An Open Letter to The Principal

As Queen of the Strongly Worded Emails, I recently wrote the following letter to my son’s principal regarding the excessive amount of homework he has been getting. Anybody want to give a ‘hell-yeah’?

Hello Mr. Principal

 
My son, Jesse Bergen has started his first year in (school) starting in August. First of all, I would like to say that I appreciate Miller’s friendly attitude and all the attention they give to their 6th graders. Because of that, Jesse’s transition into junior high has been an easy one in that respect.
 
What I do want to discuss with you, is the incredible amount of homework my son has been getting.
 
Last Thursday, I had the misfortune of receiving a phone call from Jesse’s counselor letting me know that Jesse did not do several of his homework assignments. Jesse’s actions, in this capacity, were dishonest and irresponsible and I am in no way condoning or excusing his behavior and he was appropriately punished and made to make up these assignments.
 
However, when I saw the amount of homework Jesse would in fact be getting, a lot of my anger turned to sympathy.
 
After a 7 hour day at school, Jesse is doing 2-4 hours of homework (not counting the make up assignments) more than most full time jobs! This hardly gives him time to pursue his extracurricular activities (Jesse has been studying music for about 3 years now and is a multi-instrumentalist), much less play outdoors, or quite frankly, have any time to be a kid. Jesse definitely understands his work, and though he does lose focus at times, he does not do so excessively.
 
I, as a mother, as well as Jesse’s family, are definitely feeling the effects of this excessive work load. After working at a part time job, I come home and spend much of my time on the internet trying to figure out which assignments are due and missing, and emailing the teachers about this, as well as helping Jesse with his homework. I am depressed and anxious, and this puts a strain on my ability to take care of my 6 year old daughter. Furthermore, it is impossible for us to do anything as a family, like even something so simple as eat out for dinner, since my husband works weekends.
 
I have done some research on this topic before emailing you, and experts recommend that children get 10 minutes of homework for every grade year (Jesse gets a minimum of twice that much). They also have found no correlation between children who do more homework getting better grades or being any more intelligent. There is evidence that teacher’s often underestimate the length of the homework assignments. On a personal note, I find some of the homework thought provoking and educational, if lengthy, but some is simply busy work with an excessive amount of writing.
 
I do not blame (school) for this specifically, nor any of it’s staff or teachers. I have spoken to several parents who have children who attend schools all over the L.A. area and many of them have children who are constantly doing homework, and many of them share my opinion. However, since (school) is my son’s school, I think it’s a pretty good place to start.
 
I am looking forward to hearing your opinions and feedback on this matter and would love to go into more detail on this topic if you wish. I hope you can help me out please. I miss my son.
-Marissa Bergen
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Neil Elterman Was…

Neil Elterman was my first boyfriend when I was in 6th grade. Neil Elterman was the first boy I smoked pot with, Neil Elterman was the first boy I listened to Metallica with, Neil Elterman was the first boy who broke my heart. And, as you can imagine, at 12 years old, there were a lot of other firsts (but no, not that one).

Neil Elterman had a cultivating personality. He was the leader of a group of five heavy metal mischief makers called the Dirtbags. Everyday Neil would act as ringleader to see what kind of trouble he could get them into that day, and you can only imagine the antics he would come up with.
Neil Elterman played games with me, games that men play. I didn’t even understand it at the time, but I would later, after dating so many other men. I could only wonder how he knew to do that at such a young age, how to be a bad boy.
Neil Elterman’s mother was sick. She was older than most of the other mothers and she had cancer. Much of Neil’s life was centered around a family who were constantly caring for her. His older sister did the best she could, but I suppose there was only so much she could do.
I remember when Neil’s friend told me she died…
Neil Elterman was smart. He was precocious. He was a leader. He could have been anything he wanted to be.
I didn’t know until I posted a picture of him on my Facebook page and someone wrote RIP next to his name. I googled him but came up with nothing, no memory, no memorial, no obituary, nothing. I finally worked up the nerve to ask a friend of mine.
Neil Elterman was a drug addict. Neil Elterman was a casualty. I’m sure he thought it was very impressive at the time. I’m sure he thought he was being innovative and glamorous. I wonder how he would have felt if he knew that he would be nothing, not even a link on the internet, just nothing.

