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Friday, October 31, 2014

Marijhuana, Newton’s Third Law, Redemption, Remorse, and Child-rearing

Birds of a feather tend to flock together.
How can we help them to stretch their wings and fly?

The daughter of a close friend of mine was found with marihuana in the glove compartment of her car on school property recently.  This was a serious violation of state law as well as school code.  State Police remanded her to school for discipline because of the amount and it was her first offense. She was placed on a ten-day suspension until her hearing with the school was scheduled.
In preparation for that meeting, my friend asked if I would write a character recommendation for her daughter. I agreed, but asked permission to share her story (maintaining anonymity, of course).  It was a wake-up call for the everyone involved. Both my friend and her daughter wanted to do anything they could to help steer any other family from this emotional and destructive experience.
The hearing was this morning. The outcome involves counseling, abstinence from drug use (random drug-testing) and the loss of the use of her car on campus. Her family is devising a few of their own rules, I suspect.

School Administrator
Hearing Affidavit 
                                                                                 Oct. 28, 2014
To Whom It May Concern:

     I am writing on behalf of Ellen Rose, a young woman whom I have known for her entire life.  It has come to my attention that she has made some disappointing choices concerning drug use and the friends with whom she has been associating.  Not withstanding some of her recent behaviors, I can attest to Ellen’s character; she comes from a responsible family and was raised within an exemplary code of honor and values.
     From an early age, Ellen was taught the importance of responsibility, of work and of fiscal independence.  Her parents fostered her initiative when she started a pet-care business at the age of nine. She still has clients to this day.  When both Ellen and her parents agreed she was ready to babysit, she took the Babysitting Course offered through the Red Cross.            
Ellen’s nurturing nature was put to good use, not only doing weekend sitting jobs. At thirteen, she had inspired enough confidence in several local families that, during the summer, they entrusted the care of their children to Ellen during the workday.  (Delia, Ellen’s mother, was always on call for any emergencies).  Ellen has had a singular goal for years; she has wanted to be the owner of her own salon.  She was excited to be accepted into a technical high school program because she hoped to learn the skills she would need to work in, and manage, her own business.
       At present, it appears Ellen’s moral compass seems to have faltered. Perhaps Ellen has been doing some behavioral experimenting as she steps out from the shadow of her two older, and successful, sisters. Over the past four years, Ellen has sought to understand who she is relative to her family, her friends and her community.  It has been a difficult road for her, culminating in this eye-opening crash with reality. Ellen is devastated to have let down her parents, her siblings, her grandparents, and, of course, the people that believed in and trusted her at theTechnical Program.
     It is at this moment she needs us most.  If we believe that  Ellen has the potential to contribute to society in a meaningful way, we need to help her find her way back –teach her to use this experience as a springboard to maturity.  Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich wrote, “Every adversity , every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” What can we do to nurture that seed?
A close friend of mine has worked for Sumner Redstone, Chairman of Viacom for decades.  Sumner came from nothing, and now, in his nineties, is worth $6.2 billion.  Sumner says that, “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration.  Sometimes, it’s built on catastrophe.” This is a unique opportunity for Ellen to experience failure and reshape it into success.  For that to happen, we have to believe in her.

          I am a strict adherent ofNewton’s Third Law… that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  With every mistake, there must be consequences.  However, the consequences must be thoughtful and measured when they come to altering the life path of a young woman.  This is a unique opportunity for school administrators to preserve Ellen’s fragile spirit and nurture it so that she can grow into her personal definition of greatness. Let’s not make the mistake of allowing what could be no more than a footnote in her life-story to become the overarching theme of a lifetime. She need not be condemned to repeat a cycle of behaviors that are destructive and borne out of low self-esteem. We can see Ellen struggling to gain attention from her family and her peers.  To get the most out of our children, we need to expect more, believe more and remind them more that they are capable of more than they believe possible.  Let’s teach Ellen how to earn our respect and gain self-respect. I respectfully submit the request that Ellen’s consequences be designed to teach her that the adults in her life see she has worth and that redemption is possible in the presence of true remorse. 


