“Someone called me “Irish” like it was something bad…something to be ashamed of. He meant it as a dig in reference to my so called stubbornness, my pride. my willingness to see the truth for what it is and call it. He called it haughty, he called it “Irish” and I wore it like a badge of honor.”
I R I S H P R I D E
It is not boastful pride or a belief that one person is better than another. It’s a pride in oneself and one’s heritage. It is honor and affection for loved ones, friends and comrades. It is standing up tall and looking everyone you meet straight in the eye and saying; this is who I am and I am proud. I don’t care if I am perfect, nor would I be if I could. It is rising in the face of adversity…
I sit here tap tapping on my happy laptop. Stopping occasionally to take a sip of nice strong coffee and to gaze out the window. The house is toasty warm and filled with the comforting and enticing aroma of roasting turkey and dressing and yummy apple pie.
I am content. The house is quiet for the moment, only the faint sounds of traffic outside and the occasion caw from a crow. I am glad to be able to take advantage of this lull before “the storm”
I admit I’m a tad bit apprehensive, anyone would be in my shoes. But mostly I am excited. Not the “oh I get to go to Disneyland” kind of excited or the “ooooh I have a dove bar” sort but more of the type you get when you are about to go on a trip to someplace exotic and far away, like the Twilight Zone or Never Never Land.
My newest foray into retail has given me the opportunity to experience my first Black Friday starting Thursday evening. Instead of being a crazed shopper I will be a crazed worker; manning a cash register with a scanner and smile at the ready.
I know what you are thinking: Does she have adequate footwear? I’m not sure on that, but regardless I am ready. Ready to face the stampede of maniac shoppers and gawkers of all shapes and sizes. I liken this to going into battle. It will be rough. It will test me and stretch me in ways I’ve never before experienced and by the time my shift is over and it’s time to leave I will have left stronger and wiser than when I entered.
If I survive….
This night will separate the big girls from the little ones, the cats from the kittens and the serious hardcore bargain hunters from the mildly interested window watchers.
Have no doubt my comrades will be able to count on me to lead the charge! I am not afraid! I will take that hill (whatever the hell that means) and I will charge up it! Come on lads and ladies and follow me!
I expect to get a battlefield promotion on this one. The whole store will throw me a parade in which I will be the grand marshal and the president of the company will fly down from headquarters and present me with a medal for bravery and a coupon good for half off any designer fragrance. The mayor will attend and give me the key to the city and all kinds of cool junk too.
Everyone will cheer and I will be a hero. Tales of my deeds will be told for a long time, days at least. In many of the departments: Menswear, shoes maybe even intimate apparel. Oo la-la…
It is destiny my friends, there is nothing I can do to change it. You can say you knew me when. (wink-wink)
It is like I have been preparing for this my whole life…
I will say now that I have never ever attended a Black Friday or Thursday shopping holiday free-for-all mob festival. I tend to seek peace and quiet and generally shun over-the-top consumerist events with large crowds of people. It is ironic my first exposure will be as a worker not shopper. I am however well versed in patience and stamina. I have been a mom for almost 20 years, this gives me special powers as any mother worth her salt can attest to. I am unflappable and unstoppable. I have a will of iron with a peaceful core as soft as a feather bed but with nerves of steel.
Who am I kidding?
I have all the exits planned out and marked in my head. I know of a supply closet I can hide in. I’m no fool. I am bringing a thermos of coffee, ummmm Colombian…and a you guessed it, a turkey sandwich.. I will be bringing my “serenity now!” kit complete with a book of nature poetry , sandalwood incense and a portable miniature babbling brook.
Ha-ha…really, I don’t mind working on Black Friday and Thursday too. There are advantages to the whole thing. It’s an adventure. I’m a writer and I need to do that sort of thing, seldom does adventure come to me. I will have lots to write about after this. Expect the book, then soon after the screenplay.
Instead of spending money I don’t have I will be making money I can spend later on frivolities like food and fun stuff like mortgage payments and utility bills. Most importantly this gives me the excuse to have Thanksgiving dinner a day early with my wonderful family inour warm home with turkey and stuffing and pie and everything else. We will all be together spending a glorious and very meaningful day creating new memories and savoring the old ones. We will be thankful for all of this and what does it matter what the calendar says?
Yummy…yum, yum I’m starving...
So if I see you out there among the throng of shoppers wave a hello across the crowd, maybe we can exchange wisecracks or share a supply closet during a stampede. Just be sure to bring your visa card or at least a warm up on that coffee and if I don’t see you before the holiday…
Have a wonderful, meaningful and blessed Thanksgiving.
The hard rain pelts the street like soft bullets that echo off the pavement. The wind howls and shakes the windows with impatient fury. The gutters have overflown, clogged with wet leaves and rivers have formed that rush past the house and down the block to who knows where.
