The Bathroom Debate

Thanks to Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are changing their minds about transgendered students’ access to the gendered bathrooms of their choice.

I honestly don’t get the heat behind this debate on either side. Deporting millions of undocumented individuals, discrediting the free press, and colluding with Russia are much bigger issues for me. But let’s just chat about it anyway for a minute.

Why do we need gendered bathrooms? Make ’em all unisex. Guys can pee in a stall.

There. Problem solved.

Selling Out

Let’s not talk about Donald Trump today. Because unlike the federal government, things at home are clicking together rather nicely.

I’m now juggling three writing gigs that together add up to adequate compensation and interesting work that is super flexible. I’ve got the green light to do some necessary repairs on the house. Hello, white subway tile in the kitchen! I’ve got the kids mostly set for schools for next year. Well, we have an excellent Plan B for Jonah in case his Plan A doesn’t work out. Ian’s new school is great and will take care of him until he’s 21. I do have to figure out the summer special ed camp situation, but that’s a small potatoes worry.

What’s a neurotic girl to do when things are working out nicely? Not a damn thing. Find a corner to read a book and sip a glass of wine, maybe. And cook big vats of food for people. Last night, there were twelve for meatballs and pasta. We’ve done pizza and beer. Spontaneous stew night was good, too.

I’m in between work projects right now. It probably won’t last more than a day or two, but right now, I’m enjoying the fact that I know that there will be work coming soon, but it’s not here yet.

I never planned on becoming a freelance writer. It sort of landed on my lap when my Plan A fell apart. And it’s not entirely one thing. There’s the serious writing work that isn’t too far off from academic writing. That’s not a shocker. But then there have been other job offers that have absolutely nothing to do with my training. Last summer, I got a call from a huge advertising company that needed help with their toilet paper client. That one didn’t work out. Drat. I enjoyed feeling like Peggy Olsen for a week or two.

Now, it’s a hugely privileged thing to take on these jobs. Steve’s got the health insurance and the proper salary. My job will buy the white subway tile and the wine for the spontaneous stew parties. My friends who depend on their freelance gigs to pay the rent are stressed by the instability of work. For me, it’s fine.

A few months ago, a teacher in town told me that her brother was one of James Patterson’s ghost writers. I guess there’s a small cottage industry of ghostwriting best sellers. The teacher said that her brother had a great lifestyle. He has a good contract that brings him a huge chunk of the royalties. So, he lives in a big house in Connecticut, writes for five hours a day, and then play golf and rides his ponies for the rest of the day.

The guy must be pretty talented to do this job. I can’t imagine that anybody could walk off the street and pump out a best seller. I’m sure that he started off with dreams of having his own name on a serious novel, rather than writing formulaic flippery that is sold in airport gift shops. But ghostwriting is working out for him. If he wanted to, he could still work on his own projects in the afternoon.

I’m not there yet, but with the kids settled for the time being, I’m piecing together a new career.

The Catholic Schools Saved by Vouchers


Catholic schools, once a mainstay for the Irish, Italian, and Polish communities in American cities, are struggling. With shrinking numbers of nuns as a source of free labor, and fewer parishioners passing the donation baskets on Sunday and enrolling their kids in parochial schools, many simply cannot afford to keep their doors open. Just last week, the Archdiocese of New York announced the closure of five more schools for financial reasons; that’s on top of dozens that were shutteredin 2011 and 2013.

More here.

The Penguin

OurLadyof Peace.jpg

I spent three days doing nothing but research, write, and edit an article on Catholic schools and school vouchers. (For breaks, I gobbled down cheap, mindless novels in a sunny corner.) Just as my article hits the website, Donald Trump has a meltdown on national TV. Ain’t nobody reading my little education article now. Arg!

This is my dad’s fifth grade school photo. He is sitting in the back. Red hair, big ears, dark tie. Check out the class size. Our Lady of Peace on the Southside of Chicago was closed down in 1999.

The Timer Went Off

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors; How a Filibuster Works; Hard Work Matters More than Brains

Jonah’s college acceptance letter has triggered the reality that he’s going to be gone in six months. I have six months left to parent, before he’s gone. He’ll be on his own. And there’s so much left to teach him.

Why Smart Girls Are Better Than Cheerleaders; Why You Should Never Rinse Pasta After You Finish Boiling It

There’s still so much that he doesn’t know, and I don’t have much time. The ten minute drive to his high school is the only time where he’s captive, strapped in the car, forced to listen. I babble using the morning news as the entry into topics that we never talked about before. I have to give him a crash course on life. How did I forget to teach him the difference between the House and the Senate?

The House Writes the Budget Because the Founders Thought that the Branch That Was Closest to the People Should Have the Most Say Over Money and Taxes

Yes, he’ll have to figure out a lot of this on his own, but I could have taught him this earlier. I wasted time. We were too caught up in the details of life — the homework and the soccer practice. And then his friends and cellphone shouted me out.

Your Great-great Grandfather Was a Famous Oboist; Was Napolean Really Short?; Never Put a Red Sweatshirt in the Washing Machine With White Undershirts

He’s undercooked. How is going to fare on a college campus that first semester without this information? This is what happens when a neurotic parent and former college professor starts to panic. She lectures.

College Gossip

We went to a superbowl party yesterday hosted by friends that we met when our kids first started kindergarten. Now, those five-year olds are spotty faced boys-men texting in the corner. The parents nursed their beers and gossiped about colleges.

Based on the very unscientific sample of parents that we know from several North Jersey towns, I’m seeing tons and tons of applications to state colleges. Even among families with fully stocked 529s, the kids are going to state colleges. The price point is too high for the privates, and kids are saving their money for grad programs.

Jonah applied to 11 flagship state colleges. He heard from two and got into both, including – thank you, thank you, college Gods – Rutgers.

Rutgers isn’t beautiful. OK, it’s damn right ugly compared to colleges like University of Vermont with its green fields and sweeping views of Burlington and Lake Champlain. Jonah was horrified by urban decay around Rutgers during the college tour.

But Rutgers will cost us around $30,000, and UVM will cost $55,000. That’s $100,000 and a second mortgage on the house just for the nice views. So, obviously that’s not happening. We have a few weeks for Jonah to come to terms with this decision. We’ll see if he gets into UVM and if they give him enough money.

I know several students with 4.0 GPAs who were rejected from University of Virginia and Univeristy of North Carolina. Those two state schools seem almost impossible for out of state students. University of Alabama is a popular out of state college for kids with a weaker application. Miami of Ohio and Pittsburgh were popular this year for kids like Jonah.

I’m so relieved that he has a place to go this fall, and that we can afford it. He’ll have to take out a loan and we have some grandparent money to help out, but it’s very do-able. That means we can take a vacation and fix up the kitchen this year. Winning!