Monday, March 31, 2014

Back Seat Rider

The first car I remember belonged to my parents. It was a black Ford Fairlane.  Somewhere there is a picture of me standing by the front door of that car in a beautiful blue dress with a white Peter Pan collar ready to embark on my first day of Kindergarten.  I happen to know the dress is blue even though isn't evident in the black and white photo. 

It was a good ol' car complete with bench seating in the front and a little hump on the floor in the middle of the back.  Seat belts and car seats were not the norm back then so I spent a good amount of time standing on that hump trying to see what was going on in the front seat and further on down the road.

Back then I never paid much attention to the roads we were on.  I had no need to know how to get anywhere, as I could always be sure that there was someone to take me wherever it was that I had to be. Nonetheless, I learned a few landmarks along the way that helped me figure out where we were going.  I remember the tree-lined neighborhood streets that led to Dr. Cooper's big yellow house and office.  I always felt a little nervous as we got closer to that destination, wondering if the visit that was about to take place meant it was time for another shot. 

And then there was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  The 4-mile span crosses the Chesapeake Bay and has linked the Eastern shore of Maryland to its western neighbor since 1952.  I knew if we were heading over the bridge I was going to see my granny- one of my very favorite people to this day. 

 According to my mother a trip over the bridge also meant I was probably going to be throwing up in the back seat.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Rest Stop Has Reopened

Just yesterday I noticed that my new Finch feeder has finally attracted the small yellow birds that I enjoy watching.  My backyard bird feeders have been pretty quiet all winter.  In an attempt to cut back on a few expenses here and there I stopped replenishing the feeders on a regular basis.

A few weeks ago, after missing the feeding frenzy and color that swooped in each day, I decided to throw a little more food in the feeders again.  Just last week I noticed a large red Cardinal enjoying an afternoon treat.  The House Wrens have stopped in as well, happy I'm sure to find another spot to rest and eat.  But still the Goldfinches make me the happiest.  There's something about the splash of yellow that appears out of seemingly nowhere that I find intriguing and interesting to watch.

Years ago I was told if there's one finch at the feeder there are another 30 in the area.  Yesterday only one stopped in for a snack, and then today I had two eating together.  I can only hope that by the end of the week the feeder will be at full capacity.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rambling On

While browsing through a large warehouse of discounted furniture a friend pointed out a fancy card table, complete with a candle resting place and a swing-out arm for drinks.  She went on to describe why those features were important "back in the day."

Back in the day.  When exactly is that anyway?  Many different phrases are used to describe different nonspecific points in time.  While reading through a few blogs today I came across a reference to the "good ol' days."

Certainly the idea of back in the day goes farther into the past than the good ol' days.  I'm not exactly sure when my own good ol' days were and I suppose at some point "down the road" I'll recall some memory from the last year or two and think about how it happened back in the good ol' days.

Yes, these are days, I'll remember.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Today brought the 3rd quarter of the school year to a close.  Monday's previously scheduled teacher grade preparation day is now a snow make-up day, so it looks like I'll spend a good part of the weekend working out the final grades for the quarter.  

Not tonight though.  After five days of meeting, teaching, planning, copying, grading and 12 year-olds a little food, fun and friendship is in order.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Full Circle

My dad used to tell the story of a neighbor of ours from way back when we lived on Hollen Rd. in Govans.  A young man at the time, he was doing his best to be husband, father and businessman.  He had recently taken a job 50 miles away in Washington, DC.  Before he moved his family down I-95 he spent many an early morning on the road.  Very few people were up in the neighborhood as early as he, so when he woke up one morning to an empty milk container he didn't have many doors he could knock on for a loan. 

He looked out the door in hopes of seeing a house with the lights on and was surprised, and a bit relieved, to see the elderly "cat lady" across the street with lights on downstairs.  My dad always laughs when he recalls the sights and sounds he took in when old Mrs. G. opened her kitchen door.  There she stood in the soft glow of her kitchen lights with a herd of mewing cats and kittens zigzagging through her slippered feet.