We in in the midst of a mighty storm. It is the edge of a typhoon and it sure feels like it. Outside the weather rages but inside we are safe and dry; cozy in our little red house with the little white door. Mario the cat sits in a cardboard box, one he has claimed as his own. His ears are up and his eyes alert. I hear my daughter’s lovely little laugh in the next room and I smile.
MM is watching the news in yet another room. I can hear the newscasters excited voice. I am in the dining room writing down my thoughts as the chicken sits soaking in it’s teriyaki marinade.
I listen to the sound of the rain mixed with the radio in the kitchen; Riders On The Storm by The Doors. Oh how apropos. The evening is bathed in a certain coziness reserved for stormy nights such as this. It is good to be here in our happy little home.
Earlier today I dug out my sweaters and changed the sheets to flannel in anticipation of the changeover from warm to cold. I suppose I am jumping the gun but it just seems so right. We went shopping earlier and have stocked the cupboards and fridge with good and healthy food; stopping along the way by the farmer’s market in the rain for a bag full of yummy organic veggies seemed like the right thing to do.
It is the perfect night for a colorful stir fry accompanied by rice and freshly baked bread. A container of chocolate fudge ice cream awaits in the freezer. It calls to me: “Nancy remember me after dinner.” It’s cute little chocolaty voice is temporarily obscured by the nagging voice of the fridge saying; “Clean me you silly woman!” I ignore this and answer back to the ice cream: “I could never forget you.”
Besides the ice cream for desert, another round of Star Trek episodes in on tap for later. We have gotten a box set of the third season at the library and I am looking forward to watching it. There is a comfort to watching old beloved shows from my childhood and this classic Science Fiction is on top of my list of favorites.
There is something to be said for cozy comfort and the love of family…ah the joys of domestic bliss!
“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
I’ve been asked to provide some advice to a young couple expecting their first child, a girl, in a few months. I am honored to receive such a request and I thought I’d share my reply with you.
The light of your life
Parenthood changes you in ways you’d never imagine. You are one person one minute, probably sure of yourself and your place in the world with your own wants and desires. This is all you’ve had to worry about before: yourself. Then suddenly, it is not just you anymore and in that flash of an instant your whole world and the way you view things is altered. From the first moment you hold that tiny fragile body in your arms and look into those big trusting eyes you will never be the same.
When I was a new parent, I scoured endless parenting books and I received tons of solicited and unsolicited advice. I couldn’t get enough. I was never so unsure of myself and never so scared and so careful. This tiny life was depending on me and I swore I’d never this child down.
“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.”
~Marcus Tullius Cicero~
The very first thing I learned and I think it was the most important: this resonates to this day. Trust yourself. You know more than you think. You have instincts and you will know your child more than anyone. This will trump anything and whatever anyone will tell you.
As a mom to two teens, one who recently entered adulthood and is about to graduate from high school, I feel a certain pride of accomplishment that both of them still talk to me after all this. They trust me and I trust them. I suppose that is because I never lost sight of the fact that they are human beings with feelings just as valid as anyone else. I think some parents lose sight of this obvious fact.
No one is perfect
Never forget how you felt when you were a child. Bring this to the table when you deal with yours. She is her own person and will never quite be what you will expect. The only thing that you can expect is to be surprised…and you will be surprised. No one is perfect, your child not be and don’t expect it..no one is perfect.
As your child ages and her understanding increases share yourself. She will be curious and will want to know about you. Don’t set up your past life as one of perfection. She will feel that she’ll never quite live up to your legend and this will carry over. She will feel inadequate in some way and will never think she measures up in your eyes or hers..
Your child will value your opinion of them more than anyone else’s. Her self-esteem will be intricately tied up with that. Remember this. You as her parent will be the most important person in her life, especially in the first years when you will be her whole world.
Another piece of advice I have is to listen. Parents are full of opinions and talk and discipline, all this is vitally important but if your child doesn’t think you will listen and give her a fair shake, she will stop talking to you and once that trust is gone, it is almost impossible to get back.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Always follow up on any consequences you may give. Make no exceptions on this. Your child will always be testing you and pushing the limits. This is inevitable, don’t hold this against her. It is not personal, it is only human nature because she is only human….allow her to see your humanity as well. Your child will learn love and compassion from you. Lead by example not just by words. Kids notice more than you think they will and they have excellent memories.
I’d say the most important thing is love. You can never love your child too much. Time passes so quickly, spend time together…you will never get this time back. Savor every moment.
So as you two embark on this journey. Hold on for the ride of your lives…no matter what difficulties you may encounter; because I won’t sugar coat this, honestly; parenthood is tough. It will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do and it will test you and try you…but nothing will ever be as rewarding…or as worthwhile.
