Saturday, October 31, 2009

Manson Murders and Matching VW's Part Deux

If you missed Part One, you may want to start here.

On a clear August day we rolled into a Canadian McDonald's in search of a fast lunch. This was before drive-in windows and my dad pulled into a spot in the parking lot. The lot was designed so a sidewalk ran down the middle with parking spaces that faced each other on either side.

The serendipity of what happened next is so weird that the rest of the day has forever had a surreal dreamlike quality in my mind.

For one, as we pulled into the parking space, within a few seconds a matching VW pop top camper van pulled in straight across from us. Same color. Same year. Same everything.

"Hey, will you look at that, and look at their plates," my mom volunteered. "They are from California too."

She was looking at the plates, but what she failed to see were the people in the van.

My little sis, ever the quick and clever one, pointed it out first.

"Isn't that the Schnitzler's?"

Little "O's" formed on all our mouths as we peered straight across from us and began to make eye contact with the folks on the other side of the Volkswagen mirror.

Then the Schnitzler's realized who was staring at them and their mouths formed little circles of surprise to match our own.

What to do. What to do.

The Schnitzler's had been our next door neighbors in the San Fernando Valley. We had moved about a year and a half before.

I'm sure for most people seeing your neighbors of ten years would be a celebratory event. But our family tended to wax on the dysfunctional side and by the time we had moved I'm fairly sure our two families were not speaking to each other.

The Schnitzler's had three boys and we were a family of three girls. There had been the normal kid antics. Mud clod slinging over the wall. Practical jokes of varying degrees. Rivalries. But I think what kicked it up a notch was that both our dads were opinionated, stubborn, and a bit too frank.

Like one time, Mr. Schnitzler made the mistake of saying something to my dad about "too bad you don't have even one son to carry on the family name." Then followed the remark with a barely veiled brag fest about siring three boys. My dad upped him by making a rude remark about the blessing of girls when compared to the perfectly predictable hoodlumism he could see emerging in the Shnitzler pack.

There was also the fact that Mr. Schnitzler was a high school principal and my dad had a chip on his shoulder about not going to college himself. Dad made more than one caustic remark to Mr. Schnitzler about book smart people having no common sense.

The fact that the Schnitzler boys stole our outdoor Christmas lights every year for the joy of smashing them on the sidewalk for little explosive fun used to piss off my dad to no end. But he couldn't say much when Mr. Schnitzler complained about my sis and I cleaning up the dog poop by pitching it over the wall at the boys...

At any rate, after moving to the Surf and Sand, we hadn't given our old neighbors much thought.

And yet.

Here they were. Over 1,000 miles away from the old neighborhood. In another country. And they just happen to pull in across from us at a McDonald's in a matching van (neither family had a VW van last we saw them).

My dad had no problem with a perfunctory greeting and ambling straight into Micky Dee's.

My little sister and I waited curiously to say hello. We wanted to see how the boys were turning out in adolescence. The two older boys were little sis and my ages. Growing up together, even if it's mostly through feuds and rivalries, makes for a type of bond.

My mom went for the nervous over talker mode of dealing. She chatted hysterically. Poor Mrs. Schnitzler looked thankful that all she had to do was nod at my mom's nonstop talking about god knows what.

I'm not sure if the newsstand was in front of the McDonald's or we came upon the headlines stopping at a convenience store on our way back to the highway (you can never have enough Oreos on the road).

But blasted all over the front page was the news of the Sharon Tate murders. It would be awhile before anyone heard of Charlie Manson, but the gruesomeness of the murders was enough to change the mood for the day. My entire family felt touched by the horror.

The house where Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate lived, the scene of the murders, was only a mile or so away from my grandmother and uncle's house. My dad was a film editor. The Tate's were in the film business. We were miles from California and home, but for some reason we all felt a strange connection to the horrible events.

Years later while attending community college in The Valley, a friend and I would drive up to the Tate house on Benedict Canyon after we visited my grandmother for lunch one day.

Even later, after moving to Hawaii and enrolling at UH, my college roommate and I would both read Helter Skelter and then never want to home alone for weeks afterwards.

But as we rolled out of that Canadian town and back on the highway that August afternoon in 1969, my older sister reading the newspaper headlines, these two events - running into the Schnitzlers in a mirror image of ourselves and finding out about the murders - would somehow become linked in my young mind.

If you like synchronicity stories, Movie posted a cool one today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Manson Murders and Matching VW's

A one, a two, a one two three...

WHHHHY do you build me up

build me up

Buttercup baby just to let me down

let me down

And mess me around

You know worst of all

Worst of all

You never call baby when you say you will

Say you will

but I love you still



So build me up,

build me


Don't break my heaaaaaarrrt....

It was August of 1969 and my family was in Canada on our first family road trip. I wouldn't be turning twelve until November, and my tween self was enamored with Top 40 music. My little sister and I would pass the time on the road by singing our favorite popular songs, the windows of the VW pop top camper van rolled down and the wind blowing our straight ass '60's hair. We knew the words to a lot of songs, could harmnize, know who got which part. Air play a tambourine.

