Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Am Not OK

Photo credit: Falk Lademann
We're in the anniversary of the months when The Kid was living with us. More precisely, a year ago this month she was acting out really badly in ways that I still can't tell you about because I have to protect her privacy. 

So there are bad memories everywhere. I see Halloween decorations on Facebook (or articles about last minute costumes, which btw internets, it's not the last minute when there are two weeks to go) and I'm reminded of her atrocious behavior last Halloween. Which set off the sequence of events that led to her hospitalization and removal from our home and which I can't tell you about no matter how much sharing publicly might help my own healing. 

Or someone mentions the impending anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and instead of thinking of the overwhelming destruction faced by my extended family, I think of how The Kid acted out after too much storm-imposed pleasant family togetherness. Which would've prompted a 911 call on any other day, but when the city is in a state of emergency, you hesitate to bother the cops for a little ol' EDP. That's emotionally disturbed person to you civilians. 

I don't expect to have flashbacks every Halloween for the rest of my life. I'm hoping that this is the last of it. One last agonizing month and then I can move on. Because with time and therapy, I've come to realize and accept that this wasn't my fault, our support system was an unsupportive as they could be, and The Kid never should've been put in this position.

But knowing this hasn't completely convinced me that the next kid will be on board with being a member of a family. And knowing this hasn't allowed me to let go of all the hurt feelings and frustration and anger.

There are all sorts of rituals of dealing with the grief of miscarriage, stillbirths and deceased children. But what is there for disrupted pre-adoptive placements? I don't want any sort of relationship with The Kid in the future. Her behavior one year ago made it so that I don't miss her. The disruption has been the best for all of us. 

So am I grieving an abstraction? Grieving what I could have had? What I should have had by now, and would have if not for this fiasco? Am I grieving for something I'm going to have with another kid in the next year or so? Or is that I can't bring myself to believe that it'll happen?

I keep a five-year journal, and I look back and see last's years entries and the hopeful ones are the worst. At one point, I wrote that I think we've hit a turning point with The Kid. And the next day. The next fucking day, her behavior hit a new low point. 

When you come out of a situation that was doomed from the start, how can you find hope to try again?

And so I went through a patch of massive sadness. And now I'm in a patch of massive Hulk-smash anger. With a side of the flu, so that's festive. Should be interesting to see what emotions I bathe in next week. 

November has got to be better.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Columbus Day Loser's Club

Columbus Circle
Photo credit: Erik Drost
I was on the speech team in high school, which was an excellent way for a social misfit like me to make friends. It's not like we had a theater club or a show choir or anything like what the cool misfits are into these days.

At some point, our coach was promoted from teacher to head of development. This meant that several of us got to skip class every now and again to go to some school to convince 8th graders to apply to our school. which was a nice change of pace. 

Another part of her job was raising money for the school. There was one event that she took a bunch of us to that is permanently etched in my brain. I will be in the little old hipsters home, Guns 'n Roses playing on the PA and I'll still remember this story.

There was this old Italian guy, who was so proud of his heritage and/or Christopher Columbus (who neither discovered America or was a stand up guy) that he decided to make a grand gesture in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's (non) discovery of America in 1492. 

I graduated high school in 1988, and I wasn't the oldest student in our group, so let's say that he was getting a 5 to 6 year head start on the thing.

His grand plan was to fund Golden Rule clubs in high schools all over Brooklyn. You know, the whole do unto others as you would have do unto you (unless you're invading their land) thing. 

I can picture it all vividly. The white building where the big launch meeting was. The folding chairs. The speeches that took their own sweet time getting to the point. Thinking, "You want us to do what?"

All we had to do to get $500 for our school was to start such a club. Which was never going to happen because some things are too lame even for nerds in Catholic school. Mrs. C cajoled, she guilted. But we did not budge.

I don't know if she was concerned about her fund raising numbers, or if she would've been allowed to use the money for something else after we founded the club and then never had a single meeting. But we weren't going to do it. 

All I could picture was having to make and post flyers for this lameass group, and this was too much even for rule-following, authority-pleasing (most of the time) me. This wasn't going to be the Golden Rule Club. It was going to be the Social Suicide Club.

Which is an excellent movie premise, but not something you should dabble with in real life.

I sang in the folk group at masses. I was a Eucharistic minister (yes, I was once so Catholic that I distributed the body and blood of Christ). I started a fund raising effort to fight world hunger. But starting a Golden Rule club in a school where we were already being taught the Golden Rule (it's totes biblical) and where the students treated each other better than the teachers treated us? That was on the other side of a line I was not about to cross.

I'm so horrified that anyone thought we were going to get on board with this that I get flashbacks every Columbus Day.

So what are your Columbus Day memories?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Great Butcher Paper Drama

silas wrapped in butcher paper
Photo credit: Timothy Vollmer
I was reading this post on Epbot about the giant clock Cake Wrecks Jen and her husband built for their bedroom, when I spied the words, "White butcher paper is ideal, since it comes in big rolls (check specialty paint or hardware shops)" and had a flashback to the fifth grade.

