Thursday, August 26, 2010

Asheville Cougar JV football team begins their season tonight. And, so do I.

Ok, so it's not the Friday Night Lights, but it's pretty darn good. At least for the Hyorth's. Zach plays his first ever JV Cougar football game tonight. I'm not even sure who they're playing. Maybe Tuscola. Are they big rivals? I have no idea. Since he went to a charter school through 8th grade, he didn't have a chance to learn "real" football. Where the coaches yell at you and make you fall down and give them 10 push-ups if your mouth is running while they're talking. Zach did play a couple of years with the city league. Not to 'dis them or anything, because it's all volunteer and hearts are in the right places. But real football, it ain't.

He got his jersey last night. #72. Playing something on defense. Maybe even some offense. Not sure about that either; he's mostly been talking football with his dad. But I'll know more after tonight. He's a big kid and wants to learn the game, so it appears the coaches are prepping him for better days ahead with perhaps a promise at a Varsity slot. The big time. The real Friday Night Lights.

I'm probably crazy for not worrying about him getting his lights knocked out or some other body part getting badly damaged, but this Texas girl just can't go there. It's his rite of passage into manhood. I went to two different schools in Texas where football was king. (Where in Texas is football not the main attraction?) Both teams were called the Lions. Both wore maroon and white uniforms. Both were state championship contenders. That teenage girl who could not wait for Friday night football is now a proud mom of a young football player chasing his dream. I'm popping back into play also. Not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

Go Cougars!! Go #72!! JV. Game time is 7 pm at AHS Football Stadium.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An open thank you letter to Evergreen Charter middle school teachers

It’s just keeps getting better for Zach. I don’t think any of you will disagree how hard Alphie and I will fight for Zach to get what he needs, but you all are due a big thank you also. Thank you for listening to us when we told you he wasn’t ready to move on to 9th grade yet, that he needed to repeat 8th grade at Evergreen so he could get it right. You didn’t agree with us, but you listened. And, once we all agreed on his new arrangement, you never stopped listening and that has – and continues – to pay off.

Zach was put in high school remedial reading because of what his records showed about his past difficulties. We agreed and thought a year polishing up his comprehension skills would be good for him. Yesterday, we learned he scored high enough on his reading lextile scores that he would be placed in English 1. His English foundations teacher said it was a waste of his time to make him stay in the remedial class. Zach actually would have scored higher had he been able to take the test in one day. For various reasons, he had to take it over two days, a Friday and a Tuesday. Even we were surprised to learn he is reading at grade level.

The assistant principal also noted how she watched him at freshman orientation and was impressed with his social skills. I also watched that day, and sadly, noticed how most of the Evergreen students were huddled in a very small part of the high school cafeteria, afraid to talk with anyone except other Evergreen students. Zach talked with the other ‘Evergreeners,’ and then moved on to other students to say hello, not at all afraid of being thought of as different.

Perhaps it’s because Zach has always been different. Perhaps it’s because he has parents who are different. Perhaps it’s because he learned at Evergreen he should just be himself. A big part is due to the fact that he showed up for JV football practice at the end of July, knowing no one, going in with the desire and discipline to be an athlete. He already felt comfortable with new students/friends before the first day of school ever happened.

This is all to say: Thank you. We are proud to be parents of an Evergreen graduate, proud to have been part of a school that listens to parents even when the teachers at first think the parents might be wrong. I think we all know Zach showed us that just because you are behind at one point in your life, that doesn’t mean you will always be behind. I think Zach has taught each of us more than we ever thought he could. We think that trend will continue. Oh, and by the way, he has decided he wants to be called John (his middle name) for now.

P.S. Sorry, Karen, he’s still in pre-algebra but that’s just what he gets for having two writers as parents.

Love to all of you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pritchard Park in Asheville ... sure not like it was in 1996

Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville is no doubt a very popular space, visited by locals and tourists alike. It’s hustling, bustling, happening. That certainly wasn’t always the case. It took time for the changes to come, but they did. Except for the fact that no business has opened near the new Asheville Transit Hub to attract the bus riders for them do some quick shopping or eating, I think 99.9% of the changes are positive. This story tells what the park once was and how the changes began.

