Friday, December 21, 2012

I'm paying for this all day long

I do a fair amount of volunteering at the kids' schools, and I'm a Girl Scout leader. I save the class parties for other parents who have judgmental, perfect ways of doing things. The girl's class party was yesterday.

They had a gift exchange of a sort. Apparently, one of the moms had the bright idea to play that game where someone picks a random gift, opens it, next person chooses a random gift, but if second person doesn't like the gift, that person can "trade" gifts with someone who's already chosen a gift.

Did NO ONE see the combination of this game--that I've seen go poorly with ADULTS, resulting in bad feelings--and third graders could, maybe, possibly, end badly? Cuz as my sobbing daughter talked about how one girl influenced another to "steal" her gift, I had more than a bit of a clue.

These people HAVE kids, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Common courtesy--GONE!

I think we can all agree the times, they are TOUGH economically.  Here in this house, we're living that reality with our main breadwinner out of work.  Having still not recovered completely from his three year long stint of joblessness that ended only two years ago, any time of joblessness is to say, definitely unpleasant.  But I gotta say, the lack of common courtesy from employers is ticking me off.

Realizing that many people, in this day and age of instant gratification and the endless internet at their disposal, may apply for jobs they perhaps aren't truly qualified for, because, hey, it's only a click away, I get that not every inquiry will be acknowledged.  I even understand that phone interviews (of which Hubster has had at least three) that don't move to the next cut may not be acknowledged.  I think all the phone interviewers even said he'd only be contacted if he went to the next level.  Fine.  People are busy.  I get it.  But Hubster had one interview that went beyond phone to face-to-face.  It was a GREAT opportunity.  Good hours, stunningly close to home, working days, no weekends.  In short, I really didn't even expect he'd get it, it was just too perfect.

Hubster met, on this interview, the HR Flunky, HR Big, Warehouse Manager, and MR BIG BOSS.  It lasted over an hour, there was laughing, there was discussion of various scenarios.  It went as well as an interview could go.  Near the end, Big Boss let loose two facts, one that Hubster was Candidate Uno, meaning first interviewed.  Hubster acknowledged that could be good OR bad.  Big Boss then conferred with Warehouse Manager and HR Big, and said he'd be contacted EITHER WAY within about two weeks.  Excellent!  Hubster came home and emailed HR Big, thanking him for the interview, hoping to hear from him soon.

Two weeks came and went.  No calls, no emails.  Week three was Thanksgiving week.  Hubster called HR Flunky, leaving a message that he realized their time frame had passed, if there were any other info they needed, he'd be happy to supply it.  No calls, no emails. 

This is what burns me.  Multiple people committed to the "either way, we'll let you know" sentiment.  Even if they "forgot" to call him, his message to HR Flunky should have generated an email immediately afterward.  Given this day and age of email, three sentences could have both informed Hubster he was no longer in the running and stopped us from hoping.  In this day and age of people hoping to get jobs, wouldn't it be nice if those in charge of hiring exhibited common courtesy?  All I know is this company talked in the interview about how they were a "family company" but I just see them as a RUDE company.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I turned it off

I've done what I need to do, which is turn off the coverage of the horrendous tragedy that occurred on Friday.  I can't watch anymore.  I feel myself sinking into a place I know I wouldn't be able to easily get out of, a place that's unproductive and too sad to cope with my daily life.  I've tried instead getting all worked up over idiotic posts people make about "hey, if only we could pray in schools, all would be well" or the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" mantra the NRA likes so much that are floating around on Facebook.  The only thing that has resonated with me, instead, is a post that makes me sink deeper into sadness, that of the mom struggling with her son's runaway mental illness and the lack of options available to her.

This over-connection to sadness is something I've always had with horrific occurrences turned media events.  I found I had to turn off coverage of 9/11, university shootings, and I was nearly beside myself knowing Hubbster's aunt was down the road teaching at Columbine's elementary school, watching the ambulances roll by for catastrophic that event.  I've had to think what I would do if a gunman came into my classroom, and hey, I know intellectually my university is FAR less safe than any elementary school.  I know I've dealt with students who were, if I'm being 100% honest with myself, off their very serious big time meds and exhibiting behavior I was afraid of.  My colleagues have had stalkers and protective orders.  I've had people screaming at me in my little office with no one else around about the unfairness of a grade.  In the days before ubiquitous cell phones, students once called security (state police) over another student, male, aggressive, getting into my face, attempting to physically intimidate me.  The risk is there.  It's there every day.  But that's the risk for ME.  I take the risk because what I do is important, worthwhile, and necessary.

For my children?  I cannot let risk, let alone the assessment of possible risk into my consciousness.  I cannot assume they won't be coming through the door at the end of the day.  The thought alone is enough to send me to my bed, weeping and unable to cope.  That's why I cannot watch mothers and fathers on television emotions flayed, wailing their sorrow to God.  The risk assessment starts then, in my head.  If I even think it could happen to MY babies, I will be paralyzed with fear, and that will mean I'll paralyze my children with fear too.  That's not a life I want them to remember.

So in the months to come, I may argue the necessity of increased mental health services and need for gun control with others.  But for now?  I feed them breakfast, remind my kids to take their lunches, button their coats, tell them I love them and to learn something fabulous.  I send them out the door, expecting them to be home later, just like I do every single day.  It's the only way I can continue putting one foot in front of the other.

Friday, December 14, 2012

You've GOT to be kidding me!

Remember the impending head explosion of the boy? Remember how the Popcorn Kernel (I know, I KNOW) from Boy Scouts was supposed to release the name last week?  Did. not. happen.

The Hubster took the kids to the meeting, as I had a leader's meeting for Girl Scouts.  I was even texting during MY meeting to find out the results.  The results were simply that the dude now needed to check with council about when he could announce.  Ok, um, shouldn't that have been cleared up FIRST?!  Now, a week out from the whole debacle, Cubby seems to have forgotten for the moment.  That actually seems to be a theme in his life, more on that later.  I, on the other hand, have righteous indignation that we don't at least KNOW!  Ugh. 

I'd simply be off to read, since I'm officially done with grades, but my Nook is out of juice.  There is a downside to this electronic age.

Friday, November 30, 2012

In the spirit of giving, let's teach them to gamble!

So I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to buy the boy for Christmas.  He's almost 12, so his list is a bit pricey, and that's not happening this year with Hubster's job loss.  I was trolling evil Walmart's site for some inspiration, and I popped into the 12 and over area, realizing some things would be a bit too old for him, but he's 12 in April, so 12 and over seemed an appropriate place to be.

As I'm scrolling through electronics, bikes, Lego sets, I start noticing something disturbing.  I'd already passed many, but I started counting and came up with at least 13 entries for poker chips, full-table poker covers, Texas Hold 'Em sets, etc.  Now, I realize that this is the 12 and over area, but it was still in the "kids" advertised section.  That means I'm going to assume we're talking 12-17, heck, I'll even go 18.  With all the information about how gambling online has exponentially increased, and Dateline, 20/20, and every other news show out there talking about how hard core gambling has trickled into high schools, wrecking some serious havoc on kids, who in their flipping right mind is going to buy a full-table cover and say "here dear, I knew you wanted to really hone those dangerous habits while you're young"?!  I mean, it's not other kids going online to Walmart's "12 and over kids" area, is it?

I'll say, I've never been a gambler.  Never bought a scratch off until I was in my 30s, went to casinos only as entertainment in my late 20s when I was working nights and nothing else was open when I got off work, and to this day, even with the big jackpots, I've never bought a real lottery ticket, don't even know how.  The only poker I've ever played has been with a max loss of $10.  It's not something I've stayed away from purposefully.  It just doesn't interest me.  But I remember back in the dark ages when I was in college a couple guys who were pretty hard core into sports betting.  I think the only thing that probably saved them was that they could fund it with mom and dad's money.  Don't know if mom and dad ever came down like a ton of bricks on them, but I hope so, just like I would if Cubby or Brownie ever did heavy gambling.

This soft sell to a younger and younger crowd of very serious looking gambling accoutrements just seems like paving the way for some truly dangerous behavior later on.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Explosion watch update!

Oh, interNOODLES!  The stress has ratcheted up!

The Popcorn Kernel (don't judge, I don't come up with these things) has decreed the deadline for this extended sale has been, well, extended.  Now there are TEN boys eligible for this Ipad drawing.  BLAST!  His chances have gone down exponentially. 

