Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours...

...and causes your aging roof to leak, and leaves a big, brown spot on your ceiling, and a few days later your savings account is a few thousand dollars lighter and you find yourself in the middle of your kitchen experiencing a full-blown nervous meltdown.

Really? That's not how that saying goes? It's just me? Huh.

Did we know our roof was in bad shape? Yep. Even before last September's freaky inland hurricane, we needed to replace it. It was on that list every home owner has of Big Things That Need To Be Done, But That We're Just Going To Keep Putting Off Because We Like To Live On The Edge.

Should we have gotten it replaced this spring or summer? Absolutely. I went so far as to get quotes on a new roof, even. But then we had a large unexpected expense (that hit after we had already paid for our summer vacation in full, natch) that made us decide to wait just one more year.

Mother nature had other plans. Do you know what a week of heavy rain does to a damaged roof? You could take a Rorschach test from our entryway ceiling.

The gremlins that inhabit our house decided they wanted to come out and play in the rain, too. No sooner had the roof been installed (and it looks truly lovely, by the way) than our dishwasher started tripping the GFCI outlet in the kitchen. After pulling it out, we discovered that the old dishwasher (it was old when we moved into the house 8 years ago) had been leaking slowly for a while, and the puddle under the unit was close enough to all the electrical stuff that that was what was tripping the GFCI this week. It's so old, we're not going to kid ourselves about the value of repair versus replacement.

Add these things on top of the stress I've been feeling over my knee, which is taking a long time to get pain-free and down to a normal size, and the strain of a delayed repaving project right in front of our house that has kept us out of our driveway and parking ten houses up the street for going on three weeks now (the geniuses decided to rip up the old asphalt the day before a forecasted 10-day-long wet spell and couldn't pour concrete into the rain-filled trench left behind until yesterday), and the fact that we were told this summer by a repairman that the condenser in the fridge is dying and we'll need a new fridge within 6 months, and I had a wee bit of a nervous breakdown Monday night.

It started as mild tears over the kitchen sink. You know how sometimes you just need a good, cleansing sobfest? It was that at first.

"You know we're going to be fine, right?" my steadfast, uber-calm husband said. Then he started detailing all the financial steps he was going to take to make sure we could get over this rough patch.

For some reason, that just launched me into a full-fledged anxiety attack complete with nausea, uncontrollable crying that left me breathless, and a general inability to get my fool self under control.

I started looking around at all the other things that could go wrong. It's been 4-years since we put a 4-year stain and seal on the deck, and the wood is looking dangerously worn, so we have to tackle that. Even if we do it ourselves like we have in the past (and swore we'd never do again) it's expensive. I have wanted to replace the nasty, yellowed flooring in our master bath ever since we moved in 8 years ago. Now that the roof and gutters look so pretty and new, it highlights our faded shutters that we painted the first year in the house but that have cracked from being in direct sunlight most of the day and need to be replaced. Suddenly, the new dimensional shingles on the roof looked to be overlapping Benjamins instead.

Home ownership is overwhelming. Why does so much go so wrong all at once?

Jason shooed me out of the kitchen to go hit the showers and calm down, and a martinti and Sunday night's recorded Mad Men brought me back to the land of the semi-sane. But as soon as I leave school today, I have to go shopping for a new dishwasher. I am getting the hives just thinking about it.

The Money Pit just keeps getting deeper.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Grandparents' Day

My heart is breaking a little for the kid today.

Every year, Ainsley's school has one day where they invite grandparents in for a morning mass, a special activity with the kids, and a picnic lunch.

This year, Ainsley has no grandparent to do all this with.

The only surviving grandparent Ains has is my mom, a non-Catholic who doesn't feel comfortable attending mass without one of her Catholic daughters to guide her through, and who also does not feel comfortable driving by herself to Ainsley's school, which she perceives as being on "bad roads." (Never mind that these are the same roads I drive every single day, and which are veritable interstates compared to the rural Knox County roads she learned to drive on.) Mom is also frequently out of town the last weekend in September, and is leaving this morning for a field trip of her own. So on Grandparents' Day...well, Ainsley's out of luck.

It makes today a little rough for me. Last year, Jason's mom had initially agreed to come to the event because she had done similar things for a couple of the other grandkids. But in the week before, she had struggled getting over a cold and backed out because she wasn't quite up to it yet.

She felt really awful and got upset because she thought she was letting Ainsley down. We said something at the time like, "Maybe next year." And now it's "next year", and she's no longer with us.

