One of the things I heard at Thursday's parent conference that made me sad, was that our school district's gifted ed coordinator has retired. I had a good relationship with the woman and I will miss her. She has known LilProgrammer since he was 7. I enrolled him in a daily camp called Camp Invention and she was running it. Later on when LP started having trouble in school, some teachers were all for kicking him out of advanced classes and she gave him her support. When LP was diagnosed with Aspergers, she called a meeting between all his teachers, the guidance counselor, and LP's therapist. The meeting was very helpful and productive. I wrote about these things in my Aspie Digest; the link is on my sidebar. For two years in a row, at the beginning of a school year, she put together a packet and sent it to each of LP's new teachers. In the packet was an introductory letter along the lines of "there's a kid in your class this year who has Aspergers, and this is what it is and how to work with it" along with a few printouts/copies of materials on teaching an Aspie. At parent orientations, I've had teachers come up to me and tell how much the packet helped them understand my son. Bottom line, LP would be having a much harder time in school right now and would be enrolled in a lot less honor/AP classes is it wasn't for this woman.
I just gave the news to LP and he doesn't know who the hell she is.
I went to CB's 7th-grade parent orientation last night. This is the eighteenth parent orientation I've had the honor of attending. I'm getting to the point where I already know what the teacher is going to say before they even open their mouth. They always begin and end with a lot of talk about how at this age, our children are maturing and they are going through all these changes, how difficult it is for them, yada yada yada. I know my child is maturing. We live in the same house. I've noticed. Cut the crap and get to the point. I don't remember having these feelings at LP's 7th-grade orientation. I wonder how this all feels for people who have three, four, five children. Still, the handouts were very informative and the teachers were new to me as LP had been on a different team, and the techniques they used were also new that I don't remember from LP's days. I walked out with a burning sense of inadequacy as a Sunday School teacher. I'm taking fourth grade this year. I'm lucky if the kids will get through my accent when I read from the textbook to them. My wildest dream as a Sunday School teacher is that I manage to answer the kids' tricky questions in such a way that won't make irate parents call the principal and complain. Most of my religious views are quite unorthodox, pardon the pun. This is okay for me as a parisioner, a certain level of diversity is always expected. But I need to give the kids the mainstream. This is going to be hard. I'm not sure I even know what mainstream is. Novel teaching techniques? Please. You're talking to the wrong person. So from that point, I can say I enjoyed the conference.
Another thing that I don't remember hearing from LP's teachers was the point every teacher felt the need to make about next year's accelerated placement. They kept calling those classes "honor". It took all my willpower to keep my mouth shut. I had a powerful urge to stand up and cry bullshit. They are not honor classes. They are accelerated classes. Honor classes will not start till 9th grade. Further, it is not a matter of life and death that your child is recommended for all accelerated classes first thing in January 2009. It is harder, but you can still get into honor classes in 9th if you're in regular classes in 8th. On the last day of school this year, LP was approached with an offer to take honors history. He was never in 8th grade accelerated or 9th grade honors history. These things happen. Also, your child does not have to work himself to death/nervous breakdown to get the recommendation. One teacher said that he won't recommend anyone unless they get an A in each of the first two grading periods in his subjects. And that's only one of his requirements. If he plans on following through with this, he is dead wrong. I will spare you the dismal grades LP had in 7th grade and he was still recommended for accelerated math and science, and rightfully so, because, in spite of all the teenage/Aspie stuff going on with him, he still had the capacity. He is doing great now. Last but not least, and I will start a new paragraph for that one because it is important. I didn't know it with LP.
So. Last but not least, if your child did not get the teacher's recommendation for an accelerated/honors class, and you think he should be there, then in our district, you go to the high school counselor's office and get a small sheet of paper called the Parent Override Form. You write your child's name, grade, subject and sign it. That's it, you just got your child into an honor class. I had to do it with LP when his 8th grade math teacher would not give him a recommendation, and I felt that his 640 SAT score was a dead giveaway that he'd be bored to death in a regular classroom. He went to honors and did great. None of that was mentioned at the orientation yesterday. All the teachers did was scare the parents half to death and convince them their child will live in a cardboard box at age 40 if he doesn't get an A on his report at age 13. One actually said that the next two grading periods will affect their college studies. Bull.
