Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Yeah, that didn't happen. And I'm okay with that. Some other good things did happen though. The writing club at school turned out to be a lot of fun and we did have one student who produced over 25,000 words. We met last Thursday to share our work and she came in with a big smile on her face, clearly proud of her accomplishments. I was proud of her as well...and, of course, just a little jealous.
Anyway, most in the group were able to share a little writing and what I liked most about that experience was the discussion that followed. Middle school students, at least the ones in the writing club, have no problem being honest. Anything that didn't make sense was immediately identified, as were phrases and words appreciated by the group.
In the end everyone left the meeting feeling like a successful writer, even those who churned out a measly 309 words.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
A few summers ago my writing group decided to try the NaNoWriMo challenge. Since we're all teachers we thought it best to use the month of July to write. I didn't meet the challenge but I did write the beginnings of what may be a book...some day.
This month I'll be working with a teacher friend and a few students as we all challenge ourselves to write. The young writer's program, which we're participating in, has a goal of a mere 20,000 words by the end of the month. Compared to the 50, 000 I tried a few summers ago that sounds pretty darn attainable.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
That was not a problem for the young man, in fact he asked about dialing 9 as he strolled toward my desk. He started to push the numbers on the keypad and then stopped to look at me with a rolled up nose of confusion.
"Do I have to pick this thing up?" he asked as he pointed to the handset.
"Yes, pick that up," I responded. "Do you hear a dial tone?"
Again I was faced with the rolled up nose of confusion. I moved closer to the phone and took the handset from him to listen.
"Do you hear anything?" I asked.
"Oh, that humming sound?"
"Yeah, that's a dial tone."
It was only then that I realized how the use of cell phones has started to change our own culture.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I'm Betsy! My favorite color is black!
Yes, that really happened. Even though Betsy was adorned from head toe in pink she was harboring a secret love for the color black.
My nephew, Michael, never liked that kind of game. He would often complain about having to choose one color over all the others.
I don't like one color, he would say. I like all the colors!
We suggested just picking one for the sake of the exercise but that didn't sit well.
I can't, he would respond. I like all the colors!
Fifteen years later he's in art school, a place where he can work with all his favorite colors on a daily basis.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
It was a busy day. The kind of day that started with a 7:10 am meeting that I was late for. From that point onward the day was in fast motion. Homeroom, welcome-back/safety assembly, a short first period, every class to the library, pictures with 3rd period, 35 minute lunch, two more classes, team meeting, doctors appointment, and a bowl of cereal for dinner before heading back to work for Back to School Night.
At some point during the madness of the day I looked down at the paper bead bracelet on my wrist. It was made by a woman somewhere in Uganda. Beading offers a small source of income--a way to rise above financial woes. The poverty they live in is more than I can imagine.
Thinking of the women who bead didn't make my day any easier, but it sure did put it in perspective.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Can I rant about air travel for just a minute or two?
I recently paid $26 extra dollars for a seat on my US Air flight from Portland, ME to Philadelphia, PA. Just to be clear, I was not in first class. A CL-65 has no such thing. On a 48-seater everyone is the same, it’s a class-less flight--unless you start talking about overhead space.
I paid extra because it was one of the last open seats on the plane when I purchased my ticket. US Air’s reasoning is that the upgraded seat allows me to be among the first to board the plane- a real privilege.
Boarding the plane first is a big deal these days. Early boarders are less likely to have to fight for the coveted over-head space. The unfortunate ones that end up boarding with the Zone 4 and 5 people walk on the plane with wide eyes darting every which way looking for 40 inches of free space to jam their 45 inch carry-on bag into.
It costs $25 to check a bag on US Air. Mathematically speaking I lost $1 on this transaction.
Actually, even that’s not true…read on.
The tiny regional jet used for small trips like one from Maine to Pennsylvania has even less overhead space. There’s no way the standard rolling carry-on bag is going to fit in the slim space above the seat so passengers were asked to check their rolling bags plane-side. That means that in reality my extra $26 got me…absolutely nothing.
Well, nothing worth $26.
Because I was the 6th person to board the plane I got to watch and privately judge the other passengers as they filed past me to their seats.
There was the older gentleman who apparently missed the announcement that all rolling bags should be checked plane-side. Either that or he thought his bulky, blue case had a magic “shrink this bag” button.
Other airline passengers often quietly annoy me; the grating ones are those who fail to follow the etiquette of air travel or individuals who appear unaware of common courtesy.
A few of the behaviors that bug me are:
1. Cell phone addicts
These are the people, usually men, sitting in their aisle seat chatting away on cell phones when I get on the plane. They are bothered by passengers like me who board after them – because I’m not a member of their many miles club that gives them preboarding privileges—interrupting their important business call so I can grab my seat by the window. They usually roll their eyes just a bit when someone gestures that they need to get by.
