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Archive for April, 2007

I had been thinking of writing that “others” post for a long time. Then several weeks ago, I got an email from Traci. Her email and my response made me want to write about those kids even more. And after I wrote about them, and heard your responses, I decided to share selected parts of Traci’s and my email exchange (with Traci’s consent; thank you, Traci).

Dear Susie:

I’ve worked this email out in my head a gazillion times. Each time I sat down to write it, I either didn’t have the time to make it the way I wanted it, had too many tears over something else entirely or I would write “Dear Susie” and think “I just canNOT do this today.” . . . I think of you every single day and send a little prayer your way and tell myself “Write the freakin’ email” and I don’t. There’s just so much…stuff. . . The truth is we all have our “stuff” and I’ve simply been overwhelmed by mine . . .

. . . Several weeks ago, I left a comment at your place about thinking I wouldn’t like you or something and being pleasantly surprised that I do. You replied that my comment made you laugh for some reason (which made me laugh btw) and that if the spirit took me, I could write and explain . . .

. . . When I was a young girl in school there were…issues…for lack of a better word. I was an ugly kid and weird on top of it. The reasons are many and I’m not even going to go into them. To say I had a hard time in school would be downplaying it in the extreme. If there was a popular group, you could say that my end of the life spectrum was so far away from that it may as well have had its own spectrum completely. When I visited your blog, my first reaction was that it was one big clique-y kind of place (there are those in bloggerville) and I’d never comment…just read…anyway, there was just something about you that kept drawing me back. I lurked for awhile and you just kept touching my heart . . .

It’s funny how things that happen to us early on can affect us so deeply that later, when we really are different people than we were, they still affect us in ways we don’t expect. I didn’t expect to be touched by you and I was and am and it surprises me still. I shut so much of myself off even now that when something opens my heart it is amazing. Thank you for that gift. . .

And part of my reply:

Dear, dear Traci,
First, I won’t be able to respond to your email in the way it deserves, because it evokes so much in me. Stuff I’ve even wanted to write a post about. I was a popular kid, pretty much throughout school. But I was a popular kid who had no friends. They probably wouldn’t say that; but that’s how I felt. Because no one really knew me. They knew I dressed nicely enough and I got good grades. They didn’t know about my parents’ various addictions . . . domestic violence . . . . abuse. So, on the inside, I was as weird as they come, honey. I was never unkind to the “target” kids. I had no idea why I wasn’t one of them. It was a “there but for the grace of God go I,” kind of thing, before I was even old enough to understand or articulate that sentiment. I think the kids that were mean to unpopular kids also had a sense that at any minute they could become the target; but their way of handling it was to go on the offensive and not give anyone a chance to notice their weirdness, their vulnerabilities. I handled mine, as best I could, with humor and kindness. Not sure why. I give credit to God, to a Sunday School which, while very conservative, was also very welcoming and loving. Jesus has always been my friend. That’s partly why it hurts and angers me so, that religiosity was used against you.

If people come to my blog and leave, it’s because they get bored, or pissed, or whatever, but I hope it’s not because I’m not welcoming to them. We are ALL dealing with some shit. It takes different forms, we express it in different ways, but I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t have something big and scary somewhere inside, past or present. And if not, then it’s future. None of us get through this life scot-free (is that the right word? I don’t know that I’ve ever written that, it looks funny).

I remember a post of yours about your being an ugly kid, in a restaurant. I don’t know whether you posted a picture, but in my mind, I see you, and you’re cute as can be. We all have pictures of ourselves that make us cringe. I had a unibrow and buckteeth. But when we grow up to have a heart, and we look at little children, we can see that there’s no such thing as an ugly child. Ugly is in the heart of the beholder. Ugly, as far as a child is concerned, is only what’s projected onto her from ugly adults. And that projection makes her carry herself in a certain way, express herself (or not) in certain ways, develop mannerisms, etc.

I’m not a visual person. I remember what people say. Somebody has to look almost ALARMING (good or bad) for me to remember what they look like. I honest-to-God don’t remember if you’ve ever posted a picture of yourself, old or current. But I know that you’re beautiful. *You sang to me. You shared with me, a stranger, a gift that God gave you. Beautiful.

The post I have thought many times of writing, is about the kids who got picked on. I remember them all: Rose, Barbara, Joyce, Bonita, Mary… and I hope that they are living well, as revenge . . .

Thank you for taking time, Traci. I know what it means to take time when you’re overwhelmed. It’s no small thing, and I am very thankful . . .

