Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Not All Artists Are Starving...

Since the Impertinent Daughter started her first semester at Texas State, something has been coming up almost every time someone spots her doodling in the margins of her notebooks, or sketching in her sketchbook.

People tend to gather around her when she sketches or doodles.  It's a phenomenon I've encountered time and time again.  Sit down quietly in an out of the way spot, open your sketchbook, pull out a pencil or pen and start drawing, then look up and there's always someone standing there, staring intently at your work.

My daughter is used to this.  What's new is, because she's on a college campus, the inevitable question comes up: "What's your major?"

At first, she said, "I'm an art major."  And she encountered yet another phenomenon that virtually every artist/art student will identify with.

The Interrogation.

"You're an art major?  Really?  But... that's not really practical, is it?  You should be majoring in something that will ensure you can get a job, something that will pay well so you can survive on your own.  Art major?  Really?  I mean, if you have to do it, at least major in art education, then you could become a teacher."

Even some fellow art students will pop out with the, "Are you at least taking commercial art?"

*insert eye roll here*

"Why do they do that, Mom?" she asked as we walked through the aisles of the hated Hobby Lobby (I really, really hate giving my money to Hobby Lobby), looking for the Copic markers she needed.

"Because they don't understand that art is everywhere," I replied.

And it is.  Those commercials you see on TV?  An artist came up with the logos for that business, and most likely did story-boarding for the commercial.  An artist did the lighting and set design for them.

The ads you see in magazines or on billboards?  An artist did the layout for those, the design and the lettering.

Like that pattern on your duvet?  A designer made that?  Yes, they did, but you know what?  They had to take art to get there.

Oh, you know that movie you liked last week?  Yeah, artists did concept art, story boards, lighting and set design, costume design, makeup...

Like the comics in the paper?  Done by artists.  That editorial cartoon that made you so mad or made you go, "Yeah, I know exactly how that feels!"


How about those cool characters in the latest XBox game you just can't stop playing?  Yeah, an artist had a lot to do with how they look.

I could go on and on, but I won't.

And yes, I know the argument of, "Not every artist makes it," or, "not everyone has the talent or the conviction to go the distance..."

Imagine if Bill Watterson had listened to that sort of nonsense?  We'd never have the awesomeness that is "Calvin and Hobbes."  Or Walt Disney?

Anyway, I asked the Impertinent One what she did when people said things like that to her.  She shrugged and said, "Meh, I just nod and say something like thanks, I'll take that under advisement, or thanks for shattering my hopes and dreams, or whatever."

Yeah, that made me laugh out loud.

"Sometimes," she said as she peered at the markers in their case, "people come up to me while I'm drawing and say, that's so amazing, are you an art major?  or what's your major, that is so cool! and I'll say oh, I'm going into game design, or computer science, and they'll be all horrified and say, No, you have to major in art, you're so talented and creative, that's so awesome, look at how cool it is, you HAVE to major in art!  And I'm like, make up your mind!!"

"Well," I said, after I stopped laughing, "the thing is, when you tell people you're going to major in art,  you know what they're seeing in their heads, right?"

"No," she said, turning to frown at me.  "What?"

"Most people, when they hear you're majoring in art, immediately think, Vincent Van Gogh!  Or Picasso,  or any other artist who started out poor and starving."  When she blinked, I nodded.  "No, seriously, they think, starving artist, living in a freezing attic in Paris, living on the generosity of friends and family, practically homeless.  They think you're either a painter or a sculptor, or something that to them is completely impractical, never mind that there are some very successful painters, sculptors, etc, out there."  I shook my head.  "It's ridiculous and has no basis in reality, but that's what's going on."

"That's... disturbing," Miss Impertinent said, slightly horrified.

"I know, but there it is.  That's why you keep hearing you should major in something practical, that can help you get a good job and set you for the future." I hugged her.  "Don't take it personally.  They don't know you, or what you can do.  And you're already learning so much, I can't wait to see what you do next!"

She blushed, but you know, I think the Impertinent Daughter is going to be awesome.  I know she will.

It's a Southern Thing, Yo...

There are times when I am confronted by the differences between my husband's family and mine.

Most of the time, we tick along quite nicely.  After all, we'll have been married for 25 years this month, so obviously, things are working and we get along.  The Husbandly One and I are really good friends and most excellent partners in crime, and there are times when I'm honestly surprised to realize we haven't known each other all our lives.

What a horror for our parents if we had!!  No, seriously, we would have made the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter books look like rank amateurs!!  I am fairly certain that between the two of us, we would have figured out how to legitimately order a flame-thrower  and have it delivered to one of our homes by the time we were ten.  I'm just not sure which of us would have been the instigator and which would have been the gleeful follower, because I'm pretty sure it would have been an even draw.

Still, there are times when something happens and the huge differences in our families and the way we were brought up are unavoidable and stun us both.