2. Window seat sleepers
Oh how I do wish I could sleep on a plane, really I do. Unfortunately, anxiety and ADD usually get the best of me so anything more than a sixty-second catnap is unlikely. Looking out the window is about the only thing I can count on to keep myself from being tortured by total, mind-numbing boredom.
Earlier this summer I found myself in a middle seat on a 5-hour flight to Phoenix. The young gal in the window seat next to me shut the window shade as soon as she sat down. She then grabbed a blue sweatshirt from her bag for a makeshift pillow and settled in for a nice, long nap. I was stuck analyzing the pattern in the blue seatback in front of me.
Okay, this gripe probably is a bit selfish, but you know how easy it is to get carried away when ranting.
3. The airlines themselves…that’s you, US Air
Granted, I don’t fly that often but really, what happened? The prime seat charge is bad enough, but isn’t it just crazy to charge $6 for a blanket and a pillow? Calling it a premium sleep package doesn’t make it any more than it is or ever was—a miniature pillow and a thin acrylic blanket.
What happened to the food, complete with the tiny flatware? I know I should be thankful for the complimentary soft drinks, all 4 ounces of them, but would it be so hard to throw a few pretzels my way?
Monday, September 19, 2011
It was literally the strawberry on top of the week. I’ve never tasted anything like it and from the way Michael’s eyes popped out of his head, neither had he.
“Oh my god, that is the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted!” I announced. “Here taste one.”
I picked out another from the small pile of fruit on my breakfast plate and passed it to my 19 year-old nephew. As soon as he popped it into his mouth his eyes widened and the smile grew on his face.
“It’s awesome, ridiculously awesome.” he replied.
Who knew fruit could be so fabulous?
California was full of small surprises like that. From the insanely delicious fruit, yummy donuts and burgers, to the jaw dropping vistas along Pacific Coast Highway and Harry Potter in 3D, there was something for everyone on the trip to enjoy.
For the most part summer vacations with family have only meant one thing—a week at the beach. It’s never been our thing to spend a week driving from one place to the next sightseeing along the way. I’m happy with the sights I see from the comfort of my beach chair. If I can see the ocean and dig my feet into the warm sand then I’m good.
California was not going to be that kind of vacation. It was more along the lines of in the car each day and drive, drive, drive to the next stop on the list of things to see and do. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.
Drive we did, but fortunately our rental car had been upgraded to a Toyota Sienna mini-van, a vehicle that afforded us the room needed for three teenaged siblings that sometimes require a little of their own space.
A week later the van was returned to it’s home at the airport with an additional 1,000 miles and an illuminated warning light pleading for someone to change its oil. The van’s exterior was covered in dust and bird droppings. The latter a result of a surprise attack by a few seagulls as my nephew sat waiting for me to check out of the hotel in Monterey.
How does one describe the journey of a thousand miles sufficiently? One word works for me—surprises.
The California I knew consisted of beaches and palm trees with a few Hollywood types thrown in. Sure, I knew Gilroy to be the garlic capital of the world and had read a few things about Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley. What I didn’t know about was something referred to as the “real California.” My journey down 101 south proved to be a glorious adventure. I wasn’t driving at that point so it was easy to sit back and take in the impressive hills and fields that surrounded the highway. The land stretched uninterrupted to the horizon, with only a few trees and cows dotting the canvas. To see so much untouched land was inspiring, especially for someone who lives in the suburbs of the nation’s capital.
Route 101 runs into Hwy 46, another road of imposing landscapes. Before long, we found ourselves at the crossroads of a place known as Lost Hills, CA. The busy store located there, Blackwell’s Corner, is known for its selection of local pistachios and almonds. It’s also the last place that James Dean stopped in before heading north to his demise on the road to Salinas.
From Route 46 we continued south to Anaheim and the “house of mouse.”
It costs $80 for a one-day ticket to the happiest place on earth. My sister decided early on that if we were going to spend that kind of money we were going to get our money’s worth. The night before was spent plotting our attack on Disneyland.
The next morning we hit breakfast at 6:30AM and made our way to the park joining the mass of people gathered on Main St., USA waiting for the one and only Mickey Mouse to open his house for the day. We were quickly schooled on the use of the FastPass, which allowed us to walk past the 100-minute line at Star Tours to the front. The day went off without a hitch, we rode Space Mountain twice, watched Minnie Mouse shake her thing in the parade and had a meet and greet with Mr. Mickey Mouse himself. My sister even survived being surprised and groped by Goofy.
And then came the fireworks. They started with Tinkerbell releasing her wand to unleash a single star shooting across the sky. It was just like it used to be when I watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights.
Dumbo made an appearance as well. He flew through the sky just like Timothy knew he could, no magic feather needed at all.
My sister, Jeen, turned to me at the end of the fireworks, “I just have to say, Dumbo brought a little tear to my eye. I just love Dumbo,” she admitted.
After our 14-hour day in Disney and a good night’s sleep we headed back north along the Pacific Coast highway.