CB's teachers all did a great job yesterday putting the fear of God into parents, and by extension, into kids. But I want the primary motivator for my children's school work to be interest, curiousity, not fear.
Towards the end, the parents were all supposed to gather in the auditorium for a presentation of all what they call exploratory subjects - music, gym, health, typing skills, consumer science. When we got to that point, I suddenly felt I couldn't be at this conference another minute. So I skipped out of it. Only four or five other families followed my example. I felt like I was skipping class, guilty but exhilarated.
LP's orientation is next week and I'm not going. I have parent orientation overload. Another one and I'll explode.
For most of us, school starts this week, so I wanted to celebrate it with this quick trip down the proverbial Memory Lane.
My oldest son LilProgrammer, as his name implies, is scary good at all things technical - math, science, software, hardware. However, his English teachers have my sympathy. Last year, when LilProgrammer was in 9th grade, I was checking his grades on the school website, as usual. One line caught my attention:
"My Name Is.." essay: F
Naturally, I was curious. How do you write about your name that you've had for the last fifteen years and still manage to get it so wrong that your work receives an "F"? As soon as I got home, I begged LilProgrammer for a copy of the essay. He didn't have the final copy, but was generous enough to share the first draft. Here is this timeless work that has entertained dozens of my coworkers and my LJ readers in the past year. As a side note, LP had attended Sunday School for seven years. You can see how much of it stuck.
My name is Ilya. You might be wondering what "Ilya" means, or maybe you don't care, but I'll explain it anyway to pad my essay up with stuff (this thing has to be like 3 pages long):
"Ilya is from the Bible; it represents the prophet Ellijiah, except with less terrible spelling. Actually, I'm not really sure what it means since I haven't seen a bible in two or three years. Ellijiah did some stuff and I'll mention it right now:
Ellijiah and his son lived in a forest, or some sort of grassland or something. I don't think he has a wife and I'm not sure how his son came into existance in the first place. Anyway, Ellijiah got a message from God. He opened it and read it, and it said:
"Dear Ellijiah, Please kill your one and only son to prove that you like me more. Your lord and savior, God"
Ellijiah was very depressed because he liked his son a whole lot and would miss him if he killed him, but he told him to go on a hike. When they got somewhere, he tied up his kid and everything and got ready to stab him. Then, he got another message from God:
"Dear Ellijiah, Hi again. You don't have to kill your kid, I was just kidding.. Heh.. Your lord and savior, God"
Ellijiah was very happy that he was allowed to keep his kid and sang and danced and did whatever he did. The end.
No story is without a morale, and the morale of this one is that Ellijiah and God are insane and completely crazy.
So, now I bet you're wondering why my parents decided to name me after that guy, right? What's that? No? You don't care at all? Well, I'll write it anyway to increase my word count:
A week after I was born, my parents decided to name me. They wanted a unique Russian name and decided on Ilya, after Ellijiah, which was actually not unique and a pretty common name.
I'm not sure why they decided to name me after a guy who was seriously considering killing his son because the voices in his head told him to, and who lived in a forest alone. Must be something in the water...
I bet you're dying to find out what I think about my name. Hmm? You're dying of boredom, you say? You know the drill:
I don't really [know?] what my name means or what it is, it will always represent who I am to me. So, I wouldn't change it if I could. I would mind if it were changed though; "Ilya" has been my name for my life, and I associate it with who and how I am; any other name wouldn't feel right. (I'd say I like my name because it represents me and because I've gotten used to it over time.)
Enjoy your new school year, everybody, and remember to always inflate your word count!
Wow, people are actually reading this stuff now. Thank you, people. This post is inspired by today's Passive Aggressive Notes entry. If you don't read PAN, you should. Most importantly, you should comment. Most commenters on PAN are regulars and the stuff they write is hilarious. Cynical and sarcastic, just the way I like it. I try to get my comments in every morning while sipping on my coffee. This way I get all the snark out of my system early on, so I am not tempted to unleash it on my coworkers during the day. As such, I consider commenting on PAN an important work-related activity. Try it.
Today's PAN is about soliciting, which leads me to share my experience. It consists of two nasty solicitors that I was able to turn away, and one that managed to leave me dumbfounded. Watch and learn.
1. JW and me, naked*
One Saturday morning I was getting out of the shower when our doorbell rang and Mr. Goldie went to answer it. I proceeded to get out of the shower and was putting the lotion on my skin (insert hose joke) when I heard Mr. Goldie saying:
"Our wife handles these questions in our house. She'll be with you shortly."
