Friday, May 27, 2016

Bouncing between liberal and conservative ideas

The only reason I am not an independent is because if I register as independent I am unable to vote in primaries in my state.

I spend probably more time than I should thinking about the categories of "conservative" and "liberal," and I find myself dancing between thoughts that seem liberal and others that seem conservative.

I know enough about "isms" to be dangerous, but here is the gist of what I perceive:

This is a very simplistic idea, but if often seems to me that conservatives believe in the power and responsibility of the individual to change his/her circumstances, while liberals seem to believe that individuals are too stupid to change their circumstances and better their lives.  On the surface, I totally get behind this.  Liberals often seem to me like "babysitters," who think the government should act as a giant parent.  As a general rule, I think many institutions that are government operated are inefficient at best.

I wonder how much of my own belief in personal responsibility was engendered because my own parents lived it and instructed me in it?  Under different life circumstances, different parents, a different upbringing, would I think differently?

However, I also understand that the power of the almighty dollar and private companies don't always or often value things that have great value, like stay-at-home mothers.  As a stay-at-home mother, I got paid nothing, but I contributed a great deal to society by volunteering like a mother-f*cker at my kids' schools and in their organizations.  Things like parks and nature preserves don't make money but they add considerable value to people's lives.  Clean water and air don't make money either but are necessary for society.  There are some ways in which government is an absolute necessity, and if corporations don't/won't do it, then government needs to.

There also seems to be a connection between libertarianism and conservatism one some issues, like guns, but not on other issues, like abortion.  I have a difficult time resolving that a person who believes in liberty and freedom of choice doesn't also think the government should stay out of people's business as it concerns sex or procreation.  That is a weird disconnect that I don't understand.

A couple days ago, I read a newspaper article in which someone suggested that public schools in our city should offer disadvantaged students three meals a day, longer school days, homework help, and be open schools on Saturday and all summer.  Having worked with disadvantaged students and seeing them on a regular basis again as a substitute, I totally get that there is a need.  There are many, many parents who do a craptastic job of parenting their kids either because of their own ignorance or because of drug addiction or because of poverty.

But my immediate reaction upon reading this sentiment was for my dander to get up.  My question to this person who I am not actually speaking to was, "What is the responsibility of parents, then, if the school basically raises the child?"  The parents need to have some skin in the game.

I know that education tries mightily to right the wrongs of poverty and poor parenting.  This is why I am firmly in favor of contraception being available like candy and abortion rights.  I don't think abortion is right.....I think it is a terrible, horrible thing.  BUT, I think it is more of a terrible, horrible thing for children to be brought into this world and abused, neglected, or "raised" in a pipeline that leads them almost assuredly to drugs, prison and/or violent death.  Morality doesn't truly exist in a neat, clean, black/white line of yes or no.

So my initial reaction to this person's statement seemed rather conservative, but then I stated my comments about contraception/abortion, which are definitely liberal.

I'm confusing myself.

The bathroom wars, LGBT issues.....I'm liberal....but it sorta seems like this would be a conservative/libertarian issue.  Personal liberty and all that.  Keep the government out of my personal business.....

The whole living together before marriage and dating while separated prior to divorce.....I'm conservative.  People froth about sex on tv and in song lyrics but completely ignore how many parents do a piss poor job modeling behaviors to their children by being married to their spouse (technically) and moving in with or dating someone else while they await divorce proceedings to complete.  Be legally single before you start dating (I'm frothing now).

I'm personally fiscally conservative, but I like the ideas of having my money automatically handed out to others in wealth redistribution because I know I am too selfish to give willingly on my own.  So that puts me more in the liberal camp, I think.  I don't mind taxation, but I think the money is spent stupidly.

The removal of Confederate statues in cities and the like....conservative.  I think it is sort of ridiculous to dismantle things when they could be used to educate if anyone pays attention to them at all.  Although I think the removal of state flown/government condoned Confederate flags was appropriate.  See, I vacillated right there, I think.

Immigration---conservative.  I'm not sure what the solution is but as a person who listens to the airline steward on how to safely exit the plane, it would stick in my craw that I'm having to save the lives of yahoos who didn't pay attention to the instructions and follow the rules of responsible airline passenger.  I think a wall between here and Mexico is ridiculous to the nth power, but I also think we reward people for violating immigration law.

Gun rights---I am not anti-gun.  I personally don't want to own guns, but if other people want them....go ahead.  I'm not sure how effective gun-control laws really are.

Anyway....I know I definitely lean more lefty, but there are many issues where I feel like my immediate reaction is righty.

