Sunday, September 30, 2012

What We're Looking at Here is a Failure to Consistently Regulate

On Thursday, I momentarily considered having my mom pick up a package at the post office. We decided that she would not make the attempt. She was worried about not having the orange postcard notification thingy.

The package in question was addressed to Genius. We were all busy after school, so I figured it would have to wait until Friday. Mom changed her mind, and popped in later that afternoon.

"I know you probably won't give it to me because I don't have the card...but my daughter wanted me to pick up a package for her today." Mom gave him my name. A woman's name. Not the name on the package address.

The man behind the counter smiled. "Oh, she called." He disappeared into the back room. "Here it is." He handed Mom Genius's package. No request for ID. No signature. Just shoved that package, a fancy schmancy camera lens, across the counter to her.

Let the record show that I most certainly did NOT call the post office. I was working, by cracky. The last time I called a post office was to report kids pooping and wiping their butts on their underwear, and stuffing it into specific mailboxes, and bragging about it. That's a federal offense, you know. And for all my trouble trying to be an upstanding snitch and flag-waving citizen and a concerned villager trying to raise responsible children, I was given the runaround. The post office I called did not want to take a report because the address of the poopy-underwear receivers was served by the post office in the next county. So much for federal offenses.

Anyhoo...that federal employee was flat-out lying. I suppose my mother herself could have called him, and pretended to be me, and described herself, and said that I wanted her to pick up that package.

Here's what irks me. The last time I went to that post office, the dead-mouse-smelling one, and waited until the metal curtain was raised after the lunch shut-down, I was read the riot act. Even though I had my orange postcard notification thingy, and the clerk commented to me that I usually send in my sons to pick up the packages (so obviously she knew me), she told me that I needed identification. Since there was a line, and I had waited ten minutes for lunch to conclude, she did not send me out to the car to get it. But she chastised me in front of that lined-up audience.

I refrained from giving her the "I pay your salary, you are here to serve me" speech. I have public-servanted myself, so I didn't go there. Because I'm classy like that. But she ticked me off. Doubly so, in retrospect, because her colleague, Mr. I Never Met A Stranger I Didn't Hand A Package To, has no qualms about fabricating details to enable potential fraudsters to get their meat-hooks on my mail-order merchandise.

What we're looking at here is a failure to consistently regulate.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tipping the Right Fantastic

Ah...the conundrum that is the elder generation.

My mother is a giving old gal. She appreciates any little kindness shown to her. If she takes my sister and me out to lunch, she calls later to thank US for a wonderful time. If an old friend offhandedly mentions that she loves my mother's fudge, Mom whips up a batch and drives thirty miles to deliver it. Even though the recipient is not supposed to have fudge. When she has to call me at school about twice a year, she bends over backwards to thank the secretary. Which brings us to today's tale.

Genius was expecting a package to arrive at the post office Thursday. It contained a precious camera lens that he was itching to experiment with. Unfortunately, that was the day of the first meeting of the Academic Team. Genius and The Pony attended. I left school as soon as contractually possible to run errands two towns over. Genius planned to leave the meeting by 4:00, whether it was over or not, in order to dash into the post office before the 4:30 closing time.

I mentioned the predicament to Mom Thursday morning. Sometimes she will pick up packages for us. I knew she had a doctor's appointment that day, but wondered if she could stop by on her way back through our town. Mom was concerned that she did not have time to get the orange package notification card from me. I told her not to worry, that Genius had an alternate plan. Thanks anyway.

Seventh hour, the school secretary called to say that my mom was on the line, and she was transferring the call. Mom had picked up the package, a story for tomorrow's blog, and was planning to drop if off right after the final bell.

Friday morning, Mom told me that she would be running over to school to give the secretary a little gift for being so accommodating. She was fresh out of Chex Mix, the bartering tool of choice, but had a chippy alternative. I told her that was thoughtful, but not necessary. That transferring that call was kind of what the job of school secretary entails. That this employee is paid a plum salary, with benefits, for doing that very thing. All day long. For many people. Not that I begrudge her a special treat. She is pleasant and efficient and very good at her vocation. Fantastic, actually. A better individual we could not possibly find to run that office.

But Mom insisted. She drove over and delivered the treat. The mutual admiration society kicked into high gear, and I heard the details of the exchange separately from both sides. It was a real feel-good story. But here's the thing: Mom will not tip a waitress to subsidize a living wage. No matter how fantastic the service.

Every time we go out, Mom leaves a tip of two dollars. No matter what the establishment. No matter what the service. No matter what the bill. Two dollars. And she thinks she is being kind. Generous. Doing the right thing. I would never tell her that she's not. It would hurt her feelings. Embarrass her. But it would not changer her tipping ways. Two dollars. No matter how much I explain that waitstaff do not even earn minimum wage. That they are expected to garner the difference in tips. And that they have to pay income tax on the minimum wage, even if they don't earn that much.

Mom doesn't understand that, in effect, she is heaping extras upon one individual for simply doing her job, for which she is well-compensated...and neglecting one who does extra, like bringing a plate of pickles to the table for no charge, who skillfully treads the line between hovering and neglect, between friendly banter and smarmy solicitousness, all in hopes of upping her salary to minimum wage status.

The elderly. So generous. Yet so clueless.

Friday, September 28, 2012

When Strangers Attract

Good thing I don't wear a watch. The unbridled magnetic force flowing from my pores might gum up the works. I could derail a maglev train. That stands for magnetic levitation, for those of you not in the scientific know. But we're not here to discuss timekeeping gadgets and speeding locomotives. We're here to learn about Val's latest suitor encountered in a retail setting.

No, it was not a woman who stroked my arm and told me I was SO PRETTY. Nor was it a man who tried to hand me a wad of cash at the grocery-bagging counter. Nor a man on the parking lot telling me about his upcoming supper of spaghetti and salad, the ingredients which his brother was gathering from inside the store while my suitor waited in the car.

The location for this illicit tryst's just call it Voice of the Village. The convenience store where I sometimes get my 44 oz. Diet Cokes for free, because I have connections. This being Friday, the official start of the weekend, I was treating myself to the magical elixir after a trying day in the trenches, teaching freshmen on school picture day, and shopping at Walmart with every other yayhoo in the dang county.

As I walked to the front door, a spring in my step and a styrofoam cup for refill in my hand, a tall light stranger followed me. I held the door open a smidge after entering. He thanked me. And followed me to the soda-dispensing wall, where he broke the ice. Not literally. That cube dispenser has been inoperable for at least a month. Crushed is the way to go. Small talk ensued upon our mutual fillage, his being a meager 32-ouncer. Lightweight. I could not discern whether he was a lonely, out-of-town stranger looking to pick up a woman for his Friday night, or a friendly gay guy. Let the record show that I go about my daily life unencumbered by my wedding ring, but that I do not look like a dude.

"Gotta have the styrofoam cup here in the summer."

"Yes. I was here every day this summer for a refill."

"I wish I could have been here every day."

"Well, I'm a teacher. So I had the summer off. But I'm paying for it now."

"I live in Webster Groves. But my heart is here. I have a farm and a horse."

"Oh. We just have goats and chickens."

"Are goats hard?"

"No. But they eat everything. Even the bark off the trees."

"You don't have trouble with coyotes eating them?"