Like the time lightning struck our house when we were living out in the boonies and knocked our phone out.  This was back in the mid-nineties, before cellphones were ubiquitous.  We were living way out in the country in Central Texas and my family was back in Houston, and his in Texarkana.  I kept asking THO to call my family from work to let them know we were okay and what had happened, and he would reply that he wasn't allowed to make long distance calls from work not related to his job, and that my folks would be fine and not worry. In retrospect, I should have written a letter, but it would have taken at least four days to get to my folks, and remember, back at that time, if you didn't have a phone, you didn't have internet because DIAL-UP.

I worried, because at that time, I spoke to my mother on the phone at least every other day.  I was a young mother with no close neighbors, alone in a house with a toddler, a large dog, and three cats.  The phone was my lifeline to sanity and grownups.

We also didn't expect for it to take almost two fucking weeks for Southwestern Bell, our telephone company at the time, to come out and take a look at our phone.  And that is another story for another time.  So, what was the huge difference between our families?

I am the youngest of three daughters in a Southern family.  In a Southern family, you may grow up, you may move away, but you always call your mom or your dad, and you will always be their kid.  They will let you go, but they will never stop worrying about you.  And if you don't check in with them on a regular basis, whether it's once a day, once a week, or once a month, they will come check on you.

So, one week after the phone went out, at 1 o'clock in the morning, we were awakened by someone banging on the front door of our house while someone shouted my and my husband's name, demanding we answer.

Our dog went nuts, and later, we realized he was barking with joy, not aggression, and our daughter was terrified.  The Husbandly One went to the door and opened it to find my dad and my nephew-in-law standing outside, my dad staring at us with a half-terrified expression, half fury.  One tearful phone call (with my nephew-in-law's dying cell phone, no less) with my mom later, we got the story from my dad.  After two days of not hearing from me, Mom started getting nervous and tried calling me.  Of course, our phone being dead, she couldn't get through, and an automated message gave them an error message.  Mom waited for us to call, and waited, and waited, and soon, she became convinced that something terrible had happened to us.  Unable to bear it any longer, she finally got Dad agitated enough to decide to drive all the way out where we lived to check on us, and take along NIL for support.

They were afraid they were either going to find us dead, or gone.

Dramatic, but not unexpected, considering my mom's vivid imagination, and I couldn't blame her one bit.

THO explained about lightning having struck our house and showed them the blown up tree next to the house, and our dead phone (we ended up having to replace both the phone and the answering machine), and my dad frowned at him and said, "Why didn't you call us from work?"

THO said, "We're not allowed to make non-work related long distance phone calls."

My dad frowned and said, "You could have explained that your phone was out, and you have family who would be worried about your well-being that you needed to contact.  Or you could have gone to any payphone and made a collect call to us, we would have accepted it.  Or you could have made that collect call from work."

As my dad explained all the ways my husband could have made an effort to contact my family and let them know we were okay, up to and including calling my nephew who was going to UT at the time and having him pass on the message, I was trying not to smirk because my dad was confirming all the arguments I had been making over the previous week about contacting my parents ASAP.

"What was that all about?" THO asked after my dad and nephew had gone.

"I'm a daughter," I said, and nodded at our toddler.  "One day, when she's grown up and off doing her own thing, you will completely understand why my dad had that panicked tone in his voice when he was banging on the door."

And yeah, he gets it now.

This past week, though, the difference has reared its head in a completely different way, though it is again, family related.

Last Monday, THO got a call that his mother was in the ICU of a San Antonio hospital, sent there for a blood pressure reading that was through the roof and blood oxygen levels that were almost impossibly low.  We drove out to check on her right after THO got home, and she was in terrible shape.

It's been a rough week for all of us, but most especially Ma, as the doctors struggled to get her blood pressure down to more acceptable levels, to get her sodium levels up, and to get her lungs clear enough to breathe so her blood oxygen levels would rise from the forties up to a more acceptable 98%.  It's still not quite there, but I'm thinking 90% is pretty damn good.

What has blown my mind in all of this is... there has been no diagnosis.  Nobody knows any details, (and this includes Mike's brother who has the medical power of attorney) of what the doctors think is going on, or what could possibly be wrong, or even of what tests they are doing.  Nothing beyond the medications to bring her blood pressure down, something to calm her down, something to help her sleep, and breathing treatments twice a day to open her lungs up so she can breathe.

This absolutely floors me.

I am tempted to sic my sisters on this, because seriously, if this had been my mother?  All three of us would know every single detail, from who exactly the doctors were, to what they were thinking and the results of every single test they had run, and what tests they were thinking of doing in the future.  We would have gone through Ma's apartment to find out every detail of what she'd been eating, how much she'd been eating if at all, what medications and supplements she'd been taking, and how much candy or sweet things she'd been eating, just in case.  We'd be taking shifts staying with her at the hospital so we could be on hand when a doctor showed up to check on her, to ask questions, and find out what was on the agenda for the day.  We'd know her nurses, what they had planned, what she was allowed to eat outside what was being served in her meals so we could tempt her with something that might encourage her to eat.  We'd have a notebook where we'd be keeping track of her blood pressure readings to coincide with what the nurses were getting, and we'd also put our heads together to remember what meds she could take, which ones she'd had reactions to, and which ones we knew she could tolerate and what she couldn't.  Because we're Southern and that's what we do.