It's the little things like that that get you sometimes.

They must be talking about grandparents' roles in our families in her class, because she's been asking a lot of questions. Questions about her "Peepaw", the nickname her older cousins called Kathie's beloved husband and Jason's stepfather and who Ainsley never had the pleasure of knowing. Questions about her great-grandfathers, including some I can't answer because I never knew Dad's dad and Mom's dad died when I was three. And finally, questions that hurt because they're about the two grandparents she remembers losing.

"Did Papaw smoke?" Ainsley asked yesterday at snack time. "Papaw" was what she called my dad. We've been really honest with her about Kathie's illness and told her that it was caused by "Meemaw" having bad lungs to begin with and smoking for years anyway. Since Ainsley has asthma, I have no shame in using "two of your grandparents died from smoking-related illnesses" as a scare tactic.

"Yes, he did," I told her. "He smoked for a long time, but he quit smoking a few years before you were born because he got lung cancer. But he beat that. The cancer he died from was probably caused by his smoking, too, even though he had quit for years. But it was even worse than the lung cancer and he couldn't beat it."

She thought for a minute.

"Don't tell me," she said. "He died of breast cancer, right?"

Go ahead. Start to explain that one to a seven-year-old. I bet you start by saying, "Men don't get breast cancer," but then you'll remember Montel Williams, and then your brain will freeze. I had to make a lot of verbal u-turns in that conversation.

This morning she just seemed a little quieter than usual. When I asked her on the way to school if things were okay, she just said,

"I hope someone has an extra grandparent today that I can share."

Try not to break out in sobs when your little doe-eyed, pony-tailed girl tells you that. I dare you.

At her age, my 2 surviving grandparents wouldn't have been able to come to something like that, either. At that time, they were both in pretty good health, but they lived 3 hours away. And here's where I get a little frustrated with the idea of a school-wide Grandparents' Day--there are some kids like that. Kids whose grandparents, for whatever reason, can't come up and spend 3 hours at an elementary school on a Friday morning. Some parents did not grow up here and therefore the grandparents may be miles and miles away. Younger grandparents may work and in this economy, it's not always possible to take off, and older grandparents may not be around or physically able to get to the school. Those kids are going to feel a little left out today.

I think my kid should be taught to value grandparents and the wisdom and love that they give. I am glad they are discussing extended families in her school. But I am troubled that the focus of the entire first half of the day today is inviting grandparents into school to do fun things with the kids who invited them. I think they should have made this be an optional evening activity where those with able-bodied grandparents could come and have a blast honoring their elders, but those who don't have participatory grandparents could have opted out. Especially with the wound of losing a grandparent still being a little raw, I feel like we just set up my kid to have a pretty miserable, lonely day today.

However, I don't believe in rocking the boat, and I'll keep my mouth shut and let the school do its thing. But don't judge me if I take Ainsley for a Frosty after school to make up for her not having a grandparent doting on her at school today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Sweet Was The Valley

Alright, girls, show of hands: how many of you were fans of the Sweet Valley High series?

Oh, c'mon. No one's looking. You can admit it. Just pretend you need a stretch.

I read this morning that screenwriter Diablo Cody (of Juno fame and Jennifer's Body in-fame) is going to pen a script for a cinematic re-invention of the popular 80s series of books. It's the best news I've gotten since my bloodwork for gout came back negative.

When I was in middle school, I devoured the books in the Sweet Valley series. My friend across the street spent nearly every dime of her babysitting money buying the first 20 or so books in the series, and when I got birthday money or allowance money I usually spent it on a new volume that she did not have. We shared with each other (the library never had the copies in that we wanted) and discussed the exploits of Elizabeth and Jessica on a daily basis for well over a year. In the summer, we could each take down one book a day. The books were like junk food: they weren't especially good for us, but they were yummy and didn't require a lot of thought.

For some reason, I didn't like my mother knowing that I was reading and spending money on these books. It's not like they were dirty or anything; the most action you ever got was some guy trying to get to second base with one of the twins but them putting a stop to it with a subtle move that made virginity seem pretty cool. And after all, I had already read the Flowers in the Attic books at my mother's approval and any damage that was going to happen to me from reading racy and age-inappropriate sex scenes had already been incurred. But I knew as I was reading this series that it was not good literature and that the values preached in the books were pretty darn shallow and not really worthy of the time of someone who also had read To Kill a Mockingbird and most of Judy Blume's repertoire. I was kinda embarrassed to be seen with these at home.