Oh, and instead of being announced tomorrow, the grand announcement will now be delayed until NEXT Thursday.  GAAAAAHHHHHH!

I don't think the house can take the anticipation.  Will update later.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The boy's head WILL explode

The explosion will occur before Thursday evening.  He definitely won't make it. . .

Popcorn sales haven't been great for this boy scout family.  Weekends available to canvass the neighborhood had other things planned, and many family members have scouts of their own.  It's life in the big city.  To try to up his personal sales, Cubby has been doing "show and sells" where scouts stand outside store entrances and annoy, uh, I mean ENCOURAGE people to buy popcorn.  It's been ok, but he's not the salesman he used to be, tiring and boring easily.  His sister has helped to the point of almost doing more than he does.

Apparently, things are tough all over.  Council has seen sales dip, and has extended the dates for selling, including some extra show and sell times.  I encouraged him to do this, at my own peril, might I add, because a parent has to go along and keep the whining to a minimum.  Even though I wanted him to sell, because it meant more money for his scout account, which we can tap to pay for activities--something we need right now--there was also an additional incentive of an IPad being offered to those who sold at least $100.  I didn't know if that counted only for orders taken or show and sells too, so I kept my mouth shut about that little prize.

Come to find out, after the last show and sell date, Cubby and the Hubster dropped money and extra stock off only to find only ONE other scout had sold at least $100, and show and sell items DID count.  Cubby sold $115 of popcorn.  That means he has a 50/50 chance of winning this Ipad.  The name has already been chosen, and I don't know who it is.  The name will be announced at the Thursday meeting.  Hence, the danger of head explosion.  The good news is, this has led to some important life lessons:
  1. Be a good WINNER!  Hey, you win and you'll be thrilled, but someone will be the loser, and nothing is worse than a bad winner.  I know, the Hubster is a trash talking, in your face loser.  It annoys me.
  2. Be a good LOSER!  I had to remind Cubby that as excited as he is, the other kid is just as excited to win.  He did an awesome job too, and it's simply luck of the draw, so it's important to go up and offer congratulations.  Sobbing can be done in your own room at home.
  3. Putting extra efforts into things pays off!  It won't always be an Ipad, but generally, extra efforts yield good things, be it an extra point or two of credit, a nod of thanks from someone, or just the satisfaction of a job well done.
I'm not sure if I want him to win or lose, quite honestly, but win or lose, it'll all be over but the cryin' as a colleague says by Thursday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

That doesn't seem right

I get recipes shazammed to my inbox by a couple of sites, and I like many of them.  I rarely attempt them as they are, but they're a good basic starting point for coming up with ideas.  Sometimes the pictures accompanying the recipe make me drool all over my keyboard.  Some days, however, I'm thinking "THAT'S the one you went with?" while looking at the picture.  Today, Kraft's site sent a less than pleasant looking piece of chicken splayed out for the world to see.  Its title was "Tasty Bistro Chicken" written at the top.

Now, first, if you're putting the word "tasty" right in the title, I'm suspicious.  Why tell me it's tasty?  Wouldn't I know that if I tried it?  Are you trying to negate aforementioned not wholly pleasing picture?  I cry foul! Oh, I didn't even plan that.  Cry foul? Fowl? Get it?  Oh, I amuse myself.


What exactly is it about said piece of chicken and/or the recipe that makes it "bistro" if you will?  Aren't bistros places to eat and unwind?  Is the chicken made in some way that I will be immediately relaxed upon tasting it? If it's made in my home, it can't be made IN a bistro, so that's out.  Bistro is French, so is there something inherently French about the recipe?  Inquiring minds want to know.  If you've got any insight, bring it people!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

That's lunch??

Last week I went to my daughter's school and surprised her with a Subway sandwich for lunch.  I did this mainly out of guilt.  It was "education week" (what's the rest of the time they spend in school, I wondered, but I digress) and they had some special dealio that I couldn't attend due to a prior commitment I couldn't get out of.  Whining and crying commenced, and I ended up bringing lunch.

The girl doesn't eat much lunch at school.  She likes maybe five of the items they offer, and she's not a big milk drinker, so she rarely goes through the line.  That day, she was supposed to buy their "Thanksgiving special" lunch consisting of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce.  A few exceedingly disturbing things occurred while I was there:

  1. I got a LOOK at this "Thanksgiving special" lunch.  To call it "special" is so over the top it's not even believable.  To call it something to be thankful for is even a stretch.  The stuffing was all pale, at the bottom of a large cup.  On top were exact cubes of turkey, think what chicken nuggets would look like if they were naked.  Mull on that for a bit.  Naked, perfectly cubed, looking obviously processed, turkey.  Covered in pale gravy.  I tell you, the only thing I'd ever seen before was the cranberry sauce.  Yeah, it was the from a can jellied kind.  Secretly, I have a bit of a yen for it every year.  I know it's bad, but leave the Martha Stewart stuff and give me that sugary jelly any time.
  2. A little girl across from me ate her lunch, every last bit.  She had cold cocktail weenies, pretzel sticks, and ketchup packets.  I'm hoping beyond all hope this was just the desperate day before grocery shopping gets done and there's nothing else in the house.  She was pretty adept at opening that ketchup, though.
  3. My girl was looked upon like a circus freak because she had spinach (and lots of it!) in her sandwich.  One girl said "I don't think I've ever SEEN spinach."  I'm hoping their moms, like me, have simply been lying and calling it lettuce.
Not sure when I'll be back, because it's definitely not an appetite-inducing place.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I might fail junior high

Someone once told me in an offhand way I'm a born teacher. I took it as the greatest of compliments, but often I don't feel I'm a born teacher. I think I have a sense of showmanship that makes learning more palatable, and I appreciate how hard it is to learn things. Perhaps part of it too is I read people well, and I can tell when they're struggling. At the same time, I feel intense frustration with those who have all the tools but can't just get their crap together. I'm even more frustrated by those who are capable, more than capable, and just won't go even an extra inch, let alone a mile. Too often, I take those people home in my head, torturing myself with ways I could have done things differently, wondering if a flip comment I've made has devastated someone. I nurture those failures far more than I should, and I don't celebrate successes often enough.

I think it's because of all of this, God gave me the children I've got, and it's making me nuts.

My oldest is a very, very smart boy. He picks things up very quickly and can impart things to others just as quickly. He loves to soak up knowledge about all things. Unfortunately, he would lose limbs if they weren't attached to his body. I finally went to the second hand store and bought five hoodies at a much cheaper than retail cost. Two are still with us. The same attitude applies to his school work. He gets A's on all his tests. His grades are C's. Why? Homework disappears between home and school. I'd swear there's a black hole somewhere between.

I've tried everything I know and some things I didn't to get him on track. Planners, calendars, incentives, punishments, modeling behavior, writing lists, giving tips and tricks, none of it has worked. Daily it flummoxes me and frustrates me to the point I have to give myself a time out.

Luckily, most of his teachers see he's a good kid who is smart but just distracted by his internal dialogue. But his grades are still affected, and I'm still slowly going insane. Stay tuned for how it turns out. Expect much drama in weeks to come, as he's on entertainment bread and water. It's getting frayed on all ends.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I just threw up a little in my mouth

I'm an only child AND I was a girl, so I don't understand ANY aspect of what occurred in my house today.

Cubby left his toothbrush on the edge of the sink after using it this morning (He used it!  Yeah!), whereupon Brownie promptly elbowed it while she was brushing her teeth (She was brushing! Yeah!) into the toilet.  Our bathroom is the size of a stingy changing room, so ick, yes, but I simply told her to fish it out and put it in the garbage.  Cuz, hey, if anyone was sticking their hand in toilet water, it wasn't going to be me.  I've had my life's quota.  Done and done, and I promptly forgot about it, moving on to the bigger fish I have to fry.

This is what I don't understand, never having had a sibling. . . 

Apparently, Cubby went to brush his teeth again because, well, whatever.  I don't argue with extra brushing.  Remember, I've completely forgotten the toothbrush emergency earlier.  Brownie watched him brush his teeth, THEN proceeded to inform him she THOUGHT she'd knocked that toothbrush into the toilet, but it couldn't be that one, because she'd put that one in the garbage.  Yes, she WAITED until he was done.  Ew!

Next part I don't understand, never having been a boy. . .

Cubby said he SAW the toothbrush in. the. garbage. thought it had simply fallen, but it was facing up, so he simply retrieved it and USED it!

