Tag Archives: teaching

And How Are YOU Doing?

No, really, how are you?  Feeling good?  Family okay?  Weather inoffensive?  Food reliably obtained?  Good.  Enough about you, my turn!

 

LOVING MY NEW GIG.  Here’s my summary in a neat little pro-con list:

PROS OF TEACHING COLLEGE:

  1.  I don’t have to issue stupid “bathroom passes” and keep track of them and wonder just how many unsavory germs have been transferred to me.
  2. I make ONE lesson plan and teach it three different times.  For moneys.
  3. These young adults get my jokes.  I can throw out a bit of humor, a bit of snark, and I don’t have any Mom-of-Snowflayke calling me and yelling at me in front of the principal that I hurt somebody’s fragile ego.
  4. I’m only there for an hour and a half.
  5. I’m not hobbling together equipment or, worse, buying my own sound system and CDs so that a decent sound is experienced.
  6. Powerpoint is my BFF.
  7. No faculty meetings!
  8. No lunch duty!
  9. Actually being trusted to come up with the course content and the style of teaching and the examples I choose and.. and.. and… forget it, that’s everything right there.

CONS OF TEACHING COLLEGE:

  1.  I’m an adjunct, so no office.  But that’s okay because I can just go hang out with a student at the lounge and pretend I’m holding office hours.  Still get the job done and there’s tea and snacks nearby.
  2. I’m an adjunct, so no benefits.  That part is not okay because I’d really like some decent benefits, but in exchange for that, my college contributes 3% above my contribution to my pension.  THIS ROCKS.
  3. Sorry, I forgot this was the con list.  Pretend I struck out that last part.
  4. Um…..

No, that’s pretty much it.  Just those two things are the downside.  Oh!  I thought of another PRO: it is literally (please read that in Chris Traeger’s voice, thanks) five miles from my house.  Not 5.3, not “about” five, an actual five miles.  That tickles me.

 

9am-lecture

Too true.

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Well, Hey There!

Holy Hannah, can I just tell you how many blog posts I’ve composed in my head and was convinced I’d sit down and have jewels of words just pour out all over your monitor?  Can I tell you how surprised I was to find I hadn’t written any?  I must have the most realistic dreams in the world…..

  1.  July was a very hot month so I found lots of things to either do inside my house with air conditioning, or in my car with air conditioning, or at somebody else’s house with air conditioning, or in a restaurant with air conditioning.  In July I pretty much forgot what fresh air smelled like.
  2. I also celebrated an anniversary in July, and it always amazes me how my wedding day only feels like two years ago, max.  But it’s been twenty-eight, so either I’m the Doctor and I’ve nailed time-travel, or this is a pretty good marriage.
  3. I learned how to can!2016-08-22 22.18.10
  4. Which maybe wasn’t such a smart thing to do since it introduced a new component of humidity in my house.
  5. August was also hot, but I didn’t care because we went on an Alaskan cruise.  Do you know that it doesn’t go much above 80 on the interior passage of Alaska?  Me neither.  Did you also know that it’s a temperate rainforest?  Me neither.  And what are rainforests good for?  Sing with me, kids: H-U-M-I-D-I-T-Y!!!
  6. It was an amazing experience that I am truly grateful for; we saved up for this trip for eighteen months but it still boggles my mind just how expensive it was.  It also taught me a lesson about cruises (this was my third one): limit excursions to ONE per day.  Not because I was overstimulated or anything like that, it was just so redundant.  We went from Juneau to Skagway to Icy Strait Point to Ketchikan, and every single excursion in every single place took great pains to educate us on bears and skunk cabbage.  Go ahead, ask me about bears and skunk cabbage.  I dare you.
  7. I did get to see a glacier.  Yup!

    That’s Hubbard Glacier, and when I saw how close the ship got and how incredibly cold the surrounding air was, I figured I’d finally found a place to live in the summer. But alas, regulations and rules and all….

  8. My knitting has been in drips and drabs.  I made a shawl to bring with me on the trip but didn’t use it much.  I’ve started two other shawls (because why not) and a couple of baby bibs, because many people I know are into the whole procreating thing.  It’s so easy to knit baby stuff, I keep forgetting.
  9. I started orientation on my new job, where I am alternately exhilarated at the thought of teaching college and appalled at the thought of teaching college.  Classes start September 7th, so if you don’t hear from me after that…..No, that’s not a fair thing to post because after all, I’m pretty bad at posting on a regular basis.  So if you see a post after September 7th and I don’t mention my job, maybe just figure it’s best not to talk about it.
  10. Like that’s ever stopped me before.
bean

I do that too, but for all the wrong reasons.

