Sunday, January 31, 2010

Random Musings.....

I'm taking a cue from my friend Maggie for tonight's blog topic. It seems an appropriate Sunday night thing to do.

  • Laziness breeds laziness. The less I did today, the less I WANTED to do. I did manage a few basic chores.
  • I loved, loved, loved the book The Other Boleyn Girl. I have done my online book club friends a huge favor by NOT choosing this book for our February book.
  • I think after I finish my current crocheting projects, including an afghan I've not started but for which I've already bought the yarn, I'm going to go back to my cathedral window quilt. I've got too much time invested in it not to finish it.
  • I don't know why we have to have such a thing as winter. Anything below 60 degrees is too cold for me.
  • Our gymnastics coach says the team is "underachieving" right now. Ya think?
  • Filing our taxes on January 31st makes me nervous. I'm always afraid some random document will arrive in next week's mail and screw everything up. But once I start on them, I want to get it over with.
  • I don't like automated telephone calls. They don't have a "Yes, but....." option. Nor can you say, "Only if my insurance is going to cover it in full."
  • In one section of my online course, I have 9 students. Two are passing. Six of them started last week and have averages in the single digits. Wonder what they THOUGHT they were going to have to do to get credit for the course?
  • I hate calling parents of failing students. I am required to, and I know it is a case of C.Y.A., but it makes me uncomfortable. Afterward I'm always glad I did, though.
  • Recently I have found a few gray hairs. And I like them.
  • I'm going to miss football. I have to wait 216 days for college football to start again.
  • I hope no one is keeping up with me exclusively on Facebook. I forget to check it for days at a time.
  • I am a little disturbed that the Apple folks named their new gadget the iPad. Do they not have any women employees there?
  • I procrastinated all day about grading my online assignments. Still got them done and grades updated. So there.
Good night!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let it Go......Road Rage is Not Good.....

I do not believe in road rage. I am usually so passive on the road that it drives my hubby nuts. I let people in front of me, I don't try to cut anyone off, and I don't tailgate.

There's only one thing about other drivers that can raise my blood pressure:

When they don't turn on their headlights in the rain.

Not only is it a law in our state that drivers turn on their headlights in the rain, it's just common sense. Which I realize is far from common.

Sometimes I try to be helpful and flash my lights at them. Then I look in my rearview mirror to see if it has had any effect. Sometimes I see the taillights come on, and I feel an intense sense of satisfaction. Superiority even.

It is not a friendly flash of the lights, however. When I do it, I move the blinker switch violently, and I find myself clenching my teeth. Sometimes I snarl, "Idiot." But not when I'm in Atlanta. I'm not THAT stupid.

I even had a comment published in the Vent section of Atlanta Journal that said: "All you drivers with automatic headlights: When it's raining but not dark enough for your lights to come on, you are allowed to turn them on yourself." I thought it was so cool that not only did they publish it, they published it on my birthday.

Why can't I let it go? Why does that one little piece of evidence of complete and total lack of consideration for other drivers make me so crazy? I swear I can feel my blood pressure go up. If I see a cop car without its lights in the rain, it's even worse.

It does remind me, however, of a funny story I read one time in Reader's Digest. And we all know that Reader's Digest doesn't lie.

Seems that in one state, since drivers could not process the fact that they should turn on their headlights in the rain, the law was worded differently. The law stated that "headlights must be turned on when windshield wipers are on." [Shouldn't car manufacturers just start making that an automatic thing? I'm just sayin'.....]

One woman was riding with her aunt on a clear evening right at twilight. When it became dark enough for the aunt to have to turn on her headlights, she also turned on her wipers and muttered, "I think that's a stupid law."

I guess some people aren't going to get it no matter HOW they word it.

Can you tell I've been driving in the rain in Atlanta today?

Deep cleansing breath. Deep cleansing breath.

Friday, January 29, 2010


I really wish I could care a little less about sports competitions.

Tonight our gymnastics team lost their third meet in a row. And I'm taking it a little personally. The loss tonight was to a team to whom We. Had. Never. Lost. Before. In. 65. Meetings.

For the second week running, we had a score that began with an 8. That's E-I-G-H-T. I didn't know the judges even HAD a card with an 8 on it.

The 8.7 tonight was from a senior. Our anchor. Our rock. An All-American. National beam champion two years ago. Has scored perfect 10's on both balance beam and uneven bars. Eight point seven.

I will confess that I know NOTHING about coaching college gymnastics. Or any level gymnastics. Or anything else.

But I'm guessing this is NOT the path to another national championship.

If there is a bright side, and I'm struggling to find one, it's that all week I planned to make the 3-hour drive over to our neighboring state to the west so I could see this debacle in person.

Thank all that is holy for bad weather tonight.

Considering professional therapy,


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stars in the Mist....

Another finished project. I'm on a roll!

This pattern is called "Stars in the Mist," and I fell in love with it when I first saw the picture in a book of afghan patterns.

It's so unlike what I would normally choose to crochet, for a number of reasons:

  • It's all one color, sort of an off-white. I usually gravitate toward bright colors. Lots of them. See my NEXT afghan for proof.
  • It involves crocheting a lot of smaller pieces and sewing them together. I like a pattern that is finished as I go.
  • It has 53 hexagons. I don't do prime numbers.
  • It has 53 hexagons. I don't do hexagons. I do circles and squares.
  • It has an irregular shape. I like things to fold neatly into thirds or fourths and to be perfectly symmetrical.
  • It has curlicues. When you are crocheting curlicues, it looks a lot like someone has vomited yarn. Crocheting them together is like trying to hem up a bunch of snakes in a washtub. *Simile provided by Hubby.*
  • It has a border that calls for crocheting picots. Picots are OF. THE. DEVIL. To be fair, I discovered that crocheting picots with yarn that is about the same circumference as a pencil is a lot easier than crocheting picots with thread that is difficult to see under an electron microscope. Whatever that is.
  • This pattern called for "chunky" yarn. I identified with it immediately, but the pattern didn't mention that a skein would only make about 2 1/2 hexagons. And that's not including the border or the yarn used to sew all the hexagons together. This particular brand of chunky yarn retails for $6.19 a skein. You do the math. I might have been better off crocheting it out of dollar bills.
The first time I attempted this pattern, I was on an airplane headed to somewhere tropical. I don't know what possessed me to try the first hexagon on the plane. I couldn't wrap my head around the directions, and besides, an airplane is not exactly a comfortable place to attempt to crochet. I put it away for a long time. Long enough that when I started back and had already crocheted 9 hexagons, I discovered that the yarn I started with had been discontinued. Does anyone have a need for 9 off-white hexagons? I bought new yarn and started over. Then I bought more yarn. Then I bought more yarn.

When I started making the afghan FOR REAL, I had the idea in mind to auction it off at the next Nash Bash, our family reunion at the end of June. The closer I got to finishing it, however, the more I was attached to it. Sometimes literally. It is VERY heavy, and it will keep someone VERY warm.

But I think I will auction it off after all. With the animals in our house, it's not very practical to keep it around. I can just picture me coming home from a long day at school next winter and finding Hubby with this afghan across his lap, the dog on top, cats tangled in a hexagon or two, and pizza sauce all over it. I'd have a tough time explaining that to a judge and jury.

It's safer just to auction it off at the Nash Bash.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chris Story.....

It's possible that I could host an entire blog composed of nothing but Chris stories. I would like to describe him for you, but I'll just post occasional conversations. This one occurred today. Keep in mind that I do NOT teach kindergarten. I teach high school.

Chris [pretending to cry]: You haven't made my hat!

Me: Yours is next in line. I took a break from them for a little while.

If you haven't been following my blog, I made the mistake of crocheting a beanie hat for one of my students. Thirty-three beanies later, I still haven't finished the list.

Chris: Do you even remember what color?

Me: Of course. You wanted black.

And then, because educated doesn't necessarily mean smart, I made the mistake of asking:

Me: Do you want plain black? Or black with flecks?

Chris: What are flecks?

I will spare you the lengthy description I offered of what flecks are. He finally agreed, if he could have red flecks. I tried to explain that you couldn't request a certain color of flecks, they are multi-colored and scattered throughout the yarn.

