Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Being a Good Parent

Perhaps you heard the screams of anger and frustration. Perhaps you wondered at the high-pitched wails. Perhaps not. They are, to a parent, rather common. You learn to turn them out eventually.

Captain Chaos might have finally mastered the arts of staying in his seat for the entire meal and washing his hands when told (without argument), but comprehending the cruelty of a mom who turns off cartoons deemed excessively violent.. well... we're still working on that one.

Four nights ago he was sent to bed without a story or song because, when I told him that Courage the Cowardly Dog was too violent, he went into hysterics and thought that things could be remedied by upending his container of wooden blocks.

The next night he again turned into a puddle of tears as I turned off The Simpsons when the mini-cartoon "Itchy and Scratchy" came on. I just don't believe that a four-almost-five-year-old can understand and appreciate social commentary. Call me crazy, but I think that he's missing the point of the excessive violence and why Bart and Lisa laugh so hysterically each time the cat is decapitated or tossed into the wood chipper.

In both cases, he screamed and cried and begged. In both cases, I held firm. The good news is that the second episode was both shorter and did not end in an early bedtime. (Apparently he learned from the previous night.)

Boundaries are interesting in my house. I tend to be quite permissive in many cases. Captain Chaos is allowed to jump on the family room couch, pile up the over-sized sofa cushions then leap into them, rearrange whatever unbreakable holiday decorations are up, and turn himself into a human mudball. When I come home to discover that he and Aunt Na have painted each other's faces with whatever Crayolas they could find, I laugh. There are designated shelves in the pantry and another in the fridge where Chaos can go help himself to any snack he wants at virtually any time of the day -- they are, however, chock full of healthy stuff.

You want to eat raw carrots fifteen minutes before dinner? Okay! How about some broccoli to go with it?

I think I'm doing okay. It's not easy, which is a given; but the results are worth it. He's a pleasant, well-mannered, intelligent little critter who never gives me much pause, even in public. Essentially, I try to let him be as much a kid as possible without disregarding those very necessary social conventions such as please and thank you and respecting other people's property.

We're working, however, on respecting his own property as today he was channeling his inner Pete Townsand-slash-Julius Sumner Miller: giving a wonderfully loud concert for me and the hermit crabs... then smashing his blue plastic guitar on the ground. Over and over and over.

He wanted to see what would happen, as the night before we were talking about how glass breaks more easily then plastic.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Unexpected

So about a year or so ago, I put my resume in for a position as a compliance officer for The Western School. Didn't get it. They filled it internally. No big deal.

I forgot about it, started to look for a doctorate that interested me, and decided to stay where I was at least until I earned my degree. Four years, probably five. Then, and only then, I'd decide what to do with my career.

Then at the end of September, just before I left for Louisville, KY, for one of the best econ conferences I ever attended, I got a phone call from friend Diane, who is the school's HR Goddess.

Send Tom your resume, she said. (Tom, incidentally, is my former boss from days gone by. We only parted employer-employee company due to the school itself going bankrupt.)

As soon as I get back, I'm leaving tomorrow for a conference, I told her. It needs some updating and I'm going to be on a plane in about 24 hours.

And so, the long and short of it: last week brought a "chat," not an interview in any traditional sense, and a job offer to teach English.

Having done my homework on the company (I admit it), accepting was an easy decision.

This past Monday, I gave my supervisor my resignation. I'll work until November 21, then begin my new job November 26.

Ever have one of those moments where you never see it coming?

Diane will tell you that I was -- for once -- shocked, speechless, and stunned. She laughed heartily at my inability to wrap my brain around the previous hours of that day.

A job? A new job? Leave my friends at work? Leave supervisors who have been nothing but fair, especially when it came to my dealing with my father's terminal cancer? Leave students that I know, whose lives I'm involved in?

The decision to leave my current job has nothing to do with any of them. What an incredible, fortunate thing to be able to say. It had nothing to do with them.

But the benefits offered, the room to grow professionally.... turning it down for the sake of social comfort? I haven't met a soul yet who said "stay for the sake of the people you like to hang out with." Friends, after all, are exactly that: friends. Geography is relative.

I've been a bit melancholy this week, now that the words have been said. Everything is final, now. The word is slowly spreading, though I haven't told my students yet. I will, of course. They deserve to hear it from me and not the grapevine.

You know, pardon the ego here, but this is the greatest feeling in the world. I apparently did something right seven years ago (seven!) when I originally worked for Tom. Seven years ago I made an impression, began my professional career in earnest. And now look at me: going back to work for the same man who gave me the chance to find my way in the classroom without fear of someone smacking me for approaching the lesson from a right-brained perspective.


