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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mix Tape Song #1: Don't You Forget About Me

Still posting every other week!

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
Moma Rock

            This week, I chose the topic, and I said, Remember me . . .

            Before I begin, a warning:  this may be the most unfair post I’ve ever written.  It may also be the most honest. 

            One of my very favorite books ever is Love is a Mix Tape, a memoir penned by Rolling Stones writer Rob Sheffield.  An homage to the meaning music can hold in life – at least in his life – Mix Tape tells the story of Rob’s courtship and marriage to his first wife, Renee.  This isn’t exactly a spoiler (Renee’s death is mentioned in the book jacket and promotional materials), but Renee dies suddenly, and too young, leaving Rob to grapple with his grief – and to figure out how to create a new life.  Mix Tape is so, so crazy good.  Rob’s writing is tidy yet emotion-packed, compact yet colorful.  I absolutely love love loved the book.  And yet …

            The book was recommended to me by my friend and mentor, Wade Rouse, and I saw Wade not long after he made the recommendation.  He asked what I thought.  I said, of course, “I loved it.”  Then I paused, and added, “But I hated that Rob re-married.”  Wade smiled and touched my arm and said, “I know.”

            Logically, it made complete sense that Rob would re-marry; after all, he was only 31 when Renee died.  Statistically, at least, Rob had many decades of living left to do.  At the time tragedy struck, Rob was a young, funny, talented man who did not want to spend his life alone.  I loved the Rob I met through the book and wanted good things for him.  Somehow, for some reason, that list of good things did not include a second wife.  My feelings didn’t change later when Rob wrote Turn Around Bright Eyes, which was largely about his new wife, Ally, and their shared love of karaoke.  I enjoyed Bright Eyes; Rob’s writing is vivid and hilarious and completely relatable.  But it wasn’t Mix Tape.  And Ally wasn’t Renee.

            I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the books after I read them, and I’ve read many, many books in the years since.  I didn’t analyze why Rob Sheffield’s second marriage bothered me – I mean, it’s truly not my business.  I should be glad he is happy.

            Fast forward a few years to almost exactly a year ago when I started following the story of a young man who was dying of cancer and who wanted to see the new Star Wars movie before he passed.  Daniel’s story captured my heart, and I began following his wife Ashley’s Facebook page for updates.  I kept following her even after Daniel passed away a year ago today.  I worried about her, this young woman who was widowed at the crazy young age of 29, this woman whose personal tragedy touched me in a way I can’t explain.  We are now Facebook friends; not traditional friends, but friendly for sure.  Ashley is sweet and funny and thoughtful and fair, and I truly want only good things for her.  Which is why what I’m about to say seemingly makes no sense.

            A few months ago, Ashley began posting photos of her with a guy she appeared to be dating.  He seems to be her age, good looking and into some of the hobbies that Ashley enjoys.  Perhaps not surprising given my reaction to Rob Sheffield’s re-marriage, Ashley’s new boyfriend hurts my heart. 

            This scenario is a bit different in that I have a smidge more personal of a relationship with Ashley; she isn’t an author whose Facebook page I follow even though he never posts.  Yet my reaction felt very similar.  This time, in light of the constant reminders, I spent some time trying to figure out my feelings.

            I know my reaction has nothing to do with marriage itself; it’s not that I find the sanctity of marriage to be such that everyone gets one partner and that’s that.  I mean, I’m on my second marriage – and my first husband is alive and well.  I know of people who married just once, people who lost spouses young and refused to commit again, believing their “one and only” was gone and that was that.  It’s romantic for sure, but it’s not the norm, and I have no expectation of life working this way. 
            It was one of Ashley’s posts that helped me begin to understand the feelings with which I am struggling.  Ashley has shared some of the Timehop and Memories posts generated by Facebook.  Many of those posts include photos of her husband, Daniel.  Looking at those, I realized my fear:  I am afraid that no one will remember Daniel.  Or Renee.  Somehow, in my mind, I was equating Rob and Ashley’s “moving on” with them forgetting their spouses.  I unconsciously worried that with their attentions on new loves and new lives, those who passed would be gone in the truest sense of the word.

