Kim Hedzik

Don't Blogger me, I'm writing.

The Instant Pot Shame Game

I listened to her boast about the multi-function one pot and I knew I’d been cast as the voice of Alexa Silver, i.e. Alexa for seniors. In my new role, I was reduced to monotoning, “Uh huh,’ to her every comment. I feigned enthusiasm for the Instant Pot for nine painful minutes before I volunteered to walk the dog in 10-degree weather.

“That thing will change your life,” claimed one.

The Instant Pot does it all,” said another.

“Best rice ever,” came the third.

Something must be wrong with me. I can’t get past the second page of directions telling me how to avoid scalding my face while using this groundbreaking device.

“Your brother used his Instant Pot the evening he got home from a 10-hour car ride in heavy snow,” she said.

“Uh huh,” I said.

“What about you?” she inquired.

“Ah… I haven’t taken it out of the box yet,” I confessed.

“Oh,” she sniffed.

“I will,” I rebounded.

“Uh huh,” she disagreed.

Another week went by with no Instant Pot debut.

“How’d you like the stew I served the other night?” she inquired.

“Good. Thanks for bringing that over,” I said.

“Made it in the Instant Pot,” she revealed.

“Uh huh,” I said. I couldn’t tell her I had doctored up her stew with red wine on the STOVE! 

This losing ping pong game went on for weeks until I drove by her house one afternoon and noticed she had a pile of pots and pans at the curb.

“What are you guys doing out here?” I demanded.

“She only has eyes for one pot anymore,” came the sad reply.

“No!” I declared as I stomped up to the front door with a large pasta pan tagging along behind me.

She greeted me with, “Oh hi honey.”

“Where’s dad?” I demanded.

Her face turned a bit pale, but she managed to say, “in the kitchen.”

I found him peeling potatoes and carrots for the hungry Instant Pot.

“What is the meaning of this?” I snarked at him as I held up a discarded pot from the curb. 

“Oh, hi honey,” came his breezy reply.

They had both been brainwashed by this intruder. This One who promised them everything they ever dreamed of instantly. This counterfeit savior promised minimal clean up and savory food in minutes without the dryness one expects from a microwave or the six-hour wait from a slow cooker.

“How can you abandon ship like this?” I asked.

“New things come along sweetheart,” the silver sneakers couple told me.

“Alexa, shuffle Sinatra,” my dad threw out.

“When did you get an Alexa?” I asked as the pot I’d been holding dropped slowly to my side from the weight of our conversation. Fly Me to the Moon, rang out from their newest acquisition and I eased myself into a chair.

“Your father and I are keeping up with the times,” she said smiling at me.

“Since when? You guys don’t even know how to open a browser on the iPad we bought you four years ago,” I wondered aloud.

It was then I realized the Instant Pot had stolen my parents. I had to get them back. No direct rationalization would work. I had to be clever. I had to out cook them. I bought myself a cast iron skillet. When his birthday came around, I baked a cake in it.

“Oh, this is tasty,” he said as he asked for seconds. “How’d you make it?”

“In a cast iron SKILLET. In the OVEN,” came my reply.

They both stopped eating.

“Well that’s something we haven’t tried in the Instant Pot, but we certainly will now,” they responded.

In the back of my pantry, in its original box, is a bread making machine my father was enamored with in the 90’s. There’s a cupcake spinner thingy that makes applying sprinkles less messy. And resting naked under the stove is a blending device with 59 parts to assemble and clean just to liquify one cup of hearty soup. There was a turn-the-dial-by-hand pasta making machine until my mother wanted it for herself. I happily gave it to her because I only used it once in 20 years. Before kids.

When I told my mother I didn’t want a Serious Mixer — the kind that stands on the counter looking impressive and has multiple blades and bowls and comes in fun colors – she sulked for six months.

“I have a $20 hand mixer I use for everything. It works well and I can put it away when I’m done,” I reasoned with her. 

“But what will you do when you make my pound cake…the recipe requires you to mix the batter for 15 minutes,” she pointed out.  

“I won’t make it,” I said.

“I’ve failed you,” she said as she closed her recipe book.

