Tag Archives: acceptable excuse

How Those Famous Guitar Players Got Really Good


Yesterday, “Brook” got her birthday present a week early-a 1/2 size hot pink acoustic guitar:Pink GuitarShe has been practicing. She now knows Em, E, D, Dm, and has made inroads toward making G and A ring. This morning I showed her the blues scale and a minor pentatonic scale, and we discussed how improvisation is done and how songs are put together. Once she has the G and A down, I’ll introduce C and F and we’ll start building a repertoire for her.
Purple Haze and Nights in White Satin will be the first ones. We’ll also work on composing our own material, augmented by the dozen or so percussive gizmos I have lying around.

The world’s newest guitarist will have plenty of additional time to practice. She’s grounded again. Can’t spend five minutes outside without forgetting about the simple ground rules. “Stay in earshot” “Don’t go over to the ghetto-ass kids’ house to play” “Stay out of the parking lot”.
I predict that, at this rate, she’ll be famous by the time she’s 11.
The ghetto-ass kids’ dad is next door working on the cabinetry in the recently-abandoned apartment there. I sincerely hope he heard my lecture.
The littlest one, age seven, who goes by the nickname Yaya, is a yeller. She likes to scream and shout to try to get her way. Faith goes outside and she is told “If you play with my sister, you can’t ride my scooter any more.”
Instead of turning around and saying “Li’l bitch, we gave you that scooter, and your sister is more fun anyway,” Faith gets upset and tears around the complex on a borrowed bike, therefore being out of earshot when I call for her.
Ten minutes later, she drags her scooter into the kitchen and bugs right back out again before I can say anything.
I look out, and she’s on the back of Chi-chi’s (the older sister, all of nine) bike, going around the corner of a building about fifty yards away, in the parking lot.
I slap a tank together and go out the other way, to head them off at the pass, but no. They double back and go back in the ghetto-ass apt.
Sitting on the patio, biding my time. I water the plants and look over the gate periodically.
Eventually herself sees me and comes over.
“Get inside,” I say. “We need to talk. And take that scooter gear (kneepads, elbow pads) off–you won’t need it anymore today.”

The ensuing conversation ended, unfortunately, like so many do, with grounding and a turn in the corner, facing the wall, butthurt. During the course of the dialogue, the phrase “I don’t know” was repeatedly used to justfiy actions taken, as was “I just like to play”. The latter is okay. Not so in-depth, but excusable, depending on the behavior it’s used to represent. But the first is one of the two things that are guaranteed to makes things take a bad turn (the other is to lie to my face and have me catch her).

The child knows this. She is apparently incapable of considering the results of her actions, despite repeated preaching, beseeching, reasoning, back-patting, and other conditioning methods used to reinforce a positive behavior pattern.

She doesn’t like thinking. It makes her head hurt.

It makes my head hurt to think of another ten years of this mindless impulse-following. I’m afraid sometimes her head will just collapse in on itself. Either that, or fill up with cats (who abhor a vacuum, you know).

I’m fairly strict. I expect a lot, I’m told. Too much–I expect literacy and some degree of self-awareness and self-knowledge. I want to see some intellectual curiosity and the ability to tell right from wrong and to act accordingly.

Very little of that going on. So I’m looking at music as the way to get that sort of patience and determination going.

Fingers, eyes, legs, toes crossed. Only can only hope.

Happy Hallowe’en


Samhain is upon us. Ghouls and ghosties and long-leggity beasties, and things that go bump in the night. The origin of the celebration of the Harvest is buried in the wanna-be-scared commercial-bonanza interpretation of the holiday.

Like everything else. It’s no surprise that corporations have taken over everything. It’s a running joke, and one muttered uncomfortably, lest THEY hear.

You know, the ones in charge, whoever they are. The ones behind it all.

Whoever they are. Everyone has a different interpretation. Some are more credible than others. But even the incredible beliefs are held with a deathgrip. Because people are like that.

I was reminded of that a little earlier, when someone accused me of being closed-minded because I like to throw darts at Christian beliefs. Generally I do this for a reason–because I am being preached at. I know preachers who don’t preach to me, but to their flock. I don’t have a problem with that–it’s consenting adults and their progeny. The progeny will have the chance to expose themselves to other belief systems in time.

There was comparison made to the condition of fibromyalgia (neuralgia previously), and community disbelief in what few experienced themselves, and to the “existence” of Jesus of Nazareth and the apostle Paul. I pooh-poohed this idea, based on the premise that what people were directly experiencing was not hearsay, was provable (as it seemingly has been). No independent sources exist that discuss Paul or Jesus. Quod erat demonstratum.

