Friday, December 30, 2005

My less than 15 minutes of fame

I was standing in the mall buying ribbon at 75% off, about eighth back in line, when I saw a guy with a camera. I assumed it was the typical news story about day after Christmas bargain hunters, and it was. I turned my attention back to balancing my armload of beautiful wired ribbon when I was approached by a reporter who asked me questions, and, as I do when I get a little nervous, I kept talking.

The next day, when I was at my mother’s birthday party in the metropolitan Detroit area, I told my family I had been in the paper a that morning.

“Did you kill somebody?” they asked.

“Nope. I bought ribbon.”

“Must have been a slow news day.”

“She was on the front page, too,” my husband said.

“Honey, I thought we had to move to Tennessee for a quiet lifestyle, but it turns out we just have to move to Lansing,” my nephew said to his wife.

Even so, my son and I decided that in my leather coat and dark clothing (and obscured face) I looked like the baddest-ass, ribbon-buying mom in the mall.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I have somewhat of a continuing saga here with the dance pad thing. I sent my husband to get the dance pad, but he came back with a box that included a dance pad AND the far as we could tell. As we looked at all the large and tiny print on the box, including reference to something called XBOX Live, we were flummoxed. Did one have to have that? Was everything in the box that was needed? My husband found the address of the company and said we had to call them. "We're grandparents, for God's sake," he said. We called them; they called us back later and assured us we had everything we needed...XBOX Live offered more options, but the game could be played with the contents in the box. I think companies should start printing requirements in large print, and explaining every option with "You've got to have this" or "You don't have to have this, but it makes the game a lot more fun."

This is just one more event in the holiday preparations that makes me want to scream, "WHY IS EVERYBODY TRYING TO F*** WITH ME?" (Not nice Grandma talk, I know, but really, why are they?) I will explain other events if and when they get resolved.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Weird Words

Do you know that experience you have where you say a word, and it sounds really weird and it keeps repeating in your mind and driving you crazy? I had that experience today with an entire sentence. I asked a clerk in a store, "Do you have the dance pad for Dance Dance Revolution--the one that's compatible with XBox, not PlayStation?"(Of course, I was Christmas shopping.) As I walked away, I was obsessed with the strangeness of it. It reminded me of part of a routine George Carlin did when I was in high school or college--things you will never say, like "Hand me that piano," or "Please saw my legs off." Maybe that was the weirdness of it. Even two months ago, I would not have anticipated the need to ever formulate such a sentence. Maybe now that I have written it down, it will go away.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


I read this article a few years ago, and just came upon it again. I think it should be required reading for all extroverts. They probably won't sit down and be quiet long enough to read it, though.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Being in the moment vs. I want to be anyplace but where I am

I had this strange sensation on Sunday that I haven't had for the longest time, and I found it very disturbing and unpleasant. I had to do several things that day, and no matter where I was, I wanted to be in the next place. All I really had to do was go to church, pick up a birthday card and a gift, go to a birthday party for my granddaughter(45 minutes away), and go home. At church they were doing a couple of unusual things: installing a new campus pastor and saying goodbye to a Brazilian minister who had been visiting for six weeks (and they had him come up and give a speech.) There was special music, which I usually love, but I just wanted them to hurry up so I could go to the store. The service ran over about a half an hour, which almost never happens. Then, as I was standing in a very long line at the craft store, I discovered the soapmaking kit I was buying was meant for children three years older than Amanda. I ran to another store and bought a card and just stuck some money in it, a thing I hate to do for a child unless there is an accompanying small gift. Then when we got to the birthday pary, after the first hour I wanted to go home so badly I felt like I was jumping out of my skin. (Maybe it was the sugar and caffeine from the cake and coffee.)

A few years ago, I was Christmas shopping,and feeling very anxious that time was running out and I would never finish. I purposely went to this specific KFC store where, at that time, the service was notoriously slow. I went there because the people who went there never seemed to care, and it seemed to calm me down. On this particular day, I was waiting in a not very long, but very slow line. Then the song "Just My Imagination" came on the music system and the two people behind me, who had come in separately, but realized they knew each other, spontaneously started singing along with the song. They laughed and started talking about what a pretty song it was. This is one of my favorite moments in life. It made me feel so good; I can't explain why. It was the moment I knew I might find there, though.

The feeling I had on Sunday was uncomfortable because at this point in my life, I know how important it is to be in the moment. Fortunately, Monday (Halloween) was a day like that. I did a lot of things that I find fun and joyful, and everything I did turned out even better than I thought it would. Everywhere I went, I was in the moment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

No pressure: teaching English and making music

I now have two excellent things on Monday. I teach a small group of Korean women who belong to a church that is "nesting" at mine until they can have their own place. A little over a year ago, when their pastor was introduced to our church, he mentioned that he'd like someone to help the housewives with English. I introduced myself to him, and sent a follow-up e-mail saying I'd like to do it, but never heard anything back. Then, a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from him saying he had been going through some old e-mails and found my message. Now I go there two mornings a week, and the housewives are very cultured, very educated ladies and I sometimes feel bad that all I have to offer them are some pronunciation exercises and conversation topics. I really enjoy talking to them.

Meanwhile, I had started taking piano lessons in an adult class at a local music store on Monday afternoons. I felt bad that I had no piano to practice on at home, but it hit me the day before I started doing the English class: I go to a giant old church that must have about a zillion pianos in it. I asked the man in charge of facility use if I could use one, explaining that I was a total beginner. He said that I could use the one in the chapel, which is a lovely, relatively quiet and uplifting place to practice. There is one intimidating factor, though: The chapel is right next to the Korean pastor's office, where his wife assists him. She was a piano major in college and teaches piano, their daughter is a graduate student in piano at MSU, and their son sings for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and they have to listen to some idiot pound out "The Star-Spangled Banner" every Monday and Wednesday at noon. (I just started using the C, F, and G chords this week, and I know they wait with bated breath while I wait for an eternity between each note trying to find the chords.)