Every week or so I drag out the Instant Pot directions and try to muster up the enthusiasm to avoid third degree burns from splattering oil or rogue escaping steam. This multi-function, super versatile chamber pot will soon join the rest of my museum pieces. Meanwhile, I am building a fire out back to spit roast a chicken for dinner. My parents are coming over.


Home Decorating: Don’t Press My Insecurity Button

I have many pictures of stylishly decorated rooms in crazily over-priced homes that I keep in a folder called, “When we get a little time and money.” Until then, I’ve acquired other people’s unneeded furniture and accessories. The result: our house is an eclectic livable space with little to no distinguishable “brand.” I wrongly assumed that being a writer, having a natural affinity for accents, and having taken to the stage more than once, I should easily be able to extend my personal style into home decorating. Not so much.

My stress around this situation escalates prior to the holidays, birthday parties, or anytime my husband invites people over and only mentions it to me a couple hours before they arrive.

Three days before my son’s sixth birthday party, the sheer ugliness of our kitchen walls (peach-so dated!) propelled me to paint them (flax-so contemporary). I didn’t take into account prepping and trim work and passed out the night before the party at 9:00 pm with a half-painted room. My husband rescued me and stayed up way too late to finish the job. I think he was just getting into bed when the coffee pot went off.  Today he tells me how great our place looks, no matter how it really looks.

But here is how it looks now. A traditional brown entryway rug (collected along the way) welcomes visitors into our home. The conservative and tasteful rug suggests we may have pictures of hunting dogs on the wall. But instead we have a large contemporary wall clock that always reads 3:35.

Is that a hunting dog?

In what would be a formal living room, we have a black upright Baldwin piano. Good move right? But right next to that is a plastic train set, an antique sewing machine (my grandmother’s) and a modern multi-colored lamp that I bought at a design show, but later found out matches nothing at home.

Our slipcovered sofa (not really a slipcover gal) begs for appropriate coffee tables to share space with. Our windows cry out for “treatments” they know they will never receive. I have to remind them of their position. If anyone is going to receive a “treatment” around here, it better be me.

We enjoyed my grandmother’s cherry dining room table for many years until the chairs fell apart and we moved across the country. Now we sit on my mother-in-law’s dining room chairs and use her table.  She was downsizing and we were table-less and so goes my furniture acquisition story.

My burning desire for a well appointed home, doesn’t stop in the public rooms. Our master bedroom is a mish mash of furniture and color. This causes me to snarl and pout every so often – usually right after I’ve been to someone’s newly renovated home in an impossibly upscale neighborhood.

My grandmother’s oak bedside tables are perfectly serviceable, but I could really do without the huge front doorknockers that serve as handles. The cherry antique armoire looks down on the ebony IKEA bookshelf. The floor lamp laughs at the ceiling where recessed light should be.

I recently found what I consider to be a stylish chair with a modern tan and brown circle pattern. It doesn’t match our 12-plus year old yellow and blue tiny flowered bedspread at all. Until I find a suitable replacement bedspread, which could be a year or more, we’ll just live with this situation. After awhile, we will forget that the spread doesn’t match and there you have it. Another decorating disaster persists.

Swirly Chair

And with no headboard on our bed, I’m considering painting one on the wall. NO ONE in my family thinks this is a good idea. But it strikes me as a creative, fun and a completely original way to “furnish” the room. Probably someone already came up with this idea, mastered it to perfection and pinned it. I’ll check that out right after this.

If you visit us, I’ll be slightly nervous that you are a far better decorator than I am. I might resist giving you a tour of the house. I might even suggest we go out. But once I calm down, I will come to my senses and realize that people are more important than things. And I will remind myself that you are far more forgiving of my imperfections than I am. And we will cook some food, eat outside on the second hand patio table and laugh until it gets late and dark. And that experience will make all our furniture look much much better.

Until then, please let me know if you’ve ever successfully painted furniture onto your wall.


Reading Malcolm Gladwell

I am in the middle of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath. This is my second Gladwell book and I’ve skimmed another one or two. I see his fascination with events and people who don’t fit the mold. I hear him trying to understand how things turn out well for the marginalized–the disadvantaged. And who are these people? Depending on your circumstances, the year you were born, or how your brain is wired, it could be you. That’s what I like about Gladwell. The subject is both the winner and the loser at any given moment.