"No! They're indestructible. We had one give birth to triplets, and nothing ate them."

"Do they eat cedars?"

"Oh, yeah! They'll eat the bark clean off."

"I have issues with cedars. I was five when I rode my first pony. It wasn't mine. My dad said, "Jump on if you think you can ride it." And I did. And that led to me getting my own horse. I had to clear a field, and build a hay barn. Those cedars are hard to keep out of a field. The conservation department talked my mom and dad into starting a Christmas tree farm, with a plot of cedars. I have thirty acres."

"We have twenty together, and another ten up the road. My grandma and uncle used to have a Scotch Pine Christmas tree farm. My uncle worked for the conservation department. Goats will eat up small cedars, and strip that bark off the bigger ones. Then you can cut them and use them for posts!"

"That sounds like a good idea. I saw some goats grazing from the highway, up by the sawmill."

"They'll clear things out. That's for sure."

My stimulating conversation had to end when the clerk finished up with the old lady ahead of me. She kind of looked like Tweety's grandma. Bluish hair. Tiny thing. After paying, I turned around, and my new suitor had left the line behind me, and was perusing the chip aisle.

I'm not sure what to make of him. He didn't even say goodbye.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It Was a Dark and Stormy Morn

Wednesday morning, while traveling to school in the black-skied downpour, The Pony and I saw an intriguing sight.

Our route takes us by a cemetery. It abuts the road. There's a part on top of a rolling hill, and a newer part that slopes toward the river, with a mausoleum. Every now and then I drive through, when I'm alone. My dad is buried there. You can't see him from the road.

But what you CAN see from the road is the cemetery office. And what The Pony and I saw on that thunderstormy morning, through intermittent flashes of lightning, was a dark man. He slouched against the door. Like one of those wooden cowboy cutouts. Maybe you don't have them in the city. Dark man silhouettes, or those cowboy cutouts. I'm sure he was just another road-walker, caught in the downpour, looking to avoid the sluicing rainwater for a few minutes. But it was creepy to catch him out the corner of my eye. Of course I called his attention to The Pony. Why should I be the only one with nightmares?

It would have been better if it was a road woman. One who looked like a bent-over, flowered-dress, yard lady flaunting her ample rumpus. She even has a name, you know. Backside Lady. And her measurements are 38, 26, 1/2. She would not have scared me, lurking there in the dark doorway of the cemetery office. Something like that would have given my dad a good laugh. He's the kind of guy who would ask for a Backside Lady to be placed on his cemetery plot. So you COULD see him from the road. And just to make people laugh.

I got my sense of humor, walking that tightrope between socially acceptable and terribly inappropriate, from him. Much to my mom's chagrin.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If Nothing Else, I Have a New Routine for My Standup Act

I have just now dried out from a morning drenching.

The Pony and I had to pull over on the way to school because I could not see through the deluge. Lightning darted from sky to ground like a lizard's tongue to a tasty insect. My cold, cold heart melted long enough to pull up to the back door of the school so The Pony could enter without waterlogging. First, I made him get an umbrella out of the back of the Tahoe for me. He leaned over the back seat and grabbed one. Silly me. I didn't look at it until I had driven back down to the end of the row to park.

It was the lesser babka of umbrellas. I have a nice golf-style umbrella that has only been used a handful of times. The oneThe Pony left me was the red and royal blue alternating panel umbrella that no longer shoots open when the button is pushed. You have to shake it, like your fist at an angry mob. Then it slides open on its own sweet time. Oh, and the fabric is ripped from one of the metal spike thingies. So there's a gap in the canopy, and a flapping swatch of nylon.

I bravely opened my car door and put out the umbrella. Pushed the button. Waited for it to unfurl. Rain sluiced down my arm like I was standing at the base of Niagara Falls. I started the long walk to the building. I felt like a cartoon pink hippo in a purple polka dot skirt, pirouetting in ballet slippers while holding a dainty parasol. Let's just say that Chris Farley's "fat man in a little coat" routine had nothing on my "immense woman under a miniscule bumbershoot" routine.

Let the record show that I did not have on a purple polka dot skirt, nor ballet slippers, and that no actual pirouetting was involved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Barest Peace Treaty

Stop the presses! Hold the phone! Mark the calendar! Do you hear that?

It's the sound of brotherly love! Philadelphia ain't got nothin' on Backroads tonight. My boys are playing a game of pool. That's right. The seventeen-year-old is not beating the stuffing out of the fourteen-year-old with his flapping lips and sharp tongue. Any whoopin' to be done will be a thrashing in the sports arena. And I don't mean a Marquis of Queensbury contest.

I am itching to join them. But I won't. I don't want to horn in on the male bonding. On Thursday, they both have to attend the school Academic Team meeting. And I need for Genius to drive The Pony home after it's over. I don't want to spoil the broth of measured indifference that is currently simmering on the front burner.

This lack of animosity has been a long time coming. It seems like only yesterday that Genius was slapping the downy head of The Pony as he practiced his new sitting-up skill, shouting, "Baby Smacky! Baby Smacky!" as The Pony slowly succumbed to gravity and face-planted into the carpet. Or splitting The Pony's head open in a rousing round of tug-o-war over a red terrycloth bathrobe belt four sizes too small.

Ah. Good times. Kids don't stay little long.

The pool tournament has since ended. The Pony whispered to me that he was the actual winner, because Genius sank the 8-ball before its time. He knows better than to gloat.

As far as I can tell, the truce is still in effect.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Attn: Mr. Sandman. That's DREAM. Not team.

I usually awake tireder than when I went to bed. Five hours of sleep is about my average during the week. That's plenty. As long as I don't exert myself too much in my dream life.

For the past month, I have been playing Big Brother. The people in my dreams are different than those on the show. But I am still involved in scheming and skullduggery. Now that the finale has aired, my Big Brother dreams have settled down. Fallen by the wayside. Evicted themselves right out of my head. Until next July.

Before those Big Brother dreams, I had the school dreams. I'm sure they will start up again. Many years ago, when I was a coach, and still single, I dreamed that two of my basketball players broke into my townhouse. They banged on the door until they broke it down, ran up the stairs to my bedroom, shook me awake, and demanded, "Who's starting tomorrow night?" It was quite vivid. I could have sworn they were really there. It was probably my crazy neighbor's Navy SEAL son home to visit who made all the thumping noises to start that sleepytime scenario.

Last week, I had a doozy of a dream. I wasn't doing much of anything. Just looking at a diagram. A black and white diagram printed on a fold-out, rectangular piece of paper. It was a schematic drawing of a 1950s style long canister-shaped vacuum cleaner. The schematic did not show all of the attachments. Merely a hose with a standard flat end, a handle on top of the canister, and lines with labels pointing to the main parts.

I tried to Google canister vacuum cleaners. The first image that came up was how my schematic looked. But Google showed way too many parts. And the shape of the vacuum was all wrong. Why would I have a vacuum in my dream? I surely wasn't using it. Am I meant to clean up after Mr. Sandman? Get rid of the dreams before I wake, so I feel refreshed? Or is it something more sinister?

I think, perhaps, my subconscious is trying to tell me that I suck. And I'm old.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Muse Takes a Chomp

Saturday morning, I was bitten by the bug. Not a bedbug from the Waldorf-Astoria. Not a West-Nile-Virus-infected mosquito flitting about the heartland. Not a butt-biting bug sent by karma to restore balance to the universe. THE bug. The urge to write.

