I Forgive You

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If you’ve visited this blog lately, live in my community, or if you follow me on Facebook, you are well aware that we are facing a bit of a difficulty related to our band director.   People in the community have created a website to support him, they’ve written letters, attended meetings and written blog posts; all to no avail. Our elected officials only response is let it go. I made my feelings about our director, school district and kids painfully clear in my last post, but I feel like I need to say a few more things.

 

We live in a world in which people are destroyed instead of reprimanded, a world in which you will lose every single material possession you own if you insult (and the bar for insults has been lowered significantly) the wrong person or hurt the feelings of the wrong person, or disagree with the wrong person. We live in a country where we are taught from birth that if you are wrongly accused of something, you shouldn’t worry, because you can’t be punished if you are in the right. We live in a society where we are told all those beautiful things and more, but basically, they are not true. If the wrong person gets upset with you for any reason, they can and will ever so slightly twist something you’ve done, or take something you’ve said completely out of context and hang you out to dry and there seems to be nothing you can do about it, it’s bullying. We elect politicians from Presidents to school board members who make certain promises about what they will do and how they will behave and then, after they get ensconced in their positions of power, they forget who works for who and they disappoint us; over and over and over.

 

Over the course of the last few weeks, we have been disappointed yet again by people who work for us but have forgotten that. Personal personnel papers were released to the public, but then when the public wants to discuss it, they are told that the matter is confidential and cannot be discussed and should be dropped. People who are responsible for miscarriages of justice are by all reports wringing hands and feeling nervous, but they seem to enjoy the sensation, because they won’t do anything to right the wrong. People who are elected and paid by the people, will not respond to the people they work for. They won’t capitulate because they don’t want the parents to think they can tell them what to do.   That is patently absurd, because they absolutely SHOULD be doing what the parents want them to do. We really ARE the boss of them, but they’ve forgotten that. We don’t work for them.   They work for us. Can you imagine going in to a meeting with YOUR boss and telling him to let his concerns go, that you won’t do what he wants because then he’ll think he can boss you around? Really?

 

I have been in hopes that our school board members would respond positively to input by the parents they work for, but I have been disappointed again. As we are struggling with this issue in our community, reports show a father in another part of the country being hauled out of a school board meeting by a policeman because he went over his two minute limit to speak about a book with a pornographic scene in it that he wanted his 14 year old daughter to have the opportunity to opt out of reading; he wasn’t just hauled out, he was arrested. The police officer is shown in the photographs to be looking at the floor and reportedly said that he didn’t want to do it, but he had to follow orders.   Really? orders from the school board?   Hmmm… where have we heard of that kind of behavior before. Why do we wonder that people are afraid to speak out?

 

I was genuinely in hopes that by then end of this week, I’d be writing a post about how our elected officials listened to us, took a second look at some of the legal issues brought up by supporters of the director, listened to their constituents and did something to right a grievous wrong; alas, they have disappointed me yet again.

 

These are people I voted for, people I trusted to run our huge school district in a fair, competent, HONORABLE manner. I have been disappointed. These are people I depend on to protect the kids and keep their best interests at heart.   I have been disappointed. Our school board should be protecting the people who take on the liability to be in classrooms with hundreds of kids every day.   That is one of the reasons I have stopped subbing, it dawned on me that the personal liability I was taking on each and every day that I went into a classroom alone with thirty plus kids was not worth what I was being paid, and subs don’t have a union to protect them.   It seems that regular classroom teachers don’t get much help from the union either despite the hefty dues they pay.   Disappointment. I truly thought that with a bit of time for reflection, these people that we are supposed to be able to trust with the well being of what is most precious to us, our kids, are more interested in protecting their political selves than they are in doing what is RIGHT for our kids and our teachers.   This incident should send a shiver down the spine of every classroom teacher in the district, and maybe the country. If you anger a parent, if you don’t fill out every single piece of paper you have to fill out, you won’t be merely reprimanded and given the chance to fix it, you will be censured; hard, and in a publicly humiliating fashion, and when that happens, the parents CAN’T help you, and the union apparently WON’T help you. Sooo disappointing.

 

With all of that said, I am going to do for our administrators and board what our school board won’t do for our director. I am going to forgive you. You’ve had the chance to listen to the people who put you where you are, and you’ve chosen to ignore and hide. You’ve had the chance to show our children that if they have legitimate objections to an issue, they can fight for what’s right and win, and you’ve chosen to ignore and hide. You’ve had the chance to admit your mistakes, apologize, make the wrong right, show your strength, take the high road, be the people that we thought you were, but you’ve chosen to ignore and hide and hope and pray that by the time you run for office again, or want more of our money again, we will have forgotten your behavior. You have gone from being our friends and neighbors to being politicians. I forgive you. You’ve taken a wonderful opportunity to remind voters that not all politicians get their jobs and turn into the very thing they vowed to fight. I forgive you. You are afraid. I forgive you. You are bullies. I forgive you. I pray that God will forgive each and every one of you for ruining the reputation of a band program that the kids love, the reputation and legacy of the director that they love, and for attracting such negative attention and energy to our lovely district and community. I wonder how the network people will announce our kids in the Rose Parade in January? Since this “confidential personnel matter” was made public by the person responsible for it, you know that the press will know; I have to wonder if they’ll mention it as our kids march on to the screen. Disappointing.

