Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Favorite Kid Christmas

As I've noted before, mine was a very lean household. My dad, thinking obviously kids don't need to eat or have new clothing, never really managed to pay child support. Back then, the state wasn't really a partner in making parents pay, so my mom never took him to court to up the amount. As she said, "a larger chunk of zero is still zero." It made for a number of lean Christmases. My grandparents would help by getting me clothing and necessary items, a bit more than my cousins, so my mom could focus on the fun stuff.

One Christmas I wanted a particular doll, a doll called Velvet.  She had blond hair that would be long, but then you could turn a dial in her back, and her hair would get short. Depress a button where the belly button would be, and voila, long hair again. I was mad with desire for this doll. It was horrifically expensive in relation to my mom's budget. I don't know how or where she found it, but she found one in horrible shape. The hair was matted, she didn't have shoes or clothes. Garage sale? Maybe. I don't know.

What my mom did was put her in a dolly chair one of her friend's husbands had made, and she wrote a letter from Santa and attached it to Velvet. The letter said Velvet was almost left behind because the elves hadn't quite gotten her ready in the Christmas time crunch, but Santa heard her crying. When Santa went to her, Velvet lamented that she'd never have a little girl to play with, because next year was just too late. Santa hurriedly took Velvet with and gave her to me, because she knew I wouldn't mind, and I would take extra special care of her.

Of course, I did. Velvet stayed in my possession long after other dolls were given away, and I still have the letter somewhere. For my mom, a logical, reasoned, absolutely by the numbers kind of person, it was the best Christmas gift I ever got.

Monday, December 22, 2014

You Can Take the Gal out of Chicago. . .

But we all know you can't take the Chicago out of the gal. Ugh.

For the most part, I've enjoyed living in the south and the truly massive life changes that have gone along with it. I think we've adjusted pretty well. I've slowed down my speaking speed, counting to ten between sentences and after someone else speaks to respond. I've accepted I WILL run into someone I know at the Winn-Dixie and around town, which means no errand is as quick as I hope it will be. We've all tried all kinds of new foods (jambalaya and chicken stew get thumbs up, gumbo TOTALLY depends on the recipe). I've even started saying hello to complete and total strangers, just because they're walking a few feet away from me (that was a hard one for this suspicious former Chicagoan).

The one issue I'm having troubles with is the lack of desire to problem solve when things go wrong. I mean, that's right in my wheelhouse. I aim to be a problem solver. Here, I get a shrug of the shoulders and a "what ya gonna do" look. I almost had a full-on conniption fit at Autozone Saturday. Good thing this town is small, and there were only three witnesses, two of them employees.

Our car needed a new battery. We charged it to get it over to the place, Scott paid, and THEN they told him they didn't have anyone to install it because they couldn't leave one person alone in the (empty) store. Fair enough. He had to go to work, so he brought the car home (only a five minute drive), told me to run over there after 9am. I waited until after 10, arrived, was told they still didn't have a third person and got THE shrug. I asked if they knew when third person would arrive. The shrug. I said I really didn't feel comfortable going home, since I had to charge this to get it here, but I also couldn't wait all day. The shrug. Then the counter person made the mistake of telling me "Don't know what to tell ya, baby." I KNOW sometimes the "baby" is a southern thing, like "honey" or "sweetie" but I snapped. I actually had to walk outside and take deep breaths.

I then went back in, where I informed the staff they needed to get the manager on the phone by any means necessary (turns out HE was the one who was AWOL), that I would be getting a discount refunded to me, and that if workers could stand outside the store with the door open EIGHT FEET away from where my car was in the parking lot to SMOKE CIGARETTES (three in the time I was there), then they could dang well put my battery in while I held the door and kept watch over the lone employee. I insisted I would keep her safe from the four customers who had swarmed the place in the time I'd been there.

Luckily, there did not have to be a showdown, as an employee who was scheduled later happened to come in early, and he put in my battery. He actually started in fright when he looked at me, and he was about 6'6" and 350lbs. He actually had to swap out the battery for a more expensive one, because their computer was wrong. I assured him the manager was picking up the difference. The shrug AGAIN. I hate the shrug.

Adjusting, it's a work in progress.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Combat Naps

I am the keeper of the clock, the sounder of the alarm. I also sleep like I'm a Navy SEAL taking a combat nap, in little blocks, literally anywhere. Back in the day, I was bored waiting while a buddy was flirting with a guy at Neo in Chicago. I fell asleep on the carpeted risers and had to be shaken awake, music was blaring, and I was near sober at the time.

My alarm goes off, and I wake up everyone in turn, except my Uncle Bob, who has his routine.  He's pretty much on the other side of the house, but because there's only one shower, we have a lovely syncopated dance of people in and out of the bathroom. It's been working. Knowing we have a very regimented system, that often commences with my directive to people under the age of fourteen to "eat breakfast! brush teeth! Move! Move! MOVE!" he was concerned when I seemed to be still lounging in bed ten minutes after I should have been. He waited another five minutes, then came to wake me up. In error, I hadn't set my alarm, so I'm glad he did.


Uncle Bob had never awakened me, and he wasn't really aware of my sleeping habits. He gently shook my happily sleeping shoulder. I jumped up, again, like a Navy SEAL in full battle mode, out of bed in one leap, looking for the proverbial fire to put out. I scared him, and rightly so. He told me next time maybe he'll just call my phone.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cue the Gone with the Wind Music

I had what I would call the most purely southern moment since I've been down here recently, and as with all things in the modern south, it happened at the grocery store. I've learned the local grocery store is at the epicenter of southern interaction. Forget the telephone! Leave emails and texts to those Yankees! If you want to have a veritable cocktail party, hit the Winn-Dixie! I don't even KNOW most people in town, and every time we've gone, I've run into neighbors, people we've seen at church, families from the kids' school. I've taken to going by myself on Fridays, because this whole thing freaks me out a little.

I'm happily filling my cart and checking things off my list, when I hit a necessary item--frozen vegetables--on sale. As is the same, north or south, the sale items were a jumbled mess, plus it was a humid day, which meant I couldn't see a thing through the freezer case. I was head and shoulders into a freezer case, trying to find my items, when, I swear, I'm not making this up, a woman's voice, veritably dripping with honey sopped up by a biscuit, announces in a loud voice "Well, I declare!" Of course, no "r" sound was pronounced. It was more "declay-ah" than anything. She was speaking to another female patron, and she continued with "I haven't seen you in I do not KNOW how long (made into two syllables, that word). Truth be told, I thought you'd passed." At this point, I'm trying really hard to keep a straight face, good thing I'm out of sight. I continued on with my vegetable search as they shared small talk, promising to catch up more soon.

The delightful elderly southern woman came over by me and, again, announced she was looking for "soup vegetables." Since I was already half in the freezer case, I offered that there was a bag with "soup vegetables" marked on it, as I handed it to her. She read the bag, made a scoffing noise that really employed her entire body, pointed to the wording on the bag, and in an accusing manner told me, "This has OKRA in it. We don't put okra in our SOUP." Feeling outnumbered and outgunned by this little woman, I went with my strengths and replied, "Glad you said that. I'm a Yankee, and I wouldn't put put okra in MY soup, either." She sized me up in an instant (I really longed for a set of pearls to clutch), and told me, "Well, then you were brought up right." I handed her a different bag of vegetables, and she sniffed and told me I'd been very helpful.

As often happens in grocery stores, we happened to meet up at the check out line, she with her half-full cart, me with my overflowing one. She was already almost through the line, when she saw me and declared she was glad she didn't have to put all my groceries away. That's when I let her know this was a week's worth of groceries for five. She immediately started taking items from my cart and putting them on the belt while the cashier bagged what she had. She told me how she used to have six to feed, but now it was just her, and she'd started calling her nephew to come over with a friend or two, just so she could keep her "cooking mind fresh" from time to time. She paid for her by then loaded up groceries, bid a lovely day to all (pronounced aw-el) and left.

It was probably the most pleasant day I've ever had at the grocery store.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Politics of Apples

A couple weeks ago, my uncle told me he didn't really like the Gala apples I'd purchased. I made a point of finding other varieties, I think we were on Granny Smiths this week. When I was asking everyone if they had grocery requests, he told me he really didn't want anymore Granny Smiths, that the last Gala he had was quite good.


I said, "Hold on. Didn't you tell me a couple weeks ago you DIDN'T like Galas?"

He said, "Well, yes, but that was just one apple. I had another, and I liked it a lot."

"Ok, so you were willing to not eat Galas for the foreseeable future, except for the fact that I bought some anyway for the rest of us, based on ONE bad apple."

Without skipping a beat, he said "yeah, it's what we conservatives do, condemn a whole type based on one bad sample."

It's good to know that if I have to live with even more conservatives now, they're willing to joke about it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Patient Zero

We've all been there, where our kid looks a little tired in the morning and sounds a bit hoarse. But no fever, no complaints when asked, and hey, the family spent yesterday outdoors all day with pollen and other allergens, so you send Muffin off to school. Couple hours later, and you get the accusing phone call from the nurse at Muffin's school, saying s/he has a fever of 102, which must have been blooming as they walked away from the car. I don't judge those people.

However, I AM going to get all Judgey McJudgerson on the people who knowingly send their kids to school, for whatever reason. Megan was complaining on Thursday that a kid who sits in the row in front of her had been absent for two days, then came back with a hacking cough, to the point the teacher told him to go call his mom. Mom was, conveniently unavailable, and kid was back at school on Friday! STILL coughing! 

Guess who started being sniffly and coughing last night? Better yet, tonight, Brett started up too, and they both have low fevers. Guess what Brett was doing this weekend? Sleeping in close quarters with his Boy Scout troop, making him Patient Zero for the plague I'm sure will befall the troop. Not to mention this charter school is crazy about absences, and Megan has five already, thanks to the Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease right at the start and a stomach thing she and I got a couple weeks ago, I'm sure just because of all the new germs we encountered moving to a new town.

