Monday, July 31, 2006
I Am Not A Political Blogger.One of my college boyfriends was diagnosed with cancer. The tumor was small, at first, and the doctors tried to treat it with medication. This did not work, so the doctors tried more aggressive treatments; the goal was still to remove the tumor without harming the rest of the body.
This tumor would not go away. It persisted in its hold on the man, and the more doctors tried to shrink it or remove it, the more it debilitated the man: the more it weakened him. He died, and the doctors honored his request that he have an autopsy.
Upon looking closely at and into the body, the doctors realized that if they had gone aggressively into the tumor right at the beginning, and forcibly carved it out before it put out feelers and roots and infiltrated the body completely, the man would have lived.
You see, that tumor really didn't care anything about the man himself; it cared about the man only in as far as the man could be used as food and as a home base for the tumor. It cared about the man only because the man's resources helped the tumor grow strong. The tumor cared only about itself; it became more than a parasite: it became the focal point of the man's body.
As long as the doctors tried to treat the whole body of the man by focusing on one small intruder, the man perished. If the doctors had treated the whole body of the man by removing the tumor instead of trying to appease it, the man would have lived.
I am not a doctor, but if I am ever invaded by a pernicious tumor, I want it cut out and burned, not appeased with first one thing and then another, trial and error. No patting a soothing medication on it in hopes that it will go away. No pretending it's not there in hopes that it will go away by itself. No numbing it so it can't actively DO anything although it's still there to intimidate the useful body parts. I want it removed and burned, so the fear is gone, and the tension is gone, and the stress is gone, and the other body parts can heave a sigh of relief and go on with their rightful business.
Analogy? Why, no. It's about a malignant tumor, and its potential to destroy a human being completely if it's not forcibly removed by someone trained to do so.
Why, what were YOU thinking?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Crumbs. Monsters and Crumbs. And Evil Demon-Possessed Toasters.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.
Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9'er, you are cleared for take-off.
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Captain Oveur: Roger!
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
Captain Oveur: What?
Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324.
Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.
Tower voice: Over.
Captain Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: Roger, over!
Roger Murdock: What?
Captain Oveur: Huh?
Victor Basta: Who?
(It's the 1980 version of 'Who's On First.')
Where Are They NowOne of my former students has just been hired as a principal at our local high school. I know she will be wonderful; she was a lovely hardworking delightful student and she has retained these qualities, plus many more positive attributes, as she grew into the fantastic adult she now is. I worry about her welfare a little, because this school isn't famous for its fair and reasonable treatment of its students or its employees, but maybe this young woman will turn it all around and make it into the fine enhancer of learning that all schools could be if their administrators cared about something other than their absurdly high salaries, company cars, PR, standardized tests, politics, and perks. I am rooting for you, dear former student, and I know you can do it. I've always known.
What else are my former students up to these days? Check out this one.
I'd best stop now, because if I don't, I never will. Sources of immense pride are all around me.
Individuals CAN make a difference. These two are making the world a better place for us all.
Animal InstinctThere is a knack to teaching middle and high school students that some teachers never quite learn. I'm not sure it can be learned; it might be an art, a talent one must have at birth. For want of knowledge of this art's actual name, I will call it 'the knack.'
I have seen many teachers fail at the secondary level, because they just simply did not have 'the knack.'. I have seen a lot of excellent, successful elementary teachers fail at this level, because they did not have 'the knack.'
It's easier to do at the upper high school level, because some of those students are more mature than some adults I've known. But at the middle school level, and the lower high school levels, it's harder to do, and even more important to do it.
Once in middle school, students are no longer 'children.' Oh, we know they still are, but don't make the mistake of treating them as you would treat a fifth-grader.
Never talk to older students as you would talk to younger ones.
A teacher can lose an entire group of seventh-graders simply by referring to them as 'boys and girls.' I've seen entire classes turn against a teacher because he/she used a tone of voice that connoted 'elementary.' I've seen principals wonder all year why the students disliked him/her so much, and it was all because of a condescending remark made on the first day of school, that the adult doesn't even remember but every student knows by heart.
Never talk down to older students. Or younger ones either, for that matter.
Put simply, talk to older students as THEY THINK you talk to other adults. And put simply, that's not simple.
It is possible to talk to an older student about very serious matters, or matters that are actually frivolous but which are important to the student, in a tone of voice that tells the pre-teen or teen that you consider them capable of reasonable judgment, and that you respect what they have to say. Two teachers can say the exact same thing and one of them will succeed while the other antagonizes and infuriates the student.
There is some kind of internal attitude inside each teacher, and the least astute kid in the entire school can pick up on it.
Being a good teacher is hard work, exhausting and nerve-wracking. Loving kids isn't enough to be a good teacher. Being organized isn't enough. Being passionate about one's subject isn't enough. Being a member of Mensa isn't enough. Having been an excellent student oneself, isn't enough. Ditto on having been a poor student. Having kids of your own isn't enough. Wanting desperately to have kids of your own isn't enough. Having had an excellent teacher in one's past isn't enough. Having had a terrible teacher in one's past isn't enough. Being the favorite Aunt or Uncle to tons of nieces and nephews isn't enough. Combinations of these things aren't enough.
Oh, those are excellent parts of a teacher's background, yes. Definitely. But alone or in any combination, they are not enough.
To be able to deal with secondary students, to be able to communicate and earn their respect, a secondary teacher has to have the right kind of internal attitude.
Can't some of you still instinctively know when someone is sincere? Do you still have that radar detector in your brain that tells you when somebody can be trusted? Pre-teens have this instinct, and it's sharp and clear and laced with brand-new hormones, a big hunk of 'fear of the unknown,' and an intense desire to be accepted.
A good teacher must understand the pack instinct of teens, and be good at intervening, listening, and helping them to realize that it's not the best way to live. Some cliques at this level can be brutal; a good teacher watches for such things like a hawk and simply does not permit it
in his/her classroom. A good teacher must have shock absorbers in his/her heart, because some of the things older kids will tell them are real zingers. A good teacher knows how to speak the "language: of all the different social groups within the system. (A REALLY dedicated teacher is bilingual.) A good teacher knows how to encourage individuality and creativity, and be able to stand firm when a student or his parents try to buck the system and gain privileges which that student did not personally earn. Other students know when this happens. Word gets out, and it gets out fast.
