Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The post where I alienate some people, but that isn't the intention.

Following along in the footsteps and standing in the shadows of some of my Internet Icons, people I respect and honor and love and try to be like in every way except they're all younger and thinner and much more attractive, I hear and obey and do my best to convey my feelings about. . . . sex.

First of all, I'm for it.

Secondly, there's a time and a place for everything. Sleeping, eating, rollerblading, driving, leaving home, movies, red wine, golfing, websurfing, and, yes, sex. Try any of these things when you're too young or too old or too tired or at work or at someone else's house or ovulating or angry or with the wrong person or just having an off day, well, let's just say that things won't go as they should, and that's an understatement. And to try and persuade or even, heaven forbid, force, someone to do any of these things when they really don't want to, is to be the opposite of a friend, and worse even than an enemy.

When, then, should these things, and others, be done? They should be done when the time is right, and the place is right, and the people are right. When do we know that? I don't know. We just know. But what if everybody else is doing these things and they're making fun of me because I'm not? Ignore them. They're not you, and they can't make decisions for you. But, but, but, I WANT them to! No, you don't. Not really. But, but, but, people are doing these things everywhere. All the coolest celebrities are doing them and they look awesome.

Uh huh. Is this what it's come down to? Celebrities are our young peoples' mentors now? Actually, as long as parents give in and give in and kowtow, celebrities rule. Fashion, music, behavior. . . . .besides, many kids nowadays see celebrities more frequently than they see their parents. Kids spend long hours home alone in front of the tv, and lifestyle examples are rampant all over the networks. All of them look like more fun than their parents' lifestyles.

You know, just like us, when we were their age.

Celebrities are out there everywhere. There are more celebrities than regular people, in some areas. Celebrities, wearing g-strings and two styrofoam egg carton sections, carrying french bread in a mesh bag, talking on a cell phone and frowning at the ten thousand photographers who are following them. Celebrities, making babies and abandoning them like so much dross. Celebrities, walking out on pregnant wives or girlfriends that they might take up with yet another celebrity and impregnate them, too. Studly celebrities with high sperm counts, going from flower to flower like King Mongut. Celebrities, unmarried but reproducing like crazed ferrets, dancing on top of talk-show furniture and spouting philosophy that any sane and educated person would laugh at, but which an un or under-educated person might ostensibly fall for. And it is my firm belief that many of our young people are at the very least, undereducated.

Tom Cruise ROCKS, and Katie is so LUCKY he looked her way, and their baby will be AWESOME, and, um, married? No, but it's okay because they're CELEBRITIES. Celebrities DO it, so if I do it, maybe I'll get as lucky as Katie. She's so LUCKY. And I KNOW that Tom will never leave her the way he left two other wives; he's CHANGED.

It makes me remember Michael Landon, "Mr. Family Values" of the seventies and eighties, and how he made and walked out on several families, all the while wearing his "TV's Perfect Father" crown for some people. (He also helped ruin Laura Ingalls Wilder's beautiful stories, and for that I shall never forgive him.)

Where am I going with this ramble? I'm not sure. There are things I'd like to say and I'm not sure I can say them, at least not as well as the already-mentioned bloggers have said them.

Perhaps one of the points is that there are many aspects of life that are wonderful. Some of them are available for people of any age; several of them are available only for people of a certain age, and several of them are appropriate only for people of a certain age and circumstances. Or should be.

Remember the Seven Deadly Sins? The Seven Virtues? Remember what Mordred thought of the Seven Virtues? Remember what kind of person Mordred was? Does anyone know who Mordred was? Has anyone ever heard of Mordred?

The Seven Deadly Virtues, those ghastly little traps,
Oh no, my liege, they were not meant for me.
Those Seven Deadly Virtues were made for other chaps,
Who love a life of failure and ennui.
Take Courage-now there's a sport
An invitation to the state of rigor mort
And Purity-a noble yen
And very restful every now and then
I find Humility means to be hurt
It's not the earth the meek inherit, it's the dirt
Honesty is fatal, it should be taboo
Diligence-a fate I would hate
If Charity means giving, I give it to you
And Fidelity is only for your mate
You'll never find a virtue unstatusing my quo, or making my Beelzebubble burst;
Let others take the high road, I will take the low;
I cannot wait to rush in where angels fear to go,
With all those Seven Deadly Virtues free and happy little me has not been cursed!

And the Seven Deadly Sins?

Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.

Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.

Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.

Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work

Is it just me, or have those Deadly Sins somehow become the typical lifestyle of a lot of people? Is there ever really a good excuse for any of them? I can't think of one.

Ghandi had his own list of sins. Look.

Wealth without Work

Pleasure without Conscience

Science without Humanity

Knowledge without Character

Politics without Principle

Commerce without Morality

Worship without Sacrifice

Now, far be it from me to sermonize. Sermons usually put me to sleep. Sermons often make people get up and go out and do the very thing they were just sermonized against just for spite. (not that I would know.) But I have seen a lot of heartbreak and disillusionment in our young people, because they disregarded certain conventions and 'did their own thing' to the tune of flouting old-fashioned boring things like morality and fidelity and chastity, besides which, such doings often bring yet another innocent being into the world who gets to reap the benefit of being raised by teenagers, fed by government-subsidized programs, educated via free book rental, clothed by the salvation army, and housed by charity. Yes, sometimes it works, but it would have worked better if it had been done later. Have you any idea how many kids in the public schools have parents who have passed the same VD's around from household to household? Most of you wouldn't BELIEVE the stories most teachers could tell you.

Oh, I'm making lots of friends with this post, aren't I.

It's too late to make a long story short, so I'll end with this. Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Jerry Springer and anyone he's ever had on his show, Elizabeth Hurley, and lots of other unwholesome 'celebrities,' are not mentors or icons or role models. They are clowns. Ideally, we go to the circus, point and laugh at clowns, and then leave them behind whilst heaving a sigh of relief that we are not them. Clowns are to be laughed at, not brought home and given the run of the bedroom. We laugh at clowns, we don't let them whisper promises in our ears and pour us one more glass of wine and remove our clothing and impregnate us.

And how do we know a clown when we see one? Oh good grief, people, a clown is the idiot who tries to talk us into anything we don't really want to do, and who makes us feel inferior and behind the times and childish if we protest. If anyone tries to mess with you in any of those ways, PLEASE try to visualize the big red nose, the greasy red lips, the acne underneath the whiteface, and the infected boils under the suspenders. If you're still horny after picturing that, you've got far bigger problems than I could deal with here. In fact, you might even be the clown in the relationship.

If your mind is telling you to 'wait,' then wait. Nobody on this entire planet has the right to make you do 'anything' you don't feel ready to do. The Seven Deadly Sins are gross, disgusting, inferior lifestyles; don't let anyone try to cover them with sparkle-dust and fool you. All the glitter in the world won't cover a pile of shit that big. It might shine, but it will still stink. The Seven Virtues might be difficult at times, but ultimately, they are your best bet for a good life. And Ghandi's list is perfection.

Yes. I am speaking from experience, in many ways. I want everyone to have a better life than I have. I want everyone to be happier than I am. I want everyone to be smarter than I am.

I want everyone to do his/her own thinking, and I want everyone to stop trying to talk kids into things they would be better off not doing.

I've always been a little bit afraid of clowns. I think it's because all that paint and nonsense can fool some people into thinking that anything the clown suggests is a really good idea.

Honk honk. Beep beep. Why DON'T you want to, sweetheart, everyone else is doing it. You don't want to be the ONLY ONE who isn't, do you? Come on. Loosen up. Whoops, sorry about the lipstick smears. Beep beep, hahahahahahahahahahahaha. . . . .

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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:55 PM | |

Monday, February 27, 2006

Does anyone have some Febreze I could borrow?

When my son was little, he used to love making log cabins out back in the big sandbox.  The log cabins were really good, too.  Really quite professional-looking,  when you consider they were made by a little four-year-old boy.  All summer long, he made log cabins out in the big sandbox.
I went out to take a picture of a row of especially good cabins one afternoon.  That's when I found out that all the cats in the universe had been using our big sandbox as a litter box.  For months and months and months, from the look of it all.
Log cabins?  I'll just let you guess. 
And now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, I want to go wash my hands really, really thoroughly.  I might even phone my son and remind him to take a shower tonight.  For some reason, I have an uncontrollable urge to clean things.
But oh, those little log cabins were so cute. 
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:55 PM | |

No, it's not really me.

Does this outfit make me look fat?

This is how I feel some days, although I'd never really wear anything like this. Pink is so not my color. Plus, I need a much bigger purse.

Hey, I feel much better now. There's somebody out there who's fatter than I am!

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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:36 PM | |

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Cultural Awareness in a Tiny Country School which was, sadly, part of a Huge Consolidation

For many years, I took my 8th graders to the north side of Indianapolis to Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, for a full day of theatre education, a huge buffet lunch, a fantastic musical, and a stop at the Dairy Queen on the way home to re-fuel and, um, 'de-fuel.' And boy, two bathrooms and 125 kids just doesn't make that last stop a quick one. But I digress.

