Friday, June 26, 2009

Causing me to Pause

Yeah, Michael Jackson is dead. I briefly alluded to his "Thriller" in a Facebook comment; I also referenced a red pleather disco bag that a grade school friend had and I wanted. I can still see the likeness of his face etched on that bag, complete with the word, "Thriller." That memory has got to be at least 25 years old, if not older. I don't want to think about it.

Then my brother made a comment on his Facebook in regards to a writer's comment about Michael Jackson being bigger than Elvis. My first reaction was to disagree, and I wrote a long blog about it, and then I walked away from the computer to think about what I had written. Now I am back, with the benefit of four hour hindsight, and I think Elvis will always be bigger Michael Jackson. Yes, Elvis died of a drug overdose, and like so many other famous celebrities, painkillers became his drug of choice when the pressure of fame became too much for him to handle. Elvis did have some erratic behavior (the visit to Nixon in a sparkly jumpsuit), but at the end of the day, it was Elvis and his Memphis Mafia behind the gates of Graceland. If there was weirdness going on, it was a well kept secret.

Michael Jackson? To say his life was a carnival freak show is to speak ill of the dead, but a spade is a spade. If you look at the psyhchological parameters for abnormal behavior, Mr. Jackson is Exhibit A. The chimpanzee, the hyperbaric chamber, the plastic surgery and the disappearing nose. I have to agree with a radio commentator: I think the man was incredibly sad. As a result, he dulled the pain with behavior that most normal people could not understand. And then came the molestation charges. The trial ended before a jury could reach a verdict in regards to the accusations charged against him, and some saw the settlement as an admission of guilt, washed away with a pay off. Others saw the settlement as a wise business decision that would be cheaper in the long run. I think the spectrum of public tolerance is pretty wide, but when it deals with the abuse of a child, bar the door. A nose job? Forgiveable, everyone in Hollywood has had some work. The chimp? Meh, an exotic pet. A molestation charge? Damned forever. Even if he was found innocent, the specter would always loom: he got off because he was famous. I personally believe he got away WITH A LOT because he was famous. Remember the baby dangling incident?

And the more I think about Elvis, the more I think about how incredible the Elvis machine is in regards to marketing his likeness. Priscilla Presley was genius in handling her daughter's affairs, and if anyone has visited the vast complex across the street from The King's home, you know exactly what I mean. I personally don't need a t-shirt or a mug or a cookbook emblazoned with his likeness to show my admiration for the man and his music, but there are some who do. I only own his greatest hits. I know the man can sing, but I will probably buy some sort of memorabilia when I am in Memphis in a few weeks. A little taste of home, if you will, perhaps a magnet for my refrigerator, and I will justify my purchase saying that this enterprise is a testament to those who love Elvis, constructed by his loved ones.

Who is going to create the Michael Jackson machine? The living one certainly self-destructed a long time ago. Perhaps the better question is, will there be one created? Will there be a giant, vast complex across from Neverland Ranch where you can buy a t-shirt or a coffee mug or a stuffed chimp named Bubbles? Unfortunately, I think there will be. I am steeling myself for the t-shirts with his likeness and his birth and death date, because someone out there is going to make money on him, and in our world, that is all that matters. The insatiable need to peer at the train wreck, to learn his secrets, to twitter about the children will all translate into dollar signs for someone. It may be family driven, it may not be, only time will tell, and it will be measured by the volume sold.

Again, why does anyone want to be famous?

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Working Motherhood

Lucas has started going to a babysitter a few days a week. The Rev. has his hands full with visits and planning. I have my hands full with shuttling back and forth between the store and school. We finally had to buckle and arrange for someone to watch him so we can get stuff done. I admit: I can't do it all. My apologies to those who thought I could. A definition of working motherhood: consciously deciding not to do the dishes so that you can play with your son. The dishes will be in the sink tomorrow. Lucas pushing a pink carpet sweeper around while holding a cookie and wearing a diaper is temporal.

Working motherhood. Sigh. I ask Lucas, "Where's Mommy?" He points to The Rev. and says, "Daddy!" Thanks, kid, why don't you twist that knife a little deeper into my chest? He is in good hands with Aunty Treva, someone with whom he is familiar, and she loves him like her own, but I still feel the guilt, the nagging voice that I am not doing enough. It gets worse at night, when I am trying to put him down, and he fights sleep until The Rev. can come home and say prayers with him and sing "Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadows." For those of you who don't recognizie the title, it is a hymn, not a vampire melody. And I think it is a lovely sight to see daddy and son cuddled together in the chair, a sippy cup in the crook of Lucas's arm, as he drifts off to sleep.

My mother was here recently, and she noticed I let Lucas do something that seemed out of character for me. I can't recall what it was, maybe it was giving him some jellybeans after he had brushed his teeth, or something insignificant, and she asked me why I let him do that. "Working mother guilt," was my pat answer. She really didn't have a response for it. I used to teach in a preschool, and we would cluck and murmur about the lunches that kids would be given, or the fact that their shoes had worn out and they had not been replaced yet. I understand now the frazzled sense of trying to get it all done, and sometimes it is a-okay for a kid to eat bologna three days in a row, or wear the socks he wore yesterday. He's happy. He knows we love him. He can get clean socks out of the laundry basket.