Here I am at the local dump amongst old unwanted things. The place reeks of decay. It is quite the surreal scene and there is much action going on. People dumping this thing and that. Workers busily compacting it all; pushing it aside for the next dumpload. I am here with my sister. We have reached that stage in life when you end up going through and cleaning out your parent’s stuff. It is a strange and bittersweet task that most of us will experience in our lives at one time or another.
We have a truckload of old junky things from the garage, nothing too sentimental or important; those things will come later, for now it is this. My sister is a wonder of a worker and she immediately gets busy throwing things onto our assigned section of a giant junk pile.
The Joy of Destroy
This is only my second time here but I have begun to enjoy it. Yes, it is loud and stinky and full of garbage that the birds fight over. It’s not those parts I enjoy. It’s the throwing out of things. It is a terrific stress reliever and its a lot of fun. I love to take an item; a thing…whatever it is; an old wooden chair, a mangled wicker basket, an ugly old lamp, whatever. I throw it in rather haphazardly with thump and a crash and sometimes a dull deep satisfying thud into a pile full of other people’s junk. I am not a violent person but I do admit this act of throwing things out is exhilarating and liberating too. At times it can be fun to break things…the sound, the feeling, the energy emitting from the very act. Molecules crashing into each other. My whole body shakes as I release piles and piles of pent-up stress and anxiety.
It is a rather freeing experience. All our lives we are taught to value and treasure things. It’s a bad thing to break them. Things are valuable. At one time someone paid good money for all this stuff; these very things that litter this gigantic open air warehouse which sits on the industrial end of the city. Now these things are unwanted junk and it feels good to destroy them.
I start to feel good. The sun is out. It is a nice day and I start to forget why I’m here.
This is a freeing experience but it is also a reflective one; all the while that I’m releasing all this pent-up aggression I am also watching myself throw out pieces of my past: the old white chair that sat in my parents room. I used to like to sit there, sing songs and talk to my Mom about all kinds of things when I was small about 5 and 6. It reminds me of those times…there goes my Dad’s old metal desk with a massive ka-boom! I remember the drawers being filled with pens and rubber bands. I remember him sitting there writing, stapling things. I recall the smell that his adding machine would give off when he used it. It seems like almost yesterday…there goes that ugly green lamp. It used to sit in the living room of the old house. I always hated that lamp, now I think I might miss it. It’s strange. All of a sudden I feel like taking it all back; the desk, the chair, the lamp. “I can save these things. I can fix them.” My thoughts race. I never put much stock in these things before but now, now as I watch these pieces of my past, these things and they are just things…as I watch myself throw them out one by one…I realise these are moments I’m tossing out, moments with loved ones that I’ll never get back. Now quite unexpectedly these things; these old pieces of junk have gained significance to me.
I admit I was tempted to keep some of that old junk but I didn’t. I couldn’t but I did keep something; I noticed it when we first got here. I had almost stepped on it. It is an odd thing to see at a place like this. A photo of a smiling and happy family. I don’t know who they are but it strikes me as lonely thing…this orphaned photo. Someone’s memories laid out there. Left behind. For some reason it made me feel better to snap a photo of it. To me, it’s like in some small way these people, whoever they are won’t be completely forgotten.
My Favorite Things
Since that day I have taken inventory of all the things I treasure most in the world ( my favorite things) and I’ve discovered that not one of them hold any real monetary value. These things I hold so dear, are representations of moments but it goes beyond that; to me, it’s as if a tiny drop of essence of the owner is left behind in the object. I can almost feel it. At least it makes me feel good to think I can.
One of my most recent treasured objects is a Buddha statue. It was my Dad’s. It sits on my nightstand. Whenever I look at it with it’s happy smiling expression, I think of him and I smile back.That feeling is priceless and could never be replaced by a million things.
I am big on childish fun. I live for it, so when I got the chance to visit the local amusement park recently, I jumped on it. Who doesn’t need a little fun and amusement every once in a while?
My daughter still allows me to accompany her to places such as this and amazingly at 14, she doesn’t seem as embarrassed by my presence as she should be. Maybe this is because I am a totally hip and happening middle-aged woman who is a laugh a minute and loads of fun to hang out with? Could it be that she is a kind soul who takes pity on her poor fun-starved mother…maybe it’s because I’m springing for junky carnival food and deluxe ride braclets?
Oaks Amusement Park is a quaint old-fashioned little park nestled among the trees in Sellwood, minutes from downtown Portland Oregon. Built in 1905 its sign proudly proclaims: “This is the place where the fun never ends…..”
This is the place for me!