            This is where I am being unfair.  I cannot begin to know how Rob Sheffield currently feels about his first wife, about what he remembers and what he shares almost twenty years later.  I know that Ashley remembers Daniel; I see evidence of that on Facebook.  I intellectually know that just because someone has a new love does not mean they’ve forgotten the old.  But that’s exactly how it feels.

            I suppose that underlying all of this is my own fear of my mortality, of being forgotten someday when time has passed and those who knew me are also gone.  I don’t consciously worry about death or being forgotten, but something in Rob’s words and Ashley’s photos clearly set off an emotional trigger in me, one of which I wasn’t previously aware. 

            After I wrote most of this post, I pulled out Mix Tape, and I stumbled upon a passage that made me feel a bit better because Rob tapped into the feelings I struggled to understand and explain.  He wrote (much more eloquently than I ever could):

After Renee died, I assumed the rest of my life would be just a consolation prize.  I would keep living, and keep having new experiences, but none of them would compare to the old days.  I would have to settle for a lonely life I didn’t want, which would always remind me of the life I couldn’t have anymore.  But it didn’t turn out that way, and there’s something strange and upsetting about that.  I would have stayed in 1996 if I could have, but it wasn’t my choice, so now I have to move either forward or back – it’s up to me.  Not changing isn’t an option.  And even though I’ve changed in so many ways – I’m a different person with a different life – the past is still with me every minute.
            Rob recognized how inherently upsetting it can be when someone “moves on” after the death of a loved one, how strange it is to find a new life and to actually enjoy it, even in the wake of so much grief and heartbreak.  I truly did not want or expect for Rob or Ashley to be miserable for the rest of their lives, but I guess I was not truly “ready” for them to be so happy.  Completely and totally unfair, I know.

            Of course, Rob’s words made me wonder whether I would “mind” if my husband re-married were I to die in the near future.  Putting aside the fact I’d be dead, I’d like to think I wouldn’t.  I would want him to be happy . . . but I would not want him to forget me.  I would want to live in his memory.  And anyway, the question of his re-marriage is beside the point because I would be gone and he would be left to decide what the rest of his life should look like.  Not me.

            I would live on, at least for a little while, in my kids and in their memories and in the memories of my friends.  Neither Renee nor Daniel lived long enough to have children, the classic way many of us live on in this world.  But Rob Sheffield is keeping his wife’s memory alive via his book (read it, please – you’ll thank me later), and Ashley has done so by helping get her husband’s story in the press.  An entire group formed around Daniel, a group that remains intact today.  Thousands of people will think of him whenever they see anything Star Wars, and that’s pretty amazing.  Hell, I will think of Renee every time I listen to Thirteen by Big Star, and I carry my Force for Daniel patch in my purse.  I guess, at the very least, I will remember them.  And I hope that when I am gone, someone will remember me, too. 




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wake Me When it's November 9. Or 1993. Whichever.

Settling into our every-other-week posting schedule!

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
Moma Rock

Merryland Girl chose this week, and she asked us to write something fun/humorous about voting/elections, but do not mention anything about our upcoming election/candidates.  This is meant to be stress-free and non-controversial.

I can honestly say that I am finding nothing about this election season stress-free, fun, or humorous.  I have read some hilarious Tweets here and there, but more often, my Facebook feed has been filled with hate and disparity and downright nastiness.  I’ve lost count of how many friends’ feeds I’ve unfollowed.  I am ready for November 9 (I think).

In part for this reason, I am “cheating” and resurrecting an old post, one I wrote several years ago.  Here is my disclaimer:  This post never has been and is not now intended to be any kind of political commentary.  (And I HATE that I need to emphasize that.)  It is meant to be what it is and always has been, a fun, non-political, brief essay on my longing for a simpler time, a simpler political world.

The post was written during a prior election season, when I still lived in Chicago, a place known for some biting, not-always-above-board politics.  A thought struck me as I watched some newscast or other:  I missed Bill Clinton.  It was a simple as that. 

And my reasons?  Well, they likely aren’t the ones you might expect, and they certainly don’t have anything to do with the mudslinging, bitter, bitter presidential race that surrounds us now. 

