Saturday, October 31, 2015

Weighers Gonna Weigh

This is Val's Betrayer:

This is the scale my doctor's nurse chose to believe over her tall weights-sliding-on-a-balance scale. You know. Because the spring scale is so much more accurate. That's why doctors' offices use them. NOT.

Here's the attitude my spring scale has been giving me lately. Even though I have thoughtfully provided him with a new 9-volt battery, just in case he wasn't feeling up to snuff.

Obviously, something is amiss. Perhaps WW is simply worn out, like the hinge on Val's hard case that carries her spectacles to and from school, after excessive openings and closings. The weight of a single Val leg should not be enough to cause WW to malfunction. Still. We take his word over the scale in the medical office.

Val is a robust, Rubenesque specimen of womanhood (DO NOT picture Val with her clothes off!), with a hearty appetite. Which does not mean her meal plan is akin to that of a circus fat lady attempting to maintain her moneymaking physique. She is not living high on the hog in her dark basement lair, squeegeeing gas station chicken grease off her chin. In fact, round about the time school started, Val cut back on her caloric intake. Which is not to say that she survives on arugula and alfalfa sprouts, or adheres to the supermodel regimen of Diet Coke and TicTacs. She is not one of those sprite-like women with a pixie haircut, who sit on the kindergarten chairs at parent teacher conferences, with ample room left over on the side of each tennis-ball-sized buttock, and occasionally indulge in a meal of less food than it takes to keep a hummingbird alive, then complain about their lack of self-control at such a feast.

No, Val merely chose lesser evils as presented. Such as Captain D's grilled tilapia or lemon pepper whitefish with broccoli and slaw (SLAW! SLAW! DON'T FORGET THE SLAW!), rather than the deep-fried plank with cracklin's and fries and hush puppies. At home, a bowl of broccoli, cauliflower, and baby carrots with a slice of Velveeta on top, rather than a side dish of macaroni and cheese, Stove Top Stuffing, garlic Texas Toast. A section of Walmart big sandwich for school lunch, but with the bulk of the bread scraped out for a dog treat, leaving just the crust over the meat. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. No nighttime snacks. Val is not one to make sacrifices and follow some cockamamie plan like her lunch companions, who relapse within a month back to their old habits. So Val just kept on with regular food, and trimmed the fat. So to speak. Cut out her one can of regular Coke each night. That alone would account for 2.8 pounds lost.

Val's Betrayer would have her believe that in ten weeks, she lost 11 pounds. Or two. Or six. She never knew what might pop up on that dial. But as of late, for a couple weeks, it showed 11 pounds lost. Not the 25 pounds lost that the doctor's scale showed. Of course, today it showed another two pounds down.

I have come to the conclusion that Val's Betrayer cannot be trusted. But neither can the doctor's scale. Or nurse.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Bitter

Ack! Such a day I have had!

I dropped off The Pony at school, then headed back home for an hour until time to leave for my doctor's appointment. I might as well have relaxed at home for two hours, because I was not called in until 11:35 for my 10:45 appointment.

On the way up to the 4th floor office, I shared an elevator with a cheery gray-haired lady going to the 3rd floor. She took it upon herself to become my best friend for two floors. "Oh! You're going up to the FOURTH floor! I'm only going to three." Just then the door opened at the 2nd floor. She turned to look at the keypad. I assured her that she had hit the right button. Ours were the only two lit up. On we went, with her telling me somebody must have changed their mind. When she arrived at her destination, she said, "And you continue to have a very nice day." My new best friend.

The waiting room was blessedly empty of children, hackers, and close-talkers. I had a book to while away 50 minutes. I felt like I won the lottery when I was finally called back. Until I stepped on the scale, and the nurse thought it was broken because my weight was TOO LIGHT for her satisfaction. Yeah. What kind of insult is THAT? We got back to the exam room, and she said, "What does your scale at home say?" I told her it said 14 pounds more than her fancy-schmancy balance scale, but it was a spring scale, about 15 years old, and sometimes does not even come on until you stomp it. So you know what she said? She said, "I think we should put what your scale says. Ours must be broken. I don't think that was your weight." I am shocked that she didn't burst into a chorus of "Fatty Fatty Two-By-Four."

The doctor came in to see me, and after handing me a copy of my lab results, turned to walk out in the hall, leaving the door open and his assistant with me, while he got a chewing out from his office manager about the way he codes his lab tests. We had a bit of a dust-up when I disagreed with one of his lab result interpretations. Not enough for him to care more than the five minutes allotted to my health.

Outside, I proceeded to my T-Hoe, sandwiched between two mini-mobiles that were close-parkers. I swear. The two of them could have fit into one space together. I don't know why they had to get so close. T-Hoe and Val are quite popular with weirdos.

On the way to my car, I had to stop for the lazy people shuttle. He kept sitting there, blocking my way across the aisle. Then he pulled up two cars and stopped. I figured he was picking up some lazybones. But no. HE STARTED BACKING UP! Beeping. And BACKING UP. I was already halfway across. I tried to run, even with my FluShotKnee. All I needed was to get injured in front of the hospital and have to wait for them to call the ambulance from another part of the county to transport me to the ER on the other side of the building.

On the way home, I was caught up in the THIRD batch of road construction on this trip. Every route needs a patch of concrete, I guess.

When I got home, the dogs did not even get up to greet me. They lay in the front yard. Juno at least turned her head and looked into my eyes, like, "What are YOU doing here?" Not so sweet, my loyal companion.