How do I know this?  Because that's what we're doing with our own mother, who broke her hip a few weeks ago, spent time in a rehab hospital, and is now in a nursing home, because she has Alzheimer's and my eldest sister was killing herself trying to be her live in caretaker.

I simply cannot comprehend not wanting to find out this information.  I can't understand having my mother in the hospital and not wanting to know what is going on, where are the doctor's going with this, what... it's driving my husband crazy that his siblings are just being so... complacent  about this, because apparently, my Southernness has infected him.  It's stressing him considerably, because he wants to know and they can tell him nothing.  I've held my peace about this all damn week, because I didn't want to make it worse, but last night, I think he was kind of relieved when I finally blew up about it.  At least he knew he wasn't alone in feeling that way any more.

For all that my husband was raised in Texas, his parents (and his older siblings) are from Connecticut and New York, and they still have that mentality, I guess. It's just... one of those differences that makes me throw up my hands and want to rip off their arms and beat them over the heads with it.  I just... don't get it.  I really, really don't.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Warning for Whinage...

Sometimes, I just need to... vent.

I am so tired of being... tired.  I am tired of the cycles of feeling kinda okay, and then feeling like absolute crap.  I am tired of not having the energy to do the things I want to do... or the things I need to do.

I am tired of watching my husband come home, exhausted from a day's work, only to have to take up my share of the workload because I can't do it.

I am tired of the headaches, the joint pain, the muscle weakness, and the overwhelming fatigue.  I am tired of my hair falling out.

I am tired of wishing the rest of it would just fucking fall out already so it would stop making my head hurt.

I am tired of my fingers looking like sausages when they swell.   Of the way my feet ache.

I am tired of being cold all the fucking time because my thyroid is playing dead.

I'm tired of my immune system playing helicopter parent and attacking every single part of me just because it's paranoid and thinks I'm about to get sick.  Or that I'm already sick.

I'm tired of having to say no to my husband and kids when they want to go do something that requires energy that I don't have, because I really, really, really want to go swimming and hiking and climbing and having adventures... but I can't depend on my body because my thyroid is an asshole and my immune system is stupid and...

I'm just tired.

Mostly, I have good days.  And I'm able to be positive and somewhat philosophical about having an autoimmune disease.  I try to look at the positives and try to basically make lemonade out of the lemons life has thrown my way.

But every once in a while, it just... overwhelms me.  There's so much to do.  So much.  Just doing a couple of loads of laundry will sometimes take me all day.  I just swept the dining room and living room and it feels like I've been cleaning the entire house, re-digging the garden, replacing the roof, mowing the lawns, and jogging a marathon right afterwards.

No, seriously, if I'm going to be this tired and sore, I want to have earned it, not just... gotten up out of bed.  If I'm going to hurt this bad, then I figure I should have, oh, I don't know, climbed a mountain.  Or taken on four teams of Navy SEALS in a hand to hand fight and WON.

I know that in a couple of days, I'll feel better and my mood will improve.  But right now?  Life sucks and I just want to curl up somewhere and cry for the next two or three hours.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Unbearable Stench of Impossible...

So... the Impossible Son is now a freshman in high school.

*pause for motherly whimpering*

In our small town, the freshman campus is separate from the high school.  It's also on the other side of town from where we live.  Not a big deal, because this is a small town.  I am lucky, though, that his first period class, athletics, is at the high school, and so is his last class of the day, because this means he can walk to school in the morning and walk home in the afternoon, since the high school is just down the street from us.  Which means... no more sitting in long slow lines of cars to drop off/pick up my student, HUZZAH!!!!

*dance of joy, dance of joy*

Since Impossible is also on the high school cross country team, this also means that every other morning, he has to be at the high school at 6:30 a.m. for running practice. The Husbandly One drops him off on his way to work, and if I wait long enough, I can go out on the back deck and see the whole team go running by.  They get back to the school in time for the team to shower and get ready for their first period class.  Which, for my son, is athletics, as I mentioned earlier.

The next thing I need to mention is that my son, at 14, is the tallest person in our house.  He is all long arms and legs, and the basketball coach pretty much started drooling the moment the Impossible Son loped into the gym.  So... the Impossible Son spends first period playing basketball pretty much nonstop.  All. Period.  Long.

All freshman who have their first and last periods at the high school are required to ride a bus to go back and forth.  This bus leaves at a very specific time, and if a student isn't there at that time... too bad, so sad.  There is only ONE bus for this.  I totally get that.

However, what this means for athletic students is... depending on the coach, there is NO TIME FOR A SHOWER.

This... is NOT a good thing.

So, Tuesday morning of the second week of school, I was sitting and staring at the story I'm presently working on and wondering if I needed to do little tweaking of my outline when the Dropkick Murphys start screaming, "I'm a sailor peg, and I lost my leg! Climbing up the topsails, I lost my leeeeegggg!!"

It's my phone, and I think, "I turned in the athletic forms, he has all his school supplies, omg, what has he done now?"

"Hey, Mom."

I frown at look at the clock, thinking, did he miss the bus?

