MOUSE

mouse

This is Mouse.

As you can see quite easily he is debonair, civically-minded, and a sucker for cookies.

Mouse has been in our house about 11 years now, and his personality has evolved as he’s grown up. Once syrupy sweet (and a bit boring, if I’m honest, dear Mouse, with a voice to match) he has grown-up a bit and in the nicest way. His voice is still a high-pitched, for he is a very tiny fellow, but it has a certain mellowness to it that is so nice. And, being more grown-up, he doesn’t pull any punches with us anymore. If, say, we forget to include him in the cookie dispersal, or he is left behind on the sofa instead of snuggled into bed, he will often say to us, “You bastards! I’ll cut you!” I know it sounds a bit violent, but it’s just Mouse. We know he’s just kidding. And given his petite stature, we can understand that he may wish to make himself as difficult as possible to ignore. I mean, no one wants to miss out on peanut butter cookies, or snuggling under the covers. Mouse demands not to be ignored, and in a world were the little things are often bulldozed over, we are so glad that Mouse makes us pay attention.

THE SECOND OF THREE GIFTS WE GOT FROM THE JEFFERSON SCHOOL

IMG_1460The second gift we got from The Jefferson School (TJS) would be Atty, the class pet.

Soon after our daughter transitioned from the 5th grade class to the 4th grade class at TJS, I went in for parent-teacher conferences, which was my first time in the 4th grade classroom.

There, in the corner on the floor, was a fetching young lady named Atticus Finch, or Atty, for short.

Atty is a most beautiful and possibly 2-3 year old guinea pig, the (former) class pet.

For me, it was love at first site.

I immediately offered to take her with us over Christmas break, and etc., and the teacher was happy to have us do it, as her dog did not tolerate Atty coming home with her.

So, Atty stayed with us over Christmas, making our Christmas so much sweeter, and I could hardly bear to return her when school began again.

And then…

Coronavirus.

The school asked us if we could keep her during the shut down. Of course, we could.

But what began as, I expected, a few weeks, turned into the entire second half of school. We felt, as a family, that Atty was now a part of our family, and we hoped we would not have to return her.

Finally, a few days before TJS closed. the school told us the happy news that we could keep her.

Our family joke is that I say we have three GPs, and I call them by these names:

Pigness (Atty)

Baby Pigness (Sugar)

and Favorite Pigness (Sophie).

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During our time with Atty, Sophie and I have done a lot of research on Guinea pigs. We learned that they are NOT from Guinea. They are from Peru where they live their lives as pets, food, and shamanic healers. They are important and revered, just like Atty (though we will never eat Atty, I do feel that she has provided me with some shamanic healing).

We learned they need vitamin C in everything, so they don’t get scurvy. Though they might like to play pirate, they do not want to be one and die from scurvy! (Or walk the plank!)

We also learned from Sophie, the mole on the inside, that, while in the classroom, Atty was often forced to ride in Lego cars, and the like, by the boys, and generally handled roughly. That she had been donated by a school family who thought better of owning her, and that she was, of course, given away a second time, to us.

There should not be any such thing as class pets, IMHO.

Animals have feelings and fears and loves, and to subject them to long weekends (or even closed weeks, or days with no heat during snow events) is cruel. To buy and commit to an animal and then throw it away, is cruel. To keep an animal as school pet but not take care of its dietary needs, or to allow children to be rough and self-serving with it, is cruel.

Since Atty has come to us one other thing we have learned is that Guinea pigs are very social pack animals, and so we rescued another one, this time from the pet store as our local shelter had none, and Atty is no longer lonely. She shares her home with Sugar. Sugar came to us with a severely infected eye, and it took quite some time, and quarantining from Atty, to get her healthy. And they both now get vitamin C supplements in their treats and water. And there is always hay, so Atty never has to worry about a long weekend with not enough hay and deadly GI stasis. And she never has to worry that she will be alone or cold or hungry or given away ever again.

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Atty and Sugar are victims of the pet trade, and we cannot stop the pet trade, but we can insure that two little ladies are living their best lives from now on.

WHAT MY BROTHER WAS BEST AT

bill and sophie

After playing guitar, probably being silly was his second-best skill.

When someone is gone, well, you can’t spend your life wrapped-up in every photo of them ever, but you can curate a very special grouping that do their best to encapsulate the magic that was your special person.