I think I'm stuck in the middle with myself.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A family kindergarten milestone

Tomorrow M "graduates" from kindergarten.  He has been singing the songs for his performance for weeks.  I anticipate that I will not get all weepy, but this confidence is a sure bet that I'll ugly cry all over myself.

What makes his completion of kindergarten remarkable is that it is the end of an era, and that makes me feel all sappy sentimental.

All three of my kids have been Abbey's Angels....with the same teacher, aide and special classroom granny (who is also our neighbor).



And 2016
(We'll get a photo of M and Ms. R---special classroom granny--tomorrow)

G was actually in another class when he first began kindergarten, but enrollment was off and he only had 16 kids in the classroom.  When they had to move the students to fill out classes, any student whose sibling had a certain teacher got to go to that teacher......and we were Angels again.

When N was in kindergarten, the class created a Reading Garden, which I hold near and dear, and which is a big reason I volunteer as beautification chairperson at the school.  I want to ensure that this flowerbed looks nice and stays looking nice because it was where our journey with the school began.

These ladies are top-notch wonderful, and I couldn't have asked for a better group of women to welcome my children and me into the elementary school.  

I know I will see them often in and around the school, but it is bittersweet knowing this ride is really over.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Reasons not to believe every word that comes out of your child's mouth

I don't think my children are liars, but I do think they are children, and children have been known to....

*get things wrong
*misconstrue things that were said in a way they weren't meant
*listen to things that weren't being said to them and think they were being spoken to
*see things from a child's perspective

A case in point:

G had told me that his friend at school was moving to California and that this child's father is in prison.  The mom and I don't know each other well, other than from texting each other to try to figure out days/times for a playdate.  Today, while on a field trip, I asked if her weekends had calmed down a bit or if she was still super busy.  She said they were going to be moving soon to Colorado.  She then told me that they knew they would only be here for a year because they are military, and her husband is in Korea.

Not prison, apparently.  Not California, apparently.

Now was this a case of her son telling fibs?  Maybe.
Or maybe it was a case of my son not listening.....or getting this child confused with another child.....or just plain making up sh*t.  I don't know, but I'm glad I didn't give too much credence to G's story about his buddy.

When N came home from school earlier this year and told me they'd announced via intercom the students who'd been accepted to all-county orchestra and that she was one of them, I went "Yeah!  Awesome!" on the outside.  On the inside, I was like, "Well..... I'll just wait until I get confirmation from her orchestra teacher before I really believe it."

I don't think N was lying at all, but I needed confirmation by someone who is more "in the know."  Someone who didn't have to listen to announcements over the rattle and hum of other 11- and 12-year-olds at 2:18 in the afternoon.

I can think back to my own perception of the world when I was a kid and how totally wrong I got things.  Kids are just like that.

Like my own parents, I don't take what my kids say at face value.  I tend to suspend judgment until I have considerably more information from a variety of parties.

Because I don't want to look like a dumb-a$$ asking about so-and-so's good behavior and parole.

The bathroom wars

I listened to "Here and Now" the other day in which two gentlemen more learned than me discussed the whole problem with bathrooms.  We are, of course, in the midst of the "bathroom wars," which I find absurd for a variety of reasons.

I am a woman and use a women's restroom, which are always, always far too small for the number of women who need to use them, especially in public venues like concert halls or fairgrounds.  I would use (and have used) a men's restroom in order to get my business done and head back to whatever it was I was doing prior to requiring facilities because the line in the ladies room was out of control.  I have never understood women standing in a long line to pee when there is an empty or mostly empty men's restroom sitting.right.there.  The sign says "Men" so we cross our legs and wait and wait.  This is utter inefficiency and drives me bananas.

When I am in a women's restroom, I do not ask my fellow women (who may or may not be biological women) what they are doing in their stalls.
I do not examine them or frisk them or question them.
I ignore them and take care of nature's call.
I would do exactly the same thing with men.

G and M are now 8 and 6.  They are in that foggy area where they are probably too "old" for a women's restroom with me, but they might be a little too "young" to be in a men's restroom alone or without me standing right outside the door, ready to poke my head in and keep them from having a dance party instead of washing their hands.  And I "can't" use a men's restroom, of course.

Sometimes there are "family" restrooms, but there is only one sink and one toilet, and N doesn't want to pee in front of me and her brothers and her dad.  D doesn't want to pee in full view of anyone.  I haven't used a restroom alone in over ten years, so I really don't care who is watching me....stranger or not.  I don't especially want to watch G and M have a "pee race," which is par for the course when there is one toilet and the two of them.

