Friday, July 24, 2020

My World Part XII

I had a biopsy on my face on Tuesday. 

Because that's how this year is going.

It was a weird little bleached spot on my cheekbone. Had a bump on one side. I went in to have them tell me I was a hypochondriac yet again. And I was disappointed.

"I'm glad you came in, we need to biopsy that," was the answer.

The nurse practitioner and doctor stood in front of me and talked medical talk but I was able to absorb that just by looking it, they could both tell it was a basal cell carcinoma, but they were concerned it was an infiltrative one and wanted a punch biopsy to confirm before they sent me for Mohs micrographic surgery.

All those new vocabulary terms. I can see the worksheet in my mind with the matching terms and definitions. Use "punch biopsy" in a sentence. Name three types of basal cell carcinoma in order from most aggressive to least. 

So now I wait. I have two stitches in my face and they come out on Tuesday and hopefully I'll have the inevitable answer by then and I can go have my little white bump removed and then be put on what they called "the six month plan" which is discouraging but...manageable.

So I'm putting off the knee surgery....

Sunday, July 19, 2020

But what you don't get is

I was going to talk about teaching but right now teaching has become a lightning rod in my nation as everyone seems to weigh in on what we should do with school buildings reopening for the fall and I just, I just, I'm tired. I know what I think, I know what I want for my family, and I also know full well that the handbasket this country is sitting in is going straight to hell and does not care a whit what I think.

So I'm going to talk about when I worked at Cloth World, which doesn't exist anymore but was transformed into one of those big box crafting stores. Back then, fabric was the majority of what was sold, and the current mutation is mostly craft kits, cheap crap from China, and polar fleece.

Things the outside observer might not have understood about what was entailed in this just-above-minimum-wage job:

*You had to be really good at fractions and quick mental math. This was before the little sku gun that did the multiplication for you. 3 and 7/8 yards at $5.89? Do it. I learned all my fractional equivalents of decimals at that job.

*You had to understand fabric. Plaids are cut differently than other wovens. Knits have to be matched up in the corners first. Jute burlap has to have a thread pulled, you have to spread out the fluff on fake fur. And velvet? You rip that shit. It's awesome to watch a customer nearly faint as you rip $40/yard velvet in front of them.

*You had to be able to read and understand the intricacies of sewing patterns. This means not only knowing the difference between a georgette and a challis, but also fabric width and shrinkage and grain and interfacing and buttons and zippers and thread.

*You had to kill a lot of bugs.

*You had to understand a variety of repair jobs. Car headliner. Upholstery. Clothing. Quilts. Heirlooms.

*You had to have soft skills, too. How to praise someone on their choices or how their quilt was coming along. How to advise the mom who plans on making a halloween costume and has arrived at your store on October 27 with a vampire-to-be.

*You had to be quick on sales days, which of course is any retail job. But fabric is different, perhaps a little like dressing room work, or a deli, in that you have to portion off a part of the item and then put the rest back. You learned tricks, like that you could count on a bolt's folds to see how many yards were left before you unraveled the whole thing and found out you were two yards short of the ten you needed.

I go to the big box fabric store these days and I find that many of these skills are no longer required. It is assumed that the customer knows what she needs and advice is not given, or perhaps not even known. Fabric is limited, and I watched a young woman at the cutting table cut a plaid homespun fabric without lining up the stripes and I had her cut it again for me. "We don't do it that way," she apologized. "We just cut and go."

I only worked at Cloth World for 7 months, quitting right before the Christmas rush in preparation for apprentice teaching the following spring (and I didn't want anything to do with a Christmas rush). I learned a lifetime's worth of fabric and sewing knowledge in that 7 months, however. I am going to go ahead and say that this probably isn't true anymore. Just cut and go.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

My World Part XI

I fell today. In the basement, with a basked of laundry blocking my vision, I stepped on a plastic hanger my middle daughter must have dropped on the floor and went for a slide that ended with my right knee twisted, my left knee planted firmly on the concrete, and now, two hours later, a sore neck and the beginnings of a headache.

When I landed, the first thing I did was lie down on the floor, on this strip of carpet scrap that forms a path through the laundry room and if the hanger had been lying on, would not have made me slip. I thought about my grandmother who died in December 2016 and how her final day at her own home was on the basement floor with a bloody broken ankle that our family's DO orthopedic surgeon couldn't fix. 

My second thought was about how that surgeon, who had done my parents' knees, my left knee with the necrosis, my grandfather's knees and back, my uncle's shoulder...had retired in March. Good time to exit health care. But who was going to do my next knee surgery? The knee I twisted has junk in the joint, and each morning I walk like Frankenstein until it all settles again and I'm functional. I figure it's either a chewed up meniscus or it's more dead bone. 

My third thought expanded on the lack of surgeon I trusted and I wondered how I would find someone and also how I would afford said surgery. But I know I need it done, within the year or so if possible.

So then I got up off the damned floor and carried the laundry upstairs a step at a time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


I do not like foreign priests.

No. That isn't so. I have gotten along with lots of foreign priests. I just also had several very negative encounters with priests from India and Africa, and like a typical white American, I lumped them into a category instead of treating them like individuals. I also will openly admit that except for priests from Vietnam or from Latin America, the foreign priests I encountered spoke English that was so differently accented from mine that I often lost the thread of a sermon or conversation trying to attend to the words.

In actuality, my experiences with priests who came from other countries was typically positive when I interacted with them in my own parish. We had a large immigrant population and so were always hosting clergy from around the world for the short or long term. Many of these priests were students at a local Catholic university and were wonderful men. Actually, all of the foreign priests I got to know at my parish were individuals and I have positive feelings about them. 