Actually, they came in once to talk to me (the wife is in my class) and they were actually very sweet to me. (However, I suspect the lunch at the Korean restaurant my group treated me to last week was to get me away from the piano.;))

The best thing about the English class and the piano class is NO PRESSURE. I have to plan, but I don't have to give tests or grades. If we get a really good conversation going on one topic, I don't have to shift gears so I can complete a curriculum. It's just ladies English. (...except when there is animated conversation in Korean explaining what I am talking about.) Then I get to go practice the piano and go to my lesson.

The cool thing about my lesson is also NO PRESSURE. The teacher's two favorite phrases are "Whatever you want" and "Just have fun." There is a philosophy about teaching adults being promoted that they are generally not preparing to be concert pianists; they're just looking to have fun and make music. There is actually a magazine discussing this philosophy, and I really like it. A long time ago, a lot of people sang and danced and played music, but somehow we now think that we're supposed to entrust those very human activities to professionals who will do it for us. I don't know if it applies, but there was this great line from the film
Hustle and Flow: "Every man's got the right to contribute a verse." I feel that way about singing and dancing. I mean, I love to hear and see excellent singing and dancing, but everyone's got to participate in some way at some point.

As I said to my husband, I wouldn't say, "I'm not an athlete, so I'm not going to the gym."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Van Man

One day my son came home from high school and I asked him how his day had been. He said, "We had a van man." I had never seen Chris Farley's character on SNL at that time, so he had to explain that they had had a motivational speaker. Well, yesterday I got to see a "van man": Stephen Covey.(The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. His new book is The 8th Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness.) The community college where I work sponsored this event, and generously set aside a certain number of free seats for interested employees. It's very expensive to see him (although the people who paid real money got a luncheon, but I doubt that the food was worth what they were charging the general public...or maybe it was by invitation only. According to the local paper, several local businesss leaders were there, but the only one I recognized was the president of our college.)

The presentation, although hot and long, actually contained some interesting, useful, and yes, motivational information. I also bought a book (continuing to assure that Mr. Covey will never have to live in a van down by the river) and had it signed by the author, who said "I see you as a trim-tab." He explained earlier that a trim tab is the small rudder that turns the large rudder on a he wrote that in my book: Mary--a trim tab! Stephen Covey

What I am really happy about, though, is I have an addition to my esoteric collection of autographed books: Chuck Pahlaniuk (He wrote Fight Club, but I have Diary and another book whose title I forget, but it's true, weird stuff he's encountered which informs his fiction), a collection of articles by Mitch Albom (before he wrote Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven) because he is such a good writer I actually started reading the sports column in The Detroit Free Press) and Growing Up Brady by Barry Williams (Greg on the Brady Bunch). I used to have a signed book by Mary Daly (GynEcology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism), a former Catholic theologian turned radical lesbian feminist, but I threw it away during a crazy time. I don't buy them already signed at the bookstore: I must meet the author. Another prize possession is my photo with Mitch Albom, except it's on one of my dorkiest-looking days EVER...and that is saying something.

I went home from the Covey presentation all motivated and fired up, then on the radio I heard a soldier in Iraq say, "If I'm breathing, it's a good day." I thought, "Cool! That's my new motto! " and it took me all the way to about 3:00 today, at which time I started questioning the meaning of my life again. Apparently it's amassing an eclectic collection of autographed books.

Friday, September 30, 2005


My students recently began working on their first full essay for the Advanced 1 Writing class I teach. They were able to pick from about 10 general topics from our textbook, and one of the most popular topics seems to be tatoos. They had to generate an effective thesis statement, prepare a (somewhat) formal outline, and they began writing their rough drafts yesterday. Among the Asian, African, and Latin American students in the class,we have a few students who find them unacceptable. However, not surprisingly, most of these young people think they're OK. As I went around the room helping people, I told a couple of them about a woman I met last year, who, as a 50th birthday present to herself, got a tattoo on her ankle. It was fairly small, a daisy or a butterfly or something. I don't remember. Anyway, I told a young Costa Rican and a young Japanese man about it, and their mouths dropped in I don't know...horror, disgust? It was, at any rate, a negative look of surprise. I pointed out that a young person who gets a tattoo now will someday be a 50-year-old with a tattoo, and even though they agreed, still seemed to find this bizarre. I'm going to ask the entire class (after they have finished this essay, so they won't be influenced) what the difference is between a 50-year-old woman who gets a tattoo, and a young woman who gets a tattoo now and someday turns 50. Rosalia pointed out she would have her tattoo done in a place that she can hide and that wouldn't be as subject to aging (Hah!Wait until she finds out everything is subject!) but the ankle, I think, meets both those requirements. I am really looking forward to this discussion.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Looking to be target-marketed

I’ve been looking on line for a nice, warm vacation, and I’m feeling, once again, the nebulosity of my age. These things appear to be target-marketed to categories like “family” or “adult” and I’m discerning the “adult” category to be young couples, honeymooners, or senior citizens. What I’d like to go on is a vacation at which I would see a variety of people in a variety of circumstances. I just don’t want to feel out of place.

I’m not averse to doing things with people who are not just like me. Because of the time it takes place, my piano class is primarily retirees. When my husband and I took Bridge lessons a couple years ago, we were the youngest people there. When we went to a party at my friend Teya’s house, we were the oldest people there.

One of my students was at the party, and somehow we started discussing Eminem. I don’t have a huge collection (or any collection) of hip-hop or anything, but I like some of his stuff. He is also from my hometown, (really, in the town next door to my hometown) and being, by nature a “true to my school” kind of person in every aspect of my life, pay some attention to his career. I wasn’t really feeling old, but then Jo said, “Wow. You are the age of my parents and I can’t imagine discussing music with them like this.” Those moments make me feel a little goofy, and I would like to avoid them

Maybe I’m not looking for a variety of people. Maybe I’m looking for a vacation marketed to people just like me…mild-mannered women in their mid-forties with slightly older husbands, grown stepchildren, college-age children, who like disparate music, movies, etc., whose politics are liberal, who have some kind of spiritual faith, but who have a sense of humor (that is occasionally dark and twisted.)