I want to kick that kid's mom's butt!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Did You Hear the Scream?

It was 10:34 last night. Did I wake you with my scream? I don't care if you're reading this halfway across the world, because the question is still relevant, as I screamed my fool head off, running through the house after I saw the BIGGEST COCKROACH OF MY LIFE IN THE BATHROOM SINK! Did I put enough emphasis on that? MY LIFE I tell you! It was longer than my THUMB! And glisteny and I could see the ridges on the outer shell or back or whatever. SO gross! I was prepared for outdoor bugginess, but in the bathroom sink? That's just too close to home, that's what that is.

Scott, who in my clearly calm executive decision-making process, was elected to dispense with the creature, went with drowning, as he informed me it was "too big to squish." Like THAT will ever make me use that sink again. I don't know what he did with it, I left and went to bed.

In the morning, Uncle Bob comforted me with the information that they are slower here in Louisiana, that Chicago roaches are quick and will scurry when the light hits them, maybe up your arm, but here they're big but slow, and they are easier to catch. Mm-hmm. I'm not comforted. in. the. least.

I'm shopping for bug spray today. I don't care if I kill us all in the process. Last night I dreamt of that scene in Men in Black where Will Smith is battling the giant cockroach. Hmm, wonder why?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Drop Off Area

I used to loathe the infamous drop off line with its overly intense parents who felt compelled to jam on the gas pedal to move forward six feet and had to burn out leaving after chucking their kids out into the world, as others can here a frenzied "move! move! move!" coming from the car. Conversely, the parents who seemingly couldn't get their children out of the car without adjusting outerwear for each child, giving series of hugs and kisses and reminders, causing the veins in the temples of those behind them to throb, they were annoying too. Even the park and walkers, who couldn't drop their precious little cherubs off in the LINE and had to park and walk them in, always oblivious of natural stops in the line, really endangering their children, they too raised my blood pressure. All were part of the early morning and afternoon hum of school, the price we parents pay, if you will, to send our children to public education, where teachers keep them for hours at a time so we don't. have. to. hear. the. whining.

Oh, internoodles, I now long for those days. LONG for them, I tell you. Now that the kids are in a charter school that is 25 minutes away, we were thrilled, let me repeat that, THRILLED that two spots on the bus opened up. Those near hour round trips through sugar cane fields were getting old. I should have realized things may not go smoothly when I asked where we catch the bus, and the DRIVER could only tell me the name of one of the streets. She did, however, tell me it was right by the building that used to be a rec center. This was, in no way, helpful, as there is no signage that says anything about a rec center on the building she was referring to, so as a recent transplant, any of the buildings, really, could have been the one in question. Luckily, we found it the first day.

Let me also say that to call the meeting place a parking lot was reallllly raising the expectations of those looking for the area. I passed it three times before I realized this area was what she meant as a parking lot. It's a small field of grass with a vague traffic worn path through it. There are no parking spots, so everyone just sort of parks wherever, all higgledy-piggledy, double parking, some half hanging out into the streets. It's chaos. Oh, and I don't know why but EVERYONE backs into parking spaces down here. For everything. Me, the rebel I am, I don't and I try to be organized. People look at me weird.

I'm also used to people staying to wave, and once the bus passes, we're gone. As soon as that bus rounds the corner and can be seen, people are chucking kids out of their cars and speeding off. While the backing in thing actually helps in this, there are children I've seen jump out of the path of trucks--everybody drives trucks--to get in the bus line. I stay and wave to the bus, mainly because I don't want to take my life into my hands trying to jockey for leaving position. When I waved yesterday, and I only waited until the bus turned the corner, about 10 feet away, I was the last car in the "area" for parking. Last week, we drove up to a couple kids standing by a shed that's in the area, their parents already gone.

We'll see what this afternoon's pick up brings.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Nickname for the Hubster!

Scott was chuckling the other night when he came home from work. One of the odious parts of his job--hey, all jobs have them--is the necessary repossession of furniture or appliances people have stopped paying for at the rent-to-own store where he currently works as a manager trainee. It's compounded by the fact his region's predecessor had been slacking on his job for many months prior to his departure. Scott said people actually get angry, thinking they were off the hook for paying for things because his predecessor had stopped calling them.

When they repossess, they go in teams, and Scott was with another employee when they approached a house. The woman was immediately angry, coming out of her house shouting and carrying on. She even tried to say the manager had told her "not to worry about it" but couldn't really define what the "it" was in her scenario. While Scott's work buddy was talking to her, he was busily moving the items out of the house and into the truck, as the woman amped her arguments up a notch, demanding to speak with the manager. Both the manager and the customer happen to be Black, as is the other employee who was along for the ride. My husband is, well, not. So when the customer had not gotten anywhere with logical arguments, she resorted to yelling "that's why [the manager] didn't come himself! He sent White Boy because [the manager] knew I'd kick his ass!"

Scott said he could barely keep a straight face as he was walking out, as obviously, my 6'2" 300lb husband was White Boy. She, apparently, kept repeating this sentiment as they finished up taking the items.

I'm totally calling him White Boy for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Football Obsession

Gotta love the south and their obsession with football, a sport I could seriously give a fig about.

Today I was attempting to apply at local high schools, since I've been approved as not morally lacking (little do THEY know of my college years, but those records have been sealed, mwahahaha) to teach the children of St. Mary's Parish as a substitute. I'll talk about that fun process in a future post.

We (Scott was off today and acted as my chauffeur, as I am directly challenged) pulled up to a newish looking junior high/high school combo, and I approached the door, ringing the bell to gain entry. Nothing. Since it was about 1:45pm, this was odd, ring again. Nothing. Peek in, no one moving about. LAY on the ringer this time. A hesitant voice asked what I needed. I said I needed to submit my application to substitute teach. The disembodied voice--usually I've been buzzed in by now--asked if they TOLD me to come there. Um, yes, the school board told me to go to school's where I wanted to be considered and put in an application. Long pause. The voice told me no one was in the office who could provide me with and subsequently take my application, because they were "celebrating homecoming today." Pause on my part, until I said "you're kidding, right?" The voice assured me she was not. Homecoming shuts down the school. She then pleasantly told me to come back tomorrow at 7am.

I walked back to the car, shaking my head. I then relayed my odd encounter to Scott--the most enamored with football human being I've ever met--and he even said "really?" He then pondered, "gosh, I wonder what they do for mardi gras down here." THAT I was able to answer honestly, because I'd looked at the kids' school calendar, they CLOSE the school.

Sigh. The South. Tomorrow, I rise to do battle with you again.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh, Poddy!

There's been a devastating loss in my household. My very first iPod Video (now called the Classic), the gateway drug, er, product that made me a devoted Apple acolyte, my Poddy, full name Poddington, is on his last legs. During the move, something must have been stacked on Poddy's little home, and he's cracked, as you can see from the picture. I am in mourning.

Prior to the iPod Video, I eschewed the need for any Apple music player, and I am a music JUNKY, a former on-air personality for my college radio station, first adopter of all things musical. My mom used to tell the story of how, at age 5, I wouldn't let anyone else play with my 45 player, handled the precious Disney records by the edges, placed the needle lovingly on and off, put them away in their little sleeves, and I've only gotten worse since. When the iPod Video came out, and I realized I could take my ENTIRE CD collection (over 300 CDs strong and 19 gigs at the time) with me, I was hooked. But I couldn't afford one right away. That was when I found out about Apple's refurbished store, and I told Scott it was ALL I wanted for Christmas, 2006. He saw the crazy gleam in my eyes, and he ordered it. Later, he found it wouldn't be delivered before Christmas.  I could wait, but he used that info to get a few more bucks off (YEAH!). It was delivered after Christmas, and I was in love, saving all my CDs to itunes and uploading them to my Poddy. It was also immediately placed on non-child touching lockdown.

Then I was on the hunt for a player, because I have music on all. day. long, and the ear phones weren't cutting it. I went to Target and Best Buy and played my little Poddy on each and every offering, assessing sound quality, bass, treble, volume, and how difficult it was to get out. The Altec iM9 pictured below, was the winner. It had fabulous sound, and there was no danger of a kid ripping the iPod off the top mount. Plus, it could run on either battery or AC/DC. This little twosome has been my companion while painting the walls of our home, to Girl Scout and Cub Scout meetings where music was needed, to my classes where I played podcasts, to friends' homes, camping, and now, it's outdated and obsolete for charging current models, but still, I could just cry.

I know, my phone holds all my music now, but it was so great if my phone was charging to play music in the kitchen. It was also awesome to jam out when the kids weren't home to my music with "naughty" words in it, or to hold impromptu dance parties at high volume. It still plays music, but I can't really decipher what song or artist it's on.

Poddington and his loud companion will be missed, sorely missed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Peanut Butter Experience

We are deadly serious about our peanut butter in my family. I have certain texture issues that must be satisfied, and only crunchy will do for me. Skippy is my crunchy peanut butter of choice, but the brand the sell at Aldi's is good, too. Jiff? NO. Peter Pan? HELLS to the NO. The boy and I agree 100%. Scott? He likes CREAMY, and really, what's the point? But whatever, he too knows only Skippy will do, but if it's all creamy, I don't really know what his criteria is. Megan? She's complex, needing chunky for sandwiches but creamy for apple or celery dipping. Diva.

We come to Louisiana, and Uncle Bob has JIFF, not only that, but CREAMY JIFF. It was a situation that required immediate attention. Additional peanut butter was purchased, and all was well again in the land, and the people were happy. Really, it takes so little to keep us all amused.

Last weekend, we went to the "big town" closest to us, about a 20ish minute drive. Doggies came along, as we had doggy-related issues to attend to, and we'd heard there was a slamming dog park (there was!) in town. We thought we'd pack a picnic, and the dogs could roam freely.

