Little Legacies

August 4, 2006

Victoria is on the phone with my mother right now. She is telling her about her first sewing project. She is actually a little late in starting this. It was the summer I turned seven when I began sewing. I did an embroidery pig. It was pink, and I was very proud of it. When I finished it, my mother took me down the road to the little country grocery store where I showed it off to Audrey, the proprietor, and was treated to a double dip of the best peach icecream I’ve ever had in my life. After that pink pig, there was no stopping me.

I am not an accomplished seamstress. I have sewn curtains and made some clothes for Victoria and me–some quilts–some pillows. None of them are remarkable. None of them would win an award. But I’ve never doubted I could do it. It’s part of a legacy.

I watched my Granny sew EVERY SINGLE DAY but Sunday. She had to for exercise to keep her arthritis in check. She did most of her sewing by hand, but also had an old fashioned treadle sewing machine. She would pump the big, square, wrought-iron pedal with her right foot while my brother and I crouched on the floor and watched. Sometimes, if the machine wasn’t threaded, she would let us pump the pedal for fun. When she died at the age of 72 in the summer of 1985, she had never owned an electric sewing machine. She had several strokes over the course of a few months. After the first one, she was still able to speak. . .and she began sewing again. I have something she made during that time. The stroke had happened in the left hemisphere of her brain, so she was paralyzed on the right side and had to sew left handed. The stitches are uneven, and staggered, and each one was difficult for her, but she did it. She couldn’t help herself–she knew she had to sew.

I watched my mother sew–embroidered shirts, a flash card bag for me that I still have, new curtains every couple of summers for my room, patches on jeans, holes in well-worn shirts, more dresses and skirts than I can remember because I ALWAYS wanted my skirts much, much longer than the fashion of the day. She would cross-stitch, sew on plastic canvas, didn’t matter. . .a needle and some thread and she was good to go.

I have made some new skirts for school this year. I have decided if I cannot keep my 6th graders awake with my lessons, I will keep them awake with my clothing. Victoria and Thad hear me sewing. . .the hypnotic whir of stitching a straight seam at break-neck speed. . .or threading the bobbin so fast you think it might just fly off the machine. They stand, transfixed, and say, “Mommy, HOW do you DO that?” And I remember my brother and me asking my mom the same question.

We each have our own set of familial idiosyncrasies–quirks and preferences that apply only because of DNA. Some of them are useful, some annoying, some habit, all touchstones of identity. My husband had never EVER seen anyone make toast like me until we got married. (A pat of butter in each corner and one in the middle–cooked in a toaster oven so it’s toasted on top and soft underneath. My father-in-law says I eat my toast raw.) My Granny made it that way, so Momma made it that way, so I make it that way, and that’s the way Victoria likes it best–even though her blasphemous Daddy has tried to convert her to pop-up toast time and again.

Little legacies. . .we pass them on every day as a matter of course. We don’t think of what they are, but they all weave together to make this tapestry of home and family that we carry with us. Enjoy your own little legacies today.

Post Two. . .in which I digress, sort of

Okay. . .after my brain tiredness of the day, I decide to do some blog surfing. I normally stick to my regular rounds. . .but on someone’s comments I saw “Faster than Kudzu” as a link. Well, the name caught my fancy, so I headed on over and found something that made me read more, and led me on a nice little walk down “you and weird 6th grader dude ain’t got it so bad.”

Go here, here, here, and then here to see why you just THOUGHT your day wasn’t so hot. Of course. . .I’m sure this gal would say hers could have been worse too. So if something really tragic has happened to you, then this is small potatoes. But if you dropped a new jar of pickles in the floor and glass and pickle corpses and pickle juice flew all into a freshly laundered basket of lace underthings (dropping the new jar of pickles=non-fiction, lace underthings=hypothetical. . .I wear cotton), or if your husband came home in a foul mood and one of the children threw up and you bounced a check, then this should make you feel better.

No Child Left Behind

If you don’t actually know what “No Child Left Behind” entails, don’t feel badly. I don’t know what all it entails either. The people who wrote the legislation don’t even know what it entails, because things with that law are still a little fluid.

What I know is that I am a teacher. . .and it has long been my goal that no child be left anywhere they aren’t supposed to be–whether that is in the wrong grade, in the cafeteria, or at the museum after a field trip. That being said. . .

I keep on finding inconsistencies in things that we are supposed to be doing for children. SOME of the inconsistencies are “oversights” or “too much too fast” or “too little too late.” Some is that people simply are not doing their job. The former happens to all of us. The latter is turning me into a watch dog for middle school aged children.

I taught a kid two years ago. He’s a weird kid. He had REALLY thick, REALLY long, jet black hair. He “cussed” like a sailor. He drew pictures of naked women (and did a darn fine job, I might add) in his history journal. He still has the hair. . .I’ve not been privy to the other two things in the last two years. He is also BRILLIANT when it comes to reading. He can absorb and regurgitate a very thick, very detailed novel and do some quality anime drawings that go along with it. He has been commended on the reading portion of TAKS the past the past four years. He is HORRIBLE in math. . .and failed it in7th grade. He also failed 7th grade Texas History. I found out the other day that he has been placed in a “reading workshop” class. That is a class for kids who either failed reading TAKS or are 3 grade levels below reading. He’s not even 3 grade levels above in reading. . .he’s several more.

