Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Mini-Afghan for NashBash.....

It's been a while since I posted a completed project on here. I go through spells in which I crochet madly, then I put it down for months at a time. Obviously, sitting around with a lap full of wool in Georgia in June is no one's idea of a good time. I had to work feverishly on this one to get it finished before I leave for BRAG, since the NashBash follows right on BRAG's coattails.

The pattern called for about 12 more rows, but it also called for a much thinner yarn. At Christmas I made one for Sweet Girl in different shades of blue, and I stubbornly stuck to the pattern. It is approximately the size of Connecticut, so I didn't mind at all stopping this one before it got ungainly.

It's a little bigger than a lap blanket, but not big enough for a bed. Oh, and it's square, so it probably wouldn't work on a bed anyway.

I made this one specifically for the auction at NashBash this year. If you haven't been around very long, NashBash is the name of our family reunion. (My mother's maiden name was Nash.) We used to have a newsletter...NashTrash. And we took up donations...NashCash.

Now we have an auction and a store. People make items for the auction and/or the store, and the proceeds help fund NashBash the following year. Sometimes we get into hilarious bidding wars. I got into one with my cousin's husband one year over a poster-sized photo of my grandparents on their wedding day. It was also my grandmother's 16th birthday. Not only did I want the picture, but they weren't even HIS grandparents! (I mean the guy I was bidding against.) I finally won the picture for $205, and Hubby was goading me the whole time. He is almost ... not quite, but almost ... as competitive as I am. I kept the picture hanging on my wall for several years, then I donated it back to be auctioned off again. I'll try to take photos of some of the more interesting objects at this year's auction and report on how much they brought at the auction.

We also have a "store" for smaller items. This past school year I usually bought something from the Book Man when he left samples at our school, and I accumulated several items for the family store throughout the course of the year: a thinga-ma-jiggie you blow up balloons with (either water or air, but not helium), some solar yard lights, a pink "girlie" tool kit, a book with things to make from a single yard of fabric, a manicure set. I also went on that scarf crocheting binge back at Christmas, so I have several of those. I don't know if they'll go in the store or the auction.

I'm excited about the NashBash this year because it's being held at the same wonderful location as last year, the place where I became enamored of a house on the marsh and almost, almost bought it. The bad news is the marsh house is STILL for sale, and they've dropped the price. But I've retired. So I don't think I'll be tempted. (Sorry, Sweet Girl.)

Lots going on in the next week. Thanks for stopping by. I cherish my readers!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Anniversary.....

Fifteen years ago, Hubby and I made the trek to Chattanooga, Tennessee to get married. I wrote about it here almost three years ago.

I don't think I wrote about the fact that I was scared to death. Having been through not one but TWO bad marriages, I was beginning to think the common denominator was ME. Well obviously the common denominator was ME, but I didn't want to think I was the problem. At least not all of it.

The first marriage was simply a matter of a youthful bad choice. He was (and still is) a good guy, but it was sort of like being married to a puppy.

I wish I could blame the second marriage on youth. It was just a bad choice, pure and simple. I may have mentioned it before, but when Sweet Girl and I left that house, it was because we came home to find the front door shot up. As in with a shotgun. As in you couldn't close the front door anymore. He was passed out on the couch, so we gathered as many of our things as we could and never looked back. But that's not what this is about.

Without getting too mushy or going into too much detail, I'll just say that the past 15 years have been worth all the frustration and sometimes sheer terror of the other two relationships. In some ways the past 15 years have gone by in a blur that seems like an instant, and in other ways it seems like Hubby and I have been together forever.

We rarely argue, almost NEVER exchange heated words (except in the rare case of a bedroom suit that winds up costing $10,000 in home renovations just to fit it in our bedroom), and always have fun together. We share a love of sports, although I am more passionate than he is. As I write this blog post, Hubby has turned in for the evening and I am yawning as I watch the closing innings of a Braves baseball game. We travel well together and have never had what we could call a "bad" trip, not even the time we spent the night in the Miami airport just trying to get home. We don't necessarily like the same kind of music (on satellite radio, he keeps it on "50's on 5" and I sneak it over to "70's on 7" when he isn't looking), but he has been to at least two Billy Joel concerts with me. I've gone with him on golf/gambling trips when I didn't want to go, and I didn't even bitch about it.

Once several years ago, when Hubby was still working, he wanted to go out of town for a golf tournament, but he was scheduled to work on Sunday. He couldn't find anyone to work for him, so I did it. I put on his Pepsi uniform and worked the grocery stores he was responsible for that day. I had been with him a gazillion times, so I knew what to do (mostly), and even if the store manager HAD been around and noticed I wasn't the usual Pepsi employee, he wouldn't have cared as long as his store was worked properly (and it was). I'm sure in a pinch Hubby would have likewise filled in for me at school, though I shudder to consider what the results might have been.

We have a lot in common, but we also have our separate interests. My blog pal DJan wrote about this very topic several weeks ago, and I need to revisit her post to help sort out my own thoughts on the issue. I recall thinking, "Yeah, it's just like that!" when I read her post, so I think it was something along the lines of having similar interests but not feeling compelled to share every waking moment together. Hubby goes off to golf, and I ride my bike. He wants me to take up golf, and I might, but it still won't be a case of us ALWAYS going to the golf course together. Heaven forbid. He isn't interested in riding a bicycle, mainly because he doesn't want to wear "those silly shorts." Even when we go on vacation, I take my bike and go off for an hour or two by myself, and he reads or watches television while I'm gone.

To celebrate our anniversary today, we worked like DOGS. Hubby mowed the lawn and cleaned off our back porch while I scrubbed the tile floor in the hall bathroom with a TOOTHBRUSH. (It was in pretty bad shape.) We did clean up enough to go out for an early dinner (I even wore a dress - I know, right?), and I picked up some new sports bras for BRAG next week.

It's been an awesome 15 years.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Need a Secretary......

I had a blog topic all picked out for tonight. It was one of those rants about something (more than likely) insignificant to the majority of the world's population, but it had me all riled up.

So riled up that I have no idea what it was.

I need to start making voice memos of these "brilliant" ideas when they occur to me. The way I've been lately, though, they might dissipate before I can get my iPhone out, push the home button, slide to unlock, find the voice memo app, and wait (oh so patiently) for it to load.

I don't want to bore you with stories of the busy-ness of my day. Instead I'll leave you with this picture, which I also posted on Facebook.

I'm not sure why all the animals prefer Hubby's chair. But I'm okay with it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Drive-Thru Panic......

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there experience drive-thru window panic?

You know, that feeling you get when you drive up to the menu of a drive-thru and you hope there will be a long line of cars so you can get a minute to look at the menu, but of course not on this morning, the only car there pulls away and before you even get a chance to see what they have, the nice lady is asking for your order?

I went to the grocery store this morning, and I told Hubby I would bring him a biscuit for breakfast. Oddly enough, usually HE is the one who goes for the biscuits, and he asks me every. single. time. what I want, and I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "Duh. Chicken biscuit. Just like every other time." Yet when I got to the speaker thingie at the Golden Arches this morning, I knew he wanted a sausage and egg biscuit (yuck), but I drew a blank on what I wanted.

Talk about duh.

I scanned the menu, but my brain quickly became overwhelmed with all the choices and the divisions and the subsections and the prices and the colors and the pictures and the nice lady waiting for me to order. To her credit, she had said, "Order whenever you're ready." But I hate to keep someone waiting, and I could picture her in there rolling her eyes, and I swear I almost just ordered a #1, knowing it would be something I hated and it would come with hash browns (which I didn't need) and coffee (which I didn't want), but I would eat/drink every morsel and pretend it was what I wanted all along.

I don't even know what a #1 has in it. But I think I know where the concept of those combo meals came from. Someone just like me who experienced drive-thru panic.

I spotted sausage breakfast burritos on the menu, so to buy some time I asked the girl if they had a burrito with chicken in it. I knew they didn't, since they are NOT the ones who allow us to "Have it Your Way," but it was a good stall tactic. Or maybe it elicited more eye-rolling, I'm not sure.

At the last second I spotted the fruit and maple oatmeal and ordered that.

And it was very, very good.

I might order it again next time. If I have a mini-stroke overnight and forget that my breakfast of choice from fast food joints is a chicken biscuit.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Challenge of the Centuries - Sunday.....

Not as many pictures today (but I think the ones I took were very cool, for very different reasons), since it was a fairly short ride. Rozmo and I opted for the 30-mile route, which we did NOT feel obligated to round up to a 40-miler. We thought about the 60-miler, but Rozmo was headed to the lake with her family, and I was eager to get home. Where I vegged by the pool for a couple of hours.

I saw this baby from a distance, and I started reaching for my camera. He must have been camera-shy, because he started RUNNING as soon as I got in range. Maybe he never saw a bicycle before?

I'm always fascinated by cemeteries. I was so intent upon taking a picture of this one that I failed to notice a car behind us trying to pass. Oh, the irony. Luckily it was a SAG vehicle, and they are much less likely to run over cyclists than typical pissed-off drivers.