For most of my students, this excursion was their first glimpse of the theatre. Notice, please, that's THEATRE, not THEATER. They can go to the theater any time. But the THEATRE? Most of my students had never seen anything live except the country-western musicians at the 4-H Fair every summer. Many of my students had never been outside the county limits. A trip to WalMart was the biggest deal of their lives. And now they were getting on a bus and travelling a hundred miles and staying all day and seeing a live performance.

Over the years, we saw My Fair Lady, Godspell, State Fair, Phantom, Fiddler on the Roof, Sound of Music, South Pacific, Brigadoon, The Music Man, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cinderella, Evita, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Guys and Dolls, Grease, West Side Story, Tommy, The Secret Garden, Pippin, Once Upon a Mattress, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Cats. Every one of these performances was superb, and my students sat wide-eyed and, for some of them, with a whole new world they never knew existed suddenly before them and made a definitely possibility. I still have students tell me it was the highlight of their lives. I had students try out for high school and college musicals because of that trip. I see students at the opera and the symphony now, because of that trip.

In the days before the trip, I prepped them as thoroughly as I knew how. We studied the history of the theatre, and stage makeup, and learned how to read a libretto, and learned about lighting and special effects and hair and acoustics.

We also learned about elegant dining. Few of my students had ever eaten at a restaurant other than McDonald's, and the prospect of several forks, candles on the table, and this weird funky unknown called "etiquette" had some of them in a real wad of fright. None of them had ever been to a restaurant that didn't have ketchup.

How provincial were some of them? One year, I had to lean over the table and cut a student's meat for her; she didn't know how to wield the steak knife and fork together. She'd never done it before. She was fourteen years old.

We learned about appropriate behavior in a real theatre. One year the stage manager had to come out and hush a table of my boys because they were shouting "All RIGHT" at the actors whenever they particularly liked something. That's how it's done at country concerts, after all. It wasn't rudeness; it was ignorance. The Sound of Music nuns didn't think much of it, though.

After a couple of other incidents, I added "ethnic and lifestyle diversity" to the list of before-the-trip preps. Sigh. We were a tiny country school and we all looked and acted the same. The north side of Indy isn't like that. Sometimes, I think this was the most important lesson to come out of this trip.

But mostly, the students behaved beautifully and made me proud. It was awesome to see them dressed to the nines. I still love looking at all the pictures of them in the lobby of the theatre, and in the halls of the school. I love remembering the envious stares of the younger students as they watched the older ones board the bus in anticipation of the first elegant outing of their lives. I loved thinking about the anticipation of the younger students; next year, THEY would be dressed like that and getting on a big bus.

Once in the theatre, we usually shared the place with various elderly organizations. We were prepped for that, too. My students were gracious and helpful, and we almost always got a standing ovation from the other patrons and from the waitstaff when it was all over.

This field trip was the crowning jewel of my teaching year. I felt, and I still feel, that almost every lesson and discussion in my classroom somehow led up to this day, and the behavior and attitude and understanding and joy of my students in this theatre was living proof that the Language Arts did indeed exist outside the four walls of a school.

Sadly, after the advent of standardized testing, all field trips were eliminated because the time was needed for prepping for other things besides life experiences. The time was needed to prep for ISTEP. Every available moment was needed to get the students ready to take that all-important test. The school system did away with EVERY field trip from K through 12. Every single field trip was gone.

Except, of course, for athletic events. Duh. And since all those buses were now free during the day, there were more athletic events than EVER, scheduled. Isn't that nice?
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:25 PM | |

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Movie Review to Remember

"My opinion of this movie is it is sexual innuendo, a recap of before, a sequel,  a nanny with dysfunctional family who lawyers by day, a maniac hit man of fun, a bankable syrapy thing, some mild chuckles, immersing of a man in a fat suit regularly, and a madcap romp. These things is opinions of mine."
It's bad enough that a student chose to review "Big Momma's House 2."  But THIS?  Please just shoot me now.
Oh, and it's the same student from before. 
Whassup with this scheisse?  Sorry, kid:  Unacceptable under any circumstances.  You're going down.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:43 PM | |

My home is no longer THEIR home.

My children are grown up.  They moved out of our house several years ago and each has his/her own apartment now.  Until last year, each of them moved to a new apartment every. single. summer.
We have taken apart and put back together beds, desks, and bookshelves more times than I care to remember.  Packed up dishes and books and linens and you-name-it.  Carried them down many flights of stairs and back up many flights of stairs, as my children seem to gravitate towards elderly apartment complexes with no elevators, and my children love being way up high on the top floor. 
Excuse me for a moment while I hyperventilate just remembering all the carrying huge heavy things up innumerable flights of stairs.
But finally, for a while anyway, they've found their ideal complex.  My daughter found it first, moved in, and loved it.  Then when my son's lease was coming to an end, he researched apartments and discovered that his sister's complex was ideal for him, too.  Fortunately for world peace, it's a large complex with many separate buildings, so they're not really THAT close to each other. 
Both of my kids sharing a parking lot really makes it nice for me, though.  No more driving all over the city to get to both of them.  Now, I just pull into the parking lot, pull out my cell phone, and in a few minutes, THEY come running to ME.
You know what, though. . . . even though my daughter's been gone for eight years, and my son for six, they've both left so much of their stuff here in my house that it's as though two little kids still live here.  This is good for my nostalgic days.
However, if those kids don't get this stuff out of here so I can redo my guest room that used to be my daughter's room, and clear out my computer room that used to be my son's room, and get all that junk out of the family room so people can actually WALK down there, I'm going to scream, and call the Salvation Army.
I've threatened that for years now.  They know I'll never do it. 
Besides, there's that part of me that will break down and cry when she finally does pack up all her dollies and take them away.  And all those little robots and action figures ARE cute, lined up on those shelves like that.
This house was once full of children and their friends and their toys and their messes.  I used to buy Smurfberry Crunch every week.  This was the hang-out house.  I was the Mom giving the slumber party every weekend.  The walls of this house echoed with laughter and noise.  Oh, how I loved the noise!!!!
Now the house is full of packed boxes and Granola.  Skim milk and diet soda.  It's quiet.  Creepy quiet.
I miss the chaos so badly I can hardly stand it. 
Ahem.  Now, would you kids PLEASE get your stuff out of here before I trip and break my leg and require a walker even sooner than I would anyway?
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:38 AM | |

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Worms Live Here

When my son was tiny, he decided there weren't enough birds in our yard. He thought and thought about different ways to attract birds. We had to discard most of his ideas, because we didn't have any money to buy anything, even materials for birdhouses and feeders. All morning, I watched him rack his brain, thinking up ways to attract birds.

Finally he had an inspiration. He would make a sign so the birds would know that our yard was a prime landing spot.

He got out a sheet of paper and worked diligently. He asked me how to spell some words. After several discarded pieces of paper, he had his sign.

Then, he went out into the yard and found a long stick. He taped his sign to the stick, stuck it in the yard, backed off a few yards, and waited.

After a half hour or so had passed, he came back into the house for a sandwich, and asked me to come out and admire his sign. I did.

I looked at it, and I looked at his beaming freckly face and his bright red hair almost blinding in the sunlight. I said, "It's a wonderful sign. But sweetheart, you've taped it to the stick upside-down."

He gave me a look of exasperated loving patience. "Of course it is, Mommy. That's so the birds can read it from up in the sky."

What did the sign say? It said "Worms live here." Upside down, so the birds could read it from the sky.

Worms live here.

Well, if you were a bird, flying in the air and hungry, and you looked down and saw a sign advertising free worms, wouldn't you stop?

Worms live here. Upside down so the birds could read it from the sky.

