Sunday, March 26, 2006
Time is on my side (not)
That's been this past week,
Every night I had somethign to do after work, some social, some work related (volunteer work that is) and all of it consumed my time.
So I looked forward to a free weekend only to have it be just as crowded as the week before. It didn't happen. And now I feel that no mater what I did I never accomplished what I was supposed to do.
Time is not on my side, despite what Mick and the Stones say.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Manditory because they wanted us all to fill out a 6 page "application" and get fingerprinted by the FDLE (Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement) so they could check our background to see if we had criminal convictions for abusing the elderly or children.
They asked about previous volunteer activities and if we'd ever been asked to leave a volunteer post due to inappropriate behavior, etc.
So they ask all these questions and what happens if you lie? Well it's CYA so they can say "Well we asked and the person wasn't truthful."
In my opinion it's a good first step, but it will accomplish nothing but make the church say they tried.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Does Bush bother you?
Yeah he bothes me. I got a letter yesterday from the White House, on behalf of George W. Bush, from Marguerite A. Murer, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence. Hummmm, maybe someone noticed that I write one or two complaint letters a month, da ya' think?
Anyhow, I couldn't bring myself to read it yesterday, I was so mad. The letter is in response to the renewal of the aPatriot Act of 2001. So how does this letter (2 full pages I might add) begin? After thanking me on behalf of the President the next sentence begins "On September 11, 2001..."
REG FLAG!!! At least to me that is.
This president might fart at some state dinner or important social/political occasion and instead of admitting he had beans ,cabbage and hard boild eggs for lunch he'd blame 9/11!!
I am so sick the the 9/11 excuse I could scream.
It wasn't 9/11 that got us into the mess we are in - it was George W. Bush!!!
I did finally read the letter in its entirity, but let me tell you it wasn't worth my efforts. All it was all rehashed "Patriot Act = safety for all Americans" bullshit.
So does Bush bother me???
Friday, March 17, 2006
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I never realized the difference until now
I used to think that college kids who wanted to make the world a better place would concentrate on some noble profession, like medicine or law. Now I am not sure about Law.
When an undergrad studies for a career as a doctor he/she takes demanding courses, lots of math and science, something I am in awe of since I am interested in Science but terrible in Math. I have seen several work study students who have worked with me work untiringly to get the best grades because they know that getting into Med School is not a given, no matter what grades they have. I have seen them volunteer time to help migrants, or young children in medical clinics, or at homeless shelters. I have seen them work at jobs in nursing homes and hospitals just to be "near" medicine and to look as if they ARE dedicated to helping humanity.
They work to be as close to perfect as they can and then they apply to many medical schools, hoping that maybe the 4.0 plus the outstanding resume of volunterism will sway an admissions committee and they will be accepted into medical school.
I have seen these same students apply to Masters programs in some other medical field like bio-medical engineering, or science field like Secondary Education Science and Math programs, just to have a fall back when they aren't accepted and they have to wait another full year to reapply to medical schools again. Thy try their best to get the best grades possible just for on the chance that some school will accept them.
I have seen the students greatful to be accepted at any of the many schools to which they have applied,and greatful to pass their classes and not complain that it's a second rate school with teachers who foist thier own agenda on poor unsuspecting medical students.
They are accepting of the opportunity afforded them to study medicine, despite the enormous debt they will carry after they become doctor's and can practice medicine, for the good of mankind. They understand that not everyone who wants to get an MD will be afforded the opportunity to do so. Some students even apply for other kinds of medical degrees, lke a PhD in medical research, orapply to school of osteopathy for a DO, or optometry, or podiatry. It's not an MD, but as they will still be called Doctor and they still serve the medical needs of mankind.
I have yet to hear a graduate of any medical school complain that they can't pass the certification boards because the school they attended had a lousey "pass rate" and didn't teach them how to take the test. Thank God Medical Schools don't teach to "the test". I want someone who knows the theory behind disease cure and prevention, as well as how to treat it. I want someone with reasoning ability as well as the knowledge of how to use what they have been taught in a practical way.
Now those whose profession of choice is Law? Well as far as I can see they study what they want as undergrads. As long as they have the writing requirements down pat and get reasonable grades they are ok. They take the LSAT and expect their superior knowledge to get them a good score, which it may or may not do. They can major in Education, Economics, Political Science, English, History, or the new "I can't make up my mind" major of "General Studies". Seems like some of them pick the classes they can get the best grades in with the least effort. After all, how hard is it to pull an A in the history of rock and roll?
So they graduate with a BA in something or other, and they make sure they apply to all of the "good schools." The ones they deserve to get into because they have done so great. They can write, they have good grades, so what's stopping them from getting into the school they want? Everyone should know how good they are and want to snap them right up. Then they can breeze through law school and start making those big bucks as high power attorneys. Help the disadvantaged? Sure, as pro bono work that's required to maintain good standing with the Bar, but as a job? Are you kidding? How can you pull down $100,000 a year helping people?
They'll be throwing away the acceptance letters from the "lesser" schools because they KNOW they are good enough to get anything they want. They always get what they want, law school will be no different.
Then they get the letters. A "No" form letter from the first choice school, and they can rationalize that away as maybe it was a long shot in the first place. They may even get rejected by even the second and third. Or maybe a yes from the second or third choice and another no from the 4th choice. Obvious clerical errors, but rather than argue they go with the least offensive to their ego acceptance, grudgingly.
What do they do? Are they glad someone wanted to give them the chance to change the world by defending the constitution, or right some injsutice? No, they come to law school and complain that they are there. This place won't get me a good job (no silly YOU have to work on your own for that.)
They complain that they can't get A's, because they have always gotten A's so they expect it. They complain about the amount of work, work that's expected to be done on a consistant basis. They complain about the way things are taught because it's not spoon fed and they might actually have to have s reasonable defense for a wrong answer, or a right one, and explain themselves in class. They complain because they can't use a computer for their research and are forced to do things the old fashioned way - reading books. They complain to their parents how bad things are because this law school doesn't do anything right, and mommy and daddy know it's not their child's fault, because he/she never makes mistakes and deserves the best, so the school MUST be second rate. It costs too much, the library is too cold, the weather is too hot, I can't take off on weekends because there is too much work to do.
