Monday, April 30, 2012

Conversations with Hubby....Live and Via Text....

It's been a while since I posted any semi-humorous conversations with Hubby. 

When we leave the casino in Mississippi, the first part of the drive is on very rural back roads. It's my favorite part of the trip. It's early enough in the morning that we don't get stuck behind logging trucks, and there are (usually) very few other cars on the road. The roads aren't as smooth as our roads in Georgia, but they are for the most part straight enough to see forever.

Hubby took the driver's seat when we left, but he only drove for about an hour when he wanted to switch places. He had stayed up until 3:00 AM playing craps, so naturally he was a little tired. I think he only drove in the first place because we were in his new car. (A testament to how badly he wanted to take his car in the first place: He allowed me to put a BIKE RACK on it.)

Right after I started driving, we came up behind a car that was going much slower than I wanted to. In other words, he was probably driving the speed limit. I thought Hubby was asleep, until I heard him say, "Get him."

"But it's a double yellow line," I said.

"That just means be careful," Hubby replied. "Besides, there ain't a whole lot of difference between passing on a double yellow line and driving 85 mph."

"Good point."

The other conversation happened this morning. I realized on the way to school that I had left my lunch in the refrigerator. Because we (allegedly) had a parent conference with one of my advisees first thing this morning, I didn't want to go back and get it. So I texted Hubby with a request for something on his daily trip to Wally World, and I added, "Could you bring my lunch? You can drop it off in office."

Hubby's reply: "Knew u lost money didn't know bout u mind :-)"

How cute. He's even using emoticons now.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gone the Way of the Buffalo....

This post isn't about buffalo at all, so I hope you aren't disappointed. That's one of Hubby's (many) expressions (and one of the few clean ones I can include on a family-oriented blog), one that refers to things out-dated or no longer in use.

It occurred to me this weekend that hotel telephones fall into that category.

We had a wonderful suite at the casino this weekend (that should have been my first clue they were going to take every cent I had to my name), and it had three telephones in it. One in the living room, one beside the bed, and one in the toilet. I don't mean IN the toilet, but in that separate little room apart from the bathroom where the actual toilet is located. I guess that one is for very serious business people who don't like to waste a single minute of their day and could conceivably conduct "business" (other than the obvious "business") on the toilet.

As I mentioned to Hubby when we were in the Jacuzzi, THAT might be a better place for an extra telephone than in the toilet. We don't need help getting up from the toilet (at least not yet), but getting both of us out of the Jacuzzi was an adventure. (Sorry if that's T.M.I.)

I wonder how many of those hotel phones get used anymore? I realize you might need one to order from room service (internet, anyone?) or to call the front desk for assistance (yes, I would LOVE to have used our in-room safe, but the last guest considerately left it LOCKED and did NOT provide his or her passcode). I would venture to guess that not many people even use the hotel phone for a wake-up call anymore, since most (all?) cell phones have an alarm feature on them.

I could also lump pay phones into this category. I see more and more empty "booths" where pay phones used to be, and I realize it's been a long, long time since I needed a pay phone. Back when we first started riding in BRAG, one part of our daily routine was standing in line, usually after our showers (where we also stood in line) and dinner (ditto), to call home and report the events of the day. Man, that pay phone line was LONG. I remember being in line to use the pay phone the year Hubby and I got married. Katydid was chatting with a man we met on our very first BRAG, and she filled him in on our major events since the year before.

Jim announced to everyone standing in line, and anyone else in hearing distance (and with his voice, that was a large part of North Georgia), gesturing at me, "Y'all! This girl got married TWO WEEKS AGO, and she's on BRAG!" Apparently he found it more shocking than Hubby did.

When cell phones first burst onto the scene, Katydid and I were at a rest stop on some bike ride, and she was talking to someone on her phone. Two people standing nearby, having no idea we were sisters, said in a voice dripping with contempt, "She's over there talking on a PHONE!" I didn't have any battery acid handy with which to respond to her, so I let it slide. Nowadays it's unusual at a rest stop if you DON'T see at least a fourth of the people talking or texting on a cell phone at some point. (Except in those rural areas where we don't have service, then you see people walking around in circles holding their phones up to the cell tower gods and groaning in frustration.)

I'm not sure where I was going with this, or why it's important. It occurred to me that some hotels may be able to save a lot of money by doing away with the phones. Have an in-house phone for room service and front desk requests, and just assume most guests in the 21st century will have cell phones.

If the casino could save a little bit of money, perhaps then they could let me win just one hand of three-card poker. Just one. Maybe.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wonkiness on the iPad......

I composed last night's blog post (and this one) on my iPad. I decided since I was bringing the bike (and it has to be brought up to the room) and a bag for my bike stuff in addition to the gazillion bags we typically have, we didn't need the extra aggravation of the laptop.

I didn't know, though, that the Blogger editor on the iPad won't let me separate paragraphs. I promise I put blank lines between paragraphs in yesterday's post, but they don't show up. [Well, they do NOW, since I'm home and edited the post.] When I go back and try to edit, nothing shows up in the typing pane. Talk about a pain. I personally hate reading posts that are all one paragraph (unless they're really short), so I'm not going to put you through that.

Besides, nothing really new to report (unless I tell about Hubby bringing me a Danish that he picked up off someone's discarded room service tray in the hall, but I refuse to do that). More cycling (only 33 miles today), still haven't won anything. Grrrrrrr.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Must Be a Slow Learner.....

If you follow me on Facebook, you will already have seen the gist of this blog post. Full disclosure here. And perhaps a tad of mental laziness.

Hubby and I are in Mississippi, where he is playing in a golf tournament. I brought my bike (again), both to give me something to do while he golfs, and a way to get some miles in on the bike. I created a couple of routes on the computer, playing close attention to the roads' prominence on the mapping website. Because I've been tricked before and thought I was mapping REAL roads that turned out later to be dirt roads (and therefore impossible - nearly - for me to ride on with my skinny tires), I chose only roads that were BIG and FAT and BOLD on the map.

I chose the route for today and started following it, but realized immediately that I was following it BACKWARD. No biggie; the beauty of loop rides is that they always come back to the same place. I just had to be sure I watched the GPS carefully. Normally it "beeps" to indicate upcoming turns, but it isn't smart enough to know if you're following the route backward. It still shows a bright pink navigation path, but if you start looking around and get caught up in the scenery, chances are you might look down and say, "Oh crap! Where did my pink line go?"

That's not what happened today. I realized immediately that the pink line had turned right, and it would have been a simple matter of turning around to correct my error. Instead, I thought to myself, "I'll just go this way and see where I end up." Apparently where I ended up was on some sort of speedway. And the contestants were racing logging trucks. Getting off that *^%¥&$ road became paramount in importance. So I turned right on the next available road. Then I thought with one more right turn, I could head back to the original route. I knew the dangers. I told myself that in a worst-case scenario I could go back to the speedway.

"Pavement Ends" may be a cyclist's least favorite sign. And it may come as a complete shock to you, but I've been accused of being stubborn. I was going to tame that $&%^# dirt road if it killed me. Besides, I don't backtrack.

My bike still isn't speaking to me.

 It turned out a lot better than it had the potential to, and I (once again) lived to tell the adventure. A 62-mile ride didn't kill me, I didn't get accosted by any miscreants (Hubby's buddies cannot BELIEVE I don't ride with a pistol, and they're suspicious of my explanation that it would weigh too much), and I enjoyed some beautiful countryside. Besides, it was much cheaper than sitting in the casino all day. I mean, if last night is any indication.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Grown-Up Coffee........

I think I started drinking coffee in high school. I've never considered myself a "coffee addict," but I do enjoy that first cup or two in the morning. Then I'm done. I'm not one of those who drinks coffee all day long. And if I run out of time and don't have time for that second cup (which is actually a third and fourth cup, if you go by the size of the mug I use), it's not detrimental to my whole day.

When I was pregnant, I abstained from coffee and all other caffeinated drinks entirely. (I didn't stop to consider that gaining 43 pounds was ALSO detrimental to the baby, but whatever.) Sweet Girl was born at the end of June, and since I didn't want to start back drinking caffeine while I was nursing (and who wants a hot cup of coffee anyway when it's 104 degrees outside?), it was one of those first crisp, cool fall mornings when I went back to coffee. Man, I can still remember the aroma and that first sip of coffee after almost a year without it.