*Shortly after I “met” Traci, she emailed me a recording of her singing Amazing Grace. It was lovely, and meant a lot to me that she would share herself in that way with a stranger.

If you want to read more, Traci’s Spingle post is a continuation of this subject matter.

I’ll be at least a little bit funny in a couple of days, I promise.

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tree through window 1

tree through window 2

Sunday Post ~ “Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.”

“Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” — both quotes, Soren Kierkegaard

Romans 12:2 (the whole chapter is one of my favorites)

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It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. — C. S. Lewis

The first one I remember was Rose. She was only the tiniest bit chubby (but back then, I don’t recall anyone being concerned about fat), had pale skin, Dutch-boy haircut the color of straw, a sweet smile with a gap between her teeth. Rose. That’s a beautiful word, a beautiful flower. But the other kids spat her name. Think, “Hello, NEWMAN,” from Seinfeld.

Then there was Davey. He was happy, in spite of all their attempts to make that not be so. His nose ran a lot. I now realize that he must have had allergies. No one talked about allergies then. He was just snotty Davey. I remember once he called me before back-to-school. I think it was before 4th grade. He had never called me before, and I didn’t know what to make of it then. Now it pleases me that he felt OK to do that. He was calling to tell me, item by item, each article of back-to-school clothing his mother had bought him, what colors, what he would wear with what . . . and to ask me if I thought his wardrobe was “OK.” Back then, I just told him that everything sounded fine to me. He hung up happy. I never told anyone about that phone call until this minute.

Next, I remember Barbara. Barbara was poor. She wasn’t clean. Not her clothes and not her body. She smelled like bacon and woodstove smoke. There were white things in her black hair. I may not ever have gotten close enough to see what they were. I imagine them as lint, but I don’t know. When I see her in my mind, I see her smiling. If she were clean, with nice clothes and a haircut, her pale skin and smooth black hair, and white, even teeth, would make her quite striking. I see her smiling, but I know she cried a lot. I hope not anymore.

And there was Bonnie in Sunday School. Snot was an issue for her, too, but that’s because she missed her Mom. I don’t know where her Mom was, but her Dad dropped her off in the Sunday School class every Sunday morning. Bonnie (I loved her name) had that combination that I still find so alluring — very blond hair and dark brown eyes. And every single Sunday, to ease the pain of his leaving her there, her Dad would give her a chocolate Tootsie Pop. Damn, I wanted one of those. (Still do.) But Bonnie sucked her Tootsie Pop, and cried for her Mom, and the net effect of the dark brown eyes and the chocolate lolly was three dark brown circles on this pale, wet face, with the tears from the eyes, and the drool down the chin. Even being in the House of the Lord didn’t stop the other kids from saying mean things. I just wanted the Tootsie Pop. And I wanted to say to her, “Your name is BONNIE. You have blond hair, brown eyes and a Tootsie Pop. And Mrs. Mahala is NICE. You don’t have any reason to cry like that.” I never joined in the teasing, but I must say, I didn’t have much empathy.

That was all elementary school.

Next was middle school. Joyce. She had a couple of friends, and they called her Joycie. She was clean, and not poor. She had smooth, clean, light brown hair that hung below her butt. She was very fat. Even though I’ve said that we didn’t think so much about weight back then, Joyce had to buy women’s clothes. Clothes with a “W” after the size, and back then, there wasn’t much to choose from in that department. A few people teased Joyce, but mostly she was safe, with her couple of friends. And when everyone saw how smart she was in Algebra, that helped, too. Because a lot of people needed her help. I got to know Joyce a little bit, because we were in an advanced math class together. She really was smart, and very witty, and very sweet. I thought it was a loss to those other people who didn’t want to be around her because she was fat.

And there was Pop Mitchell. I’m sure her parents gave her a lovely first name, but I don’t know what it was. She had very black skin and what I now realize must have been hyperthyroidism, because her eyes “popped” out. That’s why she was called Pop. I remember her smiling and saying, “hello,” all the time. She was developmentally delayed. Maybe that made the teasing easier for her, because when people would make a joke about her and laugh, she’d laugh louder than anyone. It didn’t help Pop and her classmates any that their teacher’s name was Mrs. Nutter. They were the special education class (although I never heard that term, we all just knew), but everyone called them “Nutter’s Nuts.” “Here comes Nutter and her nuts!” Come to think of it, Mrs. Nutter would laugh loudly when she heard that. I don’t know quite what to make of that, now.

