This Blue Fairy’s Life

Random stuff…straight from my head to your computer.

Sad and Free October 30, 2012

Filed under: Family,Life,Poetry,Writing — merrywether @ 8:17 pm

I wrote this poem a few months ago, after the death of my grandfather this past March. What started out to be a poem about the “new” grandma that I met post-grandpa (more of her personality, without the worry, stress, and anxiety of caring for a senile octogenarian has come to the surface), turned into my take on watching her care for my grandfather, and how everything she wanted took a back seat to her one true love’s needs. If you and I are personally acquainted, please be advised that I have not shared this with my grandmother; it’s too soon for her to see it. It may never be time for her to see it, but it was important that I write it.

Sad and Free

You have been

so angry,

so anguished,

so alone with your thoughts for

so long.

 

“Lena, get me a coffee”

“Lena, I need to go”

“Lena, where’s my dinner?”

 

A slave to your beloved sailor’s needs,

You instinctively ready your legs to move at the littlest cough;

The choking scares you witless.

You explode when the plate is pushed away after a few bites.

“But at least he ate something” we soothe.

You take it personally.

He never disliked your cooking before.

Now he wants grilled cheese or bologna.

He wants ice cream.

He has more in common with his great-grandchildren than he does with you now.

 

We see you are weary.

Your insistence on keeping him home pleases him

but wreaks havoc on your body and mind

Until he falls for the third time.

Three strikes and you’re out.

 

Sixty-five years of marriage

in a teary renewal of wedding vows,

surrounded by family,

In the nursing home.

 

Every day we bring you

to sit in his room.

You take walks.

You watch television.

“When the hell can I get out of this damned place?”

 

The new laptop gathers dust and is brought home.

The new cribbage set is tucked away in a drawer.

“We’ll play when we get home”, you say.

You know and we know that isn’t in the cards.

 

Seven months is a long time of begging – you bring him home.

For one week

You give him grilled cheese and bologna.

You give him ice cream.

He drinks his favorite Taster’s Choice coffee

 

“Lena, get me a coffee”

“Lena, I need to go”

“Lena, where’s my dinner?”

For one week.

 

Pneumonia.

 

“Lena”, he whispers now.

No more ice cream,

Coffee,

Grilled cheese,

Or bologna.

You both are gaunt and exhausted.

It’s time to say goodbye

To your even keel.

 

You are like a child as we hold you

And each other.

The stars and stripes

Laid in your arms

And a single trumpet

Herald the final sendoff

For your sailor’s final voyage back

To his Commanding Officer.

 

And you, grandma, as you always have

Stay and keep the home fires burning.

Sad and Free.

 

Testing, Conforming, and All That Jazz April 10, 2011

Filed under: Family,Political Commentary,Rant,Teaching — merrywether @ 10:20 pm

I’ve been posting a lot of links to education articles and opinion pieces on my Facebook status lately. Probably more than my friends care to read. I can’t help it. Our students’ enthusiasm for learning has taken a nosedive in the past several years, and for my colleagues and me, it’s been more than disheartening; it’s been sickening. Watching those who have no experience or training in education (read: billionaires who contribute funds to education-related issues) push meaningless high-stakes testing (and using the results to evaluate teachers into our laws) is killing – not damaging – KILLING effective education. Your kids and mine deserve more.
Several years ago, our federal government sought out the private sector and invited them into the discussion of school reform because there was a concern (credible) that students weren’t leaving schools (both high school and college) with the critical thinking and communication skills necessary to be successful in the business world. The problem with government seeking business involvement with education is that our government is cash-strapped, big business is not, and quid pro quo means that education gets money, big business gets a nation of boutique school reform and tax breaks, and students and their teachers get told to perform or quit. As a bonus, students become very adept at filling in little circles completely within the lines and panicking at not being able to write to an artificial, meaningless writing prompt because either a) they can’t relate to the topic or b) they can’t read some of the words in the prompt and have no idea what it’s asking, as they are not allowed to utilize a dictionary, and the test administrator is not allowed to tell them what any word says or what it means – even if the student has learning difficulties, and even if they are reading at below grade level.
So, why, as a professional, are my (read: teachers’) opinions met with the public outcry “teachers are just whining!”. This makes no sense to me at all. Why am I not treated as a professional? I’ve been required to attain 150 hours of professional development every five years to maintain my certifications. I hold a master’s degree in education, and I spend six hours a day with children who need me to teach them how to read, write, compute, and express themselves coherently while making sure they are comfortable and safe, and comforting them about the police raid that happened at their apartment last night or the beating that happened this morning, and reassuring them that their friend’s snub on the playground wasn’t the end of the friendship. After those six hours a day, I spend at least 2 or 3 more hours thinking about them and planning how I might improve my practice the next day and hoping that they are safe at home. I occasionally get bit, punched, spit on, kicked, and more often than not, sworn at for my efforts. Yet I can’t be trusted to tell the Department of Education what I think might work to improve teaching and learning in our nation’s schools?
Unlike the computer chips in Mr. Bill Gates’ factories, my students cannot be sent back to the manufacturer because they have faulty behaviors. Every student in this country is entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Teachers in public schools cannot be choosy about which students they would like to teach. We get our kids each day, warts and all….and we teach them – even when they are hungry, tired, scared, or manic. Even when their parents have forgotten to give them their medication, or have dumped them at their aunt’s house for the week because they went to Boston “on vacation”, even when they got no sleep because mom or dad’s “clients” were in and out all night, we teach them. Yet the complaints from teachers have garnered no more than ridicule and grandstanding from individuals woefully lacking in any real and credible information about what it means to educate a child – yes, I’m talking to YOU, Glenn Beck, and YOU Michele Rhee.
I’m also calling out NBC and Oprah Winfrey, who both decided that a discussion about education could be complete without the balanced participation of public school teachers. NBC’s Education Nation was a glorified “privatization of public education” hootenanny. Public school teachers who were invited to attend were given nary a moment to present alternative opinions to those of the champions of privatization and high-states testing who were given much more time to state their cases. They’re planning on having another Education Nation this year. Oprah Winfrey’s coverage of education reform happened in much the same regard. When the whole country is debating public school reform, why are no public school teachers included in that discussion? How can you call my colleagues “whiners” for asking that question?  If you want highly-qualified teachers, and you retain highly-qualified teachers, then you should be intelligent enough to realize that you NEED highly-qualified teachers to help this country pull schools out of the black hole that it has created with all of this bickering.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is up for renewal soon. NCLB is what started this brouhaha in the first place. It, and its equally sinister program “Race to the Top” have had good intentions, but terribly damaging results – making schools compete for funding, and with strong and dangerous strings-attached, instead of working with all stakeholders (health, education, social services, families) to improve education. If you aren’t aware, at NCLB’s inception, in order to qualify for federal funds, all public school districts in the country had to commit to make sure every student in their district is proficient in reading by the year 2014 – EVERY STUDENT. Yes, your child, his classmates, and their friends. Your nephew in Arizona and your granddaughter in Vermont. PROFICIENT. Dyslexic? Proficient. Developmental Delay? Proficient. Missed 74 days of school this year? Proficient. Homeless and no safe place to sleep? Proficient.
But I’m just a whiner.
For your perusal:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/standardized-tests-prove-im-better-than-michael-jordan/2011/03/29/AF4sdL4C_story.html
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_of_the_year/2010/01/teachers_should_be_seen_and_no.html

 

Angel Girl March 2, 2011

Filed under: Family,Life,Poetry,Writing — merrywether @ 11:15 pm

It’s my mom’s birthday today. I wrote her a poem last summer – she loved it. I thought I could do better. Of course I could draft it a thousand times and still find it’s incomplete, or somehow lacking, because let’s face it, my mom rocks. There’s no one I admire more or respect greater. So I made a revision, and I offer it here as a virtual gift to my mom, an angel on earth.

 

Angel Girl

From humble beginnings and early loss

Angel Girl lives between Hyde Street

and Eastern Avenue

raised by godparents

with father’s help

and mother’s heavenly blessing

 

Mount St. Mary’s girl,

Miss Congeniality

youthful exuberance, fun-loving.

I wish I had known you then.

Would we have been friends?

 

Angel Girl becomes Cape Cod college girl in love

dreams and plans in place,

suddenly derailed.

Soldier boy fiancé writes home with trepidation

 

Wedding called off.

Angel Girl deflated.

Returns home.

 

Old neighborhood friend tends to

wounded angel heart –

“Marry me – I’ve always loved you”.

She always knew.

 

To the priest she seeks to change the date…

 

and the groom.

 

That’s Angel Girl – pure moxie!

 

Daughter number one arrives

Shirley Temple curls and sensitive demeanor –

Angel Girl’s sweet, little one.

 

Daughter number two follows;

Angel Girl’s doppelganger

with blonde hair, skinned knees,

and love of bugs and dirt.

Mother’s moxie, revisited.

 

Angel dad moves in.

Lives long enough

to know

his granddaughters.

Passes knowing

Angel Girl

is safe,

loved,

and needed.

He can rest now.

His legacy lives in her life well-lived.

 

Daughters grow,

daughters love,

daughters make Angel Girl proud.

 

Angel Girl creates,

inspires

loves.

 

Crafty

generous

resilient

loyal

strong

 

Forty three years later,

still madly in love.

Everything          happens             for          a             reason.

 

Fruits of life

grow and divide

 

Divine grace enters

 

Three wild and wooly grandsons

sprung from daughters’ wombs,

spread brilliant, lively wings

 

and transform my Angel Girl Mother

into their Angel Girl Gram.

 

Kim Sutherland

rev 3/2/11

 

 

Changes February 7, 2011

Filed under: Family,Life,Writing — merrywether @ 10:44 pm

 

Shirley Temple - my nickname as a child

The new year – usually it arrives unceremoniously. This year things were different. I’m a January baby. Elvis, David Bowie and I share a birthday. I turned 40 this time ’round the sun. I’m normally not wont to scrutinize age, but still found myself telling people that I was 30 with 10 years experience upon the blessed day. I notice that I’m not alone in my minor anxiety-riddled thoughts brought on by the slipping away of my youth. Every week at least one or another of my high school and college classmates is lamenting the ominous orb of the zero in its role as clinger-on to the four. As my friend Erin quipped, “I had a ‘moment’ when I had to click on the age 40-49 button of a survey I was taking”.  I hear ya, Erin. What’s that song say? The first cut is the deepest. I sit here typing and note that the skin is just maybe a tad bit looser on my dishpan-dry hands…and the volume on the TV is just a shade too loud. It’s odd – I knew forty was coming. What I didn’t know, is that a need for introspection would accompany it. I’m not horrified, nor am I depressed. I think I’m just kinda surprised that I am now the age my parents were when I was graduating from high school. It’s bewildering. So I think back and see all that has changed in the last decade of my life. I know who I am now. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I call children “honey” and “sweetheart”. Since having a school-aged child, I attend parent-teacher conferences from the other side of the desk now. I worry less about the superficial things that used to consume me and save my worry for the serious issues that deserve my attention. Even those seem easier to manage since I pray more. I look at my career and see how my professional choices and hard work have shaped me and given me opportunities. I have no idea what my career will bring to me in the future and I’m all right with that. Ten years ago that uncertainty would have put me in a tailspin. I guess I grew up, and I guess I gained enough wisdom to know that I’m constantly learning about myself, those I love, and my world and that commitment to lifelong learning is what makes each of my days worth living. I can look matter-of-factly now at what is important. My family, my work, my writing – the things that warm my soul. For a woman who values order and organization, I have learned that changes can be good.

 

Dusk with Frankie August 7, 2010

Filed under: Family,Motherhood,Poetry — merrywether @ 11:32 pm

Dusk with Frankie

It ends up like this:

Frankie

settled into his car seat

no radio.

I steer us toward the setting sun

The rhythmic lull of the tires

against smooth pavement

brings a slowing to the heartbeat.

The air cools,

tucks away the heat

of the shining moments

and the angst of the

tasks of daylight.

Softly, I hear from the back seat,

“mom, we are cruising through the darkness”.

Not a question, but an observation.

Off-ramp carries us home

through winding, wooded lanes

Crickets and bullfrogs

carry the only conversation now

as they prepare their evening’s work

in the employee lounge at the pond;

we think it’s a staff meeting.

As darkness spreads its arms

across the horizon

like an open parachute nearing the earth,

we scurry into the house

avoiding the buzzing of the mosquitoes

who consider us their lunch

My intrepid co-pilot climbs into bed

and is wished safe travels

for the next leg of his trip

in the clouds of his dreams.

-Kim Sutherland

 

small, but important repairs August 13, 2009

Filed under: Family,Motherhood,Poetry,Uncategorized,Writing — merrywether @ 11:57 pm

small, but important repairs

Spider Man Band-Aids
for cuts and scrapes

kisses and hugs
for bumps and tears

words of praise
for little, easily-bruised egos

a lollipop
to relieve boredom
during grocery store and bank trips

a sticker
after being brave
for the nurse’s needle

a gentle caress
of a cheek or chin,
to smooth a furrowed brow

a security blanket or night light
to ward away the monsters of the dark

a parent’s backrub
that tells a little one
that he’s

exactly

where

he’s

supposed

to

be.

 

                                                Kim Sutherland