My tastes used to run to very weak coffee. I think I heard someone in my family say she liked to be able to read the newspaper through her coffee, and that was the way I liked it too. Plus I drink what I refer to as "children's coffee": lots of sweetener and creamer.

Here lately, though, I've begun to want my coffee stronger and stronger. What's up with THAT? What could make my preference for the way coffee tastes change at the age of 51? (Good heavens, is there no end to the things that are affected by hormones?) I used to make a pot of coffee with three level scoops of coffee. Then I started making them "rounded" scoops. Now they are HEAPING scoops. And I went to a different brand of coffee (we aren't brand loyal when it comes to coffee, because neither of us can tell the difference) with the words "bold" and "robust" on the label. In addition to the heaping scoops, I sometimes throw an additional tad in there too.

Hubby hasn't noticed the change, or at least he hasn't mentioned it to me. And I'm not sure I'm satisfied yet. Maybe it's like a drug addiction, and the more coffee I use, the more I crave.

I guess there are worse things I could be addicted to.

I guess there are worse things to which I could be addicted. Sorry for ending the previous sentence with a preposition.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Three Memorable Students....

I probably should have saved this post for "Flashback Friday," since it is about three memorable students from early in my teaching career. But the inspiration came to me TODAY, so I'm going to go ahead with it.


I had a student whom everyone called "Red."  I used to know his real name and at first insisted on calling him by that, but eventually even I gave up and called him Red. His hair wasn't red, so I don't know where the nickname originated. I learned it was better not to ask. Some nicknames I never stooped to, though. I got my class rosters one year and listed under the column "Goes by..." was the name "Cheesebox." No way in Hell I was going to call a young man Cheesebox when he had a perfectly acceptable given name.

Red was in one of my ... less capable ... classes. It was a small class, so I got to know the students fairly well. I was friendly to them without becoming their friends. That's a fine line, you can't teach it, and I have no idea how I developed the skill. But it was one thing I prided myself on throughout my career. I could be tough on kids when they needed it, but I could also relate to them on their level. I wasn't a pushover, though, and they knew it.

One day Red had a big old wad of money in his hand as we were leaving for lunch, and I admonished him.

"You shouldn't have that kind of money in this school," I said. "Especially not out in sight. Put that away!"

"I'm going to get some new shoes after school," Red explained.

The next day, sure enough, Red had some new hundred-dollar sneakers. And a fat wad of cash. I was truly astounded (and more than a little naive, I guess).

"I don't know how you're getting all that money," I said, "but I think I want to try it."

If he could have turned pale, Red would have. He looked horrified.

"No ma'am, Mrs. Bragger," he almost whispered, "I don't think you do." He looked genuinely horrified that I might try to follow his example.

I wonder what Red's doing now.

10-20 with the possibility of early release for good behavior, if I had to guess. But I can't help but remember Red fondly, because he was genuinely concerned for my welfare. More so than his own, I think.


Bill was a particular challenge. He was a constant behavior problem, and I think he got stuck in my class because I was a rookie. Unlike Red, Bill had no redeeming qualities. He would be perverse just for the sake of being perverse.

For example: Every year on the day of the prom, the school experienced "Senior Skip Day." I suppose it started with people checking out of school or skipping it entirely for the purpose of getting ready for prom. (It was suggested on a number of occasions that the prom be changed to Saturday night in an effort to nip Senior Skip Day in the bud, but the word "tradition" kept coming up and we gave up.) Senior Skip Day tended to trickle down even to the ninth graders, and we were doing well if we had a handful of students in the entire school that day.

Then it trickled down (up?) to the teachers, and we began to make plans for Senior Skip Day in the event we didn't have any students. (Please, it was a rough school, and we had so few outlets. That's my only [admittedly weak] defense.)

One year on Senior Skip Day some of my co-workers and I decided to go out for lunch. It was the one day out of the year when we had more than 20 minutes for lunch. I realize that no matter how I spin this, I will never justify our unprofessional behavior. Duly noted.

Just as I expected, no one showed up for my fourth period class. I waited a reasonable amount of time (at least 15 seconds), and then I gleefully started to lock my door and join my friends.

And here came Bill.

"Bill," I said, "wouldn't you like to have all four lunch periods today?"

"No," Bill replied. "It's hot out there."

I hesitated. But only briefly. The main thing that passed through my brain was how many times Bill had nearly brought me to tears in the classroom.

"Bill," I said, "I'm locking this door, and I'm going to lunch. Find somewhere to go."

And that's not even the worst thing I ever did or said involving Bill.

Once during some downtime in class, another student (Al) was drawing. He was very good, and I'd never seen his work before.

"Al, you draw very well. Maybe I should get you to design the shirts for our family reunion this year."

Billy just had to pipe up. "Is everybody in your family fat, Mrs. Bragger?"

The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. No thought involved. No filter. Nothing I could do.

"No, Bill," I said. "Is everybody in your family stupid?"

Not one of my prouder moments.

I saw Bill several years later, when I was no longer teaching there. We were in a gun shop.

Oh. My. Stars.


I can't ever think of Shawn without getting teary-eyed. I first taught him in the eighth grade, when I served a three-year sentence in a middle school before I was paroled. Shawn had the worst speech impediment I have ever seen, up to then or now. He would open his mouth and nothing would come out. His speech therapist said it was the worst SHE had ever seen. Shawn would approach my desk to ask for something (restroom pass, pencil, book), and I would wait patiently (but awkwardly) until he could channel the air he needed to get a word or two out.

When I moved to the high school, Shawn wound up in my class again. I like to think it had to make him feel more comfortable, at least in my class, to have someone familiar with him and his situation. He was probably smarter than the other kids in the class, but he had probably always been lumped in with the less capable ones. (He may have been in the same class with Red; I'm not sure.) I was never one of those teachers who called on students to read out loud if they didn't want to. Most of the time I chose to read TO them because it was less painful that way. I called on students to answer questions sometimes, but I tried my darnedest not to embarrass them or humiliate them. I never called on Shawn. I wasn't going to open him up to ridicule that way, although most of the kids in the class had probably been in school with him forever and knew about his impediment.

One day an administrator came in to observe/evaluate me during that class period. That didn't usually freak me out, because I ALWAYS (mostly) had a lesson plan and I followed it. Even when I flew by the seat of my pants, I could turn on a dog and pony show for observers, and I could make it fit whatever we were reading or studying. The day this administrator came in, we happened to be doing a grammar lesson.

Oh. Joy. Nothing a bunch of thugs like better than literature, unless it's grammar.

They were all great, though. They answered questions when I asked, they followed along, they didn't ask why I was being nicer to them than usual, and they behaved.

And then I looked at the row of desks on the left side of the room, the one next to the door. The student in the third desk had his hand raised to answer a question.

It was Shawn. And he managed to get the answer out. And it was correct.

To this day I don't know if Shawn thought I needed to be saved. Or if he just wanted to impress me.

But I can't tell that story to anyone without getting choked up.

I hope Shawn is doing well somewhere. He deserves it more than a lot of kids I can think of from that time period.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham....

Image taken from

I'm continuing my quest to read books that are considered classics, things I perhaps "should" have read (or was assigned to read and didn't) or books that I think some people might say, "You haven't read THAT?" 

This book wasn't even on my radar, but my blog friend DJan mentioned it in a post one day. She was rereading it at the time and remembered being profoundly affected by it the first time she read it. Because I A) tend to respect the opinions of people whom I respect; and B) love to have other people with whom to discuss works of literature, I decided to add this one to my iPad. Besides, it was free. (I think.)

Sometimes after I read a book, I go in search of reviews and criticism to see if I "got it," if what I think the book's message was agrees with some of the rest of the smart people in the world. I NEVER read book reviews BEFORE I've read something, and if I stumble across one accidentally, it annoys me to no end. At school today, I did a search for Of Human Bondage, and I got the yellow triangle of death that indicates I've attempted a search that is prohibited by our school district. Oh. I get it. In the "please allow an exception" box, I typed that I was researching it for possible classroom use (I didn't say whose classroom or at what point in the future, so it wasn't a COMPLETE lie), and I promised there was no actual bondage involved. I haven't heard back from them. They may be trying to figure out why someone so close to retirement is researching a book for classroom use. Whatever.

This book was published in 1915 and is set mostly in England. It follows the life of a young club-footed boy who is orphaned at a very early age and sent to live with an uncle and his wife. The uncle is a vicar (and I've never figured out what that means and am not interested enough to research it, at least not right now), and he and his wife are childless. 