Our fun started with greasy super bad for you corn dogs, loaded with fat and cholesterol and smothered with happy yellow mustard, accompanied by a nice tall cola, bubbling over with corn syrupy goodness. We sat in the sun and slurped up our unhealthy booty in silence. Aspie style, enjoying each others presence but not needing a lot of words.
After having our fill we did a short walkabout around the park. Mentally mapping out our itinerary.
We decided since we had just eaten all that junky food we should immediately go on The Spider; a ride that takes you way up in the air and spins you around.
This perhaps may not have been the smartest move…I realised this when we were dangling on top of the ride suspended in mid-air and all I could hear was blood curdling screaming: My daughter kept repeating over and over “It’s okay Mother, (she calls me Mother to annoy me) stop screaming. You are making my brain hurt.” And her brain did hurt and so did mine for the entire ride…
And then we were off to something a bit more my speed so I could relax and get my bearings before the next round.
I clung to that wooden horse for dear life and thanked my lucky stars that I was back on the ground…it was at this point I began to doubt my capacity for “amusement”. I felt queasy and I looked around for the next exit…and then I saw my daughter’s face beaming brightly in the hot afternoon sun and I realised what I knew already; I’d brave anything for her and no silly fears of mine would get in the way of our good time.
With a renewed vigor we set out for more excitement…I heard the whinny of a loud rock guitar…oh cool…my 80’s inner bratty teen emerged from the dusty corners of my memory and ran ahead toward the sound and the Rock and Roll ride. There we went around and around on a ‘57 Chevy to the musical stylings of White Wedding by Billy Idol which reminded me why I try to forget that strange decade…
Next up the Tilt-a-whirl: Here we are all set to go… Did I mention the spinning? Around and around and around…my poor stomach, an unwitting and reluctant guest, keep spinning along with us. I kept thinking about the greasy corn dogs and the soda and the spinning…
Needless to say it was another minor crisis nearly averted. My daughter lined up for another stab at it and I took the kiddie train for a nice leisurely toot toot around the park.
Then it was time for my daughter’s very favorite: The Scrambler. This is a popular ride and we had a wait a bit but it was well worth it.
We continued our fun throughout the afternoon, eating more junk ( Cotton candy and ice cream) and riding the rides. All and all it was a successful run and we are planning a return visit. Maybe next time I will brave the aptly named Screaming Eagle…and then again….???
I know this probably sounds a little strange but visiting the grocery store can be a rewarding and educational experience and yes, it is a bit thrilling. I suppose that it helps to play these things up because in reality grocery shopping can be one of those elements of the daily grind that can really grind one up. It’s a boring chore of the mundane that can drive anyone crazy. Since I’m a mom to two growing teenagers I am forced to go food shopping on an a constant basis.
I pride myself on my shopping prowess and I am quite the shopping cart driver. I can turn on a dime and I am faster than you’d think so get out of my way. I am on a mission here. I have no time for doubt or indecision. Get what you need and go. I have no time for slow pokes blocking the aisles. Long lost lovers reuniting, old people arguing about soup and especially the one’s who park right in the middle and disappear; leaving their cart to parts unknown. Those are the worst. I try to carefully move their cart out of the way and if they catch me at it I get the dirtiest looks, its like I am molesting their produce or something.. I am tempted to throw small and expensive items like scented pine nuts and organic razor blades into their carts in hopes they are forced to pay for them.
I suppose at times I can get somewhat territorial and a bit hostile. It is a jungle out there. And It’s everyone for themselves. I have seen acts of desperation and cowardice. I myself have been victimized, my thick wad of coupons stolen from under my nose along with my grocery list to add insult to injury. I have been hit up by crooked foodstampers who want to commit food stamp fraud with me, hit on by the Pepsi guy, insulted by the Cheetoes guy and screamed at by a small child who wanted my mint chocolate chip ice cream.
I have learned to be tough and ruthless. I have learned about double couponing and what happens when you bag up lavender scented snuggle dryer sheets with dove dark chocolate and, I have learned much about my fellow humans.
I liken it to a jungle and it is. It reminds me of a wildlife safari. Each part of the store is like a different habitat; each with its own ecosystem. The frozen food wastelands: the habitat of the eternal bachelor. He is easily identified by his bulging cart of frozen pizzas, canned chili and beer. The organic food section sprinkled with pale hipsters in their 30’s who bring their own burlap shopping bags with inspirational messages written on them. The lemon-scented cleaning product section: the lair of the harried mom ( you can find me between the Pine Sol and the Febreeze) and one of my all time favorite places; the colorful and the sugary, the cereal aisle! This is the place for everyone to embrace their inner child. Hey the Froot Loops box says it has more fiber. Who am I to argue?
So many spontaneous moments happen in the grocery store. It is the perfect place to see a cross-section of humanity. The strangest scenes will play out in the aisles and believe I’ve seen it all. It seems some people liken the grocery aisle to their dysfunctional living room and they will act accordingly.
