Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

To see other Wordless Wednesday, click here

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Circa 1993

Walking the Border Collie this morning I took a different route than usual. I have been told (twice now) that dogs in general and border collies in particular need mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. And that this means not to take the same walk everyday so as not to bore the dog.

So on our mix-it-up-live-a-little walk this morning we pass a small park in our neighborhood. I had a flashback to the days of yore. Translation: 15 years ago. We bought our house in 1993 when Son was one and Daughter was four.

I remember taking the kids up to this park a lot when they were little. They have this cool little wall around one of the trees, with a sidewalk and two gates. My daughter could go for quite awhile opening and closing the gate. Pushing son in stroller through and then doing it all over again. I could sit on the wall and watch. On this one day I was watching a friend’s kids. Her daughter was seven and her son was four. At the time I was not aware that seven year olds are sometimes quite good readers.

Hey kids let’s walk to the top of the hill and look at the view.

Scurrying and running from the three kids. I pull my son out of the stroller and take him up on my hip. The view is gorgeous and I have a blanket with me to spread out and sit on with the baby. The two four year olds are chasing each other around as four year olds do, but end up right by my side when the precocious seven year old comes up.



Somebody wrote on that tree over there.

Like carved the tree?

No, it looks like paint.

AH. The teenagers did graffiti on a tree. They shouldn’t do that.

Can you look at it and read it. I read it but I don’t get it. It says, “Either eat me or fuck me.”


It says…

That’s OK. I heard you. Sweetie, can you show me the tree?

She walks me a few feet over where a tree’s trunk has a burl in it- that I have to admit looked like one big wooden vulva. The child traces the words, which are circled around the alleged genitalia, with her fingers and says, See, Auntie. Eat me or..

Yeah. You know what? I have no idea what it means. Some stupid teenagers wrote some stupid words. But your mommie is smarter than your auntie so you can ask her when she comes back later.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Phoenix and Funeral Pyres

I’ve spent the better part of this quarter immersed in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 with 150+ fifteen and sixteen year olds. I didn’t pick this novel; it came with the turf. In public education you take what gets handed down to you and when I moved into 10th grade two years ago I wasn’t head over heels at the idea. I must have read it in high school myself because I knew it was about firemen burning books, but I didn’t read it again in college. And I didn’t remember it well enough or fondly enough to go

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO YES YES YES. I know EXACTLY how I’m going to approach teaching that book.

But I took it home for the summer and read it the first time straight through, while I was flying from Honolulu to NYC (family vacation –first one that wasn’t about family visiting…. hmm… I think I should do a post someday about living so far from home that every time you scrape enough money up for a trip it’s time to visit family again, and of course you love to and want to, but THINK of all those places you don’t get to go).

So. Anyways.

At the end of the school year I have the students do an evaluation, anonymous of course, and ask them stuff like what was your favorite unit, what was your least favorite…etc. Last year, my first year in 10th grade, over 60% of the kids said Fahrenheit was their favorite unit from the entire year. Surprised the hell out of me. I mean, it seemed like they were more engaged than other times, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. They have to appear cool at all times, ya know? I knew I had come to love the book, loved prying into the ideas layered in the subtext, loved the rich figurative language; but I didn’t realize the extent to which they had come to love it too.

This year, with all the media hoopla surrounding the election, it’s even more relevant. The three themes we have been focusing on: the rights and responsibilities of living in a democracy, the dehumanizing effects of mass media on a society, and alienation/loneliness. The kids trip out on the fact that it was written in 1953; it’s, like, ah, the only thing in the class older than their teacher (OK – only by four years – but STILL).

Check this out:

Montag, you are looking at a coward. I saw the way things were going, a long time back. I said nothing. I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself (82).

My students’ last writing ssignment was to respond to this quote by writing about some time when they have seen something wrong; in the world, in America, in Hawaii, or in their community. What is/was it? Did they do something? What could they have done? What would they do if they could go back?

I’m happy to report that most of my students have a lot more empathy and concern than they show on the surface. Here’s a list of topics from their responses.

Drugs and Drinking
Drinking and Driving
Domestic Violence
Global Warming
The War in Iraq
Animal Abuse

Teasing and bullying came up the most often. Almost every single student that wrote along these lines thought a part of the solution needed to be people sticking up for a victim when they witness someone being teased or bullied. But most of the students admitted that they have not done that. They are too afraid of being the next victim. Some even admitted to going along with the teasing just to avoid being the next victim, but feeling guilty later.

The culture of fear.

Their responses brought out my own feelings of guilt. When we first went to war, after the 911 attacks, I didn’t think we should go to war. I didn’t believe there were weapons of mass destruction. I didn’t want my president (not mine in that I voted for Bush, just mine because afterwards he, unfortunately, now belonged to all of us) taking this path of destruction. I did not think this war would make us more safe. Even back then I thought that this war would impact America negatively.

A few weeks after the war started, I was driving home from Honolulu one afternoon in traffic hour. Along Ala Moana Boulevard, smack in the middle of downtown, there were protesters. Signs and everything. Demonstrating against the War on Iraq. There were only about 10 of them. They looked liked well-aged activists from the 60’s. As I sat in traffic, moving so slowly along that I could have shaken each and every one of their hands had I rolled down my window, I thought they were making a futile attempt. George W Bush and the Republican Party had managed to harness the patriotism following the attacks in such a way that the entire country seemed bent on the notion that going against anything the President and his party did was unpatriotic. Unsupportive of our troops. I let myself flow along with the traffic, amongst the other drones in cars.

