Monday, December 20, 2010

Un-Grinching :-)

I used to be super-into the holidays, especially Christmas. When I was a little girl, before my parents got divorced, it was pretty much a month-long party. We'd play Harry Simeon's "Little Drummer Boy" album and decorate--always with the same ornaments--and it was just a really good time. The local newspaper actually does a feature on Christmas stories each year, and I actually wrote about my experiences with my dad and Christmas (he is like a little boy around Christmas, even now)a few years ago.

And then, after my mother remarried, my stepfather became part of a whole new collection of holiday traditions.

However, my stepfather--probably my favorite person in the world other than my children--passed away two days before Christmas in 2004, and Christmas has been hard since then. And then, dealing with the divorce and everything changing, I was a total grinch last Christmas.

My holiday spirit is way perked up this year, although I'm not sure why. It's nice, though, so I'm just going with it :-)

I haven't updated here forever, which I feel badly about, but I've just been very busy with work and my kids and spending time with family and good friends, both old and new. Life is good, and the holiday season is the best time to realize that ... I'm glad I've finally remembered that.

Love, peace, and happy holidays to everyone :-)!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thorns, Buds, and Roses

My school has something called Advisory, which is basically a small(ish--my Advisory is seventeen kids) group of students that have half an hour daily to do things like team building, study skills, listening practice, discussions on important issues (for example, we had an amazing conversation about wearing purple to support the recent highly publicized suicides by homosexual youths), and start to think about life and career goals. The incorporation of this sort of class is a growing trend, and it's kind of neat that my school is somewhat ahead of the curve.

Anyway, I mentioned Advisory because one of the activities that we are strongly encouraged to do with our students is called "Thorns, Buds, and Roses". (I've done a variation of this sort of multi-faceted reflection with my English classes for years now where the prompt for student writer's notebooks is "School: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly").

Basically, you're able to stop and think about where you're at, what's good (roses), what's not so good (thorns), and what sort of hopes you have on the bloom, so to speak (buds).

It occurred to me that this might be a neat blog post, so feel free to give it a shot (you can also focus it a bit--do it in terms of writing, in terms of your week, in terms of your day, in terms of your goals, whatever)

My Thorn:
Loneliness is killing me. I don't mean in terms of being alone--I'm surrounded by my students and colleagues all day and my family all night--but more a general impression that nobody understands me, that nobody has any idea of what goes on in my head (or even worse, that they really don't care). I have been used pretty relentlessly throughout my life ... but I was aware of it and it was something I chose to involve myself in. I'm at a point now where dishonesty and the "I'm there for you as long as there's something in it for me" thing are really starting to bother me, mostly I think because I'm there for people that need me no matter what ... I cannot comprehend people that don't have this mindset, although I'm starting to realize that I must be the strange one for always putting myself out there and getting nothing in return. Since I can't change the nature of who I am, though, this is going to be an ongoing thorn in my life--but I guess I'd rather that than become a person that I don't like. This might not make any sense ;-)

My Bud:
My writing. After a long (LONG) hiatus, I seem to be back on track with my writing. I've reread both the finished novel and the getting-close-to-finished one, and I'm really surprised and pleased at how really excellent I think they are. I've got a lot of ideas for finishing the WIP, and I'm contemplating redoing the query process with the finished piece. I'm really proud of the stuff I've been writing lately for Zelda Lily, and I'm also super excited about having rediscovered how much I love this little blog of mine :-) Hope springs eternal!

My Rose:
My students. There are days that I think I am completely wasting my time, and then there are the moments that I realize the little angels really do listen to me and care about what's going on. Seventh graders are reading The Outsiders and they can't get enough of that book--vehement non-readers are angry when we don't work on it in class. And my eighth grade classes are reading The Hobbit and, while they're not exactly loving it, they're getting something out of it (we talked about conflict today and how cool it was that Tolkien gives the reader a name for the internal conflict going on inside Bilbo--"something Tookish rose up in him"--and they really seemed engaged).

So there you have it :-) Leave a link in the comments if you decide to give it a try ...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sometimes the Stars Align

I've been thinking a lot today about how sometimes the universe gives you what you need, even if there is a cost that makes it seem less than sweet at the time. My great gift of the past week or so? Pancreatitis. Yes, I'm serious.

Pancreatitis is just what it sounds like, an inflammation of the pancreas. What cannot be put into words, however, is how painful it is. At its worst, it feels as though someone is drilling through your upper abdomen and all the way through to your back--it is relentless and there is no relief. It hurts to breathe, it hurts to wear a bra, it hurts to move, and I don't just mean "hurts" ... I mean agony. And my pain threshold is pretty high.

I have chronic pancreatitis as the result of a liver issue. Basically, when they tried to repair some damage to my liver, the doctors messed up my pancreas for life (I was in the hospital on a morphine drip for nearly a month following what was supposed to be a minor surgical procedure). It's a long and not terribly interesting story, but the bottom line is that I have occasional flare-ups that are incredibly painful but usually fairly short-lived--I haven't been hospitalized in almost two years.

Like pretty much any other chronic medical condition, stress and lack of adequate rest are contributing factors in the frequency and intensity of the flare-ups.

I am under an enormous amount of stress at work that, as I've mentioned before, I can't get into, much as I'd like to (I vent like crazy on my secret, hidden blog, though ;-)). Suffice it to say that I for the first time am wondering about some people's agendas--if you are not in the education field to educate children, then why in the world don't you go bring your two-faced, backstabbing tendencies into a job where it would be beneficial, like a collection agency or a law firm or Abu Ghraib?

I also have a tendency to burn the proverbial candle at both ends, which is nobody's fault but my own.

On Wednesday morning, a pancreatitis flare-up came out of the clear blue sky like a gunshot (kind of felt like a gunshot, too :-(). It was so bad that I called the doctor to make an appointment (I refuse to go to the ER in general because they'll make me stay in the hospital for a week and I just can't do that) ... and I also cried in a meeting, which is most unlike me.

So I went to the doctor that afternoon, by which time the pain was still pretty bad but not wall-punching, tear-inducing unbearable. She did bloodwork (and was unsurprised with the results), gave me more Percocet, and suggested I go to the ER if it got unspeakable again. I explained that this was not going to happen, so she told me that I had to take the next day (Thursday) off from work and wrote a note to this effect.

Yeah, I HATE to miss work and had been out four days the week before because I was in Vermont doing work on a school reaccreditation team. So I went to work on Thursday and had what might well have been my worst day ever in terms of losing any last shred of respect I could potentially have ever had for a couple of my colleagues. It was dreadful and, as I was exhausted and in a tremendous amount of pain, I decided to take Friday off so that I could hopefully get some rest and start to bounce back a little bit.

Best decision ever.

I have been resting (like, sitting down, only getting up to pee or get some more ginger ale resting) for three days. I've been reading a lot and writing even more--this blog, for example, a place that I swore never to abandon, had been kind of abandoned, and it's been great to be able to post a few pieces. I wrote some pieces for Zelda Lily that I'm really proud of--one on direct instruction in areas like empathy for school children, for example, and one on baby steps (but steps nonetheless) being taken to address sexual abuse in males which is kind of a forbidden topic--and I even revisited my second novel, the one that's 3/4 of the way finished, and got some ideas for directions to go in.

I relaxed with my kids, my mother, and my dog. It's rare for us to all be home together, but it was a nice treat. I would have enjoyed it even more if I'd been able to eat something other than chicken broth, but then again, maybe that's part of what made it so enjoyable, joking around about all the good stuff they were eating (popcorn with extra butter while watching The Perfect Storm ... mmmmmm, I was so jealous!). And Addie, who got her license on Friday, drove by herself to an event at her school, and Belle and I got to read a lot together.

So it's Sunday night now, and I'm feeling pretty good physically. I'm also feeling really good emotionally, and I think it's kind of interesting that somehow the stars aligned so that I could have a few days to do nothing but rest, to recharge my batteries, to worry only about feeling better.

I wish that it hadn't taken a 10 on the pain scale to get me to slow down and take it easy for a couple of days, but I'm kind of dense about the small stuff--taking care of myself physically, for example--sometimes.

Thank you, stars, or God, or fate, or karma, or whatever. I really needed this little rest!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday Stealing: A Fourteen Question Meme That's Making the Rounds ;-)

You do find some odd things out there when you're sitting at home on a Saturday night ... check out "Sunday Stealing" here for a thorough explanation (or to join the fun ;-)).

1. What do you consider your hometown to be?
Dover, New Hampshire. I lived there for most of my life, and I hope to return there sooner rather than later.

2. What’s the hardest part of your average day?
Waking up in the morning. I have extensive fogginess (and a lack of ability to do anything, pretty much) until at least the second cup of coffee. This has been exacerbated lately by the alarm on my new phone, which I can't get to make noise. It just vibrates annoyingly, then the 3/4 asleep me turns it off, and then ... well, yeah, you can see where that goes.

3. The easiest? Why?
Doing Belle's nightly reading with her, an activity that gives both of us a great deal of pleasure. Observing a six-year-old develop as a reader is cool enough, but being part of it? Freaking amazing :-) We have it down to a pretty cool science now ... she'll read a couple of books to me (her teacher sends her home with a "just right" book for her reading level every night or she'll read her library book or grab one from her bookshelf), then I'll read the next section of the chapter book we're working on (it's James and the Giant Peach at the moment).

4. What beverage do you reach for to quench your thirst?
Barq's root beer.

5. What is one not-so-secret goal you have for your life? I’ll let you keep your secret ones to yourself.
To be a published novelist.

