Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the tag “education”

7 Ps Rule needs to include “Patience”

You know the 7 Ps Rule, right?  If you were in the military, I’m fairly certain that you’ve heard it multiple times.  If you teach school, you most likely had to memorize it during your Master’s degree classes (except they usually did the 6 Ps to omit the one “questionable” word).  And if you ever need to remember how to prepare for something, it’s one of the best rules to keep in mind.

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

Yes, I know there are many different variants on this mnemonic device.  But, this is the one I learned first both from sitting through graduate-level courses when my parents were getting their Master’s/Specialist’s in Education degrees and by having military members in my family.  Over the years, it’s served me well.

However, today Youngest Son needs to add the word “Patience.”  More grammatically correct, it should be “Patient” as in “Patient Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance” (deleted the objectionable word since he’s still not allowed to swear).  In a few weeks he’ll be celebrating his birthday and we’ve agreed to allow him to invite over his closest friends for a pizza party and then for them to go to the movies that evening.  The female guests will have to be picked up by their parents after the movie while the male guests can come to our house for a sleepover.  He’s been texting all of his friends today and bugging me for specific details, such as start time, menu, etc.

He’s forgotten that his father and I have not finalized any plans.  He’s also forgotten that he’s still grounded at the moment and if he doesn’t earn his privileges back in time there won’t be a birthday party.  His friends are all trying to arrange their schedules and make suggestions for things to do and ingredients for the pizzas but we don’t have anything confirmed at the moment.  Big shock for him and his buddies if it’s all for nothing!

I admire his desire to be sure to plan early enough in advance so that all of his friends have the opportunity to check with their parents/families to ensure if they’d be able to attend.  I’m just not happy that he’s getting their expectations up for something that may or may not happen.  Plus, the parents also won’t be very happy if they change their schedules around to accommodate something that isn’t happening.

Oh well.  Not much I can do about it at the moment.  I told him to be sure to let everyone know that nothing has been confirmed yet and that he’s just checking to see if they would be able to attend.  That way, we can also plan for how much food and how many tickets we’ll need to buy.

We’ll see what happens.

Memorial Day — You’re doing it wrong!

On this Memorial Day, we sit out on our decks and party.  Three days we’ve got off from work with burgers on the barbie.  But if you take a moment to reflect, away from your party scene, the radio will remind you what this day truly means.

It’s time to save, I said SAVE, on a waterbed!  It’s time to buy a great mattress at an even greater price!  I’ve got two words for you — It’s “Tire Sale!”  We’ve got rock-bottom prices and the time is running out!

You’ve got one full year, that’s right — one full year!  No interest!  No payments!  This could be the Memorial Day Weekend you enjoy for years!

Oh, yeah, and something about guys who died for our country…..  (“Memorial Day” parody by Heywood Banks)

Sadly, that song which was written as a joke to show just how out-of-touch we are with what Memorial Day really means is truer than you think.

I’ve seen and heard lots of people talking about their holiday weekend.  The “fact” that it’s the first weekend of summer.  About how much they’ve enjoyed their mini-family vacations and days spent on the lake or fishing or perfecting their barbeque techniques.  I’ve also seen a lot of people posting photos/cartoons and statements thanking veterans for their service.

Memorial Day is not the day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  EVERY DAY should be a day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  But for those who can’t be bothered to do that every day you see someone in uniform or someone wearing a hat or jacket showing they were one who promised to put their life on the line for our country, then at least say “thank you” on Veterans’ Day (11 November).

Memorial Day is when we should stop what we’re doing and remember that it’s the day set aside to say “thank you” to those veterans we CAN’T thank in person anymore.  They gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields, wherever they were.  And we remember those veterans who have passed-on and the service they so proudly gave to our country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was started by Major General John A. Logan from Southern Illinois and the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was an organization of Union veterans.  Three years after the Civil War, in 1868, he said that on May 30th all the graves of our war dead should be decorated with flowers (which would be in bloom across the country at that time).  In his orders, he stated:

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

This was done because in many areas immediately following the Civil War, only those of either Union or Confederate forces were being remembered and the graves of the “enemy” were falling into neglect.  One of the first records of equal decorations came in 1866 when women visiting the sites of the Confederate dead from the Battle of Shiloh near Columbus, Mississippi, noticed the graves of Union casualties being ignored and desecrated because they were they “enemy.”  Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the ladies placed flowers there as well.

Many Union or Confederate Decoration Day ceremonies are still held every year.  Memorial Day, however, was made a Federal holiday by an act of Congress in 1971 and the last Monday in May was selected as the date in order to be fairly consistent with the orders given by Maj. Gen. Logan as well as coinciding with the local/regional celebrations that had been occurring since.

Every grave in every national cemetery will have an American flag placed upon it today.  Some are placed by soldiers, some by civic groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.  Many family members will also decorate the graves of their loved ones in national, state, and private cemeteries.  Speeches will be made and politicians will “pay tribute” across the country today.  But it shouldn’t be just them making an effort.  And it shouldn’t be just the veterans who were able to come home to their country and families and who live with the memories of how their comrades gave the ultimate sacrifice.  It should be all of us — every single person who enjoys the freedom for which those brave men and women laid-down their lives.

It’s not about the sales; it’s not about the picnics; it’s not about a day off with or without pay.  It’s about gratitude; it’s about honor; it’s about those we can never say “thank you” personally to again.

End of the Junior High Era

Today was Youngest Son’s last day in junior high.  Next year he’ll be a freshman.  Lord help us all.

I’m incredibly proud of him and am very, very happy that he’s had some great experiences and made new friends since we moved to this town three years ago.  He’s been in three school theatre productions; he’s participated in All-District Honors Band (was first-chair trumpet, too); attended the State Band Contest; has made the honor roll; and has a gang of friends that he really enjoys hanging-out with and who enjoy having him with them.  As a kid who moved from school-to-school, I know it can be hard to fit-in when you’re the new kid on the block.  Youngest Son learned a lot more at a faster pace when he was homeschooled, but I agree with him that his past three years in public school have helped him grow in many different ways.

I’m especially proud of him as he has received the President’s Education Awards Program Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence.  To qualify for it, he had to have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or more over his junior high career and test above the average and rank in the top of the State’s Assessment Program that’s given every year.  He received a very nice certificate and a lapel pin that he can put on his jacket when he goes to high school.  He pointed out the “autograph” of President Obama on the certificate and I told him that an auto-pen did that.  He said he was surprised they just didn’t Xerox it and is not impressed by it.  He was actually disappointed because he didn’t receive a plaque for best brass student in band and was awarded for his academics.  I reminded him that it will be his academics that helps him get into the college he wants and will follow him through life.  A plaque won by your “nemesis” whose parents can afford for him to take private lessons in order to be better than Youngest Son will only someday be an unwieldy paperweight that your children won’t even be able to get rid of in a yard sale.

I think he feels a lot better now.  And he enjoyed his last day there.  No, he didn’t participate with one group that wore the colorful Morph Suits that everyone was buying around Halloween and at least he wasn’t dared like one of his other friends to come dressed like a princess today.  He made sure he had phone/text numbers for his friends so they can get together over the summer before high school band camp starts in July.

Eldest Son texted me today that he’s learned how to weld in his sculpture class in college.  I told him I was proud and that the welding experience can also be used in other jobs as well.  He hopes to finish his classes soon so that he can graduate in the next semester or two.

One going into high school and one leaving college soon….where does the time go?

They’re back! Voices in charge again!!!

Aha!!  The voices in my head are still going at it.  Oh sure, it’s been a few days since they last ranted like this, but I think that’s just because they’ve been saving it up for a nice explosion.  One where not many people come out happy or unscarred.  One where the majority of people who read this won’t give a rat’s ass and others will either be embarrassed, offended, or so confused they won’t know which opinion to choose.

Things are just stupid all over and I have no idea why.  I hate chaos and disorder except when the disorder is created by me.  Then it just looks like disorder to others but I know where everything is and I don’t want anyone touching it.  But the past few days/weeks have me remembering more in the continuing story (which I’ll get back to soon) and watching things happen that just have me shaking my head in disgust and frustration.

Example:  Husband read a post by Half-Sister on her Buttleaflet account.  She made a comment.  He replied to the comment.  Nothing offensive, just an opinion.  She called him an asshole and de-friended him.  So what?  They’re adults and can do whatever they want.  What I thought was strange was that she did the de-friending after calling him an asshole and that prevents him from seeing it.  He didn’t know that she’d responded until I was on my account and saw what was posted.  Not that either of them care, I’m sure — they’ve never gotten along for a laundry list of reasons (some I know and some I don’t) and I don’t think either one feels slighted and/or vindicated by the actions.

