Archive for September, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Tolerance

Three teenagers have killed themselves this month either because they were gay or because they were believed to be gay. Three. They were all around thirteen. In two of the cases, there were reports from several sources that the boys were being relentlessly bullied by other children at school. In the same two cases, the school districts in question have denied that any complaints were made.

I lived through bullying in school. It is part of why I have strived to teach my daughter from her very early school days that what other people think of you doesn’t matter nearly so much as what you think of yourself. It is a lesson that I am still trying to learn and I’d like her to have a head start on it. As I have told her, there will always be someone ready to laugh at you for the things that you like, so you may as well like it anyway.

On that note, I remember having tried to talk to school officials about what was happening to me in middle school. My good ol’ boy counselor told me that “boys will be boys” and, basically, that I needed to toughen up. My Mom thought I was exaggerating and it was years later before she realized just how bad some of the things I was going through every day really were.

My heart breaks for these three little boys because the adults who were supposed to be protecting them didn’t. In one of the cases, the parents have said quite clearly that they made complaints to the school and the school is denying knowledge of the complaints. Do I doubt that the schools were utterly non-responsive to these situations? Absolutely. On the whole, our schools do a poor job of handling bullying and all too often, behavior that should, under no circumstances, be tolerated is chalked up to “kids being kids.”

I wonder how many other children – because thirteen is still very much in the child category to me – feel that suicide is the only answer? How many other people are drowning in their own heads because the people around them are intolerant and hateful? I wonder how many of the parents of the children who were bullying these boys actually know that their children were doing something like this…and a quiet part of me wonders if any of them would care because the reality is that kids learn things from the environment around them. A lot of them quite likely learned their intolerance from their families.

Whether you agree with something or not, there is, in my opinion, no excuse for treating another human being in the fashion that drove these children to kill themselves. There is no call in tormenting someone because of their sexual orientation anymore than there is call for tormenting someone because of race, gender, social class, or religion. And quite frankly, I don’t care what religion you fall under or if you fall under one, the Golden Rule really -is- applicable to every day life: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It really should not be that difficult a concept: treat other people with the same respect that you want them to show you. Do you know what I would love to see? Stories about situations where the group at large turns on these small groups of bullies and says “No, that’s enough.” I would love to see stories about how the education system stops failing these children and instead, turns on the bullies and says, “No, absolutely not in our hallways.”

K’s school actually has a pretty strong no bullying policy and it is an active part of their environment. They have monthly workshops on it and there are areas in the school that have no bullying signs and things like “Be a hero” and basically other signs and images that encourage kids to be decent to each other as opposed to tormenting each other. I like that a lot; however, I also remember hearing things like that from administration and teachers when I was growing up and I remember the reality as well. That is why I teach my daughter to be proud of who she is and to be comfortable in her own skin. That is why I tell her that if someone is being mean to her or giving her trouble at school that I want to know about it. I have made certain that she knows that no matter what, she can come talk to me and I will help her sort it out. Sometimes, sorting it out is simply explaining things like, “Honey, people laugh at other people all the time because they think it makes them cool,” or “I’m sorry that this situation made you feel this way; how do you think you can change it in the future?” Other times, it is explaining how her own actions in a situation helped make it turn out the way it did. So far, we’ve not had anything major happen. A few giggles over Ne Hao Kai Lan socks notwithstanding, K has always had pretty good luck at making friends and being one of the kids that the other kids like to be around, but I also am prepared for the fact that middle school is coming…and children become completely different during those years.

I am kind of losing my train of thought, in part because I cannot get past the anger and the outrage that I feel on behalf of these children and the worry that I have for other kids in the same situation and in part because I just want to run around hugging all the children I see and telling them, “No matter what, there are always people who love you, even you feel like the whole world is against you.” For that matter, there are a great number of adults who could probably use the same hug.

Talk to your kids. If they tell you that they are being bullied, look into it. Talk to their teachers. Talk to their administrators. Keep a record of who you talk to and when you talk to them. Use e-mail as a method of communication. Write letters. If the administrators don’t listen, go to the school board. Take it as high up the chain as you have to in order to help protect your kids. Remind them every day that they are loved. If you cannot find resolution in your child’s school, look into options for relocating them to a different school: sometimes it can make a difference.

Consider what you say around your children. Is the off-color joke really appropriate or is it simply helping to spread the culture of hate and intolerance to the next generation? There really is a difference between not agreeing with someone’s lifestyle and intolerance: are the words that you use around your children words that are respectful of other people or are they filled with dissension and mistrust?

Think about the choices that you make and the words that you choose to use and remember that hate and intolerance do nothing for the future of our country. But perhaps most importantly, remember that no matter who you are, no matter what you believe, what you feel, what other people tell you, you are loved. Do not let despair and hate and intolerance make you believe otherwise. Seek help. Hold onto the hope and the knowledge that there really are other people out there who will love you and support you.

Try to share a little love and a little hope with the world around you. You might be surprised at what you get in return.

And while on the whole, I am not a huge Plato fan…these words seem apropos today: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

I cannot quite seem to sort where to start which is probably not a huge surprise. I am supposed to be heading to bed (which seems to be a recurring theme on its own, no?), but I can’t manage to get my brain to match my body’s desire to sleep. Hah, and I totally just had to pause and go check out my last entry to see what the last things I posted were. Since I am oddly not in the mood for random, I’ll try the slightly more organized method again.

Fun Run
K was pretty excited about it because third grade got to wear purple shirts instead of their normal uniform shirts. They were running late morning but before lunch, and the day was pretty much perfect for it. It had rained the day before and we were a bit worried that they would get rained out. Rin and I headed over to watch and cheer them on. When we got there, we could see K before she could see us. She was bouncy, but what was really cute was that she got about five times more excited when she saw us.

The kids ran for about twenty minutes after their warm-up wiggling and dancing. Some of them actually managed to run most of it. Others…well, you could tell that a lot of the third and fourth graders weren’t used to having to run for long stretches. They were running to different songs and one of them was a cover of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ which was both slightly surreal and also a bit disturbing. It wasn’t bad, mind, simply…different. What was perhaps more amusing was that all of the grown-ups were singing along and some of the kids were appraising them as though they were more cool than perhaps they had thought. If only they knew! (Of course, if they are as cool as K, they DO know considering that she knows the original!)

