Monday, April 27, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: 10 things I did last week

1. Recovered from Fiona's play. She played the female lead, Queen Mildred. Jake did sound. I did a little bit of everything. It was exhausting. I was brittle by the end. This past week, not much could possibly happen.

2. Went on some walks. Saw some deer and squirrel.

3. Planned out the rest of my school year, or at least the part with my 8th graders.

4. Went to a fun meeting (that never happens, right?) about Fiona's graduation party with some women I wish I'd gotten to know earlier. That's what happens when you switch schools in 6th grade. Alas.

5. Planned out the porch renovation/rebuild for later this summer.

6. Visited my 88 year old grandmother. She gave us a set of trundle beds that I remember sleeping on back when I would visit St. Louis. They are in Fiona's room now, with new mattresses. I like them. I think she gave them to me so I would have them when she died. She said as much. My aunt has the other set. Funny what becomes important.

7. Watched Daisy participate in Dancing Classrooms. After I get the video up, I will link to it. Never in the history of 5th graders has someone been more created to dance the tango.

8. Had my lateral sewer line snaked. Again. Not our fault. Why does it keep happening to us? Too philosophical a question for our plumber. Sweetgum balls pushed into the line during a quick downpour. Ah well, that's what plumbers are for.

9. Started seeing flashes and floaters in my eyesight. Worried for a day, then called the optometrist Jake sees. Went to see him on Saturday morning. Not a detached retina. Just my "new normal". Aging. He was impressed with my eyesight, though. I have always enjoyed better-than-perfect vision...

10. Which is why I freaked the eff out when he said "asymmetric optic nerve cupping....more tests...could be glaucoma..." Glaucoma. So yeah. I have normal eye pressure but still could be. More tests coming. And then probably a specialist. What was that about our family motto? Jeez. Without the normal part of aging floaters that worried me, I could have let this thing go a long time. And then lost my peripheral vision for good.

11. So I went through a lot of stages of grieving...sort of...more of freaking out...and then realized how danged lucky I was to have had it discovered NOW. And it's still a maybe. We'll see what happens next.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hike #1 and #2

So Jake and I were listless today. Rainy. Gray. Kids were bickering. Only so many video games can be played. The play is over--oh, the awesome play--and here we are. What did we used to do with our free time? Hmm. So we cleaned house a bit and then the rain let up. We drove out to Powder Valley to take a walk.

As we finished Trail #1, Fiona commented that it was quite a dissatisfying hike--it was, after all, a walk in the woods on a paved trail. Two thirds of a mile. It is all hills, which is nice, but it's just not much. It isn't designed to be a hike, more of a pleasant walk in the woods.

So I said, "Well, that's hike number 1."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, how about that's where we start. We'll do, say, 50 hikes between now and the first frost?"

She liked the idea.

I have not been active this winter. And now it's a month into spring and I'm still not doing enough. But if it's a counting game? Perhaps I will.

So Hike #1 was deer, squirrel, dogwood and mayapple. Easy. Broken Ridge Trail at Powder Valley Nature Center.
 Hike #2 was Tanglevine Trail. 1/3 of a mile loop. Inchworms, squirrels, and a quick jog with Billy at the end.
Oh yeah. I like being outside with my family in the woods.

It's been a long winter.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

And when I looked at it this morning/had no angry words to say

I gave to the ACA today. That's the Annual Catholic Appeal. I'm Catholic, and I am a member of a parish, a parish I like very much and is important to me on many levels. I give to my parish weekly (actually monthly--we have it set up through our bank account, which is great because it eliminates the Sunday morning "WHERE IS THE ENVELOPE" nonsense that used to be part of our weekend routine). I pledged to our capital campaign. Not an amazing amount--I'm a teacher, ya know, and we have one kid starting high school and another one will before this campaign is over. But we looked and thought and made a plan and a pledge.

I haven't given to our diocese' annual appeal in ten years.

Because I've been angry. I know I'm not the only one, I know. It's trendy to be mad at the church--no, not trendy. Let's just say it's been done. Kind of tired, actually.

I love my parish. I love what we do. And I know that money I give to my parish, part of it, funnels up to the diocesan level, I understand what fungible means. And in fact that's what I put on my pledge form every year: "Money is fungible." And I refused to donate.

