These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Author: Kim (page 1 of 40)

A Mug Full of Love and Dreams

(Foreword: I may have implied on Twitter that a portion of this post would be written in French, or ‘en francais.’
And then I realized how truly awful and rusty my French is. And so, at the 
end I have a lovely French quote. C’est la vie!)

Twenty-five years ago this week I missed out on an opportunity that could have changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve always felt a little bit resentful of how the whole thing turned out, but I’ve come to realize how very different my life would have unfolded had circumstances been different.

In 1991, I moved to Orlando to work for Disney. I was full of dreams and felt sure that this is where I needed to be. I had worked as a tour guide at the Backstage Studio Tour the previous year on Disney’s College Program and when I returned in the fall of 1991, I became a ticket seller at the DisneyMGM Studios Main Entrance.

After a handful of Guest Relations (customer service) people were fired for theft, a Tickets supervisor noticed my I speak French button and he quickly moved me over to Guest Relations to replace one of the fired employees. Speaking a foreign language wasn’t a requirement to work in Guest Relations, but with millions of visitors from all around the world, it was helpful. So it was the luck of the draw. My French had come in handy.

I loved studying French in high school and I became enamored with France. My teacher was amazing and she taught us more than just the nuances of the language. We learned about the culture, literature, art, traditions, music, and food that make France such a wonder. Now, at Disney, it had been a few years since I’d studied French and I was a bit rusty. Thankfully, as a Guest Relations hostess, I was always able to cobble together enough words and sentences to help French-speaking guests find Mickey Mouse or the bus back to their hclose-up-1839974_1920otel.

I was in love with all things French and of course all things Disney, so when “EuroDisney”, as it was called then, was set to open just east of Paris in April 1992, I was on a mission to somehow be a part of it.

I applied and interviewed for an intern-type position open to all Disney cast members. If accepted, I’d be living in dorm-style housing and participate in a work-study opportunity as part of the opening crew. I was hopeful I would get in….and sure enough, I was selected.

Over the moon excited, I hit the local library and started brushing up on my broken French. Details were still coming together so I was told to hold tight while the paperwork was being finalized and the actual program was planned and set in motion. I was also told to get my passport up to date just in case it was a “go.”

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Isn’t this castle awesome? It’s Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland Paris and it’s one of my favorites.

As I waited for more of an official word, another opportunity to go to France arose. This time it was through Guest Relations. Disney was looking for tour guides to work the grand opening event – basically, a huge press conference and media tour. Although I’d only worked in Guest Relations for little over a year at that point, one of my supervisors put my name in the hat for consideration. The fact that I spoke French made me a shoe-in. Luck of the draw again! I told my supervisors that I had applied for and been accepted to the program that was still being assembled, but they told me not to worry. One way or another, I’d be going to Paris!

And then it all started to unravel…

I got my passport. And I also heard from the special program manager, who called me in for a meeting. This should have clued me in that something was weird because I was just an hourly cast member. What could she possibly want with me? Turns out, she was the daughter-in-law to a man that had worked closely with Walt Disney back in the day. He had also served as the President of the Walt Disney Company for a while. His daughter-in-law was well-known throughout the company, although many surmised her position was more in title only rather than based on any competency. I swear that’s not my bitterness talking; that was truly the word on the street.

Anyway, I met with this lovely woman who proceeded to barrage me with questions I was unprepared for. Looking back, I can see a slight resemblance to Cinderella’s wicked stepmother…

Wicked Stepmother: Are you committed to going on this program with my team?
Me: Yes.
Wicked Stepmother: Then you can imagine my surprise to learn that you have also accepted a position to go with the Guest Relations group? (her eyes narrow, the room darkens, and flames erupt in the background)
Me: (stammering) Well….I,
WS: You can’t do both.
Me: Yes, I know but you see I told my supervisors and –
WS: You have breached your commitment with our group and as a result, we’ve revoked your visa as of yesterday.
Me: What?? How can you –
WS: You will not be going to EuroDisney with my group. And if I have my way, you won’t be going to EuroDisney with ANY group.

OMG. What a bitch, right?

I was floored.