What kept me quiet during those times? At the time I told myself that I taught at a school where there are a lot of students from military families and I was afraid of appearing “unsupportive.” But I know that is not good enough.

What would I do if I could go back? Would I park my car and ask for a sign? Would I have my children stand by my side out there and see democracy in action? If everyone who thought like me had done a little something more, would things be better now? Maybe not. George W. Bush had quite a momentum going. But, maybe, yes.

I like the way the novel ends. The hope at the center of an apocalypse. After the nuclear bombs and devastation, the leader of the survivors says this:

There was a silly damn bird called a phoenix back before Christ, every few hundred years he built a pyre and burnt himself up. He must have been first cousin to Man. But every time he burnt himself up he sprang out of the ashes, he got himself born all over again. And it looks like we’re doing the same thing, over and over, but we’ve got one damn thing the phoenix never had. We know the damn silly thing we just did. We know all the damn silly things we’ve done for a thousand years and as long as we know that and always have it around where we can see it, someday we’ll stop making the goddamn funeral pyres and jumping into the middle of them. We pick up a few more people that remember every generation (163).

I hope we have picked up enough people over the last eight years.
Obama ‘08

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Obama Song

Because I think we could all use something lighter today. And because Obama rocks.

"A nerdfighter is someone that instead of being made out of bones and organs and stuff is made out of awesome"-Hank Green vlogbrothers

To hear the original Llama song click here. So that should help drill out economy anxiety for work on Friday.

Define “It”

As the quarter rushes forward and with only two weeks left, after-school tutorials become more popular. It’s like there’s suddenly an 8th period. There are THAT many kids in my classroom. For a lot of them, they don’t need too much extra help, it’s more like they need a place where they KNOW they will actually stay on task and finish their work. Where they can sit with like minds who are doing the same work and talk about the novel and get in some extra literature discussion while they tackle the “critical thinking questions.”

Monday afternoon four boys who have never been to tutorial plunk themselves down at the round table right by my desk. They pull out their study guides for the novel and one of them announces, I need help. The others make utterances along the same line.

I twirl my rollie chair around and scootch over to the table.

OK. Where are you stuck? Which question is giving you a hard time?

The boy who can enunciate looks at me and says, I don’t get it.

Ok what don’t you get?

It. I don’t get it.

The other three boys chime in. Me too. I don’t get it. Me too. I don’t get it either.

That's pretty broad. Give me a place to start. Define "it".

My eyes are purveying the table and as the boys use their hands to flatten out their study guides, which are crumpled and sad from being at the bottom of their backpacks, I notice all of their study guides are COMPLETELY BLANK. They have had the fourth and last study guide since the previous Wednesday.

Boy one says, The book. I don’t get IT.

Me too, the book. Me too. Me too.

Give me a place to start. Where did you get lost?

Can’t we just start with the first question Miss. You help us answer the questions, like tell us the answer in your words and then we put it in our words?

I need to figure out what you understand and don’t understand from your reading.

Oh. I didn’t read the book. I don’t read books. It’s not my learning style. I don’t like reading.

Me too. Me too. Yeah, I don’t read books at all.

You're in 10th grade English. You are on your way to earning a high school diploma. You’re going to have to read the book.

Isn’t there a movie we can watch? You sure you can’t just give us the answers? Isn’t that what tutorial is for?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Old Man Take a Look at His Life

I netflixed the movie The Savages last weekend. Two adult siblings caring for their father during his last months. A father who had been abusive and not very caring himself.

It made me think of this huge baby boomer generation and what it might be like another 10 and 20 years from now. Hopefully the economy won’t go belly up. BTW. For a great blog on the economic bailout, see Shauuna. She has links to articles AND to a website that gives you direct access to emailing your White House people’s what you think of it.

The movie also made me think of our dog grandpa. I write so much about Border Collie, even posting pictures, that it makes it look terribly neglectful of Old Man. He’s 16 and we adopted him as a three year old when Son was 3 and Daughter was 6. As a young dog he’d be out in the service alley with 10-15 kids. They’d try and tie him to their wagon trains to be their “horse,” but he’d none of it. He’d jump into one of the wagons and let the kids pull him all over the neighborhood. He used to go to the beach and spend the day trying to catch sandcrabs or swimming in the ocean. At his last check up the vet says he’s nearly blind and mostly deaf. He has arthritis in his hips. Before we got the puppy, Old Man used to act like he couldn’t walk past our yard. However, BC has given the Old Man a new lease on life and he now looks forward to a walk around the block twice a day.

I give you Old Man. Isn’t he regal?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


After working with teenagers for over 15 years, I’d like to think I can usually tell when one of them decides to mess with me. It wasn’t always like that. I’ve been on the butt end of one of their jokes more than once. I remember one time where it got me called into the Principal’s office. I was working at a high school in a remote part of the island; an area with the highest poverty and highest substance abuse rates. I worked in a program for high risk teens that was an adjunct to the high school. The first year was fairly rough, but I weathered the storm and eventually was accepted. I started a creative writing program within my teaching of English there. These students who had seen and experienced more hardship in their brief young lives than most adults will ever have to; they had some very compelling stories to tell. And they could write poetry and narratives that could break your heart.