When they graduate they complain if they can't pass the bar - and that's the school's fault. (Funny thing is that the only FL school with a 100% pas rate for the FL Bar was Barry University, the provisionally accredited school in Orlando FL. The first year they were eligible to send students to take the bar one student applied, and he passed. So they had a 100% pass rate.) They complain that they can't find "a job", meaning one that searches them out and welcomes them with open arms and an opened bank vault.
Graduate medical students seem to understand that they will become what they work hard for and make of themselves. graduate law students seem to think it's everyone else's fault that they don't succeed immediately.
I know there's a Deans Cup competition, and I used to root for the Law Students to win. I think I'm going to switch sides. I like to think that I would back people with intregity, and I don't see many in law school.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Since 9/11 immigrants have a harder time making it in America. More restrictions. Fewer options. So they take what jobs they can get. They can't get much legally. When they do it's jobs like janitorial work subcontracted by UNICCO to other places. Waiting for something better is no option.
So they take it. It's eaither that or working in the fields, if the season permits, and they pay worse there. Being a "janitor" is a step up from that. Or you could work in a flag factory, sewing peicework flags - no union there either. Or you could work for a vendor who drops you and 36 dozen roses or sunflowers on the side of a busy road so you can sell them all. No shade, no protection from the elements, no bathrooms and no food or water (unless you brought some with you.) Sort of like soft pretzel vendors in Philly, but a little more like slavery than "protestant work ethic." You are picked up when the sun goes down, unless it's a weekend when you make the most money for the "owner" in the evenings.
Can they wait tables? Not unless they are bilingual and have passed the health inspection certificate (and many from foreign countries can't afford to see the Dr. to get a certificate.) Can they clean cars in a car wash? They can for a daily wage, no pay packets as far as I know except fo the managers and cashiers. The men who do the job get paid daily.
Can they work fast food? Again, most places expect bilingual employees and the wages are often lower with no benefits.
Day laborers? Sure, you get no bennies and you just wait in the day labor line hoping some construction crew needs you for a day. I've helped SVDP clients, Americans and immigrants, who have been stiffed by the people who hire them at those places. One person dug ditches for 8 hours and was paid for 6.
If they don't like the job get another one? OK, which one would you do instead of cleaning toilets in a nice air conditioned building?
When is the last time you, as a college educated person, looked for full time work with no money in the bank, no support system and no "fallback" of government money to help you? And how long did it take you to find something you could live on?
Try figuring out the take home pay of someone who makes $6.70 per hour. Then live on it for a month or two. Just that money, no falling back on what you have in your account. Pay your bills, or pretend you're looking for a place to stay and see what you can rent for the wages you'd be making. How long is it going to take you to comne up with a first/last and security for an apartment? How can you get a place if your previous address is Havana Cuba and you have no "established credit hisotry" to fall back on?
See how much you have left to eat and pay bills,if you can manage to sublet a place for find a room to rent and then and the pretend you get sick.
Figure out how much of your check goes to pay a doctor, or better still see how much time you have to take off work to go to a doctor (no work no pay) if you can find a free clinic that will see you. Then figure out how much the actual cost of a simple antibiotic, a cough medicine and maybe advil would cost you. What percentage of your pay is that?
Now add two kids to you "expense list".
Then ask your employeer to pay a "living wage" which in Dade county has been established by a Dade County Ordinance as $9.81 hourly with benefits or $11.32 an hour without benefits. When he refuses what do you think you should do? Roll over and play dead? Stop eating? Live in the streets? Or stirke?
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Yes, the school was so new that the older more established all girls high school, Nazareth Academy, which occupied space on the other side of the campus, was the place most people were more familiar with. Consequently, people assumed you were going to a "glorified high school."
Not only was Nazareth Academy better known, but the class enrollment was bigger, so when we were on the bus (trackless trolly) in the morning the Nazareth girls far outnumbered the HFC girls. Somehow it never bothered me. I knew the work in college classes was not high school level and that if I succeeded I would get a B.A. from an accredited institution when I graduated and that was all that mattered.
Classes. That was strange. Being so small and "exclusive" we had no place to hide. We had to declare a major from day one. You could change it, naturally, but there was no such thing as "undecided". HFC had no journalism department, so my major was English, because I figured that if you knew how to write well there would be no job in any new organization I couldn't do.
So English it was. Eight of total declared English, and from that day forward we shared most classes until Graduation.
Unlike Catholic high school where the choice was never yours at HFC you did have a few options. However, not as Freshmen. In Pennsylvania the required number of credits needed to graduate with a BA in anything was 128. But this was a catholic college, so we had manditory classes for graduation from HFC. We had to complete 16 theology and 12 philosophy credits. That was a literal minor in Philosophy according to some schools,(where a few graduates went for a Masters in Philosophy after receiving their BA). We also had to declare a minor in another subject. I picked Economics. To make all requirements for graduation in my major, and to satisfy HFC and the Pennsylvania rules I needed 142 credits - and I had to do it within 4 years by virtue of the scholarship. So there was never a semester when I took less than 17 credits. Most times I carried 18 and occasionally 19. Hey, what do you think it's going to be FREE and easy?
The "Chinese menu" classes in Music, Art, History, Science,language (I had Spanish for 4 semesters, as required)Theology, Philosophy and Psychology always had more students. Theology was the only class taught in the "Lecture Hall" because we had about 40-50 in the class. Most other classes were populated by less than 20 and of course my "English" class was only about 10 people tops at any one time. Always me and the same 7 others. Rosemarie, MarieElaine, Mary, Dotty, Barbara, Inez and Susan. The occasional other person took classes with us if they hadn't fulfilled the requirement for English and couldn't fit the "regular" class into their schedule. And even upon occasion a nun who was trying to finish her teaching requirements, would take classes, especially the ones held in the late afternoon or the early evening. Sr. Sullivan and some nuns from the Trinitarian order would occasionally in habit our little group, but only for a class or two.
