Wednesday, January 29, 2014

These stories really get to me.

If you live in or around the Pittsburgh area, you know right now there is a deadly batch of heroin going around western PA. People do a bag (I don't know if that is the right way to say it), and then they typically die. The more hardcore druggies might not die from that bag, but they will likely end up in the ER. In about about 10 days, 22 people have died from it. For the love of Pete, the story made the LA Times.

It sickens me, for many reasons.

First, I hate needles. I am very open about that. My fear of needles had kept me from getting a tetanus booster for 17 years. So I cannot even fathom wanting to do drugs via a needle.

Second, I have never gotten over the movie Transpotting. I watched that in 1996 or '97 at a theater in Oakland (the name escapes me, but it is no longer there). I to this day am still haunted by scenes from that movie, which chronicled the heroin use of a handful of young men in Scotland.

Third, like the vast majority of people, I know addicts. Some are recovering (I think that is the term) and have been clean for awhile. One person I know has been off and on drugs so many times I have lost count. I have pretty much given up hope for him. I just think it is too powerful, and he has fallen too many times.

About four years ago when I was at a park with Jordan, I was talking to some moms I had just met. During our time there, two older teens walked through the park on their way to/from someplace; one of them was the one of the mom's sons. I was pretty sure right away one of the kids was on drugs. I have seen that look. I cannot adequately describe it, other than to say their eyes have such darkness underneath them; imagine the worst dark circles you can and then multiple that. On top of the that, their eyes seem to be lifeless. Anyway, I wondered if I should say something to the mom, in case she had no clue. But I did not. It turns out that boy died before the end of last year. He apparently had been clean for a few years, but he relapsed recently.

Anytime I read about a young person dying, I assume it is drugs. Sadly most of the time it is.

J is at the age (10) where I have started to be more specific about drugs, more than just "Whitney Houston was on drugs and she died very young" and "That young guy from Glee took drugs and died." I have told her that chances are very good that when she is a teenager, someone will offer her drugs. And that she needs to understand that sometimes it takes only one time. And I said this before the deadly heroin came out. Fortunately, J leads a pretty sheltered life now and is not very social, so we probably have a few years of "safety" Many kids are not so lucky.

I have no idea what can be done. Lately there has been much talk about legalizing marijuana (which, I know is now legal in some states). I am mostly against that, only because every person I know who is or was an addict started with that. But at the same time, I know many people who have smoked weed (is that what the kids are calling it nowadays?) and have never done anything beyond that. So I am definitely not saying that just because you do dope, you will move on to harder things.

One thing I do know is no one deserves to die from a drug overdose. Too many people have been commenting on Facebook and on newspaper websites, saying things like these people deserve it and that there is one less person doing and selling drugs. Yes, I agree that each person chose to try drugs. But we don't know their circumstances. And, most meaningful and significant to me, are the loved ones who are left behind. The ones who may never get over that loss. The ones who have been probably suffering for years already.

What if the person who ODs is your child? Your sibling? Your significant other? Many, many lives are affected by drug use.

It is all so sad to me. And I just wish it would stop. :-(

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Yesterday on Facebook, a former client from a previous job announced that her pre-teen daughter purged all of her Justin Bieber stuff, thanks to his latest round of idiotic and, more importantly, illegal behavior. It reminded of when people gave away their Ben Roethlisberger jerseys a few years back, though I must still note Big Ben was neither arrested for nor convicted of anything.

When I was in college, I was a fan of Milli Vanilli. I found their tunes to be catchy, and Rob Pilatus, a looker. But when the truth came out about their lip-synching, my roommate and I ripped the poster of the duo right off our dorm room wall. Not that same thing at all, but sort of, maybe?

I am not a regular concert goer. In fact, if I stopped and counted, I bet I could not come up with much more than a dozen concerts I have attended in my lifetime (if I count local bands/bars, the number is much, much higher). The reasons for the lack of concerts are varied, but money and convenience are big factors.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I think that Chris Brown is a total jerk. Having volunteered at a domestic violence shelter for almost two years, about 20 years ago, I see violence against women (and towards anyone, really), in a different light than many, I suppose (not that most people would ever condone it). Believe me, it is terribly unsettling to have to photograph women with bruises on their backs. And it is practically other worldly when you see someone you know come into the shelter.