Uncle Bob was kind enough to make our packed lunch while Megan and I tended to last minute girly things. En route, Megan, of course, asked what had been packed. Uncle Bob said he'd packed PB&J and listed other items. Megan immediately honed in on the PB part, citing our noted peanut butter stances. Uncle Bob replied that he'd made all the sandwiches the same--crunchy peanut butter. Megan reminded him of his preferences, and he said since it had been at least 15 years since he'd tried crunchy, and we had been so adventurous moving down here, he was going to be adventurous and try crunchy again. Awwww, right?

Come doggy park/lunch time, we're sitting at a picnic table, letting dogs roam, sharing our apples with a man and boy who stopped to chat, and I'm eating my sandwich, chit chatting, and I notice I feel smoothness, infinite smoothness. I take more bites, still smooooooth, and wrong where PB&J is concerned. Hmm. I'm near finished when Megan leans over and says "there's no BUMPS in my sandwich" with a displeased look on her face. She feels infinite smoothness too. Man and boy leave, and I ask Uncle Bob if he didn't just try to trick us with smooth peanut butter. He says no and that he used the jar with the blue top. I ask "medium blue or dark blue"? "Medium blue" he responds. Megan and I look at each other and I tell him that DARK blue is the color of the crunchy top. He says "oh" and continues to contentedly munch on his smooth peanut butter sandwich. At least we know we can get rid of the Jiff now.

So much for peanut butter adventure.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Poor Uncle Bob

Yes, poor Uncle Bob. He raised boys. That means he never had TWO women in the house, let alone a 10 year old girl on a consistent basis. There is a whole WORLD of knowledge he's gained in the last month, including some of these:
  • Women--young or old--cannot use the same hair products for long. They have different hair needs that must be addressed, so for each female, there will be approximately three products in the shower at any given time. This math is confusing to men.
  • When making room for us, poor Uncle Bob was unaware of the criteria his home would be graded on by Megan when we arrived. She immediately needed some furniture moved because it was necessary to have ample dancing space. Uncle Bob said he didn't know that was a consideration. Megan replied with "always" and left it at that. Girl is serious about her dance spot.
  • The emotions of a 10 year old girl run hotter and colder and are more rapidly changing than anything else on the planet.  There is more drama to those emotions than those Mexican soap operas Erik Estrada stars in. I think he was a bit shell shocked last week when one dramatic episode arose, then just as quickly disappeared.
It's an education for all of us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's the Disrespect for People that Kills Me

Ok, so we know economically times are hard. They are improving for some, but they are hard for many. It was primarily due to these difficult economic times that we moved our family 1100 miles south. There was a time when things for my family were good, not great, but good. We have never been the people who were interested in big vacations (we mostly camped, much cheaper), we weren't fashion or possession hounds. I will admit to a weakness for techie stuff, but I've never been a first adopter, and I always searched for screachingly great deals. We didn't enroll our kids in overly expensive activities. We did all that, in part, to live in a modest home in a great school district.  We did everything right when we moved there, had about six months' savings in the bank, put as much down on our house as we could afford, we didn't risk. Two extended job losses--one of 10 months, one of almost two years--wiped safety out. In between the two job losses, my husband had essentially a 50% pay cut from before his first job loss. That meant we were NEVER out of the hole. Things still weren't horrific yet. We all wear clothing from thrift shops, the campouts were fewer, we didn't go out to eat unless there was a groupon involved. We started a business to try to make ends meet, and I took on a second job. We didn't qualify by the state of Illinois as "poor" but we didn't have much compared to our neighbors, who weren't rich themselves. Living in that town was hard.

I say all this because of two things. One is this ridiculous clip/article that says if you have a computer and/or air conditioning, you "can't be poor" in the eyes of some politicians. Essentially, he, and those like him who might not say in public but in private agree, is saying that only the basest of existences can be considered "poor" for the government's purposes, and anything above that is a-okay! So if a single mom has a kid and someone gives her a second hand computer her kid does homework on, she can't be poor. If, like my family, we had some good times and were able to purchase computers that are now four years old, we can't be poor. Because we lived in a house where we turned on the a/c when it was reaching 100 degrees, nope, we can't be poor. He's a moron. I could probably feed my kids on what he spends on dry cleaning in a month.

The other reason I say all this is a general sense of disbelief I have after having moved to Louisiana. I registered my kids for school, and the school has been AWESOME, telling us to send them with whatever supplies we had, they'd make up the difference, and they didn't charge us for the "spirit wear" shirts kids can wear on Fridays instead of their polos and khakis (which we still had to buy). I think they're used to people who stay with family members, as there's a significant migrant worker population here with sugar cane harvesting. In any event, when we were back in Illinois, and the unemployment benefits stopped last December, my pitiful salary, made even more pitiful after the deductions for parking pass, health insurance, pension, union dues, simply wasn't enough for four people, two of whom kept insisting on eating and growing. I looked into public aid and found I made too much per year by about 6K, not even small enough to get help with lunch costs through the school, as that threshold was in the low 30s. When we got to Louisiana, I'm filling out all the paperwork, and the threshold for reduced lunch is OVER $44,000! The cost of living is less here, gas is less, granted milk is more, but I know people who are raising kids on a far less than $44K. I've actually been walking around muttering 44,000! at random times during the day. I have issues letting things go.

It amazes me that areas can be SO different and have such a different attitude. When living in that SW burb of Chicago, where many people had great incomes, but there were just as many who didn't, and I inquired about assistance through the schools, all but one person acted annoyed and put out to give me any information. Here, they just said "don't worry about it" and gave me stacks of information. We may be going through a lot of adjustments here, some that have made me bang my head on a desk recently, but there is definitely more of a feel that we're all in this together that I'm really liking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's a Complex Situation

No Louisiana talk today, branching out to what's going on around us for everyone.

We've got a complex situation going on in our world. The actions of police, police brutality, racism, abuse, racial profiling are all very serious issues that people feel deeply about. For myself? I'm conflicted. I've personally known people pulled over for Driving While Black, thankful it didn't escalate to something far more dangerous. I've known people touched by police officers' overuse of power, and it's devastating. Here, a woman talks about how frightening and demoralizing these situations are. I feel her questioning, her anger, her embarrassment, her outrage, and she's completely justified in all of those emotions. There are police officers who are making decisions that affect people short and long term in devastating ways. Just as there are bad people in EVERY profession, there are bad police officers, but in their situation, the stakes are infinitely higher and far more frightening.

On the other hand, I know police officers too. I've had them in my classes, I call some friends and extended family. I know they have to go into every traffic stop, every domestic situation, every loud party with the expectation that the person they are detaining could have a firearm and is itching to use it. If they don't, they are putting themselves and their partners in infinite danger. Every situation has to be approached with DEFCON 1 seriousness, or danger could ensue. I know even great police officers can't find out information about attacks and shootings in high crime areas due to the inherent mistrust of police bred by media sensationalization of police brutality cases. Even if the cops come from. that. neighborhood. there is distrust from other community members. I know it has to be difficult and stressful to tell a superior officer that maybe someone who has had your back, saved your life, has gone too far in an arrest. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, there should only be tears that a public servant is gone. This article spells out the sacrifices even the families make. Again, I feel her pain, her longing, the depth of her despair.

I don't pretend to know what the solution is to this issue, but I know we can't toss up our hands in question and despair. Somehow, we've got to get police officers to serve in ways that respect humanity. We've also got to get community members to respect the job officers do. I wish I knew how to make that happen.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Expect to Have a Criminal Record

Those of you who've driven with me know speed limits are merely suggestions, and I rarely listen to those suggestions. Well, karma is about to kick my ass.

I don't know if this was simply a scare tactic used by local police, but my uncle got a speeding ticket not long after moving here two years ago. He, unlike me, is a speed suggestion abiding citizen, but there are a number of places here where speed limits go from a blistering 70, down to 55, down to 35 or even 25 in a flash. He got caught in one of those change ups going 46 in a 35. The officer told him in Louisiana, ELEVEN MILES OVER THE SPEED LIMIT IS A FELONY! A FELONY, my friends. I'm doomed.

Every time I drive anywhere, my accelerator foot twitches, and I feel like I have hives. To paraphrase Sammy Hagar, I can't drive 25!

I give me two months.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


It is apparently a good thing we came to my Uncle Bob's house. Had we not, he'd have probably killed himself ingesting over expired food and medicines. I'll admit, this may be a familial thing, as before Scott, I wouldn't even think of checking dates on things. It wasn't until he sat down to eat some of my homemade spaghetti and realized the parmesan cheese I'd used had an expiration date of six months prior, and of course the apoplectic fit that followed, that I realized I needed to LOOK AT dates prior to cooking. I'm still not the best, but I use my Christmas cookie making time to cull my spice cabinet of outdated baddies, ditto with regular foods when it's food drive time at the kids' schools.

When we arrived, Scott started checking dates in the fridge, and he became sad. Four or five items in a row ended up being significantly expired. One day, while Bob was at work, we held a refrigerator intervention. It sure cleared out space and made things easier to clean, lol. We knew we had to do it while he was gone when Scott pointed out Bob's favorite mustard was expired, and he replied "then I guess I need to eat it FAST." We bought a replacement when next at the grocery store.

Little did I know, the fridge was just the beginning. Megan had an upset stomach, and Bob offered up a remedy, but he actually looked at the box and said I didn't want to know. Oh yes, I did! 2002, people! 2002! That means he'd carried it from his home two years ago in Georgia expired! Gah! I hit the medicines, and we were left with maybe four items. The next oldest was 2008, which means, again, transferred expired. Eek!

