what are we going back to?

I didn’t hear anything about what had happened in Connecticut on Friday until my   mother sent me a text that seemed so out of the blue – “18 Elementary school kids & 6 adults in Ct. Just go home…gonna turn on the news…”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  After school ended I joined some of my co-workers at a local bar we used to frequent, and we vented and ate and had a drink or two.   I saw some footage on CNN (because every single restaurant and bar has at utter minimum, one TV in it) about a massacre in Newtown, but it wasn’t until I got home that I read all about it.  (I didn’t even have NPR on in the car driving home.)

I caught myself up on what was still a good deal of incorrectly reported information, and after a particularly difficult week at my job, I just sort of felt hopeless.  I fell asleep on the living room couch for about three hours, and woke up and headed to bed.

I spent all of my Saturday busying myself with various pursuits, and even spent some time with the husband and some of his clients.  (Said clients are 18-28, and most suffer from some disorder on the autism spectrum or other developmental conditions.  This matters later.)

At some point today, which was mostly spent doing laundry before our upcoming trip, I read more about the horrors that occurred in the small town in Connecticut.  Many people have spent a lot of time this weekend trying to make sense of what happened, in one way or another.  What I can’t stop thinking of is how that’s all going to come out tomorrow morning, as children go back to school, and their teachers may end up having to answer questions about what would happen in a homicidal maniac broke into their school.

People, especially empowered by social media, have come to terms with what happened in a variety of ways.  A lot of people have spent their weekends sharing strong opinions on gun control, for or against, or mental health treatment on some sort of social media this weekend, and a lot of people also shared the “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother”  blog post.

I do have to share two thoughts on that particular piece.  One: obviously  did not grow up using Live Journal, where if you had fantasies about injuring a family member, you made that crap friends only.  Or you made it so only a custom group of close friends could read it.  Maybe my mother’s warnings sharing my whole life online were more prescient than I give her credit for.  They began at age 13 and they echo in my head to this day.  (Note: she loves this blog, so I’ve probably gotten something right.)  The frankness and negativity with which she speaks of her children is honestly upsetting to me.  While I don’t have kids, I deal with parents and kids on a daily basis, often way more than I want to.  Even if I one day want to throttle my figurative teenage daughter or yell at my five-year-old for crying (because there’s no better way to get a kid out of a chronic crying habit than to yell at them!!), I would not feel good about posting that for the world to see.

Secondly, anyone who has ever worked with any child with any developmental disability knows that, yes, they follow patterns.  Yes, there is a DSM book that counselors use to diagnose psychological conditions for a reason.  But every kid with a  developmental disorder is different.  Every single one of them.  When I worked with a self-contained class for the first time, that’s what struck me the most about these kids.  They were such strong personalities, every single one of them, and so individualistic.  They call it an autism spectrum for a reason.

So yes single mom with four kids who complained that she had to give up her freelance career for a college gig (a job I’d love to have myself), you have a sometimes violent, special needs child, but for you to claim to have any understanding of the inner workings of Adam Lanza’s family is ignorant and opportunistic.  And have you ever thought that maybe one day, your kids will read and be aware of the fact that millions of other people have now read about the bodily harm you wanted to inflict upon them?

For more critique, read an analysis by an excellent writer, Sarah Kendzior.

So now there is the task of going back to school, for millions of teachers and students in the next 6-12 hours.  While I personally have tried to stay distracted all this weekend, it hits you right upfront when you think about Monday morning.  Most schools are almost on their Winter Break, so typically students and teachers are a little more laid back this time of year.  That won’t happen tomorrow morning.

I was in 10th grade during Columbine.  I never genuinely feared a copycat attack at my high school, and I felt safe where I was.  Virginia Tech happened the week before I graduated college, and my last class of that day evacuated because of a fire alarm.  Turns out a professor burned popcorn on the fifth floor and they decided to take any small problem seriously that day.  As they should.

