T.I.C. transitions

Jew on the Waves of Fate

Archive for the tag “Family”

Dad Grad

This summer I have the great pleasure of interning at the Midtown Community Court. It is a fascinating project and first of its kind “problem-solving court” that deals mainly with the arraignment of violations and misdemeanors in Midtown Manhattan (catchment area includes roughly 14th St to 86th St from Lexington Ave to the Hudson River). There are many wonderful things I could say about this court and I am very tempted to go into exhaustive detail about its jurisdiction and organization…the kind of information that I get excited about and everyone else seems to glaze over for when I ramble on about it. So I will try to focus this post.

There is one program in particular that I would like to talk about: Dad’s United for Parenting or D-UP. This program works with non-custodial fathers many of whom have some interaction with the criminal justice system. I am still new and not involved in the program so I am lacking on many of the details but I know that they run group and individual counseling sessions with the fathers, have employment and financial training and assistance, an attorney that helps the fathers understand the maze that is the court system and more specifically the family court system and various other features. What I believe is the most important aspect is the support the program provides for these men and the encouragement toward building healthy relationships with themselves, their children, and their partners.

I had the honor of attending the D-UP graduation on Thursday, June 23 at John Jay College. It was amazing to witness. The camaraderie between the fathers was palpable and the bond between the fathers and the staff was not only apparent but also moving. Lives had been touched on both ends. The fathers had their children and other family members and friends present making this event feel like so much more than a formal affair. I felt like I was watching one very big family celebrate a significant milestone.

There are many groups that need support in our country. I believe any program that inspires and promotes healthy family building (while acknowledging that families can look any number of ways) is an important space for social workers, and anyone for that matter, to be involved in. There are fathers that strive to be a part of their children’s lives but struggle for various reasons. This includes attempting to maintain a job that can sustain child support while spending time with their children and supporting themselves. D-UP does a wonderful job of addressing this population of fathers.

To wrap this up I am including the D-UP pledge, as it conveys what this program works to achieve.

D-UP Pledge
I am here to:

I. Be more involved in the life of my children, both financially and emotionally

II. Find stable employment

III. Enhance my parenting skills

IV. Improve my self-awareness

V. Learn how to become an engaged father

VI. Respect my needs and the needs of my family

VII. Enhance my communication skills with my child and spouse/co-parent

VIII. Learn constructive ways to discipline my child

IX. Understand the major barriers to nurturing parenting

X. Understand my family roots and heritage

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Yellow Card! Green Card! Blue Card! White Card!

No, I am not talking about penalties in soccer especially since I had look up “yellow card” to be sure that there was such a thing as penalty cards in soccer.  I am talking about Yom Kippur.  One of the three Jewish holidays most non-Jews are aware of.  This is the day that most know as the “Day of Atonement” and my family prefers to refer to as the “Day of AtONEment.”  Creative right.

Transitions are very important to my people.  We spend the day on Fridays preparing for Shabbat, the Sabbath when we make a separation between all the stresses and weight of the week and a time to focus on yourself.  It is the original weekend.

Rosh Hashanah is the holiday that begins a very important transition for Jews.  We blow the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah also known as Yom Teruah (Day of the Call or Blast or Clarion depending on the translation).  It begins the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe or AWEfull Days) when we try to repent for our mistakes, our missteps over the past year.  The Yamim Nora’im consist of 10 days that end with Yom Kippur.  After Yom Kippur we are supposed to be done focusing on our transgressions from the previous year.

I believe there is a beauty in this.  How many of us are guilty of dwelling obsessively over our various slip-ups?  It is not healthy to fixate on the negative however it must be dealt with at some point.  Therefore Judaism gives the opportunity to deal with our issues and then the chance to let go and move on.  I think this makes a lot of sense.

What do multicolored cards have to do with this?  Growing up in my father’s congregation in Florida we had a particular tradition.  Yellow, green, blue and white index cards were handed out to everyone.  We would then write one or more of our wrongdoings on these cards and each one represented the target of that wrongdoing.

Green = nature
Blue = yourself
Yellow = others
White = God

Here is my attempt at a poem to remember them:

Green is for what the earth has seen,
Blue is for you and Yellow your fellow,
And most difficult to cite
On white the sins against God we write.

Okay, I tried.

These cards would be collected on Rosh Hashanah and some would be read on Yom Kippur.   It was a cathartic way of physically letting go and moving on.  This is important.

With all that said let me apologize to those I have wronged over the past year.  We do what we can to be the best we can be but mistakes happen and people, our planet, our faith, and our ‘self’ can get hurt.  Sometime we are unaware of pain we may cause.  Again I apologize and hope that in the coming year I can grow and learn do my best to help bring about Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

Zen Subway Riding

When I was younger I used to visit New York City every year with my family. It was part of our autumn tradition ever since we moved from New York State. On the way to Rhode Island for a thanksgiving/Davis family reunion we would stop and see my mother’s father and stepmother in Queens. Part of the tradition involved my father taking us into Manhattan to see the sites, his old haunts, and, I think, for the overall NYC experience.

A key part of that experience was riding the subways. This was insisted upon and my clearest memory of this was my father’s lessons in “Zen Subway Riding.” He would have me stand in a strong stance, often called a fighting stance. One leg in front of the other, knees slightly bent, the kind of stance I learned in Karate and Aikido classes. It was about balance. He would challenge me to stand for as much of the trip as I could without holding onto any of the poles or handles.

I am sure everyone’s parents had their own eccentricities that annoyed their children immensely and yet those children, as they grew up often look back on them fondly. This was not the case for this particular eccentricity. I feel as if I enjoyed the challenge even back then. I do not remember complaining much about it though my father may remember differently. I remember that as I tried to maintain my balance on the train car with my hand poised to grab the pole my father would tell me stories of his life in the city.

