25 August 2011

And so it goes

The Great Minnesota Get Together--otherwise known as the MN State Fair--began today. And if you remember back to my post from last August, you'll remember what that means:

My summer is over.

As I watch the local news stations offering tips for cheap state fair parking and the newest deep fried foods on a stick, in my head, all I hear is a slow, sad funeral march.

Goodbye summer, old friend. I hardly knew ye.

College students poured back into town last weekend, a cool breeze is wafting in my window, and my beloved MN Vikings have once again traded many of our rising stars in favor of an aging quarterback and promptly bumbled their preseason game. Fall is officially here.

As always, I feel a little melancholy with the ending of the summer. For someone who has always measured life in terms of school years rather than calendar years, the end of August always forces me to look backwards at another year gone. And looking back this year, it is difficult to put into words what I see.

The past year lays out behind me like a map; I see the places I have been and the places will I go, and I feel a soft sort of ambivalence. Perhaps this is the way of growing up. Life is no longer measured in milestones--graduation, marriages, first jobs. At 27, I've simply got on with the business of passing years. This is not to say the years are unimportant--or even unexciting--rather that they have inevitably taken on a certain shape that will be repeated far into the future. And that shape lends to a certain amount of predictability. For someone who doesn't like change, there is comfort in that. For someone who also detests the idea of being a real-life adult, there is a gentle let down there, as well.

Perhaps my ambivalence is a result of the year I have had, as well. Professionally, despite some high points (taking a student to the state tournament, receiving tenure), it was a tough year. I learned that some people never grow out of the mean-girl attitude and there's just no working with others. I learned that some years I'm a better teacher than others. I learned that--no matter how I feel about the previous year--a new crop of students will arrive in the fall; I will grow older, but those students filling my room will always be 15. I learned that they will graduate and move on to amazing things--things I may or may not know about, but that I would be proud of nonetheless. I learned that that's the beauty and sorrow of teaching.

So perhaps the most I can hope for is that the new year will, in fact, bring hope. I hope I will rediscover my energy Monday, when teacher workshops begin. I hope I can enter a new year without carrying the frustrations of the past with me. I hope I can get more sleep.

Another lesson of growing up has settled in on me this week: no matter how fervently we wish to stop the march of the years, we are always creating our past in each moment that we live.

So, as the Minnesota state fair says to me each penultimate week in August, "Ready or not, here I come."

15 August 2011

An Apology from Minnesota's Sixth

I live in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. For those of you who haven't been following the recent news concerning the Republican Presidential Race, that means that my constituents are responsible for the atrocity gracing so many magazine covers these days:

Michele Bachmann.

First things first--be clear: I did not vote for this woman. Now, I understand my politics are not for everyone, and I understand that there may even be times when Republicans--this pains me to say--may be (partially) right on some things. I admit I have taken great joy over the past few years in calling Bachmann crazy (and a few other names I shouldn't repeat in public) but I've recently come to see the danger in that sort of rhetoric.

And not because I'm wrong, either.

Bachmann recently made the cover of Newsweek in a famously unflattering picture above the headline "The Queen of Rage." Conservatives complained the picture made her look crazy. They were right. And as much as I delighted in a little Michele Bachmann torment, I suddenly realized that every time the media dismisses or discredits Bachmann as "crazy," we're avoiding the real issue. The woman won the Iowa straw poll. Clearly pointing out her insanity isn't doing anyone seeking to discredit her much good.

The truth is, Michele Bachmann isn't crazy. Every time we call her crazy, we absolve her of the responsibility she bears for the cruel things she says. It's as if we say she isn't really responsible for it because she isn't really "all there." Her rhetoric isn't incoherent. It's hateful. It's mean-spirited, small-minded and extremely dangerous. People have made a big deal of her refusal to answer direct questions concerning her stance on gay-marriage. The media believes they can make her look bad by forcing her to admit she doesn't like gays. As if this admission--despite the fact her husband counsels people on how to "quit" homosexuality and her repeated attempts to introduce an Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution--would surprise anyone. The truth is, the people who support her know what she thinks, and they don't disagree with her.

No matter how often she mistakes John Wayne for John Wayne Gacy (that was one of my favorites), or shrieks at people in Congress for being Un-American, some people in our country are responding positively to her. This woman is one of three possible republican nominees for President. We need to take her threat seriously. This woman isn't Sarah Palin; she's not stupid and uninformed. She's mean.