 

I think that the can of worms you’ve cranked open is much larger and full of worms than you thought.   This isn’t going away. People are not going to forget. At last check, my previous post was viewed by almost 1,700 people. If only half of them agree, and from what I can tell, it’s way more than that, in this community, there are enough disappointed people to change elections, including levy votes.   I know you thought it would die down and go away, but honestly I think people are getting sick of lying down and going away. These are our kids. This is the future of our community and our country. I’m disappointed and sad, but I forgive you.

 

Pretty sure I won’t forget, but I forgive you.

BUT IT’S FOR THE CHIIIILDREN!!!!

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My daughter is in band. She’s been in band since sixth grade and she has loved band all the way through. It has given her a place to exist in the shark tank of high school. Most of her friends are in band, the boys she has dated are in band, the band room has been her home away from home, and the director is her favorite teacher.

A couple of weeks ago, the director was suspended and forced into early retirement next February because of “ethics” charges filed by one parent. I put “ethics” in parenthesis because this is the most UNethical series of events I have ever been witness to, and I watch the news.

I have been wanting to write about this since it happened, but I had to let it percolate for a while because the situation made and continues to make me so angry that if I didn’t take some time, it would’ve come out sounding crazy and disjointed and that is not one of my hallmarks in this world. I realized that it was time a couple of days ago when I woke up one morning to discover that I had been organizing my thoughts in my head while I was asleep. Weird I know, but it’s how I roll. Anyway, these are my true, and honest thoughts, and I plan to disseminate this as far and wide as I can, including sending it to school bureaucrats, so here goes.

ChristopherLydia-065-lbO

Dear School Board, Principal, and other involved persons,

I am writing you today with regard to the recent suspension of our high school band director. I know, I know, you’ve heard all you want to hear; it’s a “personnel issue” and we aren’t supposed to talk about it anymore; blah, blah, blah… Sadly, I don’t really care whether or not you want to hear it, you need to listen, because I have some things to say that I’m pretty sure no one else has said to you because most people are afraid of their own shadows and wouldn’t say sh*t if they had a mouthful. I am not one of those people. This ceased to be a “personnel issue” when what should’ve been private papers between an employee and their employer were made grotesquely public; as a band parent and a taxpayer, when that happened, it became MY issue.

I could go on and on about what a great teacher our director is, but I know you’ve heard it all already. I could tell you how much the majority of kids like/love the director, but you’ve heard that all before. I could point out that the charges are ridiculous, that situations have been ever so slightly twisted to make them into something when they are really nothing, but again, that would be redundant. I could make a case that every teacher, regardless of what they teach or the grade level they teach, tutor students on their own time and get paid for it and if you are going to censure one teacher, you need to get busy and censure everyone else. I could add commentary about band clinics vs. sports clinics, about how the board has a say in everyone who is hired to work with our kids, so there should’ve been no way that they didn’t know who was hired to work with the trombone section during band camp. I could say a lot about ALL of those things, but I don’t think I will, because I’m a fan of original, critical thought and I don’t want to repeat what has already been said. Instead, I’m going off on a completely different path. Money.

I have lived in my home for twelve years as of May 1st. In those twelve years, my property taxes have doubled. Much of that doubling is due to school tax levies. Yeah, yeah, we went a few election cycles without getting one passed, but in the end, they get passed and they are usually whoppers. Not long after we first moved in here, I had to pull my daughter from dance lessons because our taxes went up so much that I could no longer afford lessons for MY kid, due to having to increase funding to the schools. I didn’t like that. Haven’t forgotten it. But in my suburban mom fog, I voted for the damn thing, because well, THE CHILDREN!!

In the twelve years I have lived in my home, I’ve had school busing taken from my kids. The high school decided that learning German, the language of the most powerful country in Europe, was no longer an option, because I suppose, we have a huge population of future priests and doctors in my community who need to learn Latin, but very few aspiring business people for whom the German language might come in handy some day. The art department is in the process of being gutted because well, art. Ewww… Who needs that? Oh right, only the kids who’s entire talent base lies in that direction. Future art school applicants and graduates apparently do not have the right to an education that includes the things they are good at. News flash!! There actually ARE kids who want to go into some form of art for a career. A mom friend of mine actually had to email the principal about an unpaid bill for metals supplies so that MORE supplies could be purchased so the kids could do the projects they needed to do at the end of the year. I’ve seen the giant stadium lights burning during a gushing rainstorm, over CHRISTMAS BREAK, adding to the electric bill, yet we are on the precipice of bankruptcy as a district. When I first started substitute teaching, I filled in for a kindergarten teacher who was leaving for a teaching symposium in Italy. The country. In Europe. I guess they don’t have those things right up the road in say, Columbus. Gotta go to Italy. Our district has built a beautiful new administration building since I moved into my home. I guess that was for the children. Of course it was. I could go on, but I’m certain you get my drift. Take more money, cut out things people need and want because well, the children.