I can barely think of this memory without tears. I love it that much.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:41 PM | |

My Love Affair With Qumana

It is no secret that I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to technology.  Most ten-year-old boys know far more about computers than I do.  But that's okay, because I know enough to blog and check email and keep my students' grades on an online gradebook and play Lifetime MahJong, and I have some genius friends who know EVERYTHING about computers, for when I have a problem. 
Therefore, when I make any kind of "discovery" that makes my online life even more simple and therefore better, I feel like I should share it with others.
Today, I want to tell you about the Qumana Editor.  People I know and highly respect and admire and possibly even worship in a non-religious way have developed this fantastic way to make blogging even easier than it already was! 
Seriously.  It's so cool, I'm not sure I can even describe it properly, and in any manner worthy of its awesomeness.
So.  I will advise you to just go to the website (click here) and read all about it.  And if you are like me, and reading all about it doesn't help much, just download the program (it's FREE) and play with it.  That's what I did, and it took me about five minutes to learn how to use it and now I use it every day and every day I love it MORE and MORE and MORE.
So far, I have found no glitches whatsoever.  So far, I have found only perfection on a stick.  Qumana, I love you. 
And I hope you all know me well enough by now to know that if I had any problems with it, I'd say so right out.  But as of today, it's been absolutely and 100% smooth sailing with it, and I can't imagine being without it now.
Blogging was fun and easy before.  Now, it's fun and easier than ever.
Has this been a public service announcement?  Well, since it would service the public, I guess it was.
Go for it.  I'm the biggest chickenscheisse about technology there could ever be, and I did it, and I'm glad I did.  You will be, too.
And now back to our regular programming. 
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:45 PM | |

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Original artwork with the patina of age

A few minutes ago I was standing in my kitchen looking at the beautiful sculptures adorning the tops of my cabinets, and wondering if I had the energy to stand on a chair and scrape off some of the cobwebs.  And then I started laughing.  Me, clean my house?  What is this strange concept of which you speak?
And then I looked some more at the sculptures.  They were all made by my children, when they were very young.  A few are made of Ivory soap, but most of them are made of clay.  Homemade clay, because when the kids were small, we couldn't afford PlayDough. (or much of anything else.)
Some day when I dust them, I'll post pictures.  Right now, you'd all just be horrified at the swags and festoons of crud.
My children loved crafts.  I used to buy towers of cheap paper plates (way cheaper than paper!)  and we had beautiful paintings and drawings taped all over the house.  I used to save toilet paper tubes, and no, I'm not obsessive-compulsive; they were great for making totem poles and finger puppets.  But some of the best times were with the clay.
2 cups baking soda
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
Bring all three ingredients to a hard boil in a big saucepan; reduce heat and stir constantly till it's the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Put a few drops of food coloring in there and stir it around.   Dump it on a plate and let it cool before you let your children touch it.
After it's cool, divide it between/among your children and let them sculpt.  This stuff hardens overnight, too, and after it hardens it can be painted.  It's harmless if they eat it, but it doesn't taste very good.
You can do anything with it that you can do with 'real' clay.  Christmas ornaments, statues, dishes. . . .
The stuff keeps forever.  20 years later you can be standing in your kitchen looking at the tops of your cabinets, and seeing the most beautiful artwork in the world, rippling in the breeze.  Oh wait, that's the cobwebs, never mind.
But underneath, oh underneath, are priceless treasures.  Remnants of a time gone by.  Personalized antiques.  Evidence that once upon a time, maybe we did something right. 
Sometimes, you know, we all need some affirmation.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:14 PM | |

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How I Found Ecstasy at Bob Evans

Tuesday is my long day, but it's also one of my favorite days.  Yes, I teach till way late on Tuesdays.  Yes, I start way early on Tuesdays.  But it's all okay, because on Tuesdays I get to EAT LUNCH IN A RESTAURANT WITH MY FRIEND WHO IS ALSO MY BOSS!!!!
You who get to eat lunch daily can have no inkling of how wonderful it is to A) have time to eat lunch, B) get to leave the building to eat lunch, and C) HAVE TIME TO LEAVE THE BUILDING AND GO TO A RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH.
Remember, for 26 years, I had 23 minutes for lunch.  I had to decide whether to hike to the restroom or eat lunch.  There wasn't time for both.  Now, I have an HOUR, and I get to leave the building and eat in a restaurant.  I'm disoriented from the coolness of it all.
If I keep saying it, maybe I can comprehend that it's really happening.
Yes.  In the course of my day, I not only get to GO TO THE BATHROOM, I get to have lunch. 
And there's a bottle of Diet Coke on my desk. 
Could Donald Trump be any happier?  Well, sure he could, he's got all that money and I don't have any.  But it doesn't really take money to create happiness, although since I have absolutely NO money I wouldn't really know. 
But I do know that for me, right now, getting to go to the bathroom, getting to have lunch, and getting to drink diet Coke during class, are making me very happy indeed. 
I'm also very grateful not to have Donald Trump's hair.  With his money, why doesn't he get a better hairdresser?  I'm just sayin.'  My hair isn't great but at least it isn't like his.
In fact, today, my hair looks a lot like Einstein's hair.  I think it's all the static in the air.  I really don't care.
That's a poem, isn't it.  Oh well, better Einstein than Trump.  Hair-wise, that is.  Wise-wise, too.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:33 PM | |

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Post Where I Tell You About Making A Grown Man Cry

Today after class I had to play "Plagiaristic Confrontation" again, and it was no fun.  It's never fun.  All throughout my career, I've listened to teachers almost brag and purr about 'bringing a student down,' and I've sat there shaking my head in amazement, wondering what kind of people were in charge of classrooms these days.  "Bringing a student down" was never a goal of any kind; I am frankly horrified that anyone would do so happily, and that anyone could gloat about it afterwards.  I always thought that one of my functions was to help students UP, not bring them down and brag about it to others who sat there practically applauding. 
Maybe I'm just an old softy (although there are those who would argue that point!!)  but I just can not even imagine being happy about a student who was in trouble.  Even when that trouble was the student's own choice and fault; I'm still sorry, not gleeful.  I might think things like, "Well, too bad, but life is full of choices and choices bring consequences, etc. etc." but I couldn't clap my hands and laugh because someone who is supposed to be the adult in charge gets off on bringing someone who is SUPPOSED to need help, down.
I might cry, but I wouldn't laugh. 
Today in the hallway after class, talking to that student, explaining the consequences of his choices to him, watching him wilt and lean against the wall and then cover his face with his hands and weep, did something to me today.  It made me want to write a post about younger students, and how we as the adults who are in charge need to do everything in our power to help them attain the skills they so desperately need in order to care for themselves and others as they grow up; we need to help our children appreciate culture so they might understand music and art and allow them to enrich and soothe their souls and give them something positive to do with leisure time; we need to help our children learn and understand everything we can possibly expose them to in the short amount of time they are entrusted to us; we need to show them how to figure things out all by themselves, and to appreciate those things that have no explanation at all, and to help them see that these are often the coolest things of all.  We need to teach them compassion by demonstrating compassion; even more importantly, we need to teach them about empathy. 
THIS is the job of the parent-school team.  Not drilling for ISTEP, not months of reviewing so a school will look good on paper and get more money, not sitting in a classroom for seven hours for thirty minutes of enchantment and a list of vocabulary words, not going over the same stuff again and again and again because two kids still can't do it, not hanging posters that say "Zero Tolerance" all over a school that publically advertises its refusal to give second chances. . . . .
Good schools are not all about more money.  You can throw money into a pigpen all day, and the pigs won't care.  Good schools are all about education.  Education has been defined as "A change in behavior."  I want to qualify that statement by saying that to me, education is a POSITIVE change in behavior.  And if we have to do a little tweaking to get the students' attention, then so be it.  And if we have to do a little strong -arming to get some parents to cooperate, well, so be that, too. Let the tweaking and strong-arming begin.
We must help our children learn, that they might become educated, that perhaps the behavior of the entire world might change..
If we do these things, then our children will never have to stand out in the hall with me, faces crumpled in horror, leaning against the wall and weeping.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:32 PM | |

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where did the music go?

Back in the day (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) every American student knew hundreds of songs, all the same songs, for the most part. Every Wednesday morning, kids all over the States would gather in their school's auditorium, or cafeteria, and sing. In my little grade school, it was called the All-School Sing. The music teacher was in charge, and she didn't 'teach' the students much of anything. She just started playing and all the older kids joined in, and after a few weeks the younger kids had picked up all the lyrics and joined in, too. It was an awesome way to learn the songs, imitating the cool big kids!

Every kid in my generation and before knew all the words to all the verses of most 'standard American songs.' We had songs for every holiday, every season, every celebration known to mankind, yes, even the minority ones. We knew dozens of patriotic songs. Funny songs. Indiana songs.

Even more importantly, we knew the major themes from hundreds of classical selections, because they were taught to us beginning in kindergarten, with age-appropriate lyrics. To this day, my generation can hum great classical music.

I think my generation, and the half-generation after me, were the last to benefit from this fantastic program. Shortly afterwards, it was deemed a waste of valuable class time, and it was done away with.

In my grandparents' generation, music was so important in the schools that if the orchestra lacked a particular instrument or chair, a professional was hired to fill it. If you read "A Girl of the Limberlost," you will see examples of such things. (you really should read that book, but before you do, you have to read "Freckles." It comes first. Both are by Gene Stratton Porter, and are absolutely wonderful. WONDERFUL.)

I still have my music textbooks from grade school. They are full of sweet little songs, most of which use the melodies of famous classical compositions. As children we didn't know that, of course, but as we got older and found out what we actually KNEW, we were astounded and felt so cool. The love of those melodies had been instilled in us, and it would never leave us. And it made us seek out the actual compositions themselves, that we might hear it all.

And in the back of each of those books is the synopsis of an entire opera.

What do kids learn in music class nowadays? People like my sister do a fantastic job, considering the limitations put upon them, and the ridiculous even-larger-than-regular-classes student population thrust upon them all at once, but many schools have done away with music altogether, because they need the time for ISTEP review. In most schools, the students wouldn't recognize a treble clef if it hit them on the head. And Beethoven is a big dog.