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Sproing!

Spring has sprung

The grass is riz

I wonder where the birdies is?

My dad used to say this whenever the word “spring” came up.  He was so clever, always something amusing to say, always a bon mot for the time.  I’ve been waiting for Spring to spring, as it were, and now it has sproinged intensively.

My family indulged me on Mother’s Day with one of my favorite things to do: take a drive somewhere pretty and stop at a pub-ish place to eat.  We saw these lovely blossoms on a tree right outside the place we chose in a very picturesque part of my Garden State.

 

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Which was right next to this little beauty of a shot.  I mean, really.  That was probably built just for gorgeous days like this one for people to grab a photo with their phones, right?  All those years ago somebody planned for pictures like this.  Even the sky cooperated.

 

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My local car wash will not be outdone by all the upscale places in town.  They’re going to embrace Spring, too, and plant some beautiful pansies.  I LOVE the color of these.  Every time I think about planting pansies I realize it’s too late because it will become instantly hot and humid and I missed that small window of time.

 

And that, my friends, is why I am best friends with perennials.  I don’t have to do a blessed thing and look what comes up all by itself every year without any prompting or coaxing from me, right outside my front door:

2016-05-24 13.42.29

Yellow iris, from my grandmother’s garden.  It started with three plants, and I’ve given away quite a few.  But these adorable little show-offs just clamber up every year saying “hi! hi! Look at me!  Look!  Aren’t I pretty?  hi!”

 

Spring is also the traditional time for teacher positions to be advertised in the paper in feverish numbers, and for once I am not looking at it.  I had, after all, decided that it was over and finished and there was no use beating that dead horse.  Until, out of the blue, the local community college came a-knocking and what do you know, I’ll be teaching in September in a whole new ball game.  (Yeah, me and metaphors, not so much.)  At the very least, I’ll have new things to write about.

So enjoy your Spring, eat some rhubarb, sniff some freshly-mown grass, and switch to your favorite warm-weather beverage.  But if you, like me, choose a gin and tonic, don’t have more than two.  Trust me on this.