We were quite proud of K because she actually managed to run a good portion of all of the activity time. It turns out that having her do sprints on a regular basis is a good thing! She had a lot of fun because she got to run around with Max, the Movin’ and Groovin’ Crew’s mascot, who just happens to be a cheetah. Rin managed to get some really cool pictures and even some video with her phone, so that was fun.

At the end, the kids all got popsicles and then each class had their picture taken with Max. That was its own amusing bit of chaos because at that point, the kids weren’t entirely paying attention anymore and most of the teachers looked a bit lost since the Get Movin’ and Groovin’ team hadn’t given the best instructions. The pictures all got taken though and then the kids were back to class and Rin and I headed for lunch and a few other errands.

Full Moon, Solstice, and Other Random Things
This month’s full moon was a bit odd. I suspect that part of it had to do with the fact that it fell on solstice which can change the energies in the air anyway. However, I don’t think I’ve had a full moon pass where I was so exhausted in quite awhile. Normally I have a fair bit of extra energy and even tend to go a day or so without really sleeping because of the charge in the air. This time I was a walking zombie and was more than a bit agitated because of it.

The general feel of the solstice was heavy and there seemed to be a lot of tension running around, not just here, but with other friends as well. I later posited to Rin that some of -our- general tension and sense of “something pending” was perhaps that this is the beginning of our first full season in our new situation and that can make things seem more intense. It also doesn’t help that right now both of us are trying to balance a lot of things and answer a lot of questions that don’t seem to want to have easy answers.

On the whole, the days around the full moon were relatively quiet. Rin and I did sneak out Thursday night after K had gone to bed to get coffee and finish plotting out what we wanted to send to the coronation that was going to be happening on Saturday. (More on that in a bit.) It was still warm enough that we could sit outside on the patio at Starbucks but it actually was a bit brisk which was nice given that the first day of fall was in the upper 80s temperature wise which felt a bit odd, too. It was nice to sit and talk and enjoy the evening and watch the clouds passing over the moon. They made some rather spectacular images and made me wish for about the millionth time for a camera. Sadly that is way down on the priority list at the moment.

Friday Rin ran around and covered a lot of ground on finishing our project while I slept since I felt like crap. That has been a theme of the past couple of weeks. After K got home, we went to get the things we needed to finish up the project even though we found out that odds were low that we were going to manage to run into the Baroness before they left. We also were briefly pondering attending said coronation because I had gotten the distance mixed up with something else. A three and a half hour drive is plausible for a day trip…a five hour drive is not, because really, ten hours in the car total, plus the event itself, and she and I both likely would have fallen on our faces or driven into a ditch. Reason won the day though since we knew we couldn’t really afford the expense of a hotel room right now. Of course, this meant that our gift for the new King and Queen will have to be delivered to them another time, but sometimes that is how things fall out.

It turns out that it was a good thing that we did not go though since I spent most of Saturday with a vicious headache stemming from an earache. It only got worse as the evening progressed and some drama that cropped up throughout the day didn’t really help that at all. I didn’t get a ton of sleep Saturday night and spent a lot of time with a heating pack across my face. It helped some but really, when something hurts so badly that it hurts too much to cry…well, that says something about how much it hurt I think.

Sunday, for me, was a very slow, lazy day. I was curled up on the sofa for most of it. Rin and K on the other hand were busy little beavers. They were doing helpful and useful things like cleaning out the ovens since it was cool enough to air out the house and other cleaning up the kitchen work. K was a super helpful which always makes me really proud of her. I felt like hell that I couldn’t really help, but every time I stood up on Sunday I was having to catch myself on something in an effort to not fall over. I was unamused by this state, though it is, in the grand scheme of things, nothing new.

I do know that they got a fair bit done on the kitchen and the bathroom and they also were working on laundry, too. I was pretty proud of both of them, really.

Life as a Hornet
Monday night was the first PTO meeting at K’s school. It was actually really interesting and I have to say that they really have their stuff together. I like the fact that they seem to be really organized; I also like the fact that the PTO at her school actually does make a really big difference with school activities and even community activities. It was also fantastic to learn that Hamilton is in the top 15% of elementary schools in Indiana and they are really close to being a four star school which requires the school’s test scores in math and language arts to be in the top 25% and also for them to have the top 25% in attendance. They are a bit short on the math and a little short on the attendance; however, their language arts scores are pretty phenomenal. It makes them stand not far behind the “banner” school in the Corporation which I think is pretty awesome.

The president was talking about several things they need volunteers for and Rin has talked me into helping with the Playground Grant Writing Committee. I think she’s nuts and that I am in way over my head; however, the president pointed out that no experience was necessary but that useful skills included being able to do Internet research and also being able to make things sound really smart. Given that I actually can be good at both, I might not be so lost as I fear. Of course, I think there is definitely going to be a learning curve here. o_O I poked into a bit of research after we got home and there is a LOT that I need to find out about and learn, that’s for sure.

On the whole, one thing I REALLY like is that the members of the PTO were -really- accepting and basically treated Rin and I like we were already a part of the team. In the past, I have had to earn my position as a team member and that was after putting in a lot of work in a lot of places at the school. I was pretty impressed on the whole that they were as friendly as they were. I like it a lot.

After the meeting we went to dinner. I called Mom while we were there since I had been incommunicado all weekend. Whoops. She has pretty much been at Grandmother’s non-stop. She was actually at home when I called and she joked that it was like her and Dad were dating again except that she was living at the wrong house. I thought that was pretty hilarious actually. I asked her if she got mauled by the cats and apparently she almost did and they had been playing lap roulette with her while she was there. I also got to share the news that my cousin and his wife had had their baby that day since I knew she and Grandmother both would want to know. She and K talked for a bit and then K talked to Dad but about that point, our food got there, so I told Mom I’d talk to her later and we finished dinner.

