My Father and My Daughter: Their Day

June 15, calendarMamacita says:  Father’s Day and my daughter’s birthday are always within a few days of each other, and this year, they’re on the same day. That is because calendars are alive and love to mess with us, and because those selfsame calendars, parts of them anyway, dwell in the past with emperors, gods, and goddesses.  We can mess right back by denying our ages.  But I digress.

My daughter is over 21, if anyone wants to ask me any questions.  Please be sure your resume is current, including gainful employment and a love of steampunk and Renaissance cosplay.

She used to be the most beautiful baby girl in the universe, but not any more. She hasn’t been that for a long time.

She is, however, the most beautiful young woman in the universe. She’s strong and brave and smart and hilarious. She’s a lot nicer than I am.  Her sense of direction is almost perfect. Her sense of ethics and behavior are superior. She can sing like an angel. She can walk into an expensive dress shop and walk out with a $300.00 dress that she got for twelve bucks and matching $125.00 shoes that cost eight – the honest way. She’s kind and caring and patient, unless she’s dealing with an idiot in which case she, sadly, takes after me. She’s the best daughter any mother could ever hope to have, even when she takes the occasional pissy fit, and even then a good margarita will fix that mood swing right up. Mommy knows how to take care of her baby girl.

I didn’t teach her to stick her head in a waterfall, but only because the subject never came up.Sara Goodwin

She owns several crowns.  This is only fitting.  She also owns a magic wand, but then, so do I. Do these wands work?  Try us; you’ll find out.

Her cat is obese and has never been outdoors.  By my way of thinking, this means she owns a fairly sentient stuffie.

Sometimes, she wears fairy shoes.  This is in no way strange.  <– no sarcasm intended. This is how we are, in this house.  Why do you ask?

Happy Birthday, Princess.

My dad has been gone for several years now, but we never really ever stop missing the people Dad and Sarawe love. We recover, and get on with our lives, but the memories are still there, and aren’t we all glad they are?

Dad wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. He and all of his brothers and their father before them were quick-tempered and easy to, as Mom used to say, “set off.” He was also funny and smart; he could sing and he valued education, HIGHLY. He would have been a success at college, but he never went. Instead, he sent four kids through college, and continued to work day after day in a factory, “so we would never have to.”

He taught me hundreds of poems and songs, and he liked to pick me up and stand me on a table and make me sing or recite for people.  (not lately)  ”Purple People Eater” and Robert Frost: I still remember.

My sister Teresa and I had a daddy who was playful and laughing. My two younger siblings had a daddy who was cranky and yelling. Dad’s illness began long before anybody realized it, including himself, and the personality changes were just brushed aside as part of the aging process or, possibly, his true colors. Nobody actually said “true colors,” but we all thought it.

By the time dad had had both legs amputated and was bedridden and too weak to feed himself or turn over, we all realized that the diabetes had begun to affect his mind long before it took his body.

He stayed at home and Mom took care of him. I don’t think she went anywhere for three or four years, except her runs to the grocery and drugstores while Dad was at dialysis.  Let me tell you something:  if ever I’m sick like that, I want Mom to take care of me.  I watched her.  She was divinely patient with his dreadful moods, and meticulously careful with his meds and IV’s.

My father is gone, but he still lives in my head, daily. And to that loving and playful and laughing and singing father, I want to say, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.”

I knew all along that mean yelling daddy wasn’t really you.  I just wish my two youngest siblings had met that daddy.

So, today, June 15, I salute my beautiful baby daughter and the good daddy I loved.

This is my brother’s motorcycle, by the way.  You know, the one I used to ride all over town without my mother’s knowledge.  She still doesn’t know.  She never will, unless YOU tell her.

I don’t think my brother knew, either.  I was into the stealth before it was cool.  And yes, we all wore helmets because my parents didn’t raise no stupid kids.*

*Atrocious grammar used on purpose for effect



Wiggly Little Boys, Recess, Harry Potter, & Epiphanies

This is a rerun, but it’s an issue I wanted to discuss again.

“No two people are alike, and both of them are damn glad of it.”

Mamacita says:  That’s a quotation; that’s not me saying “damn,” although I frequently occasionally do. I am, to my shame, greatly afflicted with “potty mouth,” and although I managed to control it somewhat while my children were tiny (Thanks to the majestic epiphany),  it’s back, in full force. Honestly? I need help.

But I digress. No two people are alike, but both of them are expected to progress at the same rate by our public schools.

Our children are expected to learn to read and write by a certain age lest they be labeled “special education” and given an IEP and pulled from the classroom to be tutored in the Reading Room. Most of them are little boys.

