Thursday, August 24, 2006

School Daze

Summer time used to drag. I never did the usual childhood things like camp or baseball, but I was happy just not to go to school. I wasn’t “happy” in general, but I was happier at home than I was at school. Every year started out the same. I loved the new school supplies and wanted so bad for this year to “be different”. This year I was going to try harder and keep up and pay attention and do better. I was defiantly going to remember to bring my stuff to class and I was defiantly not going to forget it every day.

School was the bane of my existence. I spent most of my evenings during the school year crying to my mother about how I didn’t have any friends and other kids didn’t like me. Mom and I had always been very close. I was the oldest. My brother and sister were “the little kids”. Sometimes Mom would talk to me about things that were bothering her and I’d do my best to comfort her. She and I were very close until about fourth grade. Before that I really never had any other friends.

Mom, overwhelmed by my social and academic difficulties, decided to put me in private school. As I understand it now, Mom had wanted to put me in private school for a while and Dad didn’t want to. He had been “backward”, as he puts it, in school, but he knew the solution to that. You have to learn to deal with things. (Why didn’t I ever think of that?) He didn’t want to spend the money on tuition, but Mom felt that the problems I was having in school would be solved. Or maybe it was just that she was ready to try anything out of sheer desperation. Either way, I was transferred in the middle of fifth grade to a small, religious, private school.

The religion based school had a dress code that required skirts below knees for girls and sleeves below elbows for everyone. Girls couldn’t cut their hair during the school year and couldn’t wear makeup or jewelry. State laws didn’t require private school teachers to have any license or certification to teach so none of the teachers were certified. All of the classes were made up of two grades combined. My teacher looked like she was in her mid forties, but I found out later she was about ten years younger than she looked. Everyone was nice at first, but soon the cycle started all over again.

I was the person who didn’t fit. Prior to the transition, I assumed (as did my mother) that it was the mean, cruel children in the class with me, or in the playground or on the buss. I always knew I was different, but then everyone does, right? No one is the same as anyone else, so, therefore, we’re all “different”. Most of us, however, can manage to function as part of a group. This was my downfall.

My hypersensitivity didn’t help. I could be brought to the verge of tears by the idea that someone “didn’t like me”. Because I always had the idea that people didn’t like me, I was always on the verge of tears or maybe just numb to the world. I was always left outside the circle. I always tried too hard. I never “got it”. I felt isolated, alone and frustrated. Above all else, I couldn’t ever seem to figure out 1.) What the problem was nor 2.) How to fix it. School was my nemesis.

I was always in a fog and never knew what was going on. That’s the story of my life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stupid Blog

My blog is against me. It's probably conspiring with other blogs... Maybe all of our blogs are conspiring with other blogs about all of you!

Have you ever been sitting at home, along, thinking about blogging. Then you decide to blog, open a web browser and sign into your favorite blog? You write until you have what you want blogged and then decide to upload a picture? But, alas, when you upload said picture the blog disappears?


Call 1-800-Bloganon

Ok, I made the last part up. There is no Bloganan and sorry for the rambeling. I do that sometimes. Anyway, the weirdest thing... when I went to uplaod a pic and hit [Publish Post] button, my blog (in priview and on the actual blog page) looked like a few tiny squigly lines. When I didn't add a picture, it looked fine. When I added a different picture it looked a like a few tiny squiggly lines... When I got rid of that picture, it was fine again. My blog h as eaten my pictures. I'm very mad at it. Bad Blog.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

False Security

Everything went round like clockwork. We always knew what everyone did five minutes ago, was doing now or would do in an hour. We knew it by the time of day and the season. That’s just the way it is on the farm. At 10 a.m. Grandpa had already had coffee with some kind of bread. He had sat at the end of the table where he always sat. I never saw him sit at the table in any other chair. No tablecloth was ever used, but there were always four placemats. I knew that if it was ten O'clock now, he had been sitting at the oval table not long ago with his coffee on the placemat and some kind of sweet roll or maybe some kind of bread with syrup. He'd had half and half sitting on the table next to him and got sugar with the sugar spoon out of the sugar bowl on the Lazy Susan in the middle of the table.

