Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jess Walker Brown Sings LIVE at the Cherrywood Coffeehouse, Austin, TX

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ponder, ponder, ponder.

I've been away for months, I know. My fault totally. No excuse really. Just feeling stressed although now that Jessica has graduated and is 18 and college (University of North Texas) is right around the corner -

I'm feeling, oddly, less stressed.

Perhaps it's because I'm not physically in so much pain. For those of you who don't know what a chronic pain/auto immune type disorder is like - let me tell you ... it sucks. There's just no two ways around it. It totally sucks.

But I'm taking meds that are helping ... and not making me feel totally off the wall ... for a while I was taking the generic version of 'Cymbalta' --- that stuff totally made me feel awful. Terrible dreams, short term memory loss, panic attacks. Nope that wasn't for me.

And then my doctor who I used to really like - well, I started to feel like a number and not a person in his BRAND new office that he opened right before the Super Bowl. Seriously. And then actually paid for ad time on TV to promote it. Local time but still - it wasn't cheap. Then he did the same thing during the NCAA Basketball Final game - SERIOUSLY! So as of March, I'm not seeing him. But I'm hunting for another pain management doctor. In the mean time, I'm just taking my Gabapentin (not quite like clockwork and when I forget, my body reminds me that I forgot!)

I got a bicycle...with a basket on it for my birthday/Mothers Day present. It's a 'comfort bike' with lots of shock absorbers and a great seat. I love it. Except for the fact that the basket (which is metal because it's more sturdy) is really heavy! HA! I got it so I can scoot up to the store and buy little things. And I was doing really well with it for the first few (every other) days but then it was like my body went 'Umm, girlfriend, you are two bricks shy of a wall if you think you're still in your 20s! You are 45. Ease up some.' 

So, I did. I even took of the basket (it's removable so I can shop) and it was much better. Dang. Who knew a 5lb metal basket could make such a difference?

I rode around a bit without the basket and was feeling pretty great about my prospects of riding a little more routinely again. Especially since the Texas weather had been unusually comfortable.

No joke. Typically by May - it's what people who don't live in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona would call 'damn hot' - although those of us who've lived here a while just call it 'kinda warm.'

But like I said, it was mild. Comfortable.

Mid-May Too comfortable. Something was up. (And it was NOT Lake Travis. It wasn't even half full and we were under strict drought conditions. Watering lawns 1x a week and only before 10AM or after 8PM and only for 2 hours AT THE MOST or run the risk of a huge fine.

Hey, California - I hear they just told you guys you were now only allowed to water 2x a week but still pretty much at any time of the day. That dry stuff you're experiencing is called a drought. During a drought one does NOT need to have an ultra green yard. Nor does one need to have a super clean car.

Texas might be a bit (ok a LOT) conservative on a LOT of things and there's often a lot of disagreement - but there is one thing we all pretty much agree on - being CONSERVATIVE with water is major important.

So, as I said, the weather was oddly wonderful.

And then came the rains. It rained. And it rained. And it rained. Thanks in large part due to the fact that this is an El NiƱo year and there's been some weird Gulf stream air and ... well, it rained so much - it flooded.

Not just a little flood either. Deadly floods. An entire family on vacation and the house where they were staying in a place called Wimberly was washed away. Only the father survived. His wife and son were found. They've yet to find his daughter. And a niece. And that's just one case.

Closer to home - roads were washed out. Downtown Austin was so flooded folks who typically kayaked on 'Town Lake' used their craft to navigate around town to help out others. Flash flooding is SO dangerous out here.

Our motto 'Turn Around, Don't Drown' and it's SO VERY TRUE (if you should ever be in a place where the water is rushing across the road and you think 'Hmmm, I can make it.' Just stop thinking. 7 out of 10 times cars - even BIG SUVs get washed away. So don't be stupid.)

Anywhooo - our lakes filled up quickly. Lake Travis that was well below half full is now sitting at about 87% full. Yep. We had THAT much rain.