Where there is only one class and 10 people you learn very quickly that you can't BS your way around a reading assignment. You try avoiding a professor for 45 minutes 3 times a week, or for 1 hrs. 25 minutes twice a week and see how far it gets you. So I learned to do assignments as they were given. I learned to pay attention and I learned the seminar method of study long before we had classes that were actually called seminars. We had a phys ed requirement, but it was fun. Ballet, bowling, swimming nothing so difficult as gymnastics or running a "mile". So in Freshman year we didn't get to pick much except the time we would like to take something, and most of the time there was a conflict with one course or another so you pretty much took what you could when you could. Some days you lucked out and were home by 2 p.m. Other days, like the Biology and lab days, lasted forever, from 8 a.m until 8 p.m.
The academics were challanging, but they were nothing compared to my home life.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Yes, we are all responsible for our own actions, but we are also responsible for the world around us.
We are responsible for the condition of the environment, so we shouldn't litter.
We are responsible for educating our youth - so we pay school taxes to pay for it.
But we are also responsible for making sure that others are treated as fairly as we want to be treated.
Somehow I just think that quote from Animal Farm never sunk in for some people, you know the one the animals hang on teh barn door to show the barnyard creatures that they are allin their struggle together? The one that is amended, after some of the higher up animals find out what a little pampering feels like?
"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
Sort of like janitors and law students.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
the great Abortion debate.
Up comes the old, it's not a child it's a fetus argument.
Ok, if you beleive it then to you it's a fetus. But here's what I think.
If two dogs mate the resulting product of the mating is a dog. Canine.
If two frogs mate the resulting product of the mating is eventually, after a few growing spurts, an amphebian.
If two humans mate?
You see, back in the begining of the abortion debate, before Roe V. Wade the pro side would come out with literature showing pictures of different species in stages of development and compare those developmental stages of the animal to a corresponding developmental picture of a "fetus". The literature compared them side by side pointing at that at one stage this "fetus" was exactly the same as a lizard, or monkey or some other animal. So it wasn't actually "human".
I was a newspaper reporter for a Catholic newspaper at the time and I covered more abortion rallies, lectures, etc. than you want to imagine. I kept hearing those same arguments over and over. So one day I asked one of the "pro abortion" people what if we removed the "lizard stage" embryo from a mother's womb and had the ability to grow it outside the womb to term would it then become a lizard? She looked at me like I was nuts. But I was trying to tell her that if two humans mate the resulting creature formed by that mating would be HUMAN.
It is not human when it hits air and breathes for the first time on its own. It is HUMAN from the moment two human donated cells, the egg and sperm, come together to create another life. A HUMAN life. That fetus will never be a cat, frog, sheep, goat, or lizard. That fetus can be nothing else than a human being, in some stage of development.
In those days the term viable was used a lot. A viable life was always something that could survive outside the womb. Well since those days in the 1970 viablility has changed. Infants born so premature that they had little or no chance of survival in the 1970's are born and survive every day. Modern medicine makes it possible for infants weighing as little as a pound at birth and pull through. Sure some of them have health problems, but so do some not very low birth weight babies.
So what is viable? I guess if you actually want a child who is gestationally and i developmentally only 5 months along it's a viable child, but if you don't it's just a fetus, easily disposed of.
So explain this right to "a woman has a right to do what she wants to her own body "and then tell me when the human inside the mother has the right to his/her own body? I can't justify one person's right to have a "beter life." at the expense of another persons right to live at all.
They must have made a mistake
I remember being called by Frankford High after graduation and told to report to the office. Being paranoid I thought for sure they were going to find some reason why I didn't qualify for graduation and take back the diploma. But it was just to tell me that I should report to Holy Family College the next day.
The next Day? What does this college start in June? My mother said it might be for an interview, since I had never actually set foot on the campus. Yes, I sent in an application, and did some phone calls about my application and funding etc. but I never WENT to take a tour of the place. Hell, I didnt' even know WHERE it was exactly, although I had some vague idea by the address. I had been told "take the 66 trackless trolly to City Line, you can't miss it."
Well, City Line was beyond the college, and even if I did miss the huge sign on the corner of Grant Ave. at Frankford Ave. I would have been able to walk the 4 or 5 blocks back to campus. My mother thought I should "dress" for the interview, so I wore my Easter clothes. A yellow suit and black patent leather pointed toe shoes (that were quite uncomfortable) as I recall. I even took my white gloves and clutch bag. How was I to know what to expect? I just wanted to make a good impression.
Being nervous I left home early, and naturally arrived early because I didnt' want to get lost "on campus".
Well, campus was not quite what you would expect a college to be. Holy Family was a rather new school (I graduated in the 13th graduating class) so campus was only 1 building, Holy Family Hall. It housed everything, classrooms, labs, administration offices, faculty offices, cafeteria, lockers, library AND a chapel (Catholic school, remember?) All administration was on the second floor. I was supposed to go to the registrar's office and that was easy to find in the one long corridor.
I went in to see the Registrar; Sister Immaculata and another nun whose "old name" I can't recall, but who later was known as Sr. Florianne. They spoke to me briefly, from behind the counter of the business office and then handed me a paper grocery bag. What was in it? My "academic regalia. In those days every "assembly" we were to attend meant we wore our academic black gown, and motar board, black pumps and white gloves. The nuns knew I didn't have the extra money to pay for it, so they gave me someone else's. Someone who graducated donated it to me.
That's all they really wanted. I didn't have to answer any questions or explain myself. They just spent 10 minuted with me and off I went to home again. When I realized that college was going to be such a formal place I began to wonder. Did I make a mistake, or did they?
But you didn't get it, did you? You got a STRIKE.
STRIKES are supposed to do that.
They are supposed to make the normal flow of events, work, etc. NOT work normally.
A strike is supposed to make things difficult, for the management and company owners, to call attention to the plight of the people on strike, to point out greivences.
A strike is supposed to show others outside of their work environment, what the workers are striking about. A strike allows the strikers to get the word out to others what kind of conditions they are objecting to and what the strikers are trying to get made better. A strike is a tool of the employee to get the employeer to pay attention.
A know this is a concept foreign to the students of today's generation. They don't realize that not only strikers but "innocent bystanders" are inconvienced by a strike. It's done to prove a point to the management, it's done so that the normal work day is interrupted. It's done to make people sit up and pay attention. It's done so that the innocent bystander will say to management, what the heck are you going to do to fix this?