I think I’ve just written a personal ad for a cruise package.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sleep game 1: Casting the movie of my life.

Having suffered a few bouts of insomnia in my life (a particularly severe one about 1994) I have over the years developed “sleep games,” mental activities to get my mind off whatever I’m obsessing about that’s keeping me awake.

A particular favorite is “Casting the movie of my life.” Of course, a movie of my life would itself be a swift cure for insomnia. I’ve always thought, though, I could be a good casting person, although most people in Hollywood never cast the books I’ve read the way I would.

The problem I’ve had lately is some of the casting involves people who don’t exist. When I began this game in high school, I didn’t have anybody to play me. I found the person a couple of years ago. The problem is, she’s a cartoon character: Peg Hill from King of the Hill. I don’t speak Spanish like Peg does (but if I did, I would probably spaeak it like she does.) However, I am a substitute teacher (and a damn fine one, like Peg, if I do say so myself. We both take it a little too seriously.) We both have similar, um…”fashion sense.” My son agrees that this is a pretty good choice.

And speaking of my son…a non-existent person would also have to play him. I told him that Johnny Depp and that kid from Napoleon Dynamite would somehow have to produce a child. While he initially went along with it, he later said something to the effect of, “Hey!”

My friend/stepdaughter-in law Shari would be played by Meg Ryan, a choice heartily approved by my stepson/her husband Jay, who eagerly agreed to portray himself under those circumstances.

The choice so far for my husband is that guy who plays Toby in West Wing, but that’s just a placeholder for now because most of the people I present that to say “Maybe” but are unenthusiastic. Mostly they just want to know who they are going to be portrayed by. I’m still working on it, though, because most of the people I had previously cast were folks I knew in high school, and my choices now obscure and forgotten TV sitcom actors.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Does our geography contribute to the development of our personalities?

One of my current tasks is to research places for us to live after my husband retires, the plan being for me to continue working, only full-time at that point. We recently looked in northwestern Arkansas, which is actually quite pretty. My husband very much wants to have waterfront property, and, having grown up near a rather large lake, I like living by the water too. ( I don’t necessarily need to be on top of it; however, I do want it accessible.) Two more things, though: it has to be in a relatively warm place, and it has to be affordable for us. Arkansas offers these advantages.

The problem for me, though, is these kinds of places tend to be tucked into very hilly, very curvy places. Not only does the driving aspect kind of freak me out, but when I got up into the development we were thinking about, I had this sensation of being stuffed in an envelope. The other places that weren’t developments were very isolated, also a freaky feeling for me.

The problem, I guess, is I’m a quasi-city girl who grew up and has always lived up here in the flatlands. People who come from hilly places tell me they get a strange sensation when they drive and they can see for miles ahead of them. I, on the other hand, find that very comforting. I am like that in other areas of my life, too. If I’m going to have a medical test, first I want to look at and touch all the equipment. If I’m going somewhere, I will try to find out everything I can about that place. Although I like certain kinds of surprises, when it comes to things I’m going to do, I want to see what’s coming.

I don’t know, but I imagine the “hilly” people have a greater sense of joy and discovery not knowing what’s around the next curve (and also greater reaction times to deal with the unexpected deer or pedestrian.)

An elderly lady I know told me about a lady from Kansas that she knew that didn’t like to drive here because all the trees seemed strange to her. She didn’t eeven like the ivy growing on my friend’s house. Hearing this story made me feel slightly less weird, and just how geography shapes our fears, goals, aspirations, and general eccentricities.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My piano lesson

It was so fun! I signed up for an adult beginner piano class, eight people for eight weeks. It's at a music store, and I can tell it's basically designed to sell fancy electronic pianos to people. Most of the students in my class are retired seniors, except a minister and his wife who can't keep a pianist at their church because "they won't follow orders." (I'm the youngest person in the when I took bridge lessons a few years ago. I've found the secret to feeling young!) We played the Star-Spangled Banner with our right hand (fingering comes next week) and we had music, but little red dots showed us where to play. She did actually teach us the keyboard and how to find the notes between the black keys (I know this sounds ridiculous, but I'm a total newbie!) I don't have a piano (I signed my husband up for the waiting list for a possible evening class, and maybe that will rectify that situation. When I was in real estate, they called that the "puppy dog close"...let the person take the puppy dog home for the night, or actually use the item, and you will sell it.) I am very excited to go back next week.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Plans and irritants

Plans for today: Shop for b-day cards and gifts for Joe and Shari. Write vocab quiz for tomorrow. Correct/grade journals and paragraphs for next week. Go to piano lesson (First one ever in my life. Very exciting. Will write about tomorrow.)
Irritants (Language department.) When did everything start happening "ahead of" other things instead of simply "before" them? For example, "They had left new Orleans ahead of the hurricane?"
And where have the articles gone? I hear this sort of stuff frequently on NPR and various news shows: "FDA said…" "According to CIA…." These things are "agencies" or "administrations" ((hence the "A" in the acronym) and are countable and require a frickin’ ARTICLE, people!!! THE FDA, THE CIA…
Finally, why are the adjectives coming after the nouns? The particular phrase annoying me these days is "date certain." As in, "He wouldn’t commit to a date certain," for example, to confirm a nominee or get out of Iraq.
I know. You think it doesn’t matter. It’s simply an evolution of language. No. No. These are violations of the rules correlating with the whole breakdown of the system. I don’t have time right now to find links for the specific examples (see the very important things I must do today at the top of the post.) I do know, however, I have been hearing them for months, because they set my teeth on edge every time I hear them.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Resolutions for the REAL New (school) Year

