I knew when I looked at the caller ID. Before I even hit the decline button. I didn’t want to hear those ugly words come out of anyone’s mouth.
Of course there was a message …We got the report back today… You need to call. I hit the delete message.
Voicemail/caller ID/merge calls…all this technology designed to enhance phone communication sometimes works at cross purposes with Humans.
I think about how to dismantle this feature.
I pour some wine. Cut a pain pill in half. My jaw is still aching from the abscessed tooth. And promptly fall into a dreamless sleep.
The next day I call. No answer. I leave a message on the voicemail that no one ever listens too.
I continue with my day. Busying myself with all kinds of move related tasks. Dropping off clothes at a Baptist church clothes bank… someone will be happy with these cute dresses with tags still on them, shoes worn once still in the box, purses just like they came from the store paper wadded inside.
I think they call it a shopping addiction. I call it retail therapy. It seems to fill some void I have had this summer. But my new life cannot handle all this excess so I happily give it to the church.
Next stop Salvation army. Men just waking file out the door. One directs me to the office. The smell of urine and maleness is strong in the dimly lit hallway. The worker who welcomes me is genuinely happy to see me. I load her arms with comforters, pillows and almost new sheets. She thanks me warmly. I leave.
On to the hip upscale trendy part of town. Ironically, only a few blocks away from the seedy army of salvation. The owner of the upscale consignment shop greets me cheerfully. We have talked and she is anxious to see my wares…The mid century Swedish folding rope chairs I bought 20 years ago. They are worth $800 each. I have 4. They are in excellent condition. How much do I want for them. She is excited to have such a find in her little shop. She can see the dollar signs. Where do I sign. I just want to sell them and move on. They are a reminder of a time when monetarily my life was good but otherwise bad.
The phone rings. The caller ID flashes their name. It is their legal name. Not the familiar one. Too emotion engendering. I take a long deep breath.
I watch the squealing ancient coal cars scream past my car. I wonder what it would be like to disappear among those fast moving cars now. To be taken away from the insistent ring of this cell phone. Whisked away in a snarling, screeching mess of iron and steel. Destination unknown.
The TV ads have already begun. Happy, smiling children dancing, doing flips to Bruno Mars, tumbling out of school buses, Ready. Faces shining, eyes glowing, backpacks bulging, sharpened pencils/notebooks/calculators/jump drives/Ipads at the ready.
As a teacher, now retired, I have mixed emotions about this time of the year. Summer is not officially over and already the brick and mortar folks are on the band wagon gearing up for the shopping binge that takes place this time of year. True, many schools around the country have begun, but Virginia (Hampton Roads) opted years ago to delay opening until after Labor Day to give the student workers a chance to serve the last tourists visiting the area.
I loved teaching, my students and being in the classroom, but I also savored every day of my two month respite (as did most of my colleagues). The mental and physical stress of teaching coupled with low pay requiring most of us teachers to work a second job takes its toll on those in this noble profession.
Generally teachers have to return one or two weeks before school’s official opening to prepare for the onslaught of new practices, new personnel, new procedures. …this year you will have to write out an individual comment on the student’s report card if the student receives a D in your class…Huh?…You mean explain to the student/parent why he/she got a D…Duh?
In teaching, it seems everything old is always new again. That’s the thing about education, a forty year veteran teacher used to say… Gurl, if you stay in it long enough everything comes back around…just with a new name and some new research to back it up. I call this the pendulum swing theory…things were going pretty good (or bad ) and now they seem headed in the other direction.
My entre into teaching was a second career move. Having exhausted the paralegal field working with lawyers of all ilk… from Hollywood medical malpractice to Virginia Legal Aid, I was ready for a career switch. My options were law school (and suit up every day in the lawyer armor) or English degree. The choice was obvious.
During the mid 80s, teachers still had a measure of control over what happened in their classroom. I remember being given a course outline my first year and told that as long as I covered the material, I could be as creative as I wanted in the delivery to the students.