See, when I was a teenager, someone I loved, see, I was the first person he ever told about what had happened to him at the hands of a priest, a priest whose name I never knew. A priest who was already dead by the time I heard the story. Nothing to be done except grieve at that point. Teenagers. You don't know anything except that this person in front of you is hurting and that's the beginning and end of the story.

But...then you grow up, and you realize that it wasn't just this one priest who encountered this one person, who abused this one person. It was probably many people. The stories we've all read in the news confirm this. And I decided I was done with that. In my head I separated my parish from the church at large. I supported my parish and the exhausting good work they did. I refused to support a diocese--any diocese--that hid abusive priests and moved them around to abuse again.

I wasn't angry just because someone I loved had been hurt. I was angry because I was part of an organization that had failed to take responsibility for that hurt multiple times. As a friend pointed out to me later on, the media shouldn't have named it the Priest Sex Abuse Crisis, but rather the Bishop Failure to Take Responsibility Crisis.

I was angry.

And then today? My pastor's homily reported that our Pope has declared next year a special year of jubilee. The focus is mercy. MERCY.

My anger, while justified, my anger has led me to decisions that are not especially merciful. My own parish survives on grants from the ACA. Perhaps yours does, too. As I listened to Fr. Miguel's words, I thought about this. About how life can't always be a closed fist. Sometimes it can be--needs to be--open arms.

There are three things I cannot change, Anne Lamott tells us: the past, the truth, and you. I can't go back and fix what is broken. I cannot change the facts, either. And I cannot change anyone into anything I want them to be, especially if it involves changing the the past or the truth. Ya know?

But what I can do is say, ok, I've come to the resolution of all this now.

Our Pope is an amazing person. Once again I've found myself in a moment when I realize that everything I vowed I would never waver on...I've wavered on. In the direction of mercy, I hope. At least that's my intention.

I walked to the back of mass and stood there in front of one of the elders of my parish--Catholic parishes don't have elders the way that Protestant churches do, but that's what he would be if we did--and I took the form.

"Can I pay by check right now?"

"We will always take your money," his wife said with a smile.

"I haven't donated in ten years," I admit.

"This is not a confessional," she reminds me. Her dry Irish wit catching me off guard.

I fill out the form. I write the check. I hand it to her.

"See, I was angry," I start, looking back and forth between them. "But I don't think I'm angry anymore."

"I read your form every year, Bridgett," he tells me. "I know."

Yes, but I'm finally getting over, 

I'm finally getting over,
I see I'm finally getting over
The sad part of yesterday: 

no angry words to say
 --Willy Porter

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Conversations with Middle Schoolers #52: Chloroform

So it went like this. It was the end of class. Had to have been a Thursday. We were finishing up and there wasn't any more to do--students were washing my board with the Expo spray stuff that cleans white boards. I was sitting at my desk, I think talking to Benedict about something on the computer. Perhaps it was math.

But it was religion class still, and I'm only half paying attention to the whole room--because I'm half paying attention to everything that's going on. And Benedict, or maybe it was Ted, asked me a question about grades and I went over to the appropriate site.

Next thing I know Patrick is standing by my desk with his hand on his throat and a sick look on his face.

"What's wrong?" I ask him.

"Pete, he put that rag over my mouth, covered in Expo."

"Like choloroform!" one of the other boys says.

And I realize that half paying attention has led to crazy.

I take the rag, which is a cloth book cover, away from Pete, who is grinning away. I ask Patrick if he's ok. He's ok. The bell rings and I have Pete again--for math. I get students started on something from the book and sit down, trying to figure how I'll write the demerit.

Eventually I write "For pretending to chloroform a fellow student." I hand him the demerit. There is a section that reads, "Next time I will...." with a space for the student to fill out.

I put my hand firmly on Pete's shoulder. "You will not write 'finish the job'."

He looks at me, feigning innocence.


He brings it to me afterward, with his signature and the words, "not chloroform my friends."

I wonder what his mother thought when she signed that one.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Conversations with Middle Schoolers #51

Hilarity ensues. Weather was coming in and moods were reacting to the barometer changes.

My 7 Math class turned into a Mrs. Kennedy stand up routine. Hard to explain. But it started by writing this on the board: "Surface Area: A grueling process that produces nothing but a lot of math practice" or something like that. Because it is. I taught it to them, counted up how many lessons we had left--9 from the book--and kind of let things get a little loose.