Forty-five years later the tables have turned just a bit.  Dad is still a husband to the same wife (not too shabby) and a great father.  He's retired now and living next door to the young daughter who had just been born back when he first came face to face with that cat lady. 

The funny thing is that when he moved in my sister's three cats followed.  Even though they appeared to be perfectly happy and content with their life next door all three of them are usually found lounging somewhere in his house.  Food bowls are everywhere along with small glasses of water just in case any of his furry friends need a sip.

Early in the morning you can usually find my dad in the kitchen dishing out food to his feline entourage.

Crazy cat man or nice guy?  Who knows, but those cats sure are happy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Words to Remember

место сохранены для пожилых пассажиров и инвалидов

We went over a whole bunch of different phrases during the fall of my 4th year Russian class.  This was one of them.  Honestly, I was not a great student of the Russian language.  I did my homework because I was compliant but didn't work hard to apply my knowledge all too often. 

In the spring of my Junior year I was more than ready to say goodbye to another year of foreign language.  Mr. Miller talked me out of it.  He was sure I could get through the 4th year, plus he'd be taking another group of students to Moscow and Leningrad in the fall and he thought I should be part of that.  So, with Back in the USSR playing in my head I signed up for year 4 and an 8-day trip to Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union.

Like any good teacher, Mr. Miller wanted to make sure we were prepared for the trip.  We read Hedrick Smith's The Russians so we'd have a better understanding of the Russian people we'd meet.  We spent time going over basic signage (like the one noted above) and stocked up on jeans to trade on the black market. 

Okay, so I actually did read the book and found it pretty interesting. Jeans?  Yup, I had that covered as well.  If only I'd given the same kind of attention to all those sign phrases Mr. Miller said we'd need to know.

If I had I would have escaped the blow of a small carpetbag to my head. 

I was sitting on the subway,  minding my own business when the short babushka came out of nowhere.  Her mouth was moving, her finger was wagging and I was completely in the dark as to what she was trying to say. 

Fortunately, I didn't need more than one hit to the head to get the message so I immediately got up and watched her take my seat.  Ed gave me a gentle poke and pointed out the sign.  I looked at it knowing it was familiar. 

And then I remembered...

"Seat saved for elderly and disabled passengers"

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Moment

Standing in a friend's kitchen this evening I looked out the window and watched the light snow falling.

"When was it that Debbie died?" I asked.

In a snap Cissy came back with, "28th, March 28th."

That was two years ago, I thought.

"I remember it being so much warmer, with so many more things in bloom.  This weather is crazy," I replied.

It was, but that was then and this is now.  Two years later it's four of us having dinner, meeting up somewhat spontaneously.  Catching up and laughter over a glass of wine feels nice.  It's relaxing after yet another 10-hour workday. 

Nonetheless, in the moment that follows the reminder of our lost friend there is an unintentional moment of silence.  I suppose we are all recalling our own personal memories of our friend.  And then with a collective nod and a sigh the evening moves on and slowly the laughter returns.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Little Red Escort

My first car, a brand new, red Ford Escort, cost about $8000.  Thankfully, my mom did most of the automobile buying research. All I had to do was drive it home and pay my $125 a month.  As a first-time car owner I didn't have all that many wants in a new auto.  I believe I told my mom all I was looking for was a tape player. 

Yea, that was silly.  It didn't take me long to realize that a few other things would have been nice.  My first hot summer had me wondering why I didn't have air conditioning.  Then winter came and as I scraped and scraped at the ice on the rear window I dreamed of rear-window defrost.  Four doors certainly would have worked better than two; and even though I learned to drive using a stick shift an automatic transmission would have made for a nice upgrade.

Dreams of a better vehicle never kept me from driving that little red car everywhere I could.  There was always a tent in the trunk and a toothbrush in the glove compartment just in case.