Being a teacher during this time, I will say, is the scariest circumstance of them all.  I am sure that my overactive imagination and penchant for wild disaster scenarios will make me a really paranoid parent one day.  But I’m already in that role.  When a kid is late to class or I don’t know where he or she is, I really give it to them when I explain why this is such a bad thing.  “I am legally responsible for you during this time of the day.  I can be held accountable for the things that happen during the time you’re in my class.”  Usually, this does not present an issue, but when outside circumstances create terrifying scenes as we sat in Newtown this week, the thought of my students losing their lives chills me to my core.

However, as tales of heroism by teachers, and by the principal and school staff of Sandy Hook come forth, I don’t find them surprising.  Not in the least bit.  This is what teachers do.  They take bullets for their kids, both physical and metaphorical.  They leave their marriages in ruins.  They neglect their personal health.  They spend buttloads of money on supplies (and those numbers are getting higher).  Surely there are teachers who only go into what they do for the money. As in, to have a job that receives some sort of paycheck, not to be rich.  To make ends meet.  But they sure as hell don’t stay in it for the money.  Whether they can ennumerate those reasons or not, they realize they have a chance to have a direct impact on the future course of society at large.  I don’t even have to like my co-workers to know that they would have done the same, given the circumstances.

Most teachers don’t have to take physical bullets for their kids.  Most teachers shouldn’t have to.  Well, scratch that.  No teacher should have to.  But the next time I hear people demonizing teachers unions I hope they stop and consider what happened in Newtown, CT.  The staff members who gave their lives so that their students may survive are heroes.  But in this profession, making personal sacrafices on every level is standard operating procedure.  In every classroom in America, there is a teacher not being paid what he or she is worth who will in some way, shapre or form, save a kids life this year.  Some teachers will provide warnings or give advice, some teachers might prevent suicide or abuse.

The prospect of mortal danger in my profession scares me, but so does taking I-95 to work every day.  (The latter is actually a little more scary on a day-to-day basis.)  As stated, no teacher should have to block bullets with his or her body so that their six-year-olds can go home to their parents.  But I think if put in that situation, an abnormally high percentage of teachers would absolutely do the same thing.

And tomorrow morning, after that first bell rings, there will be a lot of announcements from principals concerning what happened on Friday morning in Connecticut, trying to assuage fears and provide for safe learning environments.  And after those announcements end, there will be 20-30 different perspectives, different reactions, different clouds of information or misinformation about what happened Friday, and it will be the job of millions of teachers to bring together those perspectives and help them move past this horrific act.  Whether it happens by means of talking about it in a round-table discussion or simply pressing forward with mid-terms, it is yet another burden shared by all of America’s teachers tomorrow morning.

Wish us all luck.

Leave a comment

Filed under children

Cooking with the RHoWM

I just made an abbreviation for myself!

Last night, my husband and I were back-to-back in the kitchen, making things to eat (as one does).  I was convinced that I had to prolong the life of the avocados we bought the other day, and I did this by mashing them up with pulled chicken into an avocado chicken salad.  Hooray.  T-storm decided to put bunches of vegetables in the rice cooker and curry some stuff up.

Meanwhile, I double fisted a Vitamin Water and a PBR at once.  My beloved husband alluded to filling the (small) kitchen with farts.  Then he began singing each and every song that popped into his head, all from a wide variety of vocal genres.

We bumped into each other and laughed as our cat crawled directly underneath our feet, burrowing in some bizarre manner (or just waiting for some chicken to drop).

A typical night cooking with our little family.

Lately, T-storm is all about cooking with quinoa: in chili, in whatever really, and what follows is a few outstanding examples.

Leave a comment

Filed under cat, cooking, marriage

prolonging the holiday spirit

We had a small holiday party the first week of December.  And there were plenty of holiday spirits shared – and shall we say, re-gifted the next morning.

It sounds stupid, but it makes me want to have another holiday party.  It went well, our friends had a great time, but I had all of this stuff to hang up all around the living room that never got hung up.  We had our tree up, and the place looked okay, but there’s a nagging itch to have more people over at various times this month to see our modest holiday decor.

What is the malfunction in my brain that makes me think I won’t be satisfied with my holidays until people compliment the bunting I made last year?  Or until they appreciate the cookies we made?   Seriously, dude.  I don’t understand why I feel this way.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under holidays

a proper way to flirt.

well well well.  I had written eariler about odd ways of being approached in daily life, but I had an experience a couple of weeks ago that left me feeling positive and complimented, and not violated.