Never did all of the sugar grains make it to the cup. Later when Grandma wiped off the table she’d think to herself, “He gets more and more like his dad every day.” She’d say it aloud if I was there, or some other close member of the family. Grandpa had already made coffee, maybe instant and he had already poured the half and half. He had already put in two spoons of sugar excepting the grains that had fallen off of the spoon between the Lazy Susan and the coffee cup. He had taken his spoon (not the sugar spoon… it went back on the Lazy Susan) and absently clank, clank, clanked it loudly for about thirty seconds or a minute to be certain that it was thoroughly mixed.

Grandpa had already done all of that today. That wasn’t what he was doing now. Now he was in the barn. Some times of the year he was feeding calves. Some times of the year he was feeding cows. (Yes there's a difference). Some times of the year he was getting supplies to take to the field. . Some times of the year he was throwing hay down to the truck to take to the back fields and feed. He might be doing any variety of things, but at this time of day, he was in the barn or near it.

If I ran after him I could walk with him for a bit while he did his chores. He was a short wiry man, with bow legs. He always wore overeralls unless he went to town. His gait was more of a short-stride lurch than a true walk. In about an hour he’d have a small pocket radio on Paul Harvey up to his ear. There was no use trying to talk to him while Paul Harvey was on. Right now Paul wasn’t on so when he saw me he’d happily exclaim, “It’s Suzy Q. Sizzle!... Hi, Kid!".I’d say, “Hi, Grandpa.” We’d smile great big at each other and he’d “pat” me on the back with three or four enthusiastic thuds.

I'd walk with him and he'd ask me how school was going or what I'd been doing. Maybe he'd let me help with something. Generally, though, it was easier for him to do it himself. He'd been doing everything himself for fourty years. Why change now?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Don't judge me, man....

Apparently I was the most beautiful baby many people had ever seen. I guess it could have been my mother’s bias. My dad says everyone says that to parents about babies. He does concede, though, that I wasn’t squished and puffy like many babies. I had colic and was often sickly with chronic respiratory infections and earaches and such. As a toddler I was very curious, but seldom had opportunity to find trouble due to my mothers vigilant observation.

Growing into childhood, I was more adventurous. I wasn’t the type of kid to believe that the stove was hot just because someone told me it was hot. I would generally have to find out for myself. I didn’t get in trouble, though. I got attention. Not much of a deterrent. I was made much of and spent a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa H.

I had a horse sometimes, but it's not like I had a horse throughout my childhood. My dad tended to do what my mom said and my mom wanted me to have a horse when I whined and nagged her enough. She always had one when she was a kid. I guess it brought back good memories for her. So they would get me a pony or horse, but inevitably I would not take care of it. They would have to take care of it. They would tell me if I didn't take care of it I wouldn't have it long. That made me feel bad, but somehow or other I never managed to do what I needed to when I needed to. Then they would get fed up and sell it. We went through this cycle many times. I think when I was a kid I had two ponies and two horses between the ages of 9 and probably 14. The first pony wasn't my fault, actually. I fell off of it into a cut cornfield and broke my arm when I was 9. Obviously I wasn't able to take care of it properly for a while, and by the time I got better it was wild enough my parents wouldn't let me try. All the others, though, were my own lack of ability to do think of and do general things that most kids could have or would have been willing to do.

This pattern is repeated over and over again in my life. I start new things and end up loosing interest. I feel guilty and bad so for a pick-me-up I start another project. Now that I've figured out the pattern I really tend not to do anything. I don't want to feel like a failure so I never start anything. I never really do anything. I guess I try to keep my compulsion to "begin something" to free, and insignificant things. This blog, for instance, feels like a new beginning. I've started probably half a dozen blogs this year with the intention of writing in them consistently. I have probably 20 journals for different things, but I seldom write in them. I wonder how long it’ll be before I forget about this blog and have one more failure added to my collection of frustration and sense of failure.

I was born to very capable parents. My dad was a high school jock. The kind of guy everyone liked. He’s still that kind of guy for the most part. He was home every night in general, but what time he got home was always an issue between him and mom. Dad was always a local truck driver. In my hometown trucking was regulated so he really made a good living for such a small town. He always had hobbies that drove mom nuts. He had poker night and spent time with friends at bars. I wouldn’t say he drank too much in general, but at times he drank too much. Mom, and her eternal search for perfection, didn’t really complain to anyone about it. Rather she tried to hide it. She was raised Methodist and her parents lived close. It wasn’t as much that she feared their judgment as it was that she feared their perception. She wanted everyone’s perception of her family to be a little idyllic. She wanted a Norman Rockwell paining of the All-American family.

