Sunday, September 26, 2010

College Night at Cleveland. Or, how I faced my demons at 40.

Two years ago, I had a “face your demons” night for sure. I left my high school in June, 1986 and I didn’t look back.

At all.

Until two years ago, when I spoke at Cleveland High School Humanities Magnet’s College Night. It’s a long story how I got there (not really long, but not funny or interesting) but suffice it to say the first time I felt old is when I was told that I’d be speaking to the PARENTS. Yep…almost 40 and that means…you get to speak to the parents.

I spoke about how the program prepared me for college, but more about how parents can help their kids get ready to make that transition etc. They were pretty vague about what they wanted me to talk about – which is how I like it. I can speak extemporaneously. Turns out this is one of those times, I wished I was recorded. It was a good one.

But I had to earn it.

So…after what was a very tough day at work (also not getting into it, but suffice it to say that my ego was pretty bruised and I didn’t feel very successful in my career or life when I left the office at 6) I drove what didn’t feel all that familiar route to Grover Cleveland High School in lovely downtown Reseda.

Now – I knew that part of the reason that I was doing this was to exercise (in the Catholic sense not the fitness one) some let’s just say, leftover demons, that exist for me from High School. So I was honest about why I was doing this. But as I got closer, that knot that used to form in my stomach in high school began to reform – lovely. (Maybe high school is when I developed my 2, count ‘em, 2 ulcers).

News flash – I didn’t love high school. It was tough every day of all three years (also a sign of my age – high school was not four years then). I struggled not only in all the areas that everyone does: social, finding yourself, learning about your identity, etc. but also with academics. It wasn’t until my Junior/Senior year in College that I learned about how I learn and my grades shot up into the A range.

So, given those struggles, last night was about sweeping those demons away. Finally.

I pulled into the parking lot and walked onto campus. O.K. so far so good. Nothing bad has happened yet.

I found the room where I’d be speaking (E10 for the people on this note that know the campus) – which, incidentally, I didn’t need directions to after 22 years – and walked in. I had taken classes in this room 22, 23, 24 years ago. Mr. something-that-started-with-a-K taught in that room. I had about 10 minutes before the program would begin so I walked around a bit.

I headed down the hallway of the E building. This is significant in that if you were in the magnet program, this is where you spent at least 2/3 of your day. Chances are, your locker was in here and all four of your Core classes (the cornerstone of the program) were in this building. It’s a one story building with 9 classrooms and the Magnet Office in it. I began to walk down the hall slowly – and no one else was there.

Physically at least.

I heard voices for sure…I heard the sound of my high school class. I heard the sound of an old friend’s voice laughing, I heard the teachers voices (one of which still teaches there!) booming to “think more critically!”. I heard the silent sound of panic – of that panic in a 16 year old head that says, “my life is over”. I heard the sound of a kid who is simply trying to find out who they are and this building isn’t helping.

I found my locker.

Seriously. I found my locker and stood there for a moment.

And I felt tall. Granted, I was in 3” heels, but I felt tall outside of that. I felt like the building was stepping to the side for the “grown up”. Yes! Some demons – gone!

I walked outside and took a walk down the middle of campus to the quad. I saw that they moved the bench that I used to sit on with a few friends between E and D buildings (C. Choo – remember our bench?). Other than that, the school looks pretty much the same. More vending machines, but not much else.

I walked back through E building and noticed that where there used to be classroom doors with small windows, there were now cell looking doors. No door knob, just a lock for a key and a handle to pull the door open with.

Wow…keeping them in or keeping people out? Was this an after effect of Columbine? Even in 1986 there was a shooting at Cleveland , but wow – these look like cell doors. (I did ask later, and the doors were installed before Columbine. I decided I didn’t want any other information.)

So…now…back to the speaking engagement – which is why you’re still reading this.

I get into E10 and it’s starting to look really full. Lots of parents sitting in those high school seats – chair and desk attached with a small basket beneath. I am one of 3 speakers. First is Ginger (?) the 25 year old admissions counselor from UCLA. She is there to tell the parents all the ins and outs of applying to the UC schools and specifically UCLA. Ms. UCLA goes through her slide presentation and after her 30 or so minute speech, I am so thankful that I don’t have to apply to college again that I want to run through the hallways cheering. You need 120 units of this and 300 units of that. You better take 20 AP classes if your school offers 30 or don’t even bother applying. You must have held leadership positions in your outside activities – not good enough to have simply participated. It goes on an on (those of you with high school children who will be going to college, my heart goes out to you). I don’t know when kids have time to be kids these days…holy cow.