Use this PSA to go clear out your fridge and medicine cabinet, and let's see if anyone has anything older.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Changes in Our Habits

Yes, we're going to have to change a number of habits we've had in the north. Some are just a tweak we have to remember, some make me break out in a cold sweat. In no particular order, they are:
  1. Everything moves slower in the south. Not worse, not better, just no sense of urgency we have in the north. This is the thing that makes me go into deep breathing mode. Today, we nearly shut down the ENTIRE grocery store because we asked for a price check on an item that wasn't coming up as on sale. Literally, two people went to investigate, while the line of people behind us grew (no other open lines). They weren't worried, no loud sighs or recriminating looks, but I had to go to my inner happy place to get through.
  2. Everyone assumes you've lived in the south your entire life, even with evidence to the contrary. I've been told to turn at places that haven't been in existence for longer than the kids have been on the planet, informed that there's a particular type of bbq sauce on a hot link (Jack Miller) when asking if it was hot or sweet, and various other things that have the undercurrent of "it's totally obvious, right?"
  3. The streets roll up before dark. The library, the LIBRARY closes at 6pm on weekdays. My kids LIVED at the library. They aren't happy. A few gas stations and the McDonalds and Sonic are open, but that's about it after dark.
  4. Dairy prices are OUTRAGEOUS! Apparently, we aren't close to cows, so there are only a couple kinds of cheese at the deli counter, which are super expensive. Milk? Cheap, store brand, non-organic, I just picked up for $4.25 a gallon. That's the sale price. Considering we use more milk than gas, not good, BUT gas is only $3.19, so that's nice.
  5. NO RECYCLING! This is one thing that makes me feel dirty. I don't know if it's because we're in a teeny tiny town, but there's no recycling program. None. Milk cartons, cereal boxes, cans, they all. go. in. the. garbage. Do you know how difficult it is to undo decades of conditioning? Nearly impossible. My hands tremble when I throw recyclable stuff out. But they pick up garbage twice per week. Riddle me that one, Batman.
I'm sure there will be more later.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rice or Noodles

When we were at the grocery store last, Megan asked if I could pleeeeeaaaaasssseee get one of the packets of noodles I sometimes make, usually when we have chicken. I don't know why, leave me alone about it. I said yes, silly me, thinking "hey, I'm going to a grocery store, where we can BUY food" probably.

Did you know in Louisiana they REALLY like their rice? You may have answered "yes" to that question. Even if you did, you STILL cannot fathom how much they love rice. Love. Rice. Love. Yes, LOVE. There is an entire aisle in a small town Winn-Dixie of RICE. Big bags, little bags, flavored kinds, not flavored kinds. I have never, except when I went to Costco, seen so much rice, and even that was not of the variations of rice this one aisle had. It's insane!

I went to the place where these little noodle packets are, and there they were. ALL RICE! Gumbo rice, Spanish rice, all different types of rice in the packets and in the other brands of boxes too. I found ONE packet of flavored noodles. It's not long and stringy like she normally gets, so I'm sure she'll howl. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but the package looked like it had been creased and tossed around a lot. There wasn't even a tag for it on the shelf. I'm thinking it's a rogue package that got caught accidentally in a box somewhere and they just put it out for fun.

The same trip, we also bought a 5 lb bag of potatoes. I bet they were wondering what we were going to DO with all of them. I may have to ask for noodle packet care packages soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adventures in Registration

Our first real goal getting to Louisiana was to get our kids registered in the charter school that served our new area. Louisiana has had, shall we say, "issues" with education in the recent past, not really making the national grade. I didn't want our kids, who had been in a very, very difficult district, to become bored and slack off, especially Brett, so I'd found this charter school that had ONE slot left in the 8th grade, none for 5th, but I was betting if we showed up with both kids, they'd take both. Then we had a dilemma. How to prove residency when we'd arrived only days before, and even if we hadn't, nothing is in our name since we're living with my uncle. The solution? Get Louisiana driver's licenses! Of course, some of that residency stuff may come into play, but we made a plan that if my uncle's information would be needed, we'd contact him. So Monday, we went with the goal of registering ourselves as drivers and our kids as students!

A little back story is necessary for this tale. Prior to leaving Illinois, I had the amazing idea to amass our social security cards, birth certificates, shot records for the kids, transfer papers from their schools into one folder. Yes, I AM a genius! When amassing these documents, I noted ONCE AGAIN that we only had the hospital copy of Scott's birth certificate. I marveled at that 16 years ago when he moved down to Illinois from Wisconsin and he was going for his driver's license there.  I assured him they would want the certified copy his mom had never bothered to follow through on getting. They took the hospital copy. When we got our marriage license, I told him we'd need the certified copy. They took the hospital copy. I was starting to see how people vote "early and often" in Chicago. I again said he might want to get the certified copy before we left. He assured me they'd take the hospital copy.

As a Chicagoan (and then Chicago suburbanite), I'm used to DMV facilities with long, complex lines that are set in stone, even if you've stood in the wrong one for and hour. There is a sea of humanity and every nationality teeming while waiting at Chicago DMV faciliites. There's a separate person JUST to give information and get people in the correct line. What we entered was a small room with about 20 chairs mostly filled, three people waiting on individuals, no separate lines. Unfortunately, we'd brought the kids, so we were settled in for some whining.  Luckily, one of the workers called up everyone who was just doing renewals and banged out a bunch of people. Soon enough, it was our turn. I'm good with my paperwork, all is wonderful! Scott? Not so much. They didn't take the hospital copy (DUH! That felt good.).  I'll fill you in on what's needed to get your information from Cook County when you're outside the state in another posting. Turns out, they didn't need ANY proof of address.  None, zippo, nada! I just TOLD them where we were living, and they TOOK MY WORD for it. I really didn't know what to make of that, so I sat there blankly. With my spanking new driver's license and voter registration--btw, I'm an organ donor too--we set off for the school.

When I registered my kids for school, not only were their birth certificates, social security cards, and immunization records required, we needed two bills with our names and addresses on them, one having to be our property tax bill, and a vial of blood.  Oh, just kidding on that last one, but the registration gal was eyeing up my veins. I thought Louisiana would be no different. They are. We were ALL worried about proving residence, and they basically didn't care. Birth certificates and immunizations were necessary, but again, they didn't even LOOK at my driver's license. How TRUSTING and totally disconcerting. I was right about them taking both kids, whew! The principal is super nice, told us even before we filled out paperwork the kids could get free breakfast and lunch and to get supplies as needed. That was great, because this school has uniforms, granted, only khakis and navy or hunter green polos, but still, it's an expense. Plus, it took me an hour in Walmart to find things that fit, since kids here started August 8th, and everyone had picked everything over.

As most already know, Megan missed her first week of school due to hand, foot, mouth disease her brother lovingly shared with her. They were on the waiting list for the bus, but they are now riding that every day. Brett has found a friend who, thankfully, is a Boy Scout. We're still working on Megan finding both a buddy and a Girl Scout troop.

We're still a work in progress. Next up, I muster up a little outrage at Illinois!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Our First Weekend

When last we left the intrepid Reynolds clan, they had arrived in Louisiana, unpacked their things, looked around at each other and mused aloud, "now what?"

We started to get to know our surroundings, explore the town a little, a very little. Franklin has a population, according to their website of just shy of 8,000 people. It just got a little closer to that magical number with the addition of we four souls. It does have more than one stop light, though. Things are more compacted than I would have thought, but there are also vast spaces in between, as the main output of this town was for a long time sugar cane. They will be harvesting it soon, and apparently the sweet smell of burning sugar fills the air. Recently, with offshore drilling, petroleum and all its by products have surged to out distance sugar cane as a main export. The drilling has led to more plants, and those have led to more people, more housing, a new hospital built. I think they anticipate more of a population boom in the next few years.

On Sunday, my uncle took us to his church. We thought our church was small! For my church friends who may see this, it's about 1/3 the size of PCOP. Fifty-two people were in attendance, the board told me, last week. We met some very nice people there, but when they heard we were from "IllinoiS" just south of Chicago, women fanned themselves and men said "whoo-ee" and shook their heads. I'm not sure if that means we're marked with an unholy sign or seen has having gotten out with our lives. In any event, they were quite nice, but the kids missed not having a fellowship time afterwards. One thing I found amusing was that the pastor kept encouraging us to hug certain individuals' necks. Aren't shoulders or arms just as good? Isn't really hugging a neck kind of dangerous? I'll have to figure that one out, because there were a number of people who were in need of this specific hugging.

Next, the tale of Monday brings registering the kids for school! And the DMV!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 3!

The final leg of our Louisiana Invasion Tour was fairly uneventful. Another lovely morning spent gathering our things and sweeping clean the breakfast offerings before walking the pooch in the green area, then saying farewell to Jackson, MS.

For some reason on this trip, we saw inordinate amounts of tire leavings on the highway. I mean I dodged large chunks many, many times on the way down. Just tonight, my very learned uncle who used to be CFO of a construction company said it's because they try to buy cheaper tires, which are retreads, since the new can cost $800-$1000 PER TIRE. In the hot weather, if tires aren't adequately inflated, they blow out. Interesting. Yes, this is what we talk about over dinner.  You're jealous, I know.

Scott did do a fist pump out the window as we crossed into Louisiana, and I felt the same, but I wasn't rolling down the window, because it was 97 degrees, y'all (See what I did there? I'm TURNING!). The only real mishap was that about 45 minutes after we stopped for lunch, Megan and I both HAD to go to the bathroom. I mean HAD to. This undeniable urge hit while we were on this 50 mile long bridge, ok, maybe only 3 miles, but it FELT like 50. Even when we got off the bridge, there wasn't an exit for another five miles. The first one I saw, I drove off, hoping Scott saw me, because both Megan and I were to the point of tears. We stopped, leapt out of the car, I saw our Jeep pull in next to me, and I threw my car keys in the Jeep's general direction, then turning and running into the convenience store/gas station, hot on Megan's heels, with Coco keening in the distance. Scott said I almost hit the windshield.

