Gift Guides 2019

It’s December, so it officially time for some holiday gift guides here at Apt. 11D! Woot!

Here’s the drill for the new people. I’ll list ideas. Some ideas will send you over to Amazon. If you buy that item or anything on Amazon via a link on this blog, I’ll get a small kickback, which I’ll translate into boots for me. Win-win!

So, if you have to buy a gift on Amazon, I would really appreciate if you got to the website from a link here. I have a busy morning after a three-day break, but I’ll get the first post up here later this afternoon. In the meantime, here are previous years’ ideas. In the meantime, if you have some ideas for me, please list them in the comment section.

Thank you!

In Chicago

Hi all — I’m in Chicago attending an education writers conference. Good stuff here. I’ll fill you all in on Monday.

I’m only here, because of the support of Steve and extended family. Ian had a seizure on Tuesday night. Until we figure out what’s going on and (possibly) medicate him, he can’t be left alone. So, my support system rushed in to cover the after school hours, and to help me as I adjust to the new normal.

We’ve circled the wagons and are giving our boy extra hugs and kisses.

Until I get back home, please continue chatting (and fighting) in the comment section. I’m reading all your comments on my cellphone here. Curious what you guys think about the impeachment hearings. Tell me.

The Indignities of Age

Yesterday, I migrated my digital photos from one organizer to another, when Adobe upgraded their Lightroom program to a subscription model. Instead of paying one price for a system that would last for four or five years, Adobe wanted me to pay $120 a year to use their system. Nah. So, I moved everything to iPhotos, which is free with my Mac computer.

As I pushed folders around, the images of the last ten years flew across my screen. There were Easter pictures with the boys, who were still boys, on the front porch of our old home. Selfies of myself in outfits before I went out to teach at the college. Steve shoveling out the driveway after a heavy snowstorm. It was sweet and painful to see my life fly past me. Like those flashbacks before death.


It was funny to see pictures of Steve before he went on his massive diet two years ago and the boys before puberty hit and rearranged their facial features. And there was the slow decay of my own body. It hurt, a lot, to see how much I’ve changed.

Menopause, and all its little steps before and after, take a huge toll on women. Perimenopause, those few years as fertility sputters out, was rough on me. It’s this terrible time in a woman’s life, as her body frantically looks for estrogen in all the wrong places and, in the process, freaks out the whole system.

I went from being one of those people who sleeps like the dead to one who would sleep in two hour chunks. I developed that habit of reading bad novels at 4am on iPad next to my bed.

I gained weight. For the first time in life, I suddenly had to think about calories. My beloved glass of wine in the evening became something to fear. No more chicken wings and beer on a Friday night.

While my body has now come to terms with the changes and is letting me sleep again, I am still struggling to remain strong and healthy. Meal times require more thought — rice for Ian tonight and quinoa for me. I don’t dare miss my 9:30 spin class this morning. I’ve swapped my glass of wine for a Corona Light. I am typing this blog post right now using my new standing desk, because the chiropractor said that sitting at a desk for too long was wrecking my spine.

I know that there’s no turning the clock back. I’m never going to fit into those size 3/4 pants again. The lines on my neck are permanent. I’m reading articles about the correlation between Alzheimer’s Disease and menopause with fear and trepidation.

But I’m also a lot smarter than the stranger in those pictures on my computer. I am a lot less stressed out about managing family and work. I’m more comfortable with myself. I’m making more manageable goals for myself for work and life. I’ve (mostly) accepted both the good and the bad things that have happened in my life, rather than being pissed off at the world.

I decided to get a job in retail for a few months, while I figure out my next steps. I need to make some changes, readjust the types of things that I write, set some new goals. I want to try something new, while I figure things out. So, yesterday I filled out an application for the big box book chain. Today, I’ll apply to more places.

The Evolving World of High School Football Games

I go to a lot of high school football games — way more than I attended when I was in high school — because Ian is the marching band.

Ian is not an enthusiastic member of the marching band. Alright, let’s just say it. He hates it. He only weighs 122 pounds, has low muscle tone, and flat feet. He plays percussion, where every instrument other than the cymbals weighs about 1/3 of his body weight.

There are hours and hours of practicing and waiting around. This week alone, he’s practiced every day during his music period. He has a game tonight where he won’t get home until about 10:30 (he leaves for school at 7:00 am). Tomorrow, he has four hours of practice in the afternoon. Sunday, he has a full day marching band festival. If he makes it through the weekend without yelling at an adult, there will be a fat STEAM gift card waiting for him.

This year, he got stuck with the big bass drum. Because he can’t see over the drum, his legs are one big black and blue mark from tripping. He fell over a curb the week before and cut open his chin. He has shin splints from all the time on his feet. Steve rigged some padding around the harness, because he had bruises on his chest.

Because Ian attends a very small school, the music director made marching band mandatory for all students. Without that rule, there would be no kids with their trumpets or flutes in the stands.

Steve and I aren’t football people. We’re only at these Friday night games to support our kid. We’ve gotten into the habit of finding a dive bar near the game, pounding a couple of beers, and eating wings for dinner. Then we show up half drunk by the end of the second quarter. We’ll be doing that tonight.

