Miss Brennenstuhl- 6th Grade – A Peek Into my Life.

Miss Brennenstuhl.  My forever favorite teacher.  How I even remember how to spell her name is a miracle in of itself.  Up until junior high, my teachers would be female.

Miss Brennenstuhl was my 6th grade teacher.  She had blonde hair and wore glasses.  She was quite angular and thin with long legs.  She wore shirt waist dresses with flowing skirts. Her full lips covered a slight overbite and she kept them painted with bright red lipstick and  I remember she smiled easily. Oh, and she smelled nice.  Was she pretty?  I don’t know, but to me she was old, but she had to have been at least 40 and I think I was more fixated on the noticeable amount of makeup and the stylish clothes she wore. To put it simply she was put together quite admirably. Why that impressed me, I have no clue. I was a tomboy.  When she wore her hair down, it was slightly longer and fuller on the bottom than Marilyn’s here but same style.  Her makeup almost exactly the same. When her hair was up, she was classy.

She was what one would have called, in those days, a spinster. An unmarried “older” woman over 30, yet looking not unlike the above pictures. She wore yellow often.

At times, she could be quite stern and because I was the child that was generally on any teachers bad side, I wasn’t on hers.  For some reason, she took to me.  Perhaps I was her challenge for the year.  The one she made it her goal to impact positively and she did.

School had not been easy for me.  In kindergarten, I remember having a teacher,  who did not accept that when I asked to go potty, I meant it.  I think she thought I was fooling around in the john.  Perhaps there were some kids who might have, but I really had to go. Often.

One day, just as we were getting ready to sit on the floor to have our lunch,  I asked to be excused,  she said, “No”.  A few minutes later, she was having to buy lunches for the kids who were unfortunate enough to be sitting near me.  From then on, she never said “No”.   But she also penalized me for it by holding me back and making me go to pre-first, because I guess lacked the maturity and discipline to move on with the rest of my class. That was such a disappointment to me, but after awhile I made new friends, but I never got over feeling as though I wasn’t good enough.

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First grade – I’m second from the right, my two best friends on either side. Josie and Evangeline.

Then in second grade.  I was always getting yelled at and I was always crying and  I remember how this teacher could barely look at me and I’d start crying and because she always made me cry, I then got tagged with the moniker “Howling Coyote”.  She must have been pretty intimidating and scary to me for whatever reason. But, I was always in trouble in that class and I can’t remember why.  On the playground, a young roundish Mexican boy name Bobby Gonzalez would be my worst tormentor and others would then follow suit.

Mrs. McConnell, third grade was of Japanese descent married to an American. I remember her name because it didn’t fit her looks.  Behind her back, I recall kids making racial slurs and comments. In retrospect, she was probably as American as I am as well. There was definitely no accent.  She was stern, but I remember learning, the alphabet and how to form my letters properly with her.  In her class is when I would learn to read  so she was okay.  I loved reading and penmanship and because of her and the teacher that followed, I had  beautifully formed letters.  Of course, I know I wasn’t the only one with good penmanship because it was stressed to us in those days. Sadly, this would not continue because as the years have past,  young people today can hardly write cursive at all. I noticed too that girls were generally better than boys at cursive and boys tended to print better.  I knew a few boys who could do both equally well, but that wasn’t the norm. 

I remember my 4th grade teachers vaguely. That year I started out the year in Alabama and finished it in California. My 4th grade teacher had also been my fathers. I think her name was Mrs. Foote. and then I had Mrs. Newman in California. Nothing terribly exciting there except again, Bobby Gonzalez.  He quit calling me “howling coyote” but would tease me about my newly acquired southern drawl, exaggerating it by just calling out “y’all”.  Why he hadn’t noticed my accent before I don’t know other than perhaps it got stronger that year I was away.

School districts were divided and Bobby would be no more until junior high.  These next years were when I remember learning about and growing fond of the library.

