Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
"Do you know what you want? I do. What I really want is my foundation to match my skin."
Not world peace?
An end to poverty, homelessness and hunger?
A truly inspiring presidential candidate?
A health care system that works?
Freedom from tyranny, opression and penis enlargement spam?
Admittedly, I love a good foundation as much as the next make-up whore. I'm ghostly white, but strangely sallow skinned, and you wouldn't believe how difficult it can be to find a good match. I'm fully stocked should Kabuki ever emerge as a trend.
And listen, if I had a face like that, I might be tempted by the opportunity to pander to the insecurities of women everywhere and collect a squillion dollar paycheck in the process.
So...perhaps I'm being unfair. The life of a celebrity draws few parallels to my own. I can't pretend to know what it's like to be breathtakingly beautiful, or to live with the knowledge that my face is my fortune. I can't understand what it's like to fear the ravages of time more than the folly of man. So I honestly can't speak from experience.
I think I migth have gone a different direction with that.
Because even as an average Jane, in an anonymous American suburb, I'm aware of the fact that everything I do, every belief I espouse, and every word I utter as a woman, speaks with an eloquence that is far reaching.
In the words of Cameron Thayer from the movie "Crash"
"You embarass me. You embarass yourself."
I know, I know...lighten up B.A., it's just a commercial, and she's just an actress. It's not like the Pope is suddenly endorsing S&M.
But it still bugs me.
Because in a very powerful way, the manner in which we, as a nation, a people, and a gender are represented in the media, becomes a snapshot for the world to hold up, examine, and judge.
Shit. If the rest of the world gets Vh1, we're sunk.
Last night was a perfectly beautiful Spring evening. And, as we do on so many Spring evenings, husband and I found ourselves at the ballpark, communing with kids and parents who have found a common bond in loving America's pastime.
I love the world of Little League. It's true that have to put up with the occasional Competidad, trying to relive his glory days through his child, whom he sees only as an extension of himself rather than an individual, much less a little boy. It's true that we occasionally encounter a Coach whose only qualification is screaming at the television through countless World Series.
But for the most part, it's a positive and enjoyable experience. Both of our boys have been playing baseball since they were big enough to hold a bat level without tipping forward in accordance with the laws of physics. We've been at the same park for 8 years now, and the people there are like family. We know everyone and everyone knows us. It's one of the few social outlets we have, so it's about more than sport, it's our opportunity to connect with other people.
Pre-Pubescent One is the more accomplished player. He has a natural athleticism that has been honed by several summers of playing AllStar ball, which is competetive in the extreme. Diminutive One is less athletically inclined, but what he lacks in that regard he makes up for with dogged determination.
Last night, the coach put Diminutive One on the mound. It was only his second or third time pitching, thanks to a disastrous and humiliating experience last season, at the hands of an incompetent Coach whose capacity for nepotism was exceeded only by his general suckitude as a person.
So when I saw the he would be pitching, I became very, very anxious.
Pre-Pubescent One has been pitching for years, but it's still difficult for me to watch him. When he's doing well, it's exhilirating. But when he's doing poorly, it's disheartening and stressful. Not because I care one whit about his perceived failures, but because I know that he is mentally berating himself. Neither he nor Diminutive One cut themselves any slack when it comes to their performance on the field. They are their own worst critics; the harshest judge and jury.
But I can't get up and leave. I can't hide out until it's all over. Because they know. And they interpret my abandonment as doubt about their ability. They need my confidence, they need my faith. And counterfeit or not, they get it.
So I sat and watched as Diminutive One warmed up and then took the mound. His face was a study in concentration as he adopted that familiar stance. He bent one knee and rested his elbow on it. The other arm he cocked behind his back. He stayed that way until he felt zen enough to begin his wind-up. Then he straigthened up, brought his hands to his chin, and began that slow, methodical boy dance that in time, becomes fluid and effortless.
Right now, for Diminutive One, it is still deliberate and rehearsed. And as he went through the motions, I could almost hear him coaching himself through each step, though of course, the words were contained inside his own awareness.
When the ball was released, I held my breath.
It was a perfect pitch, straight down the middle.
Because he has not yet developed a lot of speed or power, (most coaches preach accuracy first, speed later) the batter contacted easily, sending the ball far into center field.
But it didn't matter. His two worst fears, disgracing himself with a ridiculously wild pitch and hitting the batter, were suddenly behind him. He had been brought in as a relief pitcher, so he only threw about 7 or 8 more pitches before the inning was over. There were no strike-outs, no dazzling theatrics, but he did the job and he did it competently.
He beamed from ear to ear as the players hustled into the dugout to exchange gloves for helmets. I saw his confidence return and his dreams of being a pitcher restored. He began believe in himself again, and I began to breathe again.
And baseball, I realized, is sort of a metaphor for parenting. As much as we want to, we can't step in and throw the pitches for them. We can't field everything that life throws at them. We can only watch from the sidelines, lending strength with our presence, comfort when needed, praise when appropriate. We can cheer them on and tell them winning isn't everything, but we can't take away the bitter sting of failure.
I watched my beautiful, ebullient son accepting praise from his teammates, basking in their approval; proud, content, happy. And I wished it could always be as easy as throwing the perfect pitch.
1. Wouldn't it be cool if you could take off your arms before you go to bed?
I'm a side sleeper, and I often wake up with my arms dead and wooden beneath me. That's a most disconcerting feeling, even though I know that I've simply lain on them too long. It still skeeves me out, because it's like being in the embrace of a corpse.
Also, I have yet to find a pillow that is really excellent for side sleepers, so I often wake up with a crick in my neck or an ache in my scrunched up shoulder.
However, you'd have to be really careful. One of you would have to leave an arm on each night. Otherwise, you'd have no way to get them back on.
Imagine waking up having to pee, and realizing you cannot untie your pajama bottoms or pull down your pants. God forbid the lid is closed. Imagine looking at your arms, dangling limply there where you hung them up the night before; completely useless independant of your body.
Maybe that's not such a good idea afterall.
2. What if the Scientologists have it right?
Think about it. Why is being descended from a master race of aliens any crazier than the traditionally accepted theological explanation of human genesis?
In fact, it might be slightly less crazy than the concept of people springing forth from clay and/or constructed from a single rib bone.
But don't tell Tom Cruise I said so. I don't want that smug bastard and his extraterrestrial Jesus knocking on my door any time soon.
3. Do you ever wonder if cats and dogs can really speak and understand English, but choose not to let us know that they can?
I mean...it just seems to me that when you live with people for an extended period of time, say....8 years or so...you pick a few things up.
4. I think I have discovered an actual disorder.
I need to contact the New England Journal of Medicine, because this could be BIG.
It's called "Male Pattern Blindness."
How else do you account for the fact that both my husband and my male children, despite being given very detailed directions on where to find a given item, will look right at it, and yet not see it?
Why else would said husband and children walk past a laundry basket and/or various belongings piled neatly at the bottom of the stairs and never carry it up? I once did an experiment with Husband's guitar. It sat at the bottom of the stairs for 3 weeks. I figure that's about 2100 trips. And he never even saw the stupid thing.
And how else do you explain the fact that my husband still wants to have sex with me, despite the cottage cheese on my thighs and a roadmap of the entire Western Hemisphere on my belly?
Now, if only I could find a cure. THAT would be big.
5. Why don't ears sprout during puberty?
I don't know about yours, but my kids do not need ears. They don't use them. They are thoroughly useless little appendages.
Women don't need breasts prior to giving birth, therefore evolution has biologically programmed us to grow them only after our bodies are capable of bearing children. I think the same should apply to ears. They should grow only after one develops the capacity for listening.
Maybe puberty would not be the ideal time. For men it would be about 40, I think.
6. Everybody should sit down to pee.
I would like to know who is to thank for the foolish notion that men must pee standing up. This, is not a concept borne of common sense. And I can almost gaurantee you that is not a practice that was conceived or endorsed by a woman.
This is not a conversation that ever took place:
"Forsooth Good Wife, henceforth, I shall endeavor to relieve myself without soiling my buttocks upon the privvy seat. I shall accomplish this by taking judicious aim from a stance apace from yon aperature. What thinkest thou?"
"Good Husband, I think that thou art as clever as thou art handsome! T'is a wondrous idea for certain. I implore you to instruct our sons in this most novel practice."
It's really just a matter of physics. When you are going to fill a bucket with a garden hose, do you stand three feet away to do so? No. You put the nozzle down into the bucket. Why? Because water is not a cohesive substance. And neither is pee.
It seems pretty simple to me. And yet, for centuries, the male collective has duped us into believing that sitting down to pee is, in some way, emasculating.
What about cleaning the bathroom with your tongue? Is that emasculating?