6. What physical pain do you fear most? For example, I’m trying to decide how bad my jaw pain needs to get before I risk a potential needle from my dentist. So, for me, throbbing is preferable to jabbing.
I fear pancreatitis pain, which is rather unfortunate since I'm having a pancreatitis flare-up at the moment. I've had root canals, a tonsillectomy, a broken wrist, a ruptured appendix, two childbirth experiences, and a lot of other things I can't think of right now ... but none of them came remotely close to pancreatitis. At all.

7. Where do you find solace?
Writing, reading, or walking on the beach.

8. What makes you the saddest when you read/see the news?
I'm saddened by violence (recently the Steven Spader trial in New Hampshire) and by ignorance (the crazy woman who somehow thinks her husband's suspicious death IN MEXICO reflects on Barack Obama's immigration policy, for example, or the Tea Party).

9. What do you eat for a favorite snack?
Clementine oranges ... or Cheetos lol.

10. What movie could you/would you watch more than two or three times and still enjoy just as much as the first time?
The Star Wars movies. It's a longtime addiction based in childhood that has always been with me.

11. What boy/girl first made you cry?
I'm going to take the easy route here and say my brother was the first boy to make me cry and my sister was the first girl to make me cry. Obviously I'm just pretending that my reading comprehension fails.

12. What brand of coffee/tea do you drink most often?
Dunkin' Donuts. If I don't have my Dunk's coffee every morning, the entire day is a nightmare.

13. Dig in the dirt with or without garden gloves?
Without ... I like the way that dirt feels and the things you notice that you never would if you were wearing gloves.

14. James Taylor or Carly Simon?
James Taylor (although I like Carly Simon too)

I'm Sorry, Kermit!

When I was seventeen, I hit a chipmunk on my way to work. It was the first time I'd ever killed anything in my life (I'm one of those people that catches a spider or bumblebee then releases them outside--the only exception is mosquitos), and I was distraught. I was such a mess, in fact, that I actually got sent home from work because I couldn't stop crying.

I've had other roadkill incidents since then, and while I always feel badly about it, I no longer go into hysterics. I mean, sometimes those squirrels just run right out in front of you. I always try to dodge them if possible, but sometimes there's just nothing you can do.

Something happened one night last week that reminded me of my utter devastation over the first chipmunk I hit, and it got me pondering the proverbial food chain and the equity (or inequity, I guess you'd say) of the animals, big and small, that are killed incidentally by human beings.

I live very close to the ocean, and there is a lot of marshland surrounding the roads near my house. Sometimes at night, you can hear the frogs singing, a beautiful choir that's obviously not planned but somehow sounds intentional anyway.

One night last week, I was coming home from dinner in Massachusetts with a friend. It was pretty late--bordering on midnight--and it had been raining all day and most of the night. All of a sudden, with no warning at all, the boggy road I was on was covered with frogs. Covered.

I felt a twinge of the girl I was at seventeen rise up inside as I realized that I was driving over frogs. Like, multitudes of frogs. We're talking froggie family reunion here.

I considered reversing up the road, changing direction, getting back on the highway, and going home in a way that would have allowed me to circumvent the avenue of amphibians. If I'd been seventeen, I would without question have done it. There were two things that stopped me:

1) I could see in my rear view mirror that the frogs that had escaped certain death under the deadly wheels of my car were hopping over their dead and injured brethren, bound for the relative safety of the moonlit marshes on either side of the road. They had avoided the wheel of fortune's death knell once, and it seemed cruel on a whole bunch of levels to reverse over them--I don't know much, but I do know that fate only goes your way so many times, and they'd already been scared and shaken.

2) It was very late, I was exhausted, and I wanted to be home as quickly as possible.

And so I plowed ahead, flattening countless frogs in the process because they were so prolific that attempting to dodge them was futile. For nearly a mile, though, I weaved my little sedan slowly around the larger gathering spots, avoiding sitting water because they really seemed to conglomerate in and around puddles on the road.

And I cried, not with the sharp and sudden agony of knowing that I'd killed a little chipmunk dashing across the street but with a longer, stronger awareness that the road was basically paved with frogs, that I did not want to hurt them and wished that they would hop off to froggie endeavors that would have kept them off the road, and that, ultimately, there was absolutely nothing I could do to change my undesired mass murder of dozens, maybe hundreds of frogs.

It occurred to me as I drove, trying to ignore the fact that the normally smooth road was characterized by scores of small but frequent bumps, that there were many metaphors to be drawn here ... and that none of them were happy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Circle of Life at the DMV

Addie got her driver's license today.

I think part of me just assumed that driver's ed would go on forever, that the list marking off her hours would just keep growing without ever reaching that magic 40 hours, that she would never drive off on her own where the roads are full of bad drivers ...

I'm having the typical mother's angst about it, of course, but I did make the agonizing choice to let her take the car to the football game where her marching band is playing tonight. It was made slightly less agonizing by my need for a prescription painkiller that I would have had to put off for about four hours if I'd had to go pick her up, but it was still agonizing.

It wasn't just the pancreatic pull for percocet, though. Something incredibly spiritual happened at the DMV today, sort of a message from some sort of higher power that everything goes in cycles ... even driving.

Addie didn't have school today because of a teacher workshop day, and I stayed home from work to get some rest--I was supposed to stay out of work yesterday (had a doctor's note stating it) but went in anyway, which was clearly a mistake since I ended up in even more pain as well as being completely exhausted by the time I got home. I hate to miss work, but I guess sometimes it's the right thing to do.

Anyway, when I woke up from my very long morning nap, Addie was counting up the hours on her driving log, although I think she must have known she was all set. She looked at me with her big blue eyes, smiled hopefully, and asked if I felt well enough to go to the DMV ... after all, it wasn't like I had to drive or anything.

The line was pretty long when we got there, which was kind of boring. At one point, the door opened and it was one of Addie's friends ... she'd just taken (and passed) the state test, so she and Addie hugged and did the adolescent girl squeal. After that, though, we just kind of stood in line; it was pretty much too loud to talk, and both Addie and I are kind of into people-watching anyway.

I didn't notice the elderly man directly in front of us at first other than to observe that he was very tall and had a cane in his hand. When his turn in line came up, though, something told me to listen.

"I need to turn my license in and get a non-driving picture ID," he said.

The DMV woman looked confused. "Did you lose your license, sir?" she asked. "Was it revoked?"

"No," he replied politely. "I'm just not able to drive anymore."

"But your license isn't expired? You still have it in your possession?"

He took out his wallet with hands that shook, although his voice was strong. "It's right here, ma'am. I just want to turn it in for a non-driving picture ID since I'm not able to drive anymore."

"Well, I can do that, sir ... but, uh, why?"

"That part of my life is over," he said. "I've had a driver's license most of my life, but things are different since I've had some medical setbacks."

"I'm sorry to hear that, sir."

"Don't be. It's just how things are."

And then the next DMV person became available, so Addie and I got caught up in turning in paperwork, verifying stuff, and the clerk explaining to Addie the nuts and bolts of the written part of the test ("written" being a relative term ... it's actually a touch-screen computer test).

The old man next to us had been talking to his DMV rep about how excited he was to be able to keep the picture from his old license, since good photos are such a crapshoot.

As Addie went into the computer testing room, he caught my eye. "Is this her first license?" he asked me.

I nodded in reply. "Well, assuming she passes the test."

"She'll do just fine." He widened his gaze to include the DMV lady. "You have a brand new driver with a lifetime of travels ahead of her and a man with a lifetime of driving memories behind him."

The clerk looked bored and annoyed--or both, and to be fair, the line was pretty darn long--but I literally felt chills. Not bad chills; just the contrary, in fact.

It was like this man was effectively stepping down from his driving life so that my daughter could begin hers. I know it sounds stupid, but it really felt that way. A feeling of serenity just overtook me at that moment, and I smiled at the man and thanked him.

When Addie got out of the computer testing room, he was just getting into the passenger seat of a car in the parking lot. His wife opened the door for him and helped him fasten his seat belt because his hands were shaking so much. I looked away then because my sweet child was pumped about passing the written test but was freaking out about the driving part of the test (she ended up passing it, of course).

When we finally left the DMV, the old man was long gone, of course.

I don't think I will ever forget him, though.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why Bother ...?

You might have noticed that my absence from the blogosphere has a direct correlation to the start of the new school year. To make the understatement of the decade, things are a little tense at work.

Whenever I start writing a post here, it turns in a direction that leads directly to work, and the nature of my job is such that I can't talk about it publicly. I don't mean to be enigmatic--and I LOVE my students, this has nothing to do with them--but I am finding it very difficult to write under the necessary constraints. And of course not writing makes me crabby, which makes everything seem just even more overwhelming and surreal and utterly ridiculous.

After making extensive effort, overtures, and dedication to what is best for kids and getting shot down, humiliated, or tongue lashed to the point of tears on a daily basis, I want to scream, "Why bother?"

But I don't, of course, because I know the answer. All 100 of them, in fact: kiddos that are the bright spots of every work day.

My pancreatitis is flaring up. Stress is unquestionably playing a role. Percocet, not eating solid food until Saturday, and taking tomorrow off from work will help ... but the problems aren't going anywhere, no matter how hard I try to solve them.

No matter how hard you might try, there are some stones that are just too heavy to move. I'll keep trying, though ... because the education of children is 110% worth the bother.

