To Hell And Back

My benchmark for social media sharing is “Would I be ashamed if my grandma or the superintendent of schools read what I’ve written?”  I crack wise, gush about my kids, marvel at my dog’s behavior, beg for money to support our MDA walk team, but I almost never sprinkle politics in with my friendly middle-aged musings.

It’s not that I fear offending anyone on the other side of the fence, and I certainly expect to change no one’s mind by sharing misleading headlines or clickbait that advance my point of view.  I just don’t.  Venom is out there, as easy to inhale as the very air we breathe.  I don’t want to be part of division.  I’m an adder togetherer.  Most of the time addition is the mathematics function suits me best.

At the Tuesday evening budget meeting of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, Amy Mizialko, vice president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (VP of union thugs like myself), was told to “go to hell” by a member of the school board.  Twice.  Amy stood at the podium questioning a suggested solution to looming budget deficits, asking for solutions that benefit or impact least, I suppose, children, families, and educators.

She singled out director Michael Bonds in her testimony, responding to an earlier proposal, a proposal that in my opinion creates a false dichotomy of budget options. The proposal suggests an either/or: teacher raises or cutting bussing for specialty schools. Other places to cut are out there (of course, I’d like to see people care about education and ADD to school budgets actually), but it’s now made to seem like the greedy teachers want what they want at the expense of students.

Yes, she called him by name, and his response? “You can go to hell.”  She looked stunned for only a microsecond by his words as she backed way from the microphone, but regrouped in a heartbeat and clarified, “I should go to hell?”

“Yeah, you should go to hell, you called my name out.”

THAT is how one of my district’s elected officials responds to its families and educators. And before he walked out of the meeting, he blasted teachers for test scores.

I send my children to the district in which I work.  I haven’t decided which part of my heart hurts more–the one that represents the twenty-seven years I’ve committed to the children of my city, or the one that represents my two children I’ve committed to a district who tells their mother to go to hell.  I’ve cried–at home and at work since the news came to my attention Wednesday morning.

I called the school board member who represents my district, whom I helped elect to her seat on the board.  I didn’t know what precisely to say (I mean besides the obvious), and I couldn’t offer a solution, but I had to say something.  I couldn’t not say something. I called as a parent who was disgusted and embarrassed, a parent whose children deserve better from the highest ranking district officials.  I spoke to our children about his outburst, telling them how angry I was that he disrespected their teachers, and that their teachers deserve better. I didn’t ask for nor do I expect a call back from my director, but I wish I would have had the clarity in the moment that Amy had when she responded the next evening by saying sure, we can go to hell. We go to hell and back every day for our students.

THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT FOR YOUR CHILDREN.  You want teachers willing to go to hell and back for them, to do whatever it takes to reach and teach them.  Only thirty percent of my job is direct student contact at this time, and while I sometimes miss therapy and full-time student contact, I fret that I’d feel beat-down too hard/much to be 100% at all times. 100% is what our kids deserve.

Parents, you want and your kids deserve teachers willing to go to the ends of be earth for your children. Public education is a cornerstone of enlightened society. Demonizing your community’s educators is one sure way not to attract and retain excellent, committed professionals. But I won’t even begin down the privatization of public education path here. Some other day.

For years I’ve been saying that we’ll never “fix” schools until we “fix” the problems underlying impoverished communities. If you think my job is cushy because I don’t work in July, please come spend a day on 3rd & Ring Street with me, or cruise up Atkinson Avenue en route to my office and hang for an hour or two.

This collection of paragraphs is brought to you by a potty-mouthed (but never overtly cruel in my profanity) public educator. No shame in that, is there Grandma?

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You’ve Got Mail, Caleb

We spent Easter weekend in Kansas City, celebrating the wedding of our beautiful Chelsea, my brother’s stepdaughter, to all around good guy, Lonnie.  Each of those twenty-two hours in transit was worth every minute of the big weekend in KC.  The rooftop ceremony was a dream, a chilly, wind-that-knocks-you-around dream, sure, and the reception provided more fun than a woman my age should be allowed.  Oh yeah, you bet I sang Don’t Stop Believin’ and You’re The One That I Want with carefully choreographed, killer dance moves.  And yeah, that last sentence is entirely true.