This one shows the charm that my brother had, charm that his niece seems to have inherited. I feel as if the two of them are inviting us on a cruise ship each time I see this photo. Tonight’s onboard cocktail is a Shirley-Temple-Moe-Larry-&-Curly…. a glass, half rum, half Coke, one fresh-faced cherry, three assorted nuts.

BLACKBERRIES!

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One thing I seem to have a knack for growing…. all over my HOA-allowed white plastic fence, blackberries! Take that white plastic!

This looks to be about half of this year’s crop, which was enough to share with some friends.

There are just as many red ones still on the vines… waiting to ripen and be crushed between our teeth!

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GIGANTIC HEAD

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*sigh* each week I tutor live on Zoom, and I think, each time I join, man I have a gigantic head. And it’s dorky-looking too.

Then I say to myself, But I’m just as God made me….

Hmmmm……

I am definitely not an edgy person I guess. As nerdy on the outside as in.

Of course, my mother would wonder why I’d want to be edgy.

Hmmmmmmm…

I am… nice.

Hmmmmm……

Doesn’t always work out so well, being nice. And look at it there… nice… plastered all over my gigantic head!

THE FIRST OF THREE GIFTS WE GOT FROM THE JEFFERSON SCHOOL

TJS

One thing I will swear on a stack of Bibles to anyone who asks me is that Principle Beth Conaway (whose son was convicted of and is serving time for rape) once told me, when I told her that my daughter’s bully could not be in the same classroom as her, and I quote, “Bullies have rights too.”

So, to Dr. Conaway, no, they don’t.

And so, in June of 2019, Dave and I came to the financially very difficult decision that our local public school would no longer work for us.

And we enrolled, for our last year of elementary school, in The Jefferson School.

I knew we couldn’t afford it for even one year.

I knew we couldn’t afford it indefinitely at all.

But, since Dr. Conaway feels that it is fine for bully’s rights to supersede the rights of their victims, I knew we had no choice but to try. (and Cape School District, shame on you. How many school districts do you know where the elementary principle is the mother of a convicted rapist?  By the way, where is that circular filing cabinet where you put all of our bullying reports?)

In any case, after a month at The Jefferson School (TJS) we discovered that our child had been so under-served that we had no choice but to move her back a year. So, instead of one last year of elementary school and then try the public middle school, TWO more years of elementary school.

Okay. We think we can skip the mortgage every other month and not get foreclosed for… awhile.

I mean, I’m a parent, what other choice can I make?

And so, we were repeating 4th grade.

And in a repeat of 4th grade at TJS our daughter blossomed.

Grades got better.

Confidence soared.

She told me just yesterday that her birthday at TJS was the best birthday she ever had at school, ever. I mean, what is home-ownership compared to that? You just can’t put a price on it.

But, it was soon after she transitioned to 4th grade that we learned that the school was closing. We hadn’t been told when we enrolled. What we were told, when we were finally told, was that we were all being transferred to the local charter school.

Of course that didn’t happen.

The children who got into the charter school where, first and foremost, the children of the head of the TJS board, the very board who negotiated the sale of the private school to the charter school district. The guy, a former Dogfish Head beer bigwig named, appropriately, Benz, got his kids in, but beyond his kids about 4 more TJS kids got in in total.

Fine.

The lottery, after the siblings of kids already in the charter school were all admitted, was supposedly random.

Was it “fair and random?” Is that how Benz’ kids got in? Fairly and randomly? Maybe. Well, and maybe they are luckier than us. Rich kids usually are.

How would we peons ever know? Some things in life are unknowable, and un-win-able.

And so, here we found ourselves faced with a terrible, for us, decision. Send our kid back to a school where bullies have more rights than victims,  or homeschool.

So, we’re going to homeschool.

And this is where I, finally, come back to the first thing we got from TJS.

From TJS we learned that, yes, we can homeschool. The teachers at TJS were lovely, and invested, and accommodating. We never missed a day from the shutdown, and they taught our daughter that she could self-teach, and they taught us that we could successfully be stuck at home with our daughter all day, and it could be productive time all shut-in together.

So, though I initially quite literally lost it when I realized we couldn’t go to the charter school, and that we had been lied to, over and over, by TJS management, we were gifted the framework and experience to homeschool, and I think, though it is not ideal for our active and social daughter, we can do it. We certainly cannot go back to her public school.