Hanging’ at Pritchard Park … what happens next? …. April 1996, Out ‘n About Magazine

By Tracy D. Hyorth

It’s about half past one on a Tuesday afternoon. Lunch is either over or almost over for most downtown office workers. The ‘suits’ you still see are staying across the street from Pritchard Park. Not one will come into the park for at least the next two hours.

The buses have already come and gone at the top of the hour. So the park is not quite so full. Maybe 20 people. Some there to catch the next bus home after work or shopping. Some headed to work. Some wonder in off the street looking for a place to relax. They sit and chat. Smoke a cigarette or two. Mothers warn their children to stay nearby. A little boy chases pigeons cross the grass. Today’s preacher offers his sermon to anyone who is interested and several who aren’t but can’t avoid his booming voice.

One of the downtown ‘tin can’ men is sitting on a bench, nodding off for a quick snooze in the sun. His full-flavored cigarette dangles from his fingers, nearly an inch of ashes about to fall. A friend sits down, says hello and wakes him just in time.

Two men and a woman huddle across the street, looking at someone in the park. The woman, wearing a brown vinyl coat was just around the corner on Battery Park Avenue, approaching people once they had gotten out of their and car and paid off the parking meter. “Excuse me, you have spare change?” she asked. A business owner who is used to seeing the lady on the street gives her a short answer, “No.”

The men yell at someone in the park. A woman waves back and hollers for them to cross over. Once there, she proceeds to tell them a story about something that just happened to a guy they all know.

“Yeah, the cops just came and told ol’ Billy to get outta here. He was passed out on the bench. They came and we woke him up, said, ‘Hey, look who’s in front of you.’ Finally he woke up. He saw them in his face and about shit all over himself. They made him leave.” They all laugh.

An unshaven man, looking probably years older than he really is, smelling like he’s not been near a bath in at least five days, is walking around picking up half-smoked cigarettes; he examines one that is a good three-fourths still intact but it looks a little wet. He twirls it between his fingers, lingering over his options. Finally, he decides to keep it along with the rest of his booty and continues roaming around, eyes focused on the ground.

Under the covered shelter, two girls wait on a bench. One sees an old friend who comes over to talk to her.

“Hey, how you doin’,” he says. “I thought that was you over here.”

“You got any money?” she replies. “You owe me $50.”

“I know. No, I ain’t got no money. But you know I’ll get back to you. I’ll take care of you.”

“I know,” she answers. They lapse into silence. “I saw you the other day. At the magistrate’s office.”

“What?” he answers, and steps a foot away from her. “You saw me at the magistrate’s office? No way.” Finally, he gives in. “Yeah it was me. I was up there a few weeks ago. I got busted for a drunk and disorderly. When you saw me, was I yellin’ at the cops and shit? I was pissed off.”

Another man approaches the second girl. “They call me Monte Hall, let’s make a deal. I’m gonna sit right down here next to you,” he tells the unresponsive woman. “You got pretty blue eyes.” He holds out a key chain. “One dollar. One American dollar, that’s all.” She knows him and moves over on the bench to allow him room to sit.

It’s almost the top of the hour now. More people have come into the park, about 40 in all. The races are about equally mixed. The majority are bus riders who will leave.


Pritchard Park.

An eye sore?

An interesting place to people watch?

The center of downtown?

A place to avoid?

A place to enjoy?

All of the above?

None of the above?

There really isn’t a clear answer. It seems everyone has their own opinion about Pritchard Park, the triangle of green space in downtown Asheville bordered by Patton Ave., College and Haywood Streets.

Right now, it’s the mass transit hub, the point where bus routes in the Asheville Transit Authority bus system come together. But the city has already made the decision to change that. According to Julia Cogburn, of the Asheville Planning and Development Department, a study conducted by an outside consulting firm concluded that Pritchard Park is not large enough to serve transit customers properly. The consultants felt that since not all the buses come in at the same time that riders had to wait too long for their next bus. The Authority needs a bigger space, the study concluded.