The drive from Morro Bay to Monterey is 143 miles. The GPS calculated the trip should take about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yeah, the GPS doesn’t account for stops that must be made along the way. Each curve in the road presents a new vista of beautifulness. There was blue sky, rocky beaches and the sun setting over the Pacific. With two photographers in the car it took about 4 hours to reach our destination. We arrived at our hotel in Monterey exhausted, not only from the drive, but also from the stress of the curving road and the ominous cliffs below with a little rolling fog thrown in.
The next morning was breakfast in Monterey with the crazy, delicious fruit. After the strawberry tasting we tried a raspberry.
“Wow,” my sister exclaimed, “you know when you eat something that’s raspberry flavored? This really tastes like that.”
Michael shook his head as he reached for a blackberry.
“This place is awesome.”
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I survived as well. And other than swollen feet and a scratchy throat from talking way too much I am no worse for the wear.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I was happy to find my refrigerator humming when I came home yesterday and looked forward to a better start on Tuesday.
I woke up late this morning having set my alarm for 5:45 PM by mistake. The coffee failed as well. I had measured out the water as needed but somehow skipped the important add coffee step.
Sometimes it takes a little time to get back into the swing of things doesn't it?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Maybe I was a little envious of the adventure she was about to embark on, but mostly I was jealous of all the cool stuff they have for college kids these days. Stores just didn't carry that kind of stuff 30 years ago when I headed off to school. My college shopping trip consisted of exactly five things: a green bucket that would be used to cart my supplies to the hall shower, a nice pink soap container, a brown bedspread, a small hotpot and a hot air popcorn machine.
I still have my pink soap container-surprising that it's moved with me over the past three decades. The bucket was re-purposed after college, it came in handy when washing my car. The hotpot got a lot of use during my four years of school--there were endless cups of coffee, noodle soups and mac and cheese (sometimes with a little tuna stirred in). I can't say what happened to that little hotpot, but I bet it was one of the things I threw in the dumpster the day I looked at all the stuff that wasn't going to fit into the car after graduation. The bedspread is still around. It now makes its home at a friend's beach house. Next weekend I'll meet up with a few friends from college at the beach and no doubt we will be lounging on that very blanket reminiscing about all the fun we've had since we first met so many years ago.
I did a little back to school shopping last week. I have a new plan book for the year and some new pens.
I'm ready for school.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Last week while cruising around the internet I came across an offer for a free audio book, with a 6-hour drive coming up in a few days it seemed like a good time to take Audible.com up on their offer. I downloaded Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants.
Let me say this, Tina Fey makes for a helluva road trip partner. Sure she's no help with the navigational aspects of the trip, but what she lacks in map skills is easily made up in her ability to make me laugh. She taught me a few things as well. Thanks to Tina, I've got the basic rules of improvisational comedy down.
We spent about 5 hours together, enough time for me to know I'd let her ride shotgun any old time.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The group has done more than raise my self-awareness as a writer; it's also forced me to come up with meals that others would actually enjoy eating. I've learned if you want to be a writer you need to write, and if you want to eat well you can cook it yourself without too much hassle.
Apparently, my friends have noticed. My birthday presents this year included a nice griddle pan, a grilling glove, two nice loaf pans and a cool chopping board with fold up sides that allow for the easy transfer of chopped things right into the pan at hand.
Today I opened up my salad container for lunch and a colleague noted how impressed she's been with the salads I've been eating each day. I watched her open a pizza from Lean Cuisine and smiled as I thought about how long it's been since I've bought a frozen meal. And then I poured my homemade salad dressing over my steak with goat cheese salad and enjoyed my lunch.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Yes, air conditioning eases the pain, but I haven't forgotten what it was like to live without the comfort of cool, compressed air.
I spent one summer during graduate school as a messenger. I didn't have the guts and coordination to be a bike messenger so I settled for a job behind the wheel of my 1985 red Ford Escort. It was my first car. That means it was cheap ($8,000) and had absolutely no bells or whistles. Okay, it had a tape player. It didn't have A/C, rear window defrost, or automatic transmission. It had windows that were rolled down by hand, two doors without automatic locks and a roomy hatchback trunk.
I drove from office to office throughout the summer picking up packages and dropping them off. Driving in the city didn't offer much chance go faster than 25 mph, meaning it was tough to get a breeze going with my windows cranked open. It was a hot, sweaty summer.
It was the same summer that my grandmother was in the hospital undergoing surgery for cancer. She was in Baltimore, about 40 miles away from my home in Arlington. I made the drive up 295 to see her when I could-sweating my way through the heat that came with rush hour traffic. At one point I was at my wits end. It was close to 100 degrees and I couldn't face the thought of another trip in the red, hot car. Fortunately, my housemate came through and offered up her A/C-equipped Subaru.
What a difference cool air makes. I made my way up to Baltimore smiling at the jammed up traffic. Yes, I was living life on the other side, but I didn't forget where I'd come from. Whenever other cars would try to inch their way in front of me to keep moving I always let the ones without A/C get right in. I knew how much they needed the air circulation.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
Charlie has been absent because he has company and had to stay home and help entertain them.