AND, sitting in the La-Z-Boy for the hour I had left before leaving to pick up The Pony at school...I saw a woodpecker hopping up the cedar porch post. A WOODPECKER! With me a scant 10 feet away on the other side of the glass. That is quite disrespectful in my book.

I might as well have been at work.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Every Now and Then, One of the Cogs Malfunctions

On weekday mornings, Thevictorian household operates like a finely-oiled machine. Not a highly-technical machine, with a multitude of moving parts, such as might bottle Diet Coke, or package Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. More of a simple machine. A guillotine, perhaps. Or a screwdriver.

Val gets up at 5:00. Showers. Takes a chair nap. Hick gets up at 5:30. Showers. Leaves for work at 6:00. The Pony gets up at 6:00. Plays computer games. We leave at 6:45.

This morning as I got out of bed at 5:00, Hick turned off the alarm and said, "Wake me when you leave. I have a doctor's appointment."

I vaguely remembered that Hick had mentioned his appointment. I have one on Friday. But I still have to drive The Pony to school. So, even thought I could have slept in another 30 minutes if Hick had mentioned this last night, and set the alarm later, I followed his instructions. I closed the bedroom door. Took my chair nap. Hollered to The Pony to get up at 6:00. Wait a minute! What's this? Hick stuck his head out the bedroom door.

"Don't worry about waking me. I set the alarm for later."

Okay. Nice of him to do that for himself. Meanwhile, The Pony was dragging his hooves. I waited until 6:10, when I put the lunches in the bags and get my second round of medicine and my mini sausage biscuits.

"PONY! You need to get up!" He mumbled that he knew. Made a trip to the bathroom, the kitchen, and the long living room couch to plug in his phone. "Do you need slacks tomorrow? When you go to that health fair? Remember, I go to the doctor, so I won't be at school if you forget money for lunch. Let's make sure to lay that out in the morning so you don't forget."

"Wait. You go to the doctor tomorrow? I was not told this."

"Yes you were. I have been talking about it all week. Even last night, I said, "Tomorrow will be my Friday, because it's my last day of work this week."

"Oh, yeah."

He headed downstairs for his gaming before getting dressed. I sat down at my Shiba with breakfast and meds. By now it was 6:20.


"I don't go to the doctor today! I go tomorrow! I heard you guys talking, and I thought, 'My doctor don't work on Thursdays! She works on FRIDAYS!' So I got up and checked my phone, and saw that the appointment is tomorrow. I have to WORK today!"

"Good luck with that. Will you get in trouble for being late?"

"Naw! I'll only be about five minutes late." With that, he disappeared into the bathroom to get ready.

One of the perks of being management, and not having 100 adolescents waiting for you to show up and prepare them for life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mornings in T-Hoe With Pony

Never a dull moment when I’m hauling a 17-year-old self-absorbed smartypants along in the seat behind me every morning on the way to school.

Today was dark and gloomy. I hate it when a local school bus is ahead of me. They have a blinding white strobe light on top. It was especially annoying this morning.

“Look at this guy, pulling out right in front of me. He could have waited. There’s nothing behind. Now I have to have that flashing light burning out my retinas. I swear. I think that’s going to give me a seizure. If you can’t see a giant yellow school bus with all those reflectors painted on it, I don’t think a strobe light is going to do much to help you. And look at THIS guy! That dump truck is going to cut into my lane as we go through the light. You just watch.”

“The ‘Stay Back 300 Feet’ sign is one of the most ignored instructions. Along with ‘Do Not Eat Raw Cookie Dough.’”

“If I stay back 300 feet, I can’t read that sign! I can’t even see where it that sign is! I never knew they put that on a school bus.”

“Um. It’s NOT. It’s on that dump truck.” 

“Oh. I was so busy DRIVING, making sure he didn’t cut in front of me, and blinded by that strobe light on top of the bus, I didn’t see the sign.”

“Well, the 72 kids aren’t going to fall out of the back of the bus and give you a flat tire. But what’s in the dump truck might.”

“Okay. I got it. I thought you were talking about the bus.”

After another couple of miles, The Pony again gifted me with his wisdom. He was telling me about an online test he took for some biology subjects, and how he was ranked 20 out of 5965 in the nation, but how only three schools in Missouri are participating.

“Those people in my class coming back from the junior college tour interrupted me. I thought they would be gone all of third hour, but they came back in the middle! I couldn’t concentrate. They were being loud.”

“There you go, blaming someone else.”

“Um. I got a 14/15 on the first two tests, and a 9/15 on the one when they came in. And it pEEnalizes you if you take a longer time! I took the first two in under three minutes.”


“Actually, the correct pronunciation is pEEnalize. Like in Missoui’s pEEnal system.”

“Nobody says it that way around here.”

“They should! It’s funny.”

Heh, heh. Looks like The Pony is a 17-year-old chip off Val’s 13-year-old-self block.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Val's Nobody 'Til Some Genius Needs Her

As you might guess, Val's working hours are fairly full of flapdoodlery and folderol. The first three hours sail by in a jiffy, and then there's lunch at 10:53 a.m. After that, it's pretty much downhill. No reason. It's like the universe, constantly conspiring against me, has figured out where I am. Loose ends suddenly need tying, missing assignments are located, deadlines pop up, surprise meetings materialize, odds need ending, and the wheels squeak more at the end of the day.

