Saturday, December 10, 2011

Touched a chord

I was quite touched and surprised by the response to the previous post. Facebook friends re-posting all the way across the Atlantic, former students who are now mothers reminiscing on the teenage years I experienced with them. Just goes to show that Vladimir Nabokov and I are not the only ones infatuated and terrified by the entity known as the teenage girl.

Here's a great link to lyrics and a music video by Jonatha Brooke that my ever-so-awesome singer/songwriter friend, Jerzy Jung passed on.  I'll be starting a blog just dedicated to these thoughts on teenage girls and their mothers, it will be called Mommalesence and I will link as soon as I actually create it.  But writing it here is my way of making sure I do it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Waxing Moons and Teenage Daughters

The moon is apparently 96% full this evening but considering the erratic emotions of my almost teenaged daughter, I could have told you that without even looking in the sky. My daughter turns thirteen in a matter of four months, and there has already been an incredible seismic shift in her behavior these last few weeks.

I've worked with teenage girls for over twenty years now, so I know this beast fairly well, probably too well to feel at all comfortable with the phase into which our family is entering. And yet, like the tentative fear/thrill one feels before going on a new amusement park ride, there is something slightly invigorating about the volatility of this unstable element under my roof right now. I suppose this is why I have been working with teenage girls for twenty years, because these are truly formative years. My daughter is "becoming" right before my eyes, that is exciting, but what is so scary is that we are walking the most ancient, most rickety, most threadbare of rope bridges across a cavernous abyss of the mother/daughter impasse. Any wrong move could be disasterous.

The question I realize now, more than "will she be strong enough to survive the perils", is, "will I be strong enough"? Will I be able to let her fail? Let her hurt? Let her make her own bad decisions without swooping in for the save? Can I guide without judging? Can I support without suffocating? Can I edge along the precipice with her, so she knows that she indeed is taking these risky steps of independence on her own, but she is not alone. I'm still right there. Can I watch her foot step on the creaky cracking boards and hang back enough to let her know that she must be courageous, but that I am still there to guide her through to the stronger slats if she'll take the time to listen to me.

When she turns her back on me, will I still stay within reach, so when she needs that guidance again, she'll still hear my voice helping her to the other side? I am flooded with these questions perhaps because the moon waxes for both mother and daughter, and as her emotions ebb and flow the tides pull me with her.

Last week it was a huffy "fine, then I'll walk", a lost cell phone without a mom blow-up, but then a decision to go "somewhere else" with a pretty severe mom blow-up and consequences. Further, today I had to let her deal with her own consequences because of irresponsible behavior, and when she wanted to run and hide, I had to make her face the music and make it clear that building resilience is one of the greatest gifts I can give her right now.

She is strong, I have faith she will thrive through her growth and maturing these next few years, but I also know I must be stronger so I can continually be there to nurture her along the way, no matter how tentatively we must walk that bridge together.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Living to be 100: Is it Genes, Joy, or Stubborn Will?

On this day in 1911 a little baby girl was born in Casorzo, Italy to Giuseppe and Giulia Datomo. Not too long after, they carried their baby on a boat to the New World where Giuseppe would set up his carpentry shop in Greenwich Village and taking advantage of weekly standing room only seats, this amateur musician would cultivate in his young daughter a love and passion for opera. Learning the delicate handicrafts of lacemaking and dressmaking from her mother, Victoria would, as a young woman, stand out among the crowd of other seamstresses at Butterick's Shirt Factory. She could sew faster and more accurately than any of the other women, such that Mr. Butterick, chose Victoria to help design the next shirt. While her design was bought by Neiman Marcus in Texas, she fought with Mr. Butterick about the design implementation arguing that the diagonal stripes were going in the wrong direction and no one would buy it now. She was right, but being a strong-minded powerful woman in 1934 didn't always make you friends in high places. That is, until Victoria's incredible passion for opera and, in particular, the rising star from Montclair, NJ, Dorothy Kirsten. Victoria was the president of her fan club, but then her personal secretary, and then her personal hairdresser, seamstress, absolutely-indispensible-everything personal assistant. And as Ms. Kirsten catapulted to fame as one of the Metropolitan Opera's most lucious mezzo-sopranos, Victoria was right there with Dorothy Kirsten every step of the way. To her death bed, in fact. And as we who know Vicki say-- "and beyond." Even though it was almost 20 years ago that Dorothy Kirsten passed away, you can be sure that Victoria Datamo Hillebrand keeps the torch of her devotion lit eternally. But that's a story for another time-- What we really need to celebrate is that Victoria is 100 years old today! And while genetics must certainly have something to do with this longevity, I would venture to say that the secret to my grandmother's centenarian success is a contribution of many factors.
-a sense of purpose for at least 95 years-- That purpose-- keep Dorothy's memory alive
-an utter distaste for illness of any kind in self or others -- I can remember being 8 years old and having a horrible cough on our way to Dorothy's home in Pauma Valley. "You had better stop that coughing right this minute, young lady. You are not sick."
-never having a driver's license-- directly this means that she has walked many, many miles in her life, but an ancillary to not having a driver's license means you never also had to deal with any of the stresses associated with driving, nor do you feel bereft and limited when that privilege is revoked due to your age.
-the fear of dying -- before the rift between her daughter (my mother) and she will resolve in some sort of forgiveness -- Forgiveness of the daughter for not measuring up to Victoria's incredibly demanding health expectations, and forgiveness of the mother for abandoning the daughter in order to pursue all things Dorothy.
-sheer stubborness and joie de vivre -- as all things in Victoria's life have been done on her terms only--- and frankly, despite her cranky posits that "god must be punishing [her] for letting her live so long", Victoria Hillebrand would absolutely not have it any other way.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Why did they code name him Geronimo?