"I need to come home and take a shower."

Blink.  Blink.

"Wait a minute, didn't you take a shower after class?"

"There was no time," he said a little sheepishly.  "I mean, I barely have time after practice to throw on my clothes!  I have to get out to the bus as fast as I can, no time for a shower!"

Okay, I know that's true, it was true when my daughter was a freshman, and will probably be true until the construction at the high school is finished.

"Impossible, you'll just have to suffer through it," I begin, knowing the school won't just let him come home.  Then I realize, the ringtone was the Dropkick Murphys, not the Legend of Zelda.  He was calling from the school office, not his own phone.

"Mom, everyone in my class says I reek!  I stink, Mom, even the teacher says so!  I need a shower!" he insisted.

It doesn't normally take me this long to catch on.  "Wait a minute, are you just calling me on your own, or did the teacher send you to the office to actually go home and take a shower?"

"Yes, Mom, my teacher insisted!"

"Okay, I'll be there in a few minutes."

I was sort of stunned, but, having been around the Impossible Son when he was sweaty, I could sort of see it.  Thing is, he didn't have that much of a body odor problem, really.  It was mostly his feet that would get us during soccer season, where we would beg him to keep his shoes on until we were out of the car.  But that's soccer pong, and just means keeping his gear clean.  So, I got in the car and drove over to the freshman campus to sign him out.

The freshman campus was built in 1923 and has all the problems you'd associate with a building that old.  It's small (the current class of freshmen are practically bursting out of the seams), it smells, and it's hard to air condition.  In fact, only the classrooms and offices are air conditioned, while the halls are NOT.  It's like walking into a sauna when you enter the building, and you want to hold your breath until you get into the office, where it's nice and cool.  At least for a few minutes.  Air conditioning at the freshman campus really means not as hot as the hall way.

So, I wade through the sauna to the relative comfort of the office to sign my son out.  He arrives and keeps a careful distance from me, and when we get outside, immediately moves downwind of me.

"It's bad, isn't it?" he asks, eying me as we walk to the car.

"Not really."  I take a careful sniff, but I don't smell much because... he's downwind.

"Just wait," he says ominously.

Amused, I unlock the car, we get in, I pull the window shade off the dash, start the car and get the AC going... and immediately my eyes start watering, my gag reflex leaps up and punches me in the throat, and my nose and lungs start rebelling and trying to escape.

"Oh... my... God..." I gag, turning to stare at my son in horror.  "Did you roll in something dead??"

He's grinning at me.  "I know, right?" The Impossible Son's cheeks are red with embarrassment, but there's an odd sort of pride in his eyes, too.  "It's awful, isn't it?  I told you!  You didn't believe me!"

Frantically opening all the windows in my car, including the sun roof, with the AC going full blast in the faint hope of getting the... the... STANK out of my car, eyes watering and leaning away from my child, all I can say is, "Holy crap... how the fuck did this happen??"

"Mom," the Impossible Son says as leans helpfully away from me, "we ran four miles this morning in cross country, and then I had to go straight to basketball practice!  No time for a shower!  And then we barely have time to dress before we have to catch the bus!  We all reek!"

I think all my nose hair was gone by the time we got home.  My eyes are watering just remembering this.  It was horrible.  Like... old cheddar cheese that's been sitting in a bowl of water in direct sunlight for three days, and moldy soccer socks in a hot car, with a little muddy dog and three weeks unchanged cat litter box.  During a hundred degree summer.  With... sweat.

*is still horrified*

I never thought I'd ever say that about one of my children, but omg, he reeked.  It made soccer pong look... pleasant.

So, after he'd decontaminated and changed clothes, he told me the story.

He was in his second period biology class, and the teacher had broken them up into smaller groups to work on their assignment.  First, the kids in his group had started moving away from him with, "God, Impossible, WTF?" and "Dude, did you even take a shower??" Then some of the groups that were close to them started complaining and became vocal about insisting he go home to take a shower.  The teacher, noticing the increasingly vocal protests, called him over to find out what was going on.  At this point, Mr. Impossible had had enough.  "Miss Biology Teacher, I really need to go home and take a shower," he said apologetically.

She said humorously, "So you're a little sweaty, you're fine, stop messing around and get back to work."

"No, I really, really stink, that's why they're all complaining," he insisted.

At that moment, the AC came on, and the vent was apparently behind him and blew air directly toward her.  He said she was opening her mouth to probably tell him to go back to his table when his personal cloud of stench was blown into her face.

She froze.  Her eyes went wide and her nostrils flared.  Her eyes bulged as she stared up at him with horror, then they reddened and started to water.  Her nose looked like it was trying to pinch itself shut.  Her hands gripped the desk so hard, her knuckles went white.  And her mouth snapped shut.

He said, "I seriously started to worry about her, because it was like... she stopped breathing!"

Of course, she stopped breathing!  She was trying not to smell him.

After a moment, she started frantically pointing at the door.  "You," she said, scooting hastily away from him after thrusting a hall pass at him.  "You!  Home!  Now!  SHOWER!!!"

"Well," I said, leaning toward him, "you smell much better now."