I left the Team Disney corporate offices defeated, with my head hung low. I climbed back into my 1989 red Hyundai Excel and cried all the way back to work. I confided my disappointment in one other Guest Relations co-worker and friend. He listened and let me cry on his super handsome but gay shoulder. (dammit).

And then the other shoe dropped.

I didn’t have enough seniority in Guest Relations to make the cut, so I would not be going to France as part of the press event tour either.

I was crushed.

At 21 years old, I thought for sure I’d just screwed up my entire life. You see, if I had gone to France, my intention was to stay for longer than the assignment. I wanted to work at EuroDisney and live and travel in the French countryside. I wanted to get a Eurrail pass and backpack through the continent. I wanted to shop in French farmers markets, see castles, buy fresh flowers, drink French wine, read books along the Seine, and fall in love at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

None of those things happened, of course. And I mourned my so-called lost life for awhile. But then a few years later I traveled to France with some friends and we had a ball. I worked many jobs at Disney and met many wonderful people, including my husband. Life went on and was wonderful and exciting and adventure-filled.

If I had gone to Paris in 1992 and stayed, I would have missed out on meeting and knowing so many amazing people here in Delaware, in New Jersey, and especially in Syracuse.

Life is full of so many different opportunities. Some we say yes to and others we say no. And sometimes the decision is made for us. It’s interesting to travel back in your life and see how everything strings together. How your life has progressed and bobbed and weaved with the flow.

However circumstances unfold, they’re all stitches on our life’s tapestry. While we’re busy stitching on one side, all we have to do is flip it over to see the beauty of the life we’ve created. I like my tapestry. And I adore the people in my life. Those that I see every day and those that are far but always close in my heart.

20170412_152339Footnote: Many of my friends and co-workers went to Paris for the grand opening and I loved hearing their stories. And that sexy gay friend of mine? Well. He was unbelievably kind and thoughtful. He brought me back some grand opening souvenirs and a EuroDisney mug, which I still have. He gave me a big hug and said I was with him in spirit and he thought of me when he first entered the park. How sweet was that?

Second footnote: No clue what happened to the wicked stepmother. I don’t wish her any ill will, but the next time she travels, I sort of hope her passport is expired.

 

Il n’est rien de reel que le reve et l’amour.
(Nothing is real but dreams and love) – de Noailles

Essence

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I polish like the coin collector
Carefully, intently
But mine is not of rare copper
Silver or nickel

I guard like prized fine art
The kind worth more to the buyer than the seller
And mine is not of oils or watercolors or pottery

I arrange as the thimble enthusiast
Tiny jars displayed neatly, delicately
In a glass case
But mine is not of miniatures

I treasure as the vintage music lover
Blowing clean the dusty jackets
Smoothing faded labels
Feeling gritty vinyl grooves
But mine is not of melodies. Of lyrics. Rhythm.

Mine are treasures
My collection. A deep longing –
THE deep longing of my life
Residing in the edges of my heart amid the
Creases and crevices where light and darkness live.

And warmth.

These heart songs linger as the last whispers of a sunset slowly drip into the horizon
Edging out the last glints of color.
They reverberate
In the echoes of days gone by and of the days

That never were

I hold close the memories
I carry them gently. Cherishing. Agonizing. Wondering.
So I can remember what I never had
What is here now but is also lost
What I see and feel but never lived

About Good Mothers and a Lion

It’s not often that I’m completely blown away by a movie. But this past weekend, on a whirlwind trip to New York City with my husband, we saw the Oscar-nominated film, “Lion.”

And, well?

Wow.

I haven’t cried that hard in a long time.

The themes of loss, guilt, redemption, and longing that run through this film pulled at my heart from the opening credits.

lion-565820_1920Lion is the incredible true story of Saroo, a young Indian boy who, at five years old, becomes separated from his family. He awakens on a train some two thousand miles from his home and, after a series of heart-wrenching and dangerous encounters with strangers, realizes he is lost and alone.

Eventually, he is adopted by a couple from Australia. I held my breath as little Saroo walked out of the plane and into the room where his adoptive parents were eagerly waiting to meet him. He wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t crying either. My guess is that in that moment he was feeling an uncomfortable mixture of sadness and confusion along with a tiny sliver of hope.

Nicole Kidman portrayed his adoptive mom, Sue. In that first meeting with Saroo, she knelt down, smiled at him sweetly, and through tear-filled eyes said, We’re so happy to see you…we’re your mum and dad.

