Clothing Wars

September 29th, 2011

I remember a time, not too long ago, when I enjoyed shopping for clothes with my daughter, Elisabeth.  My son, Alex, was eight years old when she was born.  Which meant that I was quarantined to the tiny boy’s section for eight whole years; drowning in khaki shorts and rugged blue polo shirts.

I could pick out Elisabeth’s clothes, cute little funky dresses, fun little striped tights, green and purple shoes, adorable hair accessories.  The world was my oyster and I didn’t do too bad for someone on a very tight budget (most of her clothes came from second-hand stores and Children’s Place Monster Sale).  She happily donned whatever I gave her and never complained about a stitch of clothing, not once.

Forward to real-time, ten years later, approximately one hundred Disney pre-teen episodes in, and a true calling to craving “stylish” and God forbid “cute”- Elisabeth has become a full-fledge individual.  I have encouraged this individuality is so many ways, wanting her to have the strong female self-confidence that was denied me growing up.

So why is it that now when I take her shopping, if I so much as graze my hand over something it is then tainted with “Mom-ness” and is forever to be shunned by her?  When did this happen?  When did she get so picky?  For now dresses will only be tolerated if forced for special occasions.  Skirts and skorts are no longer cool.  She prefers to simply wrap her hair in a plain ponytail with a plain headband each and every day.  All I can think is why won’t she let me pick out her clothes?  Of course, I still have final say on all choices.  I have only lost my ability to say yes, my no is still intact and will remain so for awhile to come.  I can still say yes, pick something out, go home with it, but it will lie in her drawer probably praying to see sunlight just once.

In retrospect, I wrap my hair up in a ponytail, I don’t wear makeup or jewelry, I prefer solids to prints.  I fall in love with a pair of shoes and will wear them until I feel like I have to have a funeral at their demise.  Did I pass this plainness to her?  She is so beautiful and so cool, why won’t she let me pick out the clothes I wish I could wear?  Perhaps my own longings are the issue here.  Even as a teenager I had long hair I almost never cut, no makeup, wore a plain t-shirt and jeans.  That’s it.  I always looked at the girls that could pull off funky, stylish clothes and wish I could too. I didn’t have it in me.  Later I learned to dress a bit more individually, shocking my friends at times with my eclectic style.  However, more often than not, I choose comfort every time.

So after I weigh all of the facts and causes, I should be happy that Elisabeth is becoming a self-confidant and individually strong young woman.  I rarely ever say “inappropriate” when she chooses something and there is nothing wrong with her decisions.

I should be content with this, but there is always a pang in my heart when I pick something up and her eyes begin rolling, a “Really?!” about to roll off her tongue as “This is so cute” is about to roll off of mine.

Double Parking: My New Pet Peeve While Driving to Work

September 28th, 2011

Driving back and forth from Brooklyn (where I work) to Queens (where I live) has been a wild adventure into the chaos that is NYC streets.  While I have found less congested routes, thanks to my resourceful boyfriend, Robert, I still feel apprehensive every time I embark on this journey.

The main reason driving to and fro is mindboggling is: double-parked cars or worse, double parked trucks.  Why is it that if my meter runs out, I am plastered with a ticket in a second after those numbers become 0:00?  However, no matter how many traffic cops I see, I never see anyone ticket a double parked car?

This week I encountered a whole new style of double parking on Dean Street.  Alternate side of the street parking rules were in effect, at least 5 cars remained parked on the wrong side, presumably waiting for the ticket fairy to come.  I don’t care if people want to get a ticket, however there is a bike lane on this already incredibly narrow street, most likely made originally for horse carriages and not motorized machines.  I have no problems with bike lanes either.  What I do have a problem with is people that are obviously too lazy to search for a proper parking space, parking next to the bike lane and the legally parked vehicles along side of it.  These people actually LEAVE there cars on the street in long lines, crowding the entire street!  When they are double parked parallel to a parked car on the other side of the street, it becomes almost impossible to safely pass.