I used to quiz my middle school students about songs. Few knew many that weren't on MTV. Why don't kids these days know anything about real music? Because they aren't taught anything about it. And since the schools dropped the ball, others picked it up and ran with it, and our seven-year-olds are wearing thongs and crop tops and running around the playground singing about sex. It's sadder than we can even comprehend.

Oh, I don't knock their music. I like a lot of it. It's just sad that they have nothing in addition to it. They have no firm musical foundation, so they really can't say "this is good because. . . . " or "this is terrible because. . . . ."

And when they hear a song, they don't associate it with a person, or a place, or an occurence, or where they were or what they were doing. They associate it with a video. Their musical memories revolve around seeing a celebrity lip-synch.

No wonder so many things just plain 'suck.' They suck, because they're bad and there's no background or knowledge about why they suck.

Personally, I believe that messing with music programs in schools sucks, and I CAN tell you why. And I just did.
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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:41 PM | |

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My children were perfect. Yours, too.

When my children were small, I thought most of their little talents and abilities were wonderful. They sang like angels, and babbled and chattered like cherubs, and danced like prima ballerinas, and the way they pretended their french fries were elves and fairies was absolutely enchanting. It might have been a little bit loud, but hey, that just meant everyone in the restaurant got to experience my charming little children, too. And I just KNEW they loved it. I mean, what could have been more enchanting than two tiny little children, whirling on tiptoe in a restaurant singing at the top of their lungs, with their adorable garbled baby-grammar and their sweet smiles and the cute way they waved french fries in the air. Nobody could have resisted. Nobody. Everyone in the world loved my children and everyone in the world was only too happy to help me indulge them in public. You know, instead of just sitting there having a peaceful meal, the way they'd originally planned.

Seriously though, this wasn't me. It was my sister, but it wasn't me. It was lots of people I personally know, and even more people I don't personally know but was forced much against my will privileged to meet during my adult life.

What gets into some of us when we have children? Do we really instantly forget about public good manners? I think some of us do just that.

And it's got to stop. Little children are the most important thing in the universe, and we must NOT let them grow up thinking they are the center of that same universe. It is our responsibility to make sure our children know how to behave properly wherever they are, and if that means coming down hard on them when they choose to disobey us, so be it.

I know that you know that I am not advocating any kind of hitting or cruelty. I would turn you in to the CPS faster than you could wink, my friends, if I thought your children were being abused. I do advocate consequences, however; and consequences that fit the offense. And consequences every time.

Our children are so beautiful, so charming, so talented. Let's make sure the world sees that only when it's appropriate, ok?

Sometimes, people just need a peaceful romantic meal. And when they paid to have someone watch their own children, it's just not fair to let OUR children dance all over them or bother them in any way.

And if our children simply can not behave, let's just not take them anywhere till they can, agreed? Thank you.

And if they can't behave, how about let's also make some serious changes around the house. Please.

The known universe thanks you.

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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:44 PM | |

Leftovers again?

Hub just left to get Zappa and bring him down here for his weekend help session with the college math. Oh, don't look at me; I'm not the math teacher. Heaven help us all if someone depended on me for help with anything that had numbers in it.

Hub's the math teacher. Algebra and College Calculus, and Trig, at the high school here, and college level algebra one night a week at the same community college where I teach. We're a very teachy family.

Of course, neither of our kids would be a teacher for any amount of money; they've seen too much. They know how it engulfs and takes over one's life like an octopus infiltrates a Disney submarine with its tentacles. They've also seen what lack of administrative support can do to a career, and how easy it is to let other people's problems pretty much drown and drain and destroy a person. No teaching for either of them.

They've said, since they were little, that they would prefer a less stressful career, such as air traffic controller or mafia hitman or microneurosurgeon or UXB detonator.

Anyway. When Zappa comes home, it's advisable to have plenty of food for him. Unfortunately, this has been a rather more-moneyless-than-even-usual week, and the cupboard is almost bare. Therefore, this weekend Momy will once again feature "Novelty Leftover Surprise."

This weekend's Novelty Surprise features an attractive lasagna, made with leftover rice, beans, onions, garlic, and hamburger, layered with all the cheese in the refrigerator but mostly Swiss, and two jars of spaghetti sauce, one with mushrooms and one without. Sprinkle chopped green pepper over it all, bake for 45 minutes at 350, and cross your fingers.

Fortunately, I had just enough lasagne noodles left after making Anne's delicious Pierogie Casserole the other day for Belle.

If this strange lasagna is fit to eat, it should feed Zappa and Hub for the remainder of the weekend, with a few gaps filled in by lots of mashed grilled cheese sandwiches and fried eggs.

Hey, we never know till we try.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:36 PM | |

Oh hush, act your age.

All my life I have loathed the expression, "Act your age." Even as a child I wondered how a person could 'act' an age; the best I could ever do was to 'be' an age. "Act" always connoted phoniness to me.

I totally agree with the little girl in this joke. How can a child know how a certain age is supposed to act, when the child has never BEEN that age before? We need to be guided into each age, not tossed.

Remember in the movie "Hook" when Robin Williams turns on his young son in anger and tells him to stop acting like a kid? And the child's response was, 'But Dad, I AM a kid!"

Often in schools, teachers mark students down for being "immature." This is indeed a deficiency after a certain point, say, sixth grade or so. But to mark down a small child for being 'immature?' If a child is not allowed to be immature when he's seven years old, just when IS he allowed to be immature? Aren't all small children immature? Doesn't that go with the territory? Why do we expect small children to behave maturely, yet smile when grown men and women behave like small children? Why is one cute and endearing, and the other annoying? And which did you find annoying, may I ask?

BEING one's age is something we should all strive to do. ACTING it won't fool anybody.

And with the BEING comes the responsibility. Proper behavior should not be limited to certain ages; after only a few years, children know what's proper and what's not, unless they've been living in a vaccuum, or unless they've been allowed to run the household. And none of us know anyone who lets THAT happen, right?

So. As parents and citizens of the universe, we owe it to our children and to each other and to ourselves to lighten up on some things AND tighten the screws on others, both at once, so our children will truly grow up, not just get bigger with the same poor impulse control and with the feeling that the galaxy revolves around them. And how do we do this? With whatever it takes, my friends. Some children evolve naturally into delightful mature adults, and others must be wrestled to the ground with every new concept.

Do not allow your child to walk out your door and become the neighborhood monster, the school bully, the local knock-up artist, and an incorrigible bum. At least, not without some serious battles and opposition on your part. (some things we just can't control, not even with the best parental intentions, dedication, and arsenal known to mankind, sigh.) And if teachers, neighbors, friends, and total strangers try to tell you that your child's behavior is in need of serious control, believe them. Don't make excuses, because there ARE no excuses. Seek help and seek it till you get it. No matter what the problem might be, a person with no self control is a danger to the other people in this world, and that person must be stopped and forced to change, and if change is not possible, then that person must be coralled, lest innocent others be hurt if they get in the way of his 'anger management problems' and 'poor impulse control problems.' I'm sorry as I can be, but the safety and well-being of the majority should count for something, too.

So. Let your children BE their age. And make bloody sure they know what's expected of them at that age, and give them time and opportunity to DO what's expected of them, and make the expectations bigger and more complicated as their age increases. Make sure the consequences for NOT BEING their age are severe and memorable. Very memorable. Allowing a child to remain a child forever, with no responsibilities and with excuses for tantrums and selfishness and laziness and with no manners and no understanding of public behavior, is as much 'abuse' as is beating him with a stick. Maybe worse, because others will suffer because of this parental laziness as well.

As a teacher, I called CPS more times than I could ever count. But not as many times as I WISH I could have. Whiny spoiled lazy monsters with helpless babyish doting excuse-making parents are a bane to the existence of us all.

BEING one's age often means behaving as a child behaves. BEING one's age also means behaving as polite society requires all persons in public to behave. There are times and places for childish shouts and spontaneous delight, and there are times and places for silence and respect. People of all ages need to know which is which.

I feel ranty today.

And no, I am not referring to special needs people.

<------Not good, no.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:37 PM | |

Friday, February 17, 2006

More evidence of my cruelty.

I have a student who came to class on January 9 and 11, and didn't come to class again until last Wednesday, Feb. 15.

He's missed about a dozen quizzes and four essays, and a ton of class discussion.

He emailed me that Wednesday night and needed more details on how to write an essay. I answered his questions, and then I asked him where he'd been for a month. I had already turned his name into the registrar as a "no-show." (That includes students who come a time or two and then never show up again.) (Their financial aid depends on their attendance.)

Here is his answer:

"ive been out for one i didnt have a way over here and two i tore my aclplaying basketball and thathas been keeping me out i couldnt even walk forawhile my knee is still kinda swolling...."

The sad thing is that I see this kind of writing all the time. I'm not looking forward to seeing his essay. IF he can make it out to the college, that is.

This semester, he's rivaled only by the woman who wandered into the building yesterday and told the director that she'd registered for a few classes she thought around last Christmas, and was wondering when they started. And was SHOCKED when told that she'd missed a month, and that it was too late.

