Mistress Nic

March 19, 2010

Twenty-four years together.

Daily visits with you.
Sneaking around behind my back.
Trips out to meet you.
Thousands of dollars wasted on you–
Money that could have financed
Our dream vacation
Or brand new furniture
(Instead of the crap we have now)
Or paid for our kids’ braces
Maybe even a few college credits.

Well, bitch, guess what?

He finally dumped you.
It took him awhile
and a lot of pleading from me and the kids
But, he chose life with us
Instead of a living hell with you.

So, get out — You disgusting piece of filth.

He (We) doesn’t want you around.
Dirtying up his life or
Ruining  his health anymore.

He’s not falling
for your tricks anymore either
or your instant allure.

He’s done with meeting you
for morning coffee
or an evening beer
or a quickie
after our family meals.

I (We) win.

He’s mine (OURS) now.

You (YOU) lose.

Take your poison elsewhere.

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Role Models Come in All Sizes

March 6, 2010

I was fully prepared for the accolades I would receive from teaching. I was well on my way towards patting myself on the back and crowing “What a GREAT teacher you are, Nerd!” while blowing smoke up my own backside. Two years of teaching almost behind me, and so far, everything I’ve done has been met with praise and glory and…blah, blah, blah. Enough of that–here’s the reality of working with children — they are great equalizers when it comes to feelings of self-importance.

Nothing deflates an over-sized ego faster than dealing with the untimely death of a child. No, not my own child — I wouldn’t be writing this post with such reckless flippancy. Besides, if it were my 13- year old child who just succumbed to complications from his 6-year battle with leukemia, I’d be on the way to the nearest psych ward, hoping for a voluntary psychiatric hold.

But today, as I write this, there is a family here who is losing their child to the battle. Most likely, right this very minute they are gathering at his bedside, holding his hands, and praying one last time as a cohesive, family unit. Then, his younger sisters will leave as they see their brother alive for the very last time. And this is what is tearing me apart.

I met this family last year, when I was his teacher. Despite weekly chemo treatments, horrible side effects and general feelings of “ick”, he still managed to earn straight As and complete all his work at home. His parents insisted he maintain as “normal” a life as possible — going to school, doing his homework, taking his tests on schedule, etc., etc. His chemo treatments were always scheduled on Friday, so he’d have the weekend to catch up on homework (between bouts of nausea, I bet).  I could tell where he was in his treatments based upon the amount of red fuzz he had on his head — the less hair, the more dosage of chemo he would have in him. But, never, ever, did he lose ground in my class. His parents insisted upon it, and he made it happen.

He moved onto eighth grade this year, so I lost him as a student. But, his little sister took his place at a desk in my 6th grade room this year. And, much like he was, she never lets her brother’s health situation get in the way of her schooling. Every day she comes to class, ready, eager and willing to participate. She eagerly reads out loud, answers questions about grammar, bops up to be the first person to share her writings — everything that happens in my class room, she embraces enthusiastically and with such focus and attention. All the while knowing when she goes home at the end of the day, her parents will be at the hospital, hoping for a miracle for her older brother.

I’ve always known the world needs positive role models. I get so disgusted when I hear that people with questionable morals and values are being idolized in the press and put on pedestals for the world to “ooh” and “aw” over, when all they’ve really done is just figure out a way to act obnoxious and foolish and get away with it.

They aren’t role models to me. The role models — the ones who deserve to be placed on a pedestal, are the ones like the family I’ve met, who are going to be burying their 13-year old son and brother shortly. Through this horrific battle, they have remained close, strong in their faith and stoic in their deeds.

They are my role models. They have taught me more than I could ever teach them. What a great way to keep my ego in check.

Goodbye, Seth.


Puckin’ Nuts

October 18, 2009

I was never a big fan of college or professional sports. My dad and mom preferred the nightly news to the Stanley Cup playoffs, “The Carol Burnett Show” to the Super Bowl. There were no Sunday dinners planned around “game time”, no “football pools at my dad’s work”, not even a sibling or two who participated in school sports. We were the “pseudo-intellectual family of nerds” who would sit around the dining room table playing cut-throat games of Scrabble, “Fictionary”, or Boggle.

I know the exact moment, however, when it all changed. It was my first date with the man who would become my husband. Unlike our family, he was a sports junkie. His two favorite sports were ice hockey and college football – in that particular order. After what has come to be known as our first “hot date” (a story best saved for later), we moseyed over to the Chicago Stadium – home of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks. That night, my future husband would introduce me to the sport of ice hockey. Little did I realize at that time how influential or profound an impact that would have on my adult life.