My older sister was nearly 16 and didn't really even want to be on the trip. She spent her road time and camping time buried in a book, reading. In retrospect, I'd have to say she had a lot of patience for mine and my little sister's antics. It was my dad who eventually couldn't handle the sing alongs and would tell us to shut it. My mom would try to keep us happy by passing back Oreos and bags of chips. But eventually restlessness would lead to boredom would lead to bickering would lead to poking.

I can still picture my dad's hand swinging behind him trying to land a slap. Like a crazy appendage pendulum.

Part Two tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shangri La and Jumping off Walls

In front of Black Point...
Right by Diamond Head....
Fronting a grand estate...

In front of the Doris Duke Estate, also known as Shangri La, is a salt water pool on the edge of the ocean. It is a popular place for teens who like to jump off things, cannon ball, flip, and whatevers, into the water. It's called Cromwell's.

But it’s beautiful. Located in Black Point, one has to park a bit up into the neighborhood and walk. Be careful not to leave any belongings in the car. Cars parked in known touristy areas, especially areas where cars are known to be left for awhile (hikes, beaches etc) are at a high risk for break-ins.

Travel tip = take your stuff with you, especially your camera. Besides, you’re going to want to take photos.

If hanging with a bunch of teenagers and jumping off sea walls is not your fancy, book a tour of the Doris Duke estate itself. I copied the info below straight from the website:

Shangri La is open to the public for guided, small group tours. Because of high demand, tickets may need to be reserved several months in advance.

More information about tickets, reservations and public tours is available from the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

About the Tours:

Tours begin at the Honolulu Academy of Arts with a viewing of the Arts of the Islamic World exhibition and a short video introducing Shangri La. Tours depart the Honolulu Academy of Arts on minivans for the 15 minute drive to Shangri La. Tours last approximately 2 1/2 hours, with 1 1/2 hours on site at Shangri La.

Want to link up with your own post of things to do, places to see in your area? Or a vacation you took? Maybe just a tip for how to feel like you are on vation while at home? Add your post to Mr. Linky and feel free to grab a badge in the side bar.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Random Recess, Random Tuesday

Work is crazy busy. The students are in the middle of a writing project. Yesterday during recess I had no less than two students talking to me at the same time with three on deck the entire 15 minutes. It sounded something like this.

Joe: I only have half my paper printed for writer’s workshop today but I think I should get full credit because my printer stopped working in the middle of printing it out.

Me taking the paper and looking it over. Interesting how the ink looks perfect, and it stops right after a paragraph in the middle of a page. You’ll only get credit for how much you brought to class today for peer conferences.

Steve: I wrote my draft Miss.

Me: That’s great Steve.

Joe: But Miss, excuse me, but you don’t understand, it was like a technological flaw and not my fault. I think I should get full credit.

Me: Why didn’t you bring it on your jump drive and print it here? You always have a jump drive.

Steve: I printed it and brought it on time. Look!

Me: That is awesome Steve. I think this may be your first time on time. Hang onto it, today is for peer conferences. Bring it after school to tutorial if you want me to read it.

Kurt: Miss…

Joe: Miss Pseudo, maybe I didn’t explain it right, you see…

Me: Joe. The grade today is called “draft on time.” It’s not a big grade. But if I give you full credit for half a draft, every student with their draft half done will chime in and tell me they have printer issues.

Kurt: Miss Pseudo…

Darren and Chelsea walking in: MISS! Did we have homework? What’s due today?

Me: If you don’t know, too late already.

Joe: Miss, I really must not be explaining myself well or I think you would appreciate my situation here...

Kurt: Miss… PLEASE. I need a pass to the health room...

Me: What’s wrong with you?

Kurt: I feel like I’m going to barf, right now, like on everything.

I wrote him a health pass quickly. Kurt never has his homework on time and there is a good chance the barfing was a ruse, but who wants to take chances on something like that.

Plus, I think I could have gotten in trouble if I asked him to direct his spewage at Joe. Or Joe's half written paper.

For more randomness, head on over to Keely at the Unmom's

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloweens Past

The Spin Cycle this week is Halloween. I'm reposting a Halloween post from last year, those of you who have been coming here for awhile may recognize it...

Circa 1960’s
When I was young and growing up in the San Fernando Valley with my two sisters, Halloween was a huge deal. We COULDN’T WAIT for dinner to be over and dark to descend so we could go trick or treating. My dad had this horrid awful mask that he would drag out, not only for Halloween but also for slumber parties. It came from a movie set and beat the shit out of anything they sell today. It was SO REAL. Not at all rubbery. It was the scariest, creepiest, wrinkled, evil face ever. At least that’s the way I remember and I’m sticking to it. He’d wait until our guard was down, which means sitting on the floor, sorting our candies, and with mask, trench coat, and big ol’ boots, he’d slam open the back screen door and come tearing at us. Clenching hands and BRUUUUUHAHAHA. I’m surprised we never pissed our pants. That’s how much we fell for it every year.

