Monthly Archives: September 2015

Day 13, 14, and 15: I Seriously Need to Schedule Myself Better Than This

Yeeeeesh.  Where did the week go?  Where has the calendar betrayed me?  Where is my brain lately?  For the answers to these and other thrilling questions, tune in tomorrow…..

Nope, only kidding.  I’m getting it done TODAY.  Right, here we go.

Day 13: “Tell a story through a series of vignettes that together read as variations on the same theme.”  Okay, here goes:

Click.  The knitting needles sounded soothing and rhythmic as the blue-green yarn wound around them, mysteriously forming stitch after stitch, in a meditative state that comes to knitters when they’ve reached the state of knitting zen.

Tink.  The knitting needles jabbed a bit at each other as each mistaken stitch in the blue-green yarn was tugged apart due to the knitting zen that caused the knitter to stop paying attention to the pattern.

Gnash.  The knitter’s teeth made the unpleasant scraping sound as the hideous blue-green yarn was unceremoniously yanked out in a hot spaghetti mess on the floor as the dropped stitch fifteen rows earlier screamed “neener neener!”

Day 14: “Write a post that takes place during one single day.”

The elevator doors slid open and I stepped into the parking garage.  My car was not there.  Well, my car definitely was not there because it was in the shop waiting for its final diagnosis.  My rental car was not there.  It had been parked on the end spot right across from the elevator, so the only conclusion was I had gotten off on the wrong floor.  But wait!  What if there was an elevator on the other end of the floor?  Maybe that’s the one I was parked outside of?  Now picture me, walking all over this parking garage, looking for my rental car (a white van; nobody drives a white van, right?  Wrong!  EVERYBODY drives a white van and they all parked in that parking garage!) and turning many different ways.  During that treasure hunt, the garage called me with the list of woes and how much they would cost and to be honest, I really didn’t hear everything because I was thinking I’d have to tell them I lost their white van and maybe they shouldn’t use white vans as loaner cars in the suburbs?  But when I mentioned that I would love to call them back once I’m in the car and hopefully that would be soon as I seem to not be able to find it just at that moment, the mechanic gave me the helpful suggestion to hit the panic button.  (Insert some lofty and esoteric words here about needing a panic button for life.  Good.)  Do you know what hitting the panic button does in a garage?  IT ECHOES.  When it echoes, you can’t really hear from which direction the sound is issuing, so there was another ten minutes of me roaming around the place and beeping and shutting off the beeping.  Eventually, I found it, not on the fourth floor that I was sure I had parked on, but the second floor.  Next to a white van.  OF COURSE.  This time delay put me square in the middle of rush hour on a busy highway, and for the first time in three unemployed years, I needed to be somewhere on time.  All my long-buried commuting habits came back with a rush and I was calling people morons and glaring at those cutting in front of me and pounding the steering wheel with frustration when the car in front of me insists on going TWENTY MILES AN HOUR BELOW THE SPEED LIMIT and everyone is whizzing by and cutting in front of him which is making me slower…..

Reflecting on this episode, I have come to this conclusion: I don’t handle stress well.  Raise your hand if you’re shocked.

Day 15: “Without music, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

(Nietzsche is hard to type, yo.)

This is the quote I’m writing about because I was a music teacher.  I taught every grade level and I can tell you honestly that music doesn’t mean the same thing to same people.  To school administrators, it means “we have no money for your program but make sure you put on stellar concerts for the parents to like so they’ll support the school budget.”  To little kids it means “can we play on all the instruments really loudly and clap our hands and can we sing The Elephant Song again and again until you get that crazy look in your eyes?”  To older kids it means “I want to learn to play the trumpet/clarinet/saxophone/drums but I really don’t want to practice, it’s too hard, so can I just learn enough to be in the concert?”  To high school kids it means “music is everything to me and it’s going to be my focus when I’m out of high school.  I’m going to be a music teacher/recording star/songwriter and get the true message out there.”