I didn’t know a thing about the sport – and honestly didn’t really care at the time – I was on a date with a cute guy I was crazy about. I could have spent the evening sipping Coke and eating sliders from White Castle and had been perfectly content. But, as I sat there in the stadium, listening to the crowd’s collective voices bloom as the national anthem was sung, something began to stir inside me. The sound of the crowd was cacophonous – decibels louder than anything I had ever heard. It became obvious something magical was going to occur.

The teams made their way from their locker rooms and out onto the ice to the sound of the crowd’s roar. Glass panels undulated as the fans pounded on them again, and again. The concrete flooring in the stands pulsed to life as the audience stomped their collective feet in thunderous approval.  All because of the six gladiators squaring off at center ice.

The crowd went silent, the organist stopped, and the puck fell. A mad scramble began to gain control of the puck and begin the dance towards the opponents’ goals. Metal blades shredded the fresh, slick, shiny surface of ice – and at each shift of the player’s weight, snow cones sprayed the air and spread like Japanese fans. I watched in awe – and wondered how a fully grown man could shift his well-muscled body and fifteen pounds of protective gear all the while standing on 1/8th an inch of finely sharpened steel, and manipulating a frozen, rubber disk with a long, wooden stick. I was witnessing true athleticism, and it was intoxicating.

When the first fight broke out around the goalie’s net, I wasn’t sure how to interpret it. I wondered, “Isn’t anyone gonna stop this?” but my then-boyfriend leaned over and nudged me knowingly, adding “Eh, the official will stop it when one of ‘em falls down. That’s just part of the sport.”

Hockey continued to permeate my life, making another appearance when our son was eighteen months old. My husband and I, being native Chicagoans, would talk about how we used to remember Chicago winters cold enough to skate outdoors. We shared our favorite skating rinks – the ones where the frozen pond was smooth, instead of rippled by the wind. We talked about “warming houses” and “cold benches” and how the snow would inch its way down our skates, freezing our feet until we could no longer feel them inside our now frozen-solid skate boots. We spoke of lips that turned blue from being exposed to the bitter cold far too long, rosy, wind-nipped cheeks, and how we knew it was time to go home when the floodlights came on.

Shortly after moving to Columbus, Ohio, it just so happened there was an indoor ice rink within a thirty-minute drive from home. Of course, we had to go over and check it out. We bundled our son up, put him in his car seat and headed over to the rink. I remember the smell – fresh paint over concrete walls. It smelled “untouched” and “unspoiled”. Even the cold air smelled appealing. We paid our admission, rented skates – torture devices for those with bad feet – and tucked our son into his first pair of hockey skates. Being eighteen months old, he stood up, toppled over, then burst into gales of tears – screaming, “No! No! No!” loud enough for everyone to hear. Undeterred, my husband picked him up in his arms and lugged him over to the fresh sheet of ice, our son kicking and bucking the entire time.

At first, it was a difficult concept for our son to accept. Hunched over, spine nearly snapping, my husband stood behind our son and inched forward slowly, stopping only to reposition our son’s tiny feet so he wouldn’t collapse under himself.  After what seemed like an hour, they made one complete revolution around the rink and met me back at the starting position. I asked, “How’d it go?” and looked down at our son. He was not impressed. Determined to try again another day, my husband and I left shortly thereafter – all the while telling our son “What a great job you did! We’ll try again another time, okay?” We were going to have a son who played hockey, regardless of what it took.

The light bulb moment came when we purchased our son his first pair of rollerblades. They were cheap, plastic, blue, Little Tykes roller skates that snapped on over his shoes. The Velcro strap held them closed, and they were extendable. Removing the fear of the ice, we would spend hours outside trailing behind him as he shuffled his little feet down the sidewalk outside our house. At first, he would stand stock straight – knees locked out of fear of falling, and move forward in a herky-jerky motion, much like a newborn colt learning to walk shortly after its birth. But soon enough, he began to glide – slowly and surely over the concrete sidewalk, bending his little body while he found his center of balance.

