The kennel our three dogs let us share with them is on the move. We are out of work while the electrician and insulators get down to business. If those subs finish before we head south fo rthe winter we’ll move back to Jardine to advance the project but we will not finish. Our clients had a case of mission creep and the job was too big for us to do in one season so they’ll be on their own to get it done over the winter. Day one a couple months back Burt said, “I can’t do it all. I’ll get you started or we can leave.” They opted for us to get them started. So it’s framed and we are on the road.
First up was three days on the Beartooth Plateau. We are all suitably worn out by our high elevation hiking, fishing, and bird seeking. Olive and her puny heart did very well. Elvis managed a 5 mile day. Chava was a poop finding, dead animal eating machine. Free on the range and all he did was eat whatever he found. It came out as fast as it went in. One day we observed 8 defecations. I have to wonder how many we missed. He also seems to have grown a few more inches over night. His teen rage is subsiding. He recalled on command and is dropping food is we catch him in time. Yesterday I got him to expel a maggot filled rodent the size of a NYC rat. Chava is even considering heeling. He thinks about it but after about ten steps he rejects the idea. Soon, Chava, soon.
Today we’ve landed in Columbus for the fiddler’s weekend. We’ll head over to Town Pump for showers soon and then settle in for five days of tunes. We’re on the banks of the Yellowstone, under the cottonwoods. Swing on in and join us if you’re in the area.
Up here in the mountains we’re experiencing a microclimate of cool weather and copious rain. It’s buggy but nice. Yesterday we pulled in from a trip to the BozOne for plumbing supplies and sushi and a movie and as Burt attempted to position us into our spot under a tree we got stuck. The good news is were in a safe spot and sort of level. Bad news is: How and when are we getting out of this? I’m in the passive school. It will dry eventually. Burt is gearing up for an active response. I need a place to hide. If your wondering why we pulled the trailer to Bozeman for errands, there’s a three part answer. Elvis, Olive, Chava. It’s easier to drag the trailer and spend the night than try and keep the dogs safe and us unindicted in the truck cab. We live in a kennel and it goes where we go.
Check out the road sign above. A few times a week we wander the surrounding forest service roads and the other evening we found ourselves at the same address we use in Mexico. Calle sin nombre. The street with no name.
We had a gig this weekend at the Gardiner Brewfest. It was early in the day-long event so it had a low key vibe. Technically it felt like we did our job and we were assisted by a marvelous sound engineering team but it was sunny and hot and people were in the shade a long way from the stage. It was a long distance concert and so not nearly as fun as our Wednesday night shows at the Wonderland Cafe. There people are right with us and they’re on vacation and ready to have some fun. We ask where they’re from and what they’ve seen. Bears! Buffalo (bison)! Elk! We take regional requests and everyone gets in the spirit of the night. That is our kind of show. Come and see us if you are in the area.
After our set we hung around and had a beer and listened to the next band. A former co-worker of mine had come down to catch our set so we sat and chatted with him in the grass while listening to the next faraway band. After a while we realized our dogs needed saving and so we had to go. I wanted to see the headliners (they were our kind sound team) but three dogs need more attention than I could previously have imagined. It’s always something.
And then it was something. Gardiner is the most diverse place I’ve lived in Montana. There are tourists from all over the world here to see the most famous national park anywhere. And there are also seasonal employees from all points of the compass. Park concessionaires recruit and hire staff from all regions of the US and the world to fill housekeeping, hospitality, and maintenance positions. There are people of every color and diverse cultural backgrounds, languages, accents walking the streets of Gardiner.
Burt and I loaded our instruments into our former but now borrowed 1994 Subaru Legacy and headed up the hill to Jardine. Just at the corner we noticed an altercation between a white man and two black men on a corner in downtown Gardiner. I yelled stop but Burt was already slamming on the brakes. I jumped out of the car as I dialed 911. Now my cell phone is having a hissy fit these days. Sometimes people can hear me and sometimes they can’t. Now I can’t be sure if this screaming match between these men was racially motivated. Here’s what I saw: A white guy screaming and gesticulating wildly. He was stationed on the steps to a porch. He had a couple of friends on the porch behind him. The black guy standing was street side just inside a pole fence on grass acting like he wanted to tangle. His body language said, “Bring it.” There was another man outside the fence. I’m not sure if he was trying to get his friend to exit the property or if he had his back. There was another man, older and white, on the opposite side of the black men.