Good teachers are probably just a tad on the schizo side, because every time the bell rings, they have to shake off one personality and put on another. No two classes are alike, and a good teacher will not try to teach them in the same way.
It goes without saying that a good teacher will not compare a student with his/her older brother or sister, even favorably. Each student stands, or falls, on his/her own merit and work habits. Students respect that, even when they try to sway the teacher. They know that some teachers are easily swayed, more's the pity. (The good teachers aren't.)
Secondary teachers, the good ones, know how to talk to the students as the students think one adult talks to another. Read that sentence carefully, for it does not say that a good teacher talks to the students as one adult to another.
Some teachers will not agree with me. That's fine. All I know is, those things worked for me, and for several other teachers that I know.
I'll add this, too: A good secondary teachers keeps up. He/she knows what the students are reading, and what they're watching, and what they're listening to, and who. This is absolutely vital at this level. If you are conversing with a secondary student and that student happens to drop the name of a band and tells you this band is his/her idol and he/she adores them, and you don't know ahead of time that this band advocates drugs and violence and kinky sex, and that the lead singer has been arrested for DUI and CDM several times, something ignorant such as "Oh, me too, aren't they awesome?" might be said. And any teacher who doesn't know ALL about MySpace has no business at either the elementary OR secondary level. Check that stuff OUT, because I'll tell you what, your students sure are.
All of these things, and more, can be done if a teacher has that internal attitude, the right attitude, the one that can't be detected by anyone except a teenager. Sometimes, other teachers sense something different about a really good teacher, and there are occasional clashes. Age has nothing to do with it; some of the very best teachers are 110 years old if they're a day, and some of the least savvy ones are 25.
Middle school kids are the greatest; I loved teaching that age level. Teachers who tell you that those grades are a nightmare just didn't do it right. Such statements are unkind, and untrue.
I am not, of course, referring to NASTY SPOILED BRATS WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN REQUIRED TO BEHAVE PROPERLY IN PUBLIC, but that is their parents' responsibility and fault. They should arrive at school already knowing how to behave. But I've ranted about that too much already. . . . .
Good parents always go to parent-teacher conferences, of course. While you are there, see if you can dredge up some of that adolescent attitude detection you used to have. Check out your kids' teachers.
I'm not saying to sniff them all over like a dog, but wouldn't it be cool if we could? Heh.
At any age, we could all use (to paraphrase Hemingway) a good, built-in shock-proof shit detector.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Friday, July 28, 2006
My Name Is Inigo Montoya. You Killed My Father. Prepare To Die.
Internet: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I getting all these emails? Where is our common sense?
Mamacita: Let me 'splain. [pause] No, there is too much. Let me sum up. A few homeschoolers interpreted a post as an attack on their methodology and lifestyles, when in truth many of their children are bright and ambitious and successful. Most bloggers seem to believe that limiting a child’s education is bad, and I have to turn in my grades in a little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is agree to disagree, shake hands, stop fighting, and concentrate on our kids, not our egos, after I eat this sandwich.
Internet: That doesn't leave much time for dilly-dallying.
Mamacita: You just made a positive statement! That's wonderful.
Internet: I've always been a quick study. What are our liabilities?
Mamacita: There is but one working castle gate, and it is guarded by many opinionated people who mean well but who will occasionally misinterpret a well-meaning blog post.
Internet: And our assets?
Mamacita: Our brains, our strength, our children.
Internet: I mean, if we only had a common goal, that would be something.
Mamacita: Where we did we put those photos of our children?
Internet: Over by the bedstand and all over the refrigerator, I think.
Mamacita: Well, why didn’t you list those among our assets in the first place?
Everyone: Give us the gate key.
Government: We have no gate key.
Everyone: All together then, tear their arms off!
Government: Oh, you mean THIS gate key.
Impressive Politician: Edumacation. Edumacation is wot bwings us togevah, today. Edumacation, that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam . . .
Mob: (Burn those books, boys. Curtail exposure to all which we personally do not desire!)
Impressive Politician: And wuv, twu wuv, will fowow you foweva, and evah. . .
Mob: Skip to the end! I want to see those SCORES!
Impressive Politician: So tweasure your wuv. . . .
Mob: Skip to the END!
Impressive Politician: Have you the wesults?
Mob: Testing and scores, Say ‘testing and scores!’
Impressive Politician: Testing and scores.
Mob: Ha! Your pig philosophy is too late!
Miracle Maxim: Bye bye, kids. Have fun storming the system!
Union: Do you think it’ll work?
Miracle Maxim: It’d take a miracle.
Bad Parent: You’re very smart. Shut up. Oops, I didn’t mean to jog him so hard.
Child: Where am I?
Stern Voice: The Pit of Despair. Don’t even think about trying to escape. The rulebook is far too thick. Don’t dream of being rescued, either; that’s a secret. Only the principal, the governor, and your mother know how to get in and out, and your mother can't pick you up until six thirty.
Child: So I'm here till I die?
Stern Voice: Or until you pass the big test, yeah.
Child: Then why bother filling the vending machines with healthy food, doing away with recess, art, music, and PE, and making me sit next to a crazy kid with a foul mouth and a big knife?
Stern Voice: Well, the government and the non-voters always insist on everyone being healthy before they’re broken.
Child: So it’s to be torture? I can cope with torture. Don’t you believe me?
Stern Voice: You survived Pre-K and Kindergarten, so you must be very brave, but no one completely withstands the STANDARDS. But I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top.
Child: That’s VERY comforting, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.
Stern Voice: I hate waiting. I could give you my word as a Politician.
Child: No good. I’ve known too many Politicians.
Stern Voice: Isn’t there any way you would trust me?
Child: Nothing comes to mind.
Come on now, people. We all want what is best for our children. You do what you think is best, I'll do what I think is best, and everyone else can do what they think is best. And those of us with blogs will continue to post opinions.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Because I Can.