By age three, he was ready to give ice skating another chance. At age four, we signed him up at the local ice rink, purchased his very own hockey skates (size 1, I believe), and let him go. We weren’t aware that, during his skating lessons, he was being “scouted” for the new youth hockey league opening up at that rink. When we signed him up, he was just entering kindergarten. I’ll never forget that first year, because we received a letter from his elementary school physical education teacher talking about the importance of “physical activity” and “major muscle coordination”. The teacher was encouraging us to work with our son on hops, skips and jumps. I can only imagine the look on this teacher’s face when we wrote back that our son was “working on his hand/eye coordination while skating several times a week, manipulating a rubber disk over frozen ice by way of a long, thin, wooden stick.”

We have been personally involved with ice hockey ever since. My husband coached our son from age five until age fourteen – until he was no longer certified to teach that age level. I was the official “team mom”. Rarely did I miss a game – even the ones that would begin at 6 am. I’ve often said there are only two things that would get me up and out of the house at 5 am on a cold winter’s day – a house fire and a hockey game.

That same toddler who was scared to death of the skates, and the ice, is now sixteen and playing for his high school’s hockey team. He eats, breathes and sleeps hockey. Thankfully, we’ve never had to watch him fight another player on the ice, or get bloodied and battered himself. We’ve steeled ourselves against the inevitable – hockey is a sport of blood, sweat and tears. And of course, we still watch the game on television, but we no longer root for the Chicago Blackhawks. We’re Columbus Blue Jackets fans now – we’ve earned that title through honest means.


Conversations with My Muse: Getting Remotivated

September 3, 2009

NERD! Wow, long time no see!

I know, I’ve been busy. School started.

I see that. It’s been, like, forever since we had a moment to catch our breath, huh?

Tell me about it! Not only do those little rug rats demand a lot of my time, but my own kids are sucking up whatever time is left over.

Oh? Burning the candle at both ends, huh?

Ha! I’m impressed you remembered that. Seems like we had that convo years ago.

I remember quite a bit when properly medicated. Believe it or not.

You have your moments of total coherence. Quickly followed by more randomness. It’s a little endearing, to be honest.

I bet it isn’t as endearing in a room full of short-attention span kids.

Huh?

Don’t you have a few kids this year who are like that? You know the type: “Lights are on, nobody’s home” “Her elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top” “One taco short of the full taco grande platter” yaddi yaddi yaddi.

Oh — absolutely. One kid has the attention span of a gnat on crack cocaine.

Interesting visual, Nerdy.

It fits him. It’s like trying to nail jello to a tree, herding a cat, catching lightning in a butterfly net, all rolled into one 6th grade boy —

Wow, lots of similes there.

Of course, what else would you expect? That’s my life currently — writing, writing more, then followed up by more —

Lemme guess…writing?

Absolutely. I haven’t witnessed any bloody knuckles yet, but I have seen some cramping.

Abusing the kids?

No! Just working them hard. I have them for 87 minutes per day, I have to do something productive with them.

Just writing?

No, unfortunately. I also have reading, and viewing, and listening, and speaking, and…

Wow, that is busy. I am thankful all I have to do is whisper in people’s ears all day long. I make them do the work.

Oh! Speaking of which, I took that path today too. I think I made my job a little easier anyways.

How so?

I gave them the following prompt: “Write ME a prompt to give the class. Begin it with ‘Tell me about…’ and go from there.

You made them create your prompts?

Yea, how devious of me.

Deviously devilish, dear.

Oh great, now we’re talking alliteration?

Absolutely.

Ah. We need to stop this before it gets out of hand.

And onto paper?

Where else would it go?

Waxed tablet?

That’s so B.C.


Conversations with My Muse: Anonymity and Affirmation

August 8, 2009

EXCUSE ME! I believe I had my hand on that watermelon first!

Oh, I’m sorry — here, take it.

Thank– OH MY GOD, IT’S YOU!

Shhhhh! Please, don’t…

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN???????

Be quiet! People are starting to stare…

Let them, and give me a hug first!

Really, I beg of you, please tone it down..

Okay, sorry….

That’s better, thanks.

I just can’t believe you’re back…and in the middle of the produce department, thumping watermelons, even.

Well, you know me – ADPB girl.

True. So, let me take a look at you. Take a twirl for me.

I’d rather not.

Aw come on, nobody knows who you are, and I doubt anyone is thinking anything other than we’re two friends who haven’t seen each other in a while.

Well, put that way…okay

Okay, I understand the long skirt..some habits are hard to break, huh? But, I need a little explanation here…what the hell is going on with the wig, dark sunglasses and black beret?

I’m in disguise.

Disguise? Oh hell…..you’re still on the run, aren’t you?

Yes.