Our band program and our band director have meant everything to my daughter. He has taught her far more important things than how to play a French Horn and roll step. He has taught her to be on time, “early is on time, on time is late…”; he has taught her to try her best, “good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better best.”; he has taught her that when she is hot and thirsty and sunburnt at band camp and feels like she’s going to die, that if she goes and gets a big drink of water she can do it one more time. He’s taught her that things are more fun if you’re good at them and that practicing and trying and working your butt off pays off. He’s had really high expectations of her, and he has demanded that she meet them. He’s called her out in front of everyone else, and praised her when she’s done well. He’s taught my daughter to be respectful of others, and he’s taught her to strive and have self-respect and joy in a job well done. She has more poise, confidence, discipline, self-respect, drive and maturity than she would have ever had without band. These are all qualities that my husband and I instill at home and having them re-iterated by a respected teacher is priceless. He doesn’t even know he’s helping us. He’s just doing his job. Isn’t that what an educator is supposed to do?

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She’s a senior. She has three weeks of school left. He is not coming back until the last week she’s there. He’s been suspended because someone apparently had an axe to grind. I don’t know why, I can only speculate and I won’t do that here. I WILL say that I saw in writing the person responsible say the kids come first. I agree.

Suspending our director doesn’t just hurt him. In fact, if I were him, I’d be on a plane to Florida to spend my two weeks in the proverbial principal’s office on the beach, but I doubt that’s what he’ll do. He’ll start working on next season’s marching band show, or think of ways to improve the bands for their concerts, or ways to help kids learn to try their best. The REAL people being punished over this pointless mess are the children. The ones all the government bureaucrats (and lets be honest, public schools are an extension of the government) purport to always put first. Instead of spending the last three weeks of her senior year enjoying herself, my daughter got in the car today and said she’s done. She told me that band was the only thing that she truly loved about school, and now that he’s gone, it’s no longer the band she loves. Shame on you “put the children first” adults. Shame. On. You.

So what do I want? I want you to rescind the suspension. Let him come back to school immediately to spend these last few weeks with kids who have looked up to him and learned from him and spent so much time with him these last three years. You’ve already pushed him out three months early next year, that’s enough. Quality educators need to be in the classroom. Why should you all care what I want? Next paragraph.

I’ve had it with this school district cutting everything that my kids enjoy. I’m sick of the band having to practice in a dark parking lot because the doc gets on the nerves of the soccer coach who is practicing on the next field. I’m sick of politics and political people. I’m sick of paying over 4000$ a year in property taxes and it’s never enough. I’m sick of the football team getting a giant inflatable football helmet (where’d the money for that come from, hmmm?) and our kids barely get a mention when they win every competition they go to and when they leave for nationally acclaimed parades like Macy’s. I’m sick of all the attention going to jocks who play on a local stage, while our musicians who play on national stages and attract loads of positive attention to our school district get ignored. I’m sick of keeping my mouth shut. The squeaky wheel gets the grease so they say, and I feel mighty rusty. I’ve lived in this community for twelve years. I’ve subbed in the schools and volunteered in the schools, and with scouts, and church. I know a LOT of people. I’ve always voted for the schools, even though it’s bankrupting me. I’ve always supported, for the children. But it has gotten me nowhere. If my daughter has to finish out her senior year without this teacher who has meant the world to her, I will never vote for another school levy in this district ever again. In fact, I will contact the No Lakota people and volunteer for them. I will actively campaign against every levy that comes down the pike. In fact, I may call for an investigation of every school board we’ve had for the last twenty years who let everything that is supposedly so horrible happen. Where have you administrators been for twenty years? If everything our director has done has been wrong, who is not doing their due diligence? It seems to me that would be the administrators.

ChristopherLydia-063-lbO

Please don’t force me into politics. I hate it, but if I HAVE to get involved to right wrongs, and reverse injustices, I will. Free Snyder. Give my daughter back the happiness that band has always given her. Let her graduate on an up note. Do what you say you do, and think of the kids. I’m not alone. I spent an hour and a half trying to get out of Kroger on Saturday afternoon because I kept running into band parents who agree with me. There were two hundred and seventy five kids in band last year. Multiply that over 28 years of service this man has had in our district. Multiply THAT by at least two parents per kid, many have three or four, and remember; band kids grow up and turn into adults who go to the polls. That is a mighty big voting block. Remember, it’s for the children.

No justice, no more of MY MONEY.

Have a day.