But here is the thing: I like Chris Brown's music. I would never attend one of his concerts, even if I was a regular concert goer. And I never would have bought any of his albums. That is, until just a few weeks ago, I bought one of his singles, "Don't Wake Me Up," from iTunes, as it has been one of my favorite songs for awhile (I just recently starting buying music via iTunes). And I feel guilty about it. Though, to be fair (and I know I am also rationalizing), the woman he beat up, Rihanna, got back with him some time later. I don't think they are together anymore, but I don't really know.

But I think about these things, supporting people or companies that do immoral, illegal, or just things in general I don't agree with. I consider myself to be pretty principled, but sometimes I just want to eat food from a place that may have different values than I have. Sometimes I really enjoy a show or a band, even though the actors or singers are absolute a-holes. I almost feel complicit, and I am not sure if I should.

Sometimes I don't quite get the point people are trying to make when they boycott things. I love when I read a rant about a company that is anti-gay, immigrant, veteran, woman, something, and then that person still shops at or supports other companies that many be against one of those very things, but they just don't know it.

Recently, some students at CMU dumped out a bunch of cans/bottles of Cokes in protest of Coke's sponsorship of the Olympics, which will be in the anti-gay Russia. Some students said "corporations should use their power to make change in countries that need it" and that "We targeted Coca-Cola specifically because they are something that college students can make the decision not to drink every day."

How is it Coke's fault that Russia condemns gays? And by boycotting Coke (and keep in mind they had to go out and buy Coke to be able to dump it), couldn't they ultimately hurt all the athletes? To be fair, I don't know how these sponsorships work, but I have to think that the athletes are benefiting from the sponsorships at least indirectly.

How far do you take your beliefs and values?

Let's say that there are a few pizza places in your town. You find out the Pizza Place A openly condemns gays, which bothers you tremendously (or they are in full support of traditional marriage, which you appreciate as you are very conservative). Do you no longer buy pizza there because their values are different? Let's say you do, do that. What happens when you find out that Hamburger Place A feels the same way. To be consistent, do you now boycott that place? When does it end?

I am asking, because not only do I not want to feel like a hypocrite (and I think I am kind of one because I spent $1.99 or whatever it was on that Chris Brown song), but I want to understand what others do?



Saturday, January 18, 2014

Believing is believing

Sometimes Person A will tell you something that happened, which happened to involve Person B. And then Person B has a slightly different take on it. Both believe their version is the truth. Whom do you believe?

There are people in life who lie. This happens pretty much every day, particularly with politicians. I am sorry to say, but at this point I almost refuse to believe anything that comes out of an elected official's mouth, regardless of political party. Sometimes they are just going with the whole CYA strategy. Other times they might actually be convincing themselves that they have it right. Maybe their fingers are crossed?

We also see this with (mostly college) coaches. How many of them say that this is their dream job and they are here for the kids. And then a few weeks or months, or maybe even a year, later they have found another "dream" job. (I do realize people can change their minds. And, yes, I am speaking about Penn State, now that the tables are turned on us.)

I have gone through things like this personally. With my kid, with friends, with relatives. Heck, even with things I said (and did not say). In some cases, it is clear that the people are lying. But at other times, it seems to me that people may think their version of the truth is, well, the truth. In their mind, that is how the event went down, or that is what they remembered saying.

Last year when I was subbing, apparently several children thought I had called them something which I absolutely did not. It was something I would never say to the kids, as I have always tried to build them up. Heck, I hated to even say to kids that they had a wrong answer and would often say things like (unless it was math), "Well, that is an interested perspective, but there is more to it."

This caused me great distress because at first blush, to me it meant one of the following situations had occurred: 1. These kids really had thought that is what I had said. 2. These kids just did not like me and wanted me to get in trouble. Neither scenario was appealing to me. And, in fact, when I had talked to some other parents who told me that their children had not heard me say that, that they did not believe for a second I would say that, it puzzled me even more. Fortunately, the principal knew me enough and believed I would never say that. Or so she said. :-)

Ultimately, I concluded that the kids took something I had said and turned it into something more. I can see where the comment I had said may have seemed negative, though I did not mean it that way. Instead, or maybe in addition, it was possible I had corrected a child who said something negative by repeating what that child said by saying "We don't say X"; and the children, who were loud at that point because we were doing a group activity, heard just the last part and thought I was saying that negative thing.

