Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Theory of Relativity.....

With my most sincere apologies to Albert Einstein. (He WAS the one with the theory of relativity, wasn't he?)

This post has nothing to do with physics. Or whatever it was that Albert was famous for. For which Albert was famous. Whatever.

Have any of you ever experienced complete and total silence? Think about it. I mean the absolute absence of any sound. I kind of think I may have...but it was a long time ago, and part of my description of that experience will contradict the whole idea of complete and total silence. I'll (sort of) explain at the end.

This thought has occurred to me a couple of afternoons at the end of the school day. When the students leave, if we have no meetings or interviews, my co-workers and I are typically in our individual classrooms alone. We may be catching up on emails (the serious ones) or finishing up a level of Angry Birds (the slackers) or reading to the end of a chapter on the iPad (more slackers) or checking gymnastics websites to see what gymnasts should be inserted into the line-ups this week (slackers...wait...never mind).

Students are gone, and the hum of conversation is gone too. It's very quiet. Silent.

Then I turn off all the computers remotely. They go off one by one, and it becomes even silenter. As the low hum of each computer stops, what seemed like silence just a moment ago suddenly seems loud.

Then I turn off my own computer.

And then I turn off the power strip. It gets quieter and quieter and quieter. I've toyed with the idea of going around and unplugging every single power strip and device in the room, just to see how totally quiet it can be.

But that's a lot of trouble, and I'm not really that curious.

I'm not sure where I was going with this post. You may be able to tell that I couldn't decide which approach to take with this blog post. I was vacillating between being silly and sarcastic (my defaults) or attempting to make some serious connection between my computers and life. But I got nothing.

Now for my story about silence. I read an article once about some soundless booth a company (I think it was a telephone company) had developed for testing. They put someone in the booth and the person reported hearing the rushing waters of a river. That was the sound of the blood pumping through his veins and arteries. I thought that was cool. I think the closest I ever came to that was when I first started skydiving. Way back then we jumped with round canopies, old Army-issue ones. Those canopies, unlike the modern rectangular canopies, had almost zero forward drive in them. You jumped, you opened (thank all that is holy for those openings), and you went straight down. The only exception was that you could TURN the canopy so that the wind would carry you in a certain direction. Preferably in a direction that took you to the landing zone.

Because those canopies had no forward drive, there was very little motion. And it was dead silent under those babies. You couldn't hear the plane after it left, you couldn't hear anything from the ground because you opened so high (if you did what you were supposed to **ahem**), and there wasn't even the flap of nylon coming from the parachute. It was awesome.

Like the man in the soundproof booth, I think I heard my heart beating.

And it was going very, very fast.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett.....

Image from

From Ken Follett's website: Fall of Giants is a magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in the Century trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families – American, German, Russian, English and Welsh – as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.

This is one of those books I might not have picked up if it had been in book form (I downloaded it and read it on my iPad). Its 852-page heft might have intimidated me. Maybe not, but I'm still glad I didn't have to hold it up every night while I read in bed.

I was drawn to this book because I read The Pillars of the Earth and was struck by Follett's powerful writing. I'm not that big a fan of historical fiction, but Follett's books tend to make me want to change that about myself.

Reading this book taught me way more about World War I than I ever learned in school. (That may give you some idea of what kind of social studies student I was. I blame it on Wilhelmina Bowles, who scared the bejeezus out of me but couldn't intimidate me into learning, and Evelyn Grant, whom I wrote off as a fraud when she was wrong about how a word was spelled.)

As soon as I finished the book, I excitedly went to the Amazon website to look for the next book, because I was thrilled that it was part one of a trilogy. Sadly, the second one doesn't come out until this fall. By then I'll have to reread all 852 pages of THIS one!

Follett's writing is superb. He is an excellent storyteller, and his use of language is magnificent. (I'm running out of adjectives here.) Even when he gets into the political and social issues of the time (which normally bore me, especially the political ones), the reading is just as compelling as the sex parts. And yes, it has those! (Tastefully -- almost always -- done, of course.)

As a grammar snob, I am always on the lookout for grammatical errors in published writing, but I don't remember encountering any as I read this book. That means one of two things: A) there weren't any; or B) I was so enamored of Follett's story that I forgave him for them. Either way, I think it's a good sign.

You won't be sorry if you take time to read this book.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Signs of the Apocalypse..... Parts One Through Until Whenever I Get Sick of It......

We had several incidents at school today that prompted me to use the phrase "Signs of the Apocalypse." (By the way, I have YET to type the word "apocalypse" correctly the first time, so it is with a great deal of aggravation that I continue along this theme.) I'm not sure I'm covering them in the order in which they occurred chronologically, but you won't really know the difference, will you?

Sign of the Apocalypse #1 - We had a parent conference scheduled for this afternoon with the parents of a young lady who has missed 8 or 9 out of the last 17 school days. She's very smart, but school isn't her top priority. Her absences tend to coincide with those of her boyfriend. Hmmmmm.... I'm sure that's just happenstance. Anyway, one of our team members called the father to schedule the conference, and the young woman protested that we had no business contacting her parents (with whom she still lives and who, I'm guessing, still provide most of her upkeep, not the least of which must be an astronomical clothing and shoe bill) because she is 18 years old. Had she told me that, I would have laughed RIGHT. IN. HER. FACE. Turns out, due to the new FRPA law (Families' Right to Privacy Act), she is correct. Word came from our superintendent that we may be in violation of the law if we reveal anything to her parents without her consent. WHAT??? Are you KIDDING me? What has our society descended to? (You don't have to answer those rhetorical questions. I'm speechless myself.)

By the way, that's probably the best of the bunch, and I know enough about writing that I'm not supposed to start off with my strongest point, but if you're just tired of my belly-aching about students, don't feel obligated to read any more. Carry on.

Sign of the Apocalypse #2 -  One of my students is a young lady who is very diligent about writing down all her quiz questions and thoughtfully highlighting the ones she would like for me to give her the answer to. Since she's already TAKEN the quiz twice at the point she does this, I don't have a huge problem with it. It's more than some of our students are willing to do. Some of them want us to show them the ones they missed and then give a passing grade based on the fact that's what they would like to have. The young lady in question this morning caught me in the middle of a Monday morning bout of grumpiness, however. The first question she had highlighted was about "Gulliver's Travels," something about it means when the prince of Brobdingnag asks Gulliver something blah blah blah blah.

In order to prompt her into coming up with the correct answer herself, I asked, "Well, what DID the prince say when Gulliver brought him the ships?"

Blank stare. I narrowed my eyes at her. "Did you even READ the story?"

"Well, not ALL of it," she retorted indignantly. "Have you SEEN how LONG it is?"

Sign of the Apocalypse #3 - We have a young man who is a sad case. At least if one is inclined to believe ALL of his sad stories, which I am not. SOME PEOPLE are more easily fooled than I and have bent over backward to accommodate him. Need to leave at 2:00 every day to pick up a brother/nephew/cousin from school on time because you're the only one available to do it? No problem. Need to leave in the middle of standardized testing because you've had YET ANOTHER family member die suddenly? (This one burned me up....reportedly a 4-year-old, and he called her a niece one time and a cousin another.) Need to arrive at school every day around 10:00 because our schedule simply doesn't match yours? Hey, just come in when you can!

We had a meeting with this student today regarding his progress (none) in most of his classes. The ones he hasn't officially abandoned, that is. One of our team members felt obligated to point out that things posted on Facebook often become public, and the day he had the emergency during testing, he had posted something along the lines of, "Woo hoo! I'm free! Happy birthday to me!" We were trying to make the point that his FB post did NOT sound like someone who was so overcome by grief that he sobbed and had to leave during testing. His response when we confronted him with the discrepancy? He snorted. HE SNORTED!!! And he said, "Well OF COURSE I'm not coming to school on my birthday." That's when I threw up my hands and said, "I'm done here" and left before I could do something that would cause me to be arrested or lose my job.

And I promise, there's only one more.

Sign of the Apocalypse #4 - Another young man has been to school 4 days this semester. Four. Since January 5th. He is trying to graduate a whole year early (but his trying only comes in spurts), and I believe there really is a hardship in his situation. I don't know his entire background, but he has lots of support personnel both at his home school and with us. We have gone above and beyond to help him. I'm not complaining about that; that's what we're there for, the students at risk for dropping out. It's hard not to like him. He's very polite and well-mannered, and he has a habit of asking for test and quiz retakes if he makes a 90. (For some reason I find that slightly annoying, but I swallow my irritation and try not to let it show.) He showed up today and waited politely while I finished a personal conversation with a co-worker (hey, it WAS still before school, and we DON'T have planning periods) and asked, "Is this still my first period?" I responded, "Yes, if you're still on roll." It was mean, but I couldn't help myself. He just waltzes in without a word of explanation and wants to pick up where he left off?

