Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Eating Crackers

Before we begin, allow me to show you this picture so the first image in a share isn't something with profanity in it!:


The Girlchild and I had a great conversation about popularity, perception, and other people's opinions on the way to her summer program today. She started by talking about how the people in her new school weren't always the warmest to her because what they thought of her, and I introduced the Crackers Phenomenon.

You may be familiar with this idea, but in case you're not, here's a handy JPEG:


The version I gave to her had much gentler language, but she definitely got the gist. And then she asked if I ever ate crackers. And I sighed.

There's a person who decided I was absolutely, 100% out for her blood. I dated some people in her life and I also took a job where she had once worked, and in her mind, these were indications that I hated her and was trying to destroy her. Thing was, until I learned this through mutual friends, she wasn't even a blip on my radar.

Now, of course, I hate that someone thinks these things of me, and so when my girl asked if I ever ate crackers, I had to be honest. I gave her a very watered-down version, and we had a great talk about how perception is everything. We even got a handy-dandy case of mistaken identity in drivers on the road to drive the point home.

Flash forward to the end of the day, and she's helping me out in the classroom, and one of my students asks "Miss Claire, do you eat crackers?"

I look straight at my girl and say, "All the time."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Jizanthepus

As some of you may know, I am a preschool teacher. And I'd like to tell you about one of the most awkward conversations I've ever had with a parent*.

I teach twos and toddlers, which means lots of diapers. And there's this one child whose parents are latino and black. Now, something I have learned by changing the diapers of many ethnicities is that children with dark skin have poop lighter than themselves, and children with light to medium skin have poop darker than themselves. Then there is this small sliver of children whose poop is the exact same color as their skin.

Let it show that I am not saying their skin is the color of poop, I am saying that their poop is a similar color to their skin. Just a little crowbar in there.

Well, I am changing this child. And he has pooped... gloriously. If you're a parent, you know what I mean. And I have to clean him up, and I can't miss any. Because again, if you're a parent, you know that if you leave poop behind, it will do one, two, or all of three things: embarrass you, disgust you, and give them a rash.

And then there's Jizanthepus. If you've watched Louis CK, you may be familiar with this term. A Jizanthepus is... well let's say that preschool teachers love all their kids. And some of them make it more difficult than others.

Anyway, Jizanthepus is one of those kids who will do exactly what you're asking them not to, while mad-dogging you. And it doesn't matter what you say to him. No amount of "Jizanthepus. Excuse me Jizanthepus. Mister Jizanthepus! Jizanthepus no thank you! *Gasp* Jizanthepus! Danger, danger!" is going to convince him to do what you're asking.

Jinzanthepus doesn't care. Jizanthepus is convincing all of his friends to go be Jizanthepuses with him. Jizanthepus is Lord of the Goddamned Flies. And the worst part: he knows it. He knows that I'm changing a diaper. He knows that nothing he does will cause me to walk away from the child strapped to the changing table, and there I am, all alone in the classroom with him, my changing kid, and five Jizanthepuses in training.

And so, I meet his eye, and use the only resource left to me as a teacher. Because if I make a threat in front of the whole class, I better be prepared to follow through with.

"Jizanthepus, I swear to Christ, if you don't stop this instant you will be the VERY LAST to have snack!"

And that's when his mother walked in.

*This story is not true, but is inspired by real children I teach.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Untitled

Millions of people marched today in solidarity with women around the world, and in protest of the rhetoric of the most recent US presidential election. Many of those people were my friends, and I thank and celebrate you all, and applaud your efforts and the way you exercised your first amendment rights today.


I did not march today, not because I don’t support the cause, or because I’m not an activist, or even because I don’t support the goals of the organization. I stayed home for my safety. I’m extremely claustrophobic in crowds, and my network of people who can bail me out in this new city I live in should arrests be made is nill. Many friends posted Senator Warren’s warning, which listed that you should have a going to jail plan, which I definitely didn’t. And so, things being how they are, I stayed home and cheered from the sidelines, researching next steps and possible female candidates to follow in 2018.


All of this would have been fine, except that a person took it upon themselves to question my activism. To chide my anxiety. To shame me.


Let me first say that nobody has the right to tell anyone else how to spend their spoons. If you don’t know what that means, check out Spoon Theory. But back to my point, it is not your role or your job to tell any adult how they should be spending their energy. Maybe your spouse or your children, but even then they may tell you where to go.


Second, not all activism looks the same. Some attend marches. Some write letters, or speeches, or songs. Some go to city council meetings. There are as many ways to be an activist as there are activists, and there’s no such thing as a wrong way to do it, except not doing it at all.


And finally: behold the problem with our rhetoric in political discussion. You have to agree with me. Not only that, you have to agree with me on all of these different intersections of politics, behavior, science, and logic. Not only that, you have to agree with me in the specific way I want you to, otherwise we disagree and you’re wrong and also Hitler.


Does this sound familiar? Because I am tired of it. So very weary. And to use a phrase which has been beaten to death since November 9th, if you think and act this way, you’re part of the problem.


Spoiler alert: most people don’t agree 100% with everything on their party’s platform. People have different views on different topics, and varying degrees of importance for different topics as well. Some people *really* care about the economy, while some *really* care about social issues, while some *really* care about the environment, and most people don’t have enough energy to care about all of them equally, and certainly not all at the same time.

We need to stop thinking that there is a Right Way to be a Democrat. A Republican. An American. A Person. People disagree. People agree and still act differently from each other. People given the same information as you may reach a different conclusion. It doesn’t mean either of you is wrong or right. Because as I’ve said entirely too much lately, it’s all about worldview.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Teacher's Prayer

Lord, let me lift these children to the light.

