Monday, January 28, 2008

Eloquent spam

And which resembled a mass of clouds and was endued fulness
around the bottom. She had on a shirtwaist, placed in the
window in the full light of day. Strength and perseverance.
accomplished in all notice that your usual bodyguard is
absent oh, up his property to his creditors but if heshould
same regiment, and recovering, as a private soldier prisoner,
and that in the due course of custom speed ahead.' mrs.
stonehouse had no eyes but articlesof an involved shawllike
pattern, in which.

(I do love the line of "Your usual bodyguard is absent. Oh!" Sounds vaguely sexual, with just a hint that a rescue in the style of Sir Percy Blakeney, Baronet, is imminent. La!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My subconscious is beating me over the head

I just woke up from a bizarre dream.

Well, not just. It rattled my stomach so badly that I had to go throw up first and then had to lie down on the couch for an hour to get the vertigo to go away.

I had a dream about eventing. Jumping brush fences, ditches, and lamb creeps. Every lurch of the pony, every thought of "Oh SHIT that's a big fence. Gonna die gonna die gonna diegonnadie right NOW!" was accompanied by the fence coming right at me, feeling the horse trying to evade left, evade right and then power down with a determined focus to that leap. Ears forward, chest thumping, legs driving, no evasion, no wiggles. Power Power Power Uuuup and land.

My stomach can't take the swooping any more.

Eventing? Oh sorry. Let me explain.

I only ever did it at training level, but eventing is where the horse and rider compete on the flat in dressage the first day, then cross-country over wide high natural obstacles (which do NOT fall apart if you hit them) at speed, and the final day the horse and rider compete in stadium jumping over mostly very high jumps with tight corners in an enclosed space. Three different disciplines to show that the horse is trained 3 ways.

Here's a good page with examples of different types of X-C fences: A description of Cross Country facilities.

Ditches scared the hell out of me -- which scared the hell out of the horse. Great. You can be asked to jump OFF a ditch or up onto a "step up". (Same structure, just approached from the other direction.)

When you jump a ditch, you basically are asking your horse to jump off a cliff with you and having him land on the other side. Jumping a step-up is obviously a bit easier, as he knows where he's supposed to land.

But the worst for me, for some reason were what they call "lamb creeps". It's sort of like jumping over a low shed roof. You can find examples on the page I just linked there -- pheasant feeders are basically the same thing. It's hard to judge their height, and the horse doesn't get a good sense that they're wide. It looks like a straight vertical fence until you're on top of it.

You just have to trust that when you give the horse the gas that he's going to take that signal and jump WIDE. Not UP. (That conversation obviously gets easier with training. But it's also just a trust thing.)

Anyway, I had this dream where I'm on a horse I haven't ridden for a while. I'm in the middle of a course, and I can't remember ever walking the course. Every time I approach a fence, the horse just almost wiggles. He probably doesn't even change his footfalls, but his weight is shifting while he's thundering at top speed to see if maybe he can avoid jumping this fence. Ugh. NOT what you want on a cross-county course. Go. Go. Go. Go. Do What I Say. Go.

Ditch to water. falling falling oh shit, land already. Step up to brush fence. wiggle. GO! Turn to the left, a wide galloping arc. Build your speed. Make up for the jumps. Gallop. Straight. Holy Christ a lamb creep. Wait. What's past it? Am I jumping an in and out? A corner? Damn. Are there TWO fences? Jump it as a corner and hope you can get the width to jump the far one.

Mid air. I'm sailing over the lamb creep, which was set up at right angles to a single low heavy rail, I look ahead and realize that the horse hasn't jumped wide enough. If I had jumped him farther away from the point, we could have jumped it as two fences. Jump into the box, jump out of the box. But I tried to get him to jump two fences as one in the corner, and we're going to crash.

I wake up just as his front legs connect with solid wood.


Apparently something in my subconscious would like to sit me down and have a little chat. Because it's pounding on the inside of my head as I sleep. I could have done without the motion sickness though.

Bagheera was happy to sit on my tummy though and purr himself into ecstacy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Way to go, Mystic

Atta boy!

Mystic has been recognized for his accomplishments in Cowboy Mounted Shooting, as the second Arabian to become a certified Champion Mounted Shooting horse. You have to scroll down to see a picture of him zooming around the pattern with his owner, Aida.

I once co-owned Mystic for all of about five minutes. He was a great little guy. (He's STILL a great little guy, I just haven't seen him in person for about 15 years.)

You can't tell from that photo, but he has the same insanely thick forelock that his dad did. Mystic likes to toss his head until the forelock completely covers his face and peer out through the brambles. He's full up to the brim with attitude. Very much of a "Get OUT of my way. I have a job to do." But Aida's children have ridden him bareback for most of their lives.

I don't own him. I never visit him. But I still get that swelling of pride whenever his name or picture pops up on the web.

Here's Aida's Local Cowboy Mounted Shooting club, the Massachusetts Six Shooters, if you're curious what that is.

Edited to add: If you go to the Photos page of the MA Six Shooters website, there's a video posted of Mystic competing. Blurry, but fun.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

That Woman

In my house, January is a month we approach with dread.

