Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Get to Work!

I've decided to go back to work.

Not there, sickos. Here:

Check out this video: Gap Girls SNL

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Once upon a time, I was a GAP girl. It was my full-time job before I quit work to go back to school. I was a manager and I actually enjoyed it but it wasn't exactly fulfilling and I certainly didn't feel that retail hours (nights, weekends, holidays) were condusive to raising a family.

Recently, I decided to get a part-time job. The money I receive from my ex and financial aid is enough to pay my bills and not much else. I hate not having "extra" money and I miss interacting with other adults. Lucky for me, one of the girls that was an associate when I was there is now a manager and hired me back. It's weird to have a job after all these years off.

I thought I'd share with you a couple of things I would have bought for Christmas presents if I had spare cash.

For my best friend, I'd buy a couple of cases of this:

Then, she could hand it out to patients as gag gifts, secretly hoping a handful will use it.

For my kids:

Because kids love explosions and sparkly things!

For my boyfriend:

So people know he has a girlfriend. He could take her everywhere! He could strap her into his car. I always try to take pictures when I see a blow up doll in the passenger seat in a parking lot, but the glare of the windshield always ruins it.

For my sister:

Because they come in handy for ridding oneself of baby daddys.

Finally, for my blog readers:

A subscription to a good old-fashioned magazine. I promise, you'd learn more there than you ever will here.

What am I most excited for? I love processing shipment. Strange, but I really like to feel productive. One time, when I was opening boxes, I found one of these:

He was in a box from Sri Lanka. He was sealed between 2 pieces of plastic, as though he had been ironed in. It was disgusting and it smelled like ass.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've Got Mad Moralz, People!

I picked up Lord of the Flies a bit ago because I won a complete unit on it at a literature conference and I thought it might be cool to read it and go through the unit as if I were one of my future middle school students (I'd prefer to teach high school).  As if doing your own unit is fun.  (It is, by the way.)

I liked the book.  It made me think quite a bit about morality, which is one of my favorite topics.  What follows are some of my thoughts while reading the book and my very non-scientific evaluation.  If you prefer scientific type stuff, here are a couple of blogs on the subject and a recent article you may enjoy:

Time magazine's What Makes Us Moral?
Doctor Jones's Morality is Hard-Wired
Grau Geist's What's Your Morality?

I'm truly fascinated by morality and could probably write a whole series with the questions that occupy my mind on the subject.  For now, I'll just stick to Lord of the Flies.

Most people know that this is about a group of boys that attend a private school and get stranded on an island with no adults.  Naturally, the story would chronicle their struggle to figure out the right thing to do and morality is a huge part of this story. 

I'm going to excerpt from a paragraph.  While questions of morality were already raised, this is where (in the first quarter of the book) I began to notice that morality was going to fall by the wayside.

This occurs after one of the older boys kicks in sandcastles (thinking it quite funny) that a few of the younger boys (about 6 years old) had made and gets sand in one of the small boy's eyes.

"...Percival began to whimper with an eyeful of sand and Maurice hurried away.  In his other life Maurice had received chastisement for filling a younger eye with sand.  Now, though there was no parent to let fall a heavy hand, Maurice still felt the unease of wrongdoing.  At the back of his mind formed the uncertain outlines of an excuse.  He muttered something about a swim and broke into a trot."

I had to pause here because this was very realistic, as was the whole book in spite of its fictional nature.  To me, this demonstrated a need for morality in our lives.  Here, a boy participated in something that his buddies were doing in a brief moment, even finding it to be funny.  The sand in the eye was an unintentional side effect.  He didn't do it on purpose, only it draws his attention to the fact that he did something contrary to what his instincts were telling him was right.  There is no one there for him to report to, nothing to get in trouble over.  Curiously enough, the lack of recognition for morality as it exists on the island brings this particular boy to act quite contrary to his instincts and winds up being nearly the most terrifying force on the island.

While the boys vote for a leader at the beginning, a sensible leader, all rationality and empathy are abandoned at the end and they end up following the one boy who displays sociopathic characteristics.  If not for the arrival of the navy, they would have murdered the first leader (it would have been the third murder)-the only boy left who wouldn't abandon morality.

In his explanation of what he was trying to accomplish, William Goulding says this:

"The moral is that the shape of a society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable."

I can endorse that but for one thing: why do we throw our morality under the tracks in the presence of the immoral?  If the society depends upon the nature of the individual, why did this society allow the one boy who lacked a morality that all of the others shared to dictate what the rest of their days would look like?  Fear?  Resignation? 

When the Navy arrives, all of the boys break down crying.  They are simultaneously relieved and ashamed. A breakdown in their morality will result in nightmares that can never be escaped.  They all know it and they knew it when they broke.

It leads me to universal questions.

If the research linked above is correct and morality is biological (and given our innate sense of empathy, I believe it is), why do we sweep such a grand and noble thing under the rug in times of weakness?  If morality is innate, but for deviants, why doesn't it band us together, as it should, in the face of evil?  Why are we ashamed of our morality?

I was thinking that many of you would argue that you aren't ashamed of your morality and are proud to stand up for what you believe in.  But I'm betting that, particularly in our adolescence, we've all done things we knew we shouldn't because we didn't want to look "uncool".  I'm betting, too, that we've done it at adults even if we don't want to admit it.  I know I have; only, instead of not wanting to appear "uncool," I don't want to appear "holier than thou."

Cheating is the best example I can think of because every single one of us has either (A) Cheated, (B) Been cheated on, or (C) Is intimately acquainted with someone in the former categories.  Most people would agree that cheating is wrong.  Most people who have done it feel very guilty, beginning from the inception of the act itself.  What makes us do it anyway when we know that it's compromising our character and, when cooler heads prevail, we'd argue against it?  I've heard women speak in absolutes on the subject.  "All cheaters are scumbags!" or something of the sort even though their best friend has done it.  What allows us to use our morality to pass judgement on others, assuming it automatically excludes those we care about?

If the boys on the island had discovered their morality as a unifying thread instead of something to be ashamed of, they wouldn't have been standing there devastated by the reality of their actions when they were rescued.  In real life, the same is true of us, no matter how small our compromises. 


Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sanctity of...

I don't have much time, so I'll have to keep this brief (hahahahahahaha!!!). I've really been trying to keep away from here as the end of the quarter is upon me and I'm attempting to put something (school) before MySpace, email, and Spider Solitaire. (P.S. I'm losing the battle to Spider Solitaire. Over and over and over. I only have a 5% win rate on the difficult level.)

Right. To the point.

Grau Geist and I had a little IM chit chat about gay marriage. I'm not going to get into should it be allowed or shouldn't it (yes, as a matter of fact, it should) but about whether or not you think it would be abused. Of course, it's my blog and only my opinion matters, so here you have it:

Marriage pacts. We all know someone who's made one or at least joked around about it. "If neither of us are married by the time we're 35 or 40 or 45, we'll get married." But what percentage of the marraiges (Bill and Hilary don't count) of which you are aware actually came about in this way?

Joe asserts that, were gay marriage to become legal, he'd marry a buddy in a heartbeat. There are tangible benefits to being married, after all.

Guess what? Upon reflection, I think that Joe and people like Joe are mostly full of _____(insert four-letter word here). They may not know it, but they are.

Why? Because most of us, no matter what our experiences, how many times we've been cheated on, or how messy the divorce still believe in love. And most of us still believe in marriage. As it were, we still believe in the sanctity of marriage.

Push come to shove, I honestly don't believe that legalization of gay marriage would lead to a flurry of platonic unions. Just as many people could take advantage of that now with a friend of the opposite sex as could with a friend of the same sex. Yet, not many do. I'm sure it happens, just not in droves.

If I had no prospects right now and my best friend weren't married, I wouldn't (with any sincerity) make a pact with her to marry one another were gay marriage to be legal. I love her fiercely and I'm sure she'd make a good wife. And she's a doctor so I could be a stay at home mom. But I wouldn't do it.

Because, even if it didn't work for me the first time, I'm holding out to do it right.

I suspect the same is true of most, if not all, of you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Note on Electability

What is electability? The ability to get elected, of course!