I thought I was disturbed by the events of last evening and today because the American people celebrating the death of Bin Laden really made me gasp. The death of one man cannot end terrorism, the death of one man cannot bring back the lives already lost to senseless terrorist attacks. And the death of this man, creates a martyr for those violent dangerous people who followed him, so now they can hate the murderers of their beloved leader and rally together. This has all sat strangely for me and I was heartened to hear that many people directly involved with the events of September 11 and other terrorist attacks led by Bin Laden-- all of these people have been much more subdued and introspective about the complexity of emotions this event has prompted. But tonight, in learning that they code named Bin Laden Geronimo--- NOOOOOO. I am utterly appalled with the crass historical mockery the special forces have committed. Geronimo was a nobel warrior, a resilient leader, and man of unwavering courage-- and the U.S. government killed him by essentially keeping him captive for 23 years. Is that really the parallel we want on this day?? An example of our country's racist, classist hegemony in committing genocide on a native people? Yeah, that's appealing. Anyway-- just had to get that off my chest.

Posting here on 5/5/10: Guess it wasn't just me who felt the need to get that off my chest--


Detroit Free Press
Tulsa News

Friday, March 18, 2011

Poem for Jerzy

By Leslie B. Patient

Feel the word in your mouth
Vo- Lup- Chew- Us

Voluptuous as crimson velvet cushions
stuffed to full roundness
your hand smoothing with the extra pressure
to sink into the luxury of something delectably
soft and secret

Voluptuous as sun-fed vineyard grapes
Glistening with drops of morning dew
Their juicy globes enticing your lips
To part in exhilarating anticipation

Voluptuous as verdant rolling hills
Dotted with Spring crocuses
Splashes of royals and radiance
Your eyes feast on the curvaceous earth
Longing to lie in her fertile valleys

Voluptuous as the cool and bodacious sculpted alabaster of the
Armless Goddess of Love
Her hips, all forty Inches sized 12, marbled perfection of she
Whom we should emulate

Go Ahead Giorgio,
cut your sleek angled lines for single digit bags of bones
Drape your runway skeletons with shimmering silks
That jut with collar bones and elbows
Choose the flat barren bellies of pre-pubescent
Cosmetically engineered faux female bodies
So that grease-fat fed morons can drool over bikini unclad torsos
And fabricated photo-shopped femmes fatal
Only to themselves

Rush (Limbaugh) scoffs
At Michelle (Obama’s) vision for natural healthy living
Bending in the garden to plant the seeds of
Self-confident children fed on foods that
Spring from mother earth and not in Petri dishes
Cancer-causing concoctions
Zero calories, zero life force

Rush (Limbaugh) scoffs and says
“Well, she ain’t exactly a swimsuit model herself!”
and I think
She is not.
And I thank god.
Because it is her abundant realness that exudes a strength and stillness
That says to me there is a fullness of
Which gives me the courage to strut my
38-31-40 five foot nothing self
with potent pride that rejoices
in the double digit dress size of
The Goddess of Love
And I can call to the silvery moon in my own alabaster nakedness
Aphrodite is our muse
We are all Venus
And we are all called to be