So there I was last Thursday, reveling in the thought of a HALF-DAY of school, glossing right over that stay until 6:00 for conferences part, when the phonograph record of my life came to a screeching halt. It was 10:53 a.m. I had just turned on my cell phone (we're not allowed to have them on in the classroom, you know) and was gathering my leftover pizza for lunch. Uh huh. The moldy ciabatta sandwich was just a gleam in my eye back then.

Rumble-rumble. I turned from turning my laptop to LOCKED to see what my phone was texting me about.

10:18 Call me on your lunch break. Enough to strike fear into the heart of a mother with a 20-year-old know-it-all away at college.

10:24 I'm fine. No one is hurt or anything. But I have a slight emergency regarding my laptop. Well. That was a relief. He wasn't in the hospital, jail, or under a car.

10:53 Will call around 11:20. Didn't want him waiting by his phone. I have done this with him before. That's when lunch is over and I'm back in my room for plan time. Clear sailing today, you know, what with the half day that ends at 12:45, and only 30 minutes of another class for me to teach.

10:53 Okay. Can it be sooner? I'm on a tight timeline for today. Who isn't?

10:55 Unless you're in class. Such a thoughtful boy. Not wanting me to lose my job BEFORE I'M ABLE TO RETIRE IN MAY!

I called him while my leftover pizza was warming. "I am on my way to lunch. The tardy bell just rang, and I am probably going to lose my seat at the teacher lunch table."

"Oh. Okay. I just wanted to tell you that my laptop died. You know I was planning to get one this spring, and we budgeted that money in my account when you cashed out that one CD. I have two projects due today and tomorrow, because I was gone last week to California, and I'm glad I backed everything up two days ago. And I fly out Monday to Vegas, and I have to give a presentation. But my laptop is dead. They have one in the bookstore, and I just wanted to know if it's all right if I put that on my account. It's $2200, and I know we budgeted $1500, and I was going to pay another $500 when I'm getting paid from my internship. So I wanted to know if it's okay."

"Yes. It's okay. Today is the 22nd. They will send me an e-statement on the 25th, and I'll have until the 15th to pay it. So it's fine. Go ahead. I'll take the money out of your savings account. There's time. But right now I am really on a tight timeline, going to lunch. Just do it."

"Okay. Bye."

I went on to lunch. My chair was still vacant. They know better than to mess with Val-nearing-retirement. She don't-care less than Honey Badger.

"Where were you, Val?"

"Is something wrong?"

"Everything okay?"

Which perhaps tells you how fond Val is of her lunch. Never misses.

"Yes. Genius called. He's having computer problems. Mainly because his is dead, and he needs a new one."

A commotion occurred at the table next to us. The one where some Einstein among my cronies moved some ne'er-do-wells on the day that I was at jury duty. As the village was attempting to raise the child, my phone rang. I never take it to lunch. But I did today.

"Mom! The bookstore says I can't put the laptop on my account! I can only have $1500 on there! Do you have the credit card?"

"No. I don't bring it to work. I don't carry it out of the house. It's in my office. I don't want somebody scamming my information off it by walking too close to me with one of those card readers." My cronies turned to look at me like I was E.F. Hutton. I put my hand over the end of my cell phone. "Genius says I'm a conspiracy theorist."

"So, I'm here in the bookstore, and I need to get the laptop. Does Dad have his credit card?"

"I'm sure he does. IF you can get him to answer his phone. I have my debit card. Will they take that? Do you want me to go get it?"

"Yeah. Go get the debit. I might have to hand the phone to one of the workers."

"It will take a minute. I'll have to walk all the way back to my room. And get out my purse. And find the card. And I'm carrying my lunch along with me. And I'm going to miss the drama with some kids getting in trouble!"

We processed the transaction. It took four tries. For some reason, the machine wasn't taking the numbers. "Mom. Read them to me again. I'm going to have to write them down. The machine is acting up. What's the security code on the back? Just in case they need it."

"I don't know. It's worn off. I can kind of tell two numbers. But that other one might be a 3. Or an 8."

"Okay. I'll put 3. There. It's done now. The total is $2467.98."

"You make sure that paper with the number goes with you!"

"They are shredding it right now as I watch."

"Okay. Enjoy your new laptop. I love you."

"I love you too. Bye."

Funny how the bookstore carried a laptop suitable to the needs of Genius. Of course, it IS the college of science and technology. So I'm sure the computer geeks majoring in computer geekness like Genius are a good client base for high-end laptops. It's not like Genius could waltz into Walmart and grab a Lenovo for $249.99. The computer is his bread-and-butter. That would be like a NASCAR champion driving a Ford Fiesta.

Here's his new precious:

It's just like the five-year-old dead precious, except thinner and lighter, according to Genius.

I had to ask for a picture.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Ciabatta Be Kiddin’ Me!

Val is a creature of habit. A creature who takes the path of least resistance. She is not one to whip up a special salad for lunch, or find a way to broil stinky fish and cart it to the teacher lunch table. She is all about convenience. A long Walmart sandwich pre-portioned at home and hauled to her classroom mini fridge for daily allotments, accompanied by lunch packs of Lay’s or pretzels is good enough for her 10:53 meal. Or leftover pizza at the end of the week.

However…we are now three weeks deep in second quarter. All work and no play and the same sandwich every day makes Val a dull gal. I decided to make a change this week. Same snack, different sandwich. The same Halloween mini pack of pretzels, but with leftovers from the weekend roast. I chopped up that chuck and mixed in some mayo. None of that Miracle Whip for Val. My mom used that stuff. I brought my own mayo to her dinners. Mom also used a meat grinder suctioned to the kitchen counter to grind her leftover chuck roast. Alas, we must have put that in the auction box. So I simply chopped mine into cubes. Anyhoo…I formulated this plan Saturday, and Sunday I picked up some ciabatta bread.