How do we know which candidates are electable?

You could ask the "average American" who's running for President in '08. You could pay attention to who's getting the most coverage on the news in popular current events magazines. You could pay attention to which candidates A-list celebrities are supporting. You could watch the debates and see which candidates get asked the most questions. And, speaking of debates, who are those other guys standing on stage? The ones who aren't asked every question but seem the most genuine when they are asked?

Those, my friends, are the unelectable.

I usually don't pay attention to those guys. I like to put my eggs in the lesser-of-two-evils basket whenever possible. Why vote for someone who has no chance of being elected?

But, this year, in an early Democratic Party debate, I couldn't help but feel like the little guys were more authentic. Especially the littlest one of all of them. Dennis Kucinich caught my eye.

I started to see him pop up in blogs and in an occasional news piece. Against my better judgement, I began to pay attention.

Up there somewhere, I talked about identifying who's electable. There's really a better way to sort 'em out. The candidates who are electable are those running campaigns with money. Lots of money. Money machines, they are.

This is where I get dismayed.

The electable are already in debt to the same a$$holes who are already running the country behind the scenes. And our country ain't in the best of shape, folks.

Dennis Kucinich is already in debt too. Only his debt is owed to the small percentage of Americans who believe in him. Actually, Kucinich joins John Edwards and Barack Obama as being one of the only three Democratic candidates who have accepted less than $10,000 from PACs. Hillary Clinton has already accepted $750,000 and the primaries haven't even hit yet. Finance info can be found here.

The Kucinich campaign is trying to get Dennis recognized. As such, they've begun a contest of sorts on MySpace to have users get creative and make Dennis their profile pic. Since I'm broke and all I could do was buy a bumper sticker, I have upped the ante. Not only has Dennis been my number one friend for a few weeks and I have him linked at the top of my blog, I've now PhotoShopped myself into a picture with Dennis. Maybe I'll win a prize.

Here's the bottom line. Hillary scares me. I don't want my choice to represent an underdog to take a vote away from Barack Obama in the primary but I'm also tired of how people get elected in this country. Yeah, yeah, I'm only one person.

At the end of the day, I may not be Vegan, I may not be attracted to his hot wife, and I may have never seen a UFO, but I've researched and researched and Dennis is my man. Figuratively speaking.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

With a Love Like That, You Know You Should Be Glad

I got home from my first ever trip to Vegas early this evening and thought I'd give you all a report. 

I got married.

Kidding.  That was only there because of all of the "Don't get married or knocked up!" pieces of "advice" I received.  Why is it that these are the things we say when someone is going to Vegas instead of, "Good luck!" or, "I'll cross my fingers that you win big!"?

I'm pretty sure that if you'd been less worried about my marital status and more concerned with my financial situation, we would have won something.  I blame it on MySpace.

Anyway, I'd like to share with you some of the photos I took.






*crickets chirping*






As it happens, I wasn't particularly inspired to take any photos.  I do wish I had been more insistent upon one photo in particular but it would be safe to blame that on my passive nature (instead of on MySpace). 

Why was I not inspired to take touristy photos?  Mostly because I was not all that impressed, folks.  I've seen Vegas in photos and movies and always thought that it would be the kind of place that would bring out the fun in me.  Only it didn't.  For a place with so many different kinds of people walking about, it was void of culture.  Kind of depressing, if you ask me.

Oh.  And there's that whole we-could've-bought-a-plane-ticket-with-all-of-the-money-we've-collectively-wasted thing.  That's depressing, as well.

It was not a waste of time, though.  We did have some fun.  I won't give you an exhaustive list, I just want to talk about the shows.

On Wednesday, we saw Lance Burton, a magician.  That was entertaining; we were in the front row so we got picked on a bit.  Even though we know better than to believe it was magic, we did have the inevitable "How'd he do that?" conversation.

On Thursday, we saw George Carlin.  I fully expected to be ROFLMAO but it was not to be.  Carlin was funny but he's getting older and there were too many jokes focusing on old age that we couldn't entirely relate to.  There was also a conspicuous lack of political satire in his routine.  Something was missing.  It may have been that he was testing out new material for his next HBO special.  We were guinea pigs.

On Friday, we saw Cirque Love.  Oooh, I'll give you a picture yet!

That was my favorite.  I found the interpretations intriguing.  It was basically a Cirque acrobatic show set to Beatles music.  And, of course, it made me think of love. 

At times, the background screens would flash politically charged images, for instance, the KKK.  Not all Beatles songs are peppy, either.  I noticed that, no matter what the tone of the song or what the image on the screens, the dance was hopeful and joyous almost entirely.  That could be lots of things.  It was a couple of things particularly to me.

Music gets us through.  Even when it's not jubilant in nature. 

Music (and the Beatles, consequently) remind us that...well...all you need is love.

So, I listened to the music and watched the art in front of me and I thought about all of the different kinds of love I have in my life.  This was my first Thanksgiving ever away from my family.  I thought of those relationships.  I thought of a very dear friend who, if she wasn't working, was probably very tired and I smiled.  I thought of the unconditional love I have in my children.

I thought of the fingers laced through mine and I clutched tighter.

Cynicism.  I thought of how universally cynical people, myself included, can be in our relationships.  I think that's a blog for another day, this is getting too long, but I really want to avoid that cynicism that does less to protect and more to destroy.  Why?

Because I'm glad.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Law Enforcement/Prejudice/MRI Stew

Today, Lyn posted a blog about a rather disturbing event at an airport in which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tasered a man to death. Read it here. (That was a command, by the way.)

I hate to turn to pop-culture to talk about my thoughts on this but I have an intense love for the show Boston Legal. Chances are none of you have ever seen it and that's fine. I'd love to rant on about the show but at least one of you has already been subjected to such rants so I'll keep it to myself.

It teaches me things. Last week, one of the issues it brought up was in the case of a police officer who shot (8 times) and murdered an unarmed black suspect. As he had two other run-ins (this was the first death) with black suspects, it was determined that the incident was racially motivated and the policeman was charged with second degree murder.

The key evidence? An MRI scan.

Departing Boston Legal and entering real life. Apparently, MRI technology can measure brain activity in specific regions to determine the subject's prejudices. This isn't exactly new technology but the concern raised is whether it should be admissible as evidence.

In the episode of BL, noticeable activity was observed when the police officer was shown images of black people that was nonexistent when he was shown images of any other group.

In a comment on Lyn's blog, I expressed my concern that we issue weapons to people who (one never knows) could be total nutbags. It would be nice to have some way of knowing which officer could wind up being a walking time bomb and which wouldn't.

But the MRI thing scares me. Issues of privacy aside, who doesn't have prejudices? In the case on BL, had the police officer been subject to the MRI prior to employment, would we give him a gun? And how much of the population would we be eliminating from potentially entering law enforcement?

In these MRI studies, people who insisted they weren't racist discovered otherwise. Really, the issue isn't whether someone holds prejudice but whether they'll be able to separate from that when a decision needs to be made. I think everyone can agree on that. However, with such MRIs being allowed as evidence, are we taking away the benefit of doubt on someone's ability to make that separation?

Lyn's story doesn't seem to be related to the man's ethnic group. But it does seem to be related to a group of people who did not have the appropriate measures in place (in this case a translator) to diffuse the situation or prevent it from occurring in the first place. These men acted in a way that rational men never should. Wouldn't it be nice if there was some way to know that before they were issued weapons?

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I was working on my Social Problems homework last night at my favorite place in the whole wide world and I'm very excited because my Social Problems prof is the first I've had that gives us thought-provoking discussion questions, the kind that cause good old-fashioned discussion board fights, the kind where I'm just waiting for that ultra-conservative John Doe's name to pop up as having responded to one of my posts so I can tear him up with my superior spelling and grammar. Let's face it, John Doe, you may be infuriated by the fact that immigrants come here and can't even speak English, but neither can you. So, there.

I digress. (But it felt good.)

One of the questions assigned for this week found a very fascinated Melissa at the other end of the computer. I began doing way more research into the subject than the one paragraph response required. As such, I've selected the topic as my research project for the quarter. I'm going to post the question here and hope to spark some good discussion that will help me directionally with my paper.