We had a meeting with him later to address his attendance/graduation situation. He is down needing only about 3 classes, and his response was something along the lines that he knew he could show up in March and finish if he needed to. That kind of irked me. We're flexible, but we like for our students at least to PRETEND to follow a prescribed schedule. We were trying to determine the cause of his lackadaisical (isn't THAT a cool word?) attitude toward school, and someone asked if he had a job. He responded, "I did, but I lost my job. That's why I came back to school." And he chuckled. CHUCKLED! That irked me too! I realize he has a true hardship and more than likely needs that job badly, but he made it sound like he was DOING US A FAVOR by coming back to school. (Forgive me for yelling...I get carried away.) He said he couldn't come to school for a while because "a bunch of things happened." His "bunch of things" included losing a friend, another friend "getting married" (can't figure out why that's tragic and what it has to do with him, but whatever), getting his first car, and needing insurance.

And y'all, this wasn't even a BAD day. Just a somewhat NORMAL day.

Forget Fridays off. Perhaps I need to start taking Mondays off.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Racket that is Disney.....

Sweet Girl, you might not want to read the rest of this post. We've already had this discussion, only this is way more sarcastic.

There. That's out of the way.

Sweet Girl and I ventured down to Orlando yesterday. We didn't go to the Magic Kingdom or the Happiest Place on Earth or whatever sappy name it has this week. We went to the Boardwalk area and then to Downtown Disney.

The Boardwalk is one of the GAZILLION different themed resorts scattered in and around Disney World. I have no idea how close we were to any of the theme parks because all of the roads look alike. Crowded. Full of buses. And happy little traffic signs.

What occurred to me was that even though we weren't actually IN one of the parks, there was STUFF to buy. Everywhere. Mouse ears, princess tiaras, costumes, t-shirts, ornaments, clothes, sports memorabilia, coffee mugs, shot glasses, wine glasses, kitchen aprons, Mickey Mouse-shaped pasta (I'm not kidding), jewelry, pins, and on and on and on and on and on and on. And we weren't in the park.

And that's why I think it's a racket. (Okay, maybe that's too strong a word.)

Some families save for years to bring the kids to Disney World. The pay to travel from who knows where, they stay at one of the resorts because that's what you DO, they buy 3- or 4- or 5-day passes for the various parks (parks that keep reproducing at an alarming rate), and the fun never stops. NEITHER DOES THE SPENDING.

Sweet Girl and I were walking down the boardwalk in the Boardwalk (I had to say that) and I saw a hot dog vendor's kiosk with an advertised price of $9.75 for a hot dog and whatever came with it. I was hoping 14-carat gold earrings came with it, but I didn't get my hopes up. And then I went and bought a brownie for $3.95. (It wasn't even that good.)

I was amazed at the number of ADULTS who were sporting the Disney attire. Everything from WDW shirts to Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts (I suggested to Sweet Girl that we get those, and she didn't even humor me with an eye roll). I had on my Georgia sweatshirt (yes, the same one I wore to the meet Friday night, why do you ask?), and I fielded laser-beam stares that were positively HOSTILE from some of the grown-ups. Especially the ones wearing mouse ears or those little things on springs that you wear like a headband. They looked at me like I had some nerve, wearing a standard old college sweatshirt and not sporting the requisite Disney-themed clothing that costs more than a small car. Maybe a medium-sized car.

Sweet Girl says it's all a matter of supply and demand, but I'm not buying it. (I'm hilarious.) I think it's a cruel kind of peer pressure (kid pressure?) that forces parents to buy that expensive junk merchandise for their little darlings. What parent can tell his 4-year-old that he can't have Mickey ears? Or a Lego kit so he can build his own life-sized Woody from The Toy Story? (Isn't it just wrong to have a character named Woody in the first place? I'm just sayin'...)

I suppose Sweet Girl is right in a way. It's not like the "cast members" (give me a break...please) force anyone to buy their stuff. They don't have to; they just have to manage the rock-star-concert-like lines of people who can't wait to part with their hard-earned money.

I guess once you've spent one gazillion dollars, it's just as easy to spend another gazillion.

Recession? What freakin' recession?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Absurdity and Irony.....

Because I like to end my blog posts on a positive note (unless it's one of those blog-post-long rants that can't possibly end on a positive note - and I'm sorry for those), I'll go ahead and get the absurdity out of the way first.

Disclaimer: I would be writing about this incident even if it had happened at our own gym. Or Auburn. Or Alabama. Or Utah. Or Michigan. Or any of the other college gymnastics sites around the country. The fact that it happened at FLORIDA just makes my blood boil as opposed to making me say, "Huh. Didn't see THAT one coming."

Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post about not being allowed to take my camera into a college gymnastics meet. I still didn't understand the stupid rule about not being able to have a camera with interchangeable lenses, but I guess theoretically a really smart terrorist (and they frequent college gymnastics meets ALL. THE. TIME.) could conceal a bomb in the inside of the camera. Sure. Let's go with that.

Last night, after I drove 6 hours to get to Sweet Girl's house, she and I drove another hour to attend the Georgia-Florida gymnastics meet. (Yes, I'm a glutton for punishment and can't resist the temptation to go into ENEMY territory to see my team.) We didn't realize Florida also had a baseball game (thankfully not in the same arena, but on the other hand wouldn't that add a whole new element of difficulty to the gymnastics? and the baseball?), and parking was horrendous. We did manage to get into the parking deck before it got full, and we wound around and around and around and around until we were on the very top. (Some folks weren't so lucky and were still searching for parking after the competition had begun.)

It was only about half an hour before the meet began, and anyone who knows me realizes that to me this was almost like missing the first rotation. If I'm not there an hour early, I consider myself late. As Sweet Girl and I approached the entrance, I had my purse open and ready to be searched, as I knew it would be. The guy looked at me (I SWEAR his gaze lingered too long on my Georgia sweatshirt), looked in my purse, and said, "Is that a tablet?"

He was referring to my iPad, which I had tucked into my purse. I was puzzled, but eventually I nodded.

"Tablets aren't allowed inside," he said. I just stared. "Sorry."

I was tempted to argue, but I knew it was fruitless. So I said, as nicely as I could, "Well that sucks" and stomped off. I was going to tuck it into the waistband of my jeans in the back and then go in a different entrance (they haven't stooped to body searches - yet), but I was afraid it would embarrass Sweet Girl. So I marched up the gazillion stairs of the parking deck and returned it to the car, FUMING the whole way.

If you're curious about why I would be so insistent about taking an iPad into a gymnastics meet, it's so that I can keep up with the scores. I can write them down, but on the iPad I have a spreadsheet with formulas built in that know to drop the lowest score from each event. That way I know at any given moment where our scores stand in relation to the other team, what we need to score a certain number, or whether or not we have a chance to win (we didn't).

Seriously? I can't take an iPad into a gymnastics meet? I have no idea what the rule is behind THAT foolishness. I posted it on the gymnastics message board, and so far everyone else has been as puzzled as I.

Enough of the absurdity. It is Florida, after all.

Now for the irony (and this is the happy part)...

When I finally made it into the arena for the gymnastics meet, naturally I was in a fine temper. The lower section was completely full, so I couldn't sit with the other UGA fans. I looked into the upper level and spotted a lady wearing a red UGA shirt, so I decided to go sit near her. Safety in numbers and all that jazz. My very first words to her were, "Never again!" meaning I will NEVER AGAIN go to that particular venue. I fumed and fussed about having to return the iPad to the car, yada yada yada. She asked where we lived in Georgia, and that's when she began to look familiar.

To make a long story not quite as long as it could be, she and I had a class together on the very first day of my very first semester at UGA. It was a pre-calculus class, and that was the last word the instructor ever said that I understood. (Both the honors program and the pre-med program became hazy, distant memories after that summer.) Not only that, but she went on to marry a guy who was in school with me from third grade all the way through to graduation. Smart, smart folks (but they still let me be their friends).

They live in Florida, about an hour south of where the University of Florida is located. Their daughter does gymnastics, so several of the girls and moms from their gym had come to the meet. Unfortunately, they were pulling for Florida and were slightly embarrassed that Cathy and I were cheering for Georgia.

