Teaching in South Carolina

In South Korea, teachers are known as Nation Builders.  Really.  Nation Builders.  This is a label, which offers credence and respect to a role that is often overlooked in the United States.  What can be more important than teaching our children?  We hear the rhetoric often.  But how does it balance with the way we treat teachers?

Depending on the website you visit, the salary for beginning teachers in SC is around $28,000.  This can go higher if the teacher hired has an advanced degree.  Teachers who hang around for eight or more years can climb to $43,000.  Even 56K after 15 years.  That is not a bad salary.  There are benefits as well.  According to teacherportal.com, we are 30th in the nation in beginning salaries.  Hmmm.

Is a Nation Builder supposed to take on his/her profession out of complete passion?  Without any desire for a better lifestyle?  To improve the condition of one’s car?  To be able to stand on one’s on without a necessary 2nd salary?  On the other hand, do we as a country need to recognize that we get what we pay for?  In a country that highly values celebrities and sports heroes, wouldn’t it make sense that those who are developing the minds of our children be as important – dare I say it – or as enriched as the doctors who care for their bodies?  As the people who build their schools?  As the attorneys who approve the contracts of the principals?

Okay.  Let us pretend for a moment that the above amounts are sufficient salaries for teachers.  What I cannot find in a website is the average amount that teachers spend on classroom and student supplies out of their own pockets.   Why not ask your child’s teacher.  How much did you spend this month on your students? How much do you think it is?  How many crayons, backpacks, lunches, or field trips do teachers finance because they love their students?  Or they can’t stand to see little Johnny not have sufficient paper on which to draw or do math?  Or they just feel it is right if there are apples or bananas (and occasionally candy) – or valentines, or stockings, or juice for their charges?

I know it is up to them whether they spend their money on the kids.  Sure it is.  It is also their choice to become teachers.  To get that three months off in the summer.  Which never equates to three months.  To arrive early, stay late, sponsor a club or team, eat the cafeteria food, encourage the student whose parents never show up to give attention to their children.  Never respond to emails, nor call the teacher back about the attendance of their own children.  Our teachers are supposed to be the best and the brightest, and the developers of our children’s’ minds.  They are supposed to carry the weight of making sure your child passes, or does his homework, or doesn’t cut up in class, or gets some love and attention to help him or her to grow as a student.  To be a parent often in the parent’s absence.  Do we pay them enough?   What was I thinking?

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Skin Care at ^50 – Experiment!

Of late, I have been paying much more attention to my skin.  Not being a woman who has done much of that, I find that the habit is my most important resource.  I know that it takes a year for me to develop a habit.  I still don’t know how long it takes for me to break one.  But that’s another post.

Once I decided that skin care was much more important at this age than makeup, I began to get comments.  When I say that in the past, I didn’t do much skin care, I sincerely mean that.  No washing at night, no moisturizer, no caring period.  My goal was not to create the best canvas, but to cover the flaws.  At this age, I now know that less makeup is more, but that means the skin that shows through must be at its best.

I began experimenting.  I have an ambivalent attitude about how much I spend. As a boomer, I bought into the idea that you get what you pay for.  So when I first tried to stay on a skin care regimen – or begin one – I started with Obagi.  Of course, years before, I had been through the Mary Kay experience (I was a saleswoman for a minimal amount of time), the Elizabeth Arden products, the Este Lauder, Loreal, etc., etc.  (I was once told that Loreal was the drugstore version of Este Lauder.  Or was it Arden?)  Mostly those were extremely short-term uses  (dare I use the word commitment? – nooooooo).  It wasn’t truly until this year that I began to focus on really paying attention to my skin and seeing if I could enact improvement.

As mentioned, I ventured with Obagi at the beginning.  $350.00 later and a couple of weeks, my skin felt raw and was peeling. I read that this was part of the plan, but man was that uncomfortable.  I couldn’t make myself stick with it because of the discomfort.  I gave up on that one.

A few months ago, I went to see a skin care specialist.  I wanted to know what was the best course of action for me to look the best I could at the age I am.  I’m not anti-botox, but don’t really want to spend the dollars on it.  Nor am I anti-restylene, or any of the other minimally invasive procedures, but I don’t want to go shooting in the dark, throwing around money I don’t have at the moment, and I wanted an objective viewpoint of what someone on the outside looking in would suggest.  Yes, I asked the doctor who would normally want to make as much money as possible from me.  He is a friend as well, and I trusted his answer.  He was supportive of good products and suggested that I begin there.