I enjoy exploring cities on foot.  You catch things you wouldn’t get or take the time to appreciate passing by in your car.  We encountered this amazing storefront window along our walk to the rehearsal dinner, and we scored some fantastic pizza on our way home from a hole-in-the-wall place we’d not have spotted otherwise.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.  Bathed in stunning blue, I had to snap this pic.

But this post isn’t about our weekend wedding in Kansas City.  Chelsea writes her own blog, in which I am sure she will detail their “I promise to say yes” wedding.  In my little blog, I am going to tell you about the funhouse type horror that awaited us upon our return.

During our time away, Caleb, our four legged friend of infamy, was left in the care of our neighbor, Jodi.  The dog was livin’ the life at our neighbor’s house.  A few times a day, Jodi would send us a photo of Caleb’s oh-so-stressful time away from his beloved pack.  Ha!  I wasn’t sure he’d ever want to come home.  Spoiled is one word for how well she cared for him; moving in and taking over may be closer to the truth of his stay.

We get home, and Jodi mentions to my husband that she noticed Caleb had been “licking himself” a lot.  Yeah.  We’re forced to check out Caleb’s nether region, and sure enough, his junk was a little red and inflamed.  We make an appointment with the vet for Monday afternoon, and figure maybe it’s a being away from home anxiety thing or maybe it’s just a little scratch that he won’t let be.  We’re prepared for the cone of shame and a 10-day run of antibiotics.  We were NOT prepared for this:  “Your dog has a penis infection.”

My dog has a penis infection.

Antibiotics were prescribed as anticipated, but the cone was not.  No, to our horror, we learned a more invasive procedure was required to optimally treat the infection.  We were directed to to insert a liquid medicinal solution.  INSERT, via syringe, a liquid.  INTO his penis.  And when you think you’re already gonna die a thousand deaths, you not only have to insert the liquid, but also massage it around the area before flushing it out.

The vet looks at Tom and me, asking “Do you guys think you can do this?”

I’m like, “Nope.”

Vet: “Well, it will improve the likelihood that it’ll clear if you give both the antibiotics and flush his penis directly.”

Me: Sigh.  Shit.  “OK.”  Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Giggle uncomfortably. Shit. Giggle some more.

We’re prescribed and purchase the two meds.  Our vet directs us to dilute the solution into a gallon of distilled water, so after dropping Caleb at home, we head to the grocery store.  On our way in, I look at Tom, and together we marvel at the rich pageant we call the life we’ve built together, which now includes a dog whose penis we need to massage.  Well, HE needs to massage.  Obviously.  I mean, he has similar pieces and parts, right?

As we’re entering Pick ‘n Save, I say to Tom in mock conversation, “Oh, so what did you guys do last night?  Oh us?  You know, the usual.  Did a little grocery shopping to pick up some special water to help us jack off our dog for the next ten days.”  And because I am at times (all right, most times) extremely adolescent-like in my sense of absurdity, I laugh so hard I snort.  I laughed like an idiot traipsing across the first five or six aisles.

Next afternoon, I text my friend Kathie, who is Caleb’s mother-in-law.  Kathie’s daughter has determined that their dog, Nala, and Caleb are an item.

Kathie was a little disappointed that this text exchange didn’t make my previous My Life In Texts post, but I assured her that these few texts warranted a post all their own.  And here we are.

Days later, an envelope arrives via US Mail.  There’s no return address, but I’m 99% sure I know who mailed it before I even open it.  Yep.  Nala sent her boyfriend a get well card:

Dear Caleb,

Sorry to hear the bad news about your penis.  Wishing you well & hoping to see you soon.

All my love always,

Nala

PS–Do tell me if this is something that I need to worry about.

I couldn’t breathe.  Kathie’s husband got pretty creative and sassy, and I wonder why we don’t spend more time with them because Kathie and Dan are MY KIND OF PEOPLE!

PS–Some dogs never recover from this infection.  Despite medical interventions, it may be that my super special pound puppy has this burden to bear for the rest of his days.  This is my life, people.  Don’t be jealous.

 

 

Technically Not a Blog Post

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I toyed with surrounding “blog post” in the title with fakey quotation marks, because this isn’t a real post.  It’s a plea–a time is of the essence, <a href="http://Rush“>rush right out and get ‘er done kind of deal for me today.

I could re-run my Things I Would Rather Do Than Ask for Money blog post from last year or any of the versions from the three years prior, but instead, I’m going straight for the jugular: your wallet.