T-storm and I have a BJ’s membership (laugh if you will), which is awesome if you want to buy sparkling water, Fage yogurt doubles and quinoa in bulk at a decent price.  Costco is a better company, yes, but at least we don’t have a Sam’s Club membership.  and I don’t even know where the nearest Costco is.

I was buying bottlewater in bulk for an event, and I headed to the register to get rung up.  maybe the cashier did actually check me out at the same time, but I didn’t feel like I was being objectified.  we had a conversation during the transaction, and he was particularly friendly.  of course, at big discount stores, they check your receipts as you exit, and I noticed on my receipt that I’d only been charged for three giant packs of water, when I’d gotten six.  I didn’t want to get my butt kicked by the exit police at BJ’s.  (that would be a pretty crummy fall from grace story if there ever was one – loss of career due to shoplifting bottled water at a membership discount store.  glory be.)

so I went back to remedy the situation.  and the cashier felt a little embarassed at his mistake.  but he also said to me, “Here I was, thinking you were coming back to get my number.”

I responded, with a grin, “No, I’m married.”  I nodded politely, we completed the transaction, and smiled away.   he said nothing more on the subject, but wished me a good way after he charged me for the other water.

I wasn’t objectified, and he had simply made a flirtatious, yet polite comment.  I certainly got the message that he’d like me to give him my number, but it wasn’t anything creepy or asshole type.  certainly not someone chasing me down in a parking lot at Panera shouting “EXCUSE ME!”

so for any Men’s Rights goons who think that feminism excludes the opportunity for men to be complimentary and flirtatious, please take this as an example of flirting without being a sexist prick.

it is possible!

Leave a comment

Filed under advice, men

instadump

Byah!  You know you like it!

Leave a comment

Filed under books, home

made it 12 months. so we’ve got 12 tips!

And they said it wouldn’t last!

Actually, one of my bridesmaids and her (soon-to-be, well then) husband told us during our wedding, “You guys are the horse we’re betting on.”  It meant a lot to me to hear that, and of course no one thinks about divorce on their wedding day.  (I was mostly thinking about cake balls.  Ahhh!)

We don’t plan on getting divorced.  That might not even need to be said.  But we all know that even the best marriages fail.  Shit happens.  We don’t like to think about it, but it does.  There’s no foolproof plan, and we’ d be stupid to think that there is.

When we moved into our apartment here in WM in 2010, we had another recently engaged couple an our favorite fifth wheel help us.   Fifth wheel, who is also kind of a know-it-all, asked all four of us coupled folk if we thought our eventual marriages would last.  We all said yes – of course.  He said, “Half of you are wrong.”

I told him he was full of shit.  His sample size is skewed to couples who are educated, essentially middle class, and marrying slightly later in life (31 & 28, and then 29 & 32, respectively).

And via the CDC, well, they don’t detail much in terms of who gets divorced, but as marriage rates rise, divorce rates do too, and the same goes for falling marriage rates. (These patterns are very likely tied to the American economy, although the wedding industry has not fallen off at all.  Trust me, I know.)

My husband and I came to the decision to get married relatively quickly, but not lightly.  To be truthful, we essentially knew we would marry one another maybe less than two months into our relationship.  On a vaguely related note,  I got some shit on facebook for criticizing some really stupid advice I read that has been spread far and wide about saving your marriage.  The guy who wrote it sounded like an unrepentant asshole.  Two days later I read more viral “advice” from a blog post that told me to pray with my husband and to put a dollar in a box every time we have sex.  Um, no.

So I’m countering.  With my own non-bullshit advice about having a successful marriage.  But what the hell.  We’ve only made it 12 months.

1. Get cats.

They are entertaining.  They are loveable.  They are a shared responsibility (although being in particularly sensitive ovary years, I have an excuse to not change the cat litter for awhile), and they are something that creates a little family altogether.  When my husband is in a bad mood, nothing lights him up like goofing around with our two cats.  He mostly plays with the orange one, who’s kind of a dick, but who has a strong bond with my husband.  Said love for cats was almost reason enough alone to marry the dude.