Some folks believe that other folks should behave as they do, and will go to great lengths to maintain this superiority.

Others still will believe nonsense, and will go to great lengths to maintain their fantasy. My grand-daughter stubbornly holds onto the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and others, despite being well past the age where I had even given up on in invisible guiding hand in the sky.

The point of that is that such beliefs are childish. (imo)
I don’t believe we are going to advance as a species until we get over the idea of divinity.

The ideal is another thing. Bestowing benevolence is to be lauded in any case. People in need should be able to find some succor.

I’m disabled, on SSI. Five months after having another mouth come to live with me, my food stamps were cut down to 17.00/month. Thanks, Republicans. I would have died back in February 2010 if you had your way.

So I have some vested interest.

But that doesn’t negate the point. One doesn’t need faith to believe in charity, in hope. One just needs to have a sense of right and wrong.

 

where it’s at


Oops. Well, I forget to post here for a bit. There was way too much life happening. Some of it had to do with the increasingly wayward child, some of it had to do with deadlines (most of them self-imposed), some of it had to do with other folks. During the last month or so, we’ve had to relocate for two days so that the complex could spray for bugs (seems to have worked), I’ve finalized the cover and contents of my book. somehow finagled renewing most of my web properties despite not having enough  money to do so (I spent the money on eating out during the two days we were in the hotel), and cooked a semi-gourmet meal damn near every night.

Did see the new pulmonologist. He spewed some hope, saying that there had to be some reason why the scarring in my lungs isn’t healing, and they’re not returning to full capacity. The last guy said that to, and tried to put me on the Atkins diet to fix it.

Wrong answer. I distrust fad diets, and, though I’m sure he had his reasons for recommending that (mostly having to do with my weight), I have my own reasons not to do it. We’ll talk about willful disobedience later. though, and in another context.

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Degree of Difficulty


Second day of eight-year-old walking herself home from school. I step out onto the front porch to see her coming, wave, and then duck back in to make sure the cats, who have been bunching up around my ankles, are all still inside.
This leads to trying to silence the dishwasher, which has suddenly begun clanking. I find the lost spoon and place it in a reservoir, thinking “that child oughta be here by now”. Had an oxygen tank from earlier errands, still half-gassed, so I strapped that on and popped out to see if something shiny had happened.

Child was nowhere to be seen.

“Maybe she came in the back way,” I say, and unlock the patio door. I step out through the back and follow the sidewalk to the mailbox nook, where the open back gate is.

No child. I retrace my steps, go back through the place and up the walk toward the main drag.

I find her two doors away, facing a closed door with a blank look on her face.

“I was knocking,” she says, clutching a half-sheet of paper with our address written on it.

I indicate the paper, and then the address on the door she’s facing. “Not sure if those folks are home. Our house is over here.”

We repair to our rooms. Okay, so she flubbed. No big. Her all red-faced, clasping a giant soda to her skinny little chest. We sit down at the kitchen table-homework comes first.

“I was on “green” all day today,” she announces (she had been in small trouble the previous three days, for talking while the teacher was talking, and refusing to do the classwork).

“Very good,” I say.

She’s pulling her “agenda” notebook out of her backpack. No homework folder. I ask after that item.

“I forgot it,” she says. I’m a little suspicious. I open the agenda notebook, to see what the homework was supposed to be. Word cards, she was supposed to make word cards, like math flash cards. I smell a rat.

The girl does not like reading. She is not very good at it. But she did well yesterday.

“Well,” I say, “we’ll read some. Your assignment says 20 minutes a day. We should be able to finish your book (Good Enough to Eat, by Brock Cole) today. I started yesterday–you start today.”
She begins, haltingly, sounding the words out to herself, sort of. It takes a lot of prompting to get through the first page. Then my turn, and the next. We never finished her next turn.

She had a “make-me” fit. Gave me the face, told me “reading is hard. Things are hard. It’s too hard for me to walk home from school. I was tired before I left.”

She’s rubbing her eyes and staring at something invisible in the near distance, alternately, making the pouty face.

“Soooo, reading is hard. And things are hard. Everything is hard until you do it for a while. Then it gets easier.”

I understand what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to create an excuse, to be let off the hook, like she has some kind of medical condition. She indicates several small scratches, two on her chest and one on her thumb, that she says Buster gave her, unprovoked. “I showed these to my teacher today,” she announces.

“And why did you do that?” I ask.