A plethora of submission ideas surged through my head. I grabbed my little notebook the boys gave me for Mother's Day, and jotted away while waiting for the shower to warm up. Wrote 676 words as my hair dried itself though the courtesy of evaporation. Composed one story while driving to town for a 44 oz. Diet Coke. Squirreled away three blog post ideas for the future. Polished up some tarnished, dusty old cliches. Coined a few new words. Awarded myself the unused 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, before remembering that I don't write fiction, then rescinded the honor, plucked that feather right out of my cap.

It might have just been my thyroid medication.

Still, I have been writing this weekend. Meeting more than merely my self-imposed, two-blog-posts-per-day, no-consequences deadline. That the laundry remains undone is of no concern to me. I can toss in a load overnight, and dry it in the morning.

Pardon me. I've got to get back to some submission pieces. Nothing lights a fire under Val like a rapidly-approaching deadline. And a 44 oz. Diet Coke. And those thyroid meds.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Behold: The Power of Words

We had a guest speaker at our teacher inservice day on Friday. She was quite knowledgeable in her subject matter. Gave a day-long PowerPoint presentation, with handouts, about the newest trend in Missouri public education. However...she might need to re-evaluate some of her examples. To better enable her to practice what she preaches. To walk the walk that goes with her talky talk.

Here's the issue. One segment of the program was about connotations. How students should realize the effect that words have on an audience. How different forms of media use tactics to sway the viewers or readers. How a simple choice of words can determine whether people feel sympathy, indifference, or anger.

Throughout the day, Speaky McSpeakerson posed questions. Made suggestions. After the first hour, I sensed a theme. It could not have been a subliminal message, because I noticed it. I'm sure it was not what Speaky intended. I present Exhibits A, B, C, D, and E.

Exhibit A
Speaky referred to the current practice of schools receiving MAP testing scores in the fall, after students were tested in the spring. "You know that when middle schools receive the coroner's report, it's too late. Their eighth graders are freshmen now, in another building. They can't help them."

Exhibit B
Speaky declared that there's no need to teach the same thing over and over through the grade levels. Students know who won the Civil War. They know the battles. "Rather than asking them to give the same old information, how about asking them to write a report. 'Have you ever been through a graveyard?'"

Exhibit C
Speaky said that you have to give students a decent topic so they have something to write about. "You don't ask an elementary student to write an essay about 'Would you like to have a pet?' Of course they want a pet. Better to pose the question, 'Did you ever have a pet that died?'"

Exhibit D
Speaky explained that students should be expected to do more than enumerate facts. 'Don't ask them to name the characters in The Masque of the Red Death. Ask, 'Have you ever been to a funeral?'"

Exhibit E
Speaky purported that even young students can delve deeper into a story. "Instead of asking, 'What color was Mary's dress?' ask 'Why did the guppy die?'"

After each new death reference, I turned to my right-hand tablemate. "Why does she have to be so morbid?" Once would have been enough. The example of test scores compared to a coroner's report was actually kind of appropriate.

At the end of the session, Speaky passed out evaluation forms. There were bubbles to fill in with #2 pencils. Questions like whether Speaky was Very Unknowledgeable, Unknowledgeable, Neutral, Knowledgeable, or Very Knowledgeable in her subject matter. Then there was a space asking us to write a comment about Speaky's presentation. I told my right-hand tablemate that I had the perfect comment.

"You make me feel like I want to die."

I didn't actually write that. I don't think Speaky would have gotten the point.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mandatory Chair Time

I spent the day at a teacher inservice presentation. All day. Eight to three. On a cafeteria chair. Anybody wishing to donate to my impending buttocks transplant may leave a pledge in the comments section. We'll work out the details later.

The following conclusions were reached by Val today:

* Teachers are often not the best pupils.
Whispering, hooting, texting, and using outdoor voices is not appropriate in a workshop setting.

* A simple explanation will suffice. There is no need for a superior to place a hand on one's shoulder/back area, as this can be construed as both condescending, and an invasion of personal space. BAD TOUCH!
Don't cross that line. You might lose an arm. Or a lawsuit.

* Milk on a table causes anxiety.
The first thirty minutes of material will not be retained, due to everyone staring at the two gallons of milk beside the donuts, mentally tsk-tsk-ing about the waste. Until one brave little soldier got up and absconded with the jugs, presumably to the refrigerator in the teachers' workroom.

* There are no mimosas on school property.
Even though there is orange juice. Which really does not go with donuts.

* Anti-Scientites must not be allowed to present workshops.
Do not make fun of nonfiction books on coral reefs by saying, "REALLY? Who cares?" Do not belittle the science teachers by ridiculing volcanoes, of which there are three main types, required to be learned by freshmen for the Course Level Equivalents. And especially to not call out for a show of hands for all the English teachers. Then all the math teachers. Then all the history/social studies teachers. Then...oh...that's all.

* Bashing of the sea cucumber is not becoming.
We can't help it that you did poorly on that question on the writing portion of your ACT, and justified it by asking in your mind, "You expect me to read a paragraph about a boring sea cucumber?" If only schools had a fourth core class such as...oh...I don't know...maybe...SCIENCE, perhaps you would have been privy to the excitement a sea cucumber can bring when irritated, expelling its guts and all. Crazy idea, huh? That fourth core.

* Common Core Standards are, quite simply, the same criteria and methods we used years ago, when we called them Reading Across the Curriculum, and Writing Across the Curriculum, before gearing materials to the multiple-choice End Of Course tests.
There. I said it. What everybody who's been around long enough was thinking.

If you disagree, I don't want to hear it. Not until you sit on a cafeteria chair from eight to three.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Same Stride Different Day

Stop them. Before they walk again.

It's the stuff of horror movies. Stephen King tales. Daytime nightmares. I cannot escape the roadwalkers. They seek me out like white cat hairs on a black sweater. Like marinara sauce on a business tie. Like cockleburs in the Golden Cocker Spaniel coat of an escaped Westminster Kennel Club Grand Champion candidate. Every day. In a variety of shapes and sizes. On different routes. The roadwalkers plague me like...well...the plague.

At least I saw the one in my lane today. He was no Jean Paul Pierre sporting a beret on a bicycle. He was Joe Factory. In black jeans, black t-shirt, and workboots. Joey F. strode along the edge of the pavement. I saw him from a good half-mile away. I know he heard me. Not that I put my Tahoe in neutral and revved the engine or anything. I had to stop to let an oncoming car go past us. Joey F. got all passive-aggressive and stepped off the blacktop onto the grassy shoulder. Barely.

Joey F. was walking a fine line. Skating on thin ice. Avoiding the roadway by the skin of his teeth. His swinging arm was still in my air space. Had I driven alongside him, he would have pummeled my passenger door. My extra-wide side mirrors would have cracked his skull. And I would have been the one in trouble! Not sweet and innocent Joey F. with his massive head injury and slim possibility of regaining consciousness.

I hate it when they win.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Shortest Sentinel

There is a mystery afoot.

For the past two weeks, I have observed an object that is clearly out of place. A metallic stranger in an unstrange land. A can of ravioli in a well-manicured neighborhood. No. That's not a mangled cliche. I'm talking about an actual can of ravioli in a well-manicured neighborhood.

