it go.

See, I am not particularly afraid of my government.

But I am scared to death of the people who want to use 800 rounds from their Bushmasters to express their political opinions.

Where is the public outcry?

Les Mis

imgresMany years ago…twelve years?  Fifteen? I don’t remember exactly, but “many years ago”, when my children were still very young, my sister Mary introduced us to the musical “Les Mis”.  I don’t remember details, but I do remember that we suddenly found ourselves in possession of the “Dreamcast” DVD.  Kate and I fell in love with the music, the romance, and drama of it all, and we began to listen to it almost every afternoon, as I made dinner.

My two little boys, then only about 6 and 8 years old, loved to stack up pillows in the hall to make the “barricades”.  As the musical played, they would act out each event. Poor Paul would come home for dinner to find us shouting out the lyrics to “Red; the blood of angry men!  Black; the dark of ages past!” We were absolutely swept away by the magic and power of that music.

Over the years, the soundtrack to the musical of Les Mis became a part of our family history.  Mary and I took our daughters to see a production in Boston when they were only teenagers. And one time Kate and I were so engrossed in singing along to the soundtrack that we completely missed our highway exit, and had to travel some eighty miles out of our way to get back to our route.

So we come to tonight.  The film version of the iconic musical had come out, and my sister Mary had already convinced us that it was wonderful.   I had to go and see it! I had to!  Kate was just as determined as I was, and we made a plan to meet up tonight at the local theater.  I bought the tickets; she bought the popcorn.

We were both excited and happy as the opening credits began to roll. This would be so much fun!

Only, it wasn’t fun at all.  It was beautiful, and epic and gorgeous.  The acting was absolutely stunning, at least to me.  I came home more than half in love with Hugh Jackman, and dazed by the power of Ann Hathaway as “Fantine”.

But my eyes are swollen, my heart is aching, and my throat is raw.  I cried and cried and cried, through the whole two and a half hour event.

You see, I was there at the movies with my little girl.  I used to sing to her, “Come to me, Cosette, the day is dying…..”  And here she was, right beside me, her hand held tight in mine.

I was there, healthy and strong, and sitting with my girl.  Knowing that I have two friends who had to endure the death of their own little girl, a kindergartener, this past summer.

I was there, knowing that my two boys, my activist sons, were safe in their apartment, most likely making music of their own as the music in the theater filled my heart. No one was shooting at them.

As the film went on, I tried to keep my composure, watching the naive boys on the barricades as they tried to create a revolution in the streets.  I tried to focus on the excessive drama and romanticism of the story. I tried to laugh at the obviously fake butterflies flitting by as Cosette and Marius met and fell in love through the wrought iron fence in the moonlight.

And I was doing pretty well, too.  Right up until the moment when I was caught completely off guard when the little boy, Gavroche, the mascot of the Revolution, was gunned down in the street, and the camera focused in on his beautiful, innocent child’s face.  That was when life and  the movies collided for me, and I couldn’t begin to stop my tears. His face in that moment was the face of all those innocent children killed in Newtowne. I had to hold my hand over my mouth to stop from crying out loud.

I used to think that luck and virtue were somehow connected, that those of us who live charmed lives must somehow have proven ourselves worthy.

I don’t think that anymore.

Now I know that finding myself hand-in-hand with my daughter is a gift that is not of my making.  I know that my sons’ trips to New York and Chicago as part of the Occupy Movement, and (more importantly) their safe trips back home, were merely some kind of cosmic luck.  And I can’t begin to know how long that luck will last.

Every day is a gift.  Every family visit, every shared dinner, every song, every meal, every laugh; they are all gifts that are bestowed by a benevolent universe on those who happen to drift past.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Time to act like a kid

So I must admit, I’m a little bit scared about tomorrow.

Its election day at last (cue the trumpets and confetti: no more political ads!!  Huzzah!). We will finally have a chance to cast our votes and choose the next President of these barely United States.

Of course,  I’ve been through this whole thing more than a few times now.  The first time I voted, it was for Jimmy Carter.  I’ve seen the swings from left to right and back again.

This time, though, its making me feel more than a little nervous.

This time, the country seems to be absolutely divided between the two choices.  Each of the main candidates is polling at just barely under 50%.  We are caught in a perfect tug o’ war between the reds and the blues.

And this time, the level of anger, bitterness and hatred between the two camps seems to me to be sharper than I remember from the past.  The language is more vitriolic and less measured.  People seem to really, truly hate those who disagree with them.

