Archive for November, 2010


Several people in the faculty lounge were discussing bullying. One retired teacher said that in her day, everybody rode on the bus together and there wasn’t any bullying. Everybody played together and just got along.

A younger lady shared how her daughter had been the victim of pretty vicious tiny girl bullying in the 2nd grade in which nasty little girls laughed and whispered about her, told the teacher lies about the the little girl, stole her pencils and school work out of her desk, did things like sneaky hair pulling and kicking her on the bus and in class with teacher’s back turned (and then denying everything), and treating the other children that tried to help the little girl to the same tactics. If the child(ren) had attempted to fight back in any physical way, she would have been the one expelled from school. I wish I could say that this is an exception or an anomaly, but it isn’t.

I shared a story about bullying from my youth. I was a tall, skinny bookworm that preferred the company of my books to that of most of my (unread) peers. I was new in that particular school that year. A group of adolescent boys had run past me on the sidewalk, shoving me aside, knocking me and my books off the sidewalk, and nearly sent me sprawling. Nearly. I grabbed one by the hair, yanked him back, and whacked him across the face with my bag of books. A Steinbeck novel is not just hours of reading escapism but also makes a pretty effective weapon, along with my sci fi loves of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov! I knocked out a front tooth and served notice that the skinny alta gringa didn’t take no shit, and I had no further trouble.

I don’t think that anybody there truly understood what I was saying because I didn’t come right out and use a Powerpoint presentation with the salient points in bullet paragraphs. We have a lot more bullying in schools now because kids that are being bullied are actively prevented from defending themselves, and the strategies that are being used to stop bullies and bullying aren’t very effective. “It’s not nice to pull hair (etc.)” isn’t a very strong disincentive. Writing multiple page reports about the problem and sending them up the ladder punishes the teacher who has a shitload of paperwork already, and then the teacher is punished again because administration blames the teacher for not having control of the class. Suspending a kid from school so that he or she gets to stay home for three days and watch movies and play video games (or burglarize the neighboring houses)? Oh, please. Yeah, that would have made me walk the straight and narrow back in the day. Snort. Notifying parents only works if the parents care. Many don’t. Some parents that are notified come up to school and cuss out the school receptionist and principal.

Back in my school days, if somebody was sneaky pulling somebody’s hair while teacher wasn’t looking, they would turn around and punch them in the nose and teacher would say it served them right. This was actually a very good incentive for children to not engage in bullying. A big bully’s size advantage could be overcome by numerical superiority of many smaller children who Have Had Enough (or the element of surprise). A bully might be publicly humiliated by a much smaller child whipping his ass. In other words, bullies got a taste of what they dished out frequently enough that it provided a painful disincentive for picking on other kids. Not anymore.

You know why the kid that is defending him or herself from a bully’s assault gets kicked out of school, too, under “zero tolerance for violence” rules? My personal belief is that it is because at least one of the parents of said bully child is his or herself a bully and has in the past (or present) threatened administrators, school board and teachers with lawsuits and bodily harm. Rather than incur the wrath of said parent about why their pwecious 150 lb. 5th grade bully was kicked out of school for smacking around a 50 lb. third grader and the 50 lb. third grader who kicked them in self defense wasn’t, the rules are now incredibly stupid so that everybody gets kicked out.

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Late Night Music

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I Planted Cabbage But I Dunno Why

We had so many things planned to do over our Thanksgiving holiday. There was lots of work that needed to be done, as always. Our fences are still in pitiful shape, rusty fence with whole sections that have fallen out and rotten posts all held together with hay rope. I was going to finally get my winter garden put in and all my greens planted. Mmmmm. Mustard greens. Turnip greens. Collard greens. Nope, nope, nope. The house was going to get painted this winter, and we need to do roof repair work. We REALLY need to do roof repair work. Didn’t work out that way at all.

