Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Feeling like a schmoo

I think I'm mixing Lil' Abner metaphors, it's been a life time since that strip was in our Sunday comics, but wasn't there a sad sack character that had a dark cloud following him around, it was either Joe somebody or the schmoos? I think I’m feeling like Joe somebody or a schmoo, very evocative imagery huh?
So, anyway, I've been in a funk for over a month, unusual for me, and I know it will lift, but I don't like that I can't shake it and my kids are paying the price and of course, I exact an even higher price from poor little Nora because she bugs the hell out of me and then last night, just as we got home, my mom called. I could tell immediately by her voice that she was upset. My 39-year-old cousin stepped in front of a train yesterday. She leaves behind what has apparently been a short history of untreated mental illness that, since the birth of her last child, became evident and even more severe. The treatment she was finally forced to get just failed her and her husband and four children, the youngest one the long-awaited for daughter, who just turned one year old. And most tragically, I think, she leaves her father and mother, my funny, outspoken Aunt Fay, who has now buried all three of her children. I can't think about the depth of her grief or I become undone. I need to call her, but I can’t hold it together, at all, I’ve dialed, but I can’t push the talk button.
By comparison, my worries are small and I should be and I am grateful for my health and relative mental stability. Getting that kind of news should have been one of those hold your children close moments, but it had the opposite effect on me: I just withdrew from them last night. That kind of news sometimes just makes you very tired. I was barely holding it together as Nora ran in from the front yard and peed her way into the bathroom because she waited too long and I discovered that YuYu once again failed to turn in last week’s homework and has no idea where this week’s homework is located. I couldn't sit with them at dinner and I even paid Ellie to finish washing Nora and Mimi's hair because I was just toast.
I’ll try harder tonight. I’ll also try to think of some way to move this dark cloud along so it can go hang over some other unlucky schmoo because the funk is getting old.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The answer is 18

But how did she get there? No one knows. Every week Ellie, my fourth grader, brings home her Friday folder. It contains the self-directed, student corrected worksheets her class completes during the week. I get to sign off whether I'm satisfied or if I have concerns. It's not hard stuff and it seems like the only thing she is actually tested on each week is spelling. This week there was one particular word problem with one answer crossed out and the number 18 written in its place without any work showing. When it took me more than a minute to check her answer, it occurred to me that she didn’t know how to reach the answer on her own and she must have copied it from a friend. My heart sank. It was déjà vu all over again. I hated math too and by the time I had my last math class in 10th grade, I was just completely faking it and cheating off Wesley Silotti during the tests. I was so immature I didn’t even recognize the ethical issues I was facing and creating. All I knew is that I had to get through that year, not torpedo my grade point average and no way did I even come close to understanding the amount of work that was really necessary for me to understand trigonometry because everything else non-scientific and non-numerical came so easily to me. But I was such a good student, right? I could justify whatever it was going to take to get me past the last math barrier with my GPA in tact even though I so cavalierly sacrificed my ethics because at 15 years old I had no concept of ethics to sacrifice. But I do now and I want to let my kids in on it before they make some stupid choices that they don’t even see as choices.

When I confronted her with my suspicion, she knew she was had. She was so ashamed and she cried and cried. So it happened as I suspected; Ellie copied from Katie because she had no idea how to solve the problem herself but didn’t want to feel like the only one who couldn’t figure it out. Even after I worked through the problem with her several times, she still did not understand why the answer was 18. I completely understand her frustration. Word problems made me cry on a regular basis. We talked and talked about the importance of asking for help, not guessing, not copying from her friends. I tried to stress the importance of not pretending to understand just because everyone else seemed to understand. I hope she believes me that leaving a blank is so much better than making up an answer or cadging one from a friend. How do you set the moral compass? How do you make them believe that you would really, really rather see the blank and know what they don’t know? How do you make them not grow up to cheat off Wesley Silotti? I truly do understand what motivated her to copy from Katie. Some day I’ll tell her about 10th grade trigonometry and my spineless justification regarding the integrity of my “permanent record.” I probably overworked the incident, but I just want her to comprehend the difference between right and wrong and if she decides to cheat, at least she will know that she picked wrong and it was her choice to make.

