Egypt's Women

While my TV screen is filled with rebellious throngs marching by the tens of thousands in Egyptian cities, I ponder how little I know of that exotic country and , in particular, about contemporary Egyptian women. There has been so much political upheaval and war elsewhere in the Mideast that Egypt has not been the focus of attention on the media. I guess I have come to think of Egypt as a country of relative stability. Haven't thought much about Egyptian women's roles.                                                                               The Internet and cell phones have opened up the world to Egyptians, and their disbursement of information has led to their being banned throughout the country. The world is now hoping there will be no more bloodshed, and I pray that a resolution is found that is acceptable to the citizenry. For now the demonstrations rage on.
The TV shows only a few women among the demonstrators, and those few are dutifully wearing head coverings even when they are shouting their defiance. I will try to learn more about how technology may have impacted the modern Egyptian woman and how she has been affected by the rebellion in the streets.


A Mother's Love

Just saw an article on the web that caught my eye, something about a mother of two girls being sentenced to jail because she lied about where she lived in order to get her children into a better school than the one in her district. Besides serving her jail time, she will be stigmatized as a felon, a label that will severely limit her employment opportunities.She will not be able to be a teacher, as she had planned. My heart goes out to her.
What she did was legally wrong. There is a need to uphold the law, of course. As the article pointed out, the taxpayers in the school district expect that only those living within the district boundaries will be allowed to attend what we can assume is a better school than the one assigned to the children residing in a housing project. The judge in the case says she worries that others will follow this mother's example and threaten the high standards of the school the children were illegally attending. (They have since been removed.)
Yet I wonder if all the important factors have been considered. We have so many mothers struggling to provide their children with a better life than the one they themselves have known. I have, however, lived far too long to believe every mother is a nurturing mother, nor is every father a nurturing father. So many social problems would be non-existent were that the case! In this case, however,I believe we have a sincerely concerned mother, and a jail sentence and a felony conviction are unnecessarily severe. In fact, having their mother thrown in jail because she was looking out for their education could foster anti-social behavior in the girls because of their mother's unjust treatment by the state. If we are going to think of this case in terms of dollars and cents, let's ponder the high cost of incarceration and financial assistance that might be required in the future for this mother and her daughters..
Furthermore, previous infractions of residency reqiurements for this highly ranked school have been not been prosecuted as crimes. It appears that this mother has been singled out to serve as an example to others who might lie about their residency in order to attend.
The mother is reported to have been close to completing her requirements toward an education degree, which would have enabled her to contribute to the state rather than becoming a drain on financial resources.
And in spite of all she's been through, she says she would do it all over again. There's no price tag on this mother's love. She's planning an appeal. Let's hope she wins.


Bringing Up Baby

(Reading with my daughter, Susan. Obviously, we were enjoying ourselves!)
With four children and thirteen grandchildren, people might assume I could impart at least a few tips on parenting. I'm very proud of them all. But as soon as I try to provide words of wisdom for parents of today, I find it pretty hard to generalize. Each of my kids was and is so different, and I tried like the dickens to help each one develop his or her individual talents. Before you give me credit for my high aspirations and herculean efforts I must give a large portion of the credit to the oracle of parenting in the 1950's and 60's: Dr. Benjamen Spock.
Dr. Spock wrote a book that was packed with instructions and suggestions that came to be known as a bible of child rearing. I referred to this bible so many times over the years that even the second copy became rumpled and threadbare. There was one commandment that was threaded throughout the pages, and it was this: Thou shalt NEVER do anything that might undermine your child's self image! So simple, so profound, so all encompassing.
And so whenever I was in doubt about how to proceed, I asked myself whether or not my parenting was going to enhance my offspring's confidence. Simple, right?  Well suffice it to say, it was far from simple.
Now, just yesterday, I heard an anchor woman introducing an author of a new book of parental advice, on Tiger Mothers. The new book takes the parental role in the opposite direction from Spock. All activities should focus on getting straight A's and mastering musical or other cultural studies outside of school.                                    
 According to this author, striving for excellence should be the mantra covering all parental-child interaction . Case in point: your child has made you a simple birthday card that's been scribbled out with one or two crayons, say, one with a big red crooked heart with what could be little blue flowers. How to react? Whenever my own kids gifted me with their original works of art, often drawn on rumpled notebook paper, I received them with enthusiasm regardless of quality! Hey, if they had made them for me, they were quality! I warmly and gratefully thanked them. I put them on the refrigerator for all the world to see. It was what a mother did. (Or so I thought).                                                                                                    Now, going on 80, I hear my response could have been detrimental. Have to admit I know some people who actually pet their children in public.Ugh! Has a tiny sliver of doubt entered my mind reguarding my own principles of child rearing?  Had I at times mistakenly communicated my acceptance of mediocrity? Would they have become even better, more amazing than they are? Had I crippled their potential?  Good grief, I sure hope not.
As to which school of child rearing is the best, you thoughtful, honest parents who really know your children are in the best position to decide. And may the force be with you!