What was I originally talking about? Oh, yes. My bicycle.

As I mentioned, I was totally stoked to start riding again but then the rains came and then life got CRAZY!

Jessica had her graduation that was scheduled for 8AM on a Thursday ... for NO APPARENT REASON - which I didn't even get to see because her dumbass - yes, I said it, BIG Dumbass principal decided after being told there was a HORRIFIC wreck on the ONLY road directly to the venue where the graduation was being held that graduation was going on as scheduled - even though barely half the people who were to view the graduation had arrived. DUMBASS.

Seriously 8AM? On a business day? On one of THE busiest roads in all of Austin (unless you know the backroads - which we ended up having to take...we even left our house at 7:15AM to get there knowing the traffic might be bad.  Who the hell schedules a HS graduation at that time? Oh, wait - A dumbass.

Oh, wait - maybe there was another graduation scheduled right after it? NO. Or maybe there was a hockey game (because it was in the city's hockey arena - covered with a special floor) later that afternoon? NO.

No. It was just a dumbass call.

My daughter knew something was wrong when, right before she walked out on the stage, one of the counselors said, "Hey, there's been an accident on the road so your families might not be in the audience. Now go!" Yep. That was all they said.

When she didn't hear me shout and clap at her name she thought we had been in the accident. But when we arrived - I made sure to cheer for one of her besties so that she'd hear me and know that we were okay.

Incidentally, the wreck involved the family of one of the graduates who wasn't told until well after the ceremony was over - kids filing out to meet their families - that her mom, dad, sisters, and grandparents had been in a crash that totaled their SUV after a guy in a work van reached down to pick up his cell phone which had fallen, crossed 3 lanes of traffic and hit them going about 50MPH. Luckily, everyone lived - but to look at the pictures you'd think 'there's no way'. (Incidentally, it's illegal to hold a cellphone if you're a driver in Austin. The ticket is something like $300. What an idiot.)

My special moment to see my daughter - my only child - graduate from high school was nearly ruined until I quickly contacted some parents I knew who were there and they filmed her crossing the stage and got some great still images from the jumbotron of her. But still there's a part of me that utterly loathes what that principal did - and I know my letter of complaint to him was just one of many. Only I fired mine off WHILE I was sitting in the venue after arriving around the letter 'D's' were just wrapping up.

Oh, I was pissed off and I wanted to let him know just how selfish it was of him to not say 'Ladies and Gentlemen, we hate to do this but there's a lot of traffic on 620 (the road where the accident happened) so we're going to hold off on the ceremony for about 30 minutes to give more people a chance to get here so they can see their loved ones walk'  He didn't have to say there was a wreck or anything. Just a 'hey, our traffic out here is crappy'  Why he didn't do that is beyond me - no, wait - I forgot - he's a that's who - a dumbass who maybe had a party he couldn't miss because his son was graduating that same day too.

So, as I said, I fired off an email to said Dumbass and sent it before the kids in the Ws walked (J's class had over 400 kids in it)

The next day (kids were still taking exams at the high school) I got a message back from him saying "​I'm sorry our graduation did not meet your expectations.  I actually had my first son graduating this year, so it was a special event for me.  Then, I got your email.  Needless to say, it took the celebratory spirit right out of me, which I guess was your intention.  I hope, in some small way, this made you feel better about the situation.

I truly wish you and your family the best in the future. "

Awww. I just took that celebratory spirit and squashed it. Well at least he had an f'ing celebratory spirit to get squashed. Boo-hoo.

I replied with a short, to the point, message. "I am not in the least bit sorry the celebratory spirit was taken right out of you. In fact, I imagine there are about 200 families who also could care less about your celebratory spirit because you refused to heed the request of the 2 counselors and the PTA representative (whose son was also graduating) who literally begged you to hold off on the ceremony thus denying those families the same celebratory spirit you so joyfully got to experience.  I truly wish you and your future the best when you go before the school board to try and explain why you decided to go forward with the ceremony when you knew that there were hundreds of people who were not yet at the venue."