As I approached the white guy was threatening the black guy. I was screaming the address as best I could into my phone and I yelled at the white guy, “Get back on your porch. Leave him alone.” Nobody was happy to see old white chick get in the middle. Glares all around. One of the ideas of my martial arts school was if you could protect yourself or somebody else, you are not just saving your own life, but you are also saving your attackers life. You are giving them a chance to not harm you and maybe there life will end up differently. So there I was yelling into the phone and yelling at the white guy cause he was the one going bonkers when the white guy does what I ask and goes to the porch. And he comes back with an axe. As he brandishes the ax he yells, “This is Montana and I’m white. I can kill you and nothing will happen to me.” Okay. This is a racially charged incident. No doubt now.
The man on the other side of the black guys is saying, “It’s not worth it. Get out of here.” And I am yelling, “Get back!” to the axe man. He turns towards me. The 911 dispatcher is yelling at me to leave. The dude is on one side of a fence and I am on the other. He’s 20′ away. We make eye contact. I am not one bit afraid. His racist, stand your ground, all too true statement has made me feel invincible. I meet his stare and he can’t face me. He looks away and turns towards the porch, swings the ax into a porch column and puts it down. Burt is now out of the car. The guy comes back towards us and the black men have crossed the street. The dispatcher is yelling leave, the police are on their way. The guy starts yelling at Burt for looking at him. Burt tells him it’s a public street and he can watch if he wants too. Since the danger has passed and the cops are headed over I slip into the car and we make our getaway.
Soon after a park ranger came to the gNash to take our statements. Gardiner is the wild west. Law enforcement here is a patchwork. We were told that the white guy was angry at the black guys for cutting through his property. His rental property. Apparently it is very common for local workers to take this shortcut. We also learned that none of the parties is a resident. They are all seasonal workers and they’ve had words before. The ax was hidden by the time law enforcement showed and the guy’s buddies denied he ever had an ax. Our word against theirs. Today I learned that nobody has been charged.
I find myself ambivalent regarding prosecution. If our intervention prevented a tragedy than that’s enough for me. And maybe it did. On the bigger, global scale I am pissed. Montana is a stand your ground state and that asshat was almost certainly right that he could have murdered that black man and gotten away with it. Maybe not after that indiscreet announcement of his intentions and bias but I agree he could have claimed he was reacting in fear and that he thought his life was in danger and the jury would have bought it. Black vs. white has a miserable record in this country. And, hell, in Montana you can shoot a fleeing white person in the back and still successfully claim self-defense.
It’s important to me to bring this up but it’s a little awkward. Please remember when I waded in there was no ax. I just saw some men heatedly arguing and thought I can stop this. My own bias led me to believe it was a race based altercation. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. How could I know from my car? The ax and the vile racist utterance came out within moments of my arrival. It confirmed to me that stopping was the right thing to do. If only because I got to say to that guy in my actions NO, WE ARE NOT ALL LIKE YOU. It is our duty to call out racism and to do what we can to stop it.
Someone on Facebook metioned it’s probably easier to confront an ax wielding asshole than your sweet 80 year old neighbor. I think that person was correct. Personally I’m going to try and channel the power I felt in the heat of the moment into pushing back and educating friends and family.
I’m not sleeping much. I don’t think it’s the incredibly vile political commentary coming from above or the horrific things happening to refugees on our border so much as it is the hot flashes. The hot flashes plague me at night. The other stuff haunt me during the day. I feel profoundly powerless on so many levels. I can’t work much due to general old lady-ness. The elevation, my back and the heaviness of the work have rendered me nearly useless or worse, a liability. I started physical therapy this week and we decided the trouble I’m having is the super laxity of my joints. I’ve always had hypermobile joints and it has served me well in many ways but as I get older and my muscle tone naturally diminishes things move way too much. So my PT boils down to a simple enough maneuver that is hilarious. It’s an belly button lift and a kegel any time I move. After months of this my PT says it will happen automatically and I won’t have to think about it every time I move. If I felt old before I feel really old now. Lift and squeeze, lift and squeeze. That’s it though. No other exercises just lift and squeeze and go about my business. That’s the plan for the low back. The moveable rib in my mid-back that comes and goes with shocking pain has not got a plan, yet. The PT says I might learn how to pop it back in over time. Meanwhile it’s still muscle relaxers and pain killers if it goes out again.
