Inauguration Day

So, this is something I’ve wanted to do for quite awhile–blogging, that is.  I have always felt as if I have something to say but no one to whom I could say it! Does that sound sad?  At the very least, though, I thought that if I could begin airing my views on life, love, family, work, politics, religion (oh, yeah!), and culture, perhaps someone out there who needs a writer, an editor, or A Fresh Set of Eyes will contact me and let me help them create and craft their own messages. 

About me:  I am married to the hottest man on the planet (more about him later), I am mom to three amazing children and two demanding Labrador retrievers, I own a twenty year-old house that is a work in progress, I am blessed with a job that I love writing for a software company, and I’m now embarking on a quest to market myself as a professional writer.

Experience?  I served the state of Indiana for twenty-five years as a teacher, first in the Indianapolis Public Schools and later in a suburban Indianapolis school district.  This means that I have no problem yelling at your children in public if they misbehave, so get over it.  More importantly (and less likely to get me arrested), though, from teaching I’ve gained an appreciation for doing things the right way and for adhering to standards to which few writers today pay any attention.  Like that last sentence—see?  I didn’t end it in a preposition, did I?

Making mistakes?  I’ve made a mountain of them!  For instance, early in my career, when I thought I was going to change the world one little sixth grader at a time, I wrote and then stupidly sent a scathing letter to–oh, I don’t remember to whom (maybe I’m blocking it out)–that was so poorly written I am sure that the recipient tossed it after laughing at my certifiable incompetence.  I learned from that blunder that, like the adage, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”, one should never send or publish anything written in the throes of anger (or after drinking a considerable number of cocktails). 

So there you have it.  My first submission.  The first of many (she said, optimistically).  And I desperately hope that I won’t look back on this inaugural entry and wince with embarrassment at my shortcomings.  Bring on the words!

An Homage to the Snow Day

Typically, when snow is forecast for central Indiana (and maybe other places, I don’t know), the projection of accumulating inches far exceeds the reality.  How do I know this and why do I care?  It goes back to being a teacher—of course.  Doesn’t everything?

Teachers live for snow days!  Oh, some may say, “I don’t want a snow day because I don’t want to make it up in June” but the reality of that argument is that the day in June that is “made up” is more or less a day spent wrapping up loose ends.  Tests are already taken, grades are submitted, books are returned to their summer storage place, and the time is spent signing yearbooks, cleaning out lockers, and possibly taking the whole class outside for an impromptu field trip.  So in reality, that make up day is not nearly as painful as finally having to schlep your sorry and slippery self into school, fishtailing your way into the parking lot (while the parking lot of the district administration building next door remains empty well into the morning).

The next best thing to a snow day is the two-hour delay.  For the uninitiated, a two-hour delay just pushes the day back two hours, meaning two additional hours of sleep.  Über teachers I’ve worked with (there’s a couple in every school, apparently) would stoically brave the icy and snow covered roads so they could proclaim to the rest of us, two hours later, that they used that time to work in their classrooms.  Not me.  I considered the concept of the two-hour delay a slice of serendipity in an otherwise mundane week.

The drama that precedes the announcement of the snow day or two-hour delay is nearly as exciting as the announcement itself.  Will they or won’t they?  Who actually makes the call?  My dad, a man my readers will get to know on a whole new level real soon, was a high school principal in northwestern Pennsylvania from 1952 until 1973.  In the 1960s, it was his job to “make the call”.  That meant that at around three in the morning our phone would start ringing.  “Mr. A?  Are yinz havin’ school today?  I need to know if I should hitch up the plow so’s I can git the young’uns to the end of the driveway…” or “Mr. A?  Clyde wants to know if he should start milking now, ‘cause he’s guessing with all a this snow, the cows are going to be slow gettin’ into the barn, and he don’t want to miss the bus, but if yinz aint havin’ school, then he can sleep a extra hour…”  My dad would suit up, walk down to the end of our driveway with a flashlight, check the road, then traipse back up and “make the call”.  Making the call involved calling WICU TV in Erie to tell them that the Linesville schools would be closed that day.  He then gave them what I can only guess was a secret password, then our phone number so that they could call back to confirm that he really was James R. Abercrombie, principal of Linesville High School and the man charged with making the call.

Now that I’m no longer teaching and my kids are older, snow days and two-hour delays have lost their sparkle.  I do, however, rally in spirit for my teacher friends.  Even if they moan at the prospect of having to go to school past Memorial Day weekend, I know that deep down they’re secretly delighted at the prospect of having a day all to themselves.  To me, snow days and two hour delays were little gifts that allowed me to snuggle with my kids, make a big breakfast, and maybe take a long nap on a snowy afternoon. What’s not to love about that?