I don’t know why this is allowed to happen.  I don’t understand why this allowed on such narrow streets.  I do know I am tired of this peculiar obstacle course that I need to embark on when driving to work.

According to DOT: Double parking of passenger vehicles is illegal at all times, including Alternate Side Parking Regulation days, regardless of location, purpose or duration.

I understand that parking is hard to find in certain areas of NYC, who are we kidding? All areas of NYC. However, this local tradition of double parking and the authorities turning a blind eye, should perhaps be contained to streets wide enough to accommodate this practice.

An Interesting Weekend Alone

September 26th, 2011

As my daughter spent the weekend with her father, I spent most of it as a homebody catching up on work, painting things around the house and watching pointless television (something I rarely do).

This weekend marked a whole month in our new apartment and new neighborhood.  While homesick thoughts do set in momentarily at times, overall I think we are getting a hang of living in Queens.  Brooklyn will always be a pivotal part of me, but exploring a new borough can be the fresh change my soul has secretly been craving.

The highlight of my weekend was attending a “National Symposium: Think Outside the Cell: A New Day, A New Way” at the Riverside Church in the city.  A friend I met at Vassar College, Marlon Peterson, invited me through Facebook and I was curious about the topic, so I braved the weekend subway (which was no joke-six trains just to get there…What do you mean the F train isn’t running?).

I missed the first portion of the speeches, which made me sad because my friend was on the panel.  However, I caught the afternoon discussions.  The topic was issues affecting the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their families.  I knew little about the issue walking in, but felt enlightened walking out.

I am probably like most people when I think about prison.  I never want to go, I never want my kids to go, I never want anyone I know to have to go.  I have known a few people that have done time, however they got out and moved on with life.

Listening to the people on the panel speak, made me think again.  What if you get out and cannot move on with life?  You know that little check box on employment forms and college forms that asks if you have ever committed a crime?  What if you have to check yes?  Even though you paid for your crime in prison and with your youth?  It seems you will be marked for life with that little box.  As one of the panelists, Michelle Alexander said, “Locked out of housing, employment, and food.”

The topics and questions brought up were:

What about their families?  How do they survive?  If there are 2.3 million men and women incarcerated in U.S. prisons, that means millions of families are affected as well. They committed no crime, yet they must be punished as well for loving someone that went to prison.  How are their communities affected?

Why is punishment the sole objective when people end up in prison?  Why not assist them with their re-entry into society, by honing their skills and realizing their potential?  Why not attend college while in prison when they have nothing but time?  Federal funding for this has been discontinued, even though it has been proven that those that receive a college education while in prison are less likely to return and better able to re-enter society.

“We are not our past. We are not our mistakes.” – Joe Robinson

Why are Vermont and Maine the only two states that allow prisoners to vote?  Are they not still U.S. citizens?

The panel went on to discuss many other important aspects of the consequences and costs on human life during and after being incarcerated.  It was extremely interesting and I urge to check out their website to learn more about the issues being faced by so many:

“About 2.3 million people are behind bars in the United States. Disproportionately Black and Latino, about 650,000 leave state and federal prisons each year. The stigma of incarceration is a roadblock to their rights as citizens and creates untold hardships for their families and impoverished communities. The Think Outside the Cell Foundation works to end the stigma and to help the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and their loved ones through literacy, education, personal development and the removal of societal barriers to the American Dream.”

-Think Outside the Cell Foundation-Sheila Rule and Joe Robinson

Klimt and Art Nouveau

September 8th, 2011

During the latter part of the 19thcentury, the European and American art communities began to fall away from the harsh and severe constraints of the Victorian Era and Industrial Revolution. “The new art” or Art nouveau made its way into the lives of everyday people from 1890-1910, through decorative furniture, architecture, products, fashion and in traditional art pieces. Art Nouveau was a rejection of the previous historical approach to art and depicted an organic flow with free and graceful lines. Gustav Klimt’s piece, Three Ages of Women, 1905, is an astounding example of this period.