I found this small note in a country store that is easily one of the most fascinating places I’ve stumbled across recently.
My sister has told me about the many afternoons she and her housemate spent at a store called Ann and Tony’s. It was a gas station, a small market, a tackle shop, and a gathering place for the local folk. The owners, Ann and Tony, never cared if you grabbed a beer from the cooler and sat to chat for a while. Jeen reported that it was not uncommon for her and her housemate, Meg, to leave their car parked at the gas pump for close to three hours.
I’ve been in my fair share of small, country stores. There was one up the road from my grandmother’s house. When I was too young to make the trip on my own Granny would take my hand and lead me up the dirt lane and across the road to Palmer’s. The wooden porch out front was home to a huge plug-in cooler with a bright Coca-Cola insignia on the front. The screen door had a tin insert that proclaimed we should all be eating Sunbeam Bread.
My grandmother’s heels would click along the wide plank floors, stirring up the dust and dirt that had found its way through the front door. Mr. Palmer stood tall behind the counter that was lined with an assortment of items- everything from 3-in-1-ONE Oil and fly swatters to Red Hots and my favorite, Good and Plenty.
When I got older I was allowed to walk there on my own, often at the request of my grandmother who was in need of a little cream or a loaf of that soft Sunbeam bread.
Like my grandmother, the store is just a memory now. The last time I drove by that way there was nothing but a grassy piece of land where the store used to be. The memories of Palmer’s had slipped away into the recesses of my long-term memory…until a trip to Buzzy’s Country Store in Scotland, MD stirred them up.
It was Moe’s idea to stop in. She had been given an artist’s rendition of the small wooden shop by her in-laws and wanted to check it out; besides the sign out front advertised “tackle, liquor, beer and souvenirs” and we needed beer.
I smiled as I noticed the large Coca-Cola cooler on the front porch. By the time I heard the second little tap of the wooden screen door closing behind me I could feel my heartbeat speed up with excitement. All those memories of Palmer’s and shopping there with my grandmother came back to me. I stopped inside the front door and took it all in.
There was a small counter with a few bar stools sitting in front of the beer coolers.
“Looks like we need to have a beer here,” Julie remarked.
“Can we?” I asked.
An older gentleman behind the counter spoke right up. “Sure you can. Sit for a spell, grab a beer.”
It took a few minutes to wander the store. The souvenir section was small, but included a few Buzzy’s Country Store t-shirts and hats. The tackle section was a little larger with hooks, line and sinkers. There was some camping equipment and a variety of nets used for fishing and crabbing. Just like Palmer’s there was a long counter with an assortment of penny candy. Behind the counter was a small collection of wines and liquor.
We settled in at the Formica counter and watched the comings and goings of Buzzy’s. The event of the day was the Rockfish tournament going on. An older guy walked in and grabbed a piece of gum from the jar on the counter. He was there to set up for the post-tournament barbecue. Next in came a couple, Linda and Mike. They chatted a bit, asking about the barbecue and the karaoke that was due to start at 4:00. For a small store in a real small town there was a lot going on.
Over the course of an hour we drank our beer and learned a few things. The wide plank floors of the store came from the Confederate prison that was down the road. The building has been on the lot since the late 1800s. The current owner is J. Scott Ridgell; he bought the store from his father, Buzzy himself.
And then there was the note. According to the owner, Charlie is one of a group of regular guys that shows up every day around 4:00 to share some stories, laughs and drinks. After Charlie had missed a few days he presented the note that addressed his whereabouts. I’m sure there were a few more laughs about that.
The tagline at the bottom of the t-shirts sold at Buzzy’s reads, “The way things used to be.” Yeah it is.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
For the most part the pair stayed put. Mother Osprey sat on the nest while Father Osprey kept watch from an adjoining pier pylon. Both raptors seemed content to sit and watch over their young.
I found it most interesting when the mother decided she needed to leave the nest. She would stand up, spread open her wings and take off. As soon as she was in the air the father would move from his perch and jump down into the nest. I couldn't see how they communicated to one another, but was impressed with their ability to work together as a family.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
A second student, who was standing nearby, piped in immediately.
"Oh, he's read that series like three times. He just keeps reading it over and over again."
What a gift it is to find a book that you want to read over and over again. I've certainly found myself so immersed in a story that I didn't want it to end. I felt that way about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I was enchanted with the characters from the start and even though I rushed through the first half of the book I started slowing down as I got closer to the end. I was so taken with the people and their story that I didn't want to say goodbye. I haven't reread it but have a feeling I will before long.
East of Eden is the one book I reread every five years or so. In fact, a friend was just telling me that she had not read it before so we decided we would both read it and meet up again to talk about when we are through. She had recently read The Good Earth at my suggestion and loved it.
The ring of my cell phone at 7:00 am this morning surprised me. What didn't surprise me was the way my friend was gushing about the book.
