We’re Mad Miss Martha


But Miss Martha we’re mad! we’re mad all the time and anyhow, we’re nice to you!”

“Kayla, you girls ran your teacher out of the school, off of the job.”

“But we’re nice to you!  We’re always nice to you!”

“That’s because you have to be.  I’m a volunteer.  I can’t come to the school without a teacher here and you just, you just ran her out of town!”

“But we’re mad!”

I don’t blame them.  They’re nine and ten years old and they’re all having their periods and their after school teacher this year, well she really thought a whale was a fish, but still… 

This year’s group of girls have been unmanageable.  I asked the principal, Ms. Zoe, “Is it my imagination?  Or are the girls just AWFUL this year.  I don’t even know what to say.  They’re AWFUL!”  

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she says, “I just want to put them all on a vegetarian diet and make sure they get lots and lots of exercise.  I really don’t know what to do.”

Ms. Zoe is tough and compassionate.  I had been volunteering at this school in East Oakland for six years by then and the nine and ten year old girls were just my favorites.  I LOVE that age.  Each year more and more of the girls in this age group were having their periods, were in adolescence.  Nine and ten year old girls.  This year, I think all but two were in adolescence and they were tough.  I could not get them to sit still and focus.  They had become unruly, even for the seasoned educators.  I would sometimes drum with the girls at the beginning of their after school program to get them all focused and settled.  The drumming periods were lasting longer and longer and they weren’t getting settled.  Not to mention that the drumming kindof scared the 22, 23 year old student teachers.

Something that nobody talks about, is that once a girl’s chemistry changes, the way the world views her changes.  So, she’ll be looking at greeting cards in a drugstore and look up and realize that a grown man is staring at her.  That man, that man, might not even realize he is doing it.  We are animals, pheromones are in the air and you are no longer a child in the animal world.

Most of us, men and women, don’t pay close attention to this.  Once, when I was tripping may way to menopause I was just about ready to cycle into one of my final cycles.  I was at the Y early one morning.  There I was, in my one piece bathing suit, my fins, the socks I wear with my fins to keep from getting blisters, my goggles, and my swim cap.  Really, nothing to see here.  I was swimming laps and some guy,  the guy I was sharing a lane with was like waiting for me when I’d touch off to start a new lap.  He was an ok looking guy, age appropriate-ish.  A little younger than me, but whatever, and he was a regular swimmer.  So, I go to do a flip and he tries to get some small talk in “Nice flippers!” ,  “The water is warm this morning, isn’t it?”  that sort of thing.  At some point I might have stopped to let him yack.  I didn’t take my goggles off.  A couple of weeks later I pass him in the gym and I’m invisible.  I am at the pool and not even a nod.  It was all a chemical thing, nothing to do with anything.  That’s the sort of attention these little girls were getting at nine.  Nine and ten years old and getting that kind of attention.

So the girls were cranky.  I couldn’t blame them.  Oh!  and yes, these girls lived in a high crime area.  The school was regularly put on lockdown because of shooters in the street and the school, an elementary school, had guards who wore bullet proof vests.  The girls were a bit distracted.

Sure, there had always been a cranky few.  

“Ms. Martha, Maria is cranky today because she didn’t get enough sleep last night, there was gunfire.”  

“Maria, did you want to go rest in the nap area?” I ask.

“Yes,” she responds.

But this year, they were all cranky.  And mad.

I’m sitting in my office as I type this.  An interoffice memo just came in encouraging us to all “stand for equality”.  This from the management team that campaigned for the President who promotes inequality.  I digress.  I’m emotionally exhausted.  I have a Masters Degree in Cyber Security Operations and tonight I’m working on a new prototype for my plague pin.

  • A copper shaft because copper’s anti microbial
  • A purple crown – purple is healing
  • A heart because it’s our strongest organ
  • A diamond pave arrow – strongest gem pointing in the “right” direction

Fraught with symbolism is my pin.

It feels like an exercise for a nine year old girl, not a middle aged professional woman.  But I’m mad and I’m sad and I have written lots of letters, made lots of calls, attended lots of protests and I don’t know what to do anymore.

Please message me directly if you would like a pin. Any and all donations will be forwarded to Girls, Inc. of Alameda County.

You didn’t Actually Say that… Did you?

“But of course, you didn’t really say that, did you?  You wouldn’t”, says Marie.

“Well, yeah, Marie, I did.” I respond.

