Sunday, December 21, 2014

happy solstice!

Spill it, reader.  How are you celebrating the shortest day?

Monday, December 15, 2014

raindrops on kittens

On Friday the school secretary called me to come grab Mr. G.  He had a fever of 102, headache, body aches and a side helping of cough.  In a frenzy I whipped together sub plans to cover the rest of my day and drove across the block to grab my baby.  (Yes, the block.  I drove across the block.  I work a stone's throw from where two of my kids attend school and in the same building as the other.  We keep it tight around here.)

The kid was suffering all right.  I tucked him into my bed and oh how he wailed, thrashed, moaned and cried.  Typical male, he was a miserable and complaining sort of patient.  It took him two whole days to get near normal, he spiked a fever on and off the entire time.  Naturally he passed along his bug to Mr. D and me. 

I could feel the edge of sick slicing into my skull when I brought the other boys to Friday night's basketball game.  I valiantly slept with Mr. G that night, allowing Mr. D the night off.  He tossed and turned and whined all night long.  The following evening I'd agreed to accompany a group of high school kids to Milwaukee to see A Christmas Carol and by the opening lines the headache and congestion started.  It was a magnificent performance (starring Jonathan Smoots!  As Scrooge!).  I enjoyed it so much while I struggled to keep my snuffling and nose blowing to a minimum so as not to disturb my fellow patrons of the arts.

By Sunday I was laid flat and by midday, Mr. D was right there with me.  We mouth-breathed a cough-fueled duet last night and I hit the medicine cabinet hard before going to work this morning.  This explains why, during second hour, I referenced raindrops on kittens in the midst of a hazy explanation about alliteration (I think.  I can't be totally sure.  I might have been rambling about the foggy, rainy weather).  The students exchanged perplexed glances before asking, What are you talking about?   "You know, warm woolen mittens and snowflakes on roses ... my favorite things.  How does that song go?  Or is it snowflakes on kittens?"  Ms. W, you seem confused.  "I do.  I am.  It's the drugs talking.  It's raindrops on roses and whiskers--that's right! Whiskers on kittens."

And speaking of favorite things, check out the most charming Christmas ornament my friend Molly gave me last week.  Don't you LOVE it?  Those boots won't actually hang on the Christmas tree, however, because that darn kitten of ours is so naughty and I'd weep if she knocked it down and broke it.  I only staged it on that bough for a moment while Rose was shut safely in the basement.  They dangle from a hook in my library where I will enjoy them all year long.  New boots.  Shiny, cunning new Wellies just for me.

Isn't the loveliest kind of gift the perfect, thoughtful and unexpected surprise kind?

Spill it, reader.  One favorite thing that someone gifted you out of the blue.  I'm off to take a swig of cough syrup. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

seasonal bliss and a good trade

When you get a kitten your impulse is, quite naturally, to dangle things for it to attack.  This dangling provides endless fun for both people and felines.  It should have come as no surprise then, when we installed a Christmas tree and hung a bunch of bright, shiny ornaments on it, that the kitten viewed it as a Major Project.  Rose is determined to conquer the tree--strip it of every single ornament and bat those dropped ornaments into corners until she is certain they are dead.

In short, she's really pissing everybody off.  She can't help it, her kitten brain and Christmas tree are at odds.  Mr. G is especially angry at her and waits by the tree, spray bottle in hand to catch her in the act.  Then he catches her and lectures her.  She paws his freckled face and purrs.  It's pretty adorable.

I cleverly did NOT collect any homework to bring home to grade this weekend.  It feels really nice to have a weekend off.  A sliver of Christmas shopping got done, a chunk of an editing job, and I (finally!) watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel while ironing.  For a few hours my life felt like it used to be before I went back to work, leisurely and content. 

My nephew who is now in college asked me to knit him a stocking cap with a giant pom-pom when I saw him over Thanksgiving.  I haven't knit anything in ages, so I agreed.  Today I purchased the yarn and am looking forward to getting that started in the next couple of weeks.  In a fair trade, he taught me how to block people's Facebook posts.  I'm too much of a weenie to unfriend anybody, it would look bad, right?  But there are people I like just fine in person but cannot abide on Facebook--they post politically divisive, fear-mongering or hateful things.  Or really stupid things like "Like this if you hate cancer!"  "Ten thousand likes and this little orphan with a puppy will get a kidney donated to save her life!"  "Share this if you believe in love/Jesus/friendship."  "I got Lita Ford!  What's your secret rocker chick identity???"  It's best that I never, ever see what these people post so I can smile at them when I run into them at a basketball game or in the grocery store.  And there are people who post every single photo they ever take of their children.  These people take daily, sometimes it seems like hourly, pictures.  I try to imagine a life where I'm constantly asking my kin to line up and smile.  "Stop eating dinner and say cheese!"  "Stop playing your game and gather together--now SMILE!"  "Stop playing the snow and let me get a picture of you all together!"  Then I wonder what fuels the desire to take these endless pictures and put them out there for public consumption.  And then there are the people whose lives appear to be a constant party-party-party.  They just annoy the hell out of me because it's not even possible to never have to go grocery shopping or stay home and catch up with laundry.  Unless, of course, you are a college kid like my nephew.  My nephew, who I am not friends with on Facebook, so I couldn't even tell you if he is annoying or not, though I suspect not.

