Category Archives: Education

Casualty

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Through an odd combination of luck, happenstance and a bit of clever financial planning, Abigail has had the chance to attend an academic preparatory program and private preschool for the past three years. She’s learned quite a bit and been exposed to a wider variety of academics in that time. Next year she’ll integrate into public school but I’m quite thankful she’s had the opportunity.

This post is not about Abbi’s schooling though. It’s not even really about her. It’s still about me. Because it’s my blog, dammit.

Abbi’s school being what it is means that most of the people who send their kids to them tend to be rather affluent. Hence the attendance to anything that has to be referred to as an academic preparatory program. This is just fancy-talk for really expensive daycare.  There are a few moms like me, securely middle class (on a good day and only if its not right after all the bills came due…) and a minuscule group of lower income families whose children have been admitted by way of scholarship.

However most of these parents are hard-working, career focused individuals who, let’s be honest here, rake in the dough. I know parents in the school are surgeons, successful lawyers, a few local politicians and a variety of executives from some of the most powerful companies here in the OK. They are all supportive parents who want the best for their kids and happen to have the money to make procuring the best just a smidgen easier. That’s not a bad thing by any means.

Image via CC LicenseThis becomes important because after three years of Abbi attending this place I still found myself self-conscious if I had to encounter another parent. The nature of their work dictates that most of them sport business suits, strands of pearls, fashionable three-inch heels and a surgically attached iPhone.  I’d show up in chucks, denim and the remnants of breakfast somewhere on my person . I have always felt under-dressed dropping my kid off at daycare.

The environment I’ve always worked in has been relatively casual. At least my day jobs have. I own and wear well business suits when the occasion necessitates it or at hockey, but for the most part no one cares what I look like between the hours of 9 and 5 Monday through Friday. Its a perk of working in contracting & freelance writing. The words you string together are rarely influenced by whether or not you managed to get your hair to lay down flat or drummed up the energy to actually iron something in the last six years. The words don’t care and neither do my bosses. Doesn’t stop the socially-aware, judgmental portion of my brain for chastising me for shoving my hair under a ball cap and wearing the same pair of jeans for the third day in a row as I stand next to a woman wearing slacks, a cardigan and Jimmy Choos. And I just knew that she and everyone else like her were judging me just as harshly from their social high ground on top of those spike heels.

Don't care whose name I'm walking on or how many jewels are encrusting it...still a dead fish.

Don’t care whose name I’m walking on or how many jewels are encrusting it…still a dead fish.

Here’s the thing. It’s not like I want to look like that. I don’t. I’d break my damn ankle trying to walk and stairs would be totally out of the question. I like my jeans. I like my t-shirts. I like that my flat-iron is only necessary for special occasions. Heck, at this point, so is eyeliner. Just the same, part of my brain is still living in high school and wants to be a part of the cool kids.

This morning though, something changed. It took one sidelong glance and 1.45 seconds and I realized I am, in fact a part of the cool kids. I had it all wrong. Those parents in the suits and slacks are judging me, but not the way I thought. As I walked into the school’s sliding doors a woman in a brilliantly colored skirt suit walked by. Her orange blazer was perfectly offset by turquoise pumps and an emerald green hand bag hung heavily on her arm. No wrinkles in her white blouse, no breakfast bar crumbs on the lapel.

As we passed each other, she gave me a look; not of critique but of longing.  Something occured to me that hadn’t before. For as fancy and pretty as most of them look, I’m betting they don’t get dolled up come Saturday morning. If given the choice a good bit, though not all, would don cargo pants and a tank over an A-line skirt and blazer. Half of those parents would probably kill to wear jeans, strappy sandals and a Hunger Games t-shirt to work. I can show up to work in yesterday’s yoga pants and no one will bat an eyelash. The parents at Abbi’s school likely have a “professional” dress code to adhere to. I don’t. If I want to look cute, I can. If I want to look one step up from homeless, I can do that too. I’ve figured out most of those folks I felt so self-conscious around would trade their monkey suits for bananas to be comfortable and casual at the office.

So thank you to the parent in the orange suit. That portion of my brain, quick to berate and castigate, has been made a casualty of casualness. And I hope very much that you get to wear sweatpants to work someday.

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When History Teaches Us The Wrong Lesson

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Ok, not so much us as me. Its already been said that I’m a fan of history. I study it, I research as a hobby, and I generally enjoy what it has to offer. We stand to learn a lot from history. But what happens when history turns out to be a poor tutor? What happens when history’s lessons don’t apply?