Why??? Didn’t I tell you to turn yourself in?

Well, about that…

Oh, this should be good. Go ahead, I’m listening.

I was heading to Italy, fully intending on turning myself in, when “it” happened. Or, I should say “he” happened.

Why am I not surprised by this? Pony up — who is the “he” in this flimsy excuse?

Oh my god Nerd, you should see him! He is sooooooo cute!

Here we go again….lemme guess — are we 17 today? 22? I can’t tell behind the sunglasses and fake bobbed wig.

Hey, I’m an adult and that’s all you need to know. You really shouldn’t be so judgmental, ya know.

That’s my job, to keep you in line.

Since when?

Since I hired you. You work for me.

And exactly how much am I being paid for this little “deal” we’ve swung with each other? What IS my cut? Cuz, I’m still waiting for that…

Well, it just so happens that you and I are “getting published”! Ha!

No kidding????? When did all this happen?

While you were gallavanting around the globe, and picking up strange men.

Oh my God–that reminds me, I still haven’t told you about my new guy!

This “unfocused” behavior is kinda starting to piss me off, muse. Can we please stay on topic for ONCE?

Well, sure…um, what is the topic?

Siggggggh…

Oooh, while you’re doing your deep breathing exercises, let me tell you about my new guy. I think this could be “the one”.

You’re not gonna let this one go until you’ve gushed all about him, are you?

He’s my life now.

That’s creepy sounding.

Well….as I was saying before you rudely interrupted me with all this talk about “being published”, I met him en route to Italy. I was coming down the coast of Russia, veered to the right, over Yugoslavia when BINGO! I saw him.

Yugoslavia? What part?

Croatia. What a beautiful country, by the way.

Yes, I know. I’ve got in laws from that area. Zagreb, if I remember correctly.

Cool! So you know how dreamy the men are? I just love brown eyes…it’s like looking into pools of liquid chocolate. I just want to fall in and lap him all up.

Slow down there, chickie. We’re still in public, ya know.

I can always go stick my head in the frozen foods department.

That might work. Just don’t leave any butt prints on the ice cream containers. The staff tends to frown on that type of behavior.

I would assume so.

Okay, so let me make sure we have our stories straight, okay?

Yep, but first — do you know where I can find the following items: Feta cheese, Romaine lettuce, garlic and olive oil?

Mmmm, sounds like a Greek salad to me.

But of course, what else would I make for my man?

Ever try Saganaki?

What’s that? It sounds yummy…

Flaming cheese. It’s a real “celebratory” food — you pan fry a coated piece of cheese in olive oil, put a little brandy in it, take it to the table, light it and, at the top of your voice, yell “OPA!” while trying not to set your eyebrows on fire at the same time. Then, douse the flames with a half of a lemon squeezed over the top. It is to DIE FOR.

Fire? You trust me around flames?

Good point, stick to the salad.

So, are we done here? My man is waiting for me back at our place.

You’re living together????

Not yet. We’ve only been dating for a week now.

Ah.

If things work out, I’m going to suggest we rent a place together somewhere in Switzerland.

Why Switzerland of all places?

Netural territory. The law can’t touch me there.

Ah…So I am assuming you’re perfectly okay with being a professional fugitive, always on the move?

Beats the alternative.

And what would the “alternative” to being a fugitive exactly be?

Being stuck with the same house, same job, same city, same spouse, same kids, year after year, waiting for death to release you from life’s dull grasp.

Wow, that’s harsh. I totally disagree.

I tell it like it is. And one final thing…

What’s that?

Those shorts do make your ass look a little too big.

Leave now, before I alert security.


Nobody’s Treasure

August 6, 2009

This came to me after I saw a video about the recent rise in the number of babies in South Africa being given up for adoption due to the global economic crisis. How sad it is to hear that they have remained in the orphanages, because no one can afford to adopt them either.

She lovingly places you
inside a metal box
on a thin, cotton blanket
padded with electric sensors
hidden behind a wooden door
that says “Door of Hope”.

Silently, she closes the latch
and turns away —
Shadows fall on the ground
around her – casting shame
in her direction.
Despair and desperation
mingle on the ground beneath her feet
in the form of footprints leading
to and from her ramshackle village.

I understand
how your mother
must feel —
She knows she can’t
keep you with her —
She has no money for food
No place to keep you
safe and warm
No one to help her
help you.

I can only imagine
how you will feel
When you grow older
and begin to question
who you are
where you came from
and why
you were born
only to become
Nobody’s Treasure.