Sorry, I Must Have Lost My Mind

So here’s an existential question for the ages…Did you ever have a friend and you’ve known them for some time, maybe even a few years, and then you begin to notice that they are absolutely bat s*** crazy? Well, the question is, did they become crazy while you knew them or were they always crazy and you just realized this as you got to know them better?

That is something to ponder as I briefly describe my friendship with Evangeline.

1. I meet Evangeline and she is the coolest girl in the world, full stop, hands down, real girl’s night out girl,  very down to earth and also, the lead singer in my band.

2. Evangeline meets Lee. Now we all expect our friends to change a bit when they fall in love. But this is the kind of love where the two of them are so intertwined that you have to constantly remind them that there are other people in the world.

3. Evangeline marries Lee, leaves the band and the two of them become hardcore hippies, we’re talking no shaving, no killing of animals no matter how small, love, peace and all that good stuff and they move to a commune in Pennsylvania presumably never to be heard from again.

4. Even though the two of them now reside in what I imagine as a hut in the swamps of Florida where they probably send Lee out in a lightening storm with a key and a kite to get internet service, Evangeline tracks me down through Facebook where we resume a virtual friendship which can be described as spotty at best. That is to say, she will write  once in a while, I will write back, and it is likely that I will not hear from her again for months on end.

5. The other day, after not hearing from Evangeline for months, I receive the following email from her. (I did edit some of the irrelevant stuff out, but other than that, it is cut and paste from the internet).

I am growing and changing very much @ this time in my life. I’ve been really searching for who I am and what I want. I would have never thought this would happen now, but I need to remember who I am. Through many moments of remembering and forgetting, I kept thinking of you and all of the amazing times we had together, a very freeing feeling!!!! So again, thank you for your friendship, you are an inspiration in my life Marissa.

Since I can be obsessive, I’ve been trying to obsess on things that are good for me. So for the last few months I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation in the most exotic locations, mainly at the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. Inner peace is a gift so precious, no one can give it to you or buy it for you or even lend it to you. It is a rare gem we all need to find on our own. So I give thanks to the universe and the Goddess energy for helping to heal my busy mind and be connected to LOVE.

<awkward silence> <crickets>

Huh? How do I respond to this? How are you really, Evangeline? Everything alright with you and Lee? I got a really cool pair of jeans the other day? Does anyone else out there think this odd or am I just not growing with the new age times? Anyway, that’s all from me. Until I next become inspired…

My Grandfather Died Today

My grandfather died today. No really, you don’t need to be sympathetic. He was nearly 94 years old and his quality of life was not what it should have been and honestly, it was one of those things where we were just waiting for him to die.

The last time I saw him was about a year ago. He had no idea who I was and he kept staring at the meal schedule and asking me if it was time for dinner. I would scream in his ear “Dinner is at 4:30 and it’s about 2:30 now so, another two hours.” He would accept my answer and after a few seconds, the process would repeat itself.
The truth was, although it would have been kind of me to continue seeing him right up until The End, it was difficult for my children (he scared the bejeezus out of my daughter) who I had to take along, and he really didn’t know who I was, and, within about 2 minutes or so, he had no memory of ever seeing me. Not to mention the obscene amount of gas it took to get there and back. But I suppose, this is all beginning to sound like a lame excuse.
I imagine the women who worked in the nursing home seeing less and less people coming to visit the patients there, myself included, and thinking that it was sad…
I’m sure many people know how it is caring for old people. It is burdensome and expensive. My mother is not young herself, and her husband, quite a bit older than her, is also in failing health, I give her lot of credit for staying there and hanging on until the end.
I’m not going to lie. At the end, there was a lot of morbid jokes being made.
My mother sent me the news in a text today when I was at work. She tried to keep it light hearted, something like, “your grandfather passed so see ya!” How did I feel? Well a bit relieved, yes, but also sad. My grandfather was a bit of a curmudgeon, but he was the man who supported me when my dead beat father walked out. He was a good guy in the end.
I wrote back to my mother, “I actually feel a bit bad”. And her response came “Me too”.
Those two words written on the electronic screen just looked so sad and lonely that that alone brought tears to my eyes. After all, after our parents go, what is left between us and death?