Does the widespread availability of drugs (legal and illegal) serve to placate the socio-economically disadvantaged people in our society (especially the unemployed and underemployed) so that they are less likely to threaten social stability? Identify the major sociological perspectives that relate to this issue and how you used this in your analysis.

I've already done the obligatory one paragraph answer to the question and chose to argue from a conflict perspective as I will likely do with my paper. I've never looked at this issue in this way before and given that I was raised in a poor family laden with people with substance abuse problems, it's definitely something I'm excited to explore. Even with that, I think I'm more interested in looking at this as related to legal drugs. This is going to be a fun project for me!

Anyway, I don't need "help" with my paper, I'm all set, really. I'm just interested in your initial reactions to the question. I suspect that this issue may be revisited over the coming weeks as I get further in.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Punishment; or, My Victory Over My Fat Ass

I'm sick and I've no children around; thus, I'm supremely bored. The good thing about my laptop is that I can lie in bed with my electric blanket cranked up to high and blog when I'm sick. I could also read but that would require getting out of the warm bed to go in the living room to get my book and, lets face it, I just got up to grab my laptop, I'm not getting up again. Or, since I already have my laptop, I could do homework. But what fun is that? Blogging is funner (you see, even when I'm sick, I have that characteristic dry English teacher sense of humor).

Let us talk of bad habits. I just had this conversation yesterday and thought it was high time to have it here, as a sort of confession. Allusions have been made but I've never felt comfortable just talking about it.

I'm of the school that our bad habits are punishments we inflict upon ourselves. This is only if you view the habit as bad, not because others tell you it is. If you smoke or drink or hurt yourself or any other thing and you wish you didn't, you are punishing yourself. I'm going to elaborate by talking about mine.

My punishment is food. I don't intend for this to sound funny but it kind of is, upon remembrance. I have always been an over-eater. It didn't catch up with me (I was positively skeletal growing up) until after high school. My first memory of eating inappropriately is when I was in second grade. I was a latchkey kid and when I'd get home, I'd go straight for the silverware drawer and take a spoon into the utility room where my mom stored her off-limits-to-kids tubs of hot cocoa. I would eat spoonfuls of the stuff- I didn't even waste my time adding hot water.

That's the only case, though, where I can trace my eating habits to something that was forbidden. Other than that, food tasted good and I had an endless pit to fill. The vast majority of my life has been spent eating constantly.

I never saw it as a bad habit or came to terms with the fact that food was my "comfort" until I started putting on weight after high school. I recognized that the daily trips through the drive-thru, the general disdain for anything that was healthy, the constant need to be eating was beginning to show on my body. Eating made me feel badly about myself and, at the same time, it was my medication. "I hate that I'm fat, let me go get some fries and dip them in mayo."

For the better part of the past 10 years, I engaged in yo-yo dieting. I'd set a goal, I'd almost reach it, then I'd start eating again. Ice cream if I'm angry, extra butter on my popcorn if I'm happy, second helpings of a fat-laden dinner if I'm sad. It was all interchangeable, it's a bad habit and no matter what I was feeling, I was going to eat in response.

I got a grip on it about a year and a half ago and it really made me start to see bad habits for what they are. No matter how major or minor, it's punishment-plain and simple. Everyone has insecurities they try to mask with whatever they fall back on to feel comfortable. I'd feel down, so I'd go get a Blizzard to feel better. But the only thing that's ever really made me feel better is turning down the Blizzard. The only thing that's ever really given me control is conscious, deliberate action against punishing myself.

Today, I have control of the bad habit and, upon reaching my goal early this year, I've stayed there. It's a struggle every day, just like smoking or drinking. I have to make sure that if I'm taking my kids out for ice cream it's not because I'm depressed. Because, just like that one cigarette (I'm guessing) after several weeks of going smoke-free, if I eat to punish myself just one time, it's a free fall after that (I'll binge) and it is harder to pick myself up every time.

Perhaps I didn't put myself at risk for cancer or fry brain cells. Perhaps when you look at me, you'd never know. But, underneath my clothes, I have a body full of scars that remind me of what I did to myself. For the most part, these scars make me fiercely proud of how strong I am today. Sometimes, they still disgust me, I'm human after all, and they make me want to get in my car and go buy a tub of Ben&Jerry's. I'm not sure it'll ever go away. But, if it weren't for the testing, I'd not have the reminders of how good it feels (beyond the many physical aspects) to lose more than 60 pounds.

I worry sometimes about picking up new forms of punishment. I suspect they're already there and I know what they are and I avoid dealing with them. But I'm so much stronger than I was one year ago or two years ago and I've no doubt that, when the time comes, I'll slay whatever gets in my way.

Enough serious talk. I'm going back to the beginning of this blog. It's only punishment if you acknowledge it as a bad habit and don't like that you succumb to it. This is why Diet Coke is not a bad habit. It makes me feel good. Very, very good. Never bad. Except when I get the headache that is a telltale sign that I've gone without for too long. Diet Coke is not a punishment, it is a reward. For being awesome.

So, if you feel comfortable or just want to sound off, what are your bad habits, insecurities, and, do you think you punish yourself?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Update Rant

I went to Chicago last Friday and came home Monday night.  I've since been trying to catch up on the news, get last minute homework done, spend time with my kiddos.  As such, I haven't been on much and will never catch up on the blogs I missed.  What is it about the word NEW! next to the blog entries I'll never read that scares me so?  I don't have time to read yours and assuming you have time to read mine, here are updates, categorically speaking (it's like an annoying survey!):

Art and Photography:

My children on Halloween

Automotive: I still haven't got the blower in my car fixed.  It's under warranty.  What's my malfunction?

Dreams and the Supernatural:  Nothing to report.

Fashion, Style, and Shopping:  In Chicago, I realized that shopping sucks now just as much as it always has and it is unlikely that I'll ever revise my position on the Dementor-like effect shopping has on me.

Food and Restaurants:  I had Indian, Ethiopian, and Sushi all in one weekend!  I feel like a cow!  Moooo!

Friends:  It was good to see Lori but especially nice to catch up with her on the ride home.  I love having that one friend that, no matter how much time has passed, nothing changes.

Games:  I'm told that I need to learn Blackjack inside and out.  For homework.  My boyfriend is using me to make him rich.

Goals, Plans, Hopes:  WTF are those?

Jobs, Work, Careers: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

Life:  I don't have one.

Movies, TV, Celebrities:  We saw Dan in Real Life while in Chicago.  I recommend it.

Music:  I wish I could play violin.

MySpace:  Distracting me from laundry.

News and Politics:  I increasingly wish that the underdogs were the front runners.  They're better.

Parties and Nightlife:  I had too much to drink on Sunday night.  And the bars were showing sports.  Blech.

Pets and Animals:  I finally remembered to go get the hermit crabs from their weekend babysitter.  Why do people insist upon making "you have crabs" jokes repeatedly?

Podcast:  Um, yeah...

Quiz/Survey:  I'm determined to never read another.  Let's all band together on this.

Religion and Philosophy:  I have yet to find Jesus and he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to find me.

Romance and Relationships:  It made me infinitely happy to see Josh in Chicago and even happier that I only have 3 weeks until I see him again.  Unfortunately, we've nothing lined up beyond that and I find this distressing.  The long stretches in between are, at times, impossible but there's usually a "next time" to look forward to.  I don't eagerly anticipate not having a "next time."  Don't let ancient wisdom rule, parting is just plain sorrowful.   

School, College, Greek:  Two new classes today: Creative Writing and Social Problems.  Creative Writing is a repeat.  Good story.  Once upon a time, I took a class titled "Creative Writing."  I did most of my work, enough to receive a "B" anyway.  Unfortunately, I failed to compile said work into a portfolio to turn in on the last day of class.  My teacher said it would be okay to email it to him after I got home that night.  Then we all went to the bar (teacher too).  Then Treasure had about 20 drinks too many and, in ensuring she didn't hug too many old men at the bar and getting her debilitated butt home, I forgot to email the portfolio.  My teacher tried to reach me all day the next day but, alas, I was not home.  Ultimately, he gave me a "D."  Now I have to do it all over.  Which really sucks because I have to write poetry and fiction, not my strong suits.  Luckily, I have all the crap already done from the last time I took the class!