In the latter part of the 1800s printing and mass production inventions allowed for artists to reach a large population of “everyday people”, where before the industrial revolution this was not possible. The industrial revolution was a catalyst for the urban environment and commercial media. Meanwhile the Victorian Era’s elaborate design work was full of romantic notions portraying a desire to return to a simpler life. However, both time periods clashed with one another in social movements that transcended into art. Led by William Morris (1834-96), the Arts and Crafts movement rejected these previous periods and wished to keep the integrity and individuality of each hand worked piece at the forefront of society.

As art and the idea of design was finding its way into mass society, artists felt freer to deviate from the previous classic artwork of the past, such as neo-classicism, Romanticism, Medievalism, etc.  Instead, artists began to experiment with new techniques and began to look to the Far East for inspiration.  The art movement of Japan, Ukiyo-e, meaning “pictures of the floating world” amazed European artists and caused them to realize a new way of depicting a scene.  Ukiyo-e was an innovative method of subjects and landscapes suggesting impressionistic qualities, simplifying lines while utilizing bold black shapes and decorative patterns.  Japanese art gave way to the Art Nouveau period, motivating artists with a variety of new ideas and techniques that displayed individual expression rather than detailed depictions. During this period artists that previously worked with past styles and media began to experiment in an exciting new world of decadence and freedom from the restraints of art being standardized in any one way.

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian painter and co-founder of the Vienna Secession, or the Viennese version of art nouveau.   Klimt began in 1883 as an artist/decorator, painting murals in the Museum of Vienna.  Perhaps his largest accomplishment was the Beethoven Frieze (1905-09), a cycle of mosaic decorations for Josef Hofman’s Palais Stoclet in Brussels.  Klimt was inspired by many styles including classical Greek, Byzantine, Egyptian, and Minoan art.  As well as, late-medieval painting, woodcuts of Albert Durer, symbolist art to name a few; Klimt incorporated all of these sources into a fresh and eclectic style combining symbolism and art nouveau.

Klimt’s Three Ages of Women invokes a very primal connection between women in various stages of life and death.  Klimt’s use of mosaics of different colors, shapes, the flowing lines, the gold leaf accents and the abstract yet detailed female forms are typical of this new age of decadence.  The symbolism of dark shadow cast over the old woman, and the light embracing the mother and child, are utter reminders of the cycle of life.  The contrasting colors of red on the bed, nude dark wrinkled skin (the old woman) and blue on the bed and clothing against the pale, nude youthful bodies (the mother and child) are set against an impressionistic type dark background. The textures and colors are interchangeably muted and bright throughout Klimt’s painting creating a swirl of emotion. The elongated bodies and distorted angles of the females were part of the “art nouveau” female depiction of the time. Klimt often used sexuality, regeneration, life and death as primal dominant themes in his work, Three Ages of Women is an example of all of these aspects his individual style.



September 4th, 2011

Why do I feel as if I am waiting for my life to begin as I am living? Does everyone feel this way to some extent? I need to start writing in earnest and stop procrastinating. My blog awaits and I have to focus around the daily hustle and bustle to get it done. Perhaps tomorrow I will begin….

We just moved to a new apartment in a new neighborhood in a new borough.  The past year has been the hardest in my life and I am looking forward to pockets of time that I may be completely bored.  Bored like a kid on a summer day, staring at cracks in the ceiling and bouncing a ball on the pavement for an hour in lieu of nothing better to do.  Contemplating whining to my mother, ” I am so bored!  There’s nothing to do!”, even if she just got nasty and screamed to “go outside and play already!”

I wish I could go back and tell the younger version of myself to savor those hours of boredom that will be ripped away from her as an adult.  Those sweet moments of sheer nothingness that I would love to have within my reach now, my head clear and full of nothing but a canvas of imagination and no worries or responsibilities.

