Sunday, January 25, 2015

For the Children

My newest guilty pleasure is a brand new soap opera centered on ultra-concerned parents and their quest to fight the power of the local school board. It's an emotional and suspenseful tale of selfishness, prejudice, intrigue, and cry-baby tears.  You won't find it on telly, nor is it streaming on any of our devices.  It's a real-life, bona-fide drama happening in my own community.

My little suburb is a rapidly growing one, and as a result, schools are being rezoned in order to accommodate.  The reaction against the rezoning, with regard to the high schools in particular,  has been staggering, and the outrage surrounding it is nothing short of shocking. Bear in mind, gentle reader, that none of the ugliness comes from the high-school students affected by it  - the 'adults' are the ones sinking to new lows in order to 'express their dissatisfaction'.

I don't have children, so far be it from me to tell others what's what when it comes to child-rearing.  I do, however, have almost twenty years experience as an educator, consultant, and private tutor, so I feel fairly safe in proclaiming the following:

You people need to lighten up and pay attention to what really matters.

In four years or less your child will be out of high school, and this nonsense won't matter in your world anymore.  

Education is important, but not every child is academically inclined.  Where's the outcry over diminished art and music programs?  Why aren't you people  yelling over the fact that special needs students receive precious little to meet their special needs within the public school system?  And although we claim to celebrate the diversity of this fair city, why are you so bent out of shape at the possibility of your child attending a school with people 'not like him'?

But these are not the issues, surprisingly.  To be frank, the issues have been overshadowed by  general bad-behavior at recent meetings that would result in disciplinary action if you were a high school student.

So what's the solution?  I'm so glad I asked, for I've got an idea worth pondering.  I've no idea how to bring it to fruition - that's not my job.  I'm the idea gal, so you figure it out. But wouldn't it be interesting if....

All freshman attend the same school in order to get their basic courses (Language Arts/Math/History/Science/The Arts) and then...

transfer to one of the following (in no particular order):

School A:  The Math and Engineering Academy
School B:  The Science and Medical Academy
School C:  The Fine/Applied Arts Academy
School D: The Technology Academy
School E:  The Trade Academy (consisting of but not limited to:  auto-repair, cosmetology, welding, and old school 'shop' because let's face it, the world always needs these folks)
School F:  The Business/Law Academy
School G:  The I'm Not Sure Academy, where they'd be introduced to a little of everything and then move on to one of the above.

*Once a student enters any of the academies, parents are not allowed to communicate with teachers or administrators, unless it's Christmas and they have a substantial gift card to drop off.  

*Each academy will offer athletic programs for those inclined to participate.  Personally, I can't wait for 'The Fightin' Future Docs' vs. 'The Indestructable Interior Design Hopefuls'.

Let's also...
1. Eliminate standardized testing
2.  Hire teachers with real world experience pertinent to a particular academy
3.  Make our annual fund-raisers and auctions centered on the special needs children within our community.

But let's mainly...
Be nice to one another, accept differences, set an excellent example for our children, and remember what 'community' really means.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sweet Charity

This past week, our nephew set up one of those online funding accounts in memory of his sister.  Proceeds benefit the school in which she taught, one that specializes in educating children with neurological differences.  He set a goal of $500 and as of this writing more than $4,000 has been donated.  

Pretty flipping fantastic.

That's doing it for the right reasons:  honoring the memory of a fabulous someone while raising funds for children who shall greatly benefit.

Now let's talk about what those little accounts are for, what they're not for, and general 'charitable giving' ideas for us all to mull over:

Grave illness and tragedy, such as a house-fire - fund it.

Small non-profit, no-kill animal shelters that are doomed due to lack of monetary contributions - fund it.

Anything related to enhancing or improving education - fund it.

Now here it comes, based on actual information I discovered through extensive research (a five-minute Google, if I'm being perfectly honest). If any of the three of you who actually read this musing contribute to any of the following or the like, I will hunt you down and punch you in the throat:

Teen-age road trips 
A side-show hillbilly reality co-star 
Beer money
T-shirts for moms serving on athletic booster clubs

And let's not forget the 'artists'.  I've seen everything from 'help us make this movie' to 'help us make this album.'  I'm referring in particular to the so-called musicians out there who fall into one of two camps:  the Christians and the Hipsters.  Ironic, too, since begging for dough is neither Christ-like nor very hip, don't you think?