When I rode up next to this guy I said, "Suddenly I feel like a wimp for having a SEAT." This is called an Elliptigo, and it is the coolest thing I've seen since ... well, lately. He is a triathlete, and he said he ... rode? ... this one today to better build up his legs for triathlons.

This was the last organized ride before BRAG begins next Sunday. I have a gazillion things to do to get ready for that, but I hope to sneak in a couple of easy training rides this week to keep certain body parts used to the constant ... pedaling.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Challenge of the Centuries - Saturday.......

Today's ride started off fast and cool and ended up slow and hot. Seriously, it was approaching 95 degrees by the time we finished at 2:00. Rozmo and I rode the 67-mile route, but as card-carrying members of the Round Numbers Club, we had to add in some mileage to make it 70.

The path over the dam. Apparently it is open to the public, but only to a certain point. Cyclists with wristbands were allowed to ride all the way across between certain hours today.

I asked Rozmo to take a new picture of me for my profile picture on Facebook. She does good work, even with bad subjects!

I can't resist taking pictures of water. Lakes, rivers, oceans, streams, waterfalls, bottled water...

I sometimes take decent pictures myself, even if they are accidents. This one I took shooting over my shoulder without looking at the camera. While I was riding.

The view from above the dam. I mean I was ON the dam, not hovering above it.

Sadly, water levels are very low.

Another water shot. I can't even explain this one. Or why I'm leaving it on here instead of deleting it like a sane person would.

Not a very good shot, but this is a dilapidated old school (??) standing in a field on the bike route. The deterioration is evident from year to year. I will be sad the day we ride by and it has fallen down completely.

See above regarding water pictures.

This was an attempt to take a picture over my head and behind me without looking at the camera. That might explain the strange tilt to the shot. And the fact that if I didn't know who that was, I might not be able to identify Rozmo.

A different attempt to take a picture over my head and behind me. Perhaps I am simply offering proof that I do indeed wear a cycling helmet.

We aren't sure yet about tomorrow's mileage. We usually do a shorter route on Sunday, but it will depend on Rozmo's out-of-town relatives. (Her folks live near where the ride is being held.) I'm not even sure which way I would LIKE for our decision to go. I'm tired and sore today, but BRAG is coming up next week (gasp!), and there ain't no options for daily miles when it comes to BRAG. Well, there sort of are... You can ride a lot of miles or a lot MORE miles.

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 25, 2012

I'm An A.D.D. Camper......

I am in the RV, alone, about an hour and fifteen minutes from home, for a bike ride. It's the same one I did last year, and if you weren't around and are curious, you can read about Saturday's ride here and Sunday's ride here.

I am in the parking lot of the YMCA, where the ride is based. I am NOT where I planned to be, in a shady campground on the lake with electricity and running water and satellite t.v. And I'm almost, ALMOST over the fact that I am NOT in a shady campground on the lake with electricity and running water and satellite t.v. I won't burden you with the boring details. At least our RV has a generator, so I have air conditioning, and I hope the two older gentlemen in the older RV WITHOUT a generator were joking when they asked if they could hook theirs up to my generator, because I laughed and walked...ran away.

And see, I'm so A.D.D. that I had already forgotten why I titled this post as such.

Please forgive me for using that term and don't send me hate comments, because I am NOT making fun of people who are truly A.D.D.

I have discovered that when I travel in the RV, particularly when I travel alone, I bring a variety of things to keep me occupied. And then I feel that I have to do them ALL. So I have played a game or two on my iPad, I read (a tiny bit), I have checked the message boards and blogs and Facebook on the computer, I have crocheted some (but not enough) on the afghan that MUST be finished before NashBash in 15 days, and I'm listening to the MP3 player I keep in my computer bag and rarely, rarely ever use. And checking in on the baseball game when I get an alert that someone has scored. So far the only scoring has been done by the Washington Nationals, and the Braves are on a four-game losing streak, thank you very much, and that can't be good for my blood pressure the night before a ride that is sure to wind up being close to 70 miles.


I have two or three dozen other activities to cram into my evening before I hit the sack. I will report on the ride tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two More Student Stories.....

Two more student stories, from way, way back at the beginning of my career. It seems the longer ago they happened, the more likely I am to remember them.

Katydid is encouraging me to write these stories down and turn them into a book. I just don't know how I'm going to tie all these elements into a plot. But for now I'll get the thoughts down and worry about how they fit together later.

The first three years of my career, I taught middle school. It wasn't by choice, but when the principal called me on Saturday before school started on Monday (yeah, AFTER pre-planning had occurred...I walked in on the first day WITH THE STUDENTS), I jumped at the chance to teach ANYWHERE they would give me a chance. And oh yeah...a paycheck.

We were doing a spelling/capitalization lesson one day, and we were talking about the four seasons. Not the singing group, because clearly then it would have been capitalized. I was telling the students that the seasons of the year are NOT typically capitalized, unless they happen to be someone's name, like a girl named Summer. 

This voice SNORTED from the back of the room. "Summer?" (Only it came out more like "Summah?" because we live in the South and I was teaching in ... never mind.) "Who gon' name a kid Summah?"

I paused. Long pause. "Gee, Nefrateri. I don't know who would do such a thing."


The other student story came from a young lady whose face I can still see clearly in my mind, but her name escapes me. By this time I had moved to the high school, where I felt like I belonged and my sarcasm was often understood and sometimes even appreciated. The young lady in question was in one of my advanced classes, a quiet girl who was a teacher-pleaser but not in an obnoxious, annoying way.

She wrote me a letter at the end of the year, and I swear I kept it, but I can't find it after moving a dozen times or so, once stealthily in the middle of the night, but that's a story for another night. It was a pretty long letter, full of typical end-of-the-year stuff and thanking me for being her teacher, but one line at the end of the letter has stuck with me for the rest of my life. And I think it always will.

She said, "You have taught me that my parents were wrong. All white people aren't bad."

I wonder where she is today. I hope the sentiment has stayed with her.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Feeling Bad About Not Being Sad.....

Yesterday was my last school day (with students), although I have to be here for post-planning through Friday.

[Anyone want to place bets as to how long my Friday will be? Anyone? Anyone?]

My co-workers held a retirement celebration at school last Thursday (they're the best), and then last night we went to a sports bar-type restaurant OUT OF OUR COUNTY to have dinner and celebrate again, this time with the option of adult beverages. They surprised me with ANOTHER gift, this time a wonderful basket of goodies from Wine Country Gift Baskets. (This is my new favorite online shopping site. I found myself inventing occasions for which to order gifts for family and friends.) I really WANT to open the beautiful gift basket, but it's almost too pretty to open it. I probably will, however, since that's the only way to get to the WINE inside. Never mind the truffles.

Several people told me I would experience a little sadness as the day approached, and there was a part of me that thought they might be right. I have been teaching OVER HALF MY LIFE (whew, suddenly I'm exhausted) and I'll admit it is going to be a little strange not having that routine anymore.

But I'm not sad. And I think I know why. I think.

One of my life mantras (mantrae?) has always been "No regrets." Sure there are some things I might do differently (see Exhibit A, otherwise known as marriage #2), but I can't regret them. I married the wrong person, but it was through him that I met Hubby. See how that works? And while marriage #1 was no gem either, it resulted in Sweet Girl, and I wouldn't have traded her for the world. (There was that one brief period when she was a teenager, but we won't go into THAT...) Of course I have made mistakes, but I like to think of them as learning experiences. As a unit my mistakes have made me who I am, and most many days I'm okay with the person I am. (Let's not look at MY teenage years either, m'kay?)

Because I try to have no regrets, I tend to stand firm in my decisions. Oh I do change my mind on occasion, but that's just another decision, right? I don't beat myself up for decisions, and once I've put them into action, I don't look back. Mostly.

I can't remember exactly when I calculated precisely when my last year of teaching would be, but I've known I would retire this year for a long time. When we opened this non-traditional school, I knew I would be there seven years before I reached retirement. I remember thinking, "Seven years? SEVEN YEARS?" There were times I thought I might retire BEFORE this year, but I never considered putting it off another year. I made the decision, I owned the decision, I put the decision into action as soon as I feasibly could, and I have lived with the decision.

So what's to be sad about?

I will miss some of my students, but that's true of every single year I've ever been a teacher. I will miss my co-workers, but even those come and go through the years. I have maintained relationships with some former co-workers, those who meant the most to me, and I expect I'll continue relationships with some of my current co-workers. So it's not like I have to be sad about never seeing some of these folks again. There are a couple I'll be HAPPY never to see again. (YES, I'M TALKING TO YOU!!!!) Just kidding...the one(s) I feel that way about would never, ever read this blog.

If I'm completely honest, it may be that I'm not sad because in many ways this is exactly the way the school year ALWAYS ends. We tie up loose ends, we clean out our rooms (more or less), we frantically try to get some of these slack-butts graduated, and we fly out the door on the last day completely frazzled and already dreading August.