Being A Mom

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This article may be controversial to some, but I find that I don’t care. Fair warning.

I don’t generally get “offended” by things. I think people who spend their lives being “offended” are self-aggrandizing babies who have nothing better to do than whine; but I just read an article on line that was so mean to a large percentage of the population without whom none of us would exist that I feel the need to address it.

I also generally do not publicize people I think are wrong, or cruel, or misguided because I don’t wish to spread their spew, but here is the link to the article I read that pissed me off. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/18/sorry-but-being-a-mother-is-not-the-most-important-job-in-the-world#start-of-comments
Read it or don’t, but nutshell, mothers are not that important and people who work in brick ovens in India have it worse and women would be happier with actual jobs and what about fathers, and gay men. Here is my response.

Lady, I don’t know the first thing about you. What I DO know about you is that you were grown inside a woman’s uterus. She carried your heavy little butt and all the accompanying fluids, and physical pain around inside her body for nine months. That is a long time to carry around something that is draining you of every resource you have. She then pushed your grapefruit sized head and linebacker shoulders through a space that is usually about the size of a walnut. She then, at what is no doubt the physically weakest point of a woman’s life, took care of you. She had to feed you, maybe directly from her body, maybe not. She cleaned you, held you, worried over you, watched you sleep and listened to you breathe. She made sure the house was locked up tight at night so some sicko wouldn’t come in and steal you or hurt you. She got up every two hours all night long for months or years in some cases to care for you. She loved you. She made you her priority. She defended you. She shut down bullies and mean teachers. She researched your illnesses just in case there was something everyone missed. She sacrificed her own interests for yours. She wore old clothes, made coffee at home and drove her car until it would no longer run so YOU could have the things you needed and some of the things you wanted. She loved you.

Being a mother, or to be inclusive, a parent, IS the most important job in the world. It IS the hardest job in the world. It is the only job in the world that actively goes 24 hours a day for years, and then continues in a less physically demanding fashion for the rest of your life. When I was working full time all those years ago, I didn’t really care about what I was doing. I’d leave at 5 and go about my business. My REAL business. My LIFE. I don’t leave my job now. My children are getting older, and I still love them. I still guide them. I still protect them. I think about them all the time, even if it’s in the back of my mind instead of the immediate thinking involving every aspect of their physical care. I love them. I never loved a job. I liked a job. A job was a way to make a living, but I never loved a job. I love my kids, more than myself, more than the “prestige” that would come with an “important career”, more than the opportunity to run a country, or a company, or a classroom. I love my kids with a ferocity that startles me at times. I would throw myself in front of a bullet, a car, a speeding train, a fully armed military to protect my children or at least give them a chance to run. I love them.

Working is important. We all need money to buy food, medicine, a place to live, but if the shit hits the fan tomorrow and your job is no longer so “important” it will still be important to be a mother, to hold those lives that we mothers and fathers have created, in our hands and try our best to keep them alive and thriving and help them carry on so all is not lost. We love them.

Without parents, there would be no “important” jobs because there would be no people to fill them. Without parents, people wouldn’t be able to write articles that insult the very person who brought them here and cared for them and guided them in being a successful human so they could write those insulting articles. NONE of the things this woman thinks are important, people running countries, doctors saving lives, women working out in the world would be possible without parents, mothers. She has a problem with high paid men not having to participate in the drudgery of parenthood, but she obviously doesn’t understand fathers either. They come home from work and care for their children, and coach sports teams and get up in the middle of the night, and sit vigil at hospital beds praying that their little ones recover. My GOD woman, did you not have parents? Were they bad parents? Did your mother spend all her time doing her own thing and ignore you? Is that why you have such disdain for them? If those things are true, I am sorry for you. Genuinely sorry.

The next time you go on a ripper about the economics of working vs non-working mothers, keep a couple things in mind. The reason the government wants women to work is to add to the taxpayer rolls. The reason industry wants women to work is so they can charge more for everything because both adult members of a household are working and therefore they have more money available to spend.

There are women who MUST work outside the home. There are single mothers who MUST work to care for themselves and their children and there are women who LIKE working outside the home and I say good for them, whatever you have or want to do is fine by me. But don’t denigrate me if my choices are different. Don’t denigrate mothers because you think what they do has little or no value because it doesn’t create revenue. I creates human beings. It creates love. It creates security and a soft place to land in a harsh world, and if you didn’t get those things, I’m sorry, but don’t put down the people who are lucky enough to have it. Parenting IS the most important, hardest, heartbreaking, bittersweet, sweet, rewarding job in the world. We love.

Have a nice day.

Well THIS Day Didn’t Turn Out Like I Planned…

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It started out innocent enough, normal enough, as I was planning enough. After getting everyone to school and breakfasting with my husband before he went to work, I puttered around the house a little and decided it was time to go to the gym and run my errands, and that was the first part of things going awry.