Reconnecting with a friend from almost 34 (!!) years ago took some of the sting out of the whole iPad issue. Now if we can just get her daughter to stop doing that Gator Chomp.

Oh...and she has a blog: Created for Good Works. So you KNOW she's good people.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - A Day Off.....

A Friday off from school. Woot woot! With a visit to my Sweet Girl and a gymnastics meet thrown in for good measure.

This one doesn't count against my "personal" days, either, because it's using comp time from last summer that we aren't really supposed to get but our principal knows we come in and interview students over the summer and she doesn't believe in making us work for nothing.

Maybe I can arm-twist Sweet Girl into doing a guest post tomorrow night.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some Updates.....

I realized I haven't updated you lately on several ongoing situations. You may not be waiting with bated breath for these updates, but it gives me something to write about other than the fact that I have to go fold a load of laundry. You're welcome.

  • My mother-in-law is doing well, although she is not able to walk very well. She has a motorized scooter, and she has asked Hubby (and sometimes me) to come and help her walk around her living room and dining room with her walker every day. I don't mind doing it, but her ultimate goal is to be able to drive again. Mother. Of. All. That. Is. Holy. We don't want her to drive, and right now she doesn't even have the leg strength to go out TO her car. But we don't want to take that big step of taking her car keys away either. I feel that will kill whatever dignity she has left. I'm not sure what the answer is. She even suggested to Hubby that he could come down there and help her in the car. I understand she doesn't want to be isolated and trapped in that house, but if she doesn't have the strength to walk on her own, who's to say she will have the reaction time required to operate a car? Shudder.
  • Baby Luke is thriving, and his daddy is learning to get by on a lot less sleep. (Tee hee.) He's up over nine pounds and has a sweet little grin. They still haven't taken him out in public, except for trips to doctors and therapists, and I can't wait to see him in person. He's a cutie, and I am thankful for the miracles of modern medicine that this little guy has grown from 1 pound 15 ounces to where he is today.
  • I got a new crown (next to the OTHER new crown) on the tooth that was giving me so much trouble, and while I was afraid it had all been for naught, it FINALLY stopped hurting. I still have only a temporary and will get the permanent crown next Wednesday. The date for my regular cleaning? Next Thursday. And no, they can't be combined into one appointment, thanks for asking. I will have been at my dentist's office more in a single month than I usually go in two and a half years. But the pain is gone, so I am eternally grateful for that. I don't remember the last time I CRIED in the dentist's chair, but I'm pretty sure it was before I started driving. I will, however, be happy when I can chew gum again. Although I typically only chew gum in the car, because I'm one of those people who should NEVER chew gum in public.
  • I hit a weight plateau back in the summer, and not only have I NOT been able to break through it, I've allowed about 5 pounds to creep back on. I wanted to lose 15 more pounds, not turn them into 20 more to lose. I need to track my calories again, because that's what works. And stay away from roasted peanuts. They are my crack, and I can't stop once I get started.
  • I'm almost finished with my latest crochet project because it's for someone who may still be reading my blog and I don't want to spoil the surprise. No, it isn't you. Or you. Or you. But it might be you. If you think you might have reason to expect an unexpected gift, it's probably for you. If it isn't, then your surprise will be NOT getting a crocheted gift.
  • I'm reading a fabulous book that is 852 pages long, and I already know I'm going to be disappointed with the ending. Not the WAY it ends, just that it will be over. Luckily I believe it's part one of a trilogy. Review forthcoming.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Exhibit A.....

Your Honor:

You have called me before you today to justify my retirement from the teaching profession at the age of 51. I'm not tired, I'm not burnt out (most days), I'm not sick, and I'm not that old. You (and others) have asked why I would hang it up after a mere 26 years. In support of my long-thought-out-and-not-hasty-at-all decision, I offer the following evidence. We'll call it Exhibit A.

This essay was submitted by one of my students and not contrived or edited in any way (not even to remove the italics, which makes me twitch just a little bit). The writing prompt asked students to read Jack London's eye witness account of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and analyze his use of descriptive language. I always point students to the specific examples of words and phrases like "conflagration" and a "lurid tower of smoke...seen from 100 miles away" to get them started. I instruct them to look for other words and phrases, especially extreme ones, that help paint the picture of San Francisco's devastation.

The young man who wrote this essay was sincerely trying to complete the assignment. This is not an attempt to be a smart-ass or write some drivel just to complete the essay. He wanted to do well. He is a senior with only a few courses remaining before graduation. And this is Exhibit A:

San Francisco that was a earthquake and there was a eye witness that actually stayed there and he seen it all happen, he even seen it happen when the people where stay there and they could tell what was going on,

he was standing there he could see that people standing there looking and hearing people trying to find out what the smell was and didn’t anyone know but something came to him and said him exactly what the smell was, right off the back did he new it was and earthquake. 

He said that he had seen smoke of as you have never seen, right then in my head ii can tell that I was really into t. and the smoke in the buildings was really smoking so I could see it in my head. 

The next day the earthquake had happen and it was one of the worse earthquakes that you have never seen as if people crying and everything so as I kept reading it I could seen people running and not even thinking that this could be there last breath in the dark black smoke as you have never seen.

Wednesday had came and you could see the destruction of the city and you could understand the thing of the building g and the skyscrapers, you didn’t see a women that had been crying and you didn’t se a man that had been sad because it seemed as if  everybody had new it was coming built it seem that didn’t know one no about the earthquake the few day ago. 

There was millions of dollars things that was destroyed and place that were going never be a lot because of the money in that town

 People will never forget this day as it comes again next year  you could see people running from the fire and the destruction of the town, it was something as you could never seen and that some people didn’t know what was going happen.

The next day you could see people leave that town destruction because there was nothing else there for them to stay there for as were many people dead as well and many people lost there kids and a lot of things. This story was one of the saddest stories I j have ever read. and it seem to be the first the I ever read about and earthquake. 

Where do I start in trying to show this young man the error of his ways? How did he get this far in his high school matriculation and not be able to write any better than this? 

In addition to passing his courses, he also must pass our state's standardized writing test. I know, right? And they want to base teachers' salaries on how well students do on tests like those. When they write like this.

So to answer your question...'s either retire or slit my wrists.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One (or Two) of My Many Idiosyncracies.....

If I thought about it long enough, I could probably devote an entire blog to my many idiosyncrasies. (Is it any accident that word almost has the word "crazy" embedded in it?) I'm not talking about my sometime-OCD tendencies, but instead relatively minor things about my personality that I generally keep to myself. I promise I won't bombard you with all of them at one time.

One that came to light recently resulted in one of the few times I've seen Hubby speechless. I wanted some hot apple cider (the instant kind, the only kind we have), so I got out a small boiler and prepared to heat the water on the stovetop.

"Why don't you put it in the microwave?" Hubby asked. "It's faster that way."

Before I could stop the words from leaving my mouth, I said, "I don't like it that kind of hot."

Not THAT HOT. That KIND of hot. I couldn't even articulate what I meant. For some reason I prefer to boil the water on the stovetop for instant drinks like hot chocolate and apple cider. Don't ask me why. Please. Even stranger, when I'm at school and that's my only option, I quite readily use the microwave to heat my water. And it's fine.

I'm kind of sorry I'm burdening you with this.

Another idiosyncrasy involves those reusable grocery bags. I started buying them several years ago and have almost reached the point of always having them in the car when I go grocery shopping. I try to return them to the car as soon as I unload groceries so I will know they are ready for the next shopping expedition.

Because I used my four-day weekend for mundane things like bike rides and gymnastics meets and did NOT use any of the four days to do the weekly grocery shopping, I had to stop on the way home from school today. There aren't many things I hate more than having to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Come to think of it, I don't like to stop ANYWHERE on the way home.

When I got to the store, I reached in the back seat for my cloth grocery bags. There were three of them there, and they all said "Ingle's." I was not at Ingle's. I was at Publix. And I refused to use the bags with the wrong store name on them. Hubby says they would be tickled to think they had stolen a customer away and I shouldn't worry about it, but I can't bring myself to use the wrong bags.

I'm willing to save the planet and all, but it better be prepared to be brand-specific.

I'll shut up now.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Four-Day Weekend and a Three-Day Work Week....

Do I hear a "hallelujah" from the masses? I just had more days off in a row than I will work this week. That's one way to get the week started off with a smile.

I bookended my long weekend with bike rides. I rode 41 miles by myself on Friday, and today Rozmo and I rode a 56-mile route we've covered before (and part of it is on the annual Spring Tune-Up ride). It was much colder than I would like for a bicycle ride, and I pulled something in my back this morning, either of which singularly would have compelled me to call off the ride in years (days?) past. But I didn't want to let Rozmo down, I wanted to get my February mileage in, and I honestly thought the problem with my back (extreme lower back) would be helped by riding and stretching it out. Not so much.