Maybe THAT'S when it will hit me that I'm really, really, really retired, but I still don't think I'll be sad. It may stress me out (ha ha ha ha ha ha) having to decide whether to walk in the park, go for a swim, or ride my bike, and the choice may ultimately depend on whether or not I want to put on a bra.

Not having to wear a bra. Now THAT might counteract any potential sadness all by itself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Get My Affirmation from Strangers (And the Strangest Places).....

Like most people in the free world who have internet access, I read The Pioneer Woman's blog every day. I'm pretty sure she invented blogging. And cowboys. And butter.

Lately PW has allowed her husband, known affectionately to the whole world as Marlboro Man, to do some guest posts. They are incredibly well written, and I am pretty sure the voice is his, not something PW has written and passed off as being written by a man wearing Wranglers and chaps.

I rarely comment on PW's blog, because it's like sending a tweet to George Clooney or something. I'm pretty sure she doesn't bother with peons (did I spell that word correctly?) such as myself, and while she would love to respond personally to each and every comment, the fact that somewhere around a billion people read and comment on her posts (and that's not even counting when she has a contest or a giveaway) probably deters her from attempting it.

Yesterday Marlboro Man wrote a post about wild horses, and while I got lost in a lot of the details and the incredible photographs of the horses, the author's (correct - yay!) use of the word "exacerbating" caught my eye. (I used to love teaching that as a vocabulary word in the traditional school setting. It got giggles from ninth graders every. single. time.) I couldn't resist commenting on his use of the word.

And I'm not sure why, but something compelled me to go back and look at my own comment later. (I guess it's sort of like baking a beautiful cake and going back to the kitchen to look at it again. Did I mention I might have a tiny bit of an ego problem?)

What I found there made me smile.

Bragger On Monday, May 21 at 1:11 pm

Chaps aside, I have a soft spot in my heart for a man who uses the word “exacerbate” correctly. I know of a (now former) college gymnastics coach who said an athlete wouldn’t be doing a certain skill because it “exasperated” her injury.
And that exasperated me.
Good work, MM.

Kath On Monday, May 21 at 5:03 pm

This is the funniest post I have seen in a while. My mother was an English teacher so I feel for your students. Have a happy retirement.

ann On Monday, May 21 at 5:34 pm

As a retired teacher and certified “word nerd” I got a big chuckle reading your post. I find myself constantly mentally correcting what I read and hear that butchers the English language.

 Perfect strangers, commenting on my comment, made my day. 

Headed off to my therapist (or another drink called a frozen buttery nipple, whichever comes first),


Monday, May 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Cyclists....

A tale of two cyclists....

One cyclist rides as often as she can and challenges herself to add more mileage every time. She pushes herself to strive for a higher average, better time, higher maximum speed, more minutes on the bike. She rides several days in a row, poo-pooing the notion of days off and recovery time and blah blah blah. She looks at a calendar and pencils in (literally) the days she expects to ride and calculates a projected monthly total of miles. Then she does everything in her power to EXCEED the projected monthly total. She schedules organized rides every weekend and begs her cycling friends to join her for additional rides.

The other cyclist talks herself out of riding and opts to float in the pool. She calculates a 20-mile ride home from school and then cuts off as much as she can. She does one tiny loop on one of her regular routes and settles for 11.73 miles. Her legs feel like lead, act like spaghetti noodles, and make her feel like she hasn't been on a bike in 10 years.

Obviously, both of these cyclists are me. (Are I?) I didn't dread getting on the bike today like I do some days, but it was certainly a chore once I was on it. My average speed wasn't bad, pretty much the same as it has been, but it felt like I was riding through pudding. If only it had been chocolate.

I've also learned to allow myself to have days like that, though. My mileage goal for the month of May is well in hand with a two-day event this weekend, so I don't have to beat myself up about missing a goal. I'm ahead of pace for my yearly goal too, with most of the good riding months ahead of me, so it's not like I have to worry about that. ("Worry" might be too strong a word. I'm pretty much past that point.)

I'm not very well-studied on the effects of strenuous exercise and how much rest the body needs and all that scientific blather. My less-than-professional judgment about the way I felt today is that the muscle fatigue I experienced Saturday needed more than a single day to recover.

Today was the last opportunity for me to ride the rest of this week until the weekend event. I hope four days of rest will make me stronger for the weekend. If not, I'll just be late finishing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Strangely Productive Day.....

I knew after yesterday's butt-kicking ride that I wouldn't do any exercise today. And that was (and is) perfectly okay. I'm past the point of kicking myself if I skip even one day of exercise. I think I need the days off, too, and I don't obsess about how many days in a row I get some form of exercise.

I wasn't a total slug, though. I went to the grocery store (a chore I do NOT enjoy), caught up all the laundry (it only took two loads, but Hubby had an inordinately large number of socks in there, so I must have been slack last week), washed my bike and lubricated the chain and derailleurs, emptied the dishwasher and loaded it again.

And I allowed myself a couple of hours out at the pool, soaking up the sun (probably too much, but I was conscientious about putting on sunscreen) and listening to the baseball game. (Braves won - yay!)

A blog post by my friend Neena from last week has continued to bother me, mainly because I can relate so well to what she says in item #2. She's wrestling with her post-Ph.D. life, wondering in which direction she should go. One of the things she's considering is abandoning her blog. If she does I will miss her very much, but I totally understand how she feels.

It's sort of where I was going months and months ago when I wondered in this space why we blog. I blog because I love to write, but I think it's more than that. If it were the mere process of writing, a journal would accomplish the same thing. I think blogging requires a little more responsibility, because you must always consider your audience. I love the idea of an actual audience being out there reading my (sometimes) drivel, even if they are people I have never met and may never meet.

Neena's lament is that she gets few comments on her blog and her readership is down. Is that something happening all across the blogosphere, sort of like the woes of the economy spread to all facets of life all over the world? Because I've experienced the same thing. Sometimes it's disappointing to write something I think is incredibly witty/poignant/meaningful/deep/creative (okay, so I have a big ego or something) and then find that no one else has read it.

It could be like the case of one of my dear friends. She has a VERY busy life, and every now and then she used to say to me, "Oh, I've got to get caught up on your blog." She was apologetic. I think she felt like it was a book, and she couldn't just pick up on today's entry; she felt she had to go back and read it all, and who in the world has time for THAT? I don't EXPECT anyone to read my blog, and I'm deeply appreciative of anyone who takes the time to do so. I guess I'm just curious about why the change. 

I'm not whining, please believe me. Don't start wracking your brain and saying, "Oh...well...what can I comment to make her feel better?" That's not my purpose here.

I think my main purpose is to remind MYSELF that blogging is something I chose to do, to give myself an outlet and to make me produce SOME SORT of writing every day. Even if it's bad writing.

I will continue to blog until I don't want to do it anymore. I'm not going to let my decision be influenced by whether or not anyone else out there might be reading it. When it stops giving me pleasure, I will cease to do it.

Now if I could find some way to force myself to play the piano. And no, going back to playing the piano for church is NOT an option.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pave the Path Poker Ride.....






No wonder a lot of riders today chose NOT to do the second loop, the southern one. This ride had 3256 feet of climb, which is the fourth highest in a single ride I've done in the last 7 years.

To add insult to injury, my poker hand was Ace-Jack-Six-Seven-Four. Not even the same color, much less the same suit.

AND it seemed that every. single. yard. on. the. ride. had a political candidate's sign in it. The candidate's name? Hill.

A 66-mile butt kicking. I guess there are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Pavement Ends" is NOT the Worst Sign....

I've written here a couple of times about the dangers of creating bicycling routes on the computer, particularly in a place you don't know well. I got burned in Mississippi at least twice because I mapped out a perfectly acceptable route on the computer and then came to dirt roads. I've tried several tactics when this happens: go past the road and take the next one that goes in that direction, backtrack to a better road, try to "tough" it out on the dirt road. That last one is the least acceptable of all of them. You just can't ride on dirt roads with skinny tires.

The past few times I've ridden my bike home from school, I've ridden in the opposite direction first, making it a rather convoluted route home. That's okay; I like adding extra mileage. This past Wednesday I took that direction, and today I wanted to do the same thing but add a few additional miles. The roads are lightly traveled, the scenery is soul-soothing, and the hills aren't of the killer variety. So I got on the computer at school today and mapped out the same route, but with a little extra loop. I THOUGHT I knew enough about the area to be familiar with the roads involved.

Everything went according to plan, and one of the roads was newly paved. Riding on brand new asphalt is what it must feel like to ride on silk (if one could do such a thing). Then it even did me the favor of going downhill, and I was loving life.

Just when I was hitting maximum speed, I realized there was a sign at the bottom of the hill. I didn't want to believe it, but it clearly said, "Road Closed Ahead." I had to make a split-second decision: either turn around and go BACK UP THE HILL or turn right onto a sort-of paved road that looked like it led straight into Deliverance.