I don't feel like doing this anymore, so I'm cheating you out of the last four categories.  Get over it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

That Girl's Dope

I know how badly y'all wanted a Bell Biv Devoe refresher.

I'm not confident in the propriety of calling a Hindu goddess "dope" but today we're going to talk a bit about Goddess Durga. 

Meta-cognition is a subject which causes me to frequently furrow my brows in determination, desperately attempting to unpack the closet in search of something that I simply know that I know.  Stores of information are compressed in the closet and, despite all of my pedagogy knowledge (also compressed into the closet, I might add), I hold no clues on what allows me to access something this time but not the next.  Last week, someone in one of my online classes made a comment about Marc Antony that seemed completely false to me.  I penned a sweet (in academic circles, one might prefer "awesome") research paper a couple of years ago on Ancient Roman Literature, basically picking up from where Roman literature ceased consisting of Greek works translated into Latin and began with authors writing histories of Rome and some original poetry, drama, etc.  I "learned" more about Ancient Rome in writing that paper than my textbook ever could have "taught" me.  I knew what my classmate was saying about Marc Antony wasn't right, but I couldn't remember what was right.  It irritated me, as such things always do.

That very day,
Taylor Made Fossils left me a blog comment directing me to this article about how J.K. Rowling was suing organizers of Durga Puja for constructing a large-scale papier mache replica of Hogwarts for the festival.  Hogwarts is copyrighted, you know.  Quite interesting as one of her characters, Parvati Patil, is named for Durga.  In fact, almost all of her characters are named after mythological figures.  Good thing they're not copyrighted.

"I've always wanted to go Durga Puja," says I to...myself. 

*cut to Melissa's WTF face*

I can't explain how I know about Durga Puja.  I'm certain it happened at some point that I was reading something (The Satanic Verses? My "Other World" textbook?) and wanted to know which goddess Durga was.  I was completely dumbfounded at that moment, reading the J.K. Rowling article, that I could remember something from a tiny side project I did (though I don't know when or why I did it) but not from knowledge that I gained after putting countless hours into research that I cared deeply about.  

Nonetheless, you are going to get a brief schooling on Goddess Durga and Durga Puja. 

I'm fascinated by religion.  I've not studied it as thoroughly as I'd like, though I still have plenty of time.  I really only have a surface understanding of various religions.  The thing that draws me to Hinduism are the countless gods and goddesses (there's literally a god for everything) and I find myself mesmerized by artwork depicting them.  Here's Durga:


At this point, all of the great gods I've studied as mythology are just that, myths.  They're impressive stories full of wisdom.  But they're stories.  Hindus still put stock in their gods (there may be other religions that do as well, thusfar my knowledge of religion is quite basic).  Despite my inability to find an ounce of religious faith within myself, I really admire those who believe in something.

Durga.  Durga (mother of the universe) protects mankind from evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, and hatred.  Her 10 arms hold various significant objects, most of which are weapons meant to destroy the forces of evil against which she has infinite power to protect.  I read somewhere that the weapons vary to indicate that not all evil can be destroyed in any one way.  For example, jealously can only be destroyed by ridding oneself of desire, prejudice by knowledge.  Durga is a very "popular" Hindu goddess and is therefore known and worshipped widely enough to have an annual festival in her honor, Durga Puja.

Durga Puja is essentially a celebration of the god Rama invoking Durga in his battle to defeat King Ravana, who had kidnapped Rama's wife.  The festival is held in September or October every year (the time of the battle, I believe) and, while there are specific traditions and offerings which are observed, it's basically one giant carnival and party where people of all faiths are welcome to join in the celebration.  During the festival, it is holiday time.  Daily life is paused and the people do nothing but partake in festivities.  Impressive Pandals (like the one of Hogwarts), which are sort of temporary temples for the festival, are set up specifically for the festival and get rather elaborate.  Each pandal has a stage where Durga is displayed for worship:

While the purpose of the festival is to honor Durga, it has everything one might expect of a good time: food, drink, art, film releases, music, and general extravagance.  Based on my bit of research on the subject, it seems safe to call it the biggest such festival in the world.         

What have you learned today?  Melissa gets really excited when she remembers something other than her name, J.K. Rowling is not rich enough, and you learned a little something about a great Hindu goddess and the debauchery you now want to participate in to celebrate her.

What do you say?  MySpace party in India this time next year?  Ladies, we will look quite lovely in our saris.

Too bad we missed Hogwarts.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hard Times, Teil Zwei

A couple of months ago, I blogged a bit about my "compartments" while reading Hard Times by Charles Dickens. You can read that blog (as if you haven't already) here.

I'm done talking about compartments. Today I'm tying up loose ends.

While I was reading Hard Times (arguably my favorite by Dickens, though that changes with my mood and I've still so far to go with him), a passage really struck me. When I read it, I wanted to share it with someone dear to me right then at that moment, but when I had the chance, the timing was off. I'm very self-conscious and when something is important to me and I want to share it with someone, I get stage fright and I worry that if it doesn't fall the way I envision it, it will, in a sense, knock me down.


Anyway, today especially, I'm hoping to have a captive audience in at least one of you and that sharing this passage will mean something, even though I don't get to read it aloud as I had intended to do a few months ago had I the right timing.

Why does this passage strike me so? I relate to little Miss Jupe here in her exposed innocence, so wise; yet lacking the circumspection to keep it to herself. She has yet to stumble upon how special she is nor has anyone yet to see her for how rare she is. I have always been too perceptive for my own good and, so many times, I wish I could be as oblivious as the next girl. Sometimes wisdom can be a curse and Dickens understands that.

Through Sissy Jupe, Dickens provides commentary on the conventional wisdom of his time that, sadly, still holds. This little portrait of "just the facts" life speaks to me in that it exposes the guilt and fear that can be experienced when introspection doesn't match up with what it's "supposed" to and can leave a person wishing that it were so simple as absorbing without thinking.

Of course, in order for me to adore it so, it must be laced with good ol' Victorian wit.

"Mr. and Mrs. M'Choakumchild never make any mistakes themselves, I suppose, Sissy?"
"O no!" she eagerly returned. "They know everything."
"Tell me some of your mistakes."
"I am almost ashamed," said Sissy, with reluctance. "But to-day, for instance, Mr. M'Choakumchild was explaining to us about Natural Prosperity."
"National, I think it must have been," observed Louisa.
"Yes, it was.--But, isn't it the same?" she timidly asked.
"You had better say, National, as he said so," returned Louisa, with her dry reserve.
"National Prosperity. And he said, Now this schoolroom is a Nation. And in this nation, there are fifty millions of money. Isn't this a prosperous nation? Girl number twenty, isn't this a prosperous nation, and a'n't you in a thriving state?"
"What did you say?" asked Louisa.
"Miss Louisa, I said I didn't know. I thought I couldn't know whether it was a prosperous nation or not, and whether I was in a thriving state or not, unless I knew who had got the money, and whether any of it was mine. But that had nothing to do with it. It was not in the figures at all," said Sissy, wiping her eyes.
"That was a great mistake of yours," observed Louisa.
"Yes, Miss Louisa, I know it was, now. Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me again. And he said, This schoolroom is an immense town, and in it there are a million of inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year. What is your remark on that proportion? And my remark was--for I couldn't think of a better one--that I thought it must be just as hard upon those who were starved, whether the others were a million, or a million million. And that was wrong, too."
"Of course it was."
"Then Mr. M'Choakumchild said he would try me once more. And he said, Here are the Stutterings--"
"Statistics," said Louisa.
"Yes, Miss Louisa--they always remind me of stutterings, and that's another of my mistakes--of accidents upon the sea. And I find (Mr. M'Choakumchild said) that in a given time a hundred thousand persons went to sea on long voyages, and only five hundred of them were drowned or burnt to death. What is the percentage? And I said, Miss;" here Sissy fairly sobbed as confessing with extreme contrition to her greatest error; "I said it was nothing."
"Nothing, Sissy?"
"Nothing, Miss--to the relations and friends of the people who were killed. I shall never learn," said Sissy. (60-61)

Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2004.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Ugliest Word in the English Language

One of my new blog subscriptions The Odradek (primarily because it would appear as though his blogs range typically from one word to one sentence which is precisely the type of subscription I have time for [it would be unfair of me not to note that despite the length, the blogs still manage to say something]) wrote a blog with the title of this one (I'm greedy so I'm not above stealing, I also see nothing wrong with a little pride and lust- those other things will really get you into trouble, though), the body of which consisted of nothing but the word "networking." I commented that I'd lean more toward the word "exercise." Now is the part of Sprockets where we elaborate.

