Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waiting For Superman

There are children in the United States who have to enter a lottery system to determine whether if they'll get into a school which will provide them with a good education.  I learned this from watching Oprah's show on the new documentary "Waiting For Superman."  I realize that problems within the educational system in our country is not something new, but I had no idea how bad it is.  According to Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, we used to lead the world in college graduates and now we are ranked 9th.  The rest of the world is surpassing the United Sates when it comes to education.  I live in a county which is known for its good school system.  My son just started a new high school with state of the art equipment and facilities.  My children appear to be getting the education they need to go to college.  However, Oprah brought up the fact that when the rest of the children in America aren't getting the education they need it ultimately affects our whole country and our future.   A good education should be available to every U.S. citizen.

We often hear of the inner city kids who are involved with gangs and drugs and their parents are on crack. There a lot of kids though who yearn for a good education and are stuck in the cycle of having bad teachers who don't believe in them and make learning tedious.  Most people have had at least one bad teacher during their education.  These teachers are protected by the apathy of their school district and the union that supports their poor efforts. If they worked anywhere else they would have been fired within a few months. There are also a lot of good teachers who are making a difference and being grossly underpaid.

Superman is a fictional character, but what he represents is real: justice, compassion, strength and courage. You don't have to wear a cape and tights and be able to fly to make a difference in the world.  There are real life supermen and women doing good things in our country.  Geoffrey Canada, Founder Harlem Children's Zone is dedicated to improving education in America.  Geoffrey says, it needs to be a group effort from the unions, teachers and parents to make a change.  I know I'm guilty of not giving 100%.  I have volunteered at my children's schools and make sure they do their homework, but I know I could be doing more. gives some tips on how to make a difference in education.  What have you done or what can you do to make a change?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Monica Jorge

Two years ago Oprah interviewed Monica Jorge whom she has dubbed the "Warrior Mom".  I clearly remember Monica because I was amazed by her indomitable spirit.  Her body was attacked by a flesh-eating bacteria just days after the birth of her second child.  Doctors had to amputate both of her arms and legs.  She didn't throw herself a pity party which I personally would have been inclined to do.  She does the best with what she has.  She is one of those guests I don't want to forget so I felt it was important to write about her.

Oprah brought Monica back on her show last week to follow up with her and see what her typical day is like.  She lives in a modest rental apartment with her husband and 12 and 3 year old daughters.  Her kitchen cabinets and drawers don't have handles so she has to pry them open with a spoon or have help from her children.  As part of her making wildest dreams come true show Oprah will be purchasing a home for her family and making sure it fits her needs.  Decorating extraordinaire and cutie, Nate Berkus, will be decorating the home and featuring it on his new show. To my husband's dismay I have become a fan of Nate's show as well.

We all have obstacles to overcome at times.  Some people's obstacles are far worse than others.  I learn from people like Monica what the human spirit is capable of and it makes my obstacles look like grains of sand instead of the giant mountain I've made them out to be.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Judds

Oprah kicked off her first week of her farewell season with mother and daughter country legends, Wynonna & Naomi Judd.  They are famous for their no holds barred conversations about each other.  The dynamics of mother and daughter relationships can be difficult.   The Judd women tend to provoke each other which is something I know a little bit about in raising my own daughter.  Naomi says she has learned to be nonresistant and invitational instead of confrontational.  Wynonna says she started to study photos of her mother before she was born and really wants to get to know her as a person instead of being reactive to her.   When your a kid I think it's difficult to see your parents as anything other than your parents.  I love to look at old photos of my parents and grandparents and get a glimpse into what their life was like prior to me.

Wynonna has been asked why she is willing to go on Oprah and air her dirty laundry.  Her response was, "I'm willing to teach through my mistakes and my victories."  The Judds shared some communication tips they've learned through therapy.  The following are some of the tools that have helped them communicate better with each other.

  • ask the other person if this is a good time to talk to them
  • repeat back what you hear the other person saying
  • ask for a do over if you want to retract something you've said
  • validate the other person by telling them that you understand why they feel a certain way
I need to post these by my kitchen desk so I remember to use them in communicating with my own family.  Thanks for the free therapy session Wynonna and Naomi.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Laura Bush

A local seven year old boy died recently from a car accident.  He was leaving school and was struck by an SUV while trying to cross the street between two stopped cars.  I don't know who was driving the SUV, but chances are it was a parent picking up their child from school.  The boy wasn't at a crosswalk and it was difficult to see him because of the parked cars.  I feel for the family that lost their son. I can't imagine the pain they are feeling.  When I heard of the accident, I immediately said a prayer for the person that was driving the car that hit him.  It was an accident, but I can't imagine living with the burden of knowing you caused the death of a child.  You might be wondering how does all of this tie in with Oprah.

I recently watched her interview with former first lady, Laura Bush, which aired a long time ago.  Mrs. Bush was the driver in a car accident when she was 17 years old that killed a good friend of hers .  It's something she'll obviously never forget. She said that after it happened her parents got caught up in the "what if's" game.  She has learned that what if's are futile.  Laura Bush said, "What happens is what happens.  There are things that happen that you can't control and that you can't change as much as you would want to ever." I need to continually remind myself of the importance of that statement.  There are things in life you'll never forget, but you can move on and live your best life instead of dwelling on the past.  I believe Laura Bush is a good testimony to that fact.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Would You Do?

I can't remember when this show aired, but it was one of those hidden camera scenarios where situations are created to see how people will react to them.  Unfortunately, these weren't funny moments that the Ellen show will sometimes create to get a laugh.  We are talking Oprah here.  Not that she can't be funny, but her show has a more serious tone.  In one scene teenage girls being mean to another girl were videotaped to see if anyone would stop and intervene to help the lone girl being bullied.  Many men walked on by, but various women stopped to help.  The women found themselves stooping to the teenagers level often mimicking their body language to get their point across.   I have to admit, I would also find it hard to keep my body language out of it after witnessing the cruel words and attitude being thrown around.  I am three quarters Italian after all.  Psychologist, Carrie Keating, talked about social aggression among girls and how words hurt for a long time compared to a bruise. According to Carrie,   it's important to praise ourselves in a positive way.  It's funny how I can remember something mean someone may have said to me 20 years ago, but I don't remember any physical scrapes or cuts.  The exception to that would be when I picked up a razor in the shower by it's blade.  Not too smart on my part.  

They also videotaped a Muslim girl at a bakery who was refused service and verbally abused.  Many people were indifferent and offered no help to the woman and some even sided with the store clerk.  It was very disheartening to watch the discrimination.  In another scene, a woman was visibly drunk and trying to get into her car with two young kids.  A group of people who were strangers to each other intervened and one of the men took her keys away.  It showed how sometimes it just takes one person to step up to the plate to get others involved.  

There are risks involved whether big or small when you choose to intervene in a heated situation.  I think Oprah said it best when she made the comment that it doesn't matter whether if you're American or from a different country. We are all still human beings and deserve to be treated as such. 

 - "It's not hatred that kills people it's indifference."  -  Eli Wiesel