I started a creative writing “magazine” that we printed quarterly. It was mostly for the program, so the kids could read each other’s stuff. But I also gave copies to all the admin and counselors. One day I got called to the Principal’s office. She was a pit bull of a woman. Straight-up talker. But she had a soft spot for the kids from tough lives and she was very supportive of the program. She had the magazine open to the “dedications” page. (The students had suggested this page. It was mostly teen stuff, in teen shorthand, like, “2DZBFFS4EVAH.”)

The Principal pointed to one of the dedications, and when I say point I mean jabbed her finger at it with each word she spoke to me.

What the hell is this?? Do you want to get us slapped with sexual harassment??


I tried to decipher it aloud. “To the girls. My bowtochi?” I guess it’s some kind of endearment?

The Principal’s eyes widened. She slapped her hand on the desk. POW! She asked me how long I’d been in Hawaii and I told her 15 years. She shook her head. Then she told me to get one of the girls that I could trust to proofread the dedications page. That if something like that made it in again, no more dedications page.

I couldn’t not ask. So I did. She looked me dead in the eye and enunciated each word.



So anyway. It’s been awhile since something like that happened to me. Plus my own two kids are teens now and my son usually has a couple friends hanging around our house. My kids help me from being blindsided at work by keeping me up on the latest expressions.

Yesterday my students were working independently during the second half of the class. Two of the boys came up to me. These are not jokesters. They are not super cool or popular. They’re regular kids. One of them says to me, “Miss, what’s a sphincter?”

Then they both look at me expectantly. I narrow my eyes at them and try to figure out if they are messing with me. I’m not sure how they got to this. The novel they are reading does NOT have the word sphincter in it.

Go look it up I say.

They are gone for about five minutes and then they are back. They claim to have looked it up and still don’t know. In retrospect, I think that they could not figure out the spelling of the first letters and therefore were not successful.

Didn’t you ever see Wayne’s World? I ask them.

Yeah. That’s what so-and-so and I were just talking about. “A sphincter says what?” Everyone always laughs at that and neither of us ever got it.

What to do. What to do. A cursory glance around the room. All the students are busy in their pair readings with their study guides. No one seems to be fixed, even surreptitiously, on my reaction.

I stick my arm out and point to my forearm.

You know how most of the muscles in your body are long, like the muscles that go from your wrist to your elbow?

The two boys nod.

Well, a sphincter is a round muscle.

They both look at me with complete and I’m pretty sure genuine looks of utter confusion.

Like what?

That’s as far as I’m going with this. Figure it out. What round muscle would your female teacher be uncomfortable talking about with a couple of male students?

They both had the cartoon light bulb go off over their heads. One of them actually blushed and then they walked away.

But I’m a little worried that they think a vagina is a muscle and still don’t know what a sphincter is.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dear Ms. Duumaas,

Hi. You probably don’t remember me, but I was in the small hatchback car you were tailgating so relentlessly the other day. You look confused…. Let me refresh your memory.

We were traveling up ______ Road towards the North Shore. I first noticed YOU when the road was four lanes wide and you were dead on my ass. I couldn’t help but notice because the shadow of your big ass SUV loomed in my rear view mirror and blocked my view of anything else. I have to say I was confused as to your purpose. I was a decent and safe distance from the car in front of me and that car to the next car and so on and so forth. There really was no way I could increase my speed nor could anyone else. After all, it WAS 4:45 PM and many people were traveling home after work. I, on the other hand, had decided to throw a curveball into the normal weekday after work rituals and had my teenage son, our border collie, and a surfboard traveling with me. I was seeking joy in the form of a splurge trip to the North Shore. You, it appeared, were trying to fuck with my resolve to seek weekend joy on a mere weekday.

So be it.

When you decided to use the two long blocks that pass the Wal-Mart complex, where there are two lanes traveling north, to attempt to pass me, I have to admit, you were able to get under my skin and touch a nerve. As I watched through my rear view mirror your zig into the lane on your right and your barreling up behind the poor old man in the sedan traveling alongside me, I felt the tension increase in my entire body. An eyebrow rose. When riding on the old guy’s ass did not accomplish your purpose you zagged back behind me. Then you repeated the zig and zag maneuvers, twice I believe. Each time you pulled up even closer on mine and grandpa’s rear. Your SUV looked like some modern day transformer version of Ms Packman, trying to gobble us up, spit us out, and move on to the next two victims in this stream of cars.

For a moment, I have to admit I forgot about joy, about nature, about twisting routines. I can’t really say I forgot about living in the moment. I was feeling pretty alive when I shouted at my rear view mirror, “What the FUCK??!! Are you fucking nearsighted? Where do you expect us to go YOU. DUMB. ASS. BITCH!”

My son slightly twisted his head in my direction and raised an eyebrow himself. Border Collie, a sensitive creature, took on a look of panic.

As we approached the intersection you were back behind grandpa, who I might add was so focused on the road in front of him that he was spared the awareness you were about to flatten him. Since the lane you were in was a right turn only lane to a housing development, I was so hoping that you lived there and the crimp you had put in my shoulders would be relaxing soon.

Yeah. That would have been nice. But no.

At the very last second you cut back in behind me. I was kind of hoping the guy you cut off would give you some of your own medicine. From what I could see in my rear view mirror, he had the equipment. He had a very shiny, very detailed, spanking white Ford F-250. But that is pretty insane of me to hope for because a) in any unforeseen event up the road you would both roll over my little North Shore entourage; and b) it is a mean and negative thought, which I am trying not to have because it isn’t good for my health and it isn’t the person I want to be.