(I'm just throwing this in for you Johnny Come Latelys)

Side note:  the 'Donate' button on this particular little site is a tongue-in-cheek devise.  With that being said, I am not opposed to a small donation.  Sitting on my behind writing this thing keeps me from sitting on my behind doing something else, and much like my Christian Hipster brothers and sisters, I never turn down a little coinage ;)

Side Side Note:  and so help me God if those hipsters do get funding for an album and put it on vinyl, I will lose it (see:  throat punching).

Anyhow, this leads me to the over abundance of 'won't you give' requests that have permeated our society in recent years.  We can't even check out of a grocery store without being hit up for a donation benefiting a huge corporate machine based on the idea of charity.

Yes, most of our high profile charities are big business, and very little of the money received goes toward 'research' or 'patients'.  Do a little homework.  When a certain charity has enough power to wash our entire country in pink during the month of October, something is wrong.  And I don't pick on this particular organization lightly - my aunt died of their chosen disease at the age of thirty-six, leaving behind two little girls.    Where was this organization and their 'research'/'help'?  Not in Dimmitt,TX, that's for sure.

So herein lies the conundrum:  we know we should give, but where do we start?  Everyone from the obese to Obie the Oboe Player are hitting us up for cash.  My advise is to pick a couple of causes that resonate with you.  If you can't give cash, give time.  If you can't give time, give good vibes.  And remember, too, that when you give for the right reasons, some of that goodness will come back to you.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Put a Bird on It

If you can see it, you can achieve it.

Hogwash, especially when it comes to arts and crafts.  I see all kinds of cute craft ideas.  I read the instructions.  I have the materials, yet in spite of it all I just can't seem to make any of it work.  I actually got a headache looking over Pinterest the other night.  I mean, come on, who has time to do all that?  

I desperately want to be more creative, and I'll own the fact that I'm pretty good with a hot glue gun.  I'm determined to master the sewing machine Mr. Newman got me for Christmas, even though it's computerized and I'm still a bit fearful of turning it on.  

Admittedly, I've recently placed a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to create.  It doesn't help that I'm surrounded by creativity:  my mother is an excellent seamstress, my sister is an award-winning artist, my sister-in-law is a phenomenal quilter, and my husband makes a living making music.  I keep thinking some of their talent will rub off on me, but so far, no dice.

It doesn't help that Pinteresters with too much time on their hands have raised the bar for part-timers like me, and it seems as if every other story that pops up on my Facebook feed is of a crafty nature.  I can do that!  I think to myself, and then after spending five minutes mulling it over, come to the conclusion that certain ideas just aren't worth my time.
Quite honestly, I'm more impressed with the vest.

Last year, I even attempted to make my own cheese.  Not only did I ruin a perfectly good pan, a terrible odor permeated my home for a solid two days.  Seriously, it was horrible - a smell I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy, who just happens to be country singer Toby Keith (I'll tell you why another time).  

It seems, too, that all this crafting has seeped into home DIY projects.  I'm all for re-purposing, but I don't even use the coasters I own, so why attempt to convert my old CDs into handy little drip catchers?  I did do this, however:  

That's a tray that once held a Pyrex dish given to me by my husband's grandmother.  Someone (not me) broke the dish, so I created a nice little shelf in my kitchen to hold recently received Star Wars knick knacks, because if there's one place I could use the Force, it's in the kitchen.  The miniature condiments I stole from room service.  I call this piece Thieving Jedi.

Perhaps the renewed interest in getting crafty stems from our fast-food, technological-centered society.  A throw-back to simpler times, if you will.  Nonetheless, I fear we've become a little too enthusiastic about creating.