So it seemed strange to me when I was reviewing my account online today and found that one of my Sisters-in-Law had de-friended me.  This was weird because quite a while ago we’d had a bit of a difference of opinion regarding something I’d posted somewhere and what she typed to me hurt my feelings.  I let her know how I felt and she replied and I realized that we were both reading way too much into things (which we both admitted) and mutually apologized to each other.  Just recently I’d been seeing posts from my niece but nothing from her mom.  I thought maybe she was just being unusually quiet recently and had even received an email from a mutual friend wondering if she was okay.  Now I know why I’ve not seen anything.  Am I sad?  A bit because we were close in age and had a lot of things in common and always have enjoyed each other’s company.  But, if that’s her choice, then I have to respect it.

So, all of the voices are now trying to get me to continue with the retelling of my story (’cause we’re getting to some of the juicy parts) and argue over whether or not being able to contact family members online is a good thing or a bad thing and lamenting over yesterday being Mothers’ Day and not hearing from Eldest Son.  He sent a brief text, but that’s all.  I don’t want a parade or anything like that but he doesn’t call or return messages anymore.  He didn’t say or do anything for his step-father’s birthday and the last time I sent him info about what Youngest Son was doing he seemed disinterested.  I always take his calls, regardless if I’m at work or in an appointment.  Just as long as answering my phone won’t cause a dangerous situation (like when I’m driving) I answer because I worry about him being far away from home.

But is it “home” to him?  He lives closer to his biological father and paternal grandparents who give him everything he wants.  I see him for maybe a week around the Christmas holidays when I pay for the Amtrak tickets to get him here and back.  He should be graduating from college soon and I certainly don’t want to miss that, but I can’t get an answer out of him when I ask when he thinks he’ll be done.  He used to call me for everything — even issues I couldn’t solve for him but he knew that I’d give him my best advice and intelligent options for him to weigh.  Now it’s nothing.  No texts.  No calls.  No emails.  And he dropped Buttleaflet and the other thing with a plus sign after it when he wasn’t interested in it either.

I don’t really know what to think about much of anything anymore.  I make up my own mind and have my own opinions and invariably someone gets offended.  I explain that my opinions are just that — mine — and that anyone who is offended should (1) say something to me so that I understand that their opinion is different than mine and we can come to a mutual understanding that I’ll have mine and they’ll have theirs and be respectful of it or (2) be quiet about it if all they’re going to do is try to shove their opinion down my throat and tell me what an awful person I am for thinking or believing the way I do.  I have seen and experienced a lot of things I’d never wish on anyone else.  I have friends who have seen and experienced a lot of things — some thousands of times worse than anything I’ve had — that they’d never wish on anyone else as well.  We all come from a damaged background in one way or another.  It was different when people lived tens/hundreds/thousands of miles away from each other and only called/wrote every now-and-then.  With the Internet, everyone is in everyone else’s business 24/7 and people don’t understand that sarcasm/humor/anger/despair won’t translate well through printed words.  So we all (and, yes, I include myself in this) jump to a conclusion based on what we see and what we believe that person would say/do/think.

I try to make a point of stepping-back and thinking about what I’ve read and how it could be interpreted different ways.  I’ve been doing that with a lot of things from my past recently, too.  That’s one of the reasons the voices in my head keep telling me to write more and get things down on paper.  It’s not to beg for pity or to embarrass someone else by airing anyone’s dirty laundry.  It’s trying to see things objectively and get them out of my system once and for all.  The voices have been rummaging through the cabin trunks in my brain to clear out the crap and make more space for the penguins (if you’re a Douglas Adams fan you’ll get that reference).

So now that I’ve gotten that mess out of the way for now, I’ll pick up where we left-off in the story.  My parents decided to divorce and the summer between my 4th and 5th grade years of school they took me on a really long “family” vacation.  Then they waited until the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years to actually finalize the divorce while I was away at summer camp.

I talked briefly about 6th grade but it needs more information.  Not only was I again attending a school where my biological father was the principal but his mistress was the school secretary there as well.  Oh joy.  As if I needed further reminders of how much my life was going into the crapper.  But, I was an honor student and was meeting even more people because the school district had two elementary schools and the students from both combined into one class during 6th grade.  Yay….not only did I have the ones who knew me and knew my dad was the principal but I had a whole new set who would look at me as if I was the privileged one because my dad was the principal.

I can assure you that being “privileged” was far from the truth.  Some of my teachers liked me because I was a good student and I worked hard.  Some of my teachers just outright hated me because they didn’t like my father or his mistress or both and were determined to make my life hell and were upset that they couldn’t fail me because I made high grades in all of my classes.

There was an instance, however, where people felt I was being given too much privilege during my 6th grade year.  Previously I mentioned that I began playing the flute in band in 4th grade.  When I finally made it to the middle school where grades 6-8 attended, my father said that he was going to try to get me into the beginning band (7th grade) because I’d already had band experience.  He also knew that I was going to be bored to death in the 6th grade music class because I’d already learned to play the recorder and the keyboarding part of the year would be equally as boring since I’d been taking piano lessons since 1st grade.

One afternoon, my father told me to bring my flute to school with me the next day and I would be allowed to play with the woodwind class.  I happily entered the classroom the next day and was excited to get back to playing.  The band instructor said that it was “Challenge Day” and we would have to play a section from the book to see who would be placed in which chair based on our performances.  The students in the classroom had already been playing together and were in their “chairs” so I was told to take the last seat and would play first.  I played the piece from the book (which was the exact same book I’d already completed in 4th grade) and did better than the person next to me, so I took her chair and moved up the line.  This continued over and over again.  Each time I would play, then the next student would play, and then I would be moved up another ranking by taking their “chair.”  Finally, I had moved all the way from last chair to second chair.  This is when I got really, really nervous because the person in first chair wasn’t just the child of my 6th grade science teacher but was also a boy.  I’d not played against a boy before and I’d heard that he was very, very good.  He took lessons from the same piano teacher I had started with in our new town and if he could play the flute half as good as he played piano I knew I had no chance.  I was so nervous and I actually made a mistake while playing the same line that I’d been playing all day.  He, however, played it perfectly and remained in the top spot.  I was humbled and highly impressed at the same time.

I didn’t even get to finish the week.  Word spread quickly of what I’d done and how I’d nearly unseated the top player in the class.  How dare I, just a simple 6th grader with 2 years of previous playing experience, walk into a classroom of older children who happened to live in a district that didn’t allow them to begin band (in school, they could have taken private lessons though) until they were 7th graders and do so well?  How could this happen?  Who would allow it?  After enough teachers and parents complained, my father wouldn’t allow it.  He yanked me out of that class faster than I could think possible.  He tried telling me it was for my own good that I stayed with my “regular” classmates but I knew better.  He was always trying to be popular with everyone and if someone said something negative about me being in band, he took it as a personal assault on his character.  It never mattered if I excelled at something — if someone said or even thought anything negative he would immediately stop me from doing whatever it was so that people would think highly of him.

And it just wasn’t in school that he did this.  He enrolled me in golf lessons at the local country club.  I wasn’t the least bit interested in playing golf the way he was.  He bought himself the newest Jack Nicklaus “Golden Bear” clubs and made sure that he was seen playing with anyone he thought could get him viewed in a more positive light.  I had a teeny kids’ set with a 3-wood, a 9-iron, and a putter in a vinyl bag.  Yeah….that was going to get me into the LPGA someday.

I suffered through the lessons and one day went with him to play a round at the country club.  I’d never played all 18 holes but he wanted to be sure he was getting his money’s worth out of my lessons.  As predicted, he did much better than I did on every hole (and he had me teeing-off from the men’s tee instead of the women’s).  Every hole….except one.  There was one hole that had the longest par 5 on the front-nine and from a short kid’s perspective seemed to go straight up instead up a sloping hill.  I got there in par — a feat I was never able to reproduce but I was thrilled.  My father did not fare as well.  It took him more strokes to complete the hole than I’d made but he was still ahead in the game.  It didn’t matter to him.  That wasn’t even the last hole on the front-nine.  He was angry.  No, he was pissed-off in a way I’d not seen for quite a while.  He was shocked that I beat him on that hole.  He couldn’t fathom the idea that a young kid could get lucky (with a bit of training) and make a par on that hole when he couldn’t.