At UM only those of us who have lived through STRIKES during out lifetimes know what that means. The student's still think it's all about "them."
I wonder when this generation of young students is going to realize it isn't?
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Frankford High School 1965 - public school does't pick for you
I was assigned Mrs. Carole, a rather homely but sympathetic woman, who was astounded to find out that I was not coming to public school from a Private Catholic school because I was a discipline problem. Generally that's the kind of people who "had" to transfer to public schools. Catholic school took you because you were catholic, and could get rid of you if you acted up, whereas public schools were mandated by law to accept everyone - well diciplined or not.
My mother went with me to the first meeting where we would plan my "life" in school. Because I had all passing grades and because I was in Commercial B, which didn't exist in Public School, I had to pick a new roster. No religion class here, so I had one free period, and I had to make up the gym classes that the public school wouldn't accept from Little Flower. I ended up taking gymn 5 days a week.
In place of "religion" and a study hall period I was asked if I wanted to enroll in "distributive education". That's where you work for a company outside of school for 4 hours a day 5 days a week being paid for it. Since I needed a job to help out anyhow I said yes.
My regular classes were ok. History was fair, Algebra 2 was actually ok. The teacher was the "superman" at the Phila. Opera and often tapped kids to be supernumeraries for some of the performances. I learned about opera and other classical stuff from my Algebra teacher. Bookkeeping was ok, a bit simplistic and I learned that not only could I not spell well, I couldn't balance a spreadsheet either, Spanish was hysterical, typing was terrible and English was a disappointment.
I came into the typing class "behind" on the word count and never made up for it. I barely made it out of that class with a passing grade - and only because I promised the teacher that I would NEVER take typing 2 did she give me a D.
Spanish was taught by a teacher who was burned out. Kids didn't do their homework, no one cared. I, having been well disciplined by the 10.5 years of Catholic school training, did care and did my homework and passed tests. Mr. Mussman once got so angry at the class for it's non-participation that he had ME teach the lesson for the day since I was the only one who actually prepared it.
I can see the history teacher's face, but can't recall his name, nor any reason why history of whatever era was being taught was so vitally important.
Since I had commercial kinds of classes I was placed in a "commercial" kind of English, with more spelling tests. Here I did well though, for some reason spelling in public school didn't include hard words and multisyllabic ones. Actually they didn't expect you to actually spell the word in syllables either, which was a blessing.
The "teacher" was a bit - hum - shall we say "unkempt"? She wore low cut blouses or tight sweaters and bent over a lot. She came in with her hair in disarray, and often with visible "hickey marks" on her neck. One day she was absent and the head of the English Department came to fill in for her. We had been reading a book in class, "Damian and the Lepers" about a priest who dedicated his life to the leper colony in Hawaii, only to sucumb to the disease himself and die. It was a biography.
The English Dept. Head asked some questions about the reading, to see how much or how little we understood. I had never considered myself a participator in classes, but I was the only one who had any idea what he was asking. It became a very limited discussion between me and him about the literal and figurative aspect of the book.
He stopped me in the midst of an explaination and asked me "What are you doing in this class?" Darn it all, I used one of those catholic school multisyllabic words I could always spell incorrectly. I told him I had been assigned it by Mrs. Carole when I transfered. He put down his book and said see me after class.
When the bell rang I went to see him and he marched me down to the Counselor's office where he pulled copies of my transcript from LF and my "standarized test scores" and then reworked my roster, fitting me into the Shakespeare class. It was the class for college bound students. He told me it was my choice to stay in the commercial track but he thought my potential lie elsewhere. He thought I should go to college.
He also kept a very close eye on me from then on. He made sure I took the right class and signed up for the standarized tests to get me on track for college. He made sure I got in under the wire to take the SAT's while still a Junior so I could begin applying to colleges.
I also joined the staff of the school newspaper and had journalism classes, but in Frankford, the clique of kids in journalism was already extablished. Though I was a contributing reporter and sometimes wrote editorials I was not part of the "crowd". It didn't diminish my liking for journalism though.
I stayed in distributive education, having been assigned a job in a vending maching company. I would get out of school at 12:30 take a bus to the job and when there I was locked in a vault with a change machine and handed cash bags through a slot, where I logged them into the books and then counted the cash in the bag (through the coin counter) and "resolved" the totals.
It wasn't a bad job, but it made for a lairly long day. Up early (6 a.m.)to walk to school (about 1.5 miles because waiting for the bus would have added about 30 minutes to my commute, walking was easier and free )for school's first class at 7:45. I usually got out of work at about 6 p.m. and had to take the bus home.
To make a long story short it was too much for me. I got a "cold" and it jsut got worse and worse. It turned into "pluresy" an inflamination of the plural cavity surrounding the lungs. I was very sick. My mother took me to Dr. Walsh and he wanted to hospitalize me, but we had no insurance then, and it was too expensive.
I spent three weeks at home in bed, sleeping in my mother's room while she and my sister slept in mine, which was smaller and colder.I remember the doctor coming to the house to see me twice a day, changing my medicine and keeping me almost comotose so I could heal. Yeah, Doctor's still made house calls back then. Dr. Walsh never charged my mother for all those visits, and many times he brought the new medicine with him so my mother didn't have to go to the pharmacy and spend money.
The truant officer was sent to my house because I was gone so long, but when he came in and saw how sick I was the matter was dropped and the school started sending my homework to us via neighborhood kids, so that when I was able to return to school I could be up to par with the others.
As I did improve I did study on my own. When I got back to school I no longer had the distributive ed job, by mutual concent the company and I parted company, and I was placed in a "school job" in the counselor's office for the remainder of the semester, mostly filing and doing some "running" to get kids out of class. Same pay per hour but fewer hours and no traveling by bus. I think I made $1.35 an hour. Apparently I study well on my own. I took make up tests for those I missed and aside from Typing and gym, which was pass fail, I got A's in everything that quarter.
It wasn't as if my life was only work and school. I had friends and I did things with them. Our main pass time seemed to be "hanging out" either on someone's porch, or stoop the street corner or in my kitchen where we smoked and played pinnochele.
