The kids are alright!

I have noticed an interesting and somewhat depressing characteristic of adulthood. As soon as we become old enough to buy a beer, marry, and carry a gun in a far-off war, we lose our faith in the young.  We begin to believe that along with our mortgage payments and love handles we carry infinite wisdom. We believe that we are right because we have lived longer than they have.

Why is that, I wonder?

I am oh-so-guilty of this crime.  As a teacher, I have begun to believe that I know the right way  to do things.  I feel like I am responsible for every report, every paper, every reading assessment, every game.  My hand is surely the one that is needed to guide and shape and turn and insure that the final product will meet adult specifications.  I am the grown up here; you can’t trust this bunch of…….well……kids.

As a Mom, I am even worse. Which is just ridiculous.

I remember talking to my Nana once, when she wasn’t feeling well.  I suggested that she call her son, my Uncle Bob.  The Doctor.  The one who once treated Rose Freakin’ Kennedy when she was sick.  My Nana simply shook her head, and said,  “No.  I need a doctor.”  In her eyes, my Uncle the successful vascular surgeon was simply and forever, “the baby.”  I thought she was being silly.  

Until very recently.

This past weekend, my two beloved sons, aged 19 and 21, drove 15 hours to Chicago to protest against the NATO summit. I was hugely proud, almost busting my buttons, knowing that they were being brave and unselfish and were willing to stand up for what was right (as they simultaneously experienced the adventure of a lifetime and forged an unshakable bond for the rest of their lives).  I was excited!  But I was scared out of my mind, too.

I kept seeing my boys, my sweet baby boychicks, faced with the power and might of a major city’s police force.  I imagined them being suckered in by the romance of the disenfrachised masses, facing the police and taunting them into a reaction.  I imagined, with perfect 20/20 internal vision, a baton hitting the tender skulls of my best beloved.  I thought I knew best; I didn’t trust their judgment. I kept texting them advice.  “Stay safe!” “Do what the police tell you to do.”  “Don’t get arrested! Please don’t!”  I was sure that they needed my sage advice!

And then there is school.  I have given my students permission to perform a play.  I let them write it, organize it, direct it.  They are responsible for the sets and props and costume.  Go, kids; its all yours!

It sounds so good in theory, but in my head? Oh, in my head.  In there, in the dark and scary swirls of my teacher brain, I was thinking things like, “Whoah.  They think they can make a crane for the funeral scene.  Poor innocent wretches….”  I was thinking “They can’t remember all these lines…” and “How will they know how to arrange the chairs on the stage?”  I felt, I have to admit, just a wee bit smug.  I just knew  they would need me to make it work in the end.


My sons went to Chicago, marched in the streets, lent their voices to the anti-war message.  But they didn’t fall for the drama or the provocation; instead, they recognized the restraint of the police and the self-indulgent hyperbole of the entitled few who wanted to make trouble. “They think they live in a police state?”, wrote Matt.  “I think they need to learn Arabic and head to Syria for six months, and then we’ll talk police state.”  When the police told the crowd to disperse, my son told me, “We happily obliged.”

Well, gee.  They showed wisdom here.  Maturity, wisdom, restraint.

Who knew that such a thing was possible?

And as for the play in my classroom?

The kids have written a play based on a book, “Belly Up”.  They have written themselves (and me) into this murder mystery about a famous hippo named Henry.  They have included all of the major plot elements, and all of the key characters, while adding in countless pratfalls, poop jokes and crashes (they are, after all, fifth graders). The kids who “can’t write” have created the richest jokes.  The kids who are always quiet have become the directors.  The unable to focus ADD crowd have become set designers.  And you know what? Without an opinionated adult to tell them how it must be done, they have created a huge working crane. Made of cardboard.

I guess the kids are alright after all!  Maybe I need to let go and let them lead the way, huh?

Peace in Chicago

One of the things that I love about children is their firm and secure belief in “good guys” and “bad guys”.  They see the world in sharp contrasts and clear borders.  Criminals are bad guys.  Police are good guys.

