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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Let The Drummer Drum

Let's get something straight. I am not a trouble maker. I am a trouble finder. Big difference. Other people usually make the trouble. I just deal with it. It's a big responsibility, but hey, we all have our crosses to bear.

And I'm just a teeny little bit crazy when it comes to Salt and Pepper. That is if you define crazy as being absolutely certain that I, above anyone else in the Universe, knows what is best for my kids. Follow my logic here. First, I don't as a general statement like children. I'm not a hater, but you will never find me in line at the Stepford Target telling a stranger how cute their kid is. Duh. Because they are not. And I don't talk to strangers. And I don't say things I don't mean. Second, Salt and Pepper are mine. By mine, I mean they were entrusted to me by the Universe to love, nurture, support, encourage, and make sure they don't grow up to be Republicans. So... If the Universe in all it's wisdom gave me responsibility for two other souls, then it naturally follows that it must have determined that I have some sort of of special and unique knowledge when it comes to their welfare. In short, I'm a kick ass mom.

So, when earlier this week I received an email from one of Salt's teachers talking about an "apathy epidemic" in her classroom, I recognized that my trouble finding super power had once again located a problem. And by problem, I mean a girls' basketball coach that moonlights as a ninth grade English teacher - and one who has descended upon Stepford's High School Number Two from wait for it... Louisiana. Yep, you read that right. An English teacher from Louisiana. For the life of me, I can't imagine why I wasn't instantly dazzled by her during the meet the teacher night earlier in the year. Usually, attending a school function after a two (three) martini happy hour makes me much more open to individuals of lesser intelligence. Alas, I liked all the teachers I met that night. Even the incessantly perky Madame French Teacher compelled me to encourage Salt to join the French Club. (By the way, this suggestion was met with some sort of impressive, if not inappropriate, French profanity that I later read on his Twitter feed.) I also fell in love with Ms. Rhodes Scholar PreAp Biology. If I had been blessed with a science teacher like her, I'm fairly certain I would have bagged a Nobel prize by now. But, I digress. Back to Ms. Cajun - unimpressed.

Salt and I even had a conversation about my concerns over Ms. Cajun. I explained to him that since he had decided to not take the PreAp English track, the natural consequence would be that he would not have access to the best English teachers. We had been all through this before when selecting his classes for this year, but after seeing my cautionary tale in the flesh, I felt a need to rehash. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he knew what he was dealing with and was up to the challenge. Turns out it was I who was not up for it.

Do hear that? That's the beat of the drummer to which Salt marches. Salt's drummer? He's different.

Back to Ms. Cajun's email - aka fatal error. The email went to the parents and students of the entire class. And she was angry. And self righteously indignant. And offended at the lack of effort being put forth by her students. And I could have handled (ignored) all of that. It was her genuine, heartfelt concern over the upcoming Texas standardized test that whipped me into a Principal, Assistant Principal, Counselor, Head of the English Department emailing frenzy.

Yep. My file at the Stepford Independent School District just got a little fatter.

Here's my thing. 1) I don't appreciate Salt being painted with such a broad brush. Salt is gifted, yes. But he also has his challenges. And his challenges are unique and special and maddening and can't really be understood by someone who is viewing him through a limited lens. So, don't judge my kid in general terms. And 2) Salt has received perfect or near perfect scores on every Texas state exam since he began taking them in the third grade. So do your research and realize that while your job may be in jeopardy because the majority of your class may not pass the upcoming exam, it won't be Salt that will have contributed to it.

To Ms. Cajun's credit she did place a phone call to me later in the week. She was uncomfortable. I have that affect on people. And she was surprised. I have no doubt she has never had a parent say to her that they know their child could receive A's instead of C's and that they don't care. It is just that Ms. Cajun's priorities are screwed up. It's not entirely her fault. The public education system doesn't adequately accommodate students like Salt. Our system sees an extraordinarily bright kid and immediately tries to put his multifaceted peg into a square hole. A square hole of multiple PreAp tracks, National Honor Societies, Community Service, and an uber competitive environment meant to get him access to the best universities in the country. And no one ever, just for a minute, stops to ask what is really best for Salt. Or what Salt wants to do with his life. What's his passion? What will make him a decent, responsible, functioning member of society once he is grown. What will make him happy? What makes his drummer drum?