Halloween 1991
Daughter was just over two and we had mostly managed to keep her from chocolate and sweets. Instead of taking her trick or treating, we dressed up and took her to a restaurant/club. You see, my husband and I met working at Bobby McGee’s. I was cocktailing to pay my way through college and my husband was a waiter. EVERYONE wore a costume at this crazy place to work. Even though we had both moved on, we still had a lot of friends there and they did a happy hour thingy on Halloween. So we dressed as the Flintstones. Cave clothes- mine and Daughter’s hair twisted around big, fake bones. It’s a great picture of back in the day when my husband and I used to both work out. Daughter was two and was the most precious Pebbles ever. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything. We went at, like 5 PM, and even after a shitload of fun and frivolity, we were back home by 8. Within 5 minutes of sitting down some kids came trick or treating. There was no hiding from the two year old the fact that I was giving stuff away and that was the end of her not getting candy for Halloween.

Halloween 1993
We had just bought our home that summer and it was Son’s first Halloween. He was 16 months old. He had the CUTEST fucking tiger costume. He toddled along and I swear our block looked like that scene in ET, where swarms of kids come out right at dusk. Being a new neighborhood, it was a beehive of toddlerhood. I was holding his hand and waited on the sidewalk as Daughter and our friend’s kids went up to the first house. Son could barely talk, but he sure let it be known that he had observed what went on at the front door. He grunted and grumbled to see inside the kids pumpkin buckets. When he figured out that they were partaking of give-away stuff, he pulled and pulled on my arm until I walked him up to the next door. That was the beginning of his professional status at trick or treating. Everyone thought the baby tiger was too too cute and gave him twice as much as the other kids. But half way around the block he figured out how to unwrap a piece of candy and that was the end. Afterwards he wanted to sit in the middle of the sidewalk and eat his whole loot. My friend had to take all the kids around so I could haul his little butt home and check his candy before he scarfed down a razor blade or an LSD tab.

Halloween 2006
My children are 17 and 14 and they have made plans to go out with some friends. Son is actually trick or treating in a friendly neighborhood that lets the teens keep up the good work. His professional status is still intact. Daughter is in a play and after rehearsals they are having a party. My husband has to work. I have the night to myself, but I’m being a Halloween Homebody and have decided I don’t want to answer the door and give away candy by myself. So I turn the porch light off and all the downstairs lights too. I go upstairs and treat myself to an aromatherapy bath with candles. As leave the bath I pause to look at myself in the candlelit mirror and contemplate the effects of the last few months. I’m still officially bald, but the first soft down of baby soft fuzz can be felt more than seen. My radiation treatments, finished just two weeks before, have left a thickening of red welts under my left arm. But it’s not as bad as they said it would be. The aloe must have really helped. My scars are still fairly new and jagged and my skin still has the sallowness of all that chemo. But I made it. I’m done with the treatments and have returned to work. I walk to the upstairs window and peek through the blinds to see the families on the sidewalks with their ballerinas and spidermen. I don’t feel the least bit sad to be by myself. I had insisted my kids not stay home for me; I want to make up for all those days and nights they had hung out with me in my room the previous summer. I curl up in bed with a book, grateful that the worst is over. Happy that life is moving forward and back to normal.

For more spins on Halloween, head on over to Jen at Sprite's Keeper. She puts the list up on Friday.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainforest and Waterfalls: It's not ALWAYS about the Beach

The breast cancer awareness post below is updated with a couple of links that are worth checking out. Now, on with our regularly scheduled program...

It's THURSDAY! Yay. Well, you know how it goes. It's actually Wednesday afternoon over here. But my time zone is so far behind everyone else, I like to get the travel post up early so those of you Mainlanders ahead of my schedule can link up if you like.

The first time I came to Hawaii, which was for a visit and not when I moved here, I remember expecting the entire island to look like South Pacific. Rainforests. Waterfalls. Completely and totally Bali Hai-ish.

There is that. But there are also lava wastelands, dry west sides to each of the islands, beaches with pine trees. The pine trees really surprised me.

But there are beautiful waterfalls too. Today we are going to Maunawili Falls. An easy to get to and easy to hike to waterfall and swimming hole.

So come along for the photo tour and click on a photo for a closerr look...

The trail...

The Falls.

Teens that I may or may not know....

Beautiful tropical flowers along the way.

Lots of green

Hope you enjoyed the hike. Careful when you climb on the rocks, they are slippery.
Have some photos of a favorite place to go in your neck of the woods? A daycation spot? Join the virtual travel and link you post up with Mr. Linky. You can grab the Travel badge in the sidebar.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Know Your Boobies

Update.. check out this post and this post from Smart Mouth Broad. She works for a breast surgeon and it was her wise advice that sent me off to find the best breast imaging on Oahu.

Part Three. Here are parts one and two if you want the whole story. Also, the featured post under the sunset has been updated....

