Thursday, April 21, 2005

Choir Concert

Who can fathom the mind of a pre-teen? I was begged by my middle daughter to be a chaperone on the choir contest trip. Then, I was told to sit as far away from her on the bus as possible. I was compleately ignored the entire time I was there by her, yet, she complained bitterly that I didn't buy her anything while we were there. I give up!
It was held at a drive through wildlife park not far from where we live. I was rather looking forward to it. The last time I'd been to one was Lion Country Safari in South Florida. Time sure flies. (time disolve)
I took my (then) 2 yr old niece and on the way, the Challenger exploded. Of course, I didn't realize what I saw, to me it looked like some strange flare accident. Anyway, that was a very cool place, driving through in your car while the animals ran free, the lions seperated from the other animals and I'm pretty sure they weren't in cages. I remember looking out the window at a giraffe's knee and thinking they were a heck of a lot bigger than I ever assumed.
(fast forward) This park had all the dangerous animals in cages. Only the cattle, deer, lamas, stuff like that were out in the open. You could feed them but, honestly, they weren't all that interested and totally honestly... who wants a cow with a snotty, slimy face and a long tongue nosing at you anyway? The fences were very secure (read obtrusive) so, I've had a better time at a zoo.
But, let's get serious here... we were there for a concert and the kids gathered and practiced in an unused gift shop. They sounded great. The contest was in a larger building, acoutics weren't great, but I think they did fabulously with their two songs. As a mom, I am thrilled my daughter is finally singing in a group that has some harmony going. I would like to see that starting sooner in her life.
(way back machine) I have such fond memories of singing alto with my friend in the church choir.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Hard Choices

There are hard choices in life. Making them defines being a "grown-up". I think of Michael Jackson and think, "well sure, I'd like to spend my days getting inspiration for MY art by sitting in the tree."But, apparently, no one told him that this isn't what 40 year olds do and if they did, I guess they aren't around him any more. He's just a spoiled kid in an adult body. (I'm just not going to comment on the sexual stuff)
Understanding that you can't get whatever you want when you want it isn't a new lesson for me, but I guess now I understand why I heard No so often as a kid. We, frankly, couldn't afford it. I still can't afford a lot and I always keep in mind the financial part of things before I say, "I want". I do, however, have a dream list. Things I would have if...
So, I've been working as a substitute teacher. I love the job for a few reasons:
1. It's constantly changing. I sub k-12, so I can be teaching 8th grade science one day and 4th grade the next. I never know what I'll be teaching and that keeps me on my toes.
2. I do not have any lesson plans, grading papers, school meetings, parent meetings or expectations of achievement levels to deal with.
3. I get to know the kids, but not too closely. I don't have my heart broken when a student moves or when their parents divorce. Sometimes, I'm a familiar face to them if they've moved from one system I sub at to another.
4. I am able to speak casually to my childrens' teachers instead of scheduling a formal meeting. Often, it's all that's needed.

While I enjoy the job, it's part of further fracturing my personal life. I have a home and family. I am a mom and wife and home maker. (three seperate roles there) I am an artist. I am part of a community, so I volunteer for church and 4-H. And I'm a sub. (6 roles?)
The hard choices are that my art is getting set aside more and more often because the other roles are taking more time.
I have a quilt on my design wall right now that I wanted to enter in a contest that I'll probably never meet the deadline at this point. I'm recovering from 1st communion today, and I work the rest of the week as well as taking a class, getting my kids to PSR and going on a field trip. Maybe I'll get to it on Friday, but I've got my doubts.
The hard choices are that my art isn't financially rewarding at this point, so I need to spend my time doing something that is. I need a job that works with the school day schedule, because of my family, and this seems the best option at the moment. The hard choice is the thing that makes me "me" is set aside for my other roles. They are all roles I enjoy and get a lot from, but they don't fill my soul the way creating art does.
Making the sacrifice, not doing what I want to do, is a hard choice, but it's what grown-ups do.