The bad thing with her was that somehow the registrar had missed her name on the no-show roster and her financial aid had already been mailed. Sometimes, it's hard to get it back from that kind of people. They get a check in the mail and it's THEIRS, no matter what. Sigh.

I'm sorry the guy's knee is swolling, and I'm sorry this woman is in shock. But guess what: they both fail.

They fail because they are stupid. No euphemisms allowed.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:56 PM | |

Is it Friday yet? It's been a long week.

The Olympics are cool, but I think they'd be a lot cooler if the rules stated that all the athletes had to participate naked. You know, like the original Greek Olympics?

Well, I know I'd watch more of it.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:49 PM | |

Welcome to my nightmare.

I'm not the only adult who is still traumatized by having had to dress out and shower in junior high P.E., am I?

Please tell me that somebody else out there has the nightmares about it, too?

Because I think the "humiliating P.E." nightmares are second only to the 'wandering in the school hallway trying to remember which class I'm supposed to go to and forgetting my locker combination' nightmares.

Ah yes. Memories of youth.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:37 PM | |

Harsh judgement.

Chances are pretty good that there is no one in your child’s school who knows diddly-squat about what your kids are really capable of doing on the computers, there in the school lab or at home. Most systems won’t pay a real computer person what he/she’s worth, and the workload and the aggravation aren’t worth it. A real computer guy can make triple that salary in a factory, for crying out loud.

Systems will, however, pay out the BIG BUCKS for an outsider to come in and teach the staff some skills they should be ashamed to not already know.

I do not buy into this "I just can't use a computer, tee hee" bullshit. It's inexcusable.

In many systems, the computer ‘expert’ is the former shop teacher. I mean, there’s no time any more to teach our kids to use tools and measure things and make real Appalachian dulcimers and go to nursing homes and hold concerts for old people, duh, the schools have to drill and practice and review for those standardized tests because that’s where the MONEY will be coming from. “Besides, who needs a dulcimer? In fact, what is it?” (actual quote from administrator.) So, send the shop teacher to a few seminars and he’ll come back a computer expert. That’s what my old system did, anyway.

(Our kids used to make dulcimers. They don't any more. They're too busy reviewing for ISTEP.)

So. Your kids are being taught how to make a basic webpage and how to use the internet for research as long as the topic isn’t anything that might possibly have a questionable word in it, or might produce a page with a questionable link on it, or have anything to do with a body part or a euphemism for any kind of body part or biological function or animal or word like ‘girl, boy, sister, brother, friendly, or fun.” Sometimes in the lower grades, there are little games about colors, but everybody has to stay on the same page and at the same pace.

Many schools are terrified of blogs because they have no control over them. No blogging at school. Students are not allowed to check their email at school, either. A student who is computer-knowledgeable is often looked at with suspicion, because administrators are wired to view anything they personally don’t understand, as ‘questionable.’ And it’s shocking and frankly disgraceful how many administrator-types don’t even know how to check their own email, let alone BEGIN to understand the wonders that could be at each child’s fingertips if the schools hired trained people to teach our kids how to explore the universe.

Many school administrators fear questions more than anything else. Especially questions to which they don’t know the answers. Rather than find out, or hire someone who might know, they just lock it all down in the name of safety.

Go ahead, ask your child about computers in his/her school. Betcha they aren’t used much, and when they are, it’s for something mundane, and that mundane something is monitored by a person who was trained by the shop teacher and who might have a GED or a high school diploma. And who thinks “hotmail” is a porn site.

You think I’m exaggerating, don’t you. I only wish I were.

If your child’s school is the exception to this rule, I think that’s wonderful. Count your blessings. Call the administration and thank them, too. Or rather, ask the secretary to pass your thanks along, because many administrators aren’t known for their friendliness or their ability to remember the names of their employees. If yours is, thank him/her for that, too.

I have worked for ten principals and six superintendents. Not one of them was friendly, only one was even competent, and there at the end, not one was computer-savvy. I hope your experience is different from mine.

Our children deserve to be taught by the best. The mediocre have no place in our schools, in positions of authority.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:07 PM | |

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hey, Mother Nature! Heads up!

It's almost midnight and a really bad thunderstorm is raging. The winds are over sixty MPH, and the howling is incredible. The wind is making "powerful tubular formations" in the sky. Um, isn't that a pretty good description of a tornado? Tell me 'no.' I am very very afraid of tornadoes.

Tomorrow, the forecast is COLD, way below freezing cold.

At eight thirty tonight, it was 65 degrees. It's still unseasonably warm, even with the high winds. And tomorrow it will be winter again.

To quote the old man in 'Moonstruck:' "I'm confuuuuused."

Frankly, I think Mother Nature is PMS-ing. Either that, or the old gal is Alzheimerish and can't remember what she's supposed to be doing with the weather from hour to hour.

I just hope she takes care of those 'powerful tubular formations' before I hear a train in my woods again.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:58 PM | |

Einsteinian time warps.

Did you ever have one of these days? You didn't? Liar.

Did you ever think you'd miss them? You don't? Well, what do YOU know. . . .

I've had plenty of these days. I thought my whole life would be spent like this.


It really doesn't last very long, friends. It all goes by so fast, we can't even measure it. At the time, it seems to stand still, and we'll be knee-keep in vomit and diarrhea and toys and dirty dishes and Disney videos and ear infections and whining forever. Forever. FOREVER, AAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

And then one day you realize that your house is very quiet. Very, very quiet. And you can't stand it.

Oh, you don't wish your kids back, because they're grown up and happy, but you do wish you hadn't wasted so much of their enchanted childhood on wishing it away.

Time stands still when things are at an extreme. Good extremes, bad extremes. Most of life, however, isn't an extreme, it's just a steady flow forward. Forward to where? Forward to what? We don't know. We just have to go with the flow and wait.

It's Einsteinian. Our kids become more and more of a miracle as time unfolds, and time unfolds according to what's happenin'. Or so it seems, anyway.

And yes, that Mother's Curse really does work. I plan to use it some day, myself.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:41 PM | |

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Why, YES. I am the author of this piece. See my name at the bottom?

Would any of you like to read the movie review six of my students turned in to me last week? You would? Okay.

Just go here. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120338/usercomments

Am I upset? Yes. Very. At this level, I have to turn them all in for plagiarism. The usual penalty is expulsion from the college.

And we just had yet another lecture about plagiarism a few weeks ago. They KNOW what it is.

Even when they call it 'calligraphy,' they know what it is. (That was today. Sigh.)

And no, I don't want any papers turned in, done in calligraphy, either.

Why did they do it? Why?

Were they just that desperate, or did they really think I wouldn't notice?

For whatever reason, they did it, and now it's out of my hands.

It was a really poorly written review, too. Not that they would know that.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:57 PM | |

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Queen's "We"

As an English teacher, I've spent my entire career talking about various grammatical forms, including one we call the "Queen's 'we.'"

I always thought it was all about the fact that royalty never uses singular first person pronouns in public; they always use the plural forms.

Queen Victoria's "We are not amused" is possibly the most famous example of the Queen's 'we.'

Until now.

Ohhh, Elizabeth, you cheeky little devil you. Kind of makes me wonder what you carry in those immensely dowdy purses. You're not fooling me any more with your prim and proper press-lipped public face. I know you won't be writing any self-help books about successful child-rearing any time soon but maybe there are other topics you're actually qualified to talk about, eh? I mean besides dogs. Of course, from the looks of your children. . . . but I digress.

This picture also answers another question I've had for a long time about men in kilts.

I sincerely hope this picture doesn't offend anyone. If I hurt anybody's sensibilities, please accept my apology, and. . . . wait a minute.

Nah. This picture is just funny. If you don't think so, please move along.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:51 AM | |

Monday, February 13, 2006

And when he comes my way, I'll do my best to make him stay. . . . .

This past blogless week, I spent much of my time curled up in fetal position, hijacked and forlorn, with nothing to do that would excuse my not grading essays except bake, cook, read, think about mopping the kitchen floor, think about clearing off the dining room table clutter, think about changing all the calendars over to February now that it's half over, consider organizing the pots-and-pans cabinets, think about maybe putting some salt and pepper into the empty salt and pepper shakers, and ponder running the neighbor's mail that got delivered here by mistake over to their mailbox.

I did manage the baking and cooking and reading. All that other stuff required more energy than I've had for a long time. Maybe over spring break, if the stars are aligned just right.

One other thing I did manage whilst frantic and bereft: I watched movies in my kitchen. I watched The Big Chill, and Dave, and In & Out, and The Pirates of Penzance, and A Fish Called Wanda, and French Kiss, and De-Lovely, and suddenly it all came together and I realized what was going on with me.

I'm madly in love with Kevin Kline. Back off, ladies.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:43 PM | |

Dinner for Two

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I've got a gift certificate in my purse that says "Dinner for Two at the Texas RoadHouse." It's for Hub, and I've been carrying it around for over a month, waiting for the day.

Shhhh, don't tell him; it's a secret.

That's his favorite restaurant.

And the best part is, I get to go, too! Well, I'm assuming. . . .
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 5:57 PM | |

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bathrooms are important.

