RSS Feed

Tag Archives: school

Exercising a Different Kind of Creativity

Posted on

On Saturday, I went with my family to a National Train Day event at the Amtrak Station in Toledo. Who knew that there was a National Train Day? There definitely exists no website for it.

I was afraid it would just be like one table giving away Operation Lifesaver stickers and keychains with, like, homeless guys peeing in the corner or something. But we got to ride on a railroad work car, tour an Amtrak train, see several locomotives up close, and saw two and a half rooms of train-related booths. Some were of places we have been, like the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, and others we have on our to-do list, like the Fostoria Iron Triangle. We also found some destinations we might add to our list, such as the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum in Bellevue, Ohio.

The Pere Marquette 1225 A.K.A. The Polar Express

The Pere Marquette 1225 A.K.A. The Polar Express from last year’s visit to The Steam Railroading Institute

 

After several hours, we agreed we had all had fun, but we were tired and hungry. We headed to Chick-fil-A for a rest and some lunch. We would eat, I would make my husband stop at Five Below for a hat I believed I had to have, and then we would head home. I would probably be lazy the rest of the day, if possible.

Me in my new cool hat. Sorry I didn't take a better pic.

Me in my new cool hat. Sorry I didn’t take a better pic.

Our intentions were almost thwarted when a carnival was being held nearby and parking was heinous. But we persevered, and upon entering the restaurant, it was busy but not over-crowded. My husband spotted his sister there with her daughter. Soon my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law showed up to too. We ditched the boys and through a crazy, unpredictable set of circumstances, I ended up awake past my bedtime an hour and a half from home on a girl’s night out with a completed painting inspired by my family. I had felt like the universe had given me an opportunity and I had no choice but to take it.

I used to list art as my favorite subject in school. Now I am sort of a non-practicing artist, like how someone could be a non-practicing Catholic. Those skills don’t disappear, they just lay dormant and get a lil’ rusty. But it felt good to use the colors and shapes part of my brain rather than the letters and grammar part I have been running marathons with for the past few years. I kept telling my sister-in-law that it felt like we were in art class back in school. Because, well, we indeed did go to school together and here is the proof, a picture taken in art class almost 22 years ago.

ART-OG JS1

My S-I-L: The OG JS

So, here is my finished painting. I am kinda proud of it. Sure, it isn’t up to professional standards, but it is nice enough to hang on my wall. I stole the saying from Hallmark. And I’m not sure if you can tell, but the hearts have glitter on them. Because, well, when you carve into this tree, there is glitter inside. It is a magic tree.

My Masterpiece. I really love it.

My Masterpiece. I really love it.

Yes, even my painting has to have a story attached. But then, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Sorry to disappoint, but this post is only 500…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

What I Learned This Week – 5/1/16

Posted on

This week I ran into a woman I hadn’t talked to in years. She used to work at the bank when I was a little girl. When I was young I lived in Riga. My mom would be like “we are going to run errands. We are going to go to the bank and the post office.” They were both on the same road we lived on, not a half mile away. Having never known anything else, I just assumed this was normal for everyone. For the grocery store and the laundromat, we did have to turn left and drive about two miles.

The woman, I’ll call her Mrs. B, had her husband with her.  Mr. B was like “Who’s this?”, which I found slightly amusing. Mrs. B said, “This is Lorie’s daughter.”

My first thought was “Lorie who?”  Then I remembered that my mom said that everyone used to call my dad Lorie. My mom told me this because of course she didn’t like it, so she called him by his full first name Loren, which I have never understood. It’s not like his nickname was Stinky or something. If that is what he went by, why didn’t she just call him that too? But I know why. Because she didn’t want to.

Just as a reminder, my dad died before I was born. I know it is terrible to day, but days go by where I forgot that I have a never parental figure that I never met. Another reason why I like Memorial Day so much, because he is a part of it.

That is what it is like in a tiny town. Everyone knows each other. I don’t know what my dad was like. I only have snippets of stories my mom has told me that I must then transform into memories that are not mine. Stories of him wetting down his hair before walking to his one-room school in the winter time, only to have it freeze by the time he arrived. I’ve heard that he used to get the mail off the train when it arrived and carry it over to the post office. Not a fancy job, to be sure, but for a kid who loved trains, it sure sounds interesting. And I have spent years wondering if the mail came on the old Erie and Kalamazoo line that is still there, the first railroad west of the Alleghenies, that is still there today or the Toledo & Western interurban line that has long since been removed, known to locals as the Teeter & Wobble. Did my dad ever ride the Teeter & Wobble? I would assume so. The T&W is such ancient history that they put on programs about it at the county historical museum. I guess that must mean my dad is ancient too.