The Horror and the Hope

I find I can't shake off this feeling of nausea and anxiety. While Gabrielle Giffords fights for her life on a hospital bed, my mind goes back to the pictures of her that I saw yesterday. The Arizona congresswoman looks so much like my granddaughters. The steady gaze, the inviting smile, these are so recognizable. One of my granddaughters recently graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, a town she grew to love.. There's even a little resemblance... Can't shake this feeling.
That lovely nine year old girl, killed in the bud of her promise. The husband who threw himself over his wife to protect her. So many stories of exceptional people and exceptional heroism. To think this slaughter occurred in a typical shopping mall. I hurt in my heart. I think that I too have been shot.
President Obama spoke last night, delivering a speech that was hoped to be a bandage for a stunned America. I didn't care. I, who had been so avid in support of his candidacy. I, who had read his two books and fallen in love with the idea of having a president who could write about himself and the world around him with such grace and sensibility. Yes, this fervent supporter had gradually become disillusioned.
I grew impatient with the preliminary speakers yesterday evening and fell asleep before Obama began to talk. After all, I reasoned, what could he say that would really help?
As I later learned, when dealing with a master wordsmith, a man with a profound sense of history and an understanding of the human heart, the answer is: a powerful and healing speech that has been applauded by both sides of the aisle and has been compared to the most influential presidential speeches in history. There was so much in his speech to be applauded.                                                                                                 I was particularly impressed with his tribute to Christina Green, the nine year old girl with the infectious smile that became so familiar to us on the tv screen. Christina had taken an early interest in politics and had been taken to hear representative Gabrielle Giffords speak at the shopping mall. The young girl was excited about having been elected to her student counsel and at nine she already demonstrated great promise. Born on the infamous 9/11, a day of violence that is burned into public consciousness, this budding young citizen was one of the bystanders killed at the Tucson mall. To acknowledge that this exuberant young life both began and ended in violence gives us all pause to reflect.                                                                                             Is there something we can do to reduce the tensions in our society?. President Obama stressed the simple fact that we can approach a difficult subject either on the offensive or with respect for those with whom we disagree.                                                                                                                                              Whether or not the madman who killed at the mall in Tucson was influenced by the nasty
rhetoric of political arguments is something that remains unproved. Yet we can all contribute to a more pleasant and less violent American scene by simply remembering the Golden Rule of treating others as we wish to be treated.
As our president points out it is just as easy to address our fellow citizens courteously as it is to be curt, even when we disagree.Yes, let's bring politeness back into our everyday encounters. Let's make it one of the distinguishing signs of a good citizen, a tribute to our remarkable democracy. Let's do the best we can to provide fertile fields for nurturing our children, our hope and our future, children like Christina.



The Pretty Suburbs

Once upon a time, many years ago, my husband and I moved into our first home in a pretty upscale suburb in Chicago. An old boyfriend from Northwestern had grown up there, and somehow or other I had been favorably impressed with his description. Plus it was adjacent to where I had been born and raised: Chicago, and not far from Oak Park, my husband's home town.                                                                           After two years at Northwestern, I transferred to the University of Illinois, where I met the love of my life, on a blind date that was arranged my very first day on campus.The date was my husband of almost 59 years, John. Love struck like a thunderbolt. When we were separated after my husband's graduation, both  missed each other terribly. (And we have lots of love letters to illustrate!)                                                                 
  My husband and I were young when we married in the spring of 1952. He was 22 and I had not yet turned 21 when I became pregnant with my first born daughter, Pat. For the first three years we lived in apartment buildings, and it was with great anticipation when, with my parents help, we purchased our first home. I was then pregnant with our second child, Susan, and my head was filled with sugarplum visions of living the American Dream.                                                                                                                                         I was kind of walking on air when I stepped into THE small but upscale department store located in the center of our pretty new town. It had an attractive interior with eye catching displays of obviously high end clothing lines, and the saleswoman behind the glass counter was perfectly coiffed and quietly but elegantly attired. There was no one else in the store and it was as hushed in silence as a library. I studied the sales woman with some care and wondered if I would someday fit into this suburban milieu as smoothly as she. Eager to see their maternity line and happy to tell the world of my pregnancy, I started into a conversation. "Where", I asked, "Do you keep your maternity clothes?"
I kid you not when I tell you there was a very long pause before she answered. "Maternity clothes", she sniffed, "WE do not carry maternity clothes!"
In order to understand my hurt feelings and the reality of this scene, you have to remember this was the 1950's. Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke could not be viewed together on the same bed unless one of them had one foot on the floor, and they were married parents! Married or not, anything relating to the physicality of sex caused a lot of eyebrow raising among "proper society", Of course, this didn't include everyone, but it did include more than a few. Maybe this woman was truly offended. But actually, I think this bluenose was having her little fun at my expense. Whatever the case, it was time for me to realize that the pretty suburbs didn't always house pretty people. I had a lot to learn!