I walk about five miles (sometimes more, but never less, MyFriends, never less) six days a week. I walk briskly enough to get my heart-rate up and estimate that I burn about 300 calories a day through walking. I also eat "right" so it's not a bad deal. Remember this, we shall revisit.

I love walking. But I hate exercise. Exercise of any other form is highly unappealing to me. I never want to exercise. I rarely even feel like taking an hour out of my day to go on my walk but, while I'm doing it, I might as well be Snow White. I'm all happy and chipper and I talk to squirrels. A scarcely known fact: Melissa from Michigan is a squirrel-whisperer. If it weren't for me, they'd never remember where they buried their nuts. I'm just sayin'.

Walking is meditative to me. Other forms of exercise, not so much. I suppose riding my bike wouldn't be so bad if the bike seat didn't violate me in ways I'm uncomfortable discussing here. This is where things become problematic.

While I'm quite happy with my weight and body fat %, I'm quite unhappy with the lack of muscle tone visible on my body. Walking will not help me with that. My body is used to walking and it only helps me to maintain. I'm as toned as I'm going to get from walking. Also, I can't walk all year due to weather conditions beyond my control.

All of this in mind, I recently came (that's what she said) to decide that I should escalate to a jog. Here's how that happened:

I realized that whenever it is necessary for me to cross a street during my walk, I jog across so as not to hold up traffic. It occurred to me on one such hustle that this jogging business wasn't so bad and I should see how long I could jog for. About 10 feet later, It occurred to me that this jogging business was a bummer. Still, I thought that I should try to keep it up and when I go on my walks, I should try to integrate jogging as much as I could handle until the walk becomes strictly a jog. I mean, hey, I've been waxing my legs for almost a year now. It doesn't even hurt anymore.

Sadly, it's not getting any better. The jogging is sapping all of the happy, shiny feelings out of my daily walk. It makes me sweat uncontrollably. It makes me breathe like a smoker. And it makes me laugh (oh, yes, out loud) even though it's not fucking funny. While laughing like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, my lungs get even more angry at me. It's absolutely ridiculous. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves?

Bottom line: I'm done with the jogging. It's really messing with my meditation and squirrel whispering. I think I read a study somewhere that it's impossible to meditate and squirrel whisper while engaging in any activity above a brisk walk. I can't cite it because I don't remember where I saw it.

For now, I'm going to keep walking. During that hour, I will feel like therapy is a waste of money and be completely reconciled with my jiggly ass. I've lived with it this long.

Seacrest, out.

P.S. Wanna know who has a thing for 31 year old sweaty moms with jiggly buns? Mosquitoes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Love My Dead, Gay Son!

That title was wrong but it is one of my favorite movie quotes.

Simply put: there is no way that you will find this little anecdote anywhere near as amusing as I do.  You might as well click out right now.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

It occurred to me as I was putting my son's clothes away after folding laundry this evening that he is very selective about what he wears to bed.  Both kids have a pajama drawer and, in it, a stack of over sized T-shirts that they accumulate from various places.  I'm not bad at keeping up on laundry and they always have clean pajamas in their drawers but seem to prefer the over sized T-shirt.

For whatever reason, Alex's T-shirts are always in disarray when I go to put his pajamas away.  This leads me to believe that he has something against grabbing the T-shirt on top.  Yet, he doesn't wear the same T-shirts over and over, they are always different.

I have some theories about my son's future sexuality and I really don't want to get into that now.  I'm just saying that I am of the opinion that he is aware of whether he wore something recently and is trying to avoid a monotonous bedtime wardrobe.

Observe the pajama drawer after I put clothes away:

The T-shirts are all the way to the right.  I purposefully put the Weezer T-shirt on top.  It was freshly laundered (he just wore it two nights ago).  Alex is a big time mama's boy; he knows how much I love the Weezer T-shirt and always shows it off when he puts it on.  Beneath that, I put the blue skunk shirt my boyfriend's mom bought him in Wyoming.  That shirt was on the bottom of the stack so I knew he hadn't worn it in awhile.

Now observe my son dressed (he always puts on his Cars robe and slippers):

You may notice that he is, indeed, wearing the blue skunk shirt.  NOT mom's favorite Weezer T-shirt which was conveniently located on top of the stack.

Finally, observe the results of his search.  Notice said Weezer T-shirt tossed upside down to the left:

By the time I put clothes away again in 2-3 days, this will be amplified.  I'll have to organize the shirts all over again.  It's a good thing I'm one of those parents that likes to "mess with their minds."  I think I can make this whole pajama business fun for me.

Maybe on Friday, I'll only put shirts in the drawer that he's already worn this week.  Then he'll probably wear normal pajamas.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Today my divorce is official. This is good.

One of my readers was surprised a while back to discover that it was not final at the time. I've referred to myself as divorced and so people assume (as they rationally should) that I was, in fact, divorced.

Many of you know my story, a couple are too new to the preferred list.

We separated over a year ago but were quite separate before that (separate beds for a few years- good times). I tried to prolong the separation and not file for divorce so I could keep my health insurance.

Alas, we filed earlier this year. The six month waiting period was up last month and today was the court date.

Now you can help me celebrate (no, I'm not trying to say divorce is a good thing- but it has definitely improved my life in this case; let it be known that I still believe in marraige) by raising an imaginary wine glass and toasting me. If you're not good with words you can simply go with something like, "To my MyFriend Melissa, who is no longer an adulteress."

Enjoy your day!

Friday, September 28, 2007

MI Government Shutdown

MI lawmakers are working overtime to solve our budget crisis. As the new fiscal year begins on Monday, the legislators have yet to come up with a budget they can agree on (as they do not agree with the one Governor Granholm submitted 8 months ago). Reds fighting blues, reds fighting reds, etc. Now the Governor is ordering a shutdown of all nonessential government operations effective Monday if no resolution is passed by Sunday 11:59. She won't file for an extension (to further work on finding a budget that all can agree on) and spend more money we don't have.

What I really want to talk about is the lottery. In a bulletin posted by one of my friends (a real life friend, even!) it was asserted that the Governor is a hypocrite because she won't sign a budget that has cuts in education funding but her government shutdown would cease lottery sales (money that "funds education"). A math lesson using completely hypothetical low numbers to illustrate how the lottery works:

1) The State sets an education budget. Let's say this budget is $1,000,000. Note: the State sets a budget before having any clue whatever about how much money the lottery will bring in.

2) Lottery funds come in after the budget has been approved. Let's say that the lottery made $500,000. Most people think this is what happens:

$1,000,000 Original budget
+ 500,000 Lottery Sales

This is not what happens. What actually happens is this:

1) $1,000,000 education budget

2) $500,000 lottery sales

$1,000,000 Original budget
+ 500,000 Lottery sales
- 500,000 Pulled back out from original budget
$1,000,000 Back to original budget

Essentially, whatever is made in lottery money only makes it possible for the state to pull out money and redistribute it into the general fund to use where needed. It doesn't matter if the lottery makes $1 or $1,000,000. The state budgets for education first from the general fund and all the lottery does is allow the state to pull money back out.

So, she's not a hypocrite. I'm sure she is, we all are, but not here. That's how lotteries work. They don't help fund education, they help fund whatever the State needs it for. By the way, that's not a Granholm policy. That's the way it's worked in MI under all of the governors and it works that way in other states.

