Sunday, November 2, 2014

Four local lives lost - please help!

I'm afraid to say that today isn't a good news Cindy's being funny again kind of day. I do have many serious subjects to talk about for a while, and this one is worthy of blog space and sharing, for sure.

Thursday night, my daughter was in the local Halloween parade. She was already in town with the other cheerleaders and my oldest daughter went in to watch. I stayed home from the parade for the first time. It's always so cold and the parade is so long! I was happy to not be begged to go this year.

From my warm and comfy couch, I read with horror on Facebook that there had been a train/vehicle accident right by the parade route and there were fatalities. I must admit, I thought, "Oh no, I bet it's my daughter." She just got her license recently and I honestly did think, like many others that night about their own loved ones, "Was it her?"

I took a deep breath and sent texts to both of my children, in true optimistic humorous fashion:

"I heard there was a train accident. Please confirm your continued existence."

Within the hour, I knew that my babies were alive and well. But one family in our community wasn't so lucky to receive that text or a reassuring call.

A mother from a nearby town on her way to the parade became trapped on the tracks with a freight train bearing down on her and the gates closed around her. She tried to get out, but was unable. It was dark, rainy, and a confusing crossing site.

She has five children. Four were in the vehicle with her. Three children were killed on impact; 18 year old Alyssa, 13 year old Drake, and 10 year old Abbie. Another son, 9 years old, was in the vehicle, but is expected to survive. The mother, Crystal, died the following day. The fifth child and the husband/father were not in the vehicle.

Four lives taken, just like that. I can't imagine the heartbreak the surviving members of this family are experiencing. The challenges they face are insurmountable. A funeral bill should be the last thing on their list of things to figure out how to take care of. It has been rough on the whole community... heartbreaking, even if you had no idea who they were. My oldest daughter knew the oldest girl and several of my daughter's friends were close friends with the girl.

Please give a donation to their GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the massive funeral costs here. Hug your loved ones. Pray for the survivors. And please share the fundraising campaign on your social media sites. I can't stop thinking, that could have been me and my kids. And it could have. I count each day more precious than before.

Sometimes, our fate is beyond our control, but what the community at large does to rally around in a time of need is something that truly renews my faith in mankind. We are a good people and we want to help. For this reason, I remain glad for my continued existence as a human being. Forgo your latte this week and help this family, I beg of you. They are half way to the goal of $30,000 in just two days. EVERY donation counts. Thank you!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Wrong Direction - Guest Post by Cara Lopez Lee

Hello, readers! Cindy Brown here. After repeated inquiries from Everyday Underwear followers (and even strangers), I'm very excited to announce that I will begin taking submissions for guest posts and will begin peppering them into the mix here on Everyday Underwear.

I am putting this regular feature into motion with someone I met when I first started my blog, Cara Lopez Lee. It didn't take long for me to see that if Cara and I lived closer, we would be fast friends. She is a great writer and a wonderful and funny lady and I'm pleased to promote the 2014 release of her book today. I love reading about her travels. Please send her some comment love and follow her links.

This month Conundrum Press has released the new 2014 edition of They Only Eat Their Husbands: Love, Travel, and the Power of Running Away, a memoir by fellow blogger Cara Lopez Lee. When Cara was twenty-six, an alcoholic boyfriend threatened to shoot her if she didn't stop talking. Cara admits she’s a chatterbox, but says she felt pretty sure he was overreacting. So she ran away…to Alaska. Cara further admits that if her goal was to avoid drinkers, or guns, she might have run in the wrong direction. In Alaska, she landed in a love triangle with two alcoholics: Sean the martial artist, and Chance the paramedic. Nine years later, sick of love, she ran again, to backpack around the world alone. They Only Eat Their Husbands is an honest, insightful, funny account of her journey to self-discovery—against the backdrop of Alaska, California, China, Thailand, Nepal, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. The following is an excerpt from her memoir, which is now available:

The Wrong Direction

Excerpt from
They Only Eat Their Husbands
By Cara Lopez Lee

The most active volcano in Europe, Stromboli raises hell in the vacation paradise of Sicily’s Aeoli Islands. The mountain rises from the sea to vent its fury in constant explosions of viscous lava, volcanic bombs, steam clouds, and ash. It erupts several times an hour, creating flashes in the sky like a beacon in the night, earning Stromboli the nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.”