After that, our phone GPS faithfully led us to the correct address, and we arrived in Franklin, LA, mostly unscathed. We unloaded all our crap, and are still trying to get settled. We've already had some adventures and mysteries that will be forthcoming. Stay along for the ride!

Day 2!

I know, I'm behind, story of my life.

I forgot to mention in day 1 that we all showered, despite the late hour, because, nitwits that we are, we had the gas shut off a day early.  Yes, we apparently cannot read a calendar. After the day we'd had, it was a glorious shower, at least from my perspective. Day 2 was far easier than day 1. First, we left at a respectable 10am, and the time prior was relaxed, spent invading the breakfast area, replenishing road supplies, and checking Brett's temperature. At this point, we were thinking just a nasty cold still. We also made a reservation for Jackson, MS, because we knew with sick kid, we couldn't make it all the way to Louisiana in one day. I was actually outvoted in this respect, as my reasoning was "he's asleep anyway, MUSH!" The rest of the family--possibly including the dog too--threatened to leave me on the side of the road if I continued in this vein of thought.

It's a straight (and kinda boring) shot from Blytheville, Arkansas to Jackson, Mississippi. I like when there are directions to follow, but this was all one road. Blah. I will say, there was an interesting stop in the middle of nowhere. Some of us needed bathroom breaks, so in we trooped. It was a weird little spot. Half of it was a makeshift diner, and even though it was only 1ish, nothing was cooked, no smells of previous cooked items, no people in the few seats. Okaaaay. The other half was devoted to a register, two freestanding racks, and three cooler cases. The racks held your basic minor health remedies and snacks. They did not, however, have MY road food--Twizzlers. Don't judge, they're the perfect road food, no crumbs, nothing melting, gives you a sugar rush, and they're fun to play with. Oh, MUST be the long ones, no nips or bites or whatever the little ones are. Fine. Except they had a massive knife display. I mean big ones, skinny ones, jagged edged ones, pink ones, blue ones (would a knife be an appropriate baby shower gift in Arkansas?). Brett was, of course, begging for one. Um, no. On to get my caffeine rush. I'm not picky, but my faves for the road are non-carbonated. I like either iced tea that isn't Brisk or the Starbucks stuff in bottles. NEITHER! They had neither! One and one half of the cold area was taken over by BEER. They only had water, pop, and energy drinks (foul stuff). I'm not going to say there's a lesson learned there, but think of things what you will.

Once we got into Mississippi, things perked up. I think I counted eight colleges/universities according to signs on the road in Mississippi. I'm calling that the state of education from now on! We stayed at a lovely Holiday Inn Express right off the highway. Very new, very quiet, even with a dog, nice pool, friendly people, and immediately adjacent to Waffle House and Whataburger. That night for dinner, we decided to partake of local BBQ, however, and found The Hickory Pit. It was GREAT! Megan and I shared ribs (wet), and Scott had a pulled pork sammie. I was relieved they had unsweetened tea. However, we found out later there is apparently some Hershey pie thing they are known for, and we missed out! Guess we'll have to go back sometime. Brett was still feeling crappy, so we brought him home a chocolate chip waffle from "the House" that he didn't want to throw away, even when he could eat no more.

The next morning, Brett's fever had broken, and I encouraged him to come down for breakfast. It was there he showed us his hands, which suddenly had blisters. Dr. Google diagnosed hand, foot, mouth disease, saying it was generally no longer contagious after the fever broke. This hereby is my public apology of "I'M SORRY TO ALL THOSE IN BATHROOMS, REST STOPS, HOTELS, CONVENIENCE STORES I'M SURE MY SON CONTAMINATED. I WISH I COULD FIND 'PATIENT ZERO' AND SHAKE HIM." That felt good. In true Megan fashion that morning, she had charmed the front desk and breakfast people. There were individuals actively waiting for hot food while my daughter conned the breakfast area help into a bag for the excess of banana muffins she planned to take with her. Ugh.

Stay tuned for Day 3!

Monday, September 1, 2014

On the Road. . . with my Family

We all had a difficult time saying goodbye to our home, packing up what little we could, and moving 1100 miles south. Immediately prior to the move, we tried to sell off some of our big items to try and fund the move. Side note, I LOATHE people who inquire about items, say they want to meet, set up a time, then don't show, don't contact again. They deserve to be roasted in the fires of hell. By me personally. Packing day, Scott did a great job of putting as much into the backs of the cars as possible, like a giant game of Tetris. Rear view mirrors, be damned! Brett decided to add sickness to our mix, with lounging on the couch complaining of headache, stomachache, and sporting a slight fever. We'd decided if we got out by 11am, we'd call it a win. It wasn't a win, but we were on the road by 2pm, and the rain had stopped, which was a bonus.

Coco was feeling anxious too. I don't know how to illustrate that I knew my dog had anxiety, but I knew he did. Whenever we stopped, he would cry and whine piteously when, in turn, so he wasn't left in the car, we'd go into bathrooms or to get things to eat. He was worse than the kids. Brett was delightfully silent, as he slept nearly the whole way. His illness was a bit of a blessing, as when we got to the hotel, he still wanted to sleep, so he stayed in the room with Coco when we went out for breakfast in the a.m.

Apparently, I don't take my kids to hotels enough, because both thought they had to use hand towels to dry themselves after showers. I don't know what their issues were, but I was too tired to argue. Housekeeping was probably more confused than I was.

Ask yourself when was the last time you drove for seven hours. Were you in your 20s or 30s? I bet you weren't in your 40s, because, as I discovered, in your 40s, seven hours of driving makes your back, your HANDS, your joints, all cry. And your eyes burn and sting if you're driving after dark in the south, because there are HUGE sections of road, miles and miles and miles where nothing is lit, and I mean nothing. Given all that, Scott and I decided we would stretch "day 2" into "day 2 and day 3" so we would be more likely to arrive with our family intact and not featured on the news. Day 1 ended in Blytheville, Arkansas, and we pushed that check out envelope to the laaaaaaaast minute, deciding to stop in Jacksonville, Mississippi for our next stay. It saved us a few hours less of "are we almost to the hotel yet" having banned Megan from asking if we were there yet.

More tomorrow!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

NOLA July, 2008

I spent the month of July, 2008 in the city of New Orleans. My purpose there was to work. At the time, I was involved in a project for a company that made library and textbook management software. In the Recovery School District of New Orleans, they had (they said) over 300,000 books to be entered into the system and subsequently barcoded at about 12 different sites. This wasn't unusual, especially for large school districts, but what was different was that schools were closing and merging, even while we were there. Another difference is that normally there would be people like me to lead the project, then temps were hired who did the actual barcoding. In this case, some bright bulb decided HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS could do this job just as well! Oh, and we're picking them up on a bus, so the day will start about an hour and a half late, end another hour and a half early, and if we have to switch schools when we're done with one, that will be another hour wait, but it was very important we finish on schedule. It wasn't pretty. Did I mention the vast majority of the schools weren't air conditioned? In July. In NEW ORLEANS?!

In retrospect, it's probably good the workers were high school kids. None of the schools we went to had done any organizing, even though they were told to by the district, and these kids had to search for, then heft huge piles of textbooks from various rooms to a holding area in order to get accurate counts and get everything encoded. These boys, 16, 17, and 18, were all Black. They had strong backs and youthful faces, and I teased them about being able to tell their football coach they'd done weight training for a month. They were getting paid $9/hour, good money for their ages. There were girls too, but over the course of the month, I found most of the people whom I worked well with were the boys, so most became "my" team members.

I still remember these boys. Kaelaun, whom we all fought over, because he was so particular about his work, with the cinnamon colored dreds, sinewy muscles of a young man in his prime with incongruous freckles sprinkled across his nose. Edward, with the beautiful green eyes, who at 16 had come out as gay, a difficult thing in the Black community, but was still a terrible flirt with the girls. Duane, whom I had to keep a watchful eye on, or he'd find a stack of books to hide behind and fall asleep. And Jamal. Oh, Jamal was my favorite. Other team members at my level didn't want him, because he wasn't quiet. He was twitchy, energetic, always rapping a little softly to himself. Unlike the other boys, he dressed for this hot and dirty work in khakis and polo shirts, because his girlfriend was on the project too, and he had a round head, like Charlie Brown. His movements made me think of my own son, who was 8 at the time. I let Jamal bring in an mp3 player, but I told him if it got too loud, or work didn't get done, he'd be forced to listen to MY ipod the next day, and I had country, opera, bagpipe music, no rap, though. He always followed my rules. If I needed something, I asked him, and he did it, no complaints. One day, he was assigned to another team, and the next day, he asked with a hurt look why I didn't want him. I had to reassure him it was an error. From then on, every morning when we assigned teams, he would announce he was on "Miss Donna's" team and stand next to me, hands on my shoulders, already a head taller than my 5'5" at 16.

Midway through were assigned to John McDonogh High School, known as John Mac to the neighborhood, where I had to fight with security to the point of calling the school district to be allowed to bring my much-needed scissors into the school. I guess I should have known it was a tough school then, but honestly, it looked like every other neighborhood in NOLA, some empty houses with FEMA symbols on the outsides, some renovated, some getting worked on, people on porches. There was a luncheonette a block away I walked to for air one sunny day at lunch time. I walked in, and all the student workers on my team were there.  I started to walk back to the school, and Jamal appeared, suddenly desiring to walk back with me. We talked of things we had in common, grandmothers who'd helped raise us, fathers who were absent, scholarships that were needed to get to college, and he was simply good company. It wasn't until later that day, when I returned to my hotel, where the staff had taken to asking where I'd been that day, did I realize I was in one of the roughest schools in existence.