Because I'm truly to point where that is what's going to happen the next time I find piss in the waste basket that sits three feet to the left of the toilet, or the next time I sit down on a toilet seat liberally sprinkled with rapidly cooling urine in the middle of the night.
7. Why didn't I think of this?
All this time, I could been getting rich and famous off of my irreverent ranting.
"Results like this do not belong on the resume of a Supereme Being."
"No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this."
"If I can see something, it kind of helps the credibility along.
(WARNING: Profanity, blasphemous and potentially offensive content)
8. I was born a several centuries too late.
I should have been born when the standard of female beauty was this:
Eh. It's just as well, I suppose. I don't think objectification is all it's cracked up to be. Besides, if I was happy with my body, then I would have to find something else with which to flagellate my tender self-esteem.
At least I can change my body. Perhaps I should count myself lucky to have born in a century where I can sculpt my body and my face into whatever the currently accepted standards dictate as "beautiful".
9. Sometimes I think all the truly great men have already lived.
I was thinking this the other day when Diminutive One and I were watching Immortal Beloved. How many truly great men have been born in the last century? How many men this century have really changed the course of history with their bravery, their humanity, their talent or their trailblazing?
I can think of a mere handful. The Time Top 100 lists Sascha Baron Cohen and Justin Timberlake for pity's sake.
But I don't put much faith in that list anyway. There is a difference between being influential, and being truly great. I don't think most of the people on that list are truly great people. Influential? Yes. Revolutionary? Possibly. Talented? Some.
But have most of them reached a pinnacle of greatness so profound that their name will always be remembered and become synonmyous with the field in which they excelled?
I don't know, in this day and age with the corruption and moral profligacy and the ease with which one can achieve counterfeit celebrity, if it's even possible for a man, or woman, to be truly great.
It's a thought that saddens me.
But...I think that women are making up for it. We are just coming into our own as a sex. I think we can expect great things from women in the days to come.
And that's a thought that gladdens me.
Okay, that was an actual deep thought, thus negating the ironic humor of my title. But roll with it.
10. I wish I was a witch.
When I was a kid, I used to twitch my nose like Samantha, and fantasize that it would actually work. I remember once twitching my nose at some girl who was making fun of me. She was like..."Did you just twitch your nose at me dweeb?"
Back then, I would have used it mostly to get stuff I wanted (rainbow striped suspenders, a lemon twist, a Steve Austin action figure) and for revenge.
Now I think...dayum, that would be a really freaking useful skill.
Laundry piling up? Twitch. Cat puked on the carpet? Twitch. Kids' rooms smell like feet? Twitch. Paint color looks more like "pea soup" than "antique verdigris"? Twitch. Husband developing a bit of a spare tire? Twitch his ass into Vin Dieseldom.
Sigh...it would be so awesome.
I know, you guys think I'm all highbrow and intellectual and deep and stuff, but trust me, I've got a million of these ridiculous and quite pointless little snippets of thought running around in my head.
Please don't leave me hanging out here in dorkdom all by myself. C'mon and share one of your own "deep" thoughts in the comments. K?
You know, I've done the God thing quite a bit here recently. I know you have GOT be thinking, "Jeezus B.A., commit or get off the pot, already."
So I don't want this to turn into another yet religious epiphany post, or a theological musings post.
And yet, what happened to our family on Saturday seems kind of ironic, considering that all this stuff has been on my mind lately.
You all know by now how I feel about the whole convoluted ball of religious wax.
Sometimes I feel very much as though I must be an idiot not to believe. Sometimes, I think I must be an idiot to even consider it.
And sometimes...sometimes life just reaches out to slap you right in the face, grab you by the lapels, and scream at you...WHAT MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED YOU FOOL????
See...a thing happened to us Saturday. And I feel like there is somebody who needs thanking. But whom? God? Jesus? The whims of Fate? The random luck of time and chance? I don't know. Despite my lamentations about lack of faith, I still have a very difficult time with accepting that my life is just an extension of someone else's will, wise and omnipotent though he may be. I dislike thinking of mankind as so many puppets or errant children.
So though I do feel an enormous amount of gratitude, I struggle with the idea of thanking a deity in whom I do not have inexorable faith.
But someone. Someone or something is responsible for the fact that I am not spending today making funeral arrangements for my husband and my oldest son. Someone is responsible for the fact that I am not walking around with a ragged, gaping wound where my heart used to be. Someone is responsible for the fact that my life and my sense of security is intact.
Because on Saturday, a beautiful balmy Spring day, in the space of about 30 seconds, while Diminutive One and I looked on in impotent terror, my Husband and oldest son could have died 4 different ways. But they did not.
Would you like to hear about it? Because I very much need to tell you about it.
Saturdays in the Spring are mostly spent ferrying the boys from one baseball game to another. We don't mind, really. We enjoy watching the boys play, being freed from the responsibilities with which we would otherwise be faced with at home, and relishing the balm of fresh air and sunshine after a winter of gray and dreary weather.
This past Saturday was no exception. In seperate vehicles we left the ballpark where Pre-Pubescent one had just played. Our destination was a local burger joint, where we planned to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to another ballpark for Diminutive One's 5:00 pm game.
Traffic was heavy, but that's nothing out of the ordinary around here, particularly on the weekends. Neither one of us thought much about it.
Diminutive One and I were travelling in my van directly behind Husband's aging but still dependable Jeep Cherokee, which carried him and Pre-Pubescent One. I could tell they had the radio turned up loud, and were belting away in their shared love of heavy metal music. Pre-Pubescent One, inspired by Guitar Hero, had recently raided Husband's CD collection, and spent much of the previous week uploading music such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, Meatloaf and Guns N' Roses to his iPod. I saw him do an air riff to the beat of whatever cacophanous thing they were listening to.
One moment Diminutive One and I were happily head bopping to Mika. And the next moment, I was screaming.
It almost seemed as if the tan SUV type vehicle was lying in wait for husband, so perfectly timed was the burst of speed that propelled him out into traffic, and directly on a collision course with my husband and child.
From my perspective, impact was a certainty. There was nothing Husband could do, nowhere to go. The SUV was going to t-bone the Jeep on Pre-Pubescent One's side. I felt sick and helpless. All I could do was scream.
Diminutive One couldn't see from his vantage point in the backseat behind me. But a minor fender bender months earlier had shaken him up quite a bit and made him acutely aware of the perils of automobile travel. My scream unnerved him, and though he couldn't see what was happening, he knew it was bad. Very bad. And so he screamed too.
Later Husband said he saw the vehicle inching slowly forward and had a feeling that the driver was going to make an ill timed break for it. He veered sharply to the left, and miraculously, the SUV missed them by a hair's breadth. But his evasive maneuver had put the Jeep directly into the path of oncoming traffic. I slammed on my brakes and braced for an impact that never came. The driver of the car in the other lane had slammed on his brakes as well and avoided hitting the Jeep head on, again, by a mere fraction of an inch.
The Jeep careened off the road and down an slight embankment. It went up on two wheels and I screamed again, realizing it was going to roll.
You know how people describe things moving in slow motion in moments of crisis? It's very true. It seemed to me that the wheels of the Jeep simply floated back to the ground, but in reality, it landed with a hard jolt, thankfully, on four wheels once again, instead of on it's top like an overturned insect.
Unfortunately, the Jeep still had plenty of forward momentum, which was only a problem because directly in front of it, was a telephone pole. I thought, once again, that impact was a certainty. But Husband managed to stop the Jeep several inches from the pole.
There were brakes and tires squealing, dust billowing, horns honking. With all the traffic on the road, there could have been a truly horrendous pile-up. But nobody hit anybody else.
I honestly don't know how an accident didn't happen.
The SUV never stopped. At one point, as it was fleeing the scene, the SUV was directly adjacent to my Van and I looked in, my fingers frantically scrabbling to find the button to roll down the window and give him a piece of my fear fragmented and nearly inchoherent mind.
The vehicle was full of teenaged boys. I looked right into the eyes of the kid who was driving and saw mortal fear combined with blind panic. His passengers were all dumb-struck. Their mouths hung open and their eyes were wide with disbelief. The driver looked back over his shoulder....and kept going.
I wish I had had the presence of mind to get his license plate number. But I was too concerned with the well-being of Husband and Pre-Pubescent One. Although they had not been hit, I feared there might still be injuries. I put on my blinker so I could cross traffic and join them on the shoulder to assess the situation.
But before I could get there, Husband maneuvered the Jeep back onto the road, and started off. He raised his hand to say "We're okay" and continued on to the restaurant.
I was badly shaken and so was Diminutive One. I can't describe to you the sheer horror of watching what you think to be the certain death of two people you love more than anything in the world; one to whom you pledged your life, the other to whom you gave life.
