A Fine Dish

dish (v) to emit a ready flow of inconsequential talk... babble, blab, burble... chatter, dither... gab, lallygag... natter, patter, prattle, rattle on... yammer, yawp...also...chew the fat, shoot the breeze, sling the bull.... and (n) a container to serve food -or- the food contained in the dish ....(archaic slang) a hot mama

Location: Rock Creek Township, North Carolina, United States

Friday, February 24, 2006


It's one of those nights when I notice the howl of freight trains, the chug and vibration that happens every night just far enough away to be unobtrusive, to be romantic, to be ignored. I hear it tonight because my mother ears are on. I'm attending. My son has a fever.

I hear rustling, moans as his temperature rises. My slippered feet make no noise but the clack of the switch, the sudden light in the hall registers behind his clenched eyes. His first words--

"Mom, do you have an important meeting today?"

It's been less than an hour since I tucked him into bed. He has no sense of clock time, no understanding beyond internal validity, his personal perspective, this moment his truth is absolute, a singular reality. He's rolling with fever.

"Dearest, I have nowhere to be other than with you."

I address the base elements of his illness, the heat, the dehydration all the while his words haunt me. His basic assumption, that I am so important in my work life, that I have importance to people other than him, that what I do for a living outweighs his needs terrifies me. Can I have possibly demonstrated to him that in the balance of work and family, in the continuum of a harmonious lifestyle I would leave him solitary, shivering in the chills of an indiscriminate virus? Have I been so pumped up on self-importance that I have neglected to tell him he is the absolute core of my heart?

And though I suspect it's not true but I wish it to be so I tell him--

"I'm here for you, my love. I'm with you. I hear you, always."

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Daughter's Help

The horrors of teenage egomania and insensitivity, wisecracking cyncicism, a rewriting of Ptolemiac Theory where the base assumption is not that the earth is the center of the universe, but that I am. Wait, that's my adolescence.

I am blessed with a child, a girl child fourteen years old who brings to me her memories of her earlier years like choice grape clusters fresh from the vine, still dusky and sweet and cool from the overlapping broad leaves' shade. She says, "I remember" and it's 'we did this' or 'the tea party under the tree,' or 'we pretended and you fed us berries' and every effort I made to amuse or teach or nurture or love when I asumed they were too young to remember comes to fruition. Stocks split--we're wealthy beyond compare.

But now, now that she is fourteen we don't play those little games anymore. She doesn't lead her brothers to me in a crooked row saying, 'mama, mama, we're leaf eating dinosaurs, we're hungry' and I don't pass out leaves of lettuce to keep them until dinner. We don't dress up in broad newspaper hats and velour towel capes and picnic on the sundappled lawn keeping a wary eye out for the giant who could squash all of our cream puffs with one blunt fingered poke. We don't crouch on knees and elbows to count how many times an inch worm scrunches and stretches to make it to the end of a grass stalk.

We have replaced these with other activities and these are interesting and charming times on a different level. We swap the picnic tea for a trip to the Secret Tea Garden on State St. or just the two of us, we go out for sushi on Tate. We talk about history (which I know all about since I lived through it all) or the quality of the monsters in the LOTR vs that of the mythical creatures in Narnia. We walk together or snuggle and watch anime cartoons on TV. Her higher order thinking skills are kicking in--she's a flexible thinker and clever. And she is always helpful even if it's an activity like doing dishes that she doesn't particularly like.

Yesterday when we went clothes shopping she helped me go through racks. She pointed out the colors she thought would suit me and carried the clothes I pulled down. She is so used to me putting things back, changing my mind and ending up with nothing, she really wanted me to have something new. After trying on one outfit I realized that I must have lost some weight since starting working, which I of course announced through the dressing room door to Helen, and whoever else in the world might or might not care. Smug, well, maybe. We went back to the rack to see if there was a smaller one but no luck.

Ever helpful, Helen held on to the outfit. Her mind and her heart in tandem worked on convincing me to let the moths out of my wallet and buy something for myself. She held the suit a little out of my reach.

"I really think you should buy this size." she said with unusual graveness in her blue eyes. "Don't worry, you'll grow into it."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tagged, I'm It?

I've been 'tagged' twice this week. Being a blogging neonate, I wasn't sure what that meant so I had to ask. Apparently this is kind of a game where I'm supposed to copy the questions or categories from the blog that tagged me, delete the other blogger's answers and put in my own. So OK, I can be a sport. In the spirit of self-disclosure....

The first one comes from ...slowly she turned, a terrific blog by my blogging mentor.

4 jobs I've had:
Group Home - everything from cook to supervisor
One hour photo lab technician
Substitute teacher for inner city juvenile delinquents
Exotic Dancer -- just kidding, mom. I turned that one down.

4 movies I could watch over and over:
Home movies--if I had any
Anything on IMAX
Ahh, how about LOTR on IMAX?

4 places I've lived:
Moores Mills, New York
Albany, New York
The Snow Belt in New York (brrrr)
Whew, North Carolina

4 TV shows I love:
I only watch TV when I'm passing through or someone else is watching it....

how about The Daily Show?
Teen Titans
Avatar, the Last Airbender
(yes, I have kids.)