I kept looking for the book's message, the thing it says about life for all of us, the lesson that can help all of us lead better lives. What I mostly got out of it was, "Life sucks and then you die." (But he didn't die in the book, so I haven't spoiled anything.) I don't mean that as a flippant way of saying the book was a disappointment. Rather, I thought it was a rather realistic view of the way some lives go. 

Philip Carey (the main character) struggles with his physical deformity, the lack of a loving family life, and uncertainty about what he wants to be. Every time he thinks he has figured it out, he changes courses completely, throwing us all off track and forcing us to mentally start over in our assessment of Philip. Each time I found myself thinking, "Well, this will be the time he gets it right." And most of the time I was wrong. Isn't that what life is all about, after all? We keep making mistakes, we change our minds, life throws us curve balls, and we adapt. 

Philip adapts better than I would have in similar circumstances, I'm sure. He lives in abject poverty for a time, and I found my own stomach growling in sympathy. He is drawn again and again to a woman who is so obviously wrong for him, and she proves it again and again, and I found myself wanting to scream at the book (iPad, sorry), "Walk away from her and don't look back!" But isn't that also representative of life? We stick with people who are bad for us much longer than those on the outside can understand. Even longer than WE can understand. (Reference: See husband #2.) And we can't make choices for other people or fix their problems, even if it means standing by and watching helplessly as they stumble and fall. 

Because this book was on my iPad, I wasn't aware it was 700 pages long. Even so, it wasn't a difficult read at all. The language was pretty simple, although I felt dense when I didn't immediately get some of the more obscure literary and artistic allusions. (Please, for all that is holy, please tell me they were obscure. Thank you.) I also had a little problem with the stretching of the limits of punctuation; how many semi-colons and colons can a single sentence contain? Is there a rule for that? Maybe things were different back at the turn of the other century. 

That was another thing about the book that I found refreshing: Because it was written in the early 1900's, things weren't nearly so explicit as they are these days. There was clearly some sex going on, but you really had to figure it out for yourself. I found myself wondering, "Are they saying what I think they're saying?" I'd better shut up now, before I convince you I really AM dense. 

I enjoyed Of Human Bondage, and not JUST because I could mentally check a classic off my list. I was fascinated by the process of training doctors in England in that time period. Somerset Maugham went through training to become a doctor himself, but he never practiced. In fact, I discovered in my limited "research" today that this book is considered highly autobiographical. 

I'm trying to intersperse these classics with more contemporary literature (at the risk of getting way smarter/cultured than I intended), but I'm finding it hard to do. I started another book right after this one, and already on page 3 the main character has told her ex-husband to go take care of their boys because she already wants to get her new boss naked, and she hasn't even started the job yet.



I may have to put that one away for a beach read. Or a last resort.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gee, I Don't Know Why It Bothered Me EITHER.....

I have no idea why some stories from the past spring into my mind. They aren't significant enough to warrant the brain space they're taking up. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a "delete" key for the hard drives that are our brains. Or better yet, a "defrag" command?

I also have no idea why I feel compelled to share such stories with you. I suppose it's an effort to ease my suffering by having you share the burden of carrying these tidbits of thought along with me.

Way back, a long time ago, when Sweet Girl was a teenager but not yet driving (that has nothing to do with this story), I came home to an empty house. I suppose Hubby was still at work, and Sweet Girl was probably at band practice. Hubby and I hadn't been married too long.

I went to the hall bathroom that Sweet Girl and I shared (that's the key to our happy marriage - we've never shared a bathroom), and in the trashcan I saw the wrapper and adhesive strip from a ... feminine product. It wasn't mine. It wasn't Sweet Girl's. It wasn't my mother-in-law's (not by about 30 years). It wasn't my step-daughter's. Her daughter wasn't old enough yet.

To say I was puzzled would be an understatement. Nothing was missing from the house, and there was nothing else to indicate anyone had been in our house. But clearly someone HAD. I just about lost my mind trying to figure out the mystery.

I wondered if Sweet Girl had left school without permission and come home to take care of a problem, but she said no. And because she had never lied to me before, I believed her.

I mentioned it to Hubby. His response, so typically male, was defensive. "If I was gonna have another woman in the house while you're gone, it wouldn't be one who needed THAT!" Kind of hard to argue with the logic, but still.

I assured him I wasn't accusing him, I was just baffled. He wasn't worried about it, since there was nothing else amiss, and I guess I eventually forgot about it too. I needed those bytes in my brain for useful things like what we were having for dinner and what lesson plan I was going to teach that week.

Weeks later ... perhaps even months later ... my mother mentioned VERY CASUALLY and almost in passing that she had gone to pick up my niece (Sweet Girl's age) somewhere, and she had a sudden female-type **situation**. She knew our house was never locked, so they came by here for my niece to take care of her **situation**. (That's what they call it in Jamaica, by the way. They don't have "problems," they have "situations." And you have to say it with a Jamaican accent.)

I was immensely relieved to have the mystery solved, but I was severely annoyed that Mom hadn't mentioned it before then. Perhaps it would have been decent to leave a note or something? When I tried to explain to Mom the degree of consternation it had caused the entire household, she was confused.

"I don't see why it was such a big deal," she said.

Wait. You lock your car doors IN MY DRIVEWAY, yet you don't think it's a big deal that someone has been in my house?


Sunday, April 22, 2012

NCAA Gymnastics Champion...X2.....

I couldn't be prouder of this girl.

Kat Ding at practice for NCAA Championships

Although her team didn't qualify for the Super Six and a shot at winning an eleventh national championship, she qualified for individual event finals on three events: vault, floor exercise, and bars. She was already the reigning national champion on bars, and we sort of EXPECTED her to repeat on that event. She told a television commentator (who used to be her scary coach) that she was competing today for her team.

And compete she did. Below is her national championship winning uneven bars routine. In individual event finals, there are six judges. The high and low scores are thrown out, and the remaining four are averaged. At the end of Kat's routine, four judges gave her a perfect 10 and two gave her 9.95's, for an overall score of 9.9875. That's the closest she has come her entire college career of a perfect score, but it was enough to win. She won last year with a score of 9.9125, so she was close to perfect this year.

What most of us did NOT expect was for her also to win the floor exercise championship. She only began competing in floor exercise the last half of her senior season, and the competition throughout the rest of the country is fierce. There are some incredibly talented gymnasts out there with amazing tumbling and gorgeous dance skills. The important thing is to put them all together on the same day, and that's what I think Kat did today. I've already seen some grumbling on some blogs about how she was overscored and shouldn't have been the winner, so-and-so's routine was so much better, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada. But I have watched this routine several times now, and I don't see where anyone would take deductions. I will admit, however, that I am incredibly biased. I'm also torn between which is my favorite tumbling pass, her first one or her third one. 

Oh, and...

...she also took third place on vault.

We're going to miss you next year, Kat.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Tune-Up Wrap-Up...

If this were a normal Spring Tune-Up weekend, I wouldn't be doing the wrap-up until tomorrow evening. But since I'm not going to ride tomorrow, yesterday and today are it. Aren't you glad?

First of all, though, one of my cycling goals for this year is to improve upon the mileage for each month compared to the same month last year. I'm all about visual representation, so here's a graphic to illustrate my success so far:

As you can see, I've managed to ride more miles in every month so far this year compared to last year. And I've still got 9 more days in April. I'm a little concerned already about June and the prospects of riding more than the almost-600 miles I did last June.

Spring Tune-Up Friday

This weekend's ride was located in one of the prettiest parts of our state. Lots of beautiful farmland, many horses, very scenic. The weather, however, didn't cooperate. It was misting Friday morning when we left, and it never warmed up sufficiently for me to take my jacket off. It wasn't miserably cold, and the sun eventually came out toward the end of the day, but it wasn't the picture-perfect spring weather we typically have for this ride.

We rode 61 miles on Friday. The highlight (?) of the day came after several of us stopped on the side of the road to see a cow that may or may not have either just given birth or been about to give birth. Witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the situation. There was a mama cow with some ... stuff ... hanging out of her nether regions, and she was licking a tiny calf that was very unsteady on its feet. Someone said that calf was tagged, though, and she was about to give birth. I didn't stay to watch, for one reason I thought she deserved some dignity, and for another I didn't see why she would be licking a young calf if she was about to give birth herself. Wouldn't she have her mind on other things? I was convinced the birth had already happened.

