Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In My Lifetime

I am so excited. I never imagined in my lifetime we would actually have a pretty decent chance to have either a woman or an African-American as president. To have either Hillary or Obama as the Democratic nominee is just mind boggling.

Living in the Heartland, in a state that during the Civil War was Southern -- and in every area but the two major cities (one of which I inhabit) is still voting prejudiced -- I am astonished.

Here's how I feared Super Tuesday would actually turn out:

My state, and all the others surrounding it, would vote Edwards. The good old boys still aren't willing to vote for a woman, by God. Also, though they're afraid to actually admit it, once behind the privacy curtain of the voting booth they can't bring themselves to vote for a minority. The reality would be that the actual votes they cast were going to be for Edwards. He'd do a huge surge on Feb. 5th, carrying the majority of the Heartland States -- and the Southern ones, too. And suddenly, he would be seen as the guy who could beat the Republicans . . .and he'd win the Democratic nomination. Once again, two white guys would be competing to run the a country always run by white guys. Nothing at all would really change -- just the name of the president.

My heart is overjoyed that Edwards has pulled out. The good old boys are going to have to live with a campaign that is going to feature a woman. Or a Black man. The unthinkable has happened IN MY LIFETIME!

Maybe there's hope for the United States yet.

Obama was in my state yesterday -- and pulled a huge, overflow crowd of screaming fans. Hubby and I wanted to go, but he ended up holding his rally in a place where we would have had to stand for up to four hours, and with my bad feet and Hubby's bad knees, we simply weren't up to it.

At this point, Hubby and I will split our votes on Super Tuesday. He's voting his heart -- Obama. I'm voting mine -- Clinton. Both of us agree, though, that either nominee would be fantastic! We've contributed to both campaigns.

I'm not sure that we will see a woman running for President again in my lifetime. I think, just maybe, we have come to a place where a minority can run and get cross-over votes. I don't think that's true for a woman, but I think Hillary deserves the chance to run -- and this could possibly be the year a woman might eek out a victory, especially if the economy keeps tanking and Bush continues to be a burden on the Republican party.

I've been a fan of Hillary since Bill first ran -- I even had a Hillary button way back in the 1990's. I thought she was great then -- and my opinion has grown even stronger. I think Obama has a better chance to win the presidential election -- because the white men in my state will vote for a black MAN over any woman alive, no matter her qualifications.

Either candidate, Obama or Clinton, leaves me amazed. My family may still utter the prejudiced words, my collegues may still tell the racist and sexist jokes, but this change is huge. We are sending encouragement, not just to our own people, but to the world. This country can change. We are able, slowly, to heal the divisive wounds of the past. Maybe we can find common values among our diverse population. This is a new era. We should celebrate it!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Hubby pulled into the driveway after picking me up from school yesterday afternoon, I opened the car door and two frisky doggies jumped out and started to run to the front door. Gussie, however, was distracted by a bark and a shape from across the street just as he reached our one front step. He immediately tore across the front yard, intent on finding the source of the bark. I hollered. Hubby hollered. Fritzy took off after Gus. Two little gray beasts streaked across the ice-covered front lawn with two adults screeching, "NO! Stop! NO! NO! NO!"

Right at the curb, Gussie pulled up. Some instinct reminded him that crossing the street was the one thing that got him paddled. Yes, when the dog does something highly dangerous -- like going into the street -- he gets a physical, not painful, reminder that this activity will NOT be tolerated. So Gus slid to a stop with Fritzy doing his Key Stone Kopp initiation and barreling into him. Then, tails wagging, they tore back to the front step, to be sure to be there when the magic door to the inside food and water opened.

Yesterday, at work, was a tough, long day. Must of my students are mentally retarded and along with that some also have emotional and / or behavior problems. Just a couple carry the ADHD label and all but one is on medication for it. There's always one.

The Kid is beautiful. He's tall and handsome and can be absolutely charming. He's 16. His mother refuses to put him on any medication, no matter how much we beg and plead. Last year she claimed that even when he was on medication the school didn't help him, so she simply wasn't going to dose him up, even if everyone at school thought it was necessary. He was a freshman who managed to get a long term semester suspension after only four weeks in school. I honestly didn't know him that well at the time because: a. he' only been in our high school four weeks and b. I came on board three weeks into the start of the school.

When the Kid came back second semester, I made it my business to know him. The teachers in my community went crazy trying to work him. Every day somebody sent him out of class -- at first, to the community coordinator. This usually got Mother involved and that made things more difficult. So I made sure he got sent to me.

And I discovered he was actually a charming Kid. Funny, warm, loving, bright -- and so typically ADHD that everything, anything, could distract him. He was trying. He was always sorry when he had gotten angry or disrupted a class -- and given a moment to regroup he would apologize abjectly. We became friends. He trusted me and, in turn, I really liked working with him.