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10 Random Things on Tuesday

  1.  One day after discussing with my neighbor that I don’t get seasonal allergies, that I’m susceptible to allergy attacks all year, I get a whopper of one.  I woke up sneezing at 5:45 a.m.  Who does that?  How does that even happen?  How do you go from being sound asleep in a delicious cycle and then suddenly “achoo!”-ing loud enough to scare the birds?  And what’s with the sneezing straight for 10 minutes?  I thought I was going to have a heart attack mid-sneeze.  Can that even happen?
  2. I’m so glad the New York primaries are today.  That means tomorrow there won’t be the stupid commercials.
  3. I’ve never met anyone that didn’t like chicken.
  4. One of the reasons why I like my home so much is that I feel utterly at home.  That may seem like an obvious statement, but there have been places in my life that made me positively ITCH to get going somewhere else and feel settled.  This has now become that place, and I’m okay with spending time just enjoying my surroundings.  Of course, I do that by not looking too closely at the dog hair that wants sweeping up or the gentle layer of dust on the mantle.
  5. There’s an interesting state of affairs in the name of supporting local businesses.  There are neighborhood groups on Facebook (and some spelling program just capitalized that for me; why, I don’t know, since the actual masthead is lowercase.) and lots of requests for recommended plumbers, electricians, landscapers, nannies, places to eat, caterers, car sales, etc.  Helpful folks chime in with their favorites, and everyone gets a fuzzy glow from being good neighbors.  So tell me why NONE of them call you back?  “Hello, Neighborhood Business Owner?  Yes, I’d like to give you money.  Can you call me and tell me when you can perform your tasks so I may give you said money?  Thanks.  Here’s every number in the universe you’ll need to reach me.”  Radio silence for two weeks.  “Hello, Neighborhood Business Owner?  Yes, I called two weeks ago trying to give you some of my money.  In the meantime, my pet llama has disappeared down the pit that is my backyard waiting for someone to fill in the hole, preferably after extracting said llama.  Could you call me, please?  My numbers again are…”  Another week goes by.  Hopping onto Facebook I see the group praising the Neighborhood Business Owners again, and one small voice (not mine, yet) saying “they won’t return my calls.”  Angry friends and neighbors of said Neighborhood Business Owners rush to their defense, claiming they are “great people, coaching local softball, dynamite work, wouldn’t go anywhere else, why are you publicly disparaging him and attempting to ruin his business?”  It’s a conundrum.
  6. I just sneezed six times between paragraph five and six.  It’s a SIGN.
  7. I’m knitting a shawl that I want to use on vacation.  It’s Dream In Color Starry which means it has little silvery bits of shiny in it and I am completely amused, except the name of the color is “starless sky” which would indicate to me that it shouldn’t have the starry bits in it, am I right?  Or is it another conundrum and I have unwittingly stumbled across an actual theme in my life?
  8. I’ll soon be going to a convention with my Hubby which involves us going to a hotel.  We will be invited to a breakfast buffet at 8:30; he departs for a 9:15 meeting, and I go upstairs to change for an 11:00 brunch; after that, I change into casual clothes for afternoon shopping or walking about, leaving enough time to change clothes again for a formal banquet in the evening; after the formal part, folks change into casual clothes to roam the corridors and visit everyone else’s room for a drink as if we were back in college crashing dorm parties.  It is the silliest thing ever, but I like the people I get to see so I put up with it.  Plus two days with no home responsibilities so I won’t hear the dust calling my name.
  9. I saw my former students in a play at the local high school and while I had some anxiety ahead of time, it turned out to be a wonderfully therapeutic night.  All my kids were so happy to see me and I got many many hugs and enthusiastic “you were the best teacher ever!” and I may have cried.  Okay, I definitely cried.  My heart felt like the Grinch’s when it burst out of its cartoon x-ray frame.
  10. Sometimes when I want to blog I think about what would interest people, and then I chuckle to myself because what is interesting about a suburban middle-aged former music teacher who likes to knit?  Then I think about blogging my artwork and I chuckle again, mostly because I call it “art” when it’s really more like illustration, and people come to blogs for the reading.  I think my sarcasm bone must be getting brittle, because I haven’t been sarcastic in a while and you really can’t force sarcasm. I don’t talk about food that much because I don’t cook or bake that much lately (and really, you can get that content just about anywhere else) and I don’t eat out enough to be a picture-snapping foodie (again, find that just about anywhere on instagram).  Then I realize that this blog is for me and the outpourings of my mind, and just like my house, I feel at home here.  When I don’t write for a while, it’s just like a room in my house that I look forward to sitting in for a while and it’s where I feel comfortable just being me.  If you’re a reader of this blog, thanks for coming by.  I’d offer you some cookies but I’m afraid I’m pretty selfish about sharing them because cookies.  I will offer you tea, though, and if the conversation really gets going, the sarcasm may follow.  Or not.

I leave you with this thought-provoking idea from my spirit animal, the Dowager:

knitting-not-exercise

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Re-Entry

I have been on adventures!  I have seen many things, tasted wonderful concoctions, breathed different air, and generally enjoyed myself.  In fact, I feel spoiled.  (Not like the cantaloup on the kitchen island that seems a might fragrant.  That’s a different kind of spoiled.  Friends, keep your comments to yerselves.)  I almost forgot that I am not who I was, and seemed well on the way to a different me who is.  (Tea and Sarcasm and Incomprehensible Sentences.  Yep.)

First thing: We went out to a German restaurant because they advertised a bacon fest.  Did I ever tell you that we all massively love bacon?  I wish desperately I could have loved it there, but the service was abysmal and the food was not at all “fest.”  It was more “tired and I don’t give a damn.”  The good parts were sitting outside on a nice evening and having some pretty tasty beer.

Never knew I had comic book fists for hands.

Never knew I had comic book fists for hands.

Night time photos on a phone.  Just like the pros!

Night time photos on a phone. Just like the pros!

The second thing: I gave away all my teaching materials to my dear friend who is having some issues and is in a bit of rut right now.  It was a great feeling doing that, not only because it freed some necessary space in my house (hello, basement floor!  How YOU doin’?) but also I was not sad when I did it.  Hear that?  Not sad.  Not nostalgic.  Not bitter.  Not wishing.  Not regretting.  Just…..there.  Happy to see all my good materials go to a good home.  It is done, it is over, and it is settling well within my soul.