Wah Wah Waah WaWah Wah, and You Know Who You Are.
This is probably what I sound like to some of my students. Maybe I could just use this test next Tuesday night, for our final exam.
I hope my students are reading Chapter 18 and studying all those examples of various citations.
You know, jaywalking, passing on the left, and other misdemeanors. . . .
Citation is a very versatile word. Look it up: some of its meanings contradict each other. I love it when a word's meaning is dependent on its context. It makes me think.
Context. That's on the test, too.
Now is the time on Scheiss Weekly where Mamacita gets mean. I will probably delete this one when I cool down a little, but right now, I am venting.
My previous post was never meant to condemn homeschooling. Please read it more carefully before "you" send me emails that contain faulty logic and accusations. And because you didn't proofread your message, I'm posting this:
I have nothing but respect for someone who merely wishes to discuss POV in an intelligent good-natured way, but the two guys who emailed me this morning and blasted me with badly-spelled tirades and paragraphs that were not coherent, are just asking for it. I guess English Grammar was one of the courses you "gentlemen" considered useless in high school, so you're not making your kids learn it, either, eh?
This next one is for the woman who emailed me and told me that her sons NEVER needed to learn to read or write, and if she wants them to know something, she will just tell them. Literacy was but one of Satan's tools for leading the unwary into the abyss. I think she meant abyss. Phonetically, "abis" sounds the same. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt.
And this last one is for the woman who told me that even though her homeschooled son was the only one in his class, so to speak, his bedroom wall is papered with ribbons, buttons, and certificates, and his bookshelf is covered with trophies. I'm sorry, ma'am, but I must disagree that these things represent self-esteem. They don't represent anything at all.
To those homeschoolers who honestly want their children to have a good education, I salute you. Most of you are opening doors of wonder for your children that they might not otherwise ever experience. Some of your emails were very interesting and well-thought-out. A person who does not fear a little lively debate is my kind of person. I thank you.
To the woman who doesn't want her sons to learn to read or write: I hope CPS knocks on your door and takes your boys away, tonight.
To the two gentlemen whose lack of grammatical skills, insistence on using single letters instead of whole words (who du u think ur, neway) and inconsistent use of all lower case or ALL CAPS made my eyes water: Come back when you learn to spell. The way you both write, it's hard to believe you've got school-age kids.
And please, read a post carefully before you go screeching all over my email over some imagined slight.
It's all about the context. Now, go read Chapter 18.
Context. Don't make me cite you.
"What would you like to do, laddie?"
"Norman Reese said in school to-day that he would like to tie the Kaiser to a tree and set cross dogs to worrying him," said Bruce gravely. "And Emily Flagg said she would like to put him in a cage and poke sharp things into him. And they all said things like that. But Mrs. Blythe" Bruce took a little square paw out of his pocket and put it earnestly on Anne's knee. "I would like to turn the Kaiser into a good man, a very good man, all at once if I could. That is what I would do. Don't you think, Mrs. Blythe, that would be the very worstest punishment of all?"
"Bless the child," said Susan, "how do you make out that would be any kind of a punishment for that wicked fiend?"
"Don't you see," said Bruce, looking levelly at Susan, out of his blackly blue eyes, "if he was turned into a good man he would understand how dreadful the things he has done are, and he would feel so terrible about it that he would be more unhappy and miserable than he could ever be in any other way. He would feel just awful and he would go on feeling like that forever. Yes," Bruce clenched his hands and nodded his head emphatically, "yes, I would make the Kaiser a good man, that is what I would do; it would serve him 'zackly right."
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
I Think I Figured It Out
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
My Brain Is Full.I've been all over the blogosphere today, reading education blogs, clicking on their blogroll links for other education blogs, and just generally pretending I was in the teachers' lounge sharing with my peeps. I'm reading the blogs of public school teachers, private school teachers, homeschooling parents (all parents are teachers, unless they're bad parents. . . .) pre-k teachers, post-secondary teachers, retired teachers, disgruntled teachers, whiny teachers, happy teachers, frighteningly ignorant teachers who can't spell 'cat,' old teachers, young teachers, new teachers, experienced teachers. . . .and now I feel smarter, happier, sadder, dumber, more hopeful, less hopeful, disgusted, enlightened, puzzled, knowing, grateful, selfish, generous, judgemental, less judgemental, mortified, enriched, and head-shakingly amazed.
Before you read on, please understand that I am NOT against home-schooling. I have several dear and precious friends who homeschool, and they do a fantastic, superior job. I respect them completely, and I would bet money, if I had any, that their kids could outdo almost any other kid their age, and older, even. I do, however, have problems with families who homeschool so their kids can be shielded from the world, instead of prepared to live in it productively, culturally, wisely, and with knowledge of its wonders and ALL KINDS of people, and without the encouragement to delve and explore and question and find out everything possible in one lifetime.
Here is something I read in several places and it bothers me a LOT: Several blogging parents, all homeschoolers (and that's a coincidence, I'm sure; I don't mean to put down homeschoolers as a group. . . .) wrote that one reason they homeschooled their kids was that when they, themselves, were in school, they were forced to take courses they didn't like, and that they knew (ahead of time) that they'd never use. THEIR kids would only be taught useful things that were enjoyable and approved of by the children themselves.
What the heck? Who is the adult in these homes?
Whatever happened to "knowledge for knowledge's sake?" I find this attitude appalling. Horrible.
I hated algebra, too, but I know it. I don't like it, but I know it. Am I a better person for knowing it? Yes, I think I am. Do I ever use it? No. But does that mean I wasted my time learning it? Absolutely not. Nothing learned is ever wasted. The world is full of things to be learned. The universe is full of wonders, waiting to be discovered. Will we find them if we hand-pick our curriculum, leaving out anything that looks hard or boring, or that Mom doesn't like? No, we won't. I counted four or five of these parents who knew even down in high school that they would be mothers, and nothing else, and therefore all this science and math and geography, etc, was a waste of their time.
