I Just Called to Say…Oh No He Didn’t!

What up, Peopleaneous! What do y’all think of your new spelling: Peopleaneous? Does it sound too much like People Anus? I’m thinking the extra l in peoplleaneous may draw our eyes away from the anus part. In other news, welcome to my brain. Because this is the kinda shit that I get preoccupied with.

I don’t particularly feel much better today. In fact, I feel like steamed shit with a side of mashed shitatoes. But for some reason, this memory popped into my head. A good one. From a few years ago. And I’m gonna share it with ya, peopleaneous. (There is an “e” in there that should make it clear I’m not saying anus. I’ve just ruined it forever, haven’t I?)

Raised by the Streets

A couple of you are aware that I was a teacher for a brief time. It’s been mentioned once or twice in comments, but I don’t think I’ve ever brought it up in a post. I may speak to that more in depth later, but for now it’s only important to lay the groundwork for this delightful little episode in my life.

At the time of this incident, I was teaching third grade. This was in a ghetto school in a ghetto neighborhood in a ghetto town in a ghetto parish (yes parish, not county…Louisiana, remember?). And no, I’m not using the word “ghetto” loosely. I went to teach there on purpose, because I spent a large chunk of my childhood raised in the ghetto. And I know, first hand, that it’s those kids that need people who give a fuck about them in their lives. The ones in privileged areas (or any area that isn’t in abject poverty)? Their chances of having people give a shit about them are exponentially higher than those raised in the hood.

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So yeah. That’s where I was. And fuckin’ hell, I loved those kids to death. Talk about spirit and will. It takes boatloads of that to survive in that environment. And man, you can learn a thing or ten from kids like that. Those little people remain some of the best people I’ve encountered in all of my thirty-something years.

Some most of my colleagues openly gave Not One Fuck about those kids. They were there for the paychecks and the summers off. And believe me, the kids know which teachers respect them and which ones don’t. And I have not one ounce of pity for the teachers that give not one fuck. They deserve the hell they’re put through. Yeah, I said it. They fucking deserve the absolute shitstorm those kids subject them to.

You have to give respect to get it. Earn it. Fucking earn it. You want kids to respect you? Then you sure as hell better start by respecting them. You’re a fucking teacher: teach respect. I don’t care if teaching is your profession or not…all adults model behavior for children, wittingly or no. Teach them respect.

Whew. I got really. Really worked up just then. Seriously, I can feel my heart racing. I’m gonna hop down off that soapbox…for now…and get to the tale. I just wanted  you to know that this kid I’m about to tell you about is a straight up street kid, raised by drug-addicted criminals and bounced from crowded shack to crowded shack. Little sleep, malnourished, serious anger problems, semi-violent tendencies…this is the nine year old I’m talking about. And damnit, I loved him. And you would have, too.

Class Clown

Because he wasn’t just those things. Yes, those were part of the shaping forces in his life. But you know what else he was? He was curious, clever, mischievous (in non-sinister ways), and damn did that boy love attention. Positive attention. He was my class clown, by a landslide. And I loved it. He was great comic relief and brightened the kids’ moods so many times.

Sometimes it was disruptive, yes, and we would have one-on-one talks about his behavior. And he always knew I respected him. They all knew that.

So this one particular day, I had just finished up a lesson and was moving on to the next subject when Jamal (made-up name but similar to his own) raised his hand. I ignored it. (Dude, kids raise their hands all the fucking time. Sometimes you gotta ignore that shit, or you’ll never get anything done. Also, the class’ behavior had been particularly difficult, and I was not in the best of moods.) After a bit, he started waving it. I gave him the look, and he stopped. But it wasn’t long before he got going again – then he added a little whine to it and lurched forward, plopping his upper body across his desk and pathetically waving his hand over the edge. It was so fucking dramatic…I was annoyed but also amused. I had to fight to hide my amusement.

