Fluent in Ebonics

Yesterday was my first day back to work, and I couldn’t be happier, despite the unpleasantness that morning. That school has such a profoundly positive effect on me. I take two busses there, and the alone time is relaxing. But the second I walk through that door, I feel the love and community there. Everyone is so pleasant and happy. My co-workers respect me and my boss appreciates me. The kids are always so glad to see me and are always telling me that they like my class the best. It’s one of the most wonderful parts of my life.

This week consists of educator’s professional development seminars and training.  I sat at a table with some of my favorite co-workers, the art teacher, the 3rd grade group leader, and the 4th grade group leader.  It’s my second school year there, and I’m becoming closer to the staff as time passes.  We were divided in groups based on our tables for our group activities.

The first activity was called “Number Knockout”.  You are given a 5 by 5 grid of random numbers.  The instructions are to use those numbers by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and / or division to get a predetermined number.  I am terrible at math.  It was up to the group to come up with as many number combinations as they could.  The mood in the room was light; everyone was joking and conversing.  When they were determining who won, I said, “Hey, we were at a serious disadvantage!  We have two fine arts teachers at the same table!”  Everyone laughed.

The next activity was called “Shorthand Code”.  The objective was to come up with as many phrases using only netcode – like CUL8R and B4UGO.  I hate using that.  I don’t use it in text, blogs, emails, or anything.  I am a person who seeks to preserve the correct use of the English language, instead of letting it disintegrate into grammatically incorrect, misspelled garble.  I thought it was going to be challenging.  But as soon as I got into it, I was unstoppable.  I kept churning them out.  And because of that, my group voted me as the one to present it, in front of everyone.  Yeah, you know I have anxiety.  But we were deemed the winners.

This led to the first racial joke I’ve encountered at work.  See, I work in an inner-city youth program in a predominantly African American community.  When I was hired, I was concerned that race may be an issue.  I’m one of four white people who work there.  It never has been.  They are an incredible, accepting community.  There, you are what you are.  If I seem quirky, they don’t care.  It’s just part of who I am.  They don’t suspect anything is wrong with me.  I’m T.M.  They always see the best in me.  I am enthusiastic, warm-hearted, friendly woman who is passionate about what I do.  I love it.

The point of the exercise was to help us understand the importance of positive, clear communication with our students.  This includes establishing expectations and providing clear instruction.  Which lead to a mention of Ebonics.  The presenter said, “T.M. seems to be fluent in Ebonics.  No clue how!”  Everyone roared with laugher, including me.  It seemed so, but I’m really not.  I am the whitest girl you’d ever meet.  My skin could rival Casper the Friendly Ghost, and I have white blonde hair.  I grew up in the suburbs, attended a school that was lucky to have 10 ethnic people in a graduating class of 247, and participated in extracurricular activities that did not include any participation from minority students.  Hell, I only knew one African American man in college!

I guess I can be proud.  I am not only a decent writer, a good musician, an excellent vocalist, I am also fluent in Ebonics. Ha!

I hope today is as great as yesterday!

Spitting Fire

I started this off in One Day, I’m Going To Grow Wings. I’ll provide a brief synopsis. When referring to my mother, there should probably be another word accompanying it. Really, if you want the entire story, please review the referenced post.

So, to continue this saga, we’ll open up Lulu’s family history. My father is a disabled Vietnam Veteran with PTSD. My brother has disabling Autism. So, that makes my mother a dependent homemaker.

“I (bleeping) hate that woman. If my dad dies before her, I’m going to let her rot on this Earth until she dies. And then she can burn in hell,” I wrote in a text message to C.S. this morning after my first conversation with her. I mean it.

Rewind. My mother is second born of my grandmother’s six children. Of those six children, three remain in Allegheny County. One continued to live with her and my Pappap. Pappap was ten years older than my grandmother, and he passed away 15 years ago after a ten year battle with prostate cancer. That makes my grandmother 85.

My mother was my Pappap’s favorite and my grandmother’s least favorite as a result. And since Pappap was always away on the railroad, and my mother’s older sister was always in the hospital on the cusp of death, that made my mother mostly head of the household. Yes, responsible for all of the cooking and cleaning for all of the kids my grandmother kept popping out. This was during the fifties and sixties. So, of course, my grandmother’s last little girl was her favorite and has resided with her ever since.

Are you still with me?

The people in that family are the most mentally unhealthy people on the planet. No exaggeration. These people can seriously not even see the big, pink, suede elephant in the middle of the room, because they are that good at denying it’s existence. They have enough guilt to start their own religion. And in the same line of thinking, you know what my family needs? A big wooden cross! Everyone resents each other but keeps them under each other’s thumbs in the name of family. A little box of lies wouldn’t cut it; they need a whole bleeping warehouse! The air is so heavy with secrets that the walls actually can talk. Except they’re too afraid to.

I’d like to point out that I’m really not exaggerating this at all.

That brings us to the last week in July during my extended absence just before Alternate Realities. Summer semester had just come to a close, I was In lay-off status, so I was at home all day with T.D. I was at my parent’s house with T.D. when they got the call. Apparently, my grandmother had called my aunt (Abby) at work hysterically begging her to come home. In turn, AB calls the Rents and asks them to stay with GiGi for the remainder of her work day because she couldn’t stay. So, naturally, they rushed off.

That’s when Abby finally revealed to the rest of the family that GiGi has been mentally deteriorating badly. We had suspected as much when another aunt (Accy) flew in from California at the beginning of the year for a visit but didn’t leave for two months. But all potentially embarrassing information is provided on a need-to-know basis. You know, because the potential of senility is really mortifying. Especially when it is presenting with hallucinations and delusions. But, in my family it is more important to save face than to admit it, and go to the doctor.

This afternoon visit turned into daily eldersitting, which turned into my mother accompanying GiGi to doctor’s appointments. Eventually, they ended up at a geriatric doctor who handed down the diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. In short, GiGi had been suffering from a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons’s for over six months. At least, those are the six months that we know about.

Last week, I got called back to start work today. I asked my mother if she was watching Trent. I pressed the issue and all I got was a pathetic, “I don’t know, I don’t know!”. When I pressed some more, she gave a lofty sigh and said, “I guess I’ll have to work it out.”

Today came. It got around 11AM and I figured that I would call since I hadn’t heard anything.

I asked, “So what’s the plan?”.
She replied, “What plan?”
I said, “To watch T.D.”
She answered indignantly, “I don’t know what you me to do.”
I tried to keep the peace. I calmly said, “I have to go to work. I have professional training that I cannot miss.”
She let out another sigh. I heard her ask my father in the background, “Would you be OK with watching T.D. today?”. He easily agreed. She continued, “He’ll look after him through Friday but I don’t know what do after that. We could get Accy to fly out but it won’t be until the end of the month at the earliest.””
“Mom,” I said, “you and Abby need to start facing facts. GiGi isn’t going to get better. Something has to happen here.”
She snarled, “That’s my mother and your grandmother you’re talking about.”.
“Fine, I’ll have him ready for Dad at 2:15. Bye.”

I was ready to explode. How dare she put me in that position?! I asked her for a whole week if she could do it. And she was backing out at the last minute, claiming that I couldn’t care less for GiGi, because I was selfishly shoving my kid on her so that I could have a job. The same woman who complained for the last month that she was the only child that had to bear this burden after GiGi had treated her like garbage throughout her entire life.

It wasn’t about that. I could have worked something out last week! I absolutely cannot miss these seminars and trainings. My job hangs in the balance. And I can’t afford to quick my job; we depend on that income.

I took the reins. I called friends and made arrangements. I was still enraged, so I took it upon myself to have another conversation with her.

I growled, “After Friday, you won’t have to worry about T.D. anymore. I have that covered. So don’t you worry about it being your problem.”

She responded, in her most innocent voice, “I told you that I couldn’t.”

“No! You went on and on for a month saying, (in a whiny voice)’I don’t know, I don’t know.’! And then you screw me at the last possible minute! I could have worked this out last week! I have to work! You seem to think that with two working adults in this house that we’re rolling in the cash! Guess what?! We’re broke! We can’t afford for me not to work! And guess what?!

Eventually, you are going to be stuck spoon feeding GiGi and changing her spoiled diapers. Enjoy turning a blind eye to the future, and patronizing everyone, because she isn’t going to get better! I hope you’re happy!

I’ll call Dad later. Bye.”

She deserved it. It was a long time coming. She stood by and watched as my father physically and emotionally absued me. She knew I was cutting for two years and turned a blind eye until the school got involved. She would get belligerently drunk and instigate fights with me. She got drunk the night of my homecoming dance. She didn’t bother to stop my dad from kicking me out because I got a tongue piercing. She got drunk the day of my 18th birthday party that she made my Dad drag me to and then told the whole family what a horrible daughter I was. She made a circus out of my wedding. She hid the fact that I got pregnant three months before my wedding. She outright refused to throw me a baby shower.

I thought I could forgive her for all of that. It was a long time ago. But every new knock brings up those terrible memories.

Do you know the last time she hugged me or told me that she loved me? Right after my blood pressure tanked when I was having T.D., almost three years ago.

Today, she acted like she bought T.D. a toy and Wendy’s. What bull. She didn’t get back until six. I knew it was Dad who took him out today. She told C.S. this when he picked him up. Because, I refuse to be within 50 yards of her. I want nothing to do with her. And after Friday, I won’t have to.

I’m done.

One Day, I’m Going To Grow Wings

Let down and hanging around
Crushed like a bug in the ground
Let down and hanging around

Let down again
Let down again
Let down again

You know, you know where you are with
You know where you are with
Floor collapsing
Floating, bouncing back
And one day….
I am going to grow wings

A chemical reaction
Hysterical and useless
Hysterical and…
Let Down – Radiohead

Normally, I am not a fan of disclaimers. When looking at them from a psychological perspective, they are an affirmation of what is actually being said, instead of the deceit a person is trying to convey. For instance, phrases like, “I don’t want to be rude, but”, and “I’m not a (insert adjective), but”. The truth is in the disclaimer.

However, I must use one for these purposes, because these words and ideas may be misinterpreted. I do not blame my parents for all of my problems. I am well aware that I have the ability to be cognizant of and control my thoughts and subsequent behaviors. I pride myself on the self-control that I exhibit. These people are supposed to exist as part of my support system, and they parade around as such. It’s the martyr’s game. When push comes to shove, they always pull the net when I’m falling.

Here are the three most recent examples. November 2010, my husband and I were both offered employment at the same time. This had never occurred before. I went to my mother, overjoyed that I was offered this dream job. (My mother is a homemaker). I asked her if she would be willing to watch T.D. for the five hours that I’d be out of the house. She came up with a million flimsy excuses until I offered to pay her. And then, over the course of the school year, she paraded my son around the neighborhood under the guise that she was this amazing, selfless grandmother.

The possibility of being employed in the summer program came up. I was ecstatic. I mentioned this to my mother expecting the usual stoic response. Basically, she was rooting against me because she didn’t me to ruin her summer plans.

When it was first determined that I was not going to be employed for the summer program, she was overjoyed. Then, three days before camp started, I got a message inviting me to teach. And she once again, begrudgingly, took on the selfless task of caring for her grandchild. With the monetary bonus, of course.

Now, we are coming upon the school year once again. I had worked it out that T.D. would have services in the morning, get dropped off at preschool in the afternoon, and be picked up and taken into the care of my parents for the remaining time. Apparently, that was not on the agenda, although it was discussed at the beginning of the summer.

They never fail to let me down.

Our lives are so intertwined in terms of T.D. having strong affections for them, and us living on family property. I want to distance myself from these people as much as I possibly can. They are absolutely toxic.

My mother is a ridiculous and belligerent alcoholic. My father and I do not have a father / daughter relationship; I might as well be the mother of his grandson and nothing else. My parents offer no love or support without a price tag. And I can’t stand to be surrounded with such dysfunction.

I can’t believe I thought I could trust them. I can’t believe I thought I could trust anyone. (There’s some things going on in my social group involving disloyalty).

I’m ready to wall it up again. It’s easier this way.

I’m open to stories and suggestions.