So here they are, in no particular order, the top six reasons I miss Bill Clinton:

(1)       He was charming.  The man literally charmed the pants (ok, dresses) off of women.  His effect on men was only marginally dissimilar.  John Travolta has been credited as saying that he was “seduced” by Clinton when he met him in 1997.  That takes a special kind of appeal, considering Travolta has never claimed to be anything but straight (yes, the tabloids have suggested otherwise but, I mean, he was Tony Manero, for God’s sake!)  But perhaps the best evidence of Clinton’s charisma is the fact that the man was impeached, yet no one seems to have noticed.  Or to even remember. 

(2)       He was comforting.  Bill could give us bad news and make it seem, well, not so bad.  Something in his tone, in the rise and fall of his voice, made me feel that in the end everything would turn out just fine.  On 9/11, I frantically flipped channels searching for his image.  I needed him to tell me everything was going to be ok.  Because I knew I would believe him.

(3)       He got the joke.  Remember the image of Clinton wiping away tears of laughter as he stood alongside Boris Yeltsin at the FDR Library in 1995?  The man found the funny in Boris Yeltsin.  Clinton’s laugh was genuine and contagious, and he wasn’t afraid to throw his head back and let it peal when the moment struck.

(4)       He reminded us of Elvis.  It wasn’t just the Southern thing – it was the Southern thing, and the hair thing, and the impromptu jam session thing and the ever-so-slightly-curled lip thing.  Even the usually humorless Secret Service noticed the resemblance and assigned the President the code name “Elvis”  (Which, by the way, is awesome.).  Like the late King himself, Clinton could work a crowd, except Slick Willie didn’t need a rhinestone jumpsuit.  

(5)       He had embarrassing relatives.  Not since the Carter Administration had America enjoyed such a dysfunctional sibling like Roger C. Clinton, Jr.  His cocaine-related conviction aside, Roger served to amuse and to remind us that even the wealthiest and most powerful among us have to deal with embarrassing family members. 

(6)       He seemed like one of us.  Bill Clinton was human.  He was flawed, for sure – he cheated on his wife, he regularly caved into his cravings for junk food and he wore wholly unattractive shorts while jogging.  Yet, in the end, those flaws may have constituted his greatest asset, as they made him relatable, they made him real.  Deep down, Clinton was just a regular guy with a remarkably exceptional job.  William Jefferson Clinton answered to “Mr. President,” but he also answered to “Bubba.”  He lived and owned up to a complicated dual identity, like many of us do:  one person at work, another at home.  But even clad in his most official-looking suit, reading his most serious-themed speech at a most official-sounding event held halfway around the world, Clinton could not fully hide the heart of the “boy from Arkansas” beating just behind the starched collar and presidential tie.  Embarrassing?  Sometimes.  Pompous?  On occasion.  Human?  Definitely.    

So, there you go.  I would respectfully ask that all comments follow Merryland Girl’s guidelines.  Criticize my writing all you want, but let’s keep the comments apolitical.  I’m not above deleting …

Thursday, October 13, 2016

There Once Was a Man From Nantucket . . .

Settling into our every-other-week posting schedule!

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
Moma Rock

            This week, Moma Rock chose the topic, and she asked us to write a poem.

            Ugh.  I don’t like poetry.  I won’t go so far as to say I hate it, but it is my least favorite form of creative writing.  There are a few poets whose work I enjoy –  to a point:  Edgar Allen Poe.  Dorothy Parker.  Ogden Nash.  I’ve always considered Dr. Seuss more of a poet than an author, and I like his books (in small doses).  Of course, there are songwriters whose lyrics feel like poetry; the first to come to mind is Neil Peart of the band Rush.  Indeed, in Eighth Grade, our English teacher forced us to read a poem to the class, and I chose the lyrics to The Trees, penned by Peart.  But I’ve never embraced poetry the way others have, and I don’t see it ever happening.