For my family, it would be nice to have a unisex restroom with many stalls that have doors that go from floor to ceiling.  We can all go in together publicly, but all have private individual stalls to do what needs to be done.  I wouldn't have to skulk outside the men's room listening and waiting for my sons.  If D is with N, he could be with her and not have to make arrangements for where to meet afterwards.

I, personally, do not have a problem with unisex restrooms or transgender people using whatever restroom they want.  I would like to use whatever restroom I want....whichever is most convenient for me and/or my family.

It seems there is this aura of danger surrounding unisex bathrooms....that they might induce people to do unhealthy, possibly illicit things in them.

Whether a bathroom is for women, for men or unisex has no effect on someone doing something illicit.  For all I know, every woman I've ever been in a stall next to has been silently shooting up drugs or had her husband/boyfriend in there with her having sex or was secretly stashing money in her offshore account via mobile.  I don't listen for what other people are doing next to me in their stall.  I am busy doing what I need to get done in my stall (which, for the record, has never been drugs or sex).

I keep thinking about this idea of danger....that if someone is different then that person is likely to be deviant.  I realize that transgender doesn't have anything to do with sexual orientation, but not everyone knows this.  They think transgender equates to sexual deviance.

It occurred to me that we erroneously think the devil is going to look odd, different, foul, weird and perverted, but that isn't the way the devil works.  The devil looks tempting, safe, like someone who would never, ever hurt us.  He looks clean, polished, respectable.  He isn't different from us.  He is everything we would trust in an individual.

He is Jerry Sandusky and Dennis Hastert and all the other "normal, respectable, upstanding" men.  The ones I really wouldn't trust in any kind of bathroom.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The constant quest for frugal living

I often wonder about other people's finances.

When I was getting my oil changed at Valvoline, the guy at the computer (not the guy under the hood) and I somehow got to chatting about spending money.....I think it stemmed from my comment that we will drive the minivan forever so we have to take care of it (it is at 140,000 miles right now).  He said that he and his wife are into guns and will sometimes drop 6K on three guns.  He also said that he says he will keep a car for a long time, but it seems like every three years he gets a new one.

I left this conversation with a lot of questions that I was too polite to ask, like:

*I wonder how much he and his wife make per year?

*I wonder how much savings they have?

*I wonder how much debt they have?

*I wonder if D and I do something wrong because I don't feel like we have 6K to just drop on something like a gun (which seems to me like a kind of non-investment-like purchase....but maybe I'm incorrect).

*I wonder if this guy was just blowing smoke up my tail?

I think how people spend/save their money is as taboo a topic as sex, and I'm not sure why.  On the one hand, neither is anyone else's business.  On the other hand, we all want to know what everyone else does.  Are we normal?  On the rare occasions when I've been in conversations about either money or sex, I find that I leave feeling better about whatever it is I am/we are doing.  If nothing else, whatever they are doing isn't something I want to do so I leave feeling ok about my/our choices.

It isn't easy to be frugal when I feel like everyone else is getting, buying, having, and I feel like we are always saving, saving, saving.  Of course, I know what our total wealth is.....and I try to remember that when I feel like we don't "have" much.  And we are able to do things once we've saved and saved.  Our master bath remodel is coming along, and we aren't having to take a loan to do it.

(And I know so many, many people have so much less than we do, which makes having this internal wrangling feel so spoiled and ridiculous.)

I try to remind myself that we are willing to spend our money for things we value improvements to the house and family vacations/memory-making.

There are other things for which I spend less:  clothes and tchotchkes for the house.

I try as much as I can to buy these items second-hand for a number of reasons.

First, it is cheaper to buy something gently used than pay full price.  This is especially important if it is an item that I'm not going to use all the time, like outdoor furniture or a knick-knack that I might tire of in a year or a dress for a wedding or evening out.

Second, it is wasteful to not reuse as much as possible.  The cost of creating, manufacturing, etc adds up and has many costs that never even cross my mind (like how much water is used in the manufacturing of the item or how much gas is used to transport it from factory to warehouse to store).

Finally, there is something cool about having items in my house that not everyone who has ever shopped at Target has in their houses.  Same with clothes.

I am not a clothes horse by any stretch of the imagination.  My favorite pair of jeans is older than N and has a hole in the knee that I earned from crawling after N...and G...and M when they were babies.  I had bought them used but did go to the Gap and purchase a brand-spanking new pair since I knew I'd  never find a pair just like this one if I tried to find them at a consignment store after a decade plus.

I am interested in attending an event that is coming up next weekend.  I expect this will be a great consignment sale because this gal's momma holds two huge kids consignment sales a year that I participate in (both selling and shopping).  I didn't discover these until G was born, and I wish to this day I had known about them when N was a baby.