We went online and looked for pictures of yarn with flecks, but I couldn't find one that got the point across. At least not to Chris.

Chris: I can't decide. This is like being on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and I'm out of lifelines.

Me [once I got my breath back from laughing so hard]: How about I make one of each, and you can just pick which one you want?

Chris: You would do that for me?

A couple of weeks ago, on his way out the door, Chris and I had THIS conversation:

Chris: I hope nobody steals my shoes.

Me: What shoes? Where are they?

Chris: On my feet.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In a Hurry....

Tonight is one of those nights when I'm blogging in a hurry, and it's my own fault. I could have been blogging before I had to teach online tonight, had I not been creating a lesson at the last minute.

Hubby has gone upstairs, and the rule is that if I can get up there and turn on the lamp to read my book before he turns off HIS lamp (or the t.v., like tonight), then I can read. If it's dark when I get upstairs, I'm not allowed to turn on the light.

By the way, that's MY rule, not his. He's much too nice ever to say anything about me turning on the light.

And I'm reading a book that's so good I can't wait to get back to it. It has even interfered with my finishing the afghan I've been working on for months, and all I have to do is finish the border around part of the third side and all of the fourth. It's going to be beautiful, and it had better keep SOMEBODY warm, because that sucker weighs a ton. Never mind I could have come out better had I crocheted it out of dollar bills.

I usually get into books, but the last one I tried to read just about killed me. I finally put it down, sighed, and said to Hubby, "I give."

I'm almost 50 years old, and I don't have to read a book if it's not fun.

I'm ashamed to name some of the books I HAVEN'T read, since I call myself an English teacher. But to tell you the truth, I just can't get into some of them. I acknowledge that someone somewhere deemed them "GREAT LITERATURE" and therefore they must BE great, but I just don't get them.

The latest one was The Grapes of Wrath, and please don't shoot me if you love, love, love this book. I was supposed to read it in college for a history class, and I didn't. So over Christmas break I tried to read it, and I made myself suffer through about the first 200 pages. I thought that damn turtle would NEVER get across that road. And then I was wishing I WAS a turtle and I could just wait there until a truck mercifully squashed me into smithereens so I didn't have to finish that book. Can this book truly be written by the same man who wrote Of Mice and Men? Seriously?

And then I decided I'm almost 50 years old and I don't have to read a book if it's not fun.

But the one I'm reading now IS great fun, and while it will probably never be considered great literature, it's at least a few steps above trash novels.

Nothing wrong with those either.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Ghost of 615......

On her last Persian Gulf cruise (don't you love how they call it a CRUISE?), Sweet Girl sent me an email that circulated through her command. Attached was a photograph taken of one of their helicopters, taken as they prepared to depart from a refueling stop.

Apparently there had been some trouble with this helicopter, 615. Not dangerous things, just eerie events.

In this photograph, you can clearly see one of the pilots flashing "peace" signs from the cockpit. Is it a cockpit on a helicopter? I'm not sure, but I'm sure Sweet Girl will set me straight. That's why we have children, after all, for them to correct us.

Both pilots are helmeted and goggled (is that an appropriate adjective?), as they should be.

And the guy in the middle pane of the windshield, the one who is NOT helmeted and goggled?

Well, he's in a lot of trouble.

Because he's NOT THERE.

See the face, right there above the papers that are above the number 5?

There is no one there.

Both pilots swear there could not have been anyone else in the helicopter. The back part (which has a name -- tunnel? -- but I'm not sure) was piled with gear and bags. Anyone who WAS in the back of the helo had to be seated and strapped in, as they were preparing for takeoff. Apparently it's not at all like CIS Miami, where random passengers/investigators/stowaways hang over the pilots' shoulders and shout instructions at them.

Do they have helicopters on CIS Miami? Perhaps I should have chosen a television show that I have actually seen for my silly analogy.

But I'm pretty sure they don't have helicopters on Dancing with the Stars.

My dear friend Wanda the Warrior Princess shrieks at me when I don't believe her ghost tales and am skeptical of the idea of anything being haunted.

But even I can't explain that picture.

If you can, just keep it to yourself.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Mother's Pain....

Nothing is worse for a mother than to watch her child suffer. It doesn't matter if it's physically or emotionally. Luckily, Sweet Girl has always been healthy and hasn't given me cause to worry about her experiencing physical pain.

But she's very sensitive, and when she's hurting emotionally, I hurt right along with her. I wish I knew the right things to say to make it better, but I know that's not possible. I wish I could hug her, but she's too far away. I know she doesn't want to hear that I know how she feels. I remember being in the depths of despair and fully believing that things would never get better.

I always thought my mother had no clue about my feelings, or that she didn't care.

It's entirely possible that she DID care, but she didn't know what to say either.

Being a parent is the hardest job I've ever had. And I don't think I had sufficient training for it. If it were a regular job, I'm afraid I would get fired. Can I go back to the beginning and start over?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lying Weatherman.....

I'm glad we were smart enough to believe what we felt on our skin instead of what the lying weather people told us.

It was supposed to be warm enough to ride bicycles today. Team Chi-Chis scheduled an informal ride from a location that is (fairly) convenient for all of us. The high was supposed to be around 56 or 57.

That's doable on a bike.

Then they started hedging. Maybe 54. Or 52. That doesn't seem like such a huge difference, but keep in mind that we are constantly moving. At blazing speeds.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Then they said there would be NO sun today, that the cloud cover would be in place all day long. I was skeptical, since the sun came out beautifully yesterday and warmed things up some.

But we canceled, and boy am I glad we did.

I don't think it got out of the 40's today. And I didn't get out of the recliner. Much.

Hubby played golf, but he used his brand-new golf cart cover, complete with a propane heater. He says you have to love the game of golf to play in conditions like these. I have my own ideas about what that indicates, but I'll just keep those to myself.

It's just as well that we didn't ride. I got home from South Carolina at 2:00 AM. I am getting way too old to stay out that late. I don't intend to do it ever again.

Until next Friday night, when I may . . . may . . . may just travel to Alabama for a gymnastics meet.

I have a very short memory.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Excuses, Excuses.....

Tonight's blog entry is actually a guest post. She didn't mean to be a guest post, but I have laughed so hard over this email today that I decided to post it. It is from a student in my online course. [She gave me her permission. Not that it probably matters to any of you, but I do have SOME ethics. Okay, one. Ethic.] Keep in mind that I'm usually a hard-nose when it comes to excuses, and the virtual school has very strict penalties for submitting assignments past the due date. Although their course schedules are structured with daily assignments, they actually have until Friday at 5:00 PM to turn in work for the entire week. [I used to extend the deadline until midnight on Sunday night, but I learned in a hurry not to do THAT.]

Before I got this email, I had already sent this student a text message that she was missing 3 assignments and her grade had dropped. I'm sure she was thinking, "Oh great. What next?" The "Amber" she references in her email is a girl who goes to her high school and is also in the online course with her.

You're an experienced teacher so I know that you don't want to hear excuses. I just wanted to inform you before hand that it's going to be impossible for me to turn in the rest of my work on time for this week.

My Excuse (because, of course I have to give it.)

I worked after school for an hour on this class and then had to take my sister home. I finished reading The Piano Lesson and then sat down at my home computer to cram in at least one assignment before I had to rush off. (Did I mention that my battery on my car was dead when I went out after school and Amber had to jump me off? Yeah. That happened.) Well, when I sat down to work at home my internet just... failed. Epically. It was like my firewall turned into Pat from that 90s movie, Smart House, and just blocked me from even opening up the internet. For my own good, I suppose. Ok, that was a pretty devastating blow but I was bound and determined to be optimistic. So, since I had rehearsal coming up I grabbed my stuff and went for my car.

My car that was gone.

My mother had stolen my car. Can I report grand theft auto when my mother takes it to Walmart and I have two rehearsals to attend and a book to return to a friend? I figured I couldn't because 1) it would take too much time and 2) she pays my insurance. Anyway, I called my mom. She decided she would return my car to me since I had bought her coffee creamer out of the goodness of my heart earlier. I get my car twenty minutes later. I'm too late to go to Mock Trial practice. Whatever, moving on. I race to Amber's house (managing to get lost twice and stuck behind every maw maw in the county) and return her copy of The Piano Lesson. (That's another thing I forgot to mention. Amber bought the last copy from Barnes and Noble. We have one copy between us.) Then I got stuck in her driveway.

