Just a few minutes ago I looked out the back door and was surprised to see the warm yellow glow of a lightning bug flickering nearby. Wow...I know they say the early bird gets the worm but I'm left wondering what the early firefly expects to find.
The exhaustion of Friday night is completely different than the one that greets me on a Monday morning. Friday night's exhaustion speaks of the five workdays that have come before. It whispers of the failed student interactions in the classroom as well as the successes. It echoes the frustrations and jubilations of the previous five days. It's a good kind of tired.
Monday morning tired means why is the alarm going off and why must I arise at 5:30 AM? The Monday morning yawn means I remember how warm and soft my bed is and how the comforter is exactly the correct weight to keep me feeling relaxed and happy. It means yeah, I'd rather stay right in this bed, but I've got a job to do and I even though I like this bed I know in the end I like the job even more. I like knowing that it's a new week, a new challenge and a new start.
Both kinds of tired are good ones...good in their own comfortable, satisfying kind of way.
My middle-aged cat is sitting in his usual perch at the back window. These days he seems more interested in surveying his area from the inside. Yes, he's starting to show his age.
Just last summer Scout was happy to go outside for long periods of time. He would slink along the perimeter of the back courtyard looking for whatever he sensed was out of place. Mostly he was bent on keeping one orange tabby from entering his self-proclaimed area. The damn tabby did not understand about feline squatter's rights. Scout had been here for 11 years, he had left his scent all over the place as a warning to others that this area was spoken for...there was nothing for any intruders to see here.
Orange Cat has been persistent over the past year or so. He showed up from time to time, even having the nerve to lounge in the bushes on my back patio as he watched the birds fly in and out of the feeder. There were more than a few scuffles between Lord of the Manor Scout and the uninformed tabby. There were the loud howls and cries of a cat fight, tufts of gray and orange fur and even a little bit of blood.
Eventually Orange Cat got the message. He hasn't been around too much and I think Scout is thankful for that. You see, my feline squatter is getting older. Even though he understands his responsibility for guarding what he sees as his, he prefers to do most of his protecting from the inside. Time outside is limited to 20 or 30 minute jaunts instead of the 2-hour security walks of just last year.
Bedtime comes early for Scout these days. In fact, there are many nights when I head up to bed and see that my protective cat has already turned in for the evening.
I eased back into work mode today after a 9-day Spring Break. Returning to work after vacation is never easy but today was a teacher workday so that made the day a little easier. The halls were quiet. I used the day to enter grades and comments for the 3rd quarter and to put together a general plan for the last 52 days of school. I chatted with a few colleagues and it was easy to see we were all feeling a little bleary-eyed after time away from the classroom.
The students will return tomorrow feeling the same kind of tired that I did today. No doubt it will be another quiet day in the classroom, and I am okay with that.
So, if you've been reading what's here for sometime now you may know that I have had my fair share of struggles when it comes to baking a cake. For some reason, I'm determined to figure this thing out. That's very unlike me; really I usually can't be bothered with solving mundane problems that don't really adversely affect my life. For example, I can't be bothered to figure out where those socks go when I come up short while folding clothes. I assume the missing one will show up at some point and if it doesn't, oh well I just throw the single sock away.
But, for some reason this cake thing is something I want to figure out. I like cake and I'd like to think I could make one at some point in my life.
I've been picking apart each bad cake of the past trying to see where I've gone wrong. So far there has been an investment in new cake pans as well as an oven thermometer. Today, I had the help of a friend who was sure her carrot cake recipe was the easiest ever. She told me so as we sat in her kitchen on Wednesday night. I laughed when she assured me that anyone could make this cake without fail.
"No, you come over and watch me make it and you'll see, it won't work out."
She agreed and showed up this morning to oversee the baking process, even better she grated all the carrots as well.
It really was an easy recipe, one that would involve three layers of carrot cake. I mixed up the ingredients in no time and we put it in the oven. We adjusted the oven temperature based on the reading from my shiny new thermometer and left the batter to rise and bake its way into cakedom.