"I should," he said as we got in the car to go back to the freshman campus.  "I used almost half my body wash cleaning myself off!  Do they make industrial strength body wash?"

"No, and before you ask, Axe Body spray is not shower in a can," I said firmly.  "If you had used it you would not have smelled better.  You would still have the Stench, it just would have been... the Stench WITH Axe Body spray.  And that would have been much worse."

"How do you know?" he asked as we pulled up to the school and I parked.

"Because the pot smokers at my high school used to try to disguise the smell of what they'd been doing before school started with this mint breath spray called Binaca.  And it never worked."  I grinned at him.  "They never understood why they kept getting caught, but you know, it was because instead of smelling like pot smokers, they now smelled like Fresh MINTY Pot Smokers™!"

He laughed.  "I'll pass that on!"

"Good.  Because we're all kind of tired of smelling sweaty teen pong with Axe Body spray!"

You know, I'm still working on getting the smell out of my car!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Because I do my best to keep my promises...

So... four years ago, I posted  this after I had made a soccer bet with the Impertinent Daughter.  Her coach had moved her to play forward, after several years of playing defense, and her confidence was shaky.  To boost it, I bet her that if she got a goal, I would get a tattoo.

She got a goal in her very next game, and the first words out of her mouth when she saw me were, "Mum, you're getting a TATTOO!!"

Well, it's only taken me four years to make good on that bet, but finally, here it is, designed by my own Lady Lion... the tattoo...

It's fresh, so forgive the swelling and shininess.  Still, I think the tattooist did a great job!

She's happy, and so am I.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Because It's Just What Parents Do... Right?

Every once in a while, I will click "Like" on a Facebook post that I find... resonant, or that strikes a chord with me, and every once in an even greater while, I'll comment on one of these posts.

Now, these aren't posts made by my friends, necessarily.  Sometimes, it's a post from a page I've liked or I'm following.  Sometimes, it's a repost from something else.

Most of the time, I'm pretty quiet, even on Facebook, but then there's those times when I just... well... I have to say something.

What?  I'm Southern.  It's what we do.

Like, once, on the Amy Poehler's Smart Girls page, there was a post about school dress codes and what one girl was doing about a so-called violation at her school, and how ridiculous they could be, etc.  I couldn't help chiming in about an experience the Impertinent Daughter went through, how one of the Assistant Principals at her school (who was actually running things at the school, but that's a whole other jar of pickles) suddenly decided that girls at the junior high were no longer allowed to wear button down shirts, BUT... the boys could.  I, of course, went to find out why, because I knew the woman was nuts, but I kind of wanted to know what the logic (!) was on this particular issue.  "Because boys can unbutton them."


I promptly informed the woman that if this was a genuine issue, then parents should be notified, assault charges should be filed, and the boys in question should be suspended, so what's going on with this?

Turned out there were no actual boys unbuttoning actual girls' shirts, and I pointed out the idiocy of that and basically, by the end of the week, that particular dress code issue disappeared.

My comment was much shorter than that, but basically, that was it.  This was an issue, this is how I dealt with it, this was the result.

It... pretty much blew up, and the last time I saw it, a couple of months ago, it was edging 900 some odd likes.  Plus lots of comments to MY comment about what an awesome/brave/cool mom I was to do this, and I thought, "but... isn't that what a parent does???  Your school lays down a ridiculous rule, YOU know it's ridiculous, your fellow parents know it's ridiculous, and so... one of you steps over and says it's ridiculous, the rest follow suit, and BANG... ridiculous rule gone.

So... today, the Richard Dawkins page posted about the ten reasons the new Texas textbooks are dangerous for students, and first, I face-palmed, because... OMG, Texas, why???  And then I commented.

Now, here's the thing.  As a parent in a small Texas town, I am often confronted with the ridiculous in my kids' education.  No, I'm not kidding.  I have had a teacher openly proselytize in class when my daughter was in 5th grade.  The woman wasn't my daughter's main teacher, she was her Language Arts teacher, and she figured, "hey, I'm retiring, I don't have to worry about these ridiculous rules that prevent me from acting on the tenets of my faith, here goes nothing!!"

Yeah, that went over real well.  After going to the school to talk to both the teacher and the principal about the reason We Don't Do That In Public Schools, also with a demonstration of what would happen if they did, Mrs. I'm About To Retire decided her pension was worth protecting and stopped.

There was the time my son was in first grade and his teacher, inexperienced and so new the ink on her degree was still smudgable, told me with great pride the way she and the other first grade teachers were going to teach their students about racism.  They were going to separate the classes into girls and boys, and the boys were going to be the privileged group and be allowed things like getting to drink from the water fountains first, being able to get their snacks first, etc. And the girls would be the oppressed group and have to go second.   I had to stop her in the middle of her enthusiasm to explain to her that if they did that, they weren't going to be teaching the kids about racism.  They were going to be teaching the kids about sexism.  "But... how else can we teach them about racism?" she asked, stunned.  