As I said to several parents at the time, I would never want the kids to think I had thought of them that way, because I did not. That made me sad as a teacher and as a parent. But the reality is that those parents believed their kids, and there is not much I can do about that. If my child came home and said that Mrs. X said "__" I would first grill her to see if her story stuck. But my child is pretty darn truthful, so I would probably believe her. But I also would probably do nothing about it, unless I thought it was completely egregious or heinous. I give people, especially teachers, multiple chances as well as the benefit of the doubt.

So what is my point of dredging this up, almost a year later? Well, it is sure not to stir the pot and have some parents who have read this blog in the past call me up and yell at me (as has happened to me before). If any of you are reading this, please just read my words, and choose to believe them or not. But please, please don't call me.

No, my point is that sometimes in life we really believe what others say and sometimes we ourselves perceive a situation in a certain way which may not be entirely accurate.

And I am afraid there is not much we can do about it. So we have to just agree to disagree and believe what we want.

Or not.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I hope I have not ruined her forever.

In more than one blog post, I have talked about my failings as a parent. I don't know how specific I have gotten. But one of my failings has really come to light lately. Well, I guess it is really two related things, which can be summed up with two phrases: too much and not enough

First of all, I do too much for my kid. I complain about and to J that she does little, but I never seem to follow through. For many years, she has taken her dishes to the kitchen after each meal, which was more than my brothers ever did when I was in charge of the dishes beginning in 4th grade (yes, I remember that). But that is usually where it ends. Then again, my hubby has trouble locating the dishwasher, so she may get it honestly (note that the hubby really does a lot of stuff; he just can't seem to open the dishwasher). Tonight I had her sweep the floor, and it was painful to watch. Which was exactly how it was when I asked her to do this a month ago. I guess I just don't have the patience to sit through that.

Getting up and ready on school days are even worse. I pretty much do everything for her, except for putting her clothes on and spoon-feeding her. I wake her up, pick out her clothes, get breakfast and put it away, put her lunch with cold pack in her backpack, feed the pets and take the dog out. Because we are so behind in the morning, most of the time I untie her shoes (which she leaves tied from the evening before) and then tie them once they are on because she is so slow about it.

Yes, I have created a dependent monster. But if I do not do those things, then I will never make a bus that gets me to work on time. Sigh. I know that just once I need to do everything. And, in fact, after I had snapped at her one of many times, one morning before Christmas, she told me she wanted to do everything on her own. And you know what? She did just that, which I just reminded her of just a few minutes ago. Why won't she do that more often? Well, I know why.

And in the (sort of but not really) opposite vein of my doing too much for her, here is where my other failing comes in: I have not made her do enough things. She has never been on a sports team, she has never taken dance lessons, and she has done very little social things. She takes piano lessons, but that is a solo thing. And she was in the church choir, but that fell by the wayside almost a year ago when other kids had sports to do, and J was one of a just a few kids left. In the past, I have forced her into things at the library as well as summer swim lessons, and those have worked out. But since I have been working, I have not been able to do anything like that. And now I am paying the price.

I got an email on Monday inviting staff/faculty, and their kids to a swimming/diving meet and swim clinic after. Swimming and diving are our favorite Olympic sports, so J thought that was pretty cool. But when I mentioned the clinic for the kids, her enthusiasm ended. She said she is too scared to do the clinic, particularly since I will be up in the stands. Fortunately, the woman in charge of registration was very understanding when I explained J's shyness. She told me if J ends up not doing it after the meet, that is fine. And she even asked me what she could do to help ease her nervousness. This woman is my new best friend!

If I were a betting woman, I would bet that we will go to the meet and leave. But maybe, just maybe, she will change her mind. In the meantime, I have no idea how to solve this dilemma. But if someone invents a time machine, I will definitely go back in time and make my kid do stuff!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This part of winter I had forgotten about.

I am convinced I have one of the shortest memories. Before I accepted my current job, just before Easter last year, I thought (and by thought, I really mean fretted) about summer child care, which was something I had not had to think about ever. J started out at an at-home daycare when she was about four months old and she continued going there until she went to kindergarten. I was out of work a few months before kindergarten ended, so summer care was not an issue.