Top 12 Heavy Metal Albums of the 80s

Inspired by the recently released Rolling Stones’ top 10 metal albums of the 80s, I am chiming in. This was a difficult decision, but keep in mind, I tried to keep it to one album per band and tried to categorize the music that if felt could only be considered heavy metal, i.e. not hard rock or thrash. I welcome your opinions if you feel like I left any out. By the way, hope you don’t mind, mine is more of a top 12. Just couldn’t whittle it down!

12. Too Fast For Love- Motley Crue

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I know the musical integrity may not be there for some, but to me, this was definitely a defining album in 80s metal. And besides, I was 13 years old and Vince Neil’s crotch was on the cover so…

11. Stay Hungry – Twisted Sister

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Once again, probably not among the tops for people with refined music tastes but raw, rebellious, and definitely the definition of all the was 80’s heavy metal. How do you want to live your life?

10. Pyromania

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Right before they sold out, went rap, and Joe Elliot turned into Nancy Wilson, Def Leppard proved that they had one more in them, quite possibly their best.

9. Balls to the Wall – Accept

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Who cares if Udo Dirkschneider resembled a little frog? Who cares if Accept disappeared into virtual obscurity following the release of this album? Who cares if we really can’t understand the words and there’s some German dude in leather panties on the front cover? This album rocked!

8. Killers – Iron Maiden

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I know what your thinking but I loved Paul Dianno. I think he was an awesome singer with a sexy, bluesy voice that gave Iron Maiden a punk edge. There’s more Iron Maiden to come so don’t get your panties in a bunch. I allowed two Iron Maiden because I almost feel like Bruce Iron Maiden and Paul Iron Maiden are two different bands. Also, I almost creamed my jeans when i heard Murders in the Rue Morgue for the first time.

7. Holy Diver – Dio

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Shout out and big old two fingered salute (and I don’t mean two middle fingers) to Ronnie James Dio, nuff said.

6. Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne

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Premier album from Ozzy Osbourne solo with the late great Randy Rhodes. Great songs plus Ozzy on the cover doing something appropriately deranged and blasphemous.

5. Love At First Sting – Scorpions

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Hats off the another great German midget with a pair of lungs. Klaus Meine may not have looked the part but he sure was a romantic guy.

4. Ace of Spades – Motorhead

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Part of the inspiration for me writing this list was the fact that the Rolling Stones article made no mention of Motorhead. Don’t be dissing on my boy Lemmy! Fourth and probably the pinnacle of all Motorhead albums (although for me it was a toss up between this and Orgasmatron), and yes, it was released in 1980.

3. Defenders of the Faith – Judas Priest

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Barely beating out Screaming for Vengeance in the fight to the finish. True it does not have the Hellion/ Electric Eye medley but I think it’s a better album through and through. Also, there’s something about this album that makes me wish I was a teenager on a hot summer night.

2. Number of the Beast

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Ha! I told you… I told you I was gonna add it and see, I did!! Bruce Dickinson joins the band, Steve Harris finds his muse and writes the album he always wanted to write.

1. Ride the Lightening – Metallica

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I know many would argue that Metallica’s career became more refined after this album, oh yeah, after James Hetfield got singing lessons, and they started making videos and Lars became an asshole, and they publicly spewed their differences in Some Kind of Monster, and they started caring about their paychecks and forgetting that is was “All About the Kids” and of course, who could forget poor Cliff. Just give me good old fashioned raw Metallica, please. I’ll take this one, thanks.