At the next rest stop, the conversation (argument?) continued. Someone asked if we had seen the birth, and we said we saw her licking the calf, but that was all. One of the eye witnesses said, "No, not that one. The one that came out of the BACK end!" Our resident cop/cyclist piped up and said, "I think they ALL come out the back. Just so you know." If I had been drinking at the time, I can't say for sure I wouldn't have had some fruit punch PowerAde coming out of my nostrils.

This same town has been the location for the Spring Tune-Up ride for several years now. This year, though, they changed up the routes just enough to make it fresh and new. We went to some of the same towns, but the routes we took to get there were different. And just as cycling-friendly.

Spring Tune-Up Saturday

I remember saying on this very blog that if my beloved Gym Dogs didn't make the Super Six this afternoon, I was going to ride the century ride, because I wouldn't have any time constraints. I didn't mean to lie, I promise. Rozmo wasn't interested in riding the century, and while I have ridden a century mostly by myself before, I wasn't crazy about doing it today. My legs weren't interested in riding 100 miles either. So Rozmo and I stayed together, and when we got back our mileage was 68 miles. We can't have THAT. So we went on down the road past the end of the route for a mile and turned around and came back, giving us a total of 70 miles.

We stopped for a few minutes at a lovely garden beside the road. Actually it was more like several gardens, and a work of art. There was an old shed-type structure, and several flower gardens and herb gardens. They were meticulously kept and while I'm not typically a garden-type person (I would really like to be, but I'm afraid that gene skipped me), I was intrigued with the cleverness and the beauty of these gardens. I forgot my camera today, but I took several pictures with my phone. I'll try to post those (and any pictures from Friday that turn out decently) when I'm not quite so fatigued.

It looks like we did the same ride both days, but you might notice we went south and east on Friday, and today we went north and west.

I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't looked at the maps side-by-side. I'm observant and cognizant of my surroundings that way.

Friday, April 20, 2012

End of the Season....Mostly....

After being so incredibly consistent all year long, my favorite gymnastics team sort of melted down tonight. Not in general, but on balance beam, and that was enough to knock them out of the competition. We had to finish in one of the top three spots to advance to the Super Six competition tomorrow night, and we finished fifth. Out of six teams. Ouch. Even one of the "thanks for coming" teams finished ahead of us.

We hadn't had to count a fall all year. Not once. Tonight we had three falls on beam, which meant we had to count two of them. You just can't compete with the best in the country if you do that. We came back and absolutely ROCKED on vault, putting up the highest score we've had all year. But it was too little too late, and we had to sit and watch in the last rotation. Well, some of them sat and watched. Katydid, Frogger Blogger, and I left when we knew our team couldn't advance. We couldn't stand the thought of watching that Gator chomp (just typing the words makes me slightly nauseated) in the Florida floor routines.

On a positive note, it looks like we'll have three girls competing for individual event titles on Sunday. One of them will compete in three different events: vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise.

I'm disappointed, and I'm trying not to be bitter about how the season ended. It's one thing to get beat by better teams (and that may have happened also, but we'll never know), but it's a different animal altogether when you beat yourselves.

But I'm also proud of the team and all they accomplished this year. No one gave them much of a chance to come as far as they did, but they quietly went about their business and flew mostly under the radar. I'll get over my hurt feelings and pull for them just as hard next year.

To end on another positive note, now I don't have to worry about dashing over to watch the finals after the bicycle ride. I can ride as far as I want to.

Or as far as it takes to take the sting out of tonight. I hope we have that many roads in Georgia.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Weekend and Week End.....

It's the weekend I've both been dreading and looking forward to all year long. It's time for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, which are being held about 20 minutes from where I live, and it's also the weekend of the Spring Tune-Up Ride, one of my favorite bicycling events in one of my favorite parts of the state.

I knew all along there would potentially be a conflict between the two events. If the Gym Dogs had not qualified for nationals (as in the horror we experienced two years ago), the conflict would have been easily resolved. But they did qualify, creating the next quandary, which semi-final session they would be in. If they were in the noon session on Friday, I wouldn't be able to ride, drive the hour from where the bike ride is taking place, and get to the semi-final session on time. As luck (?) would have it, however, they wound up in the 6:00 PM session tomorrow, which means I can get up at an insanely early hour for someone on Spring Break, drive about an hour to ride my bicycle 57 miles, shower and change clothes, drive another hour to the competition venue, and then get home around 9:30 or 10:00 PM.

How the Gym Dogs do in their semi-final session tomorrow night determines my Saturday activities. If they are one of the top three teams in their session (I hope I hope I hope I hope I hope), they will advance to the Super Six on Saturday at 4:00 PM. If that's the case, I'm planning to drive BACK to the location of the Spring Tune-Up, ride my bicycle either 57 miles again or some shorter distance (how long it takes me tomorrow will determine if I need to shorten the ride and still make it in time for competition), shower and change, and drive the hour to the competition venue again. The good news is that I should be home by 7:30 or 8:00 PM.

If the Gym Dogs do not qualify for the Super Six on Saturday, I plan to ride the century ride (100 miles) in hopes that one kind of pain will dull another kind. I won't attend the Super Six (although I have a ticket) if my team isn't in it. It's not much fun.

I'm unlikely to ride at all on Sunday. That's the day of the individual event finals, and the competitors for those are determined by the semi-final sessions tomorrow. (I find it a little odd, that you can still qualify for event finals even if your team doesn't make it. And you could totally SUCK in the Super Six, but if you were "on" for semi-finals, you can still vie for an individual championship. It's nuts.) We should have at least one gymnast in the event finals (last year we had 4, and we didn't even make the Super Six), and since those start at 1:00 PM on Sunday, I'm not even going to TRY to ride and do all that driving.

I'm so sorry I have bothered you with all this (mostly useless) information. If it makes you feel any better, it is very helpful for me to put complicated plans in writing.

This will be so much easier next year, when the national championships are in Los Angeles. Then I only have to worry about riding fast enough to get back and watch online.

And by the way...where did my Spring Break go? This is the fastest week I've ever experienced. I can't believe it's already the end of the week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Digest Diet.....

First of all, let me go on record as saying this is not an official review of this diet or even of this book. I haven't tried this diet. I have the book, and it will be going back to whence it came just as soon as I can get to the post office. And damn the **free** gifts. They're going back too.

Let me also go on record as saying I am NOT looking for a quick fix, a diet I can follow to drop ____ pounds and then go back to my wicked ways of sitting on the sofa eating bonbons while I watch trashy television. (Although there are times those activities sound pretty tempting. Like when I'm 60 miles into a bike ride and can't see the START/FINISH line on the GPS yet.)

What I AM looking for is a structured eating plan that I can follow for a short time to jump-start my seriously-plateaued weight loss efforts and get me back on the right track. I haven't fallen off the wagon; I'm hanging onto that bad boy with both hands and feet, and the wheels are falling off. I'm not off the wagon; the wagon has fallen off me.

I came across this diet while reading ... you guessed it ... The Reader's Digest. Because I've always been a big fan of the magazine and believe their first overarching quality is integrity, I was intrigued more than I might have been a typical magazine diet. (Although the ones I see featured on the cover of Women's World or whatever those things are I see in the grocery line sound just miraculous enough to try.)

I went online to check out the diet, but of course there isn't any information available online. Just raving testimonials and miraculous success stories and ten thousand links you can click to "ORDER NOW!" I clicked on one link just to find out how much the damn thing cost, but it took me to a fill-in form. And before I knew it I had entered my credit card information because, really, how much can it be, and besides, it's THE READER'S DIGEST for crying out loud! I don't think I knew the total amount until after I had ordered the book, and I think that's just a bad business practice.

The book arrived today, and like most diet plans it hides the information we really need (WHAT CAN I EAT? HOW OFTEN CAN I EAT? WHAT CAN I NOT EAT? HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM EVERY OTHER APPROACH I'VE EVER TRIED?) way in the back of the book, after six chapters of how exercises actually increases fat and there are such foods as "fat releasers" (I'd just like to pay the ransom and get on with it, personally) and happy little jokey things people say about people who need to lose weight. Picture the funny anecdotes in The Reader's Digest and then picture them all being about weight. Like that.

When I finally arrived at the eating plan, the first two words I saw were "shakes" and "soups." Accompanied, of course, by words like "delicious" and "easy-to-prepare."