I go to a chain store that advertises one-stop shopping. That makes it interesting because it causes some items to mix with others that should not mix; Ortho Lawn Be Gone and Kraft Macaroni and cheese with chain saws, diapers and 12 different kinds of olives, for example. Throw in a Starbucks, a deli, a bank, a optomistrist and a day care center and you have more than a store… you have a lifestyle.
It also makes for some interesting sights and it certainly can be a convenience for weary shoppers. Take furniture for instance; it is hard to turn down a nice soft sit down on a comfy new sofa showcased next to the Doritos and bean dip. It is a common occurrence to see shoppers sprawling out on the furniture. I’ve seen people reading books, eating a sack lunch and playing games on their phone. I’ve seen old men napping and a young mother nursing her fussy infant. It seems the store not only approves of this but encourages it with big screen Hi Def T.V.’s tuned to The Sports Channel with cases of cheap beer a scant few feet away.
Food shopping can be quite the experience, every trip is a new adventure. At the very least I’ll get the makings of tonight’s dinner and a wee bit of my money will be set free out there to swim with the others, reproduce and stimulate the economy. So.. Happy Shopping! It’s the American way and remember Buy Local. 😉
It seems most people are in a hurry these days, always on the run. A blur of activity. Many practically live out of their cars. Ferrying themselves and their children from here to there, from work to home, to school, to activities. What’s for dinner is decided in the drive thru of a fast food joint and eaten in the backseat by sleepy children after a much too long day filled to the brim with busy.
There is literally no time. No time for this or that. No time to talk..”gotta’ go”. No time to eat, let alone cook a healthy meal. No time to say hello, or good-bye. No time for family or friends, no time to read a book or take a walk. No time for improvement or creativity. Or fun? No time for love. No time to stop and smell the roses or appreciate a beautiful sunset.
No time to think, or reason or ask why. No time to see the man behind the curtain.
Time ticks by and every moment; every second is a miracle. It is a gift and most of us, myself included, just plow right through it. Always in a hurry. Always a full agenda. It can’t be helped, you know..I’ve said this to myself. People have responsibilities. I’m swimming in them and my life is full. Sound familiar?
How many times have you asked someone how they’ve been doing and your query was answered with “busy” How many times have you said that? I know I’ve said that.
It is the correct answer, most of us are busy. With jobs and families and everything else in this ever-changing ever evolving world. Our society becomes faster paced and more complex. The bar is set higher and higher and you better run faster and jump higher than the next guy because it’s a jungle out there.
Even when we are not busy, most of us say we are. Idleness is looked down upon. Busyness is related with importance. An important man is a busy one and his time is more valuable than yours, so you wait. The poor and insignificant spend a lot of time waiting.
Busy people are needed and wanted. Busy people are in high demand. It is those that are the movers and the shakers in this world. It is the busy ones that get things done. The busier you are the more important you are and the more valuable your time is.
In Praise of Slowness
There is much to be said for slowness in our fast-paced society. The fact that the very concept of “slow” is seen in a negative light shows our need for the benefits that slowness brings. It’s difficult to see clearly when your life in always in motion. Growth can only come with examination and reflection.
Life is not a road race or a competition. It’s the journey not the destination. Life is meant to be savored. The people in our lives are important, our children are important. You can do more for your child’s development and future success by talking and spending time with them rather than dragging them to a million activities and “enrichment” classes. Time spent together is essential. Years from now when we are old and running out of it time will any of us look back with rue and regret about how we didn’t spend enough of it at Busyness?
I am fresh from a round of parent teacher conferences, between my two wonderful teenagers, I have now attended 19 of them during my continuing career as involved parent. The last few have been “arena style”. This style has come into vogue as of the last few years and I believe it adds to the surrealism of the event.
Imagine a large space, perhaps a cafeteria or gymnasium. You are in the middle, surrounded by rows and rows of tiny desks. At each one is seated a teacher. Most are engaged in discussions with worry-faced parents. There is an air or solemn soberness. Most voices are hushed and not a wisp of laughter or small talk that usually accompanies large groups. No, this is not a social event, like Back to School Night. Like war, this is serious business and like war it is filled with short bursts of excitement mixed with long stretches of anxiety and boredom.
Every conference is unique unto itself and as the years pile on I have come to expect one thing; the unexpected. It is interesting to see your child, your beloved “perfect” child through the eyes of another. It can surprise you and as one who has been surprised a number of times, I can attest to that wholeheartedly.
These surprise have been varied and thankfully never life-threatening. Some in fact, a good number of them have been pleasant surprises. I am blessed with fantastic kids who have given me many occasions to swell with parental pride. However, I have experienced a time or two when I wanted to just sink right through the chair and disappear into the freshly polished checkerboard floor.