Then she finally finishes.

And then this lovely young woman who is approximately 31 (but looks 20-something for sure) gets up to speak. She is a Cleveland Alum as well.

It’s important to note that I am now standing on the side of the room at the front next to what used to be the chalk board and is now the “white board” in a room that is filled to over capacity with parents. People are standing on the sides of the room and spilling outside the classroom. I think we’re talking close to 70 people. Maybe over…can’t be sure. But I’m up there to the right of the other Alum. Be thinking about what my body language, facial expressions and internal communication might have been when I tell you what her speech consisted of.

So…she begins by telling people how long it’s been since she graduated – 1995 and a bit of blah blah blah about what she liked about the Magnet program. Then she talked about how she went of to Penn for undergrad and how she used a lot of what she learned in the program. Then (start to think about my expressions…) she went off to Penn again for her Master’s…o.k. (I begin to think, I’m going to have to make these parents laugh)

Then…she became an elementary school teacher for first and second grade. (Yep, really going to need to make them laugh)

Then she did this and then she did that and then she invented Cold Fusion and then she worked with Bono on saving all the children in Africa and then she worked to reinvent the telephone and then she consulted with world leaders on clean water and then and then she created sustainable this and that and then and then and then…(O.K. it’s for sure…I need to make them laugh but not so much they don’t take me seriously)

And then she became a PhD student at Harvard – which incidentally was the “right school for her” after an exhaustive search. (Yep – guffaws for sure)

Oh holy crap!!!


She was valedictorian of her class here at Cleveland .

“Ugh!” came out of my mouth.

Audibly, I think based on the two faces that looked at me.

O.K. I need to make them roll in the isles…but in that way that they do it inside their heads and not look at me like “does she think this is open mike night at the Improv?”

I usually feel badly for people that follow me in public speaking – not to sound too egotistical, but I do that pretty well and following me is sometimes tough.

Um, people have run screaming from a public speaking engagement for less than this girl.


THUD!! Went my stomach and I wondered if it was too late to make an escape.

So, it’s probably a good time to explain that I was not the best student in high school. I think I eluded to this earlier, but it’s as good a time as any to reiterate it.


Hello demons…you were waiting for this, right?

So…the host says to the crowd: “do you have any questions for our speaker Penn-Penn-Harvard?” (O.K. he didn’t call her that, but for the duration, that’s what I’ll be calling her…)

Not one hand went up.

Oy – rough crowd.

“Now I’d like to introduce Dena Loverde – another graduate of the Cleveland Magnet program. Dena graduated in 19…96?” the host says.

“No…I graduated in 19…86” I said. And a wave of “ohhh, ahhh” came over the crowd.

And then I began:

“And now for something completely different! (cue laughter – they actually laughed) It’s true, the last time I was on this campus was 22 years ago almost to the day.”

I then spent the next 15-20 minutes talking uninterrupted to a rapt audience. They seemed to hang on every word I said. I’m not being conceited, I am telling you – they were interested in hearing from me.

Much to my total surprise.

I have a style of public speaking that I describe as a combination of preacher-motivational speaker-comic-teacher. So, it’s pretty engaging. And it better be, because I needed to grab them from the first minute I started speaking so that they didn’t concentrate on the fact that Penn-Penn-Harvard was not speaking to them any longer.

I told them about the program and how it had an effect on me with regard to what we learned, how I referred to it over the next 20 years in art that I saw, college (both BA and MA) and conversations that I had. I told them that way back in the dark ages, all you had to do was raise your hand and you were into a magnet program – that I went to an elementary school, jr. high and high school with magnet programs…it was easy then. But that when I told people over the last 20 years that I went to Cleveland ’s Magnet, they were all very impressed. I explained that the director of this program, Neil Anstead was ahead of his time – that what their kids (Ms. UCLA and Penn-Penn-Harvard kept calling their children, “students” – how impersonal – these are PARENTS of CHILDREN) learned here was like nothing other kids learned at other schools. I told them how lucky they were to get to experience this with their kids.

But I also told them that this program is hard. 20 years harder than when I was here. That they need to support their kids, assist them, help them with the work. Participate with them in their learning. That their kids were being asked to come up with original thoughts – previously used thoughts, not good enough. That they were being tasked with way more than current events and that they were being challenged to go way past what these kids thought was their “top”. They were being asked to take it even higher and be more than they think they can.

And that’s really hard when you’re 15, 16, and 17 years old.