Football, in some ways, is the same as it ever was. Touchdowns and fumbles. The crazy parent yelling on the top of their lungs. Kids sneaking out the hole in the fence to drink and vape between plays. But somethings are different.

One major positive change is that there is a greater diversity of body types among the cheerleaders. They’re not all beautiful and skinny. I have to say that watching those girls always makes me smile.

Last week, we met up with a friend for our pre-gaming ritual. His kid was playing marching band for the opposing team. He said that his school doesn’t have enough football players anymore, so they’re going to have merge their team with another nearby town. The boys in his school are all on the soccer team instead.

With Ian’s injuries this year, I think we’re going to let him step away from his music program for his senior year. It will free up time in his schedule for another computer class. So, tonight’s game might be his last game ever (if they lose, there won’t make it to playoff tournaments).

I’m semi-sad about it, because it will mark another end of a parenting era. Also, I’ve come to enjoy the pre-game beer and wings, the moms in their bulky sweatshirts selling candy and pretzels in the club house, and the strange, quirky world of marching bands.

Bureaucracy Blues

Over the summer, Jonah took a class at the local community college. At the time, he was considering a double major in science and politics, so he needed some extra credits to graduate on time. He studied hard and did fine.

The next step was getting the credits transferred over to his college. It should have been no big deal. It was all within the same state, and our public colleges have a relationship with the community colleges. But it was.

Jonah, who has become adept at managing courses with adjunct professors who don’t answer their emails, using a overloaded bus system with an hour commute between classes, and cooking a pasta dinner for six hungry teenagers in their off-campus house, could not move those damn credits from one place to another.

I had to step in. I was sending too many texts that nagged him to follow up with various bureaucrats. It was distracting him from his studies. So, I latched onto someone in the advisement department who returned my e-mails, and we worked it out. It took nearly a week.

One of the issues was that the registrar at the community college uses a third-party to send transcripts to other colleges. But that online system would only send electronic transcripts to the admissions departments of other colleges. That process works for transfer students at Jonah’s college, but for a kid just transferring a single class, the credits had to go to the advisement department. Jonah’s advisement department had no access to information sent to the admissions office, so it could not get the electronic transcript. (It took about seven emails for me to figure that out.) So, I had go in person to the community college and pick up a paper version of the transcript in a sealed envelope. Jonah then had to come home, get the transcript, and then walk it over to the advisement office. Finally, credits moved from one place to another.

I manage a lot of bureaucracies. Over the years, I’ve tried to get Ian’s therapies covered by our insurance company, because it is SUPPOSED to pay for autism services, but really doesn’t. Every month, I fill out the paperwork, scan the form, and send it to the agency that gives him a few dollars for respite care.

Right now, I have no idea where Ian’s state standardized test scores from last spring went. He goes to an out-of-district school, so the scores seem to have gotten lost between our home district and his actual school. I’ve sent three emails to various administrators to help me find them.

He’s turning 18 this April, so we have to go through the gauntlet of state rules, lawyers, and justices to gain guardianship over his financial and medical matters. After that, if he qualifies (a major if), he’ll receive support for health, work, housing, but I’ll have to manage all the paperwork in completely different state bureaucracies.

Over the years, my mom has managed bureaucracies not only for our family, but for her parents and other assorted old, family-less people, who somehow became her responsibility. And that’s why, she’s against universal healthcare. She’s never met a bureaucracy that works well. She’s sure that a horrible system will only be made worse, once the government gets involved.

There’s a lot of people like my mom out there. They’re skeptical about Warren and Sander’s Healthcare for All. Sure, everybody should be able to go to the doctor for a flu shot, but if it means that they’ll have to fill out forms in triplicate and have month-long waits for routine procedures, they’re out. And costs will probably go up.

There is a lot of room for a moderate Democrat in this primary. Biden held that territory for a while, but he is performing so badly in the debates that others are stepping into that territory. We have to keep any eye on Klobuchar. I think she’s going to give Warren and the Twitter Democrats a run for their money.

Links: Today’s Hot Topics SL 764

This president has done a lot of crappy stuff over the past two years, but I think dooming the Kurds to Turkish genocide should top that list.

What do we think about the Matt Lauer story? Who do you believe? He said. He/she said.

Interesting article about Cory Booker. It’s more positive than the title implies. It’s hard to get attention, when the gatekeepers aren’t impressed. Right now, I think this fight is Warren’s to lose.

AOC’s haircut. Please. The amount that she spent on her haircut is totally average for color treatments. As we talked about last week, these expectations of self-maintenance is commonplace.

One of my favorite articles that I wrote for The Atlantic was about the demise of Sweet Briar college, which ended up rebooting itself with massive donations from its Southern belle alumni. Since writing that article, dozens of colleges have closed. Tiny SLACs are looking for ways to keep their doors open.

The Apple Pilgrimage

On Sunday, we tromped up to Dr. Davies farm for apple picking. We’ve gone up there every year since Jonah was in pre-school about 16 years ago. We munch on Macintosh, Red Delicious, and Romes right from the tree, and then pack up a huge sack with more. Then we live on apple sauce for months. It’s tradition. And even though our kids are big, we still like to go every year to tip our hat to fall and to remember past trips when the kids were little.