“Mistake” versus “Choice”

August 6, 2009

I’ve had it with the euphemism world out there. Specifically, the one world where people believe the words “a series of bad choices” can be intermingled, intermangled, and interchanged with the words “stupid mistake”. Let me explain.

Here, in my relatively “safe” local suburb, a police officer was recently arrested for riding his motorcycle at 149 mph down a country road. Yes, that number IS correct: 149 MPH!

First, I can’t stand motorcycles. And don’t even bother to respond to this post if you own one and want to tell me how wonderful they are — I will never be convinced. They are dangerous to ride and even more dangerous to have to drive anywhere near. I can never see the bike until it’s within smacking distance. Sorry — but all the safety training in the world won’t guarantee you will come out of a 25-foot skid over asphalt unscathed if you choose to ride your motorcycle wearing only flip flops, shorts and a wife-beater shirt. For people who choose to do that, thank you for your willingness to “thin the herd” of stupid people.

But this rant isn’t about motorcycles. It’s about what happens when people are caught doing something they know they shouldn’t be doing, and the excuses that stream from their mouths once they are standing before their local judge.

In the case of High-Speed Willy, his only comment to the judge was: “I made a mistake.” And this is where my head exploded.

A couple years ago, the principal of my children’s middle school was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI or DUI for some). It was 2:00 am, he was going the wrong way down a one-way street, and when asked for his driver’s license, he handed the arresting officer his Blockbuster card. Yea, he’s REALLLY coherent. He blew twice the legal limit on the Breathalyzer.

Of course this made the local news — TV, newspaper, etc. His name was everywhere along with the name of the middle school my kids attend.

While I am not opposed to adults getting their “drink on”, I am vehemently opposed to drinking and driving and was very irate by this principal’s words to the press: “I made a mistake.” No, a mistake is accidentally dropping your cell phone in a river while fishing, or accidentally leaving a wallet filled with money on a table in a high school weight room after you’ve left for the night. (Both of which have occurred to family members of mine).

What these two morons (the police officer and the principal) did were make bad CHOICES. The police officer didn’t accidentally stomp his foot down on the gas pedal and clutch, causing an unexpected acceleration — for which he kept it down (again, by mistake?) for an extended period of time. He didn’t suddenly find himself  “swerving” on the road, around cars that mysteriously “appeared” beside him.The principal didn’t “accidentally” walk into a bar, unknowingly order shot after shot of alcohol (or beer, whatever the case may be), unwillingly open his mouth, surprisingly pour it down his throat hour after hour, then get back into his car and inadvertently drive off into the night.

The drunken principal’s situation hits closer to home with me. Not because it’s the school where my kids go, or the fact that I am a teacher. No, it hits home with me because of what happened two days before he was busted for DUI. My son was caught goofing around during a fire drill, and was given a “Saturday school” for this. The principal pulled my son into his office, said “Because of your CHOICE to screw around during school, you can come to Saturday school.” And when the principal called me to tell me what he had done, I agreed with the principal’s use of the term “choice”. My son earned that extra day in school for the poor choice he made.

But, when the principal was busted for DUI, what do you imagine was the consequence for his behavior? Jail time? Personally, I would have loved to see him serve 3 days in jail. But, of course that didn’t happen. Instead, the school district gave him 10 days, suspended leave, with pay. WITH PAY.

Sorry, but that is not a “consequence” for a school principal — that’s a freaping vacation! How am I, as a responsible parent, expected to teach my son and daughter about “consequences” when the adult leaders aren’t taking responsibility for THEIR own actions?And THIS chaps my hide.

Fortunately, the students were smart enough to recognize the actions of the principal were abhorrent. Conversely, the principal lost all respect from his student body immediately after the incident. None of the students were able to resist a good “So I threw a spit wad at Suzy, so what? At least I didn’t get busted for drinking and driving and gave the cop my Blockbuster card!” As disrespectful as that sounds, you cannot argue the logic behind that.

For the police officer, I believe his career is officially over. The local city government has issued a statement concerning the officer’s conduct and how it is detrimental to the overall “perception” of the police force.

There is some wonderful irony to both of the stories above:

The officer’s story is an ironic metaphor for motorcycle riding. He threw himself under the bus, and came out in a world of hurt.

The principal was demoted to the rank of “assistant principal” and is now responsible for disciplining disruptive, behaviorally challenged, high school students.

All because of the “mistakes” they claim to have made. Yea, right.