A year later, when I became Department Head, my principal, Mr. W told me during the interview, I had big shoes to fill as my predecessor had been on the job for 30 years. He looked at my size 9 foot and smiling said, I don’t think you will have any problem. And I didn’t.
Under his Joe Clark tempered with Old School cool leadership and the mentoring of other seasoned teachers, I flourished. The 10 years I spent at the middle school were certainly the high point of my teaching career. Not only was I able to influence the philosophy and practices of other teachers, I was able to teach I-love -you -one -day/hate -you -the- next hormonal 12 and 13 year olds, critical thinking and reasoning skills while improving their basic reading/writing skills. And also infuse their lives with some history and culture to strengthen their self knowledge. I was even voted Teacher of the Year * by my fellow colleagues. And appeared in a local television news documentary celebrating the teaching profession.
It was there that I wrote my first book buoyed by my students who wanted “to see a text about Egyptian mythology with faces that looked like theirs.”
All of that unfortunately, ended one day when a student, new to the school and upset because I had given the entire class lunch detention for misbehaving while under the care of a sub, jumped up suddenly and shouted I’m not serving any f###king detention… I’ma blow your mother F###king head off. And ran out of the room.
This incident of verbal assault signaled a pendulum shift in my own life. For weeks, I was stalked by this student even after he was finally suspended. At the insistence of the police officer assigned to the school, I took unpaid leave for the remaining few weeks of school. During this time, I found it necessary to seek medical treatment for stress, anxiety and debilitating insomnia as my bubbly personality and infectious smile disappeared.
Eventually, the case was bought to court (the school assigned police officer had filed a warrant against the student). Ironically, the state of Virginia, had just passed a law stating that verbal assault on a teacher was a crime. The judge sentenced the student to a juvenile facility and apologized to me on behalf of the Court for all that I had endured.
Unfortunately, the damage was done. Being inside a school no longer held joy for me …only anxiety. And for some strange reason, even though I was the victim of this crime, the school administration did not take my side. I think they just wanted me to let the whole thing go…after all the student hadn’t physically assaulted me.
But he had run to his locker to get something after he bolted from my class…perhaps a weapon.
..he had come to the school near the end of the year without records from his previous school and been admitted.
..he had assaulted a student in another neighboring school district.
…he had waited many days following this incident crouched by my parked car until he was chased away by security.
…He had taken away my career,my livelihood, my joie de vie…my love of teaching.
(To be continued…part 2)
Comments welcome. And thank you for Reading my Words.
Reader, This is part 2 of my abbreviated Foodie post from last week in which I shared some thoughts/pics on Foodism ( not a word).
Lest you think I am only a Restaurant-goer, here are some pics and back stories representing my own home cooking abilities ( all the single men gasp and drop their remotes…dang a woman who can rattle those pots and pans…where is she?)
A few years ago, I learned how to batch cook . In fact, I had been doing this for years, but didn’t know there was a term for it. Simply put, it is the idea of preparing several meals at one time, usually done on the weekend to eliminate that running-in-from-work-at-the-last-minute-trying-to-prepare-a-meal syndrome.
I have learned that in some Foodie circles, it has been elevated to a social event complete with wine pairings where folks gather at individual homes and batch cook and socialize at the same time…kinda like an old school red/blue light in the basement party..but not really).
This ratatouille is a recent product of a batch cooking tequila fueled session. Back story: I was alone. I had insomnia. Food Network episodes ended at 3:00am. I had a crisper full of one week old summer veggies. Voila!
This cinnamon peach bread pudding is actually part of a video I taped for an audition tape to the Food Channel. The recipe was courtesy of one of the Food Network guys and I was attempting to demonstrate how to make this yummy dessert by substituting some of the called for ingredients for those I actually had on hand. What the hell is a cinnamon chip? Who has peach preserves..I thought they only did that with strawberries? 6 eggs..guess they never heard about garbanzo bean juice. Remember cholesterol clogs and kills. Half and half? Okay, here’s some coconut milk… This is, after all, the mark of a good cook…
And I must say, it was scrumptious…my taster friends practically licked the pan.
