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I don’t know, maybe ask Gef?

Published June 19, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I am officially released into the summer! Except I decided to take a short term gig teaching summer school because it’s only half a day and I certainly could use the extra money. So I’m done with the full-time gig at one school (You know the one with the sketchy pay history and shaky foundations?) and am wrapping up a summer school this week before a luxurious eight week break before I start a new teaching position.

Wow, it sounds exhausting.  It is exhausting. In fact every day after lunch I have taken a nap. Actually, the naps have been taking me.  As you may know, I generally have trouble sleeping and I often need background ambient noise to keep my brain entertained. (Remember the evil robot lizards?) So I’ve been dozing off to old episodes of Dateline mysteries. Some of these contain bizarre and disturbing stories.  My brain apparently took this as a personal challenge. So while the TV entertained my conscious with lists of tragic disappearances, my subconscious was whipping together a convoluted tale of Batman’s friend Frank needing to disassemble and particle board shed in Tennessee, but somehow we had to wait until Frank’s dog was satisfied with this baseball team’s performance in that evening’s game.  It got down to a wing nut holding the whole thing together, but we were all waiting to for the final go ahead to release it.

As I woke up, the crazy list show was regaling me and Frances (BatCat) with the story of Gef (pronounced Jeff) the clever mongoose. read about Gef here. Gef made his presence known in the 1930’s, manifesting himself in series of grunts and growls from inside the wall of his abode. Eventually he began to speak long sassy sentences, zinging and participating in the family’s conversation.

Eventually Gef revealed himself to be a clever mongoose from India. How he got in the wall is anyone’s guess.  It took me a while and two separate internet searches to figure out that this was a real thing, and not part of my subconscious’ wild adventures.

I’m not sure if all of this is the world’s way of telling me that I need to relax more or if I’m finally having the breakdown everyone has been predicting. In a world that gave us a clever mongoose and several spokespastries, a dog as a demolition  supervisor almost  makes sense.

 

I

 

 

Eve

You say good-bye . . . . 

Published June 15, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Many moons ago I was in a Outdoor Summer Historical Drama (All of the adjectives I hate in front of the word “Drama” ) called Black River Traders.  (I was also in the sister show, Dreams and Drillbits, but that is a nightmare for another time.). 

In Black River Traders, I played a character called Wife of White Eagle. I was asked to audition for Josefina, one of the leads, but the director looked right into my little brown face and told me I wasn’t right for the part of the Hispanic woman in her thirties. I was thirty-two at the time and have been Hispanic for many years.   The nightmare for the other time is directly attached to the woman who did get the part, but I digress. (That’s a shock.) 

As Wife of White Eagle , I did little except stand around dressed as a Navajo and hover frantically over my ill son.  My very few lines were allegedly the only English my character spoke, because I said nothing else to the Billagonna who helped my child. Several scenes later, my clan invited said Billagonna to dance ceremonially with us. Prior to this dance was a sit and chat by the fire. One of the lead characters delivered his line, “The only constant in life is change”  directly to me.  It took about two months of performances before he realized that his character talking to mine was an exercise in clueless and closing night he mouthed,”You have no idea what I’m talking about.” I  nodded my head and we went on with our lives. 

I am about to jump right into a change.  

Today and tomorrow are my last day in the employment of Kauffman Leadership Academy.  I have to go out there to tidy up my classroom, take inventory of my room and have my exit interview, as well as attend my last faculty meeting.  I’m trying to get everything situated so I can just go to the meetin and then blaze out of there.  This is because of what I plan to say in my exit interview.

This has not been the idyllic experience that I had hoped. Mostly because all I had was hope. I worked fifty hour weeks in stuffy classroom with almost no back plan by the administration for things that might go awry. 

What went awry: Five times our paychecks were late. Many times plans and schedules were not distributed until moments before they happened.  The superintendent is married to the biggest bully in the school and can’t/won’t do anything about it.   We did not have a school nurse or full-time counselor. Several times the schools bills weren’t paid and we were left wondering if we would have to adjust our lesson plans to accommodate no power or internet.  A lot of things happened in a “let’s just cover this up and see what happens.” It seems that they only time action was taken was when it was something that the general public witnessed. 

I am trying to find a tactful way to present all of this. I’m pretty sure I’m going to give up on that and just boil it down to the two major things that helped me decide to get out of the haunted house.

One of the several times our checks were late and one of my colleagues asked, desperately, what we were supposed to do, since we were all broke and had no real safety net. The principal/superintendent said, “This is an at-will state. You can always go or somewhere else.”  In the ensuing silence, my colleague put his head down and cried. 