In my mind's eye I could very clearly see shattered glass, bent and twisted metal, fountains of blood, bodies broken and bleeding. I could hear sirens wailing, paramedics barking orders, my son calling my name. It was so real that I had to literally shake my head to banish the images.
I felt violently ill and inexplicably dizzy. I couldn't seem to breathe normally. Diminutive One was weeping quietly in the back seat, uncertain if his Dad and brother were okay.
"It's okay. They're not hurt. I can seem them. Look, there's Dad driving off now. See him waving?"
He was reassured, but like me, far from over it. We were both completely and thoroughly shell shocked.
When we arrived at the restaurant, Husband jumped out of the Jeep and ran over to the van.
"Baby are you okay?"
ME? He's asking me if I'm okay?
I grabbed him around the neck and sobbed into his shoulder.
"NO! I am NOT okay! That really SCARED me goddammit!!"
He just held me while I cried. When Pre-Pubescent One came over, I grabbed him and held him tightly. He endured my ferocious embrace and my tears, though normally such a display would have embarassed him beyond all reason.
He patted my back tenderly, "It's okay Mom. I'm okay."
I noticed later, as Husband paid for our lunch, that his hands shook ever so slightly. He and I sat down while the boys happily concocted their drinks at the fountain. He took off his baseball cap, slowly drew his hand across his brow, pinched the bridge of his nose and said quietly into his hand..."Fuck."
The boys were full of excited chatter about the near miss, but Husband I just looked at each other, cognizant of just how sizeable a disaster had been averted.
We went on with the rest of our day. There was nothing else to be done. In the excitement of Diminutive One's game, the shock faded and I began to forget. But later that night, alone in the dark, the images returned; gruesome and horrifying. I didn't sleep at all. Everyone else, surprisingly, slept like...the dead.
I tried to write about it Saturday night, but found that I was unable. It was too fresh, too raw; still festering with what ifs.
I have relived the moment 100 times over since it happened, and the details have imprinted themselves on my brain. Though they are safe, and I should just let that moment of horror fade into a distant memory, I can't seem to do so.
So perhaps now that I have written it down, I can exorcise those images, the horror, the terrible consciousness of just how drastically my life could have changed in those few agonizingly slow moments.
Perhaps now, I can have some peace of mind.
Except for the issue of where to direct my profound gratitude. Was it God? If it was, then why didn't he strike that little bastard down for nearly running my family over? Why didn't he put a policeman on that road to bust his cocky little ass? And then I think...maybe we were just instruments. Maybe it wasn't about us, but about the kid. Perhaps God used us to give him a little wake-up call.
I find that thought really pisses me off. As I said, the puppet thing doesn't really sit well with me.
So I think for now, I'm just going to thank Lady Luck. Serendipity. Happenstance.
If I have reason to believe otherwise somewhere down the line, I will issue a retroactive apology and do penance for my irreverent ways.
But just in case, and to prevent the tempting of fate even further, I said a soft and timid little prayer of thanks Saturday night.
A person can get lost in nostalgia on YouTube. A lot of you are probably too young to remember this, but it was one of my most favorite Sesame Street vignettes.
How I longed for a dollhouse like that, and dollies having tea on teeny tiny cups and plates, in a kitchen with teeny tiny pots and pans. How I would have loved to tuck them into teeny tiny beds with teeny tiny blankets.
And let's not forget the hipper, more happenin' Electric Compnay. I think, after Shaun Cassidy, Easy Reader was my earliest crush. He was one cool cat. I think even a seven year old can recognize sex-ay when she sees it. I would still do Morgan sideways.
Did I ever tell you I had an imaginary friend named Luis? I did. And it doesn't take much to figure out where that came from. Thank God he and Maria didn't get married until I was in high school. I don't think I could have survived the heartache.
Anyway...there's some nostalgia for you. Don't go down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. You'll never escape.
I've been thinking a lot about religion lately. As a lot of you know, my feelings on the issue are terribly conflicted.
The reason for that is, that although I had a lot of really awful experiences growing up, and continue to have them, living, as I do, in the Bible Belt, and having, as I do, in-laws who are deeply mired in generations of religious zealotry...I also have a lot of truly wonderful memories.
And really, if I'm being honest, going to church gave me a sense of being part of something bigger than myself. That was reassuring somehow.
I'm not sure I was ever convinced of the veracity of the things I was taught. I'm not sure I've ever been convinced of the reality of God in his most traditional representations. But it didn't matter. I'm sure my parents thought that as long as I was exposed to Godly people, engaged in Godly activities, and had strong guidance, the faith would come.
It never did, but that doesn't mean I didn't take something away from those years. And those are the things that I worry my children are missing. Not the Faith. Not the conviction; but a sense of belonging. A sense of community. And experiences that they will remember forever with fondness.
Chuch Camp. God. How much fun was that? The bus ride to and from, listening to our Walkmans and singing hymns. Shut up. I like hymns. The fun skits. The cute counselors. The evening campfire where I held hands with a shy young man from Michigan who had twinkling eyes and curly brown hair. The being away from home all by myself.
We weren't Catholic, but I grew up in an area where Catholicism was the more predominant religion. So on Fridays, every restaurant served fish. Our church periodically had summer Fish Boils to express our tolerance of other beliefs. I can remember the smell of fish and butter and spices in the air. People laughing, kids playing tag, the Pastor looking weird in jeans and a polo shirt. I remember burning my tongue on the steaming fish but not caring because it was so tender and delicious. I remember drinking rich cream soda, one right after another, with no one bothering to tell me that I'd had enough.
I remember walking solemnly down the crimson aisle with a huge palm frond on Palm Sunday. I could never compete with the beautiful clothing worn by the more affluent kids, but I liked that my hair always looked the best. My mother would wash it and roll it and comb in until it shone. And we did usually have a new dress. I knew it wasn't as good as some, but I always felt excited and pretty anyway.
And I have always been affected by Easter, even as a small child. The thought of someone, anyone, being treated as Jesus was, is a very heartbreaking thing. Even a child can grasp the depth of his suffering, Mary's sadness, the despair of his followers. But after tears were shed and prayers were said, there was fun and frivolity in the form of an egg hunt. I will always remember racing accross the churchyard with my basket bumping my legs; grass tickling my knees and my sisters' laughter in my ears.
And through all of these memories runs a thread of constancy; my parents, the churchmembers, the pastor, the church. I can still recall the name of every kid I ever went to Sunday School with. I can see them in my mind, as clearly as I see the faces of my own children.
This is what I fear my children are missing in their lives.
But is it worth exposing them to the more unsavory things I have experienced? Those things that caused such a profound aversion in me; a turning away, a contempt?
Maybe, it's better to let them make the choices about what to believe on their own, and let their discovery be pure. If believing is something they feel led to, then I want it to be untainted by the evils of hypocrisy, intolerance, bigotry and greed.
Saturday night, a spate of bad weather had Pre-Pubescent One cowering in my bed. And, as often happens when he ends up in bed with me, we have some very satisfying talks. I don't even remember how the conversation meandered around to religion. I think we might have been talking about Easter at the in laws. He's getting old enough to understand that their beliefs are somewhat...intense.
He asked me, timidly, what I believe.
"Babe, I don't know. If I knew what to believe in, I'd be teaching you to believe in it to, and spare you from all the uncertainty that I've felt for so long."
"Well....maybe it's better if I figure it out for myself. Maybe, it will feel more like my own decision then, instead of just another thing you tell me to do."
Damn. Why didn't I think of that.
He was quiet for a moment considering. Then he said, shyly,
"Maybe we can figure it out together."
"That would be cool, dude. Cause I could really dig figuring some stuff out."
He was quiet again, and then said,
"Mom? I kind of like it when you don't have all the answers."
Surprised, I said,
"You do? Why?"
"I dunno. It just makes me think that you're not perfect. It kind of makes me know that...you're just like me, in some ways."
"Hmmph." I said.
"That's a compliment Mom."
I rolled my eyes dramatically and said "What. EV-er."
He grimaced and said,
"You are so bad at that."
"Well I try."
And then he rolled over and went to sleep. Satisfied.
And I laid awake thinking about palm fronds and church camp and shy young men with curly brown hair.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I am as girly as the day is long. I loooooooooove all things girly. Make-up, nail polish, shoes, purses, clothes, jewelry, perfume...
What's funny is that people who only know me from my blog or other internet locales are often surprised to find this out. I guess I am perceived as someone who would eschew such frivilous things; someone who views pursuits which do not edify as pointless and indulgent.
Conversely, those who only know me in real life, are often surprised to find that I am capable of abstract thought and that I have interests other than interior design and fashion. Occasionally, when I venture to express an opinion on something more cerebral, I am met with looks of thunderstruck amazement.
Why is that? Where did this stigma come from? Why do people think that smart girls can't be attractive and attractive girls can't be smart? Why are girly looking girls assumed to be superficial dullards?