By high school, I didn't want to read about blonde, California high-school twins any more. I had moved on to Stephen King novels and short stories, which I still enjoy to this day, but which gave me considerably more nightmares than the teen pulp fiction I abandoned. Though I really think that Carrie is just a Sweet Valley High book on coke. There's nothing more scary than a bunch of cruel teenage girls.

So the news that a hip, snarky, pop-culture-lovin' screenwriter of my generation is going to write the Sweet Valley High screenplay just makes my day. Now if someone like that could resurrect Flowers in the Attic (that one movie they made with Kristy Swanson does not count).

Any Sweet Valley fans out there? Were you an Elizabeth or a Jessica? (I was so totally an Elizabeth.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm Pretty Sure There's a Hell Because I Spent Yesterday In The Inner Circle

I don't know if you all have noticed or not, but I don't really like people all that much.

I need to handle people in small doses. I don't like crowds and can only really put up with them when the payoff is worth it (a good concert, or good festival food, or an abundance of good beer are essential). And I absolutely cannot abide by complete strangers trying to engage me in conversation.

If I am in a waiting room, or the grocery store, or a restaurant line, I really want to be left alone. If you don't know me on a first-name basis, and/or are a complete schizo freak, I would like for you to pretend I am not there. That's why I often have a book with me; I want quiet. I value my personal space. It's not you. It's me.

Which is why yesterday was a season in hell.

My assistant was ill and help was sent down for me in the library. I appreciate help, though my assistant's job is hard to just come in and do with no library training. But usually the person sent to help me finds a book to read, helps me direct library traffic, watches the desk while I eat, and otherwise stays out of my way once they see how many balls I have to keep in the air every day.

Yesterday my relief was in the library waiting for me at 7. My assistant's day doesn't officially start until 7:30. Usually, over-eagerness is a good sign.

In this case...not so much.

By the time I unlocked the three storage room and office doors inside the library a steady stream of conversation had begun that had the speed and unstoppable force of the Little Engine That Could gone downhill. Within the first five minutes, I learned that this person:

1. Has a chronic illness;

2. Has lost 70 pounds through a revolutionary diet of basically not eating or drinking anything during the day;

3. Has severe adult ADHD;

4. Has a brilliant but tragically misunderstood son who once slugged a teacher;

4. Has been told by her doctor to drop down to 95 pounds (!);

5. Did I mention the severe ADHD?

On top of all this, my knee was killing me again (apparently, playing Beatles Rock Band until the wee hours of Sunday morning does not exactly help one's knee injuries to heal), I had even more students than usual needing me for more things than usual before the bell rang, and I had to get everybody taken care of earlier than usual before the library closed for the morning for testing.

In short, it was already one of those days.

Much of the day was a blur. This person pretty much just pulled up a chair next to mine and talked to me ALL. DAY. LONG. And by talking to, I mostly mean talking at. I didn't get too many questions, but I got a lot of answers.

She was sweet, and she tried to be helpful, but sometimes when I have a lot on my plate I can be most helped by someone staying quiet and letting me work. Hearing the details of a stranger's back surgery and her thoughts on vampire novels and her strong, oft-spoke opinion that Robert Pattinson isn't at all attractive enough to play Edward tended to be distracting at best, hair-pulling annoying at worst.

After her lunch of a 20-oz. bottle of Country Time lemonade, she apparently got a sugar rush and she talked at me for a solid 90 minutes about anything and everything that popped in her head (I had some documents to edit and print out and eventually just had to tune her out and nod from time to time) without coming up for air or really trying to engage me in the conversation at all. It was just a spew of random verbage aimed at anyone sitting at the desk. It went on to the point where I found myself staring at my district web page, looking for a link I have clicked on dozens of times in order to open a PD evaluation, and I couldn't find it because of the incessant flow of loudly spoken words in my ear. My brain had reached verbal overload and could no longer process written words because it was so full of spoken ones.

She wanted to stay in the library past my assistant's quitting time because "You're so busy, honey, and I just feel like I need to stay behind and help." That was another thing about this whole thing--she'd have moments of self-awareness and say to me, "Listen to me going on and talking your ear off--I bet you just want me to hush so you can get back to your work, huh?" And then without so much as a TV timeout the vocalizing started right back up again.

It would have been amazing had it not been killing me slowly and surely.

