Punky Mama


The Pope Is Making Me Bitter

The Pope is going to have a grand showing in Philadelphia, where I live.  The local news has been talking about the event and the World Meeting of Families for over a year.  It is supposed to be a grand honor to have this event in my town.

I don’t buy it. The FBI, the Secret Service, and the police have most of the center part of the city locked down and little by little the whole city center will be closed to nothing but foot traffic.  The trains, buses, and trolleys will not stop in Center City and you can only ride public transport if you have a “Pope Pass”.  Apparently there are Catholics from all over the world visiting. Most businesses are closed Friday, some even closed on Thursday, and the kids are out of school most of this week and part of next.  WHAT!!  For the damm Pope!!  I know you all may think he is a swell guy and he is the first Jesuit pope which puts him in the realm of weird rock star status.  I have been listening to the newscasters and the Mayor saying what a wonderful thing the Papal visit is to bring money into our city.  If so much money is coming into our city why have I made less last week and this than I have in YEARS?

You think to yourselves, dummy nice Catholics with families in tow are not coming to my smoking bar. Of course!  Summer in Philadelphia is slow.  Bars and restaurants have less business as people tend to vacation or weekend at the shore which is 80 miles away.  After Labor Day typically we can expect business to pick up as the students pour into town and the shore weekends and vacations end. Not this year.  August was slow, business picked up slightly in early September but with the Popes visit and the near hysteria from the media about the crowds and closures in central Philadelphia have had people staying home since last weekend. I am not the only one who is suffering.  I talked to a friend tonight who works in a high end restaurant.  She worked a 13 hour shift today and brought home less than $7 an hour for her trouble!!! She said that she served many from the World Meeting of Families and the clergy.  They tipped horribly.  I am not sure where in the bible it says, thou shall be exempt from tipping if you are part of the clergy and eat in a pricey restaurant, but I would like to see it. I am not looking for a huge tip for my friend but the standard 15% – 20% would be nice.  Heck, it would be nice if my customers could get to my bar without a huge hassle.

Tonight was not awful, people were still able to drive through most of the downtown and we had many young people who are off work tomorrow who are going out tonight but they are leaving town tomorrow to escape the city because of the dire predictions from the media and road closures. The city would have been better served if the people who lived here stayed for the event. They would have been stuck downtown and would have frequented their favorite bars and restaurants.  Let the pilgrims see the real Philly and it’s natives in our non Catholic, not scrubbed, may be gay or different glory.  Let the world see the melting pot I see in my bar every week.  The slice of Philadelphia I see may not be holy but they have learned a to accept those who are different and have accepted a live and let live attitude about the world without judgement.  Those here for the Papal Visit and who are visiting Philadelphia for the World Conference of Families can learn a lesson about the world in my bar and how to accept those who are different from themselves. I wish I could show every attendee the Philadelphia I love and not the whitewashed version that is going down.

If you are stuck in Center City this weekend, go out, tip generously.  Please.


Happy 12th Birthday Ryan

Ryan's first day of school

Ryan’s first day of school

Dear Ryan,

I feel like I have blinked my eyes and you are twelve. I started writing you these letters on your birthday when you were four, and it has become a tradition in our house to read the birthday letter. You have grown so much this year. You are looking me in the eye and your shoes and bigger than mine. You are turning into a manly looking boy. Your face still looks like a boy, but bigger changes are coming.

This was an incredible year. You are still swimming on the team and this summer in B champs you won four-first place ribbons and one-second place. Your behavioral consultant came to the meet because she first wanted to witness you in a competition. She was so nervous as she saw you so unfocused behind the block but I reassured her. As you stepped onto the block to race she saw how you became all business, and had a laser focus. It is always like that for you. You killed the competition and she and I stood together and wept because you fight so hard to even be on the swim team, yet you succeed and it is sweeter than sweet. As I walked the behavior consultant to her car a parent from another team stopped me to ask if I were the redhead’s Mom, because “he is one talented swimmer” and

You with all your ribbons

You with all your ribbons

wanted to congratulate me. The behavioral consultant had to hug me as I sobbed because for you, every win is sweeter than sweet.

You were diagnosed with Autism this year, finally. Your needs are complicated but you constantly rise above all of your diagnoses because you are a person not a label. I am glad that I get to watch you become the amazing kid you are. You are not a typical person. I don’t say that because I am your Mom but because it is exactly who you are. People have always reacted strongly to you, either negatively or positively. Keep the positive people and loose the negative, because you are amazing all the time.