On the subject of the shutdown, I've got to tell you, that woman has balls. Big ones. It's not like, all of a sudden, she didn't get her way and she's going to throw a temper tantrum. This budget stalemate has been going on for 8 months. People suddenly start caring, though, when it's going to inconvenience them. I say that even as it will inconvenience me in two ways, though I'm only sharing one (stolen from NBC's Detroit affiliate):

Monday, September 24, 2007

And the Award for My Favorite Banned Book Goes to...

Hi, folks!  Today I want to draw your attention to the American Library Association's Banned Book Week.  I had planned on writing something up on this but, upon reviewing my blog subscriptions today, I'm not sure I could've said it better than Brad Listi.  Read his blog on the subject here.

I'll only add a little bit.  As a parent, I don't suppose to know what's best for anyone but me.  I can use what I know about myself to make decisions for my children.  I believe children can handle a lot more than most adults give them credit for and when I look at lists of banned books, it actually saddens me to see some of the beauty society tries to shield its children from.  For years, I have spent most of my daughter's nights reading books to her that are above her reading level.  I've read her classics like The Secret Garden, A Christmas Carol, and To Kill A Mockingbird.  I've also read her books just for fun, like the entire Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket.  I will continue this tradition with her (and my son when he's ready) until she won't let me anymore.  But I don't think that will happen because that precious time that I spend with her can't be replicated or replaced by anyone in the world.

I don't know if the books I choose to read with my children are best for all children.  I only know that they are best for us.  I wish the parents who choose to challenge books wouldn't pretend that they know what's best for all children and focus on raising their own, instilling their values the best they can.  

That said, the first link I provided has lists upon lists of books that have been challenged/banned.  I'm sharing with you the 100 most challenged books of 1990-2000.  I've highlighted my favorite, a book I've read three times and hope to read again many more.  Tell me which is your favorite.

One last thought- if naysayers succeeded as fully as they might like and these books were wiped out- where would we be and what would the future of literature look like without them?


  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna
  20. Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vouchers. Aren't They Great?

Today I would like to discuss vouchers. An email exchange with MyFriend CJMichiels as well as previous discussion on my blog and others led me to want to explain what vouchers are and my position regarding this concept.

We can argue 'til the cows come home about how effective public schools are. I don't really want to do that now. While I support the public school system with every fiber of my being, you'll never hear me argue that the system is not broken. I think that, regardless of our varying views on public education, we can all agree that public schools (from school to school, district to district, state to state) are inconsistent. Since we can all agree on that word, "inconsistent" it will be as I discuss further.

So, what are vouchers? The concept of vouchers is simple. Think of Capitalism and apply its concepts to schooling.

Guess what? I'm not here to argue Capitalism either. If you know me, you know that I'm generally a proponent of Capitalism though I do think that, were the government to truly take a "hands-off" approach to the market, we'd all (and by "all" I'm referring to the majority of the people in this country who are in debt up to their eyeballs or who live paycheck to paycheck) be screwed. A blog for another time.

In a voucher system, parents would have the option of saying "no" to their local low-performing school and receive a voucher from the government (money that otherwise would have been granted to aforementioned local school) and have the option of sending their child to a private school. Like in a free market, if parents had a chance to send their child to a higher performing school, the low performing schools would either have to step it up or shut their doors. Low-income families would benefit because they could get their kids out of the ghetto school two blocks over and give their kids a chance at a top-notch education.

Sounds great, doesn't it?! But, wait, there's more!

I'll tell you what. On principle, despite any leanings toward capitalism I may have, I'm am strongly opposed to vouchers. In a free-market schooling system, it's a bit odd that the biggest stakeholders in this whole argument (the children actually attending school) don't get to choose. But wouldn't it be nice if they did!?! Hey, there, all of you little five-year-olds! Today, you get to decide which school you want to go to! Here's a bunch of data, we know you can't read yet so we went ahead and included a slew of graphs and charts in pretty colors! All you have to do is decide which school is the best and then the government will pay for you to go there! What's that you say, Johnny? Your local public school would get $7,000 per pupil but it costs more to attend the private school you've picked out? Boy, you are sharp! Well, we're a bit unsure about how we're going to handle that. Either your parents will have to pay the difference, or the government will have to shell out more money for you than for your neighbor. I wouldn't worry though, if I were you. Clearly, with your mad math skillz, you can get a scholarship for the difference. By the way, your local PTA is looking for a treasurer.

Let's face it. It doesn't work like that. Kids don't get to choose what school they go to, parents choose. In a voucher system, we imply that all parents are capable of making decisions that best suit the future of the world. That ain't true, folks.

Look at the welfare system. I support having a welfare system because, sometimes, good hard-working people genuinely need it. My mom used it as a single mother of three when she was going to nursing school. She's made a great living for herself in the 20 years since she graduated and has more than paid back the assistance she received. I support welfare even more when I think about all of the children it helps to support. If there were no welfare, wouldn't that force people to get off their asses and get a job to feed their family? In some cases. Not all.

I've been around enough to know that there are lotsa lazy losers living on welfare. Some, perhaps many, of these people either don't care or don't know enough about making informed schooling choices on behalf of their children. And should these children have to pay for that? It's not their fault.

So, for those of you who don't have children but pay taxes that support public schooling anyway, this is a real treat for you! Susie, a good kid with nice folks who live in a middle class neighborhood is going to send you a nice thank you card for paying taxes that sent her to a lovely, high-achieving private school. That should make you feel warm and fuzzy. But don't turn your back on Joe, the 7 year old who has to let himself in to his apartment in the projects because his dad split and his mom has to work all day for minimum wage at Wal-Mart. He's using your tax dollars to go to the local public school. For many reasons.

Maybe mom doesn't care. Maybe she does but she doesn't comprehend these vouchers. Maybe she can't afford transportation to the private school. Maybe she comprehends, can arrange transportation, but little Joe just wasn't accepted. After all, the school is private, silly taxpayer. They can admit anyone or refuse anyone they want on any grounds they want. And, as they become so popular for producing such model citizens, they get to up their tuition (supply and demand, anyone?) and turn away more kids than ever! Who do you think is going to get turned away first?

So, Joe comes home to an empty house. He goes to a substandard school and has substandard peers with which he spends all of his time. Alas! In this highly competitive free market education system, where everyone has access to a better school, the cycle continues! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! (I can say that here, because your tax dollars will send these kids to religious schools if their parents choose.)

What else? Hmmm...Private schools are not subject to standardized testing (again, blog for another day), so it's gonna be hard to measure their success over public schools. In a study by the Department of Education as well as statistics of countries that have implemented some form of a voucher system, there really isn't an achievement gap overall. Private schools (subject to inconsistencies as well) and public schools average the same "score." In Milwaukee, a quarter of the students use vouchers yet more of the property tax money goes to the voucher students than the public school students. So, taxpayers, what you're saying is that you're willing to pay more taxes for students to attend private schools. It seems to me that if the public schools had that kind of funding to work with, they might do a tad bit better, too.

That's all I've got for now. I'm probably forgetting something. Bring it on, dissenters, I'm ready to fight! ;)

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Mere Change of Weather?

"It's nothing," returned Mrs. Chick. "It's merely a change of weather. We all must expect change."
-Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son

A new quarter begins officially next week. My family looks out for me. Both my mom and my mother-in-law called a couple of weeks ago to see what I'd need of them in the line of babysitting to help with school. I didn't think much of it; not much at all of the fact that, typically, when I get my school schedule, I call about to make arrangements so that the kids are always in the same place on the same day each week. It helps to have consistency.

And so it was agreed that, though all of my classes are online this quarter, my mom would take them every Sunday night and drop them to school on Monday mornings to give me some guaranteed time to do homework. Todd's mom agreed that, since I don't need her regularly, she would let me know when her days off are and take them one night a week accordingly. Additionally, I agreed to take Treasure's kids on Mondays and her mine on Tuesdays to help each other out with school.

With my children spending a few hours two nights a week with Todd, as well as every other weekend, if I budget my time correctly, I'll have plenty of time to dedicate to school. No excuses. Right?


It hit me today when my mom brought Alex home after dropping Jenna off at school (he doesn't start school until tomorrow). One of my mom's very best friends lost her husband to cancer over the weekend and she was running down times for visitation and such trying to get a feel for when I can go. I told her I could go tomorrow since Todd will have the kids for a couple of hours. Only I remembered that he's on vacation this week and is staying with his girlfriend in Indiana. So I have no help from him this week. I have to find someone else to watch the kids. No problem.

But this week is my sample. He's moving in with her permanently in October. I knew it was coming. I just didn't really entertain how it was going to affect my life. It's going to be much bigger than I expected.

During this time of transition for my children, I have to stifle all possible hints of whatever inconvenience this is to me and ensure that they are well taken care of and know how very much I love them.

He's going to be over 350 miles away. He won't see them on average of three days a week. He'll see them one weekend a month and alternating holidays.

At first, when he announced he was moving, I was gung-ho ready to support him and do everything I could to make sure his kids would see him as much as possible. I grew up without a father; I don't want my kids to grow up without theirs. But that's just not realistic.

Now that it's almost here, not only do I see how it's going to change my life (and bless my family for being proactive in offering support and not waiting for me to call for help), but my kids as well. It's kind of breaking my heart.

He says he's lonely and has become extremely bitter and the only happiness he finds is with his girlfriend. I get that, truly. Still, no matter how much I felt empty without someone, it doesn't compare to how empty I would feel if I didn't have my kids to come home to. If I couldn't watch them sleep. If I couldn't go to the school play and see my daughter nervous on stage. If my son wasn't in the other room building me a trophy made out of Legos.

It hurts. As much as I want them to have their father, I have to remain cognizant that it's he who chose to leave. I'm not judging him, I promise. But I have to remember that it's not my responsibility to ensure that he has his kids on any kind of regular basis. It's truly up to him now to define his relationship with his children. These things happen, it's life.

Unfortunately, not all change is for the better.

(On another note, I've been reading again and I'm determined to finish this book that I started months ago before school reconvenes. Even if it's not as good as its predecessor.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

In Dubious Battle

I've just finished reading "In Dubious Battle" by John Steinbeck. It's been awhile since I've delivered any book reports via blog, it's also been awhile since I've finished a book (for pleasure). I find that my attention span is waning in my old age. It's just like when I try to sleep. There are too many other things racing through my head to take in a book, even if it's one of my favorite authors. I need to get a hold on that.

As is expressed in much of Steinbeck's work, IDB is sympathetic with the working class and income disparity. However, IDB takes this plight a step further than other Steinbeck works I've read and makes a strong political statement. Not that political themes can't be derived from the other things I've read but, in this case, Steinbeck stops just short (only by not actually naming it) of publicly proclaiming his support for the Communist Party of the USA.

Relying on past studies of Steinbeck, I believe that, in reality, he neither supported Communism nor Capitalism. He posited that the worker would be exploited in one way or another under either.

I found something early on to be thought-provoking and, while I think I nearly stumbled upon an answer a couple of times, am not fully satisfied.

(I recognize fully that this book is fiction; however, it is reflective of events happening in the country at the time. Also, no matter how it looks, this is not intended to be a political discussion, I'm not attempting to make any political statements. The political references are only relative to the plot of the book.)

I find myself reflecting on what actually drove the front line "Reds" that were trying to encourage workers to organize and gain Party membership. Most people (though certainly not all) do things for some sort of benefit they will directly derive. In this case, there was certainly no money in it for those who believed that Communism was the way to change. Those who were fighting against Capitalism from the bottom up made no money and lived on favors from sympathizers, essentially. They were in jail frequently for their activities or for vagrancy.

As such, it would seem to me that the protagonists in this book and the "real-life" people they represented were in it for an abstract idea that they believed very strongly in.

Yet, they were trained to influence (manipulate?) to achieve their end. They found groups of workers at their most vulnerable and used it to put their foot in the door. Everything they said and did was very calculated to persuade. If they were truly living for a cause they believed in, why such deceptive techniques to make it happen?

Clearly, these types of techniques are used by anyone trying to gain power or even to keep power.

It's interesting to me, though, that in this case, there would be no personal gain for those working the front lines. Usually, there is some type of visualization of how the future will materialize itself once objectives are attained.

Here, the main characters of the book don't really talk about the future. They have a goal, they become exuberant over every little milestone and, yet, they have a very defeatist attitude in respect to how or when there will be a payoff, be it tangible or not.

What drove them?

It seems to me like the protagonists know less about what they're fighting for and know only that they want to fight against something (and will jump on any vehicle to do it). Perhaps because I'm such an optimist, I don't like that answer. It seems so contrary to what typically drives Steinbeck characters (he who believed that authors who didn't believe in man's potential perfection had no business writing).


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How Did This Happen to Me?!

My daughter is in the fourth grade.

When I was in the fourth grade, my mom was "old."  Let it be known that I am five years older than my mother was when I was in the fourth grade.  My mom was not "cool" when I was in the fourth grade.  No matter how cool I think I am, my daughter likely does not agree.  My mom did not listen to the music I listened to.  Guilty.  Hannah Montana and the High School Musical Soundtrack make me want to bleed out.  My mom teased me about boys.  Oops.  Guilty again.

I have officially become a dorky, old mom.  This morning, while Jenna sat at the dining room table eating Apple Jacks and watching Jimmy Neutron I said (and I quote), "Jenna, if you continue to stare at the TV and not eat your cereal, it's going to get soggy." 

*sharp intake of breath*

It gets worse.  When I was in the fourth grade, the girls really started getting catty and forming new alliances every other day.  Distinctions between who was to be "popular" and not began sharpening.  I began crushing on cute boys.  Anyone remember Joel West? 

I can't believe my firstborn is in the fourth grade.

How did this happen to me?

P.S.  Below, to remind me of the good ol' days when my then three year old daughter knew every lyric to every Weezer song.

*wipes tear*

Monday, September 3, 2007

Shuffle 'n Type

I'm doing this because With No Name told me to. I submit to peer pressure as regularly as possible.

The idea seems to be to tune into your music library of choice, be it on your computer or iPod (or off-brand MP3 player in my case) and discuss the songs that come on, in order. With No Name did 9 songs because it's her favorite number. I'm gonna go with 10 because I simply don't have a favorite number but I do like nice, round numbers.

I have a feeling that there will be a few songs I don't know as Josh loaded up my computer with a bunch of stuff while he was here. I may have to skip those ones. Is that against the rules?

1. Fatboy Slim Push and Shove Okay, Josh did put this song on here but I do know it. I didn't know it was Fatboy Slim until this very moment as he borrows a vocalist (Justin Robertson) that sounds like someone I've heard before. I just don't know who. This song seems to be about that love that conquers all obstacles. Who doesn't love that story? I'm starting to get into electronic music. Who would've thought?

*presses pause and goes off to do a load of laundry*

2. R.E.M. Imitation of Life It's R.E.M., people. What else needs to be said? Something, apparently, or there would be no purpose behind this blog. I was recently asked this, "If Michael Stipe is gay, does that mean this song (song was "Strange Currencies") was written about a guy?" Probably. But it doesn't make a love song by R.E.M. any less effective. Of course, this isn't a love song but you know you wanted me to relay that conversation to you.

How is that load of laundry done already? My work is never done.

3. Goo Goo Dolls Black Balloon Really, why should I be embarrassed that I don't skip Goo Goo Dolls when they come on? Could it be that I teased a bit on The Invisible Man's blog and likened them to Bryan Adams? Perhaps. "Angels fall without you there..." I don't care. I like it. I'm not afraid to publicly admit it. *hides behind laptop*

4. The Tragically Hip The Lonely End of the Rink Y'all know how I feel about The Hip but, I've got to tell you, I don't like this song. *gasp!* I think it's about a goalie. That's all I have to say about that. Except that I will now skip this song.

5. The Tragically Hip Courage Two in a row! A sign! I do like this song. Courage. Indeed. I'm trying to learn to acquire some of that. I wasn't born with it. I'm a natural born sissy. This is good in a few ways. I have patience for miles and I'm very forgiving. These can be fulfilling characteristics, sometimes not I suppose. I think this song is about how courage isn't always a good thing and sometimes bouts with courage may cause us to act rashly. "There's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do." Word.