"Goldie, this is for you!" he yelled up the stairs.
Wearing only a towel, I came out of the shower and saw two women peering at me from downstairs. One was holding a huge Bible.
"We came to talk to you about good and evil," the other one offered. That was when I gave them my now-historic speech. Because there was a flight of stairs between us, I had to yell, probably further intimidating the women.
"Sorry!" I hollered, "I cannot come downstairs, because I am not wearing anything!"
In the dead silence that followed, I went on:
"We already go to a different church, so, if you come back, you'll be wasting your time!"
Our visitors turned around and left. JW:0, Goldie:1.
* - I was the only one naked. Both JW were fully clothed. But it sounds better that way, so I decided not to change it.
2. JW and my conference call.
I was working from home one day and was on the phone with two people from my office, when the dog started barking like crazy and I heard repeated knocking on the door. Now I assumed right away that it was Mr. Goldie's package. You see, he makes all his purchases over the Internet, including things like alcohol that you need to sign for.
"Sorry guys, I'll go sign for a package, it'll take a minute," I said to my coworkers and ran down the stairs, still on the phone.
I opened the door and stared at the two people on my porch for a minute or so, wondering:
1) why aren't they in UPS uniform, and 2) where's my dang package?
Then I noticed one of them holding a huge Bible. Oh, of course.
Quickly holding up my fingers, I explained:
"One, very bad time; two, we go to a different church; thanksbye" - closed the door and returned to my phone meeting. We had to take a break, though, because my coworkers couldn't stop chuckling. JW:0, Goldie:2.
3. Very Hot Guy.
This happened when we still lived in an apartment. Our doorbell rang, and I answered it. I saw a drop-dead gorgeous high-school kid who couldn't have been more than 15 years my junior. Instantly, he had my attention.
"We are gathering signatures," the kid said, "and whoever collects the most gets to go to Europe. Can you help me win?"
Are you kidding? I could help this guy bury a body if he asked me to, just to be able to bask in his hotness while doing it. Yes, I'm shallow. Aren't you?
Mentally undressing the guy, I nodded as he went on:
"Great, thank you so much Ma'am, now see, this is our catalog; these magazines are only twenty dollars. Now on this next page, these are the more expensive ones, these will cost you thirty dollars each..."
"Wait." I regained consciousness. "So you need me to subscribe to these magazines?"
"Yes, Ma'am, just show me the ones you want to get..."
"Uh, no, thanks, no," I told him. "We can't. See, we're saving to buy a house."
"They're just magazines," the kid shrugged. "They are not diamond rings."
Our conversation ended quickly after that. Good looks can only take you this far. Since, on one hand, I didn't give the kid any of my money, but, on the other hand, I almost did, I'll call it a tie so we each get a point. Goldie:3, extremely hot slimeball:1. Well there you have it. This spring, I got a "No Soliciting" sticker from our city hall, but Mr. Goldie doesn't want to put it up. Probably because I'm so good at scaring away solicitors, he sees no use in it. Yep, that must be the reason.
Once again, a bunch of us is getting together for our friend's birthday, and once again we're told "no gifts".
But, as with all our friends, he's such a great guy, we just want to get him something really badly.
Problem is, we have no idea what the hell to get him. What does he like? We have no clue. And this happens every time.
For a while there, I liked V's idea of gift cards. But lately I'm starting to think of it as a cop-out, at least as far as family and close friends go. My friends don't need a gift card. We are all doing well enough financially that we are not hurting for gifts. That is why people specifically ask for no gifts to begin with. We just like giving each other small, cute stuff just for the heck of it. My only problem is that my residual Aspergers prevents me from ever getting it right.
Steering clear of any party where gifts are implied, as V has once suggested, is a good idea, sort of. The downside to it that I see is that it will severely limit the number of opportunities for our group of friends to get together. Besides, I know my friends. If I tell them it is just a party for no reason and no gifts are required, they'll show up with food. Or they'll figure out the real reason for the party and bring gifts anyway. And I will do the same for them. That's how we are.
So now I am racking my brain as to what this guy likes.
To show you just how clueless I am at picking gifts, let me give you a quick list of the amazing stuff I picked for the man I've known intimately for over twenty years, Mr. Goldie.