I was getting out of the recliner this morning to go get ready when I felt a catch in my lower back. As I told Rozmo, that should have been a clear indication that getting out of the recliner was the worst thing I could do today. We stopped at a little store on our ride, and there was a picnic table in the sunshine, so I lay down on the bench. I told Rozmo, "I may never move from this spot again." The warmth of the sun felt very good, and lying flat gave my back some relief. That statement almost came true a few moments later when I realized I could NOT get up from that spot. I was finally able to haul myself up by grasping the table and sort of rolling off the bench. Not very graceful, but it worked.

The map doesn't do it justice. Ha ha ha ha ha. This is one of the prettiest areas in our state, with lots of horse farms and not much traffic. And friendly people who didn't ask us A) why we would choose to ride our bikes in chilly weather; or B) what the hell we were doing on the road in the first place.

Katydid, notice we went to Newborn...AGAIN!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gymnastics Update....

We are over halfway through the college gymnastics season ... how did THAT happen? We have competed in 7 meets with only 4 remaining in the regular season. Then come the SEC Championships (every team in the SEC competes, so that's an automatic berth), then the NCAA Regional Championships (top 36 teams in the nation compete and we are currently ranked #3 in the nation, so that's ALMOST automatic), and after that it gets dicey. There are six regional competitions, and the top two teams from each of those advance to the NCAA National Championships, which this year are being held in Georgia, right up the road from where the Gym Dogs compete regularly. It gets dicey because you don't know which regional you will be assigned to until two weeks prior, and that's when you also learn against whom you will be competing. The seeding could mean that we wind up in a regional assignment with two teams to whom we've already lost this year, and I'm afraid that will get into our girls' heads. The 12 teams who survive the Regional Championships compete in two sessions on Friday, April 20th. The top three teams from each of THOSE sessions go on to the Finals (also called the Super Six) on Saturday, and the national champion is crowned from that session. On Sunday the individual event finals are held, with the top eight scores from each event in Friday's competition (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise) and all ties competing for individual awards. It's a weekend jam-packed with gymnastics competition, and it feels like a gymnastics overdose to even the most devoted (obsessed?) fan like me.

Yesterday's meet was against an SEC opponent, but one from which we didn't expect too much competition. Oddly enough, sometimes when our opponent isn't expected to put up very big scores, we don't either. It's almost as if we think it would be vulgar to outscore them by too much. Or something. This was not the case yesterday, however. We scored our second-highest team score of the season, just .025 off our season high. We had several gymnasts put up career-high scores, and I'm not JUST talking about freshmen. We had three girls compete for the first time this year, one of them a junior who had NEVER competed before yesterday. She turned in decent scores on vault and beam yesterday, and I was happy for her. I will officially stop referring to her as a wasted scholarship and become one of her biggest fans. That sentiment may be based on her balance beam dismount alone, which I loved.

Our senior who has been dying to get into the all-around this year (competing on all four events in a meet) did so for the second consecutive week and matched last week's score, which was good enough to tie her for the top spot in the country. We keep waiting and waiting for her to get a perfect 10 on uneven bars, and I am afraid she may be trying too hard for it. Yesterday she took a couple of steps back on her dismount, which is almost unheard of for her. She is the reigning national champion on uneven bars, and I fully expect her to be right in the mix when the end of this season rolls around.

One of our gymnasts who was billed from the beginning of her freshman year as a future "superstar" has instead become more of a head case. She has a tendency to either dazzle or fizzle, with not much in between. In Alabama she scored a 9.95 on beam, with one judge giving her a 10. Yesterday she scored an 8.7 with two falls. It's the same routine, for crying out loud. See what I mean? On a positive note, she finally landed her bars dismount without crumpling to the ground. They have changed her floor routine drastically, giving her only two tumbling passes because she has a chronic left ankle injury, but she still has issues with it. And I fully believe they are mental. For those of you who are asking, no I DON'T think I could do better myself. I'm just sayin'...

I did experience a pang of guilt during yesterday's competition. The senior doing all-around, the bars champion I referred to earlier, absolutely NAILED her floor routine. She is a joy to watch, and she finally put a complete floor routine together. By the time they flashed her score, a gymnast from the other team was on balance beam (visitors always end up on beam). One judge gave her a 9.95 (may be a little high), and the other a 9.85 for a total score of 9.9. The fans didn't much appreciate the 9.85, so we booed vehemently. And the balance beam girl fell off. Now she's supposed to have better concentration than that, and at the SEC Championships there will be music blaring, fans cheering, and a lot of general chaos, so she'd better get used to it. Still, I felt kind of bad that we may have contributed to her fall. Then two MORE of their girls fell off, and we weren't in any way responsible for those, so it wouldn't have made any difference anyway.

If you're interested enough to watch the highlights from yesterday's meet, you can find them here. And I apologize for the commercial you may be forced to watch beforehand. In case you're wondering about the colors of our team's leotards when everyone KNOWS our team colors are red and black, do not adjust your set. This meet was the annual Pink Out Meet to raise awareness (and money) for breast cancer research. The leos were designed last year by the same girl who is our national bars champion. Is there NOTHING the girl can't do?
Next week's meet is against the team that will reclaim the #1 spot in the nation this week, a team that has put up some obscenely high scores, a team that we LOVE. TO. HATE. And it's only an hour from where Sweet Girl lives, so she and I will be in attendance. I hope I have lots of similarly happy things to report next weekend.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life is All About Timing....

....and most of the time mine isn't great.

Take today, for example.

While this isn't a TRAGIC event and normally wouldn't even appear on the radar of life, it is worth noting. Besides, it's excellent blogger fodder.

Let me set the stage for you, because that will make this blog post even longer than it needs to be.

Hey, give me a break...I'm just home from a gymnastics meet, and you COULD be reading about THAT. (And probably will tomorrow, so don't let that breath you're holding escape too soon.)

Katydid and I were planning to leave for the meet at around 1:45, so I had PUH-LENTY of time this morning to get some things accomplished. Instead, I sat around and crocheted, surfed the Internet, and dozed. (I've GOT to teach that dog to recognize numbers and train him that if it's Saturday, the get-up time should NOT start with a "5".)

Then at 12:00, when I should have started getting ready, I decided to go walk in the park. It was a nice day and I hadn't exercised today, so I took Gus and we walked. The long route.

I had my music playing on my iPhone, and I promise I'm getting to the point of this blog post.

I don't have THAT many songs on my iPhone...fewer than 100, I would guess. And I had it set on "shuffle," which I'm guessing means that the songs play in some kind of RANDOM order. (Is that an oxymoron? I think so.)

I'm no statistician, so I can't give you a good estimate of the odds of any particular song playing on my iPhone at any given moment on an hour-long walk through the park.

However, knowing the kind of luck I have, and the fact that irony follows me around like a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe after using a public restroom, I should have been able to predict with some certainty that if I ran into one of my students (and two of his friends) as my walk was ending...

...the song that would show up and play randomly on my iPhone while we were talking would be the Jimmy Buffett song with the lyrics, "Why don't we get drunk and screw?"

I don't even LIKE that song that much.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Musical Group (That Isn't Named Billy Joel).....

I realize that Billy Joel does not constitute a musical group. He DOES have a band (albeit he and his long-term drummer, Liberty DeVitto, broke up several years ago), and I feel somewhat disloyal picking anyone other than Billy Joel as any kind of musical favorite, but he's still my all-time number one favorite.

There. I'm glad THAT'S out of the way.

My favorite group (at least tonight) from the late 70's and early 80's was the Little River Band. They hailed from Australia, and I had a serious crush on the lead singer, whose name I can't even come up with right now. I suppose I could go look it up and add to the 7 windows I have open on my laptop and the 2 that I have open on my iPad, but why get that technical? I mean, I had a SERIOUS crush. I was convinced that I was going to cross paths with that lead singer at some point in the future, and in spite of the lyrics in one of their songs that said, "I've never been romantic...and sometimes I don't care..." I just knew I could be the one to turn him around and MAKE him romantic. That's assuming he even wrote the stupid lyrics, and I have no knowledge of that whatsoever. My dream of running into him and turning him into a hopeless romantic and sweeping me off my feet (if he didn't peg me as a stalker first, that is) completely ignored the fact that I never saw the Little River Band in concert and only had two or three of their albums.