In my case, I am reading about dyslexia in chapter four-ish or something. I have some family members who have been diagnosed with dyslexia and others whom the rest of us speculate have it, if not something far more devastating.

As it is with Gladwell, he paints a complex picture of the dyslexic child turned adult who would probably never have succeeded, to the degree they have, if not for this disadvantage. Which makes him argue, that in their case, dyslexia is an advantage. He goes on to note several well-known, successful entrepreneurs who are dyslexic. Apparently, at least one third of all entrepreneurs are dyslexic.

I am feeling a lot better about someone in my family. All the dots are connecting for me. Suddenly, what I saw as a balloon with a slow leak might actually be a rocket preparing for lift off. But that’s how it is with me. I read something and cling onto it too tightly. But at least for that day, the world made sense to me.

Then I read paragraph six. “One third of all prison inmates are also dyslexic.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Success or imprisonment? I suppose the other one third are living perfectly ordinary lives working in utterly normal jobs with no problems. But these percentages probably describe the bulk of humanity. And even if these percentage are meaningful, how can I be assured that my loved one ends up in the preferred percentage? Of course I can’t. And I hate that.

So we attend parent education workshops on diagnosing and managing dyslexia and its cousins ADD and ADHD. We talk to educators, tutors, and adults in the workplace who have been diagnosed and function quite well. At the end of the day, we circle back to the idea that we have very little control over a lot of what happens. Even with the best interventions, you can’t guarantee your child or family member will end up being the founder of Virgin Records instead of an inmate at San Quentin. But at least we are well informed. Prepared to act. And this brings some comfort. As does reading Gladwell.

And here’s why: He uncovers something you thought was a bad thing and convinces you it could be a good thing. That’s what reading Gladwell is like. He turns your thinking all around. And in the end, you can find hope in the tiny crevice of possibility he reveals. At least that’s how it is with me.

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We Can’t Help You:)

Disclaimer:  I think this only works in the South.

Being the mom of a special needs child, I am used to hearing the word ‘no’ from vendors, providers, and especially insurance companies.  But this time it was different.  I felt so happy to hear it.  I left an urgent, informed and determined message with a special needs equipment vendor in Chattanooga.  I knew it was a long shot that this guy could help me and I wanted him to know I was a safe risk. I presented my case:  If he could just order a piece of demo equipment for my son, I could guarantee it would work because it was the same device we’d had before only one size larger. I offered to pay return shipping if, for any reason, it didn’t work out. Maybe only two days later, this charming man returned my call.

1. Begin with a compliment.  “Hello Ms. Hedzik.  What a pleasure to receive your well-spoken message.  You are obviously an intelligent woman who knows what she wants.  How I wish we had more customers like you right here in Chattanooga.” With an intro like that he could have told me I owed him $500 and I’d have said let me wire you the money immediately.

2. Answer objections honestly. This warm Southern gentleman answered all my questions directly and honestly, even to the point of sharing anecdotal vendor stories that should never be repeated. He empathized with my struggle. I understood his position. It didn’t make sense for him to order the demo unit for us.  But what to do next?  He educated me on how to work with the system to get what I needed.  He was helpful. I was hopeful.

3. Make another offer. Knowing I was not from the South, he saw an opportunity to sell me on the historical town where he lived and worked.  I listened with growing interest to all the plugs for this Southern gem that I had never seen.  I was taking in the wisdom of his advice to slow down and look around.  On every level.  I was half way to packing my things for a weekend away, when my rebellious, compulsive-obsessive neurons overtook my limited serotonin receptors. What about my son’s equipment? I had to find it before I could rest!  But now that I had a friend for life in Tennessee, I could look forward to a fun, historical family getaway sometime.