Yeah, my mother let us smoke inside. She actually told me she'd rather have me lite up in the house than look like a tramp on the street corners. She even bought me cigarettes if I wanted them. I did smoke for a while, Parliments. But when you are in your teens and you don't have to hide from your mother to smoke it sort of takes all the fun out of it. So, although my friends continued to smoke I stopped.
My mother also gave me no dating restrictions. I could date if I wanted to, I did occasionally, but when you mother doesn't bat an eye if you go out with some unsavory character the shock value is greatly diminished. I never even had a "time" to be home from a date. Most of my friends had to be back home before 11:00, or on special occasions midnight. When guys asked me when I had to be home I had to make up my own rules. Naturally if I liked the guy I'd make it later, but most of the time I told them I had to be home before 10:00.
Why? Because my mother was a sick person. If I stayed out all night and was brought home by the police for violating the city ordinance about youth on the street after a certain hour what would that do to her heart? Would she have another heart attack? My mother let me make my own choices, and I erred on the side of conservatism - sometimes being stricter on myself than any of my peer's parent were on them.
Peers. Well physically and socially they were I guess, but intellectually I found myself wondering. My friends liked to hang out, and drink beer and go to make out places. They liked shopping and shoplifting, dancing, parties. On Saturday afternoons they liked to go "out" usually just walking the Avenue (no malls back then) or go to a movie. On Saturday afternoons I liked to go to the library, alone or I'd take my sister, to sit and read.
Sometimes on Sunday, after mass, I would ask my mother if I could go "downtown" to the main library, the Free Library of Philadelphia. It was on the Parkway in a huge neo classical building I simply adored. I loved the Classics and Humanities section and I read every book they had on Greek and Roman History. I realized that I really disliked Latin because I considered Roman culture a bastardization of the pure Greek thought. I guess I was pretty geeky, unless I was hanging out in the neighborhood.
There I wore denim blue jeans,black boots and black leather jackets, I carried a knife, for protection, after dark. My street name was "Beast", given to me by some guy who obviously thought I was not as pretty as my friends since I didn't plaster my face with make up and blue eyeshadow.
Did I join a gang? No, I never had to. Did I ever get in a fight? Nope never had to. I talked my way out of things. Not whimpped out; rational thinking and multisyllabic words disarm a punk with a quick temper and dim wits. In true street fashion I stared them down, eye to eye and spoke in quiet tones with words they were totally unable to comprehend and they usually just backed down because they were clueless as to whether they had been apologized to or insulted, generally it was the latter, but what was I going to do - TELL them? I wasn't that stupid.
One other girl in the group was like me, only she did fight occasionally, she liked it I think. She was proud of a tough guy image. She went on to college and became a bio-chemist. Most of the guys from the corner went to Viet Nam and got killed or came back and became cops and firemen. The other girls? One was beaten to death by her domestically abusive husband, another became an alcholoic hooker, my two best friends worked clerical jobs until they got married and moved out of the neighborhood. One guy went to jail, briefly, and then got a job as a bus driver.
For some reason, my mother moved us in the middle of the month. I think there was a landlord dispute about the electric. The lights kept going off because the fuse kept blowing, and then there was the sewer pile breaking in the basement which he didn't want to repair, and the fact that he didn't want to pay for heating oil for the furnace and we frequently ran out of oil, and heat. My mother called the housing department and he was forced to fix things but he was not happy. In the middle of the month we moved to another apartment down the Street, it was over a garage. Another three room place, so we all shared one bedroom again. Two weeks after we moved from that apartment, the place we moved from had an electrical fire while the unit was empty and no one was using the power.
The summer between junior and senior year I got to work at Frankford High in the school office. No, there wasn't summer school, I worked to help clean out offices and storage rooms and do filing 6 hours a day for minimum wage - gotta love that Great Society of LBJ for the funding. We "received" new shipments of books and took them to the correct offices and storage rooms for the coming year. I found out how to use an electric typewriter and use my office voice for receiving phone calls and taking messages. I got to be friends with the teachers who came in and with the counselors, who were there a lot more than the teachers.
There were some English books that they were throwing out because new editions had been issued. I asked if I could read one or two during lunch breaks and discovered George Bernard Shaw. He was out of fashion and no longer being taught, but I recall speaking to some teachers about "The Importance of Being Earnest." I realized that teachers were more interesting and fun to talk to when then weren't being teachers.
At the end of the summer the school closed for two weeks so the office staff could have a vacation, and that was mine too. I stayed at home and hung out.
When I went back to school the vice princial asked me if I wanted to work in the College Counselor's office 10 hours a week, for pay of course. I said yes. My money paid for silly little things like books and clothes for me and my sister. The Social Security checks didn't stretch very far.
Mrs. Kaplan was a wirey woman, petite and full of energy and about as tall as me. She loved her work, and she was very good at it. She used to ask me questions about my aspirations if there wer no students in the office for appointments. She had me fill out every single application she could for scholarships. She also had me fill our applications for schools I had never even heard of, or considered applying to, as well as the tried and true ones. I had intended to only apply to the local Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University, but she told me to "reach" beyond and so I also applied to Holy Family College, a private Catholic college for young women. I was accepted at all of them, but I didn't know if I could afford any of them.
I did very well that year. I dropped distributive education and took the academic classes I needed to get to college, including Chemistry I was placed in the English class for college bound students, with an emphasis on writing. I took Spanish 2, with a teacher who cared and I had History with Mr. Town, who made me think about American current affairs and care about what went on.
I graduated 124 in a class of 609 in June of 1966. At my graduation I was told to stand when my name was called for awards and scholarships. I stood 3 times. Mrs. Kaplan's applications paid off. I received a Pennsylvania state achievement scholarship, the Benjamin and Fredora Wolfe Memorial Scholarship and a Holy Family College scholarship. Only after the ceremony, when I turned in my rented cap and gown, did I see my homeroom teacher, Mr. Clarke, who told me the Holy Family Scholarship was for FULL tuition.