I wish for that sense of simplicity tonight.  I wish that I could hold onto a belief in the honesty and goodness of the police, the government, the men who wear the uniforms. I wish, so much, that I could trust that my children will be safe in the presence of the authorities.

My boys are on their way to Chicago, to join thousands of like minded citizens who want to speak out against the war machine that has kept us in conflict in so many places for so many years.  They don’t plan to break any laws or to violate any ordinances; they just want to protest peacefully against policies that they find to be both immoral and dangerous.

The US Constitution, of course, guarantees their right to do that.  The First Amendment says :

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So they plan to peaceably assemble, and they plan to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. They will march, chant, maybe bang drums. They will hold signs critical of the NATO war machine. They’ll take the advice of Thomas Jefferson, who said “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

Given the fact that they are American citizens, taxpayers, both gainfully employed, both students, both innocent of any crimes, I should be feeling pretty secure that they are in no danger from the police as long as they are respectful and peaceful.  Right?

Ah, if only.

The truth is, I am worried about the 16 hour road trip a little bit. I am worried about the crowd of strangers a little bit, too.

But I am worried about the riot gear, the pepper spray, the batons and the rubber bullets a whole hell of a lot.

I am afraid of the new laws of this theoretically free country that allow the government to arrest and indefinitely hold anyone who might possibly have a connection to some kind of terrorism somewhere.  Terrorism that the arresting authorities are allowed to define. I am afraid because the First Amendment is now being constrained in ever more outrageous ways; it is illegal now to protest in any location where the Secret Service is guarding a VIP. Or where they will be guarding one later. Or where they might have to guard a VIP someday.

I am afraid of my government. I am afraid that my sons, those young men who are trying to do what they know to be right, will be unlawfully arrested, detained, hurt, or worse by those who are “sworn to protect and defend.”

I am afraid, honestly, of my government.  And that makes me think of Thomas Jefferson again.

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

So what I want to say to the Chicago Police, the Secret Service, the FBI, the NATO security services is this: Peace!

Seeking rational thought.

Dear children.

My babies.

My kids.

My brave strong sons and daughter.

I am trying very hard to be the supportive, helpful, serene Mama that you deserve. You are all smart, informed, progressive thinkers.  You read, you listen, you understand what you are doing when you go out and protest.  You are involved, and you are trying to change the world.  I salute you!

Yeah, but……

Last October, on your maiden voyage with Occupy Wall Street, you all marched valiantly across the Brooklyn Bridge and you all got arrested.  Gulp!  Dad and I spent a scared and sleepless night trying to get information about you, trying to follow what was happening down there, trying to reassure ourselves that you were safe.  We know that you tried to stay in touch when the zipcuffs allowed you to text, but it was still pretty upsetting for us.  I will never, ever forget what it felt like to scan the images popping up on Flckr and recognizing the young man with his hands cuffed behind his back.  OH MY GOD!!  THAT’S MY BABY SON!!!!!

I didn’t jump in the car and drive the 5 hours to New York, but that’s only because Dad stopped me.

So now I am getting myself ready for your involvement in the May Day General Strike in Manhatten tomorrow, as well as your road trip to Chicago on the 20th to protest the NATO meeting and the possibility of war with Iran.  I am doing everything that I can to stay calm and relaxed. I am not reading the OWS website (that often).  I am not scrolling through photos of police in riot gear (much).  I am not lying awake at 3 AM envisioning every possible mishap, accident and complication. (Well, not every night.)

I am, to be perfectly honest with you, of two minds.

Or rather, I am in one mind.  But I am out of the other.  My internal dialogue right now is the war of two Mamas.

One is Rational Mom: she is so proud of you!  She is your biggest fan and cheerleader!  She can’t wait to see your Facebook updates!

The other is Crazy Mamma Bear: she is sure that you are going to catch a disease, be clubbed in the head by a corrupt cop or be kidnapped and sent to the third world as a sex slave.  Her imagination knows no bounds.

If you somehow had the misfortune of hearing my racing thoughts, you would hear something like this:

Rational Mom (RM): “This is so great!  I have raised responsible, aware, involved kids!  They rock!”