So that was how my daughter's graduation went. But it's behind me. Done.

College awaits.

But before that - I'm taking my daughter and 2 of her besties to Florida for a bit of fun in early July.

And in the meantime, when I'm not working on this or that - I'm pondering - what will I do when my little baby is gone off to college? Will I write...because I've not really written in months. Will I take up yoga? Will I ride that bike enough that I can put my cherished little basket back on it? Who knows. There's a new sort of future ahead for my husband and me. Maybe we'll take a few little trips. that could be fun. Or maybe we can just laze around and be goofy. I love being goofy.

I'm pretty good at it.

Until next time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Well, Excoooooose Me!

Greetings Kind Reader -

(Hey - look, it's me posting to my blog just a couple of days after posting to my blog - HOLY COW! I'd better be careful - if I do this again in the next few days - it could create pattern that might be difficult for me to maintain and then I'll get depressed because I can't live up to the standard I've irrationally placed upon myself whereupon I'll become obsessed with thinking about the fact that I'm not living up to that ridiculous 'must post, must post' ideal so I simply won't post at all. Yeah, it's a convoluted way of thinking but then again - writers are a weird lot, are they not?)

Where are my manners...

Nice of you to drop by my little spot in the blogoverse even if it is only to figure out what in the world the title of this post means. (Is this the 'excuse' alluded to in the previous - albeit cryptic - post from a couple of days ago? Or is it something wholly different? A red herring so to say...)

Actually it's NEITHER of those things - even though it does deal with 'excuses'

You see, yesterday evening my husband walked into our bedroom and said, 'This is weird.' 

So I said, 'What?' (After all, he had me at 'weird') 

Then he proceeded to tell me that we'd received a letter from our daughter's high school about her having 'excessive excused absences'. In fact, in great big bold across the top of the letter it says: 

Cue the ominous music. Incidentally - if this is the EEA1 form that means there must be an EEA2 form, right? Seriously? 

But I digress...

Notice that the title of this particular informative message from my daughter who is 17 years old and will be graduating in June, deals with excessive EXCUSED absences. That's right. 

I'm talking about the kind of absences where you have to 'explain to your boss why you can't come in to work because your kid is sick and has to go to the doctor to make sure they don't have the plague or something like that' sort of excuses. 

Yes, these are the excuses where your boss looks at you like 'again?' as if their kid has never gotten sick although you KNOW that they do because you've seen them dashing around the office trying to get their crap together so they can haul a$$ across town to pick up their kid from school and take them to the doctor. Yes, it's THAT sort of excused absence - not the kind where dad writes a note saying, 'My kid was sick. I kept him home. Deal with it.'

Of course, odds are likely when your kid is sick - it just HAPPENS - there's no early warning symptom... rather, they vomit - you react. And if your doctor's office is like mine, you can't get your kid in to see the doctor, so you wind up going to an urgent care facility because he has a temperature or she has snot running down her face or something else running out of another part of their adorable, youthful form. 

Now, if you're lucky - you've got insurance which will cover those medical visits - especially the ones to the quick care places - because when you walk into the waiting room of one of those 'urgent care' facilities and you spot what you think is a $5 poster of Claude Monet's 'Water Lilies' only to learn that it's a numbered lithograph - you can almost hear the people at Citibank going 'cha-ching!'

And even though it's technically just a 'copy' of the piece, it's a damn fine copy and you know that your visit will probably be used to help pay for whatever is in that one little room in the back of the facility that no one ever enters...

Again, I'm veering from center...

The gist of it is - you went out of your way to take your cherished little angel to the doctor not just because you want him to feel better but also because you don't want to have to put up with that annoying lady who works at the front office (or wherever it might be) of your child's school because you weren't a good enough parent to take them to the doctor to get a doctor's note! 

