What in the World is Going on in the World?

via 123rf

I have a pathetic confession, I have absolutely no idea what the latest, serious news stories are. This is usually not like me. I used to teach school and I know the importance of keeping up with current events. My normal “first thing in the morning” routine is to drink coffee (lots of coffee), read the news on my computer while I watch it on television; perfect multimedia multitasking. The truth is, from around the time the last Harry Potter was released, I haven’t paid one iota of attention to serious news. I’m not blaming this on Harry. Lord knows, the poor guy has had enough on his plate, with defeating “You-know-who” and restoring the wizarding world to normalcy, to shoulder any of my burdens. It is solely my doing, or the doing of my mid-life crisis, that has caused me to delve into the world of escapism. So, for the fun of it, I’ll share with you the few things that I’ve discovered during my six week hiatus from reality.

First off, I know exactly what’s happening on True Blood, and may I share that I wasn’t thrilled with episodes eight, nine, or ten. C’mon, Alan Ball, can’t you at least pretend to have read the

He's the man! (Photo via Wikipedia)

books? Next, I’ll confess that I wish I would have started watching Boardwalk Empire last season. I’ve watched the first seven episodes online and it is AMAZING!! You go Steve Buscemi! I’ve also been delving into documentaries more often than usual. I watched Supersize Me for the third time. I developed an appreciation for street art after my youngest recommended Exit through the Gift Shop and I surprised myself by enjoying Beyond the Mat, a film about the lives of several professional wrestlers.

It’s not just the high quality entertainment that premium channels have to offer that’s been making me forget stuff like who our president is or whether we’re allies with Libya, it’s the less costly, trashier channels that have been keeping me occupied, as well. Have I watched a women reenacting giving birth in a toilet, because she didn’t know she was pregnant? Yes. Have I observed housewives from New Jersey forgetting to follow the golden rule? You know it. Have I tuned in to Joey Greco showing hidden camera footage to woman who is ready to kick her cheating boyfriend’s ass? Yep. Do I know whether or not Eden Wood won the “Rumble in the Jungle” beauty pageant? That would also be a yes. Do I feel guilty for watching any of these low quality programs? Oddly, I don’t.

Picture via Amazon

Before you judge me too harshly, I also read. Like a champ, I read all of the blogs that I subscribe to almost every, single day. I’m also reading several books at once. My bedtime book is The Sea of Monsters; book two of the Percy Jackson series. My living room forwhentheTVgetsboring book is currently Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks, and my bathroom book is David Haviland’s Why You Should Store Your Farts in a Jar & Other Oddball or Gross Maladies, Afflictions, Remedies, and “Cures” (and, no, I didn’t make that up). I’ll admit, none of these are on the classics list, but if their subjects were too heady I wouldn’t be escaping.

As superiorly pleasurable as escapism is, I feel that it may be time to return to the world of the living. So, now I’m left wondering about the happenings of the world while I was “out-to-lunch.” Should I be learning Russian? Has the Zombie Apocalypse occurred? Have scientists discovered a cure for chronic flatulence? Only time, and a few Google searches, will tell.

How do you “escape,” dear readers?

Dodging a Bullet Apocalypse Style

Whew! It’s May 22nd, and I feel like I’ve dodged yet another apocalyptic bullet. Actually, I’m very happy to confess that I wasn’t in the least concerned by crazy Mr. Camping’s May 21st Rapture prediction, but I do very seriously wonder how many children out there were frightened by his prophecy. The reason for my speculation is that I was once a completely terrified twelve year-old certain that the world would not last beyond my childhood. There were two extremely valid reasons that my pre-pubescent self was certain that doomsday was drawing near. The first was that my grandmother had ever so lovingly taken me, at least a dozen times, to the Pentecostal church that she attended. One thing I soon found out about Pentecostals, besides the fact they rolled in the aisles and spoke in tongues, was that they talked constantly about “the end times,” and according to them just about everything was a sign that the end times were near. If there was a slight earthquake in California, it was a sign of the end times. If teenaged boys began wearing their hair longer, it was a sign of the end times. If an R-rated movie won an Academy Award, then Armageddon was soon to follow. The other, and perhaps most binding, reason that I feared the end of the world was imminent was that a person that I deemed extremely credible told me that it would be happening. This person was my 7th grade science teacher and at 12, I had no doubt that any grain of knowledge passed down to me by a teacher was absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt the truth.