I'm sorry. These are bad teachers, and bad parents. To limit a child's access to knowledge is a SIN. And to let a little kid dictate what will or will not be done in a household is to relinquish the reins as the adult authority figures. These houses are a joke.
Of course, there are scores of bad teachers in our schools, too. Tons. We've all had them.
I doubt that a really bad teacher would bother to keep a blog; most of the teacher-blogs I've visited today were written by obviously intelligent dedicated people. Teachers who have nothing to rant and vent about are not doing a very good job; there is much to be frowned at in this world and to ignore it, or treat it as if it didn't exist, is to NOT be doing your job properly. Sometimes, teachers rant and vent where they safely can, because shrinks are expensive, and we see so much heartbreak, heartache, frustration, and injustice that if we DIDN'T vent, we'd explode. Or perhaps, implode.
Some people think that teachers who rant and vent must hate their jobs, hate kids, hate schools. . . . listen to that guy complain; he must be in it for the paycheck and the summers, etc.
More often than not, the teachers who rant and vent do so because they have to live with the injustices and ridiculousness and meaningless rules and inequalities and downright lies from authority figures who are supposed to tell the truth to both children and other adults because, dammit, authority figures are supposed to be BETTER THAN WE ARE. Isn't that why and how they are in charge? And parents are SUPPOSED to want their kids to learn things, aren't they? Shouldn't it be a source of pride, not fear, when a child comes home with new ideas?
Even as an adult, learning the truth is not easy on our sensibilities, our consciences, or our nervous systems. Disillusionment takes its toll.
No, those quiet, no-wave-making teachers are not the good ones.
To an administrator, the quiet, no-wave-making teacher looks pretty darn good. No questions, no politics, no opinions. . . . just a person coming to work, doing his/her job, and going home. No personal involvement. Just a stolid word-for-word following of the objectives, standards, and rules of the school. The kids don't know his/her first name, or anything about this kind of teacher. He/she just goes to work and goes back home. You know, as if the school were a factory and the kids were a product. After three thirty, this kind of teacher goes home and puts it all out of his head till the next day. This kind of teacher wouldn't recognize his/her students if he/she met them on the street. Certainly he/she wouldn't remember a name.
I'm sorry. That's not how good teachers are.
While it is not exactly necessary to know a teacher's favorite pizza topping or facts about his/her college days, I think it's important that older students know a little something about where the instructor is coming from. How is this done? I don't know. It's different for everybody.
And it is vital that the teacher know as much about each student as is possible. Heck, I knew where my students lived, and who their parents were, and who their siblings were, and what their favorite color and cola and pizza toppings were. I still have a mental image of seating charts; even now I can picture my students in their assigned seats, and recognize the sound of their voices. I was not, however, overly concerned about a student's test scores from previous years. Oh, I looked at them, but from my point of view, each year was a new start. Kids change a lot in a summer's time, and many a failing student becomes a good student almost overnight. And vice versa. Never give up. Never lose hope.
In an ideal world, all things being equal, absolute justice would be perfection. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, and while all things have equality of opportunity (which is what we are promised, actually; anyone who thinks all people are 'equal' is not paying attention; we are not equal nor should we be. It's the opportunity that's supposed to be equal, not the people.) the sad truth is, that not everybody can go where those opportunities are. The best we can try to achieve is perfect justice, not absolute.
In "Les Miserables," a good man who stole a loaf of bread to try and save the life of a starving child, was labeled "thief," and sentenced to prison. His motives were not important. Absolute justice. One who steals is a thief. A thief is a criminal. Criminals endanger society; therefore, we must put them away where they can't hurt anyone. Absolute justice.
You don't have to be very smart to understand absolute justice.
It happens in our schools and society every day.
If Jean Valjean had been given perfect justice, he would have received a lighter sentence, a warning perhaps, a lecture, and the judge would have then spoken sternly to the observers about how desperation will sometimes drive a decent intelligent being to deeds they would not ordinarily have done, for a greater good. He stole, yes. But he stole to try and save a life. That's not the same thing as stealing for profit or gain.
I've lost my train of thought.
I guess what I mean is, absolute justice would work if everyone and everything were equal in all ways. Everyone is judged on the same criteria and set of expectations, and if they are not met, the same consequences are meted out to all. Motivation would not matter. In a perfect world.
In the area of behavior, barring 'criminal activity,' I would hold everyone to the same standard. Behave. Period.
In the area of achievement, some perfect justice would be in order. Not in the category of "less for some, more for others," necessarily; maybe more in the category of "put people in homogeneous groups so they might learn more easily and not feel rushed or forced to 'keep up' or 'not look ahead.'"
Eh. I'm confusing myself.
That's what I get for reading serious stuff and listening to Les Miserables at the same time.
Then again, if Jean Valjean had been shown mercy, a la perfect justice, he would never have built the big factory, given all those poor street beggars paying jobs and some self-respect, taken in Cosette and raised her, or saved the life of the man who was crushed by the runaway cart.
Maybe absolute justice is the goal, and we must use perfect justice as our means to get there. I dunno. A society without mercy is a sick society. But it seems as though the people getting the most mercy are those who deserve it least.
My brain is full. May I go now?
(I tried to post the Gary Larsen cartoon here but Blogger won't let me.)
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Sorry, Wrong Number
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
What A Shame.I'm probably the only person left in the blogosphere who hadn't seen this one. It came in today's email from my cool cousin Mitzi.
It is important for men to remember that, as women grow older, it becomes harder for them to maintain the same quality of housekeeping as when they were younger. When you notice this, try not to yell at them. Some are oversensitive, and there's nothing worse than an oversensitive woman.
My name is Jack. Let me relate how I handled the situation with my wife, Debbie.
When I took "early retirement" last year, it became necessary for Debbie to get a full-time job along with her part time job, both for extra income and for the health benefits that we needed. Shortly after she started working, I noticed she was beginning to show her age.
I usually get home from the golf course about the same time she gets home from work. Although she knows how hungry I am, she almost always says she has to rest for half an hour or so before she starts dinner. I don't yell at her. Instead, I tell her to take her time and just wake me when she gets dinner on the table. I generally have lunch in the Men's Grill at the club so eating out is not reasonable. I'm ready for some home cooked grub when I hit that door.