            I’ve tried to figure out why, exactly, poetry makes me cringe.  I was mulling this very thought earlier this week while listening to the podcast of a Chicago radio show that I love.  As fate would have it, that day, the hosts welcomed a local guy who had penned some poems about the Chicago Cubs (whom I do love).  They invited the guy to read his poetry and oh-my-god-please-make-it-stop!  I couldn’t stand it.  Imagine every horrible poem you wrote in a notebook in junior high school stuck together in one loooooong loooong verse.  I’m talking epic here.  Like Beowulf, but about baseball.  And in rhyme.  Rhyme!!  As a bonus, it was read in a severe Chicago accent.  I hate to be judgy, but the whole thing was patently awful (in my opinion, anyway).

            And in that moment I realized my issue with poetry:  the vast majority of the poems to which I’ve been exposed have been really, really bad.  What is usually meant to be a tribute or expression of some deep feeling usually turns out to be forced, trite drivel (in my opinion, anyway).  I’m sure there’s good poetry out there, but I won’t be searching for it, as I cannot handle combing though the chaff in search of the wheat.

            Another sticking point is all the rhyming.  I mean, I know poems don’t have to rhyme, but I also feel like most fledgling poets don’t know that.  So, when they craft a poem, they feel the need to rhyme words like “love” and “above,” or “dream” and “seem.”  And I am left to bang my head against the nearest hard surface.

            Having said all that, a few years ago, when I started this blog but before I blogged with the others, I wrote a poem.  Specifically, it was an ode – less rhyming!  In the spirit of this week’s topic, I’m including it here.  I call it, An Ode to Dr. Drew:

O, Dr. Drew Pinsky, with your white hair
And cool dark-rimmed rectangular glasses
Always toiling to save C-list celebs
From drugs that make them act like big asses

Your smooth affect and crisp ties calm my soul
As you cure Tom Sizemore and Heidi Fleiss
Your endless patience wavers not when forced
To treat Shifty and Jeff Conaway twice

Shall Pasadena ever again know
Such saintly works by a star therapist
Who was on “Loveline” and fathered triplets
And who is a self-proclaimed narcissist?

O how I heart you, dear Dr. Pinsky
Who else on earth could save Rod Stewart’s son?
You’re the reason I pay more for cable
For a line-up that includes VH1

            Yeah, move over Walt Whitman!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Breakfast Club

Settling into our every-other-week posting schedule!

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
Moma Rock

I chose the topic this week, and I asked the ladies to write about two people with whom you would love to sit down and have a meal.  One must be living, and one must not.  To make it easier, do not write about any family members.

            This topic came to me this summer while reading a book.  Indeed, one of my chosen meal mates is an author (though he is better known for his other, non-literary work), and one of my runners-up was also an author.  The “winners” are both entertainers.  I’m sure this says something about me, but I’m not sure what, exactly.

            I had a tough time narrowing the list down to one living and one deceased person, because there are so many interesting people with whom I would love to have a conversation; people I know I am not likely to cross paths with at any time.  When I sat down to write this, I had two specific names in my head, but as I began typing, I changed my mind.  Twice.  (I’ll mention a few of the runners’ up as I go along, ‘cuz a girl can dream.)  So, here we go:

Living Person

            First, I’ll just get this out of the way and tell you who the person isn’t.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, Oh, she will for sure choose Jon Bon Jovi!  Alas, no.  There are several reasons for this.  One is the fact there is no way I could ever possible consume a meal in the presence of Jon Bon Jovi, what will all the crying and passing out and general pawing and likely security intervention.  Then, too, as much as I’ve dreamed of meeting Jon, part of me enjoys the mystique inherent in our current relationship; the rock-star/adoring fan dynamic I’ve enjoyed for more than three decades, where I worship him from afar and he has no idea I exist.  Who am I to mess with the fragile balance of the Universe?

            No, the living person I would love to sit down with is . . . Penn Jillette.  Most of you know him as the tall, talking member of Penn & Teller, and this is exactly who I first knew him to be, too.  But many years ago, I came across Penn’s radio show, broadcast from Nevada onto my radio in Chicago.  He worked with a Chicago artist named Tony Fitzpatrick, and their show played on The Loop, as I recall (it’s been more than 20 years, so I might have this wrong).  I’d always thought of Penn as a magician, an illusionist, but through those radio shows, I discovered him to be an extremely well-read, razor sharp, foul-mouthed, hilarious commentator.  I just love him.