The volcano has been erupting like that for at least 2000 years. In 1919, during one of its more violent tantrums, the giant threw multi-ton blocks at the villages of Stromboli and Ginostra, killing four people and destroying a dozen homes.

A small pleasure boat took us to Stromboli Island. The little island is only the 900-meter-high tip of the volcano, which rises more than 2000 meters from the floor of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Our tour group was three Italian couples of various ages, and me. I sat alone and silent in the bow, sprayed mercilessly with water and the colorful confetti of Italian conversation. I assumed none of them spoke English, until a blond woman who looked as if she’d stepped out of a sailing brochure turned amused blue eyes my way and said, “You are really wet!” The boat had churned up enough spray to turn me into a sparkling pillar of saltwater. I laughed politely, an awkward seal-like cough. I could think of nothing to say. I felt so conspicuously single.

As we approached the island, we were escorted by a cheerful contingent of leaping dolphins, but my attention was on the swirling white clouds circling the bald upper reaches of the green-flanked volcano. There was something odd about those clouds; the rest of the illimitable sky was a spotless azure. It took me a moment to realize the clouds were not the aftermath of yesterday’s storm, but the result of heat rising from the craters hidden in their midst.

I blurted, “Che bella vulcano! Il . . . il . . . nubes suben la caldera!” in a muddy blend of Italian and Spanish that probably meant nothing, but got everyone’s attention.

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Blond Sailing Brochure. She tapped her blond brochure husband on the arm, pointed, and said, “I think she’s saying those are clouds from the volcano!”

The captain nodded and said something in Italian that prompted everyone to point at the mountain and chatter. Unable to understand them, I smiled blankly. A young black-haired goddess with skin tanned the deep bronze of endless summer put a sympathetic hand on my arm and explained, “The captain said the same thing you said, more or less.”

At the island, the captain turned us over to a hiking guide: a short, barefooted man covered in wild curls from the top of his head to his muscular calves. He spoke no English, so I’d be learning little about the volcano. Before we started up Stromboli, we walked to the guide’s house in the village, where he put on hiking boots and kissed his wife and children goodbye.

I was surprised there was a village on the narrow grass skirt of the volcano. Hadn’t these people learned anything from Pompeii, where the villas and bathhouses and temples of a once-thriving civilization still wait for masters who will never return, where hundreds of suffocated victims left their imprints in pumice, where plaster casts of the dead still huddle in agony around the bones within?

So, if I was so smart, what was I doing here?

We started the hike just before sunset so we’d arrive at the top after dark, when it’s easier to see the fireworks. For the first hour, we walked single-file through the grasses of the lower slope. The sun began to bleed, then drowned in an indigo sea. During the second hour, the group fell quiet as the terrain changed to a steep rise strewn with sharp rocks. Soon, deep volcanic ash sucked at our shoes. During the third hour, the sky turned black and the group pulled out flashlights. I donned my headlamp.

We were resting among a clump of rocks when I saw it: a shower of flaming red pyrotechnics sprayed from one of the mountain’s three craters and flew high into the dark sky. The volcano’s thunder was distant and faint. I had no clue how to say “look!” in Italian, but grunted loudly, “Ag-g-g-b-b-b . . . !” and flapped my hand in the direction of the explosion. The exclamations and sighs of the group were equally inarticulate, as they turned just in time to see the glowing rocks fall earthward and float ever so slowly down a collapsed segment of the cone, called the Sciara del Fuoco, the “Stream of Fire.” I wished Sean were here to see it.

“Okay, I’m satisfied. I have seen it and I can turn back now,” the Bronze Goddess of Endless Summer muttered. She leaned against a rock and rubbed her calves. “Not that I’m afraid. Just exhausted. Walking through this ash is like walking across the sands of the Sahara!”