It is on these occasions that the past gets the bite on me and I am transported back to the 80’s, back to the days of big hair and bad taste. Back when I was a punky teen with an attitude and poor grades. It feels like I am getting “busted” for something and all I want to do is run.
But I cannot run, I am a “responsible” adult and I must face the fire. The fire being a stressed teacher with legitimate gripes about my child. I smile. I say all the right things, seemingly passing an untold test on the proper reaction to the given circumstances. I have always been cooperative and I have tried to not take any of this too personally but, at times I have felt the sting of the hot lights of interrogation which upon reflection, seemed a bit much.
I try to put things in perspective but it is at these worst of times that stick in my worried mind and anxiety tends to creep in every year at conference time. I have tried many methods to calm my nerves but really, all I can do at this point is to hold my breath, cross my fingers and hope for the best, and help pick up the pieces later.
I vowed to make this year different. I have found myself a bit more reflective since I have been writing in this blog these last few months and I’m realising that perhaps I have been projecting my old latent fears and struggles with school and authority figures from the past into now. This is coloring my attitudes with regard to my role in these conferences.
Usually one’s unfounded fears never materialise they way they are expected and this current round of conferences proved to be no exception to that. I took them for what they were, which was not so bad, really. I guess that holding my breath and crossing my fingers paid off, not to mention the hard work by my kids with a lot of nagging by me.
Number 18 went as smooth as can be. No interrogation or hot lights. The arena had been abandoned for a more intimate setting in indivdual classrooms. The report went well with progress made and hope for the future with an actual “A” mixed in….I was walking on air all the way to the next school and my date with number 19.
It was the end of a long morning, the sun shone through the cafeteria window drawing a bright beam of light across the stained linoleum. The teacher smiles and offers me a seat. We exchange pleasantries. He tells me that my daughteris self-directed and motivated and that she too, has shown progress. We spent the rest of the time having a pleasant conversation about books. Just two people; an energetic enthusiastic teacher and an involved parent having a talk about a mutually beloved subject.
It will be these conferences I will endevor to remember when it’s time for the next round. (with some finger crossing too.)
This is usually the magical time of the year when one or both of my kids bring home from school something they did not take there; this comes as the form of a virus that if not carefully contained infects the entire household.
It all starts with a cough, just one, then another and another. The coughs get deeper and deeper. I know, MM knows, we look at each other..”Oh no, not again.” We know the drill, It happens every year, flu shot or not.
We are lucky enough to work at home so it is no problem keeping our kids in when they are sick. This year it was my daughter who first fell victim. I kept her home for 4 days. She rested, took in lots of fluids and basically sat around waiting to get better.
On the morning of her last sick day I received a phone call from the school. To my surprise it was the school psychologist. She inquired about my daughter’s state of health. I told her that my she had been ill but that she was “getting better and that she would be returning the next school day”. The psychologist then, in a breezy offhand manner told me that “something was going around”… and then she became way too serious when she said that my daughter had stayed out longer than anyone else.
I was a bit surprised. 4 days? This warrants a call from the school psychologist?
I said what she wanted to hear and somehow I felt that I had barely passed some test of hers. We said our goodbyes and the next day I sent my still coughing daughter to school.
The words of the psychologist echoed in my mind and the more I thought about it the angrier I became. I thought back to the beginning of the year to a speech given by the Principal during Back to School Night. She was bragging up the school’s achievements from last year and justifiably so. My daughter’s school is fantastic, it is one of the best in the city and we are lucky to be able to have our daughter attend it.
It was something she said specifically about the school’s attendance record…”which was and still is…award-winning”?
Did I hear correctly? The schools compete with attendance records, the ones with the fewest absences “win”. What do they win? The winning school and apparently the winning principal get bragging rights, which I say are well deserved… but in hindsight I can’t help but wonder if the school is a bit over-zealous in their commitment to achieve perfect attendance.
I thought of my daughter and all the make up work she must do just to catch up. I think of all the valuable school days missed. School is important and the quality of her education suffers when she must miss school because of illness. However, I think my daughter’s health and the health of all the people in the school are more important than an attendance record. It seems that this prevalent attitude among the schools fosters a climate that encourages families to send their sick children to school where they infect others…and the cycle continues.
It is amazing how one small seemingly insignificant action or non-action can affect so many. One properly sick child can infect a roomful of people and through that action can affect so many more. We are all connected, even in sickness.
I realise that many people have to work and have no choice but to send their sick kids to school as well as coming to work with obvious illness themselves. Maybe an attitude adjustment would be appropriate for bosses and the bosses of bosses as well. Maybe an attitude adjustment for everyone, public school systems too.