She used to do the dishes as soon as we finished eating. But now it's not unusual for them to sit on the table for several hours after dinner. I do what I can by diplomatically reminding her several times each evening that they won't clean themselves. I know she really appreciates this, as it does seem to motivate her to get them done before she goes to bed.
Another symptom of aging is complaining, I think. For example, she will say that it is difficult for her to find time to pay the monthly bills during her lunch hour. But, boys, we take 'em for better or worse, so I just smile and offer encouragement. I tell her to stretch it out over two or even three days. That way she won't have to rush so much. I also remind her that missing lunch completely now and then wouldn't hurt her any (if you know what I mean). I like to think tact is one of my strong points.
When doing simple jobs, she seems to think she needs more rest periods. She had to take a break when she was only half finished mowing the yard. I try not to make a scene. I'm a fair man. I tell her to fix herself a nice, big, cold glass of freshly squeezed lemonade and just sit for awhile. And, as long as she is making one for herself, she may as well make one for me too.
I know that I probably look like a saint in the way I support Debbie. I'm not saying that showing this much consideration is easy. Many men will find it difficult. Some will find it impossible!
Nobody knows better than I do how frustrating women get as they get older. However, guys, even if you just use a little more tact and less criticism of your aging wife because of this article, I will consider that writing it was well worthwhile. After all, we are put on this earth to help each other.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jack died suddenly on May 27th. The police report says that he was found with a Calloway extra long 50-inch Big Bertha Driver II golf club rammed up his ass, with only 2 inches of grip showing. His wife, Debbie, was arrested and charged with murder; however, the all-woman jury found her Not Guilty, accepting her defense that he accidentally sat down on it.
Pondering the Universe Again. . . .
Monday, July 24, 2006
Thumbs Down, from me.
Continuing on with the Nostalgia Theme. . . .
I've been tagged.I’ve been tagged by the fantastic Rock Star Mommy, so here it is. Be warned!
What I’ve Been Obsessed With In My Life
Toddlerhood (up to five years old)
Ding Dong School. I was REALLY little and I would have done anything Miss Francis told me to do. Sometimes she would say, “Please go get your Mommy because I want to talk to her for a minute” and I did. She told me it was naptime so I took a nap.
Captain Kangaroo. Does anyone else remember Tom Terrific, and Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog? Did anyone else sit entranced as the Captain read to us about Georgie the little ghost, whose life was changed because the old man repaired the loose, creaky board? I never cared for Bunny Rabbit or Mr. Moose (NOT a puppet fan!!!!!) but Mr. Green Jeans was cool.
A Child’s Garden of Verses. Ours was illustrated by Tasha Tudor, and I used to lay my head down on those pictures and wish myself into that garden. I just knew there were fairies in there, if only I could open that intriguing gate.
I looked for fairies everywhere. Under rocks, behind trees, in clumps of flowers. . . .The neighbors probably thought I was nuts.
My tricycle. I used to turn it upside down and pedal with my hands and pretend I was the ice cream man. (I have no idea where that one came from.)
The Mickey Mouse Club. The real one, with Doreen and Darlene and Cheryl and Lonnie and Karen and Cubby and Annette and Sharon and Tommy and Bobby, and Spin and Marty, and Corky & White Shadow, and the Hardy Boys. . . . I sat in my tiny rocking chair with my Mouseketeer hat on my head and my little Mouseketeer guitar in my lap and my Mouseketeer dolly by my side, hypnotized with delight. “Today is Tuesday, you know what that means. . . . .” And I did.
My Polly Crocket pants. You know, Davy’s wife? Those things were so cool. . . .
Pop-beads. I adored them.
Cinderella. Snow White. Peter Pan. Old Yeller. Bambi
. . . and my parents watching Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Ed Sullivan.
Riding my bicycle up and down the sidewalk, and longing for the day when I would be allowed to cross the street with it or even, gasp, ride it IN the street like the big kids did.
Playing kickpen in the HUGE back yard next door. Eating concord grapes from their arbor. Playing imprisoned princess in their empty geode-lined dead-fountained little garden pond. Sitting INSIDE a huge clump of hydrangea bushes to get some privacy for reading.
The Happy Hollisters. Elizabeth Enright. Understood Betsy. Little Women. Heidi. Countless others. . . . .
Saturday morning cartoons. The brilliance of Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Climbing the apple trees.
DC comics. And so it began, an obsession that still reoccurs occasionally. If DC hadn’t fired all the GOOD artists and writers, and hired artists who couldn’t draw and the writers who could think of nothing but stupid plots, I’d probably still be standing in the grocery store reading.
The Legion of Super-Heroes. I wanted to be one of them so badly, I dreamed about it at night, I daydreamed in school, I still do. I have Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad action figures on their own shelf of honor in my kitchen, as we speak. Oh, surely if a power as inane as Bouncing Boy’s or Triplicate Girl’s merited membership, there must be SOMETHING special I could do, to get in. . . .
Nancy Drew. Judy Bolton. Christine Noble Govan and Emmy West. Young Visitors to Mars. Book after book about the planets. I discovered biographies. Mad Magazine.
I began to read books that someone had forbidden. Not porn, but those books on the 'censored' list that schools used to give us.
More DC comics.
Still on my bike, but this time, in the STREET.
The public library, twice a week.
Season ticket to the city pool. Woo hoo!
I write. I love it. It frees something inside my heart.
First experience with a cruel teacher. I’ve never recovered.
I stopped writing.
Orchestra. The school released us two hours early and let us walk to the high school about eight blocks away for orchestra. Can you even imagine doing that now?
First experience with an idiot teacher. Still blows my mind.
Sleeping Beauty. Parent Trap. Pollyanna. Mary Poppins. Sound of Music.
Lost in Space, every Wednesday night. I was always sad on Thursday because it meant I had to wait an entire week to see it again. I wanted to be Marta Kristen.
Saved up and bought “Meet The Beatles.” Changed my life. Became obsessed with music, even while hating my piano lessons.