One story in particular that pertains to the skill he was teaching was how he taught himself “Zen Subway Riding”. But he added another component, he would ride between subway cars (DISCLAIMER-WARNING: Please do not attempt this. Adhere to all MTA guidelines when riding on the NY subway system). Needless to say I thought my father was…to put it in the most elegant terms I can, badass. Perhaps a little crazy but I would not want him any other way.

Why, among all the lessons my father has attempted to impart to me, does “Zen Subway Riding” stand out? I have found myself practicing it on the buses in Boulder and the airport tram at Denver International. I would still put my hand up occasionally, ready to grasp the bar if needed and sometimes cheat a bit, as I definitely did as a child, by saying I was not actually touching the pole when in fact I was leaning against it a bit with the palm of my hand.

I live in New York City now, riding on newer cars and some that look like the ones I rode in the 90s. I do not practice “Zen Subway Riding” each time I am on the subway but I think about it each time the train lurches to a start. While I try to fit in and read or check my phone while sitting, leaning against a door (you’re not supposed to do that either) or trying to look as nonchalant as possible as I awkwardly grasp a bar above my head I still maintain the stance my father always told me was the best way to keep my balance. Any time I stumble a bit I evaluate why it happened so I can work to avoid it.

It is not overtly noticeable but it is a connection across time that links my father’s life in the late 70s and early 80s to my childhood in the 90s to my adult life in the new millennium. Transitions. This one has reaffirmed or even created a shared experience and has not weakened the connection.

a new chapter

Picture turning that page, it ended a quarter of the way down and the back is blank.  Why?  This is because you are starting a whole new chapter, perhaps a whole new “part” (you know those books that are split into multiple parts and then chapters).  I am thinking about how to creatively graft this metaphor onto my situation.  Let me take a different approach: how would I have begun this “chapter” of my life had I been writing it as a part of a book.  Perhaps the last chapter would have ended with the hectic and stressful last minute packing and preparation before passing out on my parents’ couch for my last night in Colorado.

Thus Far Untitled Autobiographical Literary Attempt
By Ronin
Part 4 Chapter 1
(or whatever number it would be)

We began driving.  Well my sister began driving and as she found various ways to express her excitement, relief, anxiety, and all the other emotions that were bursting from her I strained to decipher my feelings.  This was it right?  This was when I was supposed to express my thoughts on this major transition.  Up to this point I could say I was focused almost entirely on the preparations and therefore did not have time to think about superficial sentiments.  Aw sweet rational, blank faced solace.  But now that I was supposed to be flooded with all of those feelings that I had pushed aside yet I was still struggling to sort the internal disorder.

I have not been one to cry for quite some time and I felt damn near guilty for that as I hugged my parents.  I must admit that one pang I felt in my gut came from watching my mother wave to me and knowing that I would not see her for quite some time…odd, thank you Freud.  I know of course that I will miss all three of the parents [Note: three parents?  Refer to the end of Part 2 of this book] for varying reasons but leaving ‘mommy’ turned out to twist something inside and I would be lying if I said I was not surprised by this.

We were on the highway anticipating what we knew would be the dullest and therefore the most straining part of the drive…Kansas.  Kansas and its endless fields of corn and sunflowers where looking in the rearview mirror is no different than looking ahead, that is if there was any space to see out of the rearview mirror.  Farewell Colorful Colorado, you emblem of an independent century.  I will miss your stunning sights, your schizophrenic weather, and your purple pretentious politics.

As I make my transition to the Big Apple, a feat I will attempt to do without damaging these damned braces, I hope I will not go down in flames in a city that greatly overshadows the entire state that encompasses it.  There are a few stops along the way and perhaps I will be able to sort out the chaos in my head by the time I get to Manhattan.   Nah, probably not.

Butter


A tradition in our family is to “surprise” the birthday person by slathering butter, or the non-dairy equivalent as the case may be on their nose.  I took a Folklore class during undergrad where I learned that this tradition is meant to encourage the birthday individual to move smoothly into their new year.  Variations on the butter include peanut butter and…get this, grease.  Moving or perhaps sliding smoothly into your next year and in my case my 26th year (turning 25, finishing the 25th year, ah numbers).  Remember transitions?  My sister put a hefty and surprisingly well shaped square cut of butter on my nose.  As I struggled to keep it from sliding off while the camera was being fumbled about I thought about the transition I was going through and how smooth I could expect it to be.  Life has not felt smooth especially with the impending tooth removal, echocardiogram (long story), trying to secure a place to live in NYC and so on.

Recently (yesterday) a heated discussion appeared on my sister’s facebook wall regarding Israeli/Palestinian issues.  I found that I did not like the idea of attempting to have a civilized and intelligent discussion/argument over a facebook wall.  It became obnoxious and I found myself almost falling prey to it.  Discussions over the internet are very impersonal and it makes it easy to forget that you are actually partaking in discourse with other individuals.  My point is people seem to feel they can say nearly anything, there are less consequences or at least it feels that way.

In my opinion becoming overly defensive, using inflammatory language and becoming too emotional over a topic detracts from any progress or enlightenment the exchange might bring about.  Unfortunately this is what happens most often.  It is difficult to see why anyone should put any effort into being open-minded and considerate if it falls on deaf ears…or more accurately blind eyes.  It makes an already exhausting situation even more draining with little gain.  I wish that encouraging decorum and disagreeing in a constructive manner would have any effect on people but more often than not people ignore it or claim that their overreaction is only a necessary response to someone else’s overreaction.  It is frustrating.

.transitions.  Attempting to make them smooth sometimes makes it more rough but the attempt is what is important….right?

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