28 Sep 2009 In: Babies & Kids

Not content to keep our lives as uncomplicated as possible, Dick and I chose the less-trodden path when it came to selecting a public school for Adam to attend Kindergarten . Rather than choosing the brand new school we can see from our backyard, the path we chose has led us to, what we call in Florida, a “magnet school” – this one located on the other side of town.

Adam’s magnet school is about a 30-minute drive from our home and leaves us about 30-minutes northwest from our respective work locations.  Essentially Dick and I lose about 2 hrs. a day driving to and from school.  Certainly this change is costly in time, gas & patience but we feel the benefit of our sacrifice is an education for our son that is focused on constructive self-expression through the arts, a teaching staff that is very well-trained and accommodating of Adam’s learning style, and a diverse environment where he can grow up with friends of all different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

But aside from the commute, the biggest shift in our daily routine is the school drop-off.  What used to be a 20-minute process involving parking, cajoling, gathering Adam’s back-pack and other belongings, walking him inside and chatting with his teachers, has turned into a 10-minute process of lining up behind dozens of other parents, pulling up to a designated drop-off point (as directed by a traffic monitor) and then watching as my van door flies open and my son & his belongings are extracted by an anonymous school volunteer – all of this before I’ve even come to a complete stop.  By my estimation, the last time Adam was extracted from anything so efficiently it was from my uterus in yet another surgical, highly impersonal process that required little involvement from me.

Even as my barely caffeinated brain tries to grasp the sudden absence of my kid, I find myself yelling plaintively at a freshly closed sliding door, “Have a great day Adam! I love you!”.  Simultaneously, horns honk from behind me and I’m waved on by another traffic monitor whose frantic screams of “Keep it movin’!” as she waves her hands insistently toward the exit, finally succeeds in startling me back to reality.


Adam’s magnet school is in a rather run-down working class neighborhood predominantly occupied by African-American and Latino families, many of whom raise chickens in their yard and have at least 1 car up on cinder-blocks in their driveway.  It’s very different from our native suburban surroundings but not anything I’d call unsafe.  In fact, the surroundings don’t really concern me at all since I grew up in similar circumstances – but I understand that other parents are less laid-back than we are.  So to mitigate concerns about blue-collar knife-wielding pedophiles roaming the campus, the school takes great pains with security.  In fact, the school is so locked down that it’s almost impenetrable.  I jokingly call it “the fortress” as I’ve only made it as far as the cafeteria on one occasion – the first day of school.  But that’s not for a lack of trying…

You see, in addition to the drop-off queue, “car riders” as kids like Adam are called, can be walked up to the main gate by a parent and passed off to a student volunteer who walks them to their class. Once I realized that I was never going to be allowed to penetrate the confines of the fortress without a Papal dispensation or a permission slip from the Principal, I decided to circumvent the impersonal vehicular drop-off process and use my cunning to get past the security patrol that consists of several larger 5th graders and a few volunteer moms with whistles.  Surely I can smooth-talk and outwit an 11-year old?

Two weeks into the Kindergarten routine, I decided to give it a shot and see how far I could get into the fortress.  One morning I arrived early – around 7:30 – and we began our trek from the distant church parking lot several blocks behind the school, through a fire-ant infested field and narrowly avoiding death in the Frogger-like parking lot.  When we finally approached the school gate with the adjacent doors to the cafeteria I looked around.  The coast was clear.  I had a straight shot into the school’s central courtyard and Adam’s cluster of buildings just beyond. Easy-peasey.

As we slipped past a busy volunteer mom who was on child-extraction duty in the vehicle drop-off queue, our progress was suddenly impeded by a cheerful fat kid wearing a “School Safety Cadet” badge.  With an earnest smile the pudgy boy placed his arm around Adam’s shoulder pulling him inside the fortress as he said to Adam, “Say bye to mommy,” and then to me, “I’ll take him from here, ‘mam.”

I pulled Adam towards me.  ”No. Actually, I’m going to walk him to his classroom today,” I said nonchalantly.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  You’ll have to go to the front office and get a pass to come on campus ‘mam.  In the meantime, I’ll get your son to his room…”

I tugged Adam back towards me again. “That won’t be necessary. I promised my son’s teacher I’d talk with her in person this morning about an important matter. I’ll just be a few moments…”  I moved forward, pushing past the pudge as I tugged on Adam’s arm.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you onto the campus without a pass, ‘mam. I’m sure your son’s teacher will want you to follow our safety procedures and I’m sure you want to set a good example for your son about following the rules, right?  The office is just down the walkway on the left.”