Girl Scouts
Today was registration for Girl Scouts which K was literally bouncing over. We officially have all of her paperwork turned in and Rin and I have started the process of being volunteers for her troop. Her meetings are going to be on Sundays which is better than the other option. It does mean that the group that is based out of her school is not the troop she’ll be in but Wednesdays from 4-6 doesn’t work for us since Rin doesn’t even get out of class until 5 on Wednesdays. Honestly, I like the troop leader of the Sunday Brownie troop and she is already excited for us to be working with her, so that is awesome. We just have to finish getting our paperwork filled out which includes having five references which they will call…and the references cannot be related to you, which I think is interesting. The Girl Scouts, they are not playing! They run background checks on their adult volunteers.

At any rate, the process is now underway and our first meeting is 10 October, and K is super excited which is good. I just hope she STAYS this excited.

I also had a chance to talk to one of the other troop leaders and got some tips about pediatricians and dentists and other information like how some of the state assistance works up here so that was handy. It turns out that unlike Georgia, Indiana will back pay on medical bills if you’ve already gotten the paperwork process started so that is something that I am going to be working on tomorrow. I am really not looking forward to that and I know that a lot of that is basically me arguing with my pride; however, I know that I HAVE been job hunting and I have been trying to find income and it hasn’t worked out so far…so now I need to get my head out of my ass and do what needs to be done. I just…had hoped to not have to do it all over again.

It’s 3am…
Well, almost. We’re about three minutes shy…and of course by the time I post this, we’ll likely be long past that point, by you never know…and it does make a nice heading.

I don’t much know what else to say. I am using a new laptop than I was which is making my life a lot easier. It’s nice to be able to do more than one thing at a time, that’s for sure.

Medically…well, it’s been about a month since I was on prednisone, so a lot of the typical post-steroid issues are cropping back up. The tightness in my chest wall, the inflammation between my ribs and across my chest area are making life unpleasant. The faint rash across my face and across my chest is quite present and it is most definitely not sunburn. Dry, itchy eyes are driving me up a wall. The lack of mobility is disconcerting some days. The list kind of goes on and on and it is upsetting and worrisome. Even more upsetting is trying to figure out how to balance the cost of medicines with everything else. Once things are a bit more sorted and I have the things K needs taken care of sorted, then I will get to begin the fun process of trying to find a new doctor for myself. I am very much not looking forward to that. Finding a new doctor is tricky when you are healthy. Finding one when you have a chronic illness is a thousand times trickier. First you have to find one that will handle a chronic illness with more than “it’s all in your head, here have some happy pills,” and then it will be finding one who will be willing to hear me out and maybe run some more of the tests that I need run. There are things that really should have been done that have not been and I don’t know where to even start. Obviously walking into a new office comes with a lot of things to consider anyway. I need to find a doctor who will work with me and talk to me. Oh, and finding one who will also write scripts for my meds would be handy. *sighs* I’m giving myself a headache just thinking about it…but it will have to happen and sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ll just try not to think about it too much. I can’t sort that until I have insurance of some kind anyway.

I feel like a whiner tonight. No, worse, I feel more than a bit useless. Rin has been doing most of the things that need doing lately. I have helped with some small things, but it is not taking much to send me back to bed. For the tons of stuff that she did this morning and afternoon…I gathered up one bag of trash and sorted a few other things. It…is frustrating and upsetting and…some of it is kind of scary. I am used to having mobility issues…I am not quite so used to having such broad-spectrum mobility issues. My coordination has been incredibly off the past couple of weeks and I do not think that my inner ear is to blame for all of that. Sometimes, it feels like muscles and joints just do not want to move the way I want them to move. It takes almost nothing to send me almost careening to the floor and on more than one occasion I’ve had to put myself in the floor before I ended up there in an uncontrolled fashion. I don’t entirely know what to do with all of that. I stay exhausted, no matter how much sleep I get…and believe me, I’m doing a lot more sleeping than I tend to make it sound. My ability to even do the bits of walking about that I was doing have been severely limited again and that is kind of frustrating since I had sort of begun to get into a routine. It is tricky to do exercise when you’re almost falling on your face though. *sighs* I don’t know…I do know that talking about it is just kind of making me more frustrated right now and I need to actually go to bed because I have a lot I need to do tomorrow and I really, really do not want to sound like a whiner.

One step at a time…that’s the best that I can do I suppose. Aside from attempting to handle bureaucracy tomorrow, I also need to make a couple of phone calls and try to get a couple of things done around the house. I suspect that the latter will be the most limited activity. Who knows? Maybe I’ll wake up with a stored energy pool or something? *hopeful*

Until later…be excellent to each other.

It’s been a busy week, what with school and feeling like crap and SCA Friday night, and the Trail of Courage on Sunday. Wednesday night we had Curriculum Night at K’s school where basically we got to listen to her teacher talk about some of the things they are doing in class and some of the things that are coming up. She answered questions that people had and for the most part, it was pretty mundane. I wanted to thwap K for having a messy desk, yet again, though I know that K and a messy desk kind of go hand-in-hand. It was a battle I spent all of first grade and part of second combating and I really would like to not do it anymore. Thankfully it was a lot less messy upon actual situation versus initial observation. Not so thankfully was the realization that she was stuffing things into it that she wasn’t supposed to do at all and that she had a sheet that hadn’t been graded. Rawr. Her teacher did let her bring it home and let her finish it for homework which is what she was supposed to have done in the first place.

Life as a Hornet (aka goings-on with K and school)
As far as other things at Curriculum Night went, it was nice to find out that Rin and I were not the only people slightly perplexed by some of their math homework. It’s nice not to be the only dumbass in the room. šŸ˜€

Friday was picture day and I was a mean Momma and made K wear her uniform despite the fact that students did not have to do so. It is her first year in them and it was her first picture day of the year; the kid was wearing her dang uniform! While I expected a bit of a fuss that afternoon I actually didn’t get it. She was amused that people had kept asking her why she was wearing it. K LIKES her uniforms, and Rinda had fixed one of her awesome skirts (you know, the ones she outgrew before the first day of school) so that it fit comfortably, and she got to wear a pair of her knee socks, so that made her happy.