We joined a gym a month and a half or so ago, and about a week into it, I lost my ID. May I say I didn’t just lose it, it completely vanished from a secure place, my purse. When I leave the gym, I get my card out of the locker thing and immediately put it in my wallet. Well I did that, and it went away. The same place that extra socks and pens run away to, so I ordered another card. It took three weeks for it to come. I did the same routine with it that I did with the vaporized one and it seems it has happened again. I got to the gym parking lot, got in my wallet to get my ID and low and behold, it was not there. Tore the entire purse apart, gone. In my disgust, I decided to skip the gym and just run my errands.

That went fine. Gas, JoAnn’s for fabric to recover some outdoor cushions, Meijer to return some outdoor cushions that didn’t fit my furniture. You know, regular mom stuff. Oh yeah, I ate lunch at McDonald’s because my family doesn’t like McD’s so I have to go there alone. I don’t mind. But I digress, I got the errands done and was heading home for an hour or so of putting stuff away, picking up junk around the house and maybe reading a little before it was time to pick up the kids when my phone buzzed in my pocket.

I had messages from both kids both sent at 12:25. Older kid – I am 95% sure I have strep throat. Message two – 97%. Younger kid – Mom, I am so sick to my stomach! My internal response? CRAAAAAPPPPP…

I was a half mile from the high school so I just went straight over. When I got there, I texted Older kid and said I’m here to pick you up. Took a few minutes, then left to go up the hill to get Younger kid. Once I had Thing One and Thing Two in the car, we went straight to Urgent Care. I let them know that Older kid’s boyfriend had strep last week, and after waiting almost an hour to go back to a room, discovered what I already knew, both are streppy. The good thing was, we came away with more valuable than gold prescriptions for Z-packs, which they offered to sell me for fifteen bucks each. We went to Walmart got the meds for 95 cents each prescription and came home to eat noodles.

I feel sort of back on track, but now all I want to do is sit on my butt and read, but the stupid dog is whining to go out again after just coming in from going out and the laundry is calling my name. Oh well, I’ll think about that laundry tomorrow, because after all, tomorrow IS another day. One that will stay on track. I hope.

Have a great day :-)

It’s Official. I Don’t Like a Lot of the Stuff I’m “Supposed” To.

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It’s happened again. There is a certain best selling book out there about an explosion in a New York museum, a little boy and a piece of art with a yellow bird on it that everyone is talking about and touting as great, and I don’t like it. Too wordy. So boring. I read about a quarter of it and I laid it down somewhere and I don’t recall where that somewhere is. And I don’t care.

When I was in college, I horrified one of my professors because I told him I didn’t like Leaves of Grass. He said that in all of his years teaching, he had never run into ANYone who didn’t like it. I was an adult student you understand, so I wasn’t intimidated by him whatsoever, and I responded, “No, you’ve just never met anyone who would admit that they didn’t like it. It’s a boring, self-indulgent piece of claptrap, and I like Billy Joel’s version in his song We Didn’t Start the Fire better, although it too was a self-indulgent piece of claptrap, but at least it had a catchy tune.” I thought he was going to swallow his tongue. Although I got A’s on all of my work, I mysteriously had a B on my grade sheet at the end of the quarter. Whatever. Que sera sera. What is college for after all if not to express yourself and learn new things? Even if you’re an old prof, you can learn that just because someone is supposed to like something, or just because YOU like it doesn’t mean everyone else will. It’s a hard lesson I know.

I also don’t like Moby Dick. Yep, hate it. Boring, boring, boring. How many ways can one express their obsession with a whale? Four million, fifty five thousand and one apparently. I had to read it no less than FOUR times during the course of earning my degree. Spark Notes anyone? I got to the point where I didn’t even like listening to others TALK about it anymore.

In addition to “great works of literature” that make me feel like I’m dying, I also don’t care for the Oscars or any other celebrity award show. Yes, I can find better things to do with my life than sit around watching millionaires give each other golden man statues for movies that are not that great.

I AM a fan of books that are well edited, and move at a snappy pace. Having more pages does not mean the book is better, it just means it’s longer; just like singing really loud and subjecting the listener to annoying vocal gymnastics does not mean you are a better singer (half the people on American Idol who all sound the same), it just means you sing loud. The classic literature I like runs more to the Medieval (Chaucer, anyone?), and I like movies that seldom get nominated for Academy Awards, like Saving Mr. Banks for example. I loved that one. I thought it was going to be just another “Disney” movie, but it was really a beautiful representation of overcoming the past and moving forward in life.

I guess what it all comes down to, is that everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and it’s ok. If you like that book about the explosion, good for you! I’m glad you are reading. I won’t argue with you that you shouldn’t like the book just because I don’t. I WILL tell you the truth of my opinion though. I also won’t give you a lower grade than you earned because you don’t like the actual novel Gone With The Wind, even though it’s one of my favorites. It’s ok. Differences are what makes the world go round. How boring it would be if we all liked the exact same things. We’d have nothing to talk or write about.