When we continued upward, I chuckled. Mr. Blond Brochure turned and asked, “What’s up?” This American euphemism sounded new and charming in his Italian accent. I answered, “I was just thinking, we’re going the wrong direction. I’m sure if you told most people, ‘You see that mountain there? It’s ex-plo-ding,’ they’d run the other way.” The Blond Brochures and the Bronze Goddess laughed and passed a translation down the line to the non-bilingual Italians. Delayed laughter floated back to me in a slow wave.

When we reached the ridge, the guide took us up into the sulfur-stinking cloud of steam that rose from the craters. Then we came down out of the cloud to sit in the ash and eat. As I ate my panini, I stared unblinking at the craters below, waiting for the next thunderous expletive.

Twice more the volcano bellowed and sent up salacious spouts of lava, fragmented into fiery red blobs. We were closer this time and the loud booms gave several people a start, followed by nervous laughter. The third time, the fireworks disappeared momentarily into the cloud overhead before returning to sear the mountaintop. The radiant red cinders crept down the black void, and we could hear them crepitating like dozens of distant campfires as they flared and dimmed into a sizzling after-glow of gold embers. We stared in awe, pre-hominid children from the primordial sea witnessing the violent dawn of creation.

While our group waited for another blast, Mr. Blond Brochure told us he’d just had a discussion with the guide about how safe we were. The guide had told him only two hikers had ever been burned while standing in this spot. “He said they got hit with the sciora, the hot rocks, and one of them got hit in the head. But they didn't die,” Mr. Blond Brochure reported. “A man was killed once, but only because he walked too close to the crater.”

Mrs. Blond Brochure elbowed him. “You could not wait to tell us until later?”

The Bronze Goddess lifted an eyebrow at me and said, “So, we did come the wrong direction.”

Look at her! Isn't she the cutest?
About the Author:
Cara Lopez Lee’s stories have appeared in the The Los Angeles Times, Connotation Press, and Rivet Journal. She’s a book editor, and a faculty member at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was a TV journalist and a writer for HGTV and Food Network. She has traveled throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the U.S. Cara married her husband at an active volcano in Costa Rica. She did not eat him. They live in Denver. You can buy her memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands, at Conundrum Press, IndieBound, or Amazon. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Meaning Behind My Tattoo

Hello. My name is Cindy Brown and I have a tattoo. You can judge me if you want to, but I'm the President of something, so there's that.

It's true. I'm the President of the local Toastmasters club and I love it and I love my members. It's a public speaking and leadership club, in case you weren't aware. I will talk about my Toastmasters experiences another day, but today I want to talk about the Toastmasters' reaction to the concept of a woman with a tattoo.

I don't even remember how it was brought up. The topic of discussion isn't important here. All I remember is approaching the podium at the tail-end of a very short discussion based on a member's mention of a woman with a tattoo. The Toastmasters reacted to this idea with disgust.

"A woman with a tattoo? Never!"
"No, no, no. That's just not right."

Several disparaging comments followed. There was laughing from the members and a general feel of that's just gross and wrong filled the air.

I suddenly felt as though I had been hit with a baseball bat right in the heart as the words whispered out of my mouth so quietly that I'm not even sure if they heard me, "Heeey, I have a tattoo..."

I decided to save my opinion for a future speech topic, but it really gave me pause. Would they have made the comments and laughed disgustedly had they known I had a tattoo? Would they have said those things and reacted the way they did? My guess is that they would not have, but alas, they were either unaware of my tattoo or had forgotten and I found myself suddenly... hurt.

They obviously didn't understand tattooed people at all. I have as much value as you do, I thought. Then, how dare you?

Anyone who knows me is privy to the knowledge that I used to "hang with the rough crowd," as someone once put it. A tattoo was never something I judged a person by, however. It was always their character that caught my attention, not the tattoos they did or did not display. I've had artsy friends with artsy tattoos, Christian friends with Christian tattoos, a principal with a war tattoo, friends with funny, scary, and memorial tattoos, and on and on and on... and I couldn't care less. It is not a disgraceful thing to me by any measure.