Christmas is over, the kids have just come back from weeks off of school, it's dark and rainy, and there's sort of a let down throughout the house. Saul's most dramatic moments from last year occurred when he went back to school in January.

This January has been great. With his new (TRAINED) aide, he hasn't called home more than twice in a three week period. (Before Mrs. Tee came on, he would call every day, sometimes two or three times before chucking at all in an running away from school towards home. With Mrs. Tee, not even the phone calls, let alone the "elopement".) He's not keeping up with school work on a day to day basis (he often creates projects for himself out of whole cloth and is disdainful of the work the rest of the class is doing), but before Mrs. Tee he was spending all day reading his own book in class, fighting and growling at adults who tried to take it away from him.

Hey, so he's taken the first step. Staying in school. Noticing what everyone else is doing. Doing at least one problem on the page.

Then we'll work towards: You get more behavior points and extra special prizes if you do more than simply attempt the work. How's about getting half of it done while staying in class? All of it while staying in class? Build on each step. When he can cope with X without anxiety, build a little more. If it's too stressful, work through the stress with the therapist.

Yesterday his Case Manager finally came to work. Three weeks away during Saul's most stressful time of the year, setting aside the beginning of school.

She pulls me into an empty classroom. "I'm VERY concerned about him. He's not doing ANY Math."

"He has four hours of dedicated Math and Science instruction at home twice a week."

"But he's not doing it in class."

"Didn't we agree that he didn't need to worry about Math because of Mr. Ho?"

"Well, how can I grade him for participation if he's not participating."

"He wasn't before. What did you do then?"

"Well. Then he was READING."

"But you used to complain that you couldn't get him out of the book. What do you want now?"

Round and round we go on the passive aggressive merry-go-round. Basically, she's ticked off that the aide the Special Education Director found for Saul (who's TRAINED in dealing with these behaviors) is more effective than the case manager was when she was working with Saul. And she wants me to know how very upset she is with the aide.

"But he's staying in school. You told me that was your primary goal in December. He's staying. Then we'll build."

"Well, I'm not sure we can build."

Oy yoy yoy.

Can the adults in the picture just get OVER themselves? Look at the data. Go ahead. Look at it. You told me in December that I had to make sure that he could not kick or run away ever again. (Like I have that power over him. Uh huh.)

Umm. Hello? He hasn't. He does better with someone who's firm and consistent. See that? It's in the data. He doesn't care about your ego or your degree or what university professor you're currently interning with. OK?

Want to see if he'll do more work? Hows about--oh, I know this is a radical thought--how's about you do your JOB that you are trained for, which would be Modifying His Curriculum so that he is more engaged by it?

(Infuriating example: Social Studies curriculum from early-December through the end of January is, Good Lord, you are not even going to believe this, weaving a basket. That's it. No writing. No texts. No maps. Nuffin. Just weaving a basket. You know what? My son won't weave the basket. He learned the technique in November, and he doesn't give a shit if he ever works on it again. You want him to learn about California's Native American population? Assign him some pages in the text, which we have on DVD-ROM at home and which he would love to use. His Case Manager is annoyed that he's falling behind in basket-weaving. Can I punch her now? How about now? By the way, Madame Case Manager, would you like to now WHY the District's writing scores are so poor? Maybe it's because you waste your kids' time Weaving A Freaakin' Basket!)

Ugh. That ticked me off yesterday.

But today things are good again. Saul went to school. Did a little work even, and has come home ready to do some (Bless me, I may faint) homework.

Day by Day.

Monday, January 21, 2008

SBD: My Favorite Laura Kinsale Book

I just love great writing.

I haven't been reading much of anything these days, but I do keep opening up the copy of Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale that lives in my purse whenever I find myself sitting around waiting for something. (Hmm. Looking over my calendar, it would seem that I sit in waiting rooms waiting for various children to come out of appointments two to three hours a week. I guess I have been reading. Just one book, over and over, and not really from front to back.)

It's been weird, because I've been doing this while the whole Cassie Edwards THING has been going on. Read some pilfered passages online, bang my head on the desk, hop in the car, read some great passages in the waiting room. Quite the dichotomy, this romance genre.

Which Laura Kinsale is my favorite? Generally, the one I'm reading at that moment. Prince of Midnight: A swashbuckling masked hero with vertigo meets up with a young girl who needs him to act as her avenger. A swashbuckler with vertigo? LOVE IT. Midsummer's Moon: A hero who's desperately afraid of heights falls for an inventress who climbs to the top of roofs to examine weather vanes and who desperately wants to fly. LOVE IT. I could go on and on. But today it's all about Flowers from the Storm.

Forget for a sec that this is a Romance, with breasts and sex and dukes and stuff. How about just reading it as a book? This is why I love Laura Kinsale.

(Well, not her as a person or an online personna, just her as the creator of these books I love so well. Her as the crafter of a phrase. Cause I don't know her personally, so I can't say if I love her. There, now I've defined my fannish behavior appropriately, and can move on to the blogging.)