Mr. Smith was hired to teach 7th grade science a few months after school had actually started. Before him, we had a series of substitute teachers who never seemed to get past the first chapter in the science book. I was tired of learning and relearning about cell functions, so I was pretty psyched when the board of education granted Mr. Smith the position of our science teacher. Mr. Smith was a cool, young, teacher fresh out of college. He energetically pushed us through the rest of cell biology and moved through several more chapters. Everything was going swimmingly until we reached the chapter on astronomy. At first, this unit was rather exciting because Mr. Smith deemed himself an amateur astronomer complete with a very expensive telescope and a notebook brimming with universal theories. Immediately, after he spent some time bragging to us about the size and cost of his device, he began sharing his theories. Most were fairly benign, but the theory that he called “The Big One” was horrific. He claimed that in March of 1982 the planets would align on the same side of the sun causing an event so cataclysmic that we would all be hurled into a black hole where our bodies would implode, leaving nothing but our severed consciousness to float in a sea of nothingness for eternity. This was some pretty deep shit that he was springing on a bunch of naïve 12 year-olds, but he was a teacher; an authority figure, and I felt forced to consider the possibility of his postulations.

Suddenly, my small world began to feel more than a little hopeless. Things at home were already pretty grim. With my mother recovering from a radical mastectomy and my father drinking himself to a raging oblivion on a daily basis, school had been my escape. Now with nothing but additional doomsday theories from Mr. Smith to look forward to during 5th period, school felt sullied and ruined. I began to look for ways to get out of his class. I was far too terrified of the wrath of my father to ditch 5th period, so I attempted to claim illness every day after lunch, in order to be sent home. At first it worked, and my grandmother or a neighbor would pick me up from school. After a week of this, however, my mother grew wise to my ruse and demanded to know why I didn’t want to spend the entire day at school. Was I being picked on? Was I doing poorly in a class? I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what I was trying to avoid. She was battling cancer and I was terrified that if she knew that we were all going to die in 1982 that she would abandon her fight. So I told her everything was fine, that I was feeling better and would no longer call to come home. This left me with finding a way to get through Mr. Smith’s class without listening to his theories or his responses to my classmates constant queries about “The Big One.” Not paying attention in class had always been sort of problem of mine, and I decided to use it to my advantage. So, during Mr. Smith’s class I completely blocked out his lecturing and voraciously wrote in my science notebook. I made sure to periodically look up, make eye contact, and nod in agreement with what he was saying so he would think that I was hungrily writing down his every word. In truth, I was writing my bucket list, and since I knew that most of the goals on my list would never be completed before the planets aligned and we were all screwed, I wrote about how they might have been. I wrote of graduation and college, about my marriage to Donny Osmond and our two kids named Jasmine and Xavier. I wrote about my career as a famous actress who did both dog food commercials and soap operas with Academy Award winning flair.

My plan was working beautifully until report card time rolled around and the square that usually housed an above average science grade held an F. This F brought me much more worry than it would to your average 7th grader, my mother, who had always been very active in my school life, was insistent about attending a parent-teacher conference to discuss my poor mark and lack of progress. Like any kid with an F on her report card, I didn’t want her to attend a meeting with my teacher. This wasn’t because I was afraid of her finding out that I had been slacking in class. It was because she was receiving chemotherapy and I was terrified that she would contract a life-threatening illness at my germy school. This was my tipping point. It was the moment that my fear of losing my mother became greater than my fear of the end of the world and I fessed up. Everything came spilling out. I tearfully showed her my detailed bucket list and begged her to not abandon her fight despite the short time that we all had left on Earth. She circled me in her arms and assured me that for centuries people have foretold the world’s demise without success. She said that I had nothing to worry about, and that’s all it took to make things better. I believed her, because when you’re 12 a mother’s theory trumps all others.

With some work I eventually raised my science grade to a B, although a substitute placed the higher mark on my report card. Mr. Smith wasn’t permitted to finish out the school year, once school officials found out that he had been inviting students to his home to see his “telescope” and discuss his theories. My mother recovered and spent the rest of her life cancer free, and I’ve never worried about the end of the world again.

Day 5: 31 Days of Blogging Honesty

Day # 5 Question: The person (outside of my family) who has had the greatest influence on my life is…

I have to be honest; really, really honest. Of the crazy cast of characters that I have idolized or associated with, outside of my family, none, and I mean none, have had a greater influence on me than the “person” that I am about to honor in this post. I know, gentle, or perhaps not so gentle, reader you are expecting a sappy tale about how a teacher, or perhaps how Oprah, completely changed my life and made me the awesome human being that I am today. Well, that’s not going to happen. For at least 39 years of my life I was a drifter, lost and looking for just the right person to latch onto to reveal to me the vast secrets of life. I went about my daily business, empty and wanting, until one fateful day when recess duty changed everything. I know you teachers out there are wondering HOW recess duty could be life altering. Battling the elements and breaking up whiney fights is usually less than enlightening. However, this fateful recess duty was on the last day of school when all things seem possible.