Third: My dear dear friend of almost 25 years invited me to spend a few days with her, so I grabbed my go bag, threw in some additional stuff, bought her a present, and drove to Indiana.  Never been there.  (Huh.  Guess I can’t say that anymore now, can I?  I’m a travellin’ girl…..sing with me!)  It was a long drive from my home in New Jersey, across the very wide state of Pennsylvania with its gorgeous hills and trees and farms and interesting names of towns, across Ohio which wasn’t quite as pretty or hilly but still held my interest, finally into Indiana which has lots of corn fields but still so pretty.  I hit a pretty severe thunderstorm right around sunset so the driving was slower than the 80-85 mph I had been doing (What?  I was just maintaining the flow of traffic.  You don’t want me plowed over by a double 18-wheeler do you?) but as I cautiously came around a bend the clouds must have shifted.  The shiny wet roadway at dusk was blazing with the crimsons and pinks and oranges and purples of a summer sunset and the sky colors met the road colors and I literally gasped out loud.  I was so thankful to have experienced that intense moment.  My friend showed me Notre Dame (and that grotto and chapel is so lovely) and Fiddler’s Hearth.  I want to physically move Fiddler’s Hearth to New Jersey and bring the band, Kennedy’s Kitchen, too.  What a fab night of food (Scotch eggs!), beer (Belhaven Scottish ale), music (Celtic and Irish and moving and beautiful and spirited and amazing), and friends.  Add wineries, Silver Beach, shopping, laughing, heart-to-heart talks…you get the idea.

Look!  An official sign and everything!

Look! An official sign and everything!

Lots of candles.  Lots.  Apparently once this place caught fire.  Wonder why?

Lots of candles. Lots. Apparently once this place caught fire. Wonder why?

Very chapel.  So whisper.

Very chapel. So whisper.

Or, as I now call it, Mecca.

Or, as I now call it, Mecca.

Ignore that lady ignoring them.  They did.  Spectacularly.

Ignore that lady ignoring them. They did. Spectacularly.

Pretty.  I think anyone can succeed with sunset pics.

Pretty. I think anyone can succeed with sunset pics.

Fourth: Took my girls to Pennsylvania Amish country again and we did our usual bout of overeating, overlaughing, and overshopping but it’s one of my favorite things to do with them.  We stay at a quirky little bed and breakfast run by the two nicest people and it’s a slice of pure bliss to be there.  (Except for the beds.  The beds are, how shall we say, a bit punishing on the back.  Please see previous post.)  They tried to convince me to bring home a second dog so Nellie won’t be bored.  I’ll let you guess how that conversation went, except I’ll give you a hint: NO.

Fifth: Fishing with Hubby, where fishing was plenty but catching was not-so-much.  Well, catching and keeping.  Seems the regulations in New Jersey keep changing and now flounder/fluke must be 18 inches for keeping.  The sea bass I kept catching were great, except the season ended June 15 and won’t start again until October.  The shark Hubby caught was adorable and I was all ready to name him but the mate on the boat threw him back before I could decide between Bobby Darin and Dyson.  (Get it?  No?  Neither does Nellie.)  He has a spectacular sunburn on his neck and I had enough equilibrium problems that this was probably my final party-boat trip.  (This aging thing does have a few drawbacks.  Then again…)

Seventeen and a half inches.  Before we throw it back, we'll pretend it's a score.

Seventeen and a half inches. Before we throw it back, we’ll pretend it’s a score.

Bobby.  Or Dyson.

Bobby. Or Dyson.

I think I would say August has been a successful month.  Of course tomorrow is supposed to start a week of 90+ temps and humidity, so there’s no telling to what depths I may sink.  (Oh, fishing analogy.  I get it.  Subtle.)

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Inch by Inch, Row by Row…

The birds are going absolutely nuts this morning! Me, too, because after a few days of “hello, I guess we’re moving directly into July!” weather, it is a crisp morning with dazzlingly crystal blue skies. I’ve been out to water the vegetables and the flowers and I planted my Mother’s Day pink azalea bush, and now it’s second cup of tea time.

Our flowering plum tree.  No plums, just flowers and purple leaves.

Our flowering plum tree. No plums, just flowers and purple leaves.

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Close up of said flowers. And an artistic branch.

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Also purple flowers. On the ground. I like them, but Hubby thinks they’re a weed.