There are so many things that I love in this novel, but others have pointed them out before. The way the author demonstrates the hero's inability to understand language or to speak while incarcerated in an asylum after his stroke:

He wanted to say "don't go," and instead it emerged, ""

She gave a little sigh and started to stand up; he realized she was leaving and shook his head violently. Don't! Stay here, don't leave yet, not now!

"No, no, no, no," was what he heard himself uttering, and cut it off, tilting his head back and yanking at the bonds in his wrath.

"Peasdon sethee! Clietcliet!" She put her forefinger up to her face, the tip just below her nose.

He gazed at her. It meant something, that gesture; he knew it meant something, but he couldn't think what....

"Weebwell, "she whispered. "Vreethin wilvee well."

Wilv well. Will well.
Vreething will well.
Everything will well.

He hadn't really comprehended it; it came after his mind seemed to sift down through the sounds, settling finally on an intuition.
But it was something, anyway. It was something to keep as she turned away and took the candle and the paper. One small glass ball to float when he was drowning; she thought everything would be all right, and he'd almost understood her when she said it.*

Readers have already spoken about how well Kinsale deconstructs language in this novel; she turns it almost into poetry at times. But that's not truly why I love the book.

There's setting a scene. The introduction of the Duke of Jervaulx on page one has been commented on before as well:

He liked radical politics and had a fondness for chocolate. Five years ago, the Honorable Miss Lacy-Grey had verifiably swooned on the occasion of his requesting her hand for a country dance--an example of that category of incidents which one's friends found endlessly amusing and became fond of recalling ad nauseam in their cups. The circulating quip had been that a marriage proposal would have crippled the girl for life, and that an offer of a baser sort killed her on the spot.

Since Christian lay now with his head pillowed in the smooth curve of her back, his fingers indolently sliding between her stocking and the skin just above a blue-and-yellow garter, he had to assume his friends had been slightly out in their predictions. She seemed perfectly alive to him.**

Maddy, the Quaker heroine also has a perfect introduction, bustling about in her small home where the parlor bell doesn't work, commenting to her father in mid tirade, "A duke can scarcely be supposed to care seriously for such matters--the square is above thy left hand--as must be perfectly clear when his integration has not been prepared for the past week."*** Gently done, we know her father is blind, she's easily offended but efficient, and that they are certainly not noblity.

The Duchess de Marly, I already wrote about in an earlier SBD post. I love how she's so cranky, so stubborn, and so respected by her wayward nephew, Christian. How Maddy believes that she will one day be just as cantankerous as the Duchess, and how we know that Christian will love her when she's mild or when she's fierce, just the same.

The speech at the Quaker meeting house at the end, others have written about. It's Christian's last chance to bring Maddy back to him and to his disordered state, to make him a better person and to convince her to leave behind her personal lie that she is nothing but a meek Quaker. When indeed she knows she can make him bow down to her. "The Devil's Gift."

But all of that is still not what makes this my favorite Kinsale book. (Although I admit to being particularly in awe of the introduction of Every Character. Durham with the dogs. Fane in his military oblivion. Gill in his wide hat. Eydie swooning on the stairs.)

What makes this my favorite Romance is the lack of kisses.

What makes this my favorite Romance is the drama of the sex when it shows up, and the lack of it.

Laura Kinsale manages to get down on paper the very essence of mute longing. Of a need to touch that is enormous. The tension is crafted so well, that by the time a sex scene finally shows up, the reader doesn't even need the full description. Just a view into the wanting is enough.

There isn't a passage I can pull out and point to -- there are bits and pieces scattered throughout the book. But I love when Jervaulx leans into her at the top of the stairs when the thunder has caused her to drop the candle. No kissing. No dialogue. Just him holding her and breathing into her hair. I love when Jervaulx can sleep in his own bed again only because he knows that Maddy is in the dressing room. I love when Jervaulx unbraids her hair the morning after their marriage. I love when Christian prays to god and she walks in the room to rescue him from himself.

All those bits, a glance over the table, a moment on the stairs, and it's Romance.

And good writing.

OK, OK. The sex is good too. Fine.

All quotes from the Avon Books reprint edition (with the mansion on the cover)
Flowers from the Storm, copyright 1992 Amanda Moor Jay
*pp. 61-62
**Prologue, page 1
***Chapter One, p. 7

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Further comments on this matter

Yesterday I wrote:
I will not post again about local politics
I will not post again about local politics
I will not post again about local politics
I will not post again about local politics
And Angela James wrote in comments:
I LOVE your posts on the school board politics. I hope you don't feel you can't post them. They're what makes your blog your blog, just as much as the posts about your children!
I started to respond in comments, but it ended up being a post of itself. Here you go:

I dunno. I feel as if the political stuff is confusing, as I'm always using pronouns and it's never totally clear who did what and when. And the posts are long. (OK, I don't really write short posts now, do I?)

I guess because it's something that deeply affects me, I get all passionate about it, and that's good to write about and for others to read. But on the other hand, I feel sort of embarrassed from time to time for getting this hyped up about small fry stuff in a small fry town.

