Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Explaining Mitt Romney’s Dog Crime to my Border Collie or ‘How Seamus Shit Happens’

Flick and her hedgehog

It had been a fairly long Friday at school today. When I hit the door, Flick is at the top of the stairs with her little snarl-grin she gets for me, wiggling her entire body in the thrill of our reconnection. I’m just as thrilled to see her, and from the bottom of the stairs until the moment I reach her--my arms full of purse and grocery bags, in my usual doggie/kitty baby-voice I coo and say “Ooooh, my Flick, my cutest baby, my lover…how are you today? What a beautiful girl…what a good girl….oh hello to you, too.” The purse must be dropped and full affections must be delivered, not only to Flick but to my cat who swirls around my feet awaiting the same attention. Then comes the second cat squeaking out a raspy “rowl”. What a greeting! No matter what kind of day I’ve had, I’m fully uplifted by this furry welcome wagon. We all reconnect. Toys are brought and offered. There’s much excitement. Flick immediately goes out to the back yard for a bathroom journey but is just as quickly back on the deck wagging at the slider. She wants in. She wants to tell me something.

She’s quite exercised. First, she runs to the bedroom and grabs Froggy, dropping it for me. Then she finds her tennis ball. I pet her and ask her why so energetic. “I’m not energetic, dramn it,” she answers as she sails through the kitchen.

“No?” I say as I get ice cubes from the refrigerator. She hates the sound of ice cubes dropping in a glass, so she takes another circuit through the house. She runs back, grabs a bite of kibble, and then I know for sure she’s got something on her mind. She’s a nervous eater and tends to snack when she’s stressed. She chews kibble while she paces, and even though she scatters kibble throughout the house, I love this about her. Having gone through a half-rack of Oreos after a bad day a time or two in my life, I can relate.

“Uh….Mom…is it true what I heard on the radio this morning?” she asks.

“What?” I filled up my glass with water and took a drink.

 “Ya know, the gruy who wants to bre president that tried his dog to the roof of the car and drove across the crountry? (Chomp chomp)  Is thrat true?” She’s crunching kibbles the whole time she’s talking, so she’s a bit hard to understand. I take another drink before I answer.

“Romney…well he’s a Republican.” Like that’s supposed to explain that behavior to a Border Collie.

“Ya, Romney. Did thrat really happen?” Flick continues to pace and chomp, pace and chomp. She’s got kibble from one end of the kitchen to the other.

“I’m afraid so,” I answer carefully. “But he didn’t just tie Seamus to the roof. Seamus was in his carrier, you know, his bedroom.” That was a bad enough image, but I didn’t want to scare her. I Frank Luntzed the hell out of it.

“So rif he becromes president, rill dogs have to ride on the roofs of cars?” She’s rarely still, but she has stopped shortly when she asked this and looked at me with those big, brown doleful eyes. I reach down and rub her behind her ears.

“Oh, Flick, beautiful girl. Of course not! You’ll always get to ride shotgun right next to Dad.”

“Uh, Mike,” she corrected me. Flick continues to have some issues with the fact that I’m the alpha female. She’s so alpha it’s a wonder she didn’t drop a testicle. She grudgingly relinquished the role when we rescued her, and when Mike’s not around, Flick and I have a true sisterhood. But as soon as he gets home, she sometimes forgets and thinks she’s top female; she thinks she’s the wife. I look at her with love but directly in her eyes.

Dad,” I say firmly. She reaches back to sniff her “girl parts.” She does that for comfort in stressful situations, too. But she quickly refocused on the topic.

“So, what about rother dogs. Will they have to ride on roofs if he’s president?”

“No. Presidents can’t order dogs to ride on roofs. They can only invade other countries after lying about weapons of mass destruction and order people tortured. Dogs are safe.” I rubbed her head. She rolled over on the floor, attempting to keep her mind off the scary images in her head—the picture of being trapped in a vestibule on top of a car for 12 hours and shitting herself in that cold, scary wind tunnel. She closed her eyes as I rubbed her stomach. This should appease her, I thought. She rolled back up and shook. No luck.

“But wrhy didn’t they ret Seamus ride in the car?” She had her teeth in this and wouldn’t let it go. I started rubbing her chest and then back again.

“I don’t know, my good girl, my cutest girl. He’s an asshole. You don’t have to worry about it.”

“But I am wrorried about it. You know me. I wrorry about shadows! I wrorry about the ice maker! I wrorry about big truck breaks. Now I have to wrorry about Mitt Romney putting rus dogs on roofs!” She ran to the back room and came back with her hedgehog and made it grunt and few times. I sat down, and she came and put her head in my lap.

“But you’re safe, and you know you never have to worry about us putting you on a roof.” I rubbed her behind the ears, those soft ears.