The 2018 MDA Muscle Walk is in less than three weeks.  Funds raised by the Muscle Walk support kids and adults who suffer from muscle debilitating diseases and ALS.  My older son is one of those kids, a kid whose future likely includes losing, among other activities of daily living, his ability to walk.  My boy is #whyIwalk now, and why I will continue to walk, for as long as I am able–in support of him and kids like him, kids who have never had or will lose that ability–the ability to walk–too soon. The arrival of that day, however distant in future it may seem, will be too soon.

Thank you.  For the fourth year, I’ll be thanking you like crazy.  And my words still won’t be enough to thank you properly.

Join or donate to Team Greater Than Gravity by clicking here.

My Life In Texts

OK, I’ll grant that I am nowhere near as funny as I think I am, but every so often I do pull one out.  I’m not not funny anyway, as I hope to share via these text snippets.  Lacking a new sassy or angry rant to scribe today, I’ll stand instead on history here.

Upon receiving the perfect greeting card from a dear friend in the good ol’ US Mail.

Upon viewing a fellow employee’s computer screen

Upon studying Alex Trebek’s condescending tone for next year’s stint as MacGyver! The Speech-Language Game Show host.  Cannot WAIT for the 2019 episode come February!

Upon recollecting an especially unfortunate road trip sleepover with a roommate I lacked a real connection with.

Upon realizing that good-byes aren’t, in fact, always bittersweet.  And upon realizing that I possess a little certain something for overstating things when I feel ornery.

Upon realizing that Beyoncé, our workplace chicken, isn’t the weirdest office mascot in the district.

Sometimes I just say stuff at work.

Conversing frustratedly that the district no longer gives raises and speech-language pathologists can get jobs literally ANYWHERE due to the high demand in our profession.  Nobody cares though, because you know, budgets.

Did you know that mock chicken legs are a thing in Wisconsin?  They’re the pinnacle of hot lunch haute cuisine, and it is NOT hyperbole to say that a whoop goes up around the city on Mock Chicken Leg Thursdays.

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Sometimes emojis really do say it all.

And sometimes text messages really do say it all.

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My brother’s family is considerably less chaotic than he originally believed it to be.

Seriously WTF. The WTF-est. In his minivan.

May I introduce you to my dog, Caleb?

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I’ll take hilarious movie quotes for $600, Alex.

Hilarious movie quotes for $800. . .

I’m either waaaaay too old or uncouth to decipher this one.  Anyone, anyone??

On being self-actualized.

When you think you know more about your favorite band than the band knows about themselves.

If there’d been a contest for shoes alone, my husband would’ve brought home the gold medal, yo.

When your best friend says she loves getting stream-of-consciousness voicemail from me, what she really does is provide a baseline for a goal to which I shall strive to achieve.  To overachieve.  Sorry about misspelling “sometimes.”  Shoot.

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I totally am.

My Experts Predict The 2018 World Series

Jackie’s blog is a must-read for any baseball fan, but I am a little partial to this post especially, I must admit. Check out her ace team of post-season prognosticators, and pay special attention to the ringer. ❤️

The Baseball Bloggess

“The Yankees will bash their way to the AL pennant. In the end, Washington will prevail, thanks to its stars – and, yes, a little luck.” – Sports Illustrated, 2018 MLB Preview

Sports Illustrated’s  pre-season World Series picks have been amazingly consistent:

2017 – Dodgers (wrong). 2016 – Astros (wrong). 2015 – Indians (wrong). 2014 – Nationals (wrong). 2013 – Nationals (still wrong). 2012 – Angels (wrong).  2011 – Red Sox (wrong). 2010 – (I’ve lost interest).

Sports Illustrated has never correctly predicted the World Series winner in its annual MLB Preview. Well, maybe they have. I don’t know. I got bored around 2010.

All I DO know is that my team of experts – first gathered in 2015 – has never been right and during that same period neither has Sports Illustrated.  To be fair, my panel has also included cats and, in 2016, a one-eyed possum…

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A Bit Too Fond Of My White Go-Go Boots

My husband and I attended an epic 1970s-themed party Saturday night. Epic is not overstating it, not even a little. “Proper dress” was required, and party-goers did NOT disappoint. Poly-blend fabrics that haven’t seen the light of day since the Nixon Administration were marched out loud and proud. Our friend Matt had done a 1970s party before we moved to the neighborhood, and until Saturday night we’d only heard legend.