            Penn won me over with a single sentence.  I don’t remember the context – maybe someone had called in to disagree with him – but Penn said (I’m paraphrasing):  “My favorite arguments are the ones I lose, because that means I learned something.”  Those words stuck with me as I moved on with my life, particularly when, soon after, I enrolled in law school, the training ground for skilled arguers.  When I feel myself getting caught up in winning versus losing, I remind myself that, as Penn said, success doesn’t always mean crushing one’s opponent.  I remind myself of the bigger picture and the “win” attached to the loss.

            I don’t know when Penn wrote his first book (he’s written several), but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I stumbled across his written works.  I’ve read three:  God, No!; Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!: and his most recent, Presto!  I loved them all.  Each book made me laugh, made me cringe, and – most importantly – made me think. 

            And it is for this reason I would love to sit down and have a meal with Penn Jillette. 

            Over the years of my life, I’ve met and spent time with a few “celebrities,” including two comedians.  Both were whip smart and incredibly funny.  But neither was particularly interesting.  I absolutely doubt Penn would similarly suffer.  I can easily think of a dozen topics I would love to discuss with Penn, ranging from religion to politics to raising kids to healthy eating to music.  (Interestingly, the one subject I would not want to discuss is illusion.  I love the Penn & Teller show – so I wouldn’t ask and he wouldn’t tell.)

            Funny enough, I have met Penn, once.  My husband and I saw the Penn & Teller show when it came through Indiana, and we stayed after to meet both men.  We stood for the better part of an hour in a crushing crowd, waiting for our turn to say hello and to take a photo.  I clutched my copy of Every Day is an Atheist Holiday! for Penn to sign and the entire time, I wondered wondered wondered what I would say to this man.  Should I remind him of my favorite quote about arguments?  Or mention that I used to listen to him and Tony Fitzpatrick on my little radio all those years ago?  Dare I try to have anything resembling a conversation, given the hordes of people pressing against me?  I wasn’t sure.  But I was intimidated – I believed I couldn’t hold his attention for more than the 30 seconds it would take to sign my book and snap a photo.  And, so, when my turn came, Penn waved his pen across my page (it looks like he tested his marker) and I mentioned Tony Fitzpatrick.  He smiled and said, “I spent the day with him.  He’s a very dear friend.”  And then my husband snapped a photo and we moved over to the Teller line, my shot at witty repartee gone, at least in that moment.
            I don’t know that I would fare much better if given a longer period of time to talk to Penn, and I would probably stress myself out trying to think of interesting and smart things to say (I will say this:  I would not worry that I would have the filthiest mouth at the table).  But I sure would like to try.

Runners’ Up:  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; Former U.S. President Bill Clinton; British actor Tom Baker; actor/comedian Mike Myers; actor/comedian/author/playwright Steve Martin.

Not Living Person

            I sat down with one person in mind – F. Scott Fitzgerald – and ended up somewhere else completely.  There are similarities between the men I juggled in my mind:  both were wordsmiths, both drank a lot, both are often regarded as the best in their respective fields.  But the similarities might stop there.  Because, in the end, I did not choose Fitzgerald; I chose Freddie Mercury.

            I hope I don’t have to tell anyone that Freddie Mercury was the flamboyant, incredibly talented lead singer of the group Queen, one of my all-time favorite bands.  I grew up liking Queen, but it is now, in my old age, that I have truly learned to love Queen – and Freddie.  I wish I’d fully appreciated the band when I was younger, but I suppose it took the wisdom that comes with age to see what I missed. I will say, in my defense, I was quite young when Queen stopped touring in the U.S., much too young to see them live.  I liked what songs I heard on the radio, all the classics – and Queen recorded many.  But I knew little about the band members themselves, other than suspecting that Freddie was gay (a fact confirmed the day before he died of complications from AIDS almost 25 years ago).  Thanks to my love of ‘80s hair bands, I didn’t pay much attention beyond that.

            What triggered my recent interest in Queen, I cannot say (the ubiquitous PetSmart commercial?)  One day, for whatever reason, I googled Freddie, and I found his bio info fascinating, and so I ordered a few books and I quickly read them all.  I watched documentaries – Behind the Music and several BBC productions, to name a few.  I learned so much, and all of it made me wish I could actually meet Freddie – or, at the very least, see him perform live.