That Escort and I logged a lot of miles together and then I drifted her down Superman Hill to the junkyard where I left her in exchange for $75.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

By A Nose

Years ago I was given a book titled, Teaching Your Cat to Read.  Don't worry; I really am not some crazy cat lady.  At the time I was taking courses for my reading certification, so a friend who was in the program with me thought it was appropriate.  

My cat doesn't read although I think if he did he might not be so confused today.  You see it was only about 28 hours ago that he was stretched out on the back patio.  The sun had come out in the afternoon and warmed up the bricks there rather nicely.  After spending so much time cooped up inside, I believe that Scout was happy to be sprawled out and a part of the outside world instead of watching from his usual perch at the window.

This evening Scout swiped his gray paw against the back door to let me know he was ready to go out again.  I opened the door and noted that he did not bound out onto the patio as quickly as he did just yesterday.  It seems his little pink nose felt the same chill that I've been feeling all afternoon.  The change in temperature stopped him in his tracks. With a turn of his head he gave me a look as if to say, "what the hell happened?"

If only he could have read the weather report while he was stretched out on the Sunday paper this morning.  Then again, with a chance for snow coming once again this week, maybe it's better if some things are kept secret.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


With less than 10 seconds left in the game and my team behind by four points I picked up the blue pen to scratch another loss on my already abysmal bracket.  But then an inner voice guided me to put the pen down and wait until it was really over.

The clock counted down to 5 seconds and a player went up for a three point shot.  It was in and there was a foul!  The extra point swooshed through the rim and the net waved through the air.  Hello overtime.

Patience paid off.  That blue pen wasn't necessary. Victory came in the end.

It was...madness.

Friday, March 21, 2014

An Epic Gift

A small portion of Wednesday's staff meeting was spent honoring those among the group who had met a milestone of sorts with the school system.  As a twenty-year honoree I received, along with two of my grade level colleagues, a small gift.  The county gives gifts after each 5-year interval of service.  My milestone gifts thus far include a pin, a pen and... really I have no idea what the other gift could be, nor do I still possess the pen or pin.  The twenty-year gift is a little larger than its milestone predecessors.  This year congratulations came in the form of a glass egg with a spiral blue center.

Twenty years is a good chunk of time.  It is the longest I've stayed in any job so I'm proud of the accomplishment, but I don't need any more knickknacks taking up real estate on my overburdened desk.  So after the meeting I returned to my classroom and placed my gift bag of appreciation on the floor behind my chair.

The next morning I stopped in to ask my teaching neighbor a question as the kids were leaving homeroom.  I noticed that she had placed her egg on the front of her desk for all to see.  The kids were gathered around the shiny glass knickknack like it was a crystal ball telling their future.

"Ms. B. did you see this?  It's so cool!  Isn't it great that Ms. L. got one?"

Another student went on to describe the egg as "epic."  In 6th grade speak that means it's pretty cool stuff.

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

My epic egg of appreciation now sits proudly on my desk.  And boy do my kids love seeing it there.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time For A Change

The arrival of spring at 12:57 this afternoon did not disappoint.  Sure, it happened without trumpets, parades or confetti- and yes, there's yet another chance for snow next week.  That doesn't matter too much to me.  All I know is when the warm sun hit my face this afternoon I squinted looking up at an abundance of blue sky and smiled.  It's like the rain from yesterday and this morning's dreary fog never even happened.

Change.  It's good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Working From Home

After a long staff meeting I headed back to my room thinking I would try to get a few papers graded.  Just this morning I confessed to a colleague that I can't stand to grade things at home anymore.  I am one of those teachers that likes driving work around in her car on a daily basis.  The work follows me home but it rarely sees the light that glows inside of my townhouse.  Knowing what I know about my own work habits means that I often spend somewhere around 10 hours a day at school to get things done.

This afternoon I surveyed the papers on my desk and decided to do something for myself.  I stuffed some, but not all, of what needed to be graded in my bag and headed to the gym.  A little time on the elliptical and a few weight machines later I was home feeling rejuvenated.  And then I gave myself one more little treat- a nice steak on the grill with some mushrooms, onions and spinach. 