Let me always have gentle hands, a gentle voice, a gentle soul, and a gentle heart.

Let me find patience when I am tested
Let me find forbearance when I am challenged
Let me find hope when I am weary

Lord, let me fill my cup with love and let it flow as milk and honey from your promised land over the heads, hearts, bodies, and minds of the children entrusted to my care.

Let me always speak peace and forgiveness in times of struggle and trials
Let me always show creativity and imagination when faced with obstinance and boredom
Let me always inspire loyalty when faced with discontent and mutiny

Let me remember when I am tested that help is ready for those who ask it, and let me always find a way to be my best self, whether seeking within or seeking without.

Let me lift these minds, hearts, and souls in love, kindness, understanding, and curiosity. Let me instill compassion and empathy, and dispel fear and resentment.

And dear lord, let me always remember that these tiny hearts are the future, and I need only to show them their true selves, that their light may shine upon the world.

Amen

Saturday, December 31, 2016

1500 Miles to Go Home

The steering wheel clenched in my hands. The feel of the road, gently rumbling beneath my legs and feet. Scenery passing by my face and shoulders. So much sameness that you almost don’t notice the changes.

First, a flurry of buildings. Old ones, new ones, familiar ones. Landscapes you’ve seen dozens of time. Then sand. Sand and Joshua Trees. Why are they called Joshua Trees? Is it because they resemble our lord Yeshua? With mangled arms and bowed brows, leaves like the thorny crown and stigmata of a crucified martyr.

My car breaks down. In my fear and panic I contemplate leaving it by the side of the highway to become just another lonely relic to the thriving economy this freeway used to be, before man truly tamed the skies.

Many miles in the wrong direction, and we’re on our way again. Slowly, the sand turns from tan to red. The desert plants grow smaller, lower to the ground, as if wishing to avoid proximity to the sun. The steering wheel is hot in my hands, and the leather seats make me sweat.

Still I push past the red sand and the short paltry shrubs of the low Arizonian desert, and now I am in New Mexico. Land of the country’s most beautiful rest stops. New Mexico. State we can’t even stop in because we lost a day and a half. New Mexico. I hear you’re beautiful. I hope we can come back eventually.

I enter my new home in a flurry of signs. The highways are broader. The signs are bigger. The speed limits are higher. WELCOME TO TEXAS

We stop in the first vestige of civilization. I eat Mexican food that tastes more like Cabo than Chihuahua. I thank God this isn’t where we’re stopping forever.

I keep driving. We’re in the Badlands now. The dirt is an indeterminate color of sadness and forsaken land. There are no plants. Each bastion of civilization, a town supporting a Gas Station, population 20, is at least sixty miles apart. It grows dark. And now there is thunder.

As a child I loved the thunder and lighting. The gods playing with the light switches, pretty patterns marking the sky, tearing its paper into bright portions, lit only for a moment, but seared in the eyes of my mind. As an adult, leaving her home and seeking a new one, aware that I travel in a metal cage moving eighty miles an hour in a desert with 60 miles between rest stops, I am terrified.

I reach out to those who can help. My mother. My father. My husband. In the end, the sweet strains of Paul McCartney are what truly calms me. I sleep peacefully beneath a dry and thunderous sky, obscured by the roof of our hotel.

One more day of driving. The landscape becomes high desert. Then I see more trees. I pass a colonial looking town that I mistake for a Civil War battlefield because of its name. I vow to return and go shopping. I climb up a hill in my twelve year old car with sticky leather seats. I look to my left. There is a giant man-made lake, created to drain the flood plain. I drive further. “Bee Cave 12 miles.” I wonder if it’s a town name, a cave of bees, or both.

I stop. I am here. This will be my home. It looks much like the 1980s landscape I remember, only in less Sandstone and more Olive.

I take several trips up the stairs. My belongings are here. My husband is here. My father closes the door behind him as he heads for the airport. I look around and burst into tears. I am home.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sonnet on July 2016

So many lives of colors bright and dark
Have hurried to their final beats and breaths
Evil haunts the world and leaves its mark
And sages of their wisdom are bereft
How can I hope to capture what I feel
When seeing candles outed left and right?
When bathed in death, this life seems barely real
Why fight the dark when there’s so little light?

But this is not, it cannot be the end.
The story of the world is not near done
As long as we can call each other friend
The battle with the dark can sure be won
As long as lovers kiss and families share
The hope for light and good is everywhere

Monday, June 20, 2016

Opinion: Rape vs. Murder

I keep having this pretend conversation in my head. It's not a fun ride, but it refuses to leave me alone.

Other person: Would you rather be raped or murdered?

Me: Murdered.

Other person: That's absurd! Why would you rather die?

Me: Both crimes are murder, one's just slightly less messy for the criminal. If I'm murdered nobody's going to ask me if I had been drinking. Nobody will suggest that maybe I wanted to be murdered. Nobody will say I should have worn something different, or that I shouldn't have been out that night, or that I was in any way to blame for being murdered.

And weeks later, nobody will tell me I should get over it. Nobody will tell my family that they should just drop the case to save my murderer the embarrassment of a trial. Nobody will say I'm making a big deal out of being murdered. Nobody will say that my murderer has so much going for him, can't I just drop the whole thing? No judge will go easy on my murderer because he's wealthy, or on a sports scholarship, or his family is well-connected.

Years later, I won't have added financial burden of either therapy or PTSD as I have flashbacks to the night I was murdered. I won't have difficulty keeping a job or maintaining relationships with people because I can't shake the memory of my murder. I won't need to seek out support from other people who have been murdered. I won't suffer horrible traumatic damage for the rest of my life because of one awful thing someone else did to me that was in no way my fault. And I won't be blamed for it either.