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Posts from May 2009

The Symbolism of a Frozen Pizza

On my way back to the house, I stopped at a supermarket to get a frozen pizza for dinner and some other things for the next few days. In the same shopping center I stopped at Starbuck’s to get a Java chip frappuchino for my at-home daughter. Doesn’t sound like anything special, but to me it was smile-inducing because these stores are in my new shopping center, as in the shopping center near my new apartment—a home. I practically skipped out of the store, and I surely smiled at far too many people inside.

Oh, the joy to walk down aisles that are new to me. To be in a place that is mine, that represents where I am going and not where I have been. So many things encompass a life, there are so many things that can bring happiness and sadness, surely supermarket shopping is not one of them. But what could be better than to feel freedom, wherever it may occur, because that’s what I felt being there, in a new place that I have envisioned for years. Well, not quite the supermarket, but in a new neighborhood of my own—of being on my own.

Now I am back in the house and his loud steps are right above my head, muffling my thoughts. And I can hear that he has turned the water on. And again his loud steps, even with the carpeting. But this invasion into my thoughts will be over soon, so very soon. Tomorrow the movers are coming to move my things and younger daughter’s things to our new home and then on weekends until the closing I will be there with younger daughter, and then, on the same day that the school year ends, so should my association with this house and the day-to-day “living” in the same place as this man.

In the midst of my joy, though, I spoke with my mother who told me that a second-cousin is getting divorced. She has a restraining order against her husband. He has worked on and off, mostly off, for years. And he apparently has a drinking-various-things problem. So while I am about to step out of the tunnel, unfortunately I see someone else in the midst of her tunnel, with it getting farther and farther away from a light source. How, why, how, why does this happen to so many of us? Why are so many of us unhappy in our marriages? How is it that no matter how smart and self-aware we are, we find ourselves trapped in what had been love? Who is to blame? What is to blame?

I might be stepping out of my tunnel, but my tunnel-vision will remain with me to some extent because I never want to find myself in a tunnel again. As long as I remember what it has been like, I’m hoping I’ll be able to better direct my path.  And as long as someone else finds herself in her own dim tunnel, I hope I can offer some degree of solace, even if it is just out into the ether.

Sidebar observation on Judge Sotomayor

Oh look, another woman rising to the top who doesn't have children and is not married (she got divorced in '83). No, I am not cynical nor am I angry (at least regarding this, at least now), it's just a tired observation. Does this reflect society's relentlessness, that a person needs to be wholly committed to one's job at the expense of all else? Yes, maybe it's a tired argument, but enough already. Look at the economic situation we are in, even with all those overtime hours and that commitment to the job, business went down, jobs were lost, homes were lost. And it doesn't really matter who's at fault, it was a whole system based on greed, whether for money or someone's time or someone's life blood. Wouldn't it be lovely if at this time we really revamped life as we know it in the US? Couldn't we figure out a way to be committed to both home and work and interests without losing one or restricting another?

I wish Judge Sotomayor a smooth confirmation hearing. But wouldn't it be nice, too, to start seeing women and men who don't sell their soul to the office getting pushed up the ladder in recognition of the fact that the amount of time a person can wear a dress or suit in a day does not make him or her the best candidate for that promotion or opportunity. 


Talking to a Daughter, or Two

Older daughter has been in California since May 16th, which would make it ten days. The weirdest thing for me about her not being here is having to speak to her on the phone. Since when do we speak to our children on the phone, except for the “Can you pick me up now?” type of conversation? It feels so distant; it really makes her physical absence so stark.

Not only do we talk on the phone, but we actually have conversations. Yes, we have had conversations since she moved to the opposite side of the country. And the other day, for the first time that I can remember because it was the first time ever, she asked me “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Could it be that I am becoming a person to her? Could it be that we are really on our way to that mature mother-daughter relationship? Granted, she may be bored, but still, she didn’t have to ask. Oh, happy, happy day to see that apparently we have managed to withstand the onslaught of exman, who has done his utmost to figuratively push me off a parenting cliff.

I was so excited by this development that I told younger daughter what her sister had said. And just to prove to me that she can be just as charming as her sister, when I came home the other day she asked me, “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Wit, what’s a conversation without wit? I guess I have succeeded, am succeeding.