Those papers I brought home?  They are sitting in my bag on a chair near the door where they will most likely spend the night.  Do I know myself, or what?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Story Time

I tried my first audio book about 15 years ago.  I had come into possession of a cassette tape of Katharine Graham's Personal History.  I was interested in hearing what she had to say so I decided to give the audio version a try.  Unfortunately I tried listening to it while in bed.  Listening to tapes at bedtime did not go well.  Katharine Graham's voice was better than any sort of sleep aid I could have picked up at the CVS, so I never quite got through the whole book in a conscious state.

Three years ago I decided to give the audio book another try.  Thanks to an Audible promotion and a six-hour drive home from the beach I found myself laughing from North Carolina to Virginia as I listened to Tina Fey share her memoir Bossypants.  If you haven't listened to it I highly recommend giving it a go.

I have found that it's difficult for me to follow the plot of a story when it is presented on tape.  My mind tends to wander so I prefer memoir pieces, like Tina Fey's, that are broken up into small chunks.  I've even found that my 10 minute drive to work offers more than enough time for a story or two.

The book this month is David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day.  The truth is that many a friend has hounded me to read this collection of essays, observations and slices, but I could never get into it at all.  Hearing David read David is a whole new thing.  I laugh at the insanity of his experiences and smile at his keen perception of others.  Getting out the door to work each day is a little easier knowing that David is in the car waiting to tell me a story.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday, Monday

If I were asked on Saturday about the possibility of yet another snow day today, I would have said doubtful.  Sure I noted the weather forecast last Tuesday when my favorite weather bloggers mentioned the European models were favoring snow this week.  But to tell you the truth I ignored it- mostly because I’m ready for spring.  

The signs of spring are popping up and out everywhere.  On Saturday I took a jog around the neighborhood and was delighted to see a swath of purple crocus standing tall on a stream bank.  There were also sightings of the first yellow forsythia to burst from its bud and a rabbit hopping along his own bunny trail.  

Saturday's spring sightings are now buried under seven inches of new snow and this teacher was treated to yet another snow day.  Yes, I know I said I was ready for spring, but this morning I could only smile as I turned off my alarm.  More sleep is always a good thing, no matter what the season.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sssshhh...Mind at Rest

Today was a quiet, low-key kind of Sunday.  I still managed to accomplish a few things like laundry and schoolwork but didn't bother to venture outside after I picked up the paper from my front doorstep.  I enjoy this kind of day and find it to be restorative.  My mind is at peace this evening, a contrast to many evenings when thoughts spin and scatter like the large snowflakes I see falling outside of my window this evening.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pass the Bread

I have many fond memories of the trip I took to Ireland two years ago.  First of all, there were the rolling green hills cut into puzzle pieces by carefully placed stonewalls.  I learned that landowners on the isle of Inis Oírr created their own stacking patterns to mark their property.   I was also taken by the livestock that appeared unaware of their own good fortune as they roamed the beautiful, lush landscape.

And while all of those images are quite clear in my mind the one thing that I still can't get over is the bread I ate there.  You see I am truly a carbohydrate-loving lass.  The breads and, holy crap- the butter, were beyond compare on the Emerald Isle. Even so there is one bread that remains a fond memory - it is a particular slice (okay 5 slices) of brown bread I had one morning in the harbor town of Dingle.  

When I asked Siobhan, the bread maker extraordinaire, how she made the bread she sort of shrugged her shoulders and smiled.  "I don't really follow a recipe.  I just throw a few things together, pop it in the oven and there it is."

Yea, sure you do.

This time last year I googled up a few different recipes and tried, unsuccessfully, to make my own.  This year I'm at it again and hoping round two will be better.  I even splurged for the really good butter.

Friday, March 14, 2014

This Morning

Looking out the window this morning, one of my T/A students remarked about the colors streaking about the sky.