"Oh my god! Thank you, for East of Eden! I've only read a few pages and already I'm taken with the writing."
"Yeah," I replied. "That Steinbeck is quite a writer, isn't he?"
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
It’s been somewhere around twenty years since I’ve mowed a lawn. On Saturday I realized how much I missed that simple action. I had offered to mow a friend’s back yard so she could tend to her vegetables that were just beginning to grow. The peas were proving to be most troublesome. It seems the pea trellis that had been constructed needed shoring up. Otherwise there was a risk that the trellis would be unable to hold the weight of the climbing peas that are expected in the coming months.
I was happy to be able to cut the lawn. My friend was surprised by and perhaps even suspicious of my enthusiasm. It’s true…I love mowing the lawn.
The first pull of the starter cord made me smile, the mower started without a hitch and I was on my way. The rumble of the motor surrounded me, sealing me off from the rest of the world. I walked back and forth, creating adjoining paths of cut grass—creating signs of progress—instant progress.
It’s not easy to see such clear success in the classroom.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Oh yeah, I thought...this is what summer feels like.
The stress and exhaustion I had felt just five days before had subsided. Feeling that sense of contentment inside me led me to my next thought.
If this is what summer is like, and I'm pretty sure it is, sign me up. I'm ready to embrace the civilized, lazy days of July and August.
I checked the calendar before I left for work on Monday and counted up the school days until the end of the year. 42 days. I can handle that.
When I got to school, I could see that I wasn't the only one thinking this way. Another teacher had already taken the time to write the number 42 on the chalkboard in the team room.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
It's cloudy and chilly here at the beach today, but that's okay with me. The waves still crash, beating their watery rhythm onto the shore. The granules of sand still glide through my bare feet, reminding me that summer vacation is closer than I think. I dipped my toes in the surf yesterday...not quite warm enough for swimming but just fine for an April afternoon.
April or August...sick or healthy...the beach is always a great place to be.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Writing can be like that sometimes.
Going to the picture is not always the best way; another option is waiting for the picture to come to you. It's often easier to sit quietly and scan the area for what is already there that hasn't been noticed. There's a bee buzzing above the flowering purple azalea. It's a bee that I could have easily missed if I was on the move. Stop, look, take it in...there's always something there worth putting together...it just takes time for it to gel.
Just like writing.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
My brain raced as I conjured up every memory I had of the odd little creatures as well as a few thoughts that were completely unrelated to my initial memory. I looked up to see the light had turned green--it was time to move on down the road and onto another thought.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
So much to see in such a short time.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I made myself pay close attention to the details of the recipe. Before each step was completed I double and triple checked the fine print. I was determined not to confuse teaspoons with tablespoons. Really, it wasn't that hard to read and follow the directions. In the end I proudly slid two cake pans full of creamy yellow batter into my 350-degree oven and set the timer.
Too bad I didn't push start on that timer. It wasn't until an unknown amount of time later that I realized the time was not counting down. I was busy on the couch putting together my thoughts on this very blog, unaware of my latest cake-tastrophe.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I always look forward to writing group. The monthly meet-up challenges me to keep writing-to keep working at the craft of being a writer. Sometimes I think my writing isn't quite real, or road tested at least, until someone else has read it. I'm not always happy with what I bring, but there's always a part of the whole that I like. It can be as small as one well-chosen word, or just a sentence. That's okay though, there's always the next meet-up.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I have made exactly one cake in my life. That one cake was for the Cake Booth at the annual spring fair held at my high school. It wasn't a self-less act of kindness-it was a necessity of sorts. A cake for the cake booth meant extra credit in my Alg. 3/Trig. class. Sister Rita Dolerine was not only my math teacher; she was also in charge of the cake booth at the spring fair. What a simple equation: 1 cake=a better grade.
It was a sad cake, a lopsided ugly duckling that stood out like a sore thumb among so many other better-looking creations. Back then I couldn't have told you why it came out the way it did, but now I'm thinking it had something to do with my lack of patience with directions. Too bad I wasn't as self-aware in high school.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I was waiting at a stoplight this afternoon, watching the cars go by, when I noticed an older man-probably somewhere in his 60s-making his way across the street. He moved with purpose, taking long strides with head held high as he looked forward. But then, in the middle of the crosswalk, he took a stutter-step and came to a stop. He bent down to pick something up off the ground, some kind of coin I assumed. He took a closer look at the side facing him, smiled a put it in his pocket before continuing on his way with a small smile on his face. It was then I knew what he had found...heads up...good luck.