Dawn Elise Evans

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Look What Washed In With the Tide

A selfie of the author in two wetsuits and her pink bathing cap.
         The tide was racing in this morning, the undertow was stronger than I ever remember it at Town Beach. I felt myself swept off my feet and pulled out in seconds. Town Beach is generally tame enough for little children. The thermometer that I placed in the water read 61degrees this morning, the 18th of October; the ocean is cooling down  several degrees every
 few days.  Just three days ago it was 64 degrees.  I keep a close eye on how low can I go. I try to get out the water for as many mornings as possible. It seduces me to do my own variety of aerobics - an odd combination of swimming, jogging and stroking. I like walking into the ocean without hesitation or stutter. I like pretending I cannot feel the icy grip of it at my ankles or the rising chill of it as it glides between my wetsuit and my skin.  I started wearing two wet suits in the beginning of October.  The double insulation makes the time I spend submersed more bearable. 
          I would be remiss if I did not mention the lingering members of the Polar Bear Club congregate outside my window at Inkwell Beach, often they are out when I am. During weekday mornings they range from three to eight in number.  The Polar Bear Club grew to 83 strong last summer.  At this time of year, there are just a few die-hard women who are right outside the window of my condo. It seems that people dedicated to exercise, water, and the satisfaction of working out with friends gravitate toward the Polar Bear Club. Did I mention they sing for the thirty to forty minutes they are in the ocean doing aerobics? Jacob’s Ladder, and other traditional songs start them off.  Counting, scales, anything to distract them from the seriously cold water. They have repeatedly invited me I join them.  I am intimidated and uncharacteristically shy. I do my own little thing for twenty minutes and I am out.
          When I was in the grocery store this afternoon, I overheard two women talking. One of the women swims over at the East Chop Beach Club.  I stick to my stretch along Town Beach.  While I walk, with the water up to my chest, I keep a keen eye out for what moves below. I see a landscape as beautiful as any I have seen. The sand forms perfect moguls, rippling for as far as I can see. The sand arranges itself in the perfect inverse of the waves above it. I like to watch the sunlight pierce the waves as clouds race across the palette of the sky above.  There is a sandbar, that, when I time the wind and the tides just right, I can step up and suddenly be knee deep, no more pushing forward to press through the water at chest height. A reprieve.  Then back to the hard work.  I find my mark on land – I go from the landmarks of the jetty to the Ocean Park bandstand then turn back again.  Usually, that turn is back into the waves.
          I persist. It is cold. The waves slap down the front of my wetsuits. I make it a habit of wearing a pink or white bathing cap – something anyone walking above me on the sidewalk might see if I were to come under attack by seagulls, Canadian geese or ensnared in seaweed.  My most fervent hope would be that, were I swept out to sea, someone, anyone, on the shore might catch a glimpse of my white or pink cap and call for reinforcements.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Keeping An Eye on Things

Keeping an Eye on Things.
Glasses, glasses everywhere.

I have now convinced myself that I need to have my eyes checked.
It’s not just the food I ordered that was never delivered -- that came about because I read my credit card incorrectly. Matters were complicated when the restaurant tried to reach me and they, on their end, had written down my phone number incorrectly. By the time we sorted it all out, it was after 9pm.  I had a bowl of cereal and went to bed.  Nor is it the messages that I have left on the wrong phones (this I know because some people have been kind enough to call and tell me.) I have been able to live with being unable to read cooking instructions on boxes, cans and cookbooks because I keep a pair of glasses from 1995 in the kitchen drawer -- and who knew strangers would be so kind and read them for me in the store?  When I try to forgo my glasses, mistakes happen. I doubled the water in a rice mix,  misread how many dish cubes were required to use in a new dishwasher, and have carefully transcribed receipt totals into my checkbook only to discover the bank had a different amount for the transaction.  Thus far, in such matters, the bank has been correct. On at least two occasions, I have entered my doctors’ appointments in my phone calendar.  When I arrived promptly for my appointment, the receptionist would be left scratching her head because she couldn’t find me on the books.  Turns out I outright missed an appointment in one instance. In the other, I arrived exactly ten days too early – but at the right time.  Restaurant menus are elusive without the benefit of a pair of cheaters, often borrowed – or, if I am lucky, I may have tossed my own glasses into my handbag. When I had dinner with my husband, and then, a week later, a friend, I watched as each of them put on their readers…..then, out of nowhere, little flashlights appeared.  They were an essential addition to their glasses  in order to decipher the menu.  Will that be me next?