1. The Infamous Playboy Subscription. Ideal gift, no? Riiiight. Mr. Goldie showed zero interest in the mag. In the end, I read it more than he did. (The articles really are good, no lie.) Then, we found out that it was hardly possible for us to read the magazine at all, as at any minute our children were likely to barge in. We spent the year hiding the unopened issues and changing the hiding place as the kids discovered it. After that, Mr. Goldie spent three years trying to cancel the darn thing. When he didn't renew, they called. He'd talk to them for an hour, trying to get them to cancel, and end up renewing again, with a free Maxim subscription thrown in. Eventually Mr. Goldie managed to cancel, but somehow we are still getting the free Maxim. The kids love it. 2. Mug-warmer. Seemed like a good idea at the time. 3. Full works of a sci-fi duo that we loved when we were teenagers. Turns out, tastes change. The sixteen volumes, however, are still sitting on our shelf. 4. Countless shirts. One ended up in my closet after Mr. Goldie dismissed it as "gay".
Mr. Goldie on his end, retaliated with:
1) A deep fryer. I developed a burning hatred for that thing, so we had to take it into the basement. It's still in there somewhere. 2) Five pounds of loose-leaf tea. I mean, I like tea, but this is like a lifetime supply. The tea came with a handy mug, designed so you could brew your tea at work. The mug broke on the first day, covering my desk and my work papers in tea leaves and hot water.
What can I say? Picking out gifts is a hard and thankless job.
What I've come to believe is that, with your close family, it's better to give gifts that are more or less immaterial - a trip to a favorite place taken together, a dinner at a nice restaurant if the person likes eating out, something you've made yourself. I found flowers work well with my mom. If you’re a woman and need a gift for your husband, go get yourself a Brazilian, he'll be ecstatic. Now clearly this won't work with your friends.
With friends, I figure a nice bottle of good liquor should always go over well. It helps immensely if a friend collects something. Maybe each person in our group should start collecting something different and spread the word. Mr. Goldie collects shot glasses, just so you know. I need something for a situation when the person doesn't require or expect gifts, but you like them so much, you still want to give them a little something. Now this, in turn, won't fly with anyone other than your close friends. With casual acquaintances, I guess, just do as you're told. Bring no gifts, donate to a charity of their choice, shove a gift card at them, give cash in an envelope. Whatever works.
If you have any other ideas, share them in the comments. I am severely challenged as far as gifts go and any suggestions will help.
Now my door was standing open, security was laid back and lax, but it was only my heart got broken, you must have had a pass key made out of wax... You know who you are. Yes, guilty as charged, I love love love Mark Knopfler. Ahhh... if only we weren't both married, and he wasn't like my father's age. Plus something about being a celebrity and living overseas. If not for those minor details... hey, who knows?
Enjoy. I did.
A side note to my two and a half readers, my week is going to be pretty frantic - we have our church festival and our city carnival going on at the same time. CB wants to work at the former and go to the latter. I will be working at the festival, too. We're hardly going to be home this week. Will probably gain a pound or ten also, from all the festival/carnival food. Wish me luck.
So, I'm really doing it. I signed up for the online writing class, and am starting on my second assignment. Yay for me! I am really learning a lot already, they have all kinds of instructions to walk you through the process that help greatly. I am also learning things about myself. Like, that I suck at dialogue. If I try to make a fictional character talk, it comes out awful. And I've realized why. It is because I suck at dialogue in real life.
Now this will come as a surprise to many people, as I am rumored to be a good listener and all that crap. The awful truth, though, is that when you're talking to me, if what you say is boring, then I look you in the eyes, nod, grunt, and wait my turn. If you are really boring, I will go through the same motions while mentally reviewing my to-do list for the day ("LilProgrammer needs new socks; gotta start the laundry; would the guys eat baked potatoes for dinner?" - all while nodding and smiling at you, my friend!) If, on the other hand, what you're telling me is interesting, then I manage to somehow convert it in my head into some sort of cliff notes. After our conversation, I will remember the gist of it; I will not remember your exact words. This must have something to do with a) being a programmer and b) English not being my first language. When I first came here, I tried so hard to make sure I understood everything that's being sad to me, I guess I learned to kind of compress what I heard into an easy-to-understand summary. As a result, I cannot construct a believable dialogue now. So this is what I'm going to start doing: really listening to what people tell me. Obviously, this will require a lot of chatting with coworkers during work hours; but that's okay, I can do that. Something tells me they won't mind, either.