I rarely leave the house without make-up and hair done, and I've never been a t-shirt and sweats kind of gal. I always accessorize, even if I am dressed casually. Usually, it's minimal; gold hoops, my wedding band, a favorite bracelet. I don't wear athletic shoes unless I am exercizing.
Also, I am reserved in social situations, which is quite common where I come from. Northerners are less effusive by nature, though no less freindly, really. But here, I am either percieved as being "aloof", or socially and intellectually maladroit. Slow. Simpleminded.
I was recently discussing this with a friend who lives in Texas. She and I are definitely kindred spirits and sometimes think so much alike that it's almost frightening. I remarked that she, however, is much more outgoing than me. She expressed the belief that Southerners seem more outgoing, even if they are not, because it is deeply ingrained in them to be friendly, polite, and garrulous.
So, with all of those things combined, that it is often thought that I must not be terribly bright; at least by Southerners.
So I like that here, I am perceived as someone who thinks.
But...today I'm tired of being cerebral. I want to talk about something fun and frivilous and girly today. If you come here for highbrow stuff....I apologize. But everybody needs a change of pace now and then, no?
Inspired by Flutter's post yesterday, I am going to share ten of my favorite frivolous things.
1. The color orange.
Or any variatioin thereof; coral, peach, terracotta. If you look in my closet, it's almost comical how much my love of this hue is reflected in my wardrobe. I recently splurged on a pretty spring sweater at Coldwater Creek along with a matching necklace. Husband laughed at me when I modelled it for him. Why?
By the way, I bought this sweater two sizes smaller than I would normally wear because it was incredibly...voluminous. Like, Mrs. Roper voluminious. I bought it so the hem sits just below my natural waistline, skimming my hips. Things draped over my plentiful behind only create the impression of tentiness, which I like to avoid at all costs. Also, I painted the button with about 47 coats of coral nail polish because I didn't like the brown. I felt that it limited my accessory options.
2. Smelly stuff; household
My tastes change frequently. But right now, my favorite household scent is Vanilla Lavender. I use Tide Vanilla Lavender laundry detergent and fabric softener. Febreeze makes Vanilla Lavender fabric refresher which I use with abandon. Yes, I know it's probably poisoning my family and the environment, but what isn't? Suave makes a very affordable Vanilla Lavender body wash, which I buy in bulk for fear it will be discontinued before my obsession wanes.
I am completely in love with Vanilla Lavender tarts, which are wickless wax patties that you melt in a tart burner with tealights. It infuses the scent throughout your entire home. Yummy.
The more I look, the more products I discover. I am not one who does things halfway, and obsession is no exception.
Recently I found this, and of course, I shall have to posess some of that delightfully purple soapiness soon:
3. Smelly stuff; personal
Again, my tastes change frequently. Not long ago I was completely besotted with Vera Wang Princess, but I'm over that now. It was nice, but a bit too...timid. It just wasn't me. It didn't last very long on me anyway.
Then I discovered this:
Launched in 1995, Burberry Classic posesses a blend of peach, apricot, amber, sandalwood, cedar and musk. It is recommended for Daytime Wear.
Launched by the design house of Aquolina in 2004, Pink Sugar posesses a blend of cotton candy, caramel, raspberry, bergamot, licorice, fig leaves, orange, strawberry, and oak.
Pink lotus petals enveloped by a golden piece of precious amber. Seductive. Rich. Beautiful. Fragrance Top Notes: Bergamot, Wild Berries, Succulent Plum. Fragrance Mid Notes: White Rose NP, Orange Flower NP, Lotus Petals, Iris. Fragrance Base Notes: Amber, Creamy Sandalwood, Vanilla, Patchouli, Praline, Musk Captive.
The Burberry, rather than being timid, is subtle. It's a lovely, soft, daytime fragrance and it is unique. The Pink Sugar will make your husband or significant other want to eat you. Literally. It sounds very sickly sweet, but it isn't. It is deeply warm and sensually sweet. The Sensual Amber is sex. Period. If you can wear this and not want to crawl between the sheets and roll around, you are clearly olfactorily challenged. The same goes for the person smelling you. I wear this when I need some serious bowchickabow-ow.
4. Make-up; lips.
I love lipstick. I am never without something on my lips. That's partially because I am very pale and though my lips are full, they don't have much natural pigment. I tend to look somewhat cadaverous without lipstick. But also, I just hate the feel of bare, dry lips. The other day, a bottle of water that was not capped tighly leaked all over my purse. I had to take everything out to let it dry. Husband picked up my little see through pouch of lipsticks and said in bewilderment, "Baby, WHY do you have that many lipsticks? You only have ONE pair of lips!"
Believe it or not, this is about a quarter of the number I actually posess. This is just what I carry with me. But you girls know...you have to have your pinks, your corals, your nudes. And every gal has to have at least one perfect red. Then you have to have your glosses, your creams, your mattes, your frosts, and your liners. One must have a suitably versatile lip wardrobe. But I can't expect a man who owns three pairs of shoes and who thinks that any two shades, if they are in the same color family, match, to understand this.
5. Make-Up; Eyeshadow
I love eyeshadow almost as much as I love lipstick. However, I don't wear as many different shades. I stick with about 5 or 6 color combinations, most of them pretty natural and/or neutral looking. I feel kind of silly wearing a smoky vampy eye to the grocery store. But I have about a billion shadows, just because I can't resist a gorgeous shade.
My most coveted brand of eye shadow hands down, is Bare Escentuals mineral eye shadow. The thing I like about BE shadows is their versatility. You can apply them wet (called "foiling") or dry to change the intensity. You can use them as liner by creating a paste and applying with a fine liner brush. There are several shades that I use as blush, eyeshadow and lipcolor for a very natural look.
Most of my mineral shadows last at least a year. Some pots I have had for 3 or 4 years and are not yet even half gone. The nice thing about mineral make-up is that because it has no binders, fragrance or preservatives, it will not spoil or harbor bacteria if stored properly.
My most favorite shade of all time is Vanilla Sugar. It's the only shade that I've used multiple pots of, because it is my base shade for all others. It can also be worn alone on days that you are going for a minimal look. A little Vanilla Sugar, a quick swipe of eyeliner and some mascara, and you are ready to go. And, you can use it as a highligher wherever you want a little extra glow. Sometimes I even use it beneath my eyes to brighten as well. I have horrible dark circles and sometimes they need a little extra camoflage.
It's a very pretty neutral peachy shade that is like skin, but better. It has a pearlescence to it, but is not a frost or a shimmer. This is an amazingly versatile product, and one which I cannot live without. It is definitely a staple in my make-up wardrobe.
6. Make-up; face
About five years ago, I discovered mineral make-up and now, I cannot wear anything else. I've strayed a time or two, only to find that I can no longer tolerate the heavy, masky feel of liquid foundation. Not to mention that my skin, which is very oily and prone to breakouts, stays clear and fresh when I use mineral make-up. The moment I put liquid foundation on my face, I break out.
It used to be that Bare Minerals was my brand of choice. However, though I've always considered it very high quality, I have been less than pleased with the "glow" that it imparts. For some women, this is the very reason they like it. But for an oily skinned gal, it was not a selling point. I usually solve this problem by purchasing a shade darker than I need and mixing it with equal parts cornstarch. This really increased the volume as well and gives you much more bang for your buck.
Recently, however, I discovered Everday Minerals. They have several formulations so that you can customize your look; Intensive, which is a full coverage finish, Matte, Semi-Matte and Origianl-Glo, which I imagine is very similar to the glowy finish of Bare Escentuals.
I am always skeptical of mineral knock-offs, but this brand received very good reveiws on Makeup Alley (I never buy anything without checking there first).
They sell samples and starter kits for a very reasonable price, so I decided to try them. And to my surprise, found that this is a very high quality product.
I did not like the Intensive formulation. It's very heavy coverage and didn't do well on my oily skin. The Matte was very nice medium coverage, but buildable. However, I didn't like the completely flat finish. The Semi-Matte turned out to be absolutely perfect for me. The coverage is natural, but hides what I need it to hide. It is not flat, but really has no discernible glow either. Just a nice, fresh, dewy look. I will be ordering a full size just as soon as I finish up what I'm using now.
Mineral make-up has a definite learning curve, but you don't need all the potions, primers and creams to "prepare" your face as they purport. I'll tell you a secret. I have very large pores in my t-zone, and they do tend to stand out more with mineral make-up because it doesn't fill in like liquid make-up does. BUT...you don't have to spend $35 for half an ounce of Photofinish by Smashbox. Go to the feminine care aisle at your local drug or grocery store. There you will find a product called Monistat Chafing Gel. It has the EXACT SAME ingredients as Photofinish, but costs....$6.99. I have a tube that I've been using for 2 years.