Shakes and soups ain't happening in my world. I mean, I like both of them well enough and all, but I don't like either of them enough as a substitute for real eating.

I'm frustrated, but it's my own fault. I know I can't follow any kind of strict 21-day eating plan (even if it is a MIRACLE! AMAZING SUCCESS!) and still do things that are normal in my life like 60-mile bike rides and weekend trips to the casino and gymnastics competitions where popcorn just may turn out to be dinner.

The MOST frustrating part, though, is that if I had been able to glean even a smidgen of information about what the eating plan entails from the website (now THAT would have been a useful "CLICK HERE!" button), I would have known without ordering the book that it wasn't for me. I may never get my money back, and maybe I don't deserve to.

But I feel better getting this off my chest.

(I wonder if it weighed anything?)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chattahoochee Bend State Park.....

Hubby and I are "roughing" it in the RV at our state's newest state park. It's only about 2 hours from home, approximately an hour south of Atlanta.

It's a gorgeous park with most of the amenities anyone would need. Well, if the amenities people need involve mostly getting away from everything, this is the perfect place. We have no cell service, and I don't mean spotty service, I mean ZERO. That's not altogether a bad thing, since my internet connect card works. If I had no internet AND no cell service, I might be twitching like Hubby was yesterday when we realized we had left the remote control for the satellite receiver at home and might not have television. (As usual, I figured it out and saved the day. Possibly the trip. Potentially the marriage.)

RV camping is "ruff" on a dog. I have an entire folder of pictures of Gus in this same position.

Each campground section has a lovely bathhouse with clean restrooms and showers. I prefer to shower in the RV because I don't like hauling everything to the bathhouse, but if we didn't have the RV shower it would be nice to have the facilities nearby. There is a nice playground (where I have been to swing on the swings twice today, once with my great-niece and great-nephew, who live nearby and came to visit), and the camping sites are level, clean, paved, perfectly spaced, and aesthetically pleasing.

Before we came here, I mapped out a 20-mile bike ride loop from the campground using a computer program. After we were inside the park, however, I realized I could likely ride 20 miles and never leave the park. Shortly after that I realized I had left my cycling shoes at home, so a ride of any length was in question. When we arrived yesterday, there was a sign on the visitors' center door that no one was on duty, so we should check in with the campground host, choose a campsite, and come back to the visitors' center today before 11:00 AM to register and pay.

The visitors' center is two miles from our campground, so I rode my bike up there this morning. It was a struggle because I didn't have the proper shoes, and my pedals are so small it's hard to keep my feet on them wearing tennis shoes. (My cycling shoes are cleated and clip into the pedals. I call them "suicide pedals," but they work.) In addition, the terrain inside the park is hilly. VERY hilly. I rode the two miles to the visitors' center, then the additional mile back to the main gate, then on to the road where we turned off to get to the park, which was just under 4.5 miles. Then (of course) I rode back, so what I hoped would be a 20-mile ride today was only just under 9 miles, but the best I could do without proper shoes. (Note to self: Put your extra pair of cycling shoes in the RV and leave them there. Thank you.)

Hubby and I took a little hike along the river this morning. The park ranger had told him about an observation tower from which we could see "a lot of the river." It was about a mile to the tower, and we enjoyed the walk, but the tower was a bit of a letdown. We could have seen just as much from the top of our RV. It was a VERY NICE tower, but it wasn't exactly what I would call a tower. The trails going through the woods are well marked and very scenic. I could have walked forever. But then I would have had to walk back, and since forever would have been gone... I don't have any idea how to finish that.

On the top level of the observation tower. I like the benches made out of trees.
It's very quiet here. The park has been open less than a year, and there were only two other campsites occupied when we got here yesterday. A few more have been occupied today, but it is still very quiet and peaceful. I will hate to leave here in the morning, but the rest of Spring Break is full of events. Besides, two nights in one place away from home is about all I can get out of Hubby.

Chattahoochee River
Stay tuned for our trip to Wisconsin late this summer. Surely he knows that is going to take more than two days...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Part-Time Grammar Snob....

I know I've mentioned several (a gazillion?) times on this blog that I am a self-professed grammar snob. I don't know what caused it, but I realize it started very early in my life. My step-father had the idea one time to have a "grammar jar," and every time someone caught someone else in the family in a grammatical error, the offender had to put a nickel in the jar. (Why isn't that word spelled "nickle"? Like "tickle"?) After about a week, he muttered something about me and/or my mouth, and he threw the jar out in the yard. When Mama and I went to church when I was a teenager, every time the (sort of country) preacher made a grammatical error, Mama and I would make eye contact, even if we were sitting all the way across the church from each other. Sigh. I realize that's a very un-Christian thing to do.

However, I would like to reassure my readers that I do NOT scour your comments looking for errors. I don't make corrections in emails and send them back. I don't correct spelling in text messages. (Well, occasionally from Sweet Girl, but she expects it.)

Hubby has some of the worst grammar you might ever hear from someone who is otherwise pretty intelligent. I suspect he knows better, but he has grown up saying, "I seen so-and-so yesterday..." and "You better believe he done it..." My mother considers it a horrible character flaw that I DON'T correct Hubby. I guess she thinks if the preacher was fair game, husbands should be too.

I do often make sarcastic remarks about spelling or grammar errors I see in print or on websites, because it is my opinion that those should be held to a higher standard than personal blogs and emails. There is a huge billboard along I-75 in South Georgia proclaiming that everyone should come to such-and-such a town "because of it's Southern charm." Egads! How many people did that advertisement have to go through for approval, and how much money did they spend on it, to have an egregious punctuation error in it? It's THAT kind of thing that bothers me, not the occasional misspelled word or punctuation error in personal emails or blogs or comments.

I was on the website for one of my favorite bicycle rides a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed the "it's" thing on their website too. Because the cycling association is in the county in which I grew up, I emailed someone and apologized for pointing out the error, but maybe they might want to fix that? The guy emailed me RIGHT BACK, I'm talking within 5 minutes, and thanked me for the message. Said he usually caught that kind of thing, and he would send it on to the proper person.

It still isn't fixed. I just checked. And I'm withholding my registration for that ride until they do.

NOT REALLY! I'll send in my registration at the end of the week. Because I'm pretty sure the website isn't going to fixed at this point. And I'll just have to get over it.

So please don't be afraid to leave me a comment or send me an email just because you're afraid you might make a mistake.

I don't judge my friends.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Best Dam Ride Ever....

Today I did a ride I have done one other time, back in 2006. I don't know what made me do it that year, and I'm not sure why I haven't done it between then and now.

At most bicycle rides, we get t-shirts. It's a big deal, some sort of trophy to prove we have actually done the ride. (Or at least we showed up and got the t-shirt.) I knew this one would be cool just because of its name: The Best Dam Ride Ever. (There's that middle school thing again.) I should have learned my lesson. When I wore my first shirt in 2006, my friend Clyde, whom I had just met, saw me wearing it and asked, "Are you advertising?" I didn't figure out what he meant at first, and when I realized it was offensive, he was gone. Anyway, because I don't know where THAT shirt is, I was excited about today's ride. Then when I got there and was standing in the looooooooooong line to pick up my goodie bag and wristband, someone pulled his shirt out of the bag. And it was orange.

Orange. I don't DO orange. Drat. I'll probably give the shirt away.

The ride is so named because it begins at the bottom of the dam at Strom Thurmond Lake, which straddles the Georgia-South Carolina border. The climb up from the bottom of the dam to begin the ride is a chore, but it serves as a nice warm-up, and the reward going DOWN it at the end of the ride is awesome.

It was a good ride, with fully stocked rest stops (M&M's!!!) that had real bathrooms instead of porta-potties. Very little traffic, nice terrain, several crossings of different parts of the lake. (I hope the map shows up for you.)

I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted to. I particularly wanted one of the dam itself, but they are doing some work on it, and there was a single lane of traffic. Cars had to wait for a signal to change to indicate they could cross, and then we threw about 700 bicyclists into the equation. I was pretty sure they didn't want the added aggravation of one of the cyclists stopping (or not stopping) to take photographs.

