Israel – I Went. I was Inspired. I am Empowered.

 

Girls Night Out Becomes A Journey of a Lifetime

I texted three friends from my youth: “We can’t schedule a dinner, so who wants to go to Israel?”  Immediately, we made plans to travel, grow and learn with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP). Looking back, we didn’t really understand what we signed up for. Passports were renewed.  Frivolous travel items from Amazon were secured. JWRP seeks to inspire a women whereas the woman inspires her family. And, through families, we inspire a community. Inspired communities can change the world. JWRP’s mantra, #ItAllStartsWithWomen starts with me because of this extraordinary trip to Israel with 600 women nationwide, I found inspiration.

Not My First Visit, And Completely Engaged

Returning to Israel as a tired Mom, a longtime community activist and a concerned Jew, I didn’t realize until I called home that I was fully engaged on this journey. Through JWRP seminars about courage, self-esteem, generosity, peace in the home, trust, unity, human dignity and gratitude, I cried. These presentations were emotionally draining and gave me tools to understand where I am in life and where I am heading. With help from the women sharing the commonality of being Jewish mothers, I embraced this experience with wide eyes and an open heart.  I felt a sisterhood bond and went beyond my comfort zone. My two left feet danced at every Hora including at the welcoming dinner, at the Hebrew Naming celebration for women who did not receive Hebrew names at birth, before Shabbat and at random times. I ate foods beyond my regular diet. I declined cab rides so that I could walk far with my new soul sisters, see art and symbols reminding me of my family, talk to the locals, hear street musicians, see playful children, and watch soldiers engage with Yeshiva students. I wanted to be part of it all. I met local artisans and shopkeepers and introduced them to my travel mates. We did our part to stimulate the Israeli economy.    

Repairing the World & Sisterhood

We participated in a Tikun Olom (repairing the world) project by spending time with girls from an orphanage.  Our language barrier did not matter because the Drumming Circle and Bunny Hop dancing united us. While wearing two inch sandal wedges I climbed Masada and our brilliant tour guides shared knowledge that I may or may not have heard before in Religious School.  Being on top of Masada with the Israeli flag waving in the gentle wind was breathtaking.

Like many, during Shabbat I was rusty reciting prayers, but we confidently sang Hebrew songs in solidarity. These songs we learned decades ago as children in Jewish camps. When hundreds of women sing in Hebrew, there’s a connection. My soul needed to be in Israel for this experience.

Jewish Mothers, the IDF, Camels & The Wall

Our tour bus passengers included Israeli mothers, seeking the experience we sought, and they eagerly shared Israeli life with us. These women served a minimum of 25 years each in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  And now, as mothers, like me, they send their children into the Army whereas I purchased Shabbat candles for my daughter’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. It’s apples to oranges. I am forever grateful for their sacrifices. Thanks to the IDF, Israel is a democratic society with history, traditions, and is considered a vacation destination despite being surrounded at all borders by people wishing to exile the Jewish people.

Camel riding is not my thing, our angry camel tried biting, but I felt like a kid. Being at The Wall moved me to my core. I can still feel the stone on my hands. Every activity was an opportunity to engage in sisterhood while connecting to Israel.

Support Israel, Be There, Send Your Children

I went to the Promised Land. I laughed, sang, danced, sobbed, ate, spent money, toured, and saw sunrises and sunsets. I asked questions and found answers. I took time to smell flowers and appreciate fig and pomegranate trees. Chaotic markets and street vendors helped me feel connected with Israel. It’s important to visit our roots, learn and remember our history.  Support Israel by being there, send your children.

Finding Purpose.  Being Inspired.

At Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum), I was moved to tears by both the horrors of the Holocaust and by the heroes and survivors from this dark time in history.  Yad Vashem ends with a vision of light. Perhaps the light symbolizes the survivors, future generations, and opportunities for a purpose in the aftermath of this atrocity.  On this tour, I rediscovered my purpose. I am an empowered and inspired mom. I want to inspire my own family regarding our Jewish identity and our values of repairing the world, seeking justice, giving charity and having courage. This spark was ignited with my trip, a mother’s’ mission, to Israel. Now when I light Shabbat candles, the light means more to me. Israel helped me find inspiration for myself, my family, my community and the world.

The Brody Bunch – Old Art Supplies

 

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Every home should have creative supplies

An Art Space in Your Home Fosters Creativity

I found myself in my messy art closet. Ribbons, markers, beads, buttons, fabrics, Popsicle sticks, stickers, paint, yarn and more. I read that it’s important to have an art space in your home to foster creative habits. Art is a value in my home.

When our kids were little, we spent countless hours painting, making puppets, gluing, and drawing.  Our art wasn’t outstanding, but it was our art made with heART. We had meaningful conversations and listened to great music while we were creating art and it kept little hands busy.  Yet, school projects, team sports, screen time and kids growing up cut into our family’s art time. And, sadly, without realizing, our artistic projects stopped. Then markers dried out, paints got too thick and frayed ribbons were no longer so pretty.