            From what I’ve read, the “on-stage” Freddie was quite different from the “real-life” Freddie.  The former was lively, cocky, larger-than-life.  But real Freddie was more reserved; almost shy.  He hated doing interviews (which is readily apparent in said interviews).  He could party like F. Scott, but he also spent a great deal of time quietly decorating his traditional English home and dining with friends.  He even wrote a song for his favorite cat:  Delilah.  He was also hilarious.

            Freddie is said to have been extremely witty, like Penn, which means I would sit down to a meal just as anxious.  But it would be worth it just to hear him call me “Dah-ling” (the term he used to address everyone) in that lilting British accent.  I don’t know that I would have an agenda, necessarily; I would just want to listen.  Hell, I wouldn’t even ask him the meaning of the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody – he’d just roll his eyes, anyway, and tell me to figure it out for myself.  Fair enough. 

Runners’ up:  F. Scott Fitzgerald; Ernest Hemingway; singer Davy Jones; Johnny Carson; Prince; actor/comedian Phil Hartman.
Please comment with YOUR meal mates!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

It Was a Great Big Beautiful Summer (Alternative Title: My Mind is a Scary Place)

We are back after our summer hiatus!  

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
Moma Rock

            Froggie chose this week’s topic:  My summer.

            It’s weird thinking about summer in the past tense given that today’s high hovered around 95 with comparable humidity.  But my kids have been in school long enough to have already generated Progress Reports, and the days are getting shorter and the morning lows are sometimes dipping down low enough to require me to wear a sweatshirt when I walk the 10 to the bus, so I suppose summer is, indeed, waning.
            We had a somewhat eventful summer in that we took a few trips, which is unusual for us.  Most of the summer was more mundane.  We went to the pool.  We attended neighborhood parties and played Pokemon Go at the mall.  We lazed in the 100-degree, 100-percent humidity weather.  (I say “we,” of course, because during the summer, I am completely attached to the children, as I have yet to find a summer camp that (a) works for them both and (b) lasts longer than a week.)

            I could list out each and every “thing” we did, but I tend to try to write this blog so that no one wants to poke out his or her eyes with a pen.  So, instead, I’ve decided to write about one specific event:  our family trip to Disney World.  More specifically, I’m going to write about what I learned about myself and others at the Happiest Place on Earth.  Yes, some people see the House of the Mouse as a vacation destination, but I?  See it as an education.

            I learned a great deal during those three days.  These lessons include, in no particular order:

(1)            I?  Am not a Disney person.  I mean, Disney World was fun, and I enjoyed taking the trip, but I will never never not ever be one of those people who arrives home from a Disney trip just in time to immediately begin planning my next Disney trip.  I will never order matching T-shirts for my family or schedule a meal with a character or freak out because the Electrical Parade is ending. 

(2)            I will, however, wait in a very long line four separate times to ride the Haunted Mansion.

(3)            My children are not Disney children.  In fact, I learned that the 10 and the 12 have seen maybe two princess movies.  And they both hated one of them.  They do, however, like Jack Skellington.  I take full credit for this.

(4)            The line for Space Mountain is long enough so as to provide oodles of time to catch up with an old friend who drove down from Jacksonville to see you for the first time in more than 20 years and to meet your family.  (Thanks, Tommy!)

(5)            The shrimp and grits at the Coral Reef restaurant are TO DIE FOR.

(6)            Fake France has decent restrooms; I discovered this after the shrimp and grits almost killed me.

(7)            The friendliest country in Epcot is Fake Italy.  I know this because we went to Epcot on the day that one tropical storm came ashore, so we spent a great deal of time browsing in the countries.  I’m not just saying this because I am ethnically half Italian and these are my people; even my non-Italian husband acknowledged that the Italians were the most welcoming and the easiest to talk to.  They didn’t mind the wet, tired guests sitting on the floor, dripping water.  They also smelled the best (they sell real Italian cologne in Fake Italy).

(8)            Having said that, I would rather go to real Italy than return to Fake Italy.