As joyous a moment as that must have been for this couple who longed to adopt a child, my heart couldn’t help but ache for little Saroo and his longing to go home. This ache was deeper than I’d anticipated because I found myself suddenly overcome with emotion. You know the kind I’m talking about. The kind that seems to bubble up from nowhere and spill out through your eyes. Your nose. Your throat. My sobbing was audible and decidedly unflattering and terribly hard to control. As I sat there, embarrassed, watching my husband scramble to find a napkin or tissue for me, I found myself instantly connected to that little boy.

**********

The story then jumps forward two decades. Saroo, now 30 years old, is a man with a good life and good friends. It’s evident he was raised in a loving home by a caring family. Still, for 25 years, he’s wondered about where his story began. You can sense that something is still pulling at him. A longing to return to India, to the home he remembers in his heart. And so he intensifies his search – using the new tool Google Earth – and slowly begins to piece together his fragmented childhood memories.

**********

Yesterday, I came across a clip from an interview on Australian TV with Saroo and his (adoptive) mother, Sue. The interviewer asked Sue if she had been worried when her son first began his search. Was she worried he would find his birthmother and leave the life he’d known in Australia? Or worse – would he discover that perhaps his birthmother had abandoned him and didn’t want contact?

Sue wasn’t afraid of any of these things; her response to the interviewer was incredible.

She smiled and said that no she wasn’t afraid for herself, but rather for her son. She didn’t want him to be disappointed or hurt. But she wasn’t worried or insecure about his search for his birthmother. She said that although she didn’t know the circumstances of how he came to be her son, she knew from the first moment she saw him that he had been loved by a good mother. There was a kindness in his eyes and a warmth in his heart, she said, that told her he had been well taken care of.

Although this isn’t a traditional story of adoption (whatever that means), there are similarities that struck a chord with me. In the months following my son’s placement, I often wondered what kind of relationship would evolve between him and me and more specifically between me and his mother. I felt vulnerable and less than. Would the love I have for my son be questioned because of the choices I made? I’m embarrassed to admit being nervous that I would be categorized with negative stereotypes about unmarried girls that get pregnant. As it turns out my fears and worries were unfounded. For nearly 30 years, my son’s mother has never looked at me with anything other than kindness. She’s a good mother. And somehow she always made me feel that I could be good too.

**********

I won’t ruin the movie’s ending, but let’s just say there are way more tears.

Tears of loss and struggle. Reunion and sadness. Closure and peace.

If you haven’t guessed, I loved this movie. This extraordinary story of a young boy whose name means Lion and his two mothers … it’s easily going down as one of my favorites, although I don’t know how easy it will be to watch again anytime soon. But it will definitely stay with me for a long time.

What She Will Become (Movie Review: Hidden Figures)

Have you seen the Oscar-nominated film, “Hidden Figures”? I’ll jump to the end and tell you right off the bat that I loved this movie. We went a few weeks ago and brought our 12-year-old.  What an extraordinary history lesson for us all.

If you didn’t know already, this film is the true story of three black, female engineers who were vital to the space program in the 1960s. The three main characters worked with other female engineers and mathematicians in the “colored” facility of NASA. The racism of the time is portrayed in subtle ways that hit you in the gut when you least expected it.

When the extraordinary talents of one of the women, Katherine Johnson, were finally recognized, she was moved to the “white” part of NASA to work with the mostly male engineers. The white people were perplexed when she left her desk for long periods of time each day. It never occurred to them that there was no “colored” restroom for her to use. Turns out, once per day she would literally run a full mile and a half back to her old building to use the restroom – since there was no restroom for “colored” people in the “white” building. Gut punch.

In another scene, we see Katherine pour a cup of coffee from the office coffee pot. The white people looked on, in disbelief. How dare she pour from the same pot. The next morning she discovered someone had set up a pot just for her … and they were kind enough to label it so she would know it was hers: COLORED. Gut punch.

While there were many really great scenes, one in particular settled in my bones fairly early in the film. It took place in what appeared to be a school principal’s office.