I'll wait while you do that whole body shiver while repeating gross, gross, gross about 100 times.  That's what I did.

He then proceeded to dip BROWNIE'S toothbrush in the toilet for "a little dip" as he said.  Brownie then lost her damn mind because she "liked that toothbrush."  Meanwhile, I'm ripping the packaging off new toothbrushes for everyone.

Is this normal???  It seriously can't be.

Update to Hershey-gate

The kids finished their lunches in total, I think mainly because they were so scared at my reaction as they walked out the door to the full Hershey bars that they feared it would never happen again.  After the hot light and questioning, however, they both admitted they ate the chocolate bars first or near first.

Uh-huh.  I still vote for more training.

Friday, October 19, 2012

He needs more training

I've handled the morning routine for our kids for the last few years, because the hubbster has been working nights.  Allowing the nearly unconscious to perform morning duties--which he has a few times when I've been out of town or incapacitated--equals bad things happening, like critical items left behind and strange items ending up in lunches. 

The problem with this system?  I am a HORRIFIC morning person.  I seriously don't perk up until nighttime, and if I stay up past midnight, I'm UP until 3am.  I'm convinced this is a genetic condition, as I've been this way since childhood.  There may or may not STILL be a nickname of "Sunshine" floating around and used by certain people when referring to me due to witnessing my epic bad mood in the mornings, AS A SIX YEAR OLD.  As a result, I have the morning routine scheduled down. to. the. second. internoodles.  My children are awakened with precisely enough time to get their crap together, throw food in their mouths, and get the heck out the door.  This provides maximum sleepage. For ME.

Since he was changing his sleeping habits, I laid off a bit, but I was secretly thrilled to share the morning routine and maybe sleep in a day here and there.  Today was supposed to be his first day totally ON.  It was not the strongest of showings.
  • Lights were blazing in multiple rooms, because no one was reminded to turn them off (Seriously, what is UP with that?  Does anyone else not know how the light switches work?)
  • He drove both of them (I rarely do, as we're only three blocks away, and exercise is good for them.  Yeah, I invoke my whole "I had to walk a mile. . . both ways" clause from childhood.)
  • I heard suspicious cheers, then more suspicious shushing coming from the kitchen.  The Informant--Brownie--told me with little questioning that Dad had put Hershey bars in their lunches!  That's right, full sized Hershey bars, not Halloween sized, big giant ones.  Anyone else know how this will turn out?  I'll give you a hint, the kids will come home jacked up on sugar, not having eaten the rest of their lunch (God knows what was in them), because they have precious little time to eat.  That's another post, though.
Hear that soft banging sound?  It's my head against the table.  Please, please, pray he gets a job soon, internoodles. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I've learned about my household

Now that my husband is out of work, he's in charge on the night I teach some late classes.  I arrive home about 9:30, when things should be calmed down, kids sequestered in rooms.  These are the things I've noticed:
  • I am the only person in my household who can turn OFF an electric appliance and/or light switch when exiting a room.  I came home last night, and the kitchen and living room were ablaze, even though no one was anywhere near them.
  • Paper towels can only be replenished by Mom.  Who knew?  They all know where the paper towels are kept, yet I keep walking in to an empty spindle.
  • My daughter actually does homework better with her dad than she does with me.  With me there is much lamenting, keening, and rending of cloth.  With Dad, she just does it.  SO not fair.
  • When it comes to meals, my kids can talk my husband into going out with little to no effort.  It does not help that left to his own devices, he would eat fast food every day of his life.  They ate at Cici's last night (Blech!), even though I'd said he needed to MAKE dinner. At least a coupon was used.
  • The dog was the only one happy to see me.
Please, God, let him go back to work SOON!  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Books, Crack, Whatever

I'm addicted, yes, I surely am.  I'm addicted to books. 

As a teacher of writing, and big old reader from way back, this isn't a shock or surprise to most.  Yet it consistently surprises ME how my addiction affects me.

RARELY will I not finish a book, even if it's total schlock.  I keep on keepin' on, hoping and praying that someone out there WROTE this, and I know what that's like.  It's blood, it's sweat, it's tears, and tears again, and repeat the whole process because it has to be revised so you're not an open wound on a page.  And it's how DARE that editor want me to take out that oh so poignant moment I struggled with for a week of sunshiny days when I could have been among the living.  And it's I have to look at it one. last. time. that turns into a major overhaul of ten pages.  I respect the process AND I respect the writer for having the stones to step up the plate, take a swing at that ball that's humming past (Yeah, I'm mixing my metaphors.  Just go with it, I'm on a role.) even if it's an ugly swing.

I may talk about how godawful bad the thing was, but I've only NOT finished one book in the last few years.  My husband watched me try to get through it, too.  He was wandering around the house doing whatever, and I was on the couch in the living room.  He passed me a few times, and he said I kept saying "Hmph!" under my breath, closing the book, looking at the cover, looking at the back of it and repeating.  He said then I'd wiggle around on the couch, like I couldn't get comfortable.

Books create a PHYSICAL response in me.  I'm not just talking about an exciting chapter raising my heart rate or anything.  I'm talking about the LACK of reading creates a feeling akin to withdrawl for me.  Right now, I haven't checked anything out of the library in a while, knowing I have a ton of work with grading and scouts and kids' activities to do.  So I didn't get any books.  I haven't even let myself go into the second hand store that has a fabulous collection of cheap, dirty reads.  But oh MAN do I feel it.  I get twitchy and grumpy and I don't sleep right.  I feel like everything is alternately too slow or too fast.  It's like everything is just off kilter, and I'm trying to maintain like everything is normal.  If the reason I denied a book is too get work done, it doesn't work.  I find I'm too harsh with students, and I can't get tuned in to what their reasoning is. 

At first, I was a skeptic about electronic books.  I LOVE the feel of a book in my hand. The weight it has, the scraping sound a page turning makes.  Reaching out your hand to find anything to mark your spot because dang, it's late and time to GO.  The leaning over to a total stranger just to see what they're reading and getting into a discussion about it.  Books make friends, people.  Now?  It's a glorious thing that e-readers were invented.  I'm in the middle of a really bad time, man.  I need a book bad.  Something new.  Nothing on my shelves is right.  But MY kinda crack? I just popped online, borrowed a book from my library down to my Nook. For addictions, this is a pretty good one.

It'll be alright, just a few more minutes, and I'll be in a different place. 

See ya there.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Day for Missing

Today is the day.  My grandma, Frances, was born on this day in 1916.  She was one of the most influential people in my life.  She taught me to respect the arts and took me to every symphony, opera, museum event she could, even when I wasn't the most receptive audience.  I learned how to read music at about the same time I learned to read because of her.  She thought the most important card in anyone's wallet was a library card, and she knew with great conviction reading made people richer.

She knew how important laughing was to life.  Oh my goodness, she would laugh with complete abandon, until tears ran down her beet red face, waving her hands at you to stop! stop! stop! before she burst.  She knew it was equally important to life to be passionate and fired up about something.  Passion feeds the soul, gets the blood pumping, the adrenaline surging, and it makes you feel you're alive.  Everyone should be passionate about something.  To reflect to the world disinterest is to breed disinterest within, and the world needs passion.

I can't count the number of times she asked my grandfather to go for a drive and ask to "just get lost" in a dreamy voice.  She asked this of someone who knew the city like it was his bathroom, and he would respond that he couldn't.  To her, life was an adventure waiting to happen.  I get my travel itch from her.

I learned how to cook in her kitchen, a skill my family and friends are glad I honed.  People have changed plans and driven long distances when they knew I was making a dish I learned in her kitchen.  She taught herself how to cook, since when she was a newlywed, she literally could not even crack an egg.    I learned to experiment in her kitchen, even if the outcome was horrible.  The only failure lies in not trying.  There wasn't a butcher in her neighborhood who hadn't been asked the question, "yes, this is lovely, but what do you have in BACK?" because it never hurt to ask.

She's been gone almost 20 years, and there isn't a day I don't miss her.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shame on us!

Ohhhhh, internoodles!  I'm getting up on my soapbox, and I am about to go ballistic, so watch out!

I have a very quiet student who has been keeping pretty much to herself.  About a week ago, she sent me a desperate-sounding email saying she didn't think she was smart enough to get through this class, even though she'd had it years before at another school.  She waxed on that perhaps she hadn't given herself enough time after leaving the Army and active deployment to adjust to civilian life before coming back to school.  Or maybe it was the pressure of having a four year old this time as she went through school that was making everything more difficult.  As a complete aside, near the end of this really stream-of-consciousness, frayed-sounding email, she said she was also under stress.  Because she's homeless.  With a four year old.