It’s Okay to Mix Up Art Supplies

I learned from my then toddler daughter that it’s okay to mix up ALL of the art supplies.  Initially, everything was meticulously sorted, but in a nano second, she dumped all of the supplies together. This chaos was out of my comfort zone.  I quickly learned that mixed up art supplies was a transferable life lesson. I learned to be flexible: If I couldn’t find string, I was happy using rhinestones instead.  

Display and Store or Recycle and Let It Go

A LOT of their early kid art hangs in our home.  And, too many storage boxes house years of their creative treasures. I photographed many art projects and made coffee table books of their work.  When our youngest son was 5, he found photographed art work in the recycling can and proclaimed, “Mommy keeps our things here so they will be safe!”  Sigh. I wish I could keep their art forever. But we can’t.  Letting go of their creative work is hard.  I have not done a good job of letting it go.

However, I decided it was time to tackle our untidy art closet. I manically parted with old glitter glues, fabric scraps, ribbon pieces, baubles and other fancy art remnants (aka trash) because my kids no longer sit around with me making puppets, sock monkeys or other treasures.  This purging experience reminded me that my little kids grew older. They don’t want to make puppets and use them to entertain me with make-believe shows anymore. My heART aches that time moves too fast.  I have such good memories of creating art with each of my kids.

We can all be Artists

Our art closet is tidy and thinned out for now. In my opinion, creative people are problem solvers, have empathy and appreciate the small things.  I saved some supplies for a rainy day. Buttons, beads, fabric, love and creativity … we can all be artists.

The Brody Bunch Survives Mother’s Day!

It’s Established that Everyone has the Best Mom, We Miss Moms & F U Hallmark

Each Mother’s Day I acknowledge that we all have the best moms ever. We miss the moms who are no longer with us. I have empathy for those who have lost their moms or children. I don’t like Mother’s Day.  Never have. Unreasonable expectations as the kid. My kids misbehave. There’s disappointment. This is all unnecessary. Everyday is important. My expectations are low and despite having pretty awesome kids, this one Hallmark day is an annual giant shitshow. So, I give an annual big F U to Hallmark.

Parenting Days are so Long yet the Time Goes By Quickly

The night before Mother’s Day, my husband, older daughter and I were cuddling and watching videos of our family from when the four kids were really little. My husband filmed moments of our younger life. The little stuff that became the big stuff. I appreciate those clips now so much. My heart was full of emotions as the days of parenting are so very long, but the time goes by too quickly.

Breakfast Was Not Served in Bed, It Wasn’t Even Served in the House, My Husband Made An Escape

No Coffee, No Underwear, Questionable Art & No Little League Games

The next morning, Mother’s Day, my husband burst into the bedroom, “WAKE UP!  Do you want to go out to breakfast with me? The kids are really misbehaving!” No. All I wanted was for the kids to cleanthe house. In the past, I asked them to just behave for the day and my then little daughter would reply, “Behave? Can’t we just buy you a new purse? That would be easier!” So, cleaning joined behaving, and I would receive neither. No, I do not have a new purse.

Next, another daughter came into my room, “Where’s my underwear? What happened to the laundry? I have to wear athletic shorts with built-ins.” Yup, I had Mother’s Day laundry to do.

I asked my purse offering daughter if I gave her instructions, would she please brew coffee.  She reminded me that I had a cup of coffee in my bathroom (a space in the house where the rest of the family is banished – much like a Man Cave) from the day before and she would be happy to microwave that. 

Instead of delivering on the coffee, she took the time to mimic a Mother’s Day art project that she made for me 7 years ago when in Kindergarten, under the supervision of her teacherThe project was little nails hammered into the shape of a heart on a wood block with ribbons outlining the heart. It still hangs in our foyer. Her modern version of this project, sans supervision, was created using my painting canvas and several two inch screws, which dangled out the back of the canvas. No coffee, but now I am the recipient of a weapon-like piece of art, in the shape of a heart.

As the day went on, our boys’ four travel baseball games were rained out.  At least I didn’t have to pack the lunch coolers.

My younger daughter was talking to my youngest son on speaker phone, “I need you to clean the house or else I am not allowed to use the kitchen and I want to make a Mother’s Day dessert.” Her desserts are her gifts. My son looked at me as she did not know that I was in the room and she was on speaker phone. He giggled and hung up on her. I don’t eat desserts, I just wanted the house cleaned.

They Took Me to The Ballgame

Last minute, we went to Camden Yards to cheer on the Orioles, my hometown team in last place. It was drizzling, the bats were hot and the game was so much fun. One of our favorite Orioles, Right Fielder, Joey Rickard, received a call on Mother’s Day morning. He was recalled from the Minors to play again in the Major League.  The game ended with 17 runs including Joey Rickard‘s two home runs. And, my husband, for the first time ever, and while I was buying snacks from the concession stand, got a Joey Rickard foul ball. I was so happy for him! REMEMBER THE BALL.