I was so excited about this new foray into the world of broughten school lunches that I thought about it all night. Mmm…roast beef with mayo on ciabatta. I had stopped myself from adding chopped dill pickles. That would make my concoction runny over the four days I planned to eat it. But maybe I would take a dill pickle on the side! Mmm…roast beef with mayo on ciabatta.

This morning I got up and hustled to the kitchen. Time to make my sandwich. Mmm…roast beef with mayo on ciabatta. I reached into the corner cabinet for the ciabatta. Took out one of the six rolls and put it on a plate to split open and fill with filling. Mmm…roast beef with mayo on ciabatta.


My ciabatta had a spot of mold! MOLD!

That couldn’t be. I just bought them yesterday. Food is always good a few days past the expiration date. And these ciabatta rolls said 10-26-15. That’s TODAY! All three bags were the same when I looked on the bakery shelf at Walmart. Though they DID have a suspicious strike-out under the date, in Sharpie. Walmart is trying to kill me. Or at least make me mildly ill.

I tossed that bun in the wastebasket and inspected another. Sandwich was made.

If you don’t hear from me again, let the record show that this was probably a bad idea.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Absentminded Chef-Messer

Last week was a busy one here at the homestead, with Val getting home late three out of four days of her regular work week due to conferences, and having to head to the lab on Friday. So the kitchen was in a bit of disarray this weekend. I washed up several sinks of dishes, including The Pony's cake paraphernalia from Monday. That's right. From Monday.

Normally, Val does not let her dishes linger. But The Pony swore he was going to wash these himself. You know, because of Val's FluShotKnee, which has, in the meantime, recovered. But it was iffy on Monday, due to duty before and after school, and the long nights of not being propped up during conferences. Each night, The Pony swore he was going to wash those dishes before bed. But they remained.

It's not like there was mold growing on the giant plastic bowl or foil cake pans. The Pony had rinsed the bowl and two of the tins, and another one that had held cake had hardened like shellac. Yes. Val washes out foil cake pans. You can take Mom away from Val, but you can't take Val away from Mom's habits. There was still a sliver of Oreo cake in the cake container, which I made The Pony scrape out for the chickens, if they could get to peckin' before the dogs arrived.

All of this stuff had been piled in a box on the kitchen table. The table that Hick finally moved in from the garage. With our odd hours, the kitchen table had not been used for mealtime. Oh, who am I kidding? The kitchen table is rarely used for mealtime. Hick goes to admire his chickens and shacks as soon as he gets home, and The Pony takes to the basement couch for computer games, and Val slips into her lounging ensemble and heads for her dark basement lair. So we often just grab a plate and head our separate ways, with Hick choosing to chow down around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. Not like Val's childhood home, where supper was on the table and sat down to at the stroke of 5:10, the minute her dad walked in the door.

I went to gather the washables out of the cardboard box. There were also leftover little plates suitable for serving Oreo cake to juniors and seniors listening to a how-to speech, a bottle of cooking oil, an opened tub of frosting now inedible due to lack of refrigeration, a plastic container of toothpicks used for stabbing a maybe-done cake, a crinkly clear-plastic bag which once held cake powder, and a cut-off egg carton that had protected the three home-laid eggs The Pony needed for his ingredients.


That's right. The Pony had brought home the shells of three cracked eggs and left them on the kitchen table in a box for six days! I'm shocked that they didn't stink. To shame him, I made him take that mini-carton out on the porch and take a picture, and throw the shells over the rail.

"Huh. I guess my helper put the shells back in the carton. I didn't know she did that."

Always passing the buck, The Pony.

I suppose his helper didn't know that he carried them home and let them sit on the kitchen table for six days.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Two Wrongs Make The Pony Sense His Plight

Once upon a time, Val was all health-conscious and whatnot. She had a standing appointment after school with her best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel to walk up and down the long, long hall of the workplace, logging two miles each afternoon. Genius and The Pony were pacified with a file cabinet drawer of snacks, and computer games like Roller Coaster Tycoon, and Contraptions. Every now and then, one would feel the need to tattle on the other. Genius waited by my classroom door for me to pass by. The Pony, finding his needs more urgent, trotted after us until he caught up.

This revelation is not so random as you might think. On the way to work Thursday, I asked The Pony for a Christmas gift.

"My back really itches. I wish I had a backscratcher in the car. That's what you can get me for Christmas. A backscratcher. It can be like that red one on the table by the lamp. Wooden. Or it can be plastic. I'm not picky. In fact, as soon as I get to school, I'm going to get a clear plastic ruler out of my drawer, and jam it down my shirt collar. It works pretty good. You know, those clear blue or pink or green or yellow rulers that I got at Walmart several years ago. After I'm done scratching, I put it back in the drawer. If a kid asks to borrow a ruler, I get one out. It may or may not be the one I scratched my back with. They don't know, and neither do I."

"No. Just no. That is NOT right."

"Oh, you don't think THAT'S right? Let me tell you another story. Remember back when I used to walk after school with Mabel? While you and Genius played computer games?"

"Uh huh."

