Another School Release Day, Secularism and Intellectual Curiosity, and the Importance of Music

So, lots to cover today, as I stepped away from my desk yesterday for yet another SCHOOL RELEASE DAY.  Because seriously, the kids just had two consecutive five-day school weeks, and how much can a kindergartner and a second grader take before they need another three day weekend?  It was just this very grade school rhythm that set the stage for the emergence of what would become my future most career-limiting personality trait, namely a deeply rooted inability to show up for a 40 hour per week job without giving myself a WORK RELEASE DAY (i.e. calling in sick) at least every second or third week.


The yellow makes me happy.

The yellow makes me happy.

The school system doesn’t properly train anyone to  keep that consistent five days per week thing going year-round. (Which I believe is part of the push in moving toward year-round school for K through 12?  To train us to become better grown-ups who can hold down jobs?)  For me, it is just not a sustainable work-life model.  You might call me a socialist, but I don’t think it should be anyone’s work-life model.

Happily, though, I want to report that yesterday’s school release day was much more fun than the President’s Day holiday, where I was basically waiting for someone to call or email or come over for a playdate, and nobody did.  Perhaps they were at work.

Yesterday’s School Release Day was Parent Teacher Conferences so I got to hang out with my kids’ teachers who are seriously rock star (juice box level HIGH, if you speak that language)  kind of people whom you would want to hang out with even if they weren’t your kids’ teachers.  Maybe even especially if they weren’t your kids’ teachers, so you could get past the pesky professional boundary thing (not good at boundaries–working on it).

Would not necessarily want to hang out with this teacher.  Plus I hate my hat.

Would not necessarily want to hang out with this teacher. Plus I hate my hat.

But now I need to immediately contradict myself and say maybe I’m not working all that hard on boundaries, because as the friendly visitor who calls himself  “Bird” so astutely commented with regard to my father’s “outward approach to others”:  “The world needs more of that stuff!”  I recognize that the comment was posted at 1:29 a.m. on a non-school  night, so there is a good chance that “Bird” had had a few beers, but I think the sentiment remains, and I agree.

The world needs more people who will reach out and be a little real/ridiculous with strangers, and who will try to make a human connection once in awhile, and I had the best convo with the 2nd grade teacher, and our 20 minute conference went on for about 50 minutes (no one was waiting in the hall, so we weren’t being rude) where we shared our desire to say to many people, “People.  Just let down your guard and your pretenses for a minute, and be real and make mistakes and lighten up, so we can get to the good stuff, the real stuff, and learn something here,” and then we tried to solve the world’s problems but alas, came up short again.  (Also, if my daughter’s second-grade rock star teacher happens to be reading this, which I don’t know why you would be unless I forwarded it to you, I totally know that was a run-on sentence and I am not modeling good writing, and I also say “totally” way too much.  So don’t be worried for the second grader’s writing future, I will teach my children well even though my blog writing is loosey goosey.)


But the other reason yesterday’s school release day was SO MUCH FUN was I got to hang out with one of my best Mom buddies and for one of the first times ever in our two and a half year history of hanging out during our kids’ playdates we got to finish not just sentences but LONG conversations.  When you have small children underfoot, you almost never believe the day will come when you get to have your adult time without dealing with a constant barrage of We’re putting on a play and you’re the audience!  He tackled me!  They’re not letting me have a turn!   She called me a bad name!   The kindergartner is being too wild again!  Can we nail these boards together I promise there will be no blood!  Please?  Pretty please?  With Sugar on top?  More magic tricks to show you!  We need a snack.   Can we go outside with no coats?  Well, of course there was SOME of that, but far, far less than when they were younger.

And may I also add that this particular Mom Buddy of mine is exactly the Oprah’s Best Friend kind of person.  Here you have to pretend I am Oprah (I keep typing “Opera” but no, that’s totally wrong) and she is that one friend, I think her name is Janice.  No, not Janice, wait right here while I Google it.   Okay, Gayle.  Gayle King is the friend.  Oprah has this great quote about her friend Gayle that goes like this:

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.

Not like I have ever had a limo, mind you, (or that I have any fame or fortune), in fact I have a rather craptacular 2000 Dodge Caravan sports edition, but what I am trying to say is that this Mom Buddy (who is also the previously mentioned Really Smart Friend)  is one of the few women I know who has been genuinely just as glad to spend time with me when even the crappy minivan was broken down.  And here is the really special part:  it was definitely not in a bad rescuing dynamic kind of way, and not in a I’m going to help you/fix this/feel superior/you are my pet project kind of way that even some of the best of us inadvertently slip into (myself included).  And not even in an I’ve been there too and next time I know you’ll be there for me kind of way.  Simply in a basic human love and dignity kind of way that is hard to describe in mere words.

There were a couple of times in the months past that I confessed to feeling like I had zero self-confidence, which is unbelievably hard and scary to admit to when you actually have no confidence.  My feelings of inadequacy were looming so large I forgot that there was some good stuff way down there inside me, it just happened to be buried under a bunch of oppressive crap at the moment.  And this Mom Buddy just listened, and didn’t offer advice or perspective or false attempts to prop me up, she just listened and said, “Oh, my goodness, my lovely friend, you are feeling so bad right now.  I am so sorry.”  She said this with no pity whatsoever, she didn’t try to make it go away, and didn’t try to say you’ll be fine, or give me any pat answers, or false reassurances or glib “hang in there,” kind of talk, and you would not believe how healing it can be just to be deeply heard.

I hope every single one of you reading this has a friend like that, or a partner or mother or father or sister or brother or someone who you can turn to.  Now I will be done with the kumbaya portion of today’s post (and by the way, thank you to NPR’s National Correspondent Linton Weeks for asking the sincere, intelligent question when did Kumbaya become such a bad thing) and get back to the humor.  Thanks for staying with me.  And thanks to my dearest friend and Mom Buddy hero.  🙂

No Weinaramers allowed.  Weimaraners are welcome though.

No Weinaramers allowed. Weimaraners are welcome though.

Where were we, people?  I didn’t post any Jesus Archies photos, because I didn’t check out any of those particular issues from the library, and I could have Googled some images, but  am instead going to delegate that to you.  I’m not a good delegater at all, so this is a good skill-building opportunity for me to say:  you go do it.  (Still working on my delegating skills.)

This topic might be getting old for you, but I want to share today’s Waking Up on the Couch to a Cartoon story with you.  It was kind of a nightmare because today, Saturday, the 6:30 am cartoon I awoke to was Caillou which I know at least some families have banned from their household for the sole reason that Caillou, the main character, is super whiny even when he’s not whining.  His voice is just a constant whine.  So I woke up to Caillou at Volume Level 5, which is just as bad as waking up to your own kid whining at you, which is like waking up in hell.

“Caillou” is French for SHUT UP, according to

“Caillou” is French for SHUT UP, according to

Why Volume Level 5, Ally? you must be wondering.  Your trying-to-fall-back-asleep Insomnia Toolkit Volume is 2 or 3. Why was the TV so loud?  Here is where the same old tired story takes an exciting, unpredictable turn.

Sometimes when I wander downstairs in the middle of the night and flip on Channel 2.1 or 2.2 or 2.3 tpt there is a really interesting show on and I WANT to watch it but I also don’t want to wake up the household so my level for that is 5, and here’s the tricky reverse psychology part–when it is an interesting show I want to stay awake and watch, I’m usually–you guessed it–asleep within minutes.  Go figure!  And the show was not MN Originals, which is nearly always interesting, but in fact Moyers & Company.

Now, I don’t want to turn this blog into a Religious or Political Debate blog, or try to educate you about anything, because that is not what this is,  but I will say this: if I can find serious discussions of either of those topics remotely interesting, then you can too.  (If you find The Daily Show interesting, I agree, and it does have some good facts, but it still doesn’t always count as serious discussion.)