Crazy Mamma Bear (CMB): “They have ASTHMA, for God’s sake!  They can’t possibly tolerate pepper spray!”

RM: “I am so proud!  I have always been a super liberal, but I never had the courage to get out there and march!”

CMB: “What the hell do they think they’re doing?!?  They’re BABIES!  They think they are going to stand up to Wall Street?  The New York City POLICE?!  Freaking NATO?! They are idiots!!!!”

RM: “I should send them some gas money! I should pay for a place to stay in Chicago! I should pack them a nice lunch!”

CMB: “I should slap them silly!  I should lasso them and tie them to the kitchen table!”

RM: “Go, kids!  Change the world!  Keep your idealism, your faith, your altruistic natures! Go get ’em!”

CMB: “Get back here right now!  Put down those signs and come into this house!  I MEAN IT!”


The thing is, I have children who are too smart and too independent to let CMB hold them back, and for that I am profoundly grateful.  I want them to stand up to my Crazy Mamma Bear self.

Because for me the only thing worse than knowing that they are out there would be knowing that I stopped them from going. Knowing that I used guilt and fear to keep them from spreading their wings.

I never ever want to hold them back.  I just want to hold their hands.

So, go get ’em, kids!  But be sure you have a raincoat and some healthy snacks when you do!

My sweet occupiers.

Bureaucratic Bullshit


I apologize in advance. This is going to be a rant. There is no doubt about it.

Let me just set the stage.   I spent today reading about Mitt Romney’s offshore investments, his Swiss bank account, his righteous indignation about those who “demonize success”.   America, according to poor affronted Mitt, should be happy for those who have managed to be successful.   OK, Mitt.  Whoopdeedoodledoo, you are richer than god. How nice for you.  You pay 15% of your income in taxes.  How special! Really.  You pay 15% of your money to support our soldiers, to pay for our schools, to keep our roads and bridges up to date, to provide support to our frail elders. And what, exactly, is it that you contribute to our society? I spent the day trying to figure that out.

I also spent today on the phone, trying to reach the state Unemployment Office.   See, my nineteen year old son is a full time college student.  Last fall he managed to get himself a job at Staples. He was working 15 hours a week while also taking a full course load. Good for him! But the store closed in December, because the economy in the small town where my boy goes to school is worse than most of us can imagine, and people aren’t buying expensive computer equipment.  My boy was disappointed (he was so excited to have a job that didn’t involve cooking, serving or cleaning up after meals!), but he was happy to hear that he would be eligible for unemployment benefits.   He hesitated about taking these benefits, I must add, saying, “I should try to find another job, Ma. I don’t want to get paid for nothing.”  When I told him that his Dad and I have been paying into the unemployment fund for a full 40 years, he felt a little better, and agreed to seek his rightfully earned benefits.

It is now a full four weeks after his eligibility date, and my boy has not only not received a dime, he hasn’t yet been able to apply for benefits.  He went to the Unemployment office three days in a row, but was confronted each time with a sign that read “We have received our maximum number of applications for today. Please come back tomorrow.”  I should add that the first day he arrived at 2 pm, the second day at 11 am and the third day at 9:15 am.  So he decided to just apply on the phone, as he was advised by the state .gov website.  He called.  He called again.  He called several times in one day.  He kept calling.  Nothing.

Today I had the luxury of an unexpected day off (another post for another day…..!) and decided to do what I could to help.  I decided to pretend to be my boy, and I decided to make the call myself.  So I dialed the state unemployment office main number. I was asked what language I wanted to hear, (beep, press 1), what service I was seeking (beep, press 1), whether I had already filed a claim (beep, press 1 yet again).  I was told to enter my Social Security number (beep times nine) and my year of birth (beep times four).  I was asked about my dependents, about my military service and about my foreign stays (beep, beep, beepbeepboopbeepboop).  Then I was told to wait while I was transferred to “an agent who can handle your question.”  I waited.  The phone crackled.  Finally, I heard a phone ring. “OK”, I thought, “here we go at last!”  I heard the phone connect, and then a voice said, “We regret that all agents are currently busy. Please call back at another time.” BEEEEEEEEP.