Still, when I realized that the next ten miles of two way country back road was going to be a nonstop tailgating extravaganza, I shouted at my rear view mirror again.


By the way, Ms Duumaas, did you know that border collies are quite intelligent? Mine KNOWS that the word fuck is used mostly when I or my husband is not happy. It upsets BC when we are not happy. So at this point, BC comes flying up between my son and me with his forelegs on the center compartment and he starts licking my ear to make me all better. As I struggle to get my ear out of licking range, I become a less aware driver.

My son, who has been in a surfer dude cruz state looking out his window, suddenly comes to life. He, like everyone in our house, adores BC. He pulls BC off my ear and as he’s trying to get him in the back seat, son sees YOU. And I know you can’t see us because our windows are tinted, but son was giving you stink eye.

“MOM! That crazy lady behind us is going to hit us and BC is going to fly through the windshield. Is she nuts??? What is WRONG with her??? DO SOMETHING!”

So I slowly back off on the gas and slow my car. Yeah. The passive aggressive approach to being tailgated. At first you only sniff my ass more. But you finally figure it out. And although you still were too close for comfort, you do back off a bit.

For the next few miles I keep an eye on you. My eyes dart between the road in front of me and my rear view mirror. And I notice something quite unnerving. Since you have been curtailed from driving all fucking gangbusters, you have decided to have a smoke break. Your left arm is hanging out your window with a cigarette, which you take a drag off of, um, like every five to ten seconds. And your right hand. Yeah. It’s holding a cell phone. You’re gabbing away. No blue tooth. No ear piece. You are holding that cell phone right up to your ear. So one has to wonder. If your left hand is hanging out the window with a lit cigarette and your right hand is holding a phone up to your ear, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU USING TO STEER??

The actual perverse thought that ran through my head was that you were some kind of weird freakzoid hermaphrodite. That you had some talented appendage hanging between your legs and you were using that to steer your vehicle. Six o’clock position. I guess it is even scarier that you are not that hermaphrodite. That you either were barreling along at fifty miles per hour behind me hands free of said steering wheel, or else merely using the inside of one of your forearms to barely have control of your tank.

As we approached the next development you got in the left turn lane. Thank-you Jesus.

AND you were going to pull up next to me.

AND you were riding with your windows down.

I rolled my window down. My son was all like, “Mom, let it go, don’t say anything.”

I’m not sure what I would have said, but what I saw rendered me speechless.

You pulled up a little ahead of me so instead of being parallel to you; I was looking into your back seat. There, in center position, was a car seat and in that car seat was an adorable, precious little boy. I’d say about 18 months old.

I should have been even more upset with you, but it actually took the steam out of my sails. Your son is so cute. And so innocent. How could I throw my rage at that little guy?

You didn’t seem to notice me. You were getting off the phone. You looked pretty pissed off. Maybe you were fighting with your husband. Maybe you’re in the middle of a really bad time. Maybe you’re always mad. I don’t know.

I snapped back though. I was actually able to get back to the person I am trying to be.

Nonjudgmental. Joyful. Grateful.

And when I got to the North Shore and was immersed in my sunset and I was back to my moment of joy, I tried to send it to you. Because I think maybe you needed it even more than me that day. Maybe a lot of days. I hope things get better for you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Made My Day!

It's homecoming week at the high school where I work. So, in addition to getting my students through the last of a novel, staying after school until 4 or 5 everyday tutoring the kids who need extra help with writing, and calling parents of kids who are failing, I also have to put in a few extra minutes in the morning figuring out what to wear each day. Because homecoming week is spirit week and each day is themed and teachers count double spirit points for the class that they teach. And my colleagues in the sophmore class have a lot of spirit. So when I showed up on Monday in regular clothes (in the transition from weekend to workday I forget details like dressing up) I was SHAMED. So, yeah, it's been a hectic week. Hollywood glam day did not help. What 50 year old is naive enough to think she can go an entire work day in heels???? Oh, yeah, that was me.

Meanwhile I did make Don't Worry, It's Only a Movie's day. She's a teacher in Northern New England with a kind and generous soul. Thank-you Movie! That was an uplifter to come home to yesterday.

The deal is I need to pass it on, so here are the rules:

(1) give this to people whose blogs mean something special to you - or give it to the blogs of people who are special to you
(2) leave a comment on their blog so they know they got it
(3) you get to pick the number of times you give it

I'd like to pass this on to:

Shaunna My sister and friend and a wonderful writer.
Kristan My first blog meet over the internet, a talented young writer who shares my love of dogs and, especially, border collies.
Thistle She is really fun and funny. She works in mental health and has a great outlook on life.
24 at Heart A blog I found while troopng around. She's hilarious and very inspiring as she is recovering from a major accident. I also like that she tells funny stories about the plastic people in Orange County.

Today is school colors day! Yippee, an easy one.
See you tommorow with a story of the Dumb Ass Bitch who tailgated me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dear Blog World,

Hmm. It’s been nearly a month since I last wrote you. After a month of fully committing (OK. Slight exaggeration there. AFTER working 50-60 hours week teaching grading, etc – not to mention husband, teens, dogs and house. Some leisure. After ALL THAT fully committing) to this blog thing I have some updates.