I think about Jamal a lot, as I watch my son inch closer and closer to Jamal's age then. I wonder if he ever got to LSU, how long he and his girlfriend lasted, if he kept the promise he made to me to always use protection and not have a baby until after he finished college (I liked him THAT much, I felt compelled to have that discussion). Mostly, these days, I wonder if he's still alive. I realize, when I talk to my son, that I don't have to have the kinds of conversations Jamal's grandmother had with him at 13. I don't have to tell my son that even twilight hours aren't safe to skateboard to the store for the contraband energy drinks he likes so much. I don't have to tell him he is immediately under suspicion because of the color of his skin. I also don't have to worry when he goes to the pool with his friends or plays outside with Nerf guns, pretending to be zombies, that some police officer or neighborhood do-gooder might see the plastic gun that spews only soft arrows as a threat to life and limb and lay him on the ground in a pool of his own blood. Those aren't conversations I have to have, simply because my son is white. They're conversations no one should have to have, and it needs to end. I wish I could know if Jamal is safe today, but really, there's only a 50/50 shot, and that saddens me to no end.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Mom, the Advocate

In honor of the 13th year of my mom's passing this week, this one's for her.

My mom and I didn't have a lot. She was blindsided by my dad's request for a divorce when I was 5ish, before I started kindergarten. Little did she know he'd actually disappear, leaving her to shoulder the burden of running a household and raising a child alone, with no assistance whatsoever. My childhood memories include a lot of staying at other people's houses, staying with my grandparents, wanting her to come to school events, when there really wasn't the time in the day, but she'd try her best to make the time.

One thing my mom was, far and away, was my advocate when I went to school. She trusted and respected my grade school teachers, but she didn't take their word as gold, and she always, without fail, stood up for me if she thought it was in my best interest.  I've tried to model my own dealings with my kids' teachers after hers. Yes, this meant being a "squeaky wheel" when administrators expected her to be quiet and do what they wanted. There was definitely a reason I was known BY NAME ON SIGHT by not only my teachers but the principal, the secretaries, just about everyone. My mom had a way of making people listen and follow her directions.

Probably the biggest throw down of my academic career I remember was when I was in 5th grade. I was in the only split class, which meant a class of 4th graders with only six 5th graders in the room. There was some selling competition, I think candy, but maybe I'm wrong. What I do remember is the other two 5th grade classes were getting to go to Great America with their proceeds. The six 5th graders in the split class had to go to some play with the 4th graders. My bffs then were in the other 5th grade classes, of course. My mom, when she found the arrangements out very early on, asked the teacher if we six girls couldn't go with the other 5th grader classes instead of the 4th grade trip. She was told no. She asked the principal if there couldn't be an exception made. She was told no. She devised a plan.

My mom volunteered to be one of the three parents to chaperone the 4th grade trip. She then told me she was taking me out of school the day of the Great America trip, and we would go be with the other classes on our own. I had the BEST day, hanging with my friends, going on rides, generally having a blast. While I hadn't told anyone, someone, somewhere must have squealed like a pig, because when I returned to school the next day, the teacher, in open class, asked where I had been the previous day. I told her I was absent. She again asked me where I had been. Since I'm my mother's daughter, I asked why she hadn't asked the two other people who had been absent where THEY were yesterday. She replied that she KNEW where I was, with a smug smile on her face. I then asked, if she knew where I was, why was she wasting class time with questioning me. Yes, I was newly turned 11 during this exchange, and she persisted in doing it in open class, thinking I'd back down. Had she MET me?

It was at this point she sent me to the principal's office because I was misbehaving. I think it was probably so she wouldn't flat out smack me, as I'm sure she had the desire to. I walked into the principal's office with my slip of paper saying I'd misbehaved, first time ever, and the secretary did a double take. I insisted she call my mom. She actually did. A short conversation ensued, after which my mom asked to speak to the secretary. I learned later my mom told the secretary to make sure the principal didn't go anywhere, to get that woman who is my daughter's teacher down to his office, and we were having a meeting once she arrived from work. The secretary started to brush her off, and my mother told her not to make her repeat herself. They had a meeting, alright.

My mom, I could tell, had been working on her piece on the way over. She told them she had tried to go the nice route, but people were snotty and rigid, so she made a decision about her own child that didn't affect anything, because I'd done all my homework, there were no tests that day, and truly, I'd been teaching myself with this split class nonsense where the teacher came in and checked with us less than an hour a day. She tossed around words like "prerogative", phrases like "parental vs. educator influence" and then the magic one "school superintendent". See, in 1st grade, the superintendent had been our principal, and my mom had gone to bat for me over something else--maybe I'll tell that one tomorrow--and he told my mom after it was all settled he respected the heck out of her involvement for the sake of her kid, and when he was moving into his new position told her if she ever needed anything, give him a call.

Everyone was sent to their neutral corners, but not before my mom told my teacher that if she heard one syllable about her treating me in a mean or different way, she'd be back. And she was, because she'd been one of the three parents to volunteer for the other trip the following week. If my teacher's eyes were lasers, my mom would have been a pile of ash in the first five minutes, but they weren't, and the day went along as planned.

I have yet to have need for such a throw down over my kids, and I hope the day never comes. But there are those times when I've had to remind some teachers and administrators that they need to relax a bit, the kids aren't leaving 3rd grade and heading for Harvard, and I've also had to remind them that my kids are individuals, and I won't do anything to quash that, even if it would make class time easier for them. I do know, though, deep inside, I've got the ability and the genetics to Mama Bear out if the need should arise.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Drive-in Memories Revisited

So I talked about my very young childhood memories of the then-common drive-in movie theater. I've got another clear memory of them, and another reason I like them so much, that I'd like to share.

When I was about nine, my mom went back to college. She'd been divorced a few years, spent some time at crap jobs trying to stretch those ends, since my dad never paid a dime in child support, and she soon realized her much earlier decision to not attend college on her parents' dime wasn't a great one. As a result, she worked a lot of jobs that allowed her to work her classes and caring for me into her schedule. In those days, it was a lot easier to find jobs that would also let her work "under the table" and get paid in cash to get maximum financial aid. This meant many nights I spent sleeping on people's couches, on couches in ladies' rooms, etc.

One summer, she discovered Mrs. Pittman, the lady down the street, managed the local drive-in that was a ten minute ride from our house. Mrs. Pittman was this short and round little woman whom I was eye-to-eye with at the tender age of 10. She had lovely red hair sculpted into a complex bouffant, and she had a penchant for helping people. She gave opportunities to all kinds of people. They didn't always work out, but she always tried. Even though she wasn't even five feet tall, I saw her lay into men over a foot taller who dared to cross her. She spent her time managing the drive-in, but she spent her life giving out life lessons to teenagers and people who'd gone off the beaten path.

My mom worked in the ticket booth.  It also enabled her to bring her books and get reading done in between rush times. We would have dinner at home, then drive over to the theater, where she'd park super close to the concession building. I'd have blankets, pillows, and books to keep me busy until the movie started, and there I'd stay until close. The great thing was, when I was bored, I'd wander into the concession area, where, if I brought my own cup and bowl, I had unfettered access to popcorn and drinks. Yeah, I took advantage of that, but I went in more to help out the teenagers and observe them. As an only child, I was always comfortable with people who were older than I was, and MAN teens make for great entertainment! I was always aching to help, and that counter is where I learned customer service. I could make piping hot batches of popcorn, warm up hot dogs, get food orders out like nobody's business. The teenagers loved me doing their work, and I loved doing it.

Far and away, though, the best part of my non-employee youngster status at the drive-in was watching the movies.  My mom, ever the optimist, pointed our car in the direction of the movie she let me see.  It was a "twin" drive-in, meaning there were screens at each end, usually a family friendly side, while the other side had primarily scary movies, but definitely the choices were what we'd think of as R-rated today. Yeah, I turned around a lot. The sexy movies didn't interest me, but the scary ones did. Let's just say I STILL can't watch Amityville Horror without hiding my eyes.

At some point in the second movie, I'd fall asleep, and I'd usually wake up enough to stumble into the house in the area between 2 and 3 am. They were a couple of awesome "frat-boy living" summers, when I felt like a mini adult in some ways. My kids won't get what I did out of the drive-in, but I still make sure to take them anyway.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Know What Time It Is?

And no, it's not Hammer time. It IS, however, DRIVE IN SEASON! I get SO stinking excited about it, it's just not even funny. I love going to the drive in with my kids. It's SO worth the 45 minute drive, the messing up of the schedule, the crabby attitudes the next day. I LOVE it!

I've got two extremely fond memories of drive in movies from my childhood. The first features my mom and one of her best friends, Linda, prominently. We moved in next door to Linda and her then husband when I was about two years old.  As young couples in the 70s did, they formed a fast friendship built on proximity, barbeques, and card games with cocktails on Saturday nights. When I was about four, their daughter Sheri came along, and my mom and Linda bonded even further as young parents. About another year later, both husbands left their wives and children to do whatever it is abandoning dads do, and that's when the ladies truly solidified a friendship that would last a lifetime.

Our families did everything together. At four years younger, Sheri was the victim of my plans.  I know at one point I insisted on playing school and taught her to spell her name. Wrong. I taught her how to spell HER name wrong and insisted I was right. I'm sure Kindergarten was fun for her. Our moms thought of things to do that didn't cost a lot, and one was the drive-in. I must have been about six or seven, so Sheri was two or three. My mom had a big old station wagon that could have fit a twin sized bed in the back. She tossed my old crib mattress and some toys back there. Linda took her car, and off we went. They parked their cars so there was a space in between where Sheri and I could play.  When we tired of that, we went in the back of the station wagon and played with the toys there.