I'm in search of a top or dress for family pictures we'll be taking when we head up to Michigan this summer.  I'm trying to coordinate clothing with my gang, my brother's family of five, my mom and dad, and my mother-in-law.

I've completed the boys' shopping (3 new shirts and 2 consigned shorts...D has some khakis already that he can wear):

So I'm on the hunt for myself......and I'm hoping I can get something lovely that matches for well under a small fortune $20.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Is there anything for me to talk about besides subbing?

I could talk about my bathroom remodel.

I expect everything will be wrapped up by the end of May.  It is looking really good.  So good, in fact, that I expect I'll want to gut the rest of my house.

I could talk about the things my kids gave me for Mother's Day.

From N

From G.
Even without his name and photo,
I know this is G's because of the part
 that says "bunny with spike of love."

From M

I had received a "first draft" from M a week or so ago.

I could talk about being invited to speak at a conference for women who write this summer.  I expect it will be a small conference, but I am giddy to be included, especially since my whole entry into freelancing was complete serendipity.  There is even a small honorarium included.

When I sent my acceptance, I mentioned that I had been a freelancer for six years and a blogger for.....almost a decade.  November marks my official 10 years of blogging.  Wow!  And that was a complete accident, too.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Back in a middle school for a day

I haven't set foot in a middle school in any kind of "teaching" capacity in 12 years.  I would argue that being a sub in a middle school isn't "teaching," but it is more so than working a couple times in the bookstore and having 0.3% contact with students (which has, up until Thursday, been the extent of my involvement).

When I left for the day, one of the counselors asked if I had a good day.  I said, "It's middle school, and I'm able to walk out the building.  I think that's a good day."  She laughed and said, "Yes, you're right."

I saw a number of kids I knew from their having gone to N's elementary school.  It was a nice "hook" to be able to tell the students that I knew some of their put them on edge a bit.  They asked if I was friends with the principal (apparently, this is what their teacher had told them).  I clarified that he and I have mutual friends in common.

It was better than my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience, but it wasn't a walk in the park.

I felt good that I could hold my own, but I didn't set the world on fire.  That is an unrealistic expectation for myself, but it is one I hold anyway.  Maybe that is how you know you have the heart of a teacher?  That even when you know reality and can see it for all its ugliness, a part of your heart believes that for at least one kid, even in your minimal capacity as a sub, you can make things better, different or give them motivation.

One of N's friends was in one of the classes and said I was a good sub.  When N told me, I incredulously asked, "Really?"  Surely, this student was just being nice.  Either that or she has had some really terrible subs.  Or maybe middle schoolers just have low expectations in general?  More likely, my expectations for myself are just far too high.

I spent about a half hour "helping" in a BD class, which was equal parts terrifying and good for me.  I had been warned that I would hear all kinds of language, and I did.  I cannot make a judgment on what I saw based on this sliver of time, although I admit that my initial and final thought was, "This is like prison prep."  All of the students in that room were boys; 80% of them were Black.  I admire the teachers who work with these students because it has to be the absolute hardest job in the world.  Whatever they make each year should be doubled or tripled.  Whenever I hear policy wonks talk about how to change things, I think to myself, "You need to hire extra teachers for freaking one-on-one education!"  Or if I'm being generous 3-to-1 ratios.

When I hear parents from my kids' elementary school complain about a "problem" child or a teacher who "yelled" at a kid, I always want to laugh because they are so ivory-towered they don't even know it.

I am ivory-towered, too, as evidenced below.

I cannot make snap judgments about public education or administrators or teachers or parents.  Because I'm subbing, I am not seeing a true picture of any of the classes I subbed in.  Sub days, even if they run ok, are still sub days.  The students act differently.

None of the classes I subbed for were AP classes.  Most were honors and some were comprehensive (they probably use different terminology now, but this is what we called them back in the day).  Immediately afterward I had the fear in me:  "Oh God, what if G or M isn't AP?  How will they learn?"

But then I thought back to my own honors/comprehensive classes, and those students did learn.  D was in honors (he intentionally got out of AP because he couldn't handle the pressure), and he managed to go to engineering school and be a productive human being.  Lots of people do all the time.  I was never there to see what a 3-ring circus sub days were for my honors/comprehensive kids.  So my perspective as a sub is not a real picture.  MY perspective can't be trusted.

It makes me sad that sub days can't be more than just worksheet packets.  It makes me long even more for that perfect 2-day a week job working with a group of kids in the same school.  It makes me hope that I can sub there more frequently so that I become a familiar face and, perhaps, a trusted adult who can make sub days more productive than what they usually are.