Some people-loving-people might have really enjoyed having a talker in the library all day. For me, it was hell. Hell, I tell you. There's not much worse torture in the world for me than having someone invade my personal space and stay there all day long. I am someone, after all, who occasionally has to get away from even those I love the most and just go read a book and listen to my ceiling fan. She even propped open my office door and stood in the doorway and talked to me during my lunch, that one time in my work day when I try to get away and not be needed for 20 precious minutes.

The good news's totally going in my screenplay one day. (Thanks, MelMart, for the suggestion!)

What's the one thing someone could do or already does do in your workplace that takes an ordinary day and turns it into an afternoon inside the inner circle of Hades?

Friday, September 18, 2009

This Little Light of Mine

At 3pm today, I will watch the very last episode of one of my all-time favorite TV shows--Guiding Light.

I'm not exactly what you would call a soap opera fan, and as Ainsley has gotten older and both she and my job have kept me busier between the hours of 3 and 4, I haven't even kept up with the Light as much as I used to. But it's a family institution, and I am very sad to see it go.

Guiding Light was always my family's daytime show. Doesn't every family of girls have one they all watch? My sister used to turn it on as soon as she walked home from high school and the three of us, my mom, sister, and me, would watch it together (bear in mind that this started when I was three, and I really had no idea what was going on half the time.)

When my sister graduated, got a real job, and got married and moved away, I still kept watching. Other kids raced home from elementary school to catch Scooby or Mr. Rodgers or 3-2-1 Contact; I watched those, but until after I had seen what the residents of Springfield were up to.

The year we moved to Barbourville was a bad year for me, but it was a great year for Guiding Light. That was the year of the whole Beth/Phillip/Rick/Mindy love quadrangle, which was a great teenage love story that pitted poor-but-lovely Beth against rich-bitch Mindy for the affection of Spaulding heir Phillip. I believe that was also the year that another low-class but high-pride character, the one and only Reva Shane, gave her famous "slut of Springfield" speech to a paralyzed Josh in a hot tub. My school days were miserable that year, as I felt like Beth struggling as a socioeconomic outcast in a town that seemed to value wealth. But when the bus dropped me off in the afternoon and I walked to my mamaw's trailer, I could make it all better by drinking a big glass of my aunt's awesome sweet tea, making myself a bologna sandwich, and watching what my mamaw called "my story."

"Is your story on yet?" Mamaw would say as I was searching the kitchen for my snack. And for that one hour every day, I felt at home.

I stuck with Guiding Light the rest of the time I was in school. I saw Beth and Phillip get together, and grow apart, and get together again (after it was thought Beth died but made a dramatic reappearnce, of course.) I fell in love with Lou Jack (and named a pet parrakeet after him). I cheered for Harley Davidson Cooper and mourned when Reva supposedly died (for the first time) and rejoiced when she was found alive and well. I tried to get my hair to look like Eleni's (played at the time by the still-gorgeous Melina Kanakaredes from CSI: New York.)

I didn't have time for such trivial things in college (Brisco and Party of Five were way cooler) but I snuck in a few episodes during the summer when I had afternoons off work. It was these summer afternoons that saw me watching "the story" with Jason's mom and grandma, also life-long fans. Just like my mamaw, Jason's grandma called soaps "stories" and it was made clear to me that Guiding Light was their family's story of choice and all who were in the house between 3 and 4 needed to be quiet and watch or else. I personally did not have a problem with that. During those years of college and the year of mine and Jason's engagement and first year teaching, I watched with my new extended family as Lucy Cooper was abducted by a psycho serial killer in drag, Reva got cloned, and the Santos crime family tried to take over Springfield.

It was high drama.

I feel the quality of the show has dwindled since those heady days. Since Ainsley was born, the show moved off the sound stage and into more realistic set locations in the small town outside of New York. They also switched to a hand-held camera to make it appear more realistic and documentary-like, but besides being a little too precious for my tastes it also has effectively kept Jason from being able to watch a single episode since the switch (and I used to occasionally watch with him on days off, in honor of his late grandma and the good times we had watching The Story with her when we getting ready for our wedding.)

So this goodbye will be bittersweet. I don't know that daytime soaps have much of a future, and Guiding Light's inconsistency put my favorite deservedly on the chopping block. It's time for it to go. But I will miss the history. And I can't help but think, sadly, of how I'm saying goodbye to the Light just a few months after saying goodbye to Kathie. It's fitting, I suppose, that GL didn't stick around very long after the death of one of its biggest fans.

It's the end of an era.