  1. Reading blogs and making blog friends on the Internet is an OK addiction.
  2. It’s still difficult to set aside time to write.
  3. I’ve learned how to put in pictures, videos, and links.
  4. I still HAVE NOT checked out those Internet sites my sister sends me to help make my blog more techno savvy.
  5. The virtual world is invading my physical reality. Like the other day when some dumb ass bitch kept tailgating me (she’s coming up below), instead of my usual vulgarity tirade at the rear view mirror, I merely mumbled, “You are a blog rant my dear.”

But the week (weeks, months, years, life) is forging ahead faster than I can keep up with. My students are turning in another big assignment today, which means I have hours of grading again this weekend. Border Collie has obedience school.


So, I thought I’d ask for a little help. Make me commit. Make me step up to the plate so to speak. I’m going to list the topics I’ve got jotted down for possible blogs. So anyone (everyone) who happens to stop by, please vote in the comments for which blog I should write next. It’ll help me take a break from reading addictively to the exclusion of writing and then posting pictures instead of writing.

Things I’ve been thinking about writing:

  1. Women friends and how they helped get me through cancer treatments and recovery.
  2. My apprehension of pharmaceuticals and the way all my doctors so blatantly advertise for them in their offices.
  3. The silver lining of recovery – pros and cons.
  4. The Dumb Ass Bitch who tailgated me all the way to the North Shore, on a two lane road with 20 cars in front of me.
  5. A letter to a super market manager informing him/her of how I did not appreciate the bag boy cussing out the cashier boy while I stood in line.

Thank-you ahead of time to all and any who vote!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


It's my sister's birthday today. Even though she was just here a couple of weeks ago and I already said how much I missed her, I have to do something special for her.

So this is a picture of the beach house my dad rented for a family reunion vacation. Where both my sisters and all our kids stayed for two great weeks back in the day.

And a close up view.

Ah, the times we sat on the porch, playing board games and cards. Watching sunsets. The wonderful meals and BBQ...... Not to mention the wine, margaritas, pina coladas and icey beers....
I miss you sis! Happy birthday from the blog world!

The Border Collie misses you too and says happy happy everyday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Living Outside the Box - Or at Least Trying To

After work. After errands. It's like 4:30 in the afternoon and we are barely in the door when son says, "Mom, dude, it's breaking on the North Shore! Can we go? Can we, can we??"

It's going to be dark in less than three hours. It hardly seems worth the gas by the time we get up there.

"Wouldn't you rather be taking a walk on the beach with Border Collie than watching Monday football with Dad?"

Ah, the lad knows his audience. Husband is more obsessed with football than usual this year. He's involved in some FANTASY FOOTBALL thingy. And there is money involved.

Screw gas prices! Load the car up gangly teen!

Border Collie in sunset.

One last look down the beach path.

Sunset surfers.

OK. SO the picture and video uploaded in the opposite order that I wanted. But I REALLY need to leave for work. So, if you stopped by I'm sure you can figure it out and enjoy a sunset at the North Shore with me and BC.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Manic Monday

For a brief moment, I am caught up on grading. This is how I got there. I stayed home; I did not go to Bookclub on Friday (but mostly because I had a migraine coming on and went to bed instead), I did not go to the beach, I did not go surfing, AND I did NOT write the post that was twirling around in my mind.

I did a dorky thing and figured out what I did with my time.

  1. Grading papers 10 hours (48%)
  2. Preparing lessons 2 hours (10%)
  3. Reading online 4 hours (19%)
  4. Border Collie 5 hours (23%)

I wanted to write someting about the election, but ah....well. That's going to take some effort and finesse.

So, before I go off to work I leave the links to some good reads from this weekend.

On Sarah Palin:

New York Times Article on Palin

A Letter about Sarah Palin from Anne Kilkenny

The Pastor Who Clashed with Palin

Other stuff:

New York Times Op Ed Article Making America Stupid

Made Man

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Fun: True Story, I Don't Even NEED to Exaggerate

Movie recommendation: Mozart and the Whale

“Based on a true story, this romantic drama follows the love affair of two people with Asperger's Syndrome -- a subtle form of autism with a side of savant. Donald (Josh Harnett), an emotionally dysfunctional mathematical genius, leads a support group for those with the syndrome. When an attractive music and art genius (Radha Mitchell) joins the group, Donald's falls for her, but their unique natures make for a challenging relationship.” From Netflix

True story:

So I rented this movie while my sister was here. I was especially interested as I have had several students with either Asperger’s or autism in my classes over the years. This year I have two – one is a student, the other is my TA.

So I watch the movie with my sister and my 19 year old daughter. We really enjoyed it, and afterwards we’re talking along the lines of topics loosely connected with the movie. I’m sharing about the two students I have this year, and how although they don’t socialize a lot with the other students, they totally connect with each other. After class, they have lunch in my room. They talk like crazy and actually look each other in the eye, something they do not do when they talk to me. They like to hang out in my room because kids can be assholes and my student was getting teased and his mom asked if he could get a pass from me to eat inside my classroom.

My daughter (who works at a coffee house by the University) has been politely listening and chimes in.

Daughter: We have a lot of half-way houses for mental health by my work.

Me: Oh. ?

Daughter: Yeah. There’s this one guy who comes in three times a day for diet coke. I think he has autism.

Sister: Oh…. Really….