After a great day at the game, we headed home and the kids played catch while I took an unsanctioned nap.  Yay, naps and more baseball!

Though Banned from the Kitchen a Child made Mother’s Day Ice Cream Sandwiches

While I was at the ballgame, without the house being tidy, my daughter, the one banned from the kitchen, used my brand new and never used baking tray to make ice cream sandwiches, whereas the ice cream melted and then froze all over the tray. The ice cream sandwiches served as the kids’ Mother’s Day dinner. They were happy.

Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg Screening

I was again awoken with the door bursting open, by my husband, again. “Let’s go!  I know you want to see Notorious RBG!”  Yes! I want to see the documentary about an iconic and Jewish woman making HER-story!  We were late to the theater and the cashier didn’t know how to sell tickets to late comers. So, the employees let us into RBG for free! I thanked each of the employees and promised to do something really nice for someone else, soon, but not today.

As a Little League Mom, A Signed MLB Ball (from my family) Was Better than a Hallmark Greeting

My husband handed me the foul ball from the game.  Each person in my family signed my husband’s prized ball.  It was a gift from their hearts. As a Little League baseball Mom, this gesture was filled with love.

After the movie, my husband and I had a dinner date.  We decided, that on this successful Brody Bunch Mother’s Day, if Joey Rickard, who was called back up to the major leagues on Mother’s Day, wanted his foul ball, though signed by family, it would be an honor to give it to him.  I hope one day if my kid is a major league ball player, that the ball recipient would feel the same.

When we got home, my oldest son, in bed for the night, the one who first made me a mom, called me into his room.  I gave him lots of kisses and he asked me to look in my bathroom (everyone goes in there).  He left me a sweet note for Mother’s Day and he signed his first name and our last name initial.  All of my kids came through. While the house is not tidy, it’s filled with love. I had a home run kind of a day.

The Brody Bunch Goes to the School Dance

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The School Dance – Rite of Passage, Hormones & a Mom

The school dance. It’s a rite of passage. It’s hormones about to explode. It’s a night of music that ages the chaperones. It’s outfits of self expression.  It was a surreal experience as a former tween myself.

2 Siblings: 1. Please Chaperone.  2. Please Stay Home.

My one child begged me to chaperone. While his sibling practically insisted that I leave the same zip code where the dance was being held, at their school.

Days leading up to the dance were draining on the home front, “What if there is drama?” or “I am not sure which friends to hang out with.” And, more.  My heartstrings were torn. All of the horrible voices in a tween’s head were being vocalized. While I was grateful for open lines of communication, I became more sad with each conversation prior to the dance.  I recalled how I didn’t like school dances when I was in Middle School.

The day of the dance, I received a communication from my pro-chaperone child, “Best day ever, please don’t come to the dance!”  WHAT BUDDY?  I bailed on an older sibling’s track meet, first place in the mile race, wearing indoor soccer shoes.  And, I said no to a dinner date. I SIGNED ONTO THE DANCE TO PROVIDE COMFORT & SUPPORT!  While my pro-chaperone child threw me a plot twist and requested that I stay away, his anti-chaperone sibling was thrilled. Fortunately, for the kid who rescinded his request for my presence, I developed Vertigo this week, and I couldn’t put up a strong fight.  

For the past two years, I have attended this dance with the pro-chaperone and anti-chaperone’s older siblings. This was our pro-chaperone kid’s first time at this rodeo. My friends appreciate when I attend dances because I text reports and photos of their kids who have banished them from the dance. It’s an unofficial community service I provide for the Village. Though, perhaps my friends are smarter and let their kids win the chaperoning battle, and maybe those parents are all at happy hour, without me. 

Time for the Dance & Karma Was My Date

It was officially time to open the dance floor (the decorated multi-purpose room).  When I pulled up to the schoolyard, the tide of tween concerns washed away. I felt the vibe change.  My pro-chaperone dancer had the most relaxed smile. Kids were running up and squealing his name. It was like a celebrity got out of my car. My gut knew, that we were at a different place than we were when I signed the permission slip for the event. Anxiety and fear turned into comfort and joy. We entered a place of being relaxed and content.  I wasn’t sure what to do, should I linger around or leave? Most people in my shoes would have driven away to the local bar.