Stop and think about that.  Homeless with a four year old. 

She's a veteran of the United States military, served her country on active deployment to a foreign country, and she's homeless with a four year old.  How. does. this. happen?!  It happens because we have reached a point in our country where we don't value people, we value machines, including the big giant machine of politics.  And if your fingers are itching to tell me everything that has been done wrong by our sitting president, save it.  Scratch that itch someplace else, because this is a non-partisan issue.  This is a day-to-day society issue.  The fact that billions are spent on defense, but soldiers and veterans go on welfare or are homeless is disgusting and shameful.  We should all be ashamed of ourselves.  We're letting go of the human factor that is what made this country great.  It's the different types of humans who came here and joined together with ideas and blood, sweat, and tears to create something that had never been done before.  It's imperfect, but it was about humans breaking their backs and brains to make it the best it could be.  That we've forgotten that it all boils down to people helping each other be better people makes me sad.

What made me hopeful again, though, was putting this student's dilemma out onto my social network.  My network is made up of people from all walks of my 44 years of life.  Some are people I see daily, some are people who have stood by me through countless life changes, some I knew well in my youth, but I don't see on a regular basis.  Yet so many took the time to find information, pass along some hint, or even just say a prayer for her.  I cannot believe the outpouring of goodwill I felt simply from those posts.  It saved my hope for humanity.

I'll go to class tomorrow with a list of places this student can go to hopefully get some relief from her situation.  I've still got some righteous anger going on, but now at least there's less of that than there is of hope.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Look out, drop off line!

To the woman in the brand new BMW who could not wait two minutes for everyone in the drop off line to move forward and had to spin around from in back of me to cut me off and take the spot in front of me, nearly causing a multiple car accident, are you insane?  Did you take your meds this morning?

Let's look at this from the beginning.  There are at least 20 visible cars in line.  We would be here until school got out if we all waited until we were at the front of the line to let our kids out, so we're reasonable people and have three or four cars at a time--just as long as they're on the concrete, not the grass--boot kiddies into the cruel day.  No, I did not immediately spin out from my spot, blocking everyone else in front of me in, because I have a minivan.  The doors are automatic.  I need to wait until the back door closes before I put it in gear.  If I don't, the door remains open, and I look like some A-Team reject, burning rubber with my door hanging open, waiting for people to jump into my van so I can rescue them.  I'm not a mercenary, and anyway, it's etiquette for all of us who've dropped off to leave single file.

A second point of note is that you are driving not what I assumed to be a brand new BMW, but what I observed to be a brand new BMW from the "plate applied for" sticker, the BMW insignia (obviously) and the glow of money that hovers over that paint job.  (Seriously, did you get the tears of virgins and wash it with that or what?).  Do you not know that puts you at the bottom of the food chain?  You are the equivalent of blood in the water, fresh meat for sharks.  Me?  My 2007, seen better days mini van--I call her Priscilla--we've got battle scars.  We are the gladiators of the suburbs.  We have picked up, dropped off, hauled stuff AND people, camped out, gotten lost and found again.  A little bang or ding on Priss?  That just marks her as a Warrior to others.  YOUR ride?  It's not made for these mean streets, so I wouldn't be tempting fate cutting people off if I were you.

Oh, and by the way that little stunt?  That was your one.  That's all you get, just so you know.  Because I WILL get out of my van next time, IN MY PAJAMAS AND SLIPPERS and take you down to Crazy Town.  I don't often visit there, but when I do, I act like I'm the mayor.  It won't be pretty, my children will nearly die of embarrassment, but it will be WORTH IT! 

Fair warning, that's all I'm saying.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Just an observation

As class was letting out and the building's halls were filled with the crush of students with heads down looking at their phones, letting their backpacks carelessly slung over one shoulder repeatedly bump into those around them, I noticed a newish phenomenon. 

You know how etiquette says we should stay to the right and let people who are walking towards us stay to our left?  No more!  You know why?  Most of the people are righties, and students immediately whip their phones out, and use their right hands to maneuver through their phones.  This means they all drift to the left of the staircase or hallway.  Those of us on the right are like salmon fighting the constant currents.

Amazing what technology can change.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spooky stuff

Some in my family are said to have "the touch" which means we have a low to mid level of psychic ability.  I'm not running off to join that housewife in Jersey who has her own show or anything, but I definitely have something I don't understand going on.  As a kid, I remember having imaginary friends that seemed awfully "solid" to me, and I often told my mom certain people "glowed" with different colors.  As an adult, I seem to know people's first names before I'm introduced to them with terrific accuracy, and as a waitress, I can't even count the number of times I brought out a dish and customers would tell me it was the wrong one, but that was ok, because they couldn't decide between what they'd ordered and what I'd brought.  The most jarring instances for me today are when I can sense someone is ill.  I don't have any control over it, I just get a palatable feeling that people are sick.  I shrug it off, but nine times out of ten, I'll later find that person has been fighting some serious illness for quite some time.

I mention all this, because I know my son has inherited some of this.  Even though my mom passed away when he was only three months old, he would often as a toddler talk about how Grammy had come in to talk to him, and I remember hearing him babble often in his room.  In some ways, I thought nothing of it, until he mentioned an aunt who had also passed away who I wasn't particularly close to.  There's no way I'd ever have mentioned her, yet he knew her by name.

One of the most striking events that showed me psychic energy is a real thing was after the young man from my last post had died.  My son had just turned five, and we often talked about this young man, especially right before we'd go to his home.  I wanted my son to understand why he wouldn't see his buddy and if he had questions, I preferred to answer them.  Once, while I was going through this, Cubby said to me, "Mom, you say I won't get to see him anymore, but he comes to see me all the time."  I was lucky to choke out a "what now?" before Cubby went on to tell me that this young man came to him every night, sat on his bed, talked about video games, various superheroes, airplanes, and all my son's favorite things. I sort of reserved me judgment, thinking maybe there was a good helping of wishful thinking in there. 

Cubby came to me very sad one day and said to me that this young man had come to him and told him two important things.  One was that he didn't want Cubby playing with guns, and that he should never ever touch a gun without an adult around.  While I knew this young man had used a handgun to end his life, there's NO way Cubby would have.  It's only in the last year I've told him that fact.  The other thing was that Cubby wouldn't be seeing this young man anymore, because his grandfather needed his company, and he had to go be with him, but he told Cubby to remember him.  What I knew, but Cubby didn't, was that this young man's grandfather had passed away from cancer very recently.

Do I believe in psychics?  You bet, and not just because that's a great memory for my son to have.

Any times you've known something there was no way you could have?  Any times you've felt someone's presence near you?  Let's save the scary ones for Halloween.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Suicide Awareness Day

The day is nearing its end, but today is Suicide Awareness Day.  I really struggled with whether or not I should post this blog today.  I ultimately decided one perspective may change a life, so here goes.

In 1995 I met a person who, for a time, would fill a place in my heart as one of my best friends.  She already had kids, but I wasn't even married yet.  I spent a LOT of time with this growing family, often taking on childcare, giving advice, and getting to know the kids as well as I knew the parents.  When I had my son, the first two years of his life, his care when I was at work fell to this woman.  Our kids, especially mine and her youngest, were effectively raised as cousins.  A truly fabulous thing happened with her then ten year old son and mine.  As the youngest in his clan, you'd think her son would welcome the opportunity of a younger boy in the house for the opportunity to spread a little good natured torturing around.  Not so.  He loved my son absolutely and totally.  I will never forget how he let my son, then a two year old, wander into his room, where NO ONE was allowed.  He would hand Cubby a video game controller that wasn't hooked to a game and let him sit right next to him while he played.  Cubby thought he was the bomb!  I can't count the number of times I had to wait for the school bus, because even if I got off early from work and could have gone home, it would have ruined both boys' days if they didn't get a chance to see each other.

As things happen, the loving boy grew into a teenager.  He was often sullen, as teens are, but he was also equally smiling and enjoying the company of those around him.  He had issues beyond the norm that were both organic and environmental in nature, but he was such a loving child, so many of those issues seemed to take a backseat to those around him.  It wasn't until a horrible morning in March just a few years ago that those issues overcame him, and he took his own life.  He didn't leave a note, so we'll never really know what was going on inside his head.  Later, it was found that he'd looked at sites on the internet that talked about ways to commit suicide.  There was a journal found, but it equally spoke of future goals and snippets of songs and poetry as it did fatigue of living this life day in and day out for a shy kid who hadn't quite found his niche in life.