This is all true. I can't make this stuff up.

Once I free myself, I rush off to my My Fair Lady rehearsal in Rome (forty-five minutes away.) We're doing our first full run-through. Great. I sit there for two and a half hours and sing twice. Rehearsal went over half an hour too long. Thinking I could still make something positive out of the night I rushed to Barnes and Noble to buy my copy of The Road before Amber can snatch it away. (haha, just kidding... but really.) I get there. It's 9:58. I can make it! I run up to the door.

Some guy with a handlebar mustache beats me and locks it first.

I give up. This night is a fail. I buy a caramel macchiatto instead and taken my defeated tail-end home. Since I stop to check my schedule for the McJob first, it was around eleven before I got home. My internet still obstinately refuses to work. I stayed up until one making plans with a friend on Haiti benefit concerts we're doing and then I fell into an exhausted rest.

To top it off, I've got a measely three hour shift tonight from five to eight. When I return home I plan either turning my computer into a flowerpot or a litter box or, in the instance that my step-dad fixed it, sitting down and working until I have finished at least, this week's course load and then, some of next week's.

So, while I'm asking for a midnight extension for my work, I'm not expecting it. I would just like you to note the ridiculous night I had (a few more minor, but still unimaginably annoying, events I have left out) and, if it doesn't entice you to give me an extension, I hope you still got a chuckle or two out of it.

Thank you so much for you time,

How could I NOT give her an extension? I was prepared to give her an "A" for the course on the spot.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I'm Scared......

I have tentatively agreed to go on what is to be MY first bicycle ride of 2010 this Saturday, and I'm scared.

Scared that it will be too cold.

Scared that it will rain.

Scared that it will be windy.

Scared that I will whine.

Scared that I will suffer two flat tires like I did the last time we rode from this particular location.

Scared that I won't be able to keep up.

Scared that I don't have enough cycling clothes to layer sufficiently.

Scared that my fingers will freeze, because once again I have failed to buy cold-weather cycling gloves that actually have fingers in them.

Scared that I will get back home so late tomorrow night from going with my friend WWP to take her teenage son to a concert that I will regret agreeing to ride at 10:00 AM on Saturday. [We aren't going to the concert, just dropping him and girlfriend off. We're going to take our laptops and sit in a coffee shop somewhere and watch the gymnastics meet from Utah on the computer. We're dorks that way.]

Scared that the Gym Dogs will suffer another loss tomorrow night. Oh... that has nothing to do with cycling.

Scared that I will forget the route again and cause us to make a wrong turn. That adds mileage. I don't like to add mileage.

Scared that Katydid will see that I bought two new water bottles for the tandem and refuse to ride with me. We have three cages. We crave symmetry. I don't know why I only bought two bottles.

Scared that I will look pretty stupid on the tandem by myself.

Scared that I'm going to have to face shaving these legs. I KNOW I will have on tights, but the hairs might just stick through at this point. You're welcome for that visual.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dissection in the Loo.......


I used the word "loo" in deference to any British readers who may happen by here. Or Aussies. Do they call it the "loo" also?

We have a faculty restroom at our end of the building, and it's convenient to all five of our classrooms. There is another faculty restroom all the way at the front of the building, but I rarely use it because it's about three quarters of a mile away. Maybe not quite that far, but it involves several turns. It's also the restroom where a former paraprofessional admitted to sitting and eavesdropping on the assistant principal, because she could hear everything coming from that office. I don't want anyone to think that's why I'm in there, so I just don't go in there much. Plus the light switch is really high up on the wall, and I have to stand on my tiptoes to reach it. And when you turn on the water you might as well be taking a shower, because EVERY SINGLE TIME you're going to forget that the water in that particular bathroom comes on with a lot more force than it should. And you forget that because you rarely go into that bathroom. It's in the same room as the faculty mailboxes, and I rarely visit those either. Once a day, usually, when I sign in at the front office. Actually, teachers don't get much mail in their boxes anymore, not with the advent of email. Is that the correct use of the word "advent"?

Occasionally I might have to make a trip up to the office, however, and today was one of those days. I figured while I was up there, I would use the "loo" on that end of the building, just in case ours was occupied when I got back. With a staff of only 5, you'd be surprised how often two (or more) of us feel the urge to go at the same time.

Aren't you glad you stopped by here?

There are catalogs in that bathroom, and I find that disturbing in the first place. I know for a fact that they must have been put there by a man, because (forgive me for being sexist), men are the only people who go into the restroom with the premeditated idea that they will be there long enough to read. Or peruse a catalog.

When I left, I took one catalog with me, and I dropped it into the trashcan in my classroom when I got back.

Like I said, I don't go in there very often, but every time I do, this is what I find staring back at me:

Let me say here that I am definitely NOT squeamish. My friend Carol and I had to dissect a fetal pig in Mr. Smith's biology class in high school, and we had a great time doing it. We named it and everything. I still remember it had its little tongue sticking out the side of its mouth. When the quarter changed and Carol wasn't in that class anymore, I cut the snout off and put it in Carol's locker. I knew she would want a memento of her experiences with whatever-we-named-the-pig. Mr. Smith had threatened dire consequences if one cell of any fetal pig left that room. Naturally I took that as a challenge.

These pictures are on the front of a catalog called Dissection Materials 2009. They have an entire CATALOG of those? And it comes out every year? Seriously?

I didn't thumb through the catalog, so I don't know how much a fetal pig runs, or a frog, or a ... is that a mouse? I don't really want to look at it that closely. I think you can get quantity discounts.

I'm not squeamish, but I find these images just a little disturbing. Especially if they are staring back at me when I'm in the loo.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Only the Long Ones Hurt......

Get your minds out of the gutter!

We have altered our route to the casino in Mississippi, leaving the interstate much earlier than we used to. The new route takes us through some very rural, lightly traveled country roads (is that redundant if I already called them rural?), but it cuts about 30 minutes off the trip. So far (**knock knock**) we have never run into any problems with slow cars or logging trucks getting into a most dangerous place, between us and the casino.

The roads do take us through some logging areas, one of which has prompted this silly little post. One of Hubby's buddies accompanied us this time, and he made a comment about a sign when we passed it.

I so wish I had stopped to take a picture of it. Even on the way home, when we weren't NEARLY in as big a hurry. I may take a picture of it next time we go, but it won't have the same impact, will it, since I will have already written about it?

We've seen this sign every time we've driven that route. I've read it every time, but the silliness of it never sank in until Wayne commented about it.

I haven't been able to stop laughing about it ever since.

Next to one of the places where logging trucks enter the road, there is a sign that says:


Like I said, it didn't seem all that significant to me, until Wayne asked,

"I guess the short ones don't hurt if you run into one of them?"

You may now return to your regularly scheduled lives and pretend you never had to read this post.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ain't Technology Wonderful?........

I mean, when it works?

Sometimes I find myself cursing technology and wishing some things had never been invented, because they just make my blood pressure go up. Like when my iPhone arbitrarily shuts itself off and won't come back on. But then I use another wonderful piece of technology, namely Google, and I find out how to jump-start it again.

But that's not at all what this post is about.

Today I got one of those pesky, annoying "toll free" calls on the caller i.d., the ones I usually ignore and let go to the answering machine. Yes, we still have one of those, but it doesn't use a tape, so there.

I don't usually answer those calls because it's either the American Red Cross calling again, asking me for a donation of my rich O+ blood because it's the universal donor type. I don't understand why the folks who told me thanks but no thanks, I can't donate blood again until after April because I had the audacity to go to a malaria-risk country such as the Dominican Republic can't talk to the folks who man the phones and tell them to stop bugging me until after my year's penance is up.