My thoughts are much lighter these days, and it’s true that time is the best friend of a broken heart. I had to go through my period of grief and mourning, anger, sadness, and acceptance, and now that I am on the other side I feel as if I’m moving forward. I was teaching in a toxic situation and now that I’m far removed I can honestly wonder how I lasted as long as I did; it’s certainly a shame that it ended the way it did (nervous breakdowns are scary, yo) but it IS ended and after two years I am no longer chasing those negative squirrels in my brain. I am making plans for travel and volunteering and making art and knitting more complicated things and reading more biographies (they’re like potato chips to me, can’t get enough) and being more in the moment.

Perhaps that’s why I felt determined to go back to a vegetable garden this year. For the last three years we’d been half-heartedly saying “so, about a garden…” and then pointedly ignoring the passing of time until it was too late. This year I even ordered plants and seeds in time instead of running to the big home store to desperately grab what they had left, planned out a raised bed that Wonderful Hubby built, and loaded it up with sugar snap peas, beans, tomatoes (because it’s against the law in New Jersey NOT to put tomatoes in your garden), cucumbers, zucchini, basil, chives, parsley, oregano and thyme. The new flower bed will have zinnias and nasturtiums (the first flowers my mother ever planted with me) and two other kinds I’ve already forgotten and hollyhocks. I still have to sow the marigolds around the tomatoes and plant the butternut squash and the pumpkins.

Of course, when I start whining in July that everything is overgrown and weedy and the cucumbers are the size of boats and it’s all fried to a crisp, you’ll be kind and not remind me how determined I was on this lovely May day, won’t you? Please?

Why, yes.  Yes, it is special.

Why, yes. Yes, it is special.

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Lord-A-Mighty, Feel My Blood Pressure Rising

And I don’t even care for Elvis Presley, but that shows you how the right song in the right situation crosses all divides.  Or something like that.

I went to a retirement party for a lovely woman I taught with.  She has taught kindergarten for over thirty years, and commuted an hour and a half from Pennsylvania into New Jersey every day.  She stayed late to work, stayed late for meetings, came back on weekends to support community events, and was a cherished and valued member of the school community.

She was treated the same shabby way I was in that district.  Someone in the administration gets a wild hair that a teacher (usually tenured and a natural group leader) is detrimental to the American way of life and Must Be Dealt With Immediately.  Public humiliation, gossip, relocation without notification, suddenly terrible observations without any supporting documentation, a warning to all new (non-tenured) teachers forbidding them to consult with her… the mind boggles.

This is a district where the Board of Education declares sorrowfully that there’s nothing they can do about inappropriate behavior by administration because “their hands are tied.”  A teacher who takes more than six and a half of their allotted eleven sick days is automatically graded as “ineffective.”  Why?  Because it makes the district look bad.  To whom?  The board shakes their heads and mentions the tied hands.  An administrator puts a sign-up sheet for a “volunteer” faculty meeting at 3:30 on Friday, October 31, then takes away a prep period for those teachers who did not stay.  Hello, board members?  This is harassment.  “What can we do?  Our hands….”  Screw your hands.

There is so much information out there regarding the massive reform-in-education movement; read Diane Ravitch if you want a good start.  My understanding from what I’ve observed is teachers have become a target to distract from what’s really happening: a takeover to shake up the promise in America of a good, free public education to all citizens and turn it into a class-system of education where only the privileged few may explore a thorough education of their choosing while the vast majority become limited in their scope of understanding to become compliant and unquestioning workers.  We are moving away from a democracy when the educational advantages of learning and opening minds is throttled by those who see only a financial outcome bettering their own lives.

I don’t know how, but I am convinced that these sanctimonious and smug overlord-wannabes will be failing soon, but not before they’ve inflicted a serious wound on the public education system.  And how do I come to this conclusion?  I read my history, one of the courses that reformers want to remove from the curriculum.

If I had a nickel....

If I had a nickel….

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Warning: Soul-searching Ahead

Apparently I’m lost because I’m trying to find myself lately.  There is a lot of daydreaming serious thinking happening here and I’m not used to that; usually I just read or play games or knit, but now everything is kind of tinged with a “…maybe I should try….” or a “…I could try this, I suppose…” and it’s happening more and more.  Am I going through another kind of puberty God forbid?