SCA Ramblings
Friday night we went to SCA fighter practice, albeit late. Rin had been at IU working on some school things and got home later than she had expected. We were contemplating going to dinner with George and Mary Chris for George’s birthday, but it was a bit of a last minute thing and we both felt more inclined to go hang out with a low-key crowd instead, particularly since we’d already made plans to do so and we hadn’t actually been able to in a few weeks. It turned out to be a wise choice as we hung out at the Grill at IUSB for a bit before heading to Tradewinds for dinner. It is always quite interesting to hang out with that group, but I think what made the night was the fact that we spent hours talking to Sarah, our Baroness. Her son, A, and K, spent a fair bit of time playing together until they both ended up passing out in the booth by the table where we were sitting. It was almost four before we finally left. What can I say, she’s a fascinating person and she is a helluva lot of fun to talk to. We learned some very interesting things and I started mulling over a few ideas for craft type things since she needs things for the baronial basket for the coronation coming up this weekend. I am still mulling over that one.

Saturday was fairly low-key given that I slept all day. We hung out at home and basically just enjoyed a quiet night.

Trail of Courage Festival
Sunday was kind of hectic. We had gotten up early to go to the Trail of Courage in Rochester which is about an hour away, but getting ready kind of spiraled out of control as we scrambled for the things we needed to find and got things ready. I wasn’t moving well at all and Rin is still a bit sick, so that made things even trickier. We were both a bit disheartened when we didn’t leave the house until 1 since the festival ended at 4; however, we still went and I am very glad that we did.

For one thing, it is living history. The festival is set in the French Fur Trade era and displays artisans, native dancers, and several other elements from when the Potawatami were trading with settlers. It is fun to take K to things like this both because it provides learning experiences and because watching her is exciting. She thoroughly enjoys herself and she bounces with glee when she sees things that are new to her. No one enjoyed the marching fife, drum, and bagpipe players more than she did! We all were costuming a bit and she got tons of compliments on her outfit and we even had one food vendor who mistook us for people who were working the event which was a nice compliment in and of itself.

For my part, I enjoy looking at the different craft pieces and the different styles from that period. Some of the native beadwork was absolutely gorgeous and the leather work kind of made me wish I had a few hundred dollars to spare. We did have one splurge. >_> I sort of fell in love with a hand-crafted blade. I have been trying to be good and not buy new blades of late; however, I believe I can incorporate this one into SCA persona attire and the gentleman who made it was very kind and knocked the price down to $35. I think he was bemused by how over-the-moon I was with his work, to be honest. What surprised me the most was that for a piece of work that is about the length of my forearm, it was lighter than most butter knives. The blade is a bowie and the handle is an incredible dark brown with a silver hilt…and at both ends of the hilt are stealthy little pentagram shaped stars. I sort of did a double take and that since I had already been impressed with the sheath and the handle and when he put it into my hand I was kind of o_O with childish glee. My need to be good as far as money is concerned was heavily at war with my desire to own that blade. His wife was definitely amused by how I kept looking at it even after I had put it back on the table. Rin and I talked about it and when he said he would reduce the price and that he would take checks (we had missed the ATM on the way in), well, the naughty won.

In fairness, the blade is most definitely worth the money spent and even if I cannot successfully tie it into SCA attire, it is certainly going to become an anchor blade for a few things. I already have one working athame that is very strongly keyed with the moon and a couple of other bits and pieces and that tends to act as an extra shield point at places like Dragon*Con, but this one is certainly going to factor into a few things and whether or not I carry it at Con or faire is somewhat irrelevant to the fact that the blade resonated in my hand from the moment he handed it to me. If you know me, you know that I enjoy sharp, pointy objects, but not all of the ones I carry resonate quite like that. Sure, some of them have rather strong significance, but a lot of times that significance comes after purchase, not before. This particular blade was singing my song and I am glad that I resisted its siren’s call despite feeling slightly guilty for the expense.

Other than that, we were actually pretty good. We bought a nice blue bottle that was subsequently filled with homemade root beer that K loved. I was a bit less enamored of the flavor but the bottle is pretty awesome. We also bought caramel corn that they were making on-site which is pretty yummy, too. It was utterly HILARIOUS to see K’s face the first time she was standing near the popcorn booth when they were making it…I suspect mine was pretty good, too. Rin was talking to someone and I was half-paying attention to her and half-keeping an eye on where K was watching. I caught the look on Miss Ma’am’s face about the same time the popcorn started to pop all over the place. They make it in a huge cast iron kettle and it is hand-stirred with a long wooden paddle. The pot throws off a lot of smoke just before the corn starts to pop like crazy. Most of it stays in the kettle, but some escapes which makes for a pretty impressive tableau for a few seconds. K bounced about that and had fun watching for it every time we were nearby.

She was also impressed with the blacksmith who was working on site though she did not entirely understand everything that he was doing. She found several jewelry pieces that she liked as well as a few small blades that she thought looked neat. She also proved to be an example for several kids and impressed on of the Native American gentlemen running a tent. He had a lot of children’s items like cup and ball games, pop guns, spinning tops, and the like, and lots of kids were playing with them, some more carefully than others. We have a general rule that K cannot touch things without first asking one of us and second asking the vendor. She wanted to play with one of the cup and ball toys while we were looking at the other pieces in the tent and Rin told her that she could if she asked first. (I was impressed she remembered given how many other kids were just playing with things.) She walked up to the gentleman who was running the tent and from across the center table I hear this:

K: Can I pick up one of your toys?
Him: I don’t know, can you? (You could hear a bit of teasing in his voice. I was -very- amused. I glanced over and K was looking a bit puzzled. I can’t remember exactly what Rin said but it was to the effect of you know that you have the ability to pick up something, so how are you supposed to ask?)
K: *dawning realization* May I pick up one of your toys?
Him: You certainly can. You’re the first person to ask me that all weekend.

The look on K’s face was pretty epic. The looks on mine and Rin’s faces was a mix of “HAHAH THAT’S OUR KID” and “Holy shit some people have no fucking manners.” Seriously, I know that they look neat and you want to play with them, but you’d think at least -some- people would ask. Apparently not. *headshake* He was quite impressed with her manners and he helped teach her how to use the cup and ball toy. She managed to not hit herself in the head with it like I did the first time I played with one of those and she actually started to get the hang of it, at least a little bit. I have been a proud Mama and have been bragging on her behavior to lots of people because a) I think it is important to reinforce the behaviors that I want to see and b) my kid freaking rocks!