"You take the kids and get them to count off in ones and twos.  Then pick a day, and  ask all the ones to wear, say, a green shirt on that day, and the twos to wear a purple shirt.  And on that day, the purple shirts get to hit the water fountain first, get their snacks first, get the swings first, etc, and the greens have to wait," I said.

"But that's silly," she said.  "Just because of the color of a shirt!"

"Exactly," I said.  "That's racism.  Just because of the color of someone's skin."

It's horrifying how long it took her to get it. 

Oh, let's see, and how about the first year the Impossible Son was in junior high, and I had to go talk to the principal because one of the assistant principals told my son, when he had some open sores on his hand, that he needed to keep them bandaged because, and I quote, "you can get AIDS from touching the tables and desks in the school."

And this woman was a former science teacher.

There was my daughter's 8th grade year, when the algebra teachers at the junior high decided that they didn't like the textbooks the district selected to teach algebra, so they decided to write their own over the course of the year and basically winged it.  No textbook.  Just endless handouts, and if you missed a handout, tough cookies.  I hate to say this now, but... in a bizarre way, my daughter was fortunate when she caught mono a second time and missed something like thirteen weeks of school.  Why?  Because she then had myself and my husband as algebra teachers.  Between the two of us, we make a pretty decent algebra teacher, I have to say.  Well, the two of us, PatrickCMJ and ViHart on Youtube, several f-listers on Livejournal, and at least three websites online.  Every day during those thirteen weeks, I was at the junior high, either picking up or dropping off schoolwork.  It SUCKED, but I learned more about the quality of my daughter's education during the two years she had mono than I did at any other time, because I  was one of her teachers.  I already knew it sucked, but you could say I found out how much it sucked at that time.

But you know what?  She passed with straight A's that year.  And she was a Presidential Scholar that year.  Boo.  Yah.

Oh, and let's not forget the madness of her third grade year, when math education in her district got weird.  That was the year her class started taking the TAKS test, and she got this teacher that all the other parents raved about being so awesome.  And at that time, I still had faith in her teachers and the school.  Until her math scores started dropping, and after many tears trying to help her with her homework, and looking at her textbook, a tome entitled "Everyday Mathematics," and actually sitting in on her class a couple of times to try to figure out what the disconnect was, I was forced to tell the Impertinent Daughter to nod and smile when her teacher explained math problems in class, and bring her work home so the Husbandly One and I could teach her how to actually do it. I told her to repeat back all the strategies the teacher explained on how to do this stuff, and ignore it and do it the way we taught it to her. 

It drove her teacher nuts.  But I told her it was okay, and not to worry about it, just repeat back whatever the teacher tried to teach her, but do it our way.  

Do you know, she was the only kid her her class to pass the math TAKS with above a 90? She got a 98.  And one of only like... five or six kids in her entire grade to get Commended?

Or how I had to sometimes fight to have my kids' teachers assign them homework in the first place!!  Why?  Because there were times that that was the only way I could find out what my kids were being taught, and figure out how to even help them when there were problems!!!

When the Impertinent Daughter was in sixth grade, the junior high principal,who barely lasted a year, told his teachers, "if you can't teach it to them in the forty five minutes you have them in class, then they're not going to learn in when you give them homework that night."

Well, you know what, dude?  In my house, yes, they will.

I am sure some of you will wonder why I didn't just pull my kids out and homeschool them.

Why?  Because I know what I lack as a teacher.  I lack the patience and organization to do it full time every single day.  And while I know a lot, I don't know everything, and I don't know how to teach everything.  I realized that when I homeschooled the Impertinent Daughter for kindergarten.  If she'd been an only child?  Maybe.  Maybe I could have done it.  But... I couldn't do it with two.  But that's a personal limitation.  When the Impertinent One started first grade at the public school in town, she was the only kid in her class who could read (she was already reading at a third grade level), write more than a simple sentence, count up to 100, add and subtract... everything the state required a kindergartner to be able to do before starting the first grade.  The only one.  And all the other  kids had attended kindergarten in the district.

I know what I lack as a teacher.  But... that doesn't mean I can't supplement what my kids are learning from their public school education.  Because... that's a parent's job.  My mother did that for me.  So... I guess I just kind of assumed that all parents do this.  My kids were watching the Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel back when they were actually educational channels.  And they were watching PBS.  My husband and I took them to the library, and the zoo, and the museums, and everywhere else we could think of, and we read (and still read) to them, and discuss things.  We read the newspaper, and the internet, we watch the news, we watch movies and historical films, and documentaries, and we visit antique stores and discuss the wild and crazy things we find in them.  We talk to old people, and we take trips, and... do everything we possibly can to expose them to as much as we can so we can raise a couple of well rounded people with open minds.

Because that's what we do.  What parents do.  Our children are world citizens, right?  So... we want them to reach out and embrace it and love it and be endlessly curious about it.

So... when I saw that post on the Richard Dawkins page, I liked it and commented on it.  I said, "I am going to try not to hyperventilate over this, then do what I have always done, go through my son's textbooks, point out the obvious omissions, go to the library, dig out books for him to read, and encourage discussion.  So tired of being ashamed of the state I live in... ugh..."

Because I am.  So very tired of being ashamed of Texas.  Very tired.