I don't know what it means to be a stay at home mom. I don't consider my maternity leave a period of stay at home mom-hood. I was out for 8 weeks. We rarely left the house because he was nursing every two hours, and my one anxiety was nursing in public. I know, I know, we live in an enlightened culture; it is such a natural thing to do; I live in California for crying out loud, but I let me tell you, my life was made exponentially easier when Lucas took to a bottle. It got easier when he started eatin table food. It got a little easier when he became more mobile. It gets a little easier every day. Lucas turned 18 months yesterday, a testament to his survival of our parenting skills. So working motherhood it is, and it probably will be for a very long time, and I will continue to ignore the dishes in the sink and the unmade bed. I have more important things to do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Many people have asked me about when I made the decision to return to teaching. I cannot give you the exact time or day, but I can tell you it was made some time during the holiday crush when I had been working for nine days straight and was seriously contemplating skipping putting up the Christmas tree, again. The previous year we skipped the tree because I was nine months pregnant and tired. Last year I had an 11 month old and was even more tired.

It also had to do with California easing restrictions on teachers with out of state licenses. When we first moved to California five years ago, the state was suspicious of anyone who had not been trained or taught in their state. Suspicious to the oint of, "Hey, we have to indoctrinate you, so go back to school to take coursework on the history of California and using computers in the classroom." Plus, you had to take the CBEST, some sort of basic education test to make sure that teachers entering schools kood write reel good. And I was told that it was on an eighth grade level. Seriously, eighth grade level? So are you saying that you only want teachers who are as smart as an eighth grader? Because of all the grades I am willing to teach, there is not enough money in the world to get me to teach an eighth grade boy. I don’t need to be privy to the knowledge an eighth grade boy possesses about Carmen Electra and farts. And hello, I just paid off my very expensive, private label, liberal arts Master’s Degree from THE top ranked school of education in the country, and I wasn’t about to go back to school. I rarely pull that out, because I am not an elitist snob, but when I have to impress elitist snobs…

So, in January, I compiled my packet to send off to the state to see if I qualified for a credential. Transcripts, fingerprints, letters from my previous district all got packaged up and sent to Sacramento. In May, I got a letter from the state denying my credential because the letter stating my employment in Nashville did not state I was a full time employee. I am not kidding. Denied because the letter stated I worked for four years, but not full time for years, or even part time for that matter. I don’t know of a teacher who works part-time, do you? Another round of phone calls and another letter was sent out and two weeks later, nearly six months after I mailed off the initial packet, I received, via email, a letter stating that I was issued a credential. Hallelujah. I would like to mention that in the interim, I did interview for and was offered a job, and I was fingerprinted an additional three times because no one shares information on applicants. That, people, is your tax dollars at work.

I do realize that the Dear LORD has had his hand in this process, because I applied for three other positions and never heard a word from any of them. If the state is going to run out of money, receive a bailout, or go bankrupt, I am very thankful I scooted in the door before it is shut for long time. God is watching out for me, but he is most definitely watching out for my little one, because this mama gets her nights, weekends and holidays back. This Christmas is going to be awesome.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Back to Routine

Those of you on Facebook already know, and if you share any DNA with me, you must be living under a rock not to know. Yesterday I officially resigned my management job to accept a teaching position at a high school here in Escondido. Yeah! Considering how dour the economic outlook is in California, I am truly grateful to have this opportunity presented to me.

It is bittersweet for me, as I will just miss my five year anniversary with the company. I will also miss the generous employee discount, and the travel up and down the West coast. In my five year tenure, I made many wonderful friends, and I know I altered the path of friendship yesterday when I made those dozen phone calls. Christmas cards may be exchanged and we may talk on occasion, but I will be an outsider now, and that makes me kind of sad. For those of you who have never worked retail, and think it is all about folding sweaters and standing around looking cute, let me tell you, IT IS HARD. It is not just about folding sweaters and looking cute. It is about maintaining a house that is probably bigger than the one you are living in, and it can range from changing a lightbulb in a twenty foot ceiling to soothing a customer who thinks Fed-Ex lost her jacket only to realize two days later that it is hanging mysteriously in her closet. It is about making your numbers and being proud that you did, and not making your numbers and having to take a look at yourself and your staff to figure out how you are going to right the ship.

It is also about early bird mornings where the store is dismantled and re-assembled, and everyone remains in a state of confusion for three days because they can't find the pants "that were just on this rack two days ago." It is about decorating for Christmas in October, and passing out candy to trick or treaters in the mall, all while standing outside the store, feet from a huge sled, so that the constant in and out of candy grabbers won't ruin your conversion. It is visits from V.P.s and executives and quick bites to eat in between customers, and it is patiently listening to an older woman sob in the fitting room because she lost her husband last year and she is so lonely she wants to die.

I've learned these past five years.

But now I have a baby whose first haircut I missed because I was working. And the morning I left him to return to work, I ate oatmeal over the kitchen sink, sobbing because I was a working mother. The Rev. and I had a deal. I would stay home when the kids came. Well, the kids never came, and then one finally did, the deal had to be altered. He had the baby at his office and I went to work. "I am doing this for him, not to him," I would say over and over again, as I dragged my breast pump into my tiny office. I watched his father take him trick or treating at the mall because I was working, and I relished every minute of Christmas Day, because I knew that I would be leaving again the next day for an early round of post-Christmas bargain hunters. There were many later afternoon hand offs, as I came walking in the door from work, and The Rev. was walking out for a meeting or a hospital visit. Lucas didn't nap on Thanksgiving Day, because his parents were in the same room and he couldn't believe his good fortune. Truly, something to say grace about.

So, now it is time to embrace a routine, and weekends off, and the holidays. No more missed haircuts or church events, and I could not be happier. The Rev. and I just watched a movie this week, and the main character narrated a great line, "You go back to visit, and it looks the same, and it smells the same, and the people are same, but you realize that you are the one who has changed." And that bittersweet summation of life is so true. I have changed, but I know these past five years happened for a purpose, and I am looking forward to being a better wife, mother, and teacher.