All in all it was a good day and an excellent ride, the ugly t-shirt notwithstanding. I rode 62.93 miles, and while I wanted to get back on the bike and ride those other .07 miles, I just couldn't make myself do it.  There was one thing that was confusing to me, though. The 60-mile route was supposed to follow one color arrow on the pavement, and the 100-mile route followed a different color. I was freaking out the whole ride because I didn't know which color I was supposed to be following. I figured when the course split I would check out my (not very good, at least to BRAG standards) map and see if I could figure out then which way I wanted to go. I'm not completely averse to riding a century, but I didn't want to do it by accident. However, I never saw the arrows split. For the entire ride, there were two arrows, one orange and one white. I have no idea what the century riders were supposed to do.

The view behind me. Not a very good picture, but the best I could do raising the camera over my head and guessing what I might be taking a picture of.
The view ahead, not long after the ride started. There were times today when I couldn't see anyone ahead of me or behind me. That's when I got a little nervous, not knowing about the arrow colors and all.

How many times have Katydid and I asked, "Where's the d**m rest stop?" Now we know.

I took this picture because Hickory Knob State Park is where we had our family reunion a couple of years ago. When we got to the store where this rest stop was, I thought, "Hey, this looks familiar." And then I saw the sign.

A not-very-good view of the lake. The drought makes the properties at the edge of the lake look pitiful. I guess because they're not supposed to BE at the edge of the lake, they're supposed to be IN it.

This sign was actually about halfway through the ride. It's not often I can say I've ridden my bike in two different states on the same day.
I don't know if this ride will become a standard or not. It's about a 2-hour drive, although I went through the country and managed to avoid interstates and major highways, so it was a pleasant drive. I may HAVE to go back next year. Surely the t-shirts can't be orange again.

Can they?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Three Good Samaritans and a Jerk....

Yesterday I was on my way home from school on my bicycle, turning a 5-mile trip into a 25-mile one. On Friday the 13th, no less!

I was approaching the major highway that I have to cross in order to get home, always an adventure crossing that bad boy. That has nothing to do with this post.

I saw a car ahead of me, coming toward me and turning left across the lane. Only it stopped moving. It was apparent the driver was having some difficulty. A car had just passed me, and I could tell the driver was either unaware of the car across the road or didn't care. I was concerned about how long he had the opportunity to see the car, yet he was not reacting in any of the expected ways: braking, swerving, stopping, maybe even SLOWING DOWN? At the very last moment he swerved around the car and HONKED THE HORN. Like someone would CHOOSE to be in that position.

When I got to the disabled car, I realized it was a woman, and she was trying to push the car out of the road.

"Hang on, I'll help you," I yelled. I noticed she had a young child (or two) in the car. Her car was smoking, and the driveway was just enough uphill that she couldn't push it by herself. Even with two of us, it was a struggle.

Another car stopped, driven by a young girl, presumably a high school student. (I'm not profiling here. The words "Seniors 2012" and "Your beautiful" were painted on the windows of her car. I almost told her she needed to correct her friends' punctuation if they were going to paint on her car, but I decided it wasn't the time for it.) She also got out of her car to help, even if it did take her so long to park and get out that we pretty much had the situation in hand.

A truck coming from the same direction I had come from also stopped. A man got out (mid- to late-twenties, I'm guessing) with a tag on his shirt that said "Visitor." He said, "I don't know how much help I'll be."

Seriously, dude? Two women, a slip of a girl, and you wonder if you can be of assistance?

Luckily for the woman, it was HER driveway she was trying to turn into, so once we got the car out of the road, our job was done. Even with three (and a half) of us pushing, it was still dicey getting it completely out of the road. It was just enough of an uphill that there was a danger of the car rolling back on us, but we managed it. She said something about calling her husband, and we all went on our separate ways.

A few cars had backed up in both directions, and it made me laugh to think of how our Good Samaritan crew must have looked: A teenager in a tank top and jeans who probably weighs  87 pounds; a slender man wearing a "Visitor" tag; and a middle-aged woman in spandex, cycling shoes (made it difficult to get a purchase on the pavement), and a bicycling helmet.

At least if the car HAD rolled backward on me, the helmet might have protected my head. The rest of my vital organs were on their own.

I know it isn't nice, but I was wishing all sorts of bad karma on the guy who honked his horn at her. Two strong men in that car, but a teenaged girl and I were the first ones to stop and help.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Flashback Friday.....Kylie......

I remember the first Kylie I ever taught. I hadn't been teaching high school very long, and it was trial by fire. Typically the newest teachers get the toughest kids. I guess they figure if you've been there a while you've earned the right to teach students above the criminal level. (It was sort of a rough school.) And they must also figure that if you get the tough-as-nails kids and you stick around after the first year or two, you just might make it to achieve tenure and maybe even retire someday.

If there is a positive side to teaching the lowest (and worst behaved) students, it's that as the year rolls along, those are typically the ones who drop out. They get bored, frustrated, disillusioned, embarrassed, arrested, or any number of other things, and they disappear from your classes in droves. When I say "positive side," by no means do I mean to trivialize the social issue of dropping out, nor do I mean I was glad to see any particular students go away. (But you have to know I was.) I just mean that in that setting, with those difficult students, it was much easier to manage a class (and sometimes actually teach) if the number was smaller. Those were energy-sucking kids, and I could fill up a number of blog entries with stories just from them. Some make me want to weep with sadness; others make me want to weep with joy. (I'll try to remember to tell you about the student who volunteered to answer a question when I was being observed one day. Remind me if I forget.)

On the day that sparked this particular memory, we had just returned from lunch. The way our schedule worked, we had a 4th period class that had lunch and a study hall period attached to it. On our hall, we had class, then lunch, then the study hall. Perfect arrangement. It was late in the school year, and my 4th period class had dwindled to about 8 students. (There were probably more than that on roll, but unless their probation officers were checking on them, attendance was sporadic at best.) I felt confident enough leaving them alone long enough to go down the hall to the restroom and brush my teeth after lunch. (Because goodness knows the 20 minutes we had for our lunch break wasn't enough to eat AND do everything else.)

I seem to remember there were 8 students present in study hall on this particular day. I got my toothbrush and started out the door. Then I turned to the meanest girl in that class, a girl named Kylie, and I said to her, "You're in charge." I had used the bathroom and was in the process of brushing my teeth when there was furious banging on the door of the restroom in our faculty workroom. It was a student (or two) from my 4th period class, yelling, "There's a fight in your room!"

Apparently Kylie had taken me at my word about being in charge, and she was in the process of beating the tar out of another girl. The assistant principal got to my room before I did, and I just knew my career as a teacher was over. One of the biggest no-nos in education is leaving a classroom unattended, even if there are only 8 of them and you've left Kylie in charge. He was very forgiving and understanding, though, and it almost made me like him.

The combatants had knocked every single thing off my desk in the melee. I had this precious little pen and pencil holder that spelled out "H-E-L-L-O," with each letter a separate compartment. By the time I got to my room, it said "Hell." I left it there for the rest of the year because I thought it was appropriate.

She was the first girl named Kylie I ever taught. And every time I get a new one (because there are only a jillion in the world now, with half a jillion different ways to spell it), I always remember her. And I shudder just a little bit.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dear Jacob Zimmerman......

Dear Jacob Zimmerman:

Welcome to the world of grown-ups. Welcome to a world that doesn't revolve entirely around YOU and where actions have consequences. Negative actions have negative consequences, even if they hurt your feelings.

When you and 23 of your closest friends chose to vandalize your high school campus, in full view of video cameras (just how DID you get to be in the running to be valedictorian, anyway?), did you not think there might be some fallout? You might consider spray painting school property as a "harmless prank" (quotations marks my own), but did you ever consider that SOMEONE (it ought to be you, truthfully) has to clean up your mess? Did it ever cross your mind that administrators and other officials might not WANT the words "SENIORS 2012" indelibly displayed on signs, streets, and other government property? (Nice choice, by the way, turning your prank into a felony.)

Did you think being class president, maybe-valedictorian, and an honors student taking AP courses would give you immunity from punishment?

And now your feelings are hurt. “It just really hurts. The school board – you’d think they want the best for the kids, but this is the exact opposite,” you said on television. I heard the words come out of your mouth, and I was floored. What do you think WOULD be best for the kids in this case? A slap on the wrist? A pat on the head because the damage wasn't any worse than it was? (Yeah, a cop-killer about 60 miles from you is trying that defense too. He claims he isn't a cop-killer because he had the opportunity to kill even MORE cops, and he didn't. Let's give him an award.)