As a musician and teacher, I played several instruments fairly well.  Now I have absolutely zero interest in picking up an instrument, so what does that make me?  Most real musicians would never let their skills fade, so does that mean I was a sham?  I loved teaching, but I was lonely because the music department was two people, and I longed to be a “team” like a grade level or subject matter.  Now I wonder if I could ever do that again (and judging by the response to the resumes I’ve sent out, probably not) or have I given up because of the bad association with my former job?

I used to do beautiful calligraphy, and as well as the obligatory envelopes for weddings, I would write and illustrate quotes for selling at craft fairs and I enjoyed it.  But again, I haven’t done it in so long, and do I have all the hubris to think I am still good enough?  Drawing/illustrating is so pleasurable yet I am so highly critical of myself that it’s easier not to start.

Writing has always appealed to me as well.  I blog to give me practice in writing on a regular basis (stop laughing, it’s regular for me) so that perhaps I can write this young adult novel that’s been kicking around my head, so if that’s good enough I can write the book I really want to write.

I used to sing.  All the time.  It occurred to me that the last time I really sang was at Christmas Eve services which was over eight months ago.  What happened to me?  Where have I gone?  Who have I become?

I think I have become someone who is actually enjoying not working at a Monday-Friday job, and puttering about the home.  I am spending a ridiculous amount of time on my iPad, but I am reading so much, it’s not just games.  It’s a lot of games, but it’s also a ton of reading.  I am knitting and actually finishing things.  I can meet people for lunch.  During the day.  During the week.  (I know!)  

I am also sort of hovering.  Is this my new reality?  Is this temporary?  Will I ever be employed by someone else again?  (Part of me really hopes “no.”)  Could I write/illustrate/sell a book?  Can anybody point me towards a real shot of self-confidence?

If I had a dog this is what he'd be thinking.

If I had a dog this is what he’d be thinking.

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Me and October: BFF

The shade of orangey red that is outside my window now is stunning, and that’s just from the mistake sassafrass tree that springs up like a weed every so often.  The huge maple out back is always the last to turn, and it’s a magnificent display of yellow and gold and bronze that could bring me to tears of happiness.  There are warm handknit socks on my feet, and endless cups of tea are consumed for warmth.  Still haven’t turned on the heat yet, as I’m trying to make it to November 1 for absolutely no reason whatsoever, just want to see if we can do it.  It’s about 52 degrees now but I’m counting on the sun to do its job soon, so all is well.

The front of the house has been decked out with corn husks, straw bales, pumpkins, gourds, mums of every color, and an old straw broom.  It’s so ridiculously easy to decorate with flair and style in October, so I am ridiculously happy that all we needed was to throw some stuff together with almost zero effort (and I mean that: Hubby tied up the corn stalks, Older Daughter arranged the mums and gourds, and I approved) and it looks like a magazine.  Well, the kind of magazine I would read, anyway:

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Front steps need re-staining. I’ll get the staff right on it.

One thing about October that makes us not BFFs is Halloween.  I realize I run the risk of alienating folks by that statement, but I just don’t like it.  I’ve tried it several times (just like I kept trying Brussels sprouts and I finally did like them so maybe there is hope for Halloween but I doubt it) and I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I don’t like it.  I loved it as a kid, naturally, because free candy, but that was about it.  I didn’t go crazy wishing and planning and dreaming of a costume, we didn’t exercise massive amounts of creativity, I didn’t have a trove of costume material waiting for me in some trunk in the attic.  For that matter, in my very early years we didn’t have an attic.  I’m sure we bought a costume at Woolworth’s, along with a giant paper shopping bag that had a goofy jack-o-lantern grinning and must have been wishful thinking on the manufacturer’s part because that puppy never got filled beyond a quarter of an inch.  

I vaguely remember being a princess in a pink dress one year with one of those awful masks that had the elastic going around the back of your head and causing your hair to get teased and felted both above and below the band so when you tried to take it off it invariably got stuck and the more you pulled the more it got stuck until you howled for your mom who tsked as she tried to get it off and there were usually scissors involved.  The mask was also that divine-smelling plastic that was a whole-face mask (before adults in a committee somewhere decided whole-face masks were dangerous; where were you when I needed you?) so the plastic allowed two almond-shaped holes for eyes and two small round holes near your nose for oxygen.  Being plastic, and being that trick-or-treating involved a bit of walking, heavy breathing happened and then condensation when warm air meets cool plastic.  Because the makers in China wanted a realistic Halloween effect for these selfish American children who go begging for candy, the mask was sculpted realistically and so the condensation pooled under my nose and my chin and truth be told, it was a miserable experience just for orange lollipops and Bit-O-Honeys and the occasional nickel.  I don’t remember getting a lot of chocolate.  I do remember my mother loving chocolate.  Hey….