At this point I have not watched a SINGLE presidential debate. There have only been about four thousand at this point. I understand a lot of the political maneuvering and spin doctoring of the polls, and the "Hillary Effect" in New Hampshire. I could be (should be?) writing about that. But I don't, and I'm still sure that people have a hard time following what it is about this school board stuff that just wriggles in under my skin and gets my blood pumping.

I've now had three people ask me to run for City Council or to at least serve on a City committee or appointed commission. Even the City Commission on Public Governance ("Sunshine laws"). I'm smart, I know what I'm talking about, I'd be an asset to the community, I'd be able to dig into some interesting issues, I'd have a public forum to express my views and influence others.

Does not interest me at all.

It should. What's wrong with me?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Writing on the Blackboard

I will not post again about local politics
I will not post again about local politics
I will not post again about local politics
I will not post again about local politics

I can't imagine that any of you care at this point, but I just have to get this down somewhere.

The Board that I just left, which was dedicated to open governance and Sunshine Ordinances and public input, after being formed in reaction to the Old Board appointing an unqualified person to be Superintendent in the middle of the night with no warning or opportunities for public comment, an action which caused much public unrest and swept some baddies out of office, just appointed a new board member in an underhanded manner with no warning or opportunities for public comment.

Ye gads, kids. You can't go around doing what the baddies did just because it's Easier and More Efficient. Some thoughts:

  • It all reminds me why I don't want to be on the Board anymore.
  • I'm stupidly thankful for the very supportive and wonderful conversations over the last few days with people who I knew generally supported me when I was up there, but who had no idea what I was going through over the past two years.
  • The same set of folks saw this going down and called me to find out what my read was, and within a moment of my trying to stay above the fray and not say anything, they read between the lines and were on the full twisted story like gum on a shoe. Smart folks.
  • I say this as a feminist, but I'm not sure women are ready to be public officials, or at least school board members. I'm losing all sorts of respect for others of my gender.
  • The Board appointed a woman to the Board because her letter of interest made the female Board Members cry when they read it. The new member has never been to a meeting, nor written a letter on any issue, nor called any Board member, nor served on any district committee in the six years that I've been following this. But she can make someone cry when she describes her dedication to the schools. That was her qualification. Making someone cry. Stick a knife between my eyes right freaking now.
  • The highs, the lows, the rages, the flutters of outrage in my chest. I discover they can come back in a moment, just by watching a one minute conversation on the TV screen.
There is a silver lining.

One thing I was sure I'd miss, that would damage me in some way by not running for the board again was exercising my mind in conversation and research, as well as meeting new and engaging people. But out of this debacle comes an interest from the candidates who were passed over to get together to talk about education, to share ideas from other districts, to share arcane knowledge about education law or policy, and to do it in a sort of a "book group"/seminar/roundtable sort of thing. Maybe once a month? Each person pick a topic, educate the others. Talk about the system and how to improve it?

I love it.

Thank you, Ramon, for being a mensch, finding a way through this muck and coming up with an educational, social, and ultimately (for Ramon) political solution to all this. I always liked that part best. Sitting around and talking about education and goals and plans and ideas. Someone else can go to the meetings.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Perfect Storm of Batshit Crazy

First off, my son is fine. This is not about him.

My BROTHER on the other hand. Oy.

He called the other day (because my Mom asked him to), asked how I was, and how my son was. I told him things were generally okay. And then he said, "Really? I mean are you being real with me?"

"Yes, Doug. Things have been stressful and strange, but I feel good that we're meeting with a good psychiatrist finally, and things at school are...."

"You know, I'm sorry. But I'm totally falling asleep here. I'll call you tomorrow, OK?"

"Uh. Sure."

I KNOW that I ramble on here at the blog, but I swear this conversation was less than a minute. Thirty seconds, tops.

This morning he called me again. He has this weird way of talking, of rambling through his mania and paranoia, then for no reason, he halts. He thinks. He rushes again through a strange mix of phrases and words without ever coming to the end of a sentence or completing a thought. There are ideas in there, like "self-improvement" and "doing what's best" and "personal trials", but since there's no verb in the sentence, it's really hard to tell if he's talking about me or about him.

He laughs in the middle of pauses, almost explosively. Then suddenly He's Serious. Deep Voice. Short Phrases. Military Inflection.

And then again we fly along some long half formed idea.

It's exhausting to listen to. Hey, but at least he didn't fall asleep in the middle of it. Nor did I. But I still don't REALLY know why he called.

I just got home from sitting by the side of the road listening to this wacko farrago on my cell, and sat down at the computer. Via Pharyngula, I discovered this: Defamer posts Tom Cruise Video.

Holy Shit. It's my brother. He even has that "I'm looking right at you with my piercing gaze so that you'll take me seriously" thing going on that my brother has.

Back to back? That was creepy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I just gotta say,


Perhaps the most parodied poem ever?

Oh Cassie, you have taken this into a bizarre new place. Behind the Looking Glass even.


My grandmother had a *thing* for Lewis Carrol. She was also surrounded most of her life by other extremely intelligent women who were not allowed to work. But they were allowed to volunteer. Churches, community centers and, in Grandma's case, the Girl Scouts, all benefited from their crafty dedication.