So feeling all decrepit as I am I decided it was time to replace this shoddy mattress. Amazon Prime brought us a top rated memory foam queen right to the gNash door for $450. I feel guilty patronizing the huge worker abusing corporation but have you ever tried to buy a mattress? Add to that experience living 2 hours from the nearest mattress store and you can see why the big A is irresistible. That and the thing cost half what I’ve paid for a mattress in the last twenty years. Sometimes I think these are the cultural issues that divide us. Walmart and Amazon have made life much easier in the rural areas of our deeply divided nation. I’ve been derided for shopping at Walmart and I respond with, “Where are we supposed to go? It’s all that’s left in rural America.” Luckily here we can pick up essentials at an independent store 5 miles away or head an hour up the road to my favorite grocery in all of Montana, also employee owned.
On the up side of the general negativity we are playing a weekly gig and it has been good. The tourist based crowds love to interact and shout out where they are from when I ask. Canada, Brazil, West Virginia, Spokane…Given our wide variety of tunes in our repertoire we have something to please everyone. Weeven got a rousing round of Wheels on the Bus for a kid filled night. Tips are adequate, too. The Wonderland Cafe has tasty food and a supportive staff but the best part is we get backed up by the flexible fingers and groovy beats of Zondra Skertich on bass. Z happens to be our client and the reason we are here working so it’s very convenient to have her in the band this season. If you’re in the area come on down.
Saturday we’re opening the Gardiner Brewfest. Music starts at 3:30. Pop in and have a beer.
Despite the fact that the TeamCholvis just ate a dozen eggs and gooshed the extra into the seat cushions this morning I will admit that three dogs aren’t too trying now that we are stationary. Feeding, peeing, pooping, and exiting a vehicle multiple times a day drained TeamHuman. Leash 1, leash 2, leash 3…where’s leash 3…come back here…wait…wait…oh, there it is…clip…OKAY…12 paws hit the ground attached to three strings and a human. The human ducks and twirls and, to date, has not gone down. Occasionally a dog is loose. Maybe the hand didn’t quite have a hold or maybe the dog was never attached. Cue the gutteral command to STAY. Cars are almost always whizzing by when we get in and out. Adrenaline floods my body. The dogs always, so far, stop. I capture the loose mutt and we proceed to walk. Usually we split them between us. Burt takes Elvis and maybe another. I almost always deal with Olive. She’s fussy. When one human must do the job alone it’s ergonomically uncomfortable to walk all three. Elvis must be dragged, the others pull. I try to channel my inner neutral balance between the sixty pound in each hand. The key is to transfer the pullers to the dog that needs pulling without throwing out your own back.
Happily the life threatening dog comfort walk is less frequent now that we are in our summer work spot. There is ample property for some free ranging. There is a yard. There are leashed walks that do not involved a vehicle. Cars are few and far between. Now if we take a leash walk I get Olive and Burt takes Elvis and Chava. Burt is the master trainer for heeling. After the pups have released some energy they might get free time in the woods. Chava and Olive are getting better at their off-leash heeling. Recall is only a problem for Elvis. He is deaf, stubborn, demented. I am always amazed at how much our older dogs teach the younger dogs. Elvis taught Olive, Olive is teaching Chava. But it cuts both good and bad. Chava has noticed Elvis getting away with all kinds of transgressions and has tried to follow the Elvis mentoring plan. Elvis won’t come, sit or wait for food so why should I? As my mom used to say: Because I said so. After a week of it Chava seems back on track with following us not Elvis.
So after a rough couple of weeks where we learned this Chava was stuck with us, that he might have ringworm, that he was growing so fast and eating so much and needed to be walked six times a day and once at night we’ve finally reached the spot where it’s only a little more energy to manage him. And he’s a good dog. And he doesn’t have ringworm.