I felt my peers' judgement was harsh and unwarranted. I also knew they would love me no less if they knew and would feel terrible for having offended me. Insert foot in mouth? Perhaps they would. Perhaps not. Perhaps it would spark a friendly debate, which would also make me happy.

I appreciate the artistic value of any tattoo. A tattoo is not something to decide on lightly. I wasn't young and impulsive when I got this tattoo. I've had it for a long time, but I was in my early thirties before I got my first tattoo. I only have the one, but I say 'first' because I do plan to get others in the future.

The face you see above isn't a random kitty. It is a representation of a cat I once had. Laugh if you want to, but this cat was like a child to me. It was before I had children and she was my everything. She was my baby. I loved her like no other pet. When she died, I cried for 3 solid days. I was heartbroken.

When I decided to get a tattoo, it was an easy decision for it to be dedicated to her. Although you cannot read it now, it says, "Mazie 5/01," which was when she died. I designed the paw print myself on the computer and did not even realize I had done it wrong until somebody pointed it out to me post-tatting. However, I found a way to justify the missing digit because I did have two other cats, one black named Lucy and a white cat named Jane. Due to an accident, Jane was left with half a tail and only three legs. Jane was awesome, too. I once saw her climb the tallest tree in the back yard and then cartwheel down like a rappelling mountain climber just as a horrible storm approached. I swear, I have witnesses. She rocked.

They were great cats, too, but they were no Mazie. Mazie would lay in my arms on her back like a baby. I would stay in an uncomfortable position for hours just so I wouldn't disturb her. She would sleep with me nightly and sometimes softly touch her paw to my cheek as if to say, "Oh, mama, how I love you." I adored her.

I had her cremated through a local service provider when she died. They put her ashes in a small wooden box in a cute little pink bag with a pretty silver ribbon and some colorful dried flowers for decoration inside. I kept her ashes until just a few weeks ago when I finally felt it was time to let her go. As I walked the beautiful path down to the creek, I tore a hole in the pink plastic bag and let her remains fall onto the earth and into the creek as I went. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Goodbye, sweet Mazie.

Back to the tattoo. I forget I even have it. It's on my lower back and I'm only reminded when someone references it if it pokes out above my jeans as I bend over to do something. Do I regret it? No. It was very meaningful at the time. But especially in light of the fact that the colors have faded and the lines are blurred and the pretty script text is undecipherable, I wouldn't mind if weren't there anymore either.

I actually had a tick attach to the tattoo's eye once and the resulting itchiness caused me to scratch it to the point where my poor bedraggled Mazie tat now has what I call the "stink eye." She isn't very pretty anymore.

I will not get a pet tattoo again (no memorial Great Pyrenees on my booty after Buddy dies, sorry), but would love to get a Christian based tattoo and some artistic ones as well. Whether I decide to keep them where I can conceal them or not has not been decided. Will my Toastmasters recoil in horror at my blatant display of body art? I don't really care. Not to sound like a song from 1963, but hey... it's my body and I'll do what I want to, do what I want to, do what I want to... you'd tattoo too if it happened to you... bomp bomp ba da bomp.

Do you have tattoos? Tell me the story behind yours. I find each one fascinating.

Friday, August 29, 2014

15 Reasons Home Schooling is Awesome (and Why I'll Never Home School My Kid Again)

I entered a contest once called 2KoP (Two Kinds of People) in which you highlight two opposing viewpoints a person might possess. I wrote about those who would and those who would never pee in the shower. It was a smashing success and the two types of people came out of the woodwork to either high five me or voice their disgust.

There are also two kinds of people when it comes to home schooling. There are those who love it and those who think it's weird as hell and only religious freaks do it.

I wasn't in either camp, particularly, but there came a time, two years ago, when I had to make a choice as to which of these two types of people Cindy Brown would set up camp with.

My oldest daughter had entered high school, made friends easily, became a cheerleader, and was one of the popular kids. I was a bit shocked when she came home and asked me to home school her. She had missed some school due to illness and she was feeling some pressure from teachers to make up her work quickly. This wasn't the first time. I have sickly kids. It's been a battle.

I was a stay at home mom and a smart lady. I thought about it and did some initial research and decided we could do this. Besides, her logic was sound. How could I argue?