Now, bear in mind, I was totally caught up in the election of 2002, when my candidate won the popular vote, but lost the election.  That was upsetting, for damn sure, but I don’t remember feeling the same level of frustration that I sense out there now.


I’m a little scared about what is to come in the next few weeks or months.  There is a sense of danger in the air, made worse by super storms and unexpected infrastructure collapses.  There is a sense of powerlessness and rage that briefly found its voice in popular movements like the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement.  There is a power and a restless energy that is simmering just below the surface of our everyday lives, and it has been fed and nurtured by the countless months of attack ads from both sides.

We feel assaulted and endangered.  We fear for our children and our futures and our freedoms.  We are not sure just who is to blame, so we latch onto the rhetoric spewed forth by our leaders, and we turn on each other and we believe in the names being called and the lies being told.

We are ready to vote, and we are ready to be outraged by the outcome of that voting.

If we continue to hold onto our personal grudges and our intensely partisan fighting, I fear that our union may not hold.  I fear that we will turn on each other and come to violence.

I can only hope that after all of the votes are finally counted, we can reach deep inside of ourselves and act like children.

Children know how to be inclusive. They know how to recognize unfairness when they see it.  They see “mean” for what it is, and they know enough to reject it.  Children seek honesty and they seek a way to be “nice” even when they are mad.

So tonight, on this last night before the election of 2012, when voices are screaming for the downfall of the black Muslim socialist, and voices are screaming for the end of the rich white Mormon, I am hoping and praying that a majority of us will find a way to see this all for exactly what it is: just one more election in a long string of elections. It won’t save us, and it won’t ruin us.  It’s just another election.  In barely two years time, we’ll be on our way to another one.

Please, my fellow citizens, please try to act like children when the results come in tomorrow night.  You might be happy, but please don’t gloat.  You might be upset, but please don’t turn on your neighbors.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln

Wha? Where AM I?

Where am I?

I went to bed last night in the United States, but I think I woke up somewhere else.

When I went to bed, I was a law abiding, tax paying, overweight, middle aged teacher lady.  I believed in democracy and the rule of law.

But today is a new day.  A different day.

Today my sons are in New York City, back again with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  If you read my work very often, you know that I am in full support of the movement.  I am a naive American, a student of history.  I believe that free speech and the right to peaceably assemble are part of the fabric of our nation, part of what all of those wars have supposedly been fought to defend.   So I am proud that my children dare to march and to stand up for what they believe.

I wasn’t too worried when I went to bed last night because my sons reassured me that they have no desire to be arrested (again). In my innocent little world of fantasy America, you see, that would mean that they could avoid arrest by following the requests of the police as they marched.

Today, though, oh dear. Today is a whole different reality.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I am able to watch the events unfolding in New York City via “Livefeed”.  That means that a nice young man with a video camera is filming and giving commentary.

Its a good thing, too, because CNN is way too busy talking about Kate Middleton’s boobs to cover a big political protest in the financial capital of the world.

Anyway, I have been riveted to the computer screen all day, watching the marchers, listening to the chants and the music.   And I noticed a few disturbing things right away.

First off, I noticed that there are almost as many cops as marchers.  They are sure determined to protect the bankers from a group the press is calling “obsolete”!  There are barricades and barriers and motorcycles and horses and riot helmets everywhere.

Its scary.

And second of all, the “requests” that the police are making are nonsensical and nearly impossible to follow.  The marchers, as I watch them, are walking down a narrow street, under construction scaffolding, confined within endless rows of police barricades.  They are ALL on the sidewalk (that was the old police demand, “Stay on the sidewalk.”)  But now the police are yelling “Move to one side to let pedestrians pass.”  Huh. There are no pedestrians trying to come toward the march.  And the marchers are pedestrians, aren’t they? There is nowhere to move, unless they spill onto the street. Clearly the police know this.

I have been watching dozens of police filling the streets, often four and five abreast. As they literally fill the street, they are yelling through  bullhorns that the marchers must not “Block vehicular traffic.”  Um….?

The cops have stopped, redirected and turned the march three times now as I have been watching.  The protestors have complied, for the most part, but they are being prevented from even walking past the New York Stock Exchange. How is this right?

I have seen one young man arrested for riding a bike on the street (scuse me?), one for crossing at an intersection, and five for sitting on the sidewalk. Several others were presumably arrested for stepping off the sidewalk.

Now, let me be honest and clear, OK?  The police are not being angry, or violent in any way.  They have been firm, but no one has been hurt. The marchers, too, are calm, not angry, completely non-violent.