I poured another cup of coffee, settled myself in my chair, and redialed.  I went through this whole process twelve times today.  Twelve times I entered my son’s social security and birthdate.  Twelve times I was told “we regret……”

Are you F#@#^!! serious here?!?

Six hours after I first began this process, I got a different message. It said, “All agents are busy, but if you would like, we can call you back instead of asking you to wait. We will call you back within 30 minutes.”  I agreed to this plan (Beep!) and waited.  A full hour later, I got a call from a machine, was told to wait “approximately 15 minutes”, and put on hold. I waited.  At last, at long, long last….a human voice!!!!!  She asked my name, and I gave her my son’s.  She asked what I wanted (SERIOUSLY????) and when I explained, she said, “You’re not Tim! I’m transferring you to a supervisor!” CLICK.  BEEEP.  And a recording, “All agents are busy, if you would like to wait, it will be approximately 30 minutes. Or you could call back at another time.”

Now. Is this honestly the best we can do in this country for people who have lost their jobs?  Both Tim and I would be the first to admit that his claim is not a life and death situation. But what about the hundreds of thousands of other people in our state who ARE depending on these services to keep their families together, to feed their kids, to pay the mortgage?  What about the people who have paid into this fund with every single paycheck for twenty or thirty or forty years, and who now need to collect some of that insurance back?  What about those who can’t sit on the phone for twelve hours a day, re-entering the same damn information?  Is this what we call a functional system?

I won’t even go into the very obvious inefficiency of the system, because anyone with a brain cell can see that it would make sense for us to just state our social security information once we have reached an actual human being, rather than being asked to enter it a thousand times into an open phone line and then having our call cut off.  Instead I will focus on the complete failure of our government bureaucracies.

Mr. Romney, Mr. Obama, Mr. Gingrich and the rest of you wealthy, out of touch upper crusters: We need some damn help down here in the trenches.  We pay about 30% of the money we earn as we teach, counsel, serve, heal and help.  We can’t afford vacations, new cars or expensive lobbyists.  We can’t buy Congressional seats or insider information.  We’re just trying to afford books while we take classes at small state colleges.  At least you could take care of trimming down some of the bureaucratic bullshit that stands between us and survival.




It’s a typical Sunday morning.  The house is quiet, as I am the only one awake.  I slip into the living room, pulling aside the curtains to look out into the dawn light.  The woods are gray and silent, but the rising sun shines pink and gold, lighting the tips of each branch.   I stand still, looking out, quietly planning the day.


As I start a pot of coffee, I reach into the refrigerator and pull out the big pot of meatballs and sauce that I made last night.  I put them on to simmer, oh-so-slowly, to let the flavors blend and steep.  I clear my throat, trying to break up the lump that has formed there.  It must be the last remnants of my cold, clogging my airway and making my throat ache.


The morning comes in full, the cold sunlight filling the house with its gilded light.  I am showered and dressed and ready to start a big load of laundry.  Gathering wet towels from surprising places, I scoop up an armload and head down the stairs.  I have to kick aside a pair of giant sneakers to get into the laundry room, and I wonder why the motion has left my stomach feeling heavy and low.   “I should probably eat some breakfast,” I tell myself, as I feel my center drop.


I move through the morning, watching the Sunday news shows, reading the front page of the paper.  Paul and Tim are talking football and hockey, the sports page spread out across the coffee table and spilling onto the floor.   I sweep up piles of dog hair, straighten the bathroom and start some bread dough to rise.  We have leftover holiday eggnog, and I want to use it to bake some delicious cinnamon bread.  My boys will enjoy it over the next few days, I’m sure.


I stir in the flour, adding honey and eggs, breathing in the yeasty smell of the warm dough.  My eyes begin to sting and burn, and I make a mental note to grab some eyedrops  as soon as I have a moment to spare. I rub them with my sleeve, hoping to clear up the fogginess so that I can knead my dough and set it on the stove to rise.


