Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Are You Sitting Down?"

Pete asked. So, of course, having been sitting down, I stood up at my desk.

It was awful news. Sometime yesterday afternoon, when the kids were in school and Pete and I were in Seattle and our neighbors were all at work, including Harry's wife, Harry went into the backyard and killed himself.

***

He walks miles and miles each day around the neighborhood, two huge miles-long laps in the morning and two huge miles-long laps in the afternoon. He wears the same clothes and hat each time, clad all in blue, and he walks no matter the weather. Thin and tall, of course, what with all that walking and a vegan for a wife. For years, I'd see him around, and I'd wave, but he very rarely looked up. For years, I'm sure, even if he had looked up, he would not have returned the wave.

***

Five years into our living a stone's throw away from him, I quit my working gig and was around far more each and every day. But it took that wonder mutt dog of ours, the one who came into our lives as soon as I quit, to break the ice. He is definitely not a dog person, but his wife is most assuredly. And with the thaw with his wife came the thaw with Harry. And while never one to chit-chat with me, he'll come upon me and the kid and the dog or me and the wife and the dog, and he'll talk about books he'd read and science and math and his environmental work and, maybe, like everyone else in the neighborhood, good ole Crazy Ed around the block.

***

Now nearly 13 years have passed since first I laid eyes on them, and I really don't know him much better than the first time I waved to a non-response in return. I know his wife far better, and she is someone who likes my kids and loves my dog and tolerates that damn cat of ours who loves nothing better to sun herself under their bird feeders. And Harry? That not-really-a-dog-kind-of-guy? He pets the dog from time to time. And he chats with me about topics I know so little about. And he waves on his walks every time he sees me now.

***

I don't know his story. It isn't my story. It is Harry's story. And he's taken it with him. And that makes me sad.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pay to Volunteer

It was a little request, really, as far as requests go. "I need three parents to chaperone my sixth grade class on a field trip to Chinatown." The reason I immediately raised my hand? The field trip includes dim sum. My friends know how much I love dim sum. Even people who hate me -- or at least those who hate me and know me -- know that I love me my dim sum.

So, yeah, sure, why not, I got nothin' better to do on a Monday than ride a bus with 60+ changelings. So signed up, I did.

And then? After thanking me for volunteering, the teacher continued with "I have just discovered that because the PTA is covering all of the student's [SIC] [AND SHE'S AN ENGLISH TEACHER] payment for this trip, we do not have enough to cover chaperones as well. The trip (including the bus to and from SF, lunch and the tour) is $20. I would appreciate if you could send that with CHILDREN if possible before the end of the week. If you are not able to pay, let me know so we can figure something out so you can still come."

Really? I have to pay for the privilege of enabling the kids to go on a field trip? Am I a PTA member? Yup. Do I donate beyond the basic PTA membership? Yup. Do I give my time to the school as a whole and even, doh-head that I am, do the student directory each fall? Yup.

But let me also give you $20 for the privilege of helping not just my kid but 29 other kids in his class and 30 other kids in another class.

I'm just going to consider this one of those pay-to-play auction items drunken moms and dads commit to at the big school fundraiser each year. And, yeah, I'm going to claim it as a tax deduction.

And eat more than $40 worth of dim sum.
 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Raising Subversives

I'd like to think that it's appropriate to get my kids to subvert dumb-ass rules powers-that-be impose upon them. Forget "thinking it," I know it's the right thing to do.

Le Daughter is in Miami for a dance convention with fellow students who are part of the program at the high school. I think a total of 20 students -- one boy and 19 girls -- have descended upon Miami along with hundreds, nay thousands, of other dancers. I'm not entirely sure what she's doing beyond taking part in workshops and the like. Presumably she also has to sit through "the cream of the crop" dance performances of "Fame"-quality dancers.

[Is "Fame" even relevant? Should I instead say "DWTS" or "X Factor"? Since I've never seen an episode of either, I'm going to stick with the old "Fame" standby. But the Irene Cara vehicle on the big screen, not the wannabe TV show (and remake).]

At one of the first parent meetings about the adventure, the dance teacher extraordinaire [INSERT SARCASTIC EYE-ROLL] said the kids shouldn't bring bathing suits [INSERT INCREDULOUS SUBVERSION HERE] because that wasn't the intent.