"Wow, the sky looks so cool!"

Glancing up from my desk I was taken with the bright sunshine that was doing its best to warm up two tall chimneys cutting through the cloudy sky.

"The sun is rising." I responded.  "Did you ever think you'd be seeing the sunrise from a classroom?"

To be honest the official sunrise time was about 30 minutes before our conversation, but it still feels strange to be trekking out to work in complete darkness once again.  This morning I heard the early calls of the morning Cardinal but couldn't locate him in the darkness of his holly tree perch.

In a few weeks the sunrise will come earlier and I'll have a face to put with those purdy, purdy calls.  By then my T/A students will be talking about something different- most likely the number of days until Spring Break begins.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Everybody Dance! (If You Want To)

Today we danced. All that negativity the students were spewing in their recent essays got me thinking about my part in all of that.  I mean I would be naive to think the way kids are feeling about school has nothing to do with me.  I may be only one of 8 teachers they see during the day but even so, I'm a part of their self-described daily drudgery.

Years ago I heard of a 90 year-old woman who offered her perspective on the secrets of her own longevity.

"Well," she began, "every morning we all wake up to the same choice.  We can greet the day with a smile or a frown.  I always choose the smile."

Today I started with a smile and did what I could to keep it there all day.  If that meant doing a little dance-now known as the Done Dance- when students turned in their finished English projects, then dance we did.  Sure not everyone felt like dancing.  But, even those who chose not to acknowledge their own class success with a few happy moves still smiled at the idea that they could.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Accentuate the Positive

Twelve year-olds are rarely shy when it comes to telling adults how they feel.  Sure they might not want to share everything face to face but when given a writing assignment that asks their opinions on ways to change their school, they've got plenty of ideas.  Not surprisingly, all their thoughts revolve around the same things: lunch, start-time, homework and recess.

School starts at 7:50 around here.  Yes, it's early and I'm sure it seems even earlier to the 6th graders who were enjoying a nice, late 9:00 am school start time just last year.  It's been 10 years since I made the jump from elementary to middle school teacher and I still haven't adjusted to the start time.  So kids, I feel for you, really I do.

Recess.  Yea, we used to have that when I taught elementary school.  Back in the good old days, before the testing craze took over, I'd take the class out for a break in the morning and there was a built in outdoor recess time after lunch. One day my 5th grade colleague and I even arranged for a short Wiffle ball game (complete with peanuts!) to celebrate opening day of the baseball season.  I doubt that would happen today.  Unfortunately, the after lunch recess does not exist in middle school either and that really bugs the kids.

At the top of the complaint list is lunch.  Many of my students are sure the "lunch ladies" recycle the fruit that students throw out every day.  They are also savvy enough to see that although the school believes they are serving healthy food no one is getting any healthier.  According to these young foodies the pizza is greasy, the burgers are suspicious and the salad is wilted.  No one is eating any of this healthy food they say- for most students lunch means nothing at all or a few bags of chips and an ice cream.

Homework.  I had one student write about how she wished there was more homework.  That's crazy, right?  Everyone else was, not surprisingly, against having any sort of homework.  What can I say?  I don't like grading papers at night either...

So kids, I feel for you really I do.  I realize that I'm the one that started the conversation, but all your complaints are getting me down so I think it's time we focus on the positive and share what's good about your school.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Strange Feeling

Okay, I realize that it's about this time every year that I write about how I'm taking up running today.  There's something about a beautiful day with temperatures kissing 70 and an abundance of early evening light that makes me want to lace up my blue sneakers and hit the road.

Today was a little different.  You see, it's been almost a year since my fabulous idea to throw a few lunges and squats into my sad little exercise program.  That didn't last long.  Somewhere after my first session of squats and lunges I felt a pain in my right knee.  The pain grew until I found it pretty much impossible to walk.

One thing led to another, and then last July I had a little arthroscopic surgery to repair my meniscus. 

I realized today that I have not run two steps since that initial injury.  Knowing it's been almost a year since I ran any distance at all fueled my determination to get out there and see what I could do.

It was tough, but it was also strange feeling the acceleration of my stride as I stretched out my legs from a walk to a very, very slow jog. 

Who knows if my knees will cooperate?  I hope they do- even though I've never been a real runner, I've enjoyed being someone who runs every now and then.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Return To Sender

I lost my friend Ed and I'm a little sad about that.  Don't worry- it's not loss in the sense of the final loss, it's more like he moved and forgot (at least I hope it wasn't intentional) to tell me.

I've known Ed since my freshman year of high school.  We met in our Russian 1 class and have been friends ever since.

Just about the time I moved to the DC area he was leaving to start the next stage of his life out in California.  Even with all the miles between us we've always stayed in touch- mostly through the US Postal system.  Oddly enough we were never the emailing types. I've never known his email address nor has he known mine.

We're not Facebook friends either, but that hasn't stopped us from keeping up with each other over the years.  I visited him a year after he moved to LA and he showed up to surprise me for my 30 birthday.  We've kept up by phone and a few years ago I traveled back to our hometown to meet him for lunch while he was in town visiting his father who had taken ill.

As we got older and jobs, marriage and children came into the picture the chunks of time between letters and conversations grew longer.  No matter how long the time span I always felt that my good friend was out there somewhere.  Physically he was 3, 000 miles away, but it never felt that far.

And then the Christmas card I sent in early December came back to me with a stamp that read Return to Sender.

I'm sure we'll reconnect soon.  I've got a few old phone numbers that I think I can use to get in touch, but for now 3, 000 miles seems too far away.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hello Sunshine

Apparently the first day of Daylight Savings Times is a good day to check the batteries on any smoke detectors in the house.  Sure, I'll do that but not until more important matters are taken care of.

On this day of bright blue skies I will first tackle the mess that has camped out on my back patio all winter.  I'm armed with a new metal rake and a large push broom.  Chairs, tables and even a kayak will be moved to the lawn so I can get in and around the shrubbery and clean out the crispy brown leaves that have taken up residence.  I'll clean out the birdbath, refill the feeders, inspect the gas tank on the grill and sweep off the dirt that is lodged between the red bricks.

When all is said and done I believe I'll grab a book and enjoy the warmth of the extended hour of sunlight.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Beautiful Day

The scattered gray patches of snow were the last reminders of the five inches of precipitation that fell and created havoc on my city last Monday.  That was the lion roaring his way into March.  Today the lamb shook out the sun and blue skies as temperatures climbed into the upper 50s.

I pulled my bike out of the closet and headed out on the local trail that runs parallel to the Potomac.  I stayed on the Virginia side today, starting at the Washington Sailing Marina and pedaling southwest towards Crystal City in search of a new sportsplex a parent mentioned to me yesterday.  It didn't take more than 15 minutes to get there so I biked around a bit and checked out the new, expensive sport fields and watched as parents cheered on athletes of all ages and skill levels.

With a bit more energy in my tank I headed back towards Old Town.  I smiled as I caught a glimpse of a  sailing class of 420s zigzagging around the choppy water.  Further down the path I stopped for a stretch and enjoyed the show being put on by a young child as he threw breadcrumbs into the mouths of a swirling flock of loud, hungry gulls.

Buds burst from the bare branches above my head.

Coming soon...springtime in Washington.  I am ready and waiting.

Friday, March 7, 2014

I've Got Your Back

Today I found myself meeting with my T/A students and their parents for the spring student-led conferences.  I hear there are more than a few teachers out there who dislike conference day.  I am not one of them.  The introvert in me prefers the small group discussion of an individual student's success and challenges during the past 6 months.  The conference serves as a reminder to myself that growth has been made even though it doesn't always look like it from my usual perch in front of the larger group.