But let me ask you this: What does it mean that we can no longer protest, peaceably assemble, seek a redress of our grievances unless we do it exactly where and when those in power tell us to?  What does it mean that the job of the New York City police department is to prevent the bankers and money men from even having to see us or hear the voices of the American people?

Where the hell am I?


Writer’s note: as I was watching the live feed about an hour ago, listening to the police on those bullhorns and watching the crowd try to squeeze itself into ever narrower places, my computer screen suddenly filled with the profile of my middle child, and my blood pressure went up 40 points.


Come on over!

I have been struggling lately with a couple of new problems. (I would say “issues”, but then I’d feel like an earnest young therapist, and we can’t have that.)

One: This blog is supposed to be about parenting, and the lack thereof.  It is supposed to be about my journey into the future, into my golden years, and hopefully my Grandma years.   I am sort of running out of ideas.

Two: I really want to be a warrior woman.  I want to change the world.  It goes back to my college years, you know?  I want to be on the front lines of a movement to change the political realities of this country.  But.  I’m a chicken and I can’t seem to get myself into the Occupy Wall Street throng.  Gulp.

So, on the advice of some friends, including other bloggers, I am turning my writing attention to another blog, which I began last October after the arrest of my kids on the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s called “Mothering the Occupation”, because I want to be the wise woman, the voice of support and nurturing, and I want to be throwing my voice into the fray.

Please come on over and visit! Please comment, and please follow and share, if you are so inclined.

It is truly past time for reasonable people to demand civil, honest, open discourse and a return to true democracy.

Mothering the Occupation

A Happy Sleepless Night


The following post is going to be one of those annoying, bragging, “my life is so awesome” posts.   Sorry about that.

No, I’m not.

You see, over the years, I have had many sleepless nights related to motherhood. Many.   And the next day I always felt like crap, with a headache and swollen eyelids and a bad mood.

My sleepless nights started all the way back with the backaches, heartburn and leg cramps of pregnancy, and ran right through the 24 hour labors and into the 3 am feedings.  I have stayed up all night with croup, asthma, pneumonia, broken bones, vomiting and hives.  Many, many nights, and none of them were fun.

In the later years of my Mommydom, I often found myself awake and shivering with fear when the kids stayed out past curfew, or when I knew that they were driving on snowy roads.  I have tossed and turned and visualized every possible disaster after dropping them off at sleepovers. Or college.

When they moved out of our house, I stopped sleeping because I needed time to mourn and grieve in private.  I walked the dark and empty hallways, checking into silent rooms, sniffing for one last lingering scent of my departed children. I sat on the deck, alone, hearing the sounds of little voices in my head.

And  last October I had my all night panic attack, when all three were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the internet showed me photos and videos of my babies in zipties, surrounded by uniformed and scowling police. THAT was a horrible sleepless night.

So bear with me for a moment while I indulge in a hazy, groggy morning once again.  This was a different insomnia.  I liked it.

Last night Paul and I drove out to Western Massachusetts and picked up both boys.  Our younger son spent the summer living with his brother and several other young people out there.  They live in a ramshackle old house (to put it kindly) complete with tiny rooms, a galley kitchen which was last updated somewhere around 1970,  and warped and buckling wooden floors, painted a dark and peeling forest green. They love it.

So we came to get them, and the four of us went into the college town nearby. We had tickets for a concert at a local restaurant/bar/music club. We saw a band that I love (the Duhks: if you don’t know them, you have to check them out.) The boys had found out about the concert a couple of months ago, and had suggested that we all go.

The bar was packed, and steamy and incredibly fun.  We sat there with our two handsome sons, eating burgers and drinking cold foamy beers.  We talked about life, about school, about politics, about food and music. We watched them flirt with the beautiful young waitress and chat with the musicians.


We danced a little, sang a little, clapped and stomped a lot. They are so full of life.  They are deliriously happy with who they are, where they are, where they are going.  They don’t have two nickels to rub together, but that’s OK.   They understand and believe in hard work, and they aren’t afraid to do it.  They value generosity, kindness and love more than money. They want to make the world into the place they believe it can be.

They love each other. They are each other’s best friends.  They love us, too.  Some of the things that they said last night really resonated for me, and danced around in my head all night long. Keeping me happily awake.

They said,  “I’m proud of the person that I am right now.”                         and “The word ‘brother’ has a whole new meaning for me after this summer.”                                                                                                                 and “We’re so excited to be showing you our town.”                                       and “Thanks for this great night, Mom! We love you guys.”

See why I’m bragging and feeling all warm and fuzzy and good?