This is my delicious and recurrent daydream.

The List

January 14th, 2011

It is 8:00am; I’m sitting on an old wooden chair in my mother’s dining room, a huge handmade table for twelve looming beyond. The house is set on a small hill in Andover, Vermont. An August sun has already made its way up into the sky above us. The humid summer country air leaves a heavy musty odor in the air, along with the faint smell of the wood burning stove, saved for the chillier days to come. My stepfather, Kevin, is frantically fixing that old green wooden chair, the very one that my mother nagged him for months to fix. Suddenly my thoughts stray to the thought that I will never see my mother thank him for fixing it, nor the lighted excitement in her eyes when the children and I visit. Reality hits me like a toddler running at full speed, crashing with abandon, unaware. I would never see or hear my mother do anything ever again.

Last night at 10:05pm, August 6, 2006, my mother squeezed my hand, her eyeballs fluttered behind her closed eyes, her breath a constant rattling for the last sixteen hours of her life just stopped. A strange gurgling emerged from her mouth and chest; her hand became limp in mine. I lay there next to her in bed, where she chose to end her four year battle with lymphatic cancer at age fifty. My head screamed NO! NO MOMMY, COME BACK! DON’T LEAVE US! Instead I whispered, “I love you” and yet I felt her around me. I hated her for leaving. I admired her courage to fight this long. My mother died on my shift. My sister was sitting on the floor with her back to the bed reading. I began to feel guilty, for every second I let pass and didn’t tell her. She is more fragile, she will take this harder. My sister took care of her, she changed her diapers in the end, when the three brain tumors pressed up against her spinal cord and she couldn’t walk. I came on the weekends, my mother told me not to disrupt the children’s life in New York. I had distance and six months of shock, fear, sadness to work over me, cocooning me from a breakdown.

“Kevin, why in God’s name are you fixing that chair, right now?”

He looks up at me; his pale blue eyes lost, in the anguish, “Your mother has been naggin’ me to fix this for some time.”

I turn away unable to endure his pain along with my own. I look out the big square New England window, just past a mound of grass to the garden my mother was so adamant about finishing before she died. I didn’t understand how a garden mattered so much in the last months of her life. I am numb.

I hear Kevin say, “Mil, can you go into your mother’s purse and get out her social security card please?”

I search my mother’s light brown leather “Mom purse” for her wallet. I rifle through it for that signature red, white and blue card. I hand it to Kevin, he takes it with little recognition, and he is just keeping busy. The memory of last night assaults me once more. I look back down at her wallet, I begin to look through it, a receipt, some business cards and I pull out a small piece off white paper folded in four. My mother’s handwriting stares back at me. My throat tightens. At the top of the paper it says, “Personal Goals.” Below those words is a list of the things my mother wanted to accomplish. None are crossed out. A few are so mundane that I am shocked, “Take Vitamins, Paint House, Make time with Friends, Get into Cooking and Baking.” I am sad that they are on the list. Some are larger goals, “Lose 40 Lbs. Quit Smoking, Attend Collage, and Take up Painting.” Off on the side, added afterwards I assume, “Get into Gardening.”

I glance back at her garden, I feel the impulse to find a pen and check it off for her. Somehow I cannot find the strength to do it. Maybe she can come back, I immediately check my sanity. Why couldn’t she be given the time to finish her list? I hear her voice, whispering faintly, “You do it for me.”
I look around, terrified, and am I crazy? I look back down to the piece of paper in my hand, sweaty with the humid summer air. How can I do it for her? Didn’t the cavewomen wish that instead of foraging they could make their food grow in the place they chose? I look at my mother’s garden once more. I look down and realize how many things on the list are on my own list. “Quit smoking, lose weight, go to collage.” I notice the ironic misspelling of college. A sliver of hope and renewal stabs at the pain inside of me. It is not time for that though; it is time for mourning.