To her credit [EYE-ROLL] by the time the trip finally rolled around, she said she'd found times when they could swim, so folks should bring their bathing suits. [As if Daughter wasn't going to be told by me already to bring the damn thing.]

At the final parent meeting, there was mention made of the fact that the teacher and chaperoning parents would be confiscating electronic devices each night. [INSERT THE MOST MASSIVE W-T-F EYE-ROLL YOU CAN IMAGINE.] In my notes, I wrote down, "Daughter, make sure you bring your iPod." And when I got home, I told her my plan: bring both you phone and iPod and after you fork over the phone, we can still IM through the iPod.

Last night, she texted me. On her phone. She handed over the iPod and kept the phone. She one-upped me in subversion. You got to like that in an offspring.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why My Husband Must Now Attend All Parent Meetings




Daughter is going with her dance studio company on a whirlwind trip to Disneyland. They'll be performing as well as taking part in a couple of workshops. They'll have a blast.

She will especially because the four high schools students who are part of the dance team get to travel with the teachers and not the parents. [Sweeeeeeeet! For her parents, I mean. But, sure, for her, too.]

There was a mandatory parent meeting last night following their last rehearsal before the big trip over spring break. I got there a bit early, which is always really stupid because none of her dance classes ever finish on time and certainly not the last one for the company folks. Worse, I got there early and discovered that my beloved relatively new Droid was dead. Just. Like. That. So I couldn't even tweet about the meeting.

[Heavy sigh.]

Eventually, maybe 10 minutes late, the meeting starts. And it all sounds so fabulous for Daughter. Really happy for her.

Toward the end, one of the dance teachers holds up a sign and says she's hopeful that all of the families put their own individual signs one of the other teachers has made on their own hotel room doors so everyone will know where everyone is and they can visit and such.

The signs mention the dance company name and the names of the inhabitants of the room, including, of course, those girls. That seems odd to me so I mutter something about serial killers. But no one hears me except Daughter, who shoots me a dirty look.

They keep talking about the signs, though, and so I say far louder than I maybe kinda shoulda, "Here's hoping no serial killer steals one of the signs and puts it on his door."

If looks could kill.

In all seriousness, if they were all on one floor of the hotel, sure, maybe. Why not? But spread out through a hotel? I don't care how close it is to the Happiest Place on Earth that just seems risky. I mean, were I a serial killer and not just a "Criminal Minds" devotee, I would see this as the perfect opportunity.

And that, my dear friends, is why I will no longer be attending parent meetings. At least those which involve my humiliated and much-mortified teenage Daughter.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tattletales

Apparently our society thrives on tattletales. I've been thinking a lot about tattletales lately. I remember as kids that we'd be admonished to not be a tattletale. But who can resist getting a sibling in trouble? Or the shitty bully? Or, later on, the pompous racist biology teacher? The scofflaws in the midst of a Virginia drought watering their lawns under cover of night?

[An aside on that last one. I was in high school. It must have been in the latter half of the 20th century. Yeah, I'm that old. There was a teacher I despised -- not the biology one, the bad theatre one -- and the county had called for a moratorium on watering lawns. A few of us debated driving to the teacher's house under cover of darkness, turning on the sprinklers and then heading to a pay phone to anonymously call it in. We didn't do it, but boy was it tempting. That biology teacher? Yeah, sugar in his gas tank and shaving cream on his car. Y'all already know I'm evil. I cite proof on a regular basis.]

[Another aside: how bad is vandalism compared to tattletaling? Worse, sure, but my felonies aren't the current point.]

Spare the Air days during a six-month period here in California means you can't use your fireplace. Even if it's one of those fancy-schmancy "clean-burning" wood stoves you paid a fortune to install. Even if it's windy enough in your city, county or tri-county region. Even if.

So folks tattle on their neighbors. I'd hazard a guess that very few of the tattlers are actually sensitive to the smoke of a neighbor's fire. [Shout-out to my very good friend Joanne who would be impacted by a neighbor's fire.] [Further shout-out to my very good friend Joanne that I'm glad she doesn't live next to me.] [Final shout-out to my very good friend Joanne that I'm kidding about that last shout-out.] No, I suspect the tattlers only tattle on the neighbors they hate. You know, the ones who built that spite fence or the ones who built a house blocking their view of some far-off ridge.