That same batch cooking session ( started as a cleaning the refrigerator moment) yielded a huge pot of creamy black bean soup, fiery jerk chicken wings, a heavenly Greek moussaka, and a baked crab/zucchini dish I would give my first borne for… just kidding T, maybe the second born.
Writing about food, always makes me hungry…guess its a Foodie side effect…so I need to put this tablet down and go rummage through the fridge before I become h-a-n-g-r-y…another Foodie term. Hey, maybe there’s a market for a Foodie dictionary…
Bowls of food have become the latest food phenomenon. I think it has its origins in Asian fare…but all the ethnic food folks are starting to make their version of this space saving, visually appealing, can-be-eaten -with -one -hand -while driving/texting meal.
Even fast food giants have gotten into the act with a glop of potatoes, topped by a glop of corn, topped by those poor genetically manipulated bird parts…all smothered in heart stopping gravy…hmm yum.
Here is a healthier , life giving version. This mound of fresh veggies and soba noodles became a steaming bowl of stir fry sans protein and seasoned with a mixture of Hoisin, ginger, garlic and red chili oil.
Not sure what the official Webster or Wikipedia definition is, but I define it as someone who simply enjoys eating. This is NOT food addiction leading to obesity and a starring role on Reality TV kind of thing.
Although, I confess, I sometimes watch those shows when I find myself thinking about Chunky Monkey in the pre dawn hours of an insomnia riddled night. I also sometimes channel surf to Hoarders and Catfish when I feel my depression turning to obsession.
Watching those shows is more of a preventative measure on how to avoid a pleasurable experience becoming an addictive one. (Note: This is probably where the mind doctors pick up their pads, raise their eyebrows and start scribbling furiously).
Most Foodies are not threatened with obesity simply because Nature has provided us with a high metabolism, a treadmill or good genes that keep us from tipping the scales. Girl, I am tired of you skinny b*****s talking about how you can eat Anything and not gain weight.
What the world doesn’t know is that we are… eating our feelings.
My journey as a Foodie began back in the lazy hazy days of Black hippiedom when eating natural was all the rage. Back to Earth was our slogan and Vegan/Vegetarian restaurants, Juice Bars, and Farmers’ Markets abounded in the city of Lost Angels. These were not the trendy places seen on Food Network and Travel Channel today, but often little patchouli scented neighborhood joints with a few Goodwill cast off tables and a well worn counter. And like Cheers, everyone really did know your name.
Fast forward to Real world adulthood-jobs, taxes, Xanax. Being a Foodie became a form of entertainment where an otherwise boring, mundane evening could be transformed by a trip to the local market or, if funds allowed, sampling the offerings at one of the ever increasing ethnic restaurants sprouting up across the City.
For a Southern born grits and gravy girl eating out was sheer heaven. And according to many of my fellow Foodie friends can be something akin to orgasm.( Or at least will cause you to break out in the foot happy dance where your feet literally start tapping the floor). Girl please food aint never been as good as sex.
Today, Boomerism and Foodie are synonymous for many Golden Girls/Guys. Eating out, always a big part of any family gathering, now takes on an elevated meaning for ladies/lads of leisure. It has become the alternative to a date and often takes the form of meet ups, food/wine/beer tasting, food truck rodeos, etc .
And like the proverbial kid in a candy store, there are so many eateries to choose from…a plethora of tempting sights, smells and textures all designed to satisfy any craving/fantasy/heartbreak/disappointment/joy life sends your way.
Eat, drink, and be Merry!
I guess poet Robert Burns was in a sentimental mood when he penned this ditty in 1788. Bet he had no idea it would become the anthem heard round the world on the day the ball drops. This song about preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year is certainly apropos.
Writers and Bloggers are busy doing their Year in Review. The media and talking heads will all be serenading us daily with their particular take on the Year That Was.