first communion

It feels just like a wedding... so much to prepare for and it lasts about an hour.
I spent hours teaching my daughter what they felt she needed to know. She spent hours going to a class to teach her , well, I guess the same thing I was teaching her. We spent a whole saturday at a "mandatory family day". I showed up at a time (that was decided by someone else) to bake bread, only to find no one there. Of course, the other person decided she was too busy to do it and no one remembered who else got drafted. So, no one bothered to call me that it was cancelled. Oh, so apparently, my time isn't as valuable even though I had enough on my plate too. On the mandatory family day, we made a banner. Weeks later, I was supposed to drop everything and drive there to tell them what font I wanted on the banner.Uh, couldn't you have asked that sometime durring the 6 hours I was there? Turns out, a week later, I could still make the decision.
So, we had company. Friends and family to help celebrate. More friends than family. My parents are gone and my husband's are not up to a long trip any longer. So, basically, one aunt on each side was there. Other than that, it was our friends and my daughter's friends. It was funny how none of the husbands showed up, just the women and kids. My nephew's girlfriend came, but not my nephew.
Oh well... I believe Delaney had a good time and she did great. This is my last one going through this, so thank goodness, I don't have to wait for what else the church cooks up to help me celebrate my child's religious rites of passage.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Death becomes Her---------------
Terri's story has brought the issue of a human's right to death / right to life to the fore front in America. While her parents were very vocal, her husband refused to discuss it in the public forum, so we were all left knowing only one side of the story so compleately... or were we?
How many judges looked at the case and rulled on favor of her husband? There had to be convincing evidence that it would be something Terri would have chosen (or did in conversations)
Of course, it made me think, how many of us say to someone, "if I was left as a vegetable, just pull the plug"? yet, how many of us has actually bothered to put it in writing? Most of us still assume we are too young to think about the details of death. It's mostly the elderly who go ahead and put it in writing or those who think death might be around the corner. The rest of us might think about it, but tend to get distracted by grocery lists, schedules and sleep. I don't know about you, but a trip to the lawyer's is not on my to do list in the near future.
As I watched all the desperate efforts being made to change our constitutional rights on the basis of this one woman's plight, I thought it was so odd that her parents would fight so hard to keep her here when they were so devout Christians. Do they really believe in Heaven? Then, why would they think her existence on earth in this condition was a better choice than letting her be with God?
I began to think Terri was like Sleeping Beauty, or perhaps the perfect child. Here was an adult child who would never disappoint them and never disagree. Of course, she would never do anything to make them proud, never accomplish anything, never give them grandchildren and would never become anything more or different. Terri was frozen in time and there was no hope she would ever become anything else.
Shortly before all this made the news, my mother died. She was 85 and had a massive brain tumor. She had a living will. We sat by her bedside and watched her die. It took 3 days. There were three days of no food and no water. Days where her lungs slowly filled with fluid where it would have eventually ended in her drowning in her own fluids. We sat there knowing it would be what she wished. Knowing it was the best choice. Knowing that she believed she was going to Heaven and wouldn't have wanted to remain here. Knowing all that didn't make the sitting near here any easier.
This was my mother who raised me and cared for me and I was watching her die. It doesn't make a difference if she was 85 or 25. Not really.
People in the US tend to ignore death or they try to pretty it up. We tend to try anything to stay alive, even those who believe there's something better waiting for us. I don't know of any death that has been easy on anyone involved. Sudden deaths or long lingering ones, none of them are pretty and I think we are all kidding ourselves to think otherwise. My father died a long and lingering death. My great Aunt died in the bathroom in the middle of the night. My grandfather's body just wore out. My great Uncle died from a stroke. The bottom line is we don't get to choose our deaths. Not the way, time or place. I think too many people want to plan better than that.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Education reform-
This is an issue of great concern to me and will probably be revisited several times.
Today on NPR I heard that the government is holding out a carrot to the states who believe that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is unfair and unreasonable by saying now instead of 1% of the kids being exempt from testing, they can have 3%. The most vocal protests about the testing has to do with having to test low-ability (special ed) kids with their grade level without making concessions like creating an easier test. The other major issue is that it's a non funded mandate from the federal government.
At first, the idea of a set standard of education sounds good. Every 4th grader in the US should have "x" amount of knoweldge. If they don't, the school is failing them. If the school continues to fail, the parents have the right to take their kids to a school that does get the job done.
But then, common sense steps in and reality hits. We all know people have different mental abilities. There are those average, above average and those below average. There's nothing any school can do to change the fact that a child with an 80 IQ will be low achieving. They will never be average, no matter how hard you test them. If you try to create a test that makes these kids able to pass, you are seriously neglecting the other students and dumbing down the entire educational system.
These are high stakes tests. Too much is riding on the outcome. It leads to a lot of pressure. Parents are told how important it is to make sure their kids are taking them, get a good night sleep, eat breakfast. Kids are told how important they are. They are bribed to be there, sometimes with small prizes, sometimes with large ones. Cheating among the school systems in some states is blatently out of control. It's ironic that Pres. Bush got this whole idea from his home state of TX, and they are outrageously cheating on their tests,financially rewarding principals and school board adminstrators for good test scores.. see story at:
So, now, my second issue. What if my school ends up being a dud? What if they never get their act together during the probabtion period and now, I can choose to take my kids to a better school? The thing is, there IS no other school here. In rural areas, we have no private schools and only one Public school. If the elementary school isn't doing a good job, there isn't another one I can take my kids to. What are we supposed to do? Send our kids to a school in the next county?
My kids already spend 3 hours on the bus daily to get to this one. My 9 year old is already waking up at 5:30 am and doesn't get home until 4:30 PM. You do the math.
I believe education is vitally important to our future and my children's future. I believe the schools should do a good job providing the intellectual background for them to achieve in life. But I also think I need to have time with them to finish the job. I do not want to rely on the school to teach my children manners, morals, or life skills. It's my job to do that but I've got to see them to do it. I do not believe a child's life needs to be totally consumed with school. I want them to ride their bikes, visit with the neighbors and get a sense of a real neighborhood. I want them to know there are responcibilities here at home and to learn the life skills they will need to live on their own. So often, the argument is that parents aren't doing this job and I get very frustrated. I do what I can, but when I have about 4 or 5 hours a day with my kids and two of those hours are spent eating,and homework intrudes on the rest (not counting church classes and school programs), when am I supposed to do "my job"?
Schools have taken on the role of moral educators as well as babysitters. There are before school programs to keep the kids whose parents have to go to work early. there are after school programs so kids have a place to be until their parents get off work. In the meantime, they teach character education, so the kids learn words like "responcibility, trustworthiness, truthfulness, caring, etc..." They teach the older ones about sexual relations and encourage abstinence. See this story at:
I see all this to be an intrusion on my role as a parent, but understand that not every parent will do this job, so the schools have to address them.
I'll end this now, but I know, I'll return to the issue again.