But when you’re the music teacher?  It means telling your administrators several billionty times that no, you are not a jukebox and you can’t just play a little song as background for some meeting or other; telling little kids that we are learning about rhythm when we clap and play sticks and we’re not pounding them like a baby in a playpen, and telling their parents that no, we don’t just sing songs all day; telling older kids that if a commitment is being made to an instrument then it’s going to be a real commitment and of course it’s not easy, because if it was everybody would be doing it and that’s not what we’re into; and telling high school students that they should of course follow their dreams and be true to themselves but maybe take another course that would earn them some money.

And what do I tell myself?  That after fifteen years of teaching music, of not being respected by administrators or colleagues, of hearing lame excuses by parents why their children won’t be in the concert tomorrow night (we want to get an early jump on the holiday weekend traffic) and dealing with zero budgets for instruments or sheet music, and of too many nights and weekends away from home, I am glad to be done.  And after fifteen years of hearing sweet young voices united in song and beginning instrumentalists reading music and performing a song correctly with pride and hearing more experienced instrumentalists play music that moved me to tears with its simple beauty and watching high school students succeed in college and afterwards at their musical careers…..

I know it was all for a good reason.  No mistakes here, Mr. Nietzsche.

"A little softer, trumpets, listen for the flutes."

“A little softer, trumpets, listen for the flutes.”



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Squishing Day 10, 11, and 12: I Must Be Mad!

Day 10: I do not drink coffee.  Readers of Tea and Sarcasm will understand why.  So, if we were having a cup of tea together, I’d be offering you a mug and a various assortment of different teas.  NOT TISANES, NOT HERBALS, NOT MUDDLED FLOWERS.  Tea.  I would boil the kettle, offer you milk, sugar, honey, or one last packet of artificial sweetener left over from the days we used to hold mammoth backyard barbecues which hasn’t happened in over ten years, so accept the packet at your own risk.  I’d pour, then ask you how long you’d like it to brew.  Understandably, you’d look puzzled.  Many of our friends take the mug, give the tea bag or the infuser a quick dunk like it’s a carnival dunk tank, and drink from there.  If I weren’t such a polite hostess, I’d give you a major stinkeye because why are you wasting my yummy tea when all you really wanted was tea-scented water?  I used to brew my tea for 10 minutes but now it’s six.  After I’d settled down with you and our mugs and offered some cookies to go with, I’d chat about whatever we wanted and there’d be no holds barred, no judgement, no off-topic topics.  If you say something I violently disagree with, I may or may not push back, but I will eventually and ever so subtly change the subject.  Tea is just that good, and it should be shared in good company with amiable feelings.  Now, if we were drinking wine, that’s a different saga.

Day 11: What do I do when I’m not blogging?  Um, life?  Yesterday was Monday and I was my usual organized self with the added bonus of celebrating a family birthday.  My email notifications were adding up a bit, but I kept telling myself I’d get to those writing assignments really really soon.  Like, soon.  And another day ended and it was all filled with life stuff and people and places and things and I’d think that for sure tomorrow I’d write something.  I’d have cut myself some slack if I’d known the assignment was not to write!  But this reaching out to someone for an interview or collaboration is making my gears not mesh comfortably.  Yes, I know, get out of your comfort zone in order to write about more things, but if I’m not comfortable writing, why would I do it?  As far as someone whose work I admire, that would be Jenny Lawson, Susan Branch, Mary Engelbreit, or Alicia Paulson.  Those are the folks who create and make my heartstrings tug a bit, simply by how their words, pictures, art, blogs, settings, and place resonate within me, that I can’t put words to.  Check them out.  Maybe when the writing assignment comes I’ll do a fake interview.