Nonetheless, I had a prime parking space in front of the school, so I walked in to say hello to the PTA parents who made the dance possible, and snagged a photo with my kids.  And, out of the blue, I was handed a cash box and asked to collect money for candy and soda sales. I LOATHE candy and soda access for kids. Yup, I am THAT Mom who brings in sliced oranges when signed up for team snack. My kids hate when I am the snack parent. Yet, I understand candy and soda concessions are big money makers for the school. Karma got me, I wasn’t a signed up to volunteer and I shimmied my way into the dance for a photo.  So, there I was with a bunch of sweaty hormonal tweens armed with twenty dollar bills from their generous parents eager to purchase dollar candy bars and cans of soda. The 8 foot banquet table filled with candy was sold in lightning bolt speeds, and I had to keep counting out $19 in change for many transactions.  Then the party goers would come back with their dollar bills and more sugary inventory moved out.  While I was being a good steward of the cash box and candy, I was trying to find my kids from my assigned station, especially the one who initially invited me to attend the dance. As a mom, I sensed that I was initially needed, and now I was not needed at all. Many would call that a victory. I call that Mom growing pains.

My kids and their friends checked in with me several times throughout out the dance, even though they stopped being candy and soda consumers early into the dance. At least I wasn’t being used for my own cash and inventory on hand. From afar, I saw my kid who was anxious about this social evening find joy, acceptance and kind kids.  From our experience, this was the perfect first Middle School Dance.

Sweaty Hormonal Tweens Are Our Future

I looked around the room and realized that one day, these students will be our lawyers, our doctors, our teachers, our researchers, our politicians and more.  I pondered when  the switch flips between tween insecurities into a more established person participating as a contributing member of society.  These experiences are all about the rite of passage throughout life and time. These kids will be okay and we will be okay, too.

While Karma had me selling concessions, and my head was spinning to both bad music and Vertigo, I witnessed happiness.  There is nothing more gratifying in the parenting world as seeing your kids find their way. Communication, being present, quietly worrying, and a little faith is all part of the journey, it’s the parental rite of passage.  

The Brody Bunch Marches for Our Lives – Let the Children Lead the Way. #Enough

 

We Marched for our Lives. It is #enough

In awe, inspired, hopeful #enough.  We Marched for Our Lives in DC, yesterday.

More than 20 years ago, in response to a relative surviving a carjacking, I gave a contribution to a handgun control group. From that donation, which may have been my first political contribution, I received a pin. I wore that button in DC while standing with my children and their generation growing up and believing that school shootings are considered normal and want it to stop.  This is not normal. I can’t even identify with this burden. It is #enough. My generation couldn’t fix the issues so let the children lead the way.

Supporting the Second Amendment, Not the NRA

I support the right to bear arms.  Hunting and sport and the right to protect oneself is important to me.  Yet it is unfathomable that children are dying and a political lobbying group is controlling the United States of America’s President, Senators and Congressmen. It is time to #VoteThemOut.  We boarded buses from Baltimore to DC for the March for our Lives.

Change is Here

Upon exiting the bus in DC, we were in a mix of students and families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They were strongly represented.  A classic Bob Marley song was blaring in the streets. We were part of something really big. Change is here.

I was completely inspired by the crowd size, the excitement in the air, the kindness of the large security presence.  The sun was shining on us. The Cherry Blossoms are blooming… and the movement by the kids is in full bloom. I am proud to follow their lead because my generation has failed.

Speeches by Parkland and Sandy Hook survivors, Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter and others were inspiring, heartbreaking and courageous.  Yet, all of their experiences should have never happened. I was overwhelmed with emotions when we saw the children from Sandy Hook, they have grown so much over the years.  For me, the Sandy Hook massacre is still raw. The children of Sandy Hook were the same ages of my own children. My husband and I had the luxury of raising our children in a bubble, yet the Sandy Hook tragedy forced our hands to tell our children that evil exists in the world. Through the beloved Fred Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, we were able to have age appropriate conversations with our young children. Thanks to Mr. Rogers we taught the kids, “always look for the helpers.”  The helpers are their teachers, police officers, firefighters, the first responders.

Music Sends Powerful Messages

There were many celebrities loved by my kids and their generation and I felt old.  Had this event been held when it should have been 19 years ago during Columbine, Bruce Springsteen would have probably taken the stage.  I heard my kids’ favorite artists yesterday and for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics. Our kids have a lot of positive entertainers in their playlists.  Music is a wonderful way to send a powerful message.

Like many, I was incredibly moved by Ben Platt from Dear Evan Hansen and Lin-Manuel Miranda from Hamilton when they took the stage to perform “Found Tonight” which honors the Parkland High School survivors and their work for the March for our Lives. Just last Saturday, my daughter and I were on Broadway seeing Dear Evan Hansen.  Last week, we were filled with raw emotions because of the strong messages from the show. Yesterday, my daughter and I stood together and tears rolled down my face again, because of the urgent need to march on Washington, hearing new powerful lyrics:  

And when our children tell their story ….

They’ll tell the story of tonight….

Raise a glass to all of us/

Tomorrow there’ll be more of us

Telling the story of tonight.

