Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Canada: Still Not a State

You'll forgive me if I reduce this post to a mere grocery list of thoughts, but lists are pretty much the only complete sentences I can guarantee these days since I have to reserve all my strength for children who alternately delight, frustrate, bewilder, and anger me most every day of the week--none of whom did I bring into this world. It's like riding in that last car on the roller coaster. You might survive, but it will probably require showing up the next day in a neck brace and high on Tylenol 14. Or something like that.

1) When rebooting one's iPhone it is always important to be able to distinguish between the terms "reset" and "restore". The difference being that one is a bustling Costco jammed with all manner of things that make life enjoyable while the other is a sad and very suddenly empty warehouse.

2) I'm going to need a ton of cheap wine compasses if I'm ever going to be expected to teach these children about the world they live in. Namely, that Canada is not a state and that children who live in Texas should actually know where San Antonio is, given that a very important battle was fought there. They need to know that it is Kennedy's assassin who is buried in a nearby cemetery and not the guy who shot Lincoln--for the love of God! Or that the sun does not really rise or sink. I think when I told them that NORTH was not "UP" I may have caused a couple of spontaneous brain implosions. Today I asked one class if they knew which country (The choices were Mexico or Brazil) was further north and one child raised his hand and said with great confidence...."CHINA!" I think it was my father who used the term "Couldn't find his butt with a lantern in both hands". These precious children? Precisely that.

3) After two heart attacks, a blood infection and pneumonia, my tough-as-shit father-in-law was released from the hospital today. Two arteries are currently still completely stopped up with what is surely a  78-year old paste of cheese, pork, cigar smoke, more cheese and Glenlivet, but he stands a better chance of healing at home in order to survive his future bypass than he does in the ICU with people coughing their phlegmy, staph-coated body fluids in his general direction. I wish him luck. He doesn't have my own father's sheer Teutonic will power, but he's got whatever it is that occasionally makes you want to grab a crowbar and sneak up behind his stubborn Scotch/Irish ass. Either way, my money's on him.

4) If I'm not meeting with a parent--or attempting to hang myself in the elevator shaft after a particularly trying day, I enjoy closing the door to my classroom, turning off the overhead lights and listening to music by lamplight and what little sun that comes in through the very tiny windows the school's architect saw fit to throw our way.  Typically, I grade papers while doing so.  Today's selection was Leon Russell's "Back to the Island". Maybe you're too young to know who this guy is and if you looked him up you might think he was just some homeless man wearing a jaunty hat. You'd be right about the hat. But I've learned to keep my eyes closed and listen only to the music. His is the voice of the very last years I lived at my parents' home. Seeing what time has done to those who created the background music for my youth and young adulthood only shines an unforgiving spotlight on how many years have actually passed, but closing your eyes leaves you with just the music and THAT remains mostly unchanged. I did it when I saw the Doobie Brothers, and again in July when I saw Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Skaggs. I did it when we saw Paul McCartney.  I wish I could do the same for myself. Looking in the mirror can be really feel like a mean thing to do to some days.

5) The empty nest continues to alter the way I think about our house. Our three sons are doing so well where they are and I love getting reports about every new thing that they're seeing and doing. Mostly, they're learning live to without us. I keep a lamp on in their old rooms at night...just so that their end of the house isn't dark. Lately doing so feels a little like hanging on to the wrapping paper after you've taken the wonderful gift out of it. What's left in there that needs a light anyway? The books they don't have room for and clothes that mostly didn't make the cut. Winter coats they don't need just yet. Awards from school, old yearbooks, and a folded note from a friend that gathers dust under a bed. The Hubs and I are fine and we are enjoying the extra time we have together. However, those boys changed us in a big way and daily life that doesn't somehow involve finding a pair of pants in the living room that someone just stepped out of and then totally forgot about is strange indeed.

6) I like walking along our city's river trails on the weekends. I plug in "This American Life" and let Ira Glass gently speak to how many different human stories there are out there in our world. And it reminds me that my story--even though three very important parts of it have moved away--is far from over. Some days are harder than others to remember this.


  1. Your description of your empty nest chokes me up a bit.
    Bless you for staying in the trenches and trying to help those kids learn about something besides how to work a video game/remote control/cell phone.

  2. Leon Russell, I'm not familiar with. Now, Leon Redbone? He has a jaunty hat and some good pipes too.

  3. The writing is wonderful, but I can tell how hard the job is. You really ought to consider teaching as I am now--the same or more money and a lot less stress. Email me or FB message me if you like.

  4. Thank goodness there are still great teachers like you around! I can barely have tolerance for my own children most days, but other people's kids? Ugh. So, as I know you don't hear it enough...... THANK YOU. For ALL that you do.

  5. I love lists, by the way.

    1. I feel your pain. My iPhone plunked into the toilet last month because I caved to peer pressure (read ridicule) and moved it from my bra to my back pocket. I don't care that it looks like a rectangular boob tumor that occasionally lights up; it's safe there.

    2. How could that child possibly think China is north? Since we all know north is up, and China is where you get to by digging a hole, wouldn't that naturally make it SOUTH?? She clearly wasn't reasoning.

    3. Your FIL sounds like a fun guy. Glenlivet, cigars, and pissing people off. Yep, he and I could be friends.

    4. You probably know that Leon Russell is an Oklahoma boy. One of the few things about this state that does not embarrass me.

    5. I'm glad you and Bryan are appreciating the positive side of the empty nest. I predict the light will soon go off down the hall, followed by fantasies of how easily one of those rooms could be converted into a kick-ass yoga studio/reading sanctuary. It's the circle of life.

    6. I wrote a fan letter to Ira Glass a few years ago. Gushing may or may not have been involved. Yeah, I'm a nerd. I own it. But there's something about an articulate guy with a great voice. Oy.


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.