I chose the Deliverance route, because I almost never backtrack, and it turned out okay. It added about 3 miles more than I expected to the ride home, so my total mileage was 31 miles.

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would VOLUNTARILY make the trip home on a Friday afternoon into a two-hour bike ride, I would have scoffed. Loudly and longly.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I Got What I Deserved.....

I was talking to a co-worker this morning about the days when I was young and lived in a trailer park and  spent many hours in the swimming pool there. It sparked a memory from those days that I doubt I've ever told anyone in my family (not that it was life-changing or anything), and it shows how far society has come (or regressed?) since then.

It was mid- to late-60's, and I swam like a fish. My mother's only rule was that I not swim alone, but it was NOT my fault that other folks in the trailer park didn't like to get up at 7:00 AM and go swimming. I think people routinely called her at work and told her I was in the pool alone. She would tell them to go tell me to go home, I would trudge home wet and disappointed and pissed off (didn't they teach us NOT to tattle?) and wait for some grown-ups (anyone over the age of 11) to appear at the pool, and the whole cycle would get repeated the next day.

The memory that I'm writing about, though, happened on a day when the pool was fairly crowded, probably on a weekend. There was a guy at the pool with whom I frequently "flirted" and played around. He was probably in his 20's and treated me like a kid sister. An annoying kid sister he wished he could send to her room. I ALWAYS thought he was teasing, even if he wasn't, and I persisted in being annoying. I have no idea to this day what his name was, nor would I recognize him if he walked in my living room right now. I was probably 7 or 8 years old when this incident took place.

He was sitting on the edge of the pool with his feet dangling in the water, and I swam up to pester him. I sucked up a mouthful of water and demonstrated clearly that I was going to spit it on him. He told me, sternly, a gazillion times NOT to spit the pool water on him. It was a hot day, though, and I couldn't see any reason he wouldn't want a mouthful of refreshing chlorinated water all over his chest.

At any rate, he really DID NOT want that, and I spit it on him anyway.

He rared back and slapped my face so hard I could swear my teeth rattled.

If that happened today, what do you think might happen? Channel 2 would be all over it, an arrest would surely take place, and there might even be a lawsuit. I don't mean MY FAMILY, but in these litigious days, the family of the slappee would sue the slapper so fast HIS teeth would rattle. He would go to jail for being a child abuser and the trailer park would have to hire a security guard (never mind that we didn't even have a LIFEguard) and the child in question would be in therapy until her honeymoon.

The memory is kind of hazy, but if I recall correctly, that young man left the pool area pretty quickly after the incident. One of my cheeks burned from the slap, and the other burned with embarrassment. I don't think anyone had ever told me up to that point that I was anything but cute and adorable. I couldn't believe I had tarnished my relationship with this cool dude (he may have been a college student, but I'll never know) by being such a brat.

He may have left the pool because he was afraid I had a parent or a big brother who would come up there and kick his arse. Or he may have left the pool because an annoying little piss-ant of a frizzy-headed girl had ruined his mood for swimming and sunning.

If I HAD gone running home to tell what had happened, what would have been the consequences? My mother MIGHT have gone up there to tell the guy to keep his *$!#& hands off her daughter, even if she WAS being a brat. My eldest brother MIGHT have gone up there just because he was always spoiling for a fight. I think it's more likely, however, that provided with the details of what I had done, anyone in my family would have come to the conclusion that I got what I deserved.

After the embarrassment wore off, that's what I thought myself. I probably never told anyone in my family because they would have been happy to slap my OTHER jaw.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Always a Bride, Never a Bridesmaid.....

When I was in high school, I considered myself part of a fairly large circle of friends. Sure I had a lot of guy friends, but we had a close-knit circles of girls too. Several of us have remained close even in the 34 (gasp!) years since we graduated.

I went through several "best" friends. I think I isolated myself from some girls because of my close-to-the-point-of-exclusivity friendship with Carol, who turned out to be Trouble with a capital "T," but I was loyal to her. She did more than dabble in drugs, she stole money from the student council, she ran away from home, she was sent away to boarding school. By the time she went away, other girls were firmly ensconced in their own "best" friendships. I was still part of the crowd, but I was tainted.

This is the first time (seriously, I didn't even think of it when I started writing this blog post) it has occurred to me that may be why I was never chosen by any of my friends to be a bridesmaid at their weddings. I served refreshments at their receptions and I played the piano and/or organ (sometimes both in the same ceremony), but I never had the "privilege" of wearing a dress picked out by someone else that was totally unsuitable for me. I never got to hang out with the bride in the basement of the church while the pews filled up with guests. I was never in charge of keeping the bride calm while her mother freaked out and her sister fought with her boyfriend, one of the groomsmen.

When it came my turn to get married, I had both a maid of honor and a maiden of honor, in addition to having both my sisters as attendants. (Are all brides so selfish that they require sisters to come from another state AND pay for an ugly dress to appear in a wedding?) I felt obligated to include the woman with whom I worked and had become good friends, but it was probably horribly inappropriate to have her take such the role of matron of honor in my wedding ceremony. She was considerably older than I, but maybe I felt duty-bound because she had introduced me to my first husband. (She also introduced me to my SECOND husband, and I stopped speaking to her altogether after that.)

My maiden of honor disappeared after the ceremony, and it was only during the reception that I found out both her parents had been in a terrible car accident earlier that day. My wedding wasn't until 8:00 PM (WHAT was I thinking?), and they were waiting for my friend to come to the hospital so she could authorize surgery for her father. She came and went through the ceremony first, and I will never think about that without getting teary-eyed.

Would I have been that good a friend? Thankfully we'll never know. But did my friends THINK I wasn't that good a friend? Could that be why none of them asked me to be a bridesmaid?

I'm not sure why this thought even occurred to me. It's not like I sit up at night and gnash my teeth over why I was never picked to be a bridesmaid. I'm certainly not going to ask any of my friends why they didn't choose me as one of their bridesmaids. Awkward!

But surely one ugly dress wasn't too much to ask.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Didn't Think I Cared......

Although it isn't official yet, our principal has told us that she THINKS she knows who my replacement will be.

I hadn't given it a whole lot of thought. I knew first of all our choices would be limited, since budget cuts have pretty much frozen any possibilities of hiring from outside the county. We expected that if one of the high schools had to cut an English position, someone would be "sent" to our school, even if he or she didn't want to come. That's not ideal for a school like ours. So few people understand what it is exactly that we do, and it's sometimes difficult to find someone willing to take on the challenge of a nontraditional approach to teaching high school.

Our staff has been pretty much intact since our school opened in 2005. Three of us opened it together, our business/electives teacher came the second year, and the most turnover has happened in the area of science. We work beautifully together as a team (we even occasionally snap on each other, just like siblings who are forced to live in the same house), and I trusted my colleagues to choose an English teacher who would continue the work we have started together. If they were given any choice in the matter, that is.

I can't give away too much information, lest someone who reads this blog might put two and two together and let the cat out of the bag. It's not supposed to be a SECRET by any means, but since it isn't official yet, I don't want to give away too much information.

I can say this, though.

I couldn't be happier with the person who is rumored to be taking my place. She is a dynamic, creative teacher, has a wonderfully wicked sense of humor, borders on mischievous, and she KNOWS. HER. STUFF. She gets along well with her co-workers, and she knows how to relate to teenagers. And she has chosen to come to our school rather than being SENT there. It's the perfect package.

We exchanged a couple of cryptic emails today (cryptic in case our email is being monitored, which would surprise neither of us one iota), and I cryptically told her how happy I was and she cryptically said I would have to train her.

I was going to retire and walk away with no regrets either way. But it sure is nice to know the program will be in good hands. They'll forget all about me a month after school starts. And that is okay with me.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Best Come-Back EVER......

For some reason, my mother always seems to try to get the best of Hubby. She doesn't necessarily say MEAN things, just POINTED things. Maybe deep down she doesn't truly believe that he is as good a guy as he comes across as, so she's trying to ferret out the REAL Hubby.

Good luck with that.

The first time Hubby met my mother, it was on Christmas Day. No, I didn't choose that day to introduce him to the whole (wacky) family. Mom and Katydid went to a movie after lunch on Christmas, so Hubby and I decided to go see the same movie. It was an awkward setting at best, meeting my (scary) mother in the lobby of a movie theater. But I had to give Hubby kudos for trying.

He put his arm around me and said to my mother, "I'm going to take care of your daughter."

I'll pause here while you all go, "Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww......."



Are you finished yet? No?


Then my mother, in all her glory, said, "You'd better."

Not in a nice way. Not in a Mama-Bear-I'm-all-about-protecting-my-cub way. Just in a bitchy way.

Well. Nice job of getting THAT relationship off on the right foot.

Now to her credit, there were all sorts of extenuating circumstances regarding our relationship (mine and Hubby's, not mine and Mom's) that I won't go into here, but really? Is that the best she could do?