Later, I look at the list, “Exercise daily.” I run a five mile race. Check. I realize I want more from the life I have and decide it’s best to divorce my husband, because of a many reasons. I surround my mother’s list with inspirational quotes; my favorite is from Alice Walker, “In search of my mother’s garden, I have found my own.” I quit smoking, twice, check. I apply to college, my ex-husband calls to demand to know how I can be so selfish as to go to school and what good will it do. I ignore him, but it hurts. My children are supportive. I keep going on. My mother whispers “Do it for me.” I make dean’s list; I never went to high school, not even one day. I’m shocked. I am so scared, but I look at her list and remember that August day.

101 Things to Do with Kids in the Winter

December 20th, 2010

We all have busy, stressed and chaotic lives.  Perhaps this list can inspire some families, to slow down a little and enjoy the simpler things in life.  Children want you and your attention and time.  More than the newest toy, afterschool activity, video game or TV shows.  Be creative and you will see with a little time and effort, and very little money…you can give your children a slice of you and a time we fondly remember of our own childhoods!

  1. Go ice skating
  2. Hot chocolate and cozy up with some books
  3. Make a snowman
  4. Visit a science museum for kids
  5. Cut out paper snowflakes
  6. Bake a cake-just because
  7. Learn a hand clapping game
  8. Put the music on loud and dance around
  9. Play thumb war

10.  Watch A Christmas Story

11.  Color

12.  Bake apples

13.  Tell them a story about your favorite childhood winter memory

14.  Celebrate Chinese New Year

15.  Make paper airplanes

16.  Snuggle

17. Make s’mores- (graham crackers, 1 piece of Hershey’s chocolate and then nuke the marshmallow for 10-15 seconds, top with another graham cracker) Yum!

