Apples on the Tree

There have been people in my life that have taught me very valuable lessons.  Some have been here for my whole life, some for only part.  But they have all taught me things that I needed, and have used, for all the 40 years I’ve been here.

~People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.~

The first one for me to talk about is my Dad.  The man that taught me how to ride a bike, how to saddle and ride a horse, how to cut copper pipe, lay wooden flooring, how to follow written instructions, and when the instructions don’t make sense, how to figure it out on my own.  The man can make almost anything, and he does it without a college degree.  Life taught him how to figure his way out of problems, his own teachers that he still hears in his head to this day – his father, my grandfather, among them.  He also taught me that “Shit Happens”, and that “Shit Washes Off”.  He taught me that I could do anything, if I thought it out, planned, measured twice, cut once, and learned to deal with the results.  “If it doesn’t fit, adjust what you’re building to fit the pieces you’ve got.”

In high school, my favorite teacher was Mr. “H”.  He was funny, smart, taught about 5 different subjects (in a small school, you capitalize on what you’ve got available, even though the school never really appreciated him), among them Psychology, History, Government, Marriage and Family,  & Driver’s Ed, AND coached the girls’ basketball team.  He showed us that there was always room for more knowledge, and that you didn’t always have to find that knowledge in a book. 

He took a special interest in my class, and helped us take many field trips, to the state capitol to learn about our own local government, to the Mandan Indian Mounds and Fort Lincoln to learn about history, and to the insides of our own heads, to learn about how we learn and how to change the way we process information.  He taught us that the easiest way to actually get a subject, was to get into it.  To get our hands dirty.  We made models of landmarks from our history, we dabbled with imaginary money in the stock market, and followed our chosen “stocks” in the newspaper, we made up fictional skits about Lewis & Clark and many other historical figures.  He was the man that introduced me to a lot of the useless facts that I still have rattling around in my brain, and showed me how to teach other people what I know, by getting animated about it, and not just reading it to them out of a book.  He was an amazing teacher, and I still carry a lot of his knowledge with me. 

*He who hesitates is lost*

*When you come to a curve, slow down and watch what’s coming.  But once you get into the curve, speed up again, and trust your instincts.*

*Don’t assume that the only way you can learn is by reading about something.  Get in there and get dirty.  If you don’t try, you’ll never be able to do it.*

His daughter was much the same.  She was my best friend in high school, and a fellow “outsider”, as we’d both migrated from other places to this small town of 300-some people.  Neither of us had the “right” name (most everybody had been born and raised there, and were all related to one another in some fashion), so we were left out of most of the inbred  clique stuff.  We both knew that there was a much larger world outside of our small town, and hung together through a lot of crap. 

She taught me how to tie a perfect bow, how to get my hair to stay curled when all it wanted to do was be straight, how to talk my way around people that refuse to listen, and how to look at life sideways to get a different viewpoint.  She taught me that art wasn’t just about straight lines, but about perspective.  And that my words had meaning for more than just myself.  She also taught me that being a nerd wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  That you could have philosophical discussions while driving long-distance, and that living in a small town didn’t mean that I had to have a small mind. 

These people helped form my viewpoint and my method of learning while I was young.  Each in their own way, they showed me that I don’t have to be “like everyone else”, but that I can be unique and still make a difference.  That there is no one right way to do anything, but that you can make your own path to the center, and enjoy the trip.

One of the greatest lessons of all is this:   

~It only takes one good apple to make the tree a success, and only one good teacher to make the lessons worthwhile. 

I’m hoping that this apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that I’m as good a teacher as they were to me.

Standing on the Fringe

I was not one of the popular kids in school.  On the contrary, I was one of the “fringe” kids.  I didn’t play any sports, which in a small town like the one I grew up in, was almost considered a mortal sin.  I was uncoordinated, awkward, and shy.

Yeah, shy.

At least, till you got to know me, then I was full of sarcasm, jokes, self-deprecating humor, philosophical mumbo-jumbo, and sideways thinking. 

My hometown was really small, as in 300 people small.  It was a blip on the map.  I had moved there with my parents and brother in 1981 from a larger town in Iowa, which, while not being an enormous metropolis, still had about 35,000 people.  It was a big change. And to suddenly not fit in with any of my peers, all 14 of them, was very lonely.

Yeah, I was bullied.  In subtle, behind-your-back ways, mostly.  Comments made on the sly; “all-in-good-fun” teasing that was only fun for them; and once, being set up as the class president, as a joke, because of how shy I was. 

I was lucky in that a new girl moved to town in my 8th grade year, and we were tight friends, best friends, for the last 5 years of high school.  At least I had someone to talk to, share being an outsider with. 

We both had our “outsider” moments, and our issues with the subtle, emotional bullying that happens in a small town.  I had those moments of “What if I ended it all?”

I survived, and it got better.

What I’m getting at here, is this: 

Whatever your way of life, there is no acceptable form of bullying. 

Children are dying because of it.