Saturday’s party was truly a “you had to be there” thing.  I try telling people about it, and fail in every way except when I share photos.  Pictures being worth 1,000 words and all, I hope you enjoy those that follow.  Thank you to Matt, our groovy host with the most.  The evening was more fun than I believed a middle-aged woman was able to have.  Matt’s attention to detail in every single conceivable touch–from furniture, wall decor, and lighting, to the disco dance floor and Schlitz and Blatz beer (served in cans, of course) and Tab served at the Regal Beagle Bar, nothing was out of period.

It was the happiest, silliest stroll down memory lane. The 80s were my coming of age, but the 70s were my childhood. Guests were greeted by this Lite-Brite message upon entering.  

I immediately longed for my old Lite-Brite, coveted Christmas gift of probably fourth or fifth grade (with which I immediately bored and played with pretty much only when my little brother wanted to play it first, cause I was a jerk big sister like that I guess).

The green eye shadow didn’t come through in this photograph, regrettably, but Tom’s ‘stache sure did.  How about that, huh?  Huh??  But really, all polyester aside, who’s looking at anything but our magnificent footwear here?

Ten Observations From Memory Lane:

  1.  Before departing home, you vibrate with self-conscious energy, terrified that you’ll get into a fender bender or be pulled over by the cops on the way over, and feel like you and your outfits will star in your own episode of Untold Stories of the ER.  But you arrive at Boogie Wonderland unscathed.  The gaucho, prairie dress, gold medallion, leisure suit, and afro wig-clad guests pull you in like you’ve been friends for life.  You laugh like it’s 1974 and haven’t a care in the world.  Costumes are ideal ice-breakers.
  2. Memories of childhood flood back, and you know what?  They’re great memories. You notice a twinge for a simpler time, you do.
  3. Matt hung hundreds of posters, and you remember that your first three concerts were Linda Ronstadt, Shaun Cassidy, and Steve Martin.  And you remember that your parents let you sit outside by your fifth grade self at an enormous music amphitheater that HAD to be completely overrun with the hazy smoke from not exactly over-the-counter cigarettes.  See above for simpler times–that I’d have been snatched or harmed simply was not a thought of that era.
  4. Based on Matt’s myriad posters, women possessed and let their natural beauty shine then.  Not one breast implant could be found among the many, many, many (many, many, many) T&A posters of the likes of Susan Anton, Suzanne Somers, Charo, or wait for it. . .  The FARRAH poster.  THAT one.
  5. Everyone had or had yearned for this telephone.  This was just after the breakup of AT&T, when your choices were limited to maybe which color telephone you wanted, and if you were lucky, THIS model.  Needless to say, my parents said no to such folly as purchasing a telephone.

6.  Say what you want, but disco music is fun to dance to.  We danced into the wee hours, at least three solid hours of dancing, and there were maybe three songs I didn’t know or like.  Sorry, but I have never, ever, ever appreciated Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.  Still don’t–some things will never change.  We even recreated some bastardized version of The Hustle/Bus Stop.  Oh, how I’ve missed you, seventh grade, and oh, how I ached Sunday morning.  NO, not from drinking, because I did not overserve myself, but from dancing and using muscles I don’t typically flex while I WAS WEARING GO-GO BOOTS, people!  

7.  Say what you want, but Rush was as cool a band in the 1970s as they were in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, you see where I’m going with this.  One of the party-goers was tres impressed by my knowledge of the band, and that I could name all three members.  Dude doesn’t know I’m practically Canadian, not some rank amateur.

8.  We are acquainted with wonderful friends, and met some wonderful people at the disco who we wouldn’t mind calling friends some day.  The costumes, music and accompanying album covers/posters, and OK, the booze enhanced the flow of conversation.  People’d take the floor, and you felt completely comfortable telling them how much you dug their pantsuit or chest hair (yeah, that sounds weirder than it was).

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Come on, that’s a pretty cool recreation of the vintage, lighted dance floor!

9. Every song I’ve ever known carried in my bones is a fact.  I really do know the words to every song I’ve ever known, proven by the superb playlist expertly curated by musicologist host Matt.  Even the theme to a local television station’s Up With People kinda-themed jingle.  “Makes no difference where I go, you’re the best hometown I know, Hello Milwaukee, Hello Milwaukee, Channel 12 loves you.”  I remember that shit, but can’t for a million dollars remember why I opened the fridge.  *sigh* I miss my short term memory, I do.