I obviously made the choice to attend Holy Family in the fall.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
choices - it don't come easy
I said my mother had her first heart attack when I was in LF as a freshman. Actually that was only a small one. The first one that almost killed her happened when I was 12 or was it 11? My father died in 1959, the year I would be 11, but he died in June and I was not 11 until September.
After my father died, at age 49 in Temple Univ. Hospital in Philadelphia of congestive heart failure--complicated by severe asthema (Neither would have killed him if he has lived in the present time.) my mother decided to move us back to Pittsburgh to have the support of her family and my father's.
There was no wake in Philly my father's body was prepared by a mortitian and then we accompanied it on a train ride to Pittsburgh. The thing I remember most about the trip was that my father and I used to go down to the train tracks near the Allegheny River when I was very young and we'd watch the trains. Daddy and my grandfather loved to fish, catching catfish in the river. Good eattin' them catfish. I was "daddy's girl" and would love to tag along, so he let me. He always told me he and I would ride a train together someday, and we finally did. Me in the coach and Daddy in a box in the baggage car. A great turn called horshshoe bend is well noted on that train route, I made sure I was seated on the window side so that when we rounded the bend I could see the baggage car from my seat and wave to my daddy.
My mother was the 3rd of four siblings, my father the oldest of 10 - of which only 6 were alive when I was born. So my sister, then 5, and I went back to Philly with my mother so we could could go get the furniture etc. from Philly. My father's youngest brother Albert, who lived in New Jersey with his wife and the aforementioned 10 kids, helped her rent the U-Haul and move it all back. I remember the 4 of us on the bench seat of that un airconditioned truck driving across the PA turnpike in the heat of summer. My mother never learned to drive, she was an epileptic who took Gran Mal seizures.
We found a 3 room apartment. Living/dining room, kitchen, and 1 bedroom on 45th St. one block from the river, just on the other side of the Heppenstall Steel Mill where my father had worked before moving to Philly. He had been a steelworker before he has some kind of "trouble" and was fired. I heard several versions of the firing later in life, but never really got the real background.
Yeah, we lived in just three rooms. My mother my sister and I slept in one room. Mom on the double bed, Chris and I on the bunk beds. There was no bathroom. There was a toilet, in a shed that had been added to the back of the kitchen. There was no central heat, but a gas stove in the living room that was meant to keep the entire apartment warm, and for the most part it did, the "toilet" was always cold. We bathed in a wash tub on the floor in the kitchen or jsut took "sponge baths" and we washed our hair in the kitchen sink (no bathroom sink, remember.)
Those years were good. We had those social security survivor's checks and my father had a small life insurance policy, which my mother used to pay funeral expenses but there was some remaining, which she chose to take in monthly payments until it ran out. That was a good way to do it, because Social Security checks come on the 3rd of the month. One payment that you have to stretch until the next check comes.
For anyone who lives on a fixed income the meaning of more month than money is obvious, and when you have two growing daughters and unexpected expenses it can be tough. Social Security survivors beneifts were not meant to match the deceased's wages, more often the payment to survivors is an "adjustment" for the surviving family members. My mother received the additional $35 life insurance check on the 16th of the month,by her own request, and that was enough to tide us over. For those unaware of Social Security survivor's benefits I will tell you they also do not include enrollment in any Medicare plan. So my mother had to buy and pay her own "hospitalization" policies. This was the late 1950's remember, no HMO's it was strictly pay as you go if you got sick. My mother's health history made it expensive to buy it and have us covered, but she did. A small sacrifice for her peace of mind.
Just around the corner from the new apartment lived my Aunt Mamie and Uncle Frank and 2 blocks away lived Aunt Stella, with John her second husband, Maxine a daughter from her first marriage and her brother Henry and her father, my Tata, Joseph. My father's brother, Philip , a widower,and his 4 kids lived 2 blocks on the other side of the apartment. We lived two houses away from Howard's butcher shop, my mother had gone to grade school with Howard, and next door to Mel and his wife. Mel had no living room in his home, because he had a baby grand piano in the front room. Mel was a professional musican - played in hotel lounges and at events. I remember listening to his rehersals through the walls. In good weather, when the window was opened we ould sit outside and listen to him play. He gave my sister piano beginning lessons. In Pittsburgh in that neighborhood there weren't many people you didn't know. Still is the same way I hear, for those who remain in the neighborhood. Everybody knows you and everybody knows your business.
That eventually proved to be a problem. My mother had lived away from the fishbowl of life in the neighborhood and though she found much of living there comforting, she also found much annoying. She felt controlled by the big brother aspect of life. Pardon the crde remark but she once said, "You can't fart in Lawrenceville without someone knowing what you had for dinner."
My aunts were all deciding how my mother should raise her daughters, how she should spend her money and who and if she should date again... with approval. Now most women of age 44 don't need permission to date, but in Lawresceville's (the neighborhood in Pittsburgh where we lived)fishbowl society believe me, if the community did NOT approve you sure knew it.
So one day in a snit, after some minor disagreement on her parenting skills and what she "should" be doing as a mother, my mother packed us up and moved us BACK to Philadelphia, to the same street where we lived with my father, the 4500 block of Tackawanna Street. At least there we had 2 bedrooms, I got my own side of the room and a little privacy.
Now you're wondering why tell you all this? Right. Well, the first heart attack is why.
Once we were back in Philly the "extra money" from the life insurance from my dad's policy ran out, and we were left with only the social security checks. It got a little tight. So after checking with the Social Security Administration my mother found out that she was allowed to work as long as she did not make over a specific amount of money.
Now remember, my mother had an 8th grade education. She was bi-lingual, having been taught in a catholic school that made her learn to read and write in Polish and English. She was well read, kept up to date with newspapers and magazines about public opinion (and spent far too much time at the movies). The only jobs she could get were for "unskilled labor". A friend of hers, Millie, has a sister who owned a luncheonette (sandwich shop) in the neighborhood of Kensington and was looking for a late lunch and dinner waitress. My mother applied and was hired.
A waitress, with the silly little hairnet hat, and a big puffy handkerchief trimmed in lace pinned to her left breast pocket - yep, that was my mom. The luncheonette was in a business/wharehouse district. Most of the clients were local residents who lived in hearby row houses, or the truck drivers and deliverymen who serviced the factory. There were also the usual cops, and high school kids - only not too many of them.