They bond over moving furniture!

But always.  Pet adoption is always a good idea, and I personally think it creates a bond between partners.  Just my thought.

2. Don’t let others get you down.

After our wedding, we experience what we referred to as Friendpocalypse 2012, centering around friends’ divorce.  Suffice to say, it was bad.  It sounds like a high school problem to have, but crap like that only gets nastier and more complicated when there are marriages and houses and property involves.  Yuck.  The people involved had all been guests at our wedding.  We had been to a Christmas party with the whole gang the week before the bottom fell out.   It hit a little too close to home for me.

But it really shouldn’t have, although it does for a lot of people when their friends divorce.  I didn’t think that we’d hit the “everyone gets divorced” phase of our social life so soon after we got married, and so many of our other friends got married, but man.

It was, however, a case of “need not worry, idiot.”  Time has passed, everyone is not all back to being best friends, but things have calmed down significantly.  People have come and gone.   Other friends have moved away, but we’re still here.  Husband and I.  Social survivors.

3. Recognize that you’re each going to have strengths and weaknesses. 

I quoted Patti Smith, from  her gorgeously wrought book Just Kids, awhile ago on this very blog.  But it’s true.  When one of you is weak, the other will be strong.  When one of you falters, the other will pick up.  Take care of each other to the best of your ability.

4. Do what you want to do.

I went away for six weeks, within the first year of my marriage, and started working on my master’s degree.  It wasn’t a permanent choice, and I was the one person in my program who was like that kid in college who goes home every weekend, and you’re not sure is going to make it.  But I made it through the summer, and I got back to my husband and it was like we hadn’t missed a beat.  We talked about it a lot, we made a plan, and we dealt with it.  Not only do you have to have your physical space, but your mental/goal-oriented space, as well.

5. Don’t think about cake balls.

I love cake balls.  I love cake pops.  I love making them.  My husband hates it if I leave 45 plates and bowls and pot and pans out in the aftermath and he feels the need to clean them up.  The process of making them usually takes about 3 days and at least 2 other baking-savvy friends involved.  And let’s be honest: he’s not being an asshole if he gets mad because I left out 45 dirty bowls.

I’ve made them on occasion since I’ve been married, but let’s be honest here: they’re completely superfluous.  I spent a good portion of my wedding week making cake balls for extra favors, but they were completely superfluous on our wedding day, mostly because they got left behind in the hotel and didn’t make it to the reception.  It didn’t matter.  Life will carry on without cake balls.  Sometimes, life is better without cake balls.

They made it to the post-wedding party, though.

This advice also carries out to chipped nail polish, putting away all of the clothes, making menus for the week, and properly editing your blog when you hoped you would.

6. Accept compliments.

“YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT BECAUSE I AM CRANKY AND CRAZY AND HATE MY JOB RIGHT NOW AND AHHHHHHHHHH!!”

Um, sometimes, no he’s not.  Accept the fact that someone loves you and appreciates you, even at your snot-nosiest, crying-jaggiest,  world-hatingest.  If he tells you that you look good, then take it.

I’m also firmly not on the side of “dress/do your nails/shave/wear perfume/bleach yer bits for your husband’s pleasure”, but a compliment that he gives out also might be his way of gently saying that he might like it again if you wear that certain outfit again.  Like on a date night or something, i.e. a night that is specifically focused on you, him, and your relationship.  Y’know what I mean?  On my end, T-storm has this leather jacket that he wears that I love love love love love seeing him in.  I cannot get enough of it, and I start to squee a little when the weather gets cold enough so that he wears it.  But I’m a little more overt with my compliments.  His are always more subtle, but I do try to take notice.  These compliments are even helpful, when I pilfer my closet and can’t decide what to wear – I’ll think of his comments about a certain dress and will reach for it.  Even past my 25 other dresses.

Which leads to my next point.