I feel like I could get as good of an education as public school or even a better education at home.

I wouldn't have to sit around and wait while teachers help other students.

I could finish high school in half the time and start college early.

Sick days wouldn't matter anymore and I could still do the work if I'm sick at home.

I could help you clean the house if I were home to do it.

I'd be able to concentrate better at home.

I won't miss my friends. I'll still do things with them.

I did my research and found that the possibilities were endless and agreed with her logic. I drafted a letter of withdrawal from public school and expected to have to explain myself. What happened next both shocked and disappointed me.

Not one school administrator, staff member, or teacher asked me why I was withdrawing my child.

Not one.

In light of the fact that it seemed they didn't give a hoot about my child, I was pleased with my decision... initially.

I had done my research and found that she could still easily enter into college as a home schooled student, even Ivy League and even without accredited home schooling. She wanted to go to Yale.

I found an online program where she (or any other household member, for that matter) could do as many years of schooling as desired for $400 a year.

My younger daughter stayed in public school. She loved it and there was no reason to remove her, so we didn't.

The first year of home school with my oldest daughter went quite well. Without further ado, the top 15 reasons we loved home schooling:
  1. No pressure. Go at your own pace.
  2. Sleep in if you want. Get your work done in three hours? Nap time!
  3. Save on gas.
  4. Field trips seem like cheating.
  5. Want to finish high school, start college, and get your license, all when you turn 16? Okay!
  6. Multitude of programs available; easy, difficult, cheap, expensive? You decide.
  7. Your education is in your own hands. Dumb? Smart? It's up to you.
  8. Want a better grade? Study up! Do-overs are allowed.
  9. Scheduling things is a breeze.
  10. Save on lunch money. Feed your child nutritious meals at home.
  11. Spend time with your precious cherubs.
  12. Hard to cheat when mom is watching over you.
  13. No dealing with teachers, lunch ladies, or coaches. Jumping on the trampoline is PE.
  14. Sick on Tuesday? Make it up on the weekend.
  15. Housework, cooking, bills, etc. are Home Economics (now FCS - Family/Consumer Science). My house was so clean and I was teaching her life skills.
Now, the truth is that although all of that was awesome, it turned out that she did miss her friends and wanted to return to public high school for her sophomore year.

Fine. I understood. I tried to put the wheels in motion for her, talking to every school representative I could get my hands on and... failed.

Guess what? I found that it would have been easier to get her into college as a home schooled student than to get her back into public high school in the state of Illinois.

Even though she had worked hard and gotten straight A's her freshman year at home and I had kept full transcripts and charted each and every assignment with an Excel file and detailed grading procedures, our school district turned into Dr. Seuss on me.

We could not, would not, take her back.
We do not care if she's on track.
Not by herself, not in a crowd.
No home school credits are allowed!
We cannot, will not, test her in.
She can come back, as a freshman.
She'd have to repeat all she's done.
To be with her peers for public school fun.

As you can imagine, this went over like a lead balloon. She didn't want to repeat the year she'd done at home and we didn't want to feel like we wasted a year of her life, my time and effort, and four hundred bucks, which is twice what it cost for public school education when I enrolled her in her freshman year there.

In all the talks with superintendents, however, a comment was made to me that "it might be different if it were an accredited school we're familiar with."

Being ever so observant of this comment, I embarked on a new goal for her sophomore year of home schooling: get an accredited program to avoid future problems.

I soon discovered that this was neither easy, nor cheap, and that some of the top programs that met what we were looking for were religious, not secular. We are Christians, but we wanted a secular program. This post would go into book form if I took the time to explain why.

We discussed everything and began researching home school programs again. My daughter thought her freshman year was too easy and requested a harder program.We found a fully accredited program she could do online with full teacher support, online class requirements, etc. and put her on a fast track college prep course of action. It was a religious program, but only required her to take one religion course. We could handle that. All work was done online, taught and graded by very competent teachers, with report cards, transcripts, even virtual Biology labs were done online.