The ravioli can is empty. The lid is gone, not bent upwards like some hobo snack in a 1950s cartoon. RC, as we shall call him, stands sentry beside a telephone pole at a stop sign in a 30 mph neighborhood. My RC has a last name, and it's Chef Boyardee.  What such a pedigreed pantry escapee is doing on the street corner is the question.

Even if RC was a hobo castoff, I know he didn't walk three blocks from the railroad tracks. What do you think he is, some precious little anthropomorphic stomach, hopping down the street with his suitcase, on the lam from the Heartburn Hotel?

What kind of creepy cupboard-crime-spree culprit would pilfer a can of brand-name ravioli to eat while strolling down the avenue, only to leave it behind at the corner of Our and Town? That's taking a chance on being ticketed for public ingestion of pasta without a permit.

I don't for one minute think that a dog picked RC out of the curbside trash, licked him clean as his own dangly bits, and set RC up by the pole, neat as a pin, slick as a whistle, no tearing of RC's paper suit in evidence. I would more likely believe my mother's tale of the time a dog took a bite of her cinnamon roll:

Remember my friend Irma? She likes to drop food off for me about once a week. Usually, she puts a styrofoam container in a Walmart bag, and hangs it on my door handle. She rings the doorbell, and leaves. Later, she calls to see how I liked it. This one time, she must have left me a cinnamon roll while I was out. I came home, and it was sitting on the porch in a piece of foil. A dog must have got ahold of it, because a corner of the foil was folded back. A bite was gone out of the cinnamon roll. I guess the dog didn't like it.

What a crazy world we live in. Polite, well-mannered stray dogs sample porch pastries and put them back after a single bite. And regal ravioli cans stand sentinel at corner stop signs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Would a Name, in Any Other Place, Still be as Readable?

Pardon my audacity...but I have a question for my elementary-teaching colleagues. What in the Sam Hill are you doing down there?

Yes, if I may be so bold, my inquiring mind needs an answer. I'm not speaking of the three Rs. My students are well-prepared for the rigors of my classroom. And I'm not talking manners. Except for a few instances when they lose their minds in early spring, my students exhibit exemplary (for adolescents) behavior. Sure, the new kids try my patience until I tie them to the snubbing post and break their will. Figuratively, of course. But overall, my students possess all the skills they need. Save one...


Seriously. Do all of you remember turning in your papers in school? C'mon now. I'm sure you do. The name goes in the upper right. Like clockwork. Like the ebb and flow of the tides. Sure as the sun rises in the east every morning. As dependable as a Maytag. I am confident that even Huck Finn's Pap would know to mark his 'X' in the upper right corner, even if the rest of his paper was blank. That's how WE were taught, by cracky! And it would never enter our minds to go against convention and write a name anywhere else on the paper.

Who is teaching kids to write their names in the upper left? WHO? I demand that the perpetrator step forward. You are throwing a monkey wrench into my routine. Stealing two or three seconds from my busy schedule each time I must search for the name in a stack of papers.

What could possibly be the reason for not correcting this wanton behavior? Nip it in the bud! Before it becomes a habit. We can't be sending students willy-nilly to Homework Signature Rehab. That's expensive. And time-consuming. And Candy Finnegan is booked up. Are you afraid of bruising their tender self-esteem? Taking away their I Know How To Write My Name On My Paper trophy that every student receives at the end-of-school awards assembly?

There's a place for every name, and every name should be in its place. Period. Otherwise, let's fast-track that proposed handbasket factory I've got on the back burner. Might as well let students exercise their creativity. Write their names at the bottom of the page. And reverse it, like the solution to a riddle in The National Enquirer. Better yet, hide it in the text of the page. Or use an anagram.

Please grab this bull by the horns before it is too late.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sometimes, It's What You DON'T Ask

Silly me. I readily agreed to let Genius spend the night with his friend, whose mother is just like me. And because everything is all about ME, I neglected to ask what the kid's father is like. As luck, or karma's butt-bite, would have it...he's just like Hick.

I was happily oblivious to the perils involved in this sleepover. Until Genius returned Sunday afternoon, and showed me the amazing pictures he had captured. You realize, of course, that I had given him the third degree before his departure on Saturday afternoon. Genius did not help his cause when he trotted out a giant cardboard tube containing glow sticks.

"Aren't these cool? We found some at the Dollar Store last time, and they were so amazing that we ordered these off the internet, twenty-five for only thirteen dollars!"

"What in the world! Are you having a rave? Taking E?"

"Ha ha. No. What's E?"

"Ecstasy. E is the street name. All the druggy kids call it that. I know. Because I watch TV."

"No. And we're not doing 'The Meth' either. His mom is just like you. She doesn't go for stuff like that."

Well then. That was good enough for me. I didn't even grow concerned when Genius didn't call me as instructed, to check in partway through the evening. After all, what could possibly go awry. That kid's mom is just like me!

The pictures Genius brought back were interesting. He's even give me a few to post here. But what I am NOT posting is a link to some video he took. Video of flaming mushroom clouds and raining fire that sets the grass ablaze. Flames resulting from a little backyard effort I mentally refer to as The Beginning of the Apocalypse.

It seems that these kids got the bright idea to set up a pilot light of rubbing alcohol. More like a ring of fire, in my opinion. They lit a circle of small flames, and set a GLASS bottle of various incendiary fluids in the center. Fluids like kerosene, gasoline, and torch fluid. Then the kid's dad, Hick 2.0, fired at it with a .22 while they filmed the explosion. Not cool. But everybody still has eyebrows. That I know of.

Here are some more calming pictures to get that image out of your sensible minds.

Here's another effort at capturing paint drops jumping on a balloon fragment over a speaker.

The host of this little shindig, lit up by glow lights, backlit by a cell phone.

And my personal favorite, a long exposure of kids roaming the yard with glow sticks. My favorite, because nothing is burning. Or exploding. Or receiving a bullet.

I really need to refine my interrogation techniques.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Toe You So

Some people are born storytellers. Others have to work at it.

I told a tale on my very first super-secret blog about an incident in my classroom many years ago. I am sharing it with you today. It's too good (in my opinion) to linger in the archives. And I don't foresee a Bad Toe Day anthology calling out for stories anytime in the near future. The event occurred when I was teaching at-risk students. Class size was kept to a maximum of ten. The goal was to assist students with their study/organizational/social skills in order to prevent them from falling behind. From failing to graduate with their class. I was cheerleader, tutor, receptive ear, and harsh taskmistress, all rolled into one. I loved it. Every day, I learned something new from my students. This day was no exception.

'Susie' rushed in right as the tardy bell rang. She plopped her books down and slid into her desk. "I'm really tired today. I spent all last night at the emergency room." The whole class leaned forward. Including me. The work could wait five minutes. One of our tight-knit group was stressed.

"Dad was outside chopping wood. Mom and I heard a scream, so we ran outside. Dad had hit his foot with the axe, and cut off his big toe, right through the shoe. Mom hollered at me: 'Susie! Run in the house and get a baggie and some towels!' I ran in. The baggie was to put the toe in. Mom wrapped the towels around Dad's foot, and told me to put the toe in the bag. I said, 'Uh-uuhh.' Mom told me 'Just do it!' But I couldn't. It had big black hairs growing out of it. I didn't want to touch it. But Mom kept telling me we needed the toe."