Or it's the mortgage company where my ex's house is financed, wanting to know why I won't catch his payments up for him. I explain that I signed a quit claim deed to the house, and I have no legal claim on the house, and although I realize that it will shoot my credit to hell and back because he refuses to refinance the mortgage and get my name off of it (10% interest he's paying ... uh, I guess not paying), I have no intention of helping with his financial crisis. Which isn't really a financial crisis at all, just a terminal case of sorriness. I actually told the last person who called that my ex would never take her calls, would never return her calls, and probably had no intention of ever paying his mortgage again, and the best thing she could do was to foreclose on it. Oh yeah, and leave me the hell alone.

Or it's someone wanting me to answer a few questions for a survey, the subject of which I've never determined because I don't let them get that far.

Or it's the golf equipment company from whom Hubby has ordered a few times in the past, offering him three new irons (or woods or putters or drivers) for free if he will just give them a try. That's one way we wound up with 892 golf clubs in our basement.

I'm not sure why I answered the one today, or why I stayed on the line once I realized it was an automated caller. Nothing irritates me more than a toll-free call, unless it's a toll-free call that turns out to be a computer.

It got my attention when it said it was conducting a "fraud" alert on Sweet Girl's bank account. It asked me to verify the last five transactions on her checking account, and I felt pretty confident doing that, since I had just looked at her account online this morning. Our checking accounts are still linked because it makes it easier for me to keep up with her finances when she goes out to sea. It's also quite convenient to transfer money from my account to hers if the need arises. Which it doesn't very often.

I guess the fraud alert was triggered because she still banks with our little hometown bank here in Northeast Georgia and most of her transactions occur in Florida. Yesterday she and some girlfriends went to Savannah, so those transactions must have raised the little computer antennae.

It gave me great pleasure to know that some little gerbil running on a wheel inside a computer somewhere in the world is looking out for my girl.

This happened one time before, when she was on one of her two Persian Gulf cruises. That time I talked to an actual person. She called because a transaction had come through at 4:00 AM from Chicago in the amount of $3325. She declined it because of the amount and the time of day, and she called me. I laughed when she told me the amount, because it would have taken a whole lot of luck plus an act of God to get that much out of Sweet Girl's account anyway. But when she told me the name of the business, I recognized it as a place Sweet Girl had told me she and some friends had gone to eat when they ported in Dubai. (Why the transaction went through Chicago is beyond me.) I figured out that the amount of the transaction was incorrect because they had left out a little bitty decimal. By the time the transaction was declined, Sweet Girl and her friends were long gone, so I guess they ate for free at that establishment. The girl who called me was so proud of herself for declining it based on the time of day. I told her that when it was 4:00 AM here, it was noon in Dubai, so it wasn't that out of the ordinary at all.

She never DID understand that one. I'm not sure she knew where the Persian Gulf was.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Smoke it Over.....

First of all, I apologize for my absence last night. When we finally left the casino floor and went to our room, it was 11:58 Georgia time. It just wasn't worth trying to blog with my thumbs just to have a (probably) lame entry for yesterday. I suppose I could have backdated it, but again.... I just didn't have anything really noteworthy to say anyway.

Let me preface the rest of this blog (can you preface something if you've already started it?) by saying that I used to be a smoker.

I apologize to any smokers who might stumble upon this pitiful little blog. I've tried to run through the list of people I KNOW of who read it, and most of them are either non-smokers or have quit. Still, just on the off-chance some of you reading this still smoke, I apologize if I offend you.

Smokers make me sick.

Sort of literally.

I desperately wish they would have no-smoking poker tables.

If you've never sat at a poker table, it's a half-moon shaped table with 7 chairs around it. You're in pretty close quarters. And if there is a smoker sitting near you, you're a smoker too.

My eyes watered, I sneezed, I coughed.

I truly wish that when I was a smoker, someone had told me how badly I STUNK!!! And how horribly annoying it was for me to sit there with a cigarette dangling from my hand, smoke drifting into the breathing area of anyone sitting near me.

I tried to be courteous by moving away to smoke (or hiding in some cases, like on bicycle rides where I was ashamed), but I'm sure there were situations where I couldn't get my smoke away from non-smokers, and I'm just as certain that I continued to smoke anyway.

I never knew how rude and obnoxious I was being.

And if I didn't smoke around people, just the smell on my clothing and hair must have been horrendous, particularly when my hair was long and thick. The smell of smoke must have been a semi-permanent part of my being.

Some smokers just light a cigarette and put it in a nearby ashtray, leaving it to burn insidiously while they remain oblivious of it. Then there are the ones who finish a cigarette, and just as you thank goodness that it's over for a few minutes, they immediately light another one.

I saw one woman riding her little power scooter across the casino floor, puffing away on her cigarette. Insurance companies help pay for those little scooters. It may sound harsh, but I think anyone who smokes should be denied a scooter. Perhaps they should be denied ANY health coverage. My blog, my harshness.

I know it's a struggle to stop smoking, but if Nurse Jane, her husband, Katydid, our mother, and I can all do it, some other folks can too. They just don't want to.

I think I'll build my own casino, and it will be a completely non-smoking one. Anyone know of an active Indian Native American tribe around here I can be in?

Friday, January 15, 2010

By the Numbers......

I'm going to come clean here and say that I play a lot of mind games with numbers.

There, it doesn't look nearly as freaky as I thought it was.

It all started way back when I was a teenager, and my cousin came to visit. I had just gotten my first DIGITAL clock, and she probably already had one. One night when the clock read 11:11, she said you were supposed to make a wish.

I got hooked, always making a wish if I caught the clock reading 11:11. It only counts if it's a digital clock, of course.

I added the stipulation that you couldn't TELL anyone what you were wishing. Maybe that's the rule for all wishes.

I taught for 8 years at the same high school, and all the rooms had digital clocks. Somehow the wishing at 11:11 thing spread to my students, and once it started, there was no stopping it.

The STUDENTS added the stipulation that in addition to stopping to make a wish at 11:11, everyone had to remain SILENT until the clock switched to 11:12. It was easier to go along with them than to try to fight it. Besides, sometimes that was the only peaceful minute I had in the whole day.

One time there were visitors from UGA in my classroom. Not the usual student teacher types, but real live professors, important people.

When the clock turned to 11:11, I continued teaching, trying with all my might to remain professional. My students immediately began saying rather indignantly, "Hey, it's 11:11!" and shushing me and each other. I gave up and stood there in silence until the clock read 11:12, then I carried on as if there had been no interruption. I'm sure the visitors wondered into what altered dimension they had ventured.

At some point I decided that 4:07 was a good time too, since that's my birthday. I make a wish if I see the clock read 4:07, which almost always happens in the afternoon on my way home from school. Rarely do I see 4:07 AM, unless of course that is the time that Hubby wakes me up to travel home from the casino.

When I started cycling, this obsession with numbers extended to my odometer. I don't exactly make a wish, but if I see the mileage read 11.11, I think it's a sign that it's going to be a good ride. I've never actually examined the data to see if it plays out. If I have a bad ride, like a flat tire or a fall, I don't know that I'm ever thinking about the mileage when that happens.

I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but keep in mind that I don't look at the odometer CONSTANTLY. I do occasionally look at the road, turn signs, scenery, dogs that pose a potential threat, traffic, and other cyclists. If I miss 11:11, it's not like I can turn around and go back. Or put it in reverse, as I once read about a young driver doing to try to conceal the miles he had put on his father's car over a weekend.

I'm convinced that my mind games with numbers absolutely saved my sanity during one particular century ride. I was riding alone, and I managed to see the matching digits at every possible time for a century ride: 11.11, 22.22, 33.33, 44.44, 55.55, 66.66, 77.77, 88.88, and 99.99. I felt like I had scored a major victory.

I've played other numbers games on my bike. Like if I've ridden 15.2 miles and I look down and notice that I'm going 15.2 mph. My new computer, however, shows hundredths on the mileage and not on the mph, so they don't every match.

I'm less likely to play such silly games when I'm captaining the tandem, since I have Katydid to talk to and keep me from going insane.

Some of you are probably thinking that it's too late for that.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And Then There Are Those Times......

......when blog fodder comes from our local "newspaper". This is the newest paper in our little county, one that showed such promise when it showed up that we canceled our subscription to the other one that we had been getting for years. We may be rethinking that decision...