Parenting: a lot like 10th grade trigonometry. Where is Wesley Silotti when you need him?

Monday, October 16, 2006

a short break

I HAVE to finish this motion, it MUST be filed tomorrow, but I have to clear/process a little something. So, at least I have the divine luxury of parents who still possess enough of their faculties to care for my children, all many of them, for over night and I get a break and anyone who read the prior self-pity-athon and were thinking that I should get some real problems, yes, I know how lucky I am. My dad is unlikely to ever read this blog, but I also can't do all his faults justice in all the blogs in all the world, but he always kept a roof over our heads and he's probably operating at the utmost extent of his emotional IQ, so I'l give the guy a break tonight, but he's generally a clod and there just isn't much I admire about him, and when I go postal or do something irrational or unworthy, I always double up on the shame by thinking, oh that was so Ed Hanson like.
So I drove out to pick up the kids after their long weekend in Idaho with G'ma and G'pa and in the course of a few rolled eyes, disgusted looks, and mean comments, it became clear to me that my father actively dislikes Nora, a lot. He shows much more patience and affection with my other three than my other nieces and nephews and for that I am grateful, but I just kind of assumed that he would at least try to like Nora. But he's not even trying and can bearly tolerate her. I mentioned my observation to my mother and she said, yeah, I just keep them apart. And in my whole history of condemning my dad for all that I think is deficient in his personality, here, again, I get to double shame myself for letting the Ed Hanson out in me regarding Nora. She pushes his buttons, I share his buttons, she pushes all of the same buttons in me, and I just cannot make myself love her yet and I'm letting myself do a Ed Hanson, and it's lazy and self-centered and emotionally stunted and I'm ashamed. My dad did this to one of my brothers: never learned to like him and never learned not to show his dislike/disdain, although I don't doubt that he loves him in the stingy way my dad thinks he can get away with because he thought he had permission from the world to let my mother do the emotional heavy lifting in our family. Well I don't have a spouse, I don't have an excuse, I don't approve of excuses, I can't short-change Nora, she needs the safety and support I'm capable of giving to her if I can scrub the Ed Hanson out of my genes.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot

or it could be dash dash dash dot dot dot dash dash dash, either way, the way I make a living blows and I wish the trees in my yard grew money instead of leaves and I could rake it up and put it in the big orange leaf bags the city used to provide for free (where did they go Rocky? where did they go?) and stay home and be calm. But, sadly, no this is not likely to happen.

Imagine this as last ditch message to the world found carved onto the walls of my office:

Help, so tired now, strength ebbing, many days no contact with real world -- only other lawyers, very discouraging, batteries running low, work sucking soul dry, no blogging, creative juices low, exhausted, must write only legal things, sucks bad, very bad . . . send help, sinking, sinking . . . .

I'm taking this ten minute break from the pile of shit on my desk and I can say shit because this is my blog dammit and that's how I talk when I have no impressionable ears nearby (the exception to the no shit rule around kids is whenever I pull things out of a cupboard or the fridge causing (a) fridge light bulbs to burst, (b) wine glasses to explode dramatically on the tiled floor, and/or (c) whole bottles of salsa or salad dressing to crash to the floor and BURST on contact spewing their contents over every farking (yeah, I'm too big of a sissy to actually type out he F word although you can be sure it is an active constituent of my cursing vocab) surface within five feet of the blast, as I sit here on a Saturday with the kids farmed out to my increasingly old parents (we just had the annual two day school holiday for UEA and once AGAIN, I had hearings/crap/what not and could not take time from the grind to be with them). They are all at the old folks' cabin in Bear Lake County that I have only seen once in the the five years I've been self-employed even though it is only 2.5 hours away. Sucks.

I promised myself that I could get back online with my insanity re: Nora only after I catch up with the huge amounts of imminent malpractice piling up at work like the trash around a storm drain after a big rain. I miss it, the writing keeps me saner, helps me reflect, surprises me that I like to write because the LAW had taken that away from me for so long. So the next time there is anything of substance on this blog, you will know that I am back on top of the hamster wheel, still running, never a break dammit, but at least I won't be clawing my way back of the under side of the wheel until it all piles up and happens again because it always does.