Day 12: Word count?  Really?  If I’m too long, make it succinct, and if I’m too short, make it longer.  That’s my assignment for today.  I am gobsmacked.  I just…. what?  I don’t pay attention to word count.  Am I supposed to?  Is that what a writer does?  All I can think of is that scene from the movie Amadeus where the Count is trying to sum up his objections to Mozart’s latest piece:  “There it is.  Too many notes.”  Mozart is flabbergasted.  He has written just as many notes as the piece required, no more, no less, and perhaps his majesty would like to suggest which notes he should keep and which he should discard?  (Not that I am in any way comparing my rantings over the interwebz on par with Mozart’s genius, believe me.  That would be mad.  Although my title does say I must be mad, so…..)  I am not really liking this assignment either, but since I’ve blathered on about it, I guess I had something to say.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

Now, to dig out my knitting, cue up Netflix, and find out what’s happening on Midsomer Murders.  I know it’s Tuesday and I alluded to tags, but I’m not there yet.  Soon.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Perhaps.  In the meantime…..

Which is why I don't invite squirrels over.

Which is why I don’t invite squirrels over.


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Day Nine (Forget the Other One, It’s Just Not Working. It’s Not You, It’s…..No, It’s You)

Dear Amy Poehler,

Hi!  Happy Birthday, lady!  It’s your cake day and I hope you’re having plenty of it, with the libation of your choice in abundance.  You only get one birthday a year, I understand, so I always look at it as an opportunity to be indulgent with myself.  (I don’t have to cook on my birthday, do I?  Thank you for cooking for me.  I don’t have to wash the dishes on my birthday, do I?  Aww, thank you for washing them for me.  I don’t have to put the dishes away, do I?)  You see what I mean.  It’s important to feel important on your birthday.

This is also a thank-you note.  If I hadn’t you in my life, Amy Poehler, I would not have been able to suffer through last night’s Republican debates without popping a blood vessel, nor would I have been able to put together a lucid sentence about why I was upset.  Your advice to Smart Girls and Women in General and your Leslie Knope sensibilities are the way I want my head and heart to work all the time, not after I’ve blown a gasket and picked up the (messy) pieces with regret.  I love that both my Daughters are well-versed in Poehlerisms (not trademarked! Please use it if you’d like!) and are much smarter and mature than I ever was at their age, because they have a role model in you.

So Happy Happy Birthday, and thanks for being so cool.


Tea and Sarcasm

Me and Amy  having tea and being sarcastic: MY DREAM DAY.

Me and Amy having tea and being sarcastic: MY DREAM DAY.

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Day Seven, Day Two: Quoting and Auditing

“You see, that is the sad, sorry, terrible thing about sarcasm.

It’s really funny.”
Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

I had a clueless principal observe me once teaching General Music to a class of eighth graders.  Think back to eighth grade for a moment: it’s nothing but hormones, self-absorption, drama, and suffering.  I love eighth graders because they understand more than they think they do and it’s great to trick them into coming out of their shells.  Of course, like any dangerous wildlife, you have to be very aware when the moment comes for them to return to hibernation otherwise you might get chewed up and spit out, but I digress.  One of the prime tools for teaching that grade level is sarcasm.

(Here is where I discuss what I feel sarcasm to be: not mean-spirited, but a joking way to bring the obvious into focus for the sometimes clueless.  It’s like an affectionate punch on the shoulder or messing up someone’s hair, a little bit of “I love you enough to bat you around playfully.”  Not mean.  Okay?)

This principal took me to task for being sarcastic with my students, and I was honestly floored.  What in the world….?  She pointed at me with her pencil (and I resisted the overwhelming urge to snatch in from her hands, break it in half, and hand it back saying “there’ll be none of that rude pointing, thank you very much”) and said I had not been polite in asking a student about closing the door.  Here’s the conversation she referred to:

Me: David, will you please shut the door?  Thanks.  Now, everyone, can you locate the dynamic signs on the score you’ve been given?

class mumbles a bit, points out a few things, circles them, shows their friends, etc.  Classroom door is still open.

Me: So, David, when I ask you to close the door, you decide it means….. stay open?

David: Ooops, sorry, (laughs) I’ll get it now.