My 5th grade teacher was also strict but I’m not sure fair, perhaps she was but I couldn’t tell. I  know I wasn’t a favorite.  Sometimes I thought she liked me fine but at other times not so much.  However, she was the one who discovered I could draw when she asked all the kids to draw a picture for Veterans Day, in addition to writing an essay to go along with it.  She would then enter it in a competition.  I painted a field of poppies on a hill.  Myself and Alex Rapach, a new boy in school, won top honors for our art and essays.  He was a great artist and always knew he would grow up to be an architect. Knowing what I know now about architects, it was no wonder, he was a natural.  During recess, he would make me hanky mice, while I played jacks.  He then taught me how to make them myself, a skill I have long since forgotten, but he was my first crush and because of that I was always trying to keep up.  Until that year I never realized I could be good at drawing or painting. I enjoy them both, but the truth of it is, I’m just okay at it.  I accidentally finish something worthwhile, but it’s rare and those all belong to other people now. Mostly because they loved them, so they were gifted. Whaaat?  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

By 6th grade, our love had faded and then came Miss Brennenstuhl, who would further cultivate my artistic nature. I’m not sure I was liked that well at first because I am a talker, a fault that aggravated all my teachers actually, but we connected through my art, which she encouraged and through music and stories.  She loved reading to us and she did so so well, that I was able to see those stories play out in my mind like I was there with the characters.  Between those two teachers my love for books and reading grew exponentially.  If anything could shut me up, it would be a book. That year I would become lost and feral in Alaska with Buck and I would learn about the trials of Anne Frank for the first time.

What connected us and made Miss Brennenstuhl stand out was dance.  I think I may have really wanted to impress her because one day, I mentioned I had an Arthur Murray Way record on dancing. It came complete with diagrams for foot placement. She asked if I could bring it and I supposed I could and did. I think my mom bought it in hopes dad would learn to dance and maybe take her dancing,  but I believe I was the one who got the most use out of it.

With me as her guinea pig, I say that because the one thing I don’t have is rhythm,  but she was patient with me and she and I would demonstrate to the rest of the class,  the steps to the Samba, the Foxtrot, box step and the Tango.  I was a klutz, but I always got to be the first one to try a new routine with her.  Boy did she light up when she danced and it was thrilling to see.  I was quite tickled and pleased.

Another time, for art class, I drew a huge Bird of Paradise that turned out magnificently. It’s pose was similar to the second photo below but it’s tail spread like the first, it was beautiful if I may say so.  She loved it and hung it up in her classroom for the remainder of the year.  At the end of the school year, she asked if I would mind if she kept it.  I gladly gave it to her and when I went to visit her several years later, it was still up in her room. I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, but she built me up in so many ways.  Most importantly, she proved to me that she hadn’t lied when she said she liked it.  Do you know how that would make a kid who got beat up and knocked around at home feel?  She made me feel valued and that meant the world to me.

Later on, I would look back at the teachers I had and the ones I liked the most were not necessarily the easy going ones, but the ones that had structure.  I remember a teacher that goofed off all the time in class and I nearly failed her class. There were no guidelines, I never felt like I knew what was expected of me.  I remember my boyfriend getting straight A’s in her class, but not me.  He was one of those that never studied either and boy was I surprised when he graduated with honors.

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I’m in almost center just above the words “junior”, my best friends to my right. Bobby Gonzalez, thinned out by then and is third boy, upper right. He only rarely teased me by then.

Since then I have figured out, judging by my son that I may have had ADD. I wasn’t stupid, just needing that structure. I remember when we moved to a different area, the school he would have been assigned to would be open concept, a no walls classroom.  So we drove him elsewhere, we knew he would never be able to focus in that environment.  Even to this day, I’m a tell me what you want and don’t beat around the bush kind of girl, because if you don’t make it clear, you can bet, I won’t get it. I’m also the gaze out the window kinda girl, easily distracted. I’ve gotten better, but it wasn’t easy growing up.