Those left behind?  For each person there is a different emotion, depending upon the day, the hour, the minute.  For some, there was anger, shock, denial, avoidance, a feeling of being unmoored on a choppy sea.  I watched his family devolve in ways that stretched, frayed, and sometimes broke their relationships with each other and me.  They lost so much more than just one person.  I've seen the pain in their eyes and the void there too when there are no more tears the body can give, but the heart is still sobbing.  I've felt the anger myself.  I'm angry that at five my son idolized this boy, but at 11 Cubby can barely remember him, despite talking openly about him all these years and a picture still plastered on my fridge.  I'm angry that I had to talk to my son about guns and never to play around with them, then tell him why I was so adamant about it.  I'm sad too.  Sad that I'm the one talking with Cubby about superheroes and going to The Dark Knight Rises with him, when I know he would have schooled Cubby on all things superhero and probably would have seen the movie with him.  God knows I'm worried too.  While they may not have shared DNA, I look at the similarities I see--a love of superheroes, camoflauge clothing, graphic arts, a sensitivity that can't be taught--and I think "please, God, not my son too."

Because it isn't right for parents to bury their children.  When the cause is something as preventable as suicide, it feels even more wrong. 

For parents, check in on your kid.  I don't care if you think your kid will hate you, if they SAY they hate you, check in on them. Snoop like you're the freaking CIA.  I used to believe in privacy for teens, but I don't anymore.  Raid their rooms, and if you find a scrap of evidence you think they're hurting themselves or planning to, make them talk to someone.  If they won't talk to you, find someone they will, THAT DAY.  Especially be on the look out if they give away their things, seem to be settling old scores by talking things out all of a sudden.  If they've been in a constant bad mood and are suddenly happy, be cautious.  That can often be when they've made a decision to harm themselves.  If someone close to them has committed suicide recently, that often sort of gives permission to those who are contemplating it to also do the deed.

This young man lived in a home where he could have gone to any number of people and voiced his concerns and fears, and anyone would have listened.  Sometimes, they just don't come to you.  They just don't.

For those who suffer with the thoughts in your head, please, please, please, contact someone.  ANYONE.  I know you don't believe it, but there are people in your life who love you beyond measure, so much they can't put it into words.  It's just that living the routine of life has made them forget to stop and tell you that you are worth more than the moon and stars and oxygen combined.  I promise, it WILL get better.  If you think it can't get better at home, find some place you are safe and work on "better" there.  Call a hotline, talk to a friend, clergyman, teacher, someone who will listen.  Tell them it's important, because it is.  YOU are.

1-800-273-TALK (8255) is the number of the 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Call them if you need to.  Be known for the courage it took to call, not for your last act.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Don't worry, this has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. My daughter had her first student council election, and along with that came her first disappointment related to candidate dishonesty.

First, one candidate, instead of just relying on her speech, brought in little tie dyed buttons on glow sticks with "vote for" and her name. She even had different colors for boys and girls. Another hopeful was engaging in negative politicking on the playground, talking trash about the other candidates. The worst was the girl who told Brownie "hey, I'll vote for you if you vote for me" then proceeded to vote for herself and rub Brownie's nose in it right after she did it. She did it just under the radar of the teacher, because those types of kids always know how to do that perfectly.

Of course, little Miss Dishonesty won. I had to tell a sobbing, bitterly disappointed in humanity Brownie that not everyone is honest like she is, and karma will come around, and everyone will be on to this girl's ways soon enough.

Me? I just hope karma takes a HUGE chunk out of that girl's behind, sooner than later would be good.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hopped in the way back machine today

I was driving to work and an idle comment from a radio DJ filled my head with memories.  A song was just ending, and the DJ noted that the upcoming song was from 1988, and she was sure many were saving for CD players then, because that was the hot new thing.

Oh!  The flood!

Near the close of 1988, I was partially through my junior year at North Central College in Naperville, IL.  At NCC, I was an on-air DJ for their award winning radio station, WONC.  We'd recently changed formats to more rock, no pop stuff, and I was often taking various forms of music and putting them onto cartridges to play in the studio.  Oh, the music that was new then that I was getting to jam out to!  You BET I was saving up to get a CD player.  I've always been an electronics freak when they meet up with music.

I can even remember when I bought my first CD player.  I was with one of my then (and still) besties as I dragged her to not one but TWO Marshall Field's locations.  On the day after Thanksgiving Black Friday sales because the first location was out.  Yes, she helped beat back greedy crowds at two locations just for me (remember, Bethie?).  Of course, she was staying at my house since she was from Florida, so she was kind of captive.

I know one of the CDs I bought that day was Melissa Etheridge's Bring Me Some Water.  I don't remember the others.  I'll have to think about it more.

Now?  My kids only know CDs play in our vehicles.  They have their own ipods, and I share with them my 18 gig library of music, much of which was born of my 350 CD collection.  I'm not buying discs now, though.  I wonder what songs they'll remember that shaped their music appreciation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stupid is nothing

Oh my, do we have a stunning example of stupid today!  If you're a local, you've seen this recent story.  If you're not, OH you've missed some good stuff.  The Chicago Sun-Times actually had a page and a half spread on Bryan Craig's story, which really does the whole sordid situation justice.

Just to recap, this man, recently a high school counselor and girls' basketball coach, self-published a book on sex.  Let's be clear.  This isn't a bodice-ripper romance where sex was intermittently introduced, nor was it even a "how to make relationships better" kind of book where sex was a subject.  This book was about how to bed women, including such fun discussions as why men need a partner "just for sex" as a "release" and pages of in-depth reporting on how the texture of women's vaginas differ, based on race.  He also rates races of women by "hotness" scores.  In short, it's 44 pages of nonsense, wrapped in crap, with an are-you-freaking-kidding-me bow.  I thought of every loser misogynistic date I ever had and pondered the personal hell that must be his wife's life.

Mr. Craig resigned from his position as coach, and he's on paid leave pending an investigation.  Lawyers for the district, rightfully aware there could be legal implications leading from this publication, are running around touting the fact that Bryan Craig has a right to free speech, which I absolutely agree with.  Mr. Craig has EVERY right to spout whatever idiotic crap that runs through his head if he so chooses, but that doesn't mean I have to want him near my daughter.

And that's where the rub is for me.  It's not in this article I've posted, but in other print articles it states that not only does Bryan Craig identify he's worked for the school district and the Department of Children and Family Services in a biographical sort of way, but he references those positions, as well as his coaching position as giving him insight into the female psyche.  That's where you lose me on free speech, Mr. Craig.  If you're saying that you've counseled women in ways to "take charge" of their relationships, meaning with sex, and you're saying that in the book, that means those work situations informed and influenced your writing.  By extension, that means your writing informs and influences your work.  Here's where I start to get that icky feeling.  Bryan Craig works with young, impressionable males and females.  While none are my kids, I don't want him telling ANY child that they need to be promiscuous prior to marriage, or that men and women should maintain five partners simultaneously for different purposes, all of which are pieces of advice from his book.  I mean really, could I MAKE this stuff up?!

Legally, we'll see where this goes from here.  I hope, even if by the letter of the law, Mr. Craig is allowed to remain in his position, the district realizes the protection of the children is what's most important.  Then Mr. Craig can go from part time to full time at his other job--bouncer for a strip club.  Again, NOT kidding.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Yes, I AM peevish, thanks for asking

I'm pet peeving it today, and there are plenty, what with school starting for both the little darlings and my job.  I will try to keep the list light.