For over 26 years, I taught seven classes of Language Arts every day. I had 23 minutes for lunch, and one prep period.

In other words, I was not used to having any kind of free time. I was not used to being able to go to the bathroom or get a drink or even just lean back and relax for a few minutes. I was on stage all the time, spotlighted, and under scrutiny by groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for forty minutes at a time. We were not allowed to eat, drink, or leave the room for any reason, period. These were rules I understood, and these were rules I personally agreed with.

I think that a teacher who is munching on something, and drinking something, in front of all those students who aren't allowed to even chew gum, is very unprofessional and even taunting. My students were very rural, and for the most part very poor, and the free breakfast wasn't all that filling, and by the time free lunch rolled around they were literally starving, and a teacher who stood in front of them and porked down the snacks and drinks was frankly a very selfish and immature person, and hardly professional.

I have diabetes and there were times when I HAD to grab a mint or pass out cold, but I learned to do it so covertly, nobody knew. I would never have eaten candy in front of my students when they couldn't have any, and my kids were so hungry, even an explanation, while it would have been understood, wouldn't have helped.

Besides, middle school kids tend to spit, or worse, in an unattended cup and nobody needs that. But I will have to say, and many teachers will find offense in this, that if you are a teacher who flaunts food and drink in front of large masses of hungry kids, shame on you.

It is very true that age brings rank, and rank brings privilege. But abusing that privilege doesn't make you cool; it only makes you a creep.

Drink your coffee out in the hall. Save that food for your 23-minute lunch period, or your prep. And if you can't go that long, have your blood sugar checked. Oh, and grow up.

Or do what I did. Get fed up with the whole public school thing, quit, and start teaching at the college level.

I can go to the bathroom any time I want now, and I can drink diet Coke all day long.

And so can my students. It's fabulous.

I love my job. I loved it before, too, but I love it even more now that I can go to the bathroom.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:12 PM | |

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Where is love?" asked Oliver.

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and if you're not sure how to define 'love,' then click on over to the Mommybloggers for some suggestions. You'll find mine, as well as those of a lot of people way cooler than me, there, and they're adding them hourly.

It's awesome. Go check it out.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:40 PM | |

Rock me Amadeus, Dave, Gigi, Enya, and Harry.

When I woke up today (notice that I didn't say "when I woke up this morning") I was groggy and cranky and feeling woozier than usual. My disease (I have a diseeeeeease) was manifesting itself big time, and my eyes weren't working right and my knuckles were bleeding because I bent them typing and they were covered with diseeeeease things, and the muscles in my arms (just because they're flabby doesn't mean they're not there at all) were painful and I couldn't lift them high enough to even fasten a bra so I just didn't wear one (don't look, Ethellllll) which tells you all right up front that I wouldn't be leaving the house at all today.

Bra. Up front. I'm so witty.

So I didn't leave. I did some laundry and made a few dozen grilled cheese sandwiches and fried eggs (guess who's home again this weekend?) and read a little and watched a couple of old movies in my kitchen ("Dave" and "Gigi") and blogged a little and was very grateful to be able to do so again, and thought about getting my briefcase out of the car so I could grade some essays but I never got around to it because I was busy doing frivolous important things like spinning eggs because the boiled ones and the raw ones got mixed up, and cleaning stew off the kitchen floor because someone (not me) picked a bowl of simmering stew up out of the microwave without a holder and flung it into the air from shock. Now there's a big patch of clean floor which really makes the rest of the floor look bad. I'll clean it later; the weekend's not over yet and somebody's bound to spill something on it.

Zappa has a friend who's a landlord and he decided to check out the crawlspace under one of his units the other day. He discovered that landlords have apparently used the crawlspace for storage for the past million years or so and it was crammed full of a combination of weird junk.

The landlord friend had distributed hundreds of old cd's among his friends and had found an owner for all but three, and did I want them.

Heck yeah. Amadeus, the soundtrack. Enya. Harry Connick Jr. Why didn't those young people want them?

My hands are a mess, I can't see the monitor very well, but I'm still online.

"Thank heaven for little girls" always struck me as a creepy kind of stalker-perv dirty-old-man song, and I'm assuming you all knew that Gigi was being trained in the art of pleasing a man so she would be a suitable mistress for a rich Frenchman.

But golly, it's just so pretty.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:01 PM | |

. . . and now back to my usual mocking of funny people who don't know they're funny.

I am still pretty upset over the hijacking of my blog and my gmail, but mostly I am overwhelmingly thankful for Jim and Tris and Shylah. Their brains and know-how and persistance and unwillingness to let Google off the hook worked, and here I am once again with my rants and opinions and memories and extremely important descriptions of poop and funny people.

I am still waiting for Google to give me back my gmail account. I know my heroes are hard at work on it, but Google isn't very cooperative. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that the hijacker isn't sending all the people in my address book porn and spam and viagara ads and webcam invitations and other unwanted messages, supposedly from me. I mean, first of all, I don't own a webcam and secondly, you really don't want to see. Besides, I don't think they make them with a wide angle lens.

Hub and I drove up to the city last night and had dinner with my Tumorless Sister and a dear friend. We ate at Mark Pi's and it was delicious. Sis and Friend and Hub were all classily stifling the giggles and finally Sis said to me, "When you get a chance, turn around." A few minutes later, I needed something from my purse ("good one, sis," she said) and got a glimpse of what the three of them had been looking at all along.

It looked like a sixties bowling team, sponsored by Bouffant 'Do's for the Big Beautiful Woman.

Except for the 'beautiful' part.

They were loud and uninhibited, and were probably very nice women having a friendly dinner. LOTS of dinner. Lots and lots of dinner. On their tabletop was enough dinner to save a small third world nation from starvation. And when they were finally finished, nothing was left but very shiny dishes.

Hair so tall and wide and poofy and artificially black. Cheeks so pink. Other cheeks so tremendously large. One of them looked like Snow White gone to seed. The other three looked like. . . Mimi, from the Drew Carey Show.

I seriously hope the waiters retired those four chairs and replaced them with chairs less stressed. Talk about the New Madrid fault. . . . . *

See, I'm back. Mean and observant as before.

I'm a humongously big woman, myself. But at least I don't go out to dinner dressed as Disney's Snow White, size 5XL.

I'd tell you what my fortune cookie said, plus "in bed," but then it might not come true.

*I live on the New Madrid Fault.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:03 PM | |

Friday, February 10, 2006

Back from Hell.

When I got home from school last Tuesday night, I did what I always do. I ran in here and turned on my computer. Then I ran to the bathroom. Then I ran back here and logged into my gmail account.

Except, that I couldn't. My password no longer worked. I tried again. Rejected. Gmail kept telling me that the password I'd used for ages was not correct. In fact, Gmail is STILL telling me that my password is not correct.

So, I thought I'd blog about that. Except, that I couldn't. Blogger told me the same thing Gmail was telling me: my password was not correct. I tried again. Rejected. Again. Rejected.

Naturally, I then did what any sensible person would do when faced with NO BLOG: I sat here and almost cooked myself with the steam from my own panic. I became a speared shrimp on a grill. A shish kebob. And the pointed stick was jabbing right through my heart.

It's no secret that I am terribly paranoid about being hijacked. I've blogged about it before. It's one of my biggest fears. Two years ago I was hijacked and it was a nightmare.

This week, that nightmare came back. No email. No blog. Why?

I sent out a plea to my hero, Genuine, and his business partners Shylah and Tris. They gave me the answer I least wanted.

"Did you put a weird message on your left sidebar?" they asked me. I hadn't noticed it before, so I took a look. My own email was gone, and a strange coded message was there instead.

"I didn't put that there," I told them.

"You've been hacked," they told me.

I forget now how long I sat here screaming internally. I do know that no anti-perspirant known to mankind could have countered the sweat.

"Don't worry, Jane," my heroes said. "We'll get Google to fix it."

And since I trusted and believed in them implicitly, I relaxed a little and began to wait. And they began to wait, too. Together, we waited.

After we'd waited long enough and no response came from Google, my heroes tried another tactic. They spread the news about the hijacking and Google's non-response all over the internet. My heroes are not only well-known in the blogosphere, but they are also quite well known all over the internet in other aspects of computer coolness.

Every time I got an email (on my school account, not my stolen gmail account) from Google, my hopes would rise. But every. single. time. my hopes would dash down again, because nobody human at Google was reading my plea, and the responses were identical and obviously robotic: "go to THIS help page because ALL questions concerning this problem are addressed there."

But, but, but, there was nothing on the Google help pages about getting a blog back after it's been stolen and the passwords changed. I would reply and tell them this.

And they would reply with the same robotic advice. Over and over again.

UNTIL the publicity started, via my heroes and their awesome friends. Coincidentally, once word got out ON THE INTERNET about Google's attitude, someone at Google finally responded. Yes, I'm sure it was coincidental.

Unfortunately, the human response was identical to the robotic response. This human simply could not comprehend that the Google help pages did not help every problem. She insisted that all I needed to do was access that page and click on a link.