I'll stop rambling now ... damn Percocet ;-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Will be Positive if it Kills Me

In my new effort to be positive, I've been wracking my brain to try to come up with ten positive things that happened to me today. I'm trying to get my groove back, to say sayonara to the "Negative Nellie" that has been living my life for me of late.

It's funny, but when I went to make the list, I struggled. I understand why--it was not exactly what one would call a stellar day--but I think it's a start. Maybe.

Why, yes it is!

1. I had two pumpkin coffees from Dunkin' Donuts today. Mmmmmmmm.

2. There are people at work that understand my frustrations.

3. I got to work with the sixth grade teachers in conjunction with the literacy specialist to focus on how to improve student writing, and we had some great conversations.

4. I'm reading Helter Skelter again.

5. I'm not sleeping, but it's better than the alternative (I fell asleep with a lot of medicinal help Friday night, and I had horribly unspeakable nightmares that I could not wake up from--stupid Ambien).

6. I know what I need. It's not necessarily what I want, but it's what I need.

7. My car should be fixed tomorrow, and if not they will let me use a loaner. I am so grateful to my mother for letting me use her car while mine has been in the shop.

8. I figured out how to view pictures on my Droid. How scary is it when a "SmartPhone" is smarter than you are?

9. I taught Belle negative numbers. Stop laughing, those of you that know me in reality. I honest to goodness did ... if you ask the child, "What is 3-6," she'll reply, "Negative 3." I'm not going to lie and say she understands the concept behind it, but I think that's pretty impressive.

10. Addie was going to stay home sick today (she has a cold), but she dragged herself out of bed, got dressed, brushed her teeth, and so on in just under ten minutes. I was very impressed with her responsibility (she had driver's ed and a chemistry lab and stuff).

So that's ten good things ... the bads would be a much longer list, but I'm trying to change my attitude. Trying desperately.

Mind over matter, right?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Musings ...

Barq's root beer has been a constant. Pill bottles. Empty bottles of 151 smashed on the side of the road. Laughing. Milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand. "You are my mistress". "Come burn with us". "It's not rape when you ask for it". There is no "I" in team. THAT drama again? Full-sleeve. Eight ball. $2400. Ghettofantastic. Quarter pounder with cheese at 1:30 a.m. The American with George Clooney SUCKED. Own the road. Empty promises. I love the way you lie. 211. Descendant from Ireland married a slave. Secretary. Pumpkin ale. Negative numbers. The Scarlet Letter. "You're cute". That was fucking amazing. Two seater sports car at the beach. To change a tire. Your car's safe for the road, but about to blow up. Good friends pulling through--especially PH, JG, ST-S, SW, AB, DS, and SH, who are always there when I need them. BK and BB are sometime there when I need them--on their terms, of course. PL is gone, and I really miss him sometimes. Crown Royale. Driving the old lady mobile. DROID.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Is "Use Me" Tatooed to My Forehead?

I only ask because ... well, it's been an interesting fall, let's leave it at that. I'll get into specifics at some point about most of it, but here's just one example of why I sometimes question the point of my existence on this earth. Am I merely here to fulfill the needs of other people?

Ahem ...

So Pythagorus, my erstwhile ex-husband, asked me last weekend while he was visiting with Belle if I would write a letter to the DMV stating that he's been sober for six months.

Here are the problems I have with that:

1. He has NOT been sober for the past six months, which I know for a fact because there was a hospitalization incident in July. He was asking me to lie to the government. Like, knowingly lie.

2. How the hell would I of all people even know if he's been sober for the past six months? I don't live with him or anywhere near him. Even if he told me he'd been sober, how would I know? He has certainly lied to me about it enough, swearing on Belle's life that he was sober when his blood alcohol level was at a. 39.

3. The essence of his alcoholic self is unchanged. The sweet, kind man I married is gone. Whether he's actually drinking right now or not, he is bitter, sarcastic, sneaky, passive aggressive, and emotionally cruel. What this tells me is that he will be drinking again as soon as he has the opportunity--he is currently the epitome of a "dry alcoholic", and I know in my heart that, as soon as he can drive himself to the liquor store, he'll be doing so.

I get so frustrated sometimes with always giving and giving and giving--and it's never quite enough. No, people always want more. I give freely to my daughters and my students and my mother (usually), but I'm really going to work on telling everyone else to fuck off.

That's not true, of course--it's against the very core of who I am--but it made me feel better to write it ;)

Oh, and that letter?

I just said no ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Asinine Are Political Signs, Anyway?

The new focus of my bitter cynicism (which is newly developed, by the way ... I used to be a really positive person, I swear) is political signs.

Okay, here's the thing. I have developed quite an interest in politics of late and actually know what I'm talking about a lot of the time. Not just on the issues, either, although I like to think I'm pretty on top of it with those.

No, I guess you could say that I've gotten very busy looking at the ugly white underbelly of the political machine, with United States Senatorial candidates decrying women in the military (along with masturbation in any manifestation) and the executive branch caving to pressure from a nutty fringe group that won't hold itself together until the next election and people hating on other religions in the name of politics and just all sorts of garbage like that.

But that doesn't really get me thinking, not the way I like to think. Nope, what I ponder is the usefulness, the purpose, of political signs.

People over eighteen fall into one of three basic categories:

1. They know exactly who they want to vote for.
2. They don't give a rodent's derriere about voting.
3. They will vote for the person who is recommended by a family member or close friend.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that political signs placed on lawns and roadsides are intended to sway that third group ... but as far as I can tell, all it does is advertise who people living in a certain home are voting for.

What if you hate your neighbor, for example? What if there's a big, fat "Sarah Palin 2012" sign (heaven forbid) in the yard, so you decide to NOT vote for Sarah Palin just out of spite? Stranger things have happened, after all ...

Even more, though, I drive around a lot and it's very interesting to see the demographics of where certain political signs turn up. And sometimes I'll think to myself, "Wow, that's Bob Jones' house. I never knew he was a Republican. Weird ..."

I mean, I guess the people who are invested in voting will vote. The people that aren't won't. The people who are swayable ... is a sign stuck in someone's yard really going to make that much of a difference?

I'm working on the bitterness, guys, really I am ... Next post will address one of the (many) whys for it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Do you ever get the feeling that you're completely alone, that everyone you ever loved and trusted and believed in and blah blah blah turned out to be nothing that you thought they were?

It is so frightening to realize that, no matter what you do, no matter what you give, it is never quite good enough.

I wouldn't mind so much if I hadn't been burned so severely in the past two years. Family, friends, significant others ... and it's not really their fault, it's just that nobody seems to be who I think they are.

I guess I'm just a very bad judge of human nature.

And so I will stop believing in people.

Haha, that's funny ... believing in people is my fatal flaw, the very essence of who I am. I'll feel differently tomorrow.

For tonight, though ... I am alone in the universe, and it hurts so much.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I hate ketchup. I hate the way it smells. I hate the way it feels. I hate the way it tastes. I hate the way both of my daughters love it and leave puddles of it on plates they pile on the sink that I have to scrape off when loading the dishwasher.

I also hate "catch up", which is what I really need to do in terms of this blog. It's funny, I almost feel like I've been neglecting a child or something.

There has been a lot going on. Not much of it is good. That's okay, though. I just don't feel like talking about it.

I'll get back to sharing my thoughts and observations on a regular basis soon ... I just had to get this damn ketchup (catch up ;-)) post out of the way first ...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Five on a Friday

It's been a pretty low-key week, actually ... no summer school or professional development, so I've been just sort of enjoying the quiet (other than the road rage guy in the grocery store parking lot).

But here are five things for the week:

1. Addie flew home from visiting my sister in Maryland all by herself. She'd driven down with my mother but had a party she wanted to go to on Sunday, so she flew back all by herself. I was thrilled to see her, but I wasn't half as thrilled as Belle was.

2. Addie got a job! She's volunteering at a library, which basically means cleaning a lot of shelves, but I'm glad to see her getting a taste of helping out ... not to mention it's something to put on a resume, plus it's going to look good on her National Honor Society application.

3. Belle has been bored all week. She's spent the past six weeks attending summer camp which, even though it was only three hours a day plus a weekly all-day field trip, kept her pretty busy. She's one of those kids that never stops moving, so it's been interesting trying to accommodate her activity needs when I finally have an actual week off for the first time in forever. I think we've figured it out, though :-)

4. I brought four bags of old clothes to Goodwill today. This doesn't sound very impressive, I know, unless of course you actually know me. Packrat doesn't begin to describe it ;). Going from a four bedroom house to one tiny bedroom at my mother's house resulted in most of my clothes (and Belle's clothes--we share our tiny bedroom, although Addie has her own room)living in trash bags for the past year.

5. I'm on a wicked Ann Rule kick at the moment. She writes true crime books, which are usually not my thing (other than Helter Skelter, which is one of my all-time favorite books), but one of my friends suggested I read Everything She Ever Wanted because the main character (this passive aggressive, controlling woman who makes herself sick for attention and poisons people with arsenic) sounded a lot like my former mother-in-law. Haha, it was an accurate prediction.

So that was my week ... I probably won't have another one this quiet until next summer ;-)

Traumatized by a Nutjob in a Parking Lot

You know how sometimes the things that make you unspeakably happy, terrified beyond belief, and so angry that you don't know what to do are often lost in translation when you try to explain them? I suspect that this is going to be one of those times. It's coming off sounding stupid and maybe even a little funny when I write it down, but I will never forget how upset I was yesterday.