"While I was waiting for you two to ride the bus over to my building, and for Mabel to get all dolled up in her special workout clothes, I changed my shoes and socks. I got my walking shoes out of the cabinet, and the white socks I brought every day, and put my foot up on one of those blue hard-plastic chairs at a desk over by the door. It didn't take long. I peeled off my black crew socks and put on the white ones. My legs were so dry! A bunch of skin flakes always fell off on the seat of the chair during the change. I meant to brush them off, but Mabel would show up at my door, or you guys would come in telling me about your day, and I got sidetracked."


"Oh, that's not all! Nobody sat there first hour. But second hour, this one girl did. She's the one I told you about the other day. The one who had a pimple between her eyes, and complained that she was not having a good day, and it was only second hour. She asked to go turn in a late assignment to another teacher. As soon as she left the room, one of the guys said, 'Don't anybody say anything, because she'll kill me, but every time I look at her, I think she grew a third eye.' Remember? That girl."

"I remember."

"So anyway, she came in one morning, and I could tell she was not having a good day again. No pimple, though. She plopped her stuff down on her desk, waved her arms, told us everything that had gone wrong that morning, and said, 'And I am sick of coming in here to find that the person who sits at this desk the class before me has been eating crackers again! This chair is always full of cracker crumbs!' She wiped them off on the floor with her hand and sat down. I didn't say a word."

"Probably just as well."


"But so very wrong."

"Yeah. But it makes that ruler thing seem okay, huh?"

"Aye yi yi."

I'm pretty sure I detected a forehead-palm in my rearview mirror.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Things That Make You Go "WTF?" in the Night

Last night we got home around 7:00. Darkness had fallen while T-Hoe, The Pony, and Val spent 20 minutes in the McDonald's drive-thru line.

Conferences wrapped up at 6:00. The Pony was with me because...well...he doesn't have his driver's license yet. My mom used to run by school and pick him up on this conference day, so he had from 1:00 until 6:00 to lay around on her couch being treated like royalty, gorging on macaroni noodles and butter, soaking up her high-speed internet. Alas, we both miss her greatly.

Funny thing about missing Mom yesterday. You know how I haven't seen a ladybug since my sister the ex-mayor's wife and I cleaned out Mom's house in August, and found a pile of dried-out dead ones in her downstairs bathroom? And the last time before that was the two-week period in February when ladybugs accosted me at every turn, four times, to be exact. So...last night, a strange coincidence occurred.

Nobody comes to conferences anymore. The parents can look up grades online, and don't need to drop in and pick up a printout and visit with teachers. That is, if their kids don't owe several hundred dollars in lunch fees. Or even a dollar. The account gets locked until debts are paid. Which means those folks not paying certainly aren't coming in to try and talk to us. This isn't little kids. This is the big leagues, and parents pretty much let the kids run  things, and don't pop in or make an appointment to see whether Little Johnny is doing okay. Not a statement about our parents specifically. It's like that everywhere now, from what I hear at the teacher lunch table.

So...on Tuesday, I had two students stop by, both of whom had nothing to worry about. Two. From 3:00 until 7:00. There might have been a third, according to The Pony, who had popped in to warm some supper in my microwave. Unfortunately, we had departmental meetings, and I was down the hall for 45 minutes. Last night, there was one. She brought a mom and dad and baby sibling. Let the record show that after waiting all day, catching up on paperwork, these folks made it all worthwhile for Val by arriving at 5:50. Not a problem. We couldn't leave until 6:00.

That baby sibling was cute as a bug. About 8-10 months old, riding on his mom's hip, laughing and showing his gums, his downy blond head tilted back for a belly laugh. As we were exchanging pleasantries, Baby Sib started to fuss. "Here, I'll take him," said the pupil. She transferred him to her own hip. He leaned way back, in the way of babies who don't want to be still, and flailed at his nose with the back of his chubby hand. Pupil wrestled her spare arm behind his back so he didn't fall.

"What's that?" asked his mom. She leaned over and plucked some foreign matter from Baby Sib's nostril. "It's a ladybug! How did THAT get in there?" Baby Sib chortled at the absurdity, as I gawked in wonder. The mom flicked it somewhere in my room. Dead or alive, I don't know. I never found it.

But that's not the scary part of this story. After waiting so long to pick up The Pony's cheeseburger meal on the way home, darkness had completely fallen. The waxing gibbous moon hung over the long bridge spanning the big river as we turned off the county road.

"Looks like it's going to be dark getting the mail, Pony. Hope you don't hear MothMan." That used to make Genius all discombobulated. He was jittery getting the mail after dark, always hearing something rustling the dead leaves in the woods. I probably shouldn't have let him watch those Halloween specials when he was a young 'un.

"Eh." The Pony is more concerned about entities in the house than rustling leaves. When we got to our creek and the gravel road turnoff, he jumped out to reach his arm deep into EmBee and extract her innards. I saw him turn and look over his shoulder at the gravel road where we were about to enter. Again. He dug out the mail. A third time, he looked.


I saw a light. A bright blue light, about the size of a golf ball. It moved. Bobbed. Came toward us. The Pony jumped in. "I heard something moving on the gravel!"

"I saw a light! We're out of here!"I turned onto the gravel. Out of the corner of my left eye, I saw a man. He was moving along the side of a black truck. From the bed to the driver's door. I only glimpsed him, because it was dark, you know, with those trees shielding the moonlight, and the truck was black, and the guy was wearing dark clothes, and at the very moment I drove T-Hoe past him,


"Thanks, Pony. I don't know what that guy was up to, but thanks for illuminating me with that dome light right as we passed him, just in case he was a murderer wanting to shoot somebody. I would have been the perfect target."