I was zoned out, totally allergized from the maintenance men mowing, and only semi-watching the kids, when a small voice (just kidding, there are no small voices on a playground) informed me that there was a snake by the baseball diamond. I trekked over to left field, knowing that I was no Steve Irwin. If this viper attacked, I would be pulling an Osama and using the closest kid as a human shield. As I got closer, I could see the tall grass wiggling. I was just about to start scanning the playground for the perfect serpent buffer, when a tiny, striped kitten appeared. In retrospect, I should have noticed that a light poured down from the heavens and a full chorus of angels began to sing, I should have realized that this was it; that I had met the being I’d been searching for my entire life, but there were more pressing matters at hand. This poor little kitty had been grazed by the mower. Her face was cut and she was struggling to walk. I whipped out my cell phone (not allowed, but much better than using a kid as a human snake shield) and called my daughter. She called our vet and then hurried to the school with the cat carrier. Soon my future mentor was at Dr. Daniel’s being cured while I was enduring an end-of-the-year party. After goodbyes were said, and my head stopped buzzing from the noise, I headed to the vet’s where my tiny Buddha was waiting for me. Her wounds were superficial and her back legs weren’t damaged, only temporarily out of socket.  She had been given her first round of shots, some antibiotics and was ready to go home with me.

You have never seen the face of true appreciation until you’ve gazed upon a tiny being, who has just lapped up a lion’s share of cat milk, snuggled deep in the fleecy covers of her new cat bed while kneading the air. Sophie has taught me the important things in life: nap when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, and play when the urge strikes you. Never be afraid to jump higher than it seems possible and always land on your feet. Always ask nicely for what you want and reward any gift with great affection. Most of all she’s taught me to remember that even on your very worst day, the possibility of a better life is always on the horizon. (She’s also taught me that drinking from the toilet is unacceptable, as is scratching up an $800 chair, but I already kind of knew that!)

My furry sage finishing up a well-deserved treat!
Never be afraid to go for it!

Is this post a ruse to show off my adorable cat? You bet it is! 

Have the best day ever, dear readers! 🙂

Naughty Girls on Ice

Despite the provocative title, this is not a “pay-per-view” type of story. It is a tale inspired by my blogging buddy, Deborah, at The Monster in Your Closet. After reading about the mischief that her son got into I was mentally catapulted back to a simpler time (actually not simpler at all—my life is pretty damned easy now) when my daughters were younger and only slightly more mischevious!

It was the Sunday after Easter, and my daughters had just arrived home from a visit with their father. I had made the mistake of going on a 20 mile hike the day before, and when my two little sweethearts energetically bounded through the door at 8 a.m. I wanted nothing more than to kiss them hello and sink into a very hot bath to soothe my sore muscles. Anyone who has children knows that a four and six year-olds’ needs must come before their own. They needed to tell me about their adventures with their dad. They needed their hair brushed, and they needed breakfast. So, over toast and scrambled eggs we got caught up. After brushing and ponytailing their silken locks, I told them how sore my muscles were and let them know that I would be soaking in the tub for a bit while they watched a movie. At first they picked out an educational video about sea life that only lasted 30 minutes. I encouraged them to take the sea theme a little further and watch The Little Mermaid since it was nearly an hour longer. While I was drawing my bath, my oldest asked if she could play with the bubbles from her Easter Basket. I gave her permission as long as she played with them over the area rug in the living room and not over the hardwood floors. I then remembered that this was a kid who, at four, had put on her snow boots and masterminded a “blizzard” in the nursery with a very large container of baby powder. I decided to limit her time with the bubbles to five minutes and set the kitchen timer. After she promised to put the bubbles away with the timer “dinged,” I slid into the bath with a good book.