"I went back in the house and got a pair of tweezers and picked up the toe by those hairs and put it in the baggie. Then Mom said to get some ice to put in it, and we put Dad in the car and took him to the emergency room. There was blood all over the towels."

"When we got there, they took him in and said they were glad we brought the toe. It took them a long time, but they sewed it back on."

We were all on the edges of our seats, hanging onto every word. "So he's still at the hospital?" I asked.

"No, they let him come home. They gave him some pain medicine."

"They let him come home last night? Didn't they want to observe him after the surgery?" I couldn't believe they didn't watch him closer--even though this was a hick-town hospital.

"No. They just stitched it back on in the emergency room. He said the pain medicine worked really good. But then last night he was supposed to keep it propped up, but he wanted some more ice to put in his soda. He got up to walk to the kitchen, and he hit his toe on the leg of the table."

"Owwww!" we all said together.

"Yeah, it hurt him a lot, because when he hit it, his toe popped off, and we had to put it back on with duct tape."

The room was silent. We looked at each other. "'re making that up," I told Susie.

"Yeah. First hour believed me, too."

She totally had me reeled in. I was buying every minute of it, until the part about where they sewed the toe on in the emergency room. I watched ER. I know that you need a specialist and an operating room to hook up the nerves and blood vessels again.

But she told such a good story.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Somewhere Between Boredom and Genius Lies Obsession

Yesterday I mentioned how Genius spent an evening building a photo opportunity out of a wooden speaker box, a Solo cup, and a mutilated balloon. He was not satisfied with his results, and plans to refine his process at a later date. Until then, he has graciously consented to share his first attempt.

This is the set-up. He had already dismantled his rig, so he did not have a picture showing the speaker box and camera. He was going to snap a photo of that with one of his other cameras. The lesser babka of his picture-taker stable. So what we have here is a sliced-off section of a white balloon stretched over a mutilated red Solo cup, which is jammed into a wooden speaker out of range at the bottom of the pic. He used acrylic paint mixed with water. That's the main component that he wants to modify, to get just the right viscosity. And when he works out the bugs, he will put the whole thing in front of a black or white background, I'm sure. Depending on whether he uses the white or the black balloon.

Here's what he's going after:

He eventually wants to use multiple hues that shoot up independently. He gave it a try, but they ran together. He had taller columns, but I liked this one. Genius had to crop these photos so I could load them in less than thirty minutes apiece. My internet leaves a bit to be desired. So you're missing a part from the left edge that has balls of watery paint bouncing on the mini-lake of watery paint. Surface tension, you know. That's what surprised him, that the drops didn't flatten out into the lake upon contact, but bounced a couple of times, maintaining their spherical shape.

Perhaps Genius will treat us to more colorful eye candy when he refines his techniques. He has more pressing things on his agenda tonight. Namely spending the night at a friend's house, eating pizza, taking photos with glow lights, and watching anime. I told him that sounds like something people do when they're high.

He assured me that they're not. That his friend's mother is just like me.

Alrighty then.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Necessity is the Brother of Invention

A parent can't be too careful these days.

Last night, I overheard Genius in his room, talking on his phone. "I'm just trying to keep you from doing something stupid." That set off an alarm bell in my noggin.

"Who are you talking to, and what are they going to do that's stupid?"

"Nothing, Mom." He chuckled.

"No, really. What's going on?"

"It's nothing you need to worry about."

"Does it involve anything illegal?"


"Does it involve self-harm?"


"Is it romance-related?"


"Okay, then. But you have to understand that many parents wish they had one chance for a do-over, over something just like this. I only want what's best for you. To keep you safe."

"I know, Mom. It's nothing."

Taking a cue from his light-hearted responses, rather than his usual surly responses, I truly believed it was nothing. An hour later, he told me he was going to the BARn to use the band saw to sever the end of a wooden speaker box. Since I envisioned him severing several fingers while unsupervised, I forbade that project. He finally relented, and declared that he would use the Dremel tool saw blade instead. I agreed, though it was probably more dangerous. But in my mind, the Dremel tool is a friendly little grinding and polishing fellow who would never harm my Genius. Then he gave me his shopping list for today's grocery excursion:

*Lay's Flamin' Hot Potato Chips
*black balloons, matte finish, not shiny
*white balloons, matte finish, not shiny
*Solo cups
*a thermometer that can be immersed in water

What do you think? Nobody that I know is having a 50th birthday. Hick and I are not going anywhere, so there will be no Risky Business party. As far as I know, Flamin' Lay's do not raise the water temperature when dissolved. So what's going on?

NOW IS THE TIME TO MENTALLY FILE AWAY YOUR GUESS. Because the answer will appear below. See how close you can get to the inner workings of the mind of Genius. What would you do with these items? Here's a hint: all but one are part of the project. Along with the wooden speaker.

I'm no good with these things. The best inventions I ever made when I was a kid were a toy camera out of a box for a bar of soap, and tin can stilts (which were a raving success until the openings made in the sides by a pointy can-opener sawed through my twine).

HERE'S THE ANSWER. The Flamin' Hot chips are a red herring. That's what he likes to snack on through the week. Part of the Solo cup is jammed into an opening hacked into the wooden speaker. Part of a balloon is stretched over the opening in the Solo cup. A drop of water is applied to the top of the balloon rubber. The speaker is hooked up to music. The water bounces as the speaker vibrates. The thermometer is to check the temperature of the water bath that will develop the film for pictures taken of the jumping water.

It's not like he was trying to do anything stupid.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Sudden Burst of Prose

Pardon me. The time has come to discuss a delicate matter. Of course, as a fragile Backroads flower, I am sorely vexed at the thought of somebody mistakenly assuming the topic is personal in nature. I assure you, it is a hypothetical scenario. Seriously.

The business of education has gone haywire with supervisory tactics. Teachers must watch students like a cast of hawks. From the time they arrive in the morning, they are under surveillance. Duty teachers. Cameras. Hallway teachers. Classroom teachers. I'm surprised students are allowed to visit the restroom-without-a-door lacking a teacher in tow. Students are never to be left unattended.

Suppose, hypothetically, of course, that a teacher comes down with a case of intestinal distress. Nothing like dysentery, mind you. More like a roaring bout of flatulence. Except it's not. Because the gas cannot escape. There is no window of opportunity. No instant when that teacher is student-free. Lunchtime has passed (unlike the trapped gases that percolate within that teacher's gut). The afternoon drags on. Four more classes. No breaks. Students must not be left unattended!

What is that teacher to do? Sit on the cushiony rolly chair and trap it in while her innards roil with bubbles intent on escape? Take a chance on laughing, coughing, barking commands...knowing all the while that such an act could cause an unauthorized release? Try to let some pressure escape, hoping for silent but deadly rather than an ear-shattering PPPFFFTTT or BRRAAAPPPP or balloon-stem squeakage that will draw attention to herself?

If only that hypothetical teacher could step out into the hall for a clandestine emission. But no. Students must not be left unattended! And a new camera has been installed ten feet from the classroom door, with a fisheye lens, no doubt, monitoring traffic in and out the main back door to the parking lot.