I don't mean to imply that there have been multiple interactions along the same lines, but Mom hasn't ever really warmed up to Hubby. She will tell anyone who will listen (and listen and listen and listen) how happy we are and what a "perfect life" we have, but sometimes I wonder if she's just trying to convince herself.

Yesterday we had our Mother's Day gathering at her place. Well, the place she and my brother share. We had originally planned a picnic up on the hill, a place that I dearly love and would happily move to if they had any kind of decent internet service at all, but it rained and rained and rained yesterday. Buckets and buckets of rain. Drought-ending sheets of rain. I'm guessing you get the picture.

My brother has a "shop" (shed, workshop, storage area, barn) on his property, and he and his wife (and Mom, I assume) spent hours and hours cleaning it up and making it a suitable substitute location for our Mother's Day gathering. (Mom's complaint: "At least up on the hill we wouldn't have to put up with a RADIO.") We had a very nice meal, I enlisted the help of several family members in solving some of the Logos quiz items that had stumped me, and Mom inexplicably gave each of her children a gift in the form of a check. Wow.

When we were sitting around playing/talking/laughing/listening to the DAMNED radio, Mom came over to Hubby, seated next to me, and draped her arm across my shoulders.

"I want you to know," she said to Hubby, "that this is my baby."

There was just the briefest pause before Hubby replied, "Mine too."

Go ahead, I'll wait.


As my brother put it, "You can do whatever the hell you want to for the rest of the summer. You just earned a whole [bunch] of points with that one."

I couldn't have been prouder of Hubby in that moment if he had presented me with a diamond and yellow gold tennis bracelet.

I still don't know what point she was trying to make. It's been 15 years, and I'm pretty sure he has established the fact that he has indeed taken care of me.

Whatever the point, it was lost in the furor of laughter and "Awwwwwwwwwwwwww....."

Best come-back EVER.

Go Hubby.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not Much of a Car Person......

I've never been much of a car person. I am happy with a vehicle if it takes me where I want to go and gets me back. Air conditioning is appreciated (but I haven't always had it), and having a CD player is nice when I can't pick up a decent radio station, but I don't go googly-eyed over the way a car looks. I chose my current car because it would allow me to transport my bicycle and keep it out of the weather and under lock and key. The fact that it can seat 7 (8 if some of them are children, but who wants THAT?), has a sunroof, has leather seats (I'd just as soon have cloth), and has a keypad for entry (but it broke and we haven't had it repaired because it was never important enough to spend $300-400) are all pretty much negligible to me.

When I first got my driver's license, I had a couple of hand-me-down cars from relatives. I had a little station wagon of some kind that Katydid and her husband had (it was blue, but that's all I remember about it), but my aunt wanted it so Mom sold it to her. I think. Then I had something my step-brother had driven that resembled a tank, and it was... gold? What I consider my REAL first car was a four-speed Datsun B-210 (I've blogged about it before) with no air conditioner and no radio. I saved enough money to put a cassette player and stereo in it about four months after I got it, and my friend Michele and I rode around listening to Billy Joel, the Beach Boys, and David Allan Coe all summer. Please just shoot me now for that last one.

My next car was also a stick shift with no air conditioner. It was called a Dodge Colt but was made by Mitsubishi and was silver. Then I went through a couple of Ford Escorts bought from family members (a red one from my former sister-in-law and then a blue one from my stepson), then a van that I neither picked out nor wanted but was important for a golf trip my ex wanted to go on (yes, he was not above purchasing a vehicle that would be helpful for a single golf trip), then a little pickup truck of which I took custody after the divorce because its payments were lower, then a Grand Am (the sportiest thing I had ever driven, until...), then a Grand Prix (and my father refused to ride in either of the last two because they were made by Pontiac), and then my current SUV.

Hubby and I have been to a couple of car shows. It's neat (for about 5 minutes) to walk around and look at the really old, old cars and wonder where in the world they plugged their GPS units in. But walking around peering under hoods and counting the pistons and cylinders and valves (?????) on a bunch of cars and trucks is about as boring as it gets. At least to me. If I go to Hell, I'm pretty sure my punishment will involve an eternal cycle of car shows. With rap music piped into each and every car.

I said all that to say this. (Aren't you relieved there really IS a point?)

Ever since Hubby bought his new car, it has brought pedestrians to a standstill and caused entire carloads of teenagers to stop and stare.

I was driving to dinner one night, and we were in the left turn lane next to some teenagers. They were punching one another and pointing at our car. I felt obligated to mouth to them, "It's not mine. It's his," as I pointed to Hubby. They started laughing, and I could almost swear one of them was saying to the other one, "I told you!"

Friday night we went out to dinner, and when we came out of the restaurant, there was a woman taking a picture of Hubby's car.


I mean, it's a nice car for sure, and I enjoy driving it (when I can get over being nervous about it), but I'm not sure it would turn my head if I saw it in traffic.

I did sort of fake it a little bit when we were in Mississippi two weeks ago. I was riding my bike and came to a four-way stop right after a car just like Hubby's pulled up to my right, only that car was red. It was her turn to go, but she waved me through the intersection first, and that almost never happens to me when I'm on my bike, so I turned and waved and mouthed to her, "Nice car!" I thought that might be more meaningful than just saying "thanks." But if she had gone through the intersection before me, I wouldn't have sat there on my bike staring after her car.

I guess I'm just not that much of a car person.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Up the Creek Without a Pedal.....

Look, I don't name them, I just ride them.

I have heard of this bike ride for years, but just between you and me, I was afraid of it.

That's right, Bragger was afraid. Of hills.

This ride takes place in the northwest corner of Georgia (can it have a northwest corner if it isn't a square state?), and while it might not be classified as being "in the mountains," it's most certainly in the foothills. And the mountains are visible. That's enough to scare me off.

I decided to do it this year with my pal Rozmo, and it may be the best ride I've done all year. It may be one of the best rides ever.

I don't say this lightly, and I don't know that I've said it about any other ride, but I would happily do this ride again tomorrow. Tomorrow.

That's still true even though getting there required getting up at 4:00 AM, driving two hours, and being on I-85, I-285, and I-75. (But not on my bicycle, thank goodness.)

The route was very well laid out, and it wound around BETWEEN the hills instead of up and down them. This ride had fewer feet of total climb than the ride I did locally last weekend. Go figure. The roads were very rural, there was little traffic, and everything was well organized. Not to mention the scenery was beautiful.

Skies were overcast most of the day, and I was afraid this morning that it would rain. I didn't even think to take a jacket with me. When I was standing in the parking lot, I felt one drop of rain fall. Two drops would have been enough to make me go home, but it was just the one, so I soldiered on.

Even though we were near the mountains, there were no tough climbs today. Gentle rollers, but nothing that came even remotely close to making me cuss. Lately I've been happy if my average is over 14 mph over the course of a long ride. Last weekend it was 14.9 on the hilly ride, and I was cooked. I had no gas left in the tank.

Today my average was 15.3, and I sang all the way home. Sang. I rode 60 miles in under 4 hours. That wouldn't be surprising on a flat ride, but in the mountains? Pardon me while I pat myself on the back.

I'm very happy I did this ride. Oh, and let me clarify. I set the alarm for 4:00 AM, but I was wide awake at 3:30. Suddenly I'm sleepy. Good night.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Favorite Things Friday.....Peanut Butter Granola Balls.....

I mentioned a while back about a particular ride Katydid, Rozmo and I do (and sometimes VT) that specializes in awesome rest stops. Not just the standard fruit, cookies, and sports drink (which are all appreciated, by the way), but homemade goodies.

My personal favorite on this ride, the Tony Serrano Century, are the peanut butter granola balls. This year when we got to the first rest stop, the peanut butter granola balls were ALL GONE. That made me ride like hell to rest stop #2, where they had plenty of PBGBs. I was still eating them when the ride was over and the rest stop volunteers were packing up to go home. I chased them to their cars, screaming, "Just one more! Just one more!"

Or maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic. They are good, though.

And the lady who makes them is kind enough to post the recipe on the internet for all the world to enjoy. I'll post the link here in case any of you want to make them. (By the way, I think the first ingredient is supposed to say 2 1/2 cups. It's a little unclear.)

Joyce's Peanut Butter Granola Balls

I decided to make some of these last night and take them to school. I don't think I came out with quite 96 balls, but I tend to grow impatient and the balls get bigger and bigger. The last ones were softball-sized. Not really. I did learn, however, that rolling the balls in my hands means the peanut butter gets all over them, and then the next ball won't hold together. I found myself washing my hands after every ball, and I was dismayed at the prospect of washing my hands 96 times (or however many times I actually wound up ... with ... balls ... I cannot make that sentence structure work, but you know what I mean). I discovered that if I dusted my palms with the graham cracker crumbs, it made the rolling of the balls much smoother. And since the last step was to roll the balls in graham cracker crumbs, it was sort of a short-cut.