Immediately, he said he was done and didn’t want to play anymore.  Just like a spoiled child, he took his toys and said I couldn’t play in his sandbox anymore.  He wouldn’t finish the entire game.  He wouldn’t finish the front-nine.  He never asked me to play again.

So, with my broken family and the semi-acceptance of “friends” from school and church and my mother’s depression and ranting at me as if I was the cause of everything evil in the world, what was I supposed to do?  If no one was happy seeing me or wanted me around, why should I be?  But, I wasn’t quite ready to give up breathing yet.  Summer was coming and my favorite thing was just around the corner — summer camp in Mississippi.

I escaped to Mississippi by begging my mother to take me a day earlier than usual and spending the night in the nearest town so that I could arrive very, very early the next morning.  All of the campers were allowed to pick the cabins they wanted to stay in, the hobbies they wanted to learn, and the bible classes they wanted to attend.  But, all of those were first-come, first-served.  If you weren’t there early enough in the line, you didn’t get anything you wanted.

I needed this to be a good summer.  She agreed and we went early so that I could be one of the first in line.  I knew that my second week I would get pretty much anything I wanted because they would allow me to pick my cabin/hobby/class before the others would register so that I could help show people around the camp, answer questions, and make sure that parents were comfortable leaving their kids.  I even had one father who, when he heard the name of my hometown, demanded that I look-after his daughter ’cause she’d never been away from home and anyone from where I was from had to be “good people.”  I said that I wasn’t a babysitter and that she’d be fine but we were going to be staying in the same cabin so at least she’d have a friend from day one there.  We actually got along and had a blast that week she was there.

During lunchtime, all of the campers would get excited about mail call.  Some kids were shipped items they’d forgotten from home.  Some kids got care packages from their families as if being in the middle of the forest prevented them from obtaining decent food.  (We got decent food, and lots of it!)  Some would get letters from boyfriends/girlfriends back home but most never received any.  I usually didn’t get mail because it would take 3 days to get there from where I lived and by the time a letter would arrive I’d either (1) have already been able to call home on the weekend (’cause campers weren’t allowed to call except in emergencies during the week) and found out everything or (2) I’d have left after the second week.

This year, though, there was a letter for me.  I was stunned.  The Camp Director enjoyed teasing the kids by pretending there were things written on the outside of the envelope, usually the gooey-eyed type of phrases people thought that people in love would say to each other.  It always got a big laugh and usually helped whomever received the letter he chose to play with feel better.  My family and I were good friends with him, so when he saw this letter I became the target of his humor.  It was funny and I proudly walked through all of the applause and laughter to receive my letter.

It was from my father.  This was very strange.  And it wasn’t handwritten.  He’d typed the envelope and the letter.

After lunch we had a mandatory 30-minute “rest period” in our cabins so that our food could settle before the swimming pool would be open for the afternoon.  Yes, we had a huge lake there but it was much safer to swim in the pool!

I sat on my bunk in the cabin and read the letter.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I still have the letter somewhere in my house.  I’ve packed it away with other important items but made sure that I’ve put it somewhere where I won’t casually find it but also where it will remain for a long time because it was a great turning point in my life.

My father typed a letter to me saying that (and I’m paraphrasing here) he knew I’d be having fun at camp; that he hoped that I got to be in the classes I wanted that summer; and, oh by the way, that the day I’d left for camp he and his mistress had traveled to Arkansas and gotten married.  He gave a half-assed excuse for not inviting me or letting me know about it before I left for camp and that I should be prepared for them (him, her, and her 2 kids) to pick me up at the end of my second week.

I don’t really remember much after that.  I was shocked and hurt.  To think that he purposefully didn’t want me to know what was going on was the worst.  I can only remember them coming to pick me up in his diesel Chevette and me being crammed into the middle of the back seat between her kids (both of whom I was older than by many years) for the 8-hour drive back home.  No stopping except if they wanted to stop.  No eating anywhere except where they wanted to eat.  It was if coming to get me was a huge chore and not an attempt to help mend any wounds or begin to create a family.  I couldn’t stand it.  It still makes me ill to think about it.  I was ignored the whole way back and dumped-off unceremoniously at my house.

“Well,” I remember thinking to myself one day around that time, “this is it.  Mom’s mad because she’s divorced and has me to take care of on her own and Dad’s being a jerk as usual except he’s rubbing it in my face with his new ‘son’ (step-son, actually) that he’s always wanted.  What’s the point anymore?”

I went to the church camp sponsored by our local church that summer as well.  Fortunately, they drove a bus to get us out there and back so I didn’t have to suffer either of my parents’ unwillingness to deal with me.  I tried to have fun and I remember our group of girls (we were divided by age and gender) doing well on contests, but there were many who didn’t want me in their group.  And I dreaded every day having one or both of my parents showing-up to give me some additional news that should have been told in person but was just haphazardly typed-out in a letter.  It didn’t happen and I don’t think I could have stood it if it did.

Well, poop….looked at the clock and all of my time is gone again.  The voices are still trying to cram words down my arms and to my fingers on the keyboard but I’ve got errands to run.  Need to get things done or Husband will be irritated that I stayed inside all day again.  I know he says he’s not but I also know that it does upset him because I used to be very outgoing and my disabilities are not getting better.  Maybe in the long-run this “therapy” I’m trying with these posts will help.

Still irritated at Mythbusters’ “Swinging Pirates” episode

I know it’s just a minor thing, but I really liked the effect in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie that showed the six pirates swinging in a ball made of bones and climbing their way to the top of the cliff and saving themselves.  The Mythbusters tried to recreate the myth that it could be done and messed it up.  Big time.  In my opinion anyway — I’m not a scientist.

They used metal to create the ball — good idea.  They had openings at the bottom of the ball large enough for them to crawl through — bad idea.  They used two cables to hold the ball above the ground — not accurate since in the movie it’s supposed to be a single vine.  But they did prove that they could climb up the “cliff” by having everyone help climb a cargo net on the side of a building.  They really should have replicated the actual conditions.  The two safety cables impeded the ability for the momentum to increase.

However, on the same episode, the Build Team made a pulse jet and had an expert come and show them an effective way to build one and how it should run.  I wonder how many WWII British survivors watched the episode and had bad memories afterwards?  The one their expert built sounded just like a V-1 flying bomb, also known as a “Buzz Bomb” or “Doodlebug” by the British who listened to them as they flew overhead before crashing and exploding.  And if you’ve never heard of the V-1 — go look it up.  They did lots of damage.

Now I’m going to watch the new episode for this week — any time you make a hot water heater explode on television is awesome.

Voices are in charge again! Day 2.

So…yeah….the voices are still going and I’ve got loose ends from yesterday that I’ve got to tie up.  I just got back to the house from my therapist’s office.  She told me she got my application for disability request and was completing the information for them.  I’m sure she’s got more to add today since I described to her about (1) the “rule of thumb” for hazardous materials incidents (if you can’t stretch your arm out to full length, look down the length of it and cover the entire object that’s leaking the material with your thumb, you’re too close), (2) how the length of your forearm (from the bend in your elbow to the bend of your wrist) is the same size as your foot, (3) the fact that I found a new show to watch the other night on H2 (used to be History International) called “10 Things You Don’t Know” and how it’s now a challenge for me to see if they can come up with things I don’t already know (the one on Hitler I knew all of them), and (4) how I not only applied for disability as she suggested but I also applied for a temporary job at the same disability office.  That ought to confuse them.  Oh, and when I was talking about the “10 Things You Don’t Know” episode they did on Caligula and how I knew most but not all, she had a strange look on her face because she didn’t know who he was.  I find myself often having to explain what I’m explaining to her because I forget that there are people who don’t collect every bit of knowledge they have and store it somewhere until it’s triggered by something else and pops its way to the forefront of my mind.  Today was a lot of those little “side-story” kind of days where my brain didn’t want to stay on-topic.

Oh, and I gave her a copy of the first part of this “log” (for lack of a better word) to put into my file.  That ought to show them I’m nice and bat-shit crazy enough for disability.  Probably not, but who knows?

