Monday, December 26, 2011

as promised: the attempt to muzzle the Drunken Housewife

In September 2010, a few days after I returned from Burning Man and just at the beginning of the school year, my phone rang. It was someone calling from Iris and Lola's school, asking me to meet with the head of school. As any mother would, my first assumption was that something had happened to either Iris or Lola, but no. The head of school wanted to meet with me about my blog, along with another administrator. The tone was definitely negative.

That very day I had written on my blog about an argument I'd had with Iris uber Alles. Iris was slightly sick but wanted to go to school anyway, and I had forced her to stay home because there was a new girl in her grade, a girl recovering from bone cancer who still had a very low immune system. All the parents from that grade had been severely cautioned not to send their children to school with even mild symptoms. I looked at what I'd written. From my point of view, it was clear that I'd had an excess of care and concern for this other little girl, but I had written in my usual sarcastic style, and I could see how it could conceivably offend someone. I deleted it. I'm not usually one to back away from causing offense, but a child who'd had cancer was a sensitive subject.

Before this meeting, I stewed. I was sleep-deprived and cranky to begin with, having left Burning Man before I was ready. I longed to be back padding through the dust with a bottle of prosecco in my hand, gazing upon crazed art and making cocktails for my campmates. For a while, I determined to bring an attorney with me. As a former attorney, of course I know plenty of them. I felt I was not being taken seriously in this situation and that having an attorney with me would add gravitas. The Sober Husband strongly disagreed with that and said simply, "I will go with you." He, unlike me, has always been quite popular with the school's administration.

My falling out had come earlier. At the annual fall festival, Iris and I had been horrified to see toy kittens being sold... covered in real cat fur. The grotesquerie of cats being murdered to make cheap toys, which were then sold to benefit our school, was greatly disgusting and upsetting to Iris and to me. (Note: whenever you buy something from China containing fur, take a good, long, hard look at the fur. It is usually labeled as "rabbit" but normally is either cat or dog fur. As a certified crazy cat lady, I can tell rabbit fur from cat fur, and it wasn't particularly hard, given that plenty of the fur was orange tabby. Rabbits do not come in orange tabby). I had never seen fur things sold before at our festival, and I thought it was a terrible idea. I wrote the head of school a letter, asking that the school adapt a rule forbidding the sale of fur. I noted that fur is controversial in our society and that surely we would not want to upset those students who are huge animal lovers. I received a very short reply saying that the school had no control over what vendors sold and which ignored every point I'd made. This made me furious, because the "vendor" in question who sold the fur toys was a group of parent volunteers, and surely the school had immense control over this vendor. Acting as if it were some remote entity with no real ties to the school seemed ridiculous. I wrote another letter, which was not answered. Subsequently I wrote about the fur foofaraw here on this blog.

After that, there was no love lost between the head of school and me. I had had no problems whatsoever with the prior head of school, whom I admired, but this one had no use for me and my delicate feelings about fur.

When the day of the meeting came about, the head of school and the director of communications gushed over the handsome Sober Husband and gave me cold looks. My dignity was compromised by the fact that I was still wearing my Burning Man extensions and had bright green braids all the way down to my waist. After the initial greetings were done, the head cleared her throat and said, "Many would consider this meeting long overdue" in a self-pleased voice. The Sober Husband laid a calming hand upon my knee.

The major points made by the head were "Many people here consider it unethical that you keep a blog" and "You may not realize that your ability to form relationships is harmed by your blog."

The major points made by the Drunken Housewife were "any institution threatened by one person's blog which is mostly cat stories appears weak" and "is the school going to institute a new screening policy for potential parents? Add the line 'no mommy bloggers allowed' to the application form?" and "I am completely confident that in this day and age, I am not the only blogger here in this parent population", as well as "I've been told by more than one teacher here that they wished there were more parents like me at this school."

Getting down to specific instances, the Head was rather superior in discussing the post I'd made about the new student with a shaky immune system. "Yes, after I reread that, I saw it could be taken the wrong way," I said, "so I took it down. I would hope anyone who read it would see that it was motivated throughout by my concern for that girl's health, but I took it down anyway." This visibly took the wind out of the head's sails. "You took it down?"

The other example brandished about was the time I wrote about a fourth grader who wore a micro-micro miniskirt and fishnet stockings to a school event. Here I contended that as a feminist who was deeply concerned about the premature sexualization of girls, I was going to write about that kind of thing if I saw it. I viewed this as part of an important moral issue of our day.