I commented on this yesterday.

The comment itself is already up to 218 likes.

Apparently, this resonated with a lot of people.  

This makes me wonder if we can get this reversed... again.

Come on, Texas.  Get your shit together.  

We can do this.  It's what parents do.  We need to fix this, because it's not going to get any better without us.

Let's go.  Let's do this thing!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When Writers Meltdown...

Last night, I had a meltdown.

In times of crisis, I am usually pretty calm, mostly because of my dad and his, "if you panic, you're no good to yourself or anybody else" philosophy.  Inside, I'm freaking out and mentally flailing in whatever handy mental compartment I have available, but outwardly, I tend to focus on whatever the situation is and how to deal with it.

There are exceptions, however, and last night... was a pretty big exception.  

Over the years, I have learned to backup my writing.  I have an external drive for our desktop, and one for my laptop.  I also have various flash drives.  And I also use Google Drive and iCloud.  Yes, I know that's all redundant, but in light of the hard drive crashes and accidents we've had over the years we've had computers, I've learned that redundancy is my friend.  Because I've lost a lot of writing files in those hard drive crashes, and every single one of them hurt.  In fact, the hard drive crash of our last PC, combined with some comments from people who shall remain unnamed, drove me into a seven year writing block that was acutely painful.  

I need to write.  It's painful not to write.

So, I back up and back up, and that's great, but I admit that sometimes, I'll let things slide a little.  Maybe I'm up late writing, and I'll save what I was working on, but I won't back it up to the flash drive or Google or iCloud, etc, because I just want to go to bed and crash, and I'll do it in the morning.

Last summer, one of our cats spilled one fourth inch of water over my laptop in her never-ending Quest for Fresh Water and killed the hard drive, and the last chapter of the novel I was working on.

One new hard drive and and expanded iCloud later, I've gotten better at remember to back up.

I also have the habit of slipping my flash drives into the front pocket of my jeans for the portability of being able to work wherever I am.  I did that yesterday with the intention of working on getting the first fifty pages of The Pestilential Adventures of Mrs. Osgood Peabody into shape to send to a publisher, but I was having a bad Hashimoto's day and instead curled up on the couch under a blanket to watch "Criminal Minds" on Netflix with my daughter.  Later, I changed out of the jeans and into a pair of fleece pajama pants with big pockets, fulling intending to transfer the flash drives into those big pockets, because I still wanted/needed to write, dammit.

And proceeded to get sidetracked by having to answer a question from one of the kids, thus totally forgetting about the flash drives.  Problem is, it kept niggling at my brain that I urgently needed to do something, but could never fully remember what it was, because succeeding events kept driving back to the back burner of what passes for my mind.  Even after the Husbandly One got home for work, I could never get it to come up to the front of my mind and remember what it was I needed to do.

But it bothered me.

And because last week was pretty rotten autoimmune-wise, THO was working to get ahead on the Laundry Monster.  So he was gathering up random clothes to throw in the washer.  I reminded him that the Impertinent Son needed his running tights washed because he has a track meet on Thursday, and went to grab them while he picked through my stuff for things to wash.

He grabbed my jeans.

I noticed and thought, "Wait," but... nope.  Nothing.  

It wasn't until later when I thought, Okay, so I won't get any work done on it tonight, but I should probably get the flash drive and back Mrs. Peabody up to Google Drive... and that was when it hit me.

"Did you wash the jeans I was wearing today?" I asked THO breathlessly.

He looked up from his book.  "Yeah.  I washed both pair that I found on your basket.  Why?"

I didn't answer, I just ran for the laundry room, stopped the washer and opened it and started digging.  And found one of the flash drives almost under the agitator at the bottom of the laundry tub.

But not the Mrs. Peabody drive.

I pulled every single item of clothing out of that washing machine, dripping wet, and shook them out, felt in every pocket, every sleeve, every leg, every arm, every single nook and cranny... and no drive. I felt around under every side of that agitator in the washing machine.  And no drive.

I went back to the living room where I'd been sitting, on the off chance it might have fallen out of my pocket, and I was fighting back tears as I pulled the couch cushions off.  And no drive.

My son noticed and asked what was going on.  And by this time, I wasn't fighting back the tears any more, because it was sinking in that the drive had probably gone down the drain.  I filled him in on what had happened, and he said, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll get Cailly and we'll help you look for it.  It's probably not anywhere near the washing machine."

I nodded and popped the drive I'd found into a small container with rice to help dry it out.  And went back into the bedroom to look in the clothes basket and around the floor, just in case.  And felt progressively worse and worse and worse, and then... I completely lost it.

All that work.  Fighting through writer's block, and uncertainty, and finally getting my writing groove back.  Working on a piece that was getting positive feedback.  And it was gone.

It felt like the universe was trying to tell me something.  Stop.  Quit trying.  You're never going to get anywhere.  You're never going to succeed.  Look at how old you are.  It's never going to happen, so you should just give up while you can.  Give up, grow up, just stop.