That paragraph has left me breathless so I'm going to find my size 8 round needles and talk my kids into watching a Christmas movie.  Maybe Elf.  And I'm not taking a picture of them gathered on the couch together, I promise.

Spill it, reader.  Most annoying Facebook posts. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

a final fifth for 2014

Today's school-free day kicked off with waffles and bacon and 4 overnight guests, the kind of guests who pack in with sleeping bags and snow pants and basketball shoes and noise and laughter.  Once our house emptied out for the day, we got cracking on getting Mr. T his driving temps, picking up cheese and beer to bring to Iowa, and scrubbing the nooks and crannies that have been ignored since August.  I think I've definitely earned myself an early beer while I post the last 20 things to this thankful list ...

81. Patience.  The patience I've cultivated in myself and other people's patience towards me.
82. Good friends--my own, my kids' friends, our lives abound with fun, NICE people.
83. Efficiency. 
84. Wonky knee aside, my health.
85. The courage of those early Americans who settled this place and created a flawed, but clearly workable system of government.
86. Having very few wants.
87. And, as I age, it seems I have fewer needs.
88. Porches.  The front has a hammock and a swing.  The back is screened in. 
89. A lovely view from both porches.
90. I went to college and gained a lot of useful knowledge.
91. I never made a mistake so big that it wrecked me.
92. Mr. D and I are in an easy place where the fights are few and far between and the reliance is pretty mutual.
93. In-floor heating. 
94. Bicycles.
95. Cabin Porn. For those wishful moments.
96. Sheets with a high thread count.
97. Ceiling fans.
98. My friend Robin's son is healing from a terrible accident.
99. A private corner to call my own.
100. My friend Alice, who has taught me resilience, grace, determination and history.

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope your day is full of happy people, plenty to eat and drink and safe travels if you're on the road like me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

thankful--the teacher's edition

It's still sort of surreal--thinking of myself as an actual full-time contracted teacher.  I've been out of the game so very long, and then just playing at it for even longer.  It feels fake, I dress up every day and go pretend in this classroom that I actually know something about educating America's youth.  I mean, the ache in my neck from staying up late to grade papers is awfully real to me, but the rest still surprises me.  Like seeing my name by a mail slot in the staff room.  Or using a key card to get inside the building.  Yesterday I brought my reading group to the library to check out books and the librarian discovered I AM NOT IN THE SYSTEM.  I was not eligible to check out books because I HAVE NOT BEEN ASSIGNED A NUMBER.  (To be clear, the library man is not shouty--he's very mild-mannered.  The computer system, however, is another story.)  I don't have a real staff ID, I'm still "Staff 001" on my generic key card.  I'm a glitch in the system.

But I'm thankful for God placing me here, for all kinds of reasons.  Here's a list of cool stuff I've discovered that makes me feel very grateful:

61. It doesn't feel like work, which means it must be something I'm rather good at doing.
62. That Keurig Mr. D got me last year for Christmas.  I know, I know, they're environmentally bad, blahblahblah.  But for my 1:30 cup of coffee, it works perfectly for my vital caffeine fix between 6th and 7th hour.
63. Teenagers.  They slay me.  Their clothes, their humor, their music, their taste in movies, their obsession with video games and social media all amuse me.  Even the eye-rolling, huffing and puffing and SO disgusted with the world ones in 6th hour.  Catch them one on one and they're each likeable in their own way and pretty harmless.  Especially if you use a low voice and say soothing, complementary things to them.
64. When I hand back papers marked up and the students read my comments and say stuff like "Thank you. Thank you for writing this about my work."  I mean, my GOODNESS!
65. Crash Course.  It's really fantastic for the quick mini-lesson before launching into meaty stuff like Founding Brothers.  I could sit and watch these videos all day long. 
66. Heck, the whole internet for the quick answers and visuals, like images of Alexander Hamilton and what's the story behind Catiline.
67. Talking about books with people who read and enjoyed them, too.
68. Seeing a student really put in the effort and nail an assignment.
69. Glossing over grading because everybody got it right the first time around.
70. To a degree, online gradebooks.  I mean, sometimes I still occasionally enter the data wrong, but at least I don't have to crunch all the numbers myself hunched over a calculator.  The program does THAT part for me automatically.  Every time.  Genius!
71. Administrators who don't bog their teachers down with red tape and committees and busy work.
72. Parents who support their kids' education.
73. To that end, e-mail.  I can reach out to a parent or student at any convenient time and they can do the same.  And for all the ways that e-mails lack the emotion of face-to-face or phone conversations.  Objective is better.  And more efficient.
74. When I say something once, everyone hears me and takes it seriously and I don't have to repeat it.
75. When the class is fully engaged and we get interrupted by the bell at the end of the hour. 
76. And even more wonderful is when the kids remark on it--"This class always feels short to me." That's great!
77. Discovering things about my students--one is a race car driver, one started a CYO basketball league, one has a young daughter, one watched their family barn go up in smoke, one sings like an angel, one has a wickedly funny twitter feed.  They each have their unique story and I have a front row seat to their lives as a writing teacher. 
78. Watching a kid do something exceptionally well, especially when I didn't expect it.
79. A Xerox machine that never, ever jams or breaks down.
80. Feeling like I did something useful every day.  I come home pretty tired, but I'm always ready to head back and face first hour the next morning.  What happens in Room 212 helps about 130 kids and I find that rewarding. 

Spill it, reader.  What are you really good at doing?  Does it make you happy to do it?

Monday, November 24, 2014

an honest fifth

I've got about 15 papers left to grade (because we totally know that if I bust my ass to get that done tonight we will get a 2 hour delay because of the snow tomorrow.  You're welcome in advance, everybody.) so here's a fast fifth of what I'm feeling thankful for before I return to the stack:

41. Snow flocking trees.  I mean, it does look pretty.
42. Shovels.
43. And boots.  Especially my brown leather ones that are super warm and comfy.
44. Perfect eyesight.
45. That validated, understood and satisfied feeling when a person next to you says exactly what you're thinking.  Especially when that thought isn't necessarily acceptable.
46. Travel.
47. Screw Iowa Writers Club--Nina Romano, MK Graff, Mariana Damon, Lauren Small.  Divine goddesses, each one of them.
48. A talent for editing.
49. Super-sharp pencils.
50. Earthy smells--compost, leaf piles, mowed grass.
51. Keeping my wind after a good run.
52. Since running came up, Disco.
53. Classical.
54. And Country music for when I feel a little red-neckish.
55. A real greenhouse from which I cut a bag of fresh spinach two days ago.
56. Learning to type.
57. Birds singing.
58. Crickets chirping.
59. ALL the BBC productions.  It's practically all I watch on TV anymore--Sherlock, Dr. Who, Inspector Lewis, Endeavor, Downton Abbey, Foyle's War.  Thank you, PBS. 
60. Pfft.  Who are we kidding?  Anything British, am I right, Jen?

Spill it, reader.  Give some more thanks.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

another tenth (or so)

Wisconsin for the win in football this weekend!  Four-fifths of the grading completed!  Getting to see The Great American Trailer Park Musical with good friends last night!  Not having to cook! A virtual book club with some lovely ladies!
See? Coming up with reasons to feel thankful can be EASY.

24. A nice visit with my family last weekend. Everyone seems to be in a good place and that pleases me.
25. Silly moments that remind me why life is special.
26. A good mousing kitten.
27. The wonderful lists my bloggy pals have left in my comment box.
28. Mercy and forgiveness from Jesus every day.
29. Snappy comebacks.
30. Springtime.  (I've already told you how I hate fall.  Now the rest of the country is starting to understand why Wisconsinites get weary of winter.)
31. BUT, there's still snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
32. A fantastic adjustment for my high school freshman. 
33. The smell of sheets dried on the clotheslines.
34. Going barefoot.
35. A good church where hope is preached and everyone feels welcome no matter what their story or status in life.  Plus the music is good.  Trivial?  Not really.  Fellow church-goers get that.
36. A safe place to live.  The only excitement involves the occasional fire or car accident or rogue steer on the loose.  Happyland ranks as the safest town in our fair state--how's that for cool?
37. Obedient children.  I mean, they're not always obedient, but they are generally and I honestly appreciate that.
38. Even more, I love how my kids get along and love each other.  They are best friends and I am thankful for that every single day without fail.  It's a marvel to me.
39. My garden.  The stuff I grow for show and the stuff I grow for eating.
40. Computers that do calculations because as you now see, I'm not so great with math.  This list wasn't a tenth.

Spill it, reader.  Keep the thankful coming into the comment box!