Then there was Mary Flick. I’m using her real name, because it’s key to the specific torment that she endured. I just googled the name, and there are lots of them. A law enforcement officer, a campus ministry leader, a quality assurance expert, a nurse, the mother of a handicapped child. One of the insults that we relied heavily upon in middle school was the label, “‘flicted.” Short for “afflicted,” but the “a” was never used. Just ‘flicted. “Mary Flick is ‘flicted!” “Here comes ‘flicted Flick!” Mary always wore dresses. She had long, coarse, pale hair, and crooked eyes and crooked teeth. Her brother wasn’t treated the way Mary was, even though he resembled her and of course, had the same last name. Mary is the only one, the sound of whose voice I can’t remember. I may have never heard her speak.

I moved early in my freshman year of high school. I imagine there were kids in my new high school who had endured the same type of teasing, tormenting, bullying, abuse, that the preceding endured. I didn’t know of them, though, in the new school. Except for Bonita. Upon first seeing Bonita, you wouldn’t have thought there was much of a problem. A little bit unkempt, eyeglasses a little outdated, maybe, but it was the 70s, in high school. There was a lot of variety in dress. I didn’t know, at first, that Bonita was a target. I remember the first week I was at school, someone, a preacher’s daughter, ironically, telling me to ask Bonita about her recent trip to Salisbury (a town in North Carolina). I was new, ready to make friends, so I said, “Hey, Bonita, did you go to Salisbury over the weekend?” And Bonita became very flustered and started on a long narrative/tirade about going to Salisbury. It was part informative, part angry, all very odd. And Bonita seemed both pleased and offended that I had asked. The preacher’s daughter and other kids around thought this was hilarious. I felt manipulated, and not amused. I learned that asking Bonita about Salisbury was guaranteed to engage and fluster her. I never knew why, or what the significance of that town was for her. Bonita probably had some developmental delays, some learning disabilities, and as I recall her now, she had some OCD characteristics, packing and unpacking, arranging and rearranging her belongings, in a compulsive, almost frenzied way.

I’m almost 29 years out of high school, and these children are still in my head. I think of some of them rather often. I didn’t join in the teasing. Ever. So I’m OK with that. But I was a popular kid. I wish I had also been an assertive kid. I wasn’t. I knew that being unkind to these people was wrong. Mean, immoral. My own self-esteem, sense of social security, was too tenuous to tell other people to stop it. I wish I had had more courage. And I hope — I would be so delighted to have reason to believe — that they are, in some form, living well, as “the best revenge.”

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I will never be “Mother of . . .” this or any other year. If you all knew how many times on any given day, I screw up, where my child is concerned, you would . . . well, that depends on who you are and whether you like me or not. But I’m here to tell you, I screw up daily. HOWEVER. I do manage to know where my kid IS! Almost all of the time. I know I just wrote about this stuff, but what is wrong with these people?! I feel like I’ve landed in the freakin’ Parenting Twilight Zone.

Last year, and indeed, for the 3 years prior to that, LG was in a Grrl Scawt Troop with a very experienced, very competent leader. This year, that Leader had to resign for personal reasons (nothing scandalous), and now we’re in a “co-op troop,” which means that while we have a titular leader (yea, I knew you’d like that), no one is really in charge.

These emails were exchanged today. Names changed to protect the incompetent.

From: Iminna Fogg i.fogg@gmail.com
[Add to Address Book]
To: All the Moms of all the girls in Troop 1/2Ass
Subject: Our Camping Trip
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 10:53:50 AM

Don’t forget that this Saturday is our big [one and only of the whole year] camping trip! We will leave for Camp Woodpecker at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and return at 11 a.m. on Sunday. Camp Woodpecker is about 3 hours away from Pretty City . . . blah blah

Here are the carpool arrangements . . . blah blah

###

From: Susie Fairchild whatwasit@comcast.net
[Add to Address Book]
To: Iminna Fogg i.fogg@gmail.com
Subject: RE: Our Camping Trip
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 11:20:30 AM

Iminna,
Ohmygosh, I’m so glad you sent this! Of course I knew this weekend was the camping trip, but I had written down that it was to Camp Bufflehead! That’s like, only 1/2 an hour away! Thanks again . . .

###

From: Iminna Fogg i.fogg@gmail.com
[Add to Address Book]
To: All the Moms of all the girls in Troop 1/2Ass
Subject: RE:RE: Our Camping Trip
Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 11:30:50 AM

Oops! I goofed. Our [one and only major event of the whole year] camping trip is to Camp Bufflehead. See you Saturday!