“But I’m a Border Collie! It’s my job to wrorry. I don’t have any sheep!” She stopped and nuzzled me, looking up at me. Then she softly said, “besides….I’ve been there…”

“I know you have, girl. You’ve never talked about it.” She pulled away from me and made her way back to her bowl for another mouthful of kibbles and began more rapid, nervous pacing.

“I cran’t,” she said as she chomped.

“I know, girl. I’m sorry I brought it up.”

“You didn’t, Mom. I did.” She circled the couch as if herding it.

“Flick, come here….you just need to come, lie down. I’ll make a fire. Lie here beside me and relax. It’s going to be okay. Romney won’t win anyway. He’s not even popular in his own political party let alone with the rest of the country. About 39% of the people in this country are owned by at least one dog. That disgusting story plus the fact that Romney’s a rich guy who’s responsible for outsourcing his own labor in his companies is going to prevent him from being a viable general election candidate.” Flick came and lay at my feet. She rolled over in a huff.

“I need to hear rit from Dad,” she said. I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah,” I said exhaling in that way I do when I love and am at the same time disgusted with a family member’s behavior. “I figured as much. We’ll talk to Dad when he gets home. He’ll tell you Romney has no more chance of winning the presidency than a Chihuahua has of becoming a good sheep dog.”  Flick closed her eyes and slept. I fear her dreams placed her in a doggie dystopia where the government required dogs to ride on roofs and each SUV on the freeway sported a shit stain down its back window with a bumper sticker that said Romney 2012. I just hope Flick asks my husband about what “man-on-dog Santorum” refers to. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t believe me if I told her.

For some more information on Romney's unimaginable dog crime, see:
 Romney's Cruel Canine Vacation
For some balance: Wall Street Journal
Some question as to the REAL story about how they cleaned the dog up (Although if it were an automatic, drive-through car wash, it would have tore the things from the top of the car. Stories change over the years in the retelling. I think that they retold this story over the years fondly is the point. It shows a lack of empathy at its core. And, if a person can't empathize with a poor animal, he won't likely empathize with a poor child needing food or health care. Or a factory worker who has lost his job. Or a college student saddled with unimaginable debt to get a public college education. It's about empathy.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Alice in Wonderland says "Hellooooo 2012!"

Su Blackwell's Down the Rabbit Hole

Well folks, December was a total loss as far as posting on the blog. I started a piece called “Down the Rabbit Hole,” which followed the frenetic pace of the month as if I were Alice tumbling down into Carroll’s surreal world. I fell past December task after December task. I met Mitt Romney the Dormouse. But the writing lurched when I had trouble deciding just who to make the Mad Hatter—Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, or my superintendent. Oh, my…the choices, decisions, and online shopping. I just couldn’t put it all together. And many of you don’t know this about me, but it’s healthy that I didn’t finish it; I didn’t make it Martha-fucking Stewart perfect. I let it go. In December. Good for me!

All of it took a different surreal turn on December 17th when we boarded a plane to Kona. There, I floated in a dreamlike bliss of turtle swims, Pele visits, spending time with my family and one of my best friends, and sipping the Kona coffee my neurologist had just told me I should try giving up. (Really? I’ve given everything else up—now coffee too? But it helps my migraines. It’s a variable. So it’s being reduced. I may show up on America’s Most Wanted soon.) My neurologist, Dr. Sylvia Lucas, MD PhD is an amazing migraine specialist in the Pacific Northwest. And if she demands that requirement, then God damn it, I’ll do it. I’m breaking my usual rule of no-names on this blog to mention her. She’s not only a great researcher and started the Headache Center at the University of Washington Medical Center, but she is by far the most personable, down-to-earth, easy-to-talk to doctor I’ve ever had. I absolutely adore this woman, and I wish every patient had a doctor like her. Somebody should tape her interactions with patients and use those as training DVDs for interns. Title them “How to be brilliant and listen to those who aren’t as brilliant but are in pain.”

We just got back from our Big Island idyll in time to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary, New Year’s Eve. Our celebrations are always at home where we see plenty of fireworks by looking out across Puget Sound. I don’t like to be on the roads on New Year’s Eve, and even if we felt adventuresome, we couldn’t abandon our Border Collie who needs our emotional support at midnight when expensive fireworks are inevitably set off about a block from our house down on the water. It happens twice a year there. It’s a little vacation house that people only come to a few times a year. When they do, they bring fireworks that—even if they’d purchased them on a reservation—are so lavish and expensive, the money spent on them could have easily purchased two tickets to Kona. I don’t get it and neither does our Border Collie. She barks nonstop panicked and pacing. So our New Year’s Eve is the countdown, a kiss, and then let the barking and dog whispering begin.