FINALLY, after a lot of string-pulling by my heroes and their friends, a lot of adverse publicity about Google's customer service and attitude in general, a human being from Google (I'd been wondering if there even WERE any!!!) contacted me and told me that she had checked out the references I'd given her and secured my blog. If I would just click on this link she sent me, I could change my password BACK and it would once again be mine. My deodorant quit again, this time from joy. I clicked the link. I followed her directions. They didn't work. I was again told that my password was not correct.

I replied to her and told her what had happened and settled down to wait some more. I was honestly shocked when she replied immediately with an apology and a correct link. I clicked on it. I followed the directions.

It worked.

I'm back.

Life is full of irony, though. Last night as I finished my comeback post and hit 'publish,' Blogger went down for maintenance and I lost it.

That's why I had to wait till today.

Now, a piece of advice for all of you, given to me by MY HEROES. All of you: if your password is something very short and simple, like a single word, get into your dashboard and change it immediately to something a little more complicated. Stick some numbers on either end of it. Turn some of those letters into caps.

And don't use the same password for everything you have. Use a variation of it.

Apparently, it is very simple for a hijacker to steal your stuff on the internet, and all he needs is a little knowledge of you, and a dictionary. And these days, we are imprinting ourselves in great detail all over the net, even when we don't realize it. Our profiles. Comments we make. And as we become more comfortable and friendly with each other, we are posting more and more revealing (not that kind, you pervs) photographs and information about ourselves and our families.

Google says it can't give me the IP of the hijacker. I find that hard to believe, but I have no choice, do I. I don't know if they know it and just won't, or if they really can't. But come on, GOOGLE? If they wanted to know, they would know.

What I do know is this: If not for Jim and Tris and Shylah, I would still be sitting here in a puddle of various excretions, screaming internally, and panicking like nothing you could ever comprehend. And with no way to tell any of you where I was. Is there any way for me to tell Jim and Tris and Shylah how very incredibly much I love and adore and appreciate them? No, there are no words that are good enough. I can only keep saying 'thank you' and hope they can read my mind.

I still don't have my gmail back. Google isn't being very cooperative yet, with that one. Just a few minutes ago I got yet another robot message from them, telling me to click a link and go to their generic help page. Not good, nope.

If you would like to have the email I am currently using, just tell me so in a comment, and I'll give it to you. But those of you who were using my gmail address: it's no longer valid. Will it ever be again? I don't know. That would be up to Google, and they are in no hurry.

It's so good to have my blog back.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:05 PM | |

Monday, February 06, 2006

You're 73, old woman, so GROW UP.*

As if this week wasn't bad enough (what do you mean, it's only Monday!!) I had to go for a mammogram after class today. After having two kids and a slew of health problems, I don't really have any dignity left, but I do have my indignation. Are we surprised?

Not at the procedure. The technician was great; a really nice efficient lady. It wasn't her fault that I made her laugh when I asked her what she told people at parties what she did for a living, this after she had maneuvered and manhandled me for a few minutes. Brrrr, her hands were cold. And those little nips she fastened to my own? I forgot they were there till I got home and changed my clothes. For a minute, I thought I felt a lump, and panicked. Then I looked in the mirror and thought, all I need now are tassels. They were very pink and kind of polka-dotted. Lap dance, anyone? You'll need a sturdy chair.

Not the facility; it was beautiful and very convenient. I think they must have been having a geriatric special today, though, because it sure didn't look like the waiting room of Planned Parenthood back in the seventies. Not that I would know.

It wasn't the lack of recent magazines, either. They had THIS WEEK's 'People,' so now I am caught up on politics, which celebrity is unmarried and knocked up and glowing, which celebrities go shopping JUST LIKE ME, and which 19-year-old singer has a sophomore album. Or maybe it was that the singer WAS a sophomore. I forget.

It also wasn't the employees. They were gracious and kind.

No, it was all the old men hanging around in the waiting room and outside the dressing rooms.

Don't get me wrong. I love men. Most of the time, I enjoy having a nice old man to talk to, whilst whiling away the time in a doctor's office. It's just that this particular place was, um, for women. There were women giving out personal girly information, and occasionally exposing some girly anatomy, and wearing ugly gowns that were open in the front, and which would probably close on a normal-sized person but I think you all know by now that I am on the 'circus-tent' side of junior petite. Yes, the place was full of old men, some still sitting beside an old woman, some alone because their old woman was inside having her long bananas ironed, some standing outside a dressing room because they couldn't bear to be far from Pookie for very long, and some just standing or sitting around looking disoriented and weird.

I guess my point is, none of them belonged there. And if some old woman just couldn't go to a doctor without Sweetie-Pie at her side, well, she's an idiot. And if she couldn't drive for any reason other than "Oh, I just COULDN'T drive, tee hee," then the husband should have had the perception to realize he didn't belong in the midst of the girly activity and sat in a more obscure area. There WAS a little room next to the big room, but no men were in there. They were all sitting right by their women, or alone and waiting for her to return and be comforted because of the indignity of it all, boo hoo. This is not the examination or mammogram room, mind you, but it's the cattle car just outside of the MACHINES.

Item: I am not referring to handicapped women who are not physically able to go to any kind of a doctor alone. But even those husbands should go sit elsewhere while she's being compressed, out of consideration for the other women, in a Breast Lab.

Because, NONE of those old men was dozing or reading. Every one of them was looking around with avid and interested eyes, even the disoriented ones. This is just wrong. Once in a while a nurse would enter the room and ask that anyone without an appointment please go to the outside room but the old men refused to budge. One of them said that if his fragile wife walked back into this room and he wasn't right where she'd left him, the wife would have an 'episode.' Oh good grief.

It's been a long time since I was the youngest person in a room. So you can just imagine how old all those other women appeared to be.

It just struck me that I sat for an hour in a room full of helpless twits and sexist enablers.

*I am not 73.

(Some other time I will blog about the husband of my maternity ward roommate who refused to leave, which meant I couldn't have my own baby with me, which made me cry but I was young and didn't know I had any rights like other people.) (Things have sure changed, haven't they.)
(I still hate that couple. Selfish pricks.)
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:51 PM | |

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Excuses, excuses. More about me than you really wanted to know.

Well. Have I been all emotional and whiny this weekend or what? My posts haven't been typical for the past few days, and I want to apologize to you all for being such a weirdo lately.

The fact is, I don't feel very well. I feel really rotten, in fact. It's no excuse for dumping on everyone but it's the only excuse I have.

I've joked before about being one of Jerry's Kids. It's not wholly a joke. I really am.

When I was first diagn0sed, I was a mess. Fortunately, it was summertime and by the time school started, the worst of the manifestations and symptoms were gone, controlled by the medication. Then followed a regime of biopsies, physical therapy, and trips to all kinds of specialists.

Here's now it all started.

About twelve years ago I noticed a weird rash all over the tops of my hands. It was an UGLY red bumpy rash. I went to our family doctor and he sent me to a dermotologist.

The dermotologist took one look at my hands and told me I didn't need a dermotologist, I needed a rheumatologist, because I had a severe muscle disorder. She punctuated this sentence by reaching over and toppling me off the chair and telling me to get up. I did, but it wasn't a pretty sight.

I really liked this dermatologist. I think it was because she had baby spit-up on the shoulders of her scrubs, and a Metallica t-shirt showing above the 'V.'

I also really like my rheumatologist. He looks like Rick Moranis, and he's hilarious. Even when he's shooting cortisone under my kneecaps or slicing little growths off my legs, or telling me to slow down and rest more, he can always make me laugh.

That 'slow down and rest more' thing? I wasn't able to do that until my kids were out of school. I was going, going, going every night and every weekend. Now that the kids are grown and on their own, I have more than made up for lost time with that 'slow down and rest more' order. In fact, slugs have nothing on me, now. I'm a master rester.

Over the past twelve years, I've done pretty well. There were a few flareups but they were soon controlled. I hope this one does as well. Because, I've had another flareup.

In fact, I've relapsed, and I feel really crummy and grouchy and itchy and weak, I'm spotty and hideous, and I've been exploding like a volcano at the least little thing that annoys me. Plus, I can't seem to conjure up enough energy to even enjoy an evening out. I look like someone has put a lacy doily over me and sprinkled red sugar over it.

I have dermatomyositis. It's no fun. I hate it. When it's controlled, it's like nothing, but when it flares up, it's awful. It's flaring up. It's awful.

So, for the next few weeks, please take my grumbling with a grain of salt. There's never a real excuse for dumping on people, but this is the excuse I'm using tonight.

After the flareup is gone, I'll have to think of another excuse for being unpleasant. Oh, seriously, I try not to be unpleasant. I try to be nice, really I do.

Right now, though, I'm going to give it up and go to bed and forget it, because I'm so groggy and mean that my poor son and husband will be well rid of me till tomorrow. And maybe by then, the sleep will have helped change my obnoxious personality back to normal.

My normal personality IS better, isn't it? Scheisse, I hope so. I can't stand myself tonight.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:53 PM | |

Deja Poo.

Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats every day. Make a big pot of chili on Friday night and your husband and son can feed themselves for a whole weekend and you don't have to do a thing. Except put it back in the refrigerator after they're done, because the concept of "food poisoning" doesn't seem to mean anything to them, at least not when in competition with 'convenience.' Oh, and be sure to put out extra toilet paper.

In our house, "Hey, give me a dip" doesn't mean what you might think it would mean.

As for that sinkful of dirty bowls, well, I'll deal with that on Monday, when I get home from class and am willing and happy to do ANYTHING rather than grade papers.

I do let them leave the big bottle of killer pepper sauce out. No germ could live under the influence of that much heat.

When I walk past the sink and breathe in, my sinuses clear immediately. This house is full of really hot chili fumes.

Which is way better than the sewage fumes that used to permeate my former school building about twice a month. The pipes leading from the bathrooms to the septic tank were crooked, and the, um, 'stuff', gathered in the bends till it caused some major blockage, which then backed up and filled the school with stinkum. And why were the pipes crooked? The school was built by the lowest bidder, and you get what you pay for.

Were the children dismissed? No, they were not. We stayed inside a building that stunk like a state park outhouse, and we did math and smelled spelled. And then we took the children to the cafeteria and they were expected to eat. And the principals pretended that nothing was wrong, because there was an away game that night and all the buses were needed to transport the teams, and couldn't be spared to take our kids home in the middle of the day and still have enough buses for the regular routes plus the sports stuff. And little kids with a bad home life returned to school the next day wearing the same clothes, and it was deja vu.

Or 'deja poo,' as the case may be.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:44 PM | |

No more after this one.

Do I believe in the devil? I'm not sure, as a single entity. But I do believe in what Anne Shirley's beloved Captain Jim referred to as ". . . a mighty and malignant and intelligent power of evil in the universe." (Anne's House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery) As part of the universe, the blogiverse has also been inflitrated by this entity, as evidenced by the posts of people whose primary delight seems to be deliberating hurting others, encouraging others to do the same, and laughing at it all.

I guess every neighborhood has 'em.

It's too bad. If those people would look around and really pay attention, they might see all the kindness and compassion and good will and consideration and friendship and wit and humor and fun and, yes, love, that are also blogiverse entities, and that ultimately, there are more positives than negatives.

How sad that a minority of hateful naysayers have the power to bring us down. We must work hard not to let them. People whose minds and souls (?) are so full of negativity are to be pitied, and I must try to let that emotion overcome the intense desire to go over there and tell them that if they continue to hurt my friend I'll bitchslap them into next week chastize them. They're not listening, and they don't care.

They don't deserve the attention, and they don't know how to get it any other way.

Everyone is entitled to his/her opinions. (insert snarky quotation about a**holes here) But when we use a public forum to mock and hurt someone, and use their names and post links to them, I think that's going over the line. The right to swing your fist ends where the other person's nose begins.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:34 PM | |

I's Wuthless.

A few hours ago it was still Saturday, and I didn't do a darn thing, productivity-wise, all day.

I didn't grade any papers, and I didn't do any laundry, and I didn't do any cleaning. I didn't even get dressed till after noon. I've been worthless, that's what, absolutely worthless. I visited with my visiting kids for a while, toasted a few cheese sandwiches for Belle and me, and made a big pot of chili for Hub and Zappa, but I spent the better part of the day watching old movies, reading a novel, and reading blogs. I took some time out to kick myself in the mentals for losing my temper and tilting at windmills the other day, but mostly, the day was spent goofing off and being disgracefully and wonderfully lazy. Lazy, lazier, and laziest.

It was awesome.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:02 AM | |

Saturday, February 04, 2006

You could have fooled me.

I got this from Greg over on Hasty Ruminations, but I'm not sure the all-knowing powers-that-be knew it was me typing in those answers.

Ordinarily I don't do these things but Greg's results made me wonder what mine would be.

I really thought it would be something along the lines of "Angel of Tempery Mundanity" but apparently there was no such category.

This makes me wonder about the validity of these things. I mean, really. Do you suppose they could be. . . . . fake?

You are the Love Angel. Also known as the Light
Angel. You give mercy, and love, to everyone
you come by. You bring peace to the world.:Your animal:The dove, which means peace.:Your color:White, shades of pink, light yellow,
and really light blue.:Your word symbols:Love, mercy, and peace.

What Kind Of Angel Are You?(with great detailed information!)
brought to you by
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:46 PM | |

It's cold and I'm easy.

Yesterday it was warm and I blogged about crocuses and apple blossoms. Today, it's cold and we've got about two inches of snow.

It's beautiful. I'd take a picture and show you the view from the back of my house, but we threw the trash out on the deck last night and I doubt that any of you really wants to see a mountain of snow-covered trash bags, even if the background IS a grove of beautiful snowy trees. Although it would be different, I guess. Update: Here's the view from the living room window.

If I were energetic I would shovel the snow off the deck so the wood wouldn't rot as fast and so the cat could make his way to his dish more easily. However, I'm not energetic even on a good day and I think the little catprints in the snow are pretty. Besides, I like to fill the cat's dish when he's dozing on the swing, because when he hears the CheapieCatChunks hitting the bowl, he stands up in the swing, gets it going, and leaps out like a child at the park. Sometimes, it's the highlight of my day. Hey, I lead an exciting life.

The cat knows he has to hurry to his dish, because if he doesn't, he'll have to fight the crowd of neighbor cats and birds, who also love CheapieCatChunks. Sometimes I think I'm feeding all the cats in the county. Other times, I know I am.

But that's okay. As long as they snuggle on me, I'll feed them. I've always been easy that way.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:51 PM | |

Friday, February 03, 2006

Frigid in the morning, hot at night.

It's been so unusually warm this winter; I seldom wear a coat at all, and our furnace has kicked on very infrequently indeed.

It's been so warm, my poor crocuses got confused and sprouted. My apple tree is budding. And I'm sure lots of our other trees are putting out spring-like growths, but to find out for sure would require that I get up off my extremely large bottom and walk across the yard, which is exercise in my book and you can forget it.

But this weekend, the forecast is COLD. So of course, our furnace died.

We've not had good luck getting a furnace guy to come out here. Appointments were made and broken, made and forgotten, made and disregarded, and not by us. We were here. They never showed. Two years in a row. Maybe the furnace just felt neglected.

So this morning, as Hub was leaving for school, he told me to call a furnace guy and tell him it was an emergency.

Honestly, I don't know how Laura and Mary did it, getting up out of those warm covers into a freezing cold cabin on winter mornings. At least I didn't have to lie there and wait for Pa to shovel a foot of snow off me. But it was really cold in my house this morning.

Part of the shivering was no doubt because I never wear shoes unless I absolutely have to. This morning, I wore socks AND shoes. In the house. This just never happens. AND, I wore a heavy sweater over my Rocky Horror t-shirt. It was cold. Oh, and jeans. (pervs.)

I called the furnace guy and someone actually answered the phone! I went into shock. After I got my voice back, I explained to a very patient lady what had happened, and she said she'd get back to me. I sighed. Their history of 'getting back to me' wasn't very good. But this time, things were better. Maybe it was the sound of my teeth chattering as I spoke with her.

Around noon, the furnace guy arrived. Around one, he told me that the furnace needed a replacement part that was no longer made, as my furnace is apparently a dinosaur. He made several calls and finally located the part in a store thirty miles away. He left his tools in the entryway and left for the city.

Around three, he came back with the part. He took it down to the laundry room where my furnace rubs shoulders with my washer and dryer, and lo, it fit, and it worked. Around three-fifteen I wrote him a check for $128.60, which, considering his drive and all, wasn't bad.

Around three-thirty, I could feel some warmth seeping back into the house. It felt wonderful. I popped "Two Weeks Notice" into my kitchen DVD player, made a sandwich, and sat down to enjoy. I watched about a half hour of it, and then decided it was time for some more blog-reading.

Around four thirty, as I was typing away at my computer, the power went off. I could hear the furnace dying; I could hear the dishwasher winding down, and I could hear the cat screaming at the patio door.

Having learned a valuable lesson last week, I tried to phone PSI and ask them about the outage. None of our phones worked. I tried my cell. It wouldn't let me press in all the numbers the PSI recording required. In frustration, I punched the '0' several times, and behold, a human being answered.

"We think it's a squirrel," she said in a professional voice.

Around five thirty, the power came back on. I could see digital clocks blinking all over the house.

It's now almost ten o'clock, and so far all the machinery in the house seems to be working. It's warm, Hub is home, we've had dinner (a gas stove that's already turned on will stay on even when there's no power, I discovered today) and he's sitting over there completely obsessed with MarrowWind, and I'm sitting here completely obsessed with all of your blogs and counting my blessings that all of you are far more sensible and smart than I am, and that you are good, true friends.

The only weird thing is that I'm still wearing shoes.

Ordinary life is a lovely thing indeed. Except, of course, that there isn't any such thing as ordinary life.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:34 PM | |


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