If you were to watch me clean house, you’d see that in action. If you remember the diagram of Billy in Family Circus, taking the long way to get from point A to point B?  That’s me. I’m sure I’d make the average person dizzy watching me work.  But… I get the job done and I can be OCD … I like a place for everything and everything its place.

Have a good “Lockdown Day”!  Be kind to someone and give them a call or just say “Hi”

I caught my neighbor outside yesterday and we yakked for awhile.  He lives alone, so imagined he’d be lonely,  so from 40 feet, we talked, keeping our social distance. I think he appreciated it.

 

 

Crash, Bang, Boom

My kids live somewhere where it snows. A lot.  Salt Lake to be specific.

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With her son Kash

I realize, I don’t have bragging rights to how my grand kids turn out, at least not directly, but I can still brag.

Becca is one of those people that was in no big hurry to get a driver’s license. In fact the thought of getting behind the wheel terrified her.  But she now had a child, who had to get to school and a job she had to get to.  She was no longer near a bus line she could use to access places she needed to be.  It became a necessary evil.  But, she did it and did well.  I was a little worried, because they live where it snows and is icy at times. I am mortified to drive in those conditions though I did it for years. The first snow of the season was always the worst.  Then in spring when it begins to thaw in the day but it’s still cold at night, you wake up to ice.  She just turned 25 and has only been driving a couple of years.

A couple of weeks ago, she had a fender bender. If I remember correctly, it was her fault. Her accident came with the first snow. The accident wasn’t too bad, but her car still had to be taken in and repaired before she could drive it again.

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It just came home from the shop a few days ago.

Then, yesterday morning, WHAM!

Becca lives with her mom, my daughter, in an apartment downstairs. It is almost like a full house, two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and all that. Pretty neat.

Well, my daughter, who’s bedroom sits on the top floor facing out to the street, heard a CRASH and looks out their window to see Becca’s recently restored car on the sidewalk. BANG!

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A teen age girl, on her way to school, went somersaulting down this quiet residential street, throwing Becca’s car to the curb. BOOM!

My son in law went out to the street to check on the driver as Andrea went and woke Becca and told her what had happened.

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Well, Becca being the sweetheart that she is, responded with “Is anybody hurt?!” Concerned not for her car, but for the driver. When I heard that, I beamed. She didn’t curse and get upset that her car had been hit just two days after getting it back? No, her only concern was for the driver.

As for the girl?   She’s fine. She “says” she was looking at her GPS, which my daughter disbelieves because she’s pretty certain she knows her way to school. Plus, another clue was that her only panicked concern was for her phone, scrambling about, crying “Where’s my phone?!” The only thing important was her phone. Not worried about the now trashed, brand new Audi. Nope. Just the phone.

No apologies for anything, to anyone, nothing. Just “Where is my phone?

When her parent’s came out. They laughed. I wonder if her parent’s are lawyers?

I am grateful.

My Becca is beautiful, both inside and out. And I AM proud.

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You took off 12 inches?

Yes, she’s a phone a holic too! But never while driving. In fact, she’s the biggest back seat driver ever. <smile>

 

Friends and Lovers

Can a man and a woman be just friends, have sex with no love? I say yes to both with a caveat.

Some say it’s impossible, can’t happen…safely and maybe that’s true. My personal feeling is that yes, I can have a friendship with no sexual connection and I’ve known others who have had sexual connections with “just friends” and no emotional tie beyond that… or were they lying to me?

A loaded subject.

I have someone I consider a very dear friend whether he knows it or not. We were lovers once but are no more.   Outside of photographs, neither of us has seen one another in over 47 years and I don’t know that I’d recognize him on the street if I saw him but I really like hearing from him and reading about his exploits and I think he enjoys following mine and that’s perfectly fine.