I thought about that little moment during my short commute home-how something so small and insignificant can brighten the day. And then my little moment arrived. I stepped out of the car and found a rubber band on the sidewalk. It was just a rubber band-no big deal. I took a second look and noticed it had fallen to the ground in the shape of a heart. It was my turn to smile.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Yeah, the cursor can be intimidating, but only if you look ahead of it for too long.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
While out for a jog later in the day I noticed two birds, one a bright red cardinal, the other a small sparrow. They were perched side by side on a telephone wire. Their heads were turned toward one another, and so it looked as though they were exchanging a few words. In my mind I imagined the conversation two birds might have, surely on this day any small talk would have had to include that sporadic dusting of snow that greeted us all in the morning.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
A month ago she was a seemingly healthy woman. Two weeks ago she was diagnosed with cancer. The first chemo treatment came on Thursday. Those in the know said her hair would fall out within two weeks. She took the reins--first there was the head shaving, next was a wig purchase. Myself and two other friends came along for moral support. Surprisingly, there were fewer tears shed than I would have thought. The wig shop works with a lot of cancer patients so there was a steady stream of woman coming and going. There was also a great deal of support between strangers.
Shortly after my group's arrival another lady came in, visibly upset. Her hair had started coming out in clumps the day before--the only thing she could do was have a friend cut the rest off. She was unsure of the wig she had chosen. We became her support group, as did others in the shop.
I can't say it was an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but it was nice to be there for a friend in need.
By the way, her wig looks fabulous.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Maryland Day weekend meant fun, frivolity and time outside with college friends. We would spend that day on the lawn of the old State House looking out on the glistening waters of the St. Marys River considering those who first arrived on the land we lived on at the time.
Okay, really, we just drank a lot of beer in the name of statehood. Yeah, it was another reason to gather and enjoy the company of friends. But it was historical, so it wasn't really like another night at the local pub.
Tonight I actually posted a status on Facebook, it said, "Happy Maryland Day to all my fellow Marylanders!"
Within ten minutes I had heard from three college friends. One is living in Belize, one in Washington State, and one in Annapolis. For all of us, living so far apart from the others, it was an instantaneous step back in time--one we all took together in the same moment. The responses made me smile. In that moment I felt like we were all sitting on that bluff above the St. Marys River together with an Old Milwaukee in our hand cheering on the setting sun.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
This cat is a creature of habit, as I'm sure most are. He likes his first dinner at about 5:00. Dinner number one is followed by a little time outside to patrol the area for mice, small birds and cats that may be thinking about trespassing into his territory. He knows dinner number two comes after he returns from his nightly rounds. Well, he thinks it comes upon his return--really, I feed him half of his dinner portion when I get home from work, whatever time that may be, and the rest about 9:00. He spends most of the evening coming and going hoping his return will remind me it's time for dinner time number two.
He probably thinks my lateness has completely messed up this evening's ritual. Actually, he'll be happy when that second meal comes sooner than he figured on.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I worry for the delicate, daffodils that brighten my backyard beds and feel as though I should knit up a quick scarf, in a pastel color of course, to help them fight the chill that's coming.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
So many excuses. Tonight that ended. I got home from work later than I wanted and needed to make dinner. There was a friend, someone who's been going through a rough patch, who needed checking in on. By 6:15 I could see my brain formulating the excuse of the evening. And then I realized I'm in charge here! Without another thought I turned my heels and walked upstairs to change my clothes. With shoes laced tight I marched out the door and put one front in front of the other and got moving. My legs were pumping, my arms were swinging and I was smiling. My love/like/hate relationship with running was off and, well, running.
Monday, March 21, 2011
This year I decided to give it a shot on my own. So tonight I sat down with my stack of unorganized tax documents and wound my way through the process with the help of an online tax program. Seventy minutes later I was finished. Now I have nothing to do but wait to see my refund appear in my bank account.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
The Z-Pack didn't quite have the punch needed to fight my sinus infection. Even though I woke up last Wednesday feeling better in some ways I was feeling worse in others. My head hurt, but not in the headache kind of way. The back of my head was swollen and tender to the touch. I waited for the antibiotics to do their thing. Friday morning brought no relief so I decided it was time to take a trip to the doctor's office.
A look in my ears got a comment of "yikes, your ears are a mess!" My throat was red and my lymph nodes were swollen. I was running a slight fever. It was time for a new, super antibiotic.
A weekend away became a weekend at home. I took it easy, I slept, and I took it easy some more. Sunday morning came with a feeling of restlessness. The sun was shining and I wanted to be out soaking up a few of those rays. It took a bit of doing, but I was able to wrestle my bike out of the closet for the first ride of the year. My ten-mile jaunt started in Arlington and continued over the Potomac to Georgetown for a ride along the C & O Canal. It was an excellent way to break the monotony of my self-induced weekend at home.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
And then the moon appeared in the eastern sky. It wasn't just any moon--it was a super moon. It was a big, orange celestial sight-- one that added a nice exclamation mark to my hilltop view.