This is the second time in as many days that someone has said this to me.  Granted, it was in reference to two completely different situations.  I was driving home from playing tennis and I had to stop behind Marie on Jennie Court as she had stopped her car to chat with another neighbor.  Marie finishes up her chat and pulls forward to the top of her very steep driveway.  I park in my driveway and we’re both in our cars hollering across at each other when I decide perhaps I’ll get out and we can converse like civilized people.  Marie is about 5’8” and today she’s wearing, olive green capri pants with little buttons at the cuff, penny loafers, a puff vest and a black knit t-shirt underneath.  She’s let her gorgeous short curly hair go grey and she has that lovely mediterranean olive complexion that I would kill for.

So we’re yacking…  

“I was telling Moira that I’d use her to refinance if it was something I needed.” says Marie.  Our neighbor, Moira, has just re-entered the workforce as a mortgage broker.

“I know, us too, we’re so fortunate.” I respond.

“Aren’t we?”

“Yes, we really are.”

Anyway, you aren’t there yet but my Dad, my Dad was always so careful and now that he’s paid off his condominium, and he’s in his 90’s you know.”

“I do.”

“So I do grocery shopping for him and I’m on the credit card so I can do that and he says,  ‘Why don’t you take you and Jim out to dinner?’ and I respond, ‘But Dad, no, we don’t need it.’  And I want him to spend it on himself but there’s more than he can spend.’”

“Ah, it reminds me of Margaret,” I say.


“Yes.  You know, we’re all naked in front of our accountants.  And Margaret was one of the elderly clients of the law firm I worked for.  I’m in my mid twenties. The law firm had quite a few old ladies as clients.  And Margaret, well, there we were one day and I’m running the numbers and she wanted to know how many years she could afford to keep living. “

 This is where Marie jumps in and asks “you didn’t tell her did you?”

I have Margaret seated at my left and we’re going through her accounts.  I’m right handed and running the ten key with, well, my right hand.

Margaret is talking about whether or not she should/could take her grand niece on a cruise.  

“Well Margaret, we can look at the numbers,” I say as I key in her annual expenses and then multiply that by twenty.

“Margaret, you’re eighty five now aren’t you?”  we both know how old she is.

“Yes Martha, we both know how old I am.”

“You have gorgeous skin,” I say.

“Thank you, I have taken good care of it and stayed out of the sun.”

“You’ve been better about that than I have,” I respond.

“Yes, I know,” she says.

I look over at Margaret, her hair has been set and styled. Her hair, nails, and lips are all a perfect shade of peachy apricot.  Margaret is wearing a beautiful slide bracelet.  I’m wearing one too.  Mine is a watch with a slide bracelet type band.  Mine came from Avon and where mine has rhinestones, Margaret’s has diamonds, rubies and a real tiger eye stone on the back of her turtle charm.

“And you like this grand niece?” I ask as I pull the tape off of the ten key and show her the run rate for the next twenty years. 

“Yes I do but she’s a little man crazy.”

“I understand that, and you know , ‘you will never come this way again’” I say and smile.

“Yes, I’m sure you do. And was that a quote? You made the coffee today didn’t you?”

“Yes, from a song, and yes, why do you ask?”

“Well, it’s pretty strong,” says Margaret.

“Oh, more cream, some hot water in it?”

“No, it’s fine, but I don’t think that you’re getting enough sleep, maybe that’s why the coffee is so strong.” 

“I do like it kindof strong, you’re not the only one who has complained.”

“So was he worth it?” asks Margaret.

Good god I think, she’s going to ask me about my sex life or comment on my sex life.  Not that that’s appropriate but I did just run the numbers on her life expectancy being 105, like, she can go on this cruise and if I’m going to address her mortality well fair is fair.

“Well…” I respond.

“And we both know how old you are as well, so maybe you can be a little more…”  she just lets that one hang.  So not only my sex life but my fertility as well.  Nice!  I am in a constant state of confusion over how and why so many people think that just because someone is old that they’re sweet.  None of the old people I know are sweet.

“And, you will never come this way again either.”

“True that Margaret, true that,” I can’t help but wonder if she has somehow gotten my mother’s phone number.

“So as you can see, Margaret, the numbers are pretty clear and if you want to take this cruise, well, it’s up to you.  All of the investments are doing well.  Are there any changes that you need me to make to the accounts?”

“No, Martha, I think that’s all for today.”

“Shall I call you a cab?”

“No, Vincent drove me.”

“Oh, tell him ‘hi’ for me and let me walk you out.”

“I will and thank you”

“It’s always a pleasure seeing you Margaret, it really is.” 

“You as well Martha and think about what I said.  Time is of the essence.”


Margaret was one of my favorites and when she needed to know how many years worth of living she could afford… I told her.