~

It had gotten so disruptive at this point that I had to address it:

Me: Jamal, now is the time to sit up and knock it off if this isn’t important.

Jamal: It’s really really important.

Me: *gives him the look*

Jamal: I swear! It’s for real this time! (His eyebrows are raised and his face all scrunched up in that pathetic little “I’m about to start bawling” look.)

Me: *sigh* Alright, what is it? Do we need to talk at my desk?

Jamal: *shakes his head and slowly begins to extend his arm toward me* Ms. _____?

Me: Jamal… (I’m being all stern, but he’s winning. And he knows it.)

Jamal: I just called (he’s singing, y’all…he’s singing)….*slowly rises from his seat and fully extends his arm out to me*….to say, I love youuuuuuuu.

The class erupts in laughter and applause, which fuels Jamal’s fire. His smirk has been growing, and now it’s a full-on grin.

I’m screwing up my face, trying So. Fucking. Hard. To keep a straight face and not burst out laughing. But I suck at that. They know it, too. I like them too much.

Jamal: And I mean it…from the bottom…of myyyy hearrrrrrt.

And then I lost it. I’m simultaneously laughing and crying, doubled over and shaking my head. The class has lost it, too.

“Oh no he didn’t!”
“Jamal! You better sit yo ass down!”
“Jamal! You made her cry!”
“Naw, she laughin’!”
“Boy you ain’t no Stevie Wonder! Sit DOWN!”
“Shhhh SHHHHHHH she’s gonna get us!”
“Boy if you make us lose party points, I’m whoopin’ yo ass after school!”

Meanwhile, he’s gotten up from his desk and moved toward the front of the class to continue his crooning. Then he hugs me.

~

It all happened really fast, and it took a few minutes for everything to calm down and get back to lessons. But everyone’s mood improved beyond that point. (Hell, the fact that they knew Stevie Wonder was a marvel in itself.) Yes, Jamal and I had our umpteenth talk about appropriate classroom behavior. And yes, I had to give him a mark on his conduct, because if you don’t stick to your classroom rules, the kids own you. And once that happens, good luck reverting the classroom dynamics.

Anyway. He told me I looked sad. And he knew I was mad at them for being intentionally difficult that day. And he said, “Ms ____, when you upset, we all upset. I had to fix it.”

This little boy, written off by so many because “he’s ghetto” made such an impact on me that I will never forget him. I’m tearing up now, just thinking about him. He’s one of the ones that my principal – I wish I were joking – said “we just holdin’ ’em for prison. Stop tryin’ so hard. He ghetto. They all ghetto.”

Fuck you, bitch. He’s not ghetto. He’s human. He’s a little boy who the universe won’t stop shitting on, and he needs his fellow humans to love him. To show him it’s not all a worthless pile of shit. To show him he’s not a worthless pile of shit.

~

And you know what happens when we do that? When we teach them love and respect?

They sing.

~

Housekeeping: Finishing up the 3-day quote challenge!

Here goes. Y’all ready for my final quotes for the challenge? I hope so. And I equally hope you’re ready to share more with me!

~

This one is quite special to me. I’ve always loved the poem – look, I know poems aren’t exactly what is meant by “quote.” But fuck it, just look at it as an extra-long quote that’s kinda sorta like a poem. Cuz it’s a fuckin’ poem! – but it became even more special to me in college. One of the best professors in the world would read it – and cry – at least once in every course he taught. For decades. The world is a sadder place with his absence. I hope I can live up to the dream he had for all of his students…to Carry the Message to Garcia (oooo another post idea) and to take the road less traveled by.

The Road Not Taken
~Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

That last part always choked him up, my professor. And he always ended with silent tears weaving down the crevices of his age-worn face. He was so dear to me and to so many others. He certainly took the road less traveled by, and I hope that I will in the end as well.

~

And last, but certainly not least. I know I’ll take the road less traveled by, because:

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And that has made all the difference.