Some people have had good luck with Milk of Magnesia, applied very sparingly with a cotton ball. Another option is a layer of pure cornstarch applied with a flocked sponge prior to application.
Okay, on to....
For years, I carried a diaper bag, and so, gave very little thought to my actual purse. I just carried a large wallett type thing that I could stash in the diaper bag. But, as happens when children grow older, I suddenly found myself freed of all the trappings of infancy and toddlerhood. And I rediscovered my love of purses.
I like big purses. I carry a lot of crap.
Sadly, I do not have a lot of disposable income with which to indulge this love. I have no Coach or Kate Spade in my collection. But I find that Target is great for a purse snob on a budget. Except for those dumb little Isaac Mizrahi handbags. I mean...all his handbags are four feet long and two inches high. Now those are great if I need to carry my dildo collection with me, but for most other practical purposes, they just don't make the grade. Plus, most of them are ugly.
For Christmas husband bought me this wonderful Ralph Lauren Tote:
As you can see, it is a fairly sizeable bag, and yet, it is bulging at the seams. As I mentioned, I actually cleaned it out fairly recently. You sure wouldn't know it, would you? Shall we take a look at what is in my purse today?
-Wallet -Portfolio (also bulging at the seams) -Package of Handisacks -Orthodontic Rubber bands -Lipstick pouch -compact -Umbrella -Two pairs of sunglasses -Hairbrush -iPod, monster cable and headphones -Altoids -Pens -Tylenol, Pamprin -hand lotion, hand sanitizer, hairspray, Carmex -Cell phone -The belt to my son's baseball uniform -Camera (in use)
Not included in photo; four feet of coupons and receipts from recent trip to grocery store, one granola bar wrapper, one banana skin in a ziploc bag. Five Starbuck's napkins.
8. Cake; Beef
I have a definite "type". Dark. Swarthy. Brooding. Mysterious. I rarely ever develop infatuations with blondes. Well, unless you count Shaun Cassidy when I was 7. These days, my tastes run more to this:
Delectable, no? Of course, none of them can hold a candle to my own dear Husband, who rocks my world. He is the total package.
9. Cake; Batter, Birthday
Actually, I'm not much of a cake person. Baked goods aren't usually my thing. However...Bruster's Birthday Cake and/or Cake Batter Ice Cream can throw me into a hedonistic frenzy. Seriously, this stuff is like crack. I don't even need a cone, just give me a trough and a spoon. Right now, it's my absolutely favorite indulgence. 10. Outlander Series by Dana Gabaldon
Now, I don't consider books in and of themselves to be frivolous. But these particular books are just plain fun. There is no deep thought required. There is no heavy philosophical or theological message. It's just pure pleasure. This series is about a woman; Clair Randall, who inadvertantly travels from post 1943, to 1743. In so doing she encounters Jamie Fraser; a Highlander. Of course, they fall in love, leaving Claire in a bit of quandry, as she is already married to Frank Randall in 1945.
The rest is your standard bodice ripping, bosom heaving, member throbbing romp, complete with a damsel in distress, who is smart and beautiful, but tough as nails, and a white knight in the form of a brawny but senstive Highlander. However, it is slightly more highbrow and erudite than your average Harlequin. There is history, culture, political intrigue, battle, discovery, adventure, and of course, romance.
And there is some damn good sex. There are several notable scenes that will leave you decidedly...amorous.
Husband finds Jamie to be a highly implausible albeit undeniably likeable character. Well of course he is. That is why he makes us swoon. He is perfect.
I love everything about these books. I've read the entire series twice through already and I will probably do so again soon. Husband is currently reading them at my insistance, and discussing it with him is giving me a hankering to travel back to Inverness ca. 1743.
Dana Gabaldon sure knows how to spin a yarn. I've heard talk of a movie, but I don't know how they could ever fit 7 books (new one out next year, YAY!) into a bearable time frame. And I don't know how they would ever find anyone perfect enough to play Jamie.
Here's a fun video mock-up that someone did, but I can't say I agree with all the casting choices. I quite like Kate Beckinsale as Claire, but Jamie is much more handsome than the gent in this little production. I doubt there is a face in existence that can do the character of James Alexander Malcome McKenzie Fraser justice.
There now, wasn't that fun? Screw the environment, the presidential race, the war in Iraq, NCLB, religious dogma, and people being nasty to each other.
Yesterday afternoon, I was making a list, preparing to go to the grocery store.
I try to avoid the grocery store on weekends because it's such a madhouse. And invariably, there are but two cashiers. Fifteen baggers, but two cashiers. Plus, all the teenagers work on the weekends, and I dislike listening to them try to one up one another as I am held hostage in a line that is moving at a snail's pace. I know it's what they do. It's what I did. But I'm old now and it bugs me.
But this week was kind of crazy, due to bad weather, postponed ball games, and car problems. All the staples were depleted so I had very little choice if we wanted to eat.
As I was making my list, Pre-Pubescent One asked,
"Hey Mom, can you get some Lucky Charms?"
He very, very rarely asks for sweets or junk food. He's long and lean, without an ounce of fat on him. So, when he makes a request, I usually don't mind granting it. I added Lucky Charms to my list.
Then Diminutive One chimed in,
"Could you get some Toaster Strudel and Poptarts? And some of those chocolate chip muffins too."
Now, Dimiuntive One...he has a sweet tooth a mile wide. He is contstnatly on the prowl for junk. When he was a toddler, he had a secret stash. If I refused him a snack, which, given the frequency of his requests, was a pretty regular occurance, he would turn up only moments later, munching away on some sugary morsel.
We had figured out pretty quickly that he was a sugar fiend, and had the cabinets locked up tighter than Fort Knox. So I could not for the life of me figure out how he was getting stuff. One day, purely by chance, I discovered his little treasure trove behind one of the recliners.
It's a daily battle to keep his sugar intake at a minimum and to get some organic matter into him.
So I replied, sarcastically,
"How about if I just inject the sugar directly into your veins?"
He looked at me speculatively for a moment and then said,
(WARNING: This is a long one. A really long one. But, if you have a child who does or will attend public school, I think it's worth a read. Grab a cuppa Joe, crack open a Coke...hell, mix a cocktail. I know I could use one.)
When I was in third grade, I got into an altercation with a classmate. I ended up losing my two adult front teeth when he shoved me face first into a brick wall. All the parents were called into school and a big pow wow was had. We both got into trouble, because I had been antagonizing him by kicking him in the crotch. Frankly, I deserved to be shoved into a brick wall, and worse.
He was not dealt a fair hand in that debacle, because he was one of "those" kids; a bad egg, a discipline problem, a delinquent. But I don't think he was really. I think he was a sad, lonely, heartsick kid.
During the meeting between the parents and principle, he and I waited on a hard wooden bench in the outer office. I saw his Dad, and I saw the look on his face. It scared me. When they left, he grabbed his son's arm and said in a voice that was dripping with menace "You're really going to fucking get it when we get home."
That kid didn't come back to school for three days. When he returned, he walked into the classroom in a slow shuffle, with one arm cradled against his body. There were no bruises showing, but he was obviously broken, inside and out. He wouldn't speak; he wouldn't look anybody in the eye.
I couldn't look at him without feeling sick with guilt. I had nightmares about it for weeks. And I didn't understand why nobody did anything. Now I do. It's because he was one of "those" kids and nobody really cared.
I will remember that kid until the day I die.
So, that said, I do understand why the schools are vigilant about how much school a kid has missed and why they feel the need to investigate excessive absences. I am enormously glad that there is a system of checks and balances in place to address those kinds of potentially abusive situations.
And I understand there are other reasons why excessive absences are problematic, for both the child and the teacher, and why the schools need to take steps when a child misses too much school.
But here's the thing...the system isn't working. Because kids are still falling through the cracks, while time and resources are being wasted on children like mine who are well cared for.
I received the following letter yesterday:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Antagonist,
It has come to my attention that Diminutive One has had at least 13 absences and three tardies this school year. Seven of these absences are listed as unexcused. While I understand that there has been some illness, I am concerned that he has missed so much school, especially since he was absent for 22 days last year.
Attendance plays an important role in the academic success of your child. If students are not present in the classroom, they cannot learn the necessary material. Often, parents do not realize how many absences have accumulated; however, this is your opportunity to make an improvement.
I am including a copy of the Georgia Compulsory School Attendance Law, which explains both your and my responsibilities under the law. As the school social worker, it is my hope to assist you and Diminutive One in addressing problems that prevent regular and punctual attendance. Please know that if excessive unexcused absences continue, a referral to juvenile court may be made for truancy. Court involvement can be avoided if your child attendance improves.
Please contact me at 123-456-7890 is there is anything I can do to assist you in improving this issue or if there are any extenuating circumstances.