Early teens (13-16)
Discovered romance novels and 'teen' books. Still obsessed. Majored in it. Had a hard time realizing that it wasn't that way in real life.
First boyfriend. He acted nothing like the boys in my books. First heartbreak. Then he came back and I broke his.
Cute boy moves in across the street. We “date.” I become a voyeur as our front porch looked directly into his bedroom. Saw nothing but kept hoping.
First dance. First kiss.
First time to date boy with car.
Dancing almost every weekend at the Armory, and in the gym after every home game. Live band, made up of classmates. We didn’t know if they were good or not; it didn’t matter. If I had to miss a dance weekend, I became unglued.
Got my first job: S.S. Kresge’s. Dad was so proud of me, he stood outside and watched me through the plate glass windows. The cash register was so hard to punch, my fingers bled. Became obsessed with the idea that everyone should work and earn their own money.
First experience with peer-group jealousy and heartbreak: got uninvited to a huge cool party because the boy the hostess had her sights on sat by me at lunch. That was all, he sat by me, in the empty chair. I think she still hates me. Became obsessed with 'fairness.'
DC comics and Legion of Super-Heroes fantasies still going strong.
I begin to write again. I show no one.
Went to downtown theater almost weekly with friends. It didn't really matter much what was playing; almost everything was 'G' or nearly so, back then.
Discovered Grecco’s Pizza.
Slumber parties galore. Remember those awful Chef Boy-ar-Dee pizza mixes?
Became (somewhat) interested in fashion and what the others were wearing. Started growing my hair long.
Bought a guitar from the Montgomery Ward catalog. It was nineteen dollars, and it came with a 45 record called “How To Play The Guitar.” I still have both.
Late Teens (16-20)
Got driver’s license.
Got second job as legal secretary for county prosecuting attorney. Learned perhaps more than a kid should know.
I started dating his brother.
Became obsessed with Michael Rennie. (go figure.) But honestly, “Klatuu, barata, nikto!!!! I couldn’t resist.
Began thinking of Sean Connery as someone other than the cute guy in "Darby O’Gill and the Little People." Saw all of his 007 movies with my friends, but I didn't like them. I liked him, though.
Dated Chris all junior year, his senior year. He graduated and went to Purdue and I never saw him again.
Continued to write.
Became obsessed with Broadway musicals. Fell madly in love with older classmate who starred in our school’s version of ‘Oklahoma.’
Desperately wanted to look older. Wore the same sweater/skirt combination at least twice a week because I thought it added a few years.
Another bad teacher. I stopped writing again. He convinced me that I had nothing to say. He taught senior comp. He KNEW, didn't he? He used to give me D--------------, and tell me that the only reason I didn't get an F on my essays was because he was such a nice guy.
Started buying albums seriously.
Discovered Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries. Continued to read constantly.
Love Story. The Graduate. M*A*S*H. Romeo and Juliet.
Early 20’s-Present Day
Boy, this one sure covers a lot of years!
Husband. Children. In-laws. Mortgage. Crushing debt.
Two college degrees. Multiple endorsements.
Public school. Community College.
Tons of: heartbreak, disillusionment, betrayal, lies, encouragement, love, trust, friendship, enlightenment, more debt, discovery, expectations, realizations, contempt, wonder, amazement, happiness, sadness, coping, worry, nightmares, head-shaking incredulity, smiles, weeping, pain, and contentment. . . .to be continued.
Empty nest. Independence. Must. Get. Kids. Into. This. House. Again.
No free time. Lots of free time.
Clothing covered with baby spitup. Clean clothes. Big deal? No.
Hamper full of smelly diapers. Hamper full of tent-sized t-shirts.
Unable to go anywhere without two babies. Able to go anywhere, alone.
Noisy house, ringing with music and laughter and giggles. Quiet house, driving me crazy because I prefer the chaos.
Fear. Panic. Credit cards cut into pieces.
Lovely people everywhere. Dreadful people everywhere.
Disillusionment with professional idol. Disillusionment with “friend.”
Learning that I am not the General Manager of the Universe, and I am not responsible for other people’s actions. Learning that the Truth will, indeed, set you free, even when it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Learning, too, that some people have quite a different viewpoint of truth. Pitying them.
Music. All around me, and all kinds. I must have music.
Realizing that we are every age we’ve ever been, and if we’re doing it right, we can reach inside and find our ten-year-old self, or our 31-year-old self, or our five-year-old self, and remember how it was. Trees have rings. So do we.
I write again. I plunge into the recesses of my mind and my memory and I write.
I have always written. Even when I stopped, I was still writing in my head. My teachers were wrong. I do have something to say. I write. It's my obsession.
Hmm, I didn’t really do this quite right. But I can’t change it now, it’s carved in stone.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Make Your Mark Heavy and Dark. Or Fail. Your Call.
Don't get me wrong. I believe in testing: to a point.
I do not believe that a student who can't pass a simple test of basic skills should be graduated from high school. I do not believe that a student who can't pass a simple test of basic skills should be promoted at all, in fact.
There are certain basic skills that all people simply must have in order to care for themselves, and for others, in this life. Those who allow themselves to become adults, yet do not have these basic skills, are potentially. . . societal leeches. It is just simply a disgrace to become an adult and not have the ability to support oneself. Perhaps my point of view differs only in the direction of the Pointing Finger of Blame.
I blame the student, with a hefty amount of blame for the family, as well. A little blame for the teacher, and a big pointy middle finger at administration. But mostly? I blame the student.
Yes, we have some pretty lousy schools. Some of them are lousy because they hired lousy teachers. However, I believe that many of our "lousy" schools are bad because of the political pressure of certain families who WILL NOT ALLOW their kids to be challenged, punished, or in any way whatsoever held responsible for their own actions, and by a society that insists that it is not a kid's fault if he/she behaves badly: it's SOCIETY'S fault, poor kids, poor poor kids, and they crush, kill, destroy, disrupt, vandalize, talk back, threaten, bully, sleep, sell drugs, take drugs, rape, harass, street-talk, mug, skip, and otherwise renege on the unwritten school/society/student contract because of somebody else, not themselves. The poor things can't help it. It's not their fault. They're victims of the system. It is this lack of backup from families, and administrators who are unwilling to buck the political system of a community and crack down HARD on offenders, that are our worst problem.