As a general rule of thumb, I’d have to say that if and when your doctor calls you up personally to tell you the results of an ultrasound on a suspicious breast lump, and if that doctor says that she wants you to come to her office to explain the results to you in person, and if on top of that it is Sunday and her office is closed and she is there by herself doing paperwork so she asks you to knock on her back/private entrance to her office….

You get where I’m going with this, right?

Let’s just say I knew the news wouldn’t be good.

When I arrived at my doctor’s office, she grabbed a box of tissue and set it by me. Also not a great sign.

As she explained the radiologist’s report, I got that ache in the chest you get just before you start balling your eyes out. Which wasn’t good at all. I had questions to ask and being all choked up made it difficult to get my words out.

She was patient with me. And dead on honest at the same time.

I had a couple of options. I could get a needle biopsy or a core needle biopsy to confirm the radiologist’s suspicions. Then if his suspicions were correct I could go in for surgery. Or I could go straight to surgery and a lumpectomy and have the entire thing biopsied.

My doctor recommended the last option. Radiologists have a scale for rating a lump’s possibility for malignancy. The scale is 0-6. Zero means definitely benign and six means diagnosed and definite cancer. My lump earned a five. My gynecologist showed me the film. The lump looked a little like tooth, with roots and all. She explained how those roots were what made it highly suspicious, along with its odd shape and its inability to move freely when palpated. Fibroids and cysts are more or less the opposite of all that.

Fast forward a couple weeks later and I am post surgery and in my surgeon’s office discussing the lump biopsy report. My breast cancer had started in a milk duct, and had burst from the milk duct. Its size was between one and two centimeters. It was a fast growing type of cancer, but had been caught early and no cancer had shown up in any of the lymph nodes they removed.

As a nice balance of exposing the medical douche bags from yesterday’s post, I will pause here to report that my surgeon is an amazing doctor and awesome human being. It was my surgeon who always had time to answer my questions and never seemed in a hurry to rush me out. He is also a leukemia survivor. He gave me the sound advice to take as much medical leave as I could garner up; that the chemotherapy and radiation treatments would put my body through hell and the best thing I could do was rest and sleep and let myself heal as much as possible while the treatments beat up my healthy body while attacking the cancer. I would pass this advice on to anyone who goes through cancer treatments.

If you remember from part one, my mammogram in October had not shown the lump. I found the lump myself during a self breast exam 5 months later. My surgeon said that all women, but especially for someone like me, with fibrocystic, dense breasts to begin with, self exam is an important front line of defense against breast cancer. Had I not found the lump, I was not scheduled for another mammogram until the following October – seven months later. At the rate that little fucker was growing, seven months would have made a huge difference. Life changing perhaps.

So ladies. Feeeel yourself.

In honor of October, and breast cancer awareness month, please click on the pink ribbon in the sidebar and help someone get a free mammogram.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Douche Canoe Side Step. Pa dump bump.

Part Two. If you missed part one, you might want to start here.

Have you ever noticed when you try to focus on your intuition, your insight, your gut; clear thoughts evaporate? It’s like when you are having a dream (especially a really great dream) and you realize you are dreaming and once this happens you either wake up or the dream morphs into something comically inadequate.

Well. Maybe it’s just me.

I’d like to say that the second I sat up prodding that lump under my finger, I just KNEW. Because I did. For about a second. Then I convinced myself I was just being paranoid. Negative. I recalled the other close calls I’d had. This wasn’t the first lump.

I have fibrocystic issues going on in my tatas and gynecologists, radiologists, and all their buddies have scratched their heads and pondered the significance of densities since my first mammogram.

In 2002 I went in for a mammogram and while I waited in the stylish little hospital frock for the powers that be to make sure the films were readable, someone came out and delivered the dreaded words.

The radiologist sees something suspicious and would like to do an ultrasound.

The ultrasound tech was an idiot and while he glided the ultrasound over and around, up and down, he talked out loud about whether or not what he was looking at was potentially malignant.

Since he could not decide, he went and got the radiologist. Another idiot.

The two douche canoes discussed how high the cancer possibility rating should be while I was lying there listening to the whole thing. Almost like they thought I was under anesthesia. It took every ounce of strength I had to hold myself together.

If I had it to do over, I would have turned into a blubbering, wigged out mama right there and then and made them deal with the mess they had created. Or channeled my inner bitch and gave them a lesson on bedside manners. Ah, if only we could go back.

The way it actually went down was the radiologist finally released me with the assuring words that my doctor would probably want to do a biopsy and would be calling me as soon as she got the results.

And then I lost it once I got to my car. It was ten minutes before I could drive. And I never went back to that hospital for a mammogram. The passive aggressive approach.

To keep this side story from outshining the lead story, that particular lump turned out to be fibrocystic tissue; however, it kept getting bigger and after “keeping an eye on it” for two years, the doctors agreed a lumpectomy was in order. The medical reasoning was not that a fibroid would turn malignant, but that it had gotten big to the point that had a malignancy developed underneath, said malignancy might go undetected.

