There’s a scene in Hope Floats, my favorite chick flick, where the main character, Birdie, needs a job. She ends up interviewing with Dot, a girl she may not have treated so kindly in high school. As Dot tries to get a mental picture of Birdie’s capabilities, a Q & A passes between the two women. This is not verbatim, since this 1998 movie is basically impossible to find these days. Dot: How fast do you type, Birdie? Birdie: Oh, I don’t type. See, Bill worked. I was mostly home with the kids. Dot: What about computer work, Birdie? Birdie: Does not compute (flashes a smile). Birdie gets her comeuppance. Dot gets her revenge. I’ve found the most trying times in life occur when you’re caught in the crosshairs of being questioned on something you know nothing about and being expected to cough up an answer, even when you’ve done the scariest part already, the admitting you’re lost part. We Gen X folks are especially bothered by this. See, we are the one generation who took typing in high school and, all these years later, could probably operate TikTok, if we wanted to. We don’t. We know the feeling when the 8-track tape ribbon gets stuck in the stereo. Sorry about that Buddy Holly tape, Mom. We crawled around on our knees for hours looking for the plastic yellow adapter for our 45’s. We made mix tapes. We carried around 25 lb CD albums and did not hesitate to pull into the McDonald’s parking lot to change the discs in our trunks. Now, we stream like there’s no tomorrow. We are well equipped. We are lucky.
Columns & Editorials
It feels like just yesterday school abruptly ended in the early days of COVID19. In reality our students have been out of school for almost 6 months.
One of my favorite movies is The Family Stone. There, I said it. It’s one of the only favs on my list that isn’t pre 1985 or black and white. Sure, I save it for the Christmas season each year, since that’s the setting, but I also use it as a therapy tool. If I’m feeling anxious or a bit down or even just a little anti-Dina, you know, anything requiring a cathartic cry session, I’ll either watch Terms of Endearment or Stone. Diane Keaton simply nails the scared mom who isn’t scared of anything persona. I love the scene where Dermot Mulroney & Claire Danes are walking through the little postcard town, in the snow, no less. Claire’s character, Julie, is telling Dermot’s character, Everett, about a man on a little island in Alaska who cannot sleep at night because of this hole in his heart. He decides the only way to fill the hole is to carve a totem pole. Everett says he really wants to see that totem pole. Though mostly unsaid, you get the sense that the lesson laid out for the viewer is a very uncheesy version of carpe diem. Go see the dang totem pole, why dontcha? Maybe I’m telling you this now because even I am starting to feel straight jacketed these days. My work from home stuff has ceased to exist. No one wants a wedding backdrop or tablescaping or chalk art during a pandemic, you see. That’s fine, though, because we decided to integrate my mom into our household, full time. I’ve had my plate full of packing, unpacking, apartment final cleans, settling in activities, et al. And, yet, here I sit, inventing things to do. Again.
I woke up last week, at 5 am, to an unread text. This is my usual wake up time, due to an elderly pug with a faulty internal alarm. Poppy likes to wake up hard. She doesn’t care about roosters or the sun or anything but her own tummy. There’s no whining, scratching, barking – no warning. There’s just the primeval shriek. “Batman,” she screams. I know it’s hard to imagine. Go to YouTube, and type in Pug Says Batman. I feel like we need to be on the same page here. First things first, I check my phone. It helps to know what I’m dealing with, you see. If it’s 1 am, I need to scoop her and run so she doesn’t wake the other three dogs. If it’s 5, like the morning in question, I might as well grab the trifecta (phone, glasses, pj pants), and hobble into the living room with all dogs in tow. Flipping my phone over, I saw two things: 4:59 am and a bubble that read “Karen Graham – Text Message.” Hurriedly, I opened the text. Karen is my long distance BFF and a dear co-worker from my old corporate job. At first, the 1:30 am time stamp alarmed me, until I remembered she was likely in Cali, though with the life of a pandemic stage traveling sales trainer, one never knows. My breath caught in my throat as I read the text. “Just wanted you to hear it from me. Bernie died.” I couldn’t move. Then, the pug screamed Batman.