I made ours with Splenda instead of sugar, not only to make them better for Hubby, but because we don't typically have sugar in the house at all. And I NEVER have powdered sugar. I also considered using powdered cocoa instead of the mini chocolate chips to cut down more on the calories and fat, but since it was my first time, I made them according to the recipe. I also think adding coconut might be an acceptable variation.

These were a big hit at school today, and several folks emailed to ask for the recipe. Our resource officer muttered something about being a diabetic and walked away before I could tell him they were made with Splenda. Butthead.

Joyce says on the recipe that you can make these ahead of time, and they will last in the refrigerator 2-3 weeks.

She must not know the same folks I do.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Recipes and Eccentric Ladies and Stuff....

This originally started out to be a post about my first attempt at making peanut butter granola balls, but then I got to thinking about how kind the lady was to post the recipe online for anyone to make them, and then it evolved into a post about Connie. Strange how that works.

Connie was a sweet lady with whom I taught English years ago. To say she was eccentric is putting it mildly. She was a little bitty thing with ginormous hair (I started working there in '89, and her hair never made it out of the 80's), and she teetered along on stiletto heels all the time. She was known to show up for school in a big old floppy hat -- we're talking Kentucky Derby quality here -- and it was worth going to prom every year just to see what Connie was wearing.

She's the only teacher I've ever known who got sent home to change clothes because they were inappropriate for school. That actually happened before my time, so I only know it as hearsay, but based on some of the outfits she DIDN'T get sent home for, it's very believable. She wore leggings even when they weren't in style, but she didn't necessarily wear the long cover-up tops that have cycled through the popularity phase a couple of times. Her tops didn't quite cover her rear, and they were likely to be low-cut on top of that, so it sometimes looked as if she were wearing a blousy bra and pantyhose. I know I'm not explaining this very well. She was middle-aged, so she should have known better, even if her body was still in good enough shape that she could carry it off.

Connie's classroom (in addition to her classes) was a disaster. There were stacks and piles and jumbles of papers, textbooks, workbooks, file folders, student work from the 60's (maybe), and just plain old JUNK strewn around her whole room. I'm no neat freak, but her classroom made me twitch. And her students just ran all over her. She babied them, even calling every single one of them "baby," and I'm sad to say she didn't do a whole lot of teaching. Her students made fun of her, but they weren't mean to her. They loved her because she loved them, and it wasn't their fault if she didn't teach them a blooming thing all year. But she was a wonderful person, generous and kind and funny and impossible not to like.

Right after I started teaching there, Connie brought in a coconut cake to school. I'm not a huge fan of coconut, but I AM a huge fan of cake, so I tried a piece. It was good enough to make me a die-hard coconut lover on the spot. I cannot describe the deliciousness of that cake. It was apparently her trademark, and everyone vied to get one of Connie's coconut cakes, even folks from other departments. When I (eventually) didn't have a mouthful of cake, I asked Connie if I could have the recipe.

She looked me dead in the eye and said, "No."

She didn't say anything else, and I stuttered and stammered for a moment. I kind of thought she was kidding for a moment, and I fully expected her to break into her tittering little laugh. Then she continued.

"If I started giving out the recipe, anyone could make it," she said. "Then it wouldn't be special anymore."

I couldn't argue with her logic. But I'd never had anyone REFUSE to give out a recipe before. I was stunned, to say the least.

Years later, when I got to know Connie better, I understood a little more fully. I didn't hold a grudge about the cake recipe, because it was just one of the eccentricities that made Connie Connie. Eventually she told me if I ever left that school, she would share the recipe with me. In that moment I knew I had become Connie's friend.

Of course I did eventually leave that school, and Connie didn't get around to sharing the recipe with me. It was probably buried somewhere beneath fourteen tons of paperwork in her classroom. I had other things on my mind as well, having just married Hubby and preparing to move on to another high school. I've taught in several places over the years, and that English department was the closest-knit group of co-workers I've ever had the privilege to work with. With the possible exception of my current co-workers, since there are only five of us.

Not too long after Hubby and I married, I was in the kitchen one morning and he was reading the paper. He called into the kitchen, "Do you know Connie ________?"

"Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"She drowned in her apartment swimming pool this weekend."

I was shocked, to say the least. She was only 54, and apparently she couldn't swim. I remember there being some speculation at the time that prescription drugs may have been involved, but her death was ruled an accident.

Now before you get all judgmental and start throwing accusations around that my first thought upon hearing of Connie's death was the fact that I would never get that coconut cake recipe, let me set the record straight and say that was my SECOND thought.

My first one was, "Holy mother of all that's holy, who is going to have to clean out her classroom?"

RIP, Connie.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Teaching Memories.....

As my teaching career winds down, I can't help but think back to some of my early memories related to my teaching career. Sweet Girl reminded me of some of them tonight related to her, so tonight's episode will be devoted to Sweet Girl and how her life intersected with my teaching career.

I don't know if I've ever told her or not, but it is BECAUSE of Sweet Girl that I went into teaching. I was working at a dead-end secretarial job under the supervision of a BEEYOTCH at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine. I was a good secretary and an excellent typist, but I couldn't help but feel my talents (and college education) were being wasted. Sweet Girl was born at the end of June, and I had planned my pregnancy down to the exact number of 30 sick days I would need to take 6 weeks of maternity leave. Taking any additional leave without pay was out of the question. What I did NOT anticipate was having a case of walking pneumonia early in my pregnancy, and I had to stay out of school for a week. That left me with only 5 weeks when Sweet Girl was born.

I promise there's a point to all this, and I'm not going to regale you with Sweet Girl's entire biography.

I decided to take 4 full weeks and then work mornings only for 2 weeks in order to ease back into the working routine. The two weeks I worked half-time I would pick her up from daycare (a four week old in daycare!!), and we would have the rest of the afternoon together. Toward the end of the second week I got emotional at the thought of leaving her all day every day. I remember thinking, "If only I had the whole summer off." I never thought I could be a stay-at-home mom (finances wouldn't have allowed it anyway), but the idea of having that three-month period together started the wheels turning and I decided to pursue a degree in education.

It wasn't easy, going back to graduate school with a little baby, and if it hadn't been for my mother, I couldn't have made it through the whole program. I was working toward my masters degree and my teaching certificate at the same time, and when it came time to student teach, I was assigned a school about an hour from home. Mom let me drop Sweet Girl off at her house, and she fed her breakfast and took her to daycare.

My first years of teaching were in a middle school, but I had despaired of getting a job and was happy to teach ANYWHERE. The first year I had trouble building up any sick days at all. I had a couple of minor illnesses (that was before I figured out that teachers go to work when they're sick unless they are throwing up or running a fever over 235), my brother was in a terrible car accident, and then Sweet Girl had the chicken pox.

When I moved on to the high school (thank all that is holy), I was given the top only if I would agree to tackle the yearbook. Welcome to high school, where we have ways of making you do things you would otherwise run like hell from. Anyone who knows anything about a high school yearbook knows that a large part of the work is done beyond the hours of the school day. There are workshops, advertising sales, sports events that have to be covered, and the dreaded deadlines. The woman who was in charge of the yearbook before me found herself spending the night at school with her staff when they were expecting delivery of the yearbooks and they didn't come by nightfall. So glad I didn't have to do THAT.

Poor Sweet Girl usually had to be dragged along to these after-school activities. I remember (and she reminded me of it tonight on the phone) one Saturday when we had an all-day work session. She was about 5 years old, and I was at a loss as to how to keep her occupied at school all day when I would be busy doing other things. I finally decided to allow her to take her roller skates (she was just learning) to school. She had the run of the entire building on her skates, and I'm so glad it was in the days before video cameras. She had a blast roller skating up and down the halls of that big building, and I didn't feel (quite as) guilty about making her spend her Saturday at school.

Whenever Sweet Girl got sick (it's always the middle of the night, too, isn't it?), I had to take her to school with me. Her pediatrician and my school were in the same town, about 30 minutes away from where we lived. It only made sense to take her to school with me, arrange lesson plans for a substitute, call the doctor's office when it opened, and take her to the doctor from there. Once the poor thing was so very, very sick that she lay down on the floor behind my desk and went to sleep. She was running a high fever, and I had to get some things together for the sub. We were still in my room when students began arriving, and she stirred restlessly. One of my students pointed at her and said, "Look! It's moving!" I lit into him like he had shot my dog, and I never ever liked him again after that. I know he was only teasing, but he was picking on my cub (sorry Sweet Girl), and I went into Mama Bear mode.

Sweet Girl remembers coming to my classroom and playing on the Mac. It was a tiny little computer with about a 7-inch screen, black and white, and those of us who had them were so dang proud of them. Naturally we didn't have a computer at home yet, so it was a special treat for her to get to play games on my computer.

I taught summer school a couple of years, because I could always use extra money in those days. (Wait...I still can always use extra money. "Extra" back then meant we might be able to buy groceries, though.) When Sweet Girl was in second grade, we were talking one day about what she might want to be when she grew up. I asked if she ever thought about being a teacher, and she said, "Maybe... But I'm never going to teach summer school." That broke my heart, and I never taught summer school again.

