The visit with the parentals was very sweet, although the toilet issue was not satisfactorily resolved and we ended up with the old toilet back in place until a better fit could be found. But we had a great time--saw the movie, The Kids Are All Right, ate at Millenium, and hosted a musical gathering for them, so they could enjoy all our talented friends. We had piano, organ, guitar, bass, drums, viola, vocals, and when Bobby showed up, some dreamy sax. And barbecue, chili, and beer. Dad and my stepmother had a beautiful time, and were serenaded and honored.
And now it's back to work mode. I've been stressing about these workshops at the Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference--I taught there five years ago or so--maybe it was more like seven years ago--and it went fine, but sometimes I forget that I know what I know and I freak out and feel the need to re-invent the wheel. hence a 14-page lesson plan for one of the workshops, and a six-pager for the other. Hence some sleepless moments in the middle of the night.
I actually know that it will be fine, it always is, my workshops at Rowe were great this spring, but the people-pleasing co-dependent in me who thinks nothing is ever good enough is activated and on the alert. And all this over-preparing is taking me away from The Recruiter which is shaping up in really interesting, disturbing, and I think (I hope!) authentic ways.
We have also been watching the wonderful HBO series John Adams starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney--we finished it the other night after I insisted we watch all the special features which ended up taking us up to 1 in the morning. It's such phenomenal storytelling, and gives such a brutal, unsparing look at the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries--mastectomy without anesthesia anyone? What do teeth look like in a sixty-year-old who has had no real dental care?
The show raised more questions in me than it answered: I wondered especially about Thomas Jefferson who seemed a man of such great contradictions. Elegant, refined, brilliant--and a slave-owner. How could he hold the radical ideas about human rights and freedom which he wrote about and have the life he had? I went on-line and read a bit about him--six children born to his beloved wife, who died after the sixth birth--most of the children did not survive either. Death upon death upon death. The losses and trauma these people endured are incalculable. And this is our heritage. this is the basis on which our country was formed.
The Adams' also, were brilliant people but terrible parents. John's four children didn't fare well--two died alcoholic, his daughter died of breast cancer in her 40s after suffering the tortures of the damned. the son who became President, john Quincy Adams, described himself as a "cold rigid martinet." Two of his sons committed suicide in their twenties. Family patterns of depression and alcoholism, and cold, distant parenting ran through their descendants like blight.
It raises the age-old question, whether greatness is worth the sacrifices it entails? Would it be possible for a person to be happy and great, to attend to his or her intimate relationships, family, and some other worthy project without cheating anything of time or attention? They Adams', both husband and wife, put "duty to country" before their own children, with terrible results. But one could put "art" or "spiritual practice" or any other thing in there as well.
Meanwhile, we've been following with interest the Wikileaks revelations about Pakistan and Afghanistan. Does this mean we will pull out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later, and spare some service-people's lives? I hope so. I love Obama, (yes, I still do, I don't care if he's not perfect, and has been extremely disappointing in some ways, I still love him). But I have been concerned about his stance on Afghanistan ever since the campaign in '08. This is the wrong place to try to look tough or get tough. No one has ever beat the Afghans in their own country. It's a losing proposition. We should cut our losses and get out now before we sacrifice any more soldiers' lives to this futile war.
Also, Mr. Obama, while I have your ear, you need to soften up on the rhetoric around schools and "performance." A school is not a stock portfolio, or a professional corps de ballet. it doesn't "perform." It educates, nurtures, inspires, and provides a sustaining community for young people as they grow. At least that's what it's supposed to do. Again, this is the wrong place to try to sound tough. Save your toughness for those crazy Tea Partyers or something. Remember yourself as a teacher, and the societal problems they must address daily. Get back on their--on our--side, where you belong.