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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Letter to My Hair

Dear Hair:

I give up. You win.

I can no longer fight against what is and what has always been, particularly in the face of all this humidity.

You are curly. I could sort of pretend you weren't when I lived in drier climes, but here in the Gulf Coast? Not so much.

Every day since I moved here you have screamed at me, "Give it up, girl! Put down the flat iron and round brush and just walk away."

So today, you win.  Instead of trying to slick back the curly escapees and pin down the naughty waves, you can have at it.

Much love,

M.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Old Endings and New Beginnings ~ Part II


Neither Carolyn nor I had to work that Saturday.  In true sister fashion, when I needed a summer job between my junior and senior year of high school, she helped me land one at the same place she had been working for the past year, Sharpe Photography in Provo UT.   Our hours were blessedly normal especially for a high school girl like myself, eight to five Monday through Friday with an hour off for lunch.

The Friday before the accident, we had gone to Arby’s for lunch, the two of us in her car with no air conditioning. We pulled up to the drive-thru to order while Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldiers” blared on the radio and the heat of late August radiated through the floorboards. I don’t remember what exactly we ordered, but I remember we both got turnovers. She got apple and I got cherry.

Ever since that day, I can’t eat one of those without thinking of her, belting out Bob at the top of her lungs as we cruised along University Avenue, “If you know your history, then you would know where you are coming from, Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, Who the ‘eck do I think I am.”

We went inside the studio to eat lunch and talk. It started out as just sister talk and banter about boys and college starting the next Monday, nothing out of the ordinary.  For some reason towards the end of the turnover, she grew serious and rather still. This was terribly unlike her – she was always moving, like a flashing sliver of light.  I think this is why her next question made such an impression on me. 

“Munna, do you think it is weird that Mom has twelve kids and not one of us has ever had a major injury or illness? I mean, no one has even broken a bone yet!”

I told her I thought it was actually kind of cool and then she asked, “So who do you think will be the first of us to die? I am pretty sure it will be me and when I die, I want Stairway to Heaven (by Led Zeppelin) played at my funeral.”

We laughed and went back to work.  

She came up front at about 4:30 to tell me she was headed out a bit early to go camping with some friends and that she would see me on Monday.  She left, trailing more Bob behind her as she exited the front door, letting it slam behind her, “Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival.” 

That pretty much sums her up, now that I think about it.

Looking up from the paperwork in front of me, I watched her walk in front of the long plate glass windows at the front of the reception area, her blond hair swinging and flashing in the summer sun as she sang to the passing cars. 

She turned the corner and then she was gone.




Old Endings and New Beginnings


On a crystalline blue, blistering hot Saturday summer evening 22 years ago, my older sister was killed in a car accident on I-15. She was on her way to Lagoon with some friends when the very young and very inexperienced driver came up on some traffic that had slowed down because of construction.

Go figure. Construction on I-15 in the summer time? Some things never change.

The young driver was only going about 55 MPH, but she slammed on her brakes, started to skid and spin, then over-corrected. In the process, the car hit a guardrail, which launched the vehicle into the air and into the oncoming southbound traffic. After rolling several times while airborne, the car hit the hood of an oncoming semi, launched over the top, and then became lodged under the back wheels of the rig.

At some point, Carolyn was ejected through the windshield of the car, even though she had been sitting in the back seat, without a seat belt of course. Seat belts would not have helped much in this case. In fact, if the girls had been wearing seat belts, all four of them most likely would have died. As it is, two of them died - my sister and the driver - and two others who were ejected before the car hit the semi survived - barely.

Thinking back on this, a wry smile steals across my face. No, not about the death and dying part, but the part about where she was sitting when the accident happened.

If Carolyn was ever in the back seat, she always wiggled her way into the middle and leaned forward onto the front seats so she could talk to whomever was up front. Not safe nor smart, but that's just how she was, always wanting to talk, to be engaged in life and whatever was happening up front. The back seat and back of the line was never good enough for her. She was determined to not miss a single moment of life. I can only imagine she was smiling and laughing with that infectious laugh of hers when she was launched into eternity, eagerly leaning forward between the front seats.