I didn't say it was a RATIONAL blog post.

I was reminded of my love for LRB (see, if I refer to them by their initials, don't they HAVE to love me back?) this afternoon on my bicycle when my iPhone shuffled through one of their songs. My absolute two favorites are "Cool Change" (the source of the lyrics referenced above) and "Reminiscing," my all-time favorite.

A real blogger would find some clips of the songs, perhaps a picture of the band. At least an album cover.

Aren't you glad you stopped by for THIS?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Thursday That is Almost a Friday......

We have two four-day weeks back-to-back....whoo hoo! Our school board, in its infinite wisdom (really, this time...well maybe not INFINITE), scheduled some weather make-up days into our school calendar this year. After the debacle caused last year when we were iced in for a gazillion days in a row and had to scramble to figure out how to make them up, they thought it wiser to plan ahead. What an idea!

And even more surprisingly, they attached at least one of the weather make-up days (tomorrow) to a Monday that was already going to be a holiday (Presidents' Day). Therefore, while today is Thursday on the calendar, it felt like a Friday. And just like most Fridays, large numbers of our students took an extra day to make it an even LONGER weekend. We took the Friday feeling so far as to wear jeans to school today. Hubby wanted to take this long weekend to make a trip to the casino in Mississippi, but there is a home gymnastics meet on Saturday, so I nixed that idea.

The bummer is that Hubby has continued his part-time work (for almost no pay) through a temp agency, and tomorrow is one of the days he has to work. What time does he want to get up? 5:00 AM, of course. On MY day off. That's so he can get his work done and still get to the golf course for his regular Friday game. Butthead.

Unlike many long weekends, I haven't planned every spare moment of this one. Tomorrow it's supposed to be near 65 degrees here (man, that was a short winter ... DAMN, I've probably jinxed it now), so I fully intend to ride my bike. And other than the gymnastics meet on Saturday, I don't have any other plans. My plan is simply to enjoy the free time away from the students and have some "me" time.

And maybe do some housework.

Or not.

Happy (Early) Weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I've stated on this blog many, many times how much I hate housework.

And yet, that's not the truth.

I don't really hate housework. If it would just STAY worked.

I guess what I hate is the unending cycle of housework. It seems you no sooner have the house clean than it's time to turn around and start all over again.

We have wonderful smooth tile floors in the kitchen and dining room. Tile that I just HAD TO HAVE and PICKED OUT PERSONALLY. They're white. Duh. They are also dirt magnets. I can sweep, sweep again, vacuum for good measure, and then mop them, and within 15 minutes the first visible specks appear. And I promise we're not dirty people. We just tend to go outside sometimes.

I do like the feeling of satisfaction I get from cleaning house. After it's clean, I mean. I don't get no satisfaction at all WHILE I'm cleaning. And I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems like every single thing I do when cleaning house leads to ... another thing to clean. It's unending, I tell you. 

There are some chores that I have resigned myself to doing regularly. One is laundry. I pick a couple of nights a week and do usually a single load of laundry (mixing colored clothes and whites ... shhh, please don't tell my mother). I used to have a bad habit of leaving the last load of laundry in the dryer, particularly since the washer and dryer are in the basement and it was easy to ignore. I seem to have outgrown that, however, and now I'm pretty good about making sure even the last load gets folded and put away before I go to bed.

I'm also fairly loyal about washing dishes, even if I don't use the dishwasher. In a previous wifetime, when my ex and I first married, Sweet Girl and I lived with his father in an old farmhouse. (He said it was because his mother had recently died and he didn't want to leave his father all alone. I should have realized it was really because it meant he didn't have to be a grown-up and GET A JOB any time soon.) I cooked almost every night, and we didn't HAVE a dishwasher. Sometimes it was late, and I would leave the dishes stacked in the sink. I guess I thought I would wash them the NEXT night when I didn't have any more time than I did that night? Who knows...I was an idiot. See references to ex for confirmation.

I was always the first one to get up in the mornings, and I realized after leaving the dishes a couple of times that my elderly father-in-law had gotten up in the middle of the night and washed the dishes. I didn't leave them anymore after that. My ex thought it was a great arrangement, having someone else wash the dishes. But I was mortified.

Another thing that contributes to my less-than-stellar housekeeping is the fact that I don't like just doing part of it. I can't just sweep the living room. I have to then sweep the kitchen, mop the kitchen, mop the hardwood floors in the living room (a vast room, since Hubby removed the wall that divided it into TWO rooms years ago), vacuum the rug, vacuum the upstairs, dust the furniture, clean the ceiling fans, blah blah blah blah. Who has time to do all those things EVERY SINGLE TIME? And still find time to crochet, read books (I'm engrossed in an excellent 852-page one right now), and ride bicycles?

I realize it's illogical to say if I don't have time to do it all, I just won't do any of it. But that's my story.

And I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day.....

Is it just me, or was there less of a Valentine's Day craze this year? I saw a few commercials and some sales papers, but the hype didn't seem as "out there."

One of the teachers in the other program in our building questioned whether or not we had policies in place for students receiving flowers, balloons, etc. at school. I don't think it was an issue at all, because I'm not sure any students GOT them. One of our students gave one of our girls a box of candy and a stuffed animal of some kind, but that was about all the gift exchanging I saw. No one brought cards, and none of the ingrates asked why the teachers didn't give them cookies or cupcakes or something. (I had thought about making some more cake pops, but I banished the thought as soon as I had it.)

I wrote a couple of years ago about the fact that Hubby and I don't feel it's necessary to celebrate Valentine's Day, and I don't even miss it. It seems a waste of a lot of money and often a lot of disappointment. One of my students told me yesterday that her parents had already exchanged their Valentine's Day gifts, and neither of them liked what the other one gave, so they were quarreling. See what I mean? Just a busted holiday altogether.

On the other hand, it's almost time for MLB pitchers and catchers to report for spring training.

Now THAT'S something to celebrate.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Conversation with Myself....

Sometimes I have conversations with myself. Sometimes I even have arguments with myself, and sometimes I lose. Sometimes it's just one long running dialogue, and I get tired of hearing myself.

This morning I had the following conversation:

Me: It's 20-something degrees outside. I think I'll wear my blue turtleneck and warm, warm, warm navy blue sweater. But what shoes?

Self: You could wear those ugly brown ones that look like someone's father's work shoes if he worked in a factory and was required to wear ugly shoes.

Me: Yeah, but they're BROWN. I just don't think brown goes with navy and khaki.

Self: What about your new black boots?

Me: I might wear those later in the week with my red sweater dress (only dress?) and tights. If I go buy some tights, that is. And you know my shoe rule.

Self: What about your motorcycle boots?

Me: They're not real motorcycle boots. They have a RUFFLE on them, for Pete's sake. And they're not very warm.

Self (with a deep sigh): No, I mean your REAL motorcycle boots. The ones you bought for ... riding your motorcycle. The ones that are waterproof and skidproof and all those other proofs?

Me: Excellent idea! Now...what socks? You know I like for my socks to match what I'm wearing.

Self: You have navy blue socks.

Me: But they're not very warm.

Self: What about those snow-skiing socks that I don't know why you bought because you've never been snow skiing in your entire life?

Me: But they're black. Sort of.

Self: Your BOOTS are black. And besides, you'll have on long pants AND motorcycle boots. What are the chances anyone will see your damn socks?

Me: Good point. Should I take my jacket? You know I hate heavy coats.

Self: Duh. It's 20-something degrees outside. Take the jacket.

Me: But I really only need it for getting from the car to the building. It's not that far a walk. I'll just leave it here.

Self: Take. The. Damn. Jacket.

Me: ALL!!!! RIGHT!!!! Sheesh, you don't have to curse.

Since that unfortunate little exchange, I haven't spoken to myself all afternoon. Which is just as well, since I don't want to have to admit to myself that we only had spotty electricity all over the building this morning when I got to school, and we had ZERO heat. Even the little heater under my desk wouldn't work, because most of the electrical outlets didn't work. That jacket (and the gloves that live in the pockets) came in handy. But please don't tell myself. She can be a real beeyotch when she's right.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sweet Thoughts for Sweet Girl.....

If you can spare some time to send some positive vibes in the direction of Florida in the next few days, I'd be mighty appreciative.

Sweet Girl has a lead on a job that's actually A) in the field she trained in with the Navy; and B) related to the degree she's working toward.

I haven't talked a lot about it because it's too painful (and I didn't want to embarrass her), but Sweet Girl is out of the Navy. Not by her own choice either. She missed the cut-off score on her promotion exam by half a point. Half. A. Point. So the Navy said (politely, I'm sure) they didn't need her services anymore, and they turned her loose.