Okay, so I went to the grocery store yesterday afternoon to get peaches (I had a craving) and Swedish fish (because Addie had a craving). I pulled into the parking lot and noticed that it was crowded. Very crowded. It's been my observation that people (myself included) tend to drive like idiots in a parking lot, so I was automatically paying close attention.

Grocery store parking lots theoretically follow the rules of the road--namely, you're on the right side of the road, you use your blinker to let your intentions known, and so on.

I was driving down the last parking section (I'm telling you--ridiculously busy) when I passed a spot on my right that I didn't notice until I was just past it ... and there was a truck coming the other way that had his blinker on. I assumed he was going for the spot I'd driven by, so I put my left blinker on and pulled into the empty slot at the end of the row of cars.

And looked into my rearview mirror to see the truck almost hit me. Evidently his blinker was supposed to serve as fair warning that he was planning on reversing into the parking spot I pulled into ... and I guess I should have had ESP to figure that out since it was his LEFT blinker and there was an open parking spot on his LEFT as I drove past him.

It scared me a little bit, but I was like, "Eh, whatever." I mean, if I got all worked up every time there was a near fender bender in the grocery store parking lot, I'd be pretty strung out.

So I'm sitting in my car replying to an e-mail I'd gotten on my BlackBerry when all of a sudden there was this pounding on the window of my car. Like, "could-have-broken-the-glass" level pounding.

I opened my window to hear this guy scream in my face (with a spit shower, which made it somehow worse), "Didn't you see me backing up? You almost hit me!"

I was shaking and scared. "No, sir, I saw you going straight that way, and I was going straight this way, so I--"

"You stupid fucking bitch!" he roared, then marched off.

And I just went to pieces. I sat in my car and cried for probably ten minutes, then I went to a different grocery store and got a peach and candy bars for my kids (since they didn't have Swedish fish). Andy called, and I let it ring because I was so unbelievably shaken up.

The thing is, if he had came up, knocked gently on my window, and said, "You know, could you try to be a little more careful next time?", I would have been okay with it. I would have disagreed with his evident impression that every driver in America has to follow a "Yield to Blue GMC pick-up, New Hampshire license plate #147 84-- because he is the king of the road" clause that I never learned about in driver's ed, but I would have just nodded, smiled, and apologized, because that's how I roll.

I hate confrontation, and I especially hate that I can think of a million things I could have done differently after the incident was over. I should have gone into the store and talked to a manager. I should have called the police. I should have made some sarcastic, cutting remark about the clause that should clearly be taught in driver's ed.

But instead I cried like a baby.

The reasons that this affected me so viscerally:

1. The man was 10-15 years older than I am. I am still young enough (heh) that I have a certain amount of automatic respect for "my elders". The idea that someone in an age demographic that has my respect just for being in that age demographic would consider my respect so cheaply just ... traumatized me. And if I were a different kind of person, it might make me reconsider that respect that prior to this I gave 100% freely. I'm me, so of course this won't happen, but it sort of made me realize why so many people in the world are bitter, suspicious, and negative.

2. I am neither stupid nor a bitch. I know what my I.Q. is (it's in the "superior range"), I have a graduate degree, and I am a teacher. I am also in general a kind, giving, self-sacrificing person (I have my faults, but those things really are true). What right did he have to insult me using such inflammatory (and, in my case, blatantly false) words? It just made me feel like vomiting.

3. Angry, violent men turn me to Jello. I spent much of my childhood scared to death of my father's anger--just to give one example, the window of our oven was broken for quite some time because my dad got so mad that he slammed the oven door. I lived in fear of slammings, bangs, and crashes when I was a kid (the fact that I've ended up with far too many violent, angry men of my own volition is kind of a warped irony, I suppose). Anyway, that fist pounding on my window was like a time machine, and I was suddenly three years old again.

Again, I know that the true horror this was for me is cheapened by words. Sometimes this is the case ... several years ago, my brother, sister, brother-in-law, and I jumped off a moving train (yes, a real train). It's a hell of a story and I usually end up telling it to my students at one point or another (usually when I'm having them write about peer pressure) and they think it's just hysterically funny. However, I've tried to write it down probably a dozen times or so, and it just doesn't work as a written chronicle (or maybe I'm not a good enough writer, I don't know ;-)).

Anyway, that's a really weak retelling of what was probably in the top five in terms of traumatic events in my life.

I will never, ever forget it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Am Hated (And Strangely Excited About It)

I don't think most people go through life intentionally pissing others off (there are, of course, exceptions, but in general I have a pretty Pollyanna-esque view of my fellow human beings). However, I think we all do it to some degree, often by accident or by thoughtless actions that blow into drama-filled chaos or even just by a misconstrued statement.

I never thought I'd be in the position of ticking off another person so badly that she felt compelled to write an entire blog post blasting me.

I also can't believe that I'm laughing about it. I'm ridiculously sensitive (to a fault, to be completely honest), and a lot of times the tiniest bit of criticism has me virtually in tears.

I've toughened up a lot in the past year, in large part because of the divorce situation but also through working at Zelda Lily. There is a great core group of readers over there that leave thought-provoking comments taking what my colleagues and I write to a whole new level--but I have been ripped a new one on more than one occasion.

To wit:

The author here is pretending her values are absolutes that everyone should abide by, and seems outraged that there are other people don’t share her values, to the point of degrading and mocking them. Why aren’t these women allowed to like their lifetyles, exactly? Is Katie Loud going to go on a Middle East tour and tear off burkas too?

I cried when I read that comment. Bawled like a baby. And then I realized that the commenter had a point. I might feel that he misconstrued my point (the piece was an admittedly hard slam of an extremely religious website that operates under the "Husband is Master ... and Wife's Job is to Cook, Clean, and Raise Perfect Children" philosophy), but if the message I was sending was that I felt like everybody should agree with me all the time, then shame on me. You know?

So instead of flying off the handle and doing something stupidly impulsive (See? I'm getting better ;-)), I thought really hard about what was said, wrote a piece here on my personal blog explaining my frustration with the challenges of balancing feminism with religion, and resolved to be more aware of all sides of a story in the future.

In retrospect, I'm glad that that comment was made, as painful as it was for me at the time. It was a tremendous learning experience for me both as a writer and as a human being.

It has also made me able to laugh--and laugh hard--at the recent incident that's really at the heart of this post.

So back in late May/early June, when I was still a newbie at Zelda Lily, I wrote a piece about an ad featuring a bra by plus-size store Lane Bryant being refused by a couple of news networks that went on to feature ads by Victoria's Secret.

Well, evidently I really pissed somebody off ... She wrote a vitriol-filled rant against me personally and the company I work for. My words and intentions are taken completely out of context for the purpose of her piece, and for the first time I feel like I am actively hated by someone that doesn't know me from Adam.

You can read her piece here, if you're interested.

I was really angry at first, actually. Then I reread my piece almost obsessively, and I of course knew what I was trying to say so her interpretation seemed even crazier to me.

And then it occurred to me how sad it is that someone has that much hate stored up from a piece posted on June 1 to let me have it with both barrels.

Then, of course, I just laughed.

The thing is, it's fine to disagree with people. I learn a hell of a lot from people that disagree with me (or play devil's advocate) since it makes me think on so many dimensions.

What's not cool is the meanness. The comment about "Katie Loud tearing off burkas on a Middle East tour" bordered on mean, but I could see where the guy was coming from when I put it into a greater context. Ultimately, it helped me a hundred times more than a compliment would have.

I'm not being mean here. I even linked to her post so she can get page hits.

I'm not used to being hated ... and I'm kind of proud of myself for 1) not going to pieces over this, and 2) realizing that I am not the one with a problem here.

On a different note, I had one of the most traumatic events of my life happen to me today, and I'll be blogging about it tomorrow. I'm not proud of my actions (mostly because there were no actions on my part ... I was, like, the anti-feminist, ashamed as I am to admit that), and I'm still too shaken up to write about it yet.

But it's quite a story!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do Teenagers Get a Bad Rap?

I have the opportunity to interact with teenagers virtually every day. The school year goes without saying, of course, and then there's summer school. Oh, and the incidental fact that my precious Addie is about to turn sixteen.

Yeah, I guess you could say I'm kind of an expert at the adolescent beast.

When people hear that I teach high school, I inevitably get some form of, "You must be very brave." The thing is, though ... nope. It's not bravery and it's probably not stupidity or masochism or any of the other negative stereotypes tied to teenagers.

Adolescents are young adults ... they are forming their moral cores, their values and beliefs, and learning the skills--both academic and real life--that will serve as the foundation for who they will be as adults.

Honestly, it's a true honor and privilege to be a part of that.

I was reminded of the bad rap teenagers get when I took the girls school shopping at Target the other day. We got binders, looseleaf, pens, pencils, and that sort of thing for Addie, then we got Belle some clothes. Addie a few shirts. Me a couple of things. Oh, and a birthday present for a party Belle was going to later that afternoon.

Anyway, our basket was pretty full. One of those weird ingrained things my mother passed on to me is the need to watch the cashier ring everything through. I've gotten double charged for things on more than one occasion, so I always watch just to be sure. Belle was clinging to my arm, but I suddenly noticed that Addie was nowhere to be found.

"Where's your sister?" I asked Belle.

"She went running outside," she replied with a shrug.

Just then, Addie came back into the store and walked over to us. She started putting the bags into the cart, and I couldn't help noticing that she was near tears.

I waited until we got to the car before I asked what was wrong because, like me, Addie is going to cry if she's close ... and she hates crying in public.