In the meantime, the Husbandly One was disconnecting the washing machine drain hose to see if the drive had possibly gone down and doing everything he could to help.  The kids were alternately looking everywhere they knew I had been, and coming in to comfort me as I sat there, a completely wet mess.  

I gave up.  And it was as we were straightening the covers on the bed that I spotted something familiar on the quilt.

The missing flash drive.

After nearly suffocating THO with a tearful hug, then going to share the good news with the kids, you bet your effin' BIPPY I went and backed up everything on that drive to Google Drive and iCloud!!!


Thursday, January 15, 2015

To Chip, Or Not To Chip...

The Husbandly One and I have such awesome communication skills sometimes.

I only have two lunches to make in the mornings now, the Impossible Son's and the Husbandly One's, so it's not such a frantic thing as in the past.  As such, I'm a little more relaxed in the mornings, which is a good thing, considering how creaky the autoimmune thing makes me now.

So this morning, I'm making the Husbandly One's lunch and I admit, I was a still a little under-caffeinated and moving a little slowly.  Sandwich was done and it was time to add chips, so I hooked the step stool with my foot (because I'm fun-sized, yo!) so I can get to them.  They are kept on the top shelf of our cabinets which are, of course, way above my head.

As I stepped up to get them, I looked over at THO and said, "You know, I had quite a fight to hang on to these chips yesterday," as I reached for the bag of sour cream and onion potato chips.

"Yeah?" he said sort of absently, because he was at the table, drinking coffee and surfing Facebook.

"Yeah," I said, pulling the bag down.  "Your son discovered the bag and practically emptied the damn thing in a 'small' bowl.  He's doing the 'eating everything in sight' thing again.  I had to confiscate the bowl and rescue the chips!"

Both THO and Mr. Impossible love sour cream and onion chips.  Thing is, where THO has learned moderation and to ration them out to himself, Mr. Impossible is still at the Hoover stage of his appetite and will eat an entire large bag at one sitting if we let him.  So THO basically hid this particular bag of chips so he'd have them in his lunches this week.

I had opened the bag and was about to put some in his lunch when THO turned around and said, "Oh, we have chips at work, so you don't have to put any in my lunch.  Unless you just want to."

I frowned at him.  "So..."

"You can put them back," he said, watching me.

"Okay," I said slowly, rolling the bag up and clipping it, then getting back up on the step stool to put them away.

They are in my hand, about to touchdown on the shelf, when he says, "Or you could throw them in my lunch... if you want."

I stop, stare at him, then slowly start to take them back down off the shelf, preparing to unclip them again.

"Honey, we have chips at work," he said.

Breathing slowly and evenly, I don't unclip them, and start to put them back on the shelf.

"Unless, you know, you just want to put them in my lunch."

I study his face.  He's not teasing me.  He's entirely serious and has no clue. Okay.  I start to get them down again.

"Honey,  I said we have chips at work!  You don't have to put any in my lunch!"

"AAAAAUUUGHHH!!!  Will you make up your mind???"

THO looks shocked.  "What??  What did I do??"

"We have chips at work, unless you want to put them in my lunch, but you can put them back because we have chips at work, unless you want to put them in my lunch, which one is it??"  I glare at him.  "I have not had enough caffeine for this!!"

Yes, he apologized, and thus he has survived to live yet another day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Ring them bells with an iron hand so the people will know..."

A Facebook discussion group was established for our small town/county a little over a year ago, and I have to say, it has been a hugely positive thing for the most part.

I am sure there are people who work for our small school district who don't feel the same way, but after having a child in the schools here for twelve years, through good and bad, having a visible forum for local parents to air concerns has forced our district to change.

No longer can they count on problems just going away as soon as parents leave the building, or as unsubstantiated rumors.  It's right there on Facebook, in black and white (and blue), and everyone can see it.

I wish we'd had this discussion board years ago, like when Mr. Harper, the wonderful AP Physics teacher at the local high school, finally gave up on being treated right by the district and left to teach where he'd be happier.  Or when there were no textbooks for the math and science classes.

I'm glad we have it now.  I'm seeing more and more parents posting about the issues at the junior high that have been continuously swept under the rug for years.  The bullying issues.  The huge fights that happen on the Maple Street walking path after school.  The inconsistent way things are treated.  It's infuriating, and I'm glad it's getting a spotlight.

I'm glad some of the policies at the elementary school my son used to go to are being spotlighted, too.

I'm hoping this continues.  I remember the discussion when a bond election to build a new high school was coming up, and how many people in our town truly did not realize how badly it was needed.  In their minds (and there are still some people who persist in this belief) there is no need for a new high school.  They truly do not see that our schools are practically bursting at the seams, and the current building is falling apart.  It has reached the point where it's cheaper to build an entirely new school than it would be to repair the existing building and add on to it.   There are still people who think it is "too fancy" for us, and it is very hard for me not to laugh hysterically at them.

Really?  Are you kidding me?  We are so far behind other districts, in education, in facilities, it's not even funny.  And I just mean basic, bare-bones facilities, not the bells and whistles.

Maybe I'll raise these issues on the discussion board later, but for now, I'll simply be grateful that the district's dirty laundry is finally being aired.