Another thing I wanted to mention, and this one is serious, by now you have probably all heard of the Russian/Georgian war. I spent the last week trying frantically to find a shred of accurate media coverage. Everything I read sounds sort of half-assed. I read the Time magazine last night and was horrified. Okay, I get it that the media has to distort what happened, but can it at least not sound racist and derogatory? The bear is coming out of hibernation? What the fuck?! And the Russian media is no better. After a lot of reading between the lines and talking to people I trust, here's what I concluded for myself.
There were three sides in this conflict. America being the third one.
There were no right sides in this conflict. Everybody screwed up, be it by accident or intentionally.
This is turning very quickly into a conflict between Russia and America, or, Heaven forbid, a new cold war.
As a Russian-born American, this saddens me to no end. It's like your close family members, your children, or your parents, at each other's throats threatening to beat the crap out of each other. It is scary. I had been naive enough to believe this was all a thing of the past, years long forgotten when I was an elementary-school kid. No such luck.
Big politics is a nasty thing; it is all about control over money and resources and power and world domination, and unfortunately it is only a matter of time before it trickles down to the ordinary citizens and spills over into their daily lives and the way they treat each other. As for me, I will continue being what I am, writing what I write, hopefully visiting my friends in Russia, and praying for peace.
Frugal Living - One-Time Adventure Vs. Way Of Life?
Today, I received our church bulletin in the mail and was looking through it. They are already assembling a youth group for next summer, to come out to Mexico and build a house there over the course of a week or two. It's for all ages and the parents are welcome to come along and help. Perfect opportunity for CB, I thought to myself and had already opened my mouth to ask him if he wanted to go, when it hit me.
I don't want to go. I hadn't realized it before, but I am horrified at the prospect. I don't want to share a room with other women; I don't want to share a bathroom with twenty other people; I'm afraid of working in the heat; and I'm afraid of working at a construction site.
You know why? Because I've done it all before.
I never had a room all to myself until I was 37 or 38. First, my parents and I shared the only room in the apartment where I grew up; then I lived on campus and had roommates. Boy, did I have roommates. At any given moment, I had from two to four other girls living in the same room with me. Two of my roommates actually turned out to be a couple. Then I graduated and moved to another town for work. Back then in the USSR, you pretty much couldn't rent or own. I'm sure somewhere out there, there were exceptions; but not in our town. My living arrangements were three girls to a room. I lived like that for two years; then I got an apartment all to myself. I lived there alone for a month or two, then Mr. Goldie joined me. Then we had a baby. Then another. Before I knew it, there were three people sharing a room and poor Mr. Goldie sleeping in the kitchen. Then we came here and lived in a sequence of two-bedroom apartments. Long story short, a few years ago I said I needed a room of my own and converted our little guest room into my bedroom. I'm sitting in that room as I type this.
In college, I had odd jobs and all of them were hard, physical work, because I was an idiot and couldn't find myself a cushy job for the life of me. One job was at a factory where I had to work a 40-hour week and we had strict hours. I almost flunked out of college that spring; apparently, full-time job and full-time study don't mix that well. I worked at a construction site one summer, and sucked at it. Turns out, I cannot hold a shovel or a hammer correctly. It also appears that, no matter how I try, I cannot shovel or hammer fast enough. Another job was working at a coat check. Easy enough, right? Wrong. Turned out I was expected to do the work of four people. I also hadn't realized that in winter in Russia, most people wear coats that are incredibly heavy. I did well, but it took me forever to get my energy back after each work day.
So now, I am terrified at the very thought of doing any of that again. If I had grown up comfortably middle-class American, I guess it would've been a fun adventure for me; as it is, it would be reliving the worst moments of my life.
This leads me to the posts I read on V's site on frugal living. V seems to be a big proponent of living small and in close quarters. I see how this can feel like fun, with the added benefit of low bills, if you hadn't done it all your life before. Live in your own room all your life, move into a trailer for a change, move out two years later and remember it fondly as a fun experience you once had. That'll work to an extent. I am not sure, by the way, how even that will work in a family with children. I saw for myself how living in a small space affected my children, especially LilProgrammer, who has mild Aspergers and is not all that thrilled to be around people every minute of the day. In our Russian apartment, the three-year-old LilProgrammer used to lock himself in the shower with his building blocks and Legos, so he could play without being bothered. He suffered and was afraid of his baby brother. I'm not even going to start on what living in a small apartment did to my marriage. No low bills are worth it.