Toledo & Western engine

Toledo & Western engine

“Lorie’s daughter” is something I almost never hear. Once in 1997 when I worked at the gas station which was geographically Riga adjacent, an old farmer asked me, “Who’s your father?” out of the blue, for no reason. And that was perfectly normal in my small town. Everyone was just used to knowing everyone. I told him, not expecting him to know me from Adam.  He said, “Lorie? Well I grew up with him.” The cleaning lady overheard this conversation. She had been a year or two behind my dad at the Riga school, which was so long ago it didn’t even exist anymore. (They tore it down to build the bank, which I think presently has been turned into a church building of some sort.) Her and I became good friends after that. I’m sorry to say she is in ill health these days.

And it literally has probably been twenty years since I have had the experience of someone realizing they knew my dad. And with a dad who would be 95 years old if he were still alive, how often is that going to happen again? Very possibly never. I NEVER knew my dad, and soon all the links of people who did know him will be gone.

Mrs. B left telling me that I had made her day. But after I left and kept smiling, I realized that she had really made mine. And the kicker? She saw me in the local paper and says she would like to buy my books. Maybe my dad would be proud?…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Real-World Chemistry

Posted on
Just the sight of this textbook scares the crap out of me...

Just the sight of this textbook scares the crap out of me…

To me, when I was in school, we spent a whole lot of time on really boring stuff that had absolutely no application to the real world in which we would some day need to survive in on our own. It might also be why so many people ended up just living in their parent’s basements, working part time jobs to try to pay back student loan debt.

Case in point: The metric system.

We don’t have a meter stick at home, we have a yard stick. My husband goes to the lumber yard for a piece of 6 foot drywall or a 2″x 4″, not 6 meters of drywall. Yet in school, they spent all this time [trying to] teach us the metric system and didn’t teach us the U.S. measurement system that is actually in use in regular lives daily. I still don’t know how many feet or yards are in a mile. I was never taught that in school. Good thing I have it on a ruler from a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Next point: Balancing a checkbook.

In high school, I took math classes up through Trigonometry. Pretty advanced math. I got mostly A’s and B’s. I didn’t understand any of it. When I went to college, I had to take a test to see if if I would test out of all the math classes. Nope. I ended up taking Algebra a second time. I still don’t understand it.

You know what I also have trouble with? Balancing my checkbook. It has to rank up there are one of THE most important tasks you have to do regularly as an adult. When did they teach that to us in school? Formally, never. Informally, during a Junior Achievement exercise in 7th grade. And my mom taught me.

I never took Chemistry in high school. It was taught by a man who had already failed to teach me Algebra and Drivers Ed, and he made my skin crawl. So why would I waste more time in a class with him with subject matter I was not remotely interested in?

When I got to college, I evaded Chemistry class as well. I took lots of Psychology and English classes instead.

But lately, I can’t get this idea out of my head. It keeps popping up in my day-to-day life.

What if they taught a high school class on Chemistry that kids could relate to? That would interest them? Chemistry is all around us in our daily lives. What if we could understand our normal lives better, and not learn about super-colliders, or whatever?

I had this brainstorm while coloring my hair. How many high school girls (and guys nowadays, I suppose) color their hair? Total chemistry. You have to take the one magic bottle and place it into the other magic bottle. What is in those bottles, exactly? Why do they react to change your hair color? Make your scalp burn? Why will it possibly explode if you recap it after mixing? I would love to know these answers!

The other day my husband and I were at a craft show. We had a long conversation with a lady who had a booth full of homemade soap. My husband expressed that it smelled great, but he was afraid that it would dry out his skin.

She went into a long explanation about how the longer the soap sits after it is made, the pH has more time to change. This causes the soap to be less drying. She sounded super-knowledgeable. I had never heard that stuff before. She could have been making it all up just to make a sale.

But, if there was a Real-World Chemistry class, that would be a GREAT experiment! And all the students could have yummy smelling soap that they made to take home.

My husband loves to make homemade silly putty with a mixture of glue and cornstarch. I don’t understand it myself, but he always has lots of fun. EXPERIMENT for Real-World Chemistry!

Yummm.

Yummm. Cinnamon rolls.