Starlight Blogger Award

Drew at From the Machine gave me the Starlight Blogger Award. You’ll find a good blog there and a new friend if you haven’t met already. Please go for a visit.

This one has such a special description, so I told Drew I would do it. But I’m going to modify it (even though I know damn well the rules say no tinkering).

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The description states that the giver is “to think at the light emanating from the stars, the ones that truly touch your soul with their work, the ones that are the light for you, a true starlight blogger.” I know sometimes we just throw names out there, because nominating can be such a fucking chore. Especially for someone like me who works herself up into a mess of emotions even thinking about picking people (because that always means leaving shit tons more OUT). So the fact that Drew picked me for this actually does mean something to me. Look at that description, for heavens sake. I can’t live up to that. But I’m flattered. Truly. And Drew is a great person…so please go check out From The Machine.

As for the nominating, I’m not doing it. I know the point is two-fold: to acknowledge bloggers who are important to us as well as to help spread the word about blogs that you may not have discovered yet. But there are heaps of ways to do that. And as for acknowledging, I hope the ones of you who are “starlight” for me already know that you are. Because I hope I’ve been showing that to you with my words. But I can’t do the nominations thing – y’all have no idea how much anxiety I have over picking and choosing and leaving people out and hurting feelings. Maybe it’s all the serious rejection issues I have. Let’s chalk it up to that. Blah. Enough of that.

This is a happy, touching award. And those of you who touch my soul know it. At least I hope you do.

Three Questions from Drew:

  1. If you could go back in time 10 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be? Let’s see. ONE? I think it would be good for me to hear: Don’t forget you’re going to be dead one day. You get one life. One life. Get in the driver’s seat and drive, because the people currently driving aren’t concerned about your needs. Take control, because if you don’t…you’ll still be only riding shotgun ten years from now, struggling to take control of your own life. If you think everyone else deserves to be happy, then you’re a fucking hypocrite to believe that you’re the one exception to that rule.
  2. Who is someone that has profoundly inspired you in one way or another? Mamaw. She taught me that no matter how poor you are. How friendless you are. How many illnesses your body is assulted with. No matter how many holes and leaks there are in your floor and ceiling and life. No. Fucking. Matter. What. You can still strive to be positive and be an extremely positive force in the life of others. You can always give, because the best gift you can give another is the gift of self. Thank you mamaw. And The Aussie. To never quit. To never give up. To always strive for personal growth. To never let the darkness of your mind keep you so far down that you give up on life. To never lose your sense of humor. To accept help. And to always be there for those you love. No. Matter. What. Thank you Aussie.
  3. What is your favorite film (or top 5, if choosing just one is impossible)? Uh. Shit. The Brothers Bloom. Into the Wild. The Goonies. The Fountain. Oldboy. Howl’s Moving Castle. Good Will Hunting. Fight Club. The Machinist. Burn After Reading. Grave of The Fireflies. Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Waltz with Bashir. The Breakfast Club. The Count of Monte Cristo. Yeah, y’all. I can’t pick just one or even five! Grrrr.

About Awards:

I’m not sure how many more of these I’ll do, if any. Here’s the thing: I love doing them. And they’re super flattering and actually mean more to me than you know to be thought of as worthy of anyfuckingthing at all. The fact that y’all are even here, reading, liking, commenting, hell my brain still hasn’t accepted it. I’m humbled and grateful, truly.

The three that I’ve done so far, plus the quote challenge, have been fun. And I also love answering the questions. But. At the same time, they do stress me out. Particularly with the nominations, a point which I’ve probably beaten to death by now. Not only that, but I don’t want to get to the point where I’m doing more of this than purging the things that are on my mind and need to come out.

