Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Letters to the dead: Marjorie

My friend Ren has started a blog where she posts letters to the dead. It's an interesting concept. I have several I'd like to write, when I have time and focus. Meanwhile, here's one to my sister Marjorie who died when we were in a car wreck on September 10, 1950. Margie would have been 64 this past January. In that wreck, I suffered only a scratch below my eye while my mother and grandmother wound up in the hospital for quite a while. And, of course, Margie died. Ask me my opinion on seatbelts and child carseats. My letter to Margie:

Hi, Sis,

It's been a while since I chatted with you. I haven't gotten over to Yakima to visit the cemetery in a coupla years, partly because I've been busy (with Ronnie) raising our daughters, Chloe and your namesake Marjorie. And partly because I've finally started healing inside my own psyche from the intensity of losing you and I no longer have as strong a need to think about you, especially in the context of woulda, coulda, shoulda. Part of me is a little sad about that but most of me recognizes that it's something that should have happened decades ago for the sake of my sanity and that of those near and dear to me. But what is, is and what was, was. Thinking about changing the past is futile and I don't dwell in that morass very much nowadays, even though it used to be my default condition. I think you'd be happy for me. Actually, lemme change that: I know you'd be happy for me. You were my mentor and guide primus inter pares on the initial trails of the path of life; and exploration, discovery, and fun were our experiential parameters.

You were two years older than I and pretty much my only friend. When you died, I was traumatized, in the strongest sense of the word. I was two and one-half years old and my best, and pretty much only, playmate was gone. Mom was in the hospital for months, which to me was an eternity of her complete absence from my life, and dad went away to work every day. My known universe changed almost completely and I, of course, lacked the ability to comprehend what was happening. All I knew was that I had been essentially completely abandoned by those who had initially surrounded me with love and support.

I was severely psychologically damaged and it took me decades to recover. But that's my story. You… I think of the flow of my life in the context of what you've missed. You (we) have two younger sisters and a younger brother. They all have kids of their own and even grandkids! Hell, you'd be 64 now, if you were still with us, and they're all in their 50s. You would have liked them, all of them. I especially wish you could be here to know my daughters, your nieces. You'd love them and they would love having Aunt Margie to share stories and adventures with. So many adventures already and so many more to come.

I still miss you but not as much as I used to. That's a little sad but it's better for me to live in the present and focus more on those around me who are still living, changing, and discovering. They need me and I need them. I still need my memory/thoughts of you but you don't need anyone and haven't for almost 60 years. Nonetheless, I like to fantasize that you still enjoy hearing about what we're up to when we visit you. Marjorie (who likes to go by "MJ" nowadays) and I always get that frisson of mortality when we stop by your grave (for her) and grandpa Frank's grave (for me). It's a reminder that no one is here forever and one day we'll be joining you. But not quite yet. (To paraphrase the quote from "Gladiator.") There's still lots to see and do and be.

I miss you and I love you,

Your brother always, Frank

Marjorie (R.I.P.), Dad (R.I.P.), and me (still kickin') - Constance St. in New Orleans 1949

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Serendipitous benefits of getting old

As you may or may not know, I applied to Social Security to start getting my retirement benefits when I hit 62 next month. The process was simple and easy and I'll get my first check in June. Hooray! Here's the serendipity.

Much as I snark about bureaucracy, on this occasion, the Fairy Godmother of Bureaucratic Beneficence stopped by her desk, noticed my paperwork, and took a moment to fulfill her raison d'etre. After my filing was approved, the semi-divine Ms. K. from my local SS office (Gosh! I don't mean that to sound NAZI-ish. Let's change it.) Social Security office sent me an email mentioning oh-so-casually that she noticed that I had children under 18 and that meant that they qualified for benefits, too.

Say what?

I admit that in the research I did about taking SS at 62 vs. 65, I had overlooked or missed seeing information about that. I inquired further. Were there any downsides to filing for the kids for this particular benefit?

Apparently not. Fascinating.

So, I did a phone interview with her on Monday and, as a result, each of the girls will also start getting a monthly check in June. Huzzah! Their checks only last until they're 18, or through the end of their (un)school senior year (before age 19) but still… They can also work and earn about $14K/year without impacting their SS benefits.

Go figure.

And I still find it difficult to believe that I'm old enough for Social Security. Where did the time go? Guess I'd better get off the computer and go have some fun before the SS goons send me to one of Obama's Death Camps.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Unschooling and Diversity

A while back, Ronnie did a blog post about this. It's here. She recently got this comment to that post:

Is it okay for unschooling conferences and gatherings to be made up of 99 percent people who appear to be white or identify as white? What about 95 percent? Or 90 percent? I don't think it is.