Sweet Girl went with me to Friday night football games and Saturday swim meets. I took her with me on the state Beta Club convention after she asked me one night, "Mom...What's a hotel?" The child had been to Italy, but she didn't know what a hotel was? She had a ball staying at one of the swanky Atlanta hotels, taking luxurious showers and wrapping her hair in a big fluffy towel. We went to eat at the revolving restaurant on the hotel's roof, and she loved the experience even if she didn't care much for the food.

She's gone with me to buy candy that I sold (illegally) out of my classroom cabinet to fund the school's literary magazine, she's helped me put together the student handbook and the literary magazine, she has helped me make copies and graded papers.

If she ever DOES decide to go into teaching, she's already had a lot of practice.

And I hope she doesn't ever teach summer school.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Random Thoughts.....

  • I went back to Zumba class tonight for the first time in MONTHS. I got there right on time, so there was no room in the front row, where I like to be. I had a hard time seeing from the back, and I REALLY wanted to blame it on someone other than myself when I didn't know some of the dances. What a brat. But the class was awesome.
  • One of my students asked me today if I were talking to myself. I responded, "Yes I am. Sometimes it's the only intelligent conversation I can find." One of her classmates explained it to her.
  • My awesome Hubby cleaned the house today. Vacuumed, swept, mopped the floors, put new light bulbs in the kitchen fixture so I don't have to use Braille cookbooks. Cookbooks....bwahahahahaha. AND he put a roast and some potatoes in the crockpot, so we're pretending he cooked dinner too.
  • It's only May, and I'm already dreading the days getting shorter. What is WRONG with me? Maybe I should move nearer the equator, where the days are the same length all year.
  • UGA has yet to contact me regarding the opening for a gymnastics head coach. I expect a call just any minute. 
  • A co-worker has introduced me to yet another addictive game for my iPhone, called Logos. Today I resorted to cheating to figure out some of the logos. In my (rather weak) defense, some of them were rather obscure. Who even drives an Opel anymore? I searched and searched car logos for one that I was CERTAIN was a car. I just saw a commercial for Steak & Shake and realized it was the mysterious logo. Go figure.
  • There was a story on the Atlanta news this morning about a group of fifth graders on a field trip. Seems the bus company subcontracted out the return ride without informing the new company of the nature of the group. The vehicle sent to fetch the fifth graders back to school was a "party bus," complete with leather seats and at least one dance pole. Naturally parents are in an uproar. I figure if the bus didn't come WITH a stripper, no harm no foul. And if a fifth grader knows what a dance pole is for, you've got bigger problems than a party bus.
  • I shipped a book back to the publisher today, one that I didn't mean to order. When I told the post office lady I wanted to ship it Media Mail, she asked what was in it. ('s MEDIA.) When I told her it was a book, she asked if there were anything else in there with it. What, does she think this is the airport? No there's nothing else in it, and yes I packed it myself.
  • Hubby asked if I needed anything on his every-other-day trip to Wally World yesterday. I went out on a limb and asked him to pick up a skein of yarn in a specific color. He got it right.
  • In a meeting after school today, we were discussing how to better serve our students next year. The question of having a services coordinator came up (that's the job the Warrior Princess had when she worked with us...sniff sniff), and our principal said she may be able to work that position back in for next year. Then she looked at me and said, "And I think you ought to apply for it." WHAT? What part of "retire" doesn't she understand?
  • It rained yesterday and today, and I'm going into cycling withdrawal. I'm not complaining, because I know we need the rain, but I'm also ready to ride.
  • Some commercials on television are hilarious, but only the first 450 times you see them.
  • I don't think I've ever seen anything on The Three Stooges that I thought was really funny.
  • It's 119 days until the start of the college football season. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dear Jay Clark.....

Ever since the news of your "resignation" broke on Friday, I have been trying to decide how I feel about it. The best I can come up with are some decidedly mixed emotions. Forgive the oxymoron. Or is it a paradox?

I have no doubt about your skills and abilities as a college gymnastics coach. After 17 seasons as an assistant and 3 as a head coach, I'm sure you've learned a thing or two. The fact that your team failed to make the Super Six for three straight years may or may not be a direct result of your coaching. Or lack thereof. The results are ultimately, however, the means by which you are judged, and those who judge you have found you lacking.

I can only give you my perspective, that of a Gym Dogs fan. Perhaps one of their most devoted (obsessed?) fans. I can only offer my opinion based on my very limited personal interactions with you and my more extensive observations from the sidelines.

In the few times we have had direct contact, you have come across as sarcastic at best and arrogant at worst. When my husband and I attended the Meet the Team dinner, you approached us and thanked us for being there. That was cool. However, when my husband told you I would be traveling to Tuscaloosa to see the Gym Dogs take on the reigning national champions, your reply wasn't at all what I expected. You snorted -- snorted! -- and said, "Boy, you're brave." I thought you MIGHT say something along the lines of, "We appreciate your going to such lengths to show your support." You could even have tacked that on to the end of YOUR comment, and it might have taken some of the sting out. As it was, you walked away and left me feeling rather foolish for spending all that time and money to travel to an away competition.

Your responses to questions in your weekly online chats were equally underwhelming, and not just mine. Whenever anyone asked about the girls' leotards (Come on, it's what they wear! It's part of the whole package!), you always replied rather tersely, "I don't do apparel." We get that, but we also knew it was your wife who DID, so as an assistant coach, couldn't you let her sit next to you and field those questions? The couple of times she filled in for you during the online chat were much more enjoyable. She exuded warmth and enthusiasm, while your answers made it seem as though you would rather be almost anywhere else. I often left your online chats asking myself, "Why did I bother?" It was rarely worth risking burning (or delaying) dinner on Monday evenings.

I ventured to ask a question about recruiting once, because I was genuinely interested in the process. You answered with a smiley face. A smiley face? Are you KIDDING me? When I asked where fans typically sit in a certain arena, you suggested I look for a bunch of red shirts and go sit there. I also asked once, not in a critical way but more out of curiosity, why you didn't publish a bunch of training videos like a lot of other programs. You responded that if you put your routines out there for free, people were less likely to come pay to see them on Friday nights.

Seriously? You think we give up our Friday nights (and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons) just to see a routine or two? You're talking about people (person?) who will watch the same meet over and over again, when the outcome is already determined. I don't think it would have been giving anything away to allow your true fans a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of training and practice. Practice is open to the public, I realize, so perhaps it was more a case of not wanting to put forth the effort to market your team. Then say that.

On the sidelines, it was rare to see you smile. You might fist pump, you might shout, "Yeah!" after a nailed landing, but your fierceness in those situations did not translate into competitiveness. Mostly you just looked pissed off. All. The.  Time. Except when you really NEEDED to be pissed off, like when Shayla fell off the beam. Twice. Or when she fell off the FLOOR, for goodness' sake. Twice. On those occasions you picked her up (literally) and put her back on whatever apparatus. You didn't look pissed off on those occasions.

I'm not one to question your coaching decisions, because I have to assume you know more than I do. The stapler sitting on my desk may know more about college gymnastics than I do. It did appear, however, that you contradicted your own publicly stated policies regarding the competition line-up. You said Shayla performed consistently in the gym during practice and therefore earned her spot in the line-up. She fell during competition EIGHT times out of 29 routines this past year. Twice she fell two times in the same routine, and once she fell on both events for which she was in the line-up. I'm not here to bash Shayla, and I think she's a lovely gymnast (when she isn't on the mat), but couldn't you see a pattern there? Then poor Cat Hires, who you said yourself performed very well in the gym but couldn't transfer that to the competition floor (ahem...sound familiar?) fell twice competing on floor, and she was forever (or at least for the rest of the season) banished from floor exercise.

Toward the end of the season you pulled Christa Tanella from the bars line-up and replaced her with a freshman. That's all well and good if the freshman outdid her in the gym (and I personally love her to death), although it appeared to me that Christa had been nearly flawless in the lead-off spot. Okay, I get it. The freshman stepped up, scoring a 9.8 at the Regional Championships in the lead-off position, a career high score for her. All righty then. Two weeks later, when it counted the most, you pulled her and put Christa back in. Huh? When she fell on her very first handstand, you lifted her back to the high bar, and then you turned your back. When she fell the second time, I don't think you even saw it. Your disgust was almost palpable. When Christa finally got your attention, you gestured to her in a way that seemed to scream, "Get back up there yourself. I'm done here." Probably not what you were actually saying, but certainly the message your body language telegraphed to the fans. I'm no Christa Tanella fan, but in that moment my heart hurt for her.

I watch the other NCAA gymnastics coaches, and they just seem to be more INTO their teams. They're clapping, they're cheering, they're smiling, they're hugging. Most of the time you're scowling. I realize that being warm and fuzzy may not be in your chemistry. But it's apparently what top gymnastics programs thrive on. And what fans would like to see. Guess what a lot of your fans are? Donors.