7. Get rid of shit.

We’re still working on this.  We are both packrats, and we came with lots of books and music and old CDs and what not.  I’m way more attached to stuff than he is.  And the books he gave me out of his car on the day we first met (that he was trying to donate somewhere anyway) are still on our shared bookshelf.  But yes.  I imagine that hoarding can lead to divorce, as well as other things.  So start donating that shit.  I suggest this place, as it’s their job to find a use for any damn thing they can give you.

And, of course, emotional shit too.  That comes later.

8. Your spouse cannot read your mind!

This seems so freaking obvious.  But we forget it.  All the time.

I don’t know.  I’m dumb and I used to think that romance involved “getting it” all the time.  Knowing what the other person was thinking, always.  And that’s bullshit, and it’s also kind of creepy.

If you’re upset, tell your spouse.  Express yourself.  Share part of who you are and you’ll get something shared with you from someone else.  Maybe more than you were planning on getting from that other person.  They just needed an opening offer before they spilled their guts.  (This was a lesson I learned early on in college, from someone who is now still one of my best friends, and need to keep in mind more often.  And it goes for more than just spouses.)

9. Sometimes you have to agree to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, even if you fall asleep a third of the way into the film.

You are not going to love everything your spouse loves.  And visa versa.  No disrespect to Mr. Carpenter; T-storm had sat me down to watch In the Mouth of Madness early in our relationship, and I really liked it.  (But who can really argue with Sam Neill?)  He has come to see a lot of stuff he otherwise would not because of me, and visa versa, again.  Even if, as previously mentioned, you fall asleep a third of the way into the film, you tried.

This is also a good place to insert the term “movie narcoleptic”, which I like to pretend my friend N came up with, because she rules.

10. Accept the things you cannot change.

This kind of goes without saying.  I am horrible and lazy in the morning, and my husband makes me coffee without fail.  I sort of put it on with the a.m. laziness, mostly because he is so damned good at making coffee (it’s genetic; his father is a pro as well).  I am okay with him being indecisive about many things.  Sometimes I want him to give input so it doesn’t just feel like I’m railroading him constantly, but sometimes he is just happier not making a choice and so I get to say what’s what.  This is something that ideally should be worked out probably before a couple gets married, but it’s important to remember throughout the course.

On the whole it’s a stupid show, although we’ve watched it beginning to the last season on Netflix, and all episodes many times over, but there’s a really beautiful moment in season 6 of How I Met Your Mother.  I don’t just identify with the characters of Lily & Marshall because Lily is a teacher and I adore Jason Segal – there is some real emotional heart there.  The scene takes place in a natural history museum, and Lily starts talking to “college Marshall” as though he is on display as an extinct creature.  She sighs, telling the extinct Marshall that she wants him back, and that he’s changed.  Shocked, “college Marshall” asks her hastily if he cheats on her in the future.  She quickly tells him no, and he asks her more questions, all of which lead to the conclusion that despite the fact that he’s changing and growing, his love and commitment to her have only cemented in the intermittent years.  It’s quite the realization for her.  I love the way that scene is done.  And it’s true.  Some of the specifics change, but as long as the core is still in place, other things you can learn to live with.

How do you NOT love Jason Segal!?

Which brings me to my next point.

11. Don’t let the past confine you.

I am a sentimental schmuck.  I moved to South Florida on what was essentially a whim five years ago, and found myself stuck here.  But we’re here now, I met my husband here, and although it was never my #1 choice for place to live in the world, and I’ve missed home and my past and my friends and all the things I loved for a long time, my husband is both a) accepting of my sentimentality and b) gives me constant reason not to compare now to my past.  I have the memory of a memoir writer, so sometimes it’s hard for me to let go of the past, even if I only hold onto it for comparison’s sake.  My husband has taught me that it’s okay to co-exist with past lives, but (even if not in so many words) that I don’t have to be held up by a dependence on nostalgia.  He has, in his own way, taught me to live for the future while not forgetting who I am.

12. Sense of humor.

This is one of the best reasons I married my husband, and it’s the most likely reason I expect to stay married to my husband.  Take lots of shit with a grain of salt, and you’ll be better off.

And that’s what we’ve got so far.  We’ll surely learn a lot more in forthcoming years, but we’re excited to have many years to figure everything else out.  Wish us luck.