Recently I was sitting in an out patient surgical center in Helena, Montana minding my own business while waiting for a friend who needed a ride home. Scattered around the room were copies of Montana Senior News a magazine aimed at Montana’s rapidly aging population. I immediately noticed the cover photo was of Linda Gryczan a woman I happen to know and hold in high esteem. Linda was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that struck down Montana’s deviant sexual misconduct statute. While Montana’s law on gay sex was struck down a long time ago it is still legal to discriminate in all things on sexual orientation and gender identity in Montana. So LGBTQ people are no longer felons but they can be denied jobs, housing, and services. In fact, when Burt and I had some troublesome tenants that happened to be gay we were advised to use their gayness to remove them from our property. We were so offended by this thought we did the opposite and let them stay until the lease expired despite missed payments and property damage. The problem wasn’t their gayness. They were volatile young men. We knew nobody wanted to rent to a pair of teenage boys so we worked with them until the end.
So I picked up the magazine and started to read the article about the history of gay rights in Montana and specifically how elder LGBTQ folk in Montana have no protections when it comes to discrimination in end of life scenarios. Nursing homes can bar them or prevent couples from living together. Ignorant, hateful staff may treat someone poorly and it might be just fine with management. While I knew we as a society had a long way to go to make everyone feel safe and welcome and valued I had never thought of the heart piercing details some people must face on a day to day basis at the most vulnerable time in their lives. The article was written by another person I know, Aaron Parrett and Nan Parrett took the photos of the people that shared their stories and concerns. It is a really nice piece that discusses how far we’ve come and what remains to be done. It even mentions that most Montanans have a live and let live attitude and are uninterested in making sexual orientation an issue. I basked in the glow of the article being prominently featured and scattered on every table in the waiting room. There was an inkling of hope. You can read it here.
A few minutes later I was playing Bridge on my phone and I heard a couple come in and sit with their backs to me. The waiting room was about 10′ by 10′ with seats for 12 or so people. There were three other people in the room. I was seated furthest from the door. The couple comes in and starts bashing democrats and libtards loudly enough that anyone could hear. I ignored them. I didn’t even look up. Montana is Trump country. Not a surprise to run into people holding these views but kind of odd that they’d be speaking so loudly and negatively in a small public space. Then the man said: They even had a parade last week downtown with their flags and nobody cares…The woman says: You see them everywhere…The man replies: A bunch of them women were camped out at the campground last weekend all in the SAME campsite. Sharing tents. I looked up expecting to see some gnarled old timers and was appalled to see a heterosexual couple of about my age or younger spewing this vile hate loud enough for the whole room to hear. I said: You shouldn’t share your homophobia in public. The man says: I’m not homophobic. I say, sweetly: sounds like you are. Meanwhile I was thinking and they call us snowflakes. These two were undone by a magazine cover. Silence.
The silence was profound and there was a frisson of fear. The three uninvolved people looked like they wanted to turn invisible. Then the woman mutters: I just don’t understand why they need special rights. I stood up and yelled: Shut the FUCK up. Not my finest retort. I moved to get support from the front desk and discovered the receptionist had stepped away. I turned to face the couple. They were between me and the door. The man was leering and grinning. They were enjoying this. I realized I was in danger of assault. I was going to assault him. I exited the building and called the Surgicenter to let them know I was waiting outside since I know longer felt safe in their waiting room. For forty minutes I paced and basically freaked out. Here I was white and straight and I was getting only a taste of the fear millions live with everyday of their lives. I presumed I knew as a woman, and I do to an extent but this was horrifying. I was completely unprepared to feel their demeaning gaze and hear their vile, ignorant words.
In some ways I felt ashamed that I lost my temper. And in other ways it’s nice to just explode. I wish I’d continued to politely ask them to keep their views to themselves. I’ve confronted bullies at work and other places. I’ve had many men try and some succeed to intimidate me. I feel very much at risk as a female in our society. I do not feel equal. I do not feel heard. And yet I have so many advantages since I am white and educated and tall and bold. Eventually a staff member came out and found me. She’d heard what happened and apologized and thanked me for speaking up. I’m optimistic that next time I’ll be a bit gentler when I tell bigots to shut their pie holes. It takes practice. These situations happen when least expected.
I share this story not to garner praise or support. I share it so maybe you will practice and imagine and find the courage to say something, anything. We must drive hate back into hiding. We can do it.
Many, many miles have passed under our truck this last week. We pulled out of Jack’s driveway on Monday and headed east towards Logan, Utah. We stopped and visited Great Basin National Park before landing in the yard of Burt’s friends from the year he experimented with college. But first the poop-tastrophe of 2019.