As an adult, Halloween was pretty much ignored because I didn’t have the kind of friends that threw Halloween parties.  Well, once I did when I was seventeen.  I went with an older boyfriend to a Halloween party and we went as the Lone Ranger and Tonto, because I had long hair that could be braided and I owned a poncho.  This Halloween party consisted of bowls of chips and bottles of soda and music playing and people sitting around in their costumes.  Except for the costumes, not much different than hanging out at somebody’s house but we got the added bonus of being uncomfortable in odd clothes.  That was my only experience with an “adult” Halloween.  Not much to it, I admit, but that’s how I think of Halloween.  Anticipation and preparation and then the “Oh, is that it?” kind of let-down that comes and then “Well, that was a waste of time and money.”

When I had children, I somehow got bit by the crafty bug and I made all their costumes until they were of the age when they said “Really, Mom, could we please just buy something at Toys R Us that looks cool?” and I was off the hook.  If I played my cards right, I would even get Hubby to take them door-to-door so I could stay home and answer the door for all the little hooligans that came by.  I gave them a bowlful of Fun-Sized Treats from Huge Conglomerate Chocolate Factory to choose from and played little games with myself.  If they asked “How many may we have?” they got three each.  If they couldn’t be bothered to say “Trick or Treat!” I handed them one each.  If the older ones who couldn’t be bothered with a costume save for a few smears of face paint under their eyes representing either a zombie or a linebacker, I don’t know, just stood there holding out their grimy pillowcase and staring at me, I stared right back, smiling, until they said something.  (Even on Halloween I had to teach a lesson, didn’t I?  What a teacher.)  Then when my kids came back with Hubby groaning from the weight of their little plastic pumpkins, we had to go through all the candy, scrutinizing it for razor blades, small rips that could represent a hypodermic needle, ground-up glass, and discarding homemade treats.  I’m sure the original intent of a scary Halloween was not to be that scary.

Then I went back to teaching, and I had forgotten that Halloween is a revered time for the very young.  Everyone demanded to know what I was going to be for Halloween, and I was very mysterious about it, declining to share, but in my head I was thinking “WTH, I have to dress up?  When do I ever get away from this!”  Nine times out of ten I would do nothing, and when the little ones would demand “What are you dressed as?” I would answer as always, “The meanest teacher in the school!”  That’s my kind of costume.  One year I got creative and brought my knitting and stuck some needles in my hair and had several balls of yarn trailing out of my pocket and my answer to “What are you dressed as” resulted in “I’m a knit-wit!” and I would snort to myself as the blank stares got even blanker.

Middle school Halloween is just dreadful.  It’s all about how revealing your costume can be without going against the dress code, so forget the sexy pirate costume and anyway you’re only in 7th grade, why are you thinking about being sexy?  It’s also about making sure nobody has a weapon, nobody offends somebody else, nobody has something too scary… it’s just not a good place.  Then there’s the Mischief Night aspect of it, which is traditionally the night before Halloween where all the local groceries are descended upon for eggs, shaving cream, and toilet paper, and the little devils decorate the town in a manner not quite like the one pictured above.

Now my children are grown, I am no longer teaching, and we live on a busy road and get very few trick-or-treaters, especially since Halloween was cancelled for the last two years due to extreme weather conditions.  Yet I still have two giant-sized bags of candy for the day, manufactured by Huge Chocolate Conglomerate Factory, because I have a grown-up child by the name of Hubby and since he worked so hard on the corn stalks I can’t refuse him some treats.  It’s nice that somebody around here enjoys Halloween.

 

 

 

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Who Knew that Monday Would Rock?

After a really crabby day yesterday, imagine my surprise that I was able to get up at 6:15, be downstairs and breakfasted by 7:00, and have my daily word count completed by 8:30.  Who am I?  This is the routine I used to have as an employed person, and Hubby was shocked that I was up and dressed and making him tea before he even got up and wondered if I was feeling okay.  Maybe a crabby day is the precursor to an accomplished day?  