It worked! Sort of. It was by far the best of my attempts but still just a teeny bit dry. My friend and I rated it a 7---which is out of the park for me considering my other attempts wouldn't even make the rating scale.
No one who knows me would describe me as a perfectionist--I'm far from it. However, this slice of success has me excited to try one more time, or more if needed.
Two of my favorite novels are Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Strange isn't it? These books rose to the top of my personal favorites list long before I knew of the odd connection between Lee and Capote. What an odd connection it is. Two friends from a southern childhood both go on to be great writers. They both write the novel of their lifetime around the same time and for the most part don't write much else.
Lee has not written another book, and although Capote did publish after the success of In Cold Blood his words never received the attention of that one book.
What's a writer to think? Is there just one great book in each of us? And, if you're lucky enough to find it inside of you--is that all your able to give?
Maybe I can answer that question if I keep on looking.
I'm not sure what happened to my cat, but my only guess is he never went to "cat school."
Scout, a name I was once reminded sounds more like a dog's name, is nothing like any cat I've ever known.
Sure, he sleeps most of the day away but other than that his personality is much more dog-based than of the feline type.
This crazy cat of mine goes out of his way to check in on me. He's not at all like the cat I had as a child that could barely lift her head to greet me. When I walk in the door he lumbers his 17-pound body to greet me. And yes, even though he's fond of the daily 3 or 4 hour nap he still wakes up every so often to check in on me. If I happen to be lounging on the couch Scout will stretch and saunter over to say hello.
I got my first cat when I was 9 after begging my mother to let me have one of the kittens my teacher had brought into school that day. I was sure that cat, Morris, was going to be my best friend. She wasn't. (She wasn't a boy either, even though my teacher assured me differently.) Morris was only interested in food, naps and cruising around the neighborhood at night.
Scout is a whole other story. Although he likes his food his nightly outside activity is limited to the area in my backyard where he is most interested in securing the perimeter from any perceived danger toward me--meaning other cats are not allowed in the territory. He never stays out too long, making sure to come back every 15 minutes or so to check on my well-being.
At night my dog-cat sleeps with one eye opened to make sure that all is safe at the homestead. He takes his job seriously, making sure to check on me throughout the night as I slumber upstairs.
While my students are traveling near and far over this week of Spring Break I am happily hanging out right here at home in Alexandria, VA. The daily pace is much slower than it would be if I were at work, and really that's just the kind of break I've been looking forward to.
I'm keeping my list of projects to a minimum this week, doing so allows for more moments of gratification and satisfaction. Take today, for example, I woke up without the alarm, met a friend for a manicure, did some shopping and got my daily intake of vitamin D with a little time in the sun. Satisfaction, indeed.
Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids, is book that's been on my to-read list for sometime now. Not that I'm a huge Patti Smith fan or anything, but I'd heard a lot about the book and knew I wanted to get to it at some point.
There was a segment on CBS's Sunday Morning about Smith this morning. The piece was a look back at her life, starting with her early years playing music in New York. She spoke of her relationship with Robert Maypole, one that began during those early years and continued until his death in 1989.
What I found most intriguing about the story came at the end of the segment. Patti was telling of the terrible year she had in 1994 when she was faced with the death of not only her husband, but her brother and keyboard player as well. Not surprisingly she found it difficult to do much more than get her kids off to school each day, it wasn't until she picked up a Polaroid camera and took a random photo that she started to find the creativity that had been buried under her depression.
In February of 1995 Michael Stipe, lead singer of REM, reached out to Patti. He called her on Valentine's Day; they had never met and didn't know each other personally. However, he could empathize with the loss she was feeling, that first Valentine's Day without her husband. He asked if she would be his Valentine.
It was a sweet story, one that not only reminded my about a book I wanted to read, it also reminded me how much I like Michael Stipe and REM.