I’m on the fence, though. Because I truly do have fun doing the questions and seeing y’all’s answers (hell yeah I just double apostrophed!). I mean, hell, the community is a big part of the reason I’m here. Otherwise, I’d just keep a fucking journal, right? So I’m also thinking about doing them, but maybe designating certain days for it. Like doing any unfinished ones every other Saturday or something. Anyone have any thoughts they’d like to share on awards and how you do or do not handle them?

The Velveteen Rabbit

I made brief mention of The Velveteen Rabbit in a previous post. There, I gave you the following quote:

From The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams:

“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

As mentioned before, this is one of my all time favorites. Right up there with The Wind in the Willows, Small Pig, Charlotte’s Web, and the list goes on. I don’t mention The Hobbit, because of course! That’s got to be the most important book to me as a child. So it probably deserves its own post someday. What children’s books am I missing? Which made the biggest impact on you?

After I made that post, I made a serendipitous find. A velveteen rabbit pendant! Ohmygoshohmygosh I had to have it. So I bought it.

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It’s perfect, and I’m wearing it right now. It’s such a sweet little reminder of the joys and sorrows of life and love and belonging. What it means to age gracefully in the company of loved ones. A reminder to embrace our “flaws” and appreciate them for demonstrating the character we’ve earned through the struggles and joys and myriad experiences of life. Embrace them. They’re visual reminders, signposts, of what made us who we are, in the end.

As for The Velveteen Rabbit, you may read the story here. But I encourage you to purchase your own copy, particularly if there are any children in your life that need to be introduced to it. My copy was stolen long ago. One of these days, I’m gonna buy a supernice one. Just for me. Because. Well because maybe I deserve it.

Don’t Call Me…

Daughter.

Not fit to.
You made baths difficult to take.
It’s impossible to soak for long before memories surface.
Memories of you. Of what you did.

You gave me hang-ups about father-daughter relationships.
Why is that little girl pulling away from her father?
Does he play bath time games, too?
Does he let his dick hang out, then beat you when you notice?

Why is that teenaged girl walking four feet behind him?
Is she worried he’ll pinch her ass if she walks in front?
Maybe he’ll grab her chest and say “nice tits,” giving a lingering squeeze.
Maybe he’ll ask if she has any fuckable friends who can stay the night.

~

Sister.

Did he teach you how to do that?
Did he do things to you, too?
Is that why you did what you did to me?

How about you, little sister.
Who taught you?
How to be such a raging bitch.
How to be such a big-mouthed hypocrite.
How to be such a fucking liar. And thief.

How about the both of you?
Who would abandon their own sister.
For turning her back on him.

Why should I give a fuck?
That the son of a bitch has cancer.
Why should I scurry to his side in his eleventh hour?

I live with guilt.
Because of what he did.
Because of what you did.
I’m the one who feels guilty.
I’m the one who’ll burn for not being there for him now.

But I won’t.
I can’t.
I don’t have a family now?
Well that’s your doing. Not mine.

Fuck you. Fuck all of you.

~

Daughter.

Not fit to.
I trusted you.
You were my friend. My comfort.
What mother abandons her daughter? Repeatedly?

You were brave. Strong.
You left him, though he threatened murder.
You risked it all and left.
I thought you were so brave.

If you were like you are now, then.
You wouldn’t leave.
You’d take the beatings.
You’d allow our abuse to continue.
And you would stay.

And now you want expect me by his side.
Now you write me off.
Ungrateful daughter.
She who refuses to grow up and get over it.
Abandoning me.
For him.

Fuck you. Fuck all of you.

~

Friend.

Lover.

Wife.

Yeah. I can’t do those right now.
They’re fresher.
Newer.
Rawer.
Hurtier.

~

This isn’t meant to be poetry. I’m aware it’s not a poem. This is just how my thoughts came out. The structure I needed to write it in. The line breaks. The sections.

I’ve spent all weekend rarely straying from bed. I’ve slept through most of it. I wanted to clean house. Tend the garden. Do laundry. Dishes. Perhaps go to the park. Quite frankly, I couldn’t be fucked to leave the warm safety of the bed.