Slowly, we converted his other teachers into his advocates. Last year he managed to pass just enough classes, with summer school work, to be classified as a sophomore this year -- barely. We're doing better this year, partly because I know I need to work with him intensively.

Yesterday the Kid had major tests in three of his four classes - our classes are 90 minutes long and last one semester, so we only have four blocks a day. Imagine getting a true ADHD kid through 270 minutes of testing. That was my day yesterday.

As I watched Gussie flying across our yard, after being distracted / attracted by a small blur and sound from the far backyard of a neighbor, I realized: Ah, ADHA! The doggies have it, too.

Monday, January 21, 2008

King Remembrance, Opera, and Teeth

Yikes -- now Fritzy needs dental work. Papa discovered two loose teeth last week, but we had to wait until this current round of $100 antibiotics was completed before we could schedule him for surgery. Tomorrow morning he gets a full dental -- with all the requisite testing required for an old dog to have anesthetic. We can count on at least another $400+ going on the vet's new limo

Tonight, however, we are meeting friends to experience opera night at a local upscale restaurant. Our little cowtown actually has a Puccini group -- young performers who go around and sing Tosca and Turandot and La Boheme. We read that a trendy mid-town restaurant had them perform on the third Monday of every month - and of course, we had to make reservations. Hubby won't eat the food (they have an online menu that is clearly not made for his tastes) but we hope the singing will be lots of fun.

Finally -- don't forget that today we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday. If you're home tonight the PBS stations are broadcasting a show that is worthy of King's birthday. Here's what my friend, and attorney, sent in an e-mail:

Don't miss tonight's PBS show (9 p.m. here in the Heartland) on Sargent Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law, Director of the Peace Corps, McGovern’s 1972 running mate, etc. I recently read that Shriver was among the most liberal of all the Kennedy advisers. During the 1960 campaign, Martin Luther King was imprisoned in Georgia or Alabama on a ridiculous probation violation. Just a couple of the Kennedy people wanted JFK to do something, to say something. One of them called Sargent Shriver because they knew he would feel the same way.

Shriver agreed it would be good, but said that the major JFK advisers would veto it. So, Shriver waited in the evening until they all left. He went with JFK to his hotel room. When the two of them were all alone, Shriver told Kennedy that he had the phone number to Coretta Scott King and suggested that JFK call her just to say that he was thinking about her and that he knew this was difficult and he regretted that. JFK said, “What the hell, that sounds like the decent thing to do.” So, the call was made, and Mrs. King was deeply touched. Up to that point, MLK, Sr. had been supporting Nixon, but this call changed all that. That call turned out to be huge in swinging a lot of public opinion to JFK.

Monday, January 14, 2008


A while back I had a conversation with someone who had spent years in therapy, partly because of an unhappy childhood centered around her father. She confessed to me that she had few memories of her childhood.

This weekend we went to a play, premiering here in the heartland, containing stories told by a man about his grandmother, stories he fondly remembered and turned into a sweet morality play. The play was a little slow-moving and the grandmother was a typical Southern belle but all during it, I kept remembering my own grandmother.

My father's mother died when I was young -- six, actually -- and I have only vague memories of her. She was quite old and somewhat stern, but the feelings that surround her in my memory are of a kind woman who liked me. It's my mother's mother who stands out most vividly. I don't seem to have detailed stories about her life or about our lives together, but I have very strong emotional recollections surrounding her.

Though I have a lot of emotions tangled up with my childhood, I seem to have very few actual concrete memories. The ones I have almost all center around my granny that adored me, made me the center of her life, and helped me to create the person that I am today.

I know exactly how she looked. She was an old-fashioned woman who never cut her hair and wore it entwined in two braids around her head. She didn't wear make-up, except maybe a little powder. She always had a chapstick handy but I never remember her in lipstick. She wore a dress every single day. I never saw her in pants. She wore a corset -- not a girdle. The corset had stays and laces that she pulled tightly, even under her house dresses. She wore hose attached to the corset and lace-up mid-level heeled shoes, almost always in black. These, too, were worn even with the house dresses. She was dressed by six every single morning. Until she got sick in her early 60's, she prepared breakfast every morning of her life, unless she and Grandfather were traveling.

She lived next door to us when I was in grade school and I walked to her house nearly every day for lunch. On Saturday she fixed pancakes for lunch and would let me drop the batter onto the griddle and flip the pancakes. On Sundays we had dinner at her house after church. These were formal affairs, eaten in the dining room, with Grandfather carving and the Haviland china place settings.

Nearly all holiday dinners were at her house. During Christmas week we ate every dinner there, in formal splendor. Christmas presents were opened in her living room. Easter dinner was at her table. On Valentine's Day she had a special box in which we deposited our cards to be opened after the family dinner. Every holiday and special occasion brought me tiny treasures, a new outfit, a bag of licorice drops, and a special piece of jewelry.