I would not be the least bit surprised if my new friend took all five of us out to dinner and paid for our accommodations at the nicest B & B in town.  Some of you are laughing out loud right now because you know how naive I can be.  But even if all his charm was just the Southern way of saying NO, I’ll take it.  I never felt better about being turned away:)


Top Five Secrets of Successful Mothering

For the last 16 years, I’ve been a member of The Club.  Not the Country Club. The Mom’s Club.  My membership status has changed over time.  I started at the Bronze level (one child) and now I’ve bumped up to Gold (three kids plus some issues).

With my first child, I started out believing in Attachment Parenting.  That’s when you Velcro your child to your side and meet their every need almost before they know they have one.  Works well with one child. As the number of children in our family grew, however, I could no longer attach them all to me.   Child number one did not like this detachment phase one bit.  But I had to sleep at some point, preferably alone.

I read books about Setting Boundaries, Raising Spirited Kids, Emotional Intelligence, The Baby Whisperer, Calmer Parenting and the like.  I was creating my own PhD program because I wanted to do this thing as best I could.  What to do with all that information?  Nearly two decades and three kids later, one with special needs, I have this to offer:

1. It really is either them or you.  And you better choose you because with the number of times they call your name in a day, they obviously can’t live without you.  When you really need to get something done, tell your kids not to disturb you unless their hair catches on fire or they are bleeding from the head. Keep a straight face or this will never work.

I used to think this was Abandonment Parenting. Now I think of it as creating space for them to learn a vital life skill:  coping.  And we all have to cope with inconveniences.  Think of this tactic as a way to help your kids develop an, “I can do this” attitude rather than a “Wendy Whiner.”

If you must get involved, simply restate the problem.  “I see that you can’t agree with your sister on which television show to watch. Sounds like a problem that only a mature first grader with an overextended parent could solve. Have at it. I have to administer rectal Valium to your brother who is having a seizure. “

2.  When it comes to homework, pretend you are stupid.  You can avoid hours of unnecessary work if you admit that you don’t know what two plus three is.  Let them help you figure it out. They will feel superior to you and proud of themselves.  Bonus:  You get to model humility, which will be critical for them to develop when they become teens and repeatedly tell you you’ve become “irritating.”  In time, you won’t have to pretend you don’t understand the math, because you really won’t.  And later you can use this technique to have them handle insurance billing problems and online purchase fiascos that you’d rather not handle yourself.

3.  With regard to eating, go ahead.  You’ll need the energy.  Here is my secret diet plan.  Coffee in morning, chocolate in the afternoon, wine at night.  My doctor gave me the green light on the coffee saying anyone with three kids really has to. I added the other items for survival.  And yes, feed the kids too.  I find they like snacks better than meals.  So give up the cookbooks and get out the cheese sticks.  I made eggplant parmesan from scratch one day in an effort to change things up bit.  They were less than enthusiastic about my culinary adventure.  The next night I offered pancakes. They were thrilled.  If you want something special and fabulous to eat, go out to dinner with your husband or lunch with your girlfriends.

4.  Keep compliments to a minimum.  Save it for when you are really impressed with something they did.  “I can’t believe you remembered that girl’s name even though it’s been a year since you’ve seen her!  What a memory you have.”  Now that’s real and you are impressed because you can’t remember the names of the nine members of your book club who you’ve seen every month for a year now.  Think of Gru’s mother from Despicable Me 1 where she is completely underwhelmed by Gru’s attempts to build a rocket out of macaroni. She comes back to him at the end of the movie with a compliment on being a good parent. Save compliments for when it really counts.

5.  Try to screw up in front of your children.   Why would I willingly have a fight with (fill in the blank) in front of my kids and risk looking bad?  For the opportunity to show them how to recover from mishaps with courage and grace.  If they see you apologize to your husband for yelling at him because he forgot to cancel the Netflix account again THIS month, they will learn the power of forgiveness.  That people are more important than things.  Even more important than saving money!

6. Don’t be afraid to break form. (I know this is six, but think of it as a baker’s half-dozen.)  There will be times when you will have to use a gentle hand.  You’ll know when. It will be when they are too tired, weepy, confused, angry or hungry to make sense.  One thing is certain:  they need you to love them full on and drop all previously stated advice.