4 places I've vacationed:
Atlantic Ocean beaches-Martha's Vineyard, Long Beach, the Outerbanks
Farms--in Pennsylvania and New York
Cities--NYC and Atlanta
My parents' house

4 of my favorite dishes:
Spicy stuff made with what's left in the vegetable bin
Laurie's soup with my complementary herb bread
The ones I have over coffee with women friends
My mother's white on white china

4 sites I visit daily:
Yahoo Mail
A&T University
(lately) Guilford County Schools

4 places I'd rather be:
A peace kuti in Thailand
An ancient olive grove
The canopy in the Costa Rican rain forest
The shimmer of a rainbow

4 bloggers I'm tagging:
Here's a tough part. I'm not really up on this but--
(Since I got to see his smiling face behind a huge arrangement of roses and delphineum the other day)
Billy the Blogging Poet
(and Billy, I did have to explain to my co-workers that I won't be hugging all of the men doing deliveries to the office)
Mary at Trinity Knot

Now from Trinity Knot, we roll a 'five.'

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Discovering the world through the eyes of toddlers/babies when my own eyes were heavy with lack of sleep

What were you doing 1 year ago?
Recovering my soul after working five years at a private Christian College

Five snacks you enjoy (in no particular order, as all snacks are created equal):
Chocolate Almonds
Strawberries and bananas
Strawberries and bananas covered with chocolate. And almonds.

Five songs to which you KNOW all the lyrics:
Twisted (via Joni Mitchell)
All I Need is Food and Creative Love (Rusted Root)
Summertime (from Porgy and Bess)
O Holy Night
All the Pretty Horses
(The last three were the lullabyes I sang to Helen, Chris, and Sam when they were babies)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
If I told you, you might tell my husband

Five bad habits:
There's no such thing as a bad habit, just a tendency that's misunderstood

Five things you like doing:
feeding people

Five things you would never wear, buy, or get again:
turquoise spandex unitard
for the rest, see here

Five favorite toys:
the rag doll my grandmother knitted me
dirt in all it's various forms

Since she was so kind to tag me,


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Being Mom

Some mothers dive into waters that are home to crocodiles in order to snatch their children to safety. Mothers face armed combatants without revealing their treasured babies tucked beneath the floorboards. Closer to home, there are mothers who sacrifice their health by making sure that the children have adequate food even if it means going hungry themselves.

All I have had to do lately to protect my child is try to reason with the cold stonefaced bureaucracy of a local school.

Last night I had my final (ever hopeful) meeting with the principal of Chris' school and his algebra teacher. While outwardly it was another predictably fruitless affair, I found interest in the intangibles. And I had a revelation that helps me to better understand the complexity of this whole situation. It was not in what anyone said or was trying to do. It's the subtext that gets me every time.

An interesting aspect of the meeting was in observing the principal. For the first time, she was not in her territory. The meeting was held at one of the district offices, where the school support team is centered. The School Support Officer hosted and the Middle School Chief Instructional Improvement Officer attended. What this means in base terms is that the principal wasn't the highest level of authority.

Purposeful illusion. That was what came to mind when I watched the principal's body language. In previous meetings this woman had done a bang up job of manipulating the heck out of me. She condescends, she patronizes, she sighs and puts on a show of patience while taking yet more time out of her busy day to deal with yet another uninformed parent. She is long suffering for the cause of the children. She makes an art of controlling people. But in last night's meeting, she almost seemed humble. Not humbled by any means, but carefully respectful. And so carefully, so artfully, she lied. In her oh so subtle way, she tried to push my buttons, just waiting for me to lose it and discredit myself.

It didn't work. But I must admit, she gave it a great shot.

What was most revealing, though, was Chris' teacher. This to my discredit, I think I made her cry.

Having finally steered this months' long debate to the core issue of inappropriate instructional practice, I was face-to-face with the instructor and the highest authority in instructional practice in the middle school system. Now the woman who holds the role of chief authority happens to be not only well educated but an experienced teacher and former principal. She has years of expertise not only in teaching but in people. She has discerning wisdom. She's empathic. She supports individual teachers actively yet has objectivity when dealing with parents. This meeting may have been an annoyance to the principal and last ditch for me but it had to be excruciating for the teacher. And I finally figured out why.

She's trying. She is really trying her best to be a good teacher. She is studying the literature. She is adopting theory and putting it into practice. She is following the rules. She is withstanding my criticism. Dang it, this should be working. Why isn't it working?

And without intending it, without empathic consideration, I broke through.

"Instead of making the classroom and tutoring experience so punishing, why can't you just reach out to him?" I asked. "Why can't you say 'hey, Chris, I have an idea that might help. Why don't you come to tutoring today, we can work on it together'"?

The Chief Officer picked up on it so fast I didn't notice and took the teacher out into the hall. The teacher didn't come back. I'm pretty sure that what I said made her cry.

Because she just can't do what I suggested. They don't teach that in college. It's not a measureable quantity. It's a way of being.

And with middle school kids, you can't fake it. They know somehow. They know who has it, who doesn't. And they are merciless. I mean, thirteen, they're just flat out cruel to the ones they like, imagine how awful they can be to the teachers they don't like. OK, don't imagine, remember. Remember then?

So Chris has been removed from her class and I am petitioning to have him and his brother removed from the school. It will work out until the next crisis.

At least I haven't had to swim with the crocodiles, but I hope that next time I will have a little more sensitivity and not BE a carnivorous amphibian.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


One time, before I am officially a crone, I want to dance with my sisters in the red tent. Hah!