Just remember, even if it’s the best selling book of all time, or a literary masterpiece that everyone else likes, or maybe a movie about people floating around in space that is supposed to be great, but makes your blood congeal, don’t be afraid to just say no. You can stop reading, stop watching, or not go in the first place, and you can say, outloud, “I DIDN’T LIKE IT!!” It’s ok. Be bold. Be strong. Be yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong.

Have a great weekend everybody :-)

Book Opinion: The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbitt

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I was attracted to this book because when I first got married, my husband was in the Air Force and stationed at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico. I gave up my home, my friends and my car and moved to the middle of nowhere with him. I’m from Ohio, so I’m used to green, and water, and soft spring air. I’m used to mist and rain and vegetation so lush at certain times of year that it feels like a rain forest. I’m used to sweet smells like honeysuckle and rich dark earth. Then, I moved to the desert.

The wooden seat of my grandmother’s rocking chair cracked from the dryness. I couldn’t ride my bike because of the altitude. It made my head whirl and my stomach sick to exercise, so I gained about twenty pounds. My skin dried out, my lips cracked and the inside of my nose would peel off and bleed every time I blew it. The anchor stores in the mall were K-Mart and some janky little place called Beall’s that I’d never heard of and did not like. We had one car and I was without it most of the time when my husband went to “work” on the base, and I put “work” in quotes, because most of what they did was play cards and stupid tricks on each other. Nine out of ten work days resulted in my husband coming straight home, or being home in about two or three hours because there was nothing to do and they sent everyone home. That was a good thing because my loneliness knew no bounds. Friends of ours got an illicit kitten, illicit, because our complex did not allow pets. I wanted one because I was lonesome, so we got a tiny black kitten I named Sara. She slept on my chest and chased away nightmares.

On the plus side, we had a lot of fun. It was like being in college. There were parties every weekend, and we went to most of them. Our friend Dan had us over for dinner one night and cooked steaks on the grill. I like mine well done, but these were charcoal. I yummed, and put ketchup on it and ate the parts with actual meat left in them. I drank some Seagram’s Seven in coke and like to died. To this day, I cannot stand to see even the label on a bottle in the store. Finally the day came when most all of our friends left and my husband got out of the service and we stayed. He went to work for a civilian contractor on the base, doing the same job and making three times as much money. When our friends left, it no longer felt like college, he actually had to work, and I got lonelier. Eventually, we too left and moved on to bigger and better things, but that part of my life, while miserable in so many respects was also a happy time for us. Nobody built a bomb, or did much that was top secret, but the parallels between that experience and the experiences described in /The Wives of Los Alamos/ were definitely there.

The book is written in first person, but uses “we” and “our” for example instead of “I” and “me.” For the first couple of pages, it was a little confusing, but it soon became comfortable. It was used to great effect to illustrate the communal, “we’re all in the same boat, and one is much like the other” circumstances these women found themselves in. The husbands were all physicists, recruited to work on the atomic bomb and as part of agreeing to do so, they demanded that they be allowed to bring their families. The families had no idea where they were going until they got there, and once they knew, they were not allowed to tell anyone at home. Their letters were read by censors, care package treats were stolen by censors, cars were searched, requests to leave denied and husbands were largely absent and stressed when they WERE around.

We learn about the difficulties of being without the familiar, with drying out like the desert sand, having very little water, relationships, kids, pregnancies, loss, fear, worries about the war and the brothers and friends who were fighting it, getting comfortable and then leaving. We also learn about the joys of friendship, parties, finding ways to pass the time. There are brief mentions of Oppenheimer and some of the other famous names associated with the project, but nothing too specific. This is definitely the women’s story, and really, you could call it the woman’s story, because as unique as each individual was, once they arrived at Los Alamos, they were all more or less the same.

I highly recommend this book, and not just because it reminds me of my own life. It is historical fiction from the point of view of the overlooked. It didn’t matter what these women did before they ended up in Los Alamos, or what they did after they left; while they were there, they were the wives of the men who ended a war and changed the world, for better or worse is a matter of opinion.

Have a great day and spend part of it with a great book :-)

Book Opinion: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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Homelessness and extreme poverty are a problem where ever there are people. In our modern times the hows and whys of both have been debated endlessly. Fingers are pointed, politicians, corporations, heartless right wingers, teachers and just about every other group you can think of have been blamed. Getting out of such conditions has been deemed next to impossible and governments the world over have bankrupted their countries with social programs designed to “rescue” the homeless and the poor. All, apparently, to no avail because there are still millions of homeless and poor people all over the world.

/The Glass Castle/ addresses these topics and may cause you too look at these issues from a different point of view. The Walls family, Rex and Rose Mary and their four children are the epitome of a dysfunctional family. Neither parent is ever regularly employed for any length of time. They roam like nomads all over the American southwest living in dusty, dying little towns in whatever housing they can find. They regularly leave behind everything in the middle of the night to escape debt collectors or children’s services. Having a steady supply of the basics of life, including food seldom happens.