The front page main article today has the headline "Top officials not feeling economic pinch."

Several paragraphs into the article is this statement: "And this newspaper's review of public salaries throughout the county has shown that the pay of top municipal officials along with hundreds of local educators, has been virtually unaffected by the economic downturn."

The article hints that while many people have suffered from cutbacks and furloughs, some educators are living high on the hog.

You got it right ... according to this article, some educators are overpaid.

The article lists -- by name -- the top 90 public school salaries in our county.

And there I am, yours truly, listed at #60.

Now before you jump to all kinds of conclusions about how loaded I must be, keep in mind that we are a very small county, smack dab between a university community and the Atlanta suburbs. And I have a doctorate, not terribly common in our school district.

Nowhere does the article mention advanced degrees or years of experience.

Our state is a non-union state, so the ONLY way for teachers to get a raise in pay is to get another degree. Or teach for a gazillion years. Both of which I have done.

And let me go on record here as saying the ONLY reason I got a doctorate was for the pay increase. It certainly wasn't for the respect. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. It wasn't for the title, because after almost six years, I haven't grown into being called "Dr." I'm thinking at this point that it ain't gonna happen.

Apparently my reward for having gone to college for about 10 years is having my name and salary printed in a newspaper, along with the implication that I'm making too much money and have not had to "suffer" in these tough economic times.

The news came from our outgoing governor this week that he wants to change teacher pay, to reward teachers based on students' performance rather than advanced degrees. Fine, but the devil is in the details. I am confident that I would still do all right if the achievements of my students were used to determine my pay. What achievements, however, are they going to use?

Graduation test scores? The same graduation tests they are talking about phasing out over the next few years?

End-of-course tests? Only two courses in each subject area HAVE state-mandated end-of-course tests. What about students in the other courses?

What about other areas in which students don't take standardized tests? How are special education teachers going to be evaluated, based on their students' performance? Foreign language teachers? P.E. teachers?

Yeah, good luck with that, Sonny.

I'm not even THAT worried about the proposal to pay teachers based on student performance. For one thing, I just don't think it's gonna fly. For another thing, our governor is in his last year and can't run for reelection. And finally, while it may sound extremely selfish, the new plan -- whatever form it may take -- goes into effect two years after I'm planning to retire. Think I'm going to continue to teach after I'm eligible to retire?


Most of the names up there with mine belong to principals and other administrators, head football coaches, and folks who teach on an extended year schedule and/or an extended day schedule. Yeah, they neglected to mention those facts too.

This newspaper article has made me feel icky all afternoon. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It's not so much a matter of my salary being published for all the world to see, because teacher salaries are a matter of public record anyway. Anyone with enough time on his or her hands can find out what any teacher in the state makes. First of all, of course, that person must also be interested.

What has bothered me is the intimation that perhaps I don't deserve the salary I get. Like I just wandered up to a human resources person one day, and she said, "Here, let's pay you this much, just because we happen to like open-toed pumps and red dresses with polka dot trim."

Oh, and did I mention that after 20 years, an educator in our county "tops out" on the salary scale? If one chooses to retire upon reaching the 30-year minimum, that means that for the last 10 years of his/her career, there are no step increases. Only cost-of-living increases, if those even exist.

I was putting in some pretend dates (and some real ones) for my retirement last weekend, just playing around with a retirement predictor. In our state, your retirement pay is 60% of the average of your highest two years during your teaching career. For every scenario I put in, my highest two years were 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. What does that tell you? My salary has been going DOWN for the last couple of years. Anybody notice prices going down?

Another thing the newspaper article didn't take into consideration with these salaries is the furlough days that we have been socked with, with even more to come. Instead it hinted that we haven't been subjected to the furloughs that other public workers have had.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I love most of the teenagers with whom I work every day, and I especially love the fact that I work in a non-traditional environment with at-risk students. I love seeing a student who came to us as a drop-out walk across that stage at graduation to receive a real diploma. I love seeing the faces of the teachers who taught them in traditional school as they elbow each other and ask, "He GRADUATED? She FINISHED?"

Those 442 school days can't pass quickly enough.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Did He Say.....Warrant?.......

Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with a blog topic. Part of the reason is that I sometimes wait until it's time to go to bed, and then I go into a panic, knowing I can't go to bed until I write something. And it's hard to write something witty, clever, urbane, intelligent, poignant, thought-provoking, or even relevant with a 15-minute deadline.

And then sometimes my cell phone rings in the middle of the day, and a blog entry just happens.

Like today, right before lunch.

I didn't recognize the number, and normally I wouldn't answer my cell during the school day, because it's usually a student from my online course. Since we were going to lunch anyway, however, I answered it.

Me: Hello?

Man: Jackie?


Man: I need to speak to Jackie ________. [Not really sure what last name he said, but it sounded like the wife of our recently retired sheriff, and I doubt that's who he was really looking for. She's also the principal of an elementary school. That has nothing to do with this story, but it makes the blog entry look longer. And somehow more important.]

Me: You have the wrong number.

Man: Okay, I'll just get my warrant.


Did he say "warrant"? Is there anything else he could have said that sounds like "warrant" but is something else?

Can I be arrested for being the wrong number?

I don't know if it's the teacher, the mother, or the freak in me, but I wanted to fix this situation. I wanted to call the number back and say, "Listen, dude, Jackie really, really isn't here, and I'm sure she (he?) will be glad to surrender. That warrant won't be necessary."

Then I wanted to call back and say, "What number were you TRYING to call?" Then I wanted to call the real Jackie and warn him/her to RUN LIKE HELL!!!! turn himself/herself in.

I have this psycho irrational fear that someone will show up at my door with a real warrant, since it is patently obvious that I am aiding and abetting some criminal named Jackie.

All of this could have been avoided had I simply let the call go to voicemail. THE MAN would have heard my newly recorded greeting, clearly stating my name that is NOTHING like Jackie, and he would have realized that he had the wrong number. Then he could have called the CORRECT number, he could have had a calm, logical conversation with Jackie, and they could have worked out their differences.

As it is, I'm afraid that Jackie is just going about her (I'm convinced it's a "her," otherwise, why would he have thought I was Jackie?") routine, minding her own business, and when she goes to pick up her dry cleaning one afternoon, she's going to hear, "FREEZE! POLICE! PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!" and she will have to decide whether to throw her clean clothes on the ground or get shot. I hope she makes the right decision. Dry cleaning is expensive.

The policeman or detective or whoever goes to arrest her is going to be all hostile and stuff, because if she had just taken the call instead of dodging him, they could have worked things out. He'll be all like, "You should have taken my call, Jackie" and she'll be all like, "Well you could have placed one, Dumb___" which will make things go generally downhill, mostly because I'm using the word "like."

If you call me in the next few days and get my voicemail, don't be offended. Just leave a message. And if you see Jackie, please tell her....

Never mind. I'll let you and Jackie decide on the proper course of action.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

But I Don't Even HAVE Actions!.........

I love photography. I really, really do.

I just don't understand it.

I know a good picture when I see it, and occasionally I even wind up taking a good photograph myself. But it's mostly accidental.

I have a very nice, very big, very expensive digital camera that I bought for myself when I finished my doctorate. (You wouldn't believe how many purchases were justified by the completion of that particular dissertation.)

And most of the time this very nice, very big, very expensive digital camera is set on "auto".

I should be ashamed to admit that. I AM ashamed to admit that.

Some of my favorite bloggers are people who probably don't know I exist, like Pioneer Woman (for God's sake, is there anything she CAN'T do?), a blogger who posts beautiful pictures from Alaska, and Bush Babe, who shares Australian life and culture with her readers. It was actually Bush Babe who prompted this particular post.

Their photography is wonderful, and they talk frequently about things like aperture, depth of field, light meters, texture, saturation, layers, and other things that I have not been able to get my head around.

And they talk about actions.

I know on some level that actions are things you do to digital photographs using Photoshop. I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't even know if they're talking about the very nice, very big, very expensive Photoshop, or the maybe-I-can-afford-this-if-I-stop-ordering-yarn-online-every-week Photoshop Elements.