We all know firsthand that sick people are not at their best and do not perform well, at school or on the job. Sick people make more sick people. This seems to have a snowball effect; making more people perform at sub par. It also turns people off. When the teller at the bank sneezes on my money or the grocery clerk coughs all over my celery, I’m turned off.
What I’m trying to say, in a long-winded round-about way, trying not to offend anyone but I need to say, really plead….You. (you know who you are) If you are sick and you are able to, please stay home. If your child is sick, try to keep him or her at home, If you can’t do that please wash your hands and do what you can not to infect everyone.
And in a personal note to one school psychologist; keeping my daughter home when she is ill is a consideration to you as well as everyone else.
And so to everyone: Have a great and healthy day! Strawberryindigo.
Hey you…Yes you..Can you hear me? I guess you don’t but I’m going to tell you anyway. Maybe someone smarter than you may listen and learn something….
We almost hit you today, my friend and I. We almost plowed right into you with his dark green Honda. You could have been seriously hurt or worse. You have no idea how close you came to getting your nice young red blood spilled all over the street.
If it wasn’t for my friend’s lightning quick reflexes and some kick ass breaks you would have been toast today.
I can imagine how your parents would have felt. You getting hit on your way to school, at the start of a new school year. Maybe they saw you off this morning, maybe they watched you with pride as you walked off to school. You are quite tall for your age, which I suspect is about 16. You with your dark hair and black clothes must have cut quite the figure as you walked off, navy blue backpack, jammed full of books on your back.
Being a parent of a 16-year-old myself, I understand how it’s hard to let go and trust that your kid is going to do the right thing. You teach what you can and hope for the best. I’m sure your parents taught you how to cross the street. I bet they told you to use a cross walk, look both ways and don’t just walk out into moving traffic. But yet this is just what you did.
You walked into oncoming traffic, without a care in the world…You never even looked up, or you would have seen us. You, stooped over with your hood covering the tell-tale white cord and ear buds of your IPOD.. you never even heard us, honking at you…you never heard the screech that the tires made as we stopped just in the nick of time. We came so close..you came so close, and you never noticed.
I wanted to stop and get out of the car and chase you down to give you a stern talking to. I wanted you to know how serious it all is, this life business. I’ve lived long enough to realise that life is fragile and fate can turn on a dime. One second of stupidity can make you pay big time for a lifetime.
I know you probably made it to school, the very same school my son goes to, you might even know him. And you probably made it safely home after school today as my son did. All the while never knowing how close you came to your life changing forever, and not just your life, but your parents lives, who most likely bought you that IPOD and would never forgive themselves for it, or the lives of your friends and family members who would miss you, not to mention, my friend who would have hit you, he never would have been the same either….
And so to anyone who is listening tonight…hug your kid a little tighter tonight, I will.
The other day I went and tripped around downtown with my teenage son. He’s 16 and I don’t know how much longer he’ll want to be seen with me, so I take advantage of these situations.
I led the way as I showed him where all “the cool shops” were. There was just one thing about that; all “the cool shops” I once went to were all gone..they existed twenty years in the past. I felt stupid and old at that point.
If that wasn’t enough; my famously poor sense of direction got us lost. We started wandering into uncharted territory. It was a park filled with young “business” people who were selling their “wares” all across the length of the park., it was obvious what was going on. I was glad that my “Suburban Mom” look deterred them from asking us if we wanted to “score” something from them.
As any good parent would do, I used the situation to preach against drug use. It was then we found a Starbucks! After having some caffeine and a realisation that I can be a hypocrite, we pressed on…
It was starting to get hot and technically we were still lost. My son is a great guy, I would have to say that because he is my son, but he is truly a one-of-a-kind special person. I wish I could take credit for this. In reality, I got lucky with him. I’m not just bragging him up for nothing. He has tremendous patience with his sometimes scatter-brained mom….
Now here we are, it’s getting hotter by the second. My son wants me to ask for directions, I refuse; stating over and over; “I have a good feeling about this, let’s go that way.” We go on and I’m starting to really feel the heat, all I had to eat was coffee all day and now its starting to take its toll…
I feel like a bad mother, dragging him around like this. I am sweating and I think I’m about to pass out when I see it.
What is “it”? you ask. A glittering oasis in the desert; An old school retro arcade! Yeah! This town rocks sometimes! It doesn’t take much to revert me back to kid again and this was no exception. It reminded me of the old days. Inside it was dark, hot and packed and I felt eleven all over again.
The change machine was broken but we found a few quarters. This is exciting to someone like me and my son could see it in my eyes, they practically pulsated as they darted from one game to another. We pass Frogger, Mr. and Ms. Pac- Man, We skirt the pinball machines and pass centipede and right over to the Mortal Kombat! Yes!
