Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not My Mother's Generation

By the time I reached junior high school, women’s liberation had been in full swing for some time. Gone were the days that men held doors for women whether they were trying to seduce them or not.

Boomer women had pounded into the heads of the establishment that women needed to know how to navigate a repair shop rather than a sewing machine and I was right there too asking questions like: why aren’t there more women fire fighters or police?

When it came time to pick my seventh grade classes, I selected the shop series: wood, metal, print and horticulture. I was one of five girls that first year the school principal allowed girls in the shop area. I learned a lot. I enjoyed the whole thing. Being a tom-boy and not yet filling out, the boys knew I could play street ball and fight with the best of them. I wouldn’t change that experience. It was the beginning of my non-traditional life, outside-the-box.

However, nothing comes without a price, what I didn’t get were sewing or cooking skills of any kind.

After high school, I found my experience in shop class put me in a unique position, I had the same knowledge and experience as many of my male peers, but I was not hired for the apprentice plumbing position or the apprentice carpenter position.
The lack of domestic skills has been an embarrassment over the years. I’ve had to learn those skills I deprived myself of learning because I had bought, hook, line and sinker, that women wouldn’t have to do those mundane chores.

Years later, much to the dismay of my husband in our early marriage, I knew very little about cooking and indeed, I burned water, more than once.

Sewing, ha! If I couldn’t hand sew it (reference: small mending of partially pulled hems or a button) I was completely lost. I hemmed pants with safety pins more times than I care to remember. The drycleaner’s seamstress loved me.

Historically, sewing was not gender segregated. Tailors were more often men. Towns that afforded their own tailor were hubs of commerce. Women were not generally considered weavers or tailors. Tailors were tradesmen, craftsmen, artisans and business men, venerated for their skills.

In the days of the traveling salesman, men knew how to mend their own clothes. Civil War memorabilia includes small sewing kits from soldiers’ on both sides of the Blue & Grey.

Indeed, men did and do sew. At the George Washington Carver Museum in Missouri, there is an entire display of the quilts and needlework completed by Scientist Carver. Former Football Hero, Rosy Greer sat on a talk show panel doing needlepoint. Even bikers are seen sewing accoutrements for their “hogs”.

Perhaps, I’m continuing in my non-traditional stance. Or maybe it’s just good sense to teach children to sew. However you might look at it… I took my sons (along with my daughter) to sewing class today.

When the instructor of the usually all girl workshop asked the boys why they were there, they said, without prompting from their mother, it was another life skill they’d like to learn.

The truth is the boys have been in sewing class a time or two. But if they’re ever going to learn this skill, it’s not a lesson mama can provide. While I have taught myself how to thread a sewing machine and replace a zipper, I am not by any means able to teach them the skill in depth or answer anything but the most rudimentary questions.

The sewing instructor, who would be within my mother’s generation, came up to me after class and said how well the boys did on their projects. She was especially impressed by their attention to detail. She asked if I had taught them. I laughed and briefly explained my domestic impairment.

She said her daughters (my age) didn’t know how to sew either, with a sort of puzzled look on her face.

Apparently, the gender pendulum had swung away from home arts across the country not just in my home town.

We gathered all three sewing projects. I would defy anyone to determine the gender of the creator of any of the projects. My girl and boys did very well indeed.
I cannot decide which skills are required for my children. I do not know where their life paths may lead. I do, however, believe I am obligated to make sure they have a variety of skills. It never hurts to know how to be creative, constructive, and productive; even if you never end up needing that skill. I hope I would never make a child learn something or deprive them of that knowledge based on gender.

Clearly, I’m not of my mother’s generation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No Such Thing as Adolescence

This subject really caught my eye. It all started with the email mentioning the latest report

"RE: Have you read the latest? The adolescence years go up to age 25 now."

Historically, there was no such thing as adolescence. You were a child or an adult. Teenage years or adolescence was a phenomena of the 20th Century with the increased ability of families to keep offspring immature and not responsible.

The natural progression of life includes spiritual rites such as bar-mitzvah or confirmation into adulthood at 13 -15 years old. As full members of the the church young men were able to start working to pick a wife and create families.