Longtime friends and readers know I have had many involuntary and surprising contacts with poop. Literal shit storms have followed me around since I was a wastewater treatment plant technician in 1984. All previous shit shows are now relegated to second tier events. That time to groover exploded and coated my chest with a brown air-brushed patina of feces? Not worth mentioning. The time the other groover exploded at the car wash when I was trying to illegally flush the contents? Ho hum. Olive rolling in human feces? Which time? Never mind. The shit coated bathroom behind the bus stop? The emergency evacuations in bushes, buckets, pants? The porno movie in Ecuador playing while I held the ‘door’ to the toilet shut and dumped? I could write a book and all would pale in comparison to the latest event. And yet it was so fast and stunning it’s hardly worth telling.
One great advantage to traveling with your home attached to your truck is there is always a bathroom when you need it, assuming you can pull over. Last week I had a sudden need for the bathroom. Burt dutifully pulled over at the top of the pass coming out of California. Nevada spread below and a icy alpine lake was by our side. The elevation was substantially greater than where we had just spent the last three nights. We were five to six thousand feet higher that we had been at Burt’s dad’s house. It was gorgeous. I grabbed the key and dashed to the gNash. It wasn’t your normal urgent situation. It was a passing that required time and relaxation. I must have gotten dehydrated and, remember, I have that devious redundant and twisted colon. Think ungulates. Burt popped by to check on me and reported he’d seen a mountain quail. Dammit. A lifer bird and I was sitting on the throne. What could be worse?
Finally my work was done. RV life requires a degree of sanitary involvement that most of us would rather avoid. Since the toilet uses very little water you must turn and face your masterpiece and make sure it reaches its final destination. You depress the flush pedal firmly and quickly to try and induce a vacuum effect. If the poop is stalled extra effort is required. Some people use a pot of water to try and flush. A brave few grab a wad of TP and give it a nudge. The less brave or more health conscious use a tool we have named The Poop Stick. Poop sticks are disposable. when your poop is stuck you go get a stick, use it as needed, and discard. The result is that while it is very convenient to have a toilet with you at all times it comes with a price.
So there I was…Finally relieved of my burden. I turned and watched. Foot to lever. Firm and quick and BOOM. Instead of going down, or at least politely remaining stuck, it all exploded and flew skyward and hit me square in the face. Urine gravy with poop meatballs. My mouth was open. The word surprised is meaningless. I felt assaulted in the strangest way. Shock. Terror. Disgust. I heard a sound come out of me that I had never heard before. I was wailing and laughing and yelling. Burt came running WITH the dogs. Chava very helpfully ate the meatballs. I screamed at Burt to leave as I wailed that I needed help. Floor, ceiling, walls, and me were dripping in urine and a week’s worth of festering septage on top of what I had placed in the bowl. I started spitting and stripping while I kept wailing and chuckling. Burt left with the dogs. I mopped and cried and laughed. There was shit and pee in my hair. My glasses had saved my eyeballs. A long while later I came out of the gNash in fresh clothes but carried the knowledge that I was not clean. I could not wash hair without a shower. On the up side, the dogs were eager to hang out with me as we drove down into Nevada. Eau de Poo is a canine favorite. Urine has a lingering taste, too.
All day long I felt if I was slipping into some kind of dis-associative state. I veered between maniacal laughing and angry mutterings regarding the closest shower. I ate and drank but still imagined pee. We shopped at Trader Joe’s and Costco and I passed an entire day in a bipolar state of panic and hilarity. The shock of the blast was so profound that I found myself wondering how people emotionally survive bombings and other sudden violence. Something so minor as a toilet malfunction was bringing deep thoughts.
Of course we presumed the disaster was caused by the rapid change in elevation but we were wrong. The toilet is vented and had never exploded before. The real cause was a blocked vent. This became clear when the toilet exploded several more times over the next two days. Subsequent explosions were far less catastrophic because we had learned to gingerly press the flush pedal to let the tank off-gas. Still pee was on our seat and I took some mean hearted comfort in Burt getting hit. The persistent problem created a new sense of panic. I was ready to scrap the whole house but we hatched a plan on how to clear the vent. It was a muti-step and iterative plan but luck was on our side. The vent cleared as mysteriously as it clogged.