The Kids are the Leaders

There were no politicians on the stage.  We were listening to kids. They made us cry. They made us cheer. They made us laugh. They made the world stop and see that changes are coming and change is here. Several students appeared to be testing the waters for future political campaigns. This one issue, sensible gun control, which is one of my non-negotiable issues when voting, I am ready for these kids to lead the fight all the way. #VoteThemOut and #VoteThemIn

The United States Capitol, “Thank You for Marching”

We had a long walk back to our buses, one with a Parkland School survivor.  As we walked though SE Washington, I noticed the sun shining down on the Capitol.  This iconic building houses our “leaders” who are in bed with the National Rifle Association. The NRA controls our legislators while our children are executed, this is not what our forefathers imagined when writing the Second Amendment.  

As we walked by several homes, we saw signage in front yards including tributes from Martin Luther King, Jr and a sign “Thank you for Marching.” To the children I say, “Thank you for Leading.” I am inspired to #VoteThemOut because it is #enough.

Brody Bunch – Gift Memories over Materialist Gifts

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Taylor Trensch, star of Dear Evan Hansen signed our Playbills, that is a memory!

Creating Memories Over Acquiring More Stuff

“Experiences over material items” that is the Brody Bunch parenting mantra.  I am sick and tired of putting away things that no one really wants or enjoys.  My generation, Generation X, could die from clearing out the things that our Baby Boomer parents thought we might like one day in addition to all of the things we bought when we had first jobs and the economy was great.  So, to limit the clutter for our kids, we have set out to make memories rather than buying another trinket. We haven’t mastered this, but sometimes we get it right.

An Experience To Celebrate a Bat Mitzvah

In celebration of our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, we gave her the choice of many experiences rather than buying an expensive gift.  She is an aspiring actress and singer. Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen was on the top of her list, it was the only thing on her list. With her Bat Mitzvah 7 months behind us, we finally fulfilled her wish.  Tickets didn’t come easy.  And, we were able to pad the show with additional opportunities for more memories. Maybe I was the one receiving the gift, because, just the two of us went on her getaway and I treasured every moment.  I never knew what time it was. She was the perfect traveling partner. She was flexible when plans changed. She has my stamina. She had gratitude for each offering. She laughed at my jokes.

The Agenda, The Journey, The Magic

We went to New York for two full days.  Our journey included the St. Patrick’s Day parade, long walks in Central Park and the West Village.  We had lobster in the Chelsea Market. We did a photo shoot on the High Line. We sang, shimmied, and twisted at Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway.  We ate dinner in an outside heated bar vestibule. When Siri got us really lost, we drank coffee at a Greek diner. We bought new political buttons to wear on our hats for the upcoming March on Washington to fight gun violence in schools.  Some of these buttons were purchased from the same store where we bought our “Vagina Badge of Honor” patches for last year’s Women’s March.

We shared many laughs, like at the parade, someone’s flag brushed me several times and I pulled on it to tell the flag waver that I couldn’t see.  My daughter gasped and giggled, “Mom, you can’t yank someone’s flag.”  When referencing St. Paddy’s day “pot of gold” I stated that because of the local aroma, that the pot of gold is “just pot”. We segued the joke into meaningful conversations about drugs and alcohol.  No one likes these chats, but we have to have them. For good measure, I threw in questions about sex, too. Thanks Parade revelers!

Instead of dining at our favorite restaurant in Little Italy, we found a wonderful bar. We met the owner [female owned] and spoke with everyone near us. We were in a New York State of Mind. And, when my daughter and I were in the bathroom, she told me that we didn’t have time for me to make anymore best friends because we had to get to the theater.  I like doing things until the last minute, to get in more memories, but I knew that she wanted to get to the show.

My other kids kept texting us, “Aren’t you excited!  Just one hour and 19 minutes before you see Dear Evan Hansen!”  and “I miss you! I hope you are having fun!” The kids not on this trip, were celebrating their sister’s excitement and were so happy for her.  Their sibling love was appreciated by her and another gift to me.  It was all magical.

Saw the show, met the lead actor, it was perfect

The show was finally here. It was beautiful and sad.  She has been singing the hits for more than a year. I had my own moments of reflection sitting next to my daughter during this powerful show. Every parent and kid can learn a lot from this incredible production.  A good hard cry was had by me. After the show, we slipped into Junior’s for cheesecake, and the post theater crowd prevented us from getting a table. We called home and said goodnight.

We could see that people were gathering around the theater.  We went back. Two strangers were smiling and pushed my daughter ahead and said, “Taylor Trensch [Evan Hansen] is signing Playbills!” My daughter got up close, I smiled, congratulated him on his performance, and told him that we were here for her Bat Mitzvah celebration. Taylor/Evan Hansen said, “Oh, happy birthday!  I hope your Torah portion went smoothly.”  Wow, glad we couldn’t get the cheesecake!  This was the icing on the cake!