The quote from you that really got my goat, though, was when you said, "They are ruining my life."

THEY are ruining your life? Where is your personal accountability in this case? Have you even said you're sorry for participating in such a stupid act? (Yeah, yeah, I know, you left when it got out of hand. Great show of leadership.) THEY have put your goal of being valedictorian in jeopardy. (Ya think? Since you can't even participate in graduation ceremonies?)

THEY are allowing you to finish out your senior year in an alternative school, thereby giving you the opportunity to get your diploma. THEY could have expelled you for the remainder of the year, meaning you wouldn't even get to FINISH your courses.

Personally, I think THEY are teaching you a valuable life lesson. That you can't just commit random acts of vandalism (whether or not there's a "tradition" of such...whatever) and not pay a price. That lawyering up and getting on television in a suit and tie doesn't erase what you have done. That you need to think beyond the next 15 minutes in your life.

I know whereof I speak. I was suspended from high school too, for something equally stupid. A friend and I left school without permission, and we had an accident. Sure, we did it all the time, and sure, everybody else did it too, but because the girl who was driving was foolish enough to pull out in front of another car, we didn't get away with it that time. I remember the principal (whom I neither liked nor respected, but that's beside the point) looking at us and saying that he KNEW everybody did it all the time, but he was going to make an example of us, two honors students. We didn't go get lawyers, we accepted that what we did was wrong and we paid the penalty. Our parents didn't stand by our sides, either. They pinned their arms to their sides to keep from throttling us. We weren't suspended for the rest of the year, but we were suspended for the last two days before prom. And if THEY had wanted to, they could have denied us the right to attend the prom. If they had, it wouldn't have meant THEY had ruined our lives; it would still have meant that we made poor choices, we got caught, and there were consequences to be suffered.

Get off the television and take your medicine. Take your diploma (and be grateful you get it) and get on with the rest of your life. Take this painful lesson (that YOU created, by the way) and use it to become a better person. Learn to take responsibility. Do something good for society instead of focusing on yourself.

And remember that your children will turn into teenagers too. If they make foolish choices and you stand beside them and support them because what they did might have been (in your eyes) "harmless," you're doing them a tremendous disservice.

Grow up.



Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Sim Gym Queen...I Mean Runner-Up......

Because following my own college gymnastics team and obsessing over every balance check and imperfect landing was not quite enough to feed my addiction, this year I participated in a fantasy gymnastics competition called SimGym. There weren't many of us in our little group, which is probably the best way for a newbie like me to be introduced to the concept.

At the beginning of the season, we all logged on to an instant messaging service and participated in a "draft" of actual college gymnasts from all over the country. We went through 16 rounds, and the only limitation was that you couldn't choose a gymnast if someone else already had her. I chose mostly gymnasts from the SEC, because those are the teams I'm most familiar with. I chose a couple of gems from other teams based on their reputations or how much hype was associated with their choice of college.

Each week we chose line-ups from our rosters of gymnasts, just like a real coach would. Unlike a real coach, however, we had no prior knowledge of who might have tweaked an ankle or just SUCKED in practice that week. We chose six gymnasts and three alternates. Nothing made my stomach churn more than realizing one of my alternates scored higher than some of the ones I put in the line-up, and I couldn't count those scores unless one of my regulars didn't compete. Just like in true competition, we dropped the lowest score, counting five, and submitted our scores to each other at the end of each weekend.

What this meant was that in addition to following my usual team, I had 11 other teams to follow each weekend, just to see how "my" gymnasts did in actual competition. It wasn't unusual for me to have two or three video streams going on with an additional four windows devoted to live scoring. I am comfortable enough in my own skin to reveal these sure signs of insanity to my closest blog readers.

I chose 4 UGA girls for my team, mainly because I knew I would be seeing a lot of them this year and could I NOT? What I didn't realize was that the week UGA was not competing, I would have to scramble to put a complete line-up together. I thought I was going to have to pull virtual fans out of virtual stands to fill in for my virtual gymnasts.

I said all that to say that I may have taken second place. Or maybe third. (One girl hasn't turned in her scores yet. Butthead.) That's not bad for my first year playing the game. Those girls better watch out for next year's draft. I will revert back to my natural cut-throat self.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.........

Image from
This book is the third and final in The Hunger Games series. (Did I need another "the" there? It looks funny both ways.)

Like a lot of book series, I was a little relieved when this one was over. Not because it got boring, but because it was so emotionally intense that I was mentally exhausted. I apologize for the adverb explosion in that sentence. Stephen King would be writhing.

The quality of writing shown in all three of these books deserves a shout-out. I don't know that I can describe what good writing is, but I certainly know BAD writing when I see it. And these three books were all high-quality writing. There were a couple of issues where there was lack of agreement with the pronouns "everyone" and "anyone," but almost no one gets those right, so I cut it some slack in that department. (I'm pretty sure I would be a bitch of an editor. Those of you who just mentally edited out the "of an editor" part can go stand in the corner. Thank you.)

Disturbing as some of the themes were, particularly for something characterized as "young adult literature," I think Collins covered them very well. There were realistic consequences of rebellion, revolution, and war, even while it was painful to see them happen to characters we had grown to know and love. Thinking again of the label "young adult literature," the Mama Bear in me wanted to pretend that young people don't need to know the intricacies and the horrors of war. But of course that is the whole point, that young people need to understand there are tough decisions and things don't always work out the way they're planned, even when they are carried out with the very best of intentions.

There was no way the ending could be a truly happy one for Katniss, and I think Collins chose as good an ending as she could and still be true to the books' themes. These books definitely won't leave you feeling good, but they certainly will make you feel.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Some Conversations You Wish You Didn't Overhear.....

I am fascinated by the snippets of conversation we hear in passing every day. There was a time when I swore that on BRAG I was going to write a poem consisting of the scraps of words I heard as people walked by my tent at night. But I never did, and then I stopped sleeping in a tent, and the only scraps of conversation I hear now are the words of Rozmo talking in her sleep. Oh well. It was a nice thought.

Today I was walking back to my classroom from the cafeteria, and I saw our resource officer (fancy name for a sheriff's deputy who works in the school) approaching the boys' bathroom on the main hall. He didn't look to be in a particular hurry, and I heard him greet a student as he walked in the bathroom. (And it occurred to me to wonder, does the resource officer just walk in there and do his business at the urinal while he chats with male students who might be in there? Because that just seems a little weird to me, but I'm neither a guy nor a cop, so what do I know?)

He said to the young man, "Hey, what cha doing?" Not in a challenging way, just one of those standard greetings that doesn't mean anything and doesn't even require a real answer. The boy could have said, "Nothing," and the exchange wouldn't have registered as a blip on my radar.

Instead, the young man's reply is burned into my brain cells and making me wish I had a "Delete" button, or maybe even a "Control/Alt/Delete" combination.

He either said, "Checking my zits" or "Picking my zits" (that's the danger with snippets of conversations, sometimes you can't be sure if what you think you heard is actually what you heard, but odds are the grossest words are the ones you can be absolutely certain of).

Perhaps I could write my poem based on hallway snippets instead of cycling/camping ones.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gymnastics Weekend Update.....

First of all, I am officially too old to stay out until 1:30 AM. That's what time Katydid and I got back from Auburn after watching the Gym Dogs KICK SOME BUTT at the Regional Championships (more on that in a moment). And my dog can't tell time, so he got in my face at his usual 6:30 AM, apparently unconcerned that five hours is not nearly enough sleep for a 51-YEAR-OLD!!

Second of all, a big shout out to one of my favorite Dawgs, Bubba Watson, for winning the Masters. I'm so glad I picked you on my Masters sheet. If I hadn't picked some other really sucky people, I might have won some money. As it is, however, Hubby picked you too, and it appears at this point that he is tied for first place. There were over 1000 people in the pool, and they (we) each put in $20. Now we just have to wait and see how many people he tied WITH.

Third of all, another big shout out to the folks at Auburn Arena for putting on a fantastic gymnastics competition. I was a little wary of the whole "general admission" seating idea, but when I realized it meant we were free to move around the arena to see the event our gymnasts were on, I fell in love with it. (I think someone should invent a rotating arena just for gymnastics, so you can stay in your seat but the arena will move you to whatever event your team is competing on.) I understand from reading the message board that the live (and free) video streaming was among the best in the country. It can't be easy to cover six teams on four different events, everything going on at one time. It's impossible to make everyone happy, but I have heard only positive comments about Auburn's coverage. Way to go!