So I started on SkinCeuticals.  An expensive line, but I went there for ideas, so I wanted to follow the suggestions which I received.  I have seen a difference.  I have to wonder if the difference has as much to do with my actual daily commitment to taking care of my skin.  I use the face wash for oily skin, the toner, and the vitamin-C serum, which is the most expensive of the three ($80 for a small bottle that is supposed to last for several months – go gently with use).

I have also begun a regimen I learned at the knees of my grandmother.  I make a light paste of baking soda and water, and very gently scrub my face.  This has the effect (on my skin) of removing the dead skin cells, making my skin feel much softer, and I have begun to get compliments.  On my skin!  At the age of 56.  So that is the subject which interests me most in all of this – what are the natural products and regimens which you are using from your kitchen cabinet that are working for you?  My grandmother washed her face with baking soda, and brushed her teeth with it.  She kept her teeth until she was 95, at which point she left us for the other side.  Please let me know if you have found something among natural ingredients that works as well for you – or better – than the expensive skincare products on the shelves.  (I recently read about a “sugar wash” for hands, but have not yet tried it).

Oh yes – I’ve been using cuticle oil on my lips at night – massaging it in to my lips while focusing on the edges – to fight those vertical creases that are creeping in and to moisturize my lips.  And when I say “massaging”, I mean that I’m doing it for 15 minutes or longer.  I don’t see doing the fake stuff to look like some kind of Barbie doll.  I’ll keep you informed.

Motherhood – yours, mine, ours

Last night I visited a lovely woman who is a member of our fellowship.  She is around 85 years old or so, and lives alone.  We were expecting a major snowstorm, and I wanted to know if she was prepared.  She was quite prepared, and delighted to see me.  I followed her into her home – a hodgepodge of collections from all eras of her life as well as leftover Christmas directions that have yet to be boxed and put away.  My guess is that they may linger awhile.  I wanted to chat quickly, give her some things I had brought, and get out to go home and warm myself by my own fire.  Living alone often includes being lonely.  Perhaps not everyone alone feels that way, but H is a very social woman who needs connection.  She is now the recipient of Meals on Wheels.  And as she stated, “I don’t need the food.  But I do need the company.”

Our conversation wandered as she pointed out photos of the people whom she loved and who had gone on to the next world.  Her beloved husband, a professor, and who was once a tall man who but ended up looking into her eyes at eye level.  She is about 5 feet tall.  How hard it must have been to watch the man of her dreams slowly become bent and stooped, but how proud she is of the opportunity to take care of him during his later years.  They were married 33 years when he died.  She maintains he was the love of her life.  For him, he believed the third time was a charm.  I think he was right.

She also showed me pictures of herself as a beautiful 17-year-old, photos of her mom as a lovely young bride, and a faded hard-to-see picture of her father.  Then we branched onto the discussion of children, and her eyes saddened terribly.  She had been telling me about dancing with her beloved this past New Year’s Eve, her arms tightly wrapped around herself, and her head leaning on her own hand as she imagined the spirit of her husband with her.  But the jolt of discussing her daughter brought such open grief.  She could rejoice with the memory of those she had lost but grieve one who is still here.

The daughter who continues to complain about her mother not being there for her.  The daughter is now 62.  The daughter who invited her to come live close to her a state away perhaps to assuage her own conscience.  Which would mean her mother would have to forgo all the friends she has here, along with her home, to live in a new possibly hostile place with a daughter who can only end conversations with screaming about her mother’s shortcomings.  I don’t think so.

Do we all have one child that harbors a hard heart?  I have so many friends who have at least one child who can’t accept his or her mother for who she is and was, and who continues to cause grief to that mother’s heart?  I pondered on it this morning.  Where did we get the notion that mothers are supposed to be all suffering and all giving?  Self-sacrificing to the end, and loving, generous, complimentary, supportive?  This woman spent her daughter’s young life working to keep food on the table and a roof over her head.  Her husband, this daughter’s father, was a useless gambler and alcoholic.  Where did this idea that parents are supposed to be wise and loving through all of the difficulties of life?

Perhaps that is inherent in the question.  They aren’t.  If we grew up with perfect parents, how could we possibly accept our imperfect spouses?  Or our imperfect children?  We are all, after all, only human. ” To err is to be human.”  That is the way of knowledge, wisdom, and growth for us, the fallible humans. Both mothers and fathers.   And mothers are human.