"Oh. Sorry. I wanted to see what colleges sent me mail."

"It's probably just that guy who used to cut through here after work, and dump his 12-pack of Natural Light into his cooler, checking you out with a flashlight. But I didn't see that carton thrown out. And it's way after get-off-work time. Not sure what he was up to."

Never a dull moment in Val's life. Except for 93.333333% of her conference time.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bridge Blanket Tingle

The days grow shorter, and the end of Daylight Savings Time has not yet arrived. Thus, The Pony and I ride to work in the twilight of not-yet-dawn. It's eerie and unsettling on those foggy mornings. Things seem out of place. Then jump out at you when you're not expecting them. Like the low water bridge.

Oh, I know the low water bridge is there. Even shrouded in fog, I know it's there. I know the fields on the sides of the approach. The sudden dip to get down to bridge level. The orange bendy stick-things that the county road department put on each side at each end, two of which were snapped off the first night by ne'er-do-wells. So Friday morning I was expecting to see the two nearest, still-existing, orange bendy stick-thingies upon descent to bridge level. Not that I was in danger of driving T-Hoe off the side, mind you. But just expecting them to be there as guides, confirming that I was in the right place.

"DID YOU SEE THAT?" The Pony, for once, had not had his head buried in his laptop.

"Yes. I think I did. My mind is trying to make sense of it. Creepy. I'm not going back."

There was something in place of that bendy orange stick-thingy! Something that didn't belong. Something foreign. The best I could relate it to was that alien in a yellow rain slicker in Meatballs II. Something out of place. Something that made the hair on the back of my neck go up.

On the way home, I had forgotten about our close encounter, because the day was bright, and we were approaching the bridge from the other direction.

"LOOK! It's still there, Mom."

I stopped as I drove off the bridge. Not OFF the bridge. Off the end of the bridge, onto the pavement of the road.

"Get a picture of it. And then I going to pull up, so you can get one from where we were this morning."

Yeah. What's THAT all about? Imagine seeing this as you come through the fog and descend to the bridge deck, out of the corner of your eye.

I really don't know what people are thinking these days. If that belongs to a homeless, it's not going to get dried out like that. A tree branch would be more effective. If somebody found it and was being kind to drape it for the loser to find again...WHO DOES THAT? Nobody wants that ratty thing back! Maybe it's a marker for thieves to find their way to mailboxes or secluded homes that are vacant during the day.

I've a good mind to toss it in the creek! But that would be littering. And Val is not a member of the Litterati.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Beastmasterer

As if it’s not bad enough to be accosted by creepy crawling critters at work...Val’s home turf has now been invaded by them as well. Even her sanctuary, her dark basement lair, has been usurped!

It started last week, Wednesday, perhaps, when Val exited the master bathroom after preparing herself for the workday. The sweet, sweet thought of a chair nap was on her groggy mind. Until she stepped out the bedroom door into the living room, home of Hick’s La-Z-Boy.


No. It was not an anemic smoke detector. Hick took the battery out of that nuisance and declared that a new battery did nothing to restore its health, and left it, door hanging open, still attached to the ceiling. No. This was not a mechanical noise. It was a critter noise. A cricket. Coming up the stairwell, sounding like Crikey was sitting on the beanbag chair in front of the big screen, the chair that The Pony had strewn with SAT practice materials and discarded college recruiting propaganda.

By the time Val plopped herself in the La-Z-Boy, draped herself with an afghan, and reclined herself to a comfortable position…the REE REE REE sounded like it was directly under her rumpus. That was not possible, of course. But the direction of the REE REE REE had changed. No sleep for the wicked weary.

The Pony emerged from his room and began his morning toilette.

“Pony. Do you hear that?”

“Yeah. It’s a cricket. I heard it last night.”

“I sounds like it’s right under me.”

“No. It was in the workshop when I heard it.”

“This morning it was out by the TV. Now it’s under me. Look for it when you go downstairs. And kill it.”

Off he went. “Um. There won’t be any killing this morning. It’s in the wall. Right by the door of your office.”

MY DARK BASEMENT LAIR! Bespoiled by a cricket. Crikey!

“Well, the good thing is, we know that it moves. Maybe it will be out of the wall when we get home.” And it was. But there was a new problem.

“Um. Mom! There’s a millipede down here!”

“Kill it! But don’t stomp on it! That will make a big mess!” Have you seen the size of millipedes we get around the homestead? (Not a rhetorical question. Here's a glimpse, from back in the day, a flash from the past, on Val's very first blog.) “Get a paper towel. Or two! Grab it and throw it outside. I don’t even care if you kill it. Just get it out. Throw it out in the front yard for the chickens to eat.”

So The Pony set about his task. In his own way. Prancing to his own Pony drummer. I kept waiting for him to run up the stairs and chuck that beast outside. But no. I heard door after door. Workshop. Basement. Basement. Workshop. Like the beginning of a Get Smart episode. That darn Pony threw the millipede out the basement door!

“Got him. I tossed him out back. Over the concrete retaining wall. Where the chickens gather under the porch.”

All well and good, unless the chickens were out free-ranging. Because then that beast could march on all his million legs right back under the basement door. The door which The Pony needed two hands to open, what with the dead bolt on a spring that requires superhuman strength, and the doorknob that must be turned at the same time.