Because of the fact that even if I take an online course (like I want to), I might not be any better at photography than I was scuba diving, I am no way in Hell going to reluctant to fork over the $700 or so that the real Photoshop costs. But the snob in me doesn't want to settle for Photoshop Elements if these other folks are using the real thing.

Pioneer Woman even has her own set of actions. Did she make them up? Is she going to sell them worldwide and go on a tour for that TOO? COULD SHE PLEASE JUST SUCK AT ONE THING?

I want to take some pretty pictures. And have a bazillion followers on my blog.

Mostly I just want actions.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Not Iowa, Is it?........

When Katydid and I first started cycling, we heard stories about RAGBRAI and how much fun it was and how we ought to do it someday. Katydid moved away, but I rode in RAGBRAI in 2004. It was everything people said it was, and more. It is a moving party of an estimated 20,000 cyclists across the state of Iowa every July. I told Hubby it was something I had always wanted to do once in my life. In 2006 I started working on him early to justify going back again. I wrote a couple of posts about RAGBRAI, like this one and this one, that has just brought tears to my eyes upon rereading it. And I wrote it. Maybe the tears are because I don't write like that all the time.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah....

Now I have an opportunity to do a bicycle ride in Wisconsin this summer. I told Hubby I would never ride in RAGBRAI again. But that didn't exclude all the other 48 states, did it? (BRAG is an absolute given.) He's retired now, he can even go with me (and take the comforts of the motorhome along with us) if he wants to. I'm not sure it would be much fun for him, but I've been on many a golf & gambling trip that weren't much.... okay, so I did have fun.

My first thought was that if we went to Wisconsin I could go see my cousin Dana (short "a", rhymes with banana) who lives in Green Bay. My favorite .... wait, do any of my cousins read this blog? ..... okay, my very favorite cousin in the whole world. Upon further research today, however, I discovered that the area where we would be riding is 6 hours away from Green Bay. Bummer. But I'm still thinking about it.

The downside is that Katydid can't go. She is using one of her weeks of vacation to do BRAG, and the other is for a cruise with the Barracuda in March. Poor choice in my opinion, but nobody asked me. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I will only consider the bicycle trip to Wisconsin if at the very least either Rozmo or VT can go. Hubby taking the motorhome along would just be a plus.

As long as it isn't Iowa, it's fair, right?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Roger That......

At last night's gymnastics meet, I saw my old (he probably wouldn't appreciate that) high school English teacher. He taught me both 11th and 12th grade English, whatever we took back then. I know we read Macbeth my senior year (as is still the case in most high schools), because I was on hospital/homebound (nasty bout with something the doctor couldn't figure out but may have been mono, despite a negative blood test) during that time and I finished the play before the rest of the class did.

Mr. Bailey was the smartest teacher we had ever known. But he was also REAL. And I still have a hard time calling him Roger. I remember that even as high schoolers, we were amazed at how much he knew about so many different things. He was funny, too, making fun of himself sometimes. I remember that he would put a funny ending on a word and then say, "Oh, there I go, slipping back into my native tongue." He was tough on us, but he taught us lessons that we never forgot.

I remember a vocabulary lesson in particular. He was teaching the word "dearth," and he was making fun of an administrator who didn't even know the meaning of the word. When Roger ordered some textbooks, the administrator said they didn't need them, because "we have a dearth of those already!" Roger was laughing when he told us the story, and I've never forgotten it. He swore it wasn't our administrator at the time, but I'd be willing to bet my next two paychecks that it was. That was the same administrator who marched up to a car my brother was sitting in during a rainstorm, demanding that they get out of the car and go into the school. Jack looked up and couldn't help himself - he burst out laughing. The principal, Mr. Underduck as we affectionately called him, was standing there in the rain with a clipboard over his head. And an umbrella folded up under his arm.

Roger taught me everything I know about writing. He taught me that you're never finished with your writing, and you're never finished writing. Once I handed in a very neatly written essay, only it was written on steno pad paper. (Does anyone out there remember stenograph paper? I mean besides Katydid, because she's the only person I ever knew who could actually take down shorthand.) Roger refused to accept my paper. This was in the time period when NO ONE had computers .... because they hadn't been invented yet .... and very few people had typewriters. But he certainly wasn't going to accept an essay written on steno paper. He made me rewrite it. And I respected him for it.

When I first applied to graduate school to work on my masters, I didn't have many professors from my undergraduate program who knew who I was. One of the many disadvantages of attending a large university. So I asked Roger if he would write me a letter of recommendation. A few months later, I saw him at a Mexican restaurant in town, and he said to me, "Honey, they're gonna think you're Socrates." He was so enthusiastic and had such a wicked sense of humor.

We were seniors the year the first Star Wars movie came out. We had Roger for creative writing, and Roger gave us an assignment to write a short story. One of the **ahem** nerdy **ahem** boys in our class wrote his entire story in R2D2 language. Roger laughed, admitted that it fulfilled the requirements of the assignment, and gave him a grade for it. He also told him not ever to do that again. I think many teachers would have given him a hard time and made him write a different story. Roger just admitted he hadn't seen all the loopholes and took some of the responsibility. But he still laughed about it too.

I had been teaching about eight years when an English position opened up at my alma mater, and Roger called me and suggested I apply for it. By that time my old school district had achieved a reputation for excellence that made it THE preferred place to teach in this part of the state. I thought I would die if I couldn't teach there at some point in my career. There were 255 applicants for that one English position. It came down to me and three other people, one of whom was one of my best friends and co-workers at that time. She got the job, and I would like to think it's because she had her endorsement to teach gifted students and I didn't. Yeah, that must be it. I have since come to the conclusion that I would never have lasted in that school district, alma mater or not. Because it (to a lesser degree now, I think) is considered a dream job for a lot of people, the politics are precarious. And I don't do politics very well. Still don't know when to keep my mouth shut.

Roger finally retired from my old high school a few years ago, though he continued to teach part-time for a couple of years beyond that. I don't know how many years he had taught before he came to us; probably not very many. But I've been out of high school for almost 32 years, so he clearly went way beyond the 30 years necessary to qualify for retirement. I admire that, but I'm certainly not going to copy it. I'll be out of there as soon as I qualify. Not because I don't like what I do, but because I'll still be young enough to travel and do some other things that are difficult to do because I can't just take a week off any old time I want to.

If I ever write and publish the book I've always wanted to write, I will dedicate it to Roger.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again.....

Exactly one year ago tonight, I wrote this post about our first gymnastics meet of the season and how although we won, we really just sucked less than the other team, and it pained me to post our winning score of 195.425.

Fast forward to tonight, when we really, really sucked but sucked just barely less than the other team and squeaked by with a winning score of 195.15. Ouch.

Once again, floor exercise was our nemesis. We had to count a 9.15 because we also had a 9.1. From a senior. Granted, she was limping after her floor routine, and I think that was the issue on her first (and second) tumbling pass. Courtney McCool absolutely saved the day with a 9.925 on floor. If she hadn't nailed that routine, we would have lost our home opener for the first time in about a bazillion years.

We've got a lot of work to do before an SEC match on the road next Friday night against a team that loves to hate us.

Oh yeah, I said that last year too.

For those of you who couldn't care less about college gymnastics, we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Snow" Day.....

I'm really not one to look a snow day in the mouth, but seriously.....

This is how much snow it takes to close schools in Georgia.

I did take it sort of late in the day, when the sun had come up, but since the temperature never got out of the 20's, not much of it had melted.

In our school district's defense, one of the largest school districts in the state, which is right next door to us, had called off school for their students, and they NEVER CLOSE school.

Also in their defense, the roads were quite wet, and with the temperatures in the teens overnight, many of the roads were glassy. I guess. We didn't venture out all day, until it was time to go out to eat. Friday night is for eating out, icy roads be damned.

Also in their defense, the school district is going to have to furlough us again this semester, and we've heard it may be as many as five days. That's big bucks. We had also heard (not because we are told these things directly, mind you) that they were going to use any snow days as furlough days, because it's a lot easier to do that than to figure out how the hell else they're going to furlough teachers without pay and without disrupting the school schedule for students.