Are any of you fans of Guiding Light? Are you sad to see it go? And what in the world will Kim Zimmer do when she can no longer be Reva Shane and reign as daytime TV's best cryer?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Girl's Got Taste

I hear "I want..." from Ainsley. A lot.

I guess I was like that as a kid, too. Every commercial for a Glamour Gal or Western Barbie or Space Pets during Saturday morning cartoons had me turning to my mom and saying, "Can I have that?" And just like my mom, when Ainsley turns to me and asks, "Can I have that?", my answer is almost always, "No!"

"Almost always" because sometimes what she wants is pretty cool, and my answer instead becomes "Maybe for your birthday or Christmas." This is how we now have such "as seen on TV" gems as the GloDoodle (seriously, this is a fun toy) and Wikki Sticks (which I am still not sure I get.)

Sometimes, the "I want..." leads to us going to see something cool. That's how we went to see Up! and the stage version of High School Musical 2, each fun and educational in its own way. I try not to spoil our little only child, but occasionally one of her "I want..." requests is an "I want" for her mom, too. I look at it as bonding.

And our next bit of bonding just may be at Ainsley's first grown-up concert.

On our way in to school today, we were listening to our local top-40 station. We heard an ad come on for Daughtry's November concert at our metro area's newest concert stage. During the ad, the song "Home" was playing in the background.

Ainsley let out a gasp.

"Mommy, can we go?"

"Go where?" I was looking around for a sign for some kiddie festival or hayride or pumpkin patch.

"To that concert!" she said. "I love them."

"Do you even know who that is? It's not the Jonas Brothers. It's a band called Daughtry and their concert isn't really for kids your age."

"But I love their songs."

Well. Color me shocked.

What do you think, readers? Should we go? Would a Daughtry concert be a safe step up from Miley and the Jo Bros? Or should we wait for the kitten-like safe lovableness of Taylor Swift?

Cranky Goes to the ER

Baby, I was not born to run.

I honestly don't know why I bother. When I first started running three years ago, I was sidelined by 6 weeks of physical therapy for Achilles tendonitis that started soon after my very first 5K. The therapist told me then that the tendons and muscles in my left leg are unusually tight and inflexible and could cause me further problems if I kept running. Did I listen? No. I'm stubborn like that.

So it's no surprise that by ignoring the nagging stiffness and tightness I've been having behind my left knee for months now I have been slowly but surely securing my spot in an emergency room.

Tuesday evening was made for running: clear, crisp, and with just a hint of autumn coolness in the hour between dinner and dusk. I laced up my shoes, stretched, and ran my usual 4-mile route with no pain other than the usual ache I get in my arthritic big toe. It was a good run that left me feeling refreshed and stress-free.

Until roughly midnight.

I remember trying to curl up on my side in the middle of the night and feeling a sharp pain in the back of my knee. It woke me up, but I didn't feel like getting out of bed and taking anything for it. I figured that, like most aches and pains, a little rest would take care of it.

Except that that it didn't.

And did I mention I'm stubborn?

I got up and got ready for work, determined not to let a little knee pain stop me. But by the time Ainsley finished her cereal, the mild pain had progressed into something more akin with being stabbed in the back of the knee with every step and a red, hot goose egg began to form above my kneecap.

I made it into work and was resigned to just take Alleve and ice it until I had to climb out of my little compact car. When I bent my knee back to get myself out, the pain was so sharp and sudden that I had to bite down on my knuckle to keep from screaming. By the time I made it downstairs to the library, I had tears in my eyes and my left kneecap was sticking out about an inch further than the right one.

These are not really good signs.

With the swine flu beginning to hit our area pretty hard, there were no appointments to be had at my doctor's office yesterday. The nurse felt I should be seen by someone, so she advised me to go to the ER (also known as "the portal to hell"), where I have not been for myself since I was 14 and left most of the skin from the left side of my face on the concrete outside the school gym after crashing my bike.

It wasn't too bad in there, really. I got in and out in a little over an hour, which may be some kind of family record. I was not overly impressed by the ER doc (who spent a total of 30 seconds in my room) but the diagnosis made sense: a sprain caused from tendonitis in the back of my knee and bursitis in the front of the knee. I was told to stay off my feet the rest of the day and to knock back super-doses of prescription ibuprofen.

It's nice, really, being told to go home and do nothing.