Geez, I must be REALLY old because I remember when, if you had a note from a doctor upon your return to school, it meant you'd either been dealing with a nasty case of something like tuberculosis or streptococcus pyogenes or one of those diseases that's so bad it's got an 'A', 'B', 'C', etc... after it. OR you had to have broken a bone - but not just any old bone - no - it had to be one that made you 'incapable of doing simple things' like going to the bathroom by yourself. 

After all it's pretty damn easy to go tinkle if you broke or, God forbid, lost your pinky toe in a horrible farming incident - but break your leg or your arm and it's not so easy to use the facilities folks - not so easy indeed. Especially for guys - they've got extra equipment to deal with and somehow I imagine it's not so easy to call out to your mother - after that tragic incident with the hay baler - and say 'Hey, Mom, could you me go potty?' For girls - meh, not so bad - but guys...that's harsh. Harsh. And when mom goes 'You just do you thing, honey. I'll wait right here for you' that has got to be unbearable.

Sorry, did it again...

As I was saying before my mind went on a tripp to Weirdville - there was a time when mom and dad could write a note saying 'Please excuse absence of the eldest fruit of the Smith family loins because she had a fever yesterday. Thanks.' 

Short, sweet, and to the point. 

That was during a time when people believed people. Especially where I grew up. Because  we had - Mrs. Gilreath, the lady at my high school's front desk. She would give some of the rule-breaking kids 'the eye' and dress them down after reading their parent's note as if she was waiting for them to break under her scrutiny. Then she'd smile and say, "Hope you're feeling better, Jimmy. Can't wait to see your grandma at Bible study on Wednesday." 

Geez...Wednesday night Bible study - the small town southern child's lie detector. And it wasn't because Jesus had anything to do with it. Nope. Somehow Mrs. Gilreath knew every freaking person in my home town and apparently wanted to make sure she got into Heaven because somehow she was able to attend every Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Pentacostal Bible study in all of the greater Northwest Cabarrus area. Heck, she might have even crashed the synagogue about 20 miles north of our county!

Getting back to MY situation with MY daughter in the here and now...

So, we get this message and I'm looking at the dates and I'm like okay this one was for a sinus infection, that was for cedar fever*, that one was the flu (we both had it), that one was for a weird stomach virus, oh and that was a few weeks after she had her gall bladder removed and ... wait ... hold on ... that day was her 'College visit' and ... damn it ... this one was for her audition to get into the music school!

Needless to say - I was ... upset. Yes, that's the word. I was upset because upon her return to school the next day, my daughter had taken proof FROM THE COLLEGES IN QUESTION and signed by OFFICIALS FROM THE COLLEGES IN QUESTION and yet, they weren't considered 'school recognized events' 

You know - it's that thing where if your kid is in the marching band and they go on a trip to Disney World for 3 days - it's like they didn't miss any school at all - because it was a 'school function' with 'educational merit'. Yeah - right. I'm sure standing in Aerial's Grotto taking selfies is ever-so-educational!

But in this case - she really was doing sh!t that was educational! It's a major step in one's f'ing educational process to go and visit a college or university knowing that in a few months time - you'll be leaving home to essentially start a damn new life as a grown up away from mom and dad and your fish and your cat and... 


So in response to this letter, I did what I do best - I wrote a letter back. An email, really. A very detailed email. And I did NOT once veer left of center in my message. 

Basically it was message pointing out that I was displeased. GREATLY DISPLEASED. 

Not because they'd sent a message saying nicely, 'Hey, just a heads up - your daughter has missed a lot of days of school. Yes, we know they're all excused for medical reasons and it looks like there are a couple here from colleges but we just don't want her to fall below the 'required number of hours' a child has to be physically on school grounds. Her grades are great and it's not a disciplinary issue - it's just a technicality.' 

Now if they'd sent something like that, I'd have been all 'chill' with the whole issue.


And all I could think was 'What the a lovely letter that comes at the front of so many expressive terms!'

So after I sent my very well worded email to the school - I got a pleasant (excessively pleasant) call at 9:10 in the morning from my daughter's Assistant Principal - which lasted until 9:28. And he was all like - 'That's just letter we send out when students hit a certain number of absences and it bears no reflection on Jessica. I see here she's got great grades and really it's just a technicality.' 