So I'm thinking they were ready to call off school when those first flakes fell, only they didn't share that with us EITHER. No, I had already turned the t.v. off at halftime of the BCS National Championship game because I thought I had to get up this morning.

At any rate, it was a free day off from school, and I guess I shouldn't complain. I did a little tiny bit of crocheting, played on the Wii Fit, played about a million games of Jewel Quest, made some homemade hot chocolate, and didn't feel one bit guilty about not doing anything more productive than that.

We may have some snow days in May.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day?.......

This is one of the many times that I'm happy to live in the Deep South.

And a little embarrassed at the same time.

The weather forecasters have been screaming SNOW!!!!! for several days now. It was all supposed to happen today, and several school districts announced yesterday that they would be closing early today.

The first few flakes started falling around 3:30 this afternoon, and we took turns going to the window to make sure it was REALLY snowing.

It's still snowing a little, but really not enough to create any problems.

That's the good news.

The other good news is that here in the Deep South, it doesn't TAKE much for schools to close. One flake and BAM! no school. With our lawsuit-happy society, no one wants to take the chance on one errant snowflake getting under the wheel of a several-ton school bus and causing an accident while carrying the three students in our county whose parents don't sit in the car-rider line to take them to school.

And I'm as bad as the students. I'm hoping and praying that enough snow falls that it will freeze on the ground and we won't have school tomorrow. An unexpected day off on a FRIDAY, of all things, is just like Christmas all over again.

You know, Christmas? That two-week break from which we just returned?

We've had two whole days with the students already, so I'm ready for a break.

It's funny how each of the surrounding counties' approaches to closing schools can be so different. When Sweet Girl was in eighth grade, I was teaching in another county. We had a brand-new superintendent, and the snow talk had begun. In what I thought was a knee-jerk reaction, my superintendent canceled classes for the next day, but our HOME county didn't. They took a wait-and-see attitude, and what we saw was ....... nothing. It was supposed to start snowing around lunchtime, so I bundled Sweet Girl off to school. She was mad as a hornet that she had to go to school and I didn't. I reassured her that once the snow started, they would send them home early, and I would be there to greet her with hot chocolate.

Not one flake fell. Not one. Not in our county, not in the county where I taught, not anywhere in our area.

When Sweet Girl stomped off the bus that afternoon, her face looked like a thundercloud.

"You said it was gonna snow!" she growled at me.

And on top of that, there was no hot chocolate.

Doing my snow dance,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Big Apple......

My second trip to New York City also involved students. Sweet Girl's high school band was invited to play in Carnegie Hall, and I went along as a chaperon.

Just leading up to the trip itself was an exercise in stress management. It was the week before spring break, and I had to get special permission from the superintendent to miss the last two days before the break. Plus I was in charge of the yearbook, and there was a set of proofs that had, had, HAD to go back to the publisher before we left. Oh, and I was supposed to be ... teaching.

I didn't even get finished packing. We were leaving from Sweet Girl's school at 5:00 PM on a Wednesday, and at 3:30 I was still at MY school, trying to finish up the yearbook proofs. Sweet Girl called me, detected the stress/panic in my voice, and offered to finish packing for me. She's awesome that way. I think she was motivated by the abject embarrassment she would have felt if WE had been the reason the charter buses didn't roll out when they were supposed to. She's always believed in being EARLY for everything, a characteristic that I admire and envy. [I'm early for things like gymnastics meets and concerts, but rarely for school.]

Band kids are among the best high school students in the world, so I wasn't stressed at all about the trip itself. Plus I had about 18 hours on the bus to sleep.

Sometime in the night, I realized that nowhere in my suitcase was there a pair of dress shoes. Dress? Check. Pantyhose? Check. Evening wrap? Check. Shoes?



The first thing on our itinerary upon arriving in NYC was going to a show.

The last thing they said to us on the bus was for NO ONE to go ANYWHERE alone.

I checked Sweet Girl and her buddies into their rooms and told them I would be right back. Actually, I begged Sweet Girl to go with me, but she wasn't interested. So I went trudging up Madison Avenue in my soccer sandals and socks, the comfy sweat pants I had worn on the bus, and a less-than-adequate sweater.

Come to think of it, I think I know now why Sweet Girl wasn't interested in going with me.

I made it to the nearest shoe store and back without incident, amazing enough considering my severe directional handicap.

We walked several blocks to the show. Remember that these are new shoes? New DRESS shoes? Not terribly high heels, but not sneakers either.

It was early evening, and the first cardboard boxes were being erected for the night. I averted my eyes, lest I cause one of the homeless people any embarrassment. Suddenly I heard, "I saw a bum! I saw a bum! I've got to go tell Emily that I saw a bum!!!"

That was one of the chaperons. I wanted to slug her.

We saw Phantom of the Opera, we toured the Empire State Building, we discouraged the teenagers from hiring a limo.

The night of the band's performance, the chaperons were ushered in a back door with the band members, and then we went out front. I was almost overcome with emotion, looking around and thinking, "Good Lord. This is CARNEGIE HALL." I mean, Billy Joel had breathed air in that same structure. Granted, the air he breathed was probably tinged with some controlled substances, but whatever.

We took a walking tour of NYC. This was just six months after 9/11, and it was a very emotional tour. We stood at the fence around Ground Zero and saw the many stuffed animals, pictures, and flowers people had left at the makeshift memorial. We took the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty, but of course they weren't allowing people onto the island at that point, so we only got to look at it from the ferry. Our tour guide was an actress who served as a tour guide to supplement her income. She said she was in For Love of the Game and she played a sort of bitchy character, but I'd never seen the movie so I didn't recognize her. I still haven't seen it.

We missed our scheduled trip to Central Park due to a mix-up with the bus drivers, along with a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. Bummer. I wanted the students to see the enormous size of Central Park, because I'm sure they had a little country park pictured.

After the Carnegie Hall performance, the band director said the students didn't have to be in by curfew, as long as they were with a chaperon. I asked my little group (Sweet Girl and 4 others) what they wanted to do, and they said they wanted to walk up to Central Park.

At 10:00 PM. On a Friday night.

Uh, no.

It was the only time I told them "no" the whole trip. I heard that some of the other chaperons made the kids stay in the hotel because they didn't want to go anywhere, or they were afraid of venturing out. We went to Times Square several times, rode the ferris wheel inside Toys R Us, and had a ball. I figured it was their trip, so I wanted them to have as much fun as they possibly could in those few days. I hated it that the other chaperons were such sticks in the mud.

But walking to Central Park at 10:00 PM on a Friday night?

Sorry, kids, no can do.

So we went to McDonald's in Times Square instead. Even there I didn't feel completely comfortable.

On the way up there, I called Hubby from somewhere in New Jersey. We could see the New York City skyline from where we stopped, but it was time for the drivers to take their hour break. I remember telling Hubby's voicemail, "Hell is not a place. It's a bus ride."

I've told Sullen Teenager that I will take her to NYC when she graduates from high school. It'll be here before we know it. But I'm making her mama go too. And possibly Hubby. I don't want to press my luck, chaperoning teenagers in the big city. I hope the Naked Cowboy is still there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Too Much Going On.....

Tomorrow is the first day of a new semester, which brings some degree of chaos every time. At least we aren't getting an entirely new crop of students, but most of them are starting new courses.

Tonight is my first online teaching session of this semester. Only 16 more to go.

Georgia and Georgia Tech are playing one another in basketball.

Georgia Tech is also playing against Iowa in the Orange Bowl.

I didn't mean to schedule tonight's session with so many athletic contest conflicts.

I really wanted to blog about my second trip to New York City.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sometimes an Obsession....

....can turn into a good thing. Not often, and not a SPLENDIFOROUS thing, but something to take the sting out of a Monday on which the temperature in my car read 17 degrees and I had to return to school after a two-week break.

Last year I came across the book Not Quite What I was Planning, a collection of six-word memoirs written by the famous and the obscure. In typical fashion, I read as many of the memoirs aloud as Hubby would sit still for, shared the book with my niece, and began harassing everyone in earshot as to what THEIR six-word memoirs would be. I even blogged about it. Oddly, many people I tried to pin down for their memoirs had the very same one: "I. Don't. Have. Time. For. This."