Parents are busy. They're working. Daycare is eating up their money and they NEED the school to keep their kids. I've been there; I know.
But hey. Our schools are already feeding the kids breakfast, lunch, and supper, and staying open till after dark to accommodate working parents. We are expected to not only teach the kids how to read, but also how to treat others, feel good about themselves, behave, and many other things that the family is supposed to do but many times doesn't, nowadays.
But the school is held accountable for these things the family is supposed to do. When did that happen? I find that reprehensible.
In the 'smart class' (you will find no PC here; it cheapens us all) you will find a group of kids who all have a background of poems, songs, nursery rhymes, and 'experiences.' In the slow class, you will find a group of kids who all have no background in anything at all, for the most part.
I used to give assessment tests at the start of each year. It would blow your mind to bits if you all realized how little some families do for their children, before sending them to school, beyond setting them in front of the tv and walking away.
Our Pre-K's can tell you all about the latest Jerry Springer guest, but they don't know what happened to Humpty Dumpty. They can tell you all about Fitty Cent but they don't know how to say 'please' or 'thank you.' They see something and they grab for it.
They're sitting beside your child in school, and they're stealing erasers, paper, pencils, and money from the teacher's purse. Some of them don't even know they're being bad.
This same mentality is found in the upper grades, as well. Anything they see that they want, is just grabbed. When the hormones kick in, this becomes an even worse problem.
And if the parent is called, the teacher is either cussed out for waking him/her up, or we are given a tirade about how "that 's the school's problem, I sent him to school to be taught, I cain't do nothing with him, and don't call me again, dammit."
Some brats are so far gone that even the knowledge that one more call to mom's place of employment will result in her being fired doesn't faze them. They're entrenched in selfishness to the point that instant gratification in all aspects of life is their daily expectation. They're entitled to whatever they want.
These behaviors cross all ethnic lines; no one group can be singled out. Some of the very worst are rich white offspring of professionals. (I guess I just singled out a group, huh. Bite me.)
Getting back to the tests. . . . .
Why can't we just go back to the amazing, off-the-wall concept of LEARNING ? That's right, a child comes to school, behaves properly, and is exposed to all kinds of awesome concepts and facts and projects and and miracles and outer space and underground and inside a book and imagination and experiments and research and how to care for himself/herself and others so that when the student becomes an adult, he/she will be able to support and care for himself/herself and others, and use any leisure time to cultivate himself/herself culturally and to volunteer to help others?? And the big standardized test at the end of each year would simply cover those things that every person of 'that age' or 'that level' simply MUST KNOW in order to be a contributing member of society. No pass, no promote.
And music. Oh, the music the schools used to expose us to, and art. I still remember the smell of that pile of clay we all kept in our desks.
I learned dozens of major classical music pieces, in lower elementary school. They were disguised as simple, catchy songs.
But there is no time for the arts any more, or even recess in many schools. Every minute must be devoted to preparing for those tests, and that is wrong.
We are doing our students no favors by passing them along because of their age or their size or their parents' standing in the community. We are doing them no favors by tailoring their curriculum to a test that doesn't measure their ability to comprehend that they are in school to learn the things that will help them be the kind of adults that contribute to the world, not take from it.
I believe in testing. I just don't believe a test is the purpose of education.
In real life, 'test' isn't the final blow. In real life, "this is only a test" means that we shouldn't worry. We give a test so people will be able to understand and use the concepts in real life. It's what happens AFTER the test that is important. Those students who pass the test, are ready to move on to the next level, where they might use those skills and apply them to new things. Those who do not yet have the skills, should stay where they are until they have them. What good is it to move them ahead when they do not yet have the skills, ie tools, to comprehend the next level?
Some people are still playing junior varsity their senior year. So what? They weren't ready to move up. Do people make a big deal out of that? (besides irate parents who know their kid is a superstar in disguise, that is.)
Don't move 'em up till they demonstrate that they are ready to move up. That takes work. Some kids don't know how to work. Keep them back until they learn. We've already got enough adults who don't know how to work; we don't need any more.
ISTEP is only a test. It's a piece of paper.
Education isn't about a standardized test. The test just measures how seriously a student takes that education. It measures who paid attention. It measures who CARES.
Those things are important. The test isn't the goal. The test is only a test. Don't panic; it's only a test. If it had been a real situation, you would be at work, facing a problem that only a person who got number seventeen right on the test would know how to fix.
Sit up straight. Pay attention. If your kid's teacher calls you, tell her to throw the book at your kid, and do it again when he comes home. Don't allow any misbehavior at school. Annie Sullivan had to put her hands on Helen Keller to get her to calm down and behave; if that is what it takes for your kid, then do it. Some people require a little physical pressure; some don't.
Above all, we must not continue to shy away from our responsibilities as parents. We must not send our kids to school, or anywhere else in public, and not require excellent behavior. We must back up our teachers in the area of discipline; if that means you have to drive thirty-six miles after work to pick up your teen because he got 'afterschool' for talking back, then so be it. If you are angry at the school because of that, you've got a big, big problem, daddy or mommy, and with that attitude, it's only going to get worse.
Educated people are as much superior to uneducated people, as the living are to the dead. ---Aristotle.
I know I say that all the time, but it's absolutely true.
Mamacita, Scheiss Weekly
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Zoomr, Shirley Temple, and Stevie Wonder.
For some strange reason, Belle doesn't let me do this any more. I miss those days. I was the worst hair-styling-mommy EVER, but I tried.
She didn't go to school like this, but it was fun to play around with.
Poor Belle. Other little girls had mommies who were hair geniuses, and my little girl had a mommy who couldn't even make a straight part between curly golden ponytails. Zig-zag-whoops. Stevie Wonder could have done a better job than I did. Maybe that's why she loved to take the scissors to her hair, usually the day before school pictures were taken.