Unschooling, as a philosophy and ideology, is supposed to be best for everyone, not just some people who have certain characteristics. So, why would these conferences be heavily weighted with white folks?

There are a lot of reasons for this, so I'm asking rhetorically. However, I think it's really important that unschooling conferences start making an effort to confront racism directly in order to make sure these conferences are as multicultural as possible. Maybe we need to put together an explicitly multicultural unschooling conference in order to help raise awareness of the fact that other conferences are not multicultural?!? I don't know, what do you think?

I was motivated to respond. Let me start at the beginning and respond to these questions in order.

Q1. Is it okay for unschooling conferences and gatherings to be made up of 99 percent people who appear to be White or identify as White? What about 95 percent? Or 90 percent?

A. Yes, because that simply happens to be the current demographic of U.S. unschooling. Unschooling itself and unschooling conferences in and of themselves have no causative ability or power over this: non causa pro causa. You're confusing self-selection with active restriction (racism, sexism, any-ism).

The Marcy Playground Tennis Club will probably be composed mostly of people who enjoy tennis. It will be heavily weighted (biased!) toward tennis players. People who are not tennis players are not specifically or actively restricted from participating, they're simply not interested. The group forms by self-selection, not restrictive exclusivity. If it happens to be mostly White (or mostly Black, or mostly left-handed, NAZI atheists), that's due to other factors, not tennis itself or this tennis club in particular. Are there individual members of this tennis club who are prejudiced against Blacks or left-handed NAZI atheists or even objectivist anarchocapitalists? Possibly, even probably. What does that say about prejudice and exclusivity in tennis or in this group? Nothing. Abusus non tollit usum. Unschooling and unschooling conferences, idem.

Let's consider a couple of alternate scenarios.

Belle de Foret Tennis Club has a membership fee of $50K, annual dues of $12K, and a requirement to spend at least $12K/year in their facilities on gear, meals, etc. Not for everyone, obviously, but does this money barrier constitute specific restrictive exclusivity? Much as I personally think we should eat the rich, I can't honestly call this unacceptably restrictive. There are several unschooling conferences we'd like to attend but we can't afford to; we are financially restricted from attending them. Should we put together a conference explicitly to raise awareness that poor people are restricted from attending (some) unschooling conferences? Who's gonna pay for it?

Ye Olde White Man's Tennis Consortium refuses to accept non-Whites, non-heteros, non-Christians, etc. ad nauseum. This is clearly a case where the group itself is actively, selectively restricting membership. This is not the case for unschooling in general or unschooling conferences in particular. There is no unschooling conference anywhere that I've heard of which discriminates against "multiculturalism," whatever you mean by that.

'nuff said on that one.

Q2. Why are these conferences heavily weighted with White folks?

A. My Zen-like response is: Because they are. I think it's disingenuous to pose this question in this manner. You know as well as I, or anyone, that sociocultural factors are the dominant effector here. Unschooling and unschooling conferences are neither causative nor purposefully restrictive.

Q3. Maybe we need to put together an explicitly multicultural unschooling conference in order to help raise awareness of the fact that other conferences are not multicultural?

A. Feel free to create such a conference. Some specifics might be helpful to those of us who find your language somewhat fuzzy, like your logic. I deny your contention that other conferences are not "multicultural."

Datzawl from me. I now return to my usual self-centered psychotic babbling.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yet another music-related post

In my continuing quest to bankrupt us, I bought a personal, performance microphone today. Most of you who read me also read Ronnie, so you know her thoughts on singing and what it can mean personally. I've had a similar journey in coming to a comfortable place with singing the lead vocal on songs. I always loved singing backup but was very uncomfortable with the sound of my own voice when it came to singing lead.

However, I have come to accept that I do sing lead on a number of songs for the Greybeards and I can choose to be comfortable or uncomfortable with that. Why not be comfortable with it? No, I'm not Enrico Caruso. I'm not even Mick Jagger. Maybe I can come close to matching Bob Dylan, Neil Young, or Tom Petty vocally but even if that's so, I'll never have their overall talent. That's ok. I'm not them; I'm me.

Hello! I'm Frank and I sing (a lot of) lead for The Greybeards.

So I bought myself the mike I love. It won't make my voice any better but it makes me feel better. And I like that. Here's my new Sennheiser ew135 WIRELESS mike! It's so cool I could plotz!