But THIS, this was the never ending drive in experience! Because the movies showing weren't just a plain old double feature, no.  It was a Planet of the Apes marathon! So even though Sheri and I were passed out in the back of the station wagon, we'd awaken every now and then to monkey faces sniffing and fighting with other monkey faces and humans too! I have a vague recollection of the light of dawn just starting to peek over the back of the drive in screen as the cars moved to the exit. Right then, I thought it was AWESOME that my mom had taken me to the drive in and let me stay out ALL NIGHT. I'm sure both moms paid a heavy price the next few days with kids who were totally off schedule, but in that moment, it was righteous cool.

Tomorrow, my other drive-in memory. . .

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hide the Jellybeans!

Our miniature chocolate poodle has long had a serious Jones for Tootsie Pops. No other kind of sucker, just Tootsie Pops. If the kids have them in their back packs for some reason, I've watched him gingerly unzip the pack and ferret around until he finds the pop. He then takes it into the living room, on a particular couch, his "treat spot" to devour his ill-gotten goods. I've cut him major slack, since the only other thing he likes to chew is writing utensils, which the kids used to leave lying on the floor. It was Coco and his chewing, not me, who broke them of that habit. 

I think we've found a new addiction. Megan has been building this "sculpture" in the kitchen that is a couple feet high and culminates in an empty water bottle with random bits of Easter candy. She has said it's "for Mother's Day" (dear God!) and I'm not allowed near it. It fell today, could have told you that would happen, oh wait, I DID say that would happen. Jelly beans everywhere! Even I am not that much of a lazy housekeeper to ignore, but school gets out in just over an hour, so I decided to make Megan clean it up. 

Coco, however, who has never shown an interest in Jellybeans before, is delicately picking up a jellybean, taking it to his treat spot, spitting it out to inspect, sniff, and generally observe, before chewing it up with gusto. Rinse and repeat. They may be gone by the time she gets home. 

Should I make her write the dog a thank you note?

Too Much Pressure

There was a baptism at church this past Sunday.  I love when those happen.  Gorgeous, squishy, unpredictable babies with a captive audience, really, what could be better? This Sunday one of the deacons who had a part in the ceremony was doubly pleased, as it was her grandson being baptized, and she was veritably oozing joy. Oh, and there was CAKE during fellowship time! All in all, it was a nice day.

And then the godparents came up. . . I wasn't clear on the relationship, but one part of the couple was related to the dad of the squishy gorgeous baby.  I hope it was the husband, because if the poor guy was related to the wife, I pity him.  See, this woman was the kind I think should be sequestered from the rest of us.  She was wearing a lovely aqua colored dress, all good.  Then I noticed that all three of her boys had on aqua colored shorts and MATCHING aqua/blue/white plaid shirts.  The aqua in the shirts matched her aqua perfectly. Ahem.  Ok, ok, all boys were under 5, youngest about 18ish months, so matching shirts in that age range wouldn't be a huge feat.  Then the husband turned around. His dress shirt was aqua (naturally) and his tie. matched. the. plaid. of. the. boys'. shirts. Dear God!

When my TWO kids were under five, I was lucky if we got out of the house on time and alive for any occasion.  This woman not only color coordinated but actually fabric coordinated FIVE members of the family.  I'm shocked she didn't have a matching belt in plaid.  I know saying these people should be shot is strong, but maybe we should just maim them, as a warning, because NO ONE needs that kind of pressure on a lovely spring day.  Or EVER, really. It just contributes to some mom bursting into tears over tomato or chicken noodle soup (been there).  Moms should be satisfied with whatever level of perfection they can achieve, even if that perfection includes sticky countertops and clutter aplenty.

Those who think I'm being unjust, just remember, she's already BRED!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Raining Chips!

Our kids' school district, since not long after we started with them, has been making "healthy eating" a big deal.  I put that in quotation marks, because if you look closely, there are conflicting messages.  Like they had early on banned "dark soda and juices" but clear soda was ok at parties.  That's a cleaning issue and has nothing to do with health at ALL. They don't allow chips brought in from home for snack time, but they sell baked chips in the lunch line, along with fries and other junk in the junior high. I was totally with them, until I discovered this. Up to that point, I, who always made sure my kids had fruit and healthy options anyway, was very rigid about not even the occasional bag of chips.  Now, I'm letting them take chips sometimes.

In light of this, and the fact I had to do a speed grocery dash the other day, in a moment of less than stellar judgment, I purchased one of those large bags with the smaller bags of chips in them.  It was on sale, and like I said SPEED shopping day, what can I say? Obviously, the kids were nearly hailing my virtues in the streets. They do know once this is gone, that's it for a while.

To avoid all conflict in the a.m., I've imposed the put your hand in, what you take out is yours rule. It's worked thus far, but this morning, the big bag was on top of our tall cabinet, where my 6'2" husband (I'm 5'4") likes to put things.  Normally, if they aren't everyday items, that's cool, I just have him come and get the item as needed.  But with his recent injury and EPIC baby complaining status, that could not be done. So I wheedled the edge of the bag I could reach until chips almost fell down.  That's when I came up with the whatever falls is yours rule. 

Brett was actually saying "come ON, cheese curls!" I think I'm in trouble.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Want Someone to Do the Math

I'm the klutz in the family. If there's a stray shoe on the floor or something out of place, I WILL trip over or run into it. Scott has been vying for my title this month in a BIG way. 

Two days after Scott started his new job, he walked on something Megan left in the hallway, slipped, and essentially did the splits. An out of shape, 46 year old man should NOT do the splits. Great pain ensued, but what choice did he have but to pop a lot of Ibuprofen, ice it, then rub some arthritic cream on it? It was getting better, but while at work he slipped a bit and tweaked it. So at a touch over three weeks, he was about 70%. I feel I showed great restraint in only mentioning twice that two weeks after a c-section I was painting the basement walls, but I digress. 

As an aside, I went on full on strike last week. I had tired of no one picking up the most basic things after themselves. I was certain all would see the error of their ways and reform within a day or two. No. In fact, they professed a relief at an end to my nagging. I regrouped, recommitted to nagging, steeled myself to complaints and cleaned the living room with assistance. Crumpled papers, books, binders, outer coats, too-small clothes, dolls, art supplies, they all found homes or were discarded. Windows were cleaned, furniture polished, rug vacuumed. It was immaculate, nothing on the floor. 

It was not long after this Scott wandered into the living room for something, and a loud BANG was heard. We all went running in, and there lay my husband, writhing in pain, having injured his leg AGAIN! He'd fallen AGAIN! All I could do was ask ON WHAT?! We're all still unclear. 

To be specific, he had, for the previous week, navigated a living room with crap everywhere, sometimes at night, with no light on. But a completely cleaned floor in the middle of a sunny day, with the curtains opened proved to be a tripping hazard. I don't get it. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Diva in the House!

Today is Megan's 10th birthday! She is my diva.  While I love her, she makes me glad I have a boy and a girl, because two of her in the house might actually make the walls fall down.  She is full of life and love and tragedy and comedy--all within the space of an hour.  People think I exaggerate that she was a diva from the moment she was born.  I'm not, not at all.

Since I'd had an emergency C-section with Brett, it was always an option with Megan, but my doctor was very supportive, telling me I didn't necessarily need another C-section, but the ultimate decision was based on a number of factors to be assessed very close to my due date.  All was on track for a regular old birth, when my diva shifted, and oh I felt it.  It was in the middle of the night, when I was not quite three weeks from my due date. She shifted completely so she was SIDEWAYS! Butt on my left side, head on my right. They tried lots of turning, nothing.  Went to a chiropractor who said she had good luck with turning babies, nothing. C-section it was. Did I mention DIVA?

Because it was a planned C-section, I have to admit, I was far more energetic afterwards.  Not going through 20 hours of labor first will do that to you.  I was back home within two days, and the fun really began.  I nursed both my kids over a year, so I was pretty prepared (I thought) for the intensity of the next couple weeks. Where Brett had given me longer stretches to sleep, shower, think, Megan was a snack for 10 minutes, then I'll let you know in 20 or 30 minutes when I want to eat again. This went on for weeks. 

Add to the fun, I had a three year old who got up every morning at 5, and a husband who could only take one week off of work to help. Oh, and did I mention she wouldn't sleep in the bassinet? Or in between us in our bed? No, Megan would only sleep on Scott's side of the bed, without him in it.  He started to complain once that I was relegating him to the guest room, when, in my best demon from hell voice, I reminded him it was the ONLY. way. she. slept. and I'd been up for 28 hours straight trying to change her mind. He moved to the then guest room without a backward glance. I was up to three hours of sleep a night! Woo-hoo! I also taught Brett how to turn on the TV in the basement, told him there was a sippy cup of milk and a piece of cheese in the fridge, let mom sleep a little more.  Another hour and a half added!

To sum up, she's been making up follow her lead since she was only a few days old, and it hasn't really stopped. Anytime we go anywhere, she's got them eating out of her hands. I can't count the number of times we've say, gone to the eye doctor, and I'm in with Brett, come out and she's helping the gal check in glasses and put away things. Or the time we were at the VFW for a Girl Scout flag ceremony, I ran to my car for something, and I come back to one of the officers letting her sell the 50/50 raffle tickets. She blows my mind with how she gets people to do things that she wants to do. I'm telling you, we will all be working for her one day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Confession

Here's my confession. . . when I look at pictures posted on Facebook, I don't just look at the gap-toothed grins, great dinners that look awesome, or the newest beer find. I'm looking at the backgrounds of pictures, and I'm either happy or sad. 

I find joy in the piles of paper, school assignments that can't be parted with, random cups, bowls, even cleaning products on counters and tables. Squeaky clean countertops as smooth, clear, and expansive enough to land a small plane make me sad. 