And then, coronavirus…

Even if she had gotten in to the charter school, I do NOT want her going into a pandemic zone. And, had we gotten in, I think I would have felt so afraid of losing the spot, that I would have sent her, putting her life or my mom’s life at risk, and quarantining from my own mother. So the hard decision about whether or not to send our kid our to school, it is not even on my plate, and for that, I am grateful, because I truly feel, based on the science about the virus, the return to the classroom is foolhardy.

So, TJS was a great school. Sophie was a goat-keeper there (yes, she tended the goats), and she will miss it,  I think.

But, we will be safer, if not in a perfect bubble, in our little world this year, because we will not be in a school full of kids, and so many possible avenues to the virus.

As you know, if you read my little blog, my brother just died quite unexpectedly, and that leaves my mother, my sister, and I in my family, and we cannot take any more loss this year.

But we do not have to give up school, or choose health over school, because the TJS teachers gifted us with such a nice model of how to run ourselves at home, and taught our daughter that she can learn, and she is intelligent, and she doesn’t have to give her bully more rights than she gives herself.

And who do we have to thank for this? The school itself?

No.

The school management?

No.

The teachers.

May the teachers who taught our daughter be safe during this pandemic, and may all school districts know some sense and not give into parental bullying, and keep their teachers safe, and at home, until this pandemic is managed or vaccinated.

TINNITUS HACK

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I have tinnitus. Oh, yippee, aging.

When I started the Covid 19-work-at-home that so many of us are doing I bought this little white noise machine to help not wake Sophie in the morning as my office is next to her bedroom.

Lo and behold, when the tinnitus was driving me mad last week, I Googled cures, like you do, and it was written on a very wise page that white noise machines can help.

And it does help!

I play it for even 10 minutes when I feel the ringing is going to drive me mad and, voila! No more ringing!

For me, the “ringing” is actually an overwhelming noise that sounds just like the fluorescent lights in libraries, like, when I was a kid and I would leave the library it was always the feeling of, “WoW It’s quiet now! I guess it was really loud in there.” Yeah, I don’t like fluorescent lights, that insidious hummmmmm.

As I understand it, tinnitus is not fixable, but this little puppy helps a lot! And, yes, I am probably aggravating it with the coffee. But, coffee; I mean, c’mon… coffee!

How carefully we have to negotiate between our passions and our disabilities as we age…..

KEPT ON LOOKING FOR MY BROTHER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

CBB

I am not doing well with anger these days, and anger is, in general, a very uncomfortable feeling for me.

I don’t think any single person could have saved or changed my brother’s life beyond my brother, and I think he needed much more time to do it. We’re late bloomers in my family. Maybe that’s why I enjoy publishing older authors.

So, no one could have saved him.

But my sister-in-law still could have had the balls, to use the very sexist and angry term, to call and tell us he was ill. Instead of waiting until he was on a vent in the hospital and you know he can’t get angry with you, you spill it, because you have enough of a moral compass and a thought to the world outside of yourself that you say, no man, these people have a right to know.

The nicest thing I can do for my brother right now is not talk to her. He wouldn’t want me to be angry at her, and I am, very. I don’t think we could have saved him, but we could have said, “What’s going on? We love you. You’re important to us.” We got to say nothing, and all we can do now is hope he knew.

In your own life, be brave enough to know when to make someone angry. Don’t be a coward.

And so I spend all night waking up and thinking of him, wishing he’d had more time, looking for a sign in the middle of the night.

In any case, enjoy this adorable Top of the Pops video of the CBB, when fashion was really fashion. 😉

It’s the little dumb things that get you through the middle of the night.

COULDN’T GET IT RIGHT

GET OUT OF BED AND WRITE

alarm clockSo it’s three am, and that heavy meal, or long week, or rum and coke, or Benadryl didn’t help; you’re awake.

You’re awake and what are you going to do?

Toss, turn, you are neither salad tongs or a pancake flipper.

You’re a writer.

Get up and write. Even one page.

Sleep will come, and tomorrow, you’ll manage, or, you won’t. For a day you’ll stink at your life, your job, or you’ll sleep all day. It’s not the worst thing you ever did.

Don’t lay there, on that mattress, fully awake, and fight with sleep. Fights are never productive.

Get up, get your laptop, get somewhere comfortable, and write.

And in the morning, whether you’ve slept or not, you can have coffee… 😉