Maybe I love Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers so much because neither of them seem to like politicians, either, but sometimes will still talk to them.

Maybe I love Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers so much because neither of them seem to like politicians, either, but sometimes will still talk to them.


And the intersection of those two particular topics, Religion and Politics, in the hands of intelligent people who are not politicians or proselytizers, can be so interesting it makes you feel tingly with intellectual curiosity. As a bonus, listening in on these interesting discussions may even teach you some things about history and philosophy and the role of government and all of those topics that, sadly, when you encountered them in grade school made you think “Oh good a filmstrip, turn out the lights so I can put my head down on my desk and not listen.”  Or if there was no filmstrip, pretend to listen while secretly writing two-page notes to your friends with rainbow colored markers.

The one thing I have discovered as an adult is that if there is information packaged that I can actually pay attention to it will often be delivered in the format of a Bill Moyers interview.  So last night was Mr. Moyers interviewing Susan Jacoby, author of  The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

It's not nearly as boring as this picture would suggest.

The conversation is not nearly as boring as this picture would suggest.

I know I just said I fell asleep to it, and I did, but it is seriously brilliant and fascinating stuff, so do check it out if you have a moment.  I haven’t actually gone back to watch the whole thing yet, so my hope is that YOU WILL (I’m delegating again here) and then you and I can go meet for coffee and we can talk about it. Also if you have seen it then I will sort of motivate and go back and watch it too so we can have an intelligent conversation.

Musician/BandMoors and McCumber is an original Folk-Rock-Americana duo influenced by the songwriting of Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and Neil Young.

Moors and McCumber is an original Folk-Rock-Americana duo influenced by the songwriting of Steve Earle, Gillian Welch and Neil Young.

My main story for today was supposed to be about the most excellent musical concert I had the privilege to attend on Thursday night,  which on account of Friday being a School Release Day, was almost like a Friday for me.  But this is already getting long so I will save some of that for tomorrow’s post and just say Mother Banjo and Moors & McCumber and their friend Ellis ROCKED IT.  Details to follow, but if you are looking for love, I would suggest buying Moors & McCumber’s newest release, “Gravity,” and who knows, you might even find your life changing in some amazing ways.  And if you need underwear for your squirrel, you can totally buy that at Ginkgo Coffee House in Saint Paul.

They have the boy ones at Ginkgo too.  But the girls are cuter, I think.

They have the boy ones at Ginkgo too. But the girls are cuter, I think.

Bye for now!  Write me Back!  Chemistry is sooooo boring. (Rainbow drawing)


4 thoughts on “Another School Release Day, Secularism and Intellectual Curiosity, and the Importance of Music

  1. Homework completed. Thank you Al Hartley for your wonderful contrarian contribution to our culture.

    “Most of the Spire Comics were written and drawn by Al Hartley, who was working for Archie Comics at the time. Due to this connection, he was able to get permission to use the Archie characters in many of the comics.
    Other comics were based on true stories, Christian novels, or Christian movies. Examples of this type include those based on Charles Colson’s Born Again, Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, and a modernized version of Charles Sheldon’s 1896 novel In His Steps.
    The comics were created from 1972 and 1982, and kept in print for several years.”

    • I totally thought you were talking about watching the Bill Moyers interview, which was also assigned homework. It is exactly this skimming and losing the context of the discussion habit of mine that will lead me to soon embarrass myself at a cocktail party by saying “Al Hartley? Wasn’t he a contemporary of Thomas Paine?” I know nothing.

  2. Down with the 40 hour workweek! My personal experience has been that i can usually manage a dozen or so consecutive 40 hour weeks. Which I think is pretty damn snappy. But my downfall is summer. Every year, the same thing. What’s that? Perfectly good job and a degree of financial stability? Well, let’s just piss all over that, because it’s warm outside and I smell lilacs. And I have a perfectly good dog going to waste sitting inside, so there’s another reason to miss work and go out and play. I blame my 13 year Edina School District indoctrination for training me that summer is PLAY TIME.

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