The men go outside to bring in wood for the week. I can hear them laughing and talking by the woodpile.  I peek out the window and smile at the sight of Paul and his boy.  I turn to set the table, but I have to stop for just a minute to rest my legs.  For some strange reason, they feel weak and rubbery, and don’t want to hold me up.   I should probably go to bed early tonight; I seem to be surprisingly tired.


At one o’clock, we sit down to a big dinner of pasta and salad and homemade foccaccia.  I revel in the compliments and the sighs of contentment from Tim as we eat, and chat and laugh together.  The food is delicious, although I am having a hard time swallowing.  My chest is aching.  There is a deep and squeezing pain right next to my heart.   I move the food around my plate, but I don’t feel as hungry as I had thought I would.  I vow to take a Pepcid after dinner.


The three of us clean up, putting away dishes, washing pots and pans.  We pack up the leftovers into plastic containers, and wrap up the last of the bread.  Tim has put on music, and we sing together in harmony as we clean, my raspy voice a funny counterpoint to his clear tenor.


At last everything is cleaned up and put away.  The laundry is done, the bed is stripped, the car is packed.


“Bye, Mama.  I love you!”

I give my baby boy the biggest hug that I can manage, holding him close, close, close; squeezing him to my heart.

“I’ll see you soon, OK?”

“Have fun, honey! I love you.”

He gets into the car with his Dad.  They toot the horn as they pull out of the driveway.  I wave and I smile.

I turn and walk slowly back into my empty, empty nest.

New dreams, or no dreams?


Yesterday I got a message from an old friend of mine.  It was one of those long thoughtful  messages that make you feel like your friend is right there at the table with you, mug of hot tea in hand.  The kind of message that reads like a good conversation.  My favorite kind of message, because they make me think.

My friend was telling me about his latest dreams, and how he is working to bring those dreams to life.  He has plans and he is pursuing those plans.  He sounded excited and happy and energized about his immediate future. I am excited and happy for him, and with him!

Then he ended his message with Happy New Year wishes for me and the family, and he asked me to tell him about my own dreams.

So I refilled my coffee cup and started to answer. I commented on his plans and shared my enthusiasm about his hoped for restaurant.   I updated him on little news items from my family, chatted about our shared political views and our hopes for a more progressive future.  I smiled as I typed, enjoying the exchange of ideas with a kindred spirit.

Then I started a new paragraph, one that was supposed to describe my own dreams.  I stopped.  I thought. I sipped for a bit.   H’m.  My dreams?  This was harder than I thought.  Harder than it probably should have been.

My dreams?

Going back as far as I can remember, I have had dreams and goals and “something to wish for”.  I’ve had the usual “wishing on a star” dreams (“Please let me fall in love.” “Let me get a job.” “Please, please let me have a baby.”)  Those were the kinds of wishes that need a greater force than willpower to come true.  Those were the “fingers crossed”, say a prayer hopes and yearnings that were never under my control. I still have plenty of those, of course! “Please heal my nephew.”, “Please save my friends’ little girl.” “Keep my children safe.” “Look after Grandma, keep her healthy.”  I have lots of these magical wishes, but I don’t think they count as life dreams.

When I was younger I had more concrete dreams to pursue, too.  Dreams that I could work hard to achieve.  I wanted a career, and I needed a Master’s Degree to get there.  I worked hard, I kept my eyes on that prize, and I achieved both.  Later, Paul and I wanted a house where we could raise our kids.  We worked, we saved, we carefully house shopped, we bought. Goal reached!

About ten years ago, I had a dream (or are these goals?) of changing careers, and becoming a classroom teacher rather than a speech therapist at my school. It was a stretch, but it made me learn new skills, take new courses and put myself out there.  Most of all, it made me take a lot of risks and shoved me out of my comfort zone.  It has taken a lot of adjusting and a lot of work, but I did it, and I’m incredibly happy that I did.  That was a dream, and I have achieved it.

But what dreams am I chasing right now?

I got up, made another cup of coffee, plopped in a spoonful of whipped cream (Christmas leftover…yum!) and wandered around the house.  I looked in every room, but didn’t find any dreams.  Peered out the window at the leafless woods behind the house.  No dreams out there.