Before I could think about my next move, let alone mutter my next sneaky-twisty-super-smart response – POOF! – Adam was gone. I’d been foiled by a pudgy do-gooder.  Like a bouncer at an exclusive nightclub, this highly-trained 11-yr old had prevented me from setting foot inside.  Denied!

On the upside, I couldn’t help thinking that this must be a really good school if an 11-year old can make it into middle management while adults like me are still clawing our way out of organizational obscurity at our thankless jobs…


Of course my curiosity is really piqued now.  What are they doing in there?  Curing cancer?  Splitting atoms?  And yes, I know I can go to the office and arrange to go on campus “legally” anytime I’d like.  But it’s the sanctity with which the administration and volunteers hold their duties as school security officers that takes me aback.  How do they recruit these people, keep them all trained, on message, on point, highly organized – including 11-year old boys – on what must be a shoestring budget, at best?  My company (who even in it’s dire straights probably has access to more cash than your typical public school) can’t even organize a picnic without a committee and board approval, and even with all the red-tape, the potential for employee mishaps and misery is substantial.

I guess I’m pleased to see the school administration and volunteers taking such great care with my child’s safety; it’s definitely reassuring. But I also think it’s a little bizarre.  I don’t remember being so locked down as a kid in Kindergarten.  Do you?  Is this how it is everywhere? Can this level of security be chalked up to the “Columbine effect”?  Are most white people really as jumpy about sending their kid to a working-class, multi-ethnic neighborhood as they seem to be?

Whatever the reason, the change in our routine is profound and only as I sit here writing about it is it all finally starting to sink in. I have to admit that the only reason I wanted to come on campus that day was to watch Adam walking toward his classroom – like a big kid with his adorable peacock-feather bed-head, his new uniform and his “Cars” backpack slung across his shoulders.  I just wanted to hold onto that image for another moment – a tiny boy navigating a very big world.  In truth, I wanted to be a voyeur and get a glimpse at the next chapter in his life story.

If the past few weeks have taught me anything it’s that the hardest part of this big transition is in learning how to deal with it. Not so much our kids but for us!  Up until now Dick and I have been documenting Adam’s transitions from our perspective. But now the writing burden has shifted to Adam and our new role is merely to teach him how to write his own story.

I think, if it were up to me, I’d be calling this new chapter in Adam’s life “The Fortress”; that’s what I’m calling it in my own story. But maybe in Adam’s story it will be called something even more exciting like, “Chapter 5: Curing Cancer & Splitting Atoms – All While Learning Phonics”.  Whatever he decides to call it I, for one, am on the edge of my seat.  No one told me what a page-turner this story would turn out to be.

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Rumors of My Demise are Premature

27 Sep 2009 In: Relationships

Dear Drips -

After several months of feeling mentally & creatively tapped by the competing demands of my work life and home life I nearly gave up on Raw Drip.  As much as I love my little creative writing venture it was looking as though time for writing would end up the loser in my ongoing struggle to maintain balance in this crazy juggling act of a life.

Just as I was preparing to inform tech support (aka Dick) of my decision to shut down the Raw Drip website, a remarkable thing happened; your voices emerged with words of encouragement.  You said things like, “Hey, what the hell happened to your blog?”, “I miss Raw Drip” and “Weren’t you the one who used to write about raw dick or something?”

“Yes; I did.  Er, I mean, I am.  Yes, I’m the one who wrote about Dick,” I would mumble feebly in reply.

With those mumbled words I realized that I was lost, disillusioned with life and my future, and way too busy to give a crap about anything other than surviving from weekend to weekend.  Raw Drip was dead at just shy of 18 months old and I was killing it with neglect.

But when my husband joined your ranks this week by reminding me that my writing plays a critical role in nurturing my soul I gave Raw Drip’s neglect and soon-to-be demise second thoughts.  I knew I had to pick up my laptop, rinse out my coffee mug and ignore my chattering children for an afternoon.  It was time to rekindle my passion for writing and explore the new phases of my life…before I was overtaken by them.

