Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tossing Bottles. A Small Memoir.

The other day, I was thinking over elementary school, trying to search for something I could turn into a metaphor for something smart I could say about school. I didn't find my metaphor, but I did remember this:

When I was in fifth grade, our playground was right next to a sewage pond. Actually, it didn't stink or anything, but it was some sort of water reclamation pond which periodically was covered in green algae, and as weird little kids who liked to make people believe that we thought we were Martians, it fascinated us to no end. At times, after eating our sack lunch, we would take those little milk-jug shaped bottles that came with foil over the top filled with colored and flavored sugar water, put notes inside them, rubber band a sandwich bag over the top, and send them flying over the chain link, above the barbed wire at the top, and into the sewer pond. This was before schools hired separate playground monitors. The teachers on duty were hungry and tired.

How many fruit drink bottles did we send into the slime-covered pond, us wearing our antennae headbands and cackling like maniacs? And what did the notes say?

After touching base with a friend who was one of our Martian leaders, she reminded me that the notes were cries for help. "I'm stuck in the sewer! Send help!" We were hoping they'd float up into someone's toilet bowl one day.

We knew this made no sense, yet we flung away.

(revised 2/22/13)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Poem


I haven’t found my Valentine.
I married, yes, and I married for love
but the Valentine of the cards will never be.
No matter the nights skin-to-skin,
toe-to-stump, hand to belly fat,
cheek to chin, the cologned whiskers
tickling my neck, the tongued
lovelies sending me skyward.
No matter the quiet solitary moments
you give me by disappearing and
taking the children with you,
the slowly blossoming hours
in which I wander, work, write.
No matter the solidity of your presence
the unstated, loyal warm mass
of your strength buoying me through.
All of these things I love about you.
But they are not a Valentine.
All of the things I love about you are real.
Being real, they are soiled and travel-stained
with the journey of life and all its mishaps,
all its passions, all its lost tempers,
the messes and scattered debris of days.
A Valentine does not live.  A Valentine
sits statically through days, behind the glass of
the shadowbox of life, a muscular silhouette
dipped in chocolate, starched lace and
Heart-shaped paperboard.
You are not my Valentine
But something warmer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What if? Stories from School

What if?

Asking this question frees us from the rut of continually analyzing the failings of a system and opens up possibilities.

In my most recent Stories from School blog entry, I explore the idea of teachers having administrative assistants.  Why not?  (Okay, I know why not.  $.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Friend and Her Earth Helpers

Please take a few moments and read about my friend Heather and her efforts to create a more sustainable household through solar energy and other lifestyle changes:

I'm sure her boys were super-excited to be featured in the article.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sick of Being Sick

I am sick of being sick.

I've missed four days of work, and only have one sick day left after today.

Until yesterday, I couldn't even imagine a day of waking up without a completely stuffed head and drowned ears and the desire to continue sleeping for another three hours.

Today, my kids woke up with it.  The crud.  The crud with little white pustules deposited on the tonsils.  "Just a cold," according to the pediatrician.  The Cold from Outer Space.

I don't think I make a very good patient.  I want special treatment constantly, which I rarely get because for the most part I'm still in charge of taking care of everyone else in the household.  This round, my kiddos made me canned chicken noodle soup one night, with saltines.  A desiccated hot dog and under-reheated ranch beans the next. Still, I managed most of my motherly duties besides two dinners.  Not to mention writing sub plans in the wee hours of the morning each day as I realized I would not be going in to work.  Which only heightened my anger at figuring out that the sub didn't even carry out most of the plans.  No, I don't make a good patient.  I either am not allowed to let go and resign myself to illness, or I don't allow myself.  A combination of the two.

Illness is never real until I am in it.  As much as I know it sucks to be sick, I still can't conjure up the realities of disease unless they are within me, or just before me, or unless I am cleaning up after them.  And I resent illness in myself so much, that I'm sure the feelings unconsciously follow into my feelings when others are sick.

Once, early in our marriage, Rich had surgery and was in a wheelchair for two months. I believe I was a good caretaker, but I think my attitude must have been wrong, because by the fifth or sixth week of putting the wheelchair in and out of the trunk, and fetching and emptying what became affectionately known as his "pee pee cup," my temper ran short.  I suppose I don't have so much patience, even when someone is completely at the mercy of my care.

I'm terrible about visiting people in the hospital.  I figure, if I wait a little bit longer, maybe they'll be improved the next time I see them. I know that this is completely the wrong attitude.  The "correct sentiment" (as Rich sometimes terms it when he is reminding me not to be unreasonable) is to visit when people are the neediest, the loneliest, afraid and uncomfortable and wounded.  To show them that we care.  I do care.  I do.  But I am not equipped for these moments.  Perhaps it is some kind of emotional deficiency within me.

And here is the sad and completely hypocritical thing:  I would love someone to visit and bring me tea and leave it steaming on my nightstand while I sleep off a dose of cold medicine.  I would eat that up. There have been many times in my life when I have felt needy, and friends have come forward to coddle me. I know the value of special treatment, and yet, I am still deficient in action.

I suppose that this little strain of hypocrisy within me leads me to also be a self-loathing sick person.  And so,   as a needy, self-loathing, restless and overcommitted sick person, yes.  I get sick of it fast. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


So, the following happened:

I pulled into the driveway after a nighttime run to the pharmacy.  Before I even open my car door I hear the yowling of cats, you know, those love-cries that can keep you awake at night.

There are headlights somewhere off to my right in my neighbor's driveway.  I get out of the car, and notice a small pick-up truck is inching its way down the street, kind of pulling over.  Then it veers left so that it is perpendicular to the street, with its headlights in some bushes.  It sits there for a moment.  Then honks.  Pulls back, straightens, and continues inching forward, veering to the right as though the driver either wants to park or perhaps attempt another u-turn.  Brake lights.  At this point I'm assuming the driver is drunk.  The yowling continues.  I'm fascinated by the surreality of it all.  Then, the truck stops, and a fat old woman with a headwrap gets out of the pickup and walks toward the other side of the road where the small scraggly hedge is.  She moves slowly.  Bends over, picks up a large river rock from the landscaping (not her house) and throws it at the ground a few feet in front of her.  Then she does it again.

Is she throwing four-inch river rock at the cats?  I can't tell, but I suspect it.

At this point, I am hurrying to get my door unlocked and get into the house.