18.  Go to the beach or the park after it snows

19.  Go Bowling

20.  Make sock puppets and put on a show

21.  Have a tea party

22.  Play a card game

23.  Have a pretend it’s summer night-make summer foods and pretend it’s warm outside

24.  Bake homemade bread

25.  Teach them how to sew

26.  Play charades

27.  Go sledding

28.  Re-arrange their room

29.  Play charades

30.  Have a pillow fight

31.  See how long you can keep a balloon in the air

32.  Play cat’s cradle

33.  Learn the lyrics to a song and sing together

34.  Learn how to juggle

35.  Make a snow fort

36.  Warm apple cider

37.  Roast corn

38.  Play a board game

39.  Think of your own ideas and make a family idea jar, take turns picking out fun stuff to do

40.  Visit an art museum

41.  Learn about someone famous- like William Shakespeare or Helen Keller, etc.

42.  Play chess

43.  Play checkers

44.  Find an indoor flea market

45.  Go to an arcade

46. Make Monkey Bread-

47.  Volunteer at a local soup kitchen

48.  Have a 70s night fondue and play Twister or Yahtzee

49.  Have a snowball fight

50.  Shovel the snow together

51.  Start a book club for kids

52.  Make homemade pizza

53.  Make a fortune teller folding game

54.  Play hide and seek

55.  Have an indoor picnic

56.  Make a fort with blankets and chairs

57.  Paint

58.  Breakfast for dinner!

59.  Play with bubbles

60.  Make a bird feeder

61.  Jigsaw puzzle

62.  Go to the library

63.  Play dress-up

64.  Start a collection

65.  Visit a toy store

66.  Try to break a world record

67.  Learn about another culture

68.  Read books about winter

69.  Family movie night

70.  Make a huge pot of chili and cornbread

71.  Learn how and why it snows

72.  Have a tickle fight

73.  Talk about all the places you would like to visit

74.  Make up a game and play it while going to school

75.  Take a walk around your neighborhood

76.  Go to a concert or play

77.  Play with clay

78.  Take a yoga class together or rent a yoga video

79.  Make paper dolls

80.  Go to an indoor playground

81.  Ride bikes together

82.  Write a haiku

83.  Make a paper plate mask

84.  Play 20 questions

85.  Tell jokes

86.  Go hiking

87.  Make snow angels

88.  Learn how igloos work

89.  Write a story

90.  Make green eggs and ham after reading the book

91.  Create a treasure box and decorate it

92.  Make caramel apples

93.  See how long you can hop on one foot

94. Spend some time going over those math problems or spelling words they just haven’t mastered

95. Make spaghetti tacos- ala iCarly

96.  Look at baby pictures-start a scrapbook

97.  Exercise together

98.  Challenge them to a staring contest-first one that laughs loses

99.  You tube your favorite childhood show and watch together

100. Give them a big hug

101. Enjoy the winter months

Brunch at PS 450-New York City

October 26th, 2010

By: Jemile Bata

A couple of weeks ago a friend, my daughter and I went to the city to visit Build a Bear.  Since we were already in Manhattan, we decided to go to brunch beforehand.  My boyfriend suggested a place called PS 450.  They have a brunch special for $12, with choice of coffee or tea, Mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary and an entrée.

The restaurant itself was gorgeous and trendy, autumn colors and sleek décor were soothing.  We only had to wait a short ten minutes for a table, the exclusiveness was exciting.  It is not often that I have the opportunity to take my daughter to a place that she will feel comfortable and I will feel like a grownup.  No placemats with crayons was refreshing!

They began by bringing out a basket full of miniature corn muffins, buttery biscuits and fresh strawberry jam.  The choices on the menu were fun to explore, ranging from eggs benedict to burgers.  All included interesting twists and special additions to the usual breakfast fare.  We made our choices and chatted for awhile, my daughter felt very grownup.  Our drinks came and it was nice to feel the bubbly champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice in the Mimosa.  The little one had orange juice alone, of course.

We ordered scrumptious Monkey bread and crispy seasoned homefries for the table to share.  The Monkey bread was gooey and not too sweet, in a cute little rectangle garnished with a mint leaf.  The ketchup came in tiny little ramekins, which my daughter marveled at.  The brunch experience was amazing so far and a good time was in full swing.  The staff was wonderful, attending our every need even with a large crowd filling every available seat.

Next came our entrée, my friend had ordered breakfast sliders, eggs and bacon or sausage.  My daughter ordered French toast with berries and bananas, powdered sugar sprinkled over it.  She was in heaven, although it was definitely too large for her tiny stomach, she was able to finish only a third of it.  The bread was thick and fluffy, not greasy at all and the berries were fresh and sweet.  I had ordered, at my boyfriend’s suggestion, the crab cake eggs benedict and salad and I was not disappointed.  The crab cakes were light and delicious, the poached eggs lay upon a bed of spinach, the hollandaise sauce was very good but not too rich.  My friend tried a bite and was impressed as well.  The salad and homefries on the side complimented the eggs and crab cakes well.  Overall, our meals were exciting, interesting and delicious. 

After our friend treated us, we exited with full intention of returning soon.  Our stomachs full and our senses satisfied.  Even my daughter was happy with the detour to her main objective, getting to Build a Bear!  We took a nice stroll down Fifth Avenue, the autumn air filling our lungs and the recent fond memory of a yummy brunch at PS 450.  Sunday couldn’t have been any better at that moment!

PS 450 is located at 450 Park Avenue South between 30th and 31st Streets on the west side of the street.

Old Town Alexandria-Day Trip

October 5th, 2010

With Fall here, a part of me longs for trips up north to Vermont.  My mother lived there before she passed away and the crisp breeze calls to me.  However, with an insane school schedule and lack of funds, it is not an option.  While I remember my love of travel, I think of one of my other favorite places to visit here in the Northeast.  Old Town Alexandria, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Last Memorial Day Weekend, my kids and I, visited Old Town Alexandria. I have been there previously a few times, and every time I go back I am even more enchanted. There are tons of things to do while there. I wish I could say that we visited all the amazing art galleries, museums, or even trekked down to the famous Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Which was frequented by George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. However, we didn’t.