I felt a little sense of panic.  What kind of person reaches the age of 55 and finds herself without a single goal in life? What could this mean?  Have I turned into a middle aged drudge, dragging myself through life?

I gave myself a shake and plunked the coffee cup in the sink.  I marched back to the computer, straightened my shoulders and tried again.

“Well”, I typed, “I do hope to lose some weight and eat healthier this year.”   No, no, no!  I rapidly hit “delete”.  That was not only pathetic, it was an annual resolution.  It wasn’t worthy of the word “dream”.   Try again.

I briefly thought about making something up, but this friend is someone whose respect I would very much like to keep.  “I plan to record a blues album with my sons.”, seemed just a little farfetched, even to me.

And so I decided to simply tell the truth, in the spirit of thoughtful honesty which had filled my friend’s message.

I wrote that I am at a point in my life where I am very content.  I enjoy my job, and I still feel like I am learning and improving as I go through each year.  I’m happy in my marriage, and have a good group of close friends.  I’m not reaching for anything new at the moment.

And that’s OK.  Maybe, I wrote to my friend, maybe a quiet period of rest and reflection is what all that earlier goal chasing is really all about.  Maybe a little lull in the process is just a vacation, and not the sign of perpetual dullness.

I know myself well enough to know that I will probably come up with another scheme in the relatively near future.  Maybe I will try to publish something that I write (stop laughing!).  Maybe I will become more active with the Occupy movement, and will try to accomplish some of those worthy goals. Who knows?

Right now, though, I’m happy to just be content.

Happy New Year!  May all your dreams come true.

Is it all worth it?

I have been watching it all unfold.  The little tents, cramped together in a small space. The people huddled in folding chairs, wrapped in coats and scarves against the frigid night air, or standing in small groups talking.

I have seen the surging crowds, pushing forward, breaking down barriers in frustration and anger.  My heart starts to pound as I watch video of people shouting, pushing, shoving to get through.  And I wonder: is it worth the risk?

The scenes become scarier as people begin to turn against each other, trying to shout each other down, trying to drown each other out.  And then, of course, the police and security people appear on the scene, determined to keep order.

I have seen photos and videos of people screaming from the effects of pepper spray, weeping at the pain and fear.  Videos and photos of a man lying in a pool of blood after being pushed to the ground by police, who surround him and try to keep the crowd at bay.  With all of the passion and frustrated emotion, there have even been shootings and at least one stabbing.

And I have to ask myself: is it worth all this?   Is it worth putting your life and safety on the line?

My answer?


Everything that I have described here came from media coverage of Black Friday Shopping.  So, NO!  Absolutely, positively NO. It is not worth fighting, scratching, screaming, bleeding and hurting other people just to save fifty bucks on the latest electronic gizmo, or the current chintzy toy.

I stayed home yesterday (other than a visit to the vet!) and I will shop locally today.  I plan to make as many Christmas gifts as possible this year.  After watching yesterday’s national horror show, I will never enter a Wallmart store again.  Mass hysteria, mass consumption in an age of want, mass chaos in the aisles of retail stores.  Is this what we have become?

There may be times when it is right to gather under tents, to march together and demand to be heard. There may be times when it is worth the risk to face the police, to refuse to disperse, to stand shoulder to shoulder with others in order to make a statement.

Getting a deal on an X Box surely isn’t one of those times.



Court dates

I try very, very hard not to be a “helicopter Mom.”  I have not tracked my kids’ college classes. I haven’t kept up with their assignments, or test dates, or projects.   I don’t check in to see if they have good healthy food in their cabinets.  I don’t make doctor’s appointments and I haven’t thought about their prescription refills for a few years now.

But there are certain moments in the life of a Mother which absolutely require some involvement.  A kid is sent to the emergency room for abdominal pain, and calls to say that it is indeed appendicitis.  The Mom races down the highway to be there by his side.

A child is literally sent packing by the person who is supposed to have been her life partner, and is sobbing out her grief.  The Mom has to be there, arms open, bedroom readied, soup on the stove.

There are simply certain events that cannot be left in the hands of the children.  There are times when any self respecting Mamma Bear simply MUST take a day off, gas up the car and head out to manage the crisis.