We could talk all day about the fact that Sweet Girl bears some of the responsibility herself that she's no longer in the Navy, but the bottom line is that she spent eight years in service, did two tours in the Persian Gulf aboard an aircraft carrier, volunteered to help in rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which meant she worked some 18-hour days, and now she can't even get them to finish her evaluation (started last April) so she can find out if she's eligible for the Reserves.


She's sort of stuck. Not even "sort of." She's just stuck. On the good side, she's going to school on the G.I. Bill, and the V.A. is still giving her a housing allowance. As long as she remains a FULL TIME STUDENT. You know how hard it is to get a full-time job if you're a full-time student? (You know how hard it is to get a full-time job PERIOD?) I guess she could take a job in fast food or something like that, but she would have to give up her full-time student status to accommodate a working schedule, and ... I'm just guessing here ... I doubt the fast food industry would pay her enough to make up for the housing allowance she would lose.

Add to that the fact that Sweet Girl bought her condo just BEFORE the housing market (and the rest of the economy) went bust. She bought the condo in September of 2007 and left on a not-pleasure cruise to the Persian Gulf two months later. By the time her ship got TO the Persian Gulf, her condo wasn't even worth what she had paid for it. Even if she DID want to swallow her pride and come home (she doesn't), she is stuck with this condo that she can (almost) pay for but can't sell. Meanwhile the units all around her are being sold or abandoned, so I'm guessing the value of her condo is going to continue to drop.

So she's searching for jobs, taking more courses than she has to, reluctantly drawing unemployment, pinching pennies, and holding her breath every day. What she's NOT doing is sitting in a park somewhere protesting.

Her job options are somewhat limited in that she can't relocate, going back to the whole condo situation. I think she's burned out on the whole home ownership concept, and I don't blame her. She kicks herself for having bought the condo, but her only fault in that is not having been able to see into the future. She isn't one of those who bought far beyond her means or bought a handful of houses just because she could. She thought she was going to have a career in the Navy, and she had every right to believe her condo would be nearly paid for by the time she left.


So I'm keeping my fingers crossed. She had a telephone interview on Friday with a man from an aviation company close to her, and he said he "might" call her back tomorrow for an in-person interview.

I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope  I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope.

If you could send her some good thoughts, she (and I) would appreciate it. We will even consider incantations and voodoo. We're desperate here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Some Things Shouldn't Be Told......

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about my first apartment. I loved that little apartment so much.

At dinner tonight, somehow Hubby and I got on the subject of French fries. It reminded me of a particularly bad habit I had when I was in college and lived in that little apartment. I should have been too ashamed to tell Hubby, much less put it out there for the whole world to read on my blog.

Oh, I temporarily forgot. The whole world doesn't read my blog. Carry on.

I loved that my apartment was on the city bus line, and it was on the very edge of campus. I also loved that it was near a lot of restaurants. Not that I could afford to eat at many of them, you understand.

There was one "restaurant" that I frequented pretty ... frequently. Particularly the morning after a night out, which only happened ... once or twice a weekend. Maybe more at the end of the semester.

My favorite fast food place was Burger King. I often went through their drive-through (those were still relatively novel things), because it meant I didn't have to put on a bra. Or shoes. I would order one of the combo meals with a big old cheeseburger, a large order of French fries, and a soft drink. Not the diet kind either.

Because I knew I would start eating the fries out of the bag on my way home, I would also buy an extra order of French fries. Nothing worse than getting home with the cheeseburger and drink and finding all the fries gone. Buying an extra order fixed that problem. I then had one order of fries to eat on the way home and another to eat with my meal when I reached my apartment.

The picture below should give you a good idea of just how sad that story is. And why it would be so much better if I didn't tell everything that comes into my brain.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Water Mug.....

Further proof that my imagination far exceeds my actual capability. I had envisioned taking different shots of this mug, different depths of whatever-you-call-it, different angles, blah blah blah. This is what I actually wound up with, and I'm not pleased with it.

I've had this water mug for at LEAST 16 years, because that's how long it has been since I have lived with my ex. I remember when I bought this insulated water mug from the grocery store (it was the first "real" grocery store in our town, and I was excited not to have to drive 20 miles anymore). The ex made some sarcastic, snide comment about me getting the mug as a gift for being a "frequent shopper." He was not-so-subtly making a comment about my weight, oblivious of the fact that he was pretty steadily eating those groceries TOO. Reason #3311837475 why he's an ex.

Anyway, back to the real subject.

I've had other water mugs, cups, and bottles through the years, but this one is the one I return to again and again. It has a lid and a place for a straw (which I insist upon having), and as you can see from the absence of part of the logo, it has been well used.

I even have a UGA mug that Katydid bought for me at a gymnastics meet that has FLASHING LIGHTS on it, but this is the one I use on a regular basis. It stays at home, either in the kitchen or beside my recliner, usually wherever I was last sitting. It holds about 32 ounces of water (the only thing I ever drink out of it), and while I try to drink it all between dinner and bedtime every night, I'm not always successful.

I don't know WHY this mug is my favorite. It's not particularly attractive, and it wasn't even when it was new. Those colors aren't my favorites, and I don't feel obligated to advertise for this grocery store chain. They get enough of my money every week to stay in business anyway.

I guess it's a habit thing.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares......

Sisterhood Everlasting is the continuation of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares (whose name I seem to want to type as "Anna" and keep having to go back and correct it). The series follows the lives of four girls who were thrown into friendship by their mothers even before birth. We witness firsthand the angst of high school, the terrors of college, the perils of relationships beyond the shared ones among Lena, Bridget (Bee), Carmen, and Tibby.

Whenever I start a series of books, I feel compelled to continue reading them, as if my life will somehow be incomplete. Or it's as if the characters (or the author) will know that I didn't read EVERYTHING I was supposed to.

That has to be the only explanation of why I read all four of the Twilight books, because I was pretty much over the vampires by the middle of the second book. But I soldiered bravely on, and those are lost hours of my life that I can never get back. Jacob or Edward? Really? Can't I have another choice? I realize some of you are devoted fans of Twilight (and perhaps vampires in general), but I'm sorry. They just didn't do it for me.

One series I did give up on, however, was the whole Left Behind series. I got to about the sixth book and got pretty tired of the repetition (I mean, really? Six books? I think there were more, but I quit on them.) Besides, I became more and more convinced that I would be on of the ones left behind, and it just sounded like SO. MUCH. WORK. 

Anyway, I read the first Sisterhood book and thought the author did a pretty good job of nailing teenage girl friendships, without all the bitchiness. (Which is to say it wasn't a very realistic depiction at all, was it?) I think the books were intended for a much younger audience, but I found them enjoyable even in my ... ahem ... maturity. [Insert sarcastic comment here]

I read the other three books out of a sense of duty, and I don't mean that to sound like I didn't enjoy them. I liked them MUCH better than the vampire books, and obviously better than the doomsday-apocalypse-you're-a-failure books.

Sisterhood Everlasting picks up with the four friends at the age of 29 (I'm sure she couldn't bring herself to let the girls turn 30). Some of the angst is still there, but the themes are more adult (thank all that is holy for THAT). And every now and then an adult word is thrown in just to make sure you realize you're reading an ADULT novel. Wait...that didn't come out right.

I don't mean to sound so snarky either. I really did enjoy this book. It made me cry ... repeatedly ... and I could not put it down. I finished it at school today (shhhh.....), and I was afraid one of my students was going to see me with tears in my eyes and ask why I was crying.

It's possible to enjoy this book even if you haven't read the earlier ones, but read them first if you have time. You will more easily understand some of the characters' relationships and personalities if you get to meet them in their teenage years.

This one was NOT free on my Kindle, if that tells you anything.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why I Love this Gymnast.....

There are actually several reasons I love this particular gymnast.

She has a grace and elegance (duh....she's a college gymnast, for crying out loud), but she also has incredible poise for a freshman.

Every year at the Meet the Team dinner, each table has a gymnast or a coach who sits with the common folks. This year Hubby and I chose the table where this young lady's name was on the placard. I was afraid the freshmen might not be the ones most people flocked to. Besides, it was at the back of the room, so we didn't have to walk far.