Daughter: Yeah. Like after he orders his diet coke. While I’m getting it. He stands there at the register the whole time and goes, “Can I have a diet COKE please. Can I have a diet COKE please.” He says it the entire time I make his soda.

Sister: That does sound like Rainman. Remember that movie with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise?

Daughter (not done with story): Yeah. That customer. Yesterday he was saying his “Can I have a diet COKE please. Can I have a diet COKE please.” And then when I gave him his soda, he was. like, looking down, he kinda always looks down, and says, “I like your shoes.”

Me: Well, that’s nice.

Daughter: Yeah. Then he looks up at me and says, “I have a woman’s SHOE fetish.”

A nicer than-usual-for-a-weekday-cab sprays out of mine and my sister's noses and we choke on what is left in our throats.


Daughter: Yeah. I know it’s probably not his fault, but it made me really uncomfortable, so I turned bright red and walked into the kitchen and asked the baker to take his money. The whole time, he was like, “I’m SORry, I’m SORry, I’m SORry. He stays about an hour, drinking his soda. About every fifteen minutes, he’d yell, “I’m SORry.”

Me (trying to stem my un-PC laughter): The poor guy.

Daughter raises eyebrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Laborless Labor Day, Where Are You?

A shady lanai. A beach read (Gingerbread: my teen daughter's chick lit). And a great view.

Centering into the joy, peace, and tranquility of this moment. Like coming up for a gulp of air. Then it's back to catching up with grades etc....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Miss My Sister

Yesterday I got slam dunked at work. One minute it was 7:45 and the next thing I knew it was 3:45. Back to back classes whirled by faster than a day at the beach. My 30 minute lunch included inhaling a bite quick as pie and wading through a backload of email. Monday after school tutorial was, thankfully, full of students who wanted teacher feedback on a paper.
I’m behind on my grading and behind on my prepping. I’m behind on parent phone calls and still haven’t waded through all my work email.

The reason? I’ve been blessed the last ten days with a visit from my sister. She flew in Thursday night before Laborless Labor Day weekend, spent the weekend at the beach house with me and my gal pals and stayed for another week after that. So, while she was here I put grading to the side as much as possible, neglected work as much as possible, and enjoyed her company.

I cannot believe how fast the time went and when she dropped me off at work yesterday, it didn’t really feel like she would be gone when I got home.

But she was. My husband took her to the airport and when I got home from work she was halfway across the ocean.

So I took the Border Collie to the park to play chuck it. Walking across the park in the late afternoon, listening to my I-shuffle and watching my dog run after the ball with so much joy was infective and soon I was joyful too.

And then…

Elton John’s song Daniel came on the I-shuffle. Suddenly the tears were streaming down my face. I had to sit down and let it rip. I hit replay four times before I could let go of the sense of loss, the feeling of separation. When Elton sang, “Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane,” I could FEEL IN MY HEART the dug and pull of my sister’s plane as it took her across the ocean and away from me. When he sang, “Lord I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much,” I let myself feel the full weight of my sorrow and loss. And I let myself cry and cry and cry until I was ready to be done crying.

The day before, our last beach day, we went for a swim. The shore break was a little rough, but I got her to jump in for one last dippity-do-da. One of the reasons I admire my sister so much is that she has lived with a chronic illness for twenty years. One that makes her disabled. Her legs are weak and she can’t trust them. She has to take really good care of herself and she does, so most people would not even know that she lives with a disability. While we were swimming it reminded me of our early years, when we lived in a mobile home park on the beach in Malibu. She is four years older than me and back then I was in awe of her talent for body surfing. One time, the waves were huge, crashing almost over the pier. She and her teen friends went out and she was out the furthest of them all. Everyone on the beach wondered if she needed to get saved, but when she came in she tossed her wet hair at them with a look like “Are you kidding me? I could SAVE YOU ALL.” She was fearless.

As my sister and I went in from our swim on Sunday, I tried to make sure the waves didn’t knock her down. We were almost out, but the undertow was pulling strong and I reached out for her hand to steady her. As she grasped my hand and steadied her legs against the current my heart ached for us both. Not a totally sad ache. But there was a sense of loss for our youth. A hope for our future.

I love my life here in Hawaii and we all make choices that come with the good and the bad. But being separated from family and limiting our visits to when we can afford a plane ticket is definitely a part of the package that makes it stinky sometimes. That my sister and I are both breast cancer survivors creates an even more special bond between us, as well as gratefulness for the times we get to spend together.

So this is for my sis…………………………

Top ten reasons why I enjoy my sister’s company:

10: She helped me with my blog because she is uber smart and savvy with technology.

9: She has the same taste in music as I do, but she is a million times better at knowing the names of the artists, so she makes me mixed CD’s and they’re always my favorites.

8: We like the same wine, and the same wine snacks. We could go for many a night on just bread, cheese, olives, and bottles of red.

7: Our 50 year shared history means that no matter how long we have been apart, we fall right into place when we get together. She feels comfortable going into my fridge.

6: She makes me laugh. A lot. We have a similar sick sense of humor.

5: When we stayed at the beach house and shared a bed, we could stay up late in the dark and talk story like we were still young girls.

4: We could be in the house together and talk or not talk. We can go for hours reading and be comfortable with the silence.

3: I can get mad at my kids in front of her.

2: When she visits, everyone has more fun. We spend more time at remote beaches, having picnics, watching movies, enjoying sunsets, collecting shells, talking story, and taking car rides just for picture safaris.