I wonder where The Pony got a third hand for that operation.
It’s not like HE has a million of ‘em.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"Shot Hurts" by Valareth

Shot hurts, 
Shot scars, 
Shot wounds, those liars!
A knee's not tough or strong enough
To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain

Shot is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain
Shot hurts,
Ooo-oo shot hurts

I'm old,
I know,
But even so
I know a thing or two, I learned from flu
I really learned a lot, about that flu shot

Shot will make you lame. Your knee burns when it's hot
Shot hurts,
Ooo-oo shot hurts

For those of you on the edge of your seat waiting to hear the status of Val's sudden-onset case of is an update.

As you may recall, Val and The Pony obtained a flu shot on the evening of October 9 at NearMax, our local pharmacy. Within three hours, Val was crippled-up with a swollen left knee and pain so severe that she wanted to disgorge her evening meal while watching a DVR of The Amazing Race. All weekend, she needed a cane to navigate her way around the homestead. Her sweet baboo had to do the weekly shopping.

Monday, Val swore she would not use that cane to get around on the job. She did, however, instruct The Pony to put it in T-Hoe just in case. Monday night was a terrible torturous evening, sleep was nearly non-existent, the cane was in play until work again the next morning, and Val began to rethink saving those sick days with her noble effort to educate her pupils. Lots of ice and heat, propping all evening, and caning to and fro seemed to put a dent in the agony of the left knee. However...pain moved to the right knee. Though not as severe, and most likely due to overuse.

By Thursday, the left knee was not as swollen. It still locked up due to excess fluid in the joint, but it did not slosh when Val hobbled up and down the hall. Thursday night, when Val removed her black crew sock prior to slipping into something more comfortable for bed, she saw it.


Let the record show that Val had been wearing her oldest New Balance during her knee injury. They made her feel more stable than the newer New Balance. The old NB kind of irritated her left great toe. Probably because the knee was swollen, the leg was swollen, the ankle was swollen, and it would follow that the shoe fit tighter than normal because the foot was swollen. True, the great toe had been sore after a Monday of morning and afternoon duty all the way down in the parking lot.

Val was up a couple of times Thursday night to use the facilities, still using the cane, thankfully with a rubber stopper on the end and not a shaved point with black electrician's tape wrapped around it. Each time she sat down on the throne and contemplated her great toe, the purple area had receded a bit. Kind of like it was setting to the southwest corner. Friday morning, Val slathered a bit of triple antibiotic ointment on the corner of that great toe before putting on her black crew sock. Just in case the jamming against the end of the shoe might cause a blister. Only a sliver, a virtual crescent moon of bruise, was left. Val considered this a true sign of being on the mend.

Friday night, as Val removed her black crew socks at bedtime, she observed with horror that the bruise was back! Dark purple! Almost black! In two spots on the left side of her great toenail! They were blooming. Getting larger, Val feared. Such a relapse, after so much hope. She went to bed in despair. Two hours later, she was up to use the facilities.

Val leaned over from the throne. Was it shrinking? No. She leaned more. Touched the bruised area to see if it hurt.


It was two pieces of lint from her black crew socks. The toenail was clear of bruising except for that tiny sliver at the bottom.

A miraculous recovery!

As of Sunday, the FluShotKneePainItis continues to slowly improve. Val is rethinking that shot for next year, when she will not be exposed to the breath, snot, and saliva of 100 pupils in her classroom, and countless thoughtless hall-passers between classes.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fighting Technology With Thevictorianology

You know those scammer calls about your Windows computer having a problem, with the kind technician with a thick accent who has sought you out to fix the issue if you will only give him your personal information? Yeah. I knew you would be familiar with these selfless folks who only want to help you from their Windows computer headquarters, all 10,000 of them sharing one office cubicle.

A couple of months ago, we were getting these calls a couple times a week, from several different numbers. I didn't always pick up, unless the area code looked similar to one that Genius might have been near, in which case I answered, just in case it was an emergency. The last call I remember answering, I told the guy, "This is a SCAM! You do not know anything about my computer, SO STOP CALLING ME!" A little wordy, I admit, but I think I got my point across. No more calls.

Until Saturday morning at 9:20. I was sitting in the La-Z-Boy, with the phone right beside me. I never know when I've been selected to win a free vacation. It's more exciting than those times I've been targeted by the IRS filing a lawsuit, and sending local law enforcement to arrest me. So I answered.

It was about my Windows computer. Again, I said, "This is a SCAM! Do not call me again!" Then I hung up. Sometimes, I just lay the phone down to take up their time. But since I had already answered, (dagnabbit!), giving them the satisfaction of knowing this was a working number, I just let them know I was onto them, and cut the connection.

I told The Pony, "I think next time I'll scream. To give them a surprise. I used to have a friend who kept a coach's whistle by the phone, and blew it when she got a crank call." Not the metal kind of coach's whistle with a wooden ball inside. Like for calling in elementary kids from recess. The plastic kind of coach's whistle with nothing inside. The shrill kind. Like a referee whistle. The Pony had no comment on my plans. As one who does not care about people, it makes no nevermind to him if a scammer a continent away has his eardrum perforated by Val's shenanigans.

I made a trip to town. Supervised The Pony in baking an Oreo cake for a how-to speech. Sat down to rest my flu-shot knee in the La-Z-Boy again. And got another call at 1:00. From a different number. The Pony was lounging on the long couch waiting for his cake to cool.

"I don't know this number. It's different from this morning. But I'm answering." The Pony made no move to acknowledge my comment, but only kept poking at his laptop.