Today's shining moment came by way of an older brother who was serving as an interpreter for his Spanish-speaking mother.  I listened with my eyes and ears as his mother spoke for a moment or two in a language that I have little knowledge of.  Listening to the words roll off her tongue I did my best to figure out any piece of what her message might be.  After all, it was in October that this same mother told me that her young son's father had recently deserted the family.  She worried that her young 6th grader was keeping too many emotions inside of him.  She wanted to make sure that everyone knew of his struggles as he grappled with his father telling him that he no longer wanted to be a part of his life.  Not surprisingly, by the time the interpreter finished translating the mother's words everyone at the table was in tears.

I've done my best to watch out for her son since that conversation.  He's a shy, polite young man who struggles in math.  Throughout the year I've made sure he had a book in his binder at all times and did what I could to push him into getting involved with the morning announcement team.  He's a kid I'll remember for quite some time.

As Mom's words came to a soft finish I turned my attention to the older brother.

"What she's saying," he started, "is that she's very glad he had you this year.  She's happy you were here to look after him."

The young 6th grader nodded in agreement.

"I'm glad I had you as well," I smiled.  "And just so you know, I'll be checking up on you next year too.  So you haven't quite gotten rid of me yet."

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Kids are freaked out by all sorts of animals.  Today I smiled and nodded my head as students shared their fears of cats, pigeons, snakes, crocodiles and spiders.  It wasn't until I heard the words Daddy Long-Leg that my eyes widened a little.  And then suddenly I was back on Hollen Rd. sitting in the backyard sandbox with my older brother Joey.  I was involved in some sort of sand sculpture on my end of the box.  I'm sure I was doing some sifting and bucket filling because hey, that's just fun stuff to do in the sandbox if you're three or four years old.

I remember feeling an odd little tickle on my arm and asking my brother to stop bothering me.  The tickle stopped for a moment and then started up again as did my brotherly protests.  It was like he didn't even hear my pleas to stop, so I kept asking and whining.  Again, there was no reply and the tickly feeling continued.  Finally I turned to face my tormentor- I was determined to stop the nonsense.

It wasn't Joey at all.  In fact, it was a huge Daddy Long-Leg slinking its way up my arm.

Cue the screaming and crying.  

Not surprisingly, it was a very long time before I felt it was safe to go back in the sandbox.

Forty -okay, almost fifty- years later I wonder if that creature found its way to my arm on its own or if my wonderful, older brother helped a little bit.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Food Fail

Just last week I proudly whipped up some lemon chicken and a side of lemon and pine nut couscous with raisins.  Frankly, it was a fabulous little plate of food.

Tonight I had shrimp tacos on the brain.  The only problem was that other than shrimp my kitchen was lacking other key ingredients for the recipe- mainly tortillas.  I suppose I was still reeling from last week's culinary success so I went a bit rogue and spiced the shrimp with some olive oil, garlic, cumin and salt.  Without a tortilla in the house I figured I would serve the shrimp with black beans and rice.  I was hoping for something along the lines of the chicken, beans and rice concoction I had at Chipotle last week.

And then my rumbling stomach took over.  Rice would take about 20 minutes to cook.  Couscous takes about five.

What can I say?  The mixture was edible, but didn't come close to a Chipotle-like experience.  Even my cat, who is always happy to lick any leftovers clean, turned up his nose.

Next time I'll be sure to take the time to buy or make tortillas- either that or I’ll wait for the rice.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Wheels

Before I learned to ride a bike I spent a good deal of time in or with my little red wagon.  My mom used to cart my brother, Joey, and I down to the stream at the end of Hollen Rd. in that tiny tin box with wheels.  As I got older I used the wagon to wheel around my collections of dolls, or rocks or whatever else needed hauling at the time.  At the age of four that little wagon was an integral part of my daily play experiences.

And then I left it in the driveway- the driveway that we shared with our neighbor.