Anyway, back to where I’d left off yesterday.  I needed to explain how I’d “retaken” the fifth grade.  After my stellar grades in Kindergarten and the same happening in 1st grade, my biological father informed us that we were moving to a new town where he was going to be the principal of the elementary school.  I remember my parents trying to find a house to rent in the small town where the school was located so that we could live there during the week and in our permanent house on the weekends.  The house they found had a lot of issues and we ended up not living there.  I was happy because I remember going to run the water in the bathtub and it all came out black.  That’s not because the house had crappy pipes; that’s because the whole town had crappy pipes.  Even at the school you weren’t really sure what color the water in the toilet would be after you flushed it and washing your hands could sometimes make them look worse than before.  I don’t even want to go into the drinking fountains.

Even though we didn’t move to the town, my dad was insistent that I attend school there because that’s where he would be and, at the time, my mother was going back to college for her second degree.  This time, she was majoring in education and was going to be a teacher at the school as well.  She ended up in the junior high/high school part and we moved away from that district before I ever reached those grades, so I never had her as a teacher.  I did substitute teach years ago and would often get called to teach her classes, but that’s another story for another time.

Since my father was the elementary school principal and realized that I’d been very advanced (and bored) in school where I had been attending, he made the decision along with my 2nd grade teacher that I should be promoted to the 3rd grade.  Once I finished all of the lessons in the spelling workbook I was officially moved-up into the 3rd grade classroom and took all of my classes with them.  I moved along with those students from 3rd grade to 4th grade and then 5th grade, even though I was still considered only a 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 4th grade student.  I did all of the work and made the honor roll in the classes that were a year advanced of where I should have been.  I didn’t mind because I was able to learn more at my own pace and do things more advanced than the others.

But when I was chronologically a 5th grade student, we moved school districts.   My father had gotten a job in another town as the middle school (junior high) principal and would be overseeing the 6th-8th grade classes.  I was at summer camp in Mississippi for two weeks when they came to pick me up and announced that we were going “home” and we arrived in a town I’d only visited before after taking a LONG summer vacation (more on that later).  They’d found a house and moved our stuff an hour away from where we had lived before.  It was sad because I did have one friend that I would hang-out with and I was going to miss her.  Most of my other friends I’d had in Kindergarten and 1st grade had moved-on without me because even though I lived in the town, since I didn’t go to the same school I didn’t exist.

The new town was a lot bigger and much different from where I’d lived or gone to school!  In my previous school, I was in the minority as a white person.  In the new town, that’s all I could find!  Other kids thought I was crazy when I asked where the black students were and why no one was friends with any.  The house my parents had rented was just temporary until they bought a new one — and it was brand new!  The local trade school had built it and the home economics department decorated it.  The house was auctioned and we ended up winning it.  It was a nice house on a nice street and I had a nice neighbor — a gal that I’d met in 2nd grade until she’d moved away and now we were living next door to each other.  So, at least I had a friend when I got there.

I thought for sure I’d be going to the middle school but my father didn’t want me standing out from the crowd too much.  I asked about band because I’d begun playing the flute in 4th grade band and wanted to continue.  In the new town, students weren’t allowed to start band until 7th grade.  Even though I’d had a year behind me, I wasn’t going to be allowed to play.  And I wasn’t going to be allowed to go to the middle school because my father decided that it would be better if I stayed with the students my own age.  So, I had to “retake” the 5th grade.  Even the textbooks were the same as we used in my old school!  I mentioned this to my parents and the teachers but no one would budge.  So, I did 5th grade again and then finally moved to junior high.

Oh, remember me mentioning that my parents moved while I was at summer camp?  That wasn’t the only shocking thing that happened while I was away from home, but the camp I attended in Mississippi was a religious camp, 8 hours away from home, and I loved every minute of it each year that I went.  The first year I went I was 9 (the youngest age they allowed) and I was only allowed to stay for one week since my parents weren’t sure how well I’d get along on my own.  My friend Russell and some other guys from our church went as well.  We knew about the summer camp because it was the same place in the winter where men from around the country would go for a religious deer hunting retreat.  My dad would always bring home a buck and a doe and he and his friends would spend hours in our garage hanging the deer and dressing them.  I loved watching it and wanted to help.  When I was 8 years old, he returned from his week-long retreat with the deer and a BB gun for me.  I was in heaven!  And, since it was close to Christmas, I knew what I’d be doing out in the snow.

And, no, I never shot my eye out or killed anything with it.  But, boy, I could sure hit the back of an old heavy aluminum Dutch oven hanging on the back fence!  The “thwing!” that BB made as it ricocheted off the metal and into who knows what direction was thrilling.  Of course, this was back in the day when parents would let their kids have BB guns, you could use a BB gun in the city limits legally, no safety equipment was worn, and no one concerned themselves about the return trajectory of the BBs as they “thwinged” themselves off of metal objects.

I loved my first year at summer camp.  I got to swim in the pool and tried to water ski on the lake but just ended up being dragged around on my face.  I met a lot of people from all over the southern United States who had absolutely NO idea what I was saying because I was a “Yankee” and didn’t have the Southern Twang that was needed to communicate.  I also took horsemanship classes and got to take care of a horse and rode it every day.  I was so busy having fun that I forgot that the large suitcase of clothing and personal items I brought with me included a brush and other objects with which to clean myself.  I don’t remember it but my parents had a good time teasing me when they came to pick all of us up at the end of the week that I looked liked I’d gone wild because I forgot to brush my hair the entire time I was there.  At least I swam and the chlorine in the pool could count as “bathing” more than what Russell did.  He completely forgot to bathe or change clothes the entire time.  We were both sent back to our respective cabins before we were allowed in the car with the other guys to return home.

We were all crammed in the station wagon — a big Oldsmobile full-sized station wagon with plenty of room in the back for our luggage, vinyl bench seats, and fake wood trim along the sides.  My parents and I sat in the front (me in the middle with my feet on the “hump”) and the two older boys shoved Russell into the middle of the back seat between them.  On the way to the main road from the camp was a very winding road that was gorgeous but wasn’t optimal for people with a tendency to have motion sickness.  Russell was one of those.  We heard a strange noise and then my mother and I looked over our shoulders into the back seat where we saw each of the teenage boys pressed as close to the doors as they could get while shouting that Russell was being sick all over the floor.  And he was — and not just the floor.  We had to pull over on the side of a barely two-lane gravel road and get Russell changed and try to clean up the sick.  Thank goodness for those vinyl seats.

I never returned with the other guys and Russell to summer camp.  Each year until I was 16 I went on my own.  I’d stay for two weeks and have the time of my life.  My maternal grandparents even bought me a joke book on “How to Speak Southern” which I actually used as a translation guide and my second year there people could understand me.  I’d pack my dad’s old Navy trunk with enough clothes and books and other things to keep me occupied on rainy days and looked forward to going every year.  And after we’d moved and I started my new school, I became even more desiring of being there because it was somewhere I could be happy.

The summer after my 4th grade year I spent two glorious weeks at camp and then my parents, with our dog in tow, showed up to get me.  I was stunned by this but my dad was really good friends with the camp director and had made arrangements to sleep in one of the VIP cabins (where the speakers or other guests could stay) so that on the last day of my stay we could leave as soon as all of the “goodbyes” were said and tears were shed.

They packed my trunk into the back of our 1980 Chevrolet Chevette along with the luggage they’d brought which was much more than for a one-night stay eight hours away from home.  I thought something was up and my suspicions were correct.  After we’d headed up the twisty road towards the main road, my parents announced that we’d be going on vacation.  With both of them being teachers, we had all summer so I sat in the back seat with my dog and watched the miles go by.  We traveled through Mississippi, across Alabama, and finally stopped in Georgia.  We visited Atlanta and went to the Six Flags park there.  I remember having to stand in line for an hour to get my hand stamped with a time to return so I could stand in line some more to get to ride the new Thunder River ride.  My dad complained the entire time but I was just glad to be having some fun.  We also visited Stone Mountain while we were in Georgia and I really, really enjoyed seeing and learning a lot about it.

We ventured north into South Carolina and I remember we stopped in Maggie Valley, North Carolina one night.  There was a HUGE water slide there and I’d never been on one before.  I begged my parents to let me try it and while my mom wasn’t a big fan of being in a swimsuit in public at the time, my dad agreed and bought passes for the two of us.  This wasn’t a fiberglass water slide like you see these days — it was concrete and built into the ground (which pleased my mother because that summer she had seen too many reports of water slides collapsing at parks and people getting hurt).  There were two tracks — one was short and fast and the other was longer but had bigger drops.  We were given neoprene mats and told to be sure to hold on to them tightly as we traveled down the chutes.  I loved it!  It was like an open roller coaster and I wanted to go faster and faster.  My father, however, thought he’d show me some “moves” that would be “cool” and I remember seeing him leave the top of the slide, the mat coming down the slide, him coming down the slide on the rough concrete, and then a large “splash” in the pool at the bottom and him saying that he wasn’t going to slide anymore.  Oh, and Mercurochrome was located for the scrapes he had.