I explained to Ms. Cajun that these questions were mine to ask and help Salt answer. That her job was to relax and let him be. A C won't kill any of us and she need not lose sleep over that upcoming test. Salt won't disappoint.

He never does.

Monday, 14 January 2013


Just to clarify a few things from the last post... Because I'm all about the yin to the yang, the good to the what the bad teaches, the light that chases the darkness, the universal boomerang of karma.

I am well.

I cannot tell you how much your kind response to my return means to me, because sometimes even I don't have words. I do want you to know, however, that while things have changed and I have changed, I wouldn't change anything about the last three years.

Losing my job was the universe's way of telling me I wasn't where I needed to be. It was its not so subtle way of communicating to me that hiding out in yet another gilded cage was a very stupid idea.

The loss of my confidence was a yet another consequence of me trying to fit my square peg into a round hole.

My yellow dog taught me how to accept unconditional love. When his lesson had been taught, he knew his work was done, although I begged him not to go. He knew another yellow dog was waiting. And so it was that I was given an opportunity to teach unconditional love to a dog that needed the lesson as much as I had five years earlier. It turns out I'm a pretty good teacher and he's a pretty good student. I love him so. As differently as I love my children, but with the same equal measure.

And through everything, I've learned...

So, I write. Last time I wrote so that you would read. I still want you to read. But this time, I write for me.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

For Jayne

I have received so much more in my life than I can ever hope to return.  This is especially true when it comes to my children.

Salt will learn to drive this year, has begun one serious vinyl, shoe, and guitar collection, and is the most decent and honest and sarcastic and insightful and amazing human I know.  And funny.  No one makes me laugh in quite the same way.

Pepper will become a teenager this year, has yet to find a sport that isn't made for her, and has the purest, brightest, sweetest, and most generous soul that I've had the privilege to love and have love me back.  And she keeps me honest.  And that is sometimes a very big job.  Okay, always a very big job.

But this post, and resumption of this blog is for Jayne.  To have someone you admire choose to be a part of your life is a wonderful gift.  To have that same person see things in you that you don't see in yourself is a rare thing. A few weeks ago, Jayne commented on one of my Facebook posts. In this post, I was suggesting that the Dems should be able to take the House back in 2014. This goal is one that Jayne shares, but instead of just "liking" my status, she did something that caught me off guard. She had the audacity to suggest that my voice, my written words, were important in achieving this goal.

Wow. Really?

I began to reconsider my decision that I was too busy to write, that I needed to be careful about laying my innermost thoughts bare on the web, that my writing wasn't important to anyone other than my own ego. I discovered that somewhere along the path during the last three years, I had lost my footing. Actually, more than my footing. I lost my job, then I lost my confidence during the next job that I took. Then I lost my my yellow dog. That was so painful that I thought for just a bit, I would lose my mind. Instead, I lost my marriage. That's not quite right. I didn't lose it. I let go of the thread that was holding it together and it unravelled. Quickly, predictably, and as orderly as the unravelling of a crochet chain when you pull on it with gentle, yet firm, pressure.

So, it's 2013. I'm the embodiment of the Stepord Trifecta of Shame. A Democrat, a working mom, and every Stepford Wife's worst fear - no one's wife at all.

And, I'm back.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Wisdom of a Child

Young Soul - Pictured Left

Very Old Soul - Pictured Right

I will sometimes say, to a certain type of person, that I don't yet know where my son was for the millennia before he arrived in my life, but I'm certain his soul has lived a long and textured existence.

But that is my next post....

Today's post is about my daughter.  This child possesses a purity I did not know existed in the universe prior to her arrival.  I really believe her spirit will be as joyful and exuberant at 100 as it is at 10.  She is one of those rare individuals that is pure light.  She brightens any physical space she chooses to occupy.  I am a very fortunate mom that I have the privilege to share her life.  I'm not sure what karmic favor is being repaid to me, but I'm more than willing to take it.

When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot two weeks ago, it was an event of much distress and discussion in my household.  And as I always try to do with the darkness that intrudes into our lives, I shared the facts of the assassination attempt with my children and explored what we could learn from it.

My daughter reacted to Giffords' shooting with sadness.  This was not surprising to me.  She is a compassionate and empathic soul.  She seemed confused about my son's initial focus on the perpetrator of the crime.  Her single focus was on Giffords' survival.

However, when the news of nine year old Christina Green's death was reported on the news, my daughter's eyes flashed with anger.  And she had some questions that demanded answers.