###

Oh, cheez whiz! Are y’all sure you don’t just wanna camp in our backyard again? I’d feel a lot better about things . . .

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Really pissed me off disgruntled me: LG went to a friend’s house for dinner and to go see a play, a little theater play in which another of their friends was performing. Actually, she went to the little girl’s father’s house, where the little girl visits every other weekend. The Dad said that he would have LG home by 9 p.m.

9 p.m. comes and goes. No problem, they probably went backstage, blah blah.

9:30 p.m. comes and goes.

10:00 p.m. comes and goes.

Now I start to get worried/pissed disgruntled. Frankly, now I start to have flutters of panic. Which makes me even more pissed disgruntled, because I haven’t had a panic attack in about two and a half years.

They arrived home at 10:25 p.m. Yea, I know she was with a parent, but that parent had both a watch and a cell phone. I say he was totally inconsiderate, and a horrible example to my (and his own) preteen daughter about what to do when you’re going to be later than you said you would be.

::tangent:: The ex-wife of this man, the one the child lives with most of the time, is the parent who, when I agreed to drop off LG at their house for a two-hour playdate while I did some errands, loaded the girls in her car and went all over the place. One of my errands, while I thought my daughter was safely parked at this neighbor’s home, was to Petco (where the pets go). Imagine my surprise when, there by the fish, I see LG and her friend. And no Mom. I stood there talking to them, and eventually the Mom joined us, all apologetic, not that she had taken LG to the store in the first place, but that she had let them go off alone in the store. She assured me that she would never do this in a place like, for example, Target, but that Petco (where the pets go) was small enough that she felt OK doing that. I learned later that not only had they gone to Petco (where the pets go), but that earlier in the day, this Mom had lost her cell phone. And a strange man from the next town over had called her to tell her he had it. And she had taken my daughter and her own to this strange man’s house, the next town over, to retrieve her cell phone. ALL OF THIS when I had agreed only that LG could come over and hang out in their basement for a couple of hours.

I realize I risk solidifying my “uncool Mom” status with this rantangent, but I am the Mom who, when LG and the little girl with whom she’s been walking to school returned home one morning, saying the sidewalks were too icy, would I please drive them to school, I said of course I would, then I sat in my car and would not, could not, back out of my driveway before I phoned that little girl’s Mom to explain the situation, and tell her that I was happy to drive little Uma to school, but did not want to take her anywhere in my car without her mother’s knowledge and consent. Which, of course, her mother gave. But that is a thing with me, dammit! Don’t put my kid in your car and take her somewhere when I believe you are keeping her at your house! And I’ll extend you the same courtesy. ::end tangent::

Oh, and LG just now told me that Dr. Dad (yea, the non-custodial, no-calling Dad is an M.D.) also left the girls at home alone when he went out to get their pizza. Not that I wouldn’t do that; but I wouldn’t do that without asking the girl’s parents if they minded, if she minded, etc. In this house, 10-11 is the age where we’re just beginning to let LG be home alone, for very short periods of time. I would not presume that other parents are doing that, or that it’s OK with them if I leave their child unsupervised. (I know; go ahead and make me my “uncool Mom” hat.)


Really encouraged me:
Had 15 vials of blood drawn on Thursday. No, that’s not the encouraging part; that’s the part that says they still don’t know WTF WTF is. The encouraging part was that even though no one knows, the endocrinologist really seems to be working on it. Because of the mysterious disappearance of my Vitamin D, she sent me to a dietician in her office. And the dietician seems really nice and smart. She even called on Friday to ask me some more questions, and tell me she is researching malabsorption disorders. So, yea, it encourages me that finally someone’s thinking about me when I’m not sitting in front of them; and it encourages me that an M.D. is human enough and humble enough to call a “lowly dietician” and say, as the dietician told me she did, “I don’t know what’s wrong with this patient; will you listen to her story and see if you can come up with any ideas that we can pursue?” So, whether or not they come up with anything, it encourages me that we have not exhausted all possibilities, and that there are medical professionals like these two, out there.


Cracked. Me. UP.
: LG and Jif came home from Sunday School telling this story. Jif and another man were teaching the children’s lesson. Three-year-old Michael was hanging on every word they said. The other teacher finished the line in the story, “Jesus told Peter, ‘You will deny me three times before the cock crows.'” At that very moment, Jif sneezed loudly. For a second, little Michael seemed to try to incorporate the sneeze into the story, but he wasn’t buying it. He said, “Hey, that was no cock! That was Mr. Jif!”