Meet their gaze, hold them in your arms, and let them talk or be silent. Maybe this is the time to share an important life lesson. Or not.  Attach yourself to them.  Get them some clean clothes to wear, make them a nice meal.  Give a compliment you’ve been meaning to share.  NOW is the time.

The Take Away.  If your kids see you learning, growing and trying, it shows them it’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out, as long as you are willing to admit that and keep working on it. Kids give a lot of credit to the parent who strives.  My oldest daughter, at age five or so, told her father, “Mom is really trying to know what she is talking about Dad.  I saw her reading a book about how to be a better parent.”


The Goldilocks Paradox

While house hunting in the South, we stumbled across a beautiful old “plantation” sitting on a small lake. Being from San Francisco, the land of million dollar fixer uppers, we were smitten with this expansive house and it’s horseless pasture. Our family of five pulled right up into the circular driveway and waited for the doorman to arrive. But the house appeared to be empty—apart from the dining room furniture and a few rugs and ornate curtains. We walked the property and pressed our noses onto the glass where we could.

Then it happened. We tried one of the doors. It was unlocked. Was this an agent oversight or were people still living here? Our eyes drew open wide and we found ourselves faced with the Goldilocks Paradox.  We slipped inside for a better look hoping the porridge was still hot. Our seven- year old warned us that this was highly unacceptable behavior, but we simply glossed over the underlying message and let our curiosity lead us into the formal dining room. Another proud parenting moment.

The 10-foot ceilings, double crown molding, ornate wallpaper were, at first, entirely too much for our functional, work-a-day expectations. In place of beds, we found cushioned window seats but no one dared to sleep. Instead of rocking chairs, we found signs of formal entertaining. All breakable. But having learned something from the familiar children’s story (if not the intended message) we touched not a thing.

All too late we noticed the security system. Goldilocks never had to contend with that! The movement detectors made a beeping sound. We dropped to the floor and combat crawled to the master bedroom closet – which easily fit us all.  Of course, we should have run from the house screaming sotto voce. But we were first time burglars so we waited for the police to arrive and arrest us. We fashioned our own handcuffs from the owner’s belts before we realized no one was coming.
Slowly we rose up from the closet floor and breathed a sigh of relief. We finished our clandestine, self-guided tour and left as discreetly as we could.

Later we discovered the frightening truth. The house was always being watched. Not by an electric security system but by the owner’s family who lived a stone’s throw away.

Oh the laughter they must have enjoyed watching us let ourselves in, falling to the floor in fear and leaving again thinking we were clever and lucky. They were kind enough not to mention it during our official tour of the house sometime later that week.  Now that we live in this place we shake our heads at our dumb luck.  But we never leave the doors unlocked, nor do we eat porridge or own rocking chairs, for fear of people just like ourselves.


From Stage Mom to Soccer Mom in Three Easy Steps

For the first 30 years of my life I successfully ignored all team sports.  “What a great season we’re having,” meant aren’t the leaves beautiful to photograph in fall or isn’t the powder great for skiing.  My interests were in theater, books, music and the arts. My world was populated with terms like, costume change, rehearsal, and tech week.  I found the TV’s mute button to be very helpful during televised football games.  To my husband’s credit, he joined me at the theater and only fell asleep twice per show – once in the first act and once in the second.

Then we had a child who turned out to be very much like her father.  She enjoyed climbing structures, taking physical risks, kicking a ball.  It occurred to her father that she might enjoy soccer.  I was ambivalent.  I hoped she might be in the school play.  He signed her up for a co-ed recreational league when she was five.  She was more aggressive and substantially more coordinated than many of her teammates – boys or girls.  Eventually the co-ed team became just her and the boys. Other parents told me how skilled she was and I thought they just wanted free tickets to the next stage production I was involved in.

Step One:  Learn the proper vernacular or keep your mouth shut.  I drove her to practice, but frequently called it rehearsal. When she could not find her uniform, I asked where she left her costume.  When she asked what color she was, I told her Caucasian. I watched other parents and wondered silently how they knew when to clap, comment or remain silent. There were no obvious cues.  I soon learned that when two girls collide, fight for the ball and mine gets pushed down, I should not yell, “Hey watch out!  That’s my kid you’re pushing around sister!”

