Imagine if I Were Your Mom

Today I received the following email.

Dear Mr. & Ms. Morgan,

Jasper has brought it to my attention that he does not have a graphing calculator.  Our Algebra II class is going to begin using graphing calculators heavily this upcoming week.  It is important for Jasper’s success in Algebra II for him to have a graphing calculator.

I understand that graphing calculators are an expensive purchase, but consider this an investment.  Jasper will continue to use it as he continues on into higher level math classes.  Please let me know if you cannot afford a graphing calculator because SPCPA wants to support your student in his education.

Thank you for your support.


To which I was compelled to respond:


I think we may, indeed have a graphing calculator. If we don’t have one, we will purchase one, fear not. It will get lost within a few months, however, and we won’t buy another one, but probably find one in the lost and found. I know the drill.

I wish you hadn’t said that thing about it being an investment, because I have to say, I don’t actually think of this as an investment at all, but more a sort of unholy alliance the education system has forged with Texas Instruments. We have purchased (and lost) a multitude of such calculators over the years since our first son was in high school. Never have we or any of our children actually used such a device outside of high school classes. No one I know has. Ever.

My son isn’t college bound any time soon, so he won’t need it for his college classes, either. Personally I think the school should buy enough to mount on the math room tables or better yet, teach them how to find a good application on the internet, which is what they will be doing when they leave SPCPA, should they decide to engage in complicated math.

I don’t mean to take this out on you, I understand you need to run a uniform sort of ship or your job would be inordinately difficult. We will get a graphing calculator, forthwith and it will cost over $100.00 to get the model specified by the school. I get newly outraged every year when I have to do this. We are middle class folks. It isn’t a hardship for us, but for many of your students it really is. There’s something wrong with the system, here.

~lisa morgan

That Girl

I always wanted to be the kind of woman who accessorizes.  I like scarves, headbands, jewelry.  Problem is, I’m not that kind of woman. The scarf seems to end up wearing me at some point, and I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be in charge.  Hell, I can barely wear a belt without some sort of consternation. Boots or fancy shoes are sort of a stretch, but I’m working on that.

To me accessories imply a kind of grace, maturity, confidence, organization, put-togetherness….  I don’t know how to say it well. Someone who can wear a scarf on her head without having cancer implies a kind of attitude that says, “just for now, I’m able to live in the world and not in my own head.”An acceptance that you may or may  not be the main character, but you’re comfortable with your part on stage.  I find that in my life I’m frequently unable to get over even being on stage.

I went to my class on Thursday.  I ‘m the teacher.  When you teach adults, latino adults, especially, you have to think about your outfits in a way I’m not accustomed to.  Latinos have no problem telling you they like your skirt, or sweater or boots.  The men take it a step further, even.  And want to have a conversation about why American women dress the way they do.

There’s this back-handed insult/compliment thing they do. It goes something like this: “You looks rily pritty today.” I blush and say thanks, they continue, “How to say wear something nice?” I pause, “I think what you’re looking for is, “Dressed Up”. “mmm Dress-up? Why American women usually don’t wear emm, skirt and nice things? You like so much the jean and clothez not so nice like you have on now.”

They want to know why American women wear pants so often, why they wear clothes that are so loose, why they don’t wear heels.  They have no idea that complaining about the clothing of another person is inappropriate.  It’s unnerving. Or they tease each other, “You don’t paying attention, only focus on she skirt and boots.”

I try to dress up for my class.  I usually wear conservative or modest clothes.  More so when I taught Muslim students.  You don’t want to distract your students from the lesson plan by flashing your midriff  while you’re writing on the board.  I wore lots of jumpers when I taught the Somalis.

My current group is all Latinos.  Last week I wore knee-high boots and an asymmetrical skirt.  When my students showed up, the first woman to arrive told me I looked very nice, she liked my skirt and boots.  The first man to arrive complimented me as well.  Then the woman started making comments that she thought the  men weren’t paying attention to the lesson because they were too busy looking at me and my great outfit.