Did my heart good
(from Comcast news):

WAYNESBURG, Ky. – Miss America 1944 has a talent that likely has never appeared on a beauty pageant stage: She fired a handgun to shoot out a vehicle’s tires and stop an intruder. Venus Ramey, 82, confronted a man on her farm in south-central Kentucky last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment.

Ramey said the man told her he would leave. “I said, ‘Oh, no you won’t,’ and I shot their tires so they couldn’t leave,” Ramey said.

She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.

“I didn’t even think twice. I just went and did it,” she said. “If they’d even dared come close to me, they’d be 6 feet under by now.”

Ramey then flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911.

After winning the pageant with her singing, dancing and comedic talents, Ramey sold war bonds and her picture was adorned on a B-17 that made missions over Germany in World War II, according to the Miss America Web site.

“I’m trying to live a quiet, peaceful life and stay out of trouble, and all it is, is one thing after another,” she said.

In spite of my gun-control views expressed around the innernets as a hole last week, I say, “Hell yea!” to gun-toting 82-year-old former Miss Americas who are just trying to stay out of trouble.

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reaching1

Sunday Post ~

I would take no for an answer,
Just to know I heard You speak,

And I’m wondering why I’ve never
Seen the signs they claim they see,

A lot of special revelations
Meant for everybody but me,

Maybe I don’t truly know You,
or maybe I just simply believe…

‘Cause I can sniff, I can see,
and I can count up pretty high;
but these faculties
aren’t getting me
any closer to the sky,
but my heart of faith keeps poundin’
so I know I’m doin’ fine

but sometimes findin’ You
is just like tryin’ to
smell the color nine.

Smell the color nine…

–lyrics by Chris Rice

Psalm 9:9-10
Psalm 10:1

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You may have noticed the flurry of silly on the blog this week. Not that I need an occasion for a flurry of silly, but this week I had one. In between laughing at Pearl, and joking with you all, and making fun of the tree lady, I cried, a lot. Hard crying that would hit while I was driving in my car, or sitting at my desk, or lying down to sleep. And I needed to escape to silly when I could.

This post will not be well-received by some.

I have been deeply saddened, as have so many millions of others, by the tragedy at Virgina Tech. I should say, the tragedies. There were many, and not just on that one day. They were set in motion years ago, when a mentally ill child, then adolescent, then young adult, apparently slipped through crack after crack. The final cracks were in the gun laws and the mental healthcare privacy laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I don’t have any friends or family members who were working or studying at the school at the time of the shootings. Because of our relative proximity to the school, many people in our area are alumni — LG’s teacher, Biscuit’s vet, are just two I’ve spoken with this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about Seung-Hui Cho. And about his family. A local Christian radio station was calling yesterday for listeners to go on their website and send cards to the grieving families. And they said they wanted people to write to Cho’s family, as well. That’s what I had been thinking about doing.

As I recently commented on someone’s blog, mourning a life is an even more painful and complex challenge than grieving someone’s death. And I don’t know if mourning a life ever ends. I say this from personal experience. When the person who died is someone like those brilliant, successful, cherished students and teachers that we see on TV, we know, everyone knows, that their lives, although much too short, were something to be celebrated. Family members have already made clear that their memorial services are to be celebrations of life. Of the joy they brought, the contributions they made.

When it is difficult to find something to celebrate about the person’s life . . . what do you have but grief, pain, darkness? How will the Cho family honor their beloved son and brother’s life? In what stories, memories, will they find comfort? I pray that there are some. We haven’t heard them.

I heard a few people talk about how odd Cho was. I heard a couple of people say that they tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t talk. I heard a story of how, as a young adolescent, he refused to read aloud in class, and when the teacher wouldn’t let it go, and forced him, his speech was unclear and the entire class laughed at him. From that day forward. And I heard him described by high school classmates as “this shy kid who got picked on every day at school,” and “someone who would not even give someone a dirty look.”

Today I saw that VT played a baseball game. The attendance broke all records. And during the game, the news report said, they observed 32 seconds of silence. That pushed the button that prompted this post. There are 33 grieving families. One grieves alone. One young man is excluded in death as he was in life.

I don’t have the answers. And I have many more questions than I have the energy to address here. But I do hope we don’t stop asking the questions until we get some things changed. Like laws. And hearts. I don’t know which will be more difficult.

*for you youngsters, the title is from an oldie:

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

So on we go
His welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me

If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another.

It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

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