Monday, May 27, 2013

Another Part of the Flag

I’m hungry.

I am too.

Where are you going? You just passed the mall!

I KNOW I just passed the mall!!

Well, where are you going!!!

Be quiet. I KNOW what I’m doing!!!!

UMPH! I mutter as I uselessly tap my breaks.

Looking in my rear view mirror, I see him pull out. He drives behind me as I try to convince myself that he’s not following me; knowing that he is. As I approach a turn lane, bright blue lights begin to flash on his vehicle along with that dreaded sound, “WEEEOOO WEEEOOO.”

I remain in the turn lane with my gear now in “park.” I turn on the hazard lights—why, I don’t know. He’s right behind me so no one will be blowing their horn at me to tell me to move.

Now at my window, in a slight tough guy voice, he says, “Ma’am, do you know how fast you were going?

No. I was too busy yelling at my kid and I’m hungry.

His voice becomes normal as he says, “License and registration, please.”

“I hope I have it,” as I fumble around in the glove compartment. I pass it to him and say, “Thank you.” What am I thanking him for? Duh.

He goes to his car.

He’s back.

Have you had a speeding ticket within five years, Ma’am?

“Noooo, I’ve never had a speeding ticket”, I say in my “turn on the feminism” voice, hoping, uselessly again, that somehow he can tear up the ticket that is already written, knowing that he can’t.

As he explains the ticket and strongly advises me to go to court and to take the online driving school course so that I won’t incur points, I am still seething. But then I look up at his face again, for more than a split second. He is boyishly handsome; young enough to be my son. And because he has seen my license, he knows that I am old enough to be his mother.

It is the day before Mother’s Day. In a kind and sympathetic voice, he says, “Don’t let this ruin your weekend, Ma’am. Drive safely."

I’m not going to say which of my three daughters (affectionately named Girl #1, Girl #2, and Girl #3) caused me to get the speeding ticket, for the witnessing of her mother being pulled over like a common criminal (in her mind) is punishment enough. She is very upset and naively offers to pay the fine.

Actually, it is not her fault and I tell her.

It was my fault, honey; I was speeding and got caught. (Actually, I wasn’t until there was a simultaneous surge of pressure on the gas pedal with the surge of my blood pressure during our little exchange over our meal search.)  I should’ve eaten before we left home so that I wouldn’t have gotten irritable.

We go to the mall, eat, and have a peaceful shopping time.

This little life episode was a couple weeks ago. Today is Memorial Day. As I was hanging our American Flag this morning, I thought of our military—my father and stepfather being veterans. I also thought of a cousin who lost his life in Vietnam. A vision of The Uniform entered my mind along with its representation of protection and service. And then I thought of the young police officer  who risks his life daily. I imagine he’s alive and well, so hopefully, he gets a chance to eat something from the grill today, and gets occasional recognition and thanks for what he does.

Memorial Day thoughts? Traffic violation thoughts? Other thoughts?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Private School

“I ‘know’ families have their reasons for sending their kids to private schools, but our neighborhood schools are ‘good’ schools. What do you think Linda?”

That was my question to a friend who has children close to the age of my oldest daughter; children who attend(ed) the same public schools as mine.
_ _ _ _ _