10.  I am TOTALLY gonna work my butt off to bring back white go-go boots.  I should be more ashamed, but I am 100% unabashedly in love with mine.  I already have a vision for what I will wear to the next 70s party.  Come on, Matt, make it happen!!

What Is Your Biggest Fear For Him?

I hadn’t considered this question in some time, but a few weeks ago, before parent-teacher conferences at our school, a colleague I don’t often enough get the opportunity to speak with often asked me this question.

I am certain that I fell into my now-common middle distance, eyes up and then to the right gaze, and sighed in contemplation.  I guess that has become my “I’m thinking” preparatory set as I deliberate the big stuff.  I considered options for the few moments the normal flow of conversation allows.  I began to give voice to something, stopped, and began anew.

“I guess I am most worried he won’t find a mate.”

My colleague, one of the quickest wits of our time and a genuine all-around decent guy, replied, “Yeah, but doesn’t everyone worry about that for their child?”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right, that’s true,” was my not-at-all snappy comeback, looking up and to the right again, “but he’s going to take so much more time.  He’s going to have to find someone extra-special, someone so patient, someone who will help him, who will wait for him.”

I can’t quote the rest of our talk, but I remember telling him I worried for the day my son wakes up and isn’t able to walk.  Something he does now will become something he never does again, and while that is true of each of our children, each of us for that matter, I know my son’s trajectory is a little more direct and brief.  I’ve recorded what I believed was his first last, the rock climbing wall, and though it was the first last, it is certainly not the worst last.  The thought of my child circling a day on the calendar, marking the first day he can no longer walk, is simply too much.  So I don’t think about it.  Much.  As much.

Last week the world learned that Stephen Hawking had passed away, decades after his disease suggested he should be crossing the finish line.  Decades!  I felt like this quote from his brilliant mind was a beautiful fit for what had been racing laps around my grey matter.  He hit all the right notes in this bit of advice to his own children, and I’m going to remember it for mine too.

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Verbal Diarrhea

Saying “verbal diarrhea” sounds comical.  In writing, the phrase looks vulgar, but who am I kidding?  I’ve considered an alternate title, yet this phrase succinctly and correctly captures my crass, adolescent-dude-masquerading-as-middle-aged-mom to a tee.

I own the affliction.  The shoe fits and all.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association’s summer camp director emailed me a few weeks back, asking if I’d be willing to share our family’s MDA story, to share what camp has meant to my son and/or to us.

I loathe asking for money (but PLEEEEEEEEEASE donate to our 2018 Muscle Walk campaign by clicking here).  The list of things I’d rather do than solicit donations for our Muscle Walk team covers more linear feet than the distance from the earth to the moon, but I can write and I can talk.  So, after joining the MDA “family” three years ago, I finally went to a family hoe-down.  And by hoe-down, I mean business meeting.  MDA staffers from around Wisconsin met to kick off this year’s camp planning, and asked me to toss in my two cents.  Everyone introduced him- or herself, so I knew who to thank, and that is how I began: with thanks to them for their work on behalf of individuals afflicted with crap muscle disease.

I think I was meant to be inspiring.  Stop laughing.  I can hear you over here, you know.

I was decidedly not inspiring, but I did share our narrative.  Not knowing my audience ahead of time, not knowing how many people would show up, I did not prepare any remarks.  You speak differently to a group of ten people around a table than you do in front of an audience of a couple hundred, so I flew without a net.

We have a story, and my recitation of our story feels and probably sounds like a script.  I don’t know if that’s what they wanted of me, but that’s what I related: our story.  I talked about how we came to learn about MD–how an offhand “It’ll probably be months before they get you in, so don’t worry, it’s just a rule-out” became “He has an appointment with Children’s Hospital Neurology on Wednesday.”  I said, “You’re all lovely people, but I wish I didn’t have to know you.” (and no, I didn’t use the f-word because I used to say ‘I wish I didn’t have to effing know you,’ but they invited me, and you don’t use the f-word in a business meeting.  Usually.