We didn’t buy anything from him right then since he was one of the first places we looked; however, we did stop back by on our way out. He was still impressed with K and answered the questions that she had about a couple of things and he chatted with Rin and I while we browsed through his tent again. He had some wicked awesome little telescopes and compasses but we couldn’t afford them right now (though they were very reasonably priced). We did end up buying K a cup and ball toy, though not the multi-colored one she had been playing with. He was selling a darkly stained one that will actually be SCA event appropriate because it is period accurate, so we picked that one up for her. We also got a couple of other little bits and then headed to buy my popcorn. šŸ™‚

(Yes, I know I’m going in a crazy order, but I’m basically stream-of-conscious writing this one at the moment.)

In our meandering path, we passed a booth that was selling little bird whistles that needed water in them to make them work. I wanted to maul those people with my wooden staff, so much. They were very high pitched and all of the children buying them were annoying. They basically were blowing them as many times as they could, as loudly as they could. There were adults encouraging this behavior…I wanted to smite them. I know that whistles are fun toys for kids, but I also know that they are some of the most annoying things on the planet. I was very glad when we finally got past that section. Amusingly, while a lot of vendors were selling small flutes or whistles, they all had “you blow it, you buy it” policies which is a) smart because of health concerns and b) awesome because it means that you don’t have a ton of extra blowing going on.

We ran into one of the Aztec dancers that recognized Rin from when she had gone last year. He was a bit overly-friendly and made my metaphysical whiskers twitch about sixteen different ways. I think the nicest summation I have is “he walks many paths” and we’ll leave it at that. We managed to extricate ourselves from his presence that time because he had to go somewhere else. When he found us again later, K saved us by having walked a bit further away from us (close enough for her usual acceptable radius but creepy dude didn’t know that) and we of course had to follow her. Thankfully, he didn’t follow us. I really try not to be overly judgmental of people and the paths they choose to walk, I just tend to get a bit tetchy when shaking someone’s hand vaguely feels like an oily substance trying to slide through my personal shields.

My blade purchase was our last vendor stop before heading for the food booths which were amusingly located in the woods. Their location was smart, particularly since it had rained on Saturday (and had also done so the year before), but it also was out of the way of the open areas for the dancers and the other vendor tents. It was wicked fun for K though. The number of times she said something like, “I’ve never eaten in the woods before!!” was certainly amusing. We got ears of corn and incredibly tart lemonade. K and I also got pickles and Rin got to amuse the hell out of a vendor. She had pulled out the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans bag that she uses to hold change and the pickle guy asked her if she had gold nuggets hiding in there. She laughed and fished out two of the gold $1 coins she had and used those to pay him for our pickles. He was flabbergasted and then he was laughing. She was pretty happy, too, since she’s been holding onto those to use in a situation where it would be amusing to do so. It’s always fun to bring laughter to people, particularly with unexpected situations.

There were a lot of other food options that I might have wanted to try had it not been hot. When we had looked at the weather Saturday evening, it was supposed to be cooler and perhaps raining. We put together outfits based on that forecast…and when we got there, it was about ten degrees hotter than predicted and very sunny. I had to tuck a scarf around my shoulders and into my bodice to cover up the skin that was showing and I spent the first part of the afternoon walking around with my Hello Kitty parasol. I gave up on it when I got tired of people taller than me walking into it. However, it had gotten a bit more cloudy by then so I only got a little bit sunburnt as opposed to completely roasted which is what we had worried about. I did think I was going to melt though because I had on some of our heavier weight costume pieces. I also was dumb and wore a pair of boots that don’t fit properly and was paying for that by the end of the day, but that’s another story entirely. I certainly got a few odd looks given that my outfit was shades of dark blue, burgundy, and black and my HK parasol is bright pink, but I didn’t much care. I’d rather have funny looks than three days of sunsick.

Our meandering through the woods did give us time to hear several of the bagpiper’s songs and a few other instruments that you couldn’t hear in the main field area which was nice. K got to taste some local honey in wildflower and blueberry which she enjoyed. Oh! And toward the front edge of the food vendors there was a woman who uses a pedal loom to weave blankets. She had been on a break when we were near her booth, but she heard us telling K what the loom was and what it was for and she got up and came over and showed her. K was a bit wide-eyed at how it worked because it certainly is not something that she has seen before. She was fascinated by how the loom worked to bring all of the fibers together to make a finished product. She was both excited and gracious that the lady showed her how it worked which I thought was awesome. šŸ™‚ It’s always nice to see lessons paying off.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but as you might tell, we had an awesome time even with it being a shorter day than originally planned!

Way Down in Kokomo
(Because if I have to suffer the song, you do, too. :P)

After we left, we headed south toward Kokomo, in part because we thought it was a lot closer than it actually was. Turns out Kokomo is an hour south of Richmond…which makes it two hours south of South Bend. *headdesk* We didn’t realize our error until we were halfway there at which point turning around would have been dumb, particularly in light of the fact that neither Rin nor myself wanted fast food. We headed to Cracker Barrel which is a rare treat since the closest ones are either in Kokomo or Fort Wayne, both of which are about two hours away.

Rin tried the Applefest chicken and we both decided that while it was a neat idea in concept, it was disgusting in actual practice. She took about two bites and was rather upset by how it was making her feel. Our server…who was annoying and I’ll leave it at that for the moment…took it back and got Rin soup, but that was also not sitting well last night. She ended up getting a kid’s veggie plate to-go and had biscuits. I had the Homestyle Chicken which is a Sunday only special and it was yummy. I only ate one piece and saved the second so that Tadhg could have it because that is one he really likes. K had grilled chicken tenders and fried okra and she was certainly pleased with her dinner. All in all it was a good decision. I was pleased that the manager actually did his job: this is the second manager at the Kokomo store that I have seen do this, so that says something about the store itself.* We poked around the store a little bit and Rin and I each got a lightweight cardigan that actually felt tolerable on my skin and looked cute to boot. It is versatile in how you can handle the bottom of it which is kind of neat. It was on clearance which is even more neat. šŸ™‚

After we left, I took over driving because Rin was pretty tired. I wanted coffee and had some money left on my Starbucks card, so we stopped at the first one (Kokomo has 2), but their espresso machine was locked up. For the trouble, they gave Rin and K 3 vanilla bean scones for free. While they were inside, I called Mom who had called the day before. She has been staying at my Grandmother’s house helping her recover from shoulder surgery. They had called to talk to K because they had gotten the letters she had mailed them. I talked to her for a few minutes and then called them back on Grandmother’s phone since Mom is getting low on cell minutes. I got to talk to Grandmother for a little bit which was nice. She is doing all right, but is in a lot of pain when the medicines wear off and apparently she is being stubborn about holding off until the last minute before taking them. *sigh* She is too stubborn for her own good sometimes. She had fun hearing stories about where we took Miss Ma’am and she thought it was a very good experience for her. She was also pleased by hearing about K’s big girl manners and she laughed and said that she suspected that K would be teaching those Yankees a thing or two by the end of the year.