Friday, March 18, 2011
As sixth graders there are far more clues that they have difficulty with. Today's stumper was "______ and Stimpy." I was surprised. I understand they may not get "what happens to a record in the sun," as they have never owned a record and only know the word warp in connection to characters that warp in novels. But I expected them to know about cartoons. After all, they know everything about The Simpsons. It wasn't until tonight that I realized that Ren and Stimpy was on and off the air before they were born. Sure the Simpsons originated before Ren and Stimpy, but it's still in production today.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Yellow is certainly one of the first colors of spring around here. Pretty soon the grass will shed the dull brown of winter in exchange for the deep, dark green of summer. Pink and red azaleas will bloom, as will dogwoods and cherry blossoms. And of course there will be tulips.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This time tomorrow I'll be in the thick of basketball, rooting for teams I've never seen play before and looking forward to seeing my name at the top of the group standings. Let the games begin!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I woke up about midnight but with five hours before the alarm was to go off I downed another shot and rolled over. Certainly all the sleep and such was sure to bring a change in health. But it didn't--I woke up at 4:35AM to a pounding headache and a sore throat. I closed my eyes and considered the possibility of calling in for a sub for the day. The thought of what I would need to do to make that happen overwhelmed me and I fell back asleep until the alarm awoke me forty minutes later.
A warm shower cleared my head a bit as did nasal spray, Advil and DayQuil. I packed up my honey, lemon and tea bags and headed out to face the day. I survived, but boy am I happy to be back under my quilt on the couch.
Monday, March 14, 2011
I managed to power through most of the workday. At least I made it through all my classes. Fortunately, everyone was tired today as a result of Daylight Savings Time. We muddled along and got through the work at hand as best we could. As my last class walked out the door one student asked if I'd be in tomorrow. I told her my plan was to go home early and get some rest. She patted me on the arm and wished me well.
Here's hoping my plan works and that I'm back up to speed tomorrow.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Wrong. I feel tired, and oh so very sore. Fortunately I do know that time heals all wounds. I'm just hoping I heal quickly; after all I'm due for another kettle bell workout tomorrow.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Hair Dresser: "Are your kids good looking? I mean of course you think so, but what do other people say?"
Gray-haired Client: "Not really. My son was probably the best looking but he's not now, he's fat."
Me thinking: "What...the...hell?!"
Friday, March 11, 2011
Today I read about the passing of Ulysses S. Grant V, the great grandson of the president of the same name. I showed the write-up to the Social Studies teacher on my team and we both remarked on how amazing it was that someone so close to the history of so long ago lived in our lifetime.
My grandmother was born in 1903. I find it fascinating to think that she was alive at the same time as someone like Harriet Tubman who died in 1913. She was 17 when women were granted the right to vote. The times she lived in seem so far removed from me until I think of her place along that timeline in history.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
"I went to my senior prom in a car just like that." I offered.
"And now it's in the Smithsonian," my sister replied. "I'd say that makes you old."
I guess so, but it's nice to know we were driving around in a "classic" car...even if we didn't know it at the time.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Our class discussion started off with my insights on student procrastination techniques. In the end we came up with a list of three top procrastination strategies. It was easy to see that students use bathroom/water breaks as their go to way to put off class work. It's a solid technique--one that I employed often during my two hour British Literature class in college. My students easily identified with this strategy, even smiling and nodding as we talked about it.
Then there was the general staring out into space. This is a tricky one for teachers, because when a student is asked if they're actually working they can quickly respond with a safe answer; "I'm thinking." Yeah, they smiled and nodded on that one as well.
And then I innocently surveyed the group. "What else do you do to procrastinate?" I asked.
A few hands shot up.
"We break our pencil points on purpose."
Wow, they say you learn something every day and boy did I.
Monday, March 7, 2011
There's much to see on a walk about the neighborhood.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I had a 90-mile drive to deal with first. Even though the rain can be soothing from behind the sheers that hang in my living room, it is anything but that when barreling down I-95 at seventy miles per hour. The worst part was the surprise sprays that come from cars as they pass by. Today those sprays felt more like driving through a waterfall, often reducing visibility to nil until the wiper blade could catch up and clear the windshield.
It was good to get home.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
During intermission we gathered in the cafeteria for refreshments and I recalled the very spot where I slipped and fell on a red cube of Jell-O. The tables looked pretty much the same, in fact it was easy to think back and see myself sitting with friends at the usual table.
The play was much bigger than any musical that was put on during my four years of high school. The two-story set, complete with sliding elevator doors, was much more technical than any set put together way back when.
I'm not sure why it took me so long to go back, but it was a nice visit.
Friday, March 4, 2011
It was a tough start but thankfully, that was not a sign of things to come. The day went smoothly. Yes, there was a somewhat contentious conversation with one parent but I believe we parted ways feeling satisfied with the end result.
The workday may have had a shaky start but in the end the day was a successful one--that's always a good thing.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Intrigued with the scene, we strolled over to the back door to unlock the deadbolt. With all that sun out there surely the forsythia had started to bloom. I wanted to be sure to get a picture of the tiny yellow blooms. We both thought a walk around the patio to take in the sun would be a good idea. Besides, I couldn't continue to watch as the squirrels pilfered from the bird feeder.