Even though she was killed at about 5:00 p.m. that evening, we didn't find out about the accident until late that evening.

She had been carrying fake ID and so the police had a hard time identifying her and locating her next of kin. It didn't help that her body...well, let's just say there was no visual ID made. They only asked for identifying marks below the shoulders to ID her.

Within a few days, we would be having a closed-casket funeral for her, but that morning 22 years ago, none of us knew how different our lives would be within a few short hours. One of my best friends would be gone and my whole world would start to unravel at the seams.

But at 11:00 that Saturday morning...that morning all was well when I stopped by College Terrace where my sister lived to visit a friend. I saw Carolyn getting into her brown station wagon. I leaned over the balcony as far as I could, waving like a mad woman trying to get her attention (or a devoted younger sister, which is sometimes the same thing) and  yelled, "Carolyn, Carolyn, CAROLYN - I love you!" She looked up, flashed a huge grin, threw both arms over her head like an Olympic gymnast and said, "I love you too, Munna!"

Looking back, I can remember how she winced in the bright sunlight and was a bit unsteady on her feet. I now know it was because of the alcohol she had been consuming.  There were so many things I didn't know about her, but I knew the important things.

She was a devoted sister. She would have moved heaven and earth for me. She was fiercely loyal to me.

She loved me.

That's all I needed to know.


_______________________________________


Ther is more to come later today. I have never written about this before and there is so much to say.

Much love and belief -

M.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Opening Today



I can't believe I am actually doing this.

Really.  Am I am crazy, or what?

Wait...don't answer that question. I am not sure I want to know the answer!!!

Today, the Professor and I set off on a new adventure - home school.

First, let me be honest and say how much I hate the term "home school." It conjures up images of strange, backward children who can't put three sentences together in an intelligent manner to anyone NOT in their immediate family, girls who wear dresses made of calico print fabric their mom picked up for $1 a yard at Goodwill, and whole wheat everything.

Any of you know me at all realize I am so not that type of mother.

Sure, I wear skirts almost every day of my life, not because I think God told me to but because I find them ridiculously comfortable (and definitely NOT made of calico). Sure, I make whole wheat stuff quite frequently, but I also make a lot of stuff with good old fashioned unbleached Gold Medal flour as well. But me, a home schooler?

Not in a million years.

I much prefer the term "home educator" and that we are "home educating" the Professor.

Maybe it is because I have know to much about the school systems here in the U.S. that I really don't want to "school" my wee ones because it smacks too much of...well, the school system.  Our schools are currently set up to teach people how to follow orders, respond to the bell, and then move along little darling, move along. This is fantastic if you are hoping to produce workers who follow orders, respond to the bell, and then move along on their merry way.

However, if you want something more for your child, you are outta luck. The vast majority of our current schools are not set up to teach children how to love learning, how to think like an entrepreneur, and how to be responsible for their own lifelong education.  

For parents who want more of love of learning and less order following, what choice to we have but to step outside the system and provide this for our children on our own? (That is, unless we are fortunate enough to live somewhere with a thriving charter school that subscribes to our educational philosophy).

Which brings me to my second "let me be honest" moment: Did I mention I just spent the last five years of my life earning a PhD with an emphasis in ADULT education and my dissertation is about GRADUATE education? Did I mention I have ZERO experience teaching at an elementary-aged level?

Did I mention I am scared silly to home educate my son?

I mean, what if I break something? What if I don't do it right?  Which leads me to my third and final "let me be honest" moment which is my biggest fear of all: What if this grand experiment simply proves I will never be a good enough mother and my children will be irreparably harmed simply because I am their mother? 

I know, I know, I know.  I should let it go after all these years and most of the time, I do a pretty darn good job of putting that crappy thinking in it's place. But still...there are moments, like now, where those old doubts and fears creep out of the closet.

So if you are reading this, say a little prayer for me (and the Professor!).   I could certainly use all the extra help I can get at this point.  This home education adventure feels like a huge test of my ability to parent just as much as it is a test of my ability to teach. The teaching part I have down, no worries. It's the other stuff I am worried about.

Much love,

M.