In more societies than not, the process of accumulating enough assets to provide a home and a living with learned trade or mercantile would take the average young man five to seven years before they were able to start courting, or arrange for a marriage. So about somewhere late teens or early 20s, many young people were selecting the mates. We see this in historical documents throughout Western Civilization, until the late 20th century after WWII, when marriage age increased and first time mother's age increased.

Ultimately, it's cruel to delay adulthood in society when both historically and physically adulthood occurs with the hormonal changes makes us ready for reproduction.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Customer Service, Ha!

Friends and acquaintances will attest to my continued chagrin when it comes to customer service.

In the old days, whenever a company would want to attract customers, they would provide their products with polite and accommodating service.

One of my favourite services of years gone by was the Service Station.

I recall accompanying my father to the service station on Saturday mornings. It was a big event for a young Daddy’s girl. Not only did I get to be with Daddy, I got to ride in his sports car, top down in the summer. What fun!

Much to my delight, every Saturday we pulled up to the Service Station and a man would hustle out to the car and ask, “May I check your engine?”

“Of course and fill it up!” Daddy replied.

The attendant hopped over to the pump and began the pump. In the time it took to fill the gas tank, the fellow would have washed the windows, popped the hood, checked and added needed oil, checked the air filter, check tire pressure and added air if needed. All this, just as the ringing of the pump bell stopped. (For you young people, there used to be a bell that rang every ten cents, imagine what that would sound like now!)

He’d happily ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” as he made change.

If a customer had a question exceeding the attendant’s expertise, that was not a problem. Each station had an on-site mechanic that was happy to answer your questions and schedule appointments (at your convenience) for any work needed.

Oh Yes! And the gifts! If you bought ten gallons or more, the customer would have their choice of gifts. I don’t recall what adults would select. But for a year, my father chose the International Doll Series, each time a new doll was available.

I tell you our parents and grandparents had it made!

Today, we’re overcharged for gas (by at least $2+ plus tax with a cost analysis), pump our own gas, and stand in line to pay a disgruntled, underpaid cashier. When the bill comes in the mail, there’s always something that isn’t quite right. So a brave consumer might venture to call the 800# to ask a question. No human answers the phone, the recording says they value your business… sure they do… that’s why you’re on hold so long! Finally if you make it through the labyrinth of push # for this, push# for that… you’ll reach someone who doesn’t speak English, and they can’t do anything but read the bill back to you. Don’t get too upset because the second they irritate you to frustration, they either put you on hold, or tell you they are recording the conversation from that point forward. In the end they refer you to the web site.

So much for 21st Century Customer Service!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

How does your garden grow?

Spring is coming! It’s a good time to plan your spring plantings, even if it isn’t time to plant in your climate area.

Where can wildflowers go in a garden? Just about anywhere. Wildflowers can create a meadow, a boarder, or just fill in those bare spots in corners or edges where nothing else seems to grow. Pick wildflowers that are native to your area and you will find they need very little tending.

Once established, wildflowers will thrive with little care and they will return year after year. Choosing wildflowers and grasses will enhance your yards appearance as well as work the soil.

Soil preparation for wildflowers is limited. You may plant wildflowers in areas that you didn’t have a chance to prepare for anything else.

Know your seeds. Some seeds germinate best in warm wet conditions. Other seeds need cold treatment before planting. Ask the vendor that sells you the wildflower seeds which type of germination works best on their seeds.

Creating an artificial cold treatment is simple. Dampen a paper towel or peat moss. Sprinkle the seeds on the towel. Place the towel in a plastic zip lock bag. Store the bag in the refrigerator for a month or two. Plant the seeds in the spring ground, as the weather begins to warm. Some of the seeds may have sprouted during the cold treatment, plant them as well.

Turn the soil the day before you plant the seeds. Mix your seeds with sand. Sow your seeds by the handful. Lightly rake some soil over the seeds. Keep the area moist but not wet until the seeds have sprouted. Thereafter, all you need do is water as needed and sit back and enjoy your wildflower garden.