My teacher decided that we were all going to trace our bodies onto butcher paper, then...I don't remember - probably draw in all the major organs. Which, OK, fine. Totally educational there. 

But we had to obtain the butcher paper ourselves. All sixty of us. The teacher told us to just go to the butcher and ask for 5 feet of butcher paper. The one butcher in the entire neighborhood.

Because apparently, she couldn't just ask the one butcher in the neighborhood to donate a roll of paper. She had to ambush this long-standing family business with SIXTY separate requests for paper.

I mean, this was Catholic school. She could've just sent over a nun. But no. It was the 1980s and adults were not expected to have their shit together.

So I obtained my 5 feet of butcher paper, or more likely my Dad did. Then the big day came. And I forgot it at home. We didn't need it until after lunch, so I had time to get it. 

Except that I wasn't going home for lunch that day because my mom was substitute teaching at my old school (the Montessori one, the one where I was never sent on crazy art supply finding missions). That day, my brother and I were having lunch at my Grandma's house - a few blocks away from school.

My house was a mile away from school, and we always took the bus to and from school. So taking 30 minutes out of my lunch hour (which was really 45 minutes) to walk home and get the butcher paper wasn't really on the table. And Grandma didn't have a car that day for whatever reason.

So we called my Dad at work, who called the butcher to ask them to set aside another five feet of butcher paper for me. I stopped by the butcher on the way back to school and asked for the paper. One of the guys behind the counter said that they were out because all of my friends had cleaned them out. 

I was heartbroken. Horrified. I'm getting chest pains just thinking about it.

The guy was awfully nice about it. Just think how pissed off they must've been to have an unexpected run on paper. Paper that they usually wrap around meat that they sell to paying customers. They were probably down to half a roll and were hiding it in the freezer.

I was NINE. It was like I'd run right into a brick wall. I said, "But my Dad called," in the saddest, most defeated voice I'd ever heard come out of my mouth. 

One of the other butchers stepped in and handed me the one last roll of butcher paper that they'd set aside because my Dad had called. I don't have words for how relieved I was. I'd been spared the humiliation of being the only one in class who hadn't obtained their regulation five feet of butcher paper. 

So what did I learn from this class project? Not whatever the teacher was trying to teach us, that's for sure. The whole thing about drawing the major organs is just a guess. It sounds reasonable.

At the time, I learned that Catholic school was bullshit. I mean, come on. The tuition, the required $5 minimum donation to the Church every week, the fundraising chocolate bars - did none of it cover the cost of a roll of art paper? The teacher had to do a lesson plan far enough in advance that she had enough time to order one from a catalog (or from the butcher). 

The forced, insincere praying four times a day was bad enough. Did they have to dump a huge load of stress on me over paper?

I swear, parents these days are so hyper-organized and Pinterest-happy because we were  foraging for school supplies when we were ten. It was only going to escalate from there.

Did you have some ridiculous drama in grade school?

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Great Cookie Non-Theft of Williamsburg, Virginia

gun cookies
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker
I was browsing through Kludgy Mom's Idea Bank for something to write about today and I hit on #45: I was wrongly accused of... and it made me think of something that my little brother was wrongly accused of, and you know I'm not just taking his side because ratting him out was one of my favorite hobbies. Hell, it took me something like 30 episodes of Phineas and Ferb to stop getting all worked up, thinking that Candace was about to finally bust them this time.

Also, I was wrongly accused of shoplifting at the drug store that time, but didn't even think of that injustice at first.

So one summer, my parents took us on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg because all the togetherness involved in a road trip and hotel stay always seem like a good idea before you actually do it. Oh, and it was educational and stuff. We always enjoyed visiting Old Bethpage, so why not visit someplace else old timey?

One of the exhibits was a working bakery, and I remember big baskets of cookies. All the tourists lined up along the rope that lined the work area as we watched what was going on, and probably ended up at a spot where we could buy the cookies. My brother was pointing out some cookies to me, but not the ones in the basket closest to us - the ones farther away. Now, grown-ups who are used to the subtleties of talking with their hands would indicate the far basket by pointing higher up, or over to the left. But my bro wasn't even in high school yet. So he leaned over the rope as far as he could so that his finger could be pointing as close to the basket he meant.

One of the bakers saw him, and shook his finger at him like, "don't even think about it, buddy."

Which he wasn't. So whatever. The parents were on line ahead of this and completely missed the whole thing.

Later, we were on line outside another historical building and two women got on line behind us. And I heard, "Those are the two children who were stealing cookies."

My mother didn't hear this. I know she didn't because she turned to me and smiled for some random reason. I'm sure the ladies behind us saw and decided that my mom had raised us to steal historically baked cookies. For thrills. Obviously.

Meanwhile, all I could think was, "Shut the fuck up, lady. He wasn't stealing cookies and how exactly did I become an accomplice?"