You and Dallas in Los Angeles.

The school that has been such a safe haven for you is in jeopardy. It has been a tumultuous back to school season but you are weathering it because your school is trying to keep things as normal as possible. Your brother went back to public school and I can tell you like the alone time we have on the commute. I am learning that your brain is a super busy place and I enjoy our conversations except when you tell me I am wrong about almost everything. I am not perfect but I promise I know a few things, but we will get back to that when you are thirty.   Today you and Aaron were in the back seat of the car together as we drove to a party. You asked Aaron what it was like back in the public school and how he was making out. You have been waking up in the night with nightmares about public school. I will continue to promise you that your Dad and I will not let you go back to the school where they treated you so badly. We will do everything we can to assure that NEVER EVER happens. You are safe with us, but then again you already knew that.

This summer you got to see the entire United States. I can’t describe how happy I am that I got to show you what it is like to be

You and your Dad in North Dakota.

You and your Dad in North Dakota.

on tour with a punk band. You have at this point in your life have figured out that most other parents don’t play punk rock. You thrived on the road and I enjoyed you most of the time. For the first time in years you became very flexible. More than once you slept between your Dad and I for the first time in many years. I secretly enjoyed it. You supported your Dad and I and more nights than I was comfortable with you had to stay in the van during our set. You learned a ton about table manners and having a filter on your mouth from Dallas and Hoover. It warmed my heart as they stepped up to show you the world of men in a way I can’t ever show you. For about a week after we got home from tour you were often sad because real life couldn’t compare to the road. Sorry to tell you that for now you have to go to school, but there are a million and one careers on the road for you

The boys were very happy to be together at the end of tour

The boys were very happy to be together at the end of tour

Ryan, I am truly honored you are my son. You are a glorious person and contain greatness in you. I hope your twelfth year is as amazing as eleven was for you. I love you with every single of molecule of my being.

May your Birthday be amazing!

Love your Mom.

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Work Needed

I need to find more work. Of course I have the bar but I need more than that.  Over this last year my freelance work has decreased by leaps and bounds and I am left with one lone client. I adore this client and I have worked for her for almost three years now, but she is the only one and does not have many hours.

I know you are all thinking just get a job.  For me job hunting is the hardest thing in the world. Although I am a college graduate who can express herself well, I am terrified at the prospect of looking for work. When I was at the tail end of my college years I dropped out over the terror of having to write a resume!  I get all wrapped up in that I am not good enough to hire for a job although my mind knows that is not true my fear over takes me and paralyzes me.

I spent a few years in the business world and after about fifteen interviews I had that process down.  I had interview swagger, getting offered more jobs than not.  The process of starting to look for work is terrifying all over again, I hear all the nagging doubt voices growing louder and louder till they drown out any chance of getting anything done. I start thinking that everyone has more knowledge, savy, and smarts than I could ever hope to have. I assume they are really adults and I start feeling like a child with no power. I think it is why I have spent  most of my adult years under employed.  Sure, I have to remain flexible, Ryan would not survive an after school program, I am still cooking constantly for Aaron, and I have to be around to advocate for the kids but I could work more and I want to work more. Most of the work I have found over the last number of years just fell in my lap.  It seems that the well of jobs falling in my lap has run dry.  Time to get my bad self esteem in check and go looking!

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Adjusting But Not Happy

We made it through week one of school after, what my friend has started calling, Schoolpocalypse15‬. In where panic ensued after the PA Department of Education decided the unique model my kids school provided was not acceptable.

First the good.  I get a little alone time with each kid every day.  It’s nice.

Aaron started back at public school.  It’s ok, he says.  He likes his teacher but he is struggling a little with friends. At lunch he is made to sit alone because of his food allergies which is adding to his isolation. This next week it will be time to lean on the school to do the right thing and not force him to sit alone. Today we ran around to do errands and we cried in the car together about missing the Abington learning center where he attended.  Aaron went on, Mom I just miss it so much.  I agreed with him and he asked if we could visit the building this week to say goodbye.  Since he is off Monday and Tuesday I thought I could take both boys over after Ryan gets out of school Monday because Ryan said the same thing a couple of times last week. I am guessing they physically need to touch the school to let it go.