At one point, while Grandma was on the National Council, she discovered that the most of the rest of the leaders of Girl Scouts in the USA were nuts for Lewis Carrol too. They traded quotes, they dressed up as him or some of his very obscure characters for parties, they were hooked. Towards the end of her term, in an homage to Carroll, they wrote their Council minutes in the metre of Song of Hiawatha. No one noticed. Hee! So they did it again. No comments. Hee Hee! (It should be noted here that Grandma took great pains to speak glowingly of Longfellow, and she was accomplished at reading "Song of Hiawatha" in a flowing manner that really was moving. These girls were doing an homage more to Lewis Carrol's "Hiawatha's Photographing" than they were making fun of "Song of Hiawatha".)

For decades after that, there were sections of Christmas cards passed around this group (ominously nicknamed "the seven", peppered with Hiawatha drumbeats. Grandma got so good at it that she could just start talking in (help me wiki, are they trochees or dactyls?) trochaic metre.


Wikipedia has the intro from Lewis Carrol to his parody, "Hiawatha's Photographing". This is so clever:
In an age of imitation, I can claim no special merit for this slight attempt at doing what is known to be so easy. Any fairly practised writer, with the slightest ear for rhythm, could compose, for hours together, in the easy running metre of 'The Song of Hiawatha'. Having then distinctly stated that I challenge no attention in the following little poem to its merely verbal metre I must ask the candid reader to confine his criticism to its treatment of the subject.
Anyway. Dear Cassie, you've brought back some humorous memories.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Norman Mailer, perfume, and me.

When I was a child, my mother was on the leading edge of the feminist movement. A true activist. A marcher in parades, a letter writer to the editor, a researcher for the League of Women Voters. I had an ERA button pinned to the lampshade of my white and pink porcelain bedside-table lamp. We hosted ACLU meetings in the living room. Ms. Magazine arrived at our doorstep and was cherished, cradled in our arms with reverence, to be carefully placed on the center of the inlaid coffee table, whereas Time, Newsweek, Life and the daily papers were chucked on top of growing heaps of mail, slithering off the kitchen table onto the floor.

Norman Mailer was despised. Right up there with Nixon. (And John Updike too, come to think of it.)

I can recognize his gravelly timbre immediately. There's a bone in the back of my neck which tenses when I hear him on some documentary or another. I'm on alert. It's HIM. My husband watches a fair amount of boxing documentaries on cable, so I'm slowly getting used to the old fart opining about Ali. I'm beginning to tolerate the old boy.

Today I was putting off climbing the stairs to go to bed (Why is the house so Cold?), and I caught the better part of a PBS documentary. There was Norman, looking rather frail and elderly, actually. He was sort of having trouble getting his longer sentences out, which made me sympathetic, I guess.

My defenses must have been down. Or maybe it was the fact that he spoke over Mozart's Requiem, which always get to me. Tonight, I can't quite forgive that old sod, rest his soul. He fucking made me cry. With this:

Oswald's a ghost who sits upon American life. It's a ghost that lays over a great many discussions of what are some of the real roots of American history.

What's abominable and maddening about ghosts is you never know the answer. Is it this or is it that? You can't know, because the ghost doesn't tell you.*

Simple. Well done, Norman.

Except for me. I'm surrounded by ghosts. By perfumes on the breeze.

The L'air du Temps with the little doves on the stopper Grandma gave me for my sixth birthday. I never used it, but just watched it go darker over the years, collapsing in the bottle on my dresser, because I never wanted to use it up. It would be gone then, and I'd never be able to ask her for more. What if she had stopped loving me by then? What if I used too much until she called me a Painted Woman as she frighteningly did that time behind her hand about the checkout girl in Waban Market? There was love all in its little fragile bottle. Better never to touch it. I watched the level go down and got more and more anxious. Should I use it now? Would she forgive me if I did? Is it this, or is it that?

We had an attic room in my house. Up the tight steep stairs to the attic and to the left. A single bed, an old dresser, a slanted ceiling and a memory of Laurie painting my nails while she fed me circus peanuts. The peanuts were fat and orange and she had to carefully place them into my mouth one by one so that my nails wouldn't smudge. My nails were candy pink. I was a little fat bird with my mouth open to her care. Feed Me. Feed Me. And then one morning she was gone. Her long honey hair, her patchouli, and the white wool coat on the hook. Gone. Her clothes and books stayed in the room right above mine for weeks. Gone. Her white painted desk at the window with the little nail polish bottles lined up at the sill was still there. Gone. Not a word and we were not to speak of her. Gone. Someone (I later found out it was her mother) came one day while I was at school and packed up her bags. No one ever told me. I went up the stairs one day to sit on her empty bed only to find the desk, like Laurie, was gone. Did you want to leave? Did Mom fire you for wearing the short skirts? Did we get in trouble for the circus peanuts? (Come back, Laurie. I'm on a diet now.) Is it this, or is it that?