The pain was pretty staggering even at rest yesterday, but something seems to have worked and I am back at work today with only a slight limp and a little swelling giving me away. Of course, ER docs in our area don't do much besides make a tentative diagnosis based on x-rays and throw painkillers at you, so I have to go get a "real" diagnosis today from my regular doctor. I've heard a cortisone shot into the knee may be in my future, so there's that bit of horror to look forward to.

One of these days, I'll learn that we're either born athletic or not. And no matter how hard I may try, I just don't have that symmetrical, naturally strong body that adapts well to pounding the pavement, even at the glacial speeds I run. I have a body that's more suited to non-stressful fitness activities like shallow-water aerobics classes with the grannies, or a recumbent bike (just like a La-Z-Boy recliner, but with pedals!), or maybe a Zumba class. But a runner...that, apparently, I'm not.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Return to Civility

There are times when I am overwhelmed by the goodness of people. When tragedy strikes, and communities pull together to save the day, it moves me to tears.

But then there are times that I just wanted to scream, "What is wrong with you people?!" This last week has been one of those times.

Taken separately, any one of the public displays of jerk-holery from the past week would just seem like a random sample of rudeness. But when you mash them all together, it seems more like a sign of the end times of civil discourse.

It started with Joe Wilson shouting at the President (and yes, for the record, I was equally uncomfortable when Bush got booed by members of my party during State of the Union addresses. I have been in education a long time, and I strongly believe that when a person of authority is speaking formally to a group of people, said people should take a big, fat dose of Shut The Hell Up.) Then Serena Williams threatened to shove a racket down a line judge's throat or something along those lines, then Kanye West engaged in what Enterainment Weekly has dubbed "puppy stomping" by robbing sweet little Taylor Swift of her Moment Like This.

Taking all those things together, I just have to wonder what has happened to us. When did rudeness become the norm, and politeness the exception?

I know there are those of you who think, "Joe Wilson--big deal. You should see the British parliament in action." And while that's true of that legislative body, it generally isn't true of ours, particularly during a special televised joint session. And I remember John McEnroe and his infamous tennis outbursts. And I am familiar with Kanye's work; he did, after all, create the most awkward moment I've ever seen on live television during what was supposed to be a warm and fuzzy telethon.

What strikes me about this latest rash of nastiness is that it seems a little sharper and a little more brazen than what we usually see. With Serena, it seemed out of character. I don't follow tennis much, but I've seen the Williams sisters play enough to know that they play fair. And Joe Wilson's outburst seemed a little more shocking than the usual partisan booing simply because it was one lone, angry voice that made even members of his own party look uncomfortable. And Kanye...well, the VMAs are not exactly known for decorum, but there's no precedent for someone grabbing a mic from someone giving an acceptance speech and telling them they don't deserve said award. There are times and places where we expect bad behavior (NFL football games come to mind) but none of these times and places really warranted it.

Some people are saying it's telling of the national climate right now: people are angry. Others are saying that manners have been going downhill for a long time and what we've seen in the past few days is just the inevitable outcome.

I think those are valid, but I also think there's something larger at work. I think we've jbecome incredibly self-centered as a society. I don't even see it a generational trend; it seems to be hitting everyone. It's all about us. We feel we have to express everything we're thinking and feeling as soon as we think it and feel it because we're just that damned important. I blame it on Twitter, and Facebook, and (yes, I am guilty) Blogger. Heaven forbid we wait until it's our turn to talk, or pause and process our response into something polite and appropriate. We think the world turns on our every emoticon. In a world where there were also people in the audience rabidly texting and tweeting during the President's speech and the VMAs, and where some of those comments were just as harsh as what Joe Wilson and Kanye said, are the outbursts themselves really any worse?

But, that's just me. To what do you owe the recent public examples of people behaving badly? Or does it not even register as a blip on your rudeness radar?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Words of Wisdom

Overheard just now in a school hallway, wearily spoken, from a teacher who very rarely loses his patience with children:

"I need everyone to just sit down, and do their work...and grow up."

It's been that kind of week around here.

Show of hands (electronically): How many of you who work with "adults" would like to quote the above teacher in a loud voice right now in your workplace?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My New Home Security System

So, my street is all torn to hell.

The city started repaving my residential street a month ago (thanks, stimulus money!). It certainly needed it, as it had numerous potholes big enough to swallow pets and small children. But with any remodelling project comes a heck of a lot of inconvenience. My street has a circle at both ends and only one way out, so for the past month we've been delayed by lane closures and sometimes complete street closures as the one open lane is being used to hold the truck pouring the concrete.

Good times, good times.