K was vibrating in her seat by that point, so I handed the phone back and let her chat with Grandmother and Mom for a little bit while I headed to Starbucks number two. She finished talking about the time we got there because both of those ladies are tired. She and Rin went inside to get my coffee because they are cool like that and I took the opportunity to call Dad who has been staying at the house by himself. We chatted for a little bit and I told him about my new shiny because I knew he would appreciate it. I wanted to talk to him for a few minutes before I let K because I knew that once she knew who I was talking to she’d want the phone! šŸ˜€ He and K talked for a bit which made him pleased as punch, though I’ll admit that it makes me happy that he sounds just as thrilled to talk to me, too. šŸ™‚

The drive home was pretty uneventful. We were trying to get K to sleep since it was kind of late, but she couldn’t fall asleep. Rin started to brainstorm with her about the day which turned into an impromptu history lesson. I was a bit startled by some of the things she didn’t know about early American history. I know that she is only in third grade, but it seems like some of the things, like information about the original colonies are things she should have at least heard of before, ya know? We talked a bit about early Indian relations (she actually knows a bit more about Native American culture than early American) and explained a few things, including why the name of the festival was important. When Rin asked her if she would like her to find books on the Potawatami at the library, K was quite excited in her reply which makes me squee just a bit. She loves to learn new things and I think that is totally freaking awesome.

We made a quick grocery store run on the way home because K has been having leg cramps and we suspected that some of that was because she hasn’t been eating bananas regularly, so she and Rin ran in and got some of those and a few other things and then we headed home. We got her put to bed and then Rin started on her homework and some laundry. I was playing around on the computer and reading a book. Poor Rin had to stay up…I’m not sure what my excuse was. I did crash out on her around 6 and she was kind enough to get K ready and on the bus this morning.

Goings on at IUSB
I ended up driving her to class this evening which was kind of fun. K and I went to get a snack while we waited. It started raining shortly before we picked her up which was kind of annoying since she got soaked getting into the car. She had her Illuminations class tonight and she is having some trouble with the professor. I am not amused by said professor’s behavior and I think that she needs a swift kick in the bum. She has no real awareness of what life with a chronic illness is like and her attitude is showing it. She also is not very good at explaining things and despite the fact that 4 other people who were in class misunderstood an assignment, she chalked Rin’s misunderstanding (a misunderstanding that cost her about 20 extra hours of work) up to “you weren’t in class.” Um, no. *headshake* So now, Rin is planning another meeting with Disabled Services to see what, if anything, can be done. *sighs* I -really- hate professors like this and I get very angry by their attitudes. It is very frustrating to watch someone you love crying over the class that she was most looking forward to this semester. Thankfully, her other professor is being much more reasonable and that is helping some, but, yeah, the Illuminations class is proving to be very frustrating which makes me feel for her rather a lot.

Monday Evening Wrap-Up
After Tadhg got home, he made everyone dinner which was neat. He had told Rin about his plan last night because while we were in Rochester, he had gone shopping and bought the chicken to make a Thai dish he had made before that K had really liked. It was a bit too spicy for me the first time around, but this time he made it a little bit differently. It was still pretty spicy and I ate more rice and than chicken and veggies, well that and the bowl of sugar snap peas I had had him set aside for me, but it was still good. Miss Ma’am certainly enjoyed it which is kind of surprising given that she doesn’t always like spicy food. Apparently this combo works for her though.

While we ate, we were watching episodes of The Office. One, I never thought I would like that show, but it definitely has its funny moments. Two, the fact that K is hooked on it is utterly hilarious. Tadhg has seen all of the episodes, so he picks and chooses which ones are K appropriate and which ones he either knows for sure aren’t or the ones he is suspect of, so it’s not like she is watching EVERY episode. It is funny when she picks out behaviors of Michael’s that are either a) ridiculous or b) not okay because it means that she is actually engaging with the show and not just mindlessly laughing when she thinks she should and it also means that she is able to take the lessons she has learned about the world and about behavior and apply them to a setting outside of herself and that is fascinating to watch. Does she understand all of it? Heck no. A lot of the jokes are over her head; however, there are other things that she does get and that makes them even more amusing. After she went to bed, the three grown-ups watched one of the Justice League movies which I hadn’t seen before. It was pretty good…but now I can’t remember the title. Tadhg had to go to bed and Rin and I were up a bit longer. We watched a couple of episodes of Eureka…well, I watched them and she took a nap in the recliner. šŸ™‚ I finally sent her to bed and she is likely going to be a bit rawr at me when she finds out how late I was up. Woops. Between the headache I had and the agitated, not being able to settle sensations, well, it was going to be a bad idea to just lay down…so here I am writing a mini-novel in my blog again, go figure. šŸ˜›

Coming Soon
Other than that, the job hunt is still on-going. We finally have information on local Girl Scouts and there are intro meetings next week, so that is exciting. This week K has the Fun Run at school which she already has some sponsors for which is good. I like the Fun Run fundraiser because it lets kids earn money for the school AND do something active instead of having them accomplish the earning money goal by selling crap that nobody wants to buy. This weekend we -might- try to go to the coronation of the new King and Queen, but a lot of that is going to depend on how people are feeling and how much work Rin can catch up on. We shall see what happens.

In the meantime, I think I have written myself out of words again, so I am going to get a little bit of sleep before the alarm goes off.