For many, 2016 was a tough year, full of national tragedies, political upheaval, personal trials, and of course, unexpected deaths. The image of PBS Journalist Gwen Ifill’s smiling but now silent image on the 6 o’clock news still unnerves me.
I like to think the metaphor for my life is….Like a song and as I reflect back on this year …a song is playing somewhere in the background. Kinda like…Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.
Like most recent New Year’s, I found myself soundly asleep in 2016 when the ball dropped. Only to be awakened shortly afterwards by a phone call from the One Who Remains Nameless or more recently daughter J or one of the grandsons who revels in the fact that he is now old enough to stay awake until midnight.
Yes, Virginia, there were the years of dressing up in my finest glad rags and hitting the town for the passage of the Old into the New…but like most things life/time intervened and the need to go cavorting out in the streets with all kinds of drunk, high strangers has ceased to appeal to me.
I do know quite a few people who find themselves on their knees in church at midnight, but I often wonder about the safety of those folk when they leave the church en route to home and come face to face with an errant drunk driver coming back from da club. Much like those unfortunate souls in Charlestown who met their untimely and tragic end while trying to save a soul…in church.
Despite my Rip Van Winkle entrance to 2016, the year proved to be one of challenges for family, close friends and even Moi!
It began with my 90+ father’s unexpected trip to the ER and an ensuing 12 hour wait and see game played by the hospital staff only to be unceremoniously tossed out of said hospital because my father’s PCP thought “he would be better off at home”. Despite documented lab and test results to the contrary showing a need, in the words of the treating Resident, for if nothing else a few days of observation.
The months that followed became somewhat tortuous for my father who up until that time was spry, sharp of mind, and except for occasional bouts of arthritis in his knees a poster child for AARP. I mean the man mastered the computer many years ago and regularly emails, searches the internet, and googles with the best of them. His collection of scrapbooks documenting important stages of his life is a hobby with a purpose that keeps his mind sharp and old age at bay.
Watching his cognitive skills decline as a result of an unfortunate happenstance was difficult, but more difficult was the way the medical profession responded to his condition. I don’t want to belabor this issue but several tersely written letters from me to the appropriate folk at higher levels of Medical Authority did not go unnoticed and I think helped to speed up the diagnostic and treatment phase of his condition.
The pen IS mightier than the sword.
Right on the heels of my father’s illness, my body began to flirt with what became a 4 month descent into uncertainty and downright fear as I struggled with an unnamed illness that resisted diagnosis. Fortunately, in the capable hands of my PCP, Dr. E, I was finally diagnosed by Summer’s end and began the ascent to recovery.
During those dark months of my illness, I watched as my closest friend struggled with her fight against the big C. She is and remains the definition of a Trooper, and became my hero as I watched her undergo devastating chemo treatments, return to work the next 2 days infusion intact, without missing a beat. All the while maintaining her part time Vendor business and being the Matriarch of her large and needy clan. Fran is the definition of a Shero and watching her fight became my Will to overcome the demons that had invaded my body.
Troubles don’t last always….
2016 had its bright moments as well. Much of the goings on at the White House with the first AA President and his Lady Michelle were designed to take our minds off the dreary, nasty battles between the candidates fighting for the title to become King. Watching First Lady Michelle and the President host galas, state dinners, and musical performances at the White House was a great distraction and mood lifter for many of us. Even if Congress thwarted the President’s attempts to bring about Real Change…the first couple showed America…when Others go Low…they go High… AND dang it..they know how to Par tay.
And now we are about to be Trumped…I’m not sure exactly sure what that means, not being a card player, but it has some ominous undertones.
However, Readers, I remain hopeful that the same spirit that brought us Hamilton, Memes, Drones, Bacon flavored ice cream, Kengen Water, Quinoa, Turmeric, Bathroom signs proclaiming P…People Room and Garth Brooks concerts where all tickets start out at $67 only to be resold online for up to $2,000…is a Country/People that can Survive Anything!