simple reminders

Sleepless nights.
Grumpy students who don’t listen.
Pointless evaluations at work that measure nothing, force more testing and take away time with students.

A husband who travels and is away. A lot.
Last-minute plans to get family members into the country for the holidays.
Said wonderful family members staying beyond my vacation time thus freaking out my introverted self.
Home repairs. Paying for home repairs.
Not enough hours in the day.
Lots of complaining… all in the sound of my voice.

Despite my best plans, I will not be printing holiday cards this year. I’ve given myself a break and decided to order some from another artist. The cards arrived in the mail today. On top of the stack was ONE card unlike all the others:

It is the gentle poke I truly needed. It made me smile and reminded me to not be so melodramatic. Perhaps next year, I’ll order a stack of these to give out during the holidays.

* You can find Jennifer Judd-McGee’s previous blog here and her new site here.

holiday sing-along / get on the bus

on the 16th of November my department gave to me,
our annual field trip to New York City
————————————————-
51 high school students
26 shows at MOMA
21 shows at the Met
20 hours together
9 parents forgetting pickup at midnight
4 art teachers
3 students late at every meet-up
2 bus drivers
2 meals at a rest stop
1 bus for everyone
and at the end of a long day,
arriving safely home to DC

work areas at the Objects Installation department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art one set of images from Kaider Attia’s Open Your Eyes

a guard in between a Doris Salcedo sculpturetrees of the edge of a parknot my favorite, but interesting light is created by Projects 98

discussions gridsrows of candles lit at St.Patrick’s cathedral

staring at maps

Abraham Lincoln was elected president on this same day in 1860 and he led our country during our (hopefully) only civil war. Tonight, many of us in the United States are nervously awaiting the results of our Presidential election.

We are becoming more and more known as a “nation divided”. Conservatives versus liberals. Wealthy versus poor. Small government (states rights) versus big (federal) government… I would like to think the divisions in our country are overly exaggerated by the media for entertainment purposes. Drama pumps up ratings. All Americans are not the people you see on tv or the internet. Many of us dress appropriately, have graduated from school, don’t abuse drugs, food or other people; many of us are quiet, we care for others  and almost all of us are hard-working. We come together and help each other when needed.

Despite intense pride in our country, many Americans shy away from politics. We are known as a country of apathetic voters. So many eligible voters never get to the polls. Droves of people are leaving the democratic and republican parties to become independents because they don’t want to be labeled as one side or the other. We are afraid to mention any subject that may seem political. Instead of engaging in open, civil discourse, admitting you support the “other side” could lead to a verbal (and in some cases physical) altercation.

Why aren’t there more sides? We are so polarized because when one is “for” the other side has become the “against”. Adding 3 or 12 or 20 more presidential candidates would allow people to choose who represents them best without pitting us against each other. Our issues are not ‘black’ and ‘white’ —we need more options.

Of course, I hope the candidates I voted for today win. I believe they are fair and will do their best to represent all Americans. To be truly fair, we just need more choices. Despite what some may believe, our diversity is a tremendous strength of our nation. I hope at some point we can all feel we are part of the same team.

Images from: http://www.politico.com/

journey to the center of someone else’s universe

This past week we journeyed out-of-state to see my father who was hospitalized. Getting information from far away seemed to be impossible even though we still share the same last name and I know all the code words to access family information. I received small bits of information regarding where he was, or might be. Scenarios ranged from very concerning (another heart attack? possible aortic tear?) or a relatively easy fix (using a small camera to check out his gall bladder?) and various possibilities in between. We did what we could do which is take leave from work, get in the car and drive.

The drive south was clouded with uncertainty. I love my father but our relationship, like all his relationships, is akin to being blindfolded while riding a roller coaster. There are extreme ups and downs and one never knows what to expect or what is next. One could have a great time or crawl away on hands and knees feeling nauseous. He has always been a caring father and he has always been bi-polar. Depression clouds his thinking and being manic has resulted in poor choices and irrational thinking. (He ignored my sister and me for the years we attended university because we both refused to share our hard-earned college funds to help him pay his secretive debts. The same person was hurt and bewildered when we didn’t call constantly and update him on every life event.) He will care for and love someone while scheming and manipulating, desiring to get his way at any cost. He loves people most when they need him and he is kindest to those who can offer financial support. He has a bizarrely co-dependent relationship with my stepmother that has left them both needing each other while crippling each other (both emotionally and physically) as their health deteriorates. They rely on too many drugs, take too many drugs and as I now realize, are addicted to so many drugs.