In a few minutes, I predictably did what I always do when conditions are warm and cozy; I drowsily dropped my book to the floor and fell asleep. I know this is not the greatest parenting on Earth, but the apartment was child proofed out the wazoo, and the girls were being babysat by Walt Disney himself. What could go wrong? I awoke to silence. All parents know that silence is a double-edged sword. Silent children could either be angelically napping, or plotting a government takeover. My mind raced from one dreadful scenario to another as I quickly dried off and wrapped myself in my fluffy robe. I called through the bathroom door. “Is everything alright out there, girls?” I heard whispering and scurrying. “Yes, Mama, you can keep taking your bath.” My naturally egocentric children willingly offering me time to myself was not a good sign. They were up to something. I decided to question no further and catch them in the act. I quietly opened the bathroom door and moved stealthily down the hall where I was greeted by my very out of place sofa. On top of the sofa, rolled up like a burrito, was our very large area rug. When small people have move big furniture the result is usually never very good. I braced myself for the worst as I climbed over my misplaced couch, and there in the center of the living room were my two daughters, dressed in last year’s Halloween costumes, barefooted, with soapsuds up to their ankles. “We’re skating, Mama!” my youngest said gleefully as she completed a toddler-styled double axel near the entertainment center. My oldest dressed as Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, and always the negotiator offered, “We made Disney on Ice, from the bubbles. Don’t be mad, Mama, remember how you said you couldn’t afford to take us?” I stood there amazed; both at their ingenuity and at how much liquid one quart of cheap bubbles could produce on a floor. I wasn’t sure whether to whip my slippers off and join them or slide their slippery little bodies to the time-out chair. I decided on neither. The damage was done. The floor was already a sudsy mess and their enjoyment was so pure that I propped myself against the sofa and watched them.

When they began to tire I emptied the linen closet of our towel supply and instructed them on clean up while I sprawled out on the sofa with my book. After every bit of soapy slimy amusement was wiped from the floor, I tutored them in the mopping and drying of it. I then marveled at their strength as they replaced the furniture and the rug. “I think the floor is the cleanest that it’s ever been,” my oldest said confidently. I confirmed that she was probably right, but reminded both of them of the enormous amount of towels that stilled needed to be laundered. I walked with them to the laundry room as they lugged the overflowing basket of towels down the steps. My oldest offered 3 quarters from her piggy bank “since she helped make the mess.” I took them and let her sister gently push them into the machine. When we went back upstairs they didn’t bulk when I asked them to straighten their bedroom while the towels were finishing. Later, as we folded them together on the kitchen table, my oldest asked me if they were in trouble. I told her that I was disappointed that she hadn’t put the bubbles away when the timer chimed, and that she hadn’t been a very good example to her younger sister by disobeying me. Both girls apologized and all was forgiven. “How did it feel to clean up that bubble mess?” I asked them. They both agreed that it was a lot of work. I reminded them that when they make a huge mess they have to use valuable time, which could have been spent playing, to clean it up. My oldest looked at me with a hopeful, impish grin. “Does this mean we can make an ice rink again, if we clean it up?” “Absolutely not!” I said as I scooped them both up in an enormous bear hug, and thankfully my living room was never host to “Disney on Ice” again!

Author’s note: My daughters, who are now, 20 and 23, had a good laugh over this story this morning. Because I was usually not an overly permissive parent, my daughters remember being certain that they were going to be in trouble for their hijinks and were pleasantly surprised that their punishment was merely cleaning up their mess!

Who Made?

I have to interrupt my normally silly blog to comment on this article: http://stlouis.cbslocal.com/2011/04/13/collinsville-teacher-ousted-for-ordering-students-to-remove-underwear/ After 16 years in the ranks of teaching, I naturally find myself drawn to stories about teachers in trouble for their inability to problem solve correctly, or to control their words and actions. There should be a special Darwin Award for teachers who have zero common sense. Somewhere along the line someone forgot to tell this person that nearly ANYTHING involving a teacher and an under-aged human being’s underwear has the possibility of a prompt firing. I do see that the teacher didn’t go into the stall with the students, but he/she shouldn’t have handled the circumstances this way, or on his/her own.

The other reason that I was drawn to this story was that I was in a similar situation when I found a few of my students playing a raucous game of “kick the turd” during indoor recess one rainy afternoon. I immediately sent a reliable student for the custodian, and lined the entire class up for a bathroom break. As the kids were standing in line for the restroom, my sharply trained mom/teacher nose sniffed out the culprit. I quietly called him over from the line and privately asked him if he was feeling alright, rather than bluntly blurting out, “Did you crap your pants?” He immediately told me that his stomach had been hurting all morning. I had another reliable student summon another teacher to watch my class while I walked the poor little guy up to the office to call his mom. On the phone I mentioned that I thought he might have had an accident. Mom thanked me, picked him up, and everyone’s dignity and job was intact.

I guess I marvel at some teachers’ stupidity because I was always so incredibly careful about how I treated my students and their parents. As a parent, I always hoped that my own children’s teachers were treating them with the same care and respect that I treated my own students with. Of course, in teaching, there are always going to be children, parents, and situations that will drive you absolutely mad, but use common sense, and find a healthy outlet for your frustrations! End rant! 🙂 Sprinkles out…