When it comes down to it, what I didn't like was priests who visited my parish or schools and preached as guests. Oftentimes misogyny played a large role in their preaching, and the nature of carnal sins of a variety of types also loomed large. This was then typically followed by guilt trips about giving money to the missions. I just, these sorts of visitors rubbed me the wrong way, and don't get me wrong, many many many American priests did too.

But this is a story about being wrong. 

My great-aunt Maria died in 2006. She had Friedrich's Ataxia and had outlived her predicted lifespan by 20 years. Over the course of my childhood she had become completely dependent on others. When her mother died in 1988, this meant the staff at the nursing home where she was moved to, considering both her sisters were much older than her and frail themselves. I did not know Maria well, since I had not grown up in my extended family, but instead around the country, and upon returning to my fair city, she was already in an institution and I had a difficult time with this, with nursing homes of all kinds. My cousin Gina and I went and visited sometimes, and I went with my grandmother (her sister) as well. But I was not a regular visitor nor did I know her well. I can conjure her shaky high voice in my head, already weak when I was a small child, and I can see her face, but I don't know anything about what she liked, what she knew, what she hoped for or talked about or enjoyed. 

She died right before our region was hit was a massive thunderstorm that knocked power out for 2/3 of the area for 3-6 days. It was epic, and part of the fallout was that the church she grew up in (as well as my father and his siblings) had no electricity. Since we were such a small group, the funeral home said we could have the mass there. 

You can see it coming. In walks a priest, and he's from India. I sit down by my parents in folding chairs and sigh to myself. If only they'd been able to bring a priest in from her home parish, a priest who KNEW her. This guy, where did they even find him? It's sad enough that we're here in this parlor instead of church...

Mass starts. He introduces himself and then there are readings and a psalm. He reads the gospel and then begins his homily in English that I do have to lean in to understand. And I'm glad I did.

Because he wasn't from her home parish where she grew up. He was from the parish where the nursing home was located, and his entire ministry was at the nursing home. He met with Maria 3-4 times a week and they had become close friends and confidantes. He admired her strength and steadfastness through her lifelong debilitating illness. She, who had never been 100 miles from her own home, encouraged him here in America away from everything he knew and grew up with. He said he would miss her terribly and their talks he would always hold in his heart.

I've never listened to a funeral homily from any priest anywhere that both smacked me across the face while also exposing the shared humanity of both the deceased and the speaker. I was utterly ashamed of my previous private grumbling and relieved I hadn't said any of that crap out loud. 

It was a watershed moment for me. I always, I believe, had been good at encountering children where they were; as a teacher you have to be good at that. But this is when I started giving that grace to adults. Adults who didn't look like me. Who didn't speak like me. And who probably didn't think like me. I don't even remember Maria's priest's name, but I think about him a lot. I needed to hear what he had to say and it shattered the way I used to think.

When my hair was green and growing out badly. I survived.

Friday, July 3, 2020

My World Part X

No more touching.

Today I went to the art glass studio where I learned how to build stained glass panels, looking to match some glass for the school project I'm doing. I was thrilled they were open--they've been closed due to exposure to the coronavirus for two weeks. I walked in and the same guy I always talk to was right there at the front desk. And I realized I was roped off in a single rectangle of space. There would be no touching of glass today.

He matched it and found everything I needed and I left with all my stuff and felt incomplete. I understood. The fewer hands that touch the glass the fewer of those Clorox wipes displayed there on the work counter they will have to use. But look at this place. It is aching to be touched and examined and enjoyed.

But no more.

It is amazing to me how much I just touch things, especially when shopping. I don't now; I watch (mostly white older men) touch with wild abandon, every package of jelly beans while I wait my turn the week before easter, touch all the apples in a bin while I decide to go ahead and get pears instead, touch every handle in the frozen food aisle, even ones they don't choose to open. Why? I think because they (and I) are used to just touching things.

I think about my classroom and everything I kept on my desk and how my middle school students would come up and fiddle with things while they asked me for help or permission to do something. People don't touch with their eyes. They like to fiddle.

Once when I was at Catholic Supply, a store that sells, well, Catholic supplies, with Maeve, she was about 3, and I was looking for something and not watching her. I had told her that in this store, which had everything from statuary to jewelry to vestments, that she could touch things but only with one finger, she could touch with one finger. I was speaking with a clerk about some specifics and Maeve ran up to me with a very breakable blown glass Christmas ornament, asking, "Is this something I can touch with one finger?"

Now not even one. Don't touch what's not yours and clean up after yourself and why was it ok to just touch everything anyway?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My World Part IX

My Zoom List (Also Google Meet, which is what we were required to use for school):

*My mom on mother's day with my siblings
*daughter's doctor
*daughter's counselor
*Boss' biweekly "staff meetings" which were actually just unneeded team builders
*"office hours" for my classes, which not a single student attended

*Summer school training
*Check out with school year boss
*Check out with summer school boss
*Two different school board meetings
*Blog friends from around the world

*One crafting coffee morning
*Three IEPs
*a twice-weekly summer school live lesson that one student attended each time
*daily meetings with summer school support staff while we waited for students who never arrived
*Two union meetings (much better than in person)

*Sweet open google meets with Leo's school friends throughout the spring and summer since the links never expire and he jumps on sometimes just to see if anyone is on, and sometimes they are. This also allowed for "sleepovers" during the school year with friends, including girls, while they played video games and talked to each other until after midnight and is the SINGLE MOST WONDERFUL thing about the quarantine. Leo is now friends with Lottie and Ada and Anya and so forth in a deeper way than he would have been without it.