Old hippies like me sometimes have a hard time admitting that there really are gender differences that no amount of “environment” is going to change. One of those differences is this: a lot of little boys need a few more years than a lot of little girls need, to mature enough so that their bodies and brains can sit still, together, long enough to learn how to read and write. Whether we like it or not, it is wiggly little boy reading, Harry Pottera fact that while a lot of little girls are reading “Gone with the Wind,” the little boys sitting next to them are still struggling to recognize letter combinations. It is also a fact that some of these little boys who still can’t do it in the third grade, or the fourth, somehow have their own “epiphany” in the middle grades; something in their brain becomes aware of symbols and their meanings and how to translate them to Harry Potter. It wasn’t that these little boys didn’t TRY down in the lower grades; it was that their bodies and brains weren’t THERE yet.

I saw this miracle happen over and over again. With my own eyes I saw it. Sometimes, when I tried to tell other teachers, especially elementary teachers, about this awakening, they did not believe me. “I had that boy in third grade and I’m telling you, Jane, that he just doesn’t have what it takes to be a reader, a good student. He just can’t do it.”

And I’m telling you, Madeline, that I don’t give a rat’s ass* what the child did in your class. I am trying to tell you that in my class, the boy can read. One week he couldn’t, and the next week, he could. And he’s ecstatic.

My point? Do I have to have one? I guess I could drag one in by the hind legs if you must have a point. How about this one:

Hold off on the IEP’s and the labeling until the kid is in middle school. Tutor, yes. Give special help, yes. Hang a label on his forehead and put it in his permanent record? Not so fast there, Teach. Don’t do it Not yet. Not just for reading. Save the labeling for the children who genuinely need the help; don’t fill up the room with little boys who just need a few more years to mature.

Same-sex classrooms in the lower grades? Why not? It might work. It would certainly be better for the little girls who, most of them, just naturally catch on to the reading faster; they could move on! It would be better for the little boys, too; they wouldn’t feel pressured and might get comfortable enough to relax and blossom, too.

Many of our most highly esteemed scientists, inventors, etc, were late bloomers. Edison wasn’t even allowed to continue at his school; he was so slow, he held the others back!

Let’s give our little boys a break, what say, people?  We worry because our little children are energetic and wiggly and can’t sit still?  That’s how little children are SUPPOSED to be.  What would be genuinely worrisome would be a little child who CAN sit still for hours and hours without any desire to be wiggly and energetic. There is the occasional child who genuinely needs Ritalin or whatever in order to function at all, but there are an awful lot of children (usually little boys) whose energy and creativity and imagination and, yes, wiggles, are being seen as “disabilities” by frustrated adults and drugged into mediocrity.

Calvin & Hobbes, ritalin, imagination

In the classroom, my “quick fix” for wiggly kids was to assign them two seats and allow them free passage from one to the other whenever they needed to move.  There were conditions – no bothering other kids on the way, no touching other people’s things, no sidetracking or talking, etc, but when a person’s gotta get up and move, a person’s gotta get up and move.  You feel that way yourself at times; don’t lie.

I taught middle school, but the students were still children even though they didn’t think they were.

And by the way, taking away a child’s recess because he couldn’t finish his vocabulary words quickly is cruel and unusual punishment. I suppose the boy would then be punished because he was extra wiggly since his ‘outlet’ was taken from him? Energetic little children NEED to be let loose on the playground several times a day!!! Taking away recesses for punishment or to make more room for standardized test review is the action of a halfwit who knows nothing about either education OR children and probably hasn’t been in a classroom since 1972 teacher, politician, superintendent, or some other administrator who falls into the ‘nimrod’ category of typical la la land unawareness of real people and how we live. Probably people who do that don’t know how to access their email, either, or use a computer. But then, that’s what secretaries are for.

I put up with this for 26 years. No wonder I had a potty mouth.

And by the way, this guv’ment standard of requiring our tiny first and second graders to sit still for NINETY MINUTES and read without interruption is ignorance in action on the part of whoever thought that one up. Tell me, Mr. Standards: Can YOU sit absolutely still for ninety minutes and read without interruption? I thought not.

*Dammit **, there I go again.

** Crap.

More Things I Haven’t Done Yet

a round tuit, scheiss weekly Mamacita says: Just because I haven’t done these things yet doesn’t mean I’ll never do them. I ain’t dead yet. Then again, some things most people do all the time don’t interest me in the least, so, yeah, I’ll never do them. But you can. I’m not the boss of you.

1.  I’ve never seen Dr. Oz.  Couldn’t pick him out of a line-up.

2.  Game of Thrones?  Nope.

3.  Reality shows?  Not for love or money.  Or even Diet Coke.

4.  I still haven’t used an ATM for myself, but as my sister pointed out, she did run me through it for her once.

5.  Duck Dynasty?  Not even if it were a loved one’s last request.

6.  I have passed a few bright, creative, hardworking students who for unforeseen reasons didn’t actually earn enough points, but I will never do it if they ask me to.

student athlete benched, no pass, no play7.  I never gave a pass to a student athlete who only became interested in grades right before a game.  Let him sit on the bench and think about his choices.  No pass/no play.  I’m all for it.