As I would say to my students, with a self-deprecating grin, guess all that professional behavior paid off. Huh?

Monday, October 22, 2007

UPDATE to Recommended viewing

I just found this on-line:
CLICK HERE to watch Dr. Pausch's entire CMU speech.

The original post:

Dr. Randy Pausch will be on Oprah today.

You know, while I remarked in my previous post that I felt rather lost regarding the whole doctoral program change, I'm glad that I didn't let it knock me into inactivity.

The link that I included today takes you to the Post Gazette article which features a second article with Dr. Pausch. I happen to appreciate what his mother told him when he was getting rather upset over an exam:

"We know how you feel, honey, and remember, when your father was your age, he was fighting the Germans."

Puts things even further into perspective, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Square one

Duquesne University put the ILEAD program on hold. But those who read Ferocious Tigers already know that.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like someone set adrift. All that time searching, all that time thinking... and now what?

I start over, I guess. Visit the schools again and look at their programs. Already I feel some internal rebellion thinking about attending a school already crossed off of my list. Attend THAT school? Get a K-12 certificate? Again?! Be a principal or superintendent?

The urge to chew my arm off returns each time I think about it.

Driving home from Seton Hill, I left the radio off and thought long and hard tonight. I'm not going to rush into a new program; I'm going to take my time. In the meanwhile, I'm going to take some writing courses. I've never had but one, you know.

It ought to be interesting. I'm rather looking forward to it, to be honest. Maybe I can (finally) do something with my novel adventure, Killing Julie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Finding my way

Since Dad died on Christmas Eve, this will -- technically -- be our third Christmas without him in two years. Numbers are odd, aren't they?

I've been thinking about language lately. Really, I should have said that Dad passed away, but that suggests peace to me. Death itself, I assume, was peaceful for him. For us, as you know, a relief.

We imbue words with so much power. Connotations trump denotations. When I write, I choose carefully and opts for those with the most emotion. When I teach, I aim for the same. To hell with neutrality.

I think I'm still angry.

I have that right. I claim that right, and I won't surrender it for the sake of being nice. Don't tell me that time makes it easier. It just makes it harder to remember events. Not emotions, however. Never emotions.

Since posting the article on CMU's Dr. Randy Pausch in September, I've been thinking more about the art of living. That's what it is, really. An art.

And so I flew to Louisville, talked boldly to strangers with the same interests, and dressed up because I wanted to. When I came home, I got rid of what I call my "thin" clothes -- classic, professional clothing that I wore pre-baby and kept because I plan to lose those last few pounds. (Let's face it, after four years, those pounds aren't going away. I'm going to finally dub them curves and go buy new slacks.)

If living is an art, then one needs to decorate. I tried new dishes in Louisville, and now find the processed meals at the local chain restaurants lacking more then ever. Love, Toni Morrison's latest in hardback, is on my bookshelf, just waiting for me to dive in; it's far from the usual romances I pick up.

Gavie and I are planning how we'll decorate the backyard with wildflowers and other fauna next summer. We're working on preserving seeds from his garden for the spring planting season. As we clean up the yard and prepare for the fall, we look for slugs and worms and are always very successful.

And I have my other blog, Ferocious Tigers, which is where I work on my roar.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Little Captain Chaos is learning how to talk on the phone. Like his mom, he walks around the house while he talks, chattering away about all sorts of things while doing something else. He picks up the phone, asks one of us the number, dials, and starts talking.

"Hello, Gwammy? It's me... Nothing... Fuzz is eating... Yes... Good..."

About ten minutes later, he'll say good-bye and hang up.

Uncle Mikey is next. He gets to hear all about Gavie's stuffed animals.

Third will be Aunt Nana. He'll give her a dissertation on the flowers on our front porch.

Finally, the phone will begin to beep. Or, actually, stop beeping, a sure sign that Chaos has drained all power from the mystical device.

He may take after me when it comes to phone-talking, but he's all his dad when it comes to screwdrivers and hammers. At four, he can already operate both. When the phone stops working, he knows that the batteries are dead.

Dead batteries are remedied with a screwdriver (thankfully NOT a hammer, though that might be because we keep the hammers out of reach).

At four, he's already all legs and moves fast. For kicks, this last time, I just watched. I do that sometimes, just watch him and see what happens. I like to see how he problem-solves.

Gavie went right for the utility drawer and nabbed the screwdriver and two double-A batteries. I kept watching. Within minutes he had the back of the phone removed and the triple-A batteries removed...

Oh, don't worry, readers. It was a toy phone.