Thursday, May 26, 2011

Theory: All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull…and Ignorant Boy

Image by Ilker

I read an article yesterday about how America is the only developed nation that does not mandate a vacation for employees (most industrial nations offer a minimum of four weeks). This morning, I was intrigued by Jeff Johnson's commentary from Kenya on the Tom Joyner Morning Show in which he talked about how most of the people he meets in his international travels view themselves as citizens of the world. They’re knowledgeable of other nations and consider themselves members of a global community.

Yet, most Americans can't see past the physical and psychological borders of the good ol' USA.

While there are beaucoup debates to be hashed out within these topics, the thought I had this morning was a simple one---there is surely a correlation between the lack of vacation time for most Americans and the lack of global sentiments/knowledge among Americans.

Think about it. If you saved the money to take a trip to Ireland, Australia, or Ghana, you wouldn't just want to go for two weeks, right? In fact, if you're like me, you don't even want to snort up your precious two weeks in one go. Therefore, with one week being the longest vacay that probably most folks are comfortable taking, there's no time to leave the country. No time to truly engulf yourself in another culture (as opposed to a high-speed tourist whirl).

And there you have it--a self-perpetuating cycle of rationing 14 PDOs between 365 days of the year, only allowing for short jaunts to locales that don't require a flight over 4 hours, a passport, or a translator app.

Experiencing other countries is not just some elitist, foofy, or bohemian thing to do. As Jeff Johnson points out, how can Americans compete globally in business without global knowledge? How can we have open political discourse on an international level if we can only identify with Democrat or Republican?

And so, we die early from decades of burnout, and ignorant from decades of not venturing out.

(Note: If you can afford a trip for four to Disney, you can afford to leave the country.)

More thoughts on vacation and working:

Paradise Minus the Packing: Your Staycation Awaits 
Permanent Vacay: How Can I Be Down? 
Will Work for Character

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thoughts on Ma

Wow, what a woman. She taught me about faith, and ensured at birth I'd never forget it. She was ol' school enough to teach me how to cook and to have manners, address adults with "Miss" or "Mister."

But she wasn't stuck in the old school. Couldn't be, not with a daughter like me, a daughter who read too much, observed too much and embodied a really old soul.

Funny thing is, she was also non-traditional, even though she was older than my friends' mothers (she had me at 40). I had a boyfriend at 15 and we were even allowed to go out to the movies.  I never had a curfew, and this was before everyone had cell phones. And if I had a bedtime, it was before I can remember. 

During the first week of eighth grade, I confessed to her that I didn't want to be in gifted anymore. I'd been in the program since 2nd grade and excelled, but with the suffocating pressure of adolescence, I was just exhausted of being isolated from the neighborhood kids I was bussed to Boca Raton with. I remember the pained expression on her face as she said okay. I don't know if it was because she hated to see me ditch advanced classes or if she sympathized with my teenage angst. (I ended up not quitting, but that's another story...)

She took my opinion and my feelings very seriously.

Long before folks got all Dr. Phil about raising kids, I don't remember Ma yelling at me. I don't even remember her being annoyed by my endless questions about every freaking thing. She never said a disparaging word about my dad, even though they'd been divorced---twice. He was very much a part of our lives. And if there was any attitude between them, I couldn't tell. I'm thankful for that.

There was a stereo in the headboard of her bed and she'd call for me when “Nightshift” by the Commodores came on. That was our song. Ma, my brother, and I lay in the big king-sized bed and watched The Arsenio Hall Show, even on school nights. Last movie we saw together was Ray; she was from Georgia and loved “Georgia On My Mind.” She used to wake us before dawn for the Easter sunrise service on the beach. Random memories...

She was so...much.

She passed away in 2005, my last semester of college. Fortunately, I was taking a workshop poetry class. Here is one of the several pieces I wrote during that period.

Love ya, Ma.


What Now?

I know you’re in a better place
but are you here sometimes
riding along in the car
perched pleasantly on my steps
or peering over my shoulder as I bake
the Chewy Cheesecake you taught me to make?

are you omnipresent now
like a demigod of sorts
can you be here with me in Florida and
in the Bronx with Aunt Weavie
at the same time?

you’re probably
chillin’ with Jesus
and Grandma
which is cool
you deserve that

I just wonder if you reminisce
on things we used to do
times we shared. I mean
I’m sure they pale in comparison
to everlasting life, but

remember that time we missed our flight
from New York and had to stay
overnight at that Travelodge in Jersey?
It was on this tumultuous highway
that we crossed to get chili
and cornbread for dinner

it took you so long to muster
the nerve to hobble across that highway
I coached you from the other side—
“Come on Ma…after this truck…no wait! Okay, go, go, go!”

then we got back to the room
you spread out on one bed
and me on the other, and we watched
the lighting of the Rockefeller Tree on TV
and laughed
and laughed

do you still laugh about that?