She told us at dinner that she has two brothers and five step-brothers. Lord help her. I noticed she wasn't eating her dessert, and I thought to myself, "These poor girls...they don't even get to eat cake because they have to maintain their weight and their body lines." Then I saw her murmur something to a waiter, he came back and murmured something back to her, and she dug into that cake like I would dive into a pool of chocolate. Turns out she has nut allergies, and she was (quietly) making sure the cake didn't have nuts in it. I was impressed with how elegantly she handled the situation without bringing attention to herself.

In the picture above, she is at the tail end of her signature move on beam, a front aerial that she takes directly into that (arabesque?)  pose without putting her foot down on the beam. It's a tremendously difficult skill, and she does it beautifully. The past two meets I think it's gotten into her head, and she hasn't continued the move to finish with the leg back and up. She doesn't get penalized for it; she just doesn't get the bonus points for connecting two moves. I'm confident she'll get it back. I saw that move on video before I ever met her in person, and I was enthralled. If I could find a clip of it that wouldn't force you to sit through an entire series of beam routines, I would share it.

After the SEC Gymnastics Championships were televised, I wrote a smirky, snarky, snorty little post about an Alabama gymnast who forgot her floor routine. (It was okay to make fun of her, since her team wound up winning not only the SEC Championship but the NCAA Championship as well.)  As it turns out, forgetting one's routine isn't as uncommon as you might think.

In our coach's weekly online chat session on Monday night (not that I set a phone alarm to remind me to attend THAT, you understand), someone asked him why Sarah's floor routine was different from the LSU meet to the Utah meet last weekend. (Apparently this person pays a lot more attention to things than I do, because I would never have noticed.) The person said her routine against LSU was much prettier than the one against Utah and wondered why the change.

The coach replied that against LSU (the PRETTIER routine), Sarah forgot her routine and made up the choreography on the fly. In the meet against Utah, she performed routine as it was originally choreographed.

Her score against LSU? The made up routine? 9.875.

Her score against Utah? 9.825.

And if that isn't reason enough to love this girl, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Sympathy Tank is Running Low....

Part 1

We have a student at our school who shows up rather infrequently. She lives with a boyfriend and has no other family here, having followed said boyfriend from some distant state. When she does show up, she chooses a corner computer and puts her head down immediately, often sleeping through two or three class changes. Sometimes when she returns from an absence of several days, she wants to "talk to someone about my absences." The only talk I'm really interested in is seeing her make some progress on her courses. Oh yeah, that.

She showed up this morning and appeared to be ticked off that our math teacher wasn't there. (I'm sorry, Little Miss Sunshine, that she has breast cancer and has thereby inconvenienced you.) She said, "Well what do I do if I need to talk to a counselor?"

I had several responses for that, but I bit most of them back. We DO have a part-time counselor, and it just so happened today was one of the days she was there. So I directed Little Miss Sunshine to her office. By this time we are too far apart for normal conversation, so she shouts down the hall, "I've been getting clean! And I have an IEP that says I can leave the classroom anytime I want."

First of all, LMS, you do NOT have an IEP, because those are reserved for students being served by special education. You MAY (but probably don't) have a 504 Plan, a document that allows schools to make accommodations based upon medical conditions. I'm pretty sure drug addiction isn't one of those conditions, but that's not my area of expertise.

Second of all, why make this kind of announcement down the hallway of a high school? There weren't THAT many students present yet, but still. It's like she wanted me to pat her on the head, congratulate her, tell her I'm proud of her.

And I'm not.

I mean, it's all well and good if she is truly turning herself around, but she's the one who put herself in that position in the first place. But I didn't get the sense it was even genuine. It sounded more like the latest in a long string of excuses for why she hasn't been at school. And I can't speak for everyone else, but I've stopped caring.

I don't mean I've stopped caring about ANY of them. I am there to help, support, teach, counsel, scold, advise, and love all the ones who are there to learn and succeed. I'm not going to spend my waning energies on the ones who have a sense of entitlement and don't want to work for anything. Ours is a self-paced, computer-based learning environment. If you want to put your head down and go to sleep, you can't make progress. You don't make progress, you can't graduate. You don't graduate, I'm not going to feel sorry for you. It isn't like you didn't have opportunities.

Part 2 (I know you were hoping I was only kidding about there being more than one part to this rant.)

A young lady came to me today to ask about senior dues and the deadline and all sorts of other information that I painstakingly typed up and posted on the school website so they could ACCESS IT EASILY. She said she couldn't possibly pay all that money by the end of February. I know where this is coming from, too. The teacher at her home high school who is in charge of graduation came to our school last week, and she told them if there were hardship cases, they should talk to Dr. Bragger and she would relay the information. And I truly believe there are some situations that are actual hardships, and I would willingly buy some of them caps and gowns myself in those cases. This girl, though, stood at my desk with that look of entitlement written all over her face, and her body language clearly said she was waiting for me to jump up and do something to fix her problem. Then she justified herself by saying, "I can't afford that. I have a car payment. And a cell phone bill."

Excuse me? You have a cell phone, but paying for your own cap and gown for your high school graduation is a HARDSHIP?

Correction: My sympathy tank is running on fumes.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Feminism.....or Nit Pickism.....

I've never considered myself much of a feminist, but going back to graduate school in Adult Education opened my eyes to a lot of imbalance in the professional, educational, and social worlds. Perhaps going back to graduate school in ANY field would have served the same purpose, but I'm not going to pursue another degree just to find out.

Some things still manage to raise my hackles, though, and when I find myself hackle-raised I have to wonder, "Is this really a cause? Or am I just finding something about which to nitpick?" It's possible that I go around just looking for things with which I can disagree just so I'll have blog fodder. Not likely, but possible.

The publication associated with a cycling organization of which I am a member had an article in its January issue that was devoted solely to women in cycling. Good for them. While the numbers are becoming more and more equal, cycling (and many outdoor activities, I assume) is still a male-dominated sport. The cover of the publication featured a group shot of all the women included in the issue, and each one had space for her own individual story. They range widely in age and professions, and I think the editor did a good job of including women from a broad swath of society.

The stories didn't bother me. (Except for the fact that I wasn't asked to contribute mine, and I am a semi-regular contributor of articles for this publication. What's up with THAT?)

The pictures DID bother me.

This is the one from the cover. Can anyone figure out what bothers me about this picture? (Think: feminism)

How about some of the individual shots?

The one below bothered me in particular, because I know her. I don't know if it's the fact that I know her that bothers me most, or if it's the pose she's in. Or if it's the fact that she's wearing heels and standing on top of ... liquor kegs?

I don't think it's a coincidence that these women all showed up wearing high heels and cocktail dresses (except for one who wore a pantsuit). I can just imagine the way the call came from the editor:

"We want you to wear something sexy, and oh yeah, bring your bike, because we want to take a picture of you WITH your bike, wearing something sexy."

I should point out here that the editor of this publication is a woman. I think sometimes women commit the most egregious gaffes related to feminism, because sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking if it doesn't offend US personally, then it probably won't offend the REST of the women in the world. I think we forget to step back and see how any situation affects or represents women as a group.

I get what they were going after. I think. I assume they wanted to point out the contrast in our "feminist" side and our love for a physical, outdoor activity. "Look at us, we can look sexy but still kick your ass climbing a hill without standing up OR using the lowest gears."

I can't help wonder, though, what they might have asked the men to wear if they had decided to do an issue about men cyclists. "Wear your lumberjack clothes, because we want to point out the contrast between your manly side and the cyclist side of you that wears spandex." Or would they have asked them to wear suits and ties? Or tuxedos?


So tell me the truth. I can take it.

I think.

Am I allowing my inner feminist to show through?

Or am I just nitpicking, possibly expressing sour grapes because I wasn't included?

And perhaps most importantly:

If I HAD been included and the call had come asking me to wear my sexiest dress and high heels and bring my bike for the photo shoot...

...what would my answer have been?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Not Feeling So Super Bowl....

I have been a football fan as long as I can remember. No, really. I have written before about the fact that one of my earliest memories is of me sitting in front of a (black and white) television, watching a football game in our single-wide trailer in the trailer park, with the encyclopedia open to the "football" entry because I wanted to understand the signals the referee was giving. This was clearly in the days before the referee wore a microphone, we didn't have a color television, and I'm pretty sure instant replay was either not invented yet or was used only sparingly. (In this digital age, that information is only a click away, but I'm not interested enough to go look it up. Besides, the Super Bowl just kicked off, and that statement is going to negate the title and most of the rest of this post.)

There were many years in which I saved one of my personal days just so I could take the Monday off after the Super Bowl. Admittedly, some years I was afraid I would be feeling ... under the weather, as it were ... the day after the Big Game. Other years I just wanted to stay up and watch the whole thing without having to worry about how being up past my bedtime would make me feel the next morning. With or without the assistance of adult beverages.