I could do a great Shirley Temple 'do, though. Too bad it wasn't in style. Well, actually, I'm glad it wasn't in style; it's borderline stupid, but maybe not any stupider than a mohawk. I'd watch her running around playing, with that hairstyle, and all I could think of was the mean rich little girl in The Little Rascals. She was such a princess, though; she loved anything she considered 'fancy.' That's why she wore a frilly white slip as her only garment for a year. Hey, pick your battles carefully. . . . .
I stole the url directly from My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, but since EVERYBODY reads that one, you all of course already knew about Zoomr.
It's one of my favorite blogs. Get over there and find out why.
. . . animal crackers in my soup. . . .
Ouch. My brain snapped.
Friday, July 21, 2006
That's How The Light Gets InI'm not very political, nor am I usually very logical or sensible. Sometimes I become entranced by a single word or four notes of a song or the bottom left of a painting or that same painting as seen from various angles. Sometimes, a poem will obsess me until I see its meaning in everything around me. Someone's tone of voice can haunt me. An inconsequential piece of a movie soundtrack, representing not much more than white noise, will grab hold of me and I hear it wherever I go. I fall in love with characters in books. I have no desire to 'understand' mathematics, except in that I see it all around me in the geometry of structures both natural and man-made. My standards for public behavior are high, so high that sometimes I am unable to appreciate or enjoy something because of a stranger's lack of etiquette. I am personally graceless, but I see a dance in the movements of almost everything else. Sometimes I am so lost in imagination that when I am jerked back to reality, my heart cracks a little.
But then, my heart is full of cracks. After "a certain age" a heart is supposed to be full of cracks. Leonard Cohen said it like this:
The birds they sang
at the break of day
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.
I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
and they're going to hear from me.
Ring the bells that still can ring ...
You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
I would suppose that a heart that isn't cracked and seamed and mended is a heart that's never been used much. It's better to break your heart than do nothing with it.
Tonight I am obsessed with science and mysticism. Madeleine L'Engle writes that most scientists are in one way or another, mystics. The modern mystics. People think of scientists as logical and unimaginative, if not the stereotypical 'absent-minded.' I suppose some of them are. I've met all kinds of people who have no imagination and who are logical to the point of absurdity. But unlike many of the
Look at the names they give some of their discoveries. Almost everything in the night sky is named for ancient mythological beings with fantastic storylines and descriptions, even the recent discoveries. (Shame on the guy who insisted on using Shakespearian names for his discoveries; what a party-pooper!) (But at least Shakespeare is still pretty creative.) And how about those things we can't even see, things that are proven to exist but which CAN NOT BE SEEN?
Have I mentioned that quantum physics fascinates me? So much fodder for the imagination!
Degenerate white dwarfs! Red giants sitting on horizontal branches! Did the Brothers Grimm study science?
And tachyons. . . .
Particles that are faster than the speed of light? Particles that can be measured only in terms of their beginning and their end but not the middle, the journey part?
Scientists are not sure about tachyons, but I have suspended my disbelief momentarily and I think I believe in them.
Besides, it's a good analogy for all of our lives. The beginning is known and well-marked. The end is known and well-marked. It's the middle that we are not always sure of, that we can't always remember, that we mark only partially. We can measure the middle only at the end. And it is the middle that is the important part.
The journey, not the destination. The sides of the mountain, not the top.
It is in the middle that our hearts experience things that make them crack and break, and eventually mend.
That's how the light gets in.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
How To Make Some Serious Money For Your School
When did this happen to me? When did all these bands start looking so OLD? I saw a picture of the KISS guys in full costume the other day and almost threw up on my shoetops. COVER THAT UP, please.
And why are some of these elderly guys still dating nineteen-year-old nymphets? Well, I guess we all know why, so the better question would be, why would a nineteen-year-old nymphet want to date some old man who wears shoelaces across his chest in public?
(It was only a bare male chest, but it looked old and stringy and should be covered up immediately!) (Covered, there's still a little magic, but if nothing is left to the imagination, it's just old.)
Ted Nugent is performing at the annual ABATE Boogie this year, along with Rare Earth, some other elderly rockers, and a few token young guys who think they know how to play an electric guitar. . . . . Oh, and some gal who sings country.
The motorcycles started to converge on the town a few days ago. They usually arrive in herds of two dozen or more; it's really cool to see them heading down the highway.
Some of them look like the stereotypical Hell's Angel, complete with bandannas, leather, and the mandatory 300-pound halter-wearing woman on the back of the bike. You know, the kind that makes you think of a giant ice-cream-cone when you come up on the bike from the rear?
But most of the ABATE bikers just look like what they really are: doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, mechanics, merchants, dentists, construction workers, etc, who love their bikes and look forward to the Boogie every year so they can hang out with other people who also love their bikes, their weekend, and vintage bands who used to be twenty years old and right on the cutting edge of the scene.
Then again, didn't all of us used to be twenty years old and right on the cutting edge of. . . something?
Some of the locals look upon the bikers with fear, but when I look at them, I just see a humongous horde of friendly weekend bikers who look a lot like people I've known in my time, who've come together to raise some serious money for our schools and have a hellacious good time doing so.
That's right. The whole purpose of the Boogie is to raise money for education. They do, too.
Here in southern Indiana, we like our bikers to be literate, generous, and funky. We are not disappointed.
Our restaurants and businesses welcome the bikers. I love to see them riding around town in groups of a hundred or more. They smile, and they wave, and they're obviously full of piss, vinegar, sincerity, and fun.
And while there are many conservative bun-hair types here who lock their doors in fear of these people who look "scary and different," and who wonder quite loudly "what these people are REALLY here for," I don't see any large conventions of Methodists or Mormons or Pentecostals or Baptists or Nazarenes or Presbytarians or Episcopalians or Seventh Day Adventists or Catholics or School Board Members coming together from hundreds of miles around for the express purpose of raising money for our schools. Nope, nary a one.
I'm not going to tell you why I loves me some biker types, but it started in college with the first of my three dead boyfriends.
Well, they weren't dead THEN. . . .