Buses and Bullies

I have written 4 posts about bullying, and not published any of them for various reasons.

But today, watching the video in the post below made me feel the definite need to comment.

This video isn’t surprising to me at all.  In the town where I grew up, this is how every bus I ever rode on was.  Some were worse.  Our school rarely provided bus monitors, but the kids themselves often took far more brutal treatment than this woman endured.  I absolutely received far more of this bullying than any kid should have had to handle.

The thing that struck me about the video is Karen’s engagement with the children.  She is still answering their questions, making comments, and trying to engage with them.  This was one of my defenses as well; I thought that by continuing business as usual, and furthering my efforts to blend in and make friends with my bullies, things would eventually smooth over.  Not so.  My efforts at friendliness or attempts to look cool only gave them more fuel.  I didn’t realize that until later, though.  I’ll never forget one eye-opening day in tenth grade when I stumbled across the myspace account of a friend of one of my bullies, and on her page the two of them had posted back and forth- much to my horror- a long dialogue all about me.  My habits, things I had said, my clothes.  Most of the things they were attacking were things that I had changed specifically to try and alleviate the bullying.  It was all out there, and had been for weeks and months, and I hadn’t even known.  Clearly, in the video Karen is attempting to deflect the bullying in the same way.  You can see her eyes scan for someone to connect with when students ask her questions, like whether she is sweating or not.

It’s hard to say whether it’s more disturbing to see children attack adults, such as Karen, or their own peers, other children, just like them.

My strong feeling is that adults do have the potential to combat bullying in a way that children do not, and so while I have deep sympathies for Karen, I do not think the internet outcry towards her situation is exactly just.  People are creating pages to raise money for vacations for Karen, and to help her find another job.  But this was Karen’s job, and it was her choice to take it.  And rather than find ways to DO her job, she allowed herself to become a target of the very stuff she was placed on that bus to combat.

I am far more concerned for the children, who do not have the authority to pass out suspensions to their bullies.  Instead, many kids face bullies who hit them, trip them, call them horrible names, trick them into getting into trouble, spread vicious rumors, and so much more.  I’ll never forget the time a student sitting behind me in Spanish class rigged up an electrocuting pen that was so strong it left burns on the back of my arm from him jamming it into me for days, while our teacher just laughed.  I’ll never forget the time a boy on the bus slammed his textbook over my head, once every 2 minutes for twenty minutes until we got to his house.  And I’ll never forget the adults who bullied me either, whether it was the bus driver who joined right in, or the teacher who just kept laughing it off.

Giving mistreated school employees gifts and displays of affection doesn’t help them to do their jobs any better, especially considering that one of their primary roles is to halt the kind of mistreatment they endured themselves.  Doing so brings the focus away from the children, who are both the perpetrators and the victims, and are without a doubt where the focus of concern belongs.

Aside

Making the Bus Monitor Cry

A graphic video (very strong language) depicting middle and high school children attacking an older woman who works as a monitor on their bus.

Video

Collecting Cookbooks

Anyone have any advice on really solid high quality cookbooks?

In my efforts to cook healthier meals, and expand my culinary abilities, I am so overwhelmed by the internet.  Yes, you can find anything you would ever want on allrecipes.com, but I swear less than 10% of those recipes are actually anything worth spending ingredients and time on.

A more experienced cookbook collector recommended, among others, James McNair and America’s Test Kitchen books.  I am definitely making steps to acquire some of these, but I would love to hear other opinions as well.

As far as websites go, probably the most dependable I have found is the recipes section at wholefoodsmarket.com.  The recipes I have tried there have always been delicious, ranging from Oatmeal Lace cookies with pistachios and cranberries (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2607) to Cheddar Corn Potato Chowder (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/1864) which is one of the most crowd-pleasing soups I have ever made.  But their recipe selection is incomplete, and I’m looking for books that offer more dependable and consistent offerings.

So, any ideas?

Post-Wisconsin Ponderings

I spent a few days last week in the lovely Madison, Wisconsin…that glowing city on a hill, that dweam within a dweam.