So. Anyways. In February 2006, I more or less calmly got up off my couch, called my gynecologist' office and made an appointment. I actually asked to schedule an ultrasound (I knew that this was going to end up there), but apparently insurance companies do not like patients to call their own shots. Her receptionist explained I needed to let my doctor cop a feel first and then the doctor would schedule the ultrasound.

I would spend the next two weeks doing the mahi mahi (that means flopping back and forth) between KNOWING this lump was different and therefore not good; and convincing myself that the lump was just another weirdo little fibroid thingamagig.

Part three tomorrow. I think it will be the final chapter. Don’t forget to click the little pink ribbon in the sidebar for mammograms.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Feeel Yourself

In October of 2005 I had my regularly scheduled mammogram. And all was fine.

In February of 2006 I was lying on the couch watching the tellie. My left arm was swung over my head and my right leg was swung over the back of the couch. I don’t remember what I was watching, but it must have been pure veggitative goodness – I don’t come by that level of relaxation by watching the news. Had it been this weekend, the DVD bliss would have been disc two of season two of Californication. Wowza.

Last summer? Sundays were marathons of America’s Next Top Model.

Evenings were all seasons available of Dexter, Weeds, True Blood, and The Tudors.

But February of 2006? I have no idea what I was watching. Not a clue.

What I remember was an itch in my left armpit. A rub and a scratch and an impulsive thought that the position I was in might be better for a breast self exam than the usual sitting or shower positions.

So while I vegged on the TV, I felt myself up.

On the outer banks of my left breast, nearly in the area of armpit itself, was a strange, hard little lump. About the size of an olive pit and equally dense, it surprised the hell out of me. I sat up flushed with adrenaline.

Lumps and bumps and fear of the “C” word were not novel experiences for me.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976 when she was forty-nine and I was nineteen. She had a radical mastectomy, cancer in several of her removed lymph nodes, and two years of chemotherapy.

She is 82.

My older sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She was 47. She had a lumpectomy, radiation, and five years of Tamoxophin. She opted out of chemotherapy as she has multiple sclerosis. Although chemotherapy might have upped her odds of beating cancer, it would have devastated her physically and most likely she would have wound up in a wheelchair. Something she had avoided by taking excellent care of herself.

My sister is 56.

In February of 2006 I was 49 years old. I sat there on my couch feeling that little seed inside my breast and thinking I was right on schedule to follow the female footsteps of the women in my family.

Part Two tomorrow.

Click on the pink ribbon in the side bar to help someone get a mammogram. It is October, breast cancer awareness month…

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Going South

And I don’t mean South Shore of Oahu.

For Traveling Thursday I thought I’d share a very special leg of our last trip (Summer 2006). Our one and only family trip to the Mainland that was not about visiting my relatives I California. For Daughter’s graduation celebration we went to the East Coast. After Boston, NYC, and DC; we rented a car and drove from DC to my sister’s in Florida. We stopped in Savannah, Georgia for three days and fell in love.

I’m used to the Pacific Coast Highway on the West Coast, so I had no idea that the nine hour drive down I-95 would look pretty much like this the whole way.

But we still enjoyed the green. The rivers and bridges. Next time I would plan ahead and know the local diners to stop at and get a better feel for the South. However, we made up for it our days in Savannah.

We went to Oatland Island and an animal preserve there.

We drove out to Tybee Island and got to see an East Coast beach.

And we hung out on River Street.

I loved getting to go to Paula Dean’s Restaurant, Lady and Sons. We also ate one night at a local place by our motel called Sticky Fingers that had really good BBQ.

I loved the historical feel of Savannah.

While we are in the South, I’d like to also invite to virtually travel over to visit Angie and Kathryn at their new upgraded literary home, Rose and Thorn. They are having their grand opening today. They are wonderful writers, and two of the nicest bloggers out there. I once asked Angie what Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning was (she mentioned it in a post) and she sent me some! Now that’s nice. And yummy.

Happy virtual traveling. It’s almost the weekend!

Link up your travel posts, your staycation posts, or the favorite places you have in the place you call home. Then let’s take a virtual road trip. Aloha.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Women Stuff Randomness

I'm late to the party... but my time zone is working for me.
* * *
My students created “media literacy collages” as a part of a media literacy unit I taught. The collage was to represent their use of and influence by different forms of media. They were also supposed to differentiate what they considered positive from negative uses. Like…

Facebook is positive because I use it to socialize when I’m stuck at home… negative because sometimes I spend so much time on it I never do my homework.

So the kids are presenting their collages to the class. One female student, while presenting her collage, pointed out an airbrushed, better than real life hot chick.

I put this model on my poster because she is sexy. This influences me to be sexy.

She did not say if this was positive or negative in her POV. While I sat there waiting – hoping – she would go there and discuss this further, she moved on to another picture.

This is a picture of a bible. It represents the Christian channel. It influences me to be a Jesus Girl.

* * *

My friend Movie sent me a link to The Women’s Colony when I wrote about my Dream Life. Go check out The Women’s Colony. If you don’t come back I would not blame you. But try and come back.

* * *

October is breast cancer awareness month. I have been cancer free for three years and seven months. Click on the pink ribbon in the side bar. Every click helps.