All’s well, for now. This could happen again. Despite my day or two of PTSD I’m already back staring at my shit and slamming the flusher as hard as I can hoping it goes down instead of up. Hope does not rise in this situation.
The gNash and Dodge are rolling uphill towards Montana and we’ve got a hanger-on. The usual Gypsy Carpenters crew minus Mimi (DEP, sweet kitty) plus foster puppy Chava are all festively packed in the king cab of our 18 year old Dodge and it’s got all the makings of a drunken party. There’s daily fights, spilled drinks, vomit, public scratching, and that’s just the dogs. Only Elvis and Burt are completely satisfied with their space. Nobody crowds them and gets away with it. Meanwhile Olive, Chava and I are jockeying all day, everyday to make do with what we can get. You’d think we’d swiftly work out a compact of who sits where when but noooo. Chava is growing faster than a kudzu in July so it’s a turf battle everyday. What worked before noon on Friday was no can do by Saturday night. Mood and climate also impact the degree of bodily contact allowed. Too hot? GTF off of me says Olive with a gap toothed crooked snarl. Too Cold? Climb up on my lap, there’s room for you both, says me. Just when everyone settles down somebody (me, Burt, or Chava) has to go to the bathroom and the proverbial pot is stirred again. And despite Chava knowing I am his boss he still treats me like a mom he can walk all over. Chava even tries to nurse on my forearms as he falls asleep. What a cutie-pie.
In the midst of the hourly land rush there have been countless bowls of spilled water and the aforementioned vomit and deafening barks in ears. Burt’s worried the floor boards are rusting from the constant moisture. I’m worried I’m growing mold on my perpetually wet bum. There are legs, teeth, and tongues everywhere and they have not figured out how to coordinate. Maybe that’s a good thing. Imagine them working together to thwart us. The mental and physical effort to keep two old dogs and one new puppy safe and satisfied is not 30% greater than the two dogs alone. I’d say the well trained but scarily growing puppy is a 100% increase in energy cost for Burt and me. He’s so fast and less solidly reliable to hold a stay or wait. By Monday morning he might weigh less than Olive but he will be stronger than Elvis and Olive combined. And he just eats and eats and eats. Which means he poops and poops and poops.
And it’s all been worth it. We’ve taken our time and let puppy stretch his legs in new places. When we first got Olive we did the same thing. We visited the Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Mártir just like we did eight years ago with Olive. A condor even flew over head on Chava’s first hike, the steep 4 KM climb to the Mirador (lookout) where you can see the Bahia de California from the top of the mountains. Human year equivalent 90 year old Elvis waited in the gNash. We told him it was boring. He only ate a little bit of a window shade in retaliation.
Today finds us at Burt’s Father’s unibomber home in California. We lovingly call it this because it’s a 50s era mail order log cabin with no potable water and a hot water heater only turned on once a week for Jack’s shower. It’s a dark place. If and when I take a shower in the cool rust waters, the dribble hits me in my bellybutton. I tweak my back wetting my hair and I come out smelling like a can of nails left under a drain spout. Not worth the effort. I’ll wallow in my dog water stink and vomit a few days more.
After 4 years of working and playing (let’s be honest) with neighborhood kids we’ve had a drastic contraction in numbers. For a couple of years we had a steady eight to ten kids, mostly girls, show up for art and English and extracurricular activities. Sometimes the number would well to nearly twenty. More kids showed around parties and field tips or after rumors of gifts. Last year tension developed between two factions in the group. The tweeners (10-12 year olds) started picking on each other and lines formed between a group of kids in our immediate vicinity and a group of kids from further away. It was annoying to mediate between the two groups. This year I wondered what would happen. I really didn’t want to deal with a pack of boy crazy girls learning how to get their nasty on with each other. In Spanish.
It all started out pretty easily. The group of further away kids naturally stopped coming. They were older and had newer interests. They drifted off. No big deal. Now all I had was my immediate neighbors and a few ‘cometas’. Cometas are people that come occasionally to standing gigs. Like that woman you see in your yoga class three times a year. They streak by and get a little attention because they are so rarely seen. The group was reduced to essentially four kids, a pair of sister pairs. It seemed a little sad at first but it was so much more manageable. For an instant.