I'm a crap house keeper. No, that's not true. I've given up in the presence of those who don't care. I just can't keep up. So when I see others who have even a momentary lapse of cleanliness, my heart soars, and I consider those individuals my people (insert solidarity fist fist bump here). I can't tell you how many pictures I haven't posted or frame because lurking in the background were finished loads of laundry on the table, a crockpot I hadn't gotten around to putting away, or the latest art projects pasted on the walls. Sorry for all you cleanies, but until the kids move out or I finally beat order into them, I'm going to have to consider your ways abnormal and unnatural. It's al about survival, yo, and that starts in the brain.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Life's Lessons

Today's idea came from a Facebook posting a half a world away.  A friend from high school, who was a basketball star (he's going to hate that "was" I put in there, lol) and is now a professional basketball coach in Austrailia posted a message that struck a chord in me today.  He's seen and lot of young men in various states of maturity, including himself, as a high school player, then a college athlete, and now as a coach.  He posted today that coaching is "teaching life lessons through basketball blessings."

As a university teacher, I too see a lot of young people at various stages of maturity.  As a teacher in an urban neighborhood where often life is hard scrabble, getting to the next goal, the next paycheck, the end of the semester, even the next meal or the next bus ride, are more than little mental victories. They are the portrait of survival. Sincere relief is felt in paying the bills and having money left over to buy books, being able to reschedule a job interview so class isn't missed.  Where's the joy, though? It's often found on the basketball courts, where release of problems is absolute, pure, and golden.  Defend your position against an opponent, pass the ball, move down the court, catch the ball, drive for the basket. The activity is removed from the daily struggles, and it helps to leak the toxins of the world out of your pores. It's focused, it's energetic, it's a place where victory has hope each day.

I've had a lot of young men come through my classes, many who needed a push or a kick in the pants, just like I know my friend does on the court.  Even more, though, need to be taught focus, follow through, being the leader instead of the follower, and how to make their skills work for them, not against them.  My friend does that on the court, too.  He's handing out those life lessons where they want to be. I hope they appreciate him, along with those lessons.

Monday, April 7, 2014

I Like Old People

I know there are many who are uncomfortable with old people, even though we're all inching closer and closer to that age. They say they're unfocused, can be grumpy, want to do what they want to do when they want to do it, are apt to fall asleep at any moment, and they smell funny.  I could be describing myself, so maybe that's why I like them, just kidding, a little bit.

Maybe it's because I'm an only child who was dragged along to everything.  It's easy to drag one kid along, and it works.  That's the real reason only children are precocious.  They've seen it all, but they're at the same time kind of invisible.  Adults ease up around them, don't even see them after a brief introduction, start drinking their drinks, using bad words, gossiping about the neighbors.  I had a blast playing with my Barbies close by to the card games my mom and her friends had, half listening, then falling asleep on the couch.  Maybe it was the close relationship I had with my grandma that makes me like old people. The fuzzy Velamints in the bottom of her purse, the running upstairs to grab her "good" lipstick to go out, the scent of Channel #5 only used for grown up events, feeling someone lean over and whisper softly "I know her husband's name, but what is hers again" and whispering the answer back, having a hand in the crook of my arm while crossing the street, I'm comfortable with it. I get old people, and I love their stories.

Brett's got a school assignment where he's got to interview someone who lived during the Great Depression (they may want to rethink this assignment, as those individuals are fewer and farther between). Luckily, we've got at church a former educator who loves kids, runs our community spelling bee, and is 86 years old.  Brett asked to interview him, and he will next week.  The great thing is, it got us to talking about things in the past. I knew the stories my grandma told me about the Depression, and he talked about being 17 and having to use ration coupons at the grocery store. That got us to talking about how making meals, making things stretch, was a lost art. He talked about the can of bacon grease that still sits on his stove. It's weird, but things like that, memories of my grandparents' home, make me tear up.

I had the best 20 minutes just talking with him the other day, and I can't wait until Brett actually interviews him for the project.  Yeah, they may be grumpy sometimes, but I'm grumpy too.  I say go listen to an old person. They're better than just about anything.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

That One Took Me a While

I'm not one to believe in coincidence.  I think the Universe or God or ghosts or whatever way you want to think about it, sees us and drops us little things in our paths to make us feel closer and more in tune to the symphony that is the world and those we've lost.

Megan has, since she was less than two, named every single doll, bear, stuffy with a variation of the name "Rose." We've got them all, Rose, Rosie, Rosalinda, Rosamund, Rosalie, many twice and three times over.  It gets confusing. While we've talked her into a few different names, just for our sanity in knowing which precious she's referring to, she keeps coming back to Rose. Even now that she writes stories, at least one character is named Rose.

We've long pondered where it came from. Does she have a new friend named this? Is there a new character on the show of choice who's named this? We never could figure it out. But I think I did today, and it made me cry. I was putting lotion on, and without any real frame of reference, Megan said she liked my tattoo.  I have a tattoo of a rose with a very specific color on my calf for my grandma. I worried the guy to death, because I said it HAD to match the photograph of a rose on my wall exactly.

My grandma grew things. She grew orchids and geraniums and vegetables, but she loved roses.  Tropicana, Hope, Queen Elizabeth, Lucerne, were only some of the varieties that graced her yard.  Her absolute favorite, though, was the Doctor rose.  My grandfather was a doctor, and she had her neighbor, a photographer by trade, come and take a picture of it in full bloom. It was blown up, and it's hung in every place I've lived since she passed away. Megan's middle name is Frances, for my grandma. It makes perfect sense that she would whisper in Megan's ear, influence her, and always try to be with her, just as she's with me every day.

So even though knowing where our Rose avalanche comes from made me cry, it also warmed me to think Megan always has my grandma with her.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Brett's birthday is coming!

In a few days, I'll have an official TEENAGER in the house! He keeps insisting he's a teen, but I keep telling him it isn't official. Since I've already shared how forever Brett's birthday is linked to the NCAA championship for me, and the games on TV are making me think of it, thought I'd share another memory from my pregnancy with him.

I was probably about six months pregnant or so when I ventured to services at our then local church.  Scott was either at work, or maybe he'd just gotten home from work, in any event, I was by myself. We were still with the Catholics then, so much sitting, standing, kneeling was going on. It was the first time I'd experienced that feeling when kneeling that I might pass out, which is fairly common later in pregnancies, but it freaked me out.  I knelt there thinking, "just let me make it to communion, and I'll slink out." No such luck. The dizzy feeling got worse, and I slipped out to the room where the bathrooms led into. 

As I sat there with my head between my knees, thinking about how it was a real shame I'd left my cell phone in the car, at least three men walked past me to go into the men's washroom. It wasn't until a mom with a small infant came in that things got amped up. She immediately asked what was wrong, and I said I was six months pregnant.  She asked if I'd eaten, and I said yes. She went off in search of a cup for water.

When she returned, she was not alone.  Service had ended, and she'd grabbed the priest--Father Pat--out of the "hi, how are ya" line, who had, in turn, grabbed a parishioner who happened to be an EMT. He looked concerned, because I was stark white apparently, and he called an ambulance. Father Pat asked if my husband was home, wrote down my phone number, and went to call Scott. I later found out he told Scott not to panic, but I was feeling lightheaded, an EMT had looked at me, and he might want to come on over. We lived VERY close to church then, and when Scott came, thinking he'd simply have to drive me home, he saw what he thought was a SECOND set of of ambulance and fire truck turning down the street for the church, and he panicked.

This is when it starts to get amusing.  I'm still feeling kinda crappy, and I'm in a 10x10 room with Father Pat, the EMT member of the congregation, two additional EMTs from the ambulance, and two firefighters who were more curious than anything, since they were called in by someone from their house, not 911.  Assorted fire personnel are talking to Father Pat, who is joking with them saying "look what it takes to get you boys into church" while I'm being assessed. My harried husband walks into this mob scene. EMTs decided it was just the kneeling thing, because my BP was better, and I looked and felt FAR better.

EMTs take the stretcher they'd carried in out to the ambulance, and I walk through the beginning of the next service.  This was an older congregation, and ambulances meant serious business in their world, so every eye was on us as we exited.  I felt like doing a Vanna White wave, but I held myself back.

After that, I skipped the kneeling parts of church, Father Pat never forgot my name, and he always made it a point to ask how I was doing. I also found it a bit karmic that just as we were about to move, he switched parishes too.

In a few days, I'll tell Brett the story of the day he was born again, because he likes to hear it every year, and I'll remember that tiny baby. But I gotta say, the teen he's becoming is so much cooler.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Finding a Voice

In Business Writing, I make them work in groups.  Quite honestly, it's grueling for all of us.  They hate it,a nd I'm only marginally behind.  They're worried--sometimes deservedly so--that their peers aren't pulling their share of the load, and I'm always talking someone off a ledge (or out of the class so they won't screw their group members over). But I find this an important skill for the business writing and in the business world in their near futures.

This assignment is particularly hard for women.  Maybe it's because my classes are overwhelming filled with women at Chicago State that I notice this.  Every semester I see women who don't write up group members who don't contribute.  They think they're "being nice" or "giving someone a break" by not creating a paper trail of lacking work, when they're really only creating a trail of tears for themselves and their group members. Is is because they don't want to screw others over, or is it because they don't want that responsibility on their shoulders? I don't know, but either way, they need to find a voice for themselves in the business world, where others will happily chew them up and spit them out without thinking about it.  More importantly, as women in a society that doesn't value assertive women, and values assertive women of color even less, my students have to hone that assertiveness for a professional venue.

Today, I saw a young woman come into her own.  She's a quiet one in class, but today she informed me how she delegated the work (It's her turn to be the leader), kept detailed records of someone who hasn't submitted and how she plans to write someone up, and I overheard her respectfully tell another always late student who I was a bit worried about in the group setting that she was not accepting the level of work he submitted, and it was up to him to take control of his educational experience, as she wasn't prepared to sacrifice her grade for him.

I was almost bursting with pride! When they learn to follow the process, learn to respectfully tell group members they didn't contribute, so they'll be written up, it's a good thing. She's finding that in the work world, her voice has relevance, and I like it!