This week it's our turn to bear the largest burden of inconvenience. Until next Thursday, we do not have access to our driveway. The street directly in front of our house is currently torn down to the dirt. Because we are at the bottom of the street and the area being repaired extends about 6 houses up, we have to park on the street a good ways away from our house.

For a family who has always parked both cars in the garage, it's taking some getting used to.

Yesterday Ainsley and I arrived home after a long day at work and school and a long-ish walk down the street. Out of habit, we chose to go in through the garage via the keypad on the outside.

The dead and desiccated insects above the keypad door should have been a warning.

I flipped up the little door, prepared to type in our password, and shrieked:

Guarding the keypad was a large spider that appeared to be in the wolf family of arachnids. He (or she) was stretched out in his comfy lair with his body and legs blocking all the numbers as if to say, "Go ahead. Type in the password. I dare ya."

I couldn't even bring myself to close the little door back.

"Hey, Ainsley, let's go in through the front door for a change. It'll be fun."

I eventually got the itching and shivering to stop. But I did such a bang-up job being scared in front of my daughter that when she went outside to play later in the day, she wouldn't go anywhere near the garage door. I do so love spreading my phobias.

I asked the spider-killer-in-chief of the Cranky house to go out and kill it when he got home, but we got distracted by Beatles Rock Band (that's going to be a whole different post) and forgot about it. But by this morning, when the three of us left the house together through the garage and had to use the keypad to close everything back up, Spidey wasn't there.

Which was almost disappointing, because he/she/it made a most excellent home protection system against anyone who might guess our code and who is also afraid of spiders. I know it would have done a great job keeping away some of you frequent readers (including but not limited to Karen, corycaleb, MelMart, and Mrs. Rob K.), should you ever decide you've had enough of being law-abiding citizens and decide to rob me of my collections of Gap clearance t-shirts, or Garth Brooks CDs, or apple-themed kitchen decor. I could just see a burglar coming up to the house and trying to open the garage with the code and seeing the ginormous spider and saying, "Well, you know, I don't want their PS3 that bad. Maybe I'll try the next house."

Today when I go home I'll probably avoid the keypad altogether. Like most normal Americans, I'll go home through my own front door. Unlike most normal Americans, though, it will be because I'm a huge chicken. My own security system does too good a job keeping me away from the garage door.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Summer '09

Ahh, Labor Day weekend. The unofficial end of summer. Now that it's over, I'd like to take a look back at summer '09 in all its strange glory.

Summer '09 was a summer of loss. On Memorial Day weekend, we said goodbye to Jason's mom. It took the better part of the summer for our family to get its bearings and adjust to a new normal. I'm still not sure we're there.

Summer '09 was when the world lost the King of Pop, but through that loss my daughter discovered his music and his dancing and became enchanted by his gifts without being put off by his weirdness. I hope it's a comfort for those who loved him that he lives on in a new generation of fans. It was certainly a comfort to me as my CD of his number one songs still gets more requests than the Hannah Montana movie soundtrack from my seven-year-old.

This summer was one of strange weather and strange creatures hopping into my yard. I had a close encounter of the toad kind in my usually dry-as-an-ember front yard and wore long-sleeved t-shirts in July. Hot, sunny days that could be spent at the pool were rare and treasured. Of course, some of our hottest and sunniest days happened after Ainsley and I went back to school and couldn't enjoy them poolside. Mother Nature can be a real bee-otch that way.

It was the summer I finally saw the Dave Matthews Band in concert and understood why my husband loves them so. It wasn't a concert so much as a religious experience that maybe converted me to the cult. When Ainsley was in the car with me, our summer soundtrack was Michael Jackson. On date nights when it was just me and the hubby, it was all about Big Whiskey pouring out of the moon roof.

Ainsley will remember this as the summer she rode in an airplane for the first time and stayed remarkably calmer than her mother. We'll all remember it as the summer we learned that the Caribbean waters really are as blue as they look in the Corona commercials. One of the most treasured memories of my entire life will be from this summer, standing on a white sugar beach, watching my husband and daughter frolicking in still, turquoise waters. No one knows for sure where heaven is, but my money is on Half Moon Cay.

This fall will bring worries and problems of its own. There's swine flu, and the economy, and the fact that Ainsley really, really wants to be Hannah Montana for Halloween. But for now, I'll just enjoy the afterglow of summer '09.

How would you sum up your summer?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Today I have 9th graders coming into the library to do career research.