*Nota Bene: I worked at Cracker Barrel when I was in high school, so I have a fair idea of how things are supposed to work. I always compliment managers who have their shit together because several of the ones I worked under didn’t always. It is nice to see the system working correctly. However, the fact that I used to work at Cracker Barrel can occasionally make me annoying to go to CB with because I do know how things are supposed to work and I tend to get tetchy when they don’t.

It is late at night that I find myself either battling demons or hiding from them. The voices of “you’re not good enough” and “you’re not doing enough” seem to dwell somewhere between sunset and sunrise which is, to me, a bit ironic, since the night tends to be when I am at my prime. I suppose that tonight part of the battle is that I spent hours struggling with resume writing, trying to get it just so, trying to put abstract things into concrete words and having an intimate awareness that it is likely not quite good enough for what I want. I have spent a bit more time seeking out other opportunities and wondering just how I am going to make it in this crazy world. Sure, there are the obvious answers, but there has to be something more. Struggling to get by is unpleasant at best and downright depressing at its core, and yet finding my way to that mythical “making something better of myself” place that grown-ups are supposed to find seems to be filled with setbacks and quiet, personal failures that are determined to quash every step of progress I may or may not have made.

I am good at crushing myself. I have a lot of practice. I have had a lot of help with it over the years and I have perfected the art until it is almost second nature to shoot myself down long before I reach the point of selling myself. Resume writing requires a person to reach the opposite of self-crushing and instead, strive for self-selling and I suck at it. Sure, logically, there are things that I know I do well, but I do not always know how to quantify them into black and white. (And the tawdry part of my sense of humor suggests that some things are better left off a resume to which I will simply sigh and move right along.) I can, in theory, put my abilities into words, but when I start to look at it on paper, it looks like so little. Any real experience I have is piece-meal at best. I am very good at a lot of things but have no real defining situations where those skills are clear. I have been using computers regularly since I was fifteen. I am proficient in multiple versions of Microsoft Office. I need to learn more Excel and likely several other spreadsheet programs. I can type quickly and accurately and I am damn good at taking notes. I am a professional at taking notes. Hell, it’d be kind of fun to get paid to go take notes for people in their college classes but I’m pretty sure that would verge on unethical. But…I’d be fucking good at it. I am fantastic at interpersonal skills and more often than not can manage to diffuse stressful situations easily. I have not worked professionally at the university level but gods know that I have a lot of work at learning how to manage the university system. I like to talk to people. I like to help people. I like to see people achieve the things they want to achieve. I am good at helping kids though I don’t want to teach at the K-12 level because I despise the way the politics play out in that arena. I also despise the current fetish for standardized testing because I believe that at the end of the day we are teaching our children next to nothing for the sake of numbers that will get them nowhere when they are adults. We are, in short, sending them to professional baby-sitters, throwing darts of information at them, and praying that some of them stick. I see it in my daughter and I work to ensure that she takes more than just the basic lessons from her school work and instead actually is able to use those things long after that lesson has passed. I like research. No, I love research and I need to get back into the habit of doing it. I need to start writing academically again, not just for professional work but because I need the mental challenge. I have had my brain on hold for too long and I need to kick-start myself back to using it for something more than a place to store information about Facebook games. (Don’t get me wrong, they have their place, but it is time to actually -do- something with that degree I am going to be paying for for years to come instead of simply writing witty Facebook status updates.)

I am veering a bit from the topic I started with but I suppose that, in itself, is normal, but the sentence above this one got me to thinking about the example that I have that pretty much backs that theory up. I have a Kindle. Granted, I only have a Kindle because Tadhg figured out that he liked the Kindle DX better than the Kindle 2 and also because he sold the Kindle 2 for way more than he was expecting which pretty much let him make a profit and still buy the Kindle 3. Ironically, I am only laying out the how because I don’t want my protestations of “I’m more broke than I have ever been” to be read alongside the sentence “I have a Kindle” so that people think that I spend money frivolously. I have been known to do so, but right now, I couldn’t have bought myself a Kindle if I had wanted. There’s just no money for it. So, yes, Tadhg bought the Kindle and is letting me use it but it’s much easier to say it’s mine. Hell, it’s linked to my account, so right now even the Kindle says it’s mine which is kind of neat, too. At any rate (aka sweet Jesus shut me up), I know that I need to be using my brain again because I have been almost voraciously reading since I got the Kindle in my hands. Sure, Dragon*Con got in the way of that a little bit, but for the past few days, I have been doing bits on Facebook and reading at the same time…and most of the time, it’s trailed off into just reading. What am I reading? The Scarlet Pimpernel which I have found to be surprisingly and delightfully engaging. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun with a book in awhile and I suspect a large part of that has been because no matter how much I love Anita Blake books (some of the last things I’ve read), hardcovers are heavy and they get really damned uncomfortable to hold after awhile. The Kindle moves around in my hand and I can prop it in various places and I don’t end up wanting to whimper from having to hold a book in my hand. It freaking rocks so much because I -miss- reading. I used to read all the time, then school kind of kept me from it and then I simply got out of the habit. But if I want to a) write well, b) teach my daughter the importance of reading, and c) not end up sounding less educated than a 3 year old, I have to read. It’s that simple.

Of course, sitting here writing this down is easy. Putting these things into practice is hard. Turning in the resume I turned in tonight was hard as all hell because I kept thinking “I’m not qualified enough for this job,” but another part of me was going, “Well, maybe I am not perfectly qualified for it, but I am mostly qualified for it and I could be very good at it, so I need to at least try.” It’s just frustrating because the “I can’t do it” monster is so damned strong. There have been so many obstacles in the way and I have let some of them eat away at other parts of me and at this point, I can’t always manage to say, “I can do it,” and actually mean it. I can try to fake it, but that only gets you so far. Job hunting, then, is its own learning curve. Learning to read again and learning to apply information again is its own learning curve. Reminding myself that my opinion does matter and that people actually give a flying frak what I have to say has a learning curve.