Now, I am a very imaginative neurotic Mamma Bear.  I have envisioned nearly every possible disaster in heart wrenching detail. I have prepared myself to speed to the rescue in case of car crashes, sudden illness, heartbreak, job loss, homelessness, or alien invasions.  I am always packed and ready to go.

So what do I do about this week?

My baby boy has a court date this week. In (gulp) New York City.  Because he was arrested as part of a huge political protest on the Brooklyn Bridge.  He took a stand, he stood his ground, he got himself arrested along with both of his siblings.  When it happened, we were scared, proud, confused, amazed, excited, terrified, and filled with a burning need to rush to his side.  We didn’t, and he and his brother and sister handled it perfectly.

Now he has to go back down to the big city, to face a judge, to answer to the charges of disorderly conduct (or whatever it is that they put in the charge; all three have different charges, although all three were standing together at the moment of arrest.)  He will stand before a judge and answer the charges.  His brother is bringing him down, and the Occupy Wall Street legal defense team will be there to represent him.

But I want to go, too!!! I want to stand beside him, hold his hand, make sure that no one is mean to him. I want to tell him how proud I am of him, how strongly I believe in what he is doing.  I want to look those cops in the eye when they charge my boy with a crime.

But I won’t.  I will let the kids handle this.  I will trust them. I will stay at my desk at school and let them do what they need to do.

And then I will close my eyes and pray that as they leave the courthouse and once again join the marchers, they will manage to avoid a repeat performance.

I don’t know if I can force myself to skip more than one court date………..

Fighting frustration.

I had a very interesting conversation yesterday, but I don’t remember it all that clearly.   My heart was pounding the whole time, and my mouth was kind of dry.

I was talking to a guy who really impresses me with his wit, his knowledge and his big heart.  The whole time we were chatting, my brain was thinking “Oh, my God. I’m TALKING to him.”

No, this wasn’t a flashback to seventh grade. Nor was it a moment of straying from my very stable marriage.  I was on a call-in radio show.  With my very favorite political talk show host.

I had made the call because I was overwhelmed by a sense of frustration as I listened to the host, Pete Dominick, and his guest, whose name I honestly forget.  Pete is a liberal thinking progressive (you know, like me), but his show is so wonderful because he invites people with a wide variety of views to come on and talk.  This guy was a very conservative thinker, and spoke about the views of the far right.  I love this show because Pete asks good questions, lets his guests speak, and doesn’t argue or challenge.  But I heard this man using terms like “This is a non-negotiable point for us.”  and “We are absolutely going to insist on the major changes to collective bargaining laws.”  The more he spoke, the more my heart dropped.

And so I called the show.  I wanted to commend Pete for his patience, thank him for giving me a chance to listen to the “other side”, but also to share my sense of outrage at the entrenched, dug-in, uncompromising stance of the right wing.  To be honest, I sort of thought that my hero would agree with me!

I wasn’t sure I’d even get on (ok; I have called five or six times, been on the air once before).  But after only a few minutes of waiting through a commercial, I heard Pete say, “Karen in Massachusetts”, and there I was!  Speaking to Pete himself!!  Yikes!  Oh, my God!  What do I say?!

I started to talk, and listened to my galloping heart. I told Pete how frustrated and upset I was by his guest, and by my belief that the government is in a state of total lockdown due to the absolute refusal to bend or compromise.  I took a breath, waiting for him to agree.

He didn’t.  Which is why I like the show so much.  “Listen,” he said. “Don’t you think that those on the left have similar issues that they just can’t compromise about?  Don’t you have something like that yourself, that means so much to you that you could never give an inch?”

“But, Pete!”, I insisted, “How are we ever going to make any progress, or make this country any stronger if people are so unwilling to give an inch?”   Pete answered me by  talking about his faith in human nature, and his faith in the American spirit. “We’ll move on the same way we always move on. American politics has always been full of passion.”