All those the years of sleepless nights paid off in a happy night under the bright blue moon, thinking about my children.

Check out The Duhks on Youtube.  You’re feet will be tappin!

Rebel Wannabe

In my secret heart, where I wander in the dark of night, I am a warrior woman. I am strong, fearless, proud.

In my deepest wishful self, I stand straight and tall with those who demand justice. My fist is raised, my eyes are bright.  I am one with the marching, chanting, drumming youth who protest against the corruption of our plutocratic government.   In my fantasy version of myself, I am the 99% and I am willing to Occupy Wall Street.

In the real world, though, things are just a wee bit different.

Out here, in the waking reality of actual life, I am a big old wussy chicken heart.  It turns out that it’s incredibly hard to Occupy Wall Street when you’re too scared to go to New York.

My kids are planning to (once again) take up the cause of inequality and economic injustice. They are heading back to Wall Street on Sept. 15-17 to mark the one year anniversary of the Occupy Movement.  Very cool, right?  They will rally and march and make some noise.

When I first heard about their plans, and realized that my school is closed on Monday the 17th for Rosh Hashanah, I thought that I would go and join them.

I told them that I would drive the 4 hours to New York, and would march with them and hold a sign and stay overnight at a friend’s place.  I pictured us all with our arms linked and me looking courageous and righteous as I added my voice to that of the crowd.  So awesome to see myself as such a truly cool fighter for what is right and good!   The kids were happy to know that I was going with them, and I was happy knowing that we would create this special memory.

But….later that night……I woke up at my usual time (3:15 AM, on the damn dot) and the vision looked a little different.  I lay awake for well over an hour, picture us all marching along Wall Street. But this time, in addition to my warrior self and my heroic children, I also saw the riot police who will inevitably be there, facing the crowd.  This time, I envisioned the press of bodies all around me, the noise of the crowd and the bullhorns and the traffic and the music.

This time, I saw myself as I would really, truly be in such a situation: trembling, hesitating, trying to pull the boys away from the pepper spray. Probably in tears, and probably nauseous.  Instead of warrior woman me, I saw scared-to-death me.

It wasn’t pretty.   I didn’t know what to do!   I spent most of that night trying to decide whether or not I should go and Occupy.

On the one hand, I really want to live up to the ideal that my children have set.  I truly do believe that it is past time for us to rise up and to protest the corrupt and self-serving minority who now controls every part of our government.  I want to be Warrior Mother Spirit and I want to be brave.

A little less than a year ago, my kids became Warriors and Occupiers, and as my daughter wrote in her most recent blog post, Damn You, Google, the experience changed their lives forever.  I want to be that powerful!!

But as the dark of night turned slowly to gray, I realized that I might not actually have the kind of courage that it takes to stand up to the power of the New York City Police.  I realized that there are many kinds of warriors, and some may choose to fight with the pen, and not the march.

I have had to face the truth; I am just not really warrior material.

So, on the weekend of September 15th, I will send my children off to fight the good fight.  I will help with financial support, moral support, emotional support. I will write what I can in honor of the cause, and I will worry with all the power of a Warrior Mamma Bear.

But I won’t actually be occupying any place in particular.

Another point of view

Last weekend we hosted my brother and his family, my Mom, and my sister and her husband.  They all drove an hour or more to come to our little town to attend a “Fireman’s Muster”, which is a crazy competition in which antique fire trucks try to outdo each other in sending streams of water as far as possible.

I was happy to have them all at my house, and excited to cook and to be the hostess at my humble abode.  But I was more than a little embarrassed to know that they would be seeing my poor, low income, struggling town when they came here.

You see, my mother lives in an upper middle class community of mostly healthy, mostly solvent, mostly successful professionals.  My brother and his family live in one of those historic New England seafaring towns that boast of whaling captains, colonial villages and families Who Came Over On The Mayflower.

My town is poor.  We used to be a textile mill town (in the 1890’s) and a woodworking town (in the 1930’s).  We have had some dairy farms and some small vegetable farms.  But right now, we are a community of lower income, poorly educated, under employed people who are struggling to stay afloat.

I was ashamed to have my family see my environment.

And tonight I attended a birthday party for a friend in our small town. He was turning 50, and a whole group of our friends had gathered to celebrate with him.

As I sipped my wine and nibbled on baked brie, I was somewhat on edge.  Most of my friends have children who are attending good colleges, working toward very practical degrees.  And in the past few days I have had conversations with friends whose kids are in great schools, or have big money jobs, and when they have asked about my kids, I have felt a little, well, protective.  My boys are still figuring it out, and they live in an “interesting” little house with a group of other 20 somethings.