In spite of it all, however, I shall soldier on, whether it's Barbie clothes for The Two Fabulous Nieces or pot-holders for Those Who Need Pot-holders (unless it's Toby Keith - I don't care if he needs a pot-holder).  I enjoy the process, and am hopeful that someday I will do more than just put a bird on it.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


Ladies, gentlemen, and undecideds:  it's a brand new year, and I'm sure many of you are chock full of hope and strong resolve to make this, 2015, the best year ever.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

Personally, I don't do 'resolutions' anymore.  I make a mental note of things I want to rid myself of and go from there.  I added a little punch to it this go-'round by attending a New Year's Eve bowl burning ceremony, which is not to be confused with something the stoners in your life might enjoy.  No, in this brand of 'light up', we write down bad habits, baggage, and other blah blah blah to banish, set it on fire, and drop it into the community kiln.  It may sound silly, but the act of it certainly elevated my spirits.  I won't share my entire list with you (it was long and much of it quite personal), so I'll just hit a few highlights based on random categories:

Community - I've leaned awfully hard on isolation in recent months, and getting back in 'the game' will serve me well, I'm sure. Many of us go into a new year with the intent of 'getting involved', 'helping the less fortunate', 'being kind', and we shouldn't sneeze at these sort of sentiments.  Specificity is key, however:  in other words, what action, pray tell, will  you partake in to make your community a better place?  For me, it's bringing back hats.

Home - our houses, apartments, campers, and tee-pees should serve as our sanctuaries.  Be they big or small, grand or dumpy, they should all be one thing:  clean.  They should also reflect who you are by way of furnishing and decor (mine currently reflects a borderline schizophrenic with a fondness for Mediterranean fabrics, rocks/crystals, and old Hollywood).  I call it 'entertainingly earthy', while others have called it 'Shirley McClain on a very tight budget').  I like it; it makes me happy, and I sincerely hope that your space does the same for you.

My fire-place.  These are Sea Salt candle-holders (a gift from my mother).  The rocks I collected from my vacation in Chama,  New Mexico.

I purchased this angel in Spain and gave it to my grandmother several years ago.  Nanny passed away in November, and I'm delighted to have this little trinket back.  She sits atop a glass bowl of crystals.
This photo of Dean Martin hangs in my downstairs bathroom.  That's amore.

Fashion - re-read my last musing from December, and review my previous comment re:  hats. (Side note:  I will be including 'look of the day' photos in future musings to show you, Sweeties, that you can look fab on a budget, and that you should look fab all the time. Get creative.  Here I am getting ready to run errands this morning:
Three-Way Poncho by Suzanne Sommers, pants by Target, the scarf was a gift from my mother-in-law, and I'm in sandals because 'pedicure' was on today's to-do list.  This will also be a chic napping outfit later today.

Overall self-improvement - once upon a time, I was a self-help book junkie, and if there's one thing I learned from my years of study, it's this:  they all say the same thing.  Pick one that resonates with you and go with it. Dr. Phil doesn't need anymore of your money, and you don't need Deepak's or Oprah's approval.  My personal favorite is Joan Crawford's My Way of Life, which I mused about last year during this time (see last year during this time).  She covers everything from organization to work ethic to fashion.  It may not be the most well-written book out there, and it certainly has its outrageously campy moments, but I can honestly say that it's one of my favorite books of all-time.

'Treasure yourself,' says Joan.  'Done,' says I.

Other random things we should all consider: 

-Eat healthy, but know that Kroger and Target carry hormone and gluten-free meats and poultry that are far more affordable than a certain healthy chain store that charges a week's wages for hamburger meat.

-Get on a good skin-care regimen based on your skin needs.  I'm on the verge of a birthday, so my needs are great.  If you're young and stay out of the sun, a good cleanser and mild moisturizer should do.

-Stop filling your mind/soul with garbage that passes for entertainment.  I'm currently enjoying Portlandia on telly, and I can't stop listening to Carlene Carter's Carter Girl album (which is not an album; it's a download on my phone.  I'm not that old or old school yet).

                                        She sure does look like her mama these days, doesn't she?

-Slow down, mind your manners, and display compassion for everyone.  They may look okay on the outside, but you never know what's happening behind closed doors.

-Speaking of 'behind closed doors', keep your personal business, drama, and half-naked selfies off the Internet.  I could also do without photos of your child's first kill of hunting season, but that's just me.  Oh, and ladies please stop with the duck-pout.  

I'm no expert; these are just a few tid-bits that work for me.  If you can use any of them, great.  If not, that's fine, too.  But if you do take anything away from this musing, let it be this:  hats.