My crabbiness stemmed from so many sources and they were all illogical.  Why should an unsatisfying dream cause a mood?  It’s not real, for heaven’s sake, so why did it affect me?  Should I call my sister-in-law and demand an explanation for her last-minute change in plans for our cookie business?  For the record, we have no plans for a cookie business, but she left me high and dry in that dream and dag nab it, that was not a good thing.  It left me ripe for a confrontation which I had with my mirror.  (Please tell me you do that, too.  Makes for a cathartic venting of emotions, if a somewhat crazy-looking scene.)  I had my principal and my administrator and my superintendent in front of me (well, in the mirror in front of me)  and I gave them what for.  Clearly I am still carrying many conflicting emotions about this situation and a unresolved cookie business simply broke the camel’s straw or something like that.

Then I rolled the dice even more and went grocery shopping.  On a Sunday afternoon.  Every slow driver in the area must have decided that it was a perfect time to go for a sight-seeing drive, and never mind that the sight-seeing occurred at green lights, crosswalks, stop signs, and the middle of the road.  Really?  You’re actually stopping mid-turn to point to something of interest?  Got your license from a Cracker Jack box, did you?  (Yoda?  Am I channelling Yoda?)  And what’s up with the parking lot of the supermarket?  Do you really have to stay in the middle of the lane, blinker flashing desperately as you wait for the elderly couple to unload their cart?  Couldn’t you drive a bit further and find a different spot?  Oh, that’s good, blast your horn when you perceive someone is trying to cut you off and grab the spot you’re waiting for and in the process give the elderly couple a heart attack.  It’s a spot in a parking lot, not Mecca.  Your giant EscNaviBoat probably won’t fit in the spot, anyway.

Oh, Lord, help me.  I just want to get in, get out, and go home, but They are conspiring against me.  I’ll spare you the descriptive commentary of the Peering shopper, the Drifting shopper, the Just-Off-The-Mothership shopper, the Won’t-Pay-Attention-to-her-Screaming-Baby shopper, the Abandon-the-Cart shopper, the I-Forgot-Something-Be-Back-Quick line hog shopper who comes back carrying nine different items and is scanning the end caps for more stuff to add, and the Let-Me-Examine-Every-Item-Again-As-I-Put-It-On-The-Belt-And-Wait-For-The-Price-To-Show-Up shopper, who you know is going to wait until the total is announced before she dives into her overstuffed handbag to find her checkbook and pen.  My blood pressure is approaching the sort of comparisons you find on hot sauce bottles (Caution! Sizzling! Hell’s Gate!).

To make it a truly gripping tale for you, I’ll just throw out there that I had to go to THREE separate stores to find lard.  Why is this a thing?  Where else would I buy lard?  It’s not like there’s a plethora of pig farms out in the suburbs that I can pull up to a grab a bucketful.  Why do I need lard?  (Boy, is that a loaded question!  For that reason, I did not ask store personnel “where can I find lard?’ in case they answered “Why, I believe you can just look at your hips and buttocks, madam,” and instead asked the more direct “Do you sell lard?”)  Because Hubby is making apple pie and it has been drummed into our collective brains by my late father that lard is the only acceptable fat for a pie crust.  I’ve heard of butter, vegetable shortening, even vodka (and isn’t that an intriguing experiment to think about?) but I’m sure we’d be haunted severely if we ever deviated from using lard.  For the curious among you, this is the New York Times Cookbook recipe for pie crust.  

Reaching the safe haven of home did not improve my mood, and my poor Hubby was knocking himself out.  He had cleared three items off the To-Do List, fixed a sign that I broke because I was too impatient to slowly sink it into the ground, cleared off the counter in preparation for apple pie magic, and was going to be in charge of dinner.  He is Superman, and I was just a big old crab.  Hugs didn’t even uncrab me.

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I think the real kicker on the crabbiness was the fact I saw two of my colleagues (excuse me, former colleagues) in the supermarket and I avoided them.  I just didn’t want to get into anything, even though I knew they would have been super supportive and caring and genuine and offered lots of hugs, but I avoided them anyway.  And that did not feel good.  It was way worse than the usual reaction of seeing someone you want to avoid because you don’t want to be sucked into that conversation where you relive the last year of your lives minute by minute and irritated shoppers want to get something off the shelf exactly where you’re standing.  This was inexcusable and it sealed the crabbiness for the day.

I will say, however, that a cup of hot tea with Bailey’s Irish Cream is a remarkable cure.

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Amen.

Tell me how you uncrab.

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