My mother went to work after we went to school - so she was always there for us in the morning and if we needed her for some school thing she could be there. But we were "latch key kids" after school and at night. She didn't get home until about 10 p.m.
Now in this day and age that's neglect. Then it was just what had to be done. At least she was home on weekends with us, and that was good.
Occasionally, usually on a Friday, my sister and I would take the El (elevated train) from Frankford and go to the luncheonette in the late afternoon to eat at the shop. We'd get a pizza or tuna sub and wait until mom would get off her shift and close up. We'd all take the El back home together.
Well, remember my mother was not a well woman. She spent most of her married life as a simple stay at home, taking care of things and bringing up the kids. But the added strain of working 5 days a week well, it finally got to her.
One day I was called out of class at school by the principal who said my aunt (from Pgh.) was coming to get us. My mother had had a heart attack and was in Northeastern Hospital near where she worked.
We were never allowed to see her, being so young. And an "adult" had to be called in to take care of us. My Aunt Mamie came from Pittsburgh. She and Uncle Frank never had children, she was available.
I think she stayed at our place for about a week, shuttling between the spartmetn and the hospital when it became obvious that my mother wouldn't be getting out of the hospital for weeks. When my mother was able to make the decision, she let Aunt Mamie take us back to Pittsburgh, to live with Aunt Stella.
Now if you recall, Aunt Stella had a full house. Only 3 bedrooms, and in those 3 were she herself, she husband, her daughter who was a freshman at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, her brother, an Allegheny County Police officer, and her retired father. There was "room" for us, but only in the attic.
So they cleared the junk from a portion of the attic, gave us a dresser, and let us move in to sleep on a big double bed with brass headboard. I remember returning to St. Augustine's school and renewing friendships, but I can't recall if I was in 5th or 6th grade. I am thinking 6th because I know that I had "Mother Superior of the convent" in 7th grade when we moved BACK again to Philly when my mother got better.
The attic was ok, at least we didn't have to stay there in the winter months, only a psrt of spring and summer. It was during the summer that we went back to Philly just before the start of the new school year. When my mother improved enough she asked for us to be "returned home" and then another "discussion" about raising the children happened. My Aunt Stella said she was going to apply for full custody of us. Why I dont' know, I think she was trying to force my mother to move back to Pittsburgh for our good. My mother attended church, worked when she could, didn't drink, smoke or fool around with men. So I have no idea why this even became an issue, expect the my mother didn't seem inclined to do the lock step obedience that was expected of her. Naturally my mother hopped on a plane and picked us up, literally, off the street where we were playing and took us straight to the airport where we got on a plane in our play clothes (you have to understand the propriety of this situation back in "the day") and we were once again residents of Philadelphia.
I remember having no clothes that "fit" when we got back home. I'd grown so much while we were away. We went to Mass that Sunday with mis-matched skirts and tops and wearing the only shoes we had on our feet when we left Pittsburgh, sandals. But we were together.
In Philly we stayed, Aunt Stella came to Philly with out suitcases and I think she and my mother came to some agreement about whose life it really was. All I know is that I spent every grade from then on in a school in Philadelphia.
Maybe I'll post about those 7th and 8th grade years some time, but not now. I promise to continue with MY life choices starting with Frankford High School tomorrow.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
So if you don't want to know the boring details of my life please log off now. If you are however, curious to know the rationale to how and why I am doing what I am doing then continue reading.
Please understand that this will be long, but it willnot be a "poor pity me". I have basically been challanged to defend my life and I will do so. If it will get me into heaven with Merele Streep then it's worth it.
So, where to begin? The first choice that lead me here?
Well there were circumstances that were not my choice like the fact that my father died when I was 11 and that my mother died when I was 19 after 7 years of a long and expensive illness. But perhaps I should start in high school.
I went to St. Theresa of the Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls in Philadelphia PA because in those days (1962) the catholic schools were free if you were graducated from a catholic elementary school. So I graduated St. Joachim's Grammar School and was tested to see how I could be placed, and ended up in Little Flower (LF). I didnt' think I did well, after all I didn't have the same advantages as other kids. My mother was an 8th grade graduate who worked as a waitress, when she could and we lived on the social security survivor benefits we got from my father's death.
But that's beside the point. The point is that I am trying to make is that I did well on the placement test and was placed in the second highest academic group. I attended LF and was given in Latin I as my language. ( the really smart kids got German, the lower scoring kids got French, Spanish or no language - in that order) I also had Algebra I, English, History, General Science and Religion and of course Gym.
I did well in everything but Latin and had to repeat Latin in summer school. That year my mother had only 1 heart attack. You know waitresses dont' get paid sick time, or collect unemployment or have health insurance on their jobs. If they don't work they dont' get paid and after the heart attack this time she couldn't work. On weekends my cousins got me a "job" as a cleaning lady for some rich women who lived in Cherry Hill NJ. I took a bus, then the elevated train and subway to Center City Philadelphia and then got the bus for New Jersey. I got paid $1 and hour plus bus fare and lunch for cleaning houses on Saturdays.I used the money for my own books and records since the money my mom made as a waitress was no longer coming in after her major heart attack and we were living on only the social security survivor benefits. I was 14 years old.
Since we had no right to make any decision in our academic career the following year I was given Latin II, Geometery, History, English, Biology and Religion classes, and of course Gym. I was also picked from the English class, for somethimg I had written, to be on the Newspaper staff, the Theresian. Yes, you didn't get to choose your extra curricular activity either. If you had music you would be in band or glee club or orchestra. If you wrote well you were assigned to either newspaper, year book, or literary year book. If by chance you were athletically inclined the gym teachers informed the coaches (if they weren't coaches themselves) and you would be picked for a team, like basketball, bowling, swimming or field hockey.