Questions for which I did not have answers. 

Questions for which our Nation does not have answers.

Later that afternoon, my daughter descended the stairs from her room with a single piece of paper in her hand.  She handed it to me and asked if I would please mail it to President Obama.  While the letter is simple and innocent in her understanding of the large and looming issues that surround the Tuscon shootings, she was able to get right at the heart of the matter in a way that only a child can.

Here is her letter, written in her dyslexic font, straight from her heart and unedited by me with the exception of her name and school.  I hope you find it as powerful as I.

Dear President Obeama,

I know how we can stop all these people who do things like what happened to the congress lady and the man who worked for her.  Well the man who worked for her was killed.  The congress lady almost lost her life.  This is what we can bo.  Stop selling guns!  People who go hunting can go to a place were there guns are and pick them up.  They would have to bring there ID to pick them up too.  But before that you will have to go to each house and take ther gun.  Now, bon't think I forgot to say we only give the gun to the army.  The reson why I sent you a letter is it is hard to kill someone with a knif.  Someone like me a little girl who just wants to see who her parents vote for.

Pepper G Stevens            
age 10 4th grade at          
Stepford Elementary         
School NT, Stepford          


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Light in the Darkness


I know.  It's January and the last time I posted was July.  I suck.  More about that later.

Today, we had a national tragedy.  Good people lost their lives.  At this very hour more good people lay in a Tucson hospital and fight to live to see another sunrise. 

An innocent nine year old girl, only months younger than my very own daughter, was murdered... gunned down in an ordinary supermarket parking lot.  What twist of fate brought her to her death today?  Just as my own daughter is a member of the student council at her school, so this child was recently elected to represent her peers.  A neighbor invited the girl to attend Gabrielle Giffords' event.  A kind gesture so that the budding public servant could meet a real life one.  I've always been disturbed by how it is the ordinary things that so often make the difference between living and dying.

As shocking as today's events were, sadly they were not surprising. 

You heard me.


My only surprise is that I have not written this post earlier.

After an ordinary Saturday shuttling my daughter to basketball and soccer, I arrived back home and sat down at my computer to knock out some work.  The yahoo home page's headline about the Tucson shooting caught my eye.  It said something to the effect of "Arizona Congresswoman Shot".

I didn't click the link.

Instead, I immediately got up from the computer and walked to the television.  On the way to the remote control, I knew the Congresswoman would be a Democrat.  I knew she would have recently defeated a Tea Party candidate.

I was right.

I don't know much right now about the gunman other than he was young and well armed.  Oh sure, they'll describe him as a loner and as disturbed.  They'll say he has no Tea Party or Republican Party affiliation.  All of these things, I'm sure, will in actual fact, be true.

But there is a bigger truth here.

A truth that was written by my friends Pam and Daniel many months ago.  A truth that was written and spoken by many ordinary and famous people who saw the vitriolic rhetoric of the right wing for what it is - irresponsible and dangerous rabble rousing.

The demagogues that are Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, et al. have blood on their hands tonight.  The far right wing may not have planned this tragedy, provided the gun to the shooter, or pulled the trigger.  They didn't have to.  All they had to do was send their hate out to the universe, over and over again, day after day.  Eventually, someone took up the call.

The irony that Fox News is covering this tragedy without interruption sickens me.

So tonight my friends, I apologize for my absence.  And I ask you to believe in the words I wrote just a little over a year ago.  Words that I did not live by in 2010.  But words that have renewed meaning and inspiration to me tonight.  Words I aspire to in 2011.

I believe in the power of a singular voice.
I believe a singular voice, when properly focused, can change a heart, a mind, and a community.
I believe a singular voice can turn into a collective one.
And I believe there has never been any positive change in the world that was not initiated first by a singular voice and then by a collective one.

Sadly, we saw today that the reverse of this is also true. 

Only light can kill the darkness.

If you have a voice, please let it shine.


Sunday, 4 July 2010

We Mutually Pledge to Each Other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor

Is it just me or does anyone else feel like a certain faux political party has hijacked Thomas Jefferson?

Everywhere I turn I see Jefferson quotes that have been twisted and taken grossly out of context.

Soooo, in an effort to provide a community service to those who have not taken the time to read, much less comprehend, the Declaration of Independence, I thought today of all days would be a good day for a refresher.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Happy Independence Day,