After spending time in North Carolina we ventured towards the Virginias and the Smokey Mountains.  We got to see bears on the side of the road and made a side-stop in Knoxville, Tennessee during the 1982 World’s Fair.  I’ve heard that it’s been listed as one of the worst World’s Fairs of all time and I’m here to say that I wholeheartedly agree.  Everything was about the environment and new technologies such as solar and wind power.  It was also extremely crowded and, of course, my dad complained the entire time.  He and my mother even had a very loud argument in the parking lot on our way to the gates that for all she cared he could sit in the car by himself while she took me inside to see and learn new things.  Every country’s pavilion we wanted to visit had a line at least two hours long and many, like the Chinese and American pavilions, had lines for you to wait to get your hand stamped with a time at which you would come back and stand in line again and wait to get inside to see the exhibits.

It was hot.  They’d paved over a huge park to install the World’s Fair which looking back seems like a really stupid thing to do if you’re trying to talk about saving the environment.  Everything was expensive and, as usual, my dad complained even more loudly as the day continued.  The only pavilion we visited was the Canadian exhibit because (1) it had a shorter line and (2) it advertised that it was air-conditioned.  When we got to the front of the line, the air conditioning was no longer working.  I don’t really remember anything from their exhibit because my dad dragged us through there as quickly as possible because he was getting sick from the heat.

My mother and I found a building where people were exiting out the back doors and suddenly felt the cool refreshing breeze of air conditioning.  Not caring what exhibit it was, we darted inside and, yes, made sure my dad came too.  It was full of computerized exhibits and video games and everything “futuristic” you could think of at the time.  I remember Nintendo had a HUGE area where there were Donkey Kong games lined-up side-by-side and each one was being played by someone who, like me, had never played a video game like that before.  We stayed inside the cool building for a while so that we could rest and recharge before going back into the sweltering heat.  We stayed in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and I ended up sick with a fever for a couple of days which threw-off some of the plans they’d made.

After I was better we went to Louisville, Kentucky where an old Navy buddy of my father’s lived with his wife.  My parents had been friends with them for years and we’d visited them once when they lived in Iowa.  Now he was a big attorney for General Electric and we were invited to come and stay with them for a while.  We toured Louisville.  I got to see the original pot in which The Colonel made his first batch of Kentucky Fried Chicken and the “safe” where the secret recipe was “kept.”  We all also ventured to Indiana and visited Santa Claus Land in Santa Claus, Indiana.  This is WAY before it became Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari!!  Santa Claus Land was basically a cheap carnival with exhibits and stores where every day, 365 days a year, it was Christmas.  Some poor fool had to sit on a throne in an overstuffed Santa costume for hours a day in the middle of summer and listen to kids tell him what they wanted for Christmas or scream their heads off in terror because they didn’t know who he was.  My favorite memory was my dad trying to tease my mother into riding the Tilt-a-Whirl because she gets motion sickness very easily.  He kept teasing and taunting and finally she agreed that we three would ride it together.  After it ended, I had a wonderful view of my father leaning against a large pine tree throwing up everything he’d eaten and complained was too expensive at the park.  I wanted to take a picture for posterity but decided I’d be safer if I didn’t.  After Santa Claus Land we went to Squire Boone Caverns in Corydon, Indiana and I fell in love with caves.  Oh, I knew I was claustrophobic and afraid of heights and falling (which wasn’t ideal since one of the first things you cross is a very large chasm that seems to have no bottom on a very small bridge).  But I loved going through the cave and seeing new things each time.  My parents and their friends waited outside while I went on tour after tour.  When we all went together we made sure to pose for the “obligatory” photo at the beginning that they said they used “to make sure that everyone on the tour makes it out of the cave and will know who’s missing.”  My dad hated the picture because he’s standing in it with his legs crossed like he needs to go to the bathroom.  My mother said we weren’t posing for another just because he didn’t like it and that he should have gone before we left.

After the long vacation, we went to our new home, I started my new school, and things started to change a lot.  My mother was attending graduate school to receive her Master’s of Education and my dad was busy at the middle school many evenings.  I’d be at home by myself (remember, this was back when you could do that and not be scared of someone snatching your kid) and he’d tell me that if I had problems with my homework to call him at the school.  I wasn’t sure what he was doing there but I know that he didn’t answer the phone when I would call.  I guessed back then that he thought I’d be able to do all of the work on my own or figure it out and would never need to call him ’cause I had no idea where he was.  When he came home he’d tell me he was at the school but I had my suspicions that he was never fucking there.  Well, he might have been fucking there — but that’s an image I don’t want in my mind.  It’s bad enough when you come to grips with the fact that your parents had to have had sex at least once to get you into the world, much less any more than that. (Told you I could swear and this is where it’s necessary.)

No, my dad had introduced me to his secretary and she had introduced me to her family.  She had two kids (a boy and a girl, both younger than me) and I absolutely loved her parents.  They treated me as one of their own.  My mother and I would go out and pick blackberries and corn and other fruits and vegetables on their farm and in their gardens.  We were welcomed with open arms and they loved having me visit and go fishing or riding three-wheelers with them.  They even gave me my own rabbit to raise (which had to be put-down after it ate its babies) and taught me to milk cows and work with other farm animals.  It was great!

Then it happened.  I went to summer camp and came home to a changed house.  My dad had been having an affair with his secretary and my parents had decided to divorce.  Being the naive kid I was, I thought the reason my dad had moved his stuff into the guest bedroom during the year was because he snored too loud and he was often up late at night typing his thesis for his Specialist’s in Education degree.  To me, it seemed logical that he stay in there where we could close the door on him when we wanted quiet so we could sleep.  I had no idea that was the first step in him moving-out.  I went to camp with married parents and came back a child of divorce.  They’d decided to do it while I was gone so I wouldn’t have to speak in front of the judge and so I’d be happier.  That’s what they said, anyway.

My 6th grade year was controversial just like my 5th grade year.  I was meeting new people and finding that being the principal’s daughter did get you invited to a lot of the best parties and events in town but only so people could say that I was there, not that they really wanted me there.  I’d often find myself in the corner alone watching everyone else participating or I’d try to get out there and dance or play the games or whatever they were doing and was told indirectly (and sometimes very directly) that I wasn’t welcome in what they were doing.  It was difficult trying to find a place to fit-in.  Everyone knew who I was because everyone knew who my father was.  I was in Girl Scouts and played intramural softball and participated a lot with the local youth group at the church we attended.  I tried to convince others at church to attend summer camp with me but no one was interested.  The church we attended had their own one-week camp they sponsored and I decided to give it a try as well.  It wasn’t as much fun, but I was with people I knew from school and hoped for more friendships to grow from it.

Of course by now everyone in town knew that my parents had divorced and who my dad was seeing.  As I’ve said before, I know their marriage had been rocky for a long time but I never dreamed it would end.  I didn’t know people who had gotten divorced.  Or, if I did, I was never told about it.  The “scandal” didn’t help me in winning friends.  I hated hearing people whisper, “Do you know who he’s dating?  She’s from that family!  How could he sink so low?”  And it really upset me, too, because her parents had never been anything but kind and loving to me and I had no idea why people were speaking poorly of them.  Even after my parents divorced they invited me over and let me have fun fishing or just playing outside.  I guess they wanted to help me through the transition as best as they could.

In the divorce, my dad gave my mother the house (with the mortgage) and one of the cars (the Chevette that would later become mine) and he took the money from the bank.  And not just his half of the money — ALL of it.  And everything in the safe deposit box which included my coin collections he’d tried to help me start and all of the savings bonds my paternal grandmother had bought me every birthday and Christmas since the day I was born.