Step Two: Generalize sports concepts to something you already understand. This daughter of mine went on to play competitive soccer with traveling teams.  She gently taught me the ropes.  Patiently explaining game strategy, player placement, and the completely confounding idea of “off sides.” She scored goals. She assisted in many. She became known for her corner kicks. I began to see team sports in a new light.  In many ways, it is a stage production where every player has her role and it comes together as each individual does her part.  But on the field, there is no script. One must be flexible and aware.  Much like an improv theater experience.  I began to see Carly as a player of consequence.  A substantial member of her team.  Even when she changed teams along the way, she slipped in and made a difference to the overall production based on her ability to judge the game and make good decisions. Trophies and ribbons adorn her room.

Step Three:  Associate with others who know the game. In the beginning of my daughter’s career, I was the kind of mom who nearly earned a red card by watching the game from behind the goal.  Tip: not cool. I soon learned to sit near parents who had high sports savvy scores.  I followed their lead, asked questions. Eventually, I adopted the proper lingo, wore appropriate clothes to the game, brought the right kind of chair.

Actors are chameleons and can learn to adopt any role with hard work and study.  Soccer mom was just another role I was cast to play.   I have been transformed from a mom who tried unsuccessfully to organize soccer sing-a-longs, to a mom who can use terms like “settle it,” “first to the ball,” “trap it” with confidence.

A latent competitive DNA molecule was emerging in me.  I found myself watching professional soccer on television with keen interest.  In person, I watched the Stanford women’s soccer team while my daughter was busy running through the bleachers with her friends and missed all the useful pointers I was happily blurting out.  She texted her friends on the way home while I cheerfully chatted with myself about the quality of play I had witnessed on the field.

For me to guide my daughter in her future athletic career, I have a lot more to learn:  The nuances in soccer style from coast to coast or country to country. Which colleges draw female athletes and offer substantial scholarships? Who are the emerging super coaches for women’s soccer?  But there is still time to learn about all that.  Right now the seasons are changing and we all know what that means!


The Hidden Hazards of Shower Doors

There is a serious safety issue out there that I am sure most Americans are unaware of.  This concern was brought to my attention by my husband who is normally not too concerned.

When we moved into our new “built in 1962” house, I immediately noticed that the bathrooms were furnished with standard issue sliding shower doors.  I have a strong aversion to these doors and the metal tracks that hold them.  So I asked my husband to remove the unsightly doors from our three showers so that I could replace them with lovely, overpriced shower curtains made from imported fabric.  Mr. Practical decided instead to simply clean one door—hoping to convince me of its beauty.

I was busy doing something vitally important, which I can not recall right now, when all of a sudden I heard a loud explosion.  Fearful for my husband’s life, I stayed in the kitchen with my eyes closed hoping this sound meant nothing.

A few minutes later, my husband appeared in the kitchen with a surprised and worried look on his face.  Apparently, the door was angry with him and to get back at him, it exploded into 100,000 tiny Plexi glass pieces.  Either that, or no one had ever cleaned it before, which is another good reason to remove it.

Well this was obviously a one-time bizarre occurrence, he assured me, and he would use a less powerful cleaning agent on the next door.  But the second door heard what the first door did and in a show of solidarity, it burst open spraying bits and pieces of itself everywhere.   Imagine the pent up anger.

As if this is not worrisome enough, consider how many Americans, and maybe even Europeans, clean their shower doors while they are naked in the shower.  It is certainly more convenient than getting all wet and bending this way and that to reach inside the shower.  Should your door become angry and explode all over you while you are in this compromised position, I dare say we will see all kinds of lawsuits.  And many more curtains. In our case, we clearly got the message and left the third shower door in place.

It turned out to be the favorite shower in the house.  I guess it was proud of itself having been the one surviving shower door and as such it took a position of royalty.  Guests loved it – not having their toiletry bag fight for best fabric award with a trendy shower curtain.  Children tussled to receive the green light to take a shower in the extra bathroom.  Added bonus: the shower head was height adjustable so kids were more comfortable and tall people need not worry that only half their body was getting clean.  Remarkably, the shower door never once threatened to explode on us no matter if we were naked, clothed, or otherwise.  Sometimes we even wished that we had not removed the other doors whose showers now had curtains flapping in the breeze to their own odd rhythms.