What made you realize that your child has, indeed, absorbed some of your lessons or has moved to the next level of relationship with you?

Love Letters and Children’s Stories

This morning, in the throes of throwing out and packing up, I found a packet of love letters to and from exman. I had them in the car from when I found them at my parent’s house. At that time, just a few months ago, I figured that at some point I would want to read them, or that they were an important archaeological part of my past that had to be preserved. But today when I saw them I opened one card that I had sent to him and just seeing that I wrote the word “kisses” to him turned my stomach. Without further ado, I dumped the whole packet in the dumpster. There is nothing to see there, there is nothing to recount or relive. Garbage, it’s all garbage. Harsh? Perhaps. But why excavate to the good when the bad has poisoned it all. Why think back when I need to look ahead.

In that same bag, though, I did find two children’s stories that I wrote in 1992, when my eighteen-year old was one. Of course, they were rejected by publishers, but, of course, I think they were wrong. At the time of writing, I thought that it was a fun, educational book teaching the very young about sounds and the fun of words. Enjoy one part of my past that I am pleased with.

Down Went the Spoon, by Laura G.

Down went the spoon
with a great, big boom!
the pancake batter.

Down went the cup
(certainly not up)
and out spilled the water
to make a new brook.

Down went my cookie
all ready to munch
well, it broke into pieces
and now is a bunch.

Down went the soap
right into the sink
where it started to slide
so my eyes I did shut
to suppose a round rink.

Continue reading "Love Letters and Children’s Stories" »

My Body, My Uni-Thigh

I don’t know what happened to me the other day, but I wore a skirt without stockings or some kind of body shaping underpants that are really skin-tight shorts with extra fabric at the crotch. This dressing faux pas forced me to face the reality that wearing pants day in and day out has prevented me from realizing and that is that I have a uni-thigh. My two thighs are as one when they are not forced apart by pants.

Oh, the horror, the horror, to have the upper-thighs stick together as I walk. Whatever reason I had to wear the skirt that day (because it was a lovely day and I felt spring-y) was so overridden by the feeling that my body really is a piece of ripe fruit. Would anything but mushy pear thighs stick together? I can’t even blame the extreme heat and stickiness, no, it was warm but not that warm. No, my thighs gravitate toward each other as I gravitate toward pants.

What to do? First, I need to buy a new pair of undershorts since my last pair shredded from the pressure and my inability to care that a label says “hand-wash” or “air dry” when that is far too inconvenient. Second, retreat back to my pants, which wonderfully make me feel like a two-legged creature. Third, invest in some kind of exercise equipment that promises to give me thighs of steel by just thinking about doing the exercises. Fourth, move those legs. Act I must since I have decided that I do not want to relinquish my right as a woman to be cool and comfy in a skirt or dress on a hot summer day.

If you have any upper thigh exercises that are guaranteed to work, please pass on the secret. I’m ready to give it a squeeze.

The Threads of a Life

So many threads to a life. So many threads interweaving with other threads. Some threads continue interweaving, some go in new directions, and sometimes we need to tie a knot in them to see where we are at the moment. That’s where I am right now, at the knot-tying stage, looking at some of the threads in my life.

The husband of my colleague, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer about six weeks ago, died a little more than a week ago. Still in shock, her refrain, her complaint (if it can be called that) is that “it happened so fast.” Even so, a few days before he died they managed to arrange for their engaged daughter to get married in their backyard for a true blending of the bitter and the sweet into their lives. (May his memory be blessed.)

My wonderful student from last year who was supposed to have brain surgery in July was notified that, no, they cannot wait, and so she has already been operated on. I cannot tell you how hard it is to see a 15-year-old child need a wheelchair to get back to her room from just a few feet away. Sure, I saw her two days after her surgery, but there are some images that you don’t want to reconcile with the picture you have in your head of how a teenager is “supposed” to be, and how this lively, enthusiastic, intelligent, perfectionist always was—is.