That’s what she called biting sarcasm.  That’s what she decided, out of a very engaging lesson that the kids were having fun with and learning, and was well-paced and resulted in some excellent follow-up questions, to focus her pencil-pointing wrath on.  Deciding that I humiliated a student in front of his peers.


Sarcasm is funny when it’s used correctly.  Sarcasm is kind of like being obvious but in a non-obvious way, or stretching out a punch line until it sneaks up and says “Surprise!”  It doesn’t have to be violent.  It can be, of course:

Some people just need a high five.

In the face.

With a chair.

See, that’s funny.  David would like that, too.

Now, to audit my blog and discuss my “brand.”  Well, I have that lovely shot of afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in London to illustrate that while I may look proper whilst sipping my tea, I’m just a kettle full of sarcastic observations.  There’s non-sarcastic stuff, too, which is okay because who wants to be one type of person all the time?  I always thought it would be very wearying to be Emily Post or Miss Manners.  When would you ever be able to let go and just be silly for once without everybody saying “oh good Lord, that’s Emily Post using an iced-tea spoon to eat her ice cream!  It’s surely the apocalypse!”  I mean really.  That’s why I’d never want to be famous; even when I’m somewhat put together on good days, I don’t want a microscope checking out my uneven cuticles.  You can’t even find something sarcastic to say about uneven cuticles, so where am I then?

I am, however, married to a CPA so I guess I could get some auditing advice from him.  But he’s the kind of guy who’s not really internet savvy so if I said “Honey, could you audit my blog to see if my widget titles contribute to my brand and if my visual identity is consistent?” he’d blink and say “What’s a blog?”

Yeah, I think I’m good for now.

Someone fetch me a watery tart.

Someone fetch me a watery tart.


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Day Six and Day One: No Wonder I’m Discombobulated!

I usually love Mondays because for me it’s the most structured day of the week.  Hubby is back to work, laundry is religiously done, lists are made, appointments figured out, and a general sense of I Am Master And Commander floats about me.  Today?  Not so much.  It’s 5:30 right now, I have to be somewhere in half an hour, and I need to blog.  Therefore, I am combining my Writing 101 and my Blogging 201 into one very confusing post because I want to write but I must be efficient about it.


*Deep breath*

Day Six: Where do I write?  Just like my Mondays, I have a structure to it.  I have a little den off the kitchen where I’ve set up my desk and laptop and that is where the writing happens.  I have written a total of ONE post from my mobile app on my iPad and I hated it so much I immediately deleted the app.  I tried writing outside, too, but I was so distracted by breezes and birds and buzzes that I was useless as a writer.  Nope.  It must be at my beautiful desk in my little den.  The desk is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and is Amish made.  It is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture I’ve ever owned.  I have my colored pencils, markers and tools for my inkytags line of art, and my knitting very close by.  There’s a transom window above me that lets me see the sky which I find so important, so soothing, so restorative…of course, the screen could use a good cleaning, but I still see sky so there’s that.  My chair is a standard office chair on wheels with a fabric seat and back and no arms.  Arms on an office chair are so restricting and how can I write when I feel hemmed in?

The anomaly to this is writing in public.  If I bring my laptop to the library or Panera or a hotel, I can still write like a demon because I’m still in my hushed private self yet surrounded by the smell of books or bread or room-service tea.  I have a sneaking suspicion now that it’s my laptop that I really need for my creative writing to flow.  I type pretty fast and I love my old laptop.  (Apple MacBook.  2007.  Black.  Yep, it’s a dinosaur.  Like me.)

And now I’m supposed to ask you all for ideas on what to write, to insert a poll and gather ideas from all of you.  I really don’t know how I feel about this.  Wait, yes I do.  I don’t like it.  I write what I write and I try to make it a bit humorous, a bit thought-provoking, a bit about family, and a bit about growth.  Apparently there will be a test assignment later using this “well of ideas” so I’m putting this in for you, dear readers.  If you’d like to see me write something in particular, please add it in the comments.