Stone face. Prompting eventually elicits the “I-dont-know” response. “They hurt,” she says.

“Scratches sometimes do,” I reply, not unkindly. “So why did Buster scratch you?” Maybe I could get at the truth.

“He just did.” Buster isn’t that kind of cat. He doesn’t scratch unless he has a good reason.

“I see. So what do you suggest we do about the walking-home thing? I’m not able to come and get you. Do you want me to meet you at Main st.?” (this isn’t the name of the street, but you get the idea)

“Yes.”

Thursday is when my oxygen tanks are delivered. There isn’t any particular timetable-they’re not that organized. I wait whole days, sometimes. This is why she’s been set to the task of walking herself to and from school in the first place-I can’t leave the apartment.

“I guess I’ll just have to watch for you from the door. I can’t leave because of the tank delivery.” She knows this. “You know that.”

She makes the pouty face.

I make the pouty face back. “Are we gonna have a staredown now?”

She looks away. “Okay. So we’ve established that you don’t want to watch tv or go to the pool today,” I begin. “And we’re starting to work on the special thing (the scooter I’ve ordered for her).

“So tell me, what is it that you want to do? You wanted to learn to tap-dance, right?”

She nods.

“And learn Karate. And Spanish. Are you under the impression that these are all easy things?”

Realization waps her between the eyes.

She looks at me, with a tear beginning to form where she’s been rubbing the eye.

“Yes. To me they’re easy.”

“I see. So you don’t need to learn them then. Fine.” I sit back in my chair.

“And songs,” she continues. “I want to write songs. That’s easy for me.”

I stifle a laugh, mostly.

“Sing your song for me,” I say.

“I wrote half of one,” she says.

“Sing it to me.”

“I don’t remember it.”

“Don’t you think you should learn to read and write so that this doesn’t happen again?” She can print some, but doesn’t have any real facility.

“Yes. But it’s hard. I can play guitar, that’s easy.”

Picture me incredulous. “Cool. I’ll go get my guitar, and you can show me.”

“I can play a couple of notes,” she says.

Reality has intruded yet again.

“I can see that we’re done reading for the day. You have chores.”

She has an erasable whiteboard with two chores on it. Her job is to sweep the bunny area and under the birdcage, and to feed and water the bunnies.

“Sweeping is too hard.”

I can see where this is going. “So what task would you rather perform?”
“Mopping,” I’m told.

“You have to sweep first,” I point out.

Pouty face.

“Get the broom.” I go turn off the tv, for there won’t be any Disney or Nick Jr today. Probably no swimming. I’d opt for go to bed without dinner but that’s not an option these days.

Kids.

Wakin’ up is hard to do


We’ve been spending much time this last week trying to figure out how to best insinuate the idea for “good taste” and “taking on a little more responsibility” into the life of our eight-year-old girlchild. She’s pretty independent, definitely a bit of a dramamama, definitely intelligent though just as definitely not as book-learned as she should be.

She loves the pets…so feeding/taking care of the rabbits has become her main job task. Playing with Buster is one of her favorite things. I suspect he likes it too, but he’s still suspicious of this small interloper. He has also taken on a great degree of independence, and is very good at making his wishes known (for example, the litterbox was let go a couple of days too long. He took the paper garbage bag, tore a hole in the side of it, pissed about a quart of ammoniac boycatpiss into and onto it, and then sidled over to give me a quick headbonk.)

Took half a roll of two-ply to fix that. Hard to be mad at him though. I’d feel the same way.

Which brings us to the subject of empathy, which the child does not seem to have much of. She’s been shuttled about so much that a lot of her feelings are locked up. Eventually they’ll surface-I imagine it’ll happen when hormonal challenges start setting in, a couple of years down the road.

We’ve banned the viewing of Spongebob, which I just can’t stand, and have severley limited the viewing of “baby shows”, i.e., programs that are way below her age level. Mind you, they’re not below her reading or ‘rithmetic level-but that’s the point. The child can barely add, and hasn’t yet learned the technique of sounding out words to produce the result. Nobody has ever taken the time to work with her on these things.

At least until recently. I’ve begun working with her on reading and on math skills, trying to show the relationships between numbers and methods so that she’ll have a good overview, and alternating pages of books. It’ll be a while til there are results-she seems to enjoy the process for the most part, but gets all stubborn and pouty when pressed. She puts on the “Can’t-Make-Me” face, which some kid is one day gonna slap right off 0f her.

Bad attitude, directly inherited.