The Journey Continued

After a hotel snafu whereas our paid room, with our checked in luggage, was given away, near midnight, we were put into a taxi and sent to an alternative hotel.  I was mad. I didn’t want our perfect day to end with being annoyed. I made a choice to check myself and chose to remain happy. I gave our daughter a jewelry box with a surprise charm bracelet from Dear Evan Hansen. Her bright smile rivaled that of Times Square’s lights.

The next day, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel.  I shared with my daughter lessons I learned from the show and how some topics reminded me of myself with my mom.  In the background, I could hear an old Billy Joel song and the lyric “it’s always sadness or euphoria.” That song always reminds me of my mom. More tears streamed down my face. It was like I participated in a therapeutic getaway.  We had more meaningful conversations. We were making lots of memories.  

We walked through Koreatown.  I was in accessory heaven. Just one more store!  These trinkets are “different” from the material items we were trying to avoid by making memories – so we made memories while picking up a few more brooches and bracelets. We walked through the Flatiron District. Spent time at the Strand Bookstore. Ate in a hip coffee shop blasting my favorite songs from the 70’s. We went for a long and cold walk in Central Park.  We saw ducks and signs of Spring. I find peace and happiness in Central Park. We intended to go to another diner where we could warm up, and got lost, again. So we walked for a bit and ended up in Ellen’s Stardust Diner.  We had front and center seats whereas we were part of many of the song and dance routines as innocent bystanders. We strolled back to meet our bus home and took in traditional tourist scenery in Times Square.

14 miles of laughs, lessons and “For Forever” memories

My health tracking device noted that we walked 14 miles over two days.  You can cover lots of laughs, serious conversations and historical discoveries in 14 miles. It is the City that never sleeps.  My soul is beaming with happiness. Like the song from Dear Evan Hansen we made “For Forever” memories.

The Brody Bunch participates in the National Student Walkout, and I am Proud

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My daughter’s poster for the National Student Walkout

Support the Schools -Walk Out with the Students

I am so proud that the Baltimore City public school district, administrators, teachers and students supported today’s National Student Walkout.  My own 7th grader asked me several times to attend the walkout. There was apprehension about missing classes, consequences, breaking the rules.  I declared that there would be no consequences at home for participating in a school walkout fighting this injustice.  Our school strongly embraced the need to support the students and fight to end the gun violence epidemic in our schools and made it very comfortable for students and teachers choosing not to participate in the walkout. 

At this time, it is not a matter of  IF another school shooting will happen again, it is a matter of WHERE it will happen again, and students are demanding action from legislators.  The students are rising up.  They will beat the National Rifle Association, who owns our Congress.  I support the Second Amendment, I am against assault weapons.  I am sick of being sick of school shootings.  I strongly supported today’s National Student Walkout.  During the walkout, I did not hear any political commentary surrounding the school shootings.  I learned about the 17 people killed one month ago today.  I cried for them.  This violence can happen anywhere. We have lost over 7000 children since Columbine. It is #enough.

When your kid asks you to be present, and you can, be present. I am so glad I attended the National Student Walkout, with my kids and their classmates and teachers.

At 10AM, the slated time for the National Student Walkout, the front doors to our school were held open by our Principal.  I saw my oldest son and some of his baseball teammates walkout in solidarity.  I cried.

One of my daughters found me and she hugged me.  Some other parents were on school grounds also offering their support.  Parents and teachers huddled together commenting how horrible it is that we need to do this and how proud we are of the kids. The kids will make change. My own children, and their generation, are growing up with gun violence as a “normal” occurrence, this is wrong and inhumane.  I am so proud that all four of my kids and their friends stood up for those who have been killed, and recognize that there needs to be change.  They are taking action.

Student Leaders Are Leading and Inspiring

Our student government association leaders read a tribute for each person who perished in the Parkland school shooting one month ago today and there was a moment of silence for each person.  This student run program was meaningful and important.

The 17 minute walkout ended with a student encouraging her schoolmates to March on Washington or in our own City on March 24th. I am so proud of our children for being leaders of change. 

May the children and adults who have perished in school shootings not have died in vain.  May their memories be a blessing and let the children continue to lead the way, because the adults have failed. This is more than #enough.  I stand with the students.  I walkout with the students. I march with the students. I support the students.  The students are leading the way.  I will follow their direction.  We have had #enough.

My experience ended with my daughter embracing me in the school yard.  Her sign “I am missing school because they’re missing lives” was between us.  When you are in middle school, hugging and kissing your mom in the school yard because of gun violence, it there are a lot of feelings. #enough

School Shootings: No More “Thoughts & Prayers”. Demand Policy and Action.

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I am a Mom. I am sick and tired and shocked by yet another school shooting. I am also sick and tired of “thoughts and prayers”.  Yesterday, marked the 18th school shooting THIS year alone.  It is ONLY mid February, you have a calendar, you do the math. I am angry, frustrated and scared. What is the plan moving forward?  We don’t have a plan.  