I explained that immediately following the diagnosis, I took to the internet to chronicle my feelings.  It wasn’t shameless blog promotion, because really, my blog hits a pretty boutique market–I’m not for the masses, I get that–I didn’t bring it up to ask them to read it.  I brought it up I guess because this blog has been my companion since that horrible January day.  Nearly every MD revelation that’s floated through my cortex has found its way here.  Three years later, I’m still Greater Than Gravity-ing.

And now I can add talking too much to my MD mom experience.  The members of the group with whom I spoke were gracious and attentive, but I couldn’t shut up.  I just kept pushing through my narrative, kept talking, staring off into middle distance too often probably.  I wanted to tell them exactly why greater than gravity, but that wasn’t part of the script I didn’t know I had followed I guess.  But that’s it!  Love.  The love I have for my child, the mama bear love that makes me have to write so that I can deposit all the marbles rolling loose in my head and be present for him.  Love.  It’s greater than gravity.  Betcha Ed didn’t know how much that, or any lyric would possibly come to mean to anyone when he wrote the song.  It’s dumb if you’re not me.  I know, it’s OK.

Muscular dystrophy is my kid’s story, not mine.  My story is how I became an unwitting blogger after learning my child had a progressive, terrible disease, and how this unintentional blog has become my confidant.  Since the patina of shock has now been dulled by three years’ time, I don’t write about MD every post.  But I have this collection of 200+ stories about parenting two boys, public education, my friends, Barenaked Ladies, baseball, my squishy-faced, sock-stealing idiot rescue dog (whom I LOVE), and kitchen remodeling.  I wonder how bonkers I’d be if I hadn’t written this all down.

Through my collection of tales, I’m given opportunity to thank those people who matter tons to me, and I’ve been able to educate, inform and yes, raise some money for the MDA, so kids like mine can find where they belong.  Even if it’s only for a week, it’s A WEEK.  You just don’t know what that means, to find your home.  For my kid and too many others?  It’s greater than gravity.

They asked me to read the letter I wrote to the camp counselors last year and I did.   I didn’t even ramble on.  I didn’t even ugly cry.  It was hard, but I did it.  I can talk and I can write.  I may not be a top fundraiser this year, but I did a good thing.

I’ll Take ‘Fluency’ for $600, Alex

I’ve reached the pinnacle of my career as a professional development-providing speech-language pathologist.  Before Christmas break, my co-worker Christine came up with this genius scheme of offering a PD session via game show format.  I wasn’t there for the initial conversation, but apparently none of my other colleagues took her seriously enough to think she actually meant it.  As soon as she made mention of it within distance of my eavesdropping ears, I WAS IN!

I was IMMEDIATELY transported back to the living room of my parents’ house and the couch where I spent my middle and high school years.  Immediately.  Back in the day, television game shows were, forgive the pun, the only game in town.  You had three networks on television—yes, three, well four if you count PBS—and your television set was a monolith of dark, carved woodwork.  Most daytime television air carried trashy soap operas with a few local talk shows and one weird-ass Hatha Yoga show tossed in.  I didn’t get into the soaps until high school, so that meant I spent a lot of my formative youth zoned in front of the boob tube watching game shows.  I’m not saying I’m especially proud of having so little gumption that forty years later, I can still hear the Shaft-infused 70s guitar theme from Match Game. So what If I almost never wanted to drag my butt off the couch to actively participate in life then? I turned out OK. Mostly.

When I was a kid, contestants on The Price is Right had to guess how much a new car cost, and if they could, they won the car—it was the BIGGEST prize on TV.  When I was a kid, you could buy a new car for under $4000 and Bob Barker was the TPIR host, not Drew Carey.  When I was a kid, the first round of Jeopardy! had a $100 dollar max dollar value; Richard Dawson originated as the host the Family Feud, now emceed by Steve Harvey, and Kathie Lee Crosby (now Gifford) do-do-doodled her way through elevator music pop hits on Name That Tune, before Beat Shazam could be the slightest glint in someone’s wildest imagination.   TV game shows were super cheeseball high hilarity, contested by California housewives dying to meet the B-list celebrities who guest starred on these shows.  There was no reality TV.  Game shows were early reality, unscripted TV.  It was all we had. Ah, youth.

Anyway, me being me, I practically begged Christine to be her game show host.  And she let me. (squeeeeeee!) Though it was her baby, she allowed me to relive my youth in the role of game show host for MacGyver! The Speech and Language Game Show.  