Eventually the meeting ended, with nothing concluded. The head expressed some bitterness that I'd written on my blog about the fur issue, and I made the point that my blog is normally a silly, personal one but that animal welfare is my hot button item and that the school could have handled the issue differently. I refused to stop keeping my blog. I pointed out that I'd had severe problems with one of the girl's teachers the year before, culminating in my unsuccessfully asking to have my daughter transferred to a different classroom, and "I never wrote about that on my blog, because it wouldn't have helped any of us." This point was not taken, but rather the head portrayed the staff as quivering in fear that they would be victimized by me on my blog. I said that anyone who had an issue with me was welcome to talk to me, but evidently they were afraid of me. I thought that was a bit silly, given that there are truly intimidating parents lurking about the place, as opposed to a mommy blogger who calls herself tongue-in-cheek a "drunken housewife" and who volunteered in the playground, lunchroom, library, and art room.

The next week, my phone rang again. It was another staff member at the girls' school. At this time and the year before, one of my daughters was having a very big problem at school (it was her prior teacher's failure to do anything about this huge issue which was the source of our problems with her the year before, which we had brought up with the head). She cried desperately each morning not to have to go to school, and the Sober Husband and I were feuding about homeschooling. I was in touch with homeschooling groups and had set a deadline with the poor Sober Husband by which, if things were not improved, I was pulling this child out of the school, with my husband's agreement or not. This new caller told me that she "had an idea on how to help" my daughter.

Excited, the Sober Husband and I raced over to the school to hear this new idea about how to solve our child's problem. The staff member, smiling, explained to me that the staff wanted to help my daughter but were paralyzed by fear of me because of my blog. She had been nominated by the staff to approach me and share an idea. This exciting new idea was for me to quit keeping a blog! Then the staff would have the confidence they needed to try to help my child.


The staff member's jaw dropped open and she stared at me in shock. We quickly put the pieces together. She had no idea that I'd been called on the carpet just the week before and leaned on about the blog. She felt she'd been made a patsy under the circumstances. We parted with hugs and remonstrations of mutual admiration. (The Sober Husband's head was spinning by how fast this reconciliation came about).

By this point, I was feeling distinctly alienated at the school and not wanting to deal with anyone there. The child in question had a birthday, and I asked the Sober Husband to be the parent who brought celebratory snacks for the classroom. I knew I needed to calm down before I was in a position to speak to anyone there. I was red hot mad over the idea that my child's problems were not going to be addressed because I keep a blog (never mind the over $20,000 paid per year for her tuition). The Sober Husband came home smiling. He told me that another high level administrator had attended our child's birthday celebration (which is extremely unusual) and taken him aside to tell him that I was always welcome to come to her with any problems whatsoever. And then, laughing, he told me that, as I'd requested, he asked our daughter's main teacher if she had any problems with my blog, and this sweet woman looked at him blankly and said, "Blog? I don't even know it." We laughed.

We ended up meeting with the teacher, who formed a thorough plan to deal with our child's problem. This woman, who is indeed one of the finest teachers I have ever met, did such a skillful and caring job working with our child that by the time the deadline came about I'd set for homeschooling, it was obvious that there was no longer any need. And around that same deadline, the head of school gave notice, as she was returning to the Deep South to become the head of a larger school.

In retrospect, it all made sense to me then. The hassling and pressuring of me to take down my blog --- was it all so I wouldn't write anything that might embarrass her while she was under scrutiny for this new and better job? My dear friend Melissa (known here as the repeated winner of the Drunken Housewife Semiannual Photo Contest), who is a teacher in the Southern state in question, opined that the head should have been glad to have my blog, as what would give her more credibility in the Deep South than having pissed off a San Francisco animal rights loon?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

the migraine that nearly stole Christmas (and did steal your promised story)

On Monday the 12th, I drank a little port after dinner. After the children went to bed, I worked out on my rowing machine but quit a little early because I had a pounding headache. The Sober Husband sniffed at me judgmentally. "I would expect you to have a headache if you were drinking port and then exercising. Just seems like the kind of thing that would give you a headache." We squabbled for a bit over the wisdom of consuming port before exercise and then went to bed.

Most of the night I lay awake, tormented by a truly hellish migraine. In the morning I was a wreck. Iris uber Alles also reported feeling ill and stayed home from school. In the afternoon I drove to get Lola, but otherwise I did nothing all day except swallow huge handfuls of ibuprofen.

Again in the night I hardly slept, my head hurt so much. In the morning there was no question of me driving the children to school-- obviously I wasn't fit to drive. I stayed in bed. Later in the day, using all my willpower, I did get myself up out of bed and drove a couple of miles to the home of an artist who had suggested painting my portrait. I had already had to cancel sitting for my portrait once, and I had the distinct feeling that if I cancelled again, the portrait wasn't going to happen. I figured that I could sit still with a headache just as well as I could lie in my bed with a headache. I got myself over there, swallowing ibuprofen all through the sitting, and then picked up the children. I told poor Lola that I didn't feel well enough to take her to the cafe we frequent, and she was a good sport.