What new phases of life, you ask?  Well, let’s see…I’m teetering on the edge of my late 30’s (yikes!) and with the baby & toddler phases behind me I’ve found myself with all new challenges.  From the cheeky 3rd old toddler he used to be, I now have a smart, expressive 5-yr old son who’s enduring the perils of Kindergarten.  Then there’s my 4-yr old daughter whom Dick and I consider to be the “challenging kid” these days – newly prone to irrational outbursts and high-pitched screaming fits that can shatter glass and summon dogs from miles around.  Finally there’s my husband, Dick, still the supportive father, husband, geek and Raw Drip tech support – only now with more gray hair and less patience.  The players are basically the same, but the game keeps changing.

In my ongoing adventures of self-discovery I’d like to say I’ve used the past 8 weeks to evolve into a savvier, smarter, sexier version of myself  - but I haven’t.  I’m still a work-in-progress only now I’m re-committed to making progress.  Hopefully this public examination of my struggle will keep you reading and relating. Sure I’m still aiming to entertain, inform, intrigue and occasionally inspire you but I’m also trying to do that for myself.  And rather than do what I’ve always done – give up on my passions and pursuits for practical reasons – (no “martyr/mom” here, thank you) I’m going to tap that inner spring of tenacity that I usually reserve for my family & friends and try applying a little more of it to myself.

Anyway, my deepest thanks to you loyal Drips.  Although small in numbers, you’ve expressed more passion for Raw Drip than I’ve had in recent memory and it’s your tenacious belief in my writing that inspires me to keep trying.



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Back to School…Again

29 Jul 2009 In: Working

My kids and their classmates were startled from their morning routine the other day by the shrill sounds of bells followed by the firm instructions from teachers to line up, stop talking, keep their hands behind their backs and march outside – a fire drill.  Coincidentally, I had my own fire drill at work that day, although mine was more of the metaphorical variety but with similar obedience requirements involving shutting up and getting in line.

As we all swapped fire drill stories later that evening, it occurred to me that my days and the kid’s days are not so dissimilar.  Just as Adam and Tabitha endure the indignities of petty playground politics and feeling as though they are being victimized by “the system” (a system whose sole goal it seems is to keep them from having fun) I, too, endure a form of petty playground politics and feelings of helplessness only on a different scale.  Instead of getting sandbox sand thrown in my face, I have the threat of a pink slip in my inbox.

I realize it’s not an original idea – the analog between work & school – but only now do I realize just how much the two environments really have in common.  From the office vixen to the school slut. From the backstabbing middle management snitch to the tattling tot who turns you in for cheating on your test.  Somehow, I’m living my own version of “Groundhog Day” reliving the same routine, day in and day out for going on (gulp) four decades…


In every school there’s always a goodie-two-shoes, student council type kid who’s overly studious and irritatingly supportive of the administration and all their “rules”.  In the workplace, that irritating kid is now the office manager and we are all forced to endure her aggressive adoption and firm adherence to even more “rules”.

Case in point: my company’s recent decision to abandon Styrofoam cups in the break room in favor of ceramic coffee mugs.  Newsflash people:  I manage to overcome my almost overwhelming desire to drink myself into oblivion each night and the next morning, I somehow overcome the most powerful urge to ditch my job and sleep in for a change.  Instead, I go to work.  I think this qualifies me as a responsible adult (well, mostly responsible).  I’ll venture to say that, at least, I’m responsible enough to handle all the demands of borrowing a coffee mug.

But instead of assuming that we’re all responsible adults here, we’re all treated as children on the playground.  You see, there are no less than 6(!) full-color posters featured on the door to the break room, on both refrigerators, over the sink, and two above the coffee maker all designed and displayed by our former Office Manager to communicate “the rules” about borrowing a coffee mug.

Maybe Dick is a bad influence on me.  Or maybe, after all these years spent following everyone else’s rules I’m finally ready to take a stand and rebel!  Whatever the cause of my new found resistance, I’m proud to say that I’ve grown a pair and have happily graffiti-ed (well, I like to think of it as “virtually altered”) one of the most annoying aforementioned posters – the coffee mug FAQ.  I shit you not.

Of course by doing this, I realize I’m now falling into the typical “problem kid” role, but I figure if I’m going to have to relive my school days for the rest of my life, I might as well have a little fun.


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