I haven’t written anything in a long time about being a cancer survivor. I should. It is October. But lately I am more focused on being a survivor of raising a teenager… Except that the court is still out on that one. As in whether or not I will survive.

* * *

Go visit Vodka Mom and her cause. She is awesome. Her cause is awesome. Her contest is awesome. Go on now.

For more Randomness, head on over to all the linked fun at The Unmom’s.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Credit Shredit

October 12, 2008

Dear President Barack Obama,

I’d like to put in my two cents worth on credit card companies and my strong desire for more regulation in the credit card industry. I realize my views may not be the hot political topics of the week, but hey, I call them as I see them.

Way back in the day, as in twenty-five years ago, I was a college student at the University of Hawaii. An older student, all of twenty-five, paying my way through school. I had no credit cards and no debts and the idea of acquiring credit had not yet entered my head. My college roommate had a Liberty House credit card. It got my attention, but to my chagrin I was denied my own when I applied. It seemed that although I had no debts and a solid job cocktailing at Bobby McGee’s, credit card companies were not willing to take a risk on someone with no credit history. I learned by asking that one needed to establish a good credit history to be taken seriously in acquiring credit. My dad cosigned a Sear’s credit application and I had my first card. It had a $300 credit limit. My father explained that I was to use this prudently and to pay it off each month – thus establishing my good credit.

Fast forward twenty-five years later. Our 20 year old daughter who attends the University of Hawaii and whose only job is as a part time nanny (making barely enough money to cover her gas and parking), who shares my car with me, who commutes 45 minutes each way to school because we cannot afford a dorm; yes, this same girl – SHE gets fishing letters from both Chase and Capital One saying she is pre approved and please sign on the dotted line for a card right away. We tear these letters up. She called and asked to be taken off their lists. We went online and signed her up for the no-solicit-me-for-credit-in-the-mail. We still get these letters asking her if she wouldn’t like to go in debt before she even gets out of college.

We have had three occasions on our street with mail getting stolen. Once, we were the victims. The person who stole our mail tried to use my name and address to buy items online in some credit card scam. I have gone online several times and signed up not to be solicited by credit companies. Still, every week several offers for loans and cards arrive by mail.

My 82 year old mother has several credits cards and keeps maxing these out, getting her limits raised, and maxing them out again. This is a woman who inherited two homes and a decent retirement savings from her parents back in the 70’s. She quit her job and lived off the money, then sold one home, then took out a huge mortgage on the other. She eventually lost that home and soon after filed bankruptcy. She pawned off everything worth anything. For many many years now she has lived off a meager income and will NEVER, EVER be able to pay off the debts she is incurring. She knows this and does not care. “Those bills will die with me.” I can live with the fact that she never thought to help her children pay for college, and that she never made sure she would be secure in her retirement. But I cannot sign anything that would make me responsible for my crazy mother, as I am scared to death to someday get stuck with tens of thousands of dollars of dept she has accrued. I blame the crazy credit card companies for giving her credit in the first place when it is obvious to absofuckinglutely anyone with a lick of sense that she will never, ever, be able to pay off her debts.

Maybe this is just too much a common sense point of view, but here goes. Shouldn’t someone want credit enough to figure out how to get it on their own? If someone is incapable of finding the best rate for credit and applying for it, maybe we don’t want that person racking up a lot of debt…

I think credit card companies should not be able to solicit through the mail. I think there should be stricter guidelines for approving credit.

Some of my more conservative friends and I sometimes have friendly discussion on government regulation. I realize they are not fond of it. But here goes. In my opinion, capitalism and commercialism have gone way out of control. The lack of regulation has brought in a tide of unchecked greed and irresponsibility.

Please, Mr. President. I know you are busy, but could you think about moving this item up on your to do list?

Thank-you very much.

Until next week,



Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tell Me a Story...

The Spin Cycle this week is "photo essay."

I've created a wordless photo essay. Your mission, should you choose to embark on said mission, is to leave a story in the comment section to go along with the photos....

Wanna play?

BC cannot wait to hear what you have to say about his antics. I may leave the real deal in the comment thread, but it will probably be anticlimatic after the fun....
For more photo essays, head on over to Jen at Sprite's Keeper.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Dream Life

The topic for the Spin Cycle this week is Arts and Crafts. For the most part, I feel a lot like Jan. I dabble in a lot of things; don’t have time to finish what I start. In addition, I usually don’t even have time to start what I imagine.

I have always been one for dreams and fantasy. As I have gotten older, I try to keep myself more real and be happy with what I have and not wish for more. Maybe wish is too strong a word. But I have always been a sucker for a happy ending.

In my dream life I would be an artist full time. I would live on the North Shore and I would write, take photos, bead and make jewelry, garden, cook, bake, and generally partake of all things creative. In my dream life, one of these things would provide an income that would allow me to stay home, retire from teaching altogether.

What? It’s true. As much as I love my job when I get there, I would rather be a full time artist.

