Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Missing my boy ...

So what if he's twenty?
He still left this morning to go back to college and I feel a bit empty.
For three months he's been home, spending hours on the computer and reading late into the night. For weeks and weeks and weeks now, he and I have sat up until two, even three in the morning, talking about politics and life and religion and evolution.
We've had about a dozen late-night Taco Bell runs, our most recent around 11 last evening. When we got home, he with his spicy chicken burrito and steak quesadilla, I with an ice water (too late for my indigestion-prone tummy to eat), our talk centered on his girlfriend, and how much he is going to miss her.
The boy is smitten with his "little elf," a girl who isn't in college yet, a girl he'll only get to see on holiday breaks and the occasional weekends he comes home.
It is both exasperating and wonderful to talk to my little boy who has become a man.
Where-oh-where did those years go?
Later this week I'll venture into his bedroom to clean up and organize the debris that remains following a hasty packing. Not today, though. No way. His bedroom door shall remain closed until I deal a bit better with his leaving.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A hint of fall is in the air

Just got in from walking my beloved canine unit, Bella.
The air: crisp like a potato chip. No hint of humidity. Someone was grilling hot dogs. Children on bikes with training wheels rolled past me and Bella. One of them, a little girl, hopped off her bike to pet the dog. The tyke wore a jacket with a hood framing a kindergarten face. A hood. Yes!
All good signs that fall is coming.
Fall is my favorite season: A time of wienie roasts and pumpkin picking. A time to start the oven up again; a time to buy apples five pounds at a time. A time to bring out the cozy sweaters and pack away the sleeveless.
School here has already begun, and even though my first day of classes felt Very Much Summer, seeing the students wearing plaid skirts and striped polos advertised that tank tops and ratty shorts were being put away.
Another school year is here.
And that's how I measure the year. August to May.
Fresh beginnings.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Last Monday at Candy's ...

Yesterday was the final summer pool day at my dear friend Candy's house. Several of us girlfriends had been meeting each Monday throughout the summer to swim and nosh and gossip. Frequently we talk about our spouses and children, about our weight and our jobs, about excursion planning and retirement planning.
Yesterday's conversation, however, wasn't all goodness and light. We talked politics; we are a divided lot. Think The View, only instead of wearing pretty clothes and stage makeup we were decked out in swimsuits and sunburns.
Of the wonderful ladies on Barbara Walters's award-winning daytime talk show, my personality most aligns with that of Joy Behar's. She is a rather outspoken liberal sort, in case you don't know who she is. (Our professional wardrobes are spookily similar as well.)
Elizabeth Hasselback, an ultra-conservative Republican, reminds me of my sis.
The lovely Sheila is a Barbara Walters sort, refined and worldly (Sheila gets to travel a lot!).
And Nancy is a cross between Whoopi Goldberg and that Sherri chick on the show, a woman I can't for the life of me identify as Someone Famous. Was she a soap star? But make Nancy less politically inclined than Whoopi. Whoopi can get very deep very quickly, politically speaking. Nancy is more of a skirt-the-issues-sort. Very Switzerland.
So there we five gals were, lounging on pool floaties, enjoying lemonade and a fierce sun, our tummies full from a salad fest, when someone started in with the politics.
It might have been me; I can't remember. This perimenopause thing has been messing with my memory.
But we talked about abortion rights and Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama and the women's movement, and how it has sort of backfired on women (Sheila/Barbara).
Someone (I think it was my sis) brought up the "whining, entitled Hurricane Katrina victims" and how pitiful they were, when the flood-ravaged Iowans weren't complaining at all. When the flood in Iowa was "just as damaging."
That's when things got VERY "THE VIEW" and I, a woman who usually stays quiet on such matters, especially when I can sense I'm outnumbered, did not in fact stay quiet at all. I rather freaked out. Immediately claimed there was no comparison between the two events (Hurricane Katrina and the Midwestern Flood of 2008); I was peeved at the implication that the Louisiana folks were ignorant, government-dependent welfare cases who didn't have the intelligence to get out of dodge before the storms came and swept 300,000 houses away. Conversely, the people in Iowa were behaving perfectly decently and didn't start crying about the government not stepping in to help. (The Republicans' opinions, certainly not mine.)
I was beyond angry. But I didn't have the facts to support my claims. When one is floating on a pool noodle one does not have access to the Internet.
Because we women are all intelligent and benevolent ladies, we never yelled nor watched the spittle flying out of opponents' mouths. We somehow got off that subject and starting talking about something else. I couldn't tell you what, exactly, because inside I was telling myself, Go Home and Look This Stuff Up.
So I did. And then I sent my information on to the pool gals.
No one has fired back with vitriolic messaging. No one has phoned me to blow a whistle in my ear.
We're still friends. We can disagree and debate and by the end of the day there are smiles and hugs. I love my girlfriends. I love that we can engage in controversial subjects and speak our minds and then head out to a Mexican restaurant and giggle over the guacamole.
So that's how The View girls do it, too.
So don't believe what you read in the media about how much Hasselback hates Behar.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

School anxiety ... again!