Then I asked about the college visit issue - you know, the absences that should be reflected just like the marching band's trip to Disney World. Essentially, it's a Jedi mind trick among educators. 'The children who are not here have all gone to the bathroom...' 

I explained the situation with college #1 and he said, "I understand. I'll have them recode that one." Then I explained the situation with college #2 (it was her audition to get into the music program for voice and classical guitar). I explained how she had to miss Friday so we could make the 4.5 hour trip to the university and she could get a good night's sleep before her audition. I then explained how it started to snow and ice and a trip that should've taken about 5 hours (if you stopped to get food) took nearly 7 hours without a stop because the roads were so treacherous ... we could not stop. We got to our hotel at about 9:30PM. 

Then I said, 'She got her audition itinerary signed by the TA who was in the room for her guitar audition because the weather was so bad - the professor had to Skype with her because his flight to Dallas was cancelled! 

He hemmed - he hawed and then he said 'I understand, just have Jessica bring in the music school badge she got and that should be fine' (After all, it's not like you can pop into the local Piggly Wiggly and pick up a loaf of bread and a University of North Texas School of Music ID badge with it!) 

But when she got to the school to turn in the note we got yesterday from our doctor because - I kid you not,  Jessica was stung by a wasp on her freaking right eye lid AND bitten by fire ants on her right foot and she's very allergic to both of them causing her to miss school on Monday because her right foot and right eye were swollen. (Oh, and now she has to carry an EpiPen so she's THAT allergic to the damn things) - she was told 'Sorry, I can't accept that (official UNT badge). It has to be a letter.' And Jessica lost it!

Imagine standing in the hall at your high school with your eye puffy, your foot itching, you're on steroids, and you've just been told that what your Assistant Principal just said doesn't matter. Yeah, it was NOT a good day for her either. 

And in between all this lunacy - I'd personally contacted both universities and had them not only FAX proof of her Jessica's attendance on those days - but asked them to send letters through the mail. The lovely ladies at the schools obliged and were so truly kind and understanding - they've had to deal with high schools that get crabby before. 

Then, J's counselor called me because she was concerned for me since my email sounded like I was upset and frustrated and angry. (Really? She must be a friggin' rocket scientist to have figured that one out.) And I said, 'Why yes, I am angry and frustrated and upset.' Then she tried to do that weird 'counselor' thing where they say, 'Umm, yes, I hear you. I understand. Now tell me, what do you see as a solution.' I really hate that. 

But I did not want to play her counselor reindeer games - I told her I did not appreciate receiving a letter that makes it seem like my daughter is some sort of truant miscreant doomed to roam the earth in search of a piece of cardboard and a broad tipped permanent black marker so she can spell out 'No job. Missed too many days in my last year of high school' and that she is like that because her father and I made her that way.

I told her I know that it's all a game of numbers - more warm bodies in the classroom means more cold cash in the school's coffers. I'm not an idiot. 

I know it's getting near to the federal and state fiscal budget appropriations time and my daughter's school district wants every penny they can get (even though the average income of the parents at my daughter's school is about $140K- and I can guaran-damn-tee you, there's nothing her school is in want or need of). 

I know that there are other schools in the district where the average income is around $35K. And yes, I know that's a HUGE gap and that 'it's not just about one school or another - it's about a whole community of young people'. 


But Jessica is MY daughter. 

You mess with her - you get me. 

You mess with me - you get someone who isn't intimidated by people who sit behind the big desk. You mess with my cub and my cub's future you get every single fiber of Mama Brown Bear and this is one mama who will not back down. 

I am a woman with a voice. I am a woman who votes. I am a wife. I am a mother. And I have a husband who lets me get all my 'crazy' out of my system then tells me he loves me. 

So, if arguing a point about 'excessive excused absences' not being really freaking excused ... because it's the principle of the matter well then...