The Gym Dogs did a marvelous job at regionals and are headed back to the national championships, to be held in two weeks here in Georgia. The newspaper said this morning that they had won their first post-season meet since 2009, and I thought, "That's a little harsh. And wrong." But then I realized technically it was right. In 2010, our coach's first year as head coach, we VERY unexpectedly got knocked out of national championship contention at the regionals. It was the first time since Moses was a little boy that we didn't advance to nationals, and it was very hard to take. Last year we hosted our regionals, and while we did manage to advance to nationals (the top two teams in each regional advance), we came in second, so technically we didn't "win" that post-season contest.

Bars - Gym Dogs started on the uneven bars, and Katydid and I were sitting so close we could lean over and talk to them. They were relaxed and loose and having fun, and while we didn't get the 10 on bars we felt we were entitled to this season, we did a good job at regionals. Our lowest score was a 9.775, which we were able to drop, and we had a pair of 9.9's, a pair of 9.85's, and a 9.8 from a phenomenal freshman who competed only her second bars routine of the year. In the post-season, no less!

This is how close we were to the uneven bars. In the words of Katydid, "We might be able to see a little TOO much."

Sarah getting reading for bars. This is how close Katydid and I were. See that number on her leg? Officials went with leg tattoos this year instead of the paper numbers pinned to their backs. I'm not sure how I feel about them. But at least the tattoos don't cover up the oh-so-cuteness of the backs of those leotards!

I'd love to tell you I shot this picture and the one below specifically to show you the back of the leotard. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I must admit that I have entire folders of digital photos of gymnasts' butts. It's just the way it is.

Beam - The balance beam was situated all the way across the arena from where we were sitting, and Katydid and I debated about whether to move closer. It's nerve-wracking to watch the balance beam, but ultimately we moved because the host team, Auburn, was on the bars, which were between us and the beam. Plus we were surrounded by a lot of Auburn fans, so we knew it would be hard to see and hear what was going on. Things were a little shakier on beam, as they typically are, but we still did okay. Our high score was a 9.85 from a senior who has trouble with the required full turn on the beam. She can flip and twist and leap, but that full turn gets her every time. We had a trio of 9.825's and a 9.775 from a gymnast who is a tiny sophomore but has been a ROCK the second half of the season. We had to count that one because our resident ... head case ... did a flawless routine and went to her knees on a dismount that I could do. Okay, that's stretching things, but it's a simple dismount and she is a world-class gymnast and she shouldn't be losing five tenths of a point on that dismount. Rant over.

Noel on beam. I loved, loved, loved those leotards with the script "G" on the front. The back is just as cute. 

Kat calms herself before her beam routine. I know what she's saying: "Please, please, please let me get the full turn right this time."

Floor - This is most gymnasts' (and most fans') favorite event, because the nature of the event allows the gymnasts to perform, to show their personalities, to showcase some unique skills. (It's Hubby's LEAST favorite of the events, because in his words, "they're just wallowing around.") I love floor for the most part, but some of our routines this year have been ... uninspiring. Part of that is because our coach's philosophy is that if a girl is struggling with a skill, he takes it out of the routine. If I were the coach, I'd be on her like stink on poop, saying, "Get in that gym and don't come out until you can get it right." But I'm clearly NOT the coach, and it's his program to do what he wants. And how much do I really know anyway? Because our floor scores were three 9.85's (one of which was dropped), a 9.875, a 9.9 (career high from a freshman who has only done floor a few times this season), and a 9.925 from our rock-solid junior who has a captivating shark-themed routine. (The 9.925 may have been generous given the low position of her chest on at least two landings, but I figure that balances out with the 10 we have earned on bars all season but haven't been awarded.)

Vault - Again, our vault scores were not over-the-moon wonderful, but anytime you can drop a 9.825 as the lowest score, you're doing something right. We had another couple 9.825's (one from a sophomore who was a phenom her freshman year but has struggled with back issues this year and competed last night for the very first time this season), a 9.85 from someone the team refers to as "Catapult" and who usually sticks, and a pair of 9.9's.

Our team finished in the fifth rotation and had to sit out on a bye while the competition wrapped up, but it was pretty much a given that we would win. The team that ultimately finished in 2nd place, Oregon State, could have tied us with a 49.6 on the balance beam, but judging by how tight scores had been all night, we knew that was unlikely. One team could have tied us if they had scored five perfect 10's, but the others would have needed some 11's and 12's. Our total score for the night was 197.1, which is pretty good for post-season.

So now we go on to nationals. There will be two sessions of 6 teams, with the top three from each session advancing to the Super Six, where the national champions will be crowned. We know which teams we will have to face - Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Oregon State, and Ohio State - but won't know until tomorrow which session we will be assigned to or which event we will start competition on. Katydid and I are hoping we draw the evening session, because Katydid has to work and I want to do a bike ride that morning. I would go to both sessions, but by the time you go to two sessions on Friday, the team finals on Saturday, and individual event finals on Sunday (they also crown an individual winner on each apparatus), it's sort of a gymnastics overdose. Even for someone as obsessed devoted as I. If we are assigned to the earlier session I will probably attend both, because I'll either know we are in the Super Six and I want to find out which teams we will face, or I'll know we are NOT in the Super Six and I want to see if I can cast a hex on all the other teams. My loyalty runs deep.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Not Your Average Birthday Present.....

Happy birthday to me! A weekend filled with golf, baseball, cycling, and gymnastics. It just doesn't get much better than this.

Hubby asked a couple of weeks ago what I wanted for my birthday. I had anticipated the question, but I still hadn't been able to come up with anything. We don't try to surprise each other, and gift buying is a challenge because A) we don't really NEED anything; and B) we tend to buy whatever we want when we want it. It's one of the perks of being a grown-up.

I thought of something yesterday, though, and it's the kind of thing he might get in trouble for if I didn't specifically request it.

I told him I wanted some sessions with a personal trainer at our local YMCA. I know, right?

I hit a plateau in my weight loss last year, and what I thought was a temporary stall has turned out to be nine months in duration. I eat right (mostly), I gave up beer and chocolate, I not only exercise but I LIKE it, so I'm more than a little frustrated with my loooooooooooooooong-term lack of additional progress. I did manage to lose 35 pounds, so maybe this is where my body thinks it SHOULD be. But I'd like to lose another 15 pounds (20 if I count the 5 that have crept back on...grrrrrrrrrrr), so I know I have to try something different.

I have read about the benefits of weight training and yoga, but I've only put them into practice sporadically. I've just about stopped going to Zumba because I've been cycling so much, and maybe I need that variety. I'm hoping a personal trainer can give me some pointers about how to mix things up without cutting back on my cycling. Because that isn't just exercise for me; it's who I am.

I got on the website for our local "Y" and found that I could purchase 3 one-hour sessions with a personal trainer for $100. That sounded reasonable to me, but since I wasn't going to be paying for it, I asked Hubby if I was worth that much. He texted back: "Get a year." I couldn't decide if he was saying I was worth that much or if he thought I might need a year. Let's go with the former, as it sounds like he was trying to be sweet. (He says that was his intent. He's at least smart enough to fake it if he has to.)

I kept scrolling on the page for the "Y" and it got even better. For the same $100, I can sign up for a "12 Weeks to a Better You" program. (I'm not sure they know what they're up against.) Here's what the website says:

Great program for beginning exercisers or those starting back slowly after a long break. Your 12 week program includes:
  • 12 weeks of personal attention and motivation from a personal trainer
  • 4 1-hour sessions with a personal trainer
  • Gradual, baby steps into your fitness program
  • A better chance that exercise will become a habit
  • $100 fee (members only) - register at the front desk
This is sort of like the Team Lean competition I was in last year, only on an individual basis. It's one more one-hour session with a personal trainer, and I'm assuming there will be weekly check-ins and probably weigh-ins. I don't mind that; in fact, the accountability is often what keeps me on track.

I'm a little concerned about the wording, though. I'm not a beginning exerciser, and I'm not starting back slowly after a long break. I don't need gradual baby steps; I need a jump-start. Surely they can tailor the program to meet my needs too. I don't think I can pretend that I don't exercise at all.

I'm actually excited about the program. Hubby gave me a birthday card with the money for the 12-week program enclosed. I'd better go sign up for it soon, or I may chicken out and buy $100 worth of beer and chocolate.