The importance of showing compliance, respect and obedience to our parents, law enforcement and other authority in our lives is the message most responsible parents teach their children to help them succeed in school and life. The arrival of COVID19 and the myth or message of the necessity of wearing a mask has sparked an alarming wave of adult rebellion that countless children are watching. My question for the adults who vociferously defy the suggested mask rules is, is this the example you want to set for your children?
I have been grounded exactly three times in my entire life. There was the time I was granted my own phone line at the tender age of 12, after I convinced my father that answering the phone like a junior manager in training (thank you for calling Ted’s Home Appliance) was ruining my tween existence. Except, I violated 8:30 pm phone curfew to talk to David McCrary and, upon discovery, tossed the slimline receiver into a beanbag in denial of my transgression. Spoiler alert: the rents saw the phone. Grounded. Then there was the time, a scant year later & the summer before high school, when I was asked, by a popular girl, no less, to go to THE MALL. “We’re all wearing tube tops & earth shoes. You do have a tube top, right?” Tube tops were not Ted’s idea of proper, nor was his daughter trying to slither out in a long sleeved shirt over a tube top. Grounded. Things went pretty well after these incidents. I was an easy kid to parent. I can say this, having had BOYS to parent. Then came 2019, my most recent offense. See, the minute my granddaughter, Chynna Rose, sees me, be that in person or via FaceTime, she skips right over the pleasantries. There’s no “Hi Didi” or “Look, it’s Didi, my amazing grandma.” Here’s what I get: Didi, you got a purple tiger? That’s when I’m supposed to whip my phone out and head straight to Pinterest to type “purple tiger” into the search bar. We look for pink snakes. We have to see orange sharks. A rainbow dinosaur gets me extra points. We can go on for ours with this digital scavenger hunt of ours. Then one day, out of nowhere, Chynna’s father, my son – the one I once grounded from my own mother’s house because he refused to tie his shoes in her presence YEARS after he learned how (she did it better), walked into the room and said, “Mom, that’s it. NO MORE PHONE.” Seems I violated the numero uno
If you have followed my column for any length of time, you probably know I am an unapologetic critic of America’s public school systems. My data-informed musings about the persistent, systematic failure of our nation’s schools are foundational to much of my writing. Despite my thoughts about the system overall, my love for my colleagues in the trenches remains. As a former public school teacher, I have tremendous respect for the many wonderful, talented educators who fight diligently for students and their families. Despite policies and rules that interfere with their efforts to serve students, most educators remain dedicated to their roles as public school teachers.
Mrs. Rasco died last week. That means nothing to most of you. To a 14 year old freshman who picked a calico fabric with a cream colored background & tiny heather pink flowers as her fabric to make the pullover blouse that would define both 1981 and half of her grade one semester, it means plenty. Frances Rasco was my Home Economics teacher. Hers was the classroom where you entered on day one, lackadaisical and borderline disrespectful, as one does with perceived blow off classes when one is a freshman, only to end the year realizing how difficult it really is to balance a checkbook, calculate caloric values of recipes, figure out how many cents per person it takes to make a meal for a family of four, and yes, how to sew a basic V-neck blouse that you then have to wear for an entire school day. In true Mrs. Rasco fashion, I remember an entire class devoted to the unnecessary act of making cake from scratch when boxed cake mix was the best thing since sliced bread, so long as you don’t tell anyone it was from a box and you add extra eggs and some sour cream, wink wink. Since I learned of her passing, I’ve been waxing poetic about that whole era and the unsung hero that was the Home Ec teacher. IMHO, as today’s kids would say, that’s what’s wrong with the world. We stopped teaching our kids how to do life. But first, let’s cook.
The academic condition of students in America is alarming. There are four million 4th graders in the United States. Three million or 75% of them cannot read proficiently. With a statistic like this, I wonder why schools focus on trivial matters that have nothing to do with literacy or other authentic learning.