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This Bizarro World puppet was part of a 1970s-era speech-language therapy kit, so in keeping with the period, I created our MacGyver! brand, our logo.  I about tinkled with delight, so pleased was I with my “graphic arts” effort. But why MacGyver? 

Honestly, it came out of the very sad state of affairs of our budget and finances these days.  At the beginning of the school year, one of our SLPs had been assigned temporarily to a site where she had basically nothing more than a box of ancient picture cards, a piece of string, and a ball or something like that for therapy materials, yet she had managed to pull together meaningful therapy sessions for each of the students she served that day.  She’d managed to MacGyver it through.

Another television gem from my youth was the original television version of MacGyver.  Week after week, there’s MacGyver fighting crime and evil deeds, always at the precipice of certain death, yet finding a way to use whatever little was at his disposal to free himself and his compatriots from danger.  Stuck in a burning building?   He’d take a metal filing cabinet, turn it into a catapult and eject himself through the window past the flames.  When his car crashed and flew off the bridge into the Hudson River, he’d take a tube from the engine block along with a plastic bread bag or something and create a self-sustaining oxygen tank until the swim flippers he cut from the car’s floor mats propelled him to the surface.  MacGyver could do anything.

And so can our speech paths!  My 182 colleagues work miracles with the most challenging, most needy students and let’s be honest—there’s not some huge rock star budget attached to our work.  The miracle is that we effect progress with the supplies and materials we have.  The miracle is that we do what we do: however underfunded we are, we over-achieve.

We played three rounds of MacGyver! along with our own rounds of Speech-style Family Feud, $100,000 Pyramid, and Jeopardy.  And YEAH, we had a Final Jeopardy round. With the music. It was awesome and ridiculous and perfect, and I loved every single second. I even got to be all smarmy Alex Trebek-y when someone forgot to phrase her response in the form of a question. It was joyous.  People played along and people learned stuff, so hey, it was victory all-around.

Next time we meet, I’m gonna tell you all ’bout my little talk at the MDA office tomorrow. I was asked to provide a parent perspective. I always say “know your audience” when you’re speaking to groups, and I’m breaking, I’m shattering my own rule. The only thing I know is that my kid is cool with it. It’s not like I asked his permission precisely, but I did ask him if anything was off-limits. He knows I’m talking about him, about us in some capacity, and he didn’t crumble in horrified preparatory embarrassment. How I do love that boy.

It’s All Fun And Games Until Somebody Breaks His Brother’s Phone Screen

The title pretty much tells the tale. The fallout of this episode of “Shit Breaks When Two Middle Schoolers Won’t Stop Screwing With Each Other” is #1’s cracked phone screen.

This just in: You may be an up and coming badass pitcher, but your accuracy with strings of Mardi Gras beads whipped at your brother isn’t major league. Here are five fun lessons the boys have learned in the past hour:

  1. YOU, #2, are going to pay for the repair.
  2. Your “emergency”, #1, doesn’t mean my life stops so I can run you to the Apple store immediately after piano lessons tonight. A jaunt to the mall wasn’t on my agenda.
  3. Follow up to 2 above: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT I WAS PLANNING TO DO TONIGHT, EVEN IF I WAS GOING TO SIT MY ASS ON THE COUCH ALL NIGHT LONG, I WASN’T PLANNING TO GO TO THE APPLE STORE. That may or may not be a stern direct quote. *ahem*
  4. I’m genuinely mad, and I am also disappointed. I’m not in the mood to joke with you now, kid. You are sweet and funny, but you done screwed up–now is not the time for a joke.
  5. You do the research. You make the appointment. (Just not tonight, kid. Jaysus!)
  6. OK, six. Stop talking to me about it. STOP. TALKING.

Really, it’s not the end of the world, but geez! do I resent both boys’ assumptions that I’d drop everything and cater to their mess at the drop of a hat. Is that the pattern I’ve led them to believe?

I’m disappointed that they don’t feel the gravity of trashing a $600 piece of electronics. I feel like I’ve taught them better than that–to take care of their property. The damage was unquestionably an accident; I know that. But even accidents have consequences.

I feel a grounding coming on. That’ll be a first for us. It won’t be a long grounding, because of the accidental nature, more like a statement grounding. They’re good boys, and for once, I’m not overreacting or underreacting. Just reacting.