1 Comment

Filed under love, marriage

are YOU better off than four years ago?

Time changes a lot.  When you’re in the How I Met Your Mother timeframe (several years after college has ended), things start to move more slowly.  For your whole life, until you’re 22 or so, every four to six years your life completely changes.  Different school.  Different phase of life.

But as an old friend said when he graduated college and  got his job, “Well, time to work until I’m 60.”  That’s a long time with not a lot of change.

Only four presidential election cycles have occurred in my lifetime in which I’ve been able to participate.  And I’ve participated in all of them, voting in the 2000 election only three weeks after my eighteenth birthday.  I’ve volunteered and canvassed and listened to my candidate speak in the other two elections that have already happened.  My guy is coming to Hollywood on Sunday, and I’ll be out of town, visiting friends who are in from out of state.  That’s just the way my life has been heading, I guess.

Because of my comparative youth, it’s no indicator of the economy to say whether or not I’m better off than I was four years ago.  I do have the same job I did four years ago, although many of the details of the job and my workplace have changed significantly.  In 2008, most teachers in my area were struggling to hang on.  But by now, we’re steadily recovering, and there are more jobs in my field than there were four years ago.  So that’s something.

I also bought my car four years ago – the first car I’d bought in my own name, even with my own bad credit.  (It’s still not great, but I blame that less on the economy.)  I bought it September 21st, 2008, and the guy at Carmax who sold it to me and who discussed Tommy Friedman with us set my radio to Praerie Home Companion as I drove away on that early Saturday evening.  He kind of ruled.  My car payments kind of haven’t ruled over the past four years, but I’m getting it down and will have it paid off next September.  I also bought it about a week before all of the markets crashed.

Back to my job, and even a little further back than that now, I got my job in April of 2007.  I graduated college a week later.  I was set, and according to many economists, the recession, at least in Florida, began in April of 2007.  My timing could not have been better.  Whatever misgivings I have about my job at this point, the reminder of being able to hang on keeps me where I am.

So I got a job right as the housing market started slipping, and held onto it when Florida schools started slashing through teacher jobs.  I got my car, even with my shitty credit, before the markets tanked and there was no credit available.  I needed it, too, as my brakes were failing in my beloved Neon and I needed to get to work.

And looking away from economics for a moment, timing also sealed the deal on me meeting my husband.  It worked out perfectly.  Suffice to say, he is also a hell of a lot better off than he was four years ago.  He’s three years older than I am, and in the fall of 2008, he had just returned to the US after three years living and teaching abroad, landed at this parents’ house, without a single job prospect despite multiple promotions in his prior jobs, despite the fact that they were overseas.

(Side note: if you’re going to teach overseas, don’t look at it as a career move.  Do it because you want to have the experience, and you plan on getting more training back home in the US.  Unless you plan on staying out there.)

We met in the summer of 2009, and suffice to say, we’re both better off for having one another in our lives.  We don’t have a ton of savings, but we have some.  He has some investments, I have a small retirement plan and good, cheap benefit, and we’re doing what we can do.

We flirt with the idea sometimes, but we don’t really want to touch the housing market with a ten-foot-pole, although friends are telling us that it’s only going up from here.  They’re right.  And as much as I want to act out House Hunters, not happening.  I’m into fixer-uppering, and T-storm would rather just buy something without problems.  Although he did marry me, so that philosophy doesn’t exactly hold.  (Heh heh.)

We love living in Wilton Manors, and we love being married, and for all intents and purposes, we are better off than we were four years ago.  I don’t make any more money than I did four years ago, but that’s the fault of my ineffective union* and Rick Scott, who has really screwed me.

So that’s our status.  While that doesn’t particularly affect who we’re going to vote for, as we have our own ideas and we do a lot of research on a lot of things – and for Christ’s sake, we live in Wilton Manors – that’s the answer to that question.

 

*sidenote: I believe in unions, and supported the teachers’ union in the recent Chicago strike.  It just happens that mine gets shockingly little done.  That’s South Florida politics, I guess.

2 Comments

Filed under civil rights, politics, ranting, relationships