Then there’s the bully that no one does anything about. This full-grown man seems to take great delight in talking down and denigrating teachers and students. One of our students is transgender (female to male) and was very upset that the Bully kept calling him “her”. Bully was corrected by other students, yet insisted on using this word.  This is in direct violation of the school’s policy and counts as bullying.   I did not teach this student, but since the teachers who did teacher him wouldn’t do anything about it and since I have nothing left to lose, I’m going to mention in.  

Because something has to change. 

(Moving) Foreword

Published June 8, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

The intended pun in the title is a play on the phrase “moving forward” combined with what I will hope will be a moving (emotionally) foreword for my next published tome.

I’m fairly certain that most people who may stumble across this blog will understand this, but I’m looking at this from the perspective of a teacher who is STILL IN THE CLASSROOM ON JUNE 8.  This is not an inservice day, it is a regular school day. You may ask,”Why, Writer Chick, aren’t the kids balky and horrible, having to come to school while EVERY OTHER SCHOOL IN THE STATE is on summer break? ” Yes, yes they are. The teachers, at least this one are even worse.  I’m pretty amazed that I haven’t shoved/punched/kicked anyone yet.But after today we still have one more day and two days of inservice left.

I am vexed and frustrated by all of it. It’s hard to single out what bothers me the most.  It may be that even though  I am not qualified to teach our Special Ed Student, a fact that mentioned/proclaimed/screamed for the entire first month of school, but has fallen on deaf ears because there is no one else to teach him. Or it may be the fact that lot of this week has been running in place  until the clock winds down, but I still have to deal with a student who should have been sent home or possibly executed because his negative comments to his fellow students are planting seeds for future therapists to harvest, or it could be the fact that I am exhausted by the nine hour school day multiplied the stress that five late paychecks in one school year have caused.

A by-product of this year is my current attempt to be brutally honest and specific because apparently no one is understand the words that are coming out of my head unless I spell it out.

Yesterday was rough because we had the planting of the tree in memory of the student who was murdered back in February.  This was scheduled in the morning, after which we had the full school day. So once again, the teachers who loved this child were not allowed the comfort of  a good long cry so that we can begin to heal.

Wow, that sure was a long rant to get to the point.

Another by product of this long, long school year and my long, long expensive drive is that I have had the chance to listen to podcasts and learn some new things.

I listened to an episode of This American Life yesterday.  I’m not sure if I’ve heard this one before or if it sounded familiar because I’m very familiar with the topic-“Call me Fat.”

I think I commented on this before, but this time I have  a name.

Lindy West, who sounds like someone I would totally be friends, is a contributor to many of my favorite magazines/blogs. Her new book, Shrill, also sounds good. So good that I just bought it on Amazon, full price and brand new!

There is a quote from the book that rings true to me, mainly because I will always feel like the fat girl. Even when I was below my ideal weight. (Sometime in the late eighties it didn’t last long) I still felt like the fat girl. Possibly because even at my ideal weight, I am still considered on the fluffy side of perfect. I blame my hearty peasant stock.

I am mostly ok with myself. My fat has not kept me from teaching or writing or reading or doing anything that makes up my real life.  I am also famine and drought resistant. And as I used to say, “In that first nuclear winter, you’re gonna want my big ass pulling a plow for you, and not that twig girl you just eye molested.”

But there fat girl inside  and outside of me , really got something out of the following quote.  This is directly from the This American Life’s podcast transcript.

Act Five. An Immodest Proposal.

Ira Glass

Act Five, An Immodest Proposal. So here in the podcast and the internet version of our radio show this week, we are adding this. I just thought it would be nice to end the show with one last anecdote from Lindy West’s book. And this is kind of an uplifting one. I hope that’s not bad to say.

Lindy is married to this guy, Aham, and raising his kids with him. And as she points out in the book, he is conventionally handsome, very tall. And when the two of them are out together, sometimes people assume that because he is slim and good-looking and she is fat that they’re not a couple.

Even if they’re at a bar holding hands, looking exactly like a couple, people say stuff to them like, so you guys roommates? Women hit on him in front of Lindy. She read for me– and this is what we’re going to close out with today– the story of their engagement.

Lindy West

Aham took me out for dinner on my 32nd birthday, then suggested a quick nightcap at our neighborhood bar. Everyone was there. It was a surprise. Our friends, our families, the kids, a cake. Aham took my hand and led me to the back. There was a paper banner that said my name.

Our friends Evan and Sam were playing a duet on cello and bass. I was confused. Why were there somber strings at my birthday party? Why was Aham doing intense face? Wait, it’s almost 10:00 PM on a school night, and we’re at a bar. Why are the kids here?

Then it all happened at once– the knee, the ring, the speech, the question, the tears– all the hits. It was a full-blown grand gesture. Later, I asked him why he did it that way– such a big spectacle, such an event, not precisely our style. And I expected something cliche but sweet like, “I wanted to make sure our community was part of our marriage,” or, “I wanted everyone to know how much I love you.”