8.  My occasionally ill-timed talent for seeing through the bullshit has not endeared me to a few administrators, but it’s a talent I wouldn’t trade for free Diet Coke forever.  It’s gotten me in hot water a few times, but it’s also saved the day.  My day, or a student’s day, not the administrator’s day.  I would far rather be the person being persecuted for justice’s sake than the person sucking up for easy street’s sake.  The penalties can be severe, but right is right and wrong is wrong and never the twain shall meet.  I have never sucked up, and there is no brown on my nose.  And I have never backed down for the sake of compromise when students are at the heart of a matter. (Unlike a few administrators I know.)

9.  I have never learned to like tomatoes or onions.  tomato, onion, scheiss weekly

10.  I have never had a client whose products, philosophies, or services I have not personally used.  I have never endorsed something I haven’t personally tried.  The only exception to that would be the client who sold unique death and burial services.  The services were cool, but I wasn’t ready to try them out.

It’s getting ready to pour down rain again.  Must be southern Indiana springtime.  The humidity is getting old really fast, though.

As are we all.


Remembering Dad, Before the Disease Changed Him

 Mamacita says:  This is my dad, back when he was healthy and strong. Actually, it’s just a few years before the diabetes became stronger than he was. It didn’t take long. . . .

I’ve posted several times about my dying father, blind, minus both legs, on kidney dialysis, stomach tube attached to a drip, etc. That was an accurate picture, but it wasn’t the only picture. It is also not the picture I have in my mind’s eye when I think of my father.  At least, I try not to think of that phase of his life.

Richard "Dink" Byers, dadBefore the disease began to affect his body and mind in ways we’ll never really know or understand, Dad was awesome.  He was a really good father to my sister Teresa and me – so funny, and so talented, and so ready with the singing and poetry and nonsense.  To our two younger siblings, Dad wasn’t like that.  We all knew he was getting really crabby and selfish and sometimes actually mean, but we didn’t know why.  I think we all assumed it was our fault, somehow, that Dad yelled because we messed up.  We just never knew what we’d done wrong, which was scary because it meant we’d probably do it again, all unawares, and get yelled at again.  Having a voice raised against me works like a whiplash.  I know some people yell all the time and it means nothing bad, but to me, yelling means badness.  The yeller is bad, and the yelled at is bad.  Dad turned into a yeller, and it affected me worse than bullets.

But before the diabetes took away my real Dad and substituted the yelling cranky Dad, Dad Dad and Sara, Richard "Dink" Byers and Sara Goodwinwas the best.  I adored him, when he was himself.  His real self.  He could still see and walk when Sara was little, and loved to play and take her places.

I loved that Dad so much.

The self he became later, not so much.  Much of it wasn’t his fault, but much of it was.

Today, on Memorial Day, I wanted you all to see my father before he was struck down. My REAL father. He was tall, and he was strong, and he was hilarious, and he was handsome, and he liked new experiences. He sang beautifully. He cracked terrible jokes. He was smart. He tried hard, and he did the best he could with what he had. I loved this Dad fiercely.

That was my brother’s motorcycle, but Dad liked to take it around town of a late afternoon..

So did I, in fact. Please don’t tell Mom.

It’s Spring Concert Time. Stay In Your Seat.

children's choirMamacita says:  I’ve posted about this subject before, but with the approach of the end of school and spring concert time, it’s on my mind again, so I’ve written a new post about this same thing.

This is important. Proper behavior isn’t always fun. Nice people behave themselves anyway.

This is for you, parents. ALL of you parents. Children’s concerts are fast approaching, and your children are working hard to prepare. Don’t discount their big night because your personal feet hurt, you’re hungry, you’re missing your shows, you’ve got rights, it’s a free country, and you left your good manners at home.

We’re tired.  We work all day and in the evenings, we deserve a few hours to rest, eat, and just, well, unwind. We deserve some time to ourselves, to put our feet up, watch some tv, sigh a lot, snack, and just BE.  We deserve  some time to do these things before we go to bed and get some sleep so we can do the same things again tomorrow.  Undisturbed downtime.  Yes, we deserve some of that.

If you are a parent of school-age children and this is your typical evening, shame on you.

If this is what you choose – yourself – instead of getting up off your, um, couch, and heading out to watch your child participate in something, shame on you.