When the move will actually take place and how it will look is yet to be decided. The plan was to shift the transfer station to Aston Street (between Asheland and Coxe Avenues) in the summer of 1995. That’s still the preferred location but the move obviously didn’t materialize and now the anticipated date is the end of 1996.

In the meantime, businesses near the area and bus riders wonder when and if the change will take place and whether it should happen at all.

Ask the bus riders, and you get a definite No.

“I don’t want it to move. I do shopping when I come downtown. It’s convenient. The new transfer will be out of the way. There are not really any businesses near the new site. It will be an inconvenience and probably add more time to my having to wait for buses, said one woman named Rita, who didn’t want to use her full name. “They weren’t thinking about us when they made this decision.”

Business owners around the park aren’t quite so united in their opinions.

Scott Kramer, owner of Kits N Caboodles, across the street from the shelter definitely wants to see the move happen, and soon. He says he doesn’t have any particular problem with the bus transfer station being there, or the people who ride the bus. It’s the “other” element that bothers him – panhandlers and drunks who frequent the park on an hourly basis on any given day.

Kramer says that just about every morning when he gets into his shop around 10:30, he can look out and see people drunk and passed out on the benches. No one who spends any time around the park will disagree with Kramer about that.

John Shubash, owner of Sandwich Express, also across the street from the park, agrees it needs to be cleaned up. But he wonders if the city thinks that by moving the transfer the “other element” problem will go away. If they do, he thinks that is a rather na├»ve and elitist point of view. “If they just clean up the park and don’t address the social issues, there won’t be any differences, except we’ll have a Kleen-ex park.”

He also wonders about how his business will be affected. One the one hand, he would like to see more green space and more events in the park, but he doesn’t know how he will replace revenue he’ll lose when bus riders are gone. He figures that about 20 percent of his business comes from people who buy a sandwich to eat while they’re waiting for their bus.

“Will the move be positive, or negative? Who knows? … All I know is that once the bus riders are gone, if the city doesn’t do something to augment the loss of existing customers, my business will be hurt.” Shubash said he has never been asked for his opinion by city officials or people doing studies. Cogburn said that businesses in the area were contacted, although she couldn’t say which ones.

When it comes to pushing for “New Pritchard Park” the Asheville Downtown Association is way out in front. The group is made up of merchants and downtown workers who actively seek change and growth in the downtown area. The group has submitted new park designs for the city to consider after the buses have been moved.

Alex Gourlay, a First Union Bank employee and current president of the downtown association thinks that moving the transfer station will allow the city to turn the park into an area that can be enjoyed by downtown workers on their lunch breaks and by tourists at other times. “I don’t know of anybody who thinks the bus shelter is pretty. We need a really nice green space (at Pritchard Park) that is inviting to everyone."

When asked about how businesses now frequented by bus riders will be affected by the move, Gourlay said he thinks new businesses will open near the new transfer station to accommodate riders. So far, no one knows of any such plans.

And so far, the park remains the same.

*30*

If you want to read more about continued development on the old Pritchard Park, here's a link to a story in the Mountain Xpress, 1998: http://www.mountainx.com/news/1998/1202pritchard.php

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ahh .... the excitement of the first day at the big high school


I think we're just a bit shell-shocked. Like we can't believe that this day came. That Zach is finally a freshman in high school. He has paid dearly to get here, but we're not looking back. Going forward with the proof he can do anything he sets his mind to doing. He's in for some big changes this new school year. First one being that he's going from a public/charter school of K-8th grade with a total of about 325 students to an 84-year-old public high school with a student body close to 1000, if not just a tad bit over. Asheville High is also big on 'Cougar Pride.' Don't get me wrong, there is definite emphasis on academics, but a charter school it ain't.

Yesterday was orientation for the freshmen. Parents were to join in at around 11:30 am in the cafeteria. I arrived too soon. For once in my life, I had to be on time. I thought the principal or teachers wanted to talk to us. I should have known better. Zach didn't have enough time to reorient himself with his previous schoolmates - the 'Evergreeners' as they are called. Sorry, Zach. I should have realilzed you needed more time to socialize. Please forgive me, it's my first day back at high school also. And, I went to such a small high school, that most everyone knew each other even before they got to school. Usually through church, the swimming pool, lake or some other place we'd all been tossed together.

When I walked in yesterday, Zach was talking with new schoolmates, which was way cool to see. After all, isn't part of the idea of growing up and going to high school is to expand your social horizons? The Evergreeners were huddled over in the right side of the huge cafeteria. Another thing these Evergreeners have to get used to. Charter schools don't usually have the luxury of cafeterias and Evergreen is no exception. Parents commit to making sure their child has a lunch box meal, whether that be home made or pre-packaged. The kids get used to recyclying their lunch boxes from year to year and sharing that tired ole' apple for that same ole' orange. They bring dishes from home, take them back home to wash and reuse, to wash and reuse, etc.

The Evergreeners asked Zach how he already knew some of the freshmen from other schools. He explained he'd been going to football practice for almost four weeks, he was already getting to know students in all the grades. He's already part of a team, a very important team at this school. They represent the city of Asheville in football, and while they do not possess the 'Friday Night Lights' ferver of my old Texas high schools, there is a definite 'Cougar Pride.' 

There is a lot the Evergreeners will have to get used to besides having a cafeteria where you can buy your lunch: football games (and other athletic events) to attend, arts, ceramics, culinary classes, dance, theatre, metals, drafting and so much more. (I'm actually a bit jealous of all the choices they have.) All those classes that help you figure out who you are, who you aren't, who you hope to be. The world is wide open with possibilities and dreams for these Evergreeners turned high school freshman at the big school.

The Evergreeners bring an attitude of acceptance, teamwork, closeness, an appreciation of caring for the earth and the importance of giving back to the community. They don't even mind hugging one another in public, just for the sake of hugging, or because their friend needed some support.

Like Zach, I hope they never forget where they have come from, are never afraid of hugging a friend. But, I also hope they realize that this is their year to let the butterfly within themselves reach for the tops of everything.

Oh, and I hope I can get used to not seeing my son so often. He's finally working on getting his own life now, making his own way, like he's supposed to. Like I said ... I think we're all just a bit shell-shocked.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cell phones and grocery shopping ... go hand in hand

Thank you, Lord, I don't have to do grocery shopping today. That's the thought currently running through my mind. Just as I was sort of preparing myself to make the list and the trip, the phone rang. It was the teen on the other end, asking about anything we might need from the grocery.

Well yes .... we need lots. But his tone said, "Dad means 'short grocery stop, not big.' So I rattled off necessities like milk, hamburger buns for tonight's dinner and regular potatoes if anyone wanted something other than grilled sweet potatoes. Also asked him to check out the avocados. Teen quickly repeated the items, again intonating, "that's all, right?" Right.

About five minutes later, the phone rings for an avocado discussion. It's the husband this time.

"The avocados aren't ripe, is that okay? They're still hard."

"Well, I'd like to make some guacamole tonight. I've got one avocado that needs to be used before it goes bad. Are there any that might be somewhat ripe?" He and I have different definitions of ripe for avocados, but that's an argument ... um ... discussion ... we've learned to just avoid.

"Okay, I'll look."

So I'm turning the radio back up. Oh wait, he's at the grocery outlet that always has bacon on sale. I call the teen's phone. That's the one they're using. The husband's phone is some cheap version of a toy phone he found on ebay for $7. He swears it's a good deal, but I usually can't hear him due to all the scratching noises coming through the receiver. Funny, he says, how it only happens on my phone. Funny, I reply, how I never have that problem with anyone else's phone.

"Check out the bacon. See what they've got on sale there today, especially if it's the thick-sliced, center cut. Get two of those."

I know this is not the last phone call. There will be at least one more, either updating me on the availability of bacon or asking about the brand. That phone call surely came. It was about the lack of any decent bacon there today.

I'm trying to remember what we used to do when we went to the grocery store before the advent of cell phones. Before the opportunity to instantly ask and be answered.  I guess we made up our own mind. We either bought it, or we didn't.

Interesting how my thoughts about not having to do 'big groceries' ended up about cell phones and groceries. But, in this day and time, at least at our household, it takes both a list and a cell phone for any kind of grocery shopping. I bet we're not alone.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Three children. Three weeks. Three stories of cancer. What's up?

What is up with so many young children having cancer? I've heard about 3 children in the last 3 weeks with some form of cancer, in one stage or another. Two holding on to a chance at a cure. One saying goodbye. And that's just in my small little bubble in this giant of a world.

My husband says we just hear about it more often now, due to technology and immediate information at our disposal. I don't agree. I think something else is going on. I heard about two of these children directly from people with huge - and hurting - hearts, close friends with direct knowledge of the suffering. They were helping raise money for the families. I don't know what that 'something else going on' is, but I need to start paying more attention. I think we all do.

Somebody needs to have the answers, and I think it's time to start asking more questions. Cancer is an ugly disease for any person to have withstand. But a child? That just ain't right.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Late fee contracts for doctors and football coaches

Until today, I didn't realize doctors and football coaches have so much in common. They both want you to be at their appointed designation on time, preferably a few minutes earlier. Yet, neither one of them seem to give much care as to when the session is supposed to be over.

My doctor wanted me there at 10 am today. I was. My son's football coach wanted him there at no later than 8:40 am. He was. I was supposed to be out of my appointment by 11 am. I was not. I didn't get out until 11:56 am. I was to be at the high school - at least a twenty minute drive - at noon for pickup.

However, it did not matter that I was late. I was early. By coaches' time, anyway. At 12:40 pm, I was still waiting. I'm thinking about writing up a contract for both my doctor and my son's coach that states if we are not done by agreed upon time, then they will receive and be expected to pay a $25 late fee. They penalize us if we're not on time; why shouldn't they be held to the same standards. Our time is just as valuable as theirs.

Ok, I guess it's all a fantasy. Doesn't work like that in the world of doctors and football, does it? But, it sure does sound like a good idea to me. Any takers?

Friday, August 6, 2010

I left this crappy ass summer weather back in Baton Rouge

I left this crappy ass summer weather back in Baton Rouge in 1985. So, can someone please tell me how it found me way up here in Asheville, North Carolina? Seriously. I moved to the mountains with expectations of cool summers and nasty cold winters that I don't particularly care for. And I was right.

Until about 7 years ago. Never even had any kind of AC until sometime this decade. It's a one-room unit that cools the front of the house, leaving the back rooms shut, with maybe the ceiling fan just kind of moving the hot air around just enough to make you think you're not completely in Dante's Inferno. But, it has hit me big time this summer that the Baton Rouge heat I once loved, then detested, has found me. I want it to go back the hell home. Asheville is as far north as I have ever lived. There is no southern hospitality in my household towards Summer 2010.

Right now, it is 2 pm, Friday. Clouds are thundering off in the west. Small growls at first, growing into rumbles, then on into downright thunder. The leaves are turning upside down, confirming some wet stuff is going to come pouring down as if it were being dumped directly into a gully. About a half hour from now, the sun will peak through, steam will rise from the streets, and temperatures and humidity will make my head hurt. I will soon seriously think about sticking my head in the refrigerator for at least five minutes, electric bill be damned.

I will be folding up paper towels and placing them in my armpits, held in place by my shirt, hoping they won't fall out and land in the lap of one of my editors.

Oh ... sorry ... I just flashed back to the newsroom where I began my journalistic path in Baton Rouge, the Capitol newspaper, the paper that had once followed Huey P. Long's every step. I started as a typist. It was my job to retype and correct stories sent over some huge electronic typewriter. That's right. I had to RETYPE it. No such thing as email or internet. It was all one huge word processor. AP style was burned into my brain. Then, I became a newsroom aide who got to wander all over the building, meeting and conversing with big wigs, sitting on the roof, overlooking the Mighty Mississippi for a few stolen moments, and enjoying my talks with those considered lower on the totem pole. However, they were the people who actually made sure the newspaper hit the streets before daybreak. I learned it all from the best. But, I digress.

My point is ... if this summer is not proof of global warming .... well, excuse me. I'm going to check and make sure the rain barrel is set to catch the regularly scheduled Asheville afternoon thunderstorm.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

From afar that storm was beautiful ... kind of like life sometimes

I have no profound thoughts today. Or maybe I'm just feeling there's enough going on in the world that makes me want to go hide in the closet until the storm passes.

We did have one such storm today. Thunder rumbled off in the distance. A light rain began and the rain barrel was checked to make sure we would capture the water. The chimes twinkled on the front porch. Then it hit full force. Trees blowing, limbs bending, lightening strikes close enough so that Zach and I both jumped when it appeared it was in our back yard. Rain so hard, we could barely see the street. And just as soon as it had stormed in, it went into the distance. Not so scary anymore. We knew were safe. Our trees were not going to fall on the house. The car was not damaged by hail. We listened to the chimes twinkle softly again. We were thankful the rain barrel was once again full. We'll need that water in a few days.

From afar that storm was beautiful. Oh so beautiful. Kind of like life sometimes. However, I prefer to just jump in and dance. Storm and all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lunch with my bio sister - shocking, expected, mostly awkward

It took forever for her to look at me. Really look at me. Until we actually sat down to eat, she aimed most of her conversation at my husband. When I first walked through the restaurant, I noticed her right away; we’ve seen each other’s twitter picture, so I acknowledged her. She held out her hand, said “Nice to meet you.” I said, “Nice to meet you also.” She and her husband were waiting in line to check the reservation list. I had not made a reservation. Nerves took over. This was no ordinary ‘how do you do?’ meeting. No matter how casual we tried to act.

I’m adopted, have found my bio parents. Or at least I’ve found my bio mom for sure. Thought I had found and met my bio dad also, but some questions have recently been raised. This meeting was between me and my bio sister on my mom’s side to talk about some of these new questions. Husbands were invited. She took off her glasses, and I saw a smaller, slimmer version of myself. Her eyes are blue like mine, but hers are bright blue. Ocean bright blue. Mine? Well, one is messed up because of all my eye surgeries and the other one is more of a true blue. If someone had gotten a picture of us together, you’d be able to tell we were sisters. My husband noticed that immediately. I would like to have gotten a picture of me and my bio sister but it wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t that kind of family gathering.

This meeting was set up to clarify some questions that don’t need to be exposed here, but she’s known about me since she was a teenager and has been perfectly fine with the relationship as it is. Or, rather as it is not. On the surface, you would have thought two couples had just met, decided to have lunch together. The usual ‘get to know you’ comments and questions were asked. How many children do you have? What’s the weather like where you live? Exactly what part of Texas is your town nearby? How long have you been in Asheville? So on and so on.

When the plates were cleared, it was time to get down to business. I brought up the reason for our get-together. Questions and comments were once more exchanged. These were more serious and personal. Some shocking. Some expected. All awkward.

No definite answers at this meeting, but we left with a better understanding of this very strange situation in which we found ourselves. Neither one of us had expected this in our lives. She’s the oldest in her family; she had just met an older sister. I’m the youngest in my adopted family, but I had just met my little bio sister.

When there was nothing more to say, once again she held out her hand and said “Nice to have met you.” I returned her handshake. We turned and left in our own directions. I’m not sure if we will ever physically be together again. Probably not. That is her choice. But, I do know that each of us left that restaurant a changed woman. Whether we care to admit it, or not.