Also, it’s super hard when you’re trying to do all that stuff that Ms. UCLA said you have to do to go to college! (I was more polite, but you get the gist.)

I told them about the teacher that is evidently still there (Mr. Linn – philosophy/critical thinking) and how sorry I was that their children would not get to learn from my art teacher, Mrs. Montrachet.

So I went on and on – telling them about my college career (leaving out some social and academic details that were not relevant) and about going to CSUN for both my BA and my MA.

And then the questions came…

Tons of them. Some of the gems and my answers were:

“Does it matter if you go to a ‘good’ or ‘not so good’ college?”

No, it doesn’t. I have interviewed a lot of people and to me the issue is – go to college and finish. Now, that being said, if you are specialized in something and there is a college that is known for that specialization, having gone there will carry more weight. (needless to say, Penn-Penn-Harvard and Ms. UCLA weren’t thrilled, but hey, that’s real life baby)

“What did you major in?”

I was a business major for almost 4 years because I thought I was supposed to. My dad and mom were business and econ, so I thought that was what I was supposed to do. But, in my 4th year, I took an econ class that made me think that I would jump off the Sierra Tower if I took another one. Then I took a speech class and the rest is Training & Development history.

“If you could do it over again, would you still go to CSUN or go to UCLA?”

I’m not going to answer that question as you would like me to. The fact is that if I went to UCLA in 1986 I’d only be doing it because my parents did. That’s it. Your kids need to choose the college that speaks to them. College is not optional – where your kid goes, is.

“What should we do when our kids want to go to one college because it is popular and prestigious and they don’t want to hear about going anywhere else?”

(I simply LOVE when they asked me questions about how to RAISE THEIR CHILDREN!!!)

Well…I’ll give you an analogy to answer this question – let’s say, I come home, as your daughter and tell you that there are these jeans that I MUST have – that my life will be incomplete without them and that everyone has them and that life will be practically perfect if I have them. Oh, and the jeans are $175,000! So, what do you say to me parent? (lots of beginnings of grumblings…) Not so much? Right? Same with college. It’s your job as their parent to open their eyes that there are thousands of colleges out there and that there are options and that they should review all the options.

So…I know this is long winded, but it was a good night…I got a ton of good feedback at the end – the individual comments kept me there for an additional 25 minutes. The guy who lead the evening took my card because he wants me to speak to the kids. He said that they couldn’t have scripted it better and they think that the kids need to hear that the program is tough and they’re not making it up. One mom came to me and thanked me for telling them how hard the program is. Her daughter keeps coming home and telling her how she and her friends are struggling and the mom thought she was making it up. Does that sound similar to, “well, maybe you’re not applying yourself”? Right.


You can go back again, but should you?

Hello blog peeps. I hope that you are staying cool wherever you are because it's about a million degrees here where I am. Yes, it a dry heat, but it's a million degrees out and dry. Blech. I can't really complain as it only gets this way for a couple of weeks a year here and the rest of the year, it's pretty great weather. So, I shouldn't complain, but I do.

This weekend I did something that is very unlike me. I am a firm believer of putting the past in the past. That's why they call it the past. If you were supposed to continue to deal with it, it would be called the present. But, in fact, it's called the past and that is where it should remain.

This weekend I took Aha on a tour of my high school. We broke the law - yes we did - we trespassed. The gate was open and we wandered in. Many of the buildings were being painted and so the workmen were in and out of the campus and thus the opportunity presented itself to wander around.

Now, it's probably important to tell you that not only do I believe that the past should remain just that, the past, but high school in particular. Let's just say, it's not one of my fondest memories for a multitude of reasons.

I'm no different than many people, I was insecure (though at my reunions, everyone seems to want to tell me how 'together' I seemed) and while I thought I knew basically who I was, evidently in retrospect, I had no clue.

I also, was desperate, I mean desperate (but very serious - all hail Adam Ant!) to be someone's girlfriend. This was a very real issue for me. My parents had met practically at birth (middle school) and therefore I knew no different. I knew that I wouldn't meet my Mr. Right in middle or high school, but I was seriously ready for Mr. For the Moment, or Mr. Take Me to The Dances, or Mr. Ask Me to Wear His Letterman Jacket, and/or Mr. Walk Around Holding my Hand and Being Proud to Date me. I wasn't picky.

It wouldn't be for another 20+ years (23+ if you start in the 10th grade - the beginning of high school back when the earth was cooling) that I would find out that my suitors were there, right there, making up the starting line of the football team, the basketball team and in my classes but they didn't think they could come up and talk with me because they were too intimidated (or so they say - I'm going with it and if it turns out it was a lie, please don't feel like you need to burst my bubble).