Basically what happened was that there was a woman with four children in the next check-out line over. One of her children was in a wheelchair, and she obviously had her hands full on many levels. When she went to leave, trying to push a wheelchair, balance a toddler one a hip, and keep track of two other kids, she forgot one of her bags at the cash register.

Addie saw what had happened, told the cashier she was going to catch up to the woman, grabbed the bag, and went running after the woman. The woman was extremely appreciative for Addie's help and thanked her very much.

The Target cashier? Not so much. She basically told Addie that she was wrong to do what she did and that it was basically stealing. Even though Addie's motives were obviously pure (the cashier saw her chase down the woman in the parking lot and hand the bag over), the message that my daughter got was that she was wrong to try to help someone out ... and that she was worthy of an assumption of guilt simply because of her status as a teenager.

Now, I hate helicopter parents as much as anyone. I cannot stand it when parents have this idea that their kids will always tell them the truth and go all Mama Grizzly when told that their child cheated on a test or something.

I also have no illusions that my children are perfect. I could easily write blog posts chronicling the negative sides of both my daughters. I don't do that because it feels wrong to me, but I am not one of those "my kids are perfect" parents.

This incident just really bothered me ... mostly because it really bothered Addie. I think this was the first time that she was unfairly judged by an adult, with the irony of course being that she was going out of her way to help a poor woman who would have had a hell of a time trying to get her kids all buckled in just to have to go back into Target to get a stupid bag.

There are bad teenagers, and I won't argue that. However, there are also bad adults.

Is it fair to judge all teenagers by a stereotype that, when push comes to shove, is really pretty unfair?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Teacher Questionnaire (Yes, I Took it Seriously ... Mostly)

My school has a new principal starting this fall, and he recently mailed out a questionnaire for all teachers to fill out so he could get to know the teachers and staff. I thought this was a really neat idea, actually, so I did it right away (because I'm just that on top of things ;))

It occurred to me that, while I write a lot about thinking and family and writing and that sort of thing here, I tend to keep my life as a teacher a bit more distant. Here is a glimpse at the "teacher-me".

And just to be clear, I've changed the name of my school and the other districts I've worked at. After all, a workplace deserves a pseudonym, too.

Ahem ...

Why I am here:
I became a teacher because I love showing students how to look at the world in a big-picture kind of way. If kids are able to make connections between their own lives and, say, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, I feel like I have been successful. It’s often a great challenge for students to see how virtually everything connects, that the greater the body of knowledge and thinking strategies you can amass the better off you are, but it is incredibly rewarding.

How did I get here?
Growing up, I was the one who wrote plays and organized productions featuring all of the neighborhood kids. Starting when I was in second grade, I was asked to go read to the special education class twice a week, an event I looked forward to greatly and continued doing throughout elementary school. I started babysitting at a young age and continued doing it even after I got slightly more lucrative jobs such as lifeguarding at Water Country and running birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s. This is my ninth year teaching; I spent two years in the JONES (lol) School District at the middle school level and four years in the SMITH (haha) School District. However, my two years at DOE HIGH SCHOOL have unquestionably been the most fulfilling of my career.

My education and certifications are:
B.A. in English (cum laude)from the University of New Hampshire and M.Ed. (Secondary English Education with a Reading Concentration) also from UNH. My teaching certification is Secondary English (Grades 5-12, and yes, I passed the Praxis II) although my coursework and trainings also evidently qualify me for alternative certifications ranging from Reading Specialist, Special Educator, ESOL, and some sort of computer teacher certification.

What I like most about DOE HIGH SCHOOL:
DOE HIGH SCHOOL is full of decent people, both students and adults. I can’t think of a better word than “decent”, although that seems to fall short. I liken it to my M&M theory … if I was carrying a giant bag of M&Ms down the hall at DOE and dropped it, scattering little pieces of candy everywhere, probably 95% of the school would be running to help pick them all up. This is not true of any other school I’ve worked at or volunteered in nor of any other workplace outside of education I’ve ever experienced (especially Chuck E. Cheese’s ;)).

What I would like to see improved most at DOE HIGH SCHOOL to improve student learning:
There is an unsettling sense of apathy among a large percentage of our students. Many of them do not see the value of education and will quietly and respectfully fail a class or settle for a D-. One of the greatest things I’ve seen happen is students responding to connections made with staff that have allowed faculty to personalize instruction, to put the individual needs of each child into their teaching, and to strive to intentionally create authentic learning experiences that will allow the highest level of student buy-in. I would really like to see all teachers (myself included) work more on knowing who students are, how students learn, and what we can do to ensure that every student will succeed.

Who am I outside of school:
Most importantly, I am the mother of two amazing daughters. Addie, a musician and a scholar, will be a junior at YET ANOTHER HIGH SCHOOL, and Belle, the only kid in America counting down the days until school starts, will be starting first grade. I have a part-time job as a writer for a women’s issues website, which has been a great opportunity to hone my journalism skills as well as to get my name out there (since my ultimate goal is to be a novelist … I’ve written one book and three-quarters of another, although they are sadly unpublished). I like to read and hang out at the beach in the summer (although my surfing days are unfortunately over) and ski in the winter.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Confession of the Week

Of all the toe-curling, embarrassing to admit events of the week, it is very easy to boil it down to one.

I like the Nickelodeon television show "iCarly".

There. I admitted it. I like freaking "iCarly". It makes me laugh. I'm kind of excited about upcoming episodes. And I might have sort of said to Belle today, "Come on, let's see if 'iCarly' is on".

I can't believe I just admitted this ;)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Drama at the Beach

When my grandfather took up golf as a very serious (and time consuming) hobby, he bought a summer house on the beach so that my grandmother would be busy indulging in one of her great passions (the beach in all its manifestations) so he could pursue his own. It worked out well for them--they had an incredibly loving marriage, by every account I've ever heard.

I cannot remember a summer that wasn't beach-infused. There are epic sagas of the time my father had to float my mother out of the beach house on a raft when the tide came in too quickly during a storm, tales of my first steps on the shores of the Atlantic, my sister's passion for microbiology taking early root in the tidepools of Hampton Beach. My cousins have similar memories, and I cannot express the gratitude I have for my grandfather's generosity in giving us the great gift of a house at the beach. His eight grandchildren are ocean freaks, and the mantle has been passed as Belle and my nephew Pete spent this past weekend in hard-core beach mode.

Anyway, one of the oddest perks is that our location is such that we have a view of the main road that runs from "the strip" of Hampton Beach (where it gets a little dicey and was definitely a good time when I was a late teenager but kind of makes me sick now) to the coast of Maine but also of the small side road where our house is located.

We have a screened-in porch that runs all around the front of the house. Sitting out there reading a book or with a nightcap is a little piece of heaven. And yeah, okay, one of the highlights is people watching, not gonna lie.

Belle and I went mini-golfing with Andy and his daughter one night last week. When we got back to the beach (rather late ... Andy runs on "manana time"), Addie was in freaking hysterics on the porch. I put Belle to bed then went out to see what she was giggling about.

This probably sounds sick, but it was so funny. There was a couple over on the beach having a rip roaring fight. That in and of itself isn't funny, of course, but the fact that they were obviously intoxicated and screaming things that were pretty private just made it seem like a soap opera.

"You won't even put your arm around me! I make you sick, don't I, Tony? We're alone on this romantic beach and you won't even touch me! You don't want to fuc* me! What did I ever do to you?"

And so on in that vein. The funniest part was that we actually observed the nefarious Tony staggering drunkenly up the beach path and down the street, swigging from a bottle under the streetlights. We never got a look at "Mrs. Tony", although we tried.

This probably sounds sick to you, to sit there and listen to the conversations people are having as they walk by (some CRAZY shiz ... you cannot imagine), hoping that the stupid kid who rides a skateboard without a helmet tied up to his buddy's motorcycle doesn't crash and burn (my mom has this Hippocratic responsibility to help an injured person, I guess, but she doesn't suffer fools like this lightly and wouldn't be thrilled to have to help someone hurt doing something so foolhardy), judging people based on our dogs' reaction to them (my black lab is a very good judge of character, strange as it sounds, so we always pay really close attention to who Sonja barks at), and just in general making fun of people walking by. It's kind of an art form, really.

Tonight, for example, there was a couple walking over to the beach and the guy was carrying his dog like a baby. I mean, I know there are some dogs that are kind of meant to be carried, a la Paris Hilton's Tinkerbell, but this dog was big enough that it just looked kind of ridiculous. I took a picture, but we were in the middle of dinner so by the time I grabbed my BlackBerry, they were pretty far up the beach path (it's also shot through a screen, so the quality's pretty shoddy).

I share this with you not because I want you to know how petty and twisted I am (and I'm really not ... it's just a temporary summer thing) but because I had a crazy epiphany while watching the man carrying his dog. I started wondering why he was holding the dog instead of just laughing at how stupid it looked. Was the dog sick? Very old and about to have its last jaunt on the beach before that final trip to the vet? Was it a true beach dog and as such not fond of walking on asphalt? Did the guy have some need to be carrying something due to a recent loss? Had the dog been left to him by his recently deceased mother and he was holding onto the dog so tightly because he missed his mother so much?

Yup, it struck me like a bolt of lightning that sitting at that porch for thirty-three years taking in the people walking by, questioning their motives and the tiny slice of their life I was experiencing ... well, it made me a writer.

So thank you, Papa. Thank you for this day of Belle boogie boarding with her uncle

and thank you for my writing.