I visited the SMITH Magazine website and submitted a six-word memoir, along with about a bazillion other people.

A few months later I got an email saying that my memoir had been "selected as a finalist for publication in the next book" and asking for my contact information. I was naturally skeptical and cynical, but since it only asked for my mailing address and not my bank account number, PIN, credit card number, social security number, birth date, blood type, height and weight, or astrological sign, I shrugged and went ahead and entered it.

I had forgotten all about it. Then a couple of weeks ago I got an email saying it was being published, and I could expect to receive my contributor's copy in the mail.

I was still skeptical.

Until today.

The latest book is It All Changed in an Instant. My hand is in the picture for two reasons: To prove that I actually HAVE the book, when I could have copied the image from their website. And I couldn't get it to stay flat on the table while I took the picture.

There, on page 53, just above my index finger, is my six-word memoir.

Just like the first book, some of the memoirs are hilarious, and some are so poignant that I got choked up just trying to read them to Hubby. Most of them I read and thought, "Damn, that is so much better than mine. Why couldn't I have thought of that?"

Please go buy a copy of this book. Not because it will benefit me financially in any way, because the contributor's copy of the book is (apparently) my only compensation. Buy it because reading these memoirs will uplift you and make you think.

Or, even better.....

Submit your own six-word memoir in the comment section of this blog post, and the writer of the best one will receive a free copy of the book. I'll give you some time to think about it -- deadline is midnight Eastern time, this Friday, January 8th. Hubby will serve as judge. He's the only judge I can afford. For those of you who know Hubby (both of you), I will keep your identities secret.

I just have one question......

Can I put this on my resume?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Teacher Tricks.....

When I was in the traditional classroom, I typically made my own tests as opposed to relying on those published by the textbook companies. I was convinced that some of the questions were deliberately written to confuse or trick students, and I don't think that really measures learning.

I did take measures to prevent cheating, however, such as creating two versions of the same test with the questions in a different order or the answer choices rearranged. But I was up front with the students and let them know in advance that there were two (or more) versions of the test, worksheet, or whatever. I really wasn't out to "catch" anyone. But catch them I did. Every semester without fail, some indignant student would march up to my desk to point out my grading error. "Look," he/she would say, "we have the exact same answers, and you marked mine wrong."

"Look at the questions," I would say. "You have different tests."

Long pause. Embarrassment. "Oh."

Occasionally I did resort to something silly. I gave weekly vocabulary tests, and they were always multiple choice. I used the same set of tests for multiple classes in an effort to save paper, so students had to write their answer choices on their own paper. This time I made "E" the correct answer to every single vocabulary word. I still mixed up the order of the words and made my speech about having different versions of the test, but the answers were all "E". I watched the students squirm uncertainly as they took the test. They were glancing at each other out of the corners of their eyes, wanting to ask each other but afraid to bring down my wrath for talking during a test. I'll never forget one of my favorite students' expression when she turned in her paper.

"I changed a random answer," she said in disgust. "I just knew they couldn't ALL be 'E'."

That's when I realized it was kind of mean to do that. Messing with their little minds. But man, were those tests easy to grade. And with about 120 of them to grade every week, in addition to all the OTHER assignments I had to deal with, it was nice to give myself a break.

I inherited some of this trickery from some of my own high school teachers, including possibly the best chemistry teacher on the face of the planet, then OR now. On one of our tests, we had to convert temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice versa. Except way back then it was Centigrade, not Celsius.

We had to memorize the formulas (yes, I know it is technically "formulae") for converting, and we weren't allowed to use calculators. We didn't even HAVE calculators, not for classroom use. I paid $100 for my first calculator when I started college. I should have just rented one, since my stay in the pre-med program was only slightly longer than my visit to the Honors Program.

On that section of the test, Ma Pace gave us a temperature, and we had to write the equivalent temperature when converted to the other scale. Math was always my strong suit, so I had no trouble with the conversions.

Until I got to -40.

I did the math, performed the calculations, and came up with -40.

That couldn't be right.

I erased my work and started over.

I did the math, performed the calculations, and came up with -40.


I erased my work and started over again.

I did the math, performed the calculations, and came up with -40.

"Screw it," I said, writing -40 beside the hole I had erased in my paper.

Did you know that -40 is the only temperature that is the same on both scales?

Neither did I. But Ma Pace did.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What If I Don't Know?..........

I wish some places wouldn't be so cutesy with the labels on their restroom doors. Really, people, by the time I have to go, I really don't have time to figure out which one I am. "Men" and "Women" I understand. Although when I was first learning to read, I thought "Women" meant "Whoa Men," as in "Men don't come in here....whoa." That made a lot more sense to me than the way the word is actually pronounced.

We went to our favorite Aussie-themed restaurant tonight because Hubby needed his fix. Their restroom doors are labeled "Sheilas" and "Blokes." What if I had NEVER seen the Crocadile Dundee movie and didn't know if I were a sheila or a bloke? They do have the little diagram on the door as well, but it always takes me a minute to figure out if the little stick figure is wearing a dress or not. And besides, who wears dresses anymore?

Some of them are more obvious, and I don't have as much trouble with them. In an establishment where the doors were labeled "Hens" and "Roosters" once, I didn't hesitate. That one made sense.

In another "classy" place, however, I had to think about it for a minute. I didn't know for sure if I were a "Pointer" or a "Setter." Don't laugh at me! I realized immediately that I didn't have anything with which to point, but my literal nature gave me pause. I reasoned that both setters AND pointers can be EITHER male OR female, and I confused myself. Finally I peeked in both doors and picked the one that smelled the best. And where the seat wasn't up.

Perhaps the most cruel bathroom door trick ever, though, wasn't the label itself so much as it was the placement. I had drunk a couple of beers (one is usually my limit) and went to the ladies' room. The door was clearly labeled "Ladies" or "Women," whichever was appropriate. On the way OUT, however, the INSIDE of the door had a sign on it that said "Men." It was just enough to make me stop in horror and wonder if I had used the wrong restroom. Can you imagine what it must have done to a REAL drunk? I noticed the last time I was there it was no longer labeled that way. I hope I didn't imagine the whole thing. I swear it was only two beers.....

Foolishly, I just turned to Hubby for assistance on this blog topic. I asked if he had any other examples of restroom door labeling that I could include.

He said "Sticks" and "Splits."

I think he made that up.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Instant Journalism.....

In these days of instant information (not to mention gratification), I wonder if it's really been all progress. It used to be that journalists were mostly concerned with getting things RIGHT. Now it seems the emphasis is on getting things FIRST, and we'll iron out the details later.

I know there have ALWAYS been flaws with the system, as evidenced by the famous (infamous?) headlines declaring that Dewey had defeated Truman in 1948.

Nowadays we receive "information" at the moment of impact, it seems, and it gets reported whether or not it's factual.

The most recent example I'm thinking of, and I apologize if you're sick of hearing his name, is the Tiger Woods incident. His crash heard round the world happened when Hubby and I were camping and had no internet service. But because I get news alerts on my cell phone, I got a message that Tiger had been "seriously injured" in an automobile accident. Maybe that sort-of erroneous statement was just a harbinger of the REAL injuries that would emerge in the days following the accident.

It's not that I'm particularly worried about whether or not Tiger's troubles are told accurately or not. I'm just worried that in our information age, the information isn't always accurate. It used to be a big deal to print a retraction or a correction when misinformation made its way into the public eye, but even that has apparently fallen by the wayside.

In addition (or perhaps as a result), we have become a knee-jerk society, responding and reacting to news impulsively. I don't have any concrete examples of this, I'm just speaking in generalities. But when I hear a story that is later proved to be wrong, I sometimes think, "What if we had reacted to that when we FIRST heard it?"

This combination has made me even more cynical than I already was. Now when I hear something, I immediately don't believe it. I wait for confirmation or come up with as many contradicting circumstances as I can. It's not that I think people make this stuff up; it's just that I want to be sure the story I'm hearing is the REAL one.

Now I've committed another big sin of journalism -- I've written mostly of generalities without specific examples. Good thing I'm not a journalist.