Instead, he said, one time, when you were drunk, you told me, “if you ever propose to me, don’t do it in the bullshit way that dudes usually treat fat girls– like it’s a secret, or you’re just trying to keep me from leaving you. Thin girls get public proposals, like those dudes are winning a fucking prize. Fat chicks deserve that too.”

(https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/589/transcript)

But everyone remembers the Frito Bandito

Published June 2, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I work with several baby teachers. Most of them are twenty years younger and this is their first full-time teaching job. I also work with a teacher who is about 15 years older than me. He also has a background in the arts, and if things had gone differently, we would be related by marriage. (Not to each other. )

The other day, my bizarro brain became obsessed with Fruit Pie the Magician. (This has happened before.) I asked my colleague if he remembered this character.  He did not. He also did not remember Twinkie the Kid on King Ding Dong.  These were the spokespastries for Hostess.  There was even a brief period when Hostess tried to shake things up by creating a chocolate twinkie, with a Twinkie the Kid of color.  This did not last long.

I said all of the above to my colleague and he looked at me as if I had gone quite mad. He did not remember any of it, leaving me to wonder if perhaps I was in my own special loop of the Mandela effect.  I tested this theory by asking him if he remembered Jot, the dot who had feelings.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized how nuts this sounded, so I looked it up. Jot was a dot that interacted with children and changed color and shape out of empathy for children.   He was part of an hour long program that was on a local TV station on Sunday mornings.

In addition to Jot, one could tune in to see Davy and Goliath, a well meaning boy and his oddly judgmental dog.  There was also a guy who would read the Sunday funnies aloud to the viewers.

My colleague remembered the show and the funnies but not Jot. He did not remember any of the spokespastries, but he did remember the marginally racist Frito Bandito.

I, however, do not.

 

I know it’s not a corndog.

Published June 1, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Among this challenges I’ve faced this year is Racism. It is the reason I woke up on November 9 in such a state of panic. Batman said it was going to be ok. I thought, YOU’RE going to be ok, with your blue eyes, white skin and Y chromosome.

I wish I didn’t have to think about things like that, but there is an almost constant reminder that things are not ok (I’m not going to drag Bradley Cooper into this one.)

Post-election I full expected to get some blow back from on of the blowhardiest of our parents. I thought for sure he would make some kind of remark like, “Now we can send that dumb beaner back where she came from.” My response would be, “North Fort Worth?”  Strangely enough this didn’t happen.

It was a Hispanic Student I had to  go toe to toe with first. He started with the “Do you want to build a wall”, which I’m assuming is supposed to be funny. I let him have it.  In the midst of his protest, I explained to him that as a Hispanic he should be setting an example for everyone else.

Then there was the time a student in my class remarked, “I hate Mexicans.” I promptly escorted him away from me.  (This is the same student who while watching The Wiz said, “Hashtag black lives matter.” Since I’m not getting any support on discipline, I just gave him a warning and a withering look.)

I encounter casual racism daily. It ranges from a student trying to be funny writing build a wall on my board to finding out that one of my distant cousins slapped his adult daughter in the face for getting pregnant. He has no problem with the pregnancy, per se, its the fact that the father of the baby is African American.

There is also racism disguised as humor.  I was listening to a new to me podcast, the TX files.  It’s true crime based in my home state so I thought, why not? About fifteen minutes in, I found a few answers to my question.  Both hosts are named Mike.  One of the Mike’s was kind of a jerk and began the podcast by criticizing one person’s interpretation of breakfast. The topic of the podcast was the tragic death of four young girls in a yogurt show in Austin.  The site of the tragedy is now a nail salon and the owners burn incense to honor the spirits of the girls.

The host decided to use this as an opportunity to try out his stereotypical Asian voice. The co-host’s attempts to bring the topic back around were bulldozed by racists remarks.  When the host started a tangent about a Mexican boy who beat him up in middle school, the co host asked, “Why did he do that?” The host responded with, “Because we didn’t have a wall.” That’s when I stopped listening.

And then there’s the overt racism of this past weekend when Jeffrey Joseph Christian stabbed three men who intervened when he ranted at two Muslim women on the Portland light rail. Two of of the men died.

My good friend Merritt Glover is quite proud of her brother Drew. Drew is a former guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  After he finished his duty, he spent some time relaxing with a friend at a golf course.  There was a racial incident and Drew was run over while protecting a Mexican woman.  Drew is doing better, but he still has difficulty walking.

This should not be considered normal. The student in the first story remarks, “That’s racist.” about many things. Some might actually be racist.   One of his more hilarious retorts is calling something a racist corndog.

That makes as much sense as anything else.