When I was younger, I was angry for years. I was upset that he seemed to only love us when we could help him. I was upset that his new family always took priority over us. I was furious that they would berate my mother for minor imperfections, forgetting that she raised two kids (quite well I will add), with no assistance from him, on a salary that was less than 1/3 of what I make as a public school teacher. He was never part of the creative meal-planning we had to do each week, shopping at thrift stores as teenagers (thankfully, that was trendy then) or the discussions my mom and I had in preparation of each time we almost lost the house.

Time passed. I became tired of being angry. Despite his erratic influence in my life, I had saved money to put myself through college (twice), I was successful in my career and had positive relationships. I always had a place to sleep and food to eat. I had what I needed to be a happy adult. I forgave my father and let it all go. Everyone makes mistakes…to err is human…I finally accepted the father I had as a young girl is gone. Though parts of him still exist, a different man is in his place.

A few years ago, a week before my wedding, he had a major heart attack. His surgery was a success but he needed care at home and his wife with Multiple Sclerosis could not take care of herself, yet alone him. He was her care taker and he needed help. At his request, we went ahead with the wedding. We cancelled our honeymoon and spent the week with them instead. I was worried for my father and was happy to help them out. (It was immediately clear I had married the right person.) We purchased groceries, cooked, cleaned and organized their house. At their request, we went through financial documents, set up a budget and plans to pay down debt. We discovered my step-mother had an addiction to shopping and she was using all their money to buy crap out of catalogs. My father didn’t have updated glasses, he had not been to a dentist in years even though he had major issues with his teeth and they rarely had enough food—but she had nice clothing, always paying more for one item than I ever have. My father had hole-y socks, worn out pants and a few t-shirts. During this time, the woman who could not move or bathe herself, and who my father had to carry everywhere, began walking unassisted around the house while he slept. Despite the initial feelings that my head would explode from frustration, we calmly explained what would help them and make their lives easier. She listened, decided to act and together, we cut up credit cards, put payment plans in action and recycled (and requested a stop on) every catalog in the house. After just starting a new job, my sister came at the end of the week (for an equally-long stay) armed with recipes, creative ideas and a little more tough love than I am capable of delivering. We felt good. We had cared for them, included them in decisions and empowered them for less-stressful living. They seemed happy and more positive than we had seen them in years—all resulting from a heart attack.

Our visit this past weekend was not as successful. We followed the usual pattern of paying for our hotel rooms, purchasing food and items needed for the home and cooking meals to make life easier. We left a list of healthy, easy snacks and dinners. My step-mother is anxiety-ridden, fearful and demanding. She was so sick with worry that she could not leave her bed even though she wanted to visit the hospital. She called everyone she knew (us and her kids who usually don’t respond to her) at all hours complaining of extreme, fake, physical symptoms and demanding we come over and calm her down. After gall bladder surgery, my father was more concerned about access to drugs and getting a soda than his health. He asked us not to visit with him in the hospital but to spend time with his wife, so we did. In spending time there we discovered receipts for tons of junk food (after assurances they were eating healthy because of the assistance we gave them), new bills from catalog companies and very nice clothing that people who receive government assistance cannot afford. We have gone without to save a little extra for them. We saw this weekend why they are so desperate for our help.

We left town on Sunday feeling foolish. Duped again. This is the first time I did not feel sad when I left Dad. I no longer yearn for the relationship we had when I was a kid. I don’t feel sadness for their situation, I don’t feel anger towards them, I don’t feel hope that they may get better, I don’t feel anything.





weekly photo challenge: foreign

Some of the most foreign things I experience are in my own country.


I had not experienced pasties the first three decades of my life. These are found near the UP (upper peninsula) in Michigan. Pronounced incorrectly, they sound very risqué but it is a blander cousin of the empanada.


This was taken in my old neighborhood. I haven’t been in a church for a while and I have never felt I belonged there. The all-encompassing love, acceptance and lack of judgement that Jesus spoke of does not seem to be evident in many of these buildings.