The “third door” served us well for eight plus years and I am sad to say we had to leave it behind when we relocated to another part of the country.  The new owner will undoubtedly wrestle with redecorating and updating the house so I am mailing them a helmet and full-body safety suit with complete instructions and a link to this blog posting. May the best sport win, but my bets are on the door.

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Redefining High School: The New College

As the search for high schools got underway, my friend and her 8th grade daughter had to endure what I think of as an emotional root canal.  Minus the anesthesia.  First select your institutions. Shadow visit each high school that you might want to attend.  Fill out multiple online forms for each school.  Write an essay on why this or that high school, not university, should seriously think about accepting you into their prestigious institution. Answer personal and invasive questions, especially if you apply for financial aid, which you will because tuition may run about $30,000 a year, more or less.

Now it’s time to upload, download, scan and perform other technologically time consuming exercises. These are put in place to streamline the process no doubt, but often serve only to make you question just how much you really want to attend said school.  Then there’s the test preparations. One must first be tutored to increase test scores which are inevitably too low no matter how high they are. Once you have paid a lot of money and spent every weekend and evening of your eight grade fall semester learning how to take the  test, you take the test.  Then you take it again to see if you can raise your score even more. This process increases your adrenaline, burns all your B-vitamins and reduces your self-esteem.  Now that you’ve increased your test score by a full 9 points, you wonder if maybe becoming a dentist is really worth it.  Especially since you could become an academic and administer an equally challenging admissions procedure without the needles and extra years of dental school.

It’s necessary to point out that this friend of mine lives in one of the largest and most vibrant cities on the West coast. An international destination. A city full of competition, culture and limited parking.   Not a place where public school is a sensible option.  This 8th grader has spent nine years in an independent, all girls school.  Naturally, she has been exposed to the extreme diversity a private school offers.  She was surrounded by the offspring of upper crust, Ivy League grads whose social connections resemble the Forbes Top 50 Most Successful People list.  The academic training was top notch.  Expansive and inclusive.  Mind-broadening and spirit-enhancing. Who wouldn’t love it.

By contrast, my friend’s daughter is a gal who’s parents are acupuncturists.  Chinese medicine gurus. Healers.  They don’t own a house let alone live in one.  A city flat serves as both a home and an office depending on the time of day. This allows them to afford the private K-8th grade school, ballet lessons, and vacations.  These friends of mine are hard working, college grads who want their daughter to have a shot at a reasonably secure and fulfilling future.  Who can argue with that?

And so the frenzy to select a private high school continues.  And that high school better feed into a name brand university which produces graduates who may or may not know themselves well enough to function in the world that is being defined and redefined as I write this.  Some reports indicate that as many as 50 percent of college freshman have to take basic math and English to regain skills lost to the SAT testing monster or to the merciless pursuit of extra curricular activities that they may or may not even enjoy.  Or, they may know the facts, but can not apply them to real world problems.  I recently heard that seven out of 10 jobs that current 8th graders will have available to them upon college graduation have yet to be created.  How can one prepare for that?

My very own 8th grader may have some insight.  She recently gave me this sage advise regarding technology:  “Just click around.  That’s how I’ve learned. By clicking the wrong button.” She is telling me that one learns by making mistakes?  Maybe she will be okay in this new world that has yet to be created. Maybe that age old wisdom will still be true in another six-10 years. But just in case, I think I’ll have her apply to a few carefully scrutinized private high schools.


The 12 Days of Christmas

Written for those of us who just can’t get past the holidays without a little hick-up of depravity. Please sing the appropriate music.  You know the tune.

On the 12th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

12 Mumblers Mumbling

11 Diapers Drying

10 Doors-a-Squeaking

9  Wounds-for-Lancing

8  Traders Bilking

7  Lawns o-need-a Trimming

6  Priests a Praying

5  Moldy Things

4  Appalling Words

3  Hench Men

2  Purple Rugs

and a Colonoscopy.

Merry Christmas!

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