As Hawkeye said to Trapper, "[I] screwed up in reverse!".

So, when Aha and I walked onto the campus it was an interesting moment. I had been back one other time a few years ago to speak to the College Night Parents (I will post that summary in the next blog so you can read how it went) but other than that quick trip, I hadn't walked around the campus in 20+ years.

And with good reason.

Woosh are there a lot of ghosts there. They seem to live in the cafeteria area - outside the buildings, in the areas that are now paved but used to be, I'm not even sure what, dirt? Grass? The ghosts of my high school career lay in wait there. But because I had Aha with me (and another secret weapon) I felt protected.

It's true - I wasn't alone, which is how I felt so often there. I wasn't afraid to come around a corner because someone scary would be there. My security team yesterday wouldn't let that happen to me. They wouldn't let the mean kids make faces at me. They wouldn't let the immature high schoolers accuse me of something I never did.

Most importantly, they would never let me forget I'm smart (they told me that yesterday too - not knowing how important it was for me to hear). Very very often at that school I felt sooooo un-smart. So far below expectations and I never knew why, but once that snowball gets a 'rollin, it can't be stopped.

Yesterday was another step in putting that part of the past, really in the past.

Very recently a person from my way back past who resurfaced (think elementary school) asked me why I didn't use my maiden name in social networks etc . I told this person that I'm in contact with the people that I would like to be from my past and not feeling a deep need to reconnect with others.

So, does knowing you can go back again mean you should? I'm still not sure. But I'll tell you this; don't go without your security team.

And no, you can't have mine. Get your own.

It's not easy being green,

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To err is human; to Fredo is to forgive

At this, the end of the days of awe for Jews worldwide, the two words of the ten days are "forgive" and "inscribe". Inscribe will be dealt with in another post, but for today, let's examine forgive.

To be forgiven is supposed to clear everything up, right? I forgive someone and all those feelings of anger, irritation and shock of what's happened (in the case of Michael and Fredo, Fredo having set up Michael to be whacked!) are supposed to just fly the coop?

That's a lot to ask of the angry person. Think about it, you're pissed off at someone and they say, "please forgive me for forgetting your birthday", it's up to you to get rid of that anger and say, "o.k." and then move on with your life.

I don't think so.

But when it's even worser? Yes, I said worser.

When someone says, as in the case of Fredo, "Please forgive me for putting a hit out on you". I don't think that Michael is thinking that a simple forgiveness request is going to do it.

Seriously, think about it. There's no easy way to rectify these things. Saying, "I'm sorry" is about as effective as saying, "oops". Ergo, not so much.

But, asking for forgiveness puts all the responsibility on the person being asked. If you say, "please forgive me" it's my job now to make the decision to forgive you or not. If I do, then I have to let go of my anger and if I say no, I sound like a tool.

So what's the solution?

Are there events that are unforgivable?

I guess that depends.

Was shooting Sonny on the causeway forgivable? The Don went to the five families and cleared the air. Pretty amazing. I'm not sure I could let the air be cleared if it was my kid.

What about the kids who bullied that little girl on the bus day in and day out. Her Dad came on the bus and laid down the law that he'd permanently mess them all up (including the driver) if they continued to bully his daughter. Should the girl forgive those kids? Should the parents forgive the father?

And something else...are we forgiving actions or behavior? Think about that. Think seriously about that.

Are you forgiving the hit that Fredo put out on you or are you forgiving the behavior, the fact that Fredo CHOSE to behave that way.

Forgiveness is a rough deal. I'm not sure I get it either.

But here's the rub. It's the waiting until Yom Kippur (YK) to ask for forgiveness part that seems pretty insincere to me. The readings say that you should ask for forgiveness immediately when you "transgress" against one another and that YK is simply a 'catch all' for the transgressions you may have missed.

If you missed it and someone is walking around being irritated with you and doesn't mention it, how will you know if you need to ask for forgiveness. And more importantly, why would they wait until the days of awe to let you know, "say, by the way, last October you really pissed me off when you....".

I'm sorry - I must call an audible for that one. The statute of limitations has WAY expired if it was 11 months ago. Communication and forgiveness are a two-way gig. It's just as important to let someone know that they pissed you off as it is for you to let them know that they did if it appears that they don't realize it (as dense as that makes them look to you).