In a previous post, I talked of this time of year being my "new year," and one of my "resolutions" is to pay more attention to my blog and try to do more things on it. I want to make a list of links to the blogs I read regularly, but haven’t found out how to do that yet. I will say I check Dana’s and Neil’s blogs every day, and also I’m going to try to post every day just for the personal discipline aspect, like keeping a daily journal. I don’t know how to make one of those lists on the side yet.
Maybe I will start posting pictures, too, now that we have a scanner that works with our newer computer.
I’ll write about work, books I read and movies I see, and the 25th anniversary party I have planned in August. So far I have booked a venue for it and lined up a decorator (Shari, of course) and a cake maker( Jamie). I also want to do a DVD slide show (or, more likely, have it done for me.)
It’s kind of hard to write about some things on my mind, because it gets into other people’s lives and issues, and that’s somewhat difficult when using this kind of forum. I will also try to relate things more closely to the theme/title of the blog.
I’m going to try to take it up in terms of quality, but in order to motivate myself to do that, I’ll have to concentrate on quantity. A favorite quote of mine, attributed to Woody Allen, is something to the effect that 80% of success in life is based on showing up. Therefore, that’s what I will concentrate on for a while.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who are these people?

All the hurricane news, in particular, the mismanagement afterwards, is causing me to feel very cynical. I'm sure there will be plenty of blame to go around, locally, statewide, and between both major political parties, but I especially don't get it at the top, federal levels...people find things out exclusively by aides handing them memos?? Can't anybody turn on a television? This is what gets me...the disconnect, the bureaucracy. Who are these people? How do they live? How are they supposed to help people, and assist in situations, about whom and which they have no understanding? The older I get, and the more I see what kinds of things cause people to get elected or appointed to high offices, the more I despair. I guess the only thing to do is develop our self-reliance, because the people who are supposed to help us won't be there for us when they're supposed to be. An eighteen-year-old kid, Jabbor Gibson, seems to get this.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Back to "normal"

Whoa, I went through the entire month of August without posting. I'm sure that was profoundly disappointing to my reader (if she's even reading this anymore). Life has returned to some semblance of normal (although not really ideal) after a rather strange summer (see previous post). As a teacher and perennial student (not in an advanced degree kind of way, but a let's see how many licenses and certificates I can get in my lifetime kind of way) I have always regarded the beginning of the school year in later August/ September the real beginning of the year, full of promise, opportunity, clean slates, and renewed energy. These, then, are the things I'll be working on: planning, creating, and organizing stuff for my 25th wedding anniversary party in August; going through all my stuff for disposal, garage sale or donation; and organizing my work life. I will override my shyness and introversion and meet more people and develop new friendships. I'll also try to post, at least occasionally, about more important things than what is (or is not) happening in my life.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The world will have to wait

I've had to take a break from thinking about ways to save the world. After a trip to northwestern Arkansas to look at possible retirement properties (too hilly for me, though) we came back, and after a scheduled heart catheter, my husband discovered he needed a bypass operation; he's actually very healthy except for some pesky and significant blockages he had. We left Arkansas on a Monday, arrived home on Tuesday, cath on Thursday, triple bypass the following Monday, home from the hospital Friday. Fortunately, he seems to be recovering pretty well so far, except for overdoing it a bit the past couple days. So this is summer so far: car accident (minor) resulting in fractured metatarsal, Mom's mastectomy, fall at grocery store resulting in several nice gifts from beer distributing company (Fossil watch, Timberland totebag, golf shirt and cap for husband with genuinely subtle logos on them. You'd have to look for them.), trip to Arkansas, husband's heart cath and bypass. I'm pretty tired of hospitals, but I do like the food in hospital cafeterias. Some of the offerings are surprisingly unhealthy (I was good, though.) So sorry, world, you'll have to wait for my wisdom.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Thinking a little differently---part 1

In the past couple of months, I have had some ideas about how to fix everything! Well, maybe a couple things. Well, not really fix, but maybe some suggestions for thinking about things differently.
There has been much discussion in my state, primarily budgetary, about the K-12 education system. In addition, not only here, but everywhere, it’s been said that today’s economy, for most people, requires education beyond high school to achieve minimal success. Well, maybe the whole problem here is that it’s a K-12 system. Why not K-13 or14? If today’s economy requires more extensive knowledge, why are we trying to cram it in the same amount of time?
Why not give young people opportunities to explore career opportunities in-depth, not just through classes, but internships, apprenticeships, in-depth job-shadowing, etc.? This would involve two more years of "free" public education.
This would create other complications, but attending to them would also solve other problems. There has been a lot of press lately given to young adults who stay home well into their twenties. We are already seeing an extended adolescence in a social context. Extending the years of education would help to validate this.
People are living longer, and the rules for Social Security will gradually require staying in the work force a few years longer. Furthermore, people tend to live longer and stay healthier, so the idea of retiring at 65 for everybody begins to seem a little quaint. It takes a little longer for opportunities in some areas of the work force to open up, so this transitional period would give young people a time to explore and even contribute to various areas of the economy.
Once kids are 18, they are generally not allowed certain benefits as dependents, such as insurance coverage, unless they are full-time students. Well, entry-level jobs, particularly the kind one gets with limited education, don’t tend to offer excellent health benefits. Also, there are problems with people like foster kids, who are released into the world at 18 without a net. Most of those lucky enough to have permanent families can turn to them at least some of the time for at least a little help. Other folks can’t. Keeping these people in the system, but allowing them some real transition/training time, could be helpful.
Now you could put what I know about economics in a thimble and still have plenty of room left over, but I do know all this would take money. However, what we do now takes money, and we are still unleashing many young adults into the world without being able to take care of themselves in a complex society…so shouldn’t we rethink how to spend the money? Also, it seems that we could have people contributing to the economy in those 1-2 extra years, the primary reward buying a little extra time to be cared for by society.
I know it’s all more complicated than this, but change starts with throwing out a few ideas, and letting smart people work with them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I need song suggestions

I'm planning a 25th anniversary celebration next summer, and I need a song for each year, 1981-2006. I've been going through various lists online, and have come up with a few, and some of them keep showing up over and over. Except for a very few, they're not "our" "favorites". I would really appreciate suggestions. I need to know the song title, artist, and year. (I know 2006 can't be done yet.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