My daughter was motivated and ready to take on the world and we were ready to see her succeed. The public school allowed her to come in for driver's education, but that was it. No sports, nothing else. This home school program was much different than the last. We braced ourselves for tuition at Yale and dropped the nearly $3,000 for her sophomore year of accredited high school online private schooling at Alpha Omega Academy without trepidation. We wanted nothing more than to see our child excel.

Okay, roll the Jaws theme music. This is where home schooling devours the whole family.

I now give you the top 15 reasons we hate home schooling:
  1. Pressure. She only had 8 months to complete her work on the fast track plan. We were allowed a free extension of two months, but any additional months would cost $200/month. She took the entire 10 months and even needed a couple of extra days, which they didn't charge us for since a teacher was out when she needed to do an over-the-phone French assignment.
  2. Get up at a decent hour because it takes six hours minimum a day to complete your work. No time for naps, breaks, etc! You want to go to Yale? This will sure prepare you.
  3. Save on gas, but pay nearly $3,000 for one year of school, so who cares?
  4. No time for field trips. Each day was scheduled out with an online planner and you had to keep a schedule.
  5. Do two years in one year? Not with this program! It was extremely hard and she became quickly overwhelmed.
  6. The program was not only difficult and expensive (although there are programs out there that cost five times as much), but once 30 days is up, you're stuck with the program. No refunds, no changing the type of schooling (online vs. books), no get out of jail free card. You pay, you play. Also, she did not agree with the religious content and had trouble reconciling her own religious views with what was expected in the courses.
  7. Her education was in her own hands. She wanted to be smart and excel, but the stress and overwhelming nature of the entire experience left her exhausted an exasperated. She lost her drive to succeed.
  8. Do-overs were not only allowed, but required for low grades in many cases. This is a benefit for those who are on track and love the program, but a time drain and stress inducing factor in trying to keep on pace when you just want it to be over and accept the grade, no matter what it may be. My straight A student struggled to maintain B's and C's.
  9. Scheduling things was not easy since we were constantly stressing about keeping her on track.
  10. Cook something nutritious for her? Sure, but she would refuse it and you can't force food down a fifteen year old. She was never hungry and/or wanted only to snack through the day; not healthy habits!
  11. Due to the fact that I was always harassing her about keeping on track, our relationship suffered. I became a prison warden to her, banging my night stick on her cell bars, instead of enjoying my time with her as her mother. We fought more and she and I were ready to do anything to be apart by the end of the year. She couldn't stand me by the time it was over and I dreaded even waking her up in the morning because I knew the stress would start right then. It wasn't fun.
  12. She finally went into complete block out mode and began fibbing her way out of work. I'm a smart woman, but it took me a couple of months to catch on. Did you know that if they have their headphones in, you can't tell if your child is watching a video for an assignment or watching a TV show online unless you catch her by glancing over her shoulder through the window while you're outside doing yard work? I then had to crack down even harder, which strained our relationship even more. "This is what you wanted!" was not what she wanted to hear. "I can't stand you!" was not what I wanted to hear. We resented each other.
  13. She became sluggish, quit working out, and seemed like a caged animal in a very small enclosure. She came up with any excuse to delay the start of her day... shower, pooping, tired, have to wait to get a hold of a teacher for an assignment... I could tell she was miserable, but she had to finish the year. It was torture for both of us. She couldn't concentrate and everything distracted her. I had to be on her every second and checking her every move. Her friends were busy with school activities and we live really far out of town, so rarely did friends come out to see her. She felt isolated, but refused to join any local home school groups.
  14. There was no time for a sick day if you wanted to keep on track. She was sick just as much, still couldn't work when sick even though she was at home, and the pressure from me was no less than it was with her teachers in public school. Getting behind caught up with her to the point that it almost seemed impossible to finish the program, but she made it. We did have to drop one semester of one class, but it was a relief. She just could not grasp the French language at all, even with my help. 
  15. There was no time to help out with housework or cooking. There was no time for teaching life skills. We both hated home schooling by the end and our last nerves were tattered and frayed from the experience. With every fiber of our being, we were done with home schooling, no matter what.
Yes, in one fell swoop of a year's time, we went from 'Go, home schooling! Hip hip hooray!' to 'Please kill me now, in the event that I should ever consider home schooling again! I would choose death over this!'