In college I was fortunate enough to study under a very peculiar woman named Dr. Hooper. Dr. Hooper wore earrings that didn’t match, spoke only at maximum volume, lorded over the hardest class I’ve ever had to take, and was convinced that everyone should know all details concerning her wiry little rat dogs, Persephone and Hades. She was also just a touch cynical. She often regaled her students with stories regarding her relationship with her husband, the demise of said relationship, and her subsequent divorce. Stemming from this story of misery and woe, she publicly damned all manner of romantic relationship. We history majors quickly learned that if a dating couple took her class together, it was best to sit far apart. Her cynicism spread past affairs of the heart, even bleeding into her  subject of choice, and in the grossest of ironic turns, her one true love, history.

I mentioned that Dr. Hooper “lorded over” the hardest class I’ve ever had to take. It was Historiography and was not for the faint of heart. I say “lorded over” because a class that covered the breadth and span of historiography for college juniors could not simply be “taught.” On our first day, Dr. Hooper informed us that in her twenty plus years of tenure, teaching Historiography most of that time, she had only ever awarded one A. That same student proceeded to have a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter. So no pressure.

Among the required reading for Dr. Hooper’s Historiography was a book called Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. It was a small, simple read in comparison to most college texts. Add to that an inherent and witty cynicism that obviously attracted my professor to it, it turned out to be a welcome break from the dry, lifeless texts typically assigned the lowly college student. It was also particularly eye-opening for it actually contained a list and counter-argument for some of the most commonly mis-taught thematic lessons in history. These were things that I had been taught, events and reasons for the greater part of my version of the historical timeline. Now in one book, for one class, I had to undo a large amount of erroneous memorization.

The book didn’t attempt to claim that Columbus did not sail the ocean blue in 1492, but rather contended that the reasons often taught for this poetic journey weren’t often covered correctly. The Declaration of Independence really was signed in 1776, but not exactly to the whoops and hollers of approval. A good part of the country, the greater part perhaps, wanted no part of it. For most, this is inconsequential. For a history major, it was huge. History was supposed to be the infallible, but it taught me the wrong lesson.

Over time I learned that history is quite fallible, its facts and course changing with each new discovery. But at the time, it was quite jarring. It seems God has seen fit to remind me of this. This time not in regards to academics, but another of Dr. Hooper’s topics, relationships.

History has thus far shown me the ugly side of relationships, at least the kind with men. I know about cheating and betrayal and distrust. I’m intimately familiar with being let down and climbing out of holes, sometimes those that I dug and sometimes those that someone else dug for me. Its normal to have to pick through the lies designed to earn trust to glean a bit of useful information.That has become the foundation for me. You start with those and work upwards to overcome. That’s how it works.

But what if history has taught me the wrong lesson? What if it is possible to start out differently? It may be time for a new lesson. Maybe.

**And for the record, I got a B in Dr. Hooper’s Historiography. I worked my happy little butt off for it, too.

An Old Soul

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When it comes up in conversation that I willingly majored in History in college I’m often met with the same reaction: Why? Most people (certainly not all) viewed their high school History courses as punishment. I loved mine. My love of history dates back to my very earliest years. My mom says that I’ve always been enthralled by history. My memory picks up in third grade when I was first able to take a formal history class. It was on Ancient Egypt. From that moment at the tender age of nine, I knew I loved it. Everything that was, that used to be, and that happened long ago held power over me. I wanted to know it all.

But that still doesn’t explain why. Honestly I can’t tell you exactly why. All I know that given the opportunity I’d rather delve into the past then figure out the present.

I’ve always believed I was born in the wrong time. Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone, laptop, and flushing toilets. But I think I would have done alright living in 17th century England, 19th century France or turn-of-the-20th-century America. I mean in 1919 New York, I would have been a hottie at size 16. (Granted I wouldn’t have been able to vote or write, but I’d have been smokin’).

Should time travel ever become possible my first stop will be the Elizabethan court. Followed closely by the Mongol invasions of Russia, and then perhaps a quick stop in Athens, Greece sometime during the Peloponnesian War. Times seemed simpler then, wars were honorable (although no less bloody, I may romanticize the times but have studied enough to have few false impressions), and the mythology so much richer.

Since I can’t time travel, I’ll have to settle for study, reading, and imagining. Even my dream job of dream jobs involves history. I want to curate an interactive history museum a la Williamsburg, VA. Its not an original concept but I would love ever blessed minute of it. At least for a time I would get to behave and function in a world from long ago. Even the idea of it gives me shivers of joy.

To say I’ve an old soul is a bit of an understatement. My soul I think came from an age past and perhaps I’ll visit that past. Off to work on that time machine.

*PS – Looking for a Delorean in good condition.

*PPS – Happy Mother’s Day!