Every year until I got sick, I took my students to the reading festival at the University of Hawaii. Every year, I would make sure that the one author I did not miss was Lois Ann Yamanaka. If you have never read one of her books, you really should. She is my favorite local author. She used to be a teacher. And I personally think she could make a side living being a stand-up comedian.

One year she was doing her thing and one of the students asked why she doesn’t teach anymore. Among many hilarious antidotes she shared about the frustration of working for the Department of Education and the State of Hawaii, she said this to the kids… it’s been a few years, so this may not be her exact words – but the gist is there.

I had to stop teaching so I could write. Teaching is hard if you want to be a good teacher. You students need A LOT. Teaching sucked all my energy and I had nothing left. I couldn’t teach and write and I wanted to write. Ask your teachers (at this point she caught my eye as I was sitting in the front row). The kids suck the life right out of you – yeah?

I love to make jewelry. I used to bead and sometimes I would sell the jewelry, but mostly made special pieces as gifts for those I loved. I made myself the jewelry I always wanted. All of it was stolen when we were burglarized three years ago…. I would love to go back to beading and kick it up a couple of notches.

I love to take photos. Someday I would like to pursue photography as a hobby and get a better camera.

I love working with wood and hand painting furniture. When my children were little there was a furniture artist who had hand painted furniture in the upscale stores that cost a fortune. We could never have afforded it. So, instead, I went around to garage sales and picked up pieces, sanded them down, and hand painted them for both of our kids’ rooms. I’ve always wanted to take a wood working class and have a workshop where I could make my own furniture.

I love to garden and cook.

Funny thing is, I have not totally given up that I will get to my dream someday. Back when I worked at Roy’s Restaurant, he used to showcase a different artist every couple of months. One artist was a woman in her sixties. Lovely lady. I chatted with her one day and she told me about her life before she became a full time, working, making a living at it artist. She was from LA and had a career in some high maintenance sort of business. Then her kids grew up, went to college. I cannot remember if she was married but I have a hazy memory of a man sitting next to her at the bar. Anyways, I’ve blocked him from her story.

It turned out that the woman had started painting only a few years before. She was living the dream and had only gotten there after a full life of working for a living at a regular job.
Gives one hope. Yes?

For more spins on art, head on over to Sprite’s Keeper.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Camping on Oahu's North Shore

Virtual travel anyone? It's Travel Tip Thursday. I'm on my third day of October Intercession and just finished grading the students' final writing projects. It took me almost three days to grade everything and upload grades to our school's online site for grades.

It's humid, hot, and I hear the waves are up at the beaches. But I'm in my house sweating and haven't been to the beach so far this week. Not just the Unblogableness these days. Just regular grading hell.
Want to know where I took this photo of this incredible chunk of driftwood? And. By the way. What do you see? Curious if it is what I see. Saw. I have, like, a hundred pictures of this tree that is about to become driftwood.
Anywhos. I did a guest post at The Locals Love It blog on Tuesday about my favorite camping beach here on Oahu. Since I wish I was there right now, let's just head on over.
Hope to see a bunch of you in Mr. Linky. Because I was supposed to be in California this week and the Unblogable crapped all over that. So, take me/ us away....

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Little of This and That

I heard about this late, but would like to be better late than never. Head on over to Always Home and Uncool and read his post on juvenile dermatomyositis. I love when the blog world comes together and puts its energy into doing good deeds and bringing awareness. I know and appreciate so much how all of your prayers and good thoughts have helped my family through this last month. It’s an amazing source of support.

* * *
I was thinking the other day how centuries ago artists and writers had patrons. Now we put ads up. So far, my ads have provided no source of revenue… I’m thinking of looking for a patron… With a seven and a half percent pay cut the next two years I know I will need to get a second job.

* * *

The other day I was walking BC around the neighborhood at sunset. At the “view park” there was an old man looking towards the sunset. As I got closer I could not help but notice he had a very large umbrella, unopened, handle side driven into the ground and pointed end sticking right into the center of his jeans. He was leaning on it. His ass was like a target and the pointed end of the umbrella looked like a colonoscopy about to drive right through his jeans and into the great beyond. I really wanted to ask him what in the world would make him do that to himself, but couldn’t figure a way to start the conversation. I mean, he was old. What was I supposed to say, “Hey buddy, there’s an umbrella coming up your ass any second now?”

* * *

I’m guest posting today over at The Locals Love It. Come say hi and check out another of my favorite beaches….

For more Randomness, head on over to Keely at the Unmom’s. My time zone always makes me late to the party, but there’s a whole lot of Randomness going on…

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dear President Barack Obama...

Dear President Barack Obama,

I have been meaning to write you a letter and post it on my blog since the day you were elected. I realize the chances of you, yourself, reading it are slim, despite the fact that you do read some of the letters written to you. Still, I keep getting the internal nudge to do it. I am a strong supporter of you and worked hard for you during the election.

I am going to try and break up all I would like to say into a series of weekly letters to the President. I will mail the original version off to you (you never know – I might get through) and post a version of the letter on my blog that helps me keep my anonymity.