I look forward to hearing from you,
George Bush Lackey
See, I was already in a pissy mood yesterday and the invitation to call was simply too much to resist. So call I did.
Before I tell how that went down, let me give you some background.
Last year, we were in the process of perusing a diagnosis for Diminutive One. He started seeing his therapist about mid-way through the school year, because I knew something was terribly wrong, but I did not know what. He has always been Spirited, but this was something different.
Every morning was a battle to get him to school. He would cry, beg, and plead. Sometimes he would throw up. His physical symptoms were very, very real. I knew it was anxiety rather than true illness, even though he really did feel ill. But there were some days that I just didn't have the heart to make him go in that state.
And often, if I did make him go, he wound up in the nurse's office only hours later. I felt like a complete shitheel telling the nurse that he needed to stay at school, despite the fact that he was writhing in obvious pain. The judgment was palpable, even over the phone. It was your classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Also, last year, he just seemed to catch every little thing that came around. He has never, ever been sick as much as he was last year. I suspect that his teacher was not properly disinfecting shared work spaces and community property, or being vigilant about hand washing. Because he aspirated stomach acid as a baby, (severe reflux) he has some scarring in his lungs. For that reason, coughs tend to hang on forever, and he is very prone to bronchitis and pneumonia. So, when he gets a cough, even a mild one, I keep him home in the hopes that it will not progress to the point that he is seriously ill. Several times he has come close to needing hospitalization.
Then of course, there was the whole CRCT saga. The CRCT is the Georgia state benchmark test, mandated by the NCLB act. It's a HUGE deal, and they start preaching to the kids about it in January. There are drill sessions, practice tests...there are even business that have cropped up to maximize your child's chances of passing. The signs are everywhere.
CRCT Prep! Sign up NOW and give your child the best chance at SUCCESS!! Only $150 for a six week session. GROUP RATES AVAILABLE!
It made Diminutive One, who was already a nervous wreck, even more overwrought with worry.
To add insult to injury, the school sent me a notice stating that he WOULD fail it, and so, please fill out this form for summer school.
I saw red. How dare they. How dare they condemn him to failure before he even had a chance to try.
I did not return the form. Because even if he did not pass their stupid test, I would have considered it a failing on their part, not his, and I was not going to subject him to summer school. If ever there was a kid who needed a break from school, it was mine.
Diminutive One's therapist agreed with me that intellectually, there was absolutely no reason he could not pass the test. However, his anxiety, combined with the hyperactivity and attention issues, removed that element of certainty. She suggested that he take the test in a quiet room by himself to give him the best possible environment in which to concentrate.
This made perfect sense to me.
I called the school, explained the situation and was told, in no uncertain terms, that it would not be possible. It's against state mandated policy for test taking protocols. Period. It wasn't even a matter of "Here are the steps you need to follow to make that happen." It was simple, emphatic, categorical refusal.
Well, as we Moms know, there is more than one way to skin a cat. So I kept him out that week. And when he returned, he took the test in a quiet room, by himself. And he passed. He didn't throw up once.
So fast forward to this year. He is taking medication for his ADHD, but not his anxiety. I don't like mixing meds to begin with and in addition, anxiety meds can make kids...foggy. I wanted to see how his anxiety would be affected once he was doing better in school. His therapist agreed. And though he still has days where he is anxious, all in all, his anxiety has improved about 90%, I'd say. He is doing very well and has, in fact, made the honor roll for the first time.
Which is why I did not pursue a 504 for him. I started to, but ultimately decided it would be a waste of time and resources for all involved. This would prove to be a mistake on my part. I never considered the attendance issue. I wasn't looking ahead to benchmark testing. My bad.
So up until a couple of weeks ago, he had missed five days. Two of those days, the clinic called me to come pick him up because he was sick. One of those days, he had a dentist appointment in the morning. If they are not back in school by 11:00 am, they are marked absent. I think he got back to school at 11:10. The other two days, I honestly don't remember. Probably the sniffles or a cough. Whatever the case, I kept him home because I thought it was warranted.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, on a Wednesday, he came down with a horrible hacking cough. I kept him home for three days. We had some meds that we keep on hand for his RAD type symptoms, which I administered. We did not go to the doctor, because we know the drill. He was not feverish, so as far as I knew, it was just a cough. He had a miraculous recovery over the weekend, which led me to believe I might have been the victim of a flim flam job.
Monday I sent him to school. Two hours later, the school nurse called me to say that he was disrupting class with his coughing.
By now, the school nurse is very familiar with Diminutive One and his issues. She's good at managing him. She only calls me when she really feels he needs to go home. Otherwise, she convinces him, gently, to go back to class. So when she says he needs to go home, I trust her judgment. I went to get him, and because he left before 11:00 am, he was counted absent.
The next day, Tuesday, I kept him home to see the doctor. His lungs were clear, but he did have some inflammation. She prescribed antibiotics to clear up the slight bronchitis and keep him from developing pneumonia.
He went back to school the next day. Friday, the school called me at around 10:30 because he was running a low grade fever. The law states that if they are running a fever, they go home. Period. I went to get him.
Saturday, his fever spiked to 104 degrees and we headed to urgent care. Official diagnosis: flu. I was given a prescription for Tamiflu and advised to keep him out of contact with other children for 48 hours. He was one sick kid, and I kept him home Monday and Tuesday.
So let's do a quick tally shall we? That's 9 days right there. Bam. And suddenly, he is considered a "truant".
It might seem as if I am doing a great deal of justifying here, but what I really want to illustrate, is how NCLB is tying our hands as parents. I want you to see how even seemingly conscientious and well meaning parenting decisions can be turned against us under the auspices of NCLB. We are being robbed of our right to make decisions for our children. We are being persecuted for trying to serve their best interests.
And you know what the saddest part is? That kids who really need someone to step in and help, are overlooked.
Recently, I was discussing the issue with a friend of mine, who is a teacher. She knew right away that I was being hassled because of NCLB mandates. She was telling me about one of her students who is almost never there. She thinks his family is essentially homeless. They are often seen walking down the highway with their belongings and she suspects that they stay with whomever has room for them at any given time.
"But I don't think anything is being done. There is no way he will pass my class, or probably any other class. When I bring it up to the proper people, no one really cares because he is not on our "snapshot". Meaning he was not enrolled on the date in the fall that is the one used for official testing results- in other words, he will not count on our test scores."
And that people, is the bottom line. NCLB has changed the focus of our teachers and administrators and forced them to waste their time and resources catering to scores, benchmarks, percentages. Not kids, not people...numbers.
My kid counts. But some other kid, who is being beaten, starved, or sexually abused, doesn't because they aren't at school enough to matter.
And that is just one reason why NCLB is just. not. working.
So, as I said, I called the social worker to clear some of this stuff up. I will spare you all the details of the conversation, as you are already likely bored to tears.
The long and short of it is that I unloaded on her a bit. Nicely, but still, she knew she was being unloaded on. I explained all that I have just told you. I expressed my outrage. And after I was done, I felt badly, because she is, after all, just doing her job. She is as powerless in the face of all this mindless mandating as I am.
And none of it really did any good, because I have neglected to make sure that his permanent record reflects his diagnoses by providing proper documentation. It isn't something they tell you in the "Parenting kids with a learning disability" crash course. That is something I am now getting remedied with the help of Diminutive One's therapist, who was outraged on our behalf.
The social worker is now aware, and was actually quite sympathetic. But you see, she may not be assigned to our school next year. Any notations she might make, will not carry over to the following school year. So unless I do take steps to make sure his conditions are documented, I will be going through all this again next year.
This. Has. Got. To. Change.
Not for my kid, or for yours, but for legions of kids who are not getting the education they deserve. Who are being drilled and grilled, rather than being able to learn by discovery, manipulation, and experimentation. Who are fighting to be themselves in a system that only recognizes conventional learners. Who are losing ground because they don't get excited about worksheets, flashcards, and fill in the blanks. Whose imaginations are dying be degrees as they struggle to find meaning in things that are devoid of wonder.
Teachers are leaving the profession they once dearly loved; disillusioned, disheartened and disgusted. They are leaving because it's not teaching any more, it's programming.
We've got to make ourselves heard. We've got to be a voice for our children. Don't take this stuff lying down. Don't be cowed by officious people with spurious credentials who tell you that you can't keep your kid home sick anymore unless you have a doctor's note.
You know what? CRCT's are coming up in April. And if, once again, they are unwilling to grant my request, I will, once again, keep him out of school.
And then we'll be ready to rumble. Haul me into juvenile court. Please. I'll call the AJC, FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC and anybody else who will listen.
Will it help? Who knows? But somebody has to try. Somebody has to say something.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Lately, a lot of Bible-y stuff seems to be resonating to me. Huh.