Granny didn't drive but those were the days of the milkman, the egg man, and the Manor bread man. They delivered, as did the grocery story Granny would call twice a week for her roasts and fruits and vegetables. As super markets became more prevalent, sometimes my family drove her to the store and once Grandfather retired, they went to the market often, dropping the expensive delivery stores.

I was her only grandchild and she invested all her love and ambition in me. She made me dresses and costumes. She bought me all the pretty clothes I owned as a child. When I failed in school, she tutored me. It was Granny who found that in the eight grade I had never learned to multiply and thus couldn't do long division either. She taught me, hour after hour, after school and on Saturdays and Sunday nights, until I could pass both Algebra and Geometry.

She was very religious. She didn't have more than a high school education. She came from a very poor family. She was older than most her age when she finally married into a working class family that had made money during early part of the 20th century and continued to make it during the Depression. She never lived in luxury but she was comfortably well off by the time I came along. She didn't like to travel, but because her husband and her son-in-law did, she saw to it that everyone had wonderful summer vacations.

Granny died during my 17th year from a brain tumor. My grandfather thought she was having a nervous breakdown and the doctors couldn't find out what was wrong. My family kept me away because Granny was having hallucination's and doing odd things. I remember, though, being in her hospital room at the end, being told to rub her hands because she was so cold. We couldn't warm them, though, and my clearest memory was of how frightened her death made me. I'm not sure, but I think I was standing there rubbing her hands when she died.

I wish now, that I had some of the knowledge of life that I have now. However, I think Granny had left me long before the rubbing. I hope so, anyway, because if not, I failed her at the end. I couldn't love her in that hospital room and I was totally selfish -- I was only deeply afraid of how empty life would be without her there to love and care for me.

My own childhood memories could never write the play I saw this weekend. I don't know the stories of my childhood but I do clearly remember the love of my grandmother. She was, and has been, the anchor of my life.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back to Work

We started back to school on Monday after two full weeks off during Christmas break. I thought it would feel good to get back into routine, but the reality was that mostly I felt tired. Monday night I found out why when I was hit by the onset of the 24 hour intestinal bug. Bah. Tuesday I took the day off to sleep through recuperation.

On Monday I finally wrapped up the play Macbeth with my seniors. Also I worked with my collab SPED students to finish up any benchmarks that could still be passed and counted toward an English grade. My study skills group de-Christmased by classroom and stored the decorations and tree. Tuesday was the last day of the first semester.

Today we had inservice workshops and then spent the afternoon assigning grades. The schedules of the students on my caseload had to be tweaked with the counselor, but we wrapped that up quickly and I held an IEP meeting for one of my MR students.

Looking at my own schedule for second semester, it feels like I should have an easy time of it. I'll be collaborating in World History, American History, and sophomore English while teaching my study skills class for the last 45 minutes of the day. The teachers I'll be working with are competent and nice to work with, unlike this past semester when I found myself taking over the senior English class. My para will be working in Algebra and biology, the two areas she prefers, and she, too, will have very good teachers to assist.

It seems hard to believe that a half a year has already passed. Now we look forward to primary elections, spring break, final exams, graduation -- and summer vacation. Oh, yeah -- and a course in grad school called Assessment in Special Education. That's the only thorn in what may prove to be a very nice winter /spring.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sharing the Leftovers

New Year's Day we joined with two other couples, our concert-going friends, for a feast of leftovers. Everyone cleaned out their refrigerators and brought the food they didn't want or shouldn't be eating during the new year. It was a lot of fun and and the food was fantastic.

Debbie hosted and fed us gourmet cheeses from the exclusive cheese store in town -- truffles embedded in mild aged cheese, blue, brie, and other assorted delights along with crackers from a huge brandy snifter type bowl. Deb also provided the husbands with lasagna which all the men were delighted to dig into.

Nancy brought tiny meatloaf sandwiches in egg buns and homemade lemon poppy seed bread. I had spiral cut ham from Houston along with an assortment of ham sandwich cheese to put on wheat bread with the crusts removed. Also I had some pimento cheese spread from Braums, picked up in Oklahoma on our journey home.

Both Nancy and Deb had an assortment of desserts -- cookies and chocolate bars with fresh whipped cream, peanut brittle, fudge. Nancy brought the eggnog and bourbon. Tom brought the assortment of exotic teas.

We sat around Deb's table and told stories of our respective Christmases. Nancy and Tom had the grandkids. Deb and Lou were recovering from Lou's hip replacement surgery. I had tales of the emergency room gout visit before Christmas. Hubby and I told of warm Houston weather and Karaoke parties.

We had a great start for the New Year. Normally Deb has an open house on New Year's but I actually prefer this type of get-together: sitting around a table with dear friends, great food, family stories, and lots of laughter. Finally, we divvied up the goodies, Deb presented us each with our own loaf of tea bread and everyone went home, sated with good food, good company, and good wishes.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008