Our country needs to stop mistaking unpalatable opinions for ignorance and insanity and be honest about what this is: it's hatred. Pure and simple. The more we dismiss such hate as "craziness" the more her supporters are excused from the responsibility they bear for supporting her. If we hold her accountable for her narrow-minded meanness, suddenly she doesn't have to prove she's not stupid, she has to prove that she's not cruel, and that takes a lot more effort, and may just force a real change in rhetoric and the acceptability of some views in our society.

Michele Bachmann is exactly what's wrong with politics in the country. Should she become President, I cannot imagine what would happen globally, and I'm not just being alarmist. Her polarizing opinions would leave an impact on this country not even possible to fathom at this point. I truly believe it would leave a permanent rift in the Republican Party between moderates and Tea Party members, and our economy--already lagging--would make the Great Depression look mild. Civil rights and civil liberties in this country would be sent back decades.

And let's face it, after this blog entry, we all know I'll be on a list somewhere.

Michele Bachmann might just be the Boogie Man.

And that's not crazy.

07 August 2011

These Are the Things I've Learned...

Since having my oral surgery--the only real medical procedure I've ever had done--on Tuesday, I've learned a few things. I thought I'd share:
1. Google is a hypochondriac's best friend and is therefore inherently evil if you are sick and anxious.

2. Not eating while taking narcotics will result in being violently ill and told you are no longer allowed to take narcotics. This causes a considerable amount of pain and cussing.

3. There is a remarkable amount of food that you really don't have to chew if you don't want to.

4. Tylenol is amazing. Especially if you happen to experience the situation mentioned in #2.

5. When your dreamy oral surgeon tells you that taking out a horizontally-impacted wisdom tooth will be the same as taking out a partially erupted wisdom tooth, kick him in the shins and run. He's lying.

6. I am a coward when it comes to pain and the anticipation of pain. However, as the situation mentioned in #2 proved, I also have a relatively high tolerance for pain. Confounding.

7. Daytime TV really, truly sucks. Other than "The Price is Right."

8. Seeing Drew Carey on "The Price of Right" is still disconcerting.

9. Sleeping on the couch has a three night window of acceptability. After that, your back and neck will revolt.

And last (and most importantly):

Real love is when your mom takes three days off of work to just sit with you because she knows you're scared. Real love is when your husband sleeps on the floor for three nights while you sleep on the couch because he knows he can't really fix the pain, but he can at least keep you company.

And that last one was definitely a lesson worth learning.

But seriously... kick the guy in the shins and run.

03 August 2011

The Wizzes

Thirty-two hours ago, two of my wisdom teeth (the evolution of which we discussed in the previous blog entry) were wrenched from my poor mouth. Other than the lack of sleep and tears that preceded the surgery, everything went well.

I was extremely happy to find that my oral surgeon lacked the typical sadistic elements one has come to expect from those crazy individuals who specialize in ripping teeth from people's heads. He was not only a good-looking man (something even my husband pointed out to me during the consultation when my surgeon briefly turned his back on us to examine the x-rays), but he seemed to agree with my own (unmedical) diagnosis that I did not need to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. While he did persuade me to remove the one tooth I was afraid of extracting, I figured he met me halfway, so why not? I signed the forms, my husband was hustled from the room, and surgery commenced.

Other than the extremely painful IV process, which entailed the nurse repeatedly jabbing me in the hand and complaining that my "veins moved," the entire process has gone well so far. The pain has been minimal--though I am currently boycotting the ice packs, as they require me to sit and/or lay in uncomfortable positions whilst trying to balance them on either side of my face. The swelling is barely noticeable and I am cautiously optimistic that the healing process will continue smoothly.

The only remaining concern is my unreasonable fear of developing dry sockets, something I have been told (a bit unhelpfully) is more painful than childbirth (and let's be frank, part of the reason I have no desire to have children is the pain factor). My oral surgeon told me if I made it five days without dry sockets, I was in the clear. This has resulted in my constant vigilance against anything that could cause a dry socket, and a fair amount of tears when I confessed (a tad hysterically) to my mom that I had unconsciously sucked on my water bottle. Once she calmed me down by shoving another hydrocodone down my throat and pushing ice packs into my face, I fell asleep, silently whispering to myself, "No dry sockets, no dry sockets, no dry sockets" in much the same way  those contestants on "Press Your Luck" intoned "No whammies" while spinning the wheel.

I still haven't completely forgiven evolution, but if everything continues to progress as well as it has so far, we may be able to come to some sort of understanding.

Some day.