Now I will proceed to kick some @$$.. I won the first match. HA! My yellow guy beat his blue guy! I can see my son is surprised and a little impressed. That is almost impossible; A 16-year-old boy being impressed with his mom… watch out son…
Next round, he kills me, blood everywhere. What a mess. Next round, more killing.. I am dead, well, yellow guy is dead. I am looking for more quarters…
My son, being 16, is looking for the lunch I promised. I vow a re-match and we go and get some bad Chinese food at the mall.. and that is another story…What a great day!
Have you ever met someone who just appeared in your life, as if out of thin air and acted like they knew you forever. It’s like they we’re just sort of deposited on your front porch and poof…They’d always been there? Well, with Jacky it’s like that. I guess I should let you know that Jacky is a cat. A remarkable cat, that’s for sure.
We first met him on the third of July. He impressed me by his friendliness, he seemed to really like us. He made M.M. his first acquaintance, which is not surprising. what was so surprising was his intensity. At that time, we of course did not have a name for him, or even knew he was an him. Let’s call him “that cat” for now.
I will give him this; he is an attractive animal, that cat. He is white with honey cream-colored markings on this head and tail. His bright azure eyes truly are striking. He makes quite the picture.
We had just returned from a much-needed vacation. We were away for five days. He must have appeared on the scene during that time. It was late afternoon and my nerves were on edge. Sudden booms, it’s like World War Three around there on the third of July. I needed a distraction…and there he was, a shock of white, running across the street away from the crazy neighbors screeching kid. He looked scared out of his wits. I knew I must help him.
I enlisted the help of M.M.. We braved the artillery together (How sweet) M.M. sang out “Here, Kitty, Kitty…” The cat looked at him and ran to him for dear life, not even slowing a bit to look behind him. M.M. scooped him up like it was nothing and the cat instantly relaxed. We took him inside.
Luckily, It being the day it was. Our two cats who off hiding in the bushes nowhere to be found. And except for the old pug, there was no other animal around to make the cat feel unwelcome.
The humans adored him instantly. My daughter, who is thirteen and a devout cat lover, squealed in delight. My son, who’s a bit older, was a little cooler about the cats appearance, but I could tell he was intrigued. I being who I am, knew that the cat was new in the neighborhood. We asked around and one of our saner neighbors told us the cat had been hanging around for days, everyone had a name for her, (He thought the cat was a her) but no one wanted her. His own kids wanted the cat but he was allergic, he suggested I keep her. Knowing what a sucker I am for cats.
We fed him friskies and he was ours.
He slept for days, waking only to eat and drink water out of the bathroom tap. I guess he’s one of those, I’d seen cats like that before. I had one once that was fascinated by water, couldn’t get enough of it…it was the first of his many quirks that time would reveal. The days passed without a lot going on. My crazy neighbors were out-of-town and a calm descended over the ‘hood.
The four of us deliberated during that time and my son came up with Jack Daniels, yes he did… To me, he looked like a Jacky. We settled on Jacky, Daniels being his official last name, told to those on a need to know basis.(aka his friends at school.)
Our two cats were suspicious to say the least. Mario didn’t know what was going on. I know he felt bad. He just sulked for days, sleeping under the desk in the office. Poor Mario. Sunny, or as she is known; Santino, kept her cool and out-of-the-way.
Everything started to return to normal. Mario perked up and Santino stayed herself. The crazy neighbors had returned, I could hear them screaming, as I said, everything was returning to normal. Except for one thing. I could hear a voice… it was….”Here Kitty Kitty, Here Lucky” Who’s Lucky? I thought and dismissed it from my mind.
Jacky stayed out all night, we didn’t see him all morning and then…the screetching, the kids.. it’s all happening again… And there’s Jacky, a shock of white running away from the crazy neighbor’s kid and right toward me. I scooped him up and stroked his fur. He was freaked out, poor thing and he was hungry, he ate, drank the water from the leaky tap and settled in to sleep.
This might become a problem, I thought… I was right.
The next morning while I was watering my roses, the crazy neighbor’s much older kid, let’s call her Sally, comes up to me and asks me if I’ve been feeding that white cat. I reply without beating an eyelash, “You mean the cat we adopted?” She looked as stern as you can be and I must admit, I was a bit scared. She’s a bigger girl than I am. Plus I’m a big chicken. This did not show though, I’m good at that. I didn’t know what happened to her. (her again) She breaks out in a fragment of a sentence. I return a fragment myself..
It was one word. Turmoil. “What”? She asks, confused. I yell, “Turmoil!! And walk away.. this could get ugly. I start to regret taking the cat in and then I think…He is counting on me to save him from them. I must help him. The cute little guy with his charming debonair smile. I can’t let him down….