I know the time has drawn near to see Dr. Santos, my much-beloved Vineyard optometrist for two reasons:
First, he told me when (not if ) I start to see double at night, it would be time to have my lenses changed in my “regular glasses with progressive lenses.”  These are my everyday glasses meant for driving, movies and seeing, in general.  I forestalled that expense a year ago by replacing only my reading glasses. (Those were a cool $425 because they have prisms in the lenses.) Dr. Santos proposed I wear my “old” progressive glasses more often. According to him, my eyes would get the point that they would be working too hard to focus. The doubling effect would occur.  Okay, so I have reached that portal. Check.
“Perhaps it is darkest before dawn,” I ponder.
The biggest reason to see Dr. Santos is that on more than one occasion lately, I have woken up, checked the clock and moved into action as quickly as possible.  Start the bath water, do morning stretches, pour orange juice, pick out clothes, then go soak in the tub for my morning aquatic therapy.  Within half an hour hour, I am dressed and ready for the day. I make my bed, pull back my heavy black-out curtains and..wait...I become disoriented and confused. It is pitch black with just a smudge of gray light on the horizon When I look at my phone, I discover it is only  6:07 a.m.  I was aiming to start my day at 7a.m.  That lost hour makes a surprising difference in how alert I am throughout the day.  I try to use the hour to meditate, go for a walk, write, read, or simply reflect….
However, I desperately guard my sleep. I believe in the value of plenty of restorative sleep.  It was for this reason that at 6:10 a.m. this morning, l was googling Dr. Santos’s phone number.  I wanted to be ready to dial his office at 8:30 a.m. when his office opens.  And I will be sure to wear my reading glasses when I dial.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Columbus Day Reflections

Columbus Day path
        Yesterday was Columbus Day.  Maybe not on the Holidays-for-Convenience calendar, but I still think of October 14th as Columbus Day.  It is a day that holds a lot of tradition for me. It means uncharted, winding rides on the back roads of Vermont, following the hairpin curves of Route 2 in Massachusetts and stealing long weekends on Martha’s Vineyard.  Traditionally, it is the beginning of the peak of leaf season in New England. The colors remain vivid and brilliant, perennially seared somewhere on the lobes of my brain. Even at this moment, when I close my eyes, I see golden yellow and crimson red. I smell the crumbly, slightly moldy scent of the fallen leaves and the glorious and satisfying crunch of walking on them.  I may have complained some about raking them but it was a part of the ritual of putting the yard to bed for the winter.  In the first house that my husband and I owned, we would often fire up the wood stove on Columbus Day for its maiden run on a job it would do for the remainder of the winter. 
              Island autumns are muted in many ways the leaves change on Martha’s Vineyard but in a muted, water-color sort of way.  I watch the scrub oaks as the colors leech from green to rust.  The sea grasses go from to tan. The Manuel F .Correllus State is impressive from air or ground. At first approach it appears to be a deep-green forest --  stocked with pines and oaks. Following the trails, you can find grasslands, pine barrens and woodlands.  There is an ever-changing palette of greens and browns. Along Beach Road, bordered by State Beach and Sengakontaket Pond, there are heathlands juxtaposed against the slate blue of the ocean, the tan of the sand and the gunmetal gray of the sky. I am, by my caluculations, spending my 21st Columbus Day on Martha’s Vineyard.  I long for the vistas, the drives through ever-bigger mountains and the riotous colors I came to love in western Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.  Things are more staid and understated here.  But knowing the Island, and its people,  Columbus Day, whether the skies are blue or gray, is exactly the way it should be.  The glory and beauty of this place is - most often  -  understated.