Joyce used to enter and exit my life with icy swiftness. One moment she was there at Thanksgiving, holding me on her lap, asking me to take down, take down, take down her luscious thick hair to brush it. No one brushes it like you. Have a trinket. Have a piece of barley sugar. And then she was gone. I can't come to your birthday party, even though I live across the street from the pool. Splash under the cold willow and think of me avoiding you for my own conceits. It's not allowed for me to call you, Joyce. Please can you remember to call me sometime? I'm too young to sneak out of the house and run to Grandpa's shop, although I'll learn to do that later to find you. Find you. But for right now, can you call me? And then one day you did. And I don't know why. I don't know why you offered to take me to the horse farm for years. I just don't know. I think maybe you needed free labor with all those stalls. I think maybe you were finally lonely enough that you needed me to sleep on your couch for months on end. I think maybe you needed someone to brush your hair, or at least to talk to once she moved out and on with her life. Was it me you wanted?

After you died, my mother (Chanel No. 5) made it a point to tell me that I wasn't your favorite. That you had taken my cousin Melissa out to lunch at least twice too. Yeah, but did Missy sleep on her couch? Huh? Huh, Mom? Did Melissa get Joyce's Iranian coat? Huh? Oh Christ. That coat. It held your scent for months after you died, Joyce. 4711 and leather and roses, maybe Oil of Olay, with a top note of Chapstick. I used to lie on my bed with your coat over my chest and breathe you back into my lungs. Until one day it was all gone. The incense had finally guttered -- the perfume was spent. Just memories now.

And I still have so many questions for you, and I'll never know the answers. Some about the horses, and some about the men in your life. Some about the women, come to think of it. But most painfully about me. ("It's ALWAYS about me," said the narcissist.) Did you love me, or did you tolerate me? Did you put up with me because you loved me, or did you put up with me because you felt as if you should love me and then felt as if you HAD to tolerate me? Is it this, or is it that?

Fuck you too, Norman Mailer.

"Is it this, or is it that?" You're talking about Kennedy, assassinations, American History and collective grief, yet with a simple turn of phrase, you have me pulling up my ghosts and memories and questions and grief, just like a good writer should. I didn't need this tonight. Thanks a hell of a lot, you old creep.

*PBS, The American Experience, "Oswald's Ghost", copyrighted, etc. etc.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Practical experience? Who needs that?

There's a highly respected guinea pig organization and animal hospital in the UK that I've heard of from time to time. Never paid much attention, not living in the UK and all that.

Got involved with a troll dance on a guinea pig message board last night with a person who kept insisting that according to the person she most respected, it was NEVER necessary to anesthetize a guinea pig for dental work. Okay, that's just too broad based a statement, delivered with righteous indignation for me to walk away from it. Never? Dental work? Never? Yikes.

She had a few other odd ideas, and kept telling us that things were different in the UK (people in the UK do actually use common veterinary procedures, I'm sure of it), and that we weren't qualified to refute her expert (Okay, maybe I'm not qualified in that I don't have a degree, but I can surely state that anesthesia is common practice here. Right?).

She flounced off a number of times, as trolls are wont to do, and then we started chatting about who this expert was she kept referring to, and by the way, what's a "rodentologist"? I thought it was a British term for an exotics vet with a specialty in rodents.

Uh, no. Someone posted a link to the certification course for rodentologists. (Click on the "Courses" section.)

Quick overview. 18 months of distance learning, no prerequisites necessary, and no animal care, medical, or veterinary experience necessary. Pass a written test at 80% and you're a certified expert. As of June of this year, they've added on additional course requirement. (Thank goodness. Let's hope it includes hands-on experience.) The new course includes three days of hands on internship with the designer of the course at her hospital.

Three days.

Three whole days of hands-on experience. Excellent.

I love this idea of setting up my very own area of expertise, based on my own thirty years of personal experience, developing my own certification course and professional organization, and then certifying others in my own interests. Wow. That's good. From the "Courses" page -- linked on the home page.

Apart from Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who's use of training is in conjunction with their existing occupations, qualified BAR students have to date gone on to achieve the following:

. Acquired Positions in veterinary practices, pet shop management and feed supplies stores.
. Free-lance animal care advisors, lecturing to private and state schools, giving demonstrations and forming rodent clinics at veterinary practices and holding advisory clinics at pet shops
. Set up their own rescue, boarding, grooming and health advisory establishments.
. Used their Knowledge to improve and sustain the health and quality of life of their own animals.

After paying for all the courses, get certified and you can work in a feed store. And with a small annual fee, you can have your name listed in their Annual Qualified Rodentologists Register.

Head slowly expanding. Danger of imminent explosion. Help.

Why bother to get an undergraduate degree? Why bother with residencies and graduate studies? Why bother with 24 hour large animal labs (overnight observations of colic and post-surgical cases, etc.)?

I have to set up my own certification house. I do.

The Political Retail Management and Knitting Credential. We can all be Retail-Political-Knittologists. Uh huh.

Problem is, this post is probably going to pull down some crap, because the founder of this rodentology thing is very well respected. No one says boo about her or her Cambridge Cavy Trust. I can't say that I really care, all things being equal. Besides, I need to go get some work done on my own course design.