I work on a reward system. Yesterday she walked halfway to school  by herself, as the daily round trip is too hard for me. Today she went all by herself. I don’t anticipate any problems. Once she’s past our block of condos, there’s the main intersection, with a crossing guard who already knows her, and another a block away by the driveway into the school property.

For making the half-trip, she was rewarded with a giant Mountain Dew slurpee, which lasted until almost 8 pm with a trip to the fridge for a couple of hours to stay cold.

Homework and chores come first after arrival. This is agreed to by all. I try to take a little extra time to explain things, and to exercise more patience than I ordinarily would.

She’s doing okay…and the daily trip will get easier in a week or so when her scooter arrives. Provided that she continues to act like a young lady and not a spoiled brat, she’ll get the thing right away.

Brattiness isn’t treasured, nor is drama. But that’s her wake-up routine. I’m not an easy waker either-if I don’t feel that what I was awakened for is worth being awake for. Otherwise I wake immediately and head for the medicine cabinet.

The child squalls or won’t get up. We’ll work on that.

Could be way worse. She says “I love you, grandpa”, at least 20 times a day. Hard to get tired of that.

It’s an Eight-Year-Old’s World


(and I live in it).

We’ve recently become custodians of an eight year old girl, my wife and I. It’s unusual to have one at such an advanced age (I’m 52, she’s ageless of course), but that’s the situation.

We make the best of it. The care and feeding of a young being require much attention to detail, and one must pay especial attention to consistency, since one is going to be called on it constantly.

“A deal’s a deal,” I was informed one afternoon when that worthy was being told she could go to the pool after all. I daved this situation in my memory bank, knowing it would come in handy.

Sure enough, the next day, she wanted to avoid sweeping the living room, under the birdcage, as she had done before, and announced that “this is what I do”, while performing said deed.

Making mention of this omission severely dented my momentary rapport with the child. I was favored with a pout.

She likes to pout; she’s a bad sport. Correcting both behaviors and keeping them corrected will take time. I just do a little course correction from time to time. That’s my job-I’m the designated driver.

I am the dreaded lecture dispenser in our household.

I refuse to babytalk and “I don’t know” is not an acceptable excuse. So there are lots of little standoffs. I do believe that the child thinks these are contests of will. To me it’s Pavlovian. I just don’t use a bell.

She loves attention-it comes with the territory. But lectures swiftly turn out to be unwanted attention. Especially when they contain the dreaded unanswerable question. Each lecture has one, it’s in the contract.

Today it was why should we let you keep a bunny and have it for your very own when you don’t actually care for it?

The desired answer was “I”ll care for it. I will water it and feed it promptly and properly, and the other rabbits, too.”

She does, when asked. She volunteers at other idiosyncratic times. She is always going to ” check on them” but doesn’t always address the food, drink, and litter situation. Heavens know what she is actually doing.

This was addressed. “If you go in to ‘check on the bunnies’, you should see if their water bottles are full, if their dishes are empty. You can let them out far enough to pet them, but don’t pick them up. They are fragile.”

My wife maintains that I am nitpicky. I don’t necessarily deny this accusation.

It’s about the welfare of the child. I feel that she’ll fare much better if she has her wits about her. Developing a sense of humor can come later.

I’ve devised math homework for the first time in years, a couple of tables of figures that show the relationship between “added numbers” and “multipliers”, to use two of the terms from the assignment.

The child cannot do her multiplication tables, but says math is easy.

It does come easy to her, seemingly, but she still has to learn it. Her peers will, and she knows that now, and that’s a righteous tool.

Monday we are doing more. I’ve come up with another couple of pages of notebook paper, in which we discuss the previous, and work with fives and tens before seguing into simple subtraction by introducing story problems.

That’ll allow me to branch into book-reading later.

I have a final two days left to relax and recuperate from my recent (successful) surgery. Today I didn’t feel so well and so was uncommunicative to the world at large. I watched baseball, and am heartened by my Cubs, who bear every earmark of the .500 record except the actual numbers (yet). They have some good young players.

The child hates the baseball. She likes cartoons and the things that the Disney and Nick channels offer only, and her attention wanders when anything else is presented.

This is often when she indulges in cleaning and sweeping and the like, a practice which I am loath to discourage, though it’d be best to follow after her with a little broom and collect the remnants. Attention to detail is not her specialty. Oh, wait, was that nitpicking?

Until now, I had for years enjoyed children most when they were going to go away. This is different. I have to change, but I don’t have to surrender.

More stuff about kids and pets and other oddities tomorrow.