1: She gets me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And she still loves me.

What do you love about your sister?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Laborless Labor Day Weekend Part II

A week ago I was enjoying this sunset with my gals. Ahhhhhhhhhhh...

This weekend I spent a lot of time grading papers and preparing lessons.

Yesterday afternoon the teen boy asked me to go surfing with him (I use the term loosely for me - I body board - the boy is the surfer). The south shore had a swell and I caught many a wave of the its-great-to-be-alive-whoa-nelly-this-is-kick-ass-fun variety. But now I'm off to work.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Laborless Labor Day Weekend

A week ago right now I was taking a walk here. Today, I have stacks of papers to grade instead...

Friday, September 5, 2008

I Could Have Pled Temporary Insanity

A week ago I was getting ready for one of my favorite times – Laborless Labor Day weekend. From Friday afternoon until Monday whenever, I would be spending my time in a great house on a great beach with great friends. The trick was getting there in the first place. Had things gone slightly different, I’d be writing this from a jail cell.

Friday itself was a time sucking work day and although I had hoped to leave as soon as the bell rang, that did not work out for me. And I had meant to do my grocery shopping earlier in the week. That didn’t happen either.

So when I got home sweating and crabby and two hours later than I wanted, not to mention needing to pack in a hurry, I did NOT need complications. Especially complications that come via a sixteen-year old male entity that possesses my son’s body from time to time.

To boil ten minutes of acute shit-hitting-the-fan scenario down to a nutshell, he was pissing me off. It’s my own fault for allowing he and my friend’s son to make plans that included them on OUR weekend. Maybe a little my fault too that I walked in the door with sparks flying off me from a bad day. But to skip the boring parts, he was planning on riding up with us when my daughter dropped us off (us= me + sister who had flown in the night before and hadn’t seen said nephew since one year and six inches in height earlier). Once at the North Shore he and buddy would go for a lovely swim and ride back with sis to our house. All these plans were made while I was working. I thought my friend had OK’d it; her son had told her that I had OK’d it…

It’s countdown time, about two hours to sunset, and the-one-who-possesses-my-son slid his surfboard on top our duffels in my little hatchback. It’s SO NOT WORKING. The entire front third of his surfboard is sticking between the driver and passenger seats. The nose of his board is angled to my sister in the passenger seat and the look on her face as she peers at it is something like,

“Oh, so you’re the piece of fiberglass planning on clothes lining me in any near accident. How do you do.”

There’s hissing from me. A remark about how the surf board needs to stay in the garage because it is such a better place for it since it will be NEARLY DARK when we get there. In my behalf, I did not mention that it was better for him as well. Who wants to go through life with a surfboard jammed up their behind? Which I think could have been argued appropriate in any court of law because the kid had just looked at me and said, “You’re ridiculous.”

For a second I honestly could feel the blood rush to my head like a cartoon and could picture it exploding, but then…

Suddenly, with sparks flying between us, I wasn’t angry. I was exhausted and hot and sweaty. With slumped shoulders I said plain as day, “you need to choose between staying home with your surfboard or coming up without it.”

The Universe must have decided to cut me a break, because suddenly my son was back. I could see his eyes clear. He actually said, “Fine, I’ll leave the surfboard here if that makes you happy.”

I was able to dive into the ocean just as the sun was setting. I was surrounded in amber, violet, and cobalt blue surreal liquid velvet. I floated on my back and watched the clouds above me change colors.

As I walked up to the beach house for pupus and cocktails, my kids were getting ready to leave. They both gave me huge hugs, told me they loved me and to have a great time. They’re awesome, but…

No shit Sherlock.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sometimes, There Are Worse Things Than Nipplage

I’ve got some battle scars. My right breast has a one inch mark from a lumpectomy that was benign. There’s a leftover trench, a hidden valley of sorts from that surgery. My left breast has a larger disfigurement from the removal of a malignant lump; the lymph nodes were taken as well – sacrificial innocents. There’s a thickening of tissue between my left breast and my underarm. Thirty-seven radiation treatments have made a rough-hewn road between these two camps. And above my right breast, there’s a pot-holed scar. Where the chemotherapy port resided. I had to go in for surgery when this soldier was inserted; but when it was taken out, the surgeon ripped it from its combat zone with just a local in an office exam room, an intern looking on.

So I’m not supposed to wear underwire bras anymore. And I mostly don’t want to because with three scars and road track, they’re uncomfortable. I like to wear sports bras now, or those camisole tank tops with the support bra built in. OK. Not exactly a bra, but a stretchy hammock slung inside for the gals to relax in.

I’m not big breasted, and I’d say with as much humility as possible, that for 50, my boobs are not bad. Plus I have never been super modest in the upstairs arena. Back in the 70’s, my friends and I used to drive up to “Oil Piers” beach (north of Ventura on one’s way to Santa Barbara), the north end of it, and lay out topless. Not because we were showing off our stuff. On the contrary, this beach was deserted. We just didn’t want strap marks. One time, we noticed a guy had worked his way along the boulders shouldering the beach and was checking us out, half hidden. Which we ignored, until we realized that the half of him that was hidden was doing something disgusting while he starred down our way. I really think he thought we’d be so freaked out we’d scream, cover up maybe. Give him some more thrills. But we started laughing, and then the feistiest of us, a 5’2” petite little thing, got up and started calling him out for being such a disgusting loser. Walking toward him with her finger wagging accusingly. He ended up being the one who looked freaked out. I’m pretty sure he never finished what he started as he ambled back down the beach trying to act like he’d been looking for something lost in the rocks. Perhaps he thought he’d find his pride ground up and spread across the sand and if he stepped in it he could carry it back along the bottoms of his feet.