To My Kids' Teachers/Principals:
  • BEFORE putting out the supply list, I beg of you, TALK to each other and determine what is needed.  I shouldn't have to run around to three stores and spend a small fortune on four (specifically noted on the supply list) 3-subject notebooks, only to find NOT ONE TEACHER WANTS THEM, and they ALL want the 1-subject notebooks I purchased for $.17.
  • When scheduling classes, keep in mind the three minutes they get to move from place to place--and maybe, oh, I don't know, PEE--and stop putting them in a back and forth from one end of the earth to the other trajectory.  When tardies start on Tuesday, after having had to do my son's schedule at open house, I WILL be writing fun and pithy notes back if I get tardy slips for my kid.
  • Don't use the open house time to showcase fun stuff our parent organization has bought that you like.  Yeah, smartboards are cool and all, but I don't need a demo.  Far more important is how you see my kids as individuals and how YOU interact with them, not the board.  I'm not so easily placated as an 11 year old. 
To MY Students:
  • Don't ask me for an extension because "the bookstore gave me the wrong book." The syllabus was up for two weeks.  Yes, mistakes happen, but it's YOUR class.  That means the responsibility falls upon you to double check.  This is not the clerk's class.  You are the one getting the grade.  Even if you couldn't swap it out in time, I've got a copy on reserve in the library.  The assignment has been up for almost two weeks.  If you wait until the last day to do it, you'll run into some issues.
  • I am not a miracle worker, nor am I grading scantrons here.  If an assignment closed the day before, you need to WAIT to get your grade.  Even if you completed it on the first day it was open (Good for you!  Keep it up!), I have to wait until the due date has passed to grade items.  Writing, and the grading of writing, takes thought, consideration, and contemplation.  I need more than 24 hours, yo.
  • Along the same lines, I promise to return emails within 24 hours.  Please STOP acting like I'm derelict in my duties if I don't get back to you in 15 minutes.  Sending three emails in 12 hours asking why I haven't responded and demanding a response is not cool.  I have a life, and it doesn't revolve around YOU.  Would you like me to assign something and say it has to be done in one hour?  NO, you wouldn't!  Give me the same consideration.
I think that covers it for now.  Stay tuned, though.  The year is young.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My cause wasn't good enough

I've got a Trader Joe's in my neighborhood. Great place, love a ton of stuff there, but I don't go there often because it doesn't have everything I need, and it is a pricier option for some items that my family would inhale without thinking.

Lately, though, I've been at TJ's more often, because we've had two markets near me close. Even if I only need a few items, like today, I'd have to go further and wait in long lines. Going to TJ's more often, I've noticed the clientele has taken a decidedly hoi polloi if you will. I mean, we recycle, walk places more, etc., but, no, I haven't started a compost pile, and I don't think less (or more) of people who do.

I happened to be wearing a shirt that said "Save the World, it's the only Planet with Girl Scout Cookies." it's supposed to be cute, supporting girl scouts and giving a kick for recycling too. It's not my rally cry or anything. If you've been to TJ's, the staff are VERy nice and always chat people up. My checkout person saw the "save the world" part and made a big deal of stopping and reading my shirt. At first, she was smiling, then it kind of dropped away, she started an eye roll but realized I was watching her face, so she went with stammering instead.

At the time, I was concentrated on getting home, but now I'm more annoyed. I mean, sorry I'm not in the "cool" causes, sorry I defiled the sacred cause of recycling by trumping it with Girl Scout cookies.

Can't our causes all just get along?

Monday, August 27, 2012

That ship has sailed

My family was at our annual church picnic this past weekend.  As I was sitting there in the on again, off again sunshine, enjoying food other people had cooked for me, my son came up, looked at my head and exclaimed "oh no, Mom!" Panicked, I thought he'd spied a bug or something IN my hair and started swatting at my head.  Nope.  On his closer inspection, he said he saw "some" gray hairs.  I laughed, knowing my natural state is at least 50% gray these days, and said "yes" there are "some grays" there.  He told me--complete with sad face--he didn't want me to get old.  There are some issues I have with this scenario.

1.  Not want me to get old?  The ship has sailed on that dream, my son.  Find a new one.
2.  Has he truly never noticed in 11 years that every eight weeks or so, my hair changes shades?  I mean, seriously.  I guess this means he's "all man" now.

Number 2 is in direct opposition with number 3, fair warning.

3.  My SON noticed something that I didn't point out directly to him!  Yeah!

It's a small victory, but I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Good advice for the men out there

When engaging a woman who is a stranger (as opposed to a strange woman, ha ha) in conversation, regardless of the capacity, I beg of you, make her day.  When every fiber of your being wants to call her "ma'am" go for "miss" instead.  Just trust me on this one.  Unless you are a soldier and have a female superior officer--or for children raised in the south who must address adult females in this manner under penalty of death--use "miss" over "ma'am" EVERY time.

I was on campus, leaving my evening course, watching one of our muscular staties (yep, we have STATE cops as our security, bazinga!) lock the door I needed, so I asked if I could still get out this way.  This led to a pleasant 20 second conversation, where I really have no idea what was said.  Did I mention muscular? And cop? Oh, and, like 25?  I'm 44.  The hormones are popping over my head like a 15 year old boy.  Don't judge me.  A little fantasy is healthy, and I always bring it home, if you know what I mean.

Then it happened. 

The boy ma'amed me.  He MA'AMED me. 

That is just like a cold shower of truth and injustice on my interlude of sweetness and light.

So men, whether you know it or not, you too may be the object of a little healthy brain work.  Do NOT ruin the moment by bringing out the polite, yet soul-crushing MA'AM if you know what's good for you.  That's my PSA of the day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball

Yeah, that was a shameless steal from one of my favorite movies of all time--Bull Durham--but it's how I feel this week.  Why?  Because CLASSES STARTED for the fall semester!  That seems to also mean it's "lose your damn mind" season.  Some things are just so dang simple, but people try to complicate the bejeesus out of them.

Case in point, and this won't be the only one I'm going to complain about, FYI.  Sally Student gets email from me after I've checked her stats that she has failed to pass an exam which is a pre-requisite for the course.  Now, let's all agree advisors are overworked and underpaid (like moi!) but this fact is also noted in the online schedule bulletin.  Plus, I'm nice enough to send the email telling her where to go and who to talk to before she's dropped.  Instead, Sally emails back, asking what to do. 

Cue music for my descent into hell.

I email back with same info as before.  Sally emails again that she's taken exam, failed exam, wants in class anyway.  As I'm not sitting with fingers poised over my keyboard, waiting my life so I'll know every tidbit of hers the instant it happens, I miss this email.  Within the hour, THREE MORE emails are sent, with escalating panic wondering WHY HAVEN'T YOU RESPONDED TO ME YET???!!!!!  

I'm not joking.  All caps.  Some words may have been misspelled in her version.

I email her back that, effectively, she's S.O.L., and we all know what that stands for, because it's a university pre-req.  When I come to the university this a.m., she was in my department chair's office, and a staff member told me she'd been camping out and complaining that I hadn't responded to her.  Great!  After being told again she's S.O.L., good old Sally sees me, and tries again. I am rushing to another class, so I say I can't really help, she needs to see her advisor.


Sally's baaaaack.  She now has a note on a business card from her advisor to "call" him.  I'm DONE.  I call him while she's there, and I say I'm not sure why I'm having to call, because four emails, two in face communications, and the head of my department have ALL said the same thing, no go sister until you pass the exam.  I pointed out I'm not jeopardizing my job, and aren't advisors supposed to ADVISE students about which classes to take?  He ummed.  I hung up, handed back the card to Sally and told her to leave my office.

I try to be nice, really I do, but some people make be bananas.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My satellite posse needs to shape up

Obviously, I'm a HUGE supporter of my kids' teachers.  I let my kids' educators know early on that I've got their back.  Considering, combined, my kids have had nine teachers, and I've only found one to be a horrifically bad fit personality-wise and one that shouldn't have been in the game at all (Shockingly, she was a year away from retirement.).  In terms of equal disclosure, my son has also had two of the best teachers I've ever encountered, and my daughter in only three years has had two really great ones.  Not bad odds, all things considered.

The issue is, as vigorous as I am a volunteer and supporter, if things go off track, I'm an even more vigorous advocate for my babies, um, children.  Yep, Momma Bear comes out, but I always give teachers the benefit of the doubt first, kind of like a cat playing with a mouse prior to eating it.  Oh, and I NEVER tell them what I do for a living.  I want to see how they'll react.  Yeah, this only works once, cuz teachers talk about parents, yo, but the way our district switches schools every three years, it gives me a good run.