I opened the door. The skies may have been a warm blue, but the temperature was nothing but cold. My cat barely even stuck his nose out the back door before he backed up and turned toward the warmth of the window seat. I tightened up my sweater and headed for another cup of coffee.
Too cold-- if the forsythia were out they would have to wait until the morning temperature rose above 30 degrees to be photographed.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I started taking note of the changes that signify spring quite some time ago...on the dreaded, daily bus ride to middle school. Richard and Steve were unlike any boys I'd ever met. They were loud, obnoxious and fond of inappropriate hand gestures. They were bullies. They never targeted me, but I had my problems with some other bullies at school so I knew it might be just a matter of time before they turned their attention my way.
I decided it was best to "lay low" on the bus and keep to myself. And so each morning I quietly slid in next to the window and adjusted my body to the lowest position possible, turning my gaze away from the chaos of the bus towards the quiet of the outside.
Over the course of the year I became well acquainted with how the landscape changed along with the seasons. The first red buds on the trees not only meant spring was coming-- they also meant the end of the school year was nearing as well. Hello spring. Goodbye Richard, Steve and other bullies.
I love the coming of spring, but it's hard to look at the red buds abounding without thinking of those painful days in middle school.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
The area designated for International Arrivals at Dulles Airport was a happy place yesterday. Yes, there was a small amount of restlessness in the air, but that was only because the group who stood around the perimeter of the arrival doors was tired of waiting.
A blonde-haired woman leaned against the sign she held to welcome Libyan evacuees. And then the door opened to reveal the evacuees. In an instant her arms were outstretched and ready to embrace a part of the group she was waiting for.
Young girls and boys squealed in delight as they ran toward fathers, mothers, grandparents and cousins. Young couples embraced. Smiles abounded.
It was all good.
Friday, February 25, 2011
It was a long day. It started at 7:00 am when I arrived and ended about eleven hours later when I threw my backpack on my left shoulder and headed home. I was tired. I am tired.
But...I think the solution is at hand and that makes for a good kind of tired.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Emotionally charged writing is difficult to respond to. Even though I'm sure I did my best to communicate the challenges this particular student has been dealing with as well as my response to the challenges I can't seem to get the parent to understand my concerns. To him, I am the enemy as is the school system I work for. What now? How do I proceed?
I left the letter in my desk. I'll look at it again tomorrow and do my best to look for some common ground that we can stand on so we may proceed toward a solution together. I wish I could say that a resolution is likely, but I'm having a hard time convincing myself of that right now.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
About two weeks ago the car started to sound a little sad. There was a rattling coming from somewhere and even though I could have easily turned up the music and ignored the noise I knew it was a cry that meant something. Kevin, my mechanic had a tough time diagnosing the issue. His first diagnosis was something called the serpentine belt "tensioner." That would be the coiled spring that gives the serpentine belt the proper tension. He replaced it sometime late yesterday afternoon, and yet the rattle remained. It was late, he was tired--too tired to re-diagnose--so the car stayed over night and I got to work by cab this morning. Fortunately, Kevin's second diagnosis was right...it was the water pump. Unfortunately, it was more expensive to fix.
One water pump, two new tires, an oil change, fluid flush plus a whole bunch of labor came out to about $1,1oo. Ouch.
No matter for now, as soon as I settled into the driver's seat and turned the key I was over it, because still I can't think of another car I really want right now.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
1. Doctor Zhivago
2. The Sound of Music
3. Out of Africa
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Fortunately, the fix for this problem is pretty simple. It involves two days of out patient procedures followed by a few days in compression stockings. Sure, there will be a bit of bruising, but I'm thinking once all that clears up my legs will feel better than they have in years.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
With my schedule cleared I was able to see a total of four movies and get in a little time at the gym. I did some laundry and even put the clean clothes away where they belong. I looked over a few new recipes and look forward to making some Tuscan Chicken soup later in the week.
All in all, I did a lot of nothing.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
The movie was delightful. I've always loved the Queen Mum, and seeing a little more of her life story made me love her just a little more.
I got to see another movie today thanks to the first snow day of the year.
An hour ago I was completely shocked to find out that school will be closed again tomorrow. Another movie? Why not.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
With the hype of the end of the football season there's been a good deal of sports talk in the classroom. I try my best to promote my hometown team, the Baltimore Ravens, to a group of mostly Steelers, Redskins, and Dallas fans. With very few Baltimore fans around I never count on much camaraderie. So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when Frankie confided that he would root for the Ravens. That was on Thursday before the big game. On Friday he came in wearing a purple shirt.
"Did you wear that for the Ravens?" I asked.
He smiled and nodded.
I smiled. So much has changed since September, and that's a good thing.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I turned to find the secretary standing beside me.
"You know, I was in college when he was shot. I never thought that bad things like that happened, it was then that I lost my innocence. Nothing bad had ever happened to me...until then."
Clearly, what started as small talk was not so small after all.