As the children grow older, they start trying to fill the responsibility void left by their parents, but it is hopeless. Their parents want to be outside the norm of society. They are negative about every social convention that makes life comfortable for everyone else. Rose Mary is an artist, and finds money for canvases and paint when her children have no food. When her kids talk her into using her teaching degree to work and get them food and clothing, they have to make her go to work and they grade papers and fill out forms for her. The teaching jobs never last long, because even schools in dried up, dying desert towns want teachers who actually work. Rex is even worse. He is a brilliant man with a variety of ideas that he promises to work on, but never does. He is a desperate alcoholic who’s brilliance shines less and less as he gets drunker and drunker. His brushes with sobriety never last and make the drunk spells even sadder, because you realize that if he’d stop drinking, he could do so much.

The family’s situation gets so bad that they eventually make it across the country to the dismal mining town in West Virginia where Rex grew up. The landscape, the people, his family and the elements do not make their situation better. As the children get older, they begin to separate from their family; they develop plans to get out and make actual lives for themselves. During conversations with their parents, especially as they get older, they truly come to realize that their parents have chosen to live the way they do. They have no desire to live in a different way. They do not want to change their circumstances. There is not one thing that their children, or social workers of any kind or the government can do to make them change.

There is a beautiful wedding photo of Rex and Rose Mary at the beginning of the book. They look like any other newly married couple you’ve seen, beautiful and full of promise. There is no clue in that picture of the way they will choose to live their lives and raise their children. It’s a little sad really, to look at it after you’ve read the book.

/The Glass Castle/ is a well written memoir that illustrates all too clearly some hot button issues in society, and a very different way of looking at them. Most people who are homeless and/or profoundly poor, want to be anything else, but I now know that there ARE some people who for whatever reason, CHOOSE to live in a way that I cannot imagine. It also reminds us that no matter how desperate your situation may be, if you have the desire to change your life you can. It won’t necessarily be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but it CAN be done. This book is incredibly interesting, and frustrating and infuriating, but it’s great.

Have a great day and READ something :-)

Book Opinion: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

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When I was a teenager, my Mom and Dad and I went to Florida several times on vacation. We always drove and we always stopped at the Quality Inn in Valdosta, Georgia on the way down. This hotel screamed “The South” to me; plantation shutters, beautiful gardens, a pool that I loved and a small-ish, original to the property house all graced the place. We ALWAYS ate dinner at the Ho-Jo’s across the street then came back and my Mom and I would wander the grounds before my solo swimming sessions at the pool. Mom would sit there and watch me swim “in case something happened” but she would’ve not been much help if something HAD happened because she couldn’t swim. My Dad would usually stay in the room smoking and watching t.v.

Even though we always only stayed there one night because we were just passing through, I loved that place. I entertained some of my most vivid Gone With the Wind fantasies inside my head as my Mom and I walked the grounds. I kept waiting for Rhett Butler to come around a bend and fall in love with me, and beautiful girls in hoop skirts to be flirting with handsome boys at a barbeque on the lawn. I loved it so much that when I grew up, I wanted to stop there with MY family, so one year when my daughter was little, we got off the highway and went to the hotel. It was some other chain by then, but the plantation shutters, gardens, pool and house were still there. They were shabbier than they had been and I realized that the property was literally RIGHT next to the highway. When I was a child, the grounds had been so lush that you couldn’t SEE the highway, so I had no idea. It was a little chilly, so we couldn’t get in the pool, which was disappointing, and if it had been warm, I would never have let my baby in it anyway because it wasn’t really clean and THAT was disappointing. The Ho-Jo’s was gone as were Rhett and the rest of the gang and THAT was disappointing. The whole experience left me feeling let down and I was glad to leave the next morning. The only way I’ll ever go back is if I win the Power Ball and go buy it and return it to it’s former glory, so when I heard about Sarah Addison Allen’s new book Lost Lake, I felt that I might be able to relate.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors. I have all of her books and I love them all. They are all lyrical, and a little magical. One of her books has a protagonist who enchants with her baked goods, another book has mysterious lights in a garden. They are lovely, beautiful stories, and Lost Lake is no different.

Kate is a young widow with a daughter named Devin, and a mother-in-law named Cricket. After the loss of her husband, Kate “goes to sleep” for a year. When she finally snaps out of it just as she is about to take her daughter and move in with Cricket, she finds a postcard from her great-aunt Eby who owns a lake resort in southern Georgia. Eby is the last relative Kate has, and on a whim, Kate decides to load Devin into the car and drive down to visit Eby who she had only met once, when as a child, she and her family had spent several weeks at Lost Lake.