At the end of the 2nd year I was told I could "pick" the focus of my diploma for years 3 and 4. In those days it meant one of 4 choices: Strict academic (because you were destined to go to college), Commercial A (because you could take typing, shorthand and still manage a few academic classes "in case" you wanted to try to go on to a junior college), Commercial B - typing and bookkeeping (because you were not considered good enough in communication skills to be a stenographer and you'd probably just get a job until you met some nice man and got married and raised lovely catholic kids anyhow) or Economic - (which gave you no chance to study a language or any other academic classes except those specified by the State of Pennsylvania as minimum requiremetns for a diploma. You were selected for Economic classes and given classes that would help you in life, like Sewing, Cooking and Home Economy)
I "picked" Commercial A, hoping I could somehow mange to get a good paying clerical job, maybe for a big firm downtown like Bell of Pennsylvania, or maybe a law firm or insurance company, and maybe if I could save a bit of money go part time to a place like Pierce Business School or Manor Junior College get a junior college diploma so that I might be able to become a journalist,or just be a clerical worker, working for one of the 3 Philadlephia newspapers, the Bulletin, the Inquirer or the Daily News. It was my dream.
I had found that I was a natural reporter from my stint on the newspaper staff and I was hoping to be able to get enough of an education to do it for the rest of my life. I was told, however, I was not qualified for the Commercial A program. I could write for a high school newspaper because I had the skills, but apparently I couldn't spell well enough to be considered for stenography. Alas, destined to be a bookkeeper in Commercial B because I had no spell check.
My mother protested for me, She came to the school saying that my English grades were above average, I carried an 85 average (it would equal a B in a letter grade) but he nuns would not budge, my reading skills were above average, my cognitive skills were above average, however I couldn't pass a spelling test with above an 80. I was obviously unqualified to do such important work as learning how to make scribbles on paper transform themselves into real words as they would pour forth from the mouth of some junior executive at any firm in the Philly and magically appear from those squiggly lines through my fingers as I transcribed them on a manual typewriter keyboard. So the decision stood. I would take Commercial B in my Junior year. I did get to make one decision on my own, my only choice was an elective - and I took Spanish. My mother had another minor heart attack at the end of Sophmore year.
That summer I was old enough to work, and the Great Society was in full swing. I was recruited to take a job as an assistant summer camp counselor, at $1.25 an hour. I got a nice tan and worked in the inner city helping to set up camping experiences at playgrounds. Most of them in ghetto neighborhoods, which weren't so far lower economically than my own. As a matter of fact one of my postings WAS in my neighborhood. I used my earnings to do things for myself and my sister, like buy her glasses, and school clothes, who was 5 years my junior.
While working that summer I met college students. They were the supervisors of the high school kids. I asked where they went to school, learning about the process of applying for admission. I learned what classes to pay atttention to and what kinds of things colleges look for in an admission application, something that I would never have found out on my own, I was mentored by soem very ovservant, intelligent and attentive, black women. I learned a lot about black history, which was never even taught back then the the differences in hair styling. I learned where not to apply and why, and what were my best chances for scholarship and acceptance. By a quirk of fate I was set into a learning experience that I needed.
In Junior year I took the classes required of me, but as the year went on I became more and more upset. The Algebra 2 nun, Sr. Aurelia made a point of pointing out my faults. I had a Polish last name. Sr. could not understand why someone who cam from a heritage filled with great mathmeticians could be so inept at Algebra 2. The History teacher made sure I knew how little I knew. The Commercial B English was not the literature and Shakespeare I expected but more like "practical English - more spelling and grammar" because that's where my deficiencies lie.
I used to get migraines. I became so upset by the prospect of facing these classes, all of which were post lunch, that I usually lost it. My lunch that is and had to be sent home. I was so upset and in such pain that the principal told my mother to take me to a doctor, to see if he could "calm me down" or find a way to correct my behavior. I. E. give me some tranquilizers to keep me from worrying about such silly things as my choices in life. My mother had another heart attack, I was taking care of my little sister and cooking, keeping the house (apartment) paying the bills, doing the laundry (taking things to the laundramat)while going to school and visiting my mother in the hospital. In case you are wondering our only relatives were my uncle (my mother's brother-in-law and his wife and 10 kids who lived in New Jersey. All the resto of our family lived in Pittsburgh, several hours away. My mother didn't wnat to inform them of her illnesses, she was afraid that the family or the state would take us away from her if she did.
My mother took me to the Dr., nice old guy named Dr. Walsh, he gave me a few pills, I took them when I needed them, but I didn't want to live my life in a fog. So I only took the pills if I had real physical pain in my head so severe I couldn't see. When I was almost out of pills I went back to the Dr. I told him I didn't need more pills. He asked me why I was so upset. I told him about my school situation and my dreams, which seemed to be slipping further and further from my grasp.
His sage advice? Drop out of school if school was making me sick. I told him NO, I would never drop out of school. Then he said (in front of my mother naturally) that I should change schools. Go to public school if the Catholic School is causing too much anxiety for me.
So during the Christmas Break in 1964 I left Little Flower and transfered to Frankford High School, the public school in my district.
My first decision that has lead to my current life.
To be continued, but not right now. I am tired and want to go to bed.
I TOLD you it would be long and boring.
choices, choices, choices
Maybe it's just me, but I actually think that if I am going to stick my neck out and make a statement in which I turely beleive I should take the responsibility for it by declairing who I am and not trying to disguise my name while revealing my "true feelings."
Hey Buster, maybe you have some idea?
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
usu ry n
1. archaic :INTEREST
2. the lending of money with an interest charge for its use
3. unconscionable or exhorbitant rate or amount of interest specif interest in excess of a legal rate charged to a borrorer for the use of money
That will soon be extinct I fear. Why, because the "legal rate" charged is already usurious.
I understand addition and subtraction and multiplication and division. But interest?
How can something that "costs" $1 end up costing you $3, $4 or $5? Isn't 3 Threee times more than 1? Yet if payment on that $1 is "extended" for the maximum interest it's minimum payments compounded with interest charges soon even though you've been paying on that $1 object you now owe $2, and then payments on the $2 become $3. It makes no sense to me.
Credit doesn't make sense to me.
Credit means someone else is in control of your life.
We used to have currency backed by bullion, now it's backed by debt.
Everyone is afraid of cyber terrorists because it would "ruin" the economy by messing up the entire credit structure on which America is based Sometimes I sit and wonder if it wouldn't actually improve it.