I'll Tumble 4 Ya

Well, spring is over and none too soon. I begin this summer in my second week of wearing a lovely "post-operative sandal" on my right foot. I have not had an operation, but that's what it's called. I think I hurt it May 6 when I decided I would be a big girl and drive to Southfield during rush hour. Well, apparently one does NOT merge onto Telegraph as if it were a freeway, even though that's what it looks like from the other freeway because it turns out CARS ARE STOPPED at the entrance. Fortunately, my companion shouted "Slow down!" as I was looking off to the side for my opening, or it would have been much worse. I was wearing high heels and punched the brake pedal as hard as I could. I did hit the car ahead of me, but not hard enough to deploy anyone's airbags. So in the next couple of days, day, when I complained my leg and my foot hurt, no one was paying attention as my mother had just had her entire left breast removed and was indeed being a big, brave girl. My foot continued to swell over the next few weeks so I finally made a doctor appointment. In the days leading up to the doctor appointment, I went to the grocery store on a Saturday afternoon (rush hour again) and stepped up to a sample booth to get a little cup of potato chips. While my back was turned, a young man from a beer distributing company had pushed up an empty hand truck, flatbed, whatever, behind me,and looked off to the side. I turned around and banged my shin on it, and as I was absorbing the pain, still not looking, he continued to push it, and I took a SPECTACULAR fall...there was actual tumbling. There was much attention offered, and I gladly received all of it, but mainly I was worried about my foot. Now I have lovely bruises (healing now) on both my shins and up my left leg. My work schedule was changed and I had to put off the doc appointment a few days, but we finally discovered I had fractured my second metatarsal. Fortunately, it seems to be healing, and I'm totally getting out of all kinds of summer chores. I'm pretty sure I fractured it in the car accident, but the grocery store fall didn't help. So the guy from the beer distributing company called and apologized, and asked if my husband was a beer drinker, and if he played golf, etc. so they're going to send him a golf shirt. (he also said to call him if I had some medical bills from the accident, which i didn't.) He finally asked if there was anything they could do for me, and I said, "Well, I drink beer." (Not that I want a shirt.) Now we're just waiting for my foot to heal so I can go shoe shopping again, and waiting for our gifts. I'm also not leaving the house much without a chaperone.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The one time of the month I can be myself

I think it was comedian Roseanne Barr who said that PMS is the one time of the month that a woman can be herself. Well, I should have written a few days ago, then, but better late than never. Here is what's bugging me today. This is going to be pretty stream-of consciousness:

We rented the DVD Hotel Rwanda Saturday. I remember at the time that situation was going on, sort of vaguely listening and being very confused about what was going on. Anyway, after watching the film, I started reading a book of my son's that I had noticed for years but never picked up called We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. It's very informative and written with a good deal of passion, and dealt with the question that I kept asking during the movie. How do you get human beings to turn on their fellow human beings like that--people they work with, go to school with, live beside? And what is inside some people that gives them the courage to do the right thing, and the intelligence to do it effectively?

I know it's not an original question. I know getting people to turn on others involves dehumanizing, vilifying, and scapegoating people. Hutu Power called the Tutsis "cockroaches", and Gourevitch points out that at one time, Tutsis even claimed the term as one that expressed their stealth and persistence. However, it was used to great and evil effect by Hutu Power in the 1990s.

After finishing Part 1 of the book, I skipped ahead to the last chapter. Gourevitch described watching an in-flight movie on the plane, and calling some people who did something evil and criminal as "white trash." I will not lie and say this is a term I have never used; however, I think I have always used it in a self-deprecating way. That doesn't make it OK. It just seemed contradictory to me that Gourevitch used this all-encompassing term to describe a criminal act after having written an entire book, in part discussing how making sweeping generalizations about people can cause others to justify mayhem.

As I have heard the term"white trash" over the years, it is not just a term used to describe people who are criminally racist. It describes an economic status, cultural preferences, lifestyle decisions, perhaps even a dwelling, e.g. the hideous synonym "trailer trash" which I have never used other than to say how much I hate it. The classism inherent in that phrase is overwhelming. A college student in 1995 pointed out that someone at a university using it might very well not know that the student beside them grew up in such a dwelling.

I looked it up, and discovered that the term "white trash" has origins in slave culture, used to describe white people of low economic status, lower than that of slaves who held more prestigious positions among slaves, for lack of a better way of describing it.

Anyway, it has become something else, and I frequently hear it used by people I consider enlightened. I can't figure out any distinction other than economic: poor young woman who decides to raise her child or children born out of wedlock: white trash. Young woman of upper middle-class status in same situation: making a brave decision to be a single mother. Or perhaps exercising her Supreme Court -given decision to make a choice for abortion. Don't get me wrong; I'm pro-choice, but if a poor woman makes the decision to raise her own child--she's risking being called white trash.

I know the response would be that people aren't using the term to describe all poor people, or all people from a geographical region, just the ones who...right. There are two kinds of whatever.

People with money often make the same very bad decisions that people without it do. They just have a greater ability to cover their asses.

I find the justifications for using the term a giant load of elitist bullshit. But that's just me and I guess I've made it pretty clear who I am, right?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Why life is like high school

I was substitute teaching yesterday for a very creative lady, kids love her, and I love subbing for her. I don't think I've ever met her in person but her classroom always looks like her brain blew up and every happy, pretty thing, along with all the thoughts in her head and wishes for world peace, and love of travel and children and books came swirling madly about the room until their momentum subsided and they gently floated down onto any random place.

Things in this classroom are always lying about and I am nosy, not to mention whenever I sub I conduct a search to see if the teacher stashes snacks somewhere. Anyway, I came upon a note to her from another teacher, apparently in response to a request for input on materials for teaching a unit on dystopia. He makes some suggestions about things he has found that worked, but here's what's bugging me: he suggested showing the film Brazil to the AP kids, and Gattaca to the others. Now truthfully, I only vaguely recall both of these films, but I know Brazil is the cultier, artsier one, and Gattaca is the commercial one with marketable stars.