The four minutes between classes is not an option. New students flood in before old students rush out. It's like they are waiting in starting blocks for the bell, in an effort to win the class-change gold medal. Standing in the hall between classes is not an opportune time for a gaseous release. Sure, it could be blamed on a passing student. But those entering the classroom would comment and question.

At times, a teacher in distress must wish to jab a sharpened hollow instrument into her abdomen with the force a ten-year-old jabs that finely-honed plastic straw into a bag of Capri Sun.

It's enough to make a teacher regret last evening's treat of a Fiber One fudge brownie.

Hypothetically, of course.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Wardrobe is Revolting

Don't call CPS on me. Please. I have a confession. And I'm gambling on nobody having the CPS hotline number at the ready. CPS. Clothing Protective Services.

Last night I threw in a load of laundry when I started supper. You remember supper. That's the time in the evening when, according to Hick, I merely warm something in the oven, or heat it in the microwave. Good thing he doesn't run the Cooking Channel. It would be called the Warming Channel.

So I tossed those clothes in the washer, and just as I announced that the warmed and heated food was served, I transferred them to the dryer. Hick did not even heed the call to supper. He was receiving two freight containers over by the BARn. He likes to call them "my new outbuilding." But "dilapidated freight containers" seems more fitting to me.

This morning at 5:10, I went to the dryer to retrieve my socks. Nothing makes you more ready to face the day than fresh clean socks. I opened the dryer and observed huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse started seething more. I overheard them badmouthing me. Simply because I set the timer...but forgot to push the start button.

Granny Panties: "All day long we cover her butt! We must strive to survive under pressure. And THIS is how she treats us? This job ain't all it's cracked up to be."

Socks: "We could have made a break for it. Don't think we can't escape. It's part of the very fabric of our lives. Our toefathers before us disappeared practically every week. One at a time. So as not to arouse suspicion.

New Jeans of Genius: "This experience has taken all the starch out of me. Here I lie, spineless, in a crumpled heap, without the wherewithal to stand up for myself. I want to soar like an American Eagle. Not slump like a Walmart fall-apart."

My apologies to my thready friends. I need them. I toasted them good for fifty minutes. They warmed up to me again. But they are not happy with the athletic shorts and fast-drying knit shirt that Genius wore Sunday for mowing lawns. They see them as my favorites.

The Nike shorts and shirt smirk from their hangers, high above the lowly dryer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Timekeeper Slaughter

Whew! I was almost in a panic. I got an email from my BFF Writer's Digest on my way to school this morning. It told me there was only one week left to enter. WHAT? One week left? Where did time go? I thought I had plenty of time. And to make matters worse, worse than the worn-out clichefest that is euphemistically called Unbagging the Cats, the email was dated September 11 and the contest deadline was September 14. THAT IS NOT A WEEK! Seriously! I teach science. I know all the nitty gritty about our timekeeping system. The solar day and the sidereal day. A week is SEVEN days, people! I'm talkin' to YOU, former BFF Writer's Digest! Hire yourself a high school science teacher!

When I got home, I read the whole email. We can't access personal email at school. And we can't use our phones at school. So we might as well start up the Pony Express again. Or invest in some carrier pigeons. Funny how progress sets us back.

Oh. Back to that email. Ha, ha. My BFF Writer's Digest was talking about the Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards. THAT'S the contest with the September 14 deadline. Not the 81st Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition. THAT deadline was June 11. And I already entered. In fact, that deadline was extended, so I actually entered it three weeks before the deadline. Seven-day weeks, too! Not those silly Writer's Digest three-day weeks.

Now I'm not in a panic. I don't write popular fiction. I already entered the contest I wanted to enter.

I feel so efficient.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The French are Coming! The French are Coming!

I'm trying not to brag. I don't want to make all of you jealous of my fast-paced, eclectic lifestyle. But this morning I came quite close to witnessing an international incident.

There I was, on the blind, uphill curve so dearly loved by road walkers in this county, when I spied him over the crest of the hill. He was a lithe, gangly man riding a bicycle with traffic. That meant he had no idea what kind of vehicle was about to obliterate him from behind, nor the speed of his imminent demise. Not that he cared. He pedaled, with white-leather-tennis-shoe-clad feet, nonchalantly down the middle of the blacktop lane, his slim legs encased in acid-washed skinny jeans, torso hugged by a skintight black turtleneck, close-cropped gray locks topped by a jaunty black beret. I swear I heard him singing Alouette. I am surprised he was not toting a canvas bag containing a small wheel of Camembert, with the end of a baguette poking out the top. He was happily ignorant of the long, open-trailer semi loaded with rock bearing down on him.

I passed Jean Paul Pierre, then the oncoming truck. A quick glance in my mirror showed no evidence of brakes being applied. I had to take another route home this evening in order to stop at the dead-mouse-smelling post office. I know not whether there was a smear of French cheese on the roadway. I'd like to believe my fleeting foreign friend survived.

Alouette, gentille Alouette. Alouette, je te plumerai.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Back-Up Plan of Sorts

Things around here have been a bit backed up lately. Clogged. Needing a release.

We're talking about my kitchen sink. The one I need for washing dishes, having no newfangled appliance to do it for me. I am Wilma Flintstone with no prehistoric creature to perform such a chore for me. Not even a bird with a pointy beak to play sweet, sweet music on the phonograph record while I toil with my bare hands in a sink full of soapy water.

It's an almond-colored sink. A double. Saturday morning, I could not make the water flow down the drain. Oh, water pretended to flow down the drain. Then it came up in the companion sink. The draining side. So I had two sinks full of water that would not drain. Unsavory water. I abhor wet food particles in a sink. I cringe to clean out the strainer plug thingamajig after each dish-washing session. The act makes me gag. Retch. Brings tears to my eyes. And I think I might utter, "Icky, icky, icky," subconsciously as I rap that almond metal gunk-catcher against the side of the black-Glad-bag enrobed tall kitchen wastebasket. So to see such flotsam bobbing in the unyielding sink water was almost more than I could bear.

I had noticed that the sink was draining slowly, and had stopped for some Liquid Plumr. It didn't work. So I picked up some Drano on my next trip to town. All those chemicals and some plunging when forbidden did nothing to alleviate my sink woes.

Hick was thoughtlessly away at a school fundraiser picnic, selling barbecue. He called to check in on his goats, which The Pony was assigned to herd around the front yard of newly-sprouted green grass. I filled him in on the sink situation. "I'll fix it," he said. Without malice. Without announcing his candidacy for martyrdom. Too easily.

I was reminded of the plate I saw sitting next to the sink. A blue plastic plate with compartments that Hick had used for eating Chinese food Friday night. Hunan chicken, I believe. The plate was spotless except for a sheen of oil. Which smacks of Hick and his penchant for rinsing his plate under cold water without scraping it into the wastebasket first. Surely you weren't thinking we have a garbage disposal.

Furthermore, I recalled that Hick had rinsed the large pot used in the making of chicken and noodles earlier in the week. It, too, was spotless. Except for the starchy lines along the sides from the boiling of the egg noodles. But it was bereft of noodle fragments and shredded chicken fibers.