What is an amusing observation is the handful of times I've had to bring down the hammer, I've noticed something, and it's something I see in myself too and I try to curb with my students.  It must be handed out with teacher DNA.  It's this way of being extremely definite, solid as a rock, no nonsense about something that may--or may not--be true.  Us teachers, we've got a way of making things sound like a done deal when there is absolutely wiggle room, maybe even turn cartwheels room.  I get this reaction when, after I've listened, said my peace, they give me a definite answer, I say "no" and they look at me strangely.  Sometimes I have to repeat myself.  See, because this is the secret.  As kids we're taught to respect our teachers, and most aren't used to having parents who aren't just plain nutty disagree with them.  It's not the order of things.  So then they bring out the "definite" voice, which I am immune to, give me a cockamammie reason, and I get to trot out phrases like "hmm, that position isn't supported by current educational pedagogy." I've actually had one teacher's eye twitch as she said "Eh?"  That's when I trot out the knowledge that I know what I'm talking about since I'm in higher education.  This also has to be said with the correct amount of "bazinga!" in the voice.  I'll admit, it's fun.

Case in point, earlier in June, I had sent an email requesting my daughter not have the same teacher as my son had in third grade.  She wasn't BAD, but I knew she wasn't a good fit for my daughter's personality.  I received a response from the principal, which I saved.  Lo and behold, out of the five available teachers, she's assigned the one I said she shouldn't have.  I called the school.  Before I could even be allowed into the principal's inner sanctum, the secretary told me "changing wouldn't be possible." 

. . . I'm taking a pause here as those who know me well are giggling right now. . .

I repeated my need to speak with the principal.  Principal gets on the phone and tells me in the definite voice that she never received my email.  I say I'm looking at it.  She asks me to forward.  I do.  She still says she never received it.  I tell her to look at HER REPLY which I included.  She then waxes on about email upgrades, confusion, blah, blah, blah.  In other words, BUSTED!  I'm getting a call today about her new placement.

The moral of the story is, if you want something done, be prepared to be a squeaky wheel.  I'm okay with it, I like grease.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Not sure everyone got the memo

I was waylaid by a migraine the other day, and I always have kind of a hangover hours afterward.  My tradition is to watch my guilty television, so I did.  The choice this time was a local PBS show, Check, Please.  If you're not familiar with it, this is a Chicago show that gets together three regular people and a moderator.  Each person chooses their favorite restaurant, and the three people independently go to them ahead of time, discussing what they thought of the food, service, ambiance, etc. when they all get together. 

The reason I consider this my guilty TV pleasure isn't because it's a great place to check out local cuisine.  That's its absolute positive point.  No, what I like are the characters that invariably appear on the show.  Most are pretty normal, but sometimes you'll see people like the Frustrated Foodie.  FF is the one who doesn't like anything with less than four stars, poo-poos everyone else's choices, looking down his nose (these are usually "hims" for some reason) the whole time.  Then there's the Super Vegan, who is equally fun.  Nothing against those who are vegetarian or vegan, because I know many who are great people who adhere to these types of diets, and I'm happy to keep their dietary restrictions in mind when dining with them.  But the Super Vegan is one who makes sure everyone in a five mile radius is apprised of her (again, usually "hers" for some reason) vegan status, usually punctuated with talk of how it's irresponsible to wear leather.  She also waxes on, peppering her speech with words like "organic", "free range", "hydroponic" with a judgmental bent on her face until our eyes glaze over and I want to sneak some meat into her, just because.  Another fun character is Da Local Guy, who invariably chooses a place "wit da best beef sandwiches youze ever tasted."  If forced out of his comfort zone, he often responds as if dropped in the middle of Calcutta, instead of having to drive to the burbs. Or maybe he sees those as equal, who knows.

But the one I cannot stand, is the type I saw on this last episode--Trendy Gal.  She's often a student, lives in the city, is more concerned with appearances than substance, and picks a restaurant that will likely have a solid spot on the "it" list.  If I could have reached through the screen on this particular Sunday and slapped TG, I would have.  She complained that at one spot, she had to "get over the bartenders and patrons with tattoos" in order to enjoy herself.  She declared a sushi monorail kind of restaurant not authentic, even when the person who recommended it said it was just like when he lived in Japan for two years.  Oh, but the crowning offense was when she was actually complimenting a dish at an establishment she said "I didn't even feel guilty until the next morning for eating all those calories."  Yes, people, she said she felt GUILTY about EATING on a show whose entire reason for being was to rate RESTAURANTS.  What did she feel guilty over?  A HAMBURGER. 

This, oh internets, is why I don't own a gun.  As it was, I lobbed my near empty tissue box at the TV.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On the technology front

In my unending support of technology for all, I've apparently tossed my children into this stuff headfirst, and here's evidence.

This summer I took on a last minute workshop class that meets for two hours a day, four days a week.  Because my husband works nights, and the kids aren't babies anymore, I said yes to it.  Their dad is there if they need him, but they aren't supposed to wake him, except for lunch and bleeding emergencies.  This was similar to my upbringing, so I knew they could do it. 

The boy, he's good with the rules.  The girl, she likes to use my husband's cell phone to call/text my cell with inane questions or requests, mostly in the "can I have a chocolate bar for a snack?" or "can friend who is a known ball of trouble and currently banned from our home come over?" realms.  I ignore such requests until class is over.

Last week, she and I had a battle over the hoarder state of her room.  She was on lockdown--no friends, no electronics, no fun whatsoever, until said room was in an enterable state--until I returned.  As I was walking out of class, my text tone went off (R2D2 sounds, if you're interested) and I found three videos showing me that her room was, indeed, cleaned.  Then a text requesting to be released from lockdown status.  She's 8, remember.

I laughed myself silly that she did this, but the funniest part, and what led to further lockdown, was that she didn't realize in the background of one of the videos, it was evident her queen-sized bed (don't ask, don't judge) was filled with what had previously been all over the floor.  Evidently, to my little hoarder, "clean" means "move to a different location."  Luckily, she hasn't grasped the concept of camera angles yet.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I've got the best besties

This last weekend, I was lucky enough to spend some time with friends I've known for about 20 years.  Something happened that gave me insight into why I love the friends I have.

I've recently gotten a bee in my bonnet that I'd like to start canning some stuff.  Now, I'm not a gardener.  In truth, I've got a black thumb.  So what would I be canning?  Why, stuff OTHER people grow, of course.  I also know I'm going THIS weekend to Covert, MI, where there are blueberries as big as my thumbnail.  This screams jam to me.  I've never made jam in my life.  Those who know me, however, know I can be, shall, we say "determined" once I get said bee within bonnet vicinity.

So Saturday I mentioned I had a GREAT idea to start canning.  One of these people I've known for 20 years simply said, "I think we'll need to buy a bushel of tomatoes."  There was no "are you sure?" or "really?" or any commentary that suggested two (or more, depending on who I can rope into this) people who've never canned in their lives might not be stunningly fabulous at the endeavor.

Yep, my besties, they don't ask questions.  They don't even just let me be crazy on my own.  They jump in with both feet, right by my side.  It means the world to me, since I don't have sisters.  So to all my besties, thanks for buying tomatoes with me.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Suck it, July!

I hate July.  Aside from the fact it's always a month where I'm perpetually hot, sweaty, and sticky, July is a month where, if I'm going to have a bout of sadness, that's when it happens.  Years apart, I lost two of the most influential people in my life--my mother and my grandmother--both in the month of July.

While my mom was a profound influence in my life, we didn't have the best buddies relationship many mothers and daughters do.  By the age of 28, she was the divorced parent of a five year old.  Within three years, my father would disappear completely, with only intermittent resurfacings.  His disappearance also included his child support payments.  As a result, quite honestly, my mom and I were robbed of a close relationship.  Our time together was rushed and hurried and frenzied, because she needed to get to the next job, the next class, the next place where she might be able to make a few bucks to get the ends closer together; never meeting, just closer together.  While there were, of course, good memories I have, there are far more memories of notes that had directions for chores, meals to start, and what time I needed to get myself to bed.  Still, I took away from my childhood and my mom an absolute independence that has served me well.  It kills me to need anything from anyone, and that makes me a big picture person.  I stand on my own two feet, and if people don't like me, that's fine.  My mom taught me life isn't about what others think of me, it's about what I think of myself.  This July, she's been gone 11 years.