This week I had weird hair.  Hair so weird that I needed to wear a headband in order to disguise its weirdness.  The headband I picked out was very stretchy and tight.  It matched my outfit, which was a bonus.  I was a little nervous about it, because I’m not the kind of person who accessorizes without feeling self-conscious.  I had a nagging doubt about wearing it, but the problem is that I have a nagging doubt about almost everything I wear. If I wear most normal clothes, I feel confident, but constricted. The tags itch, the waistbands chafe or slide around. If I wear my comfies, which I do almost every day, I worry my husband will stop loving me. This is not as outrageous as it sounds, just ask him. If I wear dressy shoes, the noise they make makes me feel ostentatious.

Keep in mind, I haven’t even gotten to the place where I decide if I should accessorize. If I wear a scarf, it’s likely to migrate one way or the other. If I wear a hair ornament of some type, it might slide down the back of my pointy head, leaving me with very weird hair and a cloth band hanging from the back of my collar. Jewelry dangles into my food if I’m out, catches on things.

When I get those nervous feelings, I chide myself.  What am I so worried about? It’s a headband, not a scepter or crown.

I started teaching my class, which turned out to not be my classroom.  Someone had locked my actual classroom, so I moved into the next-door classroom.  I have started to wear dark colors when I teach, the better to not get white-board marker obviously all over myself.  The new classroom had no white board, but it did have a blackboard and chalk.  Not ideal, but it would work.

I began teaching.  As I did, I noticed my headband started to slowly, slowly creep backwards on my head.  This was concerning, but I yanked on it every two minutes or so and it went back into place.  It made it hard for me to think about what I was saying.  I was self conscious because I knew every time a teacher touches her hair or face, the students notice.  Every time she adjusts her clothes, they notice.

I was teaching about phrasal verbs, I think.  But I wasn’t focused on phrasal verbs.  I was focused on the headband slipping backwards on my head, getting smaller, smaller. .  I pulled it forwards a couple times, but that only seemed to speed up the process.

It’s hard to explain how disturbing a wardrobe malfunction is while one is in front of a group.  I talked verbs, answered questions.  I knew, though, and they knew that this headband was a mistake.  After about 30 minutes of clumsily surreptitious attempts to keep the damn thing in place, I finally pulled it off, tripled it up and used it as a pony-tail holder.  It was bad, but it stopped moving around and bothering us all.

This type of stupid event is what keeps me from wearing accessories

Sometimes when you wear a headband, it starts sliding around on your head. Sometimes it wants to return to it’s smaller, constricted state from the stretched out hair-holding state. A headband can ruin your night. I k now it seems like an overreaction. I know. But trust me when  tell you, the headband (or belt or scarf or jaunty ribbon) doesn’t want to serve you. It’s got its own life to lead.

You are mistaken if you think the scarf exists for you. You exist for the scarf or headband or belt. You exist to amuse these items. Headbands will slide back on your hair. Or maybe they’ll slide forward. Either way they’ll take whatevever semblance of style you thought you had with them.


Sayuri has been staying with us almost a month. She’s very happy and enthusiastic. She takes pictures of every meal and almost every new person, especially kids. She laughs at almost everything. She’s beautiful. Or maybe I mean cute. She’s adorable. She looks suspiciously like everyone’s fantasy of a Japanese schoolgirl. When I saw her get out of the shuttle at our house in her babydoll dress and her high heeled shoes, I thought, “Shit. She’s way to cute to have in a house full of males.”

She learns new things every day. You can tell when she gets something new because she makes a noise. It’s like an excited grunt. It’s funny coming from her pretty self. She also flaps her hands. We’ve grown fond of it and fond of her.

Today she was sniffling, which she does a lot because she’s allergic to cats, but she can’t resist them. I handed her the kleenex box and went off to put laundry away. When I came back, she was still sniffling, only it sounded like sad sniffles. I looked into the living room, “Sayuri?” Tilman was leaning towards her in a sympathetic way. He looked up and said, “She’s really sad.”

I came over and sat down next to her and hugged her. She cried louder. I called her honey and tried to comfort her. She leaned on my shoulder and said through tears, “I… Miss… Us.”

I’ll miss us, too.