But this spring, we worried and searched and ended up finding a place for J to go to this past summer with with we were mostly happy. And then school started back up again, where J also attends after-school care five days a week. So I thought we were all set. Yes, there are days off here and there throughout the school year, but between my job's nice holiday time off and a friend and a few relatives, we work it out. It helps that we know about those days at the beginning of the year.

But this week, we had something we had not had since 2011: snow days and two-hour delays! I totally forgot about those events.

Monday we got a call at about 6 a.m. for the delay. I did not completely understand why we were having it, considering the temps were dropping every hour, so why not get the kids in school while it was not as cold. Regardless, I was able to do a little work from home and then head in late, so no huge deal. Plus I had the most awesomely scary balaclava, so at least I was decently warm during my wait for the bus:

I knew about Tuesday's snow day, which was really a "Hell froze over" day, by mid-afternoon Monday. The hubby and I worked it out so I could work a little from home in the morning and then head to work in the afternoon, when he would take off. A perk about my job is that you are able to take sick time when your child is sick or if his/her school is delayed or closed, so that alleviates some stress. But because I am pretty busy this week, I did work some at home. 

Then yesterday, just before I left work, I got a call about another two-hour delay. I was a little irritated, but fortunately the hubby did not schedule anything for the morning. So he could take J in late, and I could get to work on time. But then at almost 9:30 last night, we get a call that school is now canceled. What? Why?!

Two days into the work week, I had already missed about three or four hours at a busy time. Now what were we supposed to do?! If the kid went to school in the neighborhood, I could have probably asked a mother to watch J, at least for the afternoon. But, alas, she does not (the neighborhood schools were only on a two-hour delay anyway). And, as unfortunate, we are not really good enough friends with anyone at her school to ask someone to watch J. Sure a mom or two has told me, "If you ever need help" but that was months ago; it just feels weird on short notice, particularly now that I no longer "live" at the school and see these people. Our neighbor, who is a spry senior citizen, is taking care of her friend. The hub's mom is caring for her ailing mom. And my mom is in Texas.

Considering we have just begun the second week in January, we need to come up with a plan quickly. Today, I once again, worked from home, but I am not getting in a full day. I can't keep doing that. Plus, I would think people would start to resent me. You never know.

What do parents do in these situations?!

In any event, as I declared in an email today: From here on out, there will be no more days with below-0-degree wind chills, and all snow can cover the grass as much as it wants, but all roads must  be clear.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Overall 2013 was a good year.

On Facebook this week, a handful of people said good riddance to 2013. The self-absorbed person in me was surprised to read that. What? People had bad years? But then I remembered, it is not all about me, and others have had crap handed to them.

At the end of 2009, I am pretty sure I would have called it a good year. Yes, I was laid off after almost 13 years at the same place. But I had unemployment comp, subbing, and a tiny bit of freelance work to keep us going, and, more importantly, I got to spend time with my kid! But, just as significant in my mind, both the Steelers and the Pens won championships! That was seriously such a fantastic year for Pittsburgh sports. I still smile when I think about it.:-)

I don't have strong feelings about 2010-2012. I don't recall anything too great or awful; and nothing really significant must have happened. Oh, wait, I just remembered now, my mom was sick in 2010. But, hey, she got better! I guess time really does diminish some memories.

When I look back at 2013, I will most remember my getting a job that I like and am good at. Because that really trumps everything else, including a lot of car repairs, my gaining almost 10 pounds, my seeing my family a lot less, the Pens choking, and the Steelers, once again, finishing .500 and not making the playoffs. Which reminds me: The Pirates had a winning season and were in the playoffs! Yeah, that pretty much wipes out the disappointment of the Steelers and the Pens underachieving.

I have no goals for 2014. No resolutions to make, because I will surely break them. I fully intend to start eating better (mostly less!) and exercising a little more, but that has little to do with the time of year. I have no control over the sports teams I love. I cannot predict the economy and if I will still be employed by the end of the year. The hubby's job (well, the company he works for) has been shaky for years. If you think you have it bad, how about not even getting an email from the boss wishing you a happy holiday and/or thanking you for all your hard work this year? No party, no card, no gift whatsoever. The employees in the office (the hubs works from home, several counties away) had to pay for their own pizza Christmas Eve! One would think a half-decent boss could take one, maybe two, entire minutes to send a generic email to everyone. I don't think I have to write another sentence about that.

I hope all of you have a great 2014 that ends up being better than 2013. 

Thanks for reading!