Of course, the story doesn't end there. I had to go back through all of the school administrators again to try and register her, thinking that due to the comment made to me about school accreditation last year, we might at least have a chance this year that they would accept her and just give her credit for the one accredited home schooling year, especially since it was through the same regional accrediting body. Not so. They still wouldn't budge. I had to improvise.

I pulled out every gun I had (transcripts, mid-year testing scores, accredited home school information, highlighted pages from the district's own policy manual, made phone calls to the Illinois State Board of Education, the regional accrediting agency, etc.) and loaded up a manila file folder for a meeting with the superintendent, who then had to pass it through the lawyer and the school board for approval.

Whew. I get exhausted just talking about it.

Good news, though. We have her back in public school, but the circumstances are not exactly as we had hoped.

Mr. Scary Superintendent (the guy looks like a marine) was actually very gracious in giving me his time and upon his recommendation, the lawyer and the board agreed that she be allowed to proficiency test into her grade, which she did. I think she is the first student they've done this for. Hooray! All was right with the world and she could return to public school as a junior. I won the battle. She won the battle. We were elated!

Just one tiny hitch. They still are not accepting any of her home school credits, which means that she would either have to make up two years of credits or she cannot graduate with her class. Yes, they have every right to do this. I've checked. It's our district's policy to not accept any credits and the upper-level superintendent who made the suggestive comment to me about using an accredited school they've heard of didn't even remember talking to me the year before. Even though I reminded her, she restated the district policy and Mr. Scary's hands were tied.

In order to make credit accepting exceptions for our daughter, there would have to be a district wide policy change and quite frankly, most people they have home school experience with just don't do like we do and seriously home school. The dean of students told me that five people withdrew to home school last year and they were all due to truancy issues. We and our serious home school efforts are apparently not the norm in our district and we have to suffer the consequences the bad apples have put in place for us.

We cut our losses and decided that the most important things were getting her back into public school and saving our sanity, credits applied or not.

I am tired of fighting. I am tired of worrying. I am tired of stressing. She will live a good life and the world will continue to turn, turn, turn. It's going to be fine. I promise.

For crying out loud, my daughter's latest stated goal had morphed into becoming a Disney princess and I took the question, "How old do you have to be to drop out of high school?" as a hint that we'd better do something fast. I'm not knocking Disney princesses, but going from a goal of Yale to that was just bizarre. We knew we had to meet the school district in the middle.

She was able to start school the day after it officially started and she is thrilled to be back in, at the same level as her peers (with the exception of foreign language classes). I can see her slowly coming back to life and I think her passion to excel in life will return, at least somewhat. She's been nominated for the homecoming court, aspires to be valedictorian, and has joined Code Red, where she and many classmates will root for their sports teams throughout the year. Her first football game is tonight and she just got her driver's license a week ago today. She is ready to fly like an eagle and just... be... a normal teenager in high school.

Don't worry, she can still go to college if she wants to. It isn't a death sentence. Trust me. I've checked. She has a high school education. It just hasn't been a traditional one.

Even with all of the stresses of public school, we now realize that home schooling is not the answer for us. Sure, we could have forced her to keep home schooling. We could have gone all Goldilocks and the Three Bears and kept looking for yet another program to suit her, saying, "This one was too soft, this one was too hard, but this one is just right!" To be truthful, however, the lack of porridge zapped our energy and we just wanted our daughter to be happy and motivated again. We knew home schooling wasn't going to accomplish that, not for her.

Let me be very clear that I am not bashing home schooling in any way or Alpha Omega Academy (it's an excellent program). It can be an awesome opportunity for a child and I know many people who love home school and do it successfully in their households and are happy as clams. Their children go on to excel and enter college at a younger age. They are smart and motivated and happy. Good for them. It just wasn't good for us.

If you'd like, share your home school stories with me. Do you know a person who home schooled or have you ever thought about it or tried it? I'd love to hear about someone else's struggles or success stories now. I have blown enough hot air into the blogosphere for one day.