Now, on to Day One of Blogging: (I must have been out of my mind to sign up for both.)

Write three goals I’ve set for my blog.  Um……..uh……..hrmmmmm…………

There are no goals I set for this blog, other than writing.  I wanted to get into the habit of writing every day and I soon realized that that was not an achievable goal for me.  I was not going to become “a writer” in the recognizable sense of the word, but I did enjoy a well-crafted essay.  My favorite blogger was known as flurrious who no longer blogs and the world is worse off for it.  But she had a masterful way of turning a phrase and connecting a story and creating a world and I admired it greatly.  I also admire the Bloggess, Posie Gets Cozy, and the Yarn Harlot.  I do not want to be any of these ladies.  I don’t need to brand myself, monetize myself, or be widely read.  I just want my little corner where I can be silly, sarcastic, and drink tea while I write.

That being said, I do like the idea of spending an hour each week visiting my follower’s blogs and commenting.  I must do that more and I will.  I do also have an idea for a weekly feature but I want to flesh it out because I just thought of it this very second and I’m not committing to anything I haven’t thought through.  (Wish I’d had this presence of mind in my twenties.)  I’ll just say this: Tag Tuesday.  (Eeep!  I’ve said too much!)

Good heavens, what a bunch of rambling silly sentences I’ve thrown at you!  785 words in twenty-three minutes, now that’s just ridiculous.  I hope to be back tomorrow with something a bit more……thoughtful.




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Day Four: “But It’s So Confusing!”

I wish my nails were as nice as this stock photo person's are.

I wish my nails were as nice as this stock photo person’s are.

When the Daughters were learning to drive, Hubby became Super Dad.  He had infinite patience with their behind-the-wheel time and knew just what to say to keep the lesson an educational and soothing one.  Me, I spent most of my time saying “OK, OK, OK you can use the brakes now like now now NOW!” which is why I did one session with each and that was the end.  But back to Super Dad.  He was terrific with them and outfitted them with everything they could ever need:

  • The AAA card so they would never be stranded.
  • Jumper cables.  I don’t think they knew the car had a battery, but whatevs.
  • Emergency flares.
  • Solar blanket.
  • A neat carrying case for everything.
  • Maps

This last one mystified them both.  “What do I need these for?”

Super Dad was baffled.  “How else will you know where you’re going if you’ve never been there before?”

Driving Daughters pull out cell phones and point to apps for Scout and Google Maps.

Super Dad was even more baffled.  “Okay, but you need the bigger picture.  You know how many times those things are wrong?  And what about when you need to exit a highway to find a Dunkin Donuts or a bathroom, you need the map to know how to get back!”

Driving Daughters shrugged and went on their merry ways.

Recently Super Dad pulled out a map for a trip one of them was planning and pointed out the route and where the best driving might be.  He gestured at various cities that built loops and beltways and discussed the merits of each one and their relation to the overall trip.  He turned the map over to show the larger cities in their own little maps and where they might want to stop for a meal.  Satisfied he had made his point, he folded up the map expertly and handed it to the Daughter.

“That’s too hard and confusing,” she said.  “It’s easier to use the phone.”

“Please,” he said.  “Just take the map.  Just in case.”

She relented, more to make him happy than to actually use it,

To this day, I don’t believe either one has ever looked at a map to get a picture in their head of where they might be traveling.  The punchline to all this, of course, is that they both majored in History in college.  Hello!  Where would History be without maps?????

Super Dad just smiles.

That's my new swear word when I'm driving now.

That’s my new swear word when I’m driving now.