They are both gifts I will cherish forever.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This is How I Feel

* The anal-retentive cashier who could not understand why you gave him a quarter and wanted a dollar back when the total came to $19.25. Could.Not.Get.It.

* The well-lit restaurant.

* The well-lit woman at the well-lit restaurant.

* 53-59-59-65.

* The Droid X.

* The two hour pizza.

* Road head instead of breaking the window of a liquor store.

* Roadies.

* Dreams of sailing to Boston and fireworks on the Saco.

* An accidental $500.

* The miniature lobster.

* Gel sneakers.

* Haddock, 151, and pictures your mom should never have seen.

* Wine runs.

* Rolling Rock between ski runs.

* Schooling your ass in a Go-Cart race.

* The screen and the toilet.

* The princess and the fog machine.

* The best damn cheeseburgers ever.

* The museum.

* Funner.

* Come burn with us.

* Shit in a river.

* Peanut butter for the dogs.

* This is a five minute list.

* I had a wonderful night.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Scared Puppy Punishing Herself :(

My thunderstorm phobia is fairly well-known. My dog Mollie's, however, is a new thing. We had a bad storm tonight, and she hid in the laundry room. I could go on (about how she peed on Addie's shoes and such), but a picture is worth a thousand words.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do Feminism and Christianity Have to be Mutually Exclusive?

I am obsessed with thinking. In general, it's a really good thing, but sometimes it makes you realize how complicated the world is and how varied the beliefs people hold.

I've boiled down my basic life philosophy thus--I want the world to be a better place because I was here. I don't want medals or great public accolades or anything other than the knowledge that I have made a positive difference. To me, this seems very simple.

I've learned recently how divided (and paradoxically intertwined) the concepts of feminism and Christianity are. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I've taken some hits from quite a few Zelda Lily commenters over it. I don't take the criticism personally (I learned pretty quickly that I'd never write ANYTHING--and not just for Zelda Lily--if I did that), but it really makes me think.

To me, feminism is the idea that women are in control of their own choices and the decisions that guide their lives. There are many women--and a lot of men, too--that I don't agree with, but they are able to live a life that makes sense to them. I'm able to live a life that makes sense to me. Live and let live. Leave the world a better place than you found it. If a woman wants to be a CEO or a housewife (and, of course, anything in between and beyond), that is a choice she can and should be able to make. Simply put, that's my definition of feminism. It's not that hard.

Religion is a big part of my life. I've talked about it here before so I don't feel like I need to rehash, but suffice it to say that I have a very close and personal relationship with God. I'm very familiar with the Bible and try to fit my life into the teachings found therein.

The Bible is very open to interpretation if you read it closely. I did a book study on it (that sounds kind of heretic, I know, but it was extremely valuable to me as both a human being and a Christian), and one of the most important lessons I took away from it is the dichotomy (or trichotomy or quadchotomy or whatever) there is in the major sects of Christianity that all claim to follow the tenets of the Bible. For this reason (and through conversations I've had with God through prayer), I feel that my interpretation of the Bible--one that teaches of love and forgiving and sinning and repenting and, not to sound like a broken record, but living a life brimming over with good works for others--is not just appropriate but correct. I also think God's got a great sense of humor and would totally have loved this little story about one of my best friends and a mass-produced prayer rug she received in the mail.

I found a site called Ladies Against Feminism through my work at Zelda Lily, and it just scares the crap out of me. The message it seems to send is that a woman's place is at home and at church, basically serving the men in her life (husband, father, son, whatever). I find this idea completely contradictory to my interpretation of the Bible, but whatever floats your boat, you know? Live and let live.

However, the women writing on this site aren't content to let people develop their own religious philosophies, which I think is truly necessary if your relationship with God is to be any more than just lip service, dogma, and brainwashing. I went to church every Sunday of my childhood, yet I did not have a true relationship with God until I stopped going. They are defensive, and their tunnel vision makes me deeply scared for people that are looking for quick, easy answers.

There are no quick, easy answers to most of what happens to us. My beloved step-father, one of the finest human beings in the world, died of an extremely painful cancer at a fairly young age. Charles Manson is still alive, the swastika he carved into his forehead standing out. Is this fair? Heck, no. And I could ask why forever, but that's just the way it goes. God has a plan for each of us, but presuming to know it and to slap down people that disagree with you is just wrong.

I don't presume to know very much at all, but one thing I do know is that one-sided, rigid, my-way-or-the-highway people drive me crazy. It's very hard to articulate this, and there is not any sort of forum to do so, but I needed to get this out.

Most people that know me don't think I'm a religious person. I'm fine with that--what I believe is my business, and as far as I'm concerned, I can teach far more about God's lessons through living a helpful and productive life than sitting in church every day or writing down words that I've heard so much from my father and/or husband that I believe them to be true (and just to be very clear, neither my father nor my now-ex-husband were like this--both encouraged and challenged and supported to the best of their abilities any endeavor I wanted to take on and to be the person I am inside). In order for a true and genuine relationship with God, you get there on your own.

Decrying the idea of feminism out of hand in the name of God is just flat out wrong, particularly when feminism is such a complex and individual concept and such a loaded word.

I am a feminist. I am also a Christian. I am proud to be both. They are not mutually exclusive for me, and I don't think they have to be for anyone ... provided they're willing to look at a big picture with an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart.

I am a sinner. I have done some horrible things in my life. I have been paid back for it (with interest), but even so, the sins are still there. I will never forget. All I can do is be the best person I can be and give only the best of myself to others. Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I stumble, but that is my guiding focus ... and that's all that God can ask of me.

I apologize in advance if I've offended anyone here. Please know that the God I believe in has shown me that honesty and thought are two of the most important things a human being can share. He gave me a passion for writing that makes this the vehicle I have to disseminate my thoughts in an honest manner.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Gas Gauge Conundrum

I noticed something funny this morning on my lovely hour-long commute to work (where I'm spending my summer vacation because that line about teachers having all summer off is pure hogwash).

I filled my car up with gas last night because the little red light came on when I was going to the store to grab a dark chocolate Milky Way (for Addie, not for me ... I made do with Oreos out of the cupboard).

When I was maybe five minutes away from work, I looked at my gas gauge and noticed that it was still on F. It got me thinking about how there are a ton of little measurement lines on the gas gauge, yet for me, there are only four real gas status reports:

1. Full tank.
2. Half tank.
3. Almost on E.
4. Shit, the warning light's on.

I honestly don't think I notice when the little indicator is anywhere else other than those four places.

I'm kind of weird, aren't I ;-)?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rants and Raves: An Update

In trying to figure out what to write about tonight, I was reminded of a "rant and rave" post I'd done before. You know, you "rave" about all the great stuff going on and you "rant" about what sucks. Anyway, I went back and found it ... turns out it's for "Rant and Rave Wednesday", but I figured that Monday is an even better time.

So, here are my Rants and Raves for the past week.

RAVE: Pythagorus ended up in the hospital for the usual reason (although, as always, there's an interesting twist to it). Anyway, he's out of the hospital now and is recuperating with relatives. Also, he seems to have not been drinking since he got out of the hospital.

RANT: Somebody that I care deeply about told me today that I'm a lot like my mother. It was meant in most uncomplimentary terms.

RAVE: Had a great day at the Boston Museum of Science yesterday. I did not get electrified this time, but it was still a lot of fun.

RANT: My BlackBerry continues to need physical abuse in order to function properly. It's kind of embarrassing to be slapping my phone in public.

RAVE: My cousins are helping out with transporting Belle to and from camp since I'm on a crazy work schedule this summer. Yeah, whoever said teachers had summers easy is completely nuts ...

RANT: My dog is even more scared of thunderstorms than I am, and we had a bad one today. She was shaking all over and just scared to death--her heart was beating so fast I was afraid she was going to have a heart attack or something. It was horrible not being able to comfort her as well as I could have because I was so scared myself.

RAVE: My mother, who's in Italy for another week, left Addie a list of chores ... and Addie is actually doing them! She's also been making some amazing strides with her piano.

And I guess that's about it, in a nutshell. It's kind of a neat way to put things into perspective. Give it a try on your blog :-)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pet Peeve: Complaining (Hypocritically) About the Weather

Okay, so I hate summer. I really do. I hate being sweaty and uncomfortable all the time and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You take a cold shower and you're sweaty and uncomfortable five minutes later. You swim in the ocean, and ten minutes later you're sweaty and uncomfortable again. It's just a no-win situation (unless you like being sweaty and uncomfortable, of course), and it makes me insufferably grouchy.

And I do complain about the weather. I spend much of June, all of July and August, and a sliver of September complaining about how hot and sweaty and miserable I am. However ... you will not find me bitching and moaning about the weather any other time of year. Three feet of snow and the snowblower's broken? Okay, guess I'll be shoveling. No prob. Another rainy April day? Walking in the rain is refreshing! There is only one time of year when I'm grousing about the weather.

What drives me absolutely crazy is people who complain all winter about being cold and saying things like, "I wish summer would get here already. I'm so sick of being cold" and then, once the horribly humid days of July arrive, start going on and on about how miserably uncomfortable they are.

This probably sounds stupid, but I feel like I've earned the right to mope and whine and complain when it's ninety degrees outside and the dewpoint's in the seventies. I own that bitching ... for all the bitching I don't do when it's snowing or cold or rainy or whatever. If you're going to complain about the heat in the summer and how you wish winter would get here ... then spend all winter going on and on about wishing summer would come already ...