We actually took the Metro in from our hotel, L’Enfant Plaza to the Kings Street stop . Since we had spent the better part of three days making our way through the amazing, yet vast Smithsonian Museums we decided a simpler day was in order. So, the following are not the best of Old Town Alexandria, but they are fun little things to try not to miss when visiting (especially with kids):

·           Historic Alexandria is just a quaint, serene, beautiful little town. Cobblestones, pretty flowers hanging from the street lamps, a free old-fashioned trolley that runs through town, and a beautiful dock surrounded by a grassy field. Sitting on rocks by the water, a boat house, and a giant anchor that no child can keep from climbing.

•Historic Alexandria (Virginia) Visitor’s Center 

This is the best place to start before wondering around the town. There is so much information, extremely helpful and polite people to help with questions, a rest room, a sweet garden and a great place to find out if any special events are happening that day.

• Historic Alexander History Center & Museum Store

We didn’t actually make it to the Museum; however there was a very nice center with a coloring corner, Revolutionary dress up corner, a Civil War tent and other interesting information wagons.  My daughter had a fun time here; despite ourselves the adults did as well.  To be honest my teenage son wished he was anywhere else and he was starving!!!!! So whether or not you make it to the museum (we plan on it next time), don’t miss this little hidden “play place”!


We weaved in and out of such cute shops!  There were folk art, book shops, wine shops, cheese chops, fancy shops, toy stores, antique stores, and artisan shops.  We found a particularly adorable toy store where we picked up old fashioned small toys, like tops and things.  They even had little grab bags for $1 in paper lunch bags…which delighted my daughter with little treasures.


This by far was the most exciting thing.  After a sunny afternoon walk and hours of wandering around we were all famished.  Especially the previously mentioned, teenage boy!  The one problem we had in Washington D.C. was figuring out where to eat with kids.  Old Town Alexandria was the first place that we had options.  We finally decided on a fascinating chili place called: Hard Times Café.  Not only did it have an amazing history, lots of cowhides and vintage cowboy stuff, but it had amazing chili.  They even bring out a sampling platter of their four chilis!  The cornbread was so good. Family friendly and the waiters were extremely polite and helpful.  In fact this was one of my favorite parts of our visit.  The homemade root beer was so decadent and rich it was practically dessert, the best root beer any of us have ever had.

Overall, we had a wonderful day, I think we all returned to the Metro (on the free trolley of course!) wishing we had some more time to look around.  We also spent very little and got the most from what we did spend, in this tight economy that was a plus! Next time we visit Washington, D.C., I have every intention of staying in Old Town Alexandria instead of by the National Mall.  Waking up in such a pretty place, taking a morning stroll with coffee along the City docks sounds like a great way to start a day full of museum visits with kids in tow!

Electronic Handheld Devices Have Increased Rudeness in our Society

October 4th, 2010

Electronic handheld devices have increased rudeness in our society; in particular cameras, iPods and cell phones are causing increased rudeness in our society.  You may wonder why this is important or why I am talking about this.  It is because rudeness and lack of manners affect everyone in society.  I want to figure out how to teach my children manners in a technological enhanced lifestyle.Most of what I am about to say is from personal experience, however I did some research and I will share that with you as well.

Last year, I visited MOMA to see an Edward Hopper exhibit.  While I was there, people were taking photographs of the works of art, even posing with the paintings!  It was difficult to enjoy the art, because people were pushing or standing directly in front of the paintings. Not only were these people oblivious to those around them, it was as if they weren’t even there.  It was more important to take a picture of the moment, than to experience the moment.  In the book, Technology and Human Values, written by Watkins, published in 1978, this technological side effect was foreseen, and should be addressed.  “People realize the impossibility of living with others if each considers only himself.”  It is important that we retain this concept as technology increasingly becomes integrated into people’s everyday lives.