As the morning breaks, even though I don’t officially set New Year’s resolutions, for I think self-improvement goals much more appropriate after bouts of illness, or the illness of a friend, or a near car crash—I do hope you’ll indulge this list of things I will attempt to see more clearly in 2012. I find that when I get myself into the most trouble, is when I haven’t stopped to look at things that frustrate me through another lens. Here’s what I’ll try to see:

1. I will try to see that when my “constitutional law president” signs a bill that allows both his administration and future administrations (crazy-ass as they may be) to militarily detain people without any geographic limitations whatsoever, violating international law simply because “it is not limited to people captured in the context of an actual armed conflict as required by the laws of war” that I need to see it as positive. After all, I just have to repeat to myself, “same shit, different bill, same shit different bill…” since the Obama Administration already had been indefinitely detaining terrorist suspects. I have to just say, since he’s a Democrat and I voted for him, it’s okay that he can indefinitely detain me as a terrorist if the FBI doesn’t like this blog and thinks it a threat to national security. After all, I do say “fuck” a lot.

2. I will try not to flinch when my superintendent says, “I honor the work you teachers do.” (He’s never been a teacher or spent time in the classroom.) I will attempt to count to five before I roll my eyes when he looks past me or any other woman to talk to my husband or any other man. I’ll attempt to look at the district as a fiscal entity and not as a place where students are inspired and challenged and offered the opportunity of in-depth learning. Perhaps I’ll buy a piggy bank and place it on my desk at school to remind me of the new role of public schools.

3.  When I get frustrated and angry with my principal, I’ll attempt to see the woman inside her that struggles with family and health and a boss from hell. I’ll try to remember the principal she once was before she learned to prevaricate her way through years of community scrutiny and this new Napoleonic super. I’ll attempt to conjure up the image of that sturdy woman who held us all together after a student was killed by her father; the principal I hugged tightly on that day and said, “I’m so proud to work with you.”

4.  I will try not to think of Republicans one-dimensionally. After all, the party is now a veritable Joseph’s coat of many colors, and for those who remember that Old Testament story, such flashy patchwork manifestations only end in more boasting, suspicion, and envy within a family. No, the Republican Party is a family of brilliant colors. I will try to see them not for their biblical rhetoric, but for their biblical metaphorical significance.

5. I will attempt to see automated customer service the way an automated customer might see it. And when, after listening to the phrase “Thank you for waiting, we care about your business” for the fifteenth time, I’ll merely nod like the automaton I’ve become on the other end and grin like an appliance. If, and when I get a real person on the other end, I won’t change my tone if I detect a Bangalori affect. I’ll maintain my slow, deliberate, blender speed and get the help I need. No synapses in my head will fire the notions human labor replaced by computers, nor outsourcing, nor a loss of service business. Nor will I replay my usual internal tape of “Yeah, right…and they want public education to apply the standards of private enterprise to the public sector.” So help me God I won’t!

6. I will begin to enjoy the increased volume of commercials during my favorite television programs. I don't have many favorite television programs, and many of them are news programs, so to DVR them and watch them later is pointless. I will especially appreciate loud pharmaceutical ads that list possible side effects like "watery bowels" and "erections lasting more than four hours." You just never know at my age when this information might come in handy for a woman.

7. I’ll attempt to see the world the way Michele Bachmann does. So that means if (God forbid) my daughter is raped and becomes pregnant, I’m duty bound to require her to have the baby. Fiscally na├»ve minorities caused the 2008 financial crisis. There’s no global warming, evolution is a hoax and “intelligent design” should be taught in public schools. The HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. My dear friends who are gay have “identity disorders,” and Bachmann is a messenger sent from God to prevent gay marriage. I know there’s more, like her oft-repeated statement on Iran wanting to bomb and destroy Israel.  Is there a side of a mushroom I have to eat to see these things?

8.  I will start to enjoy more the Republican primary/caucus sideshow and predatory reality shows like Hoarders or Storage Wars, both of which are the Dickensian LOLCATS of our age. After all, these do us all a service by ameliorating our wealth disparity and obscuring the covert war we are currently waging against Iran. Such things are messy and controversial. We don’t want to acknowledge them nor talk about them. The fact Ahmadinejad has one of our toy spy drones, which dropped from the Persian skies is just a fluke. Time to join American Attention Deficit Disorder (AADD) that makes the military industrial complex function. Why fight it?

9.  I will start to believe in phrases like “clean coal” and “uncompromising integrity.”

10. I will start to watch one hour of FOX News a week just to balance my “liberal” news sources.

Or maybe I’m still down the rabbit hole.

Happy New Year!