Shame on you, too, if you stay in your seat just long enough to watch your own child’s part and then leave as soon as you can to get home and commence your well-deserved unwinding.


sparse auditoriumFor over twenty years, I attended school concerts, spelling bees, science fairs, plays, and other things, and for over twenty years I watched families pack up and leave the very minute THEIR child’s part was finished.  These people paid no attention to the fact that the show was still going on while they were loudly bustling themselves up the aisles, out the doors, and across the parking lot so they could beat the rush getting out of the place, and get HOME where they could, finally, after an extra-long day, unwind.  After all, they deserved it, didn’t they?

No, they didn’t.  In fact, what these people want or think they deserve doesn’t even enter into the equation here.  It is the children who matter, not the adults.

The smallest children had the biggest audience, but as soon as the lower elementary’s part in the concert was over, these were also the very people who couldn’t leave fast or soon enough, paying no attention whatsoever to the older children still on stage.

The upper elementary children had a smaller audience, and even those parents often required their kids to find them as soon as their part was over so they could go home and get what was left of that well-deserved downtime-before-bedtime.  TV is important, you know, and a kid’s show isn’t, especially when it isn’t even MY kid up there now.  Duck Dynasty is waiting. The new episode of Hoarders is on tonight.  The Pawn Stars or Pickers might find something really cool and I’d miss it.

By the time the middle school kids were onstage, only Grandma, Mom, a few antsy siblings, and those families with class remained in the audience.  The older kids played mostly to empty seats, because the once filled-to-overflowing, standing-room-only auditorium had emptied like a kicked anthill.

The adults had to get home.  Their shows were on.  And it wasn’t like it was a sports function. . . .

Yes, sometimes a school concert means a late night.  You can’t deal with that once or twice a year?  Poor you.  Your younger children can’t deal with it?  Take turns going out in the hallway with them.  Let them fall asleep.  Your kid can’t deal with a disrupted schedule once a year?  Are you sure you’re talking about your child? Athletic functions often mean a late night, too; do you behave like this for basketball games? I suspect not.

There’s FOOTBALL on TV that night?  Two and a Half Men is on?  Good parents know that’s not even a negotiable point.  Your children come first, or you’re a bad parent.

If you have small children whose part in a concert is usually first, try to picture YOUR child singing his/her heart out before an empty auditorium.  kids-choirThink of how those children must feel when you’re packing up and leaving while they’re on stage singing much-practiced songs meant for you, and you obviously care more about yourselves than about children who aren’t yours . . . .

Oh, and before I forget:  even though I pretty much covered the subject of proper theatre behavior in another post, let me repeat a few things here:  While you’re sitting in your seat, watching a concert, shut up.  Nice people do not talk or otherwise make noise in a theatre. Nice people are quiet as mice in a theater, as well.  (Note the spelling difference.  Look it up.)  In both places, nice people are quiet.

Stay for the whole thing.  I don’t CARE if you’re tired or bored out of your mind.

Put your child in those other children’s places.  Remember, YOUR child is someone else’s child to everyone else in the universe except you.  You don’t want other people treating your child like that, do couch potato, lazy parent, bad fatheryou?

Stay for the whole concert.  You’re bored?  Too bad.  You hate this stuff?  I don’t care.

Don’t detract from the glory and wonder and delight of children singing together just because you’re too selfish to even try to listen properly and enjoy it.  Don’t make children feel that their hard work was in vain because all YOU can think about is that if you leave now you might get in on the last quarter of your very important game.

Anyone of any age who does not show respect to those onstage is a rude, childish beast.

I can’t say this enough:  Every child deserves an audience.  STAY IN YOUR SEAT until the entire thing is over.

Yeah, poor you.  Poor you with a child who has the ability and the desire to participate in the arts or the sciences.  Millions of parents would give anything they’ve got to be in your shoes, and you would rather throw it away than take advantage of it.

How much would y’all bet that these same parents find no difficulty whatsoever in sitting for hours watching a sport?

I was often bored, watching an overlong school concert.  But I stayed for the whole thing.  I stayed for the whole thing because those children were far more important than anything else I might have wanted to do that night.

Why are so many parents so childish and selfish?  Childhood is such a brief fleeting moment in life; what kind of parents would CHOOSE not to watch every possible microsecond of it that’s possible lazy mother, bad mother, bad mommy, lazy mommy, selfish mommyto watch? Why do so many parents choose to stay home and watch Honey Boo Boo and her repulsive family instead of their own children? June Shannon’s kids are more important than your own? The Duck Dynasty family is more important than yours?

I think we all know what kind of parents would make that choice.

Children singing their hearts out while adults are walking out so they can get home and watch tv and have a beer and put their feet up.  Such people are beyond my comprehension.

Children are singing for us; why don’t we even want to listen?

Oh yeah.  Football, Duck Dynasty, Hoarders,  recliners, selfishness, and entitlement.