Heh. Safety. It’s funny I should use that word, because I haven’t felt safe at all. I probably would have felt safer had I followed through on the things part of me wanted to do. But that part of me was far too small and weak this weekend.

When I wasn’t using the bathroom or fetching something to drink, I was in bed. Cuddling a cat or a pillow. Sleeping and crying and crying myself to sleep.

And I couldn’t stop dreaming. A couple of the dreams were weird and funky and cool. But mostly they were painful and depressing. I couldn’t stop dreaming about them. I couldn’t stop dreaming about how they fucked me up and then about how much I’ve fucked it all up myself.

I want to be strong. During the week, I am strong. Even if it’s superficial. I’m strong at work. No one knows I’m depressed. No one knows I struggle with thoughts of inadequacy. Failure. Worthlessness. Death. Every. Fucking. Day.

I smile. I laugh. I crack jokes. I make people laugh. They think I’m witty and clever and smart and bashful and sweet. They see me blush at the slightest things, but then crack crude jokes with the guys. They see me master new software programs and help veteran workers figure things out. They see me attempting to unify departments and repair interdepartmental relations. They see me as an asset. At least these are all things I’ve been told there. At work.

But inside I’m dying. Friday afternoon, I got sadder and sadder as the clock ticked closer and closer to five. Everyone was excited, sharing weekend plans and asking each other about theirs. I dreaded the inevitable moment(s) when I’d be asked about mine. I smiled, gave a small laugh and averted my gaze, “Oh, nothing much, really. Looking forward to some downtime.”

And then five o’clock hit, and the lump in my throat grew to large to dislodge. I shook and cried all the way home.

I made sure the cats had food.

I watered the garden.

I fed myself.

I surfed blogs with The Amazing Race on in the background.

I went to bed. And didn’t really get up again until around noon today. Sunday. I’m writing this now, in bed. See, I’m still in bed. But at least I’m awake. That is a marked improvement from the rest of the weekend.

And the feeling that usually befalls me on weekends like this has struck. I regret it. Though I can’t turn back time, I regret it. I’m not necessarily beating myself up. I had neither the strength nor the desire to do anything differently. But I’m sad that that was my truth. I’m sad that I couldn’t enjoy these beautiful fall days. I’m sad that I imprisoned myself this weekend. I’m sad that I can’t stop being sad. And I’m sad that having work to look forward to in the morning is the only positive thing I’ve gotten out of this weekend. I don’t even really like my job anymore. And it makes me sad that it’s the only normal thing I have in my life. That it’s the only thing I have to look forward to. I’m sad that one day as I look back on this so-called life, I’ll only be able to say, “At least I had work. The only time I didn’t lie in bed thinking about how much I deserve to die was when I was at work.”

How fucking pathetic.
What a fucking joke.
What a fucking waste of life.

Life is precious.
Life is beautiful.
We only get one.

Stop fucking wrecking it.
Make it meaningful again.
Stop being a whiny, simpering bitch.

Get up. Get out. Live.

I’m trying.
I know it doesn’t sound like it.
But I’m trying.

I’m trying so fucking hard.

I can’t go back and edit this, y’all. I can’t. Or I’ll delete everything and go back to sleep. So, while I’m trying not to apologize for shit (I’m a professional apologizer) since this is my blog and blah blah blah, I can’t resist apologizing for any egregious errors in this post. I just can’t go back and read through this.

~Stephanie

The Veggie Patch

I’ve never been a gardener, unless the kind I am in my imagination counts. Yeah…didn’t think so. I’ve always wanted to be, but I’m easily intimidated by new and (seemingly) complex ventures. Fear of failure? Check. Fear of the unknown? Check. Fear of success? Check. Fear of fear? Check. Fear of judgment and ridicule? Check. Fear of attention? Check. Fear of memories invoked? Check. Whatever. You get the idea.