Mona and Robin

My mother Susan was far ahead of her time.  I was born in January, 1963 (yes, thank you for the half-century mark birthday wish, now can we go on?).  Though I’ve no one to ask, my guess is that as soon as she could walk properly again after delivering me tushie-first into this world and could manage to fit into her size six wool skirts, she returned to work as a physical education teacher (do not make the mistake of calling her a ‘gym’ teacher).  Obviously, I needed to be taken care of because, brilliant as I am, I doubt that at three, five, or even six weeks of age I was adept at mixing my own formula, changing my own diapers, or putting myself down for a nap.

Enter Mona.  No, not ‘Mona’ as in ‘Mona Lisa’, but ‘Mona’ as in M-short ‘o’-n-a.  Rhymes with ‘Donna’.  My parents hired Mona to care for me during the day.  Mona was about ninety thousand years old, widowed, and if I remember correctly, didn’t particularly care for children all that much.  She drank copious amounts of Red Rose tea, and each day opened a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for her lunch, feeding me the second half of the watered down mess along with a half of a can of Golden Dawn peaches–in heavy syrup.  She ate the other half.  Might explain my current love affair with food, I don’t know…

Since Mona subscribed to the belief that children should be seen and not heard, I had to make my own magic each day.  Watching Jeopardy! followed by her “stories” simply did not fulfill my toddler and preschool needs.  Jamie and Becky, siblings about whom my readers will learn in future entries (with nom de plumes, of course), were already in school, leaving me to my own devices.  Readers, you have to remember that this was a time when at the end of the day if you were still alive, the adult(s) charged with your care could consider themselves as having done their job and done it well.  So, because I was essentially alone all day, I had to make up my own special friend.

Enter Robin.  Robin was everything to me.  He was a boy, she was a girl, (and how clever was I to have chosen a special friend with a unisex name?  Brilliant?  I think so.), but more importantly, he/she was whatever I needed at the time.  Looking back, I believe that Robin was based on the boy wonder character from Batman that my more seasoned readers will remember as a television series from the (cough) 1960s.  A baby girl’s crush?  Perhaps.

Robin and I were inseparable.  We did everything and anything together, from picking dandelions to catching houseflies and storing them in mayonnaise jars with holes poked through the lid so they could breathe (done with a full-sized hammer and a six penny nail).  I talked about Robin as if he/she was right next to me, and yes, Robin had his/her own place at the lunch table.

Mona was not impressed.

When she said to me, “Why do you insist upon this ‘Robin’ character eating with you?  He’s not real.  You’re just making him up!”  I responded with, “You don’t know Robin.  You’re nussin but an old yady.”

Well, after that less than unacceptable remark, she made sure that she informed James R. Abercrombie of my abject impertinence.  Though I was not present at the time, I am certain that, as my dad drove her back to her daughter’s home that night in our 1966 Ford Falcon station wagon, he feigned shock and aversion at my reported indolence.  But later (1994) he informed me that my ‘old yady’ comment was about the funniest damn thing he had ever heard.

Since the time of my infatuation with Robin, I’ve learned that children who make up imaginary friends tend to be gifted.  Obviously, I am far from gifted—affected, but not gifted.  And here’s another dirty little secret:  Robin was the first person I ever slept with.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mona!

Old Dog

Two years ago to the day, I quit my job as a teacher.  I was so unhappy and so miserable that I couldn’t even wait until the end of the school year.  It wasn’t because of the children in my class; they were a daily delight.  I didn’t leave because of the people with whom I worked—they remain good friends of mine.  Money?  No, it wasn’t the money.  It takes years to get to a place in teaching where the money one earns is finally substantial enough to almost make it worthwhile, and I was already there.

I quit because I could no longer perform my job knowing that no matter what I did and no matter how hard I worked, I would never rise to meet the combined expectations of a district administration and a misguided state department of education.  I quit because I couldn’t swallow enough Kool-Aid necessary to change what I knew to be best for kids in order to satisfy the new vision of some grant coordinator in the central office who had gone to a workshop in San Diego the previous summer and discovered that the problem with teachers was their “white privilege”.  I quit because I certainly could not depend upon the collective standardized test results of 27 ten year olds to determine whether I could earn a raise or keep my job.  And I quit because I constantly felt as if I was being punished for doing something bad.

Did I have a back up plan?  No.  I knew I had skills, but those skills were limited to the education milieu.  I soon discovered that headhunters and recruiters saw teaching just as most of the uninitiated do:  Sure, she can put up a mean bulletin board, and I’ll bet she’s great at reading a story, but can she do anything else?  Imagine my shock when I interviewed for a sales position with a web-based education company and was told that I did not have enough experience to market their product—a product that I had been using with my students for six months.  I was equally flummoxed when I tried to enter the higher education arena but was met with crickets.  Apparently there are enough university professors in central Indiana’s schools of education—too bad most of them have little actual classroom experience.  I began to believe that whatever skills I had were not marketable.