I didn't say anything to the women, or to my parents for one simple reason. My mother would've had a screaming fit. She went on to teach junior high. She is not someone you fuck with. She also used to bake a lot, so we really had all the cookies we needed at home.

But she didn't subject us to the torture of Catholic school to have us accused of cookie theft. And her father was a cop, so she'd probably cut a bitch for saying her kids were cookie crooks.

You save the Wrath of Mom for situations that really call for it, is what I'm saying. And some nasty bitches who we were never going to see again just didn't rate.

And now I really want to bake some cookies.

Have you ever been wrongly accused of something?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Remember the Teacher

Kindergarten room
Photo credit: Contract Surfaces, Inc.
This week's Remember The Time Blog Hop is about teachers. Which leads me to this confession:

I'm Facebook friends with my Kindergarten teacher. 

I feel like this fact is more interesting than the time my high school English teacher diagrammed a sentence he'd overheard in the hall ("Wes was going" - that's not referring to a person named Wes, but it's a double plural - "we" with an s on the end.) because he just had to discuss how many ways that sentence was wrong. Mr. Black loved lamenting how stupid and provincial Brooklyn teens were (some of his students  had never left Brooklyn), and I kept thinking - dude, we're from here. You voluntarily moved here from another state. Who's the bigger dumbass in this situation?

But back to Miss Norma from Kindergarten. It was Montessori, so there was a lot of learning at your own pace. But other than that, it was pretty standard Kindergarten stuff. Cubbies. Sitting on the floor. Snack time. I was little, so it was all a bit of a blur. But my mom substitute taught at my school (and then eventually taught there full time), so she socialized with Miss Norma and some of the other teachers.

I remember going to Miss Norma's apartment in Greenwich Village once. OK, just Norma - she keeps asking all her ex-students to stop calling her Miss Norma on Facebook and it's a really hard habit to break, but she doesn't talk to us like we're still five years old, so it's only fair.

Anyway, her apartment in the Village was this totally old New York place with a bathtub in the kitchen. Because at some point in the history of NYC, this was considered a reasonable thing to do. Now, I'm jaded about crazy New York apartments, but as a kid? Mind. blown.

She told me recently that one time (possibly on the same visit), my Dad banged on a fire hydrant on the street to get her attention. Maybe the buzzer was broken. Maybe it was a walkup and he was trying to avoid the walk up. I dunno. My Dad makes about as much sense as New York real estate.

Now Norma is all plugged in with an iPad, hanging out on Facebook and playing her games. She saw a FB post of mine about Broadchurch, and asked where she could see it (since the BBC America run had just ended). She then power watched it in a day. 

Because this is the world we live in now. You get all excited about a murder mystery starring that bloke who used to play Doctor Who and then you turn your former Kindergarten teacher onto it. Who can then watch it online legally. 

Because we are living in the future.

You can steal me and use me as your own

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Idiots - I Knows Dem

wheelchair sign under a fresh coat of paint
Photo credit: man pikin
I've just discovered the Idiot of the Week blog hop and my brain temporarily broke trying to think of which specific idiot to write about. Sadly, as is all too common, I know too many idiots who are just not funny. But eventually one came to mind.

I used to travel a lot for work, which meant spending far more time with my co-workers than was strictly healthy. Sometimes this even meant going to the same city week after week.

Once, the monotony was broken by the arrival of a wheelchair tennis tournament at the hotel we were staying at. Mind you, the actual tennis happened offsite and very few of the rooms were wheelchair accessible, so I don't know how any of this worked.

But that week, the hotel was full of people there to hang out and socialize (when they weren't playing tennis). Since the hotel was usually full of business travelers, or tourists who kept to themselves, the joint was not usually jumping. Hell, I usually had the tiny gym to myself.

But not this week. The wheelchair tennis tournament crowd was there to talk to strangers. 
They had that vibe that college freshman have - we're in a big happy group and you should join us so you can be happy too. I started chatting to one guy and ended up hanging out with a bunch of people much closer to my age than my co-workers in the hotel bar one or two evenings. I was less miserable than usual. It was nice.

This was pre-social media, so instead of becoming FB friends or Twitter buddies with my new pals, I never saw them again.

The next week, as we were flying back down to the same exact place, I said to one of my co-workers, "I hope there's another tournament or conference at the hotel the week. People at those things are so friendly."

And she replied, "Oh, yeah, I saw you had a good time last week. But it made me so sad to look at their shriveled legs."

So apparently, she thought I'd just said that people in wheelchairs were friendlier than the able-bodied. Which, just, what? Is that a stereotype that exists out in the universe? Or just in her brain?

Also, if the brace hadn't worked, my limbs wouldn't be perfectly formed either. So would looking at me make her sad too?

So extreme was her discomfort around the disabled that her hearing shut down and she decided that I'd just said that wheelchair bound people are especially friendly. I bet if I'd called her on it at the time, she would've had a whole explanation, like maybe they're friendly because they have to be because they have to ask for help all the time.

Which, just. Sigh.