To shield my children, I used to lower the radio and turn off the news pertaining to school shootings.  I wanted to protect my children.  But, they know, they knew.  This is so frequent. They respond in an empathetic way, but they are not shocked. This, is THEIR normal.  NORMAL. They are sometimes a little scared, but this is part of their childhood tapestry.  There is NOTHING normal about this.

We kiss our kids goodbye and send them to school.  Some kissed their kids goodbye and it was really goodbye.  After Sandy Hook, I looked longer at my kids when they hopped out of the car until they were no longer in my sight. Columbine was so long ago, and we have been here many times prior to the 18 cities impacted by school shootings since January of THIS year.  I can’t even name all 18 of these cities.

To the members of Congress still offering their “thoughts and prayers” we should OUT these legislators who accepted campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. No other country has these school shootings and no other country has a lobby like the NRA.  The NRA is owns the United States of America’s Congress.

We need policy and action. Stand up to the gun lobby. Mental health advocacy needs to be a legislative priority NOW. Take the stigma out of mental health so that we can reach those in need.  How many more school shootings before we have a change in policy? Prayers alone are not working.

There are many levels of gun violence, and one policy won’t fix it all. A relative of mine was carjacked years ago, his offenders, with lengthy and violent rap sheets, were allowed back on the streets. My City has a high level of gang violence, these offenders get back on the streets. Before a play date, ask the host parents if they have a gun in their home and how they secure the gun(s).  We are sitting ducks in churches and concert spaces. We don’t know which school will be the next traumatized community. These examples will not all have the same solution. But, the time to take back our schools is long overdue. To the families in mourning from yesterday’s tragedy and the tragedies prior, we owe it to them to demand political action.

One political side spins the conversation, “Was the school shooter brainwashed by a terrorist group?  Is the shooter an immigrant?” These questions are not part of the school shooting epidemic.  These questions are a distracting tactic deflecting change. Dedicated teachers and our children are in harm’s way. Whatever your political affiliation, whether you are a card carrying member of the NRA or not, or whether you are a legal gun owner or not, this is a problem for ALL of us.  Sensible gun control does not mean taking away gun rights from lawful gun owners.

Since Congress isn’t offering new strategies, here’s a recommendation: Gun Awareness in School.  Much like Sex Ed and Drug Prevention, there will be push back. Teach Second Amendment history and rights. Teach students about mental health awareness and options. Teach children about reporting social media concerns.  Teach about sensible gun control. School safety cannot continue to be at the hands of the gun lobby. We need a change.  We need policy and action BEFORE another tragedy happens.

So, here we are AGAIN. “Thoughts and prayers” are expressed by politicians, social media bickering resumes, Congress does nothing, and then another school shooting occurs. I am not challenging the validity of the Second Amendment, the right to legally bare arms or the right to sport or hunt. I pray that we see action and enforced policies. We must demand change for safety in our schools. The need to act was before yesterday’s tragedy and the tragedies before that. I am a Mom sick and tired of being sick and tired about school shootings.

 

The Brody Bunch – Supporting Arts in Public Schools, Family & Community

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One Day – Two Agendas: Funding the Arts and Supporting the Arts

Support the arts in your local schools. In less than 7 hours, I had the opportunity to both participate in a difficult strategic planning conversation about funding arts in City Public Schools and I attended an elementary school play. Budget cuts impacted arts programming in my City, Baltimore.  I shared in the meeting that now more than ever it is necessary to support arts in the schools and reach as many students as possible. Arts spills into academic subjects. The arts help students become creative learners. Arts help kids process the challenging world around them. The arts in schools need to be valued on the same level as the school guidance counselor. It is unacceptable that the arts are on the front line during budget cuts.  

Hours after the arts meeting about budget cuts and outreach initiatives, I attended closing night of my son’s elementary school play. This is my youngest child, so our last elementary school play.  The after school rehearsals, the hours of teacher and parent volunteering, school matinees, a cast luncheon and two community wide performances were coming to an end.  The beautiful costumes, created by volunteers, would be cleaned and stored for future shows. The hand painted set by teachers and parents would come down. The Middle School Tech Crew raised the lights one last time. The cast took their final bow.  Parents gave the last standing ovation.

Photographing The Play – I Saw Through My Eyes and My HeART

As the volunteer play photographer, I sit in the front row, for each play and capture precious moments of the kids’ proud theater experiences. I share the snapshots with the theater families as mementos from our community experience. Please don’t judge my blog photos, I tried to preserve the students’ privacy.

In this final performance, I saw something beyond my camera lens.  My heart was moved beyond the play itself… I witnessed family love, pride and community. This was a gift from the theater. The play served as a vehicle for me to see my older children and their friends rise to the occasion of celebrating their younger siblings. It’s something that after all of the laundry, lunch packing and stress is a return payout for the parent. Watching the older siblings celebrate the younger siblings was surreal.

Two of my older kids were sitting near me with their friends. Many of the older kids play baseball together, so our families spend a fair amount of time together, we are an extended family.  I was happy for those families, too. I could see the lights bouncing off the older siblings’ faces. The older kids smiled with much pride when their younger siblings entered the stage or had lines. The younger siblings could see us in the audience, and their smiles of comfort, love and gratitude were wide. I could not wait to share this observation with the other parents sitting further back. Also in the audience, were baseball coaches and friends of families, without their own kids in this play, supporting kids they coach, we are a community.

The After Party – Hosted by Parents, Supported by Siblings

The play wrapped up.  Parents put together a great after party. And, one of my daughters, and her friends, 6th graders, DJ’d the post party. The songs were preselected and reviewed for inappropriate language.  Strobe lights and smoke machines filled the dance floor.  It was awesome celebrating as a community supporting the arts. As the night got later and parents went off to other parties not affiliated with the play, we met up at various homes, and celebrated the kids’ successes. The arts bring out the best in people. It was a euphoric night centered around the elementary school play.  And, the night was a great reminder that we need to keep volunteering and fighting to preserve art programs in public schools, for all of the children.

eARTh without ART is just “EH”

Supporting the arts is a value that has been passed on to me by my parents. Arts is a value. My kids attend budget rallies in support of the arts.  In the arts community, you often find people with compassion and passion. These are people to stick with. Attending your local theater is a great way to shape a kid’s world.  Like the expression “eARTh without ART is just EH” kids don’t need EH, they need art.  Less than 48 hours after the elementary school play wrapped, the middle school musical is already in progress. Support the arts in public schools.  You might get extra lucky like me and see your kids do something to melt your heART.

The Brody Bunch – A New Bus Rider, Finding Freedom and Letting Go

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City Slickers New to Public Transportation

We live in the City.  I constantly drive the Brody Bunch from activity to activity, 7 days per week, times four kids. This is our lifestyle. My Dad always tells me after a crazy carpool route that he would have been happy to help, and he brings the best after school snacks. I hate asking for help.

A typical timing conflict presented its ugly head. My daughter needed to be downtown at the same time that I volunteered to photograph my son’s elementary school play.  I am the master of resolving scheduling conflicts. 

I recalled a friend telling me that her daughter and another girl go downtown at the same time as my daughter, and those girls rely on public transportation. Yes, the bus is another option! But, I am fearful: 1) Riding the bus, without me, is a first time journey. 2) Our public transportation is unreliable. 3) And, my kids are growing up too quickly at lightning speed. Oddly, as a City resident, I have never been on a bus, except when the bus is used as a cooling station during our citywide Arts Festival. That experience probably doesn’t count.

So, I texted my friend, the one with bus riding daughter, and about 8 texting rounds later, I learned: how much money a bus ride costs, what time to be waiting at the stop, where to exit the bus, and arranged for my daughter to walk a few blocks with the other girls to their destination.  At first when I shared the bus idea, my daughter declined as these girls are her brother’s friends. Yet, over texting, with my daughter, the idea was embraced.  I don’t understand the teenager decision process. But, my daughter easily and happily agreed to the plan, and she will get to experience independence.

Carpooling Versus the Bus – I Save Money!

Before considering the bus option, our routine was me driving her downtown. I used the time that she was in class to have a dinner date with her brother at an overpriced marketplace. Predictably, he eats a burger, shake and fries. And, I eat a double portion of Teriyaki salmon over a Korean kale bowl. Carpooling is an expensive and time consuming effort versus the bus option that just costs $1.70, exact change! My daughter and I are each spreading our wings!

Boarding the Bus – It is Symbolically the Vehicle for Independence

It is time to let my daughter live like a City Slicker. I am a little scared with the smallest window of willingness to let her be on the bus, without me. Here we go!  We are both spreading our wings.  She is going to the arts school for her theater class.  I am staying uptown to photograph her younger brother’s school play rehearsal.  However, I know myself.  The bus stop is across the street from the kids’ school, where I am photographing the play. I will have my long camera lens and might, will probably, photograph her boarding the bus. For posterity. 

Often I speak about public transportation in terms of urban advocacy. A local issue is that there are not enough bus routes for employment opportunities beyond the Inner City, the jobs are outside of the City. We need a better public transportation system.  Yet, now, I am nervously excited for my daughter’s new experience. I am open to getting bus passes for the whole Brody Bunch. 

Moving forward, I view public transportation literally as the vehicle for my daughter finding her independence.  And, I am finding my wings. She is excited and I am happily nervous.  I asked my daughter if there is anything she wants to review before her new journey, “Well, I finally get to ride the bus, but you won’t be there to give me a sandwich like you always do.” My daughter traded gourmet sandwiches for her freedom. I gave her a granola bar for the ride.