I suppose that shouldn't surprise me so much, because taken from a purely literary standpoint, the Bible is a hell of a read. But I struggle with faith and Christianity, and the whole dogmatic ball of wax, because to me, taking the Bible as a literal interpretation of historical events is a little like using Wuthering Heights as a how-to guide to Romance.
Eh, I dunno. Just consider it another wtf? moment from a doubting Thomasina. They seem to be happending with alarming frequency lately, prompting me to wonder if the Apocalypse is incipient or something. Because I always kind of thought that it would take looking Jesus and the Devil in the face and having to choose between them to really solidify my faith.
Meaning, I tend to put off important decisions until the very end and then hope like hell that my spur of the moment decision is the right one.
But yeah...weird how all this stuff is just coming at me lately.
Although, not really. I was raised in a Christian home. My in-laws are very, very devout Southern Baptists. I do live in the Bible Belt. I am proselytized to everwhere from the grocery store to the ballpark. Just last night at an actual ball game in fact, I was having a discussion with two other Moms about having babies after forty, (which had just happened to one of them) and was forced to listen to the other preach about how we all just have to "surrender" to God's will in that respect. Gack.
I'm rambling, aren't I? Well, that's because I have all kinds of stuff to say. Too much. Sometimes I get caught up in a glut of thought and I can't really extricate the smaller pieces and put them together in a cohesive manner. So this is what you get today.
I know, I stink lately. But tomorrow, I promise a nice juicy story about how I wrangled with the school social worker over an attendance issue. I'm on the radar, you see. Because obviously, I am keeping my kid home from school to allow the bruises to heal.
Or, he could have had bronchitis and then the freaking flu for two weeks. And certainly sending me intimidating letters will help, by causing me to panic and send my child back to school before he is fully well, further exacerbating the already nearly pandemic nature of this amazingly hale and hardy virus.
This song has gained a lot of attention this week due to American Idol. The kid who sang it is undeniably easy on the eyes, but I wanted to hear it done by someone with some real vocal chops.
The Jeff Buckley version for me, was just "meh". Same with Rufus Wainwright. Don't shoot me, but I find both their voices a little whiny and nasal. Alison Crowe's version is beautiful, but a little over the top. The beauty of this song is it's purity and simplicity (though it is a complicated piece musically and vocally). Leonard Cohen's version is interesting. His voice is like a warm blanket.
But this....wow. K.D., baby...thanks.
(Pardon the meagre offering today. I am on the tail end of a three day migraine.)
I don't have time for a proper post today, because Diminutive One had his V.I.P. Tea, or, what I affectionally call, "The Million Dollar Project" at school. I've been there most of the day, and now I am playing catch up.
Thankfully, Opening Ceremonies and Pre-Pubescent One's first baseball game have been cancelled due to rain. So, rather than sitting in the bleachers watching 300 kids stand there and look bored while people they don't care about give speeches, I will be sitting in my comfy chair, drinking wine, and watching all the stuff we didn't have time to watch during the week.
Anyway...I did want to take a moment to tell everyone who commented yesterday THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I don't even know most of you, and yet you took the time say some incredibly kind, supportive, encouraging and flattering things. And you shared your own stories of delayed matriculation, which really helped. I do sort of feel like I will be the only person in my classes with stretch marks.
A few questions were asked. I will answer.
The writing group. You'll be glad to know that I was finally accepted into "Sassy Southern Writers". I know, I was stoked.
Unfortunately, for reasons unbeknownst to me, the very first meeting I was to attend, was cancelled. I assume this is due to the fact that only two members RSVP'd. That does not bode well for the future of said group.
The other group is affiliated with the University I will be attending. It turns out that they have a very extensive and comprehensive writing program, and supports a thriving community of writing professionals. That excites me beyond belief.
The reason I have not yet attended, to be quite honest, is that I am intimidated. I couldn't think of anything to validate my presence there, other than, "I like to write." I know that's silly. But it's how I feel. I guess it stems from all those years in school when I was made to feel stupid and unworthy.
But now, I have an entree, you see. I can say, loftily, "I will be attending KSU in the fall. My major? English, of course. And then I plan to persue my Master of Arts in Professional Writing."
That makes me feel good. Is that so wrong?
I don't know if they take notes on that archaic thing called paper anymore, or if I'll have to bring my laptop. I have one, but no case. Where the hell do I need to take it? The grocery store? Well, that might be handy, come to think of it. But no. It has never left my house.
I'll have to add "hip carrying case for laptop" to my list, along with 5 pairs of non-Mom jeans, 5 ridiculously tight fitting t-shirts that say things like "Juicy" on them, and a pair of fabulously cute but completely impractical shoes. I draw the line at flannel pajama bottoms though.
Also, I forgot to mention yesterday, that I have been much inspired by my friend Nina, who recently went back to school. A special thanks to her for showing me such courage and determination. Love ya babe.
About a year ago, I wrote a post titled "Shame". Some of you may remember it. And many of you have read the various posts I have written about losing my sense of self amid the chaos of motherhood, struggling to find that identity again, and facing the fact that I am completely and totally dependant upon my husband.
I don't expect anything to happen, but nobody ever does. It's a truly frightening prospect.
How would I provide for my children? I would provide, of that there is no question. I am a strong, intelligent, resourceful and determined woman. But the cold hard reality is that I would probably be forced to do work that is unsatisfying at best, exhausting and demeaning at worst.
When I was young, I carved out a place for myself in the professional arena through hard work, calculated choices, and some good old fashioned ass kissing. But it wasn't easy, and it wasn't quick. And there were times that I was passed over for positions, projects and accolades that I deserved because I did not have a piece of paper with my name and some letters after it.
Still, I was proud of what I had achieved despite my lack of a formal education. I was respected. People thought I was smart and capable. I earned a decent paycheck. And that was enough.
I don't have the time or the patience for that now. I'm too old. I'm too opinionated. And ass kissing isn't something that comes easily to me anymore. Not that it ever did. Nor is being ordered about by some pimple faced lackey on a power trip. Or doing mindless busywork.
And I don't think that it would be enough anymore.
So, what to do? What to do.
I've been ruminating, contemplating. Obsessing, if you want to know the truth. I've tried this, I've considered that. I've dabbled. But I haven't found that thing, yet. That thing that makes me feel that YES, this is for me.
Writing is what I was meant to do. Unquestionably. But how to translate that into a life, a career, an identity?
I've looked at writing groups, writing workshops, writing courses. They all looked good. Validating. Fulfilling. But I have to tell you, I was and am intimidated. Not because I can't write. I'm not going to insult you by feigning modesty. I am a competent writer. I am a good writer. And I know that.
But I have no credentials. Of any kind. And that bothers me. Whether it should or shouldn't is really immaterial, because it does. That it is what it is. And it's time to fix what it is.
So. At the age of 38, I am going to go to college. Actually, 39, as I will probably not start until the fall semester.
That scares the living shit out of me.
But it also gives me a feeling of anticipation and excitement that I haven't experienced for a very long time.
I will be majoring in English...natch. And maybe, if I can actually tough it out long enough to earn a Bacherlor's degree, I will go on to earn my Masters of Arts in Professional Writing. How. Cool. Is. That?
I have to say, that I am an enormously fortunate woman to be able to do this. I don't have to worry about trying to manage homework on top of a full time job, motherhood and household responsibilities. It's still going to be a bit of a juggling act, but at least I will have fewer balls in the air than the average Jane.
When I finally decided I was resolved enough to talk to my husband about it, he said, "That's GREAT, baby. We can do this. YOU can do this. Let's get the ball rolling."
When I mentioned the cost, he assured me we would find a way.
You know, he's used to having clean socks and underwear appear magically in his drawer. He's used to a certain pace that our lifestyle affords us. He's used to a clean house, and clean kids. He's used to me having my finger in every pie that I need to.
And he did not, for one moment, consider how that might change before giving me his unconditional support.
The boys were very encouraging as well. But Diminutive One was somewhat concerned that he might have to go to ASP (After school program). The kids call ASP "After School Prison" and I can't blame them. It is run much as one would imagine a maximum security detainment facility might be run. And depending upon my class schedule, it's possible that he will have to go to ASP once or twice a week.
Husband told the boys gently, but emphatically, "Boys, we can make some sacrifices so that Mom can go to school. Mom has sacrificed a LOT for us, and God knows she doesn't do anything for herself. This is important to her, and we're going to do everything we can to help her do it."
You know, I've made my own choices and I've made them willingly, eagerly. They didn't feel like sacrfices when I made them. In fact, I felt, once again, extremely lucky. But somewhere along the way, I did sacrifice myself without even realizing it. I began to live my life as only a mother instead of an individual. Their lives became my life.
