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.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

He's a sly one ...

Last night, around 8:40-something, my son called. A junior in college, he was walking around campus, cell phone to ear. He'd had a bad day. Received a "C" on a Mexican history test. Was unable to get the spring classes he wanted during registration. Still reeling from his little elf's "Dear John" e-mail.
"I need a pep talk, Mom," he said, forlornly. This child, my middle, is predisposed to the blues. Born on a Wednesday, he is, generally, as the saying goes, filled with woe ... . Inherited my depressive tendencies along with my light-colored eyes. He's easily frustrated; he is supremely sensitive.
And so I gathered up some emotional strength, which surprised me, given my stupidly long week at the middle school coal mine, and I offered some sage words. "It's only one test, Ryan. Your grade will not be ruined. And tomorrow head off to the guidance center, speak to your academic advisor. Surely there are still some of your classes available ... ."
He paused.
"Yeah, you're right. Guess I could have studied more for the test."
There will be lots of tests, I told him. You win some; you lose some.
"Hey, Mom?"
"Go to the front porch."
"The front porch. Just go there," he said.
With the phone in my hand, I opened the front door.
There was my middle kid, his cell phone to ear, smiling broadly, leaning against the porch column. Pointing at me. Laughing.
Did I mention this one is a practical joker, too?
(And, no, there was no Mexican history test at all. He'd gotten all his necessary classes, too.)
He is a sly one.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sixteen days ...

In sixteen days America will choose a new leader.
We need a transformer, not a maverick.
Barack Obama can bring real change to America. The senator from Illinois will certainly have my vote come November 4.
Yesterday, I, along with 75,000 fellow Kansas Citians, stood in front of the Liberty Memorial to hear this intelligent visionary articulate his plan to TRANSFORM America's economy, healthcare and educational systems, global standing, and the environment of which we all inhabit.
He is change I can believe in. In my forty-three years I have experienced moments of eye-watering intensity: the birth of my three children (happy tears). Watching the towers fall that horrible day in September (tears of horror), Bush 41's Gulf War declaration (tears of fear). Yesterday's AMAZING gathering of old and young, black and white, a diverse demographic waving its arms in the air and applauding the dynamic words of the man we're hoping can, indeed, turn this country around.
Those were tears of pride.
God Bless Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Weird day

What an odd, odd day.
First, drove to school in a torrential downpour. Lots of water on the interstate. Feared I would die. Did not die. (Fortunately.) Got to school a wee bit early. Forgot magical plastic card that allows me entrance into the building. Waited five minutes for a colleague to show. Followed him in. Managed to get poorly constructed but pretty umbrella through the door but dropped important papers. Muddy wet.
Got to classroom but forgot key (attached to magical plastic entry card); had to hunt down a custodian to gain entrance to my own classroom. While waiting, I pass a woman in the wall who looks vaguely familiar, like I knew her once, maybe ten years ago. "Kathleen," she asks. "Is that you?" Why yes, yes it is, I respond, looking at her like a dog might look in the direction of an odd sound. "It's Betsy," she tells me, her Southern accent reminding me of our collegiate relationship. As I am thinking, Why do you look so much older than you should? the answer is provided. "I'm a breast cancer survivor," she says, smiling shyly. She points to her short, curly hair. (Didn't it used to be a different color?). She doesn't explain the wrinkles and tired face. Doesn't have to. Stupid cancer. Stupid, stupid, stupid cancer. Robs a person of vitality and youth. "So that's why you weren't subbing last year," I say. I reach to hug her. "I'm so glad you're well." Betsy, dear, dear Betsy, was my longterm sub the spring my dad was dying from lung cancer. How could any of us have known that she'd be fighting for her own life just a few months later?
I walk back to my classroom, thinking about my dead father.
While the rain beats a steady thumpthumpthump, I set about getting organized. Suddenly, I feel ill. Lower unit failure! Ugh. Stomach cramps. Bowel issues. Bathroom emergency. I either have an intestinal worm or should never eat chili again. Now I'm depressed and sick.
Homeroom children file in. I sell precisely three suckers. Not good for the fundraising effort. (We're raising money to support our team account. For field trips and ice cream socials, that sort of thing.) Do agenda checks but only three students have managed to write in their boardwork.
First hour begins. Time to collect homework. Five students have done so.
Small lecture begins. "If you're going to come to school, then doesn't it make sense to do the work? It's a simple worksheet, really, about setting. You know, time and place. (Blank looks.)
Where was 'The Highwayman' set? (Answer: Texas (wrong). New York (wrong). England? Dingdingding.)
The phone rings in my classroom. I am annoyed. Why on earth does the school allow incoming calls when I am teaching? Oh, wait .... It's the school nurse at my daughter's high school. Your daughter is ill, she tells me. Migraine. Visual disturbances. You need to come get her, please.
In addition to managing a class of 26 12-year-olds, I now must contact the school secretary to find out What to Do Next. It is a crappy part of the job, needing to leave suddenly. Just can't get up, grab the purse, and head out. You've got to find someone to take over the class. Really, trying to be absent on a school day is ALWAYS a difficult task.
But here comes the instructional assistant in charge of in-school suspension. She will be with my class. (Relief!) I head out into the pouring rain to retrieve my ill child. More thoughts of highway death. Again, I survive. (Thank God.)
The nurse is an angel and says wonderful things to me about coming to get Elizabeth. "I knew she was having a migraine when she walked in," the nurse says, making a sad face. "The migraine kids, you can always tell just by looking at their eyes." I look at my child, who squints to see me, as the lights are too bright in the nurse's room. I have a sudden thought to pick her up, to carry her out of the nurse's station. Mama to the rescue!
The two of us get home and I make her a comfortable pallet on the couch. Put on "Peanuts Christmas" album, one of her faves. Sit beside her, stroking her hair until sleep comes. Remember all the headaches she's had. Praying there is nothing SERIOUSLY wrong with her.
I am now reminded of Being Home During the Day, which happened with great frequency when I was a stay-at-home mom. Ran two loads of laundry. Made coffee. Read the paper. The obituaries. Saw that one of my favorite newspaper writer's wife had died. Cancer. STUPID CANCER. Sherri Eberhart, only 47 years old. Died Monday, Oct. 13. Forty-seven! She had no children, her husband John (my fave KC STAR books columnist) now a widower. About a year ago he wrote openly about his wife's illness, and about a year ago I remember thinking, Dear God, she's going to die.
And now she has.
So I think of setting as I type this entry. It is a gray day. The kind of gray, rainy day that makes death seem sadder somehow. I think of W.H. Auden's poem "Funeral Blues."