I’ll never forget one night when my mother was upset over the whole thing.  My mom hadn’t been drinking or anything like that.  She was just pissed and wanted to yell and scream at someone and, since I was an only child and the only other person in the house, I caught it full-blast.  I remember trying to retreat into the kitchen to get away from her screaming and she cornered me.  There in the dark, I swear I could see her eyes glowing.  She screamed at me, “You’d just better get used to taking care of yourself because you’re not going to have a mother to come home to!  I’m so pissed and I don’t give a shit anymore that I just might go and kill that asshole father of yours and maybe his slut and then you’ll be on your own ’cause I’ll be in jail and I don’t give a fuck!”  That was one of the first times I can ever remember being totally speechless.  I didn’t know what to do!  She stomped off towards her bedroom and I just stood there with a glass in one hand and my other hand outstretched as I had been preparing to turn on the lights.  I just stood there in the dark and I remember hearing my brain “saying” to me, “Yup, got it.  That one’s going right in the files with the rest,” as the recorder in my mind turned switched off.

I knew she wasn’t serious because I had the only weapon in the house (my BB gun) and she didn’t like guns.  I didn’t think she even knew how she’d try to kill someone but I didn’t move for quite a while.  I waited until I heard her go into her bedroom before I dared move.  She never mentioned it again and I’m sure she wouldn’t remember doing it now.  But it’s definitely stuck in my memory banks.  Could be one of the reasons I became depressed my 6th grade year.  It could also be the reason that along with another event triggered my first real consideration of suicide, but that story is going to have to wait.

Again, I’ve sat here for I don’t remember how long (more than a couple of hours) and typed as different voices in my head have brought things to the surface.  Some I’ve had to push back because they’re trying to get me to tell stories out-of-order and, of course, that’s just not my style.  OCD is a bitch no matter which way you look at it.  Maybe I’ll continue again tomorrow with this.  I’m sure many of the people who read this and know or are in today’s story won’t be happy — but my brain is whirring like a car that’s idling too fast.  I know if I don’t do something to slow it down soon it’s going to break.  And this is all I have at the moment.

Voices are in charge again!

I have no idea what the hell is up with me today.  My brain has gone into extreme overdrive and now I’ve got thoughts and words and feelings and shit (yes, I can swear and am actually very good at it) bouncing around in there and they won’t leave me alone.  Maybe I’m finally having a mental breakdown.  Maybe I’m finally having some kind of epiphany that will let me find my “true calling” in the world.  Whatever the hell it is, it’s driving me freakin’ nuts and I can’t stand it!

It’s like the voices in my head are trying to get me to write my autobiography.  Nice idea but who the hell would want to read it?  I’m nobody.  I’ve not done anything fantastic and famous.  I’m just another schmuck on the sidewalk with the rest of the people whose hopes and dreams are dashed by themselves, their problems, their families, their jobs, their government, or any other number of outside and inside forces.  Yeah, I’m sure all of the major bookstores would make lots of prime real estate for a book about me — right in the bottom of the dumpsters.  Besides, if I wrote an autobiography I could never get it published because all of the people in it would hate it and what I had to say about them at one point or another, they’d try to sue me for slander, or I’d just never get the rights to use their names or likenesses and then my book would have a bunch of blank spaces in it I couldn’t fill.  Yeah, that’s going to be interesting reading.

So where do I start?  What am I supposed to be doing with this mess in my head?  I didn’t even want to open the word processing program but now I find myself here typing as fast as my fingers will move trying to get onto the page everything at once.  And that’s not a good thing to try to do because I have OCD and I have to proofread while I’m typing and when things are not flowing well my brain starts yelling at me and I have to start over again.  I’m going to try to switch it off for a bit but I can’t guarantee how that’s going to work out.  If you don’t hear from me again somewhere in the middle of this diatribe it’s probably ’cause my OCD-blocking caused an aneurysm and I’m face-down on the keyboard with the dogs wondering why I won’t let them outside.

I remember things from when I was little.  I told my mother that I swear I remember the green seats on the airplane back from Hawaii to the mainland.  I told her once that I have a vivid memory of a bright circle of light in front of me and an ugly green upholstered seat back to my right and I’m laying down in the seat and can’t say or do anything.  She says it’s just me remembering her telling a story about the trip when my family moved from Hawaii to Missouri and she flew with me while my dad was still getting out of the Navy.  I don’t remember anything else from then until I opened my eyes after “making a wish” and blowing out the candle on my 3rd birthday cake.  I remember that.  I remember my brain saying, “We have to remember this.  This is an important day.”  It was like I’d switched-on a tape recorder in my brain and I have vague memories of doing that many times when my mind would believe that something was worth remembering.  Not like things from school or grocery lists — just places and events that should stick with me for some reason.

I was an only child.  I say “was” because I do have step-siblings and a half-sister.  But biologically, it’s just me.  Even though my biological father refuses to acknowledge me anymore and claims the children of his other wives as his kids, I’m the last of his bloodline and he’s way too old and sick to do anything about it now.  Yeah….he always told me about how awful it was when he was 4 and his father walked-out on his family and then never wanted to have anything to do with him until he’d remarried and divorced and had a bunch of kids in Utah somewhere and was dying and then tried to call my father for help and support.  And my father, being the person he is, was more than happy to tell my biological paternal grandfather to shove it and didn’t give a crap even when I gave him the message sometime in the early 1980s that we’d gotten a phone call and his dad was dead.

Kind of the same thing is happening now, in a way.  My biological father wanted a son.  He was sure that he’d have a son.  Then I popped out and spoiled his fun.  I don’t really know when my parents’ marriage began to fall apart, but I have a feeling that even then things weren’t so good ’cause they decided to not have another child.  I don’t know why and no one has ever tried to tell me a reason, so it’s just a guess on my part.  But, good ol’ dad knew he’d have at least a decade before puberty would set-in and make me the daughter he couldn’t pretend I wasn’t.  So he taught me about cars and guns and sports and I was the epitome of a tomboy.  Oh sure, I had Barbie dolls and other girly toys, but if I was playing with friends, they were usually boys and I loved their toys WAY much more than my stuff.

I had a friend, Russell, who lived two streets away and my parents taught school with his parents.  Oh yeah, I left that part out.  We moved back to Missouri because my dad didn’t want to be in the Navy anymore even though he was offered stations in London, Madrid, or Washington D.C.  Nope, he wanted to go back to being a schoolteacher for some insane reason.  My mother then became a teacher.  Her father was already a teacher.  You can see where I’m going with this.  I was doomed from the start to be a teacher in some form or fashion.

Anyway, back to Russell.  His family and my family were friends and Russell and I were the same age.  We stayed at the same babysitter’s house since they didn’t have formal preschool in those days.  Sometimes when our parents would go out together in the evenings, they’d drop us off at the sitter’s house and we’d either stay until our parents got back or spend the night.  Russell and I had a blast together ’cause I’d been raised so much like a boy by my father that I didn’t mind getting muddy in the yard or trying to catch crawfish with my bare hands in the ditch at the end of the road and I watched all of the TV shows that the rest of the guys liked.  I fit right in.  Heck, my babysitter figured I “fit-in” well enough that I do have the memory of bath time at her house one night.

Her husband and sons worked at the local grain elevator.  They came home and got cleaned-up from their long, dirty day at work and went to eat dinner.  I didn’t know that they were used to the old country ways of when you had to bring water in for a bath by hand and everyone shared it.  She got Russell and me into the bathroom and stripped-off our clothes and plopped us into the large claw-foot bathtub that had just been used by I don’t remember how many stinky, oily, dirty grown men.  I just remember the water was so dark I couldn’t see anything of myself under it and there was a film of some sort that carried small curly hairs past my face.  She reminded us that we needed to use plenty of soap to keep the other dirt off of us so we’d be clean.  This was one of my first introductions to lye soap.  It doesn’t suds-up like soap we use today does, so I kept rubbing and rubbing it on me thinking it was never going to clean anything.  Then she scooped each of us out of the murky broth (remember, we’re both in the tub together), dried us off, gave us our pajamas we’d brought with us, and finished it all up with a healthy dose of NyQuil.  Yup, back when it had a high enough alcohol content to knock you on your butt.  We’d already had dinner and she wanted to make sure we went to bed.  I was basically an alcoholic at age 4 from all the times I stayed at her house.

My biological father helped Russell’s dad build an addition onto their house.  For some reason, my dad had gotten into the building craze and was making shelves and cabinets and anything else he could think of with power tools that I longed to use.  I’d go out into the garage and look at the tools and ask to help and he’d occasionally give me a hammer or a screwdriver to “pretend” to fix something.  Heck, I knew in my young mind that I was doing better than he was ’cause every time my mother would ask him to fix something he’d end up breaking it or trying to screw-in all the attachments with a butter knife.  Now that I’m older I realize that this is a specific “Dad Phenomenon” that all males have.  They don’t want to do the “honey-do” lists and figure if they screw up whatever they’ve been asked to do enough that the wife will decide to never ask him to do it again and will hire someone else to take care of it.  Yup, even before Kindergarten I’d already learned how guys worked.