As I see it, frugal living is only fun until it starts to defeat the purpose, which, again as I see it, is to stay out of debt; or cut the expenses in one category so you can spend more in another that you deem more important; or allow your family to save for the future, thus providing a sense of security. Either way the end goal is to keep your family happy. (If your end goal is something else, like sitting on a pile of money just for the heck of it, then get off this site and find professional help. I cannot help you.) If your family is cramped and miserable, and all its members are hating each other, then I don't care how much you save, you're doing something wrong. I am a big proponent of a golden medium in all things.
Plus, you don't want to scar your children for life so that, when they're forty, they pass up on a fun charity trip because they are scared shitless of sharing a room with other people again.
Another song I grew up on, so if you're not a fan of European 70s disco, please continue to the next video. Ahhhh... "Cara Mia", by Baccara.
Next thing I want to show you tonight is not quite in the spirit of my Musical Hump Days, but is however very important to me. My son CB sent the link to me this morning and I just have to pass it on. I try not to talk politics on my blog, but this is too important to ignore.
It's that time of year again. The time when I stop what I'm doing, ponder on what I have achieved so far, and give thanks that there are no people reporting to me. The time of performance reviews in offices across the country.
At my current place, we are lucky to only have one a year. At my old job, BigPaper, we had three, two semi-annual ones and something called Personal Development review. I usually got off easy, though there was a time once when I walked unsuspectingly into a mid-year review and was handed a notice saying I had been put on a six-month probation for no good reason. The guy who did it left the company shortly thereafter, so his motives still remain a mystery. This was the second worst review I've ever had. My worst one was the one I had with my last supervisor at BigPaper, Andy the nice guy. (I wrote about Andy here.)
To say that Andy was a nice guy was an understatement. Andy was a pushover of epic proportions that made me look like a cold bitch with balls of steel (if bitches had balls). Problem with being a pushover when you have people reporting to you is that you don't just let everybody walk all over yourself. You also let everybody walk all over your people. That's why I didn't like working for Andy. But at least I expected the review to be short and sweet. True to his nice-guy nature, Andy scheduled the review to be held at lunch hour at a nearby restaurant. Lunch on the company. I found it a sweet gesture.
The two of us sat down in a corner and spread our papers around. I ordered meat and asked for medium well. Even though I know rare meat is tha shit, I never order it because I cannot handle it. It makes me physically sick. Having ordered, Andy and I went back to my review, which was as good as I'd expect it from my Andy. In my turn, I told him what a high intellect he had and suggested that he join the local Mensa, as I thought he'd enjoy the activities. (I still think he should go for it.) Some thirty, forty minutes later our food came. With some difficulty, I cut into the steak and was surprised to find it was gushing blood.
"Is medium well supposed to be bloody?" I asked Andy. "You think maybe I should send it back?" I didn't want to do it myself, because Andy was the one paying, and it was, after all, my work review. I didn't want to undermine his authority by sending back the food he had paid for, in the middle of a business meeting that he had called. You can tell I'm somewhat of a pushover myself.
Looking over at my half-cut meat, Andy squirmed, proclaimed the meat good, and very enthusiastically showed that he didn't want to start a row with the restaurant by sending food back. Oh well, thought I, it's his call.
We finished my review, both chewing absent-mindedly on our food. I started feeling queasy shortly before we got into Andy's car to drive back. Barely made it to the office, thanked Andy for the review and the meal, made a mad dash for the bathroom, and with alarming speed upchucked Andy's gift.
Moral of the story, never let a nice guy buy you food, and, if you do, grow a pair and send it back yourself if it sucks. Even if he doesn't want you to; even if it will get you dinged on your next review. Odds are, nice guy won't last till your next year's review anyway.
Also, today's xkcd comic is so good, I just have to share. We just came back from a camping trip at a new place and had to get directions off the Internet, too. We did however manage to avoid the spectral wolf this time.
We are going camping with friends and will return Sunday evening, probably in no condition to type. I leave you with Mr. Goldie's favorite song that, for some reason, reminds us both of camping (see if you can guess why).