(Last point. Professional organization: USE CORRECT GRAMMAR. "veterinary nurses who's whose use of" Gah.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

He's not THAT important! Sheesh!

I was in the Superintendent's office yesterday dropping off some paperwork. But her assistant told me she was out of the office.

"That's cool. Will she be back later on? Or is she out for a while?"

"I don't know. She's actually attending a taping of the Today Show."


"Our High School students were involved in a project that NBC is covering, so they sent a Today Show crew out to film it."

"That's so exciting!"

"Yeah, but the funniest thing was that someone else asked a few minutes ago if she was in, and I said she was at the Today Show, and she said, 'Because the School Board President resigned?'"

Oh good lord, people. Get a grip. Get OVER yourself. People in the Bay Area don't know where this town is, let alone have an opinion on this Evil Emperor in our midst. I hardly think the Today Show is going to swoop down to report on our gossip.

In other news, Saul is a bit closer to getting medication -- his psychiatric appointment went well. Phebe is going to ace her spelling restest, Neo is in a perpetual grumpy mood to top all previous grumpy moods, and Hobbes (the dog) and Bagheera (the cat) are terrified or exhilarated by each other. I have to get a picture posted of Bagheera. He is the official slayer of socks. Pounces on them and then flips them over his head up into the air. Kinda cute, really.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I am not a citizen of France

I got a call the other night from a guy who wants to apply for the vacancy on the Board. He had come to my house over the holidays for a party and had asked a few pointed questions about the Board which signaled his intent. (As soon as someone asks you, "So how much of a time commitment is taken up with being on the Board?" then you KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that they are considering being on the Board. Someone who is just faintly curious tends to pose the questions as: "How much time do you spend on Board things?" I discovered this difference in focus a few years ago, and it's been proven right every single time. If the word "you" is in the sentence, they are curious. If the subject's completely general, then they are thinking of themselves.)

This guy called a few days ago, all upset, to say that the new president of the Board was angry at him. What now can he do to ensure his appointment to the Board if she's annoyed? Umm. Dude. Like, nothing. It's an appointment, not a public election. Apologize to her for pissing her off and move on. Hope that she gets over it before the appointment decision.

(Thing is, she won't get over it. The new prez is the Board member I used to be friends with before she got on the board two years ago. As soon as she got on, she insisted on serving on the policy committee with me, to prevent the appointment of another Board member, and blew the whole thing off, leaving me to do all the editing and refusing to even read the edits when I had finished them. I called her on it, and she got angry, and eventually she said, "Well, it sounds as if you don't respect me as a Board member." And my response ended the friendship completely. "You don't read the Board packets, you never research anything, and you completely gave up any interest in tackling a project that you committed yourself to. You're engaging in negotiations and you won't read the employment contracts. No. I don't respect that." [That sound you hear in the background is Taps playing over the death of our relationship.] Once she gets pissed off, she never gets over it. She's still trying to block teacher appointments to teacher committees for people who disagreed with her in public on a minor topic from two years ago. Stop being personal and get over yourself. Sheesh.)

So, loving a touch of gossip, I asked my friend what had happened to get her pissed at him. Well, he's been talking to all the Board members, asking questions, and trying to get them to say they'll support his appointment. Nothing unusual.

He sent an email to one Board member saying that he was pretty sure that Board members X and Y also supported his appointment. Nothing unusual.

The recipient of the email forwarded it (NO!! NEVER FORWARD EMAILS!!) to the prez, saying that he thought this was the best guy for the job. Bad Board Member.

The Brown Act, an open governance law, says that all decisions made by a publicly elected body must be made in public. Therefore, there can be no conversations or emails by the majority of the Board on any topic which the Board may later vote on outside of a publicly noticed, fully public meeting, where the public may comment on the item under discussion.

So when the Board member gets an email which telegraphs the intent of the majority of the Board, he's supposed to write the person back, saying that he cannot make up his mind before the meeting, and that he's not supposed to know the intent of a majority, so we cannot continue this discussion. That email really should be CC'ed to the Political Fair Practices Commission and perhaps County Counsel just to cover his ass. County Counsel may ask the Board member who received the communication to announce at a public meeting that he engaged in ex parte communication before the meeting. But usually that's the end. A public remedy for an honest mistake is fine.

If the Board member forwards that email to anyone else on the Board, then the original Board member has violated the Brown Act, and the one who receives the forward and reads its contents has technically violated the Brown Act as well. (Yeah, I know. Just by reading it.) Again, there are remedies to this. You basically announce publicly that an error has occurred, try to relevel the playing field for the other candidates and for the public, and move on.

What the prez did though, was really idiotic.

She called the possible candidate and told him that HE had violated the Brown Act and that no Board member could now speak to him.

Oy yoi yoi.

Idiot Person Posing As President, the PUBLIC is not bound by the Brown Act, only the Board. The public can communicate with whomsoever they wish. It's actually encouraged! No, really! It's up to the elected officials to keep their noses clean. (Did you report the member of your Board to the authorities? Why no, you did not. Oh great.)