Ryan is grateful to have Ed Plus at all, although the model is very different, he is in a new learning center, with many new kids. He is completely freaked out thinking if the PA Department of Education closes Ed Plus suddenly he would have to go back  to the public school where he was treated as if his issues were a moral failing and his IEP optional. Even though I have been assuring him that under no circumstances I would send him back to the public school he is having nightmares and not sleeping. I spoke to a counselor at the public school about educational options for Ryan and we were SUPPOSED to have a meeting with the principal, the special ed liaison, and the counselor LAST week.  Of course, no one called or emailed me back.  I have to go tromping into the public school next Wednesday, since they are off Monday and Tuesday and start making waves.  This has me a mess.  Again, no one wants to help Ryan. He has old teachers who are on his side but beyond that the administrators look away when they see me coming. I dare go against the flow and ask for what my kid needs.  That bothers them.  If I could send my kid to a public school and he could thrive I would, but he cannot and they need to educate him how he learns.  Period. I am prepared to fight till I have no fight left in me.

Mostly I am angry.  After so much failure for Ryan and isolation for Aaron I found a school where they were educated, respected, cared for with love, and thrived.  Aaron never sat alone at lunch or was excluded because of food.  Once on pizza day and they head of the school went out and bought him french fries from Burger King so he had something special too. The same place that came and rescued my kids and took them to school when my car broke down a mile from school.  The same school who praised Ryan often for his honesty.  A place that helped him to heal from abuse suffered at the hands of a teacher who was supposed to be educating him. Last year Ryan had issues of being rough on the school yard because he was the biggest kid at lunch.  When it got bad he had lunch with the head of the school so they could discuss strategies for him to be physical without hurting the little kids, to him this was never punishment but a nice time out and some help.  It worked, educationally, emotionally, practically, and all the way around. This is driving my anger and fear.  Fear the little that remains can be taken away at any moment. Anger for my kids and all the kids this effects. In these dark times I hear from the Ed Plus families. We all came from a place where school did not work for our kids.  I am grateful to have them as we all struggle to find a way to educate our square pegs in a round hole world. It wasn’t perfect but it worked for so many and next moves are all scary.


My Head Is Swirling

This afternoon Aaron and I were out running errands getting some quality time with each other. The focus this week has been on finding a school for Ryan and he was feeling neglected. As we drove from the produce store to the supermarket to pick up the already ordered groceries we came across a drum corp and drill team full on marching down a side street.  I remember from living in West Philly that occasionally a drum corps would march past my house as would African American cowboys on horses.  The drum corp was amazingly good and I moved to another lane so that Aaron could watch. We talked about drum corps and drill team then we followed them watching till they turned off on to another side street and we moved on.  What a cool thing to bump into while doing errands but it made me happy and sad all at the same time. The best part of the ride is Aaron trying to sing.  He was also trying harmony and my cold black punk rock heart melted in a pool of sticky black goo.

Again my husband and I have been discussing moving out of the city. Every time I think I can actually move, something reminds me how much I don’t want to be in the suburbs but I want their services badly all at the same time.  I spent Friday trying to get Ryan registered for school because the state gutted the utopia we had created for those who learned differently.  Of course I worked Thursday night.  I went to the next closest public school and told the secretary our story of Ryan being abused in school.  The secretary was sorry to hear about the issues but could not help.  I then went down to the main district building and a neighbor who works there helped me march around to get some answers.  I talked to the special ed people, I talked to school placement, and I talked to the charter school people. The upshot of a long day was nothing. I have to register Ryan at the school in his neighborhood, period.  Then I could request a transfer.  That is not going to work.  This is a kid who BEGS me not to pass the school.  Who asks me if he could give the finger to the school as he passes by.  The same kid who had a panic attack when he saw the music teacher from the car.  The same person who kicked him out of choir, and only him, four short days before the choir performance at Hershey Park as he sobbed and begged.

I sit on my deck to write this and the lead teacher of the Ed Plus school called me again to ask how it was going with finding a school for Ryan.  After a meeting with the PA Dept of Ed she believes they will have this year but the charter will not be renewed in two years.  The school is exploring other options. She cares for the Ryan’s of the world but can I risk him going to a school that he cannot go to after this year?  Do I get him back in the Philly “system” and beg a magnet school to take my special ed kid who is behind?  Do I freaking sell the house and move? Do I chase after everyone with a lawyer?

It’s alot to decide in one weekend.


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