Just like that my little wagon was gone and it really was my fault.  I'm sure my parents used that teachable moment to remind me that even at the age of four I needed to be sure to put things away. The age of four was a helluva long time ago so I can't be sure what was said- I just don't remember.

The only thing I do remember is the new wagon, complete with wooden slats attached, that my neighbor bought me as a replacement.

I don't remember that neighbor's name...but the wagon?  Yeah, it was sweet!

Monday, March 3, 2014


 I spent a good part of this snow day organizing a few things around the house.  I finally unpacked the Wii and all of its controllers that had been sitting in a bag in the closet since last July's beach vacation.  Diced tomatoes, black beans and white beans sit in an organized fashion in the pantry.  Two and half bags of shredded coconut that expired sometime last year sit among old orzo and couscous in the bottom of my kitchen trashcan.

With everything in order in the kitchen cabinets I pulled out the mixer and threw together some pizza dough.  While waiting for the flour and yeast to rise I cut up some chicken, diced some onions and whipped up a little chicken and white bean chili.  With everything in the kitchen simmering and rising I turned my attention to the pile of dirty clothes that lay in the upstairs guestroom.  As I write I can hear my third load of laundry spinning in the washer and a load of darks humming in the dryer.

One might say I had a productive day, but I know better.  All that stuff I did today was important yes, but this professional procrastinator knows it was nothing more than a way to keep myself from grading the stack of papers that has taken up residence on my dining room table.

Hey, Dr. about one more snow day?  I've got a lot to catch up on around here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

Last night I sat in a high school auditorium to enjoy a performance of the spring musical, Footloose.  I attended that same high school over thirty years ago and was involved in a few productions on the very same stage. On this occasion I was there to watch my niece, Megan, in her last musical performance of high school.

As the days march quickly on toward high school graduation I can only imagine the nerves, nostalgia and anxiety that is churning up in the guts of high school seniors everywhere.  On the one hand there's the excitement of what's next; on the other hand is the longing for life to stay as it is- predictable and somewhat comfortable.

As the aunt of a graduating Senior I can relate because I feel the same way.  I'm excited to see what's next for Megan.  She's worked hard on college applications, essays and interviews and is awaiting word from her top choices.  I know wherever she ends up going she'll make her mark on campus by getting involved in a variety of activities.  Everything will be great for her and for that I'm happy...

...but I'll miss seeing her smiling face when I visit her house.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Successful Lesson

Back in December, on the Friday before Winter Break, I shared the story of Snowflake Bentley with my 6th grade students.  If I were following my plans that day I would have been working on another writing lesson, but as I looked around the room Thursday I could see we were all pretty much spent.  Recalling the words of a former colleague- read your audience- I decided Friday would be better spent learning about Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley and his perseverance in trying to photograph snowflake crystals.

My hook was the school calendar that had us returning from break on Thursday, January 2.  I told the kids if we read about snow and then created our own snowflakes to hang around the room we might just coax a snowstorm out of the skies for somewhere around December 31.  Our goal was to make sure white, wintery weather kept us out of school until January 6.

The kids were game.  Many had heard the story of Snowflake Bentley before and were happy to hear it again.  Those who were unfamiliar with Wilson Bentley were shocked to hear (spoiler alert) that he died of pneumonia after walking 6 miles home in a blizzard.  The kids created about 50 snowflakes that day and left the room buzzing about the fun they had in class and their hopes for a well-timed snow day.

The white stuff arrived a day late, on January 3rd, and since then it has kept coming.  We've had four snow days since January 1st but because of the timing of each snowfall we've been treated to one 3-day weekend and two 5-day weekends. 

Snowflakes still hang from the drop ceiling of room 86.  Just the other day I asked a student if he thought it was time for me to take them down.

"No way." he replied.  "They're working!"

Yes they are.  Today I caught sight of this statement on my favorite local weather blog:  The National Weather Service – overnight- issued a winter storm watch for the entire metro region late Sunday night through Monday afternoon for a period of freezing rain and sleet, followed by the potential for at least 5 inches of snow.