We spent the entire weekend (including today!) with me draped over, under, and inside SwampMan’s truck handing tools, collecting parts, and going back and forth to the parts store. SwampMan is MAD. Said he’d NEVER have another new truck. I pointed out that the problem is that it is nearly 20 years OLD and parts are failing. He wants something that doesn’t have electronic components that fail and then won’t generate a computer error message because it doesn’t have a damn computer. Or injectors. Or sensors. If there’s a fuel problem, it will be either the pump or the carburetor. We’re talking 1960s or 70s technology here.

On the other hand, nearly all the electronics under the hood now are nice and new. It still isn’t fixed, but we *think* we know what it is now.

To satisfy my urge to plant, I planted cabbage. I do hope the squirrels, rats, ducks and chickens haven’t devoured the infant cabbage plants yet. Their survival is doubtful even if the critters don’t get them. The ground is dust. There’s no (working) hose connection near where I planted them (need a new deep well pump that we probably won’t be able to afford until January), and I’ll have to carry water to them daily. I wonder if I planted them because I have this incredible urge to garden, but don’t really even care much for cabbage and if they all die (like, for example, I forget to water them for a couple days), it wouldn’t be that big a tragedy. Maybe the tragedy would be if they all survive. What would I do with all them damn cabbages?

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I Think I Need to Throw a Pity Party and Invite All My Friends

More and more, I feel like my life is spinning crazily out of control and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

My job sucks and is a dead end job. There. I said it out loud! I desperately need to get into something else soon because this thang ain’t even paying the grocery bills anymore, but *sigh* there’s all that unpaid vacation time coming up that I desperately need in order to get things done that need doing. I feel like I’m moving much more slowly than I used to. I sometimes feel like the world is in fast forward while I’m stuck in slow motion.

Mom is painfully thin now and hardly eats anything. She says she’s just not hungry. I need to go up to her house over Christmas vacation and help her clear out the clothes that she is getting rid of because they’re now all too big and help her put her house in order. She’s giving me all of her painting supplies and beloved paint brushes because painting, her former passion, is just too hard to do. Her extensive flower gardens are gone now, as is her garden that she used to be so proud of. She’s so tired. Now she wants me to come pull up the shrubberies that are dying because of the deep drought. I didn’t know she couldn’t drag the water hose out to water them. She never told me until I wondered aloud why her landscaping was dying. She’s gotten way, way worse since school started. How could I have missed it? My mom is slipping away, and I’ve been so busy with job and home responsibilities and finances that I have been oblivious to the changes. Perhaps I’ve just been ignoring the changes hoping that they would go away.

She’s been telling my obliquely all along that she doesn’t have much time left. Her affairs are in order. Her headstone is in place in the cemetary. She told me that she probably wouldn’t outlive my stepdad, who is a complete invalid that needs her constant care.

We sat out on her front porch just rocking in the breeze on Thanksgiving afternoon and reminiscing about times past. I felt relaxed and peaceful for the first time in a long time. We talked about the carpentry shop where I worked during high school, and she urged me to go ahead and quit my job and go back into business for myself. She went inside to check on my stepdad, and while she was inside, SwampMan told me that it isn’t that he dislikes my family, he just wanted to spend the rest of the day with me. So we took our leave and headed back home, where I fed the livestock and SwampMan watched movies that I don’t like and that he knows I don’t like. Nothing says Thanksgiving like people chopping off each other’s limbs with swords and axes with fake blood spraying everywhere followed by the Godfather.

It’s 1:30 a.m., and I’ve been pacing the floor trying to decide what to do for 5 hours now. Back and forth, stop at the computer, type a sentence, stand back up, pace back and forth. My heart is telling me to drop everything because family comes first. My head is telling me that property taxes are due (about $4,000 this year), property insurance is due, we need a new roof, and we need a new A/C and heat system. Children need Christmas presents. We can’t really afford it with my underemployment, and we damn sure can’t afford it if I walk off my job. Hyperventilation. Pace.