"This is Mike calling about a problem with your Windows computer--"

"EEEEEEEEEEEEE!" I screamed as loud as I could into the phone. "THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY COMPUTER!" I'm not sure Mike heard the second part. There goes my Oscar for such a moving performance.

The click on the receiver was quite satisfying. I glanced at The Pony, expecting a thumbs-up, perhaps, or a snicker. But he was as wild-eyed as a spooked racehorse on the way to the gate.

"What's wrong? Didn't you like how I handled that call?"

"No. No I didn't."

"I even told you this morning that I was going to scream the next time. And you knew I didn't recognize the number."

"Yeah. But I can't believe you screamed into the phone. Don't ever do that again."

"I will. If I'm tricked into answering, and it's the Windows computer guy."

One of these days, they're going to take me off their list.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Val's Gotta Do What a Val's Gotta Do

I need to get up from my rolly chair at my Hick-made desk in my dark basement lair. Get up, before my skin grows to the fabric. I have been a self-sentenced prisoner today. I locked myself up and threw away the key, my release dependent on the composition of eight blog posts. EIGHT! This is the eighth one. Cut me some slack.

The upcoming week is a busy one for Val. Fraught with work commitments, Pony commitments, and...well...that's about it. The Pony has an appointment Monday evening, parent conferences are scheduled for Tuesday until 7:00, Wednesday is The Pony's practice day for Scholar Bowl plus a good TV night kicking off with Survivor at 7:00, and Thursday is another conference night. That means Val will be strapped for time, considering her duty as chauffeur, a home-ride of 40 minutes, some kind of dinner to throw together, dishes that don't wash themselves, and that problematic schoolwork that doesn't grade itself. AND, lest you forget, Val posts on this blog and her superdupersecret blog every day. Something had to give. And it was Val's Sunday afternoon and evening.

Now I have seven posts in the can, and this one. Set to publish at preassigned times, unless my old pal Blogger betrays me. You'd think one as productive as Val (when she puts her nose to the grindstone and her pedal to the metal and applies herself to the project at hand) could get a book together from her greatest hits.

One would be overly optimistic.

Perhaps in her own sweet time, such as the time that comes at the end of May next year, the time that Val will no longer be under the employ of an outside entity, but only working for she, herself, project can get underway. With a vengeance.

What else does she have to do with the rest of her life?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The How-Do-You-Dos Continue to Get Finer

Hey! Some of you may not be aware that this is my last year! That I will be retiring at the end of this school year. I know. I really shouldn't have kept that information a secret. I understand how you all would like the opportunity to travel this road with me. To meander down the blue highways of the final leg of my career, stopping for sustenance (and quite possibly to simultaneously chew the fat) at roadside diners where refills are free, chicken livers are crisp, and the green beans are cooked with bacon until they are limp and tasty.

One would think that Val has her routine down after all these years. That her eons of experience have broken a trail, cleared away the foliage, put down a layer of 3-inch minus, topped it with some 3/4-inch minus, flattened it out with a roller, and provided Val with smooth sailing from her parking lot space at the end of the building to her desk at the far corner of her classroom. But one would have thunken wrongly.

Friday morning, as I rounded my hand-me-down desk that's about 3/4 the size of a regular desk, to plop down on my rolly chair that was a reject long ago from the business lab...I was confronted by THIS:

Yeah. That's a scorpion. Sure, he's not very big. But would you want to walk up on this thing inside your home away from home? Perhaps stroll right past it in your sock feet because you have a sore toe that resulted from your sore knee that was caused by a flu shot one week ago? I think not!

After gasping in shock, I grabbed my cell phone to take a really bad picture. That can't all be blamed on me. My phone is a relic that was once used by Genius, then discarded, placed on his desk with two or three other discards, then drafted back into service when my last cell phone died. It does not even have a lens over the camera hole. So give me a break, why dontcha?

Here's a close-up. Or at least a closer-up. It doesn't pay to go getting all up close and personal with a stinging venom-secreter.

As you can see, Scorpio's business end is still intact. What does one do when faced with a deadly (or at least red-and-itchy sting-inflicting beast? Some might run for help. Don't forget that I am lame. I think you remember why. Some might call a higher-up to deal with the issue. I couldn't get to the phone. Scorpio was blocking my path. Don't even dream (like I used to) that my cell phone would work inside the building. I have a rusty, near-empty can of insecticide in my cabinet, from last year when the ants invaded the storeroom next door. But that would have required limping across the room (did I mention that I had a sore toe due to my sore knee due to a flu shot a week ago Friday) and Val just wasn't up to that much exertion, after dragging herself across the vast length of experience-paved road.

So I threw a Puffs With Lotion over his back, and stepped on him.

I must say, the crunch under my old New Balance was quite satisfying. Then I put another Puffs With Lotion on top of that one, and scooped up the carcass and deposited it in my desk-side wastebasket. Which I bought at Walmart for myself, the school only providing one wastebasket per classroom, that one being bigger, and up front, for the use of the general population.

In retrospect, that might not have been the best method of disposal. Not that I would wish an escaped undead scorpion to crawl from the depths of the wastebasket and terrorize 80 freshmen. But neither did I wish it to terrorize me. I admit to looking over my shoulder several times per hour to make sure Scorpio stayed entombed. I should have just dangled him out the front window, and shaken him loose from his double shroud. Even at the risk of a dropper-offer calling to complain that a certain Mrs. Val Thevictorian was throwing trash out her window.

Just another day (49 down, 130 to go) in the work life of Val. Another golden thread woven through the rich tapestry of her life.