In a post several months ago, I lamented that some kids seemed to be "ghettoized" for being a little more rebellious into classes that not only get them to examine their attitudes, but make wonderful suggestions for entry- level jobs in places like bakeries and amusement parks. I don't think this Brazil/Gattaca deal is quite the same thing, but it bothers me in the same place in my gut. I suspect most HS English teachers were probably AP types. This note suggested a rather condescending attitude to me...only the ones like "us" are going to "get it":" we'd better dumb it down for the rest of 'em.

I'm understanding more and more why life is pretty much like high school.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Good things, Bad things, Not sure yet, volume 2

Good things: I'm feeling much more positive than usual. I don't know whether it's yoga, some nice times with friends, or what, but I'm just feeling like everything's going to work out. Or maybe I just felt so crappy for a while that I just had to feel better. Not as bad as I felt a couple years ago, though. The upside of that is that I learned how to relax a little bit, and that the dark times pass.

Bad things: Mom has breast cancer and is having surgery next week. I know not to get too scared until we find out the entire story after surgery. I'm going to go to the hospital the day of the surgery then spend some time with her as she recovers. I'm continuing to hold on to positive thoughts, and she sounds like she is, too. No matter how you look at it, though, cancer is scary and it sucks.

Not sure yet: I've got projects to do and exams next week, as well as the tests and research papers I have to correct for my own job. I think I might be eligible to get my post-bachelor Legal Assistant certificate, but I don't know if one of my classes will count toward it. I'll try to see someone next week about it. I only have until May 6 to apply for it, so I'd better hurry.

Now that I've met my twice a month posting average, I feel much better.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Something fun

I'm not sure how to do this so I might have a lot of junk up here, but found this on The Ehtical Werewolf's website. My results: 65% General American English (Not too surprising for an English teacher, but perhaps a little more homogenized than I think is cool); 20% Upper midwestern (OK; there is my Michigan identity. Pop rules!) 10% Midwestern (Mom's from southeastern Missouri); 5% Yankee (from TV?) and 0% Dixie. A couple issues, though. When I lived in the Detroit area, I almost always said bag. When I moved to mid-Michigan, sack started creeping in. Now, in terms of groceries, in my mind it's paper bag and plastic sack. Also, as a youngster, I said tennis shoes, but as I grew older and more interested in language, that seemed inaccurate. Tennis shoes are those tiny, feminine looking ones, and the big, clunky engineered ones are sneakers.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My dark side shines at Daylight Savings Time

For about the past 8 hours, I 've been feeling like I'm headed in the direction of the insomniac dark side. I think it's the time change. I woke up in the middle of the night just unbelievably pissed at every perceived slight in the past month or so. Then I wept and wept.

I don't like myself when I'm like this. I turn on the unsuspecting, snapping at them like they are responsible for fixing this.

Maybe it's not just the time change. For my legal writing and research class, we have to research and write a memorandum about a hypothetical social host liquor liability case. In order to do this, I have had to read a lot of cases where tragic things happened, usually to minors. Because it's easier for me to think that way, I used actual names in the rough draft. It's o.k.; these cases are all public record. The instructor advised me, though, that it's too confusing. It's true a lot of people show up, and keeping everyone straight is difficult. I don't know how it becomes less confusing, though, if you keep repeating,"a minor" or "a 19-year-old" or "plaintiff's decedent." It feels a little disrespectful to me. These are real things that happened to real people with names and faces.

I am not cynical about the law in general. Most of the people I meet are sincerely interested in the public policy considerations which underlie the legal system, although they will admit its inherent inequalities. It just alarms me, though, to think that in order to help people, one has to become detached when reading about or dealing with these things. It's necessary, I guess, but it just seems like there's something not...nice, about it. Like if I learn to do this, I'm going to turn really cold-hearted or something. I know that's not true, and clearly, I just admitted in the second paragraph I can be kind of mean sometimes, anyway. Maybe I'm just worried that that's the side that will take over, and I'm really invested in being thought of as a "nice" person.

And here's something weird. When I read these cases which usually involve parties and drinking and subsequent tragedy, I really want a beer or a glass of wine. Not to escape the feelings, but more like, "Hey! A beer really does sound good right now." Because I am then rather shocked at myself, I don't have one.

And perhaps it's something I read in a comment on a student evaluation from last fall...they were generally positive, but of course, those aren't the ones I obsess over. I'm intrigued, perplexed, and maybe saddened over one comment in a section about anything in general the student wants to say about the instructor. It said something to the effect of "...not too friendly, which is the way I think it should be." What? I don't know what to do with that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Go Green!

Exciting stuff: Both the men's and women's MSU basketball teams are going to the Final Four. Things are always just a little more fun around here when the men are playing in the Final Four, but the women, too...very cool.
I must be honest and say that there is much that I do not understand about the game, except the very basics. Nevertheless, we have been sharing season tickets with another couple for the men's games for the past four years or so, which is why this year is especially fun. I really want this for the seniors. When you watch people play over the course of their college career, you feel a connection to them, even though you don't know them.
Next year we'll have to start going to the women's games, too, I think.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Good Things/Bad Things/Not Sure Yet

Good things: February is over. I feel about February the way Dana feels about is just a big waste of space that gets in the way of getting where you want to go.
Mom gave me an excellent gift.
Spring break starts soon and we can go someplace that is probably (please) warmer than here.
Bad things: Even though it's March, it's still so freakin' cold. There are piles of hideous snow on the ground. What would be quite charming in December is so depressing in March.
Not sure yet: We thought we had bought some time, like maybe a couple of years, to postpone and prepare for some major decisions. However, now our hand will be forced in one way or another. We must now make those huge decisions, but will have to go into "hurry up and wait" mode in order to collect enough information to make them. At any rate, whether we are ready or not, our life will soon change in big ways.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lenten disciplines