I began investigating why he had been placed in reading workshop. I started by e-mailing the counselor to see if he had, in fact, failed 7th reading TAKS. He had not. He HAD failed 7th grade math and Texas History. It was then that I found out he had been placed in a reading workshop class as “punishment–his consequence” for NOT attending summer school for Texas History. He did attend for math. Now, I found that a bit odd. First of all, you’re wasting this kid’s brain power. Secondly, you are taking a seat in a class that should go to someone else and/or adding a kid to a teacher’s load that doesn’t belong there. Well, I investigated further and higher up and found that it was, indeed, the decision of the retention board that this child should be punished for not attending summer school but COULD be placed in a different class at semester based upon his performance. I decided that I would make a lesson plan for him to do in reading workshop if I had to. . .read and outline To Kill a Mockingbird. . .or read “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O.Henry and draw a comic strip of it. He’s in my mentee’s class, so I have some leverage.

Alright. So I taught this kid upper level reading AND had him in homeroom and was one of the FEW teachers not completely weirded out by him. We hit if off. I didn’t always yell at him. He never drew pictures of naked women in my class. . .he did curse occasionally, but never AT me. He still speaks to me in the halls. So I find him today and say,
“Dude, what’s up with you being in reading workshop?”
He says, “It’s a mistake, but don’t get me out.”
“Why not?”
“Well, it’s an easy 100, and I have friends in there.”
“It’s actually NOT a mistake. You’re in there because you didn’t go to summer school for Texas History.”
(Totally shocked) “They said I wouldn’t be punished for that.”

WHOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAA. Hold on. . .WHAT????

“What do you mean ‘They told you’?”
“Well, I signed up for it in summer school, but there weren’t enough kids to make the class, so they called and said I didn’t have to take it since there wouldn’t be a class, and I wouldn’t be punished for it.”
“What were you GOING to take rather than reading workshop?”
“Keyboarding.” (I find out later that keyboarding is for highschool credit–which will do him a lot more good since he should be in honors English classes.)

Then we have the whole why-did-you-fail-TX-history discussion. The answer was that he didn’t like his teacher. . .then we had the whole if-you-fail-the-class-you-don’t-hurt-the-teacher-who-do-you-hurt talk. He knew all the right answers blah, blah, blah. He would still RATHER be in reading workshop for his 13-year-old reasons listed above, but he NEEDS to be in keyboarding.

My ENTIRE POINT BEING. When we say “no child left behind” that means the smart kids too
. . .even if they fail math. . .even if they fail TX history. . .even if they don’t attend summer school. . .and even if they are weird. If you are going to give him a seat in reading workshop where he does not belong–then you might as well give him a seat in TX History instead–he doesn’t belong there either–but that’s what he failed!

I have made the grade level assistant principal aware of the situation. I have drafted an e-mail to the director of instruction (with whom I’ve spoken once in my investigation and hold in the highest regard) and am awaiting confirmation that I should send it.

As mortified and angry as I am about the situation, the pleaser in me. . .the “leave things along that don’t concern you” part of me is nagging away. This is not the only inconsistency I’ve found this year. This is not the only drum I’m beating. I hate to be seen as the whistle blower all the time, but I know that my responsibility is not to the administration but to the kids.

I know I’m right. I know that putting my butt on the line for this kid and stepping on several toes in the process is the right thing to do. But it’s the end of a very long day here, and I’m needin’ some support.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…………………