I was invited to take part in the teaching of writing class that I interviewed for in March. Last night was the welcome dinner. It is fascinating to hear the ideas that other teachers have to excite, instruct and inspire their students to write. Why the creativity of teachers is not a thing more discussed is a wonder to me. We each need to make a 75-minute presentation; I heard the ideas of about half the teachers who will be taking the class (25 all together) and they were all so interesting and inspiring, for me both as a teacher and a parent. You have to wonder how it is that kids are missing out on the sparks that are coming their ways. What is it that they need? Or is the best that any teacher can expect in a year is to reach a few kids, and with that, to feel “mission accomplished” and not stress too much over those who did not have a spark-detector for her?

The assistant principal “raved” about how well I handled psycho mom in the parent-teacher conference the other day. Apparently the “can get defensive” label that I had been given has been replaced with “handles tough parents well.” I certainly like the sound of that more.

Older daughter is moving to California on Saturday, days before her 18th birthday. “Mixed emotions” could cover it, but what’s the mix if it changes all the time? I am certainly proud of her that she is going where she wants and is facing her future as opposed to acting like someone already worrying about retirement before she is even old enough to drink. There is a heavy feeling of hoping: hoping that I have been as good a mother to her as possible and that she is prepared and comfortable to become herself. She did get a letter from a professor the other day who called her brilliant, so on that side of things she seems to be doing well. She is, as I was, as unprepared for the minutiae of life, you know, cooking, cleaning and organizing, but I hope it will come when it needs to.

I will be moving on June 1st. The settlement on the house is to be mid-June. There are countable numbers of days until the end of this ordeal. There really is a tunnel with two ends, for so long I thought it was a dead-end tunnel. I am imagining myself getting up in the morning from a bed and walking a few steps away to see my younger daughter sleeping comfortably in her room, and then walking over to the little terrace, which will become my outside thinking spot, for a few moments of clarity before heading into the shower. Yes, I can finally imagine a lightness to living, and not just dreading hearing heavy footsteps and a tape recorder and another demand for money or twisted interpretation of reality. Freedom. It’s coming.

I told the mediator that I will not pay the bill he sent me because he let ex-man insult me and he tried to pressure me to agree with him. He wrote back that he will cancel my bill, and he won’t have us back again to mediation. No kidding. It was for a really small amount, but I stood up and kept standing.

Today I will be meeting nasty lady lawyer to ensure that I get the full amount due to me from the sale of the house, and that I will not have to pay for his non-payment of the mortgage in the past few months. Soon, soon this will end.

And there is a 35-year-old man who keeps writing me lovely emails. And there is the lovely, laid-back South American scientist with whom I will eventually have a second date. The back, back burner idea of romance suits me. Pseudo-man contacted me again, ugh, and I told him, in between silent treatments, that I have moved on, and I have. I will not have anything to do with someone who is not good for me, or who I think will not be good for me. I am for me now, so how can I let someone in who is so obviously for himself?

A colleague will be 40 today. She’s feeling the life marker. Me, I’m feeling a different life marker, or marks of my life, and so happy to have a head that can finally look ahead and is not just stuck in the now.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping me this past year. My strength has been your strength. You, readers, have no idea how invaluable it has been to me to know that people are reading about my struggles, and passing on to me encouragement and strength, not only through your words, but your presence too (for the non-commentators out there). Your presence has truly lifted me up as a prayer. May life be full of fulfillments for us all.

Parent-Teacher Conference

I was in the middle of writing this humorous slash ranting post about a parent-teacher-teacher-student-assistant principal conference I had the other day when I thought, hmm, the mother is a lawyer, the mother is irate, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to post this. Even though there is no way anyone could figure out who I am talking about, why tempt any issues. And so I switched gears; rather than write about what this particular student does to annoy her teachers who she does not like, or talk about how insulting the mother was to my colleague and me, I’ll skip right to the point that I think I was going to lead into.

Why do parents think that their attitude-rich, participation-free kids are any different in school than at home? Why do they think that their every interpretation of events in school is exact when they know that there have been evasions, half-truths, and even outright lies coming their way from said prodigy? Why do they think that we have to make their kids meet their expectations? And why do they belittle us when they expect so much from us?