When I was younger, if I was feeling left out, I could escape, leave town, hang out with different people, ones that didn’t know what was going on in my hometown school.  Kids that didn’t hear the rumors and stories that circulated in my town saw me in a different light, and that was better.

Today, with the advent of cellphones, texting, the internet, Facebook, YouTube, Myspace, and all the other public places that these awful bullying tactics are being practiced, it’s not just found in the hallways of the schools anymore.  There’s no place for the bullied kids to feel safe.

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.  Every time you turn around, there it is, people splashing private things all over, where everyone can see.  It’s rather like having your laundry mounted on a flagpole.

And the bullys win again.

Well, it’s enough.  I think we need to start taking back our children’s self-esteem.  Stand up to the bullies and back them down. 

Teachers, administrators, staff at the schools, watch carefully, and when you see bullying, step in. 

Parents, talk to your kids, let them know that bullying is not allowed, and if they are a victim, they have a place to go, a place to feel safe.  Find the resources in your area for kids to find help with bullying, whether it’s through their school, or religious institutions, or community clubs and organizations.  They need people to help them stand up when they’ve been knocked down, help them find that stability.

Teens, pre-teens, young people of any age – stand up for your friends and stand up for strangers, too.  If you see someone being bullied because they’re different, stand up.  If you work as a group, stand in front of the person being bullied, and stare at the bullies, they’ll back down.  You don’t have to be best friends with someone to defend them, you just have to be a compassionate human being. 

And never forget.

Sladjana Vidovic

Eric Mohat

Meredith Rezak

Jennifer Eyring

Tyler Clementi

Seth Walsh

I have stood on the fringe of what’s considered “normal” most of my life.  I survived the bullies, I was lucky – and I had help. 

And to all you kids out there, suffering through the bullies?

You’re not alone.  And it does get better.

Please, hold on.  Here’s my hand, I’ll help.

Cheerleaders, Safety Pins & Vinegar

I’m full of words today.

All my young life I wanted to be either a veterinarian or a horse trainer.  I had a love for animals back then that has never gone away, but remains largely unfulfilled now that I live in a city, and can’t have that pygmy goat I want.  I have to settle for the 2 German Shepherds we have, and pray to win the lottery so we can move somewhere that allows goats. 

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a poet, or at least a well-known fiction author.  I was Emo before Emo was cool, and I have the notebooks full of bad poetry to prove it.  I tried a stint at being a Cheerleader in junior high (no joke, it was for boys, I cheered for boys basketball, you get to watch them run around in shorts)– we even won the Spirit Award one year, much to the dismay of every other surrounding town.  (My school was notorious for being full of juvenile delinquents and bad sports, I don’t know how we did it.)  But I decided that I was too much of a snark to be that perky, and I turned in my letter sweater and burned my pom-poms in effigy.  Down with motivation!  Up with sarcasm!  I wanted to dye my hair black and wear safety pins in my ears, like the cool punk kids I saw in pictures.  Instead, my safety pins were used to peg my jeans tightly at the ankle, so they could be rolled.  It was the 80’s, after all.  And my mom vetoed ANY hair color.  I had to stick with mouse-brown, and like it.  I am now a red-head by temperament and inclination, and will never go back to my original haircolor.  Thanks.

When I got into my high school years, I was pretty much the smart-ass mouse in the corner.  I wasn’t the loud-mouth, I was the one whispering the one-liners to her best friend, causing her and the people in the immediate hearing vicinity to snort and laugh out loud, getting them into trouble.  All while keeping my goody-two shoes, “who, me?” *blink blink * innocent eyes reputation intact.  Teachers loved me.  I was straight A’s and kept my head down.  Mostly – I just didn’t get caught.  Sneaky-ninja-me.  I wanted to be an actress in a comedy.  I knew I had the chops, played the lead in my senior year play.  The acidic burn of my vinegar-mouth kept my friends in stitches, and earned me the title of “Queen of the One-Liners”.  Loved it.  LOVED. IT.

When I finally became a young adult, and a parent, I wanted to go back to college (I quit after a year and a half, and yeah, I still smack myself for that) and become a high school counselor, or an English teacher.  I love the written word, I hoard it at home, snuggle up to it most nights like a favorite blankie, and read, and re-read, and re-re-read my most favorite books till they fall apart, and I have to buy another copy.  I also went through a lot of painful emotional things in junior high and high school (don’t we all) and I knew I could help.  However, it was not to be.  Being a single parent was a lot of work, with very little money, and I took what jobs I could, just to make ends meet.  But I was back to being the cheerleader, to my friends.  Cheering from the sidelines, watching other people make the points, and honestly wanting them to succeed. 

I had one bad marriage stuck in there, when EldestDaughter was little.  He filled my heart with vinegar, and I pretty much swore off men forever.  He was abusive and he started my anxiety problems when I kicked him out.  He became a stalker, and frightened me so badly that at one point I was willing to move 2 states, or feign my own death to get away from him.  Luckily, I didn’t have to do either. 