When Kate arrives at the lake, it is obvious that time has taken it’s toll. The property has fallen into disrepair, the guests who summered there for years are aging out of coming back, and Eby has decided to sell and retire. During the course of her visit, Kate reconnects with people she met before as well as meets a whole new cast of characters. Without giving too much away, there is a mute French woman, a ghost in a chair, a ghost alligator, a mystery, and a lovely man to occupy her time.

Lost Lake is a beautiful story about families, new beginnings, endings, tying up loose ends, grief in many of it’s forms, forgiveness, understanding, letting go of the past and embracing the future. You can’t go home again, but you CAN use your past to make your life move forward. Sometimes ghosts can help you learn how to go on. I enjoyed reading this book in the middle of winter, because it transported me to summer; to cool drinks by the water, lanterns in the trees and dancing in the moonlight. Thank you Sarah Addison Allen for giving me another beautiful story to think about and another book to add to my stack. It’s a keeper.

Have a great day and read a great book :-)

Book Opinion: Bellman & Black

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I finished Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield, a couple of days ago, and felt like I needed to let it percolate a bit before I wrote about it.

The story opens with a group of early Victorian era, English boys playing in a field. The action of the scene as well as the book focuses on William Bellman, a ten year old with a fantastic slingshot, unless you are British, and then, it’s a catapult. William uses his catapult to shoot a young rook (crow) off a branch at an incredibly long distance. The other boys are impressed, but William feels bad about the entire incident, falls ill, and when he is better, has forgotten all about it.

The rest of the book tells us William’s tale. We learn that he lives with his mother in a little cottage because his father abandoned them. William is handsome, has a beautiful singing voice, and the girls love him, but it seems that he is never going to amount to much. The girl that he has been seeing, that he seems to care for, tells him that she has her heart set on his friend Fred, the baker, because he is steady and she doesn’t want to struggle. William then works his way into the mill with his uncle and embarks on a very successful career as a mill owner. His life is a good one, until tragedy takes almost everything from him.

At the last moment before the final crisis that will completely destroy the life he has made for himself, he speaks with a mysterious man dressed in black that always seems to be lurking whenever something bad happens in William’s life. They strike a deal of sorts, and the last remaining thing in his life is restored to him. Following this miracle, Bellman and Black, an emporium catering to the Victorian obsession with death, funerals and mourning is born.

The reason I had to digest this book a bit is because I had a really hard time pinning it down. At first, I thought it was going to be a horror story. But it wasn’t. Then, I thought it was going to be a good old-fashioned Gothic mystery. I wasn’t, but it was. I thought that the rooks were going to terrorize him for killing one of their own. They kind of did, but they didn’t. Then, I thought it was a cautionary tale about becoming too self-involved, which it actually was, but at the same time it was not. I kept waiting to dislike William, I kept waiting for him to do something heinous, but I liked him and he didn’t. I kept waiting to find out who the hell gave a crap about the rooks and what their purpose was, and finally at the end, I found that out, and the book once again teetered on horror/gothic mystery. SO, it was a little bit confusing, a little bit literary (which means it forces you to think about the story and not just blindly enjoy it), a little bit spooky, and a whole lot entertaining.

If you are in any way into Victorian era death, or just good life stories, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Although it will try to force you to think about it, don’t think about it too much. Just read it, enjoy it, and don’t try to figure it out. It is very well written, so it’s easy to read. It has just the right amount of artistry about it to make it interesting without being pretentious, and some of her descriptions are downright poetic, which when done properly, as they are here, add to reading enjoyment. So while you are shivering in the cold that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, download it on your NOOK, or hop out to the bookstore and grab a copy, get a cozy blanket, a warm drink and maybe a cat for your lap and enjoy.

Have a great day and spend part of it with a great book :-)

Harry Potter, You Are Creating Another Reader

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I guess I should say J.K. Rowling, you are creating another reader, but in truth, it’s Harry.
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My twelve year old son likes to read one day, and hates it the next. Typical boy I guess, so on a recent trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I bought him a copy of /Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone/. He’s seen the movies but only paid half attention to them. He liked Harry, but he was not the HP fan that my daughter is despite my best efforts, because he had not read the books to himself. By buying him his own copy in Hogsmeade, I figured he’d read it because it was a souvenir, and because he is the perfect age. Boy was I right.
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He is now on the second book and is fretting about what he’ll do when he has finished all the books. “What am I going to read after Harry Potter MOOOOM???” I hear this on almost a daily basis. I tell him we’ll find him something else when the time comes. In about a year. Because that is likely how long it will take him to read all those books. I am so happy that he is interested in reading now, and I thank Harry for helping me out. After all, he is what turned my daughter into the reader she is, he also meant more to her than most of the real people in her life. You can read about our farewell to Harry here, http://messagedisciplineisrequired.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/see-ya-later-harry-potter/?preview=true&preview_id=52&preview_nonce=c84fcf7526&post_format=standard.

So once again, I thank you Harry for having a positive impact on our lives, we will always love you.