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.