As my daughters grew, I was lucky enough to meet Xxxxx, and we fell in love, got married, and had OnlySon.  I pinned my happiness, hopes and dreams together with his.  I didn’t regret this decision.   

And now?  Well, I like to think that I’m back to being a Cheerleader – for the right reasons, this time.  I would love to go back to college and get a degree in counseling, but I fear that I’m getting a little long in the tooth for all that studying.  My CRS (can’t remember sh!t)can’t handle it.  I have done clerical counseling in the past, mostly just a shoulder to cry on, and a hand to hold while someone went through something painful.  I like giving comfort and encouragement where I can.  And I try to always keep my encouragement honest.  If I don’t agree with someone, I will simply tell them that “I see it differently”.  I always hated platitudes, but I do realize that a kind word at the right time can make a world of difference, especially if it’s heartfelt. 

And now, I’ve purged the words, so I’ll be off, and allow you to get back to your regularly scheduled programming.  Thanks for listening and Happy Friday!

Loose the Zoo!

I don’t know where the ideas come from for Homecoming Week, and I’m not sure I want to know.  Today’s theme?  Jungle Day.  o.O

One would think that it could be more effectively called “Redundancy Day”, since I think it’s a jungle at this school most of the time.  I mean, honestly?  Compare your local jungle to your local high school and tell me what you think!

In the Jungle:  Wild animals running loose, screeching, screaming, throwing things and generally acting like they own the place.

In High School:  Uh, ditto.

In the Jungle:  Death around every tree for the unwary or unprepared.

In High School: Death of sanity around every locker for the adults that have to listen to “Well, I was all like, OMG, and he was like, LOL, and then we were like, really?” REALLY?

In the Jungle:  Rain.  A lot.

In High School: Emo kids.  A lot.

In the Jungle:  Raucous loud noises, all day, all night. 

In High School:  Raucous loud conversations and music.  All day at school, all night at home.

So, we talked about what she was going to wear today to school.  She actually decided that she had a “clingy” stuffed monkey that she could wear, but I still posit that she can dress like she normally does, and still fit in. 

Welcome to the Jungle, baby.

Back to the Future

Or is it Forward to the Past?   This week is Homecoming Week in our fair city.  This is the epitome of high school, the absolute loudest time of year, barring graduation, in which teenagers cut loose with school spirit (translation – acting like chimpanzees and calling it “sportsmanlike conduct”) 

And, of course, every year during Homecoming Week, you have all the city’s schools, from elementary on up, jumping on ye’ olde bandwagon, playing along with getting everyone fired up (or is that “fed up”?) by inflicting involving all the kids in doing funky things for the whole week.  

Today’s theme?  THE 80’s.  Now, I’m debating on whether to be humiliated, pissed, or amused by this, as I was a teenager of the 80’s, and loved it.  I’m not ashamed to say I tried for the big hair (failed miserably, but I tried), I wore the chunky jewelry and the oversized shirts.  I pinned, folded and rolled my jeans. (And for those of you that don’t know what that is – here!) 

You can even learn how to do this HERE! 

Helping YoungerDaughter prepare her outfit (read: costume) last night, I was struck by how many of the trends that we had/started in the 80’s have come back to haunt our children. 

My daughter already owned all the jelly bracelets she needed for this look. 

She had the flourescent flat shoes. In yellow. 

She has scrunchies.  Although, to be honest, I don’t think those have actually come back so much as they’re buried at the bottom of her hair accessory box, because the child never throws anything out.  She even has a white lace scrunchy, ala Madonna, so I told her to use that one. 

Eddie, ala Mystery Men, the movie

She put in a side ponytail.  No, thank whatever higher power rules this (I think it’s Eddie Izzard, personally), the side pony is NOT coming back.    

I pulled a pair of chandelearrings from my jewelry box – because I’m the one that trained her to not ever throw anything out, of course.  They have enough dangling at the bottom to brush her shoulders, which is going to drive this child crazy all day long. 

She’s wearing my class ring – it says Class of ’88 on it.  She was just excited that it fits her ring finger.  I’m depressed because it fits her ring finger. 

She has a miniature Care Bear dangling from her backpack.  No, I can’t remember which one, it’s baby blue, that’s all I know.  

And, the piece de resistance?  My old maroon, satin, baseball-style jacket.  Yes, I still have the stupid thing.  It’s nostalgic!  No, I don’t wear it anymore, I gave it to YoungerDaughter a couple of years ago, for another Homecoming Week 80’s day, I think.  Kind of ironic that we live in a town thats school colors are maroon and gold, my high school’s colors were maroon and gold (different town), and the jacket is maroon with gold on the collar.  It’s school spirit and 80’s all in one.  Bonus.  YoungerDaughter has had this relic family heirloom in her closet as a testament to her love for me.  Or maybe because she never throws anything out.  Your choice. 

Back and forth, Past and Future – What’s next?  A New Kids on the Block reunion?   

Oh, I forgot:  did that.