Because my mom had little time and was often busy being the breadwinner and disciplinarian in the house, I spent a lot of weekends with my grandparents.  At one point, while my mom finished her degree, we even lived with them.  This situation was a real blessing for both my grandmother and me.  My grandfather was at the middle of a long illness, but he was still able to work and keep a normal schedule.  My grandmother was on the cusp of being an empty nester, and as a lifelong homemaker, I'm sure that was a daunting prospect.  So it was with great happiness she welcomed a 12 year old into the house (seriously, who thinks that way?).  It may sound odd, but we did SO much together.  Yes, I had friends my own age, but I've always enjoyed the company of my grandmother.  Even when I was 16, my mom and I were back on our own, I still made time to go shopping and out to lunch with my grandmother.  Long before the current debates over stay at home vs work outside the home moms, my grandmother showed me the inherent dignity, worth, and necessity of being a homemaker.  She also showed me the importance of having something that is your own as a mother.  Even more important, she introduced me to music, its beauty, and how it feeds the soul.  This July, she's been gone 21 years.

I usually focus on the good things my mom and grandma gave me, and I like to commemorate their birthdays and such, not when they passed.  But I notice I feel more sadness in July, without even really knowing why.  So I'm saying adios, July!  I can totally wait for you to come around again!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mosquitos, state bird of Michigan

As I was preparing for my son's first sleep away camp experience with the boy scouts, one item leapt out at me and triggered a now humorous memory from my childhood.  That item was "mosquito netting" and here's the tale.

I am a third generation girl scout, and camp is an integral part of that experience.  As soon as I was old enough, I wanted to go.  My mom, a single parent with no help from my dad, scraped together the money all year long, probably relishing the week of peace and quiet.  Luckily for her, I LOVED camp.  Loved, with all capital letters. 

When I first attended camp, we lived in NW Indiana.  I went for probably three years in succession to camps in Wisconsin before we moved with my grandparents to Chicago so my mom could finish her degree.  Back then, that meant changing Girl Scout councils and attending a different camp in the summer.  The new camp was in Michigan.  Mosquito netting was an item listed on the supply list for this camp. 

As a single parent with little income, my mom often had to make instant decisions between "needs" and "wants" in a cruel, definitive, cut it off at the knees kind of way, because not everything could be afforded.  She determined mosquito netting was not a need, because here I was an old hand at camp, and I'd never needed mosquito netting before.  Off to camp I went, sans netting.

At camp in the 70s, there really weren't any mirrors.  There were vague tinny things in the bathroom area that let you know you were looking into them, and you knew you were a female since you were at girl scout camp, but any other details weren't readily apparent.  I loved camp so much, it really wasn't until bedtime that I'd itch.  And itch.  But I was exhausted, so I fell asleep quickly, despite the itching.  It wasn't until a rainy day when we were confined to our platform tents that I truly realized I was serving as a mosquito buffet during my sleeping hours.  My camp mates counted somewhere over 200 mosquito bites on me.  This was the day before we left for home.

My mom told me before I left that as a special treat, she'd pick me up off the bus, and we'd go out to dinner so I could tell her all about camp.  When I stepped off the bus, I noticed my mom had the oddest look on her face.  I know now, it was a mix of horror at what I looked like and shame that she'd caused my lumpy looks by eschewing the mosquito netting.  She asked me at least ten times if I still wanted to go out for dinner.  Sure!  I wanted non-camp food!  It wasn't until I went to the bathroom and looked in a REAL mirror I realized I looked like a leper.  Oh, well, I was already there, might as well stay.  I did notice they seated us in an out of the way, poorly lit booth.  I wonder how many people I scared that day.

The REALLY funny part is, when I saw "mosquito netting" on the list, for a split second, I wondered if that was a truly necessary item.  Yes, I've become my mother. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Get Funky!

I'm doing some work in my office and just realized my daughter has flitted through with her third wardrobe change of the day.  It's 10:30am.  Now, this can mean a multitude of things from "there's a basket of clean laundry, and I want to experience as much of it as possible" to "don't go in the bathroom, as I've brought about Armageddon and it's best if you don't see."  Because forewarned is forearmed, I inquired as to the change.

Her answer?  "Mom, I just wasn't funky enough.  This? This is FUNKY."

She's wearing a tank top and flannel jammie pants with snowflakes on them.  I know.  I KNOW.

Friday, June 8, 2012

When did this happen?

Yeah, I know I'm getting up there.  Let's try to stay away from the term "middle-aged" if we can for now.  I'm about to sound hopelessly and helplessly like an old fogey, lamenting the state of youth today, but when did stripper shoes make it into pleasant society? 

Exhibit A!

The only people who are able to walk in these things are strippers!  You know why?  Because they have their feet in the air, legs wrapped around a pole.  These shoes are NOT meant to be worn in public!  Oh, and as a public service announcement, those who attempt to walk in these ridiculous things?  You look like you're three and borrowed your mom's heels. 

I blame Snookie and her ilk for the downfall of western society. 

There, I said it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I'm SO behind the times, but I know what I like!

Ok, so everyone is aware I'm an insanely busy mom, with two kids in scouts (leader for one), a full time job I'm blessed to do mostly from home, and a husband who works nights and isn't around for the vast majority of kidlet fun--by which I mean homework, mealtime, bathing, the stuff that's hard--and all this is a SERIOUS drain on my social life.  Me and my dvr?  Best buds.  Netflix?  Close second.  I watch tons of stuff while sewing on badges, grading on my laptop, etc.  Problem is, while I watch stuff, I'm not necessarily CURRENT on my viewing choices.  But I recently saw a movie that wasn't really paid much attention that I simply must share, because I thought it was great.

I like all kinds of films, but a good ghost story gets me every time.  I like horror, but I need a good story to go with it.  A simple hacker slasher won't do, unless the back story keeps me hooked.  I recently saw a movie from 2010 called Let Me In that was simply genius.  Part of it was the casting.  Chloe Moretz of Watchmen fame played a glorious child vampire--since this is a 2010 movie, I don't think I'm giving any grand secret away--and I tell you, people need to watch for her in the future.  She is a fabulous actress with quite a range.  Kodi Smit-McPhee, the main character, was equally fabulous in the title role of a bullied outsider.  There's violence, to be sure, and there's no shortage of fake blood used in this flick, but this is not a movie without a serious emotional payoff.

The far and away gem of the film is the life Kodi Smit-McPhee's character leads.  His recently shattered family life is mired in an absent dad, a religious zealot of a mom, and a general feeling of lost-in-the-middle malaise that's only exacerbated by his school experiences as the punching bag of choice for some nasty middle schoolers.  His inner landscape is echoed in the bleak mid-winter setting where most of the action takes place.  His daily interactions with a vampire child become the brightest spots in his life, and she echoes that sense of enjoyment.

This movie is so much more than a vampire horror movie.  It's about finding a kindred spirit and simply keeping one's head above water emotionally and the choices we make--good or bad--when we make personal connections.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

We walk the walk up in he-ah!

That's right, we don't just pay lip service to equal rights in MY house, oh no.  Here, girls take out garbage and boys do laundry.  It all just depends on what needs doing and which kid is closest to me.  I'm hoping this will make them self-sufficient (read and NOT living with me when they're 30) in the future.

We had another opportunity lately to prove our commitment to equality when we put a male babysitter into our regular rotation.  We've got some FABULOUS girly babysitters we lucked into, but they're all seniors in high school, are very involved in their activities, and have become increasing unavailable.  I needed to do something, because I had a function to attend with Brownie, leaving Cubby at home.  I found out an older brother of Brownie's friend was staying home for college, so I contacted him for a boy's night.  It turned out so great, we put him into the regular rotation.

As I said, he's got a younger sister exactly Brownie's age, so he's used to younger girls too.  He showed up at our house, much to Cubby's delight.  He'd had enough of our very nice, but very girly-centered, female babysitters.  All had a wonderful time, and so did we.

The REALLY funny part, though, happened the next day.  As I do whenever we have a babysitter, I asked what they did, if they had fun, and I slip in some questions about phone use and such.  Brownie's alternate name is "The Informer" and she's about as good at intel as the CIA.  During this conversation, Brownie said "Mom, do you think Babysitter is cute?"  Hmm.  How to proceed?  Do I say "no" and get into a long conversation about "why not?" or do I say "yes" and get myself into a bigger mess?  I went with "yes, just like I think you're cute and Cubby is cute and Dog Bone is cute."  Tragedy averted (I thought).  Her response?  "Yeaaaaaaah, but did you SEE the muscles on Babysitter?!  Dad doesn't have muscles like THAT!"

Those crickets you hear?  They were chirping while I imagined myself in another ten years forcibly dragging my beautiful daughter out of a bar while a man a decade older than she tries to ply her with alcohol.  I've really got to get into better shape, because I don't think I'm going to survive her adolescence.