Here is the final tragedy.  This lovely woman wants to divorce her daughter.  She wants some final relief and release from the anger and hostility that her daughter continues to harbor.  I have no idea if this can be done legally or not.  In actuality, she needs to stop taking the painful phone calls that end in the same ole, same ole recriminations from a daughter who has refused at this point to take responsibility for her own life.  If you were fortunate enough to be born, you probably had a lousy childhood.  Get over it.  Get help.  Stop blaming everyone else – especially your mom – for your problems.  Better yet, have your own child and find out how hard it is.  But before you do, get help.  Gets lots of therapy.  And find out just how difficult it is to become an imperfect mother.

I write this entry because I was such an imperfect mom.  I screwed up more times than I care to count.  But I’ve finally realized that if I’m going to take the responsibility of being a the occasional terrible mother, I get to accept the credit for being a sensational one at other times.  And so the human race continues.  I love my children, I don’t often understand them, but I’m their mom.  For now, I don’t want a divorce.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

Oscar Wilde

Even as we enumerate their shortcomings, the rigor of raising children ourselves makes clear to us our mothers’ incredible strength. We fear both. If they are not strong, who will protect us? If they are not imperfect, how can we equal them?
Anna Quindlen

My arrogance and other lousy character flaws

Every once in a while, I get kicked in the head when it comes to my arrogance of how other people “should” raise or treat their children.  I’m not referring to abuse.  That is a no-brainer and not part of this post.  I’m talking about what others buy for their children, what they do for them, and how they support them.  I am also talking about how they allow their children to treat them (again, not talking about any type of abuse).  Relationships of all kinds are so terribly convoluted that we on the outside can’t begin to imagine what has gone before to create relationships which others have.  It is hard enough to keep up with my own.  Why do I persist in trying to change the situations of others?

I make some kind of wrong turn in my head when I hear about situations that bother me and I begin to believe that they (my friends) want my ideas.  That they truly can’t wait to hear what I think and how much better their lives will be if they only listen to me.  I think that if I tell them honestly how I see the treatment (either of or by other people), they will of course see the error of their ways, and immediately correct their behavior.

Who the hell do I think I am?  I have had my own impossible situations when it comes to children, and certainly many people could tell me that many things which  I did were wrong.  Poor parenting.  Lousy choices.   Would that have helped me?  Would it help me now?  Would I agree with it?  Can I change it?  I love to discuss boundaries in my life.  I wonder what boundaries I see others as having.  Do they have the right to ask for my opinion before I so recklessly offer it?  Do they have the right to tell me to shut up if I’ve decided that my ideas are so profound that they must hear and adhere to what I have to say?  Yes to both.  I seek wisdom in my life.  But I must seek the wisdom to keep my mouth (and writing) shut until I am asked.

How does one place boundaries about this subject with their friends and family members?  Where is the proverbial line that must be drawn so that I don’t offend in the process of believing myself so arrogantly wise?  I’ve been thinking about this since I stomped on the toes of someone I love deeply without ever considering that she had toes.  Without ever considering she may not want my alleged experience.  Without ever considering that to be so arrogant and so public about my arrogance could damage not only our relationship, but her relationships with others.

I’ve come to this conclusion.  If I am not being asked directly for my opinion, it is just for me to participate in the conversation.  Draw them out.  Ask how they feel about it, but keep my danged mouth shut with my own thoughts.  If they are not seeking some kind of other way of acting for future course, I am to simply participate in the conversation.  If my friend, sister, brother, peer does not specifically ask what I think, I am to simply participate in the conversation.

This adds a dilemma to the situation.  I want to be honest about the things I see.  Perhaps the only place I can effectively do that is by private journal.  And I also must understand that my honesty is simply that.  Mine.  Not necessarily anyone else’s, particularly when it comes to parenting.

I am not in charge of how others raise their children.  Absent truly lousy treatment, I have to guard my arrogant ideas and to do more questioning of me when I have these ideas.  Sometimes we respond without knowing we did.  I have to get better at that.

I am deeply sorry that I caused pain to my friend.  I am deeply embarrassed that I consider myself so wise.  I am terribly chagrined that I did not think more deeply about my actions and was so insensitive to a difficult situation.  Sometimes I like to think that because I’m a writer, I am free to write whatever I want.  My Life and all its stuff includes the actions of others.  But does it?  Outside of my family, do I have the right to write whatever I know if I think it is worth writing about?  I guess this is where we get to the disclaimer, “If any of these characters resemble anyone, living or dead…”  Coincidence and all of that.  But I wasn’t writing a fiction novel.  Nor a short story.  Character flaws make us human and interesting and so very apologetic.  Friends are so much more important than opinions.