I was visiting my sister for a couple of days, being semi-productive in the student union by the lake. She was being productive, and I was playing Pottermore and writing complaint letters.
I had a crazy and annoying MegaBus experience on Wednesday night. I missed the bus because I was misinformed of where the bus was going to be, and what bus was actually coming. No fault of my own, of course. And then, after waiting 2 hours for the next bus, I had to buy another ticket. They wouldn’t let me on, with my 2 hour-outdated ticket, so I had to buy a whole new ticket.
I spent the two hours between buses chatting with a fellow recent graduate, who is in the process of moving toChicago fromMadison.  Funny thing is, after an hour of discussing everything from our almost identical choices in major to this recent 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, we were talking about my recent infuriating exchanges with Cosmopolitan regarding their racist “Latina” focused magazine, when I realized something.  This girl was in the middle of telling me about a related dating escapade when I interrupted her- “Wait,” I said, “Just so you know, I’m Liz.”  We were so distracted by how much we had in common and our annoying situation that we completely forgot to exchange names.

The whole situation had me thinking on the bus, as a drunk passenger in the back displayed common courtesy by freestyle rapping all 3 hours of the ride and eventually taking off her pants.  I thought of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wind In The Door, and the emphasis placed on our names as a part of our identities.  Names, and naming each other, as a cornerstone of our sense of self as human beings.  How interesting to connect with someone, and even exchange very personal anecdotes, without even as basic of an introductory gesture as knowing each other’s names.

Some of you may know, this isn’t the first time I became close to someone without knowing their name.  A few summers ago, I rather accidentally went on several dates with a guy, over a period of a month or so, without actually ever knowing his name.  Eventually, it just gets to that point where you can’t ask – you need to, but you can’t- because it’s just been too long to not know.  Thankfully, I didn’t let it get to quite that extent this time :)

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Thanks to Crowdtap, I had the chance to see the premiere of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted at the AMC River East 21 theater this morning!  I begged Reggie to come with me, knowing that not many friends of mine are willing to hike downtown at 8:30 in the morning, to sit in a theater of children wearing rainbow wigs.  

We were both pleasantly surprised!  The 3rd Madagascar movie was my favorite yet!  It was in 3D, which made me weary, since my last 3D experience was the hugely disappointing in every way The Green Lantern.  But we settled into our reserved seats as the kids around us shrieked, giggled, and spilled popcorn everywhere in their excitement.  When the movie started at 10am, the laughs kept it moving!  I felt entertained every minute!  In the film, Marty, Alex, Gloria, and Melman try to make their way back to New York, and end up joining a circus in Europe, hoping to both be sent to the U.S., and also to avoid French Animal Control, as they are being tracked across the continent.  The new characters, particularly Sonia the Bear (bizarrely the one animal who can’t talk) and the Sea Lion Stefano, fit in well with the movie’s already established star-studded cast.  The circus scenes were something to behold, and brought the 3D appeal to a whole new level.  The story is strong, pushed by the constant prowl of French Animal Control Captain Chantel DuBois, but the one thing that loyal Madagascar fans may not like is that the new characters are so strong and entertaining, they at times overshadow Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman, the four who started it all.  Truly, I hope a spinoff comes out down the road featuring the new characters outside of the Madagascar context.  This was overall a delight and a very fun way to spend the day!  Thanks to Dreamworks and Crowdtap for offering this fun opportunity!

 

Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way

On Thursday night, my boyfriend and I spontaneously made a voyage to Roscoe Village, specifically the Viaduct Theatre, nestled in by that useless overpass thing on North Western Avenue. The Viaduct is conveniently located, but not for me who can’t tell east from west sometimes, and led us at least a mile in the wrong way. So, we arrived an embarrassing 10 minutes late to Teatro Luna’s production of Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way, written and directed by Diana Rodriguez. Nevertheless, we were shuffled in to the theater and quickly found a seat- but not before I almost ran directly into a waist-high table. You know me, I like to make an entrance.
Table aside, we sat down in the middle of on-stage bickering between Lilly, played by Issabel Quintero, and Big Maria, played by Miranda Gonzales. The play focused on two pairs of Mexican sisters, Lilly and Nellie (Sandra Marquez), and Big Maria and Little Maria (Amanda delaGuardia). Lilly and Nellie, the older of the two pairs, feel confident in their assimilation into American life and culture, but The Marias (yup, two sisters with the same name) remain undocumented, struggle with English, and can’t seem to wrap their heads around Lilly and Nellie’s lifestyles. Nellie and her husband Sammy (Madrid St. Angelo) criticize Lilly for trying to help the Marias, even though it wasn’t so long ago that Nellie and Lilly were in a similar situation. Throughout the play, lots of laughs cover stories of pain, particularly for the protagonist Lilly, who hides her overdue bills and convoluted financial affairs in a closet, unwilling to deal with the results of her husband’s recent passing. The story is familiar, and the characters are both relatable and quirky. Nellie, with her outfits fit for a 14 year old and her whine, is the perfect compliment to Sammy, who couldn’t be more sleazy. Their visits to Lilly’s house, where the majority of the play takes place, bring color and laughs to the entire show. And The Marias have pinned the sister dynamic perfectly, picking back and forth in Spanglish, all the while dressed head to toe in velour. Lilly, with her over-the-top antics and desperate desire to show everyone that she is fine, effectively goes the motions of prosperity, happiness, and comfort, but shows her softer side in her relationship with The Marias and her struggle to grieve her dead husband.

Overall, I really enjoyed the show, although it wasn’t my favorite of Teatro Luna’s productions. I love supporting and seeing the work of Teatro Luna, the only all Latina theater company in the country, even when they do go outside of their usual premises, both physically by performing in another theater, and in that their cast included a male this time around. I do wish that the storyline about the Social Security Number (alluded to through tagline of the play- “What would you do for 9 little numbers that could change your life?”) had been slightly more developed through the first half of the play, since it was hard at first to tell where everything was going. Granted, I missed the first 5 minutes or more of the show, so there was likely something early on that I didn’t see. Overall, a fun night out, with a real-life twist that brought an important theme to the forefront of the minds of audience members.

Homespun

My roommates like to remind me of how homeschooled I am.  

That’s fine with me- it’s only an insult sometimes, and it’s never something I’m ashamed of.

Homeschooled doesn’t really refer to my education for them, it refers to how I live my life now.  

I was homeschooled til 8th grade (except for 3rd grade), and it was a mixture good and bad.  The good was so good; my mom was an incredible teacher and offered me a broad and strong education.  I was isolated at some points though, and it got lonely at times.

Anyone who knew me in 8th grade through high school knows it wasn’t a completely smooth transition. I was bullied.  I struggled with depression.  Body image.  Struggled to fit in.  These difficulties were definitely connected to being homeschooled, but were even more indicative of the moment that everyone must face, when the world loses little bits of its magic,and people are suddenly not assumed to always be nice.

By senior year things were much better, and I was eager to head off to college.  Now I’m done with college, and I feel like I am facing both endless possibility and endless limitations.  

I maintain many of the same values that my parents, particularly my mother, instilled in me while I was homeschooled.  We clipped coupons, shopped at thrift stores, and gardened.  Even though I told my grandpa when I was like 6 that I had never owned anything but hand-me-downs and thrift store clothes, we did have some new things too.  It was a nice balance that I try to incorporate into my life today.

This means that I will always shop the clearance racks.  And I will recycle the hell out of everything, if I can’t find a way to reuse it, that is.  I will clip and organize coupons.  I will use egg shells and banana peels in my garden.  I will have a garden.  I will cook with whole foods whenever possible. 

It’s not just about cutesy and cheap.  It’s about making sense out of consuming, and doing so in a healthy way.  My mom taught me to be respectful of the world around me from a young age, and being a little homespun is one way that translates to life today.  Tease me for wearing dresses I made, and for saving lightbulbs that are burnt out to make terrariums from, and for growing herbs in the window sill.  But I have no doubts that I will continue to wear homemade and thrifted clothes, have tiny plants inside repurposed containers, and enjoy fresh basil in my pesto. 

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