(9)            I would find it super interesting to be an attorney for Disney.  I would especially enjoy working as a premises liability attorney for the company, dealing with all of the weird and different ways people injure themselves on the grounds.  I thought about this while at Disney, which sadly just so happened to be a few days before the tragic death of the little boy who was nabbed by the alligator.  My heart broke for that family.  Yet, I found myself wanting to read that settlement agreement and imagining the meetings where they talked about what lawyers call “subsequent remedial measures,” which means new signs, etc., put into place after the incident.  You might want to dress as Belle, but I want to defend The Beast in a court of law. 

(10)            Indeed, during that whole trip, I realized the law is never far from my mind.  For example, during the castle light show, when Tinkerbell flies down that cord, my first thought was, “Damn, I bet Disney has really good liability insurance.”

(11)            I may or may not have actually looked up Disney’s insurance carrier when I got home.  (You know, while everyone else was planning their next trips to Disney.)

(12)            I found it amusing that I wasn’t the only rider trying to kick the virtual canoeing people in the head on Soarin’.

(13)            Disney employees do not find it amusing when you ask whether Walt really froze his head.

(14)            Said employees are equally unamused when you mention you don’t like Cinderella because she was too much of a victim.

(15)            The dude in the Carousel of Progress looks exactly like Charles Grodin.  But creepier.  Because his lips don’t match what he’s saying.  Trust me, I stared at them all THREE times we sat through this.  (I would complain more, but it was air-conditioned and I actually took cat naps during all three rides.) 

(16)            You will be unable to get the song from the Carousel of Progress out of your head.  EVER.  (Three months and counting.)  It’s worse than It’s a Small World.

(17)            Also, progress – at least the way Disney sees it – appears to have ceased in the 1990s.

(18)            I would rather sit through a professional football game in the ice and snow than take a young child (infant/toddler) to Disney. 

(19)            Speaking of which, did you REALLY think your toddler wouldn’t be scared in the Haunted Mansion?  Really?  Because the rest of us saw it coming a mile of way (also known as, “at the end of the line.”)

(20)            Dole Whips are gross.  (Sorry, Karen!)

(21)            While others saw the sign for Zanzibar in the Magic Kingdom and thought, “Aladdin!” I saw the sign for Zanzibar and thought, “Freddie Mercury was born there!”

            Yeah . . . it ain’t easy being me.  Happy fall!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Hope You Dance

Still blogging with my three co-bloggers!  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, mostly.  Sometimes?  Don’t judge me.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
Moma Rock

            This week is a make up/free week.  I was going to make up a post I missed a few weeks ago, but something else is weighing on my mind.  So, I’m going to write about that, instead.

            I’ve mentioned before that my 12 has autism.  Most of you know that we haven’t been super lucky getting help (known as “services”) from the two school districts with which we’ve been involved since her diagnosis at age 9.  We fought our last school district for a year and a half to even get her an IEP (her own educational plan, including services like time with a social worker, math help, etc.).  Our first year in Tennessee was much better; they transferred the IEP and gave Grace more services than she needed.

            This year?  Did not go so well.
            About six weeks ago, I realized they were not giving Grace her math services.  I started asking questions of her math resource teacher (and her homeroom teacher) and got some really unbelievable answers.  Answers like, “I don’t take attendance,” and “It’s her fault for not showing up.”  Stuff like that.  I saw the writing on the wall and started calling educational advocates.  A law school friend told me to contact the Federally funded disability advocacy/watchdog group for Tennessee.  Sadly, they took our case.  I say “sadly” because this means my daughter really was getting shortchanged and we really had a problem. 

            This past Tuesday, we had a meeting with the resource teacher and some other school officials about the missed time.  To say they were unwelcoming would be a great understatement.  Try unreasonable.  Try defensive.  Better yet, try nasty.  Try hostile.  Try “how dare you challenge us.”  Try try try.  And then bite holes in your tongue as you maintain your civility while they do not.