Now, when I take the time to observe it, I recognize Lent as a wonderful time to take a step back and work on some of life's harder stuff, at least the stuff that's hard for me. There is the "giving up" of something (sometimes) but that's only the beginning. For me, this year, it will be candy. Since my husband and I have been making "lifestyle changes" for our health, he thought I had already given that up, but no. I have a compulsive candy habit, recently fed by the leftovers from the giant bag of mini-packs of Jelly Bellies that I had purchased for Christmas stockings. (1 serving=3 mini-bags, 150 calories).
That is so I can be more mindful. I love to eat what I call "monkey food," especially when I am reading or studying--tiny food that I can mindlessly pop in my mouth.
I want to extend the theme of mindfulness into "getting my house in order" both literally and figuratively. I feel burdened by several tasks, large and small, that I need to (or want to) accomplish; many of them I keep forgetting to do. It is due to a lack of organization and discipline, and I believe by addressing these things I can free myself spiritually and emotionally.
In my mind, I call this "getting the monkeys off my back." During this time, perhaps I will also think about why I seem to be obsessed with monkey metaphors.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Ageism at home and abroad

Although this is supposed to be a blog about "middle-age" (there's got to be a better phrase), sometimes weeks go by and the issue doesn't really come up. Then, it seems to come up again incessantly.
Yesterday, I was talking with a fun, pretty, talented friend/relative of mine, and she talked about being in church yesterday, and they announced there would be a Valentine's Day dance. She thought that sounded like a lot of fun and that she and her husband might go, until the rest of the announcement explained that this was for people in their 20's and 30's. She stated that this was the first time she ever felt "old." I think many of us have this moment, and often, it is foisted upon us by outside forces.
Her husband is 39, and I asked her about using this "technicality." Sounding dejected, she said that it felt pretty clear that they meant 35ish as an upper limit.
Later, I recalled having a similar situation several years ago when I was in my 30's. Again, this is an event I wanted to attend, but my husband was in his 40's. Where did we fit in?
I thought at that time about challenging the situation and forcing the issue of people who didn't fit neatly into a category, but didn't have the gumption, energy, or whatever. I just remember feeling annoyed.
Another issue was that earlier this week, the issue of age (as an outgrowth of vocabulary about food, health, nutrition) came up in my class. A Korean student reported being very surprised to see older people working at Wal-Mart and other places. An elderly person just wouldn't be allowed to work in his country, regardless of his/her preference. Reteirement is mandatory. That one made me feel good about being an American, because, regardless of one's feelings about Wal-Mart and other such places, it's nice to know that if you want (or need) to be in the workplace in some way, you can.
Finally, the AARP magazine has been reporting on a class action suit, that, although initially dismissed, has been readmitted into the courts. A group of writers has brought a class-action suit against several studios for blatant age discrimination. Many of them were either fired or not hired to work on television programs, despite lists of successes and awards for their work. The prevailing idea is that studios wanted TV shows for young demographics, such as Friends, written by young writers. The writers claimed it is ludicrous that older (and in Hollywood, "older" starts pretty young) couldn't write for young audiences. One writer stated that Shakespeare wasn't 15 years old when he wrote Romeo and Juliet. That's a bit of a stretch of a comparison, but makes the point. Also, older people have been young, but younger people have not been older. Perhaps that accounts for some of the stereotypical, offensive crap regarding age which I have noticed on some sitcoms lately.
To that end, I am going to start taking out my frustrations out on this blog when I see offensive images/comments/stereotypes in various media. Although I like to avoid that kind of negativity because I feel when you always go looking for trouble you will inevitably find it, I think it's important. I will also try to notice positive images and activity as well.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Charlie and Jack: Better than Prozac

Yesterday as I went to church, I was really feeling the need for comfort and inspiration. In the past several weeks, several things have occurred which affect my life, but I have no real control over (at best, I might have influence, but ultimately no control). These are all things with consequences I will have to deal with sooner or later. I have been losing sleep, and while I'm trying to maintain a positive attitude, it's not easy.
However, during church, there were baptisms scheduled, as there often are every few weeks. Two families had babies, and one family had an 11 -month- old baby and two older kids, 6 and 7, I think. After the first baby baptism, the pastor moved on to 11-month-old Charlie. As the pastor was anointing/sprinkling him and saying, "Charlie, I baptize you in the Name of the Father..." Charlie looked him right in the eye and started strumming his lower lip and making that know, like bbb bbb bbb. The kid's comic timing was perfect, and I wish I could communicate the perfection of his delivery. The whole church broke up for about three minutes; when the laughter finally started to die down, the pastor said, "What you didn't hear was his brother Jack proudly say, 'I taught him that.' " There was almost as much laughter as before.
During the remainder of the service, during the sermon (a pretty serious one about dealing with the unfairness of life) and the subsequent prayers, I kept trying to suppress chuckles every time I thought about Jack and Charlie's show. I don't know their parents, but they must be very cool, first for producing such funny kids, and second, for naming those little guys Jack and Charlie.
I feel a lot better now. I don't know if anything has changed changed, but something about their performance seemed to put everything in perspective for me.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Aging Baby Boomer prattle

So I'm feeling very aging Baby Boomer today. I wasn't until I was reading the "Source" section of the newspaper, in which it was reported that "aging baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964" had certain preferences in house designs. (The only one I strongly agreed with was good lighting, but I have been wearing corrective eyewear since I was four years old; good lighting is essential, and yes, even more so with age, it turns out.)
Also, I was reading that the film Meet the Fockers is doing well because it has something for everyone: Streisand and Hoffman for we old folks, and Ben Stiller for the young'uns. I haven't seen it, but it is true that I like Dustin Hoffman. However, I have also liked Ben Stiller ever since I saw him on a little-noticed comedy sketch show he had (I can't recall the name) that also featured Janeane Garafalo.
It turns out that Laura Bush is a Ben Stiller fan, too. I read it yesterday in Vogue. Now for anyone who knows me, it definitely seems incongruous for me to have a Vogue subscription, and it is. However, I got a card that offered it for $1.00 an issue, and you could get a free red bag if you paid with your order. Well, I love free stuff (and red stuff), and I will read anything. I read like The Count on Sesame Street counts. It is compulsive and frequently non-discerning. Vogue also features pretty, shiny pictures of pretty, shiny people.
Anyway, I read Vogue like I watch exercise shows or Fit TV--curled up on the couch (until recently, with a bag of chips) and saying "Huh."
The aging Baby Boomer feeling is also a by-product of too much time off, I think. I stayed pretty busy through the holiday season, but now I know I need to go back to work. It's almost 1:00 and I'm still in my PJ's, I have started to get interested in one or two storylines on All My Children, and I've been stopping way too long on Jerry Springer when I flip through the channels.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Lexiconic Archaeology: Time to Buy a New Dictionary