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Day Three: One Word


This is a word that resonates deeply because it encompasses so much.  I didn’t buy a house with my husband 26 years ago, I bought a home.  We made a home.  We picked things out that meant something to each of us, and consulted with each other on our specific needs and wants.  Our children are the most important part, adding their particular quirks (“What do you mean, it’s not reasonable to take an hour-long shower?  Define reasonable!”) and likes (“Why can’t we have mac and cheese again?  Four times a week isn’t bad for you!”) and odd ways of looking at things, like turning the dining room into scrapbook world or the snack drawer into to I’ll-save-this-one-little-bite-for-later sanctuary.

I grew up in a home, too, although sometimes I really thought of it as just a house.  Not that I have a list of grievances because I grew up loving and respecting my parents and having great relationships with them as adults; let’s just say my parents had a different way of looking at home as a sanctuary, as in “Thank God I’m home from work and I don’t want to talk to another human being and what do you mean it’s 7:30 and you want to know what’s for dinner?”

Some cherished traditions of mine as a child have been embraced by my own children (and not grudgingly, either!  Score!) and I’m enchanted by the thought they’ll continue another generation or two.  Some things my kids have taught me and I am forever grateful for having two strong and wise young women claiming to be related to me.

Home is a spirit; home is an aroma; home is a look; home is a need, like breathing.

I love my home, wherever it is.

I love front doors and porches, too!

I love front doors and porches, too!


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Day Two: A List

Oh, easy peasy lemon squeezy!  I LOVE lists!  Lists are da bomb because they’re like cheat sheet notes that help you remember what you need for the test you studied for but it’s really hard to remember all the specifics.  (That’s why I hated math and science tests: too many formulas and rules to remember.  Give me an English or History test with essays and I’m in writer’s heaven.)

Things I Wish

  1. That I could have enough money so my family never needs to worry about health care costs, but not so much money that I forget what it’s like to actively want something and to work for it.
  2. That people who are mean could take off their masks at the end of the day and write a blog talking about how they did the wrong thing by being mean and how they hope to be better tomorrow.
  3. That politicians had a word limit like Twitter.  All the time.  There’s a certain beauty in being concise.
  4. To have a twitchy nose like Bewitched that only works on making my home sparkling clean.
  5. That our pets were granted the ability to talk for 24 hours before they left us, just to let us know what we can do better with the next one.
  6. That ice cream had the nutritional equivalent of kale.
  7. That the elderly were respected and revered more than they are.
  8. That teeth were indestructible.
  9. That I could have had dinner with Robin Williams.
  10. That drones could hover on the highways and drop tickets on idiot drivers that don’t know how to follow the rules.  It would be more fun if they were dropping “you’re guilty!” notices with an automatic fine, but everyone’s entitled to their day in court.  I guess.

Have I mentioned that I like lists?  Have you notice that my thoughts are sometimes disjointed and a little….I don’t know…strange?  Yeah.

At least I don't get quite this bad.

At least I don’t get quite this bad.


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Writing 101: Or, How to Put Words Together

I write because….

Well, where else am I to put all this crazy?  The stuff that clogs up my brain is staggering.  Plus there’s all those rants and raves that I leave unspoken because my mother taught me manners, but she never said not to write it down.  And then there’s all the FEELS I have about certain things and if I don’t articulate them, then they gain weight and become too heavy to carry around.

I write because….

I actually thought I had a book in me.  A young adult story aimed at the middle schoolers that I had just left but still carried in my heart.  A fantasy with some of the moral outlooks I shared with my students based on the challenges they faced at their age.  The blogging every day was going to be my discipline, my morning caffeine if you will, to get me going and writing the story.

I write because….

I get a satisfied feeling when a sentence or thought comes out well, or when I make somebody laugh with my words.  Finding out somebody thinks I’m funny is a real high for me and makes me want to continue.

I write because….

It’s not all Tea and Sarcasm.  Sometimes I have a serious side.  A side that would make little kids (or my friend Lisa) cover their eyes and say “ew, gross, tell me when this part is over” like a love scene during an action movie.  A side that broods a bit too much.

I write because….

Someday I hope to be good enough to be a writer.

Pensive bat is pensive.

Pensive bat is pensive.

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