5 months. It has been 5 months since the unthinkable happened. The creators of the Walking Dead teamed up with George Orwell and Dean Koontz and wrote a book about a virus that took over a globe. Heck, Isaac Asimov penned the intro and convinced us other worlds in other solar systems have been decimated, too. Stephen King was really busy, but he did a fair bit of editing. What we have here, folks, is Eyes of Darkness meets Asimov’s Guide to Earth and Space meets 1984 meets Tommyknockers meets that episode where Negan and his bat are first introduced. It’s a nightmare, or not, depending on who you ask and whether you favor Fox or CNN. And, in Texas, where we need to change our state motto to Go Big or Go to Cali, we can’t decide whether we want to go to the beach, go to a protest, or go into a bunker for the rest of the year. In the words of Zach Galifianakis as Marty Huggins in The Campaign, “Bring your brooms because it’s a mess.” One thing is clear. We, as a society, were unprepared for this pandemic. We have forgotten so many things: how to entertain ourselves, how to unlisten to people without the act of violence, and how to just breathe in a space without advertising to the world that you are just sitting and breathing in a space. For some of us, one thing is apparent. Y’all ain’t cut out for this! Others of us aren’t having such a big issue. We are the chosen ones. We are the only children of the world.
He knew it was getting real when they went after his girlfriend. The law is like that. They hit you in your soft underbelly where it hurts the most. He’d half been expecting such a reaction, however. They’d gone after many of his friends and most of his co-workers. He’d long realized it would only be a matter of time. Just last week (wait – was it only a week ago) there’d been that really odd clicking noise on his phone. Tapped? Seriously? And, that black car parked across the street by the park, hadn’t that been in the same spot for days? The few as yet to be accused friends he still had left in this world were running from him as if he were a plague – totally understandable. He did not blame them. Finally, there was nothing left to do but leave. Maybe he’d go abroad, look up Charlie, see what was shaking. Maybe he could even sweet talk Delores into going with him. One thing was for sure. There was nothing left for him here. Everything he had worked for was gone. For him, this American dream he’d chased tirelessly had erupted into the great American nightmare. Rosebud, out.
I love education and take teaching human beings seriously. The social consequences of academic failure are very costly, especially for the disabled and minority learners. To give less than our best to our nation’s learners is unconscionable and contributes directly to the failure of Americans in the global business, medicine, technology and military arenas. If we are to be the America we once were, quality education for all students is critical. Therefore, we must examine closely public education and where it is headed in America.
Finally, a day to celebrate parents of all kinds! It takes a certain willingness to choose to become a parent; a knowing that the life you are living will be forever changed. And the parents in Forney ISD are a pretty special collection. Now, we have all chuckled over the memes that showcase the “types” of parents that come through the pick-up line at school, the class parties, the sporting events, the daily office visits for forgotten supplies and lunches. However, the important thing to remember is that these parents show up for their kids because they take the “parent” job seriously.
The current climate in the United States is showing the nation perspectives of life that many may have not experienced or even considered. Some of these perspectives may be hard to see, acknowledge or imagine they are real, even though they happen every day somewhere in the United States. For those who were born and raised and work in a town or city they have never left, their perspectives can be quite limited.
“How did I get here?” Surely, that’s something you’ve asked yourself a time or two lately. Whether you look up one day and realize half a century whizzed by, or whether you just can’t fathom the luck, or the misfortune, that has fallen into your lap, we all question reality at times. That’s what I’m doing today, just sitting here and trying to retrace my life steps enough to solve this non-Covid, nonrace-related dilemma. Mine is animal centric. How did I come to have four inside dogs? Don’t forget the cats. Why are there six animals living in my house? It’s probably because I’m an insane animal aficionado. Why, just yesterday I deliberately ran late to pick up my mom for her teledoc appointment because I spotted an armadillo and decided to follow it FOR TWENTY MINUTES. I could not leave and go about my day until I abandoned my truck and tracked an armadillo, like a Lewis & Clark guide. Don’t worry. I didn’t touch Mr. Nine Banded. Did you read that Colorado State research paper, too, the one about proof the leprosy that 9 banded armadillos carry can spread to humans, especially in the south? It’s just that armadillos remind me of tiny dinosaurs who eat tons of things I don’t like, namely fire ants, aka armadillo caviar. But, back to my motley crew. Let’s take Poppy the Pug, for instance. No, don’t take her. I’m not ready, yet.