*off to make a phone call*

6. Coldplay Twisted Logic There is something so soothing about Chris Martin's voice. Most of Coldplay's songs are mellow which makes them a perfect band to listen to while taking a hot bath (Enya is not the answer, my dear) or falling asleep or just being sad. No more typing during this song. Shhh...

7. Buffalo Tom Late at Night Buffalo Tom is my secret. Nobody knows who they are. Except me. And a handful of other people within a 15 mile radius. On one hand, I'd like to keep it that way. On the other, it means I've only seen them live once and that was as an opening act. This is the song that turned me on to them. You remember. That show from the mid-90s My So-Called Life. This was the song that was playing (a) when Jordan Catalano pretended Angela wasn't his girlfriend at the Buffalo Tom concert because he was embarrassed to be seen with her then (b) when Jordan Catalano didn't want to lose Angela and therefore went to her locker and purposefully took her hand so the whole school could see to show her that he wasn't embarrassed anymore. You remember, "I'd do it if I could, I hope you know I would." *dreamy far off gaze*

8. Moby Go I really like Moby. Did you know that Moby is not his real name but was the name of a whale in one of his ancestor's (Herman Melville) great works? It's true. His family nicknamed him as such when he was a baby. I have a boat-load of Moby on my computer and there was no illegal activity on my part in acquiring it!

9. The Pixies Cactus Another sign! This has been my absolute favorite song for several weeks. I was introduced to The Pixies a few months ago and loved them instantly. I can't believe that I had never heard them before. Cactus was the very first song that I listened to by them. It is hands-down the sexiest song on the planet. "Bloody your hands on a cactus tree, wipe them on your dress and send it to me." Mmmmm... I mean, who here is not guilty of not washing a towel or a shirt or a pillowcase (a dress in Monica Lewinsky's case) so you could still smell him/her? I really hope I don't sound like a freak for saying that.

10. Augustana Mayfield This may be one of those young bands that experienced some success on their first album only to never be heard from again. I don't know. I like this album and my son loves this song. He likes to belt out all of the "OOOOH's". Can you blame him?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Where the F*&k Have You Been?!

I've been mysteriously sedate in the blog world. People are beginning to ask questions. Typically eager to share every mundane detail of my normal life, my enthusiasm has been stifled as Life takes over and, with it, spare moments have become nonexistent.

The mundane details (keeping me busy) are as follows:
--Lori's wedding is officially less than two weeks away and as co-maid of honor, I helped Sara to organize the bachelorette party. I wish I could post drafts of my speech for the reception but then she'd read it and she's just not allowed.
--I have my online classes which I can't really use as an excuse for being busy because I've been slacking terribly, particularly over the last two weeks.
--I moved. I took an apartment to save money and I had to downsize. While my family stepped up and got me moved in a matter of hours, the packing and deciding what could go and what had to be disposed of was quite a process. With any luck, the equally draining process of unpacking will be complete by this weekend.

There have been a few other little things along the way but these were among the most consuming. I say "among" because the most consuming has been love. Josh came to visit with his son on the 20th (two days after I moved- can I get some pity, please?) and just left this morning. I wanted everything to be fun and wonderful while he was here so I had to plan our little Michigan vacation before the move and I had to plan my packing and label boxes according to what was most important to have while he was here so that I didn't have to spend what little time we had unpacking. Happily, this foresight paid off for the most part and I didn't have to unpack much while he was here. Unhappily, I found myself rather preoccupied with how quickly today was approaching and knowing I would have to say goodbye again (for now).

More on that in a few.

I hope to have pictures up tonight depicting all that I packed into the Michigan "vacation." We went to Great Wolf Lodge, the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo, Toronto (adults only!), the Renaissance festival, and lots of family meet and greets. The kids had a blast. Adult night (Toronto) did not go according to plan as even I, much to my chagrin, have the occasional female meltdown and managed to destroy "drink your cares away" time. Girls suck.

Anyhow, I have been busy and mostly distracted by my vacation with Josh. Today I find myself alternating between extreme happiness and the brink of tears. I'm happy to feel a way about someone that I didn't think I was capable of. I'm sad that he's twenty hours away. I'm happy that he accepts me as I am and seems to even admire me. I'm sad that, for the first time in eight nights, he won't be there beside me when I crawl into bed.

I will try and stay positive and not focus on the difficulty I face in maintaining a long distance relationship. Instead, I will remind myself that he's only a phone call away and while I may not have his warm body to put my cold feet on at night, I'll still have his voice and his big, beautiful words.

If all else fails, I'll blog.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

On the Disheartening Rates of Illiteracy

Thursday I began three six-week online courses. One of them is a repeat- a class I previously did not successfully complete due to a tendency I have to ignore my online classes when life takes over and I become distracted.

The classes I'm taking are classes I'm excited about because they cover areas I want to be more familiar with. Further, the subjects are quite intimately related and I'm therefore getting a broader perspective than I would have had I taken them individually.

The courses:
*Geography (This is good- if you try to have a discussion about Haiti with me, I'm not going to be able to picture where in the world it is because it's not on the Risk game board. That was hypothetical, by the way. I do actually know where Haiti is. I think.)
*Emerging Nations (I'm excited for this one as it will allow me to explore some of my recent interest from another course in the inequities existing within IGOs. Also, I have been increasingly enthusiastic about literature that has emerged from authors who have experienced life in post-colonial countries and am excited to learn more about how colonialism may have influenced their work. Maybe it will inspire me to finally finish reading The Satanic Verses!)
*International Relations (With all of the shit going on in the world right now, it's high time I took this course. Luckily, I'm taking it alongside the above two and will get so much more out of it.)

Now, I must talk a bit about myself before I make my point. No matter, y'all love hearing about me anyway or you wouldn't be here right now. (wink, wink)

My aunt taught me to read before I even started kindergarten. Since then, I've always cherished books, though we were very poor when I was young and I had very few of my own books until I entered middle school. I wasn't able to start going to the public library by myself until I was in fourth grade so the majority of my reading was done during the school year up until then.

I have always had a knack for grammar, spelling, and anything else English language (unlike other English nerds, however, my second strength lies in math, not history). I can't remember a time in grade school when I didn't take tremendous pride in being the best reader, writer, and *especially* speller amongst my classmates.

That began to fade as I matured and realized that there were many others who met or exceeded my level of "expertise" in the subject. While I evolved to feel less superior, I also came to be more appreciative of the passion I feel for the English language and for literature.

My "to be read" list contains literally hundreds of books and grows constantly. I will never, no matter how long I live, read every book I want to read. This does not deter me. It inspires me.

When I read about Third World countries and the plethora of barriers against which they struggle every single day, I feel a great sense of helplessness.

Most of you are aware of how strongly I feel about fighting the AIDS virus and how the issue captivates my attention in light of the sad living conditions the majority of the world's people live in.

Still, the thing that most makes my eyes well up with tears and pulls at the heart of the person I am is the high rate of illiteracy. It is frightening to me that, in twenty countries, less than half of the population can read. In another twenty, only 50-65 percent can read.

As a teacher in the public school system, the only hope I have of making a decent amount of money is through longevity (staying permanently in the school district into which I'm hired, teachers start at the bottom of the pay scale when they transfer to a new district) and through continued education (Master's and beyond). One district in MI pays their teachers (at the highest "step" on the pay scale) $80K. That, coupled with the excellent benefits teachers receive is respectable. It pleases me to know that I will be a part of a profession that will reward me for continuing my education (something I would be likely to do on my own anyway).

That said, it is disheartening to know that so many children in the world will never have the option of taking a college course over because they just didn't feel like doing it right the first time. Many won't go to school at all because their families need them to work. These children will never know what it's like to find the escape that a book can provide. They'll never have a professional title that affords them the opportunity to make more money to broaden their knowledge while doing something that they love. They don't really have any choices at all.

Someday, when I'm a bit older and my kids have found their way, I believe that I'd gladly give up my earning potential (I'm not materialistic, $80K annually would be quite enough for me to live comfortably) and three months vacation each year for the honor of teaching some of these children how to read.

I'm not sure that anything could make me happier than to give children a taste of the power that comes with possessing the ability to read.