The other day I made cinnamon rolls, the kind my mom used to spend 5 hours making me for my birthday when I was a child (I always loved them more than cake.) The kind that you have to put yeast in, let them rise, beat them down, then let them rise some more. It was frustrating to find just the right amount of heat in my kitchen to make it rise. Then I noticed the recipe at one point said the dough should be “elastic and smooth”. Low and behold, over the past several hours and kneading, it had changed to just that. But how?

I find this topic very frustrating. Kids should at least know the basics of the world around them. Isn’t there always a big drive to get girls more interested in science?

HERE IS YOUR ANSWER!

And boys would take the class, thinking it would be an easy A, then accidentally learn something.

I don’t want other kids to avoid the subject altogether as I did. Now I can’t answer clues on Jeopardy. And I don’t understand joke T-shirts and throw pillows with periodic elements on them 😦

Periodic Table T-shirt

Periodic Table T-shirt. Is it funny? I can’t tell!

Periodic table throw pillow

Periodic table throw pillow. Is it a statement about science or texting? Or both!

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

Camp

Posted on

Who in the hell would ever want to go to camp?

CAMP-no camping

I thought “camp” was something only people on TV shows did. Then in elementary school, there was this horrible torture they put us through. We were actually supposed to go door to door and talk to complete strangers to sell them crap to raise money to go to 5th grade camp.

What the f*ck!

I was an only child who never slept anywhere except at home (There were only two exceptions to that:

1. Flood of 1981

2. My mom’s hysterectomy

Both times I stayed at my gramma’s house. I was distrustful of strangers. (Still am.) Kids are taught to fear and stay away from strangers. And then you go and tell them to knock on strangers’ doors? You send them off to camp to be taken care of by strangers?

How is this alright?

It worked out in my favor. My mom didn’t want to do fundraisers anymore than I did. She didn’t have the money to send me to camp. I didn’t want to go.

There was a group of about five of us who did not go to 5th grade camp. The ones who went were gone for a whole week.

Do you know what it felt like to stay behind?

I FREAKIN’ LOVED IT!

It was a small class. We didn’t have to do real schoolwork because that would have made us ahead of all the other students. We got to do busy work, watch videos, do arts and crafts. On Friday, we got to go on a field trip to the Lenawee County Historical Museum. Some would say that was boring, but it was the highlight of the week for me.  I’m pretty sure we probably got to eat lunch at McDonald’s too.

All the other kids returned from camp, with stories about bugs and bats, rain and mud and cold. They told tales of a golden toilet seat being hung around people’s necks. They seemed genuinely happy about these things. Sickos.

I heard gossip that everyone who went to camp got a T-shirt that they were supposed to wear on a designated day. I must have seen one, because I knew that they were purple with gold lettering (our school colors). I happened to have a T-shirt from Sleeping Bear Dunes* that was the same shade of purple, with white lettering. I wore it that day. I did not stick out like a sore thumb as my fellow non-campers did. (I found a picture of me in that purple shirt.  But I have a mullet, so I am not going to post it here.  All those pictures need to be burned.)

Score one for me.

I believe having all the campers wear their shirts all on the same day was a horrible idea. It set apart the five of us who didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to go to camp. Isn’t school supposed to push you into conformity for your society? I don’t think the T-shirt thing would fly these days. Lodge a complaint about the school forcing kids to alienate their disadvantaged classmates, and I think the TV stations would jump all over that.

Just when I though that camp shit was done for good, 8th grade camp rolled around. This time the students were only to be gone for three days. I stayed behind. Again.

IT WAS THE BEST TIME EVER!

I think there were eight of us who didn’t go. Everyone’s reason was probably financial, but I definitely did not want to, even if we could have afforded it.

By then I had hit puberty. I was a raging ball of hormones. The cute “bad boy” I had a crush on stayed behind as well. I had plenty of time to flirt with him. The cute substitute teacher was in charge of us. We watched “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (that might be stretching the definition of ‘educational video’ just a little). I discovered that Keanu Reeves was cute!

I wonder, in retrospect, if I could have just skipped those days of school. How can the school system kidnap you to leave your home and live with your horrible enemies for a week? Can they really enforce the attendance policy if you are not down with that?

To this day, that school district is still tying “camp” to school. WTF? And think of when school is in session, and what the weather is like…in MICHIGAN! Spring and fall, it is always cold and rainy.

But the kids still go.

The school system fools the students and the parents into believing that paying money to live in inferior conditions is a good thing. Fun even.

HOW DO THEY KEEP FALLING FOR THIS?!

I am all for “camping.” Going out in a tent or RV to spend quality time with your family (including dogs). I enjoy doing a little rustic cooking and bonding in front of a fire almost as much as the next guy. Spending time in nature can be relaxing.