In Daughter's recent case, I believe someone ratted her out to do her harm or to suck-up to the teacher not because the tattler gave a rat's ass about what Daughter had done. The tattler saw a chance to stick it to Daughter or get Brownie points with the teacher. Or maybe, just maybe, the tattler did it because she hates both Daughter and teacher. [That makes the tattler sound a lot more devious...a lot more like me.]

We're in a drought. We've been asked to cut back on water usage by 20%. I suspect, given the lack of rain in the forecast, that we'll have mandatory rationing soon enough. All of which brings me full circle on the tattling. My neighbor's sprinkler system went off at 5:30 this morning. It's not the neighbors with the incessantly barking dogs and the constant calling to them as they bark, "Jessie, Molly, come get a cookie! Jessie, Molly, come get a cookie! Jessie, Molly, let me reward you for your bad behavior!" But if it were and watering lawns was banned, you bet I'd be the biggest tattler of them all, but only after I had filled my pool at 3 a.m.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Just Because

Just because...

...the third time's the charm.

...I can.

...because.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Like Father, Like Daughter

Le Daughter has had a rather rough time of it of late, a bit of her own doing but mostly due to others. Or at least we'll blame the others. She lashed out and got lashed in return. Having sat through an excruciating 45-minute-long talking to from powers-who-be at her school, let's just say that Daughter, Father and Mother are content to never speak of it again. In fact, I have vowed to stop bad-mouthing a certain teacher in front of a certain child so said certain child can harbor her own hatred of said certain teacher without my own more brand of intense disdain oozing out of my pores and into Daughter's.

Cryptic enough for you? I would be more forthcoming but when someone threatens your kid with school district rent-a-cops and defamation suits, you just kind of want to wait until the school year is done and then let the world know what a fucked-up piece of work some people are.

Anyway. Back to Le Daughter. I'm sure I'll take grief from her and from her dad for posting this little exchange from Facebook. At least they won't threaten me with defamation of character. (Of course, when you have so little character, what can be defamed? And, also of course, if one speaks the truth, it ain't slander.)

This is Le Daughter's post:

I just need to get this out there.

I have had a lot of self esteem problems in my past. Unfortunately, those feelings are coming back. At many places I feel unwanted and useless. Nobody really wants me in their presence. But whenever I'm at DANCE CENTER, those feelings slip away and I'm happy again. The girls are like my second family, even the ones who I've only talked to once or twice on my life. I feel like an amazing dancer when I'm there and everybody is by my side telling me I'm getting a lot stronger in my dancing. I have been at DANCE CENTER since I was 8 or 9, and I've never regretted going there. It's my second home. I belong there and I feel like I'm in heaven. Even if I'm there for an hour, all my negative feelings go away. Thanks DANCE CENTER PEOPLE for making me feel happy again.
feeling blessed.


And this is her dad's comment:

I hear you DAUGHTER. Unfortunately, the world is full of people who get their own sense of self-worth by putting other people down. But while it affects you it really is THEIR problem.
As your Dad I take an immense amount of joy and pride watching you go o
ut in to the world and make your own way. I watch you grow and I hope that the world treats you the way I want it to treat you. But as a Dad it makes me sad because I know there are people out there who won’t treat you with the understanding, compassion and respect you deserve. I hate that.


I always wanted a Daughter and whenever I imagined what my daughter would be like I pictured you. I couldn’t have imagined or wanted anyone different. You are the bravest person I know. You have met every challenge that the world has ever presented you with. Your capacity to love and to offer friendship to everyone you meet astounds me and makes me very proud of you. You’re awesome DAUGHTER and having you in my life makes me a better person.

 
So, just ignore anyone who wants to take away your self-esteem. Surround yourself with the people who appreciate you. All your friends at DANCE CENTER, your friends at school and your Family. And remember, no matter how old you are, where you are or what you’re doing, I’ll always be here to support you. You’ll never have to do this alone.

 
Now that I’ve embarrassed you beyond belief you can say it. Ugggh Daaaaaad!
 


Is it any wonder I have such a great daughter given her very awesome dad?

No wonder at all. 

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