In a previous wifetime I actually threw a Super Bowl party, making a desperate attempt to prove my worthiness (to someone who turned out to be wholly unworthy) by inviting my ex's buddies over to watch the game. I cleaned, I prepared, I hostessed.

After Hubby and I married, we attended a few Super Bowl parties, usually at the club where we used to go to Happy Hour on Friday afternoons. (Remind me sometime to tell you what my yearbook staff thought I was referring to when I mentioned Happy Hour.) We rarely stayed for the whole game, of course, because Hubby has always gone to bed early, and we both had to get up early on Monday to go to work. (I think I was supposed to live on the West Coast, where the Super Bowl and most other football games come on at a decent hour.)

This year I'm not really into the Super Bowl. I have several NFL teams I enjoy watching and pulling for. I like the Bears, the Broncos, the Lions, the hometown Falcons of course, the Steelers, the Dolphins (I've pulled them since way before their perfect 17-0 season in 1972), the Bengals, the Cowboys (based upon the fact that I lived just outside Dallas with Frogger Blogger for a grand total of 5 months when I was in college), the Vikings. There are others I find tolerable as well. You will notice that none of the teams of which I consider myself a fan are either of the two teams appearing in this year's Super Bowl. (Admittedly, I'm more likely to consider myself a "fan" of a team if one of its major players played his college ball at UGA. Full disclosure.)

Like a majority of Americans, however, I will watch (at least until halftime) just for the commercials. We've already seen a couple that got a chuckle out of Hubby, although he wasn't impressed with the Pepsi commercial with Elton John that has already aired in the first quarter. His comment: "They paid 7 million dollars for THAT? And they can only pay me $11.00 an hour?"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Weekend Gymnastics Report.....

I've mentioned before that college gymnastics has some strange characteristics. Wins and losses don't really matter, you can win and go down in the rankings or lose and move up, and a gymnast who is #1 in the nation on an event can drop to #66 with one bad routine this early in the season.

A couple of weeks ago the UGA Gym Dogs had a win that felt like a loss. We defeated a team by a pretty good margin (.375) who has only beaten us twice in the modern era (but that team is also on the way up under a dynamic new coach), but we only had one score of 9.9 all night long. Our reigning national champ on bars had what was for her a disastrous routine, and one sophomore who had fallen in an earlier floor routine and said that WOULD NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.... fell again on the very same element. So while we walked out with a win, the score was nothing to write home about, and we actually dropped in the rankings, while the team we beat moved UP. Weird.

This weekend the Gym Dogs suffered a loss to the #1 team in the country, but it felt like a win. We had five scores of 9.9 or higher (including a 9.925 on bars that probably should have been a 10, not that I'm biased or anything, and a 9.95 on floor that should have been ... something less), and we posted a HUGE road score of 196.95. Scores posted away from the home arena become important in three weeks, when the national rankings go to a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) instead of a pure average of all scores earned.

If you don't care how an RQS is determined, you can skip this paragraph. They take a team's top six total team scores, three of which must have been scored away from home, drop the lowest one, and average the remaining five. That's why strong away scores become important. By the time RQS starts, we will have just barely had four away meets, and we already have one score we would like to drop. That's why posting a big score last night was a big step in remaining in the top 10 nationally.

In addition, my FANTASY gymnastics team finally managed to break the 197 mark. I am participating in a game called SimGym with several other women all over the country. We had a "draft" back in December, in which we went through 16 rounds, drafting actual NCAA gymnasts from teams all over the country to make up our fantasy teams. (It was tempting to choose only UGA gymnasts, since I'm most familiar with them, but other folks beat me to some of them.) If you would like to pause here and tell me "get a life," I don't blame you one bit.

I have 16 members of my fantasy team, and each week I have to decide which gymnasts I'm going to put in on each event, along with 3 alternates. Scores are taken from the actual scores those gymnasts receive, and scoring is done just as in actual meets, taking the top five scores from each event. It's frustrating because I don't have the luxury of knowing exactly who is actually going to compete in any given event in any given meet. It's almost a certainty that if I choose not to put a girl in on my beam line-up, for example, she will go 9.9 or higher, and I can't count her score because she wasn't in my line-up.

Yes, I realize my problems are great. For some of them I am considering professional help.

College gymnastics is just one more reason I'm thankful for the internet. Meets are almost NEVER televised live, but more and more schools are offering live video streaming of meets, and live scoring updates are available from every meet going on across the country at any given time.

That means one could have ten or twelve computer windows open, following four or five video streams and four or five more scoring streams.

Speaking in a purely theoretical manner, of course.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie.....

Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie is one of those books I may just have to start over and read again from the beginning. Set in the mountains of North Carolina, this books speaks to my Southern heritage. Told from the point of view of an almost-thirteen-year-old girl named Melissa, the book chronicles the adventures of "Lissa" and her friend "Sweetie" over the course of a summer.

Magendie uses language powerfully, and I wish I had taken the time to highlight some of the passages that spoke to me. (Just another reason to reread it.) Sometimes it wasn't the words themselves that spoke to me, it was the way they were arranged, coupled, married. I cried, I laughed, I held my breath while reading this novel. This was another free selection for my Kindle/iPad, and I think it is a jewel.

As I've gotten older, I have come to appreciate books that don't tie up all the endings in neat little packages. Just like in real life, this book in particular comes with its share of ambiguities. Friendships, family relationships, the life cycle are all expertly addressed both by the thirteen-year-old Lissa and the adult Melissa.

I think you would be doing yourself a favor to read this book. If you do, please let me know what you think about it. I plan to look for other books by this author.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Definitely Not Complaining.....

I'm not going to complain that it's February and it's supposed to be winter and today it was 70 degrees. Personally I would be happy if it were 70 degrees all year round. I can do without snow, pretty as it is, and I can definitely do without ice. If we never have another snow day I will be quite content, even if it IS a "free" day out of school.

There are a plethora of reasons I'm okay with it being 70 degrees in February:

  • We don't have to build a fire in the wood stove, so I don't have to content with ashes and bark all over the living room floor.
  • We don't have a fire, so I can't forget to put wood in the stove before I go to bed. (Why can I remember birthdays of guys I dated in high school but I can't remember something that is directly related to my personal comfort? Why?)
  • I have less laundry to do, since I don't have to dress in layers. And layers. And layers.
  • I don't mind taking Gus out and waiting for him to find just the right place to pee.
  • I don't have to wear a bulky coat. I just don't like coats.
  • I don't have to try to type with gloves on because my classroom is so cold. (It's still colder in my room than it is outside, though.)
  • Sunshine makes me happy.
  • I save gas because I don't have to let the car warm up for 15 minutes for a 5 minute drive to school.
The only thing I do hate about 70-degree weather in February is that it's just as likely to be 20 degrees within a seven-day period. I'm going to cross my fingers and hope the stupid groundhog was wrong.

Enjoying the warmth...


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I Really Am Doing Something About It.....

I have only a vague recollection of typing last night's blog post. I guess a triple dose of nighttime pain reliever and a double dose of moscato wine will do that. I do remember that I was in significant pain and I typed it on my iPad so I didn't have to sit up.

I realized this morning that I left the whole issue with my aching tooth quite up in the air. It sounded like I didn't call the dentist on Monday because I wanted to ride my bike (which was true), but I actually DID call the dentist before I went to ride. At first the girl said I could come in two weeks, but I said I didn't think I could go that long. Then after yesterday's ride, the pain was so unbearably excruciating (is that redundant?) that I was glad she had told me I could come tomorrow morning.

I thought Hubby would scoff at the suggestion that there is some connection between bike riding and the flare-ups of tooth pain, but he actually agreed that breathing in the cold air when I ride may be causing the pain. That in turn may be an indication that the new crown has a leak somewhere around it.

And I'm very, very sorry that I have now wasted three perfectly good blog posts on a damn toothache. I'd much rather write about the spring-like temperatures we are having here in Georgia, my niece's wonderful quote about my ex-husband, my sister-in-law having the gall to ask me to do her taxes and my resulting dilemma, Hubby's newest idea for a retirement job after the current retirement job runs out (since he just found out it's going to last longer than he originally thought), and the fact that I can't even count on my FANTASY gymnastics team and I suck as a coach when it comes to making decisions about whom to put in the line-up.

At least I've now outlined my blog topics for the next several days, so it shouldn't be a problem coming up with topics. Fingers crossed the dentist can fix my tooth tomorrow...