So I stood at the party tonight, feeling defensive about my kids and their life choices.

And here is what has happened to me in the past week. Here is what proves that I am a shallow, conformist, peer pressured jerk.

Last weekend, my sister-in-law spent a couple of hours wandering on her own around my town.  When we got together that afternoon, her comment to me was, “What a beautiful little town! The houses are so gorgeous! You must love living in such a quaint and historic place.”

Um.   Really?

And tonight, at the party for our friend with the highly successful kids, one of those kids asked me, “Have you talked to Matt about going to New York for the Occupy Wall Street anniversary?  I sent him a message, because I really want to go with them.”    Um.  Oh?  And his sister said, “When your kids went to Occupy last fall, I was so excited!  I told everyone, ‘I know those kids! They are from my town!’

I didn’t know what to say.

The conversation swept around me.  The young people from our town were telling each other about where they were when they heard that my three children had been arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in October of last year.   I heard about how teachers at our local High School shared the emails and Facebook messages from my kids.

Apparently, they are local heroes.

In our historic and quaint little town.

Who knew?

I guess it takes a different point of view, from a fresh pair of eyes, to make us appreciate what we really have in our lives.

Tonight, I’m incredibly proud of my activist, hippy children.  I’m also proud of my beautiful, struggling little town, where friends can gather for a birthday party under the late summer stars.

Lincoln spoke here

I taught my class about the Gettysburg Address today.  We read the text, and I gave them a copy to decode.

The question that I asked them was this: “What was Abe Lincoln asking the American people to do when he wrote this speech?”

The kids spent about a half hour trying to decode the nineteenth century language, and to put it into some type of historical context.  They worked hard, even on a sunny June day.  They used dictionaries, history books and lots of conversation.  They did their best to decode the hidden message in that powerful and memorable address.

They came pretty close, but they failed to really understand the message at its core.

So I rose to my feet and tried to explain.  I used my knowledge of American History, of course, but I also drew on my personal experiences and beliefs.  I stood before those young, tender, impressionable children, and I reached into my own most precious soul, and I did my very best to grab their hearts and leave one indelible mark.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  “Lincoln said that 87 years ago, the Americans who were here before us created a brand new county, and they based that country on the belief that all men are created equal, and that all humans deserve the same respect.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. “Abe Lincoln said that the Civil War was being fought to answer the question of whether or not a country based on freedom and equality could really last.  He said that a lot of men had died to prove that a nation like that COULD succeed.  He said that they were planning to honor the people who died for that proof, and that it was right for them to give that honor.”

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. “In this section, Lincoln tells the listeners that if they really want to honor the dead, it won’t be by giving speeches or creating a gravesite. He tells his people that they can only honor the dead by promising to uphold the idea of a nation based on equality for all of its citizens.  He tells the Americans of 1863 that they are duty bound to stand up and to protect a government whose power is drawn from the people, whose members are made up of the people, and whose laws will serve the will of the people.”

The children listened to me, and in spite of the warmth of the day, they responded to the intensity with which I spoke.  “Why”, I asked them, “am I pushing this lesson on you? What is it that I hope to give you as my final lesson in the fifth grade?”  There was a lot of shuffling, some giggling, and more than one rolled eye. It was hot, they wanted to go out to play, and they were feeling slightly uncomfortable with the passion in my voice.

Finally, one little hand was raised. “Well, um…you want US to be those people.”, she said shyly.

I nodded, smiled, looked around for another comment.

“You want us to work to save a country like that.”

“Like what?”, I demanded.

“Um, like, a country, with, like, freedom and stuff.  For everyone.  We have to do that.”

I kept the pressure on them, just for a bit.  “Do you think that maybe in our country right now, some people don’t have equal rights?”

A hand was raised, the hand of my most popular, rarely serious, often sarcastic “I don’t care” boy.  With some trepidation, I called on him, and waited for his response.

“Like, you know, like the whole same sex marriage thing. They don’t really have equality.”

I could have kissed his sarcastic little cheek, because he wasn’t kidding when he said that.  He understood what I was saying.

I was telling my students, at the tender and wide eyed age of eleven that they are responsible for demanding a government whose sole purpose is to serve the needs of the governed.  I was showing them that Abe Lincoln, in his everyman wisdom, was asking all of us to dedicate ourselves to the preservation of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

It will be many years before these children can take action on a political front, but I am so very hopeful that my words have planted some seed, and that those seeds will one day sprout.