I remember having male friendships when I was young that were strictly platonic and I had the finest time with them but most were gay.  No sex. No expectations of sex. I also had one relationship that ended in friendship after a rambunctious love affair that lasted a few weeks. It was hot. Probably one of the hottest affairs I ever had and I really liked the guy.  We parted mutually as friends. No hard feelings, no angst, no anything but a warm parting. We eventually lost track of one another.

Recently, I spoke with a young lady who had the great idea to give her spouse permission to have an affair. No, I take that back, she only gave him permission to have sex with someone else.  She set the ground rules with both parties, or so she thought, that there would be no emotional involvement between them, just sex. When more developed, she was angry that they hadn’t “followed the rules”. It wasn’t working and she just couldn’t understand why. They had fallen in love. She’s still in the equation but unhappily.  In her minds eye, it was supposed to work. (I guess if you play with a loaded gun, be sure you know how to use it or it could backfire.)

I explained to her not everyone is hard wired for sex without love. How awful is that? What makes sex grand is love.

It reminded  me of the story of a little girl I once knew who decided she would be a Jehovah’s Witness and her friends would be the people they call on when they knock on doors.  This little girl would stash each child in a closet with a scripted dialogue she gave them to repeat as she would proceed door to door “calling” on them. In the meantime they waited in this dark closet for her to get to them.

If they deviated from their given dialogue, she would tsk tsk, shove them back in the closet and have them do it over  again until they got it right.  Their dialogue would vary from slamming a door in her face, yelling at her, to being interested in “the message” she had to deliver. She was 5 years old and it was humorous then watching this child bully the neighbor kids, some of which were older than her, into doing what she wanted.

But this is not humorous and she is no longer five. The dialogue and wills of others cannot be dictated to.  I’m afraid this young lady, like the little girl will discover that love finds a way. I know she thought if he is given permission to stray then perhaps she could have a fling of her own without guilt or without giving up what she has or thinks she has. She wanted the proverbial cake and the right of eating it too.

It reminded me of when my marriage was going south how it was the guy at the desk next to me that was my sounding board for all the things that weren’t working in my marriage. My husband was paranoid, didn’t allow me to do things, he was afraid of everything and used God’s word as a weapon to neutralize everything I believed in or wanted.

It was this co-worker and friend, who I didn’t love initially who became my sanctuary and who I ran to in my sadness and took refuge in.  From that innocent beginning love grew and eventually became my partner, life mate and fortunately still friends as well. Oh yes, we don’t agree all the time, but that’s okay, we accept that and agree to disagree which means compromising sometimes. We don’t have to be right all the time and we have the freedom to relish in that at times.

As for the young lady, you might say, “what the hell was she thinking?” Sometimes, in my opinion, in an effort toward “free thinking”, we lose our souls, our sense of fair play, and most of all love. Is it okay to have multiple partners? I don’t think so. But I sampled a few to find the one that was the right fit for me and I’m done.  Maybe that’s what all this is about.

The young lady in question was 17 when she married an older man. She was suppressed and molded into developing a mindset that didn’t fit her, only she didn’t know it.  Unconsciously she’s been rebelling for some time and he has been trying to redirect her and get her back on the track he believes she needs to be on even though deep down he’s probably hoping she’ll totally derail.

The dilemma:  What now?

Her fear like mine was and is “What am I going to do? How do I support myself? What about the kids? Will his ship come in once I’m gone. Wouldn’t that be my luck! Then he’ll say, it was my fault that he never succeeded.”  All the same negative self talk I had as well. It’s a safe bet that he’ll do better if they are not together.  Why? Because perhaps his lack of success is that he’s as miserable as she has been.  Who can flourish in a negative environment?

To stay or not to stay?

She’s going to college right now and is a bit shy of her degree. Yes, it would be hard to support herself and continue with school. She may have to learn to budget and plan and…what about the kids?

Yes, there’s a lot to weigh in at, but …with a little bit of faith it’ll work out. I’m praying for her. In time, I hope she’ll figure it out.