Who would have thought that a casual glance at the back of my paperback dictionary would cause me to think its time to look into retirement centers? I keep a couple of dictionaries at my desk, but the big hardback one is too cumbersome to take down from the shelf when I'm preparing vocabulary tests or attempting to prove a family member wrong about their pronunciation of a word. When I got this dictionary, it was fake leather-bound and had a matching thesaurus and came in a little case. It was a wedding gift from the owner of the answering service (another clue to its vintage) where I worked at that time. It has long since been liberated from its "leather" prison, but for some reason I never read the back until yesterday.
It boasts:
*The only paperback dictionary based on the up-to-date, continuously maintained Webster's New World citation file. Many entries, including those below, do not yet appear in any other paperback dictionary:
bait-and-switch laid-back sleaze
beefcake lithium carbonate soaper
biorhythm magnet school streetwise
blow-dry motocross stir-fry
blue flu nerd Sunbelt
blusher paralegal tank top
chemosurgery parenting videodisc
DWI prioritize off the wall
glitzy scuzzy whirlpool bath
health food out of sight wing it
househusband slammer zit

At least that explains some of my moral failings. During my childhood, parenting and health food had not yet been invented, nor was I able to prioritize. Interestingly, despite the absence of zits, I was still able to develop a good many of them. I'm afraid I was a nerd: just ahead of my time, I guess. And wouldn't you know; just as I was getting married, beefcake appeared on the scene.
I also know now why I waited until middle-age to take paralegal courses. And because I am a good English teacher, here is my source: Guralink, David B. (ed.). Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language. Fawcett Popular Library: New York, 1979.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Ghettoizing the rebels

As a secondary substitute teacher, I have had the opportunity to spend time in four different school districts. I'm amazed by kids in general and teachers in general. There is a lot of creativity and intelligence out there, which I find encouraging. However, in some places I find a bit of an undercurrent which I can't quite think of a word or phrase to describe, and it alarms me.
I was subbing in one particular suburban school district (in which I have been employed in the past as an adult education teacher and a summer school teacher, in addition to some contact with its alternative high school). During the plan period of the teacher I was subbing for, I was asked to go assist a teacher in another classroom. I was informed that it was a classroom for kids with mild "special needs." (That particular phrase, along with "high-risk students" is one that could use some re-thinking.)
It soon became apparent to me that this was an "attitude adjustment" class. As I looked at the way kids were dressed, and their comportment, I felt that they probably were not "fitting in" quite right with this formerly rural, increasingly suburban, McMansion- sprouting community. I listened to one young lady read aloud from an article about using language that helps us take personal responsibility for our reactions ("I felt angry" as opposed to "It made me mad.") Really, I support this kind of thing, but as I listened her reading fluently and expressively, I wondered how she ended up in this class.
A little later, we watched two videos about people who began work at entry level jobs (the first at Six Flags and the second one at a commercial bakery) and ended up having satisfying jobs in management. (Yeah, life works that way in general, I thought.) Having taught a Career Exploration class in Adult Ed and having shown such videos myself, it wasn't really so much the videos themselves that bothered me. Somebody has to manage Six Flags and the bakery, and I sincerely believe there is pride in all work. I love patronizing any business where things go smoothly and employees are well-trained and fairly compensated. (Full disclosure:I also patronize businesses where that does not happen, something I might want to work on.)
Then there was a follow-up essay to the article, in which the kids had to personalize the strategies suggested. The girl who had impressed me earlier said, "I really hate that Mrs. X (the absent teacher) keeps giving us these assignments where we have to change our attitude. I like my bad attitude! I like my good attitude!" I wanted to scoop her up and take her off to an art or music or writing class.
I don't want to be unfair. Having worked in several situations with difficult students, I understand they can be disruptive to everyone and just a pain in the ass in general. However, some of them are extremely creative and funnier than hell (My particular favorite was a summer school student who made a pop-up, pull-out book in response to "The Miller's Tale", which I kept and was advised not to show to anybody) and ask questions that deserve to be asked. Should we really be "socializing" everybody? This particular school district seems to do an especially efficient job of ghettoizing the rebels, and I don't think that's good for either the students with a tendency to conform or the ones who are inclined to challenge everything.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Some New Year's resolutions I can actually keep (if I have the stomach for it)

Keeping in mind that it has become too difficult to beat them, I will take the path of least resistance and join them:
* Even though I despise bullet points, I will use them as much as possible.
* I will say things like, "Give it to Bob or myself."
* I'll talk about my friends "out of Detroit." They are all out of Detroit, literally, now, so it will be true and obnoxious at the same time.
* I'll use semicolons quite frequently; and my use of them will be inappropriate and pretentious because a comma would be more appropriate. I will say it is "journalistic." (I will also continue to use quotation marks in a sardonic manner [but only in writing], because that's just fun. I will, however, quit using air quotes.) I will also continue to overstate points in order to accommodate my OCD.
* I will use the word parenthetically in conversation as much as possible.
* I will use the verb to vet whenever possible, and I will finally find out where and when that word originated. I understand that to say investigate is just too many syllables in these complicated times.
Finally, just for personal pleasure, not to "join them," ( because they generally don't do it) I will work the phrase "patriarchal hegemony" into as many conversations as I can, no matter how inappropriate or irrelevant.