Also, if you haven't been to Waiter Rant lately, get on over there! His book came out last Tuesday and is about to make the NY Times bestsellers list, and he's been on every TV and radio show known to man. I first visited Waiter Rant in 2005 or 2006, following a lead from Ajooja, and was hooked instantly. To me, this is ultimate blogger justice. Nice guy with a writing talent and a keen understanding of people makes it big, and he didn't even have to sell out his kids for that, like a few other big-name bloggers we all know. (I will spare you the links.) To me, as a blogger and wannabe writer, this is highly symbolic. We also finally got to see a picture of The Waiter and he's cute. Yes, I bought the book, and it is going camping with me.
One of my favorite albums of all ages is "Time" by ELO. '83, math camp... oh those were the days. You should really buy the album and listen to it from beginning to end, because it is a single entity and not just some hodge-podge of mismatched songs. Leaving it up to you to take that step, I hereby present "Rain Is Falling", by the ELectric Light Orchestra.
I have a confession to make about us Russian immigrants as a whole.
But first, a story.
I had a Russian coworker once. I started a new job, and she had already been there for six months. The girl was younger than me by a good dozen years. I did not find her. She found me. My third day on the new job, she shot me a "let's be friends" email. She just rooted randomly through the company directory, came across a Russian-sounding last name, and decided she wanted to be friends with that person, sight unseen.
So Natasha, as was her name, started coming over a few times every day and stopping by for a thirty-, forty-minute chat in our native language. I was mortified. I didn't want to look in front of everybody else as a slacker who spends all her work hours yakking about who knows what. And I didn't have the courage to tell Natasha to go play in traffic. So it went on until Natasha started looking for a new job. Now she came by with tales of interviews. I nodded, half-listening, casting longing glances at my screen, where work was waiting. Truth be told, I wanted to get back to work. Natasha was seriously more boring than what I did for a living.
One day, though, Natasha got my full attention.
"I have an interview with the Jewish Family Association tomorrow, how 'bout that? They talked to me on the phone - the pay is good. The benefits are awesome! At this rate, I'm going to start liking Jews soon enough."
I choked on my mint. "Wait, what?"
"At this rate, I'm gonna start liking Jews soon enough."
I cursed my blond hair and blue eyes. Even though I'm of Jewish descent, I have always been the anti-Semite magnet back in Russia, because I don't look the part. Every one of them felt the urge to complain to the blonde girl about the evil Semites that were running, and ruining, the country.
After the interview, Natasha came to me with the update.
"I talked to their controller. He's a typical Jew, but a nice guy."
And so it went. Finally, I came out to her. She stared.
"You don't look it," were Natasha's first words.
Her next words were, "Some of my best friends are Jewish."
Eventually, Natasha found her job and came to my desk for what turned to be our last chat. I, as usual, nodded and half-listened.
"Blah, blah, blah, I can only send my kids to a private school," I heard. Lazily, I inquired:
"Whaddaya mean why?! Don't you know that public schools are full of blacks? Your boys are in a public school, you should know that. Didn't you look at that when picking the school? In every public school I checked out, I saw them. There's this school that's supposed to be good, good ratings, everything, I come in for a visit, and there they are, walking down the hallways! Didn't you ever check for it?"
"I didn't look at that; I looked at the test results," I told her in disbelief. Inside, I begged: please, please shut up. Like, NOW. No one around us understood Russian, but I was mortified nonetheless.
Natasha plowed right on.
"Don't you know they're going to grow older and shoot our children?"
"No..." Why did I not tell her to go fuck herself? I cannot tell you. I went into a state of shock, I guess. I could not believe I was sitting there, in the 21st century, listening to that crap. It was too deranged to be real.
Eventually Natasha left. She came back on her last day and asked for my home address, in case she ever felt like stopping by. I told her we were selling our house. She sent me an email from her new job. I deleted it without opening and rubbed my hands with Purell. Sometime later, at a happy hour, a coworker walked up to me and asked how Latisha was doing, meaning Natasha. I found it highly ironic.
What I am trying to tell you with this half-funny, half-creepy story is that I grew up in a country where everybody was the same skin color, and almost everybody was the same ethnicity (in my home town, anyway).