I’ve always wanted to garden. Over the years, I’ve collected a handful of ideas. A handful of books. A handful of implements. A handful of dead plants. An even smaller handful of living plants.

My mamaw was a gardener. It was a real passion for her. She was mostly a flower gardener, and she was an expert with roses. She kept quite a variety of flowers, and she had no small amount of herbs. She was a container and raised bed gardener, and my how green was her thumb. She had the touch, the intuition, the love. It was a joy to see the fruits of her labors. Speaking of fruits, she also had fig trees and plum trees and one lone peach tree. One of the things that delighted me most was how she actually took pleasure in sharing the fruit with birds. She didn’t find it frustrating or maddening when she found eaten fruit decaying on the soft ground beneath her trees. Now she would get angry if she found an otherwise perfect piece with one or two peck-holes in it. That would set her right off, the nerve of those arrogant, thoughtless birds to so selfishly ruin fruit and leave it there to rot. If she could have gotten her hands on one of those little assholes, I don’t believe anyone would have accused her of being the bird lover that she was.

Sigh. I miss her.

This summer, I finally took the plunge and began my first attempt at a raised bed garden – a fall garden. I have a few potted plants on my back deck, but this was to be the real deal. And I had the grand idea of trying veggies. The thing is, I’m not even much of a veggie eater. I can be quite veggie averse, actually. But I finally said, to hell with your analysis paralysis. To hell with your fear of everything. To hell with your apathy. Let’s do this thing.

It started off well. And perhaps I’ll give you a play by play soon. I have some lovely photos of the patch in various stages – from laying out the timbers and filling it with dirt and shit and blocking it out, to my first sprouts and squirrel-dug holes and subsequent attempts to set the taste buds of those cute furry little bastards on fire with cayenne pepper.

Unfortunately, through what I suspect is a combination of things, the garden is about half-dead now. This has been our hottest summer on record. And our driest. And it was impossible to keep the soil watered enough. I also had (have) some sort of bug infestation. I don’t know what they are. I need to figure that shit out. But they’re definitely killing some of the plants that did survive. I’ve also become lazy and ceased daily removal of the copious amounts of pine straw that falls from the tree in my back yard.

Here’s what the poor thing looks like now:

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Pitiful, right? The super healthy ivy-looking thingies are sweet potatoes. The pitiful stalks front and center are what’s left of bush green beans. You can also see dead and dying peas, more dead and dying green beans and regular potato vines. Oh. And the green onions, too. They looked amazing, less so now. Are they ready to harvest? Fucked if I know. I’m still learning. Oh and that was my attempt at okra in the pots. Heh.

I lost three pumpkins. Well, one never sprouted. I lost two pumpkins. I lost two butternut squash plants. (I planted four more seeds yesterday evening. It’s probably too late, but I’m gonna try.) Uhm. What else. Oh! I may yet have a few carrots, radishes and maybe even kale and mesclun. The kale and mesclun have been struggling from the start, but they’re finally starting to show signs of growth.

Behold the radish, showing off his flamboyant stalk and struggling to survive.
Behold the radish, showing off his flamboyant stalk and struggling to survive. And oh my God, I swear to fuck those aren’t teeth in the soil behind him.

So we’ll see. I’m disappointed but proud of myself for remaining optimistic and not allowing myself to beat myself up. This is new to me. I’m learning. I’ve certainly made mistakes. And there were problems this summer that have stricken every small time gardener I know at work. So I’ll keep at it, see what happens with what’s left. And hell, I’ll start planning a spring garden, too.

Is it too late to plant garlic now? That’s supposed to be easy. And it’s one of the few things I do like. Maybe I can put some in one of the empty squares and just see what happens!

Oh gosh, the gnomes! The gnomes totally deserve their own post. But for now, here’s a sample:

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That’s Gnorman. Gnorman Gnomkowsky, guarding a much healthier garden in its early days. Hi Gnorman!