I am a public school teacher in Hawaii. Enough said for why my blog is anonymous.

I have a lot of opinions on education and what needs to be done to improve education, but will save most of those ideas for another time. For this letter I would like to focus on math curriculum and limit the focus to a microscopic perspective as seen from one gifted boy’s experience.

My son went to public elementary school in Hawaii. From third through sixth grade he complained that they were repeating the same math and not teaching him anything new. For fun, he would do his older sister’s algebra. We put him in Kumon after school in order for him to be challenged, move forward on his skills, and not be held back. My cousin in LA put his son in Kumon and his son credits Kumon for his success in high school math, his full scholarship to USC, and his subsequent success as a chemical engineer.

By 7th grade the Kumon teacher/franchise owner told us our son was as high in his skills as her franchise went and that we needed to switch centers if we wanted him to stay in Kumon. She also told us he was the most naturally gifted math student she had ever taught.

When our son was in sixth grade we applied him for private schools. Although he did not get into Punahou (your alma mater), we were asked to come and meet with the Dean of Admissions. At the meeting, the Dean showed us our son’s SSAT scores. His reading and writing were right in line with the students who were accepted into Punahou that year. His math, however, was an entire stanine above most of the students they were taking into Punahou. The Dean explained how excited he was at Son’s math potential; however, Son’s grades were all “C’s” and “B’s” and his teacher recommendations were less than stellar. Son has ADHD and when bored can clown around and generally irritate teachers. The Dean recommended we wait a year and reapply so Son could mature.

The next year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the costs of treatment and my missing six months of work kept us from reapplying our son for private school. Instead he went through Hawaii public school systems. He switched schools twice and the methods for teaching math varied considerably from school to school. This was also true within a given school, depending on the teacher. There was always an emphasis on “discovery” with practice and drill of basics often removed nearly completely from the curriculum.

So, here we are now. We have a son who was born with an extraordinary gift for math. Whose parents have tried as well as we can to get him into a school or program that would develop his math potential. And he now will have to retake math classes he should have had in high school (competently) when he goes to college. His dreams of being a pre-med major have been smashed and the kid has fallen into a deep depression over his lost potential.

I know I am neither a math teacher nor a math person. So my thoughts are just what make sense to me. I understand that students need to know how to apply their math skills in authentic ways. But I strongly believe that first they need know how to do the basics backwards and forwards and without hesitation.

Like my son, I, too, was gifted in math when I was young. Growing up in pre-proposition 13 California, I was lucky to go to good schools where they had their shit together. In sixth grade we were tested and grouped according to ability. For math I was sent to a class that challenged me. Math books were set up so that one practiced a formula over and over until it was second nature. “Word problems” were always at the end of the chapter and applying the math skills in complex problems and projects only took place after the student was completely competent in the basics.

It seems to me that must have worked just fine because in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s America was number one. From what I have seen of those countries that are passing us by in the math scores these days, an emphasis is put on speed and accuracy of the basics before the complexity and discovery paradigms.

At the school where I work, young teachers are actually told NOT to answer students’ math questions directly, but with another question. In this way the students “discover” the solutions themselves. I truly do not get this. The kids are so ignorant of the basic formulas that they cannot determine what do at all. We have horrible math scores, yet we keep doing the same thing.

So, perhaps, is there some discussion going on at your level for how to get America competitive in math? Any talk of math curriculum? Because I am thinking…. If our son, who had supportive parents who paid for outside intervention to enhance our son’s public education, if our son could lose his potential in the amorphous maze of math education in Hawaii, what about the kids born with the same potential in homes with little or no parental support? How is America to remain competitive if even those born with gifts have such a difficult time getting those gifts developed in our public education system?

Until next week,



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Travel Tip Thursday: Virtual Swap

Featured blog under sunset has been updated. Go have some fun...

I’m doing a bit of a cheat and going virtual traveling. Rules? What rules?

Sherri over at The Claw does a blog swap now and then. I joined in her Fall swap last year and it was actually a bit adventurous for me as I was still new to the whole blogger thing. If you don’t visit Sherri you should check her out. She keeps me up on music and popular culture and design ideas.

My swap partner is Raina and I first went to her blog when through the swap. Check out her too, all about interior design.

The blogger who got me for the swap was my dear friend Movie from Don’t Worry it’s Only a Movie. Movie was one of the first three bloggers I met out here. For weeks (months?) she was often my only commenter. Movie is a special person. A teacher who works with emotionally challenged children. We have similar tastes in music and more in common than most of the people I hang out with in flesh time. She lives in Maine, likes to hike, and posts gorgeous photos of mountains and waterfalls I hope to get to someday.

Movie knows my unblogable stuff and went overboard on the swap to cheer me up. Here’s the gifts she bestowed upon me. I wish I hadn’t gone through the box like a kid at Christmas and taken photos along the way. Each item was wrapped in beautiful fall colored tissue paper. Guess you had to be there.

Thank-you so much Movie....
Hope some of you join us on virtual traveling today. I know I am late, but last night joined the unblogable.