There are surely more important things to get worked up about, but this is where I'm at right now ;-)

Friday, July 9, 2010


So I'm at VIP (a different location than the one where I evidently knew more about cars than the employee I spoke with). I'm getting new tires, and I'm kind of excited that there's free WiFi here. Still, it's kind of tiresome having to do stuff like this. It's kind of like waiting in a ridiculously long line at the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru when you're desperate for coffee, or buying toilet paper en masse so you don't run out without realizing it. Kind of a pain in the ass, but a necessary evil.

Anyway ...

I had to go to work today. I've had to work virtually every day of my, ahem, summer vacation. Part of me would rather be reading a book on the beach or sailing or going mini-golfing with Addie and Belle, but I've actually really enjoyed the work I've done this summer.

First, there's summer school. Even if I wasn't enjoying it, I really can't complain about teaching summer school since I agreed to it and have a contract and am actually very well-compensated. The kids are all going-to-be-seniors, so they're pretty invested in doing well. They're also really nice kids, which is a treat. As always, I am amazed at the depth of the conversations we've had--kids are so much more astute than we give them credit for, and I seem to realize this even more during summer school. Kind of weird.

Then, there's professional development stuff. The first week was a three-day workshop on Project-Based Learning (we call it PBL in the education world), which is basically using a large long-term project to assess students instead of the more traditional paper and pencil test. I came up with a really cool project on connecting Romeo and Juliet to contemporary films. Kids would have to put together a five minute movie created via the lovely advanced technology opportunities, and I have a SmartBoard in my classroom now, so it will be really fantastic ... assuming I have my act together enough to actually do it.

Ideas are never my problem, nor is the actual instruction of students. I have never felt like my students get short-changed in their education. What does bother me, though, is following the great plans I come up with. Ultimately, they always end up being too much and too big, so I revert back to what I usually do because the prospect of having to be ... gasp ... organized is just so far beyond me. Maybe this year I'll be better about it. Haha, maybe pigs will fly out of my computer case, too.

The other workshop is actually a college course done in conjunction with Plymouth State University on Intentional Teaching and Differentiated Instruction, which is basically teaching in a way that is effective for every single student. It's a lot harder than it sounds, and the course has been a really great learning experience. We had the choice of receiving either four graduate credits or financial compensation and, since I already have my Master's Degree, I said, "Show me the money". It's very cool to focus on the idea of designing curriculum with a bottom line of student understanding. Instead of planning in terms of content, we're being taught to plan in terms of anticipated (and expected) student understanding of the content. It's kind of a dicey distinction, but it's really changed a lot of my educational philosophies.

Between my real job, my amazing experience writing for Zelda Lily (we have a new layout that is just so cool!), hanging out with Addie and Belle, helping my mother get ready for her trip to Italy (she's in the air right now), trying to find a spare minute to work on the novel, rediscovering pleasure reading, and trying to keep things as calm as possible with Pythagorus (and thank you so much for all the support people have given me ... especially MTM and Kathy P), I'm very busy.

It's not tiresome, though. And my tires are just about done, so this evening will no longer be tiresome, either :-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Endings Can Really Tick You Off ...

Please remind me to go through my finished novel and my almost-finished novel and make sure that there is no ambiguity in the ending. There is nothing that makes me more unnerved than an ending that offers no real ... denouement. It's sort of like, when is the sequel coming? Gaaaaaaaaaaah. And then you remember that the author died right after the books were published, and ...

Okay. Deep breath.

Yes, I just finished what's evidently known as The Millennium Trilogy but which seems more identifiable as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the second one, and the last one. If you haven't read them, get the heck off the computer and run, don't walk, to the bookstore or library.

Loved these books. LOVED them. The first one was a little slow at first, but once I was into it I couldn't put it down. I was so damn invested in these characters, and then ...

But I don't want to spoil it. Suffice it to say that I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS. And please don't tell me to use my imagination or that leaving it up in air allows people to draw their own conclusions or end it as they see fit.

Have you read these books? If so, what did you think? I mean, they were like crack to me ... is this typical? And, without spoilers, did the ending seem ... A LITTLE TOO FREAKING AMBIGUOUS?

PS. What ever happened to Camilla Salander? (and that's really not a spoiler ... just one of those loose threads that are never even picked up ... drives me CRAZY ... why create a character if--well, anyway ;-))

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gotta Love a Six-Year-Old

Belle started summer camp this week, and she absolutely loves it. It's been kind of hard as it's really hitting me how grown up my little baby is getting. Part of getting grown up is really getting a mind of her own. Belle has always known what she wants and how to get it (we make a lot of pink-hair-and-a-nose-ring-at-twelve comments about her), but the scope is getting much bigger.

They took a trip to a lake a few towns over today. She wore her bathing suit underneath her camp t-shirt and shorts, and then she went to pack her beach towel. She was dismayed that I had packed a sweatshirt as well as underwear and an extra shirt (I guess the kids wear their camp t-shirts into the water). She was furious ... she admonished me, "Mommy, I am not a baby."

Of course, when I picked her up, she was wearing the extra clothes I'd packed ;-)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Open Letter to the Ex-Husband

This is an open letter to my ex-husband, Philip (I call him Pythagorus on this blog, but I honestly don't care anymore if anyone knows his real name), who has apparently left detox and refuses to tell me where he is, who he's staying with, and if there's anything I can do to help him. There is a great deal to think about here, which is why I'm posting it. There's also just the slightest possibility that he'll read it ... he does read this blog once in awhile, probably in search of a post entitled, "I Banged Andy Last Night" (which he would never find here because, even if it were true, I would never, ever post here. Trust me on that!). Anyway, he won't read my e-mails or texts or answer my phone calls, so what the heck.

I am in so much pain right now and I need to write. Writing is my Wonderwall, the only thing that can save me. And so here we go ...

Dear Philip,

Once upon a time, in the year 2000, I was a lost and lonely young woman trying to get my life together after a collection of tragedies that you know all too well. I met you in a math class at UNH, a class you were taking as a joke and I was taking as the easiest one that would fill the requirement. Pretty soon, you were tutoring me, and somewhere along the way you became my friend. It was a slow process because I didn't want to believe in anyone, but you were persistent. The kindness that you showed me in every possible way finally broke through, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could trust you explicitly and 100% not to hurt me, ever. You were the sweetest, most giving boy I had ever met. And so we went to Boston on Cinqo de Mayo (I can still smell the lilacs on Harvard Square ... can you?) and then to the beach, and all of a sudden we were "going out". Do you remember our first trip to Montreal? You probably don't know this, but my mother took me shopping to get a nice dress for my first "vacation with a boy" (well, parent-sanctioned, anyway). Those days in Montreal were among the best of my life. You knew the city well and showed me every gem, and I was so impressed that you could speak fluent French and communicate perfectly with the Quebecois.

We worked hard, both as teachers, and I will always remember the "You'll never believe what happened to me at work today" contests. Your stories of discovering a bomb in a locker (fake, thank goodness, although do you remember how you got stuck outside and called everyone you knew to come get you because Nashua was so far away?)or a snake in the hood of a kid's sweatshirt were more unique than my breaking up a gang fight or working with idiots. God, I wish sometimes that we could go back to those nights we talked for hours about our students and just laughed and laughed and laughed.

You stepped right into the role of Addie's surrogate father, and she adored you. You took her to the Daddy/Daughter Dance (something she would have had to miss otherwise), and the picture of you looking so young and earnest and of Addie in her red velvet dress and braids with so much pride and love on her little face just kills me now. You helped her with her homework and volunteered to be her soccer coach even though you knew nothing about soccer because they wouldn't have been able to have a team otherwise and you took her on hikes and made sure that our "adventures" always included something fun for her. You were a wonderful father.

When I went into labor with Belle, you stayed with me the entire 19 and a half hours. You must have been exhausted, but you didn't sleep. No, you went in the shower with me because the hot water helped my back and you talked and laughed and kept me from despairing. You held me in your arms when they finally put in the epidural needle, and then you were right there when Belle was born, crying as hard as I was. The love on your face at that moment in time, it was for Belle but it was also for me and for Addie.

Shortly after Belle was born, we got our first house. It was a little ranch with three bedrooms, a finished basement, and a lot of potential. But then my step-father got sick, and things got very bad. I had never really lost anybody before, and he was the only person that ever really believed in me. Losing him was a nightmare, and one I don't think I've ever awakened from since things seemed to go bad so quickly after that. Just a few months before he passed away, I had what was supposed to be an exploratory procedure to look at why my liver enzyme numbers were off, and I ended up in the hospital on a morphine drip for a month. You took care of Addie and Belle admirably during that time; my mother wasn't able to help you because she was busy with my stepdad, and your parents are so crazy that we'd long ago agreed not to let them alone with our children ever. We lost my stepdad in December, and I was in and out of the hospital for the rest of that year. You were in charge of everything, and I know you were so scared of messing things up. You didn't, though. You were so strong and everybody kept asking you to do more and more and more, and you did, you never complained.

I changed, too. Losing the man I consider my father and having my own brush with death, ultimately learning that I have a medical condition that will impact the rest of my life, scared me. It hurt me. It embittered me. And still you were strong for me, you were kind to me, you made me laugh, you got me to smile. Even when I acted like a spoiled child about wanting my parents' house, a house you must have known we could never afford, you went with it because you were a positive thinker and a hard worker. You lost your job over a political battle; finding out that being an excellent teacher isn't good enough when you are active in the union and in local politics was what embittered you. You had over 500 names on a petition and students spoke at school board meetings to fight for you and they still let you go. It was wrong, Philip. It was so wrong. But even then you weren't mean. You were never cruel. Your standard message to me was, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it. Want to go for a ride?", and then we'd drive around the northeast finding things to laugh at (remember the sign in Claremont advertising for a wife?).