Anyway, when the guys were building the addition onto the house, Russell and I would play outside.  By this time he had a younger sister and she and our mothers would sit inside and do something.  I don’t know what it was because I didn’t want to be stuck inside.  Russell and I would chase each other around the house and up-and-down the street because this was back when you could play in the street and traffic watched-out for children.  It was also the time when neighbors watched-out for kids as well and if you did something wrong they had every right to punish you just as your parents would and then tell your parents about it which usually got you punished again.  Plus, our babysitter with the claw-foot tub lived just diagonally across the street from Russell’s house, so everyone knew we’d be safe.

I remember hearing adult voices telling me to not run in the construction area a thousand times but it was still fun.  There were the studs for the walls to weave ourselves through and unfinished stairs that we’d climb and jump off the top before being scolded again.  Finally, it happened.  The klutz gene in me decided to show up and I tripped on a piece of wood.  That wasn’t too bad ’cause the floor had already been laid and the concrete and I were already good friends.  What sucked was the small board with the very large nail sticking out of it that just happened to be in my landing zone.  This large framing nail went into my left calf and somehow didn’t hit either of the bones in my leg.  But I bled like a stuck pig; my mother screamed that I was going to die of tetanus;  and my father carried me to the bathroom with the board still nailed to my leg before pulling it out.  Someone was on the phone to the doctor to ask what to do about it and I remember the evil bottle of Mercurochrome was brought out to be poured into the large hole.  Of course, I did the screaming-jumping-whining dance of any kid who’d been assaulted with Mercurochrome and watched my leg become dyed a weird rusty color wherever it ran.  The doctor on the phone told them to just put a bandage on it and it would heal.  It did.  I’ve got a cool round scar there that’s faded with age but because there were no stitches or butterfly band-aids, it’s still the same size as the nail that caused it.  I loved showing it off to guys like an old war wound on the playground.  They’d cringe and I usually won admiration for having the most awesome scar in the group.

As I said before, my parents were teachers.  My dad was my school principal from second grade through eighth grade (with a small respite when I basically had to retake fifth grade — more on that later) at two different school districts and my mother taught 8th grade math and science, so I never had her as a teacher since we’d moved and I’d changed districts before I reached that level.

Okay, so I mentioned “retaking” the fifth grade.  Here’s what happened.  I was very advanced in Kindergarten.  When I went for testing to see which class I’d be placed in, the teachers knew me because my parents habitually loaned me out to their friends who were in the process of getting their Master’s of Education and needed to run tests and show experimental learning styles on a subject.  I was free labor (well, they did have to take me to McDonald’s) and was soon also known by most of the graduate-level instructors at the college where everyone was attending.  Someone would pick me up, take me to the college, run their test with me, get their grade, and then take me to McDonald’s for a burger before heading back home.  The college was over an hour away and we didn’t have a McDonald’s in our town, so I thought I was hitting the big time by getting to go there a lot.

Since I’d been tested and had a rabid reading habit of my own that allowed me to devour books in a very short time, I was very advanced for being only 5 years old.  The school even said that if I’d had a better grasp of mathematics that they would have considered having me skip Kindergarten and perhaps even 1st grade because I was already reading on a 3rd grade level.  But, my poor math skills kept me back and I hated the first day of Kindergarten because it was nothing but recess all day.  I was there to learn, by god, and all the playing was SO boring!  And I couldn’t get over the other classmates who would cry and whine and need to be restrained as their parents left each day!  Didn’t they realize that this was where you could learn more and be away from your parents and be who you wanted to be?

Obviously not and no one informed me that it wasn’t proper for me to “be who I wanted to be” because I wanted to get the heck out of there and they made me stay.  My class was divided into groups by abilities and I so vividly remember the first day we had our reading circle.  Everyone was given a copy of the book we were going to learn to read and my teacher sat in the circle with us and read the first sentence very slowly.  “Okay,” I thought, “this is just a warm-up and we’ll be done in no time.”  I started reading the book and was done before the second child to her left had finished reading the sentences assigned to him after the first child had stuttered and stammered her way through her attempt before saying she didn’t know the words.  When they finally got to me, I was ready.  I was going to show these kids how it was done.  The teacher called on me to read the next page and everyone was stunned that she’d ask me to read so much.  I started reading and was almost done with it when I realized that she was trying to stop me.  I hadn’t made any mistakes and was very confused.  “You need to slow down,” she said.  “Not everyone else can read like you can and they need to hear the words.  You’re going too fast.”

What?  I remember thinking that if they couldn’t read as fast as I could then they needed to be in another group or another class.  And I remember my teacher (another friend of my parents) talking to my mother and explaining that I needed to slow down and that it wasn’t anything I’d done wrong but that she needed to help me understand that I was going to have to help “teach” the others to read.

Looking back, I wonder if that’s where my desires to teach and control started.  At the age of 5, I was being told to “teach” others which meant I had a certain “power” over them.  It didn’t help when almost halfway through the year the teacher’s aide we had that did our language and spelling “classes” was arrested and we didn’t have anyone to grade our workbooks.  My teacher said that since I knew how to read and had already completed my book on my own that I could grade the other students’ books.  Yup, I “taught” language and spelling in Kindergarten.  How cool is that?

Okay….my fingers hurt, I’ve been typing for over 2 hours straight, and I’ve got the voices in my head screaming at me that I’m going WAY off topic.  What topic?  It’s supposed to be about me and this is about me.  They have other issues and topics they want brought up and put on paper.  I can’t do it at the moment.  I’m exhausted; I’m making way too many typos to suit myself (told ya’ the OCD-block wouldn’t work) and I’ve got to stop for a while.  I’ll try to pick it up again tomorrow.  Probably after my therapist appointment — that always is a good trigger for me.

Now I’m going to try to shut the voices up with some inane television and something to drink (non-alcoholic).  Maybe this running commentary will be good for me to be able to see how my mind is working and organizes things.  And maybe I’m just full of crap and want to feel self-important again.

Can we stop with the Titanic stuff now?

Yes, yes, yes….I know it’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  I would have known that without all of the televised fanfare and the re-release of James Cameron’s movie in 3D.  You know how I would have known that?  Because I read!  Because I studied in history class!  Because my life isn’t so shallow that I only believe things shown to me on Twitter or Facebook as so many people over the past week have shown in their posts that they didn’t know the movie “Titanic” (1997) was based on an actual historical event!

And I make sure to put the year 1997 behind the title of the movie because, yes, there is more than one movie named “Titanic.”  In 1943 the Third Reich attempted to make a propaganda film espousing the positive reasons to invade Britain by using the Titanic disaster as the backstory.  “Titanic” (1943) showed Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, as an evil capitalist and all of the British as greedy while a lone German crew member who seemed to know that something bad was going to happen tried to warn everyone but was ignored.  This German officer was later the hero of the movie — even though “Titanic” (1943) never played in Germany until the 1950s.  It was deemed too controversial because of the passengers in Second and Third Class areas trying to scramble for safety and being locked-out or denied passage was too reminiscent of the Holocaust.  With Germany beginning to lose the war, no one in the Third Reich wanted anyone to recognize similar goings-on happening in Germany and other occupied areas where concentration camps were in operation.  A lot of that type of footage was removed before the movie ever played in Germany.

But “Titanic” (1943) wasn’t completely lost to history.  There were many scenes of the ship and people running to the lifeboats that came from “Titanic” (1943) and were used in “A Night to Remember” (1958).  “A Night to Remember” was considered one of the most accurate depictions of the sinking of the Titanic because a lot of the information used to write the movie came from interviews with survivors in the book by the same name.  It was the most accurate at that time because it did not show the Titanic breaking apart because no one had ever confirmed it and there were different memories of what exactly happened that night.

Not until Robert Ballard discovered the RMS Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985 was it confirmed that the ship had broken apart before it sank.  After his discovery, more movies were made.  “Titanica” (1995), narrated by Leonard Nimoy, was shown in IMAX theatres.  “Titanic” (1996), a two-part miniseries, was made for television and got a lot of facts wrong but somehow still pulled out an Emmy win.