Their youthful optimism is a joy to behold. They still believe that they can do anything they want to do. No job is out of reach so long as they work hard enough and hold on to their dreams.


No one has told them yet that that is mostly a bunch of crap. Really, it's not our place as educators; these kids have to find this out for themselves. Just as many, many American Idol hopefuls don't realize that they will never be the next Whitney Houston (or even the next William Hung) until Simon Cowell tells them, "That was absolutely dreadful," so must these kids learn on their own that they can't be a pediatrician if they can't pass biology on the first try. At least, not one that I would want as Ainsley's pediatrician. At the freshman level, there are still a lot of kids who want to be singers, or actors, or professional athletes; when seniors come in I still see a few of those (and the ones I see are usually justified), but mostly the kids have gotten a big enough dose of reality that their career choices are more in line with where their true skills and talents lie.

That's why I like career research more with the freshmen than with the seniors; kids that still have dreams are so cute.

It always gets me thinking about what I wanted to be when I was their age. In ninth grade, I wanted to be a lawyer. This was mostly because I watched L.A. Law, but also because I was under the illusion that the only appropriate career choices available to people who were labelled "smart" were doctor or lawyer. Doctor was out because bodily fluids make me gag, so that left lawyer. When my high school had a career day and I got to meet an actual real-life defense attorney, and his answer to the question "What was the most exciting case you ever had?" was, "Well...I got to go to Hawaii for a case once," I changed my mind. I wanted to be the female Atticus Finch, fighting for justice; I was very sad to learn that is not the life of your average Kentucky lawyer.

There was a brief time after that that I wanted to be a botanist simply because I liked caring for the plants in my high school's greenhouse during biology class. When I learned that to do that job I would have to get a Ph.D. and actually study plants, not just water them, I switched gears. To meteorologist.

For over a year, that was my dream. I was informed enough to know that being a meteorologist was not the same as being a weather girl on TV, so I have to give myself some credit there. In fact, I didn't want to be on TV. I saw myself working at the airport for the National Weather Service, drinking coffee and tracking Doppler radar and wind speed. I was so certain that I wanted to me a meterologist that this is what I put down as my area of interest when I took the PSAT, and was alarmed when the only schools that sent me information were from states in the midwest, further away from home than I really wanted to go. It came down to living my dream or facing homesickness. I am sad to say I let my fear of being more than a couple of hours away from home win. I'm still fascinated by weather and think I might have made a good weather scientist (so long as I only had to be mildly proficient and not brilliant in physics and higher math). It's the road not taken, and in moments when I really hate my job, I wonder if it would have made all the difference.

But I was probably born to be a teacher and librarian. Sad, maybe. But true.

That's not to say I don't still have dreams. Some days I think of turning the handful of decent blog posts I have written into a book that will be published and read by (and here's where I'm dreaming big) hundreds of people or at the very least get the attention of some newspaper that would hire me to write a weekly column along the lines of Celia Rivenbark or my idol, Dave Barry.

Though I'd probably have to be a lot funnier for that to happen.

Other days I think of the screenplay idea I've had in my head for a couple of years now, kinda like Office Space but about the ridiculousness of working in education instead of the ridiculousness of working in a cubicle farm. I have some truly hilarious (to me, anyway) scenes in my head and can even see the low-key cast I would want. I dream of my little movie becoming a sleeper hit that survives as a cult classic among anyone who ever tried to be a good teacher.

But I would probably have to know something about writing a screenplay, and then selling said screenplay, for that to happen.

I even had a dream this winter about working for the current presidential administration. For a while there, people were talking about the application up on the White House website where one could apply for the myriad of positions both big and small available in the Obama administration and suggest other jobs that would benefit the President's agenda. A friend of mine, who is known in these parts for her work in organic farming and re-introducing species of heirloom vegetables, applied to be the White House gardener and offered to plant a kitchen garden well before Michelle Obama broke ground for that herself in spring. I thought of applying to be the President's official White House librarian, organizing the first family's personal collection of books, DVDs, and CDs, doing story times for Sasha and Malia, and filing whatever top secret tomes might be lying around. (A binder that contains the truth of what happened at Roswell? Don't mind if I do!)

And yet I would have to pass a thorough vetting process, be seen as necessary, be really good at what I currently do, and pack up the family to move to D.C. for that to happen.

I guess I'll just keep my day job.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Be like the ninth graders, not the seniors. Dream big. Climb every mountain! Even the ones you don't have the snow shoes for.