My husband had the job of finding a “good” neighborhood in a “good” school district when we were ready to buy our first house together. He grew up in the area, making the assignment his. Narrowed down to two areas, we chose the one that has the “way out in the country” reputation as opposed to the one that has the “affluent” reputation, yet having fairly equal test scores—those numbers that are thought to determine your child’s entire existence.
Three children later, Girl #1 was ready for kindergarten. After a brief period of nervousness—wondering if the private school at our church would be better for our little angel who would be taught by people we knew instead of people we didn’t know at the big, bad public school—Girl  #1 made her debut at the high scoring, reputable, neighborhood elementary school.
By the way, the beautiful yellow bus picked up and dropped off practically at my front door. If I were driving to the private school, that I don’t recall having a carpool line back then, somehow I would have had to get Girl #1 into the building, while holding the hand of 3 year old Girl #2 and carrying 1 year old Girl #3, let alone just getting them out of the house. That vision helped me to erase the “big, bad, public school image” and get back to the “good” school image.
Anyway, all three girls were eventually at the elementary school doing well. Linda and I would share thoughts and conclude that our children were on a good path, so when we’d hear of a neighbor transferring to a private school, we’d wonder why.
The homeschoolers—we understood. They want control over what their children learn and how they learn it. The city dwellers—we understood. Most of their schools don’t have those high test scores and are not considered good schools. It’s the suburbanites like us, who purposely moved to the neighborhood for the schools, who we didn’t understand. Why did they send their children to private schools?
Well guess what? I have a kid in a private school. How did “that” happen?
In a nutshell, Girl #3, an A-B student, lacked a spark at our elementary school. She worked hard, was adored by her teachers, had friends, liked school, etc.; however, the lively, witty, creative personality at home was not the one that went to school. She was complacently going through the motions.
As the third child, it occurred to me that I might not be giving her as much of my energy as I was giving the other two who were beginning to cover new and more exciting ground. Everything with her was a “been there, done that,” experience, sooo… Darling Husband and I decided to fork up the bucks and give her an adventure for 4 years in an all-girls middle school.
Just as I once did, people ask why she is going to a private school. They often assume that she has a learning problem or lacks self-confidence; neither of which is the case. The 80 girls at the school are there for different reasons. Some do need a confidence boost, as we all do on occasion, but the majority is there because the school teaches more creatively and is big on diversity in people and in learning. A lot of the girls are the city dwellers that I mentioned; a few are scholarship recipients and the rest are suburbanites like us who drive and carpool into the city.
Girl #3 is happy to be there.
_ _ _ _ _
Now that my children are in middle and high school, I find myself paying more attention to what goes on at public school board meetings and other meetings concerning school budgets and the direction each school is on. Good friends of mine stay up-to-date and are adept at interpreting the jargon and reading in between the lines. They are always willing to discuss and share.
The private schools have their versions of this ongoing melee, too. The necessary dollars for teachers, computers, field trips, and every resource imaginable eludes most of these schools, too.
As my eyes continue to widen (the more conversations I have with parents), I understand more about the “choice of school” decisions they make. A few days ago, a parent who sacrificed to send her children to one of the best private schools in the area, told me that she will be sending her son off to the University of Notre Dame. That’s what they wanted, so I suppose it was all worth it.
It’s all about the numbers (dollars and test scores)—or is it?
If you are a parent, what are (were) your school preferences? Is (Was) it different for different kids in the family? What was your school experience growing up and its impact?
Image found here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Southern Accent

Florida resident Renee Durette solved the Wheel of Fortune puzzle, “Seven swans a-swimming,” but was ruled incorrect by the judges. Dumbstruck, along with the other two contestants, she watched her money disappear from the screen as the woman next to her won the puzzle by repeating the same answer… or was it? The host of the show, Pat Sajak, explained to everyone that, “…she kinda did it in the vernacular and left off the “G”.

Swimmin’—Who knew that the non-southern G would cost her $3,850 and possibly thousands more?

Swimmin’—I hear it a lot in Virginia—along with eatin’, cookin’, sleepin’, writin’ and so on. I wonder if I dropped those Gs somewhere in my past, or even now. Probably.

During my youth, I never thought much about how I sounded. My parents corrected bad grammar when they caught it, but as for my accent, no comments. Not until college did someone notice my pronunciation of “really” that made me listen to myself. I said to my friend something like, “It’s really cold.” Instead, he heard, “It’s rilly cold.”

He laughed.

That was the beginning of my occasional work to “lose the southern accent.”

It took years to leave behind some of the words and expressions that were passed down to me from my parents and grandparents; from the whole community of native Virginians—though each part of the state have their own form of Southernisms and degree of drawls.

Apparently, I wasn’t trying hard enough when I smiled as I was leaving a group of office workers in Manhattan and said, “Y’all have a nice day.”

They laughed.

That was my last bonafide “Y’all.” I was 25 years old.

What is it about the southern accent that is so fascinating? Or, disliked? There have been many times that I’ve seen a host of a TV talk or game show laugh at, mimic, or patronize the southern guest while she (usually it’s a woman) smiled and probably thought, “If I had a dollar for every time someone mentions my southern accent…”

On the other hand, most people who have a strong New York or Boston accent evoke a different reaction and they (who have the accent) seem to be proud of it.

As a child, people in my community believed that anyone who had an accent more southern than theirs was “country.” If it was more northern than theirs, they’d say, “They talk proper.”  Somehow, there was no thought given to the speaker being articulate or if the speaker mangled the English language; it was all about the accent.

I’d like to think that most people know the difference; that an accent does not determine how well you speak.

As for my current accent—Well, it’s a hodgepodge of dialects acquired from my native Virginia roots, along with remnants of living in Maryland where I worked with a hundred relocated New Yorkers who sped up my speech, and from living in Michigan.

Nowadays, I don’t feel that I have to lose whatever southern accent I have, because when you think about it—what’s wrong with it?

By the way, I like listening to all people and have fun guessing where they are from.

What do you think about the various accents in the United States, or in your country?

Monday, May 6, 2013

To Give or Not to Give

My kitchen sink full, I turn on the small countertop TV to occupy my mind while doing the mindless chore of washing dishes. Five seconds later, TV talk show host/comedian Steve Harvey says, “Broke people are broke for a reason.”

Six Years Ago:

Walking through a department store at the mall, I see a big grin on a face behind the jewelry counter that looks familiar. “Where have I seen her?” I wonder. As I walk closer, she says, “I’m Carolyn. You’ve seen me at church!” Hence, the beginning of our relationship, which is me saying hello to her and making small talk at the mall for 5 minutes each time I’m there walking through her store (about every  other month) and for 10 seconds at church as I’m racing home to have a meal.
Four Years Ago:
Carolyn calls me at home. “This is different,” I think. “I wonder what’s up.
Basically, she’s broke and needs money to pay her car note. The car has been repossessed and she needs it to get to work; to a job that she is trying to leave when she finds a better job. Carolyn is humble and forthright in telling me the woes of her situation; i.e. low paying job, daughter in school, etc. Then she tells me how much the payment is; says that others have given her most of it and that the small amount left is what she would be grateful for if my husband and I can give it to her.
So we do; we even round it up.
Carolyn is very happy and wants to do something for us. “Can I call you when there’s a sale going on at the store? Can I pray for you?”
Three Years Ago:
Carolyn calls me at home again.  I don’t have to wonder what’s up. I just listen to the story and wait for how much. She has gotten married to someone who is as broke as she is and who goes to stay with a relative (without her) when they get evicted. There is no way that we will fund her with the money that it will take to get “back on her feet,” but we give her a small amount that she can use for gas or groceries. We feel sorry for her because we see that she is trying. Now she works two jobs.
Two Years Ago:
Carolyn is living in a hotel (or motel) that is set up for people who need temporary housing because of financial difficulties. She calls me to say that she is alright; that she is comfortable, but still needs help. This time, she asks me to fill out forms that verify the monetary gifts we’ve given her—I assume, to prove to the state that she has not been able to thrive on her salary. I suppose she is applying for food stamps or some other financial assistance.
I get the form in the mail within a couple days, fill in the minimal information and mail it back.
A Year and a Half Ago:
Yes, I get another call. The car has been repossessed again.  I tell her that we can’t help; that we are helping my father-in-law who is sick and bedridden, that we’ve given to others, and that we have to limit the amount of money we give.
Carolyn says she understands.
It’s been over a year since I’ve seen or spoken to Carolyn. I hope she’s gotten her life together.
I’ve never had to ask for money and have never borrowed money from anyone; excluding car and house loans from banks throughout the years. So what does that make me? Lucky?  Frugal? Wise? Blessed? Maybe it’s just that I’ve lived within my means.
What happened with Carolyn? What is her reason for being “broke?”
Some may think that we shouldn’t have given her anything; others may think differently. I’m comfortable with the decisions we made; however, there will be another Carolyn, eventually, and we will have to decide if we should help or not.
If my husband and I lost our income or suffered a health crisis, could we be in a position to need or want financial help from people we know? Bad things do happen to good people. I’m trying to relate, but somehow, it's hard. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Do you give or loan money to friends and relatives? Have friends and family given or lent money to you?