Which reminds me of an incident I had this week with another student. He was mad that I apparently threw out his homework in my effort to derail his attempt to get his grade up. Yes, it seems that I did that to give him an undeserved zero because,it is clear, I do not like him. On day two of his contest of wills with me he looked through the folder where work goes if a student is absent on the day the materials are returned. Lo and behold, there it was. But with one little problem: there was no name on the paper. That must be my fault.

Why are we always to blame if something doesn’t go right? Why is my co-teacher blamed for her daughter not doing her work? And why am I told that I “should pick on someone your own size” if she knows that her daughter gets belligerent if criticism of any kind (and I mean “any”) comes her way? How come I have to figure out how to deal with this girl when both of her parents deal with her by yelling at her and buying her clothes? 

Seriously, I’m here to teach English, with some ethics lessons mixed in, but I am not their parent and I am not a therapist. And how the heck am I supposed to figure out how to handle the personalities of 125 kids when the parents can barely figure out their one or two or three children who they have had in their homes for years? Why can’t we go back to the good ole days of respecting teachers, bending our fragile children’s personalities to the teachers’ personalities, rather than trying to break the teacher down?

On the same day of my conference, another teacher was dealing with a student and parents who have escalated the “she can’t take this test because the final day to take it has passed” into a big dramatic scenario whereby the teacher is accused of doing something she did not do. (I know this because I was in her room at the time.) So now this teacher has to stress about her reputation and her relations with her students rather than to focus on preparing them for their exams.

Seriously, what is the world coming to? Since I started teaching four years ago I have found the vast majority of the teachers I have worked with or took classes with to be committed to teaching their students, and have cared about their students as people. We spend hours trying to come up with lessons that will excite and intrigue, and to get them to remember those things that don’t excite anyone but need to be remembered. Why is this not seen?

And this is the thanks we get. I shouldn’t focus on the few parents who are nasty to me in meetings or barely veiled condescending emails, but that seems to be the nature of human nature. I should focus on hearing what they have to say, see if there’s any validity, and then figure out how to improve. But honestly, what are they doing when they get home? Are they thinking about how to better discipline or instruct or guide their children or do they feel satisfied that they got a professional to jump through their hoops? We’re professionals for content, not raising kids—that’s the parents’ job. How about the blame game not being so one-sided? How about parents acknowledging their own lacking and seeing if something that they have done could have somehow, maybe, resulted in a child who is belligerent, disrespectful and entitled.

There is a difference between parenting and teaching, and parents need to understand that. And kids need to understand that, too.

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week, except for the few goodies from my school, I received one bag of chocolates and a “thank you” card from one student. I will try try try not to let some parents get me down, and I will try to focus on my successes. But it’s darn hard when I’ve got nasty mom reverberating in my head and only the silence of barely uttered “thank you’s” from other parents.

Maybe next year on the syllabus in addition to paper and pencils I should write that students are required to come every day with a positive attitude and a desire to learn.

At Last


At last.

It’s more relief and exhaustion than happiness, but happiness, I feel it peeking in, getting ready to enter my psyche, not as a reminder of what had been, but of what will, oh, so soon be.

But now, now I am stressed thinking about the purchasers and if they will really go through with the purchase and if there will be any more hitches, such as the air conditioner not working when they did the home inspection. But those are all details, and this is a big-picture event. This is big, this is what I so need. I’m more exhausted now than I have been in a while, perhaps because I am letting go of holding myself in, or I am realizing that soon I will be able to breathe and my body is draining all of the toxicities that it had been storing for so long.

Oh, how I am envious of myself in just a few weeks when I will have finished making all of the arrangements and packing, and I will be after signing over the house to these wonderful people, and I will be with my younger daughter in our own apartment.

At last, indeed.

Smile. Yes, I am smiling. And crying, too. Relief. Relief is on it's way.

Swallow away my fears

If I swallow deeply, maybe I can swallow away my fears.

If I sigh fully, maybe I can sigh away my anxieties.

If I stare intently, maybe I can stare away the things I don't want to see.

If I scream loudly, maybe I can scream away my hatreds.

If I shudder strongly, maybe I can shudder away my discontents.

And if I smile purely, maybe I can smile in happiness.