Anywhos, awhile ago my daughter’s performing arts group was having a dinner show to fundraise. My husband and I decided to make it a date night, since we hadn’t been out for months while we paid off my medical bills. Our first date since my hair had grown back enough to not look like a recovering chemo patient. On the night of the event, I was in my bathroom, almost ready. I had on a camisole tank for a bra, a long ribbed tank layered over the cami, a decent pair of jeans and low-slung heels. My short, spiky hair was gelled back and had come out really Euro-chic. I’d just finished my make-up (thrilled that I once again had eyebrows) and was adding the finishing touch – a pair of silver earrings, when my daughter walked in, took one look at me, and said, “Mom. I can see your nipples.”

“There are three layers of material over my nipples. The tank, the camisole tank, and the built in bra.”

“That’s NOT a bra. No one wears a spaghetti-strap tank without a bra unless they’re an A-cup and twelve years old. Can you PLEASE put on a bra and not show up at the fundraiser with your nipples showing.”

Well, I did not have a strapless bra as it had been an underwire bra and I had gotten rid of all of those. But… I did have a pair of silicon enhancers I had bought recently to wear to a wedding. When I went to the wedding I was in the middle of chemo and wanted desperately to not look too forlorn. I had worn a beautiful scarf around my head, topped with a summer straw hat, and a summer dress that was deep pink with wide straps. I had needed something to smooth out the uneven terrain of the battle scars and a friend who is a wedding planner had suggested the free floating implants to fill out the bottom of my bra. I had to go to Neman Marcus to get them and at $50 they were quite the investment. But they were so worth it. Instead of rough seas, there were smooth swells.

Remembering how pretty I had felt that day, I slipped the jelly pads into the camisole’s hammock. I figured that after all those months of doctors, nurses, radiation techs, not to mention their interns, best friends, and publicity agents feeling up my boobs and then leaving me topless while they discussed my boobs in front of me I had become a little too cavalier and perhaps my daughter was right. So, for my daughter’s peace of mind, I smoothed out the nipplage with silicone pads.

The dinner before the show was a buffet and after claiming our seats my husband and I made our way over to get our dinner. As I leaned over to ladle something onto my plate, there was a slight feeling of slippage in the old hammock area. One of the gals was separating from her false friend. I eyed out the “waiters” (theater teens) on the other side of the buffet to see where they were looking. I was hoping I could just stick my hand down my top, grab hold of the jelly half-boob, and slap it back into place. No such luck. The kid was standing there with a pair of tongs and waiting to see if he could offer me some chicken. Hmm. As I moved down the line, I held my plate with both hands and lined up the inside of my right bicep with the renegade and gave a squeeze and a push. Nope. I tried to use non-obvious muscle movements to force the errant falsie back into place all the way down the buffet line. My right boob must have looked something like a confused and insane puffer fish.

I gave up hope of straightening incognito and took my plate back to my table, resigned to having to excuse myself to the restroom. Besides, it probably felt worse than it looked. I smiled over to my daughter who was working the soda bar across the room.

After I put my plate down and before I cut loose to the facilities, my daughter magically appeared in front of me. She hissed at me under her breath. “MOM! You need to go fix yourself. NOW. You look like you have two boobs on one side.”

Meanwhile my husband, who has been at my side the whole time and never noticed a thing, is already eating. I glare down at him and he looks up at me and asks me if I got some of the orange chicken because I really should have gotten some of the orange chicken, and by the way daughter, do you know where you guys ordered the orange chicken from, because THE ORANGE CHICKEN IS REALLY GOOD. He has NO IDEA how close he came to wearing his orange chicken.

So now I have to walk clear across the room to the exit by the bathroom and suddenly it feels like I AM THE ONE ONSTAGE.

“Daughter,” I whisper, “why don’t I wait until the show starts and the lights go down?”

“No mom. I know you know what's rude and unacceptable in theater. You need to fix it now.”

So I walk across the room, the whole way pretending to scratch my chin so my arm can crook over my right side, which apparently is in possession of two boobs.

In the restroom I square myself off and look in the mirror.

OK. Not pretty. But not exactly TWO boobs on the right side. More like a double-up. You know, like those waves that have a wave on their backside.

Ah. Well.

Apparently I missed a flush. Or been too self-occupied to realize someone was using the facilities. But as I started to pry open my cami, the jelly boob free fell out and plopped onto the floor as a young woman of about 17 simultaneously walked out of the stall. For a second that stretched into eternity, we both stood there, the quivering mass of flesh-colored jello on the floor between us. Then the girl politely stepped over it, washed her hands, dried them, stepped over it again and exited. She was way cool.

My inner monologue was not so cool. It was SO HARD to just stand there. And though I lacked the fortitude to JUST PICK UP THE FUCKING THING AND STICK IT BACK IN, at least I did not blurt out the train wreck going on in my head. No. I am NOT some wanna be MILF. REALLY REALLY REALLY. I’m just a battle scared survivor who can’t wear most bras. TRYING TO NOT SHOW MY NIPPLES.