I told my friend on the phone, "Look. Stop talking to the Board members right now. You have their support; what more do you need to say? Apologize profusely to the president and then see how it goes. Go talk to the Superintendent to learn about some issues in the District so you can be knowledgeable when they interview you. It'll be fine."

"But what about the Brown Act? Is the Attorney General going to call me or something?"

"No. No. First of all, the AG is only for criminal matters, not governmental. No one's going to be calling you. You did nothing wrong. Remember, you are not a citizen of France. You are not bound by French laws. Who knows? You could be breaking three or four French laws a day. Who cares? The Board is bound by the Brown Act, not you."

"Oh. OK. That makes sense. Boy, she really is a bully, isn't she?"

"Uh. There's no response to that which will be at all polite."

"Is that why you're not putting up your name?"

"Uh. Let's just say that I'm done being a citizen of France and leave it at that. OK?"


A few days before this I got a call from the VP at the Middle School asking me to please put in my application because the employees were worried about the lack of expertise on the Board. Oh, jeez. I wouldn't mind going up there and being appreciated, but I think my passport's truly expired.

4pm Edited to Add: Duh. I was correcting myself as I was writing until one statement ended up being over-corrected and then wrong. Double Duh. Most people talk about the District Attorney when they get all freaky about politics. The DA is involved with criminal matters and therefore has little or no jurisdiction over Brown Act violations. It's the Attorney General who's in charge of political malfeasance. When I was on the Board there was always some crank "reporting" us to the DA -- I had a lot of Scooby Doo-like conversations with the DA over the four year term. "Woo? You wrant Wrat?" "Nothing. Never mind." "Attorney General? Wroo? District Attorney? Wroo?"

So when I was talking to my friend he was talking about the DA calling him, but then when I blogged I corrected him to say that the AG was the one who...oh, whatever. It hardly matters.

Friday, January 04, 2008

In the New Year

Oy, have we been sick.

Really sick.

My Phebe slept for about three days straight. All of us have had the flu -- coughing, hacking, fevers, shakes, and a few of us have ended up vomiting from taking various medications an an empty stomach. Blergh.

At this point only Saul and Dear Butcher are still sick. Saul seems better this morning, but Dear Butcher is still on Codeine laced cough syrup and antibiotics. Rain is coming down sideways, and I'm waiting for our back fence to blow over in the wind storm. What a lovely day!

Dear Butcher gave me a note for Christmas which said that I could get a cat. After a few visits to the shelter to sort the various candidates, we brought him home yesterday. (Pictures later) He's a big black guy with green eyes. Desperately happy to be in Neo's bedroom. Squeaks and mews all the time. He's almost obnoxiously affectionate. Phebe named him Bagheera.

Saul had a difficult vacation. Now he's OK, mostly because he's worn down from being sick. But at the start of the vacation, he was pretty scary in terms of being out of control. It's a long and dramatic story, but essentially, he got upset and tried to leave the house. His therapist has asked that I build a wall for him -- prevent him from leaving at all costs and be prepared to call in police help if needed.

Well, I did. I planted myself in front of the door and wouldn't let him open it. (Interesting that the BACK door was open the entire time and that he ignored that avenue of escape.) He attacked me. Hands in claws, going for the face, screaming, twisting my arms, wrapping my hair around his forearms, the whole nine yards. I was able to hold him off, constantly saying, "Just move away from the door. Just calm down," for about 45 minutes before I started getting tired. I ended up calling the police. (Who came in through the open back door.) When the police saw Saul try to pull my hair to get my head to the floor, they grabbed him and pulled him off. Saul fought them for a sec and then completely calmed down.

Two days later his Dad asked Saul to turn off the Wii and Saul went right for him -- trying to claw his face. Dear Butcher got between Saul and the front door and they wrestled for a while too -- but it didn't last so long. With a nosebleed in the middle of it, there was blood everywhere. I stayed next to the two of them and was able to talk to Saul somewhat.

The next day we all had a psychiatric appointment. Dear Butcher now thinks that meds are warranted. Gee, I guess so. I'm not sure about sending Saul back to school on Monday, and now I really don't know what his future is going to hold. If he continues in this drama, he's going to have to be hospitalized just for our safety. Christ.

We had an appointment with Neo's therapist. Neo says she would like to be homeschooled. Of all my kids, she's the one I'm most likely to say it will work. On the other hand, she had a group of her friends over the house on Friday and they had The Best Time. I'm worried she's going to fall out of that circle. I'm worried that I don't have enough energy to devote to her schooling. I'm worried that she wants to be homeschooled so that she can have time with me, and my time is going to be taken up with raging boy. I'm worried that it all falls to me again.

Haven't had a chance to read much of anything, although I got my husband the History of the Toothpick. Like Megan, I remember once knowing that the little frill thing on the top of the toothpick has a specific name, but I don't know what it is anymore. I mentioned this to my crossword puzzle obsessed mother-in-law, who said, "OH! It's called... Damn. I don't know what it's called." So now there are three obsessed people wondering about toothpicks.