I assured him then that I DO have faith in human nature.  I told him that I teach elementary school, which I believe to be the ultimate optimistic endeavor.  But I believe that the US political system is broken beyond repair.  His reply was that we have to embrace all views, listen to all voices, and try to find a way to come to decisions that are best for all of us.  I told him that he reminded me of my children, as they talk about the Occupy movement.

Honestly, I am not sure that I share the faith of this younger man, but I let myself be calmed anyway. After all, it was my favorite radio guy on the other end of the phone.  As we ended our conversation, Pete said, “Thank you for being a teacher.  I always thank those who do your job.” My little crush got that much stronger.

As I thought later about my tiny moment of on-air fame, I came to realize a few things.  I realized that Pete is right when he says that knowledge is power.  It does no good to anyone to listen only to those who share our views.

And I realized that even though I constantly tell myself that I am open minded and moderate, I see things through the lens of my liberal views. I bristle at opinions that strike me as wrong.  More importantly, as I have come to the conclusion that we have to talk to each other in order to make any progress, I must admit that we have to listen to each other, too.

So thanks, Pete Dominick, for my tiny moment of XM radio fame, and for giving me the thrill of the year.  And thank-you for giving me a gentle shake to make me rethink my positions and opinions.

Now, can you please call some of my dug-in, entrenched right wing friends and relations, and give them your wisdom, too?

Dear Wall Street Occupiers,

I am writing to you as a worried mother figure.  I am proud of all that you have accomplished in the very short time since you first appeared on the scene.  You have gone from being a group of disgruntled youth to a powerful, vocal, global movement.  You can judge the impact of your actions by the increasingly frantic reactions that you are stirring in the halls of power.

The media has gone from ignoring you to endlessly speculating about you.  The most conservative media outlets (those who need not be named) have spent countless hours vilifying you.  Nothing could more clearly prove your strength than the ugly stream of name calling coming from those talking heads!

The President and members of Congress are swinging wildly from criticism to support to worry and back again. You have the world’s attention; all eyes, ears and internet outlets are focused like lasers on your every move.

Part of what has given you such international strength is your ability to confound the old guard.  My generation expected you to print out leaflets; we didn’t understand that you would use “Livestreaming”.  We thought that you would write letters; we haven’t fully grasped the power of Facebook and Twitter.  Those in power are mostly of my age, and they just don’t know how to head you off.

So here you are.  Encamped in Zucotti park, and facing the mayor’s order to disperse or be dispersed.

My dear brave Occupiers,

Now is your moment to turn world history on its head.  Please listen to this nice older lady. I’ve read a lot of history, and I’ve lived through more than a few protest movements.

The old, 20th century version of tomorrow morning would have all of you linking arms and chanting as the police close in with riot gear and pepper spray.  The old, historical chain of events would have you resisting, the police making a token announcement that you must disperse, then rushing at you all at once. There would be mass arrests, photos of young men and old women with bloodied faces and torn shirts, cries of ‘Police brutality!” and in the end both sides would retreat to their corners with no one the winner.

But you are the future! You have in your hands the perfect moment to step forward and bring civil action to a new place.  You can, if you choose, confound the power elite once again and break the chain of past history.

If you can find the courage to turn your backs on the romantic idea of being arrested and hauled off to jail by aging, bored cops, you can change history.

If you can find the strength to remain peaceful in the face of so much frustrated power, you have the opportunity to fundamentally change the future.

I urge you, in the name of your own original ideals, to hold firm to your peaceful, respectful, inclusive origins. I urge you to wake up early in your Zucotti park camp, grab some brooms and some trash bags, and begin to clean the area around you.  I beg you to greet the advancing police with smiles and mops and buckets of soapy water.  Then I pray, with all my heart, that you WILL disperse for a few short hours to rest, eat, take a nice hot shower and come back refreshed, to march another day.

By doing this, you will have continued on your path into a new America, when overworked and frustrated city police are not forced to beat and zip tie and haul off regular people like themselves. When peaceful protests are allowed to stay that way.

You can keep this incredible power in your own hands, or you can hand it in one short hour to Mayor Bloomberg and his power elite.

I’m behind you. I support you.  I am really scared for you.  Please, when the sun rises tomorrow, choose the 21st century answer.