It felt good to have that acknowledged. And it felt good to have someone acknowledge the fact that it's okay to want more for myself. Because as much as I hate that I have allowed motherhood to usurp everything else, I still wrestle with my conscience when it comes to putting myself first, and how that reflects upon me as a mother.
So. I'm going to college. Man. It's going to be...weird. And wonderful. And exciting. And frightening.
I don't know whether to dance a jig or throw up.
But at least I'm feeling something other than boredom, apathy, and purposelessness.
As a woman who had no brothers growing up, I have seriously underestimated both the amount of time that boys spend thinking about sex, and the age at which it begins.
But here's a helpful piece of parenting wisdom for you...
When your 9 year old son's computer logs a Google search for virginia.com, he is not researching vacation destinations.
Use your imagination. I'll wait.
This is what comes of having thirteen year old brothers. Who has friends who have seventeen year old brothers. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it.
For this reason, Diminutive One will always be older and wiser than his years as was my younger sister. And, he will take it upon himself to educate his more innocent peers.
Also, as Husband pointed out to me, when Pre-Pubescent One is 21, Diminutive One will be 18. Wonderful.
Pre-Pubescent One is a rule follower. He worries about getting into trouble. He worries about dying. Alone and legal, I'm sure he would be quite responsible. Well...I choose to believe that anyway.
But with his younger brother; the rogue, the mischief maker, the envelope pusher egging him on....
I'm just going to stock up on activated charcoal and purchase a stomach pump now.
And I'm going to try not to think about all the dumb stuff I did. Or the fact that Husband nearly killed himself in a souped up Camaro when he was a teenager.
My kids are getting a Yugo. They still make those, right?
You guys think you got problems with potty training? Shoot. You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Try talking to your kids about masturbation. Safe sex. ANAL sex. No, I am not kidding. They teach it in health class in SEVENTH GRADE. Not, you know, how to do it, but what it is, and the fact that it might prevent pregnancy, but not STD's.
That'll teach me to sign a permission slip. Because then they come home and ask me stuff.
I've been to the trenches man. It's ugly. Very, very ugly. And the battle is far from over. I still have to get through the actual teen years.
Moms should get hazard pay. Or at least, a lifetime supply of haircolor and Valium.
What was that I was just saying about them not objectifying women?
When Husband and I moved in together, we had only known each other three weeks.
Think about that.
It's the kind of thing that now, as a mother, would send me over the edge with worry. He could have been a serial killer. A crossdresser. A BDSM fetishist. A CIA operative.
He was none of those things of course. But he was Southern.
I didn't realize at first exactly how deeply that would affect our life and our relationship. Being Southern is not just a geographical designation. It's a very deeply entrenched set of values and beliefs; some admirable, some disconcerting, some incredibly odd and some downright frightening.
What has always been the most difficult for me to reconcile is the way Southerners view women.
In one respect, they are revered as paragons of familial constancy, loyalty and morality. They are respected and cherished. In the South, menfolk always hold the door, always say Ma'am, and always tip their hats.
They never cuss in the presence of a lady. And they never, ever speak ill of another's mother or grandmother. To do so is an unpardonable affront, one which usually results in a posse of rancorous rednecks coming to call upon one's front porch.
But in another respect, women are overlooked and undervalued. Their thoughts, needs and opinions are not considered consequential when it comes to matters of import. They are incidental and largely...ornamental.
As a survival mechanism, Southern women have developed a strange, simpering manner that belies a core of strengh and cunning and a talent for manipulation.
I found out pretty quickly that most Southern men don't know how to deal with a woman who is direct. And Husband was no different.
I had to kiss him first, if that tells you anything.
In the early days of our co-habitation, he would do this thing that I absolutely could not tolerate. But I wasn't sure how to tell him to knock it off already without sounding shrewish as well as unwilling or unable to participate in the kind of love banter that newly minted couples often indulge in.
Truly that kind of thing is not my style at all, but I don't mind doing it as part of the courtship dance. Far be it form me to flaut convention when it comes to mating rituals that have been a part of our societal norms for thousands of years.
But this one...I just couldn't stand it.
Here's how it went:
Husband: Whooooooooo's purty?
Husband: Whooooooo's purty?
Me: Ummmm. Me.
I know, I know. It was a small thing. Too small to get my panties in a wad over. So for a while I played along, telling myself that my dignity was a small price to pay for a guy who had a real job, lifegoals, and paternal aspirations.
But the more he did it, the more I hated it. Eventually, it got to the point that it was all I could do not to scream at him...ME! MOTHERFUCKER! OKAY? ME! I AM. I AM FUCKING PURTY!!!!!
At first, I wasn't even exactly sure why I hated it so much. But then I realized that I resented the implication that I needed constant validation of my physical attractiveness to feel valued. It made me feel objectified and also somewhat infantalized, which completely icked me out. And it made me afraid that he didn't have anything substantial to say to me, and so resorted to such meaningless banality just to fill the silence.
But as I said, I really didn't know how to tell him that I hated it. It was a new relationship, still tentative and exploratory. It was also the first really mature and healthy relationship that I'd had for quite some time and I didn't want to sabotage it.
And, yannow, I kind of loved him.
But it finally got the best of me and one day, I just snapped. Well, not really snapped so much as just decided enough was enough.
Here's how it went:
Me: I have to tell you something that might make you feel bad.
Husband: Oh shit. You want to move out, don't you?
Me: NO! It's just that...that thing you do...asking me "Who's purty?"?
Me: I hate that. Like....really, really a lot.
Husband: Uh. Okay. You don't want me to do it anymore?
Me: No. Sorry.
Husband: It's okay. How long have you felt like this?
Me: Pretty much since the first time you did it.
Husband: Why didn't you say something???
Me: I didn't want to hurt your feelings.
Husband: Oh, baby. It doesn't matter. It's just a dumb thing my Dad used to say to my sister and...I don't know, it just stuck with me I guess.
Me: Did you say it to Megan?
Me: Did she like it?
Husband(shrugging): She never said she didn't like it.
Husband: Why don't you like it?
Me: I don't know, I just feel....really dumb saying it. And it makes me feel...like an object. Like, all I am is pretty.
Husband: I didn't mean it that way. I won't do it anymore, I promise.
Me: Okay, thanks. You're not...upset?
Husband: No. I just feel kind of like an idiot, is all.
I had hurt his feelings, just a little. And then I wondered why I had to go and make such a big deal out of something so stupid. I felt compelled to explain further.
Me: You know, I'd really like it if you would ask me something else though. Something meaningful.
Husband: Like what?
Me:Well, you could ask me how my day was. Or what I think about global warming. Or saving the environment. Or if I've read any good books lately. You could ask me if I have an opinion on the Gulf War. You could ask me what my fondest childhood memory is.
Husband: Okay, baby, I get what you're saying, I really do.
And he did.
I'm happy to say that we survived that particular tempest in a teapot and went on to have some very gratifying and meaningful conversations. Despite my fears, it turned out we had plenty to talk about.
Fifteen years later, we've grown and matured together, and gained a lot of insight into one another. He understands now, knowing me as well as he does, exactly why I would find such a thing completely offensive. And I have learned that such things aren't really worth getting all upset about and aren't meant to be insulting or demeaning.
I can't change hundreds of years of habitude. But I sure can enlighten one little ole redneck boy. And I can raise his children without the gender bias that has plagued generations of their Southern forebearers.
Now, when a Southern gentleman calls me "sugar" or "darlin" or "sweetheart", I scarcely bat an eyelash.
I do teach my boys to open doors and say "Ma'am". But I also teach them a pretty face is not the sum total of a woman's worth.
Recently, I was talking to Pre-Pubescent One about a new girl upon whom he has a fairly wicked crush.
Me: Tell me about her. What is it that you like about her?
PPO: I don't want to tell you. You'll laugh.
Me: I would never laugh. You know that.
PPO: Well....She's interesting and smart. And she's not all giggly and stupid.
Me: DUDE. Why would I laugh at that?!?! That's the BEST reason to like someone.
PPO: I know, but, not everyone thinks so. Most of my friends think that being pretty and like....having big boobs and stuff is the most important.
Me: Well, it's not. And I'm really proud of you for seeing beyond the superficial to the person underneath.
PPO: Well, she's pretty too.
Me: Icing on the cake, my boy.
So, despite the culture of superficiality and ojectification in which my boys are steeped here in the South, I think they are getting the message that women are to be valued for more than their physical assetts. I think they are developing a preference for girls who are direct and honest and forthright, smart and interesting and strong.
Of course, a nice pair can still turn their heads, but I have to accept that I can't overcome eons of biological programming either.
Anyway, I think it all bodes well for my futher as a mother-in-law. Unless contrary to all that I have taught them, one of them marries a Beauty Queen.
Then there might have to be bloodshed. Or at least some gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.