The most infuriating memory was of Hick's daily rinsing of his free-range chicken eggs. I try to block this habit from my mind. I've caught him at it too many times. The Pony collects the eggs in a little red-and-green wicker Easter basket. He sets them on the counter for Hick to inspect. Hick runs cold water over them, then dries them with a paper towel and puts them in an egg carton in the bottom of the refrigerator. He is careless in his sanitary measures. At least twice a week, I find a chicken feather on the kitchen floor. I am constantly scrubbing my sink with Comet before I wash the dishes.

I am sure my sink was clogged with enough noodle fragments, Chinese vegetable particles, and chicken feathers to weave a warm winter coat.

Yes. I blame Hick. The sink worked before those incidents. If he would eat at a normal hour, I could do the kitchen clean-up per my stringent regulations. Such as using only hot water for rinsing, and rinsing AFTER plates are scraped over the wastebasket or off the back porch.

The sink is working again. For now. At first Hick refused to tell me how he cleared it. Then he said he used the plunger. Even though the abrasive nonworking uncloggers had forbidden plunging. Even though I had already endured and Olympic-caliber workout of plunging. I have no idea what he really did. Once before, he said he cleaned out the trap.

I suppose he's making himself indispensable so I'll keep him around. But if I didn't keep him around, I wouldn't need him to unclog the sink.

It's a real O. Henry kind of scenario.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Little Barbershop Quartet of Horrors

Hey, have I mentioned that I'm a teacher?

I think I might have let that cat out of the bag somewhere back in my 462 posts. And as a teacher, I am a consumer of dry erase markers. Not a consumer, as in ingesting them to metabolize for energy to carry out my life processes. Oh, did I mention that I teach biology? I think I did. By consumer, I mean that I buy them with my own money to use in the education of your children. That's a collective your. Don't get all panicky and think, "Children? What children? I don't have any children. That I know of."

My consumption of markers is not as robust as it used to be. Back in the days when I taught smaller, more hands-on classes of at-risk youth, assisting them with their algebra needs, I went through a lot of markers. Working problems on the board with different colors for variables and coefficients can unlock the mystery of letters in math equations for some individuals. Allowing students to write out their problems on the board can assist the kinesthetic learners. And others can follow along and see mistakes as they happen. Everybody is at the same level. One big not-quite-happy family, working together to solve algebraic equations on the white board.

But I'm not here to wax poetic on my algebra-teaching acumen. The point is that kids are rough on dry erase markers, leaving the caps off, jamming them into the white board within inches of their fume-emitting lives, dropping them frequently, stacking them together cap-to-end until they have a three-foot multicolored pointer, etc. Now that I rarely let students write on my white board, my markers last longer. Especially when I only put out two on the chalk tray at a time. But they DO wear out from my own daily use.

I picked up a starter pack of dry erase markers a couple of weeks ago. I needed a new eraser. And I needed a bottle of cleaning spray. Of course Walmart was low on dry erase supplies due to every elementary school teacher in the state of Missouri requesting dry erase markers from each student on their back-to-school supply list. I wish high school teachers could get a piece of that action.

Expo, the teacher's pal, was not in evidence. The pegboard was bereft of Expos. But I snagged a Quartet starter pack. Four markers, an eraser, and a small bottle of cleaning spray. Just what I needed, I assumed. No need to grab a large pack with neon colors that kids can't read from the back row. Black, red, green, and blue are good enough for me. Blue for physics, green for biology, red for test dates, and black for special emphasis.

I am not singing the praises of this Quartet.

Quartet is the cinnamon babka, The lesser babka of the dry erase marker bakery. Expo is the chocolate babka that everybody craves and raves about. I can't wait for my Quartet to be consumed or grow stale enough to discard. Oh, they write adequately enough. But they refuse to be erased. They leave ghosts on my white board. I am not enamored of the daily spray-cleaning this Quartet requires. They are as high-maintenance as a spoiled debutante. Give me the old blue-collar Expos any day.

Along with the unpleasant after-image, the Quartet further annoys me by playing hard-to-get. Their lids require two empty hands for removal. Not one empty hand and another clutching a sheaf of papers or a water cup or a stack of ISS assignments. The cap of the Quartet is akin to a chastity belt. Their daily deflowering is almost not worth the effort. I suspect that my Quartet will be smashed in a fit of rage before they dry out. I grudgingly wrestle some board writing out of them every morning. I can't just toss them out like a baby with the bathwater.

It's not like throwing away the school's money.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What We Have Here is an Exposed Jugular

Oh, dear.

I have stumbled upon another unintentional misuse of a common word. I'm sure it was not a malicious misuse. Just an error by the uninformed. Or the young. Someone who has heard a saying bandied about by his elders, but has not taken the time to digest the context. To commit it to memory. Somebody not quite as well-read or long in the tooth or as educated in the scientific lore as Val. A novice at slapping words onto computer screen. Or, more likely, onto a tiny sliver of android phone.

I was browsing through some updates on one of the Big Brother 14 websites, and encountered a line about the houseguests feeling vulnerable during the live double eviction broadcast. Feeling like a target for a vicious attack. "It makes you feel like your juggler is out."

Heavens to Betsy! YOUR JUGGLER IS OUT! Hopefully, your little juggler did not escape when you left your barn door open. I imagine a juggler running willy-nilly about the house, tossing three of those bowling pin club thingies rhythmically as he dodges a multitude of folks trying to capture him with fishing nets, wire snares on the ends of broomstick-like wooden poles, frayed-rope lassos, burlap sacks, and long, vaudevillian, shepherd's crook hooks. As the tumult ensues, lamps are smashed, chairs overturned, portraits knocked askew, a cat caterwauls in surprise as his tail is trampled, and chasers knock heads as your nimble juggler avoids apprehension at the last second.

What a great concept for a Dr. Seuss-like story.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mother Nature Cannot Be Mocked

A storm hit just as we left school today. The black cloud hung over our black Tahoe like a cloud of depression hanging over a little cartoon dude in an old-school Zoloft commercial. Fat raindrops plopped on the hot windshield. The temperature dropped from 90 to 75 in half an hour.

As we wended our way through one small town, then the next, the storm remained the same. No more rain. No less rain. To put it in physics teacher talk, we were on the fulcrum of ol' lever storm. Perfectly balanced. Until we weren't.

I made a left turn and all precipitation ceased. "Hey!" I called over my shoulder to The Pony. "Where'd all that rain go?"

"You turned the corner and got away from it," he said without looking up from his laptop.

Yes. We gave the rain the slip. Not like little Theodore Cleaver gave Miss Landers the slip on the last day of school, instead of the monogrammed handkerchiefs June had picked out and had gift-wrapped and delivered by the department store. The slip. An escape. Like Mary Clancy and Rachel Devery were always trying to give Marvel Ann in The Trouble With Angels.

Oh, the precipitation found us again several miles down the road. Right about the time I was driving one-handed, wearing out my other arm by patting myself on the back. We were not very good slippers, it seems.

But for a short while, I felt like I was getting away with something.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We're Rolling in It

Genius is on a roll.

Not only did he score a dozen Krispy Kremes for himself on Saturday...another dozen is in his future for Friday, when the school fundraiser batch arrives.

In addition, he sold his $20 auction camera and lenses for $75 this afternoon on eBay, buy-it-now, through PayPal.

When he got home, he picked up the mail and discovered his MIT application and paperwork. He must schedule an interview before October 1st.

I am on my own special kind of teacher roll.

There were no incidents or accidents during my morning and afternoon parking lot duty. Yesterday and today, I ran a plethora of copies for the next three weeks, and the copier did not even hiccup. No jamming. A bare minimum of paper-feeding. Today was club day, resulting in three classes with reduced numbers of students. Today was also teacher payday, my first since June 5th.

The Pony is playing his very special role in high school. It's the role of shy nerd. Some of the volleyball girls go by my classroom after school, and call in to him. "It's POOOONNNNYYYYY!" And he ducks his head and won't look at them. Which only encourages them.

Hick would like to eat a roll.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Organs Are Revolting

Sometimes, you have to protect your children from themselves. Sometimes, it is not easy.

When Hick and Genius went on their Goodwill tour Saturday, they picked up a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts from the Lindbergh location. Not just your regular Krispy Kremes, but the kind with chocolate icing on top. Let the record show that Val does not like Krispy Kremes, and Hick cannot eat them. And for an addendum to the record, Val has ordered two dozen Krispy Kremes from the FCCLA fundraiser at school, due to be delivered this Friday.

The Pony stayed overnight Saturday with his grandma. Oblivious to the Krispy Kremes sitting all smug in their big flat box on the kitchen cutting block. Yesterday morning, while coercing Genius to put away his clean and folded laundry, a terrible truth came to light. It was just after Genius complained about putting away the clothes, and right before he refused to wash the dishes.

"Oh, what do you have planned to do that's so important?"

"Well, right now I plan to stuff my face with Krispy Kremes."

"I hope you're leaving half for your brother."

"Actually, I already ate more than half."

"It hasn't even been twenty-four hours yet!"

"I ate eight of them yesterday."

"That's not fair!"

"I figured they'd all be gone before he got home. What time is Grandma bringing him back?"

"Five o'clock."

"Oh, I have plenty of time."

"Leave him at least two."

"If I was him, I'd rather never know than realize that I'd been cheated out of four donuts."

"I can't believe you ate all those donuts."

"And I'm about to eat more."

"Your pancreas is packing up his belongings in a red bandana, tying it to a stick, and hitting the road."

"Heh, heh, heh. Funny." Genius shoved half a donut in his mouth.

"Seriously. That is SO not good for you."

"Oh, well." He finished the donut. Grabbed another one.

"Your pancreas weeps."

A single, solitary Krispy Kreme remained when The Pony returned. He saw the box. "Hey! Krispy Kremes!" Opened it. "Huh." Never did eat it. I suppose the disappointment was too much.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Vines Have Rotten Fruit

Today is Labor Day. A day invented for me to work, according to my seventeen-year-old son. One of those for thee but not for me deals.

Genius rolled out of bed around 10:00 a.m. Right after I had finished folding the laundry in the living room. "You have underwear and socks and shorts to put away."

"Great. I have to DO something?"

"It's not like you had to wash and dry and fold them. How about you go in the kitchen and wash the dishes for me?"

"You are ridiculous." Genius grabbed a stack of underwear off the mantel over the fake electric fireplace. "What's the deal with this green pair? I told you I never had a green pair."

"Nobody else wears that tagless kind. I'm sure they came in a package with colors you like better, and you just never wore them until you ran out of the others."

"Nooo...I told you, I used to have a gray pair, and now I don't. But I have this green pair."

"I don't know what you are insinuating. That I took your gray underwear and put a pair of green in its place? For all I know, you switched underwear with one of your buddies."

"I guarantee you THAT didn't happen." Genius picked up his phone to call Hick and ask him to bring back a camera battery from Walmart. He slid his fingers across the face of the phone. "I like how I can punch in '666' and it comes up 'Mom'."

Funny how a slice of life reveals that the fruit of your labor is rotten to the core.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Little Free Time is Always a Good Thing

I have been polishing up some submissions this afternoon. That's because I earned a reprieve from sandwich-making.

The Pony is lolling about his grandma's house, soaking up high-speed internet. Hick and Genius took off for a bout of Goodwill shopping. Genius has the bargain-hunting fever, because last night Hick bought him a camera and three lenses at the auction for twenty dollars. He has several cameras of his own, of much higher quality. But he likes taking things apart to see how they work, fixing them if they're broken, and selling them on eBay. He's quite the entrepreneur.

Hick bought a puzzle. I'm thinking it must have been a Coca Cola puzzle, because it was something he collects. I don't really know, because I have a tendency to tune out much of what spouts from Hick's mouth. Not maliciously, of course. There are only so many stories I can hear about the auction or Goodwill. I did gather that Hick drove his puzzle down to his creek-side cabin in his Gator, and settled in for a rainy afternoon of puzzle-working. When he returned to the house for supper, he reported that three pieces of the puzzle were missing.

At least he didn't bring home any auction meat.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wham, Bam, No Thank You, Ma'am

Dear Self-Centered Ignoramus:

Let's dispense with the formalities, shall we? Surely you won't mind if I call you Iggy. Because that's a lot nicer than what I really want to call you.

I understand that the doors on cars these days are wider than a Kardashian rump. That it is sometimes difficult to open them in the area allowed by parking spaces. My own Tahoe door has two calibrations: not wide enough, and all the way. But because I drive my Tahoe every day, I am aware of his limitations. I sometimes need to hold him between his factory door-open settings in order to avoid making contact with a car next to me. Because that's the right thing to do.

You, Iggy, think the world revolves around you. That you are some kind of special. No doubt a belief fostered by your parents, your grandparents, your youth soccer league coaches, your elementary school teachers, and your gang of ne'er-do-well peers. I'm sure you have a mantel full of trophies and awards to prove your case. But the fact is, Iggy, that growing up an Ignoramus does not give you an excuse for your loutish behavior.

Perhaps you did not think that the Walmart security cameras would catch you pounding the bejeebers out of my Tahoe. That bystanders would call you out on the loud thumping you gave my rear passenger door. And most certainly, Iggy, you did not realize that I was sitting inside.

Yes, it is difficult to control your large driver's-side door with your cell phone jammed to your ear with your left hand. I'm sure your excuse is that you have a sensory processing disorder. That you can't cross the midline of your body. So controlling that heavy door with your right hand was next to impossible. You probably receive a disability check for this little-known affliction. Had you only switched the phone to your right hand, you could have easily curtailed that slam with your left hand. Oops! I forgot. You can't cross your midline. So you couldn't transfer that phone to the other hand when you needed to open your car door. And I certainly wouldn't expect you to get off the phone in order to get into your car and back out of that space and drive away.

Oh, yes. That was me that you heard screaming, "What's your problem?" immediately after the thump. Uh huh. That was me you saw glaring at you through my tinted window into yours. I'm the reason you visibly jerked when you realized that you had been caught. Why you started that car right up and gassed it out of the parking space, narrowly missing an old man. My fault, I'm sure, that you made a young man yank his daughter out of harm's way like that dog-walker in National Lampoon's Vacation, when Chevy Chase fell asleep behind the wheel of The Family Truckster, and sped down the off ramp in St. Louis.

And it was me, Iggy, who wrote down your license plate number in case the damage turned out to be noticeable when I had a chance to carefully open my Tahoe's door between factory settings without touching the car next to me.

See You in Court, Perhaps...