"... The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good."

Monday, October 13, 2008

A special message to a favorite blogger, and all others who stop by to visit

Glad to see, Bee, from your recent posts that your funk is subsiding. Meanwhile, I'm in one myself, a funk of mythic proportion. I've been thinking, My God, what is wrong with me, and so, today, instead of paying attention at a USELESS staff meeting, I sat with yellow legal pad and made a list of all that's bothering me.
I shall share it with you:
1) My mother (She makes me crazy but she is dying and I must be the world's worst daughter because I really don't feel that it's in MY best interest to visit her.)
2) My son (His girlfriend dumped him on Saturday. Instead of a "Dear John" letter, she sent an email, asking to be "just friends." His heart is broken. Therefore, so is mine.)
3) My weight. Ye gads I have gotten bigger and bigger. Kind of marshmallow-ish around the middle.
4) Sticky-icky weather. Come, come fall. This summery stuff sucks.
5) Not blogging. Why are you not blogging, Kathleen? Why? Why? Why?
6) Overall, no-good-reason bad mooding. Is this menopause? Feeling like I'm PMS-ing constantly.
7) Lack of coordinated drapery and bedding in the master bedroom. Why can't I get my bedroom design to click? Where's the black-and-white toile I've coveted for years?
8) Stack of mini-assessments to grade. I mean, STACK. One hundred of them to grade. Can't. Seem. To. Get. Motivated.
9) Absent exercise. Must get to the gym. Must get to the gym. Must get to the gym.
10) Why am I hot all the time?
11) McCain-Palin ticket.
12) McCain-Palin ticket.
13) Must get fall decorations out of boxes. Scarecrow to porch. Must purchase assorted gourds to decorate steps.
14) Pay new subscription to MORE magazine. Going to miss issues if payment is not made.
15) Why aren't tulip bulbs planted?

A Chili Rain

It's rainy and mildly chilly in Kansas City. October has come. Daylight wanes.
It's chili time!
When I got home from work this evening the yummy aroma greeted me before I even opened the kitchen door coming in from the garage. Could it be ... ? Would it be ... ?
Yesssss! A pot on the stove of my honey's famous three-bean blend. Piping hot. Steam rising from the kettle. White porcelain bowls of shredded cheese and chopped sweet onion sitting on the counter. Scads of oyster crackers.
After a way-too-stressful day at school, the one-dish dinner was just what I needed.
And for dessert, a slice of my youngest's birthday cake, a delightful piece of white-cake heaven.
Thank goodness for simple suppers and sugary finishes.