            Here’s where I want you to close your eyes and pretend you were there with my husband and me.  Listen to your child’s resource teacher call your child a liar.  Listen to her blame your child (the one who is 12, the one who has autism) for the resource teacher’s own mistakes.  Listen to her voice fill with mild disgust as she makes a comment under her breath about the number of last names in your blended family.  Even worse yet, listen to your child’s homeroom teacher – the one your child loves so much, she wanted to buy him two end-of-year-gifts; the one you met with repeatedly during the year; the one you helped out in class on the day he taught the kids about arguing the other side of something – deny the contents of a conversation you had with him about missed services.  Feel your heart break.  And then feel it absolutely shatter when you have to tell your daughter about the meeting and she specifically asks you if her teacher backed her up.  Tell me how you feel. 

            I will tell you how I felt.  I felt drained.  Defeated.  Unbelievably sad.

            Now imagine the next day, when you receive a phone call from the head of special education for the district, and he tells you that they are going to give your daughter some math assistance over the summer to make up for what was missed.  How do you think you would feel?

            You all know I am an attorney.  I have won “cases” before.  I once won an outright reversal on an appeal; that happens in very few cases.  I’ve been on teams that earned NGs in a jury trial (“not guilty” – also rare).  Those victories were sweet.  We celebrated.  We felt good.

            This victory?  Felt incredibly hollow.  At no point did it feel like a “win,” even though in a sense it was, as it was adversarial, it was us against the school district.  Yes, we got what we wanted, without even filing an administrative complaint (the next step).  I felt relief, felt glad we would not have to engage in a protracted battle.  But I did not feel victorious. 

            Now I want you to imagine later that day.  Your daughter – the one who needs the extra assistance – is graduating from the school.  You spend an hour and a half in the gymnasium staring at the principal (who was cc’d on all the emails with the resource teacher and never once stepped up to help), staring at his assistant (who was downright nasty during the meeting), staring at the homeroom teacher (who had just betrayed not only your trust, but that of your child).  Put your hand over your mouth to stop yourself from laughing aloud when the guest speaker (the one who used to teach at the school but left to become a realtor) talks about the importance of taking ownership of your actions, of apologizing when you make a mistake.  Take those feelings and mix them with your feelings about watching your daughter graduate, the same ones every parent has, plus the extra ones you have because she has had a higher mountain to climb.  Feel the lump in your throat.  Because there was one in mine.

            Listen, now, as they give out achievement awards.  Realize as they announce the awards that, at the most, your child could possibly qualify for one – Most Improved.  Know that she will not win that award, because she did not improve.  Know that because of her challenges, she will never win the Academic Award (because her math grade will always pull her down) or the Citizenship Award (because her social skill struggles will always make her seem aloof and sometimes even unfriendly).  Try to imagine an award she could earn and hope to God or the Universe that someday, she will at least have the chance.

            Now, watch the video someone put together showing highlights of their last year of school.  See snippets of your child here and there, in the classroom, on a field trip.  See even more photos of that one group of girls who are always together – the group your child was never part of because of that social skills thing, even though you know she tried.  And while you’re at it, try to tune out the song playing with the video, I Hope You Dance, because it always, always makes you cry.  Because your daughter always chooses to sit it out while the other girls always choose to dance. 

            Push down all those feelings and head out of the gym.  Ask your daughter if she wants a photo with her homeroom teacher.  Watch her struggle, because she really does but she also really doesn’t.  Tell her that she might regret not taking one, because someday the positive memories might actually outweigh the negative.  Say that to her even though the last thing you want to do is look at her teacher, because you know you cannot speak your heart, not now. 

            Take the photo, anyway.

            Go home and try to wrap your mind around the past few days.  And then remember what the guest speaker said, not the part that made you laugh, the other part.  The part about gratitude, about being thankful and grateful for what you have.  Remember that your child is not winning an Achievement Award, but she is verbal and able to attend a Gen Ed school.  Remember that she has to work harder and you have to work harder, but that you have the love and support of family and good friends and a kind advocate from the Federally funded advocacy organization to hold you up and carry you through.  Remember that you are sitting in an elementary school gymnasium, and not in a cancer hospital. 

            Remember, then, that you have won, no matter how much it feels like you haven’t.
            Remember . . . and then close your eyes and hope that someday, your daughter chooses to dance.