As I got older, though, I got less motivated. My brother, born four years after me, always had “issues”. I believe it was a textbook case of ADD, but, there may be more to it than that. He learned how to get out of his crib early. He was into everything. He always got up in the middle of the night and roamed around. The child never slept. Of course, I always had problems sleeping. Consequently, my mother suffered from severe sleep deprivation for years. She was constantly afraid Brother would wake up in the middle of the night and accidentally set the house on fire. It was a warranted fear. Naturally, due to the bad planning gene that deeply imbedded in the faulty wiring called human nature, eighteen months after my brother came along, my sister came along.

Thank goodness, for my mother’s sake, she was a child of perfection. Not only did she not get out of bed in the middle of the night, when she woke up she didn’t cry. Mom recently told me (after saying her notorious precursor to every statement: “now don’t tell…” Laura this, but when she was a baby, I was really scared that maybe she was a little slow or something. I was so used to having Travis constantly into everything and you constantly sick and in need of attention, I had no idea that there were children who were just happy. I discussed this with Laura, the next time I talked to her. The conversation went something like this, “Har, har, har… when you were a baby, mom thought you were retarded.”… My siblings and I tend to be a little juvenile. Laura said something like, “Not as retarded as she thought you were.” And the conversation just deteriorated from there. It always does. Don’t judge us, we’ve had a hard life. What harm could it possibly do to be immature now?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Artsy Fartsy

I was always told that I was an artist. People seemed impressed and really it was the only thing I really, REALLY enjoyed. On the other hand, i was constantly told that art would never get me anywhere. Art wasn't a valued thing in our family. It was interesting, sometimes even impressive, but not valued. Just another unnecessary thing to distract people from the work that needed to be done or the other stuff that was really important to them. My sister has a boxer. Just one in a long line of boxers. I made a wax sculpture for her and bronzed it with a bronze patina. I was proud of how it turned out. In another way, though, It doesn't matter much.

From Where?

I'm from a small farm community in Missouri. I grew up next door to my grandparents. My parents built a new house there when I was 8. Before that we lived 10 miles away. My grandpa lived in the same house he died it... the same room in fact. As far as I know, his father may have been born in the same room. It was a four generation farm, but his family had been in that area since several generations earlier than that… every since the area was settled, in fact.

As far back as I can remember, there was a sense of permanency surrounding the family farm. It has always been there. It would always be there. When I was maybe ten, I would ask my grandpa what was going to happen to the farm when he wasn't able to farm it anymore. In my own way I was trying to be tactful (not an easy task for a 10 year old with ADD). He always said there was a "trust" set up. All of his kids would have to agree on what to do with it. I don't know why I would have been worried at such a young age about the future of a farm. I was just always fascinated by the history. Somehow, the permanency was a sort of security.

I'll call these grandparents Grandma and Grandpa H. so that we can differentiate them from my other Grandma. My grandparents’ house was probably a hundred or more years old. It had been remodeled many times, but it was the same structure that had seen the road out front go from a dirt trail, to a gravel road, to a state highway.

My grandma on the other side grew up maybe 2 miles away on a gravel road in the country… the same local neighborhood. My dad's cousin still owns that property. This grandma we'll call Grandma J. I wasn't as close to her as I was Grandma and Grandpa H. simply for the fact that she lived further away. She usually lived within 30 miles from us, but she still wasn't in our back yard like Grandma and Grandpa H. Grandpa J had died before I was born in a work related accident. He worked for the railroad so he was gone all week when Dad was growing up. Apparently when Dad was 19, he fell off of a train and was killed.

I was never any good in school. I would listen around the corner to my mom and my teacher at parent teacher meetings. "She's very bright, but doesn't seem to live up to her potential. She's very sweet and tries. Sometimes she excels, but generally she lags behind." Some version of the same information followed me to adulthood. I'm still very sweet. I'm still smart. I still try. Somehow I never live up to my potential. I know now that I have ADHD, but at that time, I was just a failure… an overly sensitive failure, overwrought with anxiety, depression and pain.

So that's where I'm from. I'll work chronologically from there. Thanks for your patients in reading so far. I know the set up is always the worst part of a story. I'm sure I'll try to go back and make it more interesting later.