I do believe you have a skill set for coaching gymnastics that will be valuable to some program somewhere. You followed a legend at UGA, not an enviable position for anyone. But as an assistant to that legend for 17 years, you better than anyone else should have known how to make that transition a seamless one. It couldn't have been a case of the talent pool suddenly drying up. Hell, you had a former Olympian on your team in 2010, and we didn't even make it TO nationals, much less the Super Six.

I realize it also kind of sucks that finishing in the top ten (or just outside it) is not good enough. You've been along for the dynasty's ride, so you knew what kind of expectations came with the position. Finishing third in the toughest conference in the country isn't good enough either, not when that conference typically has three powerhouse teams and "the others."

Yes, I will hate to see you go. I hate change, and I believe you were beginning to turn the corner. Repeated disappointment hurts recruitment, however, and with recruiting happening in the 10th grade now (WHAT?), UGA couldn't afford to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.

I also hate that we lose TWO out of our three coaches, since your wife is an assistant, and I ASSUME she will be going with you. I hate it for your children, who have never known life without Georgia Gymnastics.

I don't know that there's anything you could have done personally to prevent this chain of events. Maybe it was just time for a new era. I wish you and your family the best, and I hope you don't wind up taking the reins of a program that will ultimately kick our arses.

Now THAT would suck.



Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Part I Left Out....

After I went to bed last night, I realized I had referenced something in my blog about not eating properly on the bike ride yesterday, and I said I would provide more details in a moment.

I forgot, and when I went to bed (at 7:30), I was too exhausted to get back up and correct the blog post. I apologize.

I have remarked before that it is darn near impossible to know what and how much to eat on a bike ride. Some are more difficult than others, sometimes it's hotter than other times, and what and how much I've eaten in days before can also have an effect. I don't have any hard and fast research, nor have I kept my own personal data to back these claims up, because that would make it a much more scientific undertaking than I'm willing to... undertake.

Complicating the issue is the fact that while it SEEMS as if a cyclist could eat whatever food he or she wanted to in whatever quantities, that's sadly not the case. We burn A LOT of calories on a bike ride, but we don't burn an infinite number. We still have to strike a balance, and that is the problem. 

Rest stop food on bike rides tends to be pretty standard. Bananas, oranges, sometimes apples, cookies, granola bars, and PBJ's. A couple of rides (the Tony Serrano Century, for one) go all out with homemade baked goodies, but those are the exception.

Yesterday morning, FINALLY, the scale showed me a pleasant surprise. It finally budged a couple of pounds, and since I've been at a stubborn plateau for almost a year, it made my day.

Unfortunately, it also made me think I could do a 62-mile bike ride in 90-degree heat with 2200 feet of climb without eating properly.

I wasn't trying NOT to eat, don't get me wrong. But I was trying to avoid the white bread in the PBJ's and stick with fruit. I ate about an eighth of an orange at one rest stop, half a banana at another, NOTHING at the third rest stop. And while I didn't go into a full-fledged "bonk" (I'm still not sure exactly what that means, but I hear cyclists use the term all the time), I did begin to fade.

Now, how much of that is due to my poor eating and how much might have been expected to occur anyway isn't clear. It scared me enough that at the fourth rest stop I ate a couple of PBJ's (they were cut into quarters) and some peanuts (for the salt and protein), and I sat down in the shade for a while. I also drank an entire bottle of sports drink and refilled it before I left.

I told you all this not to point out my own stupidity (this time) or just to make it a "what I did on my bike ride" blog post. It's simply an illustration of how issues of food and weight can take hold in our minds (it ISN'T just me, is it?) and make us behave in a way that normally we would be much too intelligent to do.

And it may not have been the scale talking to me at all. I didn't drink properly yesterday either, and that is VERY unusual for me. For whatever reason, I just didn't take care of myself the way I should have yesterday. Fortunately, there were no adverse results. This time.

Except for a brief moment on the drive home when I was drinking my DQ frozen hot chocolate. Not only did I not know where I was for a second, I had no idea where that delicious drink had come from. Luckily I DID know the way home.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tour d'Oconee...Part Deux.......

Instead of (wisely) spending Cinco de Mayo sipping margaritas, I did a bike ride in my hometown. Katydid and I rode in the inaugural event last year, and it was a wonderful experience.

Katydid didn't go this year (would that make her Katydidn't?) because she participated in a 5K with her grandson. That probably took her less than an hour, and I was on my bike for 4 hours and 6 minutes. Further proof that educated doesn't necessarily mean smart. Plus, she won in her age division, and I didn't get a bloomin' thing. Further proof... never mind.

I think I posted a picture of the route last year, but I'm posting today's again just because I think it's cool. Do you think they designed this route to look like a lion, or do you think someone rode it, uploaded the route data into a program like mine, and THEN decided it looked like a lion? I'm betting on the second option.

That middle part, where it looks like we went into the lion's intestines, represents the loop part of the ride that made the 62-mile option. The majority of people rode the 62-mile option last year; this year the majority didn't. I was in the smaller percentage of people. Further proof... never mind.

I had the route on my GPS while I was riding, so instead of concentrating on mileage or time, I kept asking myself, "Where in the hell on that $#!*#($ lion AM I?" When I made the turn on the nose and started up the "face" of the lion, I felt a little bit better. But not much, because being familiar with the route and the location, I knew there were still some difficult times ahead.

The total elevation gained over this route was 2256 feet. In comparison, the most recent 50-mile+ rides we have done have had total elevation gained of: 1525 (Mississippi), 1812 (Spring Tune-Up), 1826 (Spring Tune-Up), 1610 (Best Dam Ride Ever), and 944 (St. Patrick's Day Century). So my suffering toward the end of the ride was not imaginary - it was hard work, even compared to other rides of similar length. And it was hot, hot, hot.

There were a couple of things that made me less effusive in my praise of this ride than I was last year. For one thing, the ride was slated to start at 9:00, with registration beginning at 7:30. I got there sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 (probably closer to 8:00), and it seemed like an ETERNITY before the ride started. I rode around in circles (didn't even count those "miles"), meandered to the front of the line in the hope of encouraging other rides to do the same, even said to a few people, "Let's go already!" With the temperatures predicted to approach 90 degrees today, it seemed to me that an earlier start would have been preferable. Or maybe two different starts, with the 62-mile folks leaving earlier. I realize it's difficult to get volunteers out there at the crack of dawn, but personally I would have relished those 45-60 minutes of cooler riding.

The ride officials and a couple of people at the rest stops kept singing the praises of a restaurant that would be providing lunch at the end of the ride. I wasn't that hungry at the end (I never am), but I didn't do a very good job of eating properly on the ride today (more on that in a moment). So I lined up at the food tent when I got back, and the choices were a hamburger or chicken tacos. Um...neither? The guy in charge of the tent sensed my disappointment and said he could make me a grilled chicken sandwich. Then I heard the girl taking orders tell a couple, "That'll be $5 each."

Wait. I thought it was INCLUDED? The couple thought so too, and they said they didn't have any money and turned away. I did the same, a little irritated. I HAD money on my bike (a few yards away), but I was mostly embarrassed that I thought it was included and it wasn't. I turned to go, and the guy said, "I've already made yours, so let us feed you." I was more embarrassed than hungry, though, so I said no thanks and walked away.

I'm not sure where I got the idea that the lunch was part of the bike ride, but it's not uncommon. And obviously I wasn't the only person who thought so. So while it may have been my own misunderstanding, that was a bit of a disappointment.

On a positive note, however, I stopped at Dairy Queen right after leaving the ride location. It was only about a 20-minute drive home, but I was in desperate need of something COLD to drink. (The water in my bottles was like bath water by then.) I intended to get the largest size diet soft drink they sold, but then something on the menu caught my eye: Frozen Hot Chocolate. In a choice of peanut butter, caramel, and something else. I got a medium, and that was the best drink I think I've ever had in my whole life. I realize it likely had a gazillion calories in it (but perhaps less than a milkshake? maybe?), but it was WAY refreshing. And perked me up for the trip home.

I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I did manage a few.

The ride organizer FINALLY convinced the others riders to move up there with the grumpy middle-aged woman who was waiting impatiently right behind the sheriff's deputy's car.

These signs even turn up on organized rides. Sorry for the poor angle, but I didn't plan far enough in advance. Luckily we turned left.

The church where I got married (the first time). I thought I took a picture of the church itself, but apparently I had slid the selector to "video." Drat.

The house where I lived from 1973 until I got married in 1982. I don't remember what year Mom sold it, but I was heartbroken.

I don't know what's up with the red door. I remember my step-father building that retaining wall in the front yard. And backing into it when I was trying to learn to drive. Likewise the well cover on the left side, which I will forever think was rather poorly placed. Sorry for the lopsided picture; this was at about mile 59, and if I had stopped those people would have had to deal with me moving back in.