I wish non-teachers could/might/would understand how much anxiety there is going into a new school year ... for the teachers! People like me who are already having back-to-school nightmares and anxiety attacks buying 24 boxes of Crayolas and hundreds of pencils.
The children, of course, have their unique anxieties (Will I miss the bus? Will I have any friends in my classes? Will I be able to even find my classes? Will my teachers be hags? Will I have the right kind of clothes? Will the other kids make fun of me?).
But we teachers, well, we have anxiety too. Although every single teacher I've talked to has some level of panic, mine always kicks into overdrive once August arrives: Will I oversleep the first day of school and arrive late and haggard and panicky? Will I have healthy colleague relationships this year? Will I be able to produce the level of energy that is needed to educate daily 150 seventh graders? Will the students think I'm pregnant on account of my newest fat roll and decide to give me Slim-Fast for Christmas (this actually happened to a former colleague ... oh, the horror and embarrassment ... ) Will I have good standardized test results? Will my IBS kick in during the middle of class? Will I have off-the-charts-horrific-to-handle-kids? Will I be able to climb the three flights of stairs to get to my classroom without needing oxygen? Will lesson planning and grading and lesson planning and parent meetings and grading and lesson planning and student discipline issues and staff meetings and grading get the best of me this year? Will this be the year I finally throw up my hands and announce, "Well, this is IT! No more teaching for me. I've had IT!!"
It's always possible, I suppose.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Anxiety in overdrive!

Here it is precisely 2:53 p.m. on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I feel paralyzed from these annoying PVC's (heart palps).
They started when the Mary Kay lady popped in around noon with my order, which I'd given her via telephone 90 minutes earlier. Somehow, no matter what I order, or how little I feel I order, the total always comes to fifty-plus dollars. So there was financial angst to consider. (This on top of three separate back-to-school lunches at fifty bucks a pop that I've: a) treated my children to; and b) not told my husband about.)
But before Mary Kay Lady leaves, she asks me if I've spoken to her daughter, who lives in California and, really, is my bestbest friend in the world and I was supposed to fly out there this summer but I'm a scaredy-cat about flying plus the tickets would have been about a thousand dollars because I sure in heck wasn't going alone and then think of all the extra money I'd need to spend on dining out and souvenir stuff and admission to things and so although I clearly should have called my California friend by now ... I mean, it IS August, I just haven't because what do I say, "Sorry, can't come. Too expensive, plus I'm a scaredy cat. Oh, and I've been battling these scary-butt PVC's all summer and I'm afraid I'll get on a plane and have a panic attack and my heart will spazz out and I'll die 30,000 feet in the air."
So, no, I told my friend's mother. I haven't talked to her.
OK, so there's friend anxiety piled onto cosmetic expenditure anxiety and then -- THEN -- I call my mom, which I should not have done, because she's extremely agitated and down in the dumps and feeling sorry for herself because yesterday would have been her and Dad's 45th wedding anniversary, only he got lung cancer and died four months later and now she's a grieving widow, only not one of those mildly tearful, soft-talking grieving widows. My mom is impossibly hard to communicate with (she's a vociferous type) because she is, in fact, a recent widow, a truth that only a heartless daughter would ignore.
So I'm supposed to go visit her this afternoon. But I don't want to go.
More anxiety.
And then, like a supreme idiot, I go to Wal-Mart to buy saltine crackers so I can make my special meatloaf that I know my mom likes only there are about a million and a half people shopping there because it's sales-tax-free weekend in Missouri. And that's when the PVC's got really bad. There I am, meandering my cart around hordes of people when they start. I use some self talk I read about doing recently: "You're OK, Kathleen, you'll be fine. You've had these before and they always go away and you don't die."
And I did, in fact, survive the shopping excursion, which brings me here to the typewriter.
If you, dear Reader, have any advice for me in dealing with life's anxieties, please pass on your helpful words.
I need some assistance.