Once again it was a hellish night. Just rolling over made my poor brain reverberate with agony. The next day the Sober Husband said repeatedly, "You know I can take you to the hospital whenever you say, right? Just say if you want me to take you to the hospital." We decided to try going to a doctor. The doctor I had previously seen at my practice group had left, so we went downtown to a different office to try a different doctor. Each step made my brain ricochet around in my skull, and I couldn't face eating or drinking coffee. Indeed I was pretty dehydrated by this point.

The doctor, whom I liked, made the point that once a migraine gets to this point, it's pretty hard to break it. It would have been easier if I'd come in the first day. Of course I never go to a doctor the first day I have a migraine, because I have no reason to believe that I am starting a multiple day-migraine (it's much more normal for me to have a single day headache). He prescribed me a tryptan, a drug which will for some patients end a migraine, and advised me to take it with benedryl and ibuprofen and try to spend as much time sleeping as possible for the next few days. This thoughtful doctor firmly addressed the Sober Husband and told him I wouldn't be capable of doing anything for the next few days.

At home the Sober Husband was a treasure. He forcibly rehydrated me by periodically bringing a glass of water with a long, bent straw. Putting the straw in my mouth, he would not relent until I'd taken a few swallows of water. The tryptan worked slightly; about an hour after I took it, I was able to sit up and check my email and desultorily talk. I even managed to eat much of a salad (which turned out to be the only meal I ate in three days). But soon the tryptan would fade, and it was back to lying in bed with a damp washcloth on my forehead, trying not to move. The pain grew worse, and I considered going to the hospital and begging for some fentanyl. The Sober Husband called the doctor I'd seen. I didn't feel well enough to go back to the doctor, who called in a prescription for a different tryptan for me to try. Over the weekend I tried both tryptans, as well as enough ibuprofen to sedate an ox.

Meanwhile I had missed several holiday parties I had very much wanted to attend, as well as the Christmas concert at Lola's school. "Give me lots and lots and lots of latkes," little Lola sang as she came home, and I moaned and adjusted my cold washcloth on my forehead.

The poor Sober Husband left his new job early again, and we went back to the doctor. This time he took some bold moves, proposing an eight-drug cocktail (some over-the-counter, most prescription). He assured me that he could see me again on Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, if need be, to try another mix. During the consultation, at some point this daring man of medicine's nerves quailed a bit, and he said, "We haven't done any workups." We both looked at the list of medications we were proposing I take and at the large syringe where he was mixing me up a shot. "I"m a little worried about your kidneys," he said. I assured him that I'd had a lot of bloodwork done the year before when I had surgery, and my kidneys and liver had been in topnotch form. He gave me the shot.

This bold new regime began to take effect. My headache faded to a lower but still bothersome level. I started moving around the house (whereas previously I had spent five days without coming downstairs except to be taken to the doctor). I resumed eating and drinking coffee (but not alcohol. I went two weeks without a drink). I fretted about loss of muscle tone. Here on the blog, readers wondered why the hell I offered them the choice of a topic if I weren't going to bother myself to write anything. I hired an unemployed friend to drive Iris to a party down the Peninsula (now that Iris goes to school in Hillsborough, she has social engagements all up and down the Peninsula).

The day before Christmas Eve, I still didn't have the energy to go to the party in the East Bay I'd planned to attend. But on Christmas Eve itself, I was able to get up, walk into the kitchen, and make our traditional Christmas Eve meal. Let us all praise brave men of medicine, who fear not the prescription of drugs but deliver us from our twelve day migraine. Merry Christmas to all of you, darlings, with love from the newly recovered DH

Sunday, December 11, 2011

yer choice

Darlings, I know I've been neglecting you, and I am deeply apologetic. It's been a weird year for me, with dramatic ups and downs, and I haven't always been up for my customary blend of cat and child anecdotes sprinkled with TMI and swear words. I do have stories, plenty of them, but I've not been writing them.

For the patient readers, who come back even when yer old DH is not entertaining, I'd like to offer amends. Pick a topic and I'll write it at your command. Serving suggestions:

-my ex-cat, Bob Marley got lost this fall, and everyone blamed me, even though he's had a new owner now for half his friggin' lifespan;

- I went out carousing with hundreds of people dressed as Santa and captured a pair of strikingly handsome European academics;

- the head of Lola's school strongly suggested I stop blogging;

- Iris uber Alles is now an officially gifted child and the impact this has on the rest of us;

-you tell me.

xxoo, yer neglectful old DH