I am depressed. Maybe I need to pay somebody to come kick my ass so I’ll get really pissed off and snap the hell out of it. Probably most of my problem is that I’ve cut out my prescription medicines that allow me to sleep at night because my prescription costs have doubled, my fuel costs have increased, my grocery costs have gone way up, my feed costs have gone way up, but my pay has decreased. I went to get my prescriptions, was told the cost, and didn’t have enough money in the bank to cover them. We’ll probably owe more federal taxes, too. We did last year. Dang. I’m going to need some really kickass antidepressants.

SwampMan would be totally pissed off if he found that I was saving money by cutting my prescriptions. He would say “it isn’t my money, it’s OUR money” and that I should ask for it when I need it, but I can’t. I’m an adult. I should be self sufficient. Now it’s 2:30 a.m.

My whole problem is that I can’t ask for help from anybody. I am incapable of even praying for help with my problems, but I can ask for (or even demand!) divine intervention for others. Strange. Am I even a real believer or not? If I am, what do I believe in? Seventeen steps into the dining room. Pivot. Seventeen steps back to the computer. I need a better-paying job. Pivot and walk 30 steps into the living room and back to the computer. If I have a better-paying job, I’d be working longer hours and would have even less time available for family. Pivot and walk the long way around again.

Guess I’m not going to solve anything tonight. Maybe things will be brighter in the morning. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be all strong again and have my perpetual smile pasted firmly in place. Maybe everything will work out. Maybe I’ll get enough sleep in the 3 hours left before the alarm goes off if I go to sleep right now.

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Oh, Snap!

Coming home from Georgia last night, SwampMan’s truck developed a case of hiccups coming down our road, and cut off right before the driveway. We coasted up to the gate. GOOD TRUCK! He was able to get it restarted and, after dying several times, it made it to his barn.

We stood around doing a verbal necropsy of the patient. We agreed that it wasn’t spark plugs or wires because it happened so suddenly. The truck went from running well to not running at all in about a half mile. He had filled up with gas shortly before this incident, so he thinks it could be the fuel filter plugged up. I’m cool with the fuel filter theory but asked him to consider the possibility of a sensor going out. It probably is NOT the fuel pump because I could hear it pumping.

Update: Wouldn’t you know it? We’re both wrong and the obvious solutions ain’t worked. *sigh* The problem didn’t show up on the computer diagnostic thing that you plug into the vehicle, either, damnit. (When in doubt, use the computer diagnostic thingamabob, and when that don’t work, start replacing cheapest stuff first…..)

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Happy Thanksgiving!

So what’s your favorite Thanksgiving meal? My favorite turkey for the holidays is smoked. We used to have my brother-in-law’s smoked turkey every Thanksgiving but, unfortunately, he’s moved up to north Georgia, so no more smoked turkey for me, damnit! My second favorite turkey is deep fried turkey (mmmmmmmm! Fried turkey!) but tea-brined turkey is really, really wonderful. *sniffle*

Why the sad face? Because my husband and children *do not like* turkey. My stepdad *hates* turkey. Mom and I snuck out to Cracker Barrel on her birthday to get a turkey dinner but it just ain’t the same. Mom and I have sadly agreed that cooking a 12-lb. turkey is probably not a good idea if we’re the only ones that are gonna eat it!

Sooooooo, I’m off to feed the livestock and then we’ll head up to mom’s house in Georgia. Son is working 7/12s and will be at girlfriend’s house afterwards. Daughter and son-in-law are in south Florida at his parents’ house.

I may just go ahead and get a turkey tomorrow, tea brine that sucker, and cook it anyway. So there. SwampMan is free, of course, to eat at Burger King instead.

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The Mammogram Wasn’t Bad At All!

I went to the Mammography Department at the local hospital today expecting torture. According to my mom, it was the single most painful thing she’d ever experienced in her entire life up to that point, so I was expecting the worst. The only reason that I was there at all was that a coworker shared with me that she had no symptoms, no risk factors, and had a mammogram at a younger age than I am now which revealed bilateral breast cancer. *sigh* Plus, SwampMan insists that I need to be completely checked out before I leave a job with insurance to strike out on my own again ‘cuz I ain’t no spring chicken (per him).

Standing in front of the machine, my body was leaning towards the door to the great amusement of the technician. My head said I gotta do this and get it over with but my body was sayin’ “have you LOST your freakin’ mind?”

Now, either mom’s breasts are waaaaaay more sensitive than mine, or I have experienced pain beyond what she has so I have more perspective. Or it could just be that I’m more pain tolerant, of course.

If you, like me, have been putting off this procedure because of fear of discomfort, take it from me. It ain’t that bad. It doesn’t take long. It *might* save your life.

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Rude Awakening

I had intended to sleep in this morning but was awakened shortly after dawn. THUDthudthudthud. What the hell? I got up and looked outside the house. Nothin’. Hunh. I crawled back under the covers. THUDTHUDTHUDthudthudthud. Thud. THUD. THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD. Thoroughly annoyed, I could localize the noise to the roof. Sounded like a bunch of basketball players were up there bouncing the ball back and forth and running between the baskets. Sonofabitch. The buzzards are back on the roof. I gave up on sleep and picked up a book.

Later, when SwampMan was up, I opened the front blinds. Buzzards were lined up on top of the kids’ swing and another bunch were busily engaged in tearing the shade cloth off the top of one of my portable chicken pens. SONOFABITCH! “Look at THAT!” I exclaimed to SwampMan. “I’ve been coming home every day to find the shade cloth torn loose and have refastened it every night only to find it loose and wadded up when I get home. Guess they’re looking to see if anything edible is underneath.” I had had some wool out drying on a screen. That was scattered EVERYWHERE. Maybe they figured with all that wool just lying there, a dead sheep just had to be underneath. Some buzzards were chillin’ on our furniture on the front porch. Others were hoppin’ around with the ducks.

“Hey, you reckon the buzzards up on our roof are tearing the shingles off like they’re tearing the shadecloth?”

SwampMan was not amused. He grabbed the shotgun and went outside to shoot into the air. I thought 12 rounds was a little excessive.

SwampMan came back inside. “I can’t stand them things bein’ here. Gives me the creeps. You need to get rid of ’em.” Hunh. He acts like I found them standing beside the road looking lost, loaded ’em all up, and brought them home.

When we got home from a quick trip to the hardware store, I noticed the buzzards were back but this time they were up in the big oak tree in front of the house trying to be invisible. SwampMan didn’t see them. I think they know that SwampMan is not allowed to shoot them for real. I know why they’re here, of course. We have big trees (and a house and barn) for them to sit around on, we have lots of ducks and chickens running around loose so they figure it’s safe, and we’ve got water for them to drink. It’s been a real dry year, and we’re getting all kinds of wild critters comin’ on the property lookin’ for a drink because the creeks and ponds have no water.

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Awww, Damnit, I GOT The Damn Flu Shot!

We went on a field trip today. A great time, as they say, was had by all, except for me. When I woke up this morning, I had a painful right leg that felt like all the muscles in my calf were in a spasm AND my plantar fasciitis and bone spur in the left foot were acting up. Unfortunately for me, today was a field trip day in the great outdoors. Hours of walking and climbing and some running after wayward children didn’t dampen my perpetual happy attitude toward my young charges, but inwardly I was considering begging for a pair of crutches or an ambulance. The end of the day couldn’t come too soon for me!

When I arrived home, I hobbled around for the 2 and 1/2 hours necessary to do my evening chores with the livestock, then SwampMan asked me what we were having for dinner.

“I don’t think I could stand in front of the stove long enough to cook an egg! You’re doing dinner tonight.” SwampMan elected to pick up BBQ.

By the time dinner was done, my left arm had deeply painful muscles, too. WTH? Did I carry anything unusually heavy with my left arm or, indeed, my entire left side as opposed to my right side this week? Not that I could recall. I retired to my lazy chair with a magazine and quickly fell asleep only to wake a couple hours later sweating, then shivering with cold. Now my muscles are so sore that I can’t find a comfortable position and I’ve got a dry cough.

Oh, HELL, no. I absolutely CANNOT be getting the flu. No, I have pies to bake, damnit! I have casseroles to start! I have a house to clean! Dang. It hurts my fingers to type.

I suppose it was inevitable that I would get something because over the last two weeks, I’ve been covered in a veritable FLOOD of green mucous from very sick snotty-nosed kids. I have been taking vitamins by the pound as talismans against illness. My immune system should be theoretically strong enough (per the vitamin ads) to take on just about any ol’ germ out there, but kid germs are extraordinarily virulent. Or perhaps vitamins are just the modern version of snake oil designed to separate the consumer from their cash.

I wonder if I still have the receipt from my flu shot. You reckon I can take it back to the doctor and demand a refund because it didn’t work?

Heh. One of the (many, many, MANY) things that I have to get done tomorrow is the mammogram that I have successfully put off for many years. I suppose that the silver lining is that I’ll probably be so miserable by tomorrow afternoon that I’ll barely even register the pain of getting the boobs squashed.

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I spent the morning sandblasting the rust off of old tools and clamps. They had originally been sprayed down with WD40 and in good shape but had been setting forgotten in the back of a barn in near 100% humidity for ten years before being rediscovered. Wuh oh. A layer of rust covered everything.

I was on my way out to my former DIL’s house when SwampMan yelled out to me that he needed a few things sandblasted before I left. No problem. Sandblasting is one of those things that I find to be deeply therapeutic. You take an old rusty tool, blast all the rust off, and it looks all pretty and shiny and new. Instant results! I love it.

SwampMan finds all that little nitshit detail work extremely boring and even frustrating. His big hands won’t even fit into gloves so that he can do it. It isn’t just metal work on which SwampMan doesn’t like to do the finishing details. Even in his beloved woodworking, he doesn’t care to do a (in my view) thorough enough job sanding. After all, the appearance of the finished product is all about the effort put in beforehand!

SwampMan: “HEY, that thing is sanded good enough!”

Me: “No, it isn’t. If I put a nylon stocking on here, I’d get instant snags in it!”

“But it doesn’t have to be perfect!”

“Well, if it was one of your chairs and I sat in it and got a splinter in my ass because it wasn’t sanded properly, I’d be a little upset.”

*SwampMan breathing heavily, like he is trying to control his words very carefully but is finding it extremely difficult to do.* “Yes, a splinter in the ass is very bad, but you are working on a FREAKIN’ BIRDHOUSE, DAMNIT!”

Okay, I probably am not cut out for production work.

So I’m carefully and very thoroughly sandblasting through layers of old paint and rust on a metal object that he handed to me. He’s done some grinding on it but can’t get the rounded parts. It must be an important piece of metal, so I take it out of the sandblasting box several times to feel it as well as look at it more closely. SwampMan is standing there with his spray paint waiting to paint it. After about the 5th time out of the box, he said he’ll take it.

“Nah, the rust goes a little deeper here, and I need to go over it a few more times.”

“It will be okay.”

“No, it will rust through. I need to get it better.”

“DAMNIT, it’s the cover to a 35-freakin-year-old panel box! I don’t expect it to be perfect! I don’t CARE if it lasts another 35 years! I’ll buy ANOTHER one if it only lasts 20 years!”

*sigh* Well, if you put it THAT way…..

In the meantime, Breeze the mare is standing outside waiting patiently for me. Whenever I’m outside, she is by my side, a stalwart companiable presence. After awhile, though, she starts to get less patient and reaches inside the barn to a table that has SwampMan’s tools piled on it and starts picking them off the table and dropping them on the floor one by one to get my attention. After all, when she’s out in the pasture, I bang the feed bucket against a gate to get her attention, so I guess she figures it works both ways.


“Don’t you yell at my horse! You’ll hurt her feelings!”


“I told you not to yell at her!”

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