This brings us to iPods.  It has now become common place for people to walk around with earphones permanently attached to one’s ear.  Never mind that one can no longer hear if someone is talking to them.  I have actually thought seriously about creating some sort of parental iPod sign language with my own teenage son.  This has created a strange illusion of being excused from manners all together.  If someone walks into a room with the volume so loud that other people can hear the music too, it is not seen as being rude.  Being oblivious to your surroundings and the people in it is never an excuse for rudeness.  According to the book, Technology and Society, technology is creating an environment that author, Brent Staples feels that, “…teenagers miss out socializing, the real world experience that would allow them to leave adolescence behind and grow into adulthood.” For instance, you can no longer even say bless you or excuse me to someone, they can’t hear you with all the music blaring in their ears.

This brings us to the device that a decade ago we couldn’t have fathomed what it truly was, and now few of us can not only live without one, they consume us.  Can anyone guess what this device is?  Yes, it is the cell phone.  This device not only incorporates the camera and iPod capabilities, which cause the rudeness I mentioned previously, it expands it greatly.  Donald Norman said in the book, Technology and Society, “Cell phones are weird…look at people who take cell phone calls in the middle of the street and go into a trancelike state.  They have left where they are physically and focused on interacting with a person on the telephone…the problem is people are not having this experience privately…others are forced to participate.  Obviously, talking loudly in public is the rudest of cell phone behavior.

Recently, a New York Times article mentioned, the opera singer, Gabriela Pochinki was arrested in New York City for speaking loudly on her phone in a restaurant.  We all know how rude this behavior can be.  Along with ringing phones interrupting  events, Hugh Jackman, recently went out of character during a Broadway show to scold an a person in the audience for not turning off his phone.  According to an ABC News “20/20” survey about “Rudeness in America” done in 2006, “Making Annoying Cell Phone Calls” and “Using Cells or Email Mid Conversation” was in the top five rudest behaviors.  That was four years ago, cell phones are far more prevalent today, it would be interesting to see a newer poll and what it would indicate.

The cell phone has another feature that has increased rude behavior in our society.  Texting and emailing.  Ever walk down the block and someone is walking in front of you slowly or just stops short?  Ever try to walk down the subway stairs and people are just standing in the stairwell texting or emailing?  Or have a conversation with someone while they continually text to someone and expect you to wait while they blatantly ignore you for someone that isn’t even there.

We as a nation have become obsessed with this new non verbal form of communication.  We have also become addicted to social networks like Facebook , Twitter, or Myspace, in such a way that it is more important to update the virtual people in our lives with our cell phones, rather than pay attention to the actual people that are physically surrounding us.  Interestingly enough, when the phone was originally invented, The Times posted an article in 1897 that stated, “We shall soon be nothing but transparent heaps of jelly to each other.”  Over a hundred years later this seems less funny, and truer than any of us could have ever realized.

People must treat other people with respect and kindness. It is important to be aware of the tangible world around oneself.  It is imperative that as a society we can adapt our existing manners and etiquette to our new technological lifestyles.  While I do not have an answer as to how we might resolve this, I noted that it is extremely important to be aware of the issues and to begin thinking about being less rude while using electronic handheld devices.  Amy Alkon, just wrote a book, due out this month called, I See Rude People, in it she talks about people that are rude, “They are going to inflict themselves on you, and the only way to stop them is to show them there’s a cost.” Perhaps we all need to figure out just what that cost is.

Haugen, and Susan Musser.  Technology and Society. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007.

“Poll: Rudeness in America, 2006.” 3 Feb. 2006.  ABC Network.  3. Feb. 2006. <>

Quenqua, Douglas.  “As the Rude Get Ruder, the Scolds get Scoldier.” New York Times. 15 Nov. 2009.

Truss, Lynne. Talk To The Hand, #?*! The utter bloody rudeness of the world today, or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door. New York: Gotham Books, 2005.

Watkins and Roy Meador. Technology and Human Values: Collision and Solution. Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor Science Publishers Inc., 1978.