For some reason I can’t get spaces between my paragraphs today. . .just squeeze on through.)
Today I discovered that a very dear friend had removed her blog. . .her ENTIRE blog. . . deleted. . .gone. There were many reasons for this (since I called her to find out WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING ON!!!). What it boiled down to was this. . .it was causing strife of some sort. . .there was a concern that it wasn’t “the real world.” Well, I’m sure that some here on blogger.com ARE living out a fantasies, but I’m just as sure that the blogs I visit are the real deal, thank you very much. You people couldn’t be makin’ all this stuff up.
I’m sure we’ve all wondered from time to time about this whole “blawging” thing. (I borrowed “blawg” from Boomama, ’cause, as I’ve said before, I HATE the word “blog.”) Boomama recently pondered the same on her site. . .and below is part of the comment I left there. (Those of you who have known me a long time will not be surprised to see that it is more of a manifesto rather than a mere comment.)
“I think the popularity of blogging is this. . .you can write about what you want, how you want, when you want. You can write about what you think–your feelings–your ideas. . .and since it’s mostly “anonymous” (I only gave my web address to friends I know love me no matter what), there is no real risk. Plus–you can get that cognitive stimulation with absolutely no money involved while in the comfort of your own home. Let’s face it–a lot of people wouldn’t have this many friendships were it not for cyberspace. We are limited on time and resources due to the hectic lifestyles we live in these modern times. So blogging is attractive–especially to women–because we can connect with others. . .I found you when my friend Sarah linked to your story about your mom and the fish camp (still laughing over that one). I think blogging is like the world in general. We’d like all the people we meet to be nice and kind and loving and Christ-like, but they aren’t. We’d like for everyone to get along and not be drama queens and agree with us all the time and love us no matter what, but they don’t. It’s the nature of humanity. . .I have also pondered the wisdom of blogging. . .It may be a fad–if you want to call it that. I don’t think we’d call quilting bees a fad–but we don’t have them any more. They were a way for women to do hard work together while enjoying each other’s company. Our lives are still the same–but now the hard part is too many choices and too many options. Blogging offers us a time to slow down, reflect, laugh, read, and enjoy the company of others.”
The modern day quilting bee indeed. . .except now rather than being able to chat while we make quilts that will keep our families from freezing to death, we are chatting to keep our souls from freezing to death. We are trying to figure out a way to keep connected in these harried times that we call the 21st century, and we are linking the world together through common threads.
I think there are times when we all wonder what is real and what isn’t. . .or is it really wise to be taking our innermost thoughts, writing them down, then sashaying them out into cyberspace where friend and weirdo alike can view them at their leisure.
I guess the conclusion that I’ve come to in my own ponderings is this. . .not only is it fine. . .it’s great. I have met new people, been privy to new thoughts, laughed a whole, WHOLE lot, gotten back in touch with friends from the past, and actually began writing down my thoughts again. I’ve also see others who have been touched through the whole “blawging” community. . . mothers sharing triumphs and tragedies, prayers being lifted for stranger and friend alike, marriages being worked on and hopefully bettered/saved, and I know FOR A FACT that there is someone who will be attending worship service tomorrow along with their children–someone who hasn’t really been a “church” person the past few years–because of reading the comments and blogs of all the Godly women who read my humble little piece of cyberhood. I ask, what more good can be done than that?
There is also a dark side to all this blogging. . .I’ve accidentally stumbled upon it a time or two. But what in this world DOESN’T have a dark side? We just step around it, climb over it, or plunge through it to get back to the light.
So. . .thanks for the laughs, the ponderings, and mainly for letting me into your lives each day. It does me much more good than I can recount. And I hope you feel the same.

Speaking of which. . .

Well, just can’t seem to get off the “panty” theme. . .but I HAD to share this with ya’ll.

Back during inservice we had an end of day session. It was VERY crowded, we were VERY tired, and NO ONE wanted to be ANYWHERE but getting their classrooms ready or at home. We walked into our last session which was overcrowded, and to make matters worse, the presenter had an overhead up that was too small and hard to read.

Of course in a room full of school teachers from all over the district, there was lots of noise, etc. Finally Chick Presenter–also a teacher–not a big-wig–says in her most condescending teacher voice, “Okay. Everyone needs to sit down so I can begin. I’ve already lost several minutes due to scheduling conflicts. There is a warm up on the overhead (warmup is a term we use for the kids), and I expect everyone to get started on it. . .”

Well, we all kind of “looked” at each other and kept on talking–especially since we couldn’t read the “warmup” and people were still streaming in from other places.

So then she says, “I do NOT intend on talking over you the entire time!!!”

Jump back! This gal is like, my age. Anyone with any sense knows if you want people to shut up, give ’em chocolate and tell ’em a joke.

Well, a good friend of ours from another campus comes in late and sits next to us. My dept. chair–a very professional woman–looks at her and whispers, “You’d better watch out. You’re tardy.” To which the gal replies, “Yeah, one of my teachers already told me someone has her ‘big girl panties’ on today.”

Needless to say, my dept. chair and I were wishing we had some Depends, ’cause we were about to wet our pants laughing. . .and what my dept. chair doesn’t know is that some day soon she will find a beautifully wrapped gift in her box at school, and inside that box will be the biggest pair of panties I can purchase.

So now, when there’s someone who’s just a little too much, you can whisper to YOUR friend, “Guess somebody has on their ‘big girl panties today. . .'”

When the barn door’s open. . .

Well, Sarah recently posted some ponderings about how people found her website. . .so I am prepared to get all various and sundry sorts when I say the following. . .

What is up with all of these panties running amok in people’s drawers? (Dresser drawers–not underwear drawers?)

You have much better furniture than I do.

My dresser is an antique that belonged to Tony’s grandmother. . .she, I’m guessin’. . .didn’t have many panties, ’cause the top two drawers for “lingerie” are very, very shallow. Below them are two very, very deep drawers with no dividers. Therefore, my panties must be folded lest they just get lost in the t-shirts, shorts, and socks that are also in the same drawer.

Victoria has a teeny-weeny garage sale dresser and her panties share space with her pajamas and socks as well.

Thad’s “dresser” is a three drawer plastic thing that I used one year in my classroom. He is lucky. He only has underwear and pj’s together.

Tony doesn’t even have drawers OR a dresser. He has the armoire that matches my dresser and his undies rest on the top shelf with his t-shirts.

Hence, the underwear at my house needs to be folded.

And evidently we need some better furniture.

Bring on the perverts. . .I’ve used the word panties in here several times. Katie, bar the door.