Serendipity saved me when I reconnected with a high school friend who asked me to work for his software company.  Agreeing, though not really knowing how my skillset would jive with a software outfit, I interviewed with management (over the phone) and replied ‘yes’ to her questions about my technological prowess, reckoning that I had enough time and Googling skills to figure out what the hell she was talking about.  My friend had earlier assured me that there would be no math on this test, but my first assignment was to test algorithms.  So I Googled ‘algorithms’ and discovered to my horror that it was something that had to do with math.  I felt like opening a vein.  The actual task was not nearly as difficult as I had imagined, and though it took me like eleven hours to complete what should have taken me two, I finally did git-r-done.

My point is this:  I am 50 years old, and I never believed that I could learn anything new that would be of any benefit to me.  Moreover, I had no desire to learn anything new—after all, I had been in school for just about 45 of those 50 years.  For crying out loud, didn’t I already know everything?

I am responsible for knowing how to run manufacturing software and explain it in a users’ manual format, so consequently I learn something new every day.  Sometimes the process is frustrating, sometimes it’s maddening, and sometimes I feel like I am the most dim-witted, obtuse knuckle dragger out of a boat-load of geniuses and that my importance to the company ranks only higher than that of the lady who comes in to water the plants.  It’s bad enough that I’m considered elderly among all of these recent college graduates, but to feel like a dullard among kids who are young enough to be my former students is a rather humbling experience.  But I’ve learned from that, too.  I learned that when you ask a twenty-something kid to help with a complicated problem you had better bring cupcakes the next time you see him.  I also learned that these same twenty-somethings are a little wary of me, especially when they discover that I’ve been a teacher.  I’ve learned to admit when I don’t know something—which happens just about every day—but not to dwell on my shortcomings.  And I’ve learned that I can acquire new skills, and that makes me very happy.  It also makes me feel as if this old dog can learn other new tricks.  Unless they involve math.

And now for something completely controversial…

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments this week that may transform the status of gay marriage in this country.  Not only is Proposition 8, California’s ban on gay marriage, being challenged, but so is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even in states that allow them.  Let the games begin.

Let me be clear:  I am not in favor of gay marriage.  Marriage was designed and ordained by God as a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of creating more little men and women. I’m not stupid enough to argue with God.  For my part, I have proudly fulfilled God’s commandment times three (kids not marriages).

And now here’s the part where everyone is going to roll their eyes at my apparent wishy-washiness:  Though I do not believe in gay marriage, I feel even more strongly that the  government has no right to tell two men or two women that they cannot be joined in a union.  I wouldn’t call it a marriage, since you can’t have it both ways, and that would negate my previous assertion about marriage being between a chick and a dude.  But certainly, with all of the great minds in this country, we must be able to come up with a legal means that affords gay couples the opportunity to be officially joined.  Call it a union, call it a merger, an alliance, call it a knot-tying ceremony, a partnership, call it whatever you like, but I can’t for the life of me understand why the SCOTUS needs to hear these arguments because the two arguments in question should never have come about in the first place.

When the government gets involved in people’s private lives, I have a problem.  I have a problem when the government funds Planned Parenthood which performs the majority of abortions in this country (more about abortion later…no wishy-washiness there).  I have a problem when Planned Parenthood gives out free birth control to middle school girls.  I have a problem when the government tells restaurant and bar owners that their patrons can’t light up a stogie after dinner.  I have a problem when the government attempts to tell New Yorkers they can’t get their caffeine and sugar high by slurping down a Big Gulp.  And I have a problem when the government tells grown men and women who want to legitimize their relationship that they cannot.

“But Kelly,” you’re saying, “that’s just the thing!  The government has no right to tell a woman what she can do with her body!”  Oh, that’s where you’re clearly a victim of incorrect thinking.  ‘Her body’, when pregnant, holds within it a tiny baby who has no rights.  Women make the “choice”, for the most part, when they “choose” to get jiggity with a man (that’s how most pregnancies begin—let’s not get into the rape and incest arguments here).  That little baby that was created has to be protected somehow.  Grownups can generally take care of themselves.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to my gay and lesbian friends.  The ones I know in committed relationships, with or without children, demonstrate far more responsibility and right-mindedness than most of the idiots legally “married” to one another in Hollywood.  So Kim Kardashian’s short-lived, pathetic, E!xcuse of a marriage to Kris Humphries was “okay”, but Cam and Mitch tying the knot is wrong?

I must also say, though, that if you are a person who does not think that two men joined in unity or two women officially proclaiming their everlasting faithfulness and fidelity is the best thing for the greater good, your views and opinions should also be met with tolerance and understanding, as long as you’re not hating.  Once the hatin’ begins, you weaken your position.  That goes for both sides.

When I started this blog, I told you I was going to remark upon things that would make most people turn tail and run.  If you disagree with my position, fine!  If you agree with me, fine!  If you thought I took the coward’s way out and tried to have it both ways, fine!  But the right of people to live their lives in freedom and equality is an issue that I take quite seriously, and it would have been cowardly of me not to have stated my piece, especially in light of this week’s pending decisions. For what it’s worth, I think it’s going to be gay marriage for the win.