So, poor Fredo. Here he is, stuck in this family, thought to be the stupid one ("I'm smart! I'm smart!") and he gets in Dutch with Hyman Roth's peeps - Johnny Ola was the middle man - and the hit on Michael doesn't work.

NOW, they're at a new years party and his brother Michael plants a very humongous kiss on his lips and utters the now very famous lines, "I knew it was you Fredo. I knew it was you. You broke my heart Fredo! You broke my heart!" and then commands Fredo to get on a plane with him to flee to safety from Cuba.

Fredo comes slinking back to Michael asking for forgiveness, using their sister (Tahlia Shire in a most fabulous role, prior to her almost mute role in Rocky) as his go-between. Michael basically says "Paphooy" to Fredo until their Mom dies and then, as it turns out, Fredo's days are numbered.

All I have to say is never go fishing with someone named Fredo.

So what would you do? What do you do about forgiveness? What do you do about giant transgressions against you or ones you've done to others? The only one who has to reckon it at the end is you, but how do you deal with the issue of forgiveness?

I'm not sure either.

But I do know this, karma is a brutal thing. I know is that I have to be a good person, not hold grudges (it's in my DNA, so that's a constant battle), and live and let live. I'm fortunate that I haven't had to deal with a forgiveness request for what I would consider a large transgression and frankly, I'm not sure what I'd do if I were Michael. But my siblings should rest assured that I will never have them killed. Never, ever, never, ever. I think that might fall into the unforgivable column.

I guess this one will be decided on a case by case basis.

May all of you be inscribed in whatever book you hope to be inscribed in for a healthy and happy year,

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How can you miss me if I don't go away?

Hello party people!

My goodness has a lot happened since I was an acronym. I went from 0 to 120 mph in terms of things going on. I've got my own company now (DRL Consulting) and I'm working on a HUGE project with a client and I teach a session of Public Speaking at L.A. Valley College (thank you thank you thank you Mr. Green for help in making that happen!!). Plus I'm still running and I'm planning to run the Disneyland Half Marathon this Sunday and I'm finally back to cooking in my kitchen (three nights in a row and counting!!!). AND I'm still a wife/caregiver, daughter, aunt, friend.....So, given that I need to sleep at some point I've not been around.

But that's the very best thing about writing a blog - it's like going to the gym (or not) - if I don't come by for a while, you never ask where I was. You never say, "I haven't seen you here in a while", it's a very beautiful thing.

But what's in my mind lately?


Bye bye.

Getting out of dodge.


Running away.

Blowing this popsicle stand.

Bailing out.

Finding a life raft and jumping ship.

Get it yet?

Now, no one worry that Aha and I are having issues - we're not - we're still sickeningly in love and everything is good there. But even in a fabulous marriage, you need a little alone time.

It's amazing how little time in our own heads we get. But your head is not what concerns me. Though, I am concerned about you, but for the moment, this is a one way speaking event. I'll get to you in a moment.

I am determining in my old age that I really do need time alone. Seriously. And especially now that I work from home. I need time when I don't feel responsible for anyone else. I know that parents feel this a lot and I totally get it.

But I'm here 2 tell u, there's something else - it's not just kids that make you want to go into the bathroom, lock the door and/or give yourself a "time out". Sometimes it's regular life. Sometimes, we turn into a 9 year old who just doesn't wanna do anything and we're just short of throwing a tantrum on the floor; complete with kicking, screaming and flailing arms. I'm not so sure that if we wouldn't be hauled off to a room with padded walls, more of us would do that (hmmm, a windowless room with padding on the walls and floor. Is it bad that it sounds good to me?).

But we don't get away like we should. We have "feelings". We have feelings of responsibility.

NOTE: if you don't fall into this category, I simultaneously am envious and disappointed of/in you.

And that my friends, is the signal that you have moved into that group - the grown ups.

To that I say, "PHOOEY!!!"

Seriously. Sometimes, a woman just needs to be a girl - I'll even settle for young woman or even young lady. Sometimes I just want to go to the beach sit in the sand, listen to my walkman and work on puzzles or eat food that Mom won't let me eat in the house and not gain weight from it.

What's wrong with that?

Nothing if you don't mind people thinking that you might be a lazy bum.

Oh, and that you don't mind not earning money. Now that's a problem one because it funds the above mentioned beach day with music, puzzles and snacks.

So what do I glean from all of this?

Not much. But I do love getting to whine about it.


Because I get to do it alone. HA!!!

Sing of good things, not bad,

P.S. Hey look, I never got to Not sure I feel great about that, but you seem to be o.k. so I'm gonna go with it's o.k.