The eldest girl has been disruptive for three years. She has stolen. She has lied. She has inappropriately touched other kids. Even though she was now one of only four and they were next door neighbors she still couldn’t stay out of trouble. Now that she was 11 and we’d been working with her for more than 3 years I was starting to lose hope that we could get through to her in a positive way. Mid-winter she intentionally but secretly damaged a piece of art in our home. We had a meeting. A written agreement was drawn up. A contract on behavior. A chance to formalize the many second chances we’d already given this young girl. This girl is so smart, lovely, and troubled. She breaks our heart. We all (not just Burt and I) want to see her succeed but she can’t escape her negative behaviors.
Last week she orchestrated a scam where she convinced the other kids to tell me there was no school on a certain day and then get me to agree to do something fun with them. It was a brilliant and spontaneous lie. She said, “We don’t have school tomorrow.” The other kids merely backed her up. Two are so young I’m not sure they even knew they were lying. The next morning as I drove to yoga I noticed a bunch of kids going to school as usual. Uh oh. Well surely they parental units didn’t let the scam go through. I texted the neighbor that takes the gang to school and I asked her what was going down. She said, “Nobody showed up for their ride today. I was wondering why.” I knew why.
I got to the driver’s home and I told her the kids were ducking. So I went to one house and asked if the kid went to school. The mother told me her daughter had begged and cried to skip school so she could do something with me. Mom relented. Note, this kid didn’t lie to mom. I explained to the mother I would never knowingly schedule anything on a school day. The next home was the home of the criminal mastermind. I asked the grandma where the kids were. Grandma said, “There’s no school today.” I had to tell her that there was school and that her granddaughter had lied to her. From inside the house I hear the mother’s reaction as she realizes we’ve all been taken by the kid’s lie. Meanwhile the mastermind comes outside to great me, laughing at her success, and I in a fit of anger say, “You will never come to my house again. You’ve had all your chances. We had an agreement and you lied to me, your grandmother and your mother.” I gave a very dramatic but grammatically flawed speech on lying and the importance of school. I could here mom yelling inside. I feared a beating was coming. I left feeling sad for so many things. I was struck that her caretakers didn’t know the school schedule.
Rumors reached me that the girls were grounded. They weren’t seen for two days. I softened a bit and have agreed to meet with the troubled kid and talk with her about the road ahead. I’m pretty certain she won’t be welcome in my classes but I want her to know we can still be friends and can still talk. I worry about her but there’s nothing I can do by myself. She may learn to live another way or she may not. So far the lying and cheating and stealing are working for her.
It’s been over a week. The girl is still banned from classes and another has chosen not to come in solidarity. The two youngest are leaving their older sisters behind and coming to class on their own. I am so proud of them. Today we went to the beach. I think it’s important to remember I have been working with these two kids since they were four years old. In so many ways it was already too late for the older kids to trust me.
1. I endured an all day, every 2 hours glaucoma test. Pressure is rising but not too high. I can’t recommend this diagnostic approach.
2. Annual skin check. The dermo wants us to bathe every day and add moisture. I say no. I’m gonna stick with my less is more routine.
3. Our windows are almost all here. They showed up and put some in. We haven’t paid so don’t fret.
4. We’ve been singing twice a week in a professionally conducted choral. More later. It’s hard work.
5. Elvis required his own emergency vet visit. Nothing was found but he was so snippy he had to be sedated for the exam. Twenty-four hours of sleep fixed him.
6. The kid’s class blew up and reformed after the older kids lied to me. In a scam that nearly succeeded they told me they had no school last Friday so they could do something fun with me. Too bad I drove by the school and saw kids going to school. Then I had to go to their parents and tell them about the scam. The main instigator lied to her parents and drug her younger sister into it. And actually convinced them there was no school. Another kid didn’t lie but convinced her mother my class was better than school (it might be). I told that mother I would never let the kids skip school to do something with me. Awkward. I banned the oldest kid and main instigator. I put the next oldest kid into the penalty box and I let the youngest kids off the hook with a stern warning to not be lemmings. I’m not sure if the youngest kids even knew there was school. Their schedule can by confusing. In fact there is no school his Friday.
7. We played Bridge.
8. We went to the mountains.
9. I returned to yoga class.
10. We have a house concert/hootenanny this afternoon. So I skipped yoga to rest. I still need a lot of rest.
11. We depart in ten days. A destination filled June is planned.