*sighs* I am supposed to be in bed. I need to be in bed. I am trying not to get anymore sick than I already am. I am trying not to have to go to urgent care because we can’t really afford it. Hell, I am trying to figure out how to handle the fact that I sat down with my doctor back in Georgia and got him to write some prescriptions based upon things like Target’s $4 and found out on Friday that they changed that list the same month. So, yeah, going in and finding out that after talking to him about a couple of things and getting him to write a new script for a new anti-inflammatory since Relafen is so dadgummed expensive only to find that said anti-inflammatory is no longer on the list and that it costs as much as Relafen is a bit disheartening and frustrating and angry-making and a lot of other things. I have to call the pharmacy tomorrow and see what information they found for me, but it looks like I may have to go to the third-string option which is slightly worrisome on its own. We shall see what happens…right now, I have no clue beyond I can hear Dory in my head going “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

*faint shrug* What will be, will be as frustrating as that cliched phrase is and there is not a lot I can do about it right now. What I can do is look back at the fact that I a) sat down and wrote something and b) turned in a resume tonight and say, “Hey, I did accomplish something after all.” And then tomorrow, I can do a little bit more. Granted some of that little bit more will likely include housework, but hey, it has to be done and I’m not doing much anything else right now. I think it also needs to include another resume being sent in and at least some basic hunting up of academic papers that need writing. After that? Who knows? But at this point, I am starting to repeat myself and not in a fun way, so I am going to wrap this up and attempt to go to bed. I think.

11 September 2010

There are a lot of things I remember about 9-11. I remember the images of smoke billowing from the towers. I remember wrapping my arms around my pregnant stomach and wondering why anyone would want to bring a child into this world. I remember watching far more news stories than I should have until I finally had to turn them off before I set myself so far past the point of agitation that I got sick. I remember the other personal drama that was unfolding that day (because some people have no class). I remember the overwhelming sense of “this makes no sense” and I remember wondering how people could do something so heinous to their fellowman.

Some of those questions and wonderings are easily answered: people have been committing heinous acts against each other since time began and will continue to do so, the news media will replay something until it not only is imprinted in your brain but until you are near to being sick of it, and 9-11 is no exception…and as for why anyone would want to bring a child into this world? Well, that one is both simple and not.

My daughter is eight now and she is quietly sleeping in her bed. She is a vibrant, intelligent child and she brings joy wherever she goes. It is rare that she meets someone she does not like and more rare that she does not manage to bring at least a smile to the faces of people she encounters. She carries with her a joie de vivre that I frequently wish I could bottle and sell and she reminds me more often than not that no matter how hard life is, no matter how crazy life is, and no matter how lost I feel, I have a reason to keep swimming. For every time she exasperates me, there are a dozen others where she inspires me, amazes me, astounds me, confuses me, and makes me laugh until I can’t breathe anymore.

-That- is why we continue to bring children into the world, because where such joy lives, terror cannot completely win.

September 11, 2001, was a frightening day, an emotional day, an overwhelming day, an unforgettable day. Too many people lost their lives and in the aftermath, too many more have continued to lose their lives in the fight against terror. There were heroes on that day: men and women who left concern for themselves behind and ran into the falling rubble of the World Trade Center, men and women who helped each other out of the buildings and to safety, men and women who staged a coup on an airplane to stop the same fate from meeting another building. In the aftermath of tragedy, the people of America started to pay attention to one another again. I remember reading stories of how the people in New York started to look up at each other again instead of bustling through their days. I remember how people clung tightly to the ones they loved, thankful that they were within arms reach. I remember a country united, less with a desire to seek retribution and more to stand up and say, “As a country we grieve.” Sure, the retribution and calls for blood came later. The name-calling and blame game came later. But in those first days, as people waited for news, we were a country united.

I think about where we are now and I wonder what we have learned. I think about the inane stage show that is playing out over the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque,” and I wonder if we learned anything on that day 9 years ago. I suspect that we did; I also suspect that some of what we learned has long since been buried with the rubble that has been cleared away. Instead, we now cling to tales of buzzwords and finger-pointing, and we have lost sight of some of the things that people started to remember as the towers came down.

In that then, I choose to step away from the chaos and the noise-makers that call themselves journalists and politicians and I think back to the memory of a country united in our grief and our loss and our anger and our confusion and moreover, our care for our fellow man. I choose to think back to the scared pregnant girl who wrapped her arms so tightly ’round her stomach and asked why she could bring a child into this world and I remember the joy that my daughter exudes with such ease and I remind myself that the idiots on television who seek to inflame and infuriate are doing their jobs and that the real things that I want to keep with me are perhaps a bit cliche but are true nonetheless: it is in the people that we find our strength and it is in the people that we find love, hope, and faith.

Nine years have passed and while on the public stage there are arguments about what is or is not appropriate, one thing is certain: people gave their lives that day to help save those who needed help. People died in those towers because someone else’s agenda set acts of terror and chaos into motion. People live today with the scars from their efforts. At the end of the day, it does not matter what stands at or around Ground Zero because it will always be in the hearts of the people (which makes it a tiny bit eerie that my word count at the word “people” was 911); the memory of those who are no longer with us and the love for those who are still alive are carried not in the soil at Ground Zero but in the hearts of Americans (and perhaps the rest of the world, too), and perhaps today, on the anniversary, what we really need to ask ourselves is what really matters. Is it the buildings or is it the people?

If you ask me, it is the people, so today, I will keep a quiet space in my heart and my prayers for those that we lost, and I will keep faith with the people around me and perhaps most importantly, I will wrap my arms around the little girl who was nestled safely in my womb nine years ago and I will hold onto the joy for life and love that she holds and I will tell her how much I love her and how terrible a place my world would be without her. I will tell the people I love how much I love them and I will live because in the end it is living that flips off the terrorists anyway. But mostly? I’ll cling to the laughter of my daughter and remind myself that we bring children into this world to make it a better place and help them make it a better place by teaching them that hatred, bitterness, and anger don’t get you very far, but love, tolerance, and an attempt at understanding just might.

May the gods that we pray to look kindly upon us today and may they give us a breath of peace and a moment of joy as we remember what this day heralds. May those that we honor be remembered and those that remain be cherished in our hearts. May we, at least for a little while, put aside petty differences and unruly chaos and instead return to remembering that everyone around us is fighting their own battle and sometimes, we all need a helping hand. May we smile at strangers and may we laugh with our loved ones and may joy find us before the darkness closes in.