As a result, even the best of us are not colorblind and have to constantly check ourselves to see if we're not being racist. The worst of us are xenophobic dinosaurs like Natasha, bless her soul.
Do I even need to tell you who the Russian community is going to vote for this November, and why?
God help us. If you ever pray, pray for us. Rampant emigration is our only hope. Even if we do not outlive our superstitions, our American- and European-born children will.
Another beacon of my generation, now gone. I have not agreed with everything he had said and done, but he was an amazing writer; I have almost all his Soviet-era books. It is good to know that he has lived a long and full life. Still, he will be missed.
For my birthday last year, my parents gave me a very cool gift. There was an unspecified bush right by our deck that was dying of old age, so my parents went to a nursery, picked out two lilac bushes, and replaced the dying one with them. I love lilac, so I was really moved by their gift.
Fast forward a year.
Did I already tell you how bad I am at gardening? Well, I'm pretty darn bad.
This summer, I thought I'd attack the flowerbeds around the deck. They were overgrown with weeds and grass. I pulled the weeds and some of the grass and sprayed all around with Roundup. That got rid of the weeds, but the grass just got greener and thicker. So, a few weekends ago, I figured that desperate times call for desperate measures and poured Roundup over the grass. It worked. The grass is now gone. But guess what else happened.
Yep. One of my lilacs is dying.
I had to come clean, so I went to talk to my Dad.
"Dad, I'm afraid I accidentally poisoned one of your bushes."
"Oh, that's just bad," Dad told me, "you know why? 'Cause your mother gave them names. One is called "Grandma", the other one is called "Grandpa". I told her it was a bad idea to name them after us, but she never listens."
Just when I thought I couldn't feel any more guilty. "So did I kill Grandma or Grandpa?"
"I don't know. I keep forgetting which is which."
Later in the day, my Mom came over and I had to repeat the confession with her.
"I accidentally killed that bush, Mom. I tried to kill the grass. I am so sorry."
"Oh yeah, I know, you killed Grandpa," Mom said brightly. "Dad's kind of upset."
Apparently the best time for planting lilacs is in the fall, so in a month or two, I'm going to go get myself a new Grandpa. Mom is going to help me pick him out. She's already asking what color Grandpa I want.
I'd come up with more Grandpa jokes, but I have to go give the dog a bath. Last night, Mr. Goldie had his boyze over for a game of pool, and apparently they let the dog eat sardines out of a can. Guess what he smells like now.
I have just had a very rough week, and some of what went down during it brought back the memories. Many years ago, I fell in love with a guy, who in the interests of privacy shall remain unnamed. I was so much into the man, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and raise children together. We cuddled and held hands and swore undying love to each other. All was well. Then we started having arguments. I don't remember who raised their voice at each other first, but my guy got very good at it, very fast.
This went on for some time. Two things I learned from it was, one, a woman can never outyell a grown man. You can scream at the top of your lungs and you won't even yourself be able to hear your own voice. Therefore, there's no winning an argument with a yelling man. And two, being yelled at by the person you respect and love is incredibly humiliating and depressing. It's like God speaking to you from the heavens to tell you that you suck.
I went through all the proper phases about it: anger, denial, depression, acceptance, and finally arrived at a new phase - zero tolerance to being yelled at by men. I guess women are okay, though none of them ever tried; but, if any of them did, we'd at least be in the same weight category. But, if a guy raises his voice at me, whatever message he's trying to get across is lost. All I hear is nothing; all I feel is a black, cold rage that comes from years of taking it up the ass. Sorry, guys; it's not you; it's me. But even so, I'm warning you that, if you ever try to crank up the volume while talking to me, all respect that I ever had for you will be lost. One strike, you're out. I don't care who you are, unless you're an immediate blood relative, you're out. If you're my child or parent, then I guess I'm stuck with you. Otherwise? You're out. I don't care if your last name is Einstein or Gandhi - you're still out. I don't care if you're a fundamentally good person who's just having a bad day - you are supposed to be an adult in control of yourself - so you're out. I don't care if you're my manager - matter of fact, in this case, I'll probably give you my notice pretty damn soon - and you're out.
I'm pretty much a pushover when it comes to dealing with other people; I don't have much in way of limits and boundaries for others. This appears to be one of the few.
I'm going to sign off now and go make dinner so I don't get yelled at by Mr. Goldie when he gets home...