You got another teaching job, but the magic was obviously gone. You were noticeably unhappy with your work, and you were starting to get really stressed out about how to make enough money to pay for the house. When the father of one of the kids you tutored offered you a position at a big business corporation for significantly more money, you jumped at it. And then, with that jump in salary, we started to live way beyond our means. At first it was just like little kids in a candy store, but eventually I think you were spending money, taking vacations that we didn't need to take, buying Addie's entire wardrobe from Abercrombie and Fitch, paying ever more to keep Belle in the best daycare situation, because you had started to hate your job so much. Having money to spend seemed like the one good perk, and so spend it we did. I was pretty much blind to this whole process--you gave me a credit card for gas and "whatever I wanted", and I went crazy on that credit card in bookstores sometimes. I had no idea how over our heads we had gotten ... or more importantly, how truly miserable you were at your job.

I don't know when you started to drink, Philip, but I suspect it was at that time and for those reasons. The more you tried to solve the problem of being financially overextended, the more you hated your job, the more money you spent (or encouraged me to spend), and so on into a dark and vicious cycle. I knew you were unhappy, Philip, and I wish with all my heart that you'd said to me, "You know, you've got to stop spending money" instead of buying me diamond earrings. I wish you'd said, "We cannot afford this house. We can get another little ranch, and then we'll be okay." I wish you'd said, "I hate my job so much that it's driving me to drink" because I would have told you to go back to teaching, a vocation you loved.

But of course those conversations never happened; you chose to drink instead. You drove both of our children all over the city completely wasted. You became defensive and sneaky, always trying to make excuses for what hadn't gotten done. When I got the first bill call, I said to them, "Oh, you've made a mistake. My husband always pays his bills. I don't care what you say he owes, he would never put himself in a position of owing that much. You need to check your records."

And still you wouldn't talk to me. I had started to realize that something was seriously wrong with you, but I thought you'd just had a nervous breakdown. When I finally forced you into the emergency room and you swore on your child's life to the doctor that you barely ever drank and he came back after the bloodwork was done and told me that your blood alcohol was at a .39 (which is, the doctor told me solemnly, almost dead), I was in shock. I hadn't had any idea, and then of course I just felt like an idiot for not realizing.

And then became a pattern of increasing violence and cruelty and lies and sneakiness then a disappearing act from you, then you'd call two days later very contrite, swearing it would never happen again. And it didn't ... until the next time. When you hit me when I was holding Belle, when I had to bring that little girl with me to take you back to the emergency room (it was a .40 this time) because it was late at night and there was no one to stay with her, when she saw you stagger and fall flat on your face in the parking lot, cutting your legs and the palms of your hands and your head before lying to the doctor once again about whether or not you'd been drinking (the .40 was pretty definitive, although you told me as you begged me not to leave that the person doing the blood test made a mistake), when you got two DUIs within a one week period and you'd still been driving my children around, I realized that I had to get off the roller coaster for good.

I did and I didn't, as you well know. You are Belle's father and will always have my love and respect for that, if nothing else. And it was incredibly important to me that Belle have a positive relationship with you even if it meant that I'd have to supervise your visits. This put a huge amount of stress on me, of course, because I had to gauge whether or not you were drunk before I'd be able to relax. You'd be really good for awhile--you'd been fired from the big business job and were teaching again, so you had a lot of balls in your court. I would bounce back into your court too ... until the next time you were drunk, lied about being drunk, turned me into the bad guy for "interrogating you", drove me to tears with your cruel comments, and then disappeared for a few days to a week, reemerging sober and sorry.

I don't know what would have happened if the events of January 12th hadn't transpired. You were clearly drunk, you lied about it, you grabbed Belle in the parking lot of Pizza Hut and staggered your way--with her in your arms--to the car and then started freaking out on me in front of her. "Mommy thinks I'm drunk when I'm not," you yelled. "Mommy always thinks bad things about people. Mommy doesn't know when she just needs to stop for a minute." Belle was, of course, petrified, so I went to bring her home as soon as possible so my mom could watch her while I drove you the hour and a half back to your parents' house. You were decent enough to pass out in the front seat, although this was a mixed blessing--your cruel mouth had gone away, but you wouldn't wake up to receive Belle's goodbye hugs and kisses, which broke her heart.

On the way home, Andy called to make sure I was okay--I'd texted him from the bathroom at Pizza Hut that you were drunk, and you knew your history as a drunk and was concerned--and I told him what had happened. He asked if I was afraid, and I said I wasn't, that you were so drunk I could probably beat you up with one finger. Yeah, that's when you woke up and grabbed the phone. "Oh, Andy, sweetheart," you yelled in a high-pitched voice into the phone. "She's gonna be up to fuck you shortly. She just needs to drop off her drunk HUSBAND." Well, it was pretty much ex-husband by then (divorce decrees do get caught up in the mail, don't they?), but whatever. Anyway, you got violent with me. Hard enough to leave bruises (and I had those bruises photographed in a police station, Philip ... but I never filed charges and I never used them in court. I didn't want you in any more trouble than you were already in). Andy got on his other phone and called your uncle when I gave him the number. He really wanted to call the police so I could be escorted or pulled over so they police could take you out of my car, but I was still trying to protect you from trouble. I dropped you off with your uncle and went home.

I neither saw nor heard from your for several weeks. I finally received a letter explaining that you were in detox and apologizing for what had happened. You left that detox pretty quickly, I'm not sure why, and ended up in the detox center that you'd be in for many months. It was very hard at first, but Belle and I came and visited you at Sunday dinner every other weekend. It was a long ride, well over an hour, but I didn't complain. I was starting to see vestiges of my sweet boy, and it gave me hope that maybe you would be pulling through this time, finally.

This is you showing Belle how to feed the chickens at your detox center.

You also showed her how a hawk attacks (by pooping at people who come too close) and let her play with the center's collection of musical instruments. We went for long walks on the property, looking at a really neat old cemetery with headstones belonging to slaves. Interesting stuff. And so I was starting to believe you, and to believe in you. You got a job at detox after you'd been there awhile, kind of a work/study kind of thing. However, you'd been told that the job was done in June but that one of the night counselors was leaving, so that position would be open through August. In terms of logistics, that's all I knew.

When I askeg gently if you were going to be finding a halfway house, you freaked out: "You and my parents are just alike, you both think the world would be safer if I was locked up!" You know that I know your parents are child molesting, alcholic, passive aggressive nutjobs; this was the hardest blow you could come up with for me. The cruelty was back with a vengeance, and I am convinced that, if you're not drinking again yet, you're a "dry alcoholic" at the moment and that it will come within the month. I pray this isn't so, but it is.

A quiet peace bloomed for a couple of days, then you started acting even stranger. When you didn't call or participate in our most-nightly IM chat last night, I thought I probably knew what had happened. And then, when 7:00, the time you are court-ordered to call Belle, came and went, I kept her up an extra fifteen minutes and finally called you. I asked you point blank if you'd left the detox center, and you finally admitted that you had. I wanted to know where you were staying because you're supposed to be seeing Belle this weekend and I like to have plans in place, plus I still care about you. I don't want you living in a dumpster. You said you were staying with "Chris", but I've never heard of a friend named Chris before. You then got cruel, refusing to tell me where you were (and I wasn't asking for a street address, just a city ... and I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling you that I wanted to be able to identify the drunk guy found dead in a ditch on the news) and saying that it was like being in the inquisition. And then you refused to talk to me, just kept saying, "Is Belle available? Is Belle available?" no matter what I sad. After you talked to Belle, you hung up the phone. You then hung up on me twice when I tried to call you back. I sent you two e-mails asking you to call. I've gotten nothing back.

We have had a "standing date" at 10:00 on AIM, so I went on there with the hopes that you would have a change of heart and go on there so we could at least apologize to each other and get back to "civil". Yeah, not so much. I did send you two IMs, though, and here they are:

I guess the one thing I want to know is, why are so quick to think that I am accusing you of anything or giving you the third degree? I want to help you and support you in whatever way possible, and yet you are so quick to look for an ulterior motive.
(10:15:50 PM): Ultimately, I just think I feel really badly for you. I mean, take the one person who has given you a thousand chances and tried to be whatever you needed and there for you on your terms at a great personal cost to her ... You know, Philip, I do look at the world with a naive eye. I believe in people over and over and over again and get lied to and emotionally abused and accused of "interrogating" when all I do is care. It's torture ... but it's a million times better than being a person who sees only the worst in people. I want to help you. Please call me.

This whole thing makes me very, very nervous. Until the past week, you'd been doing so well. Now I don't know where you are, who you are with, what your plans are, how I can get in touch with you in case there's an emergency with Belle (since you're not taking my calls or e-mails and I don't even know what city's police department to call if I needed to find you). Please, Philip, don't drink. My heart tells me that you've already started, but if you're reading this, know that you can stop again. One day at a time works, and if you mess up today, tomorrow's another one.

As I hope you can see from this letter, we have been through a great deal together. I had my moments when I acted badly, you've had yours. It would be nice if we could both realize that and move forward with a sense of respect and, above all, honesty.

Please call me ... I am worried sick.