But paying to hang out with strangers and rough it? Having to do activities they dictate like Nazis?

No, I think not.

I considered having a kid to be a life experience that I should probably do, because I only live once.

Camp? Not so much.

* Sleeping Bear Dunes is my favorite attraction on the west coast of the northern lower peninsula of Michigan, near Traverse City.

A Cry For Help

Posted on

The other day my mom was telling (complaining) about things my son does while she babysits him. She said something to effect of that she was glad she didn’t have a boy, because they are more work than girls. I replied, “I am glad I didn’t have a girl. They have too much drama.” I was thinking of two young girls I know, who I love to death, but they are full of drama. My mother replied, “Oh, like when you took the knife out of the drawer in the kitchen while I was doing dishes and threatened to kill yourself?”

Um, no mother. Not like that at all.

FYI–that was a cry for help that you ignored for 20 years and still apparently don’t even understand in hindsight. She never mentioned the event at the time or anytime in the 20 years since, but this is like the second or third time she has brought it up in the past year. I guess it is her best example of me being a bad kid? Her only memory of me as a teenager?

As a teenager, I hid almost all my real feelings about everything from her, because I didn’t want to hear her negativity. I didn’t even know that was the proper word for it at that time. It was only the early 1990s. The book The Secret would not be published for like another 10 years. If I went so far as to put a knife to my skin in front of her, trust me, it was not for drama. I was dead serious.

If only everyone carried signs...

If only everyone carried signs…

I knew I was depressed my senior year in high school. I wrote school reports about suicide. I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. All my friends had boyfriends, but I didn’t. No boys even looked at me.  I couldn’t remember how to smile or laugh. I coped by writing bad, depressing poetry. I tried cutting, because my friend did it. But it wasn’t for me. I got no satisfaction from it. I found the song “Everybody Hurts” by REM too painful to listen to–it was too painful to think that others were hurting as much as I was. That there could be that much hurt in the world.

Back to the phone call with my mom. I tried to be brave and actually give her a glimmer of honesty.

ME:  “I wasn’t being dramatic. Did you ever think that I might need some kind of help?”
MOM: “No, you were just being dramatic.”
ME: “No, I wanted to kill myself.”
MOM: “Oh, everyone wants to kill themselves.”

How does one reply to that????

I told her I had to go and hung up on her. She then texted me like eight more times that day as if nothing had happened.

I’m sorry, but you just blew off my feelings from a major, horrible time in my life.

And she will say things like “Be glad you didn’t have my mother. I was a good mother.” How can one argue with that?

And today I have to go and see her and make copies for her. I have to continue to pretend to be the perfect daughter. I have to pretend not to notice that she doesn’t accept anything about me or my life, even though by most accounts I have it together pretty well. I have to pretend that I am not a writer, that I don’t have tattoos, that I don’t have a blog, that I don’t go to church.

It is EXHAUSTING! And within minutes of being in her presence, I usually blow up at her about something stupid. She is clueless as to why. Usually, I am too. But, most likely, it is from the pressure of trying to hide my true self from the ONE person in the world who should accept me no matter what. She thinks she accepted me because she let me dress as Punky Brewster when I was eight. No. At the time she would make comments like she should be ashamed to leave the house with me looking like that. She still says things like that about that time today. That is not accepting. God, good thing I didn’t turn out gay.

"...the ones who accept you for who you are."  So, then I have no biological family?  Nice.

“…the ones who accept you for who you are.” So, then I have no biological family? Nice.

It is no wonder I always felt all alone growing up. That I identified with orphans on TV sitcoms. That I still write stories about girls who feel like they have no one in the world, no matter how big the family I write for them is.

This exchange with my mom made me angry.  Angry for me now.  And sad, for teenage me.

The following started as a writing I did in college, a true reflection of my feelings at the time. I converted it into a piece of the novel I am working on. Please don’t steal it:

If Jane’s suffering showed more outwardly, maybe someone would have reached out to offer her help. But her suffering was mostly silent and invisible to anyone who didn’t already know what her regular personality should be. She wasn’t walking past people in the halls missing an arm, leaving a river of blood behind her. To anyone she passed, it would just look like she was having a bad day. As such, if no one person took interest in her, then no one would realize that one day strung together into two days, which then became a week, a month. Depression was invisible. It made Jane invisible as well.

For another depression writing, click here and read THE DRIVING RAIN at the end of the post:  https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/02/26/college-sucked/

%d bloggers like this: