Sunday, December 26, 2010

A 70s Christmas-Da Do Run Run

It was a 70s Christmas for me this year in 2010. I took a trip down memory lane as I went through my stocking. I had thrown a tiny tube of Strawberry Bonne Bell lip smacker (you mothers know that sometimes you have to add a bit to your own stocking) and I was back in the past. Right then and there, while wrapping paper fluttered around me, I smothered that lip gloss all over my mouth so I looked like a three-year old who just got into her big sister's "private stuff."
Smells bring back the strongest memories sometimes, and this smell took me to the Christmas when I got a GIANT tube of Bonne Bell lip smacker in my stocking with a Barry Manilow tape and of course the token orange. I was 13 then, but now I was back in time crooning, "Looks Like we Made It" by Barry Manilow, Shaun Cassidy's "Da Do Run Run Run,"and the Bee Gees's "Stayin' Alive."

I was back in disco class with my best friend Teresa at Cottonwood Elementary in Salt Lake City. The strobe lights were turning on the lunch room ceiling and I had on my bell bottoms. My back pocket was stuffed with that GIANT tube of Bonne Bell and an enormous Goody Comb so I could comb back my feathered hair. A cursive "E" hung from my neck. I had bought it at "Grand Central."

The Bee Gees were the living end, but Andy Gibb was the cutest, we all agreed. And there was no denying how we all felt when John Travolta had on those white pants."Well you can tell by the way I use my walk I'm a woman's man, no time to talk," I grooved. My braces were not the little "brackets" that they call braces today, they were BANDS, and they literally took up my entire mouth for a year and a half. I am sure they sparkled with the disco ball.

In 2010 in my own living room this 44-year old woman was remembering slobbering all over the cover of Shaun Cassidy's album, remembering how my Dad said his music was "asinine." And of course in the privacy of my own room I was weeping silently, "Oh Mandy, how you came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away, Oh Mandy, well you kissed me and stopped me from shaking AND I NEED YOU!" I played that song over and over and wondered if I could ever love anyone as much as Barry obviously loved Mandy, but more importanly would anyone ever love me like that?? I wanted to meet Mandy, this intensely loveable woman and get some tips from her. Sigh.

Back to the present. When we went to my sister in law's later on Christmas day, I said to her, "Look what I got!" I pulled the tube of lip smacker from my pocket and said, "Smell this." She smelled it and got this Oh, is there anything else in this life but this smell look on her face and then said quietly, "Can I put some on?" I nodded, thrilled to find another 70s chick who could appreciate my euphoria. It was just like junior high when your friend asked to share and you said yes, and your Mom said, "Don't share lip gloss!" and you told her that you only shared with Teresa, and she rolled her eyes. Such bad girls.

"The watermelon was amazing too!" we agreed. Next year, I'll take another trip with watermelon.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter Pants

An entire season has passed since I blogged last. It's gone from late summer to early winter in a flash. It's gone from the pool, to raking leaves, to carving pumpkins, to stuffing ourselves at Thanksgiving, to stuffing ourselves because it's December. Wow, how easy it is to measure the changing seasons by what you're eating and how your pants fit.

Morning Closet Ritual: Oh, it looks like I'm back in my winter pants. I wish I was still in my summer pants. Much bad lanugage. The only thing to do is put a sock in my mouth and scream bloody murder at the injustice of it all. Curse all the bakers and chocolate makers of the world! Especially those devils in Switzerland, the Linderball (sp?) makers. How dare they think they can control me! I'll show them. Then I spit the sock into the clothes hamper and walk out into broad daylight to face the world.


I did blog a bit on my PTA blog, lest any of you might think I had just become lazy. You could just click on it and then I could get my visitors up to 10 or so. That would be a nice thing to do for me since I am so sad about my winter pants.

But it looks like I might be clicking away again soon. It's not because my PTA blog has taken off and fulfilled its intended function--to provide an educational forum for parents--no not at all. Ha! I don't think there's a blog out there that has been more ignored by its intended audience than that one. I think my Mom read it once. Thanks Mom! I can always count on her!

I am going to be a part of "Mom Click," a weekly blogging section about parenting in the Provo Daily Herald. I will be writing about being a mother of teenagers, something I know nothing about but should after all this time. I seem to become worse at it the longer I do it. So if the Daily Herald is hoping for tips or words of wisdom, they have asked the wrong mama. I am struggling with basic communication skills with my teenagers, and I thought I learned to talk a long time ago, like about 43 years ago. Apparently not.

I will "discuss" this on Monday in the first issue of "Mom Click." It promises to be most educational. I don't have the link to that exciting section yet, but it will be forthcoming.

P.S. Goal for this week: Go in and out of the closet quickly. Avoid lingering there.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Summer of Cherry Coke Slurpees

Cousins--Lisa and Mike's kids and my kids (minus Adrie) at Hebgen Lake, Montana in July.

Every summer goes by quickly, that goes without saying. Almost every kid will attest to that. To someone who loves the summer with a passion, it's hard to see my favorite season pass by without being anxious and irritated. But this year it went by especially fast for me, perhaps because of what was looming with a big grin at the finish line--a big P a big T and a big A, in that order. But as that zoomed glaringly into focus, some other things happened along the way.

My brother in law Mike is alive and well. It is a miracle that he lives and breathes. Anyone who knows anything about medicine tells him that. The chances of surviving a burst illiac artery are slim at best. He has extensive nerve damage in his right leg and no feeling from the hip to the ankle. We are so thrilled that he's alive that the fact that he walks with a walker or crutches is almost of no consequence. He craves cherry coke slurpees and shows all who come to visit the massive scar that railroads down his chest three to four inches wide.

It is a miracle to us that he can drink cherry coke slurpees considering that everything in his abdominal cavity was basically shut down for four weeks. My sister Lisa, who once rolled her eyes at the slurpee habit, will now let him consume whatever his heart desires. He is 30 pounds thinner and weak. A lot of regular food is hard to digest. But not the slurpees. Seven Eleven is about two minutes down the road, good news for all those making multiple trips for him.

The kidney that doctors thought would be damaged beyond repair is functioning optimally.

Best of all is his sense of humor. It has always been legendary, and I wondered if he might be different when he got home after 5 weeks in the hospital. I wondered if we would all still be laughing. I wasn't disappointed when I first talked to him and was almost immediately laughing--just like always. His sense of humor remains smooth and unblemished, as if he hadn't been anywhere near death's door and back.

Physical therapy is life's work right now. His doctors say he can never move another piece of furniture in his life. Mike actually thanked the doctor for this piece of news, since he has been on more elder's quorum moves than he likes to remember. That means he and his family will stay put as well, which makes us all happy.

So Mike--son, brother, brother in law, husband, dad, uncle, and friend to many, is working each day to get his life back to a state of normalcy.

Once you've nearly died, though, normal is never what it once was.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Silk Strand of Life

Lisa and Mike 2009

So, "so much has happened since the last time I wrote!!!!!!!" That is how I began every entry of my journal as a teenager. And then I would drivel on about this boy or that, who was my true friend or not, how I could possibly survive my life during adolescence without so and so, and the lameness of every person in my household. "I just can't deal with it anymore!!! See ya soon!!!!!!"

Lord help anyone associated with me during that time. And then just recently, I blathered on to a friend about how I just couldn't keep my plants alive, how I seemed to be spending the summer in the car, how there just wasn't time to do what I wanted to do. She agreed, oh, she agreed. Blather blather blather. The injustice of womanhood, how it eats away at our very souls. How it disrespects our true needs!

And then real life came last week and smacked me across the head and humbled me to my knees, no, to my very belly.

Life is so real. Life is fragile. Life is tenuous. Life is a thread, a beam, a silk strand, the wind's whisper.

There is no way to describe my sister Lisa's anguish when she heard the words, "I'm not sure there's much else we can do for him," from the doctor's mouth. Or her horror when he said, "You'd better call the family," and "Come back now and see him." Or the flicker of hope in her eyes when he added, almost as an afterthought, "We may be able to do another angiogram to locate the bleeding." That was the only lifeline he gave her, this doctor, who has sworn above all to preserve,sustain and heal human life. We clung to it.

An unexplained rupture of the illiac artery had flooded my brother in law Mike's abdomen with blood and was drowning out his other organs. By the time he was stable 101 units of blood had been transfused into his body, replacing his own blood supply many times over.

"We've never seen a burst artery without some sort of trauma or accident," one doctor said. "Touch and go," said another.

There was the arrival of family, his 16-year old son, who was allowed back to see his dad as he was prepped for the "last ditch procedure." The aging parents who were dumbfounded by the news of their youngest son. A beloved brother, whose vow to give up cigarettes was put on hold indefinitely during his harried drive to the hospital. The 13-year old daughter and 8-year old son, who were not allowed back to see their dad, but cried in the family waiting room, their idyllic summer morning suddenly upended by catastrophe. Another brother saying on the phone, "I knew I should have stayed home, I just had this feeling . . ."

I stood in the hall and called and called everyone who loved Mike and Lisa and who needed to come. My own mother stood with me, walking from me to the room to Lisa and back to me. "I can't stand this!" she whispered. Thank heavens for contact lists on cell phones. Really, how did people used to do this? I watched Lisa talk to Mike, telling him to hold on, being so strong.

And then waiting, praying, and waiting some more until another doctor came in and sat down in the "consultation room." Ten pairs of eyes bored into him, gauging his facial expressions, his body language before he spoke, trying to decipher the outcome.

"He is stable," he said. "He is stable." Three beautiful words. "Not out of the woods yet," he continued, "but headed in the right direction." Not so beautiful, but still hopeful.

A week later he is still stable, in a semi-conscious state. His abdomen has still not been stitched closed because his organs are still too swollen. They were able to save his right kidney. He has had two operations since to remove clotted blood and check organs and another one will happen later this week. The tube down his throat can't be removed until he is less sedated. He fidgets with it and tries to spit it out. But when they reduce sedation his pain levels go way up. They are searching for the right balance. He has bags of antibiotics and nutrition flowing into him continuously.

If I know him, when he wakes up fully, he will want a Dr. Pepper.

Meanwhile Lisa holds his hand for most of the day and tells him funny things the kids said or who came to see him. His eyes flicker open in understanding and awareness but then close again as too much awareness of what he's been through could impede his healing.

And as for the 100's of us who love him, not healing is unacceptable.

Get well Mike.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Most Perfect Weekend

I just got back from a girls weekend with my long-time friend Danell. I consider myself sane again after this much-needed trip. In other words I feel I can live life again without feeling the need to check myself in somewhere where there are no sharp objects. This is good news for everyone associated with me in any way.

I flew into LA on Friday. Danell picked me up with 1940s sattelite music playing on the radio. Cheerful, happy, playful. The SUN was shining and it was 70 degrees. There were palm trees. There were no clouds, or precipitation of any sort anywhere! I was giddy! For any of you who live in Utah or who have been in Utah recently, you will know why this weather was like manna from heaven. And why I was delirously giddy.

We spent the day getting pampered at cheap places in China town, and eating amazing Italian food that wasn't in China town. Hey, how does an hour foot massage sound, followed by an hour table massage followed by am hour facial? Yes, you are turning a lovely shade of green, the same color as the mask that Wendy put on my face.

Saturday: Farmer's Market, The Grove, shopping, lunch, the BEACH. Waves and sand and sun and waves and sun and sand and warmth. Warmth I haven't felt for a long time. Glorious and restful and peaceful and better than any precription for anti-depressants that I've ever had.

Why do I live in Utah. Why? I am so much happier here.

And then a seagull pooped on my shoulder and I was back to reality. And that reality was is that even at the beach you can get pooped on. Nothing is as good as it seems. But it was still pretty amazing.

Sunday: the Getty. Glorious gardens, and more 70 degree sun without wind and clouds. A Leonardo da Vinci exhibit that showed his intricate drawings that classify him as an inspired genius. Icing on the cake.

Hours and hours on conversation with Danell, someone who knows me well. We made some plans for self-improvement and vowed to check up and check in with each other. The beautitful thing about this is that I believe I will follow through this time. I haven't been able to say that for a long time. She was just what I needed when I needed it most.

Thanks Danell for navigating me around LA for three days, for the cheerful music, for all the healthy, flavorful food, for the fashion tips, but most of all for the great advice and true friendship.

That said, If I see one more snowflake I think I will permanently lose it. Even if it gets cold again in Utah (today is looking fairly promising) I refuse to wear my winter shoes. I will tool around in sandals pretending it's spring, my little toesies freezing. They are painted a bring spring green which Darren calls garrish, and I call hopeful.

Hope is in the air.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pleasures and Perils of Life with Puppy

So our little puppy came home a couple of weeks ago. He is a lot of work and fun, just like all good things, I suppose. I won't beat around the bush, I'm crazy in love with him! His name is Theo Mark Garff Hawkins, and he puts a smile on my face. It is hilarious to watch him try to eat worms, attack plants, rip bark off a tree, or watch with rapt curiosity as a robin hops across the yard. The best of all is watching him play chase and ball with Nathan, kind of like a little brother would.

He falls asleep in the silliest places, almost on his feet sometimes. He wears himself out and then just collapses wherever he is. He gets upset when he's too excited and overstimulated, but by far his biggest problem is his nippiness. He thinks humanflesh is fantastic to sink his little teeth into despite his many bite toys that are supposed to "distract" him. He goes insane over his "good behavior" treats, kind of like a cat with cat nip. We have not been up at night with him much, and that was my greatest fear. He stays in his crate and sleeps all night.

Leah is like a little mother to him, fussing and fretting about him and letting thoughts of his welfare and whereabouts occupy her for hours on end. This is a good thing. Darren seems amused with his silliness, and is even admitting that he is "pretty darn cute." (see photo)

My goal to preserve the carpet has almost been met, despite a few accidents and mishaps. When spraying the cleaner to clean up the messes, Theo attacks the spray bottle and wrestles it to the ground like a bird after the kill.

All in all, we're well on our way to understanding the "man's best friend" adage, and books like "Old Yeller" and "All Creatures Great and Small" now have more meaning than ever.

Amazing how something so small can be so big, cliche and all.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm Just Getting in Deeper--March Madness

And they called it puppy love . . .

Let's add a new puppy to the mix. Let's see if I can push myself to my very limits, and do the most irrational thing imaginable within the course of two short weeks. Let's consent to be PTA president and let's put money down on a purebred English Springer Spaniel pup. Why not? It's March Madness. I seem to have come down with a full-blown case of it.

I hate to think what next week might bring--tattoos, a mid-life crisis, adopting a baby from Haiti, selling my house, selling my kids and husband, going to work at Claire's at the mall cause all the earrings are so pretty, actually sending a manuscript somewhere. Who knows what I can achieve? Some one please knock me out for a week before I do any more damage. At least March will be over by then.

Oh, that little boy puppy has won our hearts. Talk about love at first sight. We are buying puppy things, reading puppy books and fixing the back yard fence. (Well, Darren doesn't know he needs to do that yet, but I'll put in on the schedule for Saturday.) We picked him out on Monday and were back visiting him Wednesday to take photos. He has the silkiest hair ever. It is like, well, silk.

Sammie, Nate and Leah have been asking for a dog for years, literally years. And of course we needed a boy because we have only one of those at our house. And since Darren has taken up rapelling down mountain cliffs, I just had to do something (or two?) equally bizarre and emotion-based.

Ok, honey, I'm up two to one, how about we just stop this insanity and call it good?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

There Goes My Life as I Knew it

I have no idea what I just go myself into, but it looks like next year is going to be one of the busiest of my life. If I had any idea what I was doing, I probably wouldn't have done what I just did.

H-o-l-y C-r-a-p. That is about as eloquent as I get right now.

I have consented to be PTA president next year. It's been mulling around in my mind for months now, the thought that I should do it. I have been waiting for the right moment, however, and it looks like it's finally come. First, I said yes, and then I said no and now I've finally said yes again. They are probably waiting for me to back out but this time I'm in for the long haul.

I had to wait for the right principal, one who thought along the same lines as me in terms of activities and goals and vision. It had to be someone who was leading the school on to better things, and making it stronger than in years past. Gratefully, that is happening now. I only have one child left in elementary school. And it seems like it's now or never. So I said now.

I took the plunge into the icy depths, the vast sea of PTA. If it has anywhere near as much red tape as the Boy Scouts I'd better resign right now. Given how I feel about bureaucracy, I am surprised I took this on. There are rules and bylaws and budgets (not my most shining accomplishment, budget keeping) and seconding motions and lots of papers to keep track of. We even say the pledge before meetings. At least I know that by heart.

I'd better go to Staples and by myself a big, fat PTA binder and plan on getting lost inside it for the next year or so. I will try hard not to lose it! But I am not promising anything. That was not part of the deal.

Everyone keeps saying that I'm not in this alone. That the president this year stays on next year to help in a leadership role to support and counsel. And, that delegation is the name of the game. I am good at telling people to do things. Just ask my husband, kids and siblings. They think I am a bossy britches. Hopefully, however, the PTA board will be more responsive to requests than them!

Yes, there are the rules and headaches involved, just like in every big organization. But there are all the people, an entire community of them, including 500 elementary school kids. How wonderful to get to know all of them. The thought of that is thrilling to me.

That is why I said yes.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Are You a Hot Mess?

Adrie and Sammie at a skating rink in Midway.

I guess I need to take a class on current language usage of 14-20 year olds. I consider myself to be a good communicator, able to carrying on a conversation with most people of all ages. I am, however, having difficulty recently understanding what anyone is saying me in the above-mentioned age category. Am I old? Apparently so.

I'm not sure but I'm a HOT MESS, SBI, maybe some day I'll be LEGIT.

My friend Kirsten is on a cruise, leaving her home full of 12-18 year olds who probably communicate in teenager. Yep, she left behind a whole group of these language-impaired people. She is probably engaging in real conversation with real words, words that you can find in the English Dictionary. Words like, I'd like another one of those chocolate tortes, please, and can you feel that breeze, and the sun feels amazing, I think I'll lay here for a few more hours. Kirsten, I wish I were with you because I'm just a hot mess, and it has nothing to do with the sunshine you're soaking up right now.

HOT MESS. As far as I can tell, someone who is hot mess is messed up. If they are indeed "hot," as in attractive or desirable physically, then they are an attractive disaster. If they are a hot mess meaning hot as in strong or intense, then it means those people are incredibly messed up, good-looking or not.

Therefore, when I heard Taylor say yesterday, "That girl is a HOT MESS!" I assume she means that someone is really screwed up. Given that this girl she was referring to was attractive but ditzy, then I deduce that someone who is a hot mess is physically desirable but messed up. So if someone calls you a HOT MESS then you should take it as a compliment partially because at least you have the attractive part down, right?

Someone tell me if I'm on the right track here. Hey, maybe I want to be a hot mess.

OK, on to SBI. My Dad used say, "That guy's a real SOB!" so I know what THAT means. But when teenage language involves just the letters, then you have to ask. I humbled myself and said, "What?" Apparently SBI means Sorry About It. Kind of like too bad, so sad, your tough luck, get over it, deal with it.

It's a way to say that you acknowledge what happened to a person. If you say SBO, then you're telling someone that you understand that something happened to them, and so you respond with such a caring comment that you can't even say the words? This comment is so sympathetic, you might as well tell the person YBL (You Big Loser) because that is the amount of caring that comment invokes. Or how about INL (I'm Not Listening?) Hey teenagers, add these to your repertoire. Good ideas, don't you think.

OK, now LEGIT. I think I get this one. I can figure this one out on my own!!! I kind of like this one. Probably because I was smart enough to figure it out. It's short for legitimate so I had a bit of a hint.

If you are LEGIT you are with it, cool, skilled, smart, on the right track, doing something good, rocking the world, having a great time, doing your best, getting stuff done, and in every way making good strides in your life.

"You're so LEGIT!" is a compliment. We want to be LEGIT because that means we're doing good things and people have noticed it. I'd much rather be LEGIT than SBI or a HOT MESS for that matter.

Here are some things that are LEGIT with my world.

Nathan is such a LEGIT basketball player.

My weekend was so LEGIT because Darren and I got away for a night and had a great time.

Alyssa is LEGIT because she got into BYU!

Sammie is LEGIT because she cut up 12 pounds of grapes for me yesterday. Thanks Sam!

So, go on out and do something LEGIT but try not to make a HOT MESS out of it. If you do, SBI!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hello Pysical Therapy: Nice to Meet You

So a couple weeks ago I started physical therapy for my shoulder. It had been six weeks since my surgery, and that seems the standard time to start "working" something that has recently been torn to shreds and then surgically put back together.

I have never had the occasion to have physical therapy in my life. I had no idea what to expect. I thought it would be oh, 30 minutes a couple times a week. No, says my PT, Ned, we might as well get everything back together as soon as possible. Let's work hard now, so we don't have to later. OK, I told Ned. You're the pro. I'm just a 43 year old woman who can't do her bra up anymore or reach that one piece of hair on the back of my head. And since I want to be able to do those things once again, I am following Ned's regimen.

Our goals are to get back all my "range of motion" and build muscle at the same time. This is a delicate balance. If you strain it building muscle then that sets you back in the range of motion department, and if you strain it getting range of motion back then that slows up the muscle building process. So we must work incrementally each day to make sure the proper balance is struck.

Well, this balance takes about 90 minutes three times a week, not including driving time. I know, I know, what else do I have to do in the dead of winter? Much to Darren's delight, I am missing a whole bunch of winter clearance shopping opportunities. By the time I get Leah to school and take a shower and get ready it's time to go to PT. And then it's 11:30. I have to be to work in a hour, but I have a bunch of errands I still want to run and I need to grab some lunch, etc..

This getting better feels like a full-time job.

When I arrive at PT, first I have heat, then ultrasound, then exercises, then stretching, then more exercises, then ice. Bam! The morning is gone!

So Ned, he's the best guy. He can't believe I have no pain. He says most people who've had my surgery are a six or seven on pain and I came in with a one, and that was only because I really tried hard that day to reach that one piece of hair with the straightener. Since then I'm a zero on pain. And I'm getting closer to making my hair look like I give a darn.

I have no idea why I have been blessed with no pain. But I have been. And it's amazing.

On that first day, Ned looked at my chart and said, "You had an anterior AND posterior labrum repair. And you have no pain?" When I answered no, he said, great, we're gonna work then. And when I'm done "working" I wonder why I didn't tell him I was a five on pain so I could leave earlier.

But there I am. Learning while I'm working. Learning how intricate and astounding the human body is to repair itself like this. I'm feeling some sense of esteem that I am making improvements rapidly. I'm feeling great that when Ned takes measurements of my "range of motion" the numbers are going up.

This is the first time in my life that my measurement numbers involving my body are going up and that's is a good thing!

And then I feel grateful. I met a woman half my age who has degenerative arthritis and she will have to have MANY surgeries to repair bones that are rubbing together. She was doing exercises to prevent having the surgery I just had, but she said it's inevitable that she will have it some day.

There are patients who are still in a ton of pain. They drag themselves in on crutches and endure. And I think what a terrible time of year to be on crutches when at any moment a piece of ice could send them back to surgery.

One Mom sat on the table doing her knee exercises while reading a Magic Tree House book to her five-year old. She was there at least as long as me. I was so glad I don't have to drag kids to PT. Everyone there is doing all they can to restore their bodies or make them even better than before surgery.

It's sort of a sense of community I feel with all these recovering folks. Who would have thought.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Art of the High School Excuse

I had a good laugh this morning while driving Sammie to school. I don't have many good laughs in January (I'm like the Grinch, my heart feels too tight or small) but this one was the type to get everything flowing that's supposed to flow when you exercise or laugh heartily. Something about endorphins or dopamine, anyway. I unfroze my endorphins. That may be my only accomplishment today, but if it is, I'll be OK with that. Cause it just felt sooooo good.

While it lasted.

ON the way to school Sammie ripped a piece of paper out of a notebook and handed it to me. Then she began to dictate what to write as if I were her secretary and as if I were illiterate. She said, "Please excuse Samantha from B2 on January 20. She was sick. Sincerely, blah blah." I followed her instructions exactly until the last sentence.

She was sick. First of all when I write these things I wonder how many times Mrs. Cosgrove the attendance secretary has heard the "sick" excuse when she knew darn well the kid wasn't sick. Let's multiply the number of years she's worked as a high school attendance secretary BY all the kids who have skipped or sluffed (as I used to call it when I did it, ahem) or otherwise couldn't handle class on a particular day. That's enough excuses to rival those of our politicians, legislators and lobbyists in every state.

Side note: One day last year when I was "excusing" an absence of my older daughter, I told Mrs. Cosgrove she ought to write a book about the crazy excuses she's gotten over the years. She laughed. The thing is that per the attendance policy at our high school the only excuses that are accepted are ones that involve sickness, doctors, accidents, and major trauma. So unless you have that . . . So the poor woman's not getting very many laughs anymore. Too bad. It's a job that needs some laughs.

I said to Sammie, "This is so ridiculous. Let's write a REAL excuse for why you missed B2." She answered that if I did that she wouldn't be excused.

I went on, "Let's tell the truth. Let's say that you woke up 10 minutes before class and rushed to school but then wanted to come home and eat breakfast and fix your hair. So I came and got you. Let's say your hair was a wreck and you were starving."

"Mom!" she yelled. "Then she'll make me go to the assistant principal because that was not a LEGIT excuse and he'll give me a lecture about the importance of attendance and how I need to do better." Not legit. Since when is the honest truth not legit? I would have pondered this more had I not been trying thinking of other REAL excuses.

"I can think of other excuses," I giggled.

"Mom! I'm sure you can. Will you just write it?" she yelled. By now we had two of her friends in the car and I was really on a roll. I was in my typical 7:26 am mode: crazy hair, pajamas and a puffy coat. She was not amused.

"How about," I went on, "you just couldn't handle another day of dreary, boring, uninspired Mr.______________?"

"Or you just needed a break from the rat race that is high school. . ." Less funny, but no less true. My mind went back to my own "sluffs," which usually involved not having an assignment done or wanting to avoid someone. Or just being tired and overwhelmed. I remember feeling that a lot.

"That would go over real well," she said smugly.

"But that's the truth."

"This isn't about the truth."

"What's it about?"

"It's about getting excused and not having to go to ARC." (a detention-like prison where you have to PAY money to sit for an hour and think about your bad your decision to go home and fix your hair and eat breakfast because you woke up late.)

Oh. And then it came to me. The screwed up lessons our kids are learning because they are trying to avoid punishment for needing to live. That not missing class is more important than pulling yourself together. Attending a class by a teacher who hands out worksheets and tunes out for an hour is MORE important than sleep, food, hair (and we know the importance of hair in high school) or any other emotional need that a kid might have.

And you can't write that in an excuse because it's not legit. So we must lie to get excused. And then it's OK?

That we have to lie to excuse our kids for not attending classes by tenured teachers who have long given up on teaching, but are in survival mode until they can properly retire. And properly retire in this economy means that there will be many more burned-out teachers biding their time surfing the internet and handing out worksheets until they can jump ship. They figure they gave it their all for so many years for so little pay that they just don't have it anymore. So they will coast. And you can't really blame them. Or the kid either, for not wanting to go to class.

And if that class is a civics class or American government class and the teacher is uninspired because he or she has been overworked and underpaid for so many years, students will suffer the consequences. They will lack patriotism and be ignorant of the democratic process.

Let's think about high school for a minute. First It starts at an ungodly hour. Researchers have been saying for hours that teenagers are not awake before 9 or 10 am anyway, and it would behoove school districts to rethink school hours. No one listens. They can't. If they start later then they end later and then there is not time for extracurricular activities that students MUST have in order to get into a decent college.

If school districts start school later then students may not have enough time to get in all the AP classes that they want to take so they can also get into a good college. And because school districts have had to cut back on these classes they are not easy to fit in their schedules. Sometimes students have to go to other high schools to pick up an AP class that their school doesn't offer anymore. And then that adds scheduling and emotional stress.

So we push our kids to achieve and do well. But we don't support them that much. We give them some great teachers, some mediocre teachers and some crappy teachers and a Draculean attendance policy that requires them to either lie and go merrily on their way or tell the truth and be punished. And we sometimes cut the classes they need and make them find other alternatives.

Parents and teachers spend a lot of time telling students what a tough place the world is and if they don't buckle down and do well they won't amount to anything, get a job or be able to support themselves. Then our schools make it tougher by showing no mercy or compassion when it comes to attendance. Think of the real world: Most employees get a sick day or a personal day or an "emotional health day." At the very least, high school students deserve the same consideration.

I was not laughing anymore. I wrote on the excuse, "She was sick" and signed my name. I should have written Lying Mother instead. The earlier laughter had been a bright spot in a dreary month, but then I felt sick myself that it had come to this.

But it had been a great laugh.