My Pre-Algebra Class was about probability, which led to a discussion of magical thinking, casinos, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

8 Math included this picture:
And a further discussion of quadratics.

Algebra was an introduction to standard deviation and variance--more on that tomorrow--mostly because Patrick wanted to turn in his book and no one wanted to work on the anesthesiology packet (yes, I have an anesthesiology packet).

8B Religion was spent reading from my 40 in 40 and then going to the lab to finish up their 14 in 14s project. Pete: "Are you going to make another book, like of ours?"

"Like my favorite one from each person?"

"Yeah, you could title it 26 Things I Learned from 26 Stupid Kids."

*It's gonna get pretty effin poignant here pretty soon. Next week or so. End of year I get all maudlin and crap. Because I like them. They are my favorite.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Conversations with Middle Schoolers #50

I wrote to the boys' school that a few of my boys are attending next year. Last year the boys who went there, at least the ones who took my algebra I class, were placed in algebra I yet again--and the parents asked me to contact the school and change it. So I had some very nice conversations with the counselor there, and we came to the conclusion that they probably were ready to move on.

Knowing that the boys headed there are even brighter than the ones from last year, I headed it off at the pass. I wrote to the counselor and suggested that the three from my algebra class go ahead and take geometry. I reminded him about last year and so forth. He agreed.

Then in the hall, Pete and Patrick tell me how they bombed the math portion of the placement test. No--Pete bombed it. Patrick made an 89--"I missed two." Ted came up to us in the hallway and I asked how he'd done. "Oh, I think I missed three."

"You guys!" I said, exasperated. "Your brains are made for this. Half your brains are made for math--NONE OF MY BRAIN IS--you shouldn't even have to work on it!" I threw up my hands and went back to my room. Wrote to the counselor again and said that many of the boys had mentioned that they'd bombed the test.

"And perhaps Ron and Pete, maybe I was hasty saying they should go into an honors class. Perhaps a regular Algebra I class is best. But I stick to what I said about Patrick, Ted, and Benedict. Most importantly--don't let them be lazy!"

He wrote back right away. Reassured me that they boys I'd taught last year had done very well in their geometry class. He had taken the scores on the tests for the boys this year and used what I said, "which was most useful" and placed them in geometry.

"Don't worry. They won't be lazy. And they will make you proud."

I realized, reading that, that I actually cared if they did--that their success was intertwined somewhat in my own. I want them to do well, to be beautiful and wonderful and do good and come back and tell me about it. But I also want them to do well because it reveals some of this craftsman's hand in the work. And I'm still human enough to want that to be recognized for what it is.

Conversations With Middle Schoolers #49: Bruised Deer

"Do you think you could hit a target at 50 yards?" Jeff asked me some time ago. I thought about it, thought about how far away I'd been when I was down at Magnolia Hollow, or up at Forest Park.

"Yes I think so," I decide.

This becomes a running gag. It eventually becomes "do you think you could hit a running target" and then "do you think you could hit ME?"

I have to think I probably could, and I say yeah, probably, I might could. I thought about how to make it into a math problem or, whatever? I let it go.

But Jeff and Matthew didn't. It turned into a bet. Matthew would get a running headstart and I would shoot him.

I told them, aw heck no.

Then this week, they upped the ante. They'd pay me $100 if I'd shoot Matthew on the run. Keep in mind, Matthew was one of the students making the offer.

"I will never shoot at you," I reassured them. Again and again. They set a date for Saturday.

"What kind of arrows do you have, could you, like, kill a deer with one?" Jeff asked on Tuesday.

"No, I have target arrows. They would, well, probably bruise a deer."

This was HILARIOUS. Jeff came to school the next day with a huge bruise on his shoulder, from a rifle he'd shot himself and had kicked back at him. He referred to himself as a bruised deer. They kept aiming for Saturday.

Finally we were in math class on Wednesday. I reminded them again that I would not be shooting at them, or anyone else, on Saturday.

"What would it take, though, what would have to happen for you to shoot at Matthew on Saturday?"

I thought for a moment.  "Society would come to an end. We would revert to a subsistence way of life. And you would then have to get in my way as I was trying to shoot some animal for food."

"So...Saturday then?" Jeff barely manages to say through the laughter.