Finally in 1997 the world was “graced” (and I use that term sarcastically here) with James Cameron’s version which was fictional but based on historical fact and recent discovery.  Even now he has said that there are parts he got wrong but he’s not going back to fix them all because “when would you know where to stop?”  And Celine Dion’s song and chest-thumping visage on every awards show and commercial hawking “authentic Titanic reproductions” became embedded in everyone’s subconscious.  And I do apologize to all of my readers who are now tortured with it running through their heads at the moment — I feel your pain ’cause it’s stuck in mine, too.

By the way, those “authentic Titanic reproductions” were usually of the blue diamond necklace Rose (not a real person on the RMS Titanic) wore while in the nude being sketched by Jack (another non-real person on the RMS Titanic).  The necklace never existed.  Actually, there is historical reference to a blue sapphire necklace similar to the one depicted in the movie, but it would have only been an inspiration for the one in the movie.  And, sadly, I’ve been seeing more and more replicas of the necklace, the gemstone, etc. being advertised late at night in “honor” of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The latest incantation of the story is “Titanic” (2012) and is a four-part television drama based on the sinking.  As if we needed another re-telling of the story.

And movies weren’t the only things created about the RMS Titanic!  Even if you don’t count all of the books and memoirs written or related by survivors and their relatives, along with historical accounts and fictional dramatizations, there’s still tons of stuff out there!  In 1997 there was a Broadway musical about the sinking — and it WON five Tony Awards!!

So, now that you’ve had your history lesson for today, can we please stop all the hoopla?

Don’t get me wrong, though.  It was an important event in history.  Seafaring changed forever after the RMS Titanic sank and the International Ice Patrol was created from this disaster.  Also, there now has to be 24-hour monitoring of communications channels, something that had the Marconi operators on the Californian not gone to bed, they would have received the Titanic’s distress signal and been able to render assistance.  And there are many who spent the last moments of their lives doing their jobs in the belly of the ship in order to keep it level and keep the lights on in order to help others escape, even though they knew they would be no way out for them.

Yes, remember and honor the memories of those who perished, etc., etc., etc.  But now that the official time and date of the sinking 100 years ago has passed, can I please stop being bashed about the head with shows, movies, posts, and documentaries about it all?  Just for a little while??

Am-Dram: Junior Edition — Ad-libbing Addiction

The second production of The Borrowers is over and the kids did very well tonight.  The crowd wasn’t as large and there were the rude ones who wanted to talk all through the performance, but the actors and crew did a great job of keeping everything going as smoothly as they could.

Youngest Son, however, did get a talking-to on the way home.  He did a really good job and is one of the few actors who doesn’t have a microphone but you can hear him throughout the theatre.  Sadly, he’s got too much of Husband and me in him.  We both get bored easily when things are too easy and we both have a very dark and dry sense of humor.  That being said, Youngest Son almost doesn’t stand a chance.  He has friends at school and hangs out with some as much as possible.  Most of them are in band and/or theatre as well.  But he is known for being annoying.  I even saw a post on his Facebook page that said she thought he was nice but that he’s too annoying and too much of a smart aleck in band class.  And some teachers report that he can be irritating in class when he gets bored.  I tell them to keep him busy and they won’t have a problem with it but they never listen to me.

One bad habit he’s picked up is ad-libbing when something isn’t working right.  He doesn’t go way off on a tangent that isn’t related to what’s going on, but he’s quick with a response or, especially onstage, ready to grab the spotlight until whatever is causing the problem can be remedied.  For example, in class one day his teacher was upset at the amount of noise the students were making.  She asked, “Why do I hear talking?” and Youngest Son, without missing a beat, said, “Because you have ears!”  (For the record, he didn’t get in trouble for that — just told to “shut up.”)  During the performance tonight, I could see the wheels of his mind turning when one character skipped a section in which Youngest Son was supposed to exit the stage.  He stayed out there trying to look like he belonged in the scene until he finally heard a pause long enough for him to yell, “Yes!  I’ll be running away, and with this wooden spoon I don’t know where it came from!” as he grabbed a prop another actor had dropped and made his way off the stage.

During a scene change, he and another actor were bringing out one of those wooden cable spools that they decorated to look like a spool of thread.  The other boy started arguing over which side went up when, a little to loudly, Youngest Son said, “It really doesn’t matter what side goes up!  No one can tell.  Now make yourself useful,” as he handed the boy a basket to put onstage.  I was embarrassed.  Husband was laughing himself silly.  The audience thought it was funny, too.  Great.  That’s all he needs — positive reinforcement from total strangers.

At least last night and tonight another actor made his entrance on-time.  Youngest Son told me that if he’d have had to wait a while he was trying to think of something to do to fill the quiet space and all he could think of was reciting Eddie Izzard’s “Bees and Wasps” bit from his stand-up act.  I told husband this and he, of course, laughed hysterically as he imagined our 13-year-old onstage reciting a monologue asking questions like, “Do earwigs make chutney?  Do spiders make gravy?”  And, yes, in a way I’m glad he was thinking of something to do — but this is a kid who once he gets started has a hard time stopping.  He loves the limelight and isn’t afraid of too much when trying to get it.

So, I can’t say that all of this comes as a surprise, but after the ad-lib last night and the continuation tonight, I’m almost afraid of what will happen tomorrow night on their last performance.

Almost….but I’m still going to watch.

Am-Dram: Junior Edition — Opening Night

Youngest Son is performing this weekend in his junior high’s production of The Borrowers.  He and most of his friends are all in the show and tonight was opening night.  One of the actors had been sick during the day and missed school.  School policy says that if you don’t show up to school, you can’t participate in any after-school activities (games, dances, performances, etc.).  Poor guy wasn’t feeling too great when I saw him this evening and another actor took over the part.  He had to come out with the script in his hands because he didn’t know the lines but did a really good job as a last-minute stand-in.

I was asked by the drama teacher/director to do some old-age makeup on one of the girls so that she’d look like the mean old lady she’s supposed to play.  I agreed (in exchange for free tickets) and enjoyed showing the kids how I could take one of their friends from a fresh-faced young lady and make her look old and grouchy.  I wasn’t as pleased with the makeup once I got out into the audience and I discussed with the director about changing it and making it more noticeable for the last two nights.  She agreed and I’m looking forward to seeing the look on her face tomorrow night when she’s made-up.  She was shocked tonight — so tomorrow could be horrifying for her.  But, I made sure to give her a good pep talk before the show because she was so nervous.  She’d played the Genie in last semester’s production of Aladdin and was worried she’d set the bar too high for herself since this is a drama and not a musical.  I told her not to worry and to remember that the audience may have read the book or seen the movies but they don’t know the lines for the play.  All she’d have to remember is to get out there and have fun with her part and she’d be just fine.

And she was.  Actually, they all were.  Oh sure, there were forgotten lines and cues and props that went missing.  That happens in any show.  What I was worried about was Youngest Son.  He has a habit of ad-libbing when something’s not quite right or if he sees something wrong.  Did he do it tonight?  You betcha he did!

It was funny that Husband, one of the other actor’s father, and the junior high assistant principal were there for the performance tonight.  They were all major characters in our recent Am-Dram production of Arsenic and Old Lace.  When one of the Borrowers suggested reviving Mr. Clock with some elderberry wine, we all thought it was kind of ironic since that’s what killed the 12 men in the cellar in our play.  I was praying that Youngest Son wouldn’t say something like, “No!  Not that!  It’s from the Brewsters’ house!” and, fortunately, he didn’t.  But, when the Borrowers left a “sugar cube” onstage during the scene change to Youngest Son’s scene, I could hear Husband laughing because we both knew he’d never let it just sit there.

And he didn’t.  Youngest Son is playing Gypsy Boy, a Romanie Traveller, and is decked-out in a horribly mis-matched outfit which is perfect for his character.  Mid-scene, he walks over to his “caravan” to get a boot and stops to pick up the “sugar cube” asking, “‘Ow the ‘eck did this get out ‘ere?”  After going to get the boot and not finding it, he comes back out and says, “Well, there’s supposed to be a boot but I canna’ find it and it’s supposed to be in me caravan but it’s not so why don’ ya’ sit down an’ I’ll tell ya’ about it?”  I heard from him after the show that some of the kids were thinking about throwing the boot over the set and hitting him with it.  I’m glad they didn’t — it would have just made him improv even more.  Fortunately, the other actor onstage remembered his lines and kept the scene going so that Youngest Son could recite all of his lines and didn’t have to ad-lib anymore.

It was a little rough in places, but all-in-all the kids did a great job.  Looking forward to seeing what happens tomorrow night!

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