I went online to Costco to see if I could pick up a pair of jeans and I could.  I went ahead and threw them in a cart with one click and then went to check out and realized that the cost of these jeans was $99.  How could that be?  Did Costco have a problem with their website?  Weren’t these the Kirkland brand jeans?  Hold on, hold on, these were “J jeans”  I had no idea if this is a real brand.  I googled it.  It is.  It is a real brand and these jeans sell for over $200.  If I was pissed at ripping a pair of $70 jeans that I had owned for five years I sure as hell wasn’t going to purchase a $200 pair of jeans even at 50% off and then venture into the vegetable garden.  Ok, I’m not even working anymore so let me see what I can find on thredUp, an online used clothing store.  Got it, a pair of straight leg jeans for $16 that will do.  The jeans arrived and fit and looked fine but the front pockets were faux pockets.  Ok, huh.

In my googling for jeans I came across an opinion article in CNN titled “FINALLY, These are the jeans women REALLY need.”  I took the bait.  I didn’t realize that this was a national crisis issue, a crisis being addressed by a professor of communications no less. Come to tell, with the pandemic and weight gain and people just running through their final reserves of fucks to give, that working women, read this to mean all women, are opting towards high waisted relaxed fit jeans.  They just can’t do it anymore, they just can’t pour themselves into skinny jeans to look good to run errands or even eat a meal in.  This is nice.  The author was encouraging women to make comfort the new norm.  Exchange the pencil skirts for flowy skirts.  I’m curious as to how this will work or if it will work.  I remember watching  an interview with Sheryl Saunders and I was distracted by her constantly tugging at her pencil skirt.  The skirt was a gorgeous royal blue with a soft wrap around blouse, she looked lovely but… 

I think that it is facile to say “just do it ladies!”  The woman who famously championed “take a seat at the table!” isn’t even dressing comfortably.  I think that we dress to impress and to compete and attract and make statements.  I think that men do it as well but they are not judged as harshly on their appearance as women are so the bulk of them don’t have to or even care to give it much thought.  

Wait, there’s more.  Slate also had an article on women’s jeans this week.  So much is going on in the world that I’m a little startled by how much print this topic is getting. 
‘ “The biggest mistake any brand or retailer can make is to assume that they know what customer product priorities will be when they come out of this period,” a VP at a trend-forecasting company told Harper’s Bazaar of the near future in fashion. 

The New York Times says we’re in an era of high-rise jeans; Vox claims low-rise jeans are cooler. ‘

Since we haven’t dressed for a year so what will we choose?  Just what will we, the consumer choose?  The high waisted boot cut jeans are getting a lot of press.  But wait, those look like flairs to me.  The article goes on to warn you not to confuse these with flairs.  Clothing producers are weary and wary of producing too much of anything but skinny jeans are out.  Everyone is in agreement on that.  How come I see skinny jeans everywhere I look?  

I’m sharing this with my mother and she says, “High waisted flares are in.  That’s the fashion forward look.  Of course traditional cut Levis will always be in.”  she’s adamant.  This from an 85 year old woman who has consistently dressed like a reformed nun, Clarks walking shoes and vests with pockets, for the past 30 years or so.  To be fair though, she does stay au courant in spite of her own sartorial choices.

In retirement I have been sewing and playing with sewing knits, tricky.  I’m enjoying the colors.  I don’t know if I‘ll ever wear black again.  As mentioned, I’m struggling with the knits and I found a website The Last Stitch and it’s hosted by a Swedish woman who swears by these two tools for working with knits, an awl, yes, you read that correctly and a rubber mallet.  She showed how some people use a special walking foot for feeding the knit fabric through the machine but “I, I prefer the awl, Look!  See! More control!”  I’ve tried it, she’s right,  and then the rubber mallet.  To make the neckline or the waistband lay flat, make sure you clip a notch right here” (she clips a notch on where the fabric is folded) and then bam! Bam! Bam!  “see?  All flat! It works!”  I haven’t tried the rubber mallet yet, but I will.  She’s written a book on how to sew jeans.  I mention this to my husband Tom.  “Wouldn’t that be a pain in the ass?  With the rivets and everything?” he asks.  Well, yeah, but I’m thinking that the fun of using a rubber mallet and making a pair of jeans just might be more than I can resist. 

Before I go any further I check in with Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer prize winning writer at the Washington Post.  Ms. Givhan does social and fashion commentary.  Since this appears to be jeans week I wonder what she has to say.  Nothing, her column is on how all lives matter and that was validated by the guilty verdict on Chauvin in the George Floyd murder.  

I’m going to buy the men’s Kirkland jeans, they only make them for men, and tailor them with my awl and rubber mallet to fit me.