A young Katherine Johnson and her parents sit opposite the principal, who tells them their daughter has been identified as gifted. The school strongly recommends she move to a more advanced school and, as the parents soak in this good news, the principal hands them an envelope filled with money. The other teachers took up a small collection to assist the family with tuition at the new school. At first, the parents are unsure whether they should accept the money, but the principal asserts, “You must consider sending her to another school. You have to find out who she will become.”

And to me, that is the crux of the movie. How many stories like this one have yet to be told? And worse, how many stories like this were never even possible so many years ago.  How many heroes never made it into the history books?

*************************

When I was enrolled for a semester at what is now UMass Lowell, I took a history class as part of my full-time liberal studies curriculum. I don’t recall the exact name of the class, but I do remember the teacher. He was an older white man who I naively wrote off as ‘out of touch’ and a ‘curmudgeon.’

Couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Although he was kind of grumpy (at least on the days when he didn’t have a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup on his desk), he was one of my first teachers to teach beyond the history books. This was before the Internet (the dark ages, as my daughter would say) and so he relied on literature, poetry, and other kinds of cultural data. His passion? The American Indian. He walked us through the American History we thought we had learned in grades K-12 and filled in the missing pieces of how settlers treated Indians and the state of these groups today. There were tears in his eyes when he talked of broken promises, the struggling reservations, and the near-extinguishing of the language, culture, and traditions of Native Americans.

When I attended UCF, I had many terrific professors, but again, one stood out to me. Professor Jones was kind of hippie-ish. He brought his guitar to class once. And his teaching style was to leverage the power of storytelling. He was captivating and, as my UMass Lowell professor, he enlightened us about various groups that were essentially omitted from our standard K-12 history books.

I don’t remember thinking too much about it at the time, but in both instances I look back and wonder why I didn’t learn about these stories in middle school and high school? Why did my history books focus on the white man’s experience with little more than a glossed-over mention of Native Americans, slaves, women, Latinos and others? How many other stories have literally been white-washed out of our books and our standard curriculum? Why is white history the default history?

Looking back, I now see that the privileged kind of history I learned about in school was for the most part framed within the lens of what was possible for me and others like me. It was framed within the context and from the perspective of white, suburban, middle class folks. Of course, it was tipped to favor my male counterparts, as much of women’s history was omitted save for the notables like Betsy Ross and Susan B. Anthony. Yet in spite of the glossing over of most of women’s history, I never had much doubt about what I could become. About what was possible for me.

After learning about stories and experiences other than my own (like Hidden Figures, the story of Ruby Bridges, the stories from my teachers of Native Americans, the Inuit, Japanese-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and more),  I realize that the privilege of knowing what you could become doesn’t yet exist for everyone.

If you haven’t seen this movie, go. Bring your kids. Have a discussion. And don’t stop talking until every kid knows the possibility of what they could become.

Lessons From the March

16114913_10212584900320701_1699524673494432565_nIt’s been a week since the Women’s March on Washington and I’m still having trouble putting into words what I experienced that day.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to write … maybe that will help me organize and process everything anew.

It was an extraordinary day.

Women and men from all walks of life convened in the nation’s capital to essentially say NOPE.

First observation? Solidarity is the coolest. Just when you think you’re the only one reeling about what’s happening in our country, it turns out a million of your closest friends around the world feel the same way.

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Exiting at L’enfant Plaza station

As we boarded the jam-packed subway that morning, I spotted three women. They were older than me. Perhaps in their 60s or 70s? One wore a rainbow-colored scarf. Another wore shiny peace sign earrings that spun and dangled down to her shoulders. And yet another wore LGBTQ buttons on her jacket. They were dressed in pink and all of them wore the famous “pussy hats.” They were excited to be there and their enthusiasm was contagious and inspiring. The subway train and the terminal at which we disembarked were filled with crowds so thick and deep that my only comparison was to the throngs of people I experienced at Walt Disney World – specifically when the Magic Kingdom is so beyond capacity that the gates to the backstage areas have to be opened to allow the multitudes to safely make their way to the park’s exit. Despite the crowds, everyone was peaceful, helpful, friendly, and ENERGIZED.

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Their sweatshirts read “Truth matters” and “We will not be silent.” He is wearing a Vietnam Vets hat and she, the popular pussy hat.

I had to take a picture of this couple because, to me, they defied stereotype. I hate it when I rush to judgment and stereotype people – but sometimes it’s hard to avoid slipping into old ways of thinking. But this couple? They took me off guard. I saw them when we first emerged from the subway station. They were a few paces ahead of me. I noticed their hats first and as I inched closer (stalker), I read their sweatshirts. I regretted not snapping a picture. But then, about a half hour later, I saw them again as we made our way toward the staging area. A second chance for a photo opp! I woud have pegged them as Trump supporters from a million miles away. Lesson learned – judge not, Kim.

We made our way toward the start of the march and the main stage. Somehow, we were able to edge through the crowds and the police and secure a spot right in front the National Museum of the American Indian. We were at such an angle that the line of sight to the stage was blocked. Fortunately, we stopped in front of a huge Jumbo Tron and thus were able to see the entire event up close.

First speaker: America Ferrara. She owned that stage. You could sense her passion as she shared her fears about this new administration and what it means for people that look like her. She said, “If Trump gets his way, we risk going from a country of immigrants to becoming a country of ignorance. ” Given the events of the last 24 hours, I’d say she was right.

We heard from Amanda Nguyen, founder of “Rise.” She helped helped draft the Sexual Assault Bill of Rights and she spoke intensely about how she turned her tragedy into advocacy and activism. And she inspired us all with the question: What will you do with your fire?

Van Jones challenged us all to live up to the “Love Trumps Hate” signs we were holding and tap into empathy and bridge-building rather than more hate-filled rhetoric. A lesson: don’t just hold a sign if you’re not willing to do the work behind the words.

16195849_10212583496885616_1136648660625175529_nAshley Judd was ON FIRE. She rapped a poem by 19 year old Nina Donovan. If you haven’t seen it, grab yourself some popcorn and a glass of bubbly and watch it RIGHT NOW.

And Sister Simone Campbell encouraged us all to “not be afraid” and to have “curiosity about our neighbors.” I loved her message. Another lesson – don’t pre-judge nuns. They can be pretty badass.

16143057_10212583499485681_1178057081633432843_nI have to admit, I had no idea Gloria Steinem would be there but when she walked on stage I nearly fainted. It was as though she carried the ghosts of marches past with her to inspire the women of 2017.

And the inspirations continued. California’s newest Senator Kamala Harris fights for the economy and healthcare because those *are* women’s issues.

New York’s pistol of a Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, who fights for sensible gun reform and programs to address and reduce sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. (Let the record show, I predict she will the President or Vice President very soon.)

Alicia Keys, who not only sang, but delivered a powerful, spoken word poem about truth and justice. And then there was Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. There’s been a lot of hullabaloo about the fact that Planned Parenthood was a sponsor of the Women’s March.

I have to say, I did see a small handful of people with “choose life” signs. Some news outlets reported violence toward pro-lifers, but that’s not what I witnessed. These folks marched alongside us, peacefully and respectfully. And honestly? That’s the way it should be. After all, if you’re pro-women’s rights, I believe that includes respecting the right to choose what’s best for you. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. Personally, I am pro-life. But when I enter the voting booth, I support the pro-choice candidate. Because my personal beliefs aren’t to be imposed on anyone else. And vice versa.

The day left me inspired and filled with a new purpose. Since the election, I’ve called my representatives on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis to express my concern for Cabinet appointees. Their numbers are pre-programmed in my phone. But now after the march, I realize that while calling and tweeting is all good, it’s not enough. This administration requires that we the people hold them accountable every single day. There is simply too much at stake.

The other thing I learned is that not all women were behind this march. It was definitely top-heavy with white women. And while it is comforting to know that we can show up in such numbers, it was also very sobering to remember that 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump. We own this now. All of us.

I also learned that my anger and my frustration – while relatively new to me – is not new to the millions of women of color. Their anger has lingered just below the surface for years. With every broken promise. Every unfair judgment. Every unfair stereotype. Every unfair law enacted to keep things the way they were…when everybody knew their place.

And finally, I realized that if I walk away from this march feeling good about myself, but unwilling to do the required work of what comes next, then it was really just a giant pep rally.

I’m ready to do some work.

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WOMENS MARCH

Post-script: here’s the fabulous sign made by my family to greet me when I got home. 

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