Uh oh…here it comes.

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In a few more days.

A birthday.

Not a milestone year, but another year that reminds me that I’m not getting any younger…

That I wasted the carefree years when youth and time were on my side….

That I should be a hell of a lot farther along in my career…

and in my personal life…

That I should have these inner demons by the tail. Demons that have chased me since childhood, that invade my life, my relationships, my dreams, my thoughts. After this many years of fighting the good fight, can’t the soldiers just lay down arms and have a backyard bbq?

When can my demons and I share a frosty beverage, some charcoal cooked meat and learn to peacefully coexist? I don’t ask the demons to leave, no, they are an essential part of the human existence. When can we learn to live peaceably in the same space? That is the question.

I am the sum of all my parts, both good and bad. Some days, like today, I absolutely love who I am and what I’ve become.

Somedays I can’t tolerate being in my own skin. Like last week.

When did I go from being invincible to wondering if I should see a doctor about every ache and pain?

When did thoughts of my own mortality pervade my life?

Remember as a kid when you ran, it was like you were running SO fast and the wind made a whooshing sound in your ears and you felt like you could run forever and thoughts of dying, heartache, agony and disorder never crossed your little mind?

When does cynicism and melancholy take the place of easy joy? When did it swap that I have to work at staying happy instead of just *being* happy?

And when, fer cripes sakes, did we stop getting a big juicy birthday cake with a big passel of candles on top and awkwardly wrapped toys to celebrate another trip around the sun?

Where is my piñata?!?!

Ah well, birthday snarkiness is my new tradition. This should hang around a few more days, by the way, and I’ll be back to regularly scheduled rantiness.

My new birth year resolutions:

1) Hug my cat more, despite the fact she doesn’t like being hugged.

2) Hug my man more….he rather enjoys it

3) Tell myself I love myself one hell of a lot more.

4) Extend a hand to those demons and invite them to stop growling so loud

5) Eat. More. Cake.

To reunite…or not.

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I’m thinking not.

This summer, I’ve been notified, is the twenty-year reunion of my high school. Oh sob.

I declined to attend the ten year. I hated high school. Oh, the school itself was fine, but that time of my life was….not great.

I didn’t have many friends in high school. I was well liked by all accounts, but out of a class of 550 graduates, I would venture I only knew a few.

And I only had two real close friends that I ran around with.

The closer of the two, an amazing girl full of life and vibrancy and a laugh that would light up the stars…she would be the only reason I’d even want to go. To sit with her and issue the snark and self-deprecating humor and assure ourselves that we are cool despite all evidence to the contrary.

Sadly that beautiful sense of humorous snark was extinguished by cancer in 2005. It hardly seems the same without her.

The other is a lovely woman who has married and has three children. She is a stay at home mom and has become quite religious. I’m happy for her, she is happy with her life. It’s just that…she and I no longer have anything in common.

The rehashed conversation about how I remain jealous that SHE got to date the star football player AND wear his letterman’s jacket while I never not once dated in high school will only last for a few minutes.

Then we’re left with…silence.

I looked at the list of other folks who are attending and I sort of know a few but nothing there is compelling me to get on a plane and spend three days with a wan smile on my face trying to pretend like 1) this is fun and 2) this used to be fun.

The gang is meeting up Friday night at Billy’s Long Bar. An Albuquerque institution, indeed. There are probably bits of my DNA in the thrashed bar and the barf stained carpet. But that was a lifetime ago. That was a different me. And I’m disinclined to revisit that person I once was. I’ve come a long way, baby.

So despite the fact that I “should” or “it would be fun” I think I’m going to pass on the reunion again this year.

What I can’t seem to get over is…why do I feel guilty about that?

Oh the life of a recovering Catholic…….

My response

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On April 20, 2007, Jim Belshaw of the ABQjournal wrote an opinion piece titled “BioPark Vandalism Raises ‘Respect’ Issue”.

In this piece, Mr. Belshaw poses the question about how these kids could do such a thing, and where was their self respect?

Mr. Belshaw ends his article with: “The floor is open for answers as to why a kid would have no respect for himself.”

Below is my letter, emailed April 21st.
________________

Dear Mr. Belshaw –

Let me preface this by saying I have been reading your column for many years and am a lifelong fan. Having been raised in Albuquerque and now located in Northern California, I’m happy to continue to be able to read your column via ABQjournal.com.

I’m writing in response to your April 20, 2007 column, “BioPark Vandalism Raises ‘Respect’ Issue”.

First of all, I’m shocked at the level of outrage this particular incident has brought to these children. And yes, at age 13 they are still children. It seems the good people of Albuquerque wish to treat (and try them) them like adults.

Who doesn’t expect a pack of 13 year-old boys to find trouble? It doesn’t excuse their behavior but it does make me wonder what’s behind all the backlash? Where is the righteous indignation for the tagged freeway overpass, the billboard, the school, the church, the cinder block wall, the every place imaginable that taggers will tag, and have been for decades? When I was a kid (this would have been in the early 80’s), my dad built an addition on our house. He’d put up the tarpaper in preparation for the stucco. On a Saturday we went to 5:30pm Mass and when we returned, our home had been vandalized and tagged. I grew up in the Northeast Heights.

So why is this one raising everyone’s pulse? Is it because fish are cute? Is it all so very Nemo-esque? Is it that the BioPark Aquarium is “scientific”? Why did this one raise such a stink? Where’s all the hubbub for vandalism and tagging the other 364 days out of the year?

In your article you bring forth a question formed in response to feedback from one of your readers. You ask “…why a kid would have no respect for himself.”

These kids are just that, kids. A human learns respect for themselves and others. It isn’t innately born in, it has to be taught. And where is that taught? At home, first, by parents, then later, at school by teachers and yes, other students and later on by friends and coworkers. It isn’t a one-time shot given to kids with their measles and malaria boosters, but a lifelong pursuit.

Did you hear about the response one child had when asked why he did this thing? Quoted from the April 20th column by Andrea Schoellkopf, this from the grandmother and primary caregiver of one of the boys, ” ‘I asked him, ‘Why did you do it?’ ” she said. “You know what he told me? ‘Everybody else was doing it.’ ”

We all learn and model the behavior of those around us. This child is still young enough to be taught self-respect. There is still time left. But garnishing future wages, using curse words at them and about them and suing the pants off their parents and guardians is NOT how we teach kids self-respect.

What I want to know is how the people of Albuquerque expect a thirteen year-old boy to be so fully formed he knows “respect for himself” when his mother is in prison, and while on a school sponsored trip there aren’t even enough adults around to keep an eye on a large pack of kids.

I think the citizens of Albuquerque might take a step back and look at how they are treating these children.

Is that respect? We’re modeling the very behavior we are railing against.

Should they be punished? Yes. What does that model?

That actions have consequences.

Should they be publicly eviscerated in the media, sworn at by actual adults, sued in the courts, and have their names and troubled backgrounds splashed across the headline news? What lesson does that teach?

That behaving badly gets you attention.

Time for us to take a good hard look at ourselves. Maybe self-respect begins with each and every one of us, and we then model it for our children, ourselves and our society.

Oh and how about some lessons in forgiveness and compassion?

Thank you for your time and keep up the great work on your very thought provoking columns.

Regards,

Karen Fayeth

Taking Responsibility

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One of my biggest rants about “society in general” is the lack of taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Within this is consideration for others, meaning, seeing how what you do affects other folks, and being responsible enough to fix your behavior.

All to often, that’s just not happening. From where I’m sitting (a way too overpopulated area) it’s getting worse by the day. Not to sound like the total curmudgeon that I am, but I think our young kids are missing out on this lesson the most.

Just yesterday I got up to date on the kerfuffle at the Albuquerque Biological Park.

Seems some kids from John Adams Middle School got into some trouble. A couple of APS’ finest had the opportunity to scratch into the thick clear plastic on several tanks at the BioPark Aquarium.

On one of the tanks the problem can be buffed off but it will always have a distortion. Another tank the thick plastic needs to be replaced completely. Estimated costs up to $30,000 to fix, with the Park only able to get the maximum allowed by state law of $4,000 from the parents of each of the kids (four students total so they’ll get up to $12k on their $30k problem).

In a April 19 opinion piece in the ABQjournal with no byline and in today’s piece by Andrea Schoellkopf, the press is coming down pretty hard on these kids, aged 13 or so, and as well they should.

But my question in all this is….where were the grown ups? Today’s article said they snuck away from grownups. What? And how did that happen? Were there enough teachers and parents on this trip? Today’s article says there was one adult for every five kids (per aquarium policy). So what happened?

I know pre-teens are cagey, but I would be real, real upset to hear that there wasn’t enough supervision available and my kid stuck off. Does this mean someone like a kidnapper could sneak IN? And what about security at the Bio Park? At the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I’ve spent some time, I could no more think, “sharp scraping object” much less get it within an inch of the glass before security or Aquarium employees would toss me out on my ear.

I fear the answer would probably be something like “lack of funding”.

I was heartened to hear the Principal of John Adams say they are going to go over their field trip policies. I hope that means what I think it means, taking responsibility for the fact that this *should* have been prevented and making sure it doesn’t happen again.

I don’t excuse the behavior of the kids. But they are 13 year-olds. Thirteen year-old boys are going to find some trouble, they just are.

Not a good explanation for what happened, but I think there are a few parties not stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility.

Meanwhile, parents and teachers at the school are going to try to hold bake sales and car washes to raise the rest of the money. Mayor Chavez has “commuted” the two-year banning of the school from the park to just the end of the school year (a move I disagree with, I think the Mayor is cutting the legs out from under the BioPark. But that kind of move is something I’d see my own petty management do here at work, so goes the way of politics).

There’s talk of garnishing the wages of the kids once they become adult to fill in the gaps. There is a lawsuit on the books. Righteous indignation reigns, particularly on the part of the Aquarium.

So far, I honestly don’t think the BioPark is stepping up and accepting their part in this. I think they need to review their security coverage and staff allocation. They rock at filing lawsuits against 13 year-olds and finger pointing…but where’s the discussion of how this can’t and won’t happen again? Where is their plan going forward? Seems to me whoever crows the loudest in a situation like this might be the one most in need of taking a good look at their own behavior.

Just my opinion, doesn’t have to be yours……

The Las Vegas Paradox

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Simply put, people are *so* happy to get here and *so* cranky to leave.

I just spent forty-five minutes in the security line being herded like something less than cattle and stifling the urge to moo.

Granted, it is my fault for choosing to fly home on a Sunday.

I had a brief flicker of a thought while shuffling my feet and trying to contain my crowd claustrophobia. Back in 2001 after the terrible events of 9/11, I remember the pleading from politicians, famous actors and our President to not let the terrorists win. They asked us to go about our business. They asked us to continue to fly.

I know there was a sharp downturn back then. It was all over the news. I love to travel but was disinclined to fly when just five months after that awful day I flew to San Diego, and was greeted at security by a gentleman from the National Guard with a loaded M16 and his finger on the trigger. A lot of folks were disinclined to fly that year.

Today, looking at the shoving throng trying to get through the squeeze chute with shoes off and ziplocked liquids held high, I realized that here, some six years later…they didn’t win. I can’t attribute this to some overblown notion of patriotism or the enduring spirit of Americans. I can mostly attribute it to the fact that we all love to have a good time and aren’t about to let a little (ok, really really big) kerfuffle stand in our way.

By god, those damn “evil doers” cannot take away our freedom to go to a schlocky town filled with expensive shows, tacky clothes, naked women and cheap frozen margaritas by the yard and blow all our hard earned, middle class dollars on penny slots that cost a couple bucks a pull.

They